Concise Principles in Tafseer and The Science of the Qur’aan (Part 6)

Bismillah Wa Salaatu Wa Salaamu ‘Alaa Rasoolillah:

Ammaa b’ad:

Concerning the Preservation, Collection and compilation of the Qur’aan

As mentioned in that which has passed, the Qur’aan was revealed in accordance with occurrences and incidents that took place during the life of the messenger (saw) or that Allah choose to reveal it without there being an incident related to its revelation.

On occasions Allah revealed whole surahs at once, at others
times parts of surahs and at other times parts of Ayahs.

Stages in the collection of the Qur’aan

The people of knowledge mention that there were three main
stages in the collection of the qur’aan:

  1. The Era of the Messenger
    (Sallallahu Alaihi was Salam)

During this period the qur’aan, alongside being revealed was
naturally being recorded by the companions of the messenger (Sallallahu alaihi
was Salam).

The main method of preserving the Qur’aan in this period was
through memory. The Arabs were well known for having exceptional memories and thus it was memorised by many in this period through this means. It was also preserved in writing during the life of the prophet (Sallallahu alahi was salam) on
various material. It was preserved on Animal skins, bone, Date palm wood and
animal shoulder.

The known memorisors and recitors of the qur’aan were many.

That which will bring clarity to this fact is the hadeeth of Anas
ibn Maalik who said:

“The prophet (Sallallahu alahi was salam) sent seventy men
who were known as ‘Al Qurraa’ (The proficient reciters of the qur’aan) upon a mission. They were confronted by the people of the tribes of Hayaan,
Ra’l and dhakwaan (Tribes who had animosity with the messenger (Sallallahu
alaihi wa salam) and were (all) killed…”

(Collected by Al Bukhaari 4088 and Muslim 1581)

On the basis of this incident the messenger supplicated
against them in the dua of Qunoot for the period of a month

The Hadeeth establishes the fact that the memorisers of the
qur’aan at the time of the messenger (Sallallahu alaihi wa salam) were many.

Imaam Abu Ubaid in his book ‘Al Qiraa’aat’ mentions some of
the most popular of those who had memorised the quar’aan. From them we have the
four caliphs of the messenger (Sallallahu alaihi was salam) and the likes of
Abdullah ibn mas’ood, Abdullah ibn Umar, Abdullah ibn Abbaas, Abdullah ibn
Zubair, Abdullah ibn al Amr’ ibnil Aas,  Saalim the freed slave of Abi Hudhaifa, Ubayy
Ibn Ka’b, Mu’aadh ibn Jabal, Zaid ibn Thaabit and Abu Darda. Alongside Aisha,
Hafsa and Umm Sala to name but a few.

  1. The period of Abu Bakr
    As Sideeq (Radhiyallahu ‘Anhu)

During the caliphate of Abu Bakr in the twelfth year after Hijra, Abu Bakr commissioned the second stage in the compilation and  preservation of the Qur’aan. The reason for his compilation was that which took place during the Battle of Yamaamah a large number of memorisers of the qur’aan were killed in battle. Abu Bakr, who was the khalifah at the time was concerned about the deaths of the proficient in the recitation of the qur’aan since it was not officially collected in one book
at the time but either memorised in its totality or preserved in writing in various places

During this battle known as ‘the wars of apostacy’ against Musailima the great liar and false prophet, a great number of memorisers of the Qur’aan were killed (more than 400 in number) thus Abu Bakr in order to protect the qur’aan had it officially collected since at that time it was either preserved writing present in various places or it was preserved in totality in the chests of the believers. An explanation of this incident occurs in the following hadeeth in Saheeh Bukhaari. Zaid Ibn Thaabit (who was commissioned by Abu Bakr to undertake the task of collecting the Qur’aan, narrates the conversation he had with Abu Bakr in the presence of Umar, who had suggested to Abu Bakr that the Qur’aan should be collected, the incident occurs in the following hadeeth:

