Review Ma'ariful Qur'an - 3

The Preservation of the Holy Qur'an

In the days of the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam) Since the noble Qur'an was not revealed all at once, on the contrary, different verses from it used to have been revealed as and when appropriate, therefore, it was not possible from the very beginning to write and preserve it in a book form. So, during the initial stage of Islam, major emphasis was laid on memory as a means of preserving the noble Qur'an. When Wahy used to come in the very beginning, the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam) would tend to repeat its words instantly so that they would be memorized well enough. Thereupon, Allah Almighty directed him through the verses of Surah al-Qiyamah that he need not repeat words in a hurry immediately as Wahy came. Allah Almighty would Himself endow him with a memory that he will be unable to forget the words of the Wahy once its descention has been completed. So it was that the moment the Qur'anic verses would come to him, they would be committed to his memory the next moment. Thus the blessed chest of the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam), was the most protected vault of the noble Qur'an, in which there was no chance of even some common mistake, editing or alteration. Moreover, as a matter of additional precaution, he used to recite the Qur'an before angel Jibra'il every year during the month of Ramadan; and the year he left this mortal world he completed a cumulative review of Qur'anic recitation (daur) twice with Jibra'il (Sahih al-Bukhari with Fath al-Bari, p. 36, v. 9).

Again, as it was, he would not restrict his teaching of the Companions to just the meanings of the noble Qur'an, but had them memorize its words as well. Then, the revered Companions were themselves so enamoured with the desire to learn and remember the noble Qur'an that everyone of them was anxious to get ahead of the other. There were women who claimed no mahr (dower) from their husband except that they would teach the Qur'an.

Hundreds of Companions, freeing themselves from all other concerns, had devoted their whole lives for this purpose. Not only did they memorize the Qur'an but also went on repeating it within their nightly prayers. When someone migrated from Makkah al-Mukarramah and came to Madinah al-Tayyibah, says Sayyidna 'Ubadah ibn Samit (radhiAllaho anhu), the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam) would entrust him to one of us Ansars so that he could teach Qur'an to the newcomer. The Mosque of the Prophet was so filled with voices generated by learners and teachers of the Qur'an that the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam) had to ask them to lower their voices so that mistakes are not made (Manahil al-'Irfan, 1/234).

So, within a fairly short time, there was on hand a large group of the noble Companions who had the glorious Qur'an all committed flawlessly to their memory. Included in this group were, in addition to the Four Guided Caliphs, persons like Sayyidna Talhah, Sayyidna Sa'd, Sayyidna Ibn Mas'ud, Sayyidna Hudhayfah ibn Yaman, Sayyidna Salim Mowla abi Hudhayfah, Sayyidna Abu Hurayrah, Sayyidna 'Abduilah ibn 'Umarr Sayyidna 'Abdullah ibn 'Abbas, Sayyidna 'Amr ibn al-'As, Sayyidna 'Abdullah ibn 'Umar, Sayyidna Mu'awiyah, Sayyidna 'Abdullah ibn Zubayr, Sayyidna 'Abdullah ibn al-Sa'ib, Sayyidah (A'ishah, Sayyidah Hafsah, Sayyidah Umm Salmah, may peace be upon them all.

In short, memorization of the Qur’an was given more emphasis in early Islam as this was the only protected and trust-worthy method given the conditions of that time. The reason is that the number of people who could read or write was very limited in those days. The means of publishing books, such as the printing press, etc., were not there. Therefore, in that situation, if writing was taken to be sufficient, it would have neither been possible to spread out the Qur'an on an extensive scale nor to protect it reliably. In its place, Allah Almighty had blessed the people of Arabia with a memory of such dimensions that thousands of poetic lines would normally rest in the memory of one person after another. Ordinary, run-of-the-mill villagers would remember by heart their genealogies and those of their families, and unbelievably enough -- even those of their horses! Therefore, this power of memory was well utilized for the conservation and protection of the noble Qur'an and it was through it that the verses and chapters of the noble Qur'an reached all over into the far corners of Arabia.

