The Documentation and Compilation of the Qur'an went through three stages:
The First stage was during the time of the Prophet-peace be upon him. At this stage, they relied much on memorization than writing because of their strong memory, speedy memorization, lack of adequate number of writers and writing materials. That was why it was not compiled in a book form rather, whoever had any verse from the Prophet memorized it, or wrote it on palm frond, skin patch, stone, and there were many reciters.
It is narrated in Sahihul Bukhari from Anas bin Malik that the Prophet-peace be upon him sent seventy men known as the “reciters”. So, two tribes from bani saleem- Ra’al and Dhakwan attacked them at the well of Ma’una and killed them. There were other companions whoe also memorized the Qur'an apart from them like the four rightly guided caliphs, Abdullah bin Mas’ud, Salim Maula Abi Khaleefa, Ubai bin Ka’ab, Mu’az bin Jabal, Zaid bin Thabit and Abud-Dardaa- may Allah be pleased with all of them.
The second stage was during the time of Abubakar- may Allah be pleased with him- in the twelfth year after Hijra. The reason for it was that a lot of the reciters were killed during the battle of Yamama and among them was Salim Maula Abi Khaleefa, one of those the Prophet commanded people to learn the Qur'an from.
So, Abubakar- May Allah be pleased with him- ordered for the compilation of the Quran so that it will not be lost. It was reported in Sahihul Bukhari that Umar bin Khattab suggested to Abubakar - may Allah be pleased with him- the need to compile the Qur'an after the battle of Yamama but he was undecided. So Umar continued to visit him on the matter until Allah guided Abubakar’s heart to that. Hence, he sent for Zaid bin Thaabit and said to him: you are a young brilliant man, we do not accuse of anything. You used to write the revelation for the messenger of Allah so go through the Qur'an and compile it. Zaid said: so, I gathered the Qur'an from palm fronds, skin patches and people’s heart. The compiled Qur'an was with Abubakar till he died, then it was kept with Umar till he died then with Hafsah the daughter of Umar.
Muslims agreed with Abubakar on his decision and counted it among his righteous deeds. In fact Ali- may Allah be pleased with him- said: the one with the greatest reward as far as the compilation of the Qur'an is concerned is Abubakar. May Allah’s mercies be upon Abubakr; he was the first to compile the Qur'an.
The third stage was during the time of the commander of the faithful, Uthman bin Affan-may Allah be pleased with him- in the twenty-fifth year and the reason for it was the difference between people in recitation based on the difference in the copies of the Qur'an in the hands of people. So, there was fear for tribulation hence, Uthman-may Allah be pleased with him- commanded that all the copies of the Qur'an be gathered into one copy in order to avoid division among people over the book of Allah.
It was reported in Sahihul Bukhari that Huzaifa bin Alyaman came to Uhtman when he returned from the conquest of Armenia and Azerbaijan, he was terrified by the difference between people over the Qur'an. So, he said: O commander of the faithful! Save this ummah before they disagree over the book of Allah just as the Jews and Christians disagreed. So, Uthman sent to Hafsa demanding for the copy of the Qur'an with her and instructed Zaid bin Thaabit, Abdullah bin Zubair, Sa'eed bin Al’as and Abdurrahman bin Alharith bin Hisham to reproduce it into many copies.
Zaid bin Thaabit was from the Ansaar while the remaining three were from the Quraish. So, Uthman said to the three men from Quraish: if you differ with Zaid on anything in the Qur'an write it according to the dialect of the tribe of Quraish because the Qur'an was revealed according to their dialect. They did as he said and when they were done, Uthman returned the Main copy of the Qur'an back to Hafsa and sent the newly reproduced copies to all surrounding towns. He also commanded that every other copy be burnt
Uthman-May Allah be pleased with him- did this after due consultations with the companions of the Prophet-may Allah be pleased with them. Ibn Abi Daud narrated from Ali-may Allah be pleased with him- said: “I swear by Allah he (Uthman) did what he did concerning the copy of the Qur'an in our presence. He said: I think we should unite people on one copy of the Qur'an so that there will be no division among them and we said this is a good idea.”
Mus’ab bin Sa’ad also said: “ I met people available when Uthman burnt the copies of the Qur'an and they were impressed with it and no body when went against it and it is considered part of the righteous deeds of Uthman which was agreed upon by the Muslims and it was a completion of the compilation of Abubakar.
The difference between the compilation of Uthman and that of Abubakar is that the purpose of compiling the Qur'an during the time of Abubakar was to have the Qur'an all written down in a book so that no part will be lost without necessarily uniting them on one copy of the Qur'an. This was because the impact of the difference in recitation was not obvious such as will require uniting them on one copy of the Qur'an.
However, the purpose of compilation during the time of Uhtman was to unite all copies of the Qur'an on one copy of which people will be united upon because the impact of the difference in recitation has become obvious.
The benefit of this compilation was evident in the resultant unity of the ummah and lack of division and disputes.
The Qur'an has remained like that till present, unanimously agreed upon by Muslims, and is being transferred from the old to the young. People with corrupt minds have not been able to play with it neither has the whims of those who have gone astray been able to obliterate it. Praise be to Allah, Lord of the heavens and the earth and indeed all creation.