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

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THE FIRST OFFICIAL COMPILATION IN BOOK FORM

Refuting the fact that the first compiled copy in book form was that under the instruction of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu), Gilchrist alleges:

“The traditions would have us believe that the first official collection of the Qur’aan was therefore made by the caliph. Abu Bakr and yet we find that, instead of being copied and promulgated as the standard text of the Qur’aan, it was strangely preserved, if not concealed, in the private possession of the first two caliphs and..”

In support of his conclusion, Gilchrist cites the following statement of another kaafir.

“Thus, if the death of so many Moslems at al-Yamamah endangered the preservation of the text, why did Abu Bakr, after making his copy, practically conceal it, entrusting it to the guardianship of a woman?” (Caetani: Uthman and the Recension of Koran)

What evidence can Gilchrist or anyone else tender to negate the claims that the copy compiled under the instruction of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu) was in fact not the first official collection of the Qur’aan Majeed into book form? Gilchrist has designated his pamphlet, “Evidences for the collection of the Qur’aan,” but he fails to produce any evidence for the implied rejection contained in the aforementioned statement made by him. Prior to the collection ordered by Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu) there was no other officially compiled Qur’aan copy in book form. This is a historical fact which requires no further amplification.

The question is asked: Why did Abu Bakr “conceal” the first officially compiled copy “if the death of so many Moslems at al-Yamamah endangered the preservation of the text?” There is a world of difference between guarding and concealing. Holding custody of the first compiled copy of the Qur’aan Majeed cannot be interpreted as “concealing”. The kuffaar seek to introduce some sinister motive for Abu Bakr’s custody of the Qur’aan by describing it as “concealing”. The actual purpose in compiling the Qur’aan Majeed in book form is clearly stated in the narrations from which the enemies are quoting. The purpose underlying the first compilation is stated very clearly as follows:

“Umar informs me that a large group of Huffaaz has been slain in the Battle of Yamaamah and that if the Huffaaz have to be martyred at this rate, he feared that a considerable part of the Qur’aan Majeed will be lost.”

It is clear that the underlying purpose was to guard against any possible future loss of passages of the Qur’aan should such calamities befall the Ummah where large groups of Huffaz are killed. It is significant that Hadhrat Umar coupled the preservation and authenticity of the Qur’aan Majeed with the institution of Huffaaz. The first official copy compiled in book form was for future use, not for use during the time when it was compiled since there had not yet arisen any such need.

The single calamity of loss of Huffaaz at Yamaamah did not endanger the preservation of the Qur’aan Majeed during that age because numerous Huffaaz and senior Sahaabah were still living. The compilation of the official copy was for future preservation, hence Hadhrat Umar (Radiallahu anhu) expressed the fear of a possible loss of part of the Qur’aan in the future should the incidence of the Huffaaz being martyred be on the increase. This first official collection in book form was put to use later during the Khilaafat of Hadhrat Uthmaan (radhiallahu anhu) when it was used to compile the standardized text in circulation today.

There was no need during the Khilaafat of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (radhiallahu anhu) to standardize and promulgate this collection as the only official text since such a need arose only during the time of Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu). Different circumstances led to the compilation of the copy by Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu) and Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu). The factor which constrained Uthmaan’s (Radiallahu anhu) compilation to be promulgated as the only standard text did not exist during the time of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu). It was explained earlier that the situation which gave rise to the action instituted by Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) was the differences, disputes and arguments which prevailed on account of ignorance among various communities who were not aware of the different authentic forms of Qira’at of the Qur’aan Majeed.

On the other hand, the factor which caused the Qur’aan Majeed to be compiled by Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu) was the fear that in future a considerable portion of the Qur’aan may be lost as a result of the Huffaaz being martyred at the rate which took place in Yamaamah.

THE COMPILATION BY HADHRAT UTHMAAN

Gilchrist states:

“This tradition informs us quite clearly that other manuscripts of the Qur’aan some in sections, others complete, had been written out and that they were in use elsewhere in the conquered territories. Uthman’s order that they should be burnt indicates the there were serious textual differences between them and the manuscript in Hafsah’s possession.”

“It is practically certain that none of the other texts was identical to that compiled by Zaid for Abu Bakr, as not one was allowed to be spared destruction. Uthman’s drastic action implies that the differences between these texts were serious textual variants and that they affected not just the manner of the recitation of the Qur’aan but its actual form and content.” ‘

It was never the contention of Muslims that prior to the compilation by Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) there were no manuscripts or copies of the Qur’aan Majeed in circulation. In fact, this fact has been stated earlier and the Hadith is very clear in this regard. In making this statement, Gilchrist has served no purpose other than redundancy. But, his contention that Uthmaan’s order that they be burnt indicates serious textual differences with the revealed Qur’aan is utterly baseless. Gilchrist draws this baseless conclusion from Hadhrat Uthmaan’s command to eliminate all other copies of the Qur’aan Majeed which were compiled unofficially.

