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Recording of the Qur’an

Table of Contents
Name of the Qur’an
The story of Verse 95 from Surah 4
Conflict of the Well of Maᶜuna [بئر معونة]
Sermon of the pool of khumm (Khutbatul Ghadir)
Calamity of Thursday Raziatul Khamīs (11 A.H)
The compilation of the Qur’an
Were the seven aḥruf a seven dialects?
The forgotten Surah

The recording of the Qur’an is one of the most controversial topics among those which deal with the history and background of the Qur’an. Many Western scholars such as Wansbrough, Schacht and Jeffery have debated it. In this paper I discuss the stages of recording of the Qur’an, the different aḥruf Arabic dialects and towards the end I investigating the reasons behind the different qira’at, finally drawing some conclusions.

Name of the Qur’an
Most popular opinion has it that the word ‘Qur’an’ comes from qara’a, meanings to read or recite and Qur’an is the verbal noun of qara’a , (وقرأ الكتاب قراءة، قرآنا - بالضم). However, one of the definitions of the Qur’an is God revealing to Muhammad the best of the Hadith (Surah 39, Verse 23):
{الله نزل أحسن الحديث} . The Qur’an and Hadith both are revelations, Waḥy , the revelation being divided into Waḥy matlu (the recited revelation, which is the Qur’an) and Waḥy ghayr matlu (the un-recited revelation, which is the Hadith).

From the very early stages of Islam, education was encouraged; evidence for this can be found in suratul ‘alaq (surah 96: Verses 1, 4 and 5). The main intention was to write down the revelations of God to the Prophet, using various means and materials such as animal skin, flat animal bone, flat pieces from palm trees and flat stones.
Verse 1 {Read in the Name of your Lord Who has created (all that exists)}
{ إقرأ بإسم ربك الذي خلق }
Verse 4 {He has taught (the writing) by the pen}
{الذي علم بالقلم}
Verse 5 {He has taught man that which he knew not}.
{علم الإنسان مالم يعلم}

After 15 years from the birth of Islam, in year 2 A.H the Battle of Badr was thought between the Muslims and the pagans from Quraysh. The Muslims won the battle and captured prisoners from Quraysh, the Prophet made it a condition for the prisoners to teach ten Muslims how to read and write in order gain their freedom.

The story of Verse 95 from Surah 4
Some of the Sahaba did not join the Muslims in the battle of Badr against the pagan Quraysh; the Prophet recited verse 95 Surah 4 on this subject:
[Not equal are those of the believers who sit at home and those who strive hard and fight in the cause of Allah],
{لا يستوي القاعدون من المؤمنين والمجاهدون في سبيل الله}, the blind Sahaba Ibn um Maktum and Abdullah ibn Jahsh said: ‘O Messenger of God, we are blind men cannot see, but if we were able to see, we would have gone to the battle’.
Then a revelation came to the Prophet and recited ‘except those who are disabled’ {غير أولى ضرر} and called Zayd bn Thabit (Zayd was thirteen years old boy ) to write it down. Another tradition states that the Prophet asked for a flat bone (katif) and ink and ordered Zayed bn Thabit to write his revelation down. However, the verse now reads [Not equal are those of the believers who sit at home, except those who are disabled and those who strive hard and fight in the cause of Allah],
{لا يستوي القاعدون من المؤمنين غير أولى ضرر والمجاهدون}.
My argument, if we accept that the verse exists because of ibn Maktum, is then how many verses may have existed because of others? and how many times were these verses changed to fit their situation?

Conflict of the Well of Maᶜuna [بئر معونة]
In year 4 A.H. the Prophet sent 70 reciters to the land of Najd in order to spread the revelation and teachings of Islam. The reciters sent one of their colleagues, ḥaram bn Malḥan, with the message of the Prophet to one of the leaders of the tribes, ᶜAmer bn al-Ṭufail, but this leader killed Ḥaram bn Malḥan after he read his letter. The reciters drew their swords in order to avenge the life of their colleague, but ᶜAmer bn al-Ṭufail thereupon asked help from his neighboring tribes and all 70 reciters were killed by the Well of Maᶜuna [بئر معونة], except for one, Ka’ab bn Zayd, who managed to escape. He dies a year later he died in the battle of Khandaq (the trench) (5 A.H) , which in the Qur’an is known as the battle of the confederates (الأحزاب) Surah 33.

Sermon of the pool of khumm (Khutbatul Ghadir)
On the returning from the farewell pilgrimage Hujjatul Wadaᶜ (10 A.H) , the Prophet stopped by the pool of Khumm and delivered a sermon saying: [I leave with you two things: first the book of God has the light and my family, be kind to them (he repeated it three times)]. The Book of God could also mean saḥifa, a page with writing on it. According to Zayd bn Thabit, the Prophet ordered him not to write anything at his dictation except the Qur’an. But another Sahaba, possibly Ibn abi al-ᶜAṣ, said: ‘the Prophet told him to write whatever he heard from the Prophet’s mouth’. Clearly, the tradition of Abi al-ᶜAṣṣ fits better with the Waḥy (both the Qur’an and Ḥadith are Waḥy and considered to be revelations).
Furthermore there is a tradition of Ibn abi al-ᶜAṣṣ adding that the Qurayshis stopped him from writing down everything he heard from the Prophet and said to him ‘Muhammad is just a human’. Ibn abi al-ᶜAṣṣ then told the Prophet what the Qurashis had said to him and to this the Prophet replied ‘whatever comes out of my mouth is the truth’. Even though the Prophet made it clear that whatever he said was the truth or Wahy revelation, still his speeches after his death were divided into Waḥy matlu, recited revelation (the Qur’an) and Waḥy ghayr matlu, the un-recited revelation (the Ḥadith).

Calamity of Thursday Raziatul Khamīs (11 A.H)
The tradition known as the calamity of Thursday, Raziatul Khamīs , is that on his deathbed, the Prophet wanted to write a will for the Sahaba to follow so that they would never go astray. ᶜUmar bn al-Khaṭṭab pointed out ‘but we have the book of God, it is sufficient for us’, but this made the Sahaba disputed with one another. Some said ‘let us bring him something to write on’, while others agreed with what ᶜUmar had said. The Prophet grew angry and told them to leave. From this tradition we can infer that if the Qur’an had been sufficient, the Prophet would not have wanted to write something new. And what would be more important than the Qur’an?

The Compilation of the Qur’an
After the death of the Prophet, ᶜAli bn Abi Ṭalib was the first who independently compiled the book of God, Kitabu llah. During the reign of Abu Bakr, about 700 reciters were killed in the battle of Yamama and therefore Abu Bakr ordered Zayd bn Thabit to start collecting the Qur’an from those who had memorized it and from those who had written their reading on the Su-huf.
The Sahaba did not object to any of this process. Abu Bakr asked ‘Umar bn al-Khattab and Zayd bn Thabit to sit by the main entrance of the Mosque and ask anonymously that anyone who had heard a recitation by the Prophet should come and produce two witnesses to testify to their recitation so that it could qualify to be included as part of the “mus-haf”. The compilation continued during the reign of ᶜUmar the successor of Abu Bakr, who in some traditions announced that whoever had received anything from the Qur’an spoken by the Prophet should bring two witnesses. Other traditions, however, state that ᶜUmar did not always require a second witness, giving the example of al- Ḥarith bn Khuzayma, because he was considered trustworthy. ‘Umar, however, accepted two verses transmitted by one person and said: ‘if these verses were three verses, I would have made them into a Surah of their own’ and then ᶜUmar said to Zayd: ‘find a Surah for these two verses and attach it to the end of that Surah’. Nevertheless, the Qur’an was not compiled before the use of isnad, indeed the isnad of the verses and Surah are unknown.

According to al-Zurqani, there were several scribes: the four caliphs, plus Mu’awiya, Aban bn Sa’id, Khalid bn al-Walid, Ubay bn ka’b, Zayd bn Thabit, Thabit bn Qays, Arqam bn Ubay, Handala bn al-Rabi’ and others. Despite what al-Zurqani said, if these scribes had the full Qur’an, it would have needed only Zayd bn Thabit to sit with two of them after the death of the Prophet to put the Qur’an together and it should not have taken 22 years to compile one book.

