To the Muslims, the Qur’ān is the
final of the series of divine scriptures revealed by the Almighty; after the Old
and New Testaments, it is the Final Testament. As the ipsissima verbum of
God, they believe that they have with them its urtext without the slightest of
It is known that the Qur’ān was not revealed in one go. It
was revealed over a period of about twenty two years. It is also known that it
was not collected and arranged in its chronological sequence. The question then
arises: When was the text of the Qur’ān collected and given its final shape and
who was responsible for this task? The answer to this question has been given by
many scholars and researchers of the past and present both Muslim and Western.
According to traditional Muslim scholarship,
it was ‘Uthmān (rta) who was responsible for a textus receptus ne varietur
of the Qur’ān. It was nothing but the Qur’ān revealed to the Prophet (sws)
written in the dialect of the Quraysh with the sūrahs arranged in their current
form by the Companions (rta).
The view of the traditional
western scholars can perhaps be summed up by saying that it was ‘Uthmān (rta) in
whose times the consonantal text of the Qur’ān was finalized. This prima facie
might seem similar to the traditional Muslim accounts of collection. However,
there is a world of difference. According to most Western scholars, the text
finalized by ‘Uthmān (rta) was not a true copy of what was revealed to the
In contrast to the above views, Hamīd al-Dīn al-Farāhī (d.
a scholar, thinker and exegete of the sub-continent has come to the conclusion
that the Qur’ān was collected and arranged in its current sequence in the
lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (sws) under divine supervision.
In his exegesis of Sūrah Qiyāmah,
al-Farāhī has pointed out that in certain verses of this sūrah the Almighty has
informed us about the final formation of the Qur’ānic text. In this article, al-Farāhī’s
interpretation of the relevant verses will be critically analyzed and a
comparative study will be conducted of how these verses have been generally
The sequence of discussion is as follows:
First, al-Farāhī’s view will be presented.
Second, the view of traditional scholars on the relevant
verses will be put forth.
Third, an analysis of both views will be undertaken.
Fourth, the discussion will culminate on a conclusion
regarding the tenability of al-Farāhī’s view.
Some relevant supplementary material forms part of three
Appendices given at the end.
II. Al-Farāhī’s View
In the opinion of al-Farāhī, the following verses of Sūrah
Qiyāmah portray the Qur’ānic view on its own collection and final arrangement:
لاَ تُحَرِّكْ بِهِ لِسَانَكَ لِتَعْجَلَ بِهِ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا
جَمْعَهُ وَقُرْآنَهُ فَإِذَا قَرَأْنَاهُ فَاتَّبِعْ
قُرْآنَهُ ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا بَيَانَهُ (٧٥
[O Prophet!] do not move your tongue to hastily acquire
this [Qur’ān]. Indeed, upon Us is its collection and recital. So when We have
recited it, follow this recital. Then upon Us is to explain it. (75:16-19)
The key word in the above quoted verses is jam‘ (translated as: collection).
According to al-Farāhī, it means bringing together in a unified whole, all the
parts of the Qur’ān revealed in various episodes at various instances in the
life of Prophet Muhammad (sws); according to him, the verses state that the
Almighty would Himself have the whole of the Qur’ān collected and arranged in a
new sequence after its revelation was completed. The Almighty would then read
out to him this arranged Qur’ān from the beginning to the end. Once the Almighty
has read out the Qur’ān in this final form and sequence, the Prophet (sws) would
be bound to follow this new recital and would be required to abandon the
previous one. During this final recital if an explanation of any part of the
text was required, it would also be furnished.
An elaboration of al-Farāhī’s view now follows.
While explaining these verses in his exegesis, he first stresses that these
verses are deeply related to the context of the sūrah and are not independent of
it as contended by some scholars. The piecemeal revelation of the Qur’ān would
make the Prophet (sws) anxious. An obvious reason for this was that the Qur’ān
was the primary source of faith, motivation and inspiration for him; if a delay
occurred in the coming of a revelation, it would make him anxious. Moreover, the
Qur’ān itself has also alluded to various other reasons due to which the Prophet
(sws) was anxious to receive the whole of the Qur’ān. One of these reasons was
that the Qur’ān might become a source of guidance for his opponents. So anxious
was he in this matter that the Almighty had to tell him that he could not
provide guidance to whomever he willed:
إِنَّكَ لاَ تَهْدِيْ مَنْ أَحْبَبْت وَ لكِنَّ اللهَ يَهْدِي مَنْ يَشَاءُ وَهُوَ
أَعْلَمُ بِالْمُهْتَدِينَ (٢٨:
You cannot guide people whom you desire; it is only God who gives guidance to
whom He wishes; only God knows those worthy of being guided. (28:56)
Similarly, another thing which made the Prophet (sws) impatient was the
objection of his opponents mentioned in the Qur’ān (25:32) as to why it was not
revealed in one episode:
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَوْلَا نُزِّلَ عَلَيْهِ
الْقُرْآنُ جُمْلَةً وَاحِدَةً (٣٢:٢٥)
And the disbelievers said: “Why is not the Qur’ān revealed to
him in one go.” (25:32)
Furthermore, the Prophet (sws) also wanted the completion of revelation to be
accomplished as soon as possible so that he was relieved of his responsibility.
All these factors made him anxious and he would fondly wait for a new
revelation and would hasten to acquire it whenever it came so that he was able
to preserve it and become entitled for a new episode.
