|Reply To Samuel Green's "The Seven Readings Of The Qur'an"|
|Written by mquran.org|
|Sunday, 12 November 2006|
It appears that some people like to bring the already refuted topics time and again as if we Muslims have a very short memory. The Christian missionary Jochen Katz's recent use of the services of Samuel Green's article The Seven Readings of the Qur'an is one such example.
The statement of the Samuel Green indicated with '>' is the older one and the one which is new does not contain '>' after he updated the article.
So, it is Katz turn to start a more incessant ranting about "Versions of the Qur'an". Even this ranting does not appear to solve the mess in which the New Testament is in. As we said, if you can not fix your problems, start flaunting it. Or even better go for a wag the dog scenario to shift the focus from the issues of your own text to someone else's.
Subsequently more material was added to this by us. The contents of the above document are divided as follows:
So, we have essentially dealt with all the important issues concerning the Qirâ'ât, its isnad going back to the Companions who then took it from the Prophet(P) himself. We have also dealt with the criteria of accepting the Qirâ'ât by the Islamic scholars as well as some very basic examples. Inshallah, some more examples would be added in due course.
Qirâ'ât Or 'Variant' Readings?
It is quite clear that the Qirâ'a is not a 'variant' reading or text. The Muslims in history have never considered different Qirâ'ât as different 'versions' of the Qur'an. Furthermore, neither it is defined as 'variant' text as some Orientalists and some people have done so. Keeping this in mind let us now go further with what is written in the article.
Well, firstly what is meant by the phrase 'even to a dot'? The earlier Qur'ans were written without any dotting. Gradual efforts were made in adding the dots and other markings to facilitate correct reading from the first century of Hijra. If the expression 'even to a dot' is literally taken then one can say that the Arabic script in Africa differs from that in the Middle East in dotting. If the expression is to mean the purity of the Qur'an as a book, then it is correct. It has been said long time ago that:
And guess who wrote it? The famous Christian missionary from University of Oxford, Sir Willium Muir in the book The Life Of Mohammad.
Are Qirâ'ât Due To The Lack Of Vowel & Diacritical Points In The Early Qur'ans?
Samuel Green says:
He adds further that:
It is to be made clear that the Arabic script before and during the time of cUthmân was written without vowel and diacritical marks. To say that the vowels and diacritical marks were not included in the cUthmânic Qur'an actually shows the ignorance of the Christian missionary Samuel Green concerning the evolution of Arabic script. The need for vowel and diacritical marks arose only after the time of cUthmân to prevent the wrong recitation of the Qur'an by ignorant Arabs and non-Arabs.
Arabic orthography at the time of cUthmân was not yet developed in the way we have known for centuries, particularly in two important areas. There was no distinction between letters of the alphabet of similar shape and there were no vowel marks. This may now give the impression that such a system must have given rise to great confusion in reading. This was not actually the case because the morphological patterns of words in Arabic enable readers to read even very unfamiliar material without the short vowels being marked. More important, however, as far as the Qur'an was concerned, was the fact that learning and reading relied above all on oral transmission. In the Islamic tradition, writing remained a secondary aid; nevertheless, to ensure correct reading of the written texts of the Qur'an, particularly for those coming after the first generation of Muslims, steps were taken gradually to improve the orthography. This started with the two above mentioned areas by introducing dots to indicate different vowels and nûnâtion and these were put in different coloured ink from that of the text. There were also dots to distinguish between consonants of similar shape. This work was carried out chiefly by three men: Abû-l-Aswad al-Du'alî (d. 69 / 688), Nasr Ibn cAsim (d. 89 / 707) and Yahya Ibn Yacmur (d.129 /746). Understandably there was some opposition at first to adding anything to the way the Qur'an was written. Ibn cUmar (73/692) disliked the dotting; others welcomed it, clearly because it was, in fact, doing no more than ensuring proper reading of the Qur'an as received from the Prophet(P), and this view was accepted by the majority of Muslims throughout the different parts of the Muslims world, from the time of the tâbicûn. The people of Madinah were reported to have used red dots for vowels - tanwîn, tashdîd, takhfîf, sukûn, wasl and madd and yellow dots for the hamzas in particular. Naqt (placing dots on words in the mushaf), became a separate subject of study with many books written on it. For details please see the article Qur'anic Orthography: The Written Representation Of The Recited Text Of The Qur'an.
Further, the conclusions of the missionary is that there was an
The aim of the Christian missionary here is to show that prior to the introduction of the vowel and diacritical marks, that is, throughout the period of the Prophet(P) and the Companions, as well as the generation immediately following the Qur'an was in undetermined, fluid state, a kind of limbo, and that it assumed concrete form only with the addition of diacritical marks and vocalization signs, which of course was long after the age of Revelation. In other words, for almost a century before Hijra the Qur'an was in the fluid state and as soon as the vowels and diacritical marks were introduced, the Qur'an started to crystallise in the form that we have now after going through many 'versions.' For such a situation there is no historical evidence. Neither, there is historical evidence that Muslims differed over the Qur'an unlike the Christians who differ over the extent of the canon even to this day. It must be emphasized that for Muslims down through the centuries the consensus (ijma') of the community has always been a decisive proof in all matters; and as the community is agreed that man has not contributed a whit to the Qur'an, the matter may be considered settled. This is precisely the point which has been noted in the quote of N J Dawood used by the missionary. It is quite clear that all the Qirâ'ât are given equal authority. The above quote taken from N J Dawood's translation of the Qur'an is actually in direct contradiction of what Samuel Green had intended to show in his article, i.e., that the Muslims follow different 'sets of the Qur'an' as if they are not all authoritative. One wonders why did he choose to quote the material which does not even serve his purpose!
Further evidence against the view in question may be drawn from the Qirâ'ât themselves. It is certainly germane to the issue at hand to note that in many instances where the unmarked cUthmânic canon is capable of being read in diverse ways, we find the Qurra (i.e., the Readers) agreeing on a single reading. Such agreement can most reasonably be accounted for on the basis of a firmly established oral tradition of recitation. Take for example the verbal prefixes ta and ya (or tu or yu), which in the unmarked text would be represented by the same symbol. Taking the form turjacûna and yurjacûna as a case point we note that all the Qirâ'ât use the first of these forms in 2:245; 10:56; 28:88; 36:22, 83; 39:44; 41:21 and 43:85; while all use the second in 6:36 and 19:40.
So, if the Qurra invented the Qirâ'ât just because the earliest manuscripts were undotted, why then we see that they had converged to one single reading many times? The Christian missionary's last resort will be to invoke two conspiracies on a massive scale from Spain to India; first, to achieve uanimity on one reading from vastly divergent readings and second, to fabricate the ijma' on the Qur'an itself after that!
The emphasis is that Muslims just do not dump any readings as they all go back to the famous Companions of the Prophet(P) such as Ubayy, Ibn Mascud, Zaid Ibn Thâbit and cUthmân(R).
According to Samuel Green:
Are we greatly surprised? A few examples of the printed edition of masâhif of the Qur'an in various Qirâ'ât are given below:
This is a well known and common mushâf printed in the Saudi Arabia. They have adopted the Hafs Qirâ'ât. Hafs is the most common type of Qirâ'ât used in the Muslim world.
This is a mushâf from Algeria with the riwaya of Warsh. It is important to note that all the masâhif are written in rasm al-cUthmâni. Also notice the Qâf written with one dot on top in Maghribi script!
Yet another mushâf in the riwaya of Warsh. This is printed in Morocco.
The riwaya Qâlûn from Nâfic. This mushâf is published in Tunisia by ad-Dâr at-Tunissia lilnashr.
The Qur'an in the riwaya of Dûri from Abî cAmrû. This mushâf is from Sudan.
Insha'allah, we will be putting some more masâhif which deal with as-Sûsi and Hamza. Currently, we are trying to procure them.
