The Companions of the Holy Prophet (sa) The Holy Qur'an

The Purity of the Text of the Holy Qur’an – Part 6

49The Review of Religions – August 2007 Arrangement of the Verses and Chapters of the Holy Qur’an It may perhaps be objected that such an arrangement was not possible as the Qur’an was not complete till the death of the Holy Prophet(saw) and verses and chapters were constantly being revealed. It is quite true that the Qur’an could not be said to be complete so long as the recipient of the Divine revelation lived, but this could not interfere with the arrangement of verses and chapters. The word Qur’an signified the part of the Qur’an that had been revealed. Now the tradition quoted above (see previous issue) speaks of the conversion to Islam of the Beni Saqif, which did not take place till the ninth year of Hijra, in which year the chapter entitled ‘Immunity’ which is looked upon as the latest in chronological order, was revealed. Hence at the time of which the tradition speaks almost the whole of the Qur’an had been revealed, and the division into seven portions which speaks of the number of chapters in each portion has in its favour the authority of the Holy Prophet(saw) himself, and no objection to it is based on reasonable ground. The verses that were revealed afterwards were put in their proper place in the chapters to which they belonged, and if any short Sura was also revealed afterwards, as the ‘Help’ it also found its proper place in the arrangement of chapters, and did not interfere with the enumeration of the chapters contained in the first six portions. The Purity of the Text of the HOLY QUR’AN PART 6 (continued from previous month) From the Review of Religions, 1907 50 The Review of Religions – August 2007 There is no evidence that the arrangement of chapters existing in the time of the Holy Prophet(saw) was altered in any way by Abu Bakr(ra) or Uthman(ra). Against Abu Bakr(ra) no one has ever advanced such a charge, and Uthman(ra) only followed the collection of Abu Bakr(ra). The copies made in the time of Uthman(ra) were made under the directions of the companions who possessed the best knowledge of the Qur’an, and many of them as Obayy bin K’ab knew the whole of it by heart. The arguments which we have advanced above as to the arrangement of verses apply mutatis mutandis to the arrangement of chapters. But as some traditions speak of different arrangements, we shall consider them before leaving this subject. Let us take first the chapter headed Talif-ul-Qur’an in the Bukhari. According to the first tradition mentioned in this chapter, a man from Iraq came to Ayesha(ra) and asked her to show him her copy of the Qur’an. On being questioned as to what he meant to do with it he said that no arrangement was followed in the recital of the Qur’an and that he wanted her copy for a right arrangement of the Holy Book. Upon this, the tradition tells us, Ayesha(ra) rebuked him and accosted him in the following words: ‘What harm is there which is read first. Verily what was revealed of it first was a chapter from among the mufassal speaking of paradise and hell. But when people began to accept Islam, THE PURITY OF THE TEXT OF THE HOLY QUR’AN – PART 6 ‘THERE IS NO EVIDENCE THAT THE ARRANGEMENT OF CHAPTERS EXISTING IN THE TIME OF THE HOLY PROPHET(SAW) WAS ALTERED IN ANY WAY BY ABU BAKR(RA) OR OTHMAN(RA). AGAINST ABU BAKR(RA) NO ONE HAS EVER ADVANCED SUCH A CHARGE, AND OTHMAN(RA) ONLY FOLLOWED THE COLLECTION OF ABU BAKR(RA).’ 51The Review of Religions – August 2007 injunctions were revealed about the things legal and the things prohibited. Had the first injunction revealed been the prohibition of drinking, they would have said that they could not give up drinking. ……. Then she brought out her copy of the Qur’an and recited verses of some chapters.’ In this tradition we have the objection of a man from Iraq, not one of the companions but a new convert to Islam, and the reply of Ayesha(ra). In the reply the objector is rebuked for saying that no arrangement was followed in the recital of the Qur’an and it is explained to him what necessitated an arrangement different from the chronological order. It appears from the reply that his question related to the order of revelation, for he was told that there was no harm in placing a verse revealed before another after it in the arrangement. The copy of the Qur’an which Ayesha(ra) showed the questioner had also its arrangement different from the order of revelation, for she is stated to have recited verses of different chapters in support of her argument. And the man was satisfied with Ayesha’s argument and did not take her copy which he would have certainly done if the arrangement of Ayesha’s copy had been different from the current copies of the Qur’an. It should also be borne in mind that the arrangement of chapters to which we have referred above was observed only in the recital of the whole Qur’an, and no such arrangement was observed in its recital in prayers or outside prayers when only certain portions were recited. In prayers, for instance, if any chapter or any portion of a chapter was recited in one rak’a, any other chapter or portion of a chapter whatever could be recited in the second rak’a. There is ample evidence as to this in traditions. Similarly two or more chapters could be read in