Islamic Perspectives

[Home] [Next]


PRESERVATION OF THE REVELATIONS RECEIVED BY
THE PROPHETS MUHAMMAD AND JESUS

By: Dr. Ahmad Shafaat

(Revised)
(March 2005)


CONTENTS

 

INTRODUCTION

Chapter 1: REVELATION RECEIVED BY THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD

I) Preservation of the Qur`an

A general but conclusive argument against allegations of alteration

"Collection" after the death of the Prophet

Copies made under ‘Uthman

Alleged verses about ‘Ali or the Umayyads

Alleged verse about stoning for adultery

Other allegations

Non-Muslim writers

II) Preservation of the Hadith

Chapter 2: REVELATION RECEIVED BY THE PROPHET JESUS

I) Extensive Observable Alterations at Every Stage

II) Christian responses to the unreliability of most gospel reports

Chapter 3: EARLY TRANSCRIPTION OF THE QUR`AN

I) Arabic System of Writing

The origin of the Arabic script

The diacritical and vowel marks

Kufi and Hijazi types of Arabic script

Some features of early Qur`anic manuscripts

II) Earliest Qur`an Manuscripts

Manuscripts connected with ‘Uthman

Manuscripts connected with ‘Ali and other companions

Other manuscripts from the first century

The destruction of the manuscript in possession of Hafsah

Chapter 4: THE NATURE OF PROVABLE VARIANTS OF THE QUR`AN AND THE NEW TESTAMENT

I) The Qur`an

Variants in the consonantal text

Variants in recitation

A simple mathematical calculation

The original can be completely recovered

Provable variants may be considered a part of revelation

II) The New Testament

Chapter 5: THE SEVEN AHRUF

Examining the reliability of the ahadith about ahruf

Difficulty in interpreting the seven ahruf

Wide disagreement among scholars

The positive message in the ahadith about ahruf

Christian missionaries’ rejection of the ahadith about ahruf: an example of double standards

Chapter 6: DETAILED EXAMINATION OF SOME ALLEGED VARIANTS WITHOUT TEXTUAL SUPPORT

I) The Reference to the ‘Asr Prayer in Qur`an 2:238

II) Some variants attributed to ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud

Chapter 7: CONCLUSION

I) Summary of Historical Results

II) Some Theological Comments

Revelation in the form of the Hadith and the Gospel tradition

The promise of preservation of the Qur`anic revelation

The function of traditions alleging alterations in the Qur`an without textual support

The function of variants with textual support

 

INTRODUCTION

 

Muslims believe that the revelation received by the Prophet Muhammad consisted of the verbal teachings as well as actions. The Qur’an and the Hadith, the sources of this revelation, contain both the teachings delivered through the Prophet Muhammad and the reports of, or references to events in his life. Christians also believe that Jesus' words and works formed part of the Christian revelation. The sources of these revelatory words and works are primarily the Gospels.

This book discusses the historical question of the extent to which the revelations received by the Prophets Muhammad and Jesus have been preserved in the Qur`an, the Hadith, and the Gospels.

The book may be divided into two parts. First part consists of Chapters 1 and 2 and discusses the above question in its main outline, with some topics touched only briefly. The second part consists of Chapters 3-6 and examines these topics in detail.

Chapter 1 discusses the question of how far the extant Qur`an corresponds to the book left behind by the Prophet Muhammad and how far the Hadith represents his actual words and actions. Chapter 2 deals with the same question for Jesus and the Gospels.

Chapter 3 concerns the earliest extant manuscripts of the Qur`an. It also looks at the peculiarities of the Arabic writing system. This is relevant to dating the manuscripts and properly assessing the nature of variants in the Qur`an with textual support.

Chapter 4 examines the nature of variants in the Qur`an, both the variants with textual support and those without any such support. The questions examined are: a) how far the variants are the result of false allegations or different ways of spelling or different systems of writing; b) how significant are the real provable variants.

Chapters 3-4 also briefly deal with corresponding questions about the text of the New Testament.

Chapter 5 examines in detail the ahadith about the seven ahruf that are sometimes used by Muslims to explain the variants in the Qur`an.

Chapter 6 discusses in considerable detail some of the traditions alleging variant readings without textual support. This is done by way of an illustration of how unreliable are the implied allegations of changes in the Qur`an found in the books of Hadith.

Chapter 7 is the conclusion. It not only summarizes the main findings of the book but also makes some concluding comments from a religious point of view. It should, however, be stressed that this book is essentially a historical study and not a theological work.

The title of the book describes Jesus as a prophet. This is not merely a reflection of Islamic theological position. Historical considerations amply justify the position that during his life Jesus was viewed as primarily a prophet, both by Jesus himself and by his contemporaries.

A NOTE ON TRANSLITERATION OF ARABIC WORDS: Long vowels are indicated in italics or bold, e.g. hadith or ahruf. If a word itself is in italics or bold -- (Arabic words except the most well-known ones will be written in italics) -- the long vowels are indicated by the ordinary font, e.g. hadith or ahruf. Also, note that underlining instead of dotting is used to distinguish between related letters (d and d, h and h, s and s, z and z), sahih, riad, zuhr. When s and h or t and h occur together and represent different letters, they will be sometimes separated by – in order to avoid confusion with the letters represented by th and sh; e.g. as-hal (easier). However, if any one of the two letters has underlining, then no separation will be required, as, e.g., Ishaq or mushaf, athar, Buthan. Finally, once a word has been transliterated with proper diacritical indicators, such indicators may be omitted subsequently. Diacritical indicators may also be omitted from well-known words like Allah, Muhammad, Qur`an, or Hadith.

The above system of transliteration was devised to cause minimum disruption when computer files are converted for various purposes. It has been adopted for the printing of this book for its simplicity.

A NOTE ON DATES: H is used for Hijrah and CE for Common Era. If neither H nor CE is mentioned, it is understood that the date is according to the Hijrah calendar. When both dates are mentioned, the Hijrah date is written first and both H and CE may be omitted.


[Home] [Next]