The 7 Readings are NOT 'the revealed Qur'an'

Anyone who intends to uphold the transmission of the Qur'an MUST be willing to examine the Islamic evidence AGAINST this. Namely they must consider the fact that if the Qur'an today was what Muhammad is said to have 'given', then the 7 Readings would have to be the same as the 7 Ahruf - the 'revealed' Qur'an. THIS IS NOT THE CASE. Let us look at the speculation as to what they are.

[The following information from a recent Islamic publication upholds the conclusion of A 'Perfect' Qur'an.]

So much of Islam's defense of the Qur'an is based upon the lack of general knowledge of the Qur'an's history that it is good to see a follower of Islam write a little more openly on several aspects of this confusion.

Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi has written An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qura'aan (al-Hadaayah Publishing, 1999, ISBN - 1 898649 32 4), which houses the most forthright statements against the Qur'an yet printed in English by a follower of Islam.

We propose to examine several aspects as presented by Yasir Qadhi.


Transition - 7 Ahruf (Companion recitations) to present Qur'an:

We will begin at the point in his Chapter 8, The Compilation of the Qur'an, where he deals with the conflict between the reciters at the Azerbaijan battle (p. 136) which led to 'Uthman seeking to eliminate the conflicts between the people.

He states:

"This standard version would serve to unite the Muslims upon one recitation" (p. 136) and then he has the Companions agreeing with the move, and 'Uthman stating "I think we should consolidate the Muslims on one mus-haf" (p. 136) On p. 137 he has "After the committee finished its task, 'Uthmaan ordered that one copy of this mus-haf be sent to every province..." and "Every Qur'aan written after this time had to conform letter-for-letter to Uthmaan's mus-haf. By his wise decision Uthmaan provided a copy of the Qur'aan that would serve as a model for all future mus-hafs." Back to HOMEPAGE
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But, does he mean all this about 'letter-for-letter copies of One text', and 'ONE recitation'? As we will see as we progress, the answer is 'No'. It is simply an attempt to mislead the minds of the ignorant into thinking he is about to present the standard fare before something quite different is presented.

As he considers the reason 'Uthman had to do his work on the Qur'an, we find he does not mention what Tabari does, that these variations were the differing readings of Ubay and ibn Mas'ud.

Instead, on p. 136 he is vague only stating the usual Hadith about the Syrians and Kufans arguing - but on p 138 he states that 'Uthman was eliminating *inauthentic* recitations.

Immediately after he speaks about a SINGULAR recitation and a SINGULAR text, he tells us

"Not only did 'Uthmaan send the actual mush-afs to each province, he also sent Qur'aanic reciters to teach the people the correct recitation of the Qur'aan." (p. 137) One would expect him to be referring to several chains of transmission of the  SINGULAR RECITATION which he had just mentioned when he proceeds to name 4 reciters, being Zaid for Medinah, 'Abdullah ibn Saa'ib for Meccah, Ibn Shu'bah for Syria and Abu 'Abd ar-Rahman as-Sulamee for Kufah.


However, to those in the know, this listing of several names is the first indication of something more than ONE RECITATION, for these are some of those persons through whom some of the existing recitations are said to have been transmitted "from Muhammad" - and they differ quite a bit consonantally.

However, only on p. 147 do we find a heading indicating openly that the mushafs were NOT identical asking WERE THESE MUS-HAFS THE SAME? and the assertion:

"Did the 'Uthmaanic four or eight mus-hafs match each other letter for letter? Surprisingly, contrary to popular opinion, the evidence indicates otherwise. The different copies that 'Uthmaan ordered to be written differed from each other in a few letters. There is no extra verse in any one of the mus-hafs. This was not done accidentally or by chance. Rather, these slight changes were done on order to accommodate the variations of a particular verse (the ahruf). If the Prophet had recited the verse in a number of ways, and it was possible to accommodate all of these recitations in one particular spelling, then the word was written with that spelling. The example of 'maaliki' and 'maliki' has already been given before. However, if the recitations could not all be accommodated in one spelling, then it was written with one of the recitations in one mus-haf, and another recitation in another mus-haf. The Companions did not write both recitations in one mus-haf for fear of confusion between the two." (p. 148) Back to HOMEPAGE
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But, why is there a need to speak now of mushafs (pl.) and recitations (pl.) when he began with his assertions in the singular? The 'need' is founded upon his desire to make the contrary evidences of Islam 'appear' to agree.

For Yasir Qadhi, this means making any evidence for a single text and single recitation 'agree with' the present content of the texts and recitations, namely that there are many!  Also, it means making it agree WITH  his opinion as to what happened to the 7 Ahruf. In his case, it is a belief that Muhammad at the Final Review received from Jibreel multiple texts and readings - all semi-mutilated versions of the 'revealed Ahruf'.

It is not an easy issue to reconcile with what others hold.

For example, anyone who has read Von Denffer in his Ulum, may well recall that under the heading Seven Modes of the Qur'an he states (p. 117):

"While some scholars hold*** that the written Qur'an now includes only one of the 'seven modes', and the others are transmitted orally to us..." In his footnote 51 (which was just denoted by 3 asterisks ***) he writes: "e.g. Tabari, Jami' al-bayan 'an ta'wil ayat al-qur'an, Cairo, 1968. See introduction to this tafsir. Zarkashi, Vol. 1, p. 213 says most scholars are of the first view, and that the last double reading of the Qur'an by Muhammad in the presence of the Angel Gabriel served, among others, the purpose of eliminating the other six modes." Back to HOMEPAGE

SO, we have an assertion that the 'majority' of scholars assert that 6 Ahruf were ELIMINATED at the Final Review, and that a few like Tabari asserted that instead 'Uthman eliminated these 6 Ahruf without any reference to a Final Review. These amount to ONE conclusion, namely that 1 Ahruf should remain with one recitation.

HOWEVER as Yasir Qadhi points out:

"If as Tabari holds, only one harf has been preserved, from where then do the differences in the ten qira'aat originate from? All scholars are unanimous that these ten qira'aat originated from the Prophet (pbuh) himself; therefore it seems apparent that the ten qira'aat have to have some integral relationship with the ahruf..." (p. 181) Again he repeats this on p. 200: "However, this opinion does not seem very strong, since, if the origin of all the authentic qira'aat is one harf, then where do all the differences between the qira'aat originate from? In addition, as was mentioned in the previous chapter, the opinion that only one harf has been preserved does not seem to be the strongest." [We must note that this 'one Harf' opinion is propogated on the Islamic Awareness Site which quotes Bilal Philips on this topic.]

The one remaining Harf opinion of Tabari and others, is listed in this book of Yasir Qadhi's as one of 3 opinions held by scholars. The other two are 1/ that all of the Ahruf are preserved, and 2/ that the Ahruf are preserved only in as much as the 'Uthmanic mushafs allowed them to be. [In these opinions the very definition of the content of the Ahruf differs vastly.]

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In relating his beliefs that the latter of these is the strongests opinion (although he applies his own history as to how the prsent texts came to be), Yasir Qadhi lists 4 points which he feels are strong evidence for it. The last point is:

"4) The different mus-hafs that 'Uthman ordered to be written were not identical to each other, for in a number of places, the addition or deletion of a word or letter occurred in some of the mus-hafs. This change is reflected in the various qira'aat in existence today, for within the ten qira'aat, there exist word changes and word additions that could not have originated from the same mus-haf. It seems apparent this was done with a goal in mind, and the strongest conclusion seems to be that, by these differences in the mus-hafs, 'Uthman had intended to preserve the differences in the ahruf.   These same four arguments, however, cannot be used for the second opinion (that all of the ahruf were actually preserved), because of the fact that certain variations that the Companions used to recite as part of the Qur'aan are now no longer a part of the Qur'aan (as will be explained in the chapter on naskh and qira'aat). These variant readings can be explained as having been part of the seven ahruf before the final reading of the Qur'aan by the Prophet (pbuh) to Jibreel. This reading which took place before Zayd ibn Thaabit, cancelled the ahruf that 'Uthman did not preserve. Imaam al-Qistillaanee (d. 923 A.H.) said, "In this (last) recitation of the Prophet (pbuh) to Jibreel, there were two benefits: First, to strengthen and preserve the Prophet's memorisation of the Qur'aan, and, second, to affirm those verses that were not abrogated and to indicate which verses were." (p. 182) Back to HOMEPAGE