According to al-Farāhī, this anxiety and impatience of the Prophet (sws) to
receive the Qur’ān is evident from various other verses of the Qur’ān also. At
various instances, he is told to exercise patience by seeking refuge in prayer
and in remembering God as much as he could. In Sūrah Dahr, the words are:
نَزَّلْنَا عَلَيْكَ الْقُرْآنَ تَنْزِيلًا فَاصْبِرْ لِحُكْمِ رَبِّكَ وَلَا
تُطِعْ مِنْهُمْ آثِمًا أَوْ كَفُورًا وَاذْكُرْ اسْمَ رَبِّكَ بُكْرَةً وَأَصِيلًا
وَمِنْ اللَّيْلِ فَاسْجُدْ لَهُ وَسَبِّحْهُ لَيْلًا طَوِيلًا (٧٦:
We alone have revealed this Qur’ān to you in an elaborate manner. So with
perseverance wait for the judgement of your Lord and pay no heed to any sinner
or ingrate among them. And remember the name of your Lord from dawn to dusk and
prostrate yourselves before Him in the night and glorify Him till late at night.
This patience was necessary because the Almighty was following the piecemeal
scheme of revelation for a purpose: it was essential for the training of the
Prophet’s opponents as well as that of his followers that the Qur’ān be revealed
piecemeal and at intervals deemed appropriate by the Almighty.
According to al-Farāhī, following is another instance when this assurance is
بِالْقُرْآنِ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ يُقْضَى إِلَيْكَ وَحْيُهُ وَقُلْ رَبِّ زِدْنِي
وَلَقَدْ عَهِدْنَا إِلَى آدَمَ مِنْ قَبْلُ فَنَسِيَ وَلَمْ نَجِدْ لَهُ عَزْمًا (٢٠
And be not in haste in acquiring the Qur’ān before its revelation is
completed to you and pray: “O Lord! advance me in knowledge.” And before this,
we took a pledge from Adam but he forgot and we did not find determination in
This verse, opines al-Farāhī, states that man is weak in his pledges and
resolve and if the whole sharī‘ah is given to him in one go, he will not be able
to bear it. Hence the Prophet (sws) should not ask for all the Qur’ān be soon
revealed to him. In other words, it is man’s own frail and feeble nature that
calls for a piecemeal revelation.
The following verse, in the opinion of al-Farāhī, also depicts this reason:
وَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا لَوْلَا نُزِّلَ عَلَيْهِ
الْقُرْآنُ جُمْلَةً وَاحِدَةً كَذَلِكَ لِنُثَبِّتَ بِهِ فُؤَادَكَ وَرَتَّلْنَاهُ
And the disbelievers said: “Why is not the Qur’ān revealed to
him in one go.” Thus shall We reveal it [piecemeal] to strengthen your heart,
and We have revealed it painstakingly. (25:32)
It is evident from this verse, according to al-Farāhī, that a single-episode
revelation of the Qur’ān would adversely effect its reception by the Prophet (sws).
Piecemeal revelation was necessary so that the burden of the Qur’ān could be
borne with ease and facility.
Al-Farāhī also cites the following verse which according to him also sounds
the same assurance to the Prophet (sws) in this regard:
سَنُقْرِئُكَ فَلَا تَنسَى إِلَّا مَا شَاءَ اللَّهُ (٨:٨٧)
Soon We shall recite it to you; then you will not forget except what Allah
In the opinion of al-Farāhī, the state of the Prophet (sws) being in haste
and impatient had become a permanent feature of his life, and that is why he was
assured by the Qur’ān from various aspects. In other words, this state of the
Prophet (sws) was not something which surfaced at the revelation of these verses
of Sūrah Qiyāmah under discussion; however, at this instance, the Almighty
stopped him forthwith from showing haste and to assure him, spelled out the
whole scheme of Qur’ānic revelation. As per this scheme, the various portions of
the Qur’ān would be arranged in a sequence by the Almighty once its revelation
was complete. Then the whole of the arranged Qur’ān would be read out to him. He
would be required to follow this new recital and abandon the previous one. Any
portion requiring an explanation would be further elaborated at this instance.
Once this scheme was delineated, the Prophet (sws) was further assured in
subsequent verses (twenty and twenty one) that if his addressees were not
accepting his message, it was not because of the piecemeal revelation of the
Qur’ān; it was because they had become slaves of this world and had become
indifferent to the Hereafter.
Thus, according to al-Farāhī, the verses under discussion are deeply related
to the context of the verses.
He expresses the view that the exegetes have limited the scope of this verse
by saying that the haste showed by the Prophet (sws) was due to his fear of
losing any part of the revelation brought to him. He says that though what the
exegetes have surmised is true, yet the verse has much broader implications.
In al-Farāhī’s opinion, if all the implications and indications found in
these verses are unfolded, the verses would mean something like this:
لم تجتهد هكذا
في تلقى الوحي اما حفظه و جمعه فعلينا واما هداية قومك فهم منهمكون في محبة العاجلة
فكثير القول و قليله سواء عليهم
Why are you burdening yourself [O Prophet!] with such hard work in acquiring
the revelation? The responsibility of preserving the Qur’ān and its collection
rests with Us. As far as the guidance of your people is concerned, your people
are engrossed in the love of this world. Whether you recite a small or a large
quantity of revelation to them, it will make no difference to them.
