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The Preservation of the Noble Quran
By Sami Zaatari
One common argument that has been consistently thrown on the Quran is that common to Muslim claims, that the Quran we possess today is not the same exact one which was revealed to the prophet Muhammad, and that there are verses missing, and that the companions of the prophet each had a different Quran than the one which became the standardized official one under Uthman.
The main purpose of this article is to simply quote Islamic scholars on the preservation of the Quran, how it was done and so on, which also addresses the issue of supposed missing verses, and the personal collection made by some of the companions which differed with the true original Quran which was given to all under Uthman.
We first quote from:
REVELATION RECEIVED BY THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD
By: Dr. Ahmad Shafaat
Now from the emphasis that the Qur`an puts on the pen and on writing business contracts -- clearly far less important than the revelation -- from its description of itself as a book like the Torah and the Gospel, and from the uniform testimony of all traditions it is established that the Qur`an was written during the time of the Prophet. Also, there is no direct textual evidence of any alterations in the text of the Qur'an, whether in its contents or their order, ignoring the vowel marks, the dots, and some extremely minor scribal errors that can be identified with a straightforward way (see Chapter 4, Section II, The original can be completely recovered). Finally, it is agreed by all reports that the present text was in use when a large number of the companions of the Prophet were alive. Given these facts even discussing the question of the authenticity of the Qur`anic text seems unnecessary. If today the question of the authenticity of the Qur`anic text is alive in some discussions it is primarily because of three reasons:
First, polemic between Muslims and Christians creates a strong need among some Christians to counter the Muslim allegation of tahrif in the Bible by a similar allegation of tahrif in the Qur`an.
Second, the need on the part of
some scholars, usually incompetent or mediocre or mischievous, to come up with some
sensational or dramatic theses for attracting attention or serving a particular agenda.
Such is probably the case, for example, with Wansbrough who has suggested that the Qur`an was compiled even later than the traditions, and was used to
authenticate later beliefs and laws embodied in the traditions. In other words, during the
early Arab expansion beyond
Third, some Muslim traditions allege that the Qur`an contained this or that statement or that this or that verse was read in this or that way at some, usually, unspecified time.
There is no way to satisfy doubts raised by needs of polemic except perhaps to ask Christians the following question: Suppose that today we had only one gospel that according to all reports was used by the eyewitness disciples of Jesus and by all subsequent generations of Christians down to the present day. Suppose further that all extant manuscripts of this gospel were in complete agreement as to its text except for extremely unimportant scribal errors. Will Christians entertain any doubts about the authenticity of the text of such a gospel? Almost certainly not! Yet in polemic against Islam and Muslims they raise doubts about the authenticity of the Qur`anic text in the face of exactly the same type of evidence.
There is also not much one can do to cure the attention seekers from coming up with sensational but highly suspect theories. Modern Christian scholarship is full of such theories: e.g., the theory that Jesus did not exist or the theory that Jesus was originally the name of the mushroom used in drug cults and was later turned into a human being born and active in Galilee, or that he was a militant zealot engaged in armed struggle for the liberation of Palestine from the Roman yoke. All such theories can be discredited easily by noting that they focus on a very selected part of the evidence and make no attempt to provide a coherent and reasonable explanation of the evidence as a whole. For the specific theory of Wansbrough, he himself has to describe it as "conjectural", "provisional" and "tentative" in order to appear to be adhering to some semblance of academic standards. That the theory does not deserve even these descriptions is shown by the fact that at least four manuscripts of the Qur`an, including some recently discovered fragments have been dated to the first and early second Islamic century (see Chapter 3, Section II).
As for the doubts raised by Muslim traditions we can examine them critically in order to see whether they really call the authenticity of the Qur`anic text into question. Such an examination has been done by Muslim and non-Muslim scholars who have concluded in favor of the authenticity of the Qur`anic text.
Muslim traditions raise two types of doubts:
a) After the departure of the Prophet from this world the material in the text was changed;
b) The order of the material was changed or it was established for the first time after the Prophets departure from this world.
This second type of traditions say that the Prophet left the Qur`an scattered in pieces and it was put as a complete book after his life.
Examples of traditions of the first type, those that raise doubts about the integrity of the material in the Qur`anic text, are:
1) Some Shiah traditions,
documented no earlier than the fourth century of the Islamic calendar, say that in some
verses of the Quran Ali was appointed as the successor of the Prophet but
these verses were changed or removed. Likewise there are reports that the Qur`an once had material disparaging to the rule of the Umayyads,
Alis rival, and that it was removed from the Qur`an by Hajjaj bin Yusuf, the
2) Some Sunni traditions, documented in the second century, say that there was a verse in the Qur'an that prescribed stoning for adultery.
3) We also encounter allegations to the effect that codex of such and such a companion of the Prophet read such and such a verse of the Qur'an in this or that way.
For some people the very existence of such traditions is enough to cast doubt on the authenticity of the Qur`anic text. This is because they guide themselves with the saying, "where there is smoke, there must be fire." This is clearly irresponsible. For, it is evident that there are lots of traditions or ideas that have no basis at all in fact. There may not be smoke without fire (although even that can be arranged!) but there are certainly traditions without truth.
The need for responsible historical research before drawing conclusions from reports can be illustrated by some examples. In Christianity we find in the second to fifth century C.E. the following traditions or views:
· Pilate was a Christian saint.
· A Roman soldier Pantera was an ancestor of Jesus. This Pantera is the same man who according to the Jewish tradition was an illegitimate father of Jesus.
· Cerinthus, a gnostic heretic, wrote the Gospel of John.
· Before he started his ministry, Jesus went to
It would be irresponsible to accept these or any of the other innumerable traditions or views found in the past or present Christian and other writings simply because they are, or claimed to be, found in some documents.
Consequently, responsible historical research must first assess the above-mentioned traditions about the text of the Qur'an as to their veracity. This was attempted long time ago by Muslim muhaddithun (Hadith scholars) who developed some objective criteria to distinguish sound (sahih) traditions from unsound ones. We can either accept their conclusions or carry their critical and scientific work further. Many Muslims have accepted their conclusions and explained the various traditions about variants in the Qur`an as follows: Almost all traditions considered sound by the Hadith scholars are historical. Therefore all variants in the Qur`an stipulated in them are actual. However, they do not represent later changes. Rather, they came from the Prophet himself and are therefore part of revelation. Some of these variants were abrogated by revelation, others were included in seven different revealed modes of reading the Qur`an. Still others were meant to continue in practice but not part of the recited Qur`an. This view has an internal consistency and coherence within a set of assumptions, but is very unsatisfactory. The alternative to this view is a complete revision of the work of the classical Hadith scholars. One cannot simply pick and choose traditions to affirm the faithful transmission of the Qur`an, or, as the Christian missionaries do, build an edifice of accusations against the early transmitters of the Qur`an. We need to develop further objective and rational methods to reconstruct history behind the various traditions. If we do that, the case for the faithful preservation of the Qur`anic revelation can be made even more convincingly than if we simply depend on the work of the classical muhaddithun, as I attempt to show now.
To begin with we have the solid fact before us that despite considerable diversity and divisions among Muslims we find the same text of the Qur`an from country to country and century to century, with some very minor exceptions mentioned earlier. Those who insinuate alterations must explain when and how did this text come into existence. If we ignore certain very late traditions about Hajjaj bin Yusuf discussed further below, the most cynical statement that can be made on the basis of the existing evidence is that the text was finalized by Uthman, the third Muslim leader succeeding the Holy Prophet, and that some changes were made by Uthman or people before him. But a little reflection shows this to be next to impossible. Let us recall some established historical facts: The Prophet had dozens of followers who were with him for about 20 years, hundreds of followers who were with him for about 10 years, thousands who were with him for about one year, and tens of thousands who saw and heard him at least once. After him four of those who were with him for about twenty years successively became leaders of the Muslim world, which during their leadership, lasting for about thirty lunar years, expanded to include at least Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. The most important basis for governing this vast region was the Qur'an and the Sunnah (normative practice of the Prophet). The companions of the Prophet taught people the Qur'an, if only for the daily prayers; some of these people then taught others and so on. Finally it is uncontested that written texts of the Qur'an existed before Uthman during the time of the Prophet and the first two of his successors and that there existed people, as they still do, who memorized the Qur'an in part or in whole.
Now suppose that there were at any time any variations in the Qur'an other than those caused by scribal errors or failure of memory or due to some minor differences in script. That is, suppose that some individuals or groups deliberately held onto a text of the Quran that they knew was different from the one followed by others and that was closer to the original text than the one we possess. How could it then happen that from century to century and from country to country we find the same text of the Qur'an? It is said that `Uthman ordered people to burn all the texts of the Quran which were different from the text that he compiled. But is it conceivable that people will submit to this order even if they thought `Uthman's text was not the authentic text? Westerners may have the tendency to think that Muslim rulers must have always been tyrant dictators who could force the people to do anything. This is certainly not true of the early leaders of Muslims. But even if we assume that people lived in terror of their leaders, it was logistically impossible for `Uthman to control every home. People could easily hide their various copies of the Quran and secretly pass them on to their descendants and through them on to us. It is self-evident and is also required by the teachings of the Qur'an that every Muslim should do his utmost to prevent the alteration or suppression of the word of God. For, in passages where no variations are alleged, the Qur'an had condemned earlier nations for altering or fabricating the "divine" scripture. Thus in one such passage we read:
And woe unto those who write the scripture with their own hands and then say, "This is from God," that they may in this way obtain a small gain. Woe unto them for what their hands have written and woe unto them for what they gain thereby! (2:79).
The following passage condemns even hiding any part of the revelation, much less altering it:
[God says:] Those who hide what We have revealed of the clear matters and of the guidance, after We have made it clear for the people, are accursed of God and accursed of those who (are entitled to) curse - except such of them as repent and amend and make manifest the truth. These it is to whom I turn in forgiveness. And I am the forgiving, the merciful (2:159-160).
Many early Muslims are expected to live up to the obligation implied in these verses even if it meant loosing their lives. For, there has never been a shortage of Muslims who have been willing to give their lives for the sake of Islam. Hence any attempt by `Uthman or anyone else would have been met with the stiffest resistance on the part of many Muslims, resulting in their putting forward an alternative text of the Qur`an. But we have no direct evidence of the existence of such an alternative text. Only later insinuations of the type we have mentioned earlier.
And what about the text that `Uthman promulgated? How did he arrive at that text? On the basis of what text did the first two leaders, Abu Bakr and `Umar governed the Muslim lands before him? What text people had been using in their daily prayers in Madinah, the city of the Prophet, which consisted almost entirely of Muslims, most having seen and heard the Prophet? What text was used throughout the land during sermons before the Friday congregational prayers? How could `Uthman change the text that had been used for twelve years before him in the presence of hundreds of companions of the Prophet who could easily detect any change to the original text and were obligated by religious principles to prevent alterations in the word of God? And why at all would he want to change it, considering that the extant text says nothing in his favor? It is also important to keep in mind that the vast Muslim world was not homogeneous. There was as much diversity of opinion as one expects from any group of people. There were even conflicts, some of them armed. `Uthman himself had opposition from some groups, one of which actually martyred him. Had the text he promulgated been less than 100% reliable his opponents would have made it an issue and accused him of changing the word of God. But the fact is that these opponents accused him of many things but we do not have any early reliable tradition, in which they accuse him of changing the word of God. There is also no evidence that anyone resisted Uthman and was executed for doing so or otherwise persecuted. In fact, several traditions suggest an atmosphere of complete freedom within which promulgation of the so-called Uthmanic text took place (see further below).
It may also be noted that the collection of the Qur`an during the time of the Prophet himself is supported by other traditions. Thus in his last sermon the Prophet told the Muslims: I have left you something, which if you hold steadfast to, you will never fall into error: the Book of God. (Muslim; Muwatta and Ibn Ishaq also contain a similar tradition). Here it is likely that book does not refer to written fragments of the Qur`an scattered all over the places. In another tradition we read Yazid bin Abd Allah said that Abd Allah ibn Amr asked the Prophet: In how many days should I complete the recitation of the whole Qur'an, O Messenger of God? He replied: In one month. He said: I am capable of completing it in a shorter period. He kept on repeating these words and lessening the period until he said: Complete its recitation in seven days. He again said: I am capable of completing it in a period less than this. The Prophet said: He who finishes the recitation of the Qur'an in less than three days does not understand it. (Abu Da`ud). This hadith, versions of which are found also in Bukhari and Muslim, suggests that the complete Qur`an was recited during the time of the Prophet, which implies that somewhere the whole Qur`an was being collected as it was being revealed. .
What about the Shias?
It is often claimed by missionaries that Shias believe the Quran we have today is some-what corrupt, with missing verses and so on. Let us continue with Dr. Ahmed Shafaats work:
The traditions alleging that some lost parts of the Quran or some present verses in their earlier form appointed `Ali as the immediate successor of the Prophet are obviously sectarian and come under immediate suspicion of fabrication. This suspicion becomes a firm conclusion if we remember that `Ali did become the leader of the Muslims after the martyrdom of `Uthman. So why did he not promulgate the correct text during his leadership if the text promulgated by `Uthman was not the original? As noted earlier it is the obligation of every Muslim to prevent alteration or suppression of the word of God and to correct them if they occur. `Ali, in the view of both Shias and Sunnis was not the sort of Muslim who would fail in this obligation either during the leadership of his predecessor or during his own leadership.
We may also dismiss reports that Hajjaj omitted many verses
from the Qur'an, which dealt disparagingly with the rule of the Umayyads, or added to it
some, which were not there originally, or changed about a dozen of them. He is said to
have prepared a new codex for distribution in
These reports about Hajjaj also found their way in Christian writings in the East. Thus in a letter purported to be written by Leo III to Umar bin Abd al-Aziz we read: we know that it was 'Umar, Abu Turab and Salman the Persian, who composed [Qur`an}, even though the rumor has got around among you that God sent it down from the heavens As for your (book), you have already given us examples of such falsifications, and one knows, among others, of a certain Hajjaj, named by you as the governor of Persia, who had men gather up your ancient books, which he replaced by others composed by himself, according to his taste, and which he propagated everywhere in your nation, because it was easier by far to undertake such a task among the people speaking a single language. From this destruction, nevertheless, there escaped a few works of Abu Turab, for Hajjaj could not make them disappear completely.
Given the whole Christian history of forging material in various ways including interpolating documents (such as The Ascension of Isaiah, Josephus` Jewish Wars, and many others) and of attributing late documents to earlier writers (such as the attribution of many late gospels to the disciples of Jesus) the authenticity of the letter of Leo III can hardly be taken for granted. In any case the views stated here are only a confused version of some Muslim traditions and these Muslim traditions are discredited by their sectarian tone and by the impossibility that a provincial governor could replace an older version of the Qur`an throughout the Muslim world by his own, without leaving any trace of that older version.
A modern example
We can illustrate by a modern example how fictitious claims of the existence of some Qur`anic passages could be fabricated and then perpetuated.
In the later part of the 19th century Nicolas
Notovitch, a Russian Jew who converted to the Greek Orthodoxy created a furor by the
publication of his book, The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ. He claimed that he saw
in the Tibetan lamasery (i.e., monastery) of Hemis a two-volume manuscript on the life of
Jesus. He arranged to have the manuscript read aloud and translated for him. In this way
he learnt that Jesus had been in
Most Shiah affirm the integrity of the Qur`anic text
The missing parts of the Qur`an claimed by the Shiah are no more real than the manuscript about Jesus in the Tibetan lamasery. It should, however, be noted that even among the Shiah it is only a small minority that believes in these missing surahs or passages. The majority view among the Shiah is expressed in the following traditions:
Shaykh Abu Jafar says: Our belief is that the Qur'an, which God revealed to his Prophet Muhammad is (the same as) the one between the two binders. And it is that which is in the hands of the people, and is not larger than that.
And he who asserts that it is greater in extent than this (the present text) is a liar.
Shiah scholars throughout the centuries have affirmed this position. Thus Imam Khu`i, (probably a marja taqlid for more Shiah Muslims than any other scholar) states the majority view among Shiah authorities as follows:
It is a known fact among the Muslims that the Quran
has not been tampered with in any way and that all of the Quran we have
with us today is the same that was revealed to the Prophet. This has been specified by
many authorities. Among them is the bona fide, Muhammad ibn Babwih, the chief of all the muhaddithin.
He maintains that the view that the Quran has not been tampered with is among the
beliefs of the Imamiyyah. The great Abu Jafar
Muhammad ibn Hasan al-Tusi also holds this view. He has explicitly mentioned it in
the beginning of his exegesis al-Tibyan. He has also quoted the exactly similar
opinion of his learned teacher and profound scholar Sayyid Murtada. His arguments
on it are the best of all. Similarly, the celebrated exegete of the Quran Tabrasi
has also expressed this same view in the preface of his exegesis Majmuah
al-Bayan. Another person who has asserted this view is the leading jurist Shaykh Jafar in his book Kashf al-Ghita; he has also
claimed a consensus on it. Allamah Shahshahani in his book al-Urwah al-Wuthqah
is an exponent of this view also. He has attributed it to many mujtahidin as well.
Among them is the famous muhaddith Muhsin Qasani (who has mentioned this view in
his two books al-Wafi and Ilm al-Yaqin) and the learned Muhammad
Jawad al-Balaghi who has referred to this view in the preface of his exegesis
What about missing verse on stoning? (rajam)
Continuing with Dr.Shafaats work:
The allegation that a verse prescribing stoning as the punishment of adultery by a married man or woman is also without sound foundation. This will be shown in greater detail in a forthcoming book on Hadith. Here we provide a brief demonstration by examining briefly Bukhari's two relevant traditions. The shorter version reads, on the authority of Ibn Abbas:
`Umar said: I am afraid that after a long time has passed, people may say, "We do not find rajam (stoning) mentioned in the book of God," and consequently they may go astray by neglecting an obligation that God has revealed. Lo! I confirm that the penalty of rajam is applicable to him who commits adultery and he is already married and the crime is established by witnesses, pregnancy or confession (Bukhari, Book: "The punishment of those who..." Chapter: "To confess committing adultery").
The second version is also related on the authority of the same Ibn Abbas but with different chain of transmitters. In the following quotation I have highlighted the parts that are not found in the first version.
God sent Muhammad with the truth and revealed the holy book to him, and a part of what God revealed was the verse of rajam and we did recite it, understood it, and memorized it. God's messenger stoned (for adultery) and so did we after him. I am afraid that after a long time has passed, somebody will say, "By God we do not find the verse of rajam in the book of God," and thus they will go astray by neglecting an obligation that God has revealed. The penalty of rajam is applicable in the book of God to whoever commits adultery, male or female, and is already married and the crime is established by witnesses, pregnancy or confession (Bukhari, Book: "The punishment of those who..." Chapter: "The rajm of a married lady whose adultery is established by pregnancy").
There is no reasonable explanation in sight as to why the verse whose existence is alleged in this second version is not there in our copies of the Quran if it was once part of the Quran. By whom or why or how it was removed from the original Quran and why it was not rewritten if companions like `Umar knew of its presence in the Quran and if they approved the law that it prescribed. But we can easily provide a reasonable explanation of how the tradition alleging the existence of the verse came to be formed.
Notice that both versions talk about people who will object to the penalty of stoning on the grounds that the Quran does not mention it. This suggests that we are dealing here with a controversy between the supporters and opponents of the penalty. The opponents reject the penalty because it is nowhere found in the Quran. The fact that both versions say that the objection of the opponents will be raised after a long time suggests that we are not dealing here with the time of `Umar. Rather the traditions in question arose out of much later legal controversies about the penalty for adultery. The objective of these traditions is to counter a strong objection against the stoning penalty. Apparently, this objection was met with increasing force as the time passed, as we can see by comparing the two versions.
In the first version there is no mention of the verse about stoning. We are only told in vague terms that the penalty was "revealed" (anzala) by God. This was obviously not enough to support the stoning penalty as long as the verse was not found in the Quran. Hence in the second version it is asserted that "a part of what God revealed was the verse of stoning and we did recite it, understood it, and memorized it". These words are not found in the first version. Also, in the first version the opponents of stoning penalty say only:
"We do not find stoning mentioned in the book of God."
In the second version this becomes:
"We do not find the verse of stoning in the book of God."
Note also that in the first version it is said only that:
"The penalty of stoning is applicable to...
In the second version it becomes:
"The penalty of stoning is applicable in the book of God to ."
Clearly as we move from the first version to the second a Qur`anic verse about stoning is created as a fact. If we trace the history of the tradition still further we find that some people did not find even this enough. They actually produced a verse commanding the stoning penalty. The next step would have been to add this verse to the text of the Quran. But this nobody could do, for the received text was so well established that none of the supporters of the stoning penalty had the necessary authority to change it. Moreover, while many Muslims were willing to tolerate mere allegations of the existence of such a verse, they would not have accepted an actual addition to the Quran.
Nevertheless the supporters of the stoning penalty won the day. The reason is not hard to find: To oppose the penalty would be generally regarded as being soft on adultery, and not many wanted to appear in that light. At the same time many trusting Muslims were misled by the traditions which used the authority of `Umar and then the Prophet and the Book of God to support the stoning penalty. In this way the penalty and the traditions about it supported each other and helped to establish both. At one point in time it became difficult to deny the traditions about the stoning verse and they became part of the canonical collections. Then some scholars came up with the concepts of mansukh al-tilawah (abrogated in respect to recitation) and mansukh al-`amal, (abrogated in respect to practice). It was said that the verse about stoning was mansukh al-tilawah not mansukh al-`amal. That is, one could no longer recite the verse as part of the Quran but one was nevertheless obligated to act upon it
In his book ULUM AL QURAN Ahmed Von Denffer writes:
The Mushaf of Ubay bin Ka'b (d. 29 H/649)
He wrote a mushaf, in which two 'additional suras and another 'additional aya' were
reportedly found. [Itqan, I, p. 65; Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif, pp.
18S1; also Noldeke, T. et al.: Ceschichte des Qorans,
We separate from and leave who sins against you.' The second
so-called sura, entitled al-hafd (haste) translates as follows: 'O Allah, we worship You and to You we pray and prostrate and to You we run and hasten to
serve You. We hope for Your mercy and we fear Your punishment.
Your punishment will certainly reach the disbelievers.' Obviously these two
pieces constitute so-called 'qunut', i.e. supplications which the Prophet sometimes said
in the morning prayer or witr prayer after recitation of suras
from the Qur'an. They are in fact identical to some parts of qunut reported in the
collections of hadith. See: Nawawi, al-adhkar,
As to the single additional so-called aya, its translation is as follows: 'If the son of Adam was given a valley full of riches, he would wish a second one, and if he was given two valleys full of riches, he would surely ask for a third one. Nothing will fill the belly of the son of Adam except dust, and Allah is forgiving to him who is repentant. '
Again this text is known to be a hadith from the Prophet. See Bukhari, VIII, No. 444-47. According to Ibn 'Abbas (No. 445) and 'Ubay (No. 446) this text was at times thought to be part of the Qur'an. However Ubay himself clarifies that after sura 102: I had been revealed, they (i.e. the sahaba) did not consider the above to be part of the Qur'an. See Bukhari, VIII, No. 446. This explanation of Ubay also makes it very clear that the Companions did not differ at all about what was part of the Qur'an and what was not part of the Qur'an. when the revelation had ceased. and if e.g. this hadith occurred in the mushaf of Ubay, it was a mushaf for his own personal use, in other words, his private notebook, where he did not always distinguish between Qur'anic material and hadith, since it was not meant for general use and he himself knew well what to make of his own notes. The same is true of the other copies of the Qur'an, which some of the Companions had for their own personal use. Also those who transmitted to us the reports about these copies of the Qur'an of the Companions have only narrated to us the various differences which occurred there according to reports that reached them (e.g. the hadith in Bukhari, VIII, No. 446 that Ubay at some early stage held this sentence to be part of the Qur'an). However the actual manuscripts of these copies of the Qur'an of the Companions have not come down to us, since all of them agreed on the correctness and validity of the copies which 'Uthman had arranged to be written and distributed for general use. Hence their own personal notebooks became obsolete and were destroyed.]
So as we see, the supposed 2 missing Surahs in the Quran were not Surahs but sayings and hadiths of the prophet which some of the companions thought to be as part of the text of the Quran. This can also be said of the supposed verse on stoning, it was most likely a saying of the prophet which some people mistakenly thought that it was a verse from the Quran.
Either way, there is no verse of stoning, never was, and the 2 supposed missing Surahs were never Surahs neither.
Continuing with his book:
THE MUSHAF OF 'UTHMAN
During the time of 'Uthman differences in reading the Qur'an became obvious, and after consultation with the Companions, 'Uthman had a standard copy prepared from the suhuf of Abu Bakr that were kept with Hafsa at that time.
The following is the report transmitted in the Sahih Bukhari:
Narrated Anas bin Malik: Hudhaifa bin
Al-Yaman came to 'Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of
The following events led to the preparation of the mushaf of 'Uthman:
Disputes had arisen among the Muslims about the correct manner of reciting the Qur'an.
'Uthman borrowed the suhuf, which were kept with Hafsa.
'Uthman ordered four Companions, among them Zaid bin Thabit, to rewrite the script in perfect copies.
'Uthman sent these copies to the main centres of the Muslims to replace other materials that were in circulation.
What the Prophet left to the Muslims
The revelation, as left by the Prophet, was available both orally and written on various materials. Its internal order was known to the Muslims and strictly observed by them.
Abu Bakr collected these loose materials and had their contents written on to sheets (suhuf).
CHAPTER 2 : Transmission of the Qur'anic Revelation
The revelation contained in the Qur'an has been transmitted to us by numerous persons in two ways: orally and in written form.
MEMORISATION AND ORAL TRANSMISSION
Memorisation by the Prophet
Oral transmission of the revelation was based on hifz or memorisation and the Prophet Muhammad himself was the first to commit a revelation to memory after the Angel Gabriel had brought it to him:
'Move not thy tongue concerning the (Qur'an) to make haste therewith. It is for Us to collect it and promulgate it; but when We have promulgated it, follow thou its recital' (75: 16-19).
'... an apostle from God, rehearsing scriptures, kept pure and holy ...' (98: 2).
Memorisation by the Companions
The Prophet then declared the revelation and instructed his Companions to memorise it. The case of Ibn Mas'ud, who was the first man to publicly recite the Qur'an in Makka, shows that even in the very early phase of the Islamic umma recital of the revelation from memory was practised by the Companions:
'... the first man to speak the Qur'an loudly in Makka after the apostle was 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud. The Prophet's Companions came together and mentioned that the Quraish had never heard the Qur'an distinctly read to them ... When (Ibn Mas'ud) arrived at the maqAm, he read "In the name of God the Compassionate the Merciful", raising his voice as he did so. "The Com- passionate who taught the Qur'an ...." (55:1) ... They got up and began to hit him in the face; but he continued to read so far as God willed that he should read ... [Guillaume, E.: The Life of Muhammad (abbr. as Ibn Hisham), London, 55, pp. 141-2; Ibn Hisham: Sira al-nabi, Cairo, n.d., 1, p.206.]
It is also reported that Abu Bakr used to recite the Qur'an publicly in front of his house in Makka. [Sira Ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad]
The Prophet encourages Memorisation
There are numerous ahadith, giving account of various efforts made and measures taken by the Prophet to ensure that the revelation was preserved in the memory of his Com- panions. The following is perhaps the most clear:
'Narrated 'Uthman bin 'Affan: The Prophet said: "The most superior among you (Muslims) are those who learn the Qur'an and teach it".' [Bukhari, VI, No. 546.]
It is also well known that the recital of the Qur'an during the daily prayers is required and hence many Companions heard repeatedly passages from the revelation, memorised them and used them in prayer.
The Prophet also listened to the recitation of the Qur'an by the Companions.
Narrated 'Abdullah (b. Mas'ud): 'Allah's
Apostle said to me: "Recite (of the Qur'an) for me". I said: "Shall I
recite it to you although it had been revealed to you?!" He said: "I like to
hear (the Qur'an) from others". So I recited
'Then he said: "Stop!" Behold, his eyes were shedding tears then.' [Bukhari, VI, No. 106.]
The Prophet sent Teachers
The Prophet sent teachers to communities in other places so that they might receive instruction in Islam and the Qur'an.
The case of Mus'ab bin 'Umair illustrates that this was so even before the hijra:
'When these men (of the first pledge of 'Aqaba) left (for Madina) the apostle sent with them Mus.'ab bin 'Umair ... and instructed him to read the Qur'an to them and to teach them Islam and to give them instruction about religion. In Madina Musiab was called "the reader".' [Ibn Hisham, p. 199.]
Another well-known case concerns Mu'adh bin Jabal who
was sent to
Qur'an Readers among the Companions
Suyuti [Itqan 1, p. 124.] mentions more than twenty well-known persons who memorised the revelation, among them were Abu Bakr, 'Umar, 'Uthman, 'Ali, Ibn Mas'ud, Abu Huraira, 'Abdullah bin 'Abbas, 'Abdullah bin 'Amr bin al-'As, 'A'isha, Hafsa, and Umm Salama.
From among these, the Prophet himself recommended especially the following:
'Narrated Masruq: 'Abdullah bin 'Amr mentioned 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud and said: I shall ever love that man for I heard the Prophet saying: Take (learn) the Qur'an from four: 'Abdullah bin Mas'ud, Salim, Muiadh and Ubay bin Ka'b'. [Bukhari, VI, No. 521.]
Another hadith informs us about those Companions who had memorised the Qur'an in its entirety and gone over it with the Prophet before his death:
'Narrated Qatada: I asked Anas bin Malik: Who collec- ted the Qur'an at the time of the Prophet? He replied, Four, all of whom were from the Ansar: Ubay bin Ka'b, Mu'adh bin Jabal, Zaid bin Thabit and Aba Zaid.' [Bukhari, VI, No. 525.]
The fact that some of the earliest historical reports make special mention in the accounts of the battles that were fought, of Muslims killed who knew (something of) the Qur'an by heart, gives a clear indication that memorisation of the revelation was considered important and widely practised from the earliest times. [See below, on collection of the Qur'an in Abu Bakr's time.]
All of this information shows us that the Quran was faithfully collected and preserved during and after the Prophet Muhammadss time, this was done through oral memorization and by writing all the revelations down as soon as they were revealed unto the Prophet Muhammad.
What about the Quranic manuscripts and so on? Denffer writes:
The Samarkand Manuscript [Makhdum, op. cit., p.22ff.]
This is the copy now kept in
It came to
The manuscript was afterwards returned to its former place and reached
The writer of the History of the Mushaf of 'Uthmtln in
The fact that the mushaf is written in a script used in the first half of the first century Hijra.
The fact that it is written on parchment from a gazelle, while later Qur'ans are written on paper-like sheets.
The fact that it does not have any diacritical marks which were introduced around the eighth decade of the first century; hence the manuscript must have been written before that.
The fact that it does not have the vowelling symbols introduced by Du'ali, who died in 68 Hijra; hence it is earlier than this.
In other words: two of the copies of the Qur'an which were originally prepared in the time of Caliph 'Uthman, are still available to us today and their text and arrangement can be compared, by anyone who cares to, with any other copy of the Qur'an, be it in print or handwriting, from any place or period of time. They will be found identical.
What about Variants of the Quran?
Dr. Ahmed Shafaat writes:
In case of the Qur`an we now show that its variants can be either recognized as deviations from the original or they are so insignificant in their number and in their effect on the meaning of its verses that the claim of faithful transmission of the Qur`an is not effected. Furthermore, if need be we can completely recover the original by relatively simple applications of textual and historical criticism.
We begin by classifying the variants of the Qur`an in the following four categories:
I) Variants that have no manuscript support; they are alleged only in relatively late extra-Qur`anic traditions and clearly serve some theological or political interest. Examples are the stoning verse that was allegedly once a part of the Qur`an and a passage or surah in favor of Ali or against the Umayyads.
Any sound methodology must reject such variants as imaginary.
II) Variants that have no manuscript support and serve no theological or other interest. These can be of several types:
a) a word or phrase not found in any extant manuscript may be added in an alleged reading, e.g., 9:100: 'Gardens under which rivers flow' which some read as 'Gardens from under which rivers flow', adding the word 'from' (min) to the text; or, 2:275, which Ibn Masud allegedly read as: those who devor usury will not stand on the day of judgment", where the phrase on the day of judgment is added to the text; alleged addition by some companions of consecutively in 5:89: expiation (for breaking an oath) is fasting for three days consecutively ; or the alleged addition by Hafsah or Aishah of and the asr prayer in 2:238: Guard the prayers carefully and the middle prayer and the asr prayer;
b) a word may be replaced by another, e.g., the word qissisina (priests) in 5:82 was allegedly read by Salman and Ubayy bin Kab as siddiqina (faithful ones); the word al-islam in 3:19 (Indeed, the acceptable religion before God is al-islam) was allegedly read by Ibn Masud as hanifiyah;
c) A word may be replaced by its complete synonym, e.g. Ibn Masud is alleged to replace the word ihn (wool) in 101:5 by suf (also meaning wool) and the word ihdina in 1:6 by arshidna, both mean guide us.
Again, such variants should be rejected as the result of errors that must have inevitably taken place during copying and reciting the Qur`an. One particular type of error that seems to have occurred is that a companion explained a verse of the Qur`an in such a way that some hearers could not separate the actual verse and the explanatory words of the companion. This created the false report that the companion read the explanatory words as part of the verse. Thus in Abd Allah ibn Masud might have explained al-islam as hanifiyah or in 101:5 ihn as suf. Or, he or some other companion might have explained in regard to 5:89 that the fasting was to be done for three days consecutively. Such explanations were misunderstood as in some way a part of the Qur`an.
It should be noted in regard to variants of type I and type II that they are not always distinguishable sharply. For it is not always possible to exclude an enthusiasm to support an exegetical position behind the alleged variant. Thus the addition of consecutively in 5:89 might have been alleged under enthusiasm for supporting the position that the expiation fast of three days is to be done consecutively.
Our rejection of the variants of type I and type II is not based entirely on a lack of textual evidence. The traditions themselves when examined carefully for authenticity fall apart. This point will be supported below in the section entitled, Detailed Examination of Some Alleged Variants without Textual Support, by a detailed look at a tradition that has an early attestation and that alleges variants of the Qur`an without manuscript support. This is the tradition where Aishah allegedly dictated the addition of and asr prayer in 2:238.
III) Variants in pronunciation only. These arose when certain words were pronounced according to different dialects current among the tribes of Arabia in early days of Islam, e.g. hiyyaka for iyyaka (1:5); al-tabuh for al-tabut (2: 248); and atta for hatta (12: 35); similarly, 'alayhim was read by some as 'alayhumu, sirat as zirat, and mu'min as mumin.
IV) Variants supported by the extant manuscripts. These are of three types:
i) Some words are different in their consonantal form; these include those that are spelled differently in different dialects;
ii) Some words are supplied with dots and vowels differently;
iii) Some sentences are punctuated differently, e.g. 2:2 reads: dhalik al-kitab la rayb fi hi huda In one way of reading one stops after rayb and in another way the stop is made after fi hi. The first way will give the translation: This is the book without doubt. In it there is guidance The second way will give the translation: This is the book without doubt in it, a guidance
It is the last two types of variants that we will now discuss. It is convenient to divide these in two categories:
A) Variants in the consonantal written text.
B) Variants arising from different ways of supplying vowels and dots or from different ways of punctuating or pronouncing but do not effect the underlying consonantal text. They may be described as variants in recitation.
A) Variants in the consonantal text
The examples of worst cases of variants with manuscript support are provided by the following differences between the Hafs and Warsh transmissions:
2:132 wa wassa wa `awsa
3:133 wa sariu sariu
73:20 anllan allan
look at the examples cited above. In 2:132 the different readings wassa and `awsa are completely equivalent words; these may be compared to says and saith in English. Likewise, in 73:20 anllan is the same as allan (something like do not and don`t). In 3:133 the wa (and) in Hafs occurs at the beginning of a sentence, and hence makes no difference in the meaning of the sentence, as you may see by reading the following translations:
And be quick to gain forgiveness (Hafs)
Be quick to gain forgiveness ..(Warsh)
Sentences that precede this sentence also have a wa in the beginning. It is possible that wa was omitted by mistake or a wa was added under the influence of the wa found in the beginning of the previous sentences.
The situation in the remaining case () is as follows: The relevant passage talks about the parable of a man who has two gardens. He enters one of the gardens and says that even if there is a day of resurrection he will get in the hereafter something better than it (minha) or something better than these two (minhuma). The first reading (minha) refers to the one garden in which the man is standing and the second reading (minhuma) refers to the two gardens that he owns. The reading minha is more natural since we should expect the man to refer to the garden he is looking at. The reading minhuma would then be a scribal error, perhaps resulting from the fact that there are different ways of writing the letter h. In one way it looks like the number 8 while in another way it looks like the number 6. In the first way one of the two circles can get separated a little and become an m. This could have changed m(i)nha into m(i)nh(u)ma, and since the word made good sense within the passage, it could not be rejected; hence the error persisted in some part of the Muslim world. In any case, we can conclude that the worst cases of unresolved textual variants of the Qur`anic manuscripts are exemplified by the addition or omission of wa (and) in the beginning of the sentence in 3:133 and a change of minha into minhuma in 18:36, none of which makes any difference in meaning.
..The New Testament and the Qur`an are books of comparable size. So it is significant that genuine variants in the Qur`anic manuscripts (i.e. variants that are not the result of different ways of putting vowels or dots or the same words or phrases being written in different ways like labour and labor, says and saith, and do not and dont) number no more than a few dozens in comparison to tens of thousands in the case of the New Testament. That is the Qur`an has about 0.01% of the number of variants found in the New Testament. And if we limit ourselves to the variants resulting from deliberate tampering with the text for theological or other interests, then the Qur`an has zero variants compared with the thousands in the Bible. Even if we add all the variants that are alleged in extra-Qur`anic traditions without any manuscript support the percentage relative to the New Testament will be no more than 0.01%.
The percentage of Qur`anic verses with genuine variants is well within the level of accuracy often required even in the most exact sciences. Arthur J. Arberry therefore is within acceptable limits of accuracy when he states: Apart from certain orthographical modifications of the originally somewhat primitive method of writing, intended to render unambiguous and easy the task of reading the recitation, the Koran as printed in the twentieth century is identical with the Koran as authorized by Uthman. And certainly, Muir, who is otherwise rather hostile to Islam, is right when he writes: The recension of Uthman has been handed down to us unaltered. So carefully, indeed, has it been preserved, that there are no variations of importance, - we might almost say no variations at all, - amongst the innumerable copies of the Koran scattered throughout the vast bounds of the empire of Islam. Contending and embittered factions, taking their rise in the murder of Uthman himself within a quarter of a century from the death of Muhammad, have ever since rent the Muslim world. Yet but ONE KORAN has always been current amongst them ... We can even go further in view of what we established earlier in Chapter 1, that is, it is next to impossible that Uthman wanted or was able to make any changes in the Qur`an. In the light of this fact we can say that the Qur`an printed in the twenty-first century is identical with the Qur`an received by the Muslim community from the Holy Prophet.
Ahmed Shafaat continues on some other supposed variants:
We discuss here in detail the following alleged variants of the Qur`an:
The reference to the asr prayer in 2:238
Some variants attributed to Abd Allah bin Masud
The reference to the asr prayer in 2:238
We earlier noted that traditions alleging variant readings of the Qur`an without textual evidence are not trustworthy. We illustrate this point by a detailed look at one such tradition that has relatively early attestation. This is the tradition where Aishah allegedly dictated the addition of and asr prayer in 2:238. This tradition is found in Muwatta and Muslim, both versions being almost identical. We quote from Muwatta:
Yahya related to me from Malik from Zayd ibn Aslam from al-Qaqa ibn Hakim that Abu Yunus, the mawla of Aishah, umm al-muminin said: Aishah ordered me to write out a copy of the Qur`an for her. She said, Let me know, when you reach this verse, Guard the prayers carefully and the middle prayer and stand obedient to God [2:238]. When I reached it I told her, and she dictated to me, Guard the prayers carefully and the middle prayer and the asr prayer and stand obedient to God. Aishah said, I heard it from the Messenger of God. "
Notice the words of Aishah: 'Let me know, when you reach this verse These words admit that the verse in question was known without any reference to the asr prayer and it was written without that reference in the manuscript from which copy was being made at the request of Aishah. The basis on which Aishah tells the scribe to make an addition is that she heard it from the Messenger of God. The question is why the existing manuscripts did not have these additional words. If they were part of the Qur`an, as this story implies, then the Messenger was duty bound to tell about the additional words to every one (2:159-160, 5:67). One may say that they were abrogated, as a tradition from Muslim suggests. But what is there to abrogate in an exhortation to guard one of the prayers that remains obligatory any way? And why would Aishah want to add the abrogated words? Perhaps, she was ignorant of the fact of abrogation? But if we admit Aishahs ignorance about the Prophets intention about the additional words, the tradition looses much of its credibility. More importantly, the story is discredited above all by the fact that it is found in Muwatta in another version in which both the wife of the Prophet and the scribe have changed:
Yahya related to me from Malik from Zayd ibn Aslam that Amr ibn Rafi said: I was writing a copy of the Qur`an for Hafsah, umm al-muminin, and she said, Let me know when you reach this verrse, Guard the prayers carefully and the middle prayer and stand obedient to God. When I reached it I told her and she dictated to me, Guard the prayers carefully and the middle prayer and the asr prayer and stand obedient to God. (Muwatta; in some late versions Hafsah just like Aishah in the previous tradition adds that she heard these additional words from the Prophet).
Here the wife of the Prophet who requests a copy of the Qur`an and dictates the verse with an addition is not Aishah but Hafsah and the scribe is not Abu Yunus but Amr ibn Rafi, probably two different persons. Malik hears both versions from the same source, Zayd bin Aslam, who does not seem to remember, which wife dictated the additional words and which scribe recorded them. The story therefore has little credibility and it seems that Bukhari who does not include it in his Sahih thought the same. Despite this a late tradition reports Nafi as saying that he saw with his own eyes a copy of the Qur`an with the additional words.
Muslim gives another somewhat similar story in which the variant reading has changed:
Al-Bara' bin Azib reported: The following verse was revealed: Guard the prayers and the 'asr prayer. We recited it (in this way) so long as God desired. Then God abrogated it and it was revealed: Guard the prayers, and the middle prayer." A person who was sitting with Shaqiq (one of the narrators in the chain of transmitters) said: Now this implies the asr prayer. Upon this al-Bara' said: I have already informed you how this (verse) was revealed and how God abrogated it, and God knows best. Imam Muslim said: Ashjai narrated it from Sufyan al-Thawri, who narrated it from al-Aswad bin Qays, who narrated it from 'Uqbah, who narrated it from al-Bara' bin Azib who said: We recited with the Prophet for a certain period as mentioned in the above hadith (Muslim).
Here we have a clearer admission that the reference to asr prayer was never a part of the Qur`an in the form that the Prophet left it with the community, whether in writing or in recitation. We are told here that the words about `asr prayer were abrogated and replaced by those that we now find in our copies of the Qur`an. In other words, in the Qur`an as it was completed by the Prophet, 2:238 was exactly as it is today.
Notice that in this story the variant is simply
Guard your prayers and the asr prayer
and this is replaced after abrogation by:
Guard your prayers and the middle prayer
This is different from what we read earlier in the ahadith about Aishah and Hafsah. In those ahadith the variant is:
Guard your prayers and the middle prayer and the asr prayer.
Also, the theory of abrogation invoked in the hadith attributed to al-Bara` bin Azib to justify the variant reading is not present in the ahadith about Aishah and Hafsah. There the phrase is added to the Qur`an as something that should be there. Clearly these contradictions do nothing to build any confidence in the trustworthiness of any of these ahadith.
..the traditions about an alleged variant of 2:238 referring to asr prayer came to be formed, it is clear from the above review of the various traditions that we are not dealing here with a reliable set of reports. Muslim scholars in earlier times reached the same conclusion. Thus Ibn Kathir wrote in his Tafsir:
This khabar wahid [about the variant reading of 2:238] does not establish the reading in the absence of tawatur. This is why Uthman did not accept it in his mushaf of the Qur`an. Nor are these additional words found in the recitation of any of the seven reciters or even any other trusted reciter. Moreover, another hadith establishes the abrogation of this reading.
On variants with Ibn Masuds collection, Dr.Shafaat writes:
Some variants attributed to Abd Allah ibn Masud
There are several variants, with no manuscript support, that are attributed to Abd Allah bin Masud, mostly in late traditions without strong isnads. These alleged variants are often pointed out by hostile missionary writers who use them to prove that the Qur`anic text has suffered changes. Below we discuss those variants that are most often mentioned by the missionaries.
In the following list, an addition allegedly made by Ibn Masud will be indicated by underlining while omission or change will be indicated by capital letters.
1) Surah translates: On that day if the penalty is averted from any, it is due to God's mercy; Ibn Mas'ud's text allegedly read: On that day if the penalty is averted by God from any, it is due to God's mercy.
2) Surah 33:6 translates: ...and his (Prophet's) wives are their mothers. Ibn Mas'ud's text allegedly read; ...and his (Prophet's) wives are their mothers and he is their father.
3) Surah 2:275 translates: those who devor usury will not stand except like the standing of a person touched by Satan". Ibn Masud allegedly read it as: those who devor usury will not stand on the day of resurrection except as like a person touched by Satan";
4) Surah 6:153 translates: "And that this is My path". Ibn Mas'uds text allegedly read: This is the path OF YOUR LORD.
5) Surah 3.133 translates: Be quick in the race for forgiveness from your Lord Ibn Mas'ud's text allegedly read: "BE AHEAD in the race for forgiveness from your Lord....
6) Surah 5:89 translates: expiation (for breaking an oath) is fasting for three days Ibn Masud allegedly read expiation (for breaking an oath) is fasting for three days consecutively ;
7) Surah translates: Indeed, the acceptable religion before God is al-islam. Ibn Masud allegedly read HANIFIYAH in place of al-islam;
8) The first and the last two surahs were absent from Ibn Masuds copy.
Some of these variants clearly elaborate a meaning that is either implicit in the Qur`anic verse or can justifiably be read into it. Thus in the alleged variant 1 by God is implicit in the Qur`an. In the alleged variant 2 it is perfectly justifiable deduction from the statement that the Prophets wives were believers mothers that he himself was like their father. In the alleged variant 3 one can justifiably interpret standing as rising on the day of resurrection, since the Arabic word is used for the resurrection.
In other cases the words change but the meaning does not. This is the case with the alleged variants 4 and 5.
Only in the last three cases the variants are significant. But we now show that even in these cases the variants are not of the type that a vast majority of companions will conspire with Uthman to change the original Qur`an and then impose their version on Abd Allah bin Masud.
In case of the alleged variant 6, perhaps the natural interpretation of 5:89 is that the expiation fast should be for three consecutive days rather than for three days that could be spread over an unspecified period. If so, Ibn Masuds alleged reading (also attributed to Ubayy bin Kab) simply makes explicit what is implicit in the Qur`an. But it has been argued that the days of obligatory fasting missed in Ramadan due to traveling or illness are to be made up later (2:183-185) and they are not taken to be consecutive; hence 5:89 should be interpreted similarly. This argument, however, is not very compelling, since the language used in the two passages is different. In any case, even if one does not see the idea of consecutiveness of the days of fasting implicit in 5:89, there is little evidence that the Muslim world was so consumed in the controversy about this matter that the khalifah of the time felt compelled to take side and to change the Qur`an accordingly. The extant Qur`an allows a more lenient position than Ibn Masuds alleged reading, and this may be imagined as the reason why the Qur`an was changed. But the Qur`an often inclines towards flexibility and leniency. Also, it is not automatic that the majority of the Muslims took a more lenient position on the matter. People not only take the easier root; sometimes they become stricter than the original teachings demand.
Variant 7 is interesting. It is often cited by Christian writers who accept it despite its late documentation against the continuous and consistent testimony of the written and oral tradition of recitation. They imagine that this variant is a reminder that early Madinan passages of the Qur`an may have been revised to bring them into line with the later nomenclature (Watt, Muhammad at Medina). Here Watt seems to be saying that the revision was done by the Prophet himself. But this insinuation is seen to be baseless for the following reasons:
1) The Qur`an does not use the word hanifiyah but it does use the word hanif and its plural hunafa`many times. Why was the hanif not changed to muslim wherever it occurred, if hanifiyah was so changed to islam, as a matter of deliberate policy.
2) The usage of the word muslim in the Qur`an is earlier than the usage of the word hanif. The uses of hanif are found in surahs 2, 3, 4, 6, 10, 22, 30, and 98, all of which belong to either late Makkan or Madinan period. In contrast, the earliest use of the word muslim is found in surah 68 which is very early Makkan surah. Since the term muslim implies a concept of isalm, it is difficult to see how Christian writers can imagine that islam is a later nomenclature and the Qur`an was revised by the Prophet to bring it in line with this later nomenclature.
3) In 22:78 it is explicitly stated: it is He who has named you muslimin earlier and in this (Qur`an). If any doubt is left as to the very early use of the terms muslim and islam, it should be removed by the words earlier and in this (Qur`an), which show that muslim and therefore the concept of islam is viewed in the Qur`an as pre-Islamic.
But for our purpose here, if we assume that the revision was done by the Prophet himself, then the extant text is proved to be faithful to the Qur`an as the Prophet handed it to the Muslim community. Some missionaries, however, insinuate that the revision was done after the Prophet, presumably by Uthman. The question is: what was the necessity for this change? In this connection, note that the Qur`an uses the word hanif (2:135, 3:67, 95, 4:125, 6:79, 161, 10:105, 123, 30:30) and its plural hunafa` (22:31, 98:5) to describe desirable characteristics of people and the same characteristics are also present in the term muslim. The word hanif means upright or pure or sincere or wholeheartedly committed and refers to that upright way which is in accordance with the true, divinely shaped nature of man. This way is the universal religion centered round wholehearted worship of the one true God and a life of prayer and charity. These elements were also the essential content of the teaching of earlier true religions whose followers were commanded to be hunafa (98:5). Abraham was on this natural upright divine way and was not a Jew or Christian (3:67) who follow very specific doctrines that evolved in specific times and places. Therefore he is called hanif. The word muslim and islam are also understood the same way. Abraham could be described as both hanif and muslim in the same verse (3:67) and his religion can be described as committing (aslama) oneself firmly to God (4:125). A person need not be a Jew or Christian to be saved, but only commit (aslama) himself to God (2:111-112) and thus become a muslim. The din brought by the Prophet is the same that all the previous prophets have taught. There is clearly no conflict between the two terms. They are simply two ways to describe the same idea. Why would then anyone feel that they have to change hanifiyah to islam in ? And why did the word hanifiyah occur only in one place in the Qur`an, as is alleged, if it was the very description of the religion that the Qur`an was calling people to? Why did it not appear more frequently like the word islam? If we say that the reason that the word islam occurs more frequently because in every place where we now find islam, there once stood hanifiyah, the question arises why there is no evidence for it?
Although the variant reading hanifiyah cannot be accepted, it may still be interesting to ask how it arose.
It seems that the term hanifiyah was more popular
among Christians than among Muslims. Even about six centuries after the advent of Islam a
Christian writing in
The allegation of variant 8 is clearly very significant, but on closer examination it is found to be the result of some mistake. For, there is evidence both in the Qur`an and the Hadith proving that the three surahs allegedly missing from Abd Allah bin Masuds copy are a part of the Qur`an. We discuss this evidence first for the last two surahs (surah al-falaq and surah al-nas) and then for the first surah (surah al-fatihah).
The last two surahs begin with the word qul (say) and this form of address is characteristic of the Qur`anic passages. This provide Qur`anic evidence that the two surahs are a part of the Qur`an. The word say means that the two surahs are the verbatim revelation brought by Jibra`il like the rest of the Qur`an. There are many prayers attributed to the Prophet in the Hadith but they do not begin with say, as do these two surahs.
Furthermore, there are several ahadith where the Prophet himself describes or assumes the last two surahs as revealed like some other well-known surahs. Thus we have the following hadith on the authority of none other than Abd Allah bin Masud:
Narrated Abd Allah ibn Masud: The Prophet of God disliked ten things: Yellow coloring, , dyeing grey hair, trailing the lower garment, , using spells except with the muawwidhatayn .(Abu Da`ud 4210).
Here the only reason why in using spells an exception is made in favor of muawwidhatayn (a term frequently used for the last two surahs of the Qur`an because they do taawwudh, seeking Gods refuge) seems to be that they are a part of the Qur`an. But other traditions are far clearer in affirming the Qur`anic origin of the last two surahs:
'Uqbah bin 'Amir related: God's Messenger said: Look! Such verses have been sent down this night the like of which has not been seen! They are: "Say, I seek refuge with the Lord of the dawn, " (surah al-falaq) and "Say, I seek refuge with the Lord of humanity" (surah al-nas) (Muslim).
Uqbah bin 'Amir related: The Messenger of God said to me: There have been sent down to me verses the like of which had not been seen before. They are the muawwidhatayn (Muslim who adds: This hadith has been narrated through another chain of transmitters directly from the companions of Muhammad (God bless him and raise him in honor ever more).
Uqbah bin Amir reported the Messenger of God as telling him: If possible do not omit recitation of these two surahs from your prayers (Ibn Hibban).
Umm Salamah related: The Messenger of God said: The two surahs that God loves most of all are: "Say, I seek refuge with the Lord of the dawn, " (surah al-falaq) and "Say, I seek refuge with the Lord of humanity" (surah al-nas) (Ibn Marduyah)
Uqbah bin Amir said: I was going with the rope of the she-camel of the Messenger of God in a journey. He said to me, O Uqbah! Shall I teach you the best two of the surahs that are recited? He then taught me "Say, I seek refuge with the Lord of the dawn, " (surah al-falaq) and "Say, I seek refuge with the Lord of humanity" (surah al-nas). He did not find me very elated with them. When he stopped for the morning prayer he recited them for the people. And when he had completed the prayers he turned to me and said, O Uqbah! What do you now think (of the importance of these two surahs) (Ahmad, Abu Da`ud).
Muadh bin Jabal narrated: The Messenger of God recited the muawwidhatayn in the morning prayer (Said bin Mansur).
The reference in the last two traditions is to the well-established recitation of the Qur`an during prayers. The implication is clearly that the two surahs are a part of the Qur`an. The question is why do the missionaries not accept these ahadith uncritically in the same way that they accept the traditions alleging variants? What basis do they have to reject the former and accept the latter?
However, our approach is to examine all traditions critically, so we now comment on the allegation in that spirit. To begin with, as noted by Bazzar in his Musnad, there is no companion other than Ibn Mas`ud who is said to question that the last two surahs were a part of the Qur`an and the same is true of the first surah. This alone makes it highly probable that either Ibn Masud was mistaken in his view or someone else committed a mistake in attributing the view to him during the time between the death of Ibn Masud in 32 H and the first recording of his view in the third century. Further examination shows the latter to be the case.
.In contrast, the question whether or not the last two chapters were a part of the Qur`an and whether or not they could be recited in prayers is not mentioned at all. The closest we come to the issue is what is said in the following hadith in Bukhari:
Narrated Zirr bin Hubaysh: I asked Ubayy bin Kab, "O Abu al-Mundhir! Your brother, Ibn Mas'ud said so-and-so (about muawwidhatayn)." Ubayy said, "I asked God's Messenger about them, and he said, '(They were thus) recited (qila) to me and I recited (similarly)" Ubayy added, "And we recite just as Gods Messenger recited." (Bukhari, also found in Musnad of Ahmad, Musnad of Hafiz Abu Bakr al-Humaydi, al-Mustakhraj of Abu Nu aym, and Sunan of Nasa`i)
Here, however, it is not stated that Abd Allah bin Masud held that the two surahs were not a part of the Qur`an. The words we recite just as Gods Messenger recited suggest that the issue involved concerns the way the surahs are to be recited and now whether they were a part of the Qur`an.
The complete absence from early books of any discussion of the question of whether the last two surahs were a part of the Qur`an makes it almost certain that the view in question did not exist in the first two centuries and therefore could not be attributed to Abd Allah bin Masud or any other companion. We can even go further and date the view and explain how it arose. But first let us also consider the corresponding view about the first surah.
This view is even weaker than the one about the last two surahs, for while there are late traditions alleging that Ibn Masud thought that the last two surahs were not a part of the Qur`an, there are no such traditions about the first surah. We are only told in some late traditions that this surah was not found in the copy (mushaf) of Abd Allah bin Masud, for which there could be many other explanations. Also, as in the case of the last two surahs, there is evidence within the Qur`an showing that the first surah was a part of the Qur`an. Thus we read in the Qur`an:
And We have bestowed upon you (O Prophet) the seven oft-repeated ones and the grand Qur`an." (15:87).
Although some have interpreted the seven oft-repeated ones (al-mathani) as seven long surahs in the first part of the Qur`an (surahs 2-7 and 10 or 8+9) or seven topics (commandments, prohibition, promise of reward, warning of punishment, parables, recounting of favors, and prophecy), it is much more probable that the phrase refers to the seven verses of the opening surah (al-fatihah), including bi ism allah al-rahman al-rahim. These seven verses probably form the most oft-repeated composition in whole of human history, as it is recited not only in the daily Muslim prayers at least 17 times a day but on other occasions as well. If this interpretation, which is also the view of the vast majority of Muslim scholars, is accepted, then it is established that this surah was part of the divine revelation similar to the Qur`an (which is also described as mathani (39:23)) or in some sense superior to the rest of the Qur`an, since it is mentioned specially as a favor upon the Prophet. Now by the very definition of the word qur`an (= recital) any words bestowed upon the Prophet from on high and faithfully recited word for word, first by the Prophet and then at his instructions by other believers is a part of the Qur`an. Its inclusion by the extant manuscript is therefore completely justified. This argument makes it doubtful that Ibn Masud removed surah al-fatihah from the Qur`an thinking that it was not a part of it. For, we can expect that Ibn Masud accepted 15: 87, since there is no evidence that this verse was absent from his copy of the Qur`an or that he read it in a different way. We can only admit as a remote possibility that Ibn Masud or someone else using his name thought that this surah should be kept separate from the Qur`an since the above verse seems to separate the two.
It should be noted that centuries ago Imam Nawawi, Imam Ibn Hazm and Imam Fakhr al-din al-Razi held that Ibn Masud did not say that these surahs were not part of the Qur`an. How then this view or the one about the last two surahs got attributed to Ibn Masud?
All of this valuable information shows that the Quran has been faifhully preserved, and that there are no missing verses, and that there are no missing Surahs neither, and that the variants that existed in some of the personal collections of the companions are not 100% reliable, and that such things resulted by mistake when some people mistook hadiths and sayings of the prophet as Quranic verses.
We can confidently say that the Quran we have today is the exact same one revealed to the prophet Muhammad, word for word, which was passed to Abu Bakr, and then unto Uthman who made copies and distributed it among the Muslim community.
Rebuttals, and exposing the lies of the Answering Islam team section.
Islam and the Noble Quran - Questions and Answers.
Contradictions and History of Corruption in the Bible.
Sami Zaatari's Rebuttals section.
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