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Monday, October 22, 2018

Brief History of Compilation of the Holy Quran


The Holy Quran is the last of the holy scriptures that was revealed by the Allah Almighty to complete His commandments to the mankind. The Holy Quran, however, was not revealed in one go. It took 23 years to complete the Divine commandments on to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through Angel Jibraeel (Gabriel). Generally speaking, one to two verses used to be revealed so that the Prophet of Allah could understand the Divine message correctly and then remember it. Also the Divine verses were revealed owing to the requirement of time and did not follow a set pattern. That is why after the first verses of Surah Al Alaq, the next verses that followed were that of Surah Al Muddaththir. Sometimes it so happened that a part of a particular chapter / surah was revealed in Makkah and the other in Medina after Prophet's migration to Medina.

During the time of Prophet of Allah, the Divine verses were either written down on goat or camel skin or memorized by heart by the selected companions of the Prophet to whom the Prophet of Allah would recite the verses no sooner were those revealed so that the divine message was saved in the hearts  of the companions of the Prophet of Allah.

The responsibility of the safety of this Holy Book is taken by Almighty Allah by Himself, as mentioned in the Holy Quran:

However, after the death of the Prophet of Allah and in the times of the first caliph of Islam Abu Bakar (R A), a large number of companions of Allah,  who had memorized the verses of the Holy Qur'an in a sequence as told to them by the Prophet of Allah, were martyred in the Battle of  Yamama. This gave a rise to fear among the Muslims of the time that if such waste continued, a day may come that no one would be there to know the complete Qur'an. So there arose a need to compile the Holy Qur'an in the form of book.

Therefore Hazrat Umar (R.A) suggested to the Caliph that the Quran should be collected and compiled into a single book in order to ensure its preservation.  Hazrat Abu Bakar (R.A) liked the idea but showed his hesitancy to do so as the Prophet of Allah (SAW) himself had never taken this step and He (R.A) feared that this action might be considered a discrepancy. However, upon persuasion by the others, he had a change of heart and assigned the task of compiling the verses memorized by the remaining selected companions to Hazrat Zain bin Saabit (R.A) in the form of a book. 

Hazrat Zain and his team called all those who had earlier memorized the various verses of the Divine messages and commandments. The team also collected all the written portions on goat or camel skins and started compiling the Divine verse. The team would listen to each memorizer while all other memorizers listened and through cross questioning,  a book was formed.  Once the whole text was collected and compiled, the the team under Hazrat Zain carefully proofread it and certified that it was correct and present in its entirety. It was then presented to Hazrat Abu Bakar (R.A). 

However, during the time of the third caliph Usman (R A), a problem arose that of the recitation of the Holy Quran. although the there was no dispute on text, but its reading by different tribes who had a dialect of their own, it was feared that the meaning of the Quranic verses may change. The problem further compounded when every tribe or people of one dialect supported their dialect to be the superior to other and wanted their form of reading be approved. Had this been allowed to continued, there would have been a different Quran for each tribe and place which would have resulted into disparity in meaning. 

Thus caliph Usman ( R A) decided to approve one form of reading for its universal application so as not to created disparities. He thus requested Hazrat Hafsah (R.A), who was the daughter of the second caliph Umar ibn al-Khattab and who had the originally compiled book of the Holy Quran given to her by her father who had inherited from the first caliph Abu Bakar,  to provide the earlier compilation of Quran. 

He then formed a committee consisting of Hazrat Zain bin Haris (R.A) and a few other companions to make sure that they agree on the pronunciation of the original copy and produce more versions of that copy in the very same way. The commission prepared the text accordingly and then several copies were made and sent to different parts of the Islamic state with the instructions that only this should be considered the official and authentic text of Quran. Since that day the Holy Quran has remained in its original intact form and will remain as such in the future by the Grace and Blessings of Allah Almighty.

The world's oldest dot-less Qur'an - Uzbek capital, Tashkent [Photo]

However, there still remained one problem: The text was in the form of Arabic text that could only be read by those whose native language was Arabic. This form of writing was known as "Rasm" which was often used in the early centuries of Arabic literature (7th century - early 11th century AD). Essentially it is the same as today's Arabic script except for the big difference that dots and dashes (the i‘jām pointing) are omitted. In Rasm, the five distinct letters ـبـ ـتـ ـثـ ـنـ ـيـ are indistinguishable because all the dots are omitted. It is also known as Arabic skeleton script. [1]
The Kufic Samarkand Qurʾan that was from 1869 to 1917 in St. Petersburg shows almost only Rasm: Surah 7 (Al-Aʿaraf), verses 86 & 87 [Photo: Wikipedia]

But as Islam spread and the written Qur'an reached people on non Arabic dialects, it became difficult for them to read with the dots and the  diacritical marks. Thus a need was felt that dots and diacritical marks (fathah, kasrah, and dammah) should be included so that people could recite the text easily. Thus the dots and diacritical marks were added to the written text. 

The following details have been inserted as these have been given in "The Preservation of the Quran" by Mufti Muhammad Taqi Usmani as published in IlmGate. However, any variations which are found would be based on difference of opinion by various schools of thoughts, for which one may consult own school for clarification and details. This scribe will in no case be held responsible for the information shared herein under.

Diacritical marks
It is however not clear as to who was the first to place dots on the Quranic manuscript.  Some claim they were first utilized by Abu ’l-Aswad al-Du’ali. Others give credit to Hajjaj ibn Yusuf who they say had appointed the task to Yahya bin Ya‘mur and Nasr bin ‘Asim al-Laythi (Tafsir al-Qurtubi 1:63). Keeping in view all the reports in this connection, it appears that: [2]
Diacritical marks were first invented by Abu ’l-Aswad al-Du’ali but these diacritical marks were different from how they exist today. Instead of the short vowel “a” (fathah), he would place a dot over the letter. For the short vowel “i” (kasrah) he would place a dot under the letter, and for the short vowel “u” (dammah) he would place a dot in front of the letter. To represent nunnation (tanwin) he would use two dots (Subh al-A‘sha 3:160). Later on, Khalil ibn Ahmad founded signs for the glottal stop (hamzah) and doubling (tashdid) (al-Itqan 2:171, Subh al-A‘sha 3:161). 
Afterwards, Hajjaj bin Yusuf requested Yahya bin Ya‘mur, Nasr bin ‘Asim al-Laythi, and Hasan al-Basri to place both the dots and diacritical marks on the Quranic letters. On this occasion the present forms of diacritical marks were chosen rather than the use of dots so that they would not be confused with the intrinsic dots of the letters. And Allah knows best.
Ahzab and Manazil
It was customary amongst the Companions and Successors to complete the recital of the entire Quran in one week. For this purpose they had fixed portions for their daily recitation. Each such portion is known as hizb or manzil (stages). In this way, the Quran was divided into seven stages, or manzils, of recitation. Sayyiduna Aws ibn Hudhayfah states that he once asked the Companions as to how the manzils of recital had been divided. They replied that the first hizb consisted of three surahs, the second of five, the third of seven, the fourth of nine, the fifth of eleven, the sixth of thirteen, and the final hizb from Surah Qaf to the end of the Quran. (al-Burhan 1:250)

Ajza’ or Parts
Today, the Quran is divided into thirty parts, or ajza’ (plural of juz’). This division in parts has no relationship with the meaning of the Quran. Rather, the division into thirty equal parts was meant to serve as a teaching aid for children. We may notice, therefore, that there are places where a juz’ ends with an unfinished statement. It is difficult to say with certainty as to who first introduced this division. Some people believe that during the second transcription of the Quran, ‘Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) had it written into thirty folios and, therefore, the division dates back to his time. I have not been able to find any proof for this theory in the works of earlier scholars, however. Still, ‘Allamah Badr al-Din al-Zarkashi notes that the thirty parts of the Quran have been in popular use for a long time and that they have customarily appeared in Quranic manuscripts used in schools. It would appear that the division was introduced after the era of the Companions in order to facilitate teaching. (al-Burhan 1:250, Manahil al-‘Irfan 1:402)

Akhmas and A‘shar (Sets of Fives and Tens)
Another sign used in Quranic transcriptions during the early centuries was the placing of the sign خ or خمس after every five verses and the sign ع or عشر after every ten versesin the margins of the manuscript. The former category of signs were called akhmas and the latter a‘shar. Holding divergent views, some of the early scholars considered these signs permissible while others held them to be reprehensible. It is difficult to say with any degree of certainty as to who introduced these signs. According to one view, Hajjaj ibn Yusuf was its inventor. Another report claims that the ‘Abbasi Khalifah Ma‘mun first ordered that they be marked (al-Burhan 1:251). Neither of these views seem to be sound, however, since the idea of a‘shar appears to have been present in the days of the Companions as well. Ibn Abi Shaybah narrates in his Musannaf that Masruq said that ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud considered the placing of a‘shar signs in the Quranic script to be detestable. (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah 2:497)

Ruku‘ or Section
Another sign that came into use later on and is still prevalent today is the sign of the ruku‘. It is identified by the sign ع which is placed in the margin at the conclusion of a verse. Despite all my efforts, I have not been able to locate anything authentic to help identify the originator of the ruku‘ nor what period it was invented in. Some people believe that the ruku‘s were fixed during the era of Sayyiduna ‘Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him), yet no authentic proof to this claim can be found in the traditions.

