Islam is growing and strengthening its hold all over the world. It is perceived by many to be a threat to Christianity. The only way to compare the two religions is by their books, the Bible and the Qur'an. We will be discussing the character of both, but here we will only look at the origin of the Qur'an.
The Qur'an is regarded as a holy book. It teaches that the written form that exists today is a reflection of the exact original manuscript inscribed in heaven: 'Assuredly this is a majestic Qur'an (inscribed) in a Preserved Tablet (Surah 85.21-22, cited by J Gilchrist, The Qur'an, The Scripture of Islam, Life Challenge Africa, 1995, p1,2). As Allah is regarded as uncreated, so the Qur'an is regarded as having existed with him eternally.
So the question we want to answer: is the Qur'an as used by the Muslims today, a direct revelation from Allah, that has never changed or been revised? (NB! As all the following references come from Gilchrist's book, we will only reference the pages.) Muhammad claimed that the messages he received from Allah over a period of 23 years were mediated to him by the angel Jibril, said to be the angel Gabriel (Surah 2.97; p 2). While Muhammad was living, the Quran was never compiled into one book. His followers memorized the messages, and wrote some of them down. When Muhammad died, his followers began to collect all the different sayings recorded and memorized. Zaid ibn Thabit was asked to do it and he recorded his investigation in the following words: 'So I started looking for the Qur'an and collected it from (what was written on) palm-leaf stalks, thin white stones, and also from men who knew it by heart, till I found the last verse of Surat at-Tauba (repentance) with Abi Khuzaima al-Ansari, and I did not find it with anybody other than him' (Sahih al-Bhukari, vol 6, p 478; p 103, 104).
Gilchrist says:'Muslims claim that the Qur'an as it stands today is an exact record of the original without so much as a dot or stroke ever having been lost, changed or substituted in any way. This is a strange claim to make for a book which had to be compiled piecemeal from various sources scattered among the companions of Muhammad, particularly in the light of further evidences that some passages have been lost, that others have been abrogated, and that other codices compiled about the same time as Zaid's had numerous readings that differed from his and from each other' ( p 104, 105). Many portions of the Qur'an were lost at the battle of Yamama when people who had memorized whole portions of messages perished: 'Many (of the passages) of the Qur'an that were sent down were known by those who died on the Day of Yamama ...but they were not known (by those who) survived, nor were they written down, nor had Abu Bakr, 'Umar or Uthman (by that time) collected the Qur'an, nor were they found with even one (person) after them' (Ibn Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Masahif, p 23; p 105).
Muhammad did not write down his revelations, but his followers did, and they committed them to memory. 'It was not Allah who arranged the text in its present form but rather the young man Zaid and that only according to the best of his ability. Nor was it Muhammad who codified or standardized it for the Muslim ummah, but 'Uthman and that only after a complete revision on one codex at the expense of all the others. The Qur'an in the possession of Muslims today is simply a revised edition of Zaid's initial compilation' (p 112). During the time of Uthman's caliphate, it was discovered by the Muslim general Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman on an expedition of what is today Syria and Iraq, that the people were disputing about the Qur'an, using different codices (p 109). One standardized text was then written, and all the others destroyed. Understandably there was the feeling that he ruined authentic manuscripts of the Qur'an compiled by some of Muhammad's closest companions (p 108-113). Though the Muslim world today proclaim a single text of the Qur'an, those of Uthman's time accused him of disregarding some important revelations. Abdullah ibn Mas'ud was recorded as 'the first man to speak the Qur'an aloud in Mecca after the apostle' (Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasulullah; p 115). He did not accept the version of Zaid, and maintained that his was the original: 'I acquired directly from the messenger of Allah (saw) seventy surahs when Zaid was still a childish youth - must I now forsake what I acquired directly from the messenger of Allah?' (Ibn abi Dawud, Kitab al-Masahif; p 115-117).
We conclude: The Qur'an in possession of Muslims today is a revised edition of Zaid's initial compilation, and not a direct, unchangeable message from Allah.