The Prophet Muhammad (saw)

The Companions' Efforts to Memorize and Transcribe the Quran

Here we attempt to identify the reasons behind the ability of the Companions of Prophet Muhammad to protect the Quran and the sunnah (practices of the Prophet) and pass them on to the next generations without any omissions or additions.


  • Most of the Companions were illiterate. Their illiteracy meant that they memorized those things that were important. There were a few Companions who were able to read and write. The Prophet assigned some of these literate ones as his revelation clerks. Not only was the Quran memorized by many people, the clerks wrote down the revelations in order to protect them. Even in the earliest days the Prophet prohibited the writing down of hadiths (sayings of the Prophet), because he was concerned that people might later confuse the Quran with his words, and thus, he wanted the clerks to focus only on writing the verses of the Quran; another factor was the limited amount of writing materials. His following saying proves this: "Do not write down anything me. Whoever writes down anything me other than the Quran, he should erase it. There is no sin in your transmission of what I say to other people. But whoever refers a lie to me should prepare his place in hell." Thus, the writing down and memorization of the Quran began the earliest times and has continued safely until today without any interval or confusion.
  • The Companions were famous for their intelligence, powerful memories, and pure nature. These people, who lived in the desert, were able to quickly memorize anything, no matter how lengthy. Moreover, they kept records of historical events and the archives of their ancestors in their memories. After Islam, this ability was directed to protect the best word of all, the Quran, and the guidance of the best guide of all, Prophet Muhammad.
  • The Companions had a simple way of life. They were not occupied with anything other than procuring their basic needs. Thus, they were satisfied with what they had and they had much free time. So, they used their pure thoughts and strong and sharp minds to memorize the Quran and hadiths.
  • They had a true love for the Prophet. Their love became a faith for them. Naturally, when a person is fond of another, this love leads them to follow all the manners of the beloved one, to understand them, to listen to and transmit their words to others, and to imitate their behavior. Thus, the Companions' love for Allah and His Messenger was the greatest motivation for protecting the Quran and the sunnah. In fact, there is no need for evidence to prove their attitude toward the Quran and the sunnah. In the Prophet's words, they were the most auspicious of all humans: "The most auspicious of humans are the ones in the century in which I live. Then, their successors and the successors of their successors." Their love turned into a race to memorize the Quran and the sunnah. They memorized the Quran and followed the Prophet's words, deeds, and behavior. They even protected some of his physical features (for example, strands of hair or beard, or fingernail clippings).
  • The Quran, which was sent by Allah Almighty to all humanity, had a miraculous eloquence. It stopped all the obstinate and the arrogant and made all opponents helpless because it would always remain as a miracle of His Messenger in this world. After the Quran, the most beautiful, universal, and sweetest words were being uttered by the Messenger of Allah, who was the most eloquent preacher. Arabs were fond of beautiful words and they used to compete with one another to memorize beautiful prose and poems. After the revelation of the Quran, they began to memorize the Quran, the most beautiful words of all words. They were also occupied with understanding the Quran. Naturally, their attitude was the same for the sunnah as well.
  • There were many encouragements for people to learn the Quran and the sunnah, to put them into practice, teach, and disseminate them. On the other hand, there were many dangers inherent in disparaging or ignoring the Quran or the sunnah. Therefore, the Companions had to be meticulous about these sources. "Verily those who recite the Book of Allah and establish prayer and spend out of what We have given them secretly and openly hope for a trade in which there is never loss. In order that He may give them their reward in full and give more out of His bounty. Verily He is Forgiving and Appreciating. (35/29-30)." "Those who conceal the clear (Signs) We have sent down, and the Guidance, after We have made it clear for the people in the Book,-on them shall be Allah's curse, and the curse of those entitled to curse. Except those who repent and make amends and openly (the Truth): To them I turn; for I am Oft-returning, Most Merciful (2/159-160)." "When a community comes together in a house of Allah, recite the book of Allah and talk about it among themselves, verily they have comfort and tranquility, mercy will be on them, angels surrounds them, and Allah remembers them among the auspicious communities before Him." (These are important encouragements to memorize the Quran.) "Take whatever the Messenger brings you as obligatory, sunnah, recommended, and manners and avoid whatever he prohibits." "Whoever obeys the Messenger he obeys Allah." (This is encouragement to learn the sunnah.)