The writing of Wahy

Besides having the Qur'an committed to memory, the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam) made special arrangements to have the Qur'an committed to writing as well. Sayyidna Zayd ibn Thabit (radhiAllaho anhu) says: 'I used to write down the words of Wahy for him. When Wahy came to him he felt burning with heat and the drops of perspiration would start rolling down on his body like pearls. When this state would go away from him, I would present myself before him with a shoulder-bone or a piece (of something else). He would go on dictating and I would go on writing. When I would be finished with writing, the sheer weight of copying the Qur'an would give me the feeling that my leg is going to break and I would never be able to walk. In any case, when I would be finished with writing, he would say: 'Read'. I would read it back to him. If there was a shortcoming, he would have it corrected and then let it be known to people (Majma al-Zawaid with reference to Tabrani 1/156).
Besides Sayyidna Zayd ibn Thabit (radhiAllaho anhu), there were many other Companions who carried out the duty of committing the Wahy to writing. Some of those who can be specially mentioned, in addition to the Four Guided Caliphs, are Sayyidna 'Ubayy ibn Ka'b, Sayyidna Zubayr ibn 'Awwam, Sayyidna Mu'awiyah, Sayyidna Mughirah ibn Shu'bah, Sayyidna Khalid ibn al-Walid, Sayyidna Thabit ibn al-Qays, Sayyidna Aban ibn Sa'id and others (Fath al-Ban, 9/18)

Sayyidna 'Uthman says that it was the blessed practice of the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam) that he, soon after the revelation of a certain portion of the Qur'an, would pointedly instruct the scribe of the Wahy to write it in such Surah after such and such verse (for details see Fath al-Bari, 9/18 and Zad al-Ma'ad 1/30).

Since paper was not available in Arabia during those days, therefore, these Qur'anic verses were mostly written on stone slabs, parchments, date branches, bamboo units, tree leaves and animal bones. However, at times, paper pieces have also been used (Ibid., 9/11).

Thus, there existed, during the times of the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam), a copy of the noble Qur'an which he had arranged to be committed to writing under his supervision. Although, it was not there as a formally prepared book, but it certainly was there in the form of various units of available writing materials. Along with it, it was also the practice of some revered Companions that they would make copies of the Qur'anic verses and keep them for personal recollection. This practice was common since the very early period of Islam. Accordingly, much before Sayyidna 'Umar j (radhiAllaho anhu) embraced Islam, his sister and brother-in-law had in their possession verses of the Qur'an which they had written and kept in book form (Sirah ibn Hisham).

Preservation: In the period of Sayyidna Abu Bakr (radhiAllaho anhu)

However, it was characteristic of all copies of the noble Qur'an made during the days of the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam) that they were either written on different available writing surfaces, for instance, a verse would appear on parchment, another on tree leaf and yet another on a bone; or they were not complete copies. One Companion would have only a single Surah in his record while someone else would have five or ten Surahs and some others will have only a few verses. Then there were Companions having in their possession explanatory sentences as well along with the text of the verses.

On these grounds, Sayyidna Abu Bakr (radhiAllaho anhu), during his tenure of Khilafah, thought it necessary to bring together all these scattered units of the Qur'an and thus have them preserved. The motives and the methods behind this great achievement of his have been explained in detail by Sayyidna Zayd ibn Thabit (radhiAllaho anhu) when he says: "One day, soon after the battle of Yamamah, Sayyidna Abu Bakr sent a message calling me in. When I reached him, Sayyidna 'Umar was present there. Sayyidna Abu Bakr said to me: 'Umar has come just now and he tells me that a large group of Huffaz (those who had committed the Qur'an to memory) have met their death as martyrs in the battle of Yamamah. If the Huffaz of the noble Qur'an continue to meet their shahadah (martyrdom) in this manner, I am afraid a large portion of the Qur'an may just go extinct. So, in my view, you should begin the task of having the Qur'an collected together under your order'. I said to 'Umar: 'How can we do what the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam) himself did not do? 'Umar replied: 'By God, this is for nothing but good.' After that, this is what 'Umar continued telling me, until I too started seeing the truth, and now, my view was the same as 'Umarts'. After that Sayyidna Abu Bakr told me: 'You are young, and intelligent. We have no doubts about you. You have been working as a scribe of Wahy as well under the supervision of the Messenger of Allah (sallallaho alehey wasalam), so you search and collect the verses of the noble Qur'an'."

