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  1. #1
    Apr 2005
    10:27 PM

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    Mar 2005
    10:58 PM

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    Compilation, Collation , Preservation and authenticity


    ; 16-11-2005 09:19 PM

  8. #8
    Apr 2005
    09:42 PM

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    Part #1

    The Holy Quran Its Historical Authenticity
    Nadir Aqueel Ansari
    Fundamental Sources of Knowledge in Religions
    No systematic study of a religion is possible without first determining its sources. Therefore, before we make an attempt to understand Islam, we have to be sure of the source material with us. We should first know what are the basic and fundamental sources from where reliable knowledge can be obtained about the teachings of this great world religion.
    Since our understanding and study of Islam is to be based on them, these sources must qualify certain criteria. As we shall see in this chapter, they must be
    1. Well defined
    2. Authentic and
    3. Intelligible.
    In other words, they should be so specific, reliable and meaningful that a matter so important as religion can be based on them.

    Well Defined
    The source material of a religion should be well defined, specifically known and its boundaries should be marked clearly. The genuine material should not be mixed up with spurious material.
    When we say that the sources are not well defined, it means that it is difficult to determine whether something is part of the source material or not. It also shows that the source material may be so widely spread, dispersed, diffused and confused with other material that it is not possible to sift the genuine material from the fake.
    Examples of such a source material (which is not well defined) can be found in a number of religions. The sacred books of the Jews include Talmud, Mishnah and Gemara which are spread over thousands pages. Talmud has two versions (Babylonian and Palestinian) and many a times the different reports and versions do not agree. According to their scholars, their book Talmud is still incomplete and is still being developed by the Jew Rabbis [i]. There are several versions of the literature and it is painstaking to determine what is genuine and what is not.
    Similarly among Hindus, the sacred literature is even more voluminous than that of Jews and again has many versions.
    Many tribal religions have no defined sources of their faith at all. Their religious source material consists of a large treasure of songs, stories and myths.
    Similar is the case of faiths where the fundamental teachings of a religion are kept secret. For instance a few Muslim sub-sects and mystics like Hallaj, believed that the beliefs should not be preached in public. They always kept them secret and only a few people in every era knew the true teachings. It is reported that Imam Jafar said, This affair of Imamat is occult and veiled by a promise, and whoever unveils it will be disgraced by God. [ii] On another occasion he is reported to have said,
    Keep our affairs secret, and do not divulge it publicly, for whoever keeps it secret and does not reveal it , God will exalt him and whoever divulges it publicly and does not keep it secret, god will disgrace him in this world and will take away light from his eyes in the hereafter. Verily, taqiya (concealing) is of my religion and one who does not keep taqiya has no religion. One who reveals our affairs is the one who denies them. [iii]
    Obviously in such cases the source of religion is not only poorly defined, but is also hidden. A student or follower of such a faith would not be able to access its sources of information freely.
    To summarize, the source material of a religion should be well defined, which means that:
    Its boundaries should be clear.
    It should not be concealed.
    The sources also have to be authentic in historical terms. They should be so authentic as not to leave any shadow of doubt about their genuineness. If the fundamental sources of a religion do not come up to the standards of historicity, they are mere stories and myths and are of little use for guidance and salvation.
    The sources of Greek religion are myths which have little element of historical truth in them.
    The Old Testament of Jews and the Bible of Christians have been so severely criticized by the modern historians and scholars that a large number of Christian scholars themselves no more believe that their sacred books were conveyed to them through reliable sources. Moreover, the Christian religious literature consists of both canonical (declared authentic) and apocryphal (doubtful) books. The debate as to which of them is genuine and which is apocryphal is the one of the most important points of difference between the Protestants and the Roman Catholics.
    To summarize, the Authenticity of religious source material means that the historical process through which the material has reached us should be reliable. The external historical evidence should support that the material is not based on hearsay, is not based on the evidence of a small number of people, and is backed by sound documentary and/or oral evidence.

    The sacred books of a religion must also be intelligible to us if at all they can guide us in the spiritual as well as day to day matters. Religion is not meant for scholars, philosophers and linguists only. It is meant for the common man also who is equally in need of correct moral guidance. The sources should therefore be intelligible to all. The Intelligibility describes the language as well as the contents of the sources.
    The language should be comprehensible. In addition to the source material, sufficient literature in the same language should also be available. The additional literature helps determine the usage, precise meanings of words, idioms and shades of meanings. This is intelligibility of the language.
    The contents should also be intelligible, that is, the substance should not be complex, riddled with ambiguities, too symbolic, and so obscure that it renders the literature of no practical worth. Similarly, the contents should be free of contradictions, errors, and inconsistencies and should be in accordance with common sense.
    For instance it is not possible to understand the religious scriptures of Buddhists and Hindus in the modern age. They were written in Sanskrit and Paali languages, thousands of years ago. These languages went into disuse centuries ago. There are few people who can understand these scriptures, written in these dead languages. Moreover their content is deeply philosophical and complex. Even if we are able to learn Sanskrit or Paali languages, we will find their message very ambiguous, elusive and difficult to understand.
    Same is the case with Jewish literature, which was written in classical Hebrew, which only a few modern people can understand.
    Similarly the books of mystic religions are also written in complex manner, employing difficult terms and concepts, which make them unintelligible. Moreover, they interpret their religious texts in a gnostic manner, that is they read hidden meanings in the text which are far from the apparent meanings being conveyed by the words of the text.
    In case of Jewish and Christian scriptures (Old and New Testaments) the number of textual errors, internal inconsistencies and disagreements with known history and common sense have been pointed out by a number of scholars.
    Such original sources may be revered by the followers but are of no practical use to us in finding the way to salvation. An intelligible piece of material should also be free of inconsistencies and statements that simply violate the common sense. It should not contain contradictory information on any subject. Such contradictions also rob the source material of its intelligibility.

