by Dr Zakir Naik
There were many versions of the Qur’an all of which were burnt
by Usman (r.a.) except for one. Therefore is it not true that the
present Qur’an is the one compiled by Usman (r.a.) and not the
original revelation of God?
One of the most common myths about the Qur’an, is that Usman (r.a.),
the third Caliph of Islam authenticated and compiled one Qur’an, from a
large set of mutually contradicting copies. The Qur’an, revered as the
Word of Allah (swt) by Muslims the world over, is the same Qur’an as the
one revealed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It was authenticated and written
under his personal supervision. We will examine the roots of the myth
which says that Usman (r.a.) had the Qur’an authenticated.
1. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself supervised and authenticated the
written texts of the Qur’an
Whenever the Prophet received a revelation, he would first memorize it
himself and later declare the revelation and instruct his Companions (R.A.
– Radhi Allahu Taala Anhu) – May Allah be pleased with him who would also
memorize it. The Prophet would immediately ask the scribes to write down
the revelation he had received, and he would reconfirm and recheck it
himself. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was an Ummi who could not read and write.
Therefore, after receiving each revelation, he would repeat it to his
Companions. They would write down the revelation, and he would recheck by
asking them to read what they had written. If there was any mistake, the
Prophet would immediately point it out and have it corrected and
rechecked. Similarly he would even recheck and authenticate the portions
of the Qur’an memorized by the Companions. In this way, the complete
Qur’an was written down under the personal supervision of the prophet (pbuh).
2. Order and sequence of Qur’an divinely inspired
The complete Qur’an was revealed over a period of 22½ years portion by
portion, as and when it was required. The Qur’an was not compiled by the
Prophet in the chronological order of revelation. The order and sequence
of the Qur’an too was Divinely inspired and was instructed to the Prophet
by Allah (swt) through archangel Jibraeel. Whenever a revelation was
conveyed to his companions, the Prophet would also mention in which surah
(chapter) and after which ayat (verse) this new revelation should fit.
Every Ramadhaan all the portions of the Qur’an that had been revealed,
including the order of the verses, were revised and reconfirmed by the
Prophet with archangel Jibraeel. During the last Ramadhaan, before the
demise of the Prophet, the Qur’an was rechecked and reconfirmed twice.
It is therefore clearly evident that the Qur’an was compiled and
authenticated by the Prophet himself during his lifetime, both in the
written form as well as in the memory of several of his Companions.
3. Qur’an copied on one common material
The complete Qur’an, along with the correct sequence of the verses, was
present during the time of the Prophet (pbuh). The verses however, were
written on separate pieces, scrapes of leather, thin flat stones,
leaflets, palm branches, shoulder blades, etc. After the demise of the
prophet, Abu Bakr (r.a.), the first caliph of Islam ordered that the
Qur’an be copied from the various different materials on to a common
material and place, which was in the shape of sheets. These were tied with
strings so that nothing of the compilation was lost.
4. Usman (r.a.) made copies of the Qur’an from the original
Many Companions of the Prophet used to write down the revelation of the
Qur’an on their own whenever they heard it from the lips of the Prophet.
However what they wrote was not personally verified by the Prophet and
thus could contain mistakes. All the verses revealed to the Prophet may
not have been heard personally by all the Companions. There were high
possibilities of different portions of the Qur’an being missed by
different Companions. This gave rise to disputes among Muslims regarding
the different contents of the Qur’an during the period of the third Caliph
Usman (r.a.) borrowed the original manuscript of the Qur’an, which was
authorized by the beloved Prophet (pbuh), from Hafsha (may Allah be
pleased with her), the Prophet’s wife. Usman (r.a.) ordered four
Companions who were among the scribes who wrote the Qur’an when the
Prophet dictated it, led by Zaid bin Thabit (r.a.) to rewrite the script
in several perfect copies. These were sent by Usman (r.a.) to the main
centres of Muslims.
There were other personal collections of the portions of the Qur’an
that people had with them. These might have been incomplete and with
mistakes. Usman (r.a.) only appealed to the people to destroy all these
copies which did not match the original manuscript of the Qur’an in order
to preserve the original text of the Qur’an. Two such copies of the copied
text of the original Qur’an authenticated by the Prophet are present to
this day, one at the museum in Tashkent in erstwhile Soviet Union and the
other at the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, Turkey.
5. Diacritical marks were added for non-Arabs
The original manuscript of the Qur’an does not have the signs
indicating the vowels in Arabic script. These vowels are known as tashkil,
zabar, zair, paish in Urdu and as fatah, damma and qasra in Arabic. The
Arabs did not require the vowel signs and diacritical marks for correct
pronunciation of the Qur’an since it was their mother tongue. For Muslims
of non-Arab origin, however, it was difficult to recite the Qur’an
correctly without the vowels. These marks were introduced into the Quranic
script during the time of the fifth ‘Umayyad’ Caliph, Malik-ar-Marwan
(66-86 Hijri/685-705 C.E.) and during the governorship of Al-Hajaj in
Some people argue that the present copy of the Qur’an that we have
along with the vowels and the diacritical marks is not the same original
Qur’an that was present at the Prophet’s time. But they fail to realize
that the word ‘Qur’an’ means a recitation. Therefore, the preservation of
the recitation of the Qur’an is important, irrespective of whether the
script is different or whether it contains vowels. If the pronunciation
and the Arabic is the same, naturally, the meaning remains the same too.
6. Allah Himself has promised to guard the Qur’an
Allah has promised in the Qur’an :
"We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly
Guard it (from corruption). [Al-Qur’an 15:9]