CHAPTER V: 'UTHMAN'S TEXTS HAD DISCREPANCIES
a/ The Reason For Making 'One' Text
Islam's 'history' claims that in 30 AH, some 18 years after Muhammad's death, during Caliph 'Uthman's reign, there was much contention amongst certain followers of Islam concerning the recitation of the Qur'an1. It is recorded that he commanded copies to be made of one consonantal symbol text, and sent these to the centres of the Islamic empire with the command that all texts that varied from those copies were to be burnt. Von Denffer states it as 2:
The following is the report transmitted in Sahih Bukhari:
"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! Set this people right before they differ about the Book (Qur'an), as the Jews and the Christians did before'. Then 'Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, 'Send us the manuscripts of the Qur'an so that we may copy the Qur'anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you. Hafsah sent it to 'Uthman. 'Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, Abdullah bin az-Zubair, Sa'id bin Al-'As and Abdur Rahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. 'Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, 'In case you disagree with Zayd bin Thabit on any point in the Qur'an, then write it in the dialect of the Quraish, as the Qur'an was revealed in their tongue'. They did so, and when they had written many copies, 'Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsah. '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, Vol.6, #510, p. 479).(Ulum, p.52f).
Yet, Von Denffer who already admitted graphic differences in theCompanion readings has the gall to misstate the facts as:
For this reason Ibn Mas'ud is known to have refused to hand over his text to `Uthman's agents declaring that he received his from Muhammad and he was not willing to accept what young Zaid ibn Thabit recited. And, Sahih Muslim #6022 (Vol. 4, p. 1312; English version) records his admission that he told his followers to likewise withhold their copies!
Those who believe the other version, that 6 out of the '7 Forms' were withdrawn at the Final Review, are faced with the equally problematic choice that the admitted variations in writing were either because the people did not obey immediately, OR, at a later time error crept into the written text of the '1 Form' of the Qur'an which remained at the time of Muhammad's death! However, it must then be accepted that such error would of necessity been in the Companions' texts in order for them to be burnt!
No Sunni could accept this! Thus, those who do believe the version that the 'Final Review' marked the end of the '7 Forms' are forced by their beliefs to deny that variation of any kind would have continued in the written texts. Thus, they have to declare that the many Companion codices vary from one another only because they were 'notebooks'.
Again, though, it is obvious that the lack of 'certain knowledge' about both the history and content of its Qur'an has resulted in Islam's scholars seeking to defend the Qur'an according to their own opinion (ikhtilaf) of what the evidence says, and not upon 'facts', of which there seem to be very few in Islam. This has resulted in a conflicting array of 'stories', not a 'history', and has placed Islam in the embarrassing position of having several explanations for the presence of such divergences in the early written texts, when it has been telling everyone that such variations have never existed! Islam has been leading everyone to believe that the Qur'an has only ever had one text (usually stated as "the one Muhammad left us"), and not '7'! This is obviously another 'outwitting' by the hierarchy of Islam upon the unsuspecting Ummah.
However, the reason that Islam must hide the truth about itself seems obvious. How could it openly attack the Bible's many manuscripts all representing one text, and every one of them able to be compared with each other as a safeguard against error, if Islam were to admit that it never had just 'one', but '7', and it can't even tell anyone what was in them!?
Therefore it has become not only convenient but necessary
for Islam's survival, to avoid discussing early details about the
Qur'an, such as what Tabari recorded about the accusation made between
the various groups that the other's version was 'heresy', and claim that
the followers of Islam in Iraq and Syria were simply "non-Arabic speaking",
a people ignorant of how to pronounce the Arabic text of
the Qur'an. The claim is then made that it was to correct this that `Uthman
sent them a complete and 'official' transcript of the Qur'an. However,
it is obvious that this would never have alleviated a problem like error
in pronunciation, since, as was earlier noted, the ability to distinguish
such things was not yet available and the written text was a bare consonantal
symbol text, and nothing else!
b/ What Happened to the 'Originals'?
Von Denffer raises another issue, the demise of Hafsah's manuscripts, the only 'originals':
Islam's stand, it would have contained a conglomeration of the '7 Forms', something that might bring nostalgia to the people who learned the Qur'an from specific teachers. According to Islam's theology, there might also have been some abrogated sections. 3
It was obvious to Tabari that it was with the idea of removing all written differences (i.e. differences in the consonantal symbols) in the Companion Codices, that `Uthman sent his copies of the Quran to Iraq (Kufa and Basra) and Syria (Dasmascus), as well as maintaining copies at Medina and Mecca, and perhaps one copy himself (usually referred to as 'the Imam').
The claim that `Uthman issued 'perfect copies' of a single text
to all points of the Islamic empire should surely guarantee Islam's claim
to having a perfectly uniform consonantal symbol text in its Arabic Qur'an's
world-wide, whether that be attributed to Divine promise or `Uthman's human
In fact, Von Denffer failed to note the following from the well-known Islamic writer Ibn Khallikan:
"When the first copy of the Qur'an was written out and presented to [the khalif] Othman Ibn Affan, he said: 'There are faults of language in it, and let the Arabs of the desert rectify them with their tongues." (Biographical Dictionary, Ibn Khallikan, p. 401)
Again, although Von Denffer freely quotes from the Fihrist of al-Nadim, he omits that al-Nadim records that many early scholars were interested in these same questions. For example:
The Discrepancies between the Manuscripts of the people of al-Madina, al-Kufa, and al-Basrah, according to al-Kisai; book of Kalaf, Discrepancies of the manuscripts; Discrepancies of the People of al-Kufa, al-Basrah and Syria concerning the Manuscripts, by al-Farra';
Book of Yahya ibn al-Harith; book of Ibn Shahib; book of Ahmad ibn Ibrahim al-Warraq; book of Ya'qub ibn Abi Shaybah." (Fihrist, p. 80, emphasis added)4 .
Yet, all this acknowledges something which denies the very content of the Qur'an itself, "We will guard it (from corruption)." (Q15:9). Even in the earliest of times the Qur'an had not survived intact.
The question must also be asked as to whether Islam has since corrected the errors in these texts, for, if it did not, then it means that it has accepted as 'Qur'an' several 'corrupt' manuscripts that are not 'perfect copies' of any one of the '7 Forms', and it has thus ascribed Divine authority to the corrupted texts of Caliph 'Uthman by continuing to propagate them rather than correct them. The present Qur'ans of necessity are all 'corrupt'.
But, what were the errors which these books recorded? Are we able to verify them today? This can only be done by correlating what Islam claims are two of Caliph `Uthman's texts, the one sent to Kufah and that kept at Medinah. These texts are still being printed today, and by checking their texts against one another and against the ancient records of men like ad-Dani, and ibn al-Jazari, we can verify whether the corruption has been retained.
1/ Mention has not been made of the first collection of the Qur'an, generally said to have been made under the first Caliph Abu Bakr, passed to the second Caliph `Umar, and left at his death to his daughter Hafsah, one of Muhammad's wives. Part of the text of Bukhari, Vol. 6, #509, reads:
4/ This same Fihrist has in 1997 been offered for sale by The Muslim News, U.K., through its Muslim News Book Service. They refused to repsond to the repeated efforts of the present writer to oder a copy.
5/ One of those who later dealt with this subject, ad-Dani
(d. 444 A.H.), is evaluated by ibn Khaldun in the following way;
"...there appeared Abu `Amr Ad-Dani. He achieved the greatest perfection
in the reading of the Qur'an. The knowledge of it rests with him, and its
transmission in its entirety goes through him." (The Muqaddima, Vol.
2, p. 441).
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