COMPANION MEMORIZERS OF QUR'AN

Refutation of False Claims Made by Christian Missionaries

by Dr. G. F. Haddad

Allah Glorious and Exalted said in His Book which falsehood cannot approach in the least: "And in truth We have made the Quran easy to remember; but is there any that remembereth?" (54:17, 25)

He also said in the Divine Hadith: "I am going to descend upon you a Book which water can never wash away, and which you shall be reciting both in sleep and wakefulness." Narrated by Muslim as part of a longer narration.

Imam Abu al-Khayr ibn al-Jazari said: "Reliance upon the memorization of hearts and breasts for the transmittal of the Qur'an rather than upon volumes and books, is the noblest specialty which Allah gave to this Community."

The men and women Companions known as the memorizers of Qur'an (al-qurra') were:

1-4. The Four Rightly-Guided Caliphs. However, Abu Bakr and `Umar died before memorizing it completely, while `Uthman and `Ali were among those who gathered (jama`a) the Qur'an in the time of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him. `Uthman was one of those who used to recite the entire Qur'an in one day and night.

5. `Abd Allah ibn Mas`ud -- Allah be well-pleased with him -- one of those who gathered the Qur'an in the time of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him.

6. Salim, Mawla Abi Hudhayfa -- Allah be well-pleased with him -- one of those who gathered the Qur'an in the time of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him.

7. Mu`adh ibn Jabal -- Allah be well-pleased with him -- one of those who gathered the Qur'an in the time of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him.

8. Ubay ibn Ka`b -- Allah be well-pleased with him -- one of those who gathered the Qur'an in the time of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him. He would recite it all in eight days.

9. Zayd ibn Thabit -- Allah be well-pleased with him -- one of those who gathered the Qur'an in the time of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him.

10. Abu Zayd -- Allah be well-pleased with him -- one of those who gathered the Qur'an in the time of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him.

11. Abu al-Darda' -- Allah be well-pleased with him-- one of those who gathered the Qur'an in the time of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him. His class in the mosque of Damascus counted 1,600 students, each ten with one monitor. If a student made a mistake the monitor corrected him, and if the monitor made a mistake Abu al-Darda' corrected him.

12. Abu Musa al-Ash`ari -- Allah be well-pleased with him -- one of those who gathered the Qur'an in the time of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him.

13. `Abd Allah ibn `Amr ibn al-`As -- Allah be well-pleased with him. He was ordered by the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- to recite it in no less than seven days.

14. Talha ibn `Ubayd Allah -- Allah be well-pleased with him.

15. Sa`d ibn Abi Waqqas -- Allah be well-pleased with him.

16. Hudhayfa ibn al-Yaman -- Allah be well-pleased with him.

17. Abu Hurayra -- Allah be well-pleased with him. He was examined by Ubay.

18. `Abd Allah ibn al-Sa'ib -- Allah be well-pleased with him. He was examined by Ubay.

19. `Abd Allah ibn `Umar -- Allah be well-pleased with him -- one of those who gathered the Qur'an in the time of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him.

20. `Abd Allah ibn `Abbas -- Allah be well-pleased with him. He was examined by Ubay.

21. `Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr -- Allah be well-pleased with him.

22. `A'isha bint Abi Bakr -- Allah be well-pleased with her.

23. Hafsa bint `Umar -- Allah be well-pleased with her.

24. Umm Salama -- Allah be well-pleased with her.

25. `Ubada ibn al-Samit -- Allah be well-pleased with him.

26. Mu`adh Abu Halima -- Allah be well-pleased with him.

27. Mujammi` ibn Jariya -- Allah be well-pleased with him.

28. Fadala ibn `Ubayd -- Allah be well-pleased with him.

29. Maslama ibn Mukhallad -- Allah be well-pleased with him.

30. Anas ibn Malik -- Allah be well-pleased with him.

31. Umm Waraqa bint `Abd Allah ibn al-Harith -- Allah be well-pleased with her.

32. Abu Umama al-Bahili -- Allah be well-pleased with him.

33. `Utba ibn `Amir -- Allah be well-pleased with him -- one of those who gathered the Qur'an in the time of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him.

34. Tamim al-Dari -- Allah be well-pleased with him -- one of those who gathered the Qur'an in the time of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- and who used to recite the entire Qur'an in one day and night.

