Introduction to the Quran –
Memorization & Preservation
Memorization & Preservation
How was Quran compiled in to a standard text?
The Quran was revealed in the classical Arabic text almost 15 centuries back and the present text found in modern copies of the Quran is the same as that original text. The only difference between the original and subsequent texts is the addition of vowels & diacritical marks (i'jam, tashkeel), that were added in the later copies for non-Arabs to recite each word correctly. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ memorized the original text himself (in the Qurayshi dialect) and also made his companions. After the Prophet's passing away, Islam gradually spread throughout the region and accepted new people in to its fold. When new people entered Islam during the Rashidun Caliphate i.e. the rule of first 4 successors of the Prophet namely Abu Bakr (r.a), Umar (r.a), Uthman (r.a) and Ali (r.a), the prophet's companions spread to these different regions to teach and instruct them about the Quran. This resulted in each region holding on to its own recitation style they had learned from each companion and earlier Muslims.
During the rule of Prophet's third successor Uthman ibn Affan (r.a), variant readings and recitations of the Quran (based on dialects of other Arab tribes) were being followed in different parts of the Muslim world. For further clarity please read Background of 7 Ahruf (Dialects) of the Quran. This practice carried the potential of a major sedition among the Muslims. Every part of the Muslim world proudly held to their own style of Quranic recitation and looked upon other variants as lesser. A Prophet’s companion named Hudhayfa (r.a) once campaigned with the people of Iraq and al-Sham (greater Syria) in Armenia, the Muslims contended in a reprehensible manner with each other in regards to the Quran. Hudhayfa (r.a) came to Uthman (r.a) and told him: “O Commander of the Believers, rescue this Community before they differ in the Quran the way Christians and Jews differed in the Books.” Many huffaz (those who had learnt the Quran by heart) died in the battle of Yamama which took place during the Abu Bakr's rule (r.a). It was felt necessary that the Quran should be compiled in a book format so it does not get lost with time. A compilation was thus prepared in the Qurayshi dialect, and it was called Mushaf. During Abu Bakr's rule this compilation was kept in the custody of Ayesha (r.a), the beloved wife of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. During the caliphate of Umar (r.a) this compilation was kept in the custody of his daughter Hafsa (r.a), also another wife of the Prophet ﷺ. After hearing what Hudhayfa (r.a) experienced Uthman (r.a) was alarmed and sent word to Hafsa (r.a). To prevent this issue from further escalation, Uthman (r.a) with the support and consultation of the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ decided to introduce a unified text based on the copy with Hafsa (r.a).
Uthman, ordered that a number of copies should be made from this to be distributed to different parts of the Muslim world as the official copy of the Quran, which became known as the Uthmanic Codex or Uthmanic Quran. All previous copies in use in the various parts of the Muslim dominions were collected and burnt. The Uthamic codex has been recognized throughout the Muslim world for the last fourteen centuries as the authentic document of the Quran as revealed to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
Why did Caliph Uthman burn the variant readings of Quran?
The fact that Uthman (r.a) burned the variant readings of the Quran was to protect the unity of the Muslims by assisting them to follow a unified text. During Uthman's rule, bout 12 years after the passing away of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, as Islam spread throughout the region variant readings of the Quran were being followed in different parts of the Muslim world. These were going to become a cause of a major disunity and so to prevent this from happening Uthman (r.a) along with some of the most prominent companions of the Prophet ﷺ decided to issue single standard text for all Muslims to follow. The decision involved companions such as Zaid bin Thabit (r.a), Abdullah bin Zubair (r.a), Saeed bin Al Aas (r.a) and Abdur Rahman bin Al Harith (r.a). This Committee was commissioned to prepare an authorized text whose members had memorized the Quran directly from the Prophet ﷺ. Copies of this edition were prepared and supplied to all parts of the dominions. All previous copies in use in the various parts of the Muslim dominions were collected and burnt.
Therefore, the decision that Uthman (r.a) took for standardization of the Quran was mutually decided that comprised several of the most honorable companions. They decided their affairs through mutual consultation as prescribed by the Quran (42:38). In a prophetic hadith we have been informed: “majority of my Ummah (nation i.e. Muslims) will never agree on an error.” The decision of Uthman (r.a) has been endorsed by majority of Muslims and Islamic scholars throughout the history regardless of their school or sect affiliation. Even after the passage of fifteen centuries the various copies of the standard text available throughout the globe have no major differences except for the minor difference of vowels which do not affect the meaning. In fact the decision made under Uthman's leadership bears testimony to the promise of Allah ﷻ to protect the Quran till the Day of Judgment: “We have sent down the dhikr (Quran) Ourself, and We Ourself will guard it.” .
At this point it is also important to mention that there are allegations that Shia Muslims do not believe in the uniformity of text and that they believe the Quran to be distorted. These are false and their mainstream scholars have clearly rejected this notion which is based on some extremely inauthentic traditions found in their books. Muhammad Baqir Ansari, one of the Shia writers, explains the Shia view in his article ‘Tahrif al-Qur'an: A Study of Misconceptions Regarding Corruption of the Qur'anic Text’: “At present, the antiquated hand-written manuscripts of the Holy Qur'an by the Shi'ah from the early days of Islam until now are kept in museums of Iran, Pakistan, Iraq, etc. Some of these manuscripts are, once in a while, precisely reprinted in the same form and exposed to public view. Those who entertain the slightest doubt concerning this matter can personally refer to these manuscripts. In the museum of the Qur'an in the holy city of Mashhad, I have personally seen some copies of the Holy Qur'an written on parchment made of deer skin. The period of writing of these copies of Qur'an dates back to more than one thousand years. Some of them are attributed to Imam Ali (A), al-Imam al-Sajjad (the fourth Imam), and some others are attributed to other Imams, Shi'ah Ulama and pious men. Similarly, in other museums and libraries, there are also some copies of the Qur'an which are very ancient, but so far no one has been able to claim that even a single word of these manuscripts of the Qur'an differs from what is now available to the Shi'ah and to the Muslims of the world.”
 al-Dhahabi, Abu Nuaym &. n.d. The Four Khalifas - Uthman ibn Affan (r.a). Accessed March 27, 2019. http://www.sunnah.org/publication/khulafa_rashideen/caliph3.htm - (al-Dhahabi n.d.)
 Part of the apostasy campaign during Abu Bakr (r.a) caliphate, the first successor of the Prophet. Please refer to Question # in chapter 3.
 Haleem, M. A. S. Abdel. 2004. The Qur'an . New York: Oxford University Press Inc. - (Haleem 2004)
 Sunan Abi Dawud 4253 – Sunnah.com
 Al Quran 15:09
 Ansari, Muhammad Baqir. 2019. "Tahrif al-Qur'an: A Study of Misconceptions Regarding Corruption of the Qur'anic Text." Al Tawhid Vol 4 N.4 - (Ansari 2019)