There is some confusion about Ibn Mas’ud – one of the closest companions to Muhammad. To help clarify, I offer two articles, in their entirety, from the Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an. The first article is entitled Codices of the Qurʾān and was written by Frederik Leehmius:
Codices of the Qurʾān
A designation generally used to refer to the maṣāḥif, plural of muṣḥaf, meaning “a copy of the complete text of the Qurʾān” as these existed in the early period of Islam (see J. Burton, Muṣḥaf). These ancient codices, both extant and presumed, are important for the study of the history of the text of the Qurʾān. There are supposedly two categories of these early codices, the pre-ʿUthmānic codices and those with an ʿUthmānic text (see collection of the qurʾān; ʿuthmān).
Until the present day, no pre-ʿUthmānic codices of the Qurʾān have been discovered and definitively identified, although possibly some extant palimpsest leaves may contain a non-ʿUthmānic text (Nöldeke, gq, iii, 97-100, but also see W. Diem, Untersuchungen, 211 and 226-7). Nevertheless, many textual variants reported to have existed in these pre-ʿUthmānic codices are known from other sources such as exegetical works (tafāsīr, sing. tafsīr) and specialized works dealing with non-canonical readings (al-qirāʾāt al-shādhdha) like Ibn Jinnī’s(d. 392/1002) Muḥtasab and the much earlier Maʿānī l-Qurʾān works by al-Akhfash al-Awsaṭ (d. between 210-21/825-35) and al-Farrāʾ (d. 207/822). Or they are found in works dealing specifically with the non-ʿUthmānic codices as such, like the Kitāb al-Maṣāḥif of Ibn Abī Dāwūdal-Sijistānī (d. 316/929; Jeffery, Materials) which appears to be the only surviving example of this specialization in early qurʾānic studies.
Codices of the second category, however, those with an ʿUthmānic text, have been preserved. Yet the age of the oldest ones, written in the māʾil script, has still not been established beyond doubt (see arabic script). Some of the codices that were discovered in the loft of the Great Mosque of Ṣanʿāʾ in 1972 appear to be of a very early date. However, very little of this material has become available for philological study and until now it is not clear to what extent these manuscripts deviate from the ʿUthmānic orthographic rendering (rasm, G.-R. Puin, Observations, 107-11). For a number of leaves from ancient codices that were originally preserved in the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus some scholars have suggested an Umayyad origin (Ṣ. al-Munajjid, Dirāsāt, 90-5; see also S. Ory, Nouveau type).
According to prevailing Islamic tradition, the members of a group led by Zayd b. Thābit (q.v.; d. ca. 34-5/655) discharged the task, assigned to them by the third caliph ʿUthmān (r. 23-35/644-56), of producing a complete codex of the Qurʾān. This became the master copy, usually referred to as al-imām. Copies of this codex were made and sent to the chief centers of the Muslim empire; all other codices were ordered to be destroyed. In Kufa, ʿAbdallāh b. Masʿūd (d. ca. 33/653) refused, however, to destroy his codex, and his reading apparently remained in use there for some time. Eventually, some seventy years later, the famous governor al-Ḥajjāj b. Yūsuf (d. 95/714) felt compelled to suppress it. Other codices, like those of Ubayy b. Kaʿb (d. 21/642), ʿAlī b. Abī Ṭālib (q.v.; d. 40/661), the Prophet’s wife ʿĀʾisha bt. Abī Ṭālib (q.v.; d. 58/678) and Abū Mūsā al-Ashʿarī (d. ca. 42/662), are also reported to have been destroyed. Nevertheless, from these codices variant readings are reported in classical Islamic literature (see readings of the qurʾān).
The ʿUthmānic recension credited by Muslim tradition to the group led by Zayd b. Thābit only established the rasm of the text, i.e. the writing of the consonantal structure but without the diacritics and vowel signs incorporated at a later stage. Thus the reported variant readings of the ancient pre-ʿUthmānic codices — of which the Ibn Masʿūd codex appears to have been the most important — are of two kinds: those which do and those which do not presuppose a different rasm than that recorded in the ʿUthmānic master copy.
