Uthman’s Service to the Qur’an: Tafsir ibn Kathir

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

قال البخاري ، رحمه الله: حدثنا موسى بن إسماعيل ، حدثنا إبراهيم ، حدثنا ابن شهاب ، عن [ص: 28] أنس بن مالك ، حدثه أن حذيفة بن اليمان قدم على عثمان بن عفان رضي الله عنهما وكان يغازي أهل الشام في فتح أرمينية وأرجان مع أهل العراق ، فأفزع حذيفة اختلافهم في القراءة. فقال حذيفة لعثمان: يا أمير المؤمنين ، أدرك هذه الأمة فأرسل عثمان إلى حفصة أن أرسلي إلينا بالصحف تنسخها في المصاحف ثم نردها إليك ، فأرسلت بها حفصة إلى عثمان ، فأمر زيد بن ثابت وعبد الله بن الزبير وسعيد بن العاص وعبد الرحمن بن الحارث بن هشام فنسخوها في المصاحف ، وقال عثمان للرهط القرشيين الثلاثة : إذا اختلفتم أنتم وزيد بن ثابت في شيء من القرآن فاكتبوه بلسان قريش ، فإنما أنزل بلسانهم . ففعلوا ، حتى إذا نسخوا الصحف في المصاحف رد عثمان الصحف إلى حفصة وأرسل إلى كل أفق بمصحف مما نسخوا ، وأمر بما سواه من القرآن في محل صحيفة أو مصحف أن يحرق . ـ

al-Bukhari (may Allah have mercy on him) said: … that Anas ibn Maalik relayed that:

Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman came to ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affaan (may Allah be pleased with both of them) while the people of Syria were fighting in the Conquest of Armenia and Azerbaijan alongside the people of Iraq. This was because Hudhaifah was concerned about their differing recitations. Hudhayfah said to ‘Uthman, “O Ameer al-Mu’mineen, save this ummah!” So ‘Uthman sent a request to Hafsah asking her, “Send us the sheets of paper so that we can transfer that into some bound copies and then we will return it to you.” Hafsah then set the sheets to ‘Uthman and he instructed Zayd ibn Thaabit, ‘Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr, Sa’eed ibn al-‘Aas and ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Haarith ibn Hisham to transfer its contents over into bound copies. And he said to the three Qurayshi men of the group, “If you and Zayd ibn Thaabit differ about any part of the Qur’an, then write it down in the dialect of the Quraysh for it was revealed in their dialect.” They carried this out, and then when they had copied over the sheets into these bound copies ‘Uthman returned the sheets to Harsah and sent one of those bound copies which they had copied over in every direction and commanded that whatever else of the Qur’an had been written down on loose sheets or bound books should be burned.

قال ابن شهاب الزهري : فأخبرني خارجة بن زيد بن ثابت : سمع زيد بن ثابت قال : فقدت آية من الأحزاب حين نسخنا المصحف قد كنت أسمع رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقرأ بها ، التمسناها فوجدناها مع خزيمة بن ثابت الأنصاري : ( من المؤمنين رجال صدقوا ما عاهدوا الله عليه ) [ الأحزاب : 23 ] ، فألحقناها في سورتها في المصحف . ـ

ibn Shihab al-Zuhri said:

Kharijah ibn Zayd ibn Thaabit told me that he heard Zayd ibn Thaabit say, “After we had made the bound copies of the Qur’an, I could not find a certain ayah from surah al-Ahzab which I used to hear Allah’s Messenger recite. I searched for it and found it with Khuzaymah ibn Thaabit al-Ansaari:

مِّنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ رِجَالٌ صَدَقُوا مَا عَاهَدُوا اللَّـهَ عَلَيْهِ

Among the believers are men true to what they promised Allah [33:23]

so I placed it in its proper place inside the mushaf.

