God sent his prophets right from the beginning with the sole purpose of letting humans know what is God’s will, what He likes and what He dislikes. Prophets conveyed the message from God to the people verbatim and then followed it to the core, they led by example. Thus they lived it up to the divine revelations, which kept this message clear in the minds of the larger masses. Long after the Prophets died, people forgot the original message or got a few additions and alterations done to suit their desires. Thus, over a period of time, these divine messages got corrupted and mired with contradictions. In short, they were unpreserved. And the world would thus be an utter chaos and so the need of a prophet with a new renewed guidance or restoring the original guidance.
The Quran did not go through all this. The Quran was going to be preserved for the rest of time according to God’s plan, “We have, without doubt, sent down the message and We will assuredly guard it” (Quran 15: 9) “. This was natural since it was the book revealed to the last and final Prophet Mohammed. Therefore, the need for preservation like never before arose and the same executed so skilfully and beautifully as per God’s plan.
Prophet Mohammed was the first one to memorize the Quran. And he always arranged for each passage of the Quran to be recorded in writing as soon as it was revealed. It was customary for the prophet to ask the transcriber to read out the verses after writing them down. Thus, the Prophet would allow the propagation of the verses only after cross-checking it himself. Scores of Prophet’s companions would then memorize the Quran on their own.
Further, each year, in the month of Ramadan, Angel Gabriel would come and narrate all the verses of the Quran revealed till that time and the Prophet would repeat the verses in exactly the same order. And finally, in the last year of Prophet’s life, Gabriel recited the entire Quran twice and the Prophet recited the Quran twice to Gabriel.
The Prophet made it a point to recite the Quran in front of his companions a number of times and thus the Quran was preserved in its pristine form in the memories of tens of thousands of companions during the times of the prophet’s lifetime. Thus, the Quran was passed generations after generations, so the Quran we have now is the same one that exited in Prophet’s lifetime. This fact can be checked by picking any Quran from any corner of the world and comparing it with the any other copy of Quran from other corner of the world or by comparing it with the copy of Quran that belonged to Uthman, companion of Prophet (This has been proved by carbon dating). Throughout the Islamic history, we have millions of believers who had memorized the Quran and this tradition is growing stronger.
Method of preservation of the Quran during the Prophet’s time
Besides, those of the Companions who were literate used to keep a written record of several portions of the Glorious Quran. In this manner, the text of the Quran had been preserved in four different ways during the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (p):
a) The Holy Prophet (p) had the whole text of the Divine Messages from the beginning to the end committed to writing by the scribes of revelations.
b) Many of the Companions learned the whole text of the Quran, every syllable of it, by heart.
c) All the illustrious Companions, without an exception, had memorized at least some portions of the Holy Quran, for the simple reason that it was obligatory for them to recite it during worship. An estimate of the number of the illustrious Companions may be obtained from the fact that one hundred and forty thousands Companions had participated in the Last Pilgrimage performed by the Prophet (p).
d) A considerable number of the literate Companions kept a private record of the text of the Quran and satisfied themselves as to the purity of their record by reading it out to the Prophet (p).
Methods of preservation of the Quran after the demise of the Prophet
It is an incontrovertible historical truth that the text of the Glorious Quran extant today is, syllable for syllable, exactly the same as the Prophet (p) had offered to the world as the Word of God.
After the demise of the Prophet(p), the first Caliph Abu Bakr, assembled all the Huffaz (those who have committed the Quran to memory), and the written records of the Glorious Quran and with their help had the whole text written in Book form. In the time of Uthman, copies of this original version were made and officially dispatched to the Capitals of the Islamic world. Two of the original manuscripts of the Quran prepared 1400 years ago still exist today; one is in the Topkapi Saray Museum in Istanbul, Turkey, and the other in Tashkent, Russia. Both of these are identical in content with the Quran available all over the world today.
And how can one expect any discrepancy, when there have existed several million “Huffaz” (someone who has memorized the entire Quran, word for word, cover to cover) in every generation since the time of the Holy Prophet (p) and in our own time. Should anyone alter a syllable of the original text of the Quran, these Huffaz would at once expose the mistake.
In the last century, an Institute of Munich University in Germany collected forty two thousand copies of the Glorious Quran including manuscripts and printed texts produced in each period in the various parts of the Islamic World. Research work was carried out on these texts for half a century, at the end of which the researchers concluded that apart from copying mistakes, there was no discrepancy in the text of these forty-two thousand copies, even though they belonged to the period between the 1st Century to the 14th Century of the Islamic era (roughly from the seventh to the twentieth century of the Common Era), and had been procured from all parts of the world. This institute, alas, perished in the bombing attacks on Germany during World War II, but the findings of its research project survived.
Another point that must be kept in view is that the word in which the Quran was revealed is a living language in our own time. It is still current as the mother tongue of about a hundred million people from Iraq to Morocco. In the non-Arab world too, hundreds of thousands of people study and teach this language.
The grammar of the Arabic language, its lexicon, its phonetic system and its phraseology, has remained intact for fourteen hundred years. A modern Arabic-speaking person can comprehend the Glorious Quran with as much proficiency as did the Arabs of fourteen centuries ago. This, then, is an important attribute of Prophet Muhammad (p). The Book that God revealed to him for the guidance of mankind exists today in its original language without the slightest alteration in its vocabulary.
(This is taken from part of a speech “Message of Prophet’s (p) Seerah”, given by Syed Abul A’ala Mawdudi. He compares the history and authenticity of three scriptures, Torah (Old Testament), Injeel (Bible)and Quran.)