Were the seven aḥruf a seven dialects?
The common explanation of the seven aḥruf is that they are the seven dialects which existed in Arabia, but it must be admitted that there are 35 different opinions on the meaning of the seven Ḥarf. This started when the Prophet read the Qur’anic Surah using different words with different Sahabi to convey the same meaning. Take the instance of Surah al-Furqan: the Prophet read to ᶜUmar bn al-Khatab Surah al-Furqan something different from what he read to Hisham bn Ḥakim and both these versions differed from the Qurayshi who had the same dialect when the two Sahaba went to the Prophet to find which one was correct. The Prophet replied that: both versions were correct as long the words of mercy were not exchanged for words of punishments . However, ibn hajar could not discover the difference between the reading of the Prophet to ᶜUmar and the Prophet’s readings to Hisham bn Ḥakim. This evidently refers to the practice of reading Surahs’ using different words, a practice which continued after the Prophet’s death.
The next episode concerns Ibn Masᶜud, with a man who could not pronounce the Arabic word for ‘sinners’ and changed it to ‘orphans’ in Surah 44 verse 43-44: [Verily the tree of Zaqqum will be the food of the sinners],
{إن شجرت الزقوم طعام الأثيم}. Ibn Masᶜud asked him ‘Can you say [the food of the evil doers]? (طعام الفاجر). The man said ‘yes’, and therefore ibn Masᶜud told him to recite it in this way.

Another example of the Sahaba version concerns ᶜAli bn Abi Ṭalib, but before discussing this, it is worth noting that ᶜAli bn Abi Ṭalib was raised by the Prophet and was also his cousin and son-in-law. Moreover, Prophet was raised by Abu Ṭalib the father of ᶜAli , therefore there would have been no dialectal differences between the two. It would have been highly unlikely for ᶜAli bn Abi Ṭalib to use a different dialect or pronunciations from the Prophet, in Surah 103:
ᶜAli bn Abi Ṭalib’s version:
" والعصر ونوائب الدهر ، إن الإنسان لفي خسر ، وإنه فيه إلى آخر الدهر"
{By the time and its turns, verily man is in loss and he is trapped until the end}
Compared with the ᶜUthman version:
{والعصرن إن الإنسان لفي خسر}
{By the time, Verily, man is in loss}
From the examples, it appears that there was no fixed recitation or dialect during the Prophet’s time nor afterwards, until the standardisation of ᶜUthman took place.

The forgotten Surah
On the authority of Abi Musa al-Ashᶜari, he said to the Basran reciters: ‘Do not let the time pass you and harden your hearts as it did with the people before you; we used recite Surah similar in length to al-Bara’a and surely on the day of Judgment you will be asked about it’.

To sum up, there was no material difference between the Waḥy matlu, recited revelation (the Qur’an) and Waḥy ghayr matlu the un-recited revelation, which was transmitted as Hadith. Both were accepted as (Wahy) or as the word of God and the only way to distinguish the two is that one is recited Tilawa. ᶜUthman’s compilation was chosen as the most popular recitation in the Muslim community, while some Surah were left out or ‘considered’ ‘Mansukh’ and were forgotten in time. However, the ᶜUthmanic version once put together, although it was written in Arabic still required its grammar, rhyming and eloquence to be checked and corrected before the final stage of standardisation, ᶜUthman requested from the Qurayshi Arabic expertise Saᶜid bn al-ᶜAs to do this work:
(قال: فأي الناس أعرب وفي رواية أفصح، قالوا سعيد بن العاص بن سعيد بن العاص بن أمية)
(أن عربية القرآن أقيمت على لسان سعيد بن العاص)
Hence, ᶜUthman was the only caliph who used and credited Saᶜīd bn al-ᶜAs for his capacity in Arabic. Saᶜīd bn al-ᶜAs was, however, not one of the Prophet’s scribes for he was only nine years old when the Prophet died, therefore it is highly unlikely that he would have known the Prophet’s recitation or style without being involved directly. Subsequent scholars gave Saᶜīd bn al-ᶜAṣṣ the title of a Sahabi, although it is questioned by others.
Yet, some of the Sahaba did hear recitation directly from the Prophet during his lifetime, for example his Qurayshi wives, ᶜA’isha, Hafṣa and Um Salma. Unfortunately these versions of the Qur’an were burnt and destroyed, thought some defended their being burnt as a way of uniting the Muslim Nation, Umma.
The ᶜUthmanic version had a new and different set of precedents from the Sahaba versions and the other versions of Sahaba became as a commentary on the ᶜUthmanic version.
But the question is how many verses or Surah were changed during the 22 years before they reached the final stage? And how many verses had omissions or something in their pronunciation changed because they did not fulfill the criterion of Arabic eloquence and style?

The different versions existed even in the time of the Prophet; they were his ethical pronouncements to different companions, which allowed one companion to transmit it to others. Some of these teachings were dissolved and mixed with others people’s interpretation before being transmitted. Later, after the Prophet’s death, Islam expanded through various ways, by conquest and by preaching. The newly formed Islamic nations sometimes had conflicts over which teachings should be followed, since at this stage nothing was fixed and a great number of the original reciters perished in these wars.
Twenty years after the death of the Prophet, ᶜUthman hired Saᶜīd bn al-ᶜAṣṣ, not for his closeness to the Prophet but because he was an expert in Arabic eloquence and poetry. ᶜUthman’s aim was to standardise the sayings of the Prophet and from them into a version for reciting called the Qur’an. The rules of composition and the political conflicts among the Sahaba both helped to eliminate a great many details of the Qur’an and produce the version which we have today. Stories were attached to the text and over time these stories became known as Asbab al-Nuzul. At the same time many versions were set aside to be burnt and certain other verses which were not considered suitable for the Qur’an, were left out. Some of these ethical pronunciations or teachings record the day to day practice of the Prophet as live teachings. Scholar’s consider these to be non-recited revelation (Waḥy ghayr matlu). One reason for deciding to leave some verses out, for example, could be that it was awkward for Saᶜīd bn al-ᶜAs to fit everything into a rhyming pattern. Indeed, the true miracle of the Prophet Muḥammad was to turn a great nation of nomad pagan into a monotheistic nation; it was not the eloquence of the ᶜUthmanic version of the Qur’an.

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©2011 Oday Al-Baghdady
جميع الحقوق محفوظة إلى عدي البغدادي


Sienna Hurst said…
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Quran Teaching for Kids
Thinkislam said…
Dear respected author,

You have missed out on the information on how the Qur'an was compiled into one complete book or Suhuf during Abu Bakr's time using primary sources under the supervision of Zaid Ibn Thabit. Not to forget that this compilation was also checked against the memories of the huffaz to maintain accuracy. After the deaths of Abu Bakr and Umar Ibn Al Khattab (radialluanhum), the Suhuf stayed with our Mother Hafsa. Uthman then compiled an independent copy from primary sources and also from the mushaf of Aisha RA and then checked this Mushaf with the Hafsa's Suhuf to check for any errors. So this issue of forgotten surahs etc is false and incorrect.
quran learning said…
Masha Allah , very nice

Hmm , i really appreciate your work

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كيف فهم الصحابة التوحيد

الصحابة جاءوا من مختلف العقائد والأديان مثل عبد الله بن السلام أحد شباب اليهود وسلمان الفارسي وورقة بن نوفل وتميم الداري النصراني والنجاشي وعدي بن ابي حاتم الطائي وبلال الحبشي ومن العرب مثل عمر بن الخطاب وأبي سفيان لكننا لم نسمع شيئا أو نرى أثرا صحيحا يدل على أن حوارا دار بينهم وبين الرسول حول عقيدة التوحيد وماذا كانوا يعتقدون في الله. ويبدو لي ان جهود الرسول (ص) الحقيقية كانت تدور حول إتمام مكارم أخلاق العرب كما قال "بعثت لأتمم مكارم الأخلاق" (الأدب المفرد للبخاري). فمن أين إذا جاءت عقيدة هذه الفرق الإسلامية التي تكفر بعضها البعض بحجة ان دين الإسلام هو دين التوحيد؟
ولو عملنا مقارنة بسيطة بين أسئلة الصحابة للرسول وبين أسئلة المسلمين بعد قرنين من وفاة الرسول، لوجدت الفرق الشاسع بينهما وللمسنا بان المسلمين فيما بعد أسئلتهم أكثر تعقيدا من الصحابة لأن التعاليم القديمة كانت تصب في إتباع شخص الرسول وأنه الناطق الوحيد بإسم الله على الأرض.

هذه صورة من فلم الرسالة التي تمثل بحمزة عم النبي الذي كان أحد قواد جيش المسلمين في معركة بدر
أهي الإبراهيمية الحنيفية؟
لكنهم لم يك…