Introduction

This article appeared in the journal Mishkat (No 4, spring 1363 H. Sh.), published by Idareh-ye Umur-e Farhangi, an academic and research institution attached to Astaneh-ye Quds-a Radawi, that is, Imam Rida's Shrine at Mashhad. The author is a well-known Iranian scholar.

Undoubtedly, no other book has been the subject of discussion to the extent of the Qur'an, the number of treatises, books and exegeses written on which far exceeds those written about any other book. Although the Torah and the Gospel have been translated into more languages, the Qur'an has a lead over other scriptures in respect of the variety of studies, the number of exegeses and the various aspects of it that have since long been the topic of discussion and writing.

Even in respect of the number of copies circulated the Qur'an has a lead over all other books. Muslims believe that a spiritual reward (thawab) lies in not only writing and reciting the Qur'an but even in looking at its sacred script. Accordingly, as we know, there have been Muslims who in their lifetime produced more than a hundred hand written copies of the Qur'an for the sake of thawab.

Many others have bought hundreds of copies of the scripture and donated them to mosques and shrines to be kept for reading .by visitors. And-if we take into account the age-old Iranian custom of reading the Qur'an in majalis-e khatm where copies of it - usually in thirty, sixty or hundred and-twenty parts, each separately bound - are kept to be read by those attending, the total number of printed and hand-written copies reaches an amazingly large number.

If to these is added the number of copies written by young pupils in the traditional schools (maktab khanah) in the course of their Qur'anic instruction, the-number would be a truly stupendous one.

The tradition of writing the Qur'an commenced from the time of the Noble Prophet (S) himself, who had assigned certain persons to write down and record the Qur'anic revelation as and when it came and was recited by him. They are known as kuttab al-wahy, Scribes of the Revelation. These were different from the secretaries who wrote letters, pacts and treaties for the Prophet (S) or wrote agreements and contracts between parties in his presence. 1