Leading a hard life in the desert, the Arabs were accustomed to making their hearts the pages inside which they memorized their endless poems, lineages, glorious events, and stories of old. Many of the people back then were unlettered. Even for those who knew how to read and write, the writing tools as such of ink and papers weren’t easily obtainable at those times. From here, relying on memorizing the words was much stronger than relying on writing them down. The Qur’an on the other hand was favored by the greatest deal of care. The prophet’s determination, and his companions’ as well, was primarily aimed at learning and memorizing the Qur’an by heart, but this didn’t distract them from writing it down as much as the writing tools that were available back then allowed them to do so. Hence, the Qur’an has always been preserved in the hearts of Muslims and in the copies dictated by Prophet Muhammad directly.
Today, if you try to listen to any chapter from the Qur’an recited by a Russian, a Hindu, a Japanese, an American, and an Arab; though they are totally different people with different nationalities, different mother tongues and different accents, you will be amazed by how all recitations are exactly the same.
What’s truly unique about the Qur’an is that it was not revealed all as a single unit, but the verses were revealed to the prophet fluctuating according to the different incidents and events that the prophet and Muslims faced through the 23 years of delivering the complete message. This final message was not just a compilation of laws, or a list of DOs and Don’ts that could be sent down as a book all at once, but it was a guide for a new nation built naturally day by day, developing its faith, forming its heart, thoughts and volition according to the will of their creator. A nation that wouldn’t impose its will above Allah’s, but guides the human experience to be convinced in the Almighty’s laws through intellect and reason, for He is All-knowing and wise above all.
It was Allah’s wisdom that the Qur’anic verses were inspired circumstantially to lead this nation in its development, its different events and its challenges, and this is why their final organization in one book couldn’t have been done except after the completion of the whole message. Amazingly enough, when you read the Qur’an you won’t find any inconsistency in it, on the contrary it’s a very well connected flowing book. The verses were inspired to Prophet Muhammad P.B.U.H. and he recited them to the companions in every different incident, the companions memorized the verses from the prophet, and those among them who knew how to read and write, wrote the new verses down as dictated by the prophet on the available tools of the time. They wrote on papyrus, palm branches stripped from their leaves, on rocks, on leather’s inner face and even on the shoulder bones of animals. ‘Abdullah Ibn-’Abbās reported that: “The prophet P.B.U.H. taught us the closing salutation of the prayers like he used to teach us every chapter from the Qur’an.” [Recorded by Muslim].
He also reported that: “Whenever the recitation was inspired to the prophet P.B.U.H., he called for him some of the lettered companions to write it down saying: ‘Put these verses in the chapter of so and so’.” [Recorded by Abu-Dāwud].
‘Abdullah Ibn-Amr reported that: “The prophet P.B.U.H. said to me: ‘Read the Qur’an once every month’, so I said: ‘I can read it in less than that’. He kept on reducing the period for me until he said: ‘Read it once every three days’.” [Recorded by Bukhari].
It seems that this incident took place before the completion of the Qur’anic revelations for in another narration by Bukhari, the prophet told ‘Abdullah Ibn-Amr: “Read it once every seven days and do not read it in less than that.”
‘Abdullah Ibn-Jaber reported that: “The prophet P.B.U.H. used to teach us the consultation prayers like he used to teach us every chapter from the Qur’an.” [Recorded by Bukhari].
Zayd Ibn-Thabet also reported: “During the prophet’s life P.B.U.H. we arranged the Qur’anic verses written on Reqaa ( An Arabic word meaning leather and papyrus scrolls).” [Recorded by Tirmidhī and Ahmed].
From the above narrations you can see how keen the prophet was on preserving the Qur’an and guarding it against any distortion by making sure that any new portion of it was written down in its place, memorized and read continuously by his companions who later delivered the holy book to all people. As reported by the companions, the verses were arranged in chapters according to the instructions of the prophet P.B.U.H. and during the final period of receiving the verses, in the last year of the prophet’s life, he read it in its final arrangement, which was witnessed, written and preserved by many of the companions at Madinah. On this final form they arranged the written verses, gathered it in one book and taught it to their followers, who taught it to theirs, and so on.
The process went as follows:
After the prophet P.B.U.H. departed, in the first year of his successor’s reign, Abu-Bakr consulted ‘Omar Ibn-Al-Khattab and ordered Zayd Ibn-Thabet to gather all of the written verses witnessed by what him and the companions have memorized. Regarding this incident Zayd said: “O, I swear by Allah that if they have ordered me to transfer a mountain from among the mountains rock by rock, it wouldn’t have been more difficult than their order for me to gather the Qur’an.” [Recorded by Bukhari]. This indicates how much careful, cautious and considerate Zayd was in his mission. Abu-Bakr and ‘Omar told Zayd not to trust only what he has written and memorized directly from the prophet, but also to revise it from what the rest of the companions have written and memorized. Furthermore, for any submitted written portions or verses, Zayd required from the companions to bring forth two witnesses from among them to testify that they have witnessed these verses being written between the prophet’s hands and according to his dictation.
This event took place in Madinah, so the closest of all companions were among those who have participated in it. They brought forward to Zayd all that which they have written alongside two just witnesses from among themselves to testify to have witnessed it being written between the prophet’s hands and according to his dictation. Zayd’s memorization for the Qur’an alongside that of the companions was extra assurance, and of course what they have all written stood as witnesses one above the other and evidence on its correctness for more authentication and exaggeration in cautiousness.
In this wise method, a complete written copy of the Qur’an dictated by the prophet P.B.U.H. was gathered. This action is an everlasting laudable deed for the companions who participated in it. Praise be to Allah the omnipotent who has fulfilled His promise to the believers and employed those most honest men for preserving his last message for all humans, may Allah reward them for what they have done with the best of awards. Allah says in the Qur’an:
In the name of Allah, The Most Gracious, Most Merciful,
“Verily, it is We who have sent down the Message, and We will assuredly guard it (from any corruption). We did send messengers before you amongst the religious sects of old, and never came a messenger to them but they mocked him.” [The Qur’an (15:10-11)]
One of my teachers, late Dr. Idris Tawfiq may Allah bless his soul, once said to us in class, “A 600 pages book revealed in a 23 years period, based upon the circumstances and incidents at hand 14 centuries ago, but still, its verses and chapters are all well organized, flowing as if it was written as one unit, holding wisdom that’s beneficent for people throughout the ages, couldn’t have been fabricated by a human being; it couldn’t be but a divine book.”
[I wrote the words later on according to the best of my memorization capacity, but the meaning is absolutely what’s mentioned up there].
Written by: Ehab Shawky
In Response To: Organize