The Compiler of Qur’aan !
If you hold the Holy Qur’aan with your right hand and concentrate your eyes upon it, and go on applying yourself eagerly and meticulously to its verdant meadows, chapter by chapter, verse by verse, remember that among those who deserve all gratitude and appreciation for such an accomplishment is a great venerable called Zaid Ibn Thaabit (RA).
The event of compiling the Qur’aan into one Holy Book is only mentioned in relation with that great Companion.
When roses of honor are scattered on the day of remembrance of all the blessed ones who deserve credit for the compilation and preservation of the Qur’aan and putting it into its right order, Ibn Thaabit’s share of those roses will be the greatest.
He was an Ansaar from Al-Madinah. When the Prophet (SAW) reached Al-Madinah in his Hijrah, Zaid was eleven years old. The young boy embraced Islam together with the Muslims of his dan and was then blessed by a prophetic supplication of Allah.
His father took him to take part in the Battle of Badr, but the Prophet (SAW) sent him back because of his tender age and body.
On the day of Uhud, Zaid went with a group of veterans to the Prophet (SAW), begging humbly to be accepted into any of the veteran ranks. Their relatives were more insistent, begging and hoping. The Prophet (SAW) took a thankful look at the young horseman, seeming as if he was going to apologize for not recruiting them in this battle also. However, one of them, Raafi’ Ibn Khudaij, approached the Prophet (SAW) holding a lance, moving it skillfully with his right hand. He then said to the Prophet (SAW), “As you can see, I am a spearman. I can throw very well. Please let me!”
The Prophet (SAW) greeted the mature and energetic young man with a delightful smile, then he allowed him. The blood burst into the veins of his peers.
The second who approached was Samurah Ibn Jundub, who set off waving with this strong hands so that some of his relatives said to the Prophet, ‘Samurah will kill Raafi’.” The Prophet (SAW) greeted him with a kind smile and allowed him.
Both Samurah and Raaf were already 15 years old, with strong manly shapes. Six of the young peers were left, among them Zaid Ibn Thaabit and ‘Abd Allah Ibn ‘Umar. They set out to do their best, humbly begging the first time, weeping and crying the second time, and flexing their muscles the third time. However, they were too young and their bodies were still unripe, so the Prophet r promised them to take part in the next battle.
That is why Zaid Ibn Thaabit began to play the role of a warrior in the cause of Allah on the Day of Al-Khandaq, in A.H. 5.
His believing, faithful personality was developing rapidly and amazingly. He was not just proficient as a warrior but also as an intellectual possessing various different merits. He followed up the Qur’aanic revelation, learning it by heart, writing it for the Prophet r, proving to be exquisite in terms of knowledge and wisdom. When the Prophet r began to proclaim his message to the outer world and to send his messages to kings and emperors, he ordered Zaid to get acquainted with some of their languages, which is what he actually did in a very short time.
In this way Zaid Ibn Thaabit’s personality became brighter and occupied a high position in the newly built society and became subject to Muslims’ respect and honor.
Ash- Shabiy reported: Zaid Ibn Thaabit set out to ride, so Ibn ‘Abbaas held the bridle. Zaid said to him, “O cousin of the Prophet (SAW), let me pass.” Ibn ‘Abbaas replied, “No, it’s the way we treat our ‘Ulamaa (scholars).”
Zaid was Al-Madinah’s most superior one in the field of judgment, jurisprudence, reciting, and the knowledge of obligatory duties.
Thaabit Ibn “Ubaid reported, “I’ve never seen a more cheerful man at home and a more respectable one at his assembly than Zaid.”
Ibn “Abbas said, “The tutors of Qur’aanic recitation among the Companions of the Prophet knew that Zaid was one of those deeply rooted in knowledge.”
All these qualities by which Zaid was described by the Prophet’s Companions make us more acquainted with the person. Destiny would endow him with the honor of the assignment considered to be one of the most noble tasks in the entire Islamic history, the task of compiling the Qur’aan.
Since the divine revelation began to be revealed upon the Prophet’s heart, he would be one of the wamers. The message of the Qur’aan and the call to Allah started with these manificent verses:
<Read: In the Name of your LordWho created – created mankind from something which clings; Read ! And your Lord is the Most Noble; Who taught by the pen, Taught mankind what he did not know > (96:1 – 5).
Since the time the revelation started, the Prophet r turned his face towards Allah, asking for his further enlightment and guidance.
During all the years of the Islamic revelation, when the Prophet (SAW) ended a battle to begin another one; and when he foiled his enemies’ conspiracies and plans only to encounter a new foe and another and then another; when he was seriously building a new world, with all that seriousness means, the Qur’aan was sent down and the Prophet (SAW) recited and proclaimed it. While there was a small blessed group moved by its keen interest in the Qur’aan from the very first day, some of them set out to learn what they could by heart, and others, who were talented in writing, set out to preserve the written verses.
