Variant Readings of the Quran – Are They All the Same?

I have found in my dialogue with Muslims is that they absolutely detest the idea of textual variants in Quranic manuscript. I am yet to find a Muslim who is actually prepared for this kind of discussion and I believe this is due to the openness of Muslim apologists and faux academics making the claim that all Quranic manuscripts are exactly the same. (I have previously challenged this claim in examining textual variants in the oldest Quran manuscripts compared to today’s version )

When the Muslim cannot respond to such a claim they tend to employ the Red Herring Fallacy.

A red herring is an argument, given in reply, that does not address the original issue. Critically, a red herring is a deliberate attempt to change the subject or divert the argument. [1]

NB: Some Muslims have recently responded to this and as was predicted-  the response was a red herring. They did not engage with the issue, my arguments or the examples. Meaningful variants among Quranic manuscripts  and versions is a fact of life apologists of the Islamic faith cannot deal with as they are in denial.

Their usual Red Herring is in regard to the variant readings of the Quran. These variants occur with the addition of vowelisations etc for professionalised recitations to the original Uthmanic text. Now, these variant readings do not usually change the meaning of the Quran and the Muslim will give you the blanket statement that there are no differences in the Quran as a result of these variants. But is this statement true?

In regard to the variant recitations, Professor James A. Bellamy states:

These variants, however – I have counted more than two-hundred that make a difference in the meaning – are important in that they tell us there was no solid oral tradition stemming directly from the prophet to prove which variant was correct. [2]

So, we can see that there are many variants among the readings and Bellamy has recorded over 200 which render a different meaning within the text.

Professor Bellamy then goes on to provide an example:

in Surah 6:63, of the seven readers, the two from Kufah recite ‘njyn‘ (anjana) “he saves us.” and the other five ‘njytn’ (anjay- tana) “you (sg.) save us.” These two words sound so dif- ferent that no one, unless he were deaf, could mistake one for the other, and the words on both sides of the word in question are unambiguous. One cannot argue that the prophet used one variant one day and the other the next. Nor can one maintain that there is a firm oral tradition that guarantees the reading of the unambiguous words but breaks down when more than one reading is possible. [3]

In short – beware of taking Muslim claims in regard to the integrity of the Quran at face value. As has been demonstrated above, there are a number of changes in meaning that result from the variant readings of the Quran.


2. Bellamy, p. 1
3. Bellamy, p.2


James A. Bellamy (2001), ‘Textual Criticism of the Koran’. Journal of the American Oriental Society. Vol. 121 No. 1 (Jan-Mar. 2001), pp. 1-6.

See also:

6 Responses

  1. In this I attached quote from Dr. Maurice Bucaille in his study about the Qur’an In the Authention of the Qur’an

    Thanks to its undisputed authenticity, the text of the Qur’an holds a unique place among the books of Revelation

    underline the notion that the text of the Qur’an, which was more recent, had less to fear from being modified by man.

    The situation is very different for the Qur’an. As the Revelation progressed, the Prophet and the believers following him recited the text by heart and it was also written down by the scribes in his following.

    The critical analysis of the authenticity of the text was carried out very rigorously.

    It is imporatnt to say that Qua’an was collected during the Prophet’s lifetime. The Prophet, and before his death

    The Bible, The Qur’an and Science

    The Holy Scriptures Examined In The Light Of Modern Knowledge

  2. Hi Aziz,

    Are you aware how illogical your post is?

    Your response to verifiable evidence produced by a leading Quranic scholar is to post a claim by a medical doctor appealing to the absence of evidence.

    Bucallie is correct in one respect – there was a vigorous textual critical approach to the Quran. And, according to the ahadith, we have a wealth of variant readings. But, the Muslims burnt all these contradictory versions after deciding on their own version to use. But don’t let that get to you – there are still thousands of variants among the Qurans we have today.

    I hope you are aware that in no way does your post vitiate or even challenge a word I said. The facts are – the Quran contains textual variants.

    • aziz stop disc. with them
      for their scrip.contain all their challenge 2 muslim and’s better 2 correct it and back 2 agains us.

  3. […] Variant Readings of the Quran – Are They All the Same? […]

  4. […] Variant Readings of the Quran – Are They All the Same? […]

  5. Excellent article. Thank you.
    Oral preservation is notoriously inaccurate, and it is clear that the Uthmanic version of the Quran compiled painstakingly by Zaid after Mohammed died is only one of many. The process by which the Uthmanic version was accepted as the only one appears to have been largely driven by political considerations at the time.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: