THE TESTIMONY OF THE TRADITIONS TO THE QUR’AN
The reader will remember that the Khalif ‘Uthman collected one copy of the Qur’an, and then burnt all the rest. He then circulated his own compilation throughout the Muslim world. This action of the Khalif has ever since been condemned in the strongest terms by the Shiahs, who affirm that many passages referring to ‘Ali and his family have been expunged from the Qur’an. A complete chapter of the Qur’an, now absent from the present copies, and containing many references to the supremacy of ‘Ali, may still be seen. It is called “Two lights” (سورة النورين) by which Muhammad and ‘Ali are meant. The reader may find this remarkable Surah quoted in full in pages 11-13 of the book “Tahqiq-al-Iman.” 27 It is most probable that this Surah was present in ‘Ali’s copy of the Qur’an; but unfortunately that is no longer available. The Shiahs, however, believe that when Al Mahdi, the last Imam, appears, the complete Qur’an will once again be given to the world. 28
Any study of the traditions makes it clear that, in the time of Muhammad, the Qur’an was very much larger than it is to-day. Thus a tradition of Abi-Abdullah recorded by Hisham-ibn-Shalam relates that,
«إن القرآن الذي جاء به جبرئيل إلى محمد صلى الله عليه وآله سبعة عشر الف آية»
“There were 17,000 verses in that Qur’an which Gabriel delivered to Muhammad, upon whom be blessing and peace.” 29 But according to Baizawi the present Qur’an only contains 6,264 verses; so that we learn from this important tradition, which is supported by others to the same effect, that the present Qur’an is only about two-thirds the size of the original volume!
In another tradition it is recorded that,
«محمد بن نصر عنه أنه قال: كان في سورة لم يكن اسم سبعين رجلا من قريش بأسمائهم وأسماء آبائهم».
“Muhammad-ibn-Nasar heard from him (Abi-Abdulla). He said, In Surah al-Bayyinah (98) there were (once) the names of seventy Quraish, and the names of their fathers.” A search reveals the fact that this list of names has disappeared absolutely from the present copy of the Qur’an. The obvious explanation is that they formed a part of that large portion of the Qur’an which has been lost, and which is referred to in the tradition quoted above.
In the famous book called Itqan, and written by Jalal-ud-Din, it is stated that there once existed a verse in Surah Al-Ahzab (33) in which the punishment for adultery was laid down. This famous verse, which is known as ‘Ayat Al-Rajam’, is referred to frequently in the traditions, and there is not the slightest doubt that it once formed a part of the Qur’an. 30 The passage in the Itqan referred to above runs thus,
«فيها آية الرجم. قال وما الرجم قال إذا زنى الشيخ والشيخة فارجموهما».
“In it (Surah Al-Ahzab 33) was Ayat Al-Rajam. He (Ibn-Kab) said, ‘and what is Al-Rajam?’ He (Ibn-Jish) said, ‘If any married man or woman commit adultery, stone them’.” This verse is not found in the present copies of the Qur’an; yet the evidence that it really formed a part of the original book is overwhelming. For instance, it is stated that ‘Umar knew it to be a genuine part of the Qur’an, but as he was unable to find any Qur’an reader to substantiate his opinion, he refused to incorporate it in the book. In the work Kitab-fatah-al-Bari it is written,
«بِقَوْلِ عُمَرَ هَذَا أَنَّهُ كَانَتْ عِنْدَهُ شَهَادَةٌ فِي آيَةِ الرَّجْمِ أَنَّهَا مِنَ الْقُرْآنِ فَلَمْ يُلْحِقْهَا بِنَصِّ الْمُصْحَفِ بِشَهَادَتِهِ وَحْدَهُ».
“‘Umar said, He had evidence that Ayat Al-Rajam was a part of the Qur’an; but on his own unsupported testimony he did not (dare to) put it in the book.” These traditions show us that the present ideas of the marvellous power of memory said to be possessed by men (Hafiz) of the prophet’s day need to be seriously modified; for here we have an undoubted verse of the Qur’an for the authenticity of which not a single Hafiz could be found to vouch. There is, however, more than one tradition which records the testimony of Ayesha, the favourite wife of the prophet, with reference to this verse. One tradition runs thus,
«قَالَتْ عَائِشَةَ كَانَتْ الْأَحْزَاب تُقْرَأُ فِي زَمَنِ رسول الله مِائَتَيْ آيَةٍ، فَلَمَّا كَتَبَ عُثْمَانُ الْمَصَاحِفَ لَمْ يُقَدَّرْ إِلَّا عَلَى ما أثبت وكان فيها آية الرجم».