When the above are added to the seventy Ansar who were killed in the battle of Yamama against Musaylima the Arch-Liar, and who were all memorizers of the Qur'an (qurra') [Bukhari and Muslim], the number of the Companions who had memorized the Qur'an rises to over a hundred. This number excludes the numerous Companions -- whether named or unnamed -- whose status of memorizers did not reach us through isnad, as well as the women of both the Muhajirin and the Ansar. All of this memorizing was mass-transmitted. The numbers of the next generations, of course, keep rising exponentially in identical fashion of transmission, and praise belongs to Allah.

Sources: 

1. al-Nawawi, al-Tibyan fi Adab Hamala al-Qur'an (p. 31); 

2. al-Dhahabi, Tabaqat al-Qurra' (1:24-50)

3. al-Suyuti, al-Itqan fi `Ulum al-Qur'an (1:70-72); 

4. al-Zarkashi, al-Burhan fi `Ulum al-Qur'an (1:241-243); 

5. Nur al-Din `Itr, `Ulum al-Qur'an al-Karim (p. 164-166).

Remarks:

1. The Prophetic hadith narrated by `Abd Allah ibn `Amr ibn al-`As: "Learn the Qur'an from these four: `Abd Allah ibn Mas`ud, Salim, Mu`adh, and Ubay ibn Ka`b" [Bukhari] means: because they have the time and leisure to teach it in addition to their knowledge and competence, and Allah knows best.

2. Anas' reply, when asked who had gathered (jama`a) the Qur'an in the time of the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him: "Four men, all of them of the Ansar: Ubay ibn Ka`b, Mu`adh ibn Jabal, Zayd ibn Thabit, and Abu Zayd" [Bukhari] means: because Anas thought of a particular characteristic of theirs, or because they came to his mind at the time the question was asked, since this is by no means an exhaustive list, and Allah knows best.

3. The hadith of `Abd Allah ibn `Amr shows that there were two sources available to the Companions for the memorization of Qur'an: the Prophet -- Allah bless and greet him -- and the knowledgeable Companions. This is confirmed by the narration of `Abd Allah ibn Mas`ud that he had memorized seventy suras "directly from the Prophet's mouth" [Bukhari], i.e. in contradistinction from what he memorized from others, since he is also "among those who had gathered the Qur'an in the time of the Prophet."

4. The claim that "they gathered the Qur'an" does not automatically signify "they memorized it" is an anachronism projecting on the Companions our modern notions that we can possess and read books without memorizing them. It is unthinkable that the Companions -- Arabs of superlative mnemonic skills, and pious men and women in obsessive pursuit of divine acceptance, would store a shred of Allah's Book without memorizing it. Similarly, their reciting the Qur'an only means "by heart," and one known to be "a reciter" means that he has reached a level where he has memorized the Qur'an and is able to teach it.

5. As for the false view that some reciters were not memorizers on the basis of the following text:

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 468: Narrated Ibrahim: The companions of 'Abdullah (bin Mas'ud) came to Abu Darda', (and before they arrived at his home), he looked for them and found them. Then he asked them, 'Who among you can recite (Qur'an) as 'Abdullah recites it?" They replied, "All of us." He asked, "Who among you knows it by heart?" They pointed at 'Alqama.

The above, first of all, is a translation adduced by someone who is not even able to verify if its grammatical and lexical rendering is accurate or not, I mean Jochen Katz. Then he wants to dispute the authenticity of the Qur'an. The same person has complained that his likes should not be compared to Jehovah Witnesses, but he himself recently cited Khalifa's English mutilation of the meanings of the Qur'an side by side with Muhammad Pickthall's translation -- placing together a Muslim with a known apostate -- in order to recycle old insinuations about "contradictions in Qur'anic translations."

Anyway, this Bukhari translation is false and unreliable. It was the height of irresponsibility to bring it out in its present state on the part of those who failed to review or have it reviewed after authoring it, and those who published it and disseminated it; Allah hears and sees who plays havoc with Religion for a cheap gain -- to sell books! Yet the fact that Allah uses them to misguide the enemies of Islam, shows that there is wisdom even in what seems the death of wisdom.

The original Arabic does not say what the above rendering has. An accurate rendering would be:

He asked them: "Who among you recites (ayyukum yaqra') Qur'an according to `Abd Allah's [canonical] reading?" They replied: "All of us." He asked: "And who among you is the best memorizer?" (fa ayyukum ahfaz). They pointed to `Alqama.

Thus it can be seen that the whole edifice of this would-be critic crumbles because he misread the original meaning "Who among you is the best memorizer" to read "Who among you knows it by heart." They all knew it by heart. But they considered that the best memorizer was `Alqama, i.e. the foremost among them in fiqh and the Prophet's Sunna in addition to mere memorization. And would someone who does not memorize claim that he can recite Qur'an in the first place?!

"I myself have heard a good number of Qur'an recitations in various Muslim gatherings. Sometimes a passage was recited from memory, but more often the open Qur'an was in front of the reciter and he recited while reading the text. The ability to recite the Qur'an seems to refer more to the art of recitation, the right intonation, etc, than to having memorized the text. A reciter is not the same as a memorizer."

His saying that he heard the Qur'an recited in Muslim gatherings, is like a blind art critic who went to the Louvre a good many times. Then he wants to discuss with you color, perspective... He is not even aware that the reward of reciting Qur'an from an open mushaf is greater than reciting it from memory because the former method adds the worship of the eyes to that of the rest of the limbs, as prescribed in the Sunna. This has no bearing on whether the reciter has memorized what he recites or not.

Many of (the passages) of the Qur'an that were sent down were known by those who died on the day of Yamama... but they were not known (by those who) survived them, nor were they written down, nor had Abu Bakr, Umar or Uthman (by that time) collected the Qur'an, nor were they found even with (one person) after them. (Kitab al-Masahif, p.23)

Kitab al-Masahif was compiled by `Abd Allah ibn Sulayman ibn al-Ash`ath al-Sijistani, known as Ibn Abi Dawud, the son of the major early hadith master Abu Dawud. This is what the authorities said about Ibn Abi Dawud:

Ibn `Adi narrated in al-Kamil fi al-Du`afa' with his chain from `Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn al-Junayd: I heard Abu Dawud say: "My son, `Abd Allah, is a liar."

Ibn Sa`id said: "Suffice it for us, what Ibn Abi Dawud's father said about him."

Ibrahim ibn Awrama al-Asbahani said: "Ibn Abi Dawud is a liar."

Abu al-Qasim al-Baghawi received a paper from Ibn Abi Dawud in which the latter asked him about the wording of a hadith related from his grandfather. Al-Baghawi read the paper then said: "I swear by Allah that in my view you have brought yourself out of hadith science."

Sources: Ibn `Adi, al-Kamil fi al-Du`afa' (4:226); al-Dhahabi, Mizan al-I`tidal (2:433) and Siyar A`lam al-Nubala' (10:582).

It follows that anything that comes only from Kitab al-Masahif must be held in suspension until corroborated by an independent, reliable source or declared authentic by one of the competent authorities, or adduced by them.

It is reported from Ismail ibn Ibrahim from Ayyub from Naafi from Ibn Umar who said: "Let none of you say 'I have acquired the whole of the Qur'an'. How does he know what all of it is when much of the Qur'an has disappeared? Rather let him say 'I have acquired what has survived.'" (as-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fii Ulum al-Qur'an, p.524).

This reference to the Itqan is untraceable as no edition of it is in less than two volumes to my knowledge.

The above refers to a famous saying of Ibn `Umar, once again deceptively/ignorantly mistranslated so as to mislead readers to think it means other than its actual meaning.

The words used by Ibn `Umar for the terms given as "acquired," "disappeared," and "what has survived" above were -- I am quoting from memory -- respectively "ahattu" (I have encompassed), "faatahu" (escapes him), and "ma tayassara minhu" (whatever amount of it has been facilitated). The actual meaning of Ibn `Umar's words is:

"Let no one say: I have encompassed the whole of the Qur'an [= its meanings]. How does he know what all of it is when much of the Qur'an escapes him? Rather, let him say: I have encompassed whatever amount of it has been facilitated [for me to know]."

Ibn `Umar was famous for his strictness in refraining from interpreting the Qur'an, even criticizing Ibn `Abbas's interpretive zeal in the beginning, then accepting its authority. He was not referring to the collection of the Qur'an! But only to the ethics of the exegete, in the same line as Ibn `Abbas's saying narrated by al-Tabari and cited by al-Suyuti and al-Zarkashi: "There are ambiguous verses in the Qur'an which no one knows besides Allah. Whoever claims that he knows them, is a liar."

Also Ibn `Abbas's and `Abd al-Rahman ibn `Awf's saying: "The Qur'an has an outward meaning, [literally 'a back'] (zahr) and an inward meaning [literally 'an inside'] (batn)."

