Adis K.

Quran’s Origins: 2 Titans of Islamic Wisdom Unveiled

Historical Events, Islam, Religious Texts

The Quran, Islam’s cornerstone text, has been pivotal to the evolution of Islamic intellectualism. Esteemed figures in Islamic history, scholars like Abdullah ibn al-Mughira and Ubay ibn Ka’b, have profoundly impacted the Quranic understanding, shaping its study across generations. This article delves into their invaluable insights and enduring influence on Islamic academia.

Abu Ubaid’s Quranic Legacy: Abdullah ibn al-Mughira’s Linguistic Expertise

Abdullah ibn al-Mughira was an early Muslim scholar who lived in the 8th century. He was an expert in the field of hadith, the sayings and actions of the prophet Muhammad, and was known for his thorough and careful approach to the collection and preservation of hadith. He is also known for his work in linguistics and wrote several books on the Arabic language.

let none of you say “i have learned the whole of the Quran” for how does he know what the whole of it is? when much of it has disappeared? let him rather say “i have learned what is extant thereof”

Abu Ubaid

The reference to “much of it” having disappeared could be interpreted to mean lost over time and that Muslims need to continue seeking knowledge and understanding of the text, even if they can only access what is currently available or “extant.”

A’isha’s Insight: The Mysterious 127 Verses of the Quran’s Sura 33

Some accounts in Islamic tradition suggest that Sura 33 of the Quran, also known as Surat al-Ahzab or “The Clans,” may have initially contained more verses than are included in the current version of the text.

According to the prophet Muhammad’s wife, A’isha, the mother of the faithful, Sura 33 used to be recited with 200 verses. Still, when the caliph Uthman decided to distribute some written copies of the Quran, Muslims could only find what we have in the chapter today, which contains 73 verses.

If Sura 33 originally contained 200 verses, but today’s Quran only contains 73 verses, how many verses are missing from sura 33, according to Aisha? 127 verses are missing from the perfectly & miraculously preserved Quran.

O Zirr, how many verses did you count? (or how many verses did you read) in Surat al-Ahzab? – “seventy-two or seventy-three,” I answered.
Said he, “Yet it used to be equal to Surat al-Baqara (ii), and we used to read in it the verse of Stoning,” Said I, “And what is the verse of Stoning?” He said, “If a grown man and woman commit adultery, stone them without hesitation, as a warning from Allah, for Allah is mighty, wise”

Ubay ibn Ka’b & Zirr B. Hubaish

Ubay ibn Ka’b

Ubay ibn Ka’b said sura 33 was as long as sura 2. Sura 2 of the Quran, also known as Surat al-Baqara or “The Cow,” is the longest sura of the Quran, with 286 verses, but who was Ubay ibn Ka’b?

Ubay ibn Ka’b was a companion & close associate of the prophet Muhammad and an early Muslim scholar known for his expertise in the Quran and his ability to teach and interpret its teachings, the central religious text of Islam. He is considered by many to be one of the most knowledgeable and respected scholars of the Quran in the early history of Islam and is often referred to as the “master of the Quran” or “Ubay the Great.”

He was a prolific scholar and writer credited with developing the science of tafsir, the interpretation and explanation of the Quran. He was also an accomplished poet and linguist known for contributing to studying the Arabic language.

Ubay’s influence and legacy as a scholar of the Quran have continued to the present day, and he is still remembered and revered by many Muslims as a model of knowledge and devotion to the teachings of the Quran.

We can safely say, “According to Ubay ibn Ka’b, more than 200 verses were lost from a single chapter of the Quran.”

The Quran we have today is missing entire chapters and hundreds of verses; why is that? Oh, because the missing chapters and verses were aggregated.

What if the Quran we have today has things missing from earlier Qurans? Ibn Masud was a close associate of the prophet Muhammad and was known for his deep understanding of the Quran and his ability to teach and interpret its teachings. He was a prolific scholar and writer and is credited with developing the science of tafsir, the interpretation and explanation of the Quran. He was also an accomplished poet and linguist known for contributing to studying the Arabic language.

Ibn Masud only had 111 chapters (Suras) in his Quran; he said three chapters in today’s Quran aren’t supposed to be there. So what happens when things get added? “whoever left something out simply made a mistake; Ibn Masud was wrong.”

What if we put two of today’s Qurans side by side and see that there are different Arabic words with different meanings? “Oh, that’s because the Quran was revealed in many different ways, but these different readings complement one another; all of the different versions are from Allah.”

Notice what Muslims are saying; they’re saying the Quran has all of the features of a book that has been changed and corrupted, and yet it has been miraculously preserved by the great god Allah.

This poses an obvious question Is the preservation of the Quran a miracle? Yet, the Quran has all of the features of a book that has been changed and corrupted. How are we supposed to identify the gift? What’s the miracle here?

The Qurans that Muslims worldwide use are not all the same, as different versions of the Quran are based on other recitations and readings of the text. Below is an example of Hafs vs. Warsh; some differences have entirely different theological implications.

18 examples of textual discrepancies between the Hafs and Warsh Qur’ans

SurahHafs Qur’anWarsh Qur’an
s1:4Owner of the Day (maaliki)King of the Day (maliki)
s2:10They lie (vakdhibuuna)They were lied to (vukadhibuuna)
s2:58We give mercy (nagtir)He gives mercy (wughtar)
s2:125You should takeThey have taken
s2:132And Ibrahim enjoined on his sons (wawassaa)And Ibrahim instructed his sons (wafawsaa)
s2:140You say (taquluna)They say (yaquluna)
s2:184A redemption by feeding a poor man (taamu miskinin)A redemption by feeding poor men (ta’aami masakina)
s2:214So that they said (Hatta vaguula)Until they said (hatta yaquulu)
s2:259We shall rise up (nunshizuhaa)We shall make alive (nunshiruhaaa)
s3:81Give you (atavtukum)We give you (ataynakum)
s3:133And hasten to (wasaari’uu)Hasten to (saarfuu)
s3:146Fought (qatala)Were killed (autila)
s4:152He gives them (vu’tihim)We give them (nuutihimuu)
s5:54Turn back (vartadda)Turn back (vartadid)
s21:4He said ‘My lord knows” (qaala)Say my lord knows (qul)
s28:48Two works of magic (sihraani)Two magician (saahiraani)
s34:17We punish (Nugaazia)Gets punished (Yugaazan)
s91:15And for him no fear (walaayakhaafu)Therefore for him no fear (falaayakhaafu)

There is a total of 93,000 differences between all 30 Qurans

5 Stages of Canonization

Dr Shady Nasser is an associate professor of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, specialising in Arabic literature and Islamic civilisations. He received his PhD in Arabic and Islamic studies from Harvard University and has previously taught at Yale University and the University of Cambridge. His research focuses on Quranic studies, including the history of the transmission of the text, its language, and its reception among the early Muslim community. He also has interests in pre-Islamic and early Islamic poetry, Akhbār literature, and Hadith transmission. Dr. Nasser is the director of graduate studies at CMES.

According to Dr Shady Nasser, there could be as many as 700 Quranic readings.

Five periods of the Qur’An’s Creation

Canonisation 1: Uthman = Quraishi Codex 652 AD / 7th Century

No manuscript supports this canonisation. Nothing from the seventh century has been found. Muslims claim to be able to trace the Quran back to Uthman. However, experts looking for this source are unable to locate it. It has never been produced. 

All of the documents we have from Muslims date from the tenth century; thus, the following Canon by Ibn Mujahid is the earliest we can authenticate.

The following points are from Sahih Bukhari Vol 6:510;

  • Hudaifa, at the battle of Azerbaijan, hears Iraqi & Syrian dialects of the Quran and demands one Quran.
  • Uthman calls Zaid Ibn Thabit (Muhammads’ Secretary) to re-write the Quran, giving Hafsahl a 2nd Quranic recension.
  • Three others are appointed to help him: Az-Zubair, Al-As, Ibn Hisham (Uthman’s son-in-law, thus not scholars)
  • They are to write it only in the Quraishi dialect.
  • They then sent this final copy to every province (5 of them)
  • All of the other manuscripts that disagreed (they used Iraqi or Syrian dialects), in partial and full, were then burned!
  • One verse (S.33:23) was found with one man (Khuzaima bin Thabit al-Ansari)

Canonisation 2: Ibn Mujahid = 7 Readings (7th – 8th Century Qira’at) 936 AD / 10 Century

This is the earliest canonisation that Muslims can identify as verifiable. However, it has a few flaws. Specifically, we have Ibn Mujahid (849-935 CE), a great Muslim scholar who standardised the numerous readings and recitations of the Quran and is credited with establishing the seven “canonical” readings of the scripture that are universally recognised by Muslims today… But this occurred 300 years after Muhammad.

We get the earliest Quran from Ibn Amir ad-Dimashqi (Ibn ‘Amir) in 736 AD, and it comes from Damascus, not Mecca or Medina. 

Ibn Mujahid’s seven readings appeared 284 years after Uthman’s purported canonisation, And this was entirely due to the issue of ‘different readings.’ We must remember to look at periods and geographies when studying historical events.

Muhammad died in 632 AD, and 100 years later, in 736 AD, Ibn Amir’s Quran was introduced in Damascus, hundreds of kilometres north of Muhammad’s site…

We have a dilemma if the earliest Quran is 100 years after Muhhamad’s time and 1000 kilometres north of his location, as claimed in 936 AD by Ibn Mujahid, over 300 years after Muhhamad died.

The seven recitations Ibn Mujahid chose in 936 AD began in 736 AD and continued until 805 AD. Because 805 is in the 9th century, these are 8th and 9th-century readings. We have no 7th-century material from Muhammads’ time or location.

None of the seven readers existed at the time of Muhammad; that’s the problem.
Who chose these guys? Ibn Mujahid in 936 AD.

  1. Nafi’ al-Madani (Medina d. 785 AD)
  2. Ibn Kathir al Makki (Mecca d. 738 AD)
  3. Abu ‘Amr lbn al-Ala’ (Basra d. 770 AD)
  4. Ibn Amir ad-Dimashqi (Damascus d. 736 AD)
  5. Aasim ibn Abi al-Najud (Kufa d. 745 AD)
  6. Hamzah az-Zalyyat (Kufa d. 772 AD)
  7. A-Kisa’i (Kufa d. 805 AD)

Canonisation 3: Al Shatibi 14 Riwayat = 2 Transmitters per reading 1194 AD

In the late 12th century, Al Shatibi introduced two transmitters for each of the seven readings, now 14 Riwayat. This establishes the “chain of narration”.

Canonisation 4: Al Jazari = 3 Readings – 2 Transmitters per reading (1429 AD)

By the 15th century, We have 30 Readings.

  1. How did Ibn Mujahid select these seven readers?
  2. How did Al Shatibi select the following 14 readers?
  3. Also, how did Al Jazari select the following nine?
  4. Is there any evidence that textual criticism was performed here?

There has been no textual critical analysis done on any of the above. Otherwise, these discrepancies wouldn’t exist. Instead, It came down to popularity. Readers were picked based on who had the most students, followers, and supporters and who was the most acceptable and liked by society. This is about marketing, not textual criticism.

Textual criticism is a method that scholars use to study and compare different versions of a text to determine which version is the most reliable. This is especially important for religious texts because they are often copied and translated over many years. 

Textual criticism helps scholars to understand how the text has changed over time and to identify any errors or inconsistencies that may have been introduced in the process of copying and translating the text. 

This can help scholars better understand the original message the text was trying to convey and more accurately interpret it in its historical context.

Canonisation 5: Hafs = Final Canon – 2 Transmitters per reading (1924 AD)

Following the 30 official Qir’ats, Muhammad b. Ali al-Husayni al-Haddad reduced it to just 1 Qira’at Qur’an in 1924 – Back to one official Qur’an!

The Northern Dominance

  1. Meca = 3 Qir’ats
  2. Medina = 5 Qir’ats
  3. Cairo = 1 Qir’at
  4. Damascus = 3 Qir’ats
  5. Basra = 6 Qir’ats
  6. Kufa = 12 Qir’ats!

Out of the 30 official Qir’ats:

  1. Hejaz = 8
  2. Iraq, Syria & Egypt = 22
  3. Kufa = Today’s Hafs!

A minority of the Qur’ans originated in Mecca or Medina, while the majority were too far to the north! All of these northern areas (except Cairo) are where the Abbasids originated.

Please Note;

Part I of VII is an unfinished draft that will reach 15,000 words when completed. Today, there are 30 different Qurans in circulation, with 93,000 differences between them. These articles will lead you through some of those differences, which are far from negligible; they have catastrophic theological ramifications and reveal historical paradoxes about the origins of Islam, Mecca, Muhammad, and the Quran.

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