It can be said for certain, however, that the purpose of the ruku‘ is to determine the average number of verses which should be recited in one unit (rak‘ah) of salat. This is why it is termed a ruku‘ (lit. to bow), since it indicates the time that one should bow from the standing position during salat. In al-Fatawa al-Hindiyyah (1:94) it is mentioned:

The scholars have divided the Quran into 540 ruku‘ (sections) and placed its signs on manuscripts so that the Quran can be completed on the 27th night of Ramadan in the tarawih prayer.

Rumuz al-Awqaf or Stop Signs
Another useful step taken to facilitate recitation and phonetically correct pronunciation (tilawah and tajwid) was to provide verses with signs to indicate pauses. These signs are known as the rumuz (signs) or ‘alamat (symbols) of awqaf (stops). Their purpose is to help a person who does not know Arabic to stop at the correct spot during recitation and thus avoid incorrectly changing the meaning of the verse. Most of these signs were first invented by ‘Allamah Abu ‘Abdullah Muhammad ibn Tayfur al-Sajawandi (al-Nashr fi ’l-Qira’at al-‘Ashr 1:225). The details of these signs are as follows:

ط : An abbreviation of the word waqf mutlaq (universal stop). It implies that the statement stands completed at this point. Therefore, it is better to stop here.

ج : An abbreviation of the word waqf ja’iz (permissible stop) and it implies that it is permissible to stop here.

ز : An abbreviation of waqf mujawwaz (permitted stop), which implies that stopping here is permissible but that it is better not to.

ص : An abbreviation of waqf murakhkhas (dispensation stop), which implies that the statement has not yet been completed but that, because the sentence has become long, this is the place to breathe and stop rather than elsewhere. (al-Minh al-Fikriyyah 63)

م: An abbreviation of waqf lazim (mandatory stop), which means that if a stop is not made an outrageous distortion in the meaning of the verse is possible. Some phoneticians of the Quran have also called this type of stop a waqf wajib (obligatory stop). Note that wajib here is not a legal term and therefore does not entail sin if it is abandoned. The purpose of the term is to stress that stopping here is the most preferable of all stops. (al-Nashr 1:231)

لا: An abbreviation of la taqif (lit. do not stop). It indicates that one should not stop at this sign but does not imply that stopping is completely impermissible, since there are certain places bearing this sign where stopping entails no harm and resuming from the following word is also permissible. Therefore, the correct meaning of this sign is: “If a stop is made here, it is better to go back and read over again. Initiation from the next word is not preferred. (al-Nashr 1:233)

As far as the origin of these signs is concerned, it stands proven beyond doubt that they were invented by ‘Allamah Sajawandi. In addition to these, however, there are also other signs that appear in Quranic manuscripts. For instance:

مع: An abbreviation of the word mu‘anaqah. This symbol is inserted at a place where a single verse has two possible explanations. According to one explanation, the stop will be made at one given place while according to another explanation the stop will be made at another place. Therefore, a stop can be made at either one of the two places, but once a stop has been made at one place it is not correct to stop at the other. However, if a stop is not made at both places it will be correct. This is also known as muqabalah. It was first pointed out by Imam Abu ’l-Fadl al-Razi. (al-Nashr, 1:237, al-Itqan 1:88)

سكتة : This is a symbol for saktah (pause), which means that one should stop here by breaking the sound but not the breath. This is generally inserted at a place where assimilated reading is likely to cause an erroneous projection of meaning.

وقفة : At this sign, called a waqfah, one must stop a little longer than at a saktah (pause) but ones breath should not break here as well.

ق : An abbreviation of qīla ‘alayhi ’l-waqf. It means that some phoneticians of the Quran identify a stop here while others do not.

قف : This symbol is the word qif which means “stop” (the imperative word-form) and is inserted where the reader may possibly think that a stop was not correct.

صلى : This is an abbreviation of al-waslu awla, which means that “it is better to recite here in assimilated continuity”.

صل  : This is an abbreviation of qad yusalu which means that “some stop here” while others like to recite on in assimilated continuity.


وقف النبي : This is marked at places where a hadith proves that the Holy Prophet (upon him blessings and peace) stopped here while reciting.

An effort has been made to compile the history of compilation of the Holy Qur'an from as many references as possible. However, there may be more details available, but the basics have been covered in as short as possible for easy reading. Details may be read from the references given below or can be searched o Internet. May Allah forgive me for quoting any wrong information. Aameen

Photo | References: | 1 | | 2 | 3
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