My Belief In An Eclectic Qur’an

“We have given you the seven (l-mathani) consistency duplicated AND the glorious Qur’an.” (Qur’an 15:87)

My belief that the Qur’an that we have today is eclectic. However, that is nuanced. The term eclectic means drawling from several sources. So if someone ask me are you saying that the Qur’an is drawling from ‘several sources’?

My answer to that is an emphatic, “No!”. The Qur’an is from Allah (swt) given the Angel Gabriel and communicated to the Blessed Messenger (saw).

So that is regards the ultimate source. That being said, I do believe that the Qur’an we have in our possession is an eclectic Qur’an. I believe that Qur’an to be a composition of the various authorized modes of reading the Qur’an.

“We have given you the seven (l-mathani) consistency duplicated AND the glorious Qur’an.” (Qur’an 15:87)

It is interesting that the text here says the seven consistently duplicated or supported AND the Qur’an. Yet, traditionally this is understood as a reference to surah al fatiha. So is al fatiha part of the Qur’an or not? Is it something separate from the Qur’an?

Though this argues in favour of the Maliki and Hanafi view that basmallah is not a verse in front of al fatiha, it argues against the position of Shafi’i, Ahmed, the Ibadi, the 12er Shia and the Zaydi that the basmallah is a verse in front of al fatiha.

When we look at the other example of where mathaniya is used we see something quite interesting.

“Allah has sent down the finest report in a (mathaniya) consistently duplicated Book. The skins of those who dread their Lord tingle with it; then their skins and hearts are softened up for remembering Allah. Such is Allah´s guidance; He guides anyone He wishes by means of it, while anyone whom Allah lets go astray will have no one to guide him.” (Qur’an 39:23)

What is interesting is that this above verse tells us that mathaniya is the Qur’an. That this mathaniya is consistently duplicated. In other words, it’s message does not contradict other parts of its’ message.

“Will they not then ponder on the Qur’an? If it had been from other than Allah they would have found therein major incongruity. .” (Qur’an 4:82)

So it is my understanding that these mathaniya the refer to the 7 Ahruf of the Qur’an. I understand Ahruf as ways forms and modes.

Abdullah ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Gabriel, upon him be peace, taught me to recite the Quran in one reading and I requested another. I continued to ask for more until he stopped at seven readings.

Ibn Shihab said, “It reached me that these seven readings are united in the matter. There is no difference in what they allow and forbid.”

Source: (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 4705, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 819)

Umar ibn al-Khattab reported: I heard Hisham ibn Hakim reciting the Surat al-Furqan in a way different from how I recited it and how it was taught to me by the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him. I was about to argue with him, but then I waited until he finished and I tied his shirt around his neck and took him to the Prophet. I said, “Indeed, I heard this man recite in a way different from what you taught me!” The Prophet said to me, “Bring him to me.” Then, Prophet said to him, “Recite.” He recited and the Prophet said, “As it has been revealed.” Then, the Prophet said to me, “Recite.” I recited and the Prophet said, “As it has been revealed. Verily, the Quran has been revealed in seven dialects. Recite whichever of them you find easy.

Source: (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 2287, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 818)

Abdullah ibn Mas’ud reported: A man was reciting a verse which I had heard differently from the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him. I took his hand and brought him to the Prophet and he said, “Both of your recitations are goodDo not differ, for the nations before you were destroyed by their differences.

Source: (Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 2279)

May apologies I don’t necessarily make the best charts but this is how I understand the Qur’an preservation and why I say the Qur’an we have today is an eclectic Qur’an.

The Qur’an I believe has one source. That source is Allah (swt).

The Qur’an was initially transmitted as Qur’an (A) Qur’an (B) Qur’an (C) Qur’an (D) Qur’an (D) Qur’an (E) Qur’an (F) Qur’an (G) not that each set (A-G) was absolutely different from one to the other but that where Allah (swt) deemed necessary it was revealed in a way, mode, or style more suitable for the particular people.

However, think about when we say the words ‘The’ and ‘Qur’an’. The is definitive article in English and Qur’an is a noun- a reference to a revelation that is compound unity. The Qur’an is a collective. It is a collection. This is true not only for it orally, but also in the way it was revealed. Qur’an A,B,C,D,E,F,G are all Qur’an. Some would say why not call it Qur’ans (plural) but this would not be proper.

To me this explains variants in the Qur’an manuscripts. Those that are authentically preserved and transmitted show that. The vast majority of the Muslim world uses the 1924 Qur’an produced by scholars from Al Ahzar (May Allah bless them for their efforts).

Now the problem that sceptics/atheist/agnostics will have is that we do not necessarily have complete “original” physical copies of transmitted Qur’an A,B,C,D,E,F,G.

Uthman and the Qur’an.

One of the things that is certain is that when Uthman burned the Qur’an that many of the companions need not wish to hand over to him their codices. In fact this whole exercise seems more or less like an exercise in power on behalf of Uthman than anything noble and Allah (swt) knows best.

The standard story we are told is that apparently some newly converted Muslims were arguing over ways of pronouncing the Qur’an. So we are somehow led to believe that Uthman wanted to stop people arguing about differences of the Qur’an by burning physical copies of collections of a revelation that is primarily transmitted orally!!

What on Earth was Uthman thinking? How does burning physical copies of a revelation that is primarily transmitted orally stop the variant readings from being recited or the styles of recitation of being followed? No one has ever seem to be able to answer this with a straight face.

I will have more on Uthman and some insights from an Ibadi perspective (not Sunni or Shi’a narrative) on why some companions found him to be treacherous in the latter part of his reign and that many companions that this act of essentially putting himself as an authority over the Qur’an was deeply problematic theologically speaking.

One of the things that should put hearts and minds at rest is this. These variant readings that Atheist, Agnostics and Ex Muslims go on and on about, well, what actually they say?

Do they have different teachings?

Do they blatantly contradict each other?

Are they giving us different sets of data?

My answer to all of that is that they do not. I believe that the Qur’an was faithfully transmitted. When I say THE QUR’AN I mean Qur’an (ABCDEFG) and that as long as we have any part of (ABCDEFG) as a transmission we have the Qur’an.

Certainly the idea of the Qur’an being transmitted in a linear way is hardly defensible. Yet, if we have a proper understanding that the Qur’an is not just one this or one that, the questions that sceptics bring up amount to a nothing burger. Allah (swt) knows best.

2 Comments

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2 responses to “My Belief In An Eclectic Qur’an

  1. al-Tamili

    Assalamu alaikum brother

    The following is a lecture by the Ismaili scholar, Dr Khalil Andani of Harvard University, on the Ismaili Shi’a perspective on Qur’anic revelation:

    Please do watch it if you have the time. May Allah increase you in knowledge and wisdom!

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