fbpixel

The ʿUthmānic Codex: Understanding how the Qur’an was Preserved


Published: June 22, 2022 • Edited: July 28, 2022

Authors: Ammar Khatib and Dr. Nazir Khan

Introduction

The history of the preservation of the Qur’an has been studied and written about by Muslim scholars in extensive detail. It is a scripture that is intimately familiar to the heart and tongues of countless believers, memorized word-for-word by Muslims across the globe and continuously recited in daily prayer. The Qur’an is the Divine speech of Allah revealed to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ through the angel Jibrīl (Gabriel), and its preservation has been assured by Allah Most Exalted Himself. Allah says, “Verily, We have revealed the Qur’an and We will surely protect it.”1 This is in contrast to previous scriptures revealed by Allah, such as the Tawrāt and Injīl, whose preservation was entrusted to the People of the Book:2 “To them was entrusted the protection of Allah’s Book.”3 The timeless preservation of the Qur’an has even been regarded by many scholars as one facet of its miraculous nature.4

It is important for Muslims to understand precisely what is meant by the preservation of the Qur’an. The Qur’an was preserved through both mass memorization and written recording.5 The written preservation of the Qur’an occurred in stages, the final stage of which was commissioned by the third caliph, ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān (d. 35 AH/656 CE). Through a process unlike any other in human history, the words and verses of the Qur’an populated the pages of manuscripts around the world with the same clarity with which they were etched in the hearts and minds of the companions of the Prophet ﷺ.

It is that process that the present article aims to explain, providing an overview of the history behind the ʿUthmānic codex and how it was compiled. The discussion will draw upon primary sources in the Islamic tradition (including historical works and Hadith literature) along with analysis of classical and contemporary Muslim scholarship on this topic. It will also evaluate a number of theses that have emerged in Western academia with respect to the history of the Qur’anic text including research related to Qur’anic manuscripts.

The present article is the sequel to the authors’ previous article discussing the variant readings of the Qur’an that existed during the time of the Prophet’s companions. To briefly recap the context provided there: during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, the Qur’an was revealed piecemeal over a period of 23 years. As reported by numerous companions, the Prophet ﷺ himself reviewed the Qur’an annually with angel Jibrīl (Gabriel) every Ramadan, and twice during the final year of his life.6 Whenever Allah revealed verses of the Qur’an, the Prophet ﷺ would recite them aloud to the companions who would memorize them, and he would summon scribes to write the verses down. A total of 65 companions reportedly served as scribes.7 The evidence indicates a large number of companions had memorized the Qur’an in its entirety during the Prophet’s lifetime or shortly after.8 The Qur’an’s description of itself as both recitation and book alludes to its own oral and textual preservation.9 Although all of the Qur’an was written down during the lifetime of the Prophet ﷺ (according to the strongest view), the written fragments were not gathered into an official unified compilation,10 although some individual companions had written personal codices.11

Stay connected. Sign up to receive our latest paper updates.

Following the death of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in 11 AH/632 CE and under the caliphate of Abū Bakr (d. 13 AH), the first official compilation of the Qurʿan was undertaken in the year 12 AH.12 Abū Bakr was persuaded by ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb (d. 23 AH) who emphasized the importance of compiling the Qur’an after a large number of its reciters were martyred during the Battle of al-Yamāmah.13 Zayd ibn Thābit was appointed to the task by Abū Bakr, and he compiled the Qur’an “from date-palm tree bark, parchment, thin white stones, and the hearts of men.”14 Imam Layth ibn Saʿd (d. 175 AH) said, “The first to compile the Qur’an was Abū Bakr and Zayd transcribed it. The people would come to Zayd ibn Thābit and he would not write a single verse except with two witnesses.”15 Zayd did not transcribe verses from memory despite the fact that he and other companions had them memorized. Nor did he simply transcribe the Qur’an from existing written copies. Rather, he followed a meticulous process ensuring that the memory and writing of every verse was backed by direct testimony. Al-Sakhāwī (d. 643 AH) explained that the requirement for ‘two witnesses’ meant two people who possessed it in writing and could testify to having written down the verse from the Prophet ﷺ precisely as they had learned it.16 Thus, the compilation process for each verse in the Qur’an was backed by the combined attestation of written materials, memorization, and direct testimony.

While scribes had written the verses of the Qur’an on different materials during the time of the Prophet ﷺ, they had not been compiled into a single text.17 Indeed, it would not have made sense to do this during the lifetime of the Prophet ﷺ, when verses were still being revealed and added to various chapters while other verses were abrogated, and the predominantly unlettered community of Muslims could rely on direct oral transmission from the Prophet ﷺ himself.18 It was only after the revelation had ceased that such a task was necessary. The result of Abū Bakr’s project was that the written text of the Qur’an was gathered into a single compilation; this process took less than a year (between the Battle of al-Yamāmah in 12 AH and Abū Bakr’s death in 13 AH).19 The Qur’an was written on parchment,20 a material derived from the untanned skins of goats, sheeps, and calves cut into sheets. Written sheets of parchment bound together are termed a codex, the ancestor of the modern book. Similarly, the Arabic word muṣḥaf (pl. maṣāḥif) linguistically refers to a text that consists of written pages between two covers, and has come to refer exclusively to written copies of the Qur’an.21 

The circumstances that led to the ʿUthmānic codex

The early Muslim community witnessed a rapid expansion of the Islamic empire through a dazzling series of victories against the existing superpowers of the world, the Byzantine and Persian empires. During the reign of ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb and subsequently ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān, the Islamic empire came to extend from Northern Africa to Central Asia to the frontiers of the Indian subcontinent. The vast numbers of new Muslims were in need of those who could teach them the Qur’an. To this end, the companions appointed individuals well versed in the recitation of the Qur’an to travel to distant lands to teach it.

Many senior companions themselves left Madīnah and took up residence in distant cities to serve as teachers, including ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd in Kūfah, Abū Mūsa al-Ashʿarī in Baṣra, Muʿādh ibn Jabal in Palestine, Abū al-Dardāʾ in Damascus, and ʿUbādah ibn al-Ṣāmit in Ḥumṣ, while Zayd ibn Thābit and Ubayy ibn Kaʿb remained in Madīnah.22 Numerous students in these cities learned the recitations of the Qur’an from these senior companions. Muslims in these distant lands copied manuscripts of the Qur’an based on the codices and readings of companions who resided among them, as scholars like Ibn ʿAṭṭīyah (d. 541 AH) mention.23 However, the multiplicity of Qur’anic readings taught by different companions soon became a source of confusion.24 While the companions understood that the Qur’an had been revealed according to seven aḥruf and therefore could be recited with a certain degree of variation permitted by the Prophet ﷺ himself, this concept was unfamiliar to new Muslims in the newly conquered lands of Islam.25 Naturally, disputes arose whereby some rejected and repudiated the readings of others. The illustrious companion Ḥudhayfah ibn al-Yamān (d. 36 AH) raised this concern to ʿUthmān.

Ḥudhayfah ibn al-Yamān came to ʿUthmān at the time when the people of Shām and the people of ʿIrāq were waging war to conquer Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Ḥudhayfah was afraid of their [the people of Shām and Irāq] differences in the recitation of the Qur’an, so he said to ʿUthmān, “O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book [Qur’an] as Jews and the Christians did before.”

So ʿUthmān sent a message to Ḥafṣah saying, “Send us the manuscripts of the Qur’an so that we may compile the Qur’anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you.” Ḥafṣah sent it to ʿUthmān.

ʿUthmān then ordered Zayd ibn Thābit, ʿAbdullāh ibn al-Zubayr, Saʿīd ibn al-ʿĀṣ and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn al-Ḥārith ibn Hishām to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies. ʿUthmān said to the three Qurayshī men, “In case you disagree with Zayd ibn Thābit on any point in the Qur’an, then write it in the dialect of Quraysh, the Qur’an was revealed in their tongue.”

They did so, and when they had written many copies, ʿUthmān returned the original manuscripts to Ḥafṣah.

ʿUthmān sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur’anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt.26

This report and others indicate that, as Muslims from various regions joined the military campaigns in Armenia and Azerbaijan, those who had learned the Qur’an from different companions disputed with one another over their divergent recitations.27 This narrative from Ḥudhayfah provides an important insight into why the codex of ʿUthmān differed from the compilation of Abū Bakr.28 

First, the reasons for undertaking the projects differed. The compilation of Abū Bakr was meant to record the Qur’an in its entirety to ensure that verses of the Qur’an would not be lost with the death of those who had memorized them.29 The ʿUthmānic codex, meanwhile, was meant to unite the entire Muslim nation upon a single text to eliminate confusion caused by Muslims reciting different variant readings of the Qur’an.30 Therefore, the use of the compilations differed as well. During the time of Abū Bakr, the compilation was simply kept in safekeeping while Muslims continued to read according to the way they had been taught and according to the personal copies of the Qur’an that they had in their possession.31 Adhering to the ʿUthmānic codex, however, was compulsory, and copies were sent to major cities in the Islamic empire. Any written copies of the Qur’an that did not conform to the ʿUthmānic codex were burned or corrected. These are the fundamental differences between the two compilations.32

In his description of the ʿUthmānic compilation, al-Baghawī (d. 516 AH) explains that in seeking to unify the Muslims upon a single text, ʿUthmān compiled the Qur’an according to one arf (mode of reading) to reduce differences (this point will be discussed in greater detail later). Al-Baghawī writes:

Then the companions of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ used to recite the Qur’an after him according to the seven aḥruf that the Messenger of Allah ﷺ taught them to recite by the permission of Allah. This continued until there were (disputes over) differences between the reciters in the time of ʿUthmān and the matter became grave and people from the different regions wrote to ʿUthmān, beseeching him by Allah to unite people before the situation deteriorated. Ḥudhayfah ibn al-Yamān came to ʿUthmān from the battle in Armenia and advised him concerning that. So ʿUthmān gathered the Muhājirīn and Anṣār and consulted them on the matter of compiling the Qur’an in codices according to one mode of reading (ḥarf) in order to diminish the differences and unite people. They agreed with his opinion and encouraged him to do it and deemed it to be the most cautious course of action with respect to the Qur’an. Thus, ʿUthmān then requested Ḥafṣah to send him the ṣuḥuf (written copy compiled during Abū Bakr’s era) in order to transcribe the maṣāḥif (written codices). She sent it to him and so he instructed Zayd ibn Thābit and the three Qurayshī committee members and they transcribed from it the codices and he sent them to the different regions.33

Similarly, ʿUthmān’s goal of unifying the people is also evident in other narrations. In Akhbār al-Madīnah, ʻUmar ibn Shabbah (d. 262 AH) narrated that ʿUthmān said to the companions and the people of Madīnah, “It has reached me that some of you say that my reading is better than your reading, and this almost constitutes disbelief. And if you differ today, those after you will differ even more.” The people asked, “What is your opinion?” ʿUthmān replied, “That I should gather the people upon one muṣḥaf so that there be no division (furqah) nor disagreement (ikhtilāf).” The people replied, “Excellent is your opinion.”34 This is also taken by some scholars as an indication that the idea of compiling a standard muṣḥaf for the community was one that ʿUthmān had contemplated even prior to the news brought by Ḥudhayfah about the disputes amongst Muslims on the frontiers, which simply further highlighted the need that ʿUthmān had foreseen.35

From the foregoing discussion, a clear picture emerges of the context and circumstances that motivated the compilation of the ʿUthmānic codex. As for when this took place, we know from early historical sources that ʿUthmān’s reign was during 23–35 AH, the military campaign in Armenia likely took place in 24–25 AH,36 and Ḥudhayfah was appointed there in 24 AH,37 following which he returned to Madinah and advised ʿUthmān regarding compiling the muṣḥaf. This places the likely date of the ʿUthmānic compilation around 25 AH (645 CE). This is supported by Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī (d. 852 AH), who argues against other historians and scholars who favored the later date of 30 AH (such as Ibn al-Athīr, Ibn Khaldūn and Ibn al-Jazarī). Ibn Ḥajar adduces as supporting evidence a report from ʿUthmān wherein he admonished the people in a sermon, saying, “O People, it has only been thirteen [or fifteen] years since your Prophet ﷺ and you are disputing concerning the Qur’an!”38 On the basis of these evidences, many contemporary researchers have also agreed with Ibn Ḥajar’s assessment.39 Omar Hamdan suggests that the ʿUthmānic compilation project likely took place in stages, the first in 25 AH involving the actual compilation process and sending maṣāḥif specifically to Iraq and Syria as they were the regions involved in the disputes reported by Ḥudhayfah, while the second stage occurred in 30 AH and involved sending maṣāḥif to several other Muslim lands (e.g., Makkah, Bahrain, Yemen) that were not involved in the campaign in Armenia and Azerbaijan.40 While the suggestion of different stages is plausible in and of itself, one must take note of considerations from stemmatics (discussed below) in describing which maṣāḥif were sent in each stage.

The process and method of compiling the ʿUthmānic codex

A. The committee members

The task of assembling the ʿUthmānic codex was a major undertaking for which the Caliph ʿUthmān appointed a committee; having multiple members ensured a greater familiarity with multiple readings.41 

ʿUthmān called Zayd ibn Thābit, ʿAbdullāh ibn al-Zubayr,42 Saʿīd ibn al-ʿĀs and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn al-Ḥārith ibn Hishām, and then they wrote the manuscripts of the Qur’an in several codices (maṣāḥif). ʿUthmān said to the three Qurayshī men, “If you differ with Zayd ibn Thābit on any point of the Qur’an, then write it in the dialect (lisān) of Quraysh, as the Qur’an was revealed in their language.” So they acted accordingly.43

From this report, we note that the core group of the committee comprised Zayd ibn Thābit (d. 45 AH), who was from the Anṣār (Madīnan Muslims), and three Muslims from the Quraysh. This report also raises the important question of what it means for the Qur’an to have been written according to, and revealed in, the dialect of Quraysh; how we reconcile this with the hadith of the Qur’an being revealed according to seven aḥruf; and whether the ʿUthmānic codex included more than one ḥarf. All of this will be discussed below.

Zayd ibn Thābit was a natural choice to lead the committee, having been the pre-eminent scribe of the Prophet (ﷺ).44 Moreover, he had memorized the entire Qur’an during the lifetime of the Prophet ﷺ and was the one responsible for compiling it under Abū Bakr.45 Some scholars mention that Zayd was selected in part because he attended the final review with the Prophet ﷺ. Al-Baghawī (d. 516 AH) states:

It is said that Zayd ibn Thābit attended the final review in which it was clarified what was abrogated and what remained. Abū ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Sulamī (d. 74 AH) said, “Zayd recited the Qur’an twice to the Prophet ﷺ during the year in which he passed away, and this recitation is called the qirāʾah of Zayd because he transcribed it for the Prophet ﷺ and recited it to him and witnessed al-ʿarḍah al-akhīrah (the final review), and he taught its recitation to people until he passed away. That is why Abū Bakr and ʿUmar relied upon him in its compilation and ʿUthmān appointed him in charge of writing the maṣāḥif—may Allah be pleased with them all.”46

As noted in our previous article, there is some conflicting evidence concerning the matter of a specific companion attending the final review.47 Moreover, when Abū Bakr mentioned the qualities of Zayd when selecting him for the first compilation, he did not make any mention of the final review.48 It suffices to state that Zayd had not only memorized the entire Qur’an during the lifetime of the Prophet ﷺ, but would regularly transcribe it and recite it to him up until he passed away. Given his experience, expertise and knowledge, Zayd’s credentials were well-established among the companions.

Abū ʿAmr al-Dānī (d. 444 AH) explains that the significance of having Qurayshī members on the committee was to ensure that the written codex conformed to the dialect of the Quraysh.49 The members of the committee were all young at the time of  the ʿUthmānic compilation in 25 AH. Zayd ibn Thābit (d. 45 AH) was 36 years old,50 ʿAbdullāh ibn al-Zubayr (d. 73 AH) and Saʿīd ibn al-ʿĀṣ (d. 58 AH) were both 24 years old, and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn al-Ḥārith ibn Hishām (d. 43 AH) was 23 years old.51 Saʿīd ibn al-ʿĀṣ (d. 59 AH) had returned from the frontiers along with Ḥudhayfah and was likely also familiar with the nature of the disputes causing confusion amongst the Muslims. He was also known for his proficiency in the Arabic language. One report notes:

ʿUthmān asked, “Who is the best scribe (man aktab al-nās)?” The people replied, “The scribe of the Prophet ﷺ, Zayd ibn Thābit.” He asked, “So who has the best Arabic (fa ayyu-nāsi aʿrab?)?” They replied, “Saʿīd ibn al-ʿĀṣ.” ʿUthmān said, “Let Saʿīd dictate and Zayd transcribe.”52

A report traced back to Muḥammad ibn Sirīn (d. 110 AH) mentions that ʿUthmān gathered a total of 12 men.53 This indicates that in addition to the four core committee members, there were eight others who perhaps joined the committee later,54 or possibly played a secondary role in reviewing the manuscript compiled by the core members and transcribing additional copies of the muṣḥaf.55 The names of these additional members can be adduced from multiple other narrations scattered across disparate sources. These included six more companions (Ubayy ibn Kaʿb (d. 30 AH), ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿUmar (d. 73 AH), Anas ibn Mālik (d. 93 AH), ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAbbās (d. 68 AH), ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ (d. 63 AH), Abū al-Dardāʾ (d. 32 AH)) and two tābiʿīn (Mālik ibn Abī ʿĀmir—the grandfather of Imam Mālik—and Kathīr ibn Aflaḥ).56 

It should be noted that Ubayy ibn Kaʿb’s inclusion is subject to some debate.57 Imam al-Dhahabī cites narrations suggesting that Ubayy passed away during the reign of ʿUmar in 19 AH or 22 AH. However, Ibn Sirīn’s report mentions Ubayy by name, and this is supported by another more detailed account on the authority of Hānī al-Barbarī, the mawlā of ʿUthmān, which states that ʿUthmān sent Hānī to Ubayy with some words from three verses, the spelling of which Ubayy revised.58 Thus, evidence supports the view of al-Wāqidī who said, “And we have heard those who said that [Ubayy] died in the year 30 AH during the khilāfah of ʿUthmān, and that is the most well established opinion in our view, and that is consistent with ʿUthmān instructing him to compile the muṣḥaf.”59

The formation of the committee thus ensured that the compilation process occurred based on direct learning from the Prophet ﷺ as attested by memorization, in addition to scribal experience and native eloquence in the Arabic language.

B. Did the ʿUthmānic text encompass the variant readings?

We now return to one of the most important questions that Muslim scholars have discussed concerning the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf: did it include the variant readings of the seven aḥruf? Recall that during the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, the Qur’an was recited in different ways which the companions had learned from the Prophet ﷺ. Ibn ʿAbbās narrated that the Prophet ﷺ said: “Jibrīl recited the Qur’an to me in one ḥarf. Then I requested him [to read it in another ḥarf] and continued asking him to recite in other aḥruf until he ultimately recited it in seven aḥruf.”60 In another narration, the Prophet ﷺ says, “‘O Jibrīl! I have been sent to an illiterate nation among whom are the elderly woman, the old man, the boy and the girl, and the man who cannot read a book at all.’ He said: ‘O Muhammad! Indeed the Qur’an was revealed in seven aḥruf (i.e., seven different ways of reciting).’”61

Does the ʿUthmānic codex encompass the seven aḥruf? There are several factors to consider when answering this question. The first concerns the meaning of the seven aḥruf, a topic discussed in The Origin of the Variant Readings of the Qur’an. One must keep in mind that the scholars mentioned below did not share the same definition of what constitutes the aḥruf. Nonetheless, most of their views coalesce around a similar notion: the aḥruf entail different ways of reciting the Qur’an. Related to the same topic is the question of what it means for the text to encompass these different ways of varying.62 As well, there is also the question of the meaning of the aḥruf being a rukhṣah (concession) and its implications. Finally, there is the fact that the text of the ʿUthmānic codex was written with the Arabic letters lacking in consonantal dotting (naqṭ al-iʿjām) and with a complete absence of vowelization markings (naqṭ al-iʿrāb).63 As a result, a variety of readings can be accommodated by the consonantal skeleton of the text.64 The question is therefore whether the readings accommodated by the consonantal skeleton of the ʿUthmānic codices include only one ḥarf or some (or all) of the variation of the seven aḥruf.

The first opinion is that the ʿUthmānic codex was compiled according to only one ḥarf. This opinion was held by Ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī (d. 310 AH),65 Abū Jaʿfar al-Ṭaḥāwī (d. 310 AH),66 al-Naḥḥās (d. 338 AH),67  Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr (d. 463 AH),68 al-Baghawī (d. 516 AH),69 al-Abyārī (d. 616 AH),70 Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 AH),71 Ibn al-Qayyim (d. 751 AH),72 and many other scholars.73 The principal evidence cited by many scholars in support of this view is ʿUthmān’s aforementioned statement to the committee: “If you differ with Zayd ibn Thābit on any point of the Qur’an, then write it in the dialect (lisān) of Quraysh, as the Qur’an was revealed in their language.” Initially, reciting according to seven aḥruf was a concession intended to make it easy for the unlettered Arab tribes to learn the Qur’an. However, after Islam spread to distant lands, the additional readings became a source of confusion and hence were no longer required.74 Moreover, as discussed earlier, the primary motivation for the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf itself was the fact that Muslims were disputing concerning the different readings. This was the very concern brought forth by Ḥudhayfah. It follows that the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf would aim to gather people upon one reading to reduce the confusion.

The second opinion is the opposite: that the ʿUthmānic codex contains all seven aḥruf, and not a single ḥarf is left out. This opinion was most famously espoused by Qaḍī Abū Bakr al-Bāqillānī (d. 403 AH),75 but was also held by Abū ʿAmr al-Dānī (d. 444 AH),76 Ibn Ḥazm (d. 456 AH),77 and ʿAlam al-Dīn al-Sakhāwī (d. 643 AH).78 The underlying logic is rather straightforward—how could ʿUthmān or any companion decide of their own accord to leave out of the Qur’an something that Allah had revealed to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ? Al-Bāqillānī argues that the ʿUthmānic codex only left out those readings that had been abrogated, or readings that included commentary alongside the Qur’anic verses, or readings that were incorrectly attributed to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, which he believes were the real source of dispute that Ḥudhayfah encountered between the Muslims of Syria and Iraq. The modern-era Azharī scholar Muḥammad ʿAbd al-Aẓīm al-Zarqānī (d. 1367 AH/1948 CE) and other scholars held this view as well.79 The contemporary researcher al-Ḥasānīn follows al-Bāqillānī in this conclusion and argues that there is no evidence that the dispensation of the seven aḥruf was limited to a specific time period, nor is there any evidence that ʿUthmān and his committee dispensed with the other aḥruf.80 Similarly, ʿAbd al-Qayyūm al-Sindhī argues that the very existence of different qirāʾāt today necessitates that the variation of the aḥruf remains.81 After all, if the variation found in the seven aḥruf had been completely eliminated, then where did all the variation in the different qirāʾāt come from? Moreover, why did the ʿUthmānic maṣāḥif contain minor differences (discussed below) if it was only compiled according to one ḥarf?

If we pause to evaluate these two opinions, we may note that both have some merits. The first opinion fits the historical context that led to the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf, while the second opinion connects the qirāʾāt to the aḥruf and explains how variation in recitation remained within the Muslim ummah. As for al-Bāqillānī’s and Ibn Ḥazm’s objection that the companions could not leave out readings that were revealed, the authentic narrations and historical evidence indicate that this is precisely what they did, and this was sufficiently explained by Al-Ṭabarī and al-Ṭaḥawī by noting that the companions understood that reciting according to the seven aḥruf was a concession and not an obligation.82 We have numerous authentic variant readings from the Prophet’s companions that are not found in the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf and there is no evidence to suggest that they were abrogated.83 Much to the contrary, many companions continued to recite those readings after the passing of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. If the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf included all the variant readings of the seven aḥruf then why would those readings be excluded? This demonstrates that the second position is not accurate.

There is an obvious middle ground between these two positions which leads to the third opinion, often described as the majority position,84 that the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf contains some of the variation of the seven aḥruf. The qirāʾāt that are recited until today reflect the variation which remained from the seven aḥruf.85  Ibn al-Jazarī (d. 833 AH) writes:

As for whether ʿUthmānic codices encompass all the seven aḥruf then this is a major topic… the position taken by the majority of the scholars from the earlier and later generations and the Imams of the Muslims is that these codices encompass that which the consonantal skeleton (rasm) can accommodate from the seven aḥruf.86 

Elsewhere, Ibn al-Jazarī writes that the ten widely transmitted qirāʾāt recited throughout the Muslim world are part of the seven aḥruf.87 Ibn Ḥajar (d. 852 AH) explained that what remained after the ʿUthmānic compilation were the differences from the other aḥruf that could still be accommodated by the skeletal text of the ʿUthmānic codices—so what remained, in other words, were “some of the differences of the aḥruf, not all of them.”88] Ibn Ḥajar cites Abū al-ʿAbbās ibn ʿAmmār al-Mahdawī (d. 440 AH) who states, “The most correct position which is upheld by the experts is that what is recited now are some of [the differences] of the seven ḥurūf which were permitted to be recited and not all of them.”89 The remnants of the aḥruf are thus found amongst the various qirāʾāt recited today, while those aḥruf that did not conform to the ʿUthmānic codex were abandoned.90] Al-Mahdawī also states:

Verily these qirāʾāt that we recite constitute a portion of the seven aḥruf, upon which the Qur’an was revealed, which are still practiced because they conform to the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf that the ummah had consensus upon. And the remainder of the ḥurūf were abandoned due to their differing from the written script of the muṣḥaf. This is because it is not obligatory upon us to recite with all the seven ḥurūf in which the Qur’an was revealed and because the Prophet ﷺ permitted for us to recite some of them to the exclusion of others based on the Divine statement, “Recite that which is easy from it” (Qur’an 73:20).91

This middle position effectively reconciles the preceding first and second opinions. On one hand, the reason for the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf was to reduce the differing and disputes amongst the Muslims by gathering them upon a standard text agreed upon by the companions of the Prophet (ﷺ).92 It brought about unity and solidarity in the ummah. Therefore, the first group of scholars are largely correct in that ʿUthmān sought to gather the Muslims upon a text that was primarily based upon one ḥarf. However, what needs to be noted is that some reading variations remained (from the seven aḥruf) that could still be recited because they conformed to the ʿUthmānic text,93 and these continued to be recited in certain regions of the Muslim world, becoming associated with the names of famous reciters to become the eponymous qirāʾāt that we know today.

The most precise characterization of this complexity is found in the writings of Makkī ibn Abī Ṭālib (d. 437 AH):

Those readings were no longer in practice which differed from the script of the (ʿUthmānic) muṣḥaf from the seven aḥruf in which the Qur’an was revealed, based upon the unanimous consensus on the script of the muṣḥaf. Thus, the muṣḥaf was written based on one ḥarf, and its script accommodates more than one ḥarf as it was void of dotting and vowels.94

Christopher Melchert explains this view by stating that the consonantal skeleton is written with one ḥarf in mind, but the diacritical and vowelization marks preserve elements of the other six aḥruf as well.95 The contemporary Qur’anic scholar Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad notes that there is no contradiction between stating that the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf was written according to one ḥarf but that it accommodates more than one ḥarf, and cites the above quote by Makkī.96 The written text was naturally dictated and transcribed with one reading in mind, despite the script being able to accommodate more than one reading.97 Thus, it reduced the differences but did not eliminate them altogether. Essentially, “it unified the script without unifying the pronunciation.”98 Therefore, the middle position is best seen as a clarification of the first view with a more accurate characterization.

