Qur'anic origins and immutability

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Qur'anic origins and immutability

#1  Postby Oeditor » Mar 17, 2010 5:23 pm

Irritated by Ray's refusal to discuss the supposed immutability of the Koran and the evidence that it has changed down the centuries, I'd thought I might start a thread where people can say whether they agree. However, the first paper Google turned up has this to say:
For most Muslims unaware of the evolution of Islamic scholarship, the Qur'an is immutable and uncreated, even though the Qur'an never makes such a proclamation, and theologians reached such a conclusion only after much debate. Immutability means that the seventh century values of some Qur'anic verses, rather than being placed in their seventh century Arabian context, are portrayed as the eternal divine mandate, giving rise, for example, to an argument that females must inherit half as much as males. The failure of Muslim scholars to place the Qur'an into historical or spatial context has lead to generalizations that have harmed Islam, a trend accentuated by the fact that most Quranic translators are now Muslims. Such a failure facilitates the use of the Qur'an by governments that support chauvinism and incite hate and by terrorists such as those who brought down the World Trade Centers.
It's a long and interesting paper about English translations and how they have reflected the political views of the translators and those commissioning the translations. I think it can safely be extrapolated that these criticisms apply to translations into other languages as well (not to mention Arabic commentaries).
http://www.meforum.org/717/assessing-en ... -the-quran
I was hoping to start a discussion about defective scripts, burnt collections and hidden caches of ancient copies, but I may have cut the ground from under my own feet. Anyone interested?
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Re: Qur'anic origins and immutability

#2  Postby Rollerlocked » Mar 17, 2010 6:12 pm

Many Koran translations online here:
http://al-quran.info/
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Re: Qur'anic origins and immutability

#3  Postby ixolite » Mar 17, 2010 6:20 pm

Rollerlocked wrote:Many Koran translations online here:
http://al-quran.info/

Lots of translations with transliteration.
http://www.islamawakened.com/Quran/default.htm
(Looks weird today, maybe work in progress.)
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Re: Qur'anic origins and immutability

#4  Postby Aurlito » Mar 17, 2010 6:39 pm

Quran has not changed throughout the history for one reason and that's protection of scholars popularity of Quran. not god. how are we supposed to divert a book that is in every Muslim family's shelf?
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Re: Qur'anic origins and immutability

#5  Postby Oeditor » Mar 17, 2010 7:19 pm

Aurlito wrote:Quran has not changed throughout the history for one reason and that's protection of scholars popularity of Quran. not god. how are we supposed to divert a book that is in every Muslim family's shelf?
Well, yes, that's sort of what I had in mind: how can you believe that it is unchanged when there's a lot of evidence that it isn't. I'm a bit busy at the moment but I'll be back shortly with some examples you might like to discuss.
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Re: Qur'anic origins and immutability

#6  Postby Aurlito » Mar 17, 2010 7:23 pm

Oeditor wrote:
Aurlito wrote:Quran has not changed throughout the history for one reason and that's protection of scholars popularity of Quran. not god. how are we supposed to divert a book that is in every Muslim family's shelf?
Well, yes, that's sort of what I had in mind: how can you believe that it is unchanged when there's a lot of evidence that it isn't. I'm a bit busy at the moment but I'll be back shortly with some examples you might like to discuss.

I wasn't saying that. it's not changed a bit. if they wanted to divert Quran they had to knock every door from Arabia to Kharasm and ask the residents: "Would you kindly give us your version of Quran so we can change it and deceive you?"
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Re: Qur'anic origins and immutability

#7  Postby Oeditor » Mar 17, 2010 7:48 pm

Aurlito wrote:I wasn't saying that. it's not changed a bit. if they wanted to divert Quran they had to knock every door from Arabia to Kharasm and ask the residents: "Would you kindly give us your version of Quran so we can change it and deceive you?"
Nor was I saying that. I'm saying that it was changed almost as soon as it was first written and it's been changed again since then. I haven't had time to find quotations, but it goes roughly like this:
1) Mohammed recited it to people
2) some remembered it, some wrote parts of it down
3) details of it began to vary in different parts of Arabia
4) every copy or part of a copy that could be was gathered together. A human being decided which bits were the right bits and wrote them down. All the originals were then destroyed. Several copies of this authorised version were made - and even some of these differed slightly.
That much, so far as I am aware, is agreed by Islamic scholars.
5) Now at the time of those first writings, the Arabic script in use was "defective". That means that what was written down wasn't exactly what was spoken. Some consonants were ambiguous and there were no vowels. So it was possible for things written to be spoken in different ways and so have alternative meanings.
6) Over centuries, the Arabic script was improved - first with more distinct consonants and then with vowels added.
7) To make the transition from the original book to what is now used, the words had to be clarified. This required human intervention and changes.
So what is supposed to have been recited by Mohammed has been changed in the process of being converted into the book on the family shelves. (Even these vary slightly according to country, by the way.)
I hope that explains what I'm about. Please feel free to correct me if you can show that I'm wrong - I don't claim to be an expert.
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Re: Qur'anic origins and immutability