Gilchrist himself is fully aware that he has no proof to substantiate his claim hence he admits that his conclusion is arrived at by “indication” and “implication”. He implies this to be the case since he has understood the motive underlying Hadhrat Uthmaan’s order as such. Gilchrist, names his booklet, “EVIDENCES for the collection of the Qur’aan.” He sets out to refute the authenticity of the Qur’aan Majeed by supposedly producing evidence and proof, but all refutations tendered by him are the products of his wishful thinking and based on implication and baseless hypotheses. Basing one’s case on implication is not evidence.

Furthermore, it is conceded that there prevailed differences in recitation. One such difference pertains to textual variation. But, such textual variation as explained earlier represented no addition or alteration of the Qur’aan. Such differences, be they recital or textual, were revealed forms of the Qur’aan Majeed. Since the various forms of revealed Qira’at presented no cause for alarm during the Khilaafat of Hadhrat Abu Bakr and Hadhrat Umar (Radiallahu anhuma), there was no need to institute the action taken by Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu), during his Khilaafat.

Gilchrist endeavours to portray the differences in recital and text as man-made interpolations. But, this is not the case. There is not the slightest evidence to support the conclusion made by Gilchrist and others on the basis of implication, inference and assumption. The authorized and revealed differences of Qur’aanic recital have already been explained earlier.

Hadhrat Uthmaan’s measure of eliminating all other authorized and true versions of the Qur’aan Majeed was necessitated by the disputes which arose in the conquered territories– disputes among new Muslims ignorant of the other forms of authorized Qira’at. Since a particular Ustaad imparted only a specific Qira’at, they remained unaware of the other authorized versions. This led to future disputes when another version of recitation was heard. By “authorized version” here is meant the forms of Qira’at which were divinely revealed and which Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) imparted to the Sahaabah.

Gilchrist would have been correct in his assumption of “serious” textual differences if the variant readings were interpolated by man. But, the term “serious” cannot be applied to the various forms of Qira’at since all forms of Qira’at imparted by Sahaabah were divinely revealed and not introduced by man. The only motive for Uthmaan’s action was to ensure uniformity in Qira’at to eliminate disputation and falling into error as a result of baseless disputation.

Should any of the other authorized versions be extant it will not detract from either its authenticity nor the authenticity of the version standardized by Hadhrat Uthmaan (radhiallahu anhu) since all authorized versions are the product of divine revelation. If Gilchrist wishes anyone to accept his contention, he should produce evidence to prove that the other manuscripts with “textual differences” were not in fact divine revelations. And, in the production of such evidence he must furnish proof from Hadith narrations since he has set himself the task of proving that the Qur’aan is not authentic from Hadith narration.

It was never contended that the other texts which were ordered to be burnt were identical to the one compiled during the Khilaafat of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu), hence Gilchrist has submitted a superfluous claim. But, what proof has Gilchrist to disprove the claim that there may have been among the eliminated texts, copies identical with the one compiled during the Khilaafat of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu)?

There is absolutely no ground for assuming that Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) or the Committee appointed by him meticulously scrutinized each and every copy which was ordered to be eliminated. The gathering and elimination of all other copies besides the standardized text was merely to ensure uniformity. This purpose was achieved by simply issuing a blanket order to eliminate all other copies. Such a blanket order was necessitated by the absence of a measure to scrutinize each and every copy individually. Scrutinizing each and every copy would have proven too laborious and difficult a task. The simplest and safest way to ensure the prevalence of the standardized copy was to eliminate all other copies.

It is also preposterous to arbitrarily assume that there was not a single other version or copy which agreed with the copy compiled under instructions of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu). What is the proof for the assertion that there was no other copy of the Qur’aan Majeed which agreed with the copy compiled by Hadhrat Zaid (Radiallahu anhu)? There is absolutely no evidence to support Gilchrist’s claim.

On the contrary all indications lead to the conclusion that there were other such copies. It is an established fact that despite the existence of several authorized and divine Qira’ats (forms of recital), the Qur’aan Shareef compiled into book form by Hadhrat Zaid (Radiallahu anhu) was not the unknown version of any single person. The history of the compilation of the first official copy confirms that whatever Surahs and Aayaat it contained were obtained from all the scribes of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and from many other Sahaabah. The copy compiled under the instructions of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu) was merely the written representation of what all the Sahaabah recited daily. Gilchrist’s claim has therefore to be dismissed for the fallacy that it is.

On the basis of the fallacy expounded by Gilchrist above, he forms the following conclusion:

“Therefore the Qur’aan text that has been handed down through the centuries is not that to which the companions of Muhammad gave their unqualified assent but purely one form of it, uncorroborated in every point by the others in circulation, which was finally established as the standard text to the exclusion of the others.”

The claim that the Sahaabah of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) did not give “their unqualified support” for the copy of the Qur’aan Shareef compiled into book form by Hadhrat Abu Bakr (radhiallahu anhu) is utterly baseless. Such a sweeping claim requires proof. But, Gilchrist has not managed to tender even one narration to substantiate his claim that the Sahaabah did not unite in acceptance of the compilation by Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu). A mere claim by an enemy of Islam attacking the authenticity of the Holy Book of Islam without furnishing any proof whatever is only wishful thinking and the hope that people will swallow as the truth the claim put forward.