a single rak’a, and in some cases there were combinations of such chapters for recital in prayers. THE PURITY OF THE TEXT OF THE HOLY QUR’AN – PART 6 52 The Review of Religions – August 2007 In his tahajjud prayers, for instance, the Holy Prophet(saw) used sometimes to recite twenty chapters, eighteen of which were termed the mufassal, or the shorter chapters towards the close of the Qur’an beginning with Qaf, and two Ha Mims, or chapters commencing with Ha Mim. Thus in each rak’a two of these chapters were recited, the total number of rak’as being ten. The Holy Prophet(saw) made a peculiar combination which has been preserved to us through Ibn- i-Masud, and accordingly it is known as the talif-i-Ibn-i-Masud or the combination of Ibn-i- Masud. Now this combination has nothing to do with the arrangement of chapters in the Qur’an, nor was it followed on all occasions. It was a combination, which, according to Ibn-i-Masud, the Holy Prophet(saw) followed upon one occasion or more occasions than one in his later midnight prayers. As authentic traditions show that the ordinary arrangement of chapters was not followed by the Holy Prophet(saw) or his companions in prayers, this peculiar com- bination does not detract aught from the value of the original arrangement. On the other hand, this peculiar combination was preserved and mentioned only on account of its peculiarity and departure from the original arrangement of chapters. Nor was this peculiar combination followed always even in tahajjud prayers for there are other authentic traditions showing other combinations and the recital of other chapters. Even in the public prayers the arrangement of chapters was not followed. On one occasion the Holy Prophet(saw) recited the fourth chapter, Al-Nisa in the first rak’a and the third chapter, Al-Imran, in the second, and the incident has been preserved in a tradition only because a departure was made in the case from the recognised arrange- ment. Many other instances of the same kind are on record, and as it was THE PURITY OF THE TEXT OF THE HOLY QUR’AN – PART 6 53The Review of Religions – August 2007 not obligatory to follow the arrangement of chapters in reciting them in prayers, such cases furnish only additional testimony to the truth of the fact that the arrangement of chapters followed at present is the same as was followed in the recital of the whole Qur’an in the life-time of the Holy Prophet(saw) according to his directions. The circumstances narrated above as to the peculiar combination of the twenty chapters termed the mufassal, a combination resorted to by the Holy Prophet(saw) sometimes in his tahajjud prayers, has led some men to think that Ibn-i- Masud’s copy of the Qur’an followed a different arrangement of chapters. But the only trustworthy evidence to support this is the tradition quoted above, which speaks of a certain combination of twenty short chapters in the tahajjud prayers, and when it is shown that the observance of the arrangement of chapters was not necessary in prayers, the force of that evidence vanishes altogether. Even supposing for the sake of argument that Ibn-i-Masud followed a different arrangement of chapters, and it was according to that arrangement that the chapters were written in his copy of the Holy Qur’an, it does not follow that his was the right arrangement or that the arrangement in Abu Bakr’s or Uthmans’s copy was the wrong one. None of the companions favoured the arrangement of Ibn- i-Masud. On the other hand, all of them recognised the arrangement in Uthman’s copy as the arrangement followed by the Holy Prophet(saw). Among the companions who superintended the copying of the Qur’an in the reign of Uthman(ra), there were such eminent men as Ali(ra), Obayy bin Ka’b, Zaid bin Sabit and others. Uthman(ra) had chosen, as I will show later on, twelve of the most eminent companions, who were distin- guished for their sound THE PURITY OF THE TEXT OF THE HOLY QUR’AN – PART 6 54 The Review of Religions – August 2007 knowledge of the Qur’an, and they decided all points on which any dispute arose. They could not be unaware of the particular combination of chapters which the Holy Prophet(saw) followed in his later midnight prayers, but they knew that no particular arrangement was adhered to by the Holy Prophet(saw) in the recital of chapters in prayers and no arrangement could in fact be observed. It is absurd to suppose that they were all ignorant of a certain combination and that Ibn- i-Masud alone knew it. Had the arrangement of chapters been left to private judgment, we could have supposed Ibn-i-Masud’s arrangement to be the right one and attributed the error to the rest of the companions. But the matter was to be decided by what the Holy Prophet(saw) had ordered. Ibn-i-Masud thought that a certain arrangement which he had seen the Holy Prophet(saw) following in his tahajjud prayers was the right arrangement. But he made a mistake. The companions knew that the arrangement followed in prayers was not and could not be the right arrangement. Authentic traditions related by them show that the Holy Prophet(saw) used to recite a portion of one chapter in one rak’a and a portion of another chapter whether before or after the first in actual arrangement in the second rak’a. They also knew the case in which a companion who led the prayers in a certain mosque commenced every rak’a with the short chapter entitled ‘Unity’ and then followed it with any other chapter, and when the Holy Prophet(saw) was appraised of this THE PURITY OF THE TEXT OF THE HOLY QUR’AN – PART 6 ‘…SUCH CASES FURNISH ONLY ADDITIONAL TESTIMONY TO THE TRUTH OF THE FACT THAT THE ARRANGEMENT OF CHAPTERS FOLLOWED AT PRESENT IS THE SAME AS WAS FOLLOWED IN THE RECITAL OF THE WHOLE QUR’AN IN THE LIFETIME OF THE HOLY PROPHET(SAW) ACCORDING TO HIS DIRECTIONS.’ 