There were many versions of the Qur'an all of which were burnt by Usman (R.A.) except for one. Therefore is it not true that the present Qur'an is the one compiled by Usman (R.A.) and not the original revelation of God?
;One of the most common myths about the Qur'an, is that Usman (R.A.), the third Caliph of Islam authenticated and compiled one Qur'an, from a large set of mutually contradicting copies. The Qur'an, revered as the Word of Allah by Muslims the world over, is the same Qur'an as the one revealed to Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). It was authenticated and written under his personal supervision. We will examine the roots of the myth which says that Usman (R.A.) had the Qur'an authenticated.
1. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) himself supervised and authenticated the written texts of the Qur'an
Whenever the Prophet received a revelation, he would first memorize it himself and later declare the revelation and instruct his Companions who would also memorize it. The Prophet would immediately ask the scribes to write down the revelation he had received, and he would reconfirm and recheck it himself. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was an Ummi who could not read and write. Therefore, after receiving each revelation, he would repeat it to his Companions. They would write down the revelation, and he would recheck by asking them to read what they had written. If there was any mistake, the Prophet would immediately point it out and have it corrected and rechecked. Similarly he would even recheck and authenticate the portions of the Qur'an memorized by the Companions. In this way, the complete Qur'an was written down under the personal supervision of the prophet (pbuh).
2. Order and sequence of Qur'an Divinely inspired
The complete Qur'an was revealed over a period of 22½ years portion by portion, as and when it was required. The Qur'an was not compiled by the Prophet in the chronological order of revelation. The order and sequence of the Qur'an too was Divinely inspired and was instructed to the Prophet by Allah (swt) through archangel Jibraeel. Whenever a revelation was conveyed to his companions, the Prophet would also mention in which surah (chapter) and after which ayat (verse) this new revelation should fit.
Every Ramadhan all the portions of the Qur'an that had been revealed, including the order of the verses, were revised and reconfirmed by the Prophet with archangel Jibraeel. During the last Ramadhan, before the demise of the Prophet, the Qur'an was rechecked and reconfirmed twice.
It is therefore clearly evident that the Qur'an was compiled and authenticated by the Prophet himself during his lifetime, both in the written form as well as in the memory of several of his Companions.
3. Qur'an copied on one common material
The complete Qur'an, along with the correct sequence of the verses, was present during the time of the Prophet (pbuh). The verses however, were written on separate pieces, scrapes of leather, thin flat stones, leaflets, palm branches, shoulder blades, etc. After the demise of the prophet, Abu Bakr (R.A.), the first caliph of Islam ordered that the Qur'an be copied from the various different materials on to a common material and place, which was in the shape of sheets. These were tied with strings so that nothing of the compilation was lost.
4. Usman (R.A.) made copies of the Qur'an from the original manuscript
Many Companions of the Prophet used to write down the revelation of the Qur'an on their own whenever they heard it from the lips of the Prophet. However what they wrote was not personally verified by the Prophet and thus could contain mistakes. All the verses revealed to the Prophet may not have been heard personally by all the Companions. There were high possibilities of different portions of the Qur'an being missed by different Companions. This gave rise to disputes among Muslims regarding the different contents of the Qur'an during the period of the third Caliph Usman (R.A.).
Usman (R.A.) borrowed the original manuscript of the Qur'an, which was authorized by the beloved Prophet (pbuh), from Hafsha (may Allah be pleased with her), the Prophet's wife. Usman (R.A.) ordered four Companions who were among the scribes who wrote the Qur'an when the Prophet dictated it, led by Zaid bin Thabit (R.A.) to rewrite the script in several perfect copies. These were sent by Usman (R.A.) to the main centres of Muslims.
There were other personal collections of the portions of the Qur'an that people had with them. These might have been incomplete and with mistakes. Usman (R.A.) only appealed to the people to destroy all these copies which did not match the original manuscript of the Qur'an in order to preserve the original text of the Qur'an. Two such copies of the copied text of the original Qur'an authenticated by the Prophet are present to this day, one at the museum in Tashkent in erstwhile Soviet Union and the other at the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, Turkey.