There is a subtlety that appears to have escaped the attention of many contemporary researchers on the topic of whether the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf includes the seven aḥruf. While some include themselves in the third category (that the ʿUthmānic text accommodates some of the variation of the seven aḥruf), their views actually align more closely with the second category since they believe that whatever was left out of the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf was not a valid reading since it was either not an authentic reading or was abrogated by the final review of the Prophet ﷺ with Zayd, or was Qur’an commentary.99 This doctrine that the Prophet’s final review (al-ʿarḍah al-akhīrah) abrogated other readings (aḥruf) is something that one finds commonly mentioned by scholars on the subject. However, other scholars argue that this claim lacks any definitive proof, which is a requirement to substantiate a claim of abrogation. Yaḥyā Aḥmad Jalāl and Halā Nāyif al-Mashāqbeh contend that the former view is based on the unsubstantiated assumption that leaving out some authentic revealed readings (qirāʾāt) would somehow undermine the preservation of the Qur’an. However, this is not how many classical scholars of Islam understood the matter. Confronted with the reality that there are authentic readings from the companions absent from the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf, rather than engaging in conjecture regarding abrogation, it is far simpler to conclude that these are merely readings that go back to the concession of the seven aḥruf and hence were not included in the ʿUthmānic codex.100 This has been discussed in detail in the preceding article, The Origin of the Variant Readings of the Qur’an (see section entitled, “How do we view the variants reported from companions?”).

The most accurate position on this matter, then, is that the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf (and by consequence the widely-accepted qirāʾāt) contained some of the variation found in the seven aḥruf, but not all of it. Indeed, it excluded those variant readings that entailed addition, subtraction, or substitution to the consonantal skeleton of the script (the rasm). On the other hand, those variant readings remained which related to pronunciation, alternate vowelization, and minor consonantal shifts that could be accommodated by the ʿUthmānic script, and it is from these that the qirāʾāt emerged, tracing back to readings the companions learned from the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.

C. Write in the dialect of Quraysh

ʿUthmān instructed the committee, “If you differ with Zayd ibn Thābit on any point of the Qur’an, then write it in the dialect (lisān) of Quraysh, as the Qur’an was revealed in their language.” This has been used by many scholars as evidence that the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf was written according to one ḥarf. Two questions arise from this statement.

The first question: given the hadith of the seven aḥruf, wasn’t the Qur’an revealed in multiple dialects and not just that of Quraysh? With respect to this question, some scholars add two important qualifiers to ʿUthmān’s statement: first, that the Qur’an was initially revealed according to the dialect of the Quraysh,101 according to one ḥarf, before permission was subsequently granted for it to be recited according to more than one ḥarf;102 and second, that the Qur’an contains many words that belong to Arabic dialects besides that of the Quraysh, meaning that most of it was revealed according to the dialect of the Quraysh.103

The second question: what did ʿUthmān mean when he ordered that the Qur’an be written in the dialect of the Quraysh?104 Al-Jaʿfarī argues that in cases where ʿUthmān’s committee differed over the writing of words, ʿUthmān instructed them to write it (uktubūhū) according to the Qurayshī dialect, but he did not mandate that they only recite the Qur’an according to that dialect, thus leaving the potential for people to still recite according to other variant readings in those instances where the script accommodates different readings.105 

To use a simple example cited by Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr,106 the Quraysh (and other Ḥijāzī dialects) tended not to pronounce the glottal stop (hamzah ء) in many words.107 Thus for example, the word muʾmin (believer) can be pronounced with a long vowel mūmin (as it is still recited according to most Madīnan and Baṣran reciters);108 meanwhile, the dialect of Tamīm was known for its use of the hamzah and is reflected in the readings of the Kūfan and Syrian reciters.109 The Arabic script مومن has been recited in both ways (with most modern day maṣāḥif printed according to Ḥafs ʿan Āṣim, adding the diacritical hamzah accordingly—مؤمن). Both readings have been authentically transmitted by the companions from whom the reciters learned, and consequently this represents an example of variance from the seven aḥruf that can still be recited due to its conformity with the script of the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf. In some instances, the spelling between different readings differed as in the case of the word al-tābūt التابوت in Qur’an 2:248, which can be spelled and pronounced al-tābūh التابوه as it was by Zayd. ʿUthmān, however, preferred the first spelling and pronunciation because it accorded with the Qurayshī dialect.110 The actions of ʿUthmān and his committee in selecting a preferred reading from among various valid readings can be used as proof and precedent for the practice of ikhtiyār (selection) which was later practiced by the famous reciters.111 

Moreover, ʿUthmān had precedence from other companions in this regard. When ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb heard that ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd was teaching the Qur’an according to his native dialect of Hudhayl to people in Kūfah, ʿUmar sent him a letter asking him to teach in the dialect of Quraysh, and not in Hudhayl, for the Qur’an was revealed in the dialect of Quraysh.112 Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr (d. 463 AH) notes that ʿUmar’s instruction can be understood as ikhtiyār, not as suggesting that Ibn Masʿūd’s reading was impermissible.113 Rather, ʿUmar was simply favoring the Qurayshī reading as preferable due to it being the original reading in which the Qur’an was recited, and the reading which was native to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ himself.114 As Abū Shāmah notes, the effort required for non-Arabs to learn the Qur’an in Arabic is equivalent between dialects, hence it was preferable for non-Arabs to learn according to the dialect of Quraysh.115

D. The method of producing the ʿUthmānic codex

If we return to the narrations concerning the ʿUthmānic compilation,116 we may note multiple indications that the process consisted of not only transcription and dictation but several stages of review and verification. The narration in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī makes clear that ʿUthmān requested the compilation of Abū Bakr to use in the process of transcribing the new codex. Recall that the manuscript of Abū Bakr had been verified through an extremely meticulous process, not simply relying on the companions who had memorized the Qur’an in its entirety, but also ensuring each verse had two witnesses who had written it down in the presence of the Prophet ﷺ in a manner that matched the way the companions had memorized it.117 With Abū Bakr’s passing, the compilation passed into the hands of ʿUmar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb, and then, after his passing, into the hands of his daughter Ḥafṣah bint ʿUmar, the widow of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ).118

ʿUthmān sent a message to Ḥafṣah saying, “Send us the manuscripts of the Qur’an so that we may copy the Qur’anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you.” Ḥafṣah sent it to ʿUthmān. ʿUthmān then instructed Zayd ibn Thābit, ʿAbdullāh ibn Al-Zubayr, Saʿīd ibn Al-ʿĀṣ and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn al-Ḥārith ibn Hishām to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies.119

From this narration, one might be inclined to state, as many scholars did,120 that ʿUthmān’s compilation was assembled by simply copying the manuscript compiled by Abū Bakr. However, Muḥammad Muṣṭafā al-Aʿẓamī argues that combining the above account with other narrations paints a more complete picture in which ʿUthmān’s compilation was assembled independently of Abū Bakr’s compilation, which was only used during the verification process after ʿUthmān’s committee had finished transcribing the muṣḥaf.121 The first narration that al-Aʿẓamī cites in support of this narrative comes from Muṣʿab ibn Saʿd:

ʿUthmān delivered a sermon and said, “The people have diverged in their recitations, and I am determined that whoever holds any verses dictated by the Prophet ﷺ himself must bring them to me.” So the people brought their verses, written on parchment and bones and leaves, and anyone contributing to this pile was first questioned by ʿUthmān, “Did you learn these verses [i.e., take this dictation] directly from the Prophet ﷺ himself?” All contributors answered under oath, and all the collected material was individually labeled and then handed to Zayd ibn Thābit.122

The second narration al-Aʿẓamī cites comes from Mālik ibn Abī ʿĀmir (one of the committee members and the grandfather of Imam Mālik ibn Anas), who states:

I was among those upon whom the muṣḥaf was dictated [from the written sources], and if any controversies arose concerning a particular verse they would say, “Where is the scribe [of this parchment]? Precisely how did the Prophet ﷺ teach him this verse?” And they would resume scribing, leaving that portion blank and sending for the man in question to clarify his scribing.123

These narrations indicate that the muṣḥaf of ʿUthmān was prepared autonomously and gathered through an independent process before with the compilation of Abū Bakr. One can further strengthen al-Aʿẓāmī’s argument by noting that ʿUthmān’s instructions to the committee on what to do if they differ concerning a verse only make sense if they were conducting an independent compilation process. If they were simply copying the text of Abū Bakr’s compilation, then there would be no occasion for them to differ in the first place. Moreover, the narrations indicating that Zayd transcribed while Saʿīd  dictated also suggest a process more involved than mere copying.124 Finally, we have an account which, in spite of its weaknesses, mentions that ʿUthmān requested Ḥafṣah’s copy after the compilation by Zayd was completed, which was then reviewed and compared with the ʿUthmānic codex and confirmed to be in agreement.125

The question that emerges is why ʿUthmān would undertake this exhaustive process when he could have readily copied the manuscripts already compiled by Abū Bakr. Al-Aʿẓamī offers the following reasoning:

One may wonder why Caliph ʿUthmān took the trouble to compile an autonomous copy when the end product was to be compared with the [compilation of Abū Bakr] anyway. The likeliest reason is a symbolic one. A decade earlier thousands of Companions, engaged in the battles against apostasy in al-Yamamah and elsewhere, were unable to participate in the Ṣuḥuf’s compilation. In drawing from a larger pool of written materials, ʿUthmān’s independent copy provided these surviving Companions with an opportunity to partake of this momentous endeavor.

In the above account no inconsistencies were found between the [compilation of Abū Bakr] and the independent muṣḥaf and from this two broad conclusions emerge: first, the Qur’anic text was thoroughly stable from the earliest days and not (as some allege) fluid and volatile until the third century; and second, the methods involved in compilation during both reigns were meticulous and accurate.126

If al-Aʿẓamī’s conclusion is correct, one must note that rather than merely having a ‘symbolic’ reason for conducting an independent compilation, ʿUthmān also had a very practical and tangible reason: reducing differences in the ummah’s readings entailed elimination of some of the variant readings from the seven aḥruf. Since the goal of Abū Bakr’s compilation was simply to preserve the text of the Qur’an, arbitrating between variant readings and different dialects was never a stated goal or component of the process. It is possible that Abū Bakr’s compilation included a mix between a greater number of readings from different dialects and other types of variants from the seven aḥruf.127 Therefore, the advantage of repeating the collection process and independently reviewing every verse from written sources in addition to memory afforded the committee the opportunity to affirm with the highest degree of confidence and certainty that the reading they selected for the writing of the muṣḥaf was the reading taught and recited by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ himself.

The story of a missing verse

At this juncture, it is useful to clarify a set of narrations which have been the source of some confusion concerning the detection of a “missing” verse during the compilation process. During the compilation of Abū Bakr, while seeking two witnesses for each passage, Zayd ibn Thābit came across a passage for which he found only one witness. Zayd reports, “Abū Bakr sent for me, so I collected the Qur’an till I found the last part of Sūrah al-Tawbah (verses 9:128–129) with Abū Khuzaymah Al-Anṣārī and did not find it with anybody else.”128 This narration, found in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, explicitly notes that this took place during the first compilation, and that the witness  was Abū Khuzaymah. Again, one must clarify that this does not mean that Abū Khuzaymah was the only one who knew this verse, as all the companions who had memorized the Qur’an knew it. However, they were seeking a witness who had documented the verse in the presence of the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ).129 The very reason they knew exactly which verse was missing was because they had memorized it.

Another narration, also from Zayd ibn Thābit and related in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, mentions the same incident but with the name Khuzaymah al-Anṣarī:

So I started locating Qur’anic material and collecting it from parchments, scapulae, leaf-stalks of date palms, and from the memories of men (who knew it by heart). I found with Khuzaymah al-Anṣārī two verses of Sūrah al-Tawbah which I had not found with anybody else [he cites Qur’an 9:128–129].130

Such a minor difference in the name (Abū Khuzaymah vs Khuzaymah) would typically not raise any questions, except that we have a third narration, also in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, about an identical incident involving a different verse with Khuzaymah.

When we wrote the Holy Qur’an, I missed one of the verses of Sūrah al-Aḥzāb which I used to hear Allah’s Messenger ﷺ reciting. Then we searched for it and found it with Khuzaymah ibn Thābit al-Anṣārī. The verse was “Among the Believers are men who have been true to their Covenant with Allah, Of them, some have fulfilled Their obligations to Allah [i.e., they have been killed in Allah’s cause], And some of them are [still] waiting” (33:23) So we wrote this in its place in the Qur’an.131

Notice that this narration does not explicitly mention whether this occurred during Abū Bakr’s or ʿUthmān’s compilation.132 There are other narrations of this incident in other sources that use either name for each incident.133 Al-Bāqillānī argues that these narrations may be dismissed as contradictory and conflicting with more reliable evidence, or may be reinterpreted in various ways.134 Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī (d. 852 AH) and others reconciled the narrations by stating that the first incident took place during the compilation of Abū Bakr,135 and that it was the verse of Sūrah al-Tawbah that was found with Abū Khuzaymah. Meanwhile, the second incident took place during the compilation of ʿUthmān with the verse of Sūrah al-Aḥzāb, which was found with Dhū al-Shahādatayn Khuzaymah ibn Thābit al-Anṣārī, a different person from Abū Khuzaymah ibn Aws ibn Yazīd ibn Aṣram.136 Al-Aʿẓamī uses this as evidence for his argument that ʿUthmān repeated the process of summoning witnesses for each verse, otherwise there is no reason they would not be able to find the verse from al-Aḥzāb if the compilation of Abū Bakr was in front of them.137 Al-Jaʿfarī suggests it is not inconceivable that the written parchment of one verse may have gone missing during the time interval between the two compilations, which exceeded a decade.138

On the other hand, we have scholars like Ibn Kathīr (d. 773 AH)139 and others140 who held that both incidents happened during the time of Abū Bakr. While Muḥammad Ḥasan Jabal agrees with Ibn Ḥajar’s analysis that the incidents described by Zayd refer to two different people, he also concurs with Ibn Kathīr’s opinion that both occurred during the compilation of Abū Bakr.141 

Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad adduces additional evidence suggesting that the incident of the lost verse happened only during the time of Abū Bakr, but  also that both incidents are in fact one incident that happened with the same person. He cites the following narration from the introduction to Kitāb al-Mabānī, in which Zayd describes the compilation during the time of Abū Bakr:

I completed one review and I noticed I was missing this verse [33:23] so I asked the Muhājirīn and the Anṣār and I did not find it [in written form] with any of them, although I knew the verse and the Prophet ﷺ had dictated it to me, however I disliked to establish it until someone else testified alongside me. And then I obtained it from Khuzaymah ibn Thābit al-Anṣārī whom the Prophet ﷺ had made his witness equal to that of two witnesses. So I wrote the verse and then I conducted another review. And I found that I was missing two verses although I knew them [9:127–128]. So I inquired about them from Muhājirīn and the Anṣār and I did not find them with any of them except with Khuzaymah ibn Thābit al-Anṣarī whom the Prophet ﷺ had endorsed his witness. So I wrote them at the end of Barāʾa [Sūrah al-Tawbah].142

Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad states that this account alleviates some of the confusion found in other sources. He also notes that “the similarity between the two names (i.e., Abū Khuzaymah and Khuzaymah) and their mention in different narrations using the very same phrasing indicates that they are both names referring to the very same companion and that is Khuzaymah ibn Thābit al-Anṣārī.”143 This is the simplest and easiest explanation for what would otherwise seem to be a rather striking coincidence of the exact same circumstances involving two different individuals with almost identical names. Nonetheless, other ways of reconciling the narrations, such as that of Ibn Ḥajar, were also accepted by many scholars. Finally, it should be mentioned that the verse(s) in question have been attested in the earliest manuscripts, and it is not reported that a single companion codex omitted them.144

There is of course a remarkable story behind the significance of Khuzaymah ibn Thābit being the witness for this verse. According to the narration in Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ regarded Khuzaymah’s witness as equal to that of two witnesses,145 earning him the title of Dhū al-Shahādatayn (Possessor of Dual Testimony). The story behind this begins with the Prophet ﷺ purchasing a horse from a bedouin (in other narrations identified as Sawāʾa ibn al-Ḥārith al-Muḥāribī). After agreeing upon the price and the purchase, the Prophet ﷺ asked the bedouin to accompany him to retrieve the payment. While on their way, people saw the horse and, unaware that it had already been sold, started bargaining with the bedouin for it. The bedouin took advantage of the situation and told the Prophet ﷺ, “If you want this horse, then buy it [by bidding higher], otherwise, I will sell it.” The Prophet ﷺ asked, “Have I not already purchased it from you?” The bedouin asked the Prophet ﷺ to produce a witness. Khuzaymah ibn Thābit testified on his behalf, whereupon the Prophet ﷺ asked him how he could testify when he wasn’t present. Khuzaymah replied that “Because I believe in you (as a Prophet) and know that you do not speak except with that which is truth.” Thereupon, the Prophet ﷺ made the testimony of Khuzaymah equal to that of two witnesses.146 This was a Prophetic endorsement of the purity of Khuzaymah’s faith and character in hastening to testify to the truthfulness of the Messenger of Allah (ﷺ).147 And it is said that the Prophet ﷺ still chose to return the horse to the bedouin, undoubtedly as a gesture of kindness, integrity, and generosity.148 

This narration underscores the Divine will behind the miraculous turn of events that caused the one person about whom the Prophet ﷺ had made this declaration to be the same person with whom Zayd found the written copy of the ‘missing’ verse(s).

The order of the sūrahs

Since the time of ʿUthmān until today, the 114 chapters of the Qur’an have always been written in maṣāḥif in the same sequence, beginning with al-Fātiḥah and ending with al-Nās.149 Was this order mandated by Divine guidance and taught by the Prophet ﷺ himself (referred to as tawqīfī), or did the companions deduce it themselves through their own inference (ijtihād)? This is a well-known difference of opinion debated in classical and contemporary works of Qur’anic studies. The first view, attributed to many scholars, is that the present order of the sūrahs is based on Divine instruction.150 Abū Jaʿfar al-Naḥḥās (d. 338 AH) states, “The order of the sūrahs is from Allah and His Messenger ﷺ, without any involvement of anyone else.”151 The evidence cited in support of this position includes the fact that the companions of the Prophet ﷺ unanimously agreed upon this order of the chapters.152 Moreover, the Prophet ﷺ recited the Qur’an every year to Jibrīl, which logically requires that it was recited in a particular order. Abū Bakr ibn al-Anbārī (d. 328 AH) states, “Jibrīl would teach the Prophet ﷺ the location of each verse and sūrah, so the order of the sūrahs is akin to the order of verses and letters, all of it being from the Prophet Muhammad (ﷺ).”153 Al-Baghawī writes, “It is established that the work of the companions was to assemble the Qur’an into one compilation, not to determine its sequence, for verily the Qur’an is written in al-Lawḥ al-Maḥfūẓ according to its sequence in our maṣāḥif.”154 It has also been narrated from Aws ibn Ḥudhayfah al-Thaqafī (d. 59 AH) that he asked the companions how they used to divide the Qur’an when they completed its recitation and they replied, “Into three sūrahs, then five, seven, nine, 11, 13, and then the mufaṣṣal sūrahs.”155 This totals 48 chapters before the mufaṣṣal chapters, which start either with al-Ḥujurāt (chapter 49) or Qāf (chapter 50). This indicates that there was a fixed order to the chapters known to the companions in the time of the Prophet (ﷺ).156 

The second opinion is that the sequence of the sūrahs was based on the ijtihād of the companions of the Prophet ﷺ. Ibn Juzayy al-Kalbī (d. 741 AH) writes, “The sequence of the sūrahs according to their present arrangement is based on the action of ʿUthmān and Zayd ibn Thābit and those who wrote the musḥaf with them. And it has been said that it is based on the action of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, however that is weak and refuted by the relevant narrations.”157 Commenting on a narration in Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim where the Prophet ﷺ recited Sūrah al-Nisāʾ prior to Sūrah Āl ʿImrān, Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ writes, “This is an evidence for those who say that the sequence of sūrahs is based on the ijtihād of the Muslims when they wrote the muṣḥaf and was not defined by the Prophet ﷺ but rather he left it to the ummah after him, and this is the opinion of the majority of scholars,158 and the opinion of Imam Mālik and the preferred view of al-Qāḍī Abū Bakr al-Bāqillānī.”159 Of course, this narration is not decisive evidence as most scholars do not regard it obligatory to recite the sūrahs in prayer in order. Furthermore, it should be noted that Imam Mālik did state that the companions made their decision based on what they heard from the Prophet ﷺ, which seems to bring the two opinions closer together.160 

Some scholars, like Ibn ʿAṭiyyah, held that some of the sūrahs were arranged according to ijtihād but not all of them.161 The first and foremost evidence used to support this opinion is the fact that it is reported that some of the companions’ codices had the sūrahs arranged according to a different order. However, these were not official public codices but rather personal compilations comprising sūrahs these companions learned from the Prophet (ﷺ).162 Ibn Baṭṭāl notes also that these companion codices were compiled before the revelation of the Qur’an was concluded and its sūrah sequence was finalized.163

Another critically important piece of evidence for those who suggest that the chapter sequence was, at least in part, based on the ijtihād of the companions, is a narration whose authenticity is disputed in which Ibn ʿAbbās asked ʿUthmān why he placed Sūrah al-Tawbah after Sūrah al-Anfāl in the Qur’an without writing the basmalah between them, and ʿUthmān replied that it was not clear whether they were part of the same chapter and the Prophet ﷺ passed away before clarifying the matter.164 This narration led scholars like al-Ṣuyūṭī, al-Bayhaqī, and Ibn al-ʿArabī to consider these two sūrahs to be the exception, while all the remaining sūrahs in the Qur’an were ordered based on the sequence learned from the Prophet (ﷺ).165 

However, this narration has been subjected to extensive critique from the perspective of both the chain of transmission (isnād) and the content (matn). This hadith is only narrated by ʿAwf ibn Abī Jamīlah (d. 146  AH)166 from Yazīd al-Fārisī.167 The religious beliefs of ʿAwf have been described as Qadarī168 and Shiʿī,169 which introduces the potential for sectarian bias in narrations related to ʿUthmān’s role in the preservation of the Qur’an.170 More importantly, Yazīd al-Fārisī is listed as a weak narrator by Imam al-Bukhārī himself.171 On the basis of the problems in the chain of transmission and the content of the narration, it was rejected as baseless by the hadith scholar Aḥmad Shākir, although this view has been contested by ʿAbdullāh Judayʿ who views the narration to be authentic.172 With respect to the content of the narration, it states that the Prophet ﷺ passed away without clarifying this matter, and yet al-Tawbah was revealed 15 months before he passed away which renders this unlikely, particularly given the constant teaching and daily ritual recitation of the Qur’an. Moreover, ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib gives us a different explanation for the absence of the basmalah at the beginning of al-Tawbah: this is how the sūrah was revealed since the basmalah is a declaration of mercy, while the opening of al-Tawbah is a declaration of war.173 A final piece of evidence comes from manuscript research. The Ṣanʿāʾ palimpsest lower text (discussed in detail below), which likely predates the ʿUthmānic codification, also places Sūrah al-Tawbah after Sūrah al-Anfāl without a basmalah in between, thus making it unlikely that this was a new decision of the ʿUthmānic committee.174

Of course, all Muslim scholars agree that the order of the sūrahs in the Qur’an since the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf is binding and obligatory to follow.175 Imam Rabīʿah (d. 136 AH) was asked why the Qur’an begins with the Madīnan chapters al-Baqarah and Āl ʿImrān when the Makkan revelations preceded them. He replied, “They were placed at the beginning because the Qur’an was arranged according to knowledge possessed by those who compiled it and those who were with them, and they had unanimous consensus upon that knowledge, so this [the ordering of the sūrahs] is a final matter that cannot be questioned.”176 Indeed, that the sequence of sūrahs in the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf was unanimously followed by the early Muslim community, with people completely abandoning the alternative arrangements of various companions’ personal codices, arguably indicates widespread agreement on the singular authority of the sequence of the ʿUthmānic codex. This would not have been the case if the ordering of the chapters was a matter of opinion.177 

The position that the current sequence of chapters in the muṣḥaf has been Divinely determined appears to be the strongest view on the strength of all the evidence discussed.178 Also relevant to this discussion is the wealth of scholarly literature surrounding the intricate connections (tanāsub) between adjoining sūrahs as well as the thematic structure (naẓm) and continuity of the Qur’an from one chapter to the next.179 The former includes not only tafsīr literature but entire works devoted to the topic such as al-Burhān fī tanāsub suwar al-Qurʾān by Ibn al-Zubayr al-Gharnāṭī (d. 708 AH), Naẓm al-durar fī tanāsub al-ayāt wal-suwar by al-Biqāʿī (d. 885 AH), Tanāsuq al-durar fī tanāsub al-suwar by al-Suyūṭī (d. 911 AH), and Jawāhir al-bayān fī tanāsub suwar al-Qurʾān by ʿAbdullāh Ṣiddīq al-Ghumārī (d. 1413 AH). The vast multitude of intertextual connections uncovered by such astute insights is seen by many scholars as effectively settling the debate on this matter.

Why did ʿUthmān burn other copies of the Qur’an?

When the compilation of the ʿUthmānic codex was complete, ʿUthmān sent an official copy to each of a number of major cities within the Muslim world and instructed that other unofficial copies of the Qur’an be burned.

ʿUthmān sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur’anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt.180

When presented without context, particularly by the unlearned, this act of burning takes on almost dark undertones, as though it somehow undermines the preservation of the Qur’anic text. However, for those familiar with all the facts analyzed in the preceding discussions, ʿUthmān’s instruction is entirely expected and was in fact an integral part of the history of the preservation of the Qur’anic text. The whole point of the ʿUthmānic project was to unify the Muslim ummah on one muṣḥaf that would eliminate confusion caused by the proliferation of different aḥruf taught by various companions in different lands.181 Had ʿUthmān not undertaken the burning of copies of the Qur’an which differed from the official copies, and thus not eliminated a source of the disputes, the entire exercise would have been futile. There also would have remained the possibility of individual Muslims reciting from copies that contained scribal errors or contained the commentary of companions alongside verses of the Qur’an.182 Given that it would be quite unfeasible to check and correct each and every personal codex to eliminate the possibility of error, the logical solution was to simply eliminate those codices that had not been copied from the ʿUthmānic archetypes.

Perhaps this episode generates such confusion because book burning incidents in Western history are typically seen as a manifestation of condemnation or desecration. For instance, after renouncing Arianism and converting to Catholicism, the Visigothic King Reccared I (d. 601 CE) ordered all Arian books to be collected and burned. However, in the Islamic tradition, one of the respectful ways to dispose of any text containing verses of the Qur’an is in fact through burning it. Ibn Baṭṭāl writes, “And ʿUthmān’s instruction to burn the manuscripts and copies of the Qur’an after his compilation demonstrates that it is permissible to burn books that contain the names of Allah [or Qur’anic verses] and that is a form of respect towards it and protection from it being stepped upon or discarded on the ground.”183 Some copies of the Qur’an in the time of ʿUthmān were eliminated in other ways including erasing184 or tearing.

Moreover, the historical evidence indicates that elimination was not the only outcome for other copies. Muḥammad Ḥasan Jabal and Muḥammad Muṣṭafā al-Aʿẓamī both note that another possible outcome was that manuscripts could be reviewed and corrected according to the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf.185 They cite a narration from ʿAbd al-Aʿlā al-Kilābī that mentions that he visited the home of Abū Mūsā al-Ashʿarī, who was with Ḥudhayfah and ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd, and there was a copy of the Qur’an that ʿUthmān had sent along with the instruction to correct their own copies accordingly (wa amarahum an yuqīmū maṣāḥifahum ʿalayh).186

The compilation of Abū Bakr which remained in the possession of Ḥafṣah was not erased or burned by ʿUthmān. However, the compilation was later requested by Marwān ibn al-Ḥakam (at that time the governor of Madīnah). Ḥafṣah refused. However, when she passed away in 41 AH/665 CE, Marwān retrieved it and had it destroyed.187 Marwān stated, “I only did that because whatever was in it was already written and preserved in the [ʿUthmānic] muṣḥaf. And I feared that time would pass and people would start to have misgivings about this [Ḥafṣah’s] ṣuḥuf or would say, “It contained something that has not been written.”188

The result of the ʿUthmānic codification is that Muslims of all provinces began adhering to a single agreed-upon text in their recitation of the Qur’an, abandoning those readings that did not conform to it.189 Oddly, Shady Hekmat Nasser refers to the codification process undertaken by ʿUthmān as a “failure” because it “was not able to produce a single unified Reading of the Qur’an.”190 However, as previously discussed, there is no evidence that ʿUthmān mandated for Muslims to recite in only one qirāʾah.191 Rather, Muslims were allowed to continue to recite the way they had been taught so long as their readings conformed to the authorized text. While it is true that differences remained in the qirāʾāt, there was now a common reference point to ensure that readings were sound. So long as a person was reciting according to the way they had learned from the companions of the Prophet ﷺ, and the reading conformed to the codex, their reading was to be considered valid. This removed the problem of Muslims rejecting the validity of other Muslims’ readings.