وهذا – أيضا – من أكبر مناقب أمير المؤمنين عثمان بن عفان ، رضي الله عنه ، فإن الشيخين سبقاه إلى حفظ القرآن أن يذهب منه شيء وهو جمع الناس على قراءة واحدة ؛ لئلا يختلفوا في القرآن ، ووافقه على ذلك جميع الصحابة ، وإنما روي عن عبد الله بن مسعود شيء من التغضب بسبب أنه لم يكن ممن كتب المصاحف وأمر أصحابه بغل مصاحفهم لما أمر عثمان بحرقه ما عدا المصحف الإمام ، ثم رجع ابن مسعود إلى الوفاق حتى قال علي بن أبي طالب ، رضي الله عنه : لو لم يفعل ذلك عثمان لفعلته أنا . فاتفق الأئمة أبو بكر وعمر وعثمان وعلي ، رضي الله عنهم ، على أن ذلك من مصالح الدين ، وهم الخلفاء الذين قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم : عليكم بسنتي وسنة الخلفاء الراشدين من بعدي . وكان السبب في هذا حذيفة بن اليمان ، رضي الله عنه لما كان غازيا في فتح أرمينية وأذربيجان ، وكان قد اجتمع هناك أهل الشام والعراق وجعل حذيفة يسمع منهم قراءات على حروف شتى ، ورأى منهم اختلافا وافتراقا ، فلما رجع إلى عثمان أعلمه وقال لعثمان : أدرك هذه الأمة قبل أن يختلفوا في الكتاب اختلاف اليهود والنصارى . ـ

And this is one of the greatest virtues of Ameer al-Mu’minoon ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affaan (may Allah be pleased with him). Abu Bakr and ‘Umar had preceded him in preserving the Qur’an so that none of it would be lost, while he united the people on one recitation so that they would not argue and differ regarding the Qur’an. And all of the Sahabah agreed with him on this. The only exception to that was a report of ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood being angry at not having been chosen to be one of the writers of the official mushafs, and that he instructed his students to hide their mushafs [which they had copied from his or made on their own based on his recitation] when ‘Uthman ordered all mushafs besides the official mushafs to be burned. But later he recanted and returned back to the consensus position.

The unanimity of the Sahabah regarding this was so strong that ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib (may Allah be pleased with him) said, “If ‘Uthman had not done it, then I would have done it.” So, the leaders – Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Uthman, and ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with all of them) – were all agreed that this was something for the good of the religion. And these were the khulafaa’ about whom Allah’s Messenger said, “It is incumbent upon you to follow my Sunnah and the Sunnah of the Rightly-guided Khulafaa‘ after me.”

And the reason behind this was that when Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman (may Allah be pleased with him) was fighting in the conquest of Armenia and Azerbaijan and the people of both al-Shaam and Iraq had joined forces there, it happened that Hudhayfah heard them reciting the Qur’an according to multiple different huroof and saw them differing and splitting because of this. So when he met with ‘Uthman, he told him of this and said to him, “Save this Ummah before they differ about the scripture like the Jews and Christians differed!”

وذلك أن اليهود والنصارى مختلفون فيما بأيديهم من الكتب ، فاليهود بأيديهم نسخة من التوراة ، والسامرة يخالفونهم في ألفاظ كثيرة ومعان أيضا ، وليس في توراة السامرة حرف الهمزة ولا حرف الياء ، والنصارى – أيضا – بأيديهم توراة يسمونها العتيقة وهي مخالفة لنسختي اليهود والسامرة ، وأما [ ص: 29 ] الأناجيل التي بأيدي النصارى فأربعة : إنجيل مرقس ، وإنجيل لوقا وإنجيل متى ، وإنجيل يوحنا ، وهي مختلفة – أيضا – اختلافا كثيرا ، وهذه الأناجيل الأربعة كل منها لطيف الحجم منها ما هو قريب من أربع عشرة ورقة بخط متوسط ، ومنها ما هو أكثر من ذلك إما بالنصف أو بالضعف ، ومضمونها سيرة عيسى وأيامه وأحكامه وكلامه وفيه شيء قليل مما يدعون أنه كلام الله ، وهي مع هذا مختلفة ، كما قلنا ، وكذلك التوراة مع ما فيها من التبديل والتحريف ، ثم هما منسوخان بعد ذلك بهذه الشريعة المحمدية المطهرة . ـ

What he was referring to is that the Jews and the Christians differed regarding the scriptures that they had. The Jews had a copy of the Tawrah with them, but the Samaritans differed with them considerably in terms of the both wordings and meanings – and the Tawrah of the Samaritans did not include letters hamzah or yaa. Furthermore, the Christians also had a tawrah with them which they referred to as “The Old Testament” which differed with both the Jewish and the Samaritan versions. As for the Injeels which the Christians held, there were four of them: the Injeel of Mark, the Injeel of Luke, the Injeel of Matthew, and the Injeel of John, and each one of these also differed considerably with the others. Each one of these four Injeels is quite small in volume, one of them is close to 14 pages of medium-sized script, while others are larger either by half or twice as much. Their contents focus on the biography of ‘Eesaa, the events of his life, his religious rulings, what he said, and they contain very little which is said to be the speech of Allah. Despite all of this, they are at odds with one another as we mentioned, as is the case with the Tawrah due to the revisions and distortions in it. But in any case, both the Tawrah and the Injeel were abrogated by this pure Sharee’ah of Muhammad.