One has to wonder not only why Muhammad's memory would need strengthening when he was supposedly about to die, but why 7 Ahruf that were said to have been given to make things easier for the people, suddenly became such a complex thing as to require, not a removal of 6 Ahruf, but, in Yasir Qadhi's version, a complete change of texts and readings (vocalisation).

Not only so, but one must wonder if the quotation from Imaam al-Qistillaanee about affirming "those verses that were not abrogated and to indicate which verses were" has been appropriated beyond the standard interpretation of these words (i.e. those verses that Islam belives were replaced by others), and has become a useful tool for Yasir Qadhi to apply to his own version of what happened at the fabled Final Review. In other words, has he not mis-appropriated it to state that only portions of the various Ahruf were eliminated (abrogated) and other portions kept in a muddled (semi-abrogated, semi-preserved) form? It seems so.

However, any attempt to relate that several recitations and several texts were set out by 'Uthman directly contradicts the very words of 'Uthman which the writer cited earlier that:

"Official copies of the Qur'aan should be written and sent to all the provinces, and all other copies destroyed, so that the ummah could have one standard Qur'aan. Therefore, this standard version would serve to unite the Muslims upon one recitation." (p. 136) AND the Companion testimony that: "We asked him, 'What do you suggest we do?' He responded, 'I think we should consolidate the Muslims on one mus-haf, so that there not be any disagreements or disunity.' We said 'Verily, this idea of yours is an excellent idea.'" The action of Uthman was agreed upon by all of the Companions." (p. 136) Back to HOMEPAGE
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The one version of 'the history of the Qur'an' asserts that simplicity was the motive, the other that God decided to change His mind at the last minute and leave the same people with confusion and complexity!

This is indeed the result of what Mingana stated:

"Not many sacred books are better known that the Koran, and only a few of them have more obscure origins. ... The first historical data about the collection of the Koran have come down to us by way of oral Hadith, and not of history. This is very unfortunate; because a critic is thrown into that medley and compact body of legends, true or false, genuine or spurious, which began to receive unchallenged credit at the time of the recrudence of Islamic orthodoxy ..." (The Transmission of the Koran) Here it is fulfilled - but not by the *critic* but rather by the scholars of Islam. Late compiled oral evidence presents the scholars with a myriad of opinions (ijtihads) but that no actual history can be known from it. Can we believe that 1400 years after the fact someone will now sort it all out?


As to our present writer, his belief that 'Uthman was purposefully trying to preserve parts of several Ahruf in some form can be seen in several places

We find it in the 4 page section on the differences of opinion over whether or not the basmalah was a verse of the Qur'an [where he also acknowledges that the 4 Sunni Imams were divided - Imams Shafi'i and Ahmad saying it was; Imams Malik and Abu Hanifah saying it was not!] where he also relates:

"To resolve this difference of opinion, some scholars claimed that the basmalah was revealed in some of the ahruf of the Qur'an and not in others! This opinion would perhaps resolve the difference of opinion, were it not for the fact that the basmalah is written in all the mush-afs of 'Uthmaan. Had the basmalah been a verse in some ahruf and not in others, it would have been written in some of the mush-af and left out of others." (p. 159) Clearly he wants to attribute to 'Uthman a preserving of some form of several Ahruf in the mushafs and recitations. 

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We can see clearly that a great dilemma has been created.

By having Zaid as the LONE WITNESS of the Final Review, ALONE having heard the Final Text of the Qur'an (which most seem to say was ONE HARF) and this Final Review text(S) only placed into use much later after Muhammad's death, Yasir Qadhi has created several problems.