Al-Farāhī subsequently goes on to state the conclusions he has drawn from the
above quoted verses of Sūrah Qiyāmah:
القرآن يجمع في عهد النبى و يقرء عليه بنسق واحد فانه لو ابخر هذا الوعد بعد عهد
النبى لم يا مره باتباعه الثانى ان النبى مامور بالقراءة حسب هذه القراءة الثانيه
التى تكون بعد الجمع. وليس للنبى ان يلقى عليه شى من الوحى ولا يـبلغه الامة عقلا
ولما امره الله تعالى في قوله يايها الرسول بلغ ما انزل اليك من ربك وان لم تفعل
فما بلغت رسالتك" امرا عاما. فلا بدان علم النبى الامة قراءته الاخيرة التي عليه
القرآن في اللوح المحفوظ فان العرضة الاخيرة لابد ان تكون مطابقة بالاصل. والثالث
ان بعد هذا الجمع والترتيب بين ماشاء الله بيانه من التعميم والتخصيص والتكميل
First, the Qur’ān was collected and arranged in the lifetime
of the Prophet and recited to him in a specific sequence. If this promise was to
be fulfilled after his death, he would not have been asked to follow this new
recital [referred to by the words: “so when We have recited it, follow this
recital”]. Second, the Prophet was directed to read according to this second
recital that took place after this arrangement of the Qur’ān [in its new final
sequence]. It is against sense and reason that he be divinely revealed something
and then he not communicate it to the ummah. And also when the following words
of the Qur’ān: “[O Prophet!] Communicate what has been revealed to you; if you
do not do so, you would not have discharged your responsibility as a prophet,”
(5:67) constitute a general directive, it is certain that the Prophet must have
communicated the final recital of the Qur’ān in the way it was found in the
guarded tablet (the lawh-i mahfūz). This is because the final recital had to
match the original recital [found in the tablet]. Third, after this collection
and arrangement, the Almighty explained whatever He intended to from among
specifying a general directive or vice versa (al-ta‘mīm wa al-takhsīs),
furnishing supplementary directives (al-takmīl) and reducing the extent of
application of some directives (al-takhfīf).
presents some corroboration of this whole scheme of Qur’ānic collection and
arrangement from various historical narratives.
Thus for example:
i. The Prophet
(sws) would read out whole sūrahs of the Qur’ān to people
and this could not have been possible unless they had been read out to him in
their specific sequences. The Companions (rta) would listen to and preserve the
Qur’ān in accordance with this arrangement.
Prophet (sws) directed the Companions (rta) to place the revealed verses of the
Qur’ān at specific places of specific sūrahs and the Companions (rta) would obey
iii. When some
explanatory verse was revealed, the Prophet (sws) would have it written at
either the place immediately following the verses which needed this explanation
or at the end of the sūrah in case these verses related to the whole theme of
the sūrah. Deliberation reveals another distinct feature of these explanatory
verses: they themselves contained words which would show that these verses have
in fact been revealed as an explanation. For example, the words in Sūrah Baqarah
١٨٧) كَذَالِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللهُ أياتِهِ
لِلنَّاسِ (thus does Almighty explain His verses for
iv. It is
known from authentic and agreed upon narratives that once the whole of the
Qur’ān had been revealed, Gabriel recited the complete Qur’ān to the Prophet (sws)
in its real sequence and the Prophet (sws) taught it to the ummah the way he had
received it from Gabriel.
aforementioned discussion summarizes al-Farāhī’s view on the collection and
arrangement of the Qur’ān. This view is based on his interpretation of certain
Qur’ānic verses. In the next section, we shall take a look at how other scholars
and exegetes have generally interpreted these verses.
majority of scholars
interpret these verses in the light of a narrative attributed to a famous
Companion of the Prophet (sws), ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Abbās (rta) (d. 68 AH). Variants
of this narrative are recorded in various anthologies of Hadīth. Following is a
وحدثنا قُتَيْبَةُ بن سَعِيدٍ وأبو بَكْرِ بن أبي شَيْبَةَ
وإسحاق بن إبراهيم كلهم عن جَرِيرٍ قال أبو بَكْرٍ حدثنا جَرِيرُ بن عبد الْحَمِيدِ
عن مُوسَى بن أبي عَائِشَةَ عن سَعِيدِ بن جُبَيْرٍ عن بن عَبَّاسٍ في قَوْلِهِ عز
وجل لَا تُحَرِّكْ بِهِ لِسَانَكَ قال كان النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم إذا نَزَلَ
عليه جِبْرِيلُ بِالْوَحْيِ كان مِمَّا يُحَرِّكُ بِهِ لِسَانَهُ وَشَفَتَيْهِ
فَيَشْتَدُّ عليه فَكَانَ ذلك يُعْرَفُ منه فَأَنْزَلَ الله تَعَالَى لَا
تُحَرِّكْ بِهِ لِسَانَكَ لِتَعْجَلَ بِهِ أَخْذَهُ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُ
وَقُرْآنَهُ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا أَنْ نَجْمَعَهُ في صَدْرِكَ وَقُرْآنَهُ فتقرأه
فإذا قَرَأْنَاهُ فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْآنَهُ قال أَنْزَلْنَاهُ فَاسْتَمِعْ له إِنَّ
عَلَيْنَا بَيَانَهُ أَنْ نُبَيِّنَهُ بِلِسَانِكَ فَكَانَ إذا أَتَاهُ جِبْرِيلُ
أَطْرَقَ فإذا ذَهَبَ قَرَأَهُ كما وَعَدَهُ الله
Ibn ‘Abbās narrates regarding the verse:لَا تُحَرِّكْ بِهِ
لِسَانَكَ (do not move your tongue ...]: “When Gabriel would descend
with a revelation to the Prophet, he would move his lips and tongue
and this would distress him and his anguish would be apparent from him. At this,
the Almighty revealed the verse of Sūrah Qiyāmah: لَا
تُحَرِّكْ بِهِ لِسَانَكَ لِتَعْجَلَ بِهِ [Ibn ‘Abbās explained this and
the subsequent verses thus:] do not move your tongue to acquire it;
إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُ وَقُرْآنَهُ (it is upon Us to
collect it in your heart (najma‘ahu fī sadrika)) and so you can read it.
فإذا قَرَأْنَاهُ فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْآنَهُ (so when We
reveal it, listen to it carefully). إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا بَيَانَهُ
(it is our responsibility to recite it through your tongue).
The Prophet would then be silent when Gabriel came and would recite later as
promised by the Almighty.”
