Second module: Gathering of the Qur’anic texts in the era of Abu Bakr

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Second module

Gathering of the Qur’anic texts in the era of Abu Bakr

 

1. What led Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu to instruct the gathering of the texts of the Noble Qur’an?

Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu stood at the reins of the Islamic khilafah after the passing of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Many precarious tasks lay at hand as he became the Khalifah. Amongst them; the apostasy of some of the weak Muslims and the refusal of discharging of Zakat from some tribes. The only way to combat this trial was to send out armies to fight these apostates and bring them back into the fold of Islam.

The Battle of Yamamah in the 12th year of the hijrah held many Huffaz in its ranks. Seventy of these Huffaz were martyred in this battle. When this heart wrenching news reached ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu, he was taken aback and severely concerned. He went to Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu, gave him the news and presented his fear of the loss of the Qur’an by the loss of the Huffaz.

He presented before Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu the idea of taking up the task of gathering the Qur’an. Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu was, at first hesitant fearing he would be introducing an innovation. After much thought and dialogue, he began to see the light of wisdom behind the suggestion of ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu. Convinced, he called Zaid ibn Thabit radiya Llahu ‘anhu to head this project of gathering the Qur’an in one place. He was chosen after mutual consultation between Abu Bakr and ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhuma.

When Zaid ibn Thabit radiya Llahu ‘anhu was presented with this task, he too was hesitant fearing he would be introducing an innovation. However, after much dialogue between the three he too realised the great benefits of gathering the texts of the Qur’an. He began this task and oversaw it, giving it its due right, till its completion.

Imam al Bukhari (d. 256.) narrates in his Sahih, Zaid ibn Thabit radiya Llahu ‘anhu says:

 

أرسل إلي أبو بكر مقتل أهل اليمامة فإذا عمر بن الخطاب عنده قال أبو بكر رضي الله عنه إن عمر أتاني فقال إن القتل قد استحر يوم اليمامة بقراء القرآن وإني أخشى أن يستحر القتل بالقراء بالمواطن فيذهب كثير من القرآن وإني أرى أن تأمر بجمع القرآن قلت لعمر كيف تفعل شيئا لم يفعله رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال عمر هذا والله خير فلم يزل عمر يراجعني حتى شرح الله صدري لذلك ورأيت في ذلك الذي رأى عمر قال زيد قال أبو بكر إنك رجل شاب عاقل لا نتهمك وقد كنت تكتب الوحي لرسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فتتبع القرآن فاجمعه فوالله لو كلفوني نقل جبل من الجبال ما كان أثقل علي مما أمرني به من جمع القرآن قلت كيف تفعلون شيئا لم يفعله رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال هو والله خير فلم يزل أبو بكر يراجعني حتى شرح الله صدري للذي شرح له صدر أبي بكر وعمر رضي الله عنهما فتتبعت القرآن أجمعه من العسب واللخاف وصدور الرجال حتى وجدت آخر سورة التوبة مع أبي خزيمة الأنصاري لم أجدها مع أحد غيره لقد جاءكم رسول من أنفسكم عزيز عليه ما عنتم حتى خاتمة براءة فكانت الصحف عند أبي بكر حتى توفاه الله ثم عند عمر حياته ثم عند حفصة بنت عمر رضي الله عنه

Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu sent for me owing to the large number of casualties in the Battle of Yamamah, while ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu was sitting with him. Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu said (to me), “‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu has come to me and said, ‘A great number of Huffaz of the Holy Qur’an were killed on the day of the Yamamah, and I am afraid that the casualties among the Huffaz of the Qur’an may increase on other battlefields whereby a large part of the Qur’an may be lost. Therefore, I consider it advisable that you (Abu Bakr) should have the Qur’an collected.’ I said, ‘How dare I do something which Allah’s Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not do?’ ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu said, ‘By Allah, it is something beneficial.’ ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu kept on pressing me for that till Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala opened my chest for that for which He had opened the chest of ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu and I had in that matter, the same opinion as ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu had.” Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu then said to me (Zaid), “You are a wise young man and we do not have any suspicion about you, and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah’s Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. So, you should search for the fragmentary scripts of the Qur’an and collect it (in one Book).” By Allah, if Abu Bakr had ordered me to shift a mountain among the mountains from one place to another it would not have been heavier for me than this ordering me to collect the Qur’an. Then I said (to ‘Umar and Abu Bakr), “How can you do something which Allah’s Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam did not do?” Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu said, “By Allah, it is something beneficial.” [Zaid added:] So, he (Abu Bakr) kept on pressing me for that until Allah opened my chest for that for which He had opened the chests of Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu and ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu, and I had in that matter, the same opinion as theirs. So, I started compiling the Qur’an by collecting it from the leafless stalks of the date-palm tree and from the pieces of leather and hides and from the stones, and from the chests of men (who had memorized the Qur’an). I found the last verses of Surah al Tawbah, Verily there has come unto you an Apostle (Muhammad) from amongst yourselves (Surah al Tawbah: 129), with Abu Khuzaimah and I added to it the rest of the Surah. The manuscripts of the Qur’an remained with Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu till Allah took him unto Him. Then it remained with ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu till Allah took him unto Him, and then with Hafsah bint ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu.[1]