Sayyidna Zayd ibn Thabit says: "By God, had these blessed people commanded me to haul some mountain, that would have been much less weightier than this duty of collecting the Qur'an. I said to them: 'How are you doing something that the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam) did not do?' Sayyidna Abu Bakr said: 'By God, this is good, nothing but good.' After that, this is what Sayyidna Abu Bakr kept saying to me again and again until Allah Almighty put my heart at rest for the same view that was the view of Sayyidna Abu Bakr and 'Umar. Consequently, I started searching for the Verses of the Qur'an and it was from the branches of date palms, slabs of stones and hearts of people that I finally collected the noble Qur'an." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Kitab Fada'il al-Qur’an)

At this point while we are dealing with the process of the collection of the Qur'an, we should have a clear perception of the method used by Sayyidna Zayd ibn Thabit (radhiAllaho anhu). As mentioned earlier, he was himself a Hafiz of the Qur'an, therefore, he could have written down the whole Qur'an from his memory. In addition to that, there were hundreds of Huffaz (memorizers of the Qur'an: plural of Hafiz) present at that time; the noble Qur'an could have still been written down by entrusting the duty to a selected group from out of them.

Also, the copies of the noble Qur'an committed to writing during the times of the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam) could have been used by Sayyidna Zayd to make his copy of the Qur'an. But he, guided by his caution and concern, did not limit himself to any one of the many methods available. On the contrary, by using all these methods simultaneously, he did not allow any verse to be included in his master copy of the Qur'an unless he received written and verbal testimonies proving its uninterrupted succession. In addition to that, the verses that the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam) had arranged to be written under his supervision, were still preserved by the Companions. Sayyidna Zayd collected them together so that the new copy be made from them. Consequently, a public proclamation was made to the effect that anyone possessing any number of written verses of the noble Qur'an should bring them over to Sayyidna Zayd. When a written verse was brought to him by someone, he used to verify its authenticity by the following four methods:

(1) To begin with, he tested its reliability against his own memory.

(2) Then, Sayyidna 'Umar too was a Hafiz of Qur'an, and as proved by reliable reports, Sayyidna Abu Bakr (radhiAllaho anhu), had assigned him too to work with Sayyidna Zayd on this project. When someone came with some verse, Sayyidna Zayd and Sayyidna 'Umar used to receive it jointly (Fath al-Bari with reference to ibn Abi Dawud).

(3) No written verse was accepted until such time that two trustworthy witnesses had testified to the fact that the particular verse was written in the presence of the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam). (al-ltqan, 1/10)

(4) After that, these verses in writing were collated with collections that different Companions had prepared for themselves (al-Burhan fi 'Ulum al-Qur'an, by Zarkashi, 1/238).

If this functional methodology behind the collection of the Qur'an during the period of Sayyidna Abu Bakr (radhiAllaho anhu) is kept in mind, it would become perfectly simple to understand what Sayyidna Zayd ibn Thabit meant when he said: 'I found the last verses of Surah al-Bara’ah beginning with: (Arabic text) with Sayyidna Abu Khudhaymah (radhiAllaho anhu) only. They were not found with anyone else except him."

This never means that no person other than Sayyidna Abu Khudhaymah (radhiAllaho anhu) remembered these verses, or somebody else did not have these in the written form, or anyone other than him did not know of their being part of the Qur'an. On the contrary, it means that these verses were not found with anyone from among those who were coming along with different verses written as dictated by the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam). Otherwise, as far as the fact of these verses being part of the Qur'an is concerned, everyone knew it in an uninterrupted succession. There were hundreds of Companions who remembered it as well. Moreover, these were available in writing with Companions who possessed complete collections of the Qur'anic verses. But, among those written separately under the supervision of the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam) this verse was found only with Sayyidna Abu Khudhaymah (radhiAllaho anhu) and not with anyone else (al-Burhan, 1/234-45).

So, in every way possible, it was with great caution and concern that Sayyidna Zayd ibn Thabit (radhiAllaho anhu), by collecting the Qur'anic verses, wrote them out in an organized form on pages of paper (al-ltqan, 1/60).

But, each Surah was written in separate folios, therefore, this copy was composed of many folios. In the terminology of Qur'anic Studies,
this copy is called the 'Umm" (literally, 'the mother', meaning 'the
original') and it had the following features:

1. In this copy, the Qur'anic verses were indeed arranged in accordance with the order identified by the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam), but the Surahs were not so arranged, rather they were written separately (Ibid).

2. Incorporated in this copy were all seven Huruf (versions) of the Qur’an (which have been explained earlier). (Manhil al'lrfan, 1/246 and Tarikh al-Qur’an by al-Kurdi, p. 28)
3. Collected here were all verses the recitation of which has not been abrogated.

4. The purpose of having this copy made in writing was to prepare an organized document with the collective endorsement of the whole ummah, so that, reference can be made to it when needed.

