CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE QURANIC TEXT
CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE QURANIC TEXT
The title of this brief essay is actually the title of chapter five of the book Conspiracies against the Quran by Abdul Wadud, in which the author details how and why the Muslim community has deviated from the Quran and, therefore, has suffered the consequent disgrace of its deviations.1 In this chapter his main thrust is to illustrate how the Muslim community has elevated the Hadith to the status of inspired literature and thereby made the Quran dependent upon it. He illustrates this with reference to Kitab al-Masahif (The Book of Codices, i.e. Quranic Codices) by Ibn Abi Dawud from which Ibn Abi Dawud cites Hadith describing the textual history of the Quran.2
What is Abdul Waduds contention about the status of the Quran, the Hadith and their interrelationship? He constantly notes that in the Quran Muslims have the pure and unadulterated Word of God "because Allah took its safe custody upon Himself" (p. 10). It was finalized at the time of Muhammad in book form and in the memories of thousands of people. Thus the Quran has come to Muslims in its original and unaltered form for the past fourteen centuries, and so it shall continue (p. 16). How different the status of other Scriptures (the Torah and the Injil) whose preservation God has not guaranteed, the author adds.3
On the other hand, Abdul Wadud continues, Muhammad was not interested in preserving the Hadith (p. 16). He left only one book the Qurana fact to which the leading traditionist, Bukhari, attests (p. 16). Nor were the first four caliphs interested in the Hadith. The earliest collection available today is by Imam Malik (d. 179 A.H.); yet even the contents of this collection are subject to doubts. (p. 17)
The Ahadis literature, which is being considered as authentic as the Quran, was collected about 250 years after the death of the Rasool. These collections of Ahadis even contain material which goes against the teachings of the Quran, so much so that it even reflects badly upon Allah and His Rasool. (p. 17)
It is even said that the Quran is dependent on Ahadis and if there is a conflict, on a certain point, between the two, the Hadis shall be considered more reliable than the Quran. (p. 18)
On the other hand there is no source available from which one could ascertain that the Ahadis which have been attributed to certain persons, were actually related to them. (p. 18)
The following, then, is a summary of the Hadith extracted by Abdul Wadud from Kitab al-Masahif with reference to the collection of the Quran and Abdul Wadud's comments on them:
1. Muhammad did not compile the Quran. Zaid ibn Thabit compiled it, as instructed by Abu Bakr. Three traditions are cited.
2. Abu Bakr assembled the Quran; then Zaid ibn Thabit read it. One tradition is cited, according to which the text went from Abu Bakr to Umar to Hafsa. From Hafsa it went to Uthman, who copied it and returned it to Hafsa. Eventually Marwan burned it.
3. Umar started the compilation of the Quran and Uthman completed it. One tradition is cited. This tradition also records that Khuzaima ibn Thabit noted that Uthman had missed two verses; these verses were eventually recovered.
4. During Uthman's caliphate there were different readings of the Quran. One tradition is cited. It noted that the readings of Abu Musa Ashari and Abdullah ibn Mas'ud differed.
5. Abdullah ibn Mas'ud disagreed with Zaid ibn Thabit's appointment as a scribe. Two traditions are cited, one of which noted that Uthman ordered the destruction of all other Quranic versions other than his own, an order which Abdullah ibn Mas'ud also opposed. Still another noted the different versions of the Quranic text used by Syrian and Iraqi Muslims fighting against each other and attempted to correct this. After Hafsa's death, her copy of the Quran was destroyed.
6. Uthman compiled the Quran. Two traditions are cited, one in which, during the caliphate of Uthman, teachers of the Quran differed regarding the text and conveyed these differences to their students. The second indicated the doubt of the community about the Quranic text only thirteen years after Muhammad's death. Uthman invited doubters to bring their written references which Zaid ibn Thabit and Sa'eed ibn As assembled in the best Arabic.
7. Uthman set the sequence of the Quranic verses. One tradition notes the confusion about the relationship of Surah Baraat (= Surah Tawbah) with Surah Anfal.
8. Mistakes remained in the Quranic text even after Uthman collected it. Six traditions are cited, three of them simply mentioning language errors. Two of them single out four words which are not correct in the Quran; they are scribal errors. The sixth relates how someone told Uthman that the text Uthman compiled differed in twelve places from the Medinan text. Yet more, according to Ibn Abi Dawud, texts which were copied and sent to various cities differed from each other. Such differences went back to the time of Muhammad and persisted until Hajaj ibn Yousaf finally corrected them.