    To summarize, Intelligibility requires that the scripture be:
    written in a live language
    comprising comprehensible contents
    free of inconsistencies
    should have apparent meanings and not hidden meanings

    Sources of knowledge on Islam
    To identify the sources of Islam, we turn to the Holy Quran, which says:
    O ye who believe, if you believe in Allah and the Day of Judgment, obey Allah, obey the Messenger and the rulers among you; and if any dispute arises among you on a matter, refer it to Allah and his Messenger (Sura Nisaa Verse 59).
    This verse is the cornerstone of Muslim faith and society. It means that the ultimate source of our religion is Allah and his Messenger. In this verse Allah has clearly outlined the sources from where we should derive our religious faiths and practices.
    This verse ordains Muslims to obey
    the Messenger (Holy Prophet) and
    the Rulers.
    Immediately, it clarifies that in case of a dispute, we have to submit the dispute before
    Allah and
    his Messenger.
    This time, even the rulers are excluded. This shows that in fact, the Muslims are required to obey only Allah and his Messenger who are thus considered by the Muslims as the only sources of Islam.
    Addition to these or deletion of any one, would amount to transfiguring the faith of Islam. Even the companions of the Holy Prophet (Pbuh), the best people in Muslim history, used to go back to these sources if there was any dispute.

    What do we have with us that represent the will of Allah and his Messenger?
    God has never communicated with us directly. He does not communicate with human beings directly except through his chosen ones. It was Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh) who received wahee (revelation) from God, which the Muslims have with them now. It was through the Holy Prophet that Allah has expressed and conveyed His will and commandments for humanity and His designs about the universe. The only source of knowledge about Islam, therefore, is the personality of the Holy Prophet Peace be upon him. A Muslim has to believe and follow whatever commands of Allah the Prophet communicated to him.
    This means that we have to look for what the Holy Prophet has left for us. Now whatever we have received from the Prophet can be classified into the following three source materials. The Holy Prophet did not leave anything else to us except these three, i.e.
    1. The Holy Quran - Muslim Scripture,
    2. The Sunnah - the practices of the Holy Prophet and
    3. Hadeeth - the sayings, actions, biography of the Holy Prophet.
    We would attempt to analyze and investigate the Holy Quran, to ascertain whether it is Authentic, Well Defined and Intelligible.

    The Holy Quran - its revelation and history of compilation
    The Holy Quran was presented to the people of Arabia by the Holy Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him). It was presented in parts during 23 years of his prophetic life. The Book presents itself as the word of God and the Holy Prophet also presented as such.
    The Muslims believe that the Holy Quran, being the revealed word of God, is the cornerstone of their faith. They get their philosophy, beliefs and laws from this book - it is their lifeblood. It is the Word of God revealed to his Messenger Muhammad Peace be upon him, who read it out before the world loud and clear. He not only recited it to the people of Arabia, he also made elaborate arrangements to ensure that its contents be preserved and his companions should learn it by heart and should also reduce it to writing. The Holy Prophets stress on the supremacy of the Book of Allah, over all other sources of religious knowledge, was unequivocal and categorical.
    The Muslims believe that the Holy Prophet actually heard or received the divine words. The Holy Quran was communicated to the Holy Prophet
    either through Wahee (Revelation), or
    through an angel or
    through words spoken by God Himself.
    All these three forms of communication, the Muslims believe, are verbatim in nature, that is to say, that the Holy Quran consists of actual words of Allah, communicated to the Holy Prophet.
    The Holy Quran is not like the writings of the New Testament, where God inspired a scribe to write down the scripture; the idea and words were those of the scribe while God only supervised the scribe. In other cases, the Christians would like to say that the scribe was inspired by God and revealed a certain idea to him. The scribe then wrote it down in his own words. In case of the Quran, the words and ideas are both divine.
    The words and verses of the Holy Quran were preserved, through the oral as well as the written traditions, in the Holy Prophets lifetime. A very large number of companions of the Prophet participated in this preservation process and the text was safely handed over to the next generation. The process was so immaculate and tremendously sound, that the preservation of the Holy Quran has become an established fact of history.
    What do the Muslims mean when they say that the Holy Quran in their hands today is exactly the one that was revealed to the Holy Prophet, and that this is an established fact of history? The meaning and significance of this statement can be explained in the terms of history where we would like to know when an historical fact is established beyond any shadow of doubt.

    Chains of reports consisting of individuals
    Usually reports about the past have reached us through oral reports, written reports, practical tradition or archaeological artifacts.
    For instance, the views of Socrates originated as oral reports (words of mouth) which were later recorded by Plato and other writers. The plays of Shakespeare have reached us through documentary evidence (written words). The report that Buddha used to meditate in a certain posture has reached us through archaeological remains (pieces of art - artifacts - like statues and engravings). The Christian institution of Baptism and the way a newborn is baptized has traveled through centuries to us through practical continuity (practice). These reports are considered as micro-history. They are to be judged in the light of the authenticity of the narrators (in case of oral evidence), the scribes (in case of written evidence), the clerics (in case religious rites) or the artists that created the pieces of art (in case of archaeological evidence).
    Discussions in micro history hinge on detailed and incisive discussions on individuals (scribes, narrators and artists etc.). The authenticity of the report depends upon the veracity of these individuals. The lives of these individuals are examined to get an idea of the authenticity of the report they have conveyed us. Their character, capabilities, resources, environment, and location at a certain place and time are studied. Obviously, the individual being the kingpin in such instances of micro-history must be shown to be reliable, truthful, unprejudiced and intelligent (to confirm his ability to comprehend, retain and truly express the facts).
    Once the personal traits of the individuals are investigated, the historians turn to the question of continuity. Continuity means that the individuals involved in collecting and then transmitting the report to us must be shown to be in a state of uninterrupted contact and communication. We are referring to the fact that there should be an immediate proximity in time and place between the two reporters who form one ring of the chain of transmission. There should be no time when the report remained with anonymous narrators because then we cannot investigate the personal traits of the individuals. It should also not suffer from oblivion because, in that case, any change or corruption in the report, during the time it remained hidden from us, cannot be ruled out. If the communication between two consecutive reporters is smooth, continuous and uninterrupted, the report gathers strength. This evidence for continuity is however to be produced in respect of each stage of the chain of reporters, enabling us to say with a fair degree of confidence that the report is worth consideration.
    If the investigation of individuals and continuity of the report leads to positive conclusions, we have established one chain of the report. Sometimes two or more such chains of reports, leading to the same event, can be established. For example, two courtiers of Akbar the Great may narrate the same incident. In such cases, the supporting narration should be identical or at least similar. If the individuals involved in the chain and the continuity of their transmission has been investigated, these corroborating reports strengthen and reinforce each other and we are able to place more confidence in the substance brought out by them.
    We can summarize our discussion by saying that in micro history, the following components are vital:
    Continuity of the report
    Corroboration (if any, by way of multiple chains of individuals)
    If an event or a substance is supported by this investigation it becomes worth considering for a historian. However, information obtained through chains of individual to individual transmission can never establish a fact beyond any shadow of doubt. The primary reason is that in such examinations, the historicity of the report ultimately depends on one or two individuals. If our assessment about even one of the individuals in the chain of reporters is faulty, the entire chain is shaken. These individuals may be widely known as men of reasonably good character, fairly reliable memory, relatively sound understanding and relatively free of prejudices. However, they cannot be assumed to be of infallibly good character, unfailing memory, perfect understanding and absolutely free of prejudices. This makes our assessment of individual reports somehow subjective and introduces an element of probability in our judgments.
    Similarly, our investigation (and finally our judgment) about them can be extremely cautious, scientific and objective, yet it cannot be infallible and indubitable. We were told that an individual was known to be honest, truthful and reliable, but we know that individual behavior is not predictable. After all we are dealing with human beings. One may be honest and truthful throughout ones life but stumble in the end. One may have a sound memory yet he may sometimes be forgetful also.
    Moreover, how are we going to collect evidence about the personal traits of these individuals? Obviously we would be looking for more parallel chains of reporters to learn about a certain individual. These sources would suffer from the same limitations, thereby compounding our problem.
    Before proceeding ahead let us summarize our discussion. The chains of reports consisting of individuals, may lead us to a fair degree of plausibility of an event, yet they cannot lead us to the knowledge of the event that is beyond any shadow of doubt because of the following reasons:
    1. The reliability of the report hinges on one or two individuals
    2. These individuals are not infallible.
    3. Our investigation and judgment about these individuals can also be incorrect.
    The Hadeeth Scholars of early Muslim History were alive to the above discussion and they termed Individual to Individual Report as Khabr-e-Wahid (or Individual Report). Almost the entire Hadeeth literature consists of Akhbar-e-Ahad (Individual Reports).

    Chains of reports consisting of Generations
    On the other hand in macro history we deal with facts, incidents and reports transmitted, not by one or two individuals to another individual, but by one generation that witnessed a fact and testified it to the next generation. For example, the fact that the Crusades did take place between Christians and the Muslims is a fact transmitted by generations to generations. The generation that actually fought and witnessed the wars conveyed this knowledge to the next generation and so on till it reached us. This communication to succeeding generations can be through any means - oral, written or through any mode of art. But the important condition is that there should be no interruption between the successive generations that were involved.
    Here we may note that the units of such chains of transmission are not individuals, but generations. This singular difference changes the very character of such a report.
    Historical facts are empirical observations of men. This means that they communicate to other people facts they had observed through their senses. The limitations of senses are known. However, in Generation-to-Generation Transmission, we are talking of the empirical observations of the entire generations and not of a few individuals. Such testimony, obviously, provides us the surest and the most reliable knowledge of a past event. Such knowledge is as definite as anything can be in human matters.
    When we are talking of scientific principles of history, an important condition of Generation-to- Generation Transfer is that it should not deal with opinions and ideas of individuals but the hard facts, which were witnessed, seen and/or heard by the first Generation (empirical facts). [iv] This condition eliminates the possibility of mythologies and opinions being included in the Generation-to-Generation Transmission.
    Generation-to-Generation transmission is thus marked by:
    1. The fact is witnessed by a large number of people, sometimes the entire generation.
    2. The fact consists of an empirically observed (seen or heard) phenomenon and does not consist of any opinion.
    3. The generations continue to transfer the fact to the successive ones, without interruption and at all stages the number of the people involved in transmission is so large that it is impossible to assume that they misperceived the fact or agreed to tell a lie or forgot the truth.
    Summarizing the salient differences between Individual-to-Individual Transmission and Generation-to-Generation Transmission are:
    1. The reliability of the report from generation to generation does not hinge upon one or two individuals. It rather depends on the hundreds and thousands of people that lived together in a known place and time.
    2. It is no more necessary to investigate the character, understanding, memory or impartiality of individuals involved in a Generation-to-Generation transmission. The entire generations can neither be investigated not should it be necessary. When such a large number of people convey a fact, it is impossible that all of them could have wrongly reported it, forgotten it or could have developed a consensus on telling lies.
    3. There is no need to establish the continuity of reporting chain consisting of individuals. One generation is so perfectly enmeshed into another, and the contact and proximity with the next generation is so intimate and obvious that conducting an inquiry to prove it is not required, and the continuity should be taken as granted.
    4. When hundreds and thousands of people are conveying a fact to the next generation, we do not need any corroborating evidence. Agreement of the entire generation is so overwhelmingly strong that it renders further corroboration redundant.
    5. An Individual-to-Individual Report only makes a fact probable and therefore remains open to further investigations and is revised in the light of fresh discoveries, whereas a Generation-to-Generation Transmission proves the fact beyond any shadow of doubt.
    To further elaborate the issue, these differences between an Individual-to-Individual Report and Generation-to-Generation Transmission have been represented graphically also.

