Part 2: The True State Of The Qur'an

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The ‘1 Harf’ of Quraish Today - But Many Readings?

While we did introduce the ‘7 readings’ earlier, it is necessary to go further with that topic.

In order to do so it is imperative that we comprehend the importance of the absence of a ‘link’ between the ‘7 readings’ and the ‘7 Ahruf’. We noted earlier the assertion: 

"Al-Makki says in his book, "Anyone who imagines that the recitation of such men as Nafi and 'Asim are the same seven 'harf mentioned in the saying of the Prophet is committing a grave mistake." 
(The Qur’an in Islam Its Impact and Influence on the Life of Muslims, Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i, Published by: Zahra Publications P.O. Box 730, Blanco, Tx. 78606, U.S.A: Internet article

This absence of a ‘link’ between the ‘Ahruf’ and the ‘readings’ is understood clearly when one realises that although it is asserted that only ‘1 Harf’ (that of Quraish) is written and recited today, there are in use a multitude of varying ‘readings’ on that ‘1 Harf’, as the following attest. 

"Difference Between ahruf and Qira’at
It is important to realize the difference between ahruf and Qira’at. Before going into that it is interesting to know why the seven ahruf were brought down to one during ‘Uthman’s(R) time.
"The Qur’an continued to be read according to the seven ahruf until midway through Caliph ‘Uthman’s rule when some confusion arose in the outlying provinces concerning the Qur’an’s recitation. Some Arab tribes had began to boast about the superiority of their ahruf and a rivalry began to develop. At the same time, some new Muslims also began mixing the various forms of recitation out of ignorance. Caliph ‘Uthman decided to make official copies of the Qur’an according to the dialect of the Quraysh and send them along with the Qur’anic reciters to the major centres of Islam. This decision was approved by Sahaabah and all unofficial copies of the Qur’an were destroyed. Following the distribution of the official copies, all the other ahruf were dropped and the Qur’an began to be read in only one harf. Thus, the Qur’an which is available through out the world today is written and recited only according to the harf of Quraysh." [[3], pp. 28-29] 
Now a few words on Qira’at:
"A Qira'at is for the most part a method of pronunciation used in the recitations of the Qur'an. These methods are different from the seven forms or modes (ahruf) in which the Qur'an was revealed. The seven modes were reduced to one, that of the Quraysh, during the era of Caliph 'Uthman, and all of the methods of recitation are based on this mode. The various methods have all been traced back to the Pro

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phet(P) through a number of Sahaabah who were most noted for their Qur'anic recitations.That is, these Sahaabah recited the Qur'an to the Prophet(P) or in his presence and received his approval. Among them were the following: Ubayy Ibn K'ab, 'Alee Ibn Abi Taalib, Zayd Ibn Thaabit, 'Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud, Abu ad-Dardaa and Abu Musaa al-Ash'aree. Many of the other Sahaabah learned from these masters. For example, Ibn 'Abbas, the master commentator of the Qur'an among the Sahaabah, learned from both Ubayy and Zayd." [[3], pp. 28-29]"
(Versions Of The Qur’an?, S M Saifullah; emphasis added;; 
[the book cited as [3] is noted to be Tafseer Soorah Al-Hujuraat, Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, 1990, Tawheed Publications, Riyadh] )

First, it is noteworthy that Bilal Philips states that "Caliph ‘Uthman decided to make official copies of the Qur’an according to the dialect of the Quraysh and send them along with the Qur’anic reciters to the major centres of Islam.", and "the Qur’an which is available through out the world today is written and recited only according to the harf of Quraysh". A distinct link is made between the ‘1 Harf’ and ‘the dialect of Quraish’. 

There are others who have arrived at the same conclusion, perhaps making their assessment from interpreting the Bukhari Hadith on `Uthman’s action (See Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 6, p. 479) as indicating that the entire Arabic text was transcribed in the dialect of the Qur’aish. One such person writes: 

"The third Caliph Uthman (R) again appointed a commission to canonise the Holy Qur’an on the dialect of Quraish of Makkah and later distributed it to the various centers of the Muslim world." (The Sunni And Shi’ah Perspective..., Salamah, p. 7)

Another writes: 

"To remove any difference of dialect or variation in the mode of writing certain words that might possibly arise ‘Uthman gave the orders that the reading of the Quraish should be adopted in preference to any other reading." (Holy Qur’an, Introduction, M. Ali, p. xlv)

Yet the great as-Suyuti noted that there are some "50 dialects" in the Qur’an [see Al-Itqan, Cairo, 1360/1941, Vol. 1, p. 230; cited from Muslim World, Vol. 52, 1962]! 

How did 50 dialects come to be in the same ‘Protected’ Qur’an when its followers assert that it was reduced to only ‘1’!! 

Secondly, we note that Philips also acknowledges, as others, that the ‘7 forms (Ahruf)’ are NOT the ‘7 readings’: 

"A Qira’at is for the most part a method of pronunciation used in the recitations of the Qur’an. These methods are different from the seven forms 

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or modes (ahruf) in which the Qur’an was revealed."

Philips wants people to believe that the ‘7 readings’ are "for the most part a method of pronunciation used in the recitation of the Qur’an" - implying that it is ‘for the most part’ a modulation of the sounds. Since the only thing that matters is the fact that the ‘7 readings’ are NOT the ‘7 Ahruf’, and more importantly, that they cannot all ‘be’ this ‘1 Harf’, what is his purpose in trying to direct his readers in this way? What is ‘the other part’ of what these readings are?! 




In fact the ‘7 readings’, and the many more after the ‘7’, contain much more than mere ‘methods of pronunciation’ - so much so that the differences in the words existing between them was the basis for much that differed among the Madhabs. It is necessary for someone like Philips to ‘somehow’ bring credibility to a multitude of readings that are not ‘original Qur’an’, which should not exist, but which are attested by later generations and are all that Islam has! 

Further to this, it can been seen in the various opinions which are put forward concerning what can or cannot be ‘found’ in the ‘7 readings’, that not everyone thought of them as "for the most part" 7 methods of pronunciation based on ‘1 Harf’. 

For example, Philips’ assertion is quite different from that of Von Denffer who, we saw earlier, asserted that while ‘some’ thought that the Qur’an was now only ‘1 mode’, it is ‘possible’ that all ‘7 modes’ were ‘in there somewhere’! 

Also we recall that some thought that the ‘7 Ahruf’ were to be found ‘in the 7 readings’ which certainly indicates that they thought there was something more present than merely pronunciation differences based on ‘1 Harf’: 

"Al-Qurab says in his al-Shefi, "We should look for the seven recitations amongst the qurra' not from among others." This view is neither tradition nor sunnah but rather it originated from some of the later Scholars who collected the seven recitations." 
(The Qur’an in Islam Its Impact and Influence on the Life of Muslims, Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i, Published by: Zahra Publications P.O. Box 730, Blanco, Tx. 78606, U.S.A: emphasis added; Internet article )

The ‘7 recitations’ referred to are the ‘ORIGINAL 7 AHRUF’!! The people were ‘looking for’ them - ‘somewhere’! Again, there is much confusion in Islam over the importance and content of the ‘7 readings’ of the Qur’an. 

The truly indispensable point in all this is that the only agreement 

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between everyone is that there is no direct correlation known between the ‘7 readings’ and ANY of the ‘7 Ahruf’, let alone between the ‘7 readings and the ‘1 Harf’ which it is asserted ‘remains’. 

Once it has asserted that the Qur’an is reduced to ‘1 Harf’ - the ONLY ‘original revealed text and reading’ which should exist - and that the present readings ARE NOT THE SAME as this ‘1 Harf’, Islam must seek to establish some reason as to why a multitude of ‘readings’ can be ‘traced’ to Muhammad when they are not recorded as having been ‘what was revealed’ in the first place!! 

Philips recognises this, and so states: 

"The various methods have all been traced back to the Prophet(P) through a number of Sahaabah who were most noted for their Qur'anic recitations. That is, these Sahaabah recited the Qur'an to the Prophet(P) or in his presence and received his approval."

The truth is that the testimonies to these men in the Ahadith collections were made (if they are true) in the circumstances that prevailed before the action of ‘Uthman, and in the presence of Muhammad. Thus they were reciting what it is believed he ‘gave’ them - the ‘7 Ahruf’ which it is admitted these ‘7 readings’ ARE NOT!! 

The intent of Philips, then, is to establish that the ‘7 readings’ are ‘mutawatir to Muhammad’ through ‘men who were attested by Muhammad as reliable reciters’ and this is supposed to establish them as ‘correct’ - even when the readings are not attested as being in existence then! We recall, however, the words: 

"Al-Zarkshi says in his book al-Burhan, "It is true that these seven recitations from the seven reciters have come to us via unbroken chain of transmission but their chain of trans-mission (sic) from the Prophet are open to inspection, since the chains of transmission of the seven reciters are all of the type of single transmission, that is, related by one single man to another single man." 
(The Qur’an in Islam Its Impact and Influence on the Life of Muslims, Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i, Published by: Zahra Publications P.O. Box 730, Blanco, Tx. 78606, U.S.A: cited from )

And in these many ‘readings’ they are ‘looking for’ the remains of the ‘7 Ahruf’. Today, 1000 years after the work of ibn Mujahid, Islam remains unable to ‘produce its Proof’ for even ‘1 Harf’. 

