By Syed Manzoor Alam, New Age Islam
October 4, 2013
In this article we go to the main sub-area and that is the most important one. From the historic standpoint we can say that the Quran was preserved. We have seen enough of internal evidence, which is not totally objective in its approach, now we look at the outside to find the validity of its claim.
The first stage was during the time of Prophet and the first thing to be kept in mind regarding the preservation of the Quran is the wide-spread memorization of the Quran. In fact multitudes of people have memorized the entire Quran by heart but I will come to it a bit later (especially in the third part). There are chains of narrations that support the fact that the Quran was preserved, as the Quran itself says that this Quran has been rooted “fi sudoor”- ‘in the hearts of the people’.
Now this might sound strange to our Jewish or Christian or even Hindu brothers. I have never heard of anyone having memorized the entire Bible from A to Z, word for word. Even if we take into account of the Vedic literature, the four Vedas: Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda and Athar Veda, I have not heard of anyone who has memorized all or even one Veda. There are claims made about many people memorizing them but it is not the truth. Some people have memorized quite a major chunk of the Sama Veda (as it is the most musical) but never from A to Z.
Another claim made is that those people who have the title ‘Chaturvedi’ are the true scholars of the Vedas and their fathers and grand-fathers have memorized all of them: they base their argument only because their title is ‘Chaturvedi’ meaning one who knows the four Vedas. ‘Veda’ is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Vid’, which literally means ‘to know’ (or to have knowledge); in this sense, ‘Chaturvedi’ can have the “knowledge” of the four Vedas.
The second point is that we find in numerous authentic hadiths that it was the custom of Gabriel (pbuh) to come to Prophet every Ramadan and review with him what has been revealed. The entire Quran up to that point of time was re-checked by Gabriel. It was narrated also that in the last year of the life of the Prophet Gabriel reviewed the Quran with him twice and another interesting thing, which is my another point, is that Zaid, who was the chief scribe, was with the Prophet
Then we come to the question of scribes. In spite of some claiming (even taking cue from some weak hadiths that only 4 to 5 scribes were there),the fact of the matter is that Muslims as well as some non-Muslim scholars say that as many as 40 and some say 52 scribes did their job of writing the revelations.
Then we come to the time of Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him). Before going into a bit detail, let me say very briefly about the occasion of Abu Bakr’s contribution to the preservation of the Quran. What did he exactly do if the entire Quran was memorised and committed to writing? We must remember that while all the verses were written down, it was not collected in one place. Memorization would have been sufficient, but as soon as Abu Bakr became the Khalifa (Caliph), there was a rebellion soon after the death of the Prophet and in the Battle of Yamama it was reported that 70 of the memorizers were martyred (this point further proves that memorization was not limited to a selected few). So Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) went to Abu Bakr and he said that he was afraid and that if the same thing continues to happen, then in the future, may be the Quran would get lost. He was not sure whether memorization would be sufficient, he was taking extra care in protecting and preserving.
So Abu Bakr asked him of his advice and Umar gave the suggestion of collecting all the manuscripts under one roof and verifying it. Then Abu Bakr called Zaid who was a young man, with a great memory and he was the chief scribe of the revelation, and Abu Bakr asked him to collect all the manuscripts, to verify it.
The methodology of Zaid and his committee was to accept only those claimed manuscripts which have two witnesses testifying it. Some said that these two witnesses were those who have heard it dictated directly by the Prophet, some said that these two were those who have seen the revelations written in front of their own eyes. Others said, it could be one hearing and one seeing.
The main thing to note here is that at this time the only thing that was done is of compilation and not of writing that is adding fresh revelations. Some anti-Islamic sites and literature claim that “fresh revelations” were added, which is a total lie. They give the impression that the Quran was not written at the time of the Prophet and was written at the time of the Abu Bakr.
That verified copy was first with Abu Bakr, and then it went to Omar and then it went to Hafsa and finally it reached Uthman; and now we go to Uthman’s time. Here what was the occasion? In the case of Abu Bakr, it was compilation. Here I would like to say something about ‘Ahrof’. Some people translate ‘ahrof’ as recitation, which is not correct entirely. ‘Afrof’ actually is a reference to the fact that while the Quran was revealed to Prophet in the tongue or more precisely the dialect of Quraish (it was all in Arabic, but different tribes had different dialects). Since there were different dialects and some words of one tribe were unfamiliar to another tribe, hence the Prophet allowed these tribes to have a different way of Ahrof, or mode of expression to get the same meaning. It was only time specific, in order for the people to understand and communicate, the Prophet gave them the permission for this to happen.
Now at the time of Uthman, nearly half of the known world was under the influence of Islam. Several companions went to distant places; some companions went from different tribes and since they were from different tribes their dialects were different. Once a companion came to Uthman and said that there was a dispute in Armenia about different recitations and the companion said that Uthman must take some firm decision lest slowly- slowly there should be disputes all over these minor ‘Ahrofs’.
So what Uthman did was he called Zaid and he gave him the instructions that he must not work on verifying the Quran alone, it should be done in public. Uthman announced that anyone with any manuscript should come for verification. And Zaid again followed the same process of checking the authenticity of the Quran with 2 claims at least, checking verse for verse. And when the process was finished he ordered that this final copy should be copied into multiple copies and these copies be sent to the central mosque in several places.
Then another very controversial thing happened. He ordered all the unofficial copies of the Quran to be burned to remove confusion (this burning issue by Uthman may take an article in itself, so I am not going into the details in this series). Verification was both through writing and through memorizers, some of whom had heard it from the mouth of the Prophet and they were still living at the time of Uthman, who himself was a companion of the Prophet. In this way he burned the different ahrofs of the Quran only to preserve the original Quran with its pristine recitation of the Quraysh tribe.