“Ayesha said that the Surah Al-Ahzab (33) which she was reading was incomplete. In the time of the prophet it contained two hundred verses. And when ‘Uthman wrote the Qur’an, he accepted nothing except what he found authenticated, and in it was Ayat Al-Rajam.” 31 This testimony of the favourite wife of the prophet fully substantiates the statements made above as to the incompleteness of the present copy of the Qur’an; for whereas Ayesha tells us that in the time of Muhammad, Surah Al-Ahzab (33) contained two hundred verses, the present Qur’an only contains seventy-three. Ayesha further adds her testimony to ‘Umar’s to the fact that Ayat Al-Rajam once existed in this Surah; but, needless to say, no trace of it can be found in the present current edition of the Qur’an. Another tradition, recorded in Kitab Muhajarat explains the disappearance of this celebrated verse. It is there recorded that,
«عن عائشة قالت لقد نْزِلَتْ آيَةُ الرَّجْمِ، ورضاعة الكبير عشراً، ولقد كانت صحيفته تَحْتَ سَرِيرٍي فَلَمَّا مات رَسُولُ اللهِ صلعم وتَشَاغَلْنَا بموته دَخَلَ داجن فَأَكَلَهَا»
“Ayesha said, Ayat Al Rajam and Ayat Rajaeta were sent down and committed to writing; but the paper was underneath my seat; end when the prophet (upon whom be blessing and peace) died, and we were busy with his funeral, a goat entered (the house) and ate it up”! 32 We do not care to comment further upon this verse. The reader must either be devoid of all literary sense, or blinded by prejudice, if he fails to see how such facts as we have recorded above absolutely shatter all claims to a Divine protection of the Qur’an. Lest this language should be deemed exaggerated, we quote a few more traditions from reliable authorities, which will enable the reader to see that we are only stating plain facts. There is a well-known tradition of Ibn ’Umar’s to the following effect,
«عن ابن عمر قال لا يقولن أحدكم قد أخذت القرآن كله وما يدريه ما كله قد ذهب منه قرآن كثير ولكن ليقل قد أخذت منه ما ظهر».
“Ibn ’Umar said, Let no one of you say, ‘I have the whole Qur’an’. That which is known is not the whole, for a great part has been taken from it; but say, I have that which has been saved (made manifest) from it.”
Yet another tradition runs to this effect,
«عن زر بن حبيش قال: قال لي أبي بن كعب: كأي تعد سورة الأحزاب؟ قلت اثنتين وسبعين آية أو ثلاثة وسبعين آية. قال : إن كانت لتعدل سورة البقرة».
“Ibn- Hubaish said, Ibn-Kab said, ‘How many verses are there in Surah Al-Ahzab (33)?’ I said, ‘Seventy-two or seventy-three.’ He said, ‘Surah Al-Ahzab (33) was (once) equal to Surah al-Baqarah (2)’.” This well-known tradition is found in the famous work of Jalal-ud-Din Seyuti, known as the Itqan. It tells us that Surah Al-Ahzab (33), now containing seventy-two or seventy-three verses, was once equal to Surah al-Baqarah (2) which contains two hundred and eighty six verses. 33 Thus it is seen that from this one Surah alone over two hundred verses have absolutely disappeared.
There is also a well-known tradition of Ibn Abbas to the effect that,
«قال سألت علي بن أبي طالب: لِم لَم يكتب في براءة بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم؟ قال: إنها أمان وبراءة نزلت بالسيف ليس فيها أمان. وعن مالك أن أولها لما سقط مع البسم الله فقد ثبت إنها كانت تعدل بقرة لطولها».