فلما قال حذيفة لعثمان ذلك أفزعه وأرسل إلى حفصة أم المؤمنين أن ترسل إليه بالصحف التي عندها مما جمعه الشيخان ليكتب ذلك في مصحف واحد ، وينفذه إلى الآفاق ، ويجمع الناس على القراءة به وترك ما سواه ، ففعلت حفصة وأمر عثمان هؤلاء الأربعة وهم زيد بن ثابت الأنصاري ، أحد كتاب الوحي لرسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم ، وعبد الله بن الزبير بن العوام القرشي الأسدي ، أحد فقهاء الصحابة ونجبائهم علما وعملا وأصلا وفضلا وسعيد بن العاص بن سعيد بن العاص بن أمية القرشي الأموي ، وكان كريما جوادا ممدحا ، وكان أشبه الناس لهجة برسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم وعبد الرحمن بن الحارث بن هشام بن المغيرة بن عبد الله بن عمر بن مخزوم القرشي المخزومي ، فجلس هؤلاء النفر يكتبون القرآن نسخا ، وإذا اختلفوا في وضع الكتابة على أي لغة رجعوا إلى عثمان ، كما اختلفوا في التابوت أيكتبونه بالتاء والهاء ، فقال زيد بن ثابت : إنما هو التابوه وقال الثلاثة القرشيون : إنما هو التابوت فتراجعوا إلى عثمان فقال : اكتبوه بلغة قريش ، فإن القرآن نزل بلغتهم . ـ

So when Hudayfah said that to ‘Uthman, ‘Uthman shared his concern and sent a message to Hafsah, Mother of the Believers, asking her to send him the sheets that she had containing what Abu Bakr and ‘Umar had collected so that he could write all of that in a single bound copy and then send it out to the various regions in order to unite the people around reciting according to that and leaving anything else. Hafsah did that and ‘Uthman gave the instructions to the following four figures:

  • Zayd ibn Thaabit – who was one of the people who wrote down the revelation for the Prophet
  • ‘Abdullah ibn al-Zubayr ibn al-‘Awwaam, al-Qurayshi, al-Asadi – who was one of the experts in fiqh among the Sahabah and one of the most revered in terms of his knowledge, his deeds, his lineage, and his nobility
  • Sa’eed ibn al-‘Aas ibn Sa’eed ibn al-‘Aas ibn Umayyah, al-Qurayshi, al-Umawi – who was a noble, generous and well-respected man, as well as bearing more resemblance to the Prophet in how he spoke than anyone else.
  • ‘Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Haarith ibn Hisham ibn al-Mughirah ibn ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar ibn Makhzoom, al-Qurayshi, al-Makhzoomi

So this group set about making a copy of the Qur’an and if they had any differences of dialect in terms of how to write it, they would refer back to ‘Uthman, as happened when they differed as to whether to write al-taaboot with a taa or a haa at the end, for Zayd ibn Thaabit had said, “It should be al-taabooh” while the three Quraysh men said, “It should be al-taaboot“. So they took the issue back to ‘Uthman who said, “write it down in the dialect of the Quraysh for the Qur’an was revealed in their dialect.”

[ibn Kathir briefly diverges to discuss the arrangement of the surahs in the ‘Uthmani Mushaf and some related topics, which you can read here]

 ثم إن عثمان رد الصحف إلى حفصة ، فلم تزل عندها حتى أرسل إليها مروان بن الحكم يطلبها فلم تعطه حتى ماتت ، فأخذها من عبد الله بن عمر فحرقها لئلا يكون فيها شيء يخالف المصاحف التي نفذها عثمان إلى الآفاق ، مصحفا إلى أهل مكة ، ومصحفا إلى البصرة ، وآخر إلى الكوفة ، وآخر إلى الشام ، وآخر إلى اليمن ، وآخر إلى البحرين ، وترك عند أهل المدينة مصحفا ، رواه أبو بكر بن أبي داود عن أبي حاتم السجستاني ، سمعه يقوله . وصحح القرطبي أنه إنما نفذ إلى الآفاق أربعة مصاحف . وهذا غريب ، وأمر بما عدا ذلك من مصاحف الناس أن يحرق لئلا تختلف قراءات الناس في الآفاق ، وقد وافقه الصحابة في عصره على ذلك ولم ينكره أحد منهم ، وإنما نقم عليه ذلك أولئك الرهط الذين تمالئوا عليه وقتلوه ، قاتلهم الله ، وذلك في جملة ما أنكروه مما لا أصل له ، وأما سادات المسلمين من الصحابة ، ومن نشأ في عصرهم ذلك من التابعين ، فكلهم وافقوه . ـ

