Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Compilation of the Qur'an

Sam Shamoun



There exists within the Islamic community a major deception which has been circulating amongst the public in regard to the Muslim Scripture, al-Qur'an. The deception relates to the supposed textual preservation of the Qur'anic text, and the notion that the Qur'an remains virtually intact, without additions or deletions, without any variant readings which would call into question the integrity of the Muslim text. 

This fallacious argument, unfortunately, has convinced many lay people to believe that whereas the Bible has suffered textual corruption, the Qur'an is free from such tampering. It is thus claimed that based on this fact the Qur'an is rendered superior and is a more reliable document than the Holy Bible. 

However, a close examination of the historical references regarding the compilation of the Qur'an, demonstrates that the weight of the evidence does not support the Muslim claims. On the contrary, the evidence tends to support the fact that the Qur'an has suffered much in the way of transmission.


Let's examine the REAL TRUTH of the transmission of the QUR'AN

The majority of our references will be taken directly from Islamic scholars and writings, in order to avoid the Muslim accusations of Western scholarly bias. Such accusations are often promoted in an attempt to sidetrack the obvious implications on Muslim claims. And even when we do quote non-Muslim authorities the citations from such authors either cite or include references to Islamic scholars and works.

The first issue that needs to be addressed is the claim that a complete Qur'anic Codex existed during the time of Muhammad. This claim finds no support, since the first complete text was compiled during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr, after Muhammad’s death:

Narrated Zaid bin Thabit Al-Ansari:

who was one of those who used to write the Divine Revelation: Abu Bakr sent for me after the (heavy) casualties among the warriors (of the battle) of Yamama (where a great number of Qurra' were killed). 'Umar was present with Abu Bakr who said, 'Umar has come to me and said, The people have suffered heavy casualties on the day of (the battle of) Yamama, and I am afraid that there will be more casualties among the Qurra' (those who know the Qur'an by heart) at other battle-fields, whereby a large part of the Qur'an MAY BE LOST, unless you collect it. And I am of the opinion that you should collect the Qur'an." Abu Bakr added, "I said to 'Umar, 'How can I do something WHICH ALLAH’S APOSTLE HAS NOT DONE?' 'Umar said (to me), 'By Allah, it is (really) a good thing.' So 'Umar kept on pressing, trying to persuade me to accept his proposal, till Allah opened my bosom for it and I had the same opinion as 'Umar." (Zaid bin Thabit added:) Umar was sitting with him (Abu Bakr) and was not speaking me. "You are a wise young man and we do not suspect you (of telling lies or of forgetfulness): and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah's Apostle. Therefore, look for the Qur'an and collect it (in one manuscript)." By Allah, if he (Abu Bakr) had ordered me to shift one of the mountains (from its place) it would not have been harder for me than what he had ordered me concerning the collection of the Qur'an. I said to both of them, "How dare you do a thing WHICH THE PROPHET HAS NOT DONE?" Abu Bakr said, "By Allah, it is (really) a good thing. So I kept on arguing with him about it till Allah opened my bosom for that which He had opened the bosoms of Abu Bakr and Umar. So I started locating Qur'anic material and collecting it from parchments, scapula, leaf-stalks of date palms and from the memories of men (who knew it by heart). I found with Khuzaima two Verses of Surat-at-Tauba WHICH I HAD NOT FOUND WITH ANYONE ELSE, (and they were):--

"Verily there has come to you an Apostle (Muhammad) from amongst yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty He (Muhammad) is ardently anxious over you (to be rightly guided)" (9.128)

The manuscript on which the Qur'an was collected, remained with Abu Bakr till Allah took him unto Him, and then with 'Umar till Allah took him unto Him, and finally it remained with Hafsa, Umar's daughter. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 201

The number of memorizers that died was 450:

“During the battle of Yamama, 450 reciters of the Qur'an were killed.” (The True Guidance - An Introduction To Qur'anic Studies, published by Light of Life, P.O. BOX 13, A-9503 Villach, Austria, part 4, p. 47– citing Ibn Kathir’s Al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya, chapter on Battle of Yamama)

According to another source, when these men died they took with them portions of the Qur'an that they alone had memorized: 

Zuhri 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. (Burton: The published text ought here to be amended: for "fa lamma jama`a Abu Bakr", I propose to read: "wa lamma yajma` Abu Bakr", to follow: "lam yuktab".) Those lost passages were not to be found with anyone after the deaths of those who had memorised them. This, I understand, was one of the considerations which impelled them to pursue the Qur'an during the reign of Abu Bakr, committing it to sheets for fear that there should perish in further theatres of war men who bore much of the Qur'an which they would take to the grave with them on their fall, and which, with their passing, would not be found with any other. (John Burton, The Collection of the Qur'an, pp. 126-127, Abu Bakr `Abdullah b. abi Da'ud, Kitab al-Masahif’, ed. A. Jeffery, Cairo, 1936/1355, p. 23; bold emphasis ours) 

From these sources we realize that:

1. No text had been compiled during Muhammad’s time. This is further solidified by the following traditions:

[Zaid 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], vol. 9, p. 9; italic emphasis ours)

It is reported… from Ali who said: “May the mercy of Allah be upon Abu Bakr, the foremost of men to be rewarded with the collection of the manuscripts, for he was THE FIRST to collect (the text) between (two) covers”. (John Gilchrist, Jam' Al-Qur'an - The Codification of the Qur'an Text A Comprehensive Study of the Original Collection of the Qur'an Text and the Early Surviving Qur'an Manuscripts, [MERCSA, P.O. Box 342 Mondeor, 2110 Republic of South Africa, 1989], Chapter 1. The Initial Collection of the Qur'an Text, p. 27 – citing Ibn Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Masahif, p. 5; bold emphasis ours)

However, there are other narrations which contradict this since they claim that Abu Bakr wasn’t the first to collect the Qur'an:

It is reported… from Ibn Buraidah who said: "The first of those to collect the Qur'an into a mushaf (codex) was Salim, the freed slave of Abu Hudhaifah". (Ibid., citing as-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fii Ulum al-Qur'an, p. 135; bold emphasis ours)   

Interestingly, Salim is one of the four men that Muhammad recommended learning the Qur'an from:  

Narrated Masriq:
Abdullah bin ‘Amr mentioned ‘Abdullah bin Masud and said, “I shall ever love that man, for I heard the Prophet saying, ‘Take (learn) the Qur'an from four: 'Abdullah bin Masud, Salim, Mu'adh and Ubai bin Ka'b.’” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 521)

He also happened to be one of the Qurra (reciters) killed at the Battle of Yamama. It is evident that Salim’s compilation precedes that of Abu Bakr’s since the latter only collected the Qur'an after the death of the Qurra at Yamama.

2. A great majority of the Qur'anic reciters had been killed at al-Yamama, forever taking with them portions of the Qur'an that only they knew.

3. Zaid Bin Thabit collected the Qur'an from palm leaves, stones and from the memories of men.

Zaid was not the only person who had compiled the Qur'an in book form. Others such as Ubayy Bin Kab and Abdallah ibn Masud also compiled Qur'ans of their very own. In fact, both Ubayy and Ibn Masud had been singled out by Muhammad himself as two of the top four Qur'anic reciters:

Masruq reported: We used to go to Abdullah Bin Amr and talk to him. Ibn Numair said: One day we made a mention of Abdullah Bin Masud, whereupon he said: you have made mention of a person whom I love more than anything else. I heard Allah’s Messenger as saying: Learn Qur'an from four persons: Ibn Umm Abd (i.e., Abdullah Bin Masud - he started from him - then Muadh bin Jabal and Ubayy bin Kab, then Salim the ally of Ali Hudhaifa. (Sahih Muslim, Book 031, Number 6024)

Another tradition confirms that besides Ibn Masud, Ubayy and Zaid ibn Thabit, there were at least two others who had also collected the Qur'an:

Anas is reported to have said: Four persons collected the Qur'an during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger and all of them were Ansar: Muadh Bin Jabal, Ubayy Bin Kab, Zaid Bin Thabit, Abu Zaid. Qatada said: Anas, who was Abu Zaid? He said: He was one of my uncles. (Sahih Muslim, Book 031, Number 6029)

Despite the fact that this tradition contradicts Zaid’s own testimony that no Qur'anic text had been compiled in Muhammad’s time it does confirm, however, that other Qur'ans were in circulation at the time of Zaid’s codex. Owing to this fact, controversy evolved among the Muslims as they began accusing each other of tampering with the Book of Allah, which eventually led to the third Caliph Uthman taking drastic measures.

'Hudaifa b. al Yeman came to `Uthman direct from the Aderbaijan and Armenian frontier where, uniting the forces from Iraq and those from Syria, he had had an opportunity to observe regional differences over the Qur'an. "Commander of the faithful," he advised, "take this umma in hand before they differ about the Book like Christians and Jews." `Uthman sent asking Hafsa to lend him the sheets [inherited by her father, `Umar, from Abu Bakr, and now in her possession] "so that we can copy them into other volumes and then return them." She sent her suhuf to `Uthman who summon Zaid, Sa`id b. al `As, `Abdul Rahman b. al Harith b. Hisham and `Abdullah b. al Zubair and commanded them to copy the sheets into several volumes. Addressing the group from Quraish, he added, "Wherever you differ from Zaid, write the word in the dialect of Quraish for it was revealed in that tongue."

When they had copied the sheets, `Uthman sent a copy to each of the main centers of the empire with the command that all other Qur'an materials, whether in single sheet form, or in whole volumes, WERE TO BE BURNED…' (Burton, pp. 141-142- citing Ahmad b. `Ali b. Muhammad al `Asqalani, ibn Hajar, "Fath al Bari", 13 vols, Cairo, 1939/1348, vol. 9, p. 18; bold and capital emphasis ours)


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." (var. Masahif) `Abdullah said, 'Do and God will drown you, but not in water!' (Burton, pp. 146-147- citing Abu Bakr `Abdullah b. abi Da'ud, "K. al Masahif", ed. A. Jeffery, Cairo, 1936/1355, p. 13; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Hudhaifa figures in a second Hadith series which reports textual differences, not only between the Muslims in Iraq and Syria, but also between rival groups of Iraqi Muslims.

We were sitting in the mosque and `Abdullah was reciting the Qur'an when Hudaifa came in and said, 'The reading of ibn Umm `Abd! [ie. `Abdullah] The reading of Abu Musa! By God! if I am spared to reach the Commander of the Faithful, I will recommend THAT HE IMPOSE A SINGLE QUR’AN READING!'

‘Abdullah became very angry and spoke sharply to Hudaifa who fell silent. (Burton, p. 142, Abu Bakr `Abdullah b. abi Da'ud, "K. al Masahif", ed. A. Jeffery, Cairo, 1936/1355, p. 13; bold and capital emphasis ours)

'Yazid b. Ma`awiya was in the mosque in the time of al Walid b. `Uqba, sitting in a group among them 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 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’BAH.' Hudaifa became very angry, his eyes reddened and he rose, parting his qamis at the waits, although in the mosque. This was during the reign of `Uthman. Hudaifa exclaimed, 'Will someone go the Command of the Faithful, or shall I go myself? This is what happened in the previous dispensations.' He came over and sat down, saying, 'God sent Muhammad who, with those who went forward, fought those who went back until God gave victory to His religion. God took Muhammad and Islam made strides. To succeed him, God chose Abu Bakr who reigned as long as God chose. God then took him and Islam made rapid strides. God appointed `Umar who sat in the midst of Islam. God then took him also. Islam spread rapidly. God next chose `Uthman. God's oath! Islam is on the point of such expansion that soon you will replace all other religions.' (Burton, p. 143, Abu Bakr `Abdullah b. abi Da'ud, "K. al Masahif", ed. A. Jeffery, Cairo, 1936/1355, p. 11; bold and capital emphasis ours)

It becomes obvious from these traditions that, contrary to popular Islamic teaching, contradictions and variant readings existed between the different codices. It is interesting to note that these variances gave rise to charges of corruption and textual perversion amongst the Muslim Umma, causing Uthman to burn texts written by eye and ear witnesses of Muhammad.

Uthman then proceeded to make Zaid’s codex the official text, forcing others to accept his decision. This decision wasn’t based on the wisdom of God but on one man’s choice. The question that begs to be asked is who gave Uthman the right to burn Qur'ans, standardizing Zaid’s text, when there were others who had more authority for receiving official standardization of their respective texts, such as Ibn Masud and Ubayy?

Both Ubayy and Ibn Masud were respected for their ability to memorize, with Ubayy being referred to as “the Master of the Qur'anic Reciters” and Masud reciting 70 surahs without error:

Abdullah (bin Masud) reported that (he said to his companions to conceal their copies of the Qur'an) and further said: He who conceals anything shall have to bring that which he had concealed on the Day of Judgment, and they said: After whose mode of recitation do you command me to recite? I in fact recited before Allah’s Messenger more than seventy chapters of the Qur'an and the companions of Allah’s Messenger know that I have better understanding of the Book of Allah (than they do), and if I were to know that someone had better understanding than I, I would have gone to him. Shaqiq said: I sat in the company of the companions of Muhammad but I did not hear anyone having rejected that (that is, his recitation) or finding fault with it. (Sahih Muslim, Book 031, Number 6022)

Other traditions confirm Ibn Masud’s surpassing knowledge of the Quran and that Muhammad had even personally taught him the recitation as he had received it from Gabriel for the final time:

Hashim Ibn al-Qasim informed us; (he said): al-Mas'udi informed us on the authority of Qasim, i.e., 'Abd al-Rahman; he said: Gabriel used to descend before the Apostle of Allah and he recited the Qur'an before him once every year [P. 4] in Ramadan, till the year when the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, died; when Gabriel made him recite the Qur'an twice. ‘Abd Allah said: I recited the Qur'an as I have it from the mouth of the Apostle of Allah that year. If I had known any one more well versed... in the Book of Allah than me and camels had borne me to him, surely I would have gone to him; but by Allah! I DO NOT KNOW ANY SUCH PERSON. (Ibn Sa’d’s Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, English translation by S. Moinul Haq, M.A., PH.D assisted by H.K. Ghazanfar M.A. [Kitab Bhavan Exporters & Importers, 1784 Kalan Mahal, Daryaganj, New Delhi- 110 002 India], Volume 2, p. 244; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Yahya Ibn Khulayf Ibn ‘Uqbah al-Basri informed us; (second chain) ‘Abd al-Wahhab Ibn ‘Ata informed us; he said: Ibn ‘Awn informed us on the authority of Muhammad ibn Sirin; he said: Gabriel used to recite the Qur'an before our Prophet, may Allah bless him, once every year in Ramadan. In the year in which he breathed his last he recited it twice before him. Muhammad said: I hope our style of reading ... conforms to the last recitation by Gabriel. (Ibid., p. 243; bold emphasis ours)

Abu Mu’awiyah al-Darir informed us; (he said): al-A’mash informed us on the authority of Abu Zabyan, he on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas, he asked: Which of the two readings (of the Qur'an) do you prefer? He (Abu Zabyan) said: We replied: The reading of ‘Abd Allah. Thereupon he said: Verily the Qur'an was recited (by Gabriel) before the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, once in every Ramadan, except the year in which he breathed his last, when it was recited twice. Then ‘Abd Allah Ibn Mas’ud came to him (Prophet) and he learnt what was abrogated or altered.

Yahya Ibn ‘isaal-Ramli informed us on authority of Sufyan, he on the authority of al-A’mash, he on the authority of Abu al-Duha, he on the authority of Masruq; he said: ‘Abd Allah said: No surah was revealed but I know about what it was revealed. If I had known any one knowing more of the Book of Allah than me, and if the camels or other riding beasts had carried me there, I must have gone to him ...

Wahb Ibn Jarir Ibn Hazm informed us: (he said): Shu’bah informed us on the authority of Ibrahim Ibn Muhajir, he on the authority of Ibrahim, he on the authority of ‘Abd Allah; (second chain) Abu Nua’ym al-Fadl Ibn Dukayn informed us; (he said): Abu al-Ahwas informed us on the authority of Sa’id Ibn Masruq, he on the authority of Abu al-Duha, he on the authority of ‘Abd Allah; he said: The Apostle of Allah said to me: Recite (the Qur'an) before me. Thereupon I said: How can I repeat before you and it has been revealed on you. He said: I like it. Wahb said in his version: I desire to hear it from others. He (‘Abd Allah) said: I recited the surah of al-Nisa before him, till I reached the verse: But how (will it be with them) when We bring of every people and We bring thee (O Muhammad) a witness against them. Abu Nua’ym said in his version: Thereupon he said: It is enough. Both of them said: Then I saw him that the eyes of the Prophet were filled tears, and he said: Whoever seeks pleasure in reciting the Qur'an according to its fresh reading he should recite after the reading of Ibn Umm 'Abd. (Ibid., pp. 441-442; bold emphasis ours)

Waki ‘Ibn al-al-Jarrah informed us on the authority of Isma’il Ibn Khalid, he on the authority of Abu ‘Amr al-Shaybani; he said: Abu Musa al-Ash’ari said: Do not put questions to me as long as this learned man, that is Ibn Mas’ud, is among you. (Ibid., p. 443; bold emphasis ours)

Ma’an Ibn ‘Isa informed us; (he said): Mu’awiyah Ibn Salih informed us on the authority of Asad Ibn Wada'ah: Verily ‘Umar mentioned Ibn Mas’ud and said: (He is) a box full of knowledge for which I honoured the people of al-Qadisiyah. (Ibid., p. 444; bold emphasis ours)

When informed that Zaid’s text was to receive official status, Ibn Masud reacted indifferently:

Abdullah Ibn Masud said, “I recited from the Messenger of Allah (saw) seventy surahs which I had perfected before Zaid Ibn Thabit had embraced Islam.” (Gilchrist, Chapter 3. The Codices of Ibn Mas'ud and Ubayy Ibn Ka'b, p. 66 – citing Ibn Abi Dawud’s Kitab al-Masahif, p. 17)

“I acquired directly from the Messenger of Allah (saw) seventy surahs when Zaid was still a childish youth - must I now forsake what I acquired directly from the Messenger of Allah?” (Ibid., p. 15)

Ibn Masud during a religious sermon (khutba) declared:

“'Affan Ibn Muslim informed us; (he said): 'Abd al-Wahid Ibn Ziyad informed us; (he said): Sulayman al-A'mash informed us on the authority of Shaqiq Ibn Salamah; he said: 'Abd Allah Ibn Mas'ud delivered a sermon to us when the order concerning uniform reading of the Qur'an was issued, as it was indeed. He (Shaqiq) said: He mentioned ABOUT DECEIT and said: Who so deceived, will bring his deceit on the Day of Resurrection. The people have been guilty OF DECEIT IN THE READING OF THE Qur'an. I like it to read according to the recitation of him (Prophet) whom I love more than that of Zayd Ibn Thabit. By Him besides whom there is no god! I learnt more than seventy surahs from the lips of the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, while Zayd Ibn Thabit was a youth, having two locks and playing with the youth. Then he said: By Him besides Whom there is no other god! If I know any one to be more conversant with the Book of Allah than me, and if the camels could carry me to him, I shall surely go to him. Then ‘Abd Allah went away. Shaqiq said: Subsequently I sat in the circles of the Companions of the Apostle of Allah and others BUT NONE contradicted his statement.” (Ibn Sa’d’s Kitab al-Tabaqat, Volume 2, p. 444; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

Here Ibn Masud accuses Muslims of introducing deceit or deception into the reading of the Quran! Ibn Masud even warned his followers against copying and reciting Zaid’s version of the Quran:

(19). 3104.Az-Zuhri narrated from Anas who said: “Hudhaifah bin Al-Yaman came to ‘Uthman, at the time when the people of Ash-Sham and the people of Al-‘Iraq were waging war to conquer Arminiyah and Adharbijan. Hudhaifah saw their (the people of Ash-Sham and Al-‘Iraq) different forms of recitation of the Qur’an. So he said to ‘Uthman: ‘O Commander of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book as the Jews and Christians did before them.’ So he (‘Uthman) sent a message to Hafsah (saying): ‘Send us the manuscripts so that we may copy them in the Musahif then we shall return it to you.’ So Hafsah sent the manuscripts to ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan. ‘Uthman then sent order for Zaid bin Thabit, Sa‘eed bin Al-‘As, ‘Abdur-Rahman bin Al-Harith bin Hisham, and ‘Abdullah bin Az-Zubair to copy the manuscripts in the Musahif. ‘Uthman said to the three Quraish men: In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the (recitation dialect of the) Qur’an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish for it was revealed in their tongue.’ So when they had copied the manuscripts in the Musahif, ‘Uthman sent one Mushaf from those Musahif that they had copied to every province.”

Az-Zuhri said: “Kharijah bin Zaid [bin Thabit] narrated to me that Zaid bin Thabit said: ‘I missed an Ayah of Surat Al-Ahzab that I heard the Messenger of Allah reciting: Among the believers are men who have been true to their covenant with Allah, of them, some have fulfilled their obligations, and some of them are still waiting. – so I searched for it and found it with Khuzaimah bin Thabit, or Abu Khuzaimah, so I put it in its Surah.’”

Az-Zuhri said: “They differed then with At-Tabut and At-Tabuh. The Quraish said: At-Tabut while Zaid said: At-Tabuh. Their disagreement was brought to ‘Uthman, so he said: ‘Write it as At-Tabut, for it was revealed in the tongue of the Quraish.’”

Az-Zuhri said: “Ubaidullah bin Abdullah bin Utbah informed me that Abdullah bin Mas'ud disliked Zaid bin Thabit copying the Musahif, and he said: 'O you Muslim people! Avoid copying the Mushaf and recitation of this man. By Allah! When I accepted Islam he was but in the loins of a disbelieving man'--meaning Zaid bin Thabit--and it was regarding this that Abdullah bin Mas'ud said: 'O people of Al-Iraq! Keep the Musahif that are with you, and conceal them. For indeed Allah said: And whoever conceals something, he shall come with what he concealed on the Day of Judgement. So meet Allah with the Musahif.’” (Sahih) (English Translation of Jami‘ At-Tirmidhi: Compiled by Imam Hafiz Abu ‘Eisa Mohammad Ibn ‘Eisa At-Tirmidhi, translated by Abu Khaliyl (USA), ahadith edited & referenced by Hafiz Abu Tahir Zubair ‘Ali Za’i, final review by Islamic Research Section Darussalam [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, First Edition: November 2007], Volume 5, From Hadith No. 2606 to 3290, 44. The Chapters On The Tafsir Of The Qur’an From The Messenger of Allah, Chapter 9., pp. 412-414; underline emphasis ours)

Interestingly, the Muslim community at Iraq refused to receive Uthman’s text, preferring Ibn Masud’s instead. This led to a confrontation between Hudhaifah and Ibn Masud:

`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.' (Burton, p. 147, Abu Bakr `Abdullah b. abi Da'ud, "K. al Masahif", ed. A. Jeffery, Cairo, 1936/1355, p. 14; bold emphasis ours)

The matter becomes worse when we realize that Uthman’s text omitted chapters and verses that the other texts included:

According to Ibn Umar and Aisha, Muhammad’s wife, one chapter, Surah al-Ahzab [33] had 200 verses in Muhammad’s time. Yet, once Uthman was finished only 73 verses remained, eliminating nearly 140 verses. This tradition is also confirmed by Ubay b. Kabb. (True Guidance, p. 61– citing Al-Suyuti’s al-Itqan fii ulum al-Qur'an on nasikh wa mansukh and Darwaza’s al-Qur'an Al-Majid)

A verse on the stoning of men and women had been expunged from the Uthmanic text. It reads as follows:

“As for old men and women, stone them for the pleasure they have indulged in.” Umar al-Khattab stated, “But for people who may say that Umar adds to the Book of Allah, I would have written the verse on stoning.” (Ibid., p. 61)

Aisha mentioned an additional clause in her reading of the Quran which is not part of the Muslim scripture we now possess:

(29) 2982.Abu Yunus, the freed slave of Aishah, said: “Aisha ordered me to write a Mushaf for her, and she said: ‘When you get to this Ayah then tell me: Guard strictly (the five obligatory) prayers, and the middle Salat [1].’ So when I reached it, I told her and she dictated to me: ‘Guard strictly (the five obligatory) prayers, and the middle Salat, and Salat Al-Asr. And stand before Allah with obedience.’ She said: ‘I heard that from the Messenger of Allah.’” (Sahih)

[1] Al-Baqarah 2:238. (Jami‘ At-Tirmidhi, Volume 5, Chapter 2. Regarding Surat Al-Baqarah, pp. 302-303)

A tradition in Sahih Muslim indicates that there are at least two surahs which are missing:

Abu Harb b. Abu al-Aswad reported on the authority of his father that Abu Musa al-Ashan sent for the reciters of Basra. They came to him and they were three hundred in number. They recited the Qur'an and he said: You are the best among the inhabitants of Basra, for you are the reciters among them. So continue to recite it. (But bear in mind) that your reciting for a long time may not harden your hearts as were hardened the hearts of those before you. We used to recite a surah, which resembled in length and severity to (surah) Bara`at. I have, however, forgotten it with the exception of this which I remember out of it: ‘If there were two valleys full 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 surah which resembled one of the surahs of Musabbihat, and I have forgotten it, but remember (this much) out of it: ‘O people who believe, why do you say that which you do not practice’ and ‘that is recorded in your necks as a witness (against you) and you would be asked about it on the Day of Resurrection.’ (Book 005, Number 2286)

Confirmation of the legitimacy of the verse on the son of Adam comes from Anas b. Malik:

Anas reported Allah’s messenger as saying: If the son of Adam were to possess two valleys of riches, he would long for the third one, and the stomach of the son of Adam is not filled but with dust. And Allah returns to him to repent. (Sahih Muslim, Book 005, Number 2282)

Anas goes on to say, “I heard the messenger of Allah as saying this, but I do not know whether this thing was revealed to him or not, but he said so.”(Sahih Muslim, Book 005, Number 2283; cf. 2284, 2285)

Yet according to al-Aswad it was revealed as part of a surah which no longer exists.

According to Hamida bint Abi Yunus:

“When my father was eighty years of age, he recited the following verse from the codex of Aisha: ‘Verily, Allah and His angels pray for the Prophet. O ye who believe, pray for him and earnestly desire peace for him and for those who pray in the front rows.’”

She adds:

“This verse had been there before the codices underwent change at the hands of Uthman.” (True Guidance, pp. 61-62 – citing al-Suyut’s al-Itqan on nasikh wa mansukh [abrogating and the abrogated])

According to Hudhaifa, Muslims read “only a quarter of Sura al-Tawba (9) i.e., meaning a great number of its verses are missing (Ibid., p. 64; citing al-Mustadrak).

Ubayy b. Kab included two extra surahs, al-Hafd (the Haste) and al-Khal (the Separation) that were not included in the Uthmanic text. These surahs were also included in the texts of Ibn Abbas and Abu Musa (Gilchrist, Chapter 3. The Codices of Ibn Mas'ud and Ubayy Ibn Ka'b, pp. 74-75; citing al-Suyuti’s al-Itqan, pp. 152-153).

Ibn Masud refused to include surahs 1, 113 and 114, stating that these chapters were revealed as prayers and incantations to ward off evil. This fact is confirmed by al-Razi, al-Tabari and Ibn Hajar (True Guidance, p. 58 – citing Ibn Hajar, al-Tabari, al-Suyuti’s Itqan, chapter on compilation). As Gilchrist notes:

“Imam Fakhruddin said that the reports in some of the ancient books that Ibn Mas’ud denied that Suratul-Fatiha and the Mu'awwithatayni [surahs 113-114] are part of the Qur’an are embarrassing in their implications... But the Qadi Abu Bakr said ‘It is not soundly reported from him that they are not part of the Qur’an and there is no record of such a statement from him. He omitted them from his manuscript as he did not approve of their being written. This does not mean he denied they were part of the Qur’an. In his view the Sunnah was that nothing should be inscribed in the text (mushaf) unless so commanded by the Prophet (saw)... and he had not heard that it had been so commanded’. (As-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fii Ulum al-Qur'an, p.186).

“... Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani however, in his commentary on the Sahih of al-Bukhari (his famous Fath al-Baari), accepted these reports as sound, quoting authorities who stated that Ibn Mas’ud would not include the two ‘charm’ surahs in his manuscript as Muhammad had, to his knowledge, only commanded that they be used as incantations against evil forces. He regarded the isnad (the chain of transmitters) for this record as totally sound and attempted to harmonise the conflicting records instead, suggesting that Ibn Mas’ud accepted the Fatiha and ‘charm’ surahs as genuinely revealed but was reluctant to inscribe them in his written text.” (Gilchrist, Chapter 3. The Codices of Ibn Mas’ud and Ubayy ibn Ka’b, p. 68; bold emphasis and comments within brackets ours)

According to al-Hajjaj, “a sura as long as al-Tawba was revealed, and then it was lifted up,” i.e., lost. (Ibid., pp. 62-63 - citing Bukhari, Riqaq 10; Zuhd 27; al-Tirmidi, al-Darimi Riqaq 62; and Ahmad Bin Hanbal, 111, 122, 176; iv. 368; v. 117; vi. 55)

Aisha relates that, “Ten verses were revealed concerning a foster relationship. These were annulled and replaced by another five verses.” Yet both the abrogated and abrogating verses are nowhere to be found. She also stated: “The verses of stoning and fostering were revealed, and the sheet of paper on which they were written was under my pillow. But then the Prophet died. Overwhelmed with grief, a beast came in and ate the sheet of paper.” (Ibid., p. 112- citing Muslim Hudud 15 and also No.3421; Ibn Maja Hudud 9; italic emphasis ours)

This process of burning eyewitness writings on the part of Uthman did not go well with Muslims in general as they declared that he had “obliterated the Book of Allah” because “The Qur'an was in many books, and you have now discredited them all but one.” (Gilchrist, Chapter 2. The Uthmanic Recension of the Qur’an, pp. 51, 58 – citing Abi Dawud Kitab al-Masahif, p.36, and al-Tabari, Bk.1, chpt. 6, 2952)

The late great Egyptian Professor Dr. Taha Hussein summarizes the atrocity of Uthman’s actions:

The Prophet Muhammad said: “The Koran was revealed in seven dialects, all of them are right and perfect.” When Uthman banned whichever he banned from the Koran, and burned whichever he burned, he banned passages Allah has revealed and burned parts of the Koran which were given to the Muslims by the Messenger of Allah. He appointed a small group of Sahaba (close friends of Muhammad) to rewrite the Koran and left out those who heard the Prophet and memorized what he said. This is why Ibn Massoud was angry, because he was one of the best men who memorized the Koran. He said that he took from the mouth of the Prophet seventy suras of the Koran while Zaid Ibn Sabit was yet a young lad. When Ibn Massoud objected to the burning of the other codices of the Koran, Uthman took him out of the mosque with violence, and struck him to the ground, and broke one of his ribs. (Hussein, A-Fitnato Al-Kobra [The Great Sedition], pp. 160-161, 181-182; italic emphasis ours)

As does Islamic scholar Alphonse Mingana:

“Finally, if we understand correctly the following verse of Suratul-Hijr (xv. 90-91): 'As we sent down upon (punished) the dividers (of the Scripture?) who broke up the Koran into parts,' we are tempted to state that even when the Prophet was alive, some changes were noticed in the recital of certain verses of his sacred book. There is nothing very surprising in this fact, since Muhammad could not read or write, and was at the mercy of friends for the writing of his revelations, or, more frequently, of some mercenary amanuenses." (Mingana, “Three Ancient Korans”, The Origins of the Koran - Classic Essays on Islam's Holy Book, ed. by Ibn Warraq [Prometheus Books, Amherst NY, 1998], p. 84; bold emphasis ours)

Mingana records the Muslim reaction to Uthman b. Affan's burning and wholesale destruction of primary, competing Quranic codices:

"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’?…” (Ibn Warraq, p. 84-85; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Mingana, in his article The Transmission of the Koran, cites Muslim historian al-Tabari:

“… ‘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.’” (Ibn Warraq, p. 102; bold and capital emphasis ours)

In the same article Mingana sources another ancient writer regarding the compilation of the Quran. The author, a Christian apologist named Abd al-Masih al-Kindi, wrote an apology titled The Apology of Al-Kindi at the Court of al-Mamun circa A.D. 830, approximately forty years before al-Bukhari compiled his hadith collection. Al-Kindi mentions the Muslim reaction to the conflicting readings that existed amongst the different Quranic codices that circulated shortly after Muhammad's death:

“… Then the people fell to variance in their reading; some read according to the version of 'Ali, which they follow to the present day; some read according to the collection of which we have made mention; one party read according to the text of ibn Mas'ud, and another according to that of Ubai ibn Ka'b. When 'Uthman came to power, and people everywhere differed in their reading, 'Ali sought grounds of accusation against him. One man would read verse one way, and another man another way; and there was change and interpolation, some copies having more and some less. When this was represented to 'Uthman, and the danger urged of division, strife, and apostasy, he thereupon caused to be collected together all the leaves and scraps that he could, together with the copy that was written out at the first. But they did not interfere with that which was in the hands of 'Ali, or of those who followed his reading. Ubai was dead by this time, as for Ibn Mas'ud, they demanded his exemplar, but he refused to give it up. Then they commanded Zaid ibn Thabit, and with him 'Abdallah ibn 'Abbas, to revise and correct the text, eliminating all that was corrupt; they were instructed, when they differed on any reading, word, or name, or to follow the dialect of the Quraish.

"When the recension was completed, four exemplars were written out in large text; one was sent to Mecca, and another to Medina; the third was dispatched to Syria, and is to this day at Malatya; the fourth was deposited in Kufa. People say that this last copy is still extant at Kufa, but this is not case, for it was lost in the insurrection of Mukhtar (A.H. 67). The copy of Mecca remained there till the city was stormed by Abu Sarayah (A.H. 200); he did not carry it away; but it is supposed to have been burned in the conflagration. The Medina exemplar was lost in the reign of terror, that is, in the days of Yazid b. Mu'awiah (A.H. 60-64).

“After what we have related above, 'Uthman called in all the former leaves and copies, and destroyed them, threatening those held any portion back; and so only some scattered remains, concealed here and there, survived. Ibn Mas'ud, however, retained his exemplar in his own hands, and it was inherited by his posterity, as it is this day; and likewise the collection of 'Ali has descended in his family.

“Then followed the business of Hajjaj b. Yusuf, who gathered together every single copy he could lay hold of, and caused to be omitted from the text a great many passages. Among these, they say, were verses revealed concerning the House of the Umayyah with names of certain persons, and concerning the House of 'Abbas also with names. Six copies of the text thus revised were distributed to Egypt, Syria, Medina, Mecca, Kufa, and Basra. After that he called in and destroyed all the preceding copies, even as 'Uthman had done before him. The enmity subsisting between 'Ali and Abu Bakr, 'Umar and 'Uthman is well known; how each of these entered in the text whatever favored his own claims, and left out what was otherwise. How, then, can we distinguish between the genuine and the counterfeit? And what about the losses caused by Hajjaj? The kind of faith that this tyrant held in other matters is well-known; how can we make an arbiter as to the Book of God a man who never ceased play into the hands of the Umayyads whenever he found opportunity?" (Ibn Warraq, pp. 108-109; bold emphasis ours)

Mingana concludes:

“Then al-Kindi, addressing his Muslim friend, says: ‘All that I have said is drawn from your own authorities, and no single argument has been advanced but what is based on evidence accepted by yourselves; in proof thereof, we have the Kur'an itself, which is a confused heap, with neither system nor order.’” (Ibn Warraq, pp. 109-110; bold emphasis ours)

The problem does not end just yet. The traditions record that the governor of Medina, Marwan, confiscated Zaid’s text, which had been in Hafsah’s possession until her death, and proceeded to destroy it. In Kitab Al-Masahif, Ibn Abi Dawud quotes Salim bin Abdullah as saying:

“When Hafsah died and we returned from her funeral, Marwan sent with firm intention to Abdullah Ben Omar (Hafsah’s brother) that he must send him those pages, and Abdullah Ben Omar sent them to him, and Marwan ordered it and they were TORN UP and he said. I did this because whatever was in it was surely written and preserved in the (official) volume and I was afraid that after a time people will be suspicious of this copy or they will say there is something in it that wasn’t written.” (Dr. William F. Campbell, The Qur'an and the Bible in the Light of History & Science [Middle East Resources 1992, ISBN 1-881085-00-7], SECTION THREE. The Bible and the Qur'an: Effects of Criticism and Similarities in Their Development, III. Historical Development of the Qur'an and the Gospel Compared, B. The Final Collection of the Qur'an and the Gospel, p. 120; bold and capital emphasis ours)

We must ask who gave Marwan the authority to dare destroy an official, original copy of the Book of Allah, a copy written under the authority of Abu Bakr Siddiq, Muhammad’s personal friend and father-in-law? Further, if there was nothing missing in the transmission of the text then why was he afraid that the people would be suspicious of it?

On top of this great atrocity, the Qur'an underwent further revisions under Iraq’s governor al-Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf (A.D. 660-714). Abi Dawud notes:

“Altogether al-Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf made eleven modifications in the reading of the Uthmanic text... In al-Baqarah (Surah 2:259) it originally read Lam yatasannah waandhur, but it was altered to lam yatasannah… In al-Maj. (sura 5:48) it read shari ya’aten wa minhaajan but it was altered to shir ‘atawwa minhaajan.” (Gilchrist, Chapter 5. Sab’at-I-Ahruf in the Hadith Literature, p.109 – citing Ibn Dawud’s Kitab al-Masahif, p.117)

It appears that Muslims felt free in adding and subtracting from the Qur'an as they saw fit, irrespective of whether it was God’s word or not. This fact is made clearer by Arthur Jeffrey’s conclusion on Hajjaj’s revisions. According to Arthur Jeffrey:

“That the practice of pointing came generally accepted and consistently carried through the whole of the Codex is said to be due to activity of the famous official al-Hajjaj b. Yusif, who was perhaps the most remarkable figure in Islam during the Caliphate of ‘Abd al-Malik. When we come to examine the accounts of the activity of al-Hajjaj in this matter, however, we discover to our surprise that the evidence points strongly to the fact that his work was not confined to fixing more precisely the text of the Qur`an by a set of points showing how it was to be read, but he seems to have made an entirely new revision of the Qur`an, having copies of this new text sent to the great metropolitan centers, and ordering the destruction of earlier copies in existence there, much as Uthman had done earlier.” (The Qur'an as Scripture [New York: Books for Libraries, 1980], p.99; italic emphasis ours)

Another issue which the Muslims had to deal with was variant readings. When the Qur'an was originally written, there were no vowel marks or diacritical points to differentiate the meanings of words. To help illustrate the kind of problems this style of writing can create in a text, we will write a sentence without vowels:

h gv hm bd

This sentence could be read in several possible ways depending on the context. For instance, it might mean “he gave him a bid” if he were a contractor, or “he gave him a bud” if he were in a florist’s shop, or “he gave him a bed” if in a furniture store. This textual style gave rise to thousands of variants between the codices which were available at that time.

Other variant readings stem from clauses that were either added or omitted from the text. A comparison of the texts of Uthman and Ibn Masud will illustrate this point:

S. 2:275 in Uthman’s copy begins with Allathiina yaq kuluunar - ribaa laa yaquumuuna - “those who devour usury will not stand.” Ibn Masud’s codex began in the same fashion but added “yawmal qiyamati,” The Day of Resurrection - i.e., “those who devour usury will not stand on the Day of Resurrection.”

S. 5:91 in Uthman’s text reads Fusiyaamu thaalaythati ayyammin - “Fast for three days.” Ibn Masud included after the last word the adjective mutataabi’aatin, meaning “successive days.”

S. 6:153 begins Wa anna haatha siraatii - “Verily this is my path.” Yet Ibn Masud’s version reads Wa haatha siraatu rabbakum - “This is the path of your Lord.”

S. 33:6, in regard to Muhammad’s wives, states, Wa azwaajuhu ummahaatuhuu - “and his wives are their (the believers’) mothers.” Yet Ibn Masud adds Wa huwa abuu laahum - “and he (Muhammad) is their father.” (Gilchrist, Chapter 3. The Codices of Ibn Mas’ud and Ubayy Ibn Ka’b, pp. 69-70 – citing Arthur Jeffrey Materials; Abi Dawud’s Kitab al-Masahif)

It should be noted that in the four preceding examples, Ubayy b. Kab, Ibn Abbas and Ibn Abi Dawud were in agreement with Ibn Masud’s reading. In fact, the clause in S. 33:6 is multiply attested according to the late Muslim scholar and translator Muhammad Asad,

Thus, connecting with the preceding mention of voluntary, elective relationships (as con­trasted with those by blood), this verse points to the highest manifestation of an elective, spiritual relationship: that of the God-inspired Prophet and the person who freely chooses to follow him. The Prophet himself is reported to have said: "None of you has real faith unless I am dearer unto him than his father, and his child, and all mankind" (Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Anas, with several almost identical versions in other compilations). The Companions invariably regarded the Prophet as the spiritual father of his community. Some of them - e.g., Ibn Masud (as quoted by Zamakhshari) or Ubayy ibn Kab, Ibn Abbas and Muawiyah (as quoted by Ibn Kathir) - hardly ever recited the above verse without adding, by way of explanation, "seeing that he is [as] a father to them"; and many of the tabi’in - including Mujahid, Qatadah, lkrimah and Al-Hasan (cf. Tabari and Ibn Kathir) - did the same: hence my interpolation, between brackets, of this phrase. (However, see also verse 40 of this surah and the corresponding note.) As regards the status of the Prophet's wives as the "mothers of the believers", this arises primarily from the fact of their having shared the life of God's Apostle in its most intimate aspect. Consequently, they could not remarry after his death (see verse 53 below), since all the believers were, spiritually, their “children”. (Source; bold emphasis ours)

This explains why he inserted this into his own translation, albeit within brackets:

The Prophet has a higher claim on the believers than [they have on] their own selves, [seeing that he is as a father to them] and his wives are their mothers:

The fact is that this passage is multiply attested further mitigates against Uthman's (per)version being the most accurate and authentic.

Other places where Ibn Masud’s reading found support with the other reciters include:

S. 3:127, the standard version read Wa saari’uu (“be quick”), whereas both Ibn Masud and Ubayy’s readings were Wa saabiquu (“be ahead”)

Ibn Masud and Ubayy both read Yusrifullaahu - “averted by Allah” - in replacement of Uthman’s Yusraf - “averted.” (S. 6:16) (Gilchrist, Chapter 3, p. 71 – citing Maki’s Kitab al-Kasf and Arthur Jeffrey’s Materials For The History Of The Text Of The Qur'an)

This makes the case against the Uthmanic text receiving official status even stronger, since the evidence points to Ibn Masud’s codex as being vastly superior.

To present a brief summary of our findings we noted that:

  1. The Qur'an was not compiled perfectly.
  2. Much of the Qur'an’s contents are missing.
  3. More than one Qur'an was in circulation.
  4. Primary eyewitness codices were burned.
  5. On the authority of one man an official text of the Qur'an was approved.
  6. Even this official codex was eventually destroyed and eleven revisions were made of it.
  7. Thousands of variants existed between these competing texts as documented by Arthur Jeffrey’s book, which in turn cites Abi Dawud’s own work.

Before concluding, two fallacies need to be addressed. There are those within the Islamic community, such as Dr. Jamal Badawi of Halifax, Nova Scotia, that claim that the memorization of the Qur'an insured its preservation and authority. It is claimed by these men that hundreds of individuals were alive that learned the Qur'an directly from Muhammad and had committed it to memory. This insured the proper enunciation and preservation of the contents of the Qur'an. This logic is fallacious for two reasons:

  1. The claim that memorization preserved the Qur'an is false due to the fact that a great number of the reciters (hafiz) were slain at the battle of al-Yamama, taking those parts of the Qur'an that they alone had memorized to the grave with them, never to be recited again.
  2. It was these same reciters i.e., Ibn Masud, Ubayy etc., who were writing down codices from memory which led to contradictions, additions, omissions and to thousands of variant readings among the competing texts. This demonstrates the faulty memories of the reciters.

Interestingly, we are told that even Muhammad himself forgot certain verses:

'The Messenger of God heard a man recite by night and said, "May God have mercy on that man! He has just reminded me of a verse so-and-so and I had forgotten from sura such-and-such."' (Burton, p. 129, Bukhari, "K. Fad'il al Qur'an", bab nisyan al Qur'an)

The Prophet recited the Qur'an and omitted an aya. When he had finished the prayer, he asked, 'Is Ubayy in the mosque?' 'Here I am, Messenger of God.' 

'Then why didn't you prompt me?' 

'I thought the aya had been withdrawn.' 

'It hasn't been withdrawn, I forgot it.' (Ibid., pp. 65-66, `Abdul Rahman al Tha`alibi, "al Jawahir al Hisan fi tafsir al Qur'an", 2 vols., Algiers, 1905, vol. 1, p. 95)

The second fallacy is that these variants were simply dialectal differences that existed between the different Arab tribes. It is further claimed that these dialectal differences do not affect the text, since Muhammad was allowed up to seven dialectal readings (Sab’at-l-Ahruf). On the contrary, the evidence points to much more than simple dialectal variation, but to gross omissions of entire surahs, verses and lengths of chapters. Those who expound this theory are basing it upon purely wishful thinking with no solid evidence to back up such assertions.

In fact, the seven ahruf compound the problem for the Muslims. The following Muslim response is an indication why:

Secondly, what is meant by styles (ahruf, sing. harf)?

The BEST of the scholarly OPINIONS concerning what is meant is that there are seven ways of reciting the Qur’aan, where the wording may differ but the meaning is the same; if there is a different meaning then it is by way of variations on a theme, not opposing and contradiction.


Some of the scholars said that what was meant by ahruf was the dialects of the Arabs, but this is FAR-FETCHED, because of the hadeeth of ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab who said: “I heard Hishaam ibn Hakeem reciting Soorat al-Furqaan in a manner different from that in which I used to recite it and the way in which the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) taught me to recite it. I was about to argue with him whilst he was praying, but I waited until he finished his prayer, and then I tied his garment around his neck and seized him by it and brought him to the Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) and said, ‘O Messenger of Allaah, I heard this man reciting Soorat-al-Furqaan in a way different to the way you taught it to me.’ The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said to him, ‘Recite it,’ and he recited it as I had heard him recite it. The Messenger of Allaah (peace and blessings of Allaah be upon him) said, ‘It was revealed like this.’ Then he said to me, ‘Recite it,’ so I recited it and he said, ‘It was revealed like this.’ This Qur'aan has been revealed in seven different ways, so recite it in the way that is easiest for you.’”

It is known that Hishaam was Asadi Qurashi (i.e., from the clan of Bani Asad in Quraysh) and ‘Umar was ‘Adawi Qurashi (i.e., from the clan of Bani ‘Adiyy in Quraysh). Both of them were from Quraysh and Quraysh had only one dialect. If the difference in ahruf (styles) had been a difference in dialects, why would two men of Quraysh have been different?

The scholars mentioned NEARLY FORTY DIFFERENT OPINIONS concerning this matter! Perhaps the most correct is that which we have mentioned above. And Allaah knows best.


It seems that the seven styles were revealed with different wordings, as indicated by the hadeeth of ‘Umar, because ‘Umar’s objection was to the style, not the meaning. The differences between these styles are not the matter of contradiction and opposition, rather they are synonymous, as Ibn Mas’ood said: "It is like one of you saying halumma, aqbil or ta’aal (all different ways of saying ‘Come here’)."


With regard to the seven recitations (al-qiraa’aat al-saba’), this number is not based on the Qur’aan and Sunnah, rather it is the ijtihaad of Ibn Mujaahid (may Allaah have mercy on him). People thought that al-ahruf al-saba’ (the seven styles) were al-qiraa’aat al-saba’ (the seven recitations) because they happened to be the same number. But this number may have come about coincidentally, or it may have been done deliberately by Ibn Mujaahid to match what was narrated about the number of styles (ahruf) being seven. Some people thought that the styles (ahruf) were the recitations, but this is a mistake. No such comment is known among the scholars. The seven recitations are one of the seven styles, and this is the style that ‘Uthmaan chose for all the Muslims.


