The Preservation of the Quran

Ehteshaam Gulam

*** Special thanks to Abdullah Kunde and Bassam Zawadi for their reserach info for the preservation of the Quran***

1. The story of the Preservation of the Quran:

Now what do I mean when I say the Quran has been perfectly persevered? All I mean is this, If the Prophet Was alive today, he would say that the Quran we have today is the same Quran of his time. There is no chapter added or deleted.

The Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad in a period of over 23 years at two different locations, Makka and Madinah. Whenever a Ayah was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad he would have a scribe or a companion write it down on different kinds of materials ranging from Shoulder blades of Camels to, Palm tree leaves, Stones, etc. It's important to note that there was no paper in Arabia at that time.

We find evidence that Prophet Muhammad told his followers to write the Quran in the hadith:

Narrated Ali:  We did not, write anything from the Prophet except the Quran and what is written in this paper, (wherein) the Prophet said, "Medina is a sanctuary from (the mountain of) Air to so and-so, therefore, whoever innovates (in it) an heresy or commits a sin, or gives shelter to such an innovator, will incur the Curse of Allah. the angels and all the people; and none of his compulsory or optional good deeds of worship will be accepted And the asylum granted by any Muslim Is to be secured by all the Muslims even if it is granted by one of the lowest social status among them. And whoever betrays a Muslim in this respect will incur the Curse of Allah, the angels and all the people, and his compulsory and optional good deeds of worship will not be accepted. And any freed slave will take as masters (befriends) people other than his own real masters who freed him without taking the permission of the latter, will incur the Curse of Allah, the angels and all the people, and his compulsory and optional good deeds of worship will not be accepted." (Bukhari Volume 4, Book 53, Number 404)

Now after the Prophet’s death, there were about 40 memorizers of the Quran however most of them died during a battle after the Prophet’s death. This worried Umar Ibn Khattab, a companion of the Prophet (peace be upon him) who suggested to Abu Bakr that the Quran be complied into one manuscript and kept in a safe place. So Abu Bakr agreed with Umar Ibn Khattab and summoed Zain Ibn Talib, the friend of Prophet Muhammad and he was an expert scribe of the Quran. Abu Bakr orderd Zaid that "Be very careful in having two witnesses of each Ayah of the Quran". So Zaid wrote and complied a manuscript of the Quran--- under careful scurinity. [1]

This is found in the hadith literature (An Islamic historical book):

Narrated Anas: Uthman called Zaid bin Thabit, Abdullah bin Az-Zubair, Said bin Al-'As and 'AbdurRahman bin Al-Harith bin Hisham, and then they wrote the manuscripts of the Holy Qur'an in the form of book in several copies. 'Uthman said to the three Quraishi persons. " If you differ with Zaid bin Thabit on any point of the Quran, then write it in the language of Quraish, as the Quran was revealed in their language." So they acted accordingly. (Said bin Thabit was an Ansari and not from Quraish ). (Bukhari Volume 4, Book 56, Number 709)

Now the Quran has a very unique aspect to its mode of revelation. The Quran was revealed in 7 different Afruahs or 7 different modes. Each Mode constitutes the entire Quran. Each Mode was to address the seven different dialects of the Arabs in Arabia.

Now there is something else—the Qiratat. The Qirarat are ways of reciting the Quran. Now there is an important difference here.

The 7 Modes of the Quran are the seven different ways the Quran has been revealed. The Afruahs of the Quran is the actual content of the Quran while the Qiratat are the actually way of reciting the Quran.

What is established and agreed by muslim Scholars is that the Seven Modes are revelations of the Quran and are the same Modes the companions of the Prophet recitied the Quran—anad Prophet Muhamamd approved of it. The way we recite the Quran today is the same way the companions of the Prophet recited the Quran during the life of the Prophet Muhammad. Which is all that matters to us Muslims at the end of the day.

