The Holy Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammed ﷺ over 23 years, with the first revelations in the month of Ramadan in 610 AD.
How did the Qur’an reach us today in its final form? Who compiled it & why, & where are the oldest Qur’ans in the world?
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The Quran began to be revealed to Prophet Muhammed ﷺ during the month of Ramadan in 610, in its original form to the present day. The companions of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), played an important role in the compilation of the Quran, leaving an interesting story behind.
The ultimate book of universal guidance, the Holy Quran, was revealed to Prophet Muhammed ﷺ over a period of 23 years, in small parts; the holy book was not compiled until after his demise.
The process of the preservation of the Holy Quran started during the time of Prophet Muhammed ﷺ, who despite being unable to read or write, employed a certain method of conservation upon the revelation of every ‘ayah’.
The Qur'an is divided into 114 chapters of unequal size called surahs. Each surah is composed of individual verses, each called an ayah. When citing text from the Qur'an, one refers to chapter and verse, or surah and ayah (verse) or ayat (verses) by number.
In ancient times, literacy was a skill that few people had and Prophet Muhammed ﷺ himself did not know how to read or write. He dictated the verses and assigned scribes to write them down in his presence, in order to ensure the accuracy of the words.
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At the time, the verses were written on materials such as bones, leather, stones & wood. Prophet Muhammed ﷺ asked his companions at the time, to memorise the verses & recite them in their daily salah in order to help retention. Salah are the 5 daily ritual prayers.
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The need for compilation of the Quran arose during the caliphate of Abu Bakr Siddiq (RA) when several companions of the Prophet Muhammed ﷺ who had memorised the Quran died causing concern because the loss of those companions also meant the loss of the Quranic content.
As a result, Umar bin Khattab (RA) suggested the idea of the compilation of the Quran to Abu Bakr Siddiq (RA), who was hesitant at first, seeing as the Prophet (PBUH) himself had not taken any such measures during the course of his life.
However, upon recognising the rising need of it, he appointed Zayd ibn Thabit to supervise the project of compilation. Zayd ibn Thabit was one of the leading scribes.
In order to ensure authenticity & eradicate human errors, all the companions who possessed the written text of the Quran collected during the Prophet’s ﷺ Ramadan recitation, were asked to bring in their copies. All texts were compared to check for the authenticity.
Moreover, Zayd ibn Thabit and Umar ibn Khattab (RA) also verified each verse as they themselves had memorised the Quran by heart. Therefore, the Quranic text was collected, compiled, proofread and authenticated with the utmost care and precision.
In the Quran, the verse is the name given to each sentence of the Quran and the surah is the name given to each part of the holy book. There are 6,236 verses, 114 surahs and about 323,000 letters in the Quran.
During the reign of Uthman ibn Affan (RA) Islam started to expand across the Arabian states & an increasing number of people started accepting Islam. Due to the cultural diversity & difference in dialects among the new Muslims problems of Quranic pronunciation arose.
People started questioning which pronunciation was the ‘right’ one. Hence, Uthman ibn Affan (RA) took matters into his own hands and appointed his trusted scribes, including Zayd ibn Thabit, to make copies of the originally compiled Quran.
Once the perfected copies of the original text were made, Uthman ibn Affan (RA) ordered all other remaining Quranic texts to be removed in order to achieve universal uniformity of Quranic script.
To this day, all existing copies of the Holy Book are identical to the version compiled by Uthman ibn Affan (RA): "Indeed it is We who have sent down the reminder (the Qur'an), and indeed it is Us who shall preserve it" (Quran, Surah Al-Hijr 15:9).
The Uthman Quran in Tashkent, Uzbekistan - also known as the Samarqand manuscript. It was thought to be the oldest copy of the Quran in existence. The date it was written varies between 595 AD–855 AD. However, researchers have said it was written in the 8-9th century.
The Topkapi manuscript is most likely the oldest near-complete Quran in existence, it is also believed to be an original Quran commissioned by the third caliph Uthman in 651. Some researchers suggest it is dated to about the early to mid 8th century.
The Sana’a manuscript is one of the oldest pieces of the Quran in existence. The manuscript was first discovered in 1972 during renovations of the Great Mosque of Sana’a in Yemen. It has been radiocarbon dated to between 632 AD – 671 AD.
The Quran fragment from the University of Tübingen in Germany has been dated to a period between 649 AD – 675 AD. This date means the manuscript was written about 20 – 40 years after the Prophet Muhammed’s ﷺ death.
The Codex Parisino-Petropolitanus is a 98 folio Quran manuscript dating back to the late 7th or early 8th century. The manuscript was found with several Quranic fragments in the Amr Mosque in Fustat, Egypt.
The Blue Quran is one of the most famous and beautiful ancient Qurans in the world. The manuscript has been dated to between the late 9th - 10th century. It is believed that the Blue Quran was created for the Great Mosque of Qairawan in Tunisia.
The Birmingham Quran Manuscript in Birmingham, England is currently believed to be the perhaps the oldest Quran in the world. This manuscript consists of two leaves of parchment that are a fragment of an early Quranic manuscript dated between 568 AD – 645 AD.
How did one of the oldest Quran Manuscripts end up in Birmingham, England? Well, that’s a topic we will cover another time…
'The Birmingham Qur'an', Hijazi Qur'an, 7th century, Cadbury Research Library, University of Birmingham UK.’
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