The historical credibility of the Qur’ān

The historical credibility of the Qur’ān has been under missionary attack from the time of the publishing of “Περί Αιρέσεων,” Concerning Heresy, by John of Damascus to the publishing of my work, Fallacies, Lies, Forgeries, Myths. This attack consists of a nonstop systematic discrediting of Islamic genius, creeds, and values in and out of the academic arena, backed up by religious and political lobbies.

The new tack taken by Christian debaters, which started in the twentieth century, is for a considerable number of them to admit that the New Testament was actually altered across the centuries, while at the same time insisting that Muslims have no right to doubt the originality of the New Testament, because the Qur’ān is, itself, corrupted. This critique has the force of a tu quoque argument.

We see this clearly fallacious argumentation, in one of the books of the South African missionary, John Gilchrist,

We freely admit that there are variant readings in the Bible. […] We have never ceased to be amazed, however, at the general Muslim claim that the Qur’ān has never been changed whereas the Bible has allegedly been so corrupted that it is no longer what it was and therefore cannot be regarded as the Word of God. All the evidence history has bequeathed to us in respect of the textual history of the Qur’ān and the Bible suggests, rather, that both books are remarkably intact in the form in which they were originally written but that neither has escaped the presence, here and there, of variant readings in the text. We can only presume that the fond illusion of Qur’ānic inerrancy and Biblical corruption is the figment of pure expediency, a convenient way – indeed, as the evidence shows, a desperate and drastic way – of explaining away the fact that the Taurat and Injil are actually Christian rather than Islamic in content and teaching. Whatever the reason for this myth, we know we speak the truth when we say that the suggestion that the Qur’ān is unchanged while the Bible has been changed on many occasions is the greatest lie ever proclaimed in the name of truth.[1]

To ascertain the unadorned truth, one needs to (a) examine the history of the Qur’ān and weigh the evidence of the originality of this Holy book, (b) and the Islamic methodology to identify the original reading.

The Early History of the Qur’an

The Arabic word “Qur’ān” is derived, in the opinion of many scholars, from the verb “qara’a” which means “to read”.[2] It is used to denote the holy book of Muslims or any part of it, as mentioned by the Prophet of Islam (peace be upon him) and this same book itself (Q. 2:185[3]; 4:82; 5:101; 6:19…). This distinguished scripture was not revealed to the Prophet all at once as one block of one hundred and fourteen chapters, rather its verses were revealed successively, as one verse, groups of verses, or even a whole chapter, across a time span of twenty-three years.

The record of the preservation can be deduced from the text itself as from the painstakingly recorded history.[4]

The preservation in the time of the Prophet

The Prophet was as keen to preserve the text of the Qur’ān as to convey its message to human kind. The fact of the Qur’an’s divine origin, drove the Prophet’s intense interest in this regard, and his obedience to the Divine commandment that he and his nation preserve its original message was enjoined in the Qur’an.

The Qur’ān conveys a divine promise:

{إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُون}

“Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian.” (Q. 15:9)[5]

So, the preservation of the text was considered a crucial issue embodied in the heart of the message of the Prophet, and it was not a late concern that emerged after generations from the first writing of the text, or centuries as is the case with the New Testament.

The Qur’ānic revelation started in 610 A.D. The Prophet was so eager to memorize each verse revealed to him that he used to move his tongue to recite it while the Angel Gabriel was revealing it to him, fearing that he would forget it. The Qur’ān records this excitement and the promise of Allah to preserve this holy text,

{لاَ تُحَرِّكْ بِهِ لِسَانَكَ لِتَعْجَلَ بِه إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُ وَقُرْآنَه فَإِذَا قَرَأْنَاهُ فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْآنَه}

“Do not move your tongue with it to make haste with it, Surely on Us (devolves) the collecting of it and the reciting of it. Therefore when We have recited it, follow its recitation.”

Thus, He was commanded to listen first to all that Jibrīl was reciting, then to repeat what was recited, so that he could memorize the verses,

{وَلاَ تَعْجَلْ بِالْقُرْآنِ مِن قَبْلِ أَن يُقْضَى إِلَيْكَ وَحْيُهُ}

“[O Muhammad], do not hasten with [recitation of] the Qur’an before its revelation is completed to you” (Q. 20:114)

The Prophet was well aware there was a possibility that the Qur’ān could be distorted un-intentionally in his life in an environment of illiterate followers, which is why he announced that any of his followers who wrote down anything except the Qur’ān as he had recited it, should get rid of it[6].[7] It was thus that he was able to keep the holy book free from additions and deletions.

The Qur’ān was spread swiftly and securely in the growing Islamic nation as incited by the instructions of the Prophet:

  • The Prophet asked his scribes to write down each verse revealed to him shortly after he heard it from the angel Jibrīl.
  • He recited the Qur’ān during prayers.
  • He asked his Companions to recite it in front of him. [8]
  • He ordered those who had learned the Qur’ān to teach those who had not yet learned it. [9]
  • He urged Muslims to have the Qur’ān at the center of their studies and preaching. He said, “The best among you is the one who learns the Qur’ān and teaches it.”[10]
  • He made learning the Qur’ān a scale of piety among Muslims. He stated: “With this Book Allah exalts some people and lowers others.”[11]
  • He urged Muslims to make a practice of reading the Qur’ān so they would be rewarded generously in the hereafter. He said, “If anyone recites a letter from the Book of Allah then he will be credited with a good deed, and a good deed attains a tenfold reward. I do not say that Alif Lam Mim are one letter; but Alif is a letter, Lam is a letter and Mim is a letter.”[12]
  • He gave the privilege of leading the prayers to those who had memorized the Qur’ān, or learned it the best. [13]
  • He condemned the forgetting of memorized verses as a grievous sin, and advised people to go through the Qur’ān regularly. He said, “Keep refreshing your knowledge of the Qur’ān, for I swear by Him in Whose Hand is the life of Muḥammad that it is more liable to escape than hobbled camels. [14][15]

The muṣḥaf (the written Qur’ān) was (1) memorized and (2) recorded from the time of the Prophet by the Companions of the Prophet on skins of animals, ribs of palm-leaves, bones, and on tablets of white stone. It was recorded in writing, but was not assembled in one book. In these times Muslims were asked to recite the entire Qur’ān in a regular way. They applied its text to all the matters of life to which a religious commandment could apply. The Qur’ān deeply affected every personal, social, political, and economic aspect of the early Muslim nation. The words of the Qur’ān were the most repeated words of that era by everyone: men, women, children, educated and illiterate Muslims. The book was “not only the heart of a religion, the guide to a kingdom of Heaven, but a compendium of science and a political document, embodying a code of laws for a kingdom on earth.”[16]

To sum up, the Prophet did his best and imposed all the precautions, to keep the Qur’ānic text pure in both forms: oral and written, because it was his sacred duty, and he was aware of the problems and challenges.

One might wonder why the Prophet did not order that one official copy be written in his lifetime. The answer is that there were different reasons for this, such as the fact that the verses of the Qur’ān were being revealed to him continuously, even up until his last days, so the book was still open, and that the multi-readings of the text could not fit one sole written official copy. The Qur’ān was written and its verses were arranged under the Prophet’s regulation, so the text was perfectly preserved in a written form while the Prophet was alive, and that is what really matters in that period of time.

Therefore one cannot say that there was any “obscure zone” when referring to the history of the Qur’an as there was in the history of the text of the New Testament.

The preservation in the times of Abū Bakr and ʿUmar

One year after the Prophet’s death, Abū Bakr, the first Caliph (the head of the Islamic state) ordered that the written Qur’ān, present with the Prophet’s Companions after the Battle of al-Yamāma (11 A.H.[17]), be collected. He assigned Zeid b. Thābit (d.45 A.H.) to accomplish the mission.

Zeid, who had memorized the whole Qur’ān, and who had recited the whole text twice in front of the Prophet the year of his death, did not accept any Qur’ānic text as authentic unless it existed in a written form, and had been written under the Prophet’s supervision.[18] This is indicative of how serious the rules imposed by the first Muslims were when collecting the text of the Qur’ān.

The result was, in effect, a recopying of the text which had been copied down before, under the supervision of the Prophet. This written preservation of the original text was augmented by the fresh memorization of it by the very believers who were gathering around their master. Consequently, nothing was changed in the message from the time of the Prophet; the text was preserved in the same pristine form.

This copy of the Qur’ān collected under the supervision of Zeid remained with Abū Bakr till he died, then with ʿUmar the second Caliph until the end of his life, and then with Ḥafṣah, ʿUmar’s daughter, who was the Prophet’s widow.[19]

The Companions had a firm belief that the Qur’ān was well preserved and that no one could corrupt it, as proclaimed by Ibn ʿUmar (73 AH).[20] A feeling of certitude and tranquility prevailed among the people who heard the Qur’ān directly from the Prophet.

The Qur’ān was an integral part of them, influencing their behavior, their thoughts and their emotions. They chose to learn the Qur’ān in a deliberate manner, as reported by Ibn Masʿūd who said that they used to learn only ten verses at a time, making sure they completely understood their meanings, and then they would start to apply them in their daily life. Only after this, would they proceed to learn further verses.[21]

At that same period of time, religious studies, such as tafsīr (hermeneutic) and fiqh (law studies) were established in Islamic centers all over the Islamic territories under the leadership and scholarship of the Companions, who had been the closest students of the Prophet. These elaborate and complex studies were mainly centered on the text of the Qur’ān.

The preservation in the time of ʿUthmān

At the time of the Caliphate of ʿUtmān b. ʿAffān, the Islamic territory expanded rapidly and became enormously vast, and an urgent need arose for an official version of the Qur’ān to be promulgated after it was found that many new Muslims in the different areas had no idea about the other canonical readings. ʿUthmān (1) used the copy of the Qur’ān that was with Ḥafṣah, and (2) ordered a new team of the Companions to take up the task of making the new official copy, under the leadership of Zeid b. Thābet, one more time.[22]

The ʿUthmānic copy limited the accepted readings to what the skeleton of the Arabic consonantal (text without vowels and without diacritical marks) read, which meant excluding some authentic readings circulating at the time, for the purpose of preventing disputes between new Muslims who lived all over the vast Islamic state and were yet unaware of the multiple inherited readings. To ensure the accuracy of this official copy, Uthmān sent out five groups of educated reciters each of which had a copy of the written Qur’an, so the project would proceed under the watchful eye of official teachers. He ordered Zeid b. Thābit to teach the people of Madīnāh with the muṣḥaf of Madīnāh, and he sent ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Sā’ib (d. 70 A.H.) with the muṣḥaf of Mecca, al-Mughīrah b. Shihāb (d. 91 A.H.) with the muṣḥaf of al-Shām, Abū ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Salmī (d. 73) with the muṣḥaf of al-Kūfah, and ʿĀmir b. Kais with the muṣḥaf of al-Baṣrah.

The ʿUthmānic project resulted in the making of several copies of the Qur’ān, which were sent to the largest cities of the Islamic state, with one copy being kept in the capital (al-Madīnah). All the Companions of the Prophet alive at that time approved of what ʿUthmān was doing as stated by Muṣʿab, the son of the Companion Saʿd b. abī Waqqāṣ, as narrated with a sound chain of narrators by ʿUmar b. Shabbah (173-262 A.H.) [23].[24]

From that time forward, the ʿUtmānic muṣḥaf was the only official copy of the Qur’ān.

Could there be any doubts about the faithfulness of the ʿUthmānic project? The following facts will allay any such doubts:

  • The short span of time between the death of the Prophet and the distribution of the written copies of the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf, which was only thirteen to fifteen years.
  • The dedication and eagerness of the head of the Islamic state, and the presence of a large number of scholars who had already heard the same Qur’ān from the Prophet himself.
  • Using the original text collected in the time of Abū Bakr.
  • Having Zeid b. Thābit at the head of team.

Authentication of the Qur’anic Readings

The Prophet of Islam said in a mutawātir[25] ḥadīth that the Qur’ān is revealed in seven aḥruf. This ḥadīth explains the multiple readings[26] for the same Qur’ānic passage as known in the early time of Islam. There are many interpretations of the prophetic expression “seven aḥruf [27]”.[28] Whatever its exact meaning, it includes, as witnessed by other authentic sayings of the Prophet and the readings as found in the codices of the Companions, differences in the form, the pronunciation, the order, or the existence of word(s) in some passages.

No reading can be accepted as legitimate today unless it satisfies three cumulative conditions:

  1. The reading has to reach us through authentic chains of narrators.
  2. The reading has to coincide with the script of one of the copies of the Qur’ān distributed by the third Caliph ʿUthmān.
  3. The reading has to be compatible with accepted grammatical Arabic constructions.[29]

There is no way to compare these readings with those of the New Testament as known in its manuscripts, because all the canonical readings of the Qur’ān have come to us directly from the lips of the prophet of Islam by an overwhelming number of people, starting with his contemporaries, who memorized each and every verse revealed. Compare this with the readings of the New Testament books that were written later on. The Qur’ānic readings known by the prophet of Islam were transmitted by him to his followers, while, in the case of the New Testament, the differences between the readings were not known to the authors.

The Manuscripts in the Islamic Scale

The history of the Qur’ān is known to us from the time of its revelation to the present day. The details of its transmission are clear, with no vagueness. It is known, not hidden, and detailed, not outlined. There is no need to rely on the testimony of the manuscripts. It is a situation drastically different than that of the New Testament which solely based on manuscripts.

Islamically, in application of the classical rules of the Qur’ān and of the science of ḥadīth (the recorded sayings and deeds of the Prophet), Muslims do not consider manuscripts as an acceptable evidence for proving the originality of the holy texts. Manuscripts written by unknown people, in unknown circumstances, cannot make the case for an unaltered text or its originality, by itself.

In the science of ḥadīth, “a reference to the knowledge taken from a written source without audition, licensing or transference”[30], or wijādah, is not accepted as an authentic way of narration by the majority of Muslim scholars. The minority who do accept it state that it can be approved only when special conditions obtain. Almost none of these conditions can be met as regards New Testament manuscripts.

Methodologically, any holy text surviving only through manuscripts written by anonymous scribes cannot be taken seriously enough to impose the authority of its words and message, because it cannot prove its originality. Thus, the New Testament fails soundly, in the first stage of the process of authenticating the Word of God, because it is founded on frail bases.

The manuscripts of the New Testament fail to give us the certitude we need regarding the sought after Word of God, but, still, they can provide information which can help in tracing the historical journey of the text.

The Testimony of the Extant Manuscripts

Scholars have different opinions about the number of copies made by ʿUthmān. Most of them agree that there were four or five, although some have said that the number was larger than that.[31] Muslims preserved some of these copies for varying periods of time before their disappearance, which shows that the written text of the Qur’ān was the same as the text memorized by so many in the first centuries of the Islamic Nation. An original copy that had a text different from the circulating text would surely have given rise to problems and conflicts, and that clearly, never occurred.

Following is evidence by witnesses of the preservation of these copies:

  1. The Original Preserved Copies

Unlike the original manuscripts of the books of the New Testament, the original manuscripts of the Qur’an were widespread and accessible to people in the earliest time of Islam. It was a special privilege that reinforced the feeling of certitude in that living nation.

It is true that the Islamic nation did not feel the need to depend on these original manuscripts to ensure the authenticity of the text in their copies, because copying these originals was done from the very outset under the supervision of the head of the state and scholars throughout the Islamic territory.

Here are some historical testimonies of the history of some of the originals.[32]

Al-Muṣḥaf al-Imām: This muṣḥaf is the copy that ʿUthmān b. ʿAffān kept for himself. It was maintained until the beginning of the third century of the Hegira, 9th century A.D. Abū ʿAmr al-Dānī (d. 444 A.H. -1052 A.D.) narrated that Abū ʿUbayd al-Qāsim b. Sallām al-Baghdādī (d. 222 A.H. -837 A.D.) said that: “It was taken to me from some prince’s treasure and I saw [ʿUthmān] blood on it.” [33]

Muṣḥaf of al-Shām: The famous scholar Ibn Kathīr (774 A.H.- 1372 A.D.) said, “And concerning the original ʿUtmānic copies of the Qur’ān, the most famous of them is the one in al-Shām[34] in a corner in Damascus Mosque, towards the east where the Imam leads the prayer, in the place inspired by the remembrance of God Almighty. In the past it used to be in the city of Tiberia. Then it was moved to Damascus around 518 Hegira [1124 A.D.]. I did see it, and found it to be a great, glorious book with beautiful clear hand written dark ink on parchment which seems to be from camel skin.” [35]

Ibn Jubayr (d. 614 A.H.-1217 A.D.) had also seen it in the Damascus mosque. He said, “In the eastern corner next to the new spot where the Imam leads the prayer, a big closet has in it one of the muṣḥaf of ʿUthmān may Allah be pleased with him. This is the muṣḥaf that ʿUthmān had sent to the al-Shām. Every day the closet is opened after prayer, and people come to it in order to touch or kiss it for blessings, it is usually too crowded near it.” [36]

Ibn Faḍl al-ʿAmrī, in the eighth century of the Hegira- fourteenth century A.D., said when describing the Mosque of Damascus, “In its left side, there is the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf.” [37]

Al-Harawī (d. 611 A.H.- 1214 A.D.) and Abū al-Qāsim al-Tajībī (d. 697 A.H.-1297 A.D.), saw it and described it too.[38]

Muṣḥaf of Mecca: Information about the muṣḥaf of Mecca is given by different witnesses; Ibn Jubayr saw it in Mecca when he visited the city in 578 A.H. – 1182 A.D. Abū al-Qāsim al-Tajībī saw it too in Mecca at the end of 696 A.H. -1297 A.D. Al-Samhūdy who died in 911 A.H. – 1505 A.D mentioned it in his book Wafā’ al-Wafā. [39]

  1. The Wealth of Early Manuscripts

Copying the muṣḥaf was a religious duty that the nation of Islam took seriously from the outset. The desire for copies of the Qur’an wherever Muslims lived spawned a noble business that flourished in the big cities[40] and was under the strict supervision of scholars who inaugurated, from the earliest centuries, a distinct discipline within the Qur’ān studies called “the science of the writing of the muṣḥafʿilm rasm al-muṣḥaf”. Many scholars from the first century and the beginning of the second were considered as authorities in that science. In al-Madīnāh, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. hurmuz al-Aʿraj (d.117? 119? A.H.) and Nāfiʿ (d. 169 A.H.). In al-Baṣrah, ʿAṣim al-Jaḥdarī (d. 128 A.H.) and Abū ʿAmr b. al-ʿAlā’ (d. 153 A.H.). In al-Kūfah, Ḥamzah al-Zaiyyāt (d. 156 A.H.) and al-Kisā’ī (d. 189 A.H.), In al-Shām, Ibn ʿĀmir (d. 118 A.H.) and Yaḥyia al-Dhmārī (d.145 A.H.).[41] Moreover, we are aware of at least eleven books written in the second century of the Hegira solely on that science.[42] There was no obscure zone in the history of the transmission of the muṣḥaf ; it is a long chain with connected rings.

