Abu Bakr and Uthman’s role in preservation of Holy Qur’an


By Ayesha Mujahid

ALMIGHTY Allah, in His infinite wisdom and unlimited mercy, has sent down the Holy Qur’an for the whole mankind. The noble book is a panacea for all the ills, vows, problems and issues facing the humanity till Doomsday.

Allah Himself describes His book as a guidance for the worlds and a manifest light. “O humanity! There has come to you conclusive evidence from your Lord. And We have sent down to you a brilliant light”. (Surah Al-Nisa, Verse 174).

At another place in the Qur’an, Allah has laid down solution for every human problem very clearly. Qur’an says: “And We have revealed the Book to you explaining clearly everything (Surah Al-Nahal, Verse 89).

At yet another place, Allah describes the Qur’an in these words: “....... a guidance for mankind and clear evidence of guidance and discrimination (between wrong)”. (Surah Al-Baqrah, Verse 185).

Allah has taken upon Himself the responsibility of safeguarding and preserving His Holy Book till eternity. He says in Surah Al-Hijr,Verse 9: “Indeed, it is We Who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian.

During the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) the Qur’an was mainly preserved through memorization. Hundreds of Companions of the Prophet, were huffaz, or memorizers of the Qur’an. The Prophet (pbuh) also made special arrangements for preserving it through writing. He dictated the verses in sequence to a Companion who then wrote it down on barks, stones, bones, leaves or anything that was available. So, during his time, one copy of the Qur’an, written under his personal supervision, existed. It was not in the form of a book the like of which is available in the modern times, but in different parchments. Other Companions also had collections of the Qur’an for their personal record but no standard copy of the Qur’an in book form existed then.

During the caliphate of Hadrat Abu Bakr (RA), Hadrat Umar (RA), his greatest companion, realized the need for compilation of the Holy Qur’an in the form of a book as in the battle of Yamamah and other battles, many huffaz were martyred. This need was then brought to the notice of Hadrat Abu Bakr (RA) who first showed his reluctance in doing something which Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), hadn’t done. Later, realizing the importance of the matter, he agreed.

Caliph Abu Bakr (RA) entrusted this task to Hadrat Zaid Bin Thabit (RA), who used to write the Qur’an for the Prophet (pbuh) during his lifetime. At first, he too did not agree, but later relented and took upon himself the task of compilation of the Holy Qur’an in the form of a book.

Several Companions, including Hadrat Zaid Bin Thabit (RA) himself had memorized the whole Qur’an and so the Noble Book could have easily been written down from memory. There were also complete collections of the verses of the Holy Qur’an available with many companions. But Hadrat Zaid Bin Thabit (RA), knew he had to be careful and diligent. Therefore, he used both the methods and followed certain verification measures including jogging his own memory and cross-checking it with the other huffaz and companions like Hadrat Umar (RA).

Before any verse could be accepted, Hadrat Zaid (RA) ensured its reliability and checked its veracity by taking testimony from two witnesses who were present during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and only then the written verses were collated with the collections of different Companions.

The purpose of this method was to take utmost care in the transcription of the Qur’an, rather than merely relying on memory. It was this way that the Qur’an was compiled. In this copy, all Surahs (chapters) were written separately. The purpose of this transcription was to prepare an organized document with the endorsement of the whole Ummah so that reference could be made to it as and when required. The transcripts stayed with Hadrat Abu Bakr (RA). After his death in 634 CE, they were passed on to the second Caliph, Hadrat Umar (RA). And after him their safety was entrusted to his daughter, Hadrat Hafsah (RA).

Compilation during

Uthman’s caliphate

During the reign of Hadrat Uthman (RA), the third rightly-guided Caliph, Islam became a dominant religion in areas as far away as Iraq, Syria, Egypt and Iran bringing into many new converts from various cultures. A serious issue related to the recitation of the Qur’an surfaced during that era. There were seven different ways of reciting the Holy Qur’an and different people had learned the Qur’an through different recital methods. Arabs from different parts of the Islamic state recited it according to their dialect which presented two problems: Firstly, everybody considered their dialect to be correct which became a reason for disputes among the people; and Secondly, there was a fear that if this went on, no universally accepted version of Qur’an would be left and the problems that had occurred with the authenticity of the Bible and Torah would replicate. It was then, Hadrat Uthman (RA) felt the need to establish a unified text of the Qur’an and ensure that the recitation of the Qur’an was a standard pronunciation.

Hadrat Uthman (RA) borrowed the Holy Qur’an transcripts from Hadrat Hafsah (RA) which was compiled during the reign of Hadrat Abu Bakr (RA). He then formed a group of four companions, Hadrat Zaid Bin Thabit (RA), Hadrat Abdullah Bin Zubair (RA), Hadrat Saeed Bin Al Aas (RA), and Hadrat Abdur Rahman Bin Harith (RA) to make transcripts of the original copy. They also arranged the Surahs in sequence. Hadrat Zaid, having been responsible for the first compilation, was appointed leader of the group. Other companions also lent them a helping hand later.

The transcribed copies were then sent to each province and the original one was returned back to Hadrat Hafsa (RA). To bring uniformity in script and the sequence of Surahs, all transcripts other than the standard were burnt, leaving no room for differences. The copy produced by Hadrat Uthman (RA) is still extant. All copies of the Qur’an available today in the world are exactly identical to the Uthmani version, which was completed in less than 20 years after the death of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Later, some improvements were made in the Arabic script, like the adding of dots and diacritical marks, to make it easier for non-Arabs to read, but of course, the text of the Qur’an has remained, and will remain the same forever as Almighty Allah has taken upon Himself the responsibility to protect His Word till eternity.