Part 2: The True State Of The Qur'an

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a/ The Reason For Making ‘One’ Text

  Islam’s ‘history’ claims that in 30 AH, some 18 years after Muhammad’s death, during Caliph ‘Uthman’s reign, there was much contention amongst certain followers of Islam concerning the recitation of the Qur’an1. It is recorded that he commanded copies to be made of one consonantal symbol text, and sent these to the centres of the Islamic empire with the command that all texts that varied from those copies were to be burnt. Von Denffer states it as 2

"During the time of ‘Uthman differences in reading the Qur’an became obvious, and after consultation with the Companions, ‘Uthman had a standard copy prepared from the suhuf of Abu Bakr kept with Hafsa at that time. 
The following is the report transmitted in Sahih Bukhari:
"Narrated Anas bin Malik: Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to ‘Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of 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! Set this people right before they differ about the Book (Qur’an), as the Jews and the Christians did before’. Then ‘Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, ‘Send us the manuscripts of the Qur’an so that we may copy the Qur’anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you. Hafsah sent it to ‘Uthman. ‘Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, Abdullah bin az-Zubair, Sa’id bin Al-’As and Abdur Rahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. ‘Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, ‘In case you disagree with Zayd bin Thabit on any point in the Qur’an, then write it in the dialect of the Quraish, as the Qur’an was revealed in their tongue’. They did so, and when they had written many copies, ‘Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsah. ‘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...."" (Sahih Bukhari, Vol.6, #510, p. 479).(Ulum, p.52f).
  However, the reason for these differences of the Iraqis and Syrians (Sham) is central in understanding why such an action was taken. It is thus worth noting that at-Tabari (d.309 A.H.) in his Tafsir (commentary), includes in his version of this Hadith:  "Hadaifah said, "I took part in the expedition against Armenia where there were Iraqis as well as Syrians. But the Syrians follow the reading of the Qur’an according to Ubai ibn Ka`b, and they say some things which the Iraqis have not heard, so the latter accuse them of unbelief. In the same way the Iraqis, who follow the reading of Ibn Mas`ud, read some things which the Syrians have not heard, and the Syrians accuse  Back To Top


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them of unbelief. Restrain this people before they differ in the book, as do the Jews and the Christians." (Tafsir, vol. 1, p. 20: cited from W. Campbell, The Qur’an and the Bible in Light of History and Science, p.110f)   Ibn Mas`ud and Ubai were sent by the 2nd Caliph `Umar as the Islamic governors and teachers of their respective provinces. They were not rebels who went out to spread error! They were teaching their particular ‘version’ (Islam’s own word for differing Arabic texts) of the Qur’an which they both claimed adamantly came from Muhammad. 

  Yet, Von Denffer who already admitted graphic differences in theCompanion readings has the gall to misstate the facts as: 

"Later on, with Muslims settling in many parts of the world, the Qur’an was recited in a variety of ways, some of which were not in accordance with the accepted text, and the transmitted readings of the Prophet and the Companions. This necessitated a thorough screening and distinction between what is sahih (sound) and what is shadh (exceptional)." (Ulum, p. 119)   Although many claim that the codices of the Companions were different simply because they were ‘personal notebooks’, the differences Tabari mentions were those actually recited by their pupils, the citizens of Iraq and Syria, as ‘Qur’an’ from these men. These were not ‘notebooks’, and Sahih Muslim (Vol. 2, p. 393f., #1797-1801) records examples of the differences taught to the followers. 

  For this reason Ibn Mas’ud is known to have refused to hand over his text to `Uthman’s agents declaring that he received his from Muhammad and he was not willing to accept what young Zaid ibn Thabit recited. And, Sahih Muslim #6022 (Vol. 4, p. 1312; English version) records his admission that he told his followers to likewise withhold their copies! 

  Those who believe the other version, that 6 out of the ‘7 Forms’ were withdrawn at the Final Review, are faced with the equally problematic choice that the admitted variations in writing were either because the people did not obey immediately, OR, at a later time error crept into the written text of the ‘1 Form’ of the Qur’an which remained at the time of Muhammad’s death! However, it must then be accepted that such error would of necessity been in the Companions’ texts in order for them to be burnt! 

  No Sunni could accept this! Thus, those who do believe the version that the ‘Final Review’ marked the end of the ‘7 Forms’ are forced by their beliefs to deny that variation of any kind would have continued in the written texts. Thus, they have to declare that the many Companion codices vary from one another only because they were ‘notebooks’. 

