The Qur'an Preservation

In this page, an introduction to the Holy Qur’an is given. This topic will be discussed in the following main points.
I. Status of other divine Books in Islam
II. Definition of the Holy Qur’an                                               
III. Collecting and writing down the Holy Qur’an
1. God’s Pledge to protect the Qur’an
2. Reciting the Qur’an as an act of worship
3. Simplicity of memorizing the Qur’an
4. Charming style of the Qur’an
5. Variety of subjects and rules of the Qur’an
IV. Stages of collecting the Holy Qur’an:
- By Abu Bakr, the first Caliph
- By Omar Bin Al-Khatab, the second Caliph
- By Othman Bin Afan, the third caliph
One of God’s abundant mercies to mankind is that He sent Prophets and Messengers from among themselves. These Prophets were the greatest of his creations holding the highest status among mankind in character and moral integrity. God sent them revelation that would serve to clearly establish mankind’s relationship with their Creator and provide a divine methodology by which they could purify their hearts and live as believers. These books would also help to establish a law in which the prevalence of justice and morality strengthen the community’s bonds. If people believed in these Books and lived by the divine law contained in them, they would live happily and eventually attaining peace in this world and the Hereafter.
It is obligatory on all Muslims to believe in all books revealed by God to His Messengers (Peace be upon all of them). Anyone who doubts or disbelieves in these books is not considered a Muslim because they are disbelieving the Qur’an which mentions them.
God Almighty says in the Qur’an:
“O you who believe! Believe in God, in his Messenger, and the Book which He has sent down to His Messenger, and the Scripture which He sent down to those before him; and whosoever disbelieves in God, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, and the Last Day, then indeed he has strayed far away.(Qur’an 4: 136)
The Holy Qur’an specifically mentioned some other divine Books such as: Abraham’s Scriptures, David’s Psalms, Moses’ Torah, and Jesus’ Gospel. The following verses illustrate this point. God says in the Quran:
“God! There is no divinity other than Him; the Ever Living, the One Who sustains and protects all that exists. It is He Who has sent down the Book (the Quran) to you with truth, confirming what came before it. And He sent down the Torah and Gospel.”
(Qur’an 3: 2-3)
“And to David We gave the Psalms.”
(Qur’an 4: 163)
“Verily, this is in the former Scriptures. The Scriptures of Abraham and Moses.”
(Qur’an 87: 18-19)
The Holy Qur’an is the miraculous word of God that was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) in the Arabic language via Gabriel, the Angel of revelation also known as the Holy Spirit (16:102). These miraculous words were recorded in a book that is transmitted by “Tawaatur”. This means that it was memorized to the letter as well as having written it down by hundreds of people (Prophet Muhammed (pbuh) and his companions). Then they passed it by memory and in writing to the next generation of thousands of people. These thousands of people passed it (hand written as well as by exact memory) to the next generation of hundreds of thousands of people and so on. This system made the foundation for the transmission and ability to verify that what they were learning originated from God and that it is exactly what the Prophet taught. Because of this comprehensive familiarity each generation had of it, no one ever doubted one word of its authenticity.
The recitation of [the Qur'an] is rewarded as worship as opposed to reading the text of the narrations (Hadiths) of the Prophet (pbuh). This is because they are the actual words of God to the letter while the Hadith is the guidance of God in the words of the Prophet (pbuh).
When we talk about a miracle we are referring to an extraordinary event or action which bypasses the laws of nature or ability of man. The Holy Qur’an is miraculous in the sense that it is has been proven to be above the ability of man to recreate something like it, hence it is inimitable. In addition to that it contains many scientific facts detailed centuries before man had any knowledge about them. It contains many fulfilled prophecies without one unfulfilled as well as historic truths not uncovered until recently. God supported each of His Messengers with miracles in order to confirm in the people’s hearts that they are not ordinary men rather they are Prophets chosen by the Almighty Himself. These miracles were usually concerning something known to the people they were presented to.
