Transmission of the Qur'anic
The revelation contained in the Qur'an has been transmitted
to us by numerous persons in two ways: orally and in written
MEMORISATION AND ORAL TRANSMISSION
Memorisation by the Prophet
Oral transmission of the revelation was based on hifz or
memorisation and the Prophet Muhammad himself was the
first to commit a revelation to memory after the Angel Gabriel
had brought it to him:
'Move not thy tongue concerning the (Qur'an) to make
haste therewith. It is for Us to collect it and promulgate
it; but when We have promulgated it, follow thou its
recital' (75: 16-19).
'... an apostle from God, rehearsing scriptures, kept
pure and holy ...' (98: 2).
Memorisation by the Companions
The Prophet then declared the revelation and instructed his
Companions to memorise it. The case of Ibn Mas'ud, who was
the first man to publicly recite the Qur'an in Makka, shows
that even in the very early phase of the Islamic umma recital of
the revelation from memory was practised by the Companions:
'... the first man to speak the Qur'an loudly in Makka
after the apostle was 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud. The
Prophet's Companions came together and mentioned
that the Quraish had never heard the Qur'an distinctly
read to them ... When (Ibn Mas'ud) arrived at the
maqAm, he read "In the name of God the Compassionate
the Merciful", raising his voice as he did so. "The Com-
passionate who taught the Qur'an ..." (55:1) ... They
got up and began to hit him in the face; but he continued
to read so far as God willed that he should read ... 
It is also reported that Abu Bakr used to recite the Qur'an
publicly in front of his house in Makka. 
The Prophet encourages Memonsation
There are numerous ahadith, giving account of various
efforts made and measures taken by the Prophet to ensure
that the revelation was preserved in the memory of his Com-
panions. The following is perhaps the most clear:
'Narrated 'Uthman bin 'Affan: The Prophet said: "The
most superior among you (Muslims) are those who learn
the Qur'an and teach it".' 
It is also well known that the recital of the Qur'an during the
daily prayers is required and hence many Companions heard
repeatedly passages from the revelation, memorised them
and used them in prayer.
The Prophet also listened to the recitation of the Qur'an by
Narrated 'Abdullah (b. Mas'ud): 'Allah's Apostle said to
me: "Recite (of the Qur'an) for me". I said: "Shall I
recite it to you although it had been revealed to you?!"
He said: "I like to hear (the Qur'an) from others". So I
recited Surat-an-Nisa' till I reached: "How (will it be)
then when We bring from each nation a witness and We
bring you (O Muhammad) as a witness against these
people?" ' (4: 41).
'Then he said: "Stop!" Behold, his eyes were shedding tears
The Prophet sent Teachers
The Prophet sent teachers to communities in other places
so that they might receive instruction in Islam and the Qur'an.
The case of Mus'ab bin 'Umair illustrates that this was so
even before the hijra:
'When these men (of the first pledge of 'Aqaba) left (for
Madina) the apostle sent with them Mus.'ab bin 'Umair
... and instructed him to read the Qur'an to them and to
teach them Islam and to give them instruction about
religion. In Madina Musiab was called "the reader".' 
Another well-known case concerns Mu'adh bin Jabal who
was sent to Yemen to instruct the people there.
Qur'an Readers among the Companions
Suyuti  mentions more than twenty well-known persons
who memorised the revelation, among them were Abu Bakr,
'Umar, 'Uthman, 'Ali, Ibn Mas'ud, Abu Huraira, 'Abdullah
bin 'Abbas, 'Abdullah bin 'Amr bin al-'As, 'A'isha, Hafsa, and
>From among these, the Prophet himself recommended
especially the following:
'Narrated Masruq: 'Abdullah bin 'Amr mentioned
'Abdullah bin Mas'ud and said: I shall ever love that man
for I heard the Prophet saying: Take (learn) the Qur'an
from four: 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud, Salim, Muiadh and
Ubay bin Ka'b'. 
Another hadith informs us about those Companions who
had memorised the Qur'an in its entirety and gone over it with
the Prophet before his death:
'Narrated Qatada: I asked Anas bin Malik: Who collec-
ted the Qur'an at the time of the Prophet? He replied,
Four, all of whom were from the Ansar: Ubay bin Ka'b,
Mu'adh bin Jabal, Zaid bin Thabit and Aba Zaid.' 
The fact that some of the earliest historical reports make
special mention in the accounts of the battles that were fought,
of Muslims killed who knew (something of) the Qur'an by
heart, gives a clear indication that memorisation of the reve-
lation was considered important and widely practised from
the earliest times. 
The Qur'an Memorised in the Prophet's Lifetime
It is therefore certain that the Qur'an had been memorised
by the Companions of the Prophet during his lifetime. This
tradition continued among the Companions after the Prophet's
death and, later, among the tabi'un and all generations of
Muslims that have followed, until today.
TRANSMISSION OF THE WRITTEN TEXT
The Written Text at the Time of the
What is meant by Jam' al-Qur'an?
The general meaning of jam' al-qur'an is to 'bring together
the Qur'an'. This was done and has to be understood in two
- Bringing together the Qur'an orally, or in one's mind
- Bringing together the Qur'an in written form, or on
sheets, or in a book.
Jam' al-qura'n therefore, in the classical literature, has
- To learn the Qur'an by heart.
- To write down every revelation.
- To bring together those materials upon which the Qur'an
has been written.
- To bring together the reports of people who have memo-
rised the Qur'an.
- To bring together all such sources, both oral and written.
How was the Qur'an Collected?
In Suyut'is Itqan it is said that the Qur'an had been written
down in its entirety in the time of the Prophet but had not
been brought together in one single place, and that therefore
these written records or documents had not been arranged in
However, this statement does not preclude that the ordering
of the Qur'an and the arrangement of the suras, was fixed by
the Prophet himself and safeguarded through oral trans-
Stages of Collection
As far as the written text is concerned, one may distinguish
1. In the time of the Prophet:
- in the hearts of men (memorisation).
- on writing materials
2. In the time of Abu Bakr.
3. In the time of 'Uthman.
Why was no Book left by the Prophet?
The Prophet Muhammad did not present to his Companions
the revelation collected and arranged in a single written vol-
ume. There are a number of good reasons for this:
- Because the revelation did not come down in one piece,
but at intervals and was received continuously until the
end of the Prophet's life.
- Because some verses were abrogated in the course of
revelation, and therefore flexibility needed to be main-
- The ayat and suras were not always revealed in their final
order, but were arranged later.
- The Prophet lived only nine days after the last revelation
and was severely ill.
- There was no dispute or friction about the Qur'an during
the time of the Prophet, as developed afterwards when
he, as the final authority, was no longer available.
Writing down the Revelation
While writing was not widespread among the people in
Arabia at the time of the Prophet there were persons of whom
it is reported that they did write. It is said for example of
Waraqa, Khadija's cousin, that he had been converted to
Christianity in the pre-Islamic period 'and used to write Arabic
and write of the Gospel in Arabic as much as Allah wished him
to write'. "
The Prophet himself did much to encourage the Muslims to
learn to write. It is related that some of the Quraish, who were
taken prisoners at the battle of Badr, regained their freedom
after they had taught some of the Muslims the art of writing.' 
Did the Prophet himself write?
Although it is not clear whether the Prophet Muhammad
knew how to write, there is unanimous agreement among
scholars that Muhammad himself did not write down the
revelation. The Qur'an clearly states:
'And thou (O Muhammad) wast not a reader of any
scripture before it, nor didst thou write it with thy right
hand, for then might those have doubted who follow
The Qur'an also refers to Muhammad on several occasions
as the 'unlettered prophet' which some scholars have inter-
preted in the sense that he did not read or write:
'Those who follow the apostle, the unlettered prophet
...' (8: 157).
His community too has been described as 'unlettered':
'It is he who has sent amongst the unlettered an apostle
from among themseIVes ...' (62:2).
The Qur'an written during the Prophet's Lffetime
There is no doubt that the Qur'an was not only transmitted
orally by many Muslims who had learned parts or the whole of
it, but that it was also written down during the lifetime of the
The well-known report about 'Umar's conversion shows
that large passages of the revelation had already been written
down even at a very early time, in Makka, long before the
hijra, when the Prophet was still in the house of Arqam.
'Umar had set out to kill the Prophet Muhammad, when
somebody informed him that Islam had already spread into
his own family and pointed out to him that his brother-in-law,
his nephew and his sister had all become Muslims. 'Umar
went to the house of his sister and found her together with her
husband and another Muslim. A dispute arose and 'Umar
violently attacked both his brother-in-law and his own sister.
'When he did that they said to him "Yes, we are Muslims and
we believe in God and His apostle and you can do what you
like". When 'Umar saw the blood on his sister, he was sorry
for what he had done and turned back and said to his sister,
'Give me this sheet which I heard you reading just now so that
I may see just what it is which Muhammad has brought', for
'Umar could write. When he said that, his sister replied that
she was afraid to trust him with it. 'Do not be afraid', he said
and he swore by his gods that he would return it when he had
read it. When he said that, she had hopes that he would
become a Muslim and said to him, 'My brother, you are
unclean in your polytheism and only the clean may touch it'.
So 'Umar rose and washed himself and she gave him the page
in which was Taha and when he had read the beginning he said
'How fine and noble is this speech ..." 
The Qur'an Dictated by the Prophet
The Qur'an was not only written down by those Companions
who did so on their own initiative. Indeed, the Prophet, when
a revelation came, called for the scribe and dictated to him.
The Prophet while in Madina had several such scribes,  among
whom Zaid bin Thabit was very prominent.
Narrated al-Bara': There was revealed 'Not equal are
those believers who sit (at home) and those who strive
and fight in the cause of Allah' (4: 95). The Prophet said:
'Call Zaid for me and let him bring the board, the ink pot
and the scapula bone (or the scapula bone and the ink
pot).' Then he said: 'Write: Not equal are those
believers ... 
It is also reported that material upon which the revelation
had been written down was kept in the house of the Prophet. 
Written during the Prophet's Lifetime
Another report informs us that when people came to
Madina to learn about Islam, they were provided with 'copies
of the chapters of the Qur'an, to read and learn them by
Further evidence for the existence of the Qur'an as a written
document during the lifetime of the Prophet comes from the
'Abd Allah b. Abu Bakr b. Hazm reported: The book
written by the apostle of Allah for 'Amr b. Hazm con-
tained also this that no man should touch the Qur'an
without ablution.' 
The book, which Allah's messenger wrote for 'Amr b.
Hazm that no one should touch the Qur'an except the
Malik said: And no one should carry the mushaf by its
strap, nor on a pillow, unless he is clean. And even if this
be allowed to carry it in its cover, it is not disliked, if
there is not in the two hands which carry it, something
polluting the mushaf, but it is disliked for the one who
carries it, and he is not clean, in honour to the Qur'an
and respect to it. Malik said: The best I heard about this
is the verse 'None shall touch it but those who are clean'
(56: 79).' 
The commentary to the muwatta' explains that the book
referred to as written by the Prophet (which means of course
written upon his instruction) was sent with some Muslims for
instruction in Islam of the people of Yemen. 
In fact the Qur'anic verse 56: 79, read in context, clearly
explains that the Qur'an is available to those who receive
instruction by revelation, in the form of a book or a piece of
'... this is indeed a Qur'an most honourable, in a book
(kitab) well guarded, which none shall touch but those
who are clean: a revelation from the Lord of the worlds'
The same fact, i.e. that the Qur'an did exist as a written
document in the lifetime of the Prophet is proved by the
From Ibn 'Umar: ... 'The messenger of Allah (may
peace be upon him) said: "Do not take the Qur'an on a
journey with you, for I am afraid lest it should fall into
the hands of the enemy". 
The correctness of the assumption that the reference is to a
written document is supported by one of the transmitters:
Ayyub (i. e. one of the narrators in the chain of transmission of
this report) said: The enemy may seize it and may quarrel with
you over it. 
Furthermore, the chapter-heading used by Bukhan for the
section, (which usually contains additional information,)
'Ibn 'Umar said: No doubt the Prophet and his Com-
panions travelled in the land of the enemy and they knew
the Qur'an then.' 
Collection of Revelation dunng the Prophet's Lifetime
During his last pilgrimage, at the sermon which he gave to
the large gathering of Muslims, the Prophet said: 'I have left
with you something which if you will hold fast to it you will
never fall into error- a plain indication, the book of God and
the practice of his prophet. 
This advice from the Prophet to the Muslims implies that
the revelation was available as kitab (writing) before his
death, for otherwise he would have referred to it in some
>From other reports also, we can conclude that the Prophet
himself took care of the actual arrangement of the revelation,
when it was written down.
Zaid is reported to have said:
'We used to compile the Qur'an from small scraps in the
presence of the Apostle.' 
'Uthman said, that in later days, the Prophet 'used to, when
something was revealed to him, call someone from among
those who used to write for him and said: Place these ayat in
the sura, in which this and this is mentioned, and when (only)
one aya was revealed to him, he said: Place this aya in the sura
in which this and this is mentioned'. 
This indicates that not only was the revelation written down
during the lifetime of the Prophet, but that he himself gave
instructions for the arrangement of the material. According to
some other reports, it is also clear, that this proper arrange-
ment and order of the ayat was well known to the Companions
of the Prophet, and they were not prepared to tamper with it.
'Narrated Ibn Az-Zubair: I said to 'Uthman "This verse
which is in Sura al-Baqara: 'those of you who die and
leave wives behind ... without turning them out' has
been abrogated by another verse. Why then do you write
it in the Qur'an?" 'Uthman said: Leave it (where it is)
O son of my brother, for I will not shift anything of it (i . e.
the Qur'an) from its original position.' 
Similarly quite a number of reports mention the various
Suras by their names or beginnings. Two examples may suf-
fice to make this point:
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet used to recite the
following in the Fajr prayer of Friday: Alif Lam Mim
Tanzil (Sajda) (32) and Hal-ata 'ala-l-Insani (al-dahr)
Abu Huraira said: God's messenger recited in both rak'as
of the dawn prayer: "Say O unbelievers (99) and Say, He
is God, one God (112).' 
The order and arrangement was of course well known to the
Muslims due to the daily recitation of the Qur'an in the
prayers at the mosque of the Prophet and at other places.
Finally there are three ahadith in Sahih Bukhari, informing us
that the Angel Gabriel used to recite the Qur'an with the
Prophet once a year, but he recited it twice with him in the
year he died. The Prophet used to stay in i'tikaf for ten days
every year (in the month of Ramad. an), but in the year of his
death, he stayed in i'tikaf for twenty days. 
We can therefore distinguish the following measures which
ensured the collection of the revelation in writing during the
lifetime of the Prophet:
- Revelation used to be written down even in the very early
days of the Prophet's call.
- In Madina, the Prophet had several persons who wrote
down revelation when it was revealed.
- The Prophet himself instructed his scribes as to where the
different revealed verses should be placed, and thus
determined the order and arrangement.
- This order and arrangement was well known to the
Muslims and strictly observed by them.
- The Angel Gabriel went through all the revelation with
Muhammad each year in Ramadan, and went through it
twice in the year the Prophet died.
- There are numerous reports about the existence of the
written Qur'an - in the form of a book or piece of writing
(kitab) during the lifetime of the Prophet.
What did the Prophet leave behind?
The way the material of revelation was left by the Prophet
at his death was the most suitable for the Companions in that:
- All parts of the revelation were available both in written
form and memorised by the Companions.
- All pieces were available on loose writing material,
making it easy to arrange them in the proper order.
- The order already fixed of the ayat within the suras, in the
written form, as well as in the memory of the Compan-
ions, and of the suras in the memory of the Companions.
What arrangement could have been better than to have
everything to hand in written form, as well as memorised by
the Muslims, and to have the order and arrangement already
determined, partially in the written form and completely in
the memories of the people?
It is for these reasons that a later scholar, al-Harith al-
Muhasibi in his book kitab fahm al-Sunan, summarised the
first phase of the written collection of the Qur'anic material in
the following words:
'Writing of the Qur'an was no novelty, for the Prophet
used to order that it be written down, but it was in
separate pieces, on scraps of leather, shoulder blades
and palm risp, and when (Abu Bakr) al-Siddiq ordered
that it be copied from the (various) places to a common
place, which was in the shape of sheets, these (materials)
were found in the house of the Prophet in which the
Qur'an was spread out, and he gathered it all together
and tied it with a string so that nothing of it was lost. 
It is obvious that the history of the Qur'anic text
(Textgeschichte) cannot be compared with that of other Holy
Scriptures. While the books of the Old and New Testaments,
for example, were written, edited and compiled over long
periods, sometimes centuries, the text of the Qur'an, once
revelation had ceased, has remained the same to this day.
Suhuf and Mushaf
Both words are derived from the same root Sahafa 'to
write'. The word suhuf also occurs in the Qur'an (87:19)
meaning scripture or written sheets.
Suhuf (sg. sahifa) means loose pieces of writing material,
such as paper, skin, papyrus, etc.
Mushaf (pl. masahif) means the collected suhuf, brought
together into a fixed order, such as between two covers, into a
In the history of the written text of the Qur'an, suhuf stands
for the sheets on which the Qur'an was collected in the time of
Abu Bakr. In these suhuf the order of the ayat within each
sura was fixed, but the sheets with the suras on them were still
in a loose arrangement, i.e. not bound into a volume.
Mushaf in the present context means the sheets on which
the Qur'an was collected in the time of 'Uthman. Here both
the order of the ayat within each sura as well as the order of
the sheets were fixed.
Today we also call any copy of the Qur'an, which has both
order of ayat and suras fixed, a mushaf.
How the suhuf were made
Tradition informs us that at the Battle of Yamama (11/633),
in the time of Abu Bakr, a number of Muslims, who had
memorised the Qur'an were killed. Hence it was feared that
unless a written copy of the Qur'an were prepared, a large
part of the revelation might be lost.
