Monday, April 23, 2012

Are the chains of narration (isnad) for the Qur'an reliable?

In this post I wish to add another element to the discussion of the preservation of the Qur'an. I have searched around but cannot find this issue being discussed. It may well have been but I cannot find it. This issue is, are the chains of narration for the Qur'an reliable?

Normally when Christians and Muslims discuss the reliability of the Qur'an hadiths are quoted to show that the idea that there is one version of the Qur'an and that it has simply been memorised and passed down to us has no historical basis in Islamic history. Here is a summary of the references that are often used.

1. Muhammad did not collect the quran, forgot parts and had seven different versions.
Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 6, bk. 61, no. 556, Khan
Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 6, bk. 61, no. 513, Khan
Sunan Abu Dawud: bk. 3, no. 1015, Hasan
Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 6, bk. 61, no. 514, Khan
Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 6, bk. 61, no. 509, Khan
Sunan al-Tirmithi: 3103, Kreidly

2. The Qur'an was collected and memorised by his companions but they memorised it differently.
Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 6, bk. 60, no. 468, Khan
Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 6, bk. 60, no. 467, Khan
Sahih Muslim: bk. 4, no. 1799-1802, Siddique
Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 6, bk. 61, no. 527

The famous librarian, al-Nadim, in the year 375 A.H./987 A.D. listed a whole series of books dealing with these different collections and the differences between them. He records that Abdullah ibn Mas'ud's version of the Qur'an had 110-112 suras while Ubayy ibn Ka'b's collection had 116, that these collections had a different ordering of the suras and that there were variants in the verses. See, Al-Nadim, The Fihrist of al-Nadim - A Tenth Century survey of Muslim Culture, New York: Columbia University Press, pp. pp. 58-61 and 79.

And these different versions of the Qur'an were used by the early Islamic scholars. For example, when Al-Tabari (d. 310 AH/923 AD) quotes the Qur'an in his writings, he not only quotes from Uthman's version but also from Abdullah ibn Mas'ud's version. See, The History of Al-Tabari, SUNY, vol. I, p. 353, vol. II, pp. 68, 108, 109, vol. III, p. 174.

Arthur Jeffery (Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur'an) surveyed these Islamic scholars and identified 15 primary different collections of the Qur'an with a whole range of variants.

In the 1980's many ancient Qur'ans were discovered in San`a'. Some of these have the sura order that was credited to Abdullah ibn Masud and others. (Gerd-R Puin, Observations on the Early Qur'an Manuscripts in San`a'. In "The Qur'an as Text", ed. Stefan Wild, Leiden: Brill, 1996. pp. 110-111)

These different collections caused a major problem for early Islam and so,

3. Uthman made one version of the Qur'an and burned the other collections.
Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 6, bk. 61, no. 510, Khan
Sunan al-Tirmithi: 3104, Kreidly

4. Not all the companions accepted Uthman's version of the Qur'an. In particular Abdullah ibn Mas'ud did not accept it.
Sahih Muslim: bk. 31, no. 6022, Siddiqui
Sunan al-Tirmithi: 3104, Kreidly
Ibn sa'd vol. 2 p. 444, Haq

However, Uthman's version won the day.

I am sure many of us are familar with this story, but the reply I have been told by Muslims is that even if this is the case it does not matter because the version from Uthman is an authentic Qur'an from Muhammad. The existence of all these other versions does not take away from the fact that the Uthman version is true. This is based on the belief that this version of the Qur'an can be authenticated right back to Muhammad through its chain of narrators, and this is what I want to consider, is the chain of narrators for the Qur'an reliable?

The Qur'an is like the Hadith in that each Arabic version (qira'at) of the Qur'an has a chain of narrators which authenticates it. For a chain to be deemed reliable (saheeh) it must be complete, contain reliable narrators and be historically possible. Here are the chains for the two most common versions of the Qur'an.

