Chain of Transmission and Sources
Among different chains of transmission, the chain through Ubaydullah ibn Abdullah seems to be the most relied on:
Narrated Yahya bin Sulaiman, from Ibn Wahbin, Yunus, Ibn Shihab, from Ubaydullah ibn Abdullah referring to Ibn Abbas
Ubaydullah ibn Abdullah bin Masoud officiated in Medina in the succession of Omar ibn al - Khattaband the grandson of the Companion Ibn Masoud, brother of the companion Abdullah bin Masood . Ibn Utbah grew up in Medina, and excelled in it, until he became one of the seven jurists of the city among the followers of his time. He died blind around 98 a.H.
Mentioned by Ibn Sa'd in the second layer of the people of the city; Waaqidi said: «He was a reliable, scientist and scholar.
There are quite some but not too many Ahadith related through him, of which the cited Hadith is the most famous one.
As always, I am unable to control whether the chain is reliable and I have to rely on Al-Bukhari who estimated this chain reliable enough to put this hadit in his Sahih collection. He adds some critical comment, saying: «It is apparent from this Hadith that Ibn 'Abbes had witnessed the event and came out saying this statement. The truth is not so, for Ibn 'Abbas used to say this statement on narrating the Hadith and he had not witnessed the event personally.», in Fath Al-Bari (referenced Vol. 1, p.220).
It is also contained in different chains going back to Ibn Abbas, also in Sunan Said ibn Mansour, Sahih Muslim, Musnad Ahmed bin Hanbal , Süneni Beyhaki, Ibn Sa'd 's Kitabut-Tabakatul-Kebir and the Shiite sources of Al-Irshad fi Marifeti Hucecillahi alel- Ibad, Evailul-Makalat fil-Mezahib wal-Muhtarat, El-Gaybet (Numani) and Menakib Ale Ebi Taliband.
Was the Messenger able to Write?
He asked for pen and paper, but he didn't know how to write and conveyed the entire Quran by speaking only. It seems weird that Quran, the most important of all knowledge, would be conveyed by speaking but he will choose to say something else only in writing. Instead it would have made more sense if he had asked for someone to start writing as he recited the message. Isn't that what he usually did?
Among Muslim scholars, there are differing views on whether or not the Prophet could write. There are several narratives in both Sunni and Shiite books that confirm that the Prophet could both read and write and even wrote on several occasions. It is mentioned in Sahih Al-Bukhari that Muhammad did write in a treaty with the Meccans. If we accept this hadith. It means that Muhammad (p.b.u.h) did learn to read and write to some extent. It is actually only reported that he did not know to read and write when his mission as a prophet started.
It is also likely that he did not write any revelation of the Quran even if he knew. I can imagine that it would have disturbed his attention to listen (in his mind, not with the ears!) the relevation he received if he had them simultaneously written down. It is already a challenge for somebody who knows very well to write down a normal speech.
If prophet wanted to say something then it is God who wanted him to say something and to claim he was unable to do it, would mean the God couldn't do it.
After this incident, it's said he lived three more days, which also pokes a hole in the idea, 3 days is lot of time to get message out if one wants to get a message out.
... or maybe he thought that he wanted to write something (from his own mind) but he found out that God did not want him to do this?
We cannot know because finally, he didn't write.
Sunni Counterpart to the Shia Hadith on the Dispute
There does not seem to be a Sunni counterpart to the Shia hadith, telling:
Omar had heard Muhammad repeat the hadith of Saqaleen many times,
saying: "I leave among you two precious trusts, one is the Book of
God, the Qur'an, and the other is the Ahl al-Bayt . As long as you
cling to these two, you will never go astray, and these two relics of
mine will never be separated. "They will enter me next to the Kowsar
pool." Omar imagines that the Prophet wants to write about the Qur'an
and the Ahl al-Bayt, and he did his best to prevent it. (ibn Khattab).
A few years later, Ibn 'Abbas had a conversation with Umar and Umar
said to him, "I tell you: the Holy Prophet wanted to replace Ali
during his illness, but I stopped him."
This hadith is of course not in the Sunni collection but I did not find a hadith transmitting an opposing point-of-view.
A (weak) addition is found instead:
According to some sources, Muhammad, after failing to make his statement, said that he would instead issue three recommendations to the Ummah. According to a source from Ibn Sa'd, two of these were:
- Expulsion of polytheists from Arabia.
- Accepted the delegation exactly as he had appointed it.
The Wikipedia page on this hadith cites some references on Sunni publications that are not online, and I haven't read them.