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.

References:

1. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_herring_(logical_fallacy)#Red_herring
2. Bellamy, p. 1
3. Bellamy, p.2

Bibliography:

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:

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A Quote On Qur’anic Integrity

I must share this quote by Gerd Puin, a German scholar and the world’s foremost authority on Qur’anic paleography, the study and scholarly interpretation of ancient manuscripts. He is a specialist in Arabic calligraphy:

My idea is that the Koran is a kind of cocktail of texts that were not all understood even at the time of Muhammad. Many of them may even be a hundred years older than Islam itself. Even within the Islamic traditions there is a huge body of contradictory information, including a significant Christian substrate; one can derive a whole Islamic anti-history from them if one wants. The Qur’an claims for itself that it is ‘mubeen,’ or clear, but if you look at it, you will notice that every fifth sentence or so simply doesn’t make sense. Many Muslims will tell you otherwise, of course, but the fact is that a fifth of the Qur’anic text is just incomprehensible. This is what has caused the traditional anxiety regarding translation. If the Qur’an is not comprehensible, if it can’t even be understood in Arabic, then it’s not translatable into any language. That is why Muslims are afraid. Since the Qur’an claims repeatedly to be clear but is not—there is an obvious and serious contradiction. Something else must be going on.

I will leave it to you to decide whether the words of the Qur’an is the true word of Allah for which it is justifiable to murder and oppress…