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  • 11/26/2005


There are numerous indications in the literature of hadith that several of the Companions of the Prophet had prepared their own written collections of the revelations. [Suyuti. Itqan, I, p 62] The best-known among these are from Ibn Mas'ud, Ubay bin Ka'b and Zaid bin Thabit. [See Dodge, B, The Fihrist of al-Nadim,New York, 1970 (abbr. as fihrist), pp 53-63.]

A list of Companions of whom it is related that they had their own written collections included the following: Ibn Mas'ud, Ubay bin Ka'b, 'All, Ibn 'Abbas, Abu Musa, Hafsa, Anas bin Malik, 'Umar, Zaid bin Thabit, Ibn Al-Zubair, 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr, 'A'isha, Salim, Umm Salama, 'Ubaid bin 'Umar. [See Ibn Abi Dawud: Masahif, p 14 Ansari, M.: The qura'nic Foundations and Structure of Muslim Society;Karachi, 1973, drawing upon various sources, says (1, p.76, note 2) that there existed at least 15 written copies of the Qur'an in the Prophet's lifetime. In addition to the list of 15 names quoted above, he includes Abu Bakr, 'Uthman, Mu'adh b. Jabal, Abu Darda', Abu Ayyub Ansari, 'Ubada b. al-Samit, Tamim Dari. This would add up to 23 written copies of the Qur'an, which existed while the Prophet was alive.]

It is also known that 'A'isha and Hafsa had their own scripts written after the Prophet had died. [Rahimuddin, M. (transl.): Muwatta) Imam Malik,Lahore, 1980, No. 307, 308; Malik b. Anas: al-muwatta',Cairo, n.d., p. 105.]

The following is a very brief description of some of the masdhif, which are attributed to the Companions of the Prophet. All the information is based on classical sources. [For details see Ibn Abi Dawud, also fihrist and Itqan]

The Mushaf of Ibn Mas'ud (d. 33/653)

He wrote a mushaf, in which sudras 1, 113 and 114 were not included. Ibn al-Nadim [Fihrist, I, pp. 57-8.] however said he had seen a copy of the Qur'an from Ibn Mas'ud which did not contain al-fatiha (Sura 1). The arrangement of the suras differed from the 'Uthmanic text. The following is the order attributed to Ibn Mas'ud's copy: [Fihrist, I, pp. 53-7.]

2, 4, 3, 7, 6, 5, 10, 9, 16, 11, 12, 17, 21, 23, 26, 37, 33, 28, 24, 8, 19, 29, 30, 36, 25, 22, 13, 34, 35, 14, 38, 47, 31, 35, 40, 43, 41, 46, 45, 44, 48, 57, 59, 32, 50, 65, 49, 67, 64, 63, 62, 61, 72, 71, 58, 60, 66, 55, 53, 51, 52, 54, 69, 56, 68, 79, 70, 73, 74, 83, 80, 76, 75, 77, 78, 81, 82, 88, 87, 92, 89, 85, 84, 96, 90, 93, 94, 86, 100, 107, 101, 98, 91, 95, 104, 105, 106, 102, 97, 110, 108, 109, 111, 112.

This list is obviously incomplete. It contains only 106 suras and not 110, as Ibn Nadim wrote.

In Sura al-baqara, which I take as an example, there are a total of 101 variants. Most of them concern spelling, some also choice of words (synonyms), use of particles, etc.


Pronunciation: 2:70: Ibn Mas'ud reads" al-baqira" in place of " al-baqara

Spelling: 2:19: He reads" kulla ma" in place of " kullama"

Synonyms: 2:68: He reads " sal (seek, beseech)" in place of " ud'u (beseech)"

Assuming that all these are reliable reports, the copy of Ibn Mas'ud would then have been prepared for his personal use and written before all 114 suras were revealed.

Nadim, who lived in the tenth century (4th century Hijra) also added: 'I have seen a number of Qur'anic manuscripts, which the transcribers recorded as manuscripts of Ibn Mas'ud. No two of the Qur'anic copies were in agreement and most of them were on badly effaced parchment ... [Fihrist, I, p. 57.]

