Al-Tawhid Some Old Manuscripts of the Holy Qur’an

Al-Tawhid Some Old Manuscripts of the Holy Qur’an

Introduction This article appeared in the journal Mishkat (No 4, spring 1363 H. Sh.), published by Idareh-ye Umur-e Farhangi, an academic and research institution attached to Astaneh-ye Quds-a Radawi, that is, Imam Rida’s Shrine at Mashhad. The author is a well-known Iranian scholar. Undoubtedly, no other book has been the subject of discussion to the […]

  • Kazim Mudir Shanehchi
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    Introduction

    This article appeared in the journal Mishkat (No 4, spring 1363 H. Sh.), published by Idareh-ye Umur-e Farhangi, an academic and research institution attached to Astaneh-ye Quds-a Radawi, that is, Imam Rida's Shrine at Mashhad. The author is a well-known Iranian scholar.

    Undoubtedly, no other book has been the subject of discussion to the extent of the Qur'an, the number of treatises, books and exegeses written on which far exceeds those written about any other book. Although the Torah and the Gospel have been translated into more languages, the Qur'an has a lead over other scriptures in respect of the variety of studies, the number of exegeses and the various aspects of it that have since long been the topic of discussion and writing.

    Even in respect of the number of copies circulated the Qur'an has a lead over all other books. Muslims believe that a spiritual reward (thawab) lies in not only writing and reciting the Qur'an but even in looking at its sacred script. Accordingly, as we know, there have been Muslims who in their lifetime produced more than a hundred hand written copies of the Qur'an for the sake of thawab. Many others have bought hundreds of copies of the scripture and donated them to mosques and shrines to be kept for reading .by visitors.

    And-if we take into account the age-old Iranian custom of reading the Qur'an in majalis-e khatm where copies of it - usually in thirty, sixty or hundred and-twenty parts, each separately bound - are kept to be read by those attending, the total number of printed and hand-written copies reaches an amazingly large number. If to these is added the number of copies written by young pupils in the traditional schools (maktab khanah) in the course of their Qur'anic instruction, the-number would be a truly stupendous one.

    The tradition of writing the Qur'an commenced from the time of the Noble Prophet (S) himself, who had assigned certain persons to write down and record the Qur'anic revelation as and when it came and was recited by him. They are known as kuttab al-wahy, Scribes of the Revelation. These were different from the secretaries who wrote letters, pacts and treaties for the Prophet (S) or wrote agreements and contracts between parties in his presence. 1

    1. Compilers of the Qur'an

    Ibn al-Nadim writes that from among the Companions of the Prophet (S) 'Ali ibn Abi Talib (A), Said ibn 'Ubayd ibn al-Numan, Abu al-Darda', Mu'adh ibn Jabal, 'Thabit ibn Zayd 2 and 'Ubayd ibn Mu'awiyah ibn Zayd compiled the Qur'an during the Prophet's lifetime. 3

    Al-Bukhari narrates from Anas ibn Malik that Ubayy ibn Ka'b, Mu'adh, Zayd ibn Thabit and Abu Zayd had collected the Qur'an during the Prophet's era. 4 In another narration he mentions the names of Abu al-Darda', Mu'adh ibn Jabal, Zayd ibn Thabit and Abu Zayd in this regard. 5

    Al-Zarakshi narrates from al-Sha'bi that those who collected the Qur'an during the Prophet's lifetime were these six: Ubayy, Zayd, Mu'adh, Abu al-Darda', Sa'id ibn 'Ubayd and Abu Zayd, and lastly, Mujamma' ibn Jariyah, who had collected all the Qur'an except for two surahs. 6

    Ibn al-Nadim describes the order of the surahs in the compilation of 'Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud and Ubayy ibn Ka'b, which shows that Ibn Mas'ud too had compiled the Qur'an; 7 or perhaps he did so after the Prophet's demise.

    In al-Tamhid, Abu Musa al-'Ash'ari and Miqdad ibn al-'Aswad are mentioned among the compilers of the Qur'an. It adds that before the standardization of the codices by the order of 'Uthman, the people of Kufah recited according to the compilation of Ibn Masud, the people of Basrah according to the codex of Abu Musa, the people of Damascus according to the codex of Miqdad, while the rest of Syrians recited according to the codex of Ubayy ibn Ka'b. 8

    Ibn al-Nad'im, al-Ya'qubi and many Shi'i traditionists have mentioned the episode of the compilation of the Qur'an by 'Ali (A) after the Prophet's demise. The arrangement of the surahs in 'Ali's mushaf, as mentioned by al-Ya'qubi in his history, 9 is different from those of Ibn Mas'ud and Ubayy ibn Ka'b, which have been described by Ibn al Nadim. 10 There are minor differences also in the names of the surahs from the well-known and presently popular names. 11 There is also a difference of sequence in the above-mentioned masahif. For instance, in Ibn Mas'ud's mushaf the Surat al-'Anfal is the twenty-fifth surah, while it is the ninth one in Ubayy ibn Ka'b's arrangement and the eighth one in the present compilation. And as we know, the present compilation is the one made by Zayd ibn Thabit at the order of Abu Bakr, the first caliph.

    Zayd says, "Abu Bakr sent for me after the Battle of Yamamah, in which a large number of the Prophet's Companions and qurra' (reciters) of the Qur'an were killed. He told me, "'Umar, who is now here, says that qurra' of the Qur'an have been martyred at Yamamah. If a similar incident should recur, it is feared that a part of the Qur'an retained by them in their memories would be lost. Since you are an intelligent man and happen to be one of the scribes of the revelation and are trustworthy as well, I ask you to collect the Qur'an.' Accordingly, I collected the Qur'an from original recordings and from the memories of men."12

    According to al-Ya'qubi twenty-five men from among the Quraysh and fifty from among the Ansar helped Zayd in this task, 13 among whom 'Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr and 'Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Harith ibn Hisham were permanent members of the committee.

    According to al-Tamhid, the work was started by Zayd ibn Thabit along with some other; but later Ubayy ibn Ka'b assumed responsibility for reading and Zayd for writing down.

    In any case, the Qur'an was compiled in this manner and the compiled text was deposited first with Abu Bakr and after him with 'Umar and was a source of reference for the people. After the death of 'Umar, this compilation remained in the possession of Hafsah until the year 22/642, when differences of reading appeared during the reign. of 'Uthman. Thereupon, on the Caliph's order, the mushaf was taken from Hafsah for transcription, and from it Zayd ibn Thabit (who was the main scribe) prepared several copies with the help of 'Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr, 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Hisham (both members of the original committee that compiled the Qur'an) and Said ibn al-'As. While the original was returned to Hafsah, one of the copies was kept with the Caliph at Madinah and the rest were sent to major Islamic cities. 14 Thereafter, the handwritten compilations of the Qur'an were destroyed on the Caliph's order for the sake of eliminating differences among Muslims.

    15 The compilation written during Abu Bakr's days remained with Hafsah until the reign of Marwan ibn al-Hakam. Marwan wanted to burn it also, but Hafsah refused to hand it over to him. He waited until her death and thereat destroyed that compilation also. 16

    Thus the task of ensuring the uniformity of the Qur'an was carried out in the year 22/642, 17 though 'Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud refused to hand over his compilation to 'Uthman, who wanted to destroy it. 18 Similarly, the compilation made by 'Ali ibn Abi Talib (A) was retained by him and later preserved by his family.

    Source: alhassanain.com

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