The Corruption of the Qur’aan


I’ve read many books, posts, comments, emails regarding the corruption of the Qur’aan, on that note I’ve read the same about the Bible, moreso about the New Testament. Yet, something’s appeared to me that hasn’t been discussed much, if at all before. In discussing the reliability of the Graeco-Roman New Testament, the easiest claims to digest are those of the floating passages, either emendations or interpolations – their presence qualifies the argument of the unreliability of the New Testament.

When it comes to the Qur’aan however, there is a very strange occurrence, it says of itself:

Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur’an and indeed, We will be its guardian. – Al Hijr 15:9.

The most popular argument against the Qur’aan being the Sana’aa Manuscripts has been debunked by studies that have only been partially quoted by Orientalists, and the argument concerning the differing number of ayat don’t consider that you can stop, pause or continue through many verses – thus giving varying lengths to one verse. Yet, we must ask ourselves a very important question concerning the corruption of the Qur’aan.

If it is so easy to have corrupted the Qur’aan, then why, after 1434 years (as of the time of this posting), has no extant edition of the Qur’aan, put the basmallah (bismillahir rahmanir raheem) at the top of Surah 9 (at-Tawbah/ al-Bara’ah). Thinking clearly for a moment, in comparison to the New Testament, the addition of a few verses (Mark 16:9-20) or the addition of a chapter after its clear ending (see John 20:30-31 vs John 21) or the dispute of entire books, see the Revelation of John vs the Revelation of Peter, it has always been easy to spot where scribes have found it all to easy to make a correction (emendation) or addition (interpolation) into the text which eventually found its way into the standard text of the New Testament.

Yet, if a scribe is copying the Qur’aan and for 113 Surahs of a possible 114, you write the basmallah before them, except one, wouldn’t it have occurred to make this correction? Wouldn’t it seem like an error that 1 of 114 is missing the basmallah? Surely, if atleast one scribe thought so, wouldn’t many others have also thought so? Seeing as we recite the basmallah before the start of Surah 9, wouldn’t that give the scribe even more credence to include the basmallah? Therefore, the question stands before us, if the Qur’aan has been corrupted, then why hasn’t the most obvious change yet to manifest itself? It bemoans me to think that a scribe would be so intelligent to change entire ayat (verses), alter words (as claimed by some Orientalists), yet forget to make the most simple of changes – adding the basmallah.

8 comments

  • Ijaz, your argument is an argument from silence, which as you know, is fallcious reasoning. Further, the textual history of Quran is flawed as demonstrated by Dr. Tayyar Altıkulaç (a Muslim mind you) who said the following regarding the supposed “Uthmanic Topkapi Manuscript”: “There are deviations from grammatical rules (Laḥn) and spelling mistakes in the Muṣḥafs attributed to Caliph ‘Uthmān” He concludes that there are “2,270 instances where there is a difference from the [consonantal skeleton] of the Fahd Muṣḥaf”. He admits that “With the exception of an article which was written in the very recent past, there is no serious scholarly work dealing with the claims that [the Topkapi Muṣḥaf] was the private Muṣḥaf of Caliph ‘Uthmān, or one of his Muṣḥafs” and that this manuscript “was neither the private Muṣḥaf of Caliph ‘Uthmān, nor one of the Muṣḥafs he sent to various centers.” The claim that the Quran is perfectly preserved will not hold up in this information age.

  • Regarding the Quranic manuscript in Tashkent, also considered to be Uthmanic by the majority of Muslims, the same Muslim scholar concludes that there is, (remember he is one of the only scholars to be allowed access to these manuscripts and share his conclusions): “no discipline of spelling, different ways of writing the same word, scribal mistakes, copyists’ mistakes, written by a scribe who had no writing experience, and later added signs after verses. IN short, some of the oldest Quranic manuscripts available show themselves that the Quran is not perfectly preserved. Even Muslims are admitting this now.

  • This really isn’t proof of anything. All the scholar (whom I’m unfamiliar with) has said is that it’s a varying skeletal form of writing. Which is okay and acceptable.

    Arabic can be written in different scripts, it doesn’t matter, it’s perfectly okay. This is the nature of the Arabic language.

    Also, if we are to be fair and I assume as a Christian you’d want to be, you don’t take every codex to be a canon, so why do that with the Islamic MSS? For all we know, this could have been a beginner or even a translation into another Arabic tongue or script, which given the information provided it most likely is.

    So all in all, you haven’t proven corruption, you’ve proven that it’s a manuscript of script of the Qur’aan that could range from being a translation into another Arabic tongue to being a an early form of transcription by a beginner scribe.

    How this proves corruption completely passes me.

  • Le’ts consider what you’ve written:

    “no discipline of spelling”

    sonne, versus son, it’s just transcription from oral recitation to an early form of the Arabic written script. This doesn’t prove corruption, colour is color, no difference.

    “different ways of writing the same word”

    Colour, color, how is this corruption? It’s transcription.

    “scribal mistakes, copyists’ mistakes, written by a scribe who had no writing experience, ”

    Even if we forego the transcription methodology (which any idiot savante can grasp), if this codex is understood to have been the work of a beginner scribe, then it’s not mainstream or extant Qur’aanic text, which means if we know this, then it can’t be corruption, it means we can know what’s been professionally transmitted and what hasn’t – that’s the opposite of corruption.

    That’s control and authorization, which equates or qualifies to reliability. You haven’t proven the Qur’aan to be corrupted, you’ve proven the converse, that we can actively show how it hasn’t (stemmatically, textually speaking) been interpolated or emendated. You’re defending the Qur’aan with your statements to be honest.

  • Hi Ijaz,
    It is worth remembering that these comments are regarding two of the oldest Quranic manuscripts in existence, even considered Uthmanic by the majority of Muslims- they are not some minority MSS as you would like to assume. You cannot dismiss the textual issues so quickly- there are ‘scribal mistakes, copyist mistakes’ as well as ‘later added signs’- this is emendation and interpolation in any textual criticism textbook. I do not know how you can continue to defend the claim that the Quran is perfectly preserved- it is not true. The Quran, like the Bible, has a textual history, and while you claim that scribal errors render the Bible unauthentic, you do not apply the same standards to the Quran. I am not saying the Quran is corrupted. Only that it is not perfectly preserved through transmission.

  • Again your arguments are very infantile. Between two codices, we see two forms of transcription, in one of those, we see assumed errors.

    Because of perfect transmission, we know that they are not scribal errors. The evidence is clear to us.

    To correct you, they are neither emendations nor interpolations, they are a variant form of transcription, as what you yourself quoted, states that they used differing forms of words and points – this is like saying sonne is not son or colour is not color.

    What we see is perfect transmission, transcription differs, but that doesn’t make it corrupted, same as majuscule to minuscule isn’t corruption.

    Come out of your desperation, transcription through early development of a written language is not corruption and can never be.

    You really want the Qur’an to be at the level of corruption of the bible, but what you quote proves you to be clutching at straws.

  • Your defense of transcription can only work (at best) for those cases where the author discusses “different spelling of words”- it can not work in those places that are evidence of ‘scribal mistakes, copyist mistakes’ as well as ‘later added signs’. These are not transcription issues but textual ones- they are emendations and interpolations.
    You said they are not ‘scribal errors’ yet that is the opposite of what these (Islamic) scholars say they are; their own words- ‘scribal mistakes’. Again, do not forget that this is the conclusion of (Islamic) scholars who studied the Topkapi Mushaf and the Sammarqand Mushaf, historically considered to be copies from the period of Uthmanic recension.
    These scholars do discuss transcription of the text, but at a different point in there article, and their conclusions are that the Topkapi Mushaf “most probably belongs to the [later] Umayyad period”. But again, scribal mistakes, cpoyist mistakes and later additions undeniably demonstrate that the Quran has not been perfectly preserved through transmission.

  • To correct you, stop signs can vary due to transcription rules which covers:

    “later added signs”

    If I write a full stop one way and you another, does that mean the text is corrupted? What if I write an exclamation mark different to you? Sings differ in transcription, especially when the language is first being transcribed, this again cannot be considered corruption, it’s perfectly valid text according to the transcription rules or practises at that point in time.

    “But again, scribal mistakes, cpoyist mistakes and later additions undeniably demonstrate that the Quran has not been perfectly preserved through transmission.”

    You’re contradicting yourself. The Qur’aan would not be perfectly preserved if those copyist mistakes, scribal mistakes found their way into the extant texts and copies of the Qur’aan. The fact that we consider them to be mistakes and not part of the Qur’aan, demonstrates that the Qur’aan has been preserved. I don’t think you understand how this works. If it wasn’t perfectly preserved, then the Qur’aan would contain those scribal mistakes and errors in our extant copies to this day, but the very fact that it’s limited to one copy and a copy that is hard to decipher transcript wise (as the same study indicated – early transcripts of the Qur’aan used grammatical rules common to that scribe’s time and location, only they know the rules that governed their writing). Most importantly, what one textual critic can call ‘copyist mistake’, or ‘scribal error’, yet also says he cannot understand their rules for transcription, most likely indicates that they used various consonants in contrasting ways from other forms of transcription – which therefore does not render it corruption but once again a variant form of rendering the early spoken language into a text form.

    As compared to the Bible, where copyist errors, insertions and manipulations became part of scripture, in Islam, we either see them as human error and we don’t reproduce their mistake, because our texts were controlled and authorized from the start, as opposed to the Christian scripture that preserves human error and still attempts to masquerade it as a divine source of human interpolated guidance.

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