The most prevalent question about this Mushaf, the most tumultuous and confusing issue is, “What exactly does “Mushaf” mean?” The assumption is that this Mushaf is a special type of Quran. However, as we will show in the following sayings (hadith) of the Prophet Mohammad(s.a.w) and the Imams(a.s), this Mushaf doesn't contain a single verse (ayah) of the Quran. However, some of the uninformed think that because it is called a “Mushaf” that it must mean “Quran”. In fact, some Sunnis come to Qom1 asking to see the Mushaf which they allege is another Quran. However, when they understand the reality that the Shiites have none other than and only that very Quran that other Muslims possess, they are stunned at the accusations made against the Shiites. A great deal of the Ahl al-Sunnah (i.e. Sunnis) thinks that the Shiites have another Quran—besides the present Quran—at their disposal! They suppose that Mushaf Fatimah is that other Quran! These allegations even make their way into secular Arab publications. For example, the Sudanese Newspaper, ”Aakhir Khabar” on 6 Rajab, 1416 included an article claiming that the Shiites have another Quran by the name of Mushaf Fatimah!
It has gotten to the point that some Shiites believe that Mushaf Fatimah is another Quran. In this way they will assume that the narrations presented in this book have little import (because they are meant to mislead Sunnis) and doubt the chain of authority of the narrators. It is amazing in this light to see that such a personage as Imam Khomeini not only didn't hide or deny its existence, rather, he took pride in it: “We are honored that . . . Sahifah Fatemiyyah (i.e Mushaf Fatemah) which was inspired by God most excellent to Zahra Mardhiyyah (i.e. Lady Fatimah) is our (heritage).”2
What do such people mean that they are honored or take pride in Mushaf Fatimah? It's because no one had seen its contents3 came out after nightfall and said several times: ‘(There will be) a grumbling and a moaning and a dark night, and then the Imam (al-Mahdi) will come out to you wearing the shirt of Adam, and on his hand will be the ring of Solomon, and the staff of Moses.”4.) and it is only through narrations that we know what the subject matter is. Subsequently, I must confess that the existence of the Mushaf Fatimah has been proven and the proofs exist, however, we must approach it in a round about way. Heretofore an independent work has not been published; (other works) have indirectly mentioned it.
Some of the hadith about Mushaf Fatimah have used this very word “Mushaf” in which case the aforementioned thoughts are reinforced. Mohammad bin Muslim narrates from Imam Ja'far al-Sadiq(a.s), “Fatimah left a Mushaf which is not the Quran.”5
'Ali bin Sa'id narrated from Imam al-Sadiq(a.s), “And it is with us. By Allah, Mushaf Fatimah does not contain a single verse from the Book of Allah!”6 Imam al-Sadiq(a.s) says, “In it is what is like your Quran, only three times (in size).”7,8
Some have conjectured that Mushaf is a word exclusively in reference to the Quran. If it is said that “Mushaf Fatimah”, means “Fatimah's Quran” because the last hadith says “It is like your Quran, only three times (in size)”, they conclude that the Shiites believe that the present Quran is inadequate. These people are oblivious to the fact that the preceding hadith stated emphatically that this Mushaf doesn't contain a single verse of Quran. In any case, now we will start the discussion with the meaning of “Mushaf”.
That which has the appearance of sheets of text between two covers is called a “Mushaf”. In Sahah taj al-lughah, and , Sahah al-'arabiyyah it says, ”Al jam'e lil suhuf al maktubeh bayn al dafatayn”.9,10 “Suhuf” (صُحُف)
the plural of “sahifeh” (صَحيفة) connotes a leaf or folio on which one writes. “dafatayn” (دَفَتين) is derived from “dafah” (دَفّة) which connotes something which is contiguous or adjoining something. ”daftan al-Mushaf” (المصف دفتاً) means the cover on both sides of a book. 11,12 Consequently, a Mushaf has more than one page, not just one, although it could on occasion have no more than one page; it's still a Mushaf if it's between two covers so that the pages are contained within it.13
In conclusion, it must be said that “Mushaf” connotes a bound book inclusive to any book and is not exclusive to the Quran, although it must be said here that that well known meaning of Mushaf is “Quran”. Etymologically speaking, it can be said that Mushaf connotes the Quran (but doesn't denote it—tr.).
There's no doubt that the word Mushaf has been used in reference to the Quran innumerably but can't be said that it is interchangeable with the word “Quran” even if it is the most common connotation or if it has been used in the sunnah as referring to the Quran. Take for example this narration: “The Prophet(S) said, 'Whosoever recites the collected and bound (Mushaf) Quran will have 2000 good things written for him.'”14 He also said, “Grant your eyes a share from your worship.” They said, “And what is the share for the eyes, oh Prophet of Allah?” He said, “Looking at the Mushaf (i.e. the Quran) and pondering over it…”15
We can take away from this narration that the Quran had been collected and bound in the time of the prophet(s.a.w).
Despite the fact that the Prophet referred to the Quran as a Mushaf (in the above narration collected by a Sunni author—tr.), the Sunni sources state that the Prophet(s.a.w) absolutely did not use the word Mushaf because its first usage was in the time of Abu Bakr (the first Caliph). Suyuti16 states, “When Abu Bakr had collected the Quran, [the Muslim community] began searching for a name for it. Some suggested, “Let's call it the Gospel (Injeel).” However, others were not pleased with that (because it is what the Christians call their book). Someone said, “Let's call it ”Sifr” but again others were displeased because the Jews (called their book that). Ibn Mas'ud said, “In Abyssinia, I saw a book which they called “Mushaf”. From this suggestion, they called the bound Quran 'Mushaf'.”17,18
There are three problems with this narration:
This doesn't correspond with the prior narration (in the Sunni canon of hadith) in which the Prophet (S) referred to the Quran as Mushaf.
It opposes the fact that the same narration also demonstrates that the Quran had been bound during the Prophet's(s.a.w) lifetime.
The word “Mushaf” is an 'Arabic word, so it couldn't have been introduced from Abyssinia.
Imam Ali (A) says, “The heart is the Mushaf of the eye.”19
Among the multitude of references that demonstrate that Mushaf doesn't exclusively connote the Quran, are those used by non-Muslim 'Arab writers. For example, ibn S'ad (a Muslim writer) in Tabaqaat al-Kabari conveys the story of one “Sahal the Christian” in which [Sahal] refers to the Gospel and other holy writings amongst [the Christians] with the word Mushaf20 as did 'Arab Muslims. If it were the case that Mushaf only referred to the Quran, they wouldn't have used it for (their writings). For example, Umm Salamah, the wife of the prophet(s.a.w) recounts the story of the Abyssinians as such: “They would unravel their scripture around and about themselves; their patriarch would begin scribing until that volume was soaked with ink.”21 As well, one “Owzaa'i”, born 33 AH, living 157 years (he died 9 years after the martyrdom of Imam al-Sadiq(a.s)) referred to Byzantine manuscripts as Mushaf.22,23
The companions of the Prophet of Allah(s.a.w) used Mushaf to refer to other than the Quran. For example, the famous companion Abi Sa'id Khudri in answering some people who wanted him to narrate hadith to them said, “I won't say a thing for you to write until you've read the Mushaf (of hadith already compiled).”24 Also, Uthmaan ibn 'Affan (the third Caliph) requested of Hafsah,25 “Send us the (unbound and fragmentary) manuscripts (of Qur'an) so that we may compile and make a Mushaf of them (nunsakha fil masahif) . . .”26
In the same way that the sahabah had used Mushaf to refer to other than the Quran, the taabi'een followed suit. In this regard, there are commentaries and lexicons; we will site here a sentence from Mohammad bin Sirin Ansaari: ”'Ali swore to not don his cloak (i.e. not leave his house) except on Fridays (for public prayers) until he had collected the Quran into a book (fi Mushaf).”27
If the term Mushaf in this report meant Quran, it would be redundant. It would be like saying that he (A) was collecting the book of Quran into a book. Then, the literal meaning of Mushaf is clear. The second report comes from Rafi' bin Mehraan who narrated, ”[The companions] collected the Quran into a book (fi Mushaf).”28