This note indicates that the question of authentic manuscripts of Ibn Mas'ud needs to be treated with some caution.

The Mushaf of Ubay ibn Ka'b (d. 29 H/649)

He wrote a mushaf, in which two 'additional suras and another 'additional aya' were reportedly found. [Itqan, I, p. 65; Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif, pp. 18S1; also Noldeke, T. et al.: Ceschichte des Qorans,Leipzig, 1909-38 (abbr. as GdQ), 11, pp. 33-8. The first so called sura entitled al-khal' (separation), translates as follows: 'O Allah, we seek your help and ask your forgiveness, and we praise you and we do not disbelieve in you.
We separate from and leave who sins against you.' The second so-called sura, entitled al-hafd (haste) translates as follows: 'O Allah, we worship You and to You we pray and prostrate and to You we run and hasten to serve You. We hope for Your mercy and we fear Your punishment. Your punishment will certainly reach the disbelievers.' Obviously these two pieces constitute so-called 'qunut', i.e. supplications which the Prophet sometimes said in the morning prayer or witr prayer after recitation of suras from the Qur'an. They are in fact identical to some parts of qunut reported in the collections of hadith. See: Nawawi, al-adhkar,Cairo, 1955, pp. 57-8.
As to the single additional so-called aya, its translation is as follows: 'If the son of Adam was given a valley full of riches, he would wish a second one, and if he was given two valleys full of riches, he would surely ask for a third one. Nothing will fill the belly of the son of Adam except dust, and Allah is forgiving to him who is repentant. '
Again this text is known to be a hadith from the Prophet. See Bukhari, VIII, No. 444-47. According to Ibn 'Abbas (No. 445) and 'Ubay (No. 446) this text was at times thought to be part of the Qur'an. However Ubay himself clarifies that after sura 102: I had been revealed, they (i.e. the sahaba) did not consider the above to be part of the Qur'an. See Bukhari, VIII, No. 446. This explanation of Ubay also makes it very clear that the Companions did not differ at all about what was part of the Qur'an and what was not part of the Qur'an. when the revelation had ceased. and if e.g. this hadith occurred in the mushaf of Ubay, it was a mushaf for his own personal use, in other words, his private notebook, where he did not always distinguish between Qur'anic material and hadith, since it was not meant for general use and he himself knew well what to make of his own notes. The same is true of the other copies of the Qur'an, which some of the Companions had for their own personal use. Also those who transmitted to us the reports about these copies of the Qur'an of the Companions have only narrated to us the various differences which occurred there according to reports that reached them (e.g. the hadith in Bukhari, VIII, No. 446 that Ubay at some early stage held this sentence to be part of the Qur'an). However the actual manuscripts of these copies of the Qur'an of the Companions have not come down to us, since all of them agreed on the correctness and validity of the copies which 'Uthman had arranged to be written and distributed for general use. Hence their own personal notebooks became obsolete and were destroyed.]

The order of the suras is again different from 'Uthman as well as Ibn Masud.

The following is the order of suras in the copy attributed to Ubay b. Ka'b: [Fihrist, I, pp. 58-60.]

1, 2, 4, 3, 6, 7, 5, 10, 8, 9, 11, 19, 26, 22, 12, 18, 16, 33, 17, 39, 45, 20, 21, 24, 23, 40, 13, 28, 27, 37, 38, 36, 15, 42, 30, 43, 41, 14, 35, 48, 47, 57, 52, 25, 32, 71, 46, 50, 55, 56, 72, 53, 68, 69, 59, 60, 77, 78, 76, 75, 81, 79, 80, 83, 84, 95, 96, 49, 63, 62, 66, 89, 67, 92, 82, 91, 85, 86, 87, 88, 74?, 98?, 61, 93, 94, 101, 102, 65?, 104, 99, 100, 105, ?, 108, 97, 109, 110, 111, 106, 112, 113, 114.

Again, as in the case of Ibn Mas'ud above this list is incomplete and does not contain all 114 suras of the Qur'an.

