Who Memorized the Qur’an During the Lifetime of the Prophet: Tafsir ibn Kathir

al-Haafidh ibn Kathir mentioned the following in the introduction to his tafsir as the first part of his section entitled “The Gathering of the Qur’an” which focused on the preservation and collection of the Qur’an:

 ثبت في الصحيحين عن أنس قال : جمع القرآن على عهد النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أربعة ، كلهم من الأنصار ؛ أبي بن كعب ، ومعاذ بن جبل ، وزيد بن ثابت ، وأبو زيد . فقيل له : من أبو زيد ؟ قال : أحد عمومتي . وفي لفظ للبخاري عن أنس قال : مات النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم ولم يجمع القرآن غير أربعة ؛ أبو الدرداء ، ومعاذ بن جبل ، وزيد بن ثابت ، وأبو زيد ، ونحن ورثناه . ـ

It is well-established in both al-Bukhari and Muslim that Anas said, “Those who memorized the Qur’an during the lifetime of the Prophet (ﷺ) were four, all of whom were Ansaar: Ubay ibn Ka’b, Mu’aadh ibn Jabal, Zayd ibn Thaabit, and Abu Zayd.” Someone asked, “Who is Abu Zayd?” Anas answered, “One of my uncles.”

And in the wording that comes in al-Bukhari, Anas said, “The Prophet (ﷺ) died and no one else had memorized the Qur’an except for these four: Abu al-Dardaa’, Mu’aadh ibn Jabal, Zayd ibn Thaabit, and Abu Zayd, and then we took it from them.”

قلت : أبو زيد هذا ليس بمشهور ؛ لأنه مات قديما ، وقد ذكروه في أهل بدر ، وقال بعضهم : سعيد بن عبيد . ومعنى قول أنس : ولم يجمع القرآن . يعني من الأنصار سوى هؤلاء ، وإلا فمن المهاجرين جماعة كانوا يجمعون القرآن كالصديق ، وابن مسعود ، وسالم مولى أبي حذيفة وغيرهم . ـ

I [ibn Kathir] say: This Abu Zayd was not someone well-known because he died early, and he has been mentioned among those who were present for the Battle of Badr. And some said that he was Sa’eed ibn ‘Ubayd.

And the meaning of Anas’ statement, “no one else had memorized the Qur’an” is that none of the Ansaar besides these four had memorized the Qur’an. Otherwise, there were a number of the Muhaajiroon who had memorized the Qur’an, such as Abu Bakr, ibn Mas’ood, Saalim Mawla Abi Hudhaifah and others.

قال الشيخ أبو الحسن الأشعري ، رحمه الله : قد علم بالاضطرار أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قدم أبا بكر في مرض الموت ليصلي بالناس ، وقد ثبت في الخبر المتواتر أن رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم قال : ليؤم القوم أقرؤهم فلو لم يكن الصديق أقرأ القوم لما قدمه عليهم . نقله أبو بكر بن زنجويه في كتاب فضائل الصديق عن الأشعري . ـ

Sheikh Abu’l-Hassan al-Ash’ari (may Allah have mercy on him) said:

It is well-known that Allah’s Messenger put Abu Bakr forward to lead the people in prayers during his final illness and it has been authentically transmitted through multiple routes that the Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Let the people appoint the person who is most well-versed in the Qur’an as their imam.” So if Abu Bakr had not been the most well-versed of the people then the Prophet (ﷺ) would not have put him forward ahead of them.

This statement was quoted from al-Ash’ari by Abu Bakr ibn Zanjuwayh in his book, “al-Fadhaa’il al-Siddeeq“.

وحكى القرطبي في أوائل تفسيره عن القاضي أبي بكر الباقلاني أنه قال – بعد ذكره حديث أنس بن مالك هذا – : فقد ثبت بالطرق المتواترة أنه جمع القرآن عثمان ، وعلي ، وتميم الداري ، وعبادة بن الصامت ، وعبد الله بن عمرو بن العاص . فقول أنس : لم يجمعه غير أربعة يحتمل لم يأخذه تلقيا من في رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم غير هؤلاء الأربعة ، وأن بعضهم تلقى بعضه عن بعض . قال : وقد تظاهرت الروايات بأن الأئمة الأربعة جمعوا القرآن على عهد النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم لأجل سبقهم إلى الإسلام ، وإعظام الرسول لهم . ـ

In the beginning of his tafsir al-Qurtubi relays that, after relaying the aforementioned hadith of Anas ibn Maalik, Abu Bakr al-Baaqilaani said:

It has been authentically transmitted through numerous routes that ‘Uthman memorized the Qur’an, as did ‘Ali, Tameem al-Daari, ‘Ubadah ibn al-Saamit, and ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Amr ibn al-‘Aas. Anas’ statement, “No one memorized it except for four” could be interpreted to mean that no one learned it directly from the Prophet (ﷺ) except for these four while others learned it from one another.

He also said:

There are also numerous narrations that make it clear that the four Rightly-Guided Khulafaa’ memorized the Qur’an during the lifetime of the Prophet (ﷺ) due to their early entrance into Islam and the Prophet’s special interest in them.

قال القرطبي : لم يذكر القاضي ابن مسعود وسالما مولى أبي حذيفة ، وهما ممن جمع القرآن . ـ

Commenting on these quotes, al-Qurtubi said, “al-Baaqilaani did not mention ibn Mas’ood or Saalim Mawla Abi Hudhaifah, however they were also among those who memorized the Qur’an.”

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 1/24]

This article is the first part of the Gathering of the Qur’an Series. Follow the link to learn more.

See also: The Sahabah and Tabi’oon known for their Tafsir: al-Suyooti

See also: How the Sahabah Read and Divided the Qur’an: ibn Taymiyah

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2 thoughts on “Who Memorized the Qur’an During the Lifetime of the Prophet: Tafsir ibn Kathir

  1. Pingback: The Sahabah and Tabi’oon known for their Tafsir: al-Suyooti | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: Who Memorized the Qur’an During the Lifetime of the Prophet: Tafsir ibn Kathir – aljamaykee.com

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