Now during the time of Uthman, A Caliph and a Companion of the Prophet, there were new converts to Islam who formed some of the Muslim army, started to argue with one another. They were saying that MY RECITATION OF THE QURAN IS BETTER THAN YOUR RECITATION. However they were clearly speaking out of ignorance, since all the recitations are inspired By Allah. So one of the Companions of the prophet named HUZAFAH--- came to Uthman and told his fear and concern about these disputes among the new converts. So Uthman came to Hafsa, one of the wives of the Prophet, and got the manuscript of the Quran which was approved by Abu Bakr. And he had Zaid and 11 other experts of the Quran—which they wrote many manuscripts of the Quran. These manuscripts were then sent to the others in Arabia, and the other manuscripts were burned-------But they were burned for dialect reasons. Uthman burned the manuscripts, and this authoritive Quran was then preserved.

So Today we have the original manuscript of the Quran. Every single Muslim agreed with the Uthman manuscript. Ali, even said that the Quran manuscript was the same as the Quran recitied by the Prophet’s companions.

Uthman had several enemies during his time. Not a single one of his enemies accused him of tampering with the Qur’anic text.

William Montgomery Watt and Richard Bell said:

If any great changes by way of addition, suppression or alteration had been made, controversy would almost certainly have arisen; but of that there is little trace. 'Uthman offended the more religious among Muslims, and ultimately became very unpopular. Yet among the charges laid against him, that of having mutilated and altered the Qur'an is not generally included, and was never made a main point. The Shi'a, it is true, has always held that the Qur'an was mutilated by the suppression of much which referred to 'Ali and the Prophet's family. This charge, however, is not specially directed against 'Uthman, but just as much against the first two caliphs, under whose auspices the first collection is assumed to have been made. It is also founded on dogmatic assumptions which hardly appeal to modern criticism. On general grounds then, it may be concluded that the 'Uthmanic revision was honestly carried out, and reproduced, as closely as was possible to the men in charge of it, what Muhammad had delivered. Modern study of the Qur'an has not in fact raised any serious questions of its authenticity. The style varies, but is almost unmistakable. So clearly that the whole bear the stamp of uniformity that doubts of its genuineness hardly arise. [2]

The companions of the Prophet (peace be upon) all agreed upon Uthman’s burning of the manuscripts, Ibn Abi Dawud collected in, al-Masahif, 1/45, from Mus’ab bin Sa’d who said,

“I found overwhelming support for Uthman from the people, however it surprised them, but none rebuked him for it.” [3]

German Orientalist Theodor Noldeke said:

Now when we consider that at that time there were many Muslims who had heard the Qur'an from the mouth of the Prophet, that other measures of the imbecile Uthman met with the most vehement resistance on the part of the bigoted champions of the faith, that these were still further incited against him by some of his ambitious old comrades, until at last they murdered him, and finally that in the civil wars after his death the several parties were glad of any pretext for branding their opponents as infidels - when we consider all this, we must regard it as a strong testimony in favor of Uthman's Qur'an that no party - that of Ali not excepted - repudiated the text formed by Zaid, who was one of the most devoted adherents of Uthman and his family, and that even among the Shiites we detect but very few marks of dissatisfaction with the Caliph's conduct in this matter. [4]

Even non Muslims agree with this.

Now it's commonly said by Non Muslim critics of the Quran that Ibn Masud did not agree with Uthman. However this isn't true. We do have evidence that Ibn Masud
agreed with the manuscript of Uthman.

Bassam Zawadi said: One of the strongest proofs for Ibn Mas’ud later adhering to the Uthmanic manuscript is the fact that his own reading agrees with it. Ibn Mas’ud’s reading was transmitted to us through three different chains and readings and all of these three readings agree with the Uthmanic manuscript:

1) ‘Aasim ibn Hadlah Abi Al Nujood Al Asadi (d. 127 AH) – He was a great Imam in Kufa during his time and he had one of the best voices for Qur’anic recitation. Read more about him in Ma’rifatul Quraa’ Al Kibaar, Volume 1, page 88, Siyar ‘Alaam Al Nubulaa’, Volume 5, page 256 and Shuzhuraat Al Dhahab, Volume 1, page 175

