THE TESTIMONY OP THE TRADITIONS TO THE QURAN
The reader will remember that the Khalif ‘Usman collected one copy of the Quran, and then burnt all the rest. He then circulated his own compilation throughout the Muslim world. This action of the Khalif has ever since been condemned in the strongest terms by the Shiahs, who aflirm that many passages referring to ‘Ali and his family have been expunged from the Quran. A complete chapter of the Quran, now absent from the present copies, and containing many references to the supremacy of ‘Ali, may still be seen. It is called “Two lights,” by which Muhammad and ‘Ali are meant. The reader may find this remarkable Sura quoted in full in pages 11-13 of the book “Tahqiq-al-Iman.” It is most probable that this Sura was present in ‘Ali’s copy of the Quran; but unfortunately that is no longer available. The Shiahs, however, believe that when Al Mahdi, the last Imam, appears, the complete Quran will once again be given to the world.
Any study of the traditions makes it clear that, in the time of Muhammad, the Quran was very much larger than it is to-day. Thus a tradition of Abi-Abdulla recorded by Hasham-ibn-Shalam relates that,
“There were 17,000 verses in that Quran which Gabriel delivered to Muhammad, upon whom be blessing and peace.” But according to Baizawi the present Quran only contains 6,264 verses; so that we learn from this important tradition, which is supported by others to the same effect, that the present Quran is only about two-thirds the size of the original volume!
In another tradition it is recorded that,
“Muhammad-ibn-Nasar heard from him (Abi-Abdulla). He said, In Sura Lam Yakin there were (once) the names of seventy Quraish, and the names of their fathers.” A search reveals the fact that this list of names has disappeared absolutely from the present copy of the Quran. The obvious explanation is that they formed a part of that large portion of the Quran which has been lost, and which is referred to in the tradition quoted above.
In the famous book called Itqan, and written by Jalal-ud-Din, it is stated that there once existed a verse in Sura Akhrab in which the punishment for adultery was laid down. This famous verse, which is known as ‘Ayat Al-Rajam’, is referred to frequently in the traditions, and there is not the slightest doubt that it once formed a part of the Quran. The passage in the Itqan referred to above runs thus,
“In it (Sura Akhrab) was Ayat Al-Rajam. He (Ibn-Kab) said, ‘and what is Al-Rajam?’ He (Ibn-Jish) said, ‘If any married man or woman commit adultery, stone them’.” This verse is not found in the present copies of the Quran; yet the evidence that it really formed a part of the original book is overwhelming. For instance, it is stated that ‘Umr knew it to be a genuine part of the Quran, but as he was unable to find any Quran reader to substantiate his opinion, he refused to incorporate it in the book. In the work Kitab-fatah-al-Bari it is written,
“‘Umr said, He had evidence that Ayat Al-Rajam was a part of the Quran; but on his own unsupported testimony he did not (dare to) put it in the book.” These traditions show us that the present ideas of the marvellous power of memory said to be possessed by men (Hafiz) of the prophet’s day need to be seriously modified; for here we have an undoubted verse of the Quran for the authenticity of which not a single Hafiz could be found to vouch. There is, however, more than one tradition which records the testimony of Ayesha, the favourite wife of the prophet, with reference to this verse. One tradition runs thus,
“Ayesha said that the Sura Akhrab which she was reading was incomplete. In the time of the prophet it contained two hundred verses. And when ‘Usman wrote the Quran, he accepted nothing except what he found authenticated, and in it was Ayat Al-Rajam.” This testimony of the favourite wife of the prophet fully substantiates the statements made above as to the incompleteness of the present copy of the Quran; for whereas Ayesha tells us that in the time of Muhammad Sura Akhrab contained two hundred verses, the present Quran only contains seventy-three. Ayesha further adds her testimony to ‘Umr’s to the fact that Ayat Al-Rajam once existed in this Sura; but, needless to say, no trace of it can be found in the present current edition of the Quran. Another tradition, recorded in Kitab Muhajarat explains the disappearance of this celebrated verse. It is there recorded that,
“Ayesha said, Ayat Al Rajam and Ayat Rajaeta were sent down and committed to writing; but the paper was underneath my seat; end when the prophet (upon whom be blessing and peace) died, and we were busy with his funeral, a goat entered (the house) and ate it up “! We do not care to comment further upon this verse. The reader must either be devoid of all literary sense, or blinded by prejudice, if he fails to see how such facts as we have recorded above absolutely shatter all claims to a Divine protection of the Quran. Lest this language should be deemed exaggerated, we quote a few more traditions from reliable authorities, which will enable the reader to see that we are only stating plain facts. There is a well-known tradition of Ibn-‘Umr’s to the following effect,
“Ibn-‘Umr said, Let no one of you say, ‘I have the whole Quran’. That which is known is not the whole, for a great part has been taken from it; but say, I have that which has been saved (made manifest) from it.”
Yet another tradition runs to this effect,
“Ibn-Jish said, Ibn-Kab said, ‘How many verses are there in Sura Akhrab?’ I said, ‘Seventy-two or seventy-three.’ He said, ‘Sura Akhrab was (once) equal to Sura Bakr’.” This well-known tradition is found in the famous work of Jalal-ud-Din Seyuti, known as the Itqan. It tells us that Sura Akbrab, now containing seventy-two or seventy-three verses, was once equal to Sura Bakr which contains two hundred and eighty six verses. Thus it is seen that from this one Sura alone over two hundred verses have absolutely disappeared.
