The general opinion and testimony of Muslims
that (unlike the Bible as they assert) the Qur'an/Koran is clear and
uniform. There are no differing versions and documents. There is but
one Qur'an and all Muslims everywhere use the identical text, given
word for word by Gabriel to Mohammed who, in turn, recited it to his
scribes and companions for recording or memorization. These pieces
were collected under the Khalifships of Abu Bakr and Umar by
Zaid-ibn-Thabith. When a little later contentions arose between
believers because of differing recitations (in prayer), Uthman
ordered the text to be edited according to the dialect of the
Quraish, and this text is the one before us today.
As we shall see, this is not correct - or it is, to say the least, a
very romantic concept.
We must say here, however, that by "different versions" of the Bible
is generally meant various translations, which do indeed have
differences in phrasing as any one translation of a certain text has
when compared to another translation of the same text - translations
of the Qur'an not excepted.
Muslims interpret the honesty Christians display about some variant
readings of the Bible as weakness and claim that the Qur'an
never had more than one version. Any differences, they say,
concerned variant dialects only and never affected the meaning of
the text. This is definitely incorrect as the following paragraphs
The truth is, the Christian Bible can be nearly reconstructed
today from the 24,800 copies of original manuscripts still in
existence and the 80,000 quotations from early church fathers.
Also, many people who actually walked and talked with Jesus wrote to
us about His life. The Christian Gospels were so widely
distributed that any
attempt to change (add/subtract) something in the Christian Gospels
would have resulted in immediate discovery.
Muslims should note
that nowhere in the Qur'an there
is there even a
suggestion that the Biblical text
has been altered or corrupted. The word
"tahrif" is never used with
reference to the Bible itself. The
Qur'an occasionally accuses the Jews of
concealing the truth but it never levels
this accusation at Christians. It in no
way implies that the text of the Bible
has been corrupted.
In fact, the Qur'an attests to the
validity of the Christian Gospels and
scribes painstakingly copied the Torah via a system of checking,
double checking and adding each letter on each line. Any attempt to
change something in the Torah would have resulted in immediate
quality of transmission cannot be said of the Islamic Qur'an.
The Islamic Qur'an was written down from 3rd and 4th hand accounts;
and from a few thoughts written on scrap papers --and compiled over
yrs after Muhammad died in 632 A.D. The oldest Qur'an dates
from around 790 A.D. (after Jesus), and it is in the British
Library. That's 158 years after Muhammad’s death.
Muslims often claim that the manuscript of the Qur'an housed in the
Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, Turkey is one
of the oldest sources. Muslims say it dates
from around 650 A.D. There is an insurmountable problem with this.
This document is written in Kufic (also known as al-Khatt al-Kufi)
script. Coins in the British Museum show that
the first coins using the Kufic script date from the mid to
end of the 8th century. The only script
used during and after Muhammad's days was the Jazm
Samarkand (aka: Othman Koran) manuscript in the Soviet Library in
Tashkent, Uzbekistan also uses the Kufic
script, indicating late 8th century. Many believe it is
the oldest in existence. Only
About one-third of the original survives.
The library where the
Koran is kept is in an area of old Tashkent known as
Hast-Imam, well off the beaten track for most visitors
to this city.
It lies down a series of dusty lanes, near the grave of
a 10th century scholar, Kaffel-Shashi.
This Samarkand codice manuscript is
considerably incomplete. It only begins in the middle of verse 7
of Suratul-Baqarah (the second Surah) and from there on numerous
pages are missing. The next oldest Muslim manuscripts are also
from the 8th-century. One is
written in al-ma'il script and the other in
Neither of these correspond precisely to today's Qur'an.
Also, scraps found in Yemen differ and
contradict today's Qur'an so badly,
that Muslims try to hide this.
These Yemeni Qur'an scraps are actually the
oldest found, and it is Hijazi. Hijazi (Makkan
or Madinan) script, is the script in which the earliest masahif
of the Qur'an were written. So, your guess is as good as
mine who in addition to Muhammad made up the Qur'an.
the absence of external and internal evidence that should
effectively verify the revelatory character of the Qur'an, we find it very hard, if not impossible, to accept the
Qur'an as a Message sent by God. This is particularly so, because
the Qur'an contradicts earlier revelation, the evidence for the
origin of which is given above.
Omitted passages in the Qur'an:
After the sudden death of Mohammed (not long after a captive woman
poisoned him), Zaid-ibn-Thabith was ordered to compile and write
down the Qur'an (Mishkat'ul Masabih). It is attested that at least
three revelations were left out. One of these, according to
Mohammed's wife, Aysha, with whom he resided at this death, was kept
under their bed at the time of Mohammed's death, but was eaten by a
domestic animal. References:
Musnad Ahmad bin Hanbal. vol. 6. page 269; Sunan Ibn Majah, page
626; Ibn Qutbah, Tawil Mukhtalafi 'l-Hadith (Cairo: Maktaba al-Kulliyat
al-Azhariyya. 1966) page 310; As-Suyuti, ad-Durru 'l-Manthur, vol.
