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  • Writer's pictureRaghad Bushnaq

The Structure, Organization, Collecting, and Preservation of The Quran

The Holy Quran, the holy text of Islam, is a highly structured and organized work that is divided into chapters (surahs) and verses (ayahs). It is widely regarded as a masterpiece of Arabic literature and a work of extraordinary sanctity literary.

The Quran consists of 114 chapters of varying lengths, with each chapter containing several verses, total count of verses is over 6000 verses. The chapters are not arranged in chronological order, but in a divine order from Allah through Jibril AS to Prophet Mohammad PBUH

Each chapter of the Quran is named after a particular theme or image that is central to its content. For example, the first chapter, Al-Fatiha, which means "The Opening," is a short prayer that is recited at the beginning of each rak’a of the five daily prayers.

In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate.

Praise be to Allah, the Lord of all the worlds.

The Most Merciful, the Most Compassionate.

Master (Owner and Controller) of the Day of Judgment.

You alone, oh Allah, we worship, and You alone we seek help.

Guide us to the straight path.

The path of those whom You graced with favor, not of those who have earned Your anger, nor of those who have gone astray.

Other chapter names include Al-Baqarah (The Cow), Al-An'am (The Cattle), Al-Maidah (The Table Spread), Al-Anfal (The Spoils of War), Al-Mou'minoun (The Believers), and Al-Nasr (The Victory).

Within each chapter, the verses are arranged in a highly structured and symmetrical pattern that looks like a chain tinning one surah to the surah after in subjects and meaning, to be concluded with the last surah that completes the explanation of the very first surah.

The very first surah is call “Alsbe’ Amathani” which summarized the entire Quran and contains the jewel essence of the Divine message to the entire creations.

It is reported in Sahih al-Bukhari, that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said:

"I have been given the seven oft-repeated verses and the whole Quran." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 66, Hadith 1)

This Hadith highlights the importance of Surah Al-Fatiha and its significance in the life of a Muslim and equals its virtue to the entir Quran.

Chapters begin with "bismillah," which means "in the name of Allah," and each verse is separated from the others by a numbered small space that tracks the numbers of verses in every surah. The length of the verses varies, with some being short and others quite long, and the arrangement of the verses is carefully designed to create a rhythmic and melodic flow.

Surat Alburuj, starts with bismillah, shows verses with numbers of the verses. This Sarah is located at the last Juzu' in the Quran.

In addition to its division into surahs and verses, the Quran also contains several recurring themes and motifs that are woven throughout the text. These include the oneness of Allah, the importance of faith and good works, the role of prophets and messengers, and the concept of the afterlife. The Quran also contains detailed guidance on matters of law and morality, as well as stories and parables that illustrate its teachings.

The structure and organization of the Quran are central to its meaning and significance. Through its unique arrangement of chapters, verses, and themes, the Quran presents a complex and nuanced vision of the world and of humanity's place within it. It is a work of profound beauty and wisdom, and its influence on Islamic culture and society has been profound and enduring.

"We have revealed the Quran in sections (or stages) so that you may recite it to people at intervals. We have sent it down gradually." (Quran 17:106)

This verse indicates that the Quran was revealed in stages over a period of time, and that its organization was intended to facilitate its recitation and transmission to others.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also spoke about the structure and organization of the Quran. One well-known Hadith on this topic is reported in Sahih al-Bukhari:

"The Quran is like a great building that has a foundation, pillars, and a roof. The foundation is Surah Al-Fatihah, the pillars are the chapters, and the roof is Surah Al-Baqarah." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 66, Hadith 12)

This Hadith compares the structure of the Quran to that of a building, with Surah Al-Fatihah as the foundation, the individual chapters as the pillars, and Surah Al-Baqarah as the roof. This metaphor emphasizes the importance of the different parts of the Quran and their interdependence in creating a coherent whole.

Preservation of the Revelation

The Quranic revelation was not authored by any human author, but rather it is the direct and unaltered word of God (Allah) that was transmitted to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) through the angel Jibril AS. The early Muslims quickly recognized the importance of preserving the text and passing it down to future generations, and developed a system of memorization and recitation that allowed them to do so.

The Prophet Muhammad PBUH was illiterate therefore, he did not write down the Quran himself, nor did he modify or edit any of its content. Instead, he received the revelation over a period of 23 years and recited it to his companions, who then memorized and some of them wrote it down by the permission of the prophet PBUH.

The ayat in Surat Al-Qiyamah refer to the preservation of the Quran in the memory of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): "Do not move your tongue with it (the Quran) to hasten its recitation. Indeed, upon Us is its collection [in your heart] and [to make possible] its recitation. So when We have recited it [through Jibril], then follow its recitation. Then upon Us is its clarification [to you]." (Quran 75:16-19) These ayat emphasize that the preservation and recitation of the Quran is under the direct control and protection of Allah, and that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was chosen and trained to memorize and recite the Quran in the way it was revealed to him. Therefore, Muslims are encouraged to follow the recitation of the Quran as it was recited by the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and his companions.

The first person to write down the Quran was a companion of the Prophet named Zaid ibn Thabit. He was one of the scribes who wrote down the revelation during the Prophet's lifetime, and he later compiled the written text into a single volume after the Prophet's death. This manuscript, known as the "mus'haf," served as the definitive version of the Quran and was used as a reference for subsequent copies.

Other companions of the Prophet, such as Ubayy ibn Ka'b and Abdullah ibn Masud, also wrote down the Quran during the Prophet's lifetime, and their copies were used to verify the accuracy of the mus'haf compiled by Zaid ibn Thabit.

Several companions of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) wrote down the Quran during his lifetime. In addition to Zaid ibn Thabit, Ubayy ibn Ka'b and Abdullah ibn Mas'ud, other notable companions who wrote the Quran include:

1. Abu Bakr al-Siddiq: The first caliph of Islam and one of the closest companions of the Prophet Muhammad, Abu Bakr also wrote down portions of the Quran during the Prophet's lifetime.

2. Umar ibn al-Khattab: The second caliph of Islam, Umar was known for his strong memorization skills and wrote down parts of the Quran during the Prophet's lifetime.

3. Othman ibn Affan: The third caliph of Islam, he wrote down some of the Quranic verses, he was known for his contributions to the collection, preservation, and organization of the Quranic text during his caliphate.

4. Ali ibn Abi Talib: The cousin and son-in-law of the Prophet Muhammad, Ali was known for his deep knowledge of the Quran and wrote down portions of it during the Prophet's lifetime.

It's worth noting that while these companions of the Prophet wrote down portions of the Quran during his lifetime, they did so at different times and in different places.

The task of collecting and compiling these writings into a single, authoritative version of the Quran fell to Zaid ibn Thabit, who was appointed by the caliph Abu Bakr to undertake this important task.

It is important to note that while these companions of the Prophet wrote down the Quran and played a crucial role in its preservation, they did not author or alter its content in any way. The Quran is the eternal and unchanging word of God, and its text has remained unchanged since it was first revealed to the Prophet Muhammad. It's also very important to note that the preservation of the Quran was a highly regulated and carefully controlled process in the early Islamic period, and the task of collecting and compiling the text was entrusted to a small group of trusted companions who were known for their expertise in the Quranic sciences. These companions were carefully selected based on their knowledge, character, and trustworthiness.

The process of collecting and compiling the Quran

During the caliphate of Abu Bakr, the first successor of Prophet Muhammad, a crisis emerged when many of the memorizers of the Quran were killed in battle. To prevent the loss of any part of the Quran, Abu Bakr R ordered a group of scribes, including Zaid ibn Thabit, to collect and compile all the existing written and oral versions of the Quran. This task was completed during the caliphate of Umar R, the second successor of the Prophet PBUH.

One day, Huthayfah ibn al-Yaman, a companion of the Prophet, returned from a battle in Azerbaijan and noticed that the recitation of the Quran in the mosque of Kufa, where he had been praying, differed from what he had learned from the Prophet. He became concerned that these differences in recitation could lead to confusion and disunity among Muslims. Huthayfah then traveled to Madina and brought his concerns to the attention of Othman ibn Affan, who was the caliph at the time. Othman R was also concerned about the potential for confusion and disunity and decided to create a standardized version of the Quran that would be recognized and accepted throughout the Islamic empire to ensure the unity and authenticity of the Quranic text.

To accomplish this task, Othman appointed a committee of scholars led by Zaid ibn Thabit, the same companion who had compiled the first official version of the Quran during the time of Abu Bakr. Othman also asked Hafsa bint Omar, the wife of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the keeper of the first collected version, to provide them with the original copy as an authentic reference.

The committee worked together to create a standardized text of the Quran based on the most reliable sources available, and their final product became known as the "Othmanic codex" or the "Uthmanic mushaf."

The Othmanic codex became the definitive version of the Quran and was widely disseminated throughout the Islamic empire. Copies of the Othmanic codex were made and sent to various regions, and any previous versions of the Quran were either destroyed or brought into conformity with the standardized text.

It's worth noting that Othman’s efforts to standardize the text and ensure its authenticity played a crucial role in the preservation of the Quranic text, which has remained unchanged to this day.

The process of collecting the Quran was a complex and multifaceted one, involving the contributions of many individuals over a long period of time. While the Quran was originally transmitted orally, the early Muslims recognized the importance of preserving the text in written form, and developed a sophisticated system of collection, compilation, and standardization that allowed the Quran to be passed down intact to future generations.

Today, the text of the Quran remains central to the Islamic faith and is studied and recited by millions of Muslims around the world. The history of collecting the Quran is an essential part of the rich and diverse cultural heritage of the Muslim world and serves as a testament to the enduring importance of the Quranic text.

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