Issues pertaining to the earliest Quranic manuscripts

I have copied and pasted the opening Title, the Abstract and the complete Summary of this highly technical academic paper about the Quranic manuscripts. The Summary is well worth reading.

The Codex of a Companion of the Prophet and the Qurʾān of the Prophet

Behnam Sadeghi and Uwe Bergmann

Abstract

The essay discusses a manuscript of the Qurʾān dating from the first half of the seventh century AD. The text does not belong to the ʿUtmānic textual tradition, making this the only known manuscript of a non-ʿUtmānic text type. The essay compares this text type with those of the ʿUtmānic and other Companion textual traditions in order to shed light on the Prophetic prototype.

Keywords

Qurʾān, Prophet Muḥammad, ʿUtmān, Ibn Mas ̱ ʿūd, Islamic origins, palimpsest

Summary

Muḥammad dictated the revelations, and scribes wrote them down. This gave rise to a number of Companion codices. As the Prophet had not fully determined the order of the sūras relative to one another, these codices had different sūra orders. However, he had fixed the contents of the sūras, including the distribution of verses within them and even the verse divisions. On these elements, and especially where the actual text is concerned, the codices showed great agreement.

Yet, the aural dimension of the Prophet’s dictation at times generated changes, giving rise to occasional verbal differences. Many of the differences among the Companion codices point to semi-orality, and they go back to the Companions’ transcription of a Qurʾān recited by the Prophet. If the scribes recited the text back to the Prophet—and we do not know whether this happened—one wonders if the Prophet tacitly endorsed some of these differences, relatively small as they generally seem to be. If so, that would not negate the fact that one version better represented what the Prophet himself actually recited; but which one?

The caliph ʿUtmān established the standard version, an undertaking that, according to the literary sources, involved a committee, and, above all, a scribe of the Prophet named Zayd b. Tābit. If ʿUtmān formed a committee to deal with this potentially explosive issue, then that was a politically astute move, making it easier to gain the acceptance of a large part of the community, and helping deflect criticism from the caliph himself.  And if it is true that the outcome was a hybrid codex, then that had the added political advantage that Companions would not be chagrined to learn that a fellow Companion’s codex was preferred over theirs.

In any case, textual criticism suggests that the standard version is the most faithful representation, among the known codices, of the Qurʾān as recited by the Prophet. This appears, at first, as a curious coincidence; but on second thought it is not surprising: if anybody had the resources to ensure that a reliable version be chosen, it would have been the caliph; and if anybody had more to lose by botching up the task, again that would have been ʿUtmān, whose political legitimacy and efficacy as caliph depended completely on the good will of fellow distinguished associates of the Prophet. The remarkably few and minor skeletal-morphemic differences among the codices ʿUtmān sent to the cities is another indication of the care that was put into the process of standardization.

Not everybody considered the standard version as the only legitimate one. Some, espousing a sort of codical pluralism, continued to consider other Companion codices as legitimate. The codex of Ibn Masʿūd, in particular, continued to have supporters in the first two centuries AH. Nonetheless, upon its dissemination the standard version quickly became predominant everywhere. Given the vast expanse and decentralized nature of the empire, the center’s intervention had achieved a remarkable degree of success. Several years after Medina’s act of standardization, however, a new era was ushered in. The murder of ʿUtmān in AD 656 occasioned what came to be known as the “First Civil War” in the historical memory of Muslims. It polarized and fractured the community irrevocably. Had empire-wide standardization been attempted at any moment after this point, it would have been a hopeless undertaking.

Arabica 57 (2010) pp 413-414



Categories: Quran

38 replies

  1. Check out sadeghi’s other paper on the sana’a manuscripts. The only non-uthmanic codex ever found. Very neat.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I don’t think the authors’ assumption that the order of surahs was not determined before the Prophet passed away is correct.

    Although the codexes do not have the exact order of the surahs, their is mostly concordance of the surah order. This strongly suggests that they were all instructed to keep a particular order.

    We must keep in mind that the surahs were being revealed piecemeal over the 23 years. Moreover, even passages and verses within previous surahs were being revealed and added onto the previous surahs as indicated by the Prophet.

    Now, since the companions did not have Microsoft Word or any Excel spreadsheet nor any other tools to help keep track of and to easily update the new additions of surahs or parts of surahs, it would be difficult for them to all in the oral codexes to have full conformity because of the aforementioned almost impossible way to alter hard copies of papyri or animal skins, etc versus word processing software.