Thus, our author continues:
In short, these traditions tell us that the present version of the Quran that we possess today was neither compiled by the Rasool nor by his companions but it is the finally amended (sic) by Hajaj Ibn Yousaf about a century after the death of the Rasool. This was the period when traditions began to be recorded. The crux of the whole matter is that the conspiracy wants to assert that the Quranic text and the Ahadis are both at par with each other, as far as their care, recording and finalisation is concerned, and if the purity and authenticity of the traditions is doubtful, the same may be said about the Quranic text. The conspiracy wants to impress that the present Quranic text is not the one dictated by the Rasool himself but, rather, it is the one finally corrected by Hajaj who is known to be the greatest tyrant of his age.
This is only a brief extract from the book Kitab al-Masahif written by Abu Bakr Abdullah Ibn Abi Daood of Baghdad (230-316 A.H.) who was held in great esteem by the traditionists, the people and the Government of Baghdad.... All these self-contradictory traditions are attributed to the companions of the Rasool who according to the Quran, were the most truthful people. One can well imagine the poison these traditions can inject into the minds of the readers against the Quran and how much suspicion they can raise against its purity and integrity. If such traditions are relied upon there is no difference left between the Quran and the present versions of Torah and Bible which we believe are not in their original forms as revealed to Moses and Jesus Christ respectively. (p. 89)
To Abdul Wadud it makes no sense that these Hadith represent the true status of the Quran, its uniqueness, its perfection and its perfect compilation and preservation from the time of Muhammad until today and for all time. He therefore directs his readers to the Quran itself as its own sufficient defence, citing from it a host of verses that, in his opinion, uphold the perfection of both the text of the Quran and its preservation, as well as the nullification of those Hadith passages speaking against the Quran's perfection (pp. 90-101). He closes his case as follows:
... Is it not fantastic to allege that the Quran, after it was revealed, was left uncared for, for a century or so, in a haphazard manner, scattered on pieces of stones, bones and leaves, etc.? Is it necessary to seek the help of the intriguers, conspirators and the Muslim priests to find out how and by whom the Quran was compiled in the form of a book? ...
Can a revealed book of this standard which, according to the Quran itself, was dictated and in bits, simultaneous with its revelation, to the most honourable and pious scribes who were men of great integrity; and then copied, learnt by heart and rehearsed daily by a large number of believers, and whose safety Allah took upon Himself, be said to have been left uncared for? (p. 101)
In conclusion a few comments:
1. Like all Muslims, Abdul Wadud is aware of the existence of a body of Hadith referring to the collection of the Quran. He has two problems with these Hadith:
a. Some of them contradict the Muslim community's popular concept (shared by Abdul Wadud) of the perfection of the Quranic text, its collection and preservation from the time of Muhammad.
b. Some of these Hadith contradict others. Thus it is unclear from them when the compilation of the Quran actually began, who began it, which secretary / secretaries actually implemented it; what the whole process involved and how long the process lasted.
Echoing Arthur Jeffery, he also is aware that these difficulties are not the creation of non-Muslims; they come from Muslim source materials.
2. Abdul Wadud solves the problem by dismissing the Hadith and appealing to the Quran alone. But, we ask, does the Quran itself prove the claims that Abdul Wadud (and others) make on behalf of the Quran or have the Quran make on its own behalf: the manuscript of the Quran perfectly compiled and finalized by Muhammad himself before he died and memorized by thousands of Muslims, a text free from any variation or discrepancy written or spoken, perfectly transmitted and preserved from generation to generation until the present and even thereafter? Do his Quranic proofs justify him dismissing all the Hadith evidence as false simply because the Hadith evidence conflicts with his Quranic proof claims? And does the fact that within the Hadith some accounts contradict other accounts strengthen his conclusion that the Hadith are fabricated? May not some be historically true, even if others are false? In any case, how can the Quran provehow can the Quran be expected to provethe historical accuracy of these claims!