During the course of almost 23 years the Qur’aan was sent down verse by verse, or some verses following other verses, responding to various circumstances and instances, while those reciters and scribes went on fulfilling their task with great success.
The Qur’aan was not sent down as a whole; thus it was not a composed book nor an invented one. It is rather a guide for a new nation built in reality, step by step, day after day. Its faith is promoted and its heart, mind, and determination are shaped according to a divine will, a will not imposed from above, but rather by means of a total conviction in this divine will. That is how the human conduct of this nation is going to be guided.
Therefore, the revelation of the Qur’aan had to be piecemeal, in order to follow up the growth and advancement of such conduct and its ever changing situations and challenging difficulties.
Reciters as well as scribes competed and turned to recite the Qur’aan and to write it down. Leading them were Ali Ibn Abi Taalib, Ubaiy Ibn K’ab, ‘Abd Allah Ibn Mas’uud, ‘Abd Allah Ibn ‘Abbaas, and the honorable Companion we are talking about right now, Zaid Ibn Thaabit (May Allah be pleased with them all).
After it had been completely revealed and during the last period of revelation, the Prophet (SAW) recited it to the Muslims with its chapters and verses put in order.
After the Prophet’s death (SAW) the Muslims were busy with the apostate battles.
During the Battle of Al-Yamaamah – which was mentioned when we talked about Khaalid Ibn Al-Waliid and Zaid Ibn Al-Khattaab – the number of reciters who died as martyrs was tremendous. The flames of war had hardly died down when Umar hurried to Caliph Abu Bakr As-Siddiiq (RA) asking him insistingly to compile the Qur’aan quickly before the remaining reciters and scribes of the Qur’aan passed away.
The caliph asked Allah for guidance and consulted his companions, then sent for Zaid Ibn Thaabit and told him, “You’re a rational youth, in whom we find no faults.” Then he ordered him to begin compiling the Qur’aan, assisted by people of experience in that matter. Zaid carried on his work, upon which the whole destiny of Islam as a religion depended.
He stood the test in accomplishing the most difficult and crucial task. He went on compiling the chapters and verses from the reciters’ memories and from the written work comparing , refuting and investigating until he could gather the whole Qur’aan and put it in order.
His success was attested to by the honorable record of the Companions’ consensus (May Allah be pleased with them). They, especially the scholars, reciters, and scribes, had heard the Qur’aan being recited by the Prophet r during all the different phases of Islam.
Zaid once described the tremendous difficulty which this holy, honorable task represented : “By Allah, if they had asked me to move a whole mountain from its place, it would have been easier than the task of compiling the Qur’aan which they ordered me to fulfil!”
Indeed, to carry a whole mountain, or several mountains, on his back would have pleased Zaid more than to make the slightest error in moving a verse or completing a chapter.
His conscience and religion could withstand any error except a mistake such as this, no matter how tiny or unintentional it may be. However, Allah’s guidance accompanied him as well as His promise:
< Indeed ! We are the One Who has revealed the Qur’aan, and We will most surely preserve it > (15 : 9).
So he succeeded in accomplishing his work, his duty, and responsibility as well as it could be.
This was the first phase of the compilation of the Qur’aan. However, at that time it had been compiled and written down in more than one book. Although the little difference between these books was merely in the pronunciation, experience had proven the necessity of uniting them all in one book.
During the caliphate of ‘Uthmaan (RA) the Muslims continued their expansions, spreading far from Al-Madinah.
During those days, Islam received each day groups of new converts embracing Islam, one group following the other swearing the oath of allegiance. It was becoming more and more obvious what a danger the variety in the Holy Books might present, especially when different tongues recited the Qur’aan. Even the dialects of the earlier and later Companions differed.
At that stage, a group of Companions with Hudhaifah Ibn Al-Yamaan went to the Caliph Uthmaan explaining the necessity to unite the Holy Books into one.
The Caliph asked Allah for His guidance and consulted his Companions. As Abu Bakr As-Siddiiq had sought Zaid’s aid, so did Uthmaan.
So, Zaid brought all his companions and assistants together and they brought all the different verses of the Qur’aan from the house of Hafsah the daughter of Umar y, where they were kept safe. Thereupon Zaid and his comrades started to carry on their great task.
All those who helped Zaid were scribes of the revelation and Qur’aan reciters. Despite that, when they disagreed — which rarely happened — they always considered Zaid’s word to be the final decision.
We can only imagine the tremendous difficulties encountered by those destined by Allah to gather and preserve the Qur’aan when we read it so easily or hear it recited.
It is exactly like the horrors they encountered and the souls they willingly gave away while fighting in the cause of Allah, in order to spread a virtuous, precious religion over the earth and to dispel darkness with a dear light.