Is Present Version of Qur'an Original?
Q: There were many versions of the Qur’an, all of which were burnt by Hazrat Usman except for one. Therefore is it true that the present Qur’an is the one compiled by Hazrat Usman and not the original revelation of God?
Dr. Zakir Naik
One of the most common myths about the Qur’an, is that Hazrat 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 by Muslims the world over, is the same Qur’an as the one revealed to Prophet Muhummad (Pbuh). It was authenticated and written under his personal supervision. We will examine the roots of the myth which says that Hazrat Usman had the Qur’an authenticated.
Whenever the Prophet received a revelation, he would first memorise it himself and later declare the revelation and instruct his companions who would also memorise 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 Muhummad (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 memorised by the companions. In this way, the complete Qur’an was written down under the personal supervision of the prophet (Pbuh). Whenever a revelation was sent, the Prophet would also mention to his companions, in which ‘surah’ (chapter) and after which ‘ayat’ (verse) this new revelation should fit. The order of the Qur’anic verses, too is divinely inspired and was instructed to the Prophet by Allah (SWT) through archangel Jibraeel.
Every Ramadhan 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 Ramadhan, 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.
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, scraps of leather, thin flat stones, leaflets palm branches, shoulder blades, etc. After the demise of the prophet, Hazrat 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 place, which was in the shape of sheets. These were tied with a string so that nothing of it was lost.
During the period of the third Caliph of Islam i.e. Hazrat Usman (R.A) disputes arose among Muslims regarding the correct manner of reciting the Qur’an, due to the different types of dialects. Since Islam and the Qur’an had spread in different regions, the pronunciation of the Qur’an differed in different regions. For instance some people, pronounce the English word ‘snacks’ as ‘snakes’, even when they actually mean ‘snacks’.
Therefore there was a need for the Qur’an to be written in a form that would make the correct pronunciation of each word and syllable, clear and unambiguous. Hazrat Usman (R.A) borrowed the original manuscript of the Qur’an, which was authorized by the beloved Prophet (Pbuh), from Hazrat Hafsha (R.A), the Prophet’s wife. Hazrat Usman (R.A) ordered four companions led by Hazrat Zaid bin Thabit to rewrite the script in several perfect copies. These were sent by Hazrat Usman (R.A) to the main centres of Muslims. There were other collections of the Qur’an that people had with them. These might have been written according to the different dialectical pronunciations of various peoples.
Hazrat 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 recitation of the Qur’an. Two such copies are present to this day; one at the museum in Tashkent in erstwhile Soviet Union and the other at the Koptaki Museum is Istanbul, Turkey.
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’ and ‘ijam’. 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 the Muslims of non-Arab origin, however, it was difficult to recite the Qur’an correctly without the vowels. These marks were introduced into the Qur’anic 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 Iraq.
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. People fail to realise that 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.
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:)