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Before starting the discussion on to the revelation and preservation of Quran it is important that we all should understand the merits or dignity of Quran and what Allah Almighty has said about its preservation and divine nature in Quran. In Quran, Allah Almighty says: “And we have sent down to thee the Book explaining all things, a guide, a mercy and glad tidings to Muslims.” (Quran, 16:89)
Quran is the book of guidance, mercy and glad tidings. Other than that we as a Muslim should believe Quran is the Book free of doubts. The authenticity of Quran in terms of its preservation is concerned, Allah Almighty says in Quran: “We have without doubt, sent down the message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption).” (Quran, 15:9). So, we can say that the Quran in its present form is the same as it was revealed and there can be no doubt regarding its being Divine in nature and a source of guidance without any doubt or reservation.
Revelation of Quran
Holy Quran was revealed to last Prophet Muhammad (SAW) in the form of wahi. In Islamic terminology, wahi can be literally defined as “Allah’s divine message conveyed to Allah’s chosen persons (Prophets).” Descriptions of wahi are also given in the Holy Quran:
“So we sent this inspiration to the mother of Musa.” (Quran, 28:7).
“This is part of the tidings of the unseen which we reveal unto thee (oh Prophet) by inspiration”. (Quran, 3:44)
Quran revealed in form of Wahi which was made open to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) by Allah Almighty in different forms, either during sleep, while awake, with imprint on His heart, or Gabriel brought the verses in his original or humanly forms from time to time.
The process of revelation of Quran started in the month of Ramadan as Allah (SWT) mentioned in Quran: “Ramadan is the (month) in which we sent down the Quran.” (Quran, 2:185)
The Quran was not revealed in one instance but through a gradual process with small numbers of Ayahs revealed at any one time. Allah Almighty also explains the reason behind the in-parts revelation of Quran over a period of 23 years. Allah says in Quran:
“(It is) a Quran which we have divided (into parts from time to time), in order that thou mightiest recite it to men. At intervals we have revealed it by stages.” (Quran, 17:106)
Hence there was a step by step process of revelation where the verses were revealed at specific instances to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) making it easy to circulate and propagate the information to the followers of Islam. So the divine message of Allah (SWT) was revealed slowly to allow the new Muslim Arabs to change and accept the new faith Islam and live their lives according to teachings of Islam.
Revelation in stages also created a constant link between Allah Almighty and His beloved Prophet (SAW) giving moral support in times of need and distress:
“Thus (it is revealed), that We may strengthen thy heart.” (Al-Furqan, 25:106)
Thus we can conclude from this we have a solution of every problem which we are facing in our lives in the Holy Book Quran.
Compilation of Quran
In the beginning, Quran was recorded in form of memorizing the verses of Holy Quran. But later the process of compilation of Quran started to preserve it in form of Book. When it comes to the compilation of Quran, it has been divided into specific parts and time in the history where different Muslim rulers at different times made different contributions to make the compilation of Quran better and more reliable. We will discuss the different stages of the compilation of Quran throughout the Islamic history which has made it possible to view and read Quran in its present form.
First Stage during the time of Prophet Muhammad (SAW): First time the compilation process of Quran was started in the life of Prophet Muhammad (SAW). In this stage, the arrangement and order of the Surahs and Ayahs were specified by the Prophet (SAW) and the text was written down. However, at this stage, the Quran was not compiled into a single book, comparatively was available in separate sheepskin and was memorized in its integrity by several companions of Prophet Muhammad (SAW).So, the initial compilation was started in the life of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
Second Stage during the Reign of Hazrat Abu Bakar (R.A): The second stage of compilation took place during the caliphate of Hazrat Abu Bakar (R.A). In the battle of Yamama a large number of sahaba, who had memorized Quran, were martyred. This became a source of quiet concern for many companions of the Prophet (SAW) and they feared about the preservation of Quran. Therefore Hazrat Umer (R.A)suggested to the Caliph that the Quran should be collected and compiled into a single book in order to ensure its preservation. Hazrat Abu Bakar (R.A) liked the idea but was afraid because the Prophet (SAW) himself had never taken this step and He (R.A) feared that this action might be considered a discrepancy from the However, later on, he had a change of heart and ordered Hazrat Zain bin Saabit (R.A) to be the chief scriber and work on compiling the Quran in a book form. All of the members of the commission were renowned Haffaz (memorizers) of the Quran, i.e. they had already memorized it in its entirety. After listening to various Haffaz, cross-referencing it with the different written verses of Quran found on tree leaves, scorch and leather skins, he compiled a final copy of Quran which was then presented to Hazrat Abu Bakar (R.A). Once the whole text was collected and compiled, the commission carefully proofread it and certified that it was correct and present in its entirety. So, the first Book version of Quran was compiled in the life of Hazrat Abu Bakar (R.A) the first caliph of Islam.
Third Stage during the Reign of Hazrat Usman (R.A): During the era of the third Caliph Usman (R.A) a serious issue related to the recitation of the Quran raised. Despite the text of the Quran was universally accepted, Arabs from different parts of the Islamic state recited it according to their dialect. These presented two problems: firstly that everybody considered their dialect to be correct which gave rise to disputes; and secondly, it was feared that if this went on, there will be no universally accepted version of Quran left. From overcoming these problems Hazrat Usman (R.A) requested Hazrat Hafsa (R.A) to provide the earlier compilation of Quran so that more copies could be made out of it. Moreover, He also formed a committee consisting of Hazrat Zain bin Haris (R.A) and a few other Companions to make sure that they agree on the pronunciation of the original copy and produce more versions of that copy in the very same way. The commission prepared the text accordingly and then several copies were made and sent to different parts of the Islamic state with the instructions that only this should be considered the official and authentic text of Quran. Since that day the Holy Quran has remained in its original intact form and will remain as such in the future by the Grace and Blessings of Allah Almighty.
