"The Origin of Quran. Its transmission, compilation, corruption/preservation and current status". 


The debate will be hosted jointly by Exploring Faiths Organization (THIS BLOG) and the group "Religion, philosophy, let us talk about it" (http://www.facebook.com/groups/181024738596591/) and Islamic Perimeter (www.islamicperimeter.com). The debate will be published onhttp://www.exploringfo.blogspot.com and in the group mentioned above and also on the website http;//www.islamicperimeter.com
Mr. Saaib Ahmed: is a 20 year old medical student. An experienced debater, debating in diverse fields, he has debated many Christian apologists and critiques of Islam. Saaib Ahmed is the founder of Exploring Faiths Organization. Writer of several articles on Islam and Comparative religion and known to his audience for his criticism of Christianity, "Textual Criticism of Quran" is his favorite topic.

Bismillah ir Rahmaan ir Raheem . In the name of Allah, the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.

All praises are due to Allah, the Nourisher and Sustainer of the Worlds. May Allah’s peace and blessing be upon all of his Prophets, the final Prophet, Muhammad, and upon all those who follow their path of righteousness until the Day of Judgment.

History has not always dealt kindly with Scriptures. Jesus' original Gospel was lost in its infancy and replaced by the biographical works of anonymous writers lacking any first-hand knowledge of their subject; OT suffered heavily under chronic idolatry and neglect. There can be no sharper contrast than the Qur'an, blessed with rapid diffusion throughout the Arabian Peninsula during the Prophet's lifetime, carried forth by Companions who had learned its verses, and received their teaching commissions, directly from the Prophet. The vast number of reciters stands testament to his success. Scholarship has given us enough material to discuss how Qur’an came to us. We have enough arguments to reach a conclusion on when was it written or who wrote it. We can safely decide on what were the sources of Quran. And finally we can go through a mammoth of literature on “What Quran is”.

Islamic tradition holds that Qur’an was revealed to Muhammad (saw). It was written and compiled under the supervision of The Prophet himself. We have enough witnesses which point towards writing of Quran under the supervision of the prophet. Ample evidence is found that the sequencing of suras and arrangement of verses was done under his supervision. Zaid Bin Thabit informs us about this fact in clear cut terms, “We would compile the Quran in the presence of Prophet” [1] Countless narrations point towards written documents present in Muhammad’s (saw) time, supervised by him only. [2] Al-Kattani, in fact, cites an incident when Rafi’b b. Malik al-Ansari attended al-Aqaba, THE PROPHET HIMSELF HANDED HIM ALL THE VERSES THAT HAD BEEN REVEALED DURING THE PREVIOUS DECADE. [3] Regarding the Madani period of The Prophet’s life we have a wealth of information about the scribes. [4] Based on the total number of scribes, and the Prophet's custom of summoning them to record all new verses [5], and the custom of proofreading the text [6] we can conclude that in his own lifetime the entire Qur'an was available in written form. This becomes a fact when we come to know that Uthman sent a person to Aisha to retrieve the parchments upon which Prophet had dictated the QURAN IN ITS ENTIRETY. [17] By understanding the need to document every verse, the Muslim community was setting up both an aid to memorization and a barrier to shield the text from corruptive influences. Even the grind of Makkan oppression could not dampen this resolve, and when the Muslims at last enjoyed the prosperity of Madinah the entire nation, literate and illiterate alike, took this task to heart. At the centre of this nation resided its energizing focal point, the final Messenger, dictating, explaining, and arranging every verse through the divine inspiration which was his privilege alone, till all the pieces were in place and the Book was complete.

Though the Prophet enlisted all possible measures to preserve the Quran, he did not bind it in one master volume. When he passed away the situation lent itself perfectly for the compilation of what was inscribed in the hearts of thousands into a single, unified volume from the roaming bits of stones and bones. Thus started the compilation under the supervision of Abu Bakr and Umar who appointed Zaid, and rightly so, as the team leader. The law of witnesses [7] played an essential role in the Quran’s compilation. Thus with manuscript support and two witnesses, the person who had learnt the entire revelation by heart sat at the entrance of the prophet’s mosque [8] to compile the Book of Allah, verse by verse, under the supervision of people who themselves had the revelation inscribed on their hearts in its entirety. Zaid limited himself to the verses transcribed under the prophet’s supervision. Thus Zaid ensured that all the material he was examining was of equal status [9] thereby guaranteeing the highest possible accuracy. Fourteen hundred years ago Zaid did precisely what the Orientalists have established for Textual Criticism in 20th century. Zaid moved ahead of 20th century Orientalist way by verifying the primary written source not only against each other but also against the memories of Companions who had learned directly from the Prophet. This was all accompanied with what is called Tawatur, the level to which modern Textual Criticism is yet to reach. Tawatur refers to gathering of information from multiple channels and comparing them, so that if the overwhelming majority agrees on one reading then the reading is accepted as true, because it is impossible (unlikely rather) for a vast majority to be wrong and be similar to one another. Once complete, the compiled Quran was placed in the state archives under the custodianship of Abu Bakr [10].
Appointing Umar as the next Caliph on his deathbed, Abu Bakr entrusted his successor with the “suhuf” [11]. Umar’s reign was marked by the rapid spread of Quran. He dispatched many companions to Basra, Kufa, Syria, Damascus and Palestine for the purpose of teaching the Quran. [12] Decisive victories beyond Arabia's desert boundaries pushed the frontiers of Islamic education to Palestine and Syria; Umar's reign witnessed the blossoming of schools for the memorization of the Qur'an in both the parched sands of Arabia and the rich soils of the fertile crescent. Umar refused to nominate a caliph, leaving the decision to the people and in the meantime entrusting the suhuf to Hafsa, the Prophet’s (saw) widow.

Soon after Uthman had joined the office, people started disagreeing on wordings of Quran. Such disagreements were not new, for Umar (the earlier caliph) had earlier anticipated this danger and Uthman was, thus, prepared to face it. Having sent Ibn Masud to Iraq for teaching Quran, Umar rebuked him when he discovered that Ibn Masud was teaching Quran in the dialect of Hudhail. [13] Quran being taught in different dialects would create problems, and that is what exactly happened. 25 AH was the date when Uthman resolved to end the disputes. Assembling the people and explaining the problems to them, it was decided to bring the people to a single dialect “so that there is neither division nor discord”. [14] “An excellent proposal” echoed the masses. [14] Uthman appointed a Committee of 12 to oversee the task. [16] Thus an independent copy gradually emerged, which was cross checked with the suhuf of Aisha (discussed earlier). [17] Uthman prepared an independent copy relying entirely on primary sources, which included Companions’ parchments along with the suhuf which was in Aisha’s possession. Later this independent copy was again rechecked against the official suhuf lying with Hafsa. Here comes a story which is unique in the history of mankind. Narrates Zaid, “in comparing the two, I found NO DISCREPANCIES.” This is recorded in Ibn Shabba’s tarikh al-Madina, pp 1001-2. This can also be verified from Mushkil al-Athar, Hadith 2645. THE PROBABLITY OF SUCH A THING HAPPENING IS ZERO (1 divided by factorial of the number of alphabets in the Quran).

From this two broad conclusions emerge: first, the Quranic text was thoroughly stable from the earliest days and second that the methods involved were meticulous and accurate.

The definitive copy, once verified against the suhuf was “read to the Companions in Uthman’s presence.” [18] 8 copies were made, seven of which were dispatched to different provinces. With the ink of the final drop dry, one mammoth task was waiting, the existing copies lying with the masses had to be cross checked with the 7 copies and then corrected. This was practically impossible and Uthman came up with a master plan, “burn all other manuscripts”, right or wrong.

Islamic scholarship was very much developed as compared to today’s field of Textual criticism. Uthman didn’t just dispatch copies; he made reciters accompany the Mushaf’s. Thus, not only was the text preserved, with it was preserved its pronunciation. [19] Each copy of Uthman’s Mushaf was largely consonantal, omitting vowels and containing no dots.

The existence of total unity in the Quranic texts throughout the world for fourteen centuries, between all countries and all divergent Muslim sects, is proof enough of 'Uthman's unparalleled success in gathering all Muslims upon a single text. The efficacy of 'Uthman's endeavors are clear in at least two ways. First, no Muslim province remained but that it absorbed this Mushaf into its bloodstream; and second, that a span of fourteen centuries has not been able to corrupt or dent the skeletal text of his Mushaf, truly a manifestation of the Holy Qur'an's miraculous nature; any other explanation fails. Later caliphs, perhaps seeking a foothold in the chronicles of posterity, commissioned and dispatched further official copies, but nothing was ever sent forth which contradicted 'Uthman's universal standard.
Over time surface alterations began to materialize in the Mushafs circulating within the community, which bore no effect on the pronunciation of words or the meaning of verses. Uthman himself may have been familiar with aspects of this phenomenon; his decision to minimize written vowels, keep away from verse separators, and avoid the use of dots was most likely meant as a deterrent to those who would memorize the Qur'an by themselves without proper guidance. But with the passing of time (and no long stretch at that) the inclusion of dots and verse separators become the norm, and this is the kind of script we find in currently published Qurans.

Thus the current Quran which we have is exactly the same as the Quran which Uthman left. The Quran which was exactly the same as what Abu Bakr left. The Quran which was exactly the same as what Aisha had left. The Quran which Muhammad (saw) left.

What has been written under Muhammad (saw) is collected and written down into a book under the guidance of Abu Bakr. Uthman makes an independent compilation which is exactly same as earlier compilation proving the text had no changes whatsoever. Further, the same committee made 8 copies of the Quran. There are at least two copies which are supposed to be one of these. Would you believe it that more than 90% of the Quranic text can be confirmed within 100 years of Hijrah.

And certainly, Muir, who is otherwise hostile to Islam, is right when he writes: “The recension of Uthman has been handed down to us unaltered. So carefully, indeed, has it been preserved, that there are no variations of importance, - we might almost say no variations at all, - amongst the innumerable copies of the Koran scattered throughout the vast bounds of the empire of Islam. Contending and embittered factions, taking their rise in the murder of Uthman himself within a quarter of a century from the death of Muhammad, have ever since rent the Muslim world. Yet but ONE KORAN has always been current amongst them ...”

This is the same conclusion which Reverend Bosworth Smith had drawn:

“… we have a book absolutely unique in its origin, in its preservation, and in the chaos of its contents, but on the substantial authenticity of which no one has ever been able to cast a serious doubt.”

They are supported by Adrian Brockett who in his "The Value of Hafs and Warsh Transmissions For The Textual History of The Qur'ân" has the following to say:

''.....The transmission of the Qur'ân after the death of Muhammad was essentially static, rather than organic. There was a single text, and nothing significant, not even allegedly abrogated material, could be taken out nor could anything be put in. This is applied even to the early Caliphs....."

Having reached a conclusion, I think I should comment on what my opponents might have said. I must respond to them in advance. So what can be the arguments that will be made against Quran. Here is a list and a short refutation.
If the non-muslim side uses Patricia Crone or Robert Spencer or Alphonse Mingana or Christopher Luxemberg’s theory of gradual development of Quran after the death of Muhammad (saw) they will have to explain the origins of faith in Quran. They will have to tell us how much Muslim were the earliest Muslims without a Quran. They will have to explain to us how Quran becomes the best available Arabic literature if it is the work of several hands living decades apart. If Quran has syro-armaic origins, then the non-muslims have to explain the above mentioned points and also the assumptions on which they rest the claim.

If the non-muslim uses German scholar Puin’s remarks on Sana Manuscripts then they will have to show us how Puin reached those conclusions and how exactly do the Yemeni Manuscripts prove development of the Quranic text.
If the non-Muslim side argues on variants they will have to show us the existence of variants in the Mushaf’s existing today. If the variants are pre-Uthmanic then they will have to accept the Islamic traditions because they are the source of studying the variants. If they talk about variants described by Arthur Jeffery then they will have to tell us the source from where he got them. If they talk about variants existing in manuscripts then they will have to cite a scholarly journal describing them.



[1]  at-Tirmidhi, Sunan, Manaqib: 141, no. 3954; Ibn Hanbal, Musnad, v: 185; al-Hakim, al-Mustadrak, ii: 229
[2] Al – Baqillani, al-Intisar, p. 176; Ibn Hisham, Sira, vol. 1-2, pp. 343-46; Quran 52: 1-7, 80:11-16
[3] Al-Kattani, at-Taratib al-Idariya, i:44,
[4] See M.M. al-Azami’s Kuttab an-Nabi (the scribes of the prophet)
[5] Ibn Abi Dawud, al-Masahif, p. 3; al-Bukhari, Sahih, fadail al-Quran:4
[6] As-Suli, Adab al-kuttab, p. 165; al-Haithami, Majma’az-Zawaid, i:152
[7] Quran 2:282
[8] Ibn Abi-Davud, al-Masahif, p. 6, see also Ibn Hajar, Fathul Bari, ix:14
[9] in establishing any text, it is academically unacceptable to compare between different grades of manuscripts. See Bergstrasser, usul Naqd an-Nashr al-Kutub and R. Blachere et J. Sauvaget, Regles pour editions et traductions de texts arabes for more details about rules for grading manuscripts.
[10] al-Bukhari, Sahih, Fadail al-Quran:3; Abu Ubaid, Fadail, p. 281; at-Tirmidhi, Sunan, hadithh no. 3102
[11] Abu Ubaid, Fadail, p. 281
[12] ad-darimi, Sunan, I;135; Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, vi:3
[13] Ibn Hajar, Fathul Bari, ix:9, quoting Abu Dawud.
[14] Ibn Abi dawud, al-Masahif, p. 22. Ibn Hajar, fathul Bari, x:402
[15] Ibn Hajar, Fathul Bari, ix: 11, hadith no. 4987; Ibn Abi Dawud, al-Masahif, pp. 19-20; Abu Ubaid, Fadail, p. 282
[16] Ibn Sa’d, Tabaqat, iii/2:62
[17] Ibn Sahaba, Tarikh al-Madina, pp. 990-991; as-Suyuti, al-itqan, ii:272; Ibn Ushtah, al-Masahif
[18] ibn Kathir, Fadail, vii:450
[19] Abdul-Fattah al Qadi, “al-Qira’at fi Zazar al-Mustashriqin wa al-Mulhidin”’ majallatt al_Azhar, vol. 43/2, 1391 (1971), p. 175








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