Zay Muttaqin

September 28, 2010

Filed under: Islamic Thought — E.Zaenal.Muttaqin @ 1:29 pm

The Difference of Qur’anic Versions and Some Notable Comments

(E.Zaenal.Muttaqin: s0996726)

A. Introduction

As the holly book of Islam and its function as guidance for every Muslim, Qur’a>n plays an important role in daily life of Muslim. It is not only containing set of rules but also other aspects that directed Muslim to do everything that according to it though some verses (a>yah) tell explicitly and some allegorically which are need an interpretation.[1]

Qur’a>n transmitted by God (Allah) into Muhammad functioned as a last sequence and coupled the earlier holly books of Torah revealed to Moses,[2] Zabur (Psalm) to Dawud,[3] and Bible (injil) to Jesus.[4] Like those prophets, Muhammad was given the revelation orally and gradually in a period of time and transmitted it into different media to be preserved, after being given an a>yah or verse by God Muhammad directly dictated it to scribe to be written because he was illiterate (though it was disputed among scholars and will be discussed later), however the means to preserve those God words ranged into different ways especially during prophet life time, namely:[5]

1.     The prophet had the whole divine text from God from the beginning to the end and to be written by revelation scribe

2.     Many of the companions learned the whole text and every syllable

3.     All the illustrious companions without an exception had memories at least some portion of the holy Qur’a>n , for the simple reason it was obligatory for them to recite it during worship or prayer An estimate of the number of the illustrious Companions may be obtained from the fact that one hundred and forty thousands Companions had participated in the Last Pilgrimage performed by the Holy Prophet.

4.     A considerable number of literate companions kept a private record of the text of the Qur’a>n and satisfied themselves as to the purity of their record by reading it out to the prophet.

Those means continued until the idea of unification of Qur’anic codification from different version came up in the third caliph of khulafaurra>shidu>n Uthman Ibn ‘Affa>n[6] which became the final version (previously the first and the second caliph maintained the script or Mus}haf  called Mus}haf e-Siddiqi[7])  that lasted until recent span.

B. The Different Version of Qur’a>n

The spread of Qur’a>n and its script through Muhammad companions in difference regions made up diverse version, not only the form of writing but also its recitation, thus, observing the different kind of Qur’a>n can not be split up from the different of its recitation. Despite the codification was unified in one version that believed to be the common and authorize script from Muhammad, yet, like Hadith transmission method derived from Muhammad through his companions, the versions of Qur’a>n either its writing or recitation has also been transmitted through his companions until recent days. However many Muslim scholars acknowledge the 7 means of reciting Qur’a>n and their scripts.

These 7 versions of recittion (al-qira>’at as-sab’) have a similar transmitted version (riwa>yat) as we can find it in Hadith and those are have a different sound and script writing although the version from Abu Bakr ‘Asim is the common version throughout the globe, furthermore to comprehend the differences these are the other versions:

1.     Nafi’ from Medina (169 H/785 AD) the transmitter are Warsh and Qalun

2.     Ibn Kathir From Mecca (119 H/737 AD) the transmitter are al-Bazzi and Qunbul

3.     Abu ‘Amar al-’Ala from Damascus (153 H/770 AD) the transmitter are al-Durri and al-Surri

4.     Ibn ‘Amir from Basra (118 H/736 AD) the transmitter are Hisham and Abu Dakwa>n

5.     Hamzah from Kufah (156 H/772 AD) the transmitter are Khalaf and Khallad

6.     Al-Qisa’i from kufah (189 H/804 AD) the transmitter are al-Durri and Abu al-Harith

7.     Abu Bakr ‘Asim from kufah (158 H/778 AD) the transmitter are Hafs and Ibn ‘Ayyash

To examine and deepen the light different among them I will present here only the two popular versions from Abu Bakr ‘Asim (Hafs version) and Nafi’ (Warsh version).

The image showed below is al-Fa>tihah verses which Warsh version in the left and Hafs version in the right. [8]

The following image of Qur’a>n is in Hafs version within some underlined words and the red words in the right side are Warsh version that are being compared to the Hafs underlined words.[9]

C. Some Notable Quotation About The Remarks (1c and e)

Regarding the striking commentary on point 1(c,e) in the remarks there are several comments that I would like to deal with especially in the matter of Muhammad was either literate or illiterate. The most striking debate on this matter had arisen among scholars, and here I will present the two contending disputes that had an opposite argument on Muhammad literacy. The first is publication from  Joseph Smith in his apologetic paper “Muhammad”,[10] his article mostly questioning the prophetic of Muhammad and indeed his literacy. Furthermore, he pointed that Since Muslims believed their prophet was illiterate that described from Qur’a>n in 7:157,

