by Sameer Rather
The Holy Qurán has remained in its original pristine form and will remain as such in the future by the grace and blessings of Allah Almighty.
The Holy Qurán is the most widely read book in the history of mankind, a source of immense inspiration, guidance and wisdom for millions of Muslims all over the world. It is the pivotal point of imaan, faith, and integral to the foundations of an Islamic society being the basis of its shariah, Islamic legal injunctions and law.
It is a book not just to be read, but to be studied, understood and ultimately revered.
The Holy Qur’an is the literal word of Allah (swt), divinely revealed to Prophet Muhammad (saw) through the Angel Gibraeel (as).
The 4 Root Words
The word Qur’an can be derived from four root words, each with their own individual meanings. The first root word is qara’a whose literal meaning is to collect or to compile. In this respect, the Qur’an is a book, which was collected and codified under the divine protection of Allah (swt).
When Angel Gabriel (as) used to bring the divine revelation of Allah (swt) to the Holy Prophet Muhammad (saw) he had already been instructed by God to reveal the exact placement of each ayah (in the relevant Surah) as well as the arrangement of the Surah’s and their names. Since this was the case it was impossible for others to interfere in the Qur’an in any manner or form. It will remain in its actual and original state until the Day of Judgement the Qur’an itself testifies to its divine protection.
The second root word is qar’ana meaning a union or conjunction. The root word does not specify what the union consists of, merely that a process of combination is indicated. In reference to the Qur’an this refers to the literal physical existence of the Qur’an and its properties. Imaam Fakr-al-Deen Razi quotes Imaam Sufyan Sorri as stating that the Holy Qur’an was given its own special name because letters are joined to make words, words are joined to make ayahs, ayahs are joined to make surahs and surahs are joined to make the Qur’an. This beautiful combination of literature has produced the most magnificent book in the world.
The third root word is qira’athun meaning to read or recite. In reference to the Qur’an this is one of its most important features. Although other books that claim to be divinely revealed are also read and recited, the Holy Qur’an has a specific characteristic, superiority and individuality compared to them. This is because it is the most widely read book in the world. Millions of Muslims all over the world recite it in their daily prayers five times a day. The Qur’an is read and recited daily in what is called tilawat where Muslims read the Qur’an whenever they have some spare time to get the blessings of Almighty Allah.
The fourth and final root word of the word Qur’an is qira’in which is the plural of qarina which meaning evidence, argument or symbol. In the context of the Qur’an this is taken to mean how one verse interprets, elaborates and gives arguments and pieces of evidence for previous verses.
So the Qur’an is self-evident and self-explanatory. If one verse gives a general meaning than the other gives a more specific definition. Similarly, if one verse gives an absolute commandment then the other verse will give its exceptions and qualifications. The Holy Qur’an testifies to this fact in surah Nisa (4:174)
“Oh mankind! Verily there has come to you a convincing proof from your Lord for we have sent into you a light (that is manifest)”.
Moreover, the Qur’an contains 100’s of pieces of evidence of its own truthfulness being the best evidence of the truth of its claim. That is why a challenge was given to the non-believers that if all of mankind and jinn kind were to come together to create a similar or equal book to that of the Qur’an they would fail, this being an impossibility, Allah (s.w.t) mentions in surah Isra (17:88)
“Say. If the whole of mankind and Jinns were to gather together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support.”
Unchanged After 1400 Years
Fourteen hundred centuries have passed and no change or alteration has taken place in the Holy Qur’an. The text that is present today is exactly the same text that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (saw). This is so despite hundreds of attempts by non-Muslims to try and insert alterations and changes into the Qur’an. That is why Allah (swt) himself gives it divine protection. Holy Quran mentions in surah Hijr (15:9)
“We have, without doubt, sent down the message; And We will assuredly guard it (from corruption”.
Just as there have been no alterations made to the Qur’an, similarly there are no conflicts or contradictions in the text of the Holy Qur’an. If one reads the beautiful verses each one compliments the next. The surahs and ayah’s of the Qur’an work in consistent harmony with each other. The Holy Qur’an is truly a uniform piece of work.
Recording The Revelations
The first method of recording the verses of the Holy Qur’an was through memorization. Upon receipt of wahi the Holy Prophet (saw) would immediately commit all passages revealed to him to his memory, which is known as hifz. Thereafter he would recite the same to his Companions. Hazrat ibn Mas’ud was the first to recite the Qur’an publicly in Makkah.
The Arabs of this time were generally an illiterate nation but were great fans of poetry and tales. Being a predominantly oral culture the Arabs would memorize poems and tales in order to communicate them to others. They had a heightened sense of memory in comparison to other nations. Therefore once the Muslims were taught a passage of the Qur’an they immediately confined it to memory quite easily and this practice was encouraged by the Prophet (saw).
Hazrat Uthman bin Affan narrates the Prophet (saw) as saying the most superior amongst the Companions were those who learn the Qur’an and then taught it to others. The same passages were also regularly recited in the five daily prayers, so remembrance of the verses was a daily occurrence. It was also a practice of the Holy Prophet (saw) to listen to Qur’anic recitation from the Companions. Hazrat Ibn Masud (rad) in particular narrates how the Prophet (saw) once shed tears after listening to his recitation of Surah Nisa.
During the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (saw) scribes also carefully wrote the passages of the Qur’an on a variety of different writing materials. These varied from pieces of parchment to leather and leaves. However, once any passage was recorded the Holy Prophet (saw) would personally check the written records and ensure that all the words were correct and in the correct order.
