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The Remarkable History of the Quran – Islam 2

The History of the Quran is intricately connected to the history of Islam. Click here to read the previous article about the Origin of Islam. Quran is the Islamic sacred book, which Muslims believe that Mohammad and his followers had initially memorized partially. The Hadiths deny the full memorization of the Quran.

The Losing Quran

Later on, after the death of Muhammad, As most of the men who had memorized the Quran had died in battles, Umar the next in Caliph feared that they would lose the Quran. Notice some instances from Islamic History where the preservation of the Quran theory has some real problems.

“Umar bin al-Khattab asked about a verse of Allah’s book, they answered: ‘It was with a man who got killed on day of Yamama (battle)’. He (Umar) said: ‘We all shall return to Allah’. Then he ordered to collect the Quran, therefore he was the first one who collected it in one book.”

Kanz ul Ummal, Volume 2, p. 574

Umar was once looking for the text of a specific verse of the Qur’an he vaguely remembered. To his deep sorrow, he discovered that the only person who had any record of that verse had been killed in the battle of Yamama and that the verse was consequently lost

Ibn Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Masahif, p. 10 – see also as-Suyuti’s al-Itqan fi ‘ulum al-Quran, volume 1, p. 204

In the Muqaddamah of Q. 33, Jalaluddin as-Suyuti recorded a statement from Sufyan al-Thawri (d. 161 A. H), as narrated by his student Abd al-Razaq al-Sanani (d. 211 A. H.): 

 وأخرج عبد الرزاق عن الثوري قال : بلغنا ان ناسا من أصحاب النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم كانوا يقرأون القرآن أصيبوا يوم مسيلمة فذهبت حروف من القرآن  

“Abd al-Razaq narrated from Al-Thawri that he said: ‘I have come to know that people from the Sahaba of the Prophet who used to recite the Quran were killed on the day of Musaylama and with their deaths letters from the Quran were lost (Zahab).’”

Tafsir Dur al-ManthurMuqaddamah of Surah Ahzab, Volume 6, p. 558

The Collection Drive

Hence, he asked the caliphate Abu Bakr and they started the project of collecting the Quran, from stones, palm leaves, bones of animals etc. This means they had to look at whatever they could collect. Remember proving that they had only bits and pieces of the Quran memorized. This collected fragmental copy of the Quran was preserved by the existing Caliphate Abu Bakr, who then passed it to Umar and his daughter Hafsa (one of the wives of Mohammad). This, however, was the private copy. It means this was not public. Each man and every follower of Islam had his own copy vaguely memorized, scribbled somewhere in his own dialect (various pronunciations of Arabic).

The Preservation of Quran
The History of the Quran

That is why authentic Islamic sources say that many verses of the Quran were abrogated/lost etc. Some believe that Muslims of that time invented this story to trace the authenticity of the Quran back to the time of the death of Mohammad.

The point is that these bits and pieces of the Quran were not authenticated by Mohammad who is considered the only channel of divine revelation. He had already died and not all men are naturally gifted with an excellent memory.

Imagine 100 tribal illiterate people made to memorize 100-page material and then after the deaths of the majority of them, a few decades later you want to bring all of the material they memorized in written form. What will happen? You can only get bits and pieces of it and there will lot of confusion, flaws, manmade insertions, etc. Thus goes the History of the Quran.

“Aharuf and Quirat” (role of Arabic language in the History of Quran)

In addition to all this confusion, the history of the Quran has a different angle too. The Islamic Arab community had various dialects which differed based on the location.

The Aharuf

Muhammad had authorized seven of these different dialects saying, “Jibril has given Quran in seven dialects (Aharuf)” Let me explain what it means. It is distinct from pronunciations. Take the example of the word hello. Americans will pronounce hello with stress on the word “H.” The British would pronounce hello as “ello” with h silent. This is a difference in pronunciation. However, these are not different dialects.

To understand the dialect, let us take the same example. Americans would greet someone by saying “hello. How are you doing?”. The British would say the same thing as “Howdy?” Howdy means hello how are you doing. This is what is meant by the usage of a different dialect. It is the usage of informal words common to a particular region. So, Muhammad had allowed his followers to memorize Quran in seven different ways, seven different dialects (Aharuf).

Now when Zaid ibn Thabit (scribe of Mohammad who or order of caliphates ‘Abu Bakr’ and ‘Umar’) began the collection of the Quran (from different sources parts of which were written on palm leaves, stone, camels ribs etc), he had to face the challenge of these Quranic dialects.

It became a herculean task for him to make an accurate standardized copy of the Quran having 777934 words which were to be collected written in different dialects. You need to have an understanding of all the dialects to come to the same conclusion if you are making a standard copy of the Quran (from fragmented remains of the memories of men who had recited it two-three decades back, and from varied other sources). Imagine how accurately you remember the things you memorized decades back when you were in school/college! Is not it funny that Muslims still believe in the perfect preservation of the Quran? 

The Quirat

Another problem of collecting fragments of the Quran was the Quirat (vowels) problem. Since the spoken language in those days was not fully developed, the Arabic language had no vowel system (Vowel or Quira were developed later). Take the example of the word Jibril.

History of the Quran - Without the Quirat
History of the Quran – Without the Quirat

The word Jibril is pronounceable but writing it becomes difficult, because without the vowel “i” or “e”, Jibril could only be written as JBRL  (missing vowel “I” “e” from the language itself). One who does not know the pronunciation of JBRL may pronounce it as jaybeel or jaybeerol.

Imagine a person collecting such words having no vowel system from bits and pieces of Quran written with different dialects on various sources, like palm leaves, camels rib, leather, rock, stone, etc. A man could have written “how are you” or in another dialect as “howdy” and without vowel as “HWDY” (without vowel “o”).

These were the issues faced by “Zaid ibn Tabith” while collecting the 77934 words of the Quran from so many complications. Zaid, therefore, said, “By Allah, if he (Abu Bakr) had ordered me to shift one of the mountains (from one place to another) it would not have been harder for me than what he ordered me concerning the collection of Quran” (Sahi al-Bukhari 4679). Therefore the copy of the written was too far from being perfect. Reading Quran will make you realize that you cannot make up for what it says. No wonder Muslims cannot follow Islam without the help of Hadiths.

The Burning of the Quran

Amid such mayhem and complexities, Zaid somehow managed to resurrect a half-baked Quran the second time. The first time he had done it was during Abu Bakr the first caliphate. At that time the copy he managed was not made public but was preserved with Hafsa which had been difficult to read over time. Uthman the third caliph asked people to surrender their own Quran copies which they had with them, to be burned down. This was done to avoid confusion arising out of conflicting passages within the Quran. 

Uthman Burned the Quran
History of Quran – The Mass Burning by Uthman

Many surrendered their Qurans. Uthman collected and burned them. But many of them had differences with Uthman’s way and therefore hid those copies with themselves. Uthman then sent this new copy (edited 2nd time by Zaid) to various places and kept one copy in Medina.

Preservation of the Quran

Where is the Uthman Quran?

In Simple words, nobody knows where is the Uthman Quran. We do not have that Mushaf. Uthman sent the copies to 9 Different cities. There is absolutely no linkage that proves the present day Quran is a copy of the Uthman Quran. As of now, we have more than 37 versions of the Arabic Quran and none of them can claim to be the Quran of Uthman. Even though a lay Muslim might claim to have that Quran, they will not be able to prove the preservation of the Quran with all these differences between the 37 different Arabic Quran.

The Corruption of the Quran

Pre 19th Century Islamic sources confirm that a written copy of the Quran thus received (amid such mayhem and complexities) is not the exact preservation. It has many corruptions. See the summary below from Islamic sources:     

  • Some verses were MISSING (Saheeh Al Bukhari Vol. 8:817, ,p 539)
  • Some verses were FORGOTTEN (Saheeh Muslim Vol. 2:2286, p 501)
  • Some verses were CANCELLED (Saheeh Al Bukhari Vol. 5:416, ,p 288)
  • Some verses were SUBSTITUTED (Saheeh Al Bukhari Vol. 6:61, ,#527)
  • Some verses were LOST (Ibn Abi Dawud, Kitab Al Masahif, p 23)
  • Some verses DISAPPEARED (Al – Itaqan – fii Ulum al – Quran p 524)
  • Some verses were OVERLOOKED (Ibn Abi Dawud, Kitab Al Masahif, p 11)
  • Some verses were CHANGED (Muwatta Imam Malik, p 64) (795 AD)
  • Some verses were MODIFIED (Ibn Abi Dawud Kitab al-Masahif, p 11)
  • Some verses were EATEN  BY SHEEP (Sunan Ibn Majah, #1944)

We shall see more about the Quran’s immorality, violence, errors, contradictions, mathematical mistakes, and unscientific claims later.

For detailed information on corruption in Quran,

  1. Daniel Brubaker is scholar who has officially investigated Quran manuscripts and confirms about insertion, abrogation, overwriting and corruption of Quran from manuscripts (click here to check his research ).
  2. To read Hatun Tash’s research from her collections of different Qurans from all over the world, indication that not all men submitted their Quran to Uthman to be burned ( Click here )
  3. More on Incomplete Quran by Sam Shamoun (click here)
  4. For unscientific claims of Quran, mathematical errors, contradictions in Quran, Mohammad’s dumb claims check this (Enjoy Fun with Quran)  and use pins for dialogues with Muslim (from here)

End of “The Remarkable History of the Quran – Islam 2

Part – 1

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