Narrated Zaid bin Thabit Al-Ansari, one of the scribes of
the Revelation: Abu Bakr sent for me after the casualties among the warriors
(of the battle) of Yamaama (where a great number of Qurra were killed). ‘Umar
was in the presence of Abu Bakr, when he (Abu Bakr) said (to Zaid): “Umar
has come to me and said, the People have suffered heavy casualties on the day
of (the battle of) Yamama, and I am afraid that there will be some casualties
among the Qurra (those who know the Qur’an by heart) elsewhere, whereby a large
part of the Qur’an may be lost, unless you collect it. Thus I am of the opinion
that you should collect the Qur’an.’ Abu Bakr added, ‘I said to ‘Umar,
“How can I do something which Allah’s Apostle has not done?” ‘Umar
said (to me) “By Allah, it is a good thing”. So ‘Umar kept
on pressing trying to persuade me to accept his proposal, till Allah opened my
bosom for it and I had the same opinion as ‘Umar’. (Zaid bin Thaabit added:)
‘Umar was sitting with him (Abu Bakr) and was not speaking. Abu Bakr said (to
me), ‘You are a wise young man and we do not suspect you (of telling lies or of
forgetfulness); and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah’s
Apostle. Therefore, look for the Qur’aan and collect it (in one manuscript)’.
By Allah, if he (Abu Bakr) had ordered me to shift one of the mountains (from
its place) it would not have been harder for me than what he had ordered me
concerning the collection of the Qur’an. I said to both of them, ‘How will you carry out a thing which the Prophet has not done?’ Abu Bakr said, ‘By Allah, it is a good thing. So I continued discussing with him about it till Allah opened
my bosom for that which He had opened the bosoms of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar. So I
started locating the Quranic material and collecting it from parchments,
scapula, leafstalks of date palms and from the memories of men (who knew it by
heart). I found with Khuzaima two verses of Suraat-at-Tauba which I had not
found with anybody else (and they were):

‘Verily there has come to you an Apostle (Muhammad)
from among yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or
difficulty. He (Muhammad) is ardently anxious over you (to be rightly guided)’

The manuscript on which the Qur’an was collected,
remained with Abu Bakr till Allah took him unto Him, and then with ‘Umar till
Allah took him unto Him, and finally it remained with Hafsa, ‘Umar’s daughter.

(Collected by Imaam Al Bukhaari in his ‘Saheeh’ 4679)

This ordering of the collection and compilation of the Qur’aan
carried out by Abu Bakr is mentioned as being from the greatest of his virtues.

  1. The compilation of the
    Third Caliph Uthmaan

The Qur’aan, as is established in authentic hadeeth, was revealed in seven ‘Ahruf’ (different Arabic dialects). The revelation of the qur’aan in these dialects was to accommodate the various dialect of the Arab tribes in the region at that time. During the time of Uthmaan there occurred differing over the modes of recitation. This differing led to a big trial among the muslims and to fighting and bloodshed.

Thus trial was what lead to the third stage in the Compilation of the Qur’aan.

Narrated Anas bin Malik: Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to
‘Uthmaan at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were waging
war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people
of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur’an, so he said to
‘Uthmaan, ‘O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about
the Book (Qur’an), as Jews and the Christians have differed (before)’. So ‘Uthmaan sent a message to Hafsa saying, ‘Send us the manuscripts of the Qur’an so that we mayncompile the Qur’anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to
you’. Hafsa sent it to ‘Uthmaan. ‘Uthmaan then ordered Zaid bin Thaabit, ‘Abdullah
bin Az-Zubair, Sa’eed bin Al-‘Aas and ‘Abdur Rahman bin Haarith bin Hishaam to
copy the manuscripts in perfect copies. ‘Uthmaan said to the three Quraishi
men (the three other than Zaid ibn Thaabit), ‘If you disagree with Zaid bin Thaabit on any point in the Qur’an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish as the Qur’an was revealed in their tongue’. They did so, and when they had written copies, ‘Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa. ‘Uthmaan sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur’anic materials whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt. Zaid bin Thaabit added, ‘i could not find a verse from Sura al-Ahzab when we copied the
Qur’an which I used to hear Allah’s Apostle reciting. So we searched and found
it with Khuzaima bin Thaabit Al-Ansaari’. (That verse was): ‘Among the Believers
are men who have been true in their covenant with Allah’ (33: 23).

Thus we see the difference between the collection of Abu Bakr and the collection of Uthmaan is that the compilation of Abu Bakr was done with the intent of gathering the parts of the Qur’aan that where preserved in writing with the companions into one official book, while the collection of Uthmaan was to establish a standardised Qur’aan that the people would unite upon and not differ about.

(Collected by Imaamul Bukhaari in his ‘Saheeh’ 4702)

Thus the three stages are in summary:

1. Memorisation and preservation (During the Era of the Messenger (Sallallahu ‘alaihi was salam)

2. Collection and compilation (During the Era of Abu Bakr As Sideeq – Radhiyallahu ‘Anhu)

3. Standardisation (During the Era of Uthmaan – Radhiyallahu ‘Anhu)

Wa Billahit Tawfeeq

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