Even though no Muslim country ever set out to dig for the earliest manuscripts or even to catalogue all those that it possessed- the quest for these manuscripts and their dating only being made by non-Muslim scholars, except for the works of the Turkish T. Altikulaç- we possess today many manuscripts that have been conclusively dated to the first century of the Hegira, Some of these are:

  1. A copy attributed to Caliph ʿUthmān b. ʿAffān. Amanat Khizana, Topkapi Saray, Istanbul, no. I.
  2. Another copy ascribed to ʿUthmān b. ʿAffān, Amanat Khizana, Topkapi Saray, no. 208. This copy has some 300 folios and it is missing a portion from both ends.
  3. Another ascribed to ʿUthmān b. ʿAffān. Amanat Khizana, Topkapi Saray, no. 10. It is only 83 folios and contains notes written in the Turkish language naming the scribe.
  4. Attributed to Caliph ʿUthmān at the Museum of Islamic Art, Istanbul. It lacks folios from the beginning, middle, and end. Dr. al-Munaggid dates it to the second half of the first century.
  5. A large copy with 1000 pages, written between 25-31 A.H. at Rawaq al-Maghariba, al-Azhar, Cairo.
  6. Attributed to Caliph ʿUthmān, The Egyptian Library, Cairo.
  7. Ascribed to Caliph ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib on palimpsest. Muzesi Kutuphanesi, Topkapi Saray, no. 36E.H.29. It has 147 folios.
  8. Ascribed to Caliph ʿAlī. Amanat Khizana, Topkapi Saray, no. 33. It has only 48 folios.
  9. Ascribed to Caliph ʿAlī. Amanat Khizana, Topkapi Saray, no. 25E.H.2. Contains 414 Folios.
  10. Ascribed to Caliph ʿAlī. Raza Library, Rampur, India, no. 1. Contains 343 Folios.
  11. Ascribed to Caliph ʿAlī, Sanaa, Yemen.
  12. Ascribed to Caliph ʿAlī, al-Mashhad al-Husaini, Cairo.
  13. Ascribed to Caliph ʿAlī, 127 folios. Najaf, Iraq.
  14. Ascribed to Caliph ʿAlī. Also in Najaf, Iraq.
  15. Attributed to Ḥusain b. ʿAlī (d. 50 A.H.), 41 folios, Mashhad, Iran.
  16. Attributed to Ḥasan b. ʿAlī, 124 folios, Mashhad, Iran, no. 12.
  17. Attributed to Ḥasan b. ʿAlī, 124 folios. Najaf, Iraq.
  18. A copy, 332 folios, most likely from the early first half of the first century, Hegira. The Egyptian Library, Cairo, no. 139 Masahif
  19. Ascribed to Khudayj b. Muʿawiya (d. 63 A.H.) written in 49 A.H. Amanat Khizana, Topkapi Saray, no. 44. It has 226 folios.
  20. A muṣḥaf in Kufic script penned in 74 A.H. Amanat Khizana, Topkapi Saray, no. 2. It has 406 folios.
  21. A copy scribed by Ḥasan al-Baṣrī in 77 A.H. The Egyptian Library, Cairo, no. 50 Masahif
  22. A copy in the Museum of Islamic Art, Istanbul, no. 358. According to Dr. al-Munaggid it belongs to the late first century, Hegira.
  23. A copy with 27 folios. The Egyptian Library, Cairo, no. 247.
  24. Some 5000 folios from different manuscripts at the Bibliotheque Nationale de France, many from the first century, Hegira. Some of them, Arabe 328(a), has lately been published as a facsimile edition,[43] and Arabe 330g + Is. 1615 II.
  25. Is. 1615 I + Ms. 68, 69, 70, 699 + Sotheby’s 2008, Lot 3 + TR:490-2007. Chester Beatty Library, Dublin, Ireland; Museum Of Islamic Art, Doha, Qatar; Private collections.
  26. DAM 01–27.1. Dār al-Makhṭūṭāt, Yemen.
  27. Ms. Or. 2165. British Library, London.
  28. DAM 01-25.1. Dār al-Makhṭūṭāt, Yemen.
  29. DAM 01-29.1. Dār al-Makhṭūṭāt, Yemen.
  30. Christies 2011, Lot 10. Private collection.
  31. Sotheby’s 2011, Lot 1. Private collection.
  32. M a VI 165. Universitätsbibliothek Tübingen, Germany.[44]

The Italian orientalist Sergio Noja Noseda, with F. Déroche, studied the ḥijāzī script manuscripts of the Qur’ān, written on parchment, that belongs to the first century of the Hegira, and he concluded that almost eighty-three percent of the Qur’ānic text[45]is available in these manuscripts.[46] It is worth noting that these two scholars did not include in their study the Qur’ānic text written in papyri, nor the ḥijāzī parchments from Sana’a, nor the ones written in Kufic script.

Those early manuscripts confirmed that the Qur’ānic text was not affected by any early religious schism, political events, or newly absorbed cultures. It is the same text all over the first century of the Hegira.[47]

The manuscripts of the Qur’ān collated in the twentieth century refute missionaries’ claims that the manuscripts testify to the corruption of the text. The Reverend Dr. Muḥammad Hamidullah writes, “An Institute for Qur’ānic Research was set up. The idea was to collect all the oldest available copies of the Holy Qur’ān, in original or photocopies. The process of collection lasted for three generations. When I was at the University of Paris in 1933, the third Director of the Institute, Mr. Pretzl, came to Paris to get photocopies of all the ancient manuscripts of the Holy Qur’ān available in the Public Library of Paris. The professor told me personally at the time (1933) that the Institute had 43000 photocopies of the Holy Qur’ān and that the work of collation was proceeding apace. During the Second World War, a bomb hit the building of the Institute destroying the edifice, the library and the staff.[48] An interim report published shortly before the beginning of the Second World War stated, inter alia, that the work of collation of the Qur’ānic manuscripts had not yet been completed. But the result of the examination conducted until then suggested that while some mistakes of calligraphy had been detected in the manuscripts, not a single discrepancy in the text had been discovered. A calligraphic or typographical error found in one manuscript does not recur in another. Suppose, for example, that in a manuscript of the Qur’ān one word is missing from the text. This mistake will remain confined only to that very manuscript; the rest will have the complete text.” [49]

That is a fact which was even acknowledged by Arthur Jeffery, who was attempting, in his study, to prove the corruption of the Qur’ānic text. He said, “Practically all the early Codices and fragments that have so far been carefully examined, show the same type of text, such variants as occur being almost always explainable as scribal errors.”[50]

Wallace’s Seven Fables

In his non-stop attack on Ehrman’s books, articles, and lectures, Wallace invented a new strategy to discredit Ehrman’s evaluation of the integrity of the New Testament text. He claimed that the major objections that Ehrman had on the New Testament are “the right analysis but for the wrong religions.” Ehrman’s critique, he said, about theological motives for corrupting the scriptures, describes Islam far more than Christianity.[51]

I think we need to go through his misrepresentation of the history of the Qur’ān and his inaccurate claims about the New Testament to see why Wallace fails one more time in rescuing the New Testament, and how textual criticism can be defiled when it starts to be motivated by missionary’s concerns. Wallace presented the following seven comments by which he sought to prove that the catastrophic distortion of the scriptures as exposed by Ehrman should be directed to the Qur’ān and not to the New Testament:

First: A heavy orthodox editing of the Qur’ān in the first century was geared toward “orthodoxy,” while the New Testament was not exposed to such an experience in its earliest decades, which, as argued by Ehrman, were marked by free, even wild copying.


(1) ʿUthmān did not change the text, he did not create a new one, he did not add passages nor did he delete clauses, he did not interfere at all when making the official copy. All that he did was to inaugurate a project to limit the number of the authentic readings.

(2) Claiming that the ʿUthmānic project was driven by orthodoxy and hereticism is sheer misinformation which cannot be proved through an analysis of the Qur’ānic text or of its history. Many authentic readings ascribed to the Companions of the Prophet[52] not incorporated in the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf are recorded in the books of the exegesis of the Qur’ān or the Qirā’āt [readings], and none of them counters the Islamic orthodox teaching.

(3) Islamic history recorded many struggles in the first century of the Hegira, but none of them has to do with any disagreement between the Companions about the “orthodoxy” tendency of the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf.

(4) We have proved in this book that we are absolutely unable to find the original text of the New Testament, which is something that prevents the Christian apologists from negating the hypo-thesis of heavy editing that was “geared toward orthodoxy.”

(5) It was proven with overwhelming evidence that the New Testament was a “living text” in the two first centuries, the formative period of the “orthodoxy” as a doctrine and canon, which gives us good reason to believe in a spontaneous orthodox editing of the text.

(6) The early Christian sects of the two first centuries accused each other of corrupting some books of the New Testament, and that is clear when we find that some of these books were “canonized” in the “heretical circles,” but in a different version. The well-known examples are:

  • The Marcionites had Luke’s version[53] and some of Paul’s epistles, and it seems that their version lacked all prophecies of Christ’s coming, as well as the infancy account and the baptism.[54] Many scholars, such as Walter Bauer, assert that Marcion was “the first systematic collector of the Pauline heritage.”[55] Hypothetically, we can assume from the apparent theological divergences between Marcionism and “Orthodoxism” that theses two groups did not share one authentic text, a fact partially proved by the reconstructed version of the Marcionites’ scriptures.
  • The Ebionites had their own version of Matthew’s Gospel that lacks the first two chapters[56] and possibly stresses that Jesus is a human being as is the belief of the members of this sect.[57]

(7) The heavy editing in the history of the “orthodox” church started with the writing of the canonical books. It was a selective act towards the oral tradition, which was the fountain that flows with both those which will be called later “orthodox” and “heretical” teachings.

As proclaimed by Thomas Kazen, there is no reason to believe that the first century saw the birth of four gospels only.[58] Thus, the oral tradition of the first century was the source of the religious writings of that era which were subjective selections from conflicting traditions.

(8) The second heavy editing, which includes new dogmatic views, is the change made to the Marcan gospel by Matthew and Luke when they used its text as the base of their versions.

(9) The historical, chronological, and theological tendencies in the Gospel of John indicate that the author of the fourth Gospel dealt differently with Jesus’ life and teachings than the Synoptic Gospels when editing the oral tradition later on, at the end of the first century.[59]

(10) The Pauline Christology is remarkably different from the view spread in the Gospels[60], which indicates plainly that Paul worked hard for a “heavy self-editing” of the received oral tradition.

(11) The ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf was selected from authentic tradition using a strict methodology so that no foreign text could possibly be added to the holy collected text, so as to provide a canonized copy of the Qur’ān for the growing Muslim Nation, while the New Testament is selected from a mixed tradition resulting in the imposition of only the “orthodox” tradition, without there being any serious guarantee that what was selected was, in effect, the authentic tradition.

Second: Wallace accused ʿUthmān of claiming that his “canonical” text was the exact equivalent of the autographs after destroying the nonconforming manuscripts, while the defective or deteriorating copies of the New Testament manuscripts were not destroyed but hidden.


(1) ʿUthmān destroyed all the authentic readings except “some,”[61]while we know that the “orthodox” church did destroy all the other gospels and religious writings of the so-called “heretics” without refuting their historicity or their conformity to the authentic tradition. It is well known that the canon of the New Testament is a subjective selection[62] that starts off being labeled as orthodox, but which did not prove its self-orthodoxy. So, with ʿUthmān we do not doubt the authenticity of the readings he kept; in contrast, we are left on the Christian side without a real proof that what was canonized was selected by scientific criteria to be considered authentic. We can see this incomparable situation from another side, which is that the Companions minimized the data of the authentic readings they received directly from the prophet, while late Christian generations picked up some known books to be considered authentic and authoritative without giving solid reasons to eliminate our doubts about the huge gap of time between the creation of these books and their canonization.

(2) The paucity of information we encounter when researching the New Testament texts of the early Christian decades is a historical fact that opposes any claimed certitude that the material which was copied by the later generations was not a re-edited version made by the disciples of the authors or by their disciples when only very few copies were circulating. Surely, we cannot register our ignorance as positive proof for the preservation of an old text.

(3) ʿUthmān kept only part of the authentic Qur’ānic readings and destroyed the rest, while the “orthodox” Christians created books, then attributed them to famous characters who were close to Jesus so that they would be regarded as authoritative.[63] The ʿUthmānic project was a work dealing with a large body of authentic data, while the Christian canon was working mainly outside the true early Jesuit tradition.

(4) Why should ʿUthmān be blamed for not including all the original readings in the muṣḥaf which he ordered to be produced, while:

  • The evangelists did not record all of Jesus’ sayings.[64]
  • Paul quoted a saying he attributed to Jesus that is not found in the gospels.[65]
  • We can find in patristic literature sayings which are attributed to Jesus that are not found in the canonical scriptures.[66]

So the debate should be limited to the preservation of the original holy text that the earliest believers of the first generation following the two Revelations in question want to preserve, not all the text coming from the original source (Qur’ānic readings for Muslims, oral tradition for Christians).

Third: “The closest we come to heavy-handed control for NT MSS did not occur until at least the ninth century, long after the major Christological disputes had ended. Even then, we do not see defective MSS getting destroyed.”


(1) Establishing indisputably the authenticity of the transmission of the Qur’ānic text during the lives of the majority of the closest Companions of the Prophet should be considered to be the most unequivocal proof of the faithfulness of the transmission of the Qur’ān. In contrast, we can see incontestably that we have no fixed text of the New Testament, and that proliferation of copies made of it was accompanied by the deterioration of the quality of the text. The earliest known history of the New Testament manuscripts starts from the second half of the second century, and this history chronicles the fact that the text was not stabilized as has been demonstrated before. The most crucial change in the text occurred in the four earlier centuries, which is the formative period of the Christian dogma.

(2) The noticeable rigidity of Christian doctrine in later centuries does not confute the evidence of the existence of early waves of dogmatic corruption of the New Testament. The earliest signs for the corruption of the New Testament are good reason to believe that the early uncontrolled manuscripts shifted from a primitive autograph to a more refined text under the pressure of the genesis of Christian sectarian groups, which were looking for a divine authority for their dogmas.

(3) It is true that the later manuscripts were not destroyed, but the earliest ones did not survive, and the autograph disappeared forever, with no trace in the oral tradition of the first generation (or the generation of the authors).

Fourth: The uncontrolled copying of the manuscripts of the New Testament is a decisive argument against the allegation of a proto-orthodox conspiracy. The manuscripts of the Alexandrian text-type look so much like each other because they were in a relatively pure line of transmission.


(1) Losing the original text forever is the main issue, and the starting point for discussing what the autograph used to look like. Anyway, it is enough for us to make the case that since there is no guarantee that the perished original text reached the third century without being seriously modified, the “believer” should not rely on text, doubts about which are hovering over it from all sides.

(2) While I do not believe, nor can I negate, the proposition that a systematic corruption of the text was made by the “orthodox” Church, I do maintain that the “wild copying by untrained scribes” was the cause of the phenomenon of the unintentional alterations of the text and the bad quality of many early copies, and of the wave of changes made by scribes in their regrettable attempts to defend orthodox belief and to prove the inerrancy of the scriptures. And this is what has been proven in the present work.

(3) Wallace believes that the Byzantine text-type differs notably from the Alexandrian text-type, and that the Byzantine text-type was the official “version” of the Church from the ninth century, but he does not believe that it was the result of a late change through a conspiracy. He believes too that the era when the Byzantine text-type was created and proliferated did see a “wild copying by untrained scribes” and a “proto-orthodoxy” in the copying activities. Why, then, should we join the two when talking about the Byzantine text-type and, at the same time, choose one of the two when discussing the earliest copies of the texts, produced in a period when the dogmatic motivations were more intense, and the manuscripts were copied by hopelessly untrained scribes in unknown circumstances?

(4) While we believe that what is called the “Alexandrian Text-type” is the closest to the autograph, we cannot assume that that text-type is a proof for a “relatively pure line of transmission,” for different reasons:

  • All the so-called text-types are selective designations. I think it is impossible to come to a strict objective definition for each of them. There were no schools with different methods of transmitting the text such that we could attribute these text-types to them or to their methodology.[67]
  • Being the closest to the original is a relative judgment that does not prove how faithful the text is to the autograph.
  • We are not supposed to limit our means of access to the autograph only to the witnessing of the manuscripts; we should, rather, use other means so that we can go as far back as possible to the time of the composition of the New Testament. Use of such means led us to notice a remarkable change in the text in the obscure zone.

(5) The only factual example that Wallace repeats in his articles, speeches, and debates is the great agreement[68] between the Codex Vaticanus (B) from the fourth century and P75. First of all, this example cannot prove that that claimed pure line of transmission starts from the time of the copying of the autograph,[69] because P75 is a manuscript dated from the third century,[70] and it only contained portions (almost half) of two Gospels (Luke and John). Secondly, this very same example should be taken as evidence against the pure line of transmission claimed by Wallace, because it is the exception that proves the rule, and the rule is that the earliest manuscripts differ from the later ones. M. Robinson already indicated that P75 is the only known papyrus which is predominantly Alexandrian, all the other papyri possessing a good degree of mixture between different text-types. He insisted that none of the extant papyri beyond 75/B are closely related to any known uncial witness, and that the papyri and uncial manuscripts all appear to reflect isolated and independent lines of transmission.[71] Barbara Aland and Klaus Wachtel proclaimed that it is impossible to establish any direct genealogical ties among the papyri and majuscules because they differ so widely from one another.[72]

Fifth: The Qur’ānic manuscripts so closely resemble one another because the copying was strictly controlled. “All manuscripts ultimately derived from a single copy- a copy that was not identical to the original text.” In contrast, the New Testament text was uncontrolled in the process of its copying, and the scribes made scores of mistakes. “In short, the Qur’ān copying practices were more related to apologetics, while the New Testament practices were more related to life.”


(1) The impeccable transmission of the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf is a fact that Wallace could not deny,[73] even though he alleges that the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf is not “identical to the original text,” which is an absurd claim. The Qur’ān was not a text with a sole reading prior to the year 25 of the Hegira.[74] A Qur’ānic text does exist with multiple readings that can be traced to the Prophet and which were known to his Companions. The ʿUthmānic text is identical to the original text, but it does not incorporate all of its readings. The consensus of the thousands of Companions who heard the Qur’ān during the life of the Prophet, that the material which was collected by ʿUthmān was an original text, is categorical proof that we are dealing with an unaltered Qur’ānic text.

(2) Having an official Qur’ānic copy imposed by the leader of the Muslim Nation in the lifetime of the majority of the Companions of the Prophet, and having a consensus at that early time by these Companions that this text was identical to the original Message revealed to the Prophet, makes the integrity of the text out of question. Conversely, the continual changes made to the New Testament text from the earliest known phase of its transmission have given rise to a most regrettable situation regarding its veracity, which is totally opposite to the certainty that the Qur’an remains pristine. This fact is borne out by the history of the transmission of the Qur’an.

(3) The uncontrolled biblical text allowed the conflicting earlier Christian sects to shape it any way that fit their theological and historical convictions. In contrast, the supervised control of the collected text of the Qur’ān, which text was attested to by the Companions, gave no chance for any corruption of its wording to creep in under the influence of any sectarian schism in the formative period of the Islamic epoch.

Sixth: The New Testament versions and the Greek manuscripts are all “considered the very Word of God.” “By way of contrast, the only true Qur’ān is the Arabic Qur’ān. All translations are officially suspect.”


