For the first year following the prophet’s death no one worried about a written copy of the Qur’an because there were many oral witnesses among the Muslim community as living copies of the Qur’an. But when, about a year later, over seventy of the “Quran Bearers” were martyrs in the battle named “Al-Yamamah”, it became imperative to guard against the sudden total loss of these oral copies. It, therefore, became a matter of extreme urgency to gather the material into a single volume which would be easy to handle and use for reference. The idea was suggested to Abu-Bakr (Radi Allahu Anhu), the first caliph and the closest friend of the Prophet (P.B.U.H), by Omar-ibnel-Khattab (Radi Allahu Anhu) himself, another eminent companion. After hesitating at first, saying, “How can I do a thing which the Prophet (peace and Allah’s blessing be upon him) has not done? Abu-Bakr (Radi Allahu Anhu) was gradually convinced that Omar (Radi Allahu Anhu) was right.
This incident shows how much the Qur’an was cherished by the Prophet’s companions and by the Muslims at large. Abu-Bakr (Radi Allahu Anhu) sent for Zaid-ibn-Thabit (Radi Allahu Anhu), one of the scribes who had written down most of the revelations in the Prophet’s presence and under his guidance. Zaid (Radi Allahu Anhu) was distinguished also as being one of those who had learnt the whole Qur’an by heart and who was an authority on its various subjects and methods of recitation. Zaid (Radi Allahu Anhu) had attended numerous recitations including the last given by the Prophet (P.B.U.H) himself, and was a man admired for his integrity and competence.
Omar (Radi Allahu Anhu) then delivered a sermon in which he gave an order to the community: “Whoever received from the Messenger of God any part of the Qur’an in writing under his supervision may he bring it out to Zaid (Radi Allahu Anhu).
Zaid (Radi Allahu Anhu) and a colleague, Amr, sat at the door of the mosque and everyone who had any Qur’anic verse written down brought it over to them. But no material was accepted as authentic unless two of the Prophet’s friends testified that it had actually been written down in his presence and under his direct supervision. This testimony was intended as an extra safeguard for the purity and authenticity of the text. In other words, it was not considered sufficient just to have the Qur’an written down from memory – many of the community having learnt it by heart. Nor was Abu-Bakr (Radi Allahu Anhu) satisfied with the mere collecting of the written material, there were a number of such records, some containing explanatory notes. Since the Muslim community held the sacred Book extremely dear, scrupulous care had to be exercised in its collection.
Accordingly, the official copy thus prepared was distinct from other personal copies by its absolute precision which excluded from the text any explanatory notes and even the titles of the Surahs. It was written down by Zaid (Radi Allahu Anhu) on sheets of paper which were tied together and kept in Abu-Bakr’s custody. Before his death he handed it over to Omar-Ibnel-Khattab (Radi Allahu Anhu) who became the second caliph. When Omar (Radi Allahu Anhu) was about to die he did not want to nominate a specific successor, preferring to leave this to the people to decide by vote. Until that time the safest repository for this single reference copy of supremest value would be with Omar’s daughter Hafsah, who in addition was also a widow of the Prophet (P.B.U.H).
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