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How the Qur’an Was Preserved During the Prophet’s ﷺ Time: Mechanisms of Oral and Written Transmission

Introduction

Compared to all other scriptures, the Qur’an is the best preserved in both the hearts of Muslims and the written copies of the codex (muṣḥaf)—a manifestation of Allah’s promise to protect Divine revelation from distortion:

Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its Guardian.[1]

Allah’s final revelation to humanity has many names, chief among them the “Qur’an” and the “Book” (kitāb). The word Qur’an is etymologically related to the word for “recitation,” reflecting how the Divine word is recited by the tongue, while kitāb reflects how it is transcribed in writing. Allah Himself bestowing these names upon His speech indicates that it must be preserved through both oral and written methods. These methods are integral to the technical definition of the Qur’an as Allah’s speech, authentically reported from the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in conformity with the written (ʿUthmānic) codex.[2] 

Scholarship on the written compilation of the Qur’an typically focuses on the period after the death of the Prophet ﷺ. Special attention tends to be paid to Caliph ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān’s final compilation, which standardized the criteria for what is Qur’an and what is not. This article, however, focuses on the preservation of the Qur’an, orally and textually during the time of its first recipient and conveyor, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. What follows serves as a sequel to three other articles on the preservation of the Qur’anic text and its readings (qirāʾāt).[3] 

This article will examine the various ways the Prophet ﷺ and his companions disseminated the Qur’an within an oral culture and how the Prophet ﷺ organized, since the earliest days of his message, the transcription of the text in a widely unlettered culture. Hence, the article is divided into two main sections: the (1) oral and (2) written transmission of the Qur’an during the time of the Prophet ﷺ. While it acknowledges much of the modern English literature on the history of the Qur’an and draws on contemporary works of Arab-Muslim Qur’an scholars, this article primarily employs traditional arguments from the primary sources of Islamic literature.

The first part of this article, on the oral transmission of the Qur’an, describes: (I) how the Prophet ﷺ fulfilled his obligation of conveying Allah’s message in full to this ummah; (II) sixteen Prophetic methods of disseminating the Qur’an across the community; (III) the early use of the term ‘reciters’ (qurrāʾ) and the number of ḥuffāẓ among the Prophet’s companions; (IV) the first generation (ṭabaqah) of expert qurrāʾ who learned the Qur’an directly from the Prophet ﷺ, taught it to others, and are links in the chains of transmission (isnād) of the canonical qirāʾāt; and (V) the second ṭabaqah of expert qurrāʾ who learned from the first and who are links in the isnād of the canonical qirāʾāt.

The second part of this article, on the written transmission of the Qur’an, covers  (I) the literature on the Prophet’s scribes and the writing of the Qur’an; (II) the Qur’an’s scribes in the Meccan period; (III) the Qur’an’s scribes in the Medinan period; (IV) the instant documentation of Qur’an upon its revelation; (V) the review of written copies of the Qur’an; and (VI) the companions’ familiarity with and knowledge of orthography; (VII) the ordering of verses and the arrangement of the written and recited Qur’an.

Critical background: Early preservation of the Qur’an and Western scholarship

Orientalist scholars and later Western revisionists have advanced two main critiques of the authenticity of the Qur’anic text. The first is that only a few of the Prophet’s ﷺ companions were able to memorize the entirety of the text by heart, assuming that he ﷺ never forgot any parts of the Qur’an before conveying them to others. Theodore Nöldeke (d. 1930), and his student and friend Friedrich Schwally (d. 1919), claimed that “[d]uring the first years of his [the Prophet’s] divine commission, when he hardly had any followers, he might have forgotten some of the revelations before outsiders learned of them.”[4] Despite acknowledging that some companions, known as the “collectors” or “memorizers” of the Qur’an, “memorized considerable sections that they could repeat correctly,”[5] Nöldeke and  Schwally conclude that “it remains uncertain whether the individual ‘collectors’ really had memorized the entire revelation or only fairly large portions.”[6]

Such claims—that too few of the first Muslims memorized the Qur’an to guarantee its complete preservation—typically derive their support from: 1) philological interpretations of traditional terms describing “collectors” of the Qur’an, 2) divergent methodological approaches to authenticating historical reports, and 3) seemingly contradictory narrations about the number of memorizers, concession of aḥruf, abrogated verses, and final review of the Qur’an between the Prophet ﷺ and Jibrīl. However, the incentives to memorize and orally preserve the Qur’an far outweighed the incentive to memorize pre-Islamic poetry, which was itself preserved in a highly accurate manner. The first part of this article, tracing these incentives and their associated transmission practices, will explore the oral reception of the Qur’an by the companions who committed its entirety to memory.

The second critique posits that the centrality of orality to Arab culture (and therefore the widespread illiteracy and limited textual documentation),[7] as well as the dearth of extant Qur’anic writings dating to the early days of Islam, undermines our certainty that the Qur’an was written down during the life of the Prophet ﷺ. Despite conceding that the Prophet ﷺ sought to “establish a new document of revelation as well as its written fixation,” Nöldeke and Schwally asserted the lack of reliable data regarding “the particulars of procedure and the preservation and arrangement of the material.”[8] Hence, they conclude that “it is doubtful that Muḥammad put down in writing all the revelations of the divine book from the start.”[9]

The plausibility of Qur’anic documentation during the time of the Prophet ﷺ was argued by such Western scholars as Carl Brockelmann (d. 1956) in his notable History of the Arabic Written Tradition.[10] However, attempts to devalue the authenticity or question the accuracy of such accounts kept recurring. Régis Blachére (d. 1973) claimed that Qur’anic verses were recorded only after the Prophet’s move to Medina, with writing limited to “important passages” as determined by the personal preferences of the companions and availability of writing materials.[11] Furthermore, attributing confusion to reports from the companions regarding the transcription of the Qur’an, John Burton (d. 2005) rushed to conclude “the failure of Muhammad to collect and edit the texts; and the suggestion of the incompleteness, potential or actual which might have been expected to follow.”[12] 

It is implausible to deny that at least parts of the Qur’an were documented in written form during the life of the Prophet ﷺ. Nonetheless, as shown later in this article, the debate regarding whether the entire text was written down in his lifetime exists among some Muslim and most non-Muslim scholars. In describing the collection process of the Qur’anic text, the companions always referenced several materials, such as palm stalks and thin white stones that had verses written on them. The lack of empirical evidence or clear indications that those materials collectively encompassed the entirety of the text does not negate that possibility. Such a possibility, in addition to other facts discussed below, prompted authoritative Muslim figures on the topic, such as Makkī ibn Abī Tālib (d. 437/1045), ʿIzz al-Dīn ibn ʿAbd al-Salām (d. 660/1262), Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī (d. 852/1449), al-Suyūṭī (d. 911/1505) and al-Qasṭalānī (d. 923/1517), as well as many modern Muslim scholars, to argue that the entirety of the Qur’an was written down during the time of the Prophet ﷺ.

The influential scholarship of Nöldeke and Schwally inspired subsequent generations of academics who contributed plenty of works on the history of the Qur’an. Those academics include Gotthelf Bergssträsser (d. 1933), who adopted a semitic languages approach; Otto Pretzl (d. 1941), who focused on qirāʾāt; John Wansbrough (d. 2002), who founded the revisionist approach; and John Burton, who questioned the evolution of the text in relation to the law. The cumulative works of these academics still dominate Western academic scholarship and educational curricula today. Their enduring influence is reflected in Burton’s statement that since the publication of Geschichte des Qorans by Nöldeke and its revised edition by Schwally, “no new suggestions on the history of the Quran texts have been advanced.”[13]

The overall critique of the oral and written history of the Qur’an extends beyond the time of the Prophet ﷺ to all stages of its compilation by his successors. Oddly, there is a clear insistence on depicting the traditional Islamic narrative as confused, inconsistent, and contradictory. Such scholarship continues to adopt an accusatory tone, as represented in Claude Gilliot’s remark below:

…because the misadventures detailed about the transmission and codification of the Quran—as both orally delivered and transmitted in writing—are so great, the ancient Muslim narratives on these subjects offer no real clarity about what “ʿUthmānic codex” means. Secondly, even if Muslims believe that the Quran we have now is the “ʿUthmānic codex,” our analysis of Muslim narratives on the matter does not leave us with the same certainty.[14] 

In a recurrent allegation that early Muslims themselves were confused,[15] Burton finally concludes that the collection process of the Qur’an was a “product of a lengthy process of evolution, accretion, and ‘improvement.’”[16] 

In The History of the Qurʾanic Text, Muṣṭafā al-Aʿẓamī begins by tracing a clear pattern of misplaced arguments or preconceived notions among modern critics of the Qur’an’s authenticity.[17] Another prominent contemporary engagement with oriental and Western critiques of the Qur’an, extending far beyond historiographical criticism, is the late Egyptian philosopher ʿAbdel Raḥmān Badawī’s (d. 2002) Défense de la vie du Prophète Muhammad contre ses Détracteurs.[18]  This French work was later translated into Arabic.[19] Throughout its 13 chapters, Badawī systematically dismantles various critiques of the Qur’an advanced between the 9th and 20th centuries. Most relevant to the scope of this article, Badawī dedicated the 10th chapter to discussing the chronological order of the Qur’an.[20] Contrasting the traditional Islamic arrangement of the Meccan and Medinan chapters (sūrahs) to five late attempts by 19th and 20th centuries orientalists, Badawī concludes that the Qur’an in its entirety was arranged in written form during the lifetime of the Prophet [ﷺ].[21]   

Besides ongoing research on late antiquity and paleography, there seems to be a persistent neglect of traditional Islamic scholarship on such matters and inadequate analysis of its interpretations. The epistemic disparities between oriental or revisionist methodologies and those of Muslim scholars are often apparent, especially with regard to the authentication of historical facts or assessment of the certainty-value of Qur’anic transmission. Moreover, Muslim traditionalists of the past and the present are often accused of spiritual bias and theological commitment to the Qur’an’s preservation as the word of God—accusations that dismiss rigorous contributions to the topic made by a multitude of Muslim scholars.

While this article is not primarily concerned with engaging such individual critiques, many of them will be addressed as it lays down the history, and analyzes the methods, of both the oral and written transmission of the Qur’an.

Part I: The oral transmission of the Qur’an during the time of the Prophet ﷺ

Oral transmission has been the primary method of preserving the Qur’anic text, prompted by many prophetic hadiths and accounts from early Muslim generations promising the ultimate reward for the bearers of the Qur’an. For example, the Prophet ﷺ was reported to have said , “If the Qur’an was [written] on a skin, then it [the skin] was thrown into the fire, it would not be burnt.”[22] Al-Qāsim ibn Sallām (d. 224/838), commenting on this hadith, said that the “skin” allegorically denotes the believer’s heart that encompasses the Qur’an.[23] Hence, al-Aṣmaʿī (d. 216/831) and other scholars deduced that memorizing the Qur’an protects a person from Hellfire.[24] Ibn Qutaybah (d. 276/889) narrated that the Prophet’s companion Abū Amāmah said, “Memorize the Qur’an, or recite the Qur’an, and do not be deluded by these codices (maṣāḥif). Indeed, Allah does not torment a heart that encompasses the Qur’an with the Hellfire.” Ibn Qutaybah added, “The body is a locus of the Qur’an exactly like the skin.”[25] Even after ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān transcribed the Qur’an in a compiled codex, reciters from the companions, in their respective regions, continued to teach Muslims the Qur’an as they learned it from the Prophet ﷺ and in conformity with the written text of the newly officialized ʿUthmānic codex.[26]   

Various disciplines—including the history of the Prophet’s life (sīrah), hadith, and Qur’anic sciences (ʿulūm al-Qurʾān)—analyze the concept of revelation (waḥy) and its methods, settings, and circumstances in an extensive examination of the 23 years of the Prophet’s life of revelation. The Prophet’s reception (talaqqī) of the Qur’an was through directly listening to Jibrīl’s recitation or immediately receiving waḥy in his heart. Derivations of talaqqī are used in the Qur’an such as “And indeed, [O Muhammad], you receive the Qur’an from one Wise and Knowing,”[27] and “And you were not expecting that the Book would be conveyed to you, but [it is] a mercy from your Lord. So do not be an assistant to the disbelievers.”[28] ʿUlūm al-Qurʾān dedicated topics and sub-disciplines to the different methods of waḥy and talaqqī.[29] Before showcasing the several methods through which the Prophet ﷺ taught his companions the Qur’an, a portrayal of his human capacity to bear the Divine responsibility for conveying Allah’s message is warranted.  

The Prophetic responsibility to convey the Divine Message

When the first piece of revelation was sent down to the Prophet ﷺ, he realized his challenging mission to preserve Allah’s message, the Qur’an. Even though Allah promised to preserve it, the Prophet ﷺ was keen to retain and convey every letter of the Qur’an and was constantly concerned about his capacity to memorize it. Allah related this concern of the Prophet ﷺ in the Qur’an itself (75:16-19) and reassured him that the text—and even its meanings—would be preserved.[30] In relating the situation, Ibn ʿAbbās noted that when the revelation came to the Prophet ﷺ, he would suffer a great deal of hardship and move his lips out of concern for its retention.  

Allah said: “Move not your tongue concerning to make haste therewith. It is for Us to collect it and to give you the ability to recite it.” Ibn ʿAbbās said: [This means] He will gather it in your heart, then you will recite it. “And when We have recited it to you, then follow the recitation.” Ibn ʿAbbās said: [This means] So listen to it and remain silent. So when Jibrīl came to him, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ listened, and when he left, he would recite it as he had taught him.[31]

As human beings are forgetful by nature, Divine intervention was required: “We will make you recite and you will not forget except what Allah wills.”[32] In commenting on this verse, al-Rāzī (d. 605/1210) said that it establishes the miracle of the Qur’an in two ways. First, the Prophet’s ﷺ memorization of this long text, despite his being unlettered and without his engaging in prolonged study of it, is miraculous. Second, the sūrah in which the verse is mentioned is Meccan, yet it provided future prophecies that were later fulfilled.[33] 

But did the Prophet ﷺ ever forget something from the Qur’an? As a human, forgetfulness was possible for him ﷺ, but only in a circumstantial manner that would not compromise his memorization of the Qur’an. It was reported that he ﷺ heard a man reciting the Qur’an at night and said, “May Allah bestow His Mercy on him as he has reminded me of such-and-such verses of such-and-such sūrahs which I was caused to forget.”[34] Abū Bakr al-Ismāʿilī (d. 370/981) said,

Forgetting parts of the Qur’an by the Prophet ﷺ is of two types. One of them is forgetting something which he soon remembers. This type is related to his human nature and is indicated in his saying, “Verily I am a human being like you. I forget just as you forget.” The second [type] is Allah lifting that part from his heart to abrogate its recitation. This [type] is the meaning of the exception in “We will make you recite and you will not forget except what Allah wills.”

As for the first type, it is circumstantial and is gone quickly according to the evident meaning of, “Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian.’ As for the second [type], it is included in Allah’s saying, “We do not abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten except that We bring forth [one] better than it or similar to it.”[35]   

After quoting al-Ismāʿilī, Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī added another categorization of the Prophet’s forgetfulness based on the nature of the thing being forgotten. It is categorically possible if it is unrelated to his duty of conveying Allah’s message. If what is forgotten is related to the conveyance of the message, forgetfulness may occur but under two conditions: 1) that he forgets something after he conveyed it; and 2) that he remembers it afterwards whether by himself or by someone else reminding him.[36] As for the time before his conveyance of a particular revelation, it is not possible for the Prophet ﷺ to forget it.[37]  

The Qur’an contains explicit censure of the Prophet ﷺ himself on multiple occasions, most notably in ensuring his full delivery of the message: “Announce that which has been revealed to you from your Lord, and if you do not, then you have not conveyed His message.”[38] Establishing the theological understanding of prophethood, the necessary qualities of a prophet (such as truthfulness, honesty, conveyance of the message, and intelligence), and revelation are prerequisites for understanding and appreciating the undeniable preservation of the Qur’anic text. If Muhammad ﷺ was the true messenger of God, he must have been trusted and supported by Him to convey the entirety of the message. The Qur’an is truthful, not only due to its alignment with earlier prophecies but also the integrity of the one who conveyed it. 

Nonetheless, is it empirically verifiable that the Prophet ﷺ memorized and delivered the entirety of the Qur’an to his companions? According to many scholars, the entire Qur’an initially descended (al-nuzūl al-jumlī) to the nearest heaven in the Night of Power (laylat al-qadr) before it descended in intervals upon the Prophet (al-nuzūl al-tafṣīlī) over 23 Hijri years.[39] Despite God’s promise to preserve the Prophet’s memorization, the Prophet ﷺ did not merely rely on a miraculous implantation of the Qur’an in his heart. Rather, he used to constantly recite it and review the revelation with Jibrīl every Ramadan.[40] The annual review sessions were likely dedicated to what had been revealed that year,[41] to refresh the Prophet’s knowledge of the Qur’an and eliminate abrogated verses.[42] Moreover, during the last year of his life, the Prophet ﷺ reviewed the Qur’an, likely in its entirety, with Jibrīl twice. The descriptions of these sessions indicate an interactive setting where one read while the other listened, and then they alternated. Potentially, then, the Prophet ﷺ reviewed it twice every year and four times in his last year.[43] The Prophet’s ﷺ reading to Jibrīl is the foundational authority for the primary method of Qur’anic learning and transmission, oral delivery.[44]   

Part of the wisdom behind revealing the Qur’an in intervals was to ease its memorization for the Prophet [ﷺ].[45] When the disbelievers criticized the Qur’an for not being revealed all at once, Allah explained the reason: “That We may strengthen thereby your heart. And We have spaced it distinctly.”[46] There are two possible exegetical interpretations of the phrase “We may strengthen your heart”: either (i) to keep strengthening your heart in an ongoing fashion, and/or (ii) to ensure you memorize it so that your heart may remain calm.[47] Since memorization is dependent on human effort and humans are liable to be forgetful, the Prophet’s memorization was a special gift from God, independent of effort and immune to circumstantial forgetting.[48] As the primary recipient of revelation, there was no possible way for human retention of the Qur’an except through the only human entrusted with its reception and delivery. Thus, the Prophet ﷺ was Divinely commanded to convey the Qur’an by reciting it to people.

Throughout the Qur’an, Allah frequently commanded the Prophet ﷺ to “recite” it to others:

And recite to them,[49] 

Say, “Come, I will recite to you what your Lord has prohibited to you,”[50] 

Thus have We sent you to a community before which other communities have passed on so you might recite to them that which We revealed to you,[51] 

And it is a Qur’an which We have separated by intervals that you might recite it to the people over a prolonged period,[52] 

Say, “I have only been commanded to worship the Lord of this city, who made it sacred and to whom all things belong. And I am commanded to be of the Muslims. And [I have been commanded] to recite the Qur’an.[53] 

Other verses commanded the Prophet ﷺ to recite without explicitly mentioning to whom: “Recite that which was revealed to you.[54] In addition to these commands, multiple verses attributed the duty of reciting the Qur’an to the Prophet ﷺ in a declarative, instead of an imperative, sense: “Just as We have sent among you a messenger from yourselves reciting to you Our verses.”[55] 

Conveying the Qur’an through recitation subsumes certain contextual premises. First, the Prophet ﷺ did not read or write, nor did the majority of the initial recipients of his message. Therefore oral delivery, via accurate articulation and commitment to memory, served as the primary method of transmission. Second, the Prophet ﷺ encouraged written documentation and appointed official scribes. However, he maintained verbal delivery as the principal method even after much of the Qur’an had been written down.[56]  

Prophetic methods of teaching the Qur’an

The Prophet taught the Qur’an in two ways: 1) iqrāʾ: he recited it to a companion, who then recited the same part back in the same manner, and 2) ʿarḍ: the companion recited to the Prophet ﷺ what they previously learned from him to verify, review, and correct their recitation. ʿArḍ has historically been the primary method of transmitting Qur’an. Although it is a shared method with other disciplines such as hadith transmission, the ʿarḍ of the Qur’an required unique conditions:

  1. It must be from memory. Unlike the ʿarḍ of hadith, which does not stipulate memorization, the ʿarḍ of the Qur’an is from memory since its first teacher, the Prophet ﷺ, did not read nor write but only taught it via oral communication. We do not know of  any companion who read to the Prophet ﷺ from a written copy of the Qur’an. Even if that were to have happened, the written copy would have only been used to render exact the oral articulation of the text.    
  2. It must be recited to another person (e.g., an instructor). Reading alone, for instance, does not qualify as ʿarḍ, even by the literal meaning of the term.[57] 
  3. It must follow general and specific rules of accuracy (ḍabṭ). General ḍabṭ involves precise pronunciation of the recited passage. Specific ḍabṭ involves pronouncing the recitation according to a specific reading style. The former is concerned with the delivery of the text, while the latter is focused on articulating certain renditions, providing a unique style of Qur’anic education.[58]   

The companions would stress the significance of a particular act of worship by comparing how the Prophet ﷺ taught it to how he taught the Qur’an. For instance, the Prophet ﷺ taught his companions to recite a prayer (duʿāʾ) against the Hellfire and otherworldly and afterlife trials “in the same way that he would teach them a sūrah of the Qur’an,”[59] just as he taught them the prayer for guidance (istikhārah) “as he would teach them a sūrah of the Qur’an.”[60] Similarly, the Prophet ﷺ taught them how to recite the prayer of tashahhud[61] “as he would teach them a sūrah of the Qur’an.”[62] The tashahhud was reported by tens of companions who were constantly teaching it to people with minor variations, all equally valid. ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb was reported to have taught it to people on the pulpit (minbar).[63] Consequently, jurists extensively discussed the exact words of the tashahhud, investigating every single word and phrase. The early community’s care for transmitting and preserving the Qur’an was no less exacting.  

