THE TESTIMONY OF IMAM HUSAIN CONCERNING
THE VARIOUS READINGS OF THE QUR’AN
We saw in the preceding chapters that the Khalif ‘Uthman shocked at the grave differences which had crept into the reading of the Qur’an, applied a drastic remedy by compiling one authoritative copy, and then burning all the rest. But even these measures were ineffectual; and in spite of ‘Uthman’s recension, the ‘seven readings,’ at least in a modified form, still continued to exist. These various readings are known as the ‘Hafs Qira’at’, and the readers, through whom these various readings have been handed down, are known as Qaris. Some were natives of Mecca, some of Medina, some of Kufa, and some of Syria; and the different readings of the Qur’an continue to be known by the names of those who gave them currency. Thus the reading current in India is known as that of ‘Asim, or of Hafaz, his disciple; whilst the qira’at current in Arabia is that of Nafi, a native of Medina. Jalaluddin, on the other hand, in his famous commentary, follows the qira’at of the Qari Imam-Abu-’Umar. Many of the differences are merely in pronunciation, but in not a few cases grave differences in meaning still exist. Thus in Surah Fatihah the Qaris Ya’qub, ‘Asim, Kisa’i and Khalaf-i-Kufi approve of the reading مَالِك (malik); whereas every other Qari reads مَلِكِ (malik).
We will now fulfil our promise to give specific examples of the many differences which exist even in the present text of the Qur’an; though the reader should bear in mind the fact that even if that were now perfect, it would signify little, seeing that ‘Uthman’s recension itself has been proved absolutely untrustworthy. Before giving detailed examples of the present corruption of the Qur’anic text, however, we here quote some pregnant remarks upon the subject from the introduction to the famous commentary of Imam Husain. The great commentator writes thus (in Persian),
" و چون قرائت جائز التلاوت بسیار است و اختلافات قرات در حروف و الفاظ بیشمار در این اوراق از قرآت معتبر روایت بکر از امام عاصم رحمه الله علیه درین دیار بصفت اشتهار و رتبت اعتبار دارد ثبت میگردد و بعضی از کلمات که از کلمات که حفص را با او مخالفت است و معنی قرآن بسبب آن اختلاف تغیر کلی می یابد اشارتی میرود "
“And as the readings which are authorized to be read are various, and their difference in letters and words innumerable, trustworthy readings according to Bakr, approved by Imam ‘Asim, prevalent in this country and reliable, are inserted in these pages (of this commentary). And a few such passages, which, on account of the difference, entirely alter the meaning of the Qur’an, and opposed by Hafaz, are also referred to.”
From these candid remarks of the great commentator Kamal-ud-din Husain it is clear that a number of various readings still exist in the Qur’an, and that in words and letters ‘innumerable’ corruptions have crept into the text. Not only so; but the great scholar freely confesses that in a number of cases the meaning of the Qur’an is quite altered thereby. The Imam further informed us that various readings are current in different countries, some of which are trustworthy, whilst others are not. Others of the readings to be referred to by him, he tells us, are opposed to the reading of Hafaz, that is, of the reading current in India to-day; but which reading, of all these conflicting copies, really represents the original Qur’an circulated by ‘Uthman, not to speak of that Qur’an taught by Muhammad himself, neither Imam Husain nor any other Muslim scholar is able to tell us. One thing however is certain these discrepancies do exist, and thereby prove incontestably that the boasted Divine protection of the Qur’an, as a matter of fact, does not exist.
A study of the Traditions throws considerable light upon this perplexing problem, and shows how many of these differences arose; whilst the total disappearance of whole verses and Surahs is also largely accounted for by a reference to the same authorities. Thus in a tradition preserved by ‘Umar we read,
«سَمِعْتُ هِشَامَ بْنَ حَكِيمِ بْنِ حِزَامٍ يَقْرَأُ سُورَةَ الْفُرْقَانِ فَقَرَأَ فِيهَا حُرُوفًا لَمْ يَكُنْ نَبِيُّ اللَّهِ صلعم أَقْرَأَنِيهَا قُلْتُ مَنْ أَقْرَأَكَ هَذِهِ السُّورَةَ قَالَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلعم قُلْتُ كَذَبْتَ مَا هَكَذَا أَقْرَأَكَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلعم».
