One of the questions that comes to mind is when the Quran was written. The Quran is the everlasting miracle of the final prophet of Allah, Prophet Muhammad. It was revealed in two ways: gradually over 23 years, meaning from the beginning of the prophethood of his holiness until shortly before his martyrdom, and also entirely and all at once on the Night of Qadr (i.e., the Night of Ordainment) before it was gradually revealed according to some.1 The question is, when was the Quran written? In this article on Islam4u, we will discuss the following topics:
When Was the Quran Written?
Every time Allah revealed a verse, group of verses, or a whole surah to the Prophet, there were two ways that the Quran was preserved. First, a large number of his companions including those who did not know how to write committed the Quran to their memory. Meanwhile, those who knew how to write would write down the Quran as the Prophet was reciting the verses. The most prominent writer of the Quran at that time was undoubtedly Ali ibn Abī Ṭālib (عَلي ابنِ اَبي طالِب).2 Refer to the article who wrote the Quran for more information in this regard.
The question remains: when was the Quran written? As you probably know, Allah revealed the Quran to the Prophet in two ways. First, the Quran was revealed entirely and all at once on Laylat al-Qadr (لَيلة القَدر), meaning the Night of Ordainment. Second, the Quran was revealed gradually over 23 years. As for in what year the Night of Ordainment was and when the Quran was revealed all at once to the Prophet, there appears to be no known historical record. The gradual revelation started with the beginning of the Prophet’s mission of prophethood when he was 40 years old, around the year AD 609 or 610, until the last moments of his life at the age of 63.3 The Prophet would recite the verses of the Quran to his companions and those who could write would write it.
How and When Was the Quran Compiled?
After knowing when the Quran was written, the question is: how was the Quran put together and compiled? According to some Quran researchers, the compilation of the Quran took place after the Prophet passed away.4 The first person who compiled the Quran was the trustworthy son-in-law and blood brother of the Prophet, Ali ibn Abī Ṭālib. Historians say that Ali (a) arranged his writings of the Quran in order of their revelation. For example, the first verse or surah revealed to the Prophet would be at the beginning of the compilation. Likewise, the last verse revealed to the Prophet would be at the end of his compilation.5 However, as we read in the article about who wrote the Quran, Ali’s compilation of the Quran was not accepted by the caliph and people of his time.
Meanwhile, another compilation of the Quran was put together by the cooperation between Zayd ibn Thābit, Ali ibn Abī Ṭālib, and others. This compilation, which all Muslims accepted, was made during the rulership of the third caliph, ‘Uthmān ibn ‘Affān (AD 644-656). The Quran was compiled in its final version circa AD 650. It is said that it was accepted after a great number of writers, memorizers, and experts of the Quran evaluated it. However, unlike Ali’s compilation, this compilation was not based on the order of revelation. It was like the copies of the Quran that we have today. There are 114 chapters or surahs (سورَة), thirty juz’ (جُزء) or sections, and over 6000 verses. This muṣḥaf (مُصحَف) or scripture of the Quran was and is accepted by all Muslims of all denominations.
In What Language Is the Quran Written?
The language of the people living during the prophethood of Prophet Muhammad was Arabic. The Prophet himself was also a speaker of the Arabic language. At that time, many Arab poets composed very eloquent poems. However, the language of the Quran was much more eloquent than all of those poems. That is what made the Quran a miracle. The Quran is so eloquent because it uses Arabic, a unique language that can convey messages like no other language. As the Quran says, the Quran was revealed in clear Arabic:
وَلَقَدْ نَعْلَمُ أَنَّهُمْ يَقُولُونَ إِنَّمَا يُعَلِّمُهُ بَشَرٌ ۗ لِّسَانُ الَّذِي يُلْحِدُونَ إِلَيْهِ أَعْجَمِيٌّ وَهَٰذَا لِسَانٌ عَرَبِيٌّ مُّبِينٌ ﴿١٠٣﴾
And indeed, We know that they say, “A human being teaches [the Qur’ān] to him”. [No! They commit a grave error God teaches him in plain Arabic and] the language of the man to whom they refer is non-Arabic but this [Qur’ān] is [in] clear Arabic.6
Another verse of the Quran says:
وَلَوْ جَعَلْنَاهُ قُرْآنًا أَعْجَمِيًّا لَّقَالُوا لَوْلَا فُصِّلَتْ آيَاتُهُ ۖ أَأَعْجَمِيٌّ وَعَرَبِيٌّ
If We had made this Qur’ān a non-Arabic Qur’ān, they would have definitely said, “Why have its verses not been clarified [in Arabic? What a surprising thing]! Is a non–Arabic Book sent to the Arab [messenger and people]?”7
Therefore, the Quran had to be in Arabic and written in such a language for at least two reasons:
1. The Prophet and his people were Arabs, therefore, the Quran must have been revealed in the same language.
2. Arabic is a unique language that can convey messages in a very clear and straightforward way, unlike any other language.
Therefore, the Quran was revealed and written in Arabic.
When was the Quran First Translated and in What Language?
The very first translation of the Quran dates back to circa seventh century by one of the companions of the Prophet known as Salmān al-Fārsī (سَلمان الفارسي) who translated Surah Fatiha (سورةُ الفاتِحة) into Persian.8 The oldest written Persian translation that exists is the famous translation of Ṭabarī (طَبَري), known as Tafsīr al-Ṭabarī (تَفسيرُ الطَبَري) which was written in 350-365 AH.
Translation of the Quran into European Languages
One of the early translations of the Quran into a European language was in Latin by Mark of Toledo in the early thirteen century. The Quran was translated into Italian by Andrea Arrivabene in 1547. A German translation was made using Andrea’s translation in 1616 by Salomon Schweigger. This translation was used to do the first Dutch translation in 1641.9 George Sale did the very first direct Arabic to English translation of the Quran in 1734. One of the more accurate and somewhat recent translations of the Quran into English was made by the Muslim convert Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall in 1930.
The Quran is the book of guidance, revealed to Prophet Muhammad all at once and gradually over 23 years. The Quran was written whenever the Prophet recited the verses of the Quran to those companions of his who knew how to write. The writing of the Quran began at the same time the Prophet’s prophethood started in AD 609 or 610, when he was forty years old, until his martyrdom at the age of 63. Subsequently, the Quran was compiled by different companions of his holiness until it was unified into a single compilation circa AD 650. This compilation of the Quran was accepted by everyone and became the definitive compilation of the Quran that we have in our hands today.
- Al-Mīzān, 1390 AH, vol. 2, pp. 15-18.
- Ma‘rifat, al-Tamhīd fī ‘Ulūm al-Quran, vol. 1, pp. 292-295.
- Al-Mīzān, 1390 AH, vol. 2, pp. 15-18.
- Ma‘rifat, ‘Ulūm Qur’ānī (Quranic Sciences), 1389 SH, p. 108.
- Saffar, Baṣā’ir al-Darajāt, 1404 AH, p. 193.
- Quran 16:103 (Foroutan).
- Quran 41:44 (Foroutan).
- Al-Nawawi, al-Mujma‘ (Cairo, Matbacat at-‘Tadamun n.d.), 380.
- Fatani, Afnan (2006). “Translation and the Qurʻan.” In Leaman, Oliver (ed.). The Qurʻan: an encyclopaedia. Great Britain: Routledge. pp. 657–669.