OceanSide church of Christ
|Previous||Return to Articles||Next|
The Qur’an (2)
Victor M. Eskew
In a previous article, we began a study of the Qur’an, the holy book of the Islamic religion. One has said that this book is the alpha and omega of the Islamic faith. This book is said to have been revealed to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel over a period of twenty-three years. The book is divided into chapters called surahs and verses called ayahs. There are a total of 114 surahs in the Qur’an.
In several places within the Qur’an, it describes itself. It says that it is “the wise book” (Qur’an 32:2-3). It refers to itself as “a mighty scripture” (Qur’an 41:41-42). In 85:21, it calls itself the “Glorious Koran.” It is said to be an “indubitable book” (Qur’an 69:51), meaning a book that cannot be doubted. It describes itself as honorable and pious and just (Qur’an 80:16). It also reveals that it is free from any flaws (Qur’an 39:28). These are some powerful claims. These claims are especially remarkable when one remembers that Muhammad never wrote down one word of the Qur’an. Too, they are remarkable when one considers the fact that Muhammad was not an institutionally educated man.
We now turn our attention to the formation of the Qur’an. After receiving his revelations, Muhammad would recite them to his followers. Some who heard would write down portions of what Muhammad said. Muhammad named four men as “the excellent teachers” who would memorize and teach his words to others. Their names were Abdullah bin Masud, Salim, Mu’adh, and Ubai bin Ka’b. Slowly the revelations came. A little was given here and little was given there. His words were either memorized or written down by others.
In 632, Muhammad died unexpectedly. Not long after this, Salim, one of the excellent teachers of Muhammad’s choosing, died in the battle of Yamama. These two deaths caused the leaders of Islam to fear that the Qur’an might be lost forever. Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s successor, wanted a copy of the Qur’an to be made.
Abu Bakr commissioned one man with this task. His name was Zaid bin Thabit. It is interesting that he was not one of the four men chosen by Muhammad as his choice teachers. However, Zaid was said to be a “hafiz,” one who had memorized the entire Qur’an. But, Zaid’s task was this: to collect all the fragmentary scripts of the Qur’an and place them into one volume. This is somewhat surprising. If Zaid had memorized the Qur’an, why didn’t he just write it from his memory? He could have teamed with Muhammad’s commissioned hafiz and the entire work could have been produced without one fragment needed. “Zaid completed his task, compiling what would become the canonical Koran” (Infidel’s Guide, Spencer, p. 31).
Once Zaid’s text was produced, the “excellent teachers of the Qur’an” did not agree with Zaid’s Qur’an (See www.answeringislam.com, “Quranically Confused: Muhammad’s Chosen Teachers against Zaid’s Text”). They did not agree with the number of chapters. They did not agree with the order of the chapters. They did not agree with the content of the verses. Remember, these were the men that heard Muhammad firsthand. They were trusted enough by “the prophet” to be named as his chosen teachers. They affirmed that Zaid’s Qur’an was incorrect. This text lasted several years. In fact, it lasted for ten years after the death of Abu Bakr.
Numerous copies of Zaid’s text of the Qur’an were made over the years. When the copies were compared with each other, they contained various and diverse readings. There came a time when it was believed that a single copy of the Qur’an was needed. Caliphate Uthman commissioned Zaid to perform the redaction. Once this copy was made all other copies of the Qur’an were destroyed by burning them. In his book, A Simple Koran, Bill Warner affirms that “the Koran that Uthman produced was not the Koran of Muhammad” (p. xiii).
Here’s what we know about the Qur’an’s formation. Muhammad never wrote one word down that he received from Gabriel. Those who were commissioned by Muhammad as “chosen teachers” never wrote down one word of the Qur’an. The Qur’an was not written down by those who had memorized the Qur’an. One man, Zaid bin Thabit, developed the Qur’an from many fragmentary scripts that had been recorded by those who heard Muhammad or one of his disciples. The Qur’an Zaid developed was highly questioned by Muhammad’s chosen teachers. Many different copies of Zaid’s text were made. Zaid redacted these copies into one volume and the remaining copies were destroyed. Zaid’s final text is the Qur’an of today. Dear reader, does this sound like an inspired book to you?
The Qur’an is said to be an Arabic book. What this means is that its Arabic character is part of its essence. “The Qur’an describes itself repeatedly as an inherently ‘Arabic Koran’ (12:2; 20:113; 39:28; 41:3; 41:44; 42:7; and 43:3)” (Infidel’s Guide, Spencer, p. 60). This is important to know because only a Qur’an written in Arabic is the true Qur’an. “Muslims do not consider any translation of the Koran to be the Koran at all; it is only Allah’s words when it is transmitted in Arabic” (Ibid.). “Thus, translations of the Koran occupy a curious position in the Islamic world” (Ibid.). Many Muslims also find themselves in a curious position at this point. They quote the Qur’an in Arabic, but they do not know what the words mean. They have to rely upon a translation to come to an understanding of the Qur’an, but a translation of the Qur’an is NOT the Qur’an.
We have briefly looked at the Qur’an. It is considered “the Book” to all Muslims. Any criticism of the Qur’an is forbidden. Any criticism of the Qur’an is a criticism of Allah.
It should be noted as we close that the Qur’an is not the only authoritative book for Muslims. There is another called the Sunna. The Sunna contains two texts, the Sira (Muhammad’s life) and the Hadith (the collections of Muhammad’s sayings apart from the Qur’an). “So the Trilogy is the Koran, the Sira and the Hadith. Most people think that the Koran is the ‘bible’ of Islam, but it is only about 14% of the total textual doctrine. The Trilogy is the foundation and totality of Islam” (Simple Koran, Warner, xii).