Afterwards, ‘Uthman returned the sheets back to Hafsah where they remained with her even when Marwan ibn al-Hakam sent a message requesting them, but she did not give them to him until her death at which point he took them from ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar and burnt them in case they contained anything in them that conflicted with the mushafs that ‘Uthman had sent out to the various regions. Those mushafs being:

  • one to the people of Mecca
  • one to al-Basrah
  • one to al-Kufah
  • one to Syria
  • one to Yemen
  • one to Bahrain
  • and he kept one for the people of al-Madinah.

Abu Bakr ibn Abi Dawud relayed this from Abu Haatim al-Sijistani, whom he heard it from directly. al-Qurtubi held it to be that ‘Uthman had only sent out mushafs to four regions, however this is an odd report.

In addition to sending out the mushafs, ‘Uthman also commanded that any other written copies of the Qur’an which people had should be burned so that the people of the various regions would not differ in their recitations. The Sahabah of his time agreed with him in that and not a single one of them disapproved of it. The only ones who criticized him for that was that band who joined forces against him and killed him – may Allah destroy them! – and that was one of the many things that they criticized him for without any basis. As for the leaders of the Muslims among the Sahabah and the Taabi’oon who came up under them, all of them were in accord with ‘Uthman.

قال أبو داود الطيالسي وابن مهدي وغندر عن شعبة ، عن علقمة بن مرثد ، عن رجل ، عن سويد بن غفلة ، قال علي حين حرق عثمان المصاحف : لو لم يصنعه هو لصنعته . ـ

Abu Dawud al-Tayaalisi, ibn Mahdi and Ghundar reported … from Suwayd ibn Ghaflah, that when ‘Uthman had the unofficial copies of the Qur’an burned ‘Ali said, “If he had not done it, I would have.”

وقال أبو بكر بن أبي داود : حدثنا أحمد بن سنان ، حدثنا عبد الرحمن ، حدثنا شعبة عن أبي إسحاق عن مصعب بن سعد بن أبي وقاص ، قال : أدركت الناس متوافرين حين حرق عثمان المصاحف فأعجبهم ذلك ، أو قال : لم ينكر ذلك منهم أحد . وهذا إسناد صحيح . ـ

Abu Bakr ibn Abi Dawud reported that … Mus’ab ibn Sa’d ibn Abi Waqqaas said, “I saw many people at the time when ‘Uthman had the unofficial copies of the Qur’an burned and they were all pleased with that,” or he said, “Not a single one of them criticized him for that.” This chain of narration is sound.

[Ibn Kathir diverges to discuss ‘Abdullah ibn Mas’ood’s reaction to ‘Uthman’s decision, which you can read here]

وقال أبو بكر أيضا : حدثنا عمي ، حدثنا أبو رجاء ، حدثنا إسرائيل ، عن أبي إسحاق ، عن مصعب بن سعد قال : قام عثمان فخطب الناس فقال : [ يا ] أيها الناس عهدكم بنبيكم منذ ثلاث عشرة وأنتم تمترون في القرآن ، وتقولون : قراءة أبي وقراءة عبد الله ، يقول الرجل : والله ما تقيم قراءتك ، وأعزم على كل رجل منكم ما كان معه من كتاب الله لما جاء به ، فكان الرجل يجيء بالورقة والأديم فيه القرآن حتى جمع من ذلك كثرة ، ثم دخل عثمان فدعاهم رجلا رجلا فناشدهم : لسمعت رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم أمله عليك فيقول : نعم ، فلما فرغ من ذلك عثمان قال : من أكتب الناس ؟ قالوا : كاتب رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم زيد بن ثابت . قال : فأي الناس أعرب ؟ قالوا : سعيد بن العاص . قال عثمان : فليمل سعيد ، وليكتب زيد . فكتب زيد مصاحف ففرقها في الناس ، فسمعت بعض أصحاب رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم يقولون : قد أحسن . إسناده صحيح . ـ