    However, the memories of people can make the updates necessary and there are many attested chains of narrations of the Quranic reading for Hafs down to the Prophet which have the uniform reading of the surahs in the same order as we have it today.

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  3. This is a good paper. I have it. Clearly, there is no such thing as one, unchanged and perfect koran. Glad to see you posting these findings.

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    • Taha,

      Paulus has a point don’t you think? Perhaps you could expand on why you think he is wrong.

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    • Well, remember that the uthmanic qur’an is still *the Qur’an*.

      It textual criticism what you do is compare manuscripts to figure out the original reading.

      The Quran was revealed in several different dialects for ease of recitation. Some differences in dialects include different synonyms. Usually its pronounciation but also sometimes whole words are differing. These are *divinely inspired* the Prophet himself (a.s.) told us that it was okay to read certain verses in several ways.

      When Uthman was compiling the Quran he did so because the newer converts from the further lands did not understand that all the dialects are valid.

      Because, however, the arabic text did not have dots at the time, what effectively happened is that some of the dialectal differences were able to still fit the uthmanic text while being different from the other readings. I have given an example of this here:

      http://ponderingislam.com/2014/11/30/are-the-variant-readings-of-the-quran-caused-by-the-lack-of-dots-in-the-uthmanic-codex/

      These existent variant readings that still survive are considered to be of divine origin because of the reasons I list in the article i link to.

      Now enter the sana’a manuscripts. I light of the information I present, the automatic conclusion is that the manuscript is a remnant of a differing dialect, probably also with scribal errors. Let me make this clear: we do not have to reconstruct the original because *we still have it*. As long as only *one* reading reaches us through mutawatir transmission, it is still the whole divinely inspired word of God unchanged.

      Now, is the sana’a manuscript also an acceptable reading of the Prophet in another reading? We have no way to find out. We dont know how much of it is scribal error. It does not really matter though as I have stressed.

      What the manuscript is great for is dispelling any idea that Uthman inserted any theological or law ir even any literary embellishment to the Quran. Why? Because the sana and the uthmanic tradition are extremely similar, their differences are inconsequential changes in synonyms or some word omissions to my knowledge.

      I can expand on this but I am on my phone.

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    • If we allow the qirat into the discussion all that reveals is that there multiple divine korans. We still do not have ‘one’ divine and unchanged koran.

      I think you dismantle the picture anyway when you admit that the earliest muslims disputed over which koran was correct.

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    • Uhh… so? the “one” part does not matter. As long as there is atleast one, wholly divinely inspired reading, we have the unchanged qur’an.

      >I think you dismantle the picture anyway when you admit that the earliest muslims disputed over which koran was correct.

      I think this is a somewhat misleading simplification. Who argued over which qur’an was correct? It was the new converts who had little knowledge of Islam to begin with. Who compiled the Qur’an to one skeletal copy? It was the Prophet’s closest followers. So the argument was simply a misunderstanding on behalf of the new converts, not a product of some sort of uncertainty in the quranic text.

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    • By that rational you would need to concede the same for the New Testament- which I hope you do.

      It sounds strangely trinitarian that (some) muslims accept multiple korans with different readings, recitations and rasm as but one unchanged book. Unity in diversity, hey?

      Nonetheless, I think it will a welcome change for discourse the more broadly these findings are distributed.

      Why do you think Uthman needed to standardize the koran? Why not just teach new converts about the qiraat? Do you allow for the possibility that the qiraat is a later invention given its basis is in the hadith literature which dates several centuries after the koranic battles and standardization?

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    • “It sounds strangely trinitarian that (some) muslims accept multiple korans with different readings, recitations and rasm as but one unchanged book. Unity in diversity, hey?”

      Your polemics are just ridiculous

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    • Saying they are ridiculous is not an argument

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    • So you agree they are polemics?

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    • It is my observation. Many muslims say that the trinity is illogical or the incarnation irrational while simultaneously holding to an eternal koran made flesh and one unchanged koran from multiple, different and competing manuscript traditions.

      I think if muslims allowed it, some of our core beliefs, positions and rational are somewhat similar. Problem is, this would seemingly demolish islamic dawah and any intellectual basis to convert christians to Islam.

      Peace

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    • “Many muslims say that the trinity is illogical or the incarnation irrational while simultaneously holding to an eternal koran made flesh and one unchanged koran from multiple, different and competing manuscript traditions.”

