|Written by M S M Saifullah, Muhammad Ghoniem & Abu Ammar Yasir Qadhi|
|Wednesday, 22 February 2006|
|1. IntroductionIt had been claimed by Orientalists and missionaries that al-Hajjaj was responsible for changing the some contents of the Qur’an. The scandal surrounding al-Hajjaj is apparently based on two different traditions, one Muslim and the other Christian. The Islamic source is Kitab al-Masahif of Ibn Abi Dawud where a report mentions that al-Hajjaj made eleven changes in `Uthman’s mushaf. As for the Christian source, the prominent one is of exchange of letters between Ummayad Caliph `Umar II and the Byzantine Emperor Leo III. A less prominent writing is that of an apology attributed to `Abd al-Masih al-Kindi.We would begin by examining the report in Kitab al-Masahif of Ibn Abi Dawud, the problems with the interpretation of Orientalists and missionaries, the authenticity of the report and the implication of the alleged changes made by al-Hajjaj. Followed by this would be the analysis of polemical sources and their authenticity.
The document is divided into following sub-headings:
2. The Report In Kitab al-Masahif Of Ibn Abi DawudThe report in Kitab al-Masahif of Ibn Abi Dawud says:
The translation of the report is as follows:
Section: What al-Hajjaj Had Changed in `Uthman’s Mushaf?
In other words, Similarly the report says that al-Hajjaj made eleven changes in `Uthman’s mushaf and these changes are documented.
Instead of reading carefully what has been mentioned in the report, the Orientalists and missionaries have involved themselves in myth-making and taking it to almost delirious levels. Based on this report al-Hajjaj has been accused of “undertaking a completely new recension” or a “minor recension” or even changing the `Uthmanic recension of the Qur’an. Let us list them one by one.
According to Arthur Jeffery, the action of al-Hajjaj resulted in an “entirely new recension of the Qur’an” and that al-Hajjaj ordered the “new copies of his text sent to the great metropolitan centres.”
Obviously the report in Kitab al-Masahif does not say any such thing as what has been claimed by Jeffery. Taking a clue from Arthur Jeffery, a Christian apologist called Chad VanDixhoorn states:
The author of the article “The Qur’an” in the book Arabic Literature To The End Of The Ummayad Period prefers “a minor recension” instead of an “entirely new recension of the Qur’an”. He conjectures:
According to the claim of missionary John Gilchrist
Gilchrist claims that the alleged changes made by al-Hajjaj, as seen in Kitab al-Masahif, were made to the “`Uthmanic text” and that it was a “minor recension”. The Qur’an that we have today is a combination of “`Uthmanic text” and the”minor recension”.
That the “Qur’an of Uthman” has been altered is also championed by “Brother Mark”. He says:
Similarly, the missionary Jochen Katz has fantasized the following about the changes that al-Hajjaj made to “Uthman’s Koran”:
The next in the category are those missionaries whose statements can be called demented. According to Steven Masood, al-Hajjaj was “accused” of making eleven changes in the text (sorry, who accused whom!):
Another missionary in this category is Joseph Smith. He claims that the eleven “distinct” amendments that al-Hajjaj made were reduced to “seven readings”!
Summarizing, the report says that al-Hajjaj made eleven changes in `Uthman’s mushaf. This has been mysteriously and mythically transformed as if al-Hajjaj “undertook a completely new recension” or a made “minor recension” or even completely changed the `Uthmanic recension of the Qur’an! Apart from such absurdities, neither the Orientalists nor the missionaries checked the authenticity of the report; a method frequently employed to supress the information and to attack the Qur’an. Let us now check the authenticity of this report mentioned in Ibn Abi Dawud’s Kitab al-Masahif.
3. Hadith Criticism Of The Report: The Study of IsnadHadith critics at first look at the isnad and if it is defective, they call the hadith defective, without scrutinizing the subject matter; because a hadith, according to their criteria, cannot be authnetic unless both its parts are correct. Using this criteria let us first study the isnad.
The isnad of this report is Awf bin Abi Jamila `Abbad Ibn Suhayb Abu Bakr Father of Abu Bakr. Study of reliability of narrators in this isnad shows that `Abbad Ibn Suhayb is the one who had been declared weak and his hadith is rejected.