    Subject matter of books on history
    The ordinary books of history we read apparently consist of narration of, investigation into and compilation of individual to individual reports. Such reports by the dint of being only probable at best require investigation and reconciliation between different accounts. They catch most of the historians attention and interest. That is why, normally history is considered to consist of Individual to Individual Reports.
    A closer examination would however reveal that the books of history actually rest on the foundation of Generation to Generation Reports, around which the details, gathered from Individual to Individual Reports, are built. The Generation to Generation Reports are historically established facts and therefore historians seldom question them or contest them. Since they are taken as known facts, a superficial reader of history may miss them. But seen more carefully, the history books are like flesh of Individual to Individual Reports, put on the skeleton of Generation to Generation Reports.
    In a way, we are talking here of Historical Foundationalism, which signifies the fact that most history accounts have a foundation, which is self evident and need not be proved because of overwhelming empirical evidence. The details of the historical account constitute the pyramid of history, which rests on this firm, secure and certain base. These details are mostly obtained through Individual to Individual Reports and are selected out of the huge mass of reports, preferring those that fit well with the foundation. This is Historical Coherentism where, the details must be in harmony with the foundation of history. The Individual to Individual Reports then fit into a jigsaw puzzle with an observable interlocking strength. Historical Coherentism thus governs our selection and preference of Individual to Individual Reports out of the conflicting and divergent mass available. Once an individual report fits well with the structure and is not in conflict with the Foundation, it becomes acceptable as a probable report. Obviously, Historical Foundationalism provides the basic framework while Historical Coherentism helps us fill in the details.
    Due to excessive debates on the probable reports, and because most of the facts about the past are based on them, the Individual to Individual Reports assume an apparently conspicuous position, whereas the foundation goes unnoticed by a common reader. Although if asked, we learn that he fully accepts the foundation (Generation to Generation Reports) with full certitude.
    An illustration would help us understand this. If an historian writes a book on Hitler, guess how much volume of the book would be devoted to the details of the personality, life events, wars, family, views and character of Hitler? Probably the whole book! On the other hand, how many pages would be employed to answer the questions - whether Hitler really existed? Did Hitler live in the twentieth century or the Middle Ages? Was Hitler a German or a Red Indian? Obviously, we should except not even a sentence on these issues. Why? Because the foundation of writing Hitlers history is know with certainty. It should therefore be taken without debate. If not mentioned in the book, the readers take these facts for granted. As a result the book would almost entirely consist of Individual to Individual Reports while the Foundation (Generation to Generation Reports) is not mentioned. In this way, historians work more on Individual Reports and the significance of self evident (Generation to Generation) Reports are not brought to the fore. But the core of the book consists of a number of historically established facts and any Individual Report that tends to call these facts into question is conveniently shelved. Reports such as those suggesting that Hitler never existed or that he was a Chinese by descent or that he lived in Middle Ages would all be termed as unfounded in reality and would be seen as myths.
    Similarly, while studying the history of the Holy Quran, we have to see the Foundation which is common to all reports, and then see the Individual Reports that fit in with the foundation. Obviously, any Individual Report that contradicts the Generation to Generation Report cannot be accepted.

    Terminology of the Muslim Historiography
    In the Historiography (Ilm-e-Hadeeth) developed by the Muslims, the Individual to Individual Report is termed as Khabr-e-Wahid (Individuals Report) whereas the Generation to Generation Report is called Mutawatir, and the process of Generation to Generation Transmission is known as Tawatur.
    The entire history is seen as divided into these two broad categories. It is believed that Tawatur is above all suspicion and there is no need to investigate the individuals involved in communicating it. Rather, a Mutawatir report is defined as one in which there is no need to examine the individuals constituting the chain, because there is no chain of individuals that can be termed as the basis of the tawatur. [v] We would, henceforth, use these terms in our subsequent discussions.
    Tawatur is thus defined as the process by which one generation communicates a fact (observed or heard) to another, and so on, without interruption. This communications is achieved in such a manner that the number of communicators in each generation is so large that there is no possibility of the fact being misperceived, misconstrued, forgotten or their having agreed to tell a lie or