As mentioned earlier, the first official compilation of the Qur’aan was the product of the efforts and co-operation of all the Sahaabah who came forward with whatever they had of the Qur’aan in the written form. The stamp of approval of the official scribes of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and the other senior Sahaabah is sufficient to demonstrate the “unqualified support” which the Sahaabah offered for the compilation by Hadhrat Zaid (Radiallahu anhu).

Gilchrist avers that the “text handed won through the centuries…is purely one form of it.” Assuming this to be the case, it does not follow from there that the present Qur’aan is not authentic. If it is ‘one form of it” as asserted by Gilchrist, then too, it is an authentic form thereof, since it is the claim of Islam that the Qur’aan was revealed in SEVEN forms. It now devolves on Gilchrist to prove that this “purely one form of it” is not among the seven revealed forms. But, never will Gilchrist or anyone else be able to furnish any proof for any such baseless claim. If they wish, let them answer the challenge of Allah Ta’ala. The Qur’aan is and will forever be protected by Allah Ta’ala. If the “standardized” version compiled under the instruction of Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) withstood the onslaught of 14 centuries and retained its authenticity – a fact conceded by even the enemies – then Gilchrist does not stand even the hope of success in his diabolical mission to disprove the authenticity of the Qur’aan Majeed.

The claim that the copies compiled by Hadhrat Uthman (Radiallahu anhu) were “uncorroborated in every point by others in circulation”, in no way whatever detracts from the authenticity of the Qur’aan-e-Hakeem. It was never the claim of Islam that every Qira’at of the Qur’aan Majeed corroborated each and every other Qira’at “in every point”. The claim of Muslims has always been that the Qur’aan Majeed was revealed in seven forms.

Since the Divine Revelation was in seven forms, it is only logical that “corroboration in every point” could never have been our claim. But differences in the forms of recital do not support the claim made by Gilchrist since all such differences in Qira’at were revealed forms taught by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), which came under the purview of Sab’ah Ahruf (The Seven Forms). It is left to the enemies of the Qur’aan to prove that these official and authentic differences were not among the revealed forms of recital.

Citing his master Jeffrey, The Qur’aan as Scripture, Gilchrist quotes:

“Attempts have been made to avoid this conclusion by claiming that all Uthman did was to remove dialectal peculiarities that had crept into the pronunciation of the Qur’aan as it was recited, and have a standardized type of text written out in the pure dialect of the Quraish. This matter of Quraish dialect is indeed mentioned in the traditions referring to this Recension, but to pretend that it was merely a matter of dialectal variation is to run counter to the whole purport of the accounts the vast majority of dialectal variations would not have been represented in the written form at all, and so would not have necessitated a new text.”

The “conclusion” mentioned in the abovementioned passage existed merely in Jeffrey’s imagination, but is believed as fact by Gilchrist. Since there was no such “conclusion” stated above, there were no attempts to “avoid” anything which supposedly casted aspersions on the integrity and authenticity of the Qur’aan. The “conclusion” has been drawn by Jeffrey on the basis of what he has interpreted, but the Hadith narrations do not provide any scope for the wild and unsubstantiated conclusions of fallacy tendered by Jeffrey and adopted by Gilchrist.

In the above-cited passage the following claim is attributed to Muslims: “.. by claiming that all Uthman did was to remove dialectal peculiarities that had crept into the pronunciation of the Qur’aan”. No such claim was ever made by any Muslim authority of the Shariah. It was never claimed nor ever conceded by Muslims that differences in recital “had crept into the Qur’aan”. There is no Hadith narration which asserts what Jeffrey has claimed. Whatever narrations which Gilchrist has produced from the books of Islam merely state the existence of various official, accredited and divinely revealed forms of Qira’at. It is indeed a fallacy to interpret the various accredited forms of recital as “peculiarities which had crept into” the Qur’aan.

The assertion that the “vast majority of dialectal variations would not have been represented in the Uthmaani written form”, is baseless. Jeffrey and Gilchrist, in their ardour to disprove the authenticity of the Qur’aan Majeed, generally present a theory full of flaws. In regard to the Rasmul Khat (the mode of writing) adopted in the copies compiled under the instruction of Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu), it was never claimed that it encompassed all forms of Qira’at. In contrast to Jeffrey’s claim, Islam claims that the majority of Qira’ats were included in the Rasmul Khat of the copy compiled by the orders of Hadhrat Uthmaan.

It is baseless for anyone to claim that the Rasmul Khat of the Uthmaani copy could not have represented the vast majority of accredited Qira’ats. There is no proof for this conclusion made by the enemies of the Qur’aan Majeed. The narrations are quite clear that the majority of the Qira’ats were represented in the Rasmul Khat adopted by Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu). Those forms of recital which could not be incorporated into this Rasmul Khat were preserved in separate compilations. A separate compilation for each form of recitation not contained by the official and standard Rasmul Khat was ordered by Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu). There is, therefore, no substance in Jeffrey’s claim attributed falsely to Muslims.

That the endeavour of Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) was simply to compile the Qur’aan in the pure Quraishi dialect in which it was revealed, is an undeniable fact. Although Jeffrey attempts to dismiss this fact, he reluctantly concedes: “This matter of Quraish dialect is indeed mentioned in the traditions…” The Ahadith are explicit on this fact – so explicit that even Jeffrey had no option other than concede this fact. Thus, what Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) did, was only to compile the original Qur’aan in the manner in which it was revealed, without adding or deleting anything therefrom. There was never any incumbency to adopt all forms of Qira’at.

One Rasmul Khat was adopted, incorporating several forms of recitation – all with the same meaning – as the standard form for the Ummah to ensure the elimination of disputes which ignorance of the various accredited and authorized forms is bound to create among those not versed with the different Qira’ats. To claim, therefore, that the adoption of a specific authorized form of writing and recital entails deletion or interpolation is unreasonable and unbacked by any narrational and rational proofs. It behoves Gilchrist to come up with Hadith proof to substantiate his fallacious claims.

Gilchrist cites the following claim made by Jeffrey:

“Rather, his (i.e Hadhrat Uthmaan) aim was to select from amid a welter of rival texts, each claiming to be the uniquely authentic record of what had been revealed to Muhammad, a single text to be officially promulgated as the textus receptus of the Muslims.”

Again, this claim is false. Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) did not select a copy from “amid a welter of rival Qur’aan texts”. Nor did Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) select any of the supposedly “welter of rival texts” to promulgate it as the standard text. The narrations explain the system adopted by Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) to compile the standard copy. The manuscripts compiled by Hadhrat Zaid (Radiallahu anhu) were at this time in the custody of Hadhrat Hafsah (Radiallahu anhu). It should be noted that the compilation of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (radiallahu anhu) comprised of a number of manuscripts. Each Surah was written in a separate manuscript. These very manuscripts were used for the compilation of the standard copy ordered by Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu).

There was no “welter of rival Qur’aan texts” from which Hadhrat Zaid or Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhuma) did any selection. The only text employed by Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) was the one official and carefully preserved text prepared during the Khilaafat of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu). The facts of this compilation refute the claim of Jeffrey as utterly false. The manuscripts written during the time of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu) were not arranged in the Surah order as was revealed, but were all separate manuscripts. The systematic arrangement of the Surah as instructed by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) was accomplished in the copy prepared under Hadhrat Uthmaan’s instruction.

Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) had appointed a committee of four senior Sahaabah to prepare the standard copy from the manuscripts which were written during the time and by the order of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu). In preparing the standard copy, the manuscripts of Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu) were mainly used. However, for greater caution the same efficient process adopted in the time of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu), was again made use of. In the preparation of this copy, again it was verified by comparing it with the original writings of the scribes who operated under the command of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). Everything contained in the standard copy of Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) was in agreement with the writings of the scribes. Everything which the manuscripts of Abu Bakr contained is contained in the standard copy. But, to verify its authenticity, it was compared with the original writings of the scribes – what they had written under the direct instruction and supervision of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).

A certain verse of Surah Ahzab was found in the original writings of only Hadhrat Khuzaimah (Radiallahu anhu). Referring to this incident, Gilchrist says:

“Furthermore the Hadith go on to inform us that even after this recension by the four scribes, Zaid recalled a verse which was lost:

Zaid bin Thabit added, ‘A Verse from Surat Ahzab was missed by me when we copied the Qur’aan and I used to hear Allah’s Apostle reciting it. So we searched for it and found it with Khuzaima bin Thabit al-Ansar.”

(Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 6, p 479)

Gilchrist has understood from this Hadith that the verse in question was totally lost; that no one knew about it; that no one had any written record of it. But, this is not the case. The explanation has already been given regarding a similar incident on the occasion of the compilation during the Khilaafat of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu). We shall briefly repeat the explanation.

The manuscripts of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu) contained this particular verse of Surah Ahzab. It will be recalled that the verses searched for and found only with Hadhrat Khuzaimah (Radiallahu anhu) during the time of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu) were not verses from Surah Ahzab. Those verses belonged to Surah Taubah. The supposedly “lost” verse on this occasion, i.e. during the compilation of the Uthmaani copy, was a verse from another Surah, viz, Surah Ahzab. In the compilation of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu) this verse of Surah Ahzab existed, hence Zaid (Radiallahu anhu) did not report it “missing” on that occasion. This fact by itself proves that the manuscripts of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu) contained this Aayat. Zaid himself was fully aware of the existence of this Aayat, hence he said:

“… which I used to hear Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) reciting…”

The numerous other Huffaaz also knew of this verse. The claim that the verse was “lost” is, therefore, utterly baseless. If the verse was “lost” as averred by Gilchrist, then Zaid’s search for it was meaningless. He can only search for something which he knew about. The Hadith does not say that the verse was lost – lost in the way Gilchrist interprets. The Hadith merely reports that Hadhrat Zaid “missed” the Aayat which he was aware of. This is stated categorically in the Hadith which even Gilchrist has cited in part.

As explained earlier, the entire Qur’aan was written down during the very time of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) under his direct supervision by a number of scribes. The manuscripts compiled by Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu) and the single-volume copy arranged by the order of Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) were compared for authenticity with the writings in the possession of the various scribes who had recorded the Qur’aan under Rasulullah’s (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) supervision. It was in these writings that Hadhrat Zaid (Radiallahu anhu) did not find the verse of Surah Ahzaab. None of the scribes living at the time had a written record available – a record written under Rasulullah’s supervision – of the Aayat in question. Such a written record was found only with Hadhrat Khuzaimah (Radiallahu anhu). The verse in question at no stage was a missing entity among the Sahaabah. There is not the slightest shred of evidence to substantiate such a claim.

Furthermore, the fact that Hadhrat Zaid (Radiallahu anhu) categorically stated hearing the verse being recited by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and the fact that Hadhrat Khuzaimah (Radiallahu anhu) had a written record of the Aayat corroborated by Zaid’s memory belie Gilchrist’s claim of the Aayat being “lost”.

Stating another baseless claim, Gilchrist writes:

“It is to be presumed that, as Zaid was the sole compiler of Hafsah’s text, there were Medinese dialectical variants in his work which needed to be corrected by the other three.”

Firstly, the arbitrary claim that “Zaid was the sole compiler of Hafsah’s text” is false. This conclusion of Gilchrist is indeed very peculiar. He cites Ahadith pertaining to the history of the Qur’aan’s compilation, but he forms the conclusion that Zaid (Radiallahu anhu) was the “sole compiler”. What is his proof for his claim? He wishes us to believe that his pamphlet contains “evidence”, but he fails to provide any proof!

According to the authentic Ahadith, along with Hadhrat Zaid (Radiallahu anhu), Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu) had appointed Hadhrat Umar, also a Haafiz, to compile the Qur’aan manuscripts which finally were held in the custody of Hadhrat Hafsah (Radiallahu anha). The narrations inform us that both Hadhrat Zaid (Radiallahu anhu) and Hadhrat Umar (Radiallahu anhu) would jointly verify and accept the written verses which were presented to them. The evidence of the Ahadith thus refutes Gilchrist’s claim.

On the basis of his baseless claim, Gilchrist tenders a presumption. He thus says:

“It has to be presumed that,..”

A presumption reared on a false premiss (i.e. the claim that Hadhrat Zaid – Radiallahu anhu – was the sole compiler) is construed as “evidence” by Gilchrist. What respect can anyone have for conclusions, the strength of which is presumption based on a false premiss?

Zaid’s co-worker in the compilation of the manuscripts of the Qur’aan Majeed was Umar (Radiallahu anhu) who was not a Medinite. Gilchrist has assumed that since Hadhrat Zaid (Radiallahu anhu) “was a Madinite”, the manuscripts prepared during the Khilaafat of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu) contained “Medinese dialectal variants which needed to be corrected”. This implies that the compilation by Hadhrat Zaid (Radiallahu anhu) contained errors which the Quraishi Sahaabah appointed by Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) during his Khilaafat had to rectify.

But, the Hadith narrations do not support this contention or conclusion. The manuscripts compiled during the Khilaafat of Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu) were, in the final analysis, after the verses had been thoroughly verified, the joint work of Hadhrat Zaid and Hadhrat Umar (Radiallahu anhuma). Hadhrat Umar (Radiallahu anhu) was not a Medinite, hence the possibility of errors due to any Madni dialect was precluded.

Gilchrist further bases his assumption of errors needing correction as a result of “Medinese dialectal variants” in the work of Zaid, on the following narration:

“Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, ‘In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Qur’aan, then write it in the dialect of the Quraish as the Qur’aan was revealed in their tongue.” (Cited by Gilchrist from Bukhaari).

The disagreement or possible disagreement referred to by Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) pertains to Qira’at – accredited form of recital – not to any errors which required correction as Gilchrist claims. It has already been explained that there existed a number of Qira’ats which were divinely sanctioned. However, it does not follow that everyone was aware of all forms for recital. In the event of Hadhrat Zaid reciting a particular word or verse according to a Qira’at form which differed with the form of the three Quraishi Sahaabah of the committee, then the Quraishi form had to be adopted since the first revelation of the Qur’aan was in the language or dialect of the Quraish. Later, permission was granted by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) to the Sahaabah to recite in accordance with other dialects as well.

There is, therefore, no question of correcting any errors as suggested by Gilchrist. The aim was to prepare a standard compilation, hence the other forms and dialects which could not be accommodated by the Uthmaani Rasmul Khat were not included in the copy compiled by the order of Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu).

An illustration of the type of disagreement mentioned in this narration is the reciting of the word, “TABOOT”. While Hadhrat Zaid (Radiallahu anhu) recited it, TABOOH, the Quraishi dialect had it as TABOOT. Both terms mean exactly the same thing and both forms were accredited and sanctioned by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). However, since the aim of the committee appointed by Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) was to prepare a standard copy, only one form could be incorporated by the Rasmul Khat adopted. The next question which arises is that which of these two forms – Taboot or Tabooh – was to be adopted? Since the first Revelation was in the Quraishi dialect, Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) ordered its adoption. This procedure cannot be regarded as a process of correcting any errors which Gilchrist wishes readers to believe. Thus, the different forms of recital were not errors or additions which “crept” into the text as claimed by Gilchrist. All forms of Qira’at were authorized and sanctioned by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).

Referring to the compilation ordered by Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu), Gilchrist says:

“Accordingly even this copy can hardly be regarded as a perfect collection of the Qur’aan to the last word or letter, nothing added or missing from it.”

Gilchrist has not furnished any evidence for this conclusion. He could come up with only narrations which refer to different forms of authorized Qira’at. Nowhere in his pamphlet does Gilchrist provide even a single narration which substantiates his claim of addition or deletion. He draws his own wishful conclusions from the narrations which speak of the forms of recital in vogue among the Sahaabah. The Rasmul Khat of the standardized copy excluding certain forms of Qira’at cannot be said to have deleted any part of the Qur’aan Majeed since it contained everything which was revealed in that form, viz. in the Quraishi dialect. Similarly, any other form of authorized – authorized by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) – form of recital which differs with the Rasmul Khat of the Uthmaani compilation cannot be described as being different from the revealed Qur’aan, since the Qur’aan was revealed in SEVEN FORMS according to the authentic Ahadith.

A recitation which is not sanctioned by Islam can undoubtedly be branded as a version which is not a proper collection of the Qur’aan. But Gilchrist has been unable to produce any evidence to indicate the existence of any unauthorized Qira’at among the “variant readings”, which in fact were all authorized forms.

Whatever narrations of Hadith have been cited by Gilchrist and his master Jeffrey, pertain to differences in accredited forms of recitation. Gilchrist attempts to manipulate these differences to put across the charge that the Qur’aan is not the Qur’aan in entirety as handed to the Sahaabah by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). However, the explanation given so far regarding the forms of recitation should be sufficient to refute the contention made by Gilchrist.

Having failed miserably in finding any fault in the present Qur’aan which Gilchrist concedes to be the copy standardized during the Khilaafat of Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu), he attempts to detract from the Qur’aan’s originality and authenticity by reference to the different forms of Qira’at prevalent during the time of the Sahaabah. He thus says:

“… the argument for the textual perfection of the Qur’aan cannot be taken back from the time of Uthman to Muhammad himself.”

If the textual perfection of the Qur’aan Majeed can be successfully taken back from the present day to Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) over a period of 14 centuries, then there is absolutely nothing to prevent textual perfection being taken back from Uthmaan to Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) – a period of a mere 14 years. The history of the Qur’aan’s compilation proves beyond all shadow of doubt that the Rasmul Khat adopted in the copy standardized by Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) linked up with Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). The elaborate measures which both Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu) and Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) had adopted in compiling the Qur’aan illustrate the high degree of accuracy and certainty with which the Qur’aan copies were taken back from the time of Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) to Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).

The measures adopted by the Committee of Sahaabah appointed for this purpose, were designed to precisely achieve this degree of authenticity, i.e. linking each and every word of the Qur’aan directly to Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). This was the prime function of the Committee which compiled the copies, both in Abu Bakr’s and Uthmaan’s times. It is because of having achieved total and absolute certainty and authenticity in this respect that the Rasmul Khat of the standardized copy met with the unanimous approval of the Sahaabah and was sanctioned as the Qur’aan which was revealed to Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) and which he conveyed to the Sahaabah.

The Rasmul Khat adopted by Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) has been indisputably proven as authentic by an unbroken Chain (Sanad) of authoritative narration linking up with Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). This fact cannot be impeached on the basis of narrational evidence. This irrefutable fact can be quite simply ascertained by reference to and study of the authentic Ahadith literature. For the purpose of this dilation, the Hadith literature should be considered sufficient testimony since Gilchrist has raised his edifice of criticism on the foundation of Hadith literature. Justifying his stand based on Hadith narrations, Gilchrist says:

“… it must be said that there is no alternative chain of evidence anywhere in the history of Islam to tell us how the Qur’aan came to be written in the form in which we now have it. There is no other source to consult.”

Gilchrist thus concedes that the only source to consult in regard to the preservation and compilation of the Qur’aan Majeed is only the Hadith literature. Since he bases his exposition of the subject on Hadith literature it logically follows by implication that he should accept the Ahadith which categorically assert the authenticity and divinity of the Qur’aanic Revelations. An impartial study of a subject does not admit acceptance of only facts which seem supportive of one’s private views and opinions.

Since Gilchrist has chosen the “evidences” for his case from the Hadith literature of Islam, he has no logical grounds for discarding those Ahadith which impugn his theories, views and beliefs. Either present an impartial and factual account of the subject under study or merely state the beliefs and theories which you may feel entitled to hold on the grounds of blind faith. Confusing the issues stems from oblique reasoning which is the result of prejudice.

Further referring to the Hadith literature in justification of his procedure of criticism leveled against the Qur’aan Majeed, Gilchrist avers:

“The records in the Hadith, on the other hand, are an historical heritage, indeed the historical heritage, in Islam, informing us how the Qur’aan was reduced to its present form. One cannot prefer bold, wishful claims in favour of the Qur’aan’s supposed perfection unsupported by any facts or evidences, against a factual and historical record widely reported in different works to the contrary. Such evidences cannot be dismissed in favour of pure speculation.”

Gilchrist should be the first to follow this advice he seeks to give to Muslims. In fact, he is guilty of dismissing the evidences of the Hadith literature in favour of pure speculation. It is on the base of “pure speculation” that he chose narrations at random, all pertaining to the official, accredited and authorized forms of Qira’at, distorted their meanings, misinterpreted the statements and drew his own conclusion to bolster his baseless theories. Then the Hadith being a historical heritage in Islam is an undoubted and an accepted fact. Since Gilchrist ostensibly concedes this fact, it behoves him to accept Ahadith which uphold the authenticity of the Qur’aan and the Ahadith which assert categorically the unbroken relationship of the Qur’aanic Revelations to Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) – from Uthmaan to Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).

Gilchrist and all enemies of the Qur’aan fail miserably in the production of a single narration impinging this absolute fact. Whatever Gilchrist furnishes from the Ahadith by way of “evidence” for his claims pertains to only the “variant readings” – which all were in fact authorized by Allah Ta’ala. None of the narrations supplied by Gilchrist refers even remotely to any unauthorized material which has supposedly crept into the Qur’aan according to the theories of the enemies of Allah. The Qur’aan’s perfection is not “supposed” as Gilchrist alleges. It is proven on the basis of the authentic Ahadith about which Gilchrist is constrained to confess:

“Such evidences (i.e. Hadith narrations) cannot be dismissed in favour of pure speculation.”

“… a factual and historical record widely reported in different works…”

“There is no other source (other than Hadith) to consult.”

N.B. Words in brackets are ours.

If Gilchrist is genuine in his assertion that the Hadith narrations “cannot be dismissed in favour of speculation”, then it devolves on him to abstain from speculation and accept the Ahadith which uphold the authenticity of the Uthmaani compilation and take it back to Muhammad (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). The Ahadith explicitly assert that the Qur’aan in the form we have it today – the Qur’aan in the form adopted by Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) – was the Qur’aan which was revealed from Loohul Mahfooz; the Qur’aan which Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) recited during his last year on earth twice in the presence of Jibrael (alayhis salaam). At this last occasion Hadhrat Zaid Bin Thaabit (radhiallahu anhu) was also present. The Ahadith claim that the Sahaabah accepted the accomplishment of Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) with unanimous approval.

The history of the Uthmaani compilation and the passing of fourteen centuries bear testimony to the momentous accomplishment of authenticity of Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu). If the Uthmaani compilation had not enjoyed the sanction and the approval of the Sahaabah and the Ummah as a whole, it would never have withstood the onslaught and the ravages of fourteen centuries. That the Sahaabah offered their unanimous approval for the momentous accomplishment effected by the order of Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu), is an undisputed fact. In a flabby attempt to show a crack in this Ijma’ (unanimity) of the Sahaabah, Gilchrist cites the solitary exception of Hadhrat Abdullah Ibn Masud’s disagreement and his initial refusal to hand over his privately prepared compilation. But, the facts of the case elaborately explained in the Ahadith do not support Gilchrist’s stand in the least bit.

Hadhrat Ibn Masud’s initial refusal to hand over his compilation to the messengers of Hadhrat Uthmaan (radhiallahu anhu) does not detract from the authenticity of the Uthmaani compilation. His refusal cannot be interpreted to mean that the compilation of Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) was not authentic. On what grounds does Gilchrist conclude that Ibn Masud’s (Radiallahu anhu) refusal to hand over his compilation implied that the standardized compilation was unauthentic? This conclusion is nothing other than one of Gilchrist’s unsubstantiated presumptions based on his own wishful thinking – based on pure speculation while dismissing all evidence to the contrary.

Inspite of Hadhrat Ibn Masud’s initial refusal, he at no time impugned the authenticity of the compilation ordered by Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu). His refusal is quite understandable. Hadhrat Ibn Masud (Radiallahu anhu) had written his copy during the age of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). His copy contained notes and explanations as well. His copy was for his personal use, not for the use of the Ummah at large. In so far as he was concerned, this copy was his personal treasure and he understandably attached the greatest sentimental value to his compilation. When the sudden order to dispense with his compilation came, it was not a simple matter to resolve. Furthermore, he was a senior Sahaabi and was fully entitled to hold a difference in opinion with Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu). It is common knowledge – substantiated by the Ahadith – that even Hadhrat Abu Bakr (Radiallahu anhu) and Hadhrat Zaid Ibn Thaabit (Radiallahu anhu) had to become convinced of the wisdom and need to accomplish this momentous task.

Similarly, Hadhrat Ibn Masu’d (Radiallahu anhu) did not perceive the need for a standard compilation nor the need to dispense with other forms of Qira’at whereas Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) and all other Sahaabah considered this step a vital need. Thus, the disagreement – the initial disagreement – between Hadhrat Ibn Mas’ud (Radiallahu anhu) and Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) was not in regard to Qur’aanic Aayat nor to authenticity, but was in regard to two points: (1) The order to Ibn Mas’ud (Radiallahu anhu) to hand over his cherished copy. (2) The preparation of a standard copy which will bring to an end several other Qira’ats in vogue.

The initial dispute never pertained to any allegation that the standardized copy was not authentic or that it had deleted anything from the Qur’aanic revelations or that it had interpolated anything. In fact, Hadhrat Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (Radiallahu anhu), inspite of his initial displeasure, handed over his compilation to Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) and accepted the standardized copy for the benefit of the Ummah.

The differences between the recitals of Ibn Mas’ud (Radiallahu anhu) and that contained in the Rasmul Khat of Hadhrat Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) pertained to Qira’at, both being correct and authentic, sanctioned by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam). Hence, it cannot be attributed to either Hadhrat Ibn Mas’ud (Radiallahu anhu) or to any other Sahaabi that any of them criticized or impeached the authenticity of the standardized copy. The narrations which Gilchrist lists in his booklet speak only of Hadhrat Abdullah Ibn Masud’s (Radiallahu anhu) displeasure at the order to hand over his compilation.

Another point of vital importance to remember is that each and every narration passed off as “Hadith” is not in fact Saheeh (authentic) Hadith. There are various classes of Ahadith. Just any fabrication cannot be passed off as a statement of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) or of a Sahaabi. The authorities of Hadith have thoroughly sifted and classified the narrations. Hence, while the enemies of Islam can and will seize on any fabrication to support their theories, the followers of Islam will not be duped by such manipulation.

The authenticity of a narration depends on the Chain of its narrators. The Aimmah of Hadith have formulated stringent tests to ascertain the validity and authenticity of a narration. A narration cannot be accepted as a statement of Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) merely because some historian has included it in his writings. One who desires to raise his case on the foundations of Hadith literature must of a necessity refer to the authorities (Aimmah) of Hadith for guidance in this respect. But, this is too much to expect from Gilchrist. His fanciful theories will locate no avenue for passage in the authentic Ahadith.

Besides what has been explained in regard to the initial difference of opinion held by Hadhrat Ibn Mas’ud (Radiallahu anhu), it is necessary to make mention of the fact that fabricated narrations have been attributed to Hadhrat Ibn Mas’ud (Radiallahu anhu). Many stories circulated about his compilation are utterly baseless, fabricated and false. He, being among the senior bearers of the Qur’aan was fully qualified in the subject of Qur’aanic Revelations. He never disputed the authenticity of the Uthmaani compilation and any differences between his copy and that of the standard copy of Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) related to only Qira’at – authorized differences, sanctioned by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam), himself. Let Gilchrist refer to the Hadith literature and let him not dismiss “such evidence in favour of pure speculation.”

The following statement of Gilchrist is indicative of the type of “pure speculation” employed by him in his abortive bid to assail the integrity and authenticity of the Qur’aan-e-Kareem:

“Another tradition from the same source says that when Abu Zabyan, an early convert to Islam, was asked which of the two readings of the Qur’aan he preferred, that is, the reading of Zaid or that of Ibn Mas’ud, he replied the latter, adding that whenever Gabriel revealed or recited the Qur’aan to Muhammad during Ramadan each year, Ibn Mas’ud was the first to learn of it.”

Nowhere in this narration is the compilation of Uthmaan (Radiallahu anhu) impugned. That there existed different “readings” – the different Qira’ats – is not and has never been denied. A person’s “preference” for any particular form of Qira’at among the official and authorized reciting can by no stretch of imagination or reason be considered to imply that the other forms were not authentic. Since Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam) by Divine instructions granted permission for the Qur’aan Majeed to be recited in various forms, the Sahaabah chose and adopted the form which appealed most to them. Their individual preferences for a particular Qira’at form can never be interpreted to mean that the other accredited forms were false or not sanctioned. The Hadith literature explicitly makes mention of the various forms sanctioned by Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).

Gilchrist’s deliberate silence and side-stepping of these narrations regarding the sanctioned forms of “variant readings” portrays his biased attitude and his desire to pedal his theories on the basis of “pure speculation”, dismissing all the Hadith facts which do not serve the purpose of his theories and opinions. If Abu Zabyan preferred Ibn Mas’ud’s Qira’at, others preferred the Qira’at of authorities other than Hadhrat Ibn Mas’ud (Radiallahu anhu). Such individual preference cannot be construed to imply rejection of the other forms of recital authentically attributed to Rasulullah (sallallahu alayhi wasallam).

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