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Koran History

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This text is part of the Qur'an Article

Part of a series on the Qur'an Quran cover


Sura · Ayah

Qur'an reading

Tajwid · Hizb · Tarteel · Qur'anic guardian · Manzil · Qari' · Juz' · Rasm · Ruku' · Sujud ·



Origin and development

Meccan revelations · Medinan revelations


Persons related to verses · Justice · Asbab al-nuzul · Naskh · Biblical narratives · Tahrif · Bakkah · Muqatta'at · Esoteric interpretation

Qur'an and Sunnah

Literalism · Miracles · Science · Women

Views on the Qur'an

Shi'a · Criticism · Desecration · Surah of Wilaya and Nurayn · Tanazzulat · Qisas Al-Anbiya · Beit Al Qur'an

The Prophetic era

Cave Hira

Cave of Hira, site of Muhammad's first revelation. The opening two verses of Sura Al-Alaq are shown.

Islamic tradition relates that during one of Muhammad's isolated retreats to the mountains, he received his first revelation in the Cave of Hira. Thereafter, he received revelations over a period of twenty-three years. According to hadith and Muslim history, after Muhammad emigrated to Medina and formed an independent Muslim community, he ordered a considerable number of the companions (sahaba) to recite the Qur’an and to learn and teach the laws which were being revealed daily. Companions who engaged in the recitation of the Qur’an were called qurra'. Since most sahaba were unable to read or write, they were ordered to learn from the prisoners-of-war the simple writing of the time. Thus a group of sahaba gradually became literate. As it was initially spoken, the Qur’an was recorded on tablets, bones and the wide, flat ends of date palm fronds. Most chapters were in use amongst early Muslims since they are mentioned in numerous sayings by both Sunni and Shia sources, relating Muhammad's use of the Qur'an as a call to Islam, the making of prayer and the manner of recitation. However, the Qur’an did not exist in book form at the time of Muhammad's death in 632.[1][2]

Welch, a scholar of Islamic studies, states in the Encyclopaedia of Islam that he believes the graphic descriptions of Muhammad's condition at these moments may be regarded as genuine, seeing as he was severely disturbed after these revelations. According to Welch, these seizures would have been seen by those around him as convincing evidence for the superhuman origin of Muhammad's inspirations. Muhammad's critics, however, accused him of being a possessed man, a soothsayer or a magician since his experiences were similar to those claimed by such figures well-known in ancient Arabia. Additionally, Welch states that it remains uncertain whether these experiences occurred before or after Muhammad began to see himself as a prophet.[3]

The Qur’an states that Muhammad was ummi,[4] interpreted as illiterate in Muslim tradition. According to Watt, the meaning of the Qur’anic term ummi is unscriptured rather than illiterate. Watt argues that a certain amount of writing was necessary for Muhammad to perform his commercial duties though it seems certain that he had not read any scriptures.

Compiling the Mus'haf

Qur'anic Manuscript - 3 - Hijazi script

Qur'an manuscript from the 7th century CE, written on vellum in the Hijazi script.

According to Shia and some Sunni scholars, Ali compiled a complete version of the Qur’an mus'haf [5] immediately after Muhammad's death. The order of this mus'haf differed from that gathered later during Uthman's era. Despite this, Ali made no objection or resistance against standardized mus'haf, but kept his own book.[1][6]

After seventy reciters were killed in the Battle of Yamama, the caliph Abu Bakr decided to collect the different chapters and verses into one volume. Thus, a group of reciters, including Zayd ibn Thabit, collected the chapters and verses and produced several hand-written copies of the complete book.[1][7]

Uthman Koran-RZ

9th century Qur'an manuscript.

In about 650, as Islam expanded beyond the Arabian peninsula into Persia, the Levant and North Africa, the third caliph Uthman ibn Affan ordered the preparation of an official, standardized version, in order to preserve the sanctity of the text (and perhaps to keep the Rashidun Empire united, see Uthman Qur'an). Five reciters from amongst the companions produced a unique text from the first volume which had been prepared on the orders of Abu Bakr and which was kept with Hafsa bint Umar. The other copies already in the hands of Muslims in other areas were collected and sent to Medina where, on orders of the Caliph, they were destroyed by burning or boiling. This remains the authoritative text of the Qur’an to this day.[1][8][9]

The Qur’an in its present form is generally considered by academic scholars to record the words spoken by Muhammad because the search for variants in Western academia has not yielded any differences of great significance and because, historically, controversy over the content of the Qur’an has never become a main point.[10]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 *Tabatabaee, 1988, chapter 5
  2. See:
    • William Montgomery Watt in The Cambridge History of Islam, p.32
    • Richard Bell, William Montgomery Watt, Introduction to the Qur'an, p.51
  3. Encyclopedia of Islam online, Muhammad article
  4. Qur'an 7:157
  5. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named Britannica
  6. See:
    • Observations on Early Qur'an Manuscripts in San'a
    • The Qur'an as Text, ed. Wild, Brill, 1996 ISBN 90-04-10344-9
  7. [Bukhari 6:60:201]
  8. Mohamad K. Yusuff, Zayd ibn Thabit and the Glorious Qur’an
  9. The Koran; A Very Short Introduction, Michael Cook. Oxford University Press, P.117 - P.124
  10. *F. E. Peters (1991), pp.3–5: "Few have failed to be convinced that the Qur’an is the words of Muhammad, perhaps even dictated by him after their recitation."

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