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The oldest Qur'an

Reader comment on item: Britain's Encounter with Islamic Law
in response to reader comment: Mansoor - oldest "Bibles"

Submitted by dhimmi no more (United States), Apr 10, 2008 at 19:23

Jennifer wrote

>Do you have any information on the "oldest" Qur'an?

The simple answer is we really do not know. But to answer your question one must first answer what is really the Qur'an? If you mean by that the 1923-1924 Cairo edition of the Qur'an then we have a problem.

The Qur'an as a book has these layers:

1. The rasm: for example Muhammad's name would be

MHMD

And the basic rasm is really the language of the Qur'an but because you really need the missing short and at times the long vowels and the missing consonants like hamza and shadda or double consonants then we have the second layer and this is the editing by the Ulama in the late second and third centuries of islam by Persians and Mesopoamians

2. Now we add the vowels and now we have

Mu (meem with a damma)

Ha (heh with a fatha)

MMa (meem with a shadda or double consonant and a fatha)

D (with a sukun or no vowels)

And now we have the word Muhammad.

Another more complicated examples are:

1. The rasm MLK in surat al-Fatiha is read in the Cairo Qur'an as Maaliki or the king of and in the 1969 Tunisian Qur'an as maliki or the owner of and the problem here would be Muhammad must have heard it as maaliki or maliki it could not have been both so you can see that this was indeed editing

2. The rasm of the word kill in the infamous ayat al-sayf or Q9:5 is: QTLUU now the Muslim ulama added the vowels and now it is read as Qutuluu or kill but those that are supposed to be killed are al-mushrikeen or the polytheists which the Qur'an as usual does not identify.

Now if you turn to Q9:30 Allah tells us that the Jews and Christians must be mushrikeen because the Jews reagrd Ezra as the son of God (sic) and the Christians regard Jesus as the son of God. But if you turn to Qur'an 9:29 Allah tells Muslims to fight the jews and Christians and the word fight is qatiloo and the rasm is QATLUU. Now we turn to Qur'an 9:36 it says fight (it does not say kill) the polytheists or QATLUU al-mushrikeen

Now it becomes very clear that the word QTULUU in Q9:5 could very well be read as: QaTiLUU by adding a fatha above the Qaf and a kasra above the letter teh and it would be in harmony with Q9:5 and if the Ulama could not make up their minds if it is maaliki or is it maliki then the word in Q9:5 could very well be Qatiluu or fight

So you can see that there was indeed a process of editing that was going on and more evidence is the fact ( and as was pointed out by Cook) that the Muslim ulama had no clue about what some Quranic words really mean and the most celebrated word is Ilaf in Surat Quraish

3. Another interesting example of interpolation is in Q53 or Surat al-Nijm where it is very clear that verse 32 is really an interpolation.

But if they did not have a clue back in the 3rd cenutry of Islam about what such word as Ilaf really means this could mean that:

1. Either the Quranic pericopes and logias predate Muhammad and by 632CE when he died no one had a clue what the word Ilaf really means. But this detaches Muhammad from the Qur'an

2. Or that the Qur'an for 2-3 centuries was nothing more than circulating pericpoes and logias and by the time the Qur'an was canonized no one had a clue what the word Ilaf really means more so when those editng the Qur'an were not Arabs and were doing such editing in Iran and Mesopotamia

3. It also means that as late as the third century of islam the Ulama were still trying to read the Quranic rasm which means that the likes of the Cairo edition did not exit in the 3rd century

4. If you examine the inscriptions at al-Masjad al-Aqsa in Jerusalem and dated to 692CE or more than 72 years after the death of Muhammad ( see Hoyland survey) you can read clear pericopes and logias and some of them are different from what we have in the Qur'an so we know that the Qur'an if it indeed existed this early it was still in flux and I'm sure you agree with me that even if we have circulating pericopes and logias it does not mean that we already have a Qur'an by the year 72AH

Wansbrough points out to the fact that the Muslim masora is an acitvity of the 3rd century and not any earlier which means that by then there was indeed some sort of book that the Muslim masorites were trying to figure out what it really says grammar and all.

But this detaches islam from Arabia and it also detaches Muhammad from the Qur'an and it is no secret that most historians of early Islam realize that islam is the product of the old civilizations in Middle East in the late antique period

So you can see that there was indeed a process of editing of the Quranic logias and pericopes but we do not know by whom or where such final canonization of the Qur'an took place. It seems that it did not take place in the Hijaz.

So to make a long story short: I agree with Wansbrough that the earliest Qur'an could not have existed before the 3rd century of islam

I hope I helped.

Submitting....

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