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Wednesday, November 5, 2008

How many 'versions' of the holy Quran is there today?

On 24 Jun 1997, Jochen Katz wrote:

assalamu-alaikum:

> } 1) How many 'versions' of the holy Quran is there today?

> At least two, probably more (I am pretty sure about the third
> one, but can't prove it yet, so I am not going to say where and
> what just yet), but it is common knowledge that the Hafs text
> and the Warsh text (mainly used in Northwest Africa) are
> different not only in the vowels but also in some consonants.
> The differences are small, but they are there. And both of them
> are for sale and in use today. Hafs is the much more common one.
> The third version I have heard about has by far more substantial
> differences in comparison to the other two. For the Warsh and
> Hafs differences see a few examples at:

> http://answering-islam.org/Quran/Text/

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it is a common deception used by christian missionaries like jochen katz
to project the issues which are well dealt with by both muslim and
oriental scholars as we will see soon, inshallah. they *do know* quite
well the difference between "transmission" and "text" and where the word
"transmission" is to be used the word "text" is used instead to give a
false impression to the readers that the quraan has got different texts.
so, in order to deal with this issue of hafs and warsh let us see what the
scholars say about that.

it is well known that there are seven different ahruf and the qira'at for
the quraan. in the islamic tradition, the basis of the quraanic text
variation is traced back to a number of hadith concerning the revelation
of the quraan in seven ahruf (singular harf). some of the examples of
these hadiths are as follows [1, pp.199]

(from ibn abbas) gabriel recited to me one harf, whereupon i repeated it
and i asked for more and he gave me more until it reached seven ahruf.

(from abi ibn ka'b) the prophet was at the pool of the bani gafar and
gabriel came to him and said, "verily god commands that you recite the
quraan to your community in a single harf." and he said, "i asked god's
forgiveness, but that is not possible for my community"; whereupon he came
to him a second time and said, "verily god commands that you recite to
your community in two harfs [muhammad repeats his reply, and each time
gabriel comes back with permission to recite another harf until the number
reaches seven.

(from abi ibn ka'b) the prophet encountered gabriel and said. "oh gabriel,
verily i have called to my community illiterates, among them the weak, the
aged, the youth, the slave woman, and the man who has never read a book."
he said, "oh muhammad, verily the quraan was revealed in seven ahruf."

these three hadiths support the claim that the quraan was revealed in
seven ahruf.the defination of the term ahruf has been the subject of much
scholarly discussion and is included in the general works of the quraan.
among the most commonly accepted interpretations are the following: [1,
pp. 200]

a. the ahruf are the dialects if all the arabic tribes. the quraanic verse
"verily we have made an arabic quraan" (43:3, i.e., not just a quraysi
quraan) is cited to support this view. [1, pp. 200]

b. the ahruf are the seven aspects in which the reciting of the quraan
differs. these aspects govern differences in the noun gender and number,
verbal tense and mood, inflection, adding or dropping of the words,
difference in word order, substitution, and what are called dialectical
differences, such as pronunciation of a', assimilation and
pharyngealization. [1, pp. 200]

"a further manisfestation of variance is in the seven (some say 10 or 14)
text systems known as the qiraat. these represent readings drawn from the
phonetic pool of the seven ahruf and associated with prominent reciters
of the 8th century and their students. these particular readings were
fixed into written form, codified, and canonized in the tenth century. ONE
CRITERION OF THEIR ACCEPTANCE WAS THAT THEY CONFORM TO THE SKELETON OF THE
TEXT COMPILED BY CALIPH UTHMAN." [1, pp. 3]

"ORAL TRADITION HAS SERVED AS THE FINAL ARBITRATOR OF THE WRITTEN
TRADITIONS; ONLY THOSE FRAGMENTS WRITTEN DOWN IN THE PRESENCE OF THE
PROPHET WERE ACCEPTED AS MATERIAL FOR THE WRITTEN TEXT, AND ANY
DIFFERENCES IN THE FRAGMENTS WERE SETTLED BY ORAL TRADITION. MUHAMMAD
SPREAD THE MESSAGE BY SENDING OUT RECITERS, NOT TEXTS, AND CLAIPH UTHMAN
SENT WITH EACH COPY OF THE STANDARD TEXT A RECITER WHO COULD TEACH ITS
RECITATION." [1, pp.3]

concerning the seven sets of readings watt and bell write: "the seven sets
of readings accepted by ibn-mujahid represent the systems prevailing in
different districts. there was one each from medina, mecca, damascus and
basra, and three from kufa. for each set of readings (qiraa), there were
two slightly different version (sing. riwaya). the whole may be set out in
tabular form:

district reader first rawi second rawi

medina nafi warsh qalun
mecca ibn kathir al-bazzi qunbul
damascus ibn amir hisham ibn dhakwan
basra abu-amr ad-duri as-susi
kufa asim hafs shuba
kufa hamza khalaf khallad
kufa al-kisai ad-duri abul-harith

[2, pp.49]

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now our discussion will be on hafs version and warsh version (or sometimes
also called nafi as shown above).

The Concise Encylopedia of Islam under the heading "Koran, Chanting"
states:

"only the canonical arabic text, as collected and compiled under the
caliph uthman with the consensus of the companions (ijma as-sahaabah) may
be recited, in one of the seven acceptable versions of the punctuation and
vocalization (al-qiraat as-sab). THESE, THOUGH FIXED ONLY IN THE 4TH
CENTURY OF THE HIJRAH, ARE TAKEN TO CORRESPOND TO THE SEVEN AHRUF
("LETTERS", "VERSIONS" OR POSSIBLY "DIALECTS") OF THE KORAN WHICH
ACCORDING TO A HADITH, THE PROPHET REFERED TO AS ALL HAVING DIVINE
AUTHORITY. IN PRACTICE, ONLY TWO OF THE SEVEN READINGS HAVE BECOME
CUSTOMARY: IN EGYPT, FOR EXAMPLE, THE READING OF HAFS ACCORDING TO THE
SCHOLAR ABU BAKR ASIM; AND IN THE REST OF AFRICA THAT OF NAFI (OR WARSH)."
[3, pp. 232]

and in The Oxford Encylopedia of the Modern Islamic World, we read under
"quraanic recitation":

"THE QURAAN HAS SINCE EARLIEST TIMES EXISTED IN A VARIETY OF READINGS IN
THE ARABIC TEXT. THESE VARIANTS ARE NOT DIFFERENT MESSAGES BUT RATHER
REFLECT SLIGHT DIALECTICAL DIFFERENCES THAT WERE FOLLOWED IN DIFFERENT
REGIONS." [4, pp. 397]

now we have established that these are the divine revealed different
readings of the quraan and now we need to know the differences between the
hafs and warsh texts.

a concise and interesting article can be found in the book "Approaches of
The History of Interpretation of The Quraan" [5]. an article by adrain
brockett in that book called "the value of hafs and warsh transmissions
for the textual history of the quraan" sheds some light on various aspects
of differences between the two recitations. also note that the author uses
the word "TRANSMISSION" rather than "TEXT" for these two modes of
recitations. i will be dealing with the important conclusions which the
author makes, inshallah.

the author states: "IN CASES WHERE THERE ARE NO VARIATIONS WITHIN EACH
TRANSMISSION ITSELF, CERTAIN DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO TRANSMISSIONS, AT
LEAST IN THE COPIES CONSULTED, OCCUR CONSISTENTLY THROUGHOUT. NONE OF THEM
HAS ANY EFFECT IN THE MEANING." [5, pp. 33]

the author divides the differences between the transmission of hafs and
warsh as - differences in the vocal form and the differences in the
graphic form. according to him "such a division is clearly made from a
written standpoint, and on its own is unbalanced. it would be a mistake to
infer from it, for instance, that because "hamza" was at first mostly
outside the graphic form, it was therefore at first also outside oral
form. the division is therefore mainly just for ease of classification and
reference." [5, pp. 33-34]

on the graphic side of this transmission the author states:

"ON THE GRAPHIC SIDE, THE CORRESPONDENCES BETWEEN THE TWO TRANSMISSIONS
ARE OVERWHELMINGLY MORE NUMEROUS THAN DIFFERENCES, OFTEN EVEN WITH
ODDITIES LIKE "ayna ma" AND 'aynama" BEING CONSISTENTLY PRESERVED IN BOTH
TRANSMISSIONS, AND "la'nat allahi" SPELT BOTH WITH "ta tawila" AND "ta
marbuta" IN THE SAME PLACES IN BOTH TRANSMISSIONS. AS WELL, NOT ONE OF THE
GRAPHIC DIFFERENCES CAUSED THE MUSLIMS ANY DOUBTS ABOUT THE FAULTLESSLY
FAITHFUL TRANSMISSION OF THE QURAAN." [5, pp. 34]

and on the vocal side of the transmission the author's opinion is:

"ON THE VOCAL SIDE, CORRESPONDENCES BETWEEN THE TWO TRANSMISSIONS AGAIN
FAR AND AWAY OUTNUMBER THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THEM, EVEN WITH THE FINE
POINTS SUCH AS LONG VOWELS BEFORE "hamzat at-qat' HAVING A "madda". ALSO,
NOT ONE OF THE DIFFERENCES SUBSTANTIALLY AFFECTS THE MEANING BEFYOND ITS
OWN CONTEXT." [5, pp. 34]

"ALL THIS POINT TO A REMARKABLY UNITARY TRANSMISSION IN BOTH ITS GRAPHIC
FORM AND ITS ORAL FORM." [5, pp. 34]

the author adrain brockett discusses the muslims and orientalists
attitude towards the graphic transmission. he concludes that:

"MANY ORIENTALISTS WHO SEE THE QURAAN AS ONLY A WRITTEN DOCUMENT MIGHT
THINK THAT IN THE GRGAPHIC DIFFERENCES CAN BE FOUND SIGNIFICANT CLUES
ABOUT THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE QURAAN TEXT - IF UTHMAN ISSUED A DEFINITIVE
WRITTEN TEXT, HOW CAN SUCH GRAPHIC DIFFERENCES BE EXPLAINED, THEY MIGHT
ASK. FOR MUSLIMS, WHO SEE THE QURAAN AS AN ORAL AS WELL AS A WRITTEN TEXT,
HOWEVER, THESE DIFFERENCES ARE SIMPLY READINGS , CERTAINLY IMPORTANT, BUT
NO MORE SO THAN READINGS INVOLVING, FOR INSTANCES, FINE DIFFERENCES IN
ASSIMILATION OR IN VIGOUR OF PRONOUNCING THE HAMZA." [5, pp. 35]

and he shows this with some examples which the interested reader can go
through and the author concludes:

"THE DEFINITIVE LIMIT OF PERMISSIBLE GRAPHIC VARIATION WAS, FIRSTLY,
CONSONANTAL DISTURBANCE THAT WAS NOT TOO MAJOR, THEN UNALTERABILITY IN
MEANING, AND FINALLY RELIABLE AUTHORITY."

in the section "the extent to which the differences affect the sense", the
author repeated states:

THE SIMPLE FACT IS THAT NONE OF THE DIFFERENCES, WHETHER VOCAL OR GRAPHIC,
BETWEEN THE TRANSMISSION OF HAFS AND THE TRANSMISSION OF WARSH HAS ANY
GREAT EFFECT ON THE MEANING. MANY ARE THE DIFFERENCES WHICH DO NOT CHANGE
THE MEANING AT ALL, AND THE REST ARE DIFFERENCES WITH AN EFFECT ON THE
MEANING IN THE IMMEDIATE CONTEXT OF THE TEXT ITSELF, BUT WITHOUT ANY
SIGNIFICANT WIDER INFLUENCE ON MUSLIM THOUGHT." [5, pp. 37]

and how about the conclusions of the author!!:

"SUCH THEN IS THE LIMIT OF THE VARIATION BETWEEN THESE TWO TRANSMISSIONS
OF THE QURAAN, A LIMIT WELL WITHIN THE BOUNDARIES OF SUBSTANTIAL
EXEGETICAL EFFECT. THIS MEANS THAT THE READINGS FOUND IN THESE
TRANSMISSIONS ARE MOST LIKELY NOT OF EXEGETICAL ORIGIN, OR AT LEAST DID
NOT ARISE OUT OF CRUCIAL EXEGETIGAL DISPUTE. THEY ARE THEREFORE OF THE
UTMOST VALUE FOR THE TEXTUAL HISTORY OF THE QURAAN." [5, pp. 43]

and interestingly enough the author goes on to say:

"THE LIMITS OF THEIR VARAITION CLEARLY ESTABLISH THAT THEY ARE A SINGLE
TEXT." [5, pp. 43]

and also:

"THUS, IF THE QURAAN HAD BEEN TRANSMITTED ONLY ORALLY FOR THE FIRST
CENTURY, SIZEABLE VARIATIONS BETWEEN TEXTS SUCH AS ARE SEEN IN THE HADITH
AND PRE-ISLAMIC POETRY WOULD BE FOUND, AND IF IT HAD BEEN TRANSMITTED ONLY
IN WRITING, SIZEABLE VARIATIONS SUCH AS IN THE DIFFERENT TRANSMISSIONS OF
THE ORIGINAL DOCUMENT OF THE CONSTITUTION OF MEDINA WOULD BE FOUND. BUT
NEITHER IS THE CASE WITH THE QURAAN. THERE MUST HAVE BEEN A PARALLEL
WRITTEN TRANSMISSION LIMITING VARIATION IN THE ORAL TRANSMISSION TO THE
GRAPHIC FORM, SIDE BY SIDE WITH A PARALLEL ORAL TRANSMISSION PRESERVING
THE WRITTEN TRANSMISSION FROM CORRUPTION." [5, pp. 44]

this leads the author to state:

"THE TRANSMISSION OF THE QURAAN AFTER THE DEATH OF MUHAMMAD WAS
ESSENTIALLY STATIC, RATHER THAN ORGANIC." [5, pp. 44]

this leads anyone to the conclusion that there is no tampering of the
quraan by humans. in the end:

"THERE CAN BE NO DENYING THAT SOME OF THE FORMAL CHARACTERISTICS OF THE
QURAAN POINT TO THE ORAL SIDE AND OTHERS TO THE WRITTEN SIDE, BUT NEITHER
WAS AS A WHOLE, PRIMARY. THERE IS THEREFORE NO NEED TO MAKE DIFFERENT
CATEGORIES FOR VOCAL AND GRAPHIC DIFFERENCES BETWEEN TRANSMISSIONS.
MUSLIMS HAVE NOT. THE LETTER IS NOT A DEAD SKELETON TO BE REFLESHED, BUT
IS A MANIFESTATION OF THE SPIRIT ALIVE FROM BEGINNING. THE TRANSMISSION OF
THE QURAAN HAS ALWAYS BEEN ORAL, JUST AS IT HAS BEEN WRITTEN." [5. pp. 45]

and it is not surprising that the missionaries like jochen katz are
refleshing a dead skeleton because they have an agenda of deceiving
muslims who are not knowledgeable in these issues. and of course, readers
of this newgroup have time and again seen how jochen (mis)quotes his
references and deceives its readers boyth muslims and non-muslims. and
surprisingly enough, jochen can not even support his view point using the
reference [5]. it is totally against his agenda of falsifying the well
established facts. the obvious conclusion is that: jochen has not read the
reference. and this reference [5] has firmly established that:

a. there is only one quraan.
b. the differences in recitation are divine revealed not made by
humans
c. the obvious conclusion will be that the quraan was not tampered
with.

i would like jochen to put this post on his homepage so that at least he
shows us that he is dealing with the issue honestly.

ma'assalama
saifullah

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[1] The Art of Reciting The Quraan, Kristina Nelson, 1985, University of
Texas Press, Austin. ISBN 0-292-70367-8

[2] Introduction to the Quraan, 1994, W M Watt & R Bell, Edinburgh at
University Press. ISBN 0 7468 0597 5

[3] The Concise Encylopedia of Islam, 1989, Cyril Glasse, Stacey
International, London.

[4] The Oxford Encylopedia of the Modern Islamic World (Vol III), 1995, J
L Esposito, Oxford University Press.

[5] Approaches of The History of Interpretation of The Quraan, 1988,
edited by Andrew Rippin, Clarendon Press, Oxford.
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