While summarizing the purport of the variants of this narrative which explain
these verses, Ibn Hajar writes:
صلى الله عليه وسلم في ابتداء الأمر إذا لقن القرآن نازع جبريل القراءة ولم يصبر
حتى يتمها مسارعة إلى الحفظ لئلا ينفلت منه شيء قاله الحسن وغيره ووقع في رواية
للترمذي يحرك به لسانه يريد أن يحفظه وللنسائي يعجل بقراءته ليحفظه ولابن أبي حاتم
يتلقى أوله ويحرك به شفتيه خشية أن ينسى أوله قبل أن يفرغ من آخره وفي رواية الطبري
عن الشعبي عجل يتكلم به من حبه إياه وكلا الأمرين مراد ولا تنافى بين محبته إياه
والشدة التي تلحقه في ذلك فأمر بأن ينصت حتى يقضي إليه وحيه ووعد بأنه آمن من تفلته
منه بالنسيان أو غيره ونحوه قوله تعالى وَلَا تَعْجَلْ بِالْقُرْآنِ مِنْ قَبْلِ
أَنْ يُقْضَى إِلَيْكَ وَحْيُهُ
At the beginning, when the Prophet would be imparted the Qur’ān, he would try
to immediately receive the Qur’ān from Gabriel and would not wait until Gabriel
had finished reciting it out to him. This was because he was enthusiastic to
preserve it lest any part of it be lost. This is reported by al-Hasan
and some others. It is mentioned in the narrative recorded by Al-Tirmidhī
that he would move his tongue wanting to memorize it; Al-Nasā’ī
mentions that he would show haste in reading it in order to preserve it; Ibn Abī
records that he would acquire the first part of the revelation and would move
his lips fearing that he might forget it before he acquired the last part. In a
narrative recorded by al-Tabarī
from al-Sha‘bī, it is mentioned that he would show haste in reading it [after
Gabriel] because of his love for it. And both these reasons are implied as there
is no contradiction between [he reading it because of] his love for it and the
distress he would feel in reading it at which he was directed to remain silent
until all of it has been revealed to him and was assured that he would not lose
it from his memory because of forgetfulness or because of any other reason. And
the [following] verse also is of similar meaning: وَلَا
تَعْجَلْ بِالْقُرْآنِ مِنْ قَبْلِ أَنْ يُقْضَى إِلَيْكَ وَحْيُهُ (and be
not in haste in acquiring the Qur’ān before its revelation is completed to you).
If the ascription of this explanation to Ibn ‘Abbās (rta) is correct, it
would mean that these verses were primarily revealed to sound an assurance to
the Prophet (sws) not to be anxious about memorizing the Qur’ān. He is told that
he will not lose any part of it and that the Almighty would collect a portion of
the Qur’ān brought down by Gabriel with other portions found in the heart of the
IV. Critical Analysis
As mentioned earlier, al-Farāhī is of the opinion that the word jam‘ in these
verses refers to the final sequential arrangement of various portions of the
Qur’ān revealed piecemeal. This was done once its revelation was complete. On
the other hand, the general, view which originates from a narrative attributed
to Ibn ‘Abbās (rta) is that the word jam‘ refers to the collection of an episode
of the Qur’ān at the time of its revelation in the heart of Prophet with other
episodes already present in it.
A more detailed look at al-Farāhī’s interpretation shows that it is very
faithful to the words of the Arabic text. The word “collection” is used in the
very meaning it conventionally has: “collection of what is not in one place.”
The verb jama‘a and its various inflections have been used abundantly in the
Qur’ān itself in this sense.
When used with reference to a text, it can only mean to bring its parts
However, an objection arises on his interpretation of the verse prior to the
jam‘ (collection) verse which is in fact the background verse on which the jam‘
verse sounds an assurance. Before this question is stated, here in a nutshell is
what al-Farāhī says about the verse prior to the jam‘ verse:
In his opinion, if the set of verses under discussion are analyzed in the
light of parallel verses, it becomes evident that the Prophet’s impatience and
haste in receiving the Qur’ān was due to two reasons: first, in order to
carefully preserve it, and second, so that he was able to acquire the complete
Qur’ān as soon as possible so that the Qur’ān may become a source of guidance
for his people.
Thus the subsequent verses give assurance to the Prophet (sws) on both these
apprehensions by spelling out the whole scheme of the revelation and collection
of the Qur’ān.
Now, the objection:
If all the parallel verses of the Qur’ān are analyzed, the issue of
revelation being faithfully preserved in the memory of the Prophet (sws) and his
eagerness to receive the whole Qur’ān as soon as possible so that it could
become a source of guidance for his people are two issues discussed separately
in the Qur’ān. The Prophet (sws) is assured separately in the Qur’ān on both of
them. Al-Farāhī has erroneously combined both issues while interpreting the
verses of Sūrah Qiyāmah under discussion.
Thus, the above-quoted verse of Sūrah A‘lā (87:8) which assures him of the
preservation of the Qur’ān in his memory relates to the first issue, and it does
not seem correct to relate it to the second issue (eagerness to receive the
whole Qur’ān) as al-Farāhī has done. In contrast, other verses referred to by
him specifically relate to the second issue.
Moreover, there are many other verses which corroborate the second of these
issues thus strengthening al-Farāhī’s view on this issue: the Prophet (sws) was
very anxious to receive the whole Qur’ān so that it could be a source for his
people to embrace faith:
لَعَلَّكَ بَاخِعٌ نَّفْسَكَ أَلَّا يَكُونُوا مُؤْمِنِينَ (٢٦:
You will perhaps fret yourself to death that they are not embracing faith.