#8  Postby Sphynxcat » Mar 17, 2010 8:12 pm

There's some interesting stuff on this from Hitchens' 'god is not great':

Arabic script was not standardised until the later part of the ninth century, and in the meantime [...] the koran was generating widly different explanations of itself, as it still does [...]To take one instance that can hardly be called neglible, the Arabic words written on the outside of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem are different from any version which appears in the koran.
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Re: Qur'anic origins and immutability

#9  Postby Oeditor » Mar 17, 2010 9:38 pm

Thanks Sphynxcat - that's probably what got me started. Must dig out my copy tomorrow.
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Re: Qur'anic origins and immutability

#10  Postby Oeditor » Mar 17, 2010 10:42 pm

Aurlito, while I'm thinking on: are there some Muslims - perhaps in "developing" countries - who have Korans on their shelves but cannot read? And others who can read, but not the language that their copies are written in? Would they even know if a jinn came in the night and swapped their copies for a later edition? And why would they care, if they didn't know what was in their book anyway?
Edit: I'm just drawing parallels with mediaeval Christianity. Folk then were similarly benighted.
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Re: Qur'anic origins and immutability

#11  Postby Aurlito » Mar 18, 2010 7:06 am

Oeditor wrote:Aurlito, while I'm thinking on: are there some Muslims - perhaps in "developing" countries - who have Korans on their shelves but cannot read? And others who can read, but not the language that their copies are written in? Would they even know if a jinn came in the night and swapped their copies for a later edition? And why would they care, if they didn't know what was in their book anyway?
Edit: I'm just drawing parallels with mediaeval Christianity. Folk then were similarly benighted.

Developing country doesn't mean "a place full of stupid superstitious people" anymore. they've focused on their education and improved level of education in their country probably enough to avoid being compared to medieval Christians.
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Re: Qur'anic origins and immutability

#12  Postby Oeditor » Mar 18, 2010 11:14 am

[derail]
Aurlito wrote:
Oeditor wrote:Developing country doesn't mean "a place full of stupid superstitious people" anymore. they've focused on their education and improved level of education in their country probably enough to avoid being compared to medieval Christians.
I asked *whether* there are Muslims who have Korans that they can't read. It seems that the literacy rate in Afghanistan is 28% and in Bangladesh 52.5% - both countries with predominantly Muslim populations. Is it customary for the illiterate members of those countries to possess copies of the Koran? I don't know. I don't suppose many people in mediaeval Europe had copies of the Bible when it was only available in Latin or Greek - they used to chain them up the the churches to stop people stealing them. [/derail]
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Re: Qur'anic origins and immutability

#13  Postby Oeditor » Mar 18, 2010 4:10 pm

Here are a couple of bookmarks, rather than a direct contribution to this discussion, relating to hadiths and sunna.
1) Does the Hadith have a Solid Historical Basis?
conclusion wrote:If we are to discover an Islam of justice, compassion and mercy and progress, we need to understand it solely in terms of the Quran. Any attempt to understand it both in terms of the Quran and the Hadith is bound to result in a distorted message, which confounds rather than guides. Ideas that encourage fatalism and discourage individual initiative and enterprise, corrupt religious practices, block progress and modernization, encourage intolerance, violence and terror, extol the virtues of aggressive jihad against other communities, and demonize and weaken women’s position in society - all come from the Hadith.[47] The conventional interpretation of Islam, which depends much on the Hadith, dominates and guides most Muslims, which is, unfortunately, to put it quite appropriately in the words of a contemporary writer, “not far different from that of the terrorists but without the justification of violence” - an interpretation that “serves to suppress individual creativity and innovation” and risks Muslims becoming “a permanent global underclass.”

http://www.free-minds.org/hadithhistory
2) A long four-part review on Amazon about the history of hadiths and sunna.
conclusion wrote:A Pakistani court decision made by the judge Justice Muhammad Shafi subordinated the hadith compared to The Quran, he stated that "When The Quran demands obedience to the Prophet all it means is that one should be honest, steadfast, earnest, religious and pious as he was. And not that we should think and act as exactly as he did, because this is unatural and humanly impossible and if we attempted to do that, life will become absolutely difficult" (p135). He also stated "Every believer must have the right to read and interpret The Quran for him or herself, no interpretation can be considered binding." He was quickly replaced due to these comments.
http://www.amazon.co.uk/review/RWUP9S2FTC2O/ref=cm_cr_dp_cmt?ie=UTF8&ASIN=0521570778&nodeID=266239#wasThisHelpful
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Re: Qur'anic origins and immutability

#14  Postby Oeditor » Mar 19, 2010 8:29 pm

I've found what looks like a very authoritative article about the Yemeni early Korans. Which of course are said to refute the immutability and so divine certainly of said book. