Quran Preservation & Compilation -2 (Circumstances during Abu Bakr’s time)
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
During the time of Abu Bakr (RA) circumstances asked for the collection of various writings to be gathered in one compilation. Following narration gives an account of it;
Narrated Zaid bin Thabit Al-Ansari: Abu Bakr sent for me after the (heavy) casualties among the warriors (of the battle) of Yamama (where a great number of Qurra’ were killed). ‘Umar was present with Abu Bakr who said, ‘Umar has come to me and said,
The people have suffered heavy casualties on the day of (the battle of) Yamama, and I am afraid that there will be more casualties among the Qurra’ (those who know the Qur’an by heart) at other battle-fields, whereby a large part of the Qur’an may be lost, unless you collect it.
And I am of the opinion that you should collect the Qur’an.” Abu Bakr added, “I said to ‘Umar, ‘How can I do something which Allah’s Messenger has not done?’ ‘Umar said (to me), ‘By Allah, it is (really) a good thing.’
So ‘Umar kept on pressing, trying to persuade me to accept his proposal, till Allah opened my bosom for it and I had the same opinion as ‘Umar.” (Zaid bin Thabit added:) Umar was sitting with him (Abu Bakr) and was not speaking. me).
“You are a wise young man and we do not suspect you (of telling lies or of forgetfulness): and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah’s Messenger. Therefore, look for the Qur’an and collect it (in one manuscript). “By Allah, if he (Abu Bakr) had ordered me to shift one of the mountains (from its place) it would not have been harder for me than what he had ordered me concerning the collection of the Qur’an.
I said to both of them, “How dare you do a thing which the Prophet has not done?” Abu Bakr said, “By Allah, it is (really) a good thing. So I kept on arguing with him about it till Allah opened my bosom for that which He had opened the bosoms of Abu Bakr and Umar. So I started locating Qur’anic material and collecting it from parchments, scapula, leaf-stalks of date palms and from the memories of men (who knew it by heart). (Sahih Bukhari, Kitabul Tafir, Hadith 4603)
The Martyrs of Battle of Yamama and frustration of Polemicists & Missionaries:
The Hadith above says that martyrdom of a number of Qur’a (Reciters) in the Battle of Yamama happened to be the final stimulus for the compilation of Qur’an into a single codex. The way it has been dealt with by the Missionaries and polemicists shows their absolute frustration.
On one hand the likes of Schwally, Richard Bell and Montgomery Watt suggested that the traditions about it are subject to much criticism and argued that there were hardly any considerable reciters among those who fell at Yamama. One of them writes;
‘In the lists of those who fell in that campaign, very few are mentioned who were likely to have had much of the Qur’an Qur’an by heart’.And further that; ‘those killed were mostly recent converts.’ (Montgomery Watt: Bell’s Introduction to the Qur’an, Chapter 3: Online Source)
And on the other hand some of them tend to convey that too many reciters were killed in the Battle and some parts of the Qur’an were lost with their death as only they knew it.
‘A great majority of the Qur’anic reciters had been killed at al-Yamama, forever taking with them portions of the Qur’an that only they knew.’(Sam Shamoun: Compilation of the Qur’an. Online Source)
This is a perfect manifestation of the incoherent approach these people have towards Islamic sources. All they know is to seek to find fault with the Qur’an and Hadith one way or the other.
Infact both these contentions are wrong. Some of the important Qur’a (Reciters) were indeed martyred in this battle and thus Umar’s (RA) emphasis for the compilation of the Qur’an. Among the martyrs were Abu Khuzaifa, Salim (one of the four known for their extensive knowledge of Qur’an), Zaid bin Khattab, Thabit bin Qais, Tufail bin ‘Amr, Yazeed bin Thabit, Saib bin Awwam etc. All these were known for their profound knowledge of the Qur’an.
Excluding these the martyrs included 18 Emigrants (Muhajireen), of the Ansar 20 were those who participated in Battle of Badr, 10 were such as who fought at Uhud (For the complete list of martyrs of Yamama see Ibn Kathir’s Al-Bidaya wal-Nihaya and Ibn Athir’s Al-Kamil)
This proves, the contention of the well known Orientalists that martyrs were mostly ‘recent converts’ is totally rubbish and a manifestation of their superficial knowledge of Islamic sources.
But at the same time to assume that all the people who learnt the whole of Qur’an by heart lost their lives is also fallacious. No part of the Qur’an was lost with the death of some Qur’a (Reciters) because no matter how many they were, there still remained people who had memorized the whole of Qur’an.
Sam Shamoun refers to a narration in Ibn Abi Dawud’s Al-Masahif which reads;
Zuhri reports, ‘We have heard that many Qur’an passages were revealed but that those who had memorised them fell in the Yemama fighting. Those passages had not been written down, and following the deaths of those who knew them, were no longer known; nor had Abu Bakr, nor `Umar nor `Uthman as yet collected the texts of the Qur’an.
Those lost passages were not to be found with anyone after the deaths of those who had memorised them. This, I understand, was one of the considerations which impelled them to pursue the Qur’an during the reign of Abu Bakr, committing it to sheets for fear that there should perish in further theatres of war men who bore much of the Qur’an which they would take to the grave with them on their fall, and which, with their passing, would not be found with any other. (Ibn Abi Dawud’s Al-Masahif 1/80 Narration 65, Translation from Sam Shamoun’s page)
The fact is this narration is not valid according to the rules of narration as Zuhri was not the eye witness nor has he mentioned as to what is his source of information. He rather narrates with the word بلغنا i.e. ‘it has reached us’ and a narration this way is not acceptable.
Even if he had actually related it on the authority of someone who was the eyewitness and had not listened from personally the narration would still have been unauthentic while in this case nothing is known about his source the narration is totally unreliable.
Moreover it also goes against other more rigorous narrations about the people who had memorized the whole of the Qur’an and did not die in the Battle.
Suyuti has quoted a narration of Nasai’ and authenticated it that Abdullah bin Umar (RA) had memorized the whole of the Qur’an during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (PBUH) and we know he did not die at Yamama. Moreover others who had memorized the whole of Qur’an and lived after Yamama include Ubayy bin Ka’b, Abu Ayub Ansari, Ubadah bin Samit, M’az bin Jabal, Abu Darda (RA). (Al-Ittiqan 1/56 Section 20)
These are just a few names recorded in just one book, Al-Ittiqan by Suyuti, clearly mentioning that they had memorized the whole of the Qur’an during the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah (PBUH). These are enough to show that the narration of Zuhri brought forward by Sam Shamoun is baseless. There are other evidences that more companions had actually memorized the whole of Qur’an during Prophet’s (PBUH) lifetime.
Did only four people memorize Qur’an during the Prophet’s (PBUH) lifetime?
Sam Shamoun following the footsteps of his predecessor liars uses a narration from Sahih Muslim to suggest that when Zaid (RA) undertook the task of compiling the whole of the Qur’an at one place other codices were already in circulation. The narration goes as:
Anas is reported to have said: Four persons collected the Qur’an during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) and all of them were Ansar: Mu’adh b. Jabal, Ubayy b. Ka’b, Zaid b. Thabit, Abu Zaid. Qatada said: Anas, who was Abu Zaid? He said: He was one of my uncles. (Sahih Muslim, Hadith 4507)
There are many flaws in the assertion of Sam Shamoun:
1) The narration only relates to rendering the whole of the Qur’an to memory and not putting it in codices. The detailed discussion in Al-Ittiqan clarifies this.
2) The apparent meaning of the narration cannot be true as many companions had memorized the Qur’an in full while the Prophet (PBUH) was alive. The names given under the previous heading testify to it. The fact is Anas (RA) said this in a particular context and it relates to Ansar only. The following narration, referred to by Ibn Hajr as well, clarifies this;
‘Two families of Aws and Khazrij boasted about their superiority over the other. The Aws said, four of us have been of great esteem. One for whom Allah’s throne trembled, he was Sa’d bin M’az. Second, whose testimony was considered equal to two, he is Khuzaima bin Thabit. Third whom the angels gave the (funeral) bath, he is Hanzala bin Abi Aamir.
And fourth whose body was saved by the bees from being taken by the infidels, he is Asim bin Thabit. The Khazrij said four of us memorized the whole of Qur’an and no one except them memorized the whole of it. Then Anas (RA) named the four.’ (Al-Ittiqan 1/171 Section 20)
As per this, it was only a comparison between two tribes of Ansar and thus it ought to be considered with respect to them only and not the Muhajireen (Emigrants).
Moreover we also ought to consider what Al-Maziri argued about this narration for he made really a valid point when he said;
‘The saying of Anas (RA) does not prove that except these four no other companion had memorized the whole of Qur’an and that his saying is the ultimate truth because here his words merely imply that Anas (RA) did not know anyone except these four to have memorized the whole of the Qur’an. And while the companions had spread in different cities how could it have been possible for Anas (RA) to know (about each one of them)?
It would be possible only if Anas (RA) had met each of them individually and asked him if he had collected the whole of Qur’an during the Prophet’s (PBUH) lifetime and if each of them had replied in negative. This is obviously out of question and if this statement is taken only to be according to the knowledge of Anas (RA) then it does not mean his statement is actually true.’ (Al-Ittiqan 1/170 Section 20)
Was there any Mushaf in circulation before Abu Bakr (RA) decided to undertake the task?
1) Was Salim (RA) the freed slave of Abu Huzaifa the first person to collect Qur’an in a Mushaf?
Sam Shamoun uses a narration recorded in Al-Ittiqan to convey that Salim, the freed slave of Huzaifa and not Abu Bakr was the first one to collect the whole of Qur’an in one codex. The narration goes as;
‘Ibn Buraida said, the first person to collect the Qur’an in one codex (Mushaf) was Salim, the freed slave of Huzaifa.’
But displaying his unmatchable ‘skill’ of intellectual dishonestly he fails to either quote the criticism on this narration by the author of Al-Ittiqan or to dare challenge his criticism. Infact Al-Suyuti, the author himself says before quoting this narration;
‘The most strange narration about the first person to collect the Qur’an (in one Mushaf) is the one narrated by Ibn Ashta in his Kitabul Masahif…’ and then he related the narration in question.
This is not all, just after the narration Al-Suyuti categorically says;
‘Its chain is disconnected.’ See Al-Ittiqan 1/145 Section 18.
2) Was Ali (RA) the first one to organize a complete Mushaf of the Qur’an?
Someone may refer to narrations about Ali’s (RA) having compiled the whole of the Qur’an before the official endeavor. Here are a couple of narrations in this regard and truth about them;
Ibn Abi Dawud narrated from Ibn Sirin that he said; ‘Ali (RA) used to say that when the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) died I made a firm conviction that I’ll put on an extra sheet of cloth except for Friday prayers until I gather the (whole of) Qur’an so I did it.’
But this narration is not an evidence for its weakness. Suyuti quotes Ibn Hajr to have said; ‘This narration is Da’if for it is disconnected (in chain) and even if it is considered Sahih it conveys that Ali (RA) meant to say he memorized the Qur’an.’ (Al-Ittiqan 1/144 Section 18)
Another narration on the same lines reads;
‘Ikrama narrated, After giving allegiance to Abu Bakr (RA) Ali (RA) stayed at home. Abu Bakr (RA) was told that Ali (RA) disliked giving allegiance to him. Abu Bakr (RA) called for Ali (RA) and asked him, ‘Did you dislike giving allegiance to me?’
Ali (RA) replied, ‘By Allah this is not case.’ Abu Bakr (RA) inquired, ‘Why then you did not come to me?’ Ali (RA) said, ‘I saw additions being done to the Book of Allah thus I made my mind not to take on an extra sheet of cloth except for Salah until I gather it.’ Hearing this Abu Bakr said, ‘That’s a good you hit upon.’ (Al-Ittiqan 1/144 Section 18)
Regarding this narration following points ought to be considered;
1) ‘Ikarma does not mention the person on whose authority he says this while this is certain that he was not there during the days of Abu Bakr (RA).
2) This narration does not imply that he actually prepared the codex but simply that he learnt the whole of Qur’an by heart.
3) This even goes against an authentic narration from Ali (RA) himself in which he said;
‘Concerning Musahif (codices) the greatest reward will be for Abu Bakr. May Allah have mercy on Abu Bakr for; he is the first one to gather (the Book of Allah) between two bindings.’ (Ibn Abu Dawud’s Al-Masahif 1/16-20 Hadith 8-12)
Al-Suyuti quoted and authenticated it in Al-Ittiqan 1/144 Section 18 calling it Hasan.
All these details debunk the myths created by the missionaries who study without any justified methodology and whose only aim is to seek trouble with Qur’an. Let us ensure them that all such endeavors will only bring shame to them.
In the next post we discuss the actual compilation of Qur’an and its details during the days of Abu Bakr (RA).
INDEED ALLAH KNOWS THE BEST!