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What is the Degree of the Authenticity of the Qur'an Historically?

Abdur Rafay Ahmad & Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi


Introduction

We have studied the claims of the Christian missionaries about the Qur'an and in our view, they had put forward strange claims due to the lack of basic fields of knowledge of Islam, such as Ulum al-Qur'an (the sciences of the Qur'an) and Ulum al-Hadith (the sciences of Hadith). In addition to this, the Christian missionary John Gilchrist has written a book knows as "Jam' al-Qur'an". Its Internet version can be found at http://www../Gilchrist/Jam/ . Almost all Christian missionary sites were displaying almost the same material which this book Jam al-Qur'an has. These people are presenting "variant readings" of the Qur'an to make it look like "variant texts", and using the events of the Islamic History to make unknowledgeable Muslims "realize" that the Qur'an is "corrupted" (Allah forgive our sins). They are presenting these things without those things which our scholars always present with them - that is good answers.

This article has been written as if it is educational, and not a very deep rebuttal so that any Muslim (who lacks knowledge in the basic fields of Islam such as the Qur'anic Sciences) and non-Muslim may understand the issues involved and benefit from it. If it was written in the form of a rebuttal, then only knowledgeable Muslims and "high-level" Christian missionaries could have understood it.

We have not included the response to high level allegations such as "missing verses" of the Qur'an, etc. These allegations are just allegations! To answer these, a separate article can be written. These topics are beyond the scope of this article.

The main question is given below in the form as if an unknowledgeable person asks:

QUESTION: WHAT IS THE LEVEL OF THE AUTHENTICITY OF THE QUR'AN HISTORICALLY?

The answer is simple, it is authentic and that it is in the same condition as it was recited by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The following are the contents:

[1] This Introduction

[2] The Written Holy Qur'an in the Times of The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

[a] Evidence from the Qur'an

[b] Evidence from Hadith

[c] Conclusion

[3] The Oral Transmission of the Holy Qur'an

[a] The First Hafiz

[b] Hafizun among the Companions

[c] Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) Encouraged Memorization

[d] Listening to Others by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

[d] Conclusion

[4] The Collection done under the Khalifah (Caliph) Abu Bakr (ra)

[a] Hadith which mentions it

[b] Conclusion

[5] The Collection done under the Khalifah (Caliph) Uthman (ra)

[a] Hadith which mentions it

[b] Reasons for the burning

[c] The Reaction of the Sahaba of the Prophet Muhammad (s.a.w.s)

[d] The Reaction of Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud and Reasons for it

[e] Conclusion

[6] Missing Verses found only with this Person? (link A, link B)

[7] The Textual Variances

[a] A few Examples

[b] Two Additional Surahs in Ubbay's and Abu Musa's Codices?

[c] Acceptance of Variant Readings

[d] Changes under Al-Hajjaj?

[e] Conclusion


The Written Qur'an in the Times of The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

A large number of missionaries and the self-styled "critics" have been quoting Islamic traditions, or reports (Hadith), which support their claim, that the Qur'an was not written at the time of its Revelation. Are all these claims true? They are not, if we re-examine them.

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Evidence from the Qur'an

The Qur'an itself contains many passages which refer to its written form. There appear to be four chapters (Sura's) of the Qur'an which refer to the Qur'an's written form explicitly. I'll quote them:

"By no means! Indeed it is a message of Instruction
Therefore, whoever wills, should remember
On leaves held in honour
Exalted, purified
In the hands of scribes
Noble and pious"

Sura' 80: 11-16

Here we have a reference to those scribes who wrote the Qur'an, on leaves. Minister Abdullah Yusuf Ali, in his commentary  wrote that at the time of the Revelation of this Surah, forty-two or forty-five others (Surahs) had been written and were kept by Muslims in Makkah (out of the total 114 Surahs).

