Compiling the Qur’an – “How can you do something that the Prophet did not do?”: Ibn Hajr

In part of his Chapter on the virtues of the Qur’an, Imam al-Bukhari brought the famous hadith of Zayd ibn Thabit describing how Abu Bakr and ‘Umar recruited him to help in compiling the Qur’an during the time of Abu Bakr. The hadith begins with:

حَدَّثَنَا مُوسَى بْنُ إِسْمَاعِيلَ، عَنْ إِبْرَاهِيمَ بْنِ سَعْدٍ، حَدَّثَنَا ابْنُ شِهَابٍ، عَنْ عُبَيْدِ بْنِ السَّبَّاقِ، أَنَّ زَيْدَ بْنَ ثَابِتٍ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ قَالَ أَرْسَلَ إِلَىَّ أَبُو بَكْرٍ مَقْتَلَ أَهْلِ الْيَمَامَةِ فَإِذَا عُمَرُ بْنُ الْخَطَّابِ عِنْدَهُ قَالَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ ـ رضى الله عنه ـ إِنَّ عُمَرَ أَتَانِي فَقَالَ إِنَّ الْقَتْلَ قَدِ اسْتَحَرَّ يَوْمَ الْيَمَامَةِ بِقُرَّاءِ الْقُرْآنِ وَإِنِّي أَخْشَى أَنْ يَسْتَحِرَّ الْقَتْلُ بِالْقُرَّاءِ بِالْمَوَاطِنِ، فَيَذْهَبَ كَثِيرٌ مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ وَإِنِّي أَرَى أَنْ تَأْمُرَ بِجَمْعِ الْقُرْآنِ‏.‏ قُلْتُ لِعُمَرَ كَيْفَ تَفْعَلُ شَيْئًا لَمْ يَفْعَلْهُ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم قَالَ عُمَرُ هَذَا وَاللَّهِ خَيْرٌ

… Zayd ibn Thabit said:

Abu Bakr As-Siddiq sent for me after the people of Yamamah had been killed. I found `Umar bin al-Khattab sitting with him and he said to me, “‘Umar came to me and said, ‘Casualties were heavy among the reciters of the Qur’an on the day of the Battle of Yamamah, and I am afraid that more heavy casualties among the reciters may take place on other battlefields, thereby causing a large part of the Qur’an to be lost. So I suggest that you order that the Qur’an be collected.” I replied to `Umar, “How can you do something which Allah’s Messenger did not do?” ‘Umar said, “By Allah, it is something good.” …

[Saheeh al-Bukhari #4986]

In his famous commentary on Saheeh al-Bukhari, al-haafidh ibn Hajr al-‘Asqalaani addresses the last question mentioned above by writing:

 وقال الخطابي وغيره : يحتمل أن يكون – صلى الله عليه وسلم – إنما لم يجمع القرآن في المصحف لما كان يترقبه من ورود ناسخ لبعض أحكامه أو تلاوته ، فلما انقضى نزوله بوفاته – صلى الله عليه وسلم – ألهم الله الخلفاء الراشدين ذلك وفاء لوعد الصادق بضمان حفظه على هذه الأمة المحمدية زادها الله شرفا ، فكان ابتداء ذلك على يد الصديق – رضي الله عنه – بمشورة عمر ، ويؤيده ما أخرجه ابن أبي داود في ” المصاحف ” بإسناد حسن عن عبد خير قال : ” سمعت عليا يقول : أعظم الناس في المصاحف أجرا أبو بكر ، رحمة الله على أبي بكر ، هو أول من جمع كتاب الله ” وأما ما أخرجه مسلم من حديث أبي سعيد قال : ” قال رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – : لا تكتبوا عني شيئا غير القرآن ” الحديث فلا ينافي ذلك ، لأن الكلام في كتابة مخصوصة على صفة مخصوصة ، وقد كان القرآن كله كتب في عهد النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – لكن غير مجموع في موضع واحد ولا مرتب السور ، وأما ما أخرجه ابن أبي داود في ” المصاحف ” من طريق ابن سيرين قال : ” قال علي : لما مات رسول الله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – آليت أن لا آخذ على ردائي إلا لصلاة جمعة حتى أجمع القرآن فجمعه ” فإسناده ضعيف لانقطاعه ، وعلى تقدير أن يكون محفوظا فمراده بجمعه حفظه في صدره ، قال : والذي وقع في بعض طرقه ” حتى جمعته بين اللوحين ” وهم من راويه . ـ

al-Khattabi and others said:

