By Dr. Syed Nooruzzuha Barmaver

The Quran, holds a unique and central position in the lives of Muslims worldwide. As the literal word of Allah, its preservation has been of utmost importance throughout history. The Quran itself attests to its inviolability, stating:

"Verily We: It is We Who have sent down the Dhikr (i.e. the Qur'ân) and surely, We will guard it (from corruption)" (Quran 15:9).

This divine assurance has been manifested through a meticulous and multi-faceted process that has safeguarded the Quran from any alteration or distortion.

Evidence of Preservation

1) The Written Transmission by the Sahabah

The process of preserving the Quran began during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) through its transmission in oral and written forms. The Prophet's companions, played a significant role in preserving the Quran in writing. A group of them, most prominently Zaid bin Thabit, were designated by the Prophet (ﷺ) to record the revealed verses.

In the famous work "AlItqan fee Uloom al-Quran" (1/49) by Imam As-Suyuti, it is mentioned that the entire Quran was written down from the Prophet's dictation, and Mustafa Azami, in his book highlights that approximately 65 Sahabah were involved in writing for the Prophet (The History of the Quranic Text, from Revelation to Compilation: A Comparative Study with the Old and New Testaments by Mustafa Al-Azami p 68).

2) Gathering of the Quran during the Prophet's Time

The early Muslims recognized the importance of preserving the Quran in a compiled form. During the time of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) , four prominent Sahabah from the Ansar took the initiative to gather the Quranic verses together. These individuals were Ubayy bin Ka'b, Mu'adh bin Jabal, Zaid bin Thabit, and Abu Zaid. This fact is narrated in Sahih al-Bukhari no. 3810 and Jami` at-Tirmidhi no. 3794, solidifying the historical authenticity of this significant endeavor

3) The Complete Mushaf

While the Quran was primarily preserved in the hearts and memories of the Sahabah, written records were also maintained. Abdullah bin Abbas narrated in Sunan al-Kubra, that parchment would be brought to the Prophet (ﷺ) and people would volunteer to write down the revealed verses. This practice continued until a complete copy, the Mushaf, was assembled. The narration is as follows: Abdullah bin Abbas said: “The Masahif were not sold. A person would come to the Prophet, with a parchment and someone would stand and write it for him voluntarily. Then another person would stand up and write until the Mushaf was complete.” (Sunan al-Kubra 11065).

4) Individual Copies of the Quran

The dedication to preserving the Quran extended beyond the compilation of the Mushaf. Numerous companions had their own personal copies of the Quran, further safeguarding its contents. Among those who possessed individual copies were Ibn Masood, Ubay bin Kaab, Ali, Ibn Abbas, Abu Musa, Hafsa, Anas bin Malik, Umar, Zaid bin Thabit, Ibn Al-Zubair, Abdullah bin 'Amr, A'isha, Salim, Umm Salama, and 'Ubaid bin Umar, among many others, as recorded in Kitab al-Masahif p. 14 of Ibn Abee Dawood.

5) Prohibition of Traveling with Copies of the Quran

During the time of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) , there was a prohibition against traveling to hostile regions with copies of the Quran. This precaution was taken to avoid any potential mishandling or disrespect of the sacred scripture. Narrated Abdullah bin Umar: Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) forbade the people to travel to a hostile country carrying (copies of) the Qur’an (Sahih al-Bukhari 2990).

6) Codification of the Quran during Abu Bakr's Caliphate

After the passing of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) , the first Caliph, Abu Bakr, recognized the need for a formal compilation of the Quran. He entrusted Zaid bin Thabit with the responsibility of leading a committee to gather all the written records and prepare an official Mushaf. This process is documented in Sahih 4986.

7) Consensus of the Sahabah

Upon the completion of the Mushaf, it was approved by consensus among the Sahabah, including Caliph Abu Bakr, Caliph Umar, and Hafsah, Umar's daughter and the Prophet's wife, who kept the official manuscript safe (Sahih al-Bukhari 4986).

8) The Official Copies during Uthman's Caliphate

During the caliphate of Uthman ibn Affan, it was realized that some variations had emerged in the recitation of the Quran in different regions. To ensure uniformity, Caliph Uthman requested Hafsah to send him the original manuscript, which was kept in her possession. He then appointed a committee consisting of Zaid bin Thabit, Abdullah bin Az-Zubair, Said bin Al-As, and AbdurRahman bin Al-Harith bin Hisham, who wrote multiple copies of the Quran in book form and sent them to various parts of the Islamic empire. This standardization initiative, as recorded in Sahih al-Bukhari, further reinforced the preservation of the Quran (Sahih al-Bukhari 3506).

9) Surviving Manuscripts

Remarkably, one of the copies sent by Caliph Uthman still exists today, making it one of the earliest extant copies of the Quran. Additionally, a copy of the Mushaf sent to Syria can be found in the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul. Another notable manuscript, the Sanaa manuscript, is among the earliest surviving manuscripts of the Quran, written on parchment in the Hijazi script.

10) Preservation through Memorization

The preservation of the Quran is a remarkable aspect of Islamic history, achieved through various means to ensure its accuracy and authenticity. One of the most exceptional methods of preservation is through memorization, a practice that has been central to the Islamic tradition since the time of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) and his companions, the Sahabah.

11) Proficiency of the Sahabah in Memorization

The companions of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) , played a crucial role in preserving the Quran through memorization. Their dedication and proficiency in memorizing the divine revelations were of such magnitude that it was impossible to list all of them. As documented in Fath al-Baari (9/52) and al-Itqaan by as-Suyooti (1/248-249), the number of Sahabah who memorized the Quran was vast and unparalleled.

12) Superiority of Memorization Acknowledged by Non-Muslim Scholars

The superiority of memorization as a means of preserving the Quran is acknowledged even by non-Muslim scholars. A.T. Welch, a non-Muslim scholar, testified to the significance of this oral tradition. He stated, "The revelations were memorized by some of Muhammad's followers during his lifetime, and the oral tradition that was thus established has had a continuous history ever since, in some ways independent of, and superior to, the written Quran." (The Encyclopedia of Islam, 'The Quran in Muslim Life and Thought)

Arguments by Critics

1) Answering the Arguments of Protestant Professor Arthur Jeffrey

Argument 1:

In his writings, Protestant Professor Arthur Jeffrey made claims concerning the preservation of the Quran, asserting that the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) proclaimed his messages orally and that the existence of the Quran as a written heritage for the Muslim community was often a matter of chance. Jeffery said: “The Prophet had proclaimed his messages orally and except in the latter period of his ministry, whether they were recorded or not was often a matter of chance. Earliest strata of tradition available to us make us quite certain that there was no Quran left ready as a heritage for the community.” (Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur‟an, by Arthur Jeffery p 6).


  1. It is unfounded and a baseless claim.
  2. As mentioned above, it is well-documented that the Prophet (ﷺ) would dictate the revealed verses to his scribes, who would record them in writing. These written records were meticulously maintained and verified by the Prophet (ﷺ) himself.
  3. His claim that ““Except in the latter period”” is also unfounded. The earliest strata of tradition available to us clearly indicate that the Quran was compiled during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ). Ibn Hajr records an incident when Rafi bin Malik met the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) at al-Aqabah (around the 11th year of Prophethood) and handed him whatever was revealed in the previous ten years (al-Isabah fi Tamyeez as- Sahabah (2/370). This compilation, which included a significant portion of the Quran, was made during a period when Muslims faced intense persecution, oppression, and suppression.
  4. Jeffrey's assertion that there was no Quran left as a ready heritage for the community is also baseless. As mentioned before, Quran was gathered during life of Prophet (ﷺ) , “Four gathered the Qur'an during the time of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ) all of them are from the Ansar: Ubayy bin Ka'b, Mu'adh bin Jabal, Zaid bin Thabit, and Abu Zaid. I said to Anas: Who is Abu Zaid? He said: One of my uncles” (Sahih al-Bukhari 3810, Jami` at-Tirmidhi no. 3794). Number of Sahabah had memorized Quran (alItqaan by as-Suyooti (1/248-249).
  5. Sahabah not simply wrote down and memorized the Quran but they lived and conducted themselves based on the teachings of the Quran.

Argument 2:

Jeffery said: “That certain of these amanuenses were at times called upon to write out special pieces of revelation is not at all impossible, It is difficult to take seriously, however, the theory that considers them as a body of prepared scribes waiting to take down revelations as they were uttered.” (Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur‟an, by Arthur Jeffery p 6 footnote 1)


  1. It is not a “theory” but a documented historical fact that some Companions were assigned only to record revelation and it was a body of prepared scribes.
  2. Al-Tabari records in his historical book that “Ali bin Abi Talib and Uthman bin Affan used to record the Wahy and in their absence Ubayy bin Kab and Zaid bin Thabit used to record it.” (Tarikh Tabari 6/179)
  3. Zaid bin Thabit said: I was the neighbor of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ). Whenever a Wahy came down he called for me and I wrote down the Wahy.” (Kitab al- Masahif of Ibn Abee Dawood no. 5)
  4. Prophet (ﷺ) used to review and check what Zaid had recorded (Majmoo al-Zawaaid no. 13938)

2) Countering the arguments of Richard Bell and Montgomery Watt

Argument 1:

They claim: “There is no unanimity about the originator of the idea of collecting the Qur'an; generally it is said to have been Umar, but sometimes 'Abu Bakr is said to have commissioned the 'collection’ on his own initiative. On the other hand, there is a tradition which says 'Umar was the first to collect the Qur'an and completely excludes Abu Bakr.” (Bell's Introduction to the Qur’an by Bell and Watt p 39)


The statements made by Richard Bell and Montgomery Watt suggest some ambiguity regarding the originator of the idea of collecting the Qur'an. However, the argument can be countered by analyzing the historical evidence and reliable sources.

  1. Narrated Zaid bin Thabit: Abu Bakr As-Siddiq sent for me when the people of Yamama had been killed (i.e., a number of the Prophet's Companions who fought against Musailima). (I went to him) and found `Umar bin AlKhattab sitting with him. Abu Bakr then said (to me), "`Umar has come to me and said: "Casualties were heavy among the Qurra' of the Qur'an (i.e. those who knew the Qur'an by heart) on the day of the Battle of Yamama, and I am afraid that more heavy casualties may take place among the Qurra' on other battlefields, whereby a large part of the Qur'an may be lost. Therefore I suggest, you (Abu Bakr) order that the Qur'an be collected..." (Sahih alBukhari no. 4986).
  2. There is no confusion or discrepancy in various narrations. Some narrations stress Umar’s role in urging Abu Bakr. Other narrations stress Abu Bakr’s role as Caliph in starting it under Zaid. Ibn Saad in his Tabaqat while mentioning merits of Umar said “He was first one to make collection of Quran” (Tabaqat 3/202).

    Firstly, its rejected report with broken chain
    Secondly, it doesn’t say exact role of Umar in this
    Thirdly, there is no contradiction with other reports because he was first one to suggest official codification.

Argument 2:

They say: “The reason given for the step, namely, the death of a large number of 'readers' in the battle of Yamamah has also been questioned. They further said, “Those who were killed were mostly recent converts”. (Bell's Introduction to the Qur’an by Bell and Watt p 39).


  1. Lack of Evidence for the Given Reason: Without verifiable evidence, the assertion remains baseless
  2. Contrary to the unsupported claim, Ibn Jareer Al-Tabari, a reputable Islamic historian, provides a documented historical account in his work Tareekh al-Tabari. According to his records, the Battle of Yamamah resulted in the death of 360 Muhajireen and Ansar residents of Madinah, 300 Muhajireen not residing in Madinah, and new Muslims. This account contradicts the assertion that the majority of those killed were recent converts, adding to the need for critical analysis of the claim presented (Tareekh al-Tabari p 283).
  3. In the battle, they used to address each other as “O Bearers of Quran”. (Tareekh al-Tabari p 280).

3) Countering arguments of missionaries that Quran is incomplete

Argument 1:

Christian missionaries quote: “Let none of you say ‘I have acquired the whole of the Qur’an’. How does he know what all of it is when much of the Qur’an has disappeared? Rather let him say ‘I have acquired what has survived.’”( Al-Suyuti, Al-Itqān fi ‘Ulum Al-Qur’an p. 524.)


  1. Lack of Scholarly Authentication: It is essential to highlight that the above quote is inauthentic. It is crucial not to rely on unauthenticated quotes when discussing matters of significance such as the completeness of the Quran.
  2. Even if the quote is considered authentic, it must be understood in its proper context. The argument pertains to the concept of abrogation in the Quran. The scholars have divided abrogation into three kinds:

    1) Abrogation of the recitation of Ayah and the ruling together
    2) Abrogation of the ruling without recitation of Ayah.
    3) Abrogation of the recitation of ayah without the ruling.

    (Awn al-Mabood of Shamsul Haqq Adheemabadi under no. 1765 and al-nasikh wa al-mansookh of Ibn Salama, p.5).
  3. Thirdly, Al-Suyuti brings above narration in Itqan under the heading “The third type is that which its recitation has been abrogated but not its ruling”.
  4. Fourthly, there is narration which makes it clear that Ibn Umar referred to abrogated verses. “Ibn ad-Dhurays has narration from Ibn Umar that he used to dislike the person who said, ‘I have recited the whole of the Qur’an.’ He (Ibn Umar) used to say, ‘But (the fact is) a part of the Qur’an has been abrogated.” (Fath al-Bari by Ibn Hajr 9/65).
  5. Fifthly, Imam al-Aloosi said after quoting of above, “The scholars have agreed in consensus that there is no deficiency in the Quran which was conveyed as Mutawaatir, as is found between the two covers [of the Book] today. Indeed, at the time of Abu Bakr As-Sideeq, what was not agreed to be Mutawaatir was left out as well as anything the recitation of which has been abrogated, although it was recited by those who were unaware of its abrogation. (Tafseer Rooh al-Maani of al- Aloosi 1/25)
  6. Sixthly, Nothing from Quran was left out. Everything was in between two covers of Quran. Narrated Abdul `Aziz bin Rufai':Shaddad bin Ma'qil and I entered upon Ibn Abbas. Shaddad bin Ma'qil asked him, "Did the Prophet (ﷺ) leave anything (besides the Qur'an)?" He replied. "He did not leave anything except what is Between the two bindings (of the Qur'an)." Then we visited Muhammad bin AlHanafiyya and asked him (the same question). He replied, "The Prophet (ﷺ) did not leave except what is between the bindings (of the Qur'an). (Saheeh al-Bukhari 5019).

Argument 2:

Christian missionaries quote: Sunan Ibn Majah Book 9 Hadith 1944: It was narrated that Aishah said: “The Verse of stoning and of breastfeeding an adult ten times was revealed, and the paper was with me under my pillow. When the Messenger of Allah died, we were preoccupied with his death, and a tame sheep came in and ate it.”


  1. Firstly, the above Hadith is inauthentic and is rejected due to Tafarrud of Ibn Ishaaq based on principles of Hadith.
  2. Secondly, this narration opposes authentic Hadith of Sahih Muslim (2634), which doesn’t mention “goat eating” part.
  3. Thirdly, even if we consider it authentic for the sake of argument, it was from the abrogated verses. Al-Aloosi said: It is a fabrication and lie of the heretics that this was lost as the result of being eaten by a tame sheep without being abrogated. (Tafseer Rooh al-Maani (11/140).

Argument 3:

Christian missionaries quote: Aisha reported that it had been revealed in the Holy Qur'an that ten clear sucklings make the marriage unlawful, then it was abrogated (and substituted) by five sucklings and Allah's Apostle (ﷺ) died and it was before that time (found) in the Holy Qur'an (and recited by the Muslims). (Sahih Muslim 2634).