      Paulus, that’s your opinion and a straw man at best in my opinion. Do you really want to compare a factual doctrine i.e. trinity to a construed opinion? Ridiculous.

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    • Please read taha’s comments on this thread. He is one muslim who fits the latter description (that there is one koran revealed in multiple readings). That is hardly a straw man.

      Peace

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    • >It sounds strangely trinitarian that (some) muslims accept multiple korans with different readings, recitations and rasm as but one unchanged book. Unity in diversity, hey?

      LOL.

      >Nonetheless, I think it will a welcome change for discourse the more broadly these findings are distributed.

      Of-course. This manuscript is a great find for Muslims. It smashes a lot of fanciful theories that some entertain about the Qur’an during its initial years. At this point I consider the origins of the quran debate to be settled. Thank God for this find.

      >Why do you think Uthman needed to standardize the koran? Why not just teach new converts about the qiraat?

      Well IIRC it was also because they were claiming that one dialect was superior to the other which is not true.

      >Do you allow for the possibility that the qiraat is a later invention given its basis is in the hadith literature which dates several centuries after the koranic battles and standardization?

      I dont think so.

      http://ponderingislam.com/2015/01/01/the-hadith-critical-methodology-a-brief-look-at-how-hadith-are-authenticated-in-the-islamic-tradition/

      Liked by 1 person

    • Just so you know, I have read Azami and co who seem to be the only basis of your argumentation and blog posts.

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    • @ Paulus “Please read taha’s comments on this thread. He is one muslim who fits the latter description (that there is one koran revealed in multiple readings). That is hardly a straw man.”

      Taha laughs at your polemics too. “>It sounds strangely trinitarian that (some) muslims accept multiple korans with different readings, recitations and rasm as but one unchanged book. Unity in diversity, hey?

      LOL.”

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  4. First of all, Paul’s posting this articles demonstrates that he is not cherry picking on critical examination of the Bible but not the Qur’an. It is just the case that there is a vast difference between the book of the Qur’an and the library of the Bible in terms of authenticity.

    The problem with the New Testament is not some small spelling mistake. God tells us in Surah Al Baqara on the example of the sacrifice of the cow, that we need not be hung up on miniscule issues that distract us from the principles.

    The problem with the New Testament is that there is problem with the principles. For example there is a verse that is in King James version about the three that testify in heaven. But that verse has shown to be an interpretation by even religious Christian scholars. Thus, this tampering of the most important issue of monotheism is something where a red line has been crossed to a vast difference.

    Muslims do not worship the Qur’an so the analogy of trinity with the Qur’an is incoherent.

    We also have to use common sense.

    Ibn Masud was a prominant companion but he was one person. And someone who did not even have grammar school. It is not surprising that there are some minor differences in his codex. In fact, it would be a miracle if his codex was exactly the same….especially that he did not have Microsoft Word software or for that matter, he did not even have extra paper or pencils!

    We also have to keep in mind that the Uthmanic version according to the hadith had a process whereby each passage had to have two witnesses before any version of a verse would be accepted. It is unlikely that two people would exactly remember the same verse. I actually read that the two witnesses had to actually have the verse written down…thus two written evidences on top of the oral memorization….but regardless, at a minimum we are talking of two witnesses.

    Thus it is not appropriate to compare the Ibn Masud version with the Uthmanic version. Ibn Masud’s version was his personal collection and was expected to have variants.

    The Uthmanic version was commissioned by the Caliph and had a committee. And it was accepted by all. Surely Ali would have known the Qur’an better than anyone and he had serious disagreements with Uthman since Uthman had placed many former enemies of the Prophet into governor positions.

    If Ali had any disagreements with Uthman’s version of the Qur’an, he would have repeatedly, emphatically, and clearly remediated that in his tenure as Caliph but he did not.

    The more one studies the Qur’an, the more one is amazed at its history…it is indeed the final word of God.

    Unlike other books, we did not have other Qurans like we had other Gospels, many other gospels that were not accepted. Also we do not have this issue of a certain theology developing more and more like the issue of the Christology in the Gospels of the changes seen between the Synoptic Gospels and then a vast change into the Gospel of John which came later.

    Just on the side, the more one studies the hadith, one can appreciate the efforts of Muslims but still the holes generally become bigger and bigger.

    So the academic study of the Qur’an is far different than the Bible or the Hadith.

    The primary power of the Qur’an is not its amazing preservation. It is its conformity with logic and morality and facts whether of science, history, prophecy, etc.

    The Qur’an is the word of the Creator of all existence and sent to us to guide us. We are free to reject or to accept it.

    Consequences in the hereafter will follow for each of us. God did not give us a mind and a conscience for no purpose.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I just want to add that this was a society which had a practical and cultural emphasis on direct oral transmission.

      In Dr Jonathan Brown’s book on Hadith, he mentions the Hadth sahifas were only memory aids and were designed to jog the memory of a Hadith when read.These sahifas could not be picked up and read on their own…they had to hear it read by the transmitter.

      Just to show the culture we are talking about some transmitters of Hadith would burn their collections to prevent them being read and misunderstood after their deaths.

      So really, people talk about manuscripts of the Quran…yet it would be naïve to solely focus on manuscripts when there’s a clear culture of oral transmission.

      Liked by 2 people

    • “The Qur’ān is open to the same types of copyists’ errors and problems of transmission that occur in other works handed down by humans, including sacred texts. The state of the text itself demands emendation, and, in the absence of early manuscripts, conjectural emendation must play an important role in this process,. The common argument that an uninterrupted and completely reliable oral transmission has miraculously preserved the text of the Qur’ān from such errors falls flat. The tradition of Qur’ānic recitation can be shown to ignore or run roughshod over many discernible or retrievable features in the text, particularly with regard to rhyme, that must represent the oldest stage of its performance. In addition, while many of the variants recognized as legitimate within Islamic tradition may plausibly have arisen trough oral transmission, many others cannot, being based on graphic and not phonic, resemblance. One may also point out Qur’ānic passages where the received text does not make sufficient sense and an apt emendation can provide a superior reading.” (Devin J. Stewart, “Notes on Medieval and Modern Emendations to the Qur’ān,” in G. S. Reynolds (ed.), The Qur’ān in Its Historical Context [Routledge, 2008] 229)

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    • “The problem with the New Testament is that there is problem with the principles. For example there is a verse that is in King James version about the three that testify in heaven. But that verse has shown to be an interpretation by even religious Christian scholars. Thus, this tampering of the most important issue of monotheism is something where a red line has been crossed to a vast difference
      The Doctrine of the Trinity was known centuries before someone inserted the Comma Johanneum. So its inauthenticity is meaningless.

      “Muslims do not worship the Qur’an so the analogy of trinity with the Qur’an is incoherent.”
      That is just a red herring. The point remains that Muslims often claim that there is only one Qur’an, while both the Islamic tradition and the manuscript evidence testify to the fact that there were multiple versions.

      “Ibn Masud was a prominant companion but he was one person. And someone who did not even have grammar school. It is not surprising that there are some minor differences in his codex. In fact, it would be a miracle if his codex was exactly the same….especially that he did not have Microsoft Word software or for that matter, he did not even have extra paper or pencils!”
      Muhammad actually said that Ibn Masud was the first person one should learn the Qur’an from (Sahih al-Bukhari 3758; 3808; 4999). If his Qur’an differed from the standard text of Uthman, that might be a problem. By the way, Ubai bin Ka’b’s Qur’an also differed from Uthman’s.

      “We also have to keep in mind that the Uthmanic version according to the hadith had a process whereby each passage had to have two witnesses before any version of a verse would be accepted. It is unlikely that two people would exactly remember the same verse. I actually read that the two witnesses had to actually have the verse written down…thus two written evidences on top of the oral memorization….but regardless, at a minimum we are talking of two witnesses.”
      So it is claimed, although I would like to mention that an exception was made for the last verse of Surah 9 (Sahih al-Bukhari 4986).

      “The Uthmanic version was commissioned by the Caliph and had a committee. And it was accepted by all. Surely Ali would have known the Qur’an better than anyone and he had serious disagreements with Uthman since Uthman had placed many former enemies of the Prophet into governor positions.”
      No, according to Muhammad it seems to be that Ibn Masud was the one who knew the Qur’an better than anyone. Ibn Masud is recored to have said, “There is no Surah revealed in Allah’s Book but I know at what place it was revealed; and there is no Verse 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 gan reach, I would go to him.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 5002)

      “Unlike other books, we did not have other Qurans like we had other Gospels, many other gospels that were not accepted.”
      See the following quote by Aziz al-Azmeh, Professor in the Departmant of History and Director of the Centre for Religious Studies at Central European University, Budapest: “The codex of Ubayy b. Ka’b contained two prayers, al-hafd and al-khal, which do not exist in other redactions.” (The Emergence of Islam in Late Antiquity: Allāh and His People [Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014] 467).

      “Also we do not have this issue of a certain theology developing more and more like the issue of the Christology in the Gospels of the changes seen between the Synoptic Gospels and then a vast change into the Gospel of John which came later.”
      Actually, when one compares the earlier Surah’s with the later one’s, a gradual change can be seen in how God is first addressed as Rahman, a deity apparently unknown to the Meccans (Qur’an 25:6). Rahman is later harmonised with Allah (Qur’an 17:110).

      “The primary power of the Qur’an is not its amazing preservation. It is its conformity with logic and morality and facts whether of science, history, prophecy, etc.”
      Science? What about the claim of the Qur’an that stars addorn the lowest heaven (Qur’an 41:12) while the moon is among the seven heavens (Qur’an 71:15-16), which would mean that according to the Qur’an at least some stars are closer to the earth than the moon. History? What about the denial of the Crucifixion of Jesus, the legend of the Seven Sleepers or the account of Dhu’l Qarnayn (clearly based on legends surrounding Alexander the Great)? Sure, you could claim that Allah made it look like Jesus was crucified, but no serious New Testament historian that I know of would see the Qur’an as a valid historical source for the Historical Jesus. You could of course claim that the Qur’an is the Word of God (and therefore inerrant), but what evidence do you have for this?

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    • I do not have time to deal with all points raised but just quickly…

      The fact that much of the Christian World was reading the Comma Johanneum in their Bibles to support the Trinity is telling.

      There are other instances of deliberate tampering for reasons of doctine. Please see Ehrman’s works and works by other Biblical scholars on this.

      Ibn Masud was a Muslim a decade before Zayd ibn Thabit, the Prophet’s scribe in Madina. So if the Prophet recommended Ibn Masud as a source for the Qur’an at one time (and that is a huge “if”…the tradition could have been fabricated just to support the codex, but even if the Prophet recommended Ibn Masud at one time, that is not surprising.

      The whole issue is a moot point because as shown in the comments by Paul at https://bloggingtheology.net/2015/02/01/some-surprising-findings-of/, the differences between Ibn Masud and the Standard collection is miniscule and affects no change in semantic meaning, far from change in teachings.

      Indeed Ibn Masud is a good source for the Qur’an for his personal codex is virtually identical with the Standard collection in terms of semantic meaning and teachings.

      The cosmos we see is based on three dimensions…in our heaven, we do have stars to guide us, as beauty, and as source for supernova debri to make earth, etc. But we have dark matter and dark energy and the leading contender for cosmology known as string theory says that there are many other dimensions (many other heavens). So yes, the lamps are in the particular heaven that we can can intuitive correspondence with and thank God for that.

      Maurice Bucaille and others explain 41:12 in other ways. Re: 71:15-16, indeed the moon is in our cosmos….no one will deny that.

      Dhul Qarnain for Alexander the Great is speculation and even if it is not, there is no problem with that.

      But again it is speculation…

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    • “The fact that much of the Christian World was reading the Comma Johanneum in their Bibles to support the Trinity is telling.

      There are other instances of deliberate tampering for reasons of doctine. Please see Ehrman’s works and works by other Biblical scholars on this.”
      I have read Ehrman’s work, as well as several other New Testament scholars. But even Bart Ehrman’s own reconstruction of the New Testament would differ less from the Nestle-Aland UBS platform than the Textus Receptus does.

      “The whole issue is a moot point because as shown in the comments by Paul at https://bloggingtheology.net/2015/02/01/some-surprising-findings-of/, the differences between Ibn Masud and the Standard collection is miniscule and affects no change in semantic meaning, far from change in teachings.”
      The overwelming majority of differences between New Testament manuscripts are also miniscule and do not affect the meaning of the text. And some of the variants in the Sanaa manuscript do actually change the meaning. For instance, in Qur’an 2:196 the standard text has “fasting, or alms, or an offering” where the Sanaa palimpsest has “fasting or an offering”.
      In the manuscript, 01-29.1 from Sanaa, an extra ya’ was added in the world al-kibari, transforming the meaning from “old age” to “very old age”. This seems to be done intentionally, perhaps to draw more attention to the fact that Abraham was extremely old when Isaac was born (making Isaac’s birth all the more miraculous).

      “The cosmos we see is based on three dimensions…in our heaven, we do have stars to guide us, as beauty, and as source for supernova debri to make earth, etc. But we have dark matter and dark energy and the leading contender for cosmology known as string theory says that there are many other dimensions (many other heavens). So yes, the lamps are in the particular heaven that we can can intuitive correspondence with and thank God for that.

      Maurice Bucaille and others explain 41:12 in other ways. Re: 71:15-16, indeed the moon is in our cosmos….no one will deny that.”
      With all due respect, I don’t think you understand my point. The Qur’an seems to indicate that stars are closer to the earth than the moon, since it says that the stars addorn the lowest heaven while the moon is among the seven heavens. To read “heavens” as dimensions seems to be unnecessary, since the text as it stands makes perfect sense from the viewpoint of seventh century astronomy (but not modern astronomy of course).
      By the way, I don’t think Maurice Bucaille should be regarded as a reliable source for Qur’anic exegesis.

      “Dhul Qarnain for Alexander the Great is speculation and even if it is not, there is no problem with that.

      But again it is speculation…”
      The identification of Dhu’l Qarnayn with Alexander the Great is actually the consensus view among Western Islamologists. You think that this wouldn’t be a problem, but I am not so certain about that. The story of Dhu’l Qarnayn is not so much based on the historical Alexander the Great, but more on the various legends that were made up centuries after his death (such as one can read in the Alexander Romance). Legends that no credible historian on the planet regards as historical.

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    • Mark,

      I believe my points about deliberate changes to create certain or support theological doctrines that sets apart Trinitarian/high Christology Christianity from the Jewish Christianity of James, the successor to Jesus (pbuh) in the formation of the Bibles and subsequent distribution across the Christian world stands.

      But I do agree that the vast majority of variants among manuscripts are miniscule as well.

      I believe that my points about the Quranic variants of personal collection(s) from the official standard of not affecting the message of the Qur’an stands. Again, even if they hypothetically did, the issue to me is moot. We would expect variants from personal collections people who did not even go to grammar school and who did not have paper, much less an erasor to make corrections of their infrequent errors.

      But it would be very unlikely for the exact same error to be made by two or more people. Hence the Caliph’s standard which had corroborations from 2 or more sources (perhaps this was only corroborations of written sources with additional oral consensus…as Yahya Snow said, the Qur’an is first and foremost in format and history an oral revelation…and one that has been memorized verbatim by countless individuals in every generation from the Prophet’s time to now).

      Indeed one of the many miracles of the Qur’an is that it can be uniquely memorized unlike other scriptures and unlike other of the millions of books.

      The Qur’an does not say that the moon is closer than the stars. That is conflating premodern, indeed medieval notions on the text. Yes, the text had to first and foremost make sense to the contemporary 7th century reader. But even then, it does not say that the stars are closer than the moon. The Qur’an actually explicitly says that the contemporary reader cannot fully understand the Qur’an. Just one example among others, the oath in (56, 75-76).

      Then I swear by the location/collapse of the stars,

      And indeed, it is a mighty oath – if you could know.

      These verses simultaneously indicate that the location of the stars is much farther than the readers thought (which with all due respect goes against the claim you are trying to suggest above of the stars being near to us) and the particular word that is selected among many synonyms is that it amazingly also can refer to the collapse of stars (black holes)…for this specific word for location also means fall (collapse).

      With all due respect, we know very little of what Alexander the Great did or did not do. But again, I believe this is speculation to begin with. The link I sent regarding the episode of Dhulqarnain is helpful.

      Mark, I think that the far more important, indeed the most important point is being distracted by these issues of textual variants, etc.

      The reason why the Pauline Christianity has doctrines that is false is not because of textual variants.

      It is because of simple logic and clear morality.

      It is illogical for God to have a son or a daughter or a grandson, etc. It is immoral for one to expect that the created beings to be perfect like the Creator. And it is immoral beyond measure to suggest that the Perfect God would take on the suffering that criminals deserve.

      God can forgive but when people repent and make efforts toward amends, not by God imposing infinite injustice on Himself.

      The fact that the Old Testament, indeed much of the New Testament is aligned with the Qur’an in contradistinction from the Pauline version and the fact that historical and textual criticism provides extra support is not even needed to begin with for us to ascertain the truth and to completely submit to God.

      Let us use the mind that God gave us to use. Let us use the sense of justice that God gave use to use.

      I say this in peace and goodwill. I wish you the best in this world and the eternal hereafter.

      I don’t know you. It may be hard for you to overcome the understandings you have for various circumstances as it may be hard for people of any religion and tradition to overcome thier habits of thinking and habits of doing and habits of particular emotional attachments.

      It is not for me to judge. God will judge us fairly.

      But my humble assumption is that we are equipped with the ability to overcome our traditions and our desires.

      But I call on all of us to fear God and to obey Him and to be good and moral. Let us use the mind and conscience that God expects us to use.

      I don’t have time to go back and forth repeatedly.

      Peace to all.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I understand that you don’t have the time “to go back and forth repeatedly,” but I would like to make some comments, if you don’t mind, and after that we can simply agree to disagree.

      “I believe that my points about the Quranic variants of personal collection(s) from the official standard of not affecting the message of the Qur’an stands. Again, even if they hypothetically did, the issue to me is moot. We would expect variants from personal collections people who did not even go to grammar school and who did not have paper, much less an erasor to make corrections of their infrequent errors.
      But it would be very unlikely for the exact same error to be made by two or more people. Hence the Caliph’s standard which had corroborations from 2 or more sources (perhaps this was only corroborations of written sources with additional oral consensus…as Yahya Snow said, the Qur’an is first and foremost in format and history an oral revelation…and one that has been memorized verbatim by countless individuals in every generation from the Prophet’s time to now). ”
      I don’t think the issue of the variants is moot, especially in light of the fact that there were even differences in the number of Surah’s between the various Qur’an collections. With regard to the oral transmission, see my citation of Professor Stewart.
      By the way, you don’t need an eraser to correct errors when you are writing on parchment. The writing can simply be scratched or washed off, and we do have some Qur’anic manuscripts where apparently the scribe noticed that he made an error and then corrected his mistake.

      “Indeed one of the many miracles of the Qur’an is that it can be uniquely memorized unlike other scriptures and unlike other of the millions of books.”
      I tend to see this more as a demonstration of the capability of the human mind. Especially since Muslim children are sometimes taught to memorize the Qur’an from a very early age. This can probably be done with many texts, religious or not.

      “The Qur’an does not say that the moon is closer than the stars. That is conflating premodern, indeed medieval notions on the text. Yes, the text had to first and foremost make sense to the contemporary 7th century reader. But even then, it does not say that the stars are closer than the moon. The Qur’an actually explicitly says that the contemporary reader cannot fully understand the Qur’an. Just one example among others, the oath in (56, 75-76).
      Then I swear by the location/collapse of the stars,
      And indeed, it is a mighty oath – if you could know.
      These verses simultaneously indicate that the location of the stars is much farther than the readers thought (which with all due respect goes against the claim you are trying to suggest above of the stars being near to us) and the particular word that is selected among many synonyms is that it amazingly also can refer to the collapse of stars (black holes)…for this specific word for location also means fall (collapse).”
      I think that you are reading modern scientific data in the text. At first glance, the passage in question only seems to say that stars fall, which is hardly a miraculous claim. In my own humble opinion, it is better to look at the Qur’an in the way that a seventh century reader would understand it.
      I didn’t say that stars are near to us, I said that the Qur’an seems to say that the stars are nearer to us than the moon. That doesn’t mean that the seventh century reader of the Qur’an thought that the stars were far away.

      “With all due respect, we know very little of what Alexander the Great did or did not do. But again, I believe this is speculation to begin with. The link I sent regarding the episode of Dhulqarnain is helpful.”
      With all due respect, we actually know pretty much about what Alexander the Great did and did not do. Building a wall against Gog en Magog doesn’t seem to be among the things he did. But I will have a more closer look at the article you provided in the link.

      “The reason why the Pauline Christianity has doctrines that is false is not because of textual variants.
      It is because of simple logic and clear morality.
      It is illogical for God to have a son or a daughter or a grandson, etc. It is immoral for one to expect that the created beings to be perfect like the Creator. And it is immoral beyond measure to suggest that the Perfect God would take on the suffering that criminals deserve.
      God can forgive but when people repent and make efforts toward amends, not by God imposing infinite injustice on Himself.”
      I don’t think it is immoral that God takes on the sins of His most beloved creation. I rather see it as an act of unconditional love towards us.
      And saying what is logical and illogical for God is a bit subjective. One could also claim that it would be illogical for God to choose an illiterate merchant as His final Messenger, in stead of for instance a mighty emperor who would have more means to spread the message. One could say that it would be illogical for God to not make his existence more clearly known to us (for instance, by having the stars spell out the shahada every night). One could say that it would be illogical for God to reveal a Holy Book in a language most of the people on this planet cannot read.

      “Let us use the mind that God gave us to use. Let us use the sense of justice that God gave use to use.”
      Amen.

      “I say this in peace and goodwill. I wish you the best in this world and the eternal hereafter.
      I don’t know you. It may be hard for you to overcome the understandings you have for various circumstances as it may be hard for people of any religion and tradition to overcome thier habits of thinking and habits of doing and habits of particular emotional attachments.
      It is not for me to judge. God will judge us fairly.
      But my humble assumption is that we are equipped with the ability to overcome our traditions and our desires.”
      I wish you the best too. And I try to study at the history of the Qur’an and Islam as objectively as I can. I apologize if my comments came over as rude or arrogant.

      “But I call on all of us to fear God and to obey Him and to be good and moral. Let us use the mind and conscience that God expects us to use.”
      I couldn’t have said it any better!

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    • Omer- the fact that we know about interpolations is evidence that we know what the original text was. How else do we explain an interpolation?

      Textual criticism is a very new science within Islamic studies. The Christian tradition has endured this for several centuries now. We do not know where Quranic authenticity will end up at the end of it all. The San’a find seems quite invaluable to the whole discussion, if for nothing more than to demonstrate the strength of the Uthmanic script. However, it also effectively dispels the myth generated by Islamic propaganda that there is one unchanged Koran, perfectly preserved. This is demonstrably false. We now have manuscript evidence to prove as much, even though the traditions have been there in the literature.

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    • “However, it also effectively dispels the myth generated by Islamic propaganda that there is one unchanged Koran, perfectly preserved. This is demonstrably false.”

      No it isn’t. That’s your opinion, which itself appears to be agenda-driven propaganda.

      Like

    • If you think thousands of textual variants across koranic MSS is perfect preservation, then I am not sure there is much point conversing. Sure, scholars can reconstruct the text through external criteria as they have done with the Bible, but no biblical scholar pretends that the MSS is perfectly preserved. Why have a different standard for the koran?

      And this is not just between the san’a mushaf and the uthamic tradition. Even the uthmani mss differ from the accepted modern version.

      I think Mark above cites some good examples.

      Like

    • “Why have a different standard for the koran?”

      The Muslim tradition makes a clear distinction between the written and the oral text.
      Mushaf = the codex
      Quran = the oral performance.
      The oral transmission is considered superior to the written transmission.

      ” Even the uthmani mss differ from the accepted modern version.”
      The printed Cairo edition is based NOT on manuscripts, but on oral tradition.

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    • “And some of the variants in the Sanaa manuscript do actually change the meaning. For instance, in Qur’an 2:196 the standard text has “fasting, or alms, or an offering” where the Sanaa palimpsest has “fasting or an offering”.
      In the manuscript, 01-29.1 from Sanaa, an extra ya’ was added in the world al-kibari, transforming the meaning from “old age” to “very old age”. This seems to be done intentionally, perhaps to draw more attention to the fact that Abraham was extremely old when Isaac was born (making Isaac’s birth all the more miraculous).”- mark above

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  5. M. Omer, you wrote :
    “Muslims do not worship the Qur’an so the analogy of trinity with the Qur’an is incoherent.”

    There you misrepresent the argument made by Paulus. His point was not that Muslim worship the Qur’an,
    but that they argue that the Qur’an has “unity in diversity”.

    “The primary power of the Qur’an is not its amazing preservation. It is its conformity with logic and morality and facts whether of science, history, prophecy, etc.”

    This is very misguided and confused dawah in my view. You seem to want the uncreated (Qur’an) to be judged according to the creation (logic,morality etc). Isn’t that what you call shirk ?

    “we do not have this issue of a certain theology developing more and more like the issue of the Christology in the Gospels”

    What do you mean ? The Qur’an was revealed piecemeal (“developed more and more”) over several years.
    A particularly relevant example here is the episode of Muhammad not being able to answer the Christians of Najran, then being revealed a verse related to that question. If that’s not “a certain theology developing more and more” I don’t know what is.

    Liked by 1 person

Trackbacks

  1. Some surprising findings of ‘The Codex of a Companion of the Prophet and the Qurʾān of the Prophet’ by Behnam Sadeghi | Blogging Theology
  2. Further extracts from ‘The Codex of a Companion of the Prophet and the Qurʾān of the Prophet’ | Blogging Theology

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