"Nay, this is the glorious Qur'an, on a Tablet preserved"
Sura' 85: 21-22

The above verse is the ultimate proof on the written preservation of the Qur'an even before the migration of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

"This is a glorious Reading, In a book well-kept,
Which none but the purified teach
This is a Revelation from the Lord of the Worlds"

Sura' 56: 77-80

The above verse refers to a "book well-kept," which can be no other than the Qur'an.

"They said: Tales of the ancients which he had caused to be written and they are dictated to him morning and evening"
25: 5

A reference to the enemies of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) when they accused him of plagiarising and retelling stories from the past. Still, we see words referring to the Qur'an in its written form.

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Evidence from Hadith

Besides the above verses which refer to the Qur'an's written form, there are also a number of Hadith which agree with the above verses:

Zayd (ra) is reported to have said: 

We used to compile the Qur’an from small scraps in the presence of the Messenger. (Hakim, Mustadrak)

The above Hadith also tells us that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was not unaware of the condition of the Qur'an with his companions and that he used to guide them while compiling it. Also, it tells us that the Qur'an also used to be compiled for Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), meaning that he had a personal copy.

Malik said that no one should carry the Mushaf by its strap, nor on a pillow, unless he is clean… (Mu’atta, Kitab Al-Nida’ Li’l-Salah)

It is clear that the Qur'an was available in a book form at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

Narrated Qatadah: I asked Anas Ibn Malik: ‘Who collected the Qur’an at the time of Prophet?’ He replied: ‘Four, all of whom were from the Ansar: Ubay Ibn Ka‘ab, Mu‘adh Ibn Jabal, Zayd Ibn Thabit and Abu Zayd.’ (Bukhari, Kitab Fada’ilu’l-Qur’an)

It is very clear that the complete Qur'an was available in the form of a book even at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). This proof is inescapable, and any Hadith which contradicts the facts presented here is a fabrication.

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Conclusion

The claim that the Qur'an was not written at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is incorrect. Some admit that it was written, but not all. This too is incorrect. The truth stands out clear, the whole Qur'an was written at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

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The Oral Transmission of the Qur'an

Even until today, many people have completely memorized the Qur'an. These people are known as Hafizun, which means that they are the protectors of the Qur'an. The real protector is Allah, the Lord of all Being, but Hafizun are called protectors because if the Qur'an was ever lost, the Hafizun can easily restore it. People have not started becoming Hafizun recently, but many of them were also present at the time of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself was a person who had memorized the whole Qur'an, word by word.

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The First Hafiz

The first one to memorize the complete Qur'an, was, the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself. After a Revelation came to the Prophet (pbuh), he memorized it:

'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)

Instead of the above verse, they are so many Hadith which say that the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) had memorized the Qur'an, they quoting them is not needed. Any one with even the knowledge of an atom concerning Islam may be knowing this.

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Hafizun Among the Companions

The Prophet (pbuh) had thousands of companions, and it is for sure that hundreds of them too had memorized the whole Qur'an, word by word, just as the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself did.

"... 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 Compassionate 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.

The above report clearly shows that even in the earlier days of Islam, people memorized the Qur'an. It is also reported that Abu Bakr (ra) recited the Qur'an publicly in front of his house (Sira Ibn Hisham).

In addition to this, it is compulsory to recite the Qur'an in prayers. So the companions, at least, had memorized some of the Qur'an if not the whole as others did.

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Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) Encouraged Memorization

The best thing we could do here was to quote a passage from the second chapter of Ahmad von Denffer's book, Ulum al Qur'an:

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 Companions. 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.

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Listening to Others by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh), also listened to the recital of others. Here is a Hadith showing this:

"Narrated 'Abdullah (Ibn 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 Surat-an-Nisa' till I reached: "How (will it be) then when We bring from each nation a witness and We bring you (O Muhammad) as a witness against these people?" ' (4: 41).  'Then he said: "Stop!" Behold, his eyes were shedding tears then." Bukhari, VI, No. 106.

