THE DIFFERENT ARABIC VERSIONS OF THE QUR'AN
Part 2: The Current Situation

By Samuel Green

Many Muslims have told me that all Qur'ans in the world are exactly the same, and that it is perfectly preserved and free from any variation. This idea is often said as a way of showing that the Qur'an is superior to the Bible. Muslims says this because this is what their leaders teach them about the Qur'an and the Bible. Consider the following Islamic teaching.

No other book in the world can match the Qur'an ... The astonishing fact about this book of ALLAH is that it has remained unchanged, even to a dot, over the last fourteen hundred years. ... No variation of text can be found in it. You can check this for yourself by listening to the recitation of Muslims from different parts of the world. (Basic Principles of Islam, p. 4)

The above claim is that all Qur'ans around the world are identical and that "no variation of text can be found". In fact the author issues a challenge saying, "You can check this for yourself by listening to the recitation of Muslims from different parts of the world". In this article I will take up this challenge to see if all Qur'ans are the same.

Contents

1. HISTORY

To start our investigation we turn to an Islamic Encyclopedia written by a practicing Muslim. This scholar explains an important aspect of the history of the Qur'an. Please read this quote a few times if you are new to this area of study.

(C)ertain variant readings (of the Qur'an) existed and, indeed, persisted and increased as the Companions who had memorised the text died, and because the inchoate (basic) Arabic script, lacking vowel signs and even necessary diacriticals to distinguish between certain consonants, was inadequate. ... In the 4th Islamic century, it was decided to have recourse (to return) to "readings" (qira'at) handed down from seven authoritative "readers" (qurra'); in order, moreover, to ensure accuracy of transmission, two "transmitters" (rawi, pl. ruwah) were accorded to each. There resulted from this seven basic texts (al-qira'at as-sab', "the seven readings"), each having two transmitted versions (riwayatan) with only minor variations in phrasing, but all containing meticulous vowel-points and other necessary diacritical marks. ... The authoritative "readers" are:
Nafi` (from Medina; d. 169/785)
Ibn Kathir (from Mecca; d. 119/737)
Abu `Amr al-`Ala' (from Damascus; d. 153/770)
Ibn `Amir (from Basra; d. 118/736)
Hamzah (from Kufah; d. 156/772)
al-Qisa'i (from Kufah; d. 189/804)
Abu Bakr `Asim (from Kufah; d. 158/778)
(Cyril Glassé, The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, p. 324, bold added)

Therefore, we need to realise that the Qur'an has been passed down to us from men called "the Readers". They were famous reciters of the Qur'an in the early centuries of Islam. The way these men recited the Qur'an was formerly recorded in textual form by other men called the "Transmitters". There are in fact more Readers and Transmitters than those listed above. The table below lists the commonly accepted Readers and their transmitted versions and their current area of use.

The ReaderThe TransmitterCurrent Area of Use
"The Seven"
Nafi` Warsh Algeria, Morocco, parts of Tunisia, West Africa and Sudan
Qalun Libya, Tunisia and parts of Qatar
Ibn Kathir al-Bazzi
Qunbul
Abu `Amr al-'Ala' al-Duri Parts of Sudan and West Africa
al-Suri
Ibn `Amir Hisham Parts of Yemen
Ibn Dhakwan
Hamzah Khalaf
Khallad
al-Kisa'i al-Duri
Abu'l-Harith
Abu Bakr `Asim Hafs Muslim world in general
Ibn `Ayyash
"The Three"
Abu Ja`far Ibn Wardan
Ibn Jamaz
Ya`qub al-Hashimi Ruways
Rawh
Khalaf al-Bazzar Ishaq
Idris al-Haddad
Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi, An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'aan, p. 199.

What the above means is that the Qur'an has come to us through many transmitted versions. You cannot recite or read the Qur'an except through one of these versions. Each version has its own chain of narrators (isnad) like a hadith. There are more versions than those listed above but they are not considered authentic because their chain of narration is considered weak. Not all of these versions are printed or used today, but several are. We will now compare two of them.

2. A COMPARISON BETWEEN TWO QUR'ANS

All these facts can be a bit confusing when you first read them. If you are feeling that way don't worry; it's normal. To make things simple we will now compare two Qur'ans from different parts of the world to see if they are identical. The Qur'an on the left is now the most commonly used Qur'an and is according to Imam Hafs' transmitted version. The Qur'an on the right is according to Imam Warsh's transmitted version and is mainly used in North Africa.