Some parts might have been written down but not memorized by people who survived. It got lost because the manuscripts disappeared. Ubayy said, 'It used to equal the length surat al Baqara and we used to recite in Ahzab the stoning verse.' Zirr asked, 'What is the stoning verse?' Ubayy recited, 'If the saikh and the saikha fornicate, stone them outright as an exemplary punishment from God. God is might, wise.' (Jalal al Din `Abdul Rahman b. abi Bakr al Suyuti, "al Itqan fi `ulum al Qur'an", Halabi, Cairo, 1935/1354, pt 2, p. 25)

I was able to trace the above according to the page and number given. Al-Suyuti cited the above report among many other reports in the chapter entitled "The Abrogating and the Abrogated," section entitled "Verses Whose Recitation Was Abrogated But Not Their Legal Ruling." Enough said.

Years ago I replied to another ignoramus on the same lines. At that time I had written in reply to an article in which Steve Walker wrote:

In Sahih al-Bukhari vol 8, p.539, Umar says: "Allah sent Muhammad (saw) with the truth and revealed the Holy Book to him, and among what Allah revealed, was the Verse of the Rajam (stoning of married person who commit adultery) and we did recite this Verse and understood and memorised it. Allah's Apostle (saw) did carry out the punishment of stoning and so did we after him. I am afraid that after a long time has passed, somebody will say, 'By Allah, we do not find the Verse of the Rajam in Allah's Book', and thus they will go astray by leaving an obligation which Allah has revealed."

In the Qur'an as it is today, the only punishment for adulterers is 100 lashes, with no distinction between married and unmarried people. Umar was clearly convinced that this passage was meant to be part of the Qur'an.

I had replied:

Amazing, how knowledgeable you are of a Companion's mind when you don't even understand his language!

No, `Umar was not convinced that this passage was meant to be part of the Qur'an. As a matter of fact `Umar told Zayd ibn Thabit that he (Zayd) was wrong to include it when he himself (`Umar) had seen the Prophet (s) not include it! The latter hadith is in al-Hakim and Ibn Hajar cites it in his commentary on the reason why the verse was abrogated. Fath al-Bari 12:174 (#6829).

As for the next verse which `Umar mentions in the same hadith and which you also bring up, it too was abrogated for other reasons which `Umar in no way questions. The fact that he mentions these two verses does not suggest revisionism on his part -- this would be the manner of archbishops and Councils -- rather he reminds the people that their rulings are still very much in effect, and he warns them not to forget them. Both are unambiguously confirmed by the Sunna.

End of reply to Walker.

John Burton quotes plenty of additional evidence explaining the workings of the abrogation of that particular verses in part 5 of his book The Collection of the Qur'an (1977) which was posted in full three years ago in SRI and from which Katz et al. cull their insinuations then rechew them before us every year.

`A'isa explains how the wording came to be omitted from the mushaf: The stoning verse and another verse were revealed and recorded on a sheet (sahifa) which was placed for safe-keeping under her bedding. When the Prophet fell ill and the household were preoccupied with nursing him, a domestic animal got in from the yard and gobbled up the sheet. (Burhan al Din al Baji, "Jawab", MS Dar al Kutub, Taimur "majami`", no. 207, f. 15)

The above report is also taken from Burton. I consider it a forgery and add that its content is absurd, since the Companions did not rely on this missing piece to ascertain the existence of the wording or its abrogated status. At any rate, such a report stands out for not being cited in any of the recognized sources in the technical literature.

--

Because of Katz's constant hankering after half-truths and misconstructions, one cannot follow-up on his posts except with a broom and pail. I feel sorry for the victims of his deluded websites but suspect that, like the Khalifites, their numbers in real terms are negligible.

I only wrote the above material in hope that it will benefit myself and other students in the sciences of the Qur'an, by way of refutation. It is obvious to all that neither Katz's material stands to scrutiny, nor is he himself apt to discuss his own material or understand a refutation. One who violates truth long enough, cannot go back to distinguishing it from falsehood anymore. Let us not waste time, and success is from Allah alone.

A parting note:

Says Francis Cardinal George, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Chicago, speaking to a Library of Congress conference on ``Frontiers of the Mind in the 21st Century'':

"In the next millennium as the modern nation state is relativized and national sovereignty is displaced into societal arrangements still to be invented, it will be increasingly evident that the major faiths are carriers of culture...''

And he added:

"The conversation between Christianity and Islam is not yet far advanced, but its outcome will determine what the globe will look like a century from now.''