The following is the account in the Sahih Bukhari
Narrated Zaid bin Thabit Al-Ansari, one of the scribes
of the Revelation: Abu Bakr sent for me after the casual-
ties 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 some casualties among the Qurra (those who
know the Qur'an by heart) at other places, 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 Apostle 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. Abu Bakr said (to 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 Inspir-
ation for Allah's Apostle. 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 the Quranic material and
collecting it from parchments, scapula, leafstalks of date
palms and from the memories of men (who knew it by
heart). I found with Khuzaima two verses of Surasat-
Tauba which I had not found with anybody else (and
'Verily there has come to you an Apostle (Muhammad) from
among yourseIVes. It grieves him that you should receive
any injury or difficulty. He (Muhammad) is ardently anxious
over you (to be rightly guided)' (9:128).
The manuscript on which the Qur'an was collected, re-
mained with Abu Bakr till Allah took him unto Him, and then
with 'Umar till Allah took him unto Him, and finally it re-
mained with Hafsa, 'Umar's daughter. 
Here we can distinguish the following steps, which led to
the preparation of the suhuf:
- Zaid was instructed by Abu Bakr to collect the Qur'an.
- Zaid collected it from various written materials and the
memories of people.
- The sheets thus prepared were kept with Abu Bakr, then
'Umar, then Hafsa.
THE MASAHIF OF THE COMPANIONS
There are numerous indications in the literature of hadith
that several of the Companions of the Prophet had prepared
their own written collections of the revelations.  The best-
known among these are from Ibn Mas'ud, Ubay bin Ka'b and
Zaid bin Thabit. 
A list of Companions of whom it is related that they had
their own written collections included the following: Ibn
Mas'ud, Ubay bin Ka'b, 'All, Ibn 'Abbas, Abu Musa, Hafsa,
Anas bin Malik, 'Umar, Zaid bin Thabit, Ibn Al-Zubair,
'Abdullah ibn 'Amr, 'A'isha, Salim, Umm Salama, 'Ubaid
bin 'Umar. 
It is also known that 'A'isha and Hafsa had their own scripts
written after the Prophet had died. 
The following is a very brief description of some of the
masdhif, which are attributed to the Companions of the
Prophet. All the information is based on classical sources. 
The Mushaf of Ibn Mas'ud (d. 33/653)
He wrote a mushaf, in which sudras 1, 113 and 114 were not
included. Ibn al-Nadim  however said he had seen a copy of
the Qur'an from Ibn Mas'ud which did not contain al-fatiha
(Sura 1). The arrangement of the suras differed from the
'Uthmanic text. The following is the order attributed to Ibn
Mas'ud's copy: 
This list is obviously incomplete. It contains only 106 suras
and not 110, as Ibn Nadim wrote.
In Sura al-baqara, which I take as an example, there are a
total of 101 variants. Most of them concern spelling, some also
choice of words (synonyms), use of particles, etc.
2:70 Ibn Mas'ud reads al-baqira
in place of al-baqara
2:19 He reads kulla ma
in place of kullama
2:68 He reads sal (seek, beseech)
in place of ud'u (beseech)
Assuming that all these are reliable reports, the copy of Ibn
Mas'ud would then have been prepared for his personal use
and written before all 114 suras were revealed.
Nadim, who lived in the tenth century (4th century Hijra)
also added: 'I have seen a number of Qur'anic manuscripts,
which the transcribers recorded as manuscripts of Ibn Mas'ud.
No two of the Qur'anic copies were in agreement and most of
them were on badly effaced parchment ... 
This note indicates that the question of authentic manu-
scripts of Ibn Mas'ud needs to be treated with some caution.
The Mushaf of Ubay bin Ka'b (d. 29 H/649)
He wrote a mushaf, in which two 'additional suras and
another 'additional aya' were reportedly found. 
The order of the suras is again different from 'Uthman as
well as Ibn Masud.
The following is the order of suras in the copy attributed to
Ubay b. Ka'b: 
Again, as in the case of Ibn Mas'ud above this list is incom-
plete and does not contain all 114 suras of the Qur'an.
'Ubay has a total of 93 variants in Sura al-baqara.  Very
often, his readings are similar to those of Ibn Mas'ud. For
example, he reads al-baqara in 2:70 as al-baqira. So does Ibn
The Mushaf of Ibn 'Abbas (d. 68H/687)
Ibn 'Abbas also wrote a mushaf, which according to the
Itqan  also included the two additional suras which Ubay
had. Again his arrangement of the suras differed from the
other copies. In Sura al-baqara, he has a total of 21 variants,
some of them identical with Ibn Mas'ud and Ubay as well as
Some other Companions
According to the Itqan  the mushaf of Abu Musa al-Ash'ari
(d. 44H/664) contained the same material as Ubay had.
There is only one variant reported from him in Sura al-
baqara, namely that he read Ibraham in place of Ibrahim.
Hafsa (d. 45H/665) had three variants in the same sura, and
Anas b. Malik (d. 91H/709) had five.
To further illustrate, here are a number of examples. They
have been taken, as far as possible, from well-known suras.
While perhaps better examples exist to illustrate the points
under discussion, they might not be understood as easily by
readers less familiar with the Qur'anic text.
Difference in vowelling:
Ibn 'Abbas  is reported to have read in sura 111:4
hamilatun al-hatab, in place of
which could not be distinguished on the basis of the early
written text, which omitted both haraka and alif. The actual
text must have looked something like this: XXX XXXX
Difference in spelling:
Ibn 'Abbas  reportedly wrote in sura 1:6 as well as all other
places the word al-sirat as al-sirat.
Some variants attributed to Ibn Mas'ud: 
1. in Sura al-fatiha:
1:6 he read arshidna in place of ihdina
'' '''' man al ladhina
'' '''' ghaira ghairi
2. in sura al-baqara:
2:2 he read tanzilu-l-kitabi in place of dhalika l kitabu
2:7 ,, ,, ghishwatun ghishawatun
2:9 ,, ,, yakhda'dna yukhadi'una
2:14 '' '' bi shayatinihim ila shayatinihim
Variants on Sura Al-lkhlas, (112)
Verse Ibn Mas'ud  'Ubaid  'Umar  normal reading by
112:1 qul omitted qul qul Ali, Ibn Abbas
al wahid, in place Anas b. Malik,
of al ahad Zaid b. Thabit,
Ibn al Zubair,
112:3 lam yulad wa lam Aisha, Salim,
yulid, in place of Umm Salama,
lam yalid wa lam Ubaid b. Umar
Even today the variants and synonyms are found in such
copies of the text as are attributed to the Companions and are
of some value to us in the sense that they may have served as
an early rudimentary form of tafsir. For example, according to
some reports the words 'salat al-wusta' (middle prayer) were
read and written by Hafsa,  Ubay  and Ibn 'Abbas  as 'salat
al-'asr' (i.e. afternoon prayer).
As long as the sahaba wrote their own copies for personal
use only, there was nothing wrong, if they did not strictly
adhere to the order of suras which was the order of the
Qur'an. Later on, when 'Uthman's copy became the standard
version, the Companions adopted the order of this copy
including Ibn Mas'ud who perhaps differed most. 
There were also, as indicated, some variant readings in
these copies,  when some words were pronounced and spelt
in slightly different ways, etc. However, it should be noted
that variant readings are usually reported by a single person
only, and occasionally by perhaps two or three while the
version called the 'Uthmanic text is mutawatir, i.e. transmitted
by numerous people and is without doubt authentic.
THE MUSHAF OF 'UTHMAN
During the time of 'Uthman differences in reading the
Qur'an became obvious, and after consultation with the
Companions, 'Uthman had a standard copy prepared from
the suhuf of Abu Bakr that were kept with Hafsa at that time.
The following is the report transmitted in the Sahih Bukhari
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 'Uthmfin, 'O chief of the Believers!
Save this nation before they differ about the Book
(Qur'an), 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 Az-Zubair,
Sa'id bin Al-'As and 'Abdur Rahman bin Hari-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 as 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.
Zaid bin Thabit added, 'A verse from Sura al-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 convenant xwith Allah' (33: 23). 
The following events led to the preparation of the mushaf
- Disputes had arisen among the Muslims about the correct
manner of reciting the Qur'an.
- 'Uthman borrowed the suhuf, which were kept with
- 'Uthman ordered four Companions, among them Zaid
bin Thabit, to rewrite the script in perfect copies.
- 'Uthman sent these copies to the main centres of the
Muslims to replace other materials that were in circulation.
Chronology of the Written Text
Around 610 Muhammad's Prophethood 1st revelation in cave Transmitted
commences. Mount Hira. orally, later
610-32 Muhammad in Makka Continious revelation Transmitted
and Madina. on numerous occasions orally after
by many, and
of the Prophet
632 Prophets death. Last revelation few Compelete
days before this. revelation
both in the
well as on
At the death of the
revelation left behind.
632-34 Abu Bakrs caliphate
633 During the battle of Abu Bakr instructs Zaid Zaid b. Thabit
Yamama several b. Thabit to prepare a brings together
companions who knew single copy of the all the
the Quran by heart complete revelation. revelation into
were killed. the suhuf from
both oral as well
for each piece.
The Suhuf remain
with Abu Bakr.
During the 1st/2nd year
after the Prophets death
the entire revelation was
copied onto sheets (suhuf).
