[Part 1], [Part 2], [Part 3], [Part 4], [Part 5], [Part 6], [Part 7], [Appendix]

Rebuttal to Johnny Bravo's Article

"Christian Scholars refuting the status of the NT as an inspired scripture"

(Part 4)

[The following series are a rebuttal to the claims set forth by "Johnny Bravo" against the reliability and authenticity of the NT documents. Bravo's article can be found at various places (e.g. [1], [2], [3]). Please be aware that "Johnny Bravo" is a copyrighted character from the Cartoon Network.]

After examining Metzger's assertions, we now proceed to the writings of the early church Fathers to show that they did in fact believe in the inspiration of the NT books.

Before proceeding to the Fathers' writings, we first like to quote Philip W. Comfort to show that many scholars do not hold Metzger's assessment of the early Fathers' views on the NT. Writing about the development of the NT canon Comfort states:

The first notable church fathers - Clement, Ignatius, Papias, Justin Martyr, and Polycarp (all writing before A.D. 150) - used the material of the New Testament as authentic, apostolic SCRIPTURES. In A.D. 95 Clement of Rome wrote to Christians in Corinth using free rendering of material from Matthew and Luke. He seems to have been strongly influenced by Hebrews and was obviously familiar with Romans and Corinthians. Since Clement's letter was addressed by the entire church of Rome to the church of Corinth, it can be assumed that both of these audiences knew these writings. Therefore, these books that later became part of the New Testament canon were circulating among the churches prior to A.D. 90.

Ignatius, when quoting from the Gospels or Paul's epistles, made a distinction between his own writings and the inspired, authoritative apostolic writings. Papias, Bishop of Hierapolis (ca. 130-140), in a work preserved for us by Eusebius, specifically mentions the Gospels of Matthew and Mark. His use of them for exposition indicates his acceptance of them as canonical. Near the middle of the second century, Justin Martyr, in describing the worship services of the early church, put the apostolic writings on a par with those of the Old Testament prophets. He stated that the divine voice that spoke through the prophets was the same voice that spoke through the apostles of Christ. Justin was also free in his use of "it is written" with his quotations from the New Testament Scriptures.

Polycarp of Smyrna personally knew some of Jesus' eyewitnesses, particularly the apostle John. Near the end of his life, just prior to his martyrdom (155), he wrote his Epistle to the Philippians. In this epistle he used a combined Old Testament and New Testament quotation, introduced by the statement "As it is said in these Scriptures" (Polycarp 12:4, emphasis mine). There are NO CITATIONS from the Old Testament in this epistle, but there are quotations from and allusions to Matthew, Acts, Romans, 1 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, 2 Thessalonians, 1 Timothy, and 1 Peter.

Other writings of the first half of the second century (A.D. 100-150) affirm that the New Testament writings were regarded AS SCRIPTURES. The Didache (or Teaching of the Twelve), perhaps even earlier, makes references to a written Gospel. The Epistle of Barnabas (ca. 130) has the formula, "it is written" (Barnabas 4:14), with reference to Matthew 22:14. (Comfort, Essential Guide to Bible Versions [Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Wheaton Il 2000], pp. 57-58; italic and capital emphasis ours)

We now go on to the writings of the Fathers. The following citations are taken from A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, Hendrickson Publishers, Massachusetts 1998, edited by David W. Bercot. All bold and capital emphasis is ours:

"The apostle has used the same word in writing. For he was guided, of course, BY THE SAME SPIRIT BY WHOM THE BOOK OF GENESIS WAS DRAWN UP—AS WERE ALL THE DIVINE SCRIPTURES." Tertullian, 198 A.D. (Bercot, p. 602)

"Although different matters are taught us in the various books of the Gospels, there is not difference as regards the faith of believers. For in all of them, all things are related UNDER ONE IMPERIAL SPIRIT." Muratorian Fragment, 200 A.D. (Ibid.)

The citations that follow are taken from David T. King and William Webster's three-volume defense of the Protestant Reformation principle sola scriptura titled Holy Scriptures—The Ground and Pillar of our Faith, published by Christian Resources - 1505 NW 4th Avenue - BattleGround, WA 98604. These books can also be ordered on line here.

All italic and capital emphasis is ours, unless noted otherwise.

Webster begins Chapter 1 of Volume II by noting:

It is in the mid-second century in the writings of Irenaeus and Tertullian that we encounter the first clear articulation of the concept of tradition. Prior to this, we find little use of the word by the earliest fathers, known as the Apostolic Fathers, and the apologists such as Justin Martyr, Theophilus of Antioch and Athenagoras. Rather, we find a constant appeal to the Old and New Testaments as authoritative sources of doctrine. These fathers held a very high view of the authority of the Scriptures because they believed THEM to be inspired by God. In his Epistle to the Corinthians, Clement of Rome wrote that the Scriptures are the oracles of God. He made reference again and again to the authority of Scripture with the prefix, ‘it is written,’ and quotes BOTH the Old and NEW Testaments as inspired by the Holy Spirit. In the same Epistle, he quotes the New Testament book of Hebrews:

FOR IT IS THUS WRITTEN, ‘Who maketh His angels spirits, and His ministers a flame of fire.’

Polycarp quoted the writings of Paul, calling them Scripture and including them under the general title of sacred Scriptures..." (Holy Scripture, Volume II, A Historical Defense of the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura, p. 21)

Polycarp had this to say about Paul and his writings:

Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna (69-155/156)

These things, brethren, I write to you concerning righteousness, not because I take anything upon myself, but because ye have invited me to do so. For neither I, nor any other such one, can come up to the wisdom of the blessed and glorified Paul. He, when among you, ACCURATELY and steadfastly taught the word of truth in the presence of those who were then alive. And when absent from you, HE WROTE A LETTER, which, if you carefully study, you will find to be the means of building you up in the faith which has been given you, and which, being followed by hope, and preceded by love towards God, and Christ, and our neighbor, ‘is the mother of us all.’ For if any one be inwardly possessed of these graces, he hath fulfilled the command of righteousness, since he that hath love is far from all sin. ANF, Vol. I, The Apostolic Fathers, the Epistle of Polycarp to the Philippians, Chapter 3 (Holy Scriptures, Volume III, The Writings of the Church Fathers Affirming the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura, p. 281)

Continuing further in the same volume we find the following citations:

Justin Martyr (wrote after 151)...

