An Introduction to the Science of the Qur’an
(How to Study and Understand the Quran)
Dr. Hasanuddin Ahmed, I.A.S.
CHAPTER – 4
ILMU JAM-IL QUR'AN
THE STUDY OF COMPILATION OF THE QUR'AN AND ITS FORMATION AS A BOOK
Jam’a means to bring together. The contents of the Qur'an were revealed to the Prophet in piece-meal over a long period of about 23 years. Jam’ul Qur'an applies to the process by which the Qur'anic revelations were brought together and preserved for posterity. As a part of this process the revelations have been transmitted to us by numerous persons in two ways: orally and in written form. In the technical language Jam’ul Qur'an includes two main branches:
1. Bringing together the Qur'an orally i.e., bringing it together in one’s mind. This aspect (of bringing together the Qur'an orally) is covered separately by the science of memorization of the Qur'an (hifzul Qur'an).
2. Bringing together of the Qur'an in written form on loose sheets or in a bound book.
The Qur'an in a book form as we see it today, was revealed during the life time of the Prophet message by message. The science of Jam’ul Qur'an is a study of the compilation of the Qur'an in various stages.
Thus, the process which is the subject matter of science of Jam’ul Qur'an can be termed as compilation rather than collection.
1. Compilation of the Qur'an During the Life-time of the Prophet
From the beginning the Holy Prophet meticulously taught the Muslims all the ayaat that were revealed for recital in daily prayers i.e., Salat. Initially the salat was to be performed only twice a day; five times prayers were ordained at the incident of ma’iraj. Thus Surah ‘Fatiha’ and portions of the revealed ayaat of the Qur'an were recited by the Muslims five times a day. This necessitated every Muslim to memorize at least some portions of the Qur'an. Secondly whenever the ayaat were revealed, Prophet Muhammad (S) used to get them written down immediately by the scribes who were round the clock available to him, and then the Prophet used to ask them to read these ayaat for verification. In addition to this the companions also took copies on their own initiative. Thus the Holy Prophet was very prudent about the protection of the Qur'an. He took the following three measures for its preservation.
(a) Recitation before himself or under the supervision of the competent teachers.
(b) Preservation by way of memorization.
(c) Preserving it in written form through the scribes.
The Qur'anic text consists of divinely inspired utterances. Soon after revelation those utterances were committed to writing.
The faculty of writing was introduced in Makkah just about fifty years before the advent of Islam. It was further promoted through teachings of the Qur’an. The word ‘pen’ is used in the first revelation itself. The art of reading and writing is encouraged at various places in the Qur’an:
“O believers when you deal with each other, in transactions involving future obligations in a fixed period of time, reduce them to writing, let a scribe write down faithfully as between the parties: let not the scribe refuse to write; as Allah has taught him, so let him write.” (Qur’an 2:282)
Before the dawn of Islam poetry was preserved mostly in memory. The Prophet was however, not content merely with the memorization of the Qur'an. He took special measures to get it written also. As a result of which a special group of scribes of revelations was constituted.
Some of whom did the job on payment basis, Prophet himself concentrated on the progress of the skill of writing and did much to encourage Muslims to learn the art of writing.
It is reported, that some members of the Quraish tribe, taken prisoners in the battle of Badr (2/624 ) knew the art of writing. The Prophet set a condition as a price for their release, teaching of atleast ten Muslims. This increased the number of literates in Medina. The renowned scribe of the Qur'an, Zaid bin Thabit at the age of about twelve years learnt the art of writing in the same manner. The Prophet asked him to learn Syriac language also.
The Process of Compilation
Initially, five ayaat of the Surah ‘Al-Alaq’ (96) were revealed: Then the revelation was discondtinued for about two years.
Then the preliminary ayaat of the Surah Al- Muddaththir (74) were revealed (Qur’an 74:1 to 30)
The Qur'an was revealed in piece-meal according to requirements. Sometimes five ayaat were revealed as in case of first ‘wahy’ sometimes ten ayaat as the opening ayaat of Surah ‘Al-Muminun (23), or of Surah ‘Al-Nur’ (24) were revealed. At times even small portions of ayaat were revealed for example (Qur'an 4:95) or Qur'an (9:28).
The Holy Prophet did not arrange the Qur'an according to its order of revelation i.e., in chronological order. It was arranged as per a definite plan under divine guidance. Had the Qur’an been arranged in Chronological order the first five ayaat of Surah Al-Alaq (96) would have been followed by the ayaat of Surah Al-Mudaththir (74) whereas in the present order Surah Al-Alaq is placed at serial number 96 and Surah Al-Muddaththir at serial number 74. As against this, the Qur'an’ starts with Surah Al-Fatiha and it is followed by Surah Al-Baqara which was revealed in Medina after Prophet’s migration. Therefore, whenever portions of different Surahs or any ayah were revealed the Prophet used to call the scribe and say, “Write this ayah in the Surah, where such and such ayaat occur.” Thus the whole Qur'an’ was arranged by the Prophet himself under divine guidance.
Prophet added certain ayaat in certain Surahs. In several Makkan Surahs we find injunctions regarding armed resistance and of Zakat. These are additions as per the instructions of the Prophet. For example in Surah Al-Muzzammil (73) there was no mention of armed struggle as this Surah was revealed in the early Makkan period. After twelve years when in 2/624 armed struggle was allowed and Zakat was ordained, the injunctions regarding armed struggle and Zakat were added as ayah 20.
Some of the many additions made under the instructions of Prophet in different Surahs are as follows:
1. The following contents
اِنْ هِيَ اِلاّ اَسْمَآءٌ سَمَّيْتُمُوهَا اَنْتُمْ وَ آبَاءُكُمْ مَّآ اَنْزَلَ اللهُ بِهَا مِن سُلطن اِن يَّتَّبِعُونَ اِلاّ ظَّنَّ وَمَا تَهوِي الاَنفُس.
were added in Ayah 23 of Surah An-Najm (53) as per a later revelation.
2. The words after Ayah 30 of Surah Al-Muddaththir (74)
were as follows:
وما هي الا ذكرى للبشر
The matter at the beginning of Ayah 31 i.e., from هو وما جعلنا to ربك الا هو was added before:
وما هي الا ذكرى للبشر
Thus Ayah 31 which is a long one is different from the short Ayaat of Surah Al-Muddaththir (74).
3. The words الا ما شاء الله were added in the beginning of Ayah 7 of Surah Al-A’la (87).
These details which are available in the Ahadith indicate that the order of the Ayaat was fixed by the Prophet and that it is tawqifi.
The accurate recitation of every word and the existing arrangement of the ayaat in the Surahs of the Qur'an’ according to the instructions of the holy Prophet under divine guidance is called “tawqifi”. However with regard to the serial arrangement of the Surahs, some difference of opinion did exist which can be classified as under:
1. That even the serial order of the Surahs is tawqifi as it was shown by the holy Prophet.
2. That Ameer al-Muminin Uthman on the basis of his Ijtehad (i.e. juristic exertion) placed Surah Al-Tawba (9) which was last Surah to be revealed after Surah Al-Anfal (8). Except this, remaining arrangement is tawqifi.
3. That till the ‘Khilafat of Ameer al-Muminin Uthman the serial order of the Surahs was not determined and during his time when the Qur'an’ was compiled the serial order was finalised, and as such the arrangement of the Surahs is a matter decided by Ijtehad.
Most of the scholars are unanimous with regard to the first proposition mentioned above and they quote innumerable Qur'anic ayaat, ahadith (traditions) and rational arguments in support of their assertion. Whereas Imam Baihaqi was in favour of the second proposition.
In view of the method the Holy Prophet had adopted for the compilation of the Qur'an it was necessary to review it frequently because on many occasions a new revelation had to be inserted in a surah. This necessitated repeated reviews.