Did Muhammad fail to Implement the Final Review text(s)? Surely this means he failed in his mission?! In the opinions we will see, the Companions are said to have gone out under 'Umar with the original Ahruf! Can anyone in Islam admit that Muhammad failed to teach the Companions the Final Review text, that he failed in his mission - or will they now instead consider that these 'histories' do not match?

Again, if Zaid is portrayed by Yasir Qadhi as coming a considerable time after Muhammad died and ALONE giving to 'Uthman a number of varying texts and varying recitations then surely there is only one link in the chain of transmitters between Muhammad and the Companions - namely Zaid. THIS MEANS that any modern day recitation (and accompanying consonantal text) bearing a chain of transmission that traces a line directly from Muhammad to a Companion HAS to be FALSE!! 

By acknowledging that the 7 Ahruf are NOT the 7 (or (10) Readings of today,  and admitting that  many portions of Companion variations (the revealed 7 Ahruf) that were no longer *close to* Uthman's texts were thus abandonned [we will note all this further down this page], he asserts that the Final Review texts were only intending to 'semi-preserve' various parts of the 'original revealed' Qur'an!

What purpose would such a Final Review serve - except to bring confusion!?! Surely, if it is believed that one Harf was first 'revealed' and that the other 6 Ahruf had been *revealed* with the purpose of helping the poor souls (a mere concession), it would end in the same fashion - simplicity not confusion!


Our writer openly admits this confusion and change in the purported 'revealed' Qur'an by an explicit quotation frmo Makkee ibn Abee Taalib (d. 437) which records some very direct declarations that the 'original' revelation as given to the Companions came into change [which of course disproves every assertions that things are letter-for-letter as Muhammad 'originally' gave it]:

Yasir Qadhi uses it to "summarise the last two chapters" (i.e those on the Ahruf and the Qira'aat):

"When the Prophet (pbuh) died, many of the Companions went to the newly-conquered territories of the Muslims, and this was during the time of Aboo Bakr and 'Umar. They taught them the recitation of the Qur'aan and the fundamentals of the religion. Each Companion taught his particular area the recitation that he had learnt from the Prophet (pbuh) (i.e. the various ahruf). Therefore the recitations of these territories differed based on the differences of the Companions.   Now, when 'Uthmaan ordered the writing of the mus-hafs, and sent them to the new provinces, and ordered them to follow it and discard all other readings, each of the territories continued to recite the Qur'aan the same way that they had done so before the mus-haf had reached them, as long as it conformed to the mus-haf. If their recitation differed with the mus-haf, they left that recitation.   This new recitation was passed on from the earlier generations to the later ones, until it reached these seven Imaams (Qaarees) in the same form, and they differed with each others based upon the differences of the people of the territories - none of whom differed with the mus-haf that 'Uthmaan had sent to them. This, therefore, is the reason that the Qaarees have differed with each others...***" (p. 201f) Back to HOMEPAGE
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Again the asterisks*** in the above quotation refer to a footnote #458 which reads "Ibn Abee Taalib, Abu Muhammad Makkee: Kitaab al-Ibaanah 'an Ma'ani al-Qira'aat. ed. Dr. Muhyi Ramadan. Dar al-Mamoon li Thurath, Beirut, 1979, p. 39."

[This is quite likely the same al-Makkee mentioned in the long quote which was placed in A 'Perfect' Qur'an on p. 25f. If this is so, then one can understand why he is there found to state that the readings have only a single transmission and so are not very reliable- they actually started at the issuing of 'Uthman's texts!]

Can we see this clear admission that the Companions were forced to leave off from their 'revealed' texts (Ahruf), and take up 'NEW RECITATIONS', and THESE are what has been handed on to the modern times? There is no 'preservation of revealed texts' here! Neither can there be ANY chain of transmission directly from Muhamad to the Companions who held the 7 Ahruf - it is impossible! OF NECESSITY a successor MUST be a link in such a chain!

According to Yasir Qadhi's version (the changes being know through Zaid from the Final Review), the variations occurring through 'Uthman's initiative had to be assimilated by the Companions into their recitations. THIS changed Qur'an is what he thinks is in circulation now.

