The Quran was reveled fragmented in twenty three years, thirteen years in Makkah and ten years in Madinah. The Quran was not revealed to the prophet (PBUH) all at once but it the revelation was according to occasions and events.
This fact was owing to the supreme wisdom of Allah (SWT) in order to simplify the understanding and memorization of the Quran to the Muslim nation which was illiterate in majority, until people gradually get educated, master the teachings of Islam and get rid of invalid beliefs and unethical traditions. Allah (SWT) Says: “He it is Who hath sent among the unlettered ones a messenger of their own, to recite unto them His revelations and to make them grow, and to teach them the Scripture and wisdom, though heretofore they were indeed in error manifest”, [Surah Al-Jumma, Verse 2].
Once Quranic verses were revealed, the Prophet Muhammad used to select one of his companions to write down the verses. He also advised its placement within the growing body of text and also used to review with the writer during the writing process. Once a writer completed writing a verse, the prophet said: “read it to me”, to correct any slipup; otherwise the writer would spread it among the people.
At the time of Abu Bakr Caliphate many of Arab tribes converted these scribes and early Muslim devotees were killed in the Battle of Yamama. While the community mourned the loss of their comrades, they also began to worry about the long-term preservation of the Holy Quran. Recognizing that the words of Allah needed to be collected in one place and preserved, the Caliph Abu Bakr ordered all people who had written pages of the Quran to compile them in one place. The project was organized and supervised by one of the Prophet Muhammad’s key scribes, Zayd bin Thabit.
When Abu Bakr as-Șiddīq became caliph, some tribes that had newly adopted Islam turned back from Islam. In the eleventh Hijri year, a battle took place at Al-Yamamah between the renegades led by Musaylima (the Liar) and the Muslims under the leadership of Khalid bin Al-Walid (may Allah's blessings be upon him). In that battle, seventy Quran reciters were martyred. Umar bin Khattab (may Allah's blessings be upon him), became very concerned for that loss, fearing that the Quran could be lost if more reciters were killed. He, therefore, rushed to Caliphate Abu Bakr as-Șiddīq and urged him to compile the Quran into one book.
However, as-Șiddīq showed reluctance and rejected the idea at first glance, fearing that he would appear as if he was giving more attention to Islam than what Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) had given in his own lifetime. Umar went on in persuading him until Allah opened his heart to accept the idea. He assigned Zeid bin Thabit to this task, who had attended the last review of the Quran with the prophet. Zeid was a trusted, wise and reliable young man and one of those who wrote down the revelation (Wahi) for the Prophet (PBUH) at Madina.
Then Abu Bakr said (to him): “You are a wise young man and beyond any doubts, and you used to write the Divine Inspiration, for Allah’s Apostle (PBUH). So you should search for (the fragmentary scripts of) the Quran and collect it (in one book).
Zeid used not to write down anything until two eye-witnesses or more testified that they had written it down or heard it from the Prophet (PBUH), which indicates his keenness (may Allah's blessings be upon him), to combine both memorization and writing for enhanced documentation and scrutiny. He compiled it in accordance according to the last review he heard from the Prophet (PBUH). In writing down the pages, he was keen to include only whatever proved to be authentic through narration chains (tawator), what had been confirmed in the last review and what had not been revoked as unanimously agreed by the Prophet's companions. He was keen on placing all verses and chapters in order. It was for this that Ali bin Abi Talib (may Allah's blessings be upon him) said, "The person who would have the greatest reward for the Quran is Abu Bakr, he was the first to collect it between two covers". The collected manuscripts remained in the custody of Abu Bakr, then assigned to Umar and finally to Hafsa, the Mother of Believers, (may Allah's blessings be upon all).
Islam spread to all corners of the world, and newly converted to Islam and people in all Islamic countries began to study Allah’'s religion in depth and learn the Holy Quran. This gave rise to more copies of the Quran to be written down as was read by the Prophet's companions. Each Muslim group tend to recite the Quran in the style they received it in their own country. Muslims used to listen to each other's recitation of the Quran whenever they met on various occasions, and they started to observe differences between the various recitations. Each area follows the recitation they received in their dialect from the companions; in the view that their own style of recitation is correct. This was a source of differences.
Hudhayfa bi Al-Yaman, (may Allah's blessings be upon him), who had participated in the conquests of Armenia and Azerbaijan returned back and there he witnessed the rise of differences occurred between the battalions from Iraq and Syria regarding the recitation of the Holy Quran. He went to Caliph Uthman bin Affan, (may Allah's blessings be upon him), and said: "O, Amir of Believers, have something done for this Umma before they differ on the Quran similar to the differences between Jews and Christians".
Accordingly, Uthman consulted his brothers and companions, (may Allah's blessings be upon them all), and took the following steps:
- Inviting the Companions to write down a leading copy of the Holy Quran so that Muslims can follow in their various districts. He addressed Sahabas saying: "O, Companions of Muhammad get together and write down an Imama (guiding book) for the people”.
- Choosing four of the dignified Companions, (may Allah's blessings be upon them all), to write down the Quran. These were: Zeid bin Thabit, from Al-Ansar, Abdulla bi Azzubayr, Sai'd bin Al-A's, and Abdurrahman bi Al-Harith of Quraish. These people were highly knowledgeable and eloquent. Anyone who review their careers and checks their high scientific capabilities and noble manners will surely realize that their selection was attached with the grace of Allah, Who has vowed to safeguard His Book as well as the great keenness on the part of righteous (Rashid) Caliph Uthman and his brothers the Companions, (may Allah's blessings be upon them all).
- Determining a precise approach for writing: He gave full support and followed up their work. As signs of their prudence and attentiveness, they manifested great care for the last rehearsal whereby the Prophet, (PBUH) rehearsed the Holy Quran twice before Gabriel in the last year of the Prophet's lifetime.
Zeid bin Thabit had witnessed this rehearsal, and this qualified him to be selected by Abu Bakr and Umar for the first collection of the Quran and by Uthman for the second collection.
This collection was made the verses and chapters arranged in the well-known order reflected in the Book these days, and as per the pronunciation resting in the last rehearsal as reported from the Prophet (PBUH). It was in this way that the Holy Quran was collected and compiled with utmost accuracy and precision. Its content remained safeguarded against any corruption and kept beyond any doubts regarding any additions to or deletions from. Uthman sent a copy thereof to each of the Islamic countries of their time.
The words of the Quran were collected as they were revealed to the Prophet Muhammad, committed to memory by the early Muslims, and recorded in writing by scribes.