The Quran: Who Wrote It?

Is the Quran today the same as the original teachings from Muhammad himself?  Of course Sunni Muslims would say yes.  In fact, all Muslims must agree that they are, but, in the Shiite sect of Islam, not all are in full agreement of the source of the final product of the original teachings.  To remove Christian bias, we will look at the historical quotes from Muslims themselves and see how accurate the Quran is.

Did Muhammad Write The Quran?

There are no eyewitnesses anywhere in the
Qur’an who said they saw Muhammad talk to an angel, nor did anyone say
he met or talked with Allah.  The teachings of Muhammad, came from Muhammad himself, only, verbally.  Muhammad did not know how to read or write.  

“Before this, you did not read any book, nor did you write anything with your hands”. (29:48). Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered prophet (7:157)

So if Muhammad could not read or write, who wrote it? The Qur’an was revealed gradually over a period of 23 years to his followers, who then memorized what he said and in some cases write it down on various formats. It was written on leaves and bone and such.  The majority of the teachings of Muhammad were memorized by his followers.

Muhammad himself did not perfectly memorize all that was revealed to him. 

Narrated Abdullah ibn Mas’ud: … (Muhammad said) I am only a human being and I forget just
as you do; so when I forget
, remind me … (Sunan Abu Dawud: bk. 3, no. 1015; also
Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 1, bk. 8, no. 394) 

So, when the divine revelation was forgotten, they simply replaced the divine revelation with something they felt was better or similar.

We do not abrogate a verse or cause it to be forgotten except that We bring
forth [one] better than it or similar to it … (Qur’an 2:106, Saheed International)

So the importance of his followers to memorize what he taught was very important.

Did Muhammad’s Reciters Perfectly Transmit His Teachings?

The battle of Yamama in 632AD, after Muhammad’s death, made his followers realize the need to write his teachings down.  Over 700 Muslims were killed, over 400 were followers who had his teachings memorized were killed.  What if everyone who only had it memorized were all killed?

Muhammad’s close friend, Salim, who had memorized a great deal of what Muhammad taught, was one of the over 400 reciters killed in the battle of Yamama.

“Abdullah bin ‘Amr mentioned ‘Abdullah bin Masud and said, “I shall ever love that man, for I heard the Prophet saying, ‘Take (learn) the Qur’an from four: ‘Abdullah bin Masud, Salim, Mu’adh and Ubai bin Ka’b.’”(Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 521)

Zuhri reports, ‘We have heard that many Qur’an passages were revealed but that those who had memorised them fell in the Yemama fighting. Those passages had not been written down, and following the deaths of those who knew them, were no longer known; nor had Abu Bakr, nor `Umar nor `Uthman as yet collected the texts of the Qur’an.  (John Burton, The Collection of the Qur’an, pp. 126-127, Abu Bakr `Abdullah b. abi Da’ud, Kitab al-Masahif’, ed. A. Jeffery, Cairo, 1936/1355, p. 23:)

Different Versions of The Quran?

Here we already see, as recorded by Muslim sources, that portions of the teachings of Muhammad were lost.  However, during the reign of Abu Bakr, Hafsah (a wife of Muhammad) kept for herself a written copy of Muhammad’s teachings and kept it until 667AD.  In fact, there were others who also had memorized the teachings of Muhammad in different dialects and versions.

“Masruq reported: We used to go to Abdullah Bin Amr and talk to him. Ibn Numair said: One day we made a mention of Abdullah Bin Masud, whereupon he said: you have made mention of a person whom I love more than anything else. I heard Allah’s Messenger as saying: Learn Qur’an from four persons: Ibn Umm Abd (i.e., Abdullah Bin Masud – he started from him – then Muadh bin Jabal and Ubayy bin Kab, then Salim the ally of Ali Hudhaifa. (Sahih Muslim, Book 031, Number 6024)

“Anas is reported to have said: Four persons collected the Qur’an during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger and all of them were Ansar: Muadh Bin Jabal, Ubayy Bin Kab, Zaid Bin Thabit, Abu Zaid. Qatada said: Anas, who was Abu Zaid? He said: He was one of my uncles. (Sahih Muslim, Book 031, Number 6029)

“Narrated Ibn Mas’ud: I heard a person reciting a (Quranic) verse in a certain way,
and I had heard the Prophet reciting the same verse in a different way
. So I took
him to the Prophet and informed him of that but I noticed the sign of disapproval
on his face, and then he said, “Both of you are correct, so don’t differ,
for the nations before you differed, so they were destroyed.

(Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 4, bk. 56, no. 682) 

“Concerning the arrangement of the Qur’an in the manuscript of Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud,
Al-Fadl ibn Shadhan said, “I found in a manuscript of `Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud the surahs of
the Qur’an in accordance with the following (different) sequence …
These are one hundred and ten surahs.
” (Al-Nadim, p. 53)…  One of our reliable friends has informed us, saying that the composition of the
surahs according to the reading of Ubayy ibn Ka’b is in a village called Qariyat al-Ansar,
two parasangs from al-Basrah, where in his home Muhammad ibn Abd al-Malik al-Ansari
showed us a Qur’anic manuscript, saying, “This is the copy of Ubayy which we have,
handed down from our fathers
.” I looked into it and ascertained the headings of the
surahs, the endings of the revelations, and the numbers of verses. … one hundred
and sixteen surahs.
(Al-Nadim, pp. 58-61)

The witness accounts to differing renderings between Masud’s version and Ubayy’s version.  Both of them were reciters of Muhammad.  A discovery of the early San’a 1 (Standford 07) manuscript proves there were different versions of the Quran outside of Ziad’s version.  

Due to the loss of a great deal of followers who only had Muhammad’s teachings memorized, Abu Bakr appointed Zaid ibn Thabit to compile all remaining Muhammad teachings.  Aside from potentially losing the teachings of Muhammad, there was a growing issue of differences between the different reciters of the teachings; this was also causing confusion and conflict.

“Hudaifa b. al Yeman came to `Uthman direct from the Aderbaijan and Armenian frontier where, uniting the forces from Iraq and those from Syria, he had had an opportunity to observe regional differences over the Qur’an. “Commander of the faithful,” he advised, “take this umma in hand before they differ about the Book like Christians and Jews.” `Uthman sent asking Hafsa to lend him the sheets [inherited by her father, `Umar, from Abu Bakr, and now in her possession] “so that we can copy them into other volumes and then return them.” She sent her suhuf to `Uthman who summon Zaid, Sa`id b. al `As, `Abdul Rahman b. al Harith b. Hisham and `Abdullah b. al Zubair and commanded them to copy the sheets into several volumes. Addressing the group from Quraish, he added, “Wherever you differ from Zaid, write the word in the dialect of Quraish for it was revealed in that tongue.“… When they had copied the sheets, `Uthman sent a copy to each of the main centers of the empire with the command that all other Qur’an materials, whether in single sheet form, or in whole volumes, WERE TO BE BURNED(Burton, pp. 141-142- citing Ahmad b. `Ali b. Muhammad al `Asqalani, ibn Hajar, “Fath al Bari“, 13 vols, Cairo, 1939/1348, vol. 9, p. 18)

“Ibn Abbas reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: “If there were for
the son of Adam a valley full of riches, he would long to possess another one like it, and
the son of Adam does not feel satisfied but with dust.” And “Allah returns to him who returns
(to him).” Ibn Abbas said: I do not know whether it is from the Qur’an or not; and in the
narration transmitted by Zuhair it was said: I do not know whether it is from the Qur’an,
and he made no mention of Ibn Abbas.
(Sahih Muslim: bk. 5, no. 2285) 

The Official Version, Not Authorized by Muhammad?

The solution?  Create a single source text in one specific approved rendering and dialect (Quraish, the Ziad version) and burn the rest.  But some of those who were closest to Muhammad disagreed with conforming to Ziad’s version.  By this time, Umar took power after Abu Bakr and then Uthman after him.  Hafsah, a wife of Muhammad, refused to give hers so that it would not be burned.  Even Abdullah Bin Masud, a direct follower of Muhammad, disagreed with Ziad’s version.

“Abdullah bin Masud reported that (he said to his companions to conceal their copies of the Qur’an) and further said: He who conceals anything shall have to bring that which he had concealed on the Day of Judgment, and they said: After whose mode of recitation do you command me to recite? I in fact recited before Allah’s Messenger more than seventy chapters of the Qur’an and the companions of Allah’s Messenger know that I have better understanding of the Book of Allah (than they do), and if I were to know that someone had better understanding than I, I would have gone to him. Shaqiq said: I sat in the company of the companions of Muhammad but I did not hear anyone having rejected that (that is, his recitation) or finding fault with it. (Sahih Muslim, Book 031, Number 6022).

This consolidation effort continued because of the continued discrepancies between the different teachings.  Abdullah’s variant readings were attacked by those who were in power.

Narrated Ibrahim: The companions of ‘Abdullah (bin Mas’ud) came to Abu Darda’,
(and before they arrived at his home), he looked for them and found them. Then he asked them:
“Who among you can recite (Qur’an) as ‘Abdullah recites it?” They replied, “All of us.”
He asked, “Who among you knows it by heart?” They pointed at ‘Alqama.
Then he asked Alqama. “How did you hear ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud reciting Surat Al-Lail
(The Night)?“ Alqama recited:
“By the male and the female.” (Qur’an 92:3)
Abu Darda said, “I testify that I heard the Prophet reciting it likewise,
but these people want me to recite it:
“And by Him Who created male and female.” (Qur’an 92:3)
But by Allah, I will not follow them.”
(Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 6, bk. 60, no. 468;
also Sahih Muslim: bk. 4, no. 1799-1802) 

‘Yazid b. Ma`awiya was in the mosque in the time of al Walid b. `Uqba, sitting in a group among them was Hudaifa. An official called out, ‘Those who follow the reading of Abu Musa, go to the corner nearest the Kinda door. Those who follow `Abdullah’s reading, go the corner nearest `Abdullah’s house.’ Their reading of Q 2.196 did not agree. One group read, ‘Perform the pilgrimage TO GOD’ The others read it ‘Perform the pilgrimage TO THE KA’BAH.’ Hudaifa became very angry, his eyes reddened and he rose, parting his qamis at the waits, although in the mosque. This was during the reign of `Uthman. Hudaifa exclaimed, ‘Will someone go the Command of the Faithful, or shall I go myself? This is what happened in the previous dispensations.’ He came over and sat down, saying, ‘God sent Muhammad who, with those who went forward, fought those who went back until God gave victory to His religion. God took Muhammad and Islam made strides. To succeed him, God chose Abu Bakr who reigned as long as God chose. God then took him and Islam made rapid strides. God appointed `Umar who sat in the midst of Islam. God then took him also. Islam spread rapidly. God next chose `Uthman. (Burton, p. 143, Abu Bakr `Abdullah b. abi Da’ud, “K. al Masahif”, ed. A. Jeffery, Cairo, 1936/1355, p. 11;)

We were sitting in the mosque and `Abdullah was reciting the Qur’an when Hudaifa came in and said, ‘The reading of ibn Umm `Abd! [ie. `Abdullah] The reading of Abu Musa! By God! if I am spared to reach the Commander of the Faithful, I will recommend THAT HE IMPOSE A SINGLE QUR’AN READING!’ ‘Abdullah became very angry and spoke sharply to Hudaifa who fell silent. (Burton, p. 142, Abu Bakr `Abdullah b. abi Da’ud, “K. al Masahif”, ed. A. Jeffery, Cairo, 1936/1355, p. 13)

Hudaifa said, ‘The Kufans say, “the text of `Abdullah“; the Basrans say, “the text of Abu Musa“. By God! if I reach the Commander of the faithful, I WILL RECOMMEND THAT HE DROWN THESE READINGS.” (var. Masahif) `Abdullah said, ‘Do and God will drown you, but not in water!’ (Burton, pp. 146-147- citing Abu Bakr `Abdullah b. abi Da’ud, “K. al Masahif”, ed. A. Jeffery, Cairo, 1936/1355, p. 13).

“The Syrians,” we are told, “contended with the `Iraqis, the former following the reading of
ibn Ka`b, the latter that of `Abd Allah ibn Mas’ud, each accusing the other of unbelief.

(Labib as-Said, The Recited Koran: A History of the First Recorded Version,
tr. B. Weis, et al., Princeton, New Jersey: The Darwin Press, 1975, p. 23) 

As the political preasure against Abdullah mounted, eventually, Ziad’s version (Utmanic textual tradition) became the source for the current rendering of the Quran.  But, still remains some issues.

The Incomplete Teachings of Muhammad

When Umar heard people declaring
that they knew the entire Qur’an, he said to them: “Let none of you say,
‘I have learned the whole of the Koran,’ for how does he know what the
whole of it is, when much of it has disappeared? Let him rather say, ‘I
have learned what is extant thereof
” (Abu Ubaid, Kitab Fada’il-al-Qur’an).

Ziad’s versions was also dependent on Abu Musa’s reciting of Muhammad’s teachings but with that came a problem.  He forgot some of what Muhammad taught.

Abu Musa al-Ash’ari sent for the reciters of Basra. They came to him and
they were three hundred in number. They recited the Qur’an and he said:
You are the best among the inhabitants of Basra, for you are the
reciters among them. So continue to recite it. (But bear in mind) that
your reciting for a long time may not harden your hearts as were
hardened the hearts of those before you. We used to recite a surah which
resembled in length and severity to (Surah) Bara’at. I have, however,
forgotten it
with the exception of this which I remember out of it: “If
there were two valleys full of riches, for the son of Adam, he would
long for a third valley, and nothing would fill the stomach of the son
of Adam but dust.” And we used to recite a surah which resembled one of
the surahs of Musabbihat, and I have forgotten it
(Sahih Muslim 2286).

Not just there, but other places where teachings of Muhammad had been forgotten.

We used to recite a surah similar to one of the Musabbihat, and I no longer remember it, but this much I have indeed preserved: ‘O you who truly believe, why do you preach that which you do not practise?’ (and) ‘that is inscribed on your necks as a witness and you will be examined about it on the Day of Resurrection’. (As-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fii Ulum al-Qur’an, Page 526).

Another one of Muhammad’s wives (Aishah) also noticed that some verses were being left out.  Even teachings relating to stoning and breastfeeding were not included in Ziad’s version because, well, one of her written records was eaten by a goat.

A’isha . . . said,
“Surat al-Ahzab (33) used to be recited in the time of the Prophet
with two hundred verses
, but when Uthman wrote out the codices he was
unable to procure more of it than there is in it today [i.e. 73
” (Abu Ubaid, Kitab Fada’il-al-Qur’an)

“It was narrated that Aishah said: “The Verse of stoning and of
breastfeeding an adult ten times was revealed, and the paper was with me
under my pillow. When the Messenger of Allah died, we were preoccupied
with his death, and a tame sheep came in and ate it.
” (Sunan ibn Majah 1944).

When considering all this, we see that the current version of the Quran is lacking a lot of Muhammad’s teachings.  Of what was consolidated we can only truly conclude that it is the version of Ziad and what he chose to include.  Even in his version, it still lacks all the teachings that were lost when followers of Muhammad were killed or simply forgot what he said.  Those who disagreed with his version were attacked and their versions were eventually burned.  But we don’t need their copies to know that the current version of the Quran is incomplete.  The testimony from those who were close to Muhammad himself prove this.  This leads to more questions regarding the reliability of the Quran.

Perfect Preservation?

How do we know Abdullah’s version is not the actual or more acurate words of Muhammad?  It is historically recorded that his version was different.  If both Abdullah and Ziad were both followers of Muhammad, who decided that Ziad’s version was the true version?  Ziad?  Because he had political backing?  Does politics and power determine truth?  That is actually a minor problem.

The real problem is the claim that the Quran has been perfectly preserved.  This is logically not possible given the historical evidences from Muslim sources.  By their own witness, passages have been lost, forgotten, and cherry picked to create the Quran we have today. The only thing that can be stated is that Ziad’s version has been preserved, but not all the teachings of Muhammad.  In fact, it is not clear that Ziad’s versions is the perfect preservation of Muhammad’s teachings because it differed from Abdullah’s versions of what Muhammad taught.  Not to mention there were other versions that may have also differed that were lost and burned.

The one thing that we can conclude is that Ziad ibn Thabit is the primary source for the modern Quran.

Surah 15:9 boldly declares “Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian.”  But what happens if this declaration fails?  Given the Muslim sources recording the loss of verses and forgotten verses it is proven to not have been completely guarded.  This means the angels and chosen followers of Allah were unable safe guard the preservation of the revelations of Muhammad perfectly.  How then can it be divine and not just the teachings of Ziad ibn Thabit?

A claim that can be made is that Ziad ibn Thabit’s version of the remaining teachings of Muhammad have been perfectly preserved.  This is only true if we leave out the facts of the loss of teachings prior to Ziad’s final product.  But then, who are Muslims really following?  The teachings of Ziad ibn Thabit?  They can’t say the teachings of Muhammad because, as shown above, some of his teachings have been lost AND others differed from Ziad’s version.  So they can not say for sure they are following the teachings of Muhammad.  The claim of a supernatural mathematical system that proves the perfect preservation only validates Ziad ibn Thabit’s version because it is not possible to include the calculations of teachings that were lost, forgotten, and burned.

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