Variant readings of the first kind range from a difference of one Arabic character, like the reading of sirāṭ instead of ṣirāṭ in q 1:6 and all subsequent occurrences in the Qurʾān as reported from a codex attributed to Ibn ʿAbbās (d. ca. 67-8/686-8), to the addition of whole verses or even sūras like “The Renunciation” (Sūrat al-Khalʿ) and “The Service” (Sūrat al-Ḥafd) in Ubayy’s codex. Reported omissions fall within the same range: from wa-nunsihā, “and we cause to be forgotten,” instead of aw nunsihā, “or we cause to be forgotten,” in q 2:106 as reported from ʿAlī and Ubayy, to the omission of the first and the two last sūras from the codex of Ibn Masʿūd.
The readings reported from Ibn Masʿūd of the kind which presupposes a different rasm may be characterized as follows: (a) They offer synonyms to the ʿUthmānic text like irshadnā for ihdinā in q 1:6, both meaning “guide us.” (b) They leave less room for ambiguity, as in taʾwīluhu illā ʿinda llāhi, “its interpretation is only with God,” for wa-mā yaʿlamu taʾwīlahu illā llāhu, “and none knows its interpretation, save only God,” in q 3:7, the frame of which excludes the possibility of the following phrase, al-rāsikhūna fī l-ʿilm, “those firmly rooted in knowledge,” being also “those who know.” (c) They provide clarification, as in the addition of fī mawāsim al-ḥajj, “in the seasons of the pilgrimage (q.v.),” after an tabtaghū faḍlan min rabbikum, “if you seek bounty from your Lord,” in q 2:198. (d) They provide more easily understood alternatives like mīthāq alladhīna ūtū l-kitāb, “the covenant (q.v.) of those who were given the book” instead of mīthāq al-nabiyyīn, “the covenant of the prophets,” in q 3:81. It is thus no wonder that these readings continued to play a role in classical exegetical literature (tafsīr, see exegesis of the qurʾān: classical and medieval). Indeed one often finds in early commentary (tafsīr) a qurʾānic term explained by a synonym or a phrase which elsewhere is mentioned as a variant reading. This is hardly surprising in view of the interdependence of early exegetical activity and the regular recitation of the Qurʾān (F. Leemhuis, Origins, 24 and 26-7; see recitation of the qurʾān).
Sometimes non-ʿUthmānic readings also occur among the ones which the commentators explain and ʿUthmānic readings are qualified as scribal errors. In Sufyān al-Thawrī’s (d. 161/778) commentary on q 24:27 (Tafsīr, ad loc.), Ibn ʿAbbās is quoted as having said that tastaʾnisū, “engaging in social talk,” is a scribal error for tastaʾdhinū, “asking for permission.” In the tafsīr tradition of Mujāhid (d. 104/722) on q 3:81 (both in al-Ṭabarī’s Tafsīr and in the independently preserved recension of Mujāhid, ad loc.), the case is the same, the above-mentioned reading of Ibn Masʿūd being presented as the correct one. In the manuscript of the commentary of Sufyān al-Thawrī the more than 60 variant read- ings transmitted are nearly always clustered together near the end of his treatment of each sūra. Most of these are attributed to Ibn Masʿūd and his followers and the majority of them, but certainly not all, do not necessarily presuppose a non-ʿUthmānic rasm. The same treatment of variant readings is found in the Jāmiʿ of the Mālikī traditionist of Egypt, Ibn Wahb (d. 197/813; cf. M. Muranyi, Materialien, 239-42). All of this suggests that in the first half of the second Islamic century (720-70 c.e.) variant readings were considered to fulfill a separate exegetical function and that the ʿUthmānic recension, apart from some exceptions, had been accepted as the textus receptus. About half a century later, al-Farrāʾ (Maʿānī, i, 11) explicitly contrasts “the reading (qirāʾa) of Ibn Masʿūd” with “our reading.” Nevertheless, these texts also make clear that the existence of variant readings which presupposed a non-ʿUthmānic rasm was considered a matter of fact.
