The Recording and Perfect Preservation of the Holy Qur'an
The Qur’an is the Muslims’ Holy Book. The words of the Qur’an are the exact speech of God, and were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) by Archangel Gabriel*. The revelation of the Qur’an took place over a period of nearly twenty three years of the Prophet’s life. It consists of one hundred and fourteen chapters of unequal length. These chapters contain Ayat or verses that total 6616 verses, and were composed of 77,639 words.
The Qur’an is the only Holy Script that survived without changes, additions, or deletions. There are many circumstances and factors that collaborated in preserving the original text of Qur’an which were not enjoyed by other Holy Scripts (the Old Testament or the New Testament). These factors are summarized in the following:
- The Qur’an was preserved in a written form during the life of the Prophet (PBUH). The Qur’an was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) piecemeal at different times and on different occasions according to events, incidents and in answer to questions. As soon as he received one, he used to communicate it to his disciples and ask them not only to learn it by heart, but also to write it down and to multiply the copies. Diverse materials were used for inscription: parchment, leather, wooden tablets, camels’ scapula, soft stone, etc. Although Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) did not know how to read or write, however, he had several amanuenses who were entrusted with the inscription of the revelations.
- The whole text of the Qur’an was memorized by heart by many of the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH). This formed an additional means to guarantee the correctness of the written text of the Qur’an.
- Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to review the till-then-revealed verses of Qur’an with Archangel Gabriel every year in a process called “ardan”. In the last year of his life, the Prophet (PBUH) reviewed the whole text of the Qur’an twice. The Companions of the Prophets (PBUH) also reviewed the Qur’an they were memorizing and what they have in written form with the Prophet (PBUH).
- The Qur’an was compiled in a single book (Mus’haf) a few months after the death of the Prophet (PBUH). The correctness of the text of this Mus’haf was reviewed and attested by the “Hafizoon”** from the Companions of the Prophet (PBUH).
- When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) died he left behind a strong Islamic State in Arabia with thousands of devout companions and followers. Those Muslims are the ones who carried Islam to different parts of the world, and in less than ten years from the death of the Prophet (PBUH) were able to conquer both the Roman and Persian Empires. Devout followers usually preserve the teachings of their leader after his death, and protect it from any changes or corruption.
- The Qur’an was revealed in Arabic and in the dialect of Qurayish, the tribe that was living in Makkah; this dialect was the most widely used among Arabs. Arabic is a highly stable language that, for the last 1400 years, has not suffered any changes in vocabulary, grammar, spelling, or pronunciation. The stability of the Arabic language is definitely an important factor in preserving the teachings of Islam. It is fair to say here that the Qur’an and the Arabic language have positive mutual effects on each other. The fact that the Qur’an was revealed in Arabic honoured this language and made it the language of Islam that all Muslim ought to learn and use in reciting Qur’an and studying the different sciences related to the religion of Islam.
The historical credibility of the Qur’an is further established by the fact that one of the copies sent out by the Caliph Othman (in 25AH***/646CE), is still in existence today. It lies in the Museum of the City of Tashkent in Uzbekistan, Central Asia. The Institute for Koranforschung, for example, in the University of Munich (Germany), collected over 42,000 complete or incomplete ancient copies of the Qur’an. After around fifty years of research, they reported that there was no variance between the various copies, except the occasional mistakes of the copyist which could easily be ascertained. This Institute was unfortunately destroyed by bombs during WWII.
Thus, due to the efforts of the early companions, with Allah’s assistance, the Qur’an as we have it today is recited in the same manner as it was revealed. This makes it the only religious scripture that is still completely retained and understood in its original language. Indeed, there is probably no other book in the world which has remained fourteen centuries with so pure text.
The evidence above confirms Allah’s promise in the Qur’an: “Verily, We have revealed the Reminder (Means Qur’an), and verily We shall preserve it.” (Al-Qur’an, Chapter 15: verse 9). The Qur’an has been preserved in both oral and written form in a way no other book has, and with each form providing a check and balance for the authenticity of the other.
* It is taught that “the spirit of the Holy One” is the angel Gabriel, who should never be worshipped. (Belief in the trinity clearly contradicts the core principle of the Islamic faith-monotheism)
** The word Hafizoon means those who memorize the Qur’an
*** AH stands for the Islamic calendar which started when Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) migrated from Makkah to Medina which corresponds to 621CE. The Islamic calendar consists of twelve months. Each month begins with the sighting of the new crescent moon. This practice is similar to the original Hebrew calendar that also had twelve lunar months with the same reckoning.