634-44 Umar's Caliphate. The suhuf remain
644-56 Uthmans Caliphate. The suhuf remain
with Hafsa bint
653 Campaign against Serious differences Zaid and three
Armenia and arose among muslims companions
Azerbaidjan about the correct prepare a
recitation of the Quran. number of fresh
Uthman instructs Zaid copies from the
together with three suhuf. These
other sahaba to prepare copies are sent
copies from the suhuf to the various
kept with Hafsa. muslim regions
to replace other
keeps one copy
Several copies of the
available through out
the muslim lands.
What the Prophet left to the Muslims
The revelation, as left by the Prophet, was available both
orally and written on various materials. Its internal order was
known to the Muslims and strictly observed by them.
Abu Bakr collected these loose materials and had their
contents written on to sheets (suhuf).
The Difference belween Abu Bakr's and 'Uthman's
Abu Bakr had made one single copy from the various
verbal and written material. This copy was later kept by
'Umar and then by his daughter Hafsa.
'Uthman had many copies prepared from this copy and sent
them to various places in the Muslim world, while the original
suhuf were returned to Hafsa and remained with her until her
death. Later, Marwan b. Hakam (d. 65/684), according to a
report in Ibn Abi Dawud, collected it from her heirs and had it
destroyed, presumably fearing it might become the cause for
new disputes. 'Uthman also kept one of the copies for himself.
This version of the text, also known as 'Mushaf 'Uthman in
fact constitutes the ijma'(consensus) of the sahaba, all of
whom agreed that it contained what Muhammad had brought
as revelation from Allah. 
The wide distribution of this text and its undisputed
authority can also be deduced from the reports on the battle of
Siffin (A.H. 37) 27 years after the death of the Prophet, and
five years after 'Uthman's copies were distributed,
Mu'awiya's troops fixed sheets from the Qur'an on their
spears to interrupt the battle.  However nobody accused
anyone else of using a 'partisan' version of the text, which
would have made a splendid accusation against the enemy.
1 Guillaume, E.: The Life of Muhammad (abbr. as Ibn Hisham), London, 55,
pp. 141-2; Ibn Hisham: Sira al-nabi, Cairo, n.d., 1, p.206.
2 Sira Ibn Hisham, ibid.
3 Bukhari, VI, No. 546.
4 Bukhari, VI, No. 106.
5 Ibn Hisham, p. 199.
6 Itqan, 1, p. 124.
7 Bukhari, VI, No. 521.
8 Bukhari, VI, No. 525.
9 See below, on collection of the Qur'an in Abu Bakr's time.
10 Itqan, I, p. 41
11 Bukhari. VI. No. 478.
12 Tabaqat Ibn Sa'd, II(2), p. 19
13 Ibn Hisham, pp. 156-7.
14 M. M. A'zami, in his book Kuttab al-Nabi (Beirut, 1393/1974) mentions 48
persons who used to write for the Prophet.
15 Bukhari, VI, No. 512; also VI, No. 116-18.
16 Suyuti, Itqan, I, p. 58.
17 Hamidullah, M.: Sahifa Hammam ibn Munabbih, Paris, 1979, p. 64.
18 Muwatta', No. 462.
19 Muwatta', Arabic, p. 204.
21 Muslim, III, No. 4609, also 4607, 4608; Bukhari, IV, No. 233.
22 Muslim, III, No. 4609.
23 i.e. they knew that the Quran was carried - as a scripture - by the
Muslims. Bukhan, IV, p. 146, Ch. 129.
24 Ibn Hisham, p. 651.
25 Itqan, I, p. 99; Salih, p.69.
26 Jeffery, A.: Materials for the history of the text of the qura'n, (incl.
Kitab al-masahif by Ibn Abi Dawud (abbr. as Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif)
Leiden, 1937, p. 31.
27 Bukhari, VI. No. 60.
28 Bukhari, II, No. 16.
29 Robson, J. (transl.): Mishkat al Masabih, Lahore, 1963, I, pp. 172-3 -
Tabrizi: Mishkatal-masabih, Beirut, 1961, I, No. 842.
30 Bukhari, VI, No. 520; see also Nos. 518, 519.
31 Suyuti, Itqan, I, p. 58.
32 Bukhari, VI, No. 201.
33 Suyuti. Itqan, I, p 62
34 See Dodge, B, The Fihrist of al-Nadim, New York, 1970 (abbr. as fihrist),
35 See Ibn Abi Dawud: Masahif, p 14 Ansari, M.: The qura'nic Foundations
and Structure of Muslim Society; Karachi, 1973, drawing upon various
sources, says (1, p.76, note 2) that there existed at least 15 written
copies of the Qur'an in the Prophet's lifetime. In addition to the list
of 15 names quoted above, he includes Abu Bakr, 'Uthman, Mu'adh b.
Jabal, Abu Darda', Abu Ayyub Ansari, 'Ubada b. al-Samit, Tamim Dari.
