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Debating Islam (26 Apr 2019 NewAgeIslam.Com)

Tahreef Fil Quran: Has Quran been recorded correctly? How Real Are Questions of Corruption, Distortion, Deletion, Overinclusion or Abrogation in Quran?

By Sultan Shahin, Founding Editor, New Age Islam

26 April 2019

Dear Ghulam Mohiyuddin Saheb,

A rather acrimonious debate has been going on for some time between you and Naseer Ahmad Saheb on your expression of a feeling that some verses, inconvenient to a modern rational mind, have probably been added in Quran and Muslims should disregard them. Naseer Saheb probably wants you to accept that this makes you an apostate. However, if apostasy were to be bestowed so liberally, hardly any thinking Muslim would remain a Muslim.

This debate on distortions in Quran is not new. The controversy over tahreeff il Quran, deletions, additions, a variety of changes in the wordings or vowels of words used in of Quran, etc has raged in the past 1400 years of Islam. Even a brief glance at Allama Jalaluddin Suyuti’s authoritative book on the subject al-Itqan fi Uloom al-Quran, now easily available on the internet, will reveal that there is no distortion that has not been claimed, suggested and believed in by Muslims through the ages, beginning with the companions of the Prophet who had heard Quran from the Prophet himself and recorded its verses in their memory as well in writing then and there.

However, it is also necessary to underline that by and large there is not much of a controversy among Muslims about verses having been planted in the Holy Quran by later Muslims to serve their own ends. In general, all Muslims believe in all of Quran being the word of God as revealed through Prophet Mohammad (saw). If there is a controversy it is generated by some Hadith narrations that some verses have been left out or forgotten or caused by God to be forgotten. Surah Ahzab, for instance, is reported to have been originally double or triple its present size of 73 verses. Some Sahaba (companions of the Prophet) remember it as being almost the same size as Surah Baqra (286 verses). Some said Surah Ahzab originally had 200 verses. There is also a report of a whole Surah, as long and as severe as Surah Bara’at (better known as Surah Taubah) which has 129 verses having disappeared. One report claims that an object on which a Quranic verse about rajm (stoning to death) of adulterers was written was eaten up by a goat.

Throughout the ages some Muslims have found themselves at a loss to explain the presence of some verses as exhortations from God. As for war verses, not all of them are problematic. At one-point Muslims were allowed to defend themselves as they should have been. Even today defence is allowed, not only to established governments but even to individuals and families in certain situations across the world.  However, some verses do pose questions for Muslims living in the 21st century. For instance, verse 2-193 says:

“Fight them until there is no [more] fitnah and [until] worship is for Allah. But if they cease, then there is to be no aggression except against the oppressors.”Here there can be no objection to the portion: “But if they cease, then there is to be no aggression except against the oppressors,” as it is clear that it is in the context of aggression and oppression which one has to fight in any age. However, the first portion is: “Fight them until there is no [more] fitnah and [until] worship is for Allah.” 

This becomes problematic, particularly as fitnah is translated by most acknowledged translators as “shirk” (polytheism, but in Prophet’s Mecca basically meant idol worship).  Then “and [until] worship is for Allah,” seems to justify the translation of fitnah as shirk, and thus goes against a moderate Muslim’s mainstay “la ikraha fid Deen (Let there be on compulsion in religion, لاَ إِكْرَاهَ فِى الدِّينِ2-256)” and verse 18:29 wa man shaa’a falyomin, wamansha’a falyakfur. فَمَنۡ شَآءَ فَلۡيُؤۡمِنۡ وَّمَنۡ شَآءَ فَلۡيَكۡفُرۡ (“let him who please believe and let him who please disbelieve.”)

Then, of course, there are verses from Surah Tauba (9:5, 9:29, etc) that cause disquiet in the moderate Muslim mind. This sense of foreboding is particularly enhanced by a strong and repeatedly expressed opinion by classical Islamic theologians, followed generally by ulema of all sects, that peaceful and pluralistic verses from early Meccan Islam have all been abrogated by the so-called sword verse (9:5) alone. 

But none of this has led to a discrediting of these verses as word of God. No one has said that these verses have been planted in Quran.  Indeed, Hadith was created as a parallel scripture, and given in practice even greater importance than Quran in decades when virtual enemies of Islam were ruling the land of Islam in the name of Islam, mainly because it was not possible to plant things in Quran. So those who had subverted the Islamic democratic system and established monarchy used hadith narrations to plant new ideas. Muslims had written Quran down and also memorised it almost as soon as verses were revealed. Hadith collections started growing in a natural manner, as people recalled what the Prophet had told them all these years, but this was also used by the despotic hereditary kings, called Khalifas, to plant new ideas more suitable to their politics.

Different Muslims, uncomfortable with these violent verses in Quran have tried different ways of dealing with them. Some have rejected Islam as a divine religion and become and are now becoming in larger numbers "ex-Muslims." Some have taken the instructions to heart and adopted radical extremism and terrorism, as a way of quick transition to Heaven through martyrdom. Others engage in what is called taaweelat or allegorical interpretations. Some Muslims try to change the very meaning of Arabic words used in these verses and say that Arabs have not understood Arabic of the Quran in all these centuries. The consensus theology is that it is every Muslim’s religious duty to help Islam conquer the world and extirpate all other religions, including those that were brought by previous prophets in whom all Muslims must believe to be a Muslim. Most mainstream Muslims accept the consensus theology but do nothing about achieving this religious goal. However, they do applaud, if not openly, at least in their hearts, when someone appears to be doing something about it.

You are alone Ghulam Mohiyuddin Saheb in feeling that these verses have been probably planted in Quran at some point. You use the expression “overinclusion while compiling.” The problem is GM Saheb, that Quran was revealed in the glare of history. Verses used to be revealed in the presence of katibs, usually several, and other sahaba (companions) of the prophet. They were almost immediately written down and memorised. Also, the verses in question are in the distinctive style of the Quran. However, you are not alone in feeling a disquiet about these and some other verses. There are many other Muslims who do not want to conquer the world and remove all other religions. Moreover, you are not alone in not being satisfied with all the taawilat and interpretations and discovery of new meanings of Arabic words by non-Arabs over 1400 years after they were revealed. Those who say no one has understood the meaning of Quran also claim to believe in Quran’s claim of it being The Clear Book (al-Kitab al-Mubeen). This paradox doesn't seem to bother them. If Quran is a Clear Book, why has it not been understood in 1400 years? Obviously the myriad taaweelat are not helping anybody.

My own understanding is that we cannot fully comprehend the circumstances in which it had become necessary for God to give these instructions, if we do not fully understand the events happening around us today in this age of communication. Probably half of America still believes that Saddam Hussain possessed weapons of mass destruction and was hands in gloves with Osama bin Laden. So, any claim to understand the circumstances that led to these Quranic revelations one and a half millennia ago will be presumptuous in the extreme. However, as that context is no longer present today and cannot be repeated in future too, so these instructions can no longer apply to us. Let us stop giving a variety of taawilaat and even seeking to understand their purpose. This only leads to further disquiet and newer taawilaat that have no meaning. In fact, there is no particular need for us either to try to fully understand things that happened in the hoary past.

We should focus on the core message of the Quran which is that all religions have been sent by God through a long series of messengers who brought essentially the same message, asking us to remember Him always in gratitude, do good deeds and live in harmony with other creations of God. Hoqooqullah and Hoqoqul-ibad. Let us just stick to that.

