Has The Quran Been Perfectly Preserved?
THINKING BIBLICALLY ABOUT GOD
THINKING BIBLICALLY ABOUT GOD
HAS THE QURAN BEEN PERFECTLY PRESERVED?
HAS THE QURAN BEEN PERFECTLY PRESERVED?
‘Uthman, “O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Quran) as Jews and the Christians did before.” Sahih Bukhari Vol. 6, Book 61, Hadith 510
One of the main accusations made against the Bible by Muslims, is that the Bible is corrupted. When you ask for evidence, they point to manuscript variants such as the story of the women caught in adultery found in John 7:53-8:11 or the long ending of Mark, specifically Mark 16:9-20. There are approximately 9 meaningful variants in the New Testament, most are only a sentence long and none of them effect any core Christian doctrine. However, Muslims present these variants as irrefutable proof that the Bible has been corrupted. It is not the intention of this post to examine these variants, but I will include discuss each one in the appendix bellow.
The purpose of this post is the examine the Quran and provide evidence that the Quran itself has been changed. Since the New Testament is twice the size of the Quran and was written 500 hundred years before the Quran. Therefore, we can expect that the Quran would have less variants then the New Testament. But make no mistake, there are variants in the Quran that go all the way back to the companions of Muhammad.
THE MISSING VERSE ON STONING ADULTERERS
In Islam, the punishment for adultery is death by stoning. This is clearly prescribed in many hadiths. However, it does not appear in today’s Quran, even though it was originally recited as part of the Quranic revelation originally sent down by Allah to Muhammad.
‘Abdullah b. ‘Abbas reported that ‘Umar b. Khattab sat on the pulpit of Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) and said:
Verily Allah sent Muhammad (ﷺ) with truth and He sent down the Book upon him, and the verse of stoning was included in what was sent down to him. We recited it, retained it in our memory and understood it. Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) awarded the punishment of stoning to death (to the married adulterer and adulteress) and, after him, we also awarded the punishment of stoning, I am afraid that with the lapse of time, the people (may forget it) and may say: We do not find the punishment of stoning in the Book of Allah, and thus go astray by abandoning this duty prescribed by Allah. Sahih Muslim Book 29, Hadith 21
This hadith makes it plain that when the Quran was compiled as a book, something Muhammad never authorised, not all of what was recited was included. Muslims respond to this hadith in a number of different ways. Some Muslims have responded by arguing that although the verse was originally given as part of the Quran, the verse itself was abrogated without effecting the punishment it prescribes. However, the Quran clearly states that if a verse is abrogated, or caused to be forgotten, Allah will bring a better verse or a similar verse.
Whatever a Verse (revelation) do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, we bring a better one or similar to it. Know you not that Allah is able to do all things? Surah 2:106
That in itself is an admission that some parts of what was originally revealed as the Quran were cancelled or forgotten. The main point is that there was no replacement of the verse about stoning in the Quran and therefore, it cannot be argued that it was abrogated. Other Muslims might try to argue that this is a weak hadith, however, this is from Sahih Muslim, one of the most respected hadith collections in Sunni Islam. “Sahih” means “Sound”. Other Muslims try to argue that isolated hadiths can be scrutinized and rejected. However, the existence of a Qur’anic verse about stoning adulterers is found in other hadiths as well.
Narrated Ibn `Abbas:`Umar said, “I am afraid that after a long time has passed, people may say, “We do not find the Verses of the Rajam (stoning to death) in the Holy Book,” and consequently they may go astray by leaving an obligation that Allah has revealed. Sahih al-Bukhari Book 86, Hadith 56
It was narrated that ‘Aishah said: “The Verse of stoning and of breastfeeding an adult ten times was revealed, and the paper was with me under my pillow. When the Messenger of Allah died, we were preoccupied with his death, and a tame sheep came in and ate it.” Sunan Ibn Majah Vol. 3, Book 9, Hadith 1944
No matter which way you look at it, this Quranic passage has been lost and is no longer found in today’s Quran.
Early Islamic tradition tell us that there were differences in the recitation of the Quran that were significant enough that Uthman and others were afraid that the Muslim nation could be destroyed by its differences.
Narrated Anas bin Malik:
Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were Waging war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid of their differences in the recitation of the Qur’an, so he said to ‘Uthman, “O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Quran) as Jews and the Christians did before.” Sahih Bukhari Vol. 6, Book 61, Hadith 510
This hadith makes it very clear that there were different recitations and those differences were significant enough to potentially cause deep division among the Muslims. It’s worth noting that Uthman was an extremely unpopular Caliph who went to war with both Ali, the cousin and son in law of Muhammad, and Aisha, Muhammad’s favourite wife. Ali was actually born within the Kaaba, which is the most sacred site in Islam.
UTHMAN’S MISSING VERSE
The original copies produced under the authority of Uthman and sent out to the Muslim provinces were missing sura 33:23.
So ‘Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, “Send us the manuscripts of the Qur’an so that we may compile the Qur’anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you.” Hafsa sent it to ‘Uthman. ‘Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, ‘Abdullah bin AzZubair, Said bin Al-As and ‘AbdurRahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. ‘Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, “In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Qur’an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, the Qur’an was revealed in their tongue.” They did so, and when they had written many copies, ‘Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa. ‘Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur’anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt. Said bin Thabit added, “A Verse from Surat Ahzab was missed by me when we copied the Qur’an and I used to hear Allah’s Apostle reciting it. So we searched for it and found it with Khuzaima bin Thabit Al-Ansari. (That Verse was): ‘Among the Believers are men who have been true in their covenant with Allah.’ (33.23) Sahih Bukhari Vol. 6, Book 61, Hadith 510 (confirmed by Sahih Bukhari Vol. 6, Book 60, Hadith 307 & Vol. 4, Book 52, Hadith 62.
ORAL TRANSMISSION PRESERVED THE QURAN
Sahih Muslim Book 6, Hadith 266 says that Muhammad forgot part of the Quran and was reminded by someone reciting it. Sahih Muslim Book 5, Hadith 112 says that Muhammad had forgotten how many times had prostrated during prayer. Sahih Bukhari Book 66, Hadith 63 says that people accused him of forgetting verses of the Quran. If Muhammad forgot parts of the Quran, couldn’t remember how many times he had prostrated in his prayers and was being accused of forgetting other parts of the Quran, on what basis can we expect his followers to have done a better job of memorization?