“Those who follow the Apostle, the unlettered prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (Scriptures); in the Law and the Gospel; for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil: he allows them as lawful what is good.” (al-A’ra>f:157)

He is objecting its validity on the word al-Ummiyyu (unlettered) and compared to another verse in 62:2

It is He who has sent amongst the Unlettered an apostle from among themselves, to rehearse to them His signs, to sanctify them, and to instruct them in Scripture and Wisdom.” (al-Jumu’ah:2)

The word al-Ummiyyu in the 62:2 formed in a plural and the verse according to Smith addressed the people who are not having a script as in Christianity and Judaism, indeed, he came up into a notion that the meaning of al-Ummiyyu is not illiterate yet those people, in this case is Arabs, who do not have a holly book, thereof the verse in 7:152 could not be used as a basis to defend a theory that Muhammad is illiterate. Other response also based on the entrepreneurship behaviors with Khadija his wife, and he believe since he was a successful one he might be comprehended in a contract letter and so forth.

In contrary, the opponent of Smith’s theory, mostly from Arab scholars such as the former al-Azhar fatwa committee Syeikh ‘Atiyyah Saqr and Rif’at Fawzi a professor in shari’a at Cairo University, pointed out the basis argument from the Qur’a>n 29:48 and 7:157 which says

(And thou (O Muhammad) was not a reader of any scripture before it, nor didst thou write it with thy right hand, for then might those have doubted, who follow falsehood” (al-‘Ankabu>t:48)

“Those who follow the Apostle, the unlettered prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (Scriptures); in the Law and the Gospel; for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil: he allows them as lawful what is good.” (al-A’ra>f:157)

In addition, Rif’at Fawzi assumed that the divine book (Qur’a>n) met the stories in the previous divine book about Muhammad being illiterate, this similarity set the agreement since the previous holy book believed by people of Jesus and Moses.[11]

However, these contradicting arguments can be outlooked from actual meaning and from the view of Qur’a>n interpretation `(‘ilmu at-`Tafsi>r ) as Smith’s objection to the word al-Ummiyyu. Firstly, the core meaning of al-Ummiyyu is the man who does not understand the letter or in Arabic definition “ja>hilun, rajulun ghairu muta’allim” [12] which contradicts the meaning of someone who does not receive or given a holly book. Secondly, the argument based on Muhammad was a trader that knew everything related to business contracts (in written form) cannot be justified because the fallacy of comparison between ancient and modern concept of trading. Trading in Muhammad era would be known as a simple and rigid that is proper in his time, yet modern era as we know obviously is a massive growth of economic development, and in this case the comparison is not an appropriate one.

Thirdly, the people of Arabs are in relation with those are Jews and Jesus (prophet ‘I<sa) people in term of Semitic (Arabic: sa>miyyu) religions that derived from Abraham[13] (Arabic: Ibrahi>m) whose are the book of Injil (bible) and Taurat (Torah), in other word, before Qur’an was revealed and declared as a holly book of Islam people of Arabs recognized and ascribed to the previous holy books as their guidance like it was stated in Qur’an 87:18, 87:19, and 3:3

and this is in the books of earliest” (87:18)

“The books of Abraham and Moses” (87:19)

it is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong).” (3:3)

The next remark that invited many scholars into debates is the recognition of Muhammad as a prophet like his predecessor by Jews and Christian like ever said in their holy books, yet the controversy arose among Jews and Christian along with their uncertainties. The suggestion also come up into Ibrahim (Abraham) as an archetype of prophetic which also debated since there were no scripts mentioning Ibrahim.

There are many voices that addressed the theory as well as Jamal Badawi, a professor in Saint Mary University Halifax, whose argument also linked the originality of Muhammad’s illiteracy that ever mentioned either in Gospel or Torah. Indeed he stressed the certainty of Muhammad foretold in Gospel and Deuteronomy (Moses revelation book Torah or Tawrat) and Ibrahim as a monotheistic archetype prophet believed by Jews, Christian and Islam, as he said: [14]

Abraham is widely regarded as the Patriarch of monotheism and the common father of the Jews, Christians and Muslims. Through His second son, Isaac, came all Israelite prophets including such towering figures as Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon and Jesus. May peace and blessings be upon them all. The advent of these great prophets was in partial fulfillment of God’s promises to bless the nations of earth through the descendents of Abraham (Genesis12:2-3).Such fulfillment is wholeheartedly accepted by Muslims whose faith considers the belief in and respect of all prophets an article of faith.

