Saturday, 16 October 2010

Another Open Challenge to Muslims, Pt. 2a

Examining the Modifications, Changes, Alterations and Editing of the Islamic Text

by Sam Shamoun

Continues from HERE:

According to the so-called authentic Islamic reports there wasn’t one standard way of reciting the Qur’an, but multiple ways, which caused confusion even among Muhammad’s closest companions!

Narrated by Umar bin Al Khattab: I heard Hisham bin Hakim bin Hizam reciting Surat-al-Furqan in a way different to that of mine. Allah's Apostle had taught it to me (in a different way). So, I was about to quarrel with him (during the prayer) but I waited till he finished, then I tied his garment round his neck and seized him by it and brought him to Allah's Apostle and said, “I have heard him reciting Surat-al-Furqan in a way different to the way you taught it to me.” The Prophet ordered me to release him and asked Hisham to recite it. When he recited it, Allah's Apostle said, "It was revealed in this way." He then asked me to recite it. When I recited it, he said, "It was revealed in this way. The Qur'an has been revealed in seven ahruf, so recite it in the way that is easier for you." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 041, Number 601)


Ubayy b. Ka'b reported: I was in the mosque when a man entered and prayed and recited (the Qur'an) in a style to which I objected. Then another man entered (the mosque) and recited in a style different from that of his companion. When we had finished the prayer, we all went to Allah's Messenger and said to him: This man recited in a style to which I objected, and the other entered and recited in a style different from that of his companion. The Messenger of Allah asked them to recite and so they recited, and the Apostle of Allah expressed approval of their affairs (their modes of recitation). and there occurred in my mind a sort of denial which did not occur even during the Days of Ignorance. When the Messenger of Allah saw how I was affected (by a wrong idea), he struck my chest, whereupon I broke into sweating and felt as though I were looking at Allah with fear. He (the Holy Prophet) said to me: Ubayy, a message was sent to me to recite the Qur'an in one dialect, and I replied: Make (things) easy for my people. It was conveyed to me for the second time that it should be recited in two dialects. I again replied to him: Make affairs easy for my people. It was again conveyed to me for the third time to recite in seven dialects. And (I was further told): You have got a seeking for every reply that I sent you, which you should seek from Me. I said: O Allah! forgive my people, forgive my people, and I have deferred the third one for the day on which the entire creation will turn to me, including even Ibrahim (for intercession). (Sahih Muslim, Book 004, Number 1787)

Some Islamic polemicists assert that these refer to the various Arabic dialects which were in use at that time. However, this makes absolutely no sense since both Umar and Hisham belonged to the same tribe, namely the Quraish, and spoke the same exact dialect! Besides, according to the so-called authentic narratives the Qur’an was “revealed” in the Quraish dialect:

II: The Qur'an was revealed in the language of Quraysh and the Arabs

"An Arabic Qur'an" (12:2) and "in clear Arabic language" (26:195)

It is related that Anas ibn Malik said, "'Uthman commanded Zayd ibn Thabit, Sa'id ibn al-'As, 'Abdullah ibn az-Zubayr, and 'Abdu'r-Rahman ibn al-Harith ibn Hisham to write out copies of the Qur'an. He told them, "When you and Zayd ibn Thabit disagree about the Arabic of the Qur'an, you should write it in the language of Quraysh. The Qur'an was revealed in their tongue.' They did that." (Aisha Bewley, The Sahih Collection of Al-Bukhari, Chapter 69. Book of the Virtues of the Qur'an)


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 'Uthman, “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 AzZubair, Said bin Al-As and 'AbdurRahman bin Harith 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, 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. Said bin Thabit added, "A Verse from Surat 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 covenant with Allah.' (33.23)” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 510)

Therefore, whatever the differences were they must have been of major significance since it shocked Ubayy b. Kab, a close companion and reciter of the Qur’an, to the point that he started to doubt his faith and caused Umar to physically seize and drag Hisham by his garment which he wrapped around his neck!

To make matters worse the third caliph Uthman ibn Affan decided to destroy six of these seven ahruf even though companions like Abdullah ibn Masud insisted that each respective Muslim community should continue reading the Qur’an according to harf taught to them by reciters such as himself!

Difference Between Ahrûf & Qirâ'ât

It is important to realize the difference between ahruf and Qirâ'ât. Before going into that it is interesting to know why the seven ahruf were brought down to one during 'Uthmân's time.

The Qur'an continued to be read according to the seven ahruf until midway through Caliph 'Uthman's rule when SOME CONFUSION arose in the outlying provinces concerning the Qur'an's recitation. Some Arab tribes had began to boast about the superiority of their ahruf and a rivalry began to develop. At the same time, some new Muslims also began mixing the various forms of recitation out of ignorance. Caliph 'Uthman decided to make official copies of the Qur'an according to the dialect of the Quraysh and send them along with the Qur'anic reciters to the major centres of Islam. This decision was approved by Sahaabah and all unofficial copies of the Qur'an were destroyed. Following the distribution of the official copies, all the other ahruf were dropped and the Qur'an began to be read in only one harf. Thus, the Qur'an which is available through out the world today is written and recited only according to the harf of Quraysh.[8] (M S M Saifullah, Islamic Awareness, Versions of The Qur’an?)


“If it is asked what was the point of ‘Uthman unifying people under a single copy of the Qur’an when Abu Bakr had already achieved that, then the response is that the aim of ‘Uthman was not to gather people in order to compile the Qur’an. Do you not see that he sent to Hafsa to ask her to give him the copy of the Qur’an so that it could be copied out and then returned to her? ‘Uthman did that BECAUSE PEOPLE WERE DISAGREEING ABOUT THE VARIOUS RECITATIONS owing to the fact that the Companions had spread to different areas AND HAD BEGUN TO STRONGLY DISAGREE, such as the conflict that took place between the people of Iraq and the people of Syria according to Hudhayfa.

“They joined an expedition to Armenia and each group recited what had been transmitted to them. They disagreed and quarrelled AND SOME OF THEM CALLED THE OTHERS UNBELIEVERS, RENOUNCING THEM COMPLETELY, CURSING ONE ANOTHER. Hudhayfa WAS ALARMED at what he saw. As soon as he arrived back to Medina, according al-Bukhari and at-Tirmidhi, before returning to his house he went to ‘Uthman and said, ‘This Community has reached the stage where it will be destroyed!’ ‘Why?’ asked ‘Uthman. He said, ‘It is about the Book of Allah. I was on this expedition and some of the people of Iraq, Syria and the Hijaz came together.’ Then he described what had happened and said, ‘I fear that they will differ about their Book as the Jews and Christians differed.

“This is the evidence of the falseness of those who say that the seven ahruf are the seven present readings, because there is no disagreement about them. Suwayd ibn Ghafala reported from ‘Ali ibn Abi Talib that ‘Uthman said, ‘What do you think about the copies of the Qur’an? The people have disagreed about the reciters until a man says, “My reading is better than your reading. My reading is better is more excellent than your reading.” This is equivalent to disbelief.’ He replied, ‘What is your view, Amr al-Mu’minin?’ He said, ‘I think that we people should agree on one reading. If you differ today, those after you will disagree more strongly.’ ‘Ali said, ‘The correct opinion is yours, Amr al-Mu’minin.’… ‘Uthman returned the pages to Hafsa and he sent a copy of what they had copied out to every region and commanded of what sheet or copy which had any form of the Qur’an should be burned. ‘Uthman did this after gathering the Muhajirin and Ansar and a group of Muslims and consulting them about it…

“Ibn Shihab said that he was told by ‘Ubaydullah ibn ‘Abdullah that ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud disliked Zayd ibn Thabit copying out the Qur’an and said, ‘Company of Muslims, withdraw from making copies and entrusting it to one man. By Allah, I became Muslim while he was in the loins of an unbelieving father!’ meaning Zayd ibn Thabit. That is why ‘Abdullah ibn Mas‘ud said, ‘People of Iraq, CONCEAL THE COPIES OF THE QUR’AN YOU HAVE AND CONCEAL THEM. Allah says, “Those who misappropriate will arrive on the Day of Rising with what they have misappropriated.”’ (Tafsir al-Qurtubi: Classical Commentary of the Holy Qur’an, translated by Aisha Bewley [Dar Al-Taqwa Ltd. 2003], Volume I, Introduction: ‘Uthmani Codex, pp. 52-53: *)


"Narrated 'Alqama al-Nakha'i: When 'Abd Allah b. Mas'ud left Kufa his companions gathered around him. He took leave of them, and said: 'Do not dispute about the Qur'an. It will not vary, nor will it dwindle or change because it is often repeated. The revealed law of Islam, its legal punishments, its religious obligations, exist in it in a single form. If something in one of the ahruf forbade something which another commanded, that would be a variation, but it combines all that; there are no variations in it regarding the legal punishments or the religious obligations, nor in anything else in the laws of Islam. I remember when we disputed about the Qur'an before the Messenger of God; he ordered us to recite before him, and told each of us we recited properly. If I were to come to know that someone knew more than I did about what God had sent down to His Messenger, I would seek him out in order to add his knowledge to mine. I learnt seventy suras from the tongue of the Messenger of God himself, and I knew that the Qur'an was read by him (by those companions chose to learn it by heart and recite to him so that he would check the recitation) every month of Ramadan, until the year his life was taken away, when it was recited twice. When that was finished, I recited myself before him, and he told me I had recited properly. HE WHO RECITES LIKE I RECITE MUST NOT ABANDON THAT RECITATION FOR ANOTHER, AND HE WHO RECITES ACCORDING TO ANOTHER HARF MUST NOT ABANDON THAT FOR ANOTHER, for he who rejects any verse rejects them all." (The commentary on the Qur'an, by Abu Ja'far Muhammad b. Jarir al-Tabari; being an abridged translation of Jami' al-bayan 'an ta'wil ay al-Qur'an, Introduction and Notes by J. Cooper, general editors, W.F. Madelung & A. Jones [Oxford University Press, New York 1987], Volume 1, p.16)


"Narrated Ibn Mas'ud: 'He who recites the Qur'an according to one harf MUST NOT CHANGE FROM IT TO ANOTHER.' "It is quite clear that 'Abd Allah b. Mas'ud did not mean by what he said: He who recites any command or prohibition in the Qur'an must not change from it to the recitation of any threat or promise in it, and he who recites any threat or promise in it must not change from it to the recitation of any narration or parable in it. What he meant, may God have mercy on him, was: He who recites with his harf must not change it to another just because he dislikes it - and his harf is his recitation, just as the Arabs call someone's recitation his harf... AND HE WHO RECITES WITH UBAIY'S OR ZAID'S HARF, OR WITH THE HARF OF ANY OF THE COMPANIONS OF THE MESSENGER OF GOD WHO RECITED WITH ONE OF THE SEVEN AHRUF, must not change from it to another because he dislikes it. For unbelief in part of the Qur'an is unbelief in all of it, and unbelief in one of these ahruf is unbelief in all of it, meaning by harf the recitation of anyone who recited with one of the seven ahruf as we have described." (Ibid., p. 29)

And here is what a more recent Muslim author named Farid Esack noted in respect to the compilation of the Qur’an:

It is likely that Zayd was engaged in more than one process and in different periods; the first, during Abu Bakr's reign, when he had undertaken the material collection of the suhuf, and another, during the period of 'Uthman, when he undertook its arrangement and editing. The second process also commences with concern about human frailties –recollection, memory, pronunciation, retention, etc., – which became particularly acute as the Muslim empire began to spread and time moved on. This is reflected in the following statement attributed to Abu Qullabah on the authority of Malik ibn Anas, a Companion: During the Caliphate of 'Uthman, different teachers were teaching DIFFERENT READINGS to their students. Thus it used to happen that that[sic] the students would meet AND DISAGREE. The matter reached the point that they would take their dispute to their teachers, WHO WOULD DENOUNCE EACH OTHER AS HERETICS (kaffara ba'duhum ba'da). This situation reached 'Uthman's ears. He delivered an oration saying: "You are here by me, yet YOU DISAGREE on the reading and pronunciation of the Qur'an. Therefore, those who are far away from me in the provinces MUST BE IN GREATER DISPUTE (ibn Abu Dawud, cited in Zarqani, 1996, 1:210).

This statement casts A FURTHER SHADOW around the putative finality of the earlier process which Zayd had engaged in and the notion of an official codex lodged with Hafsah. While a loose collection may have been completed then, the arrangement and editing seems to have taken place much later. During the time of 'Uthman's reign, a major impetus for this task was the concern expressed by Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman, who led the Muslim forces against the Armenians in Azerbaijan. He was deeply perturbed at the quarreling that had broken out among soldiers from different areas of the then Muslim world. Upon his return to Medina he urged the Caliph to ensure the proper collection of the Qur'an. 'Uthman then selected Zayd for the task. Traditional Muslim scholarship holds that Zayd took the suhuf in Hafsah's possession and, with the assistance of a group of scribes comprising 'Abd Allah ibn Zubayr, 'Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Harith, and Sa'd ibn al-'As, prepared a text faithful to the language/dialect of the Quraysh, the Prophet's tribe (Zarkashi, 1972, 1:236). Copies of this new version were sent to Damascus, Basra, and Kufa and another copy was kept at Medina. Orders were given to destroy all other versions, and, as indicated earlier, the extent of compliance with these orders seems to vary in different places. Given the conflict ridden nature of 'Uthman's rule, it would seem somehow strange for such a process to be undertaken and completed in the neat manner that later Muslim writings hold. The vehemently apologetic nature with which Muslim scholars, even the earlier ones, present this account suggests that the battle for the authenticity of this process as well as its final product may have lasted longer than what traditional opinion may suggest... (Esack, The Qur'an A User's Guide: A Guide to its Key Theme, History And Interpretation [Oneworld Publications, Oxford, 2005], pp. 87-88)


THE EXISTENCE OF SEVERAL VARIANT CODICES: 'Uthman's project to compile the Qur'an was clearly in response to the proliferation of "unauthorized copies" during his time - partly as a result of the problems of the Arabic script of that time. Early Muslim scholars such as Ibn Astah (d. 360/970-971), Ibn Abi Dawud (d. 316/928-929), and Ibn al-Anbari (d. 328/939-940) also dealt with these variant codices. Some of these codices seem to have been in use well after the official canon was produced and up to well into the fourth Islamic century. In Kufa, for example, the version of 'Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud remained in vogue for some time and there are indications that he refused instructions to stop teaching his versions and to destroy copies of it. Traditional Muslim scholars argue that the period of Ibn Mas'ud's version's persistence and its strength had been exaggerated and that the wisdom of 'Uthman's course of action had become apparent to Ibn Mas'ud fairly early (Zarqani, 1996, 1:214, cf. 224-228). The extra-canonical texts never gained approval and were viewed by Muslims as the personal copies of individuals worth retaining for their exegetical value. (Ibid., p. 93)

The above sources provide conclusive evidence that the differences that existed between the competing codices produced by companions such as Ubayy and Abdullah ibn Masud were not minor. They were so great and so serious that the Muslims even started to attack and curse each other!

This next story that is taken from Islamist Alphonse Mingana’s discussion of the various reciters and compilers of the Qur’an provides a further illustration of just how serious these differences were:

At the end of this first part of our inquiry, it is well to state that not a single trace of the work of the above collectors has come down to posterity, except in the case of Ubai ibn Ka‘b and Ibn Mas‘ud. The Kashshaf of Zamakhshari and in a lesser degree the Anwarut-Tanzil of Baidawi record many Koranic variants derived from the scraps of the Koran edited by the above named companions of the Prophet. The fact is known to all Arabists and does not need explanation. We need only translate a typical passage from the newly published Dictionary of Learned Men of Yakut:

Isma‘il b. ‘Ali al-Khatbi has recorded in the “Book of History” and said: “The story of a man called b. Shanbudh became famous in Baghdad; he used to read and to teach the reading (of the Koran) with letters in which he CONTRADICTED the mishaf; he read according to ‘Abdallah b. Mas‘ud and Ubai b. Ka‘b and others; and used the readings employed BEFORE the mishaf was collected by ‘Uthman b. ‘Affan, and followed anomalies; he read and PROVED them in discussions, until his affair became important and ominous; people did not tolerate him anymore and the Sultan sent emissaries to seize him, in the year 828; he was brought to the house of the vizier Muhammad b. Muklah who summoned judges, lawyers, and Readers of the Koran. The vizier charged him in his presence with what he had done, and he did not desist from it, BUT CORROBORATED IT; the vizier then tried to make him discredit it, and cease to read with these disgraceful anomalies, which were an addition to the mishaf of ‘Uthman, but he refused. Those who were present disapproved of this and hinted that he should be punished in such a way as to compel him to desist. (The vizier) then ordered that he should be stripped of his clothes and struck with a staff on his back. He received about ten hard strokes, and could not endure any more; he cried out for mercy, and agreed to yield and repent. He was then released, and given his clothes … and Sheikh Abu Muhammad Yusuf b. Sairafi told me that he (b. Shanbudh) had recorded many readings.”
(The Origins of the Koran – Classic Essays on Islam’s Holy Book, edited by Ibn Warraq [Prometheus Books, 1998], Part Two: The Collection And The Variants Of The Koran, 5. The Transmission of the Koran by Alphonse Mingana, pp. 103-104)

The following Islamic reference work quotes some of the variant readings which ibn Shanabudh had collected from the various conflicting Qur’anic codices produced by men such as ibn Kab and ibn Masud:

Ibn Shanabudh
His name was Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Ayyub ibn Shanabudh. He was hostile to Abu Bakr [Ibn Mujahid], not consorting with him. He was religious, nonaggressive, but foolish. Shaykh Abi Muhammad Yusuf ibn al-Hasan al-Sirafi told me that Allah strengthened him with his father's skill in modulation, though he had little science. He quoted many readings and wrote various books about them.

He died in the year three hundred and twenty-eight [AD. 939] in his prison at the sultan's palace. Abu 'Ali [Muhammad ibn Ali] ibn Muqlah flogged him with lashes and when he prayed [to Allah] that his [Ibn Muqlah's] hand should be cut off, [Allah] granted that the hand [Ibn Muqlah] should be amputated; a rare answer to prayer.

Mention of Some of The Readings

"When the call to prayer is made on the day of congregation, pass on to the remembrance of Allah." [Qur'an 62:9, gives hasten instead of pass on.]

He also read, "And there was in front of them a king, taking every good ship by force." [Qur'an 18:79, gives, "And there was behind them a king, taking every ship by force."]

He read, "Like al-suf al-manfush (carded wool)." [Qur'an 101:5, has, "Like al-'ihn al-manfush."]

He read, "The hands of Abu Lahab will perish and they have perished. There shall not profit..." [Qur'an 111:1, 2, give, "The hands of Abu Lahab will perish and he will perish. There shall not profit..."]

He read, "Today we deliver you by making you strong, that you may be a sign to whoever comes after you." [Qur'an 10:92, gives, "And today we deliver you with your body that you may be a sign to whoever comes after you."]

He reads, "And when it fell, the people
(al-ins) perceived that the jinn, if they had known the unseen, would not have remained in a state (hawl) of painful (alim) torment." [Qur'an 34:14, gives, "And when it fell the jinn perceived that if they had known the unseen, they would not have remained in abject (mahin) torment."]

He read, "By the night when it enshrouds and the day when it is bright, and the male and the female." [Qur'an 92:1, gives, "By the night when it enshrouds and the day when it is bright, and what created the male and the female."]

He read, "The unbelievers have lied and there will be punishment." [Qur'an 25:77, gives, "You have lied and there will be punishment."]

He read, "Unless you do so, there will be confusion and widespread ('arid) corruption." [Qur'an 8:73, gives great
(kabir) instead of widespread.]

He read, "And let there be a people among you who invite what is good, commanding what is right, refraining (nahun) from what is wrong, and who seek the aid of Allah in what befalls them, for these are they who are fortunate." [Qur'an 3:104, gives a different form of the same verb for refraining and omits and who seek the aid of Allah in what befalls them.]

It is said that he [Ibn Shanabudh] confessed all of this [variation]. Then he was moved to repentance and used his handwriting in contrition, so that he wrote:

Thus saith Muhammad Ibn Ahmad ibn Ayyub [Ibn Shanabudh]: used to read the expressions differing from the version of Uthmanibn 'Affan, which was confirmed by the consensus, its recital being agreed upon by the Companions of the Apostle of Allah. Then it became clear to me that this was wrong, so that I am contrite because of it and from it torn away. Now before Allah, may His name be glorified for from Him is acquittal, behold the version of 'Uthman is the correct one, with which it is not proper to differ and other than which there is no way of reading
. (Abu'l-Faraj Muhammad ibn Ishaq Al-Nadim, The Fihrist - A 10th Century AD Survey of Islamic Culture, edited and translated by Bayard Dodge [Great Books of the Islamic World, Inc., Columbia University Press, 1970], pp. 70-72)

Despite the fact that ibn Shanabudh was forced to accept the Uthmanic versions under duress, one must still account for the existence all of these variant readings centuries after Uthman had destroyed the primary codices of Muhammad’s companions. Why were Muslims still recording and preserving the readings of men such as Ubayy bin Kab and Abdullah bin Masud?

Lord willing, we will have more to say concerning these companions in the next part of our challenge.

After Uthman ordered the burning, and therefore the wholesale destruction, of primary Qur’anic codices written by Muhammad’s personal companions – some of whom Muhammad himself had commanded his followers to learn the Qur’an from! – the Muslims started accusing Uthman of corrupting and desecrating the Qur’an!

The Historian Tabari has another account: “‘Ali b. Abi Talib, and ‘Uthman b. Affan wrote the Revelation to the Prophet; but in their absence it was Ubai b. Ka‘b and Zaid b. Thabit who wrote it.” He informs us, too, that the people said to ‘Uthman: “The Koran was in many books, and thou discreditedst them all but one”; and after the Prophet's death, “People gave him as successor Abu Bakr, who in turn was succeeded by ‘Umar; and both of them acted according to the Book and the Sunnah of the Apostle of God–and praise be to God the Lord of the worlds; then people elected ‘Uthman b. ‘Affan WHO… TORE UP THE BOOK.” (Warraq, The Origins of the Koran, 5. The Transmission of the Koran by Alphonse Mingana, p. 102)


The book, drawn up by this method, continued to be authoritative and the standard text till 29-30 A.H. under the caliphate of ‘Uthman. At this time the wonderful faithfulness of Arab memory WAS DEFECTIVE, and according to a general weakness of human nature, the Believers have been heard reciting the verses of the Koran in A DIFFERENT WAY. This fact was due specially, it is said, to the hundreds of dialects used in Arabia. Zaid was again asked to put an end to these variations which had begun to SCANDALIZE the votaries of the Prophet. That indefatigable compiler, assisted by three men from the tribe of Quraish, started to do what he had already done more than fifteen years before. The previous copies made from the first one written under Abu Bakr were all destroyed by special order of the caliph: the revelation sent down from heaven was one, and the book containing this revelation must be one. The critic remarks that the only guarantee of the authenticity of the Koran is the testimony of Zaid; and for this reason, a scholar who doubts whether a given word has been really used by Muhammad, or whether it has been only employed by Zaid on his own authority, or on the meagre testimony of some Arab reciters, does not transgress the strict laws of high criticism. If the memory of the followers of the Prophet has been found defective from the year 15 to 30 A.H. when Islam was proclaimed over all Arabia, why may it not have been defective from 612 to 632 C.E. when the Prophet was often obliged to defend his own life against terrible aggressors? And if the first recension of Zaid contained always the actual words of Muhammad, why was this compiler not content with re-establishing it in its entirety, and why was the want of a new recension felt by ‘Uthman? How can it be that in the short space of fifteen years such wonderful variants could have crept into the few copies preceding the reign of the third caliph that he found himself bound to destroy all those he could find? If ‘Uthman was certainly inspired only by religious purposes,why did his enemies call him “THE TEARER OF THE BOOKS” and why did they fasten on him the following stigma: “He found the Korans many and left one; HE TORE UP THE BOOK”?… (Ibid., 4. Three Ancient Korans by Mingana, pp. 84-85)


Hajjaj related to us from Ibn Juraij who said–Ibn Abi Humaid informed me from Jahra bint Abi Ayyub b. Yunus saying–I read to my father when he was eighty years of age from ‘A’isha’s codex –“Verily Allah and His angels pray for the Prophet. O ye who believe, pray for him and speak peace upon him and upon those who pray in the first ranks” (xxxiii:56). She said, “IT IS SAID THAT ‘UTHMAN ALTERED THE CODICES.” He said, “Ibn Juraij and Ibn Abi Jamil have related to me from ‘Abd ar-Rahman b. Hurmuz and others the like of this about ‘A’isha’s codex.” (Ibid., 9. Abu Ubaid on the verses Missing from the Koran by Arthur Jeffery, p. 153)

To make matters worse the copies which Uthman commissioned were not identical with one another!

"Did the 'Uthmaanic four or eight mus-hafs match each other letter for letter? Surprisingly, contrary to popular opinion, the evidence indicates otherwise.