When ‘Uthmaan made copies of the Qur’aan, he did so according to one style (harf), but he omitted the dots and vowel points so that some other styles could also be accommodated. So the Mus-haf that was copied in his time could be read according to other styles, and whatever styles were accommodated by the Mus-haf of ‘Uthmaan remained in use, and the styles that could not be accommodated fell into disuse. The people had started to criticize one another for reciting differently, so ‘Uthmaan united them by giving them one style of the Qur’aan.


Your saying that Mujaahid’s different recitations meant the seven styles (ahruf) is not correct, as was said by Shaykh al-Islam ibn Taymiyyah. (Majmoo’ah al-Fatawa, vol. 13, p. 210) …

Islam Q&A ( (Question #5142: The revelation of the Qur’aan in seven styles (ahruf, sing. harf); bold and capital emphasis ours)

In light of the preceding considerations, we have no other choice but to conclude that memorization failed to preserve the Qur'an. This is perhaps why Muslims were forced to admit that the Qur'an is an incomplete record:

`Abdullah b. `Umar reportedly said, 'Let none of you say, "I have got the whole of the Qur'an." How does he know what all of it is? MUCH OF THE QUR'AN HAS GONE [d h b]. Let him say instead, I HAVE GOT WHAT HAS SURVIVED."' (Burton. p. 117, Jalal al Din `Abdul Rahman b. abi Bakr al Suyuti, "al Itqan fi `ulum al Qur'an", Halabi, Cairo, 1935/1354, pt 2, p. 25)

Some of us met to exchange hadith reports. One fellow said, 'Enough of this! Refer to the Book of God.' Imran b. Husain said, 'You're a fool! Do you find in the Book of God the prayers explained in detail? Or the Fast? The Qur'an refers to them in general terms only. It is the Sunna which supplies the detailed explanation.' (Ibid., p. 21, al Hamdani, "I`tibar", pp. 24-5)

No madhab permits unbeliever-believer inheritance; slave-free man inheritance; homicide-victim inheritance. All madahib accept the testimony of two male witnesses in homicide cases. These and many other agreed principles and procedures are unmentioned in the Qur'an. (Ibid., p. 23)



Unlike the Holy Bible which has over 25,000 manuscripts with copies dating over two thousand years (i.e., Dead Sea Scrolls), the Qur'an’s manuscript (MS) evidence pales in comparison. Moreover, no two Quranic manuscripts (MSS) are identical (which is rather amusing in light of the repeated Muslim attack on the NT textual tradition and their claim that no two Greek NT MSS are identical!). As one medieval Muslim author wrote in relation to the extant Quranic MSS, all of which were based on Ibn Masud’s version not Uthman’s:

Thus saith Muhammad ibn Ishaq [al-Nadim]: I have seen a number of Quranic manuscripts, which the transcribers recorded as manuscripts from Ibn Mas‘ud. NO TWO QUR'ANIC COPIES WERE IN AGREEMENT and most of them were on badly effaced parchment. (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], p. 57; bold and capital emphasis ours)

It wasn't just the MSS of Ibn Masud's Quran which were not uniform according to al-Nadim:

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 Khalaf, Discrepancies of the manuscripts; Discrepancies of the People of al-Kufa, al-Basrah and Syria concerning the Manuscripts, by al-Farra'; 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. (Ibid., p. 79; bold emphasis ours)

In view of all these considerations and facts, we are inclined to conclude that Islam and the Qur'an bear no solid and verifiable evidence that would support their authority and inspiration, and that the evidence from both the manuscript tradition and early Islamic references conclusively prove that the Quran has not been preserved completely.


Appendix A

Muslim Scholars Acknowledge Corruption Of Qur'anic Text

Not all Muslim scholars believe that the Qur'an has been perfectly preserved, but freely admit to wholesale corruption of the Islamic text at the hands of Uthman, Islam’s third Caliph. These Muslims are predominantly of the Shiite sect, a branch which believes in Ali ibn Abu Thalib’s primacy as the rightful heir of Muhammad, being his first cousin and son-in-law.

This fact is amazing since Muslims are fond of quoting liberal Christian theologians, Christians with an anti-supernatural bias, to prove that the Holy Bible has suffered tampering. Yet here we find within Islam a group of God-fearing individuals who do believe in inspiration and miracles, who affirm and uphold Muhammad’s prophethood, and who are still honest enough to acknowledge the fact that much is missing from the Islamic revelation.

One of the most famous Shiite books written on the subject of corruption is The Abridgement on the Distortion of The Book of the Lord of Lords, by Imam al-Nuri. According to him, many Imams such as al-Saduuq, al-Tubrusi, al-Sighaar, al-Kalleeni, Ibn Shahir Ashuub, al-Ayyaashi, al-Majlisi and al-Nu`maani agree that Uthman woefully tampered with the Qur'an, excluding and adding verses which best suited him. According to al-Nuri:

“There were different collectors, the prince of the believers was the first among them, whose collection was at variance with all the other collectors. There are other three copies of the Koran collected by the caliphs, beside the copies of Ibn Ka`b, Ibn Mas`uud, which are four copies by themselves.”


“When these general and particular accounts are considered closely, we learn, from both their literal or suggested meaning, that the Koran now existing between the hands of the Muslims in the east and the west as it is bound by two jackets, and according to its collection and arrangement, was not so during the life of the Messenger.” (See Nuri’s book)

Other books include Ahmed Ibn Muhammad’s The Distortion and Muhammad Ibn Hasan al-Sairati’s Distortion and Substitution.

According to these Islamic sources, more than two hundred verses have either been tampered with or completely omitted. Here is a listing taken from the books of the Shiites:

According to Shiite scholars, one whole sura titled al-wilaya has been expunged by Muhammad’s successors. It reads as follows:

O Apostle! Make known my admonition, so they will know. Truly, those who turn a deaf ear to my verses and judgment are the losers. Those who keep their pledge to you, I shall reward with pleasing paradises. Truly, Allah is forgiving and offers great reward.

Truly, Ali is of the pious, and he shall be granted his merit on the Day of Judgment. In no way are we ignorant of the injustice done to him. We gave him honour over all your household. He and his offspring are the patient. Their adversary is the leader of the criminals.

Say to those who disbelieved after they have believed: “Do you seek the worldly pleasures of life, running after it, forgetting what Allah and His Apostle have promised you, breaking the promises after reaffirming them?” We have given you parables that you may be guided. O Apostle, we have revealed unto you evident verses. In them are those whom Allah may claim as dead, and whoever shall stand by him will be exposed. Shun away from them as they avoid you. We shall bring them on a day where nothing will help them or grant them mercy.

In hell, they have a status which will befit them. Give praise to your great Lord and be of those who prostrate themselves. We sent Moses and Aaron, yet they wronged Aaron. May it be good patience! We have made monkeys and pigs out of them and cursed them until the day they shall be resurrected. Be patient, for they shall be granted victory. Through you, as it has been for former messengers before you, judgment is fulfilled. From them we have made a legal guardian to you, so that they may repent. Whoever turns his back on My commandment, I shall bring him back, so let them enjoy their disbelief for a little while.

You shall not be asked about the treacherous. O Apostle! We have made a pledge for you in the necks of those who have believed. Therefore, take hold of it and be of the thankful. Verily, Ali is one of the obedient, lying prostrate at night, warning of the Last Day, and hoping for the reward of his Lord. Say, shall these oppressors be treated equally while knowing of my torture? Feathers will be filled around their necks, and they shall regret their works. We have told you the good news that his offspring was to come. Our order they shall not break. Upon them and for me be prayers and mercy, whether they are alive or dead, until they are resurrected. Upon those who do them wrong after you is My wrath, for they are a losing folk. Upon those who follow their steps be mercy from Me, they shall be safe in the rooms. Praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds. (The True Guidance, pt. 4, pp. 65-66 – citing al-Nuri’s Fasl al-Khitab, p. 110)

According to one Abu Ja`far, the original readings of S. 2:59 is:

“Those who transgressed against the family of Muhammad changed the word from that which had been given them, so we sent a plague from heaven upon who transgressed against the family of Muhammad.” (Ibid., p. 67 – citing Ibrahim al-Qummi’s commentary, Volume 1, p. 48)

Abu Abdallah states that S. 2:91 correctly reads:

“… What Allah has sent down concerning Ali, they say…” (Fasl al-Khitab, p. 205)

S. 2:143 is supposed to be:

“We have made you justly balanced imams, that is, leaders that you might be witnesses over the nations.” (Ibid., p. 213)

S 3:128 begins with:

“Not for you is the decision…”

Yet Abu Abdallah reads it:

“For you is the decision…” (Ibid., pp. 218-219)

S. 4:65 is read by Abu Abdallah as:

“… against your decision in the matter of rule but submit to Allah and accept them with the fullest conviction.”

Yet Abu Ja`far reads it:

“and find in their souls no resistance to what Muhammad and the family of Muhammad had decided…” (Ibid., pp. 225-226)

Abdallah’s commentary on 3:110 is:

“Will the best of peoples kill the Prince of Believers [Ali], al-Hasan and al-Husain [Ali’s sons]? The correct reading is: ‘You were the best imams evolved for mankind.’” (Ibid., p. 217)

The last clause in S. 4:79 according to Abdallah should have read:

“… evil happens to you I have foreordained!” (Ibid., p. 226)

Abu Ja`far indicates that 3:185 should have had “and will be resurrected” as the concluding part of the sentence. (Ibid., p. 219)

Although there are many more verses we can present, these examples are sufficient to demonstrate quite clearly that the Qur'an is far from being perfectly preserved, a fact affirmed by God-fearing Muslims themselves.


Appendix B

Sahih al-Bukhari And the Qur'anic Text

Since the Hadith collection of Imam al-Bukhari is considered by Muslims to be the premiere collection of Islamic Traditions, viewing it as second only to the Qur'an itself, it is incumbent upon us to examine it in relation to the Qur'an’s compilation. On examining the evidence presented by Imam al-Bukhari, we find that the statements given are in total agreement with the other Islamic reference works quoted within this study.

Far from affirming the Qur'an’s perfect compilation, al-Bukhari’s collection acknowledges the fact that the Qur'an suffered corruption during its transmission from oral to written format.

Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan’s nine-volume English translation of Sahih Al-Bukhari will be used throughout, more specifically volume six of his set. You can also read this translation on line:

Volume 6, Book 061, Number 509

  1. A large number of reciters killed in Battle of Yamama (against Musailama).
  2. Portions of Qur'an feared lost.
  3. Qur'an to be compiled into a single collection, something not done by Muhammad.
  4. Zaid b. Thabit compiled the Qur'an.
  5. Could not find last verse of S. Al-Tawba except with Abi Khuzaima al-Ansari

Volume 6, Book 061, Number 510

  1. During war against Azerbaijan and Armenia, Hudhaifa bin al-Yamama informed Uthman that the Iraqis, who read Ibn Masud’s version of the Qur'an, and the Syrians, who read Ubayy’s version, accused each other of adding and/or omitting from the Qur'anic text.
  2. Uthman commissioned Zaid, Abdullah bin Az-Zubair, Said b. al-As, and Abdur-Rahman b. Harith b. Hisham to rewrite the Qur'anic MSS in the Quraish dialect.
  3. New copies sent to each province.
  4. Qur'ans of other companions ordered to be burnt.

Volume 6, Book 061, Number 511

Last two verses of Surah Al-Tawba found with only one person, Abu Khuzaima, as the following traditions confirm:

`Umar decided to collect the Qur'an. He addressed the people, 'Let whoever received direct from the mouth of the Prophet any part of the Qur'an now bring it here to us.' They had written what they had heard on sheets, tablets and palm-branches. `Umar would not accept anything from anyone until two witnesses bore testimony. He was assassinated while still engaged on his collection. His successor, `Uthman addressed the people, 'Let whoever has anything of the Book of God bring it here to us.' `Uthman would accept nothing from anyone until two witnesses bore testimony. Khuzaima b. Thabit said, 'I see that you have omitted two verses. You have not written them.' They asked what they were and he said, 'I had direct from the Prophet: “There has come to you…” `Uthman said, 'And I bear witness that these verses come from God.' He asked Khuzaima where they should enter them. He replied, 'Make them the close of the latest Qur'anic revelation.' Thus was Bara'a sealed with these words. (John Burton, Collection of the Qur'an, 1977, p. 123- citing Abu Bakr `Abdullah b. abi Da'ud, "Kitab al-Masahif", ed. A. Jeffery, Cairo, 1936/1355, p. 10; bold emphasis ours)

[Zaid reports:] I found the last verse of sura al Tawba in the possession of Abu Khuzaima al Ansari, having found it with no one else, “There has now come to you…” to the end of the sura. (Burton, p. 119- citing Ahmad b. `Ali b. Muhammad al `Asqalani, ibn Hajar, Fath al Bari, 13 volumes, Cairo, 1939/1348, vol. 9, p. 9; bold emphasis ours)

This fact further destroys the myth that the Qur'an had been preserved perfectly through memorization, since if this were the case why was it that only Khuzaima had the last two verses of Al-Tawba at his disposal? Should these not have been in the possession of all the memorizers?

It is presumed that the Hadith is referring to the fact that Khuzaima was the only one that had written the verses down, while others had committed them to memory. Again, this seems to be wishful thinking since this Hadith says nothing about looking for codices that contained these verses.

Interestingly, this assertion was first made by Ahmad ibn Ali ibn Muhammad al-Asqalani ibn Hajar in his Fath al-Baari fii Sharh al-Bukhari. Ibn Hajar was born in 773 A.H. (1372 A.D.) and died in 852 A.H. (1451 A.H.). The following appears in John Burton's The Collection of the Qur'an, pp. 127-128:

It does not follow from Zaid's saying that he had failed to find the aya from surat al Tawba in the possession of anyone else, that at that time it was not mutawatira among those who had learnt their Qur'an from the Companions, but had not heard it direct from the Prophet. What Zaid was seeking was the evidence of those who had their Qur'an texts direct from the Prophet… The correct interpretation of Zaid's remark that he had failed to find the aya with anyone else is that he had failed to find it in writing, not that he had failed to find those who bore it in their memories. (Fath al-Baari, Vol. 9, p.12; bold emphasis ours)

The problem with Ibn Hajar’s claim is that he is not an eyewitness, nor is his work an early record of the compilation of the Qur'an. Rather, his work is a much later commentary on the collection of Sahih al-Bukhari, which itself is not an eyewitness record.

Hence, the earliest source claiming that Zaid was looking for authorized written texts that included these verses dates no less than eight centuries after Muhammad's death! Therefore, the Muslim assertion cannot be taken seriously since no eyewitness evidence exists to support such an erroneous claim.

In fairness, it must be stated that according to other Islamic traditions, Ubayy ibn Kab also acknowledged the existence of these last two verses:

They collected the Qur'an into a mushaf in the reign of Abu Bakr, some men writing to the dictation of Ubayy. When they reached Q 9:127 some supposed that that was the last part of the Qur'an to have been revealed. But Ubayy pointed out that the Prophet had taught him two verses more and, since they were the last of the Qur'an to be revealed, the Book should close on the note on which it had begun. (Burton, The Collection of the Qur'an, p. 124 – citing Abu Bakr ‘Abdullah b. Abi Da’ud’s Kitab Al Masahif)

Yet this actually confirms that not everyone had memorized the Qur'an completely since there were only two Muslims that even recalled these verses.

Volume 6, Book 061, Number 515

Contradictory order of surahs existed between the conflicting versions of the Qur'an.

Volume 6, Number 527

Some reciters left out verses mentioned by Ubayy ibn Kab, in spite of the latter’s reputation as the best reciter and his reluctance to follow them in omitting what he had personally heard from Muhammad:

Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: 'Umar said, “Ubai was the best of us in the recitation (of the Qur'an) yet we leave some of what he recites.” Ubai says, “I have taken it from the mouth of Allah's Apostle and will not leave for anything whatever.” …

This strongly suggests that many verses have disappeared.

Volume 6, Book 061, Numbers 558, 562

Muhammad himself forgot portions of the Qur'an.

All this evidence from the best and the most reliable Hadith collection leaves no doubt that the Qur'an is far from being a perfect compilation.

In the service of our Great God and risen Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, God’s beloved and eternal Son, forever and ever. Amen. Come Lord Jesus, come. We will always love you as your sovereign grace enables us.

Further Reading