All The ‘Recitations’ Must Simply Be Considered As ‘Variants’

What, then, ARE the ‘recitations’ composed of if they are NOT the ‘7 Ahruf’, that which it is asserted were ‘revealed’? Surely we are left with 

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only one possibility - they are composed of ‘variants’ which accrued over centuries into ‘systems’. This is most obvious in relation to the opinion that the ‘7 Ahruf’ were ‘7 dialects’. 

For example, M. Hamidullah ( as we will see below) asserts that the ‘7 Ahruf’ were simply an allowance of the use of various dialects to make it easier for the followers of Islam. Of course, this denies the validity of the evidence given by at-Tabari concerning the early differences in the Companion Codices which sparked the action of ‘Uthman for they were far greater than mere ‘dialectical differences’ as the Companion readings attributed to them indicate. 

But, if Hamidullah is correct, then it means that all the Companion Codices were simply full of what must be recognised as ‘unauthorised variants’ which ‘Uthman burned. In fact Hamidullah calls them such when he lists four types of variants in the Qur’an in the preface to his French translation of the Qur’an. 

We cite Campbell’s assessment and his quotations from Hamidullah’s preface (in Le Coran, M. Hamidullah, p. XXXIII, Le Club du Livre, 1959): 

"Muhammad Hamidullah has quite a detailed discussion of these variations in the preface to his French translation of the Qur’an. He divides them into four classes.
1/ Variations caused by a scribe who makes an error while copying. Naturally these are easy to find by comparing with other copies.
2/ Variations caused by someone writing notes of explanation in the margin. Hamidullah writes:
"The style of the Qur’an was such that sometimes even the companions of the Prophet had to ask him for explanations. Sometimes they noted these explanations in the margin of their personal copies in order not to forget them. It is completely understandable that sometimes the scribe mixed the text and the commentary while trying to faithfully make a new copy from an old one. We know of the famous order of Omar, who formally forbid the adding of commentary to copies of the Qur’an.
"There are hundreds of variant readings of his type. But the fact that ‘the Qur’an of such and such a teacher’ has a certain addition which the others don’t have, leaves no doubt as to the origin of that addition. Also the information concerning this type of variant given by the classical authors is sometimes contradictory - some saying that the Qur’an of so and so had a certain addition - others denying it."
3/ Variations caused by the permission originally given by Muhammad to recite the Qur’an in other dialects than that used by the people of Mecca.
"Muhammad tried to make religion easy for even the most humble. Therefore, he tolerated some dialectical variations even for the text of the Qur’an because the essential thing was not the word but the sense; not the recitation, but the application and the assimilation. He said willingly,

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‘Gabriel permitted me to have up to seven different readings.’ While guarding for himself and his fellow citizens a certain reading, he permitted the members of different tribes to replace certain words by their equivalents - better known in their tribes. (Later Othman stopped this also.) But from copies made in outer areas and kept by descendants, the teachers from previous centuries were able to gather a certain number of such words, which are exact equivalents of those used in the official version."
4/ Variations coming from the fact that for the first 150 to 200 years after the Hejra, the hand written copies of the Qur’an were written without vowel marks, and without dots to distinguish between different letters written in the same way." (The Qur’an and the Bible in the light of history and science, Campbell, p. 123f)

First, we note that Hamidullah tells us there "were hundreds" of the type mentioned in ‘2/’ which he asserts as ‘interpolations’ of the Companion notes into the Qur’anic text. HOWEVER, if one accepts this view, this means that all readings which required a text (letters/graphic form) varying from ‘Uthman’s, and not simply for dialectical reasons (as per Hamidullah’s point ‘3/’), must be viewed as ‘variants’ of the ‘scribal interpolation’ type, for it would be asserted that no other reason for the letters varying should exist. 

Further, we must agree with Campbell that there were thousands, not simply ‘hundreds’ of these. On the topic of the numbers of such ‘interpolation variants’ Von Denffer notes under the heading "The Masahif of the Companions" (Ulum, p. 46) the following concerning ibn Mas’ud, Ubay and ibn Abbas: 

"The Mushaf of Ibn Mas’ud (d. 22/653) ...
In Sura al-baqara, which I take as an example there are a total of 101 variants. Most of them concern spelling, some also choice of words (synonyms), use of particles, etc." (Ulum, p. 47)
"The Mushaf of ‘Ubay b. Ka’b (d. 29 H/ 649) ...
‘Ubay has a total of 93 variants in Sura al-baqara. Very often his readings are similar to ibn Mas’ud." (Ulum, p. 48f)


"The Mushaf of Ibn Abbas (d. 68H/687) ...
In Sura al-baqara, he had a total of 21 variants, some of them identical with Ibn Mas’ud and ‘Ubay as well as other Companions." (Ulum, p. 49f)

As Von Denffer relied upon A. Jeffery’s Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur’an, and the Kitab al-Masahif of ibn Abi Da’ud which Jeffery included in that volume, we need to note that in that volume Jeffery documented some 1700 variants for ibn Mas’ud alone (The Qur’an and the Bible..., Campbell, p. 126). 

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We must also point out that certain of the ‘4 after the 10’ readings (we will go into this soon), indeed contain this very type of ‘variant’! AND, of this type, we note that Yusuf Ali freely admits to the variant of Ubay wherein the words "and he is a father to them" is added to Q33:6 (Footnote #3674). 

Secondly, with regard to Hamidullah’s assertion ‘3/’ (being allowing the use of certain dialectical differences in synonyms), if, as Hamidullah states, "Later Othman stopped this also.", then the ‘1 Harf’, that of Quraish, should indeed be in use - and that ALONE. This means that the great mass of ‘50 dialects’ which as-Suyuti asserts are ‘found in the Qur’an’ must also be simply ‘variants’!

FINALLY, from Hamidullah’s last type of ‘variant’ under ‘4/’ (being unauthorised readings which arose from the early text being without vowel marks and the dots identifying the letters), ALL places where differences of this type exist between the various ‘readings’ can be asserted to be no more than ‘variants’ of that type - even if they are all of the dialect of Quraish! 

In other words, in such a perspective as Hamidullah’s, what is ‘recited’ today as ‘Qur’an’, admittedly not being the ‘7 Ahruf’, can be asserted as nothing more than ‘VARIANTS’ of various types. THAT is all Islam can assert that it possesses and recites!

Further, even if one belongs to the group which believes that the ‘7 Ahruf’ were in fact the content of the Companion Codices, the very fact that the ‘7 readings’ are NOT the ‘7 Ahruf’ still means that one can be ensured of using nothing more than ‘VARIANTS’ as ‘readings’ of the Qur’an! NOTHING more specific is ‘known’ for certain! 

Of course, this means that there is a tremendous discrepancy between what the followers of Islam assert as ‘the exact words and not one letter or syllable has changed’ and the truth of the matter - ONLY VARIANTS. Thus someone like Hamidullah knowingly asserts that it was NOT Muhammad’s purpose to have a ‘perfect preserved text’(!) but instead, he thinks (his ‘opinion’), it was ‘only the meaning that counted’!!!! 

It seems that the perspective on this has changed considerably from the early days, for Tabari recorded: 

"He found the Qur’ans many and left one; he tore up the Book" (Tabari, I, 2952, 10; II, 516, 5; cited from The Qur’an and the Bible..., Campbell, p. 118) 

Today that person (I think it was a Companion) would be even more aghast, for even the "one Qur’an" which he thought was "left" is lost 

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forever in a great swirl of ‘variants’. At no time in its history has Islam moved any closer to a knowledge of the ‘7 Ahruf’. Neither will it ever for it must be satisfied with ‘VARIANTS’ ONLY since it has no ‘Proof’ by which it can establish anything greater. 

What a ridiculous position for those in modern Islam to find themselves in while they argue for the Qur’an’s ‘Purity’ and ‘Divine Protection’, and the ‘Preservation’ of ‘every letter and syllable’. 

Where Is ‘The One Reading’ For This Last ‘Form’?

  It must be acknowledged that because it is asserted that the Qur’an was reduced to ‘1 Form’ by Caliph ‘Uthman, and that each ‘Form’ consisted of a specific text (graphic form) and vocalisation ‘reading’, we should find that Islam only possesses one ‘vocalisation’ of the ‘Uthmanic texts. This is stated by Maududi 1when he said: 

"Hadrat ‘Uthman not only sent an authenticated copy of the Qur’an to the different centres of Islam, but also sent a Qari2 along with it in order to preserve that correct reading which was taught by the Holy Prophet himself.... From the above historical facts, it must become clear that the reading of the Qur’an (with a few minor variations) is the same as practised and taught by the Holy Prophet. All the scholars and Qurra of the Qur’an have been unanimous in asserting that only that reading will be authentic which (a) conforms to the script of the copy circulated by Hadrat Uthman and (b) complies with the lexicon of Arabic, its usages, idioms and grammar, and above all, (c) is traceable by genuine and continuous links to the Holy Prophet himself." (The Meaning of Qur’an, Maududi, as in Introduction, p.xxxvi, The Holy Qur’an, Islamic Foundation U.K., 1975; emphasis added)3

  By claiming that the ‘correct reading’ (singular) of Muhammad was sent out to all the centres where the ‘Uthmanic ‘copy’ had gone, the existence of ONE READING (and one text) is being asserted - and its preservation is being alluded to. 

  Indeed, except for the places of the corruptions of the ‘Uthmanic ‘copies’ of this last remaining ‘Form’, this one reading should ‘fit’ the ‘Uthmanic graphic forms perfectly! And this Maududi states as: 

"Moreover, if one gets a copy of the Qur’an from a bookseller, say, of Algeria in Africa in the West and compares it with a copy obtained from a bookseller, say, of Java in the East, one will find both copies to be identical with each other and also with the copies of the Qur’an made during the time of Hadrat ‘Uthman. If even then anyone has any doubt left in his mind, he is advised to take any copy of the Qur’an from anywhere in the world and ask anyone, out the millions who know the Qur’an by heart, to recite it word for word from 

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the beginning to the end. He will find that the recitation conforms word for word to the written text. This is a clear and irrefutable proof of the fact that the Qur’an which is in use today is the same Qur’an which was presented to the world by Muhammad (Allah’s peace be upon him)." (Maududi, ibid., p.xxxv)

 And, this ‘one reading’ is what Allamah Rizvi has to be claiming when he asserts that: 

"Letters and Wovels (sic) counted: How much care has been devoted by Muslims to safeguard the Qur’an from any possible alteration may be seen from the fact that they counted not only the Ayats and Ruku, but every single letter of the alphabet; and every single sign of wovel (sic) has been meticulously counted and recorded. For example, we know that there are 48872  [alif] and 11428  [ba] and so on. Also we know that the Qur’an has 53243 Fatha ( ) and 1258 Tashdid ( ) [i.e. shadda]." (Qur’an and Hadith, Seyyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi, p. 37f; emphasis added).4

 Yet, this is not what we have found! Instead Islam somehow possesses a large number of complete ‘reading systems’ and these it has overlaid upon ‘Uthman’s texts5, the ‘1 Harf’ in its corrupted forms. Today it accepts all this although they contain differing words giving differing meanings! Where did they come from?! And, what of the "few minor variations" which Maududi said existed? 

 If the Islamic scholars admit that they have ‘35 sayings’ about what the ‘7 Forms’ were, and that the few examples Islam has are only good for Tafsir, not text, surely this declares that it has no ‘Proof’, and cannot with any "certain knowledge" declare that it knows the content of any ‘reading’ of the ‘7 Forms’! This means that neither can it have ‘Proof’ for the content of the one reading of the ‘1 Form’ of ‘Uthman which it should be able to overlay ‘par excellence’ upon the existing texts. 

 And this is only made more confusing by the fact that although Von Denffer admits that one of the "35 sayings" about the ‘7 Forms’ was synonyms, ibn al-Jazari declares such to be a deception when he proclaimed: 

"Whoever alleges that any of the Companions thought it legitimate to transmit the Qur’an according to the sense alone is a liar!" (Itqan, as-Suyuti, pt. 1, p77)

 Yet, most of the "35 sayings" seem to be exactly of this type [see Chapter IV, section Does Islam ‘Know’ Exactly What The ‘7 Forms’ Contained?, for more information]. In complete contrast to this many in modern Islam like to argue, as we will see Maududi does, that the different readings only make the meaning more clear’! 

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Because of the attestations to the early acceptance of the content of the Companion texts, by now stating that "all the scholars... have been unanimous in asserting that only that reading will be authentic which a) conforms to the script of the copy circulated by Hadrat Uthman", Islam, as we have seen, admits to leaving behind all that is pre-‘Uthmanic, both the previously accepted graphic forms and the readings - supposedly six of them. 

However, by needing to provide ‘boundaries’ to define which of the post-‘Uthmanic ‘readings’ was ‘allowable’ is even more telling. For, as we noted earlier from ibn al-Jazari, the ‘allowable’ readings are stated in terms of what is "in accordance with Arabic (grammar), even if (only) in some way, and in accordance with the masahif of ‘Uthman, even if only probable", and the people were ‘obliged’ to accept them as if they WERE the ‘7 Ahruf’! We repeat that citation here: 

"Every reading in accordance with Arabic (grammar), even if (only) in some way, and in accordance with one of the masahif of Uthman, even if only probable , and with sound chain of transmission, is a correct (sahih) reading which must not be rejected, and may not be denied, but it belongs to the seven modes (ahruf) according to which the Qur’an was revealed, and the people are obliged to accept it..." (Suyuti, Itqan, I, p.75, citing ibn al-Jazari).

Islam thus acknowledges that it does not truly possess a divinely ‘perfect’ transmission of what are supposed to be "the exact Words of Allah" - graphic form and reading - exactly what it rejects others for. 

‘The Qur’an’ Or ‘Qur’an’

  It is because of such a confused ‘heritage’ that the Islamic hierarchy has found it necessary to redefine just what Islam claims to possess. It has found it necessary to accept so much varied material that it could not use the terms ‘the Qur’an’ any longer but instead required the much broader term ‘Qur’an’. Only in such a way could the people be sold such a mass of confusion as a ‘Perfect and Protected Book’. 

The Readings Today - Their Origins And Consequences

  Islam now upholds ‘7 non-original Readings’, these being what it asserts are the "best transmitted and most reliable" readings. There are also those known as the ‘Ten’ and the ‘Fourteen’. These are listed below according to their city, and hence presumably, according to the ‘Uthmanic manuscript they used - none fully agrees with the text. 

  As was mentioned earlier, the ‘7’ are: from Medinah (Nafi, d. 169 A.H.); from Meccah (ibn Kathir, d.120 A.H.); from Damascus (ibn 

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‘Amir, d. 118 A.H.); from Basrah (Abu ‘Amr, d. 148 A.H.); from Kufah (‘Asim, d.127 A.H. ; Hamza, d. 156 A.H. ; al-Kisai, d. 189 A.H.). 

  Three other ‘readers’ are accepted as filling this out to ‘the Ten’: from Medinah (Abu Ja’far, d. 130 A.H.); from Basrah (Ya’qub al-Hadrami, d.205 A.H.); from Kufah (Khalaf, d. 229 A.H.). 

  Others accept four more as constituting ‘the Fourteen’: from Basrah (Hasan al-Basri, d. 110 A.H.; Yahya al-Yazidi, d.202 A.H.), from Meccah (ibn Muhaisin, d. 123 A.H.); from Kufah (al-’Amash, d. 148 A.H.). 

  (All these are listed by Von Denffer, see Ulum, p.119f.) 

a/The True Origins Of The Readings

  It is very important to understand that although the names of specific individuals are attached to the ‘7 reading systems’ as presently known, Islam is divided as to exactly how these readings arose. 

   Ibn Khaldun maintains:

"Eventually, seven specific ways of reading the Qur’an became established....They came to be ascribed to certain men from among a large number of persons who had become famous as their transmitters." (The Muqaddima, p. 440; emphasis added)

  Yet, for those who believe that such ‘transmissions’ have their origin with Muhammad, the word "eventually" is difficult to accept since it means that they ‘solidified later’ and not in Muhammad’s time. Of course the difference is quite evident and is more clearly stated by another Islamic scholar as: 

"Each of the [ten] Readings in question is associated with the name of a famous Koran-reader by whom the reading in question was transmitted at that point in Islamic history when the Readings began to emerge as distinct systems."(The Recited Qur’an, al-Said, Princeton; emphasis added)6

  Thus there is a distinct understanding that nothing had come ‘from the beginning’ in the form of complete reading systems, but that many ‘readings’ existed which later coalesced into systems

  Not surprisingly we also find that certain persons among the ‘7’ who are said to have transmitted the reading of a specific individual before them, did not always do so: 

"That Hafs and Wars did not always adopt the readings of ‘Asim and Nafi suggests again that the transmissions although called for convenience by the names "Hafs ‘an ‘Asim" and "Wars ‘an Nafi", are really 

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transmissions of the Muslims in general. ...There is no question that Hafs or Wars themselves selected the readings which they alone read." (Studies in two transmissions of the Qur’an, Ph.D., Brockett, p.122)

  Ibn Khaldun also wrote:

"The seven Qur’an readings became the basis for reading the Qur’an. Later on, other readings were occasionally added to the seven."(The Muqaddima, p.440; emphasis added). 

  Von Denffer expresses it more clearly saying:

"Later on other views emerged, making ten or fourteen well-known readings." (Ulum, p. 119)

  The declaration that others "later emerged" can only mean that they "came into being later", not that they were only later accepted. There couldn’t possibly have existed ‘10’ or ‘14’ readings that came ‘from the beginning’ if there were only 7 (i.e the ‘7 Forms’) to start with! And, of the present ‘7’, Von Denffer is specific to mention that they are not ‘the original 7’: 

"The ‘seven ahruf’ are however, not identical with the well-known ‘seven readings’. These came about in a later age. Although much of what the ‘seven readings’ contain is also found in the seven ahruf, there are some differences..." (Ulum, p. 117)

  On the other hand, Al-Nadim seems to hold the view that some of the present ‘7’ came from the beginning, and some came about later

"’Asim learned from Abu ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Sulami; al-Sulami learned from Ali, for whom be peace; and Ali learned from the Prophet, for whom be peace." (Fihrist, p.73; emphasis added).

  However, of al-Kisai, another of the ‘7’, he declared: 

"Al-Kisai was one of the [Qur’anic] readers of the City of Peace [Baghdad]. At first he recited to the people with the reading of Hamza, but later he chose his own reading with which he read to the people during the caliphate of Harun." (Fihrist, p. 67; emphasis added). 

Thus, he specifically states of al-Kisai (d. 189 A.H.), one of the ‘7’, that he had first used someone else’s reading and only later "chose his own reading" NOT ‘something from the beginning’. And though al-Kisai was not a Companion, or even a Tabi’i, and his reading "came about in later age", we are told that ibn Mujahid forced the people of Basra who had been using another reading, to drop it an accept al-Kisai’s instead. On this we read: 

"At the beginning of the second century A.H. the people of Basra used the recitation of Abu 'Amr and Ya'qub and in Kufa the recitations of Hamzah and 'Asim. In Sham they used that of Ibn 'Amir and in Mecca that of Ibn Kathir. In Medina that of Nafi' was used. This situation remained unchanged until the beginning of the third century A.H. when Ibn Mujahid removed the name of Ya'qub and put the name of al-Kisa'i in his place. 
The reason why scholars paid so much attention to the seven reciters, de-

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spite there being many others of equal or better standing, was that the number of recitations had multiplied so cluickly (sic) that they lost interest in learning and recording all the traditions about recitation. Thus they decided to choose several of the recitations which complied with the orthography of the Qur'an and which were easier to learn and record.s
Thus for the five copies of the Qur'an which 'Uthman had sent to the towns of Mecca, Medina, Kufa, Basra and Sham, five reciters were chosen from the five areas and their recitations were then used. Ibn Jubayr writes about these five recitations from the five forms. Ibn Mujahid records a tradition which asserts that 'Uthman sent two other copies to Yemen and Bahrain, that the number of 'Uthman copies thus numbered seven and that they chose seven narrators. 
Since precise information about this tradition (which states that copies were sent to Yemen and Bahrain) was not available, they added two of the reciters of Kufa, to make up the number they had previously chosen, to seven. This number, which corresponds with the above-mentioned saying and affirmed that the Qur'an was revealed in seven recitations, was then used by others who had no knowledge of the matter. They mistakenly supposed that what was meant by the seven harf which the Prophet spoke of, was the seven recitations. The only trustworthy recitations are those whose text is sound and whose meaning corresponds to what is written in the Qur'an. 
(The Qur’an in Islam Its Impact and Influence on the Life of Muslims, Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba’i, Published by: Zahra Publications P.O. Box 730, Blanco, Tx. 78606, U.S.A: cited from )

Ibn Mujahid decided upon ‘7’ as the number of readings simply because he had a (poorly attested) Hadith that 7 texts had been sent out by ‘Uthman!! One can certainly understand why the people feel no need to adhere to one ‘reading’ above another, or to only ‘7’ , ‘10’, or even ‘14’!! Nothing is ‘the original 7 Ahruf’ so what does it matter?! 

Von Denffer, despite all his (and other) admissions, likes to make things appear ‘clear cut’: 

"The readings are divided as follows:
-The mutawatir7 (transmitted by many; they include the seven well-known readings).
-The ahad (transmitted by one; they number three, going back to the sahaba and together with the seven make up the ten).
-The shadh (exceptional; they go back to the tabi’un only)." (p.120; emphasis added)

This gives the impression that the ‘7 readings’ are well attested as ‘from the beginning’ when in fact they cannot be. It also shows that Yaq’ub’s reading was well loved by the people of Basra though it admittedly was not traceable to Muhammad! That (i.e. ‘traceability’ to Muhammad) didn’t really matter to the people! 

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Also not surprisingly we find that al-Nadim records the existence of many different ‘readings’, revealing the actual origins of some of the ‘7 Readings’: 

"The Names of the readers with Odd systems and the Relationships of the Readers
The People of al-Madinah 
‘Abd Allah ‘Ayyash ibn Abi Rabi’ah al-Makhsumi belonged to the first generation of the followers [of the prophet’s time] at al-Madinah and had his own reading. Abu Sa’id Aban ‘Uthman ibn ‘Affan also belonged to the first generation of followers, with his reading. Muslim ibn Habib al-Nahdi was one of the followers, who also had his reading.
Shaybah ibn Nidah ibn Surjus ibn Ya’qub belonged to the second generation [of Islam] at al-Madinah. He was a protege of Umm Salamah, but the only person we know of who quoted Nidah was his son, because he was ahead of his time in his reading, using his own reading.
There was also Abu Ja’far al-Madani, whose name was Yazid ibn Qa’qa, a protege of ‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Ayyash ibn Abi Rabi’ah ‘Ataqah, who quoted from Abu Hurayrah, Ibn ‘Umar [‘Abd Allah] and other authorities, but had his own reading. He died during the Caliphate of Harun [al-Rashid]."
The People of Makkah
Ibn Abi ‘Umarah was quoted by Abu ‘Amr ibn al-Ala and had his own reading; Muhays, who had his own reading; Dirbas, also with his reading; Humayd ibn Qays al-A’raj, who had his reading.

The People of al-Basrah
‘Abd Allah ibn Abi Ishaq al-Hadrami had his reading; ‘Asim al-Jahdari with his reading; Isa ibn ‘Umar al-Thaqafi also had his reading; Ya’qub al-Hadrami also had his reading; Abu al-Mundhir Sallam had his reading.

The People of al-Kufa
Talhah ibn Musarrif al-Ayyami of Hamadhan was surnamed Abu ‘Abd Allah and was one of the inhabitants of al-Kufah. When he saw the people coming over to him in large numbers, he walked over to al-A’mash to study with him. Then the people [students] transferred to al-A’mash leaving Talhah, who died in the year one hundred and twelve [A. D. 730/31]. He had his reading.
Yahya ibn Waththab of al-Kufah from the [tribe of] Banu Asad ibn Khuzaymah was a protege of the Banu Kahil Tribe. He died at al-Kufah during the year one hundred and three [A.D. 721/22]. He had his own reading.
‘Isa ibn ‘Umar al-Hamadhani, not the grammarian, had his reading. Al-A’mash also had his reading. Later on we shall give detailed information about them. Ibn Abi Layla had his reading, but mention of him is also postponed until later.

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The People of al-Sham
Abu al-Barhusam, whose name was ‘Imran ibn ‘Uthman al-Zubaydi, had his reading. Yazid al-Barbari had his reading. Khalid ibn Ma’dan also had his reading.

The People of Yaman
Muhammad ibn al-Sumayli originated in al-Yaman but lived at al-Basrah during the later years of his life. He had his own reading.

The People of Baghdad
Muhammad ibn Hisham ibn Tha’lab al-Bazzar was one of the people of Fam al-Silh, but he went ot the City of Peace [Baghdad], becoming one of its citizens. He attended the lectures of Sharik, Abu ‘Awanah, and Hammad ibn Zayd, also studying with Sulaym, the friend of Hamza [ibn Habib], but he differed with Hamza about certain points. He died during the year two hundred and twenty-nine [A.D. 843]. Among his books there was The Readings." (Fihrist, p.68, 69; emphasis added)

 We find here 22 accepted ‘readings’!! Furthermore, in al-Nadim’s list of those who "had his own reading" we find one of the ‘Ten’ (Ya’qub al-Hadrami) and one of the ‘Fourteen’ (al-A’mash). 

  The declaration of al-Nadim is very obvious. Right from the early times, those who were ‘ahead of their time’ had their "own reading" which was just as legitimate as anything which was later known as mutawatir, and the only reason they did not become one of the ‘7 Readings’ is that they did not become ‘mutawatir’ enough to gain later acceptance!!

  Thus the entire belief that the ‘7 Readings’ are ‘reading systems’ which were transmitted from before ‘Uthman’s corruptions, is a fable! 

  Brockett notes also that the well-known abu Da’ud (d. 275) had managed to make a collection of 32 readings in only an incomplete form compared to that recorded by his son ibn Abi Da’ud (d. 316) who Von Denffer cites. 

  It is obvious that the defining of the ‘reading systems’ was taking place over time and that they were not something coming ‘from the beginning’. And this would fit in with the 2nd century A.H. ‘standardising: 

"The ‘seven readings’ were standardised in the second/eighth century. Ibn Mujahid, a ninth-century Muslim scholar, wrote a book entitled The Seven Readings, in which he selected seven of the prevailing modes of recitation as the best transmitted and most reliable. Others were subsequently disfavoured and even opposed, among them the readings of ibn Mas’ud and ‘Ubay bin Ka’b."(Ulum, Von Denffer, p.119)

  Obviously, this late ‘standardising’ of the present ‘7’, does not mean

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they were some of the ‘7 Forms’ simply ‘revamped’ to fit the ‘Uthmanic texts, for, again, Islam admits it doesn’t know what the ‘7 Forms’ (‘up to 35 sayings’) were, and that it doesn’t have sufficient examples to make a ‘reading system’ out of them. 

  So what must have happened was that ‘non-original’ reading systems were ‘standardised’ in the 2nd century A.H., and by the time of ibn Mujahid (died 324 AH) they had become well defined ‘reading systems’. And, it was he who actually chose these ‘Seven Readings’ out of all the others, as being those which had been "best transmitted and most reliable". He restricted the followers of Islam to these ‘7’ alone as ‘official Qur’an’ for purposes of prayer, in 322 A.H. - despite they were not representing any of the ‘7 Forms’! 

  These now formed ‘official versions’, and ibn Mujahid aided by those in authority, forced the followers of Islam to reject the earliest readings, those of ibn Mas’ud, etc., whereas previously they had accepted them openly. The methods of forcing are recorded as beatings, and worse, given to those who did not comply!! 

  Also attesting to this action of ibn Mujahid, and to the multiplicity of ‘readings’, 
al-Nadim (d.380 H) recorded a book by al-Farisi called "Argument That the Seven Readers Were the Imams of the Cities, as Designated by Abu Bakr Ahmad ibn Musa ibn al-Abbas ibn Mujahid, with Whom May Allah Be Well Pleased" (Fihrist, p. 139). 

  But, perhaps most important is the fact that he also recorded that Ibn Mujahid (d. 324 H) himself wrote one book on each of the ‘Seven Readings’, as well as one called "the reading of the Prophet" (see Fihrist, p. 70)! One can only guess what that contained! 

  How could a reading from Muhammad be preserved in writing back then, yet today Islam admits it doesn’t possess enough evidence to compile such a thing? Should we consider this ‘Proof’ that Islam has been altering itself? 

b/ "The Seven [Readers] and Their Defects" - Disagreement Over the Readings 

  Al-Nadim even records that there were books written about the disagreements between others who also claimed to propagate ‘Asim’s ‘Reading’ and Hafs, who is now accepted as the one whose transmission from ‘Asim is "the best transmitted and most reliable"!! He wrote; 

"Abu Tahir [d. 349H]. His name was ‘Abd al-Wahid ibn ‘Umar ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Hasham al-Bazzaz. He was an inhabitant of Baghdad, and studied under Abu Bakr ibn Mujahid...he excelled in connection with elocution and reading, knowing something useful also about grammar...Among

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 his books were:...The Disagreement between Abu ‘Amr and al-Kisai;...The Disagreement between the Adherents of ‘Asim and Hafs ibn Sulayman." (Fihrist, p. 73, emphasis added).

  It is clear, then, that although it is Hafs’ ‘version’ of ‘Asim’s ‘reading system’ that became accepted as the one which most accurately represented ‘Asim, obviously not everyone was transmitting ‘Asim’s ‘reading’ in the same manner as Hafs. Von Denffer also admitted this by providing two different ‘versions’ of ‘Asim’s reading, the one from Hafs, and the other from Abu Bakra as noted below. Brockett covered this when he stated that Hafs didn’t always choose ‘Asim’s reading.

  However, there was even disagreement between members of the ‘Seven’, as for example abu ‘Amr and al-Kisai, as just noted from the Fihrist, "The Disagreement Between Abu ‘Amr and al-Kisai". How can Islam claim a perfect transmission of the Qur’anic readings when the seven "best" transmitters were arguing among themselves? 

  Again, al-Kisai’s reading not only originated with himself, as we have seen, but also was not without opposition for we read: 

"Naming of those who quoted al-Kisai ...The persons who learned from him but disagreed with him about certain letters were: Abu ‘Ubayd al-Qasim ibn Sallam; Nusayr ibn Yusuf; Ahmad ibn Jubayr, the mosque reader of Damascus; Abu Tawbah Maymun ibn Hafs; ‘Ali ibn al-Mubarak al-Lihyani; Hisham al-Darir, the grammarian; and Abu Dhuhl Ahmad ibn Abi Dhuhl. Salih ibn ‘Asim al-Naqit gained a certain amount of knowledge from him, but did not use his reading. Yahya ibn Adam drew upon his reading to a certain extent, but only in a limited way." (Fihrist, p.67). 

  Clearly there was rejection of portions of the ‘Reading Systems’ which became accepted as ‘THE Seven’, even by reputable people. They did not accept these parts as mutawatir! There is thus no reason to be confident of the vocalisation of the Arabic text, nor, consequently of the resulting words, and so the translations which must of necessity result when a text is so altered! Obviously, one cannot be certain of any ‘original’ reading. 

  In a text which claims to be "the Words of God " (and "not one syllable has changed") this is unacceptable. 

  Perhaps even more revealing is other information which al-Nadim included concerning the writings of ibn Miqsam (d. 332 H) and al-Naqqash (d. 351 H), who lived in the same time and city as ibn Mujahid. 

  Although ibn Miqsam is recorded as having received ‘severe discipline’ for continuing to recite the older readings which ibn Mujahid (with others) was forcing Islam to abandon, his action should not disgrace his testimony since Ibn Mujahid obviously redefined what was ‘heretical! Thus, ibn 

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Miqsam’s continuance does not discredit the following work by him which obviously post-dated the implementation of the ‘Seven Readings’. 

  Al-Nadim wrote: 

"He was Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn al-Hasan ibn Miqsam ibn Ya’qub, one of the readers in the City of Peace [Baghdad], close to our time....Among his books were...[Qur’anic] Manuscripts;...;The Seven [Readers] with their defects...". (Fihrist, p. 74, emphasis added)

  And, he wasn’t alone for al-Nadim also wrote: 

"Al-Naqqash Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn al-Hasan al-Ansari. He was a [Qur’anic] reader in the City of Peace [Baghdad], to which he moved and in which he did his reading. Among his books were: ...the Seven [Readers] and Their Defects..." (Fihrist, p.74)!

  We see that not only had there been opposition between the ‘Seven Readers’, and between the groups which claimed to be passing on the same transmission of ‘Asim, one of the ‘Seven’, but, that noteworthy men knew there were defects in all of the ‘Seven’. This is not ‘perfection’.

 Are the defects still evident? 

c/ Rationalising The Acceptance of Differences In The Readings

1/ Different Transmitters Of The Same Reading Disagreed

 Von Denffer also notes this resulting problem. He too admits that there were disagreements between the transmitters of the same reading which result in differences of meaning. He lists ‘variants’ of these readings under the title ‘Examples’: 

"Mawdudi has very convincingly explained the proper understanding of some accepted differences in reading. He wrote that in al-fatihah (1:3):
  } both describe one of the attributes of Allah, and there 
                        } is absolutely no contradiction between ‘sovereign’ and 
}‘master’ of the day of judgement, but ‘these two readings 
                        } make the meaning of the verse all the more clear’.
Similarly 5:8  and  carry two meanings:
 -wash } 
 -wipe }  your feet." (Ulum, p. 118)

 However, what is most telling is that in footnotes #53, and #54 are given the lists of those readers who transmitted these different versions of the same ‘reading’. Von Denffer lists both for ‘Asim’s reading: 

"53 Reading of Nafi, Hafs an ‘Asim, Kisai.
54 Reading of Ibn Kathir, Abu Amr, Abu Bakra an ‘Asim, Hamza."
 (Ulum, p.118, emphasis added)

 It was because of these very types of discrepancies in the transmissions, that Islam’s scholars were forced to accept not just one rendition (version/riwaya) for each of the ‘Seven Readers’, but two. Thus, for 

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instance, the ‘reading’ of ‘Asim was accepted as transmitted from both Hafs (d. 190 H) and Shuba (Abu Bakra) (d. 194 H), and the ‘reading’ of Nafi was recorded as transmitted from both Warsh (d. 197 H) and Kalun (d. 220 H). Obviously, these two ‘versions’ of each ‘reading system’ were not exactly alike either, or they wouldn’t have been recorded. In fact, we have just seen the consequences of Islam having accepted 2 versions as representing what ‘Asim is declared to have transmitted from Muhammad. 

 But, we are also told that ‘Asim learned 2 ‘versions’, one from Zirr ibn Hubays, and another from al-Sulami! Some evidence might seem to uphold this. It is that ‘Asim is claimed to have been the "pupil of Kufan Successors al-Sulami, and Zirr ibn Hubays" as Brockett noted. 

 However, we also read that, "’Asim is said to have said to Hafs, "the reading I teach you was taught me from al-Sulami from ‘Ali, Dirr (sic) ibn Hubays from ibn Masud." (Irsad, Yaqut, Vol. 4, p118.8f)8

 This, indicates that ‘Asim was taught THE SAME READING by both al-Sulami and Zirr . Two versions should not exist! Despite this, we see how different the two versions ‘Asim is said to have transmitted from Muhammad are. 

  Not only so, but when we consider that the sources for these two versions are said to be Ali and ibn Mas’ud, the latter possessing a consonantal text very different from ‘Uthman’s, then we must acknowledge that his ‘reading’ would have had to undergo considerable alterations in order to match the ‘Uthmanic graphic form! 

  It becomes obvious also that troubles did exist within Islam over there being two ‘versions’ from ‘Asim for ibn Hazm (d. 456 A.H.) declared: 

"Only the reading of ‘Asim from Zirr is authentic..." (Al-Itqan, Suyuti, p. 187)9

  This is obviously why later Islamic scholars take to rationalising the existence of the differing meanings when there should only be one! Some acknowledge the change in belief it makes: 

"English translations have generally adopted King as the translation of the word MAlik, which is not correct. Malik and malik are two different words from the same root, the former signifying master and the latter king. According to the rule of forming derivations in Arabic, an additional letter (as the alif in MAlik) gives the meaning a greater intensity (AH), and hence a master is more than a king. The adoption of the word mAlik or master is to show that Allah is not guilty of injustice if He forgives his servants, because He is not a mere king or a mere judge, but more properly a Master." (Holy Qur’an, M. Ali, p. 4, ft. #7.)

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2/The Need To Go Beyond ‘Uthman’s Graphic Forms

  We note also that it is not a matter of varying readings ‘existing’ from among which Islam choose ‘the one’. Rather the two words are both in print [see circled below]. They two are the readings of Warsh and Hafs. 

 Which of these is supposed to be the ‘true’ reading which ‘originally’ belonged with ‘Uthman’s ‘1 Form’ and upholds the ‘revelation’? Or, if there was ‘one text’ (not 7) to begin with, which of these readings did it have?10

 The need to know this is because one of them upholds the teaching that forgiveness can be given on the Day of Judgement - but the other does not! While we have seen Maududi claiming that these readings provide ‘differing aspects of a truth’, what rationale is this when one upholds an ‘easy’ Day of Judgement, and according to Islamic theology one of them wasn’t ‘revealed’?! The only ‘rationale’ we have seen is ‘it has been transmitted to us’, something which obviously requires ‘blind following’. 

 Not only so, but they are not both simply ‘vocalisations’ based on adding fatha, kasra or damma. The Hafs reading ) has been achieved by adding an alif which is not in the ‘original’ graphic form of ‘Uthman for Kufah [this we will understand more clearly in Chapter XIII]. Yet, it is an alif which, as we just saw, the Turks, among others, have added to their ‘version’ of that graphic form! 

 3/ The Need To Believe There Is "More Than One Revelation"?

 However, we do find Von Denffer is again hiding things when he cites 

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a paragraph from the orientalist John Burton’s book The Collection of the Qur’an as being ‘Proof’ that all the readings represent ‘one text’: 

"However, even non-Muslim orientalists concede that ‘no major differences of doctrines can be constructed on the basis of the parallel readings based on the ‘Uthmanic consonantal outline, yet attributed to mushafs other than his. All the rival readings unquestionably represent ‘one text’. They are substantially agreed in what they transmit.’" (Ulum, p. 171)

 Yet, what does Burton mean by ‘non-major’? First, he had noted in the same book that Jalalaldin as-Suyuti wrote: 

 "The differences in the readings indicate the difference in the legal rulings."
 This means that there is sufficient difference in ‘substance’ to obtain different rulings from what Burton stated were "substantially agreed in what they transmit".

 But, Burton goes even further and gives an example which shows that sometimes the accepted readings of the Qur’an give completely opposite ‘doctrines’: 

 "Two opposing doctrines - the invalidation of the ritual purity (wudu) and the contrary doctrine - could both be referred to the Qur’an, according as the contending fuqahA read Lamastum/ LAmastu; or the permissibility of sexual intercourse with the menstruating woman at the expiry of her period but before she has cleaned herself, and the contrary doctrine, according as they read either yathurna or yattahirna." (p. 36)

  This, is what Burton meant by "substantially agreed in what they transmit", and "no major differences of doctrines". Perhaps he is a follower of Islam! 

  Although Islam enjoys accusing Christians of ‘always changing the Bible’ when they see the use of ‘literary license’ by a translator when he chooses a slightly differing English wording to more clearly express the meaning of a text, such ‘license’ is not what we see here. 

  Rather this ‘no’/’yes’ problem is because the ‘Oral Tradition’ has transmitted two readings, the one contradicting the other! 

  But, the existence, and acceptance, of such differences is surely the reason that Von Denffer decided to write about nothing more than simple things like  Maududi’s "proper understanding of some accepted differences in reading". He was obviously applying another ‘outwitting’ to hide the differences in the readings which cause the Qur’an to give contradictory ‘guidance’ - in the same passage! 

  However, Von Denffer’s source of ‘Proof’ (Burton) goes even further and cites the conflicting Islamic reasoning (‘logic’?) as to why these are all 

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"There is an interesting discussion in verses yielding two-fold readings. Abu al-Laith reported two views: 1. God had uttered them both; 2. God had uttered only one, but permitted the verse to be read in two possible ways. Samarqandi’s own view was that if each of the two readings was susceptible of a different interpretation and legal application, God had uttered both. In such instances, the two readings were the equivalent of two distinct revelations." (Ulum, p. 36; emphasis added)

  The most important word here is "view" which indicates that the Islamic scholars were clutching at straws and trying to rationalise the entire mess! How could ‘God’ give two revelations which arise in the same ‘Book’, from the same text (!) - but they contradict one-another! Only the ulema of Islam would claim something like this of the Qur’an, and in so doing ignore the text which says: 

"Do they not consider the Qur’an with care? Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy." (Q4:82)

  Obviously, this is not what Von Denffer wants the world to hear, and so he chooses another statement in the same book which is clearly contradicted by the other but which supports his "view". Obviously the orientalist is confused too. 

  Interestingly, Von Denffer’s book (Ulum) gives credit to the afore mentioned Samaqandi’s tafsir. Immediately after citing at-Tabari’s as perhaps the best, he writes: 

"Other well-Known Books of Tafsir
Tafsir al Samarqandi, by Abu al-Laith al-Samarqandi (d. 373/983)..." (Ulum, p. 137)

  Thus even in the 4th century after Hijra they were speculating about why nothing made sense. Yet, today, men like Von Denffer are only willing to cite such writings as ‘among the best’, while they publicly repudiate what ‘the best’ had to say, namely that they were uncertain whether or not ‘God’ sometimes gave two contradictory revelations - in the same text! As Mr. Deedat would say "Truly amazing!" 

  But, we can see why Islam has had to find ways to rationalise such a problem for it has to maintain its ‘Perfect and Preserved’ belief system or perish! If it didn’t succeed the people would realise that the game was up! 

  Thus we find it has convinced the people that everything in sight is ‘revelation’ and that that all that the ‘Oral Tradition’ has transmitted must be considered sacred even though a specific meaning for the text of the Qur’an is not found amongst it! Again we see why everything it possesses it declares to be ‘Qur’an’ not ‘the Qur’an’.

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d/ Readings Based On "A Consonantal Text That Differs"

  This should not surprise us, for the Encyclopaedia of Islam documents: 

"The variants found in the "four after the ten" often involve a consonantal text that differs from that of the majority among the Ten (i.e. the "’Uthmanic text"), and they sometimes have completely different words - see, e.g., the references to the readings of al-Hasan al-Basri and al-Amash in Materials, especially in the listings for Ibn Mas’ud and Ubayy." (p. 409)11

  But, the acceptance of such ‘readings’ conflicts strongly with the following: 

"This difference is understandable before the compilation of the Qur’an by Hadrat ‘Uthman (Allah be pleased with him), but after this standard compilation one cannot conceive of even the slightest difference or alteration since it was done with the utmost care on the basis of the recitations of numerous Huffaz and authenticated by the whole body of the then living Companions. Noone showed any difference and there was a complete agreement on the genuineness and purity of its text.This goes to prove that any word or expression which does not correspond fully to the text of Mushaf Uthmani is not authentic and reliable." (Sahih Muslim, Vol. 2, p. 394, Footnote # 1103)

  Thus, while Islam is "made to appear" to be clinging strictly to ‘Uthman’s graphic form(s) - as if they were the only acceptable texts - it is  obvious that much "flexibility" had continued long after ‘Uthman’s action since some of the ‘fourteen’ are not even ‘close’ to ‘Uthman’s consonantal texts, let alone "corresponding fully"!! 

  Yet, al-A’mash, lived in Kufah and should also have been using the ‘Uthmanic text of Kufah as did ‘Asim if that were the enforced policy, and if Islam actually had the ‘history’ for the Qur’an which it claims! 

  Although we have seen that al-A’mash (d. 148 A.H.) was one of those who "also had his reading", we must now ask by what authority was he able to apply such ‘flexibility’ in determining his own reading - one that agrees with the reading (and so the differing consonantal text) of ibn Mas’ud! He was not an ‘unknown rebel’, and many in Islam continue to accept his differing consonantal symbol text and reading as ‘original’ and ‘valid’.12

  As for, al-Hasan al-Basri, Von Denffer rates him in the following way in the section on Tafsir: 

"The Iraq Group. There were also many mufassirun among the tabi’un in Iraq. Their principal teacher was Ibn Mas’ud. Their main centres were Basra and Kufa. The best known among them are; Al-Hasan al-Basri (d.121/738), Masruq b. al-’Ajda’ (d.63/682) and Ibrahim al-Nakha’i (d.65/713)." (p.131)

  Herein lies the irony. Because the very best tafsir specialist13in Kufah 

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has been responsible for transmitting the readings which agree with what is recorded from ibn Mas’ud, later followers of Islam have decided to label it shadh because it does not follow ‘Uthman’s text closely enough. How could it when it is obvious that ‘Uthman changed the basis of reference with respect to the graphic forms? 

  Thereafter, the only way to make Islam appear ‘unchanged’ was to seek to eliminate all traces of the ‘original’ readings and proclaim that only those which were ‘close to’ the ‘Uthmanic framework would be accepted: 

"Others were subsequently disfavoured and even opposed, among them the readings of Ibn Mas’ud and ‘Ubay bin Ka’b." (Ulum, p.119; emphasis added)

Why The Acceptance Of The ‘7’, ‘10’ And ‘14’ Readings?

  However, not all are willing to cast off the entire past so easily. 

  This is why there is a rift between those who accept only that narrow group of readings (the new ‘Seven’) and those who also want to retain the broader group like that of al-Hasan and al-’Amash (which reflect the known examples of the ‘companion readings’). 

  For the one group, the ‘new 7 readings’ represented the best Islam had with reference to ‘Uthman’s texts. 

  For the other group, the acceptance of some readings which utilised certain aspects of the ‘old 7 readings’ is the only way they can retain some of the pre-’Uthmanic heritage of the ‘original 7 Forms’ - without actually telling everyone "this is what the Qur’an used to look like". 

  Only by maintaining this broad array could anyone in Islam seek to provide some later reference to the ‘7 Forms’ without admitting too much! 

  Ibn al-Jazari’s statement would allow such breadth to be accepted. As he stated: 

"Every reading in accordance with Arabic (grammar), even if (only) in some way, and in accordance with one of the masahif of Uthman, even if only probable , and with sound chain of transmission, is a correct (sahih) reading which must not be rejected, and may not be denied, but 

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it belongs to the seven modes (ahruf) according to which the Qur’an was revealed, and the people are obliged to accept it, no matter whether it is from the seven Imams, or the ten, or from other accepted Imams, but when one of these three conditions is not fulfilled, it is to be rejected as weak (da’if) or exceptional (shadh) or void (batil), no matter whether it is from the seven or from one who is older than them." (Suyuti, Itqan, I, p.75, citing ibn al-Jazari)

The ‘New 7 Readings’ Conflict In Many Ways With The Manuscripts

a/Deliberately Going Beyond ‘Uthman’s Graphic Forms.

  As we have seen to some degree, the Arabic texts representing the readings of Hafs and Warsh not only contain different words from one another, but most importantly of all, these differing words have been obtained by means other than simply by varying the acknowledged Arabic vowelling and consonant indications (i.e. kasra, fatha, damma, and dots on the consonants). Rather these have involved ‘overriding’, ‘extending’, ‘adding to’, and ‘ignoring’ of the ‘Uthmanic consonantal symbol content. 

  This disagrees incredibly with Islam’s public projection: 

"So well has it been preserved, both in memory and in writing, that the Arabic text we have today is identical to the text as it was revealed to the Prophet. Not even a single letter has yielded to corruption during the passage of centuries. And so it will remain forever, by the consent of Allah." (THE HOLY QUR’AN English Translation of the meanings and Commentary, King Fahd Holy Qur’an Printing Complex, Medina 1410 H., Preface, p. v)

  As with all the other comments, this is obviously written to convey the impression that ‘the oral tradition’ confirms not only the graphic form in the written texts, but that even the vocalisation of the text has been perfectly protected as Maududi alluded. Many in Islam believe this to be the case since this is what they have been told. As we will see, it is not the case. 

  This should not be surprising for we have to consider the long trail through which ‘readings’ seem to have passed. 

  As we proceed we need to be mindful that any disagreement between the ‘Uthmanic consonantal texts and the ‘7 new readings’ must, for the most part, be seen as ‘Proof’ of Islam’s inability to find among its "best transmitted and most reliable" readings something which perfectly fitted the ‘Uthmanic texts. 

b/ Since "The Men Around Muhammad...Were Not Able To Write Well"

  However, the disparity between the ‘readings’ and the graphic form can

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be for other reasons also. For Islam also finds it necessary to tamper with the text because, it claims, Muhammad’s scribes were not able to write well. And so the readings do not agree with the graphic form on this ground also, and the texts in such places require ‘tampering’. 

  In regard to the inability to write well, even Von Denffer mentions briefly that writing was not widespread nor well known: 

"Writing down the Revelation
While writing was not widespread among the people in Arabia at the time of the Prophet there were persons of whom it is reported that they did write. It is said for example of Waraqa, Khadija’s14 cousin, that he had been converted to Christianity in the pre-Islamic period15 ‘and used to write Arabic and write of the Gospel in Arabic as much as Allah wished him to write’.16

The Prophet himself did much to encourage the Muslims to learn to write. It is related that some of the Quraish, who were taken prisoners at the battle of Badr, regained their freedom after they had taught some of the Muslims17 the art of writing."18 (Ulum, p. 36f)

  It is not surprising then, to find that ibn Khaldun mentioned: 

"The Mudar [Muhammad’s tribe] were more firmly rooted in desert life and more remote from sedentary areas than the inhabitants of the Yemen, the Iraq, Syria, and Egypt. Arabic writing at the beginning of Islam was, therefore, not of the best quality nor of the greatest accuracy and excellence. It was not (even) of medium quality, because the Arabs possessed the savage desert attitude and were not familiar with crafts.

One may compare what happened to the orthography of the Qur’an on account of this situation. The men around Muhammad wrote the Qur’an in their own script, which was not of a firmly established, good quality. Most of the letters were in contradiction to the orthography required by persons versed in the craft of writing. The Qur’anic script of (the men around Muhammad) was then imitated by the men of the second generation, because of the blessing inherent in the use of the orthography that had been used by the men around Muhammad, who were the best of human beings after (Muhammad himself) ... Consequently, (the orthography of the men around Muhammad) was followed and became established, and the scholars acquainted with it have called attention to passages where (this is noticeable).
 No attention should be paid in this connection with those incompetent (scholars) that (the men around Muhammad) knew well the art of writing and that the alleged discrepancies between their writing and the principles of orthography are not discrepancies, as has been alleged, but have a reason. For instance, they explain the addition of the alif in la ‘adhbahannahU "I shall indeed slaughter him" as indication that the slaughtering did not take place (lA ‘adhbahannahU). The addition of the ya in bi-ayydin "with hands (power)," they explain as an indication that the divine power is perfect. There are similar things

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based on nothing but purely arbitrary assumptions. The only reason that caused them to (assume such things) is their belief that (their explanations) would free the men around Muhammad from the suspicion of deficiency, in the sense that they were not able to write well. They think that good writing is perfection. Thus, they do not admit the fact that the men around Muhammad were deficient in writing.
 Later, royal authority came to the Arabs. They conquered cities and took possession of provinces. They settled in al-Basrah and al-Kufah, and the dynasty needed the art of writing. At that time they (began) writing [Al-kitAb]. They sought to practice and study it, and it came into common use. As a result, a high degree of efficiency in (writing) was achieved. (Writing) became firmly established." (The Muqaddima, ibn Khaldun, p. 383f)

 While we have already seen disagreement not only between the Kufan and Medinan ‘copies’, but between the Samarqand Ms. and the 1924 Egyptian Edition, now all remaining hope of claiming ‘perfect’ manuscripts is gone. Islam has plainly had much difficulty from the beginning! 

 But something else is gone also, for Islam likes to create the image that it is assured of possessing truth because it has, not only ‘perfect’ manuscripts but an ‘Oral Tradition’ which upholds their content! In this way it has sought to ward off any thoughts of deviation having set in! 

 Indeed it does possess "two pieces of evidence" manuscript and oral - but they are 1/ uncertain manuscripts and 2/ a disagreeing ‘Oral Tradition’. 

 What ‘certain knowledge’, then, can anyone in Islam have that what they now possess is ‘original’? Absolutely none. How can they be certain without ‘certain knowledge’ that what they possess does not represent an altered message? None. And this is what Islam accuses others of. 

 Such uncertainty is upheld in that the scholars of Islam not only disagreed amongst themselves as to what it ‘should’ say, but those that got the upper hand declare that the manuscript content has too many alifs - thus giving the ‘undesirable’ translation of ‘NO’ instead of ‘YES ‘19. They have had to tamper with the text, and admit that Allah failed to protect it!

  We can see how other scholars might find it necessary to openly admit the need for tampering with the meanings, although this we will deal with later: 

"The scholars of the Ahl as-Sunnah took the nass (Qur’an and Sunnah) with their outward meanings. That is, they gave the ayats and Hadiths their outward meanings, and did not explain away (ta’wil) the nass or change these meanings unless there was a darura (necessity) to do so."(Al-Albani Unveiled, p. 124).20

  To tamper with the letters is one way of ‘changing the meaning’! In this case, what a ‘darura’ (necessity) - to have ‘YES’ instead of ‘NO’! 

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  We also noted that M. Hamidullah also admits other cases of ‘corruption’ to the Qur’an, which he blames on the scribes of Muhammad and the ‘trend of the day’ toward poor grammar, not Allah, nor later scribes. Hamidullah notes: 

"In pre-Islamic days there was no uniformity in employing this superfluous letter at the end of certain plural forms, and its traces are found in the Qur’an, where it is sometimes added to the singular also where it was not necessary, and omitted in the plural where it was necessary according to the rule in vogue. But, as said, a "sign of silence" is marked wherever it occurs in the Qur’an, and the absence in case of necessity has no bearing on the subject we are treating, viz., how to read correctly." (p. 77)

  More ‘correcting’ of the Qur’an’s imperfections by silencing consonantal symbols!? This is not simply an admission of the inconsistent application of the rules of grammar "according to the rule in vogue" by Muhammad’s scribes, but this also declares the grammatical imperfection of the ‘original’ Arabic Qur’ans, copies of which are those ‘still in print today’, according to Islam!! 

  But, Mr. Deedat in ignorance challenged: 

"’The Book’? Yes, the "BOOK" itself, carries its own evidence proving its Divine Authorship. Study the Book from any angle. Scrutinize it. Why not take up the Author’s challenge if your doubts are genuine?" (Ahmed Deedat, Al-Qur’an The Miracle of Miracles, p. 11; emphasis added)

  Our doubts are genuine. 

 Yet, according to the Hizb-ut-Tahrir, the ‘Proof’ for the Divine authorship of the Qur’an is its "high standard of the Arabic language": 

"So we need to consider the authorship of the Qur’an. The Qur’an can only be the work of one of the following:
(i) Non-Arab
(ii) Arab
(iii) Muhammad, peace be upon him (pubh)
(iv) The Creator, Allah (swt)
Firstly it is important to point out that the Qur’an was revealed in Arabic. Because of the high standard of the Arabic used by the Qur’an, indeed its very excellence and mastery of the language, it is not from a non-Arab....
People which disbelieved the divine authenticity were sent revelation challenging them...
"And if ye are in doubt as to what we have revealed from time to time to our servant... (Hud:13)" (The Islamic Belief Part 2)

  In fact the Hizb-ut-Tahrir claimed ‘the imperfection of Allah’ was ‘revealed’ if they were wrong: 

"Any text claiming to be divine must not contain contradictions, discrepancies or adulterations since this would question the perfection of God and the validity of the text."(The Islamic Belief, Hizb ut-Tahrir lit-

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erature, Al Khalifah Publications, London, 1996; emphasis added).

  Surely it would be better for Islam to admit having rejected the text, or attribute the ‘problems’ to later scribes, than to admit the "imperfection of Allah". 
In summary, we begin to see just how wide a variety of influences are at work on the Qur’anic text. 

  Still, all this is only the beginning! 

  What we have yet to see is that Islam has ‘dealt’ with these in such a fashion that the ‘unlearned reader’ continues to uphold Islam’s claim of a ‘perfect’ Qur’an, even though he has been forced to ‘read’ around the actual graphic form! And all the while such a person is made to believe that the Qur’an has always said what Islam has made it say! 

  One can readily perceive that Islam’s accusations against others indeed fit itself, for from the evidence one could easily accuse it of altering its text and abandoning the ‘original’ teachings contained in it! 

Qur’anic Arabic - ‘Correcting’, ‘Overriding’, "Adding To" And 
‘Ignoring’ the ‘Uthmanic Texts

  As we begin to examine just what the consequences of putting together all this confusion into ‘a text of the Qur’an’ has been, we need to acknowledge that while early on Caliph ‘Uthman’s charge was simply to "let the desert Arabs correct them [the manuscript errors] with their tongues", in later years, far more than that has been required. 

  For ‘Uthman’s need was simply to have them ‘doctor’ the written text through the oral recitation and his purpose was fulfilled. Later, though, as the written language reached a more complete form the need became to transcribe that ‘mental doctoring’ onto the written form

  In terms of what we are examining, this refers to the transcribing of the content of the ‘7 new readings’ onto the written ‘Uthmanic texts

  It is because this writing of the parts of the Qur’an together did not represent a simple assembling of an accurate transmission of a text and the same of a reading, that it cannot be evaluated linguistically as if that is all that was required to be considered in an examination. 

  Therefore, it is not like examining any simple classical piece of Arabic but rather represents a complex intermingling of factors and influences, for what is found here in terms of discrepancies does not represent merely an ‘evolution’ of the Arabic. 

  In truth it is a matter of examining the transmission of what is asserted 

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to be a religious document claiming to be the ‘final revelation’, claiming to be ‘perfect and protected’, yet breaking every rule it sets for itself - all of which also happens to included the presence of things which are found in everyday transmissions of the ‘non protected’ variety. 

  A person who was ignorant of Islam’s claims in what is purported for the Qur’an may be excused for treating it otherwise. However, anyone with the knowledge we have cannot be forgiven for ignoring tshe true import of all that ‘Qur’anic Arabic’ embodies. 

  In seeking to make use of the very best of what it has, Islam had to devise ways to manipulate the consonantal symbol content of the manuscripts. The methods of this tampering with the texts have become blended in with all other matters dealing with the ancient Arabic and are now part of what is known as ‘Qur’anic Arabic’. That this is not ‘original Qur’anic Arabic’ is all too obvious. 

Seeing The Arabic Of The Qur’an In Its ‘Original’ Context 

  Thus, after all is said and done, ‘Qur’anic Arabic’ is not a mere means to aid the uninitiated to overcome the difference between an ‘old form of 
Arabic’ and a ‘modern form of Arabic’ - it is much more. 

  Overall one could say that a form of "let them fix it with their pens" has been invented which has included various forms of ‘doctoring’ the consonantal symbols. 

  And yet today we find that the term ‘Qur’anic Arabic’ is bandied about as if it is, or at least unravels, ‘an ancient form of Arabic’, something not clearly understood any longer. It’s true import will become clear as you read. 

  However, through the use of the term ‘Qur’anic Arabic’ today, everyone thinks that they have a ‘perfect’ text despite the fact that many times when they see certain ‘indications’ that tell them to manipulate the text, it actually represents another instance that the manuscript has had to be ‘doctored’ because the content of "the best transmitted and most reliable" ‘new readings’ disagreed with it! 

  It is natural that the leadership of Islam would find this difficult to explain to a modern follower and so it is not surprising that those of modern Islam do not like to speak of such problems in an open fashion as men like ibn Khaldun did. 

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  The very need to hide all these things behind the label ‘Qur’anic Arabic’ is an open denial of the sufficiency and perfection of the ‘Uthmanic texts, to say nothing of an open admission of the inability to display any purported ‘original reading’ as Islam asserts was intended to fit the sole remaining ‘Form’. It is also evidence of the extensive disagreement between the manuscript content and the ‘new readings’. 

  It is most importantly a denial of the aya, "Today We have perfected your religion for you."


  1/ Maududi seems to be from the group which doesn’t mention the ‘7 Forms’, but which believes there was one ‘original’ text, and one ‘original’ reading of that text.

  2/ A footnote reads, "one well versed in the correct reading of the Qur’an". 

  3/ Of course, there are as usual in Islam, more than one ‘view’ (speculation) as to what the ‘facts’ of its history actually are. For example, late into the 1990’s one could find in the Sunan of Abu Daud [footnote 3365, p. 1113] the declaration that in the 2nd century AH Qarra were sent out from Medinah to the various Islamic centres, each bearing one of the ‘7 Readings’. All the more in such circumstances one would expect all the more that a ‘perfect fit’ would be found with the `Uthmanic texts. 

  4/ This is a strong Shi’a conviction and M. Ali employs the same claim by another Shi’ah scholar: 

"To this I would add a few words from a Shi’ah commentator of the Holy Qur’an, Mulla Muhsin, who says in his Tafsir Safi: Certain men from among us and the Hashwiyah masses have reported that the Qur’an has suffered loss and alteration. But the true belief of our friends is against this, and such is the belief of the vast majority. For the Qur’an is miracle of the Holy Prophet and the source of all knowledge relating to law and all religious injunctions, and the learned Muslims have taken the utmost pains for its protection, so that there is nothing relating to its vowel-points, its recital, its letters and its verses, which they do not know. With such strong measures of protection and such faithful preservation of the Holy Book (by the Muslims) it cannot be supposed that any alteration of loss could take place. (P. 14)" (Holy Qur’an, p. xlix) 

  5/ Despite Maududi’s claim that "That is why there are only a few variations in reading and those are not contradictory in their meanings but enlarge their scope and make them more comprehensible.", as we will see, in fact there are not only many such readings, but they became part of the basis for the differences in what are today known as ‘the madhabs of deeds’ bearing disagreement with one-another. 

  6/ Cited from Studies in two transmissions of the Qur’an, Ph.D., Brockett, p. 94.

  7/ Yet, his statement really only says that the ‘7’ were among those readings which were mutawatir, not that they alone were mutawatir.  Further, we recall the assertion that they actually only have chains of transmission of one single person to another 

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single person

  8/ Cited from Studies in two transmissions of the Qur’an, Ph.D., Brockett, p. 84.

  9/ Cited from Jam’ Al-Qur’an, Gilchrist, p. 68.

  10/ Maududi showed the fact that he has no clear stand on these problems of the Qur’an when he asserted ‘one text’ and ‘one reading’, then asserted that only a small number of variant readings existed, but that all ‘obviously’ came from Muhammad. It is only ‘obvious’ to someone who wants to cling to Islam at all costs. 

  11/Materials For the History of the text of the Qur’an, A. Jeffery - a book from which Von Denffer cites often. [See Ulum, ft. 26, p. 41] 

  12/ This is obviously why some in Islam would assert that there are only ‘7’ readings, those that kept "close to the `Uthmanic graphic form". 

  13/ Not all would want to agree because he was a Sufi. 

  14/ Khadija was Muhammad’s first wife. 

  15/ The Hadith relate that Waraqa was a Christian who spent time learning the Scriptures of the People of Learning, and so would likely have learned the art of writing from them as he learned the Scriptures. 

  16/ The footnote reads, "Bukhari, VI, No. 478". 

  17/ It would seem to indicate that the uneducated gathered around Muhammad since the Qura`ish, being Muhammad’s tribe, constituted most of those who were in Mecca, they were not a people-group who lived where writing was well-known. 

  18/ It is for this reason that certain Islamic scholars try to propagate the opinion that even the vowelling marks and consonant dots were instituted as early as, say, 50-80 AH. Yet this is not the belief of most Islamic scholars who would agree that the manuscripts of even the 2nd century are without such indications. This means that the ‘Oral Tradition’ had to be the only vehicle for the transmitting of the ‘readings’, for a very long period. 

  19/ The footnote reads, "Tabaqat Ibn Sa`d, II (2), p. 19". 

  20/ The word nass refers to the text of the Qur’an and Sunnah (Hadith)! 

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