It is similarly stated:
جَاءكُمْ رَسُولٌ مِّنْ أَنفُسِكُمْ عَزِيزٌ عَلَيْهِ مَا عَنِتُّمْ حَرِيصٌ
عَلَيْكُم بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ رَؤُوفٌ رَّحِيمٌ (٩:
There has now come to you a Messenger from amongst yourselves, one who is
distressed at your doom, who is greedy for [your faith]; one who is benevolent
and merciful to true believers. (9:28)
The wisdom behind the piecemeal revelation is mentioned thus:
لِتَقْرَأَهُ عَلَى النَّاسِ عَلَى مُكْثٍ وَنَزَّلْنَاهُ تَنزِيلاً (١٠٦:١٧)
And We have revealed the Qur’ān in
parts so that you can gradually recite it to people and We have elaborately and
painstakingly revealed it [thus]. (17:106)
At another place in the Qur’ān, the
angels have presented an excuse to the Prophet (sws) that they only come to him
at God’s command and do not have the authority to come when they want to. In
other words, they cannot do anything on their own to allay the impatience of the
Prophet (sws) by bringing the revelation at short intervals. In this regard,
they are bound by the command of God:
وَمَا نَتَنَزَّلُ إِلَّا بِأَمْرِ رَبِّكَ لَهُ مَا بَيْنَ أَيْدِينَا وَمَا
خَلْفَنَا وَمَا بَيْنَ ذَلِكَ وَمَا كَانَ رَبُّكَ نَسِيًّا (١٩:
We descend only at the bidding of your Lord. To Him belongs what is before us
and behind us, and all that lies between. And Your Lord does not forget. (19:64)
It can thus be said that if this distinction is made between the issues on
which the assurance is sounded, al-Farāhī’s view indeed is very well grounded:
the jam‘verse and the subsequent ones assure the Prophet (sws) because of his
impatience and anxiety on its piecemeal revelation only; they do not assure him
because he was anxious on an episode of revelation getting lost.
Thus, in technical parlance, as per this distinction and as per the words of
25:32 quoted earlier (specifically the word kadhālika translated as “thus shall
We reveal it [piecemeal]”) there is an ellipsis after verse sixteen of Sūrah
Qiyāmah of a part of the discourse to the effect: kadhālika anzalnāhu. falamā
yatimmu tanzīluhū … (thus shall We reveal it [piecemeal]. So when We have
revealed all of it …). These implied words then dovetail with the next verse:
“It is upon Us to collect it and to recite it.”
Now, as far as the general view is concerned, certain questions arise on the
matn and isnād of the narrative which forms the basis of this view. They are
A. Critical Analysis of the Matn
i. The word jam‘ used by the Qur’ān does not readily accept its explanation
offered by the narrative. If the issue, as the narrative says, was to assure the
Prophet (sws) that no part of the revelation would be lost, why has the Qur’ān
used the word jam‘ (collection) for this purpose; why has it not employed a word
commonly used to convey this meaning. In Arabic, words such as hafaza, qara’a,
thabata are much more appropriate for this purpose.
ii. According to the narrative, the translation of the verse
إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُ وَقُرْآنَهُ
is: “It is Our responsibility to collect it in your heart and [it is Our
responsibility that] you read it.” The translation of the second part of the
verse is not accurate. It should be translated as: “Its recital is upon Us.” In
other words, the verbal noun قُرْآنَهُ
should relate to the Almighty and not, as the narrative says, to the Prophet (sws)
iii. The verse فإذا قَرَأْنَاهُ فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْآنَهُ
is interpreted as: “when we reveal it, listen carefully to it,” by relating it
to the verse لَا تُحَرِّكْ بِهِ لِسَانَكَ. Thus what
is meant is that when Gabriel recites the revelation to the Prophet (sws), he
should not move his tongue to acquire it in haste. However, the sequence of the
discourse naturally relates the verse فإذا قَرَأْنَاهُ
فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْآنَهُ to the verse immediately preceding it:
إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُ وَقُرْآنَهُ. This is evident
from the way فإذا قَرَأْنَاهُ has come after the last
part of the previous verse: قُرْآنَه.
iv. The explanation of the words فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْآنَهُ
(follow this recital) by the word فَاسْتَمِعْ له (to
listen intently) is also inappropriate.
v. The explanation of the verse إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا بَيَانَهُ
ثُمَّ by the words
ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا أَنْ تَقْرَأَهُ (it is upon Us
that you read it) is just a repetition. The narrative already has explained a
part of the verse before this to have this meaning: إِنَّ
عَلَيْنَا قُرْآنَهُ (it is Our responsibility that you read it).
On the other hand, each and every word of this group of verses becomes very
appropriate for the purpose it has been used if the interpretation of al-Farāhī
is adopted with the distinction stated earlier.
A comment has already been made about the word jam‘ (collection). When used
with reference to a text, it can only mean to bring its parts together.
Similarly, the second part of the verse: إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا
قُرْآنَهُ becomes very meaningful if the word قُرْآنَه
refers to the recital of the Qur’ān by the Almighty in its final sequence
through the archangel Gabriel.
Moreover, the word فَاتَّبِعْ is used in its
conventional meaning in al-Farāhī’s interpretation. The implication is that the
Prophet (sws) is directed to follow this final recital and abandon the previous
Finally, the verseإِنَّ عَلَيْنَا بَيَانَهُ ثُمَّ
according to al-Farāhī’s interpretation refers to the Almighty’s further
explanation of any directive that was needed. The Qur’ān itself refers to this
promise of the Almighty by certain generic verses which are place at the end of
the explanatory directive. Thus, for example, this generic verse in Sūrah
Baqarah is: (٢:
١٨٧) كَذَالِكَ يُبَيِّنُ اللهُ أياتِهِ
لِلنَّاسِ (thus does Almighty explain His verses for people, (2:187)).
B. Critical Analysis of the Isnād
Shabbīr Ahmad Azhar Mayrathī
has criticized the ascription of this narrative to Ibn ‘Abbās (rta) and shown
that the narrative in all probability is munqati‘ (broken). Following is a
summary of his arguments.
