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Al-Hajjâj, Kitâb al-Masâhif & Gilchrist Print E-mail
Written by mquran.org   
Sunday, 12 November 2006

There is a rule of thumb which one must learn. Orientalists opine and Missionaries quote them as gospel truth. This will get clearer as we go a bit further. Let us begin where this issue started from. The issue was first polemicised by cAbd al-Masîh al-Kindî in his apology and uttered by Emperor Leo.

As for your (book), you have already given us examples of such falsifications, and one knows, among others, of a certain Hajjâj, named by you as the governer of Persia, who had men gathered up your ancient books, which he replaced by others composed by himself, according to his taste, and which he propagated everywhere in your nation, because it was easier by far to undertake such a task among the people speaking a single language. from this destruction, nevertheless, there escaped a few works of Abu Turab, for Hajjâj could not make them disappear completely.[1]

In the footnotes, Jeffery mentions:

This is a rather confused reference to the work of al-Hajjâj on the text of the Qur'ân. the orthodox Muslim theory assumes that the text as canonized by cUthmân was the final canonization, but there is a reason to believe that a recension of cUthmân's text was made by the direction of al-Hajjâj, so that we only know of the text of cUthmân in this later recension. This fact was apparently well known to oriental Christian writers, for al-Kindi in his apology, speaks of al-Hajjâj not leaving a single codex that he did not gather up, and left out many things, and of which he sent out copies of his new recension, and directed his attention to destroying the older codices. This statement of al-Kindî has always been looked at askance as a piece of Christian polemic.[2]

Jeffery also mentions about putting of diacritical marks in the Qur'ânic text by al-Hajjâj to make the reading proper because some ignorant Arabs and non-Arabs started mispronouncing the letters. To this Jeffery says:

It would thus seem that some revision of the text, as well as clarification by division and pointing, was undertaken by al-Hajjâj, and that this was known to the Christians of that day, and naturally exagerrated by them for polemical purposes.[3]

Apart from such exagerration, the story of account attributed to Leo by Levond (or Ghevond) is mentioned as a later forgery to scandalize the question of al-Hajjâj by some later Christian writer. So, we might as well stop here and dismiss all the allegations of John Gilchrist. But let us go further to expose his deceptive tactics.

In his book The Qur'ân as Scripture, Arthur Jeffery relies on Kitâb al-Masâhif of Ibn Abî Dâwûd to say:

When we come to examine the accounts of the activity of al-Hajjâj in this matter, however, we discover to our own surprise that the evidence points strongly to the fact that his work was not confined to fixing more precisely the text of the Qur'ân by a set of points showing how it was to be read, but he seems to have made an entirely new recension of the Qur'ân, having copies of his new text sent to the great metropolitan centres and ordering the destruction of earlier copies in existence there, much as cUthmân had done earlier. Moreover, this new text promulgated by al-Hajjâj seems to have undergone more or less extensive alterations.[4]

Jeffery, in fact, proposed the minor recension theory by al-Hajjâj. This was also propogated by other Orientalists as it can be seen from the examples below. The Orientalists take care in wording the issue whereas missionaries are as usual driven by crusade mentality to prove Islam wrong.

In the book Arabic Literature To The End Of The Ummayad Period the author carefully states the issue of al-Hajjâj without throwing light on the 'variant readings'.

However, this seems to be only a partial explanation of what happened. On the other hand we have the tradition in Ibn Abi-Da'ud that al-Hajjâj was responsible for eleven changes in the consonantal text. If this is so, he is responsible for a minor recension at least. Against this we must set the evidence of early copies of the Qur'ân that have survived. These show that for some considerable amount of time the new system was used sparingly and mainly in connection with the variants.[5]

John Gilchrist, a Christian Missionary, who quotes both the references Arabic Literature To The End Of The Ummayad Period and The Qur'ân As Scripture as "Contemporary Books on the Qur'ân" does not even tell the whole story. In his book Jamc al-Qur'ân: The Codification Of The Qur'ân Text, Jeffery's skepticism "he seems" or "al-Hajjâj seems" is quoted as reality.

The whole section continues to name each one of the amendments made by al-Hajjâj so that the Qur'ân text as we have it today is not only the 'Uthmanic text but also a subsequent minor recension of it by the Iraqi governor.[6]

And obviously, there is no mention of the Christian polemic concerning al-Hajjâj. It is a frequent method employed by Christian Missionaries to supress the information which goes against their viewpoint.

The report which is frequently quoted is mentioned in Kitâb al-Masâhif of Ibn Abî Dâwûd which is available in Materials For The History Of The Text Of The Qur'ân: The Old Codices, 1937, Arthur Jeffery, E J Brill, Leiden.

It is important to remember that:

  • The isnad of the report is not verified yet.

  • The reasons for changes of 11 letters in cUthmân's(R) mushâf by al-Hajjâj are not clear. This is presumably either due to the mistakes made by the scribe(s) or preference of one Qirâ'ât over the other. It seems that the changes involved a combination of correction of the errors of the scribes as well as preference of one Qirâ'a over the other.

Further research needs to be done along these lines. The report as well as the translation is given below.

 



The translation of the report as follows:

Section: What al-Hajjâj Had Changed in cUthmân's Mushâf?

Abû Bakr said that it was there in the book of my father that a man told; I asked my father, "Who was that man?". He said,"Abbâd ibn Suhaib told us from Awf ibn Abî Jamîla that al-Hajjâj bin Yûsuf changed in cUthmân's mushâf 11 letters". He said in

al-Baqarah (2:259) lam yatasanna wanzur without ha to lam yatasannah with ha.

and in al-Ma'idah (5:48) sharî'atan wa minhâjan was changed to shir'atan wa minhâjan

and in Yûnus (10:22) huwal-ladhî yunash-shirukum was changed to yusay-yirukum

and in Yûsuf (12:45) 'anâ-âtîkum bita'wilihi was changed to 'anâ onabbio'kum bita'wilihi

and in Mu'minûn (23:85-89) sayaqûlûna lillâh....lillâh....lillâh he made the two last occurrences allâh....allâh

and in as-Shucara in the story of Nuh (26:116) it was minal mukhrajîna and in the story of Lut (26:167) it was minal marjumîna. It was changed in the story of Nuh to minal marjumîna and in the story of Lut to minal mukhrajîna

and in az-Zukhruf (43:32) it was nahnu qasamnâ baynahum c ishahum and he changed it to macîshatahum

and in al-ladhîna kafarû (47:15) min mâcinn ghayri yasin was changed to min mâcinn ghayri âsin

and in al-Hadîd (57:7) he changed fal-ladhîna âmanu minkum wat-taqaw lahum 'ajrun kabîr to minkum wa anfaqu.

and in "When the Sun is folded up" (81:24) wa mâ huwa 'alal-ghaybi bidhanîn to bidanîn[7]

The Nature Of Changes Which Al-Hajjâj Made

Dr. cUmar Ibn Ibrâhîm Radwân did research on this issue for his Ph.D thesis in University of Imâm Muhammad Ibn Saud. His thesis was published as a book from Riyadh in two volumes. The book is called Aarâ' al-Mustashriqîn Hawl al-Qur'ân al-Karîm wa Tafsîr: Dirâsah Wa Naqd (The Views Of The Orientalists About The Holy Qur'ân & Its Interpretation: Study and Criticism).

After quoting the hadîth of Ibn Abî Dâwûd, Dr. Radwân mentions in his footnotes about the Qirâ'ât which the changes are associated with.

al-Baqarah (2:259) lam yatasanna wanzur without ha to lam yatasannah with ha.[8]

Comments: Both readings are among The Seven as it is mentioned by Ibn Zanjalah in Hujjat al-Qirâ'ât, page 142/143, where he says that Hamzah and al-Kisâ'i read lam yatasanna without the letter ha in wasl (i.e., in case they didn't stop at the word yatasanna while reading) and the five other readings read yatasannah keeping the ha even when they didn't stop.[9]

and in al-Ma'idah (5:48) sharî'atan wa minhâjan was changed to shir'atan wa minhâjan.[10]

Comments: an-Nakh'î and Ibn Waththâb read with a fathah on the letter shîn (i.e shar'atan) and the whole community of readers read shir'atan and I found nobody mentioning sharî'atan.[11]

and in Yûnus (10:22) huwal-ladhî yunash-shirukum was changed to yusay-yirukum[12]

Comments: Both readings are among The Seven. They were mentioned by Ibn Zanjalah in his book Hujjat al-Qirâ'ât, page 329, where he says that Ibn 'Aamir read yunash-shirukum and the other readers read yusay-yirukum.[13]

and in Yûsuf (12:45) 'anâ-âtîkum bita'wilihi was changed to 'anâ onabbio'kum bita'wilihi[14]

Comments: al-Hasan read 'anâ-âtikom with a long hamzah having a fathah followed by the letter having a kasrah and a silent . And in wasl (i.e., when not stopping on the word), Nâfî' and Abû Jacfar read 'anâ onabbio'kum as it is mentioned by Ahmad cAbdul Ghany ad-Domyâtî in his book Ithâfu Fodalâ' ilbashar Fil Qirâ'ât Ilarba'a 'Ashar, page 265.[15]

and in Mu'minûn (23:85-89) sayaqûlûna lillâh....lillâh....lillâh he made the two last occurrences allâh....allâh16]

