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The Compilation of the Qur'an


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The Compilation of the Qur'an

The Qur'an was written down from the earliest time.


The Qur'an is the Holy Book of Islam. It is the word of God revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, over a period of 23 years (from 610 to 633 CE) through the angel Jibreel (Gabriel). The Qur'an is still in its original form as it was revealed to Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam.


During the time of Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, the Qur'an was mainly preserved through memorization. Hundreds of Companions of the Prophet, were huffaz, or memorizers of the whole Qur'an and had memorized the Qur'an without any mistakes. But the Qur'an was also preserved through writing.


Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, made special arrangements to have it written down. When Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, used to receive a revelation, he dictated it to a Companion, who wrote it down on anything that was available: bark, stone, bones, leaves, etc. The companion then read, what he had written, to the Prophet. If there were any mistakes, Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, would correct it and then let it be brought before everyone. Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, also told the order of the verses, etc, and they were written accordingly.


So, in the days of the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, one copy of the Qur’an existed of what he had gotten written under his personal supervision. It was not in book form but in different parchments. Other Companions also had collections of the Qur'an for their personal record but no standard copy of the Qur'an in book form existed.


Hadith About Reading From a Transcript

Some people argue that the Qur'an was not written at all during the time of Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. This is not true as there are many Hadith, or sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, that indicate that the Qur'an did exist in written form during the time of Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam. For example, the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, has said:


“If anyone recites the Qur'an without seeing the transcription, the reward is one thousand times, and if he reads it from the transcription, the reward is two thousand times.”


This Hadith shows that Companions did possess written copies of the Quran during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam.


Compilation in the Khilafah of Abu Bakr

After Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, died in 633 CE, Sayyidna Abu Bakr, Radi-Allahu anhu, became the Khalifah (caliph). The need of the compilation of the whole Qur’an in the form of a Book was seen. In the battle of Yamamah and other battles, many huffaz were martyred. Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, noticed this and went to the Khalifah, and told him about this matter. At first Sayyidna Abu Bakr, Radi-Allahu anhu, hesitated in doing something that the Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, hadn’t done but then, seeing the importance of this, he agreed.


Then Sayyidna Zayd bin Thabit, Radi-Allahu anhu, was called. Hazrat Zayd bin Thabit, Radi-Allahu anhu, used to write the Qur'an for the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, during his time. At first, Sayyidna Zayd, Radi-Allahu anhu, refused to do so but then, he, too, agreed.


The compilation of the Qur'an started, with Sayyidna Zayd bin Thabit, Radi-Allahu anhu, in charge. Lots of companions, including himself had memorized the whole Qur'an and so the Qur'an could have easily been written down from memory. There were also complete collections of the verses of the Holy Qur'an available with many companions. But Sayyidna Zayd bin Thabit, Radi-Allahu anhu, knew he had to be careful. He used both methods by collecting verses that were written during the time of Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam and also using memory. He followed four steps.


  1. First he verified the verse with his own memory.

  2. Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, who was a Hafiz, was also in charge of the project and he verified it, too.

  3. Then, before the verse could be accepted, the two reliable witnesses had to testify that it was written in the presence of Prophet Muhammad Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam.

  4. After that, written verses were collated with the collections of different Companions.


The purpose of this method was so that the utmost care be taken in the transcription of the Qur'an, and rather then rely on memory, it should be transcribed from verses that were written in the presence of the Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam.


It was this way that the Qur'an was compiled. In this copy, all Surahs were written separately. The purpose of this transcription was to prepare an organized document with the endorsement of the whole Ummah so that reference could be made to it when required. The transcripts stayed with Sayyidna Abu Bakr, Radi-Allahu anhu. After his death in 634 CE they were passed on to the second Khalifah Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu. And after Sayyidna Umar, Radi-Allahu anhu, they were given to his daughter, Hazrat Hafsah, Radi-Allahu anha.


Compilation in the Khilafah of Sayyidna Uthman

When Sayyidna Uthman, Radi-Allahu anhu, became Khalifah in 644 CE, Islam had spread to far areas such as Iran and Byzantine. People who accepted Islam learned how to read the Qur'an from Muslim soldiers, traders and other Muslims. There are seven different ways to recite the Qur'an and different Companions had learned it from the Holy Prophet, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam, in different recitals. People though that only their way of reciting was correct and started disputing with other people. Sayyidna Uthman, Radi-Allahu anhu, accomplished the feat of making the Qur'an’s recitation standard.


First, Sayyidna Uthman, Radi-Allahu anhu, borrowed the first copy of the Holy Qur'an from Hafsah, Radi-Allahu anha. He then formed a group of four companions, Sayyidna Zayd bin Thabit, Abdullah bin Zubayr, Saeed ibn al Aas, and Abdur Rahman bin Harith Radi-Allahu anhuma. The group had the task of making transcripts of the original copy and also to put the Surahs in sequence. Other companions were also called upon to help them.


After having these standard transcripts prepared, all other transcripts were burnt, so that all copies of the Qur'an become uniform in script and the sequence of Surahs, leaving no room for differences. The copy produced by Sayyidna Uthman, Radi-Allahu anhu, is still extant. All copies of the Qur'an available today in the world are exactly identical to the Uthmani Version, which was completed less than twenty years after the death of Prophet Muhammad, Sall-Allahu alayhi wa sallam.


Later some improvements were made in the Arabic script, like the adding of dots and diacritical marks, to make it easier for non-Arabs to read, but of course, the text of the Qur'an has remained, and will remain the same forever.


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Compilation of the Qur'an



I recently found information relating to the construction of the Qur'an. Ibn Mas'ood was apparently the first man to oversee the compilation of the Qur'an from the scraps of papyrus and other materials that the Qur'an may have been written on. Upon completing this book, some early followers of islam took the text and began translating it into the other dialects of an ever changing Arabic language. Upon realizing this, the 3rd caliph, Hazrat Usman (or Uthmaan) compiled the Uthmani Qur'an which all modern Qur'ans are based on; then ordered the destruction of all Qur'ans that were not his own compilation (including Ibn Mas'ood's). If all of the above is true, then Ibn Mas'ood's original Qur'an is different from the modern Qur'an. Is Usman the only man who knew how different the two books are? In response to my question, I would be appreciative of any historically known facts that are easily referenced, for my own studies. A lack of references would be most regrettable.






It is incorrect to believe that Abdullah bin Mas’ood was the only one to compile the original text of the Qur’an. The actual facts in this regard is that after the demise of Nabi (S.A.W.), Hazrat Abu Bakr (R.A.) entrusted  Hazrat Zaid bin Thaabit( R.A.) who was the scribe of Wahi in the prophets time and also a Hafiz, with the task of compiling the Qur’an and he appointed Hazrat Umar as his assistant.


Hazrat Zaid (R.A.) made a great amount of effort in compiling the Qur’an. He went to various Sahaabah and gathered whatever portions of the Qur’an they had in their possession. He even approached those Sahaabah who were Haafizul Qur’an and after receiving a strong approval he compiled the entire Qur’an in a single form. This accomplishment was appreciated by every Sahaabah and not a single one objected to it. This compiled version of the Qur’an was kept in the guardianship of Hazrat Abu Bakr (R.A.) and used as a reference. No further copies were made and distributed amongst the Sahaabah. The Sahabah taught and read the Qur’an as they had memorized it or from whatever portions of it they had written down and kept by them.


Permission had already been given by Nabi (S.A.W.) to recite the Qur’an in seven different manners, which is commonly known as Al-Qiraa’at-u-Sab’ah. It is for this reason that the recitation of one Sahabah varied from another. Every Sahaabi or his student was not learned in reciting the Qur’an according to the seven different styles. As a result, with the passing of time, differences started occurring amongst some of the Qurraa (Teachers of Tajweed).  Each Qari claimed that the Qur’an was revealed according to the manner in which he recited and that the others were reading and teaching an incorrect version of the Qur’an. Noticing these conditions Hazrat Uthmaan (R.A.) became concerned. He therefore consulted the Sahabah who were currently residing in Madinah with regards to a solution to the matter. This meeting was attended by Hazrat Ali (R.A.), Hazrat Zaid bin Thaabit (R.A.), Hazrat Huzaifah bin Yamaan (R.A.) and other eminent Sahabah who were Huffaz of the Holy Qur’an. The outcome of this meeting was that the Qur’an will be compiled for a second time in light of the copy first compiled in the time of Hazrat Abu Bakr (R.A.) and thereafter many copies would be made and distributed to all the Islamic states and cities. This copy would be regarded as the original text. All other copies of the Qur’an were to be burnt and every person was to read the Qur’an according to this copy, thus wiping out the possibility of any differences in reading and teaching the Qur’an.


Hazrat Uthmaan (R.A.) assigned this task to four Sahabah, namely Hazrat Zaid bin Thaabit (R.A.), Abdullah bin Zubair (R.A.), Hazrat Sa’eed bin Al -’Aas (R.A.) and Hazrat Abdurrahman bin Harith bin Hishaam (R.A.). This group of Sahabah had the Qur’an compiled in the time of Hazrat Abu Bakr (R.A.) at their disposal and took great assistance from it in compiling the second copy. They further asked all the Sahabah to forward whatever portions of the Qur’an were in their possessions. After making a thorough research and closely examining the different portions of the Qur’an received from other Sahabah, the compilation was successfully accomplished.


In this second edition the Surahs were formatted in their proper sequence, since this was not found in the first edition, and it was conclusive of all the seven different styles.


Hazrat Ubay bin Ka’ab and Ibne Abbas (R.A.) also contributed towards this great accomplishment. In this manner the Qur’an was compiled with the consensus and consent of all the Sahabah present in Madinah. Thereafter a further five or six copies were made, of which one was kept in Madinah and the remaining were distributed in the major Islamic states and an order was passed that everyone should follow these newly compiled copies and all other copies of the Qur’an should be burnt so that no controversy would arise in the future.


It is only through the grace of Allah that this task was accomplished successfully, and Alhamdulillah presently all the copies of the Qur’an are in harmony with the copy compiled in the time of Hazrat Uthmaan (R.A.).


For further reference please study the book ‘Uloom-ul-Qur’aan by Mufti Taqi Uthmani Saheb.

Jameah Mahmoodiyah

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