There is a misconception that the word scripture does not necessarily mean a written book or format, and that a scripture could be just some inspired information to be imparted by verbal communication of a prophet. This is a meaning that is not founded in the Arabic language or in Quran.
Perhaps one factor that might have lead to this misconception is the mix up between the definition of a scripture and the meaning of a divinely inspired message. God's message to humanity has been one and the same: There is only one God, worship Him alone (21:25). A message is the essence of what a scripture would detail, but it cannot replace that scripture. If, ultimately, we are accountable for our actions, then, a scripture from God is needed to teach us how to worship Him and attain righteousness and salvation. It has been God's unchangeable system that He sends guiding scriptures with His prophets to different generations and He sends messengers without scriptures only to confirm God's message and all that is already in an existing scripture. It is illogical to believe that a messenger without a scripture will be accepted without having a support for what he claims and for his message in an existing scripture:
[21:10] We have sent down to you a scripture containing your message. Do you not understand?
Major Prophecy Fulfilled
God's Messenger of the Covenant [3:81] GOD took a covenant from the prophets, saying, "I will give you the scripture and wisdom. Afterwards, a messenger will come to confirm all existing scriptures. You shall believe in him and support him." He said, "Do you agree with this, and pledge to fulfill this covenant?" They said, "We agree." He said, "You have thus borne witness, and I bear witness along with you."
A scripture would contain teachings, rites, wisdom, enlightenment and laws that settle all disputes (28:43, 2:213, 5:48, 42:17, 57:25, 16:64, 4:105, 10:57, 44:4)
In both Arabic and English languages, the meaning of the word "scripture" is based on having a written format or a written source. Any writing, whether it is of a divine nature or not, irrespective of the kind of text used in its script, the material on which this text is written and the tool or the manner by which this text is written, is called a scripture.
Since Quran was revealed in perfect Arabic tongue, with no ambiguity (16:103, 39:28), we should study and analyze the meaning of this word, scripture/book, in its perfect Arabic format, Ketab, as used by the Most Gracious, Himself.
The root of the word ( Ka Ta Ba) and all its derivatives mean nothing but documented, or written words. Whether the text is composed by letters, symbols or pictures- written on rocks, tablets, wood, mountains, sand, plants, paper or on a computer screen- by engraving, by carving, by drawing, by nails, by pens or typed by fingers- that text composes a scripture. in other words, "Ketab" mandates the presence of written material that can be read. This is the ONLY meaning of this word in the Arabic language. The oral/verbal format has nothing to do with the meaning of the word scripture or ketab and any verbal/oral communication cannot be considered "Ketab" or scripture.
In support of the above meaning of "Ketab" (written, documented words), the following verses confirm the fact that God's scriptures were dictated, hence written and recorded by hands in whatever text format. Please reflect:
Honoring Previous Scripture [5:44] We have sent down the Torah, containing guidance and light. Ruling in accordance with it were the Jewish prophets, as well as the rabbis and the priests, as dictated to them in GOD's scripture, and as witnessed by them. Therefore, do not reverence human beings; you shall reverence Me instead. And do not trade away My revelations for a cheap price. Those who do not rule in accordance with GOD's revelations are the disbelievers.
[25:5] They also said, "Tales from the past that he wrote down; they were dictated to him day and night."
[53:4] It was divine inspiration.
[53:5] Dictated by the Most Powerful.
[80:13] In honorable scriptures.
[80:14] Exalted and pure.
[80:15] (Written) by the hands of messengers.
[80:16] Who are honorable and righteous.
[52:1] Mt. Sinai.
[52:2] The recorded scripture.
[52:3] Published in books.
[7:145] We wrote for him on the tablets all kinds of enlightenments and details of everything: "You shall uphold these teachings strongly, and exhort your people to uphold them - these are the best teachings. I will point out for you the fate of the wicked."
[7:157] "(4) follow the messenger, the gentile prophet (Muhammad), whom they find written in their Torah and Gospel.* He exhorts them to be righteous, enjoins them from evil, allows for them all good food, and prohibits that which is bad, and unloads the burdens and the shackles imposed upon them. Those who believe in him, respect him, support him, and follow the light that came with him are the successful ones."
God's Messages to the World [6:91] They never valued GOD as He should be valued. Thus, they said, "GOD does not reveal anything to any human being." Say, "Who then revealed the scripture that Moses brought, with light and guidance for the people?" You put it down on paper to proclaim it, while concealing a lot of it. You were taught what you never knew - you and your parents. Say, "GOD (is the One who revealed it)," then leave them in their heedlessness, playing.
Keeping the above verses in mind, dictated and written text implies being able to read this text, an action that is repeated numerous times in Quran in regards to God's scriptures. We cannot read what is only spread by verbal or oral communication:
Do Not Prohibit What Is Lawful [3:93] All food used to be lawful for the Children of Israel, until Israel imposed certain prohibitions on themselves before the Torah was sent down. Say, "Bring the Torah and read it, if you are truthful."
