The Quran Recording & Preservation
This is the part we will talk about the recording and preservation of the Quran.
As we have talked earlier, Islam and religion as a definition in the Islamic understanding, religion is the same religion starting from Adam until the last Prophet (pbuh) it is God revealed the same message with different text and with different languages. Muslims believe, as we indicated earlier, that some of the messages and texts are unfortunately altered and changed by the time, by the people whom the text was revealed and could not keep their originality. Muslims believe Quran does not have the challenge of to be changed by people or altered. Quran doesn’t face the alteration. There is a verse that indicates that. It says “Arabic”.
We are the One who sent down the revelation, meaning the Quran, and We are the One, We are the Protector, We are the Guardian of the Holy Divine verses. This is Chapter 15, Verse 9 that I have just recited. So Muslims believe Islam, as the last religion, was the perfect version of the religion of Adam, the religion of Abraham, Moses, and Jesus (peace be upon them all). God perfected the religion with the message of Islam. Many believe the verse that I’m about to recite was the last verse of Quran which is “Arabic”. God says
“Now I have perfected the religion for you and I’m pleased Islam for you as religion”.
So a question again comes to people’s minds. Why did the Almighty undertake the preserve the Quran while allowing other previous Scripture to be altered? I think that is a fair question. First of all, He has pre- knowledge. God knows everything. Time applies to us. We have future, we have past and we have present. Since time doesn’t apply to God, he knows everything, he has knowledge of everything. For God, it is pre-known. For God, it is the thing that is going to happen; it is already happened for Allah, for God. He has pre-knowledge of everything. He knew for humanity’s perfection. Humanity needed a last Prophet, like Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and like the last message, the ultimate message like Quran.
Secondly, preserving the Quran is not a sign of God’s peculiar favor to Muslims. Rather, as his predetermination includes human freewill He knew beforehand. The community of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), his friends or which we call sahaba is going to preserve it because this is the world of hiqmah, this is the world of wisdom. For us in order to have for example an apple in this world, you need soil, you need water, you need a lot of things, you need a lot of causes come together. So when God wants us to have apple, it doesn’t happen like this (flick). You need certain steps. Therefore, in order for Quran to be protected, we need the steps of wisdom, steps of hiqmah applied by the Prophet, by his friends, and it’s written down and all the causes that come together. Since everything is already happened for Allah, since Allah jallajalaluhu knows everything beforehand, He knew that Quran was going to be preserved by the people so He has written it. “Arabic”. So this is Quran that has been revealed. We are the Protector of the Divine Message.
I would like to underline one more thing. Why is it so important to talk about the recording and preservation of the Quran? It is because of the authenticity, it is making sure that the message is accurate. Like the example that we have given before, when you receive an official letter, you make sure that it is not fake. When you write down a check to a bank or to someone, you make sure it is not fake. When you receive a letter to do something, actually a lot of thing, especially in this context, when you receive a letter to design your life, which is going to affect your whole life in this world and afterlife, in order for you to take it seriously, you have to make sure that letter is official, that letter is accurate. When people have doubt about the accuracy of the Divine revelation, of the letter, you are not going to really take it seriously. That’s why many people throughout the history questioned the recording of Quran and preservation of the Quran. For Muslims this is very important. First point, Quran describes itself and tells us by itself this is the revelation revealed by God. And God says “I am the Protector of it”. Let’s go through the historic context. As first step to preserving the Quran, it was written down from the very beginning. As you know Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was an illiterate man. He didn’t know. That means he didn’t know how to read and write. This is something that Muslims are proud of. Normally in our daily life, we become proud because we are illiterate. Muslims are proud of the illiteracy of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) because that means the revelation that he brought is not something that he has written down. It is direct revelation from Allah (swt).
So every revelation from the very beginning has been written down by people. Even though there were a few people who knew how to read and write, our recordings say there were approximately seven people, by the time the writers of the Quran jumped up to like forty people. It was written down under the supervision, direct supervision of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
There is no single difference among the copies of these written materials. Secondly, it was written down. That was the first point that I would like to first mention. It was memorized. Divine revelation was memorized by people, by Prophet (pbuh). As a matter of fact, there is a verse in Quran. It says
“You don’t need to move your lips because we are going to put the meaning and the words of the revelation in your hearts so it is going to be always in your memory.”
