Why were the first written copies of the Quran eliminated?

The Details of the Question

-  Was the original of the Quran burned?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The Mushafs that some Companions such as Ali (ra), Abdullah b. Masud (ra), Aisha (ra) and Abdullah b Abbas (ra) had were personal. Those people began to write the verses that were sent down gradually before the revelation of the Quran was completed. Since those Mushafs were their own personal Mushafs, they did not regard it as harmful to write some annotations that explained the meaning of the verse. However, those different expressions or explanations could be considered by others as part the verse itself afterwards.

For example, the following was written Abdullah b. Masud’s Mushaf:

“It is no crime in you if you seek of the bounty of your Lord (during pilgrimage).” (al-Baqara, 2/198). However, the information in parentheses was written by him as an explanation of the verse he learned from the Prophet (pbuh).

Due to seven dialects, different pronunciations and similar reasons, during the caliphate of Uthman (ra), four or seven copies of the Mushaf were arranged based on the pages of the Quran that had been brought together during the caliphate of Abu Bakr (ra) and that had been kept by Hafsa (ra).

He had the private Mushafs some people burned - with the approval of the Companions - in order to ensure unity within the ummah on this issue. (see Suyuti, Itqan, I/134; Subhi Salih, al-Mabahith, p. 78-85).

Ibn Kathir (d. 774), the famous tafsir and hadith scholar, said that he had seen one of the copies in question in the Mosque of Damascus. Ibn al-Jazari and Ibn Fadlullah al-Umari also said that they had seen that Mushaf there. (see al-Mabahith, pp. 88-89).

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For detailed information regarding the issue, we recommend you to read the following article:

Was the original copy of the Quran burned?

What is revelation (wahy)? How was the Quran Compiled?

WAHY (REVELATION): It lexically means, implying, whispering, pointing, doing something quickly. In the religious sense, wahy means the transmission of the message (orders, prohibitions, advice, information, etc.) that Almighty Allah wants to convey to people to his Prophet through different ways. The word wahy is also used in the sense of inspiring, instinct, ordering, indicating, and whispering in the Quran.

Our Prophet (pbuh) had true dreams in the first six months of his prophethood and whatever he saw occurred exactly. He said, “... The believer’s dream is one of the forty-six parts of the prophethood.” (The period of prophethood is twenty-three years, and six months is one forty-sixth of this period.) Gabriel (Jibril) sometimes conveyed revelation to the Prophet (pbuh) without being seen to him, sometimes as he was (as an angel) and sometimes disguised as a man. It was also conveyed to him directly by Almighty Allah like on the night of Miraj (Ascension).

When revelation started to come, our Prophet (pbuh) would undergo very difficult and unbearable times.

“Soon shall We send down to thee a weighty Message.” (al-Muzzammil, 73/5)

As it is stated in the verse above, he was overcome by the weight of the verses. He would sweat a lot even on cold days; when revelation came on the camel, the camel could not bear it and would immediately collapse on the ground. In the first years of revelation in Makkah, when revelation came, the Prophet (pbuh) used to repeat aloud the verses that were revealed, but he later abandoned it. He would not lose his consciousness at the time of revelation; he would dictate the verses or the chapter that had been revealed to the revelation scribes he had assigned immediately after the revelation. (The number of revelation scribes was about forty, though it varied from time to time.) Then, he would recite it to his friends, who would write and some of whom would memorize. When a verse was revealed, he would indicate in which chapter and after which verse it should be placed, and the revelation scribes would add it there. Since revelation continued until nine days before his death, the Quran was not brought together in a single hardcover book while he was alive. After Abu Bakr (ra) became the caliph, incidents of apostasy (riddah) occurred in some regions, and 70 hafizes were martyred in the Battle of Yamama (633 AD). Thereupon, with the encouragement and insistence of Umar (ra), Abu Bakr (ra) established a committee under the chairmanship of Zayd bin Thabit, who was a hafiz and a revelation scribe, and gave this committee the task of collecting the verses of the Quran and transforming them into a book. Umar (ra), Ali (ra), Uthman (ra) and Ibn Kaab (ra) helped Zayd (ra) very much. As a result of very meticulous works, the Quran was transformed into a bound book about a year later, but the order of the chapters (surahs) was not heeded.

Upon the news that Muslims from different tribes who came together in a war in Armaniyya recited the words of the Quran in different ways, a committee consisting of twelve members, four of whom were permanent members, was formed upon the order of Uthman (ra). The Mushaf, which was reproduced based on the Quran compiled during the caliphate of Abu Bakr (ra), was arranged according to the order of the chapters ordered by the Prophet (pbuh). The disputed words in this arrangement were written based on the dialect of Quraysh. After that, the copies of the Quran were sent to important city centers. (25 H / 646 AD)

At that time, there were no dots and vowel marks in Arabic letters. Ziyad bin Abih, the governor of Iraq during the caliphate of Muawiya, assigned Abul Aswad ad-Duali, one of the scholars of the time, to prevent Muslims who did not know Arabic from mispronouncing the words of the Quran. He also put a dot at the end of the words to determine the vowel mark. Later, Hajjaj ordered his scribes Nasr bin Asim and Yahya bin Ya’mar to put dots on the letters. It was Khalil bin Ahmad (718 AD) who gave the letters and dots their present shape.

Zayd Ibn Thabit states the following: “I began to research the Quran and to compile it from palm branches, flat stones and people’s memories. I found the last two verses of the chapter of at-Tawba only with Abu Khuzayma al-Ansari: ‘Certainly a Messenger has come to you from among yourselves; grievous to him is your falling into distress, excessively solicitous respecting you; to the believers (he is) compassionate. But if they turn away, Say: "Allah sufficeth me: there is no god but He: On Him is my trust,- He the Lord of the Throne (of Glory) Supreme.’(Bukhari, Fadailul Quran, chapters 3, 4; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 1/13; Abu Dawud, Kitabul-Masahif, p. 67)

Although Zayd Ibn Thabit and the other members of the committee were strong hafizes, they wanted two other witnesses to be present because of his meticulous work. Ibn Hajar Asqalani states the following: “Maybe the purpose of two witnesses was to memorize and bring it in writing.” Abu Shama states the following: Zayd said, “I could not find it in anyone but Kuzayma.” It means he could not find it written in anyone other than Abu Khuzayma. That is the truth.

This Mushaf, compiled by Zayd, remained with Abu Bakr (ra), was transferred to Umar (ra) after his death, and to Umar’s daughter Hafsa after Umar’s death.

Uthman (ra) ordered all other Mushafs and parts of the Quran to be burned in order to eliminate the differences in recitation and to unite Muslims in a single recitation. (Bayhaqi, as-Sunan, Kitabus-Salah, 2/42)

The reason why Uthman (ra) ordered the Mushafs other than the official Mushaf he had dictated to be burned was to eliminate recitation conflicts, to unite Muslims in one recitation and to ensure unity. As a matter of fact, it is narrated that Ali (ra) said:

“O people! Avoid saying excessive words about Uthman and calling him ‘Mushaf burner!’ By Allah, he burned the Mushafs in front of us, the Companions of Muhammad. If I had been the ruler in the time of Uthman, I would have done the same as he did about the Mushafs.” (Qurtubi, 1/54; al-Fathur-Rabbani, 18/34)

It is narrated that Uthman had private Mushafs burned, but it is historically proven that there were people who did not obey this order and kept their private Mushafs because private Mushafs of Ali (ra), Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (ra) and Ubayy ibn Ka’b (ra) are mentioned. (Qurtubi, 1/53) (The reason why these Mushafs were not eliminated was that they were written properly and in accordance with the rules of spelling.)

Abu Bakr Ibn Dawud collected the differences in the private Mushafs of the Companions in his book named Kitabul-Masahif. According to the narration of Bukhari, Aisha (ra) showed her private Mushaf to an Iraqi who came to see her. (Bukhari, Fadailul-Quran, 5)

If all the Mushafs had been burned, how was Aisha (ra) able to show her own classified Mushaf?

The main Mushaf, which was returned to Hafsa, remained with her until her death. Marwan Ibn al-Hakam, the governor of Madinah, wanted that copy to be burned, but Hafsa did not give it to him, but after her death, Marwan took that Mushaf and burned it. (al-Fathu’r-Rabbani, 18/34)

Some verses in the Quran were abrogated; that is, they were first revealed to the Prophet and then their decrees were abolished. With this style, the Quran teaches people about gradualism, that is, education step by step, from easy to difficult. As Aisha (ra) puts it,

“After people accepted Islam, verses about halal and haram were revealed. If the verse ‘do not drink alcohol’ had been revealed first, people would have said ‘we will not quit drinking’, or if the verse ‘do not commit fornication’ had been revealed first, people would have said, ‘we will not abandon fornication’. (Bukhari, Bab Taliful-Quran)

This method, which is also used in today’s modern education, guided the society at that time. A large part of those orders, which were abolished, were not included in the Quran upon the order of Almighty Allah.

Why were the Mushafs other than the Official Mushaf Burned?

1. The main reason why private Mushafs were burned was to prevent the emergence of a disagreement on the Quran. It was also very difficult to read the notes kept in the Arabic script of that time, which had not yet developed and which had no points and vowel marks, exactly as they were heard from the Prophet. That was why recitation (pronunciation) differences arose.