    The Holy Quran has reached us through Tawatur
    The Holy Quran has reached us through the process of tawatur - historical continuity and perpetuation achieved through transfer from generation to generation. When we say that the Quran has reached us through tawatur, we mean to say that so many people in every generation conveyed it to the next and so on that there can be no doubt about its authenticity. It would be incorrect to believe that a few persons in one generation transmitted it to a few persons in the next. It was handed over by the entire generations to the successive generations. The Generation of the Companions of the Holy Prophet witnessed the revelation and compilation of the Holy Quran during the life of the Holy Prophet and then handed it over to the next generation and so on.
    The authenticity of the Holy Quran has far exceeded the need for any debate. In the presence of established history, we would not accept any individual reports and rumors that assail the Mutawatir Foundation. Since it has achieved the status of Tawatur, no odd Individuals Report would affect its credibility. When generations and generations of people without interruption hold the Quran as the one and only version of the divine guidance received from the Holy Prophet, such dissenting individual reports would not infringe upon its authenticity. The overwhelming evidence of millions of people would simply override the evidence of a few individuals.


  9. #9
    Apr 2005
    09:42 PM

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    part #2

    History of Compilation of the Holy Quran
    The details of the history of compilation of the Holy Quran found in the books of history and exegesis provide us the details of the process of Quranic preservation and dissemination. However, while we scan through the hadeeth literature and historical records, it should be kept in mind that the historical authenticity, of the Holy Quran, is not based on these records, but on Tawatur.

    During the Holy Prophets Life
    During the first thirteen years of his ministry at Mecca, when there were few converts without the support of state authority, the Prophet Muhammad used to read out the revealed passages to the small group of his followers and non-believers. His followers used to commit the revelation to their hearts. There is evidence that the revealed verses or chapters were also written down on whatever writing material was available.
    It is reported that when Umar, learnt about his the conversion of his sister and her husband to Islam, he hurried to her sisters house in anger. When he arrived at her house, she hid the part of Quran she was reading. When Umar expressed his eagerness to see what they were reading, his sister informed him that the Holy Scripture is sacred and can only be touched by clean people. She told her to wash his hands before touching the scripture. [vi] This shows that as early as in the sixth year of the Holy Prophets ministry, the Holy Quran was being written down, in addition to being learnt by heart.
    However, when the Holy Prophet migrated to Medina and established a state he attached priority to this task. He developed institutionalized systems under the state machinery to preserve and disseminate the Holy Quran on a large scale. To ensure this, extremely elaborate arrangements were made.
    The Holy Prophet constituted a committee of about forty or more of his literate companions, who were assigned the task of writing the Holy Book. [vii] The names of some of these scribes have been mentioned by Ibn-o-Abdi Rabbihi [viii] and Ibn Qayyum [ix]. The scribes included:
    1. Abubakr Siddique
    2. Umar bin al Khattab
    3. Uthman bin Affan
    4. Ali bin Abi Talib
    5. Zubair
    6. Aamir bin Fuhairah
    7. Ubayy bin Kaab
    8. Zaid bin Thabit
    9. Khalid bin Saeed bin Al Aas
    10. Muawiya bin Abi Sufyan
    11. Mughira bin Shubah
    12. Abdullah bin Arqam
    13. Alulaa bin Uqbah
    14. Amar bin al Aas
    15. Thabit bin Qais
    16. Abdullah bin Ruwahah
    17. Khalid bin al Waleed
    Iraqi, in his Life of the Prophet (in verse), begins the account of the Scribes with the stanza:
    And his scribes were forty two. (Wa kuttabuhu ithnani wa arbaoon). [x]
    Ibnu Abdi Rabbihi differentiates between Scribes reserved for recording the Holy Quran and the Scribes engaged in official correspondence of the State of Medinah. The famous companion, Hanzala bin Rabee Al Usaidiyy was the full time Secretary of this Committee. He is termed as the Secretary of all the Scribes of the Holy Prophet (khalifatu kulli kaatibin min kuttaabin Nabi). [xi] He was supposed to remain present most of the time with the Holy Prophet. Later, after the death of Hanzala, this responsibility was shifted to another Companion.
    It can be understood that the reason for nominating such a large number of scribes was obviously, to ensure that a Scribe was always available, whenever the need arose. The Revelation could come to the Holy Prophet at any place and time, while traveling or during the military campaigns. This shows how serious the Holy Prophet was to preserve the Holy Quran.
    On receiving a verse or verses from Allah, the Holy Prophet used to call one of the members of the committee and get it dictated [xii]. At this time, the Holy Prophet also used to instruct the Scribe as to where the newly revealed verse or verses were to be placed in the Holy Quran [xiii]. The Holy Prophet thus not only used to dictate scattered verses but also give a divine order of arrangement of each verse. The ordering of verses and surahs was not left out for the later generations. This was necessary because it is reported that more than one Surah (Chapter) used to be revealed upon the Holy Prophet simultaneously [xiv]. The Scribes therefore needed Divine Guidance about the arrangement of the Holy Quran also.
    Zaid bin Thabit reports that after the verse had been dictated by the Holy Prophet, he would ask the Scribe to read it out. Then the Holy Prophet used to listen to what had been written and would request the Scribe to read it out. Errors were rectified and the Holy Prophet used to approve the final draft [xv]. It was then issued for all (Thumma ukhraju bihi ila alnaas) and the people used to make personal copies of the approved draft and would also try to memorize it [xvi].
    The Companions were motivated to study, learn and memorize the Holy Quran because of the central place it had in their lives and also because the Holy Prophet emphasized upon it so frequently and forcefully. Such sayings of the Holy Prophet abound in the Hadeeth literature that declare Reading the Holy Quran from a written copy (Mushaf) is as superior to recitation by memory, as mandatory (farz) prayers are superior to optional (nafl) prayers. He said that he who recites the Holy Quran during the night is indeed enviable [xvii]. He said, The best among you is the one who learns and teaches the Quran [xviii]. The Prophets emphasis on memorizing the Quran was so marked that he is reported to have substituted this ability of a poor Companion for the Mehr (money he had to pay to his bride on his marriage). [xix] He would sometimes ask his Companions to recite the Holy Quran to him. Abdullah bin Masood asked the Holy Prophet, Should I recite (the Holy Quran) to you when it was actually revealed on you? The Holy Prophet replied: I like listening to the Quran when read by others [xx].
    Given the swelling number of his followers after Migration, the Quran was learnt and recorded by a large number of his followers. [xxi] From among the Ansar alone, Anas bin Malik reports that four prominent Companions had compiled the Quran: Ibayy bin Kaab, Muaz bin Jabal, Zaid bin Thabit and Abu Zaid [xxii]. In another report, Anas adds the name of Abu Darda also [xxiii]. Relying on this report, many authors have erroneously confined the number of Companions who compiled the Quran to four. Actually the report only intends to mention such Companions from among the Ansar and does not include the names of such Companions from among the Muhajiroon (the immigrants to Medina from Mecca).
    Some of the companions must have recited the Quran over to the Holy Prophet for approval. Abdullah ibn e Masood is reported to have said that he recited Surah Yusuf to the Holy Prophet while Ubayye is reported to have learnt the entire Quran from the Holy Prophet. [xxiv]. Imam Bukari has reported in his Saheeh that in only one combat at Bair e Maoonah, seventy Quraa (those who specialized in reciting the Quran) fell as martyrs. The number of written copies had become quite common within the life of the Holy Prophet. Ayshah, the wife of the Holy Prophet, is reported to have had a Mushaf in her house (the house of Holy Prophet) from which, she is seen dictating the Holy Quran to a visitor from Iraq [xxv]. This report also confirms the existence of a Mushaf in the house of Holy Prophet. A large number of Companions had Musahif and they felt motivated to carry them during battles. The Holy Prophet used to discourage his Companions from carrying the Musahaf with them on military expeditions [xxvi].
    On the occasion of the Last Hajj, the Holy Prophet delivered a sermon in which he said that people should acquire Knowledge before it is lost. On this an Arab Bedouin rose and asked: Would the Knowledge be lost while we have Musahif (written copies of the Holy Quran) among us? [xxvii] This observation during the life of the Holy Prophet establishes the ubiquitous nature of Musahif in the earliest times. It is therefore obvious that the Holy Quran was compiled and written down before the Holy Prophet left this world. A copy of the Holy Quran was retained with the Holy Prophet (in his house as reported by Bukhari in his Saheeh from Aishah). In addition numerous written copies abounded among the Companions, which had been copied from the Master Copy (al Imam) with the Holy Prophet or had been directly dictated from the Holy Prophet.