Comments: All these readings are among The Seven as mentioned by Ibn Zanjalah in Hujjat al-Qirâ'ât, page 490, where he says that Abû 'Aamir read allâh...allâh with an alif and the others read lillâh...lillâh and all readings agreed on the first occurrence (i.e., lillâh). [17]

and in as-Shucara in the story of Nuh (26:116) it was minal mukhrajîna and in the story of Lut (26:167) it was minal marjumîna. It was changed in the story of Nuh to minal marjumîna and in the story of Lut to minal mukhrajîna.[18]

Comment: I didn't find anybody who mentioned what the author has said.[19]

and in az-Zukhruf (43:32) it was nahnu qasamnâ baynahum c ishahum and he changed it to macîshatahum[20]

Comments: The reading of the community (jumhoor) of readers is macishatahum in singular. al-'Amash and cAbdullâh and Ibn cAbbâs and Sufyân read cishahum in plural as mentioned by Abû Hayyân in Al-Bahr al-Muhît, VIII - page 13.[21]

and in al-ladhîna kafarû (47:15) min mâcinn ghayri yasin was changed to min mâcinn ghayri âsin[22]

Comments: The Seven except Ibn Kathîr read ghayri âsin with a madd (a long vowel), as for the reading yâsinin it is shâdh and was mentioned by Abû Hayyân who reported it using the words it was said that .... Refer to Hujjat al-Qirâ'ât in page 667 by Ibn Zanjalah and the interpretation of Al-Bahr al-Muhît, VIII - page 79.[23]

and in al-Hadîd (57:7) he changed fal-ladhîna âmanu minkum wat-taqaw lahum 'ajrun kabîr to minkum wa anfaqu. [24]

Comment: I could not find the one who mentioned this reading. [25]

and in "When the Sun is folded up" (81:24) wa mâ huwa 'alal-ghaybi bidhanîn to bidanîn[26]

Comment: Ibn Kathîr and Abû 'Amr and al-Kisâ'i and Rees and Ibn Mahrân from Rawh read with the letter dhâ and the others read with the letter dâd, and so it is in all the Codices (the books). Refer to An-Nashr fil Qirâ'ât il'ashr, II - page 398/399. [27]

Dr. Radwân went on to say:

These readings as I have just highlighted are among the correct (Sahîh), Mutawâtir and well established that we can read in any form it has been drawn into and among them are ones I could not verify which make us doubt about their being attributed to al-Hajjâj, especially because he was not isolated from the Ummah. Much more, in his time, no Muslim would let him change or replace anything traced back to the Prophet(P) whether it concerned Qur'ân or hadith.

All these arguments rebut the claims of the Orientalists. And the following points confirm the validity of my opinion:

  • al-Hajjâj being loyal to cUthmân (or from his court) and since he wouldn't forgive those who let cUthmân down on the day of ad-Dâr (or the house), how could he question cUthmân and his codex and make changes in it.

  • The codex of cUthmân was spread everywhere and its copies in the time of cUthmân were countless. How about their number in the Umayyads time? Undoubtedly, their number has increased. Moreover, al-Hajjâj was the mere governor of one county of the huge Islamic land. Supposing that he was able to change the copies of his county how could he reach the ones in the other districts while there were thousands of copies! Much more, history did not mention contradictions between the Codices of Iraq and the other Codices. It is well known that the Great Book is saved in the chests of Muslims as much as it is saved in written form. If al-Hajjâj managed to change the lines how could he reach what is inside the chests of thousands of Muslims?

  • It is known as well that the Abbassid dynasty was established on the ruins of the Umayyads and that they changed many of the policies of Banî Umayyah in the administration of the lands. They didn't spare any effort in showing the negative aspects of Banî Umayyah and in getting close to the people by spreading justice and defending it. If the Abbassids had found any changes in the Holy Book, it would have been the greatest opportunity for them to show how misleading Banî Umayyah were and, thus, give their own rule some additional legitimacy.[28]

To conclude the issue of al-Hajjâj and the changes he made in the Qur'ân:

  • It is very obvious that there was no new recension after cUthmân united Muslims on the basis of single text. Muslims have agreed on this. al-Hajjâj's role is rather well documented in the literature concerning cUlum al-Qur'ân (Sciences of the Qur'ân). It has been shown above that the readings which he changed are mutawatir. There is only the difference in the Qirâ'ât. Muslims have accepted various Qirâ'ât as authentic provided they satisfy some conditions. They are the following:
    • The first condition was that the recitation have an authentic chain of narration in which the chain of narrators was continuous, the narrators were all known to be righteous and they were all known to possess good memories. It was also required that the recitation be conveyed by a large number of narrators on each level of the chain of narration below the level of Sahaabah (the condition of Tawaatur). Narrations which had authentic chains but lacked the condition of Tawaatur were accepted as explanations (Tafseer) of the Sahaabah but were not considered as methods of reciting the Qur'ân. As for the narrations which did not even have an authentic chain of narration, they were classified as Baatil (false) and rejected totally.

    • The second condition was that the variations in recitations match known Arabic grammatical constructions. Unusual constructions could be verified by their existence in passages of pre-Islamic prose or poetry.

    • The third condition required the recitation to coincide with the script of one of the copies of the Qur'ân distributed during the era of Caliph 'Uthman (RA). Hence differences which result from dot placement (i.e., ta'lamoon and ya'lamoon) are considered acceptable provided the other conditions are met. A recitation of a construction for which no evidence could be found would be classified Shaadhdh. This classification did not mean that all aspects of the recitation was considered Shaadhdh. it only meant that the unverified constructions were considered Shaadhdh.[29]

  • As pointed out earlier, how could al-Hajjâj, who was governor of Iraq, a small part of Muslim land, able to change the Qur'ânic text completely. The only changes he made was in cUthmân's mushâf not in any other text as far as the report mentioned above suggests. The complete change of Qur'ân is not documented in the Islamic history at all. And above all how could he change what was commited in the memory of Muslims in the Islamic empire.

And Allah knows best.


References

[1] Arthur Jeffery, Ghevond's Text Of The Correspondence Between 'Umar II and Leo III, 1944, Harvard Theological Review, Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Mass., p. 298.

[2] Arthur Jeffery, Op.Cit, p.298.

[3] Ibid. p.298.

[4] Arthur Jeffery, The Qur'ân As Scripture, 1952, Russell F Moore Company Inc., New York, p.99.

[5] A F L Beeston, T M Johnstone, R B Serjeant and G R Smith (Editors), Arabic Literature To The End Of The Ummayad Period, 1983, Cambridge University Press, p.243.

[6] John Gilchrist, Jamc al-Qur'ân: The Codification Of The Qur'ân Text, 1989, MERCSA.

[7] For Kitâb al-Masâhif see Arthur Jeffery's, Materials For The History Of The Text Of The Qur'ân: The Old Codices, 1937, E J Brill, Leiden, pp. 117-118.

[8] Arthur Jeffery, Kitâb al-Masâhif, p. 117.

[9] Dr. cUmar Ibn Ibrâhîm Radwân, Aarâ' al-Mustashriqîn Hawl al-Qur'ân al-Karîm wa Tafsîr: Dirâsah Wa Naqd, Volume I, 1992, Dâr Tîbah, Riyâdh, pp. 430.

[10] Arthur Jeffery, Kitâb al-Masâhif, Op.Cit, p. 117.

[11] cUmar Ibn Ibrâhîm Radwân, Op.Cit, p.430

[12] Arthur Jeffery, Kitâb al-Masâhif, Op.Cit, p. 117.

[13] cUmar Ibn Ibrâhîm Radwân, Op.Cit, p.430

[14] Arthur Jeffery, Kitâb al-Masâhif, Op.Cit, p. 117.

[15] cUmar Ibn Ibrâhîm Radwân, Op.Cit, p.431.

[16] Arthur Jeffery, Kitâb al-Masâhif, Op.Cit, p. 118.

[17] cUmar Ibn Ibrâhîm Radwân, Op.Cit, p.431.

[18] Arthur Jeffery, Kitâb al-Masâhif, Op.Cit, p. 118.

[19] cUmar Ibn Ibrâhîm Radwân, Op.Cit, p.431.

[20] Arthur Jeffery, Kitâb al-Masâhif, Op.Cit, p. 118.

[21] cUmar Ibn Ibrâhîm Radwân, Op.Cit, p.431.

[22] Arthur Jeffery, Kitâb al-Masâhif, Op.Cit, p. 118.

[23] cUmar Ibn Ibrâhîm Radwân, Op.Cit, p.431.

[24] Arthur Jeffery, Kitâb al-Masâhif, Op.Cit, p. 118.

[25] cUmar Ibn Ibrâhîm Radwân, Op.Cit, p.431.

[26] Arthur Jeffery, Kitâb al-Masâhif, Op.Cit, p. 118.

[27] cUmar Ibn Ibrâhîm Radwân, Op.Cit, p.431.

[28] cUmar Ibn Ibrâhîm Radwân, Op.Cit, p.430-431.

[29] Abu Ameenah Bilal Philips, Tafseer Soorah Al-Hujuraat, 1990, Tawheed Publications, Riyadh, p.32.

M S M Saifullah & Muhammad Ghoniem

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Last Updated ( Sunday, 12 November 2006 )
 
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