 

2.Why did Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu select Zaid ibn Thabit radiya Llahu ‘anhu for the task of gathering the Qur’an?

One who studies the pure life of Zaid ibn Thabit radiya Llahu ‘anhu will find the answer to this question.

He is Zaid ibn Thabit ibn Dahhak al Ansari, of the Khazraj tribe. An intelligent youth who mastered the Syriac language in just nineteen days. He memorized the entire Qur’an during the lifetime of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and was one of the scribes of revelation. He was famed for his honesty, chastity, trust, knowledge, and understanding of Islam. He became an authority in legal rulings, recitation of the Qur’an, and laws of inheritance in Madinah Munawwarah.

Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam said regarding him:

 

أفرض أمتي زيد بن ثابت

The most knowledgeable with regards to the laws of inheritance is Zaid ibn Thabit.[2]

 

3. How did Zaid ibn Thabit radiya Llahu ‘anhu gather the Qur’an and what recourses did he use?

When Zaid ibn Thabit radiya Llahu ‘anhu began gathering the Qur’an during the era of Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu he relied on two resources.

a. That what was in the heart of men, knowing they were amongst the Huffaz.

b. That which was written during the lifetime of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. He was extremely rigorous in authenticating such, till he was convinced without a shred of doubt that it had been written in front of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam together with it being from the final recitation of the Messenger salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and none of the recital of such had been abrogated.

He would therefore not accept any portion without the testimony of two just men providing proof that it had been written in the presence of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam.

The following narrations draw a picture of this:

1) Ibn Abi Dawood (d. 316):

 

أخرج ابن أبي داود من طريق يحيى بن عبد الرحمن بن حاطب قال قدم عمر فقال من كان تلقى من رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم شيئا من القرآن فليأت به وكانوا يكتبون ذلك في الصحف والألواح والعسب وكان لا يقبل من أحد شيئا حتى يشهد شهيدان وهذا يدل على أن زيدا كان لا يكتفي لمجرد وجدانه مكتوبا حتى يشهد به من تلقاه سماعا مع كون زيد كان يحفظ فكان يفعل ذلك مبالغة في الاحتياط

‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu came and announced, “Whoever attained any portion of the Qur’an from Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam should come forth with it.” In those days they would wrote upon parchment, tablets, and bones. 6He would not accept anything from anyone till two witnessed stood as proof. This shows that Zaid would not suffice on simply finding the texts, till proof was not brought forth. This was over and above he himself having memorized the Qur’an. This was his extreme rigour in precaution.[3]

 

2) Ibn Abi Dawood:

 

وأخرج ابن أبي داود أيضا من طريق هشام بن عروة عن أبيه أن أبا بكر قال لعمر ولزيد اقعدا على باب المسجد فمن جاءكما بشاهدين على شيء من كتاب الله فاكتباه رجاله ثقات مع انقطاعه

Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu said to ‘Umar and Zaid radiya Llahu ‘anhuma, “Sit at the door of the Masjid and when one comes with anything from the Book of Allah with two witnesses, then write it.”[4]

 

Ibn Hajar (d. 852) says:

وكأن المراد بالشاهدين الحفظ والكتاب

By two witnesses they meant its memorization and text.[5]

 

Al Sakhawi (d. 643.) says:

المراد أنهما يشهدان على أن ذلك من الوجوه التي نزل بها القرآن

Meaning they would bear witness that this was one of the ways the Qur’an had been revealed.[6]

 

Abu Shamah (d. 665) says:

وكان غرضهم ألا يكتب إلا من عين ما كتب بين يدي النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لا من مجرد الحفظ قال ولذلك قال في آخر سورة التوبة لم أجدها مع غيره أي لم أجدها مكتوبة مع غيره لأنه كان لا يكتفي بالحفظ دون الكتابة

Their intent was that nothing should be written except from that which was written in the presence of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and not just from memory. That is why he says I did not find the ending verses of Surah al Tawbah except from one person. Meaning he did not find it written by anyone besides the one person. He would not suffice on memory (alone).[7]

 

Al Suyuti (d. 911) says:

أو المراد أنهما يشهدان على أن ذلك مما عرض على النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم عام وفاته

Or what is meant is that they would give testimony that this was from the final rendition of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in his final year.[8]

 

4. Can the gathering of the Qur’an during the era of Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu be considered an innovation?

