Corruption of the Qur'an

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This article examines the Islamic claim that the Qur'an is free from corruption.


The Qur'an is claimed to be a revelation from Allah to Prophet Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel. It was revealed to Muhammad in stages, taking 23 years to reach its completion.

At no time during Muhammad's life did he ever order these alleged revelations to be compiled into a single book.[1] If Muhammad was, as he claimed, a messenger to all mankind, it is perplexing as to why he never gave thought to the written preservation of his message.

His followers must solely take the credit of the Qur'an's existence today and its spreading to people beyond those which Muhammad had initially subjugated. Muslims however would argue that the Qur'an was preserved by Allah as he had promised.[2]

Could the Qur'an have Been Preserved through Memorization?[edit]

We would say no, as Muhammad himself had forgotten portions of the Qur'an and needed his followers to remind him.[3] This led to him having a "just in time" revelation[4] claiming that some verses were to be forgotten. Furthermore, evidence that Muhammad had a somewhat casual attitude to variant readings is provided in the Qira'at section later in this article.

What about the great memorizers of Islam from among the Salaf, maybe they had successfully memorized it? Well, that would not work as an argument. The best, and most, of the Qurra' (“reciters”) had died before its compilation.[5] Abu Bakr even knew that the Qur'an would be hard to collect[6] and that Muhammad had never ordered such an action to be taken.[1]

The Qur'an in fact was not memorized in full by the companions, and for proof of this we need only look to the words of Zaid bin Thabit, the companion who was charged with its collection.

He had stated "I started looking for the Qur'an and collecting it from (what was written on) palm-leaf stalks, thin white stones, and also from the men who knew it by heart, till I found the last verse of Surat at-Tauba (repentance) with Abi Khuzaima al-Ansari, and I did not find it with anybody other than him."[7]

Had the companions fully memorized it and there was full agreement, why then would they look for verses in leafs and stones? The last two verses of Surah al-Taubah were found in written form with only one person, though some others recalled hearing it.

The fact that in more recent times there have been many memorizers (huffaz) of the complete Qur'an is not a helpful analogy because they have the benefit of choosing a standard qira'at (recitation) and standard written Qur'an as a complete book to help them or their teachers in the learning process.

Disagreements on the Qur'an and its Burning[edit]

During the Caliphate of Uthman, he heard that many Muslims in different regions were arguing that they can recite the Qur'an better, and they had differences between them.[8]

Upon hearing this, Uthman hurriedly ordered the burning of both fragmentary manuscripts and whole copies of the Qur'an[9] and sent a message to Hafsa (one of Muhammad's wives) requesting the manuscripts she had in her possession.[10] Making a codex from what Zayd bin thabit had originally compiled,[7] he gave it to the people.

Sahih hadiths and tafsirs record a great many variations of recitation among the sahaba (companions) for many different verses. An interesting example concerns the controversial topic of mutah (temporary marriage), which Muhammad banned in his final years according to sahih hadiths, and verse 4:24, which says:

...Then as to those whom you profit by, give them their dowries as appointed; and there is no blame on you about what you mutually agree after what is appointed; surely Allah is Knowing, Wise.

Al-Tabari's tafsir for verse 4:24 includes narrations saying that ibn 'Abbas, ubay ibn Ka'b, and Sa'id ibn Jubayr (others too in other tafsirs) included the words 'until a prescribed period' ('ila ajal musamma') after the words 'whom you profit by'. If one were to speculate that this represents an abrogated version of the verse, where is the evidence and why did these sahaba not seem to know?

Another interesting example, recorded in a sahih hadith that appears in many collections, concerns a variant reading of verse Qur'an 2:238. It was given by Aisha, according to whom in this verse it says 'the middle prayer and the Asr Prayer', as she heard Muhammad reciting it.[11] As such, her version of the verse combines what was, according to another hadith, the pre-abrogated version of the verse, which mentions the asr prayer, and post-abrogation version, which says the middle prayer.[12]. What purpose would be served by an abrogation to replace one specific word with another that more ambiguously indicates the same prayer (according to most scholars) is a mystery. Rather, all this is evidence for the inconsistency of Muhammad's recitations.

Many other examples of such variations among the sahaba are discussed in another online article[13].

Abdullah bin Mas'ud- Authority of the Qur'an and Best Qur'anic Teacher[edit]

Muhammad ordered Muslims to learn the Qur'an from four individuals and the first of them was Abdullah bin Mas'ud.[14] So, according to Muhammad, Ibn Mas'ud was an authority on the Qur'an.

Ibn Mas'ud swore that he knew all the surahs of the Qur'an, saying "By Allah other than Whom none has the right to be worshipped! There is no Sura revealed in Allah's Book but I know at what place it was revealed; and there is no verse revealed in Allah's Book but I know about whom it was revealed. And if I know that there is somebody who knows Allah's Book better than I, and he is at a place that camels can reach, I would go to him".[15]

That is quite a grandiose statement by Ibn Mas'ud, which we cannot disagree with. After all, according to Muhammad's words, he was one of the chosen teachers whom Muslims were to go to when they desired to learn the Qur'an.

After Muhammad's choice of Abdullah bin Mas'ud, he was followed by Salim, the freed slave of Abu Hudhaifa, Mu'adh bin Jabal and Ubai bin Ka'b.[14] What is odd is that we do not find any mention of Zayd Bin Thabit who was ultimately entrusted by Uthman with the task of collecting the Qur'an from scraps.

Ibn Mas'ud's Disagreement with Uthman[edit]

The Qur'an that Ibn Mas'ud had was known and agreed upon by many Muslims. When Uthman ordered that all codices must be destroyed and that only Zayd's codex is to be preserved, The reaction of Abdallah ibn Masud was great.

"I have not led them [the people of Kufa] astray. There is no verse in the Book of Allah that I do not know where it was revealed and why it was revealed, and if I knew anyone more learned in the Book of Allah and I could be conveyed there, I would set out to him".[16]

Referring to the authority given to Zaid bin thabit, Abdullah ibn Mas'ud said, "I recited from the messenger of Allah (saw) seventy surahs which I had perfected before Zaid ibn Thabit had embraced Islam".[17]

When Uthman ordered the destruction of Ibn Mas'ud's codex, Ibn Mas'ud gave a sermon in Kufa and said "Conceal the manuscripts! I like it better 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".[18]

A similar hadith graded sahih appears in al-Tirmidhi's collection. After mentioning Uthman's attempts to enforce a codice (mushaf), we read:

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 Muslims people! Avoid copying the Mushaf and the 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 (3:161). So meet Allah with the Musahif.'" Az-Zuhri said: "It was conveyed to me that some men amongst the most virtuous of the Companions of the Messenger of Allah () disliked that view of Ibn Mas'ud."

Zaid bin thabit was in no place to be a rival to the great scholar and teacher Ibn Mas'ud, and such sermons by him are devastating to the history of Islam and to the authenticity of the Qur'an.

What did Ibn Mas'ud have in his Qur'an that Uthman did not?[edit]

Ibn Mas'ud's Qur'anic text omitted surah al-Fatiha and the mu'awwithatayni (surahs 113 and 114).[19]

When we come to the rest of the Qur'an, we find that there were numerous differences of reading between the texts of Zaid and Ibn Mas'ud. The records in Ibn Abu Dawud's Kitab al-Masahif fill up no less than nineteen pages[20] and, from all the sources available, one can trace no less than 101 variants in the Suratul-Baqarah alone.

We will provide you with the mention of just a few of the differences here in illustration of the nature of the variations between the texts:

Surah 2:275 begins with the words Allathiina yaakuluunar-ribaa laa yaquumuuna, meaning "those who devour usury will not stand". Ibn Mas'ud's text had the same introduction but after the last word there was added the expression yawmal qiyaamati, that is, they would not be able to stand on the "Day of Resurrection".

The variant is mentioned in Abu Ubaid's Kitab Fadhail al-Qur'an.[21] The variant was also recorded in the codex of Talha ibn Musarrif, a secondary codex dependent on Ibn Mas'ud's text, Taiha likewise being based at Kufa in Iraq where Ibn Mas'ud was based as governor and where his codex was widely followed.[22]

Surah 5:91, in the standard text, contains the exhortation fasiyaamu thalaathati ayyaamin, meaning "fast for three days". Ibn Mas'ud's text had, after the last word, the adjective mutataabi'aatin, meaning three "successive" days.

The variant derives from at-Tabari[23] and was also mentioned by Abu Ubaid. This variant reading was, significantly, found in Ubayy ibn Ka'b's text as well[24] and in the texts of Ibn Abbas[25] and Ibn Mas'ud's pupil Ar-Rabi ibn Khuthaim.[26]

The Qur'an we have today was rejected by Ibn Masud, whom the prophet of Islam himself approved of. This tells us that the Qur'an we have is not the word of Allah.

Ubay bin Ka'b[edit]

Ubay ibn Ka'b, was another one of the four which were singled-out by Muhammad,[14] and was considered the best reciter of the Qur'an.[27] He was known as Sayidul Qura' (The Master of Reciters). Umar the Caliph also agreed that Ubay was the best reciter.[28]

Some examples where Ubay agreed with Ibn Mas'ud and disagreed with Zayd include the following:

1. For the standard reading wa yush-hidullaaha in Surah 2:204 he read wa yastash-hidullaaha.[29]
2. He omitted the words in khiftum from Surah 4:101.[30]
3. He read mutathab-thibiina for muthabthabiina in Surah 4:143.[31]

There are a number of cases where whole clauses differed in his text. In Surah 5:48, where the standard text reads wa katabnaa 'alayhim fiiha, meaning "and We inscribed therein for them (the Jews)", the reading of Ubayy ibn Ka'b was wa anzalallaahu alaa banii Isra'iila fiiha, meaning "and Allah sent down therein to the Children of Israel."[32]

From Abu Ubaid we find that, whereas Surah 17:16 in the standard text reads amarnaa mutrafiihaa fafasaquu, Ubay read this clause ba'athnaa akaabira mujri-miihaa fdmakaruu.[33]

What is Missing from the Qur'an[edit]

The lost verses on stoning and adult suckling[edit]

The lost verse of Rajm (stoning) which read "The fornicators among the married men (ash-shaikh) and married women (ash-shaikhah), stone them as an exemplary punishment from Allah, and Allah is Mighty and Wise,"[34] was originally found in Surah al-Ahzab[35].

This verse, along with verses regarding adult suckling, were written on a piece of paper and were lost when a goat ate them.[36] The loss of the stoning verse is confirmed by Caliph Umar in sahih hadith.[37] Before becoming lost, the verse on adult suckling had already been abrogated and replaced with a watered down version. Evidently it was not very popular, and was resisted by some of Muhammad's wives.[38]

Islamic scholars typically explain this as a type of abrogation where the verse is no longer recited but the ruling still applies. But does such a type of abrogation make any sense? If the ruling remains, why let the verse be lost from the Qur'an and only preserved in hadith? It is perfectly obvious that this is a contrived explanation to escape such conspicuous preservation problems, in this case regarding the verse on stoning.

Most of Surah al-Ahzab was lost[edit]

It seems that the verse on stoning was not the only one to disappear from surah al-Ahzab.

With sahih isnads appearing in many hadith collections via ‘Aasim ibn Bahdalah, from Zirr, we have this hadith:

عن عاصم بن بهدلة عن زر قال

قال لي أبي بن كعب : كأين تقرأ سورة الأحزاب أو كأين تعدها قال قلت له ثلاثا وسبعين آية فقال قط لقد رأيتها وإنها لتعادل سورة البقرة ولقد قرأنا فيها الشيخ والشيخة إذا زنيا فارجموهما البتة نكالا من الله والله عليم حكيم

Narrated ‘Aasim ibn Bahdalah, from Zirr, who said:

Ubayy ibn Ka‘b said to me: How long is Soorat al-Ahzaab when you read it? Or how many verses do you think it is? I said to him: Seventy-three verses. He said: Only? There was a time when it was as long as Soorat al-Baqarah, and we read in it: “The old man and the old woman, if they commit zina, then stone them both, a punishment from Allah, and Allah is Almighty, Most Wise.”

Musnad Ahmad 21245, the popular Salafist fatwah website accepts the hadith and that the verses were lost on the authority of the scholars. Its isnad was graded by al-Tabari and al-Albani as sahih, even more emphatically by ibn Hazm, “sahih, as clear as the sun” (إسناده صحيح كالشمس), and hasan (good) by ibn Kathir and ibn Hajar.

Corroborating evidence is given by Qurtubi at the beginning of his tafsir for Surah al-Ahzab. He records this recollection by 'A'isha, although the chain includes ibn Lahee'ah, who many consider weak for having an unreliable memory:

وقد حدثنا أحمد بن الهيثم بن خالد قال حدثنا أبو عبيد القاسم بن سلام قال حدثنا ابن أبي مريم عن ابن لهيعة عن أبي الأسود عن عروة عن عائشة قالت: كانت سورة الأحزاب تعدل على عهد رسول الله صلى الله عليه وسلم مائتي آية، فلما كتب المصحف لم يقدر منها إلا على ما هي الآن.

“Aisha narrates: ‘Surah Ahzab contained 200 verses during the lifetime of Prophet [s] but when the Quran was collected we only found the amount that can be found in the present Quran".

Tafsir al Qurtubi

Surah al-Hafd and Surah al-khal'[edit]

We know that, whereas Ibn Mas'ud omitted three surahs (al-Fatihah, 113 and 114) from his Qur'an mashaf (codex), Ubay ibn Ka'b had 116 surahs in his, including two extra short surahs, al-Hafd (the Haste) and al-Khal' (the Separation):


You (alone) we worship,

and to You (alone) we pray and lie prostrate,

and to You (alone) we proceed and have descendants.

We fear Your torture and hope for Your mercy.

Truly Your torture will overtake the infidels.


O Allah, You (alone) we ask for help and forgiveness.

We speak appreciatingly of Your goodness.

Never do we disbelieve You.

We repudiate and disbelieve anyone who follows immorality.

al-Suyuti, Al-Itqan

In form they are du'as (supplications, prayers), much like Al-Fatihah placed at the beginning of the Qur'an, and surahs 113 and 114.

ibn Masud too included Khal' and Hafd in his Qur'an mashaf (codice)[43]. As also did Ibn 'Abbas in his mashaf, while Umaya bin Abdullah and Umar recited them as supplications [42], as did Uthman [44].

It doesn't seem clear at all whether there was agreement among the Muslims on whether these were just du'as given by the angel Jibreel to Muhammad or parts of the Qur'an given that three such important figures (Ubay ibn Ka'b, ibn Masud and ibn 'Abbas) recorded them in their Qur'an codices. Nor does it seem there was agreement on other surahs that resemble du'as given that ibn Masud left out of his mashaf Surahs Al-Fatihah, and 113 and 114 (called Al-Mu'awwidhatan), as mentioned above.

One apologetics article points to a hadith recorded 9 centuries after Muhammad, which says that Uthman had Ubay ibn Ka'b dictate the text for Zaid to write down, with refinements by Sa’id bin al-‘Aas. The article argues that therefore Ubay must have had no issue with the two extra surahs being left out. Such late evidence is utterly worthless, as well as contradicting sahih hadiths about Zaid's collection process.

The Missing Surah with the Two Valleys[edit]

Abu Musa al-Ash'ari, one of the early authorities on the Qur'an text and a companion of Muhammad, claimed a surah which resembled at-Tawba (also known as Bara'at) in length and severity was forgotten and lost, but included a passage on the greed of man, which is not in today's Qur'an.

Abu Harb b. Abu al-Aswad reported on the authority of his father that Abu Musa al-Ash'ari 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 so recite a surah which resembled one of the surahs of Musabbihat, and I have forgotten it, but remember (this much) out of it:" Oh people who believe, why do you say that which you do not practise" (lxi 2.) and" that is recorded in your necks as a witness (against you) and you would be asked about it on the Day of Resurrection" (xvii. 13).

Even ibn Abbas was unsure whether it was part of the Qur'an or not:

Narrated Ibn `Abbas: I heard Allah's Messenger (pbuh) saying, "If the son of Adam had money equal to a valley, then he will wish for another similar to it, for nothing can satisfy the eye of Adam's son except dust. And Allah forgives him who repents to Him." Ibn `Abbas said: I do not know whether this saying was quoted from the Qur'an or not. `Ata' said, "I heard Ibn AzZubair saying this narration while he was on the pulpit."

Ubai said that it was considered as a saying from the Qur'an for a while during Muhammad's lifetime. This cannot be excused simply as abrogation because it would still have been a saying (and part of a whole surah) from the Qur'an if it was merely considered to be abrogated by later verses:

Narrated Sahl bin Sa`d: I heard Ibn Az-Zubair who was on the pulpit at Mecca, delivering a sermon, saying, "O men! The Prophet used to say, "If the son of Adam were given a valley full of gold, he would love to have a second one; and if he were given the second one, he would love to have a third, for nothing fills the belly of Adam's son except dust. And Allah forgives he who repents to Him." Ubai said, "We considered this as a saying from the Qur'an till the Sura (beginning with) 'The mutual rivalry for piling up of worldly things diverts you..' (102.1) was revealed."

Al-Suyuti records the recollection by Abu Waqid al-Laithii of the occasion when the lost passage about the valleys was revealed. He says that Muhammad claimed it as a revelation from Allah, just like when he received other revelations.[45]

Lost verses from Surah at-Tawba[edit]

Surah at-Tawba (also known as al Bara'at) was originally equal to the length of al-Baqara according to narrations recorded by al-Suyuti (best known for his Tafsir al-Jalalayn) in The Itqan[46] and Tafsir al-Qurtubi[47]. In a Hasan hadith in the collection of Tirmidhi, Uthman is narrated as saying that they didn't know whether or not Surah at-Tawba was part of Surah al-Anfal, and Muhammad died without making it clear, so they were placed together.[48]

The "Bring a surah like it challenge" met 1400 years ago[edit]

As demonstrated in the sections above, there were non-Qur'anic surahs and verses that sounded very much like those of the Qur'an. Indeed, they were so much like it that many of the Sahabah couldn't tell the difference. Surah al-Hafd and Surah al-khal', the verses about Adam and the valleys, and indeed, Muhammad's infamous Satanic verses were all created by human beings, yet sounded so Qur'anic that they were at one time believed to be so by speakers of 7th century Arabic.

Alhajjaj changes the Uthmanic Qur'an[edit]

The text we have today is not even Uthman's Revised Version of the Qur'an, but it incorporates changes by Al-Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf Al-Thakafi.

Al-Hajjaj Ibn Yusuf Al-Thakafi, who lived in the years AD 660-714, was a teacher of the Arabic language in the city of Taif. Then he joined the military and became the most powerful person during the reign of Caliph Abd al-Malik Ibn Marawan and after him his son al-Waleed Ibn Abd al-Malik. Because Al-Hajjaj taught Arabic, he gave himself the liberty to change several words of Caliph Uthman's Qur'an, which is an indication that he did not believe that the Qur'an was verbally inspired or was inscribed in a "tablet preserved."

For brevity's sake we will only mention a few of these changes:

1. In Surah Yunus 10:22, he changed the word yanshorokom, which means "spread you," to yousayerokom, which means "makes you to go on."

2. In Surah Ash-Shuara 26:116, he changed the word Al-Mukhrageen, which means "the cast out," to Al-Margoomeen, which means "those who are to be stoned [to death]."

3. In Surah Ash-Shuara 26:167, he changed the word Min Al-Margoomeen, which means "those who are to be stoned to death," to Al-Mukhrageen, which means "those who will assuredly be cast out."

4. In Surah Muhammad 47:15, he changed the word yasen, which is poor Arabic to Asen, which means "unpolluted."

5. In Surah al-Hadid 57:7, he changed the word wataqu, which means "feared Allah," to Wa-anfaqu, which means "spend in charity."

If you read Qur'anic Tafsirs such as al-Jalalayn and others on these verses, you will notice that they will say that there are other readings of these words, proving that there was corruption.

Visit this site to see the differences between Samarqand Codex and Uthmans Codex.

Differences in the Qira'at (readings of the Qur'an)[edit]

According to some hadith literature, the Qur'an was revealed in seven ahruf, or modes of recitation. The nature of these ahruf generated a wide range of theories, some more plausible than others. A popular, though problematic theory is that these were 7 Arabic dialects of different Arab tribes, and only one, that of the Quraysh was retained by Uthman. A more plausible theory would be that Muhammad was inconsistent in his recitation, and it was a convenient excuse[49], as well as a way of avoiding disputes between his followers[50] to say that there were up to seven valid ways to say a verse.

What we have today are seven or ten Qira'at, which are slightly different early recitations or readings of the Qur'an by famous readers. According to the most common explanation of the ahruf, these qira'at are based on the Quraysh harf. There were once many more qira'at, which were reduced to twenty-five in number two centuries after Muhammad's death, and down to seven after three centuries by Abu Bakr Ibn Mujahid. A futher three qira'at make up a second tier held in less high regard.

Each of the Qira'at has two transmissions (riwayat) named after its transmitters, one of which is the basis for any particular text (mushaf) of the Qur'an. For example, the mashaf used mainly in North Africa is based on the riwayah of Warsh from Nafi (the reading of Nafi transmitted by Warsh).

Muslims are commonly told that the differences between the Qira'at can be explained away as styles of pronunciation or dialects and spelling. Yet in many cases the variations added or ommitted words, or are completely different words or contradict each other in meaning. The Corpus Coranicum database[51] can be used as a neutral online source for verifying the existence of such variations in the Qira'at. An interesting example is given below, and more of them are listed in the next section about the popular Hafs and Warsh transmissions.

In Qur'an 18:86, Dhu'l Qarnayn finds the sun setting in a muddy spring, according to the Qira'at used by today's most popular transmissions of the Qur'an. However, in around half of the various Qira'at the sun intead sets in a warm spring. The latter variant is even used in some English translations. It is easy to see how the corruption arose (whichever one is the variant). The arabic word حَمِئَة (hami'atin - muddy) sounds very similar to the completely different word حَامِيَة (hamiyyatin - warm). Al-Tabari records in his tafseer for this verse the differing opinions on whether the sun sets in muddy or warm water.

The reading of ibn Amir, which is one of those qira'at containing hamiyyah instead of hami'ah, is still used in some parts of Yemen, and used to be more widespread.[52]. In written form this difference is not just a matter of vowel marks. Even the consonantal text with dots is different. A scan of a printed Qur'an containing the mushaf of Hisham's transmission from ibn Amir's reading can even be read online and it can be seen that حَامِيَة (warm) is used in verse 18:86[53].

Differences in the Hafs and Warsh Texts[edit]

Apart from other earlier variant texts, and the riwayats of al-Duri from Abu Amr used in Sudan, and of Hisham from ibn Amir used in parts of Yemen, there are two different texts (mushaf) of the Qur'an currently in print, named after their respective 2nd-century transmitters Hafs (from Kufa) and Warsh (from Medina).

The Hafs text is the more common and used in most areas of the Islamic world. Warsh is used mainly in West and North-West Africa as well as by the Zaydiya in Yemen. Here are some of the differences.

Surah Hafs Warsh Notes
2:125 watakhizu (you shall take) watakhazu (they have taken)
2:132 wawassa wa'awsa Al-Dani mentions Abu `Ubayd saw wa'awsa

in the imam, the mushaf `Uthman

3:133 wasari'u (And hasten) sari'u (Hasten)
5:54 yartadda yartadid Al-Dani quotes Abu `Ubayd saw yartadid in the imam
3:81 ataytukum (I have given) ataynakum (We have given)
2:259 nunshizuha (We grow them) nunshiruha (We spread them)
2:140 taquluna (You say) yaquluna (They say)
7:57 bushra (good tidings) nushra (disperse)
57:35 Allaha huwa alghaniyyu (Allah, He, is self sufficient) Allaha alghaniyyu (Allah is self sufficient)

A more extensive study of differences between the Hafs and Warsh transmissions and comparisons with Qur'an manuscripts can be read online[54].

Some apologetics say that variants (aka corruption) of the dots and vowel marks may have occured when the text was written down, but that the simple consonantal text without these diacritics is preserved (even though not all examples, including those listed above, depend on the placement of dots and vowel marks). Yet the Qur'an itself is more than simply a written text, and certainly more than its earliest basic written form without diacritics, where some different consonants are written identically. There are clearly corruptions in the recital of the actual words from when they were originally spoken, which became more apparent as the written Arabic language developed to include vowel sounds and to distinguish different but identical looking consonants with dots.

Another apologetic defence of the preservation doctrine has it that even when the variants are completely different words or when words are added or ommitted, that these are all divinely revealed alternatives. This doesn't address variants that contradict each other. In any case, such obviously contrived attempts to salvage the preservation doctrine in such a way as to make it almost meaningless and unfalsifiable are incredible, even by the standards of Islam, a religion built full of contrivances to escape difficult questions.

Diacritical Marks and Grammatical Mistakes[edit]

The Qur'an was first written without diacritical marks. At the time of Muhammad, Arabic orthography was yet to develop into what we have known for centuries.

For the early interpreters who added diacritical marks, to read the Qur'an as it was originally written, would lead the reader to interpret and choose for themselves from the many possible meanings available.

Muslims began using diacritical marks because reading "errors" began to appear,[55] and the differences this created had led to differences in Islamic law.[56]

The following are just a few examples from among many grammatical mistakes which show that the Qur'an is not flawless.

1. Sabi'een or Sabi'oon, one must be wrong (5:69, 22:17)

2. Butunihi is a mistake in 16:66. It must be Butuniha, because it is referring to the plural (cattle).

3. Kon fayakoon, meaning "be and it is", must be kon fakana, meaning "be and he was" in 3:59, because it refers to the past not present.

Corruption of Previous Scriptures[edit]

Many Muslims erroneously believe that the Qur'an claims the corruption of previous scriptures. However with this erroneous belief comes a new set of problems.

The Qur'an says in 15:9, "We have revealed the dhikr (reminder) and we surely will preserve it," but which "reminder" is Allah referring to, and who decided it only applied to Qur'anic text?

The Taurat and Injil are also referred to as dhikr in 21:48, 21:7, and 40:53-54. So if Allah could not protect these dhikrs as he promised in 15:9, how can we expect him to protect the last dhikr?

Allah said he will preserve the dhikr, either he preserves all the dhikr (Taurat, Injil, and Qur'an) or None.


What have we learnt here? We have learnt that some verses are missing, some readings are different, and the very best scholars and reciters of Islam, whom Muhammad himself had approved of, rejected the Qur'an of Uthman.

What are we left with? We are left with a very human text, as prone to corruption as any other medieval text, and Muslims who deny this are left holding an untenable position.

This page is featured in the core article, Islam and Scripture which serves as a starting point for anyone wishing to learn more about this topic Core part.png

See Also[edit]


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  1. 1.0 1.1 "...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 Apostle did not do?" 'Umar said, "By Allah, that is a good project..." - Sahih Bukhari 6:61:509
  2. "We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption)." - Qur'an 15:9
  3. "Allah's Apostle heard a man reciting the Qur'an at night, and said, "May Allah bestow His Mercy on him, as he has reminded me of such-and-such Verses of such-and-such Suras, which I was caused to forget."" - Sahih Bukhari 6:61:558
  4. "Whatever communications We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, We bring one better than it or like it..." - Qur'an 2:106
  5. "...Umar has come to me and said: "Casualties were heavy among the Qurra' of the Qur'an (i.e. those who knew the Quran by heart) on the day of the Battle of Yalmama, and I am afraid that more heavy casualties may take place among the Qurra' on other battlefields, whereby a large part of the Qur'an may be lost..." - Sahih Bukhari 6:61:509
  6. "...Then Abu Bakr said (to me). 'You are a wise young man and we do not have any suspicion about you, and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah's Apostle. So you should search for (the fragmentary scripts of) the Qur'an and collect it in one book)." By Allah If they had ordered me to shift one of the mountains, it would not have been heavier for me than this ordering me to collect the Qur'an..." - Sahih Bukhari 6:61:509
  7. 7.0 7.1 "...I started looking for the Qur'an and collecting it from (what was written on) palm-leaf stalks, thin white stones..."Sahih Bukhari 6:61:509
  8. "...Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur'an, so he said to 'Uthman, "O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Quran) as Jews and the Christians did before..." - Sahih Bukhari 6:61:510
  9. "...'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 6:61:510
  10. "...Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, "Send us the manuscripts of the Qur'an so that we may compile the Qur'anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you." Hafsa sent it to 'Uthman...." - Sahih Bukhari 6:61:510
  11. "Abu Yunus, freedman of Aishah, Mother of Believers, reported: Aishah ordered me to transcribe the Holy Qur'an and asked me to let her know when I should arrive at the verse Hafidhuu alaas-salaati waas-salaatiil-wustaa wa quumuu lillaahi qaanitiin (2.238). When I arrived at the verse I informed her and she ordered: Write it in this way, Hafidhuu alaas-salaati waas-salaatiil-wustaa wa salaatiil 'asri wa quumuu lillaahi qaanitiin. She added that she had heard it so from the Apostle of Allah." - Muwatta Imam Malik, p.64. Also in Sahih Muslim 4:1316, for example.
  12. Sahih Muslim 4:1317
  13. Corruption and Distortion (Tahreef) in the Quran by Amar Khan, 2009 webcitation archive link
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 "Narrated Masruq: Abdullah bin Mas'ud was mentioned before Abdullah bin Amr who said, "That is a man I still love, as I heard the Prophet (saw) saying, 'Learn the recitation of the Qur'an from four: from Abdullah bin Mas'ud - he started with him - Salim, the freed slave of Abu Hudhaifa, Mu'adh bin Jabal and Ubai bin Ka'b"." - Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 5, p.96
  15. Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 6, p.488
  16. "Hudhaifah went on to say, "0 Abdullah ibn Qais, you were sent to the people of Basra as their governor (amir) and teacher and they have submitted to your rules, your idioms and your reading". He continued, "0 Abdullah ibn Mas'ud, you were sent to the people of Kufa as their teacher who have also submitted to your rules, idioms and reading". Abdullah said to him, "In that case I have not led them astray. There is no verse in the Book of Allah that I do not know where it was revealed and why it was revealed, and if I knew anyone more learned in the Book of Allah and I could be conveyed there, I would set out to him"." - Ibn Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Masahif, p.14
  17. Ibn Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Masahif, p.17
  18. Ibn Sa'd, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Vol. 2, p.444
  19. "Imam Fakhruddin said that the reports in some of the ancient books that Ibn Mas'ud denied that Suratul-Fatiha and the Mu'awwithatayni 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
  20. Kitab al-Masahif, pp. 54-73
  21. cf. Nِldeke, Geschichte, 3.63; Jeffery, Materials, p.31
  22. Jeffery, p.343
  23. 7.19.11 - cf. Nِldeke, 3.66; Jeffery, p.40
  24. Jeffery, p.129
  25. Jeffery, p.199
  26. Jeffery, p.289
  27. "Affan ibn Muslim informed us ... on the authority of Anas ibn Malik, he on the authority of the Prophet, may Allah bless him; he said: The best reader (of the Qur'an) among my people is Ubayyi ibn Ka'b." - Ibn Sa'd, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Vol. 2, p.441
  28. Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 6, p.489
  29. cf. Nِldeke 3.83; Jeffery, p.120
  30. cf. Nِldeke 3.85; Jeffery, p.127
  31. cf. Jeffery, p.127
  32. cf. Nِldeke 3.85; Jeffery, p.128
  33. cf. Nِldeke 3.88; Jeffery, p.140
  34. As-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fii Ulum al-Qur'an, p.524
  35. "Umar said to me ‘How many verses are contained in the chapter of al-Ahzab?’ I said, ‘72 or 73 verses.’ He said it was almost as long as the chapter of the Cow, which contains 287 verses, and in it there was the verse of stoning." - Al-Muttaqi ‘Ali bin Husam al-Din in his book “Mukhtasar Kanz al-’Ummal” printed on the margin of Musnad Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Volume 2, page 2, in his hadith about chapter 33
  36. 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
  37. "...Umar b. Khattab sat on the pulpit of Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and said: Verily Allah sent Muhammad (may peace be upon him) with truth and He sent down the Book upon him, and the verse of stoning was included in what was sent down to him. We recited it, retained it in our memory and understood it. Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) awarded the punishment of stoning to death (to the married adulterer and adulteress) and, after him, we also awarded the punishment of stoning, I am afraid that with the lapse of time, the people (may forget it) and may say: We do not find the punishment of stoning in the Book of Allah, and thus go astray by abandoning this duty prescribed by Allah. stoning is a duty laid down in Allah's Book for married men and women who commit adultery when proof is established, or it there is pregnancy, or a confession...." - Sahih Muslim 17:4194
  38. See for example regarding the abrogation Al-Muwatta 30:17, and the displeasure of Muhammad's wives Al-Muwatta 30:12
  39. Musnad Ahmad 21245
  40. Tafsir al Qurtubi, introduction for Surah Ahzab
  41. (the Separation)
  42. 42.0 42.1 al-Suyuti, Al-Itqan, p.152-153
  43. al-Suyuti in his Tafseer Dur al-Manthur, Volume 4 page 421
  44. according to hadith 7032 in Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah
  45. "Abu Waqid al-Laithii said, "When the messenger of Allah (saw) received the revelation we would come to him and he would teach us what had been revealed. (I came) to him and he said 'It was suddenly communicated to me one day: Verily Allah says, ..." - As-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fii Ulum al-Qur'an, p.525
  46. "Malik says that several verses from chapter 9 (Sura of Repentance) have been dropped from the beginning. Among them is, ‘In the name of God the compassionate, the Merciful’ because it was proven that the length of Sura of Repentance was equal to the length of the Sura of the Cow." - "The Itqan" by Suyuti Part 3, Page 184
  47. “Malik said among what had been narrated by Ibn Wahb and Ibn Al Qasim and Ibn Abdul Hakam is that when the first part of Surat Bara'at was lost, ‘Bismillah Al Rahman Al Raheem’ was also lost along with it. It has also been narrated from Ibn Ajlan that he heard that Surat Bara'at was equal to the length of Surat Al Baqarah or approximately equal to it, so the part was gone and because of that "Bismillah Al Rahman Al Raheem" wasn't written between them (between the lost and the remaining part) .” Tafsir al-Qurtubi on Surah al Bara'at
  48. 'Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: "I said to 'Uthman bin 'Affan: 'What was your reasoning with Al-Anfal - while it is from the Muthani (Surah with less than one-hundred Ayat), and Bara'ah while it is from the Mi'in (Surah with about one-hundred Ayat), then you put them together, without writing the line Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Rahim between them, and you placed them with the seven long (Surah) - why did you do that?' So 'Uthman said: 'A long time might pass upon the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) without anything being revealed to him, and then sometimes a Surah with numerous (Ayat) might be revealed. So when something was revealed, he would call for someone who could write, and say: "Put these Ayat in the Surah which mentions this and that in it." When an Ayah was revealed, he would say: "Put this Ayah in the Surah which mentions this and that in it." Now Al-Anfal was among the first of those revealed in Al-Madinah, and Bara'ah among the last of those revealed of the Qur'an, and its narrations (those of Bara'ah) resembled its narrations (those of Al-Anfal), so we thought that it was part of it. Then the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) died, and it was not made clear to us whether it was part of it. So it is for this reason that we put them together without writing Bismillahir-Rahmanir-Rahim between them, and we put that with the seven long (Surahs).'"' Tirmidhi Vol. 5, Book 44, Hadith 3086
  49. See Abu Dawud Book 8:1472 in which the angel reveals up to seven modes. "He then said: 'Each mode is sufficiently health-giving, whether you utter 'all-hearing and all-knowing' or instead 'all-powerful and all-wise'."
  50. See how Muhammad settled a dispute between his followers regarding the correct recitation Sahih Bukhari 9:93:640
  51. Corpus Coranicum - Lesarten tab
  52. Leemhuis, F. 2006, 'From Palm Leaves to the Internet' in McAuliffe J. D. (ed.) The Cambridge Companion to the Qur'an, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, p.150 Google books preview
  53. Click one of the links labelled download to view in pdf format and see page 307 of the 630 page pdf
  54. Which Qur'an? by Layth Al-Shaiban
  55. "The companions (Muhammad’s friends or “Sahaba”) did not vocalize or provide diacritical points for the letters of the Qur’anic copies which they wrote, but later during the last part of the companions’ era, when reading errors came into being, they began to provide diacritical points for the copies of the Qur’an and to vocalize them. This was admissible by the authority of the majority of the scholars, though some of them disliked it. The truth is, it should not be disliked because the situation necessitated it, and the diacritical points distinguish the letters from each other while vocalization explains the grammatical inflection." - Ibn Taymiyyah, "Sheik of the Muslims" vol. XII, pp. 576 and 586
  56. As-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fii Ulum al-Qur'an, p.226