So, we have the authority directly from the Prophet(P) that the Qur'an can be recited in any of the Qirâ'a. Indeed the presence of masâhif of the Qur'an in different Qirâ'ât as well as the professional Muslim reciters (and common folk too!) reciting the Qur'an in various Qirâ'ât indicates their importance. There are people even in this day and age who recite in more than one Qirâ'a and some of them upto ten.
Samuel Green thinks he is pretty clever. All of a sudden "Seven Basic Readings" now become "Seven Basic Texts". Further he confuses himself between 'transmission' and 'text' or probably he is delibrately cheating as Katz did sometime ago. The 'transmission' was conveniently changed into 'text' to show that Muslims have different Qur'ans.
The Abuse of Brockett's Material On Qirâ'ât
The favourite article of some people when dealing with the Qirâ'ât is that of Adrian Brockett and is called "The Value of Hafs And Warsh Transmissions For The Textual History Of The Qur'an", published in Approaches Of The History Of Interpretation of The Qur'an. This book has been used by those time and again to show different 'texts' of the Qur'an to the Muslims. Adrian Brockett in no way supports the claim of some people yet they still like to quote him for some strange reason.
Samuel Green quotes Adrian Brockett's article:
Is that all that is said in that article or is it that Samuel Green's hand suddenly turned heavy so that he can't lift the pages of that article? His aim is to show that there is a 'corruption' in the Qur'anic text. For that reason he has shown some images of the difference in the graphic form. And now here comes Mr. Green's audacity after he admits his poor knowledge!
If one goes back to page 34 of the article, one can be read precisely the opposite:
This, not surprisingly, was conveniently omitted by Samuel Green.
Further, in the section The Extent To Which The Differences Affect The Sense, Adrian Brockett states:
And interestingly enough the author went on to say:
That is something which Samuel Green would not let us know unless, of course, we point out.
We read further:
This leads the author to state:
This leads anyone to the conclusion that there is no tampering of the Qur'an by humans. In the end:
The rest of the article which Mr. Green surprisingly omitted says that the Qur'an is one and same text after the death of Muhammad(P). So, this essentially refutes the whole 'corruption' argument of Mr. Green.
No Books On Mutawâtir Readings Available?
Mr. Green's admission is pretty much honest that there are seven authorised readings of the Qur'an. Not many missionaries are brave enough to admit it. We have to admit that his confession has taken a rather torturous route.
Further we read:
As far as the fourteen Qirâ'ât not being available, as suggested above, shows utter ignorance of the author. If he had bother to check some of the Arabic literature on the issue of the Qirâ'ât, we would not be hearing this nonsense.
We have already shown above some of the printed edition of the masâhif of the Qur'an in different Qirâ'ât.
Below are the examples of the books which deals with ten mutawâtir readings.
This book Al-Nashr fi-l-Qirâ'ât al-cAshr by Ibn al-Jazrî who died in 833 AH. This is a standard book used by students of the science of Qirâ'ât. This is the edition from Dâr al-Kutub cIlmiyyah, Beirut, Lebanon. Not surprisingly, this book is also used by Adrian Brockett, in his article "The Value of Hafs And Warsh Transmissions For The Textual History Of The Qur'an" (e.g., on p. 35, see footnote 14). One really wonders how Samuel Green could simply 'miss' it.
The below one a very recent book.
For the benefit of the English speaking readers, we translate the Arabic in the above text.
The Ten Mutawâtir Readings
from the ways of ash-Shatbiyyah and ad-Durrah
In the Margin of
The Holy Qur'an
cAlawi Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Bilfaqih
carried out by
Shaykh Muhammad Karîm Râjih
The Chief Reader in the Syrian land
Dâr al-Muhâjir for Publications & Distribution
This book is a third print published in 1414AH/1994 CE. This book claims as a
The 10 readers/transmitters of the Mutawâtir readings are listed here. What is more interesting is that there are reciters even to this day who have memorised the Qur'an in all the 10 Mutawâtir readings!
In any case, one more issue concerning the 'lack of availability' of the Qirâ'ât is down.
We also present the manuscript evidence that marks different Qirâ'ât and is dated probably 3rd century AH. This is sufficient evidence to show that Qirâ'ât were given utmost importance even in the past.
Probably 3rd cent. A.H. no diacritical marks but advanced system of vocalization. Moreover, this Mushaf marks the different canonical readings of the text (Qirâ'ât). The process of restoring a masterpeice like this provides the unique opportunity ot display the beauty and philological precision of one Mushaf by showing more than just two pages.
It is clear from our discussion about that the 'variant' readings of the Qur'an which are actually called Qirâ'ât do not give the impression as 'variant' or something different than the Qur'an. Muslims in the past as well as in the present have treated them with utmost respect as they were all recited by the Prophet(P) and his Companions(R). They Qirâ'ât are just not considered as something different from the Qur'an.
One of the important conclusions of the Christian missionary is also that:
It will be good to study the variant readings (they are truly variant!) in the New Testamant, their origins and impact in the next section. It will be clear who exactly should be worried about the variant readings and why should the Bible be considered as the last candidate to be the 'inerrant' word of God.
Variant Readings Of The New Testament: Their Origin & Significance
Since this topic of variant readings is brought forth and Mr. Green's conclusion that since the Qur'an has 'variation' within its text and hence it is not superior to other Holy Books, which presumably is the Bible. The Interpreter's Dictionary Of The Bible, Under "Text, NT" informs us that:
After reading this and applying the conclusion of Mr. Green it would be quite clear that the Bible is not worth even considering a scripture as it is clear that it is riddled with variant readings and not a single sentence in the NT is uniform. Also we do not know which one is the authorized reading. Some New Testament scholars put the total number of readings or differences in the Bible at least 3,00,000 for 20th century. Hard to believe, is it not?
Further The Interpreter's Dictionary Of The Bible informs us:
So, the tampering of the Bible was done delibrately by the scribes themselves. It is pretty clear that Muslims have a point when the tampering of the Bible is mentioned.
Let us examine the reasons for the corruption of the New Testament text. Bruce Metzger categorizes them as Unintentional Errors and Intentional Changes.
So, if the Bible is really the word of God then why did the scribes made intentional changes? Further do we have the original copies of the Bible to verify what the original reading is from the corrupted one?
The interesting bit is not the absence of original manuscripts but the presence of widely divergent and imperfect readings. This is further exacerbated by the problem that we do not have the original document to verify the original reading; therefore, we can only make a guess of what the original reading could be. This means, we cannot be sure whether Jesus(P) or Apostles said such a such thing in the Bible. Hence it becomes a problem in evaluation of the Bible as a scripture. Indeed the Acts of Apostles has earned the notoriety for the variant readings.
Apart from the notorious variation we also have the problem of which text is the original text. Since we do not know which one is original, the guess work in pressed into service. The above problem is one such example of guess work. And how come guess work leads to truth?
Critical Editions & The Methodologies
The argument would now be closed by considering the issue of critical text which represents the variant readings of the New Testament from the manuscripts as well as the quotes of the Church Fathers. The widely used critical edition of New Testament is by Nestle and Aland called Novum Testamentum Graece Cum Apparatu Critico Curavit. This is a working text or committee text which was agreed upon by a committee.
So, as far as the Novum Testamentum Graece (edited by Kurt Aland and Barbara Aland) is concerned, one can say that the committee itself does not make a claim that it restored the 'original' text of the Bible! So, where is the original Bible then?
In fact, the Kurt and Barbara Aland, the editors of the recent edition of Nestle-Aland's Novum Testamentum Graece Cum Apparatu Critico Curavit compare the total number of variant free verses in Nestle-Aland edition with the other critical editions such as that of Tischendorf, Westcott-Hort, von Soden, Vogels, Merk, and Bover. It is seen that nearly two-thirds of New Testament text in the seven editions of the Greek New Testament reviewed by Aland and Aland is in agreement with no differences other than in orthographic details.
Since Nestle-Aland's critical edition is very complicated to be used in the translation of the New Testament in other languages, there was a growing need for new edition of Greek New Testament which would serve this purpose. This need was materialised in the form of The Greek New Testament, GNT2, (of course, based on Nestle-Aland's critical text) which has the following features:
An example of how the GNT2 critical edition looks like is shown below.