If one ponders, one will realise that this is not an innovation nor is it something that didn’t derive its principles from the lifetime of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. It is derived from the principles laid out by Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam in legislating the writing of the Qur’an.

Harith al Muhasabi (d. 243) says:

 

كتابة القرآن ليست بمحدثة فإنه صلى الله عليه وسلم كان يأمر بكتابته ولكنه كان مفرقا في الرقاع والأكتاف والعسب فإنما أمر الصديق بنسخها من مكان إلى مكان مجتمعا وكان ذلك بمنزلة أوراق وجدت في بيت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم فيها القرآن منتشر فجمعها جامع وربطها بخيط حتى لا يضيع منها شيء

The writing of the Qur’an was not an innovation as Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam himself ordered its writing, though it was in different locations on different articles; parchment, bones and the like. Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu merely instructed its imprint in one place all together. It is as though different pieces of paper was found in the house of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam containing the Qur’an and a person came and gathered those papers and bound it so that no portion of it may be lost.[9]

 

5. What was the reaction of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum to this undertaking of Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu?

The Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum were all in favour of and assisted in this compilation of Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu. The following proves this:

  • a. There is no mention in the books of history of any of the Sahabah radiya Llahu ‘anhum being displeased with this.
  • b. Every Companion had some portion of the Qur’an with him. Each Companion would come with to it to Zaid radiya Llahu ‘anhu with a happy heart. Their worry was one.
  • c. ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu was responsible for this task, whilst Zaid radiya Llahu ‘anhu was tasked with heading it. Both were of the great Companions and held a great status amongst the Companions radiya Llahu ‘anhum.
  • d. Ibn Abi Dawood narrates the following statement of ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib radiya Llahu ‘anhu:

أعظم الناس في المصاحف أجرا أبو بكر رحمة الله على أبي بكر هو أول من جمع كتاب الله

The one to receive the most reward in the compilation will be Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu. May Allah subhanahu wa ta ‘ala have mercy on Abu Bakr, he was the first to gather the Book of Allah.[10]

 

6. Where was the copy placed that Zaid radiya Llahu ‘anhu gathered and what happened to it?

This copy was first in the care of the first Khalifah, Abu Bakr radiya Llahu ‘anhu, during his reign. It then went into the care of ‘Umar ibn al Khattab radiya Llahu ‘anhu during his reign as the Khalifah. After his passing it went into the care of Hafsah bint ‘Umar ibn al Khattab radiya Llahu ‘anha. It remained by her, though Marwan ibn al Hakam—the then governor of Madinah—asked for it to which she refused. After her death Marwan asked for it from her brother, ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar radiya Llahu ‘anhu. When he came into the possession of this copy he instructed it to be burnt. Marwan said, “I only did this for fear of doubt in it from people to come.”

This was after it had been copied in the time of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu. This was used as an original by Zaid radiya Llahu ‘anhu in writing the other copies.[11]

 

NEXT⇒ Third module: Writing of the Qur’an in the era of ‘Uthman radiya Llahu ‘anhu.


[1]Al Itqan, vol. 1 pgs. 164-165.

[2] For further reading see, Tadhkirah al Huffaz, vol. 1 pg. 29; al Isabah, vol. 1 pg. 561; Ghayah al Nihayah, vol. 1 pg. 296; Tahdhib al Tahdhib, vol. 3 pg. 299.

[3] Al Itqan, vol. 1 pg. 166; Mabahith ‘Ulum al Qur’an, pg. 127; Tarikh al Mushaf, pg. 49.

[4] Al Itqan, vol. 1 pg. 167; Mabahith ‘Ulum al Qur’an, pg. 127

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Al Itqan, vol. 1 pg. 167.

[9] Al Itqan, vol. 1 pg. 168; Tarikh al Mushaf, pg. 50.

[10] Al Itqan, vol. 1 pg. 165; Mabahith ‘Ulum al Qur’an, pg. 128; Tarikh al Mushaf, pg. 50.

[11] Tarikh al Mushaf, pg. 50.