The sīrah and hadith literature illustrate how the Prophet ﷺ applied the two methods of iqrāʾ and ʿarḍ in his pursuit of every opportunity to teach the Qur’an to his companions. In the contemporary book Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī min rasūl Allāh ilā ummatih, Muḥammad Jabal cataloged 14 different Prophetic styles of Qur’anic teaching spanning diverse settings and situations. The following section incorporates Jabal’s list and complements it with additional data derived from several interdisciplinary works.

1 – Reciting to companions upon revelation

Multiple hadiths relate scenarios where the Prophet ﷺ instantly conveyed the Qur’an to his companions as it was being revealed. As an individual companion witnessing the revelation descending upon the Prophet ﷺ, Zayd bin Thābit described the Prophet’s instant recitation of, and his command to write, the verse, “Not equal are those believers who sit [at home] and those who strive in the way of Allah.”[64] Other hadiths document the Prophet’s recitation of verses or chapters, such as the sūrahs of al-​​Ṣaff, al-Jumuʿah, al-Mursalāt, and al-Kawthar, upon their revelation to groups of companions.

ʿAbdullāh ibn Salām narrated, “A group of us Companions of the Messenger of Allah sat talking, and we said: ‘If we knew which deed was most beloved to Allah then we would do it.’ So Allah, Most High, revealed Whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth exalts Allah, and He is the Exalted in Might, the Wise. O you who have believed, why do you say what you do not do?” [sūrah of al-Ṣaff]. After narrating the story, the narrator, ibn Salām, recited the whole sūrah and said, “The Prophet ﷺ recited the [whole] sūrah to us until he completed it.”[65] 

Abū Hurayrah described how he asked the Prophet ﷺ about some of the meanings of al-Jumuʿah immediately following its revelation and recitation by the Prophet ﷺ to a group of companions.[66] Regarding the revelation of al-Mursalāt, ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd reported that, “While we [a group of the Prophet’s companions] were in the company of the Prophet ﷺ in a cave at Minā, Sūrah al-Mursalāt was revealed and he recited it, and I heard it directly from his mouth as soon as he recited it.”[67] After taking a nap one day while among his companions, the Prophet ﷺ suddenly raised his head, smiling. Upon being asked about the reason for his smile, the Prophet ﷺ  stated, “Just now this sūrah was revealed to me,” and recited Sūrah al-Kawthar to them.[68] In these ways, the companions were able to witness the Qur’an’s revelation firsthand, receive it through direct recital delivery, and instantly interact with the Divine message as it was revealed.

2 – Reciting to those he was inviting to Islam

One of the daʿwah approaches that the Prophet ﷺ used to unlock people’s hearts, such as Abū Bakr’s, was to recite Qur’an to them. The Qur’an’s inimitable eloquence profoundly affected the Arabs, whose mastery of eloquence caused them to submit to its unprecedented style and transcendent nature. As one of the first people to embrace Islam, Abū Bakr invited five of his counterparts to meet the Prophet ﷺ and listen to the Qur’an: ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān, al-Zubayr ibn al-ʿAwwām, ʿAbdulraḥmān ibn ʿAwf, Saʿd ibn Abī Waqqāṣ, and Ṭalḥah ibn ʿUbaydillāh. Intriguingly, all five not only became Muslims but also were among the ten promised Paradise (jannah). The Prophet ﷺ also recited Qur’an upon inviting Asʿad ibn Zurārah, Dhakwān ibn ʿAbd Qays, Ṭufayl ibn ʿAmr al-Dūsī, Abū Dharr al-Ghifārī, Khuwaylid ibn ʿĀmir, as well as the six Medinan supporters (anṣār) who met him in Mecca prior to the first pledge of al-ʿAqabah.[69] 

3 – Teaching those who came to embrace Islam

The Prophet ﷺ taught Sūrah Yūsuf and Sūrah al-ʿAlaq to Rāfiʿ ibn Rifāʿah and Muʿādh ibn ʿAfrāʾ when they came to him in Mecca to embrace Islam.[70] Another example is when a group of about 20 Abysinnian men came to Mecca after hearing of the Prophet ﷺ to learn about Islam. Having had a conversation with the Prophet ﷺ, they embraced Islam and stayed in Mecca for three days. During that time, they learned much of the revealed Qur’an, eventually carrying it back to their country.[71] 

The Prophet ﷺ also taught the Qur’an to people he met while immigrating to Medina, such as Buraydah ibn al-Ḥuṣayb. The Prophet ﷺ taught him part of Sūrah Maryam immediately upon conversion. Later, Buraydah came to the Prophet ﷺ in Medina and the Prophet ﷺ asked him, “How much of the Qur’an do you know, O Buraydah?” He said, “O Messenger of Allah, you had taught me in al-Ghamīm that night when I met with you part of a sūrah in which [the story of] Maryam is mentioned.” The Prophet ﷺ asked Ubayy ibn Kaʿb to teach him the rest of the sūrah. Then, the Prophet ﷺ said to Buraydah, “O Buraydah, learn Sūrah al-Kahf with it [Sūrah Maryam] as it is a light for its companion on the Day of Judgment.”[72] Buraydah was not only a Qur’an teacher for his people but was also appointed as their zakāh-collector by the Prophet [ﷺ],[73] reflecting a Prophetic practice of giving priority of position to people of the Qur’an.  One other such example is ʿUthmān ibn al-ʿĀs, who embraced Islam when he came with a group from Thaqīf to meet the Prophet ﷺ. ʿUthmān passionately sought every possible opportunity to learn the Qur’an from the Prophet ﷺ, who liked his dedication and appointed him the leader of his people even though he was one of their youngest.[74]   

It was reported that a man from Bahrain whose name was ʿAbdullāh ibn al-Ashajj sent his nephew, ʿAmr ibn ʿAbd Qays, to Medina to inquire about the Prophet ﷺ and his message. Upon witnessing several signs of his Prophethood, ʿAmr embraced Islam. The Prophet ﷺ then taught him Sūrahs al-Fātihah and al-ʿAlaq, and asked him to invite his uncle to Islam as well.[75] Al-Bāqillānī (d. 403/1013) observed that a constant practice of the Prophet ﷺ was immediately directing every new Muslim to read and learn the Qur’an, and that he would not prioritize anything else over that.[76] 

4 – Reciting to people gathered at the mosque  

The Prophet ﷺ often recited the Qur’an publicly to large groups of people, especially congregants at the mosque. For example, ʿĀʾishah reported that, “When the verses of (ribā) [usury] were revealed, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ recited them in the mosque [to people].”[77] The Prophet ﷺ also set up a dedicated tent in his mosque for the visiting delegates of Thaqīf to listen to the Qur’an and watch Muslims praying.  

5 – Reciting the newly revealed Qur’an during travel

Travel offered the Prophet ﷺ various opportunities to recite Qur’an. For example, as narrated by Ibn Masʿūd, the beginning of Sūrah al-Fatḥ was revealed to the Prophet ﷺ while returning to Medina from al-Ḥudaybiyyah. The Prophet ﷺ immediately shared the glad tidings with the companions by reciting the revealed verse, “We have given you a clear conquest.”[78] In another narration, Mujammiʿ ibn Jāriyah related that the Prophet ﷺ waited for people to gather at a rest stop called Kurāʿ al-Ghamīm to recite the verse to them.[79] The third narration by ʿAbdullāh ibn Mughaffal describes the Prophet’s articulation(tajwīd) of certain letters and his pleasant voice: “I saw Allah’s Messenger ﷺ on the day of the Conquest of Mecca on his she-camel, reciting Sūrah al-Fatḥ in a vibrant quivering tone,”[80] meaning that he was prolonging the ending of verses with nunation such as mubīnāmustaqīmā, and ʿazīzā.[81] The last two narrations of the story describe how the Prophet ﷺ read clearly and out loud to people and in a performative style.[82] 

6 – One-on-one teaching

Multiple companions explicitly mentioned that the Prophet ﷺ taught them individually. For example, Ibn Masʿūd said, “I have read more than 70 sūrahs to the Prophet.”[83] The Prophet ﷺ also asked him once, “Recite the Qur’an to me.”  Ibn Masʿūd said, “Shall I recite it to you while it has been revealed to you?” The Prophet ﷺ said, “I like to hear it from others.”[84] Another example of the individual teaching relationships the Prophet ﷺ had with his companions is when he informed Ubayy ibn Kāʿb that “Allah has commanded me to recite the Qur’an to you. Ubayy asked, “Did Allah mention me to you by name?” and when the Prophet ﷺ answered affirmatively, tears fell from Ubayy’s eyes.[85] 

7 – Reciting at gatherings

One day, while riding his mount on his way to visit a sick companion,  the Prophet ﷺ passed by the head of hypocrites, ʿAbdullāh ibn Ubayy,  sitting with a group of his people. The Prophet ﷺ got off his mount, greeted them, and sat for a short time reciting the Qur’an and making supplications (duʿāʾ).[86] The Prophet’s dedication to teaching Qur’an is exemplified by a report, narrated by Anas ibn Mālik, where he tied a rock to his stomach to silence his hunger while teaching the people of the bench (ahl al-ṣuffah),[87] a group of companions who lived in the Prophet’s ﷺ mosque’s portico (ṣuffah) as it was their only shelter.

8 – Reciting in prayer

As the regular imam of the community, the Prophet ﷺ would recite the Qur’an out loud in at least six rakʿahs on a daily basis (mandatory prayers) and an additional two rakʿahs on a weekly basis (jumuʿah), in addition to occasional prayers such as Eid, solar and lunar eclipse prayers (kusūf and khusūf), drought prayer (istisqāʾ), and recommended night prayer (qiyām). As known in Islamic law (fiqh), the basic minimum qualification of reading out loud as an imam is to enable those behind you to listen.

The companions were committed to the congregational prayer (jamāʿah) with the Prophet ﷺ and would not miss it except for serious emergencies. In many reports, they documented their hearing of the Qur’an from the Prophet ﷺ in prayer. Even occasionally, in prayers with subvocal recitation (sirriyyah),

The Prophet ﷺ in Ẓuhr prayers used to recite al-Fātiḥah along with two other sūrahs in the first two rakʿahs: a long one in the first rakʿah and a shorter sūrah in the second, and at times the verses were audible. In the ʿAṣr prayer, the Prophet ﷺ used to recite al-Fātiḥah and two more sūrahs in the first two rakʿahs and used to prolong the first rakʿah. [88] 

Hadith collections dedicated chapters to the Prophet’s ﷺ recitation in prayer, identifying the sūrahs he would frequently recite in specific prayers. For example, in rebuking a man bragging about reciting a lengthy part of the Qur’an very quickly, Ibn Masʿūd commented, “We heard the recitation of the Prophet ﷺ. I remember very well the recitation of those sūrahs which the Prophet ﷺ used to recite, and they were eighteen sūrahs from the mufaṣṣal [from al-Ḥujurāt, 49th chapter, to the end of the Qur’an, the 114th chapters],[89] and two sūrahs from the sūrahs that begin with ḥā mīm.”[90] The regularity of the Prophet’s recitation and the reception of several chapters of the Qur’an was affirmed by the grandfather of ʿAmr ibn Shuʿayb who stated, “There is no long or short sūrah of the mufaṣṣal except that I heard the Prophet ﷺ reciting it while leading people in obligatory prayers.”[91] In addition to all al-mufaṣṣal, the Prophet ﷺ was also reported to have led prayers with several chapters including: al-Baqarah, Āl ʿImrān, al-Nisāʾ, al-Māʾidah, al-Anʿām, al-Aʿrāf, al-Tawbah, al-Muʾminūn, al-Rūm, al-Sajdah, and Qāf.[92] 

9 – Reciting in sermons

The Prophet’s sermons offered a platform for repeatedly reciting verses as well as broadcasting newly revealed ones. Umm Hishām bint Ḥārithah ibn al-Nuʿmān said that she memorized Sūrah Qāf from attending the Prophet’s ﷺ Friday sermons (khuṭbahs) for how often he would recite it.[93] When Allah revealed the verses of Sūrah al-Nūr declaring the innocence of ʿĀʾishah from false accusations, the Prophet ﷺ delivered a speech in which he recited these verses.

10 – Sending delegates to Muslim gatherings reciting newly revealed Qur’an

In the 9th year of the hijrah, after the Battle of Tabūk, the Prophet ﷺ wanted to perform pilgrimage (ḥajj) but did not feel comfortable doing so while the polytheistic practice of circumambulating the Kaʿba naked was still ongoing. During that time, the first part of Sūrah al-Tawbah was revealed. The Prophet ﷺ sent the first 40 verses of the sūrah with Abū Bakr, whom he appointed as the leader of the ḥajj season, to be recited by ʿAlī to pilgrims. ʿAlī repeatedly recited the verses to every group of people he could reach. He would ride his mount and go to the areas where ḥajj rituals were being performed and read them until, as he described, his voice gave out.[94]     

11 – Companions teaching new Muslims

The Prophet ﷺ instructed his companions to teach the Qur’an to both individuals and groups. The Prophet ﷺ maintained this practice

in his city [Mecca], his abode of immigration [Medina], and the rest of the regions he conquered in which Islam prevailed. He did not leave a group somewhere or any community of this ummah without a Qur’an teacher dedicated to them exactly as he did not leave them without a person who would teach them the essentials and obligations of Islam, which they are not allowed to be ignorant of or slacken from learning.[95]

Indeed, as narrated by ʿUbādah ibn al-Ṣāmit, “the Prophet ﷺ would get busy [so] when an immigrant man came to him [to embrace Islam], the Prophet ﷺ would assign one of us to teach him Qur’an.”[96] ʿUbādah was assigned a man whom he hosted and fed in his house.[97] Ubayy ibn Kaʿb was assigned to Ashajj ʿAbd al-Qays, who came from Bahrain to learn Qur’an and fiqh from the Prophet ﷺ. The Prophet ﷺ assigned Ubayy ibn Kaʿb to the Ghāmid tribe’s group who came to embrace Islam[98] and another companion to a group from the Khawlān tribe.[99] 

12 – Companions teaching one another

This method is evident in many accounts of the companions’ lives, some of which were mentioned in the aforementioned styles. Abū Saʿīd al-Khudrī narrated that the Prophet ﷺ showed up to a group of Muslims in al-ṣuffah while a man was reciting the Qur’an to them, and the Prophet ﷺ made duʿāʾ for them.[100] Sahl ibn Saʿd al-Anṣārī narrated a similar situation where they were teaching each other the Qur’an. The Prophet ﷺ was pleased with them and stated, “All praise is to Allah. Allah’s Book is one and it contains the red and the black. Read the Qur’an! Read before a time that will come when [some] people will straighten it as an arrow is straightened, which [their recitation] will not go beyond their throats, seeking a reward for it in this world and not waiting for their reward in the next.”[101] In multiple reported occasions, some with debatable isnād, the Prophet ﷺ also instructed his companions to teach their neighbors the Qur’an.[102] 

The companions who immigrated to Abyssinia used to read, review, and study the Qur’an together. The Qur’an was profoundly present in their interactions and debates with the Abyssinian Christians. When verse 3:64 was revealed, the Prophet ﷺ sent it to Jaʿfar ibn Abī Ṭālib, who was one of the leaders of the Abyssinian Muslim residents and asked him to use it among the other verses he was using in his debates with the Christians.[103] 

13 – Sending messengers to villages and regions to teach the Qur’an

After the first pledge of al-ʿAqabah took place in Mecca, the Prophet sent Muṣʿab ibn ʿUmayr, who became known as the Qur’an teacher (muqrī), to Medina and commanded him to teach its people the Qur’an.[104] With the coordination of his Medinan host Asʿad ibn Zurārah, Muṣʿab used to go around the city visiting the houses of al-Anṣār, inviting them to Islam, and teaching them the Qur’an.[105] Later, ʿAbdullāh ibn Umm Maktūm was also sent to Medina to help Muṣʿab in his mission.[106] Hence, the Qur’an conquered Medina two years before the Prophet’s immigration to it.[107] Similarly, the Prophet ﷺ sent Muʿādh ibn Jabal and Abū Mūsā al-Ashʿarī to Yemen, ʿAmr ibn Ḥazm to Najrān with Banū al-Ḥārith’s group, and sent a companion to al-Ḥārith ibn ʿAbd Kulāl in Ḥimyar to recite to him and his brother Nuʿaym Sūrah al-Bayyanah.[108] Muʿādh ibn Jabal was also commanded by the Prophet ﷺ after the conquest of Mecca to stay there and teach people the Qur’an.

The Prophet ﷺ often instructed his envoys and delegates to teach the Qur’an alongside the basics of Islam and its laws. In his al-Tarātīb al-Idāriyyah, ʿAbdulḥayy al-Kittānī (d. 1382/1962) dedicated a whole section to “those whom the Prophet deployed to different areas to teach people the Qur’an and to make them understand the religion.”[109] 

14 – Commanding military leaders to remain in newly conquered areas to teach new Muslims the Qur’an

In the 10th year of the hijrah, the Prophet ﷺ sent Khālid ibn al-Walīd to Banū al-Ḥārith ibn Kaʿb in Najrān and commanded him to invite them to Islam and, if they became Muslims, to stay among them to teach them Islam and the Qur’an. The mission succeeded, and the Prophet ﷺ asked him to return to Medina with a group of them to meet with him ﷺ. After he met with them, the Prophet ﷺ sent ʿAmr ibn Ḥazm back with them to Najrān to continue teaching them.  

15 – Travellers to and from Medina teaching Muslim Bedouins

Due to the Prophet’s ﷺ constant recitation and teaching of the Qur’an, its memorization spread among the population of Medina and other cities, and extended to include Bedouins in the vast Arabian desert. Many of those groups’ delegates who came to embrace Islam and learn the Qur’an from the Prophet ﷺ would teach Bedouins on their way back as documented, for example, in the story of ʿAmr ibn Salāmah. ʿAmr, whose actual companionship with the Prophet ﷺ is disputedﷺ, became the most qualified imam of his people merely due to learning from such passing travelers. He said,

Travelers would pass by us on their way back from [meeting with] the Prophet ﷺ. We used to ask them to teach us the Qur’an. They informed us that the Prophet ﷺ said, “Let the one with the most [memorization of] Qur’an lead you in prayer.” So, I used to lead them [my people] and I was one of their youngest [but] the one with the most memorization of the Qur’an.[110] 

The story reveals how people used to compete over memorizing the Qur’an and how ʿAmr compared himself to the rest of his people who, despite their distance from the center of the Muslim community, were regularly learning and teaching the Qur’an.

16 – Early models of Qur’an schools

The Prophet ﷺ encouraged Qur’an group learning both through his actions and words. As described by ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿUmar, the Prophet ﷺ used to gather the companions to recite the Qur’an and learn from him: “We used to read [a verse that requires] prostration [sujūd al-tilāwah] to the Prophet ﷺ so he would prostrate and so all of us would do so until we had no room to move.”[111] The Prophet ﷺ also verbally encouraged individuals to collectively learn the Qur’an by stating, “A group does not gather in one of the houses of God Most High reciting the Qur’an and studying it together, except that tranquility descends upon them, mercy envelops them, the angels encompass them, and God mentions them to those in His presence.”[112] The Prophet ﷺ praised the voices of a Yemeni group of companions, saying, “I know the voices of a group of Ashʿarīs at night when they enter, and I know where they settled down because of their voices with the Qur’an at night, even if I did not see where they settled and when they settled during the day.”[113] 

Even before Meccan Muslims could publicly meet to learn the Qur’an, multiple places housed regular group recitation and instruction. Dār al-Arqam was the first, serving as a secret gathering place for Qur’anic learning from the Prophet ﷺ for three years. Abū Bakr also established a small mosque in his house’s yard, where he would pray and recite the Qur’an out loud, beautify his voice as means of daʿwah, and cry and weep out of spiritual ecstasy. Many Meccan disbelievers, including women and children, used to gather around his house to listen to his recitation.[114] His daughter and the Prophet’s wife, ʿĀʾishah, documented this in her famous eloquent speech about the virtues of her father.[115] 

After the number of Muslims grew to 40, and after ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb converted to Islam, the Prophet ﷺ transitioned from secret daʿwah to publicly inviting people to Islam. The first mosque in Medina to host Qur’anic recitation was established by Rāfiʿ ibn Mālik al-Zuraqī before the immigration of the Prophet [ﷺ].[116] Rāfiʿ was one of the first six Medinan Muslims from al-Anṣār and was one of the 12 Medinans who famously pledged their belief in Islam to the Prophet ﷺ at al-ʿAqabah. Rāfiʿ established a mosque and Qur’an school after learning ayāt from the Prophet ﷺ and taking some sheets that had verses written on them, as will be discussed later.

In documenting the organized teaching activities of Muṣʿab ibn ʿUmayr and ʿAbdullāh ibn Umm Maktūm in Medina before and after the Prophet’s move to it, some scholars mentioned the house of Makhramah ibn Nawfal. Known as the House of Reciters (Dār al-Qurrāʾ), it hosted ibn Umm Maktūm upon his move to Medina.[117] Al-Kittānī relied on these reports in furnishing early historical proof for establishing Qur’an schools.[118]    

One of the most important Qur’anic educational sites, where several companions learned how to recite the Qur’an and memorized many sūrahs, was al-ṣuffah. Given its proximity to the Prophet’s mosque, the buzzing recitation of the people of al-ṣuffah always echoed there.[119] Al-ṣuffah sheltered many companions who could not afford housing. These companions’ main occupation was learning and teaching the Qur’an as well as the practices of its lived example, the Prophet [ﷺ].[120] Al-ṣuffah “was not only a welfare shelter but also a school for the Qur’an’s memorization and for teaching its rulings. The Prophet ﷺ used to deploy many of them [the people of al-ṣuffah] to the [different] tribes to teach them the Qur’an and the fiqh of the religion.”[121] 

According to al-Bāqillānī, the circumstances and the characteristics of ahl al-ṣuffah necessitated that they memorize all of what was revealed of the Qur’an during their stay in it.[122] Among their special characteristics, the people of al-ṣuffah never wavered in their commitment to the Qur’an or support for Islam. Their worship and certainty that they deserved Allah’s praise in the Qur’an kept increasing.[123] Al-Nawawī (d. 676/1277) stated that group recitation of the Qur’an is recommended by virtue of clear evidence and the practice of the early and late generations of scholars.[124] 

After the death of the Prophet ﷺ, the companions continued this legacy of Qur’anic education, and their students numbered in the thousands. Ibn ʿUmar narrated about his father, “I have seen the Commander of the Faithful (amīr al-muʾminīn) ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb sitting on the pulpit (minbar) while the immigrants (muhājirūn) and the anṣār were surrounding him; he was teaching them the religion and the Qur’an as a teacher teaches children.”[125] Qur’an programs and schools for children, which we know today as maktab or kuttāb across diverse Muslim cultures, are fruits of ʿUmar’s numerous contributions to Qur’anic education. Al-Nafrāwī (d. 1126) said,   

The first to gather children in the maktab was ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb. He ordered ʿĀmir ibn ʿAbdullāh al-Khuzāʿī to commit to teaching them [Qur’an] and ʿUmar assigned him a salary from the public treasury (bayt al-māl). Among those children were the unintelligent and the intelligent. ʿUmar ordered ʿĀmir to write for the unintelligent on his tablet (lawḥ) and only to teach the intelligent without writing. ʿUmar also made sure that the children learned things prone to fade with time such as [their] lineage, ethnicity, and tribal association. The children asked ʿUmar to reduce their maktab hours, so he ordered their teacher to sit [for teaching only] from after fajr prayer to forenoon and from ẓuhr prayer to ʿaṣr prayer, and then the children rested for the day.[126] 

When ʿUmar came back to Medina after being gone for a month during the conquest of Sham, people missed him, so they went to receive him [outside the city]; the children journeyed almost 40 kilometers away from Medina to receive him. They met ʿUmar on Thursday, spent the night with him, and came back to Medina together on Friday.[127] Since they were exhausted from the trip, ʿUmar gave them Thursday and Friday off. This weekend “became a sunnah until the Day of Judgment. ʿUmar made duʿā for anyone who applies this custom [sunnah] to be given [all] good and for anyone who cancels it to be restricted in their provision.”[128]       

Many other companions were themselves expert Qur’an teachers. Abū al-Dardāʾ was the leading Qur’an teacher of the Damascus mosque with more than 1600 students. He used to divide his classes into groups of ten and appoint an assistant instructor (ʿarrīf) for each group.[129] Abū Mūsā al-Ashʿarī was appointed as the envoy of Basra where he also taught the Qur’an. Despite the difficulty of assuming such public office, Abū Mūsā was known for his daily Qur’an teaching, organization of classes and direct supervision of teaching assistants at the Basra mosque. He once gathered the most advanced reciters of his students and they numbered 300.[130] The companions, however, did not neglect the importance of combining memorization with the practice of Qur’anic teachings. Ibn Masʿūd spent 22 years in Kūfah teaching Qur’an and fiqh to numerous students. A famous revolution against the Umayyads was led by a group known as “the army of qurrāʾ” comprising 4000 of Ibn Masʿūd’s students and their students.[131]    

A diverse Qur’anic community

Memorization and recitation of the Qur’an were not limited to a specific class in society. Males, females, children, people of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds, persons with disabilities, and enslaved people, all learned and memorized the Qur’an. It is beyond the scope of this article to cover the biographies of the many companions from such backgrounds who were reciters and memorizers. Nonetheless, the following examples showcase how some of them were among the leading authorities of Qur’an during and after the time of the Prophet ﷺ.

When ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb stormed into his sister Fāṭimah’s house to confront her regarding her acceptance of Islam, he found she and her husband learning Sūrah Ṭāhā from the freed slave (mawlā) Khabbāb ibn al-Aratt. The indescribable impact of Ṭāhā’s recitation, and his sister’s devotion to her faith, eventually inspired ‘Umar’s conversion to Islam.

Another former slave, Sālim ibn Maʿqil, had once served Abū Ḥuthayfah ibn ʿUtbah. Abū Ḥuthayfah’s wife, Thubaytah, eventually freed him. Abū Ḥuthayfah adopted him (prior to the abolition of adopting non-biological children) and Sālim became known as mawlā Abū Ḥuthayfah. Sālim was an expert qārī who taught several companions, including his former master, the Qur’an. As one of the early Muslims who migrated to Medina before the Prophet ﷺ, Sālim used to lead them in prayer since he was the most expert in Qur’an. Among those who prayed behind Sālim were the likes of ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb.[132]   

While narrating the story of the false accusations against her, ʿĀʾishah, may Allah be pleased with her, described herself saying, “I was a young girl and I did not know much of the Qur’an.”[133] This statement implies that her knowledge of Qur’an was limited because of her young age and that adult women used to know much of it.[134] Indeed, the Prophet’s ﷺ wives, such as ʿĀʾishah, Ḥafṣah, and Umm Salamah, did not only memorize much of the Qur’an but also witnessed the descent of the revelation in their houses. They saw how the Prophet ﷺ received the Qur’an from Jibrīl and how he taught it to people, and they followed his example in teaching it to women and men. In addition to being listed among the qurrāʾ from the companions, some of the Prophet’s wives, especially ʿĀʾishah and Umm Salamah, were among the qirāʾāt transmitters.[135] Several Hadith compilers reported some of the qirāʾāt the Prophet recited throughʿĀʾishah and Umm Salamah.[136]

One of the female memorizers of the Qur’an was Umm Waraqah bint ʿAbdullāh ibn al-Ḥārith al-Anṣārī, who the Prophet ﷺ used to call the martyr (shahīdah). He used to visit her and ask his companions to join him saying, “Let’s go visit the shahīdah.” He approved of her having a person (muʾadhdhin) to raise the call to prayer (adhān) specifically for her at her house.[137] The Prophet’s ﷺ prophecy came true when she was killed during the reign of ʿUmar by one of her servants.[138] 

Hujaymah bint Ḥuyayy, known as Umm al-Dardāʾ and Abū al-Dardāʾ’s wife, was one of the famous memorizers of the Qur’an. She was highly dedicated to learning and teaching it and is reported to have said, “I love to read it [exactly] as it was revealed.”[139] 

Asmāʾ bint Yazīd ibn al-Sakan (or Umm ʿĀmir al-Ashmaliyyah) was a famous reciter who had scribes write parts of the Qur’an for her. She participated in the compilation of the Qur’an during the time of Abū Bakr and shared her memorization with Zayd ibn Thābit, the head of the compilation committee, alongside a personal copy transcribed by Ubayy ibn Kaʿb.[140] She was reported to have said, “I [learned how to] read 21 sūrahs before the Prophet ﷺ moved to us from Mecca.”[141] 

During his lifetime, the Prophet ﷺ frequently instructed his companions to teach their children the Qur’an, many of whom memorized significant portions of it. For example, ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAbbās memorized all of al-mufaṣṣal when he was 13 years old. After the Prophet ﷺ moved to Medina, Zayd ibn Thābit was brought to him by people who told the Prophet ﷺ, “This is a young boy who has memorized from what Allah has sent down upon you 17 sūrahs.” The Prophet ﷺ was impressed and instructed him, “O Zayd, learn the writing style [or the language] of the Jews. Indeed, by Allah I do not trust them concerning my book [the Qur’an].” Within 15 days, at the ripe age of 11 years, Zayd had learned their language and began translating their messages to the Prophet ﷺ and writing his responses to them.[142]  Zayd’s role in orally and textually preserving the Qur’an was exceptional, as will be discussed below.

The Prophet’s sunnah of teaching children the Qur’an was earnestly adopted by his companions and their successors, who followed his exact style of reading in the manner we know today through the science of tajwīd.

The first generation [of this ummah] did not recite the Qur’an nor teach it to children except in [the style of proper] recitation (murattalan) and articulation (mujawwdan). A child did not graduate from the maktab until he was fully skilled in reciting the Qur’an; the only thing missing for him was knowing the rules and terminologies that are called today the science of tajwīd. Moreover, they [the first generation] used to also teach their children in the maktab the obscure words of the Qur’an (gharīb al-Qur’an),[143] some of its morals and the Arab’s poetry that contain them, a summary of the principles of creed and fiqh mentioned in the Qur’an, and some hadiths that described the Prophet’s morals.[144]     

Hence, the child graduated the maktab sufficiently knowledgeable in language, hadith, poetry, creed, and fiqh. If such an amount were the only religious education he obtained, it would have sufficed him for all necessary worldly and religious matters.[145] 

The memorizers of Qur’an among the companions

The Qur’an’s widespread dissemination across all classes of society in the early Muslim community did not undermine the accuracy of its oral transmission. Indeed, the Qur’an was constantly being mass recited and taught in the most correct wording and precise articulation. As noted earlier, the incentives to memorize, preserve, and teach the Qur’an superseded those of pre-Islamic poetry. In addition to uncountable stories illustrating the companions’ dedication to memorizing, studying, and reciting the Qur’an in prayers day and night, the sīrah documents the names and biographies of tens of them who were given the titles of qurrāʾ or ḥuffāẓ.

The title qurrāʾ was commonly attributed to the ḥuffāẓ of the Qur’an revealed up to the time they were given the title. Later, the title qurrāʾ only referenced those who had memorized the Qur’an in its entirety. The term also acquired different designations across disciplines such as qirāʾāt and fiqh. Contrary to the term’s classical connotation in the morphological and Qur’anic literature as being related to ‘reciters,’ a modern view of the term qurrāʾ contends that villagers (ahl al-qurā) were confused with reciters, qurrāʾ, which the former exploited to gain political and social prestige.[146] It is unlikely that many Muslims fell into such a rudimentary error. Furthermore, even if this imposed distinction was historically and morphologically valid,[147] it “does not strictly undermine the historical existence of a concomitant class of readers.”[148] As shown below, the qurrāʾ title emerged as early as the fourth year after the hijra.      

The qurrāʾ were at the forefront of successive battles and wars during the lifetime and after the death of the Prophet ﷺ, which raised concerns about the loss of the Qur’an’s bearers. In 4/625, a few months after the martyrdom of 70 companions in the battle of Uḥud, about 80 other companions (known to be qurrāʾ) were deceitfully martyred in the two expeditions of al-Rajīʿ (a name of a well eight miles away from Asfan) and Biʾr Maʿūnah (a name of well in Hijaz whose exact location is not well-identified). These 80 companions were sent by the Prophet ﷺ upon the request of some non-Muslim tribes to teach their people the Qur’an and the basics of Islam.

Al-Rajīʿ is a tragic story of a cunning plot by the ʿAḍal and Qārrah tribes, who killed eight of the Prophet’s ten envoys and handed the other two to Quraysh who killed them in continuation of their revenge on Muslims. Before receiving the news about al-Rajīʿ’s group, the Prophet sent 70 companions to the Arab leader, Mālik ibn ʿĀmir,[149] who had requested a group of qurrāʾ to teach his people. Mālik rejected the Prophet’s ﷺ invitation to become Muslim but showed interest in learning more about Islam alongside his people. Despite the Prophet’s ﷺ reluctance to dispatch his companions in large numbers to the Najd areas, which at the time hosted many of his enemies, he honored the protection (jiwār) promised by Mālik. Dishonorably, Mālik’s nephew, ʿĀmir ibn al-Ṭufayl, called upon some of his allies to kill the entire group while it was camped around Biʾr Maʿūnah. Sixty-nine of them were killed; only one injured survivor was able to make it back to Medina, where he died a couple of years later. It is narrated that Allah had revealed a verse stating His pleasure with those companions, but the verse was later abrogated.[150] Many supernatural wonders (karāmāt) that these companions experienced before and after death are widely documented in the sīrah literature. 

Biʾr Maʿūnah’s qurrāʾ were known for two distinct qualities: their knowledge of the Qur’an and their commitment to social services. Anas ibn Mālik said, “We used to call them the qurrāʾ. They used to cut wood during the day and pray all night.”[151] Their occupation during the day was logging; they used to collect and store wood near the rooms of the Prophet’s ﷺ wives and the ṣuffah for Muslims who were in need of it. They were reported to always be busy in the evenings with learning Qur’an and praying in groups. One narration affirms that “their families used to think that they were always at the Mosque, and the people of the ṣuffah always used to think they were with their families.”[152] Their passing grievously saddened the Prophet ﷺ. Anas said, “Never did I see the Messenger of Allah ﷺ in so much grief [at the loss of a] small army as I saw him in grief for those 70 men who were called qurrāʾ (and were killed) at Biʾr Maʿūnah; and he invoked curses for a full month upon their murderers.”[153] 

The Prophet’s invocation, mentioned by Anas, was practiced in congregational prayers (known as qunūt). Distinct from other types of qunūt, this practice of the Prophet ﷺ legislated what is known in fiqh to be the qunūt of calamities (qunūt al-nawāzil) which Muslims practice until today when a calamity afflicts them. The Prophet’s qunūt, which reflected his deep grief over the qurrāʾ, was not due to a lack of contentment with their passing. Rather, as al-Asnawī (d. 772/1370) points out, the Prophet ﷺ made qunūt focused on “averting the rebellion of [those] killers and requiting the calamity of Muslims by [asking for] successors for them because they were [a group of] the brave qurrāʾ.”[154]            

Identifying or recognizing companions based on their association with the Qur’an or certain parts of it was a common phenomenon that demonstrates the centrality of the Qur’an in the community’s life. For example, some companions were called ‘the people of Sūrah al-Baqarah,’ which was, according to al-Bāqillānī, a metaphor for those who had memorized the whole Qur’an.[155] Al-Bāqillānī explained that since al-Baqarah is the longest and the most difficult sūrah to memorize, it was rare for the companions to start their memorization with it. Rather, they used to start with the short chapters from al-mufaṣṣal and would only memorize al-Baqarah after memorizing most of the other revealed parts of the Qur’an. This was the custom of the early immigrants, those who had a long companionship with the Prophet ﷺ, and those who embraced Islam later or at a young age.        

The concern over losing the qurrāʾ in wars only increased with time. From the incidents of al-Rajīʿ and Biʾr Maʿūnah to other major battles such as Ḥunayn, and even shortly after the death of the Prophet ﷺ in the Battle of al-Yamāmah where 40 qurrāʾ were martyred, the need to both orally and textually preserve the Qur’an became a critical communal obligation. However, the number of remaining qurrāʾ after al-Yamāmah likely exceeded the known total of 120 martyred. This can be inferred from ʿUmar’s fear that “if qurrāʾ continue to be killed in large numbers in other battles, a large portion of the Qur’an will be lost.”[156] ʿUmar made this comment to Abū Bakr when advising him of the importance of textually compiling the Qur’an, after highlighting that “extensive killing” had already taken place. These deliberations resulted in the multistage process of compiling and transcribing the Qur’an. ʿUmar’s (and other companions’) fear over the loss of qurrāʾ did not betray a lack of conviction in the Divine promise to protect the Qur’an. They were simply following the Prophet’s example of utilizing every means possible to preserve the text, recognizing that the heavenly promise would be manifested in their human efforts.            

The number of memorizers (ḥuffāẓ) during the time of the Prophet ﷺ

Undoubtedly, there were many memorizers and bearers of the Qur’an during the time of the Prophet ﷺ. Teaching Qur’an was regarded as such a sacred act of worship that the companions were discouraged from accepting compensation for teaching it, which resulted in juristic differences among the schools of law over the validity of being compensated for Qur’anic teaching. As shown above, various hadith reports, the sīrah, and the biographies of the Prophet’s companions provide clear evidence for the wide oral transmission (tawātur) of the Qur’an. 

A handful of seemingly contradictory hadiths list four, five, or six memorizers among the companions.[157] Some scholars reconcile the differing numbers by interpreting the reports as 1) a subjective preference for or comparison between certain groups of the companions, or 2) placing an emphasis on a particular level of mastery of the Qur’an. Other scholars consider the reports to be 3) inauthentic in terms of their isnād or meaning due to inadequacies in numbering or historical events, 4) contradicted by a large number of other reports stating the memorization of many companions, or 5) counteracted by the practical difficulty of encompassing the exact number of memorizers in such circumstances of ongoing revelation and mass education.[158] 

Putting together several reports compiled by, for instance, al-Bāqillānī in al-Intiṣār, al-Suyūṭī in al-Itqān, and al-Qasṭalānī in Laṭāʾif al-ishārāt establishes that 21 companions memorized the entire Qur’an during the life of the Prophet ﷺ. The number reaches 23 by including Mujammiʿ, who is said to have memorized all of it except for two or three chapters,[159] and Abdulwāḥid, whose companionship with the Prophet is disputable.[160] This number excludes the companions who completed their memorization after the death of the Prophet ﷺ. Al-Qāsim ibn Sallām’s list, as reported by al-Suyūṭī, includes 13 more companions who finished memorizing the Qur’an after the Prophet ﷺ passed.  

Despite the companions numbering in the tens of thousands, why are there only a few of them documented as ḥuffāẓ? Theʿarḍ of the entire Qur’an required close proximity to the Prophet ﷺ over a lengthy period, especially since the Qur’an was revealed over 23 years. Moreover, the gradualness of revelation may have prevented many companions from declaring that they themselves had memorized the entire text since they were uncertain about what would be revealed or abrogated from what they already had memorized, let alone testifying for the memorization of others. After describing these factors, al-Bāqillānī commented,

If that was necessarily the case, the number of the memorizers of all of what was revealed was not popularly known. It was not possible for them to know. Hence, it is not improbable that a number of the companions memorized [the entire] Qur’an during the time of the Prophet without declaring that about themselves and without others telling about them. The reason is that memorization cannot be widely known except after the Prophet’s death, the cease of the revelation, and knowing the last revealed parts of the Qur’an, and that a sūrah has been fully completed, structured, and arranged with its verses [in the muṣḥaf].[161]   

It is also possible that many companions memorized the entire Qur’an but concealed that fact to avoid the boasting that nullifies God’s reward.[162] Multiple reports show the companions’ wariness of publicly declaring their memorization of the Qur’an. Al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (d. 101/728) was reported to have said, “We have witnessed people, one of whom has memorized the [entire] Qur’an without their neighbor knowing. And we have witnessed people for whom there is no deed they can perform in secret that will be publicized at all.”[163] Those who declared their memorization may have done so for reasons they deemed beneficial for the community.

Companions would also generally refrain from describing a person as a memorizer of the Qur’an in case said person had mistakenly missed a verse or a word. Indeed, evidence suggests that they avoided bestowing such a title on anyone who did not memorize the whole Qur’an, its abrogated verses, and modes of recitation and aḥruf[164] through direct learning from the Prophet ﷺ. The companions also did not deem anyone a memorizer merely for committing the Qur’an to memory. Instead, memorizers also had to know the legal rulings of the Qur’an and abide by them. A man told Abū al-Dardāʾ once, “This son of mine has compiled (i.e., memorized) the Qur’an.” Abū al-Dardāʾ said, “O Allah, I ask for your forgiveness! The one who compiled (i.e., memorized) the Qur’an is [only] the one who listens to it and obeys.”[165] Thus, it is not surprising for the likes of ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb to say, upon hearing ʿUqbah ibn ʿĀmir’s beautiful voice as he recited Sūrah al-Tawbah, that it was as if he did not know it was revealed.[166] There is no chance that ʿUmar did not know of the sūrah, especially since it was publicly recited during ḥajj and widely taught for its commandments and admonitions. His comment thus confirms that mere retention is not what defines a person of the Qur’an. 

A similarly high threshold is evident in the juristic interpretation of the Prophet’s statement on who is the most qualified to lead prayers: “The person who is best versed in the recitation of the Book of Allah should lead the prayer.”[167] Is the best in Qur’anic recitation someone who is an expert qārī or knowledgeable of law (fiqh)? In explaining the Shāfiʿī school’s position of giving priority of leading prayers to a person of fiqh, al-Juwaynī (d. 478/1085) said,

The apparent meaning of the hadith implies giving precedence to the best in Qur’anic recitation. However, al-Shāfiʿī interpreted the hadith and explained it in the truest manner, saying that it was common among the companions that the best in Qur’anic recitation is the best in fiqh. It was reported that they used to learn the Qur’an five verses in a row, and did not move beyond them [to new verses] until they learned what they contain [of rulings] and applied them. Hence, the qurrāʾ were jurists at that time.[168]   

Thus, out of reverence for God’s Book and a stringently high standard for what counts as true memorization, the companions avoided proclaiming themselves or others memorizers or collectors of the Qur’an. Although this makes it challenging to identify the exact number of ḥuffāẓ from the companions, it also confirms that they were numerous.

