How Was the Quran Collected?

01 July, 2020
Q Assalamu'alaikum, dear brother/sister. I know that the Qur'an is preserved in its totality; however, I did come across a hadith in Sahih Bukhari that said, '...I found with Khuzaymah Al-Ansaari two Verses of Surat-at-Tauba which I had not found with anybody else, (and they were):-- "Verily there has come to you an Apostle (Muhammad) from amongst yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty He (Muhammad) is ardently anxious over you (to be rightly guided)" (9.128) until the end of the surah...'So, based on this hadith, how was it possible that Abu Khuzaymah had two verses that nobody else had? How can we be totally sure of these verses if only one man noted it down? Did any other sahaba/sahabiat memorize these verses? Thank you.

Answer

Short Answer:

  • How Was the Quran Collected? During the Quran collection process, the Companions were very cautious not to accept any verse until two people testified that they heard it from the Prophet. 
  • Scholars of Tafseer agreed that Umar ibn Al-Khattab, Uthman ibn Affan and Ubaby ibn Ka`b heard these verses from the Prophet. It is reported that Al-Harith ibn Khuzaymah came with the last two verses of Surat At-Tabah and said: ‘I testify that I heard them from the Prophet.’ Umar ibn Al-Khattab said: ‘I testify that I heard them also from the Prophet.’ In another version, Uthman said: “I also testify that I heard them from the Prophet’
  • Imam Al-Khattabi said: ‘These verses were memorized by Zayd ibn Thabit, Abu Khuzayman and Umar.’ (Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari)

………….

Salam dear questioner, 

Thank you for your question.

How Was the Quran Collected?

Muslims believe that the Quran we have to today is the same Quran that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). The Quran was not subject to any sort of distortion or change.

We read in the Quran what means:

*{It is certainly We Who have revealed the Reminder, and it is certainly We Who will preserve it.}* (Quran 15:9)

We also read:

*{The Word of your Lord has been perfected in truth and justice. None can change His Words. And He is the All-Hearing, All- Knowing.}* (Quran 6:115)

The Collection of the Quran by Abu Bakr

The Prophet’s Companions preserved the Quran in their hearts. They also preserved the Quran on the trunks of trees and thin white stones. This was the case until Abu Bakr (may Allah be pleased with him) consulted the senior companions about the idea of compiling the entire Quran in one book so that it would be preserved and would not be lost. 

Zaid ibn Thabit reported that:

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq sent for me when the people of Yamama had been killed (i.e., a number of the Prophet’s Companions who fought against Musaylimah the Liar). (I went to him) and found Umar ibn Al-Khattab sitting with him.

Abu Bakr then said (to me), “Umar has come to me and said: “Casualties were heavy among the Qurra’ of the Quran (i.e. those who knew the Quran by heart) on the day of the Battle of Yamama, and I am afraid that more heavy casualties may take place among the Qurra’ on other battlefields, whereby a large part of the Quran may be lost.

Therefore I suggest, you (Abu Bakr) order that the Quran be collected.” I said to Umar, “How can you do something which Allah’s Messenger did not do?” Umar said, “By Allah, that is a good project.” Umar kept on urging me to accept his proposal till Allah opened my chest for it and I began to realize the good in the idea which Umar had realized.”

Then Abu Bakr said (to me). ‘You are a wise young man and we do not have any suspicion about you, and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah’s Messenger. So you should search for (the fragmentary scripts of) the Quran and collect it in one book.”

By Allah if they had ordered me to shift one of the mountains, it would not have been heavier for me than this ordering me to collect the Quran.

Then I said to Abu Bakr, “How will you do something which Allah’s Messenger did not do?” Abu Bakr replied, “By Allah, it is a good project.” Abu Bakr kept on urging me to accept his idea until Allah opened my chest for what He had opened the chests of Abu Bakr and Umar.

So I started looking for the Quran and collecting it from (what was written on) palmed stalks, thin white stones and also from the men who knew it by heart, till I found the last Verse of Surat At-Tawbah (Repentance) with Abi Khuzaymah Al-Ansari, and I did not find it with anybody other than him.

The Verse is: ‘Verily there has come unto you an Apostle (Muhammad) from amongst yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty. (till the end of Surat Bara’ah (At-Tawbah 9:128-129).

Then the complete manuscripts (copy) of the Quran remained with Abu Bakr till he died, then with Umar till the end of his life, and then with Hafsah, the daughter of Umar. (Al-Bukhari)

Did Other Companions Know about the Last Two Verses of Surat At-Tawbah?

Based on the above narration and as you mentioned in your question, some claimed that how was it possible that Abu Khuzaymah had two verses that nobody else had? How can we be totally sure of these verses if only one man noted it down? Did any other companions memorize these verses?

The answer to these claims can be summarized in the following points:

1- In another narration, there is a reference to another verse that was found with Khuzaymah ibn Thabit Al-Ansari. The verse reads: 

*{Among the believers are men who have proven true to what they pledged to Allah. Some of them have fulfilled their pledge ‘with their lives’, others are waiting ˹their turn˺. They have never changed ˹their commitment˺ in the least.}* (Quran 33:23)

Zayd ibn Thabit

Zayd ibn Thabit had knowledge of the verse of Surat Al-Azhab and by way of analogy he had knowledge of the last two verses of Surat At-Tawbah. 

He narrated:

When we collected the fragmentary manuscripts of the Quran into copies, I missed one of the verses which I used to hear Allah’s Messenger reading. Finally I did not find it with anybody except Khuzaymah Al-Ansari, whose witness was considered by Allah’s Messenger equal to the witness of two men. (And that verse was:) ‘Among the believers are men who have proven true to what they pledged to Allah.’ (Al-Bukhari)

Other Companions Heard These Verses as well

2- Scholars of Tafseer agreed that Umar ibn Al-Khattab, Uthman ibn Affan and Ubaby ibn Ka`b heard these verses from the Prophet. It is reported that Al-Harith ibn Khuzaymah came with the last two verses of Surat At-Tabah and said:

‘I testify that I heard them from the Prophet.’ Umar ibn Al-Khattab said: ‘I testify that I heard them also from the Prophet.’ In another version, Uthman said: “I also testify that I heard them from the Prophet’

Imam Al-Khattabi said:

‘These verses were memorized by Zayd ibn Thabit, Abu Khuzayman and Umar.’ (Ibn Hajar, Fath al-Bari)

Extra Caution 

3- As for Zayd’s words: ‘and I did not find it with anybody other than him’, this means that Zayd did not find the verses written down with anyone else except Abu Khuzaymah. That didn’t mean that no one else knew about the verses. Scholars said that the collectors of the Quran did not rely on what the Companions learned by heart, but they collected what was written on different fragments.

Ibn Hajar commented in his Fath al-Bari:

The Prophet permitted the writing of the Quran and prohibited the writing of anything else along with it. So, Abu Bakr did not order anything to be written down except what has already been written down, and that is the reason why Zayd bin Thabit refrained from writing the last verses from Surat Bara’ah until he found it written, for he already knew it and had people who remembered it along with him.

The Obligatory Presence of Two Witnesses For Any Verse Collection

During the collection process, the Companions were very cautious not to accept any verse until two people testified that they heard it from the Prophet. 

Umar ibn Al-Khattab said: 

Who ever received anything regarding the Quran from the Prophet, then let him bring it. And they used to write it on the manuscripts and boards and date palmed stalks. He said that nothing would be accepted from anyone until two witnesses testify to it. (Ibn Hajar, Fath Al-Bari)

I hope this answers your question.

And Allah knows best.

Salam and please keep in touch.

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About Dr. Mohsen Haredy
Dr. Mohsen Haredy holds a PhD in Hadith literature from Leiden University, the Netherlands. He is the former Executive Manager and Editor-in-Chief of E-Da`wah Committee in Kuwait, and a contributing writer and counselor of Reading Islam. He graduated from Al-Azhar University and earned his MA in Hadith literature from Leiden University.