This would add up to 23 written copies of the Qur'an, which existed
while the Prophet was alive.
36 Rahimuddin, M. (transl.): Muwatta) Imam Malik, Lahore, 1980, No. 307,
308; Malik b. Anas: al-muwatta', Cairo, n.d., p. 105.
37 For details see Ibn Abi Dawud, also fihrist and Itqan
38 Fihrist, I, pp. 57-8.
39 Fihrist, I, pp. 53-7.
40 Fihrist, I, p. 57.
41 Itqan, I, p. 65; Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif, pp. 18S1; also Noldeke, T. et
al.: Ceschichte des Qorans, Leipzig, 1909-38 (abbr. as GdQ), 11, pp.
33-8. The first so called sura entitled al-khal' (separation), translates
as follows: 'O Allah, we seek your help and ask your forgiveness, and
we praise you and we do not disbelieve in you.
We separate from and leave who sins against you.' The second so-called
sura, entitled al-hafd (haste) translates as follows: 'O Allah, we
worship You and to You we pray and prostrate and to You we run and
hasten to serve You. We hope for Your mercy and we fear Your punishment.
Your punishment will certainly reach the disbelievers.' Obviously these
two pieces constitute so-called 'qunut', i.e. supplications which the
Prophet sometimes said in the morning prayer or witr prayer after
recitation of suras from the Qur'an. They are in fact identical to
some parts of qunut reported in the collections of hadith. See: Nawawi,
al-adhkar, Cairo, 1955, pp. 57-8.
As to the single additional so-called aya, its translation is as
follows: 'If the son of Adam was given a valley full of riches, he
would wish a second one, and if he was given two valleys full of
riches, he would surely ask for a third one. Nothing will fill the
belly of the son of Adam except dust, and Allah is forgiving to him
who is repentant. '
Again this text is known to be a hadith from the Prophet. See Bukhari,
VIII, No. 444-47. According to Ibn 'Abbas (No. 445) and 'Ubay (No. 446)
this text was at times thought to be part of the Qur'an. However Ubay
himself clarifies that after sura 102: I had been revealed, they (i.e.
the sahaba) did not consider the above to be part of the Qur'an. See
Bukhari, VIII, No. 446. This explanation of Ubay also makes it very
clear that the Companions did not differ at all about what was part of
the Qur'an and what was not part of the Qur'an. when the revelation had
ceased. and if e.g. this hadith occurred in the mu*af of Ubay, it was a
mushaf for his own personal use, in other words, his private notebook,
where he did not always distinguish between Qur'anic material and
hadith, since it was not meant for general use and he himself knew
well what to make of his own notes. The same is true of the other
copies of the Qur'an, which some of the Companions had for their own
personal use. Also those who transmitted to us the reports about these
copies of the Qur'an of the Companions have only narrated to us the
various differences which occurred there according to reports that
reached them (e.g. the hadith in Bukhari, VIII, No. 446 that Ubay at
some early stage held this sentence to be part of the Qur'an). However
the actual manuscripts of these copies of the Qur'an of the Companions
have not come down to us, since all of them agreed on the correctness
and validity of the copies which 'Uthman had arranged to be written
and distributed for general use. Hence their own personal notebooks
became obsolete and were destroyed.
42 Fihrist, I, pp. 58-60.
43 Again taken as example only to illustrate the point.
44 I, p. 65; Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif, p. 193.
45 I, p. 65; Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif, p. 210.
46 ibid., p. 208.
47 ibid., p. 195.
48 ibid., p. 25.
49 ibid., p. 113.
50 ibid., p. 180.
51 ibid., p. 222.
52 Muwatta' Malik; Jeffery, p. 214.
53 Jeffery, p. 122.
54 Jeffery, p. 196.
55 Ibn Abi Dawud, p. 12; Salih, S.: Mabahith fi 'ulum al-qura'n,
56 See also below, seven readings and qira'at.
57 Bukhari, VI, No. 510
58 According to Ibn Abi Dawud (117-8) eleven changes wcre madu under
al-Hajjaj, among them e.g. 5:48 'shari'atan wa minhajan' into 'shir'atan
wa minhajan'; 12:45 'ana atikum bi-ta'wilihi' into and unabbi'ukum bi
ta'wilihi. These are again according to Ibn Abi Dawud mistakes which
were made in the preparation of Uthmans copy (pp. 37-49). The first
version of 12:45 e.g. was the reading of 'Ubay (ibid. p. 138) and Ibn
Masud (ibid. p. 39).
59 See Suyutl, History of the Caliphs. transl. H. S. Jarrett. Baptist
Mission Presss Calcutta. 1881, p. 177.