As has been mentioned earlier, whenever an ayah was revealed the Prophet used to instruct the scribe to write it in a particular place in a Surah after such and such ayah. Therefore, several copies of the Qur'an collected by various persons were frequently verified, compared and checked even after the migration of the holy Prophet from Makkah. This review and verification was necessary both by those who had committed the Qur'an to their memories, and also by the scribes who used to write it. Therefore, the Prophet made it a practice to read (whole of the Qur'an which was revealed till that time) aloud during the month of Ramadhan and the companions compared their personal copies with the recitation of the Qur'an by the holy Prophet. This method is called Ardh (presentation). In the last year of his life, six months before his death, the holy Prophet, during the last month of Ramadhan read the Qur'an aloud to others twice and said that, “I believe, my death is imminent”. Thus the whole Qur'an was preserved in written form during the life time of the holy Prophet. One of the Companions by name Qathada reports that, “We asked Anas bin Malik as to who has collected the Qur'an during the Prophet’s life time, he mentioned four persons namely; Abi bin Ka’ab, Mu’adh bin Jabal, Zaid bin Thabit, and Abu Zaid, all the four were Ansaris. According to another report there were six persons who had written copies of the Qur'an. Anyway, whether it was four or six, one thing is clear that the Qur'an existed in written form as well as it was preserved in memory of several hundred persons. Zarqani stated that whenever the holy Prophet used to dictate the revealed ayaat, scribes used to write it on the layers of the stems of tree, stones, papers, flat bones or pieces of leather and used to deposit it in the residence of the Prophet.
Regarding the compilation of the Qur’an there are two schools of thought. According to one school, although the entire Qur’an existed in a complete and ordered form in the memories of the huffaz and in written form with some of the companions, it was not brought together in a single volume, during the life-time of the Prophet.
According to this school the Qur'an was written on various scattered objects like stones, leaves, wooden planks, tanned skins and parchments. It was given the form of a book during the period of the first Khalifah Abu Bakr Siddiq. This school has based its findings on some traditions claimed to have been reported by Zaid bin Thabit and conveyed through Ubaid bin Al-Sabbaq and ibn Shihab Zuhri. These reports have found place in the collections of ahadith viz Bukhari, Tirmidhi and Nisa’i. From these reports the following details can be gathered:
When in the battle of Yamama (11/632) a large number of Muslims including many huffaz died, the calamity called for the attention of Umar the Great, who was apprehensive that if such calamities occur in future also, then gradually all the huffaz would either be killed in battles or die a natural death and in either case, preservation of the Qur'an would be endangered. Subsequently Qur'an might face the same fate under which the earlier revealed books could not be protected. He therefore, made a proposal to the Khalifah for the collection of the Qur'an. The Khalifah’s immediate reaction was in the negative: how he could do a thing which was not done by the Prophet himself. Zaid bin Thabith was then summoned and his opinion was sought. His initial reaction was also the same as of the Khalifah. Umar, however argued and convinced both. Ameer-al Muminin Abu Bakr, on the advice of Umar assigned the work of bringing a single copy of the Qur'an to a group of companions including Salam Moula and Hudaifa. Zaid bin Thabit was found most suitable to head this commission. The terms of reference were as follows:
1. To bring together each and every part of the Qur'an on the basis of all the written material (which was on scattered objects) and with the help of Huffaz (those who had memorized the Qur'an).
2. To be careful to accept only those written portions of the Qur'an which were found reliable.
3. To accept only that material of which at least two written copies were available.
4. To obtain testimony of at least two witnesses to the effect that whatever was submitted to the commission was written in front of the holy Prophet and whichever portions of the Qur'an were recited before the commission were exactly the same as heard from the Prophet and also recited before the Prophet.
5. To compare the written material with the last recitation of the Qur'an by the Prophet.
In response to the call of Umar, such of those companions who served as scribes, submitted all the written portions of the Qur'an before the Commission.
When the entire Qur'an was written, Zaid bin Thabit says: “I read the entire Qur'an from the beginning to the end and I found it to be in accordance with the Qur'an in my memory, except two ayaat which had not been submitted so far: (Qur'an 33:23, 9:128 and 129 as one ayah). Then I knocked at every house in Medina in search of these two ayaat”. Ultimately he found one in written form with one companion by name Khuzaima bin Thabit Ansari which was also verified with the last ardh. But Abu Bakr had ordered not to accept any portion unless two copies of such writing were available, whereas the portion produced was found with Khuzaima only. However, it appears to be miracle that Allah had made prior arrangement to solve this situation. Regarding Khuzaima bin Thabit the Holy Prophet had once said that his evidence would be considered equal to that of two witnesses. Thus these two ayaat were included.
Compilation of Standard Copies of the Qur'an (27/648)
According to the first school of thought the standard copies of the Qur'an were prepared during the period of Ameer-al-Muminin Uthman (24/644 – 35/655). The traditions regarding the compilation of this stage are also reported through Ubaid bin Al-Sabbaq and ibn Shihab Zuhri.
According to these traditions In 26/647 an army was sent to Armenia which consisted of Muslims from various places including Iraq and Syria. A dispute arose during offering of Salat on the issue of pronunciation (mode of recitation) of the Qur'anic ayaat. Some claimed that they heard a particular word being pronounced by an Iraqi scholar in a particular manner, while others claimed Syrian recitation was correct. The variation in recitation could also be reflected in the manuscripts which were used in different parts of the vast Islamic state. The leader of the army Hudhaifa bin Yaman realised the delicacy of the situation and resolved the controversy temporarily. On his return to Medina, however, even before going to his residence, he called on the Khalifah and brought the seriousness of the controversy to his notice.
The Khalifah realizing the urgency of the matter summoned the copy of the mushaf which was compiled during the reign of Ameer al-Muminin Abu Bakr and which was then in the custody of Ummul-Muminin Hafsa daughter of Ameer al-Muminin Umar. The Khalifah constituted a commission under the leadership of Zaid bin Thabit, the same scribe of the Qur'an who played key role in the compilation of the Qur'an during the period of Abu Bakr. Other members of the commission included Sayeed bin al-‘Aas, Abdur Rahman bin Harith and Abdullah bin Zubair. The commission was asked to prepare a master copy from the mushaf. It was further advised that, should there be any difference with regard to the recitation of the Qur’an, the recitation of the Quraish should be followed. The Khalifah also directed that the differences of opinion among the members of the commission should be referred to him.
With these specific instructions the work of the preparation of the authentic copies was started and conducted carefully.
Through this sacred project, Uthman in fact, united the entire Ummah on a single script. Ali bin Abu Talib, too supported this action of Uthman and said that, had be been the Khalifah, he would have also acted in the same manner. These copies received collective testimony and consensus of the Muslim Ummah.
i) Khalifah Uthman got prepared four official copies (according to some seven copies were prepared) of the Qur'an and declared them as standard to be followed. One copy was kept in Medina and remaining copies were sent to the capitals of various provinces.
ii) Individually preserved copies were destroyed.
iii) Obligation was imposed that in future every copy of the Qur'an should be made strictly in accordance with the official one.
iv) The suhuf compiled during the period of Khalifah Abu Bakr were in the form of Surahs. Khalifah Uthman got them compiled and gave the shape of mushaf.
Today three such copies of the Qur'an are available which are considered as Mushaf Uthman of which one is available in Tashqand, the second in India Office Library, London and the third in Tope Kapi Sarai Museum in Istanbul, Turkey. In this latter copy of the Qur'an, the (ayah 2:137) is stained with the blood of Uthman, because when the murderers attacked him he was engaged in reciting the Qur'an. All the three copies of the Qur'an are written on parchment or paper.
Dr. Mohammed Hameedullah wrote regarding these copies of the Qur'an, thus:
“It is probable that these copies belonged to the period of Uthman or might have been written just after his period. In any case it is a matter of pride and satisfaction for us that there is absolutely no difference whatsoever, between these copies and the ones which are presently in use”.
