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Bismillah ir Rahman ir Raheem
Published on 25th September, 2001

The Quran Compiled by Imam Ali ('a)

By Unknown

Tiny Quoran. File photo

There is no dispute among Muslim scholars, whether they are Sunni or Shia, concerning the fact that the Commander of Believers, Imam Ali ('a), possessed a special transcript of the text of Quran which he had collected himself, and he was the first who compiled the Holy Quran. 

There are a great number of traditions from Sunni and Shia which states that after the death of the Holy Prophet ('s), that Imam Ali ('a) sat down in his house and said that he had sworn an oath that he would not put on his outdoor clothes or leave his house until he collects together the Quran.

Sunni References:

  • Fat'hul Bari fi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, v10, p386

  • al-fihrist, by (Ibn) an-Nadim, p30.

  • al-Itqan, by al-Suyuti, v1, p165.

  • al-Masahif, by Ibn Abi Dawud, p10.

  • Hilyatul awliya', by Abu Nu'aym, v1, p67.

  • al-Sahibi, by Ibn Faris, p79.

  • 'Umdatul Qari, by al-Ayni, v20, p16.

  • Kanzul Ummal, by al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, v15, pp 112-113.

  • al-Sawa'iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Ch. 9, Section 4, p197.

  • Ma'rifat al-Qurra' al-kibar, by al-Dhahabi, v1, p31.

There are also traditions from the Imams of Ahlul Bayt ('a) which tell us that this was done by Imam Ali ('a) by order of the Holy Prophet ('s) (See al-Bihar, v92, p 40-41,48,51-52).

This transcript of Quran which was compiled by Imam Ali ('a) had the following unique specifications:

a) It was collected according to its revelation, i.e., in the order in which it had been sent down. This is the reason that Muhammad Ibn Sireen (33/653 - 110/729), the famous scholar and Tabi'i (disciples of the companions of the Holy Prophet), regretted that this transcript had not passed into the hands of the Muslims and said: 

"If that transcript were in our hands, we would found a great knowledge in it."

Sunni References:

  • at-Tabaqat, by Ibn Sa'd, v2, part 2, p101.

  • Ansab al-ashraf, by al-Baladhuri, v1, p587.

  • al-Istiab, by Ibn Abd al-Barr, v3, pp 973-974.

  • Sharh Ibn Abi al-Hadid, v6, pp 40-41.

  • al-Tas'hil, by Ibn Juzzi al-Kalbi, v1, p4.

  • al-Itqan, by al-Suyuti, v1, p166.

  • al-Sawa'iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Ch. 9, Section 4, p197.

  • Ma'rifat al-Qurra' al-kibar, by al-Dhahabi, v1, p32

It is according to this transcript that Sunni scholars relate that the first Chapter of Quran which was sent down to the Prophet ('s) was Chapter al-Iqra (al-Alaq, Ch. 96).

Sunni References:

  • al-Burhan, by al-Zarkashi, v1, p259.

  • al-Itqan, by al-Suyuti, v1, p202.

  • Fathul Bari, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, v10, p417.

  • Irshad al-Sari, by al-Qastalani, v7, p454

It is well known that the Chapter al-Alaq is not at the beginning of the present Quran. Also Muslims agree that the verse (5:3) was among one of the last revealed verses of Quran (but not the very last one), yet it is not toward the end of the present Quran. This clearly proves that although the Quran that we have available is complete, it is not in the order that has been revealed. These few misplacements were done by some companions on purpose at worst, or out of ignorance at least.

It was for this reason that the Commander of Believers, Ali ('a) frequently stated in his sermons:

"Ask me before you lose me. By Allah, if you ask me about anything that could happen up to the Day of Judgment, I will tell you about it. Ask me, for, by Allah, you will not be able to ask me a question about anything without my informing you. Ask me about the Book of Allah, for by Allah, there is no verse about which I do not know whether it was sent down at night or during the day, or whether it was revealed on a plain or in a mountain."

Sunni References:

  • al-Riyadh al-Nadhirah, by al-Muhib al-Tabari, v2, p198.

  • at-Tabaqat, by Ibn Sa'd, v2, part 2, p101.

  • al-Isabah, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, v4, p568.

  • Tahdhib al-Tahdhib, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, v7, pp 337-338.

  • Fathul Bari, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, v8, p485.

  • al-Istiab, by Ibn Abd al-Barr, v3, p1107.

  • Tarikh al-Khulafa, by al-Suyuti, p124.

  • al-Itqan, by al-Suyuti, v2, p319.

b) This transcript contained commentary and hermeneutic interpretation (Tafsir and Ta'wil) from the Holy Prophet, some of which had been sent down as revelation but not as a part of the text of Quran. A small amount of such texts can be found in some traditions in Usul al-Kafi. These pieces of information were the Divine commentary of the text of Quran which were revealed along with Quranic verses. Thus the commentary verses and Quranic verses could sum up to 17000 verses. As Sunnis know, Hadith al-Qudsi (the Hadith in which the speaker is Allah) is also direct revelation, but they are not a part of Quran. In fact Quran testifies that anything that the Prophet said was (either direct or indirect) revelation (See Quran 53:3-4). The direct revelation includes the interpretation commentary of the Quran.

In addition, this unique transcript contained the information from the Holy Prophet ('s) about which verse was abrogated and which was abrogating, which verse was clear (Muhkam) and which was ambiguous (Mutashabih), which verse was general and which was specific.

c) This unique transcript also contained references to the persons, places etc., about which the verses were revealed, what is called "Asbab al- Nuzul". Since the Commander of Believers was aware of these facts, he frequently said:

"By Allah, no verse has been sent down without my knowing about whom or what it was revealed and where it was revealed. My Lord has gifted me with a mind which has a quick and retaining understanding, and a tongue which speaks eloquently."

Sunni References:

  • Hilyatul Awliyaa, by Abu Nu'aym, v1, pp 67-68.

  • at-Tabaqat, by Ibn Sa'd, v2, part 2, p101.

  • Kanzul Ummal, by al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, v15, p113.

  • al-Sawa'iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Ch. 9, Section 4, p197.

After he compiled this transcript, Imam Ali ('a) took it and presented it to the rulers who came after the Holy Prophet ('s), and said:

"Here is the book of Allah, your Lord, in the order that was revealed to your Prophet."

But they did not accept it and replied:

"We have no need of this. We have with us what you possess." 

Thereupon, Imam Ali ('a) took the transcript back and informed them that they will never see it again. It is reported that Imam Ali ('a) recited the latter part of the following verse of Quran:

"And when Allah took a Covenant from the People of the Book to clarify it to mankind and not to hide its (clarification); 
but they threw it away behind their backs and purchased with it some miserable gain! 
And what an evil was the bargain they made!"

(Quran 3:187)

By "its clarification", Imam Ali ('a) meant the unique divine commentaries. The Commander of the Believers then concealed that transcript, and after him it was passed to the Imams ('a) who also kept it concealed. It remained concealed with the Imams ('a), one after the other to this day, because they wished to be only one sequence of Quran among the Muslims. Because otherwise if people have had two different sequences, it might later result to some alteration in Quran by some sick-minded people. They wished people have strictly one sequence of Quran. 

The Quran and its commentary which were collected by Imam Ali ('a) is not available for any Shia in the world except to the Imam Mahdi ('a). If the transcript of the Commander of Believers ('a) had been accepted, that would have been the Quran with unique commentary in the hand of people, but it turned out to be otherwise.

This gives the meaning of the traditions in Usul al-Kafi which say that no one but the Commander of Believers and the later Imams ('a) had the Quran in the order in which  it was revealed, and that the Quran which they had contains "what can be understood of the heaven, etc." and "the Knowledge of the Book, all of it," because they were the commentaries and interpretations noted in the transcript of Imam Ali ('a) directly from the Holy Prophet ('s). Allah, to whom belong Might and Majesty, said:

"And We have sent down on you a Book in which is the clarification of all the things.
(Quran 16:89)

Tahrif

Sometimes the word "tahrif" is used in some traditions, and it must be made clear that the meaning of this word is changing of something from its proper place to another place, like changing the right position of sentence, or giving it a meaning other than its true or intended meaning. Therefore, it has absolutely nothing to do with addition or subtraction from the text.

It is thus with this meaning that the Quran states:

"Some of the Jews distort (yuharrifuna) words from their meaning"
(Quran 4:46).

This meaning of "tahrif", i.e., changing of meaning or changing the context, as it appears in the Quran, has not only been applied in the Muslim community to the verses of the Quran but also to the ahadith of the Holy Prophet, even by rulers who have been prepared to use Islam to their own personal advantage. It is this "tahrif", with this meaning, that the Imams of Ahlul-Bayt ('a) have constantly sought to oppose. As one example, Imam al-Baqir ('a) complained about the situation of the Muslims and their corrupt rulers, and said:

"One of the manifestations of their rejecting the Book (of Allah behind their backs) (see Quran 2:101) is that they have fixed its words. but they have altered the limits (of its command) (harrafu hududah). They have (correctly) narrated it, but they do not observe (what) it (says). Ignorant people delight in their preservation of its narration, but the knowledgeable people deplore their ignoring to observe (what) it (says)."

Shi'i references:

  • al-Kafi, v8, p53.

  • al-Wafi, v5, p274 and v14, p214.

This use of "tahrif" is taken as a definition for the word wherever it appears in the ahadith of the Imams, similar to what Quran (4:46) has used.

It is necessary to emphasize here that all grand scholars of the Imami Shia are in agreement that the Quran which is at present among the Muslims is the very same Quran that was sent down to the Holy Prophet ('s), and that it has not been altered. Nothing has been added to it, and nothing is missing from it. 

The Quran which was compiled by Imam Ali (excluding the commentaries) and the Quran that is in the hands of people today, are identical in terms of words and sentences. No word, verse or chapter is missing. The only difference is that the current Quran (collected by the companions) is not in the order that was revealed.

And Allah (swt) knows best.

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