Giving the similar argument from Badawi, this theory made such emphasis on the originality of Muhammad as a prophet that linked to the previous respected prophets, moreover Qur’an stated clearly in (A<li ‘Imra>n:84 ) :

“Say: “We believe in Allah, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the prophets, from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another among them, and to Allah do we bow our will (in Islam).”

The ascribing statement and recognition by Muslim make it simply obvious of the related history of Muhammad and Islam to the previous prophetic histories such as Ibrahim, Moses, Jesus, Jacob, and Solomon. The notion of Islam as it acknowledged by many Muslim scholars is the accomplishment process of Monotheism since Ibrahim. Signs of Muhammad prophecy, explicitly or implicitly, had appeared in the Gospel and Torah that is foretelling the upcoming prophet of Muhammad. Thus, according to the above theory it can be assumed that among the Semitic religions (Jews, Christianity and Islam) there are relation through their prophets and holy books.

D. Concluding Remark

The tradition of writing in the early span of Islam categorized with an endeavor of Muhammad and his companions to write down God’s words, although in the next era after the demise of Muhammad many writing version appeared, as it is likewise in Hadith transmission process. Many argumentations dealt with the remarks to some extent had gained an intriguing yet delicate discourse among scholars toward Muhammad prophecy along with Semitic religions, above all there are means which can be taken into account to deal with this matter and in scientific scheme.            


Adil, Hajja Amina, Muhammad The Messenger of Islam, His Life And Prophetic, (Washington DC: Islamic Supreme Council Of America, 2002),

Badawi, Jamal, Muhammad in The Bible,

Balbaaki, Rohi al-Mawrid: A Modern Arabic English Dictionary, Beirut: Daar al-‘a>lam, 1995

Ein Vergleich zw. Hafs- und Warsh-Versionen Das Koran, January, 2010,

Essack, Farid, The Qur’a>n: A User’s Guide, Oxford: Oneworld, 2005

Fidai, Rafi Ahmad, Hazrat Usman Ghani (The Third Caliph of Islam), New Delhi: Islamic Book Service, n.d.

Green, Samuel The Different Arabic Versions of The Qur’an: Part 2 The Current Situation, 2005


Kay, David, Semitics Religion: Hebrew, Jewish, Christian and Moslem, United Kingdom: Pomona Press, 2008

McAuliffe, Jane Dammen ed. Encyclopedia of The Qur’an, Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2002

Muadoodi, Syed Abul ‘Aala History of The Qur’an, WPonline, 2004.

Smith, Joseph Muhammad, Apologetics Paper, 1995,

[1]Farid Essack, The Qur’a>n: A User’s Guide, (Oxford: Oneworld, 2005), 58

[2] Hajjah Amina Adil, Muhammad The Messenger of Islam, His Life And Prophetic, (Washington DC: Islamic Supreme Council Of America, 2002), 19

[3]The Qur’a>n stated in verse ( 4:163) that Zabur (psalms) given to Dawud.  “Indeed, we have revealed to you [o Muhammad], as we revealed to Noah and the prophets after him. And we revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, the descendants, Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon, and to David we gave a book [psalms)”

[4]The Qur’a>n stated in verse (5:46) that injil given to Jesus or Isa. “and in their footsteps, we send Isa(Jesus) son of Maryam (Mary) confirming the Taurat (Torah) that had come before him, and we gave him Injil (Bible), in which was guidance and light and confirmation of the Taurat (torah) that had come before it , a guidance and an admonition  for al-muttaqun (the pious) “

[5] Syed Abul ‘Aala Muadoodi,  History of The Qur’an, WPonline, 2004.

[6]Jane Dammen McAuliffe, ed. Encyclopedia of The Qur’an, (Leiden-Boston: Brill, 2002), 246

[7]Rafi Ahmad Fidai, Hazrat Usman Ghani (The Third Caliph of Islam), (New Delhi: Islamic Book Service, n.d.), 37

[8] Ein Vergleich zw. Hafs- und Warsh-Versionen Das Koran, January, 2010,

[9]Samuel Green, The Different Arabic Versions of The Qur’an: Part 2 The Current Situation, 2005

[10] Joseph Smith, Muhammad, Apologetics Paper, 1995,

[11] Islamonline,

[12] Rohi Balbaaki, al-Mawrid: A Modern Arabic English Dictionary, (Beirut: Daar al-‘a>lam, 1995), 172

[13] The word Semitic describes the people who come from Middle East and their languages, later on it associated to the religions those are share monotheism like Judaism Christianity and Islam. See, David Kay, Semitics Religion: Hebrew, Jewish, Christian and Moslem, (United Kingdom: Pomona Press, 2008)

[14] Jamal Badawi, Muhammad in The Bible,


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