2. The Muslims who wrote the verses of the Quran wrote the meanings they heard from the Prophet (pbuh) next to the words whose meanings they did not know, which would cause great confusion in the future.

3. It was possible for people to be mistaken while reading the notes they took at home or anywhere. Because of such mistakes, there were differences in the pronunciation of some words. Some read a word in the imperative mood while others read it in the third person.

Only a committee of experts could eliminate those differences. This work was first done during the caliphate of Abu Bakr (ra). The chapters of the Quran were compiled and brought together with a meticulous work. However, those chapters called surahs were not put in a proper order; the collected parts were brought together randomly and were bound in a volume (Mushaf). This Mushaf was different from the private copies because in some of the private copies, the chapters were arranged according to the order of revelation, and in others, there was no such method.

Thus, the Mushaf containing all the verses and chapters of the Quran that was revealed to the Prophet (pbuh) was written. This Mushaf was reproduced; one copy was left in the capital Madinah and the others were sent to the provincial centers.

4. If some private copies of the Quran had remained, even if they were slightly different from the official Quran, the conflicts over the Quran would have continued and even increased. In order to prevent such a conflict, private Mushafs were burned.

5. The difference between the Quran copy in the second compilation and the Mushaf in the first compilation was the order of the chapters. The committee, which was established during the caliphate of Uthman (ra), compiled all the verses and chapters of the Quran with a more meticulous study and arranged them properly as the Prophet (pbuh) pointed out.

6. If the compilation made during the caliphate of Uthman (ra) had been different from the Quran that the Prophet (pbuh) had dictated, Ali (ra), who became the caliph after Uthman (ra), would have been made his private Mushaf the official Mushaf and abolished Uthman’s Mushaf. However, he did not do so; he preserved his own Mushaf but he did not make it official. He accepted Uthman’s Mushaf as the official Mushaf. It shows that the existing Mushaf is compatible with the original Quran.

Those who saw Ali’s Mushaf state that it had the same content as Uthman’s Mushaf though it was arranged according to the order of revelation of the surahs. There were only a few differences of words. They were synonymous words that did not change the meaning.

7. Although the private copies that were formed separately from the Official Mushaf were burned, some of them were preserved and transferred on to the next generations. Those who saw them identified the differences between them and the official Mushaf. Ibn Abi Dawud’s Kitab al-Masahif show those differences. When they are examined, it is seen that there is no fundamental difference between the official Mushaf and those private copies; there are only minor word differences, and those slight differences do not change the meaning. It clearly shows that the official Mushaf is the Quran recited by the Prophet.

How many hafizes were there in the time of the Prophet?

-70 Hafiz Companions were martyred in the Battle of Yamama, which took place one year after the death of the Prophet (pbuh). In addition, if it is considered that 70 hafizes were also martyred in Bi’r Mauna incident, it is understood that the number of hafiz Companions was high.

- For example, one Companion knew the chapters between 1 and 10 by heart; another one knew the chapters between 5 and 13 and 10 and 20. When the chapters they knew in common are taken into account, it becomes clear how many Muslims knew the same chapters even in Madinah alone. If it is considered that one hundred thousand Muslims listened to the Prophet (pbuh) in the farewell hajj, it is obvious what a high figure it will be.

8. The companions of the Prophet taught their students the Quran and the Sunnah of the Prophet in the places where they went. If what they knew had been different from the Quran that was compiled, there would certainly have been differences. However, no matter what part of the world you go, there is no difference.

9. Those who slander that the original Quran was burned and that the real Quran is not present have to explain how the chapters that the Muslims of that time memorized were erased from their memories. It means it was the same Quran as they heard from the Prophet since they did not object.

10. Were Muslims living in that period more insensitive than today’s Muslims, who rebel in the face of the slightest insult to Islam and the Prophet, to show any reactions or to object and to accept it if the original of the Quran had been burned?

11. According to Ibn Hajar Asqalani, Uthman (ra) did not burn the other copies; he corrected the reading, collected the ones that could not be corrected, and erased them with water in order to prevent wrong reading and pronunciation. The word “haraqa” written without a dot means to burn but if it is written with a dot as “kharaqa”, it means to tear. It means he tore the pages that could not be corrected.

Schwally, who was an orientalist and one of the mentors of unbelievers, regards this burning attributed to Uthman as very doubtful.

Prof. M. Hamidullah states the following:

The habit of learning by heart the text of the entire Quran dates from the time of the Prophet (pbuh) himself. The caliphs and other heads of Muslim States have always encouraged this habit. A happy coincidence has further reinforced the integrity of the text. In fact, from the very beginning, Muslims have been accustomed to read a work in the presence of its author or one of his authorized pupils, and obtain permission of further transmission of the text established and corrected at the time of study and collation. Those who recited the Quran by heart or simply read the written text, also acted in the same manner. The remarkable aspect of it is as follows:

The habit has continued down to our day, with this remarkable feature that every master indicates in detail in the certificate given by him not only the fact rendering of his pupil was correct but also that it was in conformity with that which this master had learned from his own master, and that this last had affirmed that he in turn had learnt it from his master, the chain mounting up to the Prophet (pbuh).

The writer of these lines studied the Quran at Madinah with Sheikh al-Qurra, Hasan ash-Sha’ir, and the certificate he obtained, notes among other things, the chain of masters and masters of masters, and in the final act how the master had studied simultaneously from Uthman, Ali, Ibn Mas’ud, Ubayy ibn Ka’b and Zayd ibn Thabit (all companions of the Prophet) and that all had taught exactly the same text. The number of hafizes is now counted in the world by hundreds of thousands, and millions of copies of the text are found in all parts of the globe. And what deserves to be noted is that there is absolutely no difference between the memories of the hafizes and the texts employed.” (Introduction to Islam, Prof. M. Hamidullah, p.42)

-Imam Nawawi states the following in Sharh al-Muhadhdhab, which is an explanation of Muslim: “All Muslims have agreed unanimously that al-Falaq, an-Nas and al-Fatiha are from the Quran. Anyone who denies that they are from the Quran becomes an unbeliever.”

-Dr. Muhammad Ibn Lutfi as-Sabbagh states the following in his book named “Lamahat fi Ulumil-Quran” under the heading “Where are the Uthmani Mushafs now?”:

Ibn Jubayr, who died in 614 H, mentions the following while writing about the Mosque of Damascus in his Rihla:

“In the eastern corner of the new maqsura (enclosure) in Egypt, there is a large cabinet (khazana) that includes one of the Mushafs of Uthman. It is the Mushaf that Uthman sent to Damascus. The closet is opened every day after the prayer. People seek blessing by touching and kissing it. They consider it auspicious.” (al-Burhan, 1/235-al-Itqan, 1/60)

-Ibn Fadlullah al-Umari D. 749 H) also saw a Mushaf in Damascus. He explained that it was one of the Mushafs of Uthman, and said that “Mushaf Uthmani” was written on the left side of it, with the calligraphy of Uthman ibn Affan, the leader of the believers. (Masalikul-Absar fi Mamalikil-Amsar, 195)

Ibn Batuta states that he saw an Uthmani Mushaf in Basra apart from the copy in Damascus. (Rihlatu Ibn Batuta, 1/116)

-Dr. Abdurrahman ash-Shahbender states the following: This Ottoman I obtained a copy of the Uthmani Mushafs in Damascus. Unfortunately, fire destroyed it in the fire that burned down the Umayyad Mosque thirty years ago.” He wrote it in April 1922. (Mudhakkiratu Abdurrahman ash-Sahbandar, p. 34)

-According to what Ustadh al-Kawthari states, Sheikh Abdulhakim al-Afghani (d. 1326 H - 1908 AD) copied a Mushaf compatible with the writing and spelling of this Uthmani Mushaf before his death.

-Kawthari thinks that this Uthmani Mushaf was transferred to Istanbul during World War I. It is stated that the Mushaf that Afghani copied was preserved by one of his men in Damascus. (Maqalatul-Kawthari, p. 12)

Kawthari also states that the Mushaf of Kufa was in Homs and that it was taken to Istanbul, the capital city, during World War I but he does not mention in which mosque it was in Homs.

As a matter of fact, Kawthari states that the Mushaf of Madinah which was in Madinah was taken to Istanbul during World War I. (Maqalatul-Kawthari, p. 12)

The following historical Mushafs are present in the “Turkish and Islamic Arts Museum” in Istanbul:

-At Number 457: The Mushaf that includes the signature of Uthman (ra) and the year 30 H.

-At number 557: The Mushaf that includes the signature of Ali (ra).

-At number 458: The Mushaf that is stated to have been handwritten by Ali (ra).

A page of the Quran attributed to Umar (ra), written on the skin of a gazelle and pasted on a board. (Ulumul-Quran, 187-190)

“The light of the Quran is a miracle,
that will live as long as the world exists.”
(Ziya Paşa)

Click for additional information:

Will you give detailed information about the Quran’s being written, compiled and arranged as a book?

Note: This article was prepared based on the article “Was the Original Quran Burned? written by Rıza GÖRÜŞ.

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