2)  Hamzah bin Habeeb Al Zayyaat (d. 156 AH) – He was a great scholar of Qur’an as well as in Fiqh and Hadeeth. Read more about him in Ma’rifatul Quraa’ Al Kibaar, Volume 1, page 111, Siyar ‘Alaam Al Nubulaa’, Volume 7, page 90 and Shuzhuraat Al Dhahab, Volume 1, page 240

3)  Ali bin Hamzah Al Kisaa’ie (born in 120 AH) – He was a great grammarian. Read more about him in Ma’rifatul Quraa’ Al Kibaar, Volume 1, page 120 , Siyar ‘Alaam Al Nubulaa’, Volume 9, page 131 and Shuzhuraat Al Dhahab, Volume 1, page 321

Fifth century Islamic theologian Ibn Hazm states:

وأما قولُهم إن مصحف عبد الله بن مسعود خلاف مصحفنا فباطلٌ وكذبٌ وإفكٌ. مصحف عبد الله بن مسعود إنَّما فيه قراءته بلا شكٍّ، وقراءتُه هي قراءة عاصمٍ المشهورة عند جميع أهل الإسلام في شرق  الأرض وغربِها، نقرأ بِها كما ذكرنا، كما نقرأ بغيرها مما صحَّ أنه كل منَزلٌ من عند الله تعالى.

And as for their saying that Abdullah ibn Mas’ud’s manuscript differs from ours, this is invalid, a lie and slander. Ibn Mas’ud’s manuscript has his reading with no doubt, and his reading is the reading of ‘Aasim, which is famous amongst everyone who follows Islam from East to West. We read it as we mentioned, just as we read another (i.e. reading) and what is correct is that they are all revealed from Allah All Mighty. (Ibn Hazm, Al Fasl Fil Milal wal Ahwaa’ wal Nihal, Volume 2, page 212)

Fourth century Islamic Jurist, Imam Al Baqillani said:

ولو كان في قراءة ابن مسعود ما يُخالف مصحف عثمان لظهر ذلك في قراءة حمزة خاصةً …

ولو لقي أحدٌ من أصحاب عبد الله أحدًا مِمَّن قرأ عليه خلاف قراءة الجماعة، لوجب أن ينقل ذلك نقلاً ظاهرًا مشهورًا، وفي عدم ذلك دليلٌ على فساد هذا.

And if there were in the reading of Ibn Mas’ud anything that opposes the manuscript of Uthman then this surely would have been revealed in the reading of Hamzah especially…

And if anyone amongst the companions of Abdullah found out that he was reading something contrary to the reading of the majority, it would have been bound to have been mentioned in a famous and apparent narration. The absence of such is evidence that this didn’t occur. (Al Baqillani, Nikat Al Intisaar Li Naql Al Qur’an, pagea 380-382)

Ibn Asaakir in Taareekh Dimashq said:

وقد روي عن ابن مسعود أنه رضي بذلك وتابع ووافق رأي عثمان في ذلك وراجع وذلك

It was narrated that Ibn Mas’ud later agreed (i.e. to selecting Zaid for the committee) and adhered to and approved of Uthman’s decision and revised his previous position. (Ibn Asaakir, Taareekh Dimashq, Volume 33, page 140)

Every single Muslim that we know about agreed with the contents of the Uthmanic manuscripts. There was a unanimous consensus from every single Muslim living at Uthman’s time that the contents of his texts were perfectly portraying the preserved Qur’an.

