Despite the controversy generated by Islamic historical sources, from a Quranic analysis it appears that the complete Quran was fully transcribed, compiled and committed to writing during the life of the Prophet.
From the Quran’s perspective (without question the most reliable historical source contemporaneous to the time of the Prophet), the position that a later copy had to be collated / compiled by the companions of the Prophet seems untenable.
If one accepts the testimony of the Quran, all debates surrounding the Quran being committed to writing later by the Caliphs, or the burning of certain copies, or to its insinuated redaction, missing verses, political motives, or the idea of companions writing it on leaves, animals skins or debris parchments become futile.
THE QURAN WAS PUT TOGETHER BY ALLAH’S DECREE DURING THE LIFETIME OF THE PROPHET
25.32 “And those who disbelieve say: Why is the Quran not revealed to him all at once? (It is revealed) thus that We may strengthen thy heart there with; and We have arranged it in right order (Arabic: Ratalnahu tartila)”
There are some key terms here that enhance understanding and context.
The phrase ‘Ratalnahu tartila’ clearly denotes the well constructed action of putting together of component parts into one integral whole endowing the complete scripture with an ‘airtight’ inner consistency devoid of errors. Further usage of this term is discussed in the next section.
This response must be understood in the pretext of the charge being made against the Prophet in the same verse.
The disbelievers ask, ‘Why is the Quran not revealed to him all at once?’ i.e. as one integral unit (Jumlatan Wahida). Regardless of the obvious charge of the polemics of Islam at the time of the Prophet with this statement which hints at a Prophet of Allah revealing verses to suit certain conditions, the Quran’s statement clearly denies the insinuations and admits to a well planned and arranged structure despite its piecemeal revelation.
75:16-17 “Move not thy tongue concerning the (Quran) to make haste with it. It is for Us to collect it and to promulgate it”
The above verse clearly states the purpose of Allah to collect it (The Quran) / put together and then to order its recitation.
THE QURAN WAS PUT TOGETHER BY THE PROPHET HIMSELF BY ALLAH’S DECREE
Many English translations completely misrepresent the essence of verse 73:4 stating that the Prophet is being asked to recite the Quran in slow measured tones or chant it in a manner that it should be chanted.
73:4 “…and arrange (Arabic: Wa-rattili) the Quran in its arrangement (Arabic: Tartilan)”
Both the words rattilli and tartilan are formed of the same root word RA-TA-LAM which means to put something in order, to make even or well arranged/set together, to make correct or to put in the right state of arrangement.
We noted similar uses of the word in verse 25:32 which connects with the verse above. Therefore the arrangement of the Quran was not only put together in the lifetime of the Prophet, but by the Prophet himself by Allah’s decree and under the Prophet’s supervision.
Whether this ‘arrangement’ is being instructed as a requirement during any recitation the Prophet may have made (as common translations seem to imply by the mention of ‘chanting’), the fact that an arrangement is being clearly instructed as an action on behalf of the Prophet is difficult to dispute.
Furthermore, the above verse provides strong indication of the Quran’s initial stages of revelation supported by a process of early arrangement as the next verse confirms.
73.5 Indeed, We will cast upon you a heavy/weighty Word (Arabic: Qawlan thaqilan)
Therefore, the Quran at the point of verse 73:4 is still in its infancy and the Prophet would be ultimately charged with a ‘weighty’ word from Allah completed during the lifetime of his ministry (73:5). As the process of proper arrangement would be a continuous exercise working in tandem with revelation, it is clear that by the time of its completion, the Quran would also be fully arranged in a perfected order.
THE RELIGION WAS COMPLETED DURING THE LIFETIME OF THE PROPHET
In the famous verse of Surah Maida (Chapter 5), often quoted with reference to the favour bestowed by ‘perfecting the Deen’, one must ask the obvious question as to how it was possible to complete a ‘Deen’ (a system / religion) without the bedrock of instructions formulated and referenced by scripture? One must therefore posit the possible conclusion that for a ‘Deen’ to be complete, the scripture must have taken its final form.
5.3 “Forbidden to you (for food) are: dead meat, blood, the flesh of swine, and that on which has been invoked the name of other than Allah; that which hath been killed by strangling, or by a violent blow, or by a headlong fall, or by being gored to death; that which hath been (partly) eaten by a wild animal; unless ye are able to slaughter it (in due form); that which is sacrificed on stone (altars); (forbidden) also is the division (of meat) by raffling with arrows: that is impiety. This day have those who reject faith given up all hope of your religion: yet fear them not but fear Me. This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion. But if any is forced by hunger, with no inclination to transgression, Allah is indeed Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful”
THE QURAN WAS WRITTEN DOWN BY NOBLE SCRIBES AT THE TIME OF THE PROPHET
80.13-16 “(It is) in sheets / pages held (greatly) in honour (Arabic: fi suhufin mukarrama), Exalted (in dignity), kept pure and holy (Arabic: marfu’atin mutahhara), (Written) by the hands of scribes. (Arabic: bi’aydi safara), honourable and pious and just (Arabic: kiramin barara)”
Other Quranic references also strengthen this position:
68.1 Nun. By the Pen and the (Record) which (men) write,-
96.1-5 “Read in the name of your Lord Who created. He created man from a clot. Read and your Lord is Most Honorable, Who taught (to write) with the pen. Taught man what he knew not”
98.2-3 “A messenger from Allah, reciting purified pages. Wherein are laws (or decrees) right and straight”
25.5 “And they say: The stories of the ancients – he has got them written – so these are read out to him morning and evening”
Note that albeit an accusation of plagiarism is being made by the disbelievers against the Prophet, there is more than an allusion that the Quran was already committed (being committed) to written form.
THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE QURAN’S PROTECTION WAS WITH ALLAH NOT MAN
15:9 “We have, without doubt, sent down the Reminder (Zikr); and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption)”
THE QURAN LEGITIMISES ITS OWN STUDY
The Quran clearly states with regards itself that:
It is a clear proof (6:157)
That it is a book in which its verses are explained in detail (41:3)
It is a manifest light (42:52)
That it fully explains to mankind in all kinds of ways and similitude (39:27;17:89;18:54:)
Readers are asked to ‘tadabur’ on the Quran (Ponder, reflect, study ardently till the matter is completely clear) and follow it in strict terms:
Think, meditate, endeavour to understand it, research it and study it repeatedly in order to know it.
23.68 “ Do they not ponder (Arabic: Tadaburu) over the Word (of Allah), or has anything (new) come to them that did not come to their fathers of old?”
47.24 “Do they not then earnestly seek to understand the Quran (Arabic: Tadabaruna), or are their hearts locked up by them?”
50:45 “We know best what they say; and you are not one to overawe them by force. So admonish with the Quran such as fear My Warning!”
It is clear from many references that the Quran has a simple message that it is an unambiguous scripture and that all humankind is invited to reflect, ponder and meditate on its verses. The Quran is not merely restricted to man appointed ‘specialists’ or ‘clergy’ that can potentially guide the text to fit their own motives. Rather, it is a duty for all to seek and extract its core and peripheral messages. There is clearly more than a tacit allusion that there exists a divine legitimacy to study the Quran for oneself through the consistency of the primary text itself.
From the Quran’s own consistency and message, it seems clear that the Quran took its final written form including its collation during the time of the Prophet. It was the written and oral transmission working in tandem, which most likely assisted in its preservation.