Abu Bakr ibn Abi Dawud said … that Mus’ab ibn Sa’d said:

‘Uthman stood up to address the people and said, “O people, thirteen years have passed since the time that you had with the Prophet and you have fallen into some doubt about the Qur’an. You talk about the recitation of Ubay ibn Ka’b and the recitation of Abdullah ibn Mas’ood, and one man might say to another, ‘I swear by Allah, your recitation doesn’t have a leg to stand on!’ So I call every man among you who has any of the Qur’an that he received from the Prophet to come forward.”

So people would come to him with a sheet of paper or some leather parchment that had the Qur’an on it until he had gathered a great deal together. Then ‘Uthman set about calling each man one by one and asking them, “Did you hear the Allah’s Messenger reciting it to you like this?” and then would reply, “yes.” Then when ‘Uthman finished with this task, he said, “Who is the best person in writing?” and the people said, “The scribe of Allah’s Messenger, Zayd ibn Thaabit.” And he asked, “Who is the best person in the Arabic language?” and the people said, “Sa’eed ibn al-‘Aas.” So ‘Uthman said, “Then let Sa’eed recite and Zayd write.” So Zayd wrote down the mushafs and they were then distributed to the people, and I heard some of the Companions of the Prophet saying, “He has done well.”

This chain of narration is sound.

وقال أيضا : حدثنا إسحاق بن إبراهيم بن زيد ، حدثنا أبو بكر ، حدثنا هشام بن حسان ، عن محمد بن سيرين ، عن كثير بن أفلح قال : لما أراد عثمان أن يكتب المصاحف جمع له اثني عشر رجلا من قريش والأنصار ، فيهم أبي بن كعب وزيد بن ثابت ، قال : فبعثوا إلى الربعة التي في بيت عمر فجيء بها ، قال : وكان عثمان يتعاهدهم ، وكانوا إذا تدارءوا في شيء أخره . قال محمد : فقلت لكثير – وكان فيهم فيمن يكتب – : هل تدرون لم كانوا يؤخرونه ؟ قال : لا . قال محمد : فظننت ظنا أنما كانوا يؤخرونها لينظروا أحدثهم عهدا بالعرضة الأخيرة فيكتبونها على قوله . صحيح أيضا . ـ

ibn Abi Dawud also said … that Muhammad ibn Sireen transmitted that Kathir ibn Aflah said,

“When ‘Uthman wanted to have the mushafs written, he gathered twelve men from the Quraysh and the Ansar to accomplish the task” – and among them were Ubay ibn Ka’b and Zayd ibn Thaabit – “so they sent for the Rab’ah which was in the house of ‘Umar” – and she [i.e. Hafsah] brought it – “and ‘Uthman was overseeing their work. Whenever they would differ about something, they would hold off on it.”

Muhammad said: I said to Kathir – who was among those who were writing the Qur’an – , “Do you know why they would hold off on it?” He said, “No.” Muhammad said, “I think that the reason why they held off on whatever they differed over was because they were looking to see which one of them was most well-acquainted with the final review of the Qur’an so that they could write down what he said.”

And the chain of narration for this hadith is also sound.

قلت : الربعة هي الكتب المجتمعة ، وكانت عند حفصة ، رضي الله عنها ، فلما جمعها عثمان ، رضي الله عنه ، في المصحف ، ردها إليها ، ولم يحرقها في جملة ما حرقه مما سواها ، إلا أنها هي بعينها الذي كتبه ، وإنما رتبه ، ثم إنه كان قد عاهدها على أن يردها إليها ، فما زالت عندها حتى ماتت ، ثم أخذها مروان بن الحكم فحرقها وتأول في ذلك ما تأول عثمان ، كما رواه أبو بكر بن أبي داود : حدثنا محمد بن عوف ، حدثنا أبو اليمان ، حدثنا شعيب ، عن الزهري ، أخبرني سالم بن عبد الله : [ ص: 33 ] أن مروان كان يرسل إلى حفصة يسألها الصحف التي كتب منها القرآن ، فتأبى حفصة أن تعطيه إياها . قال سالم : فلما توفيت حفصة ورجعنا من دفنها أرسل مروان بالعزيمة إلى عبد الله بن عمر ليرسلن إليه بتلك الصحف ، فأرسل بها إليه عبد الله بن عمر فأمر بها مروان فشققت ، وقال مروان : إنما فعلت هذا لأن ما فيها قد كتب وحفظ بالمصحف ، فخشيت إن طال بالناس زمان أن يرتاب في شأن هذه الصحف مرتاب أو يقول : إنه كان شيء منها لم يكتب . إسناد صحيح .  ـ

I [ibn Kathir] say: The Rab’ah is the compiled writings which were with Hafsah (may Allah be pleased with her). So after ‘Uthman had gathered their contents together into the bound copies, he returned those sheets back to Hafsah without burning them along with everything else that was burned. And the sheets the he returned to Hafsah were exactly what he had written down in the ‘Uthmani Mushaf, except that he had just placed everything in order. And he had made a promise to return those sheets to Hafsah, so they remained with her until she passed away.

After that, Marwan ibn al-Hakam took them and burned them, and he did that for the same reason that ‘Uthman had used before. This is just as Abu Bakr ibn Abi Dawud mentioned … that al-Zuhri said that Saalim ibn ‘Abdullah told him that:

Marwan sent a message to Hafsah asking her for the sheets on which the Qur’an was written, but Hafsah refused to give them to him. Saalim said, “When Hafsah passed away and we had just finished burying her, Marwan sent a strong message to ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar that he must send him those sheets. So ‘Abdullah ibn ‘Umar sent them to him and Marwan commanded for them to be cut to pieces. Marwan said, ‘The only reason why I did that is because its contents have already been written and preserved in the Mushaf and I feared that as time goes on people may come to have some doubts relating to these sheets or might say that there is some part of them that was not copied over.'”

And the chain of narration for this report is sound.

وأما ما رواه الزهري عن خارجة عن أبيه في شأن آية الأحزاب وإلحاقهم إياها في سورتها ، فذكره لهذا بعد جمع عثمان فيه نظر ، وإنما هذا كان حال جمع الصديق الصحف كما جاء مصرحا به في غير هذه الرواية عن الزهري ، عن عبيد بن السباق ، عن زيد بن ثابت ، والدليل على ذلك أنه قال : فألحقناها في سورتها من المصحف وليست هذه الآية ملحقة في الحاشية في المصاحف العثمانية . ـ

As for what al-Zuhri relayed from Kharijah from his father about the ayah in surah in al-Ahzab and putting it in its place in the surah and saying that this was only after the gathering of the ‘Uthmani Mushaf, then there are some questions as to the accuracy of this because the event described happened at time of Abu Bakr’s gathering of the Qur’an on sheets of paper. Another reason for questioning this report is because this ayah is not found written as a footnote in the margins of the the ‘Uthmani Mushafs [but rather it is found written in the text of it].

فهذه الأفعال من أكبر القربات التي بادر إليها الأئمة الراشدون أبو بكر وعمر ، رضي الله عنهما ، حفظا على الناس القرآن ، جمعاه لئلا يذهب منه شيء ، وعثمان ، رضي الله عنه ، جمع قراءات الناس على مصحف واحد ووضعه على العرضة الأخيرة التي عارض بها جبريل رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم في آخر رمضان من عمره – عليه الصلاة والسلام – فإنه عارضه به عامئذ مرتين ؛ ولهذا قال رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم لفاطمة ابنته لما مرض : وما أرى ذلك إلا لاقتراب أجلي . أخرجاه في الصحيحين . ـ

So these actions were some of the greatest acts of good that the Rightly-Guided Leaders embarked upon: Abu Bakr and ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with both of them) in preserving the Qur’an for the people and gathering it together so that no part of it would be lost; and ‘Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him) who united the people’s recitations around one single written form of the Qur’an which was based on the final review of the Qur’an that Jibril had done with the Prophet in the last Ramadan of his life. It was in that year that they reviewed the Qur’an twice, and because of that when the Prophet fell ill he said to his daughter Fatimah, “I didn’t take that as anything other than a sign that my time was coming,” as is reported by al-Bukhari and Muslim.