It is possible that the only reason why the Prophet did not collect the entire Qur’an together into a mushaf was because he expected that abrogation would come for certain legal rulings or recitations. Then when the revelation came to an end at the time of his death, Allah inspired the Rightly-Guided Khulafaa’ to carry out that task in order to fulfill Allah’s true promise to preserve the Qur’an for this Ummah of Muhammad so that Allah might increase them in honor. This process began at the hand of Abu Bakr with the advice of ‘Umar. All of this is supported by what ibn Abi Dawud recorded in his Kitab al-Musahif with a good chain of narration from ‘Abd Khair who said, “I heard ‘Ali saying, ‘The person with the most reward in relation to the written copies of the Qur’an is Abu Bakr. May Allah have mercy on Abu Bakr; he was the first person to compile the Book of Allah.'”

As for the hadith of Abu Sa’eed that Muslim relayed, that “Allah’s Messenger said, ‘Do not write down anything from me except for the Qur’an …'”, then this is not at odds with the above claim because we are speaking about the specific way that Abu Bakr recorded the Qur’an. For the entire Qur’an had in fact been put down in writing during the lifetime of the Prophet; it is just that it had not been gathered altogether in one place in the order of the surahs.

Now as for what ibn Abi Dawud reported in his Kitab al-Musahif by way of ibn Sireen who said, “‘Ali said, ‘When Allah’s Messenger passed away, I did not want to don my shawl for any other purpose than the Jumu’ah prayer until I gathered the entire Qur’an, so I did just that.” But the chain of narration for this is weak due to a missing link. But even if it were to be a sound chain, what he meant by “gathering it” was to memorize it by heart.

قلت : وما تقدم من رواية عبد خير عن علي أصح ، فهو المعتمد . ووقع عند ابن أبي داود أيضا بيان السبب في إشارة عمر بن الخطاب بذلك ، فأخرج من طريق الحسن ” أن عمر سأل عن آية من كتاب الله فقيل : كانت مع فلان فقتل يوم اليمامة ، فقال : إنا لله ، وأمر بجمع القرآن ، فكان أول من جمعه في المصحف ” وهذا منقطع ، فإن كان محفوظا حمل على أن المراد بقوله ” فكان أول من جمعه ” أي أشار بجمعه في خلافة أبي بكر فنسب الجمع إليه لذلك . وقد تسول لبعض الروافض أنه يتوجه الاعتراض على أبي بكر بما فعله من جمع القرآن في المصحف فقال : كيف جاز أن يفعل شيئا لم يفعله الرسول عليه أفضل الصلاة والسلام ؟ والجواب أنه لم يفعل ذلك إلا بطريق الاجتهاد السائغ الناشئ عن النصح منه لله ولرسوله ولكتابه ولأئمة المسلمين وعامتهم ، وقد كان النبي – صلى الله عليه وسلم – أذن في كتابة القرآن ونهى أن يكتب معه غيره ، فلم يأمر أبو بكر إلا بكتابة ما كان مكتوبا ، ولذلك توقف عن كتابة الآية من آخر سورة ” براءة ” حتى وجدها مكتوبة ، مع أنه كان يستحضرها هو ومن ذكر معه . وإذا تأمل المنصف ما فعله أبو بكر من ذلك جزم بأنه يعد في فضائله وينوه بعظيم منقبته ، لثبوت قوله – صلى الله عليه وسلم – ” من سن سنة حسنة فله أجرها وأجر من عمل بها ” فما جمع القرآن أحد بعده إلا وكان له مثل أجره إلى يوم القيامة . وقد كان لأبي بكر من الاعتناء بقراءة القرآن ما اختار معه أن يرد على ابن الدغنة جواره ويرضى بجوار الله ورسوله ، وقد تقدمت القصة مبسوطة في فضائله ، وقد أعلم الله تعالى في القرآن بأنه مجموع في الصحف في قوله : يتلو صحفا مطهرة الآية ، وكان القرآن [ ص: 630 ] مكتوبا في الصحف ، لكن كانت مفرقة فجمعها أبو بكر في مكان واحد ، ثم كانت بعده محفوظة إلى أن أمر عثمان بالنسخ منها فنسخ منها عدة مصاحف وأرسل بها إلى الأمصار ، كما سيأتي بيان ذلك . ـ