These folios committed to writing on the orders of Sayyidna Abu Bakr (radhiAllaho anhu) remained with him during his life-time. Then, they remained with Sayyidna 'Umar (radhiAllaho anhu). After the martyrdom of Sayyidna 'Umar, they were transferred to the custody of Umm al-Mu'minin Sayyidah Hafsah (radhiAllaho anhu). After the death of Sayyidah Hafsah (radhiAllaho anhu), Marwan ibn al-Hakam had these burnt since the copies of Qur'an ordered by Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu) were ready at that time, and a consensus of the ummah had already been reached to the effect that following these copies of the Qur'an, in script and arrangement of Surahs, was obligatory. Marwan ibn al-Hakam thought it inadvisable to let any copy which was contrary to this script and arrangement remain in existence (Fath al-Bari, 9/16).

Preservation: In the period of Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu)

When Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu), became Khalifah, Islam had grown out of Arabia reaching into the far-flung areas of Byzantium and Iran. As people from new areas embraced Islam, they would learn the noble Qur'an from the Mujahidin of Islam or from the traders because of whom they had found the blessing of Islam. On the other side, you have already read that the noble Qur'an was revealed incorporating seven versions with various readings, and different Sahabah (Companions) had learnt it from the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam) in accordance with different readings, therefore, every Companion taught Qur'an to his disciples in accordance with that particular reading which they had themselves learnt from the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam). In this manner, this difference in readings reached far-out countries. Until such time that people knew that the noble Qur'an has been revealed incorporating seven Huruf (versions) no harm was done by this difference. However, when this difference reached those far-out countries, and the fact that the noble Qur'an has been revealed incorporating different readings was not fully publicised there, disputes among people started showing up. Some people began to insist on their reading as correct and that of others as incorrect. On the one hand, these disputes posed the danger that people would fall into the grave error of declaring the readings of the noble Qur'an which have followed in uninterrupted succession as incorrect. On the other hand, there was no such standard copy available throughout the Islamic world which could become the rallying authority for the entire ummah, except, of course, the copy committed to writing by Sayyidna Zayd ibn Thabit (radhiAllaho anhu) which was there in Madinah. Since other copies were written individually, and in them, there was no provision to incorporate all the readings, therefore, the only reliable method to resolve these disputes was that copies which incorporate all valid readings be spread out all over the Islamic world, and then, by seeing them it could be decided as to which reading is correct and which, incorrect Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu), accomplished this very remarkable feat during the period of his Khilafah.

Details of this feat, as given in hadith narrations, inform us that Sayyidna Hudhayfah ibn Yaman (radhiAllaho anhu) was engaged in jihad on the Armenian-Azerbaijan front. There he noticed that differences were rising among people about readings of the noble Qur'an. So, on his return to Madinah, he went straight to Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu), and once there, he pleaded: 'Ya Amir al-Mu'minin! Before this Ummah falls a prey to differences in the Book of Allah like the Jews and Christians, you should do something about it.' Sayyidna 'Uthman asked: 'What is the matter? In reply, Sayyidna Hudhayfah said: 'I was on a jihad mission fighting on the Armenian front. There I saw people of Syria following the reading of Ubayy ibn Ka'b which would not be familiar to the people of 'Iraq, and the people of Iran follow the reading of 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud which would not be familiar to the people of Syria. As a result of this, they are charging each other of being kafirs.'

In fact, Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu) had himself sensed the danger much earlier. He was told that there were cases right there in Madinah al-Tayyibah itself where a teacher of the noble Qur'an would teach the text to his disciples in accordance with one reading, and another teacher would do so in accordance with another reading. In this way, when the disciples of different teachers came together, differences would crop up between them, and there were occasions when this difference would extend to teachers, and they too, would declare each other s reading to be incorrect. When Sayyidna Hudhayfah ibn Yaman (radhiAllaho anhu) too invited his attention to this danger, Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu) convened a meeting of some highly-regarded Companions and sought their advice. He said: 'I have been informed that there are people who say to each other things like -- “my reading is better than yours" -- and this could touch the extreme limits of kufr. So, what is your opinion in this connection?' The Companions themselves asked Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu): 'What are your own thoughts on this subject?' Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu) said: 'I believe we should unite everyone on one Book so that we face no difference or division.' The Companions, approving of this opinion, supported Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu).

Consequently, Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu) gathered people together and delivered a sermon and in it he said: "You who live so close to me in Madinah, if you can falsify each other and differ with each other in respect of the readings of the noble Qur'an, it is quite obvious that those who are far away from me will be indulging in falsification and disputation on a much larger scale. Therefore, let everyone get together and come up with a copy of the Qur'an following which becomes obligatory for all."

With this in view, Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu) sent a message to Sayyidah Hafsah (radhiAllaho anhu) requesting her to let them have the blessed folios of the Qur'anic text (prepared under the orders of Sayyidna Abu Bakr (radhiAllaho anhu) which she had in her custody). He promised that these will be returned to her after copies have been made. Sayyidah Hafsah (radhiAllaho anhu) sent these pages of the Qur’an to Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu). He then formed a group of four Companions which was composed of Sayyidna Zayd ibn Thabit, Sayyidna 'Abdullah ibn Zubayr, Sayyidna Sa'id ibn al-'As and Sayyidna 'Abd al-Rahman ibn Harith ibn Hisham (radhiAllaho anhu). This group was entrusted with the duty of making several copies from the original copy of Sayyidna Abu Bakr's Qur'anic folios and making sure that Surahs too are arranged in order. Out of these four Companions, Sayyidna Zayd was an Ansari, while the rest of the three were Qurayshis. Therefore, Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu) said to them: 'When you and Zayd differ in respect of any portion of the Qur'an (that is, differ as to how a certain letter should be written) you write it in the language of the Quraysh because the noble Qur'an has been revealed in their very language."

Basically, this duty was entrusted to only four distinguished persons named above, but later on, other Companions were also attached to help them out. (Fath al-Ban, pp. 13-15, v. 9)

They performed the following functions in connection with the writing of the Qur'an:

1. In the copy prepared during the period of Sayyidna Abu Bakr (radhiAllaho anhu), Surahs were not placed in sequence, rather each Surah was written separately. They wrote down all Surahs in their proper sequence in a single copy. (Mustadrak, 2/229)

2. The verses of the noble Qur'an were written in a way so that all readings backed by uninterrupted succession could be incorporated within their script. Therefore, no dots or desinential marks were placed on them so that the text could be recited in accordance with all readings that are supported by uninterrupted succession. For instance, they wrote (Arabic text) in order that it could be read both (Arabic text) and (Arabic text), because both readings are correct. (Manahil al-'Irfan, 1/253-254)

3. Upto this time, there existed only one single copy of the noble Qur'an -- complete, authentically standard and collectively attested by the whole ummah. These distinguished persons prepared more than one copy of this newly organized Mushaf (copy of the Qur'an).

It is generally believed that Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu) had accomplished the preparation of five copies, but Abu Hatim Sijistani says that a total of seven copies were prepared. Out of these one was sent to Makkah al-Mukarramah, one to Syria, one to Yaman, one to Bahrain, one to Basrah and one to Kufah, and one was preserved in Madinah al-Tayyibah.

4. To accomplish the task cited above, these revered elders-basically worked through the pages of the Qur'an which were written during the times of Sayyidna Abu Bakr (radhiAllaho anhu). But, along with it, as a matter of added precaution, they adopted exactly the same method that was employed during the times of Sayyidna Abu Bakr (radhiAllaho anhu). Consequently, assorted copies of texts committed into writing during the days of the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam) which were preserved by different Companions were recalled once again, and it was, by yet another collation with these, that the new copies were prepared. This time, a separately written verse of Surah al-Ahzab, (Arabic text) was found with Sayyidna Thabit al-Ansari (radhiAllaho anhu) only. As we have explained earlier, it does not mean that nobody else remembered this verse because Sayyidna Zayd (radhiAllaho anhu) has himself said: 'While writing the copy of the Qur'an, I could not find the particular verse of Surah al-Ahzab which I used to hear the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam) recite.' This shows very clearly that the verse under reference was something Sayyidna Zayd and other Companions remembered very well. On the other hand, it also does not mean that this verse never existed in writing anywhere, because this verse was obviously there in the pages of the Qur'an written during the times of Sayyidna Abu Bakr (radhiAllaho anhu). Besides that, obviously enough, this verse was also included in the copies of the noble Qur'an which were written and preserved by the Companions on their own. But, like it was in the days of Sayyidna Abu Bakr (radhiAllaho anhu), this time too, all those scattered documents, available with the Companions in writing, were collected together, therefore, Sayyidna Zayd (radhiAllaho anhu) and others with him did not write down any verse into these copies of the Qur'an until such time when they did find it in those written documentations as well. As such, the fact was that other verses were found written separately too with several Companions, but this verse from Surah al-Ahzab was not found written separately with anyone else except Sayyidna Khudhaymah (radhiAllaho anhu).

5. After having these several standard copies of the Qur'an prepared, Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu), had all copies personally kept by different Companions burnt so that all copies of the Qur'an become uniform in terms of the script, incorporation of accepted readings and the order of chapters, leaving no room for any difference between them.

The entire ummah acknowledged this achievement of Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu) with admiration, and the Companions supported him in this venture. The only exception is that of Sayyidna 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud (radhiAllaho anhu) who was somewhat unhappy about it, something that cannot be taken up here in its proper perspective. Sayyidna 'Ali (radhiAllaho anhu) says:

"Say nothing about 'Uthman unless it be in his favour because, by God, whatever he did in connection with copies of the Qur'an was done in the presence of all of us, and with our advice and counsel." (Fath al-Bari, 9/15)
Steps Taken to Facilitate Recitation

After the afore-mentioned achievement of Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu), the ummah reached a consensus on the rule that it is not permissible to write the text of the noble Qur'an using any method other than the 'Uthmani Script. Consequently, all copies of the Qur'an were, later on, written in accordance with this method, and the Companions and their successors, may Allah be pleased with them all, by bringing forth repeatedly, reproductions of the standard 'Uthmani copies of the Qur'an, helped spread the noble Qur'an on a vast scale.

But, the copies of the noble Qur'an were still devoid of dots and vowel points or desinential marks which made it difficult for non-Arabs to recite them freely. As Islam spread out wide and deep in non-Arab countries, the need to add dots and vowel points became acute, in order that people may be able to recite them easily. Several steps were taken to achieve this purpose. Their brief history is as follows:

Inclusion of Dots

The practice of placing dots over or under letters was just not there among early Arabs, however, the readers were so used to this style that they had practically no difficulty in reading dot-less writing to the limit that they would easily distinguish between doubtful letters by referring to the context. Specially, there was no possibility of any doubt in the case of the noble Qur'an because its preservation did not rest on writing, rather on the strength of memories, pursuant to which, Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu), had assigned Qaris, accomplished reciters of the Qur'an, along with its copies sent out to various parts of the Muslim world so that they could teach how to read it.

There are different reports as to who first placed dots on the copy of the noble Qur'an. Some reports say that this feat was first accomplished by Hadrat Abu al-Aswad al-Du'ali (Arabic text) (al-Burhan, 1/250). Some say he did this under the instructions of Sayyidna 'Ali (Arabic text) (Subh al-A'sha, 3/155). There are others who have said that Ziyad ibn Abi Sufyan, the Governor of Kufah, asked him to do this. Then there is yet another report which credits Hajjaj ibn Yusuf with this feat who did it with the help of Hasan al-Basri, Yahya ibn Ya'mur and Nasr ibn 'Asim al-Laythi, may Allah's mercy be upon them all. (Tafsir al-Qurtubi, 1/63)
Marks for correct reading

In the beginning, like dots, the Qur'an did not have any desinential marks either. Here too, reports are at variance as to who placed desinential marks first. Some say Abu al-Aswad al-Du'ali did it first while others claim that this was accomplished by Hajjaj ibn Yusuf through Yahya ibn Ya'mur and Nasr ibn 'Asim al-Laythi. (Ibid)

Keeping in view all reports in this connection, it appears that desinential marks were first invented by Abu al-Aswad al-Du'ali, but they were not like what they are today. Instead, placed there for fathah was a dot (.) over the letter, for kasrah a dot ( ) under the letter, for dammah a dot ( .) in front of the letter; and there were two dots (.. or     or  .. ) for tanwin or nunnation. It was only later that Khalil ibn Ahmad innovated the signs of hamzah (glottal stop) and tashdid (doubling). (Subh al-A'sha, 3/160-161) After that, Hajjaj ibn Yusuf requested Yahya ibn Ya'mur, Nasr ibn 'Asim al-Laythi and Hasan al-Basri, may Allah's mercy be upon them all, to simultaneously place dots and desinential marks on the text of the noble Qur'an. On this occasion, the present forms of desinential marks were chosen to replace dots as expression of case signs. The purpose was to avoid confusing them with dots intrinsically belonging to letters.

Ahzab or Manazil

It was the practice of Companions and their Successors that they would complete the recital of the entire Qur'an once every week. For this purpose, they had identified fixed portions for their daily recitation which is known as 'hizb' or 'manzil'. Thus the entire Qur'an was divided over seven 'ahzab' (plural of 'hizb') 'manazil' (plural of 'manzil'). (al-Burhan, 1/250)

Ajza' or Parts
Today, the Qur'an is divided over thirty 'ajz'a' (plural of 'juz') or parts. This division in parts has nothing to do with the meaning of the Qur'an. In fact, this division in thirty equal parts has been made to serve as teaching aid for children as, it will be noticed, there are places where the designated part ends with an unfinished statement. It is difficult to say with certainty as to who brought about this division of the Qur'an in thirty parts. Some people believe that Sayyidna 'Uthman (radhiAllaho anhu), had arranged to have these written in thirty different folio-units while their copies were being made, therefore, this division dates back to his time for sure. But, this humble writer was unable to find any proof of this position in the writings of earlier scholars. However, 'Allamah Badr al-Din al-Zarkashi has written that the thirty parts of the Qur'an have been known all along and they customarily appear in copies of the Qur'an used in schools. (al-Burhan, 1/250; Manahil al-'Irfan, 1/402)

Akhmas and A'shar: The sets of Fives and Tens

Another sign used in Qur'anic copies of early centuries was that they would write the word, khams ((Arabic text): five) or its abbreviation (Arabic text) after every five verses (on the margin); and the word, 'Ashr ((Arabic text): ten) or its abbreviation ((Arabic text)) after every ten verses. The former kind of signs were called 'Akhmas' (a pentad or group of five) and the later, 'A'shar' (a decade or group of ten). Consequent to another difference among early scholars, these signs were considered permissible by some, and reprehensible or makruh by others. Saying, with any degree of certainty, as to who was the first to place the signs, is difficult indeed. According to one view, Hajjaj ibn Yusuf was its inventor, while another view credits this to an order of 'Abbasi Khalifah, al-Ma'mun (al-Burhan, 1/251). But, these two views do not appear to be sound since the idea of a'shar seems to be there during the times of the Companions. For example, Masruq' a well-known Tabi'i, says that with Sayyidna 'Abdullah ibn Mas'ud (radhiAllaho anhu) the placement of 'A'shar' markings in the copy of the Qur'an was makruh. (Musannaf ibn Abi Shaybah, 2/497).

Ruku' or Section

Moreover, the signs of Akhmas and A'shar were abandoned later on but, yet another sign which continues on even to this day is the sign of ruku' or section. This has been determined in terms of the contents of the noble Qur'an whereby a sign of ruku' (the letter (Arabic text) on the margin) is placed at the conclusion of a statement. Inspite of his efforts, this humble writer was unable to locate anything authentic which would tell us as to who originated the ruku', and in what period. However, this much is almost certain that the purpose of this sign is to identify an average portion of verses which could be recited in one raka'ah. It is called 'ruku" so that ruku' (bending position) could be made in salah after reaching this point. There are 540 ruku'at in the whole Qur'an. So, by reciting one ruku' in every raha'ah of tarawih, it is possible to complete the recital of the entire Qur'an on the night of the twenty seventh (Fatawa 'Alamgiryah, Fasl al-Tarawih, 1/94).

