Category Archives: General Refutation

Number of letters in the Quran. Have some been lost?

Quran happens to be a book whose miraculous preservation and astounding textual stability over more than one and a half millennium has been accepted by non-Muslims and even by those among them who otherwise spared no chance to criticize Islam wherever they could. Reverend Bosworth Smith had to recognize this great reality. He said:

we have a book absolutely unique in its origin, in its preservation, and in the chaos of its contents, but on the substantial authenticity of which no one has ever been able to cast a serious doubt. (Mohammed and Mohammedanism, Darf Publishers, London 1986 pp. 14-15)

For professional polemicists this fact and such confessions create a lot of headache and they are but left with the option of resorting to cheap ways of creating confusions in the minds of the people coming to Islam in hordes.

While I was looking at various arguments they come up with, I found an extract from Suyutis Al-Ittiqan on one of the most notorious sites of the Islamophobes. Apparently it seems they took it from some Shiite site attacking the Sunni sources. Whatever the case may be, lets put to death another lie!

The narration:

Here I give the wording as found on some sites;

Hadhrath Umar said at the Saqifa that the Quran has 1,027,000 letters (Tafseer al Itqan by as Suyuti, page 88)

On one side this narration gives this huge number and on the side today we know that actual number of the letters in the Quran is almost one third of this number. Using this they allege that huge portion of Quran has been lost.

The Truth:

The narration:

1- The narration actually comes from Al-Tabaranis Mujam al-Awst. Therein the actual wording is;

?? ??? ?? ?????? ??? : ??? ???? ???? ??? ???? ???? ???? : ?????? ??? ??? ??? ? ????? ?????? ??? ??? ? ??? ???? ????? ?????? ??? ?? ??? ??? ???? ?? ????? ?????

It is reported from Umar bin al-Khattab, he said: The Messenger of Allah (PBUH) said, the Quran has 1,027,000 letters. Whoever will recite it with patience with the intention of seeking Allahs pleasure will get a wide-eyed maiden for every single letter. (Mujam Tabarani al-Awst, Hadith 6805)

Same report is also found in Kanzul Ummal, Hadith 2308, 2426 and has been quoted by Al-Suyuti in Al-Ittiqan 1/82, Durr Manthur 10/406 and Jami al-Saghir Narration 8563.

Authenticity of the narration:

2- Just after quoting this narration Al-Tabarani writes: This narration is not reported from Umar except through this chain.

3- Shaykh Ali Muttaqi in his Kanzul Ummal (H. 2426) after quoting this narration says: Abu Nasr said this is a narration strange [both] in chain and the report.

4-In Mizan al-Aitadal (3/639), Hafiz al-Dhahbi in the entry of one of the key narrators of this chain, Muhammad bin Ubaid bin [Adam bin] Abi Ayas al-Asqalani, writes; He is unique in reporting [this] false narration. Then he gives this narration.

5- In Lisan al-Mizan (2/432) Hafiz Ibn Hajr Asqalani discussing the same narrator says exactly the same thing as al-Dhahbi said.

6- Shaykh Nasiruddin Albani classified this narration as Mawdhu i.e. fabricated. See Daif al-Jami al-Saghir Narration 4133

7- The narrator Muhammad bin Ubaid bin Adam bin Abi Ayas Asqalani was one of quite late times. His father Ubaid bin Adam bin Abi Ayas al-Asqalani, who died in the year 258 A.H. (cf. Al-Mizis Tahdhib al-Kamal) was not even a Taba TabiI (Succeeding Successor ). This means he was from the fourth generation of early Muslims and his son, the narrator in question, Muhammad bin Ubaid, therefore must have been from amongst the fifth generation.

8-Even a fourth generation narrator is considered weak if his reports cannot be verified independently.(cf. al-Muqiza of al-Dhahbi) Then how can a solitary narration of fifth generation person be accepted? Reconsider pt. 2-6 above.

Remember this is the House of Islam and we have a robust science to deal with narrations originating centuries after the people we consider an authority. Contrast this to Bible history and just die in astonishment!

Can this narration be true?

9- The narration contends that Umar (RA) gave the number of the letters of the Holy Quran. Most certainly this could be done only if an endeavor was undertaken to count the number of letters.

10- And had the endeavor been undertaken during Umars life i.e. in the presence of so many of the companions, there ought to have been some report from other Companions about this huge project. And from them many other people must have reported too but the fact is it has only a single chain and no other narration gives even a hint to any such calculations during the time of the life of Umar (RA). The fact mentioned in pt. 2-6 clearly shows the strange nature of this report.

11- An endeavor of this kind was undertaken during the time of Hajjaj bin Yusuf as reported by Abu Muhammad al-Himani in Kitabul Masahif of Ibn Abi Dawud Narration 301-302. And al-Himani tells us that it took them no less than four months to make various calculation of this nature.

According to the report by al-Himani the people who were involved in the task unanimously agreed on the round figure quite close to what has been counted today through computer programs. The small difference can be catered for considering the act that they might be using different method to count then we do today e.g. we do not know whether shadda was considered a character or not? And what they did about the alif that is read but not written? Whatever may be the proximity of the calculations done thirteen centuries back with that done with computer programs indicates that truly four months must have been spent in making the calculations.

12- It is extremely absurd to contend that such an arduous and time taking task was pursued during the life of Umar i.e. before 24 A.H., while we see that for next 3 centuries only one narrator makes a mention of this.

Conclusion:

The report stands rejected both in the light of the science of narration and the reason considering the nature of the task and similar realities attached to the issue.

This also brings to limelight the fact that unlike the full of conjecture and lost in mist history and of the Christian and Jewish scriptures, the Islamic texts are well preserved and Muslims have an objective science to deal with the reports and to grade them as stron or weak, the case may be.

INDEED ALLAH KNOWS THE BEST!

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Rare Recitals of the Qur’an & the Lies of Orientalists

(An Excerpt from Mufti Taqi Usmanis Ulum-ul-Quran)

Translation by Dr. Muhammad Swaleh Siddiqui published under the title An Approach to Quranic Sciences, Darul Ishaat Karachi 2000.

Transcription in e-format and correction of mistakes in the translation by Waqar Akbar Cheema

Some Orientalists are making a mountain out of a molehill through false assumptions on the basis of rare recitals of the Quran. Particularly Goldziher and Jeffery have quoted several examples of these recitals and have drawn self-conceived inferences from them.[1] In these pages it is not possible to present all those examples and expose the reality about them. For this task a whole book will be required.[2] Also we feel that it this would be unnecessary. However, we wish to mention some fundamental facts about the rare recitals, and we do hope that with these in view the readers will understand the rejection of the false assumptions of these Orientalists that they have made on the basis of rare recitals.

We have stated earlier that Muslims are united on their understanding that only such recitals of the Quran are reliable that fulfill three conditions, namely

1. The Particular recitals can be incorporated in Uthmani script.

2. It should confirm to the rules of the Arabic Grammar.

3. It must have proof of the authentic uninterrupted transmission from the Holy Prophet (saw), or at least it must be popular among the scholars of Recitals.

Any Recitals lacking even one of these three conditions is termed Rare Recital and no one in the entire Ummah took it as reliable. A close look on Rare Recitals reveals that one or more of the following defects are present in them.

1. Sometimes that recital is totally innovated, just as recitals of Abdul Fadl Muhammad bin Jafar KhuzaI that he has attributed to Imam Abu Hanifa. Darqutni and all other scholars have exposed them and declared that they are all innovated.[3]

2. Sometimes they have very weak precedents, just like the recitals of Ibn -us-Samifa and Abdus Samal or many of those recitals which Ibn Abi Dawud has attributed to different Companions and their followers in his Kitab-ul-Masahif.[4]

3. Sometimes precedent is correct but infact it is not the recitals of the Quran, but a Companions or his follower added one or more words during ordinary discourse as an explanation to some word of the Quran. Since Quran in its entire substance was uninterrupted and thousands of Huffaz were present in every period of time, there was no danger of actual addition in the original text due to additions of explanatory words.[5] Hence, such explanations were not considered objectionable. For example, it is reported[6] that Saad bin Abi Waqqas read a verse (4:12) as;

??? ?? ?? ??? ?? ??

Here the words ?? ?? were an explanatory addition. Similarly it is reported[7] that Sayyidina Uthman read a verse (3:104) like this;

????? ???? ??? ????? ??? ????? ??????? ???????? ?????? ?? ?????? ? ????????? ???? ??? ?? ?????? ?????? ?? ????????

In this the phrase; ????????? ???? ??? ?? ?????? is exegetical addition because if it had been part of the Quran in ‘Uthmans recital, it must have been present in the transcriptions compiled by him. But this phrase is not to be found in any of his seven transcriptions.

There are many such examples found in Rare Recitals.

4. Sometimes it happened that certain recitals were abrogated in the last days of the Prophets life but some Companion who had already memorized it remained unaware of this act, hence he continued to recite it as he had learnt.[8] Because the other Companions knew that this had been abrogated they did not recite it not did they consider it to be correct recital anymore.

5. It appears from some Rare Recitals that probably some follower of Companions made a mistake in the recitation of the Quran quite unintentionally (as sometimes happens even with eminent Huffaz) and listener reported it as he had heard.[9]

Whatever Rare Recitals of the Quran have been reported; most come under one of the above five situations. Obviously, no question arises for accepting these Recitals as reliable. Consequently, the Ummah never relied on them in any age. That is why these recitals could not even become popular, nothing to say of their being uninterrupted. Hence the inferences drawn by the Orientalists on the basis of Rare Recitals that (God Forbid) differences exist in the text of the Quran, is such an unfounded and absurd idea that it deserves no consideration at all from scientific and research point of view. And Allah knows the best!

NOTE: Also useful will be a reading of a chapter from Muhammad Mustafa Al-Azami’s monumental work History of the Qur’anic Text from Revelation to Compilation. Download the book HERE and read Chapter 11: Causes of Variant Readings i.e. pp. 151-164


[1] Madhahib Tafsir Al-islami by Goldziher and Arthur Jeffery’s Materials for the History of the text of the Quran, Leiden 1936 p.6, Arabic translation by Dr. Abdul Halim Najjar.

[2] Dr. Abdul Halim Najjar has provided short but useful marginal notes in his translation of Madhahib Tafsir Al-Islami by Goldziher.

[3] Al-Nashr fi Qiraat Al-Ashr by Ibn Al Jazari vol.1 p.16, Al-Ittiqan vol.1 p.78-79

[4] Al-Nashr vol.1 p.16

[5] Al-Nashr vol.1 p.31-32, Al-Ittiqan vol.1 section 22-27, Sharah Muwatta by Zurqani vol.1 p.225

[6] Durr Manthur 3/51 Cf. Ibn Jarir, Darimi, Said bin Mansur, Baihaqi etc.

[7] Kanzul Ummal 2/598 Hadith 4825 Cf. Abd bin Hamid, Ibn Jarir etc.

[8] Mushkil Al-Athar by At-Tahawi vol.4 p.196-202

[9] Al-Nashr vol.1 p.16, Al-Mabani fi Nazmul Mani: Muqaddimatan fi Ulum al-Quran p.170 Al-Khanji Press 1954

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