This narrative is from Ibn ‘Abbās (rta) who was not even born at the time of
revelation of Sūrah Qiyāmah which belongs to the Makkan period. So how can the
content of this narrative be trusted? Thus, for example, the variant
reported by Abū ‘Awānah Waddāh ibn ‘Abdullāh Yashkurī from Mūsā ibn Abī ‘Ā’ishah
mentions that Ibn ‘Abbās (rta) told Sa‘id ibn Jubayr that he would move his lips
to show him how the Prophet (sws) moved his lips.
If Ibn ‘Abbās (rta) was not even born at the time of revelation of this sūrah,
how could he have said these words at all? In all probability, these words as
well as the rest of the content have been wrongly ascribed to him.
A very clear indication of this wrong ascription can be seen in the isnād of
the narrative. It may first be noted that in the corpus of hadīth literature
there are many narratives which Sa‘īd ibn Jubayr had directly heard from Ibn
‘Abbās (rta) and others which he had not directly heard from him and had in fact
heard them from people who had heard them from Ibn ‘Abbās. Whenever Sa‘īd
narrated directly from Ibn ‘Abbās (rta), he always specified this by saying:حدثني
ابن عباس (Ibn ‘Abbās narrated to me) or سمعت ابن
عباس (I heard from Ibn ‘Abbās) أخبرني ابن عباس(Ibn
‘Abbās informed me). When he narrated indirectly from Ibn ‘Abbās (rta), he
either named the person in between eg. حدثني مجاهد عن ابن
عباس (Mujahid narrated to me from Ibn ‘Abbās) and
حدثني عكرمة عن ابن عباس (‘Ikramah narrated to me from Ibn ‘Abbās) or did
not name anyone at all and just said عن ابن عباس (from
Ibn ‘Abbās). Now as far as the narrative under discussion is concerned, if all
its variants are analyzed it will be found that in all of them the words without
any exception are عباس عن ابن (from Ibn ‘Abbās) which
means that Sa‘īd never heard this narrative directly from Ibn ‘Abbās (rta). In
all probability, Sa‘īd heard hit from someone who had attributed it to Ibn
‘Abbās (rta) and trusting this person, Sa‘īd ascribed it to Ibn ‘Abbās (rta).
The above criticism by Mayrathī seems to be very well-grounded. A recourse to
all the variants of the narratives corroborates his statement that in none of
them does Sa‘īd ibn Jubayr specify that he heard this report directly from Ibn
‘Abbās (rta). Hence Mayrathī is right in concluding that this narrative in all
probability is broken and cannot be safely ascribed to Ibn ‘Abbās (rta).
The interpretation of al-Farāhī of these set of verses is in harmony with the
conventional meaning of the words of these verses. It is also supported by other
verses of the Qur’ān. The general interpretation based on the narrative of Ibn
‘Abbās (rta), on the other hand, does not do justice to the words of the verse
and to the sequence of the discourse. Moreover, its ascription to Ibn ‘Abbās (rta)
also stands on flimsy grounds.
Now if al-Farāhī’s interpretation is correct, then it carries great
significance as it sheds new light on the issue of the collection and
arrangement of the Qur’ān in the light of the Qur’ān itself. It would mean that
according to the Qur’ān itself the Qur’ān was be given its final arrangement by
the Almighty through the Prophet (sws), who was then bound to follow this new
For exact details, see: Appendix A.
For exact details, see: Appendix B. It may be pointed out that the Western
accounts of the collection of the Qur’ān can be primarily divided into two
categories. To the first category belong scholars who have formed their
views by taking the traditional Muslim accounts of collection as a starting
point in some form or the other, while to the second category belong
scholars who have completely rejected the traditional Muslim accounts and
have in fact come up with alternative accounts on the formation and
collection of the Qur’ān.
For a brief biographical note on al-Farāhī, see Appendix C.
There are other scholars besides him like Ibn Hazm (d. 456 AH), ‘Abd al-Latīf
Rahmānī (d. 1959), Tamannā ‘Imādī (d. 1972), Abū al-Qāsim al-Khū’ī (d. 1992)
and John Burton (d. 2001), who have also concluded that the text of the
Qur’ān was finalized in the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad. However, their
arguments are different from those presented by al-Farāhī and need a
separate study for their in-depth analysis. For these arguments, see: Abū
Muhammad ‘Alī ibn Ahmad ibn Hazm, Al-Ihkām fi usul al-ahkām, 1st ed., vol. 6
(Beirut: Dār al-kutub al-‘ilmiyyah, 2004), 272; ‘Abd al-Latīf Rahmānī,
Tārīkh al-Qur’ān (History of the Qur’ān), 1st ed. (Lahore: Suffah
Publications, 2001), 24-94; Tamannā ‘Imādī, Jam‘ al-Qur’ān (Collection of
the Qur’ān), 2nd ed. (Karachi: al-Rahmān Publishing Trust, 1994), 376-388,
392-393; Muhammad Abū al-Qāsim al-Khū’ī, Al-Bayān fī tafsīr al-Qur’ān (An
Exposition on the Exegesis of the Qur’ān), 5th ed. (Qum: Al-Matba‘ah al-‘ilmiyyah,
1974), 257-278; John Burton, The Collection of the Qur’ān, 1st ed.
(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1979), 9-240.
Hamīd al-Dīn al-Farāhī, Tafsīr Sūrah Qiyāmah min nizām al-Qur’ān wa ta‘wīl
al-Furqān bi al-Furqān, 2nd ed. (Azamgarh: Dāi’rah hamīdiyyah, 1403 AH),
These verses read:
Al-Farāhī, Tafsīr Sūrah Qiyāmah, 14.
Al-Farāhī has not cited the source books of these narratives. I have tried
to furnish the exact references of the historical material he seems to be
See, for example: Al-Bukhārī, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, 3rd ed., vol. 1, 265, (no.