(1) Honestly, Wallace’s point escapes me. Christians (who lost the original text as soon as it was written) give the New Testament versions the same canonical status as the Greek manuscripts (even though it is very well known that the other languages lack many linguistic features unique to Greek, as discussed earlier). Muslims, on the other hand, believe that the word of God was sent to Muḥammad (peace be upon him) in Arabic, which has been in their possession throughout all their history. Where is the problem with the Qur’ān?!

(2) When we read Wallace’s statement that “all translations are officially suspect,” it seems that a critical view of this kind is due to the distortions found in such translations and based on dogmatic or apologetics concerns. The fact of the matter is, no Muslim scholar would dare give such a judgment. Muslim scholars criticize the accuracy of Qur’ānic translations because they do not convey the exact meaning of the Arabic text, or because they cannot provide all the possible nuances it contains. It is for this reason that the majority of Muslim scholars today do not describe the rendition of the Qur’ān in other languages as the “translation of the Qur’ān”; rather, they insist on calling it the “translation of the meanings of the Qur’ān.” [75]

(3) The New Testament scholars are in need of old versions of the texts to help them decide on the best reading available from the wild variants in the manuscripts, while Muslims have faithfully kept to the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf from the beginning of the first century of the Hegira until today, and most assuredly do not feel any need to resort to translations of the meanings of the Qur’ān in lieu of the original text.

Seventh: The official editing of the Qur’an and the suppression of any nonconforming manuscripts was motivated by theological doctrines, so the edited Qur’an differs from the autograph in doctrinal matters, while the spontaneous copying of the New Testament is a guarantee of a nonsystematic alteration of the text for theological motives. Wallace quoted a lengthy statement sent to him by Keith E. Small, in which Small insists that the change of the Qur’ānic text happened too early, while “the changes to the New Testament were gradual, relatively late in the history of transmission, and primarily for liturgical reasons and to improve the style.”[76]


(1) The doing away with the non-ʿUthmānic manuscripts cannot throw suspicion on the authenticity of the Qur’ānic text as we have it today, because the destroyed variants did not contain contradictory variants; they were either examples of the pronunciation of words in an Arabic idiom other than that of Quraysh (the Prophet’s tribe), they offered synonyms to the revealed words, or they were expansions on the meaning of the inherited text.[77] The Companions and the subsequent generations did not view the discarding of the other variants as something that took away from the status of the holy inherited text. They punctured/burned[78] their own copies of those variants because they were convinced that the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf preserved the exact words revealed to the Prophet and did not differ from theirs in any way as regards doctrinal issues.

(2) None of the theological conflicts that emerged in the first century were connected to any reading expunged from the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf.

(3) Small believes that the pre/ʿUthmānic readings are only available in a few palimpsests and in Islamic literature. He also states that these palimpsests do not show remarkable divergence from that which was preserved in the Islamic tradition, [79] which can be seen in certain details in the study made on DAM 01–27.1, the only true pre-ʿUthmānic manuscript.[80] The question of the few alleged signs of theological differences will be discussed later on.

(4) Some amateur missionaries are trying to wrongfully use the palimpsest DAM 01–27.1[81] to prove that the Qur’ān as we have today is corrupted, without having any substantial knowledge about the Islamic version of the history of the Qur’ān, the dating of this palimpsest, or the academic studies made about it.

My stance is as follows:

I: Both external and internal evidence prove that the inferior text of this palimpsest was written prior to the making of the ʿUthmānic version because (a) the radiocarbon test testifies to that early date, (b) it has many readings known in Islamic literature as belonging to the Companions’ codices,[82] (c) the arrangement of the sūrah-s [chapters] is close to Ubayy’s codices and differs from the ʿUthmānic arrangement.[83]

II: There are only two studies made on the history of the inferior text,[84] the first by Behnam Sadeghi in two articles.[85] Sadeghi defended the view that this text belongs to a codex of a Companion of the Prophet, stating that some of the defective character of the text can be explained by the orality of its transmission. [86] The second study was made by Asma Hilali. Unfortunately, her detailed study has not been published yet, but one can see from one of her articles and her lectures[87] that she is of the view that this palimpsest “is not a codex of the Qur’ānic text but a school book dedicated to help the memory of the student learning the Qur’ān.[88][89] Even though it is not easy to tell categorically which one of these two views reflects historical fact, it is clear that they share a crucial fact, which is that the “non-standard” readings are (entirely or partly) due to the defective memorization of the text.[90]

III: We can confine the two previous theories in one: the inferior text of the palimpsest is a training copy of a codex that goes back to a Companion. It is a training copy because:

(1) Many of the nonstandard readings can be said to be the result of a faulty memory. Some of the readings are obviously present in the text due to a flawed memory, such as:

  1. Q 24:26[91], where the palimpsest (folio 11 A) broke the analogy of mentioning vile woman/man, vile man/woman- good woman/man, good man/woman. It has vile woman/man, vile man/woman, good man/woman, woman/man.

Q 24:31: the palimpsest has azwājuhinna instead of the first buʿūlatihinna in the standard reading, but then it uses again the word buʿūlatihinna as the standard reading in the rest of the verse. It is odd to use two synonyms in the same verse in a legislative passage without having a contextual reason for doing so.

Q 2:220: “fa’ikhwānuhum,” instead of “fa’ikhwānukum,” as is the standard reading, does not fit the context because the speech is made direct from the Prophet to the believers.

Q 15:65: has ya’murūna instead of the standard tu’marūna, which does not fit the context, because Lot and his family were supposed to go where Allah asked them to go so they could be saved, not where they wanted to go.

Q 33:60: The palimpsest has al-munāfiqīn, which is grammatically incorrect. It should be al-munāfiqūn, as per the standard reading.

Q 8:73: The palimpsest has wa-fasādan kabīrun, which is grammatically incorrect. It should be as is the standard reading: wa-fasādun kabīrun.

Q 24:31: The palimpsest has abṣārihim (their gaze) attributed to the males, which is wrong in this context, since the commandment was being addressed to females. It should be abṣārihinna, as per the standard reading.

Q 15:42: The palimpsest has minhum, which makes the sentence awkward, or ʿalayhim, which would be a scribal error, since ʿalayhim appears again after laka.

  1. Sometimes the scribe made a mistake when he was trying to remember the text, so he put in a synonym for the standard reading, then he erased what he wrote, and finally wrote the traditional reading. For instance, Q. 9:20[92]; 19:8[93]; Q 24:31[94]. This habit is repeated in different cases, which tells that the scribe was not a trained one and was depending on his sloppy memory.
  2. In Q 24:31 the scribe wrote “الو” “al-wi.” Then, when he found out that the original word, which means “young children,” was not “الولدان” “al-wildān,” but rather, “الطفل” “al-ṭifl,” as per the standard reading, he kept “الو” and then wrote “الطفل”, which is unheard of when writing a holy text.
  3. Some clauses are transposed to different verses due to their parallel context, such as Q 2:88 bal ṭabaʿa allāhu ʿalayhā taken from Q:155; Q:25:2 lam yīattakhidh ṣāḥibatan walā waladan taken from Q: 72:3; Q:63:3 thummā izdādū kufran taken from Q 3:90.
  4. The ninth sūrah is the only sūrah in the Qur’an which does not start with the phrase bismillāh . . . “In the name of Allah. . . .” The palimpsest placed this phrase at the beginning of the sūrah, but in the next line the scribe wrote, “Do not say Bismillāh,[95] which shows that the scribe is not professional and is not making an official copy of the Qur’an to be used by other people.

(2) There are some scribal errors in the text, though not many:

  • Q 2:196: fadiyatun instead of fafidyatun.
  • Q 2:200: wa’ithā aqḍaytum instead of fa’ithā qaḍaytum.
  • Q 2: 202: kasabūn instead of kasabū.
  • Q 2:217: istaṭāʿūna instead of istaṭāʿū.
  • Q 19:26: fakālī instead of fakulī.
  • Q 22:31: tahūn instead of tahwī.
  • Q 22:37: wa-laka instead of wa-lākin.
  • Q 9:81: al-nāru jahannama instead of nāru jahannama.
  • Q 19:16: udhkurā instead of udhkur.
  • Q19:72: al-muttaqīīna instead of al-muttaqīna.[96]

(3) The number of words written on each line of the palimpsest is not consistent; sometimes there is only one word on a line, while other lines contain over ten words. Using such expensive pieces of parchment to write a holy text in such an unaesthetic way is worthy of notice.

IV: The inferior text can in no way throw doubt on the integrity of the ʿUthmānic recension as we have it, because the ʿUthmānic version[97] has its own perfect lineage, attested to by innumerable chains of narrators and by all the other extant manuscripts. According to Hilali, the text of the palimpsest has no historical reliability to compete with the ʿUthmānic text because it is only a bad copy of it.

V: The text of the palimpsest should actually be used to prove the integrity of the Islamic version of the pre-ʿUthmānic state of the Qur’ānic readings, and to refute many claims of some important non-Muslim orientalists:

(1) The types of variants: It was noted that the differences between the multiple readings in the time of the Companions before issuing a unified text in the time of ʿUthmān, as regards the undotted consonantal skeletal form of the text, are (i) Differences involving the change, addition, or omission of one or two consonants to the skeletal text, with only a minimal effect on the meaning. (ii) Differences involving the substitution of one word for another, usually with the same meaning (i.e. synonyms). (iii) Differences involving the omission or addition of words. (iv) Differences involving a change of word order. (v) Differences involving the substitution of a longer phrase or formula, for another.[98] Many non-Muslim orientalists throw doubt on the authenticity of these details as conveyed to us by Islamic literature, and some of them, such as John Wansbrough and John Burton, go further to negate the historicity of all of this material.[99] Today, for the first time, we have a concrete example to prove the historicity of all the previous details. The text of the palimpsest proves the faithfulness of the Islamic literature and refutes any further kinds of supposed readings.

(2) Many non-Muslim scholars—and even a number of Muslim scholars—have doubted that many readings ascribed to the Companions were Qur’ānic in the literal sense. They insist that these reported texts are supposed to be considered “exegetical readings,” which means that they are not Qur’ān in the strict sense, they are only self-interpretations of the Qur’ānic text. In the majority of the reports attributed to the students of the Companions, we cannot see any sign that these students thought that the readings of their teachers were not Qur’ānic text. Most of the time these reporters made it clear that such and such readings were found in “the reading of” a certain Companion or in his muṣḥaf.[100] Mujāhid b. Jabr (21-104 A.D.), one of the earliest Qur’ānic scholars who was a student of the Companion Ibn ʿAbbas, said (as al-Tirmidhī narrated with a sound chain of narrators), “If I did recite Qur’ān as the reading of Ibn Masʿūd, I would not need to question Ibn ʿAbbās concerning the exegesis of many of the Qur’ānic passages that I did ask him about them.”[101] Thus, many readings ascribed to the Companions were literally part of the Qur’ānic text, and not personal notes. In the text of the palimpsest, we can notice on different occasions such Qur’ānic texts, with additions of words that make the meaning more clear or detailed. Some of them are already mentioned in Islamic literature. So, the palimpsest affirms the credibility of what was narrated about the codices of the Companions.

(3) While many non-Muslim scholars claim that the largest number of the non-canonized readings are a mere forgery by early Muslim generations, Muslim scholars made a claim which is diametrically opposed to that, which is, as stated by ibn al-Jazarī, “The famous readings today from the seven, the ten, and the thirteen comparing to what was famous in the early time are little from many and drops from a sea, and anyone who has a good knowledge, is very well aware of that.”[102] ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Khaṭīb, in his book of Qur’ānic readings, which is considered today as the largest collection, acknowledged in the introduction that “you will never find a book that contains all the readings.”[103] Ibn Jinnī (d. 392 A.D.) long ago explained the reason for this when he mentioned that no book was written to collect the non-“canonized”[104] readings.[105] If we consider the inferior text of the palimpsest to be a faithful copy of a Companion[106], it will prove that Muslim scholars were right, because we can find new readings in the palimpsest not mentioned in Islamic literature.

(4) The arrangements of the verses: Some scholars claimed that the arrangement of the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf is a late fabrication, mainly because many verses were added to the text recently, or because the Prophet did not organize these verses in his lifetime. Our palimpsest buries this unfounded claim today because it gives us the same ʿUthmānic arrangement of the verses.

(5) The arrangement of the sūrah-s: The Islamic literature noted different arrangements of the sūrah-s before unifying the Muslim nation around the ʿUthamanic muṣḥaf. The palimpsest gave us a positive sign for the claim of the Islamic tradition.

I would like to finish by quoting Angelika Neuwirth, Professor at the Freie Universität Berlin and Member in the School of Historical Studies, a leading scholar of the Qur’ān in the West today: “New findings of Qur’ānic text fragments, moreover, can be adduced to affirm rather than call into question the traditional picture of the Qur’ān as an early fixed text composed of the suras we have. Nor have scholars trying to deconstruct that image through linguistic arguments succeeded in seriously discrediting the genuineness of the Qur’ān as we know it.”[107]


Finally, Wallace asserts that while Muslims claim that the manuscripts of the Qur’an are exactly alike, no bona fide Christian scholar has claimed that about their manuscripts.

In fact, Muslim scholars do not claim that all copies are 100% alike; what they believe is that the extant Qur’ānic manuscripts were not intentionally corrupted, since all that can be detected is a minute number of accidental mistakes, not one of which one can be found repeated in the other copies. It is, as admitted by Wallace, a perfect written transmission of the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf, which is a well-done Qur’ānic compilation performed by the followers of the Prophet. As for the New Testament, no two manuscripts of it are identical.

Ten Shocking Facts

The following comparison may make it easier for the reader to grasp the fundamental differences between the Qur’ān and the New Testament texts.

Qur’ān New Testament
1.It was recited by Muḥammad, as the overwhelming majority of non-Muslim scholars believe.[108] A majority of academic scholars admit that most of the New Testament books were written by unknown authors. There is near-unanimity that the authors of the four Gospels are unknown.
2.It was memorized and transmitted orally from the first Muslim generation until today. No oral preservation of the text exists.
3.We have manuscripts from the first century of the Hegira that cover the whole text. No manuscript from the first century exists today.
4.Muslims from the first century after the Qur’ān was revealed used to read the whole text periodically as was commanded by their Prophet, and they listened to the recitation of its whole text at least once a year in the month of Ramaḍān. Children were taught to memorize it at the beginning of their academic career. We have no idea about the attitude of the Christians toward the New Testament in the first century. And there is strong evidence that the New Testament’s books were not collected in one authoritative book in that century.
5.The official copy was agreed upon and established in the era of the Companions of the Prophet. The Gospels were written by unknown authors. There is no historical proof to prove that the disciples knew these books.
6.The official copy was approved by thousands of the Companions; many of them accepted the official version (which differed from theirs) because they saw the need for a unified copy that preserved the original text. There is no official copy.
7.The sectarian schism in the first centuries did not result in the emergence of different Qur’ān-s, even though some of the conflicts were bloody. Sectarian schism was the main reason for the creation of huge number of books which claim that they are the word of God, or to which the new sects attribute a divine source.
8.Muslims have their Holy book in its original language. Jesus spoke Aramaic (or maybe Hebrew), but the New Testament books were written in Greek, a language most likely not known to Jesus.
9.We have even the smallest details of the history of the Qur’an. The first hundred years after the writing of the autographs is an obscure zone.
10.There does not exist any dogmatic issue behind the variants as reported by the Companions. Dogmatic was behind putting part of the oral tradition into written form and also the emergence of what later were called “canonical” and “non-canonical” writings.

Later on, dogmatism was behind the corruption of some passages of the canonical books.

Small’s Delusion

In an unprecedented attempt to discredit the originality of the text of the Qur’ān and to defend the faithfulness of the transmission of the New Testament text through the examination of the extant manuscripts, Keith A. Small, an active missionary, discussed his Ph.D thesis, a comparative study of the textual history of the Qur’ān and the New Testament. Before publishing his dissertation, he published an abstract of it[109], then expanded it in his missionary book, Holy books Have a History, Textual Histories of the New Testament and the Quran. Shortly after that, he published the scholarly version: “Textual Criticism and Qur’ān Manuscripts.”

We will comment on Small’s publications from three angles: the methodology, the results of his study, and the motivation, so we can discern better the starting point of Small’s thesis, his methodology, and his conclusion.

Awkward Methodology

In a Ph.D dissertation written by a researcher involved in Islamic studies, and in a pioneering study in a virgin field in a time when there is a revolution of knowledge and information in the field of scriptural studies of the religious books, one would expect to find that the author had done serious and fruitful research. Unfortunately, the reader of Small’s study will be stunned by the highly awkward methodology, which affected the core conclusions of the study. Some of the aspects of this poorly thought out methodology are as follows:

  • At the beginning of his book and under the title “Limitations of the Study,” Small admits that he dismissed consideration of the Islamic tradition from his study, and that he gleaned the little information that he did include from secondary sources. At the same time, he acknowledges that the history of the Qur’ānic text is oral par excellence.[110] In such a special case, how can the history of the Qur’ān be drawn when the main source that can enlighten the first centuries of the text is almost absent. What Small did was to use a secondary tool to build a complete theory with minute details. This is a severe deficiency and an indication of a lack of seriousness.
  • The fundamental problem with Small’s methodology is that it starts from an unfounded premise and the unscientific wish to prove the superiority of the New Testament text compared to the Qur’ānic text on the scale of the manuscriptural evidence. Small was trying to legitimize this comparison by stating that the Qur’ān is, like the New Testament, a sacred book of a major faith community, and that it also has an extensive number of available manuscripts.[111] This is a tenuous and inept justification for such a study, because these two books cannot be compared in this way, due to the intrinsic differences in their transmission. The New Testament has no oral tradition whatsoever that might have been inherited from the earliest centuries; its entire history can only be examined through extant manuscripts, while the Qur’ān was transmitted through unbroken oral chains, and its manuscripts were not used as a means for the preservation of the text, by themselves.

The muṣḥaf was not the means to preserve the Qur’ān for the Muslim nation throughout its history; it was the oral memory which kept the text intact as it is. The Qur’ānic manuscripts were not treated as authorities by their owners or even by the scribes, they were merely considered as a way to help with reading and memorizing the text and to spread the fresh and steady oral tradition. The practical rule imposed from the first century concerning the transmission of the Qur’ān is, “do not take the Qur’ān from muṣḥafiīī (someone who did not receive the Qur’ān from a teacher but from a written copy).[112]

  • What will really astonish the reader is that the main conclusions of Small’s study have nothing to do with the textual study he made on the Qur’ānic manuscripts. The crucial points he made are connected to the pre-ʿUthmānic readings and the readings chosen by Ibn Mujāhid in the fourth century A.H. The pre-ʿUthmānic readings are only available in Islamic traditional books, and that they exist in very few palimpsests is debatable, as will be seen. Anyway, Small did not study these palimpsests in his book.[113] The authentic readings chosen by Ibn Mujāhid cannot be studied either through the extant Qur’ānic manuscripts.
  • The blend of contradictory sources used by Small in his discussion is another unpleasant feature of his work. Small was aware that the testimony of the Qur’ānic scriptures could not serve to support the wished-for result, which is why he gathered statements from orientalists’ studies to question the pillars of the history of the Qur’ān. One shocking example is his adherence to Bellami’s views on the Qur’ānic history, which are based on the dismissal of the trustworthy Islamic tradition. Small, one will note, did not express an unusual doubt about the same tradition compared to the majority of the orientalists.
  • What makes Small’s conclusions unacceptable is that many of his deductions are not backed up by detailed argumentation or evidence. In many instances, Small found it enough to allude to studies that made provocative statements, without supplying any related decisive arguments that would refute the common views held by scholars. Moreover, sometimes the reference used does not make clear what Small claims to be defending. For instance, when he claimed that Ibn Mujāhid’s choosing of the “canonical” readings was made to support particular Sunni orthodox political and theological positions,[114] he alludes to an article[115] written by a specialist in Medieval Islamic architecture[116] who neither discussed the motivations of Ibn Mujāhid’s actions nor mentioned these “particular Sunni orthodox political and theological positions.”
  • Due to his unfamiliarity with Arabic classic Islamic literature and his seeming haste to portray Muslim scholars as distorters of the true history of the Qur’an, Small misrepresented many statements made by these scholars. He writes, for instance, that al-Bāqillānī (d. 403 A.H.) “inadvertently made this kind of mistake in that he claimed that within Muḥammad’s lifetime, the complete arrangement of the text of the Qur’an was fixed, including the precise vowels and consonantal readings of the text.” [117] He commented, “view of the extant manuscript evidence, this appears to be anachronistic, in that the precise vowels and readings could not have been preserved in the script of the seventh century.”[118] He referred at the endnote to “Madigan, Self-Image, p.47.” Madigan provided the Arabic quotation and its English translation, yet Small distorted his statement. Al-Bāqillāni was not talking about the manuscripts, he was only talking about the oral transmission of the Qur’an, and when he discussed the arrangement of the sūrah-s, he said that there were two different scholarly views: the first, that the Prophet himself arranged the sūrah-s, and the other, that this was not the case. Al-Bāqillānī felt that the second view was more plausible, but Small wrongly attributed to him the first view.
  • It is quite clear that Small’s knowledge of the science of readings is extremely poor, and one can only wonder how he was authorized to write his thesis in such a field. His work contains numerous shocking errors, but due to the lack of space, I will cite only three of them:
      • Small writes, “Jeffery notes that at least fifty systems for reciting the Qur’ān were still known after the canonization of the Ten in the tenth/fourth century.”[119] Small made here two statements that expose his ignorance about Qur’ānic studies: first, the so-called canonization of the Ten occurred in the ninth century (by Ibn al-Jazarī), not the fourth century. (He evidently confused here the so-called canonization of the Ten with the so-called canonization of the Seven.) Second, as a scholar, he should not have referred to Jeffery as having noted that there were fifty readings known in the fourth century, because that was not something discovered by Jeffery; it was already the subject of a famous book by al-Hudhalī (403?-465 A.D.) al-Kāmil fī al-Qirā’āt al-ʿashr wa al-arbaʿīne al-zā’ida ʿalayhā.[120] Small’s documentation of such a well-known fact with an odd allusion is a clear proof of his total unfamiliarity with the scholarly books on Qur’ānic studies. Jeffery alluded to the book of al-Hudhalī, but Small did not find it appropriate to allude directly to the same book, probably because Jeffery noted that al-Hudhalī’s book is “lost,”[121] so Small did not dare mention it, and he put the burden of the allusion on Jeffery. However, it is known by scholars that that book was not lost; al-Maktabah al-Azhariyyah in Egypt has a manuscript of it under number 369,[122] and the book was edited and printed before the publishing of Small’s books.[123]
      • It is surprising that, when Small was alluding to the number of the early readings, he did not refer directly to al-Nashr, one of the prime sources for Qur’ānic studies, if not the first one, with al-Sabʿah of Ibn Mujāhid. Small used two intermediaries through whom he referred to this essential and famous book.[124]
      • More appalling than the two previous examples is the fact that Small does not even know how to spell the name of the central, key figure of the readings studies; Small wrote the name of this person throughout his book as “Ibn Mujāḥid,” which is “ابن مجاحد” in Arabic, and his name is spelled “ابن مجاهد” with “هـ” “h,” and not “ح” “ḥ.”[125]
  • While Small’s inability to read Arabic was evidently the main reason he did not use Arabic references in his book about the “Arabic” Qur’ān(!), Small did not abstain from discussing linguistic themes to prove his negative view of the Qur’ānic manuscripts. He made egregious mistakes as he was trying to make it appear that obvious scribal errors were variant readings. He writes, for instance, that the “الكبر” al-kibr with an extra tooth “الكبير” al-kabīr, as is written in the manuscript 01-29.1; Q. 14:39, means “very old age” in plural form.[126] To make it worse, he alluded in the endnote to Dictionaries that do not contain any such incorrect translations. The word al-kabīr has nothing to do with the claimed plural form; it means mainly “the big or old,” in singular. The whole sentence with the form al-kabīr is not an acceptable Arabic construction.
  • Small did not bother to check the reliability of the statements in the references he quoted, even when they contained apparent mistakes. One odd example of this is his statement that Mingana noted one instance of an omitted word in a palimpsest.[127] Small then referred, in the endnote, to the item meant by Mingana.[128] Surprisingly, Small included Alba Fedeli’s article that dealt with Mingana’s claim in the list of references of his book. In that article, Fedeli commented on Mingana’s claim in this way: “We can read the standard text with Kāffatan repeated twice (9:36)”[129], which means that Mingana was lying about the unusual reading he noticed in the palimpsest.[130]
  • Small’s preposterous claim that “There are records of transmission lines of recitations documented with reading certificates, but these also do not document the precise content of the recitation”[131] shows that he is totally ignorant about the history of the Qur’ān and how the readings were transmitted. Scholars who were writing down their certifications used to teach thousands of students these same readings, and these readings were transmitted by so many thousands of scholars in their time that it would be meaningless to document their content.

Small’s Objections

Small declared many times that the consonantal form of the text attributed to ʿUthmān was preserved faithfully from the time of its compilation to the present day,[132] but he puts a twofold problem before the reader. He surmises that:

  • Since Muslims acknowledge that the text compiled by ʿUthmān does not contain all of the readings transmitted by Muḥammad to his Companions, that automatically means that we cannot access the whole of the original text of the Qur’ān due to the disappearance of part of the original consonantal text.
  • The consonantal text compiled in the time of ʿUthmān was void of diacritical marks, and due to the weakness[133] of the oral tradition accompanying it from the beginning, we cannot know how the text was originally pronounced. Small purports that it is better to believe that much of the “canonical readings” were created through an attempt to decipher that silent consonantal text, from the first century.

These two objections could only be “justified” if a researcher conducted his study while intentionally rejecting the Islamic tradition and by failing to use any Islamic books that are at the center of Qur’ānic studies. A study made by an author who has not read the ḥadīth tradition or the books of Ibn Mujāhid, or Ibn al-Jazarī or any other influential early Qur’an studies author’s writings—due to his unfamiliarity with the Arabic language, as will be seen later—would, of course, be prone to doubt even everyday facts.

The ʿUthmānc Recension and the Lost Original Text

Small quoted, and agreed with, L. Bevan Jones’ statement made in the beginning of the twentieth century, “But while it may be true that no other work has remained for twelve centuries with so pure a text, it is probably equally true that no other has suffered so drastic a purging.”[134]

If one wants to discuss the meaning of the term “original text” of the Qur’ān, one needs to have a well-founded perception of the status of the “readings” and how the Prophet of Islam used to convey them to his disciples, and how these disciples used to deal with them.

Ibn al-Jazarī alluded to the fact that Muslim scholars had two different views about the whole corpus of the multiple authentic readings, and their reaction about the ʿUthmānic recension. Some of them believe that the seven aḥruf which comprise all of the readings, which came from the lips of the Prophet, are all contained in the ʿUthmānic recension, while the others believe that the ʿUthmānic recension kept only part of the legitimate readings.[135]

If we adhere to the first view, we will consider the non-ʿUthmānic readings to be abrogated readings in the lifetime of the Prophet or to be exegetical readings made by some of the Companions. Then, we can say that the consonantal form of the text attributed to ʿUthmān contains the whole corpus of the original text.

If we uphold the second view, which is favored by the majority of Muslim scholars, then we need to look at the purpose of having different readings for the same text during the Prophet’s lifetime, so we can find out their true status in the earliest Islamic era. We will do this forthwith,

(1) No prophetical saying or action stated that the Companions or the Muslim nation had to preserve, or even know all of the authentic readings. From the ḥadīth-s that mention the seven aḥruf, we can see that these different readings were a rukhṣa (concession) given to the Companions in the time of the Prophet, and that the Companions were not asked to memorize all of them. This can be seen, for instance, in the ḥadīth narrated by al-Bukhārī and Muslim about the time that ʿUmar b. al-Khatṭāb heard another Companion reading sūrah al-Furqān in a different way from his, and took him to the Prophet thinking that that Companion had lied when he told him that he had heard the recitation of the sūrah that way directly from the Prophet. The Prophet told ʿUmar that sūrah al-Furqān had been revealed as taught to ʿUmar and to the other Companion, and he did not blame on ʿUmar for not learning to recite the same sūrah the other way. This is evidence that preserving all readings of the Qur’ān was not a religious obligation. The Prophet further explained to these two Companions in the ḥadīth in question that “The Qur’ān has been revealed in seven different aḥruf, so recite whichever one is easy for you.”[136] The Prophet stressed this message by declaring that “The Qur’ān was revealed in seven different aḥruf, each one of them is remedial[137] and sufficient.”[138] Alī b. abī Ṭālib (d.40 A.D.), the Companion and the fourth Caliph, when two of the Companions asked the Prophet about the different ways they read one particular Qur’ānic sūrah, said, “the Prophet commands you that each one read the Qur’ān as was taught to him.”[139]

Ubayy b. Kaʿb reported that the Prophet encountered Jibrīl at the mirā’ stones (on the outskirts of Madinah, near Qubā’) and told him, “I have been sent to a nation of illiterates, among them is the elder with his walking stick, the aged woman and the young.” Jibrīl replied, “So command them to read the Qur’ān in seven aḥruf.”[140] Thus the seven multiple aḥruf were revealed mainly to make the Qur’ānic text easy for the first Muslim generation, which was illiterate, to understand and recite, not as a compulsory religious inheritance to be kept throughout the Muslim generations.

The Prophet sent his Companions to different areas of the immense land governed by Muslims and ordered them to teach their people how to read the Qur’ān, but he never ordered them to convey the text of the Qur’ān in its multiple readings or ways of recitation. To suppose, for the sake of argument, that the Companions were ordered to teach the Muslims of the new lands all the authentic readings would imply that these Companions would have had to know all of the readings. This assumption is not supported by the Islamic tradition. The earliest Islamic tradition sustains the view that the Companions did not, individually, know all the multiple readings conveyed by the Prophet, and that they were content to only know of their existence.

Studying the readings known in the first century in the most important cities to which various Companions had gone as religious guides shows that Muslims of these cities adopted a few different readings. This tells us clearly that the Companions chose to convey one, or only a very few, of the multiple original readings as taught to them by the Prophet.

In conclusion, therefore, if it was not mandatory for each one of the Companions to preserve all the readings uttered by the Prophet, the next generations would not be asked to do so either, because fundamental religious duties are not created but inherited.

(2) It is obvious that none of the Companions thought that keeping only one consonantal text meant losing the original text, even though the project held by ʿUthmān would do away with the transmission of some of the readings they heard directly from the Prophet.

The Companions firmly believed that they had to preserve the original text of the Qur’ānic revelation. At the same time, they knew quite well that the multiple readings they were allowed to recite were given to them mainly as rukhṣa, and that the fact that there was one or a few different ways of reading did not detract from the fact that they were all reciting the “original text.” The term “original text” is more than just a literary concept; it is a religious conception that derives its essence and meaning from the prophetic tradition as acquired and understood by the Companions.

The ʿUthmānic project, and what was done by Christians from the second century when they canonized some books and rejected others, are similar from one angle and different from another. The endeavors are similar in that there was no intention of preserving the whole corpus of the divine sayings, and different as regards the idea of keeping an original text. While the ʿUthmānic recension was a meticulous project to keep an original (consonantal) version of the text, made by with unprecedented care and patience in an open political, cultural, and religious environment, the canonization of the 27 books of the New Testament was made without a discernible methodology and in an indeterminate environment.


Small, following Gerd Puin[141], tries to throw doubt on the authenticity of the Qur’ānic text by focusing on a few early manuscripts found in Sana’a that are organized differently from the standard Qur’ānic sūrah-s.[142]

Small’s claim can in no way disprove the faithfulness of the transmission of the text of the Qur’ān, for these sound reasons:

First: The majority of Muslim scholars advocate the view that the Prophet himself did not organize the sūrah-s of the Qur’ān as we see them today, and that the “classic” organization was created by the Companions at the time of working on the ʿUthmānic recension.[143] Thus, the received organization of the sūrah-s is a mere consensual arrangement of the available sūrah-s and has nothing to do with the text of the “revealed Qur’ān.”

Second: These few manuscripts do not represent a historical phenomenon, because the Islamic tradition has always admitted that there were different arrangements in the copies of some of the Companions, such as Ibn Masʿūd and Ubayy b. Kaʿb, before the introduction of the ʿUthmānic recension. What is worthy of notice here is that the early manuscripts, which have an atypical arrangement of the sūrah-s, are very close to the muṣḥaf-s of Ibn Masʿūd and Ubayy b. Kaʿb, such as the pre-ʿUthmānic manuscript 01-27.1 (the inferior text).[144]

Third: Al-Bukhārī narrated the following account on the authority of Youssef b. Māhak. A person from Iraq came and asked, ʿĀisha, […] “O mother of the Believers! Show me [the copy of] your Qur’ān.” She said, “Why?” He said, “In order to compile and arrange the Qur’an according to it, for people recite it with its sūrah-s not in proper order.” ʿĀisha said, “What does it matter which part of it you read first? [Be informed] that the first thing that was revealed thereof was a sūrah from al-Mufaṣṣal, and in it was mentioned Paradise and the Fire. When the people embraced Islam, the verses regarding legal and illegal things were revealed. If the first thing to be revealed was, “Do not drink alcoholic drinks,” people would have said, “We will never leave alcoholic drinks,” and if there had been revealed, “Do not commit illegal sexual intercourse,” they would have said, “We will never give up illegal sexual intercourse.” […] Then ʿĀisha took out the copy of the Qur’an for the man and dictated to him the verses of the sūrah-s (in their proper order).”[145]

Ibn Ḥajar commented on this ḥadīth by saying it is evident that Youssef b. Māhak was not born yet [or still an infant] when ʿUthmān sent the new copies of the Qur’ān to the cities of the Islamic state, because al-Mizzī noted that what b. Māhak narrated, on the authority of the Companion Ubayy is mursal [it missed an intermediary in the chain of narrators],[146] so we can deduce, as Ibn Ḥajar does, that the request of this Iraqian was made after the Uthmānic muṣḥaf was widespread through the Islamic territory with its particular arrangement of the sūrah-s. Thus, this ḥadīth shows that the Companions were aware that the arrangement of the sūrah-s, as imposed by the ʿUthmānic team, was not decreed by the Prophet and that, therefore, changing the arrangement did not affect the integrity of the text. ʿĀisha, the Prophet’s wife and one of the leading scholars after the death of the Prophet, did not see in the request of the Iraqi man something that would affect the integrity of the text. The whole project inaugurated by ʿUthmān was based on the principle of al-maṣāliḥ al-mursala,[147] i. e. the benefits that sharia generally approve and are not sustained by particular textual evidence. The lack of a clear divine commandment was the reason why the Companions did not consider that having a copy of the muṣḥaf with a different arrangement of sūrah-s broke any religious commandment, or that the arrangement of sūrah–s corrupted the word of God. Having one sole arrangement of sūrah-s was needed only to make a unified Qur’ānic written text for the growing nation.

So, Small’s recognition of the different arrangements of sūrah-s in a very few early manuscripts did not bring to light any new facts, because it is known that the copies of the Qur’ān that belonged to the Companions had their own particular arrangements and were circulating in the Islamic cities before the diffusion of the ʿUthmānic copies. It is also known, as mentioned in the Islamic tradition, that imposing the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf, with its particular arrangement of the sūrah-s, took some decades in the vast Islamic land.[148]

The Oral Tradition, Inherited or Partly Fabricated

In my view, Small’s understanding of the history of the oral tradition of the Qur’ānic readings was presented to us backwards. The question is not, “Was the oral tradition strong enough to reach later generations, because of the defective character of the script used by the earlier generations to write down the text of the Qur’ān (the ḥijāzī style)?”

The question would have been better posed thus: “Did the early Muslim generations faithfully preserve the original oral tradition?” All serious researchers realize that such a text could never be read without the help of an oral tradition, so we have to expect an early oral tradition to be tied to the text in its ḥijāzī style of script. All serious researchers also know that the ʿUthmānic text was void of diacritical marks, which tells us also that the early Muslim nation believed that the original oral tradition was still extant in a pure state.

To believe that subsequent generations felt the need to create readings on the basis of the defective character of the ḥijāzī script cannot be sustained, for various reasons:

First: The ten authentic readings were collected and transmitted starting from the dawn of Islamic history, which totally rules out the possibility of any gap between the generation of the Companions and the ten readings.

Reader Birth[149] Head of the Readers in:
1-Nāfiʿ 70 A.H. Madīnah
2-Ibn Kathīr 45 A.H. Mecca
3-Abū ʿAmr 68 A.H. Baṣrah
4-Ibn ʿĀmir 21 A.H. Damascus
5-ʿĀṣim ?- Died 127 A.H. Kūfah
6-Ḥamza 80 A.H. Kūfah
7-Kisā’ī 119 A.H. Kūfah
8(1)-Abū Jaʿfar ?-Died 139 A.H. Madīnah
9(2)-Yaʿkūb 117 A.H. Baṣrah
10(3)-Khalaf 150 A.H. Kūfah (transmitter of Ḥamzah)

Ibn Mujāhid made clear the reason that he chose the (first) seven readers by stating that these seven readers were the leading teachers of the readings in the most important Islamic areas: al-Hījaz,[150] Iraq, and al-Shām, that they were the recipients of the Qur’ānic readings from the second Muslim generation (attābiʿīn), and that the Muslims of those areas unanimously agreed that their readings were authentic and accepted them as the special readings of these particular areas.[151]

Second: It is historically unfeasible to believe that such disturbing phenomena happened in the first century without leaving traces of doctrinal and legislative struggles. How can we suppose that the first Muslim generations created altogether new ways of generating holy readings without creating schools and waves of Qur’ānic methodology for deciphering the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf?

Third: The hypothesis proposed by Small cannot be reconciled with the small number of multiple readings in the ten authentic readings. Ibn Mujāhid listed 703 places where there are different readings among the Seven, 41 of which involve differences in the skeleton of the text. All of this, we should bear in mind, is in the context of a text that numbers some 77,400‏ words. [152]

Fourth: If the approved readings were really fabricated by scholars because of the weakness of the early oral tradition, then how is it that the skeleton form of thousands of words in the Qur’ān can be pronounced in different ways which fit the context well, while the ten readers read them in a single way?[153]

Fifth: How can we explain that some words in the Qur’ān were not read by any of the ten readers as they were written, such as “الصلوة”, “الزكوة” “سأوريكم”[154], “لأاوضعوا”[155] and “لأاذبحنه”[156]? Is this not a sign that a stronger oral tradition was shaping the sounds of the written words?

Sixth: The Companion Zeid b. Thābit stated, “القراءة سنّة متّبعة” “The readings are a Sunna that is strictly adhered to.”[157] The readings of the Qur’ān are something to inherit, not to create. This is a historical fact evinced by the Muslim educational methodology from the earliest centuries of transmitting and teaching Qur’ān.

Seventh: A negligible number of scholars, such as ʿIsā b. ʿUmar al-Baṣrī al-Thaqafī, preferred reading some Qur’ānic words in a way that suited their theoretical linguistic preferences, without adhering to a previous oral tradition, and that was the reason the Muslim nation never accepted their readings. [158]

Eighth: Small goes on to claim that some Qur’ānic readings emerged from doctrinal disputes or interests. As he could not find any such phenomenon in the history of Islam, what he did was present a miniscule example of variants to support his irrational claim.

  • He mentioned Fedeli’s claim that the absence of ʿan dīnikum in Q. 2:217 in the Fogg palimpsest is possibly an indication of the construction of the Qur’ānic text to justify that fighting in the holy month of Rajab was permitted to Muslims.[159]

Behnam Sadeghi refuted Fedeli’s allegation by stating, “First, she has missed the unmistakable lowermost part of the nūn of ʿan which has survived the damage to the parchment. So, ʿan dīnihi was part of the text after all. (ʿan dīnihi is present also in the Bonhams 2000 folio in Kor 5, 54.) Second, the entire sentence wa-man yartadid minkum ʿan dīnihi fa-yamut wa-huwa kāfirun is generally illegible due to damage to the parchment. It is, therefore, not clear how she is able to conclude that the words ʿan dīnihi in this verse are missing. Presumably the fact that the lower-modifier wrote ʿan dīnihi leads her to think that the words were not there originally; but, as shown above in footnote 12, the lower modifier sometimes wrote words that filled the gaps created by irremediable erasure. It is thus entirely possible that ʿan dīnihi was part of the lower text, was erased irremediably, and then was written again by the lower modifier. Third, even if the term were missing here, there would be no reason for considering the ʿUthmānic wording as the later one, as opposed to the earlier one. Her choice in this regard and her assumption of deliberate change betray, perhaps, a slight measure of conspiracy-mindedness. Fourth, the scenario Fedeli constructs to explain what may have motivated the addition of ʿan dīnihi is unclear as it stands.”[160]

  • The manuscript of Sana’a 01-29.1 has taqūmu in Q.14:41 instead of the standard reading yaqūmu. Small claimed that the Sana’a manuscript has an “un-canonical” reading, which means “When you reckon the account” rather than “when it is reckoned.” He adds, “This makes the invocation more internally consistent and personal between lbrāhīm and Allāh.” [161] Actually, this is an impossible reading, as the verse reads,{رَبَّنَا اغْفِرْ لِي وَلِوَالِدَيَّ وَلِلْمُؤْمِنِينَ يَوْمَ يَقُومُ الْحِسَاب}. In order to say, “you reckon the account,” the word used would be tuqīmu, not taqūmu, as taqūmu al-ḥisāba is very awkward Arabic.
  • The Topkapi manuscript has in Q.14:38 yuʿlinu, “he revealed” instead of the standard reading nuʿlinu, “we reveal,” changing the first letter from nūn to yā’. Small made this comment: “This does fit the overall narrative context and theology of the Qur’ān, though there is an awkward change of person in a direct address, and is possibly a copyist mistake.”[162] This is not “possibly a copyist mistake,” it is rather a clear-cut copyist mistake, because it is awkward Arabic that has no contextual purpose or motive. Small made his unfounded statement without giving any proof to show that this “variant reading” fits the theology of the Qur’ān. There is no evidence whatsoever to show that the reading that says that Allah is aware of that which Abraham and his family or any of God’s creatures are hiding, and what “he(?) Reveal/proclaim” is in accord with Qur’ānic theology. First of all, to whom is the “he” referring? The only possible answer, even though it would be awkward Arabic, would be “Ishmael,” so how could this possibly make this sentence a clear Qur’ānic proclamation? Evidently, Small thought that the “He” referred to Allah, as he wrote it with a capital “H.” What Small saw is an impossible Arabic construction: the “he” can in no way refer to Allah because the verse starts with innaka, “you indeed.”
  • Small alludes to Powers’ provocative book, Muḥammad Is Not the Father of Any of Your Men: the Making of the Last Prophet. He said, “Powers examines an intriguing double correction in BNF 328a that perhaps demonstrates corrections for legal and theological reason.”[163] Here, he is referring to the reading of the word kalāla in Q. 4:12 as kalla, which would affect the meaning of the verse “If a man designates a daughter-in-law kalla or wife as heir and he has a brother or sister, each one of them is entitled to one-sixth.” The meaning in the standard reading is “If a man is inherited by collaterals kalālatan or a woman [is inherited by collaterals], and he [or she] has a brother or sister, each one of them is entitled to one-sixth.” After personally examining the colored facsimile, I would agree that a later hand did write the word kalālatan over the original word, but there is no decisive evidence that the original word in the manuscript was kalla. Furthermore, I saw kalālatan written with faded ink, the two long original lam appearing exactly below the rewritten lam-s. It is worthy of note, too, that the previous and succeeding lines have at least six interventions by a later scribe, and it is obvious that most of the words that were written over were not changed from their initial state, they were just shaded over with more ink. The only case that probably has a different original word is the next word after kalāla; it looks like it was lahā, “to her,” not lahu, “to him,” which is an obvious scribal mistake due to the fact that in Arabic we cannot allude to a male or a female when they are put together in one context with a female pronoun. The variant imagined by Powers is pure fiction not attested to in any other Qur’ānic manuscript and not known in any oral tradition!

I have no doubt that Powers’ book is an interesting piece of literature to read, but as a pure fanciful fiction, devoid of any ties to historical reality.[164]

Below is a reproduction of a portion of a first century manuscript found in Sana’a (DAM 01–27.1) showing the standard kalāla (in the second line). The picture is taken from the M.A. thesis of Razān Hamdūn in the Faculty of Languages, Arts and Education, Yemen, 2004.

Ninth: Muslim scholars from the earliest days after the promulgation of the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf made it clear that the accepted reading does not necessarily have to match the consonantal ʿUthmānic text one hundred percent, as stated in the well-known verse of Ibn al-Jazarī’s poem, “وكان للرسم احتمالا يحوي,” which means that scholars will forgive the minor differences[165], and that states clearly that the ʿUthmānic text was used as a means to restrict the already existent oral tradition, and did not generate it. The oral tradition was sometimes so powerful in the first generations that some readings were accepted as legitimate even though they had minor differences from the consonantal ʿUthmānic text.

Tenth: Ibn Mujāhid, with his encyclopedic knowledge, made it clear by announcing in his book Jāmi‘ al-Qirā’āt that he had not met any scholar in the field of Qur’ānic or linguistic studies who approved the Qur’ānic reading as authentic because it was compatible with Arabic rules even if it was not received from the earliest readers.[166] And when Ibn Miqsam (265 A.H.-354 A.H.) dared to announce that he believed that it was legitimate to accept any reading to be authentic if it did fit the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf, even if it was not received through a chain of narrators, all scholars denounced his view, including Ibn Mujāhid, and he was charged by the head of the Islamic state with committing unlawful innovation and deserved to be punished. Ibn Miqsam regretted, or at least appeared to regret, his uncommon view, and that was the end of that un-Islamic, unfounded novelty.[167]

Eleventh: Small objected to al-Azami’s assertion that the reading of the Qur’ān in the daily prayer was a guarantee of its preservation in the earliest Muslim generations, because, he claimed, only a small portion of the complete text of the Qur’ān was needed for prayers and daily devotional needs.[168] I hereby affirm unequivocally that Small knows close to nothing about Islamic daily life and devotional practices. Due to lack of space, I will mention only two well-known devotional acts:

  • In a specific month each lunar year, called Ramaḍān, Muslims all over the world are supposed to read the whole text of the Qur’ān in the night prayers, and to read it throughout the days of that month as many times as possible, which is why that month is known as “the month of the Qur’ān.”
  • Any practicing Muslim is supposed to regularly read the whole text of the Qur’ān, usually at least once a month. Many early, well-known scholars and devout Muslims read it in its entirety every few days.[169] Muslims were so obsessed with reading the whole text of the Qur’ān repeatedly over a very short period of time that it led to the Prophet’s ordering them not to read the whole Qur’an in less than three days.[170]

In sum, the Muslim nation was, from its start, a religious entity that centered its views and practices on the text of its holy book.

Twelfth: In its first centuries, the Muslim nation was ruled by both politicians and scholars. Scholars were in reality the main power that shaped the religious, social, and economical aspects of the nation.[171] The head readers of the main Islamic cities were central figures in their communities. Ibn abī Shayba (159-235 A.D.) narrated in his Muṣannaf that Mujāhid, who was one of the major early scholars of tafsīr, ḥadīth, and fiqh said, “We were showing proudness (in front of others) because (we have) our reader ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Sā’ib (d. 64-73 A.D.?)”.[172] In such circumstances it is absurd to think that the flow of the very early Qur’ānic oral tradition abruptly disappeared and was followed by the emergence of new, or partly new, oral readings. Any claim of the disappearance of the original reading and the emergence of new fabricated ones that owe their existence to the consonantal text of the ʿUthmānic recension flies in the face of the historical reality and bears the mark of a mulish and perverse imagination.

Thirteenth: The identification of the ten legitimate readers was “fixed” beginning with the generation that succeeded the Companions. It is acknowledged by historians that scholars of that generation were all tutored by the Companions, while the scholars of the third generation were students of the scholars of the second generation without any discontinuity. This makes Small’s hypothesis a pure illusion.

Fourteenth: The authentic readings were ascribed to particular readers not because they were created by them, but rather, as stated by Ibn al-Jazarī, because these readers chose them from the available authentic ones and kept reading them for a long time.[173] This means that these readers were only part of the chain of narrators that started from the Prophet.

Fifteenth: The earliest existing manuscripts from the first Islamic century do not reflect a level of chaos in their ways of reading that would lead to conflicts between Muslim scholars about how to make the silent consonantal text reflect the original pronunciations. Very few “readings” that do not belong to the ten received readings are found in the extant manuscripts, and we can separate these into two categories:

(1) The majority, which are in fact the result of scribal mistakes, and therefore cannot be considered as “variants” because they are in contradiction with the context or with the rules of grammar. Some of these we have visited before.

(2) A smaller group (tens) that does not contradict Arabic grammar rules and the context, and of which some are already known in Islamic tradition.[174] Regarding a few of these, it cannot be ascertained categorically whether or not they are the result of unintentional scribal error.[175]

This scriptural fact reinforces the authenticity of legitimate readings and gives solid, concrete proof that readings accepted by the later generations were not the result of spontaneous free choices of pronunciations.[176] How then can one explain the presence of this tiny number of readings which do not belong to the ten legitimate readings? The answer is as follows:

(1) These few “variant readings” available in the earliest manuscripts are either not authentic readings, and therefore would obviously not affect the Muslim claim of the authenticity of the ten readings, or

(2) They are completely, or partially, authentic, which would also not throw any doubt on the authenticity of these ten readings, because they constitute “extra readings” and not “competing readings.” Surely today no one can prove the authenticity of these “variants,” because all that is known is that these manuscripts show readings known about in the earliest centuries. It cannot be proven that they can be traced back to the Prophet. What is apparent is that the ten legitimate readings do not contain all of the original readings,[177] but only parts of the original readings,[178] because, as shown before, the Muslim nation was not commanded to keep all of the authentic readings.

To make the situation appear historically as tragic as possible, Small insisted that Muslims did not keep one authoritative text. He writes, “If one authoritative pronunciation was not known at lbn Mujāhid’s time, there is little hope of someone today recovering one from an even earlier time.” These are unjustified musings, because Muslims have never claimed that such a “singular text,” as imagined by Small, existed. Ibn Mujāhid was not searching for that one Qur’ānic text, he was trying to limit the legitimate readings circulating, so that Muslims could memorize them.[179]

The central issue in studying the active history of the Qur’ānic text is the presence of the phenomenon of ikhtiyārāt, which kept generating new readings. Ikhtiyārāt refers to the selection by certain qualified scholars of one or more readings from among a number of existing original readings. Ikhtiyār (singular) is based on the most authentic and fluent ways of reading, in the scholars’ judgment.[180]This phenomenon “results in” new readings, but does not invent new variant readings, as it involves making selections from the extant multiple, original readings of the thousands of Qur’ānic verses. This is the direct cause of the many readings (which are based on a few of the multiple original readings) being attributed to different scholars.[181] When Ibn Mujāhid was asked to make his own ikhtiyār, he refused because he was of the opinion that the Muslim nation should limit the authentic readings so that it would be possible to memorize them, not to reconstruct new ones.[182]

Small mentioned what Ibn Mujāhid did without showing the slightest hint of being aware of the state of the Qur’ānic readings in the four earlier centuries. He just appeared to be trying hard to make it seem as though Ibn Mujāhid and the other scholars had lost the one original text, which forced them to opt for choosing to legitimize a whole range of non-identical readings.

The Hidden Agenda of a Missionary/Orientalist

To better understand the true methodology and aim of Small’s dissertation, one needs to read his book Holy Books Have a History, where one can see behind the mask. One can uncover quite easily Small’s old-fashioned crusader mentality by examining his involvement in studies related to the beast “three sixes”: Islam. His unfair, critical view of Islam is seen in his distortion of the so-called enemy’s image and his application of double standards when comparing Christianity with Islam.

  • While Small did not deign to consider any of the sound oral tradition transmitted in the first three centuries under the supervision of the great Islamic schools and the scrutiny of the most famous scholars in the Islamic state who were committed to glorify its holy book, he failed to give a single, specific proof for the integrity of the text of the Old Testament other than a “prophecy” (?) in Isaiah (ch.53) about the suffering Messiah.[183] He did not even subject the Old Testament to any scriptural test. If the integrity of all the Holy Books should be weighed on the scale of the surviving copies, why did Small exclude the Old Testament from this test? The answer is obvious: the gap of time between the Pentateuch, for instance, and the oldest extant manuscripts of it, is as long as ten centuries or more. A total scriptural silence. The history of the Masoretic text (the Hebrew text which is the basis of present day translations of the Old Testament) and the state of its manuscripts would not convince readers of the soundness of his argument. It is enough here to cite the statement of the conservative Christian scholar, Roy E. Beacham, the department chairman and Professor of Old Testament at Central Baptist Theological Seminary, “The Masoretic text should not be perceived as a perfect copy of the originals because no such thing as the Masoretic text or one Masoretic text actually exists. Although Jewish scholars in the first century A.D. apparently sought to standardize the OT text, experts debate whether these scholars actually ever created one, single “master copy” of the entire corpus of OT scriptures. Certainly no such “master copy” exists today. Even if these scribes did produce a “master copy” in the first century A.D., no evidence exists that such a text was ever accepted, much less ever portrayed, as a perfect replica of the originals.”[184]
  • I believe that “Ehrmanophobia” is shaping the studies made by New Testament textual criticism scholars, not only in the debate between the conservatives and the liberals, but between the Christian conservatives and Muslims, even though Muslims do not take all of Ehrman’s statements and judgments for granted. Muslims, who are concerned with New Testament studies and interfaith dialogue, esteem Ehrman’s studies highly and appreciate his zeal to discover the truth or what seems to be the truth, but they do not share with him many of his conclusions outside the circle of the corruptions of the New Testament. Even in the textual critic matters, one can see that the present work is closer to the methodology of Eldon Epp and William Petersen than to that of Ehrman.
  • The demonization of the Muslim nation and its scholars was part of the study made by Small to convince the reader that the New Testament has been better preserved than the Qur’ānic text. Small insisted that Muslims intentionally ignore scriptural proof when studying the history of the Qur’ān because they are too afraid to face the truth of the distortion of the earliest text. He did not even quote the Islamic view, or allude to it. Even when he was forced to talk about the Islamic tradition, he chose to distort the truth. He said, for instance, “The current printed texts of the Qur’ān are based on medieval Islamic tradition instead of the collation and analysis of extant manuscripts.”[185] So, it is not “the early tradition.” Rather, it is what he minimized as being “medieval Islamic tradition,” even though the medieval era started from the emergence of Islam or before that!?
  • Small portrayed Islam and Christianity as opposite in their views on truth. He dared to say, “Muslims and Christians usually start from different points when it comes to considering and defending the authenticity and integrity of their scriptures. Muslims tend to work from a position known as “fideism,” that the truth of a religion rests ultimately on your faith in that religion. Christians have traditionally worked from a position known as “evidentialism,” that the truth of a religion can be demonstrated by appealing to evidence, and especially historical evidence.”[186]

It is indeed strange to put forth such a claim about Islam when its holy book, the Qur’ān, often asks for evidence to be shown for a claim. “Bring your proof, if you are truthful!” (Q. 2:111; 27:64) It is bizarre to accuse Muslims of embracing “fideism” while anyone familiar with the Islamic literature knows well that Muslims wrote scores of books on what they called “proofs of prophethood” where they provide overwhelming evidence for the prophethood of Muḥammad, and answer all the objections made by Christians, Jews, idol worshippers, Zoroastrians, and atheists. And it is more than peculiar to claim that Christians are evidentialists. Why did Small not allude to Paul’s statements that Christianity is not compatible with man’s wisdom: “For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect.” (1Corinthians 1:17); “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.” (1Corinthians 1:21); “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He taketh the wise in their own craftiness.” (1 Corinthians 3:19)? How could Small ignore the well-known statement made by Tertullian, the greatest Christian theologian of the second century: “Certum est, quia impossibile est”,[187] and the other scandalous one made by the Doctor of the Church, Anselm of Canterbury: “Neque enim quaero intelligere ut credam, sed credo ut intelligam. Nam et hoc credo, quia, nisi credidero, non intelligam.[188] Which is probably drawn from Saint Augustine’s Homilies on the Gospel of John, (on John 7:14-18): “Therefore do not seek to understand in order to believe, but believe that you may understand.”? Is Small ignorant about the fact that Thomas Aquinas, the greatest Christian theologian and philosopher of the Middle Ages, who so bravely answered atheism, depended for most of his argument on what had been written by Muslims?[189] Is Small unaware that Jews were dependent on Muslim arguments in their debates with Christians, as revealed by the prominent “Israeli” orientalist, Hava Lazarus[190], and others?

  • To make it look as though Muslims are afraid to reveal the “scandalous” fact of the Qur’ān as it appears in the manuscripts of Sana’a[191], Small mentions that these manuscripts have not been published yet by Muslims, and quoted a comment made by an anonymous reader of a Yemeni newspaper where he asked that the manuscripts be gotten rid of. The truth of the matter, that Small knows full well, is that only non-Muslim scholars have had any real opportunity to study these manuscripts. First of all, these scholars did photograph all these manuscripts, and second, they frequently visited Dar al-Makhṭūṭāt in Yemen to have a look at its manuscripts. Many western non-Muslim researchers testified that the Yemeni officials were cooperative,[192] yet Muslim scholars did not enjoy this privilege. For example, Professor al-Azami, a Saudi citizen and one of the greatest Muslim scholars of today, who more than thirty years ago was awarded The King Faisal International Award for Islamic Studies, the highest Islamic prize, was allowed to photograph no more than twenty random parchments of these manuscripts, even though he had expressly traveled to Yemen for the purpose and had benefited from the intercession of some of the most influential political figures there.[193] All the manuscripts of Sana’a were supposed to be published a few years ago through the Jumʿa al-Mājid Centre for Culture and Heritage, and the Yemeni officials received the copiers, but everything was suddenly frozen because Yemeni officials were looking for a better deal with the Emaratian institute.[194] And finally, let me ask Small why he did not ask his close friend and partner G. Puin for the real reason for his refusal to publish or share the pictures of the Sana’a manuscripts, even though he was asked by many scholars in the west who were interested in studying them, thus allowing himself to be the source of many rumors about these manuscripts?[195]
  • Even though most of Small’s crucial deductions are based on the palimpsests,[196] he intentionally deluded the reader by failing to discuss the details mentioned in the studies made about them. All he did was mention some of what Alba Fedeli wrote about two of the folios.[197] He did refer to Asma Hilali’s paper “The Sanaa Palimpsest: Introductory Remarks to Philological and Literary Aspects”[198] in the reference section of his book, but failed to include her concluding remarks, because that would have ruined his premise. Small did not even try to refute Hilali’s study, he just neglected the whole issue. The other known palimpsest used by Small is the so-called “Mingana Palimpsest,” and what is shocking here is that Small knows of the controversy about the transcription of the Qur’ānic text of the scriptio inferior of this manuscript made by Mingana, and he had included in his references Fedeli’s article “Mingana And The Manuscript of Mrs. Agnes Smith Lewis, One Century Later.”[199] Yet, he still did not think it necessary to allude to Fedeli’s telling statement that “the inevitable and easy conclusion is that all the transcription can be suspected to be wrong.”[200]
  • Small passed by the extremely critical and intriguing Biblical problems without giving them the needed emphasis.

To sum up,

1- Small’s claims on the preservation of the original text of the Qur’ān

(a) Are prejudiced, and founded on missionary’s wishes.

(b) Neglect to check the correct source, which is the oral tradition.

(c) Do not present anything from the extant manuscripts to substantiate its deductions.

2- If Small were to use the same methodology to study the New and Old Testaments, he would find that their integrity would be disproved.

Non-Muslim Scholars Testify to the Originality of the Text of the Qur’an

Popular missionary literature continues to use dogmatic discourse to persuade lay readers to believe that the corruption of the Qur’anic text is a banal fact only rejected by Muslim propagandists. Although this falsehood has already been refuted by the arguments given above, I would like the reader to consider the following:

If the distortion of the Qur’an were as evident as this literature would have people believe, one would expect all Christian authors interested in the history of the Qur’an to concur on this point, as well as to proclaim, without the slightest hesitation, that the New Testament, which they believe to be the last written divine message on earth, is unequivocally better preserved than “Muḥammad’s book”.

The true fact of the matter is that many non-Muslim scholars from different backgrounds and academic affiliations, some of whom are devoted, or even zealous, Christians, have acknowledged, in their academic studies which were written mainly for a non-Muslim, western audience, that the Qur’ānic text was transmitted faithfully from the time of the prophet of Islam to all the subsequent generations. Here are some of their testimonies:

  1. William Muir, a Scottish Orientalist, elected principal of Edinburgh University and president of the Royal Asiatic Society, whose books are one of the main sources of the distortion of the image of Islam and its prophet in modern Christian polemic studies, writes, “The recension of Othman 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, among the innumerable copies of the Coran scattered throughout the vast bounds of the empire of Islam. Contending and embittered factions, taking their rise in the murder of Othman himself within a quarter of a century from the death of Mahomet, have ever since rent the Mahometan world. Yet but ONE CORAN has been current amongst them; and the consentaneous use by them all in every age up to the present day of the same Scripture, is an irrefragable proof that we have now before us the very text prepared by command of the unfortunate Caliph. There is probably in the world no other work which has remained twelve centuries[201] with so pure a text.”[202]
  2. Georges-Louis Leblois, a French pastor and author, stated that, “Le Coran est aujourd’hui le seul livre sacré qui ne présente pas de variantes notables.” [203]
  3. Kenneth Cragg, the Anglican priest and prolific scholar, reported that “the consensus of view—Shiʿahs excepted—is that the Qur’ān as it stood in ʿUtmān’s recension omits no significant and includes no extraneous material. The Prophet’s death had decisively closed the Book.”[204]
  4. Bosworth Smith, a Catholic historian and biographer, stated in his provocative book, Mohammed and Mohammedanism, “We have a book absolutely unique in its origin, in its preservation, and in the chaos of its contents, but on the authenticity of which no one has ever been able to cast a serious doubt.”[205]
  5. Philip Hitti, a Maronite Christian from Lebanon and a leading scholar of Arabic Studies in the United States, states that “Modern critics agree that the copies current today are almost exact replicas of the original mother-text as compiled by Zayd, and that, on the whole, the text of the Koran today is as Muhammad produced it. As some Semitic scholar remarked, there are probably more variations in the reading of one chapter of Genesis in Hebrew than there are in the entire Koran.”[206]
  6. Stanley Lane Poole, a British orientalist, who was Professor of Arabic studies at Dublin University, wrote, “It is an immense merit in the Kur-an that there is no doubt as to its genuineness […] that very word we can now read with full confidence that it has remained unchanged through nearly thirteen hundred years.”[207]
  7. John Burton, professor of Arabic at the University of Edinburgh, says in the closing sentence of his magnum opus, The Collection of the Qur’ān, that the Qur’ān as we have it today, is “the text which has come down to us in the form in which it was organized and approved by the Prophet […]. What we have today in our hands is the Muṣḥaf of Muhammad.” [208]
  8. Denise Masson, French islamologist, said in the introduction of her French translation of the Qur’ān, “Eventually, in spite of these points of debate, we can say that the text presently in our possession contains the criteria of a substantial fidelity.”[209]
  9. Maurice Gaudefroy-Demombynes, the French orientalist, said, “Le Coran a été fixé, peu de temps après la révélation, par un texte authentique qu’il n’y a aucune raison sérieuse de considérer comme altéré.” [210]
  10. Hamilton A. R. Gibb, one of the leading orientalists of the twentieth century, writes, “It seems reasonably well established that no material changes were introduced and that the original form and contents of Mohammed’s discourses were preserved with scrupulous precision.”[211]
  11. Theodor Nöldeke, one of the greatest German orientalists, said in his book Geschichte des Qorans (History of the Qur’ān) that the Qur’ān is “Alles spricht demnach dafür, daß der Text des othmanischen Qoräns so vollständig und treu war, wie man es nur erwarten konnte.”[212]
  12. Richard Bell, a British Arabist at the University of Edinburgh, best known for his translation of the Qur’ān, announced that, “Modern Study of the Qur’an has not in fact raised any serious question of its authenticity”.[213]
  13. Adrian Brockett, professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at Durham University and one of the reputed scholars in the field of the early textual history of the Qur’ān, stated in his Illustrations of Orientalist Misuse of Qur’ānic Variant Readings that Muslims kept the Qur’ānic text through all the generations with a high strictness. [214]He declared elsewhere that “the transmission of the Qur’ān 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.”[215]
  14. Neal Robinson, one of the leading British orientalists today and a senior lecturer in Islamic Studies at the University of Leeds, wrote, “In broad outline the Muslim tradition has met with widespread acceptance from non-Muslim scholars.”[216]
  15. Thomas Walker Arnold, an eminent British orientalist, who was Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at the School of Oriental Studies, University of London, tells us that “there is a general agreement by both Muslim and non-Muslim scholars that the text of this recension substantially corresponds to the actual utterances of Muhammad himself.”[217]
  16. Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, one of the most reputed of Dutch orientalists, avowed that “all sects and parties have the same text of the Qoran.”[218]
  17. Charles Cutler Torrey, an orientalist and Semitic scholar, stated that the Qur’ān “lies before us practically unchanged from the form which he himself [i.e. Muhammad] gave it.”[219]
  18. R. V. C. Bodley, the American orientalist, proclaimed, “Today there is no possible doubt that the Koran which is read wherever there are Moslems is the same version as that translated from Hafsa’s master copy.”[220]
  19. Rom Landau, Professor of Islamic Studies at the University of the Pacific, said that “it became the task of Muhammad’s secretary, Zayd ibn-Thabit, to bring these sayings together in textual form. Abū Bakr had directed the work, and later, after a revision at the command of Uthman, the Koran took its standard and final form that has come down to us unchanged.”[221]
  20. Forster F. Arbuthnot, a notable British orientalist, observed that “a final and complete text of the Koran was prepared within twenty years after the death (A.D. 632) of Muhammad, and that this has remained the same, without any change or alteration by enthusiasts, translators, or interpolators, up to the present time. It is to be regretted that the same cannot be said of all the books of the Old and New Testaments.”[222]

I think that statements made by scholars like the ones above are what led Todd Lawson, Islamologist at the University of Toronto, to dismiss as one of his “amateurish deductions” [223] the claim made by “Ibn Warraq” (a pseudonym of the pseudo-scholar) that “Most scholars believe that there are interpolations in the Koran.[224]


  1. John Gilchrist, The Textual History of the Qur’ān and the Bible, (3/22/2011)
  2. See Muḥammad ʿAbd al-ʿAẓīm al-Zurqānī, Manāhil al-ʿirfān fī ʿulūm al-Qurʼān, ed. Fawwāz Aḥmad zamarlī, Beirut: Dār al-Kitāb al-ʿArabī, 1995,1/15-6
  3. The first number is for the chapter, and the second is for the verse.
  4. No historical narration is accepted unless it has a sound chain of narrators and has no defect in its narrations (contradiction, historical errors, exaggeration…). One of the resources used here is “Jamʿ al-Qurʼān, dirāsah taḥlīliyyah li-marwiyyātihi,” (Collecting the Qur’an, an analytic study for its historical narratives), by Akram al-dalīmī, published in Lebanon: Beirut: Dār al-kutub al-ʿilmiyyah,, 2006
  5. I used different English translations of the Qur’ān, and sometimes I change some words from a published translation to make the meaning more accurate. None of the changes made constitute a new meaning..
  6. Muslim, ḥadīth no: 3004
  7. This order was abrogated later only when these followers mastered writing and got used to differentiating between the Qur’ān and the prophetic sayings and actions.
  8. Al-Bukhārī, ḥadīth no: 5103; Muslim, hadīth-s no: 1903-5
  9. Ibn Ḥanbal, al-Musnad, ḥadīth no: 23437
  10. Al- Bukhārī, ḥadīth -s no: 5027-8
  11. Muslim, ḥadīth no: 269
  12. Al-Tirmidhī, ḥadīth no:3158
  13. Abū Dāwūd, ḥadīth -s no: 582-90
  14. Al-Bukhārī, ḥadīth -s no: , 5084-6; Muslim, hadīth-s no: 1878-80
  15. See for more details M. M. al-Azami, The History of the Qur’ānic Text, pp.59-69
  16. Philip Hitti, The Arabs: A Short History, Washington, DC: Regnery Gateway, 1996, p.43
  17. A.H.=after the Hegira (the immigration of the Prophet from Mecca to al-Madīnah in 622 A.D.)
  18. See al-Bukhārī, ḥadīth no:4701
  19. See al-Bukhārī, ḥadīth no: 5038
  20. Al-Bayhaqī, al-Asmā’ wa al-ṣifāt, ḥadīth no: 528
  21. al-Ṭabarī, Jāmiʿ al-Bayān, second edition, Cairo: Maktabat ibn Taymiyyah, [n.d.], 1/35
  22. al-Bukhārī, ḥadīth no: 4702
  23. It is claimed that the Companion Ibn Masʿūd excluded two short sūrah-s (Q. 113-114) from his copy of the Qur’ān. The answer to this objection is this: (1) Some scholars, such as al-Nawawī, Ibn Ḥazm, and al-Bāqillānī, stated that the narrations that claim that Ibn Masʿūd was not thinking that these two sūrah-s are part of the Qur’ān are not authentic. This view is defended today by the scholar of ḥadīth M. M. al-Azami (The History of the Qur’ānic Text, pp.234-38). (2) Some other scholars accepted the authenticity of these narrations, but they stated that Ibn Masʿūd changed his mind later on, and they said that Ibn Masʿūd is the source of the reading of ʿĀṣim-Zir-Ibn Masʿūd, which means that he had in his muṣḥaf 114 sūrah-s. (3) A third group of scholars stated that Ibn Masʿūd was the only one not to include these two short sūrah-s in his copy of the Qur’ān, and no one followed him even though he had a huge number of students who became later on leaders of readings study groups in Iraq (such as al-Aswad b. Yazīd al-Nakhaʿī, who made it clear that he did not follow Ibn Masʿūd’s view. See Ibn abī Shaybah, ḥadīth no: 30197). It is known from many authentic sayings and deeds of the Prophet that these two sūrah-s were part of the Qur’ān (narrated by Muslim, ḥadīth no: 814 and other books of ḥadīth-s; al-Nasā’ī, ḥadīth-s no: 905, 5439 and other books of ḥadīth-s) and were recited in the prayer in the lifetime of the Prophet (narrated by Abū Dāwūd, ḥadīth no: 1462 and other books of ḥadīth-s). Therefore the decision of Ibn Masʿūd, if considered authentic, cannot be taken seriously because it goes against the view of all the others Companions and it offers no proof to validate itself. The same thing should be said about the claim that Ibn Masʿūd did not have the first sūrah: al-Fātiḥah in his copy. There is an overwhelming number of ḥadīth-s that tell that al-Fātiḥah is part of the Qur’ān (al-Bukhāri, ḥadīth no: 5057 and other books of ḥadīth-s) and all the other companions had it in their copies. Ibn Masʿūd himself said when he was asked to write down this sūrah in his copy, that then he has to write it down before each sūrah (as narrated by ʿAbd b. Ḥumayd), which means that he was believing that it is a qur’ānic text but he felt that it should be proceding each sūrah if written in his copy, so he preferred not having it there. (See ʿAbd Allāh al-Judayʿ, Al-Muqaddimāt al-Asāsiyyah fī ʿUlūm al-Qur’ān, Leeds: Islamic Research Centre, 2001, pp.103-21). It was reported too by Ḥammād b. Salamah that the muṣḥaf of Ubayy had two extra short sūrah -s (known elsewhere in the Islamic tradition as prophetic supplication). This report “is completely spurious because of a major chain defect, as an unaccounted-for gap of at least two to three generations between Ubayy’s death (d. ca. 30 Hegira) and Hammād’s (d. 167 Hegira)” (The History of the Qur’ānic Text, pp.238-39)
  24. ʿUmar b. Shabbah, Tārikh al-Madinah, 3/1004
  25. Mutawātir: A tradition handed down by so many distinct chains of narrators that it is inconceivable that they could have agreed upon an untruth.
  26. I agree with al-Azami that “the term ‘variants’ is one that I dislike using in such cases because a variant arises, by definition, from uncertainty. If the original author pens a sentence one way, and the sentence is then corrupted due to scribal errors, then we have introduced a principle of uncertainty; a subsequent editor who is unable to distinguish the correct wording from the incorrect will place what he believes to be the correct version in the text, whilst citing the others in margins. Such is the variant reading. But the Qur’ān’s case differs distinctly because the Prophet Muḥammad, Allah’s sole vicegerent for the receipt and diffusion of waḥy, himself taught specific verses in multiple ways. There is no principle of doubt here, no fog or confusion, and the word ‘variant’ fails to convey this. Multiple is a far more accurate description.” (The History, p.192)
  27. The Arabic word aḥruf is the plural of ḥarf, which means literally a letter or a word.
  28. See the different interpretation of the prophetic term, Yasir Qadhi, An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur’aan, UK: Al-Hidaayah Publishing and Distribution, 1999, pp.174-79
  29. See Ibn al-Jazarī, al-Nashr fī al-Qirāʼāt al-ʿAshr, ed. Muhammad Ali al-abbāʿ, Beirut: Dār al-kutub al-ʿilmiyyah, [n.d.],1/9
  30. ʻUthmān b. ʻAbd al-Raḥmān b. al-Ṣalāḥ al-Shahrazūrī, An Introduction to the Science of the Ḥadīth: Kitab Maʿrifat Anwāʿ ʿIlm al-Ḥadīth, tr. Eerik Dickinson, UK: Garnet & Ithaca Press, 2006 , p.125
  31. See al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān fi ʿulūm al-Qur’ān, Beirūt: Mo’assasat al-Risāla, 2008, p.134
  32. Some Muslims claim, erroneously, that the Tashkent muṣḥaf is one of the originals made by ʿUthmān’s team. Actually carbon-dating and palaeographic studies suggest a date in the second century of the Hegira. (See F. Déroche, “Manuscripts Of The Qur’an,” in J. D. McAuliffe, ed. Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an, Brill: Leiden & Boston, 2003, 3/261)
  33. Abū ʿAmr al-Dānī, Almuqniʿ fī Rasm Maṣāḥif al-Amṣār, Cairo: Maktabāt al-Kulliyyat al-Azharyyah, [n.d], pp.23-4
  34. The area that includes what is called today Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, Jordan, and some parts of the territories that surrounds them.
  35. Ibn Kathīr, Faḍā’il al-Qur’ān, ed. Abū Isḥāq Alḥuwayni, Cairo: Maktabat b. Taimiyyah, 1416 A.H., p.89
  36. Ibn Jubayr, The Travels of Ibn Jubayr, ed. William Wright, revised by de Goeje, M.J., Leiden: Brill ,1907, p.268
  37. Ibn Faḍl al-ʿAmrī, Masālik al-Abṣār, 1:195 (Quoted by Abū ʿabd Allāh al-Zinjāny, Tarikh al-Qur’ān, Beirut: Mu’assasat al-Aʿlamī, 1969, p.67)
  38. See Saḥar al-Sayyid ʿabd al-ʿazīz Sālim, Aḍwā’on ʿAlā Muṣḥaf ʿUthmān b. ʿAffān wa Riḥlatihi Sharqan wa Gharban (Lights on the Muṣḥaf of ʿUthmān and Its Journey to the East and the West), Alexandria: Shabāb al-Jamiʿ, [n.d], p.129
  39. Ibid., pp.128-29
  40. Estelle Whelan, “Forgotten Witness: Evidence for the Early Codification of the Qurʾān,” in Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 118, No. 1 (Jan. – Mar., 1998), pp.10-4
  41. See Ghānim Qaddūrī Ḥamad, Rasm al-Muṣḥaf: dirāsah lughawiyyah tārīkhiyyah, Baghdād, al-ʿIrāq: al-Lajnah al-Waṭaniyyah lil-Iḥtifāl bi-Maṭlaʿ al-Qarn al-Khāmis ʿAshar al-Hijrī, 1982, pp.164-67
  42. See the titles of the books in ʿAbd al-Hādī al-Faḍl, Qirā’at ibn Kathīr wa Atharuha fī al-Dirāsāt al-Naḥwiyyah, unpublished PhD dissertation, pp.60-5
  43. See K. ʿAwwād, Aqdam al-Makhṭūṭāt al-ʿArabīa fi Maktabāt al-ʿālam, pp.31-59 (Quoted by M. M. al-Azami, The History of the Qur’ānic Text, pp. 348-49)
  44. See ʿAbdullah David and M. S. M. Saifullah, Concise List Of Arabic Manuscripts Of The Qur’ān Attributable To The First Century Hijra, (6/2/2012)
  45. Compare that with the absence of any New Testament manuscripts of the first century A. D.!
  46. F. Déroche and S. N. Noseda, eds. Sources de la Transmission Manuscrite du Texte Coranique. I. Les manuscrits de style hijazi.Volume 2. Tome I. Le manuscrit Or. 2165 (f. 1 à 61) de la British Library, London: Fondazione Ferni Noja Noseda, Leda, and British Library, 2001, p. xxvii
  47. The unintentional mistakes made by scribes while reproducing new copies, which is a usual phenomenon whatever the document is, cannot disprove this result. No Christian apologist can argue against that.
  48. It was found out just a few years ago that the rolls of film were hidden during the previous decades by the library’s former curator. A fresh study of the texts available in the rolls is being held in a project launched by the Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Science and Humanities. (See Andrew Higgins, “The Lost Archive,” in The Wall Street Journal, 12 Jan. 2008)
  49. Muhammad Hamidullah, The Emergence of Islam, tr. Afzal Iqbal, India: Adam Publishers, 1993, p.22
  50. Arthur Jeffery’s review of “The Rise of the North Arabic Script and Its Kur’anic Development, by Nabia Abbott,” in The Moslem World, vol. 30 (1940), p. 191
  51. Daniel B. Wallace, Revisiting the Corruption of the New Testament, p.34
  52. The ones that reached us through sound chains of narrators.
  53. The fathers of the church accused Marcion of corrupting the original version of Luke (See Tertullian, Adversus Marcionem 4.6.2). Some modern scholars believe that the Marcion gospel pre-dated the Luke gospel (See Charles B. Waite, History of the Christian Religion to the Year Two-Hundred, Chicago: C.V. Waite, 1881).
  54. Even though Marcion’s gospel disappeared, scholars worked on reconstructing it through portions quoted from it by the fathers of the church. You can read Zahn’s edition in T. Zahn, Geschichte des neutestamentlichen Kanons, Erlangen: A. Deichert, 1892, 2/455-494
  55. Walter Bauer, Orthodoxy and Heresy in Earliest Christianity, Robert Kraft and Gerhard Krodel, eds. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971, p.221
  56. Irenaeus, Adversus Haereses, 1.26; 2.21
  57. This gospel is preserved in a few quotations in the writings of Epiphanius.
  58. Thomas Kazen, “Sectarian Gospels for Some Christians? Intention and Mirror Reading in the Light of Extra-Canonical Texts,” in The New Testament Studies 51. 4 (2005), p.576
  59. See Burton L. Mack, Who Wrote the New Testament: The Making of the Christian Myth, San Francisco: HarperSan Francisco, 1995, pp.177-83
  60. Johannes Lehmann writes, “What Paul proclaimed as ‘Christianity’ was sheer heresy which could not be based on the Jewish or Essene faith, or on the teaching of Rabbi Jesus. But, as Schonfield says, ‘The Pauline heresy became the foundation of Christian orthodoxy and the legitimate church was disowned as heretical.’” (Johannes Lehmann, The Jesus Report, tr. Michael Heron, London: Souvenir Press, 1972, p.128)
  61. The one consonantal text chose in the time of ʿUthmān is compatible with some readings which go back to the prophet, so we should talk about a number of readings approved by the ʿUthmānic consonantal text.
  62. Many different lists of the “accepted books” existed in the first centuries. “Previous to Athanasius (d. 373 A. D.) there is no one of the many lists adopted in the East and West which exactly coincides with that now in vogue. After Athanasius, the question of including certain books, now discarded, or of excluding certain others, now included, was ardently debated for centuries before the present, practically universal acquiescence in the Athanasian list was attained.” (Benjamin W. Bacon, “The Canon of the New Testament,” in The Biblical World, Vol. 21, No. 2 (Feb., 1903), p.115)
  63. It is very common to read in the academic books that the Gospels and many of the other New Testament books were written by “unknown” authors. We can cite as examples:
    • “All the gospels originally circulated anonymously. Authoritative names were later assigned to them by unknown figures in the early church. In most cases, the names are guesses or perhaps the result of pious wishes.” (Robert Walter Funk, Roy W. Hoover, and the Jesus Seminar, The Five Gospels: The Search for the Authentic Words of Jesus: New Translation and Commentary, San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1997, p. 20)

    “This gospel [of John], like the other three, is anonymous, and all that we can really know about the author must be derived from his writings.” (Wilbert F. Howard, The Interpreter’s Bible, Volume 8, The Gospel According To St. Luke and St. John, ed. George Buttrick, New York: Abingdon Press, 1952, pp.440-41)“Each of the four Gospels has its own individuality. Redaction, criticism, and narrative analysis uncover differences of language, style, and composition, differing theological concepts, and differing authorial intentions. Their anonymity is a common characteristic.” (Bruce M. Metzger and Michael D. Coogan, eds. The Oxford Companion to the Bible, New York: Oxford University Press, 1993, p.259)

  64. John 21:24-25: “This is the disciple which testifieth of these things, and wrote these things: and we know that his testimony is true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen”
  65. Acts 20:35: “I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”
  66. See James Donehoo, The Apocryphal and Legendary Life of Christ: being the whole body of the Apocryphal gospels and other extra canonical literature which pretends to tell of the life and words of Jesus Christ, including much matter which has not before appeared in English, New York: The Macmillan Company, ١٩٠٣, pp.٢٤٢- ٦٥
  67. Klaus Wachtel states that “for terminological and methodological reasons the concept of text-types has become problematic.” Wachtel, “Colwell Revisited: Grouping New Testament Manuscripts,” in The New Testament Text in Early Christianity: Proceedings of the Lille Colloquium, July 2000, Histoire du texte biblique 6, 31-43, Lausanne: Editions du Zèbre, 2003, p.42
  68. It is said that it is a “great agreement,” even though there are almost two hundred forty disagreements Between P75 and B only in Luke (only fragments from Luke are preserved in P75)! (See the list of disagreements in Gordon Fee’s PhD dissertation, The Significance of Papyrus Bodmer II and Papyrus Bodmer XIV-XV for Methodology in New Testament Textual Criticism, pp.287-97, unpublished manuscript. University of Southern California, 1966)
  69. Even though he insisted that the high agreement between the Codex Vaticanus and P75 prove the antiquity of the readings of the Codex Vaticanus, Calvin L. Porter writes, “While our study demonstrates the antiquity of the majority of readings in Codex Vaticanus, it must be clearly understood that it does not demonstrate their originality.” (Calvin L. Porter, “Papyrus Bodmer XV (P75) and the Text of Codex Vaticanus,” in Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 81, No. 4 (Dec., 1962), p.375).
  70. See Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland, The Text of the New Testament, p. 101
  71. See Maurice A. Robinson, “The Case for Byzantine Priority,” p.560; 571-572
  72. Barbara Aland and Klaus Wachtel, “The Greek Minuscule Manuscripts of the New Testament,” in The Text of the New Testament in Contemporary Research, Essays on the Status Quaestionis, p.46
  73. Even a dogmatic missionary like James R. White could not deny the fact that “Uthman’s actions led, over time, to a very stable, consistent text for the Qur’an.” (The King James Only Controversy, p.86)
  74. Read about the multiform state of the text of the Qur’an, Yasin Dutton, “Orality, Literacy and the ‘Seven Aḥruf’ Ḥadīth,” in Journal of Islamic Studies (2012) 23 (1), pp.1-49
  75. See Maḥmūd al-ʿAzab, Ishkālyāt Tarjamāt Mʿānī al-Qur’ān al-Karīm, Cairo: Nahḍat Maṣr, 2006
  76. Keith E. Small, Textual Criticism and Qur’ān Manuscripts, Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, 2011, p. 39
  77. Faḍl Ḥasan ʿAbbās, Itqān al-Burhān fī ʿUlūm al-Qur’ān, Amman: Dār al-Furqān, 1997, 2/135-9. All these readings were heard from the lips of the Prophet.
  78. Most of the narrations state that ʿUthmān ordered the copies of the Companions to be punctured with holes. Some stated that the order was to burn them. (Ibn Ḥajar, Fatḥ al-Bārī, eds. Ibn Bāz, Muḥammad Fu’ād ʿAbd al-Bāqī, and Muḥib al-Dīne al-Khaṭīb, Beirūt: Dār al-Maʿrifa, 1379 A.H., 9/20).The Arabic word “puncture” kharaqa differs from “burn” ḥaraqa with only one extra dot.
  79. “It is significant that these larger variant portions found only in the palimpsests match the kinds of variants that are reported in some of the literature and traditions concerning the collection of the Qur’ān. It is also significant that the exact variants they contain are greater in number and extent that what is reported in that literature to have once existed. The suggestion was made by Fischer in the 1940s that the variants in the Islamic records were pious fictions. Though there is a degree of invention in the accounts of variants (as has been ably demonstrated by Rippin), the testimony of the palimpsests, and especially the Fogg palimpsest that contains a variant that is also attributed to Ibn Mas’ud, should instead be viewed as containing authentic memory of such variants, and also that the phenomenon was likely much more extensive and diverse than what has been preserved in the secondary records or extant manuscripts.” (Small, Textual Criticism, p.84)
  80. Behnam Sadeghi defended the pre-ʿUthmānic dating of the palimpsest DAM 01–27.1 based on radiocarbon dating examination (See B. Sadeghi and U. Bergmann, “The Codex of a Companion of the Prophet and the Qurʾān of the Prophet,” in Arabica, 2010, Volume 57, p.353). He, with M. Goudarzi, then transcribed the inferior text of the palimpsest (See B. Sadeghi and M. Goudarzi, “Ṣan‘ā’ 1 and the Origins of the Qur’ān,” in Der Islam, Volume 87, Issue 1-2, pp.1-129) I am grateful to Sadeghi for making his newest article available to me. My (short) study of the palimpsest would not have been possible without the transcribed text given in his article with its helpful notes and comments. I hope that Sadeghi’s coming studies will shed more light on the text and give deeper insight on it.
  81. In the beginning, missionary claims were based on an Atlantic Monthly’s article (What is the Koran?, January, 1999) which stated that the manuscripts found in Sana’a in the nineteen seventies revealed an unusual Qur’ān which proved that the text of the Qur’ān is corrupted. Nothing similar followed that article, even Gerd Puin who was the source of such a provocative claim acknowledged that the manuscripts of Sana’a do not counter the Islamic view of the text of the Qur’ān. Other scholars, such as Gregor Schoeler, admit that fact as well. (See, the facsimiles of the letters written by Gerd Puin and Gregor Schoeler to the Yemeni Judge al-Akwaʿ avowing this: Ghassān Ḥamdūn, Kitāb Allāh fī Iʿjāzihi Yatajallā: wa-rudūd ʿalā aḥdath al-ghārāt al-mustahdifah iʿjāz al-Qurʼān, Sana’a: Markaz ʻAbbādī lil-Dirāsāt wa-al-Nashr, 2002, pp, 102-05; 109-10; M. M. al-Azami, The History of the Qur’ānic Text, p.12). Even Small, who worked on some copies of the manuscripts found in Sana’a, admits that the ʿUthmānic text was transmitted faithfully. It is enough to say that no scholarly work was published through past decades that claims that the text of the Qur’ān found in Sana’a discredits the integrity of the standard text. The pseudo-scholarly missionaries’ propaganda could not find a way of attacking the text of the Qur’ān except through the text of the palimpsest, which is the only pre-ʿUthmānic copy found in Sana’a. That is why we will tackle only the issue of this manuscript.
  82. See the list of these readings in Sadeghi and Goudarzi, “Ṣan‘ā’ 1,” pp.116-22
  83. Ibid, p.24
  84. Two other scholars studied the inferior text of the palimpsest, but their studies are not helpful in tracing the history of the text. Elisabeth Puin’s articles are not concerned about the history of the text (See INÂRAH volumes, 3,4,5), and Alba Fedeli’s article was limited to only two folios of the manuscripts (See A. Fedeli, “Early Evidences of Variant Readings in Qur’ānic Manuscripts,” in K-H. Ohlig and G-R. Puin, eds. Die Dunklen Anfänge: Neue Forschungen Zur Entstehung Und Frühen Geschichte Des Islam, Berlin: Verlag Hans Schiler, 2005, pp.293-316).
  85. B. Sadeghi promised to publish more studies about the same manuscript (“Ṣan‘ā’ 1 ,” p.2)
  86. Islamically, there is no way to treat the non-standard readings in the palimpsest as qur’ānic, mainly because they did not reach us through sound chains of narrators.
  87. And personal contact through e-mails.
  88. From Hilali’s page in the Institute of Ismaili Studies official webpage. (12/21/2011)
  89. For Christians, P10 (4th century- New Testament fragment: Romans 1:1-7 – A representative of the Alexandrian text-type) has been labeled a writing exercise, and it clearly betrays an inexperienced hand. (Dirk Jongkind, “The Text of the Pauline Corpus,” in Stephen Westerholm, ed. The Blackwell Companion to Paul, Malden, MA, USA: Wiley-Blackwell, 2011, p.218)
  90. Sadeghi and Goudarzi write, “the variants in C-1[our palimpsest] and other Companion codices richly display the phenomena of assimilation of parallels – whereby a scribe’s writing of a verse is affected by his or her memory of a similar verse elsewhere in the Qur’ān – and assimilation of nearby terms, whereby a scribe’s writing is influenced by nearby expressions.” (Ṣan‘ā’ 1, p.20)
  91. “Vile women are for vile men, and vile men for vile women. Good women are for good men, and good men for good women…”
  92. See Ṣan‘ā’ 1, p.56
  93. Ibid., p.63
  94. Ibid., p.92
  95. Hilali provided a copy of the fragment of the palimpsest where we can see clearly this text. See “Hilali, Le palimpseste de Ṣanʿā’ et la canonisation du Coran: nouveaux éléments,” in Cahiers du Centre Gustave Glotz, 21, 2010, p. 445. (I thank Hilali for making her article available to me.) See also Elisabeth Puin, “Ein früher Koranpalimpsest aus Ṣanʿāʾ – II,” in Markus Groß and Karl-Heinz Ohlig, Vom Koran zum Islam, Schriften zur frühen Islamgeschichte und zum Koran, Berlin: Verlag Hans Schiler, 2009, p.579
  96. The standard reading is al-ladhīna ittaqaw.
  97. The comparison is on the level of the unvoweled text, because the inferior text of the palimpsest is written in such way that it is the same form of the original ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf.
  98. Yasin Dutton, “Orality, Literacy and the ‘Seven Aḥruf’ Ḥadīth,” pp. 8-12
  99. See John Wansbrough, Qur’ānic Studies, NY: Prometheus Books, 2004, pp.44-5; John Burton, The Collection of the Qur’ān, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1977, p.228
  100. e.g. in Tafsīr al-Tabarī, the readings of Ibn Masʿūd:, Q.2: 213; Q. 4: 34; Q.43:58…
  101. Al-Tirmidhi, al-Jāmiʿ, ḥadīth no: 3208: “لو كنت قرأت قراءة ابن مسعود لم أحتج إلى أن أسأل ابن عباس عن كثير من القرآن مما سألت.”
  102. Ibn al-Jazarī, al-Nashr, 1/33 : “القراءات المشهورة اليوم عن السبعة والعشرة والثلاثة عشر بالنسبة إلى ما كان مشهورًا في الأعصار الأول قل من كثر ونزر من بحر؛ فإنّ من له اطلاع على ذلك يعرف علمه علم اليقين”
  103. ʿAbd al-laṭīf al-Khaṭīb, Muʿjam al-Qirā’āt, Damascus: Dār Sa’d al-Dīn, 2002, 1/24
  104. The “non-canonized” reading can be an authentic reading too, because the early Muslim scholars were interested in preserving part of the authentic readings, not all of them.
  105. Ibn Jinnī, al-Muḥtasab fī Tabyīn Wūjūh Shawādh al-Qirā’āt wa-al-’īāḥi ʿanhā, ed. ʿAlī al-Najdī Nāyif, ʿAbd al- Ḥalīm al-Najjār, and ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ Shalabī, Cairo: al-Majlis al-Aʿlā li-al-Shu’ūn al-Islāmyya, 1994, pp.33-4
  106. The author of The Science of Readings in Yemen from the Early Islam till the Eighth Century of the Hegira stated that many readings of the companions were famous in Yemen before receiving the ʿUthmānic Muṣḥaf, on the top of them: ʿAlī b. abī Ṭālib, Muʿādh b. Jabal, Ubayy b. Kaʿb, and Abū Mūsā al-Ashʿarī. (see, ʿAbd Allāh ʿUthmān Alī al-Manṣūr, ʿIlm al-Qirā’āt fī al-Yemen min Ṣadr al-Islām ilā al-Qarn al-Thāmin al-Hijrī, Sanʿā: Jāmiʿat Sanaʿā’, 2004, p.145)
  107. Angelika Neuwirth, “Structural, Linguistic and Literary Features,” in Jane Dammen McAuliffe, ed. Cambridge Companion to the Qur’ān, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007, p.100
  108. Those who believe that the Qur’ān was written by later Muslim generations are a very tiny number of non-Muslim orientalists.
  109. Keith E. Small “Textual Variants in the New Testament and Qur’ānic Manuscript Traditions,” in Markus Groß and Karl-Heinz Ohlig, eds. Schlaglichter, Berlin: Hans Schiler, 2008, pp.572-93
  110. “The Qur’ān texts were written in a script conveying imprecise grammatical and syntactical meaning and phonetics, functioning more as an aid to memory in reciting already known texts than as a vehicle for recording and preserving written literature.” (Keith E. Small, Textual Criticism and Qur’ān Manuscripts, p.162)
  111. Ibid., p. vii
  112. Al-Sakhāwī, Fatḥ al-Mughīth bi-Sharḥi Alfiyyati al-Ḥadīth, ed. ʿAbd al-Karīm al-Khuḍīr and Muḥammad Al Fhayad, Riyadh: Maktabat Dār al-Minhāj, 1426 A.H., 3/152
  113. I do believe that 01-27.1 (the inferior text) has pre-ʿUthmānic readings.
  114. See Keith E. Small, Textual Criticism and Qur’ān Manuscripts, p. 101
  115. Yasser Tabbaa, “Canonicity and Control: The Sociopolitical Underpinnings of Ibn Muqla’s Reform,” in Ars Orientalis, 1999, pp.91-100
  116. Yasser Tabbaa
  117. Keith E. Small, Textual Criticism and Qur’ān Manuscripts, p. 143
  118. Ibid., pp.143-4
  119. Ibid., p. 145
  120. Lit. “The fullness in the ten readings and the added forty”
  121. Arthur Jeffery, Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’an, Leiden: Brill 1937, p.2
  122. Copies of this manuscript are available in other libraries, such as the copy of Dār al-Kutub al-Misryyah, no: 1 ق – 134ق.
  123. See al- Hudhalī, al-Kāmil fi al-Qirā’āt al-ʿashr wa al-arbaʿīne al-zā’ida ʿalayhā, ed. Jamāl al-Shāyib, Mu’assasat Samā, 2007
  124. Keith E. Small, Holy Books Have a History, Textual Histories of the New Testament and the Qur’ān, p. 104
  125. See the “Arabic Transliteration System” used by Small in his book, Textual Criticism and Qur’ān Manuscripts, p.xv
  126. See Keith E. Small, Textual Criticism and Qur’ān Manuscripts, p.78
  127. Ibid., p. 67
  128. Alphonse Mingana and Agnes Smith Lewis, Leaves from Three Ancient Qur’āns Possibly Pre-‘Uthmānic, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1914, p. xl, item C.
  129. A. Fedeli, “Mingana and the Manuscript of Mrs. Agnes Smith Lewis, One Century Later,” in Manuscripta Orientalia, 2005, Volume 11, No: 3, p.7
  130. Mingana, a former priest and one of the well known authors who was deeply committed to distorting the image of Islam in academic circles, is well known for practicing forgery. (He even taught a priest how to make vellum look older than its actual age.) Ibid., p.4
  131. Keith E. Small, Holy Books Have a History, p.105
  132. “Concerning the Qur’ān, one written form of the consonantal text has been kept extremely well.” (Keith E. Small, Holy Books have a History, p.61); “What can be maintained is that one form of the consonantal text has been very well preserved from the seventh/first century” (p.71)
  133. “That an oral tradition of the recital of the Qur’ān exists from the earliest period of the text is not contested. What is contested among scholars, both Islamic and Western, is how complete and strong this tradition was to preserve a precise pronunciation of the text as it was received.” (Keith E. Small, Textual Criticism and Qur’ān Manuscripts, p.152)
  134. L. Bevan Jones, The People of the Mosque, an Introduction to the Study of Islam with Special Reference to India, London: Student Christian Movement Press, 1932, p.62
  135. See Ibn al-Jazarī, al-Nashr, 1/31-32
  136. Al-Bukhāri, ḥadīth no: 2287, Muslim, ḥadīth no: 818
  137. shāfin= good to heal the ignorants from their ignorance.
  138. Al-Nasā’ī, ḥadīth no: 949
  139. Al- Ḥākim, al-Mustadrak, ḥadīth no: 2940, Ibn Ḥanbal, Musnad, ḥadīth no: 3981
  140. Ibn Ḥanbal, Musnad, ḥadīth no: 21242
  141. See Gerd Puin, “Observations on Early Qur’ān Manuscripts in San’a” in Stefan Wild, ed. The Qur’ān as Text, Leiden; New York: E.J. Brill, 1996, p.111
  142. See Keith E. Small, Textual Criticism and Qur’ān Manuscripts, p. 124
  143. See al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān fi ʿUlūm al-Qur’ān, p.137
  144. B. Sadeghi and U. Bergmann, “The Codex of a Companion of the Prophet,” p. 360
  145. Al-Bukhārī, ḥadīth no: 4707. English tr. from:
  146. Ibn Ḥajar, Fatḥ al-Bārī, 9/39-40
  147. See ʿAbd Allāh al-Shinqīṭī, Nashr al-Bunūd ʿalā Marāqī al-Suʿūd, Mohammedia: Ṣundūq Iḥyā’ al-Turāth al-Islāmī, [n.d.], 2/190
  148. Sulaymān al-Aʿmash (61- 148 A.H.) said that (when he was young) he saw that the majority of the people of al-Kūfah using the reading of Ibn Masʿūd, and just very few people used to use the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf (Ibn Mujāhid, Kitāb al-Sabʿa fi al-Qirā’āt, Cairo: Dar Almaʿārif, [n.d.], p.67).
  149. I am giving the dates of births because it is agreed that these scholars learned these readings at an early age, because the Qur’ān was the first thing that they were taught, as was every young Muslim at that time. Also, many of them started teaching their recitation early on. Nāfiʿ, for instance, was promulgating his recitation(s) for almost seven decades. (Ibn al-Jazarī, Ghāyat al-Nihāya fi Ṭabaqāt al-Qurrā’, Beirut: Dār al-kutub al-ʿilmiyyah, 2006, 2/290-91). So that it would appear that these readers lived at a different period than the prophet’s era, Small incorrectly writes that the seven readers chosen by ibn Mujāhid lived in the second century (Small, Textual, p.151). The fact of the matter is that all except one of them (al-Kisā’ī is already a student of Ḥamza) were born in the first century, A.H, two in the first half, and that they all received the Qur’ānic readings from an early age, and that they also started teaching the Qur’an, early, as well.
  150. The area that includes the west of present-day Saudi Arabia.
  151. Ibn Mujāhid, Kitāb al-Sabʿa, p.87
  152. Yasin Dutton, “Orality, Literacy and the ‘Seven Aḥruf’ Ḥadīth,” p.10
  153. See some examples in ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ Shalabī, Rasm al-Muṣḥaf al-ʿUthmānī, second edition, Jeddah: Dār Al-Shurūq,1983, pp.35-8
  154. Q. 7: 145 and 21: 37
  155. Q. 9: 47
  156. Q. 27: 21
  157. Sunan Saʿīd b. Manṣūr, ḥadīth no: 5/67
  158. ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ Shalabī, Rasm al-Muṣḥaf al-ʿUthmānī, p.38
  159. See Keith E. Small, Textual Criticism and Qur’ān Manuscripts, p. 138; A. Fedeli, “Early Evidences of Variant Readings in Qur’ānic Manuscripts,” p. 314
  160. B. Sadeghi and U. Bergmann, “The Codex of a Companion of the Prophet,” p. 363
  161. Keith E. Small, Textual Criticism and Qur’ān Manuscripts, p. 74
  162. Ibid.
  163. Keith E. Small, Textual Criticism and Qur’ān Manuscripts, p. 102
  164. See Walid A. Saleh, Review, “Muḥammad Is Not the Father of Any of Your Men: The Making of the Last Prophet, by David S. Powers,” in Comparative Islamic Studies, (2010) pp.251–64
  165. Al-Jazarī, al-Nashr, 1/12-3. Al-Suyūṭī writes, “Differences in recitation may agree with the reality of transcription such as “taʿlamūn” with the ta or ya or “wa-yaghfir lakum” with the ya or nūn and so on, which show that the letters were not dotted or annotated, either when omitted or included. This is despite the fact that the Companions were adepts in the science of spelling in particular and had piercing understanding in determining all sciences. See how they wrote al-ṣirāṭ with the ṣād that is changed from the sīn and left out the sīn which is the original. So when readings with sīn although the transcription is ṣād: the reading becomes of the original and thus they equalize. In this situation Ishmām reciting is possible, a thing which cannot be if it was written with the original sīn. Re-editing in any manner other than the sīn is considered contrary to the transcription and the original […]. However, clear departure from the transcription in a letter which is mudgham (assimilated), mubaddal (changed); thābit (fixed), maḥdhūf (omitted) or the like is not considered a contradiction to the norm if reciting in that manner has been confirmed and came in famous, profuse ways. That is why they did not consider the addition or omission of the in verse 70, sūrah 18, the wāw in verse 20, sūrah 63, or the za in verse 24, sūrah 83, and such as rejected or unacceptable departure from the transcription. Difference in such a situation is forgiven. That is because it is close and leads to one meaning. It is sanctioned by the correctness of the recitation as well its fame and acceptance.” (al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān fi ʿulūm al-Qur’ān, p.164. The English translation from al-Suyūṭī, The Perfect Guide to the Sciences of the Qur’ān, tr. Ḥamid Algar, Michael Schub and Ayman Abdel Haleem, U.K.: Garnet Publishing, 2011, p.183)
  166. Quoted by Al-Wansharīsī, Al-Miʿyār Almuʿrib, Beirūt: Dār al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 1981, 12/162

    “ولم أر أحدا ممن أدركت من القراء وأهل العلم باللغة وأئمة العربية، يرخصون لأحد في أن يقرأ بحرف لم يقرأ به أحد من الأئمة الماضين، وإن كان جائزا في العربية، بل رأيتهم يشددون في ذلك وينهون عنه أشد النهي، ويروون الكراهية له عمن تقدمهم من مشايخهم، لئلا يجسر على القول في القرآن بالرأي أهل الزيغ، وينسبون من فعله إلى البدعة والخروج عن الجماعة، ومفارقة أهل القبلة، ومخالفة الأمة.”

  167. See al-Dhahabī, Ṭabaqāt al-Qurrā’a, Riyadh: Markaz al-Malik Fayṣal, 1997, 1/383-386; al-Dhahabī, Siyar Aʿlām al-Nubalā’, Lebanon: Bayt al-Afkār, 2004, pp.3395-396
  168. Keith E. Small, Textual Criticism and Qur’ān Manuscripts, p. 145
  169. Al-Nawawī, al-Tibyān fī Ādāb Ḥamalat al-Qur’ān, fourth edition, Beirut: Dar ibn Ḥazm, 1996, pp.59-60
  170. Al-Tirmidhī, ḥadīth no: 2950, Abū Dawūd, ḥadīth no: 1394
  171. Many commentators from the first century believed that those mentioned in the Qur’ān “who have been entrusted with authority” (Q. 4:59) who are supposed to be obeyed by the Muslim nation are “the scholars”.(see al-Ṭabarī, Jāmiʿ al-Bayān, 8/499-501)
  172. Ibn abī Shaybah, al- Muṣannaf, ḥadīth no: 4402: 5
  173. Ibn al-Jazarī, al-Nashr, 1/52: “وهذه الإضافة إضافة اختيار ودوام ولزوم لا إضافة اختراع ورأي واجتهاد”
  174. See Intisar A. Rabb, “Non-Canonical Readings of the Qurʾan: Recognition and Authenticity Persist (The Himsī Reading),” in Journal of Qurʾanic Studies, 2006, Vol. 8, Issue 2, pp.84-127
  175. We can add a third category, which is “the misread texts by the orientalists!” such as many “variants” read by Mingana, and the claim of Gerd Puin (Observations, p.109) that one of the Sana’a manuscripts has qīla, قيل instead of the standard qul, قل. Q. 34:49, which is claimed to be an unearthed “variant” not preserved in the Islamic tradition. T. Altikulaç consulted the manuscript mentioned by Puin and witnesses that “the scribe forgot to write the word; when someone or personally he noticed the omission, this word was inserted in the text. However, as all signs resembling dots used as stops signs at the end of the āyat [verse] were not covered by this word that was written later, these dots were identified by Dr. Puin as the dots ofقيل . When the word is enlarged and examined it is seen that the between qāf and lām has no tooth.” (Altikulaç, Al-Muṣḥaf Al-Sharīf: Attributed To ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib, Istanbul: Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture, 2011, p.143).
  176. Small himself acknowledges that “arguments that this entire edifice is a pious fabrication, though, are unlikely, in that there are manuscripts that preserve discernible features of distinctive Readings of the Qur’ān.” (Keith E. Small, Textual Criticism and Qur’ān Manuscripts, p.153)
  177. Ibn al-Jazarī, al-Nashr, 1/36-37
  178. Some of the earliest scholars who collected the accepted readings had more than ten readers, such as Abū ʿubayd al-Qāsim b. Sallām (d. 224 A.H.), Abū Ḥātim al-Sajistānī (d. 248), Abū Isḥāq al-Qāḍī (d. 282), Abū Jarīr al-Ṭabarī (d. 310), and others.
  179. See Makkī b. Abī Ṭālib, Al-Ibāna ʿan Mʿānī al-Qirā’āt, Cairo: Dār Nahḍat Maṣr, [n.d.], pp.86-9
  180. Aḥmad ʿAlī Imām, Variant readings of the Qurʼan: A Critical Study of Their Historical and Linguistic Origins, Herndon, VA: International Institute of Islamic Thought, 1998, p.141
  181. The reading of Khalaf, one of the ten legitimate readings, has no readings in its verses not found in one, or more, of the other nine legitimate readings. The reading of Khalaf is a pure ikhtiyār from the other authentic readings available in his lifetime. Today, just by using our ten legitimate readings we can “create” hundreds or even thousands of readings by selecting from these readings one from each passage. Thus, when we read that there existed fifty readings in the fourth century of the Hegira, this does not mean that there were too many (authentic) readings to choose from; it is all about the mechanism of ikhtiyār which helped in promulgating new readings.
  182. See al-Dhahabī, Maʿrifat al-Qurrā’, Beirut: al-Risalah, 1404 A.H., 1/271
  183. See Keith E. Small, Holy Books Have a History, pp.93, 118
  184. Roy E. Beacham, “The Old Testament Text and the Version Debate,” in Roy E. Beacham and Kevin T. Bauder, eds. One Bible only?: examining exclusive claims for the King James Bible, Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 2001, p.63, [italics mine]
  185. Keith E. Small, Textual Criticism and Qur’ān Manuscripts, p.3
  186. Keith E. Small, Holy Books Have a History, p.5
  187. “it is certain, because impossible,” Tertullian, De Carne Christi, v. 4
  188. “Nor do I seek to understand that I may believe, but I believe that I may understand. For this, too, I believe, that, unless I first believe, I shall not understand.” Anselm, Proslogion, ch.1
  189. See on influence of Muslim scholars on Aquinas and other Christian theologians, “Al-Ghazali,” in Encyclopaedia of Islam, E. J. Brill and Luzac, 1913-1938, 3/147; Diané Collinson, Kathryn Plant, and Robert Wilkinson, Fifty Eastern thinkers, London: Routledge, 2000, p.35
  190. Hava Lazarus-Yafeh, “Some Neglected Aspects of Medieval Muslim Polemics against Christianity,” in The Harvard Theological Review, Vol. 89, No. 1 (Jan., 1996), pp.65-70
  191. Almost one thousand Qur’ānic codices (not complete copies).
  192. Sadeghi and Goudarzi recorded these testimonies; see Ṣan‘ā’ 1, pp.33-6
  193. He provided information about his travel to Yemen in a telephone conversation.
  194. See Scott MacMillan, “Sana’a: City of the Book,” in History Today, Apr 2011, Vol. 61, Issue 4 (online copy devoid of page numbering)
  195. Some of Gerd Puin’s comments which he made for the media are, allow me to say, childish, and made for pure provocation. He said last year, for instance, that he did not disclose in his article “Observations” the manuscripts where he noticed a non-ʿUthmānic arrangement of sūrah-s because “there is good reason to expect that these sheets would immediately be destroyed.” (Sana’a: City of the Book). Yemeni students were already helping Puin in reading and classifying these manuscripts, and finding such manuscripts would not have taken a great effort had the Yemeni staff wanted to destroy them. Altikulaç already consulted some of the folios which Puin talked about. (Al-Muṣḥaf Al-Sharīf: Attributed To ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib, p.144 Eng, 172 Ar.). So such a foolish allegation is yet another black spot in the academic career of G. Puin and cannot be used by honest scholars to distort the image of Muslims.
  196. “The earliest available Qur’ānic manuscripts contained a very precise consonantal line of text. Only the Qur’ānic palimpsests showed a degree of variability in the consonantal text that approached the degree of flexibility exhibited in the New Testament manuscript tradition.” (Keith E. Small, Holy Books Have a History, p.60)
  197. See A. Fedeli, “Early Evidences of Variant Readings in Qur’ānic Manuscripts,” pp.311-34
  198. Conference paper given 14 November at “The Qur’ān: Text, History & Culture,” 12-14 November 2009, SOAS, University of London, 2009.
  199. Published in Manuscripta Orientalia, 2005, Volume 11, No. 3, pp.3-7
  200. Ibid., p. 5
  201. Muir’s book was written in the 13th Century of the Hegira.
  202. William Muir, Life of Mohamet: from original sources, London: Smith, 1878, appendix, pp.557-58
  203. “Qur’ān is today the only holy book that does not show notable variants,” Louis Leblois, Le Koran et la Bible Hébraïque, Paris: Fischbacher, 1887, p.54
  204. Kenneth Cragg, The Call of the Minaret, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1964, p.97
  205. Bosworth Smith, Mohammed and Mohammedanism, New York: Harper & Brothers, 1875, p.41
  206. Philip Hitti, History of the Arabs, London: Macmillan, 1937, p.123
  207. Edward William Lane and Stanley Lane Poole, Selections from the Kur-an, London: Trubner, 1879, p.c
  208. John Burton, The Collection of the Qur’an, pp.239-40
  209. Le Coran, trad. De D. Masson, editions Gallimard, 1967, p.xl. (this quote is translated into English by the Christian apologist William F. Campbell, in his published book The Qur’an and the Bible in the Light of History and Science, Upper Darby, PA: Middle East Resources, 1986, section: C. variant readings in the Qur’an and the Bible, Online text)
  210. “The Qur’ān was fixed, shortly after its revelation, with an authentic text that there is no serious reason to consider as corrupted,” Maurice Gaudefroy-Demombynes, Les Institutions Musulmanes, Paris: E. Flammarion, 1921, p.42
  211. Hamilton Alexander Rosskeen Gibb, Mohammedanism: An Historical Survey, London: Oxford University Press US, 1962, p.34
  212. “All that was said supports the view that the Qur’ān of ʿUthmān was complete and loyal to the highest level that can be expected,” Theodor Nöldeke, Geschichte des Qorans, Leipzig: Dieterich, 1919, 2/93
  213. Richard Bell and William Montgomery Watt, Bell’s Introduction to the Qur’ān, Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 1970, p.51
  214. See Adrian Brockett, “Illustrations of Orientalist Misuse of Qur’ānic Variant Readings,” paper presented at the colloquium on the study of ḥadīth, Oxford, 1982
  215. Adrian Brockett, “The Value of Hafs And Warsh Transmissions For The Textual History of The Qur’ān,” in Andrew Rippin, ed., Approaches Of The History of Interpretation Of The Qur’ān, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988, p.44
  216. Neal Robinson, Christ in Islam and Christianity, New York: SUNY Press, 1991, p.194
  217. Thomas Walker Arnold, The Islamic Faith, Lahore: Vaqar Publications, 1983, p.9
  218. Christiaan Snouck Hurgronje, Mohammedanism: lectures on its origin, its religious and political growth and its present state, New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1916, p.27
  219. Charles Cutler Torrey, The Jewish Foundation of Islam, New York: KTAV Pub. House,1967, p.2
  220. R. V. C. Bodley, The Messenger: The Life of Mohammed, New York: Greenwood Press, 1969, p.235
  221. Rom Landau, Islam and the Arabs, London, G. Allen & Unwin, 1958, p.200
  222. Forster F. Arbuthnot, The Construction of the Bibe and the Koran, London: Watts & Co., 1885, p.6
  223. Todd Lawson, review: “The Origins of the Koran (Book),” in Journal of the American Oriental Society, Jul-Sep2002, Vol. 122, Issue 3, p.658
  224. Ibn Warraq, ed. Classic Essays on Islam’s Holy Book, Amherst, New York: Prometheus Book, 1998, p.17

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