Nasser’s assessment could not be any further from reality; the very fact that every non-ʿUthmānic copy of the Qur’an on the face of the earth vanished with scarcely a trace192 is the greatest testament to the success of the ʿUthmānic project. Shortly after the ʿUthmānic project in 25 AH, Muslims everywhere around the world were reciting the exact same text,193 and this has continued up until the present, more than 14 centuries later. The reality of the matter is that the ʿUthmānic project is an astonishingly successful act the likes of which human history has rarely witnessed.

Al-Aʿẓamī concludes:

The unanimous agreement to dispose of (or amend) all earlier copies made ʿUthmān’s script and spelling the new standard; from then on every Muslim learning the Qur’an had to conform with the ʿUthmāni text. Where a person’s previous schooling was at odds with this text, he was not granted leave to recite or teach in that divergent manner. So what could such a person do? Attending an official reciter’s circle was the simplest solution, to learn the Book in accordance with the conditions laid and thereby regain the privileges of teaching and recitation. ʿUthmān’s unparalleled success in this regard is proof positive that his actions echoed the voice of the community.194

Thus, ʿUthmān’s instruction to burn or amend Qur’anic manuscripts that differed from the official codices reflected the community’s agreement upon the ʿUthmānic codex. Rather than undermining the text’s preservation, this historical event decisively secured it.

The position of the companions towards the ʿUthmānic codex

The success of the ʿUthmānic project was amplified by the widespread approval of the companions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib said, “Do not speak of ʿUthmān except with what is good, for I swear by Allah that he did not do what he did with the maṣāḥif except with complete approval from the rest of us.”195 In another report he said, “May Allah have mercy on ʿUthmān! Were I in charge, I would have done as he did.”196 Muṣʿab ibn Saʿd (d. 103 AH), the son of Saʿd ibn Abī Waqqāṣ, said, “I was present among the people when ʿUthmān burned the other maṣāḥif and they were pleased with his action, and no one opposed it.”197 Indeed, the unanimous consensus (ijmāʿ) of the Prophetic companions upon the ʿUthmānic codex renders it as indubitable and incontestable as any other fundamental component of the religion. Abū Jaʿfar al-Ṭaḥāwī (d. 321 AH) comments:

Zayd ibn Thābit, the Prophet’s scribe, wrote the codex for ʿUthmān and the companions of the Prophet ﷺ agreed upon that, thus it became ijmāʿ (unanimous consensus). And transmission by consensus is a decisive proof (ḥujjah) the likes through which Islam has been transmitted to us such that we are able to learn its teachings and such that we learn the number of prayers and the like.198

Essentially, what al-Ṭaḥāwī is stating is that everything we know about Islam was transmitted to us through the very same community that came to collective agreement upon the ʿUthmānic codex. Epistemologically, this is the greatest proof of the veracity of the text. This generation is the same one that learned the Qur’an directly from the Prophet ﷺ and transmitted to us all of the teachings of our faith. Their collective agreement is therefore unassailable and binding.

Nonetheless, there are a number of narrations that require clarification due to mentioning displeasure or disagreement on the part of ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd (d. 32 AH). These narrations have been examined and analyzed in great detail by a number of scholars.199 The credentials of Ibn Masʿūd with respect to knowledge and recitation of the Qur’an are well known. Ibn Masʿūd was the first Muslim to ever recite the Qur’an in public. His recitation of the Qur’an was praised by the Prophet ﷺ himself for being “as fresh as how it was revealed.”200 And he is one of the four from whom the Prophet ﷺ told others to learn the Qur’an.201 This being the case, what was the reason for his opposition and what exactly was he opposed to?

In his work al-Maṣāḥif, Ibn Abī Dāwūd (d. 316 AH) devoted a chapter to the subject, entitling it, “The displeasure of Ibn Masʿūd towards that,” meaning the ʿUthmānic project.202 Careful review of the narrations in question demonstrates that Ibn Masʿūd’s displeasure was on two counts: (1) he was excluded from the committee that compiled the ʿUthmānic codex and (2) he did not wish to give up his personal muṣḥaf to be destroyed nor to abandon the reading to which he was most accustomed.203

As for the first reason, Ibn Masʿūd felt unfairly excluded from the codification process itself. He was certainly one of the most learned companions of the Prophet ﷺ with respect to the Qur’an, and so he was incensed at the fact that the project was overseen instead by Zayd ibn Thābit, almost 20 years his junior. In addition, ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd was from the Muhājirīn, those who migrated with the Prophet  ﷺ from Makkah to Madīnah, having experienced persecution in Makkah and having sacrificed everything out of their commitment to Islam. Meanwhile Zayd ibn Thābit was a Madīnan Muslim; i.e., of the Anṣār. Being upset about the matter, Ibn Masʿūd made some uncharacteristically harsh statements. Al-Zuhrī (d. 124 AH) reports that ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd disliked Zayd ibn Thābit copying the maṣāḥif, and he said, “O Muslims! [How is it that] I am removed from recording the muṣḥaf and it is overseen by a man, by Allah, when I accepted Islam he was but in the loins of a disbelieving man”—referring to Zayd ibn Thābit.204 

The companions of the Prophet ﷺ were human beings and experienced human emotions. Abū Bakr Al-Anbārī (d. 328 AH) was of the opinion that Ibn Masʿūd said this in a moment of anger and later recanted his statement after his anger subsided. Al-Anbārī writes:

The objection made by ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd arose in a state of anger and it is not to be acted upon nor taken from him. There is no doubt that once his anger passed, he was satisfied with the excellence of the decision of ʿUthmān and the companions of the Messenger of Allah ﷺ and concurred with their agreement and abandoned his opposition to them.205

Moreover, as al-Anbārī also notes,206 the virtue for which Zayd was selected was that he had memorized the entirety of the Qur’an during the lifetime of the Prophet ﷺ, while Ibn Masʿūd learned seventy some sūrahs from the Prophet ﷺ and the remainder after the Prophet ﷺ passed away. As mentioned earlier, Zayd ibn Thābit had also undertaken the compilation during the time of Abū Bakr and therefore his expertise and experience was well-established. That, along with his availability and young age, qualified him to lead the ʿUthmānic project.207 Abū al-ʿAbbās al-Qurṭubī (d. 656 AH) also points out that the ʿUthmānic committee was tasked with writing the Qur’an according to the dialect of Quraysh, while Ibn Masʿūd was from Hudhayl and was known to recite in the dialect of Hudhayl.208 Another important factor was simply logistical; as al-Dhahabī (d. 748 AH) pointed out, Ibn Masʿūd was in Kūfah, not Madīnah, when ʿUthmān undertook the codification process.209 It would have not been ideal to delay the entire project for Ibn Masʿūd to travel to Madīnah, particularly when the matter had already resulted in conflict, as identified by Ḥudhayfah.

As for the second reason for Ibn Masʿūd’s opposition, it was not because he objected to the reading of the ʿUthmānic codex itself but rather because he wished to continue reciting according to his own reading, and he did not wish to surrender his muṣḥaf to be destroyed. As Abū Isḥāq al-Shāṭibī (d. 790 AH) astutely observed:

No one disagreed in this matter except ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd. He refused to discard the reading that he possessed which differed from the ʿUthmānic codices. He said, “O People of Iraq! O People of Kūfah! Conceal the maṣāḥif which you have in your possession and withhold them. For verily Allah states, ‘And whoever withholds anything will come forth with what he has withheld on the Day of Judgment.’210 So meet Allah with the maṣāḥif.”211 So consider carefully Ibn Masʿūd’s words because he did not disagree with compiling the ʿUthmānic codex but rather he disagreed concerning another matter.212

What al-Shāṭibī has noted is that Ibn Masʿūd never expressed disapproval of the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf’s compilation, nor did he deny the authenticity of the reading upon which it was compiled. In fact, we do not have a single statement from him criticizing a reading that is found in the ʿUthmānic codex. Instead, what appears to be the case is that Ibn Masʿūd did not wish to surrender his personal copy of the Qur’an to be burnt. He did not wish to abandon those readings that could not be accommodated by the ʿUthmānic text, as he had learned them from the Prophet ﷺ and taught them for decades. In other words, Ibn Masʿūd refused the obligation to adhere to the ʿUthmānic text, but did not otherwise deny the validity of the compilation or its reading. In support of this view, one may note that Ibn Masʿūd stated, “Whose qirāʾāh is it that you command me to recite? Verily, I recited directly to Allah’s Messenger ﷺ more than 70 chapters of the Qur’an and the companions of Allah’s Messenger certainly know that I am the most knowledgeable of them when it comes to the Book of Allah. And if I knew of anyone more knowledgeable than me, I would travel to him.”213 Another point of evidence is that Ibn Masʿūd never expressed disagreement with Abū Bakr’s compilation since it was never imposed upon him.214

Furthermore, one may note that many scholars were of the view that Ibn Masʿūd later recanted his position. Ibn Abī Dāwūd himself alludes to this by titling a chapter, “Ibn Masʿūd’s [subsequent] approval  of ʿUthmān’s compiling the maṣāḥif,” in which he includes a conciliatory narration from Ibn Masʿūd affirming the validity of readings according to the seven aḥruf.215 The historian Ibn ʿAsākir (d. 571 AH) said, “It was narrated that Ibn Masʿūd later agreed and adhered to and approved of ʿUthmān’s decision and revised his previous position.”216 Al-Dhahabī (d. 748 AH) said: “It was reported that Ibn Masʿūd agreed and followed ʿUthmān.”217 In Faḍāʾil al-Qurʾān, Ibn Kathīr (d. 774 AH) said it was reported that Ibn Masʿūd recanted.218 However, if one adopts the view of al-Shāṭibī, then since Ibn Masʿūd never objected to the correctness of the ʿUthmānic codex in the first place, there was nothing to recant. It is also possible that Ibn Masʿūd was not initially pleased with the obligation of adhering to a codex that didn’t favor his reading,  but after his anger passed, he recognized the importance of the ʿUthmānic project.

Ibn Masʿūd’s massive influence in Kūfah slowed the transition to the ʿUthmānic codex. The early scholar al-Aʿmash (d. 148 AH) is reported to have said, “I reached Kūfah, and the reading of Zayd was not with them except as the reading of ʿAbdullāh is with you today: no one recited it except for one or two people.”219 Other companions expressed some hesitation in changing their reading as well. When ʿAlqamah ibn Qayṣ (d. 62 AH) traveled to Greater Syria, he met the companion Abū al-Dardāʾ, and the latter asked ʿAlqamah about how Ibn Masʿūd recited Sūrah al-Layl. ʿAlqamah responded that Ibn Masʿūd recited verse 3 as “wal-dhakari wal-unthā” (and by the male and the female) instead of “wa mā khalaqa al-dhakara wal-unthā” (and by that which created the male and the female), whereupon Abū al-Dardāʾ testified that he had learned the verse in the same way from the Prophet ﷺ. People tried their best to convince him to change his reading.220 Yet, he did not wish to do so.221 Understandably, the way the Prophet  ﷺ had taught him to recite the verse was something dear to him that he did not want to forsake. At the same time, Abū al-Dardāʾ did not approve of the staunch opposition shown by Ibn Masʿūd, saying, “We used to consider ʿAbdullāh [Ibn Masʿūd] to be soft-hearted, so why would he behave impulsively with the rulers?”222 Another companion, Abū Mūsā al-Ashʿarī, sought to compromise. When the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf was sent to him, he said, “Whatever you find additional in my muṣḥaf, do not remove it, and whatever is missing, then write it.”223

From the foregoing discussion it should be evident that none of these reports undermine the unanimous consensus of the companions upon the authenticity and correctness of the ʿUthmānic codex. Instead, it shows us that a few companions wished to continue reading as they had before and, quite understandably, did not wish to forsake the readings they had learned directly from the Prophet ﷺ.

Due to the success of the ʿUthmānic codex, all other readings eventually became practically extinct.224 They would continue to exist only as scattered narrations in the literary sources of the Islamic tradition, in the knowledge of specialists in qirāʾāt, and in some manuscript sources (see discussion on the Ṣanʿāʾ palimpsest below).

The regional codices and their differences

The committee of ʿUthmān did not transcribe only one codex. Rather, several copies were made and these were distributed to different lands within the Islamic empire. Anas ibn Mālik narrated, “When they had copied the manuscripts, ʿUthmān sent one muṣḥaf from those maṣāḥif that they had copied to every province.”225 This was directly related to the goal behind the entire project—to unify the Muslim ummah on one muṣḥaf in order to eliminate the disputes that had emerged between Muslims reciting according to different aḥruf. The success of the project was therefore contingent upon all Muslims following the official copies of the ʿUthmānic text sent to them.

A. The number of regional codices and their destinations

How many official codices were written and to which regions were they sent? The minimum number agreed upon by scholars is four; one remained in Madīnah while the rest were sent to Basra, Kūfah, and Shām (Greater Syria.)226 Abū ʿAmr al-Dānī (d. 444 AH) writes, “The majority of scholars are of the view that when ʿUthmān wrote the muṣḥaf, he made four copies and sent one to each region, so he sent one to Kūfah, one to Basra, one to Shām, and kept one with him.”227 A number of scholars, including al-Jaʿbarī (d. 732 AH) and Ibn al-Jazarī (d. 833 AH) also distinguished between the original codex that ʿUthmān kept for himself and the copy that ʿUthmān made for Madīnah.228 Other regions are mentioned by Abū Ḥātim al-Sijistānī (d. 255 AH), “When ʿUthmān compiled the Qur’an and wrote the maṣāḥif, he transcribed seven codices. And he sent one to Makkah, one to Shām, one to Yemen, one to Bahrain, one to Basra, one to Kūfah, and he kept one in Madīnah.”229 Ibn Kathīr (d. 773 AH) also states the same but substitutes Egypt for Bahrain.230 Seven is the number supported by Makkī ibn Abī Ṭālib as well.231 Ibn al-Jazarī himself prefers the opinion of eight, taking the seven mentioned by Abū Ḥātim and adding ʿUthmān’s personal codex.232 Al-Yaʿqūbī (d. 292 AH) does not include the personal codex but mentions all the aforementioned regions and adds al-Jazīrah,233 for a total of nine.234 These accounts may be reconciled by suggesting that the codices were dispatched in stages.235 The initial copies dispatched were indeed four including Basra, Kūfah, and Shām alongside the one kept in Madīnah, and these regions were prioritized because they were the regions where Muslims had specifically experienced conflict over their differing readings, as Ḥudhayfah had told ʿUthmān. Subsequently, the other Muslim lands mentioned acquired their own official copies.

Note that some later sources mention that ʿUthmān sent a reciter with each muṣḥaf. Al-Jaʿbarī (d. 732 AH) cites an account without an isnād which states: “ʿUthmān instructed Zayd ibn Thābit to recite according to the Madīnan codex, he sent ʿAbdullāh ibn al-Sāʾib with the Makkī codex, Mughīrah ibn Abī Shihāb with the Syrian codex, Abū ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Sulamī with the Kūfan codex, and ʿĀmir ibn ʿAbd Qays with the Basran codex.”236 However, this report is not found in earlier extant sources and it is not necessary to assume that this took place as there were already eminent companions of the Prophet ﷺ in each of those cities teaching the Qur’an.

B. The degree of similarity between the regional codices

How carefully and precisely did the scribes produce these regional codices? The answer is that manuscript evidence has proven that the copying process was extremely precise. We can see this with respect to spelling conventions (orthography). Sometimes the same word is spelled differently in different places in the Qur’an, and in some cases those orthographic idiosyncrasies are replicated across manuscripts. The contemporary researcher Marijn van Putten conducted an evaluation of the spelling of the word niʿmat (blessing) in the Qur’an.237 This word  occurs 23 times in the Qur’an and is sometimes spelled نعمت and sometimes نعمة, a variation that is commonly encountered with other feminine nouns as well (e.g., كلمة/كلمت ,رحمة/رحمت, etc.). One would expect such trivial spelling variations to exhibit no pattern, and yet examining 14 early Qur’anic manuscripts (predominantly from the first or second century hijrī), Van Putten demonstrated that there is remarkable consistency and agreement between manuscripts across نعمة/نعمت spellings. Thus, for example, 3:103, 5:11, 14:28, 14:34, etc. are always spelled نعمت in all the manuscripts, while 2:211, 5:7, 14:6, 16:18, etc. are always spelled نعمة. Van Putten writes:

Such orthographic idiosyncrasies allow us to show that the Qur’anic manuscripts go back to a single written archetype from which all of these documents were copied. If two manuscripts do not descend from copies of a single archetype, we would not expect the same spelling to occur in the exact same location time and time again. However, this is exactly what we find: highly idiosyncratic spellings occur again and again in the same spelling in the exact same location across all early Qur’anic manuscripts. Such variation can only be the result of precise written transmission.238

Thus, these ʿUthmānic codices must have been produced through a very high fidelity process with meticulous review to allow for such patterns to be replicated in the subsequent generations of maṣāḥif. We have reports from the earliest Muslim community that take the spelling conventions in the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf to be authoritative. Imam Mālik (d. 179 AH) was asked whether it was acceptable for people to write the maṣāḥif according to the spelling conventions of their time, and replied that they should write it according to the original spelling.239 Some scholars clarified this by noting that there is flexibility allowed in orthographic conventions on certain matters (such as soft vowels) but not others.240

Note that one must be careful to distinguish between two different but related questions. The first is whether it is required to adhere to the rasm (orthography) of the ʿUthmānic text. The second is whether the rasm is tawqīfī (based on Prophetic instruction) or isṭilāḥī (based on the customary spelling practices and orthographic conventions adopted by the Prophet’s companions). Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad notes that confusion between these two matters resulted in the claim that the rasm ʿUthmānī is tawqīfī.241 We do encounter this view mentioned by scholars as early as Abū al-Faḍl al-Rāzī (d. 454 AH).242 Nonetheless, the stronger view is that the rasm was isṭilāḥī; i.e., that the companions merely adopted the spelling practices to which they were accustomed, and this accounts for some degree of variation.243 

If the rasm is isṭilāḥī, is it still a requirement to follow it? On the one hand, the majority of scholars said that following the rasm remains an obligation. On the other hand, Abū Bakr al-Bāqillānī (d. 403 AH) argued that following the rasm of the ʿUthmānic codex is not a requirement.244 Some scholars sought to adopt a middle position, stating that while it is not binding upon all people to follow the rasm, scholars of Islam should nevertheless endeavor to study and preserve knowledge of the ʿUthmānic rasm.245 Indeed, we do find Qur’anic manuscripts that did not adopt the rasm of the ʿUthmānic codex, such as the muṣḥaf of Ibn al-Bawwāb (d. 413 AH) written in 391 AH, among others.246 However, the strongest position is the majority position: adhering to the rasm is an obligation due to the consensus of the companions upon it and the intimate connection between the rasm and the permitted reading traditions (qirāʾāt).

C. The degree of difference between the regional codices

Notwithstanding the incredible degree of consistency between copies, we also know that, in very particular locations, the regional ʿUthmānic codices were not completely identical. The regional codices contained a small number of very slight differences that Muslim scholars devoted themselves to studying and enumerating. Some of these differences consisted of variations in spelling convention with no difference in pronunciation (e.g., الصرط or الصراط), while others related to different readings that existed among the companions of the Prophet ﷺ due to the different aḥruf. Narrations listing these differences were compiled by the famous reciters themselves, including Kitāb ikhtilāf maṣāḥif al-Shām wal-Ḥijāz wal-ʿIrāq by Ibn ʿĀmir (d. 118 AH), Kitāb ikhtilāf maṣāḥif  ahl al-Madīnah wa ahl al-Kūfah wa ahl al-Baṣrah by al-Kisāʾī (d. 189 AH), Kitāb Ikhtilāf al-Maṣāḥif by Khalaf ibn Hishām al-Bazzār (d. 229 AH). Another work entitled Kitāb ikhtilāf ahl al-Kūfah wal-Baṣrah wal-Shām fī al-maṣāḥif was compiled by the grammarian al-Farrāʾ (d. 207 AH). While the aforementioned works are no longer extant, the data concerning the variants has been detailed in extant works including Abū ʿUbayd al-Qāsim ibn Sallām’s (d. 224 AH) Faḍāʾil al-Qurʾān, Ibn Abī Dāwūd’s (d. 316 AH) Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, Abū Bakr al-Anbārī’s (d. 328 AH) Marsūm al-khaṭṭ, Abū al-ʿAbbās al-Mahdawī’s (d. 440 AH) Hijāʾ maṣāḥif al-amṣār, Abū ʿAmr al-Dānī’s (d. 444 AH) al-Muqniʿ, and al-Andarābī’s (d. 470 AH) al-Īḍāḥ fī al-qirāʾāt.247 As shall be discussed below, these works contain explicit statements affirming that these variants are all valid Qur’anic readings authentically transmitted from the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. In other words, they already existed as Qur’anic readings prior to the transcription of the codices.

For the four codices unanimously agreed to be ʿUthmānic, al-Dānī lists a total of 36 points of difference,248 an astronomically small quantity in a text exceeding 320,000 letters.249 This fraction is a hundredth of a percent (0.01%), which means the regional codices are 99.99% identical. The companions of the Prophet ﷺ and the early reciters of the Qur’an were fully aware of these differences. Abū ʿUbayd reports that the differences between the Syrian codex and the ʿIrāqī codex were enumerated by the companion Abū al-Dardāʾ (d. 35 AH) himself.250 Abū ʿUbayd points out that the differences between the regional codices almost all amount to single-letter differences, such as an additional و (for example, و يقول in 5:53 in the Kūfan and Basran codices versus يقول in the Madīnan and Syrian codices), or the presence of an ا (for example, او ان in 40:26 in the Kūfan and Basran codices versus و ان in the Madīnan and Syrian codices). Aside from such single-letter differences, the only other difference among the four codices is the two-letter word هو in 57:24 (فإن الله هو الغني الحميد) in the Kūfan and Basran codices, which is not present in the Madīnan and Syrian codices.251 After enumerating these differences, Abū ʿUbayd states, “And as for all of these variants, then as I informed you, it is not permissible for anyone to deny or reject any of them, for they are all considered by us to be the Divine speech of Allah, and as such, the prayer of one who recites them is sound.”252

These differences are not simply a matter of historical interest, as Muslims have continued to recite all of them in the form of the qirāʾāt. Thus, 5:53 is recited without the و by the Madīnan reciters (Nāfiʿ and Abū Jaʿfar), Makkan reciter (Ibn Kathīr), and Syrian reciter (Ibn ʿĀmir) as per their codices, while it is recited with the و by the Basran reciters (Abū ʿAmr and Yaʿqūb) and Kūfan reciters (Ḥamzah, ʿĀṣim, al-Kisāʾī, Khalaf) as per the Basran and Kūfan codices.253 That the variants mentioned in the codices are also present in the qirāʾāt confirms that these differences are attested in oral transmission from the Prophet ﷺ himself, a topic analyzed in greater detail below.

D. Why did the regional codices differ?

If the goal of the ʿUthmānic compilation was to unify the ummah upon one muṣḥaf and to eliminate the confusion and conflict surrounding reading with different aḥruf, then why would ʿUthmān and his committee include a small number of differences in the regional codices? And what was the origin of these differences? Muslim scholars have clarified that these variants related to authentically transmitted readings of the Qur’an from the Prophet ﷺ. We have already noted Abū ʿUbayd’s statement that all these variants are kalām Allāh (Divine speech). Likewise, Abū Bakr al-Udfuwī (d. 388 AH) and Makkī ibn Abī Ṭālib (d. 437 AH) mention that scholars affirmed that the variants between the regional codices belong to the differences of the seven aḥruf, and that the companions “relied on each reading (ḥarf) they heard the Messenger of Allah ﷺ recite in two ways, so in some codices they wrote one way and in other codices they wrote another, so that both ways would be available to the Muslims.”254 Therefore, all the regional variants are authentic readings from the Prophet (ﷺ).255 Ibn Idrīs (d. c. 400 AH) writes concerning the isolated variant of the Syrian codex which omits the initial و in 2:116:

And both readings are correct, and this [variant] was not a result of negligence from the companions (may Allah be pleased with them) as some ignoramuses may presume. But rather they wrote both ways deliberately because Allah revealed the verse both ways, so they wrote it with a waw in some of the codices and omitted it from the other, in order to serve as notification [of those two readings]. And this explanation applies to every case of addition or omission of letters in the codices.256

The author of Kitāb al-Mabānī (approx. 425 AH) writes:

And the evidence that these variants between the codices were written correctly and with certainty, deliberately and intentionally, and to preserve both readings for the Muslims which the Messenger of Allah ﷺ recited on two different occasions at different times, and that those instances of addition, subtraction, or substitution in the text are not due to forgetfulness (sahw) of the transmitter nor omission by a negligent scribe, [the evidence] is that the readings are all sound and eloquent, and each variant is corroborated [in its linguistic acceptability] by decisive proof from the truth for its preponderance.257

The author then proceeds to cite various linguistic explanations for the suitability of both readings in the case of the variants.258 Abū ʿAmr al-Dānī (d. 444 AH) also states that this was deliberately done by the committee of ʿUthmān in order to accommodate certain variants. Al-Dānī writes:

If a questioner were to ask concerning the reason that led to the variants comprising additional letters in the script of the maṣāḥif, I say: the reason for that according to us is as follows: When ʿUthmān compiled the Qur’an in the maṣāḥif, he wrote them according to one script based upon the dialect of the Quraysh, leaving out anything else that was not authentic or established, out of consideration for the ummah and caution for the people of this religion. And it was clear to him that these different readings [i.e., the variants between the ʿUthmānic codices] are from Allah and were revealed as such, and were heard from the Prophet ﷺ as such. He knew that collecting them together in one codex would not be possible except by repeating the same word twice, and evidently, to write it in that manner would entail confusing and altering the written script.  So he distributed them between the codices, so these additional letters are present in some and omitted in others so that the ummah could preserve them as they were revealed by Allah, and as they were heard from the Messenger of Allah ﷺ, so this is the reason why they are written differently between the codices.259

In his comments in 2:285, al-Sakhāwī (d. 643 AH) also explains the spelling difference between manuscripts as a way of deliberately accommodating both readings.260 

Note that some scholars opined that the motivation to include these particular readings within the text was because they were already being recited by Muslims in different regions, based on authentic oral transmission of the companions from the Prophet ﷺ, and could be easily accommodated with only slight modification. Abū Bakr al-Udfuwī (d. 388 AH) considers it possible that the scribes included these particular variants because they were already being taught to Muslims by the companions who lived in these regions.261 Al-Mahdawī (d. 440 AH) affirms the same view. He indicates that these variants (1) were divinely revealed and (2) corresponded to the oral transmissions already prevalent within each Muslim community. He writes, “And these variants were affirmed in the manuscripts that were written and distributed to the various Muslim provinces by ʿUthmān, along with the early Muslim community who agreed with him, due to their knowledge that they belong to that upon which the Qur’an was revealed. So they were affirmed so that every community could recite according to their transmission.”262

Similarly, Al-Zarqānī explains that in general, the muṣḥaf was written without vowelization and diacritical marks to accommodate multiple readings, and where multiple readings could not be accommodated by the skeletal text, they were deliberately placed in different codices.263 He further argues that the underlying logic of placing different readings in different codices is to present them as equally valid; any other option, such as placing one reading in the margins and the other in the text, would be suboptimal because it creates the impression of a preferred reading.264 

On the other hand, Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad doubts that this was done with the specific goal of accommodating additional readings; rather, the goal of the committee was to write the Qur’an according to one ḥarf (i.e., one reading). However, in some cases due to the prevalence of two readings that were extremely similar, both equally well-established from the Prophet ﷺ, they were regarded as equivalent and basically taken as belonging to the same ḥarf.265 Likewise, Al-Aʿẓamī writes:

...these variations are inconsequential to the meaning of each verse and bear no alteration to the semantics whatsoever. But they cannot be attributed to carelessness. Zayd ibn Thābit, in each case finding both readings to be authentic and of equal status, retained them in different copies. The inclusion of both side by side would only have wrought confusion; alternatively, placing one of them in the margin would imply a lesser degree of authenticity. By placing them in different copies he accommodated them on equal terms. The modern approach to textual criticism requires that, when variations arise between two manuscripts of equal status, the editor cites one of the two in the core text while the deviations are consigned to footnotes. This method is unjust however, as it demotes the value of the second copy. Zayd’s scheme is much the fairer; by preparing multiple copies he sidesteps any implications that this or that reading is superior, giving each variant its just due.266

In summary, then, Muslim scholars agree upon the authenticity of these variants between the regional codices, but they differ on the reason or motivation for their inclusion. Some scholars consider these variants a deliberate attempt to accommodate all or part of the variation of the aḥruf (relating to the earlier difference of opinion on that topic), while others consider these to be cases where readings were equally well established, which precluded giving priority to one over the other. One might imagine a third scenario in which such miniscule differences emerged during the transcription process because the reciter recalled another authentic qirāʾah which differed from the one used in the manuscript being copied. Thus, an existing oral precedent influenced the scribe during the writing process to include a slightly different reading (oral interference). The companions would not consider a small number of such slight differences to undermine the goal of unifying the Muslims (provided that they were all authentically established from the Prophet ﷺ), and hence during verification and review of the regional codices, both readings would be accepted. This will be evaluated in further detail below.