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  Again, though, it is obvious that the lack of ‘certain knowledge’ about both the history and content of its Qur’an has resulted in Islam’s scholars seeking to defend the Qur’an according to their own opinion (ikhtilaf) of what the evidence says, and not upon ‘facts’, of which there seem to be very few in Islam. This has resulted in a conflicting array of ‘stories’, not a ‘history’, and has placed Islam in the embarrassing position of having several explanations for the presence of such divergences in the early written texts, when it has been telling everyone that such variations have never existed! Islam has been leading everyone to believe that the Qur’an has only ever had one text (usually stated as "the one Muhammad left us"), and not ‘7’! This is obviously another ‘outwitting’ by the hierarchy of Islam upon the unsuspecting Ummah.

  However, the reason that Islam must hide the truth about itself seems obvious. How could it openly attack the Bible’s many manuscripts all representing one text, and every one of them able to be compared with each other as a safeguard against error, if Islam were to admit that it never had just ‘one’, but ‘7’, and it can’t even tell anyone what was in them!?

  Therefore it has become not only convenient but necessary for Islam’s survival, to avoid discussing early details about the Qur’an, such as what Tabari recorded about the accusation made between the various groups that the other’s version was ‘heresy’, and claim that the followers of Islam in Iraq and Syria were simply "non-Arabic speaking", a people ignorant of how to pronounce the Arabic text of the Qur’an. The claim is then made that it was to correct this that `Uthman sent them a complete and ‘official’ transcript of the Qur’an. However, it is obvious that this would never have alleviated a problem like error in pronunciation, since, as was earlier noted, the ability to distinguish such things was not yet available and the written text was a bare consonantal symbol text, and nothing else! 

b/ What Happened to the ‘Originals’?

  Von Denffer raises another issue, the demise of Hafsah’s manuscripts, the only ‘originals’: 

"Later, Marwan b. Hakam (d.65/684), according to a report in Ibn Abi Da’ud, collected it from her heirs and had it destroyed, presumably fearing it might become the cause for new disputes." (Ulum, p.56).   One must not bypass the fact that the burning of Hafsahs copy to avoid further contentions means that ‘UTHMAN DID NOT IN FACT MAKE ‘AN EXACT COPY’ OF HAFSAH’S MANUSCRIPT, as some claim. If he had, there would have been no need to burn it. Rather, according to 

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Islam’s stand, it would have contained a conglomeration of the ‘7 Forms’, something that might bring nostalgia to the people who learned the Qur’an from specific teachers. According to Islam’s theology, there might also have been some abrogated sections. 3

  It was obvious to Tabari that it was with the idea of removing all written differences (i.e. differences in the consonantal symbols) in the Companion Codices, that `Uthman sent his copies of the Quran to Iraq (Kufa and Basra) and Syria (Dasmascus), as well as maintaining copies at Medina and Mecca, and perhaps one copy himself (usually referred to as ‘the Imam’). 

  The claim that `Uthman issued ‘perfect copies’ of a single text to all points of the Islamic empire should surely guarantee Islam’s claim to having a perfectly uniform consonantal symbol text in its Arabic Qur’an’s world-wide, whether that be attributed to Divine promise or `Uthman’s human intervention. 

c/ Discrepancies Between ‘Uthman’s Manuscripts (Graphic Forms)

  In fact, Von Denffer failed to note the following from the well-known Islamic writer Ibn Khallikan:

"Abu Amr states that he received the following revelation from Katada as-Sadusi:
"When the first copy of the Qur’an was written out and presented to [the khalif] Othman Ibn Affan, he said: ‘There are faults of language in it, and let the Arabs of the desert rectify them with their tongues." (Biographical Dictionary, Ibn Khallikan, p. 401)
  This is just the first manuscript copy, and already corruption was readily visible to Caliph ‘Uthman. Again, since only the consonantal symbol text could be written down, it is obvious that what ‘Uthman saw were consonantal symbol errors, corruption in the ‘graphic form’. But, how far did he look, and how many did he find? Did he find 5, 10, 500, or 1000 errors? And, what kind of corruption did he find? Were there symbols missing, or just symbols added? And, what about the other manuscripts? Were they also found to be corrupted? 

  Again, although Von Denffer freely quotes from the Fihrist of al-Nadim, he omits that al-Nadim records that many early scholars were interested in these same questions. For example: 

"Books Composed About Discrepancies of the [Qur’anic] Manuscripts
The Discrepancies between the Manuscripts of the people of al-Madina, al-Kufa, and al-Basrah, according to al-Kisai; book of Kalaf, Discrepancies of the manuscripts; Discrepancies of the People of al-Kufa, al-Basrah and Syria concerning the Manuscripts, by al-Farra’; 
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Discrepancies between the Manuscripts, Abu Da’ud al-Sijistani; book of al-Mada’ini about the discrepancies between the manuscripts and the compiling of the Qur’an; Discrepancies between the Manuscripts of Syria, al-Hijaz, and al-Iraq, by Ibn Amir al-Yahsubi; book of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd Al-Rahman al-Isbahani about discrepancies of the manuscripts." (Fihrist, p.79, emphasis added)   Also,  "The Books Composed about the Spelling in the [Qur’anic] Manuscripts
Book of Yahya ibn al-Harith; book of Ibn Shahib; book of Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Warraq; book of Ya’qub ibn Abi Shaybah." (Fihrist, p. 80, emphasis added)4 .
  Thus we find that from the beginning Islam’s scholars5 not only acknowledged, but recorded, the corruptions between the manuscripts which `Uthman sent to the Hijaz (Mecca/Medina), Iraq (Kufa and Basra), and Syria (Damascus) - the ‘new’ set of ‘originals’, the new ‘received texts’ of the Qur’an. 

  Yet, all this acknowledges something which denies the very content of the Qur’an itself, "We will guard it (from corruption)." (Q15:9). Even in the earliest of times the Qur’an had not survived intact. 

  The question must also be asked as to whether Islam has since corrected the errors in these texts, for, if it did not, then it means that it has accepted as ‘Qur’an’ several ‘corrupt’ manuscripts that are not ‘perfect copies’ of any one of the ‘7 Forms’, and it has thus ascribed Divine authority to the corrupted texts of Caliph ‘Uthman by continuing to propagate them rather than correct them. The present Qur’ans of necessity are all ‘corrupt’. 

  But, what were the errors which these books recorded? Are we able to verify them today? This can only be done by correlating what Islam claims are two of Caliph `Uthman’s texts, the one sent to Kufah and that kept at Medinah. These texts are still being printed today, and by checking their texts against one another and against the ancient records of men like ad-Dani, and ibn al-Jazari, we can verify whether the corruption has been retained. 

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1/ Mention has not been made of the first collection of the Qur’an, generally said to have been made under the first Caliph Abu Bakr, passed to the second Caliph `Umar, and left at his death to his daughter Hafsah, one of Muhammad’s wives. Part of the text of Bukhari, Vol. 6, #509, reads: 

"Narrated Zaid bin Thabit; Abu Bakr as-Saddiq sent for me when the people of Yamama had been killed... (I went to him) and found `Umar bin Al-Khattab sitting with him. Abu Bakr then said (to me); "Umar has come to me and said; "Casualties were heavy among the Qurra of the Qur’an (i.e. those who knew the Qur’an by heart) ...and I am afraid that more heavy casualties may take place... whereby a large part of the Qur’an may be lost. Therefore I suggest, you (Abu Bakr) order that the Qur’an be collected." I said to `Umar, "How can you do something which Allah’s Messenger did not do?"... "Umar kept urging me until Allah opened my chest for it and I began to realise the good idea which `Umar had realised."... "then Abu Bakr said (to me).’...So you should search for (the fragmentary scripts of) the Qur’an and collect it (in one book)."...So I started looking for the Qur’an and collecting it... Then the complete manuscripts (copy) of the Qur’an remained with Abu Bakr till he died, then with `Umar till the end of his life, and then with Hafsa, the daughter of `Umar."  2/ The Hizb ut-Tahrir state almost the same thing: "Abu Bakr instructed Zaid bin Thabit to collect the Qur’an... The compiled Qur’an was kept by Abu Bakr (ra) until he died, then by Umar bin Khattab, and when he died it was given to his daughter Hafsa (ra).... During the time of Uthman (ra) differences in reading the Qur’an became obvious and after consultation with the companions, Uthman had a standard copy made for [edit.- from] the Suhuf (pages) of Abu Bakr (ra) that were with Hafsa (ra). the copy was prepared by Zaid bin Thabit, Abdullah..., Said..., and Abdur-Rahman Harith bin Hisham. Copies were made and distributed, 2 of these copies can today be found in the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul and in Tashkent." (What is The Qur’an?, Al Khalifah Publications) 3/ See Sahih Muslim, Vol. 2, p. 500, #2286, where it is maintained that 2 Surahs were forgotten, and which the commentator assures us were ‘abrogated’.

4/ This same Fihrist has in 1997 been offered for sale by The Muslim News, U.K., through its Muslim News Book Service. They refused to repsond to the repeated efforts of the present writer to oder a copy.

5/ One of those who later dealt with this subject, ad-Dani (d. 444 A.H.), is evaluated by ibn Khaldun in the following way; "...there appeared Abu `Amr Ad-Dani. He achieved the greatest perfection in the reading of the Qur’an. The knowledge of it rests with him, and its transmission in its entirety goes through him." (The Muqaddima, Vol. 2, p. 441).
Many other well-known Islamic scholars including as-Suyuti, ibn al-Jazari, etc., also recorded these. These are not ‘flyweights’. They are those through whom the knowledge of the Qur’an depends.

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