If you've been reading this blog for the past few months, you must be very familiar with Ibn Masud and the arguments that issue forth from him against the modern Quran (i.e. the Zaid Standard Version, or ZSV). If you are new to this blog, welcome! Allow me to recap some of the information for you.
Ibn Masud and the Corruption of the ZSV
Ibn Masud is Muhammad's first choice of Quran teachers for his people:
Narrated Masruq: Abdullah bin Mas'ud was mentioned before Abdullah bin Amr who said, "That is a man I still love, as I heard the Prophet (saw) saying, 'Learn the recitation of the Qur'an from four: from Abdullah bin Mas'ud - he started with him - Salim, the freed slave of Abu Hudhaifa, Mu'adh bin Jabal and Ubai bin Ka'b". (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 5, p.96).
Notice Muhammad starts by naming Ibn Masud, and the narrator emphasizes this fact. Indeed, the narrator goes on to say that he loves Ibn Masud. We can safely infer that this hadith intends to convey Ibn Masud as the best teacher of the Quran.
Being a proud expert of the Quran, Ibn Masud would agree that his mastery of the Quran was unrivaled. Of his own prowess, he says:
''Narrated Abdullah (bin Mas'ud) (ra): By Allah other than Whom none has the right to be worshipped! There is no Sura revealed in Allah's Book but I know at what place it was revealed; and there is no verse revealed in Allah's Book but I know about whom it was revealed. And if I know that there is somebody who knows Allah's Book better than I, and he is at a place that camels can reach, I would go to him. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 6, p.488). ''
However, Ibn Masud does not think highly of today's Quran, the one collected by Zaid. In comparing himself to Zaid, he says:
''The people have been guilty of deceit in the reading of the Qur'an. I like it better to read according to the recitation of him (Prophet) whom I love more than that of Zayd Ibn Thabit. By Him besides Whom there is no god! I learnt more than seventy surahs from the lips of the Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, while Zayd Ibn Thabit was a youth, having two locks and playing with the youth". (Ibn Sa'd, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Vol. 2, p.444)
As we can see, the differences between Ibn Masud's Quran and Zaid's Quran were not minor. Before even examining them, we can know that they were big enough for Ibn Masud to call the reading of Zaid's Quran "deceit". But when we examine the evidence, we find out why.
According to Ibn Abi Daud's Kitab al-Masahif, we find out that Ibn Masud only includes 111 surahs in his Quran (as opposed to the ZSV's 114). In addition, chapters that were found in both codices often had many variants; within surat al-Baqara alone, 101 variants exist. Not all of these variants are differences in spelling. For example:
Surah 2:275 begins with the words Allathiina yaakuluunar-ribaa laa yaquumuuna - "those who devour usury will not stand". Ibn Mas'ud's text had the same introduction but after the last word there was added the expression yawmal qiyaamati, that is, they would not be able to stand on the "Day of Resurrection".
Naturally, since Muhammad told people to go to Ibn Masud if they wanted to learn the Quran, many Muslims studied under Ibn Masud. Ibn Masud's version of the Quran was thus perpetuated to his students. The aforementioned variant, for example, was included in the codex of Talha ibn Musarrif, one of Ibn Masud's students in Kufa.
The Muslim Responses
So far, there have been three Muslim responses on this blog to the above case.
1 - "Ibn Masud's codex was his own personal notebook; it is not to be taken as a variant codex of the Quran!"
The desperate nature of this response is so obvious I am amazed anyone would even utter it. But alas, this is the most common response I have seen so far.
The main problem with this is that it is demonstrably false! We know historically that Ibn Masud taught his version of the Quran to his students (as mentioned above). Therefore, we cannot possibly say that he just considered it his own personal notebook.
Another problem with this response is that it goes against the supporting evidence; we know that Ibn Masud did not want to give up his codex when it came time to burn the variants. Why would Uthman want a notebook to be burnt when everything else he was burning were manuscripts? Clearly, if Quranic manuscripts were what was being burnt, and Uthman wanted Ibn Masud's book burnt, it was probably not just a notebook!
But let's give the Muslim response the benefit of the doubt. We may just happen to find something like this in an archaeological dig:
Uthman's List of Things to Burn
1 - All Quranic manuscripts
2 - Ibn Masud's notebook, which is definitely not a manuscript...
Even after finding such a chit, the Muslim response still has a huge problem: why on earth would Ibn Masud be so hesitant to give up his "notebook", even resisting the command of the khalifa? I doubt he would do so without good reason.
And this brings me to my final point: the supporting evidence from Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir makes the pieces fit. Ibn Masud must have considered Zaid's Quran such a deceit that he was willing to resist the command of the khalifa. Not only does this supporting evidence pass the historial method's criterion of embarrassing admission, it also makes all the pieces fit (i.e. the criterion of illumination). The Muslim response, on the other hand, makes no sense, ignores the criteria of historical investigation, and indeed just throws out historical evidence on a whim.
2 - "Ibn Masud was just one of many teachers of the Quran!"
This is true, but it's a distortion. At the very least, he was one of the top four teachers of the Quran. But if we are to trust Masruq (which we should, since he must be trustworthy if he is capable of transmitting a hadith graded sahih) then we would conclude that Ibn Masud is the best teacher of the Quran.
But again, for argument's sake, let's pretend he's just as good as the other 3 that Muhammad mentioned. We know that at least one of those other 3 teachers also had many variants in his Quran (Ubay ibn Kab)! So at least half of Muhammad's top 4 teachers of the Quran disagree with Zaid! And it's quite possible that the other 2 did as well, we just can't verify their codices since the variants were all burnt by Uthman.
Best case scenario? Even if the implications of the hadith are wrong and Ibn Masud is just one of the four best teachers of the Quran, we can be certain that half of Muhammad's top teachers of the Quran disagree with the ZSV. These disagreements include different whole chapters as well as different verses and different words.
3 - "The 'variants' in Ibn Masud's codex were no variants at all! They were part of the 7 ahruf, or perhaps just differences in qirrat!"
This, too, is a horridly desperate effort to save the Quran from having variants. No reasonable definition of ahruf or qirrat, no matter how broad, can encompass whole missing chapters! Ibn Masud had 111 chapters in his Quran, leaving out chapters 1, 113, and 114. He considered these to be prayers revealed by God for the benefit of Muslims, but not surahs intended for the Quran. (As a side note, Ubay ibn Kab included these 3 surahs in his codex, along with 2 others. The additional 2 surahs are prayers recited by Muslims even today which many believe to be divinely revealed, but not part of the Quran).
If Muslims continue providing this as a response to the Ibn Masud problem, I would simply have to ask "What is the definition of ahruf or qirrat?" Even while ignoring the abysmal failure of anyone in history to ever provide a good definition of ahruf, (a fact that even Muslim theologians have noted) there simply can be no reasonable definition which can include missing chapters.
As it stands, all Muslim responses to the Ibn Masud problem fail, and fail miserably. There is no solid Muslim response. If you think you have one, my Muslim friends, I'd love to hear it.