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Conclusion

In addition to writing, the whole Qur'an was also memorized by hundreds of Muslims and even those who had met the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself. Just as the whole Qur'an was preserved by writing, the whole Qur'an was also preserved by memorization too.

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The Collection done under the Khalifah (Caliph) Abu Bakr (ra)

Abu Bakr (ra) was a very close friend of the Prophet (pbuh). He was also his successor, not in Prophethood, but he became the Commander of the Muslims (Amirul Mukminin) after the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). During his Caliphate, a battle took place, known as the "Battle of Yamamah." In this battle, many people had memorized the Qur'an, were martyred. Abu Bakr (ra) feared that the Qur'an might not be lost. So he ordered Zayd Ibn Thabit (ra), the personal scribe of the Prophet (pbuh), to compile it. Zayd (ra) finished the job successfully.

It must be noted that even if many companions who had memorized the Qur'an were martyred, the complete Qur'an in writing already existed.

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Hadith which mentions it

The following is the Hadith which mentions the collection of the Qur'an: under Abu Bakr's Caliphate:

Narrated Zaid bin Thabit Al-Ansari, one of the scribes of the Revelation: Abu Bakr sent for me after the casualties among the warriors (of the battle) of Yamama (where a great number of Qurra were killed). 'Umar was present with Abu Bakr who said: "Umar has come to me and said, the People have suffered heavy casualties on the day of (the battle of) Yamama, and I am afraid that there will be some casualties among the Qurra (those who know the Qur'an by heart) at other places, whereby a large part of the Qur'an may be lost, unless you collect it. And I am of the opinion that you should collect the Qur'an.' Abu Bakr added, 'I said to 'Umar, "How can I do something which Allah's Apostle has not done?" 'Umar said (to me) "By Allah, it is (really) a good thing". So 'Umar kept on pressing trying to persuade me to accept his proposal, till Allah opened my bosom for it and I had the same opinion as 'Umar'. (Zaid bin Thabit added:) 'Umar was sitting with him (Abu Bakr) and was not speaking. Abu Bakr said (to me), 'You are a wise young man and we do not suspect you (of telling lies or of forgetfulness); and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah's Apostle. Therefore, look for the Qur'an and collect it (in one manuscript)'. By Allah, if he (Abu Bakr) had ordered me to shift one of the mountains (from its place) it would not have been harder for me than what he had ordered me concerning the collection of the Qur'an. I said to both of them, 'How dare you do a thing which the Prophet has not done?' Abu Bakr said, 'By Allah, it is (really) a good thing. So I kept on arguing with him about it till Allah opened my bosom for that which He had opened the bosoms of Abu Bakr and
'Umar. So I started locating the Quranic material and collecting it from parchments, scapula, leafstalks of date palms and from the memories of men (who knew it by heart). I found with Khuzaima two verses of Surah Tauba which I had not found with anybody else (and they were): 'Verily there has come to you an Apostle (Muhammad) from among yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty. He (Muhammad) is ardently anxious over you (to be rightly guided)' (9:128).
Bukhari, VI, No. 201

The words of Zaid may raise some confusion: How can I do something which Allah's Apostle has not done? This doen't mean that the Qur'an was not written in the Prophet's time, but it means that that the Qur'anic was scattered and not collected into one volume. The Prophet (pbuh) didn't leave the complete Qur'an in a single volume for all the Ummah, because most of his companions had memorized it and some had their own copies. So Abu Bakr (ra) feared that the Qur'an could have been lost, and that's why he ordered for a copy to be prepared.

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Conclusion

Even though when the whole Qur'an was available in writing, the Caliph took great care that it still would not be lost and that's why he ordered Zaid to collect it. This also means that the Caliph greatly cared for the Qur'an.