The Quran was not only memorized by Prophet Muhammad, also it was memorized by Sahaba, by the friends of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
As a matter of fact, it is a great tradition in Islam and even today to memorize the whole Quran which we also consider one of the miracles of Quran because Allah made it very easy to our memory. Even today and in today’s world, you can easily find literally millions of Hafiz meaning whose who memorize the Quran. We do not know any other book like we are talking about 600 pages memorized as the Quran and that includes the other Holy Scriptures.
If we are able to memorize it with all the distractions that we have like internet, like television, like the cell phones, like the ads, I mean there a lot of distractions for our mind and for our spirit, if we are able to memorize it today, it was very easy for the people like 14 or 15 centuries ago which they did not have much distractions around. Their memories were really sharp. It was memorized.
So just to give you a hint, for example in “Arabic” , this is one of the battles around the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), seventy of these Hafizuns, that means seventy of those who memorized the Quran were killed. That tells you how many people there were at the time of Prophet Muhammad. Basically almost everyone used to memorize the revelation directly.
Thirdly, after the separation of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) from this world, at the time of first Khalif, Abu-Bakr, people came together and decided to bring all the written materials and they have their own in their memory. They have decided to bring it together, and make a book out of the text that they have. According to what? Again, according to Allah jalla jalaluhu, according to revelation. The verses, the chapters, the message is a revelation from the Quran. The names of the chapters are another revelation. It has been named by Allah (swt) through Gabriel. Also the places of the chapter and the verse, which verse goes where, and which chapter is first and which chapter is second is another revelation. Therefore when we talk about Quran that has been taught by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) to the people to the Hafizun, those who try to keep the Quran alive.
So, why didn’t they bring all the revelations as a book at the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was alive ? Because revelation was still coming. It was not final. When it is going to be finalized, I mean when the Messenger is gone, that means the Message is finalized. So, when the message is finalized and when Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) left this world, at the time of the first Khalif, Abu-Bakr, with the encouragement of Omar Ibn-ul Hattab (May God be pleased with them all), they established a committee to bring together all the materials under the supervision of Zayd ibn Sabid, who was one of the Hafizun, one of those who memorized the whole Quran. Basically they put together Quran as a book that we have today.
At the time of the second Khalif Omar (ra) that book was kept, and after him, his daughter Hafsa (May God be pleased with her) kept this book alive. When we came to the time of third Khalif, Osman (ra), of course Islam spread out to a lot of regions. A lot of regions have different accents and speaking Arabic differently. There was a need, even though Khalif Omar(ra) sent a lot of Hafizun those who memorized Quran to all around the world, it was not enough. They have decided to multiply the book that they have. They eastablished, at the time of Osman (ra), another committee so the multiplied the Quran that we have in our hands today. In sources, some say there were five books or some say they made seven copies, and some say they made five copies. Even today, in Museums like in Columbia University, or a museum in Konya,or in a museum in Istanbul, in Topkapi Palace, some also say in England, we do have the copy at the time of Osman (ra) in our hands today.
So the Quran was preserved that way and when you look at the copies of the Quran that has been multiplied at the time of Osman (ra) and when you compare it to the original copy, there is no difference in between these writings. The Quran was revealed in parts as you may know. God Almighty undertook not only the preservation of Quran but also its too recitation and arrangement as we have talked earlier. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), when he was alive, used to review, used to recite the whole Quran, to Angel Gabriel. At his last year, he did that twice. According to the Islamic tradition, we do believe and we do know that it is the same Quran as it was revealed at the time of Prophet (pbuh). If there was a little single incident, there are a lot of people from the Western world, from the Muslim world, from the non-Muslim world, they would have easily dig it out and said this is not Quranic so far. We know it’s not going to happen. We do not have anything, any evidence that tells us Quran is not accurate. All evidences that we have tells us that Quran is the accurate version of the original message from the time of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).