I [ibn Hajr] say: What was mentioned in the narration of ‘Abd Khair from ‘Ali is the most correction position and that is the standard position regarding this topic.

Ibn Abi Dawud also mentions another reason why ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab advised for this to be done. He brings a report by way of Hasan that “‘Umar asked about a certain ayah from the Qur’an and was told, ‘That was with so-and-so who was killed on the Day of al-Yamamah,’ so he said some words of grief and instructed for the Qur’an to be compiled, so he was the first one to compile the Qur’an.'” This narration has a missing link in it, but even if it were a sound narration the statement “so he was the first one to compile the Qur’an” could be understood to refer to his advice during the rule of Abu Bakr to compile it, thus attributing the compilation to him because of that.

Some of the Rafidhah try to point out a contradiction in what Abu Bakr did in terms of compiling the Qur’an into a mushaf since he himself said, “How can I do something that Allah’s Messenger did not do?” The response to this would be that Abu Bakr only did that by way of permissible ijtihad that was born out of his sincerity towards Allah, His Messenger, His Book, and towards the Muslim leaders and their common folk. The Prophet had permitted the writing of the Qur’an while prohibiting anything else to be written along with it, so Abu Bakr did not order anything which was not already recorded to be written. This is why he halted in writing the ayah from the end of surah al-Bara’ah until he found it in writing, despite the fact that he and the one who mentioned it to him were both able to bring the ayah to mind. So then, if the fair-minded person were to consider what Abu Bakr did in this area, he would be certain that this is one of Abu Bakr’s exemplary acts and would laud it as a great merit of his in light of the authentic statement of the Prophet, “Whoever initiates a good practice will have the reward for it as well as the reward for whoever follows him in it afterwards.” So for every single person who compiled the Qur’an after him until the Day of Judgement, he will get the likes of their reward. And Abu Bakr had such great attachment to reciting the Qur’an, so much so that he chose to decline the protection of ibn al-Daghnah in favor of the protection of Allah and His Messenger, which is a long story that we have already mentioned while discussing the merits of Abu Bakr.

Also, Allah informed us in the Qur’an that the Qur’an would be gathered together on sheets of paper when He said:

رَسُولٌ مِّنَ اللَّـهِ يَتْلُو صُحُفًا مُّطَهَّرَةً

A Messenger from Allah, reciting purified pages [98:2]

and the Qur’an was written down on sheets of paper [during the time of the Prophet], but these records were in different sections and different places so Abu Bakr gathered them all together in one collection. They remained in this way until ‘Uthman ordered for a copy of this collection to be made, so he made several copies of it in the form of mushafs and sent them to the major cities, as we will discuss when we come to that topic.

[Fath al-Bari #4071]

For more details about this topic, see also: The Gathering of the Qur’an Series: Tafsir ibn Kathir

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

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

One thought on “Compiling the Qur’an – “How can you do something that the Prophet did not do?”: Ibn Hajr

  1. Pingback: The Collection of Abu Bakr and the Mushaf of ‘Uthman: ibn Hajr | Tulayhah

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