"Indeed, Ali is with the Qur'an and the Qur'an is with Ali, the two will never
separate even when they return to me at the poll [of kawthar in paradise]" -
Prophet Mohammad (pbuh&hh).
The above hadith found in several authoritative works of almost all
denominations of Islam, is not a stray or solitary reference to the relationship
between the Holy Qur'an and its prime and perfect compiler as a mushaf (book) in
the correct order of revelation, especially when one takes note of the
widely-quoted Hadith al-Thaqalayn which the Prophet pronounced on several
occasions concerning the legacy that he was leaving behind and the
inseparability between the Book of Allah and his Ahl al-Bayt, whose most senior
member was his cousin and son-in-law, Imam Ali bin Abi Talib (a.s.).
In addition, the Prophet's explicit explanation of certain ayahs of the Holy
Book, such as
﴾...say: sufficient is Allah as witness between me and you and he with
whom is the knowledge of the Book (13:43)﴿.
that the witness other than God referred here, is Imam Ali (a.s.), is further
proof of the fact that it was but natural for the Qur'an to be collected between
two covers by the person who for twenty-three years had been the sole human
witness to the revelation of the Divine Message to the Seal of Messengers (pbuh&hh).
All early sources of Islamic hadith and history have vouched the veracity of the
words of Imam Ali (a.s.)- expressed on several occasions - that from among the
Prophet's companions, other than him, no one was more knowledgeable of the
Qur'an between the two covers, and in addition to the nasikh wa mansukh (abrogator
and the abrogated), the muhkam wa mutashabih (clear and allegorical), and the
khass wa 'amm (specific and general), he knew every single Qur'anic ayah,
regarding whom it was revealed and where it was revealed, whether in the plain
or on the mountain, in daytime or at night.
He not only had committed to memory the entire Qur'an but as the person most
nearest to the Prophet, had also transcribed on parchment, leaf, cloth and
papyrus whatever his cousin dictated, in addition to the sacred text.
Thus, it is clear that he possessed every single revelation and it was only a
matter of time for him to give these fragmented folios the form of book (mushaf).
This opportunity came to him after the passing away of the Prophet and his
isolation by the conspirators who staged a coup at Saqifah Bani Sa'idah while he
performed the last rites of the Divine Messenger.
Reports on Compilation of the Imam's Mushaf
There are numerous reports in both Sunni and Shi'ite texts that Imam Ali (a.s.)
was the first-ever compiler of the Holy Qur'an as well as the manner of
compilation of his mushaf. According to the prominent tabi'i, Mohammad bin Sirin
(33-110 AH), the Imam's mushaf was in the order of revelation with due focus on
ayahs pertaining to nasikh and mansukh. Ibn Sirin says that when Imam Ali (a.s.)
stayed away from the new rulers and did not give allegiance to Abu Bakr, the
latter felt concerned and visited his house to ask him the reason for not
acknowledging his caliphate.
The Imam replied that he had pledged to Allah not to put a cloak on his
shoulders except for the prayer until he complied the Qur'an between two covers
(mushaf). Ibn Sirin regretted that this transcript has not passed into the hands
of the Muslims (for reasons which will be mentioned later) and said: "If that
transcript were in our hands, we would have found great knowledge in it." A
similar report has been given by Ibn Munadi, who says that after the passing
away of the Prophet, the Imam confined himself to his house for three days and
compiled the whole Qur'an.
The famous bibliographer, Ibn Nadim, has called it the first ever mushaf and
said the Imam compiled it with the help of his heart and memory. Ibn Jawzi al-Kalbi
reports that during the lifetime of the Prophet, the Qur'an was in fragmented
form, confined to parchments and the memory of reciters, until compiled as
mushaf in the order of revelation by Imam Ali (a.s.) immediately after the
passing away of the Noble Messenger. He says that if this mushaf were to be
traced it would unravel bezels of wisdom.
Unfortunately, certain persons, while acknowledging the authenticity of these
accounts have tried to cast doubts on the Imam's compilation being in book-form,
by stating, rather unconvincingly, that the phrase jama'a al-Qur'an means that
he memorized the Holy Scripture after the passing away of the crude attempt to
credit others with the first compilation of the Qur'an but the fallacy of such
biased claims are exposed when we diligently scrutinize the text of the
above-quoted accounts where the word mushaf is clearly mentioned.
Moreover, only a written or transcribed document could be the quest of scholars
who regret at not having access to it, and not the memory of a person. 'Allamah
Majlisi in his note to the queries and answers given by the celebrated Shaykh
Mufid in al-Masa'il al-Sarwiyyah, writes:
The commander of the Faithful, Imam Ali (a.s.) compiled the whole Qur'an from
its beginning to its end and arranged it in order (of revelation) with the
Makkan ayahs taking precedence over those revealed later in Madinah and placing
the abrogated before the abrogator; everything in the Qur'an being in its right
For this reason Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq (a.s.) has said: "Yes, by Allah! If the
Qur'an is to be recited as per its order of revelation, you will find us in it
with names and references in the same manner as those before us have been
mentioned by name."