731); Ibid., vol. 4, 1611, (no. 4166); Abū al-Husayn
Muslim ibn al-Hajjāj al-Qushayrī, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, vol. 1 (Beirut:
Dār ihyā’ al-turāth al-‘arabī, n.d.), 447, (no.
Al-Nasā’ī, Al-Sunan al-kubrā, vol. 5, 10, (no.
8007). See also: Abū Dā’ūd, Sunan, vol. 1, 208, (no.
786); Al-Tirmidhī, Sunan, vol. 5, 272, (no. 3086).
The following verses describe some of these instances of Qur’ānic tabyīn
(explanation): 2:187, 2:219. 2:266, 3:103, 24:58, 24:61.
See, for example: Al-Bukhārī, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh,
vol. 4, 1911, (no. 4712).
See for example: Abū Ja‘far Muhammad ibn Jarīr al-Tabarī, Jāmi‘ al-bayān ‘an
tā’wīl āy al-Qur’ān, 1st ed., vol. 29 (Beirut Dār ihyā’ al-turāth al-‘arabī,
2001), 222-227; Abū Ja‘far Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Tūsī, Al-Tibyān fī tafsīr
al-Qur’ān, 1st ed., vol. 10 (Qum: Maktab al-a‘lām al-islāmī, 1409 AH),
195-197; Abū al-Qāsim Muhammad ibn ‘Umar al-Zamakhsharī, Al-Kashshāf ‘an
haqā’iq al-tanzīl wa ‘uyūn al-aqāwīl fī wujūh al-ta’wīl, vol. 4 (Beirut: Dār
ihyā’ al-turāth al-‘arabī, n.d.), 662; Al-Rāzī, Al-Tafsīr al-kabīr, vol. 30,
197-199; Abū al-Fadā’ Ismā‘īl ibn ‘Umar ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr al-Qur’ān
al-‘Azīm, vol. 4 (Beirut: Dār al-fikr, 1401 AH), 450.
Some variants say that the reason that he moved his lips was the fear that
he might forget the revelation brought down to him. See, for example:
Al-Bukhārī, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, vol. 4, 1876, (no. 4644); Al-Nasā’ī, Al-Sunan
al-kubrā, vol. 6, 503, (no. 11635).
I have translated the explanatory words of Ibn ‘Abbās
أَنْ نُبَيِّنَهُ بِلِسَانِكَ in
the light of other variants which have the words
ثُمَّ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا أَنْ تَقْرَأَهُ. See for
example: Al-Bukhārī, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, vol. 6,
2736, (no. 7086); Muslim, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, vol. 1, 330, (no. 448).
Al-Bukhārī, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, vol. 4, 1877, (no. 4644); See, for example,
also: Ibid., vol. 4, 1877, (no. 4645); Muslim, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, vol. 1,
330, (no. 448); Abū Nu‘aym
Ahmad ibn ‘Abdullah ibn Ahmad ibn Ishāq ibn Mūsā ibn Mihrān al-Asbahānī.,
Al-Musnad al-mustakhraj ‘alā Sahīh Muslim, 1st ed., vol. 2 (Beirut:
Dār al-kutub al-‘ilmiyyah, 1996), 67, (no. 992); Al-Tirmidhī,
Sunan, vol. 5, 430, (3329); Al-Nasā’ī, Al-Sunan al-kubrā, vol. 1, 324, (no.
1007); Abū ‘Abd al-Rahmān Ahmad ibn Shu‘ayb al-Nasā’ī, Al-Sunan al-mujtabā,
2nd ed., vol. 2 (Halab: Maktab al-matbū‘āt
al-islāmiyyah, 1986), 149, (no. 935);
Abū ‘Abdullāh Ahmad ibn Hanbal
al-Shaybānī, Musnad, vol. 1 (Cairo:
Mu’assasah al-Qurtubah, n.d), 220, (no. 1910);
Abū Dā’ūd Sulaymān ibn Dā’ūd al-Tayālisī,
Musnad, vol. 1 (Beirut: Dār al-ma‘rifah, n.d.),
342, (2628); Abū ‘Abdullāh Muhammad ibn
Sa‘d al-Zuhrī. Al-Tabaqāt
al-kubrā, vol. 1 (Beirut: Dār Sādir, n.d.),
198; Abū Bakr Ahmad ibn al-Husayn al-Bayhaqī, Dalā’il al-nubuwwah, 2nd ed.,
vol. 7 (Beirut: Dār al-kutub al-‘ilmiyyah, 2002), 56-57; Abū Bakr Ahmad ibn
al-Husayn al-Bayhaqī, Ma‘rifah al-sunan wa al-āthār, vol. 7 (Beirut:
Dār al-kutub al-‘ilmiyyah, n.d.), 582, (no. 6167);
Abū al-Faraj ‘Abd al-Rahmān ‘Alī ibn Muhammad ibn al-Jawzī, Kashf al-mushkil
min hadīth al-sahihayn, vol. 2
(Riyād: Dār al-watan, 1997),
362, (no. 871); Muhammad ibn Ishāq ibn Yahyā
ibn Mandah, Al-Īmān, 2nd ed., vol. 2 (Beirut:
Mu’assasah al-risālah, 1406 AH), 697, (no. 689); Abū
‘Abdullāh Muhammad ibn Ismā‘īl al-Bukhārī, Khalq af‘āl al-‘ibād, vol. 1 (Riyād:
Dār al-ma‘rifah, 1978), 83; Abū al-Qāsim al-Taymī,
Al-Hujjah fī bayān al-mahajjah wa sharh ‘aqīdah,
2nd ed., vol. 1 (Riyād: Dār al-rāyah, 1999),
301-302, (no. 139); ‘Abd al-Razzāq ibn Hammām al-San‘ānī, Tafsīr, 1st ed.,
vol. 3 (Beirut: Dār al-kutub al-‘ilmiyyah, 1999),
370; Jalāl al-Dīn ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn Kamāl al-Dīn Abī
Bakr ibn Muhammad ibn Sābiq al-Dīn al-Suyūtī, Al-Durr
al-manthūr, vol. 8 (Beirut: Dār al-fikr, 1993), 348; Al-Husayn ibn Mas‘ūd
al-Baghwī, Tafsīr, vol 4 (Beirut: Dār al-ma‘rifah, n.d.), 423;
‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn Abī Hātim, Tafsīr,
vol. 10 (Sayda’: Al-Maktabah al-‘asriyyah, n.d.), 3387,
Muhammad Bāqir al-Majlisī,
Bihār al-anwār fī āthār al-a’immah
al-athār, 1st ed., vol. 9 (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-wafā,
1404 AH), 168; Ibid., vol. 18, 248; Ibid., vol. 40,
155; Muhammad ibn Shahr Āshūb, Manāqib Āl-i Abī Tālib, vol. 2 (Qum:
Mu’assasah intishārāt ‘allāmah, 1379 AH), 40-41.