3. Yet, if Abdul Wadud's rejection of the Hadith is strange, is not the response of many Muslim scholars who uphold the sanctity of the Hadith equally strange, at least those Hadith in regard to the compilation and preservation of the Quran? Muslim scholars are well aware of the considerable amount of information on these concerns found in Hadith collections, Islamic historical and biographical works and in Quranic commentaries, and a few fundamental facts which seem to emerge from them:
a. The compilation of the Quran took place at the time of Uthman, who played an important role in its formation and distribution.
b. Prior to the time of Uthmans caliphate there existed a number of personal Quranic collections belonging to the companions of Muhammad. Their texts differed often radically from Uthmans textus receptus.
c. The language and calligraphy of the Uthmanic text continued to undergo refinement for a considerable period of time after Uthman.
If this is true, one wonders why much able Muslim scholarship has continued to promote those claims, echoed by Abdul Wadud, about the perfect compilation of the Quran at the time of Muhammad, unaltered and perfectly preserved through the centuries "beyond a shadow of a doubt", as if no contrary evidence existed! Might one ask which is better: to dismiss Hadith as an inspired second source of Islam and to accept the Quran as the sole source of Islam (as does Abdul Wadud) or to accept the Hadith as a second source of Islam along with the Quran as the primary source (as most Muslims have understandably done) but at the same time ignore the Hadith when it is inconvenient, i.e., when the Hadith portrayal of the Quranic text and its compilation do not meet the standards they (and Abdul Wadud) have established for the perfection of its text and compilation? In any case, it does seem that if those who uphold the Hadith as an indispensable second source of Islam but at the same time ignore its references to the text and compilation of the Quran, then, in fact, they do concede the inaccuracy and inadequacy of these references and, at least to this extent, validate the basic thesis of Abdul Wadud under discussion here.
4. A brief response to Abdul Waduds statement about the Holy Bible:
As a matter of fact tremendous alterations have been brought about in these books since they were revealed (to Moses and Jesus) and it is very difficult to say with certainty how far they are original. (p. 89)
This comment especially, as well as his other negative references to the status of the Bible (one of them from the Hadith!), makes one wonder whether Abdul Wadud, while charging Muslims with conspiracy against the Quran for citing Hadith which Abdul Wadud feels dishonour the Quran, himself is conducting a conspiracy against the Bible! Just what is his purpose in making this statement? And what is his evidence for the "tremendous alterations" he detects in these Scriptures? Has he examined the unparalleled manuscript evidence for the history of the Bible and its preservation?
Or, surely also of interest to Abdul Wadud, what does the Quran have to say about the Scriptures of the Jews and the Christians and the preservation of these Scriptures? No doubt, countless Muslims have contended that the Bible is corrupted/abrogated. But how many of them have really examined the numerous Quranic references to these Scriptures and their custodians, not just a few select passages but all of them? Similarly, surely those Muslims who honour the Hadith as the second inspired source should examine what the Hadith say about the Scriptures of the People of the Book also.
5. It is no light task to deal with sacred Scriptures with integrity, whether one's own or another's. If both Muslims and Christians agree that each should treat the other as he would be treated by the other, surely they would also agree that each should treat the other's Scriptures as he would have his Scriptures treated by the other, i.e. with the same intellectual and moral integrity.
1. Khalid Publishers, Lahore. In his preface (p. viii) Abdul Wadud acknowledges his indebtedness to Ghulam Ahmed Parwez, a contemporary Pakistani leader who upholds the Quran alone as virtually the sole source of Islam. Of course, Abdul Wadud is not the first Muslim to take this stand.
2. Abdul Wadud refers to Arthur Jeffery's work Materials for the History of the Text of the Quran dealing with Kitab al-Masahif. Jeffery writes that it "is apparently the sole surviving example of the little group of Masahif books which studied the state of the Quran text prior to its canonization of the standard text of Uthman". (Brill, Leiden, 1937, Preface p. 1)
3. Cf. G. A. Parwez, Islam A Challenge to Religion, Tolu-e-Islam Trust, Lahore, 1996, who notes that Muhammad received the Quran through revelation and that "he passed it on in the form we know it today. This internal evidence provided by the Quran itself, as well as historical research, proves beyond a shadow of doubt that not even a comma of the original Arabic text has been changed or is likely to be altered in the future" (p. 32). Abdul Wadud acknowledges his debt to Parwez in general for his insights into the self-sufficiency of the Quran as revelation and as God's rational way of life for society.
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