Whenever an ayah was revealed, he (saw) informed the Companions of the name of the relevant Surah and where it was to be placed in the Qur’an. Hazrat ibn Abbas reports that Hazrat Othman bin Affan stated that when the Holy Prophet (saw) received the revelation he would call a companion to write it down and then tell them where to place the ayah in the Qur’anic order. Imam Ahmad bin Hanbal reports the narration of Hazrat Othman bin abi-ul-Aas (rad) as stating: “I was once sitting with the Holy Prophet (saw) when he received revelation. Then he lowered his eyes and the Holy Prophet (saw) stated that ‘Angel Gibraeel has come to me and ordered that I should place this ayah with this Surah. Imaam Malik details how the inhabitants of Yemen were sent collected written sheets of the Qur’an (mushaf) by some Muslims with orders given to keep it clean and safe, confirming the writing down of the Qur’an in some for during the Holy Prophet’s (saw) lifetime. The Qur’an also describes itself as a kitab, a book well guarded indicating an organized compilation in some shape.
A Proper Order
Since the Holy Prophet (saw) instructed the Companions where to place each ayah, they themselves never interfered in the divine order. Hazrat ibn Zubair (rad) narrates that he asked Haazat Othman (rad) why he placed one ayah in the Qur’an when another had revoked it. Hazrat Othman (rad) replied that he did not have the authority to change the order, which had been divinely revealed.
Allah (swt) is also the ultimate guarantor and protector of the Qur’an ensuring it to be free from any error and interference:
“We have without doubt sent down the message and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption)”. (Al-Hijr, 15:9)
There is ample evidence showing that the entire Qur’an was written down in the Prophets (saw) lifetime. As stated earlier when he (saw) received the revelation he would instruct scribes to record the revelation on parchments of paper or pieces of leather. He would also indicate in which Surah each ayah was to be placed. The Companions never interfered in the arrangement of the ayahs and Surahs which are the same in copies of Qur’ans available today. Hazrat Zaid bin Thabbit was one of the most prominent scribes and has reported that he, along with other companions would compile the Qur’an in the presence of the Holy Prophet (saw). During this time the names of the Surahs were also known. Angle Gibraeel (as) would also come to the Holy Prophet (saw) every Ramadan to listen to him reciting the Qur’an, and listened to him twice in the year of his demise.
After the demise of the Holy Prophet (saw) an imposter called Muslimah announced falsely his own Prophethood. Hadrat Abu Bakr (rad) sent a Muslim expedition against him and a harsh battle took place in 632 AD (11 AH) at the place of Yamamah during which hundreds of hafiz were martyred. Hazrat Umar bin Kattab (rad) became concerned at the heavy loss of casualties, fearing that a large part of the Qur’an could be lost if the rate of martyrdom increased. He expressed these fears to the Caliph Hadrat Abu Bakr (rad) and asked him to compile the Qurán into a permanent book form. Hadrat Abu Bakr (rad) was at first shocked at the request and said he could not do something that the Holy Prophet (saw) had never done in his own lifetime. However, Hadrat Umar (rad) continued to persuade him until Hadrat Abu Bakr (rad) said his heart was opened by Allah (swt) and he agreed to the suggestion.
Hadrat Abu Bakr (rad) called upon Hazrat Zaid bin Thabbit (rad) to collect and compile the Qur’an into one volume. Hazrat Zain bin Thabbit was also astonished at this request and declared it would have been easier for him to shift a mountain than to do such a task. He too questioned how they could do something that the Holy Prophet (saw) had never done. Hazrat Abu Bakr (rad) replied this was a good thing and began to persuade him until Allah (swt) opened the heart of Hazrat Zaid bin Thabbit (rad)who agreed to do this too.
Hazrat Zaid bin Thabbit (rad) set about completing the task. He collected all the written parts of the Qur’an from date leaves, parchment and pieces of leather and also listened to many of the hufaaz who recited verses from their memories. After having carefully compared and cross-checked each ayah, he compiled the written Qur’an into one single volume. This copy of Quran remained in Abu Bakr’s (rad) custody and later on was given to Hazrat Umar (rad), then to Hazrat Hafsa (rad), the prophet’s wife.
Issues of Pronunciation
As the Islamic empire increased it incorporated many different nations and tribes who did not speak and understand Arabic. As a result difference in reciting the Qur’an and pronunciation began to occur. It is reported by Hazrat Anas bin Malik that Hazrat Hudaifah bin Yaman (rad) had been involved in the victories of the Muslim run Sham, now modern-day Syria, and Iraq over Armenia and Azerbaijan. He heard the differences in the recitation of the Qur’an by the inhabitants there.
Upon his return, he related these concerns to HazratUthman (rad) who expressed a deep apprehension at this new development. Hazrat Uthman took action and asked Hazrat Hafsah (rad) for the original volume of the Qur’an promising to return it to her once copies were made. She sent it immediately to him. Hazrat Zaid bin Thabbit, having been responsible for the first compilation (rad) was appointed as the head of a committee to make exact and perfect copies of the original. The other committee members consisted of Hazrat Abdullah bin Zubair, Hazrat Sa’id bin Al A’as and Hazrat Abdur Rahman bin Harith (rad).
Hazrat Uthman gave them instructions that if any of the three disagreed upon any point with Hazrat Zaid (rad) then the relevant ayah should be written in the language of the Quraish as that was the tongue in which the Qur’an was revealed.
Once copies were made the original was returned to Hazrat Hafsah (rad). The new copies were then distributed to every Muslim province with the orders that all other copies of the Qur’an, be they full or partial copies, were to be burnt and replaced by this original one. Since that day the Holy Qurán has remained in its original pristine form and will remain as such in the future by the grace and blessings of Allah Almighty.
(The author is pursuing masters in Sociology at the Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author’s and do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of Kashmir Life.)