Wednesday, November 5, 2008


In the time of the Prophet

The prophet had scribes whom he ordered to write down the revelation of the Qur’an on materials available at that time.

It is stated that whenever he received verses or surahs, he commanded one of his scribes immediately to record and to arrange them in their places in the surahs of the Qur’an (al-Baghawi, Sharh al-sunnah, 4: p.522)

Many accounts support this view, that every revealed verses was written down at the time of its revelation and was put in a preordained order and kept in a safe place. (al-Bukhari, 6, p. 480)

Many scribes took down the revelation. Some were assigned permanently to record the revelation, being given the title of katib al-Wahy, while others normally were engaged on other secretarial duties and were brought in to take down the revelation only occasionally. (Fath al-Bari, 9, p. 22)


Certain scholars tried to count the number of scribes by using the sources available to them.

Ibn Kathir counts 22, and others increased to 33 or about 60.

The famous scribes are ‘Uthman, ‘Ali, Ubayy Ibn Ka’ab and Zaid Ibn Thabit, who is known as Katib al-Nabiyy or Katib al-Wahy

To ensure that the Qur’an would not be confused with his own utterances, the Prophet is reported to have ordered his Companions to write nothing except the Qur’an.

Futhermore, he commanded those who may have written down anything other than al-Qur’an to efface it. (al-Nasai, Fadail al-Qur’an, p.72)

As a result, the entire revelation is said to have been gradually secured, kept in written form, and stored in the Prophet’s house.(Fath al-Bari,9,p.22)


The Prophet gave a number of the Companions permission to have their own manuscripts in addition to memorizing the Qur’an. (Kitab al-Masahif, p. 50-88)

The most famous among them, who are said to have taught many others, are the following:

‘Uthman Ibn ‘Affan

‘Ali Ibn Abi Talib

Ubayy Ibn Ka’ab

Abu al-Darda’

Mu’adh Ibn Jabal

Zayd Ibn Thabit

‘Abdullah Ibn Mas’ud

‘Abu Musa al-Ash’ari

Salim(the mawla of Abu Hudhayifah)

Though the Qur’an was fully recorded, using all possible writing material, it was not written in the form of a mushaf. This was done later after the Prophet had passed away.

Even before the recorded Qur’anic text was in book form, it was known as al-Kitab (The Book). For instance, the Qur’an states in 2:2:

ذَلِكَ الْكِتَابُ لا رَيْبَ فِيهِ هُدًى لِلْمُتَّقِينَ (2)

The Prophet is also reported as having said before his death: “ I have left amongst you Muslims that which, if you stick to it, you will not be misguided-the book of Allah.” (al-Nawawi,Sahih Muslim bi Sharh al-Nawawi, 7:184)

Al-Baghawi explains that these records were not compiled in an official mushaf during the time of the Prophet because some verses were abrogated during the period of the revelation of the Qur’an.

When there was no more abrogation and the revelation was sealed, the time had come for the formal compilation to be carried out.(Sharh al-Sunnah, 5:519)

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