Apart from the connection with qurʾānic exegetical literature, there is also a connection with the corpus of ḥadīth as some additions from the non-ʿUthmānic codices are also reported as sayings of the Prophet, whether inspired by God or not (see revelation and inspiration; ḥadīth and the qurʾān). The verse about the greed of man (see avarice), “If man had two valleys of riches…” (law [kāna] anna li-bni ādama wādiyāni min mālin…), for instance, is reported both as an addition in Ubayy’s codex at q 10:24 and in all the six canonical ḥadīth collections as an utterance of the Prophet and sometimes as a non-ʿUthmānic Qurʾān quotation as well. It also appears that, at least in some cases, the supposed existence of some verses in non-ʿUthmānic codices functioned in the framework of the doctrine of the abrogation (q.v.) of the recited text but not of the divine directive contained therein (naskhal-tilāwa dūna l-ḥukm, cf. J. Burton, Collection, 68-86).
It is often asserted that Ibn Masʿūd‘s codex contained a number of Shīʿī readings which were omitted from the ʿUthmānic codex. Although some of these readings are reported to have also been present in other codices, like Ubayy’s and ʿAlī’s, a separate Shīʿī Qurʾān codex is not known (see shīʿism and the qurʾān). It could be argued, however, that if there ever was a distinct Shīʿī codex of the Qurʾān it probably would have contained the explicit Shīʿī readings reported from Ibn Masʿūd‘s codex.
Eventually, the readings from the pre-ʿUthmānic codices which show a different rasm disappeared from the recitation of the Qurʾān. Those which did not, continued to play a role in the recitation systems of the Qurʾān as variant readings of the ʿUthmānic text. Parenthetically, it should be noted that al-Farrāʾ (Maʿānī, 95) suggests that in some cases a canonical reading may actually have its origin in a different rasm. Those non-ʿUthmānic readings which fitted in with the later systems of the seven, ten or fourteen accepted recitation systems (qirāʾāt) remained accepted, like the reading ḥasanan of Ibn Masʿūd in q 2:83 which is also the reading of Ḥamza, al-Kisāʾī, Yaʿqūb, Khalaf and al-Aʿmash whereas the rest (of the fourteen) read ḥusnan (see reciters of the qurʾān). Those readings which did not fit acquired the qualification of “deviant readings” (qirāʾāt shādhdha) and became unfit for recitation, although they continued to play a role in the interpretation and linguistic explanation of the Qurʾān.
Alongside the different readings of these pre-ʿUthmānic codices, a variant order of sūras (q.v.) is frequently mentioned (see chronology and the qurʾān), the most plausible being the ones of Ibn Masʿūd and Ubayy. As in the case of the variant readings of the pre-ʿUthmānic codices, until recently there was no extant manuscript evidence to support this. In some early codices from Ṣanʿāʾ, however, such different arrangements are indeed found, agreeing or nearly agreeing with what is known from the Ibn Masʿūd and Ubayy arrangements (G.-R. Puin, Observations, 110-1).
Although the concept of the ʿUthmānic rasm suggests a uniform and invariable text, such uniformity is not presented by most of the oldest extant codices. Considerable variation in orthography is found especially in connection with long ā and words which in the later classical Arabic orthography required a hamza. Even the word qurʾān is found spelled as qrn (e.g. in q 50:1 of the St. Petersburg fragment as reproduced in E. Rezwan, Frühe Abschriften, 120-1). In addition to their value for study of the Qurʾān’s textual history such evidential examples are important for the history of Arabic orthography.