  • One of the reasons for the Companions' meticulousness on the matter of the Quran and the sunnah is the importance of both in Islam. The Quran is a unique book which guides humans to happiness in this world and in the Hereafter. It also establishes the relationships of humans with Allah and their environment. The sunnah is a secondary source which explains the Quran and gives specific details of generalities in Quran. The following verse of the Quran indicates this duty of the Prophet: "With clear signs and Books (We sent the Messengers). And We have also sent down unto you (O Muhammad) the reminder and the advice (the Quran), that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them, and that they may give thought (16/44). The Companions understood well the role of the Quran and the sunnah in Islam and they made the necessary efforts to preserve them.
  • Most of the issues and problems that came up at that time were dealt with in the Quran or the Prophet's words. Thus, the Companions were more motivated to learn the Quran and the sunnah and their minds were always on the alert. They focused on the rules of Allah and His Messengers. As a result, the revelations and the words of the Messenger of Allah were better placed in their minds.
  • The Quran and the Messenger of Allah had a divine wisdom in training and instructing people. They followed a perfect way of inviting people to Islam. Although the Quran caused people to abandon wrong actions and ordered goodness, a gradual method was followed. Therefore, the Quran was completed over a period of 23 years. This was Allah's mercy on them: "...Allah does not want to make difficulties for you, but He wants to purify you and complete His blessings on you for you to be thankful." Moreover, the Companions witnessed the coming of the revelations. It was the same for the sunnah. The Prophet made them into a perfect society with this message and in later times the Companions were remembered as the people of the Era of Happiness. The Prophet warned them about evil things, showed them the right way, asked questions to clarify matters, and often provided answers to his own questions. The Messenger used every opportunity to guide them. Here is an example of a hadith reported by Abu Hurairah in which the Prophet asked a question and answered it himself: "The Prophet asked, ‘ Who is a  miserable person?' The companions answered, ‘the miserable among us is he who does not have any money or any goods." Upon this answer, the Prophet said, "In fact, a miserable person in my community will be the person who comes with his prayers, fasts, and alms. But he will have cursed some, accused some of adultery, killed or beaten some. Some of his good deeds will be given to others. If his good deeds finish before his trial is over, the sins of those he harmed will be put on him, and then he will be thrown into hell."
  • Both the Quran and Prophet Muhammad used methods of encouraging and warning. In other words, there are many verses and hadiths that promise some good things or threaten bad things. The Companions learned these encouragements and warnings by heart.
  • The Companions found the truth through the Quran and the sunnah. They were able to decide what is halal (religiously allowed) or haram (religiously forbidden) based on the Quran and sunnah. They were able to learn the rules and principles of Islam the Quran and sunnah. Indeed, since they carefully practiced everything they learned through the revelations and the sunnah they were able to memorize them more easily. Therefore, as a natural consequence, they memorized and protected the Quran and the sunnah.
  • The Companions were motivated to memorize because the Prophet was with them. The Messenger of Allah helped them to memorize the Quran and the sunnah with great patience, teaching them those things they did not know, answering their questions, and clarifying the things about which they felt unsure. He was always humble, gentle, and positive; he was never rude. He was sometimes like a father, sometimes like a person who served others. With such a good character, he approached people and spent time with them. He attracted all people with his lofty nature. He taught them the Quran and the sunnah and it was not possible to forget anything taught by such a good teacher.
  • The Quran was read in the daily prayers, at Jumaa prayers, among the Companions, by both the young and the old, and by men and women. Thus, it was easier to memorize it.

Because of the reasons mentioned above, the Companions of the Prophet were able to protect the Quran and the sunnah in the best way; they implemented these sources in their own lives and carefully transmitted them to the following generations.

For the entire text, please see Muhittin Akgul, Kur´an Okumanin Onemi (The Significance of Reading the Quran), Ankara, 2004


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