"The different copies that 'Uthmaan ordered to be written differed from each other in a few letters [sic]. There is no extra verse in any one of the mus-hafs. This was not done accidentally or by chance. Rather, these slight changes were done in order to accommodate the variations of a particular verse (the ahruf). If the Prophet had recited the verse in a number of ways, and it was possible to accommodate all of these recitations in one particular spelling, then the word was written with that spelling. The example of 'maaliki' and 'maliki' has already been given before. However, if the recitations could not all be accommodated in one spelling, then it was written with one of the recitations in one mus-haf, and another recitation in another mus-haf. The Companions did not write both recitations in one mus-haf for fear of confusion between the two." (Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi, An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'aan [al-Hidaayah Publishing and Distribution, Birmingham UK, Second Print 2003], Chapter 8. The Compilation of the Qur'aan, IV. The Different Mus-hafs, C. Were These Mus-hafs The Same?, pp. 147-148)

Qadhi then adduces proofs that these copies completely agree:

“The fact that the 'Uthmaanic mus-hafs differed is known by two ways:

1) The qira'aat: Between the various qira'aat, there occur changes in letters and sometimes words that cannot be attributed to one script, even if this script were without dots and vowel marks. For example, some of the qira'aat read 91:15 as 'wa laa yakhaafu...' This is the recitation that most of the readers will be familiar with. On the other hand, other qira'aat read it as 'fa laa yakhaafu...', changing the wa to fa. This letter change can not be attributed to the same script, and must indicate a difference in the mus-hafs of 'Uthmaan. Another example is the qira'aa of Ibn 'Aamir, who read 3:184 as 'wa bi zuburi wa bil kitaab' whereas the rest of the qira'aat read 'wa zuburi wal kitaab' (i.e., without the two bas). Ibn 'Aamir was Syrian, and it is known that the mus-haf that 'Uthmaan sent to Syria had the two extra bas in it, whereas the other mus-hafs did not. In this example, an actual word is added in one of the mus-hafs.

2) Visual Inspection: The second way that it is known that these mus-hafs differed from one another is by comparing them. Since the various mus-hafs are not present any more, reports must be taken from those were fortunate enough to have read more than one of the original mus-hafs of 'Uthmaan, or at least knew and reported from those who did. In fact, a number of scholars have written books specially on this topic.

"Some scholars have mentioned at least ten scholars of the first four centuries of the hijrah who had written specific tracts on this topic, amongst them, al-Kisaa'ee (d. 189 A.H.), and al-Farraa' (d. 207 A.H.). Unfortunately, the only book that remains of these classical works is the work authored by 'Abdullah ibn Abee Daawood (d. 316 A.H.), the son of the famous scholar of hadeeth, Aboo Daawood (d. 275 A.H.), which he entitled Kitaab al-Masaahif.

Khaalid ibn Iyaas (d. circa 150 A.H.) reported that he read the mus-haf of 'Uthmaan, and found that it differed with the mus-haf of Madeenah in twelve verses, which he quoted. The first of these was 2:132 'wa wasa...' instead of 'wa awsa....' meaning that the first was without an alif, whereas the second was with an alif.

There are more than twelve differences, though. Khaalid ibn Iyaas only compared ONE mus-haf of 'Uthmaan with the mus-hafs of Madeenah. The other mus-hafs differed from the Madeenah mus-haf, as for example in verse 3:184, the mus-haf that 'Uthmaan sent to Syria had the extra letters, but the others did not.

These differences, as noted earlier, are only with regards to certain letters and words [sic]. There are no verses or phrases that are present in some mus-hafs without the others [sic]." (Ibid., pp. 148-149)

There are several problems with his explanation of these differences. First, if Uthman did preserve the seven ahruf in the different copies he made then this means that Uthman arbitrarily chose a particular harf for each specific community since they didn't all get the same exact copy, thereby robbing them of access to the other ahruf. Who gave Uthman such authority to determine which of the seven ahruf to send a particular area? Allah, Muhammad?

Second, Qadhi's answer presumes that he knows for sure what the seven ahruf are. However, even he admits that no one knows this for certain!

"As for what is meant by these seven ahruf, THERE IS A GREAT DEAL OF DIFFERENCE ON THIS ISSUE. Ibn Qutaybah (d. 276 A.H.) RECORDED THIRTY-FIVE OPINIONS ON THIS ISSUE, and as-Suyootee listed OVER FORTY. Ibn Sa'adan (d. 231 A.H.), a famous grammarian and reciter of the Qur'aan, even declared that the true meaning of the ahruf WAS KNOWN ONLY TO ALLAH, and thus to attempt to investigate into this issue WAS FUTILE! On the other hand, Imaam Muhammad ibn al-Jazaree (d. 832 A.H.), perhaps the greatest scholar of the qira'aat after the era of the salaf, said 'I have sought to discover the meanings of these hadeeth (about the ahruf), and have pondered over them, and contemplated this topic for over thirty years, until Allaah opened my mind to that which is the correct answer in this matter, Inshaa Allaah!'

"The reason that such great difference of opinion exists concerning the exact meaning of the ahruf is due to the fact THAT THERE DOES NOT EXIST ANY EXPLICIT NARRATIONS FROM THE PROPHET, OR THE SALAF, CONCERNING THE EXACT NATURE OF THE AHRUF; these various opinions ARE MERELY THE CONCLUSIONS OF LATER SCHOLARS, based upon their examination of the evidences and their personal reasoning (ijtihaad).

Therefore, it should be understood from the outset that to arrive at one specific conclusion, and claim with certainty that it alone is correct and all else is wrong, IS PURE FOLLY..." (Ibid., Chapter 10. The Ahruf Of The Qur'aan, III. What is Meant by the Ahruf of the Qur'aan?, pp. 175-176)

He then goes on to mention the various and conflicting opinions, some of which he rejects as outright erroneous:

In this category full of those opinions which do not have any hadeeth to support them, nor do they make logical sense. Some of these are:

1) Seven different categories of texts. For example: constrained and unconstrained, general and specific, literal and metaphoric, naasikh and mansookh. Other categories include those given by grammarians and linguists, specifying different verb forms.

2) An esoteric interpretation by certain Soofi groups, claiming that there are seven levels of knowledge, or seven degrees of meanings to each verse.

3) Seven different branches of knowledge, such as tawheed, sharee'ah, etc.

All these opinions contradict the purpose of the ahruf, namely to make the recitation of the Qur'aan easier for the Ummah. Also, there is no proof for these opinions, and they contradict common sense.


Included in this category are the following opinions:

1) These ahruf are seven different ways to pronounce the words, without actually changing the letters. However, this opinion contradicts the variations in words that occurs in the qira'aat.

2) The ahruf are seven types of verses in the Qur'an: apparent, command, recommendation, specific, particular, general and parable. There is a weak hadeeth to support this.

3) Similar to the above, and also based on a weak hadeeth, the different types are: commands and prohibitions, promises and occurrences, halaal and haraam, clear and ambiguous.

4) The seven ahruf are the same as the seven qira'aat. This is contradicted historically, as there are more than seven qira'aat, and the collection and codification of the qira'aat occurred four centuries after the Prophet's death. None of the major scholars of Islaam held this view, as Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 A.H.) said, "There is no difference of opinion among the scholars that the seven ahruf are not the same as the seven famous qira'aat."

Unfortunately, most of the Muslim masses understand the hadeeth of the ahruf to refer to the qira'aat.
(Ibid., pp. 176-177)

The third problem with this view is that it further presumes that Uthman preserved all seven ahruf which, as we saw earlier, is not a position held by all Muslim scholars. In fact, according to the following Muslim author most Islamic scholars hold the position that six of the seven ahruf have been duly eliminated:

Seven Modes in the Qur'an

While some scholars [e.g.. Tabari, Jami' al-bayan 'an ta'wil ayat al-Qur’an, Cairo, 1968. See introduction to this tafsir. Zarkashi, Vol. 1, p.213 says MOST SCHOLARS ARE OF THE FIRST VIEW, and that the last double-reading of the Qur'an by Muhammad in the presence of the Angel Gabriel SERVED, among others, THE PURPOSE OF ELIMINATING THE OTHER SIX MODES.] hold that the written Qur'an now includes only one of the 'seven modes', and the others are transmitted orally to us, there is some evidence also for the view that the text of the Qur'an, as we have it in front of us, may include all these 'seven modes' because:

No one would change the Qur'an.

The present text was written upon the basis of the sahaba testimonies, both orally and written, going back directly to the Prophet
. The Qur'an is protected by Allah. (Ahmad Von Denffer, Ulum al Qur'an, Variety of Modes)

In trying to make a case for the seven ahruf being preserved within the text of the Qur’an Denffer raises more problems. First, the evidence shows that the Muslims did change the Qur’an. Second, there were disagreements even among the sahabah regarding the exact contents of the Qur’an. Third, if most scholars are correct that the seven ahruf have been eliminated then this means per Denffer’s logic that Allah didn’t protect the Qur’an perfectly. In fact, the data that has thus far been presented shows that Allah did a rather poor job of protecting his scripture.

This brings us to our next section.

Continues on Part 2b



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