The Quran is not only the Holiest Book for Muslims; it is also unique in the sense that it is the last Divine Book, sent down to earth for the benefit and guidance of mankind. Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is the last Prophet and Messenger of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى and the Quran is the last Divine words that were revealed to him. The Quran was revealed to him in parts over around 23 years.

Preserving the original text of the Quran was a crucial task. The revelation of the Quran started in 610 CE and was completed in 632 CE, just before the Prophet departed from this world. At that time, no facilities were available to preserve the text of the Quran. Additionally, the literacy rate in the Arab region was very low. Only a few people had writing skills.

Hence, the prime source of preserving the Quran was memorization. The Arabs were quite skillful in memorizing any important script, just like they memorized poems of the famous poets of their time. The same skill formed the base of the preservation of the words of the Quran. However, simultaneously, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ entrusted the task of recording these Divine words in writing to his companions (Sahabah).

History of the Writing of the Quran

The words of Allah سُبْحَانَهُ وَتَعَالَى, revealed upon the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, were initially written by his close companions, side by side, through memorization by many of them. The pattern was that the Prophet recited the Quranic verses’ revelations before his companions. Those who had the writing skills used to record these verses in writing and those who didn’t have the writing skills memorized these words by heart.

The material used for writing at that time was animal skin, tree stalks, and thin stone sheets. In the very early stages of the revelation of the Quran, the Prophet advised his companions not to write anything other than the words of the Quran. This advice encouraged them to memorize and write down only the Quranic verses to protect the Quran from any addition or deletion.

Per the traditions, it is believed that the fourth Rashidun Caliph, Hadrat Ali رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ was the first of the companion of the Prophet, who started writing the words of the Quran. Soon after, the Prophet deputed the most trustworthy people among his companions to write down the Quran as it was revealed upon him and recited by him before them. Apart from all the four Rashidun Caliphs, the team comprised renowned companions such as Abdullah Ibn Amr Ibn Al-Aas, Muawiah Ibn Abi Sufyan, and Zayd Ibn Thabit, رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ and a few others.

The Quranic Dialects

The Quran was revealed in the Arabic language, as it was the native language of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his people. The 44th verse of Surah Fussilat narrates this fact as follows:

وَلَوْ جَعَلْنٰہُ قُرْاٰنًا اَعْجَمِيًّا لَّـقَالُوْا لَوْلَا فُصِّلَتْ اٰيٰتُہٗ ۝۰ۭؔ ءَ اَعْجَمِيٌّ وَّعَرَبِيٌّ۝۰ۭ قُلْ ہُوَ لِلَّذِيْنَ اٰمَنُوْا ہُدًى وَّشِفَاۗءٌ۝۰ۭ وَ الَّذِيْنَ لَا يُؤْمِنُوْنَ فِيْۗ اٰذَانِہِمْ وَقْرٌ وَّہُوَعَلَيْہِمْ عَمًى۝۰ۭ اُولٰۗىِٕكَ يُنَادَوْنَ مِنْ مَّكَانٍؚبَعِيْدٍ

Translation

Had We revealed this as a non-Arabic Qur’an they would have said: “Why were its verses not clearly expounded? How strange, a non-Arabic scripture and an Arab audience!” Tell them: “It is a guidance and a healing to the believers. But to those who do not believe, it serves as a plug in their ears and a covering over their eyes. It is as if they are being called from a place far away

Arabic is an eloquent language and the Quranic verses are even more eloquent. The Quranic verses were revealed in seven dialects popular with the Arabs, as mentioned in the Hadith number 3219 of Sahih Al-Bukhari.

Translation

Narrated Ibn `Abbas: Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) said, “Gabriel read the Qur’an to me in one way (i.e. dialect) and I continued asking him to read it in different ways till he read it in seven different ways.”

Compilation of the Quran

Hazrat Ibn Abbas رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ, a cousin of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, states that it was the Prophet’s routine to recite the entire Quran in the month of Ramadan before the Angel Gabriel. He further narrates that in the last month of his life, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ recited the entire Quran before the Angel Gabriel twice. This way, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ ensured the authentication of the original script of the Quran, which was passed on to his companions.

The Quran was, therefore, preserved in the hearts of the companions of the Prophet and in the shape of written text, which was kept individually by the scribes. During the era of the first Rashidun Caliph, Hadrat Abu Bakr رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ the battle of Yamama was fought. 70 most renowned memorizers of the Quran embraced Shahadah (Martyrdom) in this war. The Caliph and his close associates, such as Hadrat Umar رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ, were quite concerned over this development. It was suggested by Hazrat Umar رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ that the Quran should be compiled in the form of a consolidated book to ensure that it is preserved in its actual text. After thoughtful consideration, the suggestion was accepted by the Caliph.

So, Hazrat Zayd Ibn Thabit رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ was assigned the task of compilation of the Quranic verses in one consolidated book. This very important but sensitive task was then initiated by Hazrat Zayd Ibn Thabit رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ. He narrated this in Hadith number 4989 of Sahih Al-Bukhari, as follows:

Translation – Narrated Zaid bin Thabit: Abu Bakr sent for me and said, “You used to write the Divine Revelations for Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ): So you should search for (the Qur’an and collect) it.” I started searching for the Qur’an till I found the last two Verses of Surat at-Tauba with Abi Khuza`ima Al-Ansari and I could not find these Verses with anybody other than him. (They were): ‘Verily there has come unto you an Apostle (Muhammad) from amongst yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty…’ (9.128-129)

Once all the Quranic revelations were consolidated in the form of a book, the Caliph Abu Bakr رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ kept this compilation with him. It was then passed on to the next Caliph Hazrat Umar رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ. While at his deathbed, Caliph Umar رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهَا handed over this compilation of the Quran to his daughter Hazrat Hafsa رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهَا who was also the wife of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. This happens to be the first compilation of the Quran.

Final Compilation of the Quran

As the Islamic Caliphate expanded beyond the Arab region, during the era of Hadrat Uthman رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ, up to Egypt, Syrian and Iran, the non-Arabic Muslims faced in difficulty in reading the Quran in its exact dialect by the new converts. Hence, compiling the Quran in a unified text was necessary to avoid misunderstanding and wrong recitation. The task was again entrusted to the renowned scribe of the Quran, Hadrat Zayd Ibn Thabit رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهَا.

The task was initiated in the year 650 CE by the Caliph Uthman رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ. He requested Hadrat Hafsa   رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهَا. to preserve the text of the Quran with her so that copies can be created. The script was given to a commission comprising Zayd Bin Thabit, ‘Abdullah Ibn Al-Zubayr, Sa’eed Ibn Al-‘As, and ‘Abd Al-Rahman Ibn Harith Ibn Hisham رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ. They were assigned the duty of making several copies of this original version of the Quran in the Arabic Dialect of the Meccan tribe Quraysh so that all the Muslims could follow this unified text.

These copies of the Quran were then sent to Kufa, Damascus, and Basra. It was instructed by the Caliph to destroy all the individual possessions of the Quranic verses so that the actual and original script of the Quran should remain with everyone in a unified dialect. The Caliph Uthman رَضِيَ ٱللَّٰهُ عَنْهُ is therefore referred to as “Jami-al Quran” (Compiler of the Quran) due to this crucial work on the compilation of the Quran. He gathered the entire Islamic world of his time to agree upon the original and unified text of the Quran.

Hence, the Quran was preserved without any errors, omissions, or additions. Allah has taken the responsibility of preserving it forever, as mentioned in the 9th verse of Surah Al-Hijr.

اِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَاِنَّا لَہٗ لَحٰفِظُوْنَ

Translation – As for the Admonition, indeed it is We Who have revealed it and it is indeed We Who are its guardians.

Punctuations and Diacritics in the Quran

The Quran was originally written without any punctuation and diacritics, as the Arabs could read it correctly without any such marks. With the expansion of Islamic Rule in the areas outside of the Arab, the non-Arabs found it difficult to read the Quran with the correct pronunciation. Hence, it was necessary to add punctuation marks and diacritics in the Quran to help non-Arabs read correctly. While the punctuation marks guide the reader to give a pause or otherwise during the recitation, diacritics were aimed at facilitating the pronunciation of the words correctly. This is also known as Tajweed.

This critical task was initiated during the era of Umayyad Caliph Abd Al-Malik. During this era, Abu’l Aswad Al-Du’ali introduced the Arabic Grammar rules and started implementing them in the Quran. Later on, Hajjaj Ibn Yousuf, a Ummayad Governor, enforced these rules. So, the punctuation marks and diacritics were added in the Quran to facilitate the readers, enabling them to recite it precisely in the way it was revealed.