2. page 13:
Muhammad's child wife said this after Muhammad died:
"The verse of the stoning and of suckling an
adult ten times were revealed, and they were (written) on a paper
and kept under my bed. When the messenger of Allah expired and
we were preoccupied with his death, a goat entered and ate away the
According to the biographer and Hadis compiler Muslim (page 501):
"Abu Musa al Ashari said to 300 reciters of the Qur'an in Basra: 'We
used to recite a Sura resembling in length and severity (Sura)
Bara-at (Sura 9). I have, however, forgotten it with the exception
of this, which I remember out of it: 'If there were two valleys of
riches, for the son of Adam, he would long for a third valley and
nothing would fill the stomach of the son of Adam but dust.' And we
used to recite a Sura which resembled one of the Suras of
Musabbihat, and I have forgotten it, but remember out of it: 'O
people who believe, why do you say that which you do not practise'
and 'that is recorded in your necks as a witness (against you) and
you would be asked about it on the Day of Resurrection.' "
The latter quotations may be from Suras 61:2 and 17:13, but the
first, the same length as Sura 9(129 verses) is missing in the
Qur'an! In this case the possible explanation, namely that of
abrogation, is unacceptable, for it would render God very human
indeed. We conclude that the statement about the completeness of the
Qur'an cannot be maintained - and with that the argument of "nazil"
i.e. that it came from heaven and complete as it is.
b. Thabit said: “The Prophet
died and the Qur’an had not been assembled into a single place.”
(Ahmad b. Ali b. Muhammad al ’Asqalani, ibn Hajar, Fath al Bari
(13 vol., Cairo 1939, volume
9, page 9)
reports, 'We have heard that many Qur'an passages were revealed but
that those who had memorised them fell in the Yemama fighting. Those
passages had not been written down, and following the deaths of
those who knew them, were no longer known; nor had Abu Bakr, nor `Umar
nor `Uthman as yet collected the texts of the Qur'an.
the battle of Yamama, 450 reciters of the Quran were killed.”
Guidance, An Introduction To Quranic Studies, part 4 [Light of Life
- P.O. BOX 13, A-9503 Villach, Austria], p. 47- citing Ibn Kathir’s
Al-Bidaya wa al-Nibaya, chapter on Battle of Yamama)
Another tradition states (Sahih Muslim, page 912, Mishkat II, page
534 and others):
"Umar said: 'Verily Allah sent Mohammed with truth and revealed the
Book to him. Out of the verses, the Almighty Allah revealed. there
was the verse of stoning to death. The Messenger of Allah stoned to
death (Sahih Muslim, page 920) and after him we also stoned to
death: And in the BOOK OF GOD stoning to death is a truth against
one, who commits adultery. The verse was thus: 'The old man and the
old woman, if they have committed adultery, they stoned them both
This passage too, is not in the Qur'an.
"There is a tradition from 'A'isha, the prophet's wife, that a
certain chapter which now consists of 73 verses once contained no
less than 200; and that when Uthman compiled the Qur'an, the missing
verses could not be found. One of them was called the verse of
Stoning, and is said to have contained the order to stone a man or
woman who had committed adultery.... This verse is said to have been
part of the original Qur'an. Many early authorities say so, and what
is very significant is that the first Caliphs punished adulterers by
stoning; this is still the penalty prescribed in Muslim law-books,
whereas the Qur'an (24:2) prescribed a hundred stripes." ("Islam" by
A. Guillaume, p. 191).
At a later date when Uthman was Khalif, he sent for the existing
manuscr1pts in Hafsah's possession and others, had them revised to
one text, and copied several times by Zaid-ibn-Thabith and three men
of the Quraish tribe.
"When you differ in anything of the Qur'an, write it in the dialect
of the Quraish, because it was revealed in their dialect "
Uthman sent out one copy of this newly established original to every
country and issued orders that every differing compilation or scr1pt
of the Qur'an should be burnt. (Mishkat vol.III p.708).
Hafsah's copy of the Qur'an was burnt by Marrah. Why? Muslims as a
rule explain this Hadis (Tradition) as meaning a revision to conform
to the language (Quraish) of the original. But we hold that "the
difference in the Qur'an reading" does not only refer to this. Why
then burn other codices? Others will reason that the burnt scr1pts
were really corrupt texts. Who was the judge? They were also in
writing! Zaid-ibn-Thabith could just as well have used these in his
Much of this chapter is really no more than a compilation of
quotations from eminent scholars, linked only by some of my own
sentences. Where not mentioned otherwise (and apart from the
connecting sentences), the quotations are from "the book The
Collection of the Qur'an" by Dr. J. Burton (University of Cambridge)
"In Sura 53:19 we read 'Have you considered al Lat and al- Uzza and
Manat the third other?' This was once followed by the words 'Verily
they are the exalted maidens (gharaniq, also translated 'cranes')
and their intercession is to be hoped for' ('is approved' in another
version). The earliest authority on the life of Mohammed (i.e. Ibn
Hisham) asserts that these words were uttered by Mohammed at the
instigation of Satan." ("Islam", page 189 and "New Light in the Life
ot Muhammad". page 38 by A. Guillaume).
"The Qur'an has made a slight alteration and a significant omission
to the first text: instead of saying By 'al Lat,' etc., it reads,
'Have you considered al-Lat', etc. and the sentence about the
exalted maidens is dropped altogether. Subsequently Gabriel came to
the prophet and denied that he had revealed the word to him.
('Sirat'ul Rasool' as revised by Ibn Hisham, (vs. 239), Tabari pp. 1
192 ff, al Suhayli, p. 229, Guillaume). The polytheists of Mecca
were delighted about this, for these words were those of the chant
of the Quraish as they processed around the Ka'aba, but some
companions doubted and left Mohammed. Who were the three maidens?
The three principle idols in the Ka'aba of pre-Islamic Mecca."
Strange as it may sound, Muslim theologians converted this rather
embarrassing account of interpolation or abrogation (however one
looks at it) into a story of the victory of light over darkness. A
summary of other contentions about the reliability of the Qur'anic
texts will give us more clarity on the subject.
"A curious story is told about "Abd-Allah ibn-Abi-Sarh. While
Mohammed was dictating to him the passage beginning (with Sura)
23:12, he was carried away by wonder at this description of the
creation of man; and, when Mohammed paused after the words 'another
creature', exclaimed 'blessed be God, the best of creators'.
Mohammed accepted this as the continuation of the revelation, and
told him to write it down. This aroused doubt, however, in ibn-Abi-Sarh, and later he gave up Islam and returned to Mecca; at
the conquest of Mecca he was one of those proscribed, but was
pardoned on the intercession of Uthman." ("Introduction to the
Qur'an", page 37, by Richard Bell quoting from al-Baidawi's and
"The Islamic canonical traditionists report that Sura 4:95 was
dictated by the prophet to his amanuensis Zayd thus: 'Those
believers who sit at home are not equal to those who fight in the
way of God with their goods and their persons.' A blind man was
present and heard the words. He immediately interjected that were he
as other men he would certainly fight; whereupon the prophet
interposed the words 'except those who suffer from a grave
impediment' which stand in the text today." ("Islam" by A.
We can see from this that even before the collection of the Qur'an,
the assumed scrutiny and exactness of the revelations was violated.
"Abu Bakr collected the Qur'an into volumes on the deaths of those
killed at Yemama. 'Uthman later derived from these volumes a single
"Abu Bakr collected the Qur'an between two covers" differs from "
'Uthman formed but a single text": 'Uthman alladi jama'a al masahif
'ala mushaf wahid'.
" 'Uthman united the Muslims on a single text": "Jama'a 'Uthman al
nas 'ala hada al mushaf", is not what Abu Bakr did when he jama'a
al- Qur'an'." ("Katibal Mugni" by ibn Sa'id Dani).
There were differing texts
It has been clearly documented that at the time of the collection of
the Qur'an there were a number of differing texts. Four main
versions became apparent, which co-existed for a considerable time,
though they were not always tolerated.
Alfred Guillaume, perhaps the best-known and accepted Western
scholar on Islam from the non-Islamic world, sketched this situation
in his book "Islam", thus:
"Before an authorized version was established under the Caliph
Uthman there were four rival editions in use. These have long since
disappeared, but we are told that they differed from the authorized
version, some containing more and some less than the latter. When
men who had learned one version came into conflict with those who
possessed a rival version it was feared that scr1ptural exegesis
would pursue the course it had taken among Jews and Christians who
at that time accused the one another of corrupting and falsifying
the sacred text. Uthman then entrusted a commission, in which Zayd
took a prominent place, with the task of preparing a text which
everyone must accept. Only the men of Kufa refused the new edition,
and their version was certainly extant as late as A.D. 1000.
Uthman's edition to this day remains the authoritative word of God
to Muslims. Nevertheless, even now variant readings, involving not
only different reading of the vowels but also occasionally a
different consonantal text, are recognized as of equal authority one
with another. The old Kufic script in which these older Qur'an
originally written contained no indication of vowels, and so the
consonants of verbs could be read as actives or passives, and, worse
still, many of the consonants themselves could not be distinguished
without the diacritical dots which were afterwards added, when and
by whom we do not know....Originally considerable freedom prevailed,
until a later generation insisted on uniformity but never entirely
The arrangement of the text is arbitrary and haphazard....The Muslim
world has not yet come to grips with the problem which Christian
Europe faced after the Renaissance, but signs are not wanting that
thoughtful Muslims are seeking a way out of the logical
impasse....Until all the rival readings scattered in manuscripts and
books not readily to be consulted have been collected on a scale
comparable with the critical apparatus of the Bible, and until a
trustworthy lexicon of the Qur'an has been compiled, details--many
of great importance - will remain obscure." (A. Guillaume pp.
"Without diacritical marks a word could be read active or passive
and many consonants could not be distinguished without the
diacritical dots which were added afterwards, when and by whom we do
not know." ("Collection of the Qur'an" by John Burton).
It is clear from these statements that Islam has taken up a strange
position: It is totally reluctant, not to say opposed, to subject
the Qur'an, the Hadis and other related manuscripts to a critical
scrutiny and evaluation; but at the same time uses the materials
collected by Western researchers to declare the Bible corrupt. The
relatively superficial critical research on Islam by Western
scholars is largely unknown to Muslims and frowned upon, but
research, particularly critical research, is bound to be document
and fact-orientated, and not romantic.
"The Uthman collection tradition poses a difficult question: which
Qur'an tradition is the more authentic, 1. the Hijazi tradition
represented in the universally acknowledged text; 2. the Kufan
tradition claiming descent from Abdullah ibn Mas'ud; 3. the Basran
stemming from Abu Musa; or 4. the Syrian from Ubayy ibn Ka'b one of
the scribes of Mohammed (or from Miqdad/? Mu'ad)?"
"Relative to the Companion texts, Uthman's is the text without
interpolations. Relative to the revealed Qur'an, Uthman is
"Uthman quite ignores the most significant feature of reported
variants, namely, the attempt to document differing local approaches
to certain legal questions."