'Ubay has a total of 93 variants in Sura al-baqara. [Again taken as example only to illustrate the point.] Very often, his readings are similar to those of Ibn Mas'ud. For example, he reads al-baqara in 2:70 as al-baqira. So does Ibn Mas'ud.

The Mushaf of Ibn 'Abbas (d. 68H/687)

Ibn 'Abbas also wrote a mushaf, which according to the Itqan [I, p. 65; Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif, p. 193.] also included the two additional suras which Ubay had. Again his arrangement of the suras differed from the other copies. In Sura al-baqara, he has a total of 21 variants, some of them identical with Ibn Mas'ud and Ubay as well as other Companions.

Some other Companions

According to the Itqan [I, p. 65; Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif, p. 210.] the mushaf of Abu Musa al-Ash'ari (d. 44H/664) contained the same material as Ubay had.

There is only one variant reported from him in Sura al- baqara, namely that he read Ibraham in place of Ibrahim.

Hafsa (d. 45H/665) had three variants in the same sura, and Anas b. Malik (d. 91H/709) had five.


To further illustrate, here are a number of examples. They have been taken, as far as possible, from well-known suras. While perhaps better examples exist to illustrate the points under discussion, they might not be understood as easily by readers less familiar with the Qur'anic text.

Difference in vowelling:

Ibn 'Abbas [I, p. 65; Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif, p. 208.] is reported to have read in sura 111:4:
"hamilatun al-hatab", in place of "hammalata-l-hatab" which could not be distinguished on the basis of the early written text, which omitted both haraka and alif. The actual text must have looked something like this: XXX XXXX

Difference in spelling:

Ibn 'Abbas [I, p. 65; Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif, p. 195.] reportedly wrote in sura 1:6 as well as all other places the word al-sirat as al-sirat.

Some variants attributed to Ibn Mas'ud: [I, p. 65; Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif, p. 25.]

1. in Sura al-fatiha:

he read" arshidna" in place of "Ihdina"
he read "man" in place of" Al-ladhina"
he read " ghaira" inplace of " Ghairi"

2. in sura al-baqara:
he read"tanzilu-l-kitabiin"in place of"Dhalika-l-kitabu"
he read" ghishwatun"in place of" Ghishawatun"
he read" yakhda'dna"in pplace of" Yukhadi'una"
he read" bi shayatinihim"in place of" ila shayatinihim" etc.Variants on Sura Al-lkhlas, (112)


Ibn Mas'ud [I, p. 65; Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif, p. 113.]

'Ubaid [I, p. 65; Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif, p. 180.]

'Umar [I, p. 65; Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif, p. 222.]

normal reading by




Ali, Ibn Abbas, Abu Musa, Hafsa

al wahid, in place of al ahad

Anas b. Malik, Zaid b. Thabit, Ibn al Zubair, Ibn Amr,




lam yulad wa lam yulid, in place of lam yalid wa lam yulad

Aisha, Salim, Umm Salama, Ubaid b. Umar

Even today the variants and synonyms are found in such copies of the text as are attributed to the Companions and are of some value to us in the sense that they may have served as an early rudimentary form of tafsir. For example, according to some reports the words 'salat al-wusta' (middle prayer) were read and written by Hafsa, [Muwatta' Malik; Jeffery, p. 214.] Ubay [Jeffery, p. 122.] and Ibn 'Abbas [Jeffery, p. 196.] as 'salat al-'asr' (i.e. afternoon prayer).

As long as the sahaba wrote their own copies for personal use only, there was nothing wrong, if they did not strictly adhere to the order of suras which was the order of the Qur'an. Later on, when 'Uthman's copy became the standard version, the Companions adopted the order of this copy including Ibn Mas'ud who perhaps differed most. [Ibn Abi Dawud, p. 12; Salih, S.: Mabahith fi 'ulum al-qura'n,Beirut, 1964,]

There were also, as indicated, some variant readings in these copies, [See also below, seven readings and qira'at.] when some words were pronounced and spelt in slightly different ways, etc. However, it should be noted that variant readings are usually reported by a single person only, and occasionally by perhaps two or three while the version called the 'Uthmanic text is mutawatir, i.e. transmitted by numerous people and is without doubt authentic.

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