by Ibn Warraq (Feb. 2008)
“It is an extraordinary thing that we still have no critical text of the Qur`an for common use’
— Arthur Jeffery, 1937 
There is no such thing as the Koran. There is no, and there never has been a, textus receptus ne varietur of the Holy Book of the Muslims. We have two kinds of evidence for this claim. One which comes from Muslims themselves. Many Classical Muslim scholars-Koranic commentators, collectors of hadith, lexica and Qirä’ät books, for example – have acknowledged not only that many verses revealed to Muhammad have been lost, and hence the Koran that we possess is incomplete, but also that the Koran assembled, whether by Abü Bakr, ‘Umar, ‘Alï or ‘Uthmän, is capable of being read in different ways, in other words that variants exist. There are a number of hadiths that recount “the loss, withdrawal, or forgetting of this or that ‘verse’ said to have been revealed to the Prophet but not figuring” in the Koran as it now exists. The other comes from extant Koranic manuscripts, inscriptions and coins.
HADITH ON THE INCOMPLETNESS OF THE KORAN, VERSES MISSING, MUHAMMAD`S FAULTY MEMORY
It is admitted by certain Muslim scholars that the Koran as we know it is incomplete:
Al-Suyütï, Itqän fï ‘ulüm al-Qur’än, 2 vols., in 1, Halabï,
“‘Abdulläh b. ‘Umar reportedly said, ‘Let none of you say, “I have got the whole of the Koran.” How does he know what all of it is? Much of the Koran has gone [Arabic: Dahaba]. Let him say instead, “I have got what has survived.”’ 
This sentiment is echoed by a hadith in Al-Sijistänï, ‘Abd Alläh b.Sulaymän b.al-Ash‘ath, Abü Bakr Ibn Abï Däwüd ‘s Kitäb al-Masähif:
“‘Umar b.al Khattäb enquired about a verse of the Book of God. On being informed that it had been in the possession of so-and–so who had been killed in the Yemäma wars, ‘Umar exclaimed the formula expressing loss, ‘We are God’s and unto Him is our return.’ ‘Umar gave the command and the Qur’än was collected. He was the first to collect the Qur’än.”
Clearly, many verses were lost when those Companions who had memorised parts of the divine revelation perished during the Yemama wars.
Once again from Al-Sijistänï, ‘Abd Alläh b.Sulaymän b.al-Ash‘ath, Abü Bakr Ibn Abï Däwüd ‘‘s Kitäb al –Masähif:
“Zuhrï reports, ‘We have heard that many Qur’än passages were revealed but that those who had memorised them fell in the Yemäma fighting. Those passages had not been written down and, following the deaths of those who knew them, were no longer known; nor had Abü Bakr, nor ‘Umar nor ‘Uthmän as yet collected the texts of the Qur’än. Those lost passages were not to be found with anyone after the deaths of those who had memorised them. This, I understand, was one of the considerations which impelled them to pursue the Qur’än during the reign of Abü Bakr, committing it to sheets for fear that there should perish in further theatres of war men who bore much of the Qur’än which they would take to their grave with them on their fall, and which, with their passing, would not be found with any other.”
Here is Bukhärï on a certain verse that used to be recited as a part of the Koran but was somehow “cancelled ”:
Bukhärï. al-Sahih. Vol.5 Book LXIV: Al-Maghäzï, Chapter 29 Hadith 4090 p.254.
“Narrated Anas bin Mälik: The tribes of Ri ‘l, Dhakwän, ‘Usaiyya and Banï Lihyän asked Alläh’s Messenger to provide them with some men to support them against their enemy. He therefore provided them with seventy men from the Ansär whom we used to call Al-Qurrä’ in their lifetime. They used to collect wood by daytime and offer Salät (prayer) at night. When they were at the well of Ma‘üna, the infidels killed them by betraying them. When this news reached the Prophet, he said Al-Qunüt for one month in the morning Salät (prayer), invoking evil upon some of the Arab tribes, upon Ri ‘l, Dhakwän, ‘Usaiyya and Banï Liùyän. We used to read a verse of the Qur’än revealed in their connection, but later the verse was cancelled. It was: “convey to our people on our behalf the information that we have met our Lord, and He is pleased with us, and has made us pleased.” Anas bin Mälik added: Alläh’s Prophet said Al- Qunüt for one month in the morning Salät (prayer), invoking evil upon some of the Arab tribes, upon Ri ‘l, Dhakwän, ‘Usaiyya and Banï Lihyän. Anas added: Those seventy Ansärï men were killed at the well of Ma‘üna.”
Both the Koran [LXXXVII,6-7] and certain hadiths imply that Muhammad himself was capable of forgetting some verses:
Bukhärï, al-Sahih. Vol.6, Book LXVI Kitäb Fadä’il l-Qur’än, Chapter 25, Hadith 5037, p.449:
“Narrated ‘Ä’isha: The Prophet heard a man reciting the Qur’än in the mosque, and he said, ‘May Allah bestow His Mercy upon him, as he has reminded me such-and-such verses of such-and-such sura.”
Narrated Hishäm: (The same hadith, adding): which I missed from such and such sura.
Bukhärï. al-Sahih. Vol.6, Book LXVI Kitäb Fadä’il l-Qur’än, Chapter 25, Hadith 5038, p.449 [See also Muslim, Sahih Vol.1 Chapter CCLXXIV, Hadiths: 1720 & 1721, p.456.]
“Narrated ‘Ä’isha: Allah’s Messenger heard a man reciting the Qur’än at night, and said, “May Allah bestow His Mercy on him, as he has reminded me of such-and-such verses of such -and such a Surah, which I was caused to forget.”
