Here are a few comments by the popular Muslim apologist, Shabir Ally, on whether or not the Quran Muslims have today is the same as Muhammad recited. I follow up with a few questions.
Shabir Ally said, “from a historical perspective it looks fairly certain that the Quran we’re reading today is as delivered by the prophet Muhammad…” (2:25).
Is this true?
I don’t mean to denigrate the historical tradition of the Quran, but is it really the consensus of historians (non-Islamic) that “from a historical perspective it looks fairly certain that the Quran we’re reading today is as delivered by the prophet Muhammad…?
It does not seem so:
“It is hardly an exaggeration to state that the relationship between Qur’an and history currently occupies the centre of scholarly interest in Qur’anic studies. The controversy about the Qur’an – held to be the genuine document of the Prophet’s communications to his listeners or considered as a later compilation from diverse traditions emanating from a monotheistic sectarian milieu – permeates the entire field of Qur’anic studies, forcing each individual researcher to state his or her particular vantage point from the ‘holistic’ or from the ‘atomistic’ hypotheses. This controversy over the history of the Qur’an threatens to grow into a kind of ideological schism between partisans of ‘revisionism’ and partisans of ‘traditionalism’, a dangerous polarisation within the academic world that should not go unchallenged” (Angelika Neuwirth, “Qur’an and History – a Disputed Relationship. Some Reflections on Qur’anic History and History in the Qur’an”).
Gerhard Böwering believes the most vexing question in the field of Qur’anic studies is “the question of how the Qur’an was composed and finally codified (Gerhard Böwering , “Recent Research on the Construction of the Qur’an,” in The Qurʾān in its Historical Context, ed. Gabriel S. Reynolds [London, Routledge, 2008], p.70).
Fred Donner writes,
“A long and distinguished series of Western Qur’an scholars has also subscribed to the view that there was an early textual archetype for the present Qur’an, although most broke with the traditional Islamic view to the extent that they considered the possibility, at least, that minor changes may have entered the text between its earliest days and its codification in the form of the Qur’an we know today. Nöldeke, Schwally, Bergsträsser, Bell, Beck, and more recently Watt, Neuwirth, Lüling, and Burton, despite profound differences on many points, all agreed that what we read today is derived in some way from a prototype text, an Ur-Qur’an 1Ur-Quranis a reference to an alleged “closed” text that stood as a precursor to today’s Quran. Islamic tradition says that there was an Ur-Qur’an which was the exact literal revelation of God’s word to Muhammad and identical to today’s Quran (Donner, “The Quran in Recent Scholarship,” 31). from the time of Muhammad (or even before, as Lüling has proposed). Luxenberg, too, shares this view.
“The main dissenter from this view has been Wansbrough, who with his followers (including Andrew Rippin and G. Hawting) has argued that the Qur’an we have today does not go back to an early archetype, but rather represents the fruit of a long and slow process of crystallization spanning two centuries or more, during which the Qur’an as we know it was pieced together from disparate materials circulating in “the community.” (Fred Donner, “The Quran in Recent Scholarship,” in The Qurʾān in its Historical Context, ed. Gabriel S. Reynolds [London, Routledge, 2008], p.31)
“There seems to be general agreement that in the passage from “Ur-Qur’an” to the Qur’an text familiar to us now, some editing was performed,
but whether it was editing merely to make the text reflect unambiguously a well established recitation, or whether the editing completely transformed the text, intentionally or unintentionally, is still subject to debate.” (Ibid. 40)
Here are some quotes I’ve found from non-Muslims that support the preservation of the Quran from the time of Muhammad:
Sir Williams Muir a Scottish Orientalist wrote:
“There is otherwise every security, internal and external, that we possess the text which Muhammad himself gave forth and used” and “There is probably no other book in the world which has remained twelve centuries (now fourteen) with so pure a text.” (Life of Mohamet, vol.1, Introduction).
H.A.R. Gibb a Scottish historian on orientalism:
“It seems reasonably well established that no material changes were introduced and that the original form of Muhammad’s discourses was preserved with scrupulous precision.” (Mohammedanism, London: Oxford University Press, 1962. p.25)
Friedrich Schwally, a German orientalist:
“As far as the various pieces of revelation are concerned, we may be confident that their text has been generally transmitted exactly as it was found in the Prophet’s legacy.” (Geschichte des Qorans von Theodor Nöldeke, [Zweite Auflage bearbeitet von Friedrich Schwally], Teil 1: Über den Ursprung des Qorans, Weicher, Leipzig, 1909, Vol.2, p.120.)
“the single vigorous Qur’an text that throughout the ages has successfully withstood the assaults of both the exegetes and the usulis, stoutly retaining its textual identity in the face of countless attempts to insinuate interpolations through exploitation of the alleged codex of this or that Companion, is none other than the unique text of the revelations whose existence all their tricks betoken, the text which has come down to us in the form in which it was organized and approved by the Prophet” (The Collection of the Quran [Cambrideg: Cambridge University Press, 1977], 239).
Feel free to add to this list by commenting below!
References [ + ]
|1.||↥||Ur-Quranis a reference to an alleged “closed” text that stood as a precursor to today’s Quran. Islamic tradition says that there was an Ur-Qur’an which was the exact literal revelation of God’s word to Muhammad and identical to today’s Quran (Donner, “The Quran in Recent Scholarship,” 31).|