Introduction to al-Azami’s “The History of the Qur’ānic Text”

Due to the benefit it contains, I’ve been wanting to post Professor Muhammad Mustafâ al-A’zamî’s introduction to his book titled The History of The Qur’ānic Text from Revelation to Compilation: A Comparative Study with the Old and New Testaments for some time now, but never really had the time to sit down and transcribe it until now. Allah willing the visitors to my blog will benefit greatly from what the Professor mentions in it. He touches on some very pertinent issues concerning revisionist thought in Islam, as well as some things concerning the famous Yemeni parchments so often mentioned on various websites about Islam (both hostile and friendly). Enjoy … .

Prof. al-A’zamî writes,

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ كُونُواْ قَوَّامِينَ للهِ شُهَدَآءَ بِالْقِسْطِ وَلاَ يَجْرِمَنَّكُم شَنَئَانُ قَومٍ عَلَى أَلاَّ تَعْدِلُواْ اعْدِلُواْ هُوَ أَقْرَبُ لِلتَّقْوَى وَاتَّقُواْ اللهَ إنَّ اللهَ خَبِيرٌ بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ 

O you who believe! Stand out firmly for Allāh, as witnesses to fair dealing, and let not the hatred of others to make you swerve towards inequity and depart from justice. Be just: that is closer to Piety: and fear Allāh, for Allāh is well-aquinted with all that you do.”[1]

Guidance, comfort and beauty. For the believing Muslim the Holy Qur’ān is all this and much more: the heartbeat of faith, a remembrance in times of joy and anguish, a fountain of precise scientific reality and the most exquisite lyricism, a treasury of wisdom and supplications. Its verses hang from the walls of shops and living rooms, lie etched in the minds of young and old, and reverberate through the night from minarets across the globe. Even so, Sir William Muir (1819-1905) adamantly declared it one of the “most stubborn enemies of Civilisation, Liberty, and the Truth which the World has yet known”.[2] Others have been no more charitable, seeing fit to heap abuse or cast suspicion upon it throughout the centuries and up to our present day, among them scholars, missionaries, and now even the occasional politician. Such a dichotomy is aggravating to Muslims and certainly perplexing to the non-Muslim, who would be well justified in supposing that each group was alluding to a different book altogether. What are the facts and what is the evidence? Faced with such an immense and sensitive topic brimming with ideas to consider, I could have begun my exploration anywhere; the starting point, as it finally turned out, was to be an article by someone I had never heard of before.

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Tyrant Does Great Service to the Qur’an?!

Among the books I’m currently reading is a book titled The History of The Qur’ānic Text from Revelation to Compilation: A Comparative Study with the Old and New Testaments by Muhammad Mustafâ al-A’zamî (professor at King Sa’ūd University in Riyâd). It’s proving to be quite an interesting read so far and I’m learning quite a bit about the Qur’an’s history and compilation.

While reading yesterday I came across something I found very interesting with respect to al-Hajjâj bin Yūsuf, the notorious tyrant governor from early Islamic history. He is a man, may Allah have mercy on him, renowned for killing great Islamic personalities like ‘Abdullah bin az-Zubair, one of the great young Companions of Prophet Muhammad—may Allah be pleased with him—as well as a number of Tâbi’îs (including Sa’îd bin Jubair, may Allah have mercy on him). He is a man most know as a tyrant, a murderer, and a generally evil man. Very little, however, know of the contributions he made to the Qur’an. Prof. al-A’zamî writes:

From Caliph ‘Uthmān we now turn our gaze to al-Hajjāj bin Yūsuf ath-Thaqafī (d. 95 A.H.), governor of Iraq during the Umayyad Caliphate and a man of considerable notoriety. His unflinching, iron-fisted rule won him many unflattering remarks in the annals of Iraq’s history. Ironically he also played a role in serving the Qur’ān, though even in this regard he had no shortage of enemies. Ibn Abī Dāwūd quotes ‘Auf bin Abī Jamīla (60-146 A.H.), alleging that al-Hajjāj altered the ‘Uthmānī Mushaf in eleven places. Closer examination reveals that ‘Auf, though a trustworthy person, had Shiite tendencies as well as being anti-Umayyad. Al-Hajjāj, one of the strongest towers in the Umayyad garrison, would have been a natural target for him; any report issuing from the opposite camp must be approached with extreme caution. Additionally Mu‘āwiya (the first Umayyad ruler) fought ‘Alī on the pretext of ‘Uthmān’s blood, and this makes al-Hajjāj’s supposed changes in the ‘Uthmānī Mushaf particularly implausible, as it would harm the Umayyad cause.

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