Compellation of Koran in Hadith

Traditions about the Collection of the Qur'an: These are the most significant traditions that have been related about the manner in which the Qur'an was collected. Quite aside from being reported by single narrations, and therefore inspiring no confidence, they also are defective in other aspects.

  1. This tradition has been narrated by Zayd b. Tha:bit. He said: Abu Bakr sent for me when the Muslims were slain in the battle of Yamama. [When I entered, I found] 'Umar b. al-Khaattab with him. Abu Bakr said, "'Umar came to me and said, 'Casualties were heavy among Qur'an reciters during the battle of Yamama, and I am afraid that heavier casualties might take place among the reciters in other battles, whereby much of the Qur'an would be lost. I am of the opinion that you should order the collection of the Qur'an [in book form]."' I asked 'Umar, "How dare I do something the Messenger of God did not do?" 'Umar replied, "This, by God, is a good thing [to do]." 'Umar kept urging me until God opened my chest for that and I came to view the matter as he did. Zayd said that Abu Bakr said [to him]: "You are a wise young man and we trust you. You used to record the revelation for the Messenger of God. So go and find [all the fragments of] the Qur'an and put them together."

    By God, had they required me [Zayd] to move a mountain, it could not have been heavier for me than their order to collect the Qur'an. So I said, "How dare I do something that the Messenger of God did not do?" Abu Bakr persisted in repeating his demand until God opened my chest for that, as He had done for Abu Bakr and 'Umar. Thereupon, I traced the Qur'an, collecting it from palm branches, flat stones, and the breasts of the people [who had memorized it], until I found the last part of "Surat al-Tawba" in the possession of Abu Khuzayma al-Ansari, having found it with no one else-"There has come to you a messenger, [one] of yourselves, to whom aught that you are overburdened is grievous, full of concern for you; for the believers, full of pity, merciful. Now, if they turn away [0 Muhammad], say, "God suffices me. There is no God save Him. In Him have I put my trust and He is Lord of the Tremendous Throne" (Q. 9: 128-129) - till the end of the sura. The scrolls (suhuf) remained with Abu Bakr until he died, then with 'Umar till the end of his life, and then with Hafsa, 'Umar's daughter.'

  2. Ibn Shiha:b [al-ZuhrI] relates that Anas b. Malik told him: Hudhayfa b. al- Yaman went before 'Uthman. He had recently led the people of Syria and Iraq in the conquest of Armenia and Azerbaijan. Hudhayfa was alarmed by the dispute between them over the reading [of the Qur'an]. Thus, Hudhayfa said to 'Uthman, "0 Commander of the Faithful, save this community before it falls in dispute over the Book, as the Jews and the Christians [before them] have done." So 'Uthman sent [a message] to Hafsa: "Send us the scrolls [which were in her possession], so that they can be copied into codices (masahif) and then returned to you." Hafsa sent them to 'Uthman, who ordered Zayd b. Thabit, 'Abd Allah b. al-Zubayr, Sa'id b. al-'As, and, Abd al-Rahman b. al-Harith b. Hisham to copy them into codices. [Then] 'Uthmiin told the three Qurayshi men, "Whenever you disagree with Zayd b.Thabit on any point of the Qur'an, write it in the dialect of the Quraysh, for it was revealed in their tongue."

    They followed [these guidelines]. When they had finished copying the sheets into codices, 'Uthman returned the sheets to Hafsa, and sent to each province one of the codices they had copied, and ordered the burning of all other Qur'anic material, whether in fragmentary manuscripts or full codices.

    Ibn Shihab went on to say:

    Kharija b. Zayd b.Thabit informed me that he heard [his father] Zayd say: "I missed a verse from the [Surat] al-Ahzab when we copied the Qur'an, and I used to hear the Messenger of God (peace be upon him and his progeny) reciting it. We looked for it and found it with Khuzayma b.Thabit al-Ansari. [This was the following verse]: 'Among the believers are those persons who are truthful when they promise God about something' (Q. 33:23). Thus, we inserted it in the proper place in the sura." [1]

  3. A tradition has been related by Abi Shayba, with a chain of transmission going back to' Ali b. Abi Talib. He said, "The greatest credit for collecting the Qur'anic text goes to Abu Bakr, for he was the first to collect that which is between the two covers."

  4. A tradition was related by Ibn Shihab on the authority of Salim b. 'Abd Allah and Kharija:

    Abu Bakr al-5iddiq collected the Qur'an in sheets (qaratis). He asked Zayd b. Thabit to scrutinize them. But Zayd refused to do so until Abu Bakr sought 'Umar's help in persuading him, and Zayd agreed. The books (kutub) remained in Abu Bakr's keeping until he died. Thereafter, they were kept with Hafsa, the Prophet's wife. 'Uthman sent her [a message to hand them over to him]. But she refused to do so until he promised her that he would return them to her. So she sent them to him. 'Uthman copied these sheets into codices and returned [the originals] to her. They continued to be in her keeping.

  5. Hisham b. 'Urwa related a tradition on the authority of his father. He said:

    When the Muslims were slain in Yamama, Abu Bakr ordered 'Umar b. al-Khattab and Zayd b. Thabit to sit at the entrance of the mosque. He said: "Anyone who comes to you with anything from the Qur'an that you do not recognize, but is witnessed by two men--accept it. This was because a large number of the Companions of the Prophet who had memorized the Qur'an had been killed in Yamama."

  6. Muhammad b. Sirin reported that the Qur'an was not yet collected in one volume when 'Umar was assassinated.

  7. Al-Hasan related:

    'Umar b. al-Khattab inquired about a verse of the Book of God. He was informed that it was in the possession of a person who was slain in the battle of Yamama. On hearing this, he recited the verse expressing loss--"We belong to God"--and ordered the collection of the Qur'an, and thus was the first to collect it in a codex (mushaf).

  8. Yahya b. 'Abd al-Rahman b. Hatib related the following tradition:

    'Umar decided to collect the Qur'an. So he stood before the people [in the mosque] and said, "Whoever received any part of the Qur'an [directly] from the Messenger of God, he is to bring it to us." They had written these [parts] on sheets, tablets, and palm branches. He would not accept anything from anyone until two witnesses testified [to its authenticity ]. He was assassinated while still engaged in his collection. Then 'Uthman got up [for the sermon in the mosque] and said, "Whoever has any part of the Book of God is to bring it here to us." 'Uthman would not accept anything from anyone until two witnesses testified. Khuzayma b.Thabit came to them and said, "I see that you have left out two verses, having not written them." They asked what they were, and he said, "I received these direct from the Prophet: 'There has come to you a messenger, [one] of yourselves. ..' [Q. 9: 128]" to the end of the sura. 'Uthman said, "And I bear witness that these verses come from God." He asked Khuzayma: "Where do you think we should place them?" He replied, "Put them at the end of the last revelation of the Qur'an." Thus, "Siirat al-Bara'a" was closed with these.

  9. A tradition was reported by 'Ubayd b. 'Umayr:

    'Umar would not include a verse in the codex except if two men had testified [to its being part of the Qur'an]. A man from the Helpers (ansar) came to him with these two verses: "There has come to you a messenger, [one] of yourselves ..." to the end of the sura. 'Umar forthwith said, "I shall not ask you for evidence at all, for the Prophet was indeed like that."

  10. A tradition was related by Sulayman b.Arqam on the authority of al-Hasan and Ibn Sirin, and by Ibn Shihab al-Zuhri. They said:

    When the death toll among the reciters rose in the battle of Yamama--four hundred of them fell on that day--Zayd b.Thabit met with 'Umar b. al-Khattab and said to him: "This Qur' an is what unites our religion; if the Qur' an goes, so does our religion. Hence, I have resolved to collect the Qur'an in a book." 'Umar said to him, "Wait until I ask Abu Bakr." Thus, they both went to see Abu Bakr and informed him about the situation. He said, "Do not be in haste until I consult the Muslims." Then he delivered an oration to the Muslims, informing them about the grave situation [caused by the Yamama slaughter]. They said, "You are right." So they collected the Qur'an. Abu Bakr ordered a crier to call out among the people and ask them to bring forward any part of the Qur' an that might have.

  11. Khuzayma b. Thabit related the following incident:

    I brought the verse "There has come to you a messenger, [one] of yourselves. .." to 'Umar b. al-Khattab and Zayd b.Thabit. Zayd asked, "Who will testify with you [to its authenticity]?" I said, "By God, I do not know." Thereupon, 'Umar said: "I bear witness with him on [its being from the Qur'an]."

  12. Abu Ishaq related the following on the authority of some of his associates:

    When 'Umar collected the text, he asked, "Who is the greatest master of Arabic among the people?' He was told that it was Sa'id b. al-' As. He went on to inquire, "Who is the best scribe among the people?' He was told that it was Zayd b.Thabit. So he said, "Let Sa'id dictate and Zayd write it down." Thus, they made four copies of the text, and dispatched a copy each to Kufa, Basra, al-Sham (Syria), and Hijaz.

  13. The following tradition was reported by' Abd Allah b. Faddala:

    When 'Umar decided to collect the first complete version (al-imam) of the Qur'an, he appointed some of his associates to represent him, and said, "Whenever you disagree on a point of language, write in the dialect of the Mudar, because the Qur'an was revealed to a man of Mudar."

  14. Abu Qullaba related the following:

    During the caliphate of 'Uthman, different teachers were teaching different readings [of the Qur'an] to their students. Thus, it used to happen that the students would meet and disagree. The matter reached a point that they would take their dispute to the teachers, who would then condemn each other's [variant] readings. This situation reached 'Uthman's ears. He delivered an oration saying: "You are here by me, yet you disagree on the reading and pronunciation of the Qur' an. Therefore, those who are far away from me in the provinces must be in a greater dispute, making greater grammatical errors. 0 Companions of Muhammad, come together and write a complete version (imam) [of the Qur'an] for the Muslims."

    Abu Qullaba added:

    Malik b. Anas (who, according to Abu Bakr b. Abr Dawud, was the grandfather of [Imam] Malik b.Anas) reported to me: "I was among those to whom the Qur'an was dictated. Sometimes they would disagree on a verse. Then they would remember a person who had received it from the Messenger of God, and who would happen to be absent or out in the valleys. In such a situation, they would write the verses that come before and after it, and would leave a place for it, until that person had returned or was summoned. When the text was completed [in this way], 'Uthman wrote to the people in the provinces that 'I have done such and such a thing [in copying the text] and I have destroyed the other material that I have, and you should destroy the other material you have."

  15. A tradition has been related by Mus'ab b. Sa'd:

    'Uthman stood up to make the sermon to the people. He said: "0 people, it is now thirteen years since our Prophet left you, and you are still wrangling about the Qur'an. You refer to the reading of Ubayy and that of' Abd Allah, and some of you [go as far as to] say, 'By God, your ['Uthman's] reading is not in order!' I therefore summon every one of you to bring forward any part of the Book of God that you have in your possession." Thus, people would come with parchments and scraps of leather with [parts of] the Qur'an on them, until there accumulated a large number of them. After this was done, 'Uthman came in and called them one by one, and implored each to say whether he heard [a part of the Qur'an] from the Messenger of God or whether it was dictated to him by the Messenger. They would answer in the affirmative. When this was done, 'Uthman said, "Who is the best scribe among you?" They said, "The scribe of the Prophet, Zayd b. Thabit." Then he asked, "Who is the greatest master of Arabic?" They said, "Sa'id b. al-' As." 'Uthman said, "In that case, let Sa'id dictate and Zayd write." Hence, Zayd wrote down [the text], and ['Uthman] prepared the codices and distributed them among the people.
    I [Mus'ab] heard one of the Companions of the Prophet say, "He ['Uthman] did well [by undertaking the task]."

  16. Abu al-Malih has reported that "when 'Uthman b. 'Affan decided to write down the text of the Qur'an, he said, 'Let [a man from] the Hudhayl dictate and [a man from] the Thaqif write."

  17. 'Abd al-A'la b. 'Abd Allah b. ' Amir al-Qarashi related:

    When the codex was completed, it was brought to 'Uthman. He examined it and said, "You have done well and you have acted decently. I see minor grammatical mistakes the Arabs would correct with their tongues [i.e., through proper recitation]."

  18. 'Ikrima related:

    When 'Uthman was brought the [completed] codex, he noticed minor grammatical errors in it. So he said, .'Had the one dictating been from the [tribe of] Hudhayl and the scribe from the [tribe of] Thaqif, such an error would not have crept into the text."

  19. 'Ata' related:

    When 'Uthman b. 'Affan decided to copy the Qur'an into codices, he sent them to Ubayy b. Ka'b. Ubayy used to dictate to Zayd b. Thabit, who used to write, and with them was Sa'id b. al-' As, who used to vocalize the text [in accordance with the rules of Arabic grammar]. This text was according to the reading of Ubayy and Zayd.

  20. Mujahid reported, "'Uthman ordered Ubayy b. Ka'b to dictate, Zayd b. Thabit to write, [and) Sa'id b. al-' As and' Abd al-Rahman b. al-Harith to vocalize [the Qur'an) in accordance with the rules of Arabic."

  21. Zayd b. Thabit reported:

    When we copied the codices, a verse was missing which I used to hear from the Messenger of God. I found it in possession of Khuzayma b. Thabit. [This was]: "Among the believers are persons who are truthful in what they promise to God. .." [Q. 33:23]. Khuzayma was nicknamed "He of the Two Testimonies" because the Messenger permitted his testimony to be equal to that of two persons.

  22. Ibn Ashatta reported the following tradition on the authority of al-Layth b. Sa'd:

    The first to collect the Qur'an was Abu Bakr, and it was written by Zayd. The people used to bring what they had [of the Qur'an] to Zayd b. Thabit, who would not write a verse without two righteous persons testifying [to its authenticity] .The last part of "Surat al-Bara'a" [sura 9] was not found except in the keeping of Khuzayma b. Thabit. [Abu Bakr ] said: "Write it down. The Messenger of God made Khuzayma' s testimony equal to that of two witnesses. Thus, Zayd wrote it down. However, 'Umar brought the stoning verse, but we did not write it down because he was alone [in reporting it]." [2]

Inconsistency of the Traditions Regarding the Collection of the Qur'an: The traditions contradict each other and, therefore, it is not possible to trust anything in them. It is worth mentioning a number of these contradictions by raising certain questions and answering them.

  1. When was the Qur'an collected into a single codex? The apparent sense of tradition 2, [cited above], suggests that the collection was undertaken during the time of 'Uthman (644-656). The clear statement of traditions 1, 3, and 4, and the apparent sense of a few others, indicate is that it was undertaken during Abu Bakr's time. The clear statement of traditions 7 and 12 indicates that it was during 'Umar's time (634-644).
  2. Who undertook the task of collecting the Qur'an during Abu Bakr's time? According to traditions 1 and 22, the person who undertook this task was Zayd b. Thabit, whereas, according to tradition 4, it was Abu Bakr himself, and he asked Zayd only to examine what he had collected from the sheets (kutub). On the other hand, tradition 5, as well as the apparent sense of some other reports, suggest that it was both 'Umar and Zayd who undertook the task.
  3. Was Zayd delegated to choose which verses would be included in the Qur'an? It appears from tradition 1, or, in fact, it is clear, that Abu Bakr delegated the task to him. What 'Umar said to Zayd is clear in this regard: "You are a wise young man and we trust you. You used to record the revelation for the Messenger of God. So go and find [all the fragments of] the Qur'an and put them together." Tradition 5 and a few others mention that the material was included in the text only on the testimony of [at least] two witnesses, to the extent that when 'Umar came forward with the verse regarding the stoning, it was not accepted from him because he was the only one reporting it.
  4. Did any verse remain unrecorded until the time of 'Uthman? The apparent sense of many traditions-in fact, their explicit statement-suggests that there was nothing left out until that time. However, tradition 2 clearly states that some verses had been left out and were not recorded until the time of 'Uthman.
  5. Did 'Uthman strike out anything that was recorded before him? The apparent sense of many traditions, or, rather, their explicit statement, suggests that 'Uthman did not strike out anything from the text recorded before him. But tradition 14 explicIitly states that he did strike out something that was recorded before him, and that he ordered the Muslims to do the same.
  6. From what source did 'Uthman collect the codex? Traditions 2 and 4 state explicitly that in collecting the Qur'an he depended on the scrolls (suhuf) collected by Abu Bakr. In contrast, traditions 8, 14, and 15 explicitly state that 'Uthman collected it on the [basis of the] testimony of two witnesses, and from the reports of those who had heard the verse from the Messenger of God (peace be upon him and his progeny).
  7. Who asked Abu Bakr to collect the Qur'an? Tradition 1 says that it was 'Umar who asked him, and Abu Bakr agreed with him after initially refusing to do [the collection]. He then sent for Zayd and asked him to undertake the task. Zayd also agreed with him after initially refusing to do it. Tradition 10 mentions that both Zayd and 'Umar asked Abu Bakr to do it, and that he agreed with them after consulting the Muslims.
  8. Who collected the first complete version (imam) of the Qur'an and sent copies of it to the different centers of the empire? Tradition 2 states clearly that it was 'Uthman, whereas tradition 12 also states clearly that it was 'Umar.
  9. When were the two last verses of "Surat al-Bara'a" appended? Traditions 1, 11, and 22 state clearly that they were appended during Abu Bakr's time. In contrast, the clear statement of tradition 8 and the apparent sense of other traditions suggest that this was done during 'Umar's time.
  10. Who came forward with these two verses? Traditions 1 and 22 state clearly that it was Abu Khuzayma. However, traditions 8 and 11 also state clearly that it was Khuzayma b. Thabit. As mentioned by Ibn ' Abd al-Barr, there is no relationship whatsoever between these two men. [3]
  11. How was it established that these two verses were from the Qur'an? From the apparent sense of the first tradition, and from the clear statement of traditions 9 and 21, it was established on the testimony of a single person. According to the clear statement of number 8, 'Uthman testified [as a second witness] with him; and according to the clear statement of number 11, 'Umar was the one who testified [as a second witness] with him.
  12. Whom did 'Uthman appoint to write the Qur'an and to dictate it? Tradition 2 states explicitly that 'Uthman appointed Zayd, Ibn al-Zubayr, Sa'id, and' Abd al-Rahman for writing, whereas number 15 states explicitly that he appointed Zayd for writing and Sa'id for dictating. Tradition 16, however, asserts that he appointed a person from the tribe of Thaqif to write, and another from the tribe of Hudhayl to dictate. But tradition 18 states clearly that the writer was not from the Thaqif, and that the one who dictated was not from the Hudhayl. Tradition 19 states explicitly that the person who dictated was Ubayy b. Ka'b, and that Sa'id b. al-'As vocalized what Zayd wrote, in accordance with the rules of Arabic grammar. This is asserted also by tradition 20, with the addition of' Abd al-Rahman b. al-Harith to oversee the vocalization with Sa'id


1. Bukhari, Sahih, vol. 6, pp. 478-80. These two traditions, and the nineteen that follow, are quoted in Ibn 'Abd al-Muttaqi, Muntakhab Kanz al- 'Ummal in the margin of Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, vol. 2, pp. 43-52.
2. Suyuti, al-Itqan, sec. 18, vol. I, pp. 167-68.
3. Qurtubi, Tafsir, vol. I, p. 56.

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