Sunday, 15 November 2009

Did the Qur'an Suffer Textual Corruption?

I am not making myself an expert on the field of Qur'anic textual criticism, yet I think this issue demands our consideration.

This youtube video reveals that Qur'anic experts in textual criticism assume based upon early Qur'anic manuscripts and the earliest Qur'anic manuscript in existence that the Qur'anic text was manipulated and formulated from an earlier version to the standard version we possess today. They estimate that this corruption which preceeds other later Qur'anic manuscripts took place within the fifty earliest years of Islam. When considering the Hadiths and Sira and the vast corruption and fabrication of material, this is not all surprising.

It seems that the matter of Qur'anic textual criticism is a future field of study that will greatly challenge the traditional claim of Islam that the Qur'an has suffered zero corruption.

Let me in addition refer the reader to this particular debate which took place in London this summer between Bassam Zawadi and Nabeel Quershi:

Bassam was well prepared for this debate, however, the very matter which Nabeel wished to pin point was firmly established, namely that the early Qur'an's contain variants and to this Bassam agreed, yet he dared to refer to these as divine variants. I have to say that such a reply to Nabeel's argument does not impress me at all, it goes against both logic and history. Bassam seemed here to point out a reply later stressed by Muslims to avoid the difficulties. In fact even if the Qur'an originally existed in multiple forms (which is logical but hardly is connected to this matter raised by German scholars) there is no clear evidence that these forms constitute the variants and textual inconsistencies which have been detected with early Qur'anic manuscripts and from the early historical sources.

Bassam and the Muslims present sought to argue that these variants were parts of revelations revealed in different forms to Arabic tribes of different dialects and that each form has been perfectly preserved wherever possible.

There are nevertheless a number of refuting points to this argument.

Firstly, Nabeel pointed out effectively that there forty different views among Muslims concerning these variants, and certainly no evidence that these were merely dialectical variants. In fact why would Allah commit such a foolish error in the first place, an error, which later almost lead to civil war. And if it was Allah's will to reveal the Qur'an in seven forms, based upon what revelatory authority did Uthman and later Islamic leaders discredit these forms and burn them?

It also came across rather clearly that the best reciters of Muhammad transmitted Qur'ans in dialects that later were burned; that is if the matter relates to dialects only. However, early Islam gives no real evidence that this was only a matter of dialects, and the reaction toward the Islamic rulers who inagurated this Qur'anic reform and revision of the text seem to reveal an attempt to cover up a real problem, namely that the early Qur'an was not preserved, which led to the corruption and later stratums of periods in which Qur'ans were burned; hence a development in textually formulating the Qur'anic text within the first fifty years of Islam.

Furthermore, the German scholars have effectively established that under the printed text they have discovered a text that has been erased, which reveals a number of stages in which the text has been polished and reformulated, hence the variants are not resulted from divine logic in providing a number of texts for various dialectics but the result of an early corruption of the text. This refutes the claim of the Muslims that the existing variants reveal dialectic form, rather the variants reveal a fluid transmission and a text that underwent a lengthy development.

We need also to reject the claim of Muslims that the variants reveal seven variant forms, which despite their variants remain in each their own preserved form. In fact the scrutiny of the early manuscripts reveal that the variants result from rewriting and rearranging the text, which in the typical Muslim mindset is corruption.

While I am not a keen favorit of source criticism and the typical theoretical methods behind it, this certainly rekindles my desire to consider the works of Chrone and a number of scholars who propose that the present Qur'an was fabricated under a Syriac influence and that much of the transmitted transmission related to the earlist history of Islam and the biography of Muhammad is early fabrication and corruption of reality.

A response and challenge to those who oppose the Christian faith.