Traditional Muslim scholars are of
the view that the Qur’ān was preserved both through memorization and in writing
as soon as its revelation began. The Prophet (sws) himself would be the first to
commit a revelation to memory after archangel Gabriel brought it to him. He
would then declare the revelation and instruct his Companions to memorize it.
The Qur’ān was memorized by a vast majority of them.
This process of memorization remained the primary means of preservation and
transmission of the Qur’ān over the centuries.
As far as the written collection
of the Qur’ān is concerned, traditional Muslim scholars generally identify three
i) collection under the Prophet Muhammad (sws), ii) collection under Abū Bakr (rta),
iii) collection under ‘Uthmān (rta). Some narratives also mention that the first
person to collect the Qur’ān was ‘Umar (rta); however, they have been regarded
to mean that he was the first person who advised that the Qur’ān be collected.
Certain other narratives attribute a Qur’ānic collection to ‘Alī (rta).
Some Muslim scholars are of the opinion that it refers to memorization,
while there are some others who believe that it was a written collection of a
During the time of the Prophet (sws),
whenever a portion of the Qur’ān was revealed, it was written down by scribes
and read out to him to safeguard against any error.
This revelation would be written on various writing surfaces which were
available at that time like pieces of saddle-wood (aqtāb)), bones (aktāf),
leather (adīm), parchment (raqq) as well as on leaves (sa‘af), trunks (kirnāf)
and bark (‘usub) of palm trees. However, till the death of the Prophet (sws),
the Qur’ān was not written in book form because there was always a chance of
abrogation of some previous verse. So though all of the Qur’ān had been written
on various materials, it was not written in one place nor were its sūrahs
arranged in their final sequence (ghayra majmū‘ fī mawdi‘ wāhid wa lā murattab
In the time of the caliph Abū Bakr
(rta), a number of Muslims who had memorized the Qur’ān were killed. It was
feared that unless a written copy of the Qur’ān was prepared, a large part of it
might be lost. ‘Umar (rta) succeeded in convincing Abū Bakr (rta) to initiate
this task and Zayd ibn Thābit (rta) was employed for this purpose. Zayd (rta)
collected the Qur’ān from various materials on which it had been written and
prepared a complete copy. This copy remained with Abū Bakr (rta) till his death,
then with ‘Umar (rta) till his death and finally it came in the custody of his
daughter, Hafsah (rta).
Later the Ummayid caliph Marwān ibn al-Hakam (d. 105 AH) had it destroyed
thinking that people might start doubting it.
Then in the time of the caliph
‘Uthmān (rta), disputes arose among the soldiers of the Syrian and Iraqī armies
in reciting the Qur’ān. At that time, they were fighting at the battle fronts of
Armenia and Azerbaijan.
When ‘Uthmān (rta) was informed of this state of affairs by his general
Hudhayfah ibn al-Yamān (rta), he borrowed the suhuf kept with Hafsah (rta) which
had been prepared in the time of Abū Bakr (rta). He then constituted a committee
of four people to prepare copies of these suhuf in the dialect of the Quraysh.
Later ‘Uthmān (rta) dispatched these copies to important areas of the Muslim
empire and collected and destroyed all other masāhif.
‘Abdullāh ibn Mas‘ūd (rta), who at that time was residing in Kūfah, however
refused to hand over his copy of the Qur’ān.
During all this time, memorization
of the Qur’ān continued.
Described above is the view of
traditional Muslim scholars regarding the collection of the Qur’ān. It may also
be noted that they are almost unanimous that the verses within the sūrahs were
divinely arranged in the lifetime of the Prophet (sws); however, as far as the
sūrahs themselves are concerned, the majority opinion is that they were arranged
by the Companions (rta) in the time of ‘Uthmān (rta).
Thus 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).