The entire Quran was however also recorded in writing at
the time of revelation from the Prophet’s dictation, may the mercy and
blessings of God be upon him, by some of his literate companions, the most
prominent of them being Zaid ibn Thabit.
Others among his noble scribes were Ubayy ibn Ka’b, Ibn Mas’ud, Mu’awiyah ibn
Abi-Sufyan, Khalid ibn Waleed and Zubayr ibn Awwam.
The verses were recorded on leather, parchment, scapulae (shoulder bones of
animals) and the stalks of date palms.
The codification of the Quran (i.e. into a ‘book form’)
was done soon after the Battle of Yamamah (11AH/633CE), after the Prophet’s
death, during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr. Many companions became martyrs at
that battle, and it was feared that unless a written copy of the entire
revelation was produced, large parts of the Quran might be lost with the death
of those who had memorized it. Therefore, at the suggestion of Umar to collect
the Quran in the form of writing, Zaid ibn Thabit was requested by Abu Bakr to
head a committee which would gather together the scattered recordings of the Quran
and prepare a mushaf - loose sheets which bore the entire revelation on them.
To safeguard the compilation from errors, the committee accepted only material
which had been written down in the presence of the Prophet himself, and which
could be verified by at least two reliable witnesses who had actually heard the
Prophet recite the passage in question. Once
completed and unanimously approved of by the Prophet’s Companions, these sheets
were kept with the Caliph Abu Bakr (d. 13AH/634CE), then passed on to the
Caliph Umar (13-23AH/634-644CE), and then Umar’s daughter and the Prophet’s
The third Caliph Uthman (23AH-35AH/644-656CE) requested
Hafsah to send him the manuscript of the 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 Zaid ibn Thabit, Abdullah
ibn Az-Zubair, Sa’eed ibn As-’As, and Abdur-Rahman ibn Harith ibn Hisham.
Upon completion (in 25AH/646CE), Uthman returned the original manuscript to
Hafsah 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 Quran also have stated its
authenticity. John Burton, at the end of his substantial work on the Quran’s
compilation, states that the 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.
Kenneth Cragg describes the transmission of the Quran
from the time of revelation to today as occurring in “an unbroken living
sequence of devotion.” Schwally
“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.”
The historical credibility of the Quran is further
established by the fact that one of the copies sent out by the Caliph Uthman 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.’
This manuscript, held by the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan, is
the earliest existent written version of the Quran. It is the definitive
version, known as the Mushaf of Othman. Image courtesy of Memory of the World
A facsimile of the mushaf in Tashkent is available at
the Columbia University Library in the US.
This copy is proof that the text of the Quran we have in circulation today is
identical with that of the time of the Prophet and his companions. 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.
The Institute for Koranforschung, for example, in the University of Munich (Germany), collected over 42,000 complete or incomplete ancient copies of
the Quran. After around fifty years of research, they reported that there was
no variance between the various copies, except the occasional mistakes of the
copyist which could easily be ascertained. This Institute was unfortunately
destroyed by bombs during WWII.
Thus, due to the efforts of the early companions, with God’s
assistance, the 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.”
The evidence above confirms God’s promise in the Quran:
“Verily, We have revealed the Reminder, and verily We shall
preserve it.” (Quran 15:9)
The Quran has been preserved in both oral and written
form in a way no other book has, and with each form providing a check and
balance for the authenticity of the other.