E. The regional codices and stemmatics

Examination of the data provided by Abū ʿAmr al-Dānī (d. 444 AH) concerning the differences between the regional codices of Syria, Madīnah, Kūfah and Baṣrah reveals that they form what is essentially a perfect stemma, or family tree showing the relationship between the codices. This observation was initially made by the German orientalist Theodor Nöldeke, and later updated and refined by the historian Michael Cook.267 Stemmatics analyzes variants of a text in order to determine which text was the ‘parent’ from which another copy was made. In order to understand the argument, let us first provide some basic examples to illustrate the general concept underlying the application of stemmatics. Assume that we find three copies of a book, which have small variations in the following sentence:

Book 1: “There was a gray car outside the house.”

Book 2: “There was a gray cat outside the house.”

Book 3: “There was a gray cat outside the house chasing a mouse.”

In this example, Books 2 and 3 agree on a cat outside, while Book 1 says it was a car. We know that Book 3 must have been copied from Book 2, but it would not have been copied from Book 1.

To further elucidate the matter, consider the similarities and differences between the following squares, imagining that each represents a codex (“S” for Syrian, “M” for Madīnan, “B” for Basran, and “K” for Kūfan).

The Uthmanic Codex - Figure 1

Figure 1: Squares with variants forming a stemma.

Imagine that you were told that one of these squares was the original, and every time it was copied a few squares were changed from blue to yellow, or from yellow to blue. How would you determine which square was the original? Notice that the squares only differ with respect to the position of yellow squares, the coordinates of which are identified by the row numbers and column letters. Notice furthermore that S has two isolated variants shared by none of the others (G1 and D7) and K has three isolated variants shared by none of the others (I3, I7, and A5), while M and B have no isolated variants. Every yellow square on M is also present in S, and every yellow square in B is also present in K, while B and K share no common yellow squares with S and M. In other words, S never agrees with B and K against M, B never agrees with S against M or M against K, and K never agrees with M or S against B.

This is, in some loose sense, analogous to what Cook observes with the regional codices:

  • Syrian muṣḥaf: 16 places where it is different from all the other three maṣāḥif, and 13 places where it agrees with the Madanī muṣḥaf against the Basran and Kūfan muṣḥaf. It never agrees with the Basran and Kūfan maṣāḥif against the Madanī muṣḥaf.
  • Madanī muṣḥaf: No isolated readings (i.e., readings that are not found in any of the other maṣāḥif). It has only 13 places where it agrees with the Syrian muṣḥaf against the Basran and Kūfan maṣāḥif.
  • Basran muṣḥaf: Never agrees with the Syrian muṣḥaf against the Madanī muṣḥaf. One isolated reading (23:85–89) is present which is not found in any other muṣḥaf. Cook agrees with a narration describing this as a later addition after the time of ʿUthmān since it doesn't fit the stemmas.268
  • Kūfan muṣḥaf: six isolated readings that are not found in any other muṣḥaf. Otherwise, it always agrees with the Basran muṣḥaf against the Madanī and Syrian maṣāḥif.

Based on these differences, Cook argues that we can reconstruct the relationships between the maṣāḥif, knowing that the Syrian muṣḥaf is more closely related to the Madanī muṣḥaf than to the Basran and Kūfan maṣāḥif, which means the Syrian muṣḥaf was copied from the Madanī muṣḥaf or vice versa. Similarly, the Madanī muṣḥaf is more closely related to the Basran muṣḥaf than it is to the Kūfan muṣḥaf, because the Kūfan muṣḥaf has six places that are isolated readings. So therefore the Basran muṣḥaf is between the Madanī muṣḥaf and the Kūfan muṣḥaf.

Based on this argument, Cook presents four possible stemmas:

The Uthmanic Codex Figure 2

Figure 2: Possible stemmas according to Michael Cook

Let us consider the merit of Cook’s argument from stemmatics. Does it provide convincing evidence that one codex must have been copied from another codex? The answer is affirmative, since otherwise the fact that they form a perfect stemma becomes a sheer coincidence (or an elaborate ruse). Had the codices been written independently of one another and ʿUthmān told the committee to put certain specific variants in the Syrian codex, and certain specific variants in the Madīnan codex, and so on for the Basran and Kūfan codices, then one would expect each codex to have its own isolated variants (mufradāt) or to share some variants with each of the other codices.269 There would be some cases where the Basran and Syrian codices agree against the Madīnan, or cases where the Kūfan and Madīnan agree against the Basran. Rather than forming a stemma, the picture would look something like this:

The Uthmanic Codex Figure 3

Figure 3: Squares with variants exhibiting no possible stemma.

However, where Cook errs in the matter is his claim that the existence of a stemma rules out the possibility of invention (i.e., the possibility that these variants were deliberately introduced into the codices).270 This is imprecise. The existence of a stemma rules out the possibility of synchronous invention, where codices are being written simultaneously and variants are being dispersed between them during the writing process. However, it does not exclude the possibility of sequential invention, where one codex is copied from another, one at a time, and during the copying process the scribe is deliberately instructed271 to make a few specific changes to the original at particular places in order to accommodate other readings. In the course of synchronous invention, there would be no generation of a stemma while in the course of sequential invention, it is impossible for the copying process not to produce a stemma. Note that a detailed evaluation of various hypothetical scenarios will be provided in the subsequent section including a refutation of the allegation of scribal errors.

The subject of stemmatics and the regional codices was recently revisited by Hythem Sidky, who extended the analysis to examine over fifty Qur’anic manuscripts for the very same regional variants reported in literary sources. Likewise, analytical studies of the regional variants in smaller subsets of existing Qur’anic manuscripts have also been performed by Muḥammad Muṣṭafā Al-Aʿẓamī,272 Ala Vahidnia,273 and Mohammad Said Mitwally Ibrahim Alrahawan.274 Many of these manuscripts have been dated to the earliest period of Islamic history. The results of these recent studies are remarkable. The very same textual variants reported in the Islamic literary sources are found distributed in the manuscripts according to the very same patterns. The manuscript evidence thus confirms the historicity of the ʿUthmānic codices and the accuracy of the traditional Islamic sources in documenting regional variants.275

For instance, the Codex Parisino-petropolitanus (CPP) demonstrates agreement with the variants reported for the Syrian codex.276 CPP dates to the first century hijrī and was recovered from the Mosque of ʿAmr ibn al-ʿĀṣ in Fustat, Egypt.277 Today, most of the codex is located in the Bibliothèque nationale de France (national library of France), in Paris. The manuscript is written in ḥijāzī script.

The Uthmanic Codex Figure 4

Figure 4. CPP (Arabe 328a) showing verse 3:184 written according to the Syrian ʿUthmānic codex with wa bi-zubur as opposed to wa al-zubur. This is also exactly how the word is recited according to the qirāʾah of the Syrian reader Ibn ʿĀmir. Image from Bibliothèque nationale de France, annotation added.278

The famous muṣḥaf known as the “Qur’an of ʿUthmān” in Tashkent, Uzbekistan (also known as the Samarqand codex), demonstrates concordance with the regional variants for the codex that ʿUthmān sent to Kufa. This manuscript dates to the late second century hijrī, i.e., roughly one century after the ʿUthmānic project. It was previously located in St. Petersburg, Russia, and in 1905 a facsimile copy was produced by S. Pisarev.279 It is written in kūfic script.

The Uthmanic Codex Figure 5

Figure 5. Pisarev facsimile from the Samarqand codex showing verse 36:35 written as ʿamilat (عملت) instead of ʿamilat-hu (عملته). This is also exactly how the word is recited by the Kūfan reciters Ḥamzah, al-Kisāʾī, Khalaf, and Shuʿbah’s transmission of ʿĀṣim.280 Image from CorpusCoranicum.281

By similar analysis of regional variants, one may note for instance the Madīnan regional variants in the famous Topkapi Qur’an located in the Topkapi Palace museum in Istanbul, Turkey.282

F. The allegation of scribal errors

With respect to the allegation that the ʿUthmānic codices contained scribal errors, there are two separate issues that need to be addressed: (1) the claim that variants between the regional codices are scribal errors; and (2) the claim that certain narrations from the companions indicate that there are scribal errors.

Typically in textual criticism, when textual variants are encountered in a manuscript tradition, the general assumption is that the original reading has been corrupted.283 However, there are a number of clear reasons why this assumption cannot be lazily applied to the textual variants of the ʿUthmānic regional codices. First, it ignores the existence of the qirāʾāt, the established reading traditions. The historical evidence inarguably establishes that different ways of reciting the Qur’an preceded the existence of the ʿUthmānic codex. If a textual variant could have already existed in the reading traditions, then its inclusion in the ʿUthmānic codex cannot be automatically attributed to scribal error. The codices were not produced exclusively through a copying process without any oral interference. We are informed in the literary sources that during the transcription process, one person would be designated to dictate and recite, while the other person would transcribe. For instance, ʿUthmān said, “Let Saʿīd dictate and Zayd transcribe.”284 If the scribe was only reading a text in front of him, there would be no role for the reciter. On the other hand, if the reciter was the only one reading the text and the scribe was writing exclusively based on what he heard from the reciter, then we would not obtain the pattern of orthographic idiosyncrasies discussed earlier which point to a single textual archetype from which other copies descend. The synchrony of oral transmission alongside textual transmission created a highly effective filtering mechanism whereby a textual variant could only be transmitted if it conformed to a pre-existing oral reading.

Secondly, the maximum number of isolated variants is approximately 15,285 which is found in the Syrian codex. If these were assumed to be transcription errors during the process of copying the Madīnan codex, this quantity is astronomically smaller than expected, and the remaining codices have even fewer variants. By way of comparison, in the text of the four gospels (roughly similar in length to the Qur’an),286 the Codex Sinaiticus and Codex Vaticanus contain 3036 textual variants, including entire omitted phrases and verses.287 If we ignore omissions of words, phrases and verses in the Codex Sinaiticus and pretend for a moment that it predominantly has single-letter textual variants like the Syrian codex, then we still end up with the astoundingly discrepant rate of one variant per 21 words in the gospels, and one variant per 5100 words in the Qur’an. The only scientifically plausible account is to judge the underlying mechanism generating textual variants in either scenario to be categorically different; for the Codex Sinaiticus the mechanism includes scribal errors and for the ʿUthmānic codices it is the reading traditions. 

Furthermore, examining the variants of the ʿUthmānic regional codices demonstrates that the variants are not randomly distributed through the codex. Of the 15 variants in the Syrian codex, seven are located exclusively in Sūrah al-Anʿām and Sūrah al-Aʿrāf. This requires us to assume extremely high fidelity copying throughout vast swathes of the Qur’an with sudden inexplicable sporadic lapses, including during the transcription phase as well as subsequent review and verification.288 Either way, it is far simpler to conclude that these were specific instances where oral readings influenced the inclusion of specific textual variants during the transcription process. This is particularly true if we accept evidence from the tradition concerning the deliberate inclusion of the alif in 23:87 and 23:89, which confirms that the early Muslim community was concerned about such minutiae with respect to correspondence between reading traditions and manuscripts.289 As such, we should consider minute alterations similar to 23:87 and 23:89 to be the result of scribes including existing oral readings rather than errors.

In the narration concerning the process of writing the ʿUthmānic codex we are informed about one word in the entire Qur’an on which the committee differed. Ibn Shihāb al-Zuhrī (d. 124 AH) reported, “They differed on that occasion concerning whether to write Al-Tābūt (التابوت) or Aa-Tābuh (التابوه). The Quraysh said ‘Al-Tābūt’ while Zayd said ‘Al-Tābūh.’ Their disagreement was brought to ʿUthmān, so he said, ‘Write it as Al-Tābūt, for it was revealed in the tongue of the Quraysh.’”290 Interestingly, among the textual variants of the regional codices we note that for 5:54, the Syrian and Madīnan codices have the unassimilated Qurayshī form of the word (يرتدد), which matches 2:217, while the Kūfan and Basran codices have the assimilated form as per the Tamīmī dialect (يرتد).291 Given that these are precisely the types of dialectical variations for which the committee was responsible to seek ʿUthmān’s approval, it is more rational to presume the deliberate inclusion of a known variant from the reading traditions than the committee overlooking the same exact word twice (either during writing the Syrian and Madīnan codices or during writing the Kūfan and Basran codices) in 5:54 but never in 2:217. 

Thirdly, the nature of the textual variants encountered in the regional codices strongly argues in favor of these variants representing pre-existing oral readings. Absent from the ʿUthmānic codices are any typical instances of transcription errors like parablepsis secondary to homoeoteleuton, haplography, or dittography.292 All of the textual variants of the regional codices result in syntactically and semantically viable readings. In cases where there is a perceptible impact on the meaning, both readings bring about mutually complementary and linguistically sound interpretations. What fortuitous circumstances would bring about the massively improbable coincidence of a scribal error adding or omitting a م in the one location where it is semantically appropriate to have both readings based on different preceding passages?293

Fourthly, the reception of the ʿUthmānic codices was overwhelmingly successful and quickly became the basis upon which all qirāʾāt were recited and other maṣāḥif were transcribed. As previously mentioned, the early Muslim community was aware of these textual variants, and indeed catalogued them extensively as evidenced by the numerous early works and narrations on the subject. By all accounts, the Prophet’s companions and their succeeding generations had no qualms reciting and teaching the Qur’an according to these codices with regional variants. Not a single narration records hesitation over reciting a letter determined to be a textual variant. None of these sources declare these particular variants between the regional codices to be the result of scribal errors in Qur’anic manuscripts, even though they did discuss the concept of scribal errors extensively, as we shall observe in the next section.

Abū Bakr al-Udfuwī (d. 388 AH) is one of the early scholars to repudiate the notion that the regional variants could be the result of scribal errors. Al-Udfuwī writes:

The understanding of occurrences of addition or subtraction in the maṣāḥif is that they are written according to the reading of those companions sent to each of the provinces. And what indicates this is that the Qurrāʾ (famous reciters) attribute their readings to the senior companion of their region. And these variants, in their addition or omission, were recited during the time of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. And were that not the case, they could not be written in some codices and omitted from others. And it is not possible to imagine that they could be errors from the scribe, for verily Allah has preserved it (i.e., the Qur’an). And the proof of that is that when ʿAlī began his reign as the caliph, he did not change anything from it but rather endorsed the action of ʿUthmān. And they used to dislike even dotting the maṣāḥif out of fear of adding to it. So how could they add letters (or variants) and have such additions approved... [al-Udfuwī then gives examples illustrating the early Muslims’ abundant caution in adding any markings of any kind, including chapter markings, verse markings, and consonantal diacritical markings.] So it is not possible with such caution that these letters could arise except via explicit proof (naṣṣ) or knowledge, and they could not occur by the error (wahm) of scribes.294

One may observe that al-Udfuwī mentions both the first and fourth points of consideration identified above. That is, he mentions the existence of established reading traditions with these regional variants, and he mentions the community’s reception of these variants, particularly the example of ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib. Moreover, he contrasts the reception of these regional variants with the early Muslim community’s reticent attitude towards even the most trivial manipulations of the text.

Fifthly, one may address the question of purpose. Why include only a small number of seemingly trivial variants? There are a number of historically plausible scenarios that would explain the small number of textual variants that we see. Not all of these scenarios require that the matter had been discussed and deliberated upon by ʿUthmān and the committee prior to the initiation of the compilation project. The stated goal of the project was to reduce the differing and conflict over readings taking place among Muslims by uniting them upon one muṣḥaf. It is plausible that during the transcription process, the participation of different members from the extended committee of 12 members would have influenced the decision about the inclusion of a minute number of variants in some codices as opposed to others—a decision which would have ultimately been reviewed and approved by ʿUthmān prior to sending out the codices. One aspect of the extensive review and verification process of very minor changes is highlighted in the report of Hānī al-Barbarī. He reports:

I was with ʿUthmān when the committee was reviewing the maṣāḥif. So he sent me to Ubayy ibn Kaʿb with the scapula of a sheep upon which was written (لم يتسن)295 and (لا تبديل للخلق)296 and (فأمهل الكافرين).297 So Ubayy asked for something with which to write and revised the spellings, such that he wrote (لخلق) removing one of the two ل, and he wrote (فمهل), and he wrote (لم يتسنه) adding a (ه).298

The above examples of single-letter changes were carefully considered and discussed, and these particular examples do not show up as textual variants among the regional codices. However, in the above example, the role of Ubayy ibn Kaʿb is limited to correcting some spellings on specifically requested words. Given that the people of Syria were more familiar with the reading of Ubayy ibn Kaʿb, it is not unlikely that ʿUthmān would ensure that the Syrian codex received additional participation from Ubayy ibn Kaʿb.299  

Recall that scholars like al-Udfuwī and al-Mahdawī suggested that the regional variants were intended to accommodate readings of a particular region. Recall also that some scholars suggested that the ʿUthmānic committee initially included only four core members before expanding to include a total of 12 members. This also makes sense of the differing narrations concerning Ṣaʿīd ibn al-ʿĀṣ dictating versus Ubayy ibn Kaʿb dictating and Ṣaʿīd reviewing.300 The involvement of companions like Anas ibn Mālik and Ubayy ibn Kaʿb in the Madīnan codex, and particularly Ubayy ibn Kaʿb in the Syrian codex, suggests a plausible scenario for the minor variation encountered in the regional codices.

The sixth point, though somewhat technical, appears to empirically exclude the possibility of attributing the regional variants to scribal error. It draws upon the previous discussion of stemmatics and combines it with a consideration related to the mutashābihāt (passages in the Qur’an that resemble one another). Notice first that several of the textual variants appear to recapitulate passages found elsewhere in the Qur’an. Thus, the Syrian/Madīnan variant for 5:54 matches 2:217, the Syrian/Madīnan/Basran variant for 46:15 matches 29:8, the Kūfan/Basran 57:24 matches 60:6, the Madīnan/Basran/Kūfan 40:21 matches 35:44 and 30:9, the Syrian 8:67 matches 9:113 while Madīnan/Basran/Kūfan 8:67 matches 3:161, the Syrian 6:32 matches 12:109 and 16:30, the Syrian 3:184 matches 35:25, the Kūfan/Basran 43:71 matches 41:31, the Syrian 7:141 matches 14:6 while the Madīnan/Basran/Kūfan 7:141 matches 2:50 and 20:80, and the Syrian/Madīnan/Basran 6:63 matches 10:22. This predilection of textual variants for mutashābihāt verses appears to have gone unnoticed in prior studies of these variants. Yet, it can be no accident that mutashābihāt passages are so highly represented among the textual variants.

What follows is an argument by way of reductio ad absurdum. Those who consider these to be scribal errors would have to concede that they are not instances of misreading the text being copied but rather a case of memory interference known as assimilation of parallels which would arise from recollection of a similar passage.301 But on that assumption, the error would dissolve the original difference between the two passages. Thus, if the Qur’an originally contains a passage that says A1 and another similar passage that says A2, a memory-based error would result in two passages that say A1 or two passages that say A2. Overall, memory-based errors homogenize differences between mutashābihāt passages, resulting in fewer and fewer differences. Projecting backwards, the direction of heterogeneity allows one to identify the original text. We may exclude those examples for which both regional variants match other Qur’anic passages, since it is not possible to identify directionality in such cases. Memory-based errors should accumulate as one descends from parent to child in the stemma. The direction of increasing homogeneity should also be the direction of transcription within the stemma. Yet, this leads to conflicting directions violating the stemma (see diagram), demonstrating that these regional variants cannot be attributed to error.

The Uthmanic Codex Figure 6

Figure 6. The presumed directionality of copying from parent codex to descendent codex based on the variants arising through the process of assimilation of parallels.302 Given that the inferred directions are mutually contradictory and that these contradict the relationships deduced from stemmatics, it can be reasonably concluded that the regional variants were deliberately included to conform to an existing reading transmitted from the Prophet ﷺ by a companion and thus do not represent errors.

In other words, on the claim of scribal errors, either the existence of the stemma becomes a massive coincidence or the predilection of regional variants for mutashābihāt becomes a massive coincidence. Notice of course that the Qur’an contains multitudes of mutashābihāt which feature no variants in the regional codices, including some which are quite extensive (e.g., 2:57–59 and 7:160–162). These would be the passages most ‘vulnerable’ to assimilation of parallels, and yet they are free of textual variants. On the other hand, the mutashābihāt which feature textual variants are comparatively much easier to sort out and generally the least confusing to huffāẓ (those who have memorized the Qur’an). All of this lends further credence to the argument that these regional variants are deliberate inclusions of pre-existing reading traditions and nothing in the ʿUthmānic codices is attributable to scribal error.

Misconstrued narrations suggesting scribal error

We may now turn our attention to a particular set of narrations recorded in the Islamic tradition which appear to attribute scribal errors to the ʿUthmānic codex. Scholars have analyzed these narrations with respect to their authenticity as well as their potential implications and interpretations.

The first matter of concern is a statement of ʿUthmān ibn ʿAffān himself. A number of narrations state that when the ʿUthmānic codex was complete, he examined it and said, “You have done an excellent and outstanding job. I see that it contains some anomalies (laḥn), however the Arabs will recite it in the correct manner.”303 

First, it should be noted that the chains of transmission for this narration are disconnected and consequently it was deemed inauthentic by many scholars.304 Abū Bakr ibn al-Anbārī (d. 328 AH) writes:

The narrations from ʿUthmān concerning that cannot be used as evidence because they are disconnected and do not trace back to him. And logically it is not possible that ʿUthmān, the leader of the Muslim ummah and the ruler of the people and their role model, would unify the people upon the muṣḥaf that will serve as the exemplar, and after noticing that there are discrepancies or mistakes in the script he would choose not to correct them.305

Al-Anbārī continues by pointing out that this conflicts with the narration of Hānī al-Barbarī, mentioned above, which shows that ʿUthmān went to the trouble of sending specific words to Ubayy ibn Kaʿb to ascertain their precise spellings. Makkī ibn Abī Ṭālib simply points out that the companions of the Prophet ﷺ agreed on the authenticity of what is between the two covers of the muṣḥaf, and it is impossible that they would have agreed upon error.306 Abū ʿAmr al-Dānī (d. 444 AH), like al-Anbārī, notes that this narration is not authentic and that its apparent meaning negates the possibility that ʿUthmān could have said it. ʿUthmān and the noble companions completed an exhaustive and extensive project to compile the muṣḥaf. To simply just leave mistakes in the text after that would render the entire project pointless. He concludes that it is not possible for anyone to say this nor permissible for anyone to believe it.307 Similar arguments were presented by Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 AH).308 

Moreover, scholars pointed out that even if one were to accept the narration as authentic, the word laḥn does not necessarily mean “mistake.” It can also refer to dialectical differences,309 among a variety of other meanings.310Abū al-Ḥusayn ibn al-Munādī (d. 336 AH) was of the opinion that laḥn refers to spelling variants in the rasm where the spelling appears slightly different from the expected pronunciation, which should not be an issue since the recitation of the Qur’an is taught orally.311 Al-Dānī (d. 444 AH) himself provided a similar interpretation and offered examples of Qur’anic words that are written with an extra alif (لأاذبحنه ), waw (سأوريكم ), or yā (نبأى). It is possible for the uninitiated to mispronounce such words if they have not learned from a teacher how to recite the Qur’an, again underscoring the importance of the oral transmission.312 There are much more striking examples in English such as words like neighborqueueknifelaughter, and asthma, where the pronunciation differs considerably from what would be expected given the spelling. This being the case, the interpretation of the statement of ʿUthmān poses no challenges.

A few statements regarding scribal errors have also been related from ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAbbās, which have been studied in detail by many scholars.313 The most famous of these statements concerns the word despair (ييأس) in verse 13:31:314 “The scribe wrote it that way while he was sleepy.”315 With respect to the authenticity of this statement, the discussion revolves around the transmitter Jarīr ibn Ḥāzim, who sometimes erred in what he relayed from memory.316 Abū ʿUbayd recorded the narration of Ibn ʿAbbās without including this statement, instead including only the part of the narration stating that Ibn ʿAbbās read it differently.317 Imam Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal appears to have accepted the authenticity of the narration,318 while it was rejected by others.319 Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī (d. 852 AH), however, was not convinced of the report’s inauthenticity, and he stated that it was more appropriate to find a suitable interpretation for the report.320 Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 AH) explained that some of the early Muslims denied certain readings with which they were unfamiliar, mentioning 13:31 as an example. He then states, “And this is a mistake known through unanimous consensus and mass (mutawātir) transmission. In spite of that, due to the fact that such a reading had not been established for them by mass transmission, they did not disbelieve [by denying it] even though it would constitute disbelief for someone for whom proof of its mass transmission has been established.”321 In other words, it was only during that initial period in Islamic history, before the widespread recognition of certain readings  authentically transmitted from the Prophet ﷺ, that some people could be excused for not knowing them. This is similar to how certain Islamic rulings were not known to a select few companions, but later became widely transmitted.322

Note that Ibn ʿAbbās’s reading of this verse was also shared by ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib, ʿIkrimah, Mujāhid, Ibn Abī Mulaykah, ʿAlī ibn Badīmah, Shahr ibn Ḥawshab, and others.323 This establishes that the reading with which Ibn ʿAbbās was most familiar was also widespread. The companions lived in an era where people commonly wrote their own personal copies of the Qur’an, and so the companions would regularly encounter and correct instances of human error in recitation and in writing. The use of the word yayʾas was likely unfamiliar to some of them since it has been described as belonging to, among others, the dialect of Hawāzin, as mentioned by al-Qāsim ibn Maʿan (d. 175 AH).324 There is no difficulty in affirming that Ibn ʿAbbās, due to his unfamiliarity with this reading of 13:31, assumed it was only found in a copy in which the scribe had erred.325 Once it became clear to him that this was a reading taught by the Prophet ﷺ, he accepted it. This is evident from the fact that Ibn ʿAbbās himself explained the word yayʾas found in the ʿUthmānic codex to mean yaʿlam (knowledge), as reported in an authentic transmission through the tafsīr of ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭalḥah.326 These same principles can be used to account for other narrations from Ibn ʿAbbās327 or other companions that seem to imply disagreement with the reading found in the ʿUthmānic codex.

For instance, ʿUrwah ibn al-Zubayr asked ʿĀʾishah about three verses—4:162, 5:69 and 20:63—which each contain a word in an unexpected grammatical tense, to which she replied, “O my nephew, this is the doing of the scribes who erred in the transcription.”328 However, scholars of tafsīr noted that all of these examples have grammatical explanations in their support, either because they are justified by the dialect of other tribes or because the syntax of the verse supports a reading that justifies the shift in grammatical tense from that which is expected to that which is observed. Thus, the statement of ʿĀʾishah is either inauthentic,329 misunderstood,330 or relates to a personal misjudgment due to lack of familiarity with the reading found in the ʿUthmānic codex.

Abū Layth al-Samarqandī (d. 375 AH) was one of those who rejected such narrations because they imply a logical impossibility, namely that the companions of the Prophet ﷺ would be aware of such errors in the ʿUthmānic codex and simply not bother to make any corrections. He wrote:

And some ignoramuses (juhhāl) state this is an error from the scribe when he wrote the exemplar codex [he then mentions their citation of the aforementioned statements of ʿUthmān and ʿAʾishah]. However, scholars consider this to be farfetched and the narrations are not established from ʿUthmān nor from ʿĀʾishah, may Allah be pleased with them both, because the companions of the Messenger ﷺ were the protectors of the religion and the role models in law and rulings, so it is inconceivable that they would leave in the book of Allah errors that others would correct.331 

Similar arguments have been made by Abū Isḥāq al-Zajjāj (d. 311 AH)332 and al-Zamakhsharī (d. 538 AH),333 with the latter pointing out that only someone unfamiliar with the works of Arabic grammar and their schools of thought could accept the proposition that these are scribal errors.

In commenting on verse 4:162, Ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī persuasively demonstrated the impossibility of ascribing a scribal error to the reading found in the ʿUthmānic codex by observing that the reading found in the codex of Ubayy is identical to that found in the ʿUthmānic codex.334 He comments, “So had that been a scribal error, it would necessitate that all the others codices should read differently than ours in which the scribe erred. And the fact that our muṣḥaf and the muṣḥaf of Ubayy agree on that [reading] demonstrates that what is found in our muṣḥaf is correct and not an error.” Note that this is an early example of a type of ‘proto-stemmatic’ consideration, the likes of which modern historians utilize to construct an archetype of a text and identify the original manuscript or reading. Al-Ṭabarī then continues with an additional historical argument: “Furthermore, had that been a scribal error, the companions of the Prophet ﷺ, from whom the Qur’an is taken, would not have continued to teach Muslims according to an error, but rather would have corrected it with their tongues (i.e., recitation) and would have instructed the ummah according to the correct reading. And in the very fact that Muslims have unanimously transmitted that reading exactly as it is written in the [ʿUthmānic] codex is the clearest evidence of its veracity and correctness.”335

Based on the foregoing considerations, the strongest position is that this statement from ʿĀʾishah simply indicates an instance where a companion was unfamiliar with the reading found in the ʿUthmānic codex, just like the statements from Ibn ʿAbbās discussed earlier. Mansour Hamad Eidi notes that this should not be surprising, as it is only logical that certain qirāʾāt would be unfamiliar to some companions. It is difficult for a person today to master and remember the various qirāʾāt, let alone for a person in the earliest period of Islamic history when writing was less common and individuals had their own personal codices. This is precisely what illustrates the immeasurable benefit brought about by the ʿUthmānic codex.336 It unified all Muslims across the ummah upon the same text and provided them all with a clear reference point for the recitation of the Qur’an.

The Ṣanʿāʾ palimpsest

Earlier we discussed how Qur’anic manuscripts corroborate very precise details mentioned in the Islamic traditional sources, such as the regional variants  distributed in manuscripts in the same patterns described by the traditions. Perhaps one of the most fascinating case studies in the correlation between traditional sources and manuscripts is the Ṣanʿāʾ palimpsest. A palimpsest is a manuscript where the original writing (termed the lower text) was erased (by scraping or washing) and written over (the upper text).  The residue of the ink from the erased text, however, induces a subtle color change in the parchment.337 With careful examination and with the aid of ultraviolet light, the writing of the lower text can be identified.

In 1973, during the restoration of the roof of the Ṣanʿāʾ mosque in Yemen, a storage area between the roof and ceiling was found containing thousands of ancient documents, including the Ṣanʿāʾ palimpsest.338 This palimpsest represents a very early manuscript, radiocarbon-dated to before 51 AH/671 CE with 99% probability and before 41 AH/661 CE with 95% probability.339 In other words, this manuscript dates very closely to the time of the ʿUthmānic compilation (25 AH/645 CE). The Ṣanʿāʾ palimpsest lower text was a copy of the Qur’an that was erased and written over, and the time interval between the lower and upper text is very short (approximately 10–50 years).340 The upper text is consistent with the ʿUthmānic codex. The lower text likewise is consistent with the ʿUthmānic codex in the content of its verses and their sequences; it does not contain any verses absent from the ʿUthmānic codex nor does it feature verses in an order contrary to the ʿUthmānic codex. However, the lower text has some important differences with respect to chapter order and variant readings. In these differences, the lower text demonstrates an incredible degree of consistency with what Islamic traditional sources have described for the personal codices of companions like ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd and Ubayy ibn Kaʿb.341 

With respect to chapter order for instance, the lower text of the Ṣanʿāʾ palimpsest has Sūrah Yūnus after Sūrah al-MāʾidahSūrah al-Kahf after Sūrah Yūsuf, Sūrah al-Jumuʿah after Sūrah al-Munāfiqūn, and Sūrah al-Qiyāmah after Sūrah al-Insān, identical to the sequences reported for Ibn Masʿūd and Ubayy ibn Kaʿb.342 With respect to variant readings, there are numerous parallels as well. For instance, in 19:23, Ubayy ibn Kaʿb is reported to have read falammā ajāʾahā instead of fa-ajāʾahā; we find the lower text here is consistent with the reading of Ubayy.343 In 20:128, Ibn Masʿūd recited a-wa-lam yahdī instead of a-fa-lam yahdī; we find the lower text is consistent with the reading of Ibn Masʿūd.344 In 63:10, Ibn Masʿūd and Ubayy reportedly read fa-ataṣaddaqu instead of fa-aṣ-ṣaddaqa; the lower text is consistent with their reading.345 These readings are designated as shādhdh (anomalous) readings by Muslim scholars since they differ from the ʿUthmānic codex and are no longer recited. A discussion of such shādhdh readings has already been provided in our previous article.

In all of its differences, the lower text exhibits precisely the same kind of minor variant readings that Islamic sources state existed in the early period of Islam under the license of reciting the Qur’an according to seven aḥruf. There were many valid ways of reciting the Qur’an which differed in the small ways described in the traditions and witnessed in the manuscripts. When ʿUthmān compiled the muṣḥaf, it was not necessary for him to include every reading. This is the reason we find some non-ʿUthmānic readings in the Ṣanʿāʾ Palimpsest.346 This shows that certain readings were widespread and remained popular shortly after the standardization of the text until they eventually became extinct.

Prior to the ʿUthmānic codex, there was no standardization, and Muslims recited according to the reading they had been taught. After the ʿUthmānic compilation, readers had to adhere precisely to the ʿUthmānic codex, and earlier manuscripts were erased and re-written or otherwise destroyed. Previously, certain orientalists and revisionist Western scholars such as John Wansbrough claimed that the companion codices were fictions conjured up by Muslims, or that the traditional Muslim narrative concerning the ʿUthmānic codex was wrong.347 The arrival of such manuscript evidence confirming even the most minute details of the Islamic traditions surrounding the ʿUthmānic compilation and the companion codices has conclusively falsified such claims.

Conclusion

At a time when Muslims were small in number and intensely persecuted in Makkah, and the future of Islam seemed uncertain, Allah revealed Sūrah al-Ḥijr containing therein a promise: “Verily, We have revealed the Qur’an and We will surely protect it” (Qur’an 15:9). The Prophet ﷺ used to hasten to repeat the words of revelation lest they be forgotten, but Allah assured him, “It is certainly upon Us to enable its gathering and its recitation” (Qur’an 75:17).348 

By any human calculation, this promise of preservation would have seemed impossible to fulfill at the time. This was especially the case when numerous readings proliferated in Madīnah, a development necessitated by the diversity of Arabic dialects as well as differences in linguistic capabilities and literacy within the early Muslim community. The more one ponders the incredible diversity of readings at that time and the geographical span of the early Muslim empire, the more it becomes incredible to fathom how the entire ummah came to be united upon a single text of the Qur’an, which Muslims have continued to recite in every age and every region. All of this took place in an era that preceded the printing press, computers, and the internet.349 

Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 606 AH) points out that the phenomenon of the Qur’an’s preservation is unparalleled. Every other ancient scripture has been subject to some degree of textual alteration and corruption. In spite of its foes who would spare no effort to attempt to undermine it, the Qur’an has stood the test of time, which serves as one of “the greatest miracles.” Moreover, this Divine promise constitutes a prophecy concerning the unseen, which is yet another miracle, and one that had already stood the test of time for six centuries when al-Rāzī made his remarks.350 Today, after 14 centuries, the Divine promise remains fulfilled and even more vividly attested.

The accumulation of manuscript evidence corroborating precise details preserved in the literary sources of the Islamic tradition has further testified to a fact Muslims have always known, that the promise of Allah has been fulfilled. As Abū Shāmah al-Maqdisī (d. 665 AH) comments, the muṣḥaf contains precisely what was revealed by Allah, taught by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, and written by the companions.351 The preservation of the Qur’an is a historical and lived reality, experienced by every Muslim who continues to recite the exact same text today that was assembled by the companions of the Prophet under the supervision of the Caliph ʿUthmān, as it was recited to them by the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, and as it was revealed through the Angel Jibrīl by Allah, Glorified and Exalted.

Notes

1 Qur’an 15:9.

2 This was mentioned by the early scholar of tafsīr al-Ḥusayn ibn al-Faḍl al-Bajalī (d. 282 AH) as reported in al-Nasafī, al-Taysīr fī al-Tafsīr, ed. Mahir Adīb Habbūsh (Istanbul: Dar al-Lubāb, 2019), 400.

3 Qur’an 5:44. The task of preserving the scriptures entrusted to the people of the Book was not successfully fulfilled and those scriptures became subject to corruption. See Ibn Aṭiyya, al-Muḥarrar al-wajīz fī tafsīr al-Kitāb al-ʿAzīz (Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm, 2002), 546.

4 Al-Rāzī, Mafātīḥ al-ghayb (Beirut: Dar Iḥyā Turāth al-ʿArabī, 1420 AH), 19:123–24.

5 Ibn al-Jazarī, al-Nashr fī al-qira’āt al-’ashar, ed. ʿAlī Muḥammad al-Dabba’ (Beirut: DKI, n.d.), 1:6.

6 Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārīkitāb faḍāʾil al-Qurʾānbāb kāna Jibrīl yaʿriḍ al-Qurʾan ʿalā al-Nabī, nos. 4997–98. Note also the role this played in consolidating the Prophet’s memorization of the Qur’an, as discussed in Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Aṣālah al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī waḥyan wa rasman wa lughatan wa qirāʾatan (Istanbul: Dār al-Ghawthānī 2019), 45–46.

7 Muhammad Muṣṭafā Al-Aʿẓamī, The History of the Qur’anic Text from Revelation to Compilation (Leicester: UK Islamic Academy, 2003), 68.

8 Al-Zarqānī, Manāhil al-ʿirfān (Egypt: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Kutub al-ʿArabīyah, 1943), 1:242. Memorization was not only done by men but also women as well. See Muḥammad Muḥammad Abū Shahba, al-Madkhal li-dirāsāt al-Qurʾān al-Karīm (Riyadh: Dār al-Liwāʾ lil-Nashr wal-Tawzīʿ, 1987), 266.

9 Al-Ṭayyār, al-Muḥarrar fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān (Jeddah: Markaz al-Dirāsāt wa-al-Maʿlūmāt al-Qurʾānīyah bi-Maʿhad al-Imām al-Shāṭibī, 2008), 147; al-Judayʿ, Muqaddimāt al-asāsīya fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān (Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Rayān, 2001), 93.

10 Muḥammad Ṭāhir al-Kurdī, Tārīkh al-Qur’an al-Karīm (Jeddah: al-Fath, 1946), 39; Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Aṣālah al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 90.

11 See, for instance, the discussion about the personal compilation of ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib in Abū Shahba, al-Madkhal, 273.

12 Ibn Abī Dawūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif (Kuwait: Muʾasassah Gharās li al-Nashr wa al-Tawzīʿ, 2006), 153–69; Abū ʿAmr al-Dānī, al-Muqniʿ fī maʿrifah marsūm maṣāḥif ahl al-amṣār (Riyadh: Dār al-Tadmurrīyah, 2010), 134; Makkī,  al-Ibānah ʿan maʿanī al-qiraʾāt (N.p.: Dar Nahdah Misr, n.d.), 157–61. On the date, see Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Aṣālah al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 99.

13 Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī, no. 4986. ʿUmar said, “I am afraid that more heavy casualties may take place among the qurrāʾ on other battlefields, whereby a large part of the Qur’an may be lost.” One of those who was martyred during the battle of Yamāmah was the noble companion Sālim (the client [mawlā] of Abū Ḥudhayfah), who was one of the four famous companions from whom the Prophet had instructed people to learn the Qur’an and who used to lead the muhājirīn (Muslim migrants from Makkah) in prayer in Madīnah prior to the Prophet’s emigration to Madīnah. Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Aṣālah al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 95.

14 Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī, no. 7191. On the qualities for which Abū Bakr selected Zayd, see Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Aṣālah al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 98. Additionally, it should be noted that the vast majority of Qur’anic writings would have been in Medina, as companions did not travel with written copies of the Qur’an to war out of fear they could be seized by their enemies, as indicated by the Prophet’s prohibition in this regard. Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 1869b.

15 Reported in the no longer extant work by Ibn Ashtah (d. 360 AH), al-Masahif, as cited by al-Suyuṭī, al-Itqān fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān (Beirut: Resalah Publishers, 2008), 131. See also the narrations in Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-Maṣāḥif, 1:139–43, which mention that Abū Bakr was the first to compile the Qur’an.

16 See al-Sakhāwī, Jamāl al-qurrā wa kamāl al-iqrāʾ (Beirut: Mu’assasat al-Kutub al-Thaqafiyyah, 1999), 302–3. Ibn Ḥajar also mentions the interpretation of “memory” and “writing” constituting the “two witnesses.” See his detailed discussion on the narration in Fatḥ al-Bārī (Riyadh: Dar al-Ṭaybah, 2005), 11:171–73. The interpretation of two witnesses having written it from the Prophet ﷺ is supported by the majority of scholars. See also Al-Aʿẓamī, History of the Qur’anic Text, 80; Muḥammad Ḥasan Jabal, Wathāqah naql al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī min Rasūl Allah sallal Allahu ʿalayhī wa salam ilā ummatihī (Tanta: Dar al-Ṣaḥābah li-Turāth bi-Ṭanṭā, n.d.), 182; al-Judayʿ, Muqaddimāt al-asāsīya, 97; Muṣṭafā Bughā and Muḥyī al-Dīn Mistū, al-Wāḍiḥ fī ʿulūm al-Qur’an (Damascus: Dar al-Kalim al-Tayyib, 1998), 84; Muḥammad Ṭāhir al-Kurdī, Tārīkh al-Quran al-Karīm, 49.

17 Al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān  fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān, 1:164. See also Ghānim Qaddurī al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-muṣḥaf: Dirāsah lughawīyah tārīkhīyah (Baghdad: al-Lajnah al-Waṭanīyah, 1982), 99.

18 Ibn Ḥajar, Fatḥ al-Bārī, 11:168. See also al-Ṭayyār, al-Muḥarrar fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān, 152; Abū Shahba, al-Madkhal, 269.

19 On the use of the term ṣuḥuf to describe the compilation, see Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Aṣālah al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 97.

20 Al-Aʿẓamī, History of the Qur’anic Text, 74; Adam Gacek, “Manuscripts and the Qur’an,” in The Qur’an: An Encyclopedia, ed. Oliver Leaman (London: Routledge, 2006), 385.

21ʿAbd al-Karīm ʿAwad Ṣāliḥ, al-Mitḥaf fī rasm al-muṣḥaf (Tanta: Dar al-Sahabah li-Turath bi-Ṭanṭā, 2006), 8; ʿAlī bin Sulaymān al-ʿUbayd, Jamʿ al-Qurʿān al-Karīm ḥifdhan wa kitābah (Medina: Majma Malik Fahd li-Tiba’ah al-Mushaf al-Sharif, 1421 AH), 509.

22 Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kabīr (Cairo: Maktabat al-Khānjī, 2001), 4:101, 2:307–8; Ibn Jarīr At-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh at-Ṭabarī (N.p.: Dar al-Maʿārif, 1967), 4:69; al-Udfuwī, al-Istighnāʾ fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān, ed. Lubnā bint Khālid ibn Muḥammad al-Arfaj (master’s thesis, Umm al-Qura University, 2016), 264.

23 He writes, “There spread during that time manuscripts that were written from the companions like the muṣḥaf of Ibn Masʿūd, and what was written from the companions of Syria, and the muṣḥaf of Ubayy and others, and these contained differences to the extent of the seven aḥruf upon which the Qur’an was revealed.” Ibn ʿAṭṭiyah, al-Muḥarrar al-wajīz (Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm, 1423 AH), 26.

24 Makkī ibn Abī Ṭālib, al-Ibānah ʿan maʿanī al-qiraʾāt (N.p.: Dar Nahdah Misr, n.d.), 62.

25 Al-Zarqānī, Manāhil al-ʿirfān, 1:256.

26 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 4987. In another narration, it is mentioned that Hudhayfah encountered them differing over the verse 2:196, some reciting it with a word substitution, as wa atimmu al-ḥajj wa-l-ʿumrah li-l-bayt. See Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 167.

27 Ibn al-Athīr, al-Kāmil fī tārīkh (Beirut: DKI, 1987), 3:8.

28 See also ʿAbd al-Fattāh al-Qāḍī, Tārīkh al-muṣḥaf al-sharīf (Cairo: Maktaba Jundi, 1951), 27; al-Judayʿ, Muqaddimāt al-asāsīya, 100–101.

29 Al-Dānī, al-Muqniʿ, 137.

30 Makkī, al-Ibānah, 62–64; ʿAbd al-Qayyūm al-Sindhī, Jamʿ al-Qurʾān al-Karīm fī ʿahd al-khulafā al-rāshidīn (Madinah: Majma Malik Fahd li-Tiba’ah al-Mushaf al-Sharif, 1421 AH), 380; Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Aṣālah al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 105.

31 Al-Kurdī, Tārīkh al-Qurʾān, 49.

32 Some scholars also claim that the compilation of Abū Bakr was called suḥuf because it did not contain the sūrahs arranged sequentially; however, Ghānim Qadurī al-Ḥamad notes there is no evidence to support such an assertion. Rasm al-muṣḥaf, 123.

33 Al-Baghawī, Sharḥ al-sunnah, ed. Shu’ayb al-Arna’ūṭ and Muhammad Zuhayr Shāwīsh (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami, n.d.), 4:523.

34 Ibn Shabba, Akhbār al-Madīnah (N.p.: Dar al-Alyan, 1990), 3:212.

35 Ibn Ḥajar indicates this as mentioned by ʿAlī Dhuryān al-Jaʿfarī, Jamʿ al-Qurʾān fī ʿahd ʿUthmān (Kuwait: Dar al-Dhahiriyah, 2022), 30.

36 Al-Ṭabarī, Tārīkh al-Ṭabarī, 4.

37 Al-Balādhurī, Futūḥ al-buldān (Beirut: DKI, 2014), 287.

38 Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 208, 209. Report #82 mentions 13 years and report #83 mentions 15 years. Note that the Prophet ﷺ passed away in 11 AH.

39 Muhammad ibn ʿAbdullāh Ibrahim al-Ḥasānīn, “Ṣanīʿ ʿUthmān bi-l-aḥruf al-sabʿa ʿinda jamʿ al-Qurʾan wa ʿalāqatuhū bi-l-ʿarḍah al-akhīrah,” Majallah al-Ulūm al-Sharʿiyyah 14, no. 4 (February 2021): 2700; see also Al-Azami, History of the Qur’anic Text, 88.

40 Omar Hamdan, “Mashruʿ al-maṣāḥif al-ʿUthmāniyah qirāʾah jadīdah fī taḥdīd tārīkhihī wa ʿadad nuskhihī,” in al-Qurʾān al-Karīm min al-tanzīl ila al-tadwīn (London: al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation Centre for the Study of Islamic Manuscripts, 2018) 39, 50–51.

41 Nāṣir al-Qithāmī, al-Rasm al-ʿUthmānī wa atharuhū fī riwāyāt al-qirāʾāt (N.p., 1916).

42 ʿAbdullāh ibn al-Zubayr (d. 73 AH) was the son of two of the most illustrious companions of the Prophet—Zubayr ibn al-ʿAwwām and Asmāʾ bint Abī Bakr—and was known for his eloquence. He later revolted against Umayyad rule and established his caliphate in Makkah, where he ruled for nine years before he was killed by al-Ḥajjāj ibn Yusuf al-Thaqafī.

43 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 3506.

44 A group entered the presence of Zaid ibn Thabit and said to him: “Relate to us the traditions of Allah’s Messenger ﷺ.” He said: “What shall I relate to you? I was his neighbor, so when the revelation descended upon him, he notified me and I recorded it in writing for him.” Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 1:145; also al-Tirmidhī, Shamāʾil al-Nabī, no. 342, https://sunnah.com/shamail:342.

45 Al-Dānī, al-Muqniʿ, 615.

46 Al-Baghawī, Sharḥ al-sunnah (Beirut: Al-Maktab Al-Islami, 1983), 4:525–26.

47 There is one narration in which Ibn ʿAbbās stated that ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd attended the final review with the Prophet ﷺ (Musnad Ahmad, no. 3422). Al-Ṭāsān argues that this conflicts with another narration from Ibn ʿAbbās, which acknowledges the reading of ʿUthmān to be according to the final review. He also argues that it conflicts with the statements of Samurah ibn Jundub and Ibn Sirīn (d. 110 AH), which imply that the ʿUthmānic reading is based on the final review. See Al-Ṭāsān, Taḥqīq mawqif al-ṣaḥābī al-jalīl ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd min al-jamʿ al-ʿUthmānī (Riyadh: Maktabah Malik Fahd, 1435 AH), 59–67.

48 For a more detailed discussion concerning the significance of the “final review,” refer to the following studies: Osama Alhaiany, “al-ʿArḍah al-akhīrah lil-Qurʾān al-Karīm wa-al-aḥadīth al-wāridah fīhā jamʿan wa dirāsah,” al-Majallah al-Ulūm al-Islamiyyah, no. 10; Muhammad Bāzmūl, “al-Aḥādīth al-wāridah fī al-ʿarḍah al-akhīrah,” Majallah Jāmiʿah Umm al-Qurrli-ʿUlūm al-Sharīʿah wa al-Dirāsāt al-Islāmiyah, issue 62 (Shaʿbān 1435), 83; Nāsir ibn Saʿūd al-Qithamī, “al-ʿArḍah al-akhīrah: Dalālatuha wa atharuhā,” Majallah Maʿhad al-Imām al-Shaṭibī li-Dirasah al-Qurʾāniyyah, no. 15 (2013).

49 Al-Dānī, al-Muqniʿ, 614. He stated: “It was so that nothing in the Qur’an would be written (marsūm) according to other than their dialect.”

50 He was 11 years old at the time of the Prophetic migration. See Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-muṣḥaf, 112.

51 Calculated from their age at the time of hijrah or the Prophet’s passing as mentioned in al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-Mushaf, 115.

52 Ibn ʿAsākir, Tārīkh Dimashq (N.p.: Dar al-Fikr, 1995), 39:243; Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 1:211; Ibn Ḥajar, Fatḥ al-Bārī, 11:178. See also al-Ḥasānīn, “Ṣanīʿ Uthmān,” 2700, Fahd al-Rūmī, Dirasāt fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān (Riyadh: Markaz Tafsīr li al-Dirasāt al-Qurʾāniyya, 2005),  92. In another narration, Ubayy ibn Ka’b dictated, Zayd transcribed, and Saʿīd reviewed. See Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kabīr, 5:312.

53 Ibn Abi Dawud, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 1:213; Ibn Sa’d, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kabīr, 3:466. See also al-Azami, History of the Qur’anic Text, 89.

54 Al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-muṣḥaf, 116; Jabal, Wathāqah naql al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 205.

55 Al-ʿUbayd, Jamʿ al-Qurʿān al-Karīm, 516–517; ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Faramāwī, Rasm al-muṣḥaf wa nuṭqihi (Mecca: Maktabat al-Makkiyah, 2004), 111.

56Al-Jaʿfarī, Jamʿ al-Qurʾān fī ʿahd ʿUthmān, 32; al-Ḥasānīn, “Ṣanīʿ Uthmān,” 2702–5. These authors gather the various narrations attempting to enumerate the individuals, with some differences in their lists, the former including Anas ibn Malik al-Qushayri and ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿUmar, instead of Abū Dardāʾ and Saʿd ibn Nuʿmān. For a similar list with minor differences, see also al-Aʿẓamī, History of the Qur’anic Text, 89.

57 Al-Hamad, Rasm al-Muṣḥaf, 117.

58 Al-Jaʿfarī, Jamʿ, 33–34; Hamdan, “Mashruʿ al-maṣāḥif al-ʿUthmāniyah,” 46–47.

59 Cited in Dhahabi, Siyar aʿlām an-nubalā (N.p.: Dar al-Hadith, 2006), 3:242.

60 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī,  kitāb faḍāʾil al-Qurʾān, no. 4991. The hadith of seven aḥruf are cited in no fewer than four books within Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhari.

61 Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī, no. 2944.

62 A detailed elaboration of this point is beyond the scope of this article. However, a brief explanation is as follows. If one adopts the opinion that the seven aḥruf refer to different categories of ways in which readings may differ, then for instance, one category may be al-naqṣ wa-l-ziyāda (omission or addition). Then, does the Uthmānic text encompass this ḥarf if it only has one example of this category, or does it require inclusion of all readings associated with this category in order to be considered to have encompassed this ḥarf? Those who adopt this interpretation of aḥruf must demonstrate that all of these categories can be found in the Uthmānic text, but not necessarily all the readings that are subsumed by these categories.

63 This point is subject to further discussion. See Ammar Khatib, Simple Illustrated Guide to the History of Arabic Dotting for Beginners (self-pub., 2020), 7. A number of scholars including Abū ʿAmr al-Dānī (d. 444 AH) and Abū al-Faḍl al-Rāzī (d. 454 AH) stated that the text was deliberately written without dotting or vowelization to accommodate other readings, a view that was subsequently adopted by Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 AH) and Ibn al-Jazarī (d. 833 AH). However, Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad is of the view that the companions simply adopted the writing convention of their time, and that consonantal dotting was absent because it was invented later. See Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, ʿUlūm al-Qur’an bayna al-maṣādir wal-maṣāḥif (Riyadh: Tafsir Centre for Qur’anic Studies, 2018), 68–69 and Murājaʿah ʿadad min al-Naẓariyyāt al-mutaʿalliqah bi-rasm al-muṣḥaf fī ḍawʾ ʿilm al-khuṭūṭ al-qadīmah, International Conference for the development of Quranic studies (February 16, 2013), 44–45. Al-Aʿẓamī on the other hand notes several examples from early Arabic paleography predating the ʿUthmānic codex that did indeed have consonantal dotting (History, 136–39). One may also note that al-Farrāʾ (d. 207 AH) reports the presence of dotting in the muṣḥaf of Ibn Masʿūd in 49:6. Al-Farrāʾ, Maʿānī al-Qurʾān (Beirut: ʿAlam al-Kutub, 1983), 3:71. The ubiquitous presence of some consonantal dotting in early Qur’anic manuscripts has also led to the hypothesis that they have always been a feature of the Qur’anic script since the beginning, and that sparse dotting was present in the ʿUthmānic codices according to the customary scribal practices at the time. See Adam Bursi, “Connecting the Dots: Diacritics, Scribal Culture, and the Qurʾān in the First/Seventh Century,” Journal of the International Qur’anic Studies Association 3 (2018), 149.

64 Scholars further divided readings which conform to the text into those that explicitly conform to the text (al-muwāfaqah al-muḥaqaqah), those that implicitly conform to the text (al-muwāfaqah al-muḥtamalah), and those that have a trivial nonconformity to the text (al-mukhālafah al-yasīrah/al-mughtafarah), like a single-letter pronunciation. An example of the first category would be reciting maliki in 1:4 while an example of the second category would be reciting māliki in 1:4, since the text is written without an alif (ملك). An example of the third category is reciting al-ṣirāṭ as al-sirāṭ (with a س) as recited by Qunbul ʿan Ibn Kathīr and Ruways ʿan Yaʿqūb, among others. See Ibn al-Jazarī, al-Nashr fī al-qira’āt al-’ashar, 1:12–13. See also Shādī bin Aḥmad Tawfīq al-Mulḥim, “Mā lā yaḥtamiluhu rasm al-muṣḥaf min al-qirāʾāt al-ʿashar,” Majjala Tibyan lil-Dirāsāt al-Qurʾāniyyah, no. 25 (1438 AH), 386–90; ʿAbd al-ʿAzīz al-Ḥarbī, Tawjīh mushkil al-qirāʾāt al-ʿashriyyah al-farshiyyah lughatan wa tafsīran wa iʿraban (master’s thesis, Umm al-Qurrā University, 1417 AH), 26.

65 Ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī, Tafsīr al-Ṭabarī, ed. al-Turkī (Cairo: Dār Hajar, 2001), 1:59–60.

66 Al-Ṭaḥāwī, Sharḥ mushkil al-āthār, ed. Shu'ayb al-Arna'ūṭ, 16 vols. (Beirut: Mu’assasat al-Risalah, 1994), 8:125. He states that once people became accustomed to learning the Quran, the license for reading with other aḥruf disappeared and the Qur’an went back to being read with one ḥarf only. Cf. Ammār Khaṭīb, Taḥrīr madhhab al-Imām al-Ṭaḥāwī fi ma’na al-aḥruf al-sab’a (Markaz al-Tafsīr li-Dirāsāt al-Qur’āniyyah, May 22, 2021), https://tafsir.net/article/5351/thryr-mdhhb-al-imam-at-thawy-fy-m-na-al-ahrf-as-sb-h.

67 al-Naḥḥās, al-Nāsikh wa-l-mansūkh (Riyadh: Dar al-Asimah, 2009), 2:405. “Fa-arāda ʿUthmān an yakhtār min al-sabʿah ḥarfan wāḥid wa huwa afṣaḥuhā.”

68 Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Istidhkār (Damascus: Dar Qutaibah, 1993), 8:45.

69 Al-Baghawī, Sharḥ al-sunnah, 4:523, quoted earlier in the article.

70 ʿAlī ibn Ismaʿīl al-Abyārī, al-Taḥqīq wa-al-bayān fī sharḥ al-burhān fī uṣūl al-fiqh (Doha: Wizārat al-Awqāf wa al-Shuʾūn al-Islāmīyah, 2013), 2:792.

71 Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmūʿ al-fatāwá (Mansoura: Dar El-Wafaa, 2005), 13:214.

72 Ibn al-Qayyim, al-Ṭuruq al-ḥukmīyah fī al-siyāsah al-sharʿīyah (Mecca: Dār ʿĀlam al-Fawāʾid, 1428 AH), 1:47–48; Ibn al-Qayyim, Iʿlām al-muwaqqiʿīn (Dammam: Dār ibn al-Jawzī, 2002), 5:65.

73 See also Mannāʿ al-Qaṭṭān, Mabāḥith fī ʿulūm al-Qur’ān (Cairo: Maktabah Wahbah, 1995), 158; al-Kurdī, al-Karīm, 52, 64; and Bashār ʿAwād Maʿrūf, Anẓār fī ḥadīth inna hadhā al-Qurʾāna unzila ʿalā sabʿatī aḥruf,” in al-Qurʾān al-Karīm min al-tanzīl ila al-tadwīn (London: al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation Centre for the Study of Islamic Manuscripts, 2018), 289–92.

74 Ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī, Tafsīr al-Ṭabarī, ed. al-Turkī (Cairo: Dār Hajar, 2001), 1:59–60. Note that scholars did discuss the potential value of some of these reported non-ʿUthmānic variants in exegesis and jurisprudential rulings.

75 Al-Bāqillānī, al-Intiṣār lil-Qurʾān (Beirut: Dar Ibn Hazm, 2001), 1:60, 364–65.

76 Al-Dānī writes, “[And we believe] that the commander of the believers, ʿUthmān, and those who were present from among all of the companions established all of these aḥruf in the maṣāḥif and they informed of its authenticity and correctness, and allowed people the choice [regarding the different readings] as the Prophet ﷺ had done. And from amongst these aḥruf is the ḥarf of Ubayy ibn Kaʿb, the ḥarf of Abdullāh ibn Masʿūd, and the ḥarf of Zayd ibn Thābit. And ʿUthmān and the community only dispensed with those ḥurūf and qirāʾāt that were false (bāṭilah) neither known nor established but rather transmitted from the Prophet ﷺ in the manner of ahādīth, which is not permissible as a method to establish Qur’an.” Al-Dānī, Jāmiʿ al-bayān fī al-qirāʾāt al-sabʿah al-mashūrah (Tanta, Egypt: Dar al-Sahabah li-Turath bi-Ṭanṭā, 2012), 67. Note that al-Dānī elsewhere mentions the view that ʿUthmān gathered the people upon one ḥarf and left out the remaining aḥruf; however, he precedes this by mentioning this explanation “according to the statement of some scholars” (ʿalā qawl baʿḍ al-ʿulamāʾ) and follows it by mentioning the view that only inauthentic readings were left out. See al-Dānī, al-Muqniʿ, 613.

77 Ibn Ḥazm, al-Fiṣal fī al-milal wa-l-ahwāʾī wa-l-niḥal (Cairo: Maktabah al-Khanji, n.d.), 2:65.

78 Al-Sakhāwī, Jamāl al-qurrā wa kamāl al-iqrāʾ (Beirut: Mu’assasat al-Kutub al-Thaqafiyyah, 1999), 2:573–74.

79 Al-Zarqānī, Manāhil al-ʿirfān, 1:169; ʿAbd al-Fattāh al-Qāḍī, Tārīkh al-muṣḥaf al-sharīf, 30–32; Abū Nūr Aḥmad al-Zaʿbī, al-Maṣāḥif al-ʿUthmāniyah wa ṣilatihā bil-aḥruf al-sabʿah (Kuwait: Dar al-Bayan, 2003), 18, 52.

80 Al-Ḥasānīn, “Ṣanīʿ Uthmān,” 2720–22.

81 Abd al-Qayyūm al-Sindhī places himself in the third group (see below); however, his view is actually concordant with the second group since he states that all the valid (authentic non-abrogated) readings from the seven aḥruf are contained in the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf, which is exactly what the second group states. Al-Sindhī, Safaḥāt fī ʿulūm al-qirāʾāṭ (Mecca: al-Maktabah al-Imdadiyah, 1415 AH), 125.

82 See also al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān, 113.

83 For instance, when ʿAlqamah ibn Qays (d. 62 AH) traveled to Greater Syria, he met the companion Abū al-Dardāʾ, and the latter asked ʿAlqamah about how Ibn Masʿūd recited Sūrah al-Layl. ʿAlqamah responded that Ibn Masʿūd recited verse 3 as “wa-al-dhakari wa-al-unthá” (and by the male and the female) instead of “wa mā khalaqa al-dhakara wa-al-unthá” (and by that which created the male and the female), whereupon Abū al-Dardāʾ testified that he had learned the verse in the same way from the Prophet ﷺ. Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 3742.

84 Al-Jaʿfarī, al-Asās fī ʿilm al-qiraʾāt (Amman: Arwiqa, 2015), 166; Rawān Nāṣir al-Anṣārī, “ʿAlaqat al-jamʿ al-ʿUthmānī bil-aḥruf al-sabʿa,” Majallah Kulliyat al-Sharīʿah wal-Qānūn, Jāmiʿat al-Azhar 32, no. 1 (2020): 654–81.

85 Al-Raʿīnī (d. 476 AH), al-Kāfī fi al-qiraʾāṭ al-sabaʿ (Beirut: DKI, 2000), 15.

86 Ibn al-Jazarī, al-Nashr, 1:31.

87 Ibn al-Jazarī, Munjid al-muqriʾīn, 54.

88 Ibn Ḥajar, Fatḥ al-Bārī (Riyadh: Dār al-Ṭaybah, 2005), 11:195–96. He further explains that this was a reason for the textual variants between ʿUthmānic codices, to increase the number of readings that could be accommodated. See also Ahmad Ali Imam, The Variant Readings of the Quran: A Critical Study of their Historical And Linguistic Origins, 66–67.

89 Abū al-ʿAbbās ibn ʿAmmār al-Mahdawī, Sharḥ al-hidāyah (Riyadh: Maktabah Rushd, 1995), 5.

90 As demonstrated by the view of Makkī ibn Abī Ṭālib, there is no conflict between the view that the committee of ʿUthmān compiled the Qur’an according to one ḥarf and the view that some of the other aḥruf remained because even if the committee may have primarily had one of the various readings in mind when they transcribed the codex, that does not change the fact that other readings could still be accommodated by the skeletal text. See also Al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-muṣḥaf, 152.

91 Quoted in Abū Shāmah, al-Murshid al-wajīz ilā ʿulūm tataʿallaq bil-Kitāb al-Aziz (Beirut: Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah, 2003), 114. See also Muhammad ibn Luṭfī al-Sabbagh, Lamaḥāt fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān, (Beirut: Maktabah Islami 1990), 172–173. Note that this statement is mistakenly attributed to Abū Shāmah himself in some sources; cf. al-Jaʿfarī, al-Asās fī ʿilm al-qiraʾāt, 167 and Muḥammad Aḥmad Mufliḥ al-Quḍāh, Aḥmad Khālid Shukrī, and Muḥammad Khālid Manṣūr, Kitāb Muqaddimāt fī ʿUlūm al-Qurʾān (Amman: Dar Amman, 2001), 41.

92 ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Faramāwī, Rasm al-muṣḥaf wa nuṭqihi, 147.

93 Fahd al-Rūmī, Dirasāt fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān, 95; Imam, Variant Readings of the Quran, 66–67.

94 See Makkī ibn Abī Ṭālib, al-Ibānah ʿan maʿānī al-qirāʾāt (Cairo: Dār Nahdah Misr, 1977), 34. This quote is of interest because it demonstrates that while opinions on this subject are conventionally divided into three groups—those who say all aḥruf are preserved (e.g., al-Bāqillānī), those who say only one is preserved (e.g., al-Ṭabarī), and those who say the ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf was deliberately written (free of vocalization and diacritics) to accommodate more than one ḥarf (Ibn al-Jazarī)—Makkī fell into a fourth category, suggesting that although the muṣḥaf was deliberately written according to one ḥarf, the script still accommodated other readings. See also Makkī ibn Abī Ṭālib, al-Hidāyah ilā bulūgh al-nihāyah (Sharjah: University of Sharjah, 2008), 4:2911–12.

95 Melchert writes, “According to Makki ibn Abi Talib, ʿUthmān probably had in mind just one pronunciation (lafẓ), but since his copy contained no points or indications of case endings, the people of the different centers continued to use their traditional readings so far as they did not contradict ʿUthmān’s consonantal outline. By this account, the consonantal outline familiar today preserves one of the seven aḥruf whereas the diacritics and vowel signs sometimes preserve elements of the other six aḥruf as well.”  Christopher Melchert, “The Relation of the Ten Readings to One Another,” Journal of Qur’anic Studies 10, no. 2 (2008): 84.

96 Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, ʿUlūm al-Qurʾān bayna al-maṣādir wal-maṣaḥif, 217.

97 Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-muṣḥaf, 147; al-Firmāwī, Rasm al-muṣḥaf wa nuṭqihi, 151.

98 Sālim Qaddūrī al-Hamad, Athar rukhṣah al-aḥruf, 321.

99 ʿAbd al-Fattāh al-Qāḍī for instance aligns with the “majority” view that the ʿUthmānic maṣāḥif contained the seven aḥruf insofar as they are accommodated by the rasm of one of the regional codices; however, he argues that no valid reading was left out, and that whatever was included was established in al-ʿarḍah al-akhīrah. Hence, his view is in accordance with the second view mentioned above. Al-Qāḍī, Tārīkh al-mtuṣḥaf, 30. See also ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm Qābah, al-Qirāʾāt al-Qurʾāniyyah: Tārīkhuhā, thubūtuhā, ḥujiyyatuhā, wa aḥkāmuhā (Beirut: Dar al-Gharb al-Islāmī, 1999), 150.

100 Yaḥyā Aḥmad Jalāl and Halā Nayef al-Mashaqbeh, “Arā al-ʿulamāʾ fī al-qirāʾāt alatī lam tashmiluhā al-maṣāḥif al-ʿUthmāniyyah,” Islamic University of Gaza Journal of Islamic Studies 28, no. 4 (2020): 244–62.

101 Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Aṣālah al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 156. Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad himself, however, is of the opinion that the Qur’an was revealed exclusively in the dialect of the Quraysh. See below.

102 Ghanim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-muṣḥaf, 142–43 and al-Ajwibah al-ʿilmiyah ʿalā asʾilah multaqā ahl al-tafsīr (Amman: Dar Ammar, 2005), 15–16. ʿAbd al-Ṣabūr Shāhīn notes that since Hishām bin Ḥakīm (with whom ʿUmar differed in recitation) accepted Islam after the conquest of Makkah, the permission to recite in seven aḥruf likely occurred in the ninth year of hijrah. Shāhīn, Tārīkh al-Qurʾān (N.p.: Nahdet Misr, 2007), 80–81. For a discussion on the difference of opinion on when the permission to recite in seven aḥruf was given, refer to al-Jaʿfarī, al-Asās, 42–46. He cites three views from three contemporary Qur’anic scholars: (1) permission was given in Makkah from the beginning, held by Muhammad Sālim al-Muḥaysin; (2) permission was given in Medina, held by Shaʿbān Muḥammad Ismaʿīl (along with many classical scholars); and (3) the seven aḥruf were revealed in Makkah but permission to use them was given in Madīnah, held by Sayyid Rizq Ṭawīl. ʿAbd al-Ḥalīm Qābah also notes a difference of opinion among scholars concerning whether the other readings were also revealed or were simply permitted, the latter being implied by Abū Shāmah (d. 665 AH) and Shihāb al-Dīn al-Qastallānī (d. 923 AH). See Qābah, al-Qirāʾāt al-Qurʾāniyyah, 47–49.

103 Badr al-Dīn al-ʿAynī, Umdat al-qarī (Beirut: DKI, 2001), 20:20; Abu Shāmah, al-Murshid al-wajīz, 89–90; al-Suyūṭī, al-Itqān fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān, 282-287. See for instance the examples in the Qur’an discussed in Imam, Variant Readings of the Quran, 99. On the other hand, Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad is of the opinion that all of the words of the Qur’an are to be considered in the Qurayshī dialect since those words found in other dialects may have also been shared by the Qurayshī dialect. Hence, he supports Ibn Qutaybah’s (d. 276 AH) opinion that the Qur’an was revealed exclusively in the dialect of the Quraysh, and recitation in the other dialects was based on the concession provided by the Prophet ﷺ. Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Aṣālah al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 161–62; Abḥāth fī al-ʿArabiyyah al-fuṣḥā (Amman: Dar ʿAmmār, 2005), 77; al-Ajwibah al-ʿilmiyah, 11. See also Qābah, al-Qirāʾāt al-Qurʾāniyyah, 47–49.

104 Some scholars are of the opinion that “writing in the language of the Quraysh” meant in terms of spelling and not in terms of dialect and pronunciation, e.g., ʿAbd al-Fattāḥ al-Qāḍī, Tārīkh al-muṣḥaf al-sharīf, 32–34; ʿAlī al-ʿUbayd, Jamʿ al-Qurʿān al-Karīm, 520. ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Faramāwī dismisses this suggestion, noting that (1) there was no difference in spelling convention between Makkah and Madīnah and (2) the three Qurayshī youth had grown up and learnt writing in Madinah. Rasm al-muṣḥaf wa nuṭqihi, 149. See also Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad’s comments, Rasm al-muṣḥaf, 149n56. One may also add that the narration in which ʿUmar reproaches ʿAbdullah ibn Masʿūd for not teaching the Qur’an in the dialect of the Quraysh also makes it abundantly clear that this is not referring merely to spelling.

105 Al-Jaʿfarī, Jamʿ al-Qurʾān, 46–48.

106 Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Tamhīd (London: Mu’assasat al-Furqan, 2017), 5:590.

107 Khalaf ibn Hishām (d. 229 AH) said, “The Quraysh do not pronounce hamzah, pronouncing the hamzah is not from their dialect. Indeed, the reciters (qurrāʾ) only pronounced it according to the other Arab dialects aside from Quraysh.” See Abu Bakr ibn al-Anbārī (d. 328 AH), Īḍāḥ al-waqf wal-ibtidāʾ fī kitāb Allāh ʿazza wa jal (Damascus: Majma al-Lughah al-Arabiyyah, 1971), 392. See also Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, al-Ajwibah al-ʿilmiyah ʿalā asʾilah multaqā ahl al-tafsīr (Amman: Dar Ammar, 2005), 10; Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Aṣālah al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 158–59.

108 It is pronounced this way according to Warsh from Nāfiʿ (both Azraq and Asbahānī’s transmission) and according to Abu Jaʿfar and Sūsī from Abū ʿAmr al-Baṣrī.

109 See Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān al-ʿArab (Beirut: Dar Sader, 1414 AH), 1:22. The Kufan reciter al-Kisāʾī landed in some controversy when he led prayer in the Prophet’s masjid while pronouncing the hamzah, which was evidently not what the locals were accustomed to. Ibn Manẓūr, Lisān al-ʿArab, 5:189.

110 Jami` at-Tirmidhī, no. 3104. See also Ṭaḥāwī, Sharḥ mushkil al-āthār, 8:130.

111 An example would be the committee’s selection of “wa mā khalaqa al-dhakara wa-l-unthá” instead of “wa-l-dhakari wa-l-unthá,” the latter being the reading of Ibn Masʿūd and Abū al-Dardāʾ for 91:3. See Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 3742. Amīn ibn Idrīs ibn ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Fallātah, al-Ikhtiyār ʿinda al-qurrāʾ (Riyadh: King Saud University, 1436 AH), 149. See also Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Abḥāth fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān (Amman: Dar Ammar, 2006), 35–71 on the topic of ikhtiyār.

112 Ibn Shabbah, Tārīkh al-Madīnah, 2:711.

113 Ibn ʿAbd al-Barr, al-Tamhīd limā fī al-muwattā min al-ma'ānī wa al-asānīd (Morocco: Wizarat ʿUmūm al-Awqāf wa a1-Shuʾūn al-Islāmiyyah, 1387 AH/1967), 8:279. See also al-Kurdī, Tārīkh al-Qur’an al-Karīm, 59.

114 Ibn Ḥajar, Fatḥ al-Bārī, 11:163; Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, al-Ajwibah al-ʿilmiyah, 11.

115 Abu Shāmah, al-Murshid al-wajīz, 102.

116 A brief comment may be made concerning the appropriateness of the term jamʿ (gathering or compilation) for the process of producing the ʿUthmānic codex. For those scholars who consider the ʿUthmānic codex to simply be a direct copy of the ṣuḥuf of Abū Bakr, the project of ʿUthmān did not involve gathering or compiling any textual materials; it was rather a gathering or unifying of people upon a single text, and thus may be more appropriately called a project of standardization. Other scholars, as explained in this section, did consider this to be an autonomously assembled text that was later checked against the ṣuḥuf of Abū Bakr; hence, it would be appropriately termed a compilation per that view.

117 Al-ʿUbayd, Jamʿ al-Qurʿān al-Karīm, 506–7.

118 Ibn ʿĀshir, Fatḥ al-Mannān al-marwī bi-mawrid al-ẓamān, 415. He cites Burhān al-Dīn al-Jaʿbarī, who notes that the compilation passed from Abū Bakr to ʿUmar because Abū Bakr himself designated ʿUmar as his successor. On the other hand, ʿUmar did not designate a successor but appointed a committee to consult (shūrā) and decide on the successor, and therefore the compilation was inherited from him by Ḥafṣah. See also al-Jaʿbarī, Jamīlah arbāb al-marāṣid fī sharḥ ʿaqīlah atrab al-qasāʾid (Amman: Arwiqah, 2017), 344; Al-Kurdī, Tārīkh al-Qurʾān, 44; M. Mohar Ali, The Qur’an and the Orientalists (Ipswich: Jamʿiyat ʾIḥyaaʾ Minhaaj al-Sunnah, 2004), 237.

119 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 4987.

120 Al-Jaʿbarī, Jamīlah arbāb al-marāṣid, 353.

121 Note that this was also mentioned as a possibility by Abū Shāmah al-Maqdisī (d. 665 AH), al-Murshid al-wajīz, 76.

122 As translated by al-Aʿẓamī, History of the Qur’anic Text, 90. One may note that al-Aʿẓamī has taken some liberties in the translation and paraphrasing and the interested reader may consult the original text in Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 210. The chain of transmission is declared authentic by the editor, Salīm al-Hilālī, and was also declared authentic by Ibn Kathīr. Note that Muhammad Ḥasan Jabal, following al-Bayhaqi, discounts this narration as evidence on the grounds that Muṣʿab did not hear directly from ʿUthmān and that the compilation process had already taken place during the time of Abu Bakr. See Jabal, Wathāqah naql al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 197–99.

123 As translated by al-Aʿẓamī, History of the Qur’anic Text, 90. As in the previous narration, al-Aʿẓamī takes some liberties in paraphrasing, cf. Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 206. The chain of transmission to Malik bin Abī ʿĀmir is declared authentic by the editor, Salīm al-Hilālī.

124 Some scholars also point out that the narrations do not mention a committee assisting Zayd in the time of Abū Bakr, while he was assisted by a committee in the time of ʿUthmān in order to assist in writing the Qurʾān according to one ḥarf. See al-Kurdī, Tārīkh al-Qur’an al-Karīm, 61–62.

125 Ibn Jarīr, Tafṣir al-Ṭabarī, 1:56. Note that parts of this account contain interpolations mixing between the collection at the time of Abū Bakr and ʿUthmān; however, the point of evidence is the detail at the very end of the account which mentions the final review of ʿUthmān’s codex using Abū Bakr’s compilation. See also Khaṭīb al-Baghdādī, al-Fasl li al-wasl al-mudraj fi al-naql (Riyadh: Dar al-Hijrah, 1997), 1:399.

126 Al-Aʿẓamī, History of the Qur’anic Text, 93.

127 Many scholars claimed that Abū Bakr’s compilation contained the seven aḥruf while ʿUthmān’s compilation did not. See, for instance, al-Jaʿbarī, Jamīlah arbāb al-marāṣid, 334; al-Kurdī, Tārīkh al-Qur’an al-Karīm, 48, 64; al-Jaʿfarī, Jamʿ, 56. In his doctoral dissertation, the Egyptian Azhari scholar ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Faramāwī (d. 2017 CE) theorized that since Abū Bakr’s compilation was not intended to reduce readings as the ʿUthmānic codex was, it is theoretically possible that it even included multiple readings of the same verse, either above or below the word or on the margins. ʿAbd al-Ḥayy al-Faramāwī, Rasm al-muṣḥaf wa nuṭqihī, 108. Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad dismisses this suggestion, along with the claim that Abū Bakr’s compilation contained the seven aḥruf, due to the absence of evidence to confirm these suggestions. Rasm al-muṣḥaf, 145. See also the discussion in Sālim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Athar rukhṣah al-aḥruf fī tadwīn al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī (London: al-Furqan Islamic Heritage Foundation Centre for the Study of Islamic Manuscripts, 2018), 316–17. Nonetheless, even if Abu Bakr’s compilation did not include multiple aḥruf for the same passage,  it remains a possibility that it contained some passages according to one ḥarf and other passages according to another since fixation of one reading was not an express goal of the compilation.

128 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 7425.

129 Abū Shāmah, al-Murshid al-wajīz, 61; Ibn Ḥajar, Fatḥ al-Bārī, 11:171–73; al-Bāqillānī, Nukat al-intiṣār (Alexandria: Manshaʾat al-Maʿārif, 1971), 333. See also al-Sakhāwī, Jamāl al-qurrāʾ, 307 for the alternate explanation that Zayd was looking for others who had a copy of the verse to confirm the different possible readings of the verse.

130 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 4679.

131 Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 4049.

132 Ghanim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-Muṣḥaf, 118–19.

133 Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 1:146, 148, 154, 203 (which mentions Khuzaymah with 9:128 during Abū Bakr’s compilation), 1:149 (which mentions Khuzaymah with 33:23 during Abū Bakr’s compilation), 1:198 (which mentions Khuzaymah or Abū Khuzaymah for 33:23), 2:221 (which mentions Khuzaymah with 33:23 during ʿUthmān’s compilation), and 2:225 (which mentions Khuzaymah with 9:128 during ʿUthmān’s compilation). See also Abū ʿUbayd al-Qāsim ibn Sallām, Faḍāʾil al-Qurʾān wa maʿālimuhu wa adābuhu, ed. Aḥmad ʿAbd al-Wāḥid al-Khayyāṭī (Rabat: Moroccan Ministry of Islamic Affairs, 1995), 2:93, 96.

134 Al-Bāqillānī, Nukat al-intiṣār, 331.

135 Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, Fatḥ al-Bārī, 11:172 . See also Badr al-Dīn al-ʿAynī, ʿUmdat al-qārī, 20:19.

136 Abū Shāmah, al-Murshid al-wajīz, 61; Ibn Ḥajar al-ʿAsqalānī, Fatḥ al-Bārī, 11:172; see also Ibn ʿĀshir, Fatḥ al-Mannān al-marwī bi-mawrid al-ẓamān, 418.

137 Al-Aʿẓamī writes, “These two have caused confusion among some scholars, mainly due to the proximity of the two names. Note that the two are distinct: Khuzaima and Abu Khuzaima. Now if we read the hadiths carefully we see that Zaid used the word ṣuḥuf for the collection during Abū Bakr’s reign, and the word muṣḥaf or maṣāḥif (pl. of muṣḥaf) for the work he did under ʿUthmān’s supervision. Thus we may safely conclude that these are two different instances of compilation… If we consider the second compilation to be Zaid’s work on an independent copy of the muṣḥaf then everything becomes clear. On the other hand, if we assume that Zaid was simply making a duplicate copy for ʿUthmān based on Abū Bakr’s, not an autonomous copy, then we must confront the awkward question of why Zaid was unable to locate verse no. 23 from Sūra al-Aḥzāb since all the verses should have been right in front of him. Of interest also is that Zaid uses the first person singular pronoun in the first narration and the plural ‘we,’ indicating group activity, in the second. All of this strongly bolsters the view that the second compilation was indeed an independent endeavor.” Al-Aʿẓamī, History of the Qur’anic Text, 92.

138 Al-Jaʿfarī, Jamʿ, 44–45.

139 Ibn Kathīr, Faḍāʾil al-Qurʾān (Cairo: Maktabah Ibn Taymiyyah, 1416 AH), 86.

140 Al-Jaʿbarī, Jamīlah arbāb al-marāṣid, 340. See also Imam, Variant Readings of the Quran, 45.

141 Jabal, Wathāqah naql al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 185, 201–204.

142 Arthur Jeffery, ed., Muqaddimatān fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān: Wa-humā muqaddimāt Kitāb al-mabānī wa-muqaddimāt Ibn ʿAtiyya (Cairo: Maktabat al-Khanji, 1954), 20–22. On the identity of the author, see Aron Zysow, “Two Unrecognized Karrāmī Texts,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 108, no. 4 (1988): 577–87, https://doi.org/10.2307/603146.

143 Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-muṣḥaf, 119.

144 Behnam Sadeghi and Mohsen Goudarzi, Saṇ ʿāʾ 1 and the Origins of the Qur’ān,” Der Islam 87, nos. 1–2 (2012): 23. They write: “There are some traditions about ‘Uthmān’s team finding the last two verses of sūra 9 with a man named Khuzayma, or Abū Khuzayma, or Ibn Khuzayma. C-1 [(Sanʿāʾ undertext)] has these verses in the expected place. Since they are also found in the ‘Uthmānic Qur’an, and since it is not reported that any Companion codex was without them, these verses must have belonged to the prototype from which the C-1 and ‘Uthmānic text types emerged. Therefore, one should not read too much into the report.”

145  Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī, no. 2807.

146 See Sunan Abī Dāwūd, no. 3607; Sunan al-Nasāʾī, no. 4647; Musnad Aḥmad, no. 21883, along with Mustadrak al-Ḥākim, no. 2188; Sunan al-Bayhaqi, no. 20516; al-Ṭabarānī, Muʿjam al-kabīr, no. 3730.

147 Ibn al-Qayyim, I’lam al-muwaqi’in, 3:368.

148 Al-Sindhī, Sunan al-Nasāʾī al-musammā bi-l-mujtabā wa bi-hāmishihī ḥāshiya al-sindhī (Beirut: Dar al-Fikr, 2005), p. 1080, no. 4651.

149 In fact, Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad argues that there is no evidence to suggest that Abū Bakr’s compilation was not also written with the sūrahs arranged in sequence. Rasm al-muṣḥaf, 123.

150 Al-Kurdī, Tārīkh al-Qurʾān, 87; Ṭaha ʿĀbidīn Ṭaha, “Tartīb suwar al-Qur’an al-Karīm: Dirāsah taḥlīlīyah li-aqwāl al-ʿulamaʾ,” Majallah Buhuth al-Dirasat al-Qur’aniyyah 9 (2010): 32, https://jqrs.qurancomplex.gov.sa/?p=416.

151 Al-Nahhas, al-Nāsikh wal-mansūkh, 2:400. Some scholars including al-Kirmānī and al-Ṭībī stated that the Qur’an is written in the same sequence as it is found in the Preserved Tablet (al-Lawḥ al-Maḥfūdh). See Fahd al-Rūmī, Dirāsāt fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān, 119.

152 Muhammad Ali Hasan, al-Manār fi ʿulūm al-Qur’ān maʿa madkhal fī uṣūl al-tafsīr wa maṣādirih (Beirut: Mu’assasat al-Risalah, 2000), 168.

153 Cited in al-Zarkashī, al-Burhān fī ʿulūm al-Qur’an (Cairo: Dar Ihya al-Kutub al-Arabiyyah, 1957), 1:260.

154 Al-Baghawī, Sharḥ al-sunnah, 4:522.

155 Sunan Abī Dāwūd, no. 1393; Sunan Ibn Mājah, no. 1345; Musnad Abū Dāwūd, no. 1108. Yahya ibn Maʿīn approved of its chain of transmission.

156 Fahd al-Rūmī, Dirasāt fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān, 120. There are numerous narrations that also mention the sūrahs of the Qur’an according to the familiar chapter order found in the ʿUthmānic codex. Al-Ṭayyār, al-Muḥarrar fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān, 199.

157 Ibn Juzayy, al-Tashīl li ʿulūm al-tanzīl (Beirut: Dar al-Arqam, 1416 AH), 1:13.

158 Notice that he attributes the ijtihādī opinion to the majority, in contrast to those who attribute the tawqīfī opinion to the majority.

159 Qāḍī ʿIyāḍ, Ikmāl al-muʿallim (Egypt: Dar al-Wafa, 1998), 3:137.

160 Ṭaha, “Tartīb suwar al-Qur’an al-Karīm,” 41.

161 Ibn ʿAṭiyya, al-Muḥarrar al-wajīz, 27. Muhammad Hasan Jabal supports this view. Jabal, Wathāqah naql al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 234.

162 Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Muḥaḍarāt fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān, 73; al-Ṭayyār, al-Muḥarar fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān, 203.

163 Ibn Baṭṭāl, Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī (Riyadh: Maktaba Rushd, 2003), 10:239.

164 Yazīd al-Fārisī narrated that Ibn ʿAbbās said that he asked ʿUthmān, “Why did you place al-Anfāl, one of the mathānī, alongside al-Barāʾah, one the miʾīn, and you did not write the basmalah between them, and you placed them with the seven long (ṭuwal) chapters? What was your reasoning for that?”

ʿUthmān said, “During the time of the Prophet, chapters with numerous verses would be revealed and so whenever something was revealed, he would summon one of the scribes and instruct them, ‘Place these verses in the sūrah which mentions this or that.’ And when a single verse was revealed he would say, ‘Place this verse in the sūrah which mentions this or that.’ Al-Anfāl was one of the first sūrahs revealed in Madīnah, and al-Barāʾah was one of the final portions of the Qur’an revealed, and their stories were similar so I thought that it was part of it [i.e., that they belonged to the same chapter]. Then the Messenger of Allah ﷺ passed away before this was clarified, so it is for this reason that I placed them together and did not write the basmalah between them and placed them with the long sūrahs.” Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī, no. 3086; Musnad Aḥmad, nos. 399 and 499.

165 Ṭaha, “Tartīb suwar al-Qur’an al-Karīm,” 47.

166 He was declared reliable by Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal. ʿAbdullāh ibn al-Mubārak noted that he was both Shiʿī and Qadarī and Yahya ibn Saʿīd al-Qaṭṭān stated that ʿAwf reportedly called Ibn Masʿūd a liar. Hence, his sectarianism was not negligible. See al-Dhahabi, Siyar aʿlām al-nubalā.

167 He was believed to be the same person as Yazīd ibn Hurmuz by Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Abd al-Rahman ibn Mahdi, and Ibn Hibban, while Yahya ibn Maʿīn, Yaḥyā ibn Saʿīd al-Qaṭṭān, and Abu Ḥatim believed them to be two separate individuals. If he is the same person as Yazīd ibn Hurmuz, then he is an unreliable transmitter, and if he is a different person, then he is an unknown transmitter. See Taha, “Tartīb suwar al-Qur’an al-Karīm,” 61; also Salīm al-Hilalī’s comments in the footnotes on Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 221–22.

168 The qadarīyyah were a theological trend that denied divine decree and fate, and instead emphasized absolute human free will. The Muʿtazilah was a theological school that famously adopted this position.

169 Shiʿism is the largest non-Sunni sect and initially split from Sunnism due to opposition to the rule of Abū Bakr, ʿUmar, and ʿUthmān.

170 Hadith scholars permit narrations from other sectarian groups in those matters that do not relate to their innovations, so as to remove the potential for sectarian bias. This has been explained by Abū Isḥāq al-Jūzajānī (d.  259 AH) in Aḥwāl al-Rijāl (Beirut: Dar Mu’assasat al-Risalah, n.d.), 32.

171 Al-Bukhārī, al-Ḍuʿafā al-ṣaghīr (Taif: Maktabah Ibn ʿAbbās, 2005), 142. Cf. Ṭaha, “Tartīb suwar al-Qur’an al-Karīm,” 57–58.

172 Judayʿ, Muqaddimāt al-asāsīya, 124–27.

173 Mustadrak al-Hakim, no. 3673. See also al-Ṭayyār, al-Muḥarrar fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān, 201–202, and the comments of the editor (Salīm al-Hilālī) in Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 230 endorsing the view of al-Qurṭubī and al-Qushayrī that this is how the sūrah was revealed.

174 Sadeghi and Goudarzi, “Saṇ ʿāʾ 1 and the Origins of the Qur’ān,” 26.

175 Al-Kurdī, Tārīkh al-Qur’an al-Karīm, 96. Al-Kurdī himself affirms the validity of both views without favoring one over the other.

176 Ibn Shabba, Tārīkh al-Madīnah, 1016–17.

177 Yusuf al-ʿIlyawi, “Qaḍāya fī iḥkām al-naẓm al-Qurʾānī,” Majallah al-ʿUlūm al-ʿArabiyyah, 285. Against this, one might counter that the lack of objection stemmed merely from a desire to have a standardized text; however, the absence of any debate whatsoever renders this argument less persuasive.

178 Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Aṣālah al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 110.

179 See Mustansir Mir, Coherence in the Qurʾān: A Study of Iṣlāḥī’s Concept of Naẓṃ in Tadabbur-i Qur’ān (N.p.: American Trust Publications, 1986).

180 Saḥīḥ Bukhārī, no. 4987.

181 Ibn Kathīr, Faḍāʾil al-Qurʾān, 77.

182 Al-Jaʿbarī, Jamīlah arbāb al-marāṣid, 354.

183 Ibn Baṭṭāl, Sharḥ Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī (Riyadh: Maktabah Rushd, 2003), 10:226.

184 In the account of his involvement in the compilation, Mālik ibn Abī ʿĀmir (the grandfather of Imam Malik) states that ʿUthmān wrote to the people of the various provinces: “I have completed such and such a task and have erased what was in my possession, so erase what is in yours.” Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 205–6.

185 Al-Aʿẓamī, History of the Qur’anic Text, 97 and Jabal, Wathāqah naql al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 229. Jabal also cites the narrations that speak of manuscripts being gathered and buried near the minbar of the Prophet’s Mosque in Madīnah. Jabal, Wathāqah naql al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 231; Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 244.

186 Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 246.

187 Abu ʿUbayd, Kitāb al-imān, 2:98; Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 204, 212; Makkī, al-Ibānah, 61; see also al-Judayʿ, Muqaddimāt al-asāsīya, 121–22. Reportedly, he requested it shortly after Ḥafṣah’s funeral (janāzah), just after they had finished burying her.

188 Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 212.

189 Makkī, al-Ibānah, 65.

190 Nasser, The Transmission of the Variant Readings of the Qurʾān: The Problem of Tawatur and the Emergence of Shawadhdh (Leiden: Brill Academic Publishers, 2003), 229. The incorrectness of this claim has been discussed by Zakareeya Bakhsh, Misconceptions about the Qur’an and Qirāʾāt: A Critical Analysis of Shady Nasser’s views (master’s thesis, IOU, July 2021), 39–45.

191 There is a narration in Ibn Abī Dāwūd’s Kitāb al-maṣāḥif that states that a group of protestors from Egypt arrived in Madīnah with a litany of complaints, including that ʿUthmān had erased copies of the Qur’an, to which he replied, “Recite in any ḥarf you wish.” In their respective editions of the text, Salīm al-Hilālī and Muḥib al-Dīn Waʿiẓ point out that this narration is disconnected and that this particular statement appears to contradict the objective to unify the Muslims upon one text. However, if this statement is correct, another possible interpretation is that ʿUthmān allowed Muslims to recite in any ḥarf so long as it did not contradict the text of the ʿUthmānic codex. For al-Hilālī’s comments, see Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 239 and for Muḥib al-Dīn, see Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif,  (Beirut: Dar al-Basha’ir al-Islamiya, 2002), 244–45.

192 One possible “trace” of a non-ʿUthmānic muṣḥaf is the undertext of the Sanʿā palimpsest discussed below.

193 It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss some of the political factors involved and the role of al-Ḥajjāj in eliminating manuscripts that disagreed with the ʿUthmānic codex, for instance. However, as Nicolai Sinai notes, al-Ḥajjāj’s role was regional at most, and therefore the empire-wide acceptance of the ʿUthmānic codex ultimately came about from widespread uncoerced grassroots approval “from the bottom up” in tandem with official measures. See Nicolai Sinai, “When Did the Consonantal Skeleton of the Quran Reach Closure? Part I,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 77, no. 2 (2014): 285.

194 Al-Aʿẓamī, History, 97.

195 Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 207.

196 Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 208.

197 Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 170. ʿAbdullāh Judayʿ classified it as authentic, Muqaddimāt al-asāsīya, 120.

198 Ṭaḥāwī, Sharḥ Mushkil al-āthār (Tuhfat al-akhyar), 8:159.

199 See for instance al-Ṭāsān, Taḥqīq mawqif al-ṣaḥābī al-jalīl ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd min al-jamʿ al-ʿUthmānī (Riyadh: Maktabah Malik Fahd, 1435 AH); al-Jaʿfarī, al-ʿAdl wal-iḥsān fī taḥrīr iʿtirāḍāt ibn Masʿūd ʿalā muṣḥaf ʿUthmān: Dirāsah taḥlīliyyah naqdiyyah (Kuwait: Dar al-Ẓāhiriyyah lil-Nashr wa-Tawzīʿ, 2022). For a critical analysis and overview see Ammar Khatib, Qirāʾah taqwimiyyah lil-qawl bi-rujuʿ abn Masʿūd ʿan mawqifihi min al-jamʿ al-ʿUthmānī wa muwāfiqatihi al-jamāʿah, Markaz al-Tafsīr li-Dirāsāt al-Qur’āniyyah, February 16, 2022, https://tafsir.net/article/5407/qra-at-tqwymyt-llqwl-brjw-abn-ms-wd-an-mwqfh-mn-al-jm-al-thmany-wmwafqt-h-al-jma-h.

200 Sunan Ibn Mājah, no. 138.

201 Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī, no. 4999.

202 Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 172.

203 See also Abū Shahba, al-Madkhal, 286; Taqī ʿUthmāni, Approach to the Qur’anic Sciences (Karachi: Darul Isha’at, 2000), 156.

204 Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī, no. 3104. Al-Zuhrī reports that many of the senior companions disliked what Ibn Masʿūd had said.

205 Cited in Abū ʿAbdullāh al-Qurṭubī (d. 671 AH), al-Jāmiʿ li-aḥkām al-Qurʾān (Beirut: Muʾassasāt al-Risālah, 2006), 1:88.

206 Al-Qurṭubī, al-Jāmiʿ li-aḥkām al-Qurʾān, 1:88.

207 It is interesting to note that there are no reported statements of criticism from Ibn Masʿūd concerning Zayd’s appointment by Abū Bakr. This would support the view that the second reason for Ibn Masʿūd’s opposition (the imposition of the ʿUthmānic reading upon him and the request to eliminate his muṣḥaf) was in fact the stronger reason for his opposition.

208 Abu al-ʿAbbās al-Qurṭubī (d. 656 AH), al-Mufhim limā ashkala min Talkhīs Kitāb Muslim (Beirut: Dar Ibn Kathīr, 1996), 6:374.

209 Al-Dhahabī, Siyar aʿlām al-nubalā (Beirut: Muʾassasāt al-Risalah, 1982), 1:488.

210 Qur’an 3:161.

211 Jami’ al-Tirmidhī, no. 3104.

212 Al-Shāṭibī, al-Iʿtiṣām (Beirut: DKI, 2016), 360.

213 Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 2462. In another narration, Ibn Masʿūḍ stated, “How can you command me to recite according to the qirāʾāh of Zayd after I learned seventy some sūrahs from the mouth of Allah’s Messenger while Zayd had two braids, playing among other boys?” Sunan al-Nasāʾī, nos. 5063–64.  Another narration states, “while Zayd was a Jew with two braids” (Ibn Shabbha, Tārīkh al-Madīnah, 3:1008); however, this is incorrect as Zayd grew up as a Muslim. See Safwan ʿAdnān Dāwūdī, Zayd ibn Thābit: Kātib al-waḥy wa jāmiʿ al-Qurʾān (Damascus: Dar al-Qalam, 1999), 26 and al-Hilālī’s comments in Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 185. Michael Lecker considers the description an allusion to sidelocks (Hebrew: payot) customary for Jewish boys, and considers Zayd  to have been brought up by learning to read and write at a Jewish school after the death of his father in the battle of Buʿāth; however, Lecker draws upon a number of unreliable and sectarian sources. Michael Lecker, “Zayd B. Thābit, ‘A Jew with Two Sidelocks’: Judaism and Literacy in Pre-Islamic Medina (Yathrib),” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 56, no. 4 (1997): 259–73.

214 Muhammad Bāzmūl, “al-Aḥādīth al-wāridah fī al-ʿarḍah al-akhīrah,” Majallah Jāmiʿah Umm al-Qurra li-ʿUlūm al-Sharīʿah wa al-Dirāsāt al-Islāmiyah 62 (Shaʿbān, 1435), 83.

215 Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 189–94.

216 Ibn ʿAsākir, Tārīkh Dimashq (Damascus: Dar al-Fikr, n.d.), 33:140.

217 Al-Dhahabī, Siyar aʿlām al-nubalā (Beirut: Muʾassasāt al-Risalah, 1982), 1:488.

218 Ibn Kathīr, Faḍāʾil al-Qurʾān, 68. Note, however, that later, Ibn Kathīr points out that the particular narration cited by Ibn Abī Dāwūd is insufficient as evidence that Ibn Masʿūd changed his position. Ibn Kathīr, Faḍāʾil al-Qurʾān, 83.

219 Ibn Mujāhid, Kitab al-sabʿah fī al-qirāʾāt, 67. See also Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-muṣḥaf, 623; and Ramon Harvey, “The Legal Epistemology of Qur’anic Variants: The Readings of Ibn Masʿūd in Kufan Fiqh and the Ḥanafī Madhhab,” Journal of Qur’anic Studies 19, no. 1 (2017): 72–101, 20, endnote 8.

220 Saḥīḥ Bukhārī, no. 3761.

221 Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim, no. 824a; Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī, no. 2939.

222 Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 188. One may also note that Abū al-Dardā was from the Anṣār, hence he did not share the same experience as ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd.

223 Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 246.

224 In the time of al-Ḥajjāj, three persons were ordered to search for and destroy any muṣḥaf that differed from the ʿUthmānic codex: ʿĀṣim al-Jahdarī, Nājiya bin Rumḥ, and ʿAlī ibn Aṣmaʿ. They were to compensate the owner with sixty dirhams. See Ibn Quṭaybah, Taʾwīl mushkil al-Qurʾān (Beirut: DKI, n.d.), 37. One of the maṣāḥif that appears to have escaped this fate is that of al-Ḥārith bin Suwayd al-Taymī, one of the companions of ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd that was buried during the days of al-Ḥajjāj and that al-Farrāʾ (d. 207 AH) later relied upon to make several observations about the reading of Ibn Masʿūd. Al-Farrāʾ, Maʿānī al-Qurʾān, 3:68.

225 Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī, no. 3104.

226 Unlike the other codices identified by city, the Syrian codex is usually identified by the region as simply the codex of Shām. However, there are some reports, such as that of Abū Ḥātim that identify the city as Ḥims, where al-Miqdād ibn al-Aswad was stationed. Cf. Omar Hamdan, “Mashruʿ al-maṣāḥif al-ʿUthmāniyah,” 57. Hythem Sidky supports this by citing evidence from the Ḥimsī reading tradition as well as corroborative manuscript evidence and a supporting account recorded by Sayf ibn ʿUmar al-Tamīmī (d. 108 AH). See Sidky, “On the Regionality of Qurʾānic Codices,” 171–74.

227 Al-Dānī, al-Muqniʿ, 162–63.

228 Al-Jaʿbarī, Jamīlah arbāb al-marāṣid, 1:369; Ibn al-Jazarī, al-Nashr (N.p.: Matbah Tijariya al-Kubra, n.d.), 1:7.

229 Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 245.

230 Ibn Kathīr, al-Bidāyah wal-nihāyah (Cairo: Dar Hijr, 2003), 10:394.

231 Makkī, al-Ibānah, 65.

232 Ibn al-Jazarī, al-Nashr, 1:7.

233 This term used to refer to the region of Upper Mesopotamia, the northernmost region between the Tigris and the Euphrates, including Northern Syria, Northern Iraq, and Turkey.

234 Al-Yaʿqūbī, Tārīkh al-Yaʿqūbī (Najaf: Manshurat al-Maktabah al-Haydariyah, 1964), 2:160. The nine include the four agreed upon locations (Kufa, Basra, Sham, and Madinah) and then five additional locations (Makkah, Yemen, Bahrain, Egypt, and al-Jazīrah).

235 Jabal, Wathāqah naql al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 222–23.

236 Al-Jaʿbarī, Jamīlah arbāb al-marāṣid, 370. According to the editor, the Abū ʿAlī al-Fārisī (d. 377 AH) cited by al-Jaʿbarī may be, however Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad considers it to be Abū ʿAlī al-Ahwāzī (d. 446 AH). Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Abū ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Sulamī wa juhūduhu fi al-iqrāʾ wa taʿlīm al-Qurʾān al-Karīm (conference paper, Amman, Jordan, 1427 AH), 36. See also al-Marghānī, Dalīl al-ḥayrān ʿalā mawrid al-ḍhamān (Kuwait: Markaz al-Qirāʾāt, 2011), 44–45.

237 Marijn van Putten, “‘The Grace of God’ as Evidence for a Written Uthmanic Archetype: The Importance of Shared Orthographic Idiosyncrasies,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies 82 (2019): 271–88.

238 Van Putten, “The Grace of God,” 274–75. He further writes, “There is only one possible explanation for the strong agreement across the many different Quran manuscripts with the two possible spellings of niʿmat: there must have been a single written archetype from which all Quranic manuscripts of the Uthmanic text type are descended” (279).

239 Al-Dānī, al-Muqniʿ, 165. Al-Dānī comments that there is no difference of opinion upon this matter, discussed further below.

240 Abū al-Faḍl al-Rāzī, Maʿānī al-aḥruf al-sabʿah (N.p.: Dār al-Nawādir, 2011), 466.

241 Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, ʿUlūm al-Qurʾān al-Karīm bayna al-maṣādir wal-maṣāḥif, 24 and al-Muyassar fī ʿilm rasm al-muṣḥaf, 47. He observes that ʿAbd al-Azīz al-Ḍabbāgh (d. 1132 AH) appears to be one of the first to argue that the rasm is tawqīfī. See also ʿAbd al-Qayyūm al-Sindhī, Jamʿ al-Qurʾān, 393–94.

242 Abū al-Faḍl al-Rāzī, Maʿānī al-aḥruf al-sabʿah, 467.

243 Muḥammad Ṭāhir al-Kurdī, Tārīkh al-Qur’an al-Karīm, 98–100; Ṣubḥī Ṣāliḥ, Mabāḥith fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān (Beirut: Dar El Ilm Lilmalayin, 1977), 277; al-Judayʿ, Muqaddimāt al-asāsīya, 151; al-Ṭayyār, al-Muḥarrar, 223; Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, al-Muyassar fī ʿilm rasm al-muṣḥaf, 49.

244 Al-Bāqillānī, al-Instiṣār, 548–49.

245 Al-Zarkashī, al-Burhān fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān (Cairo: Dar Turath, 1945), 1:379–80; Ṣāliḥ, Mabāḥith, 280.

246 Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, ʿUlūm al-Qurʾān al-Karīm bayna al-maṣādir wal-maṣāḥif, 32.

247 Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-muṣḥaf, 693–94 and ʿUlūm al-Qurʾān bayna al-maṣādir wal-maṣāhir, 20–21. See Al-Dani, al-Muqniʿ, 571.

248 Al-Dānī, al-Muqni,ʿ 571–602; Cook, “Stemma of the Regional Codices,” 91.

249 Ibn Kathīr, Tafsīr al-Qurʾān (Beirut: DKI, 1419 AH), 1:15.

250 Abū ʿUbayd, Faḍāʾil al-Qurʾān, 2:158.

251 Al-Dānī also mentions the Makkan variant of an additional من in 9:100.

252 Abū ʿUbayd, Faḍāʾil al-Qurʾān, 162.

253 It is important to note that in some select instances, reciters will read according to a codex other than their own region. For instance, Ḥafs recites 43:71 and 36:35 with an additional ه although it is omitted in the Kufan codex. This relates to the practice of ikhtiyār, selecting a preferred reading from a number of readings that one has learned from one’s teacher. Moreover, the Basran reciter Abū ʿAmr was asked why he recited عبادي with a ي in 43:68 when the Basran codex did not have one, and he replied that he followed the maṣāḥif of Medina in this regard. Al-Dānī cites this and numerous other examples in order to emphasize the mistake of those who simply look at the readings of various regional reciters and presume that those are the same variants found in their regional codices. Al-Dānī, 602–4.

254 Al-Udfuwī, al-Istighnāʾ fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān, 282; Makkī,  al-Hidāyah ilā bulūgh al-nihāyah, 4:3133.

255 Indeed, in a society based on an oral culture as opposed to a written culture, it is much more reasonable to consider the reciters of the Qur’an and the scribes to have been resorting to an existing oral precedent, rather than dispensing with orality in favor of following alleged scribal errors.

256 Ibn Idrīs, Kitāb al-mukhtār fī maʿānī qirāʾāt ahl al-amṣār (Riyadh: Maktaba Rushd, 2010), 71–72.

257 Jeffery, Muqaddimatān fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān, 121–22. See also Imam, Variant Readings of the Quran, 87.

258 A number of scholars have drawn attention to the subtleties of balāghah (rhetorical eloquence) related to some of the variants of the regional codices. For instance, in 91:15, the verse can mean “And He (God) feared not the outcome” of destroying the sinful nation of Thamūd or it can mean “And he feared not the outcome,” referring to the one who killed the camel of Ṣāliḥ. The Madīnan/Syrian reading accords with the first, while the Kūfan/Baṣran accords with the second. See Al-Farrā, Maʿānī al-Qurʾān, 3:270.

259 Al-Dānī, al-Muqniʿ, 605. See also al-Jaʿfarī, Jamʿ al-Qurʾān, 50.

260 Al-Sakhāwī, al-Wasīlah ilā kashf al-ʿāqīlah (Riyadh: Maktabah Rushd, 2003), 113.

261 Al-Udfuwī, al-Istighnāʾ fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān, 259.

262 Al-Mahdawī, Hijāʾ maṣāḥif al-amṣār (Dammām: Dār Ibn al-Jawzī, 2010), 102–3. Another statement in support of all the regional variants being divinely revealed is from Ṣadr al-Dīn Muhammad al-Shīrāzī (d. 776 AH) in his work Kashf al-asrār fī rasm maṣāḥif al-amṣār: “And these letters are all affirmed and were all transcribed in the codices from the exemplar which ʿUthmān wrote, then they were sent to all the regions, and they are all the speech of Allah Most High.” Al-Shīrāzī, Kashf al-asrār (Cairo: Dār ʿIbad al-Raḥmān, 2011), 105. Cf. Sālim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Athar rukhsat al-aAḥruf, 326.

263 Al-Zarqānī, Manāhil al-ʿirfān, 1:258.

264 Al-Zarqani, Manāhil al-ʿirfān, 1:259. See also Nūr al-Dīn ʿIṭr, Kitāb ʿulūm al-Qurʾān (Damascus: Maṭbaʿah Sabbah, 1993), 175; ʿAbd al-Qayyūm Sindhī, Jamʿ al-Qurʾān al-Karīm, 389.

265 Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Rasm al-muṣḥaf, 705.

266 Al-Aʿẓamī, History of the Qur’anic Text, 99.

267 Theodor Nöldeke, Friedrich Schwally, Gotthelf Bergsträßer, and Otto Pretzl, The History of the Qurʾān (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 399; Michael Cook, “The Stemma of the Regional Codices of the Koran,” Graeco Arabica 9–10 (2004): 89–104.

268 See also Hythem Sidky, “On the Regionality of Qurʾānic Codices,” Journal of the International Qur’anic Studies Association 5 (2020): 175. The report from Abū ʿUbayd states that two alifs were added by Naṣr b ʿĀṣim al-Laythi (d. 89 AH) such that the verses in question read سيقولون الله instead of سيقولون لله. This would be an example of bringing the codex in line with the existing reading in Baṣra, as this reading is transmitted in the qirāʾāt of Abū al-Jawzāʾa (d. 82 AH), Saʿīd ibn Jubayr (d. 95 AH), Abū al-Mutawakkil ʿAlī ibn Dāwūd (d. 102 AH), Yaḥyā ibn Wathāb (d. 103 AH), Ḥasan al-Baṣrī (d.  110 AH), Abū ʿAmr al-Baṣrī (d. 154 AH), Abū al-Ashhab al-ʿAṭṭārī (d. 162 AH), Abū Muḥammad al-Yazīdī (d. 202 AH), and Yaʿqūb al-Ḥaḍramī (d. 205 AH). See ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Khaṭīb, Muʿjam al-qirāʾāt (Damascus: Dar Saʿd al-Dīn, 2002), 6:200–201; Ibn al-Jazarī, al-Nashr, 2:329; Ibn Khalawayh, al-Ḥujjah, 258; al-Anbārī, Marsūm al-khaṭṭ, ed. Imtiyaz Ali (New Delhi: al-Maʿhad al-Hindī li-Dirāsāt al-Islāmiyya, 1982), 22.

269 This allows one to exclude, for example, the scenario proposed by Salwa al-Ḥārithī (University of Ṭāʾif) that the reason for the regional variants is because the ʿUthmānic regional codices were modified by the reciters of the region to accommodate existing readings. Had this been the case, it would be impossible for the codices to produce a stemma, and instead each region would demonstrate some isolated variants. Salwa bint Aḥmad Muḥammad al-Ḥārithī, “Tafrīq al-qirāʾāt ʿalā maṣāḥif al-amṣār bayna al-ḥaqīqah wa al-muqarar min aqwāl al-aʾimmah,” Majalla Kulliya al-Dirāsāt al-Islāmiyya wal-ʿArabiyya lil-Banāt bi-Damanhour 2, no. 4 (2019): 351, 369.

270 Cook writes, “Third, the single most striking feature of the variants reported for the foursome is the lack of any serious indication of contamination between their texts. This must count against any suggestion that the variants were invented. For to fabricate a set of variants free of the appearance of contamination, the early Muslim scholars would have needed some kind of operational understanding of the mechanics of textual transmission—the logic of stemmas and contamination. We know that their successors, the authors of our sources, did not possess this; indeed, it was not to be found in any scholarly culture until the last few centuries. We can accordingly infer that we have to do with genuine transmissions from an archetype.” Cook, “Stemma of the Regional Codices,” 103–4.

271 The fact that the scribe is not simply copying what is in front of him is indicated in the literary sources by the aforementioned narrations confirming that one person was designated to recite (e.g., Saʿīd ibn al-ʿĀṣ) and one person was designated to write (e.g., Zayd ibn Thābit).

272 Al-Aʿẓamī analyzed the five extant Qur’anic manuscripts commonly attributed to ʿUthmān. This chapter is not found in the original edition of his work but appears in chapter 11 of the expanded 2020 edition published posthumously. Muhammad Mustafa al-Azami, The History of the Quranic Text, from Revelation to Compilation: A Comparative Study with the Old and New Testaments (London: Turath Publishing, 2020), Kindle.

273 Ala Vahidnia, “Whence Come Qurʾān Manuscripts? Determining the Regional Provenance of Early Qurʾānic Codices,” Der Islam 98, no. 2 (2021): 359–93.

274 Mohammad Said Mitwally Ibrahim Alrahawan, “Correlating Some Early Ḥijāzī and Kūfan Qurʾān Fragments

to their Ancestral ʿUthmānī Codices,” al-Burhān: Journal of Qurʾān and Sunnah Studies 5, no. 2 (2021): 1–47.

275 Sidky, “On the Regionality of Qurʾānic Codices,” 166, 183–84.

276 Yasin Dutton, “An Early Muṣḥaf According to the Reading of Ibn ʿĀmir,” Journal of Qur'anic Studies 2 (2001): 71–89.

277 François Déroche, Qurʾans of the Umayyads: A First Overview (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 17, 30.

278 Al-Qur’ān (manuscript), Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Arabe 328, 11/10/2010, https://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b8415207g/f24.item#.

279 This manuscript has a rather dramatic backstory attributed to it. Al-Aʿẓamī writes, “According to Prof. Hamidullah the Muṣḥaf was originally housed in Damascus; it caught the eye of Tamerlane after he sacked the city and was removed to Samarqand, where it was kept in the Ak Medrese next to the Khwāja Aḥrār as-Samarqandī Masjid. In 1868 the Russians overran Samarqand and moved the Muṣḥaf to the Imperial Public Library in St. Petersburg, where it remained for nearly fifty years. With the Bolshevik advance at the end of the First World War, General Ali Akbar Topchi Bashi, who did not savor the thought of living under Communist rule, decided to safeguard the precious Muṣḥaf before fleeing to Paris. He dispatched a commando force to seize control of the royal palace and seek out the Muṣḥaf from the royal library. He then hurried to the railway station and, given his rank as an army general, demanded an engine from the station master. Placing the Qurʾān in the engine compartment with an army escort, he ordered the engine driver to push onwards to Turkistan as quickly as possible. A few hours later the Communist army commanders received intelligence of what had happened. They sent another engine with an escort to chase the one carrying the Muṣḥaf, but failed to catch up with it. In this way the manuscript reached Tashkent and the Communist authorities chose not to clamor for its return. It was stored in the Museum of History until 1989, when it was handed to the Muslim Board of Uzbekistan.” Muhammad Mustafa Al-Azami, The History of the Qur’anic Text, from Revelation to Compilation: A Comparative Study with the Old and New Testaments (London: Turath Publishing, 2020), Kindle.

280 ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Khaṭīb, Muʿjam al-qirāʾāt, 7:484. Note that this is one of the aforementioned cases of ikhtiyār where the Kufan transmitter Ḥafs recites this verse in the same manner as the Baṣran, Syrian, and Ḥijāzī readers. It is in fact reported that Ḥafs asked ʿĀṣim why Abū Bakr ibn ʿAyyāsh (Shuʿbah) differed from him in recitation. ʿĀṣim explained that he taught Ḥafṣ according to the reading of Abū ʿAbd al-Raḥmān al-Sulamī from ʿAlī ibn Abī Ṭālib, while he taught Shuʿbah according to the reading of Zirr ibn Ḥubaysh from ʿAbdullah Ibn Masʿūd. Thus, it is not unexpected to note cases where Ḥafs diverges from the Kufans to agree with the Hijazis. See Ibn al-Jazarī, Ghāyah al-nihāyah fī ṭabaqāt al-qurrāʾ (Beirut: DKI, 2006), 1:230.

281 Michael Marx (in collaboration with Tobias J. Jocham, Jens Sauer, and Tolou Khademalsharieh), “Berlin, Staatsbibliothek: Faksimiledruck des Samarkand-Kodex, Sankt Petersburg 1905,” in Manuscripta Coranica, ed. Michael Marx (Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften), https://corpuscoranicum.de/handschriften/index/sure/36/vers/35?handschrift=141.

282 In some verses, edits were later made to match the Iraqi codices. See Vahidnia, “Whence Come Qurʾān Manuscripts?,” 386–87.

283 Emanuel Tov highlights a number of limitations of certain principles of textual criticism before commenting, “The upshot of this analysis, then, is that to some extent textual evaluation cannot be bound by any fixed rules. It is an art in the full sense of the word, a faculty which can be developed, guided by intuition based on wide experience. It is the art of defining the problems and finding arguments for and against the originality of readings.” He then explains that the primary task of the textual critic is to find the contextually most appropriate reading before noting that “this procedure is as subjective as subjective can be. Common sense is the main guide, although abstract rules are often also helpful. In modern times, scholars are often reluctant to admit the subjective nature of textual evaluation, so that an attempt is often made, conscious or unconscious, to create a level of artificial objectivity by the frequent application of abstract rules.” Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible (MN: Fortress Press, 2001), 309–10.

284 Ibn ʿAsākir, Tārīkh Dimashq (N.p.: Dar al-Fikr, 1995), 39:243; Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 1:211; Ibn Ḥajar, Fatḥ al-Bārī, 11:178. While one may contend that we do not know that dictation was involved in the transcription process of all regional codices, the narrations we have available certainly indicate that this was the norm, and we have no evidence indicating otherwise. Moreover, the narration of Abān ibn ʿUthmān concerning 4:162 states that the scribe asked what to write and then simply followed the instructions given to him. The editors of al-Thaʿlabī’s tafsīr write, “And it is clear from the context of the narration of Abān that he did not state the scribe erred but rather that the scribe merely wrote what was told to him, and this is proof that what is relied upon is talaqqī (direct learning) and riwāyah (oral transmission).” Refer to editor footnotes in al-Thaʿlabī, al-Kashf wal-Bayān, ed. Ṣalāh Baʿuthmān, Ḥasan al-Ghazālī, Zayd Mahārish, and Amīn Bāshah (Jeddah: Dar al-Tafsīr, 2015), 11:79–80. See also Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 240.

285 There are 15 textual variants isolated to the Syrian codex according to Sidky’s list of variants with multiple attestations in traditional literature. According to the list provided by al-Dānī and analyzed by Cook, there are 16 variants, which has no impact on the above argument.

286 The four gospels contain approximately 65,000 words, while the Qur’an contains roughly 77,000 words. The precise word count depends on how one counts particles and connected and disconnected words in the rasm.

287 Herman C. Hoskier, Codex B and its Allies (London: Bernard Quaritch, 1914), B.

288 The very low number of variants necessitates an intensive review process that would result in corrections. However, if there are corrections, then they must have been made before the next manuscript was copied, otherwise it would disrupt the stemma. For example, M is copied from S, and B is copied from M. But before B is copied from M, M is corrected. B will therefore demonstrate some variants in S that are not shared by M, thus disrupting the stemma. That such an intensive immediate review process would pass over at least some of the exact same regional variants more than once strongly suggests that they would only be passed over because they conformed to existing reading traditions.

289 See Abū ʿAmr al-Dānī, al-Muqniʿ, 583–84. Al-Dānī contends that this could only have been done by ʿUthmān’s committee based on authentic transmission from the Prophet ﷺ.

290 Jāmiʿ al-Tirmidhī, no. 3104.

291 On the Tamīmī dialect’s assimilation in the Qur’an, see al-Zarkashī, al-Burhān, 1:285.

292 Homoeoteleuton refers to the occurrence of two lines with similar endings, which can facilitate the error of parablepsis, where the scribe’s eye skips a line. Sentences ending with the same word can give rise to errors of haplography, where one sentence or verse is omitted. When the scribe’s eye picks up the same word or phrase twice, the resultant error is aptly named dittography. See Bruce Metzger and Bart Ehrman, The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption and Restoration (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 253–54. Sadeghi and Gourdazi note an instance of parablepsis in the Ṣanʿāʾ palimpsest lower text in 9:85. Sadeghi and Gourdazi, “Saṇ ʿāʾ 1 and the Origins of the Qur’ān,” 23.

293 In 18:36, the man with two gardens states that if he were to die, Allah would give him something even better than his garden(s). The Madīnan and Syrian codex have the dual pronoun (منهما—i.e., better “than both of them”) while the Kufan and Basran have the singular pronoun (منها—i.e., better “than it”). The preceding verse refers to the garden in the singular (“he entered his garden,” 18:35) while two verses earlier mentions the gardens in dual. Thus, both readings perfectly correspond to different points within the preceding passage. See Abū Manṣūr al-Azharī (d. 370 AH), Maʿānī al-qirāʾāt (Riyadh: Markaz al-Buḥūth fī Kulliyat al-Ādab, 1991), 2:109–10.

294 Makkī ibn Abī Ṭālib, al-Hidāyah ilā bulūgh al-nihāyah, 3131–32. Note that Makkī’s quotation of al-Udfuwī is slightly paraphrased and appears to have been collected from a few separate comments when compared with the original in al-Istighnāʾ.

295 Qur’an 2:259.

296 Qur’an 30:30.

297 Qur’an 86:17.

298 Abū ʿUbayd, Faḍāʾil al-Qurʾān,102.

299 In the narration of Hudhayfah mentioning the conflict over readings between the people of Iraq and Syria, he mentions that the former were reciting according to Ibn Masʿūd while the latter were reciting according to Ubayy ibn Kaʿb. See Ibn Shabba, Tarīkh al-Madīna, 3:993 and al-Ṭabarī, Tafsīr al-Ṭabarī, 1:55.

300  Ibn Saʿd, al-Ṭabaqāt al-kabīr, 5:312.

301 Metzger and Ehrman, Text of the New Testament, 257; Emanuel Tov, Textual Criticism of the Hebrew Bible, 307.

302 Note that we have only included unequivocal matches and not included cases where the degree of similarity is likely insufficient to constitute an assimilation of parallels or the similarity between multiple passages precludes any unambiguous assumptions of directionality.

303 Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 231–36. See also Ibn Shabba, Tarīkh al-Madīna, 1013. Note that al-Zajjāj claimed that Abū ʿAmr al-Baṣrī’s justification for reading 20:63 in the accusative was the presence of scribal errors, citing this narration. Al-Zajjāj, Kitāb maʿānī al-Qurʾān wa iʿrābihī li-Zajjaj (Beirut: ʿAlam al-Kutub, 1988), 3:362; see also al-Azharī, Maʿānī al-qirāʾāt, 3:149. However, both readings of 20:63 accord with known dialects and are authentically transmitted. The common reading (in the nominative) accords with the dialect of Banū Ḥārith bin Kaʿb, Khathʿam, Zabīd, Kinānah, and other tribes, which used the same dual form with the ا for nominative, accusative, and genitive tenses. Cf. Al-Wāḥidī, Tafsīr al-wasīṭ, 3:211; Ibn Khālawayh, al-Ḥujjah, 242. Al-Qurṭubī states that Abū ʿAmr’s reading agrees with the iʿrāb and differs from the muṣḥaf. Al-Qurṭubī, al-Jāmiʿ, 14:89. Some contemporary scholars have argued the rasm of the ʿUthmānic text can be interpreted to accommodate both. See al-Ḥarbī, Tawjīh mushkil al-qirāʾāt, 337; Abū Shahba, al-Madkhal, 380; al-Mulḥim, Mā lā yaḥtamiluhu rasm al-muṣḥaf, 427. However, based on knowledge of Qur’anic orthography, this would more accurately be considered al-mukhālafah al-mughtafarah (see footnote 61 above).

304 None of the reported transmitters of these reports (ʿAbd al-Aʿlā, Qatādah, Yaḥyā bin Yaʿmur, ʿIkrimah) met or heard from ʿUthmān directly. See Jamāl Abū Ḥassan, “Dirāsah mā rawa ʿan ʿUthmān fī shaʾn laḥn al-Qurʾān,” Majallah al-Zarqā lil-Buḥūth wal-Dirāsāt 7, no. 1 (June 30, 2005): 43–86. See also al-Kurdī, Tārīkh al-Qurʾān, 77–80.

305 From a no longer extant work entitled al-Radd ʿalā man khālaf muṣḥaf ʿUthmān, cited in al-Suyuṭī, al-Itqān, 391.

306 Makkī ibn Abī Ṭālib, al-Hidāyah ilā bulūgh al-nihāyah, 7:4663.

307 Al-Dānī, al-Muqniʿ, 605–6.

308 Ibn Taymiyyah writes, “And this report is baseless (bāṭil) and not authentic due to numerous reasons. First, the companions would race to forbid the least evil, so how could they affirm mistakes in the Qur’an while it would entail no burden upon them to remove them? Secondly, the Arabs used to despise linguistic errors and view them to be utterly abhorrent, so why would they not abhor leaving them in the musḥaf? Thirdly, the claim that the Arabs would correct them in their speech is not sound since the noble muṣḥaf is read by both Arabs and non-Arabs. Fourthly, it is established in the authentic hadith that Zayd ibn Thābit wanted to write al-Tābūt with the letter hā (ه) according to the dialect of the Anṣār and he was prevented from doing that and the matter was raised to ʿUthmān and he asked them to write it with the letter tā (ت) according to the dialect of the Quraysh.” This quotation is cited from Ibn Taymiyyah by Ibn Hishām al-Anṣārī (d. 761 AH) and is not found in any of the extant works by Ibn Taymiyyah. See Ibn Hishām, Sharḥ Shudhūr al-Dhahab fī maʿrifah kalām al-ʿarab (Beirut: Dar Ihya Turath al-Arab 2001), 33–34.

309 ʿUmar said, “Ubayy was the best of us in recitation, yet we leave some of his dialect (laḥn).” Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī, no. 5005.

310 Jawād ʿAlī, Kitāb al-mufaṣṣal fī tārīkh al-ʿArab qabl al-Islam (Beirut: Dar al-Saqi, 2001), 17:14.

311 Cited in Abu ʿAmr al-Dānī,  al-Muḥkam fī naqṭ al-maṣāḥif (Damascus: Maṭbūʿāt Mudīrīya Iḥyā Turāth al-Qadīm, 1960), 185.

312 Al-Dānī, al-Muqniʿ, 607. Al-Mahdawī (d. 440 AH) provides the same interpretation, Hijāʾ maṣāḥif al-amṣār, 66.  Note also another narration in which ʿUthmān is reported to have said that if the one dictating was from the tribe of Hudhayl and the scribe was from Thaqīf, these examples would not have occurred, perhaps because they did not use the same spelling conventions and relied on more phonemic orthography. See Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 237.

313 Mansour Hamad Eidi, “al-Riwayāt al-wāridah ʿan ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAbbās radiyallahu ʿanhu alati tūham al-ṭaʿan fī al-rasm al-muṣḥaf,” Majalla al-Dirāsāt al-Islāmiyya 29, no. 1 (2017/1438 AH): 151–84; Nūr Makkāwī, Mazāʿim akhṭāʾ al-kātib fī al-Qurʾān: ʿAr wa naqḍ (Cairo: Al-Azhar University, 2015); ʿAbdullāh Ramaḍān Mūsā, Mawthuqiyyah naql al-Qurʾān min ʿahd rasūl Allah ṣalla Allahu ʿalayhi wa sallam ila al-yawm (Cairo: Dār al-Nūrāniyyah lil-Turāth wal-Buḥūth al-ʿIlmiyyah, 2016).

314 The phrase from the verse in question is, “Has not despair (yayʾas ييأس) taken those who believe concerning the fact that had Allah willed, He would guide all of humanity?” Ibn ʿAbbās used to recite this verse as follows, “Has it not become clear (yatabayyan يتبين) to those who believe that had Allah willed, He would guide all of humanity?”

315 Reported by Ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī; ʿAbd ibn Ḥumayd as cited by Ibn Ḥajar in Fatḥ al-Bārī, 10:255; Abu Bakr al-Anbārī as cited by al-Suyuṭī. See also Aḥmad al-ʿUmrānī, Mawsūʿah madrasah Makkah fī al-tafsīr (Cairo: Dār al-Salām, 2011), 9:907, no. 4014.

316 Mūsā, Mawthuqiyyah naql al-Qurʾān, 154.

317 Abū ʿUbayd, Faḍāʾil, 2:123.

318 ʿAbdullāh ibn Aḥmad ibn Ḥanbal, Masāʾil al-Imām Aḥmad: Riwāyah Isḥāq ibn Ibrāhīm (Beirut: al-Maktab al-Islami, 1400 AH), 101. Cf. Eidi’s mention of other possibilities, “al-Riwayāt al-wāridah ʿan ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAbbās,” 157.

319 Al-Zamakharī, al-Kashshāf (Beirut: Dār al-Maʿrifah, 2009), 13:541. See also the list of reasons for rejecting it provided by Nūr Makkāwī, Mazāʿim, 33–35.

320 Ibn Ḥajar describes those who rejected this narration, like al-Zamakhsharī, as being unfamiliar with the discipline of evaluation of hadith narrators (ʿilm al-rijāl). He states: “However, rejecting that which is transmitted after its authentication is not from the characteristics of the people of expertise (ahl al-taḥṣīl). So let one examine its interpretation for that which is suitable.” Ibn Ḥajar, Fath al-Bari, 10:256. ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Khaṭīb agrees with his assessment, al-Muʿjam, 4:427. Cf. Eidi, “al-Riwayāt al-wāridah ʿan ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAbbās,” 158.

321 Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmūʿ al-fatāwa, 12:264 (original print pagination 12:493).

322 For instance, Ibn ʿAbbās’s views concerning ribā al-faḍl (interest) and zawaj al-mutʿah (temporary marriage), which he subsequently retracted. See Muhammad Samīʿī Sayyid ʿAbd al-Raḥmān, Infirādāt ibn ʿAbbās ʿan jamhūr al-ṣaḥābah fī al-aḥkām al-fiqhiyyah (Ajman: Maktabah al-Furqan, 2000), 291–309.

323 See for instance, Ibn ʿAṭiyya, al-Muḥarrar al-wajīz, 1041; Ibn Ḥajar, Fatḥ al-Bārī, 10:255. Cf. al-ʿUmrānī, Mawsūʿah, 4:426; ʿAbd al-Laṭīf al-Khaṭīb, Muʿjam, 4:422.

324 Ibn ʿAṭiyya, al-Muḥarrar al-wajīz, 1040; Ibn ʿĀdil, al-Lubāb fī ʿulūm al-Kitāb (Beirut: DKI, 1998), 11:307. Note that al-Qāsim is the great grandson of ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd.

325 ʿAbdullāh Ramaḍān Mūsā provides a similar explanation for a different narration, Mawthuqiyyah naql al-Qurʾān, 182. However, he doesn’t consider it likely for this narration as ʿIkrimah learned from Ibn ʿAbbās when the latter was in Baṣra (35–40 AH), at least a decade after the ʿUthmānic codex project. See Mawthuqiyyah naql al-Qurʾān, 155–56. Against this, however, one may consider how long it took some people to grow accustomed to readings they were unfamiliar with, based on the narration of al-Aʿmash about the prevalence of the reading of Ibn Masʿūd in Kufah during his time.

326 Rāshid ʿAbd al-Munʿim al-Rajjāl, Tafsīr ibn ʿAbbās al-musammā ṣaḥīfa ʿAli ibn Abī Ṭalḥa ʿan Ibn ʿAbbās fī tafsīr al-Qurʾān al-Karīm (Beirut: Muʾassasat al-Kutub al-Thaqāfiyyah, 1991), 300.

327 Other narrations from Ibn ʿAbbās attributing errors to the scribe are found in his comments on 24:27 (he read tastaʾdhinu instead of tastaʾnisu) and 21:48 (he read it without the waw before ḍiyāʾ). See Saʿīd ibn Manṣūr (d. 227H), Sunan Saʿīd ibn Manṣūr (Riyadh: Dār al-Alūkah, 2012), 6:295, 6:411. See also Mūsā, who rejects their authenticity, Mawthuqiyyah naql al-Qurʾān, 173–81. Another narration from Ibn ʿAbbās objects to the word qaḍā in 17:23, stating that it is waṣā but that the scribe accidentally connected the waw with the ṣād making the undotted word resemble qaḍā. See Saʿīd ibn Manṣūr, Sunan Saʿīd ibn Manṣūr, 6:105. However, this narration is not authentic. Cf. Mūsā, Mawthuqiyyah naql al-Qurʾān, 162–69; Eidi, “al-Riwayāt al-wāridah ʿan ʿAbdullāh ibn ʿAbbās,” 164–65.

328 Abū ʿUbayd, Faḍāʾil al-Qurʾān, 2:103; Ibn Abī Dāwūd, Kitāb al-maṣāḥif, 242; Abū ʿAmr al-Dānī, al-Muqniʿ, 610–13.

329 For arguments against its authenticity, see Mūsā, Mawthuqiyyah naql al-Qurʾān, 109–14, Ghānim Qaddūrī al-Ḥamad, Aṣālah al-naṣṣ al-Qurʾānī, 125, Mansour Hamad Eidi, “al-Āthār al-wāridah ʿan ʿĀʾishah bint al-Ṣiddīq raḍiyaAllahu ʿanhumā allatī tūham al-ṭaʿan fī rasm al-muṣḥaf,” Majjala Tibyan lil-Dirāsāt al-Qurʾāniyyah, no. 34, (1440 AH/2019 CE): 30–42. Eidi prefers Ibn Ḥajar’s approach of finding a suitable interpretation for such statements rather than attempting to dismiss them.

330 Abū ʿAmr al-Dānī, for instance, argues that ʿĀʾishah meant that this was not the dialect with which they were most familiar nor their preferred reading, and therefore her use of the term “error” is not literal. He also notes that some scholars (we may recognize this as Ibn ʾAshta) consider her statement to mean the scribe erred in the choice of which reading to include, not that the reading itself was erroneous. Al-Dānī, al-Muqniʿ, 610–11. The problems with the latter interpretation have been appropriately identified by Eidi, “al-Āthār al-wāridah ʿan ʿĀʾishah,” 43.

331 Abū Layth al-Samarqandī, Baḥr al-ʿulūm (Beirut: DKI, 1993), 1:404. On the other hand, Ibn Qutaybah al-Daynūrī (d. 276 AH) appears to have considered the presence of such scribal errors in the ʿUthmānic codex to be as unproblematic as their presence in any other codex, yet he neglects to consider that Muslims would endeavor to correct any errors. Ibn Qutaybah, Taʾwīl mushkil al-Qurʾān (Cairo: Maktabah Dar al-Turath, 1973), 56–57.  See also Muḥammad Bakr Ismaʿīl, Dirāsāt fī ʿulūm al-Qurʾān (Cairo: Dar al-Manār, 1991), 132; Eidi, “al-Āthār al-wāridah ʿan ʿĀʾishah,” 45.

332 Al-Zajjāj, Maʿānī al-Qurʾān wa iʿrābihi (Beirut: ʿĀlam al-Kutub, 1988), 2:131.

333 Al-Zamakharī, al-Kashshāf, 6:271.

334 Al-Ṭabarī, Tafsīr al-Ṭabarī, 7:680. See also Imam, Variant Readings of the Quran, 158.

335 Al-Ṭabarī, Tafsīr al-Ṭabarī, 7:680. See also Imam, Variant Readings of the Quran, 158.

336 Eidi, “al-Āthār al-wāridah ʿan ʿĀʾishah,” 52.

337 Sadeghi and Goudarzi, Saṇ ʿāʾ 1 and the Origins of the Qur’ān,” 6.

338 Éléonore Cellard, “The Ṣanʿāʾ Palimpsest: Materializing the Codices,” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 80, no. 1 (2021): 1–30.

339 Sadeghi and Goudarzi, “Saṇ ʿāʾ 1 and the Origins of the Qur’ān,” 8.

340 Cellard, “The Ṣanʿāʾ Palimpsest,” 3.

341 Another theory concerning the lower text, advanced by Asma Hilali, is that the lower text was a copy written by a student for training purposes. See Asma Hilali, The Sanaa Palimpsest: The Transmission of the Qur'an in the First Centuries (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017). Sami Ameri combines both theories: “The inferior text of the palimpsest is a training copy of a codex that goes back to a Companion.” Sami Ameri, Hunting for the Word of God (Minneapolis: Thoughts of Light Publishing, 2013), 166. He subsequently notes evidence in support of its textual variants belonging either to nonstandard readings from companion codices or examples of error on the part of the scribe in training.

342 Cellard, “Ṣanʿāʾ Palimpsest,” 27; Sadeghi and Goudarzi, “Saṇ ʿāʾ 1 and the Origins of the Qur’ān,” 25.

343 Sadeghi and Goudarzi, “Saṇ ʿāʾ 1 and the Origins of the Qur’ān,” 117.

344 Sadeghi and Goudarzi, “Saṇ ʿāʾ 1 and the Origins of the Qur’ān,” 119.

345 Sadeghi and Goudarzi, “Saṇ ʿāʾ 1 and the Origins of the Qur’ān,” 121.

346 Sami al-Ameri states, “The palimpsest affirms the credibility of what was narrated about the codices of the Companions.” Al-Ameri, Hunting for the Word of God, 170. Sadeghi and Goudarzi state, “Ṣan‘ā’ 1 constitutes direct documentary evidence for the reality of the non-‘Uthmānic text types that are usually referred to as ‘Companion codices.’” Sadeghi and Goudarzi, “Saṇ ʿāʾ 1 and the Origins of the Qur’ān,” 19.

347 Sadeghi and Goudarzi, “Saṇ ʿāʾ 1 and the Origins of the Qur’ān,” 3, 19.

348 See al-Ṭayyār, Mawsūʿah al-tafsīr bil-maʾthūr (Beirut: Dār Ibn Ḥazm, 2017), 22:470–71.

349 In the era of the printing press, the preservation of a written text is something taken for granted. Moreover, with the advent of digital technologies, a single text can be instantly copied, transferred, and downloaded thousands of times in an instant. Today, the disappearance of a widely disseminated text seems to be a physical impossibility. Interestingly enough, this is what Islamic eschatology indicates. ʿAbdullāh ibn Masʿūd said, “Something will come and take the Qur’an one night and not one verse will be left, either in the muṣḥaf or in the heart of any person, but it will be taken away.” Sunan al-Dārimī, no. 3209; Muʿjam al-Ṭabarānī, no. 8698. This being the case, the disappearance of the Qur’an will be an event as miraculous as its preservation, yet at the very same time a frightening loss of opportunity to know God’s divine speech. One should therefore not take the Qur’an for granted but rather endeavor to learn, recite, and practice its message. See also Ibn Taymiyyah, Majmūʿ al-fatāwā, 3:198.

350 Al-Rāzī, Mafātīḥ al-ghayb (Beirut: Dar Iḥyā Turāth al-ʿArabī, 1420 AH), 19:123.

351 Abū Shāmah, al-Murshid al-wajīz, 112.

Disclaimer: The views, opinions, findings, and conclusions expressed in these papers and articles are strictly those of the authors. Furthermore, Yaqeen does not endorse any of the personal views of the authors on any platform. Our team is diverse on all fronts, allowing for constant, enriching dialogue that helps us produce high-quality research.