From the Prophet’s lips to our books today
It’s important to understand that the Qur’an literarily means ‘recitation’ from the word qira’a; it is basically what was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) from Allah (SWT) , memorized by himself and his companions, and kept in an Allah (SWT) –inspired sequence since the beginning of its revelation. It is represented by a paperback or hardcover copy with beautiful calligraphy and vowels we all own. However, the deep meaning and awesomeness of the Holy Qur’an is not all covered in its paper form, but in the power of recitation passed down to us from the Prophet (SAW) . The Rightly-Guided Companions (RAA) are the ones to thank for making sure that the Qur’an, as compiled and authenticated by the Prophet (SAW) himself and the compilation of which was supervised by archangel Gabriel, is exactly as we know and recite it today.
The complete Qur’an was revealed over a period of 22 years, 2 months, and 2 days portion by portion, and every time it was revealed, the Prophet (SAW) memorised it himself, declared it a revelation, and then instructed his companions to memorize it; he (SAW) would recite to them, they memorised, wrote it down, and re-recited it to him (SAW) who would check and authenticate it, just to be sure it was not adulterated. And every Ramadan, the Prophet (SAW) and archangel Gabriel would reconfirm all the portions of the Qur’an that had been revealed, including the order of the verses, and during the last Ramadan before the Prophet’s (SAW) demise, the Qur’an was rechecked and reconfirmed twice.
Because the Qur’an was written on separate pieces of leaflets, palm branches, scraps of leather, thin flat stones, and shoulder blades, there was a need to compile it and put it in one piece. It was thence compiled from the various scribes in the time of the first Caliph, Abu Bakr as-Siddeq (RAA), by Zaid ibn Thabit and a group of other companions (RAA) in a scrupulous procedure; it was put together in the same order assigned to them by Prophet Muhammad (SAW) , and made in the shape of sheets tied by strings so that nothing of it would be lost. This was kept safe in the house of our mother, Hafsah bint al Khattab (RAA) ,daughter of Umar ibn al-Khattab (RAA), wife of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) , and mother of the believers, after the demise of the first and second caliphs.
In the reign of the 3rd Caliph, Uthman bin Affan (RAA) , it was discovered that the copies of the Qur’an, though complete, were in different dialects, and this caused some confusion. So, Uthman bin Affan (RAA) made the historical decision to have a ‘Standard Version’ which would be followed by everyone regardless of their origin. He sent for the copy that was kept with Hafsah bint Khattab (RAA) and asked Zaid bin Thabit (RAA) along with others (Abdullah Ibn Al-Zubair, Said Ibn Al-`As, and Abdul-Rahman Ibn Al-Harith Ibn Hisham) to make copies and had them sent to the major Islamic Centres at the time.
The dotting and vowelization of the letters, that is, placing diacritical marks in the text, was done in order for Muslims of non-Arab origin to be able to recite it with correct pronunciation. This process took three stages and spanned over 100 years. In the first stage (661-680 CE), dots were put as syntactical marks by Abu Al-Aswad Al-Doualy. In the second stage, the alphabets (huruf) were marked with different dotting to differentiate them (e.g. B T TH); this was done by Nasr Ibn Asem and Hayy Ibn Yaamor (685-705 CE). The third and final stage, a complete system of diacritical marks -vowel points (fathah, kesra and dumma) were introduced by Al-Khaleel Ibn Ahmed Al Faraheedi (d. 786 CE).
This made it possible for millions of Muslims from Iraq to Nigeria to Morocco to be able to recite and memorize the Qur’an in the same pronounciation. The syntax of the Arabic language, phonetic system and phraseology have remained intact for over fourteen hundred years.
A true miracle from a Wise God (SWT) , sent down through a transparent messenger (SAW) for the guidance of mankind of various races, tribes, and ages, the Holy Qur’an remains untainted through time.