  1. Lack of Understanding or Intellectual Fraud: The argument presented by the missionaries seems to reflect either a lack of understanding or an attempt to misrepresent the concept of abrogation in Islamic jurisprudence.
  2. Imam Nawawi comments on it: “The abrogation of the five sucklings came very late until the time that the Prophet (ﷺ) died and a few people were reciting the five sucklings verse making it part of the Qur'an for they might not have been informed of its abrogation. So when he (ﷺ) did inform them afterwards they stopped reciting it and formed a consensus that this verse should not be recited anymore. (Sharh Saheeh Muslim by al-Nawawi under no. 2634).
  3. It falls under “Abrogation of the recitation of ayah without the ruling.” (Awn al Mabood by Adheemabadi under no. 1765)

4) Answering Attacks on Topkapi manuscript

Argument 1:

The Topkapi manuscript is an ancient Islamic manuscript that holds significant historical importance and it is considered one of the earliest extant copies of the Quran. The manuscript is housed in the Topkapi Palace Museum in Istanbul, Turkey, from which it derives its name.

First Claim by Islamophobe: “This is a mid 8th century manuscript, not a mid 7th century. So it's about anywhere from 60 to 100 years after Uthman, it's not from the 7th century.”


The claim made by the Islamophobe regarding the dating of the Topkapi manuscript is baseless as carbon dating analysis of the Topkapi manuscript, as mentioned by Altıkulaç in 'AlMushaf alSharif' (2007:81), indicates that the manuscript dates back to the second half of the first century A.H. and the first half of the second century A.H. The first century A.H. spans from 622 CE to 722 CE, which is within the time frame of the 7th century CE. It is crucial to understand that the Islamic calendar starts from the year 622 CE, which corresponds to the migration of Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ) from Mecca to Medina (known as the Hijrah). As such, the first century A.H. corresponds to the 7th century CE, and any date within this period would fall under the 7th century CE. Furthermore, it is well-established among scholars that the compilation and dissemination of the Quranic text, under the guidance of Caliph Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him), took place during the mid-7th century CE. The process aimed to standardize the written copies of the Quran to prevent variations and ensure its preservation. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that the Topkapi manuscript, dated within the 7th century CE, could be associated with this period.

Argument 2:

Second Claim of Islamophobe: It has 2, 270 manuscript variants that means words or phrases in this manuscript do not agree with the Cairo text.


Firstly, according to Tayyar Altikulaç in his work "AlMuṣḥaf Al-Sharif," there are 2,270 instances where the Topkapi manuscript differs from the Fahd Mushaf. It is important to note that many of these variants concern the presence or absence of the letter "alif" in certain words.

The example given for the words "على" (upon) and "حتى" (until) being spelled with an additional "alif" as "علا "and "حتا " respectively in more than 780 places highlights this pattern. (Tayyar Altikulaç, Al-Muṣḥaf Al-Sharif p.102). Secondly, the differences found in the Topkapi manuscript primarily pertain to the spelling of certain words and not to the core pronunciation or meaning of those words. The variant spellings do not alter the essential content or theological significance of the verses in question. These spelling differences are similar to the variations found in English spellings such as "behavior" and "colour" (British English) vs. "behavior" and "color" (American English). Despite the spelling discrepancies, the pronunciation and meaning of these words remain identical.

In conclusion, the claim of 2,270 manuscript variants in the Topkapi manuscript should be understood in the context of spelling differences rather than variations in meaning or pronunciation.

5) Answering Attacks on Sanaa manuscript

The Sana'a manuscript, also known as the Sana'a palimpsest, is a collection of Quran discovered in the Great Mosque of Sana'a, Yemen, in 1972.

Argument 1:

First claim by Islamophobe: “They would have dated to the last two decades of the 7th century. That's the time of Abd al Malik, the Caliph who ruled from 685 to 705 CE.”


It is incorrect as the radiocarbon analysis conducted on the parchment of one of the detached leaves of the Sana'a manuscript, along with its lower text, yielded a date range between 578 CE (44 BH) and 669 CE (49 AH) with a 95% accuracy. This analysis was published in the article "The Codex of a Companion of the Prophet and the Quran of the Prophet" by Sadeghi & Bergmann in the journal Arabica, published by Brill Publishers, Volume 57 (4), page 348.