55The Review of Religions – August 2007 circumstance he did not object to it. They knew further that in the morning prayers on Fridays, the Holy Prophet(saw) generally recited the chapter Al-Sajdah, the 32nd chapter, in the first rak’a, and the chapter Ad-Dahr, the seventy-sixth chapter, in the second rak’a, yet this did not mean that the latter chapter should follow the former in actual arrangement. They knew the actual arrangement and they followed it. Ibn-i-Masud based his arrangement on a certain com- bination followed in certain prayers and thus made an error in judgment. Yet in the main even his arrangement was not different from the arrangement followed in Uthman’s copy. The same longer chapters, the Tiwal, were first in his copy as in Uthman’s, with this difference only that Al-Nisa preceded Al-Imran, the order of the third and fourth chapters being thus reversed. The reversal of this order is also due to the Holy Prophet(saw) having once done it in reciting them in prayers. These are the only two differences as regards the arrangement of chapters that are mentioned to have existed in Ibn-i-Masud’s copy. So the error is either to be attributed to Ibn-i-Masud or to those who have supposed that his arrangement of the chapters of the Qur’an differed in these two points from the recognised arrangement followed in the official copies issued by Uthman(ra). Even the existence of the difference confirms the conclusion that the arrangement of chapters followed by Othman(ra) was exactly the same as that followed by the Holy Prophet(saw). There is agreement in the main between other companions and Ibn-i-Masud, and the difference arises only out of an error of judgment. The only differences in Ibn-i-Masud’s arrangement, if these differences did actually exist in his copy, were those which arose out of the Holy Prophet(saw) reciting certain chapters in a different order in the prayers. Perhaps Ibn-i-Masud thought that the order of those few chapters had been changed by the THE PURITY OF THE TEXT OF THE HOLY QUR’AN – PART 6 56 The Review of Religions – August 2007 Holy Prophet(saw) when he heard him reciting them in prayers, but the other companions knew that it was not obligatory to follow the arrangement in prayers. Now we ask, if the order of chapters was not fixed by the Holy Prophet(saw) himself, what led Ibn-i-Masud to follow the same arrangement as was followed by Uthman(ra) and the other companions? Such an agreement in the arrangement of 114 chapters was not possible unless both were following one and the the same authority who had fixed that order. Such authority could be none but the Holy Prophet(saw). As further testimony that Ibn-i- Masud’s arrangement of chapters was materially the same as was followed in Uthman’s copies and as is followed by us to this day, we have a tradition in Bukhari in which Ibn-i-Masud names the five chapters in the middle of the Qur’an, Beni Israel, Al-Kahf, Ta Ha, Maryam and Anbiya, in the same order in which they are found in our copies of the Holy Qur’an. All this evidence leads us to the certain conclusion that Ibn-i-Masud’s arrangement of chapters was the same as in the copies made by the order of Uthman(ra), that if there was any difference it was very slight and immaterial, and that this difference arose out of a mis- understanding on the part of Ibn- i-Masud. Two other persons are named as having followed a different arrangement of chapters in the collection of the Qur’an. These are Ubayy bin Kab and Ali(ra). The case of the former may be disposed of at once, as there is no testimony worth the name which should show that Ubayy followed a different arrangement of chapters. The only thing stated about him is that he placed the fourth chapter before the third. If that was the only difference of arrangement, it is quite immaterial and the error may have arisen from the same source as in the case of Ibn-i-Masud. But as I will show just now, if Ubayy ever entertained such opinion, he afterwards gave it up when he came to know the facts. THE PURITY OF THE TEXT OF THE HOLY QUR’AN – PART 6 57The Review of Religions – August 2007 Ali(ra) is said to have collected the chapters in the order of revelation, and there is a tradition stating that he did not rest after the Holy Prophet’s(saw) death until he had collected the Qur’an, arranging its chapters in a chronological order. The authen- ticity of this tradition has been questioned, for that Qur’an was never handed down to posterity though Ali(ra) reigned as Caliph immediately after Uthman(ra). Moreover there are traditions of a higher authority which do not give to Ali(ra) such credit. According to one tradition (see Fath-ul-Bari, p.10) Ali(ra) himself said that: ‘the greatest of men as regards the collection of the Qur’an is Abu Bakr: he is the first man who collected the Qur’an.’ Therefore the tradition which makes Ali(ra) say that he did not rest after the death of the Prophet(saw) till he had collected the whole of the Qur’an is contradicted by the second tradition whose evidence is corroborated by other historical facts, one of which is that even during his Caliphate, Ali(ra) never referred to or accepted a different copy of the Qur’an or a different arrangement of its chapters. But besides this, there is another consideration which shows that neither Ali(ra) nor Ubayy followed any arrangement of chapters other than the one which was followed by Uthman(ra). Ubayy and Ali(ra) were among the men under whose directions the copies of the Qur’an were written, and therefore they had as much hand in giving us the present arrangement of chapters as Uthman(ra) or any other companion. There is one tradition more which may be mentioned in connection with the arrangement of chapters, as from it a contrary conclusion is sometimes drawn by mistake. Ibn-i-Abbas thus narrates this tradition: ‘I said to Uthman what led you to put Al- Anfal (the eighth chapter) in juxtaposition with Baraat and you did not write between them the line ‘In the name of Allah, the Gracious, the Merciful’ (the verse with which every chapter THE PURITY OF THE TEXT OF THE HOLY QUR’AN – PART 6 58 The Review of Religions – August 2007 of the Qur’an commences), thus classing these two chapters with the seven long ones. Upon this question Uthman gave me the following reply: ‘It was customary with the Holy Prophet(saw) when many chapters were being revealed to him, that when any portion of any chapter was revealed, he sent for one of his amanuenses and told him to write down these verses in the chapter where such and such things were spoken of. Now Al- Anfal was one of the chapters revealed early at Madinah, and Baraat was one of the latest revealed chapters, and the subject matter of these two chapters was identical. Therefore I believed that the latter chapter was a part of the former chapter, and the Holy Prophet(saw) died, and he did not distinctly say to us that it was a part.” This tradition, far from ascribing the arrangement of chapters to the judgment of Othman(ra), makes it clear that the arrangement of chapters was effected by none other than the Holy Prophet(saw). It shows that except in the case mentioned in the tradition, the Holy Prophet(saw) had ‘distinctly’ told his companions where a verse or chapter was to be placed. It also shows that the arrangement was effected according to subject- matter by the Holy Prophet(saw) himself, for it was the identity of the subject-matter which decided that the eighth and the ninth chapters should be placed in juxtaposition. In fact, leaving the case of this one chapter, viz., the ninth, out of question, the tradition relates in express and clear words, not only that the Holy Prophet(saw) pointed out the position of every verse, but also that he pointed out the position of every chapter and distinctly told his companions which chapter should follow which in the collection, and that it was he who arranged the chapters according to their subject matter. Now taking the case of the two chapters mentioned in the tradition, does it follow from what is said in it that the Holy Prophet(saw) gave no directions at all as to their arrangement?s The THE PURITY OF THE TEXT OF THE HOLY QUR’AN – PART 6 59The Review of Religions – August 2007 chapter entitled Baraat (Immunity) was, we know, revealed to the Holy Prophet(saw) more than a year before his death and accordingly it is not right to say that he had no time to give distinct directions as to its place. The fact is that the Holy Prophet(saw) himself desired the two chapters to be thus placed side by side and the Baraat to be written without bismillah, the formula with which every chapter began. The two chapters, although known under two different names, were really parts of a single chapter. The first eighty verses of the Baraat were proclaimed to the assembled hosts in the days of pilgrimage, and this was the reason that the Baraat was regarded as a different chapter. Hence the Holy Prophet(saw) never told his companions distinctly that the Baraat was only a part of Al- Anfal, and it was for this reason that it was looked upon as a distinct chapter. But neither did the Holy Prophet(saw) commence it with the opening formula, because in a certain sense, that is, the identity of the subject matter, it was regarded as a part of the eighth chapter. This is what Uthman(ra) explained to Ibn-i Abbas. All these circumstances lead us to the certain and undeniable conclusion that the arrangement of the chapters of the Holy Qur’an and the arrangement of the verses in each chapter were both effected by the Holy Prophet(saw). There is strong internal evidence to the same effect. The chapters like the verses have a connection with each other, but as this subject requires a separate treatment, we need not refer to it here. The next point to be considered is that if the whole of the Qur’an was safe in writing as well as in memory, and if even its verses and chapters were arranged before the death of the Holy Prophet(saw), what was meant by the collection of the Qur’an in the time of Abu Bakr(ra) or in that of Uthman(ra). To be continued. THE PURITY OF THE TEXT OF THE HOLY QUR’AN – PART 6