However, he has told us that only 4 qira'aat were 'sent out' by 'Uthman - how then does he think the 10 qira'aat he upholds today came about from only 4? Surely only by further corruption, for they cannot be attributed to 'Uthman!


Yasir Qadhi states his own cloaked version of all this as:

"When the Companions spread throughout the Muslim lands, they took with them the variations they learnt from the Prophet (pbuh). They understood the importance of the oral transmission of the Qur'aan. 'Umar ibn al-Kittaab, during his caliphate, sent several prominent Companions to various cities to teach the people Qur'aan; 'Ubaadah ibn as-Saamit was sent to Hims, Ubay ibn Ka'ab to Palestine, and Aboo ad-Dardaa to Damascus.   Likewise, during his caliphate, 'Uthmaan also realised the importance of the proper recitation of the Qur'aan, and sent reciters of the Qur'aan all over the Muslim lands, each with a copy of his official mus-haf. He kept Zayd ibn Thabit in Madeenah; with the Makkan mus-haf, he sent 'Abdullaah ibn Saa'ib (d. 63 A.H.); to Syria was sent al-Mugheerah ibn Shu'bah (d. 50 A.H.); Aboo 'Abd ar-Rahmaan as-Sulamee (d. 70 A.H.) was sent to Koofah; and 'Aamir ibn 'Abdul Qays to Basrah (d. ~ 55 A.H.).   The Companions in turn, recited and taught these variations to the Successors (tabi'oon), who taught them to the next generation (atbaa' at-tabi'oon), and so on. Each generation had in its rank those who were famous for their knowledge of the recitation of the Qur'aan.   ...Around the turn of the first century of the hijrah appeared the scholars of the Qur'aan after whom the qira'aat of today are named. At this time, along with many other sciences of Islaam, the science of qira'aat was codified. Thus, members of this generation took from the Successors the various recitations that they had learnt from the Companions, and adopted a specific way of reciting the Qur'aan, and this is what is called a qiraa'a. Each of these persons is called a Qaaree, or Reciter.   ...To summarise, the qira'aat...They represent the various ways that the Companions learnt the Qur'aan from the Prophet (pbuh)." (p. 185f) Back to HOMEPAGE
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Notice how he has the Companions passing on the altered text and recitation? The result is the same as with al-Makkee's summary - the Companion Ahruf, the 'revealed' Qur'an was changed.

Of course, this means that the last sentence of this quotation must be taken as an utter lie in view of the assertion that the Companion recitations changed with the issuing of the mushafs of 'Uthman! Rather, the Companions had been forced to reject what they are asserted to have received from Muhammad; forced to accept something someone else is said he later got from Muhammad! Not one is asserted to be a pure Ahruf, but all in various states of corruption.

[[NOTE: here we see how the chain of transmission from as-Sulamee who is credited with the origins of the recitation said to be traceable from Muhammad to 'Asim breaks down!! We see that in point of fact, as-Sulamee was ONLY the bearer of an adulterated recitation which came about because of the necessity to revamp an old recitation onto 'Uthman's mus-haf for Kufah! TO THIS IBN MAS'UD HAD TO BOW!! The same HAS TO APPLY to every recitation known and sent out by 'Uthman!]]

This is also is also evident in the statement:

"Therefore differences in qira'aat are the remnants of the differences in the way that the Prophet (pbuh) taught the recitation to the different Companions, and these differences were among the seven ahruf of the Qur'aan which Allaah revealed to the Prophet (pbuh). Thus the ten authentic qira'aat preserve the final recitation that the Prophet (pbuh) recited to Jibreel - in other words, the qira'aat are manifestations of the remaining ahruf." (p. 202) Back to HOMEPAGE

Again concerning the Companion readings (the Ahruf):

"The shaadh qira'aat, in particular, used to form a part of the seven Ahruf that the Qur'aan was revealed in, but these recitations were abrogated by the prophet himself, and therefore not preserved by 'Uthmaan. Under this category fall many of the recitations that are transmitted with authentic chains of narration from the Companions, and yet do not conform with the 'Uthmaanic mush-af. These recitations used to form part of the Qur'aan, and were recited by the Companions, until they were abrogated by the Prophet before his death." (p. 192) Despite the admission of corruption, we find that remnants of the 'revealed' Ahruf,  Companion readings, are thought to form the variations in the qira'aat. This is surely only based on faith NOT on 'proof'.

But, is there any clear definition of the 7 Ahruf? - "pure folly"

Aside from all this, it is also worth noting what general knowledge (let alone 'certain knowledge'] there is about the 7 Ahruf. Yasir Qadhi begins the Chapter on the Ahruf stating:

"Its exact definition in Qur'aanic sciences is the subject matter of this chapter, and therefore cannot be defined at this point." (p. 172) Back to HOMEPAGE
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Three pages later he writes:

"As for what is meant by these seven ahruf, there is a great deal of difference on this issue. Ibn Qutaybah (d. 276 A.H.) recorded thirty-five opinions on this issue, and as-Suyootee listed over forty. Ibn Sa'adan (d. 231 A.H.), a famous grammarian and reciter of the Qur'aan, even declared that the true meaning of the ahruf was known only to Allaah, and thus to attempt to investigate into this issue was futile! On the other hand, Imaam Muhammad ibn al-Jazaree (d. 832 A.H.), perhaps the greatest scholar of the qira'aat after the era of the salaf, said "I have sought to discover the meanings of these hadeeth (about the ahruf), and have pondered over them, and contemplated this topic for over thirty years, until Allaah opened my mind to that which is the correct answer in this matter. Inshaa Allaah!"   The reason that such great difference of opinion exists concerning the exact meaning of the ahruf is due to the fact that there does not exist any explicit narrations from the Prophet (pbuh), or the salaf, concerning the exact nature of the ahruf; these various opinions are merely the conclusions of later scholars, based upon their examination of the evidences and their personal reasoning (ijtihaad).   Therefore, it should be understood from the outset that to arrive at one specific conclusion, and claim with certainty that it alone is correct and all else is wrong, is pure folly."(p. 175 f) Back to HOMEPAGE

Noone can possible know what the 7 Ahruf were through examining the evidence, or by any other means. 

There are also some definitive statements concerning the 7 Readings NOT BEING the 7 Ahruf. These Yasir Qadhi lists under the opinion of some scholars who believed that the 7 Ahruf were the 7 Readings. Of this opinion he states:

"This is contradicted historically as there are more than 7 qira'aat, and the collection and codification of the qira'aat occurred four centuries after the Prophet's (pbuh) death. None of the major scholars of Islaam held this view, as ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 A.H.) said "There is no difference of opinion among the scholars that the seven ahruf and not the same as the seven famous qira'aat."   Unfortunately most of the Muslim masses understand the hadeeth of the ahruf to refer to the qira'aat." (p. 177) And: "They are not the same as the seven ahruf, as shall be elaborated shortly." (p. 186) In fact, he records the following about sentiment directed at ibn Mujahid who started the trouble(!): "He purposely chose seven Qaarees to match the number of the ahruf the Qur'aan was revealed in. Unfortunately, this led many people to mistakenly believe that the different qira'aat were the same as the ahruf that the Prophet (pbuh) referred to in the various hadeeth. This is obviously false, since Ibn Mujaahid wrote his book four centuries after the Prophet's (pbuh) death. Due to this misconception, many of the later scholars took Ibn Mujaahid to task, wishing that he had chosen a different number, so that this confusion could have been prevented. Ibn al-Jazaree (d. 832 A.H.) wrote: Many of the scholar disliked the fact that Ibn Mujaahid restricted himself to seven qira'aat, and said that he was mistaken in doing so, and wished that he had chosen a number greater than this, or at least explained the purpose behind choosing this number, so that those people who have no knowledge would not be misled." (p. 186; footnote states "Ibn al-Jazari, p. 39") Consider these matters carefully. 

The confusion shown should warn anyone that the Qur'an is NOT what it is claimed to be.

Brother Mark
Oct. 20/00
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