Before the second World War, two complementary projects for preparing a critical edition of the Qurʾān were initiated. A. Jeffery’s aim was to present all variants of the ʿUthmānic text that could be collected from the Islamic literary tradition (see literature and the qurʾān), whereas G. Bergsträsser planned to collect variants from (photographs of) extant early manuscripts of the Qurʾān. Although neither project survived the war, Jeffery was able to publish his harvest of readings of the old codices together with his edition of the Kitāb al-Maṣāḥif of al-Sijistānī (d. 316/929), and at least part of Bergsträsser’s work found its way into the third volume of Geschichte des Qorāns (Nöldeke, gq), which was completed after his death in 1933 by O. Pretzl, T. Nöldeke having died in 1930.
According to the hypothesis of J. Wansbrough (qs, esp. 43-52), which asserts that the Qurʾān only reached its final, standard form during the formative process of the first two centuries of the Islamic community, the reports of the ʿUthmānic recension and of the existence of pre-ʿUthmānic codices, as well as accounts of their suppression must be regarded as fiction, probably patterned after Jewish views about the creation of the Hebrew scriptural canon. On the other hand, J. Burton’s (Collection, esp. 160-89) thesis considers the collection and codification of the Qurʾān to have been the work of the prophet Muḥammed himself and the stories about its later collection and codification are therefore to be entirely distrusted since their function was probably only to provide a basis for the doctrine of abrogation(naskh).
From these two contrasting views, it is apparent that the paleographical study of ancient codices has produced no clear, unambiguous and generally accepted results with respect to the dating of extant codices. Recent, new studies, however, do appear to be more promising in their attempts to develop a chronological framework based on an inductive approach or to apply classical, art-historical methods to the paleography of the early qurʾānic manuscripts. See also textual history of the qurʾān; muṣḥaf.
Here is the second article entitled, ʿUthmān by Gabriel Said Reynolds:
Abū ʿAbdallāh ʿUthmān b. ʿAffān, third caliph (q.v.; r. 23-35/644-55) and first “rightly guided” (rāshid) caliph from the Umayyad clan, an early convert to Islam and emigrant (muhājir; see emigrants and helpers) to both Abyssinia (q.v.) and Medina (q.v.; see also emigration). These pious credentials (see piety) are tainted by his absence at the battle of Badr (q.v.), his flight at Uḥud (see expeditions and battles), his absence at Ḥudaybiya (q.v.; see Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ, 66, Faḍāʾil al-Qurʾān, 3; ed. Krehl, iii, 93; trans. Houdas, iii, 522-3) and his alleged impiety during the latter six years of his caliphal rule (Masʿūdī, Murūj, iii, 76). He was stabbed to death while reading from the Qurʾān (supposedly from the muṣḥaf [q.v.] now known as the Samarqand codex) by insurgents from Egypt. ʿUthmān is often credited with standardizing and codifying the present qurʾānic text, which is therefore called the ʿUthmānic codex (see also collection of the qurʾān; codices of the qurʾān).
The historicity of the ʿUthmānic codex narrative is, for the most part, accepted by scholars in preference to narratives attributing the collection to Abū Bakr or other early caliphs (Caetani, ʿUthmān; Nöldeke, gq, ii, 11-27, 47-62; Jeffery, Materials, 4-9; pace Mingana, Transmission). This narrative relates that one of ʿUthmān’s generals (Ḥudhayfa), alarmed at disputes between his Syrian and Iraqi soldiers over qurʾānic recitation (see recitation of the qurʾān; syria; iraq) during the conquests (see conquest), asked the caliph for guidance, imploring: “O Commander of the Faithful, inform this community what to do before we are divided in our reading (see parties and factions; readings of the qurʾān) like the Jews (see jews and judaism) and the Christians” (Bukhārī, Ṣaḥīḥ, 62, Faḍāʾil aṣḥāb al-nabī, 7; ed. Krehl, ii, 430-1; trans. Houdas, ii, 601-2; see also christians and christianity). In response, ʿUthmān secured the Qurʾān materials already gathered by Abū Bakr from Ḥafṣa (q.v.; who had received them via Abū Bakr’s successor, her father ʿUmar; see also wives of the prophet). With this as reference, and with a committee made up of the pro-Qurayshite Medinan Zayd b. Thābit (also protagonist of the Abū Bakr collection narrative) and three Qurayshites (see quraysh), ʿUthmān had a muṣḥaf written in the dialect of the Quraysh (see dialects; arabic language). He sent copies of it to Baṣra, Kūfa, Damascus and Mecca (q.v.; Yaʿqūbī, Taʾrīkh, ii, 160, adds Egypt, Bahrain, Yemen and the Jazīra) and ordered that all variant versions be destroyed, an order that met with resistance from many (see reciters of the qurʾān; teaching and preaching the qurʾān) and outright refusal from the Companion Ibn Masʿūd in Kūfa (see companions of the prophet). Al-Balādhurī (fl. third/ninth cent.; Ansāb, v, 36) has Ibn Masʿūd declare the caliph’s blood licit in response, while al-Yaʿqūbī (d. early fourth/tenth cent.; Taʾrīkh, ii, 160) relates that the two came to blows in the mosque at Kūfa.
