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When Was the Quran Written?

The words of the Quran were collected as they were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, committed to memory by the early Muslims, and recorded in writing by scribes.

Under Supervision of the Prophet Muhammad

During revelation, the Prophet Muhammad made special arrangements to ensure that it was written down. Although the Prophet Muhammad himself could neither read nor write, he dictated the verses orally and instructed scribes to mark down the revelation on whatever materials were available: tree branches, stones, leather, and bones. The scribes would then read their writing back to the Prophet, who would check it for mistakes.

With each new verse, the Prophet Muhammad dictated its placement within the growing body of text.

When the Prophet Muhammad died, the Quran had been fully written down. It was not in book form, however. It was recorded on different parchments and materials, held in the possession of the companions of the Prophet.

Under Supervision of Caliph Abu Bakr

After the death of the Prophet Muhammad, Muslims continued to memorize the Quran. Hundreds of the early companions of the Prophet had memorized the entire revelation. And Muslims daily recited large portions of the text from memory. Many of the early Muslims also had personal written copies of the Quran.

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Ten years after the Hijrah (632 C.E.), many of these scribes and early Muslim devotees were killed in the Battle of Yamama. While the community mourned the loss of their comrades, they also began to worry about the long-term preservation of the Holy Quran.

To collect and preserve the words of God, the Caliph Abu Bakr ordered all people who had written pages of the Quran to compile them in one place. The project was organized and supervised by one of the Prophet Muhammad’s key scribes, Zayd ibn Thabit.

The process of compiling the Quran was  in four steps:

1- Zayd ibn Thabit verified each verse with his own memory.

2- Umar ibn Al-Khattab verified each verse. Both men had memorized the entire Quran.

3- Two reliable witnesses had to testify that the verses were written in the presence of the Prophet Muhammad.

4- The verified written verses were collated with those from the collections of other companions.

This method of cross-checking and verifying from more than one source was undertaken with the utmost care. The purpose was to prepare an organized document which the entire community could verify, endorse, and use as a resource.

This complete text of the Quran was kept in the possession of Abu Bakr and then passed on to the next Caliph, Umar ibn Al-Khattab. After his death,  the mus-haf remained with his daughter Hafsah (a widow of the Prophet Muhammad).

Under Supervision of Caliph Uthman ibn Affan

As Islam began to spread throughout the Arabian peninsula, more and more people entered the fold of Islam from as far away as Persia and Byzantine. Many of these new Muslims were not native Arabic speakers, or they spoke a slightly different Arabic pronunciation from the tribes in Makkah and Madinah.

People began to dispute about which pronunciations were most correct. Caliph Uthman bin Affan took charge of ensuring that the recitation of the Quran is a standard pronunciation.

The first step was to borrow the original copy of the Quran from Hafsah. A committee of early Muslim scribes made transcripts of the original copy and ensured the sequence of the chapters (surahs).

Then Uthman ibn Affan ordered all remaining transcripts to be destroyed so that all copies of the Quran were uniform in script.

All Quran copies available in the world today are exactly identical to the Uthmani version. It was completed less than twenty years after the death of Prophet Muhammad.

Later, some minor improvements were made in the Arabic script. Adding dots and diacritical marks, to make it easier for non-Arabs to read. However, the text of the Quran has remained the same.