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IV Analysis of Existing Interpretations and Narratives
Narratives on the Collection of the Qur’an by ‘Ali (rta)
Dr. Shehzad Saleem

IV Analysis of Existing Interpretations and Narratives


A. Analysis of the Matn

An analysis of the opinion of the scholars shows that their comments are not available on all the four representative narratives.24 Hence their analysis of the narratives is not comprehensive. However, if in a nutshell, their opinions are evaluated disregarding this fact, it can be said that they can be classified into two categories:

i. The narratives refer to memorization of the Qur’ān by ‘Alī (rta) after the death of the Prophet (sws).25

ii. The narratives refer to a written personal collection made by ‘Alī (rta) after the death of the Prophet (sws).26

The first of these options is unlikely because although the word jama‘ can refer to both memorization of the complete Qur’ān and to its written collection, there are strong indications in these narratives that here it has been used for a written collection. Perhaps the strongest of these indications is that variants from ‘Alī (rta),27 Yamān28 and from Ibn Sīrīn29 (other than the one that contain Ash‘ath) refer to the fact that the collection made by ‘Alī (rta) was in written form between two covers.

If the narratives refer to a personal written collection, then the following questions arise on it:

Firstly, some of the variants mention that ‘Alī (rta) took to this task because additions were being made to the Qur’ān.30 The reaction depicted by Abū Bakr (rta) is contrary to common sense. His response: “What a good opinion you have formed,” is inappropriate on such a grave situation. If additions were really being made, how could he have not been more concerned and taken additional measures to safeguard the Qur’ān? He should have very naturally inquired about the nature of these additions and about the people responsible for it. Moreover, if additions were being made to the Book of God, it seems strange that out of all the people, only one person came to know of these additions.

Secondly, if ‘Alī (rta) thought that additions were being made to the Book of God, why is it that he did not take the initiative to inform other Companions (rta) about such an alarming situation? On the contrary, narratives say that it is only after he was asked about his delay in pledging allegiance that he informed them of this.

Thirdly, it is alleged by classical scholars that it was after the battle of Yamāmah that Abū Bakr (rta) at the behest of ‘Umar (rta) undertook the collection of the Qur’ān.31 It is strange, as pointed out by Schwally also, that at that time no use was made of this Qur’ān collected by ‘Alī (rta). Moreover, we find Abū Bakr (rta) displaying two contradictory attitudes. In the narratives under discussion, he seems very pleased that ‘Alī (rta) is undertaking this task. However, in the narratives which depict the collection of the Qur’ān after the battle of Yamāmah, we find him very hesitant in attempting the task of collection.

Fourthly, as such, the overall picture which emerges is very fragmentary and seemingly incomplete. Neither do we find any report of Abū Bakr (rta) asking ‘Alī (rta) to bring over the collected Qur’ān nor do we find ‘Alī (rta) bringing it over to him at his own initiative. It seems that the whole endeavour had no further role in Muslim history, though common sense demands that this should not have been the case.

Fifthly, as Ibn Hajar has pointed out, ‘Alī (rta) himself has specified that it was Abū Bakr (rta) who was the first to collect the Qur’ān between two covers:


حدثنا عبد الله قال حدثنا يعقوب بن سفيان قال : حدثنا أبو نعيم قال : حدثنا سفيان ، عن السدي ، عن عبد خير ، عن علي رضي الله عنه قال : رحم الله أبا بكر هو أول من جمع بين اللوحين

‘Abd Khayr reports that ‘Alī (rta) said: “May God have mercy on Abū Bakr; he was the first to collect [the Qur’ān] between two covers.”32


As a result, we have two contradictory reports about the first collection of the Qur’ān between two covers. 

Sixthly, there is no narrative in the six canonical books of Hadīth regarding any collection made by ‘Alī (rta) in spite of the fact that they contain chapters which record narratives on the collections made by the first three caliphs. As pointed out by Schwally, it is only tafsīr or history books which have been influenced by Shiism that mention such narratives.

Seventhly, some variants33 of the narratives speak of a chronological collection. What exactly was the purpose of arranging the Qur’ān chronologically. Had it been of any significance, would not have the Prophet (sws) done so?

Moreover, the ascription of such a collection to ‘Alī (rta) is also not very sound. There is nothing reported from ‘Alī (rta) himself about the nature of arrangement in which he compiled the Qur’ān. It is only later people like ‘Ikramah or Muhammad ibn Sīrīn who report that this collection was chronological.

In the narrative from ‘Ikramah quoted above, the endeavour of this chronological collection is in fact attributed to a group of people. The words are: “Did they compile the Qur’ān according to its sequence of revelation?” (ألفوه كما أنزل ، الأول فالأول); the words are not: “Did he compile the Qur’ān according to its sequence of revelation?” (ألفه كما أنزل ، الأول فالأول). 

In the following narrative from Muhammad ibn Sīrīn, an unidentified narrator says: “People reckoned that ‘Alī had written it in the chronological order” (فزعموا أنه كتبه على تنزيله). The word فزعموا has an obvious ring of vagueness around it.


أخبرنا إسماعيل بن إبراهيم عن أيوب وابن عون عن محمد قال نبئت أن عليا أبطأ عن بيعة أبي بكر فلقيه أبو بكر فقال أكرهت إمارتي فقال لا ولكنني آليت بيمين أن لا أرتدي بردائي إلا إلى الصلاة حتى أجمع القرآن قال فزعموا أنه كتبه على تنزيله قال محمد فلو أصيب ذلك الكتاب كان فيه علم قال بن عون فسألت عكرمة عن ذلك الكتاب فلم يعرفه

Muhammad ibn Sīrīn said: “I have been told that ‘Alī delayed pledging allegiance to Abū Bakr. So Abū Bakr met him and said: ‘Are you averse to pledging allegiance to me?’ He replied: ‘By God! The truth is that I had sworn not to wear my cloak except for the Friday prayers until I have collected the Qur’ān.’” One of the narrators said: “People reckoned that ‘Alī had written it in the chronological order.” Muhammad ibn Sīrīn said: “If that book is obtained it would have a lot of knowledge.” Ibn ‘Awn said: “I asked ‘Ikramah about it and he did not know of any such book.”34


A possible answer to some of the questions raised above is that they are a classic case of argumentum e silentio: Perhaps Abū Bakr (rta) did express this concern and perhaps others besides ‘Alī (rta) were aware of additions being made in the Book of God and perhaps the collection made by ‘Alī (rta) did have some role in the collection made later by Abū Bakr (rta) but all this has not been reported, as is the case with many historical incidents.

The response to this critique is as follows: If the nature of an incident is such that if it ever happened, then common sense demands that it should have been reported and that a report of silence would be considered improbable and unlikely, then it cannot be regarded as a case of such a fallacy.

The cited critique of the scholars on the arrangement of the mushaf reported by al-Ya‘qūbī is strong.


B. Analysis of the Isnād


As referred to earlier, these narratives are reported from the following four persons.

i. ‘Alī (rta)

ii. Al-Yamān

iii. ‘Ikramah, mawlā of Ibn ‘Abbās (rta)

iv. Muhammad ibn Sīrīn

Our traditional scholars have referred to the inqitā‘ in the chain of narrations. It is evident that this inqitā‘ is obvious in the case of Ibn Sīrīn’s Narratives. However, it needs to be examined in the case of ‘Ikramah’s narratives. While, this inqitā‘ is obviously not present in the case of narratives of ‘Alī (rta). No information is available on the identity of al-Yamān as will be shown later.

I will now analyze these chains.

The following charts reflect the chains of the narratives reported by these three narrators:


1. ‘Alī’s Narratives



i. In the above chain, al-Hakam ibn Zuhayr is suspect. Yahyā ibn Ma‘īn35 has said about him: laysa hadīthuhū bi shay’. ‘Abd al-Rahmān reports that his father Abū Hātim36 has called him matrūk al-hadīth, lā yuktabu hadīthuhū. Abū Zur‘ah37 says that he is wāhī al-hadīth. Al-Nasā’ī also regards him to be matrūk al-hadīth.38

Al-Bukhārī39 says that he is munkar al-hadīth; Ibn Hajar40 has referred to him as matrūk.

ii. Ibrāhīm ibn Muhammad ibn Maymūn has been mentioned by Asadī among the duafā’ and said that he is munkar al-hadīth.41

iii. In the chain recorded by Ibn Nadīm, there is a missing person (indicated by a blank box in the chart above) between al-Hasan ibn ‘Abbās and ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn Abī Hammād. This is evident from the words of the former who says: ukhbirtu ‘an ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn Abī Hammād (I have been informed by ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn Abī Hammād through someone).

iv. Muhammad ibn ‘Uthmān ibn Abī Shaybah is suspect in the eyes of some authorities. Ibn Hajar42 records that according to ‘Abdullāh ibn Ahmad ibn Hanbal he is a liar and Ibn Khirāsh says that he fabricates narratives.


2. Al-Yamān’s Narrative 




i. Al-Yamān is a majhūl person. No authority has specified that ‘Abd Khayr narrates from such a person. ‘Abd Khayr himself is a companion of ‘Alī (rta). One possibility is a tashīf. ‘Abd Khayr ibn Yazīd was erroneously written as ‘Abd Khayr ‘an al-Yamān. [(عبد خيربن يزيد) as (عبد خير عن اليمان)].

ii. The jarh on al-Hakam ibn Zuhayr and Ibrāhīm ibn Muhammad ibn Maymūn has already been pointed out. 


3. ‘Ikramah’ Narratives



i. ‘Ikramah died in 107 AH at the age of 84. Hence he was born in 23 AH.43 This means that he was not a witness to the event reported in the narrative, which thus must also be regarded as munqati‘.

He could have heard this narrative from ‘Alī (rta). However, Abū Zur‘ah44 says that his narratives from ‘Alī (rta). are mursal. So one cannot even be certain that he has heard this narrative from ‘Alī (rta).

We also find the following jarh on him:


حدثنا الحسن بن علي ومحمد بن أيوب قالا حدثنا يحيى بن المغيرة قال حدثنا جرير عن يزيد بن زياد عن عبد الله بن الحارث قال دخلت على علي بن عبد الله بن عباس فإذا عكرمة في وثاق عند باب الحسن فقلت له ألا تتقي الله قال فإن هذا الخبيث يكذب على أبي

‘Abdullāh ibn al-Hārith said: “I came to ‘Alī ibn ‘Abdullāh ibn ‘Abbās and found that ‘Ikramah was chained near the door of Hasan. I said to him: ‘Do you not fear God.’ He replied: ‘This hideous person fabricates lies about my father.’”45


ii. Though the muhaddithūn have generally regarded ‘Awf ibn Abī Jamīlah to be a trustworthy person, here is some contrary evidence to his trustworthiness:

Abū Zur‘ah and al-‘Uqaylī have mentioned him in their respective books both titled al-Du‘afā’.46

Al-Hākim records:


قلت فعوف بن أبي جميلة قال ليس بذاك

I asked: “[What about] ‘Awf ibn Abī Jamīlah?” He [al-Dāraqutnī] replied: “laysa bi dhaka.”47


Al-Juzjānī records:


عوف بن أبي جميلة  الأعرابي يتناول بيمينه ويساره من رأي البصرة والكوفة

‘Awf ibn Abī Jamīlah al-A‘rābī would [carelessly] accept narratives from his right and left from the opinion of the [people of] Basrah and Kūfah.48


Al-Mizzī records:


قال بعضهم يرفع أمره إنه ليجيء عن الحسن بشيء ما يجيء به أحد

Some of them are of the opinion that he is not trustworthy. He narrates from al-Hasan what no one else ever has.49


About Hawdhah ibn Khalīfah, al-Mizzī50 records that in the opinion of Yahyā ibn Ma‘īn he is da‘īf in what he narrates from ‘Awf.

iii. In the opinion of Abū Hātim, Ma‘mar ibn Rāshid makes mistakes in what he has narrated whilst residing in Basrah51 and we know that Ayyūb ibn Abī Tamīmah al-Sakhtiyānī is a Basran.52

iv. Halbī in his Kashf al-Hathīth records about Abū al-‘Abbās ibn ‘Uqdah (Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Sa‘īd):53  Some regard him to be da‘īf and others as reliable (da‘‘afahu ghayru wāhidin wa qawwāhu ākharūn). According to al-Dhahabī, he would not fabricate narratives but would narrate gharā’ib and manākīr and narrate a lot from unknown people (kathīr al-riwāyah ‘an al-majāhīl).

v. There is an unspecified narrator between al-Haskānī and al-Hasan ibn ‘Abbās rendering this variant as broken (munqati‘).

vi. Al-Hasan ibn ‘Abbās is regarded as extremely weak by both Sunnī and Shiite works. In fact, Ibn Hajar has quoted al-Najāshī’s jarh on him:


وقال هو ضعيف جدا له كتاب في فضل انا أنزلناه في ليلة القدر وهو ردئ الحديث مضطرب الألفاظ لا يوثق به وقال علي بن الحكم ضعيف لا يوثق بحديثه وقيل انه كان يضع الحديث

And he [--Ibn Najāshi --]54 has called him da‘īfun jiddan. He has a book on the blessings of Sūrah Qadr which has inauthentic narratives, discrepancies in its words and cannot be relied upon. And ‘Alī ibn al-Hakam said: “He is da‘īf and his narratives cannot be relied upon.” And it is said that he used to fabricate Hadīth.55


Al-Najāshī’s words are:


له كتاب: إنا أنزلناه في ليلة القدر و هو كتاب ردّي الحديث مضطرب الألفاظ

He is da‘īfun jiddan. He has a book on Sūrah Qadr – a book which has inauthentic narratives and discrepancies in its words.56



4. Ibn Sīrīn’s Narratives



As pointed out earlier by Ibn Hajar, there is inqitā‘ in these narratives.

Now if it is considered that Ibn Sīrīn’s informant was ‘Ikramah, as is the case with the narratives attributed to ‘Ikramah, even then the issue of inqitā‘ stands as ‘Ikramah was not a witness to the events reported in these narratives, as pointed out earlier.



24. One possible reason for this could be that the content of narratives found in narratives attributed to ‘Alī and Yamān is fragmentary and seems to be a part of an incident reported in the narratives of ‘Ikramah and Ibn Sīrīn.

25. Thus, for example, as referred to earlier, Ibn Kathīr and Ibn Hajar hold this view. See: Ibn Kathīr, Fadāi’l al-Qur’ān, 51; Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bārī, vol. 9, 9-10.

26. Thus, for example, as referred to earlier, Al-Zurqānī and Schwally hold this view. See: Schwally, Tārīkh al-Qur’ān, 278-279; Al-Zurqānī, Manāhil, vol. 1, 183.

27. Haskānī, Shawāhid al-tanzīl, 26-27. See also: Al-Dhahabī, Siyar a‘lām al-nubalā’, vol. 14, 22; Abū Nu‘aym Ahmad ibn ‘Abdullāh ibn Ahmad ibn Ishāq ibn Mūsā ibn Mihrān al-Asbahānī, Hilyah al-awliyā’, 4th ed., vol. 1 (Beirut: Dār al-kitāb al-‘arabī, 1405 AH), 67; Ibn Nadīm, Al-Fihrist, 44. Al-Dhahabī, Tadhkirah al-huffāz, vol. 2, 661.

28. Haskānī, Shawāhid al-tanzīl, 27.

29. Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, Al-Tamhīd, vol. 8, 300-301; Ibn Sa‘d, Al-Tabaqāt al-kubrā, vol. 2, 338.

30. Ibn Durays, Fadā’il al-Qur’ān, 35-36; Ibn Abī Shaybah, Musannaf, vol. 6, 148, (no. 30230).

31. See for example: Abū ‘Abdullāh Muhammad ibn Ismā‘īl al-Bukhārī, Al-Jāmi‘ al-sahīh, 3rd ed., vol. 4 (Beirut: Da#r Ibn Kathi#r, 1987), 1907, (no. 4701).

32. Ibn Abī Dā’ūd, Kitāb al-masāhif, 11-12.

33. See, for example: Ibn ‘Abd al-Barr, Al-Tamhīd, vol. 8, 300-301; Al-Haskānī, Shawāhid al-tanzīl, 27-28.

34. Ibn Sa‘d, Al-Tabaqāt al-kubrā, vol, 2, 338.

35. ‘Abd al-Rahmān ibn Abī Hātim, Al-jarh wa al-ta‘dīl, 1st ed., vol. 3 (Beirut: Dār al-ihyā’ al-turāth al-‘arabī, 1952), 118.

36. Ibid.

37. Ibid.

38. Abū ‘Abd al-Rahmān Ahmad ibn Shu‘ayb al-Nasā’ī, Al-Du‘afā’ wa al-matrūkīn (Halab: Dār al-wa‘y, 1396 AH), 30.

39. Abū ‘Abdullāh Muhammad ibn Ismā‘īl al-Bukhārī, Al-Du‘afā al-saghīr, 1st ed. (Halab: Dār al-wa‘y, 1396 AH), 31.

40. Abū al-Fadl Ahmad ibn ‘Alī ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalānī, Taqrīb al-tahdhīb, 1st ed. (Syria: Dār al-rashīd, 1986) 175.

41. Abū al-Fadl Ahmad ibn ‘Alī ibn Hajar al-‘Asqalānī, Lisān al-mīzānvol. 1 (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-a‘lamī li al-matbū‘āt, 1986), 107.

42. Ibid., vol. 5, 280.

43. Abū Hātim Muhammad ibn Hibbān al-Bustī, Mashāhīr ‘ulamā’ al-amsār (Beirut: Dār al-kutub al-‘ilmiyyah, 1959), 82.

44. Abū Sa‘īd ibn Khalīl al-‘Alā’ī, Jāmi‘ al-tahsīl fī ahkām al-marāsīl, 2nd ed. (Beirut: ‘Ālam al-kutub, 1986), 239.

45. Abū Ja‘far Muhammad ibn ‘Umar ibn Mūsa al-‘Uqaylī, Al-Du‘afā’ al-kabīr, 1st ed., vol. 3 (Beirut: Dār al-kutub al-‘ilmiyyah, 1984), 373-374.

46. Abū Zur‘ah ‘Ubaydullāh ibn ‘Abd al-Karīm al-Rāzī, Kitāb al-du‘afā’, 1st ed. (Madīnah: Al-Jami‘ah al-islāmiyyah, 1982), 659; ‘Uqaylī, Al-Du‘afā’, vol. 3, 429.

47. Abū al-Hasan ‘Alī ibn ‘Umar al-Dāraqutanī, Su’ālāt al-Hākim, 1st ed. (Riyād: Maktabah al-ma‘ārif, 1984), 261.

48. Abū Ishāq Ibrāhīm ibn Ya‘qūb al-Juzjānī, Ahwāl al-rijāl. 1st ed. (Beirut: Mu’assasah al-risālah, 1405 AH), 114.

49. Al-Mizzī, Tahdhīb al-kamāl, vol. 22, 240.

50. Al-Mizzī, Tahdhīb al-kamāl, vol. 30, 322-323.

51. Ibn Abī Hātim, Al-jarh wa al-ta‘dīl, vol. 8, 256; Al-Mizzī,Tahdhīb al-kamāl, vol. 28, 309

52. Abū ‘Abdullāh Muhammad ibn Ismā‘īl al-Bukhārī,Al-Tārīkh al-kabīr, vol. 1 (Halab: Dār al-wa‘y, 1396 AH), 409; Ibn Abī Hātim, Al-jarh wa al-ta‘dīl, vol. 2, 255.

53. Abū al-Wafā’ Burhān al-Dīn Ibrāhīm ibn Muhammad ibn Sibt ibn al-‘Ajamī al-Halbī, Kashf al-hathīth ‘amman rumiya bi wad al-hadīth, 1st ed. (Beirut: Maktabah al-nahdah al-‘arabiyyah, 1987), 52.

54. Al-Najāshī is also called Ibn Najāshī because one of his ancestors was known as al-Najāshī. See: Muhammad ibn ‘Alī al-Ardabīlī, Jāmi‘ al-ruwāt, vol. 1 (Qum: Maktabah Ayātullāh al-‘Uzmah al-Mar‘ashah, 1403 AH), 54-55.

55. Ibn Hajar, Lisān al-mīzān, vol. 2, 216.

56. Ahmad ibn ‘Alī ibn Ahmad ibn al-‘Abbās al-Najāshī, Rijāl (Qum: Mu’assasah al-nashr al-islāmī, 1407 AH), 60-61.


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