The prophets (PBUT) were all sent by God to call and guide their nations towards recognising and learning about their Creator.
Some of these prophets (PBUT) were also given books or scripts – these can be compared to an instruction manual which taught their nations about God and their purpose in life.
What books were revealed to the prophets (PBUT)?
In Islam, the following books were revealed to the prophets (PBUT):
- The Tawrat (Torah): to the prophet Moses.
- The Zabur (Psalms): to the prophet David.
- The Injil (Gospel): to the prophet Jesus.
- The Quran: to the prophet Muhammad.
(Peace be upon them)
The prophets such as Adam, Seth, Idris and Abraham (PBUT) were also given scrolls containing guidance from God.
Why did God reveal so many books and scrolls?
These books and scrolls were sent to different people and nations. Yet over time, the originals and their messages and meanings were pro-actively altered.
Hence, the need arose for new books to be sent to correct and re-affirm the original messages; especially the core message of worshipping God alone. The final book sent to us is the Quran.
God states inside the Quran that:
“Indeed, it is We who sent down the Quran and indeed, We will preserve it.” (Quran 15:9)
Initially all the books revealed to the prophets were the words of God. Yet with the exception of the Quran, all the previous books inside the Bible have been changed and are now no longer the exact words revealed to the prophets (PBUT) thousands of years ago.
How do Muslims know that the words in the Quran today are the exact words of God revealed over 1400 years ago?
The Quran has been preserved in two main ways:
1. The Quran was memorised and compiled during the time of the prophet Muhammad (PBUH):
During the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) the Quran was revealed to him through the Angel Gabriel (AS) and preserved through memorization. Hundreds of Companions (RDA) of the Prophet (PBUH) had memorized the Quran without any mistakes.
Yet the Quran was also preserved through writing during this period.
The prophet Muhammad (PBUH) made special arrangements to have it written down. When Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) used to receive a revelation, he would dictate it to Zayd bin Thabit (RDA) (his companion), who in turn would write it down on anything that was available; bark, stone, bones, leaves and parchments.
Zayd bin Thabit (RDA) would then read what he had written to the Prophet (PBUH). If there were any mistakes, the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) would correct it and then let it be brought before everyone.
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) also informed his companions (RDA) of the order of the verses and they were written accordingly.
Hence, during the time of the Prophet (PBUH) one copy of the Quran existed which had been formed under his personal supervision. It was not in book form but in different parchments.
2. The Quran was written in a complete book form:
After the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) passed away in 633 CE, Abu Bakr (RDA) became the leader (caliph).
During the battle of Yamamah and other battles, some memorisers of the Quran were killed. Under the advice of Umar (RDA), Abu Bakr (RDA) decided to compile the Quran into a book form.
Zayd bin Thabit (RDA), was asked to supervise this task as he used to write the Quran for the Prophet (PBUH) during his time.
Many companions, including himself, had memorized the entire Quran and hence the Quran could have easily been written down from memory.
Furthermore, there were complete written collections of the verses of the Quran available with many companions.
Yet, Zayd bin Thabit (RDA) applied a stringent criteria and used both methods; by collecting the written verses and by using memory.
He followed four steps.
- First he verified each verse with his own memory.
- Then Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (RDA), who had also memorised the Quran and was in charge of the project with Zayd (RDA), verified it too.
- Then, before the verse could be accepted, two reliable witnesses had to testify that it was written in the presence of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).
- After that, the written verses were collated and further checked with the companions and their written collections.
The purpose of such a stringent method was to ensure that rather than simply rely on memory, the utmost care was taken in the transcription of the Quran.
In this way the Quran was compiled. The purpose of this transcription was to prepare an organised document so that reference could be made to it when required.
The transcripts stayed with Abu Bakr (RDA), and after his death in 634 CE, they were passed on to the second leader, Umar (RDA), and after Umar (RDA), they were given to his daughter, Hafsah (RDA).
Why were copies made of the Quran?
After the death of the second leader, Umar (RDA, Uthman Bin Afaan (RDA) became the leader in 644 CE and Islam had spread to far areas such as Persia and Byzantine.
People who accepted Islam, had learned how to read the Quran from Muslim soldiers, traders and other Muslims. It was in the same language – Arabic – but there are seven different ways to recite the Quran.
To put it simply; the way in which an American pronounces and writes certain words is different compared to how a person from Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia or New Zealand would pronounce or write it.
Hence, to avoid confusion within the later generations, Uthman (RDA) decided to make the Quran uniformed so that it would be read in a particular way.
He borrowed the first copy of the Holy Quran from Hafsah (RDA), and then formed a group of four companions – Zayd bin Thabit, Abdullah bin Zubayr, Saeed ibn al Aas, and Abdur Rahman bin Harith (RDA).
Other companions were also called upon to help and the group were assigned the task of making transcripts (copies) of the original copy as no ‘printing machines’ were available at that time.
Once these standard transcripts were prepared, Uthman RDA made arrangements for the Quran to be copied according to this script and distributed.
Are these copies available today?
One can still find in museums, many of these original Quranic manuscripts written during the period of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his companions.
Famous examples of these include the Uthman Quran (pictured left) and scripts, the Sana Palmimsest, and verses and chapters written on barks, stones, parchments, bones and leaves.
These are from the time of Muhammad (PBUH) and his companions (RDA) – yet the words from these are the exact same as the words in the Quran found today.
Hence, as God states in the Quran:
“Indeed, it is We who sent down the Quran and indeed, We will preserve it.” (Quran 15:9)
And through this way to the present day; the Quran has been preserved through memory and writing down the generations.
Is it possible for the Quran to have been changed or altered in any way?
It must be stressed that it is impossible for the Quran available today to have been changed or altered – if it had been altered then different versions would’ve been passed down the generations through memory and writing, and we would have different versions available today like the Bible.
Yet there is only one Quran available today and this is read by almost two billlion Muslims worldwide – these copies of the Quran all contain the exact same words, which were revealed to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) through the Angel Gabriel (AS) from God over 1400 years ago.
This is a miracle of God just like the miracles revealed by God to all of His other prophets (PBUT).
Why does God reveal miracles and why do Muslims describe the Quran as a miracle?
The existence of an intricately well organised creation around us points to the fact that there must be a Creator who has created it – the creation is hence a miracle in itself because it so amazing.
Take a look at ourselves as an example – it has taken approximately 13 milliseconds for your eyes to read and transmit each word from this page to your brain, and for your brain to understand each word’s meanings.
This is why God states in the Quran:
“Indeed, in the creation of the heavens and the earth, and the alternation of the night and the day are signs for those who understand.” (Quran 3:190)
Yet despite this, in Islam, God sent prophets to inform, remind and convey to us the message of His existence as the sole Creator and Sustainer of everything around us.
Further to this, God also supported His prophets with evidences and miracles. These include the miracles given to Moses when the sea split apart or the miraculous virgin birth of Jesus (PBUT).
History testifies through various accounts that the prophets (PBUT) not only existed but their miracles happened – these were not made up fictional stories.
The Quran itself is a miracle for Muslims because we believe with certainty that it is the book and exact words of God, which were revealed to the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) over 1400 years ago and are still now with us today.
Why did God send down the Quran?
This Quran, along with the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was sent to teach us about the religion of God – this religion is Islam.