[2:113] The Jews said, "The Christians have no basis," while the Christians said, "The Jews have no basis." Yet, both of them read the scripture. Such are the utterances of those who possess no knowledge. GOD will judge them on the Day of Resurrection, regarding their disputes.
The Messenger's Doubt [10:94] If you have any doubt regarding what is revealed to you from your Lord, then ask those who read the previous scripture. Indeed, the truth has come to you from your Lord. Do not be with the doubters.
Quran: Muhammad's Miracle [29:48] You did not read the previous scriptures, nor did you write them with your hand. In that case, the rejectors would have had reason to harbor doubts.
[2:44] Do you exhort the people to be righteous, while forgetting yourselves, though you read the scripture? Do you not understand?
[96:1] Read, in the name of your Lord, who created.
[96:2] He created man from an embryo.
[96:3] Read, and your Lord, Most Exalted.
[96:4] Teaches by means of the pen.
[96:5] He teaches man what he never knew.
Another Arabic word that is used for Ketab or divine scripture in Quran is "suhuf". The root is Sa Ha Fa, which is also a perfect Arabic word used by God and has no meaning in the Arabic language but written, documented words. This clear word is used to describe both scriptures of Abraham and Moses. "The teachings" for both Abraham and Moses are written as "Sohuf" in the Arabic text of the following three verses:
[87:18] This is recorded in the earlier teachings.
[87:19] The teachings of Abraham and Moses.
[53:36] Was he not informed of the teachings in the scripture of Moses?
It is noteworthy that the teachings of Moses "Sohuf" are also described as a statute book and a scripture in 2:53 and 21:48, a proof that this word, Suhuf, means a script or whatever collection of documented words. Of course we know that Moses's documented words were engraved on tablets for both him and his brother Aaron (7:145 We wrote for him on the tablets all kinds of enlightenments and details of everything: ...) :
A third perfect and accurate Arabic word that also means written/documents and is used by God almighty to mean scriptures is "zubur". "Zubur" is the plural of "Zaboor". "Zaboor" is equivalent to "written book" and its verb means "write"- in Arabic, it is "Kataba".
That word (single or plural) is used ten times by God. Five of them are exclusively for the Psalms of David, not as a proper name at all for the Psalms but only to describe his scripture as written document, just like Ketab or Suhuf. Four times are to generally refer to God's scriptures, just like Ketab or Suhuf. One time to indicate the division of the people just as we tare papers into pieces. The ten verses are 21:105, 4:163, 17:55, 3:164, 35:25, 26:196, 16:44, 54:52, 54:43, and 25:53 respectively.
The use and the meaning of the word "Suhuf" in the above verses and the word "Zubur" serve as an additional confirmation of the definition of a Ketab or scripture/book -written and documented words. If later generations have failed to find the original manuscripts of God's scriptures or found some contradictions and flaws in whatever was left of them, this is only because God has promised the preservation process of His scriptures exclusively for Quran (15:9), not because some of the original scriptures were only oral ones- as eaxplained above, there is no such thing as "oral scripture".
Based on Quran, Noah started the history of prophets to humanity. Our accountability and hence God's annihilation as a consequence of rejecting His revelations started by Noah and his community (42:13, 40:5, 7:69, 6:84, 11:48, 17:17, 7:69, 25:36-37 and others). This makes what Noah delivered, in whatever language or symbols, whether it was found, lost, or will be found, the first written manuscript of laws and rites. All the prophets were the descendants of Adam and they all came from three distinctive ancestries, Noah, Abraham, and Israel (19:58) who was not named among God's prophets:
God's Messengers [4:163] We have inspired you, as we inspired Noah and the prophets after him. And we inspired Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, the Patriarchs, Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon. And we gave David the Psalms.
The Prophets [57:26] We sent Noah and Abraham, and we granted their descendants prophethood and the scripture. Some of them were guided, while many were wicked.
God's prophets are well-defined by God in Quran and therefore all His written manuscripts or Suhuf can be simply counted:
[19:56] And mention in the scripture Idris. He was a saint, a prophet.
Not The Final Messenger [33:40] Muhammad was not the father of any man among you. He was a messenger of GOD and the final prophet. GOD is fully aware of all things.
[6:83] Such was our argument, with which we supported Abraham against his people. We exalt whomever we will to higher ranks. Your Lord is Most Wise, Omniscient.
[6:84] And we granted him Isaac and Jacob, and we guided both of them. Similarly, we guided Noah before that, and from his descendants (we guided) David, Solomon, Job, Joseph, Moses, and Aaron. We thus reward the righteous.
[6:85] Also, Zachariah, John, Jesus, and Elias; all were righteous.
[6:86] And Ismail, Elisha, Jonah, and Lot; each of these we distinguished over all the people.
[6:89] Those were the ones to whom we have given the scripture, wisdom, and prophethood. If these people disbelieve, we will substitute others in their place, and the new people will not be disbelievers.
Peaceful Friday, salaam and God bless.