    Arrangement of Surahs in the Holy Quran
    The Quran was being revealed in accordance with the needs of the different stages of the prophetic mission. It was however not compiled in the chronological order of its revelation. While compiling and arranging it, the Quran was being given a new order, which was to have a meaningful coherence for the readers in future. Whenever the Prophet dictated a passage of the Quran to the Scribes, he used to tell him where in the Quran that passage would be placed. This means that not only was the Quran being recorded and memorized as it was being revealed piecemeal, it was also being compiled and given a new order under the personal supervision of the Prophet. The Prophet in turn was being instructed by Allah about the placement of passages in the desired order. [xxviii] That is why the Companions use the word Compilation while defining their functions as Scribes. It is reported: We used to sit with the Holy Prophet and compile the Holy Quran on parchments [xxix].
    When the entire Book had been revealed, it is reported in several traditions that the Angel Gabriel heard the final recitation of the Holy Quran from the Holy Prophet [xxx]. This final presentation of the Holy Quran (Arzai Akheerah) gave the final shape to the Holy Book under the directions of Allah.
    Thus the entire Quran was systematically recorded and arranged on written material during the lifetime of the Prophet. The Holy Quran was recorded on tanned hides, stone tablets, wooden tablets, pieces of cloth, shoulder bones etc. One complete set of the Quran was with the State authorities, i.e. with the Holy Prophet. It was placed in the Mosque of the Prophet (Masjid-e-Nabavi) where the Holy Prophet lived. From there any one was free to make a copy for himself or to refer to it in case he wished to memorize it. It however appears that apart from this centrally placed copy, a number of other copies also existed. A few of them must have been complete copies whereas in case of others, only portions of the Quran were in possession of a number of Companions of the Prophet.
    Abdullah ibn e Abbas was asked as to what did the Holy Prophet leave behind him. He replied: The Holy Prophet did not leave anything but it was bound within a volume [xxxi].