Prophet Muhammad’s people were very famous for their eloquence in the Arabic language, especially poetry. Hence, the Holy Qur’an (which is considered prose) was Prophet Muhammad’s main miracle to his people; although he performed at least many other physical miracles like the famous splitting of the moon mentioned in the first verse of chapter 55 in the Qur’an as well as many others narrated in authentic Hadiths (see Sunnah section). In no less than three places, the Qur’an challenges the Arabs and all mankind to produce something similar to it. Until now many people have tried yet the result has been failure in each case. God commands us:
“Say: If mankind and jinn were together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like therefore, even if they helped one another.”
(Qur’an 17: 88)
Muhammad (Peace be upon him) was an established illiterate man (see 7:157) who came with a most sublime book in the most eloquent of Arabic with such a strong message that it was able to convince thousands of Arabs upon hearing a few verses that it is the actual words of God. Then it proceeded to change these people one-hundred and eighty degrees. For example; The Arab society was Polytheistic and the Qur’an taught Monotheism, The Arab society was generally without law or police and the Qur’an taught people to follow a detailed specific code of law and outlined consequences for breaking them, The Arabs were about 90% illiterate and the first verse revealed was “Read! In the name of your Lord” and within 50 years of its being revealed the literacy rate of Arabs was more than 50%.
There has been rediculously false claims that Islam is just the result of a mixture of Judeo-Christian beliefs which praise old Arab practices. First of all, the Jewish tradition says that Jesus was a false messiah, Prophets committed major sins and that God rested after creation. The Qur’an holds that Jesus was the blessed Messiah, that Prophets did not ever commit a major sin and that God did not rest after creating the universe. Christian theology says that God is a trinty, that Jesus is divine, and that there is no need for the law. The Qur’an says that God is not a triune god but purely One, that Jesus is no more than a blessed Prophet of God who was created by God, and that the law was and always will be the base for our code of life. The Arabs gambled a lot and consumed alcohol and the Qur’an specifically outlawed these things. The Arabs were highly superstitious and the Qur’an taught that everything happens by the will of God. The Arabs were a very tribal people with no law or order and the Qur’an unified all of these warring tribes as Muslims under the law of God and we can go on and on. This Qur’an went against the fabric of the Arab society and single handedly convinced the whole of Arabia to conform to its standard within 22 years. This is a miracle.
“And if you are in doubt concerning that which We have sent down to Our servant (Muhammad), then produce a Surah (Chapter) of the like thereof and call your witnesses besides God, if you are truthful. But if you do can’t, and you will never do it, then fear the Fire whose fuel is men and stones, prepared for the disbelievers.” (Qur’an 2: 23-24)
In fact, no one was and will never be able to meet this particular challenge.
The people of Jesus, peace be upon him, were evolved in medicine; so Jesus’ miracles were of a medical nature. By the hand of God, Jesus healed the blind and the lepers by touching them, even more than that he brought forth the dead. God Almighty says:
“And God will say (on the day of judgment). O Jesus, son of Mary! Remember My favor to you and to your mother when I supported you with Gabriel so that you spoke to the people in the cradle and in maturity; and remember when I taught you the Torah and the Gospel, as well as the prophetic wisdom in order for you to explain it to the them. Then by my permission you made a figure like unto a bird out of clay, and by My Permission you breathed into it, and it became a bird by My Permission, and you healed the lepers and those born blind and by My Permission you brought forth the dead. And remember when I restrained the Children of Israel from you (when they resolved to kill you) as you came unto them with clear proofs, and the disbelievers among them said:This is nothing but evident magic.”
(Qur’an 5:110)
Magic was widespread among old Egyptians; so God sent Moses to them and supported him with miracles that nullified their magic. There are many verses in the Qur’an that mention Moses’ miracles.
“Then [Moses] threw his stick and it became a manifest serpent. And he drew out his hand, and it was white for the beholders.”
(Qur’an 7:107-108)
“And so the sorcerers came to Pharaoh. They said:Indeed there will be a reward for us if we are the victors.” He said: “Yes, and moreover you will be of the nearest (to me). They said: “O Moses! Either you throw (first) or shall we have the (first) throw?” He [Moses] said: “Throw (first). So when they threw, they bewitched the eyes of the people, and struck terror in them, and they displayed a great magic. And We revealed to Moses: “Throw your stick,” and behold! It swallowed up straight away all the falsehood which they showed. Thus truth was confirmed, and all that they did was made of no effect. So they were defeated there and returned disgraced. And the sorcerers fell down prostrate.”