Al-Bukhari very tersely says in his Du`afa al-Saghir:
Similarly al-Nasa’i says in his Du`afa wa-l-Matrukin:
Ibn Abi Hatim comments in his Kitab al-Jarh wa-l-Ta`dil:
Similarly Ibn Hibban says in Kitab al-Majruhin min al-Muhaddithin wa-l-Du`afa wa-l-Matrukin:
Al-Dhahabi says in his Mizan al-I`tidal fi Naqd al-Rijal:
Similar statements are made by Ibn Hajar in his Lisan al-Mizan. The bottomline here is that `Abbad Ibn Suhayb has been abandoned and his reports are rejected. The terms used to describe `Abbad Ibn Suhayb are the most severe possible [matruk al-hadith]. It is not correct to describe his narrations as ‘weak’, which is an understatement. Rather, his narrations are fabricated, pure and simple. He has reached the lowest levels of Jarh in the sciences dealing with al-Jarh wa ‘l-Ta`dil (“The disparaging and declaring trustworthy”) of the narrators.
It is also clear that Ibn Abi Dawud wrote the hadith from `Abbad Ibn Suhayb even though the hadith scholars before and after Ibn Abi Dawud have considered the hadith from `Abbad Ibn Suhayb to be rejected. It is not that the Orientalists and the missionaries are unaware of this fact. Jeffery, whose book Materials For The History Of The Text Of The Qur’an: The Old Codices is often used by the Christian missionaries for polemical purposes to attack the Qur’an, clearly says:
Jeffery gives no reasons for is new found confidence. Commenting on Jeffery’s attainment of “confidence” from “quite other directions” Yasir Qadhi says:
In the absence of Jeffery’s unknown and unnamed directions for his confidence in the material of Ibn Abi Dawud, we go for something that is known, that is, the rejection of the hadith from `Abbad Ibn Suhayb. The case on the issue of the changes made by al-Hajjaj in `Uthman’s mushaf can be considered null and void. It is worth reminding that there exists no parallel reports similar to the one discussed in order to authenticate the isnad and matn.
4. Hadith Criticism Of The Report: The Study of MatnThis report does not provide any clue of the nature of alleged changes that were made by al-Hajjaj in `Uthman’s mushaf. An in-depth study shows that they are the differences in the Qira’at. Dr. `Umar Ibn Ibrahim Radwan did research on the issue alleged changes that al-Hajjaj made for his Ph.D thesis at the University of Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud. His thesis was published as a book from Riyadh in two volumes. The book is called Aara’ al-Mustashriqin Hawl al-Qur’an al-Karim wa Tafsir: Dirasah Wa Naqd (“The Views Of The Orientalists About The Holy Qur’an & Its Interpretation: Study and Criticism“).
After quoting the report of Ibn Abi Dawud, Dr. Radwan mentions in the footnotes about the Qiraa’aat which the changes are associated with.
Dr. Radwan went on to say:
These observation speak of themselves. Even if we assume that this incident is authentic, the question that arises is: so what? Al-Hajjaj supposedly made changes in 11 places, and even these places are documented to the last detail. Orientalists and missionaries, as usual, take some trivial piece of information (forgetting the fact that it is fabricated!) and make, not just a mountain, but an entire planet, out of an anthole.
Let us now move to the Christian polemical sources such the letter of Byzantine Emperor Leo III to `Umar II and the apology of `Abd al-Masih al-Kindi on the claim that al-Hajjaj was responsible for present day Qur’anic text.
5. The Christian Polemical Sources: Letter Of Leo III & `Abd al-Masih al-KindiThere is a persistent tradition in the eastern Christian churches, often referred to by oriental Christians even in the present day, to the effect that early during the 8th century, there had been an exchange of letters on the question of the respective merits of Christianity and Islam, between the Ummayad Caliph `Umar II and the Byzantine Emperor Leo III. In the letter to `Umar II, the Byzantine Emperor Leo III writes:
This is a rather peculiar statement from Leo III, as Jeffery comments in the footnotes. By Abu Turab, Leo III meant `Ali, son-in-law of the Prophet(P). Continuing the letter to `Umar II, Leo III writes:
Commenting on the issue, Jeffery states:
It becomes quite obvious as to whether the document between `Umar II and Leo III is authentic. Jeffery says:
Now that the authenticity of this document has fallen on the grounds of suspicion, we would like to push the question even further and consider the ramifications. Patricia Crone and Michael Cook in their book, Hagarism: The Making Of The Islamic World, used the aforementioned Christian polemic to reconstruct Islamic history before even verifying the facts.
