|VIII. Overall Analysis and Conclusion
In this article, Sunnī and Shiite
sources regarding the collection of the Qur’ān by ‘Alī (rta) have been analyzed
separately. While each of the narratives cited seem to have unsound chains of
narration, one can also see that both accounts are significantly different.
According to the Sunnī account, a
chronological compilation of the Qur’ān was made by ‘Alī (rta) right after the
death of the Prophet (sws). Upon being asked by Abū Bakr (rta) regarding the
delay in pledging allegiance to him, ‘Alī (rta) replied that additions were
being made in the Qur’ān and that its arrangement was being tampered with. So he
gave preference to this task. Abū Bakr (rta) is reported to have expressed his
satisfaction at ‘Alī’s endeavour. The Sunnī sources are silent after this. As
such, the overall picture which emerges is very fragmentary and seemingly
incomplete, as indicated earlier. 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. After this, one wonders, what was
the need of the whole exercise? Was it forgotten or was it ignored?
The Shiite account on the other
hand presents a complete picture. It says that the collected Qur’ān was brought
over by ‘Alī (rta) to the Muhājirūn and the Ansār. However, their leaders
rejected it by saying that that they already had it with them. At this, ‘Alī (rta)
angrily went away declaring that they would never see it again. Some accounts
say that the Muhājirūn and the Ansār initially did not have a copy of the Qur’ān.
When ‘Umar (rta) became the caliph, he demanded the Qur’ān from ‘Alī (rta) who
refused to hand it over to him and said that it would be revealed when the al-Qā’im
arrives. Frustrated at this, ‘Umar (rta) embarked upon collecting the Qur’ān
with the help of two witnesses.
Some narratives recorded in Shiite
books give a clear message that the Qur’ān found with the Muslims is incomplete
and the complete version is only found with the descendants of ‘Alī (rta).
However, as shown in the preceding
sections, both the Sunnī and the Shiite accounts suffer from flaws which marr
their matns as well as isnāds. In the presence of these flaws,
none of these accounts can be regarded as reliable and nothing can be deduced on
their basis. Finally, as is shown earlier, the assertion that ‘Alī (rta)
collected the Qur’ān in its chronological order itself stands on slippery ground
both with regard to the Sunnī and Shiite sources.