Friday, April 24, 2009

Early Debates on the Integrity of the Qur'ān: A Brief Survey

This post in an exert from the scholarly article, "Early Debates on the Integrity of the Qur'ān: A Brief Survey" by Hossein Modarressi.

Sunnite literature contains many reports that suggest that some of the revelation had already been lost before the collection of the Qur'an initiated by Abi Bakr. It is reported, for example, that 'Umar was once looking for the text of a specific verse of the Qur'an he vaguely remembered. To his deep sorrow, he discove-red that the only person who had any record of that verse had been killed in the battle of Yamama and that the verse was consequen-tly lost. (16) 'Umar allegedly had a recollection of a Qur'anic verse on stoning as a punishment for adultery.(17) But he could not convince his colleagues to insert it in the Qur'an because nobody else came forward to support him,(18) and the requirement that there be two witnesses for any text to be accepted as a part of the Qur'an was therefore not met. Later, however, some other Companions recalled that same verse,(19) including 'A'isha, the Prophet's youngest wife. She is alleged to have said that a sheet on which two verses, including that on stoning, were recorded was under her bedding and that after the Prophet died, a domestic animal(20) got into the room and gobbled up the sheet while the
household was preoccupied with his funeral. (21) 'Umar also remembered other verses he thought dropped out (saqata) from the Qur'an(22) or were lost, including one on being dutiful to parents (23) and another on jihad. (24) His claim regarding the first of the two was supported by three other early authorities on the Qur'an: Zayd b. Thabit, 'Abd Allah b. 'Abbas, and Ubayy b. Ka'b. (25) Anas b. Malik remembered a verse which was revealed in the occasion of some Muslims who were killed in a battle, but was later "lifted." (26) 'Umar's learned son, 'Abd Allah, (27) as well as some later scholars, (28) maintained that much of the Qur'an had perished before the collection was made.

Similar reports specifically addressed the official 'Uthmanic res-cension of the Qur'an. They reported that many prominent Companions could not find in that official text portions of the reve-lation they had themselves heard from the Prophet, or found them in a different form. Ubayy b. Ka'b, for instance, recited sura 98 (al-Bayyina) in a form he claimed to have heard from the Pro-phet. It included two verses unrecorded in the 'Uthmanic text. (29) He also thought that the original version of sura 33 (al-also Ahzab) had been much longer, from which he specifically remem-bered the stoning verse that is missing from the 'Uthmanic text. (30) His claim was supported by Zayd b. Thabit,(31) by 'A'isha (who reported that during the Prophet's lifetime the sura was about three times as long, although when 'Uthman collected the Qur'an he found only what was made available in his text), (32) and by IHudhayfa b. al-Yaman (who found some seventy verses missing in the new official text, verses that he himself used to recite during the lifetime of the Prophet). (33) Hudhayfa also contended that sura 9 (al-Bara'a) in its 'Uthmanic form was per-haps one-fourth (34) or one-third (35) of what it had been during the time of the Prophet, an idea later supported by the prominent 2nd/8th century jurist and traditionist Malik b. Anas, founder of the Maliki school of Islamic law.(36) There are also reports that suras 15 (al-Hijr) and 24 (al-Nur) had once been of a different length. (37) And Abf Musa al-Ash'ari recalled the existence of two long suras (one verse of each he still remembered) that he could not find in the present text. (38) One of the two verses he recalled ("If the son of Adam had two fields of gold he would seek a third one...") is also quoted from other Companions such as Ubayy,(39) Ibn Mas'ud,(40) and Ibn 'Abbas.(41) Maslama b. Mukhallad al-Ansari offered two further verses that are not in the 'Uthmanic text,(42) and 'A'isha came forward with a third.(43) Two short chapters known as Sarat al-Hafd and Sirat al-Khal' were recorded in the collections of Ubayy,(44) Ibn 'Abbas, and Abu Musa. (45) They were allegedly also known to 'Umar(46) and other Companions, (47) although no trace of either chapter is found in the official text. Ibn Mas'ud did not have suras 1, 113, and 114 in his collection, (48) but he had some extra words and phrases that were missing from the 'Uthmanic text. (49) He and many other Compa-nions also preserved some verses that differed from the official text.(50) There were also widely transmitted reports that after the death of the Prophet, 'All put all the parts of the Qur'an together(51) and presented it to the Companions; but they rejected it, and he had to take it back home. (52) These reports also sugges-ted that there were substantial differences between the various versions of the Qur'an.

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