THE COMPOSITION OF
THE REVEALED TEXT (1)
If the text of the Qur’an is remaining rigorously the same as the Prophet had dictated, its aspect has considerably changed. At first, there was nothing that could be called a volume or a compendium. The Qur’an was revealed in fragments whose lengths varied from an entire surah to one verse or even sometimes a part of a verse. Every fragment, inspired to the Prophet, was recited by him, learned by the listeners and diffused among those who did not hear it directly from his mouth. Everybody used to wait for it ardently and desired to take possession of it the instant of its emission.
Yet, the sacred text is not merely a “the Qur’an” or a group of oral recitations, destined to be kept solely in the memories. It is also a “Kitab” that is to say, a book written in ink. These two aspects always corroborate and control each other. And therefore, every fragment, inspired to the Prophet and recited by him, was dictated immediately to the scribers of the revelation to be written down on anything available to them such as paper, wood, pieces of parchment, of leather, flat stone, shoulder blades, etc.... Scholars mention that the number of scribers of the revelation reached twenty-nine. The most famous among them were the first five successors (Abu Bakr, Omar, Othman, Ali, and Mou’aouia). However, Mou’aouia and Zaid Ibn Thabit were the most attached to this function which took its official character in Madinah. Nevertheless, Muslims at Makkah did not fail to reproduce the revealed text in personal manuscripts for their private usage.
It had been noticed at an early time that the Qur’anic emissions were neither destined to remain separated completely from each other nor to follow each other according to the chronological order of their revelation. We saw many groups of passages developing apart from other and constituting gradually independent units by the addition of other verses which were revealed later. Some verses were added here and others were adjoined with other ones there, in accordance with the Prophet's express indications which he himself had received from the Celestial Spirit. In order to leave the door open to these progressive constructions, it was necessary to wait for the achievement of the work before putting it into one whole unit.
However, this was not a problem for the believers to accurately know the position of every new verse in every surah in all the phases of the revelation. In the Prophet's life, there were hundreds of companions who were called “the porters of the Qur’an” and who specialized in the recitation of the Qur’an and in studying by heart every surah in its temporary or final form. The Prophet had affirmed that every year, in the month of Ramadan, he used to make a sort of general review in the presence of Gabriel reciting the text that had already been revealed. And in the last year, the divine messenger reviewed the Qur’an with him twice, the thing which made the Prophet predict the approach of his death.
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