The existing data illustrate the following points about the oral preservation of the Qur’anic text:[169]

  1. In addition to mass delivery, the entirety of the text was conveyed by the Prophet ﷺ to a group of his companions in his lifetime.
  2. The large number of memorizers guaranteed the accuracy of transmission, with an available channel for review or correction embodied in the presence of the Prophet ﷺ.
  3. The number of ḥuffāẓ was sufficient to establish tawātur—sure knowledge (ʿilm yaqīnī) of its being true, according to the preponderant opinion that tawātur does not require a particular number of transmitters.[170] Rather, tawātur is established by the transmission of a group that unanimously reports something; the concordant transmission of its members renders the report’s falsity highly unlikely.[171] Those who stipulated a particular number of transmitters differed broadly over the actual number, ranging from four to more than a hundred.[172] Regardless of the specific number, it is agreed that wide transmission must occur in every link in the chain. If a report lacks group transmission in even one link, it is not mutawātir. Hence, there is a well-established tawātur of the entire Qur’an by a sufficient number of companions. The widespread dissemination of the Qur’an and firm religious commitment to it by the first Muslim generation suggests that there could have been more ḥuffāẓ among the companions.  
  4. The application of the particulars of tawātur to the first recipients of the Qur’an should not neglect the role of mass transmission. Thousands of other companions memorized different portions of the Qur’an, collectively preserving a complete account of the entire text. The late scholar al-Kawtharī (d. 1952) said,

One habit of the companions was to teach the Qur’an piecemeal. They would teach one person chapters and teach another person other chapters so that each of them might bear their [distinct] portion of memorization to increase the number of memorizers in all possible means. Hence, some memorized the entire Qur’an, and others only memorized select chapters which were memorized by many others. Thus, the rest of the Qur’an was distributed over groups [of people]. [Additionally, among] those who were not memorizers … one of them would always recognize if a reciter made a mistake [in recitation]. This was because of their significant recitation of, and continuous listening to, the Qur’an.[173] 

This collective transmission constitutes another layer of tawātur and represents a type of mass supervision over the delivery of the Qur’an that guarantees its protection against change or distortion. 

All in all, even if only a few companions had memorized the Qur’an, as some may argue, it is not necessary for every single transmitter to have memorized and transmitted every part of the text. Rather, for large texts to achieve tawātur status, it is sufficient that a large number of transmitters collectively transmit their parts. Al-Māzirī (d. 536/1141) analogized this argument to the transmission of the famous pre-Islamic ode of Imruʾ al-Qays, “Halt, you two companions, and let us weep” (qifā nabki). If 100 different men each memorized a verse of the poem, the poem would have still been considered mutawātir.[174] The inimitable composition of the Qur’an was enough incentive for the companions, irrespective of any religious motivations, to memorize it.

The first Ṭabaqah of Qurrāʾ (1st century)

The different generations (ṭabaqāt) of qurrāʾ from the time of the companions to later centuries are documented in multiple biographical works showcasing the uninterrupted chains of delivering and teaching the Qur’an. These works include abaqāt al-qurrāʾ by Abū ʿAmr al-Dānī (d. 444/1053), Maʿrifat al-qurrāʾ al-kibār ʿalā al-ṭabaqāt wa-l-aʿṣār by al-Dhahabī (d. 748/1348), and Ghāyat al-nihāyah fī ṭabaqāt al-qurrāʾ by Ibn al-Jazarī (d. 833/1429). Since al-Dānī’s book is not in print today, al-Dhahabī’s Maʿrifat al-qurrāʾ is considered one of the most notable works in the field. Ibn al-Jazarī stated in the introduction of his work that it encompassed the content of al-Dhahabī’s and, thankfully, al-Dānī’s works. Moreover, al-Dhahabī’s Maʿrifat al-qurrāʾ drew the attention of scholars like Tāj al-Dīn ibn Maktūm (d. 749/1348), who supplemented it with 20 more biographies, and Najm al-Dīn ʿUmar ibn Muḥammad al-Hāshimī (d. 885/1480), who rearranged it alphabetically.

In Maʿrifat al-qurrāʾ al-kibār, al-Dhahabī classified 18 generations from the time of the Prophet ﷺ to the 8th/14th century, with a total number of 734 qurrāʾ. Al-Dhahabī listed seven companions who received the Qur’an directly from the Prophet ﷺ as the first class and 12 of their students as the second class. This article will focus only on the first and the second ṭabaqāt.

The seven companions whom al-Dhahabī listed in the first ṭabaqah are:[175]

  1. ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān (d. 35/656), one of the Prophet’s ﷺ scribes of revelation and the Caliph after which the codex of the final compilation of the Qur’an was named (muṣḥaf ʿUthmān). ʿUthmān was known for his constant recitation of the Qur’an. He was reported to have recited the entire Qur’an in one rakʿah of the night prayer.[176] 
  2. ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib (d. 40/661), one of the Prophet’s ﷺ scribes. He praised ʿUthmān’s compilation of the Qur’an, and he was the teacher of Ibn ʿAbbās in Qur’anic exegesis (tafsīr). ʿAlī taught one of the most famous qurrāʾ of the tābiʿūn Abū ʿAbdulraḥmān al-Sulamī (d. 74/693), who testified that ʿAlī was the most expert Qur’an reciter.[177] Once the Prophet ﷺ died, ʿAlī was occupied with compiling the Qur’an and arranging it chronologically in the order of its revelation, which is said to be the reason for his late pledge to Abū Bakr’s appointment as a Caliph.    
  3. Ubayy ibn Kaʿb (d. 35/656), described by the Prophet ﷺ as the most expert reciter of this ummah. The Prophet ﷺ once said that Allah commanded him to read to Ubayy. Ubayy was a member of ʿUthmān’s committee that transcribed the Qur’an in its final style and order.  
  4. ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd (d. 32/560), about whom the Prophet ﷺ said, “I approve for my ummah whatever Ibn Umm ʿAbd [Ibn Masʿūd’s nickname] approves for them.”[178] He ﷺ also said, “Whoever would like to recite the Qur’an fresh as it was revealed, let him recite it according to the recitation of Ibn Umm ʿAbd.”[179] Among the Prophet’s companions, Ibn Masʿūd is considered the greatest contributor to the mass teaching of the Qur’an.[180]
  5. Zayd ibn Thābit (d. 45/665), one of the Prophet’s primary scribes and the head of both Abū Bakr’s and ʿUthmān’s committees. In the battle of Tabūk, the Prophet ﷺ assigned him the flag of his tribe, Banū al-Najjār, and said to him, “Qur’an [always] leads.”[181]
  6. Abū Mūsā al-Ashʿarī (d. 44-52/664-72). The Prophet ﷺ, praising his beautiful voice, said, “This man has been given a mizmār [a melodic instrument] among the mazāmīr [plural of mizmār] of the family of Dāwūd, peace be upon him.”[182]
  7. Abū al-Dardāʾ al-Anṣārī (d. 32/652) established the Qur’an’s teaching circles in Damascus’s mosque and led the dissemination of the Qur’an in the Syrian region.  

Muḥammad Jabal supplemented al-Dhahabī’s first generation list with six other companions who fulfilled the conditions of ʿarḍ or iqrāʾ to the Prophet ﷺ, teaching students, and being in the isnād of the ten canonical qirāʾāt. Based on extrapolations from various biographical works, these six companions are:

  1. ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb (d. 23/‌644) explicitly stated that the Prophet ﷺ taught him the Qur’an. Several accounts evince ʿUmar’s memorization of the entire Qur’an. Multiple narrations document his leading of the prayers with several long chapters of the Qur’an.[183] Ibn Masʿūd testified to his memorization and said “He was the best reciter of the Qur’an among us.”[184] ʿUmar is in the isnād of six canonical qirāʾāt[185] which confirms his direct reception from the Prophet ﷺ and his contributions as a Qur’an teacher. Moreover, ʿUmar was known for revelation validating his views five times.[186] Some ʿulūm al-Qurʾān works dedicated a sub-discipline to parts of the Qur’an that came to affirm what some of the companions expressed.[187] A sign of ʿUmar’s unique connection with the Qur’an is found in al-Suyūṭī’s statement that this sub-discipline is founded on the Qur’an’s agreements with ʿUmar, to which scholars have dedicated independent books.[188]      
  2. Wāthilah ibn al-Asqaʿ (d. 85/704), reported by his student Ibn ʿĀmir (d. 118/736), the canonical qārī, to have read to the Prophet [ﷺ].[189]
  3. Muʿādh ibn Jabal  (d. 18/639), one of four companions from whom the Prophet ﷺ instructed people to learn the Qur’an. He was sent to the Levant, alongside Abū al-Dardāʾ, to teach people Qur’an. Ibn ʿĀmir read to both of them.
  4. Faḍālah ibn ʿUbayd (d. 53/672), reported to have read to the Prophet ﷺ. Ibn ʿĀmir was also reported to hold Faḍālah’s personal codex following Faḍālah’s recitation.[190]   
  5. ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb (d. 74/), reported by Ibn al-Jazarī to have narrated different readings,[191] which confirms his reading to the Prophet ﷺ. Ibn ʿUmar is in the isnād of three canonical qirāʾāt.[192]
  6. Anas ibn Mālik (d. 91/533) was very close to the Prophet ﷺ and served as his servant for ten years. Ibn al-Jazarī said in his biography that “he transmitted the Qur’an from the Prophet ﷺ through hearing.” While hearing seems to be a lower level than ʿard, it is considered a substitute for ʿarḍ, especially in this case since Anas, given his long companionship, is likely to have also done ʿard to the Prophet.[193] 

Jabal added three more companions known to be knowledgeable of the Qur’an and likely to have also taught others: Abū Bakr, ʿUbādah ibn al-Ṣāmit (d. 34/655), and ʿUqbah ibn ʿĀmir (d. 58/678). Indeed, Abū Bakr is known to have led Muslims in prayer several times, often with long chapters that only skilled memorizers could recite in prayer.[194] Practicing his instruction that “the person who is best versed in the recitation of the Book of Allah, should lead the prayer,”[195] the Prophet ﷺ appointed Abū Bakr to lead the main congregation, comprising the muhājirūn and the anṣār, when he was sick.[196] Being the best of the Prophet’s companions, Abū Bakr was undoubtedly one of their best qurrāʾ.

The biographies of the above-mentioned companions (the seven mentioned by al-Dhahabī and the six added by Jabal) illustrate common characteristics regarding their knowledge of the Qur’an. Specifically, they all:

  1. Read directly to the Prophet ﷺ, as explicitly or implicitly mentioned in authentic reports.
  2. Received the Qur’an orally, not in writing.
  3. Memorized the entire Qur’an.
  4. Taught a generation of companions and successors.
  5. Come at the top of the isnāds of the ten canonical qirāʾāt.[197]

Hence, employing the tawātur theory, “the Qur’an’s isnād was never interrupted nor subjected to solitary transmission (āḥād) since the time of the Prophet [ﷺ].”[198] 

The second Ṭabaqah of Qurrāʾ (1st and early 2nd century)

Al-Dhahabī listed three companions and nine tābiʿūn who read to other companions of the Prophet ﷺ based on the criteria that: 1) each one of them recited the Qur’an to one or more companions of the first ṭabaqah (only the aforementioned list of seven companions compiled by al-Dhahabī), and 2) all 12 of the second ṭabaqah are links in the isnāds of the ten canonical qirāʾāt.[199] Jabal complemented al-Dhahabī’s list, following al-Dhahabī’s criteria, with 14 other companions. Al-Dhahabī’s list includes:

  1. Abū Hurayrah (d. 57-8/676-7), a late convert to Islam  (7th/628) who nonetheless was a ṣuffah resident who committed all his time to the Prophet ﷺ. He is widely known for his transmission of hadith and is reported to have read the Qur’an directly to the Prophet [ﷺ].[200] Abū Hurayrah read to Ubayy ibn Kaʿb and taught ʿAbdulraḥmān al-ʿAraj, who was one of Nāfiʿ’s (d. 169/785) teachers (one of the ten canonical qurrāʾ). Abū Hurayrah taught Abū Jaʿfar (d. 130/747), who is also reported to have taught  Abū ʿAmr  (d. 154/770). Both are from the ten qurrāʾ.  
  2.  ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAbbās (d. 68/555), the most famous exegete among the companions, who read to Ubayy and Zayd. Ibn ʿAbbās taught Saʿīd ibn Jubayr, Sulaymān ibn Qattah al-Baṣrī, ʿIkrimah ibn Khālid al-Makhzūmī, and Abū Jaʿfar. Out of the ten qurrā, Ibn ʿAbbās is in the isnād of the qirāʾāt of Abū Jaʿfar, Nāfiʿ, Ibn Kathīr (d. 120/737), and Abū ʿAmr.
  3. ʿAbdullāh ibn al-Sāʾib (d. before 70/557) was a very young companion who learned from Ubayy and ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb. He taught Mujāhid ibn Jabr and Ibn Kathīr. Ibn al-Sāʾib is in the isnād of Ibn Kathīr and Abū ʿAmr.
  4. Al-Mughīrah ibn Abī Shihāb al-Makhzūmī (d. 91/709), a tābiʿī who read to ʿUthmān and taught Ibn ʿĀmir.
  5. Ḥiṭṭān ibn ʿAbdullāh al-Raqāshī (d. after 70/557), a tābiʿī who read to Abū Mūsā al-Ashaʿrī and taught al-Ḥasan al-Baṣrī, his link to the reading of Abū ʿAmr.
  6. Al-Aswad ibn Yazīd al-Nakhaʿī (d. 75/562), a tābiʿī who read to Ibn Masʿūd and taught Yaḥyā al-Asadī and Ibrāhīm al-Nakhaʿī, among others. Al-Aswad is in the isnād of Ḥamzah and al-Kisāʾī.
  7. ʿAlqamah ibn Qays al-Nakhaʿī (d. 62/681) a tābiʿī who was born during the lifetime of the Prophet ﷺ and learned from Ibn Masʿūd who told him, “If the Prophet ﷺ had seen you, he would have been pleased with you.”[201] ʿAlqamah taught Ibrāhīm al-Nakhaʿī, ʿUbayd ibn Naḍlah, and Yaḥyā ibn Waththāb. ʿAlqamah is in the isnād of Ḥamzah (d. 156/722), al-Kisāʾī (d. 189/804), and Khalaf (d. 229/843).
  8. Abū ʿAbdulraḥmān al-Sulamī (d. after 70/557), a tābiʿī and a son of a companion who read to the most prominent qurrāʾ of the companions including ʿUthmān, ʿAlī, Ibn Masʿūd, Ubayy, and Zayd (to whom he read the Qur’an 13 times). Among his students were al-Ḥasan and al-Ḥusayn (the Prophet’s grandsons), ʿĀṣim (one of the ten qurrāʾ), ʿAtāʾ ibn al-Sāʾib, Abū Isḥāq al-Subayʿī. Ibn Mujāhid said, “The first to teach Kūfans the agreed upon reading that conforms to ʿUthmān’s codex was Abū ʿAbdulraḥmān al-Sulamī.”[202] Al-Sulamī taught in Kūfah for 40 years until he died at the age of 90. Al-Sulamī  is in the isnād of ʿĀṣim, Ḥamzah, al-Kisāʾī, and Khalaf.
  9. ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAyyāsh al-Makhzūmī (d. after 70/557), a tābiʿī who read to Ubayy and taught Abū Jaʿfar, Shaybah ibn Naṣṣaḥ, ʿAbdulraḥmān ibn Hurmuz, Muslim ibn Jundub, and Yazīd ibn Rumān—all of whom were among Nāfiʿ’s teachers. Ibn ʿAyyāsh is in the isnād of Abū Jaʿfar, Nāfiʿ, and Abū ʿAmr.
  10. Abū al-Rajāʾ al-ʿUṭāridī (d. 105/723), a tābiʿī who became Muslim during the lifetime of the Prophet ﷺ but never saw him and died at the age of 127 or 130. Al-ʿUṭāridī read to Abū Mūsā al-Ashaʿrī and Ibn ʿAbbās and taught Abū al-Ashhab al-ʿUṭāridī who taught Yaʿqūb (one of the ten qurrāʾ).
  11. Abū al-Aswad al-Duʾalī (d. 69/689), a tābiʿī who became Muslim during the lifetime of the Prophet ﷺ but never saw him. Al-Duʾalī read to ʿUthmān, ʿAlī, and taught his son Abū Ḥarb, Yaḥyā ibn Yaʿmur, and  Naṣr ibn ʿĀṣim. Al-Duʾalī is in the isnād of Abū ʿAmr and Ḥamzah.
  12. Abū al-ʿĀliyah al-Riyāḥī (d. 90-6/708-14), a tābiʿī who became Muslim during the caliphate of Abū Bakr. Al-Riyāḥī read to ʿUmar, Ubayy, Zayd, and Ibn ʿAbbās. Ibn Abī Dāwūd said, “There is no one after the companions who is more knowledgeable of the Qur’an than him [al-Riyāḥī].”[203] Al-Riyāḥī is in the isnād of Abū ʿAmr, Ḥamzah, al-Kisāʾī, Yaʿqūb (d. 205/820), and Khalaf.

Following the same criteria of al-Dhahabī (reciting to one or more of the first ṭabaqah and being links in the isnād of the ten qirāʾāt), Jabal added 14 tābiʿīn. He attempted to rank their level of companionship (ubah) with the companions by reference to their age groups (early versus young) and debatable companionship with the Prophet ﷺ himself. Below is Jabal’s list in chronological order:

  1. Masrūq ibn al-Ajdaʿ (d. 63/682) who read to Ibn Masʿūd and taught Ibn Waththāb. Masrūq is in the isnād of Ḥamzah, al-Kisāʾī, and Khalaf
  2. ʿAmr ibn Shuraḥbīl al-Ḥamdānī (d. 63/682), who read to Ibn Masʿūd and taught Abū Isḥāq al-Sabīʿī. ʿAmr is in the isnād of Ḥamzah, al-Kisāʾī, and Khalaf.
  3. ʿUbaydah ibn ʿAmr al-Salmānī (d. 72/691) who became Muslim during the lifetime of the Prophet ﷺ but never saw him. He read to Ibn Masʿūd and taught Ibrāhīm al-Nakhaʿī and others. Al-Salmānī is in the isnād of Ḥamzah, al-Kisāʾī, and Khalaf
  4. ʿĀṣim ibn Ḍamrah al-Sakūnī (d. 74/693) who read to ʿAlī and taught Abū Isḥāq al-Sabīʿī. ʿĀṣim is in the isnād of Ḥamzah, al-Kisāʾī, and Khalaf
  5. ʿUbayd ibn Naḍlah al-Khuzāʿī (d. 75/694), who read to Ibn Masʿūd and taught Yaḥyā ibn Waththāb. He was the muqrī of Kūfah in his time and his companionship with the Prophet ﷺ, according to al-Dhahabī, is debatable (meaning it is possible that he met the Prophet ﷺ). Ubayd is in the isnād of Ḥamzah, al-Kisāʾī, and Khalaf.
  6. Zayd ibn Wahb (d. after 80/699), who traveled to see the Prophet ﷺ but did not make it before his death. Zayd read to Ibn Masʿūd and taught Sulaymān al-ʿAmash. Zayd is in the isnād of Ḥamzah, al-Kisāʾī, and Khalaf
  7. Umm al-Dardāʾ Hujaymah bint Ḥuyayy (d. after 80/699), who read to her husband Abū al-Dardāʾ and taught ʿAṭiyyah ibn Qays, Yūnus ibn Hubayrah, and Ibrāhīm ibn Abī ʿAblah (who read the Qur’an seven times to her). ʿAṭiyyah ibn Qays is one of her most prominent students—he became the leading qārī of Damascus after Ibn ʿĀmir, and it was reported that people would correct their copies of the Qur’an according to his reading.  
  8. Zirr ibn Ḥubaysh (d. 82/701), who read to Ibn Masʿūd, ʿUthmān, and ʿAlī as well as taught ʿĀṣim and many others. He died at the age of 120. Zirr is in the isnād of ʿĀṣim, Ḥamzah, al-Kisāʾī, Yaʿqūb, and Khalaf
  9. ʿAbdulraḥmān ibn Abī Laylā (d. 83/702), who read to ʿAlī and taught his own son ʿĪsā. Ibn Abī Laylā is in the isnād of Ḥamzah, al-Kisāʾī, and Khalaf.
  10. Saʿd ibn Iyās (d. 96/714), who lived during the lifetime of the Prophet ﷺ but never met him. He read to Ibn Masʿūd and taught ʿĀṣim and Yaḥyā ibn Waththāb. Saʿd is in the isnād of ʿĀṣim, Ḥamzah, al-Kisāʾī, and Khalaf.
  11. ʿIkrimah ibn Khālid al-Makhzūmī (d. 115/733), who read to the students of Ibn ʿAbbās and, arguably, to Ibn ʿAbbās himself, along with ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿUmar. He taught Abū ʿAmr and Ḥanẓalah ibn Abī Sufyān. Al-Makhzūmī is in the isnād for the readings of Abū ʿAmr and Yaʿqūb. 
  12. ʿUbayd ibn Qays al-Kulābī, a tābiʿī (d. unknown) who read to Ibn Masʿūd and taught Ibn Waththāb. ʿUbayd is in the isnād of Ḥamzah, al-Kisāʾī, and Khalaf.
  13. Ibn ʿĀmir (d. 118/736), one of the ten qurrāʾ who read to multiple companions including Abū al-Dardāʾ, Muʿādh, Faḍālah, Wāthilah, Muʿāwiyyah, and, arguably, ʿUthmān.
  14. Muḥammad ibn Muslim al-Zuhrī (d. 124/741), who read to Anas ibn Mālik and taught Nāfiʿ (one of the ten qurrāʾ). Al-Zuhrī is in the isnād of Nāfiʿ and Abū ʿAmr.


A growing Qur’anic community: Communal responsibility towards the Qur’an

Knowledge and memorization of the Qur’an kept spreading among Muslims after the time of the Prophet ﷺ. Many companions memorized the Qur’an, and the number of Qur’an teachers and reciters multiplied during the reign of ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb,[204] who used to assign governmental funds to memorizers.[205] Prayer was a significant mode of preserving the Qur’an, as reflected in the early Muslims’ connection to prayer and dedication to perfecting its intimate communing with God through His words. Intriguingly, some companions and tābiʿūn were reported to have recited the entire Qur’an in one rakʿah, and some used to recite the entire Qur’an 60 times in Ramadan. Several reports and discussions exist in the tradition pertaining to the preferred routine of completion (khatm) of the Qur’an.[206] 

One of the main causes of the Qur’an’s increased dissemination in society was ʿUmar’s regulation of the Ramadan night supererogatory prayer (tarāwīḥ). ʿUmar had appointed three qurrāʾ—Ubayy ibn Kaʿb, Muʿādh ibn al-Ḥārith, and Tamīm al-Dārī—and scheduled their leading-prayer shifts based on the pace of their recitation. One of the narrations describing their recitations states that they used to recite sūrahs consisting of more than 100 verses (miʾīn) and that the companions would lean on their sticks to tolerate the length of the prayer. Sometimes the prayer would last till near dawn (fajr).[207] 

ʿUmar maintained the organization and support of this practice and requested that the various Muslim regions under his rule adopt it in the 14th year after the hijrah.[208]  ʿUmar’s practice of tarāwīḥ persisted and proliferated during the time of ʿUthmān and ʿAlī, when the recitation and memorization of the Qur’an continued to spread rapidly. Importantly, there is no documented claim from that era alleging that the Qur’an was altered, added to, or distorted in terms of its order or style of recitation in any way.[209] Tarāwīḥ remains a method of memorizing and transmitting the Qur’an today.

For the following generations, memorizing the Qur’an was held to be a communal obligation (far kifāyah). Due to multiple hadiths in which the Prophet ﷺ warned against forgetting what had been memorized from the Qur’an, some jurists held such forgetting to be a major sin (kabīrah). In support of this position, they cited the hadith in which the Prophet ﷺ said, “The sins of my ummah were shown to me. I did not see a sin greater than a sūrah or verse of the Qur’an given to a person who then forgot it.”[210] Despite its debatable authenticity, this hadith is understood by many jurists to establish the prohibition of forgetting the Qur’an. However, they disagreed extensively on the meaning of forgetting (e.g., complete loss of memory, inability to read from the muṣḥaf, neglect of its commands and prohibitions), valid excuses for forgetting (e.g., unintentional noncommitment to revising, occupation with other important studies or work to secure necessary lawful provision, mental issues), age-based accountability (differentiating between what was memorized at a young age versus adulthood), subjective memory strength and retention abilities, and the degree of sinning (major or minor) based on the intention and cause of forgetting.

For example, Ibn Ḥajar al-Haytamī (d. 974/1566) divided (nisyān) into two categories: unintentional nisyān and intentional negligence (isqāṭ). He concluded his detailed fatwā on this issue by saying,

It is understood from what I have stated that the [exact] point of forgetting is the removal [of the memorized] from the memory capacity (al-quwwah al-ḥāfidhah) so that one no longer retains it by heart as they used to before… Being able to read from the muṣḥaf does not prevent the sin of forgetting because we are ritually obligated to memorize by heart. Hence, imams [of jurisprudence] explicitly stated that its memorization is a communal obligation upon the ummah. Additionally,  most of the companions did not [know how to] write, but they had it [the Qur’an] memorized by heart… nisyān in the meaning I explained [intentional negligence] is a major sin even if [it was of] one verse as they [earlier scholars] stated. Even if one forgets one letter to such an extent that it requires work and repetition [to be remembered], they are sinful. If it does not reach that level and one can remember once they are reminded, they are not remiss.[211] 

In his treatment of the same issue, Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī narrated that Ibn Sīrīn (d. 110/729) said, “They [the righteous forebears] used to despise the one who forgets the Qur’an and to speak harshly of him.”[212] 

Part II:  Written transmission of the Qur’an during the time of the Prophet ﷺ

The illiteracy of Arab society at the time of the Prophet ﷺ is well-known. Less known is that despite this pervasive illiteracy, writing did exist among the Arabs: “Be wary of the opinion of those who say that the Arabs were not people of writing and pens.”[213] 

According to Ahmad al-Jallād, “[T]he abundance of written records in Arabia suggests that writing was widespread among both settled people and nomads… however, its function among both groups was quite different.”[214] Nonetheless, only select types of the Arab literature of the Ḥijāz, where the message of Islam commenced, were  \documented in written form before and during the time of the Prophet . Aside from writing for practical purposes such as letters, memoranda, treaties, and legal materials, “religious materials (with the eventual exception of the Qur’an), poetry and literary prose, genealogy, and historical traditions were transmitted orally” in the early Islamic centuries.[215] Poetry, prose, oration, and storytelling were the primary means of preserving the heritage of this part of the Arabian peninsula.

Writing was more common in the Arabian North and the South.[216] Ancient South Arabia, with its thousands of public transcriptions, “exemplifies a literate society,” yet that does not necessarily reflect a “widespread literacy among the general population.”[217] Compared to the Ḥijāz, where writing was not as common, even the venerated art of poetry “was not often put into writing in South Arabia.”[218] As for the development of the Arabic script, in the South the people of Yemen used to write in al-Musnad script,[219] while in the North, the Nabataeans adopted a writing style derived from the Aramaic prevalent in the Levant.[220] The Ḥijāzī Arabs learned this style of writing centuries before Islam. It eventually developed into the Ḥijāzī script, the same one in which the Qur’an was written.[221] 

The Qur’an explicitly acknowledges that most Arabs were illiterate by describing them (ummiyyīn) as well as the Prophet ﷺ (ummiyy) as “unlettered” in 62:2 and 7:157-8. The word ummiyyīn, according to the majority of exegetes, refers to those who do not know how to read or write.[222] The Prophet ﷺ did not read or write, nor did many of the Arabs of his time. Nevertheless, consider the following verses:

It is for Us to collect it and to give you the ability to recite it.[223] 

Indeed, this is in the former scrolls [scriptures].[224] 

A Messenger from Allah reciting purified pages [scriptures].[225] ​​

These verses of the Qur’an suggest the importance of preserving the Qur’an not just orally but in writing. Indeed, in arguing for the obligation to take all possible means of preserving the Qur’an, some scholars also cited the verse “This is the Book”[226] and “His [Allah’s] Book”[227] as indications that Allah’s revealed speech should be preserved by “writing it in sheets.”[228] 

Unsurprisingly, then, the textual preservation of the Qur’an was a duty established by the Prophet ﷺ himself. He commanded people to write it down and appointed, organized, and supervised his scribes of revelation. After the Prophet’s death, this duty transformed into a far kifāyah which his companions fulfilled. This organized scribal work came despite Arab society’s widespread illiteracy and, as shown below, played a pivotal role in fulfilling Allah’s promise to preserve the Qur’an. 

Literature on writing the Qur’an and the scribes of the Prophet ﷺ

Two terms are commonly used in the various reports about the textual documentation of the Qur’an: collection (jamʿ) and compilation (taʾlīf). Al-Bukhārī (d. 256/870) dedicated in his Ṣaḥīḥ a separate section for each: “Section on the Collection of the Qur’an” (bāb jamʿ al-Qurʾān) and “Section on the Compilation of the Qur’an” (bāb taʾlīf al-Qurʾān). In his commentary on the Ṣaḥīḥ, Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī noted that jamʿ al-Qurʾān is a collection of its sheets in a particular style while taʾlīf al-Qurʾān is arranging the verses of a sūrah or the order of the sūrahs.[229] When sheets are bound together, they are known as a codex which, in the case of the Qur’an, is called a muṣḥaf. Parchment (a stiff, flat material made from the untanned skins of goats or sheep) was scarce during the time of the Prophet ﷺ. Hence, he commanded his companions to write the Qur’an on other available materials such as palm leaf, stalk, and stump, as well as scapula bones, clay, the skin of animals, and certain kinds of rocks.[230]   

Identifying the scribes of the Prophet ﷺ requires examination of a vast literature of books dedicated to the topic as well as the works of sīrahṭabaqātshamāʾil (characteristics of the Prophet), and history. Books that document the names and biographies of the scribes of the Prophet ﷺ date back to as early as the 3rd/9th century, such as Kitāb al-Kuttāb by ʿAmr ibn Shabbah (d. 262/877), which is no longer extant. Subsequent works include al-Miṣbāḥ al-Mudiyy fī Kuttāb al-Nabyy by Muḥammad ibn Ḥadīdah al-Anṣārī (d. 783/1381), the most extensive examination of the topic ever undertaken.[231] Al-Anṣārī had two primary foci: the scribes of the Prophet ﷺ and the messengers and letters he ﷺ deployed to the kings and rulers of his time. After beginning the list with the four Caliphs, al-Anṣārī listed the rest of the scribes alphabetically. Still, no work independently dedicated to the Qur’anic scribes of the Prophet ﷺ exists in our tradition—a gap that some contemporary Muslim scholars have attempted to fill.      

Since the literature typically defines a scribe as someone who used to write anything for the Prophet ﷺ—not just Qur’an, but letters, legal documents, land deeds, and translations—scholars have disagreed on the number of Qur’anic scribes. Al-Aʿẓamī observed that almost every scholar he reviewed added more names to the list compiled by his predecessor.[232] One exception, however, is ʿAmr ibn Shabbah, who named 23 scribes, despite coming after al-Yaʿqūbī (d. after 292/905), who listed only 13 scribes in his Tārīkh.

The following scholars complemented al-Aʿẓamī’s list and provided different scribal counts based on their selected criteria: Al-Masʿūdī (d. 345/965) listed 16 scribes in his al-Tanbīh wal-Ishrāf, Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr (d. 463/1071) listed 25 in al-Istīʿāb, Ibn ʿAsākir (d. 571/1167) listed 23 in Tārīkh Dimashq, al-Qurṭubī (d. 671/1273) listed 26 in his Tafsīr, al-Anṣārī listed 44 in al-Mibāḥ al-Mudiyy, al-ʿIrāqī (d. 806/1403) listed 42 in his didactic poem al-Alfiyyah on sīrah,[233] Sibṭ ibn al-ʿAjamī (d. 841/1438) listed 43 in his gloss on Qāḍī Iyāḍ’s al-Shifā, Yaḥiā al-ʿĀmiriyy al-Ḥaraḍayy (d. 893/1487) listed 25 in Bahjat al-Maāfil, and al-Shabrāmallisī (d. 1087/1676) listed 40 in his legal gloss on al-Manhāj.[234] 

Based on a survey of such tremendous scholarship, as well as numerous works of literary professions (inshāʾ) and political treatises, most contemporary works put the number of scribes at over forty. ʿAlī al-Dabbāʿ (d. 1380/1961), in Samīr al-Ṭālibīn, noted that the total number of the Prophet’s scribes is 43 or 44, 14 of whom were specifically Qur’anic scribes.[235] In his Tārīkh al-Muṣḥaf al-Sharīf, ʿAbdulfattāḥ al-Qāḍī (d. 1403/1982) stated, “The Prophet had 40 scribes before the revelation of the Qur’an came to completion.”[236] The Shia scholar Abū ʿAbdullāh al-Zinjānī (d. 1359/1941) stated, in his Tārīkh al-Qurʾan, that the Prophet ﷺ had 43 scribes, listing 29 known to have specifically written the Qur’an.[237] 

More recently, al-Aʿẓamī listed 48 scribes of the Prophet ﷺ in his Kuttāb al-Nabyy, in which he treated their biographies.[238] However, in The History of the Qurʾanic Text, al-Aʿẓamī stated that the Prophet ﷺ had a total of 65 scribes without specifying whether they transcribed the Qur’an or fulfilled other duties.[239] In one section of his Wathaqat Naql al-Naṣṣ al-Qurʾanī, Muḥammad Jabal attempted to differentiate between Qur’anic and non-Qur’anic scribes of Prophet ﷺ through inference, compiling a total of 29 companions. Ghānim al-Ḥamad, in Rasm al-Mushaf, identified 43 as the overall number of the Prophet’s scribes.[240] In his more recent work Aṣālah al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, he briefly discussed seven of them when covering the stages of writing the Qur’an during the lifetime of the Prophet [ﷺ].[241]    

An important contribution to this discussion is the four-volume work of another Shia scholar ʿAlī al-Aḥmadī al-Mayānjī (d. 2000) titled Makātīb al-Rasūl. He divided the dictated writings of the Prophet ﷺ into two categories: writings that were especially dictated to ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib comprising different aspects of his Prophetic knowledge, and writings of the Prophet’s daʿwah letters, letters to his envoys, treaties, feoffments, and others. In the latter section, he identified 255 dictated writings whose exact wordings are no longer extant and 229 others whose wordings have survived. He argued that the actual number of these writings exceeds the total numbers in both identified categories.[242] In support of this argument, he provided a list of 263 companions whom the Prophet ﷺ had appointed to executive positions;[243] al-Mayānjī, however, acknowledged that not all reports regarding this number of companions are authentic.[244]     

Despite the resourceful authorities referenced in his work, and because of a strong emphasis on the role of ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib in the life of the Prophet ﷺ and the preservation of the Islamic traditions, al-Mayānjī was unduly strict in counting the number of the scribes of the Qur’an. While he distinguished the scribes of the Qur’an in a dedicated section, he limited them to only six companions, not at all of whom were certainly Qur’anic scribes.[245] In an odd insistence on proving discrepancies between different reports, al-Mayānjī excluded the names of Abū Bakr, ʿUmar, ʿUthmān, al-Mughīrah, ʿAmr ibn al-Āṣ, Khāild ibn al-Walīd, and Muʿāwiyah.[246] His arguments for some of these exclusions will be discussed below.

Finally, works on political theory and administrative law in the early Islamic era list those companions appointed to governmental or executive positions, including the scribes. Among the most extensive contemporary references on the Prophet’s lifetime is ʿAbdulḥayy al-Kittānī’s two-volume book on the Prophet’s governmental system, al-Tarātīb al-Idāriyyah. The third section of the first volume is dedicated to various topics related to the writing professions as organized by the Prophet ﷺ including his different types of dictated writings, his scribes, his style of dictation, his ways of addressing his correspondents, the structure of his official letters and statements, his translators, his spokespeople and poets, and his instructions to the scribes regarding the materials used and how to sign, date, stamp, and mail them.[247] Moreover, Muhammad Hamiduallah’s (d. 1422/2002) collection of the “political documents” written during the time of the Prophet ﷺ and his four succeeding Caliphs is a significant reference for early writings and the scribes of the Prophet [ﷺ].[248]

The following sections on the scribes of the Qur’an will adopt Jabal’s bipartite categorization based on the Meccan and Medinan periods of the life of the Prophet ﷺ.      

Writing the Qur’an in the Meccan period

The revelation of the Qur’an in the Meccan period lasted for 13 years. Since it was longer than the Medinan period, the Meccan period witnessed the revelation of more Qur’anic chapters. Of 45 long or medium chapters (from al-Baqarah to al-Aḥqāf), 35 are Meccan. This quantity of revelation may have necessitated textual transcription to protect it from potential losses or mistakes. The Prophet ﷺ paid early attention to the importance of preserving the revelation in writing and combating illiteracy among Muslims. He  was reported to have said, “record knowledge with writing.”[249] Al-Azharī (d. 370/981) highlights the importance of written documentation, saying, “Writing [guarantees] more accuracy than the hearts of men.”[250] Writing the Qur’an in an illiterate society affirms that such documentation did not stem from happenstance or merely reflect common cultural practice. Instead, it was a Divine inspiration and an intentional plan for the future of the new religion and its book.[251]   

The Prophet  said, “Do not write down anything from me, and he who wrote down anything from me except the Qur’an should efface that.”[252] This hadith indicates that some companions were already writing, or wanted to write down everything the Prophet ﷺ said. The Prophet ﷺ , though, wanted them to focus on the Qur’an’s writing and even erase anything else they had written from him. Later, he permitted the companions to write down his hadith.[253] The Prophet ﷺ must have issued this ban on non-Qur’anic writing as early as his companions started writing down what he was conveying to them, meaning in Mecca.[254] His (initial) prohibition of non-Quranic writing established a distinction between human and Divine speech that protected the latter from distortion.[255] This distinction in writing added another layer of protection to that offered by the unparalleled rhetorical style of the Qur’an.  

Evidently, then, the prevalence of illiteracy in Meccan society did not negate the existence of writing and writers. By the advent of Islam, there were 17 scribes among the Quraysh.[256] As known in the sīrah, the Quraysh wrote on a sheet documenting their official boycott of the Prophet  and Meccan Muslims. Multiple companions among the early Meccan Muslims were penmen, including Abū Bakr, ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb, ʿUthmān, ʿAlī, Saʿīd ibn Zayd and his wife Fāṭimah bint al-Khaṭṭāb, and Khabbāb ibn al-Aratt. The story of how ʿUmar embraced Islam, highlighted above, relates that Saʿīd, his wife Fāṭimah, and Khabbāb were reading Qur’an from a sheet that had verses from Sūrah Tāhā and possibly also Sūrah al-Takwīr.[257] There were likely multiple other sheets that contained written Qur’an.

The Prophet’s scribes in the Meccan period

Scarcely does the existing literature explicitly identify anyone as a Meccan scribe of revelation. Moreover, the harsh conditions characteristic of the Meccan period of Islam possibly concealed many details regarding the transcription of the Qur’an during that time. However, sīrah works generally list the scribes who wrote everything the Prophet ﷺ dictated, including Qur’an, messages, correspondences, and other deeds and documents. It is possible to identify who among them were specifically Meccan scribes if they meet three criteria: a scribe of the Prophet (as long as this scribe’s transcription was not specified for anything other than the Qur’an), an early Muslim, and a resident of Mecca. In applying these three conditions, four names rise to the top of the list:

  1. Shuraḥbīl ibn Ḥasanah (d. 18/639), said to be “the first [companion] to write for the Prophet [ﷺ].”[258] His status as the first Prophetic scribe indicates he began writing before he migrated to Abyssinia, which in turn suggests that he wrote Qur’an, since the Prophet ﷺ did not correspond with anyone in writing during the pre-Abyssinian period.[259]     
  2. Khālid ibn Saʿīd ibn al-ʿĀṣ (d. 13/634), said to be the second person to embrace Islam after Abū Bakr. Khālid was the first to write, “In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful” (Bismillāh al-Raḥmān al-Raḥīm).[260] 
  3. Ḥanẓalah ibn al-Rabīʿ al-Tamīmī (d. 52/672), known as “The Scribe” (al-kātib) before Zayd ibn Thābit won that title.  
  4. ʿAbdullāh ibn Sʿad (d. 36-37). According to Al-ʿAsqalānī, he was the first person from Quraysh to write the revelation for the Prophet ﷺ in Mecca.[261] ʿAbdullāh ibn Sʿad is known for the controversy surrounding his apostasy from Islam during the life of the Prophet ﷺ. He eventually revoked his apostasy, became Muslim again, and participated in multiple conquests before he died as a Muslim.[262] 

Other companions who embraced Islam early and fulfilled general scribal duties for the Prophet ﷺ were:[263] 

  1. Abū Bakr
  2. ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb

Al-Mayānjī questioned whether Abū Bakr and ʿUmar were from among the Prophet’s scribes, despite multiple biographies affirming that they were. Al-Mayānjī also stated that Abū Bakr was unlettered, a claim for which he cited no evidence besides Ibn ʿAbd Rabbih (d. 328/940) not listing him among the 17 men who knew how to write at the advent of Islam.[264] Abu Bakr’s exclusion from Ibn ʿAbd Rabbih’s list is not sufficient evidence for al-Mayānjī’s claim, especially since Abu Bakr is reported to have written a peace treaty by the command of the Prophet [ﷺ].[265] Conflicting reports about the identity of this treaty’s scribe are reconciled by Ibn Kathīr (d. 774/1373) to mean that Abu Bakr shared the writing process with another companion, ʿĀmir ibn ʿUqbah.[266]       

  1. ʿUthmān, when the rebels attacked him and struck his hand with a sword, said, “By Allah, it is the first hand to transcribe the mufaṣṣal.”[267] 
  2. ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib
  3. Ṭalḥah ibn ʿUbayd Allāh (d. 36/656)
  4.  Al-Zubayr ibn al-ʿAwwām (d. 36/656)
  5.  Al-Arqam ibn Abī al-Arqam (d. 55/675)
  6.  Ḥāṭib ibn ʿAmr ibn ʿAbd Wud (d. unknown)
  7. ʿĀmir ibn Fuhayrah (d. 4/625)
  8. Abū Salamah ibn ʿAbd al-Asad (d. 4/625)
  9. Muʿayqīb al-Dūsī (d. 40/660)
  10. Abān ibn Saʿīd ibn al-ʿĀṣ (d. 13/634). He was Khālid’s brother (mentioned above).[268]

The Qur’an was transcribed concomitantly with its revelation. Several companions reported that the Prophet ﷺ would call on scribes when he received new revelation and instruct them to write and place it in its assigned chapter.[269]

Although not commonly reported in classical or contemporary ʿulūm al-Qurʾān works, some of the Qur’an-inscribed sheets in Mecca were sent to Medina to support the ongoing dissemination of the Qur’an.[270] Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī reported from Ibn Isḥāq (d. 150/767) that Rāfiʿibn Mālik al-Zuraqī was “the first to bring Sūrah Yūsuf to Medina.”[271] Admittedly, this report does not explicitly mention whether the sūrah was received from the Prophet ﷺ orally or in writing. However, al-ʿAsqalānī reported another narration from al-Zubayr ibn Bakkār (d. 256/870) that the Prophet ﷺ gave Rāfiʿ, when they met during the pledge of al-ʿAqabah, what was revealed to him over the previous decade. Rāfiʿ, in turn, took that from the Prophet ﷺ to Medina, where he gathered his people and started teaching them what he had brought from the Prophet [ﷺ].[272] It is almost impossible that Rāfiʿ learned so much Qur’an orally at once, which indeed suggests that it was in writing.

It is important to note that Rāfiʿ was an educated person known as one of society’s “perfect people” (al-kamalah). According to Ibn Saʿd (d. 230/845), a “perfect person” (kāmil) in pre-Islamic times was one who wrote and was skilled in swimming and archery.[273] There is no existing evidence of what eventually happened to Rāfiʿ’s sheets. Possibly, they were among the sheets which Zayd ibn Thābit, and other scribes, used in reviewing their writings with the Prophet [ﷺ].[274] These sheets (derived from different parchment materials) were potentially kept in an easily movable container, as evidenced by Rāfiʿ’s successful journey to Medina with a decade’s worth of revelation despite a dangerous climate of anti-Islamic hostility.[275]              

Writing the Qur’an in the Medinan period

The Prophet’s ﷺ efforts to maintain written documentation of the Qur’an continued after his move to Medina. During the Meccan period, there was no need to write anything besides the Qur’an. However, the situation changed drastically after the immigration to Medina due to the complex needs of the new society. Accordingly, after victory in the Battle of Badr, the Prophet ﷺ issued a different kind of ransom for the captives lacking financial resources: teaching Medinan children how to write. Each captive was responsible for teaching ten children.[276] Thus, illiteracy decreased among the Arabs after the spread of Islam amongst them. Consequently, the number of scribes increased, and their scribal duties diversified to include a range of tasks that extended beyond transcribing the Qur’an to include other Prophetic statements and decisions.  

Contrary to a common belief that registers (diwāns) were established after the death of the Prophet ﷺ, simple forms of diwāns were developed during his time and by his command ﷺ. The word diwān, in its early usage, references the place where a transcriber sits, a logbook, or a register.[277] According to al-Qalqashandī (d. 821/1418) in his administrative encyclopedia on the composition of chancery documents Ṣubḥ al-Aʿshā, the first chancery in Islam was established during the time of the Prophet ﷺ, as represented in his letters and correspondences.[278] Although the official establishment of army and revenue registers is attributed to his successors, most popularly to Caliph ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb, prototypical forms of such registers emerged in the lifetime of the Prophet [ﷺ].[279]  

The existence of such diwans can be inferred from several hadiths. Ḥudhayfah narrated that “the Prophet ﷺ said, ‘List the names of those people who have announced that they are Muslims.’ So, we listed 1,500 men.”[280] This “listing” implies a practice of written record-keeping. Once, after the Prophet ﷺ stated that “it is not permissible for a man to be alone with a woman, and no lady should travel except with an unmarriageable kin (maram),” a man responded by saying, “O Allah’s Messenger! I have enlisted (uktutibtu) in the army for such-and-such battle, and my wife is proceeding for hajj.” The Prophet ﷺ said, “Go and perform the hajj with your wife.”[281] Al-Bukhārī titled the section under which this hadith was reported using the word for someone “who was enlisted” (uktutiba), meaning enlisted in writing. Moreover, several companions were reported to have registered their alms dues and contributions (amwāl al-adaqāt) for the Prophet ﷺ.  

Al-Mayānjī, based on a variety of sources, identified eight diwāns established by him ﷺ which are: 1) the diwān for transcribing the Qur’an, 2) the diwān for writing down the sunnah, 3) the diwān for treaties, pledges, peace agreements, and feoffments, 4) the diwān for claims, lawsuits, and financial disputes, 5) the diwān of the army, 6) the diwān for alms (zakāh), spoils, charities, and their recipients, 7) the diwān of chancery for correspondences with kings, tribes, deputies, and envoys, and 8) the diwān of delegates.[282]    

The Prophet’s scribes in the Medinan period

ʿUthmān, Ubayy ibn Kaʿb, and Zayd ibn Thābit were among the most critical scribes in the Medinan period, heavily influencing the process and the final stages of standardizing the Qur’anic text. Ubayy was the first to write the Qur’an for the Prophet ﷺ in Medina. If Ubayy was not available, Zayd ibn Thābit used to be assigned to write. ʿUthmān testified for himself, as mentioned earlier, describing his hand as “the first hand to transcribe the mufaṣṣal.”[283] Zayd, one of the anṣāri children who learned from Badr’s captives, became the most important figure of Qur’anic transcription and compilation during and after the time of the Prophet ﷺ. The people of Medina knew him as “the scribe of revelation” (kātib al-waḥy).[284] 

Zayd ibn Thābit’s residential proximity to the Prophet ﷺ eased his commitment to writing the Qur’an, as “I was his [the Prophet’s] neighbor. When the revelation would come to him, he would call on me to write it down.”[285] Zayd went on to describe how he would be there in all different situations with the Prophet ﷺ: “If he [the Prophet] mentions the hereafter, he mentions it with us. If he mentions life, he mentions it with us, and if he mentions food, he mentions it with us.”[286] Qur’anic transcription took a more specialized form in Medina through Zayd’s work who, given his proximity to the Prophet ﷺ, kept the writing tools (e.g., sheets, tablets, inkpot) ready at his house to be instantly available for the call of the Prophet [ﷺ].[287] Upon the revelation of verse 4:99, the Prophet said, “Call Zayd for me and let him bring the board, the inkpot, and the scapula bone [or the scapula bone and the ink pot].”[288] Zayd led the committee that compiled the Qur’an during the caliphate of Abū Bakr and the one that transcribed it during the caliphate of ʿUthmān.

In addition to these three companions, others who were known to write for the Prophet ﷺ in Medina without a specification of the content of writing were:[289]

  1. ʿAbdullāh ibn Rawāḥah (d. 8/629)
  2. Thābit ibn Qays (d. 12/633)
  3. ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAbdillāh ibn Ubayy ibn Salūl (d. 12/633)
  4. Khālid ibn al-Walīd (d. 21/642)
  5. ʿAbdullāh ibn al-Arqam (d. before 35/624). He was al-Arqam’s son.
  6. Ḥudhayfah ibn al-Yamān (d. 36/656)
  7. Ḥuayṭib ibn ʿAbd al-ʿUzzā al-Qurashī (d. 54/673)
  8. Saʿīd ibn al-ʿAṣ (d. 59/678)
  9. Muʿāwiyah ibn Abī Sufyān (d. 60/680)  
  10.  Buraydah ibn al-Ḥuṣayb al-Aslamī (d. 63/682)


The instant documentation of revelation

As mentioned earlier, the instant transcription of newly revealed Qur’an was a common practice of the Prophet ﷺ with his scribes in both Mecca and Medina. ʿĀʾishah said, “I have seen the Prophet ﷺ resting his thigh against ʿUthmān while I was wiping the Prophet’s ﷺ sweat from his forehead upon the revelation’s descent on him. The Prophet ﷺ was saying, ‘Write O ʿUthmān.’”[290] Zayd ibn Thābit described the Prophet’s instant conveyance of verse 4:95 and his command to document it saying,  

I was beside the Messenger of Allah ﷺ when the divinely-inspired calmness overtook him and the thigh of the Messenger ﷺ fell on my thigh. I did not find anything weightier than the thigh of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ. He then regained his composure and said “Write down.” I wrote on a shoulder: {Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and those who strive in the way of Allah}. When Ibn Umm Maktūm, who was blind, heard the virtue of the warriors, he stood up and said “O Messenger of Allah ﷺ! How is it for those believers who are unable to fight?”

When he finished his question, the divinely-inspired calmness overtook the Prophet again and his thigh fell on my thigh and I found its weight the second time as I found the first time. When he regained his composure, he said, {Other than those who have a (disabling hurt)}. Zayd said “Allah, the Exalted, revealed it alone and I appended it.”[291] 

The immediate documentation of the revelation proves that whatever was dictated and written is the exact text of the Qur’an as Jibrīl revealed it with no room for personal suppositions or dependence on memory.

Moreover, the immediacy of documentation negates any possibility that the transcribed text was a result of the concession (rukhah) of aruf permitting personal preferences of dialectical pronunciations. More importantly, the textual transcription done under the direct supervision of the Prophet ﷺ—executed by the most notable scribes and closest companions during the last period of revelation—was the primary source for Abū Bakr’s compilation of the Qur’an. An early testimony was made by al-Ḥārith al-Muḥāsibī (d. 243/857) that

writing down the Qur’an was not invented [after the time of the Prophet]. Rather, Abū Bakr [only] ordered to copy [what was written] from one place to another. Those were sheets found in the house of the Prophet ﷺ in which the Qur’an was transcribed. A collector compiled them and bound them with thread, so none would go missing.[292]   

Abū Bakr’s compilation process added another layer of verification, combining oral transmission with the transcribed sheets. Hence, any possible discrepancy in oral pronunciation was eliminated by the transcribed text in an ongoing process of standardizing the Qur’anic recitation. Abū Bakr’s compiled Qur’an was the primary source for the final transcription of ʿUthmān’s muṣḥaf. This uniformity of transcription suggests that differences between the multiple copies of ʿUthmān’s muṣḥaf are limited only to what was directly conveyed by the Prophet ﷺ based on his reception from Jibrīl.[293] 

Reviewing the written Qur’an

The aforementioned report of Zayd writing verse 4:95 also shows that the immediacy of transcription did not compromise review and verification. Zayd was reported, via a disputed chain of transmission, to have said, “I used to write the revelation for the Prophet while he dictated to me. When I finished [writing], he would tell me, ‘Read [what you wrote]’ so I read it. If something was missing, he would fix it.”[294] Hadith scholars cited this report to establish that reviewing a written text and comparing it with its source is mandatory, following the practice of the Prophet [ﷺ].[295] 

Drafts of letters were presented to the Prophet ﷺ by his scribes before being dispatched,[296] a practice that was probably also applied to Qur’anic materials given their pivotal significance. Moreover, copying was known during the time of the Prophet ﷺ. Some companions (like Ibn ʿAbbās, Abū Bakr ibn Ḥazm, ʿUrwah ibn al-Zubayr, ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ, Abū Bakr, and ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb) kept personal copies they transcribed of different written dictations of the Prophet [ﷺ].[297] Less than 25 years after the Prophet’s death, a secretariat known as the House of Sheets (bayt al-qarāṭīs) was established in Medina, near ʿUthmān’s house.[298]        

Zayd narrated, “We were with, or around, the Messenger of Allah ﷺ compiling (nuʾallifu) the Qur’an on scraps (riqāʿ).”[299] This report shows that documentation was a group task, one that involved a process of compilation that encompassed writing, reviewing, and arranging verses and chapters. Additionally, the word “with” or “around” indicates that the Prophet ﷺ was always present among the memorizers and scribes during this process.[300] Likely, he had certain places in which writers sat near him while writing to ensure accurate dictation. Ibn ʿAbbās narrated that “a man would bring a sheet to the Prophet ﷺ, so a man would volunteer [seeking no compensation] to write down [the Qur’an], then another man takes a turn and writes down [the Qur’an] until the muṣḥaf is completed.”[301] Hence, writing the Qur’an was a voluntary task for which scribes gained no compensation. The materials on which the Qur’an was written were saved in the Prophet’s house, Zayd’s house, or other places such as the Prophet’s mosque.[302] 

It is highly probable that the entire Qur’an was transcribed during the time of the Prophet ﷺ, yet was scattered across different materials. A report attributed to Zayd says, “The Prophet ﷺ died, and the Qur’an was not compiled in a book. Rather, it was on palm leaf, stump, stalk, and branches.”[303] In describing how he started the compilation process during the caliphate of Abū Bakr, Zayd said, “I started looking for the Qur’an and collecting it from [what was written on] palm stalks, thin white stones and also from the men who knew it by heart.”[304]  A lack of empirical evidence prompted many contemporary scholars and academics to conclude that the Qur’an was not entirely written down during the lifetime of the Prophet. Thus, Yasin Dutton argues that

the picture of the Qur’an’s ‘collection’ in written form after the death of the Prophet quite overtly refers to ‘the hearts of men’ as being one of the main sources of Qur’anic material (alongside palm-branches, stones, etc.). Indeed, given the limited surface area of these other materials, it would seem at least possible that, at the death of the Prophet, large portions of the Qur’an were still in ‘the hearts of men’ rather than being in a solid, written, form.[305] 

While Dutton’s suggestion that “large portions” of the Qur’an were not in “a solid” written form may seem empirically supported by the dearth of original written materials, the possibility that most, or even all, of the Qur’an was written down during the lifetime of the Prophet still stands. Indeed, everything that has been covered in this section—the organized scribal activities, the appointment of scribes, the encouragement of education through writing, the Divine command to preserve the text, and the authentically reported reliance on written materials transcribed during the time of the Prophet in the subsequent textual compilations of the Qur’an—plainly substantiate the thesis that the entire Qur’an was recorded before the Prophet’s passing.

Furthermore, some contemporary scholars of Late Antiquity came to the conclusion that  

the most probable theory seems to be that at the death of the proclaimer, the revelations received by this time had been fixed in writing, in the form of copies that had been established with his approval by some of his companions, although these forms were not submitted by the Prophet himself to a final redaction in the form of a codex.[306] 

Indeed, many prominent classical authorities on the topic, such as Makkī ibn Abī Tālib, ʿIzz al-Dīn ibn ʿAbd al-Salām, Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, al-Suyūṭī and al-Qasṭalānī, stated that the entirety of the Qur’an was transcribed during the time of the Prophet [ﷺ].[307] 

Among the more contemporary Qur’an scholars who held the position that the entire Qur’an was written down during the lifetime of the Prophet ﷺ, yet on scattered materials, are Muḥammad ibn Khalaf al-Ḥuseinī (d. 1357/1939), ʿAbdulfattāḥ al-Qāḍī, ʿAlī al-Dabbāʿ, and Muḥammad Ṭāhir al-Kurdī (d. 1400/1980).[308] The reasons why the Prophet ﷺ did not order the compilation of these materials in one muṣḥaf are that 1) the companions were primarily concerned with the oral memorization of the Qur’an more than with its transcription, 2) the possibilities of revealing new Qur’an or abrogating some existing verses were continuously present during the Prophet’s life, and 3) writing is meant to prevent forgetting or doubt over wording, which would not happen so long as the Prophet ﷺ, the trusted human source of the revelation, was present. The dispersion of the Qur’an’s written pieces was a distinct difference between the “compilation of the Qur’an” during the time of the Prophet and the caliphates of Abū Bakr and ʿUthmān.[309]  

Furthermore, the opinion that only parts of the Qur’an were written down during the time of the Prophet ﷺ does not negate the preservation of the entirety of the text. The continuance of oral transmission, as detailed in the first part of this article, and the rigorous process of compiling the Qur’an by the companions shortly after the death of the Prophet ﷺ compensated for any potential missing writings.  

Did the companions know orthography?

The prevalence of illiteracy and the unique transcription style of the companions in writing the muṣḥaf  led some scholars, such as Ibn Khaldūn (d. 808/1406), to assert that the Arabic script until the time of the companions was not fully developed or standardized.[310] However, it is improbable that the companions, who established regular correspondences with kings and princes and documented their contracts, grants, and transactions, contravened rules of dictation and spelling.[311] If Islam came while a limited number of people knew writing, the regular and diverse writing activities led by the Prophet ﷺ certainly signify a historic shift among the unlettered community.

In his discussion of this claim, al-Kurdī argues that the Kufic script, which was common during the time of the companions, was imported to the Hijaz from Iraq and originally belonged to the Himyaritic Yemeni script.[312] However, this hypothesis has been disproven.[313] More recent research, which still struggles with the dearth of historical sources, has uncovered a more substantial relation between the Kufic and Nabatean scripts.[314] Some inscriptions from the companions’ time are extant in Hijaz, especially in Mecca, Medina, and Taif, in different scripting styles.[315] Regardless of its exact origins, the Kufic script is certainly ancient—and it is unlikely that such an ancient script did not acquire its own orthographical rules, especially since other scripts that date thousands of years prior to the Himyaritic script, such as Phoenician, Assyrian, and Syriac, acquired their own rules.

Furthermore, the development of a discipline focused on the orthography of the  Qur’an (rasm muṣḥaf)—investigating every style, script, font, and spelling variation—testifies to the intricacies contemplated by the companions. Different transcriptions reflecting different spelling rules or phonetic conventions were purposely conducted in accordance with the dialectical modes accommodated in the rukhsah of aḥruf, to whose tracing and standardization the scholars have dedicated a massive body of scholarship.[316] Among multiple scholarly approaches to such differences is one that attributes them to mistakes made by the scribe—a possibility propounded by Ibn Qutaybah, Ibn Khaldūn, and arguably Ibn Kathīr.[317]      

The unique style of the muṣḥaf’s rasm prompted some of these scholars to draw a distinction between standard Arabic script and orthography and that of the ʿUthmānic codex. Ibn Khaldūn’s sophisticated argument for the Arabic script’s undeveloped character in uncivilized societies suggests an established writing style for scribes during the companions’ time distinct from the one adopted in writing down the muṣḥaf.[318] This distinction, made by Ibn Khaldūn, Ibn Qutaybah, and multiple contemporary researchers, neglects the fact that orthographic rules developed years later. Subjecting a phenomenon in the ʿUthmānic codex, which is written in different styles, to one orthographic rule is flawed.[319] Additionally, some of these different styles resulted from the companions’ commitment to preserving the ancient figures or words while representing the unique phonetics employed in the Qur’an.[320] Finally, traditional narrations suggesting scribal errors in the ʿUthmānic codex are rendered unauthentic or misconstrued.[321]      

The order of verses and the arrangement of the written and recited Qur’an

The placement of verses in their respective chapters was another critical responsibility of the Prophet’s scribes since few chapters were revealed in their entirety at once. In addition to several short (qiār) chapters, a few relatively long chapters were revealed at once, such as al-Anʿām, al-Ṣaff, and al-Mursalāt.[322] The fact that the majority of the Qur’an was revealed in intervals necessitates that it was arranged sequentially with the time of revelation. The order of verses in the Qur’an, according to the majority of scholars, was mandated by Divine guidance and applied by the Prophet  (tawqīfī). This Divine arrangement is evidenced by the following facts:

First, as mentioned above, when he received new revelation, the Prophet ﷺ used to call on some of his scribes and instruct them to write and place it in its assigned chapter. Al-Qurṭubī and others attributed to Ibn ʿAbbās the report that after the last verse of the Qur’an was revealed, “And fear a Day when you will be returned to Allah,” Jibrīl asked the Prophet  to place it as verse number 281 in Sūrah al-Baqarah.[323] ʿUthmān ibn Abī al-ʿĀṣ also narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said, “Jibrīl [just] came to me and asked me to place this verse in this part of the sūrah, ‘Indeed, Allah orders justice and good conduct and giving to relatives and forbids immorality and bad conduct and oppression. He admonishes you that perhaps you will be reminded.’”[324] The Prophet’s adherence to Jibrīl’s instructions regarding the organization of the verses and chapters indicates that they are Divinely arranged.

The companions, in turn, abided by the arrangement of the Prophet  since they “would have never adopted an arrangement different from what they heard from the Prophet.”[325] In commenting on Zayd’s statement, “We were with the Messenger of Allah ﷺ compiling the (nuʾallifu) Qur’an on scraps,” al-Bayhaqī (d. 458/1066) held the word nuʾallifu to possibly mean “the compilation of scattered verses in their respective chapters.”[326] ʿUthmān mentioned that upon receiving intervals of long chapters, the Prophet  would call his scribes and say, “Place these verses in the chapter in which there is a mention of such and such.”[327] The companions’ caution against addition or omission is reflected in their inclusion of verses whose rulings are abrogated. When he was asked about why verse 2:240 was included despite the abrogation of its ruling on women’s mourning waiting period for a year, ʿUthmān answered, “I do not change anything from its place.”[328] 

Second, multiple hadiths describe a group of verses or encourage their memorization or recitation in a particular sequence, such as the “opening verses” of a sūrah such as al-Kahf,[329] or “the closing verses” of a sūrah such as al-Baqarah.[330] Third, the regular public reception of the Qur’an in prayer and through teaching by the companions adopted and affirmed the order of verses. The abovementioned eighth method, reciting in prayer, provides examples of several chapters the Prophet  recited in a verse order that the companions learned and preserved. Hence, Mālik ibn Anas (d. 179/795) was reported to have said, “The Qur’an was compiled based on the companions’ oral reception of the recitation of the Prophet [].”[331]

Fourth, scholarly literature on the particular arrangement and structure of the Qur’an examined the unique correlations between its consecutive verses and chapters. An example of such studies is the exegetical sub-discipline of the science of Qur’anic correlation (ʿilm al-munāsabah). While some scholars dedicated independent works to discussing this discipline,[332] some exegetes applied its methodology in their exegeses (tafsīr), such as al-Rāzī, al-Suyūṭī, and al-Biqāʿī (d. 885/1480), who reflected this methodology in the title of his work, Naẓm al-durar fī tanāsub al-āyāt wa-l-suwar. A more recent example of such methodology is  Ibn ʿĀshūr’s (d. 1973) tafsīrʿIlm al-munāsabah illustrates how the arrangement of verses was intentional; hence, the review of the transcribed Qur’an was necessary given the varying length of the periodical revelation. A case study on the longest chapter of the Qur’an, Sūrah al-Baqarah, was done by the late scholar Muḥammad Dirāz (d. 1958), showcasing its structural unity and thematic cohesion despite addressing a wide range of subjects throughout its nine-year-long revelation.[333]           

Finally, the names of the Qur’an’s chapters were also held to be tawqīfī by many scholars. Several accounts relate numerous names of sūrahs from the Prophet  and his companions. Al-Suyūṭī said, “The names of all the chapters are Divinely determined through hadiths and reports. If it was not for fear of prolixity, I would have stated that.”[334] Hence, the definition of a “sūrah” is a reflection of a number of verses grouped by the Prophet ﷺ in one chapter with a specific name. This, however, does not contradict the fact that some chapters were given multiple names or descriptions by the companions and following generations. The question of whether a sūrah can acquire multiple names in addition to the Divinely assigned one is a matter of disagreement among scholars.[335] 

Conclusion

The oral transmission of the Qur’an was the primary method the Prophet ﷺ adopted to preserve its text, following the Divine command of “recitation” and responding to the circumstances of the revelation’s first recipients. In addition to immediately reciting the revelation to his companions, the Prophet ﷺ would recite it to disbelievers to present the miraculous message of Islam. He ﷺ would teach at mosques, during travel, and on a one-on-one basis to those coming to embrace Islam, to gatherings he came across, and in prayers and sermons. The Prophet ﷺ also instructed his companions to teach the Qur’an to each other as well as to new Muslims across different geographies and contexts. The Qur’an was taught and recited by travelers and in concentrated efforts in various places of worship, extending from centralized populations of Muslims to nomadic Bedouins. Millions of Muslims today across the globe, from all different age groups and ethnic or linguistic backgrounds, have the entire Qur’an memorized by heart. Throughout history and until today, Muslims remained committed to the oral culture of their text and maintained its verbal delivery with the most careful verification and articulation possible.

Ensuring the preservation of the Qur’an was a life-long process for the Prophet ﷺ and his companions. Following Divine instructions and envisioning the future of his ummah, he organized scribal work among a select group of companions to contribute to the preservation process and to inspire the succeeding knowledge-based civilization they established. The Prophet’s scribes and the written sheets of the Qur’an were the primary sources for the compilation of the Qur’an during the caliphate of Abū Bakr and its unified transcription during the caliphate of ʿUthmān. The Qur’an we have today, all 114 chapters, easily accessible in numerous print and digital forms, was fully and authentically preserved due to the oral and textual efforts of the first generation of our ummah. This article is an attempt to highlight but a fraction of that effort’s depth, breadth, and ambition.


Notes

[1] Qur’an 15:9.

[2] For a brief summary of the definition of the Qur’an, see Yousef Wahb, “An Introduction to ʿUlūm al-Qur’an: The Field of Qur’anic Studies,” Yaqeen, April 2022, https://yaqeeninstitute.org/read/paper/an-introduction-to-ulum-al-quran-the-field-of-quranic-studies.

[3] Ammar Khatib and Nazir Khan, “The Origins of the Variant Readings of the Qur’an,” Yaqeen, August 2019, https://yaqeeninstitute.org/read/paper/the-origins-of-the-variant-readings-of-the-Qur’an; Ammar Khatib and Nazir Khan, “The ʿUthmānic Codex: Understanding how the Qur’an was Preserved,” Yaqeen, June 2022, https://yaqeeninstitute.org/read/paper/the-uthmanic-codex-understanding-how-the-quran-was-preserved; Yousef Wahb, “Can the Qur’an be Recited in Different Ways? The Meaning and Wisdom of Qiraat,” Yaqeen, April 2022, https://yaqeeninstitute.org/read/paper/can-the-quran-be-recited-in-different-ways-the-meaning-and-wisdom-of-qiraat;

[4] Theodor Nöldeke, Friedrich Schwally, Gotthelf Bergsträßer, and Otto Pretzl, The History of the Qurʾān (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2013), 36.

[5] Nöldeke, Schwally, Bergsträßer, and Pretzl, History of the Qurʾān, 211.

[6] Nöldeke, Schwally, Bergsträßer, and Pretzl, History of the Qurʾān, 214.

[7] Michael C. A. Macdonald, “Ancient Arabia and the Written Word,” in The Development of Arabic as a Written Language, ed. M. C. A. Macdonald (Oxford: Archaeopress: 2012), 21.

[8] Nöldeke, Schwally, Bergsträßer, and Pretzl, History of the Qurʾān, 209.

[9] Nöldeke, Schwally, Bergsträßer, and Pretzl, History of the Qurʾān, 36.

[10] Carl Brockelmann, Tārīkh al-adab al-ʿArabī, ed, ʿAbdulḥalīm al-Najjār and Ramadān ʿAbdultawwāb, 5th ed., 6 vols. (Cairo: Dār al-Maʿārif, 1977), 1:137–144, esp. 139.

[11] Régis Blachére, Al-Qurʾan: Nuzūluh, Tadwīnuh, Tarjamatuh wa Taʾthīruh, trans. Ridā Saʿādah, 1st ed. (Beirut: Dār al-Kitāb al-Lubnānī, 1974), 28–29.

[12] John Burton, The Collection of the Qurʾān (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977), 118.

[13] Burton, Collection of the Qurʾān, 117.

[14] Claude Gilliot, “Creation of a Fixed Text,” in The Cambridge Companion to the Qur’ān, ed. Jane Dammen McAuliffe, (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press: 2006), 46.

[15] Burton, The Collection of the Qurʾān, 229.

[16] Burton, The Collection of the Qurʾān, 225.

[17] Muḥammad Muṣṭafā Al-Aʿẓamī, The History of the Qur’anic Text from Revelation to Compilation (Leicester: UK Islamic Academy, 2003), 3–13.

[18] ʿAbdel Raḥmān Badawī, Défense de la vie du Prophète Muhammad contre ses Détracteurs (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1983).

[19] ʿAbdel Raḥmān Badawī, al-Difāʿ ʿan al-Qur’ān ḍidda muntaqidīh, 1st ed. (Cairo: Madboulī al-Saghīr, n.d.). The Arabic translation, however, lacks accuracy in converting technical terms from French to Arabic and falls short in quoting the original Arabic sources Badawī cited on several occasions.    

[20] Badawī, al-Difāʿ ʿan al-Qur’ān ḍidda muntaqidīh, 107–124.

[21] Badawī, al-Difāʿ ʿan al-Qur’ān ḍidda muntaqidīh, 123–24.

[22] Abū ʿUbayd al-Qāsim ibn Sallām, Faḍāʾil al-Qurʾān, ed. Wahbī Ghawjī (Morocco: Wizārat al-Awqāf wal-Shūʾun al-Islāmiyah, 1995), 1:244. The same hadith, as noted by the editor Ghawjī, is also narrated by Aḥmad, Abū Yaʿlā, and al-Ṭabarānī.

[23] Ibn Sallām, Faḍāʾil al-Qurʾān.

[24] Ibn Qutaybah, Tawʾīl mukhtalif al-ḥadīth, ed. Muḥammad al-Najjār (Cairo: Maktabat al-Kulliyāt al-Azhariyyah, 1966), 200.

[25] Ibn Qutaybah, Tawʾīl mukhtalif al-ḥadīth.

[26] It is said that ʿUthmān sent a reciter (qārī) with each copy to teach Muslims in their respective regions. This claim is common in some contemporary writings, such as Muhammad Ṭāhir al-Kurdī, Tārīkh al-Qurʾān al-Karīm wa gharāʾib rasmihi wa ukmih, 2nd ed. (Cairo: Muṣṭafā al-Halabī, 1953), 80;  Muḥammad Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qur’ānī min Rasūl Allah ilā ummatih (Tanta: Dār al-Sahābah, 2001), 194. The earliest account of this claim is cited by al-Jaʿbarī (d. 732/1328) without an isnād; it states: “ʿUthmān instructed Zayd ibn Thābit to recite according to the Madīnan codex, he sent ʿAbdullah ibn al-Sāʾib with the Makkī codex, Mughīrah ibn Abī Shihāb with the Syrian codex, Abū ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Sulamī with the Kūfan codex, and ʿĀmir ibn ʿAbd Qays with the Baṣran codex.”

[27] Qur’an 27:6.

[28] Qur’an 28:86.

[29] Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān fī ʿulūm al-Qur’an, ed. Aḥmad ibn ʿAlī, 4 vols. (Cairo: Dār al-Hadith, 2006), 1:142–66.

[30] Qur’an 75:19.

[31] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 448.

[32] Qur’an 87:6–7.

[33] Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, Mafātiḥ al-Ghayb, 1st ed., 32 vols. (N.p.: Dār al-Fikr, 1981), 31:142.

[34] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 5083.

[35] Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalanī, Fatḥ al-Bārī bi sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, ed. Muḥibb al-Dīn al-Khaṭīb et al., 1st ed., 13 vols. (Cairo: al-Maktabah al-Salafiyyah, 1960), 9:86.

[36] Ibn Hajar mentioned two opinions regarding stipulating the immediate remembering; some said it must be immediate and others said it is not mandatory.

[37] Al-ʿAsqalanī, Fatḥ al-Bārī, 9:86.

[38] Qur’an 5:67.

[39] Al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān, 1:142.

[40] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, nos. 4997–98, the chapter on “The Virtues of the Qur’an” (kitāb faḍāʾil al-Qurʾān), the section on “Jibrīl used to review the Qur’an with the Prophet” (bāb kāna Jibrīl yaʿriḍ al-Qurʾan ʿalā al-Nabī).

[41] Abū al-Abbās Aḥmad ibn Abū Bakr al-Qasṭalāni, Laṭāʾif al-ishārāt li funūn al-qirāʾāt, ed. Markaz al-Dirasat al-Qur’aniyah, 1st ed., 10 vols. (Saudi Arabia: Wizārat al-Awqāf wal-Shūʾun al-Islāmiyah, 2012), 1:49.

[42] Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalanī, Fatḥ al-Bārī, 9:5.

[43] Muḥammad Zāhid al-Kawtharī, Maqālāt al-kawtharī (Cairo: al-Maktabah al-Tawfīqiyyah, n.d.), 26.

[44] Al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān, 1:291.

[45] Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalanī, Fatḥ al-Bārī, 2:8; al-Qasṭalāni, Laṭāʾif al-ishārāt, 1:51.

[46] Qur’an 25:32.

[47] Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Aṣālat al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī waḥyan wa rasman wa lughatan wa qirāʾatan (Istanbul: Dār al-Ghawthānī 2019), 48.

[48] Al-Ḥamad, Aṣālat al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī.

[49] For example, Qur’an 5:27 and 7:175.

[50] Qur’an 6:151.

[51] Qur’an 13:30.

[52] Qur’an 17:106.

[53] Qur’an 27:92

[54] Qur’an 10:71, 26:69, and 29:45.

[55] Qur’an 2:151.

[56] Wahb, “An Introduction to ʿUlūm al-Qur’an.

[57] ʿArd, linguistically, is making something clear for others to know about it.

[58] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qur’ānī, 18–19.

[59] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 590.

[60] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 1166.

[61] Tashahhud (lit. testimony or witness), also known as al-taiyyāt (lit. greetings or salutations), is a supplication recited in the middle or final sitting in prayer.

[62] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 403.

[63] Muwaṭṭa Mālik, no. 203.

[64] Qur’an 4:95; Sunan Abū Dawūd, no. 2507.

[65] Sunan al-Dārimī no. 2445; Sunan al-Tirmidhī no. 3309. In highlighting the significance of a short chain of transmission (isnād ʿālī) and providing an example of uniform pattern of transmission (musalsal), Ibn al-Jazarī mentioned that he narrates this hadith via only ten men in a uniform manner (every transmitter in the isnād recited the entire sūrah after narrating the hadith). Abū al-Khayr ibn al-Jazarī, al-Nashr fī al-qirāʾāt al-ʿashr, ed. ʿAlī Muḥammad al-Ḍabbāʿ, 2 vols. (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 2006), 1:194–95.  

[66] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 4897.

[67] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 1830.

[68] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 400.

[69] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 73–75.

[70] Mustadrak al-Ḥākim, no. 7241.

[71] Abū Bakr al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār lil-Qurʾān, ed. Muḥammad Eṣām al-Quḍāh, 1st ed., 2 vols. (Beirut: Dār Ibn Ḥazm; Amman: Dār al-Fatḥ, 2001), 144.

[72] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 144–5.

[73] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 145.

[74] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 142.

[75] Muḥammad ibn Saʿd al-Zuhrī, Kitāb al-ṭabaqāt al-kubrā, ed. ʿAlī ʿUmar, 11 vols. (Cairo: Maktabat al-Khānjī, 2001), 8:125.

[76] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 142.

[77] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 4542.

[78] Muḥammad ibn Yūsuf al-Ṣāliḥī, Subul al-hudā wal-rashād fī sīrat khayr al-ʿibād, ed. Fahīm Shaltūt et al., 12 vols. (Cairo: al-Majlis al-Aʿlā lil-Shuʾūn al-Islāmiyyah, 1992), 5:98. Al-Ṣāliḥī attributed the report to al-Bukhārī (in his al-Tārīkh), Aḥmad, al-Bayhaqī, Abū Dawūd, al-Nasāʾī, and others.

[79] Abū al-ʿAbbās Aḥmad ibn ʿUmar al-Qurṭubī, al-Jāmiʿ li-aḥkām al-Qurʾān, ed. ʿAbd al-Muḥsin al-Turkī, 1st ed. (Beirut: Muʾsassat al-Risālah, 2006).

[80] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 4281.

[81] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 76.

[82] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 76.

[83] Sunan al-Nasāʾī, no. 5064.

[84] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 5049.

[85] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 4960.

[86] Ibn Hishām, al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah, ed. Musṭafā al-Saqqa et al., 4 vols. (Beirut: Dār Ihyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī),  2:236–37.

[87] Abū Nuʿaym al-Aṣfahānī, Ḥilyat al-awliyā wa ṭabaqāt al-asfiyā, 1st ed., 12 vols. (Beirut: Dār al-Fikr and Cairo: Maktabat al-Khanjī, 1996), 1:342.

[88] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 759.

[89] Scholars disagree on the reason these chapters are called al-mufaṣṣal (lit. the detailed) and on where they begin in the Qur’an. There is a consensus, however, that they are the last chapters of the Qur’an, ending with Chapter 114, al-NāsAl-mufaṣṣal are categorized into three: the long (ṭiwāl), the medium (awāṭ), and the short (qiār). Al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān, 1:201.

[90] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 5043.

[91] Sunan Abū Dawūd, no. 814.

[92] Al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān, 1:194–95 and 198.

[93] Sunan Abū Dawūd,  no. 1100; Sunan  al-Nasāʾī, no. 1411.

[94] Abū ʿAbd Allāh al-Qurṭubī, al-Jāmiʿ li-aḥkām al-Qur’an, ed. ʿAbd Allāh al-Turkī, 24 vols. (Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Risāla, 2006), 10:93–94.

[95] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 142.

[96] Musnad Aḥmad, no. 22766.

[97] Musnad Aḥmad, no. 22665.

[98] Al-Ṣāliḥī, Subul al-hudā wal-rashād, 6:589–99.

[99] Al-Ṣāliḥī, Subul al-hudā wal-rashād, 6:505.

[100] Al-Aṣfahānī, Ḥilyat al-awliyā, 1:342.

[101] Ibn Sallām, Faḍāʾil al-Qurʾān, 1:254.

[102] ʿAbdulḥayy al-Kittānī, al-Tarātīb al-idāriyyah, ed. ʿAbdullāh al-Khālidī, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (Beirut: Dār al-Arqam, n.d.), 1:103–4.

[103] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 143–144.

[104] ʿAbdulsalām Hārūn, Tahdhīb sīrah Ibn Hishām, 4th ed. (Beirut: Muʾssasat al-Risālah, 1985), 103.

[105] Al-Kittānī, al-Tarātīb al-idāriyyah, 1:104–5.

[106] Al-Kittānī, al-Tarātīb al-idāriyyah, 1:112; al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 143.

[107] ʿĀʾisha ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Bint al-Shāṭiʾ, al-Iʿjāz al-bayānī lil-Qurʾān wa masāʾil ibn al-Azraq, 3rd ed. (Cairo: Dār al-Maʿārif, n.d.), 42–43.

[108] Al-Ṣāliḥī, Subul al-hudā wal-rashād, 6:490.

[109] Al-Kittānī, al-Tarātīb al-idāriyyah, 104–5.

[110] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 146.

[111] Ṣaḥīḥ Ibn Khuzaimah, no. 558.

[112] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 2699.

[113] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 4232.

[114] Al-Bāqillānī dedicated a chapter to the virtues of Abū Bakr in terms of his memorization and knowledge of the Quran. Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 181–85.

[115]  Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 182.

[116]  Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 182. Ibn Ḥajar’s quote from al-Zubair ibn Bakkār, reported in his Akhbār al-Madīna, is similar.  Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalanī, al-Iṣābah fī tamyīz al-ṣahābah, ed. ʿĀdil ʿAbd al-Mawjūd et al., 1st ed., 8 vols. (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 1995), 2:370.

[117] Al-Kittānī, al-Tarātīb al-idāriyyah, 1:112.

[118] Al-Kittānī, al-Tarātīb al-idāriyyah, 1:112.

[119] Al-Kawtharī, Maqālāt al-kawtharī, 24–25.

[120] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 151–52.

[121] Al-Kawtharī, Maqālāt al-kawtharī, 24.

[122] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 152–3.

[123]  For a detailed account of the characteristics of ahl al-ṣuffa, see al-Aṣfahānī, Ḥilyat al-awliyā, 1:337–47. 

[124] Al-Nawawī, al-Tibyān fī а̄dāb ḥamalat al-Qur’ān, ed. Muḥammad al-Ḥajjār, 4th ed. (Beirut: Dār Ibn Ḥazm, 1996), 101.

[125]  Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 186.

[126] Aḥmad ibn Sālim al-Nafrāwī, al-Fawākih al-dawānī ʿalā risālat ibn Abī Zayd al-Qayrawānī, ed. ʿAbdulwārith ʿAlī, 1st ed., 2 vols. (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 1997), 1:50–51.

[127] Al-Nafrāwī, al-Fawākih al-dawānī, 51.

[128] Al-Nafrāwī, al-Fawākih al-dawānī, 51.

[129] Shams al-Dīn al-Dhahabī, Maʿrifat al-qurrāʾ al-kibār ʿalā al-ṭabaqāt wa-l-aʿṣār, ed. Shuʿayb al-Arnaʾūṭ et al., 2nd ed., 2 vols. (Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Risāla,1988), 1:20.

[130] Al-Aṣfahānī, Ḥilyat al-awliyā, 1:256–58.

[131] Al-Kawtharī, Maqālāt al-kawtharī, 33.

[132] Shams al-Dīn al-Dhahabī, Siyar aʿlām al-nubalāʾ, ed. Bashshār ʿAwwād et al., 7th ed., 25 vols. (Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Risāla, 1990), 1:167–70.

[133]  Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 4141.

[134] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 147.

[135] Ibn al-Jazarī, al-Nashr, 1:6.

[136] See for example, Sunan al-Tirmidhī, no. 2931 and 2938.

[137] Sunan Abū Dawūd, no. 591; Musnad Aḥmad, no. 27351.

[138] Al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān, 1:224. Al-Suyūṭī said that he was the first to list Umm Waraqah among the memorizers of the Qur’an.

[139] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 148.

[140] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 148.

[141] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 148.

[142] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 149–50.

[143] For the meaning of gharīb al-Qur’an, see Wahb, “An Introduction to ʿUlūm al-Qur’an.”

[144] Muḥammad Ḥasnayn Makhlūf al-ʿAdawī, ʿUnwān al-bayān fī ʿulūm al-tibyān (Cairo: Matbat al-Maʿāhid, 1925), 28–29.

[145] Al-ʿAdawī, ʿUnwān al-bayān, 29.

[146] Mohammad Shaban, Islamic History: A New Interpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975). Juynboll also held a similar view; however, he confined its relevance to a specific period of the early Islamic tradition.  G. H. A. Juynboll, “The Qurrāʾ in Early Islamic History,” Journal of the Economical and Social History of the Orient 16, no. 2 (1973). Furthering his thesis, Juynboll authored two subsequent works on the topic of qurrāʾ: “The Position of Qur’an Recitaion in Early Islam,” Journal of Semitic Studies 19 (1974), and “The Qur’an Reciter on the Battlefield and Concomitant Issues,” Zeitschrift der deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 125 (1975).    

[147] For a detailed discussion on this presumed distinction, see Mustafa Shah, “The Quest for the Origins of the Qurrāʾ in the Classical Islamic Tradition,” Journal of Qur’anic Studies 7, no. 2 (2005).  

[148] Shah, “Quest for the Origins of the Qurrāʾ,” 20.

[149] For the names and biographies of many of the Biʾr Maʿūnah martyrs, see al-Ṣāliḥī, Subul al-hudā wal-rashād, 6:97–100.

[150] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 3064.

[151] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 3064.

[152] Al-Ṣāliḥī, Subul al-hudā wal-rashād, 6:92.

[153] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 677.

[154] Jamāl al-Dīn al-Asnawī, al-Muhimmāt fī sharḥ al-Rawah wal-Rāfiʿī, ed. Aḥmad ʿAlī, 1st ed., 10 vols. (Beirut: Dār Ibn Hazm, 2009), 3:81.

[155] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 151.

[156] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 4986.

[157] For a review of many of these narrations and a treatment of reconciling them, see al-Kittānī, al-Tarātīb al-idāriyyah, 1:105-7.

[158] Al-Kittānī, al-Tarātīb al-idāriyyah, 1:105-7; al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān, 1:219–24; al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 164–81; Muḥammad ibn ʿUmar al-Māzirī, al-Muʿlim bi fawāʾid Muslim, ed. Muḥammad al-Nayfar, 2nd ed., 3 vols. (Tunisia: Bayt al-Ḥikma, 1987), 3:262–65.

[159] Al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān, 1:222.

[160] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 89–90.

[161] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 176–7.

[162] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 177.

[163] Ibn al-Mubārak, al-Zuhd, ed. Ḥabīb al-Raḥmān al-Aʿzamī (India: Majlis Iḥyāʾ al-Maʿārif, 1966), 45.

[164] ​​For more details on the concept of aḥruf, see Yousef Wahb, “Can the Qur’an Be Recited in Different Ways? The Meaning and Wisdom of Qira’at,” Yaqeen, April 13, 2022, https://yaqeeninstitute.org/read/paper/can-the-quran-be-recited-in-different-ways-the-meaning-and-wisdom-of-qiraat.

[165] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 178. Ibn Ḥajar reported it in al-Fatḥ and said that Aḥmad reported it in al-Zuhd. Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalanī, Fatḥ al-Bārī, 9:51. 

[166] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 179.

[167] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 673.

[168] ʿAbd al-Malik al-Juwaynī, Nihāyat al-maṭlab fī dirāyat al-madhhab, ed. ʿAbd al-Aẓīm al-Dīb (Beirut: Dār al-Minhāj, 2007), 2:415–16.

[169] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 90.

[170] Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, Nuzhat al-naẓar fī tawdīḥ nukhbat al-fikr fī muṣṭalaḥ ahl al-athar, ed. Nūr al-Dīn ʿItr (Karachi: al-Bushrā Publishers, 2011), 37; Jalāl al-Dīn al-Suyūṭī, Tadrīb al-rāwī fī sharḥ taqrīb al-Nawāwī, ed. Naẓar al-Faryābī, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (Riyadh: Maktabat al-Kawthar, 1995), 1:627.

[171] Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, Nuzhat al-naẓar, 37.

[172] Al-ʿAsqalānī, Nuzhat al-naẓar, 37; al-Suyūṭī, Tadrīb al-rāwī, 1:627.

[173] Al-Kawtharī, Maqālāt al-kawtharī, 25.

[174] Al-Māzirī, al-Muʿlim, 3:263.

[175] Al-Dhahabī, Maʿrifat al-qurrāʾ, 1:24–42.

[176] Al-Bāqillānī dedicated a chapter to the virtues of ʿUthmān and his memorization and knowledge of the Quran.  Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 189–90.

[177] Al-Bāqillānī dedicated a chapter to the virtues of ʿAlī and his memorization and knowledge of the Quran.  Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 191–93.

[178] Mustadrak al-Ḥākim, no. 5387.

[179] Sunan Ibn Mājah, no. 138.

[180] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 93. Ibn al-Jazarī counted twelve of Ibn Masʿūd’s students, all of whom had taught the Qurʾān. Abū al-Khayr ibn al-Jazarī, Ghāyat al-nihāya fī ṭabaqāt al-qurrāʾ, ed. Gotthelf Bergsträsser, 2 vols. (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 2006), 1:458.

[181] Mustadrak al-Ḥākim, no. 421.

[182] Sunan al-Nasāʾī, no. 1020.

[183] Al-Bāqillānī dedicated a chapter to the virtues of ʿUmar and his memorization and knowledge of the Qur’an. Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 186.

[184] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 188.

[185] Ibn Kathīr, Abū ʿAmr, Ḥamzah, Al-Kisāʾī, Yaʿqūb, and Khalaf. Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qur’anī, 33–34.

[186] These are praying behind the Station (maqām) of Ibrahim, the veils for the mothers of the believers, reminding them that Allah may replace them with better wives for the Prophet, executing captives, and the completion of verse 23:14.

[187] Al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān, 124–26.

[188] Al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān, 124.

[189] ʿAlam al-Dīn al-Sakhāwī, Jamāl al-qurrāʾ wa-kamāl al-iqrāʾ, ed. ʿAlī Ḥusayn al-Bawwāb, 1st ed., 2 vols. (Mecca: Maktabat al-Turāth, 1987), 2:455.

[190] Al-Sakhāwī, Jamāl al-qurrāʾ, 2:455.

[191] Ibn al-Jazarī, Ghāyat al-nihāya, 1:437–38.

[192] Nāfiʿ, Abū ʿAmr, and Yaʿqūb.

[193] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qur’anī, 42.

[194] Al-Bāqillānī dedicated a chapter to the virtues of Abū Bakr and his memorization and knowledge of the Qur’an. Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 182–85.

[195] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 673.

[196] Al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān, 221–22.

[197] Wahb, “Can the Quran be Recited in Different Ways?”

[198] Wahb, “An Introduction to ʿUlūm al-Qur’an.”

[199] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qur’anī, 60.

[200] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qur’anī, 42.

[201] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qur’anī, 55.

[202] Abū Bakr ibn Mujāhid, al-Sabʿa fī al-qirāʾāt, ed. Shawqī Ḍayf (Cairo: Dār al-Maʿārif, 1979), 68.

[203] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qur’anī, 58.

[204] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 153.

[205] Al-Kawtharī, Maqālāt al-Kawtharī, 33.

[206] Al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān, 1:303–5.

[207] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 155.

[208] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 158.

[209] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 158.

[210] Sunan Abū Dawūd, no. 461.

[211] Ibn Ḥajar al-Haytamī, al-Fatāwā al-fiqhiyyah al-kubrā, 4 vols. (Cairo: ʿAbdulḥamīd Ḥanafī, 1938), 1:37.

[212] Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalanī, Fatḥ al-Bārī,  9:86.

[213] Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-muṣḥaf: Dirāsah lughawiyyah tārīkhiyyah (Amman: Dār Ammār: 2001), 17. Citing ʿAlam al-Dīn al-Sakhāwī’s (d. 643/1245) manuscript of al-Wasīlah ilā kashf al-ʿAqīla, a commentary on al-Shāṭibī’s (d. 590/1194) didactic poem on rasm al-muṣḥaf.

[214] Ahmad al-Jallad, “The Linguistic Landscape of Pre-Islamic Arabia: Context for the Qur’an,” in The Oxford Handbook of Qur’anic Studies, ed. Mustafa Shah and Muhammad A. Haleem (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), 116.

[215] Macdonald, “Ancient Arabia and the Written Word,” 21.

[216] Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, ʿIlm al-kitābah al-ʿArabiyyah (Amman: Dār ʿAmmār, 2004), 30–52.

[217] Al-Jallad, “Linguistic Landscape of Pre-Islamic Arabia,” 116.

[218] Al-Jallad, “Linguistic Landscape of Pre-Islamic Arabia,” 121.

[219] For a historical background of al-musnad script, see al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-Muṣḥaf, 29–34.

[220] For more details on the development of the Arabic script, see al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-Muṣḥaf, 117–19.

[221] Al-Ḥamad, ʿIlm al-kitābah al-ʿArabiyyah.

[222] Al-Ḥamad, Aṣālat al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 71–72. Other interpretations held that ummiyyīmeans all the Arabs, their “People of the Book.” 

[223] Qur’an 75:17.

[224] Qur’an 87:18.

[225] Qur’an 98:2.

[226] Qur’an 2:2.

[227] Qur’an 2:285.

[228] Al-Qasṭalāni, Laṭāʾif al-ishārāt, 1:98. 

[229] Al-ʿAsqalanī, Fatḥ al-Bārī, 9:11.

[230] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qur’anī, 88–89.

[231] Muḥammad ibn Ḥadīdah al-Anṣārī, al-Miṣbāḥ al-mudīʾ fī kuttāb al-Nabyy al-Ummyy wa rusulih ilā mulūk al-ard min ʿArabyy wa ʿajamyy, ed. Muḥammad ʿAzīm al-Dīn, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (Beruit: ʿAlam al-Kutub, 1985).  

[232] Muḥammad Muṣṭafā Al-Aʿẓamī, Kuttāb al-Nabyy, 1st ed. (Damascus: al-Maktab al-Islami, 1974), 4.

[233] Al-ʿIrāqī dedicated a chapter in his poem to the scribes of the Prophet. See Zain al-Dīn al-ʿIrāqī, Nazm al-durar al-saniyyah fī al-siyar al-zakiyyah, ed. Muḥammad ibn ʿAlawī al-Mālikī, 1st ed. (Jeddah: Dar al-Minhaj, 2005), 123–5.

[234] For a brief review of these counts, see ʿAbdulḥayy al-Kittānī, al-Tarātīb al-idāriyyah, ed. ʿAbdullāh al-Khālidī, 2nd ed., 2 vols. (Beirut: Dār al-Arqam), 1:151–53; Al-Aʿẓamī, Kuttāb al-Nabyy, 4.

[235] ʿAlī al-Muḥammad al-Ḍabbāʿ, Samīr al-ṭālibīn fī rasm wa ḍab al-Kitāb al-Mubīn, 1st ed. (Cairo: ʿAbdulḥamīd Ḥanafī, 1938), 9–10. The book was reviewed and edited by the Grand Qārī of Egypt in his time, Muḥammad ibn Khalaf al-Ḥuseinī (d. 1939), who gave the approval for al-Ḍabbāʿ’s book to be taught.  

[236] ʿAbdulfattāḥ ibn ʿAbdulghanī al-Qāḍī, Tārīkh al-muṣḥaf al-sharīf (Cairo: Maktabat al-Jindī, 1951), 6.

[237] Abū ʿAbdullāh al-Zinjānī, Tārīkh al-Qurʾan (Cairo: Maṭbaʿat Lajnat al-Taʾlīf wal-Tarjamah wal-Nashr, 1935),  20–21.

[238] The total list of the names of the scribes are in Al-Aʿẓamī, Kuttāb al-Nabyy, 113–15.

[239] Al-Aʿẓamī, History of the Qur’anic Text, 68.

[240] Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-muṣḥaf: Dirāsah lughawiyyah tārīkhiyyah (Amman: Dār Ammār: 2001), 78.

[241] Al-Ḥamad, Aṣālah al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 69–93. 

[242] ʿAlī al-Aḥmadī al-Mayānjī, Makātīb al-Rasūl, 1st ed., 4 vols. (Qom: Dār al-Ḥadīth al-Thaqāfiyyah, 1998), 1:7.

[243] Al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-Muṣḥaf, 1:8–50.

[244] Al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-Muṣḥaf, 1:50.

[245] Al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-Muṣḥaf, 1:123–38.

[246] Al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-Muṣḥaf, 116–23.

[247] Al-Kittānī, al-Tarātīb al-idāriyyah, 1:149–208.

[248] Muhammad Hamiduallah, Majmūʿat al-wathāʾiq al-siyāsiyyah lil-ʿahd al-Nabawī wa al-khilāfah al-rāshida, 6th ed. (Beirut: Dar al-Nafais, 1987).

[249] Mustadrak al-Ḥākim, no. 367.

[250] Muḥammad al-Azharī, Tahdhīb al-lughah, ed. Muḥammad Murʿib, 15 vols. (Beirut: Dār Iḥyā al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 2001), 2:170.

[251] Al-Ḥamad, Aṣālat al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 73.

[252] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 3004.

[253] Al-ʿAsqalanī, Fatḥ al-Bārī, 1:208.

[254] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qur’anī, 160.

[255] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qur’anī.

[256] Aḥmad ibn Yaḥiā al-Balādhurī, Futūḥ al-buldān (Beirut: Maktbat al-Hilāl, 1988), 453. Al-Balādhurī listed the names of the seventeen men.

[257] Ibn Hishām, al-Sīrah al-Nabawiyyah, 1:350–51.

[258] Al-Ṣāliḥī, Subul al-hudā wal-rashād, 12:398.

[259] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qur’anī, 161.

[260] Al-Ṣāliḥī, Subul al-hudā wal-rashād, 12:393.

[261] Al-ʿAsqalanī, Fatḥ al-Bārī, 1:397.

[262] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qur’anī, 162–64.

[263] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qur’anī, 162. Al-Ḥamad, Aṣālat al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 74–76.

[264] Al-Mayānjī, Makātīb al-Rasūl, 104 and 117.

[265] Al-Aʿẓamī, Kuttāb al-Nabyy, 30–31.

[266] Al-Aʿẓamī, Kuttāb al-Nabyy, 30–31.

[267] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 189.

[268] Ghānim al-Ḥamad listed him among the scribes in Mecca while Jabal listed him among those in Medina. Multiple accounts suggest that he was one of the writers in Mecca. It is also possible that he continued to write in the Medinan period.  

[269] Sunan al-Tirmidhī, no. 3086.

[270] Al-Ḥamad, Aṣālat al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 76.

[271] Al-ʿAsqalanī, al-Iṣābah, 2:369–70.

[272] Al-ʿAsqalanī, al-Iṣābah.

[273] Ibn Saʿd, Kitāb al-ṭabaqāt, 3:622.

[274] Al-Ḥamad, Aṣālat al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 79.

[275] Al-Ḥamad, Aṣālat al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 80.

[276] Musnad Aḥmad, no. 2216; Ḥāmid ibn Zanjawyh, al-Amwāl, ed. Shākir Fayyāḍ, 1st ed., 3 vols. (Riyadh: Markaz al-Malik Faiṣal lil-Buhūth wal-Dirasāt al-Islāmiyyah, 1986), 309–10.  

[277] Al-Aʿẓamī, Kuttāb al-Nabyy, 11.

[278] Shihāb al-Dīn Abū al-ʿAbbās al-Qalqashandī, Ṣubḥ al-aʿshā fī ṣināʿat al-inshāʾ, 14 vols. (Cairo: Dār al-Kutub al-Misriyyah, 1922), 1:91. 

[279] Al-Qalqashandī, Ṣubḥ al-aʿshā; Al-Aʿẓamī, Kuttāb al-Nabyy, 11–14.

[280] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 3060.

[281] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 3006.

[282] Al-Mayānjī, Makātīb al-Rasūl, 1:108–14.

[283] Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār, 189.

[284] Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, Faḍāʾil al-ṣaḥābah, ed. Waṣiyyullah ʿAbbās, 1st ed., 2 vols. (Mecca: Umm al-Qura University’s Markaz al-Baḥth al-ʿIlmī wa Ihyā al-Turāth al-Islāmī, 1983), 1:390.

[285] Abū Bakr ʿAbdullah ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, ed. Muhīb al-Dīn Wā’iz, 2 vols. (Beirut: Dār al-Bashāʾir al-Islāmiyah, 1995), 1:145. Al-ʿAsqalanī, Fatḥ al-Bārī, 9:328–29.

[286]  Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 1:145.

[287] Al-Ḥamad, Aṣālat al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 83.

[288] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 4990.

[289] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qur’anī, 165–66; al-Ṣāliḥī, Subul al-hudā wal-rashād, 12:383–441.

[290] Musnad Aḥmad, no. 26125.

[291] Sunan Abū Dawūd, no. 2507.

[292] The quote is from his lost book Fahm al-Sunan, which many ʿulūm al-Qur’an works cite. Badr al-Dīn al-Zarkashī, al-Burhān fī ʿulūm al-Qur’an, ed. Muḥammad Abū al-Faḍl Ibrāhīm, 4 vols. (Cairo: Dār al-Turāth, 1984), 1:238.

[293]  Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qur’anī, 168.

[294] Jabal discussed its transmission citing multiple resources and suggested its authenticity. Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qur’anī, 169n2.

[295] Abū al-Khayr Muḥammad ibn ʿAbdulraḥmān al-Sakhāwī, Fatḥ al-mughīth bi-sharḥ Alfīyat al-ḥadīth, ed. ʿAbdulkarīm al-Khudair et al., 1st ed., 5 vols. (Riyadh: Dār al-Minhāj, 2005), 3:52.

[296] Al-Aʿẓamī, Kuttāb al-Nabyy, 16–7.

[297] Al-Aʿẓamī, Kuttāb al-Nabyy, 17–18.

[298] Al-Aʿẓamī, Kuttāb al-Nabyy, 18.

[299] Sunan al-Tirmidhī, no. 3954.

[300] Jabal, Wathāqat naql al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾanī, 87–88.

[301] Sunan al-Bayhaqī, no. 11065.

[302] Al-Ḥamad, Aṣālat al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 86.

[303] Ibn Ḥanbal, Faḍāʾil al-ṣaḥābah, 1:390.

[304] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 4986.

[305] Yasin Dutton, “The Form of the Qur’an: Historical Contours,” in The Oxford Handbook of Qur’anic Studies, ed. Mustafa Shah and Muhammad A. Haleem (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020), 184–85.

[306] Angelika Neuwirth, The Qur’an and Late Antiquity: A Shared Heritage, trans. Samuel Wilder (New York: Oxford University Press, 2019), 143. Also see, Gregor Schoeler, The Genesis of Literature in Islam from the Aural to The Read, trans. Shawkat M. Toorawa (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2009), 30.

[307] Makkī ibn Abī Tālib, al-Ibāna ʿan maʿānī al-qirāʾāt, ed. ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ Ismāʿīl Shalabī (Cairo: Dār Nahḍat Miṣr, 1960), 23; ʿIzz al-Dīn ibn ʿAbd al-Salām, Fawāʾid fī mushkil al-Qurʾān (Kuwait: Wizārat al-Awqāf wal-Shūʾun al-Islāmiyah, 1967), 27;  Al-ʿAsqalānī, Fatḥ al-Bārī, 9:12; al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān, 2:387; al-Qasṭalāni, Laṭāʾif al-ishārāt, 1:95.

[308] Muḥammad ibn Khalaf al-Ḥuseinī, Khulāṣat al-nuṣūṣ al-jaliyyah fī nuzūl al-Qurʾān wa jamʿih wa ḥukm ittibāʿ rasm al-maṣāḥif al-ʿUthmāniyyah (Cairo: al-Matbaah al-Misriyaah, 1931), 7; al-Ḍabbāʿ, Samīr al-ṭālibīn, 10; al-Qāḍī, Tārīkh al-muṣḥaf al-sharīf, 11; al-Kurdī, Tārīkh al-Qurʾān al-Karīm, 39.  

[309] Al-Qāḍī, Tārīkh al-muṣḥaf al-sharīf, 26–27.

[310] Ibn Khaldūn, Tārīkh Ibn Khaldūn (Beirut: Dār al-Kitāb al-Lubnānī, 1956), 1:757 and 791.

[311] Al-Kurdī, Tārīkh al-Qurʾān al-Karīm, 116–120.

[312]  Al-Kurdī, Tārīkh al-Qurʾān al-Karīm, 11–1-9.

[313] Al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-muṣḥaf, 24–26.

[314] Al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-muṣḥaf, 36.

[315] Al-Kurdī, Tārīkh al-Qurʾān al-Karīm, 119.

[316] For more on the history and development of the Arabic script, see al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-muṣḥaf; Muhammad Ṭāhir al-Kurdī, rīkh al-khaṭṭ al-ʿArabī (Cairo: Maktabat al-Hilal, 1939); ʿAbdulṣabūr Shāhīn, Tārīkh al-Qurʾān, 3rd ed. ( Cairo: Nahdat Masr, 2007), 103–15.

[317] Al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-Muṣḥaf, 172–86.

[318] Al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-Muṣḥaf, 175–76.

[319] Al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-Muṣḥaf, 169–70, 175–76.

[320] Al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-Muṣḥaf, 175.

[321] Al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-Muṣḥaf, 177–86; Khatib and Khan, “The ʿUthmānic Codex.”

[322] Al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān, 1:132–33.

[323] Qur’an 2:281.

[324] Qur’an 16:90; Musnad Aḥmad, no. 17459.

[325] Al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān, 1:195.

[326] Aḥmad ibn Ḥusayn al-Bayhaqī, Dalāʾil al-nubuwwa, 1st ed., 7 vols. (Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya, 1984), 7:147.

[327] Sunan al-Tirmidhī, no. 3086.

[328] Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 4530.

[329] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 2216.

[330] Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 806.

[331] Abū ʿAmr al-Dānī, al-Muqniʿ fī maʿrifat marsūm maṣāif al-amṣār, ed. Ḥātim al-Ḍāmin (Beirut: Dār al-Bashāʾir al-Islāmiyyah, 2011), 122.

[332] Al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān, 2:272–85.

[333] Muḥammad ʿAbdullah Dirāz, al-Naba al-ʿaẓīm: Naẓarāt jadīdah fī al-Qurʾān, 1st ed. (Riyadh: Dār Ṭayba lil-Nashr wal-Tawzīʿ, 1997), 204–64.

[334] Al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān.

[335] Al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān.

Sh. Yousef Wahb

Sh. Yousef Wahb

Director of Qur'anic Studies | Imam Yousef Wahb holds a Bachelor’s of Islamic Studies from Al-Azhar University in Egypt, from the Faculty of Languages and Translation. He holds multiple Ijazahs in Fiqh, Hadith, and Qur’an including the 10 modes of recitation (Qirāʾāt). He is currently completing his Master’s in Law (LLM) at the University of Windsor, Canada, where he serves as the Muslim Chaplain. He is also an instructor at Miftah Institute, a founding board member of Green Ummah, an environmental not for profit, and a researcher at the Stanford Muslim Mental Health and Islamic Psychology Lab.

He has dedicated over 10 years as a religious educator, counselor, and visiting lecturer. Previously, he headed the Academic Committee of Shaykh Al-Amoud Institution educating youth in Egypt on various Islamic disciplines. Since 2014, he has been serving the Canadian Muslim community through various mosques and institutions. He established the Al-Majlis educational program (Canada) where he teaches traditional Islamic knowledge. He is also an instructor at Miftah Institute (Michigan) and Canterbury College (Windsor). He serves as the Muslim Chaplain at the University of Windsor. He is a founding board member of Green Ummah, an environmental not for profit, and a researcher at the Stanford University Muslim and Mental Health Lab.