He (Ibn Abbas) said, ‘I asked Ali-ibn-Abi Talib, why was not the Bismillah written in Surah At-Taubah (9)’. He said, ‘Because the Bismillah is for faith, but Surah At-Taubah (9) was sent down for the sword (war). And there is a tradition from Malik that when the first portion of Surah At-Taubah (9) was destroyed, then the Bismillah was lost with it; but if it had been proved, then verily it would have been equal in length to Surah al-Baqarah (2)’.” 34
In the traditions collected by Muslim, in the book Al-Jakat there is a tradition to the effect that a Qur’an reader named Abu Musa Ashari addressing a number of Qur’an readers at Busra said,
«إِنَّا كُنَّا نَقْرَأُ سُورَةً كُنَّا نُشَبِّهُهَا فِي الطُّولِ وَالشِّدَّةِ بِبَرَاءَةَ فَأُنْسِيتُهَا غَيْرَ أَنِّي قَدْ حَفِظْتُ مِنْهَا ... ... وَكُنَّا نَقْرَأُ سُورَةً كُنَّا نُشَبِّهُهَا بِإِحْدَى الْمُسَبِّحَاتِ فَأُنْسِيتُهَا غَيْرَ أَنِّي حَفِظْتُ مِنْهَا».
“We used to read a Surah equal in length and threatenings to At-Taubah (9), then I forgot it wholly except one verse.....and we also used to read another Surah that was equal to one of the Musabbehat; so I forgot that too, saving one verse which I recollect.” 35 Needless to say, none of these chapters appears in ‘Uthman’s collection.
In the history of the famous traditionist Al-Bukhari another tradition affirms the total loss of a large number of verses from Surah Al-Ahzab (33). It runs as follows,
«وأخرج البخاري في تاريخه عن حذيفة قال: قرأت سورة الأحزاب على النّبيّ، فنسيت منها سبعين آية ما وجدتها».
“And Bukhari has written in his history a tradition from Hazifta that he said, I was reading Surah Al-Ahzab (33) before the prophet, but I forgot seventy verses from it, and I did not obtain them (again).”
Yet one other tradition deserves to be inserted here before we bring this little book to a close. It concerns, not the past, but the future history of the Qur’an. It is related from Ibn Majah (Chapter Jahab-al-Qur’an and Al-Alam) as follows:
«عَنْ حُذَيْفَةَ بن اليمان قَالَ: قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلعم: يَدْرُسُ الْإِسْلَامُ كَمَا يَدْرُسُ وَشْيُ الثَّوْبِ، حَتَّى لَا يُدْرَى مَا صِيَامٌ ولا صلاة وَلَا نُسُكٌ وَلَا صَدَقَةٌ، وَليُسَرَّى عَلَى كِتَابِ اللَّهِ عز وجل فِي لَيْلَةٍ فَلَا يَبْقَى فِي الْأَرْضِ مِنْهُ آيَة».
“Hazifta ibn-Iman said, The prophet of God (on whom be blessing and peace) said, Islam will become worn out like the hem of an old garment, until (at last) people will not know what is the meaning of fasting, or prayer, or sacrifice or almsgiving; and in one night the word of God (Qur’an) will disappear, and not a single verse of it will be left upon the Earth.” 36
We do not intend to comment further on the traditions we have quoted above. They are sufficient to reveal to every open-minded truth-seeker the present condition of the Qur’anic text. Muslims are generally taught to believe that the Qur’an has been Divinely protected from all change. Indeed the Qur’an itself makes this weighty claim in these words:
“We have surely sent down the Qur’an, and we will certainly preserve the same (from corruption)”. 37
Whilst in another place we read,
“This book, the verses whereof are guarded against corruption is a revelation from the wise and knowing God.” The same preposterous claim is made in the traditions; and in the book Fazail-ul-Qur’an we read, “Even if the Qur’an were cast into the fire, it would not be burned”!
Let the reader judge of the value of these claims for the integrity of the Qur’an in the light of the testimony from Muslim authors which has been adduced in this little book, and he will see that in claiming to be Divinely protected from all change the Qur’an condemns itself, and proves its human origin. The reader desiring further information on this important topic may procure from the Panjab Tract Society, Lahore, the following Urdu publications Hidayat-ul-Muslimin, Minar-ul-Haqq, Mizan-ul-Haqq, Tahqiq-ul-Iman, Tabrifi-i-Qur’an and Tawil-ul-Qur’an. Let the reader, then, with all earnestness, pursue the study of this all-important subject; for those whose opinions and comments we have quoted are the foremost of the scholars of Islam, and their testimony cannot lightly be set aside. We have seen what men like Kazi Baizawi, Imam Husain, Muslim, Bukhari and Jallal-ud-Din have to say with regard to the Qur’an. We have seen how, even in the life-time of Muhammad himself, grave differences arose in the various readings of the Qur’an; we have traced the history of the unsuccessful attempts made to reduce them all to one uniform text; we have noted how gravely the recension of ‘Uthman differed from that of Abu Bakr and the copy of Ibn Ma’sud; and we have seen, upon the testimony of the greatest commentators of the Qur’an how the present text contains “innumerable “ differences of reading, many of which entirely alter the meaning of the passages concerned; and, finally, we have noted the consensus of testimony, afforded by the traditions, to the fact that large portions of the Qur’an have disappeared altogether. Such being the case, surely it is the highest wisdom for Muslims to turn to that scripture in the hands of the ‘People of the Book’ which Muhammad himself commanded men to believe and follow. Manifestly they were uncorrupted at the time of the Arabian preacher, as his repeated references to them clearly show; and that they have not been corrupted since that time is equally certain; for copies still exist in the great Museums of Europe which were written long before the time of Muhammad, and these agree with the Gospels current to-day.
Let the reader, ere he closes this little book, consider carefully the Qur’anic passage which adorns the title page. It is there written, “Ask those who are acquainted with the scripture, if ye know not.” 38 Then is it not your highest wisdom, O Muhammadan reader, to follow this teaching of the Qur’an, and seek in the Gospels the way of eternal life? Not only are Muslims in general thus advised to seek a solution of their doubts by a reference to Christians; but the Qur’an pictures Muhammad himself as receiving the same admonition. In Surah Yunas 10:94, it is written,
«فَإِن كُنتَ فِي شَكٍّ مِّمَّا أَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ فَاسْأَلِ الَّذِينَ يَقْرَءُونَ الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلِكَ».
“If thou art in doubt concerning that which we have sent down unto thee (O Muhammad), ask them who are reading the Book before thee.” We have seen, in the preceding pages, that there is ample reason to doubt the testimony of the Qur’an as it exists to-day; let Muslims then, with fearless resolution, turn to the Gospels and learn from them of the wonderful love of God as revealed in Christ Jesus. Jesus Himself said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away; but my words shall not pass away.” 39 It is in the Injil that we have the perfect revelation of the character and will of God; it is in the Injil that we find revealed the way of eternal life; for it is there we learn that God so loved the world that He gave the Lord Jesus Christ, that whosoever believeth on Him might not perish, but have everlasting life. 40 Reader, listen to the loving invitation of the Saviour Himself, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” 41
27. Imad ud-din Lahiz, Tahqiq-ul-Iman, p. 9-11.
28. Is there a reference to support this assertion?
31. See also, Jalaluddin Suyuti, Al-Itqan fi Ulum al-Qur’an, “He (Abu 'Ubaid) also said: Ibn Abu Maryam reported to us from Ibn Lahi'a, from Abu'l-Aswad, from 'Urwa b. 'l-Zubair, that A'isha said: "During the time of the Prophet (s) two hundred verses of the chapter al-Ahzab were recited but when compiling the Qur'an 'Uthman was only able to collect what now exists."
33. See also, Jalaluddin Suyuti, Al-Itqan fi Ulum al-Qur’an, “He (Abu ‘Ubaid) also said: Isma’il b. Ja’far reported to us from al-Mubarak b. Fudala, from ‘Asim b. Abu al-Nujud, from Zirr b. Hubaish who said: “‘Ubayy b. Ka’b told me: ‘How many verses do you count in the chapter al-Ahzab? I said: ‘72 or 73 verses.’ He said: ‘At one time it had as many verses as al-Baqara, including the verse on stoning which we used to recite.’ I said: “What is the verse of stoning?’ He said: ‘If a married man or woman fornicates, stone them without hesitation; a fitting punishment from God. God is Mighty, and all Wise.’”
37. Surah Al-Hijr 15:9.
38. Qur’an Al-Anbiyah 21:7
39. Matthew 24:35
40. John 3:16.
41. Matthew 11:28-30.