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The Collection done under the Khalifah (Caliph) Uthman (ra)

After Abu Bakr (ra), the Caliph Umar ruled, and after the Caliph Umar, Uthman Ibn Affan was elected as Caliph. During the period of the Caliph Uthman, Islam spread to many areas. The Muslims who were not Arabs, couldn't read the Qur'an as it should have been read. They changed the meanings of the verses, and many variant readings sprung out, because the people were ignorant of Arabic. Old Arabic was written as lines, and now one can distinguish such and such alphabets easily by marks. But this was not the case in older times. That's why, the Caliph Uthman immediately told a committee of scribes to write the Qur'an in the dialect of the Quraysh, because that was how the Qur'an was revealed. When the scribes had prepared many copies from the one which Abu Bakr (ra) had compiled, each copy was sent to each city under Muslim rule. Other copies which were not from Uthman were burned. Then, from the standard copies, more copies were made and this time there were also teachers of the people to teach them how to recite the Qur'an.

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Hadith which mentions it

The following is the report which mentions the above described event:

Narrated Anas bin Malik: Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to 'Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were waging war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur'an, so he said to 'Uthmfin, 'O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Qur'an), as Jews and the Christians did before'. So 'Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, 'Send us the manuscripts of the Qur'an so that we may compile the Qur'anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you'. Hafsa sent it to 'Uthman. 'Uthman
then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, 'Abdullah bin Az-Zubair, Sa'id bin Al-'As and 'Abdur Rahman bin Hari-bin
Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. 'Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, 'In case you
disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Qur'an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish as the Qur'an was revealed in their tongue'. They did so, and when they had written many copies, 'Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa. 'Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur'anic materials whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt. Zaid bin Thabit added, 'A verse from Sura al-Ahzab was missed by me when we copied the Qur'an and I used to hear Allah's Apostle reciting it. So we searched for it and found it with Khuzaima bin Thabit Al-Ansari'. (That verse was): 'Among the Believers are men who have been true in their convenant xwith Allah' (33: 23). Bukhari, VI, No. 510

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Reasons for the burning

The Christian missionaries have been openly making the allegation that Uthman (ra) ordered all copies of the Qur'an to be burnt because of the varying content. This is not true. We quote Dr. Ahmad Shafaat on this issue:

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 Qur'an 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, the third leader succeeding the Prophet, ordered people to burn all the texts of the Qur'an which were different from a certain text. 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 Qur'an 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 there are no variations 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).

In 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. But we hear of no such resistance.

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 Medina, 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 tradition, certainly not an early reliable one, in which they accuse him of changing the word of God.

It is indeed possible that 'Uthman did promulgate one particular text and ordered others to be burnt. For differences in script and copying errors during a period of fast conversion might have resulted in many manuscripts with errors. If these manuscripts were then used to make further copies, the errors would have multiplied. The best solution was that certain authenticated copies be sent to various centers of the Muslim world and all others destroyed. The very fact that the text whose copies were sent by 'Uthman was accepted throughout the Muslim world, by both his friends and foes, and the fact that no other text has ever been put forward as an alternative to the existing text proves that the text sent by 'Uthman was the authentic one.

In addition to the multiplying number of copying errors, there was probably another reason for promulgating a standard text. Earlier we noticed two peculiarities of the Arabic language: differences in script and absence of the vowel. These also could have resulted in confusion. Steps taken by 'Uthman effectively solved the problem caused by the first peculiarity: the differences in script. His solution to the second peculiarity -- the absence of vowels -- was to send a Qari along with the copy of the Qur'an to preserve the correct reading that the hundreds of companions had learnt from the Prophet. This was clearly not a satisfactory solution. Later, at the insistence of Zayd, the Governor of Basrah (45-53 H), dots were assigned as vowel points. Then during the reign of Abdul Malik (65-85 H.) Hajjaj bin Yusuf appointed scholars to assign new symbols for vowels while dots were used to distinguish different letters that were in some words looked the same. (Dr. Ahmad Shafaat, 2000, "Journal of the Muslim Research Institute", Canada)

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The Reaction of the Sahaba' of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)

Some of the missionaries, without proof, proclaim that many people didn't like the act of burning. This is wrong as proven by the following:

Zaid is reported to have said, "I saw the companions of Muhammad (going about) saying, "By Allah, Uthman has done well! By Allah, Uthman has done well!" [Nisaburi]

Ibn Abi Dawud records Musab ibn Sad ibn Abi Waqqas to have testified: "I saw the people assemble in large number at Uthman's burning of the proscribed copies; not a one spoke out against him." Ali commented, "If I were in command in place of Uthman, I would have done the same." [Zarkashi]

Almost every companion of the Prophet (pbuh) clealy approved the action of Uthman (ra).