This reference, in all probability, is to al-Hasan ibn Yūsuf al-Tarā’ifī the
informant of Ibn Mandah who has recorded this narrative in his Al-Īmān. See:
Ibn Mandah, Al-Īmān, vol. 2, 698, (no. 691).
Al-Tirmidhī, Sunan, vol. 5, 230, (no. 3329).
Al-Nasā’ī, Al-Sunan al-kubrā, vol. 6, 503, (no. 11636).
Ibn Abī Hātim, Tafsīr, vol. 10, 3387.
Al-Tabarī, Tafsīr, vol. 29, 223.
Abū al-Fadl Ahmad ibn ‘Alī Ibn
Hajar al-‘Asqalānī, Fath
al-Bārī, vol. 1 (Beirut: Dār ihyā’ al-turāth
al-‘arabī, 1988), 25.
Abū Bakr Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn Durayd, Jamhurah al-lughah, 1st ed., vol.
1 (Beirut: Dār al-kutub al-‘ilmiyyah, 1426 AH ), 550; Abū al-Hasan ‘Alī ibn
Ismā‘īl ibn Sīdah, Al-Muhkam wa al-muhīt al-a‘zam, 1st ed., vol. 1 (Beirut:
Dār al-kutub al-‘ilmiyyah, 2000), 347; Muhammad ibn Mukarram ibn Manzūr,
Lisān al-‘arab, 1st ed., vol. 8 (Beirut: Dār sādir, n.d.), 53; Muhammad
Murtada al-Zubaydī, Tāj al-‘arūs, vol. 20 (n.p.: Dār al-hidāyah, n.d.), 451;
Sa‘īd al-Khūrī al-Shartūnī, Aqrab al-mawārid fī fusahi al-‘arabiyyah wa
al-shawārid, 1st ed., vol. 1 (Tehrān: Dār al-uswah, 1416 AH), 462.
See, for example: 3:25, 5:109, 10:58, 18:70, 45:16, 75:3, 104:2.
These two reasons have been stated by al-Farāhī while summing up the whole
discussión. It may be noted that earlier on he had cited some others as well
(for example, the demand of the opponents that the Qur’ān be revealed in one
go). This discrepancy can apparently be reconciled if it is inferred that in
his opinión the two reasons stated here are the primary ones.
Thus for example, when at another place (87:8),
assurance was sounded to the Prophet (sws) to allay his fears of forgetting
the Qur’ān, the word qara’a is used: “We will recite it to you so that you
will not be able to forget it, (sa nuqri’uka fa lā tansā).”
It is attributed to some authorities like Qatādah that the word
قُرْآنَهُ means “collection”
(ta’līf). See: Al-Tabarī, Jāmi‘ al-bayān, vol. 29, 225. This meaning cannot
be accepted: Lexicons of Arabic clearly state that the latter is the meaning
of the verb qara’a only when the object of this verb is a thing (shay’); if
the object is a book, then the verb qara’a always means “to recite”. See,
for example: Ibn Manzūr, Lisān al-‘Arab, vol. 1, 128; Sa‘īd al-Khūrī
al-Shartūnī, Aqrab al-mawārid, vol. 4, 296.
It can be argued that there are many instances in Hadīth literature where
the word jam‘ obviously refers to memorization. It neeeds to be appreciated
that in all such instances, it is the context and some other concomitant
factors which incorporate this sense in the word. Thus “memorization” is
never the denotation of the word jam‘; it, however, can be its connotation.
As examples of such instances, see: Al-Tirmidhī,
Sunan, vol. 4, 591-592, (no. 2381); Al-Nasā’ī, Al-Sunan al-kubrā, vol. 5,
24, (no. 8064).
Azhar Mayrathī, Sahīh Bukhārī kā mutāla‘ah, 1st ed. (Lahore: Dār al-tazkīr,
example: Al-Bukhārī, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, vol. 1, 6, (no. 5); Muslim,
Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, vol. 1, 330 (no. 448).
be noted here that the question raised by Mayrathī is not new. Ibn Hajar,
already aware of this anomaly, says that either the Prophet (sws) himself or
some of his Companions (rta) must have later informed Ibn ‘Abbās (rta) of
this state. See: Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bārī, vol. 8, 554.
may be added the fact that some variants in which Abū ‘Awānah Waddāh ibn
‘Abdullāh Yashkurī from Mūsā ibn Abī ‘Ā’ishah also say that Ibn ‘Abbās (rta)
would move his lips the way he saw the Prophet (sws) moving his lips. See,
for example: Abū Nu‘aym, Al-Musnad al-mustakhraj ‘alā
Sahīh Muslim, vol. 2, 68, (no. 994).