How Was the Order of the Chapters of the Quran Arranged?

Name of Questioner: Bernice

Date: 8-12-2019 10:34:58 PM

Consultant: Ask About Islam Editorial Team


If Zayd ibn Thabit attended the final recitation of the Quran then clearly he would have heard on the order it was recited by our Prophet (peace be upon him). My question is that if he heard what order our prophet recited then why Uthman standardized the Quran in a different from (Order of the Quran)?

Dear Bernice,

Thank you for your question.

Answering your question, Dr. Mohsen Haredy, PhD in Islamic Studies and Former Executive Manager and Editor-in-Chief of E-Da`wah Committee in Kuwait, states:

Muslims believe that the Quran is the word of God. It was revealed via Angel Gabriel to Prophet Muhammad over a period of 23 years in response to particular situations at the time.

Muslims believe that the Quran is the only scripture which has been preserved intact through written and oral means.

Thousands of people memorized the Quran from the time of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) until today. The Quran was written during the lifetime of the Prophet under his direction and supervision.

Muslims believe that the order of verses in each surah was instituted by the Prophet. There is no dispute among Muslim scholars regarding this issue.

Hadith Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Rahim 

Ibn Abbas narrated that:

“I said to Uthman bin Affan: ‘What was your reasoning with Al-Anfal – while it is from the Muthani (Surah with less than one-hundred verses), and Bara’ah while it is from the Mi’in (Surah with about one-hundred verses), then you put them together, without writing the line Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Rahim between them, and you placed them with the seven long (Surah) – why did you do that?’ So Uthman said: ‘A long time might pass upon the Messenger of Allah without anything being revealed to him, and then sometimes a Surah with numerous (verses) might be revealed. So when something was revealed, he would call for someone who could write, and say: “Put these verses in the Surah which mentions this and that in it.” When a verse was revealed, he would say: “Put this verse in the Surah which mentions this and that in it.” Now Al-Anfal was among the first of those revealed in Al-Madinah, and Bara’ah among the last of those revealed of the Quran, and its narrations (those of Bara’ah) resembled its narrations (those of Al-Anfal), so we thought that it was part of it. Then the Messenger of Allah died, and it was not made clear to us whether it was part of it. So it is for this reason that we put them together without writing Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Rahim between them, and we put that with the seven long (Surahs).'” (At-Tirmidhi)

No Shifting

Ibn Az-Zubair narrated that:

I said to Uthman bin Affan (while he was collecting the Quran) regarding the Verse:– “Those of you who die and leave wives …” (2:240) “This Verse was abrogated by another verse. So why should you write it? (Or leave it in the Quran)?” Uthman said. “O son of my brother! I will not shift anything of it from its place.”  (Al-Bukhari)

Order of the Chapters of the Quran

With regard to the order of surahs (chapters) of the Quran, there is a difference of opinion among scholars. The majority of scholars maintain that the order of chapters was a matter of the Companions’ Ijtihad. While, other scholars view that the order of chapters was instituted by the Prophet .

Ibn Faris, a scholar of the Quranic sciences, said:

“There were two aspects to the compilation of the Quran. One was putting the surahs in a certain order, such as putting al-Sab’ al-Tiwaal (the seven long surahs) first, and following them with the Mi`in, which is what the Companions did.

The second aspect is the compilation of the verses within the surahs. This was instituted by the Prophet, who recited them as he was told to by Gabriel, on the command of his Lord.”

Al-Karmani, another scholar of the Quranic sciences, said:

“The order of the surahs as it is now is the same as that in al-Lawh al-Mahfuzh, The Preserved Tablet, which is with Allah. This is the order in which the Prophet used to review the surahs of the Quran he had received so far with Gabriel each year.”

Role of  Zayd ibn Thabit

With regard to the role of Zayd ibn Thabit, he collected the portions scattered with different people. Then, verified the texts and put them in the order assigned to the verses and chapters by the Prophet Muhammad  himself before his death. Abu Bakr As-Siddiq was the one who preserved and kept the whole Quran.

Umar ibn Al-Khattab entrusted this copy of the Quran to his daughter Hafsah.

After the expansion of the Islamic state, people learned the Quran according to their dialects. Therefore, Uthman ibn Affan supervised the process of making a standard version of the Quran. The process was assigned to Zayd ibn Thabit and a number of other companions of the Prophet.

This version was in accordance with the order of verses and surah that was instituted by the Prophet.

Uthman ordered that all other copies be destroyed to protect the Quran from being tampered with, and to avoid any chaos or confusion over reading it.

We hope this answers your question.

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