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The Reaction of Abdullah Ibn Mas`ud and Reasons for it

Abdullah Ibn Mas`ud was a very close companion of the Prophet (pbuh). When Uthman (ra) ordered all personal and other codices to be destroyed other than the standard, Ibn Mas'ud (ra) refused to hand over his copy. Often it is asked; why did Abdullah Ibn Mas`ud react this way? When we study his background, a very clear, vivid answer is found. We have reproduced the text from Akbarally Meherally's article explaining the reason for Abdullah Ibn Mas`ud's reaction. His article can be found at http://www.mostmerciful.com/reply-ans-islam.htm. We quote the text as follows:

A brief bio-data of this early companion of the Prophet (s.a.s.) would help us to understand the entire situation. His name was Abdullah. He was son of Ma'sud. During his childhood he was also called "ibn Umm Abd" (the son of the mother of a slave). At an early age he joined the Prophet in his mission and stayed very close to him. He received the training in the household of the Prophet and had learnt the Qirat of the Qur'an (the accepted method of the recitation of the Qur'an) from the Prophet himself. He was a leading reputable Qari (reciter of the Qur'an) and used to recite loudly and clearly. Ibn Ma'sud was recommended by the Prophet to those who wished to learn the Qirat . He was very knowledgeable on the Shariah and followed the Sunnah of the Prophet closely. When he was sent to Kufa in Iraq, the people of Kufa highly respected him. They not only used to learn from ibn Ma'sud the verses of the Qur'an but also used to consult him on the subject. 

In Jam' Al-Qu'ran chapter 3, cited by the Critic which can be found on their web page;         http://www../Gilchrist/Jam/chap3.html , under the sub-heading: IBN MAS'UD'S REACTION TO UTHMAN'S DECREE,  the opening paragraph reads:

When Uthman sent out the order that all codices of the Qur'an other than the codex of Zaid ibn Thabit should be destroyed, Abdullah ibn Mas'ud refused to hand over his copy. Desai openly speaks of "Hadhrat Ibn Mas'ud's initial refusal to hand over the compilation" (The Quraan Unimpeachable, p.44)

Please note the quoted text from page 44 speaks of Hadhrat Ibn Mas'ud's  "initial" refusal. The critic has in his opening sentence very conveniently ignored this important fact about this initial reaction by Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud. Here is the reason for this initial or early reaction. Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud had with him a personal copy of the Qur'an (Musaf) which was his precious personal possession. We also learn from the said chapter-3 that Ibn Ma'sud had made some notes on his copy.  It is quite understandable that any religious teacher or missionary would develop a kind of sentiment for his personal copy of the Divine Scripture which he has been using over a period of time and more so, if there were his personal notes on that copy. Such early reactions are but normal under the most normal circumstances. The Critic questions the issue of "personal notes" on the ground that no documentary evidence has been provided. The critic had better ask himself a question; "Does my own personal copy of the Holy Bible, which I have been using over a period of time, has any personal notes or underlined text?" It is inconceivable that any Bible scholar/teacher would have a copy of his personal Bible without his/her personal notes.

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Conclusion

The truth is clear from what the missionaries would like to allege. Caliph Uthman (ra) didn't destroy the Qur'an, instead, he took the best action ever possible.

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The Textual Variances

There were many textual variances of the Qur'an, or variant readings. These variant readings didn't concern the content of Surahs and the Qur'an, but they were differences in spellings, nouns, etc.

