John Burton and the Mushaf of Muhammad


Sometimes Muslims make the following appeal:

But there is a problem with using this statement. Every conclusion is only as good as the basic assumptions and presuppositions it is derived from. If my set of axioms are logically incompatible we might as well forget all conclusions derived from them. And that is the blunder many Muslims have committed when quoting Burton.

As long as you consider the Sahih Hadith collections as an authoritative source, you cannot possibly refer to Burton as evidence without losing intellectual integrity. Make sure your results are derived from a consistent presuppositional basis.

The following is a posting from the ISLAM-L mailing list. When John Burton's conclusion was quoted there, it got the response (I have permission to repost this):

> But may I point out that John Burton who is a Professor of
> Arabic at the University of Edinburgh and has been studying
> the subject for thirty years maintains that the codex
> we have in our hands is that which was approved and edited by the
> Prophet - it is the codex of MuHammad.  Now I'm not saying that
> Mr Gilchrist is unnecessarily prejudiced but I do feel that
> Professor Burton's credentials are superior in this regard
> - wouldn't you agree ?

Well, accepting Mr. Burton's conclusions implies accepting his premisses.
If I remember correctly, his conclusion (that what we have in our hands
today is the codex of Muhammad) is based on his assumption that *all* of
the hadiths dealing with the collection of the Qur'an are forged. His
thesis doesn't make sense in any other way. Thus when accepting his
thesis, we have to accept that at least some of the hadiths which muslim
tradition holds as sahih are in fact forged without anybody noticing, and
that at least in this example no traditions of the event as it really
happened are recorded anywhere. This would be a rather strong point
against the authenticity of the hadith literature.

But I haven't found many people so far who agree with Mr. Burton's
findings. His assumptions seem to be rather arbitrary to me. I didn't
find his argument convincing that all hadiths on this subject were forged
and not a single hint survived of what really happened.


Andreas Goerke

The Text of the Qur'an
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