Rumuz al-Awqaf: Stop Signs

Another useful step taken to facilitate recitation and phonetically correct pronunciation (tilawah and tajwid) was to provide signs with Qur'anic sentences which could tell the nature of making a stop (breathing) there. These signs are known as the 'rumaz' (signs) or 'alamat (symbols) of awqaf (stops). Their purpose is to help a person who does not know Arabic to stop at the correct spot during his recitation, and thus, avoid causing a change in meaning by breaking his breath at the wrong spot. Most of these signs were first invented by 'Allamah Abu 'Abdullah Muhammad ibn Tayfur Sajawandi, may Allah's mercy be upon him (Al-Nashr fi al-Qira'at al-'Ashr, 1/225). Details about these signs are given below:
: This letter Ta' is an abbreviated form of al-waqf al-mutlaq. It means that the statement stands completed at this point. Therefore, it is better to stop here. : This letter Jim is an abbreviation of al-waqf al ja'iz and it means that it is permissible to stop here. : This letter Za' is an abbreviation of al-waqf al-mujawwaz. It means that making a stop here is correct all right, but the better choice is not to make a stop here.: This letter Sad is an abbreviation of al-waqf al-murathkhas. It means that the statement has not yet been completed at this point but, because the sentence has become long, here is the place to breathe and stop rather than do it elsewhere (al-Mianh al-Fikriyyah, p. 63). : This letter mim is an abbreviation of al-waqf al-lazim. It means if a stop is not made here an outrageous distortion in the meaning of the verse is possible. So, it is better to stop here. Some phoneticians of the Qur'an have also called this al-waqf al-wajib or the obligatory stop. But this is not 'wajib' of fiqh which brings sin if abandoned. In fact, the purpose is to stress that making a stop here is the most preferable of all stops (al-Nashr, 1/231). : This letter la is an abbreviation of " la" taqif. It means 'do not stop here,' but it does not imply that making a stop here is impermissible, because there are certain places bearing this sign where making a stop brings no harm and making an initiation from the following word is also permissible. Therefore, the correct meaning of this sign is: If a stop is made here, it is better to go back and read over again. Initiation from the next word is not approved (al-Nashr, 1/233).

As far as the origin of these signs is concerned, it stands proved beyond doubt that they were invented by 'Allamah Sajawandi. In addition to these, there are some other signs as well that appear in the copies of the Qur'an, for instance:
: This ma' is an abbreviation of "mu'anaqah". This symbol is inserted at a place where a single verse has two possible explanations. According to one explanation, the stop will be made at one given place, while according to another explanation, this will be at another place. So, a stop can be made at either one of the two places, but once a stop has been made at one place, it is not correct to stop at the other. For instance, take the verse (Arabic text). If a stop is made here at (Arabic text), then it is not correct to stop at (Arabic text) and should a stop be made at (Arabic text), then it is not correct to stop at (Arabic text). However, if a stop is not made at both places, that will be correct. It is also known as 'al-maqabalah'. It was, first of all, pointed out by Imam Abu al-Fadl al-Razi (al-Nashr, 1/237 and al-ltqan, 1/88). : This is a symbol for saktah. It means one should stop here breaking the sound but not the breath. This is generally inserted at a place where assimilated reading is likely to cause an erroneous projection of meaning. : At this sign of waqfah, one must stop a little longer than saktah (pause). But, breath should not break here too. : This letter qaf is an abbreviation of qila 'alazhz l'waqf. It means that some phoneticians of the Qur'an identify a stop here while others do not. : This word is 'qif which means 'stop' and it is inserted where the reader may possibly think that a stop was not correct there. : This is an abbreviation of al-waslu awla which means 'it is better to recite in assimilated continuity'.  : This is an abbreviation of qad yusalu, that is, some stop here, while others like to recite on in assimilated continuity. : This is marked at places where some hadith report proves that the Holy Prophet (sallallaho alehey wasalam) stopped here while reciting.

The printing of the Holy Qur'an
Before the advent of the printing press, all copies of the Qur'an were calligraphed by hand, and for this purpose, there always has been, in every age, a large group of calligraphers whose sole purpose in life was nothing else except the calligraphy of the Qur’an. The amount of hard work put in by Muslims in writing the words of the Qur'an in ever better styles, and the way they demonstrated their intense emotional involvement with this great Book has a long and interesting history of its own which would need a regular book. This is not the appropriate place to go in such details.

With the invention of the printing press, the noble Qur'an was first printed at Hamburg in 1113 Hijrah, a copy of which is still present in Dar al-Kutub al-Misriyyah. After that, several orientalists arranged the publication of the copies of Qur'an but they were not received with much approval in the Muslim world. After that, Mawlay 'Uthman was the first person among Muslims who had one manuscript of the Qur'an printed at St. Petersburg, a Russian city, in 1787 A.D. Similarly, another manuscript was printed in Qazan also. In 1828 A.D., the Qur'an was printed by lithography on stone slabs in the Iranian city of Tehran. After that, printed copies of the Qur'an became common throughout the world. (Tarikh al-Qur'an by al-Kurdi, p. 186, and 'Ulum al-Qur'an by Dr. Subhi Saleh; Urdu Translation by Ghulam Ahmad Hariri, p. 142) 

- Extract from Ma`ariful Qur`an, commentroy of the Holy Quran by Mufti Muhammad Shafi, (in 8 volumns) revised by Justice Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani, english translation by Prof. Muhammad Hasan Askari and Prof. Muhammad Shamim.


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