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Quran in Our Hands: Understanding its History

by Helmy Sa'at

The Quran has and will continue to be a part of our daily lives till our last breaths on this earth. The holy book which is so central in our lives has always been accessible in its physical form. The advent of technology has stretched accessibility to it for anyone and everyone with an internet connection.

Thus, whether consciously or otherwise, we have long taken for granted what we have in our palms. The 114 chapters (surahs) which we can easily access through our mobile phones in our app, such as the Muslim Pro , do not drop into our laps in one fell swoop. It was a long process; a collective effort of the ummah from another generation that with determination provided us, more than 1.5 billion muslims of today’s global ummah, to be blessed with such reward.

However, how many of us actually could memorise it all beyond the basic requirements warranted for our daily prayers?

This is where understanding and learning history would help to illuminate and deepen our understanding which could only buttress our appreciation of the Quran.
It was first revealed to Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in 610 CE. How was the prophet then able to continue his preaching, based on the word of Allah SWT, till his passing in 632 CE without what we have grown accustomed to today – the holy book? 

What we have to understand is that historical context is key to unlocking the complications in association to the compilation of the holy book. During that period, literacy was not a skill of the majority. Thus, such revelations were memorised instead, which stemmed from the oral traditions that permeated widely then. Nevertheless, there were disparate records of surahs from time to time on a range of materials encompassing pieces of leather to palm leaves.

Subsequently, Caliph Abu Bakr played a pivotal role in expediting the compilation of the holy book. When 70 people who could recite the Quran by heart were killed in the Battle of Yamama, the urgency to produce a compilation was felt. From the collection of written verses to recitations by the companions, thus began the long and arduous but much needed process – of verification that involved issues such as dialects and pronunciations – and compilation.

With foresight, old copies were destroyed; this was to prevent any conflicts from arising based on disputations. Later around 650 CE, Caliph Uthman sent the official version to various cities for it to be copied. Therefore, subsequent generations until today are able to live life according to the word of God, partly contributed by the effort of Muslims of bygone eras.

Let’s not waste any more precious time and start to appreciate more and actively ensure that the Quran continues to breathe light and blessings in our daily lives.