The historicity of this narrative, however, is not beyond dispute. A number of factors — conflicts between different versions, redundancies with the Abū Bakr collection narrative and the temporal distance of sources from events — suggest that it is more the product of speculation and apology than historical dictation (in fact, early Muslim scholars disputed how to reconcile the redundant and contradictory reports; Khaṭṭābī [d. 386/996] concludes that God inspired [alhama] all of the “rightly guided caliphs,” al-khulafāʾ al-rāshidūn; see Suyūṭī, Itqān, 202 [beginning of chap. 18]). J. Burton (Collection, 202-39) argues that the narrative is meant to conceal the fact that Muḥammad himself compiled the Qurʾān, thus justifying the absence from the muṣḥaf (that is, the Qurʾān in book form; see orality and writing in arabia) of certain elements argued to be in the revealed Qurʾān (e.g. the stoning [q.v.] verse, āyat al-rajm). Burton also points out that alternate codices continued to be used in legal disputes after they were supposedly destroyed by ʿUthmān’s orders, suggesting that they were actually “posterior, not prior, to the ʿUthman text” (ibid., 228; see abrogation; law and the qurʾān). J. Wansbrough (qs, 45), meanwhile, noting the absence of extant variations to the ʿUthmānic codex and considering it unlikely that the caliph could have done such a complete job of destroying other versions, suggests that the story is meant to conceal the late origins of the Qurʾān. A recently edited work, however, further complicates this hypothesis (cf. Crone and Zimmermann, Epistle).
Thus scholarly opinion differs in its estimation of ʿUthmān: some see him as the one who established, with pious meticulousness, the textus receptus ne varietur of the Qurʾān; others regard him as a semi-legendary figure of Islamic salvation history. This much seems clear: many traditions surrounding ʿUthmān’s codification of the Qurʾān come from a period when Islamic religious development was fueled by apologetical and polemical concerns (see apologetics; polemic and polemical language). In the third and fourth Islamic centuries texts on the proofs (dalāʾil) of Muḥammad’s prophecy (see prophets and prophethood; miracles), the inimitability (q.v.; iʿjāz) of the Qurʾān and the refutation (radd) of other religions proliferated (see tolerance and coercion; religious pluralism and the qurʾān). The ʿUthmānic codex narrative serves a clear purpose in this context: it confirms to Muslims that their muṣḥaf is indeed the Qurʾān sent down from heaven (see book; heavenly book; theology and the qurʾān; createdness of the qurʾān). Further work on early Qurʾān manuscripts (such as the find in Ṣanʿāʾ; see manu-scripts of the qurʾān; tools for the study of the qurʾān) — not excluding the study of the orality (q.v.) and variety of readings of the qurʾānic text (see post-enlightenment academic study of the qurʾān) — remains a desideratum for a fuller understanding of the historicity of the narratives concerning the formation of the ʿUthmānic codex (see also traditional disciplines of qurʾānic study; verses; sūras).
Gabriel Said Reynolds
See also James White’s: