A common controversy in Islam has been the question of who authored the Quran. Devout Muslims and conservative scholars believe that it was authored by God through divine revelations made to the Prophet Mohammad who put it down word for word. Some other scholars, however, have argued that the prophet was no parrot; that inspired by God, he wrote down the Quran. They argue that the words and the images painted in the Quran could have only come from the human mind. So then, who wrote the Quran and when was it written? let’s find out.
Who Wrote The Quran?
The Quran (anglicized version Koran) is the holy book of Islam. It literally means recitations. Muslims believe that God, through the Angel Gabriel, recited the contents of the Quran to the Prophet Mohammad who took them down verbatim. These divine revelations constitute what is known as the Quran. The first revelation took place in the year 610 A.D. while the prophet was alone in the Hira cave in the Jabal an-Nour mountain near Mecca. The Angel Gabriel approached the prophet who was thrown into a trance-like state and revealed three verses to him. When the Prophet woke up, he remembered the verses by heart.
This pattern of divine revelation continued at different times throughout the prophet’s lifetime. Whenever the prophet received a divine revelation, he would recite it verbatim to his followers who would memorize the same and commit it to heart. The prophet also had scribes as companions who utilized any surface available to them to write down these revelations. Such surfaces included flat stones, date branches, bones, camel saddles, leather etc. After writing down the verses, the scribes would read them over to the prophet who would then confirm its accuracy.
These divine revelations continued for over a period of 23 years. As the body of the text grew, the prophet, under the guidance of Angel Gabriel decided where each new revelation would be placed. The prophet received his last revelation in 632 A. D. which is the same year he died.
As at the time of the Prophet’s death, these revelations were in written form albeit contained in different materials. it is instructive to note that the prophet himself could neither read nor write and as such did not take part in writing down the verses.
When Was The Qur’an Written?
After the death of the Prophet Mohammad, Sayyidina Abu Bakr assumed leadership of the Muslim community as the first rightly guided Caliph. A few years later, an internal rebellion led to the killing of many devout Muslims at the battle of Yamama. Many of them were people who had committed the entire Quran to heart known as Hafiz. As such, there was a genuine fear that if nothing urgent was done, some of these revelations may be lost forever.
On the suggestions of his trusted advisors, Abu Bakr set up a committee headed by Zayd bin Thabit and tasked them with compiling all the different recordings of the Quran into one volume. The committee, in carrying out its mandate, followed a meticulous process of verification. Zayd bin Thabit and Umar ibn Al-Khattab, both of whom had memorized the Qur’an, verified each verse against their own memory. Then, two witnesses had to testify that the verse was indeed written down in the presence of the Prophet Muhammad before it would be included in the final compilation. The final manuscript was read before a general meeting of the late Prophet’s companions and it was generally agreed that it was accurate. It was then handed over to the Caliph Sayyidina Abu Bakr.
Upon the death of Sayyidina Abu Bakr, Sayyidina Umar became the 2nd rightly guided Caliph and the Quran was handed over to him. Upon the death of Umar, his daughter and one of the wives of the late Prophet was entrusted with the custody of the manuscript.
After the death of Sayyidina Umar, Sayyidina Uthman began his reign as the 3rd rightly guided Caliph. At that time, Islam was growing in influence beyond the Arabian peninsula. There were many new converts, some as far as the Levant and North Africa. Some of the new converts did not speak Arabic as their mother tongue while those who did, spoke Arabic with a different dialect. This constituted a problem as the Quran had to be recited with a particular pronunciation. There was a dispute as to which was the correct pronunciation.
Sayyidina Uthman then set up a committee to standardize the Qur’an in the year 650 A.D. This committee relied on the Qur’an which had been compiled by Abu Bakr and it was decided that all future copies of the Quran should be rendered in the Quraish dialect, the dialect of the late Prophet Muhammad. The chapters of the holy book were also reorganized according to length.
All other versions of the Quran in existence were rounded up and destroyed. The Uthmanic version of the Qur’an was multiplied into several copies and sent to major cities in the Muslim world including Bahrain, Damascus, Basra, Kufa, Yemen, and Mecca.
It is worthy to note that all the Qurans available in the world today are exact replicas of the Uthmanic version. The holy book is divided into 114 chapters (Surah). Each chapter has a number of verses (Ayahs). The Quran has not less than 6,000 verses.