(Qur’an 7:113-120)
There are many reasons that helped keep the Holy Qur’an intact both in the hearts of men and in writing.
1. God’s pledge to protect the Holy Qur’an:
God Almighty has Himself undertaken the responsibility to preserve the Holy Qur’an because it is His last revelation that He sent down to mankind. If it were corrupted, so many people would have an excuse for their misguidance and lack of obedience on the Day of Judgment.
Since God has guarded the Qur’an from change or corruption from the first day of its revelation to the last Day of existence, the Holy Qur’an is the same Qur’an which the Prophet (pbuh) and his Companions used to recite. Any (Arabic) Qur’an you pick up in the world is exactly the same to the letter as any other copy of the Qur’an. An English copy is not considered the Qur’an. It is simply a translation in which the translator has some responsibility since he is capable of mistake. In the Qur’an, there are many verses that prove that God has taken the pledge upon Himself to guard the Qur’an.
“Truly, We, it is We Who have sent down the Qur’an and surely, We will guard it (from corruption)”
(Qur’an 15: 9)
“Indeed, it is an honorable well-fortified Book (because it is God’s Speech and He has protected it from corruption). Falsehood cannot come to it from before it or behind it: (it is) sent down by the All Wise, Worthy of all praise.”
(Qur’an 41: 41-42)
As for previous Scriptures, God did not take the pledge upon Himself to protect them; He left their protection to their peoples. God says:
Surely, We sent down the Torah, wherein is guidance and light. The Prophets who surrendered themselves to God judged by it, These Rabbis and the Priests were entrusted with the protection of God’s book and were witnesses unto it.”(Qur’an 5:44)
“Some of the Jews changed words of the revelation” (4:46)
The corruption is also cited in 2:79; 3:79; 6:91; 5:15 blaming all those who were entrusted with preserving the Revelation.
The reason the Torah has changes is that it is known amongst their scholars that they didn’t write it in Moses time as well as the fact that the entire Torah was lost for many years. The Gospels were changed because they were not written directly after their first revelation. Most were written down around a hundred years after their revelation; thus it was impossible to remember the exact revealed texts of these Scriptures. Especially since the so called originals are a translation from Aramaic/Hebrew to Greek. This is why there are many versions of the same Scripture as in the case of the four different accounts of Jesus’ life contained in modern bibles and there were hundreds of other accounts rejected for their not agreeing with the churches canons/dogmas which developed long before the arrangement of the bible.
Theodore Noldeke (1830-1930), one of the most famous German Orientalists, quoted Noldeke in his book “Semitic Languages” saying “It is difficult to find an integrated sentence in the Torah related to Moses since it was neither written during his age, nor was written the age after him.”
God did not protect other divine books because they were sent down to particular peoples for certain periods of time which other Prophets and books would succeed them correcting the former generations mistakes and calling them back to Islam (pure monotheism and submission to His will). On the other hand, because the Qur’an is the last revealed divine Book and was revealed to Muhammad, the final Messenger of God, God has protected it. God says:
“And We have only sent you (O Muhammad) as a mercy for all.”
(Qur’an 21: 107)
“Say (O Muhammad): O mankind! Verily, I am sent to you all as the Messenger of God.”
(Qur’an 7: 158)
Therefore it is incumbent upon all Muslims to believe that all divine Books mentioned in the Qur’an were originally revealed by God, and any doubt of this is type of disbelief. This point has been emphasized in the Qur’an when God says:
“O you who believe! Believe in God, and His Messenger (Muhammad), and the Book [the Quran] which He has sent down to His Messenger, and the Scripture which He sent down to those before (him); and whosoever disbelieves in God, His Angels, His Books, His Messengers, and the Last Day, then indeed he has strayed far away.”(Qur’an 4:136)
2. Reciting the Qur’an as an act of worship
Recitation of the Holy Quran is an important act of worship in Islam. It has a great reward. Therefore, many Muslims dedicate themselves to reciting it daily. It is recited at home or while traveling, in prayers, and on many other occasions. God says:
“And recite the Qur’an (aloud) in a chanting manner.”(Qur’an 73:4)
As for the reward of reciting the Qur’an, God says:
“Indeed, those who recite the Book of God [i.e. the Quran], and perform prayers, and who spend in charity out of what We have provided for them, secretly and openly, they hope for a sure reward that will never perish. That He may pay them their wages in full, and give them more, out of His Grace. Verily He is Forgiving and pleased with those who do good.” (35: 29-30)
The Prophet (pbuh), says about the reward of reciting the Quran:
“The one who recites one letter of the Quran has one good deed in reward, and that one good deed will be multiplied tenfold” (Narrated by Tirmidhi: 2912).
The fact that God has made it an act of worship and guaranteed a great reward for it leads all those who believe in it to recite it as much as possible. This began in the time of the Prophet (pbuh) and continues today among millions of Muslims. This is aside from the fact the Qur’an is recited out loud in 3 of the 5 daily prayers in which Muslims are obligated to attend at the Mosque if they are able to. This is a key factor in the preservation of Qur’an because it leads each Muslim to be very familiar with it. It is well known and witnessed by all practicing Muslims that if the Imam misses one letter, reads the worng word or confuses the order of the Qur’an in the prayer, that one of the followers will interject with the correction. Since the time of the Prophet (pbuh), it is a common practice that in the month of Ramadan the Imam will recite the whole Qur’an in 30 portions read each day. It is because of this open public familiarity that it is impossible that anyone ever added, subtracted, or changed the Qur’an.
3. Simplicity of Memorizing the Quran
The Quran is made very easy for those who want to memorize it. God tells us:
“And We have indeed made the Quran easy to understand and remember; so isn’t there among you those who would embark upon it (memorization)?” (Qur’an 54:17)
The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was the first one who memorized the Quran. God has assured him that He will reveal the Quran to him and make it easy for him not to forget it. He says:
“We shall make you to recite [the Quran], so you [O Muhammad] shall not forget it.(Qur’an 87: 6)
Most of the Companions, their followers, young and old, and the generations who followed them memorized the Qur’an to the letter by heart. The more amazing and miraculous point is that today millions of these memorizers are not Arabs as only 18% of Muslims are Arabs. Anyone who knows a little bit about Arabic knows that this is another miracle. How can a Pakistani, Indonesian, Russian, or African memorize a 600 page Arabic book to the letter and he doesn’t speak Arabic???
4. Charming Style of the Qur’anic recitation:
The method of reciting the Qur’an is not up to people to come up with. In fact it was revealed in a unique style unknown to Arabs at the time of its revelation. Neither reciters nor listeners of the Qur’an get bored of its recitation when recited correctly. The more they recite the Quran, the more they desire to recite/listen again. The Qur’an attracts people’s attention which encourages them to listen. Many non-Muslims who don’t know Arabic have admitted their experience of enchanted tranquility while listening to it.
5. Variety of Subjects and Rules in the Quran:
Linguists, jurists, physicians, historians, geophysicists, scientists, astronomers, astrophysicists, economists, politicians, sociologists, and others across time have found in the Qur’an interesting passages which excite their curiosity. This is from a book which was revealed 1400 years ago in the middle of the dessert to an illiterate man.
Since the Qur’an is the final book of God sent to mankind and it will stand as so until the Last Day, then it must contain a variety of law and subject matter which will be applied across the span of time in all corners of the globe.
IV. Stages of Collecting the Holy Quran:
Aside from the memorizing that led to the protection of the [Holy Qur'an] , Prophet Muhammad, (pbuh) had the Qur’an written down on patches of leather and bark. He employed for this task the best writers and most pious among the Companions, who were known thereafter as Writers of Revelation (Qur’an). Whenever a verse was revealed to him, he ordered those writers to write it down in its definite place in the order revealed to him.
It was eighty days before the death of Prophet Muhammad in which the verse was revealed where God says:
“Today I have completed for you your guidance and perfected my blessing upon you by choosing for you Islam as your religion (way of life)” (Qur’an,5:3)
This was the last verse revealed to the Prophet (pbuh). In the last Ramadan of the Prophet’s life he was visited by Gabriel who gave him the order of Qur’an and went over it with him twice (while usually done once). Within months of the Prophet’s (pbuh) death, Abu Bakr- the first leader of the faithful after the Prophet (pbuh)- asked to assemble the verses of the Qur’an by gathering the leatherr and bark held by the writers of revelation in order to make a master copy whihc could be copied from and distributed.
Abu Bakr asked Zaid Bin Thabet, one of the most famous writers and verbal memorizers of the revelation during the Prophet’s life, to seek out the written tablets and leather of the Qur’an and collect it all together and make one copy.
Zaid had followed a very precise plan in pursuing and collecting the Qur’an. He only accepted those verses which were written down; moreover, he did not accept these written-down verses unless two pious and truthful companions of the Prophet witnessed that these verses had been written down and recited allowed by the Prophet (pbuh). According to this precise plan, the Qur’an had been collected from leather, tree bark, flat stones and the memories of men. It was collected and assembled in the form of a book. All of the Prophet’s (pbuh) Companions at that time unanimously agreed and accepted Zaid’s final collected copy of the Qur’an.
This copy remained during Abu Bakr’s era (1 year 9 months), and on through the next leader of the faithful Umar, the second Caliph (10 years). Umar entrusted the copy to his daughter, Hafsa -the widow of the Prophet (pbuh) and mother of the believers before his death.
The collection of the Qur’an during the Caliphate of Uthman (3rd Caliph) was as follows:
1. The rewriting of Holy Qur’an from Abu Bakr’s copy in an easy-to-read inscription which is known afterwards as the Uthmanic Script.
2. Assembling the fragments into sheets of thick paper in a bound book between two covers and setting the guidelines for any copies of the Qur’an to come from this copy (official seal and so forth).
3. Disseminating copies of the Qur’an and sending them out to different Islamic Countries for the believers to read.
4. Destroying any older copies which had sparked confusion among the different scripts and dialects of the Arabs which had spread amongst the new converts in the newly expanded Islamic State.
Uthman Bin Affaan was the last one who collected the Holy Qur’an. The Qur’an was revealed to Muhammed (pbuh) in the seven different dialects of Arabia at the time. Naturally when the Prophet would deal with different tribes especially outside of Makkah, God would reveal verses in the dialect of those to whom it was being sent to [3] . Even a verse which was revealed with the dialect of Quraish (Makkah) would be revealed later in another dialect with different words, yet the exact same meaning. During Uthman’s time and thereafter the dialect of Quraish became the standard among all the Arabs to keep the language Qur’anic. Even today the same dialect is taught in all schools at all levels in Arab countries as traditional Arabic. The colloquial slang of all Arab countries is far from traditional Arabic, but from school education they all understand traditional Qur’anic Arabic
In the beginning of the Caliphate of Uthman which began 12 years after the Prophet’s death (pbuh), these readings began to be spread around the now 3 times larger Islamic state. Every group would write the Qur’an in different dialects and many of them weren’t Arab so many of these unofficial copies were written and/or recited incorrectly. For this reason, Uthman gathered and consulted all the companions of the Prophet (pbuh) who were alive and had memorized the Qur’an completely. They decided that it will be from then on forbidden to write the Qur’an unless authorized by the Caliph. They would write a master copy which will be taken from the same Qur’an gathered by Zaid in Abu Bakr’s time. So Uthman ordered Zaid and other Companions to print a new clearer more professionally scribed master copy which will be used as the model by which we print all other copies and even non-Arabs will be able to follow this print.
All copies of Holy Quran that Muslims recite nowadays are but a copy of this one gathered in the Caliphate of Uthman who was known as the keeper of two rays of light referring to the two daughters of the Prophet (pbuh) to whom he was married. Copies of these originals can be found today in museums in Tashkent, Uzbekistan and Istanbul, Turkey.
It was known that Othman’s codex was not dotted, because the Arabs read and wrote Arabic that way. During the Caliphate of Abdulmalik Bin Marwan 52 years after the death of the Prophet (pbuh) and 40 years after Uthman, Islam was so widely spread that Arabs and non-Arabs mixed to the extent that foreign languages with similar writing systems would use Arabic letters, but they needed vowel marks which had been understood for hundreds of years by Arabs without being written. Accordingly, the Umayyad Caliph had ordered to put both the dots on the letters of Quran and placed the vowels. After this, there never occurred another confusion of how to pronounce the Arabic text of God’s book.

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