Tuesday, 7 April 2009

Is the Qur'an untouched? (update)

Is the Qur'an 1-2-1 the original word of Allah? About the several copies of the Qur'an. About all being burnt but one by Uthman (3rd caliph). About the missing Surahs and the (non-) existence of early Manuscripts

There are several contradicting traditions of how the Qur’an has been transmitted (please refer to the post “The different Arabic versions of the Qur'an(Link),. Following Bukhari (Link) one of the companions of Muhammad, one year after the death of Muhammad, Abu Bakr ordered to Zaid bin Thabit (one of the several scribes of Muhammad, but who wasn’t one of the four picked up to compile the Qur’an) to write down the Qur’an. During the battle of al-Yamama, around 700 Muslims had died, with the risk that the survivors couldn’t remember the whole text any more. When Muhammad died, the Qur’an was not collected, and no more than four people knew the whole text (Zayd ibn Thabit, Abu Zayd, Mu’adh ibn Jabal and Ubayyi ibn Ka’b).  

How they could memorize, especially the first Surahs, that are very long, is a mystery, especially after just having heard them once.

After very few years, there were several copies of the Qur’an around (around five or more in 20 years), in all the main cities conquered by Muslims. That was a big problem. For this reason, Uthman (574-656 AH), the 3
rd caliph, decided to destroy all different versions that were around). The danger was real, because there were some discrepancies between the different Qur’ans (just check. the comments of Al Baizawi to Surah 3:100; 6:91; 19:35; 28:48; 33:6; 34:18 and 38:22). This couldn’t be tolerated especially because the Qur’an was considered as the unchanged, direct word of Allah.

To be fair, not everything is to be considered false, because there are several things that are very close to reality: for example, when Muhammad doesn’t come out very well (example: 33:37; 38 and 49-52).

Except the one of Zaid ibn Thabit, Uthman burned the copies of: Ali, Ubai b. Ka’b, Ibn Mas’ud and Abu Musa

Here a brief summary on the different codex:

Zaid ibn Thabit: collection ordered by Abu Bakr after the battle of Yamama, hold by Hafsa (daughter of Umar, widow of Muhammad, utilized for 10 years, Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa because a promise made by Abu Bakr, she kept the copy till to her death, but the Umayyad Caliph 'Abdul Malik b. Marwan (AD 684-704) was so anxious that as soon as the funeral finished, he started the search for it. (check Ibn Abi Dawud and 316 Kitan al-Masahif). It was finally destroyed by Manoan, governor of Medina)). This initial work has been used for the Uthmanic narration.

Ibn Mas’ud (d 653), was Muhammad’s servant. He said that 70 Surahs had been directly dictated him by Muhammad. He was appointed as one of the first teacher in Qur’anic recitation by Muhammad himself (check Ibn Sa’d and one hadith that states: “who wants to recite the Qur’an correctly and with elegance, follow the reading of Mas’udHe became an authority of the Qur’an in Kufa. In Mas’ud’s version we don’t have Surah 1, 113 and 114. He refused to give his copy to Uthman (Muslim 6022, Vol 4) and refused to destroy it because he asserted that he got it directly by Muhammad. He gave up teaching after the issuance of Uthman’s version. He was then beaten by Uthman and died because of that. His copy was destructed afterwards.

Ubayy bin Ka’b (d 649), from Medina, was a secretary of Muhammad. His codex had two more short Surah’s (Surah al-Khala’ and al-Hafd (named as well al-Qanut)), with Surah 105 and 106 merged together and in inverse order). Surah 33:6 had some more words (in Abdullah Yusuf Ali study, on note 3674 (**) you can find: "in some qiraats, as that of Ubai ibn Ka'b, there is as well the sentence "and he is the father of them"). He destroyed his codex after Uthman’s issuance.

Abu Musa (d 662), was from Yemen and his version had two more Surahs than Ubayy bin Ka’b’s (that already had two more), as other verses that were missing in other codex.

There were at least 12 other codex of Muhammad’s companions that were considered as primary. One of that was the one of:
Ali bin Abi Talib (d 661), cousin and son–in-law of Muhammad. He was the first to collect the Qur’an (chronologically) after Muhammad’s death. Even Hafsah’s copy was likely “extracted” from Ali’s text. His codex was destroyed as well by Malik b. Marwan.

So, how many Surahs has the Qur’an? 110, 113, 114 or 116?

For what reasons were all these codex destroyed? If we still had the original ones in form of fragments or manuscripts (MS), we would be able now to “recompose” the original Codex.

Remember that for the Bible, we have around 24'000 MS. Indeed a very different situation, but on that later.

Let’s go on:

Surah 4:82: “Do they not consider the Qur'an (with care)? Had it been from other Than God, they would surely have found therein Much discrepancy(Yusuf Ali)

So, that
Uthman burnt several versions of the Qur’an is well attested. But, can we still find some changes, tampering, corruption or editing of the Qur’an?

The problem is, that Uthman, after viewing the first standard copy of the Qur'an said, “
I see grammatical errors in it, and the Arabs will read it correctly with their tongues“ (Al-Furqan by Mohammad M. 'abd al-Latif Ibn al-Katib, Dar al-Kutub al-'elmiyah, Beirut, p.90). We have the same finding in Tabari (see as well here)

Let’s even take the case of the same Thabit (the supposed first compiler of the Qur’an) that said that in his version, after that the seven copies have been sent around, he had found someone that remembered Surah 33:23 (Link; Link). This Surah was missing, nowadays it is present. This shows how “fragile” the writing of the Qur’an was. However, Muslims insist that it was fully and perfectly memorized

In Abdullah Yusuf Ali study note 3674 on Surah 33:6 you can find:  "in some qiraats, as the one of Ubai ibn Ka'b, there is as well "and he is the father of them".

There is as well the issue of an
entire Surah missing (
Sahih Muslim 22886)). In Abdullah Yusuf Ali study note 3674 on Surah 33:6 you can find: "in some qiraats, as the one of Ubai ibn Ka'b, there is as well "and he is the father of them".

You know the issue about the
missing stoning verse, that was initially in the Qur’an: “Allah sent Muhammad (saw) with the Truth and revealed the Holy Book to him, and among what Allah revealed, was the Verse of the Rajam (the stoning of married persons, male and female, who commit adultery) and we did recite this Verse and understood and memorized it. Allah's Apostle (saw) did carry out the punishment of stoning and so did we after him. I am afraid that after a long time has passed, somebody will say, 'By Allah, we do not find the Verse of the Rajam in Allah's Book', and thus they will go astray by leaving an obligation which Allah has revealed. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 8, p.539; see as well Bukhari 8.82.816)

In Ibn Ishaq p. 684 you find as well
“the apostle stoned and we stoned after him. Stoning in the book of God is a penalty laid on married men and women who commit adultery”. Now in the Qur’an we have Surah 24:32 that prescribes 100 whips.

As-Suyufi (a major commentator of the Qur’an, quotes Umar al-Khattab, where Aisha says: “the Surah “Of the parties” had 100 ayat, while at the time of Uthman, it had 73

We didn’t even touch the fact regarding the dispute between Sunni and Shiites: For Shiites, they sustain that some parts (missing words and sentences, corruptions of verses or passages) that are related to Ali are missing. They point this out in Surah 4; 136; 4; 64; 26:228; 3:106; 25:74, 13:12 and 23:39. Most importantly: thy regret
the missing of a whole Surah (Surah an-Nurain (two lights” i.e. Muhammad and Ali)). There are other (minor) differences: they merge for example Surah 93 and 94, 105 and 106 and 8 and 9. They believe that there is a hidden revelation, that will be rendered public when the Mahdi will reappear.

Either the Qur’an has been revealed with errors (ugh!) or there are corrections/errors, and thus it is not a masterpiece! Even Muslim Middle Age scholar and linguist az-Zamakhshari (also called Jar Allah (
Arabic for "God's neighbour; He is best known for Al-Kashshaaf, a seminal commentary on the Qur'an.
The commentary is famous for its deep linguistic analysis of the verses, however has been criticised for the inclusion of Mu'tazilite philosophical views).) said that there are more than 100 grammatical errors in the Qur’an

Surah 15:9 says “We’ll guard it from corruption”

there is no original Arabic Manuscript from which there is a copy. For 40 years, (13 years before the Hejira (1st revelation) to the last one 27 AH) the Qur’an was transmitted only orally. The Arab edition derives from an oral source (1924, Egyptian edition, The isnad ends with ad-Dani (d 444 AH)). So the text is around 400 years AH old. Even, the notes to the Egyptian text tell us that if there is some disagreement between ad-Dani and Abu Da’ud (!), then it’s up to the Ulema to check and decide! So, there is no original Manuscript to check the Uthmanic text. The only pure kufan (hafs) text that we have now is a 400 year old hadith.. The Samarcandan edition disagrees violently with the present form.

Summa summarum: the Qur’an would be the final codification of the Uthmanic recension, compiled by Zaid ibn Thabit, from a copy of the MS of Hafsah. At that time, there were four co-existent codex (Abdullah Masoud, Abu Musa, Ubayy and of course Hafsah (and might be Ali’s)), all with deviations and cancellations. Concerning the methods of collection, it is interesting to note that through the collection of the one done by Zaid, we know that no-one had actually memorized the Qur’an entirely: take the example of the one verse remembered only by one person. Without this person, we would not have this Surah.

…on the accuracy of the preservation of the Bible, compared to that of the Qur’an, please refer to these post: (Links
)  and (Links) where we show that the Bible is the most accurate text of Antiquity; much more than the Qur’an, that came even 700 years after


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