How we got the Quran

Revelation of the Quran to Muhammad

Around 610 A.D., when Muhammad was 40 years old, he was meditating in a cave on Mount Hira, near Mecca, where he received his first revelation.

Sahih Al-Bukhari Volume 1, Book 1, Number 3:

Narrated ‘Aisha: He (Muhammad) used to go in seclusion in the cave of Hira where he used to worship (Allah alone) continuously for many days before his desire to see his family. He used to take with him the journey food for the stay and then come back to (his wife) Khadija to take his food like-wise again till suddenly the Truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hira. The angel came to him and asked him to read. The Prophet replied, “I do not know how to read.

The Prophet added, “The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read and I replied, ‘I do not know how to read.’ Thereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read but again I replied, ‘I do not know how to read (or what shall I read)?’ Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me, and then released me and said, ‘Read in the name of your Lord, who has created (all that exists) has created man from a clot. Read! And your Lord is the Most Generous.” (96.1, 96.2, 96.3)

The angel wanted Muhammad to recite on his own. Muhammad replied that he did not know what to recite. The angel then told him the exact words to recite and Muhammad repeated accordingly.  *

At first, because of the choking experience, Muhammad thought that he had an encounter with an evil spirit.

Sahih Al-Bukhari

Then Allah’s Apostle returned with the Inspiration and with his heart beating severely. Then he went to Khadija bint Khuwailid and said, “Cover me! Cover me!” They covered him till his fear was over and after that he told her everything that had happened and said, “I fear that something may happen to me.”

Over a period of twenty-three years, Muslims believe Muhammad continued to receive revelations through the medium of the angel Gabriel.

Surah 2:97 Say: Whoever is an enemy to Gabriel-for he brings down the (revelation) to thy heart by Allah’s will, a confirmation of what went before, and guidance and glad tidings for those who believe.

Collection of the Quran after Muhammad’s death

During the lifetime of Muhammad, the revelations of the quran were written down on the shoulder-blades of cattle, on leather, on white stones, on anything at hand, and it was memorized.

Al Bukhari informs us that it was only about a year after Muhammad’s death that the Quran was first put together into one collection by Zaid ibn Thabit at the command of the first Khalifa, Abu Bakr.

Narrated Zaid bin Thabit: Abu Bakr As-Siddiq sent for me when the people! of Yamama had been killed (i.e., a number of the Prophet’s Companions who fought against Musailama). (I went to him) and found ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab sitting with him. Abu Bakr then said (to me), “Umar has come to me and said: “Casualties were heavy among the Qurra’ of the! Qur’an (i.e. those who knew the Quran by heart) on the day of the Battle of Yalmama, and I am afraid that more heavy casualties may take place among the Qurra’ on other battlefields, whereby a large part of the Qur’an may be lost. Therefore I suggest, you (Abu Bakr) order that the Qur’an be collected.” I said to ‘Umar, “How can you do something which Allah’s Apostle did not do?” ‘Umar said, “By Allah, that is a good project. “Umar kept on urging me to accept his proposal till Allah opened my chest for it and I began to realize the good in the idea which ‘Umar had realized.” Then Abu Bakr said (to me). ‘You are a wise young man and we do not have any suspicion about you, and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah’s Apostle. So you should search for (the fragmentary scripts of) the Qur’an and collect it in one book).” By Allah If they had ordered me to shift one of the mountains, it would not have been heavier for me than this ordering me to collect the Qur’an. Then I said to Abu Bakr, “How will you do something which Allah’s Apostle did not do?” Abu Bakr replied, “By Allah, it is a good project.” Abu Bakr kept on urging me to accept his idea until Allah opened my chest for what He had opened the chests of Abu Bakr and ‘Umar. So I started looking for the Qur’an and collecting it from (what was written on) palmed stalks, thin white stones and also from the men who knew it by heart, till I found the last Verse of Surat At-Tauba (Repentance) with Abi Khuzaima Al-Ansari, and I did not find it with anybody other than him. (Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 6, Book 61, Number 509)

Some verses missing from the Quran

According to the authentic traditions of both Sahih Al Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, the verse on stoning was found to be missing in the Quran.

‘Abdullah b. ‘Abbas reported that ‘Umar b. Khattab sat on the pulpit of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Verily Allah sent Muhammad (may peace be upon him) with truth and He sent down the Book upon him, and the verse of stoning was included in what was sent down to him. We recited it, retained it in our memory and understood it. Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) awarded the punishment of stoning to death (to the married adulterer and adulteress) and, after him, we also awarded the punishment of stoning, I am afraid that with the lapse of time, the people (may forget it) and may say: We do not find the punishment of stoning in the Book of Allah, and thus go astray by abandoning this duty prescribed by Allah. Stoning is a duty laid down in Allah’s Book for married men and women who commit adultery when proof is established, or it there is pregnancy, or a confession. (Sahih Muslim Book 17, Number 4194)

The verse on stoning cannot be found in the Quran today. And it is not the case the stoning has been abrogated. The punishment for stoning still holds as evidenced by the fact that stoning for adultery is prescribed under Islamic law or sharia.

Standardization of the text of the Quran

Besides the copy collected by Zaid ibn Thabit under the order of Abu Bakr, there were other men who made their own collections of Suras, either as they heard them from Muhammad, or by copying them from those who had.

One of the most well known is that of Abdullah Ibn masud who was the personal servant of Muhammad. He claimed to have learned some seventy Suras directly from the mouth of Muhammad, and tradition says that he was one of the first to teach quran reading.

Another of Muhammad’s companions who made his own collection of Suras was Ubai b. kab. He served as Muhammad’s secretary after Muhammad came to Medina.

These two men were also specially mentioned in the hadiths as men whom Muslims are supposed to learn the Quran from because of their knowledge of it.

Narrated Masruq: ‘Abdullah bin masud was mentioned before ‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr who said “That is a man I still love, as I heard the Prophet (saw) saying, ‘Learn the recitation of the quran from four: from ‘Abdullah bin masud – he started with him – Salim, the freed slave of Abu Hudhaifa, muadh bin Jabal and Ubai bin kab “.   (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol.5, p.96).

In addition to these two men, Islamic history and Hadiths mention primary collections made by Ali Ibn Abi Talib, the Prophet’s son-in-law, and by Ibn Abbas, whose codex is mentioned by al-Suyuti (Itqan, 154) and by Abu Musa, whose codex was used by the people of Basra.

Differences between collections were so great that Muslim soldiers from Iraq who followed Ibn masud’s collection and the soldiers of Syria who followed Ubai’s collection, accused each other of lying.

Narrated Anas bin Malik: Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were Waging war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur’an, so he said to ‘Uthman, “O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Quran) as Jews and the Christians did before.” So ‘Uthman sent a message to Hafsa  saying, “Send us the manuscripts of the Qur’an so that we may compile the Qur’anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you.” Hafsa sent it to ‘Uthman. ‘Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, ‘Abdullah bin AzZubair, Said bin Al-As and ‘AbdurRahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. ‘Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, “In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Qur’an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, the Qur’an was revealed in their tongue.” They did so, and when they had written many copies, ‘Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa. ‘Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur’anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt. Said bin Thabit added, “A Verse from Surat Ahzab was missed by me when we copied the Qur’an and I used to hear Allah’s Apostle reciting it. So we searched for it and found it with Khuzaima bin Thabit Al-Ansari. (That Verse was): ‘Among the Believers are men who have been true in their covenant with Allah.’ (33.23) (Sahih Al Bukhari Volume 6, Book 61, Number 510)

This tradition shows that the Uthmanic version of the Quran was not entirely the same as the copy compiled by order of Abu Bakr. Zaid recollected a verse which was not in the first copy, and which he had himself heard Muhammad recite. He did not, however, venture to insert it merely on his own authority, but searched until be found another man who could recite it from memory. When this was done, the verse was entered in Suratu’l Ahzab.

Another example concerns a variant reading of Surah 2.238 which, in the quran standardized by `Uthman, reads “Maintain your prayers, particularly the middle prayer (as-salaatil wustaa), and stand before Allah in devoutness”. The variant reading is given in this hadith:

`Aishah ordered me to transcribe the Holy quran and asked me to let her know when I should arrive at the verse Hafidhuu alaas-salaati waas-salaatil wustaa wa quumuu lillaahi qaanitiin (2.238). When I arrived at the verse I informed her and she ordered: Write it in this way, Hafidhuu alaas-salaati waas-salaatil wustaa wa salaatil asri salaatil-ÿasri wa quumuu lillaahi qaanitiin. She added that she had heard it so from the Apostle of Allah (saw).  (Muwatta Imam Malik, p.64).

Aishah was a very prominent woman in Islam being one of the widows of the Prophet, and she would not have recommended such a change lightly. She ordered the scribe to add the words wa salaatil `asr meaning “and the afternoon prayer”, giving Muhammad himself as the direct source of her authority for this reading.

The additional words “and the afternoon prayer” was also found in the personal copy of the Quran belonging to Hafsa, another widow of the Prophet.

It is written in the codex of Hafsah, the widow of the Prophet (saw): “Observe your prayers, especially the middle prayer and the afternoon prayer”.  (Ibn Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Masahif, p.87).

Standardization of the reading of the Quran

Uthman succeeded in standardizing a single written text of the quran but, as the pronunciation of words and clauses was not reflected in the earliest manuscripts, the Quran was still read in different ways. No vocalization of the written text existed at that time and so the script was transcribed with consonants only. Vowel points were only added much later.

The photograph above shows verses 34-36 of Sura 24, the Sura of the Light (nur Al-Nõr), as found in an old quran preserved at the British Museum in London. According to the experts it is from the end of the eighth century AD, or about 150 A.H.

At the same time a tradition had been recorded that the Prophet himself had stated that the quran was in fact sent down with more than one form of recitation:

The quran has been revealed to be recited in seven different ways, so recite of it that which is easier for you. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol.6, p.510).

Narrated ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab: I heard Hisham bin Hakim bin Hizam reciting Surat-al-Furqan in a way different to that of mine. Allah’s Apostle had taught it to me (in a different way). So, I was about to quarrel with him (during the prayer) but I waited till he finished, then I tied his garment round his neck and seized him by it and brought him to Allah’s Apostle and said, “I have heard him reciting Surat-al-Furqan in a way different to the way you taught it to me.” The Prophet ordered me to release him and asked Hisham to recite it. When he recited it, Allah s Apostle said, “It was revealed in this way.” He then asked me to recite it. When I recited it, he said, “It was revealed in this way. The Qur’an has been revealed in seven different ways, so recite it in the way that is easier for you.” (Volume 3, Book 41, Number 601)

The above tradition shows that Muhammad allowed different readings of the Quran. And these differences were not restricted to differences in dialect. Both Umar and Hisam were fellow tribesmen as well as tribesmen of the Prophet. (Ahmad b. ‘Ali b. Muhammad al ‘Asqalani, ibn Hajar, “Fath al Bari”, 13 vols, Cairo, 1939/1348, vol. 9, p. 22)

For the next three centuries after Uthman there were considerable differences in the recitation of the quran as a result of the inability of the Arabic script at that time to capture all the points of pronunciation because of the lack of vowel points.

Shahr b. Hawshab said: I asked Umm Salamah: How did the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) read this verse: “For his conduct is unrighteous” (innaha `amalun ghairu salih)? She replied: He read it: “He acted unrighteously” (innaha `amila ghaira salih).                              (Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol.3, p.1116).

The variant is found solely in the vowelling of the text and would not have been reflected in the consonantal text transcribed by Uthman.

There was a time of “ikhtiyar” (period of choice” when Muslims were free to read the quran in whichever dialect they chose on the strength of the tradition that there were seven legitimate ways in which the quran could be recited.

In that year, however, the well-known authority on the quran at Baghdad, Ibn Mujahid, took it upon himself to resolve the issue. He managed to establish an official limitation on the permissible readings of the quran. He wrote a book titled al Al-Qiraÿat as-Sabÿah (“The Seven Recitations”) and in it he established seven of the readings current in the Muslim world as canonical and declared the others “shadhdh” (isolated) and no longer legitimate.

The seven readings now authorised were those of Nafi (Medina), Ibn Kathir (Mecca), Ibn `Amir (Damascus), Abu `Amr (Basrah), Asim, Hamzah and al-Kisai (Kufa). Eventually, it was the version of Hafs (who revised Asim’s version) that has gradually gained almost universal currency in the Muslim world.

Evaluation of the Quran
Structure of the Quran

The quran is almost the length of the New Testament though its structure and form is very different to it. It is comprised of one hundred and fourteen surahs, which are of unequal length and are not compiled in any sort of chronological order.

The longest surahs occur first and, as one progresses through the quran, the chapters become shorter and shorter so that, whereas the second surah has two hundred and eighty-six verses, the last ten are made up of only a few lines each.

Each surah has a title usually taken from a significant word or name usually at the beginning of the text. Some introduce the major theme of the surah, for example the twelfth chapter is known as Suratu-Yusuf, “Chapter of Joseph”, because he is its central theme.

The earliest portions of the quran are generally found in the surahs at the end of the book while the later portions appear at the beginning

Contents of the Quran

Contains words of God, prophet of God, jinns, even a prayer.

The first chapter of the Quran Al Fatiha not part of the Quran?


Surah 2:106. None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that Allah Hath power over all things?

There is a place from progressive revelation for the different human history say Adam, Abraham, Moses, David & Jesus. It occurred because of social, religious political changes. It also extended over hundreds of years.In the case of the Quran, abrogation occurred sometimes four times on the same subject in a short 23-yr duration, despite the underlying condition not having changed.Riba – Not a good practice Surah 30:39“That which ye lay out for increase[Riba] through theproperty of (other) people, will have no increase with Allah.”Against exorbitant Riba Surah 3:130“Devour  not usury[Ribad], doubled &multiplied..” 

Total Prohibition of Riba  Surah 2:278“Fear Allah, and give up what remains of your demandfor usury[Riba]” 

Proof of the Quran
Should literary excellence be used to judge whether a book is from God?

It is difficult to use literary excellence as proof of divine inspiration. We have known many talented people in history. Some may even say that it is even more remarkable for Mozart to write his first symphony at the age of six. Yet no one would go further to say that Mozart must have been inspired by God to have been able to achieve such results. How about Shakespeare who is without peer in his use of the English language?

Other religious leaders have used the beautiful literary style of their work as sign of its divine origin. For example, the Persian founder of the Manichaens Mani claimed that men should believe in him as the Helper that Jesus promised in John 14 because he produced a book called Artand, which is full of beautiful pictures. He claimed that the book had been given by God because no human being could paint pictures equal in beauty to those contained in the Artand, therefore it had to come from God Himself. Yet no Muslim would accept his claim.

Was Muhammad illiterate?

Most Muslims believe that Prophet Muhammad was illiterate.

God says in verse 29:51 that the Quran itself is the only miracle of the prophet. If Muhammad was indeed illiterate, the Quran, which is a quality work of literature, would indeed be a miracle.

However, it is not conclusive that Muhammad was illiterate. There are some Muslims who believe that Muhammad was not illiterate.

Muslims believe the Arabic word “ummy” (translated as “unlettered” in English) means “illiterate”. However, this may not be the correct translation.

In the Quran, the Jews and Christians are referred to as “People of the Book”. Therefore the term “unlettered” could very well refer to those who are NOT Jews or Christians, like Muhammad. The verse below supports this interpretation.

Surah 62:2. It is He Who has sent amongst the Unlettered (“ummy”) an apostle from among themselves, to rehearse to them His Signs, to sanctify them, and to instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom,- although they had been, before, in manifest error;-

Muhammad was sent to the “ummy”. If we translate “ummy” as “illiterate”, why is it that Muhammad was sent only to the illiterate? Is it that the literate have no need for God or that the literate were already close to God? We knew from Muhammad’s prophetic career that he ministered to all the Arabs and not just to a group of illiterate Arabs, excluding the literate ones.

There are also evidences to show that Muhammad was not illiterate. In his famous treaty with the Quarash, Suhayl ibn Amr, who negotiated for the Quraysh, objected to the statement being included in the agreement: “This is what Muhammad, the Apostle of Allah and Suhayl ibn Amr agreed on.” “Had I believed you are an apostle of Allah”, he objected, “I would not have fought against you. Write your name and the name of your father.” Muhammad asked Ali to do as Suhayl said but Ali refused. Muhammad took the pen from Ali, struck out the words in which Ali had written, namely “Apostle of God”, and wrote instead with his own hand the words, “son of Abdullah”.

Use of the Quran
Recitation of the Quran

The very word Al-Quran means “The Recitation” and the practice is so seriously regarded by Muslims that they will go to great lengths just to learn its correct pronunciation. Many will also go to great lengths to learn entire passages by heart.

Unlike the Bible, which Christians generally read in their own languages to discover its message, the Muslim finds merit just in reciting the quran in its original Arabic even if he does not fully understand what he is reading.

Christians do not recite the Bible. The Bible is not to be recited but studied to gather information valuable for daily life.

(2 Tim 3:16 NIV)  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,

Adoration of the Quran

It is the belief of some Muslims that the quran should never be touched or opened by anyone other than a true Muslim and certain ablutions should be observed before this is done. The quran itself says “None shall touch it but those who are clean” (Surah 56.79) and a tradition emphasizes the need for a proper ablution:

`Abd Allah b. Abu Bakr b. Hazm reported: The book written by the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) for `Amr b. Hazm contained this also that no man should touch the quran QurŸan without ablution. (Muwatta Imam Malik, p.94).

Muslims will also not leave a quran on a chair, seat or bed as this is believed to be common property where people have sat or lain and unsuitable for such a book. For the same reason a quran should never be placed on the ground where people have walked. Special wooden quran stands are provided in mosques upon which the book can be placed while the reader is sitting on the ground. The book should be kissed before it is opened and, once read, it should be closed as a tradition prevails among Muslims that Satan will come and read an open quran if no one else is reading it.

Christian use of the Quran

Should Christians quote from the Quran when engaging in dialog with Muslim friends? Christians accept the Bible as the sole authority on God’s Word. Having said that, it does not mean that there are no religious or moral truths outside the Bible. For example, many teaches of the Quran about one God and exhortation to do good can be affirmed by both Christians and Muslims alike.

Furthermore, the Quran is the number authority for Muslims and should not be ignored when engaging in religious dialog with them. It is also through the Quran that one can learn about the religion of his Muslim friends.


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