Ali, the Prophet’s paternal cousin, son-in-law, major companion and fourth Caliph, assures us that there was a consensus in agreement regarding Uthman’s actions:

By Allah, he did not do what he did regarding the Qur’an, except by agreement from us.” (Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani in Fathul Baari, Volume 8, page 634 said that Ibn Abi Dawud collected this statement using an authentic chain of narrators)

2. Strong Evidence to support the Islamic position

Opinions and theories by Orientalists (*) such as Crone and Wansbrough have been disproven. Other theories that have been completely disproven is the
Quran did not come into existence until 300-400 A.H. (about 300 to 400 years after the Prophet) and that the Quran was originally written in Syraic. These
theories have been completely disproven. [5]

Non-Muslim scholars (Western Academics, Oreintalists) say That the Muslim account of the preservation of the Quran is more or less true.
(Scholars such as Brockett, Fred Donner, M, Watt, Richard Bell and Rippin).

There is a lot of evidence to support the claim that the Quran is preserved:

* No Textual changes despite tumultuous early period of Islamic Goverance (Umayadds, Abassids, Fatmids)
* Manuscripts are uniform, with corrections made very early to mistakes, most likely scibal error
* Very early manuscripts are avalible (within 50 years of the death of Prophet Muhammad or less).
* Recitation differences maintain meanings and are known and discussed.

"In 1972 A Treasure trove of ancient manuscripts of the Quran was discovered in Sana (Yemen?).. Certainly the existence of the
manuscripts indicates that the text or at the very least substantial parts of it existed in some sort of collected form by the 8th century" [6]

So 50 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad--- the Quran was certainly in existence. A Non Muslim scholar agrees to this. 
To see the early manuscripts of the Quran see here.

3. Differences between the New Testament and the Quran

1- Qur'an was written during the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him) and canonized by his companions who knew him personally. The NT was written after the disapperance of Jesus and canonized by people who never knew him.

2- The mode of revelation is different. The Qur’an was not revealed as a written text, while the Bible was.

3- The mode of transmission is different for the two books. The NT is transmitted via manuscripts only. When an error occurs in one manuscript, be it deliberate or unintentional, many times it is copied by the next scribe making a copy of this manuscript. However, the Quran is transmitted both orally and in writing. The two keep a check on each other, thus eliminating errors.

4- The Qur'an is preserved in its original language, while the Gospels cite people speaking in a different language (Greek). Thus, much could be lost through translation, while this doesn’t apply to the Qur’an.

5 - The New Testament is a collection of books authored by multiple authors in different locations over a rough estimated range of 20 to 80 years, whereas the Quran is one book with one author in no more than 2 locations within in a time span of no more than 23 years.

6. Jesus spoke Aramaic. Yet the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are all written in Kokine Greek. Prophet Muhammad spoke Arabic and the Quran is written
in Arabic. [7]

4. Conclusions

We can confidently say that the Quran we have today is the same Quran that Prophet Muhammad used to recite. The Quran is perfectly preserved in it's original text,
langauage and manuscipt.

Notes and Bibliography

[1] See Bukhari Volume 6, Book 61, Number 509, and Bukhari Volume 6, Book 61, Number 510.

[2] W M Watt & R Bell , Introduction To The Qur'an, 1994, Edinburgh at University Press, p. 51

[3] (Ibn Kathir quoted it in Fada'il al-Qura'an p. 39 and said that its isnad is sahih.)

[4] Reference: Nöldeke, Theodor. "The Qur'an," Sketches from Eastern History. Trans. J.S. Black. London : Adam and Charles Black, 1892

[5] For example see and for refutation
of the Quran originally being written in Syraic.

To see evidence of first century manuscripts of the Quran see

[6] Rippin, A: Muslims: their religious beliefs and practices, page 35 (2005)

[7] Other problems with the New Testament:

1) The Gospels were written by Unknown Greek authors-- while Jesus spoke Aramaic

2) These thousands of manuscripts are different from one another

3) The N.T. was not canonized until the late 3rd and 4th centuries.

4) We lack the original manuscripts of the Gospels

5) The Gospels were written in the 2nd half of the 1st century, long after Jesus ascended to Allah. They are derive primarily from oral traditions about his speeches and activities-- oral narratives are adapted and reworked with each retelling.

Soon I'll write a essay on this, inshallah (Allah willing)