The preservation of Islamic scripture has no precedence in any other culture, civilisation or religion.
It stands as unique and although the details can be complex this complexity actually proves how Muslims were meticulous over their preservation.
They went to the nth degree debating critiquing and developing a systematic methodology in order to ensure Islam was preserved.
I want to give some brief examples just to emphasise this point
1. The Prophet (saw) would have designated scribes who were tasked in recording the revelations. We know their names, their lineage and their biographies. We also know the Prophet (saw) would check the memorisation and the recitation of the revelation, both the Qur'an and his Sunnah.
2. The sahaba would ensure that if anybody departed from what they knew of the revelation they’d check with the Prophet (saw) as we saw in numerous ahadith in which sahaba who recited the Qur'an in the different readings would return back to the prophet (saw) to check whether such recitations were correct.
3. After the Prophet (saw) we saw the sahaba undertake a great effort to ensure the written verses of the Qur'an were brought together into one mushhaf (book). They would ensure that those who wrote down the Qur'an would bring two witnesses before Zaid ibn thabit (a scribe of the prophet and Hafiz of Quran) that testified that this written parchment was written in front of the Prophet (saw) and that this written form was in accordance to the collective recitation of the generation of the sahaba. This took place within a year after the Prophet (saw).
4. Within 25 years after Hijra, Uthman (ra) recommissioned Zaid ibn thabit (ra) to reproduce the mushhaf of the Qur'an to be sent to the different regions of the khilafah. Not just one mushhaf with one reading but multiple copies that encompassed all the readings of the Qur'an. Uthman (ra) sent not only these canonised mushhaf but also a hafiz and qari to recite from this mushhaf to ensure that the different regions had the correct recitation and the divinely revealed scripture before them.
5. In the sunnah the sahaba would cross reference a hadith narrated by a companion with other companions eg when Umar (ra) asked Abu musa al Ansari (ra) to bring a witness that the Prophet (saw) said to knock three times and if no answer then to leave. And he brought Muhammad bin Maslama to testify that he also heard this.
6. The early generation of the Muslims from the time of the sahaba began developing the script of the Arabic language to make it easy for non native Arabs to recite the Qur'an and thus prevent any distortion in its reading. From the diacritical marks above the consonance to help with the vowelisation to the development of the script (orthography) and evening the ordering of the alphabet. Again all done to preserve the Qur'an and sunnah and it’s meanings.
6. The early Muslims (again began in the time of the sahaba) began collecting the vocabulary of the Arabic language developing dictionary of terms.
7. Within the first century the codification began of the Arabic grammar and morphology to ensure that the Arabic language doesn’t evolve beyond the rules and grammar of the Arabic spoken at the time of the Prophet (saw).
8. The Muslims developed and codified the science of rhetoric (Ilm al-balagha) which meant in part the collection of pre Islamic poetry and the manner of language spoken by the Bedouin Arabs who had little interaction with other non Arab civilisations and cultures. Preserving the rhetoric of the language and it’s idioms again fixed the language and thus fixed the meaning found within the Qur'an and sunnah.
9. The Muslims developed the isnad system and the science of hadith and narrations. Thus they subdivided reports into different categories from ghareeb, aziz, mashhur and mutawattir. They classified these reports through analysis of the type of chains, the narrators in these chains and the reports mentioned by these narrators into four general classes. This became known as uloom al-adith
10. They laid down criteria to distinguish between irregular readings of the Qur'an to the standard ones. Thus they said that a standard reading is one which has a chain going back to the Prophet (saw), that conformed to the rules of the Arabic language, that was in conformity to the uthmanic mushhaf and that the particular reading was mutawattir. Hence they were able to lay down the seven different categories of divinely revealed variant readings. So for example they were able to distinguish between malik and maalik as standard readings from malaka as shadh (irregular) reading in surah Fatiha.
This is just some of what they did to preserve the scripture and meanings found in the Qur'an and sunnah. And we haven’t mentioned the many thousands of huffaz there were in both the Quran and also ahadith.
Now compare this to any other civilisation or religion.
Was there anything that approached this level of meticulousness?
Were there schools developed just on grammar?
Or a detailed isnad system?
Or the canonisation of the readings of the Qur'an?
And just for comparison, we have the New Testament in which we have little to no knowledge of who the gospel writers are. And a gap of decades between the life of Isa (as) to the first authored gospel where we do not know who these gospel writers took their information nor whether any methodology was used to distinguish between weak and strong reports.
So what we have is more authentic than Shakespeare's plays, the Magna Carta, the Iliad or the British national anthem.
It’s really something to contemplate upon and what level Islam was preserved and all of this effort was done because the early Muslims sincerely believed in the revelation and to ensure absolutely no distortion or human element crept into the divinely revealed scriptures of the Quran and the sunnah.
In this is evidence for Islam’s divine origin for if Islam was a human invention, why would they have gone into such immense and detailed effort to ensure it remains preserved and free of human distortion?
And even after all of this we have the divine protection from Allah swt.
“Indeed, We have revealed the dhikr and We will surely be its guardian.” (Qur’an 15: 9)
Great answers start with great insights. Content becomes intriguing when it is voted up or down - ensuring the best answers are always at the top.
Questions are answered by people with a deep interest in the subject. People from around the world review questions, post answers and add comments.
Be part of and influence the most important global discussion that is defining our generation and generations to come