Argument 2:

Second claim by Islamophobe: “When you look at the underscript you will see, it does not agree with the overscript. When they put it under ultraviolet light, they have now found that they're two different scripts showing that there's an evolution between the last two decades of the 7th century and the first two decades of the 8th century. There's evolution in those 10 to 20 years. According to Sadeghi and Goudarzi, it is clear that these fall outside of the standard type text, and is from a different textual type tradition completely.”


  1. Misleading Claim: The claim that the underscript and overscript of the Sana'a manuscript do not agree and that there is an evolution between the last two decades of the 7th century and the first two decades of the 8th century is misleading. No reputable researcher or scholar on the Sana'a manuscript has made such a claim.
  2. Changes were due to the development of Arabic orthography, the conventional spelling system of Arabic or it were due to 7 modes of transmission.
  3. The orthographic and paleographic differences between the two layers are consistent with their being separated by a period long enough for the codex to have been worn out: though both scripts are Ḥijāzī, the upper writing is more compact, uses more alifs, and uses more dots for distinguishing the consonants. One idea that seems to have been in fairly wide circulation already in the first century of Islam was that the Qur’ān was revealed in Seven Modes (sab‘at aḥruf). Translated from the language of metaphysics into that of history, this notion entails that the Companion codices were all legitimate despite their differences, as they ultimately represented what the Prophet’s scribes wrote down, and as they all enjoyed the Prophet’s endorsement. ("Sana'aa and the Origins of the Qur'an", Sadeghi and Goudarzi, Der Islam (2012), Vol. 87, p. 27-29.)

6) Some words that came from critics of Islam on preservation of Quran

  1. Famous Anglican Bishop Kenneth Cragg said: This phenomenon of Quranic recital means that the text has traversed the centuries in an unbroken living sequence of devotion. It cannot, therefore, be handled as an antiquarian thing, nor as a historical document out of a distant past. The fact of hifdh (Quranic memorization) has made the Quran a present possession through all the lapse of Muslim time and given it a human currency in every generation, never allowing its relegation to a bare authority for reference alone. (The Mind of the Quran p.26)
  2. Strong Critic of Islam, William Muir said: ““There is probably no other book in the world which has remained twelve centuries (now fourteen) with so pure a text.” (Life of Mohamet, London, 1894, Vol.1, Introduction.)
  3. John Burton said: “The text which has come down to us in the form in which it was organized and approved by the Prophet” (The Collection of the Quran, p.239).


In conclusion, the preservation of the Quran is a unique and unparalleled phenomenon in religious history. Hypothetically, even if every copy of the Quran were to vanish from the face of the earth, Muslims could still reproduce the exact same Quran through the memorization of its entirety by countless Huffadh (Memorizers) within the global Muslim community. This unparalleled level of preservation sets the Quran apart from other scriptures, as no other religious text can claim such widespread memorization and preservation. Across the world, Muslim communities are blessed with numerous Huffadh, individuals who have committed the entire Quran to memory. In some communities, the presence of Hafidh (memorizers of the Quran) is so abundant that there are households where every member possesses the honor of being a Hafidh. This profound dedication to preserving the Quran is a testament to the reverence and devotion that Muslims hold for Quran.

Amidst the unfounded theories put forth by Orientalists, christian missionaries and Islamophobes questioning the preservation of the Quran, Muslims remain steadfast in their belief and confidence in the Quran's unaltered and uncorrupted nature. The fanciful notions presented by critics do not diminish the unwavering conviction of the Muslim community in the preservation of their sacred text.

Dr. Syed Nooruzzuha Barmaver is a Postdoctoral Scientist at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. He is also an author and public speaker. He has authored books in the field Hadith Studies, and other Islamic fields. Some of the notable ones are listed below:

Dr. Syed Nooruzuha Barmaver | Vanderbilt University - is a place to share and follow research.