The Writing of the Noble Qur’an
There are three modules in this chapter:
- Writing of the Qur’an in presence of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
- Gathering of the Qur’anic texts in the era of Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
- Writing of the Qur’an in the era of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
Writing of the Qur’an in presence of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam
Many scholars of past and present have taken an interest in this subject. They have broadly referred to it as “Gathering of the Qur’an”, thereafter making two divisions, firstly discussing its gathering in the hearts of men, i.e. its memorization. They then go onto discussing its gathering in a book form, i.e. the writing of the Qur’an. Both ‘gatherings’ are found during the era of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.
As our discussion here revolves around the writing of the Qur’an I have chosen not to delve into the other topics that generally fall under this umbrella.
What is established, is that the Qur’an would be revealed to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam who would memorize it. Passing this revelation on to the masses and instructing the scribes of revelation to note it down would be his next step. He would instruct the scribes to write the verse in its appropriate and divinely selected place. He would say:
ضعوا هذه السورة بجانب تلك السورة ، وضعوا هذه الآية بازاء تلك الآية ،
Place this chapter next to that chapter and place this verse next to that verse.
Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam would then recite the revealed portion of the Qur’an to Jibril ‘alayh al Salam every year in the month of Ramadan. The year wherein Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam passed away he recited the Qur’an twice to Jibril ‘alayh al Salam. Furthermore, by the time Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam left this temporary abode to meet Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala the complete writing of the Qur’an had been finished.
After this brief introduction the following related questions need to be answered:
1. Who were the famous scribes of revelation?
The following Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum were famous as the scribes of revelation:
- Abu Bakr al Siddiq (d. 12.)
- ‘Umar ibn al Khattab (d. 23.)
- ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan (d. 35)
- ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib (d. 40.)
- Zaid ibn Thabit (d.45.)
- Ubay ibn Ka’b (d. 30.)
- Muawiyah ibn Abi Sufyan (d. 60.)
- Khalid ibn Walid (d. 21.)
- Aban ibn Sa’id (d. 13.)
- Thabit ibn Qais (d. 12.) radiya Llahu ‘anhum.
2. Upon what would they write in these early times?
Paper as we know it today is a relatively recent invention and so in the past people would make use of different materials to inscribe upon their thoughts and histories. Amongst the materials used in earlier times was; stones which would be carved, these continue to be discovered by archaeologists up to this day after a millennium. Some would use the hides of animals to imprint upon. As for the writing of the Qur’an we find narrations mention the use of the following articles:
- Palm branches stripped of their leaves.
- Flake; thin broad pieces of white stones which were used as blanks.
- Palm stumps.
- Dried animal shoulder blade bone.
- Wooden frame saddles.
- Dried animal rib bones.
3. Was the Qur’an gathered in a single book?
History imparts to us that by the time Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam left this temporary abode to meet Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala the complete writing of the Qur’an had been finished. However, it was not written in one place nor kept together. The writings were in the possession of various Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum, they would write and present to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam what they had written and memorized.
4. Why was the Qur’an then not gathered in a single book?
Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not instruct for Qur’an to be gathered in a single due to the following two reasons:
- a. The Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum were rightfully preoccupied with the memorization of the Qur’an. Many Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum had memorized the complete Qur’an. This will be discussed further under the heading The Prophetic institute of learning.
- b. Abrogation of verses and laws continued throughout the life of revelation, gathering the written word would have been a weary task as revising it would be an ongoing duty.
The completion of revelation could only be known at the passing of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Therefore, the gathering of the written word was delayed till this time.
The Companion Zaid ibn Thabit radiya Llahu ‘anhu referred to this when he said:
قُبِضَ رسول الله ولم يكن القرآن جمع في شيء
Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam passed away whilst the Qur’an had not been gathered.
He meant by this that the Qur’an had been gathered in sequence in book form.
Al Khattabi (d. 388) says:
إنما لم يجمع – صلى الله عليه وسلم – القرآن في المصحف ; لما كان يترقبه من ورود ناسخ لبعض أحكامه أو تلاوته ، فلما انقضى نزوله بوفاته ألهم الله الخلفاء الراشدين ذلك ، وفاء بوعده الصادق بضمان حفظه على هذه الأمة ، فكان ابتداء ذلك على يد الصديق بمشورة عمر
Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not gather the Qur’an in a single book as he would await the possibility of abrogation of laws and recitation. When revelation was complete by his passing, Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala inspired the Rightly Guided Khulafa’ to this task, honouring His true promise to protect this Noble Book for this ummah. The beginning of this momentous task was at the hands of Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu by the consultation of ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu.
 Al Itqan, vol. 1 pg. 164.