The Myth of Perfect Preservation: Examining a Variant

Muslims often claim that a sign that the Qur’an is from God is that today’s copy is perfectly preserved (16:8) from the eternal tablets (85:22). They see this as an irrefutable sign that it is from Allah. As has been previously demonstrated in an earlier post – there are a number of variant readings in the Koran that change the meaning significantly.  In this brief post I will put aside the evidence from the hadith mentioning lost and variant surahs and ayas as well as the plethora of variant vowelisations and take one example from the physical evidence.

The Uthman Quran or Today’s Quran

Brief history:

The Uthman Quran, also known as Tashkent Qur’an, Osman’s Koran and Samarkand Codex, is believed by many Muslims to be one of Uthman’s original editions which is testified by the blood stains found on the Quran from Uthman’s assassination. Then we have today’s common Qur’an – a 1924 Egyptian version mass produced early last century.

One Page Examined:

(Click to see full sized)

Take note of the textual variants marked in line 2 (37:103), line 4 (37:105), line 6, line 7 (37:106) and line 8 of the Uthman Quran.

One Variant Examined:

At the start of line two we see a variant – this variant occurs in Surah 37 aya 103.


(Uthman Quran variant from line 2, page 652)

Transliteration: wa ma ‘aslamA
Translation: And they did not submit (i.e. become Muslims)


(Current 1924 Standard Quran Edition)

Transliteration: falammAslamA
Translation: When they too submitted (i.e. became Muslims)

Conclusion

We see that the old Uthman Quran shows a stark contradiction to the Quran in use today in surah 37 aya 103. Similarly, in that single page of 8 lines there were 5 variants to the Quran used today.

If we hold the Muslim view that a text cannot be considered inspired in light of textual variants (as they charge against the Bible), they cannot consider their own text to be inspired as it is evidently ‘corrupted’ and contains numerous textual variants. However, unlike with New Testament scholarship the study of textual variants in Islam is a subject of taboo as they hold onto the claim that the Quran is unchanged through transmission.

This is a dilemma for the Muslims that must be addressed.

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