That the differences in the texts caused much concern, even
antagonism, can be clearly seen in the fact that:
"ibn Mas'ud ordered his followers to lay their Qur'ans in hiding and
withhold them from the government agents charged with their
How did the differences occur?
"The origin of the reported difference was simply that Umar had
memorized the Sura at an early date. Hisam became a Muslim only at
the time of the conquest of Mecca. Umar was unaware of the later
additions to the Sura." ("Fath al Bai by ibn Hajar").
The variant readings were not copied from one another in a faulty
"The relation between texts is clearly not one in which the author
of the ibn Mas'ud variants had the Uthmanic texts before him, and
recognizing the ambiguity of his 'Vorlage' (i.e. model or pattern),
prepared to select a positive reading. Rather, for him, the meaning
of the verse was still alive and this is what he sought to express
in the clearest manner. He differs from the author of the Uthmanic
texts in that he makes even greater efforts to achieve a clear
expression insofar as the deficiencies of the scr1pt will permit
this. Finally, it is necessary to posit the existence of a parallel
tradition independent of the Uthmanic text to account for those
innumerable variants which are too trivial and insignificant to be
regarded as deliberate alterations ("Die Geschichte des Korantexts"
by Th. Nöldeke).
"For the (theological) schools, the Uthmanic and the non Uthmanic
Qur'an traditions were regarded as parallel and equally sovereign."
"That the variant readings appealed to continue to be (sic)
associated with individuals among the Companions suggests that they
had always been recognized as varying from the generally accepted
There are signs of liberty in arranging the order of the text, at
least to some degree:
"ibn Abbas asked Uthman what possessed him to place Surat al Anfal,
one of the mathani, with Bara'a, one of the mi'in, join them with no
bismillah between them; and place them among the seven lengthy
Suras. Uthman replied that often the Prophet received quite long
revelations. He would call for one of the scribes and say, 'Put
these verses in the Sura in which so-and-so occurs.' Anfal was among
the first of the Medina revelations and Bara'a among the last. Since
its contents resembled those of Anfal, Uthman took it to belong with
it, for the Prophet had died without explaining that it was part of
it". ("al Itqan" by Jalal al Din).
"Malik had a shorter explanation for the absence of this bismillah.
The beginning of Bara'a fell out and its bismillah fell out with
it". ("al Itqan" by Jalal al Din)
Variant readings were generally accepted and explained.
"The Muslims were fully alive to the import of variant readings:
'The differences in the readings indicate the differences in the
legal rulings.' (Jalal al Din: "al Itqan")."
"Two opposing doctrines - the invalidation of the ritual purity
(wudu') and the contrary doctrine - could both be referred to the
Qur'an, according as the contending fuqaha' read:
Lamastum/Lâmastum; or the permissibility of sexual intercourse with
the menstruating woman at the expiry of her period but before she
has cleaned herself, and the contrary doctrine, according as they
read either yathurna or yattahirna."
"There is an interesting discussion on verses yielding two-fold
readings. Abu al Laith reported two views: 1. God had uttered them
both; 2. God had uttered only one, but permitted the verse to be
read in two possible ways. Samarqanti's own view was that if each of
the two readings was susceptible of a distinct interpretation and
legal application, God had uttered both. In such instances, the two
readings were the equivalent of two distinct revelations. If the two
readings yielded a single meaning. God had uttered only one reading,
but permitted the other, owing to the differences between the
dialects of the peninsular Arabs."
"In Sura 5:7 the verse imposing the wudu yielded a two-fold reading,
the distinction this time residing in the vowelling. 'The verse was
revealed to sanction two distinct legal doctrines:
arjulakum - enjoined the washing of the feet
arjulikum - permitted the wiping of the feet' ("al Itqan" by Jalal
"...the differences over the Fiqh of this question had called forth
the differences in reading."
"Local variation was possible solely within the range demonstrated
by readings based on the consonantal framework of the universally
The scholars were in consequence driven to seek the liberties they
craved in varying the vocalic data (arjulakum/arjulikum), or the
diacritical pointing (yathurna/yattahirna), or by questioning the
punctuation of the individual verses.
"The reading variants that were identified had been rationalized by
attribution to the several Companions."
But it was not only variant readings based on differing
interpretation of vowelling and diacritical marks that caused
differences. In certain instances we find words interpolated (or
forgotten - depending on the standpoint from which one looks at it):
"It was of the highest significance for the history of the
development of Islamic Law and to the attendant school polemic
whether one read fa mâ stamta'tum bihi minhunna (Q 4.24) with or
without the attempted interpolation ilâ ajalin musamman. ("Kitab al
Masahif" by ibn abi Da'ud). The sole purpose of the attempt was to
provide a Qur'anic basis (asl) for the doctrine of temporary
marriage, mut'a, whose rejection by other scholars was currently
based upon evidence circulating in the Sunna. It is of the highest
significance whether one read Q 5.89 or Q 4.24 with or without
Abdullah's or Ubayy's reported interpolations. Only with the Ubayy
interpolation does Q 4.24 sanction the doctrine of mut'a, or
temporary marriage, rejection of which was elsewhere being
propounded on the basis of information from a third Companion of the
Prophet as a part of the Sunna. Evidently the Qur'an, in the form of
the Ubayy reading, is playing the role of a counter-sunna, rather, a
counter-exegesis, the function of the Ubayy interpolation being to
gloss and bring out the full meaning of the root of stamta'tum, m
The above statements are acknowledged by the teaching of the
Ayatollah Khomeini, who in his work "Towzihol-Masael" accepts
"Girls and boys who attend coeducational classes in grammar schools,
high schools, universities, or other teaching establishments, and
who, in order to legalize such a situation, wish to contract a
temporary marriage may do so without the permission of their
fathers. The same applies if the boy or girl are in love but
hesitate to ask for such permission."
