Do people who claim the Quran has been changed have a point?
One of the best and most indispensable talks I have come across. Looking forward to more from this guy as well as the iconic Sheikh Atabek.
Sadly, these types of attacks against the Quran are somewhat invited by Ahlal Hadith types (read: Wahhabis); there flagrant overemphasis on single chain narrations has led them to understate the mass narration of the Quran.
Instructor – Hafiz Mahmud:
Sent to a traditional Islamic Madrasah at the age of ten, he memorised the whole Quran, studied classical Arabic, Tafseer, Shatibiyyah (different types of recitation), Fiqh, Hadith, Mantiq (logic) and Kalaam for the next decade.
In a complete change of tac, he then studied in the UK gaining BSc’s in Molecular Biology and Mathematics and Astrophysics as well as an MSc in Theoretical Physics from Kings College London.
He is currently researching Black Hole thermodynamics.
He is also an Imam, leading Tarawehs, teaching Qur’an, classical Arabic, Fiqh, Tafseer in various London Islamic centres and mosques.
This guy is like, a genius.
Sheikh Atabek Nasafi is hype and needs no introduction; he handles part 2 here:
These immensely helpful notes on the lectures were immensely kindly compiled by http://muslimanswers.net/
The following are basically the preliminary personal notes for the first two lectures from the following link. There are many important things mentioned in these two lectures (delivered by Instructor Hafiz Mehmud and Shaykh Atabek Nasafi). Whenever necessary, I will try to insert pertinent views on the subtopic under discussion.
- The first talk starts out on the basis of answering the allegations of the non-Muslims, such as Christians and others with respect to the Qur’an. Such allegations have become unfortunately very commonplace, and even certain nominal Muslims are repeating the same matters without thinking properly concerning the issues.
- Now, the first issue is that we have to gain knowledge about the topic before speaking about it. Here the instructor mentions the non-Muslims, that the nature of their objections shows that they are not serious about learning the matter of the Qur’an, but they simply want to create confusion. Those among the Muslims of scholarly caliber will not give a serious thought to such people, because their attitude does not befit the one who wants to academically and seriously discuss the issue.
- We have to remember that these allegations have come up at a time when specialized knowledge of Islam is depreciated in the eyes of people, due to the sway of the material world. Thus, for example, one might hear that “Such a person who talks negatively about evolution has not actually studied the field seriously and formally. Let him study and then come back and we will entertain him”. If such is the case with a material field of inquiry, then why is Islam put down?
- There seems to be no reason for this attitude, except that the whole world setup is stacked against those who keep the traditional means of Islamic teaching – and this is because the background supposition is that God does not exist, or that if He does exist then He is a far-removed deity. So according to such a supposition, why should a deity who is so far removed from people and cannot have any effect on them give rules for their lives, and why do we have to take what the “traditional scholars of Islam” say seriously?
- For them it is nothing other than childish babble (so even if such objectors are extreme in their ignorance of Islam while making their accusations, they think “So what, it is one kind of babble against another type of babble”), while the knowledge of the material world is true, and the systematic accumulation of such knowledge is lauded and praised. So we have to keep this abstract differentiation between the “material” and the “religious” worlds as our opponents see it in our minds, otherwise we will not understand where the objections come from and why they are as persistent as they are.
- As many of us already know, the accusations are varied from the side of the non-Muslims, but they include that for example, ‘Ubbay bin Ka’b (Radhia Allahu Anhu) had 116 Verses in his Mushaf (copy of the Qur’an), and that Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (Radhia Allahu Anhu) had 111 Verses in his Mushaf.
- The instructor mentions that Islam is not a religion of one individual (after the Prophet’s (SAW) passing on from this world). This means that we cannot look at the life of any one of the Companions or those who came after them, and then say: “Oh Look! He did this which was in opposition to what the rest of the Muslims did, so now there is a crisis within Islam!” The truth of the matter is that in most of the cases, either the difference has been accepted as part of the academic scholarly debate within Islam, or else the view has been rejected as being outside of the correct views in Islam.
- Now, consider the following fact: Ubbay’ ibn Ka’ab and ibn Masud (Radhia allahu Anhuma) learned their Qur’anic recitations from the Prophet (Salla Allahu alayhi Wa Sallam) himself and taught this to other Companions and their Successors, so this is in itself a strong proof that the Qur’an has not been changed. “Why?” someone might ask. For the simple reason that the “Qur’ans” passed from such teaching “schools” would have been extremely different (containing 116 or 111 Verses, or whatever other allegations are brought up), and we would have seen these big differences down to our time.
- We need to remember that the Prophet (SAW) had over forty scribes for the Holy Qur’an, wherever the Holy Prophet (SAW) went, these scribes would go along with him, since there was nothing more important than writing down of the revelation, and both the Prophet and the scribes knew this. Additionally, there were other Companions who used to write down the Qur’an for themselves, and yet others who used to memorize it directly (perhaps without even writing it down – need to ask about this), due to the excellence of their memories.
- In addition to this, they also used to write down notes in their manuscripts (and this is something normal, no one should make a big deal about this).
- One answer to the allegation regarding Ubbay’ (RAA) is that if we go to Naafi’ (RA) who is one of the main Qurra’, we see his chain goes up to Ubbay’, Zayd bin Thaabit, and ‘Umar (RAA). Now these three are very close to each other, they know each other very well, so how does it occur to anyone that Ubbay’ believes that the Qur’an is actually 116 Verses, and neither Zayd nor ‘Umar (RAA) say anything about this matter? This is simply not possible.
- Not only this, but Zayd (RAA) was the chief commissioner for the writing down of the Qur’an during the times of Abu Bakr and ‘Uthmaan (RAA), so how can it be that he simply lets this matter go without us hearing of it?
- We also see that some Companions learned from others. For example, Ibn ‘Abbas and Abu Hurayrah (Radhia Allahu Anhum) learned from Zayd (RAA), and they taught it to Naafi’ (RA). What is implied is that other Companions learned from ‘Ubbay (RAA), if he had actually taught them these two “extra Suras”, it would have caused an enormous commotion within the entire Islamic world.
- The instructor mentions that he has copies of the Mushaf from Naafi’ (through his main students, Warsh and Qaalun), and this Mushaf has no difference in the number of Verses.
- There is another issue with respect to the Bismilla, the allegation being that the companions were totally insure what to do with the Bismilla at the beginning of the Verses. Bismillah was in fact revealed to the Prophet (SAW) and it is written there in the Qur’anic copies, but the question of whether it is part of the Qur’an when it is at the beginning of the Chapters is in fact a jurisprudential difference of opinion, it is not connected with alteration in the Qur’an itself. Also, we should keep in mind that the Qurra’ themselves have given different opinions about this matter through their recitational chains, so we cannot say that this is a matter outside of what the Prophet (SAW) taught his Companions – thus, the Qir’aat themselves incorporate this different understanding, it is not something made up or invented by others.
- Coming back to the main initial allegation, let us suppose that Ubbay’s (RAA) copy had 116 Chapters, it is still unclear how this affects the Qur’an’s authenticity. The truth is that the instructor says he takes notes in his Mushaf, he may write supplications in his copy, then after he dies, someone may come up and try to cause confusion about this matter, saying that look at the notes, he believed in something else…. But who told the objector concerning what he believes in about these notes? Why is the intellectual jump being made from what is written in these copies to what the person believes? This is very easy for the objector to raise, but in order to prove it, he would need much stronger evidence than merely what he found written in the personal copies of people.
- The instructor asks, do you really think seriously about this allegation, when we know that Ubbay’ was especially close with ‘Umar (RAA), so it would have to be that there was almost no communication between them in order for this allegation to have any faint basis of truth. If someone asks why is this so, that is because ‘Umar (RAA) would have publicly summoned Ubbay’ (RAA) and asked that what is going on, people are saying that you are reciting and teaching two Surahs that are not there in the Mushafs of the rest of us.
- Also consider that Ubbay (RAA) was leading prayers in the Prophet’s Masjid, it cannot be that this would have transpired without anyone finding out, and also without any verbal protest against this being recorded at all.
- The truth about these two “extra Verses” is that they are actually the Dua’ of Qunoot which we recite in Witr prayers, and it is known from the Mutawaatir transmission of the Qur’an, and the practice of the Muslims that these are not part of the Qur’an. “Why?” someone may ask, because we do not recite Qur’an in Duas. Yes, there may be certain phrases of the Qur’an that are recited in the Du’as, but a complete Sura would not be confused with a Dua’. (So again, these are simply allegations brought up in order to confuse people, but which have no basis when compared with the total picture of the Islamic tradition).
- Now, let us also consider that it is not only through Naafi’ that the transmission of Qur’an passes through Ubbay’ (RAA). We also have Ibn Kathir, Ibn Aamir, and Abu ‘Amru (RA), whose recitation goes to Ubbay’ (RAA) through one way or the other. The instructor says that when he was memorizing the Qur’an, he knew everything about his friends. Like he knew one person who would just read once and he would memorize, then others who were blind but were Huffaadh. Thus, it would be very difficult for the Companions, or the Successors after them, to simply slip two Suras without anyone finding out.
- You need to have a special Mushaf in which to take notes if you want to master more than one recitation, so this lends credence to the fact that notes are one thing, and the text of the Qur’an is something else, and you need the expert/possessor of that book to tell you what is what.
- Now we come to a comment concerning the number of Huffadh. As I mentioned in some other place, the recitation and memorization of the Qur’an, the position of the Qur’an, is a major love for this Ummah Alhamdullilah. Even today, if a Muslim is not serious about Islam, maybe he does not even pray regularly and does not even know his Fiqh properly, yet he will keep the Mushaf in his house in an elevated place. He will treat it with respect, even if he does not know how to recite it properly (Sure, it is a sort of laziness that he is not learning the proper recitation of the Qur’an, but even then, the Qur’an has some high position in the Muslims’ hearts).
- So can you imagine what would the situation be in the time of the Prophet (SAW) and shortly thereafter? People would literally compete with one another as to who could learn more of the Qur’an and implement more of it in his life. After the Prophet’s (SAW) life, it is mentioned that Sa’d bin Abi Waqqaas (RAA) went on an expedition to Persia, and there followed him 300 Huffaadh. Normally, the situation would militate against sending people of such high caliber to the expeditions, since if they had died then the knowledge of the Islamic community would have decreased considerably, but at that time, there were so many Huffaadh that it was considered not such a big threat to the collective knowledge of the Ummah even if all of these 300 had been killed.
- Like we know about the allegation that there were only 4 Huffaadh in the whole of the Muslim world, but this is not the whole story, as it will be explained below in more detail. Anyway, many Huffaadh can be named, such as the first four Khulafa, 3 of the wives of the Prophet (SAW) [Umm Salamah, Hafsa, and Ayesha (RAA)], Umm Waraqa, Abbu Ayyub al-Ansari, and so many more (perhaps 25 or 30 of the very famous Companions, excluding others who are not commonly mentioned by the authorities).
- Then we have the scribes who wrote down the Qur’an, they gave one copy to the Prophet (SAW) and they kept one copy for themselves, and they were tested to see whether what they wrote was correct.
