The Original Sources Of The Qur'an
"Elhamdu lillahi Rabiil 'alemin, Er-rahmanir-rahim, Maliki jevmid-din. Ijjake na'budu ve ijjake neste'in. Ihdines-siratal-mustekim, siratal-lezine en'amte 'alejhim, gajril-magdubi 'alejhim veled-daallin.' Amen!."
Published June 1, 2018
About a year after Muhammad's death, as we learn from Bukhari, the Qur'an was first put together in a collected whole. This was done by Zaid ibn Thabit, one of Muhammad's friend and amanuenses, at the command of Abu Bakr. The reason for this step was that Umar bnu'l Khattab, perceiving that many of the reciters of the Quran had fallen in the fatal battle of Yamamah (A.H. 12) saw reason to fear lest the Revelation should thus in whole or in part be lost. He therefore strongly urged the Khalifah 3 to give orders that the scattered Surahs should be collected together and preserved in an authoritative written form. Zaid at first felt great reluctance to do what the Prophet himself had not thought fit to do, but he at last yielded to the command of the Khalifah. The story 4 as told in his own words runs thus: "Abu Bakr said to me, 'Thou art a learned young man: we do not distrust thee: and thou wast wont to write out the Divine Revelation for the Apostle of God. Seek out the Qur'an therefore and collect it" If they had imposed upon me the duty of moving a mountain, it would not have weighed more heavily upon me than what he commanded me to do in the way of collecting the Qur'an. Abu Bakr did not desist from urging me to collect it, until God enlightened my breast to perceive what 'Umar and Abu Bakr's own breast had made clear to the latter. Accordingly I searched out the whole of the Qur'an from leafless palm-branches and from white stones and from the breasts of men, until I found the conclusion of Suratu't Taubah (Surah IX.. V. I29) with Abn Khuzaimah the Ansari. I found it not with anyone else,"
From the phrase "to collect the Qur'an " it is evident that the book had not previously been formed into one united whole. His reverence for his master would naturally prevent Zaid from either adding to or omitting anything from the Surahs which were recited to him by many persons from memory, and in some cases found in writing upon the various writing materials which were then in use. The fact that certain circumstances most derogatory to Muhammad's claim to be a Divinely commissioned prophet are still to be found in the Qur'an is a conclusive proof of the scrupulous accuracy with which Zaid discharged the task entrusted to him. Nor would it have been possible at that time to have in any way tampered with the text Within a year or two he had completed the work and had written down all the Surahs, each apparently on a separate sheet. It seems that there is some reason to believe that the present arrangement of the Surahs dates from that time. On what system it rests it is hard to say, except that the Surau'l Fatihah was placed first as a sort of introduction to the book partly no doubt because it was even then universally used as a prayer, and so was better known than any other. The other Surahs were arranged on the principle of putting the longest first. Thus the shortest come at the end of the book. This is almost the direct converse of their chronological order. Tradition enables us to know in what order and on what occasion most of the Surahs, and in certain eases some of their verses, were revealed," but in our present inquiry it is not necessary to deal with this matter 5 at all fully, important as it doubtless is for the study of the steady development of the Faith, as it gradually took shape in Muhammad's own mind.
Zaid on the conclusion of his work handed over the manuscript, written doubtless in the so-called Cufic character, to Abn Bakr. The latter preserved it carefully until his death, when it was committed to the custody of 'Umar, after whose decease it passed into the charge of Hafsah, his daughter, one of Muhammad's widows. Copies of separate Surahs were afterwards made either from this one from the original authorities which Zaid had used.
Errors, or at least variations, gradually crept into the text of the Qur'an as it was recited, and possibly also into these fragmentary copies. Abu Bakr does not seem to have caused authoritative transcripts of the single manuscript which Zaid had written to be made, and hence it could not counteract the very natural tendency to alteration, mostly or wholly unintentional, to which the Qur'an, like every other work handed down orally, was liable. There were different dialects of Arabic then in use, and there must have been a tendency in the first place to explain certain words, and in the second to permit these dialectic paraphrases to find an entrance into the recited verses. This caused no little confusion and perplexity in the minds of pious Muslims. At last Utman, when engaged in the task of conquering Armenia and Azarbaijan, was warned by Hudhaifah ibnu'l Yamaan of the danger which there was lest the original should be very seriously corrupted in this way.Bukhari 6 tells us that Hudhaifah said to Uthman, "0 Commander of tile Faithful, restrain this people, before they differ among themselves about the Book as much as the Jews and the Christians do." The Khalifah therefore sent to bid Hafsah forward to him the original manuscript to be copied, promising to return it to her when this had been done. He then commissioned Zaid, in conjunction with three members of Muhammad's own tribe, the Quraish, to produce a recension of the work. At least this is what his language seems to imply, for he said to the three Quraishites, "Whenever ye differ, ye and Zaid ibti Thabit, in reference to any part of the Qur'an, then write it in the dialect of the Quraish, for it was revealed in their language." We are told that the new recension was copied from the original manuscript, and so doubtless it was for the most part. Yet the words we have quoted prove that certain alterations must have been made, though no doubt in good faith, and principally to preserve the purity of the Meccan dialect of the book. Another proof that some change was made is afforded by the statement that on this occasion Zaid recollected a verse which was not in the first copy, and which he had himself heard Muhammad recite. He did not, however, venture to insert it merely on his own authority, but searched until be found another man who could recite it from memory. \Vhen this was done, the verse was entered in Suratu'l Ahzab. Then "Uthman 7 returned the sheets to Hafsah, and sent to every region an exemplar of what they had copied out, and with reference to every sheet and volume of the Qur'an besides this he commanded that it should be burned."
This last proceeding may seem to us arbitrary 8, but it has succeeded in preserving the text of the Qur'an from that day to this in practically one and the same form in Muhammadan lands. Even Hafsah's copy, the only one which in any important respect differed from the revised edition after the execution of Uthman's command, was on that account burned in Marwan's time. The very few differences of reading which diligent search has revealed in various copies of the Qur'an now extant consist almost wholly in the position of the dots which distinguish from one another 9 the letters and these letters have no such diacritical marks in the old Cufic alphabet.
We are therefore led to the conclusion that we still have the Qur'an as Muhammad left it, and hence we may, with almost perfect certainty as to the correctness of the text, proceed to study the book in order to ascertain what he taught and whence he derived the various statements and doctrines which, contained in the Qur'an and explained and amplified in the Traditions, constitute the Religion of Islam.