There is also a well-known tradition of Ibn-Abbas to the effect that,
He (Ibn-Abbas) said, ‘I asked Ali-ibn-Abi Talib, why was hot the Bismilla written in Sura Barat’. He said, ‘Because the Bismilla is for faith, but Sura Barat was sent down for the sword (war). And there is a tradition from Malik that when the first portion of Sura Barat was destroyed, then the Bismilla was lost with it; but if it had been proved, then verily it would have been equal in length to Sura Bakr’.”
In the traditions collected by Muslim, in the book Al-Jakat there is a tradition to the effect that a Quran reader named Abu-Musa-Ashari addressing a number of Quran readers at Busra said,
“We used to read a Sura equal in length and threatenings to Sura Barat, then I forgot it wholly except one verse…..and we also used to read another Sura that was equal to one of the Musabbehat; so I forgot that too, saving one verse which I recollect.” Needless to say, none of these chapters appears in ‘Usman’s collection.
In the history of the famous traditionist Al-Bukhari another tradition affirms the total loss of a large number of verses from Sura Akhrab. It runs as follows,
“And Bukhari has written in his history a tradition from Hazifta that he said, I was reading Sura Al-Akhrab before the prophet, but I forgot seventy verses from it, and I did not obtain them (again).”
Yet one other tradition deserves to be inserted here before we bring this little book to a close. It concerns, not the past, but the future history of the Quran It is related from Ibn Maja (Chapter Jahab-al-Quran and Al-Alam) as follows:
“Hazifta ibn-Iman said, The prophet of God (on whom be blessing and peace) said, Islam will become worn out like the hem of an old garment, until (at last) people will not know what is the meaning of fasting, or prayer, or sacrifice or almsgiving; and in one night the word of God (Quran) will disappear, and not a single verse of it will be left upon the Earth.”
We do not intend to comment further on the traditions we have quoted above. They are sufficient to reveal to every open-minded truth-seeker the present condition of the Quranic text. Muslims are generally taught to believe that the Quran has been Divinely protected from all change. Indeed the Quran itself makes this weighty claim in these words:
We have surely sent down the Quran, and we will certainly preserve the same (from corruption)”.
Whilst in another place we read,
“This book, the verses whereof are guarded against corruption is a revelation from the wise and knowing God.” The same preposterous claim is made in the traditions; and in the book Fazail-ul-Quran we read, “Even if the Quran were cast into the fire, it would not be burned”!
Let the reader judge of the value of these claims for the integrity of the Quran in the light of the testimony from Muslim authors which has been adduced in this little book, and he will see that in claiming to be Divinely protected from all change the Quran condemns itself, and proves its human origin. The reader desiring further information on this important topic may procure from the Panjab Tract Society, Lahore, the following Urdu publications Hidayat-ul-Muslimin, Minar-ul-Haqq, Mizan-ul-Haqq, Tahqiq-ul-Iman, Tabrifi-i-Quran and Tawil-ul-Quran. Let the reader, then, with all earnestness, pursue the study of this all-important subject; for those whose opinions and comments we have quoted are the foremost of the scholars of Islam, and their testimony cannot lightly be set aside. We have seen what men like Kazi Baizawi, Imam Husain, Muslim, Bukhari and Jallal-ud-Din have to say with regard to the Quran. We have seen how, even in the life-time of Muhammad himself, grave differences arose in the various readings of the Quran; we have traced the history of the unsuccessful attempts made to reduce them all to one uniform text; we have noted how gravely the recension of ‘Usman differed from that of Abu Bakr and the copy of Ibn-Ma’sud; and we have seen, upon the testimony of the greatest commentators of the Quran how the present text contains “innumerable ” differences of reading, many of which entirely alter the meaning of the passages concerned; and, finally, we have noted the consensus of testimony, afforded by the traditions, to the fact that large portions of the Quran have disappeared altogether. Such being the case, surely it is the highest wisdom for Muslims to turn to that scripture in the hands of the ‘People of the Book’ which Muhammad himself commanded men to believe and follow. Manifestly they were uncorrupted at the time of the Arabian preacher, as his repeated references to them clearly show; and that they have not been corrupted since that time is equally certain; for copies still exist in the great Museums of Europe which were written long before the time of Muhammad, and these agree with the Gospels current to-day.
Let the reader, ere he closes this little book, consider carefully the Quranic passage which adorns the title page. It is there written, “Ask those who are acquainted with the scripture, if ye know not.” Then is it not your highest wisdom, O Muhammadan reader, to follow this teaching of the Quran, and seek in the Gospels the way of eternal life? Not only are Muslims in general thus advised to seek a solution of their doubts by a reference to Christians; but the Quran pictures Muhammad himself as receiving the same admonition. In Sura Jonas, verse 92, it is written,
“If thou art in doubt concerning that which we have sent down unto thee (O Muhammad), ask them who are reading the Book before thee.” We have seen, in the preceding pages, that there is ample reason to doubt the testimony of the Quran as it exists to-day ; let Muslims then, with fearless resolution, turn to the Gospels and learn from them of the wonderful love of God as revealed in Christ Jesus. Jesus Himself said, “Heaven and earth shall pass away; but my words shall not pass away.” It is in the Injil that we have the perfect revelation of the character and will of God; it is in the Injil that we find revealed the way of eternal life; for it is there we learn that God so loved the world that He gave the Lord Jesus Christ, that whosoever believeth on Him might not perish, but have everlasting life. Reader, listen to the loving invitation of the Saviour Himself, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”