The Qur'an according 
to the Hafs transmission

When you compare these Qur'ans it becomes obvious that they are not identical. There are four main types of differences between them.

  1. Graphical/Basic Letter Differences
  2. Diacritical Differences
  3. Vowel Differences
  4. Basmalah Difference
The Qur'an according 
to the Warsh transmission

The following examples of these differences are from the same word in the same verse. On some occasions the verse number differs because the two Qur'ans number their verses differently. Also, the letter Qaaf in the Warsh version is written with only one dot, and the Faa has a single dot below.

Graphical/Basic Letter Differences

THE QUR'AN ACCORDING TO IMAM HAFS THE QUR'AN ACCORDING TO IMAM WARSH
wawassaa
Ibrahim enjoin (wawassaa) on his sons ... 2:132
wa'awsaa
Ibrahim left (wa’awsaa) to his sons 2:131
The Warsh version has an extra alif in the word but in both cases the word means almost the same thing. This seems to be a difference in dialect.
wasaari'uu
And hasten (wasaari’uu) to ... 3:133
saari'uu
Hasten (saari’uu) to ... 3:133
The Hafs version has the extra word, "and", in the verse. This does not change the meaning of the verse but does add an extra word.
yartadda
turn back (yartadda) ... 5:54
yartadid
turn back (yartadid) ... 5:56
The two words are spelt slightly differently but mean the same thing. This is a difference in dialect.
qaala
He said (qaala), "My lord knows ..." (21:4)
qul
Say (qul): My lord knows ... (21:4)
These words are spelt differently and mean different things. This difference changes the subject of the verb. In the Hafs version the subject is Muhammad, "He (Muhammad) said, 'My lord knows ...'", but in the Warsh version the subject is God, "Say: My lord knows ..." as in a command.
walaayakhaafu
and for him is no fear (walaayakhaafu) ... 91:15
falaayakhaafu
therefore, for him is no fear (falaayakhaafu) ... 91:15
There are different letters at the beginning of these words. In this case it does not change the meaning greatly. The Warsh version has more emphasis.

Diacritical Differences

Arabic uses dots to distinguish certain letters that are written the same way. For instance the basic symbol represents five different letters in Arabic depending upon where the diacritical dots are placed: baa', taa', thaa', nuun, yaa'. Here we see another difference between these two Qur'ans for they do not have the dots in the same place. The result is that different letters are formed.

THE QUR'AN ACCORDING TO IMAM HAFS THE QUR'AN ACCORDING TO IMAM WARSH
nagfir
we give mercy ... 2:58
yugfar
he gives mercy ... 2:57
There are different letters at the beginning of these words. This difference changes the meaning from,"we", to, "he".
taquluna
you (plural) say ... 2:140
yaquluna
they say ... 2:139
There are different letters at the beginning of these words. This difference changes the meaning from,"you", to "they".
nunshizuhaa
we shall raise up ... 2:259
nunshiruhaa
we shall revive/make alive ... 2:258
There are different letters in these words and this makes for two different words. The two words have a similar meaning but are not identical.
ataytukum
I gave you ... 3:81
ataynakum
We gave you ... 3:80
There are different letters in these words. This difference changes the meaning from,"I", to, "we".
yu'tiihim
he gives them ... 4:152
nuutiihimuu
we give them ... 4:151
There are different letters at the beginning of these words. This difference changes the meaning from "we" to "he".

Vowel Differences

Arabic uses small symbols above and below the letters to indicate some of the vowels of a word. Here we see another difference between these two Qur'ans for they do not have the same vowels in the same place.

THE QUR'AN ACCORDING TO OF IMAM HAFS THE QUR'AN ACCORDING TO OF IMAM WARSH
yakhda'uuna
they deceive ... 2:9
yukhaadi'uuna
they are deceiving ... 2:8
There is a different vowel on the first letter of these words. This difference affects the tense of the verb. The Warsh version has more of a continuous meaning.
yakdhibuuna
they lied ... 2:10
yukadhdhibuuna
they were lied to ... 2:9
There is a different vowel on the first letter of these words. This changes the meaning from the active to the passive.
yaquula
he said ... 2:214
yaquulu
he said ... 2:212
There is a different vowel on the last letter of these words. This changes the words grammatical connection to the other words in the sentence.
ta'aamu miskiinin
a redemption by feeding a poor man ... 2:184
ta'aami masakiina
a redemption by feeding poor men ... 2:183
There are several different vowels in these words. This changes the number of men that are required to be feed in order to redeem yourself for failing to fast.
qatala
And many a prophet fought (qatala) ... 3.146
qutila
And many a prophet was killed (qutila) ... 3.146.
(As in 3:144 in both versions.)
There are different vowels in these words. This changes the meaning from the active to the passive.
risaalatahu
his message ... 5:67
risaalatihi
his message ... 5:69
There are different vowels on the end of these words. This changes the words grammatical connection to the other words in the sentence.
sihraani
two works of magic ... 28:48
saahiraani
two magicians ... 28:48
There are different vowels on the first two letters of these words. This changes the meaning from referring to the magicians to what the magicians did.

The Number of Differences

We have now considered three types of differences between these two Qur'ans: differences in letters, diacritical dots and vowels, but how many of these differences are there between these two Qur'ans? There are Islamic reference books that answer this question. The title page below is from a book entitled, "The Readings and Rhythm of the Uthman (Qur'anic) Manuscript".

In this book the author uses the Hafs version of the Qur'an but underlines any word where there is a difference among the Readers. This difference is then shown in the margin. The author has also used a colour coded system to show which Reader is different. If the variant word in the margin is red this indicates that the Reader was Imam Warsh. Please study the page below and identify the underlined words and then the corresponding colour coded words in the margin.

From counting the number of red coded differences in the margin it is possible to learn how many differences there are between the Hafs and Warsh versions of the Qur'an. When this is done there are found to be 1354 differences.

Basmalah Differences

There is another type of difference between these two Qur'ans, the Basmalah. The Basmalah is the phrase, "In the Name of Allaah, the Ever-Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy". Both the Hafs and Warsh versions of the Qur'an have the Basmalah at the start of every sura except sura 9. In this way they are identical, however, while including it in their Qur'ans these Imams understood the Basmalah in very different ways. For Imam Hafs the Basmalah was part of the first verse as it was recited, while for Imam Warsh, the Basmalah was a du'a (human supplication) to introduce each sura. It was written at the start of each sura, like the names, but was not considered part of the revelation. Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi explains this.

The basmalah is the phrase that occurs at the beginning of each soorah of the Qur'aan, except for Soorah at-Tawbah, and reads, as every Muslim knows,

'Bismillaah ar-Rahmaan ar-Raheem'
(In the Name of Allaah, the Ever-Merciful, the Bestower of Mercy).

There is a difference of opinion amongst the scholars of the Qur'aan over whether this phrase is to be considered as a verse at the beginning of each soorah, in particular Soorah al-Faatihah, or whether this is merely a phrase said for blessings between the soorahs, and is meant to identify where one soorah ends and the next begins.

The scholars are agreed that the basmalah does not form part of Soorah at-Tawbah, and that it is a verse of the Qur'an in 27:30 ... but disagree as to its status at the beginning of the other soorahs ...

The scholars who claim that the basmalah at the beginning of the soorahs is a verse of the Qur'aan, (include) Imaam ash-Shaafi'ee (d. 204 A.H.) (and) Imaam Ahmad (d. 241) ... However, those that do not hold the basmalah at the beginning of the soorahs to be a part of the Qur'aan (include) Imaam Maalik (d. 179) (and) Aboo Haneefah (d. 150 A.H.) ...

Based on this classic difference of opinion, the qira'aat (the Readers) themselves differ over whether the basmalah was a verse in Soorah al-Faatihah and the other soorahs. Among the Qaarees (the Readers), Ibn Katheer,'Aasim and al-Kisaa'ee were the only ones who considered it to be a verse at the beginning of each soorah, whereas the others did not. (Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi, An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'aan, pp. 157-158.)

To summarize the above. The four Imams who founded the Hanafi, Maliki, Shafi'i and Hanbali schools disagree as to whether the Basmalah is part of the revelation at the start of each sura. Imam ash-Shafi'ee and Imam Ahmad believed that it was, while Imam Maalik and Aboo Haneefah believed it was not. As a result the different Readers who come from these schools have different views too. For Ibn Kathir, al-Kisa'i and Abu Bakr `Asim (Hafs) the Basmalah was part of the revelation of each sura, but for the majority of the Readers: Nafi` (Warsh), Abu `Amr al-'Ala', Ibn `Amir, Hamzah, Abu Ja`far, Ya`qub al-Hashimi and Khalaf al-Bazzar the Basmalah was not part of the revelation. Therefore, while both of the Qur'ans we are examining contain the Basmalah, in the Hafs Qur'an it is considered part of the revelation, while in the Warsh Qur'an it is not considered part of the revelation but du'a. This is a significant difference between these two Qur'ans.

A Qur'an with the Variants of the 10 Readers in the Margin

Our investigation so far has only considered two versions of the Qur'an, but as we saw at the beginning of this article there are many other versions that could also be examined for variants. The book below does this. It is a Qur'an that lists the variants from the Ten Accepted Readers.

Translation

Making Easy the Readings of What Has Been Sent Down

Author
Muhammad Fahd Khaaruun
The Collector of the 10 Readings
From al-Shaatebeiah and al-Dorraah and al-Taiabah

Revised by
Muhammad Kareem Ragheh
The Chief Reader of Damascus

Daar al-Beirut

The copyright page of the book reads as follows.

Copyright is for the publisher.
First Print
1420 - 1999

Can be acquired from Daar al-Beirut Bookshop.
Halabouny, Damascus, Ph: 221 3966
PO Box 25414

In this edition of the Qur'an, Muhammad Fahd Khaaruun has collected accepted variant readings from among the Ten Accepted Readers and included them in the margin of the Hafs version of the Qur'an. These are not all the variants. There are other variants that could have also been included but the author has limited himself to the variants of the Ten Accepted Readers. As the title of his book suggests this makes it easy to know what the variant readings are because they are clearly listed.

Below is a copy of a random page from this Qur'an. You can see the variant readings listed in the margin. Approximately two thirds of the verses of the Qur'an have some type of variant. This is approximately 4000 variants.

3. THE EXTENT TO WHICH THE DIFFERENCES AFFECT THE MEANING

I am often told by Muslims that the differences between these Qur'ans are only a matter of dialect, accent or pronunciation, and that they do not have any effect on the meaning at all. However this is clearly not the case. The examples of the differences given earlier show that the differences are far more than dialect, accent or pronunciation. The differences change the subject of the sentence, whether the verb is active or passive or whether it is singular or plural. These differences do affect the meaning.

Subhii al-Saalih[3] is an Islamic scholar in this area. He summarizes the differences into seven categories.

  1. Differences in grammatical indicator (i`raab).
  2. Differences in consonants.
  3. Differences in nouns as to whether they are singular, dual, plural, masculine or feminine.
  4. Differences in which there is a substitution of one word for another.
  5. Differences due to reversal of word order in expressions where the reversal is meaningful in the Arabic language in general or in the structure of the expression in particular.
  6. Differences due to some small addition or deletion in accordance with the custom of the Arabs.
  7. Differences due to dialectical peculiarities.

There is also the difference in the status of the Basmalah.

Therefore, the claim that these differences are just a matter of dialect and do not affect the meaning is false.

CONCLUSION. We began this article by considering the following claim made by a Muslim leader about the Qur'an.

No other book in the world can match the Qur'an ... The astonishing fact about this book of ALLAH is that it has remained unchanged, even to a dot, over the last fourteen hundred years. ... No variation of text can be found in it. You can check this for yourself by listening to the recitation of Muslims from different parts of the world. (Basic Principles of Islam, p. 4)

This claim is wrong. All of the Islamic evidence shows that there are different versions of the Qur'an used around the world today. They are different in their basic letters, diacritical dots and vowels, and this changes the meaning of words and sentences. The different Qur'ans also have a different understanding of the Basmalah, some accepting it as part of the Qur'an while others not. Therefore how the Qur'an is recited around the world today is different.

I realise this may be hard for some Muslims to accept because in their culture they have grown up being taught there is only one Qur'an. However, the authentic religion of Islam actually teaches there are many versions of the Qur'an. Islamic leaders should stop exaggerating about the Qur'an and tell people the truth.


APPENDIX 1 - MUSLIM ATTITUDES TO THE DIFFERENT VERSIONS

a. No Islamic scholars accept all of the versions.

In this article we have considered the 10 Accepted Readers and looked at two of them in particular, however, there are many more versions than just these 10. Islamic scholars record up to 50 different versions.[2]

No one accepts all of these versions as authentic, some are accepted and others are rejected. They are judged in the same way a hadith is judged for authenticity. The gradings are: sahih (authentic), shadh (irregular), da'eef (weak) and baatil (false).[3] In this way the Qur'an is the same as the Hadith.

b. Islamic scholars who say that the all of the authentic versions are from God.

(T)is oral tradition (of the Qur'an) embraces ten distinct systems of recitation, or, as they are generally called among scholars, "Readings" (qiraa'aat), each tranmitted by a "school" of Koran-readers deriving its authority from a prominent reader of the second or early third century of the Islamic era. The slight variation among the Ten Readings is attributable to the dialectal variation in the original Revelation. ... It should be emphasized that all of the Readings were transmitted orally from the Prophet. (Labib as-Said, The Recited Koran: A History of the First Recorded Version, p. 53)

Every reading in accordance with Arabic (grammar) even if (only) in some way, and in accordance with one of the masaahif of Uthmaan, even if (only) probable, and with sound chain of transmission, is a correct (Sahiih) reading, which must not be rejected, and may not be denied, but it belongs to the seven modes (ahruf) according to which the Qur'aan was revealed, and the people are obliged to accept it, no matter whether it is from the seven Imaans, or the ten or from other accepted Imaans (Abu-l-Khair bin al-Jazari; cited from Ahmad von Denffer, Ulum Al-Qur'an, p. 119.)

c. Islamic scholars who say that the versions are from human error and that there is only one recitation of the Qur'an.

The Koran was originally recited in one language and one dialect, namely that of the Quraysh. However, as soon as readers from the different tribes began to recite it, a variety of readings emerged, reflecting dialectal differences among the readers. The diversity was so great that later generations of readers and scholars had to labor intensely over the recording and careful analysis of these readings. In so doing they give rise to a special science, or rather special sciences, devoted exclusively to this enterprise. ... I should pause here to note that certain religious authorities have supposed that the Seven Readings were transmitted by a process of continuous transmission (tawaatur) on a wide scale from the Prophet himself, unto whom, so they allege, they were revealed by Gabriel. These authorities therefore consider that whoever rejects any of the established readings is an unbeliever. They have not, however, been able to produce any evidence for what they claim except that the tradition which reads, "The Koran was revealed in seven dialects (ahruf)". The truth of the matter is that the seven Readings had nothing to do with the Revelation, nothing in the least; and whoever rejects any of them is not for having done so an unbeliever; nor has he sinned or gone astray in his religion. The origin of these Readings is to be found in the diversity of tribal dialects among the early Muslim Arabs, and everyone has the right to dispute them, and to accept and reject them, or parts of them, as seems proper. In point of fact, people have disputed the Readings and argued over them, and have even accused each other of error with respect to them; yet we know of no Muslim who ever charged another with unbelief over this matter (Taahaa Husayn, Fi'l-Adab al-jaahilii, pp. 98-99; cited from Labib as-Said, The Recited Koran: A History of the First Recorded Version, pp. 97-99)

It is generally known that there are seven or ten different recitations of the Qur'an - By recitation is meant the different wordings which convey the same or allied meanings Maalik and Malik - Such as Yatta'harna and Yat'harna. It is generally believed the recitation of the seven or the ten reciters of the first, second and third century of Islam are valid and the Muslims are allowed to adopt either of these in their reciting Qur'an and it is generally held that the origin of these various recitations go back to the time of the Holy Prophet who approved these varieties but according to the Shia Ithna-Ashari School whose views are based on the teachings of the Holy Imams, the revealed recitation of the Qur'an cannot be but one and as the Imam puts it, "Qur'an is One, came down from the One, the variation in recitation comes from the reciters not from God." (S. V. Mir Ahmed Ali, The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary, p. 58a)


APPENDIX 2 - WHY ARE THERE SO MANY VERSIONS OF THE QUR'AN?

What situation lead to so many versions of the Qur'an? As we have seen some Islamic scholars say God gave 7 or 10 different versions of it, and that these differences were to accommodate the dialectal differences of the Arabic tribes, and so all of the versions come from God. However, when the differences are considered few of them are actually dialectal differences. Most of the differences result from the limitations of the early Arabic script used to write the Qur'an.

Arabic uses dots to distinguish certain letters that are written the same way. For instance the basic symbol represents five different letters in Arabic depending upon where the diacritical dots are placed: baa', taa', thaa', nuun, yaa'. There are also a series of signs used to indicate vowels. However these dots and vowel signs were a later development of the Arabic script and were not used with the early Qur'ans. Thus the earliest Qur'ans did not have any dots or vowel signs. This meant that the exact spelling of a word was not written and that what was written could represent several words if the dots and vowels were placed differently. Most of the examples of differences that have been considered seem to be the result of this ambiguity; they have the same basic letters but have the dots and vowels placed in different places to make different words.

Here is an Islamic scholar on this subject.

The (Arabic) script used in the seventh century, i.e. during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad, consisted of very basic symbols, which expressed on the consonantal structure of a word, and even that with much ambiguity. While today letters such as baa, taa, thaa, yaa, are easily distinguished by points, this was not so in the early days and all these letters used to be written with a straight line. ... When more and more Muslims of non-Arab origin and also many ignorant Arabs studied the Qur'an, faulty pronunciation and wrong readings began to increase. It is related that at the time of Du'ali (d. 69H/638) someone in Basra read the following aya from the Qur'an in a faulty way, which changed the meaning completely:

That God and his apostle dissolve obligations with the pagans (9:3)

That God dissolves obligations with the pagans and the apostle.

This mistake occurred through wrongly reading rasulihi in place of rasuluhu, which could not be distinguished from the written text, because there were no signs or accents indicating the correct pronunciation. Unless someone had memorised the correct version he could out of ignorance easily commit such a mistake. (Von Denffer, `Ulum Al-Qur'an - An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'an, pp. 57-58)

Therefore, while there are some dialectal differences between these versions of the Qur'an the majority of the differences are the result of the ambiguity of the early Arabic text. It is this ambiguity of the text that has led to so many different versions.


APPENDIX 3 - THE MEMORISATION OF THE QUR'AN

The Qur'an is famous for being memorised. Some Muslims have told me that it doesn't matter if there are differences between written Qur'ans because the Qur'an is firstly oral and only secondarily written. However, the differences between the written Qur'ans does matter because these written versions are the records (with the dots and vowels) of the oral recitation of the 10 famous Readers. That is, the written versions are the memorised oral versions. Thus the differences between the written versions are the differences between the memorised oral versions.

Therefore, studying the differences between the written Qur'ans allows us to make an observation regarding the oral history of the Qur'an. As was shown, most of the differences between these Qur'ans occurs at points where the early Arabic script (with no dots or vowels) was vague and could be read as several Arabic words. As these differences come from the vagueness of the text, this strongly suggests that the written text was primary and the memorised oral versions are secondary and derived from the text. This provides evidence that these memorised versions cannot all be traced back to Muhammad but only as far as the establishment of the text.


APPENDIX 4 - THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE DIFFERENT ARABIC VERSIONS AND ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS OF THE QUR'AN

There are many different English translations of the Qur'an but which Arabic version are they based on? Jochen Katz has showed that several English translations are a mixture of the different Arabic versions:

In the 1946 edition of Yusuf Ali's translation, published in Pakistan, we find the following text for Sura 23:112:

He will say:2948   "What number of years did ye stay on earth?"

And the accompanying footnote states:

2948.   The usual Indian reading is "Qala", "He will say". This follows the Kufa Qiraat. The Basra Qiraat reads "Qul", "Say" (in the imperative). The point is only one of grammatical construction. See n. 2666 to xxi. 4.

For Sura 21:4 we read this:

Say:2666   "My Lord knoweth (every) word (spoken) in the heavens and on earth : He is the One that heareth and knoweth (all things)."

And the accompanying footnote states:

2666.   Notice that in the usual Arabic texts printed in India the word qala is here and in xxi. 112 below, as well as in xxiii. 112, spelt differently from the usual spelling of the word in other places (e.g. in xx. 125-126). Qul is the reading of the Basra Qiraat, meaning, "Say thou" in the imperative. If we construe "he says", the pronoun refers to "this (one)" in the preceding verse, viz.: the Prophet. But more than one Commentator understands the meaning in the imperative, and I agree with them. The point is merely one of verbal construction. The meaning is the same in either case. See n. 2948 to xxiii. 112.

To summarize the facts, in both places, Sura 21:4 and Sura 23:112, the verses begin with Qala (He said / He will say[2]) according to the Indian reading (the usual Arabic texts printed in India) which Yusuf Ali identifies as the Kufa qira'at. The same verses both begin with Qul (Say) according to the Basra qira'at.

Taking the two verses and footnotes together, the noteworthy fact is that Abdullah Yusuf Ali follows the Kufa qira'at (more precisely: the Hafs reading) in Sura 23:112, but chooses the Basra qira'at in Sura 21:4 and 21:112.

In effect, he mixes two different qira'at and by doing so creates a new unauthorized reading as the basis for his translation.

In other words, he does not consider either of these standard qira'at to be fully authoritative. Both of them are somewhat deficient, since one reading makes more sense in one passage, and the other reading makes more sense in other passages. Although this may appear to be a minor point to many, is this not a question of principle? Do Muslims have the freedom to tamper with "small aspects of the Quranic text" and create a new personal reading or version? (Jochen Katz, The Fifteenth Qira'at)


APPENDIX 5 - WHERE TO BUY DIFFERENT VERSIONS OF THE QUR'AN

I have bought some of these Qur'ans from my local Islamic bookshop. Any Islamic bookshop should be able to order them for you. They are also available online from the following suppliers.


ENDNOTES

[1] Subhii al-Saalih, Muhaahith fii `Ulum al-Qur'aan, Beirut: Daar al-`Ilm li al-Malaayiin, 1967, pp. 109ff.

[2] Al-Nadim, The Fihrist of al-Nadim - A Tenth Century survey of Muslim Culture, New York: Columbia University Press, 1970, pp. 63-71. Also, Ibn al-JazarT, Nashr, vol. 1, pp. 34—7, cited from, Intisar A. Rabb, "Non-Canonical Readings of the Qur'an: Recognitition and Authenticity (the Himsi Reading)", Journal of Qur'anic Studies, 2006, vol. 8, no. 2, p. 124 footnote 114.

[3] Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi, An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'aan, United Kingdom: Al-Hidaayah, 1999, pp. 191-192.


REFERENCES

S. V. Mir Ahmed Ali, The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary, New York: Tahrike Tarsile Qur'an, 1988.

Basic Principles of Islam, (no author listed) Abu Dhabi, UAE: The Zayed Bin Sultan Al Nahayan Charitable & Humanitarian Foundation, 1996.

Ahmad von Denffer, Ulum Al-Qur'an, UK: The Islamic Foundation, 1994.

Cyril Glassé, The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1989.

Ahmad ibn Musa ibn Mujahid, Kitaab Al-Sab`a Fii Al-Qiraa'at (The Book of the Seven Readings)

Al-Nadim, The Fihrist of al-Nadim - A Tenth Century survey of Muslim Culture, New York: Columbia University Press, 1970.

Subhii al-Saalih, Muhaahith fii `Ulum al-Qur'aan, Beirut: Daar al-`Ilm li al-Malaayiin, 1967.

Labib as-Said, The Recited Koran: A History of the First Recorded Version, translated by B. Weis, M. Rauf and M. Berger, Princeton, New Jersey: The Darwin Press, 1975.

Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi, An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'aan, United Kingdom: Al-Hidaayah, 1999.

Abd al-'Aal Saalim Makram (wa) Ahmad Mukhtaar `Umar (I'daad): Mu'jam al-qiraa'aat al-Quraaneeyah, ma'a maqaddimah fee qiraa'aat wa ashhar al-qurraa', vols. 1-8, al-Kuwayt: Dhaat as-Salaasil, 1st edition 1402-1405/1982-1985.

Intisar A. Rabb, "Non-Canonical Readings of the Qur'an: Recognitition and Authenticity (the Himsi Reading)", Journal of Qur'anic Studies, 2006, vol. 8, no. 2, pp. 84-127


RELATED READING

Adrian Brockett, `The Value of the Hafs and Warsh transmissions for the Textual History of the Qur'an', Approaches to the History of the Interpretation of the Qur'an, ed. Andrew Rippin; Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988, pp. 33-45.

Adrian Brockett, Studies in Two Transmissions of the Qur'an - PhD Thesis

Ahmad ibn Musa ibn Mujahid, Kitaab Al Sab a Fii Al Qiraa'at (The Book of the Seven Readings)

14 Qira'at Online

The Warsh Version of the Qur'an online.

Grammatical errors in the Hafs transmission of the Qur'an.

Qur'an Text

Christopher Melchert, "Ibn Mujahid and the Establishment of the Seven Qur'anic Readings", Studia Islamica, 2000, no. 91 , pp. 5-22.

____________________, "The Relation of the Ten Readings to One Another", Journal of Qur'anic Studies, 2008, no. 10, pp. 73-87.


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