According to Islamic tradition, the Qur’an was preserved in the Prophet’s heart and committed to memory by his closest followers. As the Revelations were not fully recorded during Muhammad’s lifetime (circa 570–632), his successors (caliph, khalifa) feared the Divine Message would be lost or corrupted. Many of the Prophet’s companions were growing old or had died in battle, and Islam was spreading beyond the Arabian Peninsula.
It was under Uthman ibn Affan (died 655), the third caliph and the Prophet’s son-in-law, that the authoritative version of the Qur’an was eventually compiled and copies were sent to major regional centers. This version became the model for all subsequent copies of the Qur’an.
Uthman’s authoritative text marks a critical moment in the history of Islam. Its arrangement is still the only one in use today. Roughly 6,240 verses (ayat) are organized into 114 chapters (suras) of descending length. Most of the longer chapters, which were revealed in Medina, appear at the beginning of the Qur’an, while the shorter ones from Mecca are toward the end. The text’s careful divisions and structure have helped believers to read, recite, and memorize the Sacred Text of Islam over the centuries.
Overview | Chapter and Verse | Ink and Gold | Power and Prestige | Timeline | Symposium: The World Illuminated: Form and Function of Qur’anic Manuscripts