5. Diacritical marks were added for non-Arabs
The original manuscript of the Qur'an does not have the signs indicating the vowels in Arabic script. These vowels are known as tashkil, zabar, zair, paish in Urdu and as fatah, damma and qasra in Arabic. The Arabs did not require the vowel signs and diacritical marks for correct pronunciation of the Qur'an since it was their mother tongue. For Muslims of non-Arab origin, however, it was difficult to recite the Qur'an correctly without the vowels. These marks were introduced into the Quranic script during the time of the fifth 'Umayyad' Caliph, Malik-ar-Marwan (66-86 Hijri/685-705 C.E.) and during the governorship of Al-Hajaj in Iraq.
Some people argue that the present copy of the Qur'an that we have along with the vowels and the diacritical marks is not the same original Qur'an that was present at the Prophet's time. But they fail to realize that the word 'Qur'an' means a recitation. Therefore, the preservation of the recitation of the Qur'an is important, irrespective of whether the script is different or whether it contains vowels. If the pronunciation and the Arabic is the same, naturally, the meaning remains the same too.
6. Allah Himself has promised to guard the Qur'an
Allah has promised in the Qur'an :
"We have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption)." [Al-Qur'an 15:9]
A few selected verses from the Qur'an are often misquoted to perpetuate the myth that Islam promotes violence, and exhorts its followers to kill those outside the pale of Islam.
1. Verse from Surah Taubah
The following verse from Surah Taubah is very often quoted by critics of Islam, to show that Islam promotes violence, bloodshed and brutality:
"Kill the mushriqeen (pagans, kafirs) where ever you find them." [Al-Qur'an 9:5]
2. Context of verse is during battlefield
Critics of Islam actually quote this verse out of context. In order to understand the context, we need to read from verse 1 of this surah. It says that there was a peace treaty between the Muslims and the Mushriqs (pagans) of Makkah. This treaty was violated by the Mushriqs of Makkah. A period of four months was given to the Mushriqs of Makkah to make amends. Otherwise war would be declared against them. Verse 5 of Surah Taubah says:
"But when the forbidden months are past, then fight and slay the Pagans wherever ye find them, and seize them, beleaguer them, and lie in wait for them in every stratagem (of war); but if they repent, and establish regular prayers and practise regular charity, then open the way for them: for Allah is oft-forgiving, Most merciful." [Al-Qur'an 9:5]
This verse is quoted during a battle.
3. Example of war between America and Vietnam
We know that America was once at war with Vietnam. Suppose the President of America or the General of the American Army told the American soldiers during the war: "Wherever you find the Vietnamese, kill them". Today if I say that the American President said, "Wherever you find Vietnamese, kill them" without giving the context, I will make him sound like a butcher. But if I quote him in context, that he said it during a war, it will sound very logical, as he was trying to boost the morale of the American soldiers during the war.
4. Verse 9:5 quoted to boost morale of Muslims during battle
Similarly in Surah Taubah chapter 9 verse 5 the Qur'an says, "Kill the Mushriqs where ever you find them", during a battle to boost the morale of the Muslim soldiers. What the Qur'an is telling Muslim soldiers is, don't be afraid during battle; wherever you find the enemies kill them.
5. Shourie jumps from verse 5 to verse 7
Arun Shourie is one of the staunchest critics of Islam in India. He quotes the same verse, Surah Taubah chapter 9 verse 5 in his book 'The World of Fatwahs', on page 572. After quoting verse 5 he jumps to verse 7 of Surah Taubah. Any sensible person will realise that he has skipped verse 6.
6. Surah Taubah chapter 9 verse 6 gives the answer
Surah Taubah chapter 9 verse 6 gives the answer to the allegation that Islam promotes violence, brutality and bloodshed. It says:
"If one amongst the Pagans ask thee for asylum,grant it to him, so that he may hear the word of Allah; and then escort him to where he can be secure that is because they are men without knowledge." [Al-Qur'an 9:6]
The Qur'an not only says that a Mushriq seeking asylum during the battle should be granted refuge, but also that he should be escorted to a secure place. In the present international scenario, even a kind, peace-loving army General, during a battle, may let the enemy soldiers go free, if they want peace. But which army General will ever tell his soldiers, that if the enemy soldiers want peace during a battle, don't just let them go free, but also escort them to a place of security?
This is exactly what Allah (swt) says in the Glorious Qur'an to promote peace in the world.