- It is also important to note that the memorization of the Qur’an was also going on in parallel between men and women. Normally, someone might say that the women should learn only from the men in their household, but in this case, the knowledge was so important that they learnt it concurrently. (Insha Allah I need to ask about this, since there are many more things about the way that women learned about Islam in the early Islamic period that were not covered by Instructor Mehmud).
- Now, the Instructor starts to talk about the difference between Tawaatur and Ahaad. Tawaatur means that if a Hadeeth (in its linguistic sense, that is, a report about a person, event, etc.) is being talked about by so many people in one generation, then these people pass it on to the next generation, and so on and on, then there is no doubt about the veracity of what they are saying. For example, we know Churchill, we do not doubt his existence, since we have so many different types of independent lines of transmission about his existence, that we do not think there was a conspiracy to fool us into believing that he existed.
- The same goes with something in the far-off past, such as the Roman Empire, or the Pharaoh, or the existence of Japan. The Instructor mentions that he has never been to Japan, but he has so many friends who have gone, then there is video, audio, and so forth showing that Japan does exist. (I need to ask concerning the value of modern audio-visual techniques in order to establish the existence of something, this is also a matter in Fiqh and its Usool).
- Note that in some cases, the narration may be singular, but then they come together to make it rise to a higher level (I need to ask what is meant in here, since if some event is indeed talked about a huge number of times, then this makes it Mutawaatir regardless of any other consideration. So this has to be considered and inquired about).
- Concerning the Verses of the Qur’an, we are talking about Mutawaatir matters only, the Ahaad and the Mashoor (well-known, but below the level of Tawaatur) is not taken into consideration insofar as overturning the Mutawaatir. Thus, if there is some narration that is Ahaad, we cannot use it to say that it has to be part of the Qur’an, or that it was mistakenly placed inside the Qur’an (that is, we do not say (a) “Such a narration says that a certain extra Verse or words were recited before, but they are not part of the Qur’an we recite today, so we should consider adding them to the Qur’an today”, nor do we say (b) “Such a person did not have a certain Verse in his copy, so it must be expunged from the Mushaf we have today with us”).
- So this is important to consider, since each and every single one of the allegations brought by the non-Muslims is in fact of the Ahaad category, and strictly speaking, they are not paid any attention in the science of Qur’anic transmission. But yes, of course, our scholars wrote explanations as to why such narrations are found in the books, and this has another type of science behind it. In fact, consider that the explanations given by our scholars will be sufficient for all those who wish to accept the truth with an open heart, since there are quite logical and obvious reasons as to why these narrations are in the books, whether they are authentic, and so forth.
- There are a good number of examples of such narrations which have explanations, such as the goat that ate the Suhuf in Ayesha’s (RAA) house, and so forth. We only look at why they were mentioned in the Ahadith books, not that the whole science of the Qur’an and everything of Islam will come crumbling down because of this or similar narrations.
- And also, no non-Muslim should think of himself as too smart, in thinking that he has come and found out something hidden in our sources which our scholars have been trying to suppress, and then trying to confuse the Muslims through that. The truth is that the scholars of Islam have handled every single one of these matters in their explanatory books, but the issue is that the normal Muslim will not concern himself with trying to swim deeply into the ocean of Islamic knowledge, because for the normal Muslim such issues do not affect him on a day-to-day basis, and he is not “legally” required to search such matters. The non-Muslim tries to take advantage of this break between the knowledge of the scholars and the laymen in order to say that there is some foul play, some intentional hiding of a portion of Islamic history. Part of this comes back yet again to the issue of the depreciation of traditional Islamic teaching in the modern world, so in these sorts of allegations, the non-Muslim “goes for the kill” against the Muslim, so as to say
- But what we sincerely tell everyone is that they should study Islam traditionally from a total point of view, and then they will come to appreciate the depth of Islam and the different answers and positions it has towards all the issues presented in front of it.
- Anyway, the matter comes up, that we know the Qur’an is Mutawaatir, so does it occur to you that these people were not real? The instructor says that he has learned different types of recitation, and he asks that is he not real? Of course he is real, and likewise the people who have taught him this knowledge are also real, for otherwise there would be no way in which he could have learned this science.
- There is an important issue we need to understand, which is that the highest level of fidelity and authenticity are to be employed relative to the science we are discussing. If we are talking about Aqeedah (beliefs) concerning Allah, then we need to give the strongest rational proofs for our position– note that since we are talking about Allah, there is no room for possibilities, for saying “Well, maybe there are two or three gods, it depends on what is written in such and such book. Let me check and get back to you!” No, one has to be absolutely certain about such things, for otherwise the belief is useless, and so are the deeds. Many of our scholars say that the people will be judged on this matter even if they heard absolutely nothing about Islam as a religion, and the reason for this is that the fact that a Creator exists who is ontologically distinct from the creation is something that can be deduced rationally by the one who is concerned about the matter, even in the absence of Prophets and Messengers and their corresponding messages.
- If we talk about the Qur’an having come from Allah to the Prophet (SAW), then we talk about miracles, the definition of miracles, and what is a miracle in the sense of the Qur’an’s revelation (such as the Arabic rhetoric, eloquence, and so forth). But note that in here, proofs about Allah and His Attributes do not belong directly, since there is nothing in such proofs that will “stand-alone” prove the veracity of the Qur’an. Yes, we can show that the Qur’an does not contradict such rational proofs for the existence of Allah and for his true attributes, but this is not a direct proof for the absolute impossibility of it to have come from other than Allah.
- This is one thing. We also note from the nature of miracles that, since they are connected with matters connected to the observable Universe, they are of a different grading than those proofs connected solely to Allah and His Attributes.
- Then on another level, if we are talking about the text of the narrations themselves (whether these are Matlu (recited) or Ghayr Matlu (non-recited)), then we bring in the matter of Tawaatur narrations, Ahaad narrations, Mashoor narrations, and so forth. And if we are discussing the meaning of such texts and the derivation of rulings based on such texts, then we get into the matter of Usool al-Fiqh. In this later two levels we have probabilistic issues, but it does not mean that Islam as a religion did not come from Allah. It simply means that Allah is willing to give our nation some leeway for ease – and complimentarily for errors to be forgiven – so long as the experts carry out the deduction of the rulings from the texts, and as long as the laymen follow the experts.
- Coming back to the main discussion, note that the transmitters of the Qur’an were also very trustworthy in the field of Ahadith. Or if it is said that some of them were not so well-trusted in this field, this would not really mean anything, since what we care most about is their trustworthiness in transmitting the Qur’an, and perhaps the authenticators of Rijaal were interested in some other aspect of their characters or memories that is not so relevant to the Qur’anic sciences (but I will need to ask about this issue later on, especially what is said about the Qaari Hafs).
- Anyway, as we know, we cannot separate the Qur’anic text from its meaning, and this meaning is many times given through the Ahaadith. Thus, there are a huge number of legal issues, and they have been explained in the Ahadith of the Prophet (SAW). A cursory reading of the Qur’an would not be enough in this case.
- As we know, the general rule in Islam is that if you claim to obey and love Allah, then you are required to follow the Prophet (SAW), the two are not separated in this sense. We only know what Allah wants from us through His Prophet (SAW), so can the Muhammad’s (SAW) Prophethood be taken with anything other than reverence?
- So Allah points towards this truth in many passages of the Qur’an such as in Surah an-Najm, when He mentions that the Prophet (SAW) does not speak from his own inclinations, but that rather he speaks from inspiration. The analogy that is given is that of a king, if a messenger comes with a letter from the king, do you say the letter is from the messenger or from the king? We say it is from the king, of course (there is in fact a subtle point of linguistics that is applicable in Islam in here, but we need not tread on this line right now).
- Since all the Prophets talk only what Allah wants them to say, then they are only conveying the message and nothing else. This matter was important to reiterate again, since when the non-Muslim throws vituperation against the Qur’an, they do not understand even the very basic things about what the Qur’an is and why this so-called “error” has appeared in the Qur’an.
- So let us see one example of the miraculous nature of the Qur’an. There is one transmission of the Qur’an where the recitation is قَالَ and another in which it is قُل , and note that both of these are found in the transmissions of the Qur’an.
- So what was being talked about in here? In the second, it is “Qul”, an Amr (that is, a command), showing that the Prophet (SAW) was not going to talk from himself. Then, in the first transmission it is “Qaala” (Allah said it). In this specific example, it is Qaala Rabbuka, (Your Lord said) and the other is Qul Rabbi (My Lord said). So in one Allah is directly referring to Himself and in the other transmission the Prophet is saying that My Lord is saying.
- If we enquire into what this signifies, this means that the Sunnah of the Prophet and His Ahadeeth are also a sort of inspiration, and that in this miracle, Allah is telling the believers not to make a distinction between what Allah is directly revealing, and what is said on the tongue of the Prophet (Salla Allahu alayhi Wa Sallam). So we see that this is the important background message behind this type of transmissional difference. And such types of differences open up many doors to understanding, but these obviously cannot be opened if the objector thinks unilaterally or negatively.
- The instructor makes the comment that there is no way that you can express everything in one way only. I say that this is part of the miracle of the Qur’an, but we also see that even in one reading (let us say the most widely read transmission, Hafs from ‘Aasim) you can still get a huge number of different correct and acceptable meanings from one word only, even without the small difference that one sees in the Qira’aat.
- So 5% of the differences in the Qira’aat are of this type, where there is subtle change in meaning, but 95% are in fact only differences in the Tajweed rules.
- Another example, we can give from the last Verse in Surah al-Kahf (just for us to understand the rule, then the example will come later). The Verse: “Qul Law Kaana”, so there is actually Hadhf (omission) of the phrase ‘O Prophet’, this is understood from the context.
- Now we find in certain Qira’aat that the (مِن) (“Meen”) is not there, and in certain ones it is present. It is not omitted because of forgetfulness, mistakes, or bad intention from part of the copiers or reciters, but because there are certain rules of Arabic grammar and rhetoric which apply in certain Qir’aat but which are not appropriate in other Qira’aat, based on the holistic meaning that is to be conveyed in each case.
- So we know that the Prophet (SAW) recited through all of these ways, but when it is said that there are seven Ahruf (seven modes), it is not being used as a number in here, but seven in here is a plural number. Like when we see in the last Verse of Surah al-Kahf, it mentions ‘Seven seas’, but it does not mean that if you bring an eight sea, then perhaps the “words of your Lord” would be exhausted, but it rather means that no matter how many seas you bring, the “words of your Lord” will not be exhausted.
- Thus, Ahruf refers to modes and methods of recitation. It does not mean “7 Imams of recitation”, there are in excess of 10 Imams in fact. Of course, each Imam was an expert in recitation and an extremely famous teacher in his time, and this is the reason that his name is taken alongside that recitation, but it definitely does not mean that they came up with a new recitation from themselves – rather they were taught by the Prophet (SAW) himself, and as we have seen, this is a proof for the dynamic nature of the Qur’an.
- We can give another example from Balaagha (rhetoric): In Surah al-Anbiyaa’, the most famous reading is: وَلَئِن مَّسَّتْهُمْ نَفْحَةٌ مِّنْ عَذَابِ رَبِّكَ لَيَقُولُنَّ يَا وَيْلَنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا ظَالِمِينَ (translated as: And if a breath of thy Lord’s punishment were to touch them, they assuredly would say: Alas for us! Lo! we were wrong-doers.) Each word in here refers to something little. Lain refers to if, so if refers to a possibility, something not certain. Massat-hum: touch them, just a touch, not a push or shove. Nafha: whiff, a breath, again it is not something solid and strong. Min ‘Adhaab = “from” the Punishment, not all the punishment, but only some of it. Rabbika = Your Lord, in order to show that Allah educates people and that He has mercy on them.
- The meaning is that if this little thing were to befall you, it would be a devastating thing. All of these words when separate they refer to something little, but when put together, the message is about something enormous.
- Another example, we have in the Qur’an: وَمِمَّا رَزَقْنَاهُمْ يُنفِقُونَ (translated as: and spend out of what We have provided them). But note that from this part of a Verse only, the scholars have derived six rulings, which are as follows: (1) Allah says that We have given you wealth, so give in the name of Allah. Note that it is also not only wealth, but anything that Allah has provided you with, such as love and knowledge. The “Ma Mawsuula” [lit. the “Ma” of joining] shows that it could be something other than money as well.
- (2) When you are giving of what Allah has provided, do not be haughty and say that “I, I have given you”, do not humiliate the person, since it is Allah who has given you this chance to have something so that you can spend some of it in the way of Allah (3) The word يُنفِقُونَ stresses the fact that the charity is given to the poor people, not to those who already have means. [The instructor does not seem to have completed the six rulings, but perhaps there are in fact four rulings he did mention, and the first ruling is in fact two rulings].
- So we see that when someone comes up to discuss something, the person’s knowledge has to be spotless. If their mind is fixed on only one thing, then we can unfortunately not go very far. The instructor says that in fact, we do not even live in the same world as such objectors (since for them the sciences we speak of just do not exist, so how can we engage with someone who rejects the existence of the basis for any follow-up discussion).
- Another example that we can point to is what is found in Surah al-An’aam, from the passage (وَلِيَقُولُوا دَرَسْتَ) [translated as: that they might say: ‘You have learned this (from somebody)]. In the reading of Hafs, it is دَرَسْتَ “Darasta”, saying that their contention is that ‘you (O Muhammad (SAW)) studied this well. In another reading, it is دَارَسَتْ “Daarasat”, pointing to their allegation that there is a committee of people from the People of the Book, that they are teaching this to Muhammad (SAW), and he is only saying what they tell him. Then there is yet another reading, where it is دَرَسَتْ “Darasat”, and the emphasis in here is more on the tales of old times, their contention being that whoever the Qur’an comes from, they don’t care, they consider it to be only fairy tales from the people who passed long ago. So this is from the miraculous nature of the Qur’an, that with one word revealed in different modes, all of the past, present, and future objections against the Qur’an have been presented and Allah has said that they are all wrong. But of course, others see this change and say: “Oh! It must be a change from the scribes of the Qur’an” or something of that sort, since they do not know, and have no interest in learning either.
- Another thing, they say that for example, there are 4,000 differences between the readings, so there is a huge problem in here. The fact is that these are a mercy and complementarity in the meanings is observed, and the dynamic nature of the Qur’an becomes manifest.
- One point I want to add in here is that these different acceptable Qira’aat show the analogy that in Islam, not everything is to be treated in one way only and with one answer only. For example, there are certain parts of the Qur’an where there is absolutely no different way of reciting – one is basically forced to read the words in a certain way, since there are no transmitted differences between the reciters. But in other places, we see that there are differences, so there is some flexibility in the way that the recitation may be done. But, in such cases, one has to follow the accepted methodology for reciting the Qur’an, one cannot simply make up their own rules, since this is totally disallowed.
- So this is a good way to make an analogy with the schools of jurisprudence: We see that people are of different temperaments and outlooks, and Allah out of His Wisdom and Mercy, allowed the Mujtahideen (expert scholars) who came after the Prophet (SAW) passed from this world to have certain different methodologies for deducing rulings from the primary texts of Islam. Knowing that such is the case, we need to avoid the two extremes: We should not say that there is only one absolute answer in matters where the Mujtahideen have expressed differences in opinion, but we should also understand that these differences in approach and results are circumscribed by the methodology and the approach developed by these Mujtahideen – thus, we cannot simply make up our own rules and start applying them to the primary Islamic texts.
- And we see that the same may be applied to other sciences of Islam, such as Hadeeth sciences, or the sciences of spirituality, and even some of the nomenclatures we use in Aqeedah, and so on (but I mentioned Fiqh since in the minds of many, it is the most contentious issue). I hope that this analogy will be of use to the readers, and I may develop it later on as necessary.
- Continuing with the topic of mercy, we see that the Prophet (SAW) was sent as a mercy to the whole Universe. Firstly, the Qur’an was revealed in the Qurayshi dialect, and at the beginning of Islam, people ere only slowly coming into Islam, since there were many problems for the first Muslims from the larger society. However, after the Hijra (migration), people started to come into Islam in larger numbers, and also from a number of different tribes.
- Now, imagine the difficulty that there would be if a Scottish man of say, 60 or 65 years, were to be commanded to speak English with an English accent. This would be quite difficult for him, to the point that he may perhaps give up altogether. Or if a Chinese man of 50 years of age were to be commanded to start speaking English with all the proper rules of grammar and so on. This would be very difficult indeed.
- The analogy is brought up since there were people who were coming into Islam who could not say, for example حَتَّى “Hatta” properly, for them it would sound like أتَّا “Atta”. And other such similar problems were seen among those who entered Islam.
- But as we know, the Qur’an itself was sent as a Mercy to the worlds, so the Prophet (SAW) asked Allah to make the recitation of the Qur’an easy for the people. So the Prophet (SAW) asked through Jibril for Allah to bring ease to the people in the matter of reciting the Qur’an, until Allah allowed the Prophet (SAW) to recite and teach the Qur’an is seven modes, and through this, the life of the people became easier. There is a comment that the issue of abrogation is also a matter of ease and Mercy from Allah (and this issue will be dealt with later on as well).
- Nowadays, the recitation that is most followed around the Muslim world is that of Hafs from ‘Aasim (RA). He learnt it from Abdulla as-Sulamyy, who learnt it from ‘Ali, Ibn Mas’ud, ‘Uthmaan, and Ubbay’ (Radhia Allahu Anhum). Then there is another recitation that is also read in the Muslim world, mostly in North Africa, and this is Naafi’ through Qaalun and Warsh, and these reach us from Ibn ‘Abbas and Abu Hurayra and from them to ‘Umar, Ubbay’, and Zayd bin Thaabit (Radhia Allahu Anhuma).
- Note that the Prophet (SAW) had so much knowledge, and he taught his Companions what each one of them needed to know at that time and for their circumstances. The rule for the speaker (and as an extension for all Muslims) is that if the Prophet (SAW) taught this, there is no “tangible” difference in his book – they are all the same as far as he is concerned.
- Of course, we see that the case of how the Prophet (SAW) taught his Companions is of importance for us to understand many things, since the hearts of the Companions, even though they were open and receptive to the truth, could still not match the voluminous expanse of the heart of the Prophet (SAW) in terms of the huge amount of knowledge, of spiritual gifts, of closeness to Allah, that his Lord had bestowed upon him (SAW). So the Prophet (SAW) gave to each Companion what that Companion could bear, and from here we also understand the different specializations we had among the Companions; that for example, Ibn ‘Abbas (RAA) was known as the exegete of this nation, Ibn ‘Umar (RAA) was known for his transmission of Ahadeeth, Ibn Mas’ud (RAA) was known for his recitation being directly from the Prophet (SAW) and also for his excellence in Fiqhi matters, and so on with many of the famous Companions.
- The question was asked that what about the Arab Christians of the early Islamic times, did they make these types of criticisms about the Qur’an, and the instructor says that no they did not make these types of criticisms, and in fact they were amazed at the Qur’an.
- This question is actually connected to another issue, which is that the spoken Arabic of today is more of a slang in comparison with classical Arabic (and you see the truth of this, when someone who speaks for example Iraqi Arabic [perhaps they only learned how to speak, but they did not attend an Arabic-medium school] says that they cannot understand what is written in the classical Arabic books, that this is something else for them).
- Anyway, it is only through the Qur’an, its modes of recitation, and their preservation, that we can still today see some of the dialects of the Arabs of that time, and the words that they used in such times. We need to remember that we Muslims are unlike some of the Jews, who said that Hebrew is only a language for their prayers, and that in their day-to-day activities they will use some other language such as Yiddish.
- From this we also see that it is necessary even for the modern Arab to study the sciences of classical Arabic in order to form a proper idea about the Qur’an to the degree that the Arabs at the dawn of the Prophetic revelation were able to understand the miracle of the Qur’an first-hand. Thus, if some Arab comes forth and says that he does not understand what the Qur’an is saying and that henceforth the “Qur’an must be wrong”, we say that the problem is with him, and that he has to make an effort in this respect.
- The issue now comes to some of the signs through which we can know whether the alleged “Verse” may have ever been a revealed part of the Qur’an. For example, one of the allegations is that there was a Chapter in the Qur’an which began with (something like) ‘O Ibn Aadam, if he had a mountain of gold…”. But this is not a characteristic of the Qur’an to address human beings as “Ibn Aadam”. It may be a Prophetic narration alright, but in the Qur’an, we always find “Bani Aadam”. So spotting these types of signs and characteristics needs knowledge of Nahw (grammar) and Sarf (morphology), and this is something that the non-expert cannot hope to attain simply by browsing through the allegations.
- Another example of an alleged “difference” is in Surah al-Baqarah, where we see the word as ‘تَطَهَّرْنَ’ (‘Tatahharna’). But perhaps it may be written and pronounced at times as ‘تَتَطَهَّرْنَ’ (‘Tatatahharna’). So someone may make an issue out of the missing ‘تَ’ in the other writing. But the truth is that this is some rule in the type of verbs of the type تَفَعُّل , and this again needs a more thorough understanding of the matters than what is possible with a cursory understanding of matters. [Note that the Shaykh wrote يَطَهَّرْنَ , maybe there is some misunderstanding, but I need to ask if possible about this matter].
- Or in Surah al-Faatiha itself, the majority recite it as “Maaliki Yawmi”, but Naafi’ recites it as “Maliki Yawmi” with the omission of the extra “Alif”.
- So consider that the instructor himself has been learning these sciences for perhaps more than 20 years, and he is still learning, so how someone come just out of the blue and talk about these matters. The instructor reiterates that, of course, it is not necessary for everyone to learn these things, but if someone wishes to talk about this matter, then he has to get knowledge about the topic at hand. Either that, or he must follow the advice of the Prophetic narration which says that the Muslim is to either speak what is good, or he is to remain silent.
- In response to a question from one of the students, the instructor says that many of the Muslims nowadays are lazy, in that they are simply not willing to learn their religion properly. They may go after the secular education, then place their money in going to universities, and after that work hard in order to get this house and that car – which is basically what the non-Muslims do. But as we discussed above, the Muslim is to do everything for Allah only, spend his money also for the sake of Allah and make a sacrifice in order to learn the religion of Allah (this may require sacrifice of time, or money, and so forth).
- We can discuss now another allegation, which is that Ibn Mas’ud (RAA) had in his Mushaf all the Chapters, but he omitted Surah al-Faatiha, al-Falaaq, and An-Naas. The reason is that we recite these Chapters daily, so there is no chance that they wil get lost. Besides, the Qur’anic recitation that most of recite is from ‘Asim from Sulami from whom? From Ibn Mas’ud (RAA) among others. And Hamza through Khallaad also comes through Ibn Mas’ud (RAA). The instructor has a Mushaf of Khallaad in his possession, and this Mushaf has 114 Chapters in it, just as all the other copies of the text of the Qur’an.
- Note that there are other people at the level of as-Sulami mentioned above in the chain of Hafs, that is Successors of the Companions who learned the Qur’an from the Sahabah, but the instructor has skipped them. Imam Hamza (mentioned above) also learned from ‘Ali (RAA). Kisaai’ learned from Ibn Mas’ud, this is generally known as the school of Kufa and it is their transmission. And we do not find all of these problems with them (such as wholesale missing Chapters, etc.) when we consider the issue seriously.
- Coming back to the personal copies, it is possible that certain people keep a personal copy of the Qur’an which contains only part of the Qur’an. Certain people, they keep only the last two Ajzaa’ of the Qur’an (numbers 29 and 30), an they recite them continuously in order to learn, or for other purpose. Certain translations of the Qur’an we have are also partial: for example, we have the translation of Martin Lings or the Helminski translation, which are partial translations of the Qur’an. But this does not mean that Lings did not believe the rest to be part of the Qur’an.
- I will give you my own personal example. I have the two different reciters of the Qur’an on my mobile phone’s memory card. The issue is that I have 107 Ajzaa’ in total. So, how is this possible? Well, because many of the Ajzaa’ are repeated, so I preferred one recording of a certain Juz over another recording of the same Juz’, but I decided to keep them both.
- Another thing is that the Ajzaa’ are jumbled in my mobile, so after Juz’ 2 is finished it starts with Juz’ 25 for example. Alhamdullilah, these are numbered on my phone so it saves a lot of confusion, but the one with filth in their hearts will say: “Oh! The author of this site believes that after Ayah 252 of Surah al-Baqarah the next portion f the Qur’an is in Surah Fussilat. Islam is in crisis!”
- But where did they get the idea that the way Ayah number 252 of Surah al-Baqarah is followed by an Ayah in Surah Fussilat actually reflects my beliefs? It is clear that this is from their minds only, and from the desire to make Muslims apostatize. This matter has to be kept in mind, since it shows that something very obvious to the person may be made into something completely different by those who wish to deceive the Muslims.
- Now, the instructor comes to another allegation, which is regarding the fact that Ibn Mas’ud (RAA) did not wish to give up his Mushaf. Now, there were twelve Companions along with Zayd bin Thaabit (RAA) who formed the committee for collecting the Qur’an. Ibn Mas’ud was in Kufa and he did not know what was happening in Madinah. So when they came to collect this Mushaf, there was some opposition, until the matter was explained to him that it was not only the much younger Zayd (RAA) who requested this, but it was also from the orders of the Khalifa (‘Uthmaan (RAA)), and also ‘Ali, Ubbay’ (RAA) and others also agreed to this matter. So after the matter was explained to him, then he followed the rest of the community.
- We can also understand the emotional attachment that develops when one has their own copy of the Mushaf. The instructor says that he has his Mushaf which he used to read often, and he remembers when and where a fly landed on it, or a leaf, or if there was rain water, and so forth. And this is only in the case of having a Mushaf, so then what about the case of compiling the Mushaf for many years in the presence of the Prophet (SAW).
- All in all, there was really no doubt, only a slight opposition that was sorted out. And besides, many of the narrations brought with respect to Ibn Mas’ud (RAA) are not Saheeh even according to the rules of Hadith sciences, so there is really no strong argument to begin with.
- The instructor mentions that a consensus was reached in the Muslim nation concerning all matters related to the Qur’anic sciences, in both its recitation and its writing, so the people who are bringing up excuses are akin to the devils. What he means is that Shaytaan does not stand close to the person for a very long time, but only whispers something and then goes away. It is up to the person as to whether he will act on the suggestion of the Shaytaan, or will he dismiss it – and for the dismissal, in many cases one needs to have knowledge of what the true rulings or situations are.
- Again the instructor mentions that in order to engage in something, one has to have knowledge of that field. He gives the example of Tassawwuf (Islamic spirituality), in that no one will be allowed to enter into this field (at least within the chain he belongs to) unless he has proper knowledge of Islamic beliefs and of jurisprudence, for otherwise he will be a toy of the devils, and they will do whatever they want with him. It is very sad that many so-called “Shaykhs” neglect all the important matters of Islamic beliefs and jurisprudence, and then people look at them and say: “Oh! Look at the people of Tassawwuf… is this Tassawwuf? I do not want to have anything to do with this ‘science’”. So we need to be very careful about the prerequisites needed in order to enter into the study of any field.
- As an additional thing, I had mentioned something about prerequisites in the secular universities and secular fields, but let me expand on this just a little. Let us suppose that some person who is very interested in physics (but is not a physicist, nor a student of physics) goes to the dean of physics in his university and says that ‘you know, there are such and such problems in the world of physics, and such matters are troubling, etc.’ the very first thing that he will be told is to become humble and study physics formally. Even if he were a student of physics and he comes forth to his teacher with unusual and difficult problems, he will be told to be patient, to carry on with his study of the field, and then these doubts and problems can be discussed in their proper time. So this type of analogy has to be really stored in our minds if we want to understand how the situation is to be handled properly as far as allegations against Islam are concerned.
- Some people might say that well, the thing is that physics or biology are continuing endeavors in order to increase human knowledge, and they cannot be compared with Islam, where there is a claim of “eternal and absolute truths” permeating the whole of the religion. We say that there are a number of issues in here: (1) The hard natural sciences have based their fields on a certain type of mindset that is no less absolutistic than that of Islam. Thus, when someone says that at any given moment we cannot claim to have reached the absolute truth concerning any given proposition about the natural world, but that there is always room for future discoveries to overturn the basic paradigms of the field, this is also a type of absolute statement, even if it is couched in terms of what I call “negative absolutes”. (2) Even if we discard the “hard sciences” from this discussion, we see that other sciences such as economics, sociology, or other fields connected with human behavior also have their specializations, their gradient of theories, and so forth, and it is not possible in even these “softer fields” for a nobody to come and criticize matters without a solid and formal background in the fields he is referring to (3) Even if we were to suppose that only Islam is absolute in its presentation of claims, it does not follow that expertise in Islam should be disdained. In fact, this attitude is from the same type of mindset we had mentioned before, where the non-Muslim presupposes that the Islamic religion is nothing more than childish fairy tales, and that there is actually no possibility for experts or expert knowledge to be connected to such a field.
- Next, it is mentioned that even the Saheeh Ahadith come under the category of Ahaad narrations. But the matter of the authenticity of the Qur’an is an issue of beliefs, so it is only through Mutawaatir (mass transmitted) narrations that we can establish anything in this field.
- Note that Aqeedah is not philosophy, this is a very important mistake that people absolutely have to avoid. You will dig yourself into a grave if you only study philosophy and then expect for everything to be sorted out with respect to your Islamic faith. The instructor mentions that you are putting your kids into immense hardships if you behave like this with your Islamic beliefs.
- We do want to learn how to carry out refutations of the non-Muslims, but people do not even know what the traditional scholars of the Ash’ari and Maturidi Aqeedahs encompass in their works. Or perhaps they think that such traditionalists are in fact deviants, and that we should stick to certain other types of people (there is no need to discuss this here; it has been discussed quite extensively in other places).
- Then we have some people who call themselves Muslims, and yet they deny such fundamental things as the punishment in the grave. There are 250 narrations from the Prophet (SAW) about the punishment in the grave, it is also Mutawaatir from the sayings of the Salaf (early generations of Muslims), so how does someone today deny these things?
- Note that in Imam Abu Hanifa’s (RA) Fiqh al-Absat, he mentions that if anyone believes in the text of a certain Qur’anic Ayah, but does not believe in its interpretation, then that person has lost his faith.
- The instructor then mentions that these are not the sort of things that one can learn from opening up and studying philosophy books; rather one needs to take these from Naql (i.e. the transmitted texts). Yes, we use ‘Aql (reasoning), but as far as the Naql is concerned we take the texts transmitted to us and try to understand it with our ‘Aql. But we do not deny the texts simply because they seem to present some contradictions, or there are some difficulties that may be present for us in them. By the way, yes, there may be a number of circumstances when a narration with a correct chain is rejected in the field in which it seems to be most applicable, but then again, this is a matter of the methodology of the scholars for that field and the discussion concerning such matters is quite extensive and well-known to its people, but it is not something that any person can do simply by reading the translations of these Ahadith books.
Second part of first speech
- Now we com to the “second part” of the first speech. This is where the instructor is talking about the topics of Naasikh and Mansuukh (the abrogating and abrogated Verses). This is a topic in which a lot of attention has to be paid, since it has quite an important influence in the field of Qur’anic commentary (and also in jurisprudence, and other matters).
- What has happened in our day and age, again due to ignorance, is that certain people quote an abrogated Verse in order to “derive” a ruling, and they do not have any idea that the ruling connected to this Verse has been abrogated, and in this way put themselves and others in immense hardship with respect to their religion.
- First of all, we should see what “Abrogation” means in the language. In the language, it means to remove or annihilate. نَسِخَتُ الشَمْسُ الظِّلُّ [the Sun has removed the shadow]. It is als2o used when referring to copying of books. This is why the copy that was prepared during ‘Uthman’s (RAA) time was called إسْتِنْسَاخ ‘Istinsaakh’.
- There is evidence about Naskh is the Qur’an itself, in Surah al-Baqarah, Verse 106, where Allah says: مَا نَنْسَخْ مِنْ آيَةٍ أَوْ نُنْسِهَا نَأْتِ بِخَيْرٍ مِنْهَا أَوْ مِثْلِهَا ۗ أَلَمْ تَعْلَمْ أَنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِي (translated as: Nothing of our revelation (even a single verse) do we abrogate or cause be forgotten, but we bring (in place) one better or the like thereof. Knowest thou not that Allah is Able to do all things?)
- The question has been raised in certain quarters, that does this not refer to the previous scriptures, instead of Verses from the Qur’an? In order to understand this issue, we need to note that the Verse says Ayah (Verses), it is not saying Kitaab, or Kutub. [Of course, the rules of the previous scriptures have been abrogated, but we are talking about whether this is what this particular Verse is talking about].
- Note a very important point, that abrogation occurs only in laws and regulations, it does not occur to stories, or to matters related to information concerning the Ghayb. This is obvious, because that which has occurred is done and finished with, and that which is to occur as stated by Allah the Exalted also has no doubt associated with it. But in terms of the practicalities of rulings, we can envisage that different sets of actions may be connected to reward and punishment, and there is nothing strange in that.
- We know that even in secular law, abrogation takes place quite often, such as repeal of laws, their amendment, and so forth. I would say that even the passing of a law is a sort of “abrogation”, for the simple reason that the previous “state of affairs” is superseded by the state introduced through the passing of the new law. So this is something that should not be cause for claiming that Islam is not perfect and so forth.
- So we say that Allah brought forth this practice of abrogation in order to educate people, and to show His Mercy towards them. The Ahkaam (the rules) prescribe the legal relationships between people as Allah wishes for them to be applied.
- Consider that one of the advantages of the different modes of recitation is that there may be some easier rulings that may be derived from certain readings that affect the life of Muslims. The instructor briefly mentions the example of the women on their menses and how certain modes of recital give leniency in certain matters.
- One obvious example of how abrogation took place is with respect to the drinking of intoxicants. First we see in Surah 16:67, Allah makes a separation between intoxicants and good provisions, in order that the people may start to reflect that intoxicants are something other than good provisions. Then in Surah 2:209, Allah mentions that there is benefit in the intoxicants, but their sin is greater than their benefit. So now we see that there is some sin and harm attached to the drinking of intoxicants. Then in Surah an-Nisaa’ Allah orders the believers not to approach the prayers while they are drunk. So now people had to time their drinking, so as to not conflict with the times of prayer, but the people were also being prepared for the last ruling, which came in Surah al-Ma’idah, where Allah mentions that they are but a defilement of the Shaytaan, so avoid it. At this stage, all the Muslims left the drinking of alcohol, to the point that even those who had the cups in their hands threw it away rather than procrastinate and say that we will drink this last cup then we will leave.
- So we see the stages in which this abrogation came: First they could make it, then they had to time their drinking, and only after the final declaration did they have to leave it legally. Of course, some people had left drinking even before the final revealed Verse, but we are talking in here about the majority of the people.
- We can also see abrogation for example, in the issue of the prayer direction. First, the Muslims could pray in absolutely any direction, but then this was fixed only towards the Masjid al-Haraam in Makkah. We also notice that from one of the recitations, there is the possibility for some Rukhsa (loosening of the rules, or postponement in times of genuine difficulty) to be derived from the Qur’anic Verses. Thus, if someone is in genuine difficulty with respect to finding the correct Qibla, there is a provision for such situations, since the Islamic religion did not come to make things difficult for people.
- We see the wisdom behind the gradual abrogation in the situation of alcohol. What do you think would have happened if Allah had declared that people had to stop drinking alcohol immediately? There would have been many problems in the bodies of such people, such as alcohol withdrawal, delirium, hallucinations, then there were no medicines such as Librium back then, etc. One might have even lose his life in such situations, if he is told to immediately stop drinking.
- So we see that the allegations brought up with respect to the practice of abrogation are in fact quite silly, since this was carried out only to educate people, and also to test them, in that will they follow through with the gradual increase in “difficulty”, or will they turn away. So this is a multifaceted matter, and the allegations cannot touch the reality behind this issue.
- So now we come to another one of the allegations, which is concerning the goat and his eating of the Qur’anic Verses. Actually this is a narration found in Sunan Ibn Maajah, and from the narration itself it is not clear that any part of the Qur’an was lost. The narration basically says that the Verses of stoning and suckling were kept under a pillow in Ayesha’s (RAA) house, and while the people were busy after the Prophet’s (SAW) death, a goat came and ate the papers.
- The first thing we see is that the authenticity of these narrations is not up to the mark, for there is a person in the chain by the name of Muhammad ibn Ishaq, and he has been deemed weak and unauthentic, due to Tadlees (the practice if subtly skipping the links through which his Ahadeeth came.)
- So from this angle the story is not strong, but also if we see it from other ways, it cannot possibly affect the authenticity of the Qur’an. For example, one of the “Verses” that were eaten was about stoning. But we know from other narrations that the punishment of stoning was indeed revealed as a commandment, but the Prophet (SAW) did not allow it to be written as part of the Qur’an. This means that it was not meant to be integrally part of the Qur’an.
- And this is known from Zayd (RAA) himself, that when he asked the Prophet (SAW) whether he could write this into the Mushaf, the Prophet (SAW) did not allow that. So if Zayd is the main commissioner, he knows what is to go into the Qur’an, and if something was missing, he would know that its place is truly within the Qur’an.
- About the suckling ten times, other narrations say that it was abrogated. The interesting thing is that it is through another narration from Ayesha (RAA) where she mentions that this was not part of the Qur’an. So even if the goat did eat this paper, then still nothing of the Qur’n would have been lost.
- Another thing, is that Ayesha (RAA) lived through the entire time of Abu Bakr and ‘Uthman (RAA) while the compilation of the Qur’an was ongoing, and she was considered a huge authority in the religion (the instructor mentions that two-thirds of the religion was to be taken from Ayesha (RAA). I am not sure if it is two-thirds or one-half, but anyway, we know she was a big authority in the religion). And also, ‘Uthmaan (RAA) made special arrangements to include ‘Ayesha (RAA) during the compilation and writing down of the Qur’an, so it is inconceivable that such alleged “lost Verses” would not have been raised as an issue during such times.
- We also have to remember that again, these are all solitary narrations, and they cannot overturn what we know as Mutawaatir (mass transmitted) matters. If people want to know why such narrations are mentioned in the books, then this can be provided, while keeping the above rule in mind.
- Now, here we have to explain one thing that may have been unclear when we used the phrase “suckling”, since otherwise it might cause confusion. What is meant is that if a child had been suckled by a wet-nurse before a certain age, then that suckling establishes a relationship akin to blood relations insofar as marriage is concerned – most importantly, the fact that marriage between those related by suckling is forbidden. This is the very brief matter of it, even though there are many rules concerning this situation.
- So there is also an issue of abrogation in here, in that at first 10 sucklings would have established this forbiddance in this realm, then it was reduced to five, and finally only to one. And as we know, this practice of wet-nurses was common in Arabia at that time (and in many other places in the world), and had the injunctions come down all at once, it would have caused chaos in the society. That is why the matter was elucidated in full only gradually – and this again shows the mercy of Allah towards His slaves.
- Again, the instructor mentions Imam an-Nawawi (RA) and his position that matters of this magnitude and of such importance are not proved from solitary narrations – and the Imam had mentioned this in connection with this report of the sucklings itself.
- In response to a question from the students, the instructor says that the first thing that one must do is to study Aqeedah (such as Aqeedah at-Tahaawiya), and also some of the Tafsirs (such as Tafsir ibn Katheer – even though I am not so sure that it is to be used as a study tool, since the English edition has been very abridged, and this might affect the quality of this Tafseer as a study tool for beginners, in addition to some other issues connected with this Tafseer).
- There is also another allegation mentioned briefly, that Abu Musa al-Ash’ari (RAA) called on the Qurra of Basra and he told them that there was one Chapter as long as Surah al-Baqarah that had been revealed, but that he remembered none of it except the “Ibn Aadam, that if he were to have a valley of gold he would wish for a second one” and so forth. The instructor does not explain this in more detail, but what I understand is that since Abu Musa (RAA) already said that this was abrogated and that it was not meant to be part of the Qur’an, then there is no issue at all. Besides, since none of the other Qurra’ remembered anything about this Chapter, then there is really no issue for serious consideration at all.
- The instructor then comes back to the “goat eating the page of the Qur’an” issue, and says that there are many more angles from which this narration is weak. For example, no one kept goats in their homes [even though this is not a strong point in my view, the goat may have been around and come into the house], and the Qur’an was written on skins, stones, bones, and paper was actually very rare. Also, the instructor says that he has been a shepherd, and he knows what goats eat. Then, there is the issue of the word used in this narration (Saheefa versus Suhuf)`, and the fact that Ayesha (RAA) kept a personal copy of the Qur’an and these “Verses” were not included in it at all. So we see different angles from which the narration may be considered as flawed in its text.
- The instructor then closes his talk by saying that commentaries on Ahaadeeth can also be read, whether it is about this issue or other related matters. I say that it is good to seek out a comprehensive knowledge of Islam, so that we are not only trying to refute allegations, but that we also gain knowledge of Islam organically and holistically.
Part 2: Shaykh Atabek an-Nasafi’s lecture on the Qur’an
- The Shaykh mentions that there are a number of issues to be discussed. These include the question of is the Qur’an Mutawaatir, what exactly did Uthmaan (RAA) burn. Then there is another issue, since it is mentioned that the Qur’an was revealed twice, so what does this mean…since some people will look at such narrations and say that: “Oh! The Qur’an has been revealed twice, then how do we know that it was not invented at one time and then gradually divulgated amongst people”, and other such types of allegations.
- Or some other matters brought up, such as the Qur’an was revealed in seven modes (the Shaykh calls them directions), but that ‘Uthman burned everything except one mode, so they are trying to say that the Muslims are deliberately twisting things.
- Or another thing that is said concerning the Prophet (SAW) sometimes when he would receive revelation, the consciousness of what was around him would go (sometimes), so people try to say that this was a sort of epilepsy, and other such sorts of allegations. (To be honest, the Shaykh only handles one allegation in detail, and then there are some other allegations he also handles, but not these ones that he has mentioned above. Perhaps at some point in the future I might try to deal with them as best as I can, or preferably I need to ask a scholar concerning how to deal with these issues.)
- The main claim to be addressed in here is concerning one narration where Anas bin Malik (RAA) says that only four people have memorized the Qur’an. The Shaykh says that he heard it for the first time in 2001 or 2002, and he learned that the presentation of this as it is brought forth was actually from orientalists (and by extension, by non-Muslim missionaries).
- Anyway, the tradition from Bukhari and Muslim states that only 4 people memorized the Qur’an (and their names are mentioned, including Abuy Zayd, and Ubbay’. In another narration from ash-Shaami six Companions are mentions, and in yet another narration 5 people are mentioned, including Zayd bin Thaabit and Abu Ayyub al-Ansaari (so we can already see that the names are different in different narrations and this divergence is noted among the narrations).
- Anyway, as one may glean from our discussions, the main Muslim group does not accept such narrations at face value. We say that there are a huge number of evidences showing that there were many more Huffadh than only the four mentioned in that one narration.
- Even if someone were to say that fine, only four people knew the Qur’an totally, still there were a huge number of people who had memorized certain portions of the Qur’an, and if these people were to be brought together to write the Qur’an, then it could easily have been written at least one hundred times, and we should take note of this fact: since there were about 124 thousand Companions, then it is difficult to see even how “only four” would hurt the compilation of the Qur’an as a whole.
- For example, it would be extremely easy to find at least one thousand Companions who had memorized at least 3 Ajzaa of the Qur’an, and in this way the whole Qur’an would have been covered at least a hundred times.
- We know that the Arabs of that time used to have no difficulty in memorizing their Diwaans (poems), even if they ran into thousands of lines, and this was a matter that was drilled into them from a young age. For example, if someone was from the tribe of Quraysh, an ‘Adawi for example, there would be very important poems (the Shaykh says ‘exciting poems’) composed by the contemporary and past ‘Adawis, and it would be a matter of pride for them, and it was very important for the majority of them to memorize such poems.
- There is one thing I need to mention, that even today in the schools dedicated for Tahfeedh (memorization of Qur’an) in the more conservative Arab lands, the teachers will expect the young students to memorize the part of the Qur’an assigned to them for that class after it has been read in class only once. If the student cannot memorize the allotted portion of the Qur’an, they will consider that something is wrong with the child, and will call the child’s parents to see if the child is ill, or if there is some problem at home that is troubling the child, and so forth. So the task of memorizing the Qur’an briskly is still a reality in many parts of the Muslim world, even though in other parts this has unfortunately not been emphasized as much as it should.
- So, back to the topic, we see that in might take a maximum of two weeks to memorize three or four Chapters of the Qur’an.
- Also, we notice from one narration in Imam Ahmad’s collection, when some migrants would come to Madeenah, the Prophet (SAW) would appoint some people to teach them the Qur’an. For example, the Prophet (SAW) said that the people of the Ash’ari tribe were recognized by him due to their recitation, and the people of this tribe took some of the newer Emigrants as students after the Prophet (SAW) hinted at this in one his speeches.
- There is another narration in the Sahih of Imam Muslim, where Abdullah ibn Mas’ud (RAA) said that the people knew he was the most knowledgeable in the field of Qur’anic recitation, and that if he knew someone more knowledgeable, he would definitely go to him to learn the Qur’an. He also mentioned in another narration that he knew all the Verses of the Qur’an, including how and where they were revealed, and what were the circumstances behind the revelation, etc. But Ibn Mas’ud (RAA) is not mentioned among the four, so we have to see what this one particular Hadith means.
- Also, we see that ‘Uthman is not mentioned among the four people. This is even though he was well-known as a teacher of the Qur’an. In fact, when the people surrounded his house to kill him, his wife went out and told the people that if you want to kill him, then do what you want, but he used to do the recitation of the entire Qur’an in one night in one Rakaah [in other words, have you no shame, that you want to kill someone who recites the Qur’an at least once every night?]
- Also, as reported by adh-Dhahaabi, Abu Ubayda ibn al-Jarrah (RAA) was also one of those who memorized the entire Qur’an during the lifetime of the Prophet (SAW). Also, Tamim ad-Daari (RAA) used to recite the entire Qur’an within seven nights and he was also one of those who memorized the Qur’an [Tamim ad-Daari (RAA) was a priest who converted to Islam during the Prophet’s (SAW) lifetime, and there is a narration where it is mentioned that he was shipwrecked and say the Dajjal chained on an island.]. Ibn Hajar Al-‘Asqalaani (RA) also mentioned ‘Uqba bin al-‘Amir (RAA), who memorized and wrote the Qur’an, and Imam Ibn Hajar says that he personally say a copy of ‘Uqba’s (RAA) Mushaf. Al-‘Asqalaani also mentions Mujamma ibn al-Jariya as one of those who memorized the Qur’an, though it is not mentioned if this was totally during the lifetime of the Prophet (SAW) or not.
- Al-Isbahaani (author of Hilyatul Awliyaa’) mentions that once Abu Musa al-‘Ash’ari was in the Masjid of Basra and he said that he wants to have a discussion, but only the Qurra can enter this circle. When all the Qurra went in, there were about three hundred people.
- There is also a Hadith in Sahih Muslims were the Prophet (SAW) says to take the Qur’an from four: Ibn Mas’ud, Saalim [the servant of Abu Hudhayfa], Mu’adh ibn Jabal, and Ubbay’ ibn Ka’b.
- Actually, Anas was not making a controversy about this matter, or saying that all of the people whom we know were Huffaadh were actually not Huffaadh. What happened was that there was a discussion between the Khazraj and other groups of Muslims, and it was in this context that Anas mentioned these four memorizers of the Qur’an. In order to show the virtue of the Khazraj, Anas (RA) mentioned only these four Huffaadh at that time. [This issue will be explained in more detail later on.]
- In Sunan an-Nasaai, Ibn ‘Umar (RAA) says he collected the Qur’an, memorized it, and read it in front of the Prophet (SAW).
- When all of these narrations are brought together, we have in the range of 15 to 20 memorizers of the Qur’an among the Companions. We also have the Qurra who were killed in the Bi’r (Well) of Ma’unah, who numbered seventy (note that the Prophet (SAW) sent them out, so it means that there must have been a huge number of those who had memorized the Qur’an at that time amongst the Muslims, because the Prophet (SAW) was taking a risk with their lives – which they did lose. If these had been the only reciters of the Qur’an, there would be no way that the Prophet (SAW) would have sent out so many Qurra at once in such a risky situation). Anyway, they were called Qurra, which means that they were specialized and known for their knowledge in Qur’anic recitation and memorization, and this is another proof that the number was much more than four, five, seven, etc.
- Imam as-Suyuuti (RA) mentions in his book, al-Itqaan, in the 20th Chapter, all those who were memorizers of the Qur’an among the Companions, and this list is quite long.
- Now, if we go back to the narration where the Prophet (SAW) mentions the four from whom we should take the Qur’an, we see that there are 2 from the Emigrants and 2 from the Helpers. Also, the narration of Anas (RAA) is narrated with a Sahih chain, but there is a difference in the list of people mentioned. So we know that either there is something wrong in the narration itself, or it was said for a particular circumstance (I have to ask about this, but it could be two different occasions when Anas (RAA) mentioned this, and the list of people was a little bit different based on the situation).
- So we come now to some of the explanations concerning this matter. Ibn Hajar (RAA) says that this number (4) was said with respect to the specific praising of the Ansaar. Imam as-Suyooti (RA) and a number of other Imams have criticized the limiting to the number 4 if it is taken in an absolute sense. They say that do not take it to be only 4, since this is impossible, the Companions were spread all over the world and they were a huge amount, so it was not possible to say that only four have learnt the Qur’an totally.
- One interesting thing: Imam as-Suyooti (RA) says that the Malaahida (atheists) have clung to the apparent literal meaning of this narration in order to attack the Muslims. Shaykh Atabek says that May Allah have mercy on you, Oh Imam As-Suyooti (RAA), do not say ‘atheists’, in our day and age, even some Muslims have started to parrot this statement without thinking.
- Anyway, we do not take this narration in its apparent (Thaahir) meaning, since the number of Companions was huge, and it was not as if Anas (RAA) could go door to door and conduct a poll asking: “Are you a Companion? And if so, did you memorize the Qur’an?”
- We also see that Anas (RAA) when he first saw the Prophet (SAW) was about 9 years old and when the Prophet (SAW) passed from this world, he was 19 years old, and there were many Companions who were much more senior to him, and it was unlikely that he would sit with them in their meetings and gatherings (to find out everything about them or to discuss religious matters with them, since he was a kid and then a teenager). Not only this, but we see that even during the Prophet’s (SAW) lifetime, the Muslims were in different parts of the Arabian Peninsula, and there were Muslims even in Ethiopia (as we know from the story of the Najaashi).
- Imam Al-Qurtubi (RA) also mentions that on the Day of the Battle of Yamaamah, 70 or 72 Huffaadh were killed, as well as the same story of the Bi’r Ma’unah, to show that there were a great number of Huffaadh.
- Now, let me see say about the matter of Yamaamah, that just as we have seen above in two cases – the expedition to Persia and this very incident of Bi’r Ma’unah – those with knowledge of Islam would generally be kept back in order to teach the people about Islam, and they would not be sent out to expeditions, which were dangerous by definition. But at this time, which was just after the Prophet (SAW) had passed on from this world, the memorizers of the Qur’an were very many, so much so that we do not even know the names of these memorizers who were killed in Yamaamah. So one can see that there were probably hundreds or even thousands of Companions and their Successors at that very time that had totally memorized the Qur’an.
- With respect to the worry of the Companions about the potential loss of the Qur’an which was conveyed to Abu Bakr (RAA), this seems to be simply a matter of extreme scrupulousness on part of the Companions, not that a huge majority of the Qurra’ had been killed, or that even some of the Qur’an had been lost forever (May Allah keep our minds away from such insinuations). We know this because some of the Sahaabah had Qur’an classes in which their students ran into the thousands, and the knowledge of the memorization of the Qur’an has been multiplying in the Muslim world since that time up to now. Obviously, even today most of those who have memorized Qur’an are not famous people, but are the normal men and women of Islam who have taken it upon themselves to memorize the Qur’an. We call them Huffaadh, even though they may have never formally learnt from a Qaari, and may never formally teach the Qur’an to anyone else, but they are part of the mass of people who protect the Qur’an in their hearts.
- The Shaykh mentions that Imam al-Baqilani (RA) gave certain clarifications for this statement of Anas (RAA), and he gave eight possible answers which are: (1) The argument from exclusion. For example, if someone says that four people have Mercedes cars, does it mean that no one else has the same Mercedes car? No it does not necessarily mean that; so there is something that we understand from what is said, and also from what is not explicitly excluded (2) That only four memorized all the seven modes of recitation (3) That only these four were reading the abrogated as well as the ones that were in the Qur’an proper (4) That only these four received their Qur’anic instruction directly from the Prophet (SAW). For example, Ibn Abbas (RAA) was a Haafidh but he only took some of the Qur’an directly from the Prophet (SAW). The rest he took from Companions such as Abu Bakr, ‘Umar, Zayd ibn Thaabit, Ubbay’ (RAA) (5) That these four were famous as teachers of the Qur’an. For example, when Zayd (RAA) was summoned to write the text of the Qur’an, Abu Bakr (RAA) said that he was famous for being a scribe of the Qur’an even during the time of the Prophet (SAW). So it could be a specification of their being famous (6) These four were known for having had written copies of the Qur’an. The Shaykh mentions that this is not a good answer, since we know so many other Sahabah who had written the Qur’anic text. For example, we know that Ibn Mas’ud (RAA) had a copy of the Qur’an he had written directly from the Prophet (SAW) (7) These four people used to publicly say that they had memorized the Qur’an (8) These four people were the ones who implemented everything in the Qur’an.
- But Ibn Hajar (RA) says that al-Baqilani (RA) has tried to push the matter too down by his answers. What I believe he means is that there are still some big holes in the answers, since taking the number as only ‘4’ would expose problems with almost all the answers of al-Baqilaani above. It seems that only the first answer is in concordance with the rest of the information we have about the Companions and the Qur’an [I need to ask more about this matter, but this is what is appears to me at the moment.]
- Ibn Hajar (RA) says that this narration specifies the Khazraj only (the Shaykh mentions ‘Aws, but in the Arabic it is the Khazraj tribe). So in the Hadith from at-Tabari, it is mentioned that the ‘Aws and the Khazraj started to mention their good qualities to each other (like a show of how they were of utmost service to Islam). The ‘Aws mentioned that there are four people in us: One for whom the Throne shook (Sa’d bin Mu’adh (RAA)); One whose testimony is equal to two men (Khuzayma (RAA)); One for whom the angels gave Ghusl after he had been martyred (Hanzala (RAA), who was in a state of Janaaba (major sexual impurity) when he joined the battle); and one from whom Allah sent bees/wasps to protect his body (‘Asim bin Thabit (RAA), who was ambushed and killed by the Qurayshi idolaters, they wanted to bring back a part of his body to Makkah so that they could chop it into pieces, but Allah sent bees and they could not get any part of his body). As a response to this, Anas (RAA) mentioned that there were four from the Khazraj who had memorized the Qur’an – so this shows that the narration was mentioned in this particular situation, and was not general and absolute.
- Coming back to the Companions who memorized the Qur’an, we know that Abu Bakr (RAA) and ‘Umar (RAA) were among those who were Huffaadh. Abu Bakr (RAA) used to keep a Mussala (prayer room) in his house where he would recite the Qur’an. There is the famous narration where the Prophet (SAW) asked Abu Bakr (RAA) why is his recitation so low, and asked ‘Umar (RAA) why his recitation is so loud, and after listening to their reasons, told Abu Bakr (RAA) to increase the volume of his recitation, an told ‘Umar (RAA) to make his recitation softer.
- Another proof for Abu Bakr (RAA) is that in the Prophet’s (SAW) last illness, it was Abu Bakr (RAA) who led the congregational prayers, and we know that the Prophet (SAW) said that the one with the most knowledge of the Qur’an is to lead the prayer.
- Ibn Hajar (RA) brings in another narration, that ‘Ali (RAA) did not give Bay’ah (allegiance) to Abu Bakr (RAA) for six months, but that he was writing the Qur’an in his house. It is said that this was n the order of revelation. ‘Ali (RAA) had stayed in his house for that period of time and only came out for prayers, and he was not like other Companions such as Ibn ‘Abbas and Zayd bin Thaabit (RAA) who were mostly in the Masjid learning the Qur’an. [There is a lot that may be discussed about this issue, but here is not the place to do so, we are just saying that ‘Ali (RAA) was also one of those who had memorized the Qur’an, even if not mentioned from among the four in Anas’ narration].
- Also, we see that Abu Ubayd bin Sallam (RA), the famous student of Imaam ash-Shaafii (RA), writes who were the Huffaadh from among the Companions. He mentions the four Khulafa, Talha, Sa’d, Abu Hurayra, Saalim, Hudhayfa, the Abadilla (Ibn Abbas, Ibn Zubayr, Ibn ‘Umar, Ibn Mas’ud, ibn ‘Amr), from the Ansaar: ‘Ubaada bin Saamit, Muadh bin Jabal, Mujama’ bin al-Jariya, Fudayl bin ‘Ubayd, Musama bin Makhlad; then 3 from the wives of the Prophet (SAW) who were Ayesha, Hafsa, Umm Salama (RAA). Then in other collections, we know Abu Musa al-Ash’ari (RAA) was very famous as a teacher of the Qur’an, Sa’d bin ‘Ubayd, and Sa’id bin al-Mundhir.
- Al-Suyooti (RA) says that he found a Sahabiyya lady nicknamed ‘Shaheeda’ [by the name of Umm Waraqa bint Abdullah] who had asked permission to go the Battle of Badr, and she was also one of those who had memorized the entire Qur’an.
- Al-Suyooti (RA) mentions that the famous Companion in the sphere of teaching the Qur’an to others were ‘Uthmaan, ‘Ali, Zayd bin Thabit, Ibn Mas’ud, Abu ad-Darda, Abu Musa al-Ash’ari, Abdulla bin as-Sa’eb, and Ibn ‘Abbas (who learnt from Zayd bin Thaabit) – may Allah be pleased with them all.
- So we see from the above that the number of famous Companions who knew the entire Qur’an from only what we have said above reaches between 25 and 30, and these are authentic narrations that we are using in order to establish this reality. We have to consider that the Qur’an was and is the most important thing in Islam. We know of Companions who were experts in reading the faces of people, others who knew the Ansaab [lineages of tribes – Abu Bakr (RAA) was very well-known for this], and others who were experts in dream interpretation. So how can it occur to someone that only four Companions out of more than one hundred thousand knew the Qur’an fully? This is simply not possible, due to all the direct proofs and circumstantial evidence we have considered thus far.
Part 2 of the Second Lecture
- Now, we come to the second part of this lecture, where there will be a discussion concerning the concept of abrogating and abrogated Verses, as well as a discussion concerning the so-called ‘Satanic Verses’.
- First, the Shaykh discusses concerning the ‘Satanic Verses’. It is in fact a fabricated narration. The ‘Hadeeth’ starts out by asking, that what was the reason for some of the Companions that had migrated to Syria to come back? The alleged answer is that the Prophet (SAW) was in the Haram in Makkah and he was reciting Surah an-Najm. So while he was reciting, the Shaytan came and whispered something like: “Innaha Laghaarinqul ‘Ulaa – Wa Inna Shafa’atahuma Laturja” (“Those are the elevated cranes (swans)” – something like they are best of the gods, the lions of this jungle- “truly their intercession is dearly hoped!”). So at this point, the narration splits into two: In one version, it says that the Prophet (SAW) was confused by the Satan, and he passed on these ‘Verses’. In another version, what it says is that the Shaytan was the one who imitated the Prophet’s (SAW) voice and was able to insert these ‘Verses’. This is because the Prophet’s (SAW) recitation was not very fast, but rather was slow and he paused between Verses so that everyone could hear and understand what he was reciting – so the allegation is that the Satan came and in the middle of two Verses inserted his own ‘Verses’. The ‘Hadeeth’ further says that when the Prophet (SAW) finished the recitation of this Chapter, everyone (both Muslims and idolaters) were happy, and all of them made prostration except one person. When this news reached Ethiopia, some of the Companions came back after hearing the news that unity and peace had been achieved in Makkah.
- Now, from the narrations covering the trips the Sahabah made to Ethiopia, we know that something did happen which after one month made the Companions come back due to rumors that peace and unity had been achieved in Makkah.
- But let us look at a number of things. There are certain things we can agree on since Muslims do not differ about them at all: Firstly, that the Surah An-Najm is alluding to the Mi’raaj (Ascent to the Heavens) of the Prophet (SAW). This event occurred in the 10th year of Prophethood, after the death of Khadeeja (RAA), and through this event the prescribed prayers were firmly fixed (it is due to these two circumstances that we know the Mi’raaj occurred in the 10th year of Prophethood). Secondly, the episode of the migration to Ethiopia, and the succeeding return of some Companions, happened in the 3rd or 4th year of Prophethood. Thirdly, Surah an-Najm was revealed in one go, and not in parts.
- So here is one of the contextual problem with the narration: How can the Chapter blame the Qurayshi disbelievers for denying the Nightly Ascent of the Prophet (SAW) in the 4th year of Prophethood, an event that took place in fact 6 years later? This is simply not possible.
- A second problem is that the flow of the Verses does not allow for these two Verses to be inserted in such a way that would have made the opponents of Islam happy. This is because if we see the Verses, they read: Have ye thought upon Al-Lat and Al-’Uzza (19) And Manat, the third, the other? (20) Are yours the males and His the females? (21) That indeed were an unfair division! (22) They are but names which ye have named, ye and your fathers, for which Allah hath revealed no warrant. They follow but a guess and that which (they) themselves desire. And now the guidance from their Lord hath come unto them.
- The allegation is that the phrase “Those are the elevated cranes (swans), truly their intercession is dearly hoped!” was inserted between Verses 20 and 21 of this Chapter. But we see that the flow of the Verses is totally against the idols of the Makkans, and the Quraysh would have easily picked up the fact that their idols were being insulted all the same, and there would have been no cause for them to be elated when this Chapter had been recited, even if they had mistakenly thought that these two phrases were actually part of the Chapter.
- When we consider the scholarly views, we see that certain people such as Ibn Taymiyya did accept this narration and Ibn Hajar (RA) and at-Tabari (RA) accepted its chain of narrators, while other scholars rejected this matter outright and deem it as fabricated. And the Shaykh says that the position of it being fabricated is the correct one, because the matn (text of the narration) is in fact totally unacceptable: Because if we were to accept it as true that the Prophet (SAW) was confused by the Shaytan regarding this matter of Qur’anic revelation [the very basis of his Prophethood], then how would he (SAW) then be said to know anything with certainty about the matter of the Qur’an?
- Concerning the Satan imitating the voice of the Prophet (SAW), the scholars have mentioned that this is also not possible: The Shaytan cannot imitate the Prophet (SAW) in either form or sound.
- Now we come to the topic of abrogating and abrogated Verses [Naasikh and Mansuukh]. As we mentioned before, Allah did not make things hard on the Muslims. However, this does not mean that Allah did not know what the correct, final ruling is. Rather, we can make an analogy with the doctor who gives his patient a certain medicine at the beginning, but after a certain period of time, he switches the medicine to something else. It does not mean that the doctor does not know what medicine he is giving you, but only that you and your body are not ready to take up the final medicine at the beginning of your course. If we can accept that this is the case with a human doctor, then what about the injunctions of Allah, the Lord of Might and Glory?
- In fact, this allegation is originally from the Jewish religion, and is one of the big differences between us Muslim and the Jews. This is because the Jews say that God could not have possibly given a legal ruling and then changed it, because that would show ignorance in God. But this is a false allegation as we have seen above.
- Then the matter comes back to the ‘Satanic Verses’ and the question is that whether we could accept that this confusion could have occurred on the Prophet (SAW) even once. The answer the Shaykh gives is that this is not possible, since then there would be no way to distinguish revelations from the angel Jibril (AS) from insinuations of Satan the accursed, and the Prophet (SAW) would be at the level of normal humans. That is, if once the Prophet (SAW) accepted the sayings of Satan and passed it on thinking it was Jibril (AS), then how do we know that such was not the case with the rest of the times when the Prophet passed on things from the unseen world to us. So from this philosophical angle we are forced to reject this story.
- And a deeper question actually is: Can there be revelation of the Qur’an without Prophethood? The answer is absolutely not. Thus, the link between the Prophet (SAW), Jibril (AS), and Allah the Exalted is impenetrable and cannot be severed by the Satan, and this is the basis for every single Naqli (textual) matter in Islam.
- Let us consider another narration that is relevant to this discussion: Even the general statements of the Prophet (SAW) are protected from the influence of Satan or from the evil lower self. For example, Abdullah bin ‘Amr bin al-‘Aas wanted to write down basically everything that the Prophet (SAW) was saying, but some of the senior Companions said that this is not good, the Prophet (SAW) may get angry and may say something he does not mean, but the Prophet (SAW) said that there was no falsehood (Baatil) coming out of his tongue. So this is in general cases, that the Prophet (SAW) would not get angry to the point that he says something unbecoming of a Prophet. So what about the Satan confusing him, how can someone believe that this is possible?
- We also know from other narrations where the Prophet (SAW) says that bad dreams are from Iblis, and that good dreams are from Allah. We also know that “Hulm” (either bad dreams, or wet dreams) are from the Satan, and that Prophets are protected from this. So if even the dreams of the Prophets are protected from Satan, then what about when they are awake, and are carrying out the most important task, which is reciting the revelation that has been given by Allah to them, how can they get confused between Allah and the Satan?
- Another thing we have to consider is that in the case of the devil, the average angels stone them and the devils run away. So what do you think about the Shaytan coming and disabling one of the chiefs of the angels, Jibril (AS), while he is giving the revelation to the Prophet (SAW), and then inserting his own so-called ‘revelation’ in this situation? This is also something that does not make sense.
- Yet another piece of evidence is that the Prophet (SAW) said that his eyes sleep but his heart stays awake, which is why on one occasion he got up and prayed without making Wudhu (ablution). So if this is the amount of engagement he has with the divine truth, how can one say that at the most critical of moments, the Shaytan was able to deceive and confuse him?
- Then, there is a question presented concerning whether the Prophet (SAW) was affected by magic. Now, this Hadeeth is in Saheeh Muslim, and certain scholars say that there is a difference between magic affecting one’s memory, and magic affecting one’s sexual matters – so there is a difference in this field. Some scholars have rejected this episode, even though it is in Saheeh Muslim. The Shaykh says that the Maturidi scholars he has taken from are among those who do not accept this episode, on a number of reasons, one of them being that if the Prophet (SAW) was affected by black magic, then what are we to make of the Verses of the Qur’an that were revealed during this time (i.e. are they truly revelation, or are they the product of magic?). We also know the Verse of the Qur’an which reads (in translation): ‘And Allah will protect you from the people’. So if one were to believe that this Hadeeth is actually totally correct in its apparent meaning, then it would mean that Allah was unable to protect him from the people, and this is not possible. (There is definitely a lot to be said about this matter, but the Shaykh only spoke this much, and maybe at some point in the future there may be a re-opening of this discussion).
- This last issue leads to a follow-up question which is that if we have latitude in rejecting certain narrations in the Saheehayn, is there then not a big question mark on the narrators of Imams Bukhari and Muslim, and even on the methodology of these Imams as a whole? The Shaykh says that the answer is from two angles: First, the Qur’an says, talking to the Children of Isra’il and by extension to us Muslims too that “Do you take part of the Book and reject part of it?”, and that if due to taking a narration in a certain manner we are in a position where we have to totally leave the Book of Allah regarding a certain Verse, then this is something totally unacceptable and we will never leave the Book of Allah; rather we are to backtrack and reconsider the situation holistically. Of course, we have no problem with the chain if it is indeed authentic, but then there may be an issue with the content. As we know, people may make mistakes, they may forget, or for other reasons the content of what they are saying may not have been conveyed to us completely.
- This is why we have a science called Usool al-Fiqh (the Fundamentals of Jurisprudence), where there is a methodical effort to resolve any apparent contradictions between the texts and to harmonize all texts to the maximum level possible, and to see what are the gradations in the primary texts and the meanings behind such texts.
- As we know, what is narrated is not only the text of a narration or a Verse, but also the meaning. For example, in one of the Verses of the Qur’an the Muslim women are commanded to put their scarfs into their Juyuub [pl. of Jayb]. Now, in today’s Arabic this word ‘Jayb’ means pocket, but in the Arabic of that time, ‘Jayb’ meant chests, and this shows that the meaning also needs to be carefully considered before we rush to make any judgments concerning the message of the Qur’an and the Ahaadith.
- Unfortunately, what has happened today is that certain people have decided to cling strictly to Bukhari and Muslim, but only to the apparent text of what is found in such Hadeeth collections. But the truth is that we have all the famous scholars – such as Imaam Malik, ash-Shaa’fi’i, Abu Hanifah, and so forth – who considered a huge variety of issues surrounding the meaning of the texts and how they were to fit together with other texts and with the Holy Qur’an. We must remember that the conveyed meaning is also from the Prophet (SAW), just as the text is from the Prophet (SAW).
- We should not in fact talk about Saheeh al-Bukhaari being 95 or 99 per cent correct, since it puts us in a cornered situation. Rather it is a matter of method applied to the available evidence. For example we have historical methods, or investigative methods. For example, if we go to a court, the judge or the jury uses circumstantial evidence to convict a suspect, but they do not give it a specific set number, since there is no quantification in these sorts of situations. Likewise, in the case of grading the text of a Prophetic narration, we apply the method and get a result based on that method, but in most cases there is an element of one probability being greater than another probability, but it is difficult to give this a definite quantification.
- Then there is another question, which is that how much doubt then do we say there is in the Sharia, and does it validate the assertion of the Qur’anists? Concerning the Qur’anists, we see that their argument is very incorrect, since in the Qur’an itself (in Surah al-Hashr (Chapter Number 59), and in many other places), we are told to follow the Prophet (SAW). If what the Qur’anists say was correct, it would mean that Allah did not know that the Ahaadith would not be transmitted properly, while this is in fact an outrageous proposition.
- We also need to remember that the texts we have are either Mutawaatir (mass transmitted) or Ahaad (singularly transmitted). The differences of opinion come only when we consider something of the Ahaad category, since in this case there is some room for disagreement, either in the text itself or in the understood meaning. But if there is total agreement in the Muslim Ummah concerning both the text and the meaning, then there is simply no scope for such disagreements.
- We need to know then, that the unquestionable matters of Islam are either the Mutaawator narrations – and the Qur’an falls under this category – or the Talaqqi of the Muslim Ummah (that is, what is collectively received from the nation). I need to ask about this matter, but it seems to be talking about the ‘received meaning’ behind the narrations, in order to establish certainty in both meaning and content.
- There is a comment that Hizb at-Tahreer then are correct when they say that matters of belief and disbelief are only predicated on matters where we have 100% certainty. For example, it cannot be that one person does Takattuf and the other Sadl, and then they start throwing accusations of disbelief at each other, this is not correct, since the basis for both the folding of hands and leaving them at the sides is based on probabilistic evidence.
- Then, there is one important clarification. Some scholar (perhaps of a neo-Salafi orientation) said that if someone believed that Ayesha (RAA) was not 9 years old when she married the Prophet (SAW), he would become a disbeliever. The Shaykh says that this is not the case. The truth is that not only is the age of Ayesha (RAA) not reported in a mass transmitted manner, but even if it was, it has to be something where the Prophet (SAW) is attaching obedience to it – for example, if the Prophet (SAW) had said that: “I married Ayesha (RAA) when she was 9 years old, are you happy with what I did?”, and this had been mass-narrated, then we could say that it is a matter of belief versus disbelief.
- So we see that Tawaatur, in order to qualify as a matter of belief, has to be those things that we find in the Qur’an and the Prophetic statements only. For example, we know that the President of the US, Barrack Obama is black, and this is in fact mass narrated and there is no doubt about this matter. But suppose that I say, no, Obama is Chinese, then I have rejected Tawaatur, but I have not gone out of Islam. Why? Because the color of Obama’s skin is not related to the Islamic religion. So we have to keep this point in mind as well when considering such topics.
- Another point that we see is that in Islam, the meaning generally trumps the “text-only”. If there is something absurd, this cannot be taken, for the narration has to be within the totality of the Islamic framework. In fact Imam Ibn Hajar (RA) mentioned that one of the conditions for a narration to be authentic is that it should not go against logical conclusions.
- There is also a comment that people may be afraid of such things, since then they would think that if one can criticize the apparent literal meaning of a Saheeh Hadeeth, then it means that we know absolutely nothing about Islam. But this idea is also an extreme: We have a system through which we can deduce the beliefs, rulings, and history of Islam. We admit that many these matters are of a probabilistic nature, but we know that a number of things are certain and unquestionable, and we also know that those things that are not sure have only certain restricted possibilities, and that there are limits to what we can consider as a possibility. So it is not an issue of complete agnosticism in the face of the primary texts of Islam, but rather of being honest and frank about the different levels of evidence in front of us.
- There is then another question about Saheeh al-Bukhaari, that when Imam al-Bukhaari (RA) placed a Hadeeth in his collection, does it mean that he believed it to be unconditionally correct in its content as well? The Shaykh mentions that this would be best answered by an expert of Saheeh al-Bukhaari who has the required experience, but that from his own experience, he does not think that such an unconditional acceptance of the internal text of the narrations included by Imam al-Bukhaari (RA) in his collection was there. Rather, what al-Bukhaari was saying is that based on his method of verifying the trustworthiness and veracity of the narrators of Prophetic traditions, the narrations included in his collection are correct and authentic. After all, al-Bukhaari did not compile a book of ‘Aqeedah nor a book of Fiqh, so this is a point we have to keep in mind.
- The Shaykh gives one example from al-Bukhaari’s Saheeh to advance this point of view. He says that there is one narration where a Sahaabi says that he once say a pair of monkeys committing adultery during the time of Jaahiliya (pre-Islamic Ignorance period), that then a group of monkeys went to stone these two monkeys, and that the narrator (this Sahaabi) joined in to stone them as well. But the Shaykh believes that al-Bukhaari (RA) would not be of a mindset where he would think that the Sharia was applicable to monkeys, or that if al-Bukhaari himself was present in this situation, he would also join in to stone the monkeys, or that he believed that monkeys marry so that infidelity to this degree is applicable to them, and so forth. In any case, this needs an expert to answer this question fully, but this is what the Shaykh can explain to us from his understanding.
- So the issue in general is that when grading a narration with respect to its chain, there are five criteria, such as the absence of ‘Illah (weakness or defect) in the chain, that the chain should not contradict other more reliable chains, and some other rules. So al-Bukhaari (RA) was including narrations in his collection based on these criteria, while the full evaluation of the content is based on certain other factors that are more in the area of Usool al-Fiqh.
- There is another final comment by a member of the audience, to the effect that we have to be careful with respect to how we present the primary Islamic texts such as the Saheeh of Imam al-Bukhaari (RA) when we discuss people of other religions. This is so, because if someone says that absolutely everything in Saheeh al-Bukhaari is absolutely correct [as if it were on the same level as the Qur’an], then this puts a big target on the back of the Muslims, since now the amount of text that we have to defend “tooth and nail” increases manifold. Not only this, but there is also an opening through which many other Islamic books can be brought up and presented for the sole purpose of attacking Islam and the Muslims. This, while the Christians will insist that we can only bring the text of the Bible and nothing else when we discuss with them, they will not accept anything from their ‘Church Fathers’ or anyone else (and unfortunately, most of the Muslims might sheepishly accept such an unequal balance in Da’wah (propagation) efforts, because the knowledge is not there in many cases).
- What I think is that we have to be very clear first on the fundamentals of Islam such as our beliefs and their proofs, and secondly, we have to understand the hierarchy of the different Islamic texts both in terms of their transmissional reliability as well as their contextual authenticity. And both of these matters require quite a lot of dedicated time and effort to perfect, but it is important for the Muslims nowadays to learn Islam in this manner, whether they wish to propagate Islam to others or whether they simply wish to better understand Islam themselves.
- I hope the above was useful to the readers, and I might develop some of the topics above in more detail Insha Allah if the opportunity presents itself.
Tajweed (pronunciation of Quran)
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