Bukhärï. al-Sahih. Vol. 6, Book LXVI Kitäb Fadä’il l-Qur’än, Chapter 25, Hadith 5039, p.449
“Narrated ‘Abdulläh: The Prophet said, “Why does anyone of the people say, ‘I have forgotten such and such verses (of the Qur’än )?’ He, in fact, is caused to forget.”
Muslim, Sahih. Vol.1 Kitäb al- al-Salät, Chapter CCLXXIX Hadith 1724, p.457.
“‘Abdullah reported Allah’s Messenger (may be peace be upon him) as saying: What a wretched person is he amongst them who says: I have forgotten such and such a verse. (He should instead of using this expression say): I have been made to forget it. Try to remember the Qur’än for it is more apt to escape from men’s minds than a hobbled camel.”
Sunan Abü Däwüd: Book II: Kitäb al-Salät, Chapter 347 Number 1015 Vol. I, pp.260-261.
“Narrated ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas‘üd: The Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) offered prayer. The version of the narrator ‘Ibrähïm goes: I do not know whether he increased or decreased (the rak‘ahs of prayer). When he gave the salutation, he was asked: Has something new happened in the prayer, Apostle of Allah? He said: What is it? They said: You prayed so many and so many (rak‘ahs). He then relented his foot and faced the Qiblah and made two prostrations. He then gave the salutation. When he turned away (finished the prayer), he turned his face to us and said: Had anything new happened in prayer, I would have informed you. I am only a human being and I forget just as you do; so when I forget, remind me, and when any of you is in doubt about his prayer he should aim at what is correct, and complete his prayer in that respect, then give the salutation and afterwards make two prostrations.”
If the Prophet was capable of forgetting, then it is not at all surprising that his companions also avow to lapses of memory. Abü Müsä, for instance, confesses:
[Muslim, Sahih. Kitäb al- Zakät Vol.2, Hadith: 2286, pp.602 -603]
“Abü Harb b.Abu al-Aswad reported on the authority of his father that Abü Müsä al-Ash‘arï sent for the reciters of
Mälik in his Muwatta also recounts how certain verses concerning prayers are missing from the Koran as we know it:
Mälik Muwatta Book I: Kitäb al –Salät Chapter 78, Hadith 307 p.64.
Abü Yünus, freedman of ‘Ä’ishah, Mother of the Believers, reported: ‘Ä’ishah ordered me to transcribe the Holy Qur’än and asked me to let her know when I should arrive at the verse (II, 238)
häfizü ‘alä –s-salawäti wa-s-Saläti-l-wustä wa qümü li-l-lähi qänitïn (Guard strictly your (habit of) prayers, especially the Middle Prayer; and stand before God in a devout (frame of mind).)
When I arrived at that verse, I informed her and she ordered: Write in this way:
häfizü ‘alä –s-salawäti wa-s-Saläti-l-wustä wa-s-Saläti –l-‘asri wa qümü li-l-lähi qänitïn (Guard strictly your (habit of) prayers, especially the Middle Prayer and the ‘aær prayer and stand before God in a devout (frame of mind).)
She added that she had heard it so from the Apostle of Allah (mpbuh).
Mälik has another hadith very similar to the above but this time with Hafsah making the addition to the Koranic verse: Mälik. Muwatta Book I: Kitäb al –Salät Chapter 78, Hadith 308 pp.64-65.
The above is a clear acknowledgement that certain passages of verses revealed to the Prophet and memorised by his companions have been irrevocably lost. One such passage lost [left out deliberately] from the Koran but preserved in the hadith is the verse concerning stoning to death for adultery. The Sharia prescribes the penalty for adultery as death by stoning which conflicts with the penalty mentioned in the Koran XXIV.2, “The adulteress and the adulterer, flog each one of them one hundred strokes.” Verse 15 of Surah IV is also taken to apply to adultery; women found guilty of adultery were to be confined “in quarters until death release them or God appoint a way for them.” The need to explain this contradiction between the Koran and actual practice led to the invention of hadith sanctioning the latter. John Burton has argued that the story about the verse of stoning was put into circulation by the followers of Shäfi‘ï, “who did not accept that a sunna can abrogate a Quranic revelation and were forced to find a source with higher authority for the lawfulness of stoning for fornication.”
Muslim, Sahih, Kitäb al-Hudüd Chapter DCLXXXI Hadith 4194, p.1100.
“‘Abd Alläh b. al-‘Abbäs reported that ‘Umar b. al-Khattäb sat on the pulpit of Allah’s Messenger and said: Verily Allah sent Muhammad with truth and He sent down the Book upon him, and the verse of stoning was included in what was sent down to him. We recited it, retained it in our memory and understood it. Allah’s Messenger awarded the punishment of stoning to death [to the married adulterer and adulteress] and, after him, we also awarded the punishment of stoning. I am afraid that, with the lapse of time, the people (may forget it) and may say: We do not find the punishment of stoning in the Book of Allah, and thus go astray by abandoning this duty prescribed by Allah. Stoning is a duty laid down in Allah’s Book for married men and women who commit adultery when proof is established, or if there is pregnancy, or a confession.”
Bukhärï. al-Sahih. Vol. 8, Book 86: Kitäb al-Hudüd Chapter 31, Hadith: 6830 p431.