During the 23 years of Muhammad's time as a prophet, the verses of the Quran were memorized as they were revealed, and about 42 scribes wrote the verses on different materials such as paper, cloth, bone fragments and leather.
In ancient times, literacy was a skill that few people had and Muhammad himself did not know how to read or write.
During the time of Caliph Abu Bakr, when 70 people who knew the Quran by heart (qari), were killed in the Battle of Yamama, Umar ibn al-Khattab became concerned and appealed to Abu Bakr in order to compile the Quran into a book.
Abu Bakr formed a delegation under the leadership of Zaid ibn Thabit, one of the leading scribes.
This delegation of 12 people, including famous figures such as Uthman ibn Affan, Ali ibn Abi Talib, Talha ibn Ubaydullah, Abdullah ibn Masood, Ubayy ibn Kab, Khalid ibn al-Walid, Hudhaifah and Saleem, came together in Umar's house and collected all the materials on which verses from the Quran were written.
In addition, the verses memorized by the companions were heard as well. Each of them was asked to show two witnesses for the verse they read.
Thus, all the verses of the Quran that describe the creation of the universe and people, judgment day, exemplary stories of the people who lived before and the beliefs, worship, morals and legal bases that believers should obey were collected together into a single-volume book. Each of the verses was taught by the archangel Gabriel and declared by Prophet Muhammad. The verse is the name given to each sentence of the Quran and the surah is the name given to each part of the holy book. There are 6,236 verses, 114 surahs and about 323,000 letters in the Quran.
Saeed ibn al-Aas, who was renowned for the beauty of his handwriting, wrote them down on gazelle skin. The writing used was the Arabic script of the time, which was already old and used commonly at that time in Hejaz.
The companions reached a consensus that this writing, which was used by Prophet Ismail in Hejaz, is the writing of Muslims.
The copy of the Quran was recited to the companions at a general meeting. There was no objection. So, a book called "mushaf" emerged, which means written verses.
A total of 33,000 companions agreed that every letter of the Quran was in the right place. Then this mushaf was sent to Umar ibn al-Khattab. After his death, this book passed on to Hazrat Hafsah, the daughter of Umar and a wife of Prophet Muhammad.
Dialect of Quraysh
A difference was observed in the recitation of the Quran in the Armenia battles between Muslims from Damascus and Iraq during the period of the third caliph, Uthman.
Hudhaifah, one of the companions, went before the caliph on his way back from an expedition and asked him to prevent this.
On the 25th year of the hijra (647), Uthman gathered a delegation attended by Abdullah ibn al-Zubair, Saeed ibn al-Aas and Abd al-Rahman ibn Harith under the leadership of Zaid ibn Thabit. All of them, except for Zaid, were from Quraysh. Uthman said that the dialect of Quraysh should be preferred if they were to fall into conflict with Zaid regarding the dialect, since Muhammad was from the Quraysh tribe. The Quran had been revealed in seven dialects of the Arabic language of the time.
The first Muslims who were literate could easily read the writing of their own language, but somewhat differently, since at the time the Arabic script did not have diacritical marks to differentiate letters or vowel symbols.
For example, those from the Tameem tribe pronounced the letter "sin" as "te" and read the word "nas" as "nat." It was diverse and convenient, and did not change the meaning.
The delegation brought the original mushaf from Hafsah. In this mushaf, the surahs were not separated from each other. The surahs were sorted according to the order of their descent in Ali's manuscript and according to their lengths in the manuscript of Abdullah ibn Masood.
Now the verses were written in the Quraysh dialect. The surahs were arranged in rows, separated from each other regarding their length and alignment with each other. The order of the surahs was not based on the order the archangel Gabriel gave them to Prophet Muhammad, but on the consensus of the companions.
The old copies were destroyed to prevent future conflicts. Because of this, there are some Shia sects that accusing Uthman of changing the Quran.
From the new copy, some mushafs were also written on parchment and sent to different places such as Bahrain, Damascus, Basra, Kufa, Yemen and Mecca, accompanied by a qari. There are also rumors that copies were sent to Egypt and Jazeera.
The copy that stayed with the caliph was called al-Mushaf al-Imam (the head mushaf). There is no difference between the mushafs recited around the world today since they were all copied from original copies.
Thus, the Quran was written during Muhammad's lifetime, while its compilation was done during the caliphate of Abu Bakr and it was copied during the caliphate of Uthman.
Uthman also established special schools for the correct recitation and writing of the Quran. During the caliphate of Ali, saw the introduction of diacritical marks. During the time of Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik, vowel marks were also added.
Since then, countless Muslims have memorized the Quran. In the month of Ramadan, the entire Quran is recited in the Tarawih prayer at the Kaaba. Even the slightest mistake can stand out to Muslims who know it well from all around the world.
Some of these first seven mushafs have disappeared over time. Today, in Topkapı Palace and the Museum of Turkish-Islamic Arts in Istanbul, there are mushafs from Uthman and Ali's period. One of them was handwritten by Uthman, and the other two by Ali.
While the copy in Egypt was in the Mosque of Amr ibn al-Aas, it was presented to Ottoman Sultan Selim II and brought to Topkapı Palace after the conquest of Egypt.
Some claim that this is in fact the copy from Medina and that the last survivor of the Abbasid family took it with him while escaping to Egypt from the Mongol massacre. It is said that due to a blood-like stain on it, this is the mushaf that Uthman read while he was martyred.
Other mushafs belonging to the first period of Islam are displayed in Al-Hussein Mosque in Cairo, the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, the British Library in London, Hast Imam Library in Tashkent and other museums.
A newly opened museum in Mecca also features verses of the Quran written on bones and stones. The verses written on rocks and stones in