THE READING OF IBN-MAS’UD
Amongst the many proofs of the corruption of ‘Usman’s Quran may he mentioned the facts connected with the edition of Ibn Mas’ud. In the 20th Chapter of the 24th portion of the Mishkat-ul-Musahib a tradition of the prophet is recorded, in which he named ten of his most prominent and faithful followers, and assured his hearers that the salvation of these ten was assured. These ten names are famous in history as, ‘Asharah Mubashsharah,’ ‘the ten who received glad tidings.’ Of these ten Abdulla-ibn-Mas’ud was one. He is described as a great scholar and friend of the prophet. In the Mishkat a tradition of Muhammad is recorded to this effect,
“Abdulla-ibn-‘Umr related that the prophet (upon whom be blessing and peace) said, Learn the Quran from these four, Abdulla-ibn-Mas’ud, Salim-mula-ibn-Hazifa, Ubi-ibn-Kab, and M’aj-ibn-Jabal’.” From this tradition, which could be supplemented by others to the same effect, it is clear that Ibn Mas’ud was a faithful disciple of the prophet, and had carefully and perfectly learned the Quran from his master. There is a tradition in the collection of Muslim to the effect that Ibn-Mas’ud once said, “I swear by the name of the one God that there is no Sura in the book of God which I do not know, and concerning the revelation of which I am ignorant; nor is there a single verse which I do not know.”
In another tradition Ibn-Mas’ud is reported as saying, “The companions of the prophet well know that I know the Quran better than they all.” There is also a tradition recorded by ‘Umr to this effect,
“The prophet of God (on whom be blessing and peace) ‘said, ‘Let him who wishes to read the Quran as it was sent down, read according to the reading of the son of the mother of Abd (i.e., Abdulla-ibn-Mas’ud)’.”
From the cumulative evidence of these different traditions it is clear that the Quran reading of Ibn-Mas’ud was the correct one, and that, at that time at least, it was free from additions or corruptions. Yet the astounding fact confronts us that Ibn-Mas’ud was a bitter opponent of ‘ Usman’s recension of the Quran; that he, in fact, not only refused to have anything to do with it but consistently refused to hand over his own copy to the Khalif. Not only so, but when the latter gave orders for the collection and destruction of all copies of the Quran except his own, Ibn-Mas’ud immediately advised his own disciples, the people of Iraq, to hide their copies of the Quran, and not to give them over to destruction, in these words,
“O people of Iraq, hide your Qurans, and shut them up under lock and key.”
It is recorded that the Khalif forcibly seized and burnt Ibn-Mas’u-d’s Quran, and so unmercifully chastised the companion of the prophet that he died a few days later from the beating he received. But the significant fact remains that Ibn-Mas’ud not only refused to give up his perfect copy of the Quran in favour of an arbitrary compilation made by ‘Usman, but also urged his disciples to continue reading his own edition. The whole narrative makes it clear that ‘Usman’s Quran differed very considerably from the reading which Ibn-Mas’ud had learnt from the prophet; for on no other hypothesis can the former’s unmerciful treatment of this great theologian be explained. We shall have occasion, later on in this little book, to point out some of the grave differences between the readings of Ibn-Mas’ud and ‘Usma~n; it must suffice here to remind the reader that Ibn-Mas’ud’s Quran contained neither’ Sura Fatiha, nor Suras Talaq and Nas. One cannot but wonder at the temerity of the Khalif in thus destroying the very Quran which the apostle himself had taught men to follow, and in substituting another which differed seriously from it.
In spite of the drastic measures adopted by ‘Usman for the suppression of all other copies of the Quran except his own, the reading of Ibn-Mas’ud continued for many years to be preserved amongst his followers, the people of Iraq. Thus in the year 378 of the Hegira a copy of Ibn-Mas’ud’s Quran was discovered at Bagdad, which proved, on examination, to differ materially from the editions then current. It was at once burnt midst the acclamations of the deluded people.
Not only, however, did ‘Usman’s Quran differ from the accurate copy of Ibn-Mas’ud, but it differed also from the previous recension which had been made by Abu-Bakr. In the traditions it is related that Abu-Bakr’s Quran remained, at his death, in the custody of Hafsa, his daughter, but upon the death of the latter, Merwan the Governor of Medina, demanded the copy from her brother, Ibn-‘Umr, and immediately burnt it, saying, “If it be published abroad, people finding differences will again begin to doubt.” Thus we see that the Quran current all over the Muhammadan world to-day agrees neither with that of Abu-Bakr, nor with that of Ibn-Mas’ud, nor with that, now unfortunately lost, which was collected by ‘Ali. The current Quran is, in fact, mutilated and corrupted to such an extent, as we shall further prove in subsequent pages, that it is no longer worthy of faith and acceptance as the complete Quran taught in the beginning by Muhammad himself.