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A Few Examples of Variances

We have quoted a few variant readings. The Qur'an copy of Abdullah Ibn Mas`ud, as seen by me, was the the most different (in variant readings) from almost all other copies. I'll quote some examples.

An example of different pronunciation in Surah Al Baqarah:

2: 70   Ibn Mas'ud reads al-baqira in place of al-baqara

An example of different spellings in Surah Al Baqarah:

2: 19   He reads kulla ma in place of kullama

An example of use of different synonyms in Surah Al Baqarah:

2: 98    He reads sal in place of ud'u

Many other companions of the Prophet had variant readings in their Qur'an copies. But, they did not concern variances in the size of the content of the Qur'an, they were only differences in spellings, synonyms, pronunciations, etc. 

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Two Additional Surahs in Ubbay's and Abu Musa's Codex?

Often, it is said that Abu Musa's and Ubbay bin Kaab's (two companions of the Prophet) had 116 Surahs, instead of 114 Surahs. But is this true? 

The first so-called additional sura` was named "al-khal" and the other was named "al-hadf." Their translation is as follows:

  1. O Allah, we seek your help and ask your forgiveness, and we praise you and we don't disbelieve in you. We separate from and leave who sins against you.
  2. 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 fear your punishment. Your punishment will surely reach the disbelievers.

On further study, we get to know that this was not a part of the Qur'an, rather these were two pieces of "qunut",  supplications that the Prophet (pbuh) sometimes says in the morning prayer or "witr" prayer after recitation of Surahs from the Qur'an. (Ahmad von Denffer, "Ulum al Qur'an")

Sometimes, it is said that there was also an additional verse in the copy of Abu Musa and Ubbay bin Kaab. It is said that it was as follows (translation):

If the son of Adam was given a valley full of riches, he would wish for a second one, and if he was given two valley of riches, he would 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, on further investigation, we come to realize that this is a saying of the Prophet Muhammad, and not a part of the Qur'an (Ahmad von Denffer, "Ulum al Qur'an").

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Acceptance of Variant Readings

Variant Readings can be accepted if they meet the following criteria for acceptance:

  1. A reading with correct Arabic grammar
  2. Traced back to the Prophet (pbuh)
  3. Agreement with the Uthmanic text

Further more, the variant readings should also meet the following criteria for preference:

  1. A reading with correct Arabic grammar
  2. Agreement with the Uthmanic text
  3. Reported/preferred by the majority

Further more, the variant readings can be divided as follows (taken from von Denffer's "Ulum al Qur'an"): 

  1. The mutawatir (transmitted by many; they include the seven well-known readings)
  2. The ahad (transmitted by one, they number three, going back to the sahaba and together with the seven make up ten).
  3. The shadh (exceptional; they go back to the tabi'un only)

From the above, the current text of the Qur'an (Uthmanic), is mutawatir.

 

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Conclusion

Variants readings may be accepted if they meet what is required. But, the greatest care must be taken. Von Denffer aptly concludes in his book about the Uthmanic mushaf that:

The wide distribution of this text and its undisputed authority can also be deduced from the reports on the battle of Siffin (A.H. 37) 27 years after the death of the Prophet , and five years after 'Uthman's copies were distributed, Mu`awiya's troops fixed sheets from the Qur'an on their spears to interrupt the battle. However nobody accused anyone else of using a partisan version of the text, which would have made a splendid accusation against the enemy. (pg 56)

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Conclusion

The authenticity of the Qur'an is a major proof that it is from Allah, the Lord of all Being. Allah has Himself said in the Qur'an that He will guard it from corruption (we seen here how Allah's Book survived 1400 years with out a single change, which proves that Allah has Guarded His Book). Therefore, we quote the following statement to all non-Muslims and Christian missionaries who attack the Holy Qur'an: 

"Let there be no compulsion in religion, truth stands out clear from what is error." (al-Qur'an (2):256)


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