For I have showed already that Christ is called both Jacob and Israel; and I have proved that it is not in the blessing of Joseph and Judah alone that what relates to Him was proclaimed mysteriously, but also in the Gospel IT IS WRITTEN that He said: ‘All things are delivered unto me by My Father;’ and, ‘No man knoweth the Father but the Son; nor the Son but the Father and they to whom the Son will reveal Him.’ Accordingly He revealed to us all that we have perceived by His grace OUT OF THE SCRIPTURES, so that we know Him to be the first-begotten of God, AND TO BE BEFORE ALL CREATURES; likewise to be the Son of the patriarchs, since He assumed flesh by the Virgin of their family, and submitted to become a man without comeliness, dishonoured, and subject to suffering. Hence, also among His words He said, when He was discoursing about His future sufferings: ‘The Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the Pharisees and Scribes, and be crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ ANF, Vol. 1, Dialogue of Justin, Chapter 100. (Ibid., pp. 13, 15-16)

Irenaeus (c. 130-c. 200)

We have learned from none others the plan of salvation, than from those through whom the Gospel has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us IN THE SCRIPTURES, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. For it is unlawful to assert that they preached before they possessed ‘perfect knowledge,’ as some do even venture to say, boasting themselves as improvers of the apostles. For, after our Lord rose from the dead, [the apostles] were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came [upon them], were filled from all [His gifts], and had perfect knowledge: they departed to the ends of the earth, preaching the glad tidings of the good things [sent] from God to us, and proclaiming peace of heaven to men, who indeed do all equally and individually POSSESS the Gospel of God. Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down TO US IN WRITING what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book THE GOSPEL preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia. ANF, Vol. 1, Against Heresies 3.1.1. (Ibid., p. 17)

Now, that the preaching of the apostles, the authoritative teaching of the Lord, the announcements of the prophets, the DICTATED UTTERANCES of the apostles, and the ministration of the law - all of which praise one and the same Being, the God and Father of all, and not many diverse beings, nor one deriving his substance from different gods or powers, but [declare] that all things [were formed] by one and the same Father (who nevertheless adapts [this works] to the natures and tendencies of the material dealt with), things visible and invisible, and, in short, all things that have been made [were created] neither by angels, nor by any other power, but by God alone, the Father - are all in harmony with our statements, has, I think, been sufficiently proved, while by these weighty arguments it has been shown that there is but one God, the Maker of all things. But that I may not be thought to avoid the series of proofs which may be derived from the Scriptures of the Lord (since, indeed, these Scriptures do much more evidently and clearly proclaim this very point), I shall, for the benefit of those at least who do not bring a depraved mind to bear upon them, devote a special book to the Scriptures referred to, which shall fairly follow them out [and explain them], and I shall plainly set forth from these divine Scriptures proofs to [satisfy] all the lovers of truth. ANF, Vol. 1, Against Heresies 2.35.4 (Ibid., p. 21)

Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank, lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life. For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers. On this account we are bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the thing pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of the truth. For how stands the case? Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question? For how should it be if the apostles themselves had not left us writings? Would it not be necessary, [in that case], to follow the course of the tradition which they handed down to those to whom they did commit the Churches? ... Since, therefore, the tradition from the apostles does thus exist in the Church, AND IS PERMANENT AMONG US, let us revert to THE SCRIPTURAL PROOF FURNISHED BY THOSE APOSTLES WHO DID ALSO WRITE THE GOSPEL, in which they RECORDED the doctrine regarding God, pointing out that our Lord Jesus is the truth, and that no lie is in Him. ANF, Vol. 1, Against Heresies 3.4.1; 3.5.1. (Ibid.)

Such, then, are the first principles of the Gospel; that there is one God, the Maker of this universe; He who was also announced by the prophets, and who by Moses set forth the dispensation of the law, - [principles] which proclaim the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and ignore any other God or Father except Him. So firm is the ground upon which THESE GOSPELS rest, THAT THE VERY HERETICS THEMSELVES BEAR WITNESS TO THEM, and, STARTING FROM THESE [DOCUMENTS], each one of them endeavors to establish his own peculiar doctrine. For the Ebionites, who use Matthew's Gospel only, are confuted out of this very same, making false suppositions with regard to the Lord. But Marcion, mutilating that according to Luke, is proved to be a blasphemer of the only existing God, from those [passages] which he still retains. Those, again, who separate Jesus from Christ, alleging that Christ remained impassible, but that it was Jesus who suffered, preferring the Gospel of Mark, if they read it with a love of truth, may have their errors rectified. Those, moreover, who follow Valentinus, making copious use of that according to John, to illustrate their conjunctions, shall be proved to be totally in error by means of this very Gospel, as I have shown in the first book. Since, then, OUR OPPONENTS DO BEAR TESTIMONY TO US, and make use OF THESE [DOCUMENTS], our proof derived from them IS FIRM AND TRUE. ANF, Vol. 1, Against Heresies 3.11.7. (Ibid., pp. 21-22)

It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principle winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the ‘pillar and ground’ of the Church is the Gospel, and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. From which fact, it is evident that the Word, the Artificer of all, He that sitteth upon the cherubim, and contains all things, He who was manifested to men, has given us the Gospel under four aspects, but bound together by ONE SPIRIT. ANF, Vol. 1, Against Heresies 3.11.8. (Ibid., p. 22)

But those who are from Valentinus, being, on the other hand, altogether reckless, while they put forth their own compositions, boast that they possess more Gospels than there really are. Indeed, they have arrived at such a pitch of audacity, as to entitle their comparatively recent writing ‘the Gospel of Truth,’ though it agrees nothing with the Gospels of the Apostles, so that they have really no Gospel which is not full of blasphemy. For if what they have is the Gospel of truth, and yet is totally unlike those which have been handed down to us FROM THE APOSTLES, any who please may learn, as is shown from THE SCRIPTURES themselves, that that which has been handed down FROM THE APOSTLES can no longer be reckoned the Gospel of truth. But that these Gospels are alone true and reliable, and admit neither an increase nor diminution of the aforesaid number, I have proved by so many and such [arguments]. For, since God made all things in due proportion and adaptation, it was fit also that the outward aspect of the Gospel should be well arranged and harmonized. The opinion of those men, therefore, who handed the Gospel down to us, having been investigated, from their very fountainheads, let us proceed also to the remaining apostles, and inquire into their doctrine with regard to God; then, in due course we shall listen TO THE VERY WORDS OF THE LORD. ANF, Vol. 1, Against Heresies 3.11.9. (Ibid., pp. 22-23)

But that ALL HIS EPISTLES are consonant to these declarations, I shall, when expounding the APOSTLE, show from THE EPISTLES themselves, in the right place. But while I bring out by these proofs the TRUTHS OF SCRIPTURE, and set forth briefly and compendiously things which are stated in various ways, do thou also attend to them with patience, and not deem them prolix; taking this into account, that proofs [of the things which are] contained in THE SCRIPTURES cannot be shown except from THE SCRIPTURES themselves. ANF, Vol. 1, Against Heresies 3:12:9 (Ibid., p. 23)

Tertullian (c. 160-c. 220)...