Islam is a strictly monotheistic religion. It believes in and adheres to uncompromising monotheism. It believes that God is one, and unique in His attributes. In the Qur'an, God often refers to Himself using the word 'We'. But this does not mean that Islam believes in the existence of more than one God.
Two types of plural
In several languages, there are two types of plurals, one is a plural of numbers to refer to something that occurs in a quantity of more than one. The other plural is a plural of respect.
a. In the English language, the Queen of England refers to herself as 'We' instead of 'I'. This is known as the 'royal plural'.
b. Rajiv Gandhi, the ex-Prime Minister of India used to say in Hindi "Hum dekhna chahte hain". "We want to see." 'Hum' means 'We' which is again a royal plural in Hindi.
c. Similarly in Arabic, when Allah refers to Himself in the Qur'an, He often uses Nahnu meaning 'We'. It does not indicate plural of number but plural of respect.
Tawheed or monotheism is one of the pillars of Islam. The existence and uniqueness of one and only one God is mentioned several times in the Qur'an. For instance in Surah Ikhlas, it says:
"Say He is Allah the One and Only." [Al-Qur'an 112: 1]
Muslims believe in the theory of abrogation, i.e. they believe that certain earlier verses of the Qur'an were abrogated by verses revealed later. Does this imply that God made a mistake and later on corrected it?
1. Two different interpretations
The Glorious Qur'an says in the following verse:
"None of Our revelations do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but We substitute
something better or similar: knowest thou not that Allah hath power over all things?" [Al-Qur'an 2:106]
A reference to this is also made in chapter 16 verse 101 of Surah Nahl. The Arabic word mentioned is ayat which means 'signs' or 'verses' and which can also mean 'revelations'. This verse of the Qur'an can be interpreted in two different ways:
a. The revelations that are abrogated are those revelations that were revealed before the Qur'an, for example the Torah, the Zaboor and the Injeel.
Here Allah (swt) says that He does not cause the previous revelations to be forgotten but He substitutes them with something better or similar, indicating that the Torah, the Zaboor and the Injeel were substituted by the Qur'an.
b. If we consider that the Arabic word ayat in the above verse refers to the verses of the Qur'an, and not previous revelations, then it indicates that none of the verses of the Qur'an are abrogated by Allah but substituted with something better or similar. This means that certain verses of the Qur'an, that were revealed earlier were substituted by verses that were revealed later. I agree with both the interpretations.
Many Muslims and non-Muslims misunderstand the second interpretation to mean that some of the earlier verses of the Qur'an were abrogated and no longer hold true for us today, as they have been replaced by the later verses of the Qur'an or the abrogating verses. This group of people even wrongly believe that these verses contradict each other.
Let us analyze a few such examples.
2. Produce a recital like the Qur'an / 10 Surahs / 1 Surah:
Some pagan Arabs alleged that the Qur'an was forged by Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Allah (swt) challenges these Arabs in the following verse of Surah Al-Isra:
"Say: If the whole of Mankind and Jinns were together to produce the like of this Qur'an they could not produce the like thereof, even if they backed up each other with help and support." [Al-Qur'an 17:88]
Later the challenge was made easy in the following verse of Surah Al-Hud:
"Or they may say, "He forged it." Say, "Bring ye then ten Surahs forged, like unto it, and call (to your aid) whomsover ye can, other than Allah, if ye speak the truth!'." [Al-Qur'an 11:13]
It was made easier in the following verse of Surah Yunus:
"Or do they say, "He forged it"? Say: "Bring then a Surah like unto it, and call (to your aid) anyone you can, besides Allah, if it be ye speak the truth!'." [Al-Qur'an 10:38]
Finally in Surah Al-Baqarah, Allah (swt) further simplied the challenge:
And if ye are in doubt as to what We have revealed from time to time to Our servant, then produce a Surah like thereunto; and call your witnesses or helpers (if there are any) besides Allah if your (doubts) are true.
But if ye cannot – and of a surety ye cannot – then fear the Fire whose fuel is Men and Stones – which is prepared for those who reject faith". [Al-Qur'an 2:23-24]
Thus Allah (swt) made the challenges progressively easier. The progressively revealed verses of the Qur'an first challenged the pagans to produce a book like the Qur'an, then challenged them to produce ten Surahs (chapters) like those in the Qur'an, then one Surah and finally it challenges them to produce one Surah somewhat similar (mim mislihi) to the Qur'anic Surahs. This does not mean that the later verses that were revealed i.e. of Surah Baqarah chapter 2 verses 23 and 24 contradict the earlier three verses. Contradiction implies mentioning two things that cannot be possible simultaneously, or cannot take place simultaneously.
