It seems that the Quran was compiled and collected during the time of Holy Prophet (S) and its compiler was Ali (a.s.) as apparent from the traditions of Bukhari, Suyuti and Damiri. He had collected the Quran in the lifetime of the Messenger of Allah (S) and according to the report of Bukhari, he used to announce that he had the Quran systematically arranged by the Prophet. However, the matter of Caliphate was decided; as a result of which the Bani Hashim were distanced from rulership.
Thus, after sometime, it became famous that Ali (a.s.) was busy in collecting the Quran. Learning of this, Abu Bakr appointed Zaid bin Thabit and Ubayy Ibn Kaab to collect the Quran. These people did as ordered by the Caliph.
There is no doubt that Ali (a.s.) had collected the Quran during the lifetime of the Prophet. The Holy Prophet (S) had himself given the name and the sequence of the verses of each chapter of the Quran. But what happened to the Quran collected by Ali (a.s.)? There was no sign of it. But it is learnt that a copy of the Quran collected by Ali (a.s.) existed upto the time of Saffah, the Abbasid ruler.1 When it survived till the reign of Saffah, there can be no doubt about its existence during the time of Abu Bakr, when its collector, Ali (a.s.) was himself present.
It is surprising that Abu Bakr did not ask for the Quran collected by Ali (a.s.). What was the use of appointing Zaid bin Thabit? Books of both the sects show that Abu Bakr did not involve Ali (a.s.) in this matter at all. He neither asked Ali (a.s.) to collect the Quran, nor did he take any advice from him. This disregard by the Caliph doubtlessly created an aspect of decrease in Ali’s status in the people’s view. People are aware that from the aspect of tradition of the two heavy things, Ali (a.s.) could not be considered separate from Quran. Even today, those who believe in the veracity of the Holy Prophet (S) consider Ali (a.s.) to be with the Quran on the basis of the prophetic tradition: “The Quran is with Ali and Ali is with the Quran.”
Thus, the action of the Caliph to have the Quran collected by people other than Ali (a.s.) was a one-sided matter and any matter concerning the Quran had no one more deserving than Ali (a.s.). In addition to be the subject of the tradition:
“The Quran is with Ali and Ali is with Quran.”
He was also the gate of knowledge according to the Holy Prophet (S). But when the Quran collected by him was not give currency, naturally people began to consider him less important from that aspect of religious leadership. Indeed, if the Quran collected by him had become popular, he would have earned great credit and respect among the populace. Apparently, the matter of gathering the Quran seems to be a secret affair. But it was one of the strongest causes for the dishonor of Bani Hashim.
In view of this writer, this incident was the second after the incident of “we have the Book of Allah”, which brought worldly loss of status for Bani Hashim. We all know that the matter of collecting the Quran affected the people of all ages and even today its effects are obvious. For example, as in past, in this age also, programs of Quranic recitation are held. The memorizers recite the Quranic verses and the scholars explain the meaning, quoting the relevant traditions of the Holy Prophet (S). But not once do they refer to the tradition:
“The Quran is with Ali and Ali is with the Quran.”
But if this Quran had been the one collected by Ali (a.s.), they would have been compelled to recite the above tradition also. In that case, the remembrance of the ‘Silent Quran’ would have been accompanied with the remembrance of ‘Speaking Quran’. The ‘Speaking Quran’ denotes His Eminence, Ali (a.s.). He has referred to himself as the ‘Speaking Quran’.2 Anyway, if this omission from Quran recitations programs does not show disrespect of Bani Hashim, what else does? Only those considered worthy of remembrance are remembered. Who remembers those unworthy of remembrance?
It would not be out of place to mention a belief of Ahlul Sunnat that Allah is so angry with Shias that they are not able to memorize the Quran! Apparently, this implies that Shias never make efforts to memorize the Quran. I have seen two or three memorizers of Quran. One of them being the son of Mir Mahdi Husayn Sahab, who recites the Quran every year in the holy month of Ramadhan at Lodi Qada. The witness of this is Hafiz Abdul Majeed Khan Sahab who presently resides at Natwal.
There are even some Shia memorizers of Quran (Hafiz) in the principalities of Rampur, Amroha and Lucknow. Maulana Hafiz Kifayat Husayn Sahab is ever ready to travel anywhere and recite the Quran for anyone who so desires. And there were numerous people from Shias who learnt the Quran by heart.
For example, Asim, Amash, Ibn Abbas, Abul Aswad etc. Even Ahlul Sunnat consider them excellent Huffaz (pl. of Hafiz = one who knows the Quran by heart). In short, we can say that it is a stupid notion that Shias cannot memorize the Quran. Leave alone Shias, Christians, Jews and atheists could become Hafiz if they strive for it. Indeed, bigotry is something that makes one blind to truth, and it is the greatest impediment to research.