“Allah sent Muhammad (saw) with the Truth and revealed the Holy Book to him, and among what Allah revealed, was the Verse of the Rajam (the stoning of married persons, male and female, who commit adultery) and we did recite this Verse and understood and memorized it. Allah’s Apostle (saw) did carry out the punishment of stoning and so did we after him. I am afraid that after a long time has passed, somebody will say, ‘By Allah, we do not find the Verse of the Rajam in Allah’s Book’, and thus they will go astray by leaving an obligation which Allah has revealed.”
Ibn Ishäq`s biography of Muhammad has ‘Umar saying, “Verily stoning in the book of God is a penalty laid on married men and women who commit adultery, if proof stands or pregnancy is clear or confession is made.”
The hadith collection of Mälik confirms that there was indeed a verse concerning stoning that is missing from the actual Koran.
Mälik Muwatta Book XXIX: Kitäb al-Hudüd, Chapter 493, Hadith 1519:
Mälik related to me from Näfi‘ that ‘Abd Alläh ibn ‘Umar said, “The Jews came to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and mentioned to him that a man and woman from among them had committed adultery. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, asked them, ‘What do you find in the Torah about stoning?’ They said, ‘We make their wrong action known and flog them. ‘Abd Allah ibn Saläm said, ‘You have lied! It has stoning for it, so bring the Torah.’ They spread it out and one of them placed his hand over the ayat of stoning. Then he read what was before it and what was after it. ‘Abd Allah ibn Saläm told him to lift his hand. He lifted his hand and there was the ayat of stoning. They said, ‘He has spoken the truth, Muhammad. The ayat of stoning is in it.’ So the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, gave the order and they were stoned.”
Mälik Muwatta Book XXIX: Kitäb al-Hudüd, Chapter 493, Hadith 1520.
Mälik related to me from Yahyä b.Sä‘id from Sa‘ïd ibn al-Musayyab that a man from the Aslam tribe came to Abü Bakr as-Siddïq and said to him, “I have committed adultery.” Abu Bakr said to him, “Have you mentioned this to anyone else?” He said, “No.” Abü Bakr said to him, “Then cover it up with the veil of Allah. Allah accepts tawba from his slaves.” His self was still unsettled, so he went to ‘Umar b. al-Khattäb. He told him the same as he had said to Abü Bakr, and ‘Umar told him the same as Abü Bakr had said to him. His self was still not settled so he went to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and said to him, “I have committed adultery,” insistently. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, turned away from him three times. Each time the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, turned away from him until it became too much. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, questioned his family, “Does he have an illness which affects his mind, or is he mad?” They said, “Messenger of Allah, by Allah, he is well.” The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “Unmarried or married?” They said, “Married, Messenger of Allah.” The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, gave the order and he was stoned.
Mälik Muwatta Book XXIX: Kitäb al-Hudüd, Chapter 493, Hadith 1522.
Mälik related to me that Ibn Shihäb informed him that a man confessed that he had committed adultery in the time of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and he testified against himself four times, so the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, gave the order and he was stoned.
Ibn Shihäb said, “Because of this a man is to be taken for his own confession against himself.”
Mälik Muwatta Book XXIX: Kitäb al-Hudüd, Chapter 493, Hadith 1523.
Mälik related to me from Yaqüb ibn Zayd ibn Talha from his father Zayd ibn Talha that ‘Abd Allah ibn Abï Mulayka informed him that a woman came to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and informed him that she had committed adultery and was pregnant. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said to her, “Go away until you give birth.” When she had given birth, she came to him. The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said to her, “Go away until you have suckled and weaned the baby.” When she had weaned the baby, she came to him. He said, “Go and entrust the baby to someone.” She entrusted the baby to someone and then came to him. He gave the order and she was stoned.
Mälik Muwatta Book XXIX: Kitäb al-Hudüd, Chapter 493, Hadith 1524.
Mälik related to me from Ibn Shihäb from Ubayd Allah ibn ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Utba ibn Mas‘üd that Abü Hurayra and Zayd ibn Khälid al-Juhanï informed him that two men brought a dispute to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace. One of them said, “Messenger of Allah! Judge between us by the Book of Allah!” The other said, and he was the wiser of the two, “Yes, Messenger of Allah. Judge between us by the Book of Allah and give me permission to speak.” He said, “Speak.” He said, “My son was hired by this person and he committed fornication with his wife. He told me that my son deserved stoning, and I ransomed him for one hundred sheep and a slave-girl. Then I asked the people of knowledge and they told me that my son deserved to be flogged with one hundred lashes and exiled for a year, and they informed me that the woman deserved to be stoned.” The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, “By him in whose Hand myself is, I will judge between you by the Book of Allah. As for your sheep and slave girl, they should be returned to you. Your son should have one hundred lashes and be exiled for a year.” He ordered Unays al-Aslamï to go to the wife of the other man and to stone her if she confessed. She confessed and he stoned her.
‘Ä’ishah has an original explanation as to how the stoning verse came to be omitted:
“The stoning verse and another verse were revealed and recorded on a sheet (sahïfa) which was placed for safe-keeping under her bedding. When the Prophet fell ill and the household were preoccupied with nursing him, a domestic animal got in from the yard and gobbled up the sheet.” 
Muslim, Sahih Chapter DLXV: Kitäb al-Nikäh Hadith 3421
“Narrated ‘Ä’ishah: It had been revealed in the Qur’än that ten clear sucklings make the marriage unlawful, then it was abrogated (and substituted) by five sucklings and Allah’s Apostle (pbuh) died and it was before that time (found) in the Qur’än (and recited by the Muslims).”
Various hadiths recount how the Koran was revealed to the Prophet in seven different ways, in Arabic Sab‘atu ahruf. The word ahruf is often translated as ‘seven sets of
readings’ or sometimes ‘dialects,’ though strictly speaking ahruf is simply the plural of harf meaning “letter.” By changing the inflections and accentuations of words, it is claimed, the Koranic text may be read in the seven dialects of the Quraysh, Ta’i, Hawäzin , Yaman , Saqïf , Hudhayl and Tamïm. More than forty interpretations have been offered for this enigmatic word.
Bukhärï. al-Sahih. Vol.6 Book LXVI: Kitäb Fad’il l-Qur’än, Chapter 5, Hadith 4992 p.428.
Narrated ‘Umar b. al-Khattäb: I heard Hishäm bin Hakïm bin Hizäm reciting Surat-al-Furqän in a way different to that of mine. Allah’s Messenger had taught it to me (in a different way). So, I was about to quarrel with him (during the prayer) but I waited till he finished, then I tied his garment round his neck and seized him by it and brought him to to Allah‘s Messenger and said, “I have heard him reciting Surat-al- Furqän in a way different to the way you taught it to me.” The Prophet ordered me to release him and asked Hishäm to recite it. When he recited it, Allah’s Messenger said, “It was revealed in this way.” He then asked me to recite it. When I recited it, he said, “It was revealed in this way. The Qur’än has been revealed in seven different ways, so recite it in the way that is easier for you.”
Bukhärï, al-Sahih Vol. 6 Book LXVI: Kitäb Fada’il l-Qur’än, Chapter 5, Hadith 4991 pp. 427-428.
Narrated ‘Abdullah bin ‘Abbäs: Allah’s Messenger said, “Gabriel recited the Qur’än to me in one way. Then I requested him (to read it in another way), and continued asking him to recite it in other ways, and he recited it in several ways till he ultimately recited it in seven different ways.”
If we do interpret these hadiths to mean merely differences of pronunciation, a question of different dialects – if truth be told, we have no idea what they really mean – we must distinguish them, however, from the variants recorded by Ibn Mas‘üd, Ubayy Ibn Ka‘b and others which testify to real differences of substance and content, differences in the consonantal text, often lending different meanings to the Koranic text. The latter could not be dismissed as differences in pronunciation.
Ibn Mujähid (died 935 C.E.), the influential Imam of the readers in Baghdad, basing himself on the above Hadith, banned the use of the codex of Ibn Mas‘üd and other uncanonical readings, and recognized seven readers as authorities. He was supported by the government, and the courts. Some scholars, such as Ibn Shannabüdh (died 939 C.E.), were literarily flogged into submission, others were compelled, such as Ibn Miqsam (died 944 C.E.) to give up their own readings. To add to the confusion, each of the accepted seven readings was transmitted independently by two transmitters, giving us the following schema:
District Reader First Transmitter (Rawi) Second Transmitter (Rawi)
Mecca Ibn-Kathïr (737) al-Bazzï (854) Qunbul (903)
Kufa ‘Asim (744) Hafs (805) Shu‘ba (809)
Kufa Hamza (772) Khalaf (843) Khalläd (835)
Kufa al-Kisä’ï (804) ad- Dürï (860) Abü-l-Härith (854)
However not all Muslim scholars accepted the restriction to these seven readers, some spoke of ten readers (each with two transmitters), while others spoke of fourteen. We may tabulate these as follows:
The Three After The Seven
District Reader First Transmitter Second Transmitter
Medina Abü–Ja‘far (747) ‘Ïsä Ibn Wirdän (776) Abü l-Rabï‘ ibn Jummäz (786)
Kufa Khalaf (843) Ishäq al-Warräq (899) Idrïs al-Haddäd (904)
The Four After The Ten
Kufa al-A ‘mash (765) al-Basrï (981) Shannabüdh l- Baghdädï (998)
Western scholars have yet to make a systematic study of the entire problem of these readings. Scholars sometimes omit to note that books composed on the Eight Readers, the Eleven Readers, the Thirteen Readers include Readers not mentioned in the above lists.Thus the Raudat al-Huffaz of al-Mu`addil includes the readings of Humayd b.Qays , Ibn as- Sumayfi‘ and Talha b.Musarrif. The Kämil of al-Hudhalï is said to have contained readings of forty extra Readers. Other writers who have preserved old variants representing a different type of consonantal text from that of the Uthmanic text include al- ‘Ukbarï (1219) of Baghdad, Ibn Khälawayh (980) of Aleppo, and Ibn Jinnï (1002). The Fihrist of al-Nadïm lists a host of readers “with odd systems,” organised geographically. Thus the people of al-Madinah boasted five readers with their own readings; the people of Makkah had four readers with their own readings, the people of Basrah, five; the people of al-Kufah, five; the people of al-Sham, three; the people of al-Yaman, one, and so on. Not only were there disagreements amongst the seven primary readers as recorded by Abü Tähir in his book “The Disagreement between Abü ‘Amr and al-Kisä’ï ” but also between the primary readers and their own transmitters as recorded in the same author`s “The Disagreement between the Adherents of ‘Asim and Hafs ibn Sulaymän ” . Ibn Miqsam (died 944 C.E.) and Al-Naqqäsh (died 962 C.E.) both expressed their disagreement with the Seven in books entitled “The Seven with their Defects.” Al-Nadïm also lists more than thirty books that discuss the ambiguous or obscure passages in the Koran; presumably these ambiguities can only be resolved by one or other of the countless readings proposed by the hundred or more readers.
In the fourth Islamic century we have the works of Ibn al-Anbärï , Ibn Ashta and Al-Sijistänï ‘Abd Alläh b.Sulaymän b.al-Ash‘ath Abü Bakr Ibn Abï Däwüd , all of whom wrote works on the Old Codices, though only that of Al-Sijistänï, ‘Abd Alläh b.Sulaymän b.al-Ash‘ath, Abü Bakr Ibn Abï Däwüd has survived in its entirety.
The Arabic term qirä’a can mean recitation (either of single parts of the Koran or the entire Koran) , or a particular reading of a passage of the Koran, that is, a variant (plural = qirä’ät) or even a particular reading of the entire Koran. In the latter case, we often speak of the qirä’a of Ibn Mas‘üd.
As Jeffery has pointed out, we cannot easily dismiss these variants, “for its quite clear that the text which `Uthman canonized was only one out of many rival texts, and we needs must investigate what went before the canonical text….[T]here is grave suspicion that `Uthman may have seriously edited the text that he canonized. It was therefore worth attempting an assembling of all the material that has survived from the rival texts ….Some of the variants seem linguistically impossible, and indeed are occasionally noted as such in the sources which quote them. Some give one the impression of being inventions of later philologers who fathered their inventions on these early authorities The great majority, however, merit consideration as genuine survivals from the pre-`Uthmanic stage of the text, though only after they have passed the most searching criticism of modern scholarship by scholars approaching them from different points of view, shall we be free to use them in the attempted reconstruction of the history of the text.”
Jeffery came across by chance the manuscript of Al-Sijistänï, ‘Abd Alläh b.Sulaymän b.al-Ash‘ath , Abü Bakr Ibn Abï Däwüd ‘s Kitäb al -Masähif, “which studied the state of the Qur’än text prior to its canonization in the standard text of ‘Uthmän.“ Jeffery, drawing upon Abï Däwüd ‘s work, and other sources, established a list of fifteen primary codices and thirteen secondary ones. That there were indeed written codices which differed from the so-called Uthmanic text, or differed from manuscript to manuscript is confirmed by al-Nadïm. The tenth century scholar, al-Nadïm, in his celebrated work of reference, al-Fihrist, gives a list of books devoted to discrepancies in the various Koranic manuscripts: 
Books Composed about Discrepancies of the [Quranic] Manuscripts
The Discrepancies between the Manuscripts of the People of al-Madïnah, al-Küfah, and al-Basrah, according to al-Kisä’ïKhalaf, Discrepancies of the Manuscripts; Discrepancies of the People of al-Küfah, al-Basrah, and Syria concerning the Manuscripts, by al-Farra’; Discrepancies between the Manuscripts, by Abu Da’ud al-Sijistani; book of al-Mada’ini about the discrepancies between the manuscripts and the compiling of the Qur’änHijäz, and al- ‘Iräq, by Ibn ‘Ämir al-Yahsubï Amir al-Yahsubi; book of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Rahmän al-Isbahänï about discrepancy of the manuscripts.”
The written codex of Ibn Mas‘üd (died 653 C.E.) was well regarded in Kufa whereas the codex of Ubayy ibn Ka‘b (died 649 C.E. or 654 C.E.) was highly esteemed in most parts of
“I have seen a number of Quranic manuscripts, which the transcribers recorded as manuscripts of Ibn Mas‘üd. No two of the Quranic copies were in agreement …” The Fihrist of al-Nadïm.
Abdullah b. Mas‘üd was a Companion of Muhammad, and claimed to have learnt seventy suras directly from the mouth of the Prophet. According to tradition, Ibn Mas‘üd was the first to teach Koran reading. Later in Küfah, he became famous as a traditionist and as an authority on the Koran. His Codex was favoured by the Shï‘a.
There are several remarkable features about Ibn Mas‘üd’s codex. First, it did not contain Suras I (the Fätihah ) and the last two suras, Suras CXIII and CXIV , known as the Mu‘awwidhatän (since the the principal word in them is A‘üdhu (I take refuge). Second the order and even the name of the suras differed considerably from the `Uthman recension. The two lists that give the order of the suras do not agree either. The earlier list, that of al-Nadïm in the Fihrist, leaves out the suras 1,15,18,20,27,42,99,113,114., while the list in the Itqän of as-Suyütï leaves out suras 1,113,114, 50,57,69. 
Here we give some of the variants from Ibn Mas‘üd as collected by Arthur Jeffery from written sources, since we do not possess any manuscripts of Ibn Mas‘üd `s version. The verses are quoted according to the Kufan verse numbering given in the 1342 Cairo edition of the Koran followed by the number of the verse in Flügel`s edition; where Flügel`s numbering agrees with the Kufan numbering only one verse number is given. Jeffery prefaces his list of Ibn Mas‘üd`s variants with these explanatory notes:
“The variant readings which follow are necessarily arranged according to the order of the present official text [1342 Cairo edition]. Sometimes in the sources the variant is expressly said to come from the Codex of Ibn Mas‘üd. More often it is merely given as a reading (ùarf or qirä’a) of Ibn Mas‘üd. Occasionally also readings are given as coming from the Companions of Ibn Mas‘üd, but as these obviously represent the tradition as to his text they are included here.”
The Koran according to Warsh, and other versions of the Koran available in 2005.
It is often a surprise for even educated Muslims to learn that there are printed Korans in the Islamic world that differ from one another. The extreme Muslim position as to the contents, form and status of the Koran is best represented by Maududi [Mawdüdï, 1903- 1979], the very influential Indo-Pakistani Islamist. He wrote, “The Qur’än …exists exactly as it had been revealed to the Prophet; not a word – nay, not a dot of it – has been changed. It is available in its original text and the Word of God has now been preserved for all times to come.” He also wrote, ” The Qur’än that we possess today corresponds exactly to the edition which was prepared on the orders of Abü Bakr and copies of which were officially sent, on the orders of ‘Uthmän, to various cities and provinces. Several copies of this original edition of the Qur’än still exist today. Anyone who entertains any doubt as to the authenticity of the Qur’än satisfy himself by obtaining a copy of the Qur’än from any bookseller, say in West Africa, and then have a häfiz (memorizer of the Qur’än) recite it from memory, compare the two, and then compare these with the copies of the Qur’än published through the centuries since the time of ‘Uthmän. If he detects any discrepancy, even in a single letter or syllable, he should inform the whole world of his great discovery!
“Not even the most sceptical person has any reason to doubt that the Qur’än as we know it today is identical with the Qur’än which Muhammad (peace be on him) set before the world; this is an unquestionable, objective, historical fact, and there is nothing in human history on which the evidence is so overwhelmingly strong and conclusive. To doubt the authenticity of the Qur’än is like doubting the existence of the
The above claims are rather grand and also rather foolish. I have indeed gathered Korans from various parts of the world, and some of my results are presented below. It turns out to be surprisingly easy to refute Maududi`s hyperboles.
Broadly speaking, the printed Korans now available fall into two transmission traditions: the Warsh transmission represents the Medinan tradition, and is found in West and North-West Africa; the Hafs transmission stems from Kufa, and is found in the rest of the Islamic world. The so-called standard Egyptian edition of 1342 A.H. / 1924 C.E. is essentially the Hafs transmission, and is the most widely used Koran in the Islamic world. However, as Brockett has pointed out, “In the last decade …even in central Muslim countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar, texts differing considerably in orthography from the 1342 Cairo text have been printed under official approval.”
For the basis of comparison between the Hafs and Warsh transmissions I have used the following Korans in Arabic acquired in the Islamic world in the last ten years:
1. The Noble Qur`än. Arabic Text with English Translation by Dr Al-Hilali and Dr.Muhsin Khan. King Fahd Complex for the Printing of the Holy Qur`än, Madinah,
2. The Noble Qur`än, Arabic Text with English Translation by Dr Al-Hilali and Dr.Muhsin Khan, Published by Maktaba Darul Qur’an Chitli Qabar, Delhi, India, 1993. [Saudi Koran II]
3. The Holy Qur`än Arabic Text, English Translation and Commentary, Maulana Muhammad Ali. Ahmadiyyah Anjuman Isha`at Islam, Lahore, Inc.,
4. The Holy Qur`än Text, Translation & Commentary Abdullah Yusuf Ali, Lahore (Pakistan), Shaikh Muhammad Ashraf, Kashmiri Bazar, 1938 C.E. [Yusuf Ali Koran]
5. Uthmanic Qur`än Published
6. The Noble Qur`än Published
7. The Noble Qur`än. Published
8. The Noble Qur`än as Transmitted by Warsh, Arabic Text only. Dar al Qadriya,
9. The Noble Qur`än as Transmitted by Warsh, Arabic Text only. Dar Al-Musahif Sharif. (No Date /
10. L’Interpretation du Coran (Texte et Explication) D’Apres Ibn Kathïr Traduit par Fawzi Chaaban, Arabic Text with French Translation by Fawzi Chaaban 6 Vols. Dar el Fiker, Beyrouth Liban (Lebanon) 1998 [Lebanese]
11. The Noble Qur`än as Transmitted by Qälün Arabic Text only.
12. The Meaning of the Glorious Qur’an Text and Explanatory Translation. Marmaduke Pickthall. Distributed by The Muslim World League, U.N. Office,
13. Corani Textus Arabicus, ad fidem librorum manu scriptorum et impressorum et ad preacipuorum interpretum lectiones et auctoritatem recensuit indicesque triginta sectionum et suratarum [Arabic Text only] Gustavus Fluegel Editio Stereotypa C.Tauchnitzii. Lipsiae 1883 [New Edition The Gregg Press Inc.,
Variants in Extant Printed Korans from the Islamic World.
 I.4: Mäliki is written defectively with a dagger alif in the Saudi Koran I. According to Muhammad Ali (see Koran number 3 in above list), there is a world of difference between mälik and malik, the former signifying master and the latter king; a master being more than a king. God is more than a king, and hence “master” is the correct translation. Many early Koranic manuscripts do not have the plene alif.
 I.6: As-siräta is written defectively with a dagger alif in the Saudi Koran I. The verb hada is differently vowelled, ihdina in the Istanbul Koran but ahdina in the Saudi Koran.
 II.72: faddära’tum is written defectively with a dagger alif in the M. Ali Koran, while Warsh II has the scriptio plena, i.e. the alifs in faddära’tum are made explicit. There is also a discrepancy in the verse numbering, II.72 as opposed to II.71 respectively.
 II.125: The Hafs is in the Imperative [‘attakhidhü], and means, “Take [as your place of worship the place where Abraham stood]. The Warsh is in the simple past [‘attakhadhü], meaning “They have taken …”
 II.132: Yusuf Ali has wa -wassä as opposed to
 II.140: ‘am taqülüna as opposed to ‘am yaqülüna, giving the meaning “do you say …?” or ” do they say …? respectively.
 II.259: nunsizuhä , as opposed to nunsiruhä.
 III.13: yarawnahum (they saw them) as opposed to tarawnahum (you saw them). This verse is a said to be a reference to the miracle of the battle of Badr, when Muslims putatively defeated forces twice their own number. However, this interpretation is much easier if we read the verb as saying “you saw them” tarawnahum, as in the Warsh reading, and not yarawnahum (they saw them) as in the Hafs reading. Warsh gives us a miracle, Hafs gives us a confusion of pronouns. See discussion of this verse above, p.17.
 III.37: yä maryamu is written defectively with a dagger alif in the Yusuf Ali Koran, the alif is made explicit in the Istanbul Koran.
 III.80 / 81:
wa’id ‘akhada l-lähu mïtäqa -n-nabiyyina lamä ‘ataytukum M.Ali Koran III,80
 III.133: wa -säri‘ü [M. Ali Koran III, 132] as opposed to säri‘ü [Warsh I:III,133]
. III.146 [M. Ali Koran] Hafs: Simple past tense giving the reading “fought “[qätala], while Warsh I is in the passive, meaning “were killed” [qutila]: an enormous difference in meaning. “And how many a prophet have there been a number of devoted men who fought (beside him)” or “…who were killed beside him.” respectively.
III, 158: lä ‘ila as opposed to la’ilaläm in Yusuf Ali is not read. lä is normally the negative particle, and if read as such would give the reading “not to God;” it is read as “certainly to God.”
III, 167: lä ‘attaba‘näkum as opposed to la-t-taba‘näkum . See note for III, 158 above.
 V, 53 / V, 56. Yusuf Ali [V, 56, note the difference of verse numbering] has wa-yaqülu, Warsh I [V, 53] lacks the wäw in front of yaqülu.
V, 54 / V, 57. Yusuf Ali has [V, 57] yartadda, and Warsh I [V, 54] yartadid.
 VII. 57 MWL Koran has bushran [Good News] and Warsh I Nushran [spread out / diffuse]
IX, 47: lä –’awda‘ü as opposed to la’awda‘ü. See note to III, 158 above.
IX, 107: wa-l-ladïna as opposed to ‘ilìïna.
XVIII, 36: minhä as opposed to minhumä.
 XXI, 112:
 XXIII, 8: wa-l-ladïna hum li-‘amänätihim
 XXIII, 112 M. Ali: qäla, written defectively, translated by M. Ali as “He will say”; Warsh: qäla, written with scriptio plena.
 XXIII, 114 M. Ali: qäla, written defectively, translated by M. Ali as “He will say”; Warsh: qäla, written with scriptio plena
 XXVI, 217 wa – tawakkal [M. Ali] as opposed to fa-tawakkal [Warsh I]
 XXVII, 21: lä- adbahannahu [M. Ali], where lä is not be read as the negative particle; la-‘aìbahannahu [Flügel]. Ibn Khaldün wrote: “No attention should be
paid in this connection to the assumption of certain incompetent (scholars) that (the men around Muhammad) knew well the art of writing and that the alleged discrepancies between their writing and the principles of orthography are not discrepancies, as has been alleged, but have a reason. For instance, they explain the addition of the alif in la-‘adbahannahu “I shall indeed slaughter him” as an indication that the slaughtering did not take place (lä – adbahannahu). The addition of the yä’ in bi-ayydin “with hands (power),” [LI,47, see below at 29. LI,47] they explain as an indication that the divine power is perfect. There are similar things based on nothing but purely arbitrary assumptions. The only reason that caused them to (assume such things) is their belief that (their explanations) would free the men around Muhammad from the suspicion of deficiency, in the sense that they were not able to write well. “
 XXXVII, 68 lä ‘ila [M. Ali, with extra alif] la-‘ila [Iranian]
 XL, 26 ‘aw ‘an [M. Ali] as opposed to
 XLII, 30 mä ‘asäbakum …fa-bi-mä [ M.Ali , scriptio plena for the word Æaæäbakum, using the alif, while Warsh I has the defective alif; Warsh has bi-mä as opposed to fa-bi-mä in M. Ali]
[31 ]XLIII, 68 yä ‘ibädi [M. Ali] as opposed to yä‘ibädï [Warsh I, note the long –ï]  LI, 47 bi-‘aydin [M. Ali] as opposed to bi-‘ayydin [Warsh I, has an extra yäÆ]. See Ibn Khaldün’s comments above at 24. XXVII, 21.
 LVII, 24: huwa –l-ghaniyyu [M. Ali, has an extra word huwa] as opposed to al-ghaniyyu [Warsh I].
 LXXII, 16
M. Ali: wa –’an lawi staqämu ‘alä t-tarïqati la- ‘asqaynähum mä’an ghadaqan
Saudi 2.: Lacks the word Æan before lawi staqämu
defectively, with a dagger alif.
 LXXXV, 22 [M. Ali] mahfüzin as opposed to mahfüzun [Warsh I].
The M. Ali Koran has mahfüzin, the genitive, giving the meaning “It is a glorious Koran on a preserved tablet.” This is a reference to the fundamental Muslim doctrine of the Preserved Tablet. But the Warsh transmission has the nominative ending -un, and we get “It is a glorious Koran preserved on a tablet.” Did the doctrine arise out of the reading, or did the doctrine influence the choice of the reading?
[next month: The Significance of Koranic Variation]
 A. Jeffery .Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur`an.The Old Codices.Leiden: E.J.Brill , 1937, p 4.
 John Burton , The Collection of the Qur’an,
 Al-Suyüåï, Itqän fï ‘ulüm al-Qur’än , 2 vols., in 1 , Ùalabï, Cairo , 1935 / 1354 , Pt.2 , p.25 ; quoted in John Burton , The Collection of the Qur’än , Cambridge , Cambridge University Press , 1977 , p.117.
 Al-Sijistänï, ‘Abd Alläh b.Sulaymän b.al-Ash‘ath, Abü Bakr Ibn Abï Däwüd.‘Kitäb al -Maæäùif, ed. A. Jeffery, Cairo, 1936 /1355 , p. 10 ; quoted in Burton , op.cit., p.120.
 Al-Sijistänï, ‘Abd Alläh b.Sulaymän b.al-Ash‘ath, Abü Bakr Ibn Abï Däwüd‘. Kitäb al -Maæäùif, ed. A. Jeffery,
 John Burton`s footnote: “The published text ought here to be amended: for fa lammä jama‘a Abü Bakr jama‘a Abu Bakr, I propose to read: wa lammä yajma‘ Abü Bakr, to follow: lam yuktab ”, in John Burton, The Collection of the Qur’an, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 1977, p.253.
 Bukhärï. al-Sahih, Translated by Dr.Muhammad Muhsin Khan . 9 vols. Darussalam Publishers: Riyadh , Saudi Arabia , 1997 ,Vol.5 Book LXIV :Al-Maghäzï , Chapter 29 Hadith 4090 p.254.
 Muslim Sahih .Translated by ‘Abdul Ùamïd Æiddïqï. Kitäb Bhavan,
 Sunan Abü Däwüd . English translation with Explanatory Notes by Professor Ahmad Hasan .3 vols. Kitab Bhavan ,
 Mushabbiùät (“those which give praise”): those suras from the so-called Middle Medinan period , LVII,LIX,LXI,LXII,LXIV, so-named because they begin with the phrase sabbaùa or yusabbiùu li’ lläh.
 Mälik Muwattä’ Translated by Professor Muhammad Rahimuddin, Kitab Bhavan:
 Middle Prayer sometimes translated as “the best or the most excellent prayer”. e.g. by Muhammad Ali .
 Article Zinä in E.I. 2nd Edn.
 Ibn Ishaq The Life of Muhammad , trans. A. Guillaume
 Burton p. 86, Burhän al Dïn al-Bäjï, Jawäb, MS Där al Kutub, Taimür majämï‘ no.207, f. 15
 R.Blachère.Introduction au Coran.
 Muhammad Ibn al-Mutawakkil .
 A. Jeffery .Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur`an. The Old Codices.
 Ibid. p.2-3 . Jeffery gives the full references to their works .
 The Fihrist of al-Nadïm , trans. B. Dodge ,
 Ibid., p.73.
 Ibid., p.74.
 Ibid., pp76-77.
 A. Jeffery .Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur`an. The Old Codices .Leiden: E.J.Brill , 1937, p.10
 The entire section on variants has relied upon the terse article Kira`a by R. Paret in the EI 2nd Edn.
 A. Jeffery Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur`an .The Old Codices.Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1937 pp.ix-x.
 Ibid., p.vii
 Al-Nadïm was probably born about 935 C.E.
 The Fihrist of Al-Nadïm , trans. Bayard Dodge ,
 The Fihrist of Al-Nadïm, trans. Bayard Dodge ,
 A. Jeffery. Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur`an. The Old Codices.
 A .Jeffery .Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’än. The Old Codices .Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1937 pp.24
 Abul A`la Maududi .Towards Understanding Islam. International Islamic Federation of Student Organizations
 Abul Ala Mawdudi .Towards Understanding the Qur’än , Vol.1, translated and edited by Zafar Ishaq Ansari, Leicester (
See also: Abul Ala Maududi , Introduction , The Holy Qur’än, Islamic Foundation , U.K., 1975, p.xxxv .I have not personally verified this citation which is quoted in Brother Mark, A Perfect Qur’än, 2000 [ No place of publication or name of publisher given; place: probably U.K.] p.13 : “The Qur’än , which is now in use all over the world , is the exact copy of the Qur’än which was compiled by the order of Hadrat Abü Bakr and copies of which were officially sent by Hadrat ‘Uthmän to different places. Even today many very old copies are found in the big libraries in different parts of the world and if anyone has any doubt as to whether the Qur’än has remained absolutely safe and secure against every kind of change and alteration, he can compare any copy of the Qur’än with any of these copies and reassure himself. Moreover, if one gets a copy of the Qur’än from any bookseller, say, Algeria in Africa in the West and compares it with a copy obtained from a bookseller, say, of Java in the East, one will find both copies to be identical with each other and also with the copies of the Qur’än made during the time of Hadrat ‘Uthmän. If even then anyone has any doubt left in his mind, he is advised to take any copy of the Qur’än from anywhere in the world and ask anyone, out of the millions who know the Qur’än by heart, to recite it word for word from the beginning to the end . He will find that the recitation conforms word for word to the written text. This is a clear and irrefutable proof of the fact that the Qur’än which is in use today is the same Qur’än which was presented to the world by Muhammad (Allah`s peace be upon him). A sceptic might entertain a doubt about its revelation from Allah, but none can have any doubt whatsoever regarding its authenticity and immunity and purity from any and every kind of addition or omission or alteration, for there is nothing so authentic in the whole human history as this fact about the Qur’än that it is the same Qur’än that was presented by the Holy Prophet to the World.”
 A.Brockett .Studies in Two Transmissions of the Qur`än Doctorate Thesis,
 Gerd R-Puin. Neue Wege der Koranforschung :II.Uber die Bedeutung der altesten Koranfragmente aus Sanaa (Jemen) fur die Orthographiegeschichte des Korans, Universitat des Saarlandes Magazin Forschung , 1 (1999), 37-40.
 Ibn Khaldün The Muqaddimah Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2 edn. 1967 [2nd printing 1980] Vol. 2, pp .382-383.
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Continue reading Which Koran? (Part II).