Is There Really a Different Quran?

Question and answer details
Mohamed Fadel
As-salamu Alaykum. I was making da`wah on the Internet when I met a missionary. He put to me the following questions that I couldn't answer: 1. What is the difference between the mushaf of Hafsah and that of `Uthman? Is there really any difference? Please quote if possible an early Muslim authority. Why didn't Zaid (who was the head of the team that compiled the mushaf of Hafsah) and his new team simply copy the mushaf of Hafsah? 2. Why was the mushaf of Hafsah destroyed? Please answer in detail and at the earliest so that I can convince that missionary. Many thanks for your very useful site and May Allah the Almighty bless and reward you! Wa as-salam.
Shahul Hameed
Salam Dear Mohamed,

Thank you for your questions and for contacting Ask About Islam.

The Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) is reported to have said the following:

"I have left with you something which if you will hold fast to it you will never fall into error: a plain indication, the Book of God and the practice of His Prophet." (Al-Hakim) 

Here the Prophet refers to the Noble Quran as the Book of God; and clearly this means that the revelations had already been made by that time into a collection of writings, or a book.

There is ample evidence in Hadith and Seerah literature that show that the revelation was promptly written down and preserved in accordance with the instructions of the Prophet.

Zaid ibn Thabit, who was the chief among the scribes appointed by the Prophet to write down the revelations, said, "We used to compile the Quran from small scraps in the presence of the Messenger."

It is also clear that the arrangement and order of the verses as dictated by the Prophet was well known to the Companions of the Prophet, particularly because of the daily recitation of the Quran in the prayers.

In addition, the Angel Jibreel went through the revelation with the Prophet every year in Ramadan, and in the year of the Prophet's death he went through it twice.

In short, the existence of the Quran in the form of a book (or collection of written material) during the time of the Prophet is corroborated by a number of reports by his contemporaries.

We find the word suhuf in the Glorious Quran referring to the written sheets of Abraham and Moses.

{And this is in the Books of the earliest (Revelation),- The Books of Abraham and Moses.} (Al-Aala 87:18-19)

In fact the word mushaf (in the sense of a volume of collected sheets) is derived from the same root as suhuf. Today, we use the word mushaf for a copy of the Quran, which is a well-bound volume of properly arranged chapters and verses.

When Uthman ibn Affan (may Allah be pleased with him) became the caliph, there came up the question of the proper reading of the Quran.

This issue was raised for several reasons, one of which was that many non-Arabs had become Muslim and sometimes would read the Quran incorrectly because Arabic was not their first language and diacritical marks were not used in books at that time.

Furthermore, in the Battle of Yamamah in 632 CE, many of the Companions who had memorized the Quran were killed. These two situations made it vital to "publish" a standard copy of the mushaf in order to preserve the Quran in writing.

The caliph understood the imperative need for a standard copy of the Quran to avoid any future confusion in the matter. For this purpose, he consulted the living Companions of the Prophet and had a standard copy prepared by using the suhuf of his predecessor caliph Abu Bakr, which had come into the hands of Hafsah through her father Umar ibn Al-Khattab.

Abu Bakr was one of the first people to convert to Islam and "he used to recite the Quran publicly in front of his house in Makkah."

After Uthman got the standard copy ready, he authenticated it and banned all other copies. Obviously such a move was crucial to the authentication of the Uthmani mushaf.

We can read in the Hadith literature an account of what happened. One of the Prophet's Companions approached Caliph Uthman about differences he detected in the recitation of the Quran between the people of Iraq and those of Greater Syria (Ash-Sham):

Hudhaifa said to Uthman: "O leader of the believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Quran), as Jews and the Christians did before."

So Uthman sent a message to Hafsah (one of the Prophet's wives) saying, "Send us the manuscripts of the Quran so that we may compile the Quranic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you." Hafsah sent it to Uthman.

Uthman then ordered Zaid ibn Thabit, Abdullah ibn Az-Zubair, Said ibn Al-As and Abdur-Rahman ibn Al-Harith ibn Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, "In case you disagree with Zaid ibn Thabit on any point in the Quran, then write it in the dialect of the Quraish as the Quran was revealed in their tongue."

They did so, and when they had written many copies, Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsah. Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Quranic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burned in order to avoid confusion.

Zaid added, "I missed a verse from Surat Al-Ahzab when we copied the Quran and I used to hear Allah's Messenger reciting it. So we searched for it and found it with Khuzaimah ibn Thabit Al-Ansari."

That verse was {Among the Believers are men who have been true in their covenant with Allah.} (Al-Ahzab 33:23). (Al-Bukhari)

From the moment of its revelation, the Quran was being learned by heart by a large number of its followers. The Prophet had encouraged his Companions to learn and teach the Quran, saying, "The most superior among you (Muslims) are those who learn the Quran and teach it." (Al-Bukhari)

Some of the Companions who memorized the Quran were Abu Bakr, Umar, Uthman, Ali, Ibn Masud, Abu Hurairah, Abdullah ibn Abbas, Abdullah ibn Amr ibn Al-As, Aishah, Hafsah, and Umm Salama.

This process of memorization of the Quran was continued from the very beginning of the revelation and it is still done in a very systematic manner in every part of the Muslim world.

Consequently, every day, every hour, every minute, in fact every second of the 24 hours of the 365 days of every year of the past centuries has been alive with the reading and study of the Quran with no discrepancies between any recitation by anyone. And it continues into the future.

Now the volume and scope of this phenomenon multiplies in every imaginable way with the arrival of multimedia.

The fact that the Quran had been in the hands and hearts of the people from the very beginning made it impossible for anyone to distort it or make any kind of changes in it. In the Quran itself, Allah guarantees to safeguard it from any corruption or distortion:

{We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption).} (Al-Hijr 15:9)

The foregoing, I hope, answers your questions.

Please stay in touch.


Useful Links:

What is the Quran?

The Original Quran and the Discovery of Makkah

Scriptures Before the Quran

How Does Allah Protect the Quran and Islam?

How Were the Quran and the Bible Compiled?

Writing the Quran in the Lifetime of the Prophet

The Story of the Quran

Authenticity of the Glorious Quran

The Most Widely Read Book in the World

The Quran is the Accurately Preserved Word of Allah