John Wansbrough, reviewing Hagarism: The Making Of The Islamic World, makes a mockery of the poor scholarship of Crone and Cook and says:
In other words, the account attributed to Leo by Levond (or Ghevond) is a forgery that was constructed to scandalize the question of al-Hajjaj by some later Christian writer. This possibility was also echoed by Neal Robinson in his book, Discovering The Qur’an: A Contemporary Approach To a Veiled Text, where he states:
Now that the issue of Leo has been closed, let us now move over to the other Christian polemic associated with al-Hajjaj; the apology attributed to `Abd al-Masih al-Kindi. The composition of the apology has seen some serious disagreement among the Western scholars. The Encyclopaedia Of Islam says:
It appears that the most authentic view is that the letter was composed in the beginning of the 4th/10th century. The letter of al-Kindi played a very important role in the East as well as in the West in the polemic between Christians and Muslims. It was translated in Latin in 1141 by Peter of Toledo and revised by Peter of Poitiers. Its English translation was done by William Muir. The claim of al-Kindi is that al-Hajjaj gathered together every copy that he could lay hold of and caused to omit from the text a great many passages. Among these were the verses revealed concerning the Bani Umayyah with names of certain persons and concerning the Bani `Abbas also with certain names. Al-Hajjaj then sent six copies of his version of the Qur’an to Egypt, Syria, Makkah, Madinah, Kufah and Basra. After that he called in and destroyed all the preceding copies, just as `Uthman had done before. Al-Kindi then says that he has drawn this account from the Muslim authorities.
To begin with, no such Muslim authorities mention what has been claimed by al-Kindi. Hence is it nothing but a polemical exagerration. Jeffery says:
Similarly, polemical nature of al-Kindi’s apology rather than its factual basis is also echoed by Beesten et al.
From a historical point of view, al-Kindi’s claim is based upon conjecture rather than “Muslim authorities” and smacks of delirium. For al-Hajjaj was merely one of the generals in the Ummayad regime, with little influence and almost no ability to do the Qur’an any harm. In fact, he was utterly incapable of effecting any change in the most elementary laws of Islam, not to speak of the Qur’an, which is the foundation of Islamic faith, and pillar of Islamic laws. One wonders how he could influence any change in the Qur’an after it had gained currency in the vast Muslim empire. Not a single historian or commentator has chronicled this change, the importance of which should not have escaped their notice. No contemporary Muslim ever objected to this, and even after his rule, the Muslims seem to have condoned this abominable fact. Moreover, if it is all believed that he managed to withdraw all the copies of the Qur’an, and replacing it with his new codex, how could he eradicate it from the hearts of great numbers of Muslims who had committed it to memory? Had there been anything in the Qur’an which was uncomplimentary to the Ummayads, Mu’awiyah would have been the first to see it omitted because, compared to al-Hajjaj, he was more influential and powerful. Of course, if Mu’awiyah had done this, the companions of `Ali would have argued with him, the way they did on many occasions, as recorded in the books of history, hadith and theology. An example would be of the battle of Siffin (AH 37), 27 years after the death of the Prophet(P), and five years after `Uthman’s copies were distributed.
The pretence that the Qur’an has been tampered with has no substance whatsoever.
Al-Hajjaj was one of the most, if not the most, notorious figures in Islamic history and is well-known for his brutality against Ibn al-Zubayr as well as restive population of Iraq. It, therefore, comes as no surprise that lots of spurious accounts are found regarding him, in both Islamic and Christian literature, which try to show him as being even more evil than he was. The report in Kitab al-Masahif of Ibn Abi Dawud and polemics of Leo III and al-Kindi are obvious over-exagerrations and spurious.
6. ConclusionsTo conclude the issue of al-Hajjaj and the changes he made in the Qur’an, it has been shown that the report in Kitab al-Masahif of Ibn Abi Dawud is false. This is because the reporter `Abbad Ibn Suhayb is the isnad has been declared abandoned in hadith and all his hadith are rejected. Analysis of matn of the hadith shows that the alleged changes that were made related to the Qira’at that are mutawatir. Muslims have accepted various Qira’at as authentic provided they satisfy certain conditions. Furthermore, the hadith in Kitab al-Masahif is only known to us through one chain. There exists no parallel chains to authenticate the matn or text of the report.
It is clear that there was no new recension after `Uthman united Muslims on the basis of single text. Muslims have a complete agreement over it. Al-Hajjaj’s role is rather well documented in the literature dealing with Sciences of the Qur’an.
Summarizing the Christian sources: We see that the Christian sources of Leo III and `Abd al-Masih al-Kindi have a purely polemical purpose and exaggerate the events that took place during al-Hajjaj’s time. The sources lack factual basis and their historicity itself is doubtful. This view is solidified by modern scholarship. As pointed out earlier, how could al-Hajjaj, who was governor of Iraq, a small part of Muslim land, able to change the Qur’anic text completely. The complete change of Qur’an is not documented in the Islamic history at all. And above all how could he change what was commited in the memory of Muslims in the vast Islamic empire.
And Allah knows best!
 For Kitab al-Masahif see Arthur Jeffery’s, Materials For The History Of The Text Of The Qur’an: The Old Codices, 1937, E. J. Brill, Leiden, pp. 117-118.
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