There is another school of thought which maintains that the entire text of the Qur’an did exist, in the form of a book, during the life time of the Prophet. The scholars of this school draw their conclusions from the following ayaat of the Qur'an:
1. “This is indeed the most honourable Qur'an (conveyed unto man) in a well guarded book (Kitaab)” (Qur'an 56:77 and 78).
2. “in (It is) honoured books (suhuf), exalted purified (written) in the hands of noble, virtuous scribes”. (Qur'an 80:13 to 16).
3. “A messenger from Allah, rehearsing to them (from) pure sheets (suhufan).” (Qur'an 98:2).
4. “And they (who deny the truth) say: ‘Fables of the ancients which he (the Prophet) has caused to be written and they are dictated before him, morning and evening’” (Qur'an 25:5).
5. “And bear in mind all that is recited in your homes of Allah’s messenger and His wisdom.” (Qur'an 33:34).
Suhuf also occurring in Qur'an 87:19 refers to scripture or loose written sheets (singular is sahifah) Masahif means the collected suhuf.
The words (suhuf) used in 2 and 3 clearly refer to a book and not to a collection of scattered material (stones, flat bones, pieces of leather etc.).
There are numerous reports also which show the existence of the Qur'an in the form of a book during the life time of the Prophet. These go in favour of the conclusions of this school.
1. The report about the conversion of Umar the great, shows that lengthy passages of the Qur'an had already been written down even at a very early time. One such copy was available with the brother-in-law and sister of Umar.
2. Reported by Abdullah bin Umar: The messenger of Allah said: “Do not take the Qur'an, on a journey with you, for I am afraid, lest it should fall into the hands of the enemy.”
3. When people came to Medina to learn about Islam, they were provided with the copies of the surahs of the Qur'an, to read and learn them by heart.
4. In the sermon during the last pilgrimage, the Prophet is reported to have said, “I am leaving with you something which if you will hold fast, you will never fall into error: the Book of Allah and the sunnah (practice) of His prophet.”
“This advice from the Prophet to the Muslims implies that revelation was available as kitab (writing) before his death, for otherwise he would have referred to it in some other term”.
It is stated in Fatah-ul-Bari, Umdat-ul-Qari, Irshad-ul-Bari and Itqan, that during the Prophet’s lifetime the entire Qur'an was in written form.
Dr. Abdul-suboor Shaheen stated in Tarikh ul Qur'an (history of the Qur'an) that the Qur'an was preserved both in written form and in memories of the huffaz during the Prophet’s life time.
Shaikh Mohammed Ghazali wrote in Nadhrat fil Qur'an that when the holy Prophet expired, the entire Qur'an was safe in written form as well as in memories.
The use of paper was not common in Arabia and it reached Muslims during the period of Ameer al-Muminin Uthman after the conquest of Mawaraun-Nahar. There were few Chinese prisoners of war who knew the art of manufacturing paper. This is how the paper industry was developed by Muslims. Earlier the Qur'an was written on such material which was readily available and was found suitable for inscription; for example:
1. Adeem was a thin skin duly tanned used for writing.
2. Katf, the thigh bone of camel was so widely flat that it was suitable for writing.
3. Maseeb was the lower part of the branch of palm date near the stem, so wide as to make it convenient to write on.
4. Lakhfa was like a slate of a white stone specially suitable for writing.
5. Aqhtaab was the wooden plank used as a seat on the back of camel. Such wooden planks became smooth due to long use and therefore, offered a good surface for writing.
6. Ruqha’ was a sort of parchment used for writing the Qur'an and it is also referred to in the Qur'an itself, thus: “The scripture penned on unrolled parchment” (Qur'an 52:3). However, parchment was a costly and rare commodity not easily available. At the dawn of Islam wealthy people used to write on it.
7. Broken utensils are also referred to as an object used for writing. The eminent Muslim scholar, Maulana Manadhir Ahsan Geelani says that such articles were used for writing the Qur'anic ayaat. In view of urgency, however, whenever any Surah was completed, it was transformed on better objects (such as qirtas, Greek kartis or parchment) Islamic state was not so poor as to be content with the cheaper material such as leaves of the palm dates etc. 
Whenever a passage was revealed the Prophet used to dictate it to any one of the amanuenses who used to write it on whatever writing material was readily available. Then the Prophet used to get it copied in the master copy.
Zaid is reported to have said: “We used to compile the Qur'an from small scraps in the presence of the Prophet”.
This master copy was known as Kitabul Imam or Kitabul Um and it was kept close to a pillar (Ustuwana) of Masjid Nabavi. This pillar was thus called Ustuwana-Mushaf.
Scholars of this school challenge the authenticity of the reports regarding collection of the Qur'an during the period of the First Khalifah on the following grounds among others:
1. These traditions are product of ajami conspiracy with the purpose of creating doubts about the unique position of the Qur'an.
2. All these traditions are reported through Ubaid bin al Sabbaq and ibn Shihab Zuhri both of whom according to these scholars are unreliable and untrustworthy. They have gone to the extent of assigning motives. These scholars contend that the “ajami hypocrites” with the intention of depreciating the lofty position of the Qur'an have given currency to such traditions. Today these very traditions, they contend are used by oriental scholars and some others to give the impression that the Qur'an which is found today is a product of a later generation than that of the Prophet.
3. Zaid bin Thabit (d. 45 or 48) was one of the 42 amanuenses of the Prophet. He was very junior to many of them. He was hardly eleven years old at the time of migration. He learnt to read and write when after the battle of Badr the Prophet released the prisoners of war on the condition of teaching literacy to ten Muslims. Five or six years after his migration to Medina the Prophet dictated some of the revelations to him. His selection as head of the commission is therefore, against reason.
4. Both Bukhari and Tirmidhi in their respective collections have not included the main report in which the Prophet is reported to have declared khuzaima as Dhul Shahadatain i.e., his evidence was to be regarded as equal to that of two witnesses. This is obviously due to the fact that they did not find the report as reliable. It is strange that the very scholars (Bukhari and Tirmidhi) have accepted the two ayaat reported to have been found with him alone.
The scholars of this school challenge the authenticity of the traditions regarding the compilation of standard copies of the Qur'an, during the period of Khalifah Uthman also.
2. They contend that if the compilation of the Qur'an during the period of Uthman was according to the difference in pronunciation as reported in the traditions, then it would render the text of the Qur'an doubtful.
3. It is mentioned in the traditions that Zaid bin Thabit was instructed to transcribe the text of the Qur’an as per the recitation of the Quraish. The scholars of this school argued: if it was so then on what recitation the text was transcribed during the earlier compilation of the Qur'an during the period of the first Khalifah.
4. There were several thousand huffaz during the period of Khalifah Uthman. In view of the steps taken to preserve the correct pronunciation through Ilm ul Tajwid from the period of the Prophet to the present day, it was highly impossible that there was any change in the pronunciation in the period so close to the Prophet. If any variation was found in the written text in some copies of the Qur’an it could have been corrected easily. To indicate such a possibility of change in the written text can only be interpreted as a motivated step to create doubt about the impeccable position of the Qur'an.
All the variant readings are the product of later generation when the controversies between the disciples of the Imams of fiqh gave rise to such variations.
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 See list of Amanuenses (Annexure 1).
 Dr. Mohammed Hameedullah – Khutbat-e-Bahawalpur (Urdu).
 Dr. Mohd. Hameedullah – Sahifa Hamman ibn Munabbih, Paris 1979
 Ahmed Von Denffer – Ulum al Qur'an page 41.
 Dr. Mohd. Hameedullah’s letter (dated 3rd Jamadi ul’Ula 1409 H.)
addressed to the author.
 Itqan vol.1 page 99, sahih page 69 as quoted by Ahmed Von Deffer –
Ulum al Qur'an page 41.
 See Tamanna Imadi – Jam’ul Qur'an and ‘Imam Tabari aur Imam
Zuhri, Taswir Ka Doosra Rukh’ (both in Urdu).
 Jam’ul Qur'an pages 151-158.