Authenticity and Completeness of the Koran

Variant versions, missing and added verses.

Muslim orthodoxy holds that Uthman's Koran contains all of Muhammad's revelations, faithfully preserved, as they were revealed. However, some Muslim scholarship will allow the possibility that some of the Koran may have been lost or perverted. The earliest, securely dated, manuscripts of the Koran date from the ninth Century, and there exist fragments that possibly date from the early eighth or even seventh Centuries. Between these manuscripts themselves and in comparison to the modern Koran, there is quite wide variation in the wording of verses, although the character and meaning is generally constant. The ordering of the suras is also a little different from what has become the standard. Another very early record of Koranic material is in the coins and building inscriptions from the caliphate of Abd al-Malik, 685-705. These fragments are undoubtedly Koranic, yet they are slightly different to the standard wording. Were the authorities so blasphemous as to paraphrase the word of God, or was a different rescension common at the time? Suyuti (d. 1505), a very famous and revered commentator on the Koran, in his work Ibn 'Umar al Khattab, quotes the pious son of the Caliph Umar as saying, "Let none of you say that he (Uthman) has the whole of the Koran in his possession. How does he know what the whole is? Much of the Koran has gone." He also records the tradition in which 'Amish, the wife of the Prophet, says "During the time of the Prophet, the chapter of the Parties used to be 200 verses when read. When 'Uthman edited the copies of the Koran, only the current verses were recorded".

Indeed, the actual authenticity of some verses has been called into question by Muslims themselves. Many Khajarites, followers of 'Ali in the early years, rejected the story of Joseph, considering it an erotic tale which did not belong in the holy Koran. The western historian H. Hirschfeld has expressed scepticism regarding those verses in which the name of Muhammad occurs. Muhammad means "praised" and Hirschfeld is suspicious of such an uncommon name being borne by the Prophet.

It seems likely that following the death of Muhammad in 632, there were many attempts to collect the revelations, resulting in a number of different codices. Furthermore, it appears that Uthman's attempt to standardise the Koran by canonising the Medinan codex was not entirely successful, and a number of variant traditions survived. The probability of variant texts is increased by the fact that early Arabic text was purely consonantal, with no indication of the vowels. Moreover, this consonantal text was unpointed. This means that the dots that distinguish an "f" from a "q" or an "s" from a "d" were missing, so many variant readings were possible. The Arabic scripta plena, fully vowelled and pointed, was not perfected till the late ninth Century.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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