The Authorized Variant Readings of the Qur’aan – Part Three

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THE DIFFERENCES IN QIRA’AT

In a section under the heading: “VARIANT READINGS IN THE QUR’AAN”, Gilchrist mentions some differences in words between the Qira’at of Hadhrat Ibn Mas’ud (Radiallahu anhu) and the Uthmaani standardized compilation. On the basis of this attempt Gilchrist endeavours to disprove the authenticity of the Qur’aan. It has been repeatedly explained in the aforegoing pages that these differences in Qira’at were sanctioned by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), hence all the Sahaabah accepted the various Qira’ats (variant readings) as authentic. It has never been claimed that the differences in the various forms of recital pertain only to pronunciation as Gilchrist alleges.

The Hadith literature explains the various type of differences. This has already been explained earlier in this booklet. The only way for Gilchrist to assail the authenticity of the Qur’aan from this angle is for him to produce authentic Ahadith claiming that some Sahaabah had adopted unauthorized forms for recitation. But, he has absolutely no hope of locating any such evidence in the Hadith. Harping on the “variant readings” as a basis to disprove the Qur’aan authenticity will not assist Gilchrist to achieve his aim since the “variant readings” have never been denied by the authorities of Islam. On the contrary, the authenticity of the variant readings, be it reading of Ibn Mas’ud (radhiallahu anhu), Ubay (Radiallahu anhu), Zaid (Radiallahu anhu) or of any other Sahabi, is vigorously canvassed by Islam.

Sight must not be lost of the actual charge which the enemies of Islam are levelling against the Qur’aan Majeed. The charge is that the present Qur’aan in our possession is not the full and perfect Qur’aan which was proclaimed by Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). But proof for this charge has not been forthcoming from the enemies. They have merely sought to befuddle others by referring to the existence of other authentic Qira’at (variant readings).

The existence of other sanctioned forms of recitation is not evidence for the claim that the Uthmaani version is not authentic or not complete. The Hadith literature which Gilchrist concedes to be the only source to consult, abundantly proves that the Uthmaani compilation is directly linked to Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). The Chain, therefore, has no weak link as alleged by Gilchrist. So strong is this Chain of authority that even Gilchrist concedes:

“There may be one standard text of the Qur’aan today…”

“… the caliphate of Uthman when the text was finally standardized into the form in which it appears today.”

So strong is the Chain that even Gilchrist and all forces inimical to the Qur’aan Majeed have failed miserably to fault the Uthmaani compilation which exists with us in perfect exactness even after fourteen centuries and which will exist in the world until the Last Day.

UTHMAAN’S MOTIVE

Manufacturing a motive for the standardization of the Qur’aan Majeed by Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu), Gilchrist comes up with the following baseless and absurd argument:

“The purpose, therefore, of Uthman’s decree was not just to standardize a text to the Qur’aan for the whole Muslim world but to remove with one stroke the growing influence of the qurra and to nullify the threat that they posed. Quite clearly the caliph sought to undermine their authority in religious matters by destroying their Qur’aanic esteem.”

Indeed, Gilchrist has descended to ludicrous levels in presenting this theory. What evidence is there to even remotely suggest that the despicable theory offered by Gilchrist was Hadhrat Uthmaan’s (Radiallahu anhu) motive for ordering the compilation of the standard copy. What has been written by Gilchrist in this passage is plain drivel and pure speculation, yet he ventures to describe his dilation as “evidences”! No student of history who possesses any respect for the truth will ever uphold the ridiculous and blatantly false motive attributed to Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) by Gilchrist and other enemies of Islam.

By what stretch of imagination could the influence of the qurra be removed with “one stroke” by the imposition of the standard copy of the Qur’aan? How on earth was the standardized copy supposed to undermine the authority of the qurra? The elimination of the written records of the qurra could never secure the elimination of their specific form of Qira’at from their hearts and minds. The decree of standardization in no way affected the authority or position of the qurra teaching the Qur’aan all over the Islamic empire. No Qaari was dismissed by the decree of standardization. They remained in their positions. They retained whatever following they had. None of them ever vied with the Khalifah in the political domain as the enemies of Islam and the fabricators of this despicable motive wish us to believe.

Assuming the fabricated motive attributed to Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) to be a fact, what reasonable explanation can the enemies offer for the total endurance of the Uthmaani version even after his enemies murdered him? Even after he was martyred by unscrupulous assassins, the compilation left by him remained a perpetual and an unchallenged entity.

A variety of forces inimical to Islam reared their heads in the guise of Muslims after the murder of Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu). Numerous deviated sects sprang up, openly rejecting the teachings of the Sahaabah, but, all sects – even those who strayed far from the Path of Islam – adhered to the Uthmaani compilation. It is illogic and bigoted to believe that the enemies of Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) and the many deviated sects which later developed would have retained the Uthmaani compilation if they had reason to impeach the authenticity of the text.

Thus, we see that inspite of mighty political upheavals developing in Islam after the murder of Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu), as well as fanatical sects such as the Khaarijis arising, the standardized copy remained unassailed and intact to this day.

According to Gilchrist, Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) was a “most unpopular caliph”. But, inspite of this supposed unpopularity, his compilation enjoyed the highest degree of popularity and approval among friend and foe alike. If there was indeed any substance in the claim that the imposition of the standard copy by Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) was unpopular and detested, it could never have been accorded such popular acceptance. Deviated and inimical sects and other treacherous forces within the ranks of Muslims would never have adopted the Uthmaani compilation as the standard copy.

Even after the final annihilation of the dynasty of Bani Umayya, the Uthmaani compilation continued to enjoy its unique supremacy since it was the only compilation accepted and approved of by the entire Ummah. Even the Abbasi Khulafa who had displaced the Umayyad reign retained the Uthmaani compilation. All the facts conclusively prove that the motive of Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) is unimpeachable. His intention in decreeing the standardized copy was not contaminated by any worldly motive.

In view of the unanimous acceptance of Uthmaan’s sincerity and purity of intention coupled to the authenticity of the compilation, the entire world of Islam in all ages and of all political and religious shades, upheld the validity and authenticity of the Uthmaani copy.

Gilchrist himself contradicts his own advice which he gives regarding Hadith evidence and pure speculation. As mentioned elsewhere in this treatise, Gilchrist portrays himself as the negator of the Qur’aan’s authenticity on the basis of Hadith literature. But, whenever he discerns that any Hadith goes counter to his theories, he conveniently turns a blind eye to such Ahadith. It is queer that Gilchrist, after having stated the causes which led to the Uthmaani compilation, attempts to introduce an entirely different dimension to underpin the motive which gave rise to the action taken by Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu). On page 6 of this pamphlet, Gilchrist states:

“In the meantime, however, it is of great interest to us to find that during the reign of the third caliph Uthman, this copy (i.e. Abu Bakr’s) was brought to the fore as word was brought from the out-lying provinces that the Muslims in these areas are reciting the Qur’aan in different ways. The sequel is set out in the following tradition:

Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people of Sha’m and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur’aan, so he said to Uthman, ‘O Chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the book as the Jews and the Christians did before.’ So Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, ‘Send us the manuscripts of the Qur’aan so that we may compile the Qur’aanic materials in perfect copies..”

Gilchrist here concedes that the motive for Uthmaan’s compilation was that the Qur’aan was being recited in different ways. Further, it is acknowledged by Gilchrist that the Uthmaani compilation commenced in consequence of the information and exhortation of Hadhrat Hudhaifa (Radiallahu anhu). The differences spoken of in the above narration refer to different authorized Qira’ats of which the two communities were not fully aware. The “differences” do not refer to any supposed accretions which crept into the Qur’aan as Gilchrist seeks to convey. Furthermore, the people of Iraq and Sha’m who were disputing regarding the Qira’ats were not Sahaabah. They were students of different Masters of Qira’at who imparted only a specific form of recitation.

The Hadith narrations establish conclusively that the cause which induced Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) to order the preparation of a standardized copy was the disputes which developed among people not versed in the authorized forms of Qira’ats. It is thus blatantly false to attribute any worldly or political motive to this momentous undertaking of Ameerul Mu’mineen Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu). The charge Gilchrist levels against Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) is totally unfounded. Not an iota of evidence exists in the Ahadith to uphold this fallacy.

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