THE QUR’AN ACCORDING TO IMAM HAFS (The most common Arabic version of the Qur'an used today.)
The reading of Aasim Ibn Abî an-Najûd (Aasim Ibn Bahdalah Ibn Abî an-Najûd): He died in the year 127 or 128 H.
He reported from Abû Abd ar-Rahmân as-Solammî and Zirr Ibn Hubaysh.
Abû Abd ar-Rahmân reported from Uthmân and Alî Ibn Abî Tâlib and 'Ubayy (Ibn Ka’b) and Zayd (Ibn Thâbit).
And Zirr reported from Ibn Mas’ud.

THE QUR’AN ACCORDING TO IMAM WARSH (The Arabic version used in North Africa.)
Nâfic died in the year 169 H.
He reported from Yazîd Ibn al-Qaqâc and Abd ar-Rahmân Ibn Hurmuz al-'Araj and Muslim Ibn Jundub al-Hudhalî and Yazîd Ibn Român and Shaybah Ibn Nisâ'.
All of them reported from Abû Hurayrah and Ibn Abbâs and Abdallâh Ibn 'Ayyâsh Ibn Abî Rabî'ah al-Makhzûmî and the last three reported from Ubayy Ibn Ka’b from the Prophet(P).
http ://

Notice who the final links in the chains are. For the Hafs Qur'an it includes Ubayy Ibn Ka'b and Abdullah Ibn Masud, and for the Warsh Qur'an it is Ubayy Ibn Ka’b. Now this is historically impossible according to Islamic sources because there is ample evidence to show that Ubayy Ibn Ka'b and Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud had quite different collections to Uthman's version and that Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud refused to accept Uthman's version. Thus Ubayy Ibn Ka'b and Abdullah Ibn Mas'ud should not be part of the chain for Uthman's Qur'an. Therefore on Islamic historical grounds the chain of narrators for the Hafs and Warsh versions are both weak/da'eef; they are certainly not authentic/saheeh as there are valid Islamic historical reasons to doubt them.

Some Reflections

1. Surely we should expect the chain of narrators for the Qur'an to be the best example of an Islamic authentic/saheeh chain? But it is not.

2. I am not saying that the modern Qur'an is not Uthman's version, but I am saying that Muslims cannot use these chains of narrators to prove this.

3. What evidence do Muslims have to prove that these Qur'ans are Uthmans's versions?

4. One of the reasons that Muslim leaders reject the Bible is that Christians do not provide a comprehensive chain of narrators for it. They feel that the Qur'an is superior to the Bible because it has a better chain of narrators to authenticate it. But as we have seen this chain of narrators for the Qur'an is doubtful and so this attitude of superiority is not warranted.

5. How do we confirm that a book has been faithfully transmitted? Certainly chains of narrators are useful but they are only one aspect of history. All of history needs to be considered as well as examining the ancient manuscripts. This is what Christians do with the Bible. They consult all of the history, examine the ancient manuscripts and look at the scriptural quotes from the earlier Christian scholars. This is what Muslims need to do too if they wish to show that the Qur'an has been perfectly preserved.

What do people think?


Baron Eddie said...

Interesting topic

Assembly of the quran:

There was four times in which the quran was assembled:

The first time was during the epoch of Muhammad:

it was preserved in the chest of the companions, and parts of it were written on the leathery sheets, white stones, palm's sheets
and ostrich bones During the epoch of Muhammad, the quran was not written in a collective book till
Muhammad died on the year 10A.H corresponding to 632 G
The first assembly of the quran was done during the epoch of Abe Baker , as many of the quran memorizers died in wars , Omer suggested to Abe Baker to assemble the quran in
one book , as Omer noticed that most of the keepers of the quran were killed in the Muslim wars, especially the battle of Al-Yamamah , so Omer rushed to Abe Baker asking him to assemble the quran in one book lest loosing it completely
Abe Baker asked Zaied Ibn Thabet to assemble the quran, and it was assembled in the seven letters, or the seven different recitations
The quran was preserved with Abe Baker till he died, then with Omer after him till he was
killed, and then it was with Hafsa the daughter of Omer, and it was the reference that Othman Ibn Affan referred to After the death of Hafsa, Marawan Ibn Al-Hakam the governor of Al-Medina seized that
quran, which was the original reference for the quran, as recited by Muhammad, That quran was destroyed and mutilated by Marawan Ibn Al-Hakam and he demolished it
completely Those historical events were mentioned in the following references:

