How do we know that the Qur'an was written in the lifetime of the Prophet?

Asked by Anonymous - 2 months ago


1 Answer

Fozia Bora - 2 months ago

Thank you for this very interesting question! 

The question of the 'date' of the Qur'an -- when it was first set down in writing, compiled into a 'book' and the stability of the earliest compilations -- has engaged the attention of many academic and religious scholars over the centuries. While studies of the extremely vast hadith corpus have failed to generate consensus or even much shared ground between religious and academic scholars (if that can even be expected), the picture is rather different in regard to the Qur'an. Many academic scholars who study the Qur'an through its earliest manuscripts (which are located all over the Islamic world as well as outside it, including in the Yemen and Turkey, and are very often highly fragmentary and incomplete), or through its language, agree broadly that the Qur'an belongs to the 7th century and plausibly to the Prophet's lifetime. Very recent scholarship by Qur'an scholars in Europe has come to the conclusion that around 650 is a reasonable round date by which we may say that the Qur'an was set down in writing and put together as a complete text, which coincides with the traditional account that attributes the collation of the Qur'an to the caliphate of the third Sunni caliph 'Uthmān b. 'Affān (644-656). Before this, traditional accounts state that parts of the Qur'an were written down on various media (rocks, animal skin, etc) but assuming that this was the case, such 7th century artefacts have not survived to the present day. Carbon dating has helped us to narrow down the date ranges of many of the earliest Qur'an fragments, but it is not an exact science, and in many cases, for example with regard to early Qur'an pages recently discovered in an academic library at Birmingham University (see more here: https://theconversation.com/discovery-of-oldest-quran-fragments-could-resolve-enigmatic-history-of-holy-text-45066) the date range discussed is rather broad!

In short, therefore, we would have to look to a range of scholarly investigations to try to answer this question, and the evidence leans towards the Qur'an being written down during or soon after the lifetime of the Prophet. Some academic scholars have disagreed with this notion, vehemently so, but the most recent scholarship by non-Muslim academics seems to bear it out

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