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Transmission of the Qur'anic Revelation (Part 1)

Memorization and Oral Transmission of the Qur’an

Memorization and Oral Transmission of the Qur’an

The revelation contained in the Qur’an has been transmitted to us by numerous persons in two ways: orally and in written form. 

Oral transmission of the revelation was based on hifz or memorization. Prophet Muhammad himself (peace and blessings be upon him) was the first to commit a revelation to memory after the Angel Gabriel had brought it to him:

{Move not thy tongue concerning the (Qur’an) to make haste therewith. It is for Us to collect it and promulgate it; but when We have promulgated it, follow thou its recital} (Al-Qiyamah 75: 16-19)

{… a Messenger from God, reciting scriptures, kept pure and holy} (Al-Bayinah 98: 2)

Memorization by the Companions

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) then declared the revelation and instructed his Companions to memorize it. The case of Ibn Mas`ud, who was the first man to publicly recite the Qur’an in Makkah, shows that even in the very early phase of the Islamic ummah, recital of the revelation from memory was practiced by the Companions:

The first man to speak the Qur’an loudly in Makkah after the Prophet was `Abdullah ibn Mas`ud. The Prophet’s Companions came together and mentioned that the Quraish had never heard the Qur’an distinctly read to them … When (Ibn Mas`ud) arrived at the maqam, he read “In the name of God the Compassionate the Merciful”, raising his voice as he did so.

(He continued,) {The Com- passionate who taught the Qur’an …} (Ar-Rahman 55:1-2)

They got up and began to hit him in the face; but he continued to read so far as God willed that he should read. (Ibn Hisham, Sirat An-nabi, Cairo, n.d., 1, p.206.)

It is also reported that Abu Bakr used to recite the Qur’an publicly in front of his house in Makkah. (Ibn Hisham)


About Ahmad Von Denffer

Ahmad Von Denffer was born in Germany in 1949. He is working for the Islamic Center, Munich, Germany. He has various publications in different languages.

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