- Sahih Al-Bokhary, the conquest chapter, converse number 4000
- The proofs for the prophecy by Al-Bayhaqy, part 3, page 277
- The perfection in the quran’s sciences by Al-Syouty, part 1, page 60
- The qurans by Al-Sajistany
That was the first assembly of the quran in one book and it was destroyed, mutilated and
completely demolished by Marawan Ibn Al-Hakam
- The most important assembly in history was done by Othman Ibn Affan, as Othman found
that Muslims are fighting with each other because of the discrepancies of the seven
recitations of the quran , so he commanded to reassemble the quran on year 25 A.H
- So the seven recitations of the quran were collected together, and they referred to the
original quran of Abe Baker preserved with Hafsa before its destruction by Marawan Ibn Al-
- Othman found that there are seven different qurans, and people are fighting because of
that multitude of qurans, so he burned six of the seven qurans and preserved only one
- How could he do that, it is a bizarre behavior, and a very serious issue
- The quran of Othman was devoid of speckling, and figuration
- Al-Sajistany mentioned that copies of that version of quran which was called the Imam
Quran were sent to all Islamic capitals (1)
- The assembly of quran during the Amawian epoch
- As the Arabic alphabetical had no vowel letters, During the Amawian epoch, the Amawian
people made a modified quran adjusted by figuration to avoid the mistakes of recitation,
and the quran was renewed and modified

Baron Eddie said...

- The simplified Arabic encyclopedia mentioned that:” when there were lot of mistakes in
the recitation of the quran, they assigned Nasser Ibn Asem to adjust it during the epoch of
Al-Hajaj Ibn Yousef Al-Thaqafy on year 660- 714 G (2)
- That quran of Al-Hajaj Ibn Yousef Al-Thaqafy was depending on enormous unfamiliar
verbalisms, and what corresponded to them from poetry, and a new quran emerged
containing speckling, and figuration
- Al-Sajistany mentioned that Al-Hajaj changed 11 sites from the quran of Othman “(3)
- How the quran had such enormous change and alternations from time to time and it was
mentioned that it was preserved in the preserved tablet before the beginning of time?
How it was destroyed? How it was falsified?
-The Iraqi quran was the original version currently circulating all over the world (4)

The number of Qurans:
Al-Sajistany (deceased on year 613 G) mentioned in his book that there were 26 different
qurans existing among them: The quran of:
- Abe Bakre - Omer Ibn Al-Khatab
- Ali Ibn Abe-Taleb, - Obay Ibn Ka'b
- Abdullah Ibn Masoud - Abdullah Ibn Amre
- Anes Ibn Malek - Abdullah Ibn Abbas
- Abdullah Ibn Al-Zoubir - Aeisha the wife of the prophet
- Hafsa the wife of the prophet - Om Salma the wife of the prophet
- Obeid Ibn Omeir Al-Laithy - Ata' Ibn Abe Rabeh
- Akrama Maola Ibn Abbas - Salem Maola Abe Hozifa
- Moujahid Ibn Jabre - Saeed Bin Gabber
- Al-Asowad Ibn Yazid - Alkama ibn Kaies
- Muhammad Ibn Abe Mosa - Suleiman Ibn Mahran
- Abe Mosa Al-Asharee - Talha
- Al-Hajaj Ibn Yousef Al-Thaqafy - Hattan Ibn Abdullah
- Al-Sajistany mentioned that there were 1700 differences among them
- There is a book issued in Kuwait named: the dictionary of quran recitations, written by 2
eminent Islamic scholars :Dr: Abdul-Al Salem Makram and Dr: Ahmed Al-Mukhtar, the book
was published by Dar Al-Salasel in Kuwait on 1982 G, in 6 volumes , It said: there was a big
number of quran written till the epoch of Othman, who ordered to burn all the qurans those
different from his official quran, like the quran of Abe Bakre, Obay Ibn Ka'b and others .
The book also said: there were 7 different ways of recitations of the quran; they differed in
many aspects like articulation, replacement of a word by another and deletion of a word
While the quran is saying" It is we who have sent down the Dhikr (the Quran) and surely, we
will guard it"

(1“The qurans” by Al-Sajistany,
page 7
(2) The simplified Arabic encyclopedia, page 690
(3) “The qurans” by Al-Sajistany, page 49
(4) The perfection in the quran’s sciences by Al-Syouty, page 351

copied from the book of Father Zakaria Boutros

Zack_Tiang said...

Interesting analysis, Mr. Green.

I am interested to see what discussion churns from this one.

Youssef said...

An Algerian Christian was sentenced to five years in prison for “shaking the faith” of Muslims last May. Currently, “Kadar” is awaiting a decision on his appeal.

Kadar, who regularly shares his faith with Muslims in the city of Oran, was discussing his belief in Christ with a man at an outdoor food court last May when the man became angry and accused Kadar of insulting Muhammad. Police arrested Kadar and found a large amount of Christian materials in his apartment.

Read more:


kiwimac said...

Bloody brilliant! The Quran is a fraud.

Neverrepayevilwithevil said...

The quran is a book of jumbled jargon than can only be understood and followed by those who have refused to think for themselves. It is a book riddled with extremely high doses of contradictions and nonsensical sayings. It belongs to the dustbin heap of history

Fifth Monarchy Man said...

Samuel said:

I am not saying that other qira'at are not true but just that these two qira'at have weak chains. What do people think?

I say,

Can the Muslims here provide us with a list of chains that are not equally weak? Or is this the best we have.

In the past I've been challenged by Muslims to produce a strong chain of nariation for the Gospels before they will accept them.

It would be ironic if their book fails by their own odd standard.

I can't wait to find out


D335 said...

Want to know faces of rapists in Indonesia?

Guess what??? All 4 muslims........ again .......... and again........muslims
Complete with muslim shirt and kopiah (praying caps):

Billy said...

.... Islamic sources admit that [Qur’an] was not compiled until long after Muhammad’s death, often based on the memories of random people the compilers met by chance; and there are even competing versions of who compiled it and when, and what their political and military motivations were for including or excluding certain passages.

THadiths...compiled over centuries by competing factions, who carefully noted down the provenance (isnad in Arabic) of each Hadith to “prove” its authenticity:

Since warring parties were all fabricating hadiths that supported their positions, the Hadith are riddled with contradictions.

Ignaz Goldziher, the pioneering critical historian of the Hadith, notes that “the simplest means by which honest men sought to combat the rapid increase of faked hadiths is at the same time a most remarkable phenomenon in the history of literature. With pious intention, fabrications were combated with new fabrications, with new hadiths which were smuggled in and in which the invention of illegitimate hadiths were condemned by strong words uttered by the Prophet.”

If a hadith could be forged, however, so could its chain of transmission. There are numerous indications that isnads were forged with the same alacrity with which matns — that is, the content of the hadiths — were invented.”

Radical Moderate said...

@Samual Green.

Here is something you might also find interesting about Uthman.

He was so despised by his fellow Muslim Ummah that Three Armies rode out against him. One from Barsara Iraq, another from Egypt and I believe a third from Damascus. (I might be wrong on the third one will have to check the sources on that.)

What is interesting is that these armies where Garrison troops, in other words professional soldiers. But what is even more fascinating is the fact that Uthman was considered an apostate. He was so despised that after his execution for Apostasy he was not allowed to be buried in a Muslim cementary. In fact he had to be buried in a Jewish cemetery in a hurried ceremony 3 days after his death. When one of his wives wanted to say something she was told to keep her mouth shut.
So the Muslim noble Quran was compiled under the authority of what a great many of his contemporary Muslims would consider to be a Apostate.

insidious said...

how dare you insult our religion betrayers !!!!!!!!!!

insidious said...

most frauds in this world are the jews and the christians.

Unknown said...

I can prove from the Bible that the process of recording and preserving scripture has been an accurate process for thousands of years and that it actually works. Post the article you have here on Facebook and I will prove what I am saying to you.

Serius said...

Hope this comment not disappear