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Gathering and memorizing of the Qur’an, before the death of the Prophet
The influence of the Qur’an, which was revealed in separate chapters and verses, increased day by day. Its eloquence and miraculous clarity transfixed the Arabs who attached great importance to fine language, they came from far and wide to hear and learn a few verses from the Prophet. However, the notables of Mecca and the leaders of Quraysh, who were idolators and bitter enemies of the Prophet. and Islam, tried to prevent thepeople from getting close to the Prophet, they tried to frighten off the Arabs by telling them the Qur’an was magic.
Despite this people came, unknown to friends, family and servants, in the dark of night to a place near the Prophet’s house and listened to the Prophet reading the Qur’an.
The efforts of the early Muslims in listening to, memorizing and recording the Qur’an. were stimulated by another motive: they valued the Qur’an as a sacred document, being the word of God, they were also obligedto read the chapter “al- Fatihah” and a portion of another part of the Qur’an during their prayers. It was also the Qur’an through which the Prophet had been commanded to instruct people in the laws of Islam.
This study and devotion to the Qur’an became more ordered and comprehensive after the Prophet emigrated to Medina and formed an independent Muslims community. He ordered a considerable number of the companions to recitethe Qur’an and to learn and teach the laws which were being revealed daily. So important was this activity that, according to special permission granted by God in chapter “ Repent ance”, verse 122 these scholars were relieved of their obligation to fight jihad (so called Holy War).
Since most of the Prophet’s companions,(in particular those who had emigrated from Mecca to Medina), were unable to read or write, the Prophet ordered them to learn from the Jewish prisoners-of-war the simple writing of the time. Thus a group of companions gradually became literate.
Those of this group who engaged in the recitation of the Qur’an, learning by heart the chapters and verses were called qurra, it was from amongst this group that forty(some reportseventy) died as martyrs in an accident called Bi’r Ma’unah.
The Qur’an was recorded ,on tablets, bones and the wide flat end of the date palm fronds. There is no doubt that most chapters were in use amongst early Muslims since they are mentioned in numerous sayings by both Sunni and Shi’ah sources, relating the Prophet’s use of the Qur’an as a call to Islam, the making of prayer and the manner of recitation.
Similarly ,one comes across names of chapters in traditions which describe the time when the Prophet was still alive, namely the very long chapters and “al- Fatihah”.
Gathering and memorizing of the Qur’an, after the death of the Prophet
After the death of the Prophet, Ali who (according to a tradition of absolute authority) ,was more knowledgeable of the Qur’an than other man,rectired to his house and compiled the Qur’an in one volume in the order corresponding to its revelation. Before six months had elapsed after the death of the Prophet, the volume was completed and carried by camel to show to other people.
Just about a year after death of the Prophet, the war of Yamamah took place in which seventy of the reciters were killed and Caliphs conceived the idea of collecting the different chapters and verses into one volume.They feared that should a future battle take place and the rest of the qurra’ be killed,the whole Qur’an would disappear with them.
Thus,on the orders of the Caliph,a group of the qurra’ from amongst the companions including Zavd ibn Thabit, collected the chapters and verses (writtenon tablets ,bones and datepalm fronds and kept in the Prophet’s house or the houses of reciters), and produced several hand-written copies of the complete Book.They then sent copies of this compilation to all areas of the Muslims domain.
After a time, during the rule of the third Caliph, it cameto the attention of the Caliph himself that differences and inconsistencies were appearing in the copying down of the Qur’an, some calligraphers lacked precision in their writing and some reciters were not accurate in their recitation.
Since the word of God seemed threatened with alteration, the Caliph ordered that five of qurra’ from amongst the companions,(one of them being Zayd ibn Thabit whonhad compiled the first volume), produce other copies from the first volume which had been prepared on the others of the first Caliph and which had been kept with Hafsah, the wife of the prophet and daughter of the second Caliph.
The other copies, already in the hands Muslims on other areas, were collected and sent to Medina where, on orders of the Caliph they were burnt(or ,according to some historians, were destroyed by boiling).Thus several copies were made, one being kept in Medina, one in Mecca, and one each sent to Sham(a territory now divided into Syria, Lebanon, Palestine and Jordan), Kufa and Basra.
It is said that beside there five, one copy was also sent to Yemen and one to Bahrain, These copies were called the Imam copies and served as original for all future copies. The only difference of order between these copies and the first volume was that the chapters “Spirits of War” “Immunity” were written in one place between “The Heights and Jonah”.
The importance Muslims attached to the Qur’an
As we have pointed out above, the verses and chapters of the Qur’an were in oral use amongst Muslims at the time of its first and second compilation into one volume. They were extremely careful in preserving what they had learnt by heart.
Moreover, a large group of companions and their followers were engaged only in recitation and learning the Qur’an by heart. The collecting together of the Qur’an into one volume took place under their scrutiny. They all accepted, without objection, the volume when it was given to them and then made copies of it.
It happened that when some men tried to record verse 34 in “Repentance”, “And those who hoard up gold and silver” without the “and” in the Uthmanic (second compilation) volume, they were prevented from doing so. The companion Ubayy ibn Ka’b swore that if anyone left out the “and” he would fight him with the sword.
As a result, the word “And” was recorded. One day the second Caliph, during the time of his own caliphate, read the verse: And the first lead the way of the Muhajirun and Ansar and those who follow them in goodness [IX:100] without the word “and” he was opposed and forced in the end to read it with the “and”.
The method of the Imams for the gatherad Qur’an in the Caliphs period
The Qur’an that had been compiled by Ali was rejected by several people when he showed it to them. Despite this ,Ali made no objection or resistance and accepted the Qur’an in circulation for as long as he lived, even during the time if his own Caliphate.
Likewise, the Imams of the Prophet’s family, the successors and sons of the Prophet, did not mention their objection to the Qur’an to the intimates amongst their Shi’ah followers. They always referred to the Qur’an in common use and in their commentaries and ordered the followers to recite it as the people did.
Ali’s silence in the matter of the difference of order between the two volumes was in keeping with the preference of the Shi’ah Imams for commentary of the Qur’an by the Qur’an, for them the order of the Medinan and Meccan chapters has no influence on the meanings of the Qur’an, commentary of each verse is by comparing it to another group of verses. Moreover the Qur’an is eternal and valid for all time and place, such local and temporary particularities as this time, place and circumstances of revelation can have no effect on the higher scale of meanings contained in the Qur’an.
It is true that there are benefits to be gained by knowing certain details of revelation, they help one to discern the development of divine wisdom, social laws or stories of the past prophets and nations, also an understanding of the reasons for revelation show how the call to Islam progressed during the twenty-three years of the Prophet’s mission.
We would like to make clear, however, that it was in order to preserve the unity of the Muslims that caused the Shi’ites to be silent in this matter.
The quran in islam- pages: 97to101
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