In The Name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful
PRESERVATION OF THE HOLY QUR’AN
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“In the ancient times, when writing was scarcely used, memory and oral transmission was exercised and strengthened to a degree now almost unknown. Relates Michael Zwettler (Zwettler, Michael –The Oral Tradition of Classical Arabic Poetry, p. 14).
It was in to this ‘oral’ society that Prophet Muhammad (S.A.W) was born. During its revelation, which spanned twenty three years, not only did the Prophet (S.A.W) teach the Holy Quran, He (S.A.W) memorized it entirely himself as did many of his Companions amongst them; Abu Bakr (Raliyallaahu Anhu), Umar (Raliyallaahu Anhu), Uthman (Raliyallaahu Anhu), Ali (Raliyallaahu Anhu), Ibn Masud (Raliyallaahu Anhu), Abu Hurairah (Raliyallaahu Anhu), Abdullah bin Abbas (Raliyallaahu Anhu), Abdullah bin Amr bin al-As (Raliyallaahu Anhu), Aisha (Raliyallaahu Anha), Hafsa(Raliyallaahu Anha), and Umm Salama (Raliyallaahu Anha).
The Angel Gabriel (A-S) would spend every night in the month of Ramadhan with the Prophet (S.A.W), on a yearly basis, to refresh his Holy Qur‟anic memory.
The lives of Muslims revolved solely around the Holy Quran; they would memorize it, teach it, recite portions from it every day for their obligatory Prayers – and many would stand a third of the night in prayer reciting from it.
There existed so many memorizers of the Holy Quran, that it was considered strange to find a family without someone amongst them who had not memorized the Holy Quran entirely.
As time progressed, literally thousands of schools were opened devoted specifically to the teaching of the Holy Quran to children for the purpose of memorization. The teachers in these schools would have unbroken TAZKIYA‟S [authoritative chains of learning] going back to the Prophet (S.A.W) himself through his many Companions – and this system exists even today.
Indeed, we live in a world where there are millions of memorizers of the Holy Quran, scattered in every city and country spanning the whole globe. These memorizers range from ages 6 and up; males, females, Arabs, non-Arabs, blacks, whites, Orientals, rich and poor.
There does not exist a single book, secular or religious, which has as many memorizers of it, as the Holy Quran. In reality, if one considers the ‘greatest’‟ writings of the world; Old and New Testament, Aristotle, Plato, Shakespeare, Orwell, Marx, Dickens, Machiavelli, Sun Tzu etc. – one may ask, how many people have memorized them? Seldom do we find a single individual.
Hypothetically, if we were lose all the books of the world, by throwing them into the sea for instance, the only book we could resurrect entirely word-for-word would be the Holy Quran – and, amazingly, it could be done simultaneously in every country of the world within twenty-four hours.
Kenneth Cragg writes, “This phenomenon of Holy Quranic recital means that the text has traversed the centuries in an unbroken living sequence of devotion. It cannot, therefore, be handled as an antiquarian thing, nor as a historical document out of a distant past. The fact of HIFDH (Holy Qur‟anic Memorization) has made the Holy Qur‟an a present possession through all the lapse of Muslim time and given it a human currency in every generation never allowing its relegation to a bare authority for reference alone.” (Cragg, Kenneth
– The Mind of the Qur‟an, London: George Allen & Unwin, 1973, p.26).
The entire Holy Quran was in writing at the time of revelation from the Prophet (S.A.W) dictation by some of his literate companions, the most prominent of them being Zayd ibn Thabit (Raliyallaahu Anhu). Others among his noble scribes were Ubayy ibn Ka‟b (Raliyallaahu Anhu), Ibn Mas‟ud (Raliyallaahu Anhu), Mu‟awiyah ibn Abu Sufyan (Raliyallaahu Anhu), Khalid ibn Waleed (Raliyallaahu Anhu) and Zubayr ibn Awwam (Raliyallaahu Anhu).
The verses were recorded on leather, parchment, scapulae (shoulder bones of animals) and the stalks of date palms. (al-Muhasabi, al-Harith – Kitab Fahm al- Sunan, cited in Suyuti, Al-Itqan fi „Uloom al-Qur‟an, Vol.1, p.58).
The codification of the Holy Quran (i.e. into a „single book form‟) was done soon after the Battle of YAMAMAH (11AH/633CE), after the Prophet (S.A.W) death and during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr (Raliyallaahu Anhu).
Many companions became martyrs in that battle, and it was feared that unless a written copy of the entire revelation was produced, large parts of the Holy Quran might be lost with the death of those who had memorized it.
Therefore, at the suggestion of Umar (Raliyallaahu Anhu) to collect the Holy Qur‟an in the form of writing, Zayd ibn Thabit (Raliyallaahu Anhu) was requested by Abu Bakr (Raliyallaahu Anhu) to head a committee which would gather together the scattered recordings of the Holy Quran and prepare a mushaf – loose sheets which bore the entire revelation on them. (Sahih Bukhari, Vol.6, hadith no. 201 & 509 and vol.9, hadith no.301).
To safeguard the compilation from errors, the committee accepted only material which had been written down in the presence of the Prophet (S.A.W) himself, and which could be verified by at least two reliable witnesses who had actually heard the Prophet (S.A.W) recite the passage in question.
Once completed and unanimously approved of by the Prophet (S.A.W) Companions, these sheets were kept with the Caliph Abu Bakr (Raliyallaahu Anhu) (d. 13AH/634CE), then passed on to the Caliph Umar (Raliyallaahu Anhu) (13- 23AH/634- 644CE), and then Umar (Raliyallaahu Anhu) daughter and the Prophet (S.A.W) widow, Hafsa (Raliyallaahu Anha).
The third Caliph Uthman (Raliyallaahu Anhu) (23AH-35AH/644-656CE) requested Hafsa (Raliyallaahu Anha) to send him the manuscript of the Holy Quran which was in her safekeeping, and ordered the production of several bounded copies of it (masaahif, sing. mushaf).
This task was entrusted to the Companions Zayd ibn Thabit (Raliyallaahu Anhu), Abdullah ibn Az-Zubair (Raliyallaahu Anhu), Sa‟eed ibn As-‟As (Raliyallaahu Anhu), and Abdur- Rahman ibn Harith ibn Hisham (Raliyallaahu Anhu). Upon completion (in 25AH/646CE), Uthman (Raliyallaahu Anhu) returned the original manuscript to Hafsa (Raliyallaahu Anha) and sent the copies to the major Islamic provinces.
A number of non-Muslim scholars who have studied the issue of the compilation and preservation of the Holy Quran have also stated its authenticity.
John Burton, at the end of his substantial work on the Holy Qur‟an‟s compilation, states that the Holy Quran as we have it today is:
“…the text which has come down to us in the form in which it was organized and approved by the Prophet…. What we have today in our hands is the mushaf of Muhammad.” (Burton, John – The Collection of the Qur‟an, Cambridge University Press, 1977, p.239-40.)
Kenneth Cragg describes the transmission of the Quran from the time of revelation to today as occurring in “an unbroken living sequence of devotion.” (Cragg, Kenneth – The Mind of the Qur‟an, London: George Allen & Unwin, 1973, p.26).
Schwally concurs that: “As far as the various pieces of revelation are concerned, we may be confident that their text has been generally transmitted exactly as it was found in the Prophet‟s legacy.” (Geschichte des Qorans, Schwally – Leipzig: Dieterich‟sche Verlagsbuchhandlung,1909-38, Vol.2, p.120.)
The historical credibility of the Holy Quran is further established by the fact that one of the copies sent out by the Caliph Uthman (Raliyallaahu Anhu) is still in existence today. It lies in the Museum of the City of Tashkent in Uzbekistan, Central Asia.
According to Memory of the World Program, UNESCO, an arm of the United Nations, “it is the definitive version, known as the Mushaf of Uthman.”
A copy of the mushaf sent to Syria (duplicated before a fire in 1310AH/1892CE destroyed the Jaami‟ Masjid where it was housed) also exists in the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, and an early manuscript on gazelle parchment exists in Dar al-Kutub as-Sultaniyyah in Egypt.
More ancient manuscripts from all periods of Islamic history, found in the Library of Congress in Washington, the Chester Beatty Museum in Dublin (Ireland) and the London Museum, have been compared with those in Tashkent, Turkey and Egypt, with results confirming that there have not been any changes in the text from its original time of writing and is proof that the text of the Holy Quran we have in circulation today is identical with that of the time of the Prophet (S.A.W) and his companions.
The Institute for Koranforschung, for example, in the University of Munich (Germany), collected over 42,000 complete or incomplete ancient copies of the Holy Quran. After around fifty years of research, they reported that there was no variance between the various copies. This Institute was unfortunately destroyed by bombs during WWII. (Hamidullah, Mohammed – Muhammad Rasullullah, Lahore: Idara-e-Islamiat, n.d., p.179).
Thus, due to the efforts of the early companions, with God assistance, the Holy Quran as we have it today is recited in the same manner as it was revealed. This makes it the only religious scripture that is still completely retained and understood in its original language.
Indeed, as Sir William Muir states, “There is probably no other book in the world which has remained twelve centuries (now fourteen) with so pure a text.” (Sir William Muir, Life of Mohamet, London, 1894, Vol.1, Introduction).
The evidence above confirms God promise in the Holy Quran: Allah (S.W.T) says in Holy Quran, 15:9 “INDEED, IT IS WE WHO SENT DOWN THE QUR‟AN AND INDEED, WE WILL BE ITS GUARDIAN.”
The Holy Quran has been preserved in both oral and written form in a way no other book has, with each form providing a check and balance for the authenticity of the other.
PLEASE SPREAD THE MESSAGE OF ISLAM TO WHOLE HUMANITY.