"If a woman authorizes someone to marry her to a man for a period of
ten days, for example, without specifying the exact date, the man
may contract the marriage at his pleasure, but if the woman has
specified a precise day and hour, the formula must be spoken at that
"Young boys or girls in full sexual effervescence are kept from
getting married before they reach the legal age of majority. This is
against the intention of divine laws. Why should the marriage of
pubescent girls and boys be forbidden because they are still minors,
when they are allowed to listen to the radio and to sexually
arousing music?" (from "The Little Green Book" or "Sayings of the
Ayatollah Khomeini", Bantam Books).
If the Ayatollah knows no reasons, we do! But that is besides the
point here. In another instances the meaning of Sura 5:92 has been
altered by the insertion (or omission) of a word. Ghazali relates:
"The fast in expiation for a breach of one's oath need not be
consecutive, even if Abdullah did read, 'three (consecutive) days'.
This reading is not universally acknowledged to be the Qur'an text.
Perhaps Abdullah adduced this reading in order to elucidate what he
took to be a justifiable exegesis."
Sarakhsi (A.H. 490) a Hanafi, argued,
"The fast in expiation of a breach of oath is consecutive on the
basis of Abdullah's reading which was in circulation as late as the
time of Abu Hanifa, but did not turn out to be mutawatir, the sole
criterion for inclusion in the mushaf. No one can question
Abdullah's veracity, nor his memory. We can but conclude that the
word 'consecutive' was part of the original wording of the Qur'an
and has been preserved in Abdullah's reading. The word was
apparently withdrawn in the lifetime of the Prophet. The Muslims
were caused to forget it, with the exception of Abdullah who was
honored with its preservation, in order to preserve the ruling. The
isolate sunna-hadith may establish a practice: the isolate
Qur'an-hadith can do no less". ("Usul" by al Sarakhsi).
Variant readings were common during the life-time of Mohammed.
"Variant readings, although transmitted from Companions, claim to
derive from the Prophet himself."
"A man recited in the presence of Umar who corrected him. The man,
incensed, claimed to have recited for the Prophet and he had not
corrected him. They carried their dispute to Muhammad. When the
Prophet endorsed the man's claim that Muhammad had personally
instructed him, doubts sprang up in Umar's mind. Reading Umar's
expression, the Prophet struck him on the chest, exclaiming, 'Out
devil!' Muhammad then explained 'All the modes of reciting are
correct so long as you don't turn a statement on mercy into one on
wrath and vice-versa.' "(Tafsir of Tabari).
"It is claimed that the Qur'an cannot be imitated. So that which is
verbally inimitable can scarcely have passed through a phase of
multiple wordings when the individual Companions had the Prophet's
permission to substitute whichever word chanced to correspond with
the meaning revealed by God."
"It may be argued that there may be different readings (texts). The
wording of the Qur'an is not its most relevant feature. The meaning
matters above all. Differing readings were known to the Prophet and
he lacked the pedantry to object."
"Ubayy entered the mosque and, hearing a man recite, asked him who
had instructed him. The man replied that he had been taught by the
Prophet. Ubayy went in search of the Prophet. When the man recited.
Muhammad said, 'That is correct.' Ubayy protested, 'But you taught
me to recite so-and-so,' The Prophet said that Ubayy was right too.
'Right? right?' burst out Ubayy in perplexity. The Prophet struck
him on the chest and prayed, 'O God! cause doubt to depart.' Ubayy
broke into a sweat as his heart filled with terror. Muhammad
disclosed that two angels had come to him. One said, 'Recite the
Qur'an in one form.' The other advised Muhammad to ask for more than
this. That was repeated several times until finally the first angel
said. 'Very well. Recite it in seven forms.' The Prophet said, 'Each
of the forms is grace-giving, protecting, so long as you don't
terminate a punishment verse with an expression of mercy, or
vice-versa - as you might for example say, Let's go; or, let's be
off.' " (Tafsir of Tabari.).
"The different readings have the Prophet's (and Heaven's) approval.
Differences in utterance are not material. The meaning is paramount.
The differing readings are all equally valid, having been revealed
in parallel. The difference appears to consist simply in the use of
this as opposed to the synonym. That ought to occasion neither
wonder nor alarm, neither squabbling nor scandal. All readings are
correct. All readings come down from the days of the Prophet. All
readings carry the seal of his approbation.
"...Differences reported from the Companions on Qur'an matters,
which divided them already in the days of the Prophet, concerned
more than merely verbal matters
"Abdullah reports, 'We differed about a Sura, as to whether it
consisted of thirty-five or thirty-six verses, so we went to the
Prophet who was engaged in conversation with Ali. When we told him
we disagree over the reading, his face reddened as he replied,
"Those before you perished through their disagreements." He
whispered something to Ali who said, "The Prophet commands you to
recite as you were taught.' "(Tafsir of Tabari).
"A man complained to the Prophet, Abdullah taught me to recite a
Sura of the Qur'an. Zaid taught me the same Sura and so too did
Ubayy. The readings of all three differ. Whose reading ought I to
adopt?' The Prophet remained silent. Ali who was at his side
replied, 'Every man should recite as he was taught. Each of the
readings is acceptable, valid.' " (Tafsir of Tabari).
"Umar said, I heard Hisam b. Hukaim reciting Surat al Furqan and
listened to his recital. On observing that he was reading many forms
which the Prophet had not taught me, I all but rushed upon him as he
prayed. But I waited patiently as he continued, and, collaring him
when he had finished, I asked him, 'Who taught you to recite this
Sura?' He claimed that the Prophet had taught him. I said, 'By God!
you're lying!' I dragged him to the Prophet telling him that I had
heard Hisam recite many forms he had not taught me. The Prophet
said, 'Let him go. Recite, Hisam.' He recited the reading I had
already heard from him. The Prophet said, 'That is how it was
revealed.' He then said, 'Recite, Umar', and I recited what he had
taught me. He said, 'That's right. That is how it was revealed. This
Qur'an was revealed in seven forms, so recite what is easiest.'
"(Tafsir of Tabari). (See also Mishkat vol.III pp. 702-705). Also,
Al Baizawi (in his commentary on Suras 3:100, 6:91, 19:35, 28:48,
33:6, 34:18, 38:22, etc.) suggests variations extant in his time.
(Mizanu'l Haqq, page 261).
"The scholars were to disapprove of the use by the Muslims of the
post-Apostolic ages of isolate Qur'an readings at prayer. That is
not, however, the point of the report. The earliest rationalization
of reading variants was that, as all had been revealed, all were
equally legitimate. Abu Huraira reports the Prophet as saying, 'The
Qur'an was revealed in seven forms and contention about the Qur'an
is disbelief.' " (Tafsir of Tabari).
We would be eager to know what is meant by 'form'. The whole context
of this subject seems to leave no doubt, however, that it is not
just a matter of dialect or pronounciation, though partly so.
"Ibrahim reports that ibn Abbas heard some man reter to 'the former
Qur'an text'. He asked him what he meant. The man explained, 'Umar
sent Abdullah to Kufa as instructor and the people there adopted his
reading. Uthman altered the text, and so they refer to Abdullah's
reading as "the former text".' ibn Abbas rejected this. 'Abdullah's
is the later, based on the final review.' ibn Abbas also reports
that Abdullah attended the final review and learned what had been
withdrawn and what had been abrogated." (al Qurtubi).
Tradition speaks of a "final review" of all the given revelation by
Gabriel. This does not agree with many of the previous quotations,
"Zaid is also said to have attended the final review and to have
learned what was withdrawn and what remained." ("al ltqan" by Jalal
"al-Bagawi in Sarh al Sunna, concluded, 'The mushaf which has been
traditionally accepted represents the final review text. Uthman
ordered it to be copied into the mushafs he dispatched throughout
the empire, simultaneously making away with all the other Qur'an
materials with the aim of preventing differences. Whatever is at
variance with the written text is now to be regarded in the same
light as that which has been abrogated and withdrawn. It is no
longer competent for any man to go beyond the text'. "("Fath al
Bari" by ibn Hajan).
"Tabari taught that the Companions agreed to write out that which
they were certain represented the text as checked on the occasion of
the final review. They were unanimous that all other Qur'an
materials must be abandoned."
"The Qadi Abu Bakr holds 'that the entirety of the Qur'an, as God
revealed it, and as He commanded that it be recorded, such as He did
not abrogate, nor withdraw in respect of the wording alone, is
represented in the mushaf of Uthman.' "
"In Baqillani's view, therefore, the Uthman mushaf, as collected by
Zaid, equals the Qur'an minus two classes of verses; nask a hukm we
al tilawa and naskh al tilawa duna al hukm."
"ibn Zibyan reports that ibn Abbas asked him which of the two texts
he recited. He replied the former reading, that of ibn Umm 'Abd
(i.e. Abdullah's). 'But.' said ibn Abbas, 'it is the later of two.'
"("Fath al Bari" by ibn Hajar).
"Abdullah is himself reported as declaring, 'Did I know of anyone
whom camels could reach who had later information on the final
review than I have, I should go to him.' "
"Despite the statement attributed to Abdullah that he who denies a
single verse of the Qur'an denies the entire revelation, Abdullah is
depicted in the literature as having denied three whole chapters of
"The codex ascribed to Abdullah is said to lack three of the Suras
present in our (the Uthmanic) text. The codices ascribed to ibn
Abbas, Ubayy and Abu Musa are said to contain two Suras which the
Uthmanic text lacks." ("al Itqan" by Jalal al Din).
"The Mutazili scholar al Nazzam is reported to have impugned
Abdullah's memory on the ground that he had denied two Suras (sic)
which are part of the Book of God. This is a reference, says ibn
Qutaiba, to Q 113 and Q 114, and for his attitude Abdullah had
justification. Men may opine and opine wrongly. This is possible for
prophets and for ordinary mortals more possible still. What induced
Abdullah to refrain from recording the two Suras in his mushaf was
that he observed that the Prophet used the chapters as charms to
invoke the divine protection upon his grandsons, al Hasan and al
"A similar cause led Ubayy, on the contrary, to copy into his mushaf
the two qunut prayers which he noted the Prophet reciting at the
ritual service. Abdullah, taking two chapters to be prayers, thought
them to be no part of the Qur'an, while Ubayy, taking two prayers to
be Suras, thought that they were part of the Qur'an."
"Of the two reports, it was that concerning Abdullah's supposed
omission of Q 113 and Q 114, but more especially his refusal to
record the first Sura, the Fatiha."
"ibn Mas'ud, the eponym of the Qur'an of the Kufans, is reported to
have said, 'I recited from the very mouth of the Prophet some
seventy Suras while Zaid still had his ringlets and was playing with
his companions.' In a second version, 'The Prophet taught me to
recite seventy Suras which I had mastered before Zaid had even
become a Muslim.' Or, again, 'Am I to be debarred from copying the
mushafs and the job given to a man who was an infidel in his
father's reins when I first became a Muslim?' Abdullah is supposed
to have enjoined his followers, 'Lay up your Qur'ans! How can you
order me to recite the reading of Zaid, when I recited from the very
mouth of the Prophet some seventy Suras?' "
" 'Am I,' asks Abdullah, 'to abandon what I acquired from the very
lips of the Prophet?'"
"I went to Abu Musa's house and saw there Abdullah and Hudaifa. I
sat with them. They had a mushaf that Uthman had sent ordering them
to make their Qur'ans conform with it. Abu Musa declared that
anything in his mushaf and lacking in Uthman's was not to be
omitted. Anything in Uthman's and lacking in his own was to be
added. Hudaifa asked, 'What is the point of all our work? Nobody in
this region will give up the reading of this saikh, meaning
Abdullah, and nobody of Yemeni origin will give up the reading of
Abu Musa.' " ("Kitab al Masahif" by ibn abi Da'ud).
A very interesting development can be observed. At first the
authenticity of a statement would be measured by the seniority of
the man in question. This is apparent from the above texts. There
came a shift to giving preference to the younger - the one who was
aware of the abrogations and the withdrawn texts.
"In the legal sciences, where hadith reports clash, a brilliant and
elegantly simple technique was developed to resolve the problem.
This involved employment of isnad theory in terms of ta'akhkhur, the
later abrogates the earlier if they differ." ("Kitab al Umm" by al
"This resulted, however, in earliness of conversion being driven out
in favor of lateness of conversion."
This is the obvious reason why Zaid ibn Thabith was considered more
trustworthy to edit Uthman's version than any of the older
companions of the Prophet, like ibn Mas'ud, Ubayy or Abu Musa. And
that was also the reason for the intended destruction of their
"Uthman prohibited the variant readings since he feared dissension.
It is said that when Uthman received the completed mushaf, he
noticed certain linguistic irregularities." ("Masahif").
"Yazid b. Mu'awiya was in the mosque in the time of al Walid b.
Uqba, sitting in a group among whom was Hudaifa. An official called
out, 'Those who follow the reading of Abu Musa, go to the corner
nearest the Kinda door. Those who follow Abdullah's reading, go to
the corner nearest Abdullah's house. 'Their reading of Q 2:196 did
not agree. One group read, 'Perform the pilgrimage to God. 'The
others read it, 'Perform the pilgrimage to the Ka'aba' Hudaifa
became very angry, his eyes reddened and he rose, parting his qamis
at the waist, although in the mosque. This was during the reign of
Uthman. Hudaifa exclaimed, 'Will someone go to the Commander of the
Faithful, or shall I go myself? This is what happened in the
previous dispensations.' " ("Kitab al Masahif" by ibn abi Da'ud).
"Hudaifa said to Uthman, 'Whatever you would do if you heard someone
talking of the reading of so-and-so, and the reading of another, as
the non-Muslims do , then do it now.'"(" Kitab al Muqni" by b. Sa'id
"Hudaifa said, "The Kufans say, "the text of Abdullah"; the Basrans
say, "the text of Abu Musa".
By God! if I reach the Commander of the Faithful, I will recommend
that he drown these readings.' (Masahif). Abdullah said, 'Do and God
will drown you, but not in water!' " (ibid). "Abdullah, Hudaifa and
Abu Musa were on the roof of Abu Musa's house. Abdullah said, 'I
hear you say such and such.' Hudaifa said,' Yes, I deplore folk
talking about this one's reading and that one's reading. They are
differing like non Muslims.' Hudaifa continued, 'Abdullah b. Qais,
you were sent to the Basrans as governor and teacher. They have
adopted your adab, your dialect and your text.'
To b. Mas'ud he said, 'You were sent to the Kufans as their teacher
and they have adopted your adab, your dialect and your reading.' "
'In that case,' retorted b Mas'ud, I have not misled them. There is
no verse in the Book of God but that I know where and in what
connection it was revealed. Did I know of anyone more learned than
myself on the subject I should go to him.' (Masahif.).
And yet he differs in content from the Uthmanic version.
"The conclusion which such reports invite us to draw is that there
was genuine fear that Islam. like the religions before it, would be
fragmented into warring sects as a result of the differences arising
in the reading of the sacred texts. Uthman's purpose and his
achievement was to unite the Muslims on the basis of a single agreed
Qur'an reading." ("Fath al Bari" by ibn Hajar).
"During the reign of Uthman, teachers were teaching this or that
reading to their students. When the students met and disagreed about
the reading, they reported the differences to their teachers. They
would defend their readings, condemning the others as heretical.
News of this came to Uthman's ears and he addressed the people, 'You
who are here around me are disputing as to the Qur'an, and
pronouncing it differently. It follows that those who are distant in
the various regional centres of Islam are even more widely divided.
Companions of Muhammad! act in unison; come together and write out
an imam (iman?) for the Muslims.' "("Kitab al Masahif" by ibn abi
"The reading disputes were apparently not restricted to the
provinces. They appear to have prevailed also at Medina. We are
unfortunately given no information on the nature of these
differences, nor any explanation as to how they might have arisen.
We are told, however, that when the completed mushaf was delivered,
Uthman observed certain irregular uses." (ibid.).
"Unanimity is often claimed by appeal to the authority of Ali who is
projected as averring that what Uthman had done in respect of the
mushaf, and especially in respect of the most sensitive issue of
all, the alleged destruction of all Qur'anic records other than the
textus receptus achieved as the result of his initiative, he had
done only after the fullest consultation with the Companions. Far
from protesting at this highhandedness, they had applauded and
blessed his decisiveness."
"By God! he did not act on the mushaf except in the fullest
consultation with us, for he said, 'What is your view in this matter
of reading? I have heard that some even say, "My reading is superior
to yours." This is tantamount to heresy.' We asked him, 'What are
you thinking to do?' He replied, 'My view is that we should unite
the Muslims on the basis of a single mushaf. That way, there will be
no disagreement, no segmentation.' We replied, 'An excellent idea!'
Someone then asked, 'Whose is the purest Arabic? and whose the
greatest acquaintance with the recitation (alt. Qur'an)? 'They said
that the purest Arabic was that of Sa'id b. al As and that the one
most acquainted with the recitation (Qur'an) was Zaid b. Thabith.
Uthman said, 'Let the one write and the other dictate.' The two then
set to work and in this way Uthman united the Muslims on the basis
of a single text."
"Ali concludes his report with the declaration, 'Had I been in
power, I should have done just what Uthman did." (ibid.).
(The above quotations are taken from the book "Collection of the
Qur'an" by Dr. John Burton).
"It is not without interest, that records show that the Qur'anic
text was finally fixed by the two visirs ibn Muqlah and ibn-'Tsa in
A.D. 933 (A.H. 311) with the help of the learned ibn Mujahid. Ibn
Majahid admitted seven readings, which had developed because of lack
of vowel and diacritical marks, as canonical." ("History of the
Arabs" by Philip K. Hitti, page 123 as quoted from "Materials for
the History of the Text of the Koran" by Arthur Jeffery and "New
Researches into the Composition and Exegesis of the Koran" by
All this proves beyond any doubt that the very accusation leveled by
Muslims against the Bible, can be reversed and applied far more
effectively against the Qur'an. When a Muslim refers to the Qur'an
as "nazil" he is flying in the teeth of the facts recorded
above. This is particularly so, because
the Qur'an contradicts earlier revelation, the evidence for the
origin of which is given above.
NOW THE BOMB!
"Hudhaifa was afraid of their
differences in the recitation of the Quran...Uthman sent to every
Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered
that all the other Quran materials, whether written in
fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt. (Hadith,
Vol. 6, Book 61, #510). So here we have Uthman saying I'll
burn the word of God and I'll decide just what should be in the
ATTITUDES TOWARD MANUSCRIPT
The indisputable difference
between the attitudes of Christian scholars and Islamic scholars
is best illustrated by the Sana’a Qur’an find of 1972. Workers,
restoring a mosque in Sana’a, Yemen, stumbled across a cache of
Qur’an manuscripts in the structure of the building’s roof. The
manuscripts were stuffed into sacks and probably would have
stayed there had the value of the find not been recognized by an
official of the Yemeni Antiquities Authority. No scholars in his
country were capable of working on this rich find, and so the
Yemeni official called in non-Islamic German scholars to assist.
Almost 10 years after the initial discovery, German scholar Gerd-R.
Puin was allowed to spend significant time with the manuscripts.
Only one other scholar has been given any significant amount of
time to study the manuscripts. It was not until 1997 that 35,000
microfilm images of the manuscripts were finally allowed to
leave the country so others could examine the materials.
The Sana’a find has
tremendous importance for Qur’anic studies, at least for those
who wish to see the Qur’an studied in all its actual historical
forms. Initial studies of the find indicate that it contains
some of the earliest known Qur’anic material. This find also
gives evidence of variation from today’s Qur’an in both the
reading of the text and its order, something unthinkable in
traditional Islamic doctrine.
When parallel finds that have
bearing on the Bible have come to light, Christian scholars have
almost climbed over each other to gain access to the
manuscripts. Such finds generate great excitement. No such
excitement, however, exists in Islam. The contrast is striking.
Christians wish to see more and more light shed on the earliest
manuscripts of their scriptures, while Muslims resist, often
with great fervor, all such inquiry into the history of the
In 1995, an Egyptian court
labeled Abu Zaid an apostate, and his wife was ordered, under
Islamic law, to divorce him. He and his wife fled to Holland.
His crime? Zaid dared to put into writing a conclusion that a
number of other Muslim scholars know to be true (but fear to
Abu Zaid said the Qur’an was a literary document that needed to
be examined as such. The study of the Qur’an
outside the parameters of strict Muslim orthodoxy can be
very, very dangerous. One only need mention the name Rushdie to
conjure up the possible result of making an “offensive”
statement concerning the Prophet or the Qur’an. It is no wonder,
then, that many ancient texts bearing directly on the original
form of the Qur’an currently sit unexamined in Muslim lands.
Fear of being accused of apostasy for daring to question the
orthodox view of the Qur’an is the primary reason these texts