Preservation of the Qur'an
Muslims say the Qur'an has been perfectly preserved, but is this claim true? The textual integrity of scripture is an important topic in Muslim circles and will be brought up by both Islamic scholars and non-scholars alike. The Muslim argument says that the text of the Qur'an today is identical to that received by Prophet Muhammad. However, there are some problems with this argument.
The most trusted collection of hadith and considered the most authentic book after the Qur'an is Sahih Bukhari but even within it's own book there is a contradiction on who collected the Qur'an.
Narrated Anas bin Malik:When the Prophet died, none had collected the Qur'an but four persons: Abu Ad Darda, Mu'adh bin Jabal, Zaid bin Thabit and Abu Zaid. We were the inheritor (of Abu Zaid) as he had no offspring .
If you cannot even agree on who collected the Qur'an then how can you even begin to claim the Qur'an is intact exactly how it was revealed?
We know from the hadith that Muhammad himself forgot parts of the Qur'an:
Allah in the Qur'an says that even his messenger might forget certain verses.
In the below hadith we see that Muhammad's companions also forgot passages of the Qur'an.
If the prophet is forgetting verses then how can you say that you have the perfect unaltered word of God with you?
There are claims in the hadith that certain verses are missing. For example the 'stoning verse' for adultery. The present day Qur’an does not contain the penalty of Rajm (stoning) for adulterers, which abrogated the previous penalty.
Al-Nurayn and al-Wilaya are two surahs (chapters) that are claimed to be included in the Qur'an by some Shi'ite sects. These sects would supposedly argue that Ali had a different copy of the Qur'an as compared with the third Caliph Uthman. However, these surahs are widely seen as fabrications in most of the Muslim world. Some believe these surahs to be forgeries, intended to increase animosity towards the Shi'ite Muslims in the Sunni world.
You have probably heard about the Satanic Verses incident where Muhammad tried to reconcile differences with pagans. There are reports of this incident in all major tafsirs to demonstrate this was an actual event during the time of the Prophet Muhammad.
And another, the third (goddess), Manat?
What! for you the male sex, and for Him, the female?
Behold, such would be indeed a division most unfair!
Under increasing pressure and boycotts from the pagan Meccans, a weakened and precarious Muhammad accommodated the Meccan pagans by acknowledging the existence of the three pagan goddesses Lat, Uzza, and Manat, alongside Allah.
From Ibn Ishaq's "Sirat Rasul Allah". (Ibn Ishaq is the earliest known Islamic historian.)
Al-Tabari was an early and prolific Islamic historian who also recorded the Satanic verses incident.
- By the Star when it sets, your comrade does not err, nor is
- he deceived; nor does he speak out of (his own) desire ...
and when he came to the words:
- Have you thought upon al-Lat and al-'Uzza and Manat, the third, the other?
Satan cast on his tongue, because of his inner debates and what he desired to bring to his people, the words:
- These are the high-flying cranes; verily their intercession is accepted with approval.
We know from various sources that the third caliph Uthman ordered various copies of the Qur'an to be burnt because there were clear differences in the recitation of Qur'an among people of Sham and people of Iraq. The differences were so great Uthman and his companions feared future dispute about true Qur'an. (We are not talking about pronunciations, but the contents). So Uthman asked Hafsa for her copy and he ordered to make many copies of Qur'an and to burn and destroy all the existing copies of the Qur'an. Uthman ordered others to accept Hafsa's copy as the official Qur'anic text. This shows that memorization had failed to completely preserve the Qur'an (meaning recitation) in its original form but help of text was taken.
Narrated Anas bin Malik:Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were Waging war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur'an, so he said to 'Uthman, "O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Quran) as Jews and the Christians did before." So 'Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, "Send us the manuscripts of the Qur'an so that we may compile the Qur'anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you." Hafsa sent it to 'Uthman. 'Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, 'Abdullah bin AzZubair, Said bin Al-As and 'AbdurRahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. 'Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, "In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Qur'an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, the Qur'an was revealed in their tongue." They did so, and when they had written many copies, 'Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa. 'Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur'anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt. Said bin Thabit added, "A Verse from Surat Ahzab was missed by me when we copied the Qur'an and I used to hear Allah's Apostle reciting it. So we searched for it and found it with Khuzaima bin Thabit Al-Ansari. (That Verse was): 'Among the Believers are men who have been true in their covenant with Allah.' (33.23)
The compilation of the Qur'an was clearly a very human process involving trial and error, educated guesses, faulty memories, fallible opinions, disagreements, mistakes, ignorance, and bad decisions. And we can't forget, of course, the pile of manuscripts reduced to ashes by Uthman in his desperate attempt to destroy all evidence that the Qur'an hadn't been perfectly preserved. The early Muslim community left modern Muslims with a huge mess to clean up if they want to cling to the belief that the Qur'an was perfectly preserved as you can see in this hadith.
- Nobody has the original copy of the Qur'an standardized by Uthman.
- The most trusted commentary on preservation comes from hadith written hundreds of years after Muhammad.
- Early copies of the Qur'an did not have diacretical marks, leaving room for an enormous amount of discrepency.
The earliest found copies of the Qur'an do not have diacritical marks, and evidence points to 'trifling' changes made to the Uthmanic recension. Multiple people collected the Qur'an after Muhammad's death. Differences existed among the various versions of the Qur'an before Caliph Uthman decided to burn all the copies except one. Muhammad himself forgot Qur'anic verses. Some verses, like the ones for stoning, are missing from the Qur'an we have today. We can thus conclude from Islamic sources that the Qur'an has not been perfectly preserved and today's text is not exactly the same as recited by Muhammad.
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- Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, Translated by A. Guillaume, Oxford University Press, Oxford, England, (Re-issued in Karachi, Pakistan, 1967, 13th impression, 1998) 1955, p. 146-148.
- Al-Tabari (838? – 923 A.D.), The History of al-Tabari (Ta’rikh al-rusul wa’l-muluk), Vol. VI: Muhammad at Mecca, Translated by W. M. Watt and M.V. McDonald, State University of New York Press, Albany, NY, 1988, ISBN: 0-88706-707-7, pp. 107-112.
- Taher, Abul, "Querying the Koran", The Guardian, Guardian News and Media Limited, 2000-08-08, http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4048586,00.html.