The above image of the Gospel of Mark is taken from The Greek New Testament edited by Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M Martini, Bruce M Metzger & Allen Wikgren. Note that it provides lots of information on the textual variants and their relative degree of certainity which are needed for the translation.
This edition is similar to the Nestle-Aland's critical edition except that it has more details on the textual variants and their relative degree of certainity.
The relative degree of certainity of the textual variants is again based on Committee discussions which involved either a uanimous agreement or voting when they disagreed on a particular reading. Also note that the textual variants are cited with their relative degree of certainity. Certainly, if the New Testament's original text/literal text is available then why their relative degree of certainity? This clearly shows that the New Testament that we have in our hands today is the work of human beings rather than the word of God.
So, by applying the standards of the Christian missionary Samuel Green, we should reject the New Testament as a 'superior Holy Book' because there is not a single sentence in it that is uniform. Oh! we also forgot to mention that according to the great Church tradition, we have the Bibles of the Protestant Church, Roman Catholic Church, Anglican Church, Greek Orthodox Church, Coptic Church, Ethiopic Church and Syriac Church. They contain different number of books and God knows best how many variants one is expected to see in them. So, our question now is which variants and the books in the Bible are inspired by God? And what the evidence for it?
And lastly we will let a non-Muslim speak on the issue of the Islamic and the Christian scholarship dealing with the 'variants':
And Allah knows best!
 W Muir, The Life Of Mohammad, 1912, Edinburgh, John Grant, pp. xxii-xxiii.
 Labib as-Said (Translated By Bernard Weiss, M A Rauf & Morroe Berger), The Recited Koran, 1975, The Darwin Press (Princeton, New Jersey), p. 106.
 Cyril Glasse, The Concise Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1989, Stacey International, London, p. 232.
 Andrew Rippin (Ed.), Approaches Of The History of Interpretation Of The Qur'an, 1988, Clarendon Press, Oxford, p. 34.
 ibid., p. 37.
 ibid., p. 43.
 ibid., p. 44.
 ibid., p. 45.
 cAlawi Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Bilfaqih, Al-Qirâ'ât al-cAshr al-Mutawâtir, 1994, Dâr al-Muhâjir, See the back of the cover page.
 Masâhif San'â', 1985, Dâr al-Athar al-Islâmiyyah, Mushâf no. 70, p. 36.
 George Arthur Buttrick (Ed.), The Interpreter's Dictionary Of The Bible, Volume 4, 1962 (1996 Print), Abingdon Press, Nashville, pp. 594-595 (Under "Text, NT").
 David Noel Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Bible Dictionary On CD-ROM, 1997, New York: Doubleday (CD-ROM Edition by Logos Research Systems), (Under "Textual Criticism, NT").
 George Arthur Buttrick (Ed.), The Interpreter's Dictionary Of The Bible, Volume 4, p. 595 (Under "Text, NT").
 Bruce M Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption & Restoration, 1992, Oxford University Press, New York, pp. 186-206.
 David Noel Freedman (Ed.), The Anchor Bible Dictionary On CD-ROM, (Under "Textual Criticism, NT").
 George Arthur Buttrick (Ed.), The Interpreter's Dictionary Of The Bible, Volume 1, p. 41 (Under "Acts of the Apostles").
 D C Parker, The Living Text Of The Gospels, 1997, Cambridge University Press, p. 3.
 Kurt Aland & Barbara Aland, The Text Of The New Testament: An Introduction To The Critical Editions & To The Theory & Practice Of Modern Text Criticism, 1995, William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, p. 29.
 Kurt Aland, Matthew Black, Carlo M Martini, Bruce M Metzger & Allen Wikgren (Editors), The Greek New Testament, 1968 (Second Edition), United Bible Societies, p. v.
 Ibid, pp. x-xi.
 Bernard Lewis, Islam In History, 1993, Open Court Publishing, pp.104-105.
M S M Saifullah, Elias Karîm & Muhammad Ghoniem
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