The earlier verses of the Qur'an i.e. the abrogated verses are still the word of God and the information contained in it is true to this day. For instance the challenge to produce a recital like the Qur'an stands to this day. Similarly the challenge to produce ten Surahs and one Surah exactly like the Qur'an also holds true and the last challenge of producing one surah somewhat similar to the Qur'an also holds true. It does not contradict the earlier challenges, but this is the easiest of all the challenges posed by the Qur'an. If the last challenge cannot be fulfilled, the question of anyone fulfilling the other three more difficult challenges does not arise.
Suppose I speak about a person that he is so dumb, that he would not be able to pass the 10th standard in school. Later I say that he would not be able to pass the 5th standard, and further say that he would not be able to pass even the 1st standard. Finally I say that he is so dull that he would not even be able to pass K.G. i.e. kindergarten. One has to pass kindergarten before one can be admitted to school. What I am stating is that the person is so dull as to be unable to pass even kindergarten. My four statements do not contradict each other, but my last statement i.e. the person would not be able to pass the kindergarten is sufficient to indicate the intelligence of that person. If a person cannot even pass kindergarten, the question of him passing the first standard or 5th or 10th, does not arise.
3. Gradual prohibition of intoxicants
Another example of such verses is that related to gradual prohibition of intoxicants. The first revelation of the Qur'an to deal with intoxicants was the following verse from Surah Baqarah:
"They ask thee concerning wine and gambling say: 'In them is great sin, and some profit, for men; but the sin is greater than the profit'." [Al-Qur'an 2:219]
The next verse to be revealed regarding intoxicants is the following verse from Surah Nisa:
"O ye who believe! approach not prayers with a mind befogged, until ye can understand all that ye say – " [Al-Qur'an 4:43]
The last verse to be revealed regarding intoxicants was the following verse from Surah Al-Maidah:
"O ye who believe! intoxicants and gambling, (dedication of) stones, and (divination by) arrows, are an abomination of Satan's handiwork; eschew such (abomination), that ye may prosper." [Al-Qur'an 5:90]
The Qur'an was revealed over a period of 22½ years. Many reforms that were brought about in the society were gradual. This was to facilitate the adoption of new laws by the people. An abrupt change in society always leads to rebellion and anarchy.
The prohibition of intoxicants was revealed in three stages. The first revelation only mentioned that in the intoxicants there is great sin and some profit but the sin is greater than the profit. The next revelation prohibited praying in an intoxicated state, indicating that one should not consume intoxicants during the day, since a Muslim has to pray five times a day. This verse does state that when one is not praying at night one is allowed to consume intoxicants. It means one may have or one may not have. The Qur'an does not comment on it. If this verse had mentioned that one is allowed to have intoxicants while not praying then there would have been a contradiction. Allah(swt) chose words appropriately. Finally the total prohibition of intoxicants at all times was revealed in Surah Maidah chapter 5 verse 90.
This clearly indicates that the three verses do not contradict each other. Had they been contradicting, it would not have been possible to follow all the three verses simultaneously. Since a Muslim is expected to follow each and every verse of the Qur'an, only by following the last verse i.e. of Surah Maidah (5:90), he simultaneously agrees and follows the previous two verses.
Suppose I say that I do not live in Los Angeles. Later I say that I do not live in California. Finally I say, I do not live in the United States of America. This does not imply that these three statements contradict each other. Each statement gives more information than the previous statement. The third statement includes the information contained in the first two statements. Thus, only by saying that I do not live in the United States of America, it is obvious, that I also do not live in California nor New York. Similarly since consuming alcohol is totally prohibited, it is obvious that praying in an intoxicated state is also prohibited and the information that in intoxicants is "great sin and some profit for men; but the sin is greater than profit" also holds true.
4. Qur'an does not contain any contradictions
The theory of abrogation does not imply that there is a contradiction in the Qur'an, since it is possible to follow all the verses of the Qur'an at the same time.
If there is a contradiction in the Qur'an, then it cannot be the word of Allah (swt).
"Do they not consider the Qur'an (with care)? had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy (contradictions)."