    The Significance of the Quran in the life of Companions
    The Holy Quran constituted the foundation of the early Muslim community during the life of Holy Prophet. It was recited five times a day, people used to commit it to their hearts and used to study it with utmost care and concentration. People were graded and appreciated in the community, on the basis of their knowledge of the Quran. All affairs of the state as well as the social life of Arabia were governed in the light of the provisions of the Quran. All civil servants, military commanders and judges used to seek guidance from the Holy Quran. During the Prophets life time, when he used to send governors and judges to far off places, he used to instruct them that they have to govern and decide in the light of the Quran. These facts show that Quran was alive in that society not because of written manuscripts but as an exigency of Faith and an inevitable source of guidance for social, political and legal affairs.
    It is therefore incorrect to suggest that the Holy Quran was compiled and written in the days of Caliphs Abubakr Siddique or Uthman Ghani. Actually the Holy Quran was preserved under the personal supervision of the Holy Prophet in his lifetime. It is also natural to believe that he could not neglect the task of its preservation. The primary mission of the Holy Prophet was to deliver the Divine Message to mankind. This message was nothing but the Holy Quran. He could not shift this responsibility to later generations.
    This happened exactly in accordance with what the Holy Quran had instructed:
    Verily, upon us is the (responsibility of) its collection and recital. So when We have recited it, follow this recitation. Then upon Us is (the responsibility) to explain it. (75:16-19)
    These verses demonstrate in so many words the divine scheme of Quranic preservation.

    Canonization of the Quranic Text
    Canonization is the process culminating at the acceptance of a religious scripture in a religion. Canonization has usually occurred in other religions centuries after the scripture was presented by the Prophet or the Founder of the faith. For instance, the New Testament was canonized through convening a series of conferences and councils of religious scholars and the final contents were decided centuries later.
    It is interesting that we do not find any process of Canonization and the debates attending it in Muslim history. The reason is obvious; the Quranic text was compiled and preserved well within the life of the Holy Prophet, leaving no room for later disagreements. It was, so to say, canonized by the Holy Prophet himself.

    During the Caliphate of Abu Bakr
    It is important to understand the nature of services of the First Caliph towards this end. During the reign of Caliph Abu Bakr, the increasing number of Huffaz who were embracing martyrdom in the battlefield emerged as a cause of alarm to Umar ibn e Khattab. He suggested to the Caliph that
    1. After the death of the Holy Prophet, the State should take over the responsibility of the dissemination of the Holy Quran
    2. An official copy of he Holy Quran should be prepared which is written on pages of even size and bound up in a volume.
    Abu Bakr, the first Caliph therefore decided to arrange the Quran in one volume. He constituted a committee under the chairmanship of Zaid. All the companions assisted him and the volume thus compiled was attested by hundreds of companions. Every companion who had any verse recorded on any material was called in and was required to produce two witnesses also who testified that a verse was actually dictated by the Holy Prophet and was placed properly as desired by the Prophet. [xxxii] Witnesses were called in to make the procedure more stringent. This was to ensure that the Generation of the Companions should collectively participate in this blessed service.
    This achievement of the first Caliph was not the only effort for the preservation of the Quran. The instant effort only related to the written and documentary dissemination of the Holy Book. As we shall show later, written tradition is not the only way through which the Quran was preserved and other means were also adopted to preserve the Holy Book.
    Although the Quran had been compiled in the life time of the Prophet, yet the task of preparation of an Official copy involved rewriting it on pages of even size. Given the sensitivity the Companions attached to the Holy Book, this task could not be left over to one person. The Companions valued the Holy Book more than anything else. The entire group of Companions ensured that, while copying verses from the original office copy, and binding them in one volume, even an iota of difference or error should not be allowed to occur. Moreover, written and oral evidence should also be called, not to discover something new, but to further confirm. The procedural caution observed by the Committee constituted by Abubakr, can be well compared with any modern attempt to publish the Holy Quran on a large scale. The copies are compared and checked and the contents are then certified by expert Huffaz. These Huffaz have memorized the Holy Book in totality and they are available in huge numbers.
    The bound volume of the Holy Book, prepared by the Committee and approved by the main body of Companions, was then placed in public where people could make as many copies of the scripture as they wished. [xxxiii]

    During the Caliphate of Uthman
    After the death of Caliph Abu Bakr, that volume of Holy Book was entrusted to Umar and, after his death, to Hafsa bint Umar (the wife of the Holy Prophet).
    During the caliphate of Uthman, a large number of non-Arabs also embraced Islam. Arabic was not their mother tongue. They used to speak Persian, Syrian and a number of other languages. Many of them read Arabic in different ways. Even some Arabs from far flung areas used to recite the Quran in different accents. Such differences in pronunciation had no impact on the long term preservation of the Quran because the by now numerous written copies of the Quran were available and thousands of people were there who recited it in the original accent. Although minor in nature, yet the differences in the pronunciation were seen with concern by the cautious Caliph who feared they could develop into different versions with the possibility of different meanings. It was required that just like a standard text, a standard pronunciation should also be decided.
    It was however not a difficult decision. Uthman in consultation with all the companions, decided that the Quran will be read in the accent of the Holy Prophet, i.e. the accent of the Quraysh of Mecca. Obviously, only the way the Holy Prophet pronounced the divine words could be accepted as the true and faithful way.
    Uthman then got prepared copies of the Quran. These were written in accordance with the accent and calligraphic style of the Quraysh, and these copies were placed in the major cities of the Muslim Caliphate. These copies served as the master copies for all the Muslims and numerous copies were prepared and circulated. Two of the master copies prepared by Uthman are reported to be still available in museums at Tashkent, and Istanbul. It is known that not only written copies were circulated by the third Caliph, but he also sent expert Qaris (experts in recitation of the Holy Book) along with the scriptures. These Qaris were selected from the Quraysh who could read the Book in accordance with the accent and pronunciation of the Holy Prophet.
    Thus the contribution of Uthman is not that he compiled the Quran for the first time, as is generally understood. The Holy Quran had already been compiled during the life of the Holy Prophet. It was bound in a single volume of pages of even size, during the caliphate of Abubakr. Uthmans valuable contribution lies in his ability to take notice of the challenge of different accents getting popular among the new converts. He immediately resolved it with the consultation of the companions of the Holy Prophet and decided in favor of only one authentic accent - that of the tribe of the Holy Prophet. He thus united the Ummah on one recitation of the Quran.

    During the caliphate of Ali and the rule of Muawia
    After the assassination of Uthman, the Muslim Ummah underwent a division into two separate camps, which fought bloody wars with each other. During such ages of turmoil, for an ideology that is still young, there is every possibility that the warring factions start disputing the very basis of the ideology that stimulated their growth, and may end up with two different sets of sacred literature. But in this case, both the groups continued to have unquestionable belief in the same book. Ali upheld the book as it was received from the earlier three Caliphs and so did Muawia.
    Their viewpoints might have differed on political issues, but they were united on the text of the Holy Quran, and continued with the efforts of the Ummah to protect, respect and propagate the Holy Book. Had Ali compiled a different version of the Holy Quran (as held by a few individual reports) he would have imposed his version instead of the one that (according to the belief of a few Shia scholars) had been unfairly imposed by the earlier Caliphs. Caliph Alis six years rule is devoid of any such assertion. On the contrary we find him reciting the same text, basing his judicial decision on it and taught the same to the next generation.

    Since then
    After the age of turmoil, the Muslims had flourishing, stable and long rule of Umayyad and Abbaside dynasties who proclaimed the standard version of the Quran as the only accepted, canonized and authentic version of the revealed book. After the fall of Abbasides, the Uthmani Caliphate of Turkey took over this task and the state attached priority to preserving, publication, and disseminating the Holy Quran. Only one text was known and recognized. There never existed any other versions. Thousands of Muslims continued to recite the entire Holy Quran every year in Taraweeh Prayers during the holy month of Ramazan, for the last fourteen centuries. On introduction of printing press, the printed copies spread far and wide in large numbers and the now even the remotest possibility of any corruption of the text does not exist.

    Oral Communication
    A book can be communicated to the next generations through written (documentary) means or through oral tradition. So far we have discussed the documentary aspect of its history.
    This history of documentary transmission is very valuable and praiseworthy, but it is not what the Muslims are proud of. They are proud of the history of transmission of the Book through memorizing tradition.
    Thousands and millions of Muslims memorized the Holy Quran accurately in all generations. Whenever there is a difference between huffaz, they always find a third one to consult and verify. The Muslims do not rely on the written word as much as they do on the oral transmission. When the Holy Quran is printed, we require two huffaz to read the text and approve it.
    The Holy Quran was thus received by the first generation of Muslim Ummah (i.e. the companions of the Holy Prophet) from the Prophet in written and verbal forms and was then transmitted to the next generation, and so on, till it reached us. Such a large number of people have participated in this generation to generation transfer of this book that there remains no shadow of doubt about its historical authenticity.

    Written and Oral Communication
    A book can be communicated to the next generations through written (documentary) means or through oral tradition. So far we have discussed the documentary aspect of its history.
    This history of documentary transmission is very valuable and praiseworthy, but it is not what the Muslims are proud of. They are proud of the history of transmission of the Book through memorizing tradition.
    Thousands and millions of Muslims memorized the Holy Quran accurately in all generations. Whenever there is a difference between huffaz, they always find a third one to consult and verify. The Muslims do not rely on the written word as much as they do on the oral transmission. When the Holy Quran is printed, we require two huffaz to read the text and approve it. Usually a Hafiz knows the name of his teacher from whom he heard and committed the Book to his mind, and the name of his teachers teacher, a connection that sometimes goes to the Prophets companions.
    The Holy Quran was thus received by the first generation of Muslim Ummah (i.e. the companions of the Holy Prophet) from the Prophet in written and verbal forms and was then transmitted to the next generation, and so on, till it reached us. Such a large number of people have participated in this generation to generation transfer of this book that there remains no shadow of doubt about its authenticity. This is known as tawatur.

    Well Defined
    The Holy Quran is a well-defined text with 114 chapters (surahs). Its verses, words and letters have also been counted. There are no parallel apocryphal (fake or dubious) texts of the Quran.

    Intelligibility of the Holy Quran
    The Holy Quran is in Classical Arabic used by the Quraysh tribe of Mecca. Arabic language has remained an alive language since then, being the mother tongue of millions of Arabs. Modernization has had impact on the language yet the classical Arabic is still widely understood. Sufficient literature in classical Arabic dating before Holy Quran also exists and helps us understand the usage and idiom of classical Arabic.

    Judging the Holy Quran in the light of the criteria discussed in the beginning of this chapter, we find that it is the only religious scripture that comes up to these standards:
    The contents of the Holy Quran are definite and well defined. There is no dispute whether a certain verse or word is a part of it or not. Its contents are undisputed and are known with certainty. Thus the Holy Quran is an original source that is perfectly well-defined.
    The above historical detail of its compilation and preservation shows that the Holy Quran is a perfectly authentic and reliable book. It has reached, from the Prophet to our times, through the process of tawatur.

  10. #10
    Mar 2005
    10:58 PM

    : ... ɿ

    thank you for the research cum article

    really useful

    Hope the swedish friend benefits from reading it

    Jazaky allahu khaira sis Muslima

    Umm Tasneem
    please give this link to your friend

    This is an answer from Sheikh Fahd Bin Salman Al Odeh
    I sent & He replied

    ; 20-11-2005 03:26 PM

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