 If illiterate and even ignorant Arab Bedouins, living in desert villages 1400 years ago, could understand Quran, we too should be able to understand it. Also, any eternal message is of necessity understood by different people of different intellectual levels and different eras differently. No one should be branded an apostate for having a different understanding of some Quranic verses until he or she himself or herself declares that he has left Islam. We belong to a civilisation which did not brand apostate even someone who said:

'Mīr' Ke dīn-O-Mazhab ko Ab Pūchhte kyā Ho Un Ne To

Qashqa Khīñchā Dair Meñ Baithā Kab Kā Tark Islām Kiyā

(What can I tell you about Mir’s faith or belief? A tilak on his forehead in a temple he resides, having abandoned Islam long ago). -- Meer Taqi Meer, a celebrated Eighteenth century Urdu Poet.

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  • Dear Ghulam Ghaus Saheb, You have quoted a number of comments from classical theologians which appear to be somewhat moderate in general. But on a closer look, these comments too seem to emanate from the same extremist mindset that prevails among other theologians, though an attempt has been made to sound reasonable.  You have also quoted some Ahadith that say that apostates were not sentenced to death for a variety of reasons. But the fact remains that despite clear Quranic teachings about freedom of religion, our jurists do not really believe in la ikraha fid Deen (Let there be on compulsion in religion, لاَ إِكْرَاهَ فِى الدِّينِ.  Quran 2-256)” and Quran’s verse 18:29 wa man shaa’afalyomin, wamansha’afalyakfur. فَمَنۡ شَآءَ فَلۡيُؤۡمِنۡ وَّمَنۡ شَآءَ فَلۡيَكۡفُرۡ (“let him who please, believe, and let him who please, disbelieve.”) etc, including the ones you have quoted in your comments.


    Why is Hadith general given primacy over Quran in jurisprudence as well as common Muslim religious discourse is something beyond my understanding. You too quote Hadith first, and only then Quran, although Quran seems to prove your point of moderation much better. You are basically trying to say that classical theologians and jurists too favour religious freedom as does Quran. If that were the case, why would they be talking about punishment for apostasy and blasphemy at all. Why can’t they just affirm religious freedom for all in a simple statement, instead of going round and round trying to prove their convoluted points. If Quran does not prescribe any punishment for apostasy or blasphemy then where does the question arise from? Let us leave God’s job to God and not try to take his place. It’s not for us to make judgements on people’s beliefs.

    Let us stick to what has been said in the following Quranic verses:

    “There is no compulsion in religion;” (Quran 2:256)

    “Say, "The truth is from your Lord: Let him who will, believe, and let him who will, reject (it):” (Quran 18:29)

    “And if your Lord had pleased, surely all those who are in the earth would have believed, all of them; will you then force men till they become believers?” (Quran 10:99)

    “Therefore, do remind, for you are only a reminder. You are not a watcher over them;” (Quran 88:21–22)

    “He said: "O my people! …  shall we compel you to accept it when ye are averse to it? (Quran 11:28)

    These verses are clear, no vagueness or allegory. The problem, of course, arises when they are juxtaposed with war-related verses, which are contextual in nature but are considered eternal in applicability by all jurists who consider Quran un-created, and like another God, Muslims have to believe in.

    By Sultan Shahin - 5/7/2019 3:41:32 AM

  • Naseer sb.'s groupings and subgroupings are totally senseless, arbitrary and invalid.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 5/6/2019 2:28:53 PM

  • Naseer sb. wrote, ""Anyone who rejects even one verse of the Quran is a Kafir." 
    Now he implies he did not really mean it. He attempts to pass off his lie by making abusive remarks about me. Does he really fool anyone?

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 5/6/2019 2:03:24 PM

  • There is a sub group within the first group. They are those who do not act on what they believe to be true under one pretext or another such as:
    1. Believing g is more important and enough.
    2.  They apply a theory of exceptionalism and even of expediency..
    By Naseer Ahmed - 5/6/2019 4:05:36 AM

  • Shahin sb, 

     The use of admittedly does not mean that the one who uses it is admitting to something. It is used “when you are agreeing that something is true, especially unwillingly”.

    In this case, I am saying unwillingly that Hamza sb is an ex-Muslim because of two reasons:

     1.       He has said so himself in the past

    2.       In every comment of his, he has cited a view which is extreme as true Islam, from which it is apparent that he rejects Islam.  A believer would cite an extreme view to reject it and not to claim that it is the true meaning.

     The use of the milder expressions of “admittedly” and “ex-Muslim” in place of “obviously” and “apostate” is because I respect him for his honesty and the fact that he is not a hypocrite like the others who uphold the extremist view as correct and doggedly reject the correct view to denigrate the Book and reject a part of it while falsely claiming to be believers. He also never argues for the sake of an argument. And nobody among the apostates and Islamophobes have his depth of knowledge about what different scholars have said. As far as learning goes, he is more well-read than any of us and his knowledge of Arabic is also superior to that of any of us. He is a learned man but unfortunately, he does not use his learning to reject the scholars rather than the Book. He should use his learning to more correctly understand the Book rather than take the same position as the rest of the Muslims that the scholars must be right.

     We have three broad groups of Muslims:

     1.    1. Those who say the scholars are right and follow in letter and spirit what the scholars have said. We call them extremists

    2.    2. Those who say the scholars are right and reject it. There are two sub-groups within this.

    2a) The more honest and bold people who have left Islam

    2b) The hypocrites who claim to be Muslim while rejecting a major part of the Quran.

    3.    3. Those who reject the scholars but not the Book and present a completely different picture of Islam. There are very few who fall in this category.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 5/6/2019 2:21:21 AM

  • See how GM sb lies  about the Quran and denigrate it to justify his apostasy?
    See how he sticks to the sick extremist view that 9:5 is about "killing the polytheists wherever you find them" and how he insinuates that I hold such a view when he knows very well that I don't nor is that what the verse means. He lies about every other verse. Nowhere have I said that homosexuals should be whiplashed or thieves amputated, or uppity wives beaten nor does the Quran say so. 
    GM sb is a determined apostate and a denigrator of the Quran and he lies through his teeth.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 5/6/2019 1:37:14 AM

  • Naseer sb. says, "Anyone who rejects even one verse of the Quran is a Kafir."

    Naseer sb. wants us to amputate the hands of thieves, whiplash homosexuals, beat uppity wives and "when the sacred months have passed, then kill the polytheists wherever you find them". He wants us to do the things that he is not doing himself. If we refuse to do them, he will call us kafirs.

    I do refuse to do those things. Instead I prefer to read the Quran with discretion, distinguishing God's word's from the words that reflect 7th century Arab culture.

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 5/4/2019 11:47:31 AM

  • Naseer Saheb, I am not speaking on beyof Hamza Saheb. You are. Admittedly means I admit. It doesn't mean he admits. Please consult some dictionary. 
    By Sultan Shahin - 5/4/2019 10:33:50 AM

  • Hamza sb,
    Thank you for your comment on Dr Tahirul Quadri's tafseer and pointing out his hypocrisy.
    By Naseer Ahmed - 5/4/2019 1:48:23 AM

  • Sultan Shahin sb,
    Why do you have to speak for Hamza sb? Has he appointed you as his lawyer? Let him speak for himself.
    I hope you understand the meaning of "admittedly". It means he has admitted it. Look for all his comments in the past and you will find him admitting it.
    As for me being called an apostate, why only the Wahhabi's? I guess people of every sect will do so as I reject every sect, their beliefs and their imams.
    When I call a person an apostate however, it is by the clear meaning of apostate in the Quran. Anyone who rejects even one verse of the Quran is a Kafir. A person may have doubts and ask questions seeking clarity but not reject it. My calling somebody an apostate, has no connection with who in turn calls me one.

    By Naseer Ahmed - 5/4/2019 1:29:34 AM

  • Dear Kaniz Fatma, 
    Hadith with rank of Khabre Wahid can't make any specification [takhsees] or Taqeeid in the words of Quran. This is very popular and basic method of Hanafi Jurists. You must have read it in your first book of Usul Fiqh. 
    Khabre wahid Hadith gives zanni knowledge and the Quranic words are Qatii and zanni can't make any sort of specification in Qataii, 
    As for Hudud, khabre wahid does not make any had. 
    This is not convincing reply to you, as this subject requires detailed answer. 

    By GGS - 5/3/2019 2:33:28 AM

  • Dear Kaniz Fatma,

    A number of Islamic scholars consider apostasy a hadd (a crime with a scripturally prescribed punishment), however this view has been opposed by Hanafi and Shafii jurists and some scholars of Maliki jurisprudence.

    The reason of punishing apostates was to save the community and Islamic state from their fitna wa fasad and not their converting to disbelief. The ruling of punishing apostates was implemented by the king of Islamic State and individuals were not allowed to take this law in their hands.

    However, modern classical jurists do not favour application of punishing even seditious apostates living in democratic countries for several reasons. They say in this age apostasy has become common. A large number of sects have come into existence and are creating fitna and doing hostile campaigns against one another. House after house is subjected to venom or influence of apostasy. Despite that they suggest something different from punishment, that is, one should be away from apostates in every matter.

    For example, Mufti Sadrus Sharia writes in his book “Bahare Shariat”,

    ‘‘مرتد کو قید کرنا اور اسلام نہ قبول کرنے پر قتل کر ڈالنا بادشاہ اسلام کا کام ہے اور اس سے مقصود یہ ہے کہ ایساشخص اگر زندہ رہا اور اس سے تعرض نہ کیا گیا(3) تو ملک میں    طرح طرح کے فساد پیدا ہونگے اور فتنہ کا سلسلہ روز بروز ترقی پذیر ہوگا جس کی  وجہ سے امن عامہ میں    خلل پڑیگا لہٰذا ایسے شخص کو ختم کر دینا ہی مقتضائے حکمت(4) تھا۔ اب چونکہ حکومت اسلام ہندوستان میں    باقی نہیں  کوئی روک تھام کرنے والا باقی نہ رہا ہر شخص جو چاہتا ہے بکتا ہے اور آئے دن مسلمانوں  میں    فساد پیدا ہوتا ہے نئے نئے مذہب پیدا ہوتے رہتے ہیں  ایک خاندان بلکہ بعض جگہ ایک گھر میں    کئی مذہب ہیں  اور بات بات پر جھگڑے لڑائی ہیں  ان تمام خرابیوں  کا باعث یہی نیا مذہب ہے ایسی صورت میں    سب سے بہتر ترکیب وہ ہے جو ایسے وقت کے لیے قرآن وحدیث میں    ارشاد ہوئی اگر مسلمان اس پر عمل کریں  تمام قصوں  سے نجات پائیں  دنیا وآخرت کی  بھلائی ہاتھ آئے۔ وہ یہ ہے کہ ایسے لوگوں  سے بالکل میل جول چھوڑ دیں  ، سلام کلام ترک کر دیں  ، ان کے پاس اٹھنا بیٹھنا، ان کے ساتھ کھانا پینا، ان کے یہاں  شادی بیاہ کرنا، غرض ہر قسم کے تعلقات ان سے قطع (5)کر دیں  گو یا سمجھیں  کہ وہ اب رہا ہی نہیں  ، واللہ  الموفق’’  

    By GGS - 5/3/2019 2:28:27 AM

  • Thank you GGS, your posts have been very helpful. 
    By Sultan Shahin - 5/2/2019 8:00:14 PM

  • How to deal with apostasy? This question must be answered by 21st century jurists, not by 7th century jurists. By the way, freedom of belief is guaranteed by the constitutions of all modern civilized countries as well as by the United Nations' "Universal Declaration of Human Rights".

    By Ghulam Mohiyuddin - 5/2/2019 12:54:54 PM

  • Dear GGS, Does the subject of apostasy fall under hudud?
    Can a hadith of khabre wahid make hudud?

    By Kaniz Fatma - 5/2/2019 5:16:50 AM

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