وقد روي أن عليا ، رضي الله عنه ، أراد أن يجمع القرآن بعد رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم مرتبا بحسب نزوله أولا فأولا كما رواه ابن أبي داود حيث قال : حدثنا محمد بن إسماعيل الأحمسي ، حدثنا ابن فضيل ، عن أشعث ، عن محمد بن سيرين قال : لما توفي النبي صلى الله عليه وسلم أقسم علي ألا يرتدي برداء إلا لجمعة حتى يجمع القرآن في مصحف ففعل ، فأرسل ، إليه أبو بكر ، رضي الله عنه ، بعد أيام : أكرهت إمارتي يا أبا الحسن ؟ فقال : لا والله إلا أني أقسمت ألا أرتدي برداء إلا لجمعة . فبايعه ثم رجع . هكذا رواه وفيه انقطاع ، ثم قال : لم يذكر المصحف أحد إلا أشعث وهو لين الحديث وإنما رووا : حتى أجمع القرآن ، يعني : أتم حفظه ، فإنه يقال للذي يحفظ القرآن : قد جمع القرآن . ـ

It has been transmitted that after the death of the Prophet, ‘Ali (may Allah be pleased with him) wanted to gather the Qur’an together according to the order of revelation from the earliest revelation to the last. This is as has been transmitted by ibn Abi Dawud when he said … that Muhammad ibn Sireen said:

When the Prophet passed away, ‘Ali swore that he would not don any kind of shawl or upper garment – except on Fridays – until he had gathered the Qur’an in a mushaf. So he did that, and then after a few days Abu Bakr sent for him, and said, “O Abu’l-Hassan, do you dislike my being the ruler?” ‘Ali replied, “No, by Allah. It’s just that I had sworn that I wouldn’t wear any kind of shawl or upper garment except on Fridays,” then he gave Abu Bakr the pledge of allegiance and went back to his home.

That is what was narrated, but there are some gaps in the chain of narration. Ibn Abi Dawud then said, “None of the various transmitters of this report mentioned anything about a mushaf except for Ash’ath who is less than acceptable in his hadith narrations. All the other transmitters said, ‘… until he had gathered the Qur’an,’ meaning: until he had completed his memorization of it, for one might say of someone who has memorized the Qur’an that he had gathered the Qur’an.”

قلت : وهذا الذي قاله أبو بكر أظهر ، والله أعلم ، فإن عليا لم ينقل عنه مصحف على ما قيل ولا غير ذلك ، ولكن قد توجد مصاحف على الوضع العثماني ، يقال : إنها بخط علي ، رضي الله عنه ، وفي ذلك نظر ، فإنه في بعضها : كتبه علي بن أبي طالب[1] ، وهذا لحن من الكلام ؛ وعلي ، [ ص: 34 ] رضي الله عنه ، من أبعد الناس عن ذلك ، فإنه كما هو المشهور عنه هو أول من وضع علم النحو ، فيما رواه عنه أبو الأسود ظالم بن عمرو الدؤلي ، وإنه قسم الكلام إلى اسم وفعل وحرف ، وذكر أشياء أخر تممها أبو الأسود بعده ، ثم أخذه الناس عن أبي الأسود فوسعوه ووضحوه ، وصار علما مستقلا . ـ

I say: What Abu Bakr ibn Abi Dawud mentioned seems correct, and Allah knows best. That is because no mushaf has been been attributed to ‘Ali; no one has claimed this nor has one been found. There are some of the mushafs that were commissioned by ‘Uthman that were said to be have penned by ‘Ali, however there are doubts as to the veracity of this. That is because some of them have, “Written by ‘Ali ibn Abu Taalib”[1] inside them, which is a grammatical error, while ‘Ali was a person far removed from having any errors in his language, for he was the first person to establish the study of Arabic grammar, as is well-known. Abu’l-Aswad Thaalim ibn ‘Amr al-Dualee then learned it from him and transmitted it to others. And it is well-known that ‘Ali categorized speech into the divisions of ism, fa’l and harf, and Abu’l-Aswad also mentioned some other things that he improved on after ‘Ali. People then learned this knowledge from Abu’l-Aswad, expanding and further defining it, and so it became an independent area of study in its own right.

وأما المصاحف العثمانية الأئمة فأشهرها اليوم الذي في الشام بجامع دمشق عند الركن شرقي المقصورة المعمورة بذكر الله ، وقد كانت قديما بمدينة طبرية ثم نقل منها إلى دمشق في حدود ثمان عشرة وخمسمائة ، وقد رأيته كتابا عزيزا جليلا عظيما ضخما بخط حسن مبين قوي بحبر محكم في رق أظنه من جلود الإبل ، والله أعلم ، زاده الله تشريفا وتكريما وتعظيما . ـ

As for what came of the original ‘Uthmani Mushafs, the most famous one in this time is the one in Syria in the main Mosque of Damascus in its eastern corner in a cabinet engraved with the remembrance of Allah. Previously, it had been in the city of Tabariyyah, but then it was moved from there to Damascus at some point in the year 518AH. I have seen it there: it is a large and rather tall book, grand and glorious, with nice strong clear penmanship and unfaltering ink on some sort of parchment – perhaps made of camel skin, and Allah knows best. May Allah increase it in honor, nobility and splendor.

