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

A COMPREHENSIVE WRTITTEN DEBATE BETWEEN THREE ATHEISTS, A CHRISTIAN AND THREE MUSLIMS.

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. Dave Mark Rowlands: A British atheist and a humanist.
Mr. Dave Mark Rowlands' Rebuttal.

As was mentioned in my opening statement, I will be focusing on the corruption of the Qu'ran, and more specifically, whether or not it has been divinely protected. I will begin by addressing in some detail the usual defences given for it's incorruptability.

One defence, of course, is the Qu'ranic verse I mentioned in my opening statement. That Allah itself is it's protector. In my opinion the claim can be instantly dismissed due to the lack of evidence of Allah's existence. However, I will present evidence to show a lack of divine protection.

When we look back at Islamic history, and even modern Islam, we can see that all efforts to protect the Qu'ran have been solely from humans. This is evidenced by another defence commonly used, that of the number of people who have the Qu'ran memorised. I admit, that in the modern era this defence does hold true. However, it only holds true from the Islamic expanion onwards and for the Uthman compilation only.

During Mohammed's time, the Qu'ran was not widespread as it is today. It was memorised only by those who had direct contact with Mohammed. This immediately led to different versions being told to people, showing that the Qu'ran had become corrupt almost immediately.

"Narrated 'Umar bin Al-Khattab: I heard Hisham bin Hakim reciting Surat-al-Furqan during the lifetime of Allah's Apostle, I listened to his recitation and noticed that he was reciting in a way that Allah's Apostle had not taught me. I was about to jump over him while He was still in prayer, but I waited patiently and when he finished his prayer, I put my sheet round his neck (and pulled him) and said, "Who has taught you this Sura which I have heard you reciting?" Hisham said, "Allah's Apostle taught it to me." I said, "You are telling a lie, for he taught it to me in a way different from the way you have recited it!" ..

Then I started leading (dragged) him to Allah's Apostle and said (to the Prophet), " I have heard this man reciting Surat-al-Furqan in a way that you have not taught me." The Prophet said: "(O 'Umar) release him! Recite, O Hisham." Hisham recited in the way I heard him reciting. Allah's Apostle said, "It was revealed like this." Then Allah's Apostle said, "Recite, O 'Umar!" I recited in the way he had taught me, whereupon he said, "It was revealed like this," and added, "The Quran has been revealed to be recited in seven different ways, so recite of it whichever is easy for you."

Volume 9, Book 93, Number 640
Sahih Bukhari"

The fact that Umar became so angry at Hisham, shows us that it was not just a difference in dialect. Umar obviously thought that someone was corrupting the Qu'ran. He also was obviously unaware that there was more than one "recitation". The claim of Mohammed being that it was revealed in more than one way.

So, human memory alone at that time could not have been used to guarantee it hadn't become corrupted, as there were several different versions of the same text. No investigation seems to have taken place into whether or not the claim of 7 different recitations actually existed. In my opinion this is evidence that Mohammed remembered the general wording of the verse, but not the actual words themselves. Which also leads me to the opinion that Mohammed was making things up as he went along.

If we move on to after Mohammed's death, we see that the Qu'ran itself was in danger, due to the limited number of people who had memorised the Qu'ran. The evidence of this is contained in the following hadith.

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

Sahih Bukhari 6:60:201"

The hadith shows us that if enough people were lost during battle, then so was the Qu'ran. So the memorisation defence, could not hold water during it's revelation. The actual technique for gathering and compiling the Qu'ran is reasonably sound. Until you look closer into it of course.

You see, the problem is the 7 different readings. If only Mohammed knew which reading belong to which, then how did they determine which verse belonged in which? This problem alone shows us that corruption could easily have been introduced into the Qu'ran. The standardised Qu'ran could have been a compilation of many different readings. I can find no evidence that the compilation guaranteed it was from a particular recitation. A mix of several recitations in a standardised form would not be an exact copy of what Mohammed revealed. An exact copy would be a single version of a single recitation revealed by Mohammed.

So as we can see, the compilation of the Qu'ran left ample opportunity for corruption due to this one factor. If we moved on to the actual compilation, it shows further opportunity for corruption. Looking at Islamic history shows us that Mohammed himself had the Qu'ran scribed, and copies were taken from those for others. So if Mohammed had the Qu'ran scribed, where was his copy?

Why was the compilation and standardisation done from parchments scattered across the land, and not simply from what Mohammed had written?

There is no real answer for this in Islamic history. With no Mohammed, and none of Mohammed's collection of writings available, there is no real way to guarantee the compilations authenticity except through human investigation. Which leads us on once again to the question of divine protection.

If Allah truely did exist, and was indeed protecting the Qu'ran, then surely there should never have been the fear of it's loss that this hadith shows existed. Surely it would have protected those who had it memorised, and he would have protected the collection that Mohammed had written. So here we see a complete lack of divine protection.

During it's compilation, the Qu'ran was collected from writings scattered across the land. This shows us that there either was no-one with a complete binding of the Qu'ran, or there were several different versions that had been bound. As if there were several bindings, and they all matched, there would have been no question of it's authenticity.

Those writings that were collected were then checked against the memory of witnesses. There is no real detail in Islamic history as to whether or not different writings were found, whether different readings were verified, who chose which reading was which. Further evidence that corruption of the Qu'ran could quite easily have taken place, and further evidence that it has been man guarding it all along.

Another piece of evidence that it's been mans protection, rather than a divine protection, is that of the Sana'a Qu'ran. A Qu'ran that shows that wording and verse ordering changed at some point in history. Most likely during the Uthman compilation. While Uthman ordered all variant Qu'ran's to be burned, it would appear that the Sana'a Qu'ran escaped this fate. Could evidence of corruption be the reason that Uthman ordered the others to be banned? In my opinion, it's highly likely.

Of course, none of this is concrete evidence of the Qu'ran's corruption. Indeed, it's merely conjecture about it's possibility. There are claims made concerning different length Sura's, and a verse being eaten by a goat, and various other arguments about corruption. However, I will not dwell on those as they have been covered already. Not just by my colleagues in this debate, but by many many others through history. I invite you to do the research and make your own opinion about their veracity. In this document I wanted to cover things that are oft overlooked.

Which leads me on to my next point, that of its teachings. If we look around the world today, we see many sects of Islam. Each one, while using the same Qu'ran, sees it in its own particular flavour. We also see it harbouring terrorism in numbers disproportionate to other religions around the world. When asked, Muslims usually respond that the terrorists aren't following the true Islam. That they have corrupted the teachings.

The problem with this response? Well it shows that the Qu'ran is corruptable, and indeed has been corrupted. It shows that Muslims themselves admit that the Qu'ran has become corrupted, they just don't admit it to themselves. Instead making excuses to hold on to the belief that the Qu'ran has not become corrupt.

One excuse being that it's only the words that are being protected. Personally, I do not think that this excuse holds any weight though. After all, is the claim not that the Qu'ran is the most important book of all time? That its the last revelation of the creator of the universe, a book of complete guidance for all of mankind?

Would the moral, legal, and spiritual guidance not be the single most important part of the book then? When we really think about it, do variations on wording really matter?

When we look at Islamic history, it would appear not. After all, the claim is that Allah revealed it in 7 different ways. Not dialects, but actual versions. So obviously wording was not as important a factor as message. So why does this not hold true today then?

Why the sudden focus on wording over message? Well it's simple. The wording can be protected by people, and it can be common amongst the different variations on it's message. A Salafi can protect it in exactly the same way as a Sufi. One way can be protected by humans, the other way can only be protected by the writer of the teachings. In this case the writer being the Allah, the all-powerful creator of the universe according to Islam and Muslims. An all-powerful being claiming to be protecting the book.

It would appear to me, and hopefully to you reading this, that not only has the Qu'ran become corrupted, but that Allah is either not protecting the Qu'ran like it claims or Allah simply does not exist.
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