One Lord God does she [i. e. the Church] acknowledge, the Creator of the universe, and Christ Jesus (born) of the Virgin Mary, the Son of God the Creator; and the Resurrection of the flesh; the law and the prophets she unites in one volume with the writings of evangelists and apostles, from which she drinks her faith. ANF, Vol. III, The Prescription Against Heresies, Chapter 36. (Ibid., pp. 32, 34)

Interestingly, Tertullian claims that the heretics were falsifying the Scriptures whereas the true believers were preserving them:

Where diversity of doctrine is found, there, then, must the corruption both of the Scriptures and the expositions thereof be regarded as existing. On those whose purpose it was to teach differently, lay the necessity of differently arranging the instruments of doctrine. They could not possibly have effected their diversity of teaching in any other way than by having a difference in the means whereby thy taught. As in their case, corruption in doctrine could not possibly have succeeded without a corruption also of its instruments, so to ourselves also integrity of doctrine could not have accrued, without integrity in those means by which doctrine is managed. Now, what is there in our Scriptures which is contrary to us? What of our own have we introduced, that we should have to take it away again, or else add to it, or alter it, in order to restore to its natural soundness anything which is contrary to it, contained in the Scriptures? What we are ourselves, that also the Scriptures are (and have been) FROM THE BEGINNING. OF THEM WE HAVE OUR BEING, before there was any other way, before they were interpolated BY YOU. ANF, Vol. III, The Prescription Against Heresies, Chapter 38. (Ibid., p. 36)

Tertullian wasn't the only one to make this claim. Other writers affirm that true believers attempted to preserve the original readings, and spoke contrary to those who uncritically accepted any reading that could not be attested by the authentic NT manuscripts. Irenaeus in 180 AD wrote:

"This number [666] is found in all THE MOST APPROVED AND ANCIENT COPIES [of Revelation]. Furthermore, those men who saw John face to face bear their testimony ... I do not know how it is that some have erred following the ordinary mode of speech and have corrupted the middle number in the name... Afterwards, others received this reading WITHOUT EXAMINATION." (David W. Bercot, ed., A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, p. 640; all emphasis ours)

We see that Irenaeus was able to distinguish the most reliable and ancient copies from inauthentic ones. Ireneaus could know this since he had both the testimonies of the followers of the Apostles along with accurate copies made from the originals. As the early Church historian Eusebius noted:

"For this reason, the heretics have boldly laid their hands upon the divine Scriptures, alleging that they have corrected them... And many such copies can be obtained, for their disciples were very zealous in inserting these ‘corrections,’ AS THEY CALL THEM... Nor can they deny that the crime IS THEIRS, when the copies have been written with their own hands. Nor did they receive such copies of the scriptures from those by whom they were first instructed in the faith. For they cannot produce the originals from which they were transcribed." Eusebius citing Caius, 215 A.D. (Bercot, p. 641; all emphasis ours)

There we have it. Even though we could literally fill dozens of pages of early Church Father citations, the preceding quotations sufficiently prove that the early Christians did view the NT books as inspired revelation, being divine in nature.

The Early Muslims and the Quran

The early Islamic literature supplies abundant evidence for the corruption and the chaotic structure of the Quranic text. Early Muslim sources indicate that confusion existed amongst Muhammad's Companions regarding the length and chronological order of the Quran.

For example two of the top Muslim memorizes and reciters, Abdullah b. Masud and Ubayy b. Kabb, were in disagreement regarding the exact number of verses and chapters within the Quran.

Note the following Muslim traditions regarding Ibn Masud's credentials as a compiler and memorizer of the Quran. The following is taken from Ibn Sa'ad's Kitab Al-Tabaqat Al-Kabir, Volume II, English translation by S. Moinul Haq, M.A., PH.D assisted by H.K. Ghazanfar M.A. (Kitab Bhavan Exporters & Importers, 1784 Kalan Mahal, Daryaganj, New Delhi - 110 002 India). All bold and capital emphasis ours:

Hashim Ibn al-Qasim informed us; (he said): al-Mas'udi informed us on the authority of Qasim, i.e., 'Abd al-Rahman; he said: Gabriel used to descend before the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, and he recited the Qur'an before him once every year [P. 4] in Ramadan, till the year when the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, died; when Gabriel made him recite the Qur'an twice. ‘Abd Allah said: I recited the Qur'an as I have it from the mouth of the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, that year. If I had known any one more well versed... in the Book of Allah than me and camels had borne me to him, surely I would have gone to him; but by Allah! I DO NOT KNOW ANY SUCH PERSON. (Ibid., p. 244)

Yahya Ibn Khulayf Ibn ‘Uqbah al-Basri informed us; (second chain) ‘Abd al-Wahhab Ibn ‘Ata informed us; he said: Ibn ‘Awn informed us on the authority of Muhammad ibn Sirin; he said: Gabriel used to recite the Qur'an before our Prophet, may Allah bless him, once every year in Ramadan. In the year in which he breathed his last he recited it twice before him. Muhammad said: I hope our style of reading ... conforms to the last recitation by Gabriel. (Ibid., p. 243)

Abu Mu’awiyah al-Darir informed us; (he said): al-A’mash informed us on the authority of Abu Zabyan, he on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas, he asked: Which of the two readings (of the Qur'an) do you prefer? He (Abu Zabyan) said: We replied: The reading of ‘Abd Allah. Thereupon he said: Verily the Qur'an was recited (by Gabriel) before the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, once in every Ramadan, except the year in which he breathed his last, when it was recited twice. Then ‘Abd Allah Ibn Mas’ud came to him (Prophet) and he learnt what was abrogated or altered.

Yahya Ibn ‘isaal-Ramli informed us on authority of Sufyan, he on the authority of al-A’mash, he on the authority of Abu al-Duha, he on the authority of Masruq; he said: ‘Abd Allah said: No surah was revealed but I know about what it was revealed. If I had known any one knowing more of the Book of Allah than me, and if the camels or other riding beasts had carried me there, I must have gone to him ...

Wahb Ibn Jarir Ibn Hazm informed us: (he said): Shu’bah informed us on the authority of Ibrahim Ibn Muhajir, he on the authority of Ibrahim, he on the authority of ‘Abd Allah; (second chain) Abu Nua’ym al-Fadl Ibn Dukayn informed us; (he said): Abu al-Ahwas informed us on the authority of Sa’id Ibn Masruq, he on the authority of Abu al-Duha, he on the authority of ‘Abd Allah; he said: The Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, said to me: Recite (the Qur'an) before me. Thereupon I said: How can I repeat before you and it has been revealed on you. He said: I like it. Wahb said in his version: I desire to hear it from others. He (‘Abd Allah) said: I recited the surah of al-Nisa before him, till I reached the verse: But how (will it be with them) when We bring of every people and We bring thee (O Muhammad) a witness against them. Abu Nua’ym said in his version: Thereupon he said: It is enough. Both of them said: Then I saw him that the eyes of the Prophet, may Allah bless him, were filled tears, and he said: Whoever seeks pleasure in reciting the Qur'an according to its fresh reading he should recite after the reading of Ibn Umm 'Abd. (Ibid., pp. 441-442)

Waki ‘Ibn al-al-Jarrah informed us on the authority of Isma’il Ibn Khalid, he on the authority of Abu ‘Amr al-Shaybani; he said: Abu Musa al-Ash’ari said: Do not put questions to me as long as this learned man, that is Ibn Mas’ud, is among you. (Ibid., p. 443)

Ma’an Ibn ‘Isa informed us; (he said): Mu’awiyah Ibn Salih informed us on the authority of Asad Ibn Wada'ah: Verily ‘Umar mentioned Ibn Mas’ud and said: (He is) a box full of knowledge for which I honoured the people of al-Qadisiyah. (Ibid., p. 444)

In fact, Ibn Sa’d notes that Masud's followers indicated that people were introducing deception into the text of the Quran:

'Affan Ibn Muslim informed us; (he said): 'Abd al-Wahid Ibn Ziyad informed us; (he said): Sulayman al-A'mash informed us on the authority of Shaqiq Ibn Salamah; he said: 'Abd Allah Ibn Mas'ud delivered a sermon to us when the order concerning uniform reading of the Qur'an was issued, as it was indeed. He (Shaqiq) said: He mentioned ABOUT DECEIT and said: Who so deceived, will bring his deceit on the Day of Resurrection. The people have been guilty OF DECEIT IN THE READING OF THE Qur'an. I like it better to read according to the recitation of him (Prophet) whom I love more than that of Zayd Ibn Thabit. By Him besides Whom there is no god! I learnt more than seventy surahs from the lips of the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, while Zayd Ibn Thabit was a youth, having two locks and playing with the youth. Then he said: By Him besides Whom there is no god! If I know any one to be more conversant with the Book of Allah than me, and if the camels could carry me to him. I shall surely to go to him. Then 'Abd Allah went away. Shaqiq said: Subsequently I sat in the circles of the Companions of the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, and others but none contradicted his statement. (Ibid., p. 444)

The following are from Sahih Al-Bukhari:

Narrated Masriq:

‘Abdullah bin ‘Amr mentioned ‘Abdullah bin Masud and said, "I shall ever love that man, for I heard the Prophet saying, ‘Take (learn) the Qur'an from four: ‘Abdullah bin Masud, Salim, Mu’adh and Ubai bin Ka'b.’" (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 521)

Narrated ‘Abdullah (bin Mas’ud):

By Allah other than Whom none has the right to be worshipped! There is no Sura revealed in Allah’s Book but I know at what place it was revealed; and there is no Verse revealed in Allah's Book but I know about whom it was revealed. And if I know that there is somebody who knows Allah's Book better than I, and he is at a place that camels can reach, I would go to him. (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 524)

And here is one from Tirmidhi:

Narrated Hudhayfah
When the people expressed a desire that Allah's Messenger (my Allah bless him) should name a successor, he said, "If I were to name a successor and you were to disobey him you would be punished, but believe what Hudhayfah tells you and recite what Abdullah recites to you." Tirmidhi transmitted it. (Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 1660; ALIM CD-ROM Version)

Modern Islamic biographer, Martin Lings, wrote regarding Abdullah Ibn Masud:

... A few days later 'Abd Allah went to the Prophet and entered Islam. Nor was it long before he had learned from him seventy surahs by heart, being exceptionally gifted in that way; and he soon became one of the best and most authoritative reciters of the Koran. (Lings, Muhammad his life based on the earliest sources [Inner Traditions, Ltd., Rochester, Vermont 1983], p. 48; bold and underline emphasis ours)

To summarize:

Ibn Masud was considered one of the most knowledgeable Muslims.

Ibn Masud recited the Quran before Muhammad after the latter had recited the Quran twice in the presence of Gabriel.

Ibn Masud personally learned from Muhammad all the abrogated and altered Quranic verses.

Ibn Masud claimed to know the reasons for the revelation of each surah.

Ibn Masud claimed that he knew of no one that was better versed in the Quran than he.

Muhammad told people to follow Ibn Masud's reading of the Quran.

Yet in spite of all this Ibn Masud still felt he was not the best Quranic reciter:

Narrated Shaqiq bin Salama:

Once ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud delivered a sermon before us and said, "By Allah, I learnt over seventy Suras direct from Allah's Apostle. By Allah, the companions of the Prophet came to know that I am one of those who know Allah's Book best of all of them, yet I am not the best of them." Shaqiq added: I sat in his religious gathering and I did not hear anybody opposing him (in his speech). (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 522)

The honor of being the best Quranic reciter went to Ubayy:

Affan ibn Muslim informed us... on the authority of Anas ibn Malik, he on the authority of the Prophet, may Allah bless him; he said: The best reader (of the Qur'an) among my people is Ubayy ibn Ka’b. (Ibn Sa’d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Volume 2, p. 441)

Narrated Anas ibn Malik

The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "The most compassionate member of my people towards my people is AbuBakr, the most rigorous regarding Allah's affair is Umar, the most genuinely modest is Uthman, the one who knows most about obligatory duties is Zayd ibn Thabit, the one who knows best how to recite the Qur'an is Ubayy ibn Ka'b, and the one who has most knowledge about what is lawful and what is prohibited is Mu'adh ibn Jabal. Every people has a trustworthy guardian, and the trustworthy guardian of this people is AbuUbayd ibn al-Jarrah."

Ahmad and Tirmidhi transmitted it, Tirmidhi saying this is a hasan sahih tradition. It is also transmitted in mursal form, on the authority of Ma'mar who cited Qatadah as his authority, and it contains the phrase "The most learned in legal matters is Ali." (Tirmidhi Hadith, 1602- ALIM CD-ROM Version)

Despite the credentials of these two men the Tradition states that they did no agree with each other over the exact extent of the Quran. For example, Ibn Masud refused to include Suras 1, 113 and 114 as part of his codex:

"Imam Fakhruddin said that the reports in some of the ancient books that Ibn Mas’ud denied that Suratul-Fatiha and the Mu'awwithatayni are part of the Qur’an are embarrassing in their implications... But the Qadi Abu Bakr said "It is not soundly reported from him that they are not part of the Qur’an and there is no record of such a statement from him. He omitted them from his manuscript as he did not approve of their being written. This does not mean he denied they were part of the Qur’an. In his view the Sunnah was that nothing should be inscribed in the text (mushaf) unless so commanded by the Prophet (saw)... and he had not heard that it had been so commanded". (As-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fii Ulum al-Qur'an, p.186).

"... Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani however, in his commentary on the Sahih of al-Bukhari (his famous Fath al-Baari), accepted these reports as sound, quoting authorities who stated that Ibn Mas’ud would not include the two ‘charm’ surahs in his manuscript as Muhammad had, to his knowledge, only commanded that they be used as incantations against evil forces. He regarded the isnad (the chain of transmitters) for this record as totally sound and attempted to harmonise the conflicting records instead, suggesting that Ibn Mas’ud accepted the Fatiha and ‘charm’ surahs as genuinely revealed but was reluctant to inscribe them in his written text." (John Gilchrist, Jam' Al-Qur'an: The Codification of the Qur'an Text, p. 68; bold emphasis ours)

Ubayy b. Kabb disagreed:

Narrated Zirr bin Hubaish:

I asked Ubai bin Ka’b, "O Abu AlMundhir! Your brother, Ibn Mas’ud said so-and-so (i.e., the two Mu'awwidhat do not belong to the Quran)." Ubai said, "I asked Allah’s Apostle about them, and he said, ‘They have been revealed to me, and I have recited them (as a part of the Quran)," So Ubai added, "So we say as Allah’s Apostle has said." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 501)

Interestingly not only did Kabb include these suras but included two additional suras as well:

"Written in the text of Ubayy ibn Ka’b were the Fatihal-kitab (the Opening Surah) and the Mu'awwi-thatayni (the Charm Surahs) and Allahumma innaa nasta'iinka (the opening words of Suratul-Khal’ meaning 'O Allah, we seek your help') and Allahumma ayyaaka na'budu (the opening words of Suratul-Hafd meaning ‘O Allah, we worship you’)". (as-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fii Ulum al-Qur'an by Jalaluddin Al-Suyuti, p. 153)

Here are the Suras in their entirety:

Surat al-Hafd:

You (alone) we worship, and to You (alone) we pray and lie prostrate, and to You (alone) we proceed and have descendants. We fear Your torture and hope for Your mercy. Truly Your torture will overtake the infidels.

Surat al-Khal’:

O Allah, You (alone) we ask for help and forgiveness. We speak appreciatingly of Your goodness. Never do we disbelieve You. We repudiate and disbelieve anyone who follows immorality.

Al-Suyuti records that these two surahs were also included in both the codices of Ibn Abbas and Abu Musa. (Al-Itqan, p.154)

Additional proof for Ibn Masud's assertion that Surah Al-Fatiha (Chapter 1) should not be included as part of the text of the Quran comes from both the Quran and the Hadith:

"And We have bestowed upon thee the Seven Oft-Repeated (verses) AND the Grand Qur’an." S. 15:87

This passage distinguishes the seven oft-repeated verses (i.e. Fatiha) from the Quran itself.

Malik’s Muwatta Book 3, Number 3.9.39:

Yahya related to me from Malik from al-Ala ibn Abd ar-Rahman ibn Yaqub that Abu Said, the mawla of Amir ibn Kuraz told him that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, called to Ubayy ibn Kab while he was praying. When Ubayy had finished his prayer he joined the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and the Messenger of Allah put his hand upon his hand, and he was intending to leave by the door of the mosque, so the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "I hope that you will not leave the mosque until you know a sura whose like Allah has not sent down in the Tawrah nor in the Injil NOR IN THE QUR’AN." Ubayy said, "I began to slow down my pace in the hope of that. Then I said, ‘Messenger of Allah, the sura you promised me!’ He said, ‘What do you recite when you begin the prayer? I recited the Fatiha (Sura 1) until I came to the end of it, and the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘It is this sura, and it is the "seven oft-repeated" and the Great Qur'an which I was given.’"

Narrated AbuHurayrah

When Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) once asked Ubayy ibn Ka'b how he recited in the course of the prayer and he recited Umm al-Qur'an, he said, "By Him in whose hand my soul is, nothing like it has been sent down in the Torah, the Injil, the Zabur, OR THE QUR'AN, and it is seven of the oft-repeated verses and the mighty Qur'an which I have been given."

Tirmidhi transmitted it, and Darimi transmitted from "nothing like it has been sent down," but he did not mention Ubayy ibn Ka'b. Tirmidhi said this is a hasan sahih tradition. (Al-Tirmidhi, Number 654, taken from the Alim CD-ROM Version)

These hadiths clearly affirm that the Fatiha is not in the Quran, i.e. is not a part of the text.

Interestingly, the hadith mentions two Surahs which are no longer extant:

Abu Harb b. Abu al-Aswad reported on the authority of his father that Abu Musa al-Ash'ari sent for the reciters of Basra. They came to him and they were three hundred in number. They recited the Qur'an and he said: You are the best among the inhabitants of Basra, for you are the reciters among them. So continue to recite it. (But bear in mind) that your reciting for a long time may not harden your hearts as were hardened the hearts of those before you. We used to recite a surah which resembled in length and severity to (Surah) Bara'at. I have, however, forgotten it with the exception of this which I remember out of it: "If there were two valleys full of riches, for the son of Adam, he would long for a third valley, and nothing would fill the stomach of the son of Adam but dust." And we used so recite a surah which resembled one of the surahs of Musabbihat, and I have forgotten it, but remember (this much) out of it: "Oh people who believe, why do you say that which you do not practise" (lxi 2.) and "that is recorded in your necks as a witness (against you) and you would be asked about it on the Day of Resurrection" (xvii. 13). (Sahih Muslim, Book 5, Number 2286)

These two additional surahs push the actual number of chapters higher than what we find today. In fact, if we take into account the three different Quranic collections of Masud, Kabb and Thabit/Uthman we end up with:

Masud - 113
Kabb - 118
Thabit - 116

If a Muslim claims that these surahs were abrogated, this still does nothing to refute the fact that Surahs which were allegedly "revealed" are now lost, with only specific words being preserved in the hadith. Besides, many Muslims claim that the present text of the Quran contains both the abrogated and abrogating verses. If so, then why weren't these surahs still retained? This assertion would also undermine the claim that only laws are abrogated, since what is quoted in the above hadith does not pertain to legal matters.

Finally, the following traditions highlight the disagreements regarding the arrangement of the Quran:

Narrated Uthman ibn Affan:

Yazid al-Farisi said: I heard Ibn Abbas say: I asked Uthman ibn Affan: What moved you to put the (Surah) al-Bara’ah which belongs to the mi’in (surahs) (containing one hundred verses) and the (Surah) al-Anfal which belongs to the mathani (Surahs) in the category of as-sab’u at-tiwal (the first long surah or chapters of the Qur’an), and you did not write "In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful" between them?

Uthman replied: When the verses of the Qur’an were revealed to the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him), he called someone to write them down for him and said to him: Put this verse in the surah in which such and such has been mentioned; and when one or two verses were revealed, he used to say similarly (regarding them). (Surah) al-Anfal is the first surah that was revealed at Medina, and (Surah) al-Bara’ah was revealed last in the Qur'an, and its contents were similar to those of al-Anfal. I, therefore, thought that it was a part of al-Anfal. Hence I put them in the category of as-sab’u at-tiwal (the seven lengthy surahs), and I did not write "In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful" between them. (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 3, Number 0785)

Narrated Yusuf bin Mahk:

While I was with Aisha, the mother of the Believers, a person from Iraq came and asked, "What type of shroud is the best?" ‘Aisha said, "May Allah be merciful to you! What does it matter?" He said, "O mother of the Believers! Show me (the copy of) your Qur’an," She said, "Why?" He said, "In order to compile and arrange the Qur'an according to it, for people recite it with its Suras not in proper order." ‘Aisha said, "What does it matter which part of it you read first? (Be informed) that the first thing that was revealed thereof was a Sura from Al-Mufassal, and in it was mentioned Paradise and the Fire. When the people embraced Islam, the Verses regarding legal and illegal things were revealed. If the first thing to be revealed was: ‘Do not drink alcoholic drinks.’ People would have said, ‘We will never leave alcoholic drinks,’ and if there had been revealed, ‘Do not commit illegal sexual intercourse,’ they would have said, ‘We will never give up illegal sexual intercourse.’ While I was a young girl of playing age, the following Verse was revealed in Mecca to Muhammad: ‘Nay! But the Hour is their appointed time (for their full recompense), and the Hour will be more grievous and more bitter.’ (54.46) Sura Al-Baqara (The Cow) and Surat An-Nisa (The Women) were revealed while I was with him." Then ‘Aisha took out the copy of the Qur’an for the man and dictated to him the Verses of the Suras (in their proper order). (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 515)

Narrated Shaqiq:

Abdullah said, "I learnt An-Naza'ir which the Prophet used to recite in pairs in each Rak'a." Then Abdullah got up and Alqama accompanied him to his house, and when Alqama came out, we asked him (about those Suras). He said, "They are twenty Suras that start from the beginning of Al-Mufassal, according to the arrangement done by Ibn Mas'ud, and end with the Suras starting with Ha Mim, e.g. Ha Mim (the Smoke) and "About what they question one another?" (78.1) (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 518)

Renowned commentator al-Qurtubi stated that:

Ibn at-Tayyib said, "Some say that the Salaf differed about the order of the suras of the Qur'an and some of them wrote the suras in the order that they were revealed and put the Makkan before the Madinan, and some put al-Hamd (Fatiha) at the beginning, and others put al-'Alaq at the beginning.' This was the case in the first copy of 'Ali. As for the copy of Ibn Mas'ud, it begins with 'Master of the Day of the Deen'' (1:4) and then al-Baqara, and then an-Nisa' with a different order. The copy of Ubayy began with al-Hamd, then an-Nisa', then Al 'Imran, then al-An'am, then al-A'raf, then al-Ma'ida. There were significant differences." (Aisha Bewley, Selections from the Introduction of Tafsir al-Qurtubi; online source; bold emphasis ours)

One modern Muslim writer, Farid Esack, makes some interesting comments on Zayd compiling the Quran:

It is likely that Zayd was engaged in more than one process and in different periods; the first, during Abu Bakr's reign, when he had undertaken the material collection of the suhuf, and another, during the period of 'Uthman, when he undertook its arrangement and editing. The second process also commences with concern about human frailties - recollection, memory, pronunciation, retention, etc.,- which became particularly acute as the Muslim empire began to spread and time moved on. This is reflected in the following statement attributed to Abu Qullabah on the authority of Malik ibn Anas, a Companion:

During the Caliphate of 'Uthman, different teachers were teaching different readings to their students. Thus it used to happen that that[sic] the students would meet and disagree. The matter reached the point that they would take their dispute to their teachers, WHO WOULD DENOUNCE EACH OTHER AS HERETICS (kaffara ba'duhum ba'da). This situation reached 'Uthman's ears. He delivered an oration saying: "You are here by me, yet you disagree on the reading and pronunciation of the Qur'an. Therefore, those who are far away from me in the provinces must be in greater dispute ... (ibn Abu Dawud, cited in Zarqani, 1996, 1:210).

This statement casts a further shadow around the putative finality of the earlier process which Zayd had engaged in and the notion of an official codex lodged with Hafsah. While a loose collection may have been completed then, the arrangement and editing seems to have taken place much later. During the time of 'Uthman's reign, a major impetus for this task was the concern expressed by Hudhayfah ibn al-Yaman, who led the Muslim forces against the Armenians in Azerbaijan. He was deeply perturbed at the quarreling that had broken out among soldiers from different areas of the then Muslim world. Upon his return to Medina he urged the Caliph to ensure the proper collection of the Qur'an. 'Uthman then selected Zayd for the task. Traditional Muslim scholarship holds that Zayd took the suhuf in Hafsah's possession and, with the assistance of a group of scribes comprising 'Abd Allah ibn Zubayr, 'Abd al-Rahman ibn al-Harith, and Sa'd ibn al-'As, prepared a text faithful to the language/dialect of the Quraysh, the Prophet's tribe (Zarkashi, 1972, 1:236). Copies of this new version were sent to Damascus, Basra, and Kufa and another copy was kept at Medina. Orders were given to destroy all other versions, and, as indicated earlier, the extent of compliance with these orders seems to vary in different places. Given the conflict ridden nature of 'Uthman's rule, it would seem somehow strange for such a process to be undertaken and completed in the neat manner that later Muslim writings hold. The vehemently apologetic nature with which Muslim scholars, even the earlier ones, present this account suggests that the battle for the authenticity of this process as well as its final product may have lasted longer than what traditional opinion may suggest... (Esack, The Qur'an A User's Guide: A Guide to its Key Theme, History And Interpretation [Oneworld Publications, Oxford, 2005], pp. 87-88; underline and capital emphasis ours)



'Uthman's project to compile the Qur'an was clearly in response to the proliferation of "unauthorized copies" during his time - partly as a result of the problems of the Arabic script of that time. Early Muslim scholars such as Ibn Astah (d. 360/970-971), Ibn Abi Dawud (d. 316/928-929), and Ibn al-Anbari (d. 328/939-940) also dealt with these variant codices. Some of these codices seem to have been in use well after the official canon was produced and up to well into the fourth Islamic century. In Kufa, for example, the version of 'Abd Allah ibn Mas'ud remained in vogue for some time and there are indications that he refused instructions to stop teaching his versions and to destroy copies of it. Traditional Muslim scholars argue that the period of Ibn Mas'ud's version's persistence and its strength had been exaggerated and that the wisdom of 'Uthman's course of action had become apparent to Ibn Mas'ud fairly early (Zarqani, 1996, 1:214, cf. 224-228). The extra-canonical texts never gained approval and were viewed by Muslims as the personal copies of individuals worth retaining for their exegetical value. (Ibid., p. 93)

The problem becomes more compounded when we include the Shiite claims regarding the order of the Quran. According to Shiites Ali b. Abu Thalib was the first to compile the Quran:

There is no dispute among Muslim scholars, whether they are Sunni or Shia, concerning the fact that the Commander of Believers, Ali (AS), possessed a special transcript of the text of Quran which he had collected himself, and he was THE FIRST who compiled Quran. There are a great number of traditions from Sunni and Shia which states that after the death of the Holy Prophet (PBUH&HF), Imam Ali sat down in his house and said that he had sworn an oath that he would not put on his outdoor clothes or leave his house until he collects together the Quran.

Sunni references:
- Fat'hul Bari fi Sharh Sahih al-Bukhari, by Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani, v10, p386
- al-fihrist, by (Ibn) an-Nadim, p30
- al-Itqan, by al-Suyuti, v1, p165
- al-Masahif, by Ibn Abi Dawud, p10
- Hilyatul awliya', by Abu Nu'aym, v1, p67
- al-Sahibi, by Ibn Faris, p79
- 'Umdatul Qari, by al-Ayni, v20, p16
- Kanzul Ummal, by al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, v15, pp 112-113
- al-Sawa'iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Ch. 9, Section 4, p197
- Ma'rifat al-Qurra' al-kibar, by al-Dhahabi, v1, p31

There are also traditions from the Imams of Ahlul Bayt which tell us that this was done by Imam Ali by order of the Holy Prophet (See al-Bihar, v92, pp 40-41,48,51-52). (Source; bold emphasis ours)

The author's claim that Ali swore not to leave his house or put on his street clothes until he had compiled the Quran is supported by the following tradition:

‘Ali was asked: "Why are you staying home?" He said, "Something HAS BEEN ADDED TO THE QURAN, and I have pledged never to put on my street clothes, except for prayer, until the Quran IS RESTORED." (Al-Itqan fii ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, p. 59 as translated by Rashad Khalifah in Quran - The Final Testament [Universal Unity, P.O. Box 15067 Fremont, CA 94539], p. 444; bold and capital emphasis ours)

The Shiite author goes on to claim that Ali compiled the Quran in the exact sequence as given by Muhammad and included commentary within his codex:

This transcript of Quran which compiled by Imam Ali (AS) had the following unique specifications:

a) It was collected according to its revelation, i.e., in the order in which it had been sent down. This is the reason that Muhammad Ibn Sireen (33/653 - 110/729), the famous scholar and Tabi'i (disciples of the companions of the Holy Prophet), regretted that this transcript had not passed into the hands of the Muslims, and said: "If that transcript were in our hands, we would found a great knowledge in it."

Sunni References:
- at-Tabaqat, by Ibn Sa'd, v2, part 2, p101
- Ansab al-ashraf, by al-Baladhuri, v1, p587
- al-Istiab, by Ibn Abd al-Barr, v3, pp 973-974
- Sharh Ibn Abi al-Hadid, v6, pp 40-41
- al-Tas'hil, by Ibn Juzzi al-Kalbi, v1, p4
- al-Itqan, by al-Suyuti, v1, p166
- al-Sawa'iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Ch. 9, Section 4, p197
- Ma'rifat al-Qurra' al-kibar, by al-Dhahabi, v1, p32


b) This transcript contained commentary and hermeneutic interpretation (Tafsir and Ta'wil) from the Holy Prophet some of which had been sent down as revelation but NOT as a part of the text of Quran. A small amount of such texts can be found in some traditions in Usul al-Kafi. These pieces of information were the Divine commentary of the text of Quran which were revealed along with Quranic verses. Thus the commentary verses and Quranic verses could sum up to 17000 verses. As Sunnis know, Hadith al-Qudsi (the Hadith in which the speaker is Allah) is also direct revelation, but they are not a part of Quran. In fact Quran testifies that anything that Prophet said was (either direct or indirect) revelation (See Quran 53:3-4). The direct revelation includes the interpretation/commentary of the Quran.

In addition, this unique transcript contained the information from the Holy Prophet about which verse was abrogated and which was abrogating, which verse was clear (Muhkam) and which was ambiguous (Mutashabih), which verse was general and which was specific.

c) This unique transcript also contained references to the persons, places etc., about which the verses were revealed, what is called "Asbab al-Nuzul". Since the Commander of Believers was aware of these facts, he frequently said: "By Allah, no verse has been sent down without my knowing about whom or what it was revealed and where it was revealed. My Lord has gifted me with a mind which has a quick and retaining understanding, and a tongue which speaks eloquently."

Sunni References:
- Hilyatul Awliyaa, by Abu Nu'aym, v1, pp 67-68
- at-Tabaqat, by Ibn Sa'd, v2, part 2, p101
- Kanzul Ummal, by al-Muttaqi al-Hindi, v15, p113
- al-Sawa'iq al-Muhriqah, by Ibn Hajar al-Haythami, Ch. 9, Section 4, p197 (bold emphasis ours)

As noted by this Shiite author, Ibn Sa'd provides support for the above claims:

Ahmad Ibn 'Abd Allah Ibn Yunus informed us: (he said): Abu Bakr Ibn 'Ayyash informed us on the authority of Nusayr, he on the authority of Sulayman al-Ahmashi, he on the authority of his father: he said: 'Ali said: By Allah! Not a single verse is revealed, but I know about which it was revealed, where it was revealed and about whom it was revealed. Verily my Lord bestowed a prudent heart and expressive tongue on me.

'Abd Allah Ibn Ja'far al-Raqqi informed us: (he said): 'Ubayd Allah 'Ibn 'Amr informed us on the authority of Ma'mar, he on the authority of Wahb Ibn Abi Dubayyi, he on the authority of Abu al-Tufayl; he said: 'Ali said: Ask me about the Book of Allah because there is not a verse, but I know of it, if it was revealed by night or by day, or else it was revealed at a plain or at a mountain.

Isma'il Ibn Ibrahim informed us on the authority of Ayyub and Ibn 'Awn; they on the authority of Muhammad; he said: I have been informed that 'Ali delayed offering bay'ah to Abu Bakr. Consequently Abu Bakr met him and said: Do you dislike my rule. He replied: No! but I had taken an oath not to put my sheet ... till I had collected the Qur'an except for the prayers. He (Muhammad) said: They think that he had collected it in accordance with the order of the revelation (of the verses). Muhammad said: If that manuscript ... had been available it would have been a source of information. Ibn 'Awn said: Subsequently I asked 'Ikrimah about this manuscript but he did not know. (Ibn Sa'd, Volume 2, pp. 436-437; bold emphasis ours)

The Shiite author mentions the reaction of the Muslims to Ali’s Quran and his response:

After he compiled this transcript, Imam Ali (AS) took it and presented it to the rulers who came after the Holy Prophet, and said: "Here is the book of Allah, your Lord, in the order that was revealed to your Prophet." but they did not accept it and replied: "We have no need of this. We have with us what you possess." Thereupon, Imam Ali (AS) took the transcript back and informed them that they will never see it again. It is reported that Imam Ali recited the latter part of the following verse of Quran:

"And when Allah took a Covenant from the People of the Book to clarify it to mankind and not to hide its (clarification); but they threw it away behind their backs and purchased with it some miserable gain! and what an evil was the bargain they made!" (Quran 3:187)

By "its clarification", Imam Ali meant the unique divine commentaries. The Commander of Believers then concealed that transcript, and after him it was passed to the Imams who also kept it concealed. It remained concealed with the Imams, one after the other to this day, because they wished to be only one sequence of Quran among the Muslims. Because otherwise if people have had two different sequences, it might later result to some alteration in Quran by some sick-minded people. They wished people have strictly one sequence of Quran. The Quran and its commentary which were collected by Imam Ali (AS) is not available for any Shia in the world except to the Imam Mahdi (AS). If the transcript of the Commander of Believers had been accepted, that would have been the Quran with unique commentary in the hand of people, but it turned out to be otherwise. (bold emphasis ours)

Since Ali’s version of the Quran is no longer extant the Muslims can only wonder why their ancestors refused to embrace such an authoritative version of Allah's "revelation."

A modern Muslim scholar, Ahmad Von Denffer, in his Ulum al Qur'an, mentions the variations amongst the different, competing codices, but tries to weaken their significance:

There are numerous indications in the literature of hadith that several of the Companions of the Prophet had prepared their own written collections of the revelations. [Suyuti. Itqan, I, p 62] The best-known among these are from Ibn Mas'ud, Ubay bin Ka'b and Zaid bin Thabit. [See Dodge, B, The Fihrist of al-Nadim, New York, 1970 (abbr. as fihrist), pp 53-63.]

A list of Companions of whom it is related that they had their own written collections included the following: Ibn Mas'ud, Ubay bin Ka'b, 'All, Ibn 'Abbas, Abu Musa, Hafsa, Anas bin Malik, 'Umar, Zaid bin Thabit, Ibn Al-Zubair, 'Abdullah ibn 'Amr, 'A'isha, Salim, Umm Salama, 'Ubaid bin 'Umar. [See Ibn Abi Dawud: Masahif, p 14 Ansari, M.: The qur'anic Foundations and Structure of Muslim Society; Karachi, 1973, drawing upon various sources, says (1, p.76, note 2) that there existed at least 15 written copies of the Qur'an in the Prophet's lifetime. In addition to the list of 15 names quoted above, he includes Abu Bakr, 'Uthman, Mu'adh b. Jabal, Abu Darda', Abu Ayyub Ansari, 'Ubada b. al-Samit, Tamim Dari. This would add up to 23 written copies of the Qur'an, which existed while the Prophet was alive.]

It is also known that 'A'isha and Hafsa had their own scripts written after the Prophet had died. [Rahimuddin, M. (transl.): Muwatta) Imam Malik, Lahore, 1980, No. 307, 308; Malik b. Anas: al-muwatta', Cairo, n.d., p. 105.]

The following is a very brief description of some of the masahif, which are attributed to the Companions of the Prophet. All the information is based on classical sources. [For details see Ibn Abi Dawud, also fihrist and Itqan]

The Mushaf of Ibn Mas'ud (d. 33/653)

He wrote a mushaf, in which suras 1, 113 and 114 were not included. Ibn al-Nadim [Fihrist, I, pp. 57-8.] however said he had seen a copy of the Qur'an from Ibn Mas'ud which did not contain al-fatiha (Sura 1). The arrangement of the suras differed from the 'Uthmanic text. ...

In Sura al-baqara, THERE ARE A TOTAL OF 101 VARIANTS. Most of them concern spelling, some also choice of words (synonyms), use of particles, etc.




Ibn Mas'ud reads


in place of




He reads

kulla ma

in place of




He reads

sal (seek, beseech)

in place of

ud'u (beseech)


The Mushaf of Ubay bin Ka'b (d. 29 H/649)

He wrote a mushaf, in which two 'additional suras and another 'additional aya' were reportedly found. [Itqan, I, p. 65; Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif, pp. 18S1; also Noldeke, T. et al.: Geschichte des Qorans, Leipzig, 1909-38 (abbr. as GdQ), 11, pp. 33-8. The first so called sura entitled al-khal' (separation), translates as follows: 'O Allah, we seek your help and ask your forgiveness, and we praise you and we do not disbelieve in you.
We separate from and leave who sins against you.' The second so-called sura, entitled al-hafd (haste) translates as follows: 'O Allah, we worship You and to You we pray and prostrate and to You we run and hasten to serve You. We hope for Your mercy and we fear Your punishment. Your punishment will certainly reach the disbelievers.' Obviously these two pieces constitute so-called 'qunut', i.e. supplications which the Prophet sometimes said in the morning prayer or witr prayer after recitation of suras from the Qur'an. They are in fact identical to some parts of qunut reported in the collections of hadith. See: Nawawi, al-adhkar, Cairo, 1955, pp. 57-8. ...]

'Ubay has a total of 93 variants in Sura al-baqara. [Again taken as example only to illustrate the point.] Very often, his readings are similar to those of Ibn Mas'ud. For example, he reads al-baqara in 2:70 as al-baqira. So does Ibn Mas'ud.

The Mushaf of Ibn 'Abbas (d. 68H/687)

Ibn 'Abbas also wrote a mushaf, which according to the Itqan [I, p. 65; Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif, p. 193.] also included the two additional suras which Ubay had. Again his arrangement of the suras differed from the other copies. In Sura al-baqara, HE HAS A TOTAL OF 21 VARIANTS, some of them identical with Ibn Mas'ud and Ubay as well as other Companions.

Some other Companions

According to the Itqan [I, p. 65; Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif, p. 210.] the mushaf of Abu Musa al-Ash'ari (d. 44H/664) contained the same material as Ubay had.

There is only one variant reported from him in Sura al-baqara, namely that he read Ibraham in place of Ibrahim.

Hafsa (d. 45H/665) had three variants in the same sura, and Anas b. Malik (d. 91H/709) had five.


To further illustrate, here are a number of examples. They have been taken, as far as possible, from well-known suras. While perhaps better examples exist to illustrate the points under discussion, they might not be understood as easily by readers less familiar with the Qur'anic text.

Difference in vowelling:

Ibn 'Abbas [I, p. 65; Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif, p. 208.] is reported to have read in sura 111:4

hamilatun al-hatab, in place of


which could not be distinguished on the basis of the early written text, which omitted both haraka and alif. The actual text must have looked something like this: XXX XXXX

Difference in spelling:

Ibn 'Abbas [I, p. 65; Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif, p. 195.] reportedly wrote in sura 1:6 as well as all other places the word al-sirat as al-sirat.

Some variants attributed to Ibn Mas'ud: [I, p. 65; Ibn Abi Dawud, masahif, p. 25.]

1. in Sura al-fatiha:


he read


in place of


he read


in place of

al ladhina

he read


in place of


2. in sura al-baqara:


he read


in place of



he read


in place of



he read


in place of



he read

bi shayatinihim

in place of

ila shayatinihim etc.

The Difference between Abu Bakr's and 'Uthman's Collection

Abu Bakr had made one single copy from the various verbal and written material. This copy was later kept by 'Umar and then by his daughter Hafsa.

'Uthman had many copies prepared from this copy and sent them to various places in the Muslim world, while the original suhuf were returned to Hafsa and remained with her until her death. Later, Marwan b. Hakam (d. 65/684), according to a report in Ibn Abi Dawud, collected it from her heirs AND HAD IT DESTROYED, PRESUMABLY FEARING IT MIGHT BECOME THE CAUSE FOR NEW DISPUTES. 'Uthman also kept one of the copies for himself. This version of the text, also known as 'Mushaf 'Uthman in fact constitutes the ijma'(consensus) of the sahaba, all of whom agreed that it contained what Muhammad had brought as revelation from Allah. [According to Ibn Abi Dawud (117-8) ELEVEN CHANGES WERE MADE under al-Hajjaj, among them e.g. 5:48 'shari'atan wa minhajan' into 'shir'atan wa minhajan'; 12:45 'ana atikum bi-ta'wilihi' into and unabbi'ukum bi ta'wilihi. These are again according to Ibn Abi Dawud MISTAKES WHICH WERE MADE IN THE PREPARATION OF UTHMAN'S COPY (pp. 37-49). The first version of 12:45 e.g. was the reading of 'Ubay (ibid. p. 138) and Ibn Masud (ibid. p. 39).]

The wide distribution of this text and its undisputed authority can also be deduced from the reports on the battle of Siffin (A.H. 37) 27 years after the death of the Prophet, and five years after 'Uthman's copies were distributed, Mu'awiya's troops fixed sheets from the Qur'an on their spears to interrupt the battle. [See Suyuti, History of the Caliphs. transl. H. S. Jarrett. Baptist Mission Presss Calcutta. 1881, p. 177.] However nobody accused anyone else of using a 'partisan' version of the text, which would have made a splendid accusation against the enemy.

(Source: Ahmad Von Denffer, Ulum al Qur'an, online: 1, 2, 3; underline, capital, capital underline and bold underline emphasis ours)

In light of the preceding factors Johnny Bravo needs to spend most of his time convincing others, as well as himself, that the text of the Quran is reliable despite all the evidence to the contrary. After he accomplishes this impossible task can Bravo then attempt to critique the NT text.

This concludes this section. Continue with Part 5.

Sam Shamoun

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