Boreal

The War of the Apostates

and the First Written Koran

The messenger of God went out into the marketplace of Medina and had trenches dug in it; then he sent for them and had them beheaded in those trenches … Ali and al-Zubayr cutting off their heads in his presence …

They were brought out to him in groups … They numbered 600 or 700—the largest estimate says they were between 800 and 900 … the affair continued until the Messenger of God had finished with them.

Tabari on the massacre of the men of the Banu Qurayzah

Mass executions have been very much a tactic of Islam since the beginning, both in its wars of conquest and intestinal conflicts. The slaughter which took place towards the end of the War of the Apostates was the first documented massacre of more than a thousand men at the hands of the believers.

The war was waged by the Prophet's successor, Abu Bakr, and would lead to the decision to compile a written version of the Koran.

The first Koran was put together in a hurry from what could be considered mainly second-rate sources after those who remembered Allah’s revelations best were killed putting down a rebellion against Muslim rule known as the War of the Apostates. In the last phase of that war, 7,000 apostates were surrounded and shown no mercy.

The believers’ opponents were not into extermination, therefore Muslim casualties tended to be less, but still, at the battle of Yamama, 70 or so fanatics of the Koran, the professional reciters of Islam’s Holy Book, were killed.

The loss of the best "Koranic memories" meant that Zaid bin Thabit Al-Ansari, the young man tasked with putting together the first version of the Koran had to depend on less reliable sources to create a written record of what Allah first told the angel Gabriel, and which he, in turn, revealed to God's latest and last spokesperson, the Prophet Muhammad.

Zaid bin Thabit Al-Ansari, in his own words, on how it all came about:

Abu Bakr sent for me after the (heavy) casualties among the warriors (of the battle) of Yamama (where a great number of Qurra' (reciters of the Koran) were killed). Umar was present with Abu Bakr who said, “Umar has come to me and said, ‘The people have suffered heavy casualties on the day of (the battle of) Yamama, and I am afraid that there will be more casualties among the Qurra' (those who know the Qur'an by heart) at other battle-fields, whereby a large part of the Qur'an may be lost, unless you collect it. And I am of the opinion that you should collect the Qur'an.’"

"You are a wise young man and we do not suspect you (of telling lies or of forgetfulness): and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah's Apostle. Therefore, look for the Qur'an and collect it (in one manuscript)."

By Allah, if he (Abu Bakr) had ordered me to shift one of the mountains (from its place) it would not have been harder for me than what he had ordered me concerning the collection of the Qur'an. I said to both of them, "How dare you do a thing which the Prophet has not done?"

Abu Bakr said, "By Allah, it is (really) a good thing." So I kept on arguing with him about it till Allah opened my bosom for that which He had opened the bosoms of Abu Bakr and Umar. So I started locating Quranic material and collecting it from parchments, scapula, leaf-stalks of date palms and from the memories of men (who knew it by heart).

The manuscript on which the Quran was collected, remained with Abu Bakr till Allah took him unto Him, and then with 'Umar till Allah took him unto Him, and finally it remained with Hafsa, Umar's daughter.

Bukhari 60.201

The finished product appears to have been put together in a haphazard manner. There is no timeline. The only allowance given to any kind of order is the sequencing of most of the 114 chapters from longest to shortest.

Because no attention seems to have been given to arranging the chapters and verses in some kind of chronological order, you often get answers to questions that have yet to be asked. And duplicates, triplicates, quadruplicates and even quintuplets abound.

There is little scholarship evident in its production, although, some editing may have been done in producing copies for distribution from Thabit's original which the daughter of Caliph Umar kept under her bed. It was retrieved on order of Uthman who succeeded Umar as caliph.

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were Waging war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur'an, so he said to Uthman, "O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Quran) as Jews and the Christians did before."

So Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, "Send us the manuscripts of the Qur'an so that we may compile the Qur'anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you."

Hafsa sent it to Uthman. Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, Abdullah bin AzZubair, Said bin Al-As and Abdur Rahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies.

Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, "In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Qur'an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, the Qur'an was revealed in their tongue."

They did so, and when they had written many copies, Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa.

Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur'anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt.

Said bin Thabit added, "A Verse from Surat Ahzab was missed by me when we copied the Qur'an and I used to hear Allah's Apostle reciting it. So we searched for it and found it with Khuzaima bin Thabit Al-Ansari. (That Verse was): 'Among the Believers are men who have been true in their covenant with Allah.'" (33:23)

Bukhari 61.510

The opinion of two eminent historians on the end product:

A confused, jumble, crude, incondite, endless iteration … Thomas Carlyle [1795 - 1881]

As toilsome a reading a I ever undertook; a wearisome confused jumble. Edward Gibbon [1737 - 1794]

One of the things which make the Koran a tedious, repetitive read is Allah constantly praising himself. This has led some to speculate that the Koran is not so much a revelation from God but more of a multi-faceted prayer where the supplicant praises his would-be benefactor ad nausea in the hope of currying His favour. Allah, the Prophet let it be known, is addicted to praise; he cannot get enough of it, which is why He praises himself so much.

Narrated Abdullah bin Mas'ud:

Allah's Apostle said, "None has more sense of ghaira (self-respect, also spelled ghira) than Allah, and for this He has forbidden shameful sins whether committed openly or secretly, and none loves to be praised more than Allah does, and this is why He Praises Himself."

Bukhari 60.161

Ref: 1,001 Sayings and Deeds of the Prophet Muhammad

Ref: Shared Prophet, How the Koran Came To Be