The Prophet and Memorizing the Qur’an During Revelation

Translation of the Text of the Hadith (as Literally as Possible)

Mûsâ ibn Ismâ¢îl related to us, saying: Abû ¢Awânah related to us, saying: Mûsâ ibn Abî ¢Â’ishah related to us, saying: Sa¢îd ibn Jubayr related to us, on the authority of Ibn ¢Abbâs, who said regarding the Word of the Allah: Do not move your tongue [O Prophet, hurriedly] with [the Quran while receiving] it, to hasten [memorizing] it [Sûrat Al-Qiyâmah, 75:16]:

The Messenger of Allah œ was severely afflicted by [the actual incidences of the Quran’s] revelation, and because of this he would move his lips [in rapid repetition].

Then Ibn ¢Abbâs said:

Now shall I move them [my lips] for you even as the Messenger of Allah œ moved them [his lips].’ And Sâ¢îd said. I will move them [my lips] as I saw Ibn ¢Abbâs move them [his lips]. Then he moved his lips.

Thereupon Allah, Most High, sent down:

Do not move your tongue with it, to hasten it. Indeed, it is incumbent upon Us to collect it [in your heart] and [to ease for you] its recitation. [Sûrat Al-Qiyâmah, 75:16-17] [Ibn ¢Abbâs] said [it means]:

He shall gather it together in your breast and then shall you [be able to] recite it.

So when We recite it [to you by way of Our Angel Gabriel], then follow [closely] its recitation. [Sûrat Al-Qiyâmah, 75:18] [Ibn ¢Abbâs]:

So listen to it and be silent.

Then incumbent upon Us is [to ease for you] its explanation. [Sûrat Al-Qiyâmah, 75:19] [Ibn ¢Abbâs]:

Thereafter it is for Us to cause you to recite it [with facility and clarity].

So the Messenger of Allah œ, whenever Gabriel came to him thereafter, would listen. Then when Gabriel departed, the Prophet œ would recite it as he [Gabriel] recited it.

(ßa^î^ Al-Bukhâri, Vol. 1, ±adith #5)


  1. Narrators: Mûsâ ibn Ismâ¢îl was a prominent Egyptian ±adîth scholar and Abû ¢Awânah is Al-Wadhdhah ibn ¢Abd’Allah Al-Yashkûri, compiler of Musnad Abî ¢Awwânah.
  2. The statement of Ibn ¢Abbâs— “Now shall I move them [my lips] for you even as the Messenger of Allah œ moved them [his lips]”—is an example of further explanation by way of demonstration.
  3. Sûrat Al-Qiyâmah (75) came down early in the prophetic mission of the Messenger of Allah œ in Makkah, before the birth of Ibn ¢Abbâs three years before the Hijrah. It is, therefore, not possible that Ibn ¢Abbâs observed this in the first instance. The narration in Musnad Abî Dâwûd, from Abû ¢Awânah, however, proves unequivocally that the Prophet œ himself told Ibn ¢Abbâs about this after the fact.
  4. [Ibn ¢Abbâs’s] statement: “He would move his lips,” and his quote: “Thereupon Allah, Most High, sent down: Do not move your tongue…” admits no contradiction between the two, as both tongue and lips are moved for speech. Indeed, both body parts occur in a related report in ßa^î^ Al-Bukhârî in “Kitâb Al-Tafsîr as “[he] used to move his tongue and lips.”Some scholars hold that the Prophet œ, in the beginning of revelation, used to recite along with Gabriel hurriedly in order to memorize all that was being revealed to him and so as not to forget any part of it. This is stated explicitly in the narrations of Al-Tirmidhi, Al-Nasâ’i, and Ibn Abî ±âtim. Al->abârî’s narration, however, states that the Prophet œ “hastened in its recitation out of love for it (the Quran). Both may be causes for his action, until he was guaranteed his remembrance of it and thus commanded to remain silent during the Quran’s revelation to him.
  5. [Ibn ¢Abbâs’s] statement [of] the Statement of Allah: Then incumbent upon Us is its explanation [Sûrat Al-Qiyâmah, 75:19], means: Then it is for us (that is, Allah) to make it clear to you (that is, the Prophet œ). It may also mean explanation (elucidation) of the meanings of the Quran’s words. This may be evidence for the (permissibility) of delaying explaining speech until after that speech’s actual occurrence.
  6. See further explication of these âyât in Kitâb Al-Tafsîr, ßa^î^ Al-Bukhârî. And this ^adîth also occurs therein in nos. 3927-29, 5044, and 7524.
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