Corrections in Early Qurʾān Manuscripts: Twenty Examples – Dan Brubaker


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A recent publication by Dan Brubaker has received quite serious praise from a crowd of individuals who do not seem to have read it and those that have read it cannot seem to articulate what about it was meant to be praiseworthy in the first place. Having read it myself roughly a week or two ago, I forgot about its existence as I was thoroughly nonplussed about its contents, I proceeded with my Ramadan (and subsequently my Eid) until today when I thought to myself that perhaps I can do a very brief review of the work in an effort to put to some use the time I invested in having read the very short book.

To begin with, I have had several interactions with missionaries who seem to consider this book to be one of the greatest literary pieces ever published, yet I cannot seem to find anyone who is able to explain to me why this is the case. Most of my conversations about this work have followed generally the same line of reasoning:

This book proves that the Qur’an is corrupt and has not been preserved!
Can anyone reference the page on which this claim is made?
No.

This book is groundbreaking because it shows that the Qur’an has changes to it!
Changes in the sense that someone somewhere inserted a word or verse or chapter into one of these manuscripts which eventually came to be seen as part of the Qur’an today? No.

Changes that show the early Muslims had a different Qur’an!
A different Qur’an in what sense?

That it contained different words that they had to correct!
Do you mean the words which were omitted by the initial scribe, noticed and then corrected by the same scribe (or in some cases, later ones)?
Yes.
That doesn’t make it a different Qur’an then, all that makes it is someone writing, making an error while writing and then correcting that error.

But it is an intentional change!
Well yes, I would imagine that if someone wrote something and realised they made an error that they would have intentionally chose to correct it.

He says that some of the corrections were later!
Not exactly, he only comes to this conclusion because the nib (writing tip of the writing instrument – think of a lead pencil’s point) was different, the same scribe could have had more than one nib, especially if they were untrained and prone to error, as some of the manuscripts clearly demonstrate some scribes were untrained. It is also possible that there was an initial scribe with one writing instrument (think of a pen, or a pencil), what scholars call the initial scribe or the prima manus and then there was a corrector or secunda manus reviewing the work of the first scribe who used a different nib or the same nib (but due to difference in writing ability their corrections were more noticeable). Therefore a difference in the nib (writing instrument) or in the stroke of the hand of the scribe (or corrector) would appear different but would not necessitate it being centuries later (that conclusion is a matter of interpretation and not one of a factual or immutable nature).

These are how most of my conversations have gone, indeed one specific conversation comes to mind where a missionary could not believe I had read the book so quickly because it took years of research to write. He could not grasp that a man can take 100 years to write a book, but that it does not mean it takes 100 years to read it. I have tried to understand what missionaries find so impressive about the book, it has been difficult to find one that has actually read it. I was able to find one and some of his reasons were as follows:

It is impressive because he shows that corrections were made.
Is he the first person in the world to recognize that authors (scribes) can make mistakes and then correct their mistakes?
No.

Is he the first person in the world to study Qur’anic manuscripts?
No.

Doesn’t he thank Islamic Universities, libraries and institutions for help with his manuscript studies?
Yes.

Didn’t he claim to have consulted Islamic scholarly works on understanding some corrections?
Yes.

So what exactly was impressive if he was not the first to notice any of these things and especially that he received help from pre-existing Islamic literature and Arab-Islamic institutions on this topic?

On the other hand however, what I have managed to notice is that from those who have actually read the very brief book, there is a trend they have all noticed. There are four things to note:

  1. These corrections were allegedly made in different cities.
  2. At different times.
  3. By different scribes.
  4. Towards the accepted Qira’at of the Qur’an.

If the argument was that the Qur’an which is read today was a recent invention (though this is not the argument he himself makes), then how is it possible for all of these different people, in different places, in different times to invent the exact same Qira’at of the Qur’an as we have it today? The only reasonable and sensible conclusion is because they had the same Qur’an, they could not all make the same corrections towards the text of the Qur’an as we have it today, if they did not know what the correct Qira’at of the Qur’an was in the first place. In other words his short book is not a proof of anything negative about the Qur’an, rather it is a proof that scribal errors made by unknown scribes (and in many cases, clearly untrained in Arabic nahw) were seen as such and did not enter into the authentic and well-known transmissions Qira’at of the Qur’an.

The fact that Muslims read these individual copies and went to the effort to ensure they were properly written, demonstrates their careful concern for the accurate transmission of the Qur’an, if they had left the errors without correction then that would have been a cause for concern. In many cases, Dan’s inability to understand Arabic nahw allowed him to choose examples which didn’t make much sense, especially in the cases where:

  1. The scribe omitted or repeated a word due to confusing it with another verse (homoeoteleuton or homoeoarcton).
  2. The scribe omitted or repeated a word due to copying the letters as shapes (unable to understand what they are writing, they are able to identify shapes but don’t know words or what the words mean).
  3. The owner preferring another Qira’ah and requesting it be changed to that reading.

What is perhaps the most intriguing is that these errors before being corrected were exclusively done to singular manuscripts which when compared to manuscripts from the same time period, it can easily be seen that contemporaneous manuscripts do have the correct reading and do not have the same error, thus certifying that these were not legitimate readings that were long forgotten, but that they were genuine errors that were supposed to be corrected.

All in all, nothing about the book is novel, nothing about it is ground-breaking and nothing about it affects any beliefs that Muslims have about the Qur’an, to the contrary it serves as a good evidence for the preservation of the Qur’an that after almost a decade of research for the sake of advancing Christianity, and with a team of volunteers behind him, he could find only 20 examples of corrections stemming from largely untrained scribes. On the other hand, that we have early manuscripts of the New Testament from professional publication houses (scriptoria) with text-clusters (multiple manuscript traditions from the same time period) showing significant and meaningful changes, and additions, demonstrates to us why the missionaries need to inflate meaningless corrections to obfuscate from the faith-crisis they are experiencing.

and Allah knows best.

18 comments

  • JazakhAllahu Khair.

    Par excellence !

  • Izaz Ahmed with all these bogos claims can you show me a Quranic Manuscript that has 114 chapters. Just like codex Sinaticus that is online, can a sincere Muslim post the 114 surah manuscript.

  • Please note, my name is Ijaz, not Izaz.

    Thank you for taking the time to make your comment, you may be unfamiliar with the way things are managed here so please allow me to help you. I understand that you think these claims are ‘bogus’, but the onus falls upon you to qualify that claim. I pray and sincerely hope that you will be able to do so.

    Allow me to correct you, Codex Sinaiticus is incomplete, it does not contain all the books of the Bible, most or nearly most of the Old Testament is not found with Codex Sinaiticus. As for the New Testament, mostly in areas where it agrees with Codex Vaticanus is it accepted as reliable from the Alexandrian text-cluster (see Fee and Epp), otherwise the modern editions of the New Testament (including the THGNT) use largely Byzantine manuscripts for their variants which extend the plausible ‘original’ New Testament to include manuscripts and variants extending into the 19th century with the vorlage text of the New Testament only being extant to the 21st century.

    On the otherhand, to briefly answer your question, yes, all 114 Surahs as we read today from the Qira’aat of the Qur’aan are extant to within the 1st century of the Hijri calendar. Otherwise, we have nothing from the 1st century of the New Testament from Jesus, Paul or any of the alleged disciples. If we have to match Codex Sinaiticus, then the Qur’an is complete within the 1st century of the Hijri calendar (within 100 years) but we have no extant complete Bible until Westcott and Hort’s conjectural emendations or even until the THGNT was published last year. All in all, this would mean that Islam has a 1400 year head start on reliable scripture but the Bible is only just beginning to figure out what its reliable form of scripture looks like.

    Yours in Islam,
    Br. Ijaz.

  • Again a bogos argument. Codex Sinaticus is online and all the books are there. You are lieing, starting from Genesis till Revelation all the books are there. Now show me 114 surah manuscript of the Quran. Sow me as Christians take pride in featuring the manuscripts show me one Islamic website where I can see 114 surah manuscript of the Quran.

  • Brother Ijaz, I was trying to reblog this but it doesn’t allow me to do so.

  • ” Codex Sinaticus is online and all the books are there. You are lieing, starting from Genesis till Revelation all the books are there. ”

    codex sinaticus is filled with heresies . sam shamoun says it should be trashed in the garbage can.

  • Can you show me evidence wher Sam Shamon said that Codex Sinaticus is hersey

  • Reblogged this on The Quran and Bible Blog and commented:
    It seems whenever a book comes out that the missionaries think they can use for the purpose of propaganda against Islam, they almost always forget to actually read it! Case in point…a good discussion by brother Ijaz Ahmed.

  • Dude, don’t get so mad just because you’re frustrated at the sparse record of your Bible. It’s not our fault your ancestor were so bad at preserving the Bible.

    As for your question, here is one manuscript dated to the late 1st-early 2nd century AH which contains 99% of the Quran. In other words, all 114 surahs are accounted for, with only 2 of the original folios missing (amounting to just a few verses from different surahs).

    https://www.islamic-awareness.org/quran/text/mss/topkapi.html

  • “Can you show me evidence wher Sam Shamon said that Codex Sinaticus is hersey”

    so you think i just made it up?

  • “Thus Ijaz likes to appeal to Codex Sinaiticus as having variants, as part of the argument that the New Testament is corrupt (which is surely true for Sinaticus.) And his job is pretty easy since James White does not have any specific Bible he defends, and attacks the major sections like the Mark ending and the Periocope Adultera, and much more. ”

    “which is SURELY TRUE FOR SINATICUS”

    http://earlywritings.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=1017&hilit=Codex+Sinaticus&start=330

  • Folios missing, but Muslims claim Quran is 100 percent. Now you are saying missing, make up your mind Quran is not 100 percent. And where are the 114 surah manuscript.

  • Lol, I knew this would happen. You asked for manuscripts that have all 114 surahs. When your challenge was met, instead of being honest and admitting your mistake, you moved the goal post.

    Folios missing is expected when you’re dealing with ancient manuscripts. That does not mean the Quran is not preserved. By comparison, your NT has 0% from the 1st century and only a little more from the 2nd century. There really is no comparison.

    More over, as Ijaz said, we have all complete 114 surahs accounted for in the 1st century between different manuscripts. There are also inscriptions to account for as well. The bottom line is that the Quran is 100% preserved. Your Bible doesn’t even come close.

  • “Folios missing, but Muslims claim Quran is 100 percent. Now you are saying missing, make up your mind Quran is not 100 percent”

    better than a document FILLED with heresies, right? think about it, your modern day reconstructed bibles are dependent on a bible which has been through heretical hands. you should be worried.

  • Pingback: Answering a Christian’s Challenge on Quran Manuscripts – The Quran and Bible Blog

  • Lol, where are the 114 surah, Show me one manuscript that contains 114 surah. Why are you dodging the question.

  • Lol, I see you’re a typical Christian apologist
    You just cannot accept accept that your question was answered. All 114 surahs are present in the Topkapi manuscript, with just a few verses missing and amounting to about 1%. Just because 2 folios are lost after 1400 years does not mean the Quran is not preserved.

    There is also a Kufic manuscript from 393 AH that has the entire text, and is considered the oldest manuscript containing 100% of the text. But like is said, the documentary evidence has all the surahs accounted for in the 1st century.

  • This book is merely an apologetic one serving his christian bias. I’ve heard that some examples he mentioned are so stupid because the corrections go smoothly with the sentences, yet he suggests the mistakes are the “original”readings neglecting the fact that the structure of the sentences would not make sense with the mistakes.

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