فأما عثمان ، رضي الله عنه ، فما يعرف أنه كتب بخطه هذه المصاحف ، وإنما كتبها زيد بن ثابت في أيامه ، ربما وغيره ، فنسبت إلى عثمان لأنها بأمره وإشارته ، ثم قرئت على الصحابة بين يدي عثمان ، ثم نفذت إلى الآفاق ، رضي الله عنه

As for ‘Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him), then it is not thought that he wrote these mushafs with his own hand. Rather, they were written by Zayd ibn Thaabit in that time – and possibly by others. But these mushafs are attributed to ‘Uthman and referred to as the ‘Uthmani Mushafs because they were done under his direction and instruction, then read to the Sahabah in the presence of ‘Uthman, and then sent them out to the various regions – may Allah be pleased with him.

[Tafsir ibn Kathir 1/27-34]

[1] Translator’s Note: Careful readers may notice that there is no grammatical error in the Arabic text. Sheikh ‘Abd al-Kareem al-Khudayr commented on this point while explaining another work and explained the following:

يُنسب إلى علي بن أبي طالب مصحف ، ويقال له : مصحف علي ! في نهايته : ( وكتب علي بن أبو طالب )!! واستدل الحافظ ابن كثير على أن هذا المصحف لا تثبت نسبته لعلي بن أبي طالب بهذا اللحن الشنيع. ونحن نعلم أن علي بن أبي طالب هو واضع علم اللغة العربية وهو عربي قح، لا يمكن أن يقع في هذا اللحن. ومع الأسف الشديد فالذين طبعوا تفسير ابن كثير يكتبونها ((علي بن أبي طالب))! ويذكرون استدراك ابن كثير! ومثلها الوثيقة المزورة التي كُتبت بين النبي ويهود خيبر. في نهايتها (( وكتب علي بن أبو طالب)) ، واستنكرها الحافظ ابن كثير في البداية والنهاية بسبب اللحن. ومع ذلك فالذين طبعوا الكتاب ، طبعوها على الصواب ((علي بن أبي طالب))! ـ

Some people attributed one mushaf to ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib and would call it “The Mushaf of ‘Ali.” In the end of that mushaf you will find “Written by ‘Ali ibn Abu Taalib.”!!! Ibn Kathir used this instance of a crude grammatical mistake to prove that it is not correct to attribute that mushaf to ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib, as we know that ‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib was an forefather in the study of the Arabic language and a speaker of pure Arabic himself, so it is not possible that he could have made this mistake. It is extremely unfortunate that those who published Tafsir ibn Kathir corrected this mistake and wrote “‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib” while still mentioning ibn Kathir’s disapproval of the mistake. Another example of a forged document alleged to have been written as a message between the Prophet and the Jews of Khaybar which ended with the phrase “Written by ‘Ali ibn Abu Taalib,” and ibn Kathir criticized the validity of this document on the basis of this grammatical mistake in his work al-Bidayah wa’l-Nihayah. In spite of these things, those who published the book published it with the corrected form, “‘Ali ibn Abi Taalib.”

[Fawaa’id ‘alaa Sharh Risalah fee Usool al-Tafsir li’l-Suyooti 1/3]

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

See also: The Collection of Abu Bakr and the Mushaf of ‘Uthman: ibn Hajr

See also: Why ‘Uthman selected Zayd ibn Thaabit over ibn Mas’ood

See also: A Brief History of the Preservation of the Qur’an: Sheikh ‘Abd al-Muhsin al-‘Abbaad

See also: Clarification on the Ahruf and Qiraa’aat of the Qur’an: ibn Hajr

2 thoughts on “Uthman’s Service to the Qur’an: Tafsir ibn Kathir

  1. Pingback: Why ‘Uthman selected Zayd ibn Thaabit over ibn Mas’ood | Tulayhah

  2. Pingback: ibn Mas’ood and the ‘Uthmani Mushaf: Tafsir ibn Kathir | Tulayhah

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