‘Umar said, “Hisham read certain verses in Surah Furqan which the prophet had not taught me. I said, ‘Who taught you this Surah?’ He said, ‘The Prophet of God.’ I said, Thou liest, the prophet of God never taught it thee thus’.” 23 As a matter of fact Islamic history contains many references to the various readings of the Qur’an. Thus we read that a certain Qur’an reader named Ibn Sanabud was once reading the Qur’an in the great Mosque of Bagdad; but his reading not agreeing with the reading of that place, he was severely beaten and cast into prison, and only released upon his renouncing the reading with which he was familiar. These various readings differed not only in pronunciation, but in a number of cases the whole meaning of the Qur’anic passage was altered. We now proceed to give a few examples of such passages, which are referred to by Husain, Baizawi and other learned Muhammadan authorities in their writings.
In the celebrated commentary of Imam Husain we read that in the first ruku of Surah al-Anbiya 21:4 the current reading is, قال ربي يعلم “He (Muhammad) said, My Lord knows;” but according to the reading of Bakr we should read, قل ربي يعلم “Say thou (O, Muhammad), My Lord knows.” Here we have a concrete example of a serious difference in the text of the Qur’an, which totally alters the meaning of the passage. According to the one reading God addresses the prophet, and orders him to say, “My Lord knows,” whilst in the other, the prophet is represented as affirming in his reply to the unbelievers that, “My Lord knows.”
From a host of others we quote one more example from the same authority. In the first ruku of Surah al-Azhab 33:6 we read,
«النَّبِيُّ أَوْلَى بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ مِنْ أَنفُسِهِمْ وَأَزْوَاجُهُ أُمَّهَاتُهُمْ».
“The prophet is nigher unto the true believers than their own souls, and his wives are their mothers.” But the Imam Saheb tells us that according to the copy of Ubi and the reading of Ibn-Mas’ud we should read several additional words in this passage, viz., وهو أب لهم “and he (Muhammad) is their father.” 24 The reader will now perceive why Ibn Mas’ud refused to give up his Qur’an to the Khalif ‘Uthman; and, remembering the high encomiums passed upon the former’s Qur’an by the prophet himself, will readily believe that these words have disappeared from the present Qur’an. If, then, our Muhammadan brethren, in spite of these undoubted defects in their sacred book, can still continue to read and believe in the same, upon what process of reasoning, we ask, do they object to read the Injil because, as they think, it has been altered in some places?
24. The Message Of The Qur'an by Muhammad Asad actually adds the phrase in brackets to the verse [seeing that he is as a father to them], see, for example, “The Prophet has a higher claim on the believers than [they have on] their own selves, [seeing that he is as a father to them] and his wives are their mothers:”
Muhammad Asad add a footnote stating, “Thus, connecting with the preceding mention of voluntary, elective relationships (as contrasted with those by blood), this verse points to the highest manifestation of an elective, spiritual relationship: that of the God-inspired Prophet and the person who freely chooses to follow him. The Prophet himself is reported to have said: "None of you has real faith unless I am dearer unto him than his father, and his child, and all mankind" (Bukhari and Muslim, on the authority of Anas, with several almost identical versions in other compilations). The Companions invariably regarded the Prophet as the spiritual father of his community. Some of them - e.g., Ibn Mas'ud (as quoted by Zamakhshari) or Ubayy ibn Ka'b, Ibn Abbas and Mu'awiyah (as quoted by Ibn Kathir) - hardly ever recited the above verse without adding, by way of explanation, "seeing that he is [as] a father to them"; and many of the tabi'in — including Mujahid, Qatadah, lkrimah and Al-Hasan (cf. Tabari and Ibn Kathir) - did the same: hence my interpolation, between brackets, of this phrase.”.
See also, Allama Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation, & Commentary, Sh. Muhammad Ashraf, Lahore, Pakistan, 1979, p. 1057, footnote no. 3674, “In spiritual relationship the Prophet is entitled to more respect and consideration than blood-relations. The Believers should follow him rather than their fathers or mothers or brothers, where there is conflict of duties. He is even nearer — closer to our real interests — than our own selves. In some Qiraats, like that of Ubai ibn Ka'b, occur also the words ‘and he is a father to them,’ which imply his spiritual relationship and connect on with the words, ‘and his wives are their mothers.’ Thus his spiritual fatherhood would be contrasted pointedly with the repudiation of the vulgar superstition of calling any one like Zaid ibn Haritha by the appellation Zaid ibn Muhammad (33:40): such an appellation is really disrespectful to the Prophet.”