that Zamakhshari considered that these letters indicated that the style of the Qur'an was perfect and that imitation was defied.1 This is in accordance with the idea that just as men know these letters but can make nothing out of them, so no one can compose anything equal to the Qur'an. Several explanations are given by Sale in the preliminary discourse to his translation of the Qur'an. Noldeke considers them to have been private marks of the owners put on the copies lent to Zaid, which have inadvertently crept into the text.

Muslims believe that the Qur'an is incorruptible—'a book whose verses are established in wisdom, and then set forth with clearness'2; but the fact that Uthman and his company of revisers had to consider a variety of readings, to weigh their authority, and if necessary to discard them in favour of the Meccan readings, caused no small scandal. But a way was found out of the difficulty. Abu ibn Ka'b, one of the Companions, became so famous as a reciter of the Qur'an that the Prophet himself said: 'Read the Qur'an under ibn Ka'b.' Ibn Ka'b one day stated that, scandalized at man after man who entered the Mosque repeated the Qur'an in different ways, he spoke to Muhammad about it. The Prophet said: 'O Abu ibn Ka'b! intelligence was sent to me to read the Qur'an in one dialect, and I was attentive to the Court of God, and said: "Make easy the reading of the Qur'an to my sects." Then instructions were sent to me a second time saying,

"Read the Qur'an in two dialects." Then I turned myself to the Court of God, saying, "Make easy the reading of the Qur'an to my sects." Then a voice was sent to me the third time, saying, "Read the Qur'an in seven dialects."' There is also a tradition that 'Umar said: 'During the lifetime of the Prophet I heard a man read a chapter of the Qur'an. I heard the readings which he followed, and, as they were different from those which I knew and which I had heard from the mouth of the Prophet, I feared the namaz would be spoilt. At the close of the prayers I was angry with him and struck him a blow, and demanded to know where he had heard these readings. He declared that he had heard them from Muhammad. We then went to the Prophet to settle the dispute.

1 Ibn Khaldun (de Slane's translation), vol. iii, pp. 68-9.
كِتَبٌ أُحْكِمَتْ آيَاتُهُ ثُمَّ فُصِّلَتْ — Sura Hud (xi.) 1.

He said they were correct and added, "In truth, the Qur'an is revealed in seven dialects, read it in as many ways as you can."' 1 This removed all difficulty, and the foresight displayed by the Prophet in thus obtaining a divine sanction for the various ways of reading the Qur'an was looked upon as a proof of his inspiration. Thus arose the 'qira'atu's-sab'a,' or 'seven readings' of the Qur'an now recognized. These are called after seven men famous as Qur'an readers, and as 'Uthman's Qur'an had no vowel points, great opportunities for differences in pronunciation arose. In course of time public opinion fixed on two of the styles as most appropriate, and now these are in actual use. The reading-style of Hafs, a disciple of Imam 'Asim, is followed in India, and that of Nafi in Africa and Arabia.

The fact that 'Uthman, when his own recension was complete, burnt all the copies of the older edition he could find was made the basis of a charge of the alteration of the original text.3 He defended himself thus: 'They say that I burnt the Qur'an. I did it because it was in small portions in the hands of men and every one said, "I have the best one." I collected them all, placed a long Sura first, a medium length one

1 Journal Asiatique, Decembre, 1843, p. 378. This tradition concerning the 'seven readings' is referred to in well-known books thus:
اُنْزِلَ الْقُرانُ عَلى سَبْعَةِ اَحْرُفٍ —'The Qur'an was revealed in seven readings' (words).—Mishkatu'l-Masabih.
اُنْزِلَ الْقُرانُ عَلى سبع لُغَاتٍ —'The Qur'an was revealed in seven dialects.'—Majma'u'l-Ghara'ib.
نَزَلَ الْقُرانُ على سبعةِ اَحرف كُلّها كافٍ شافٍ —'The Qur'an descended with seven readings, all perfect and sacred,—Majma'u'l-Bihar.
 It is said that the seven dialects were those of the Quraish, Hawadhin, Tai, Hazil, Himyar, Shaqif, and Yaman.
فكأنه قال سبع لغات العرب كقريش وهواذن وطى وهزيل وحمير وشقيف ويمن الخ
Others say that the 'seven readings' represent seven different copies, of which two were in use in Madina, one in Mecca, one in Kufa, one in Basra, one in Syria, and one called the 'common edition' which is the one now in use. Mirza Kazim Beg points out that this last explanation is untenable, as the seven different copies did not come into existence until after the death of the Prophet.
2 A fuller account of these Qaris, or Qur'an Readers, and the 'various readings' which they have introduced will be found in Sell's Faith of Islam (3rd ed.), pp. 63-5, 398-405.
3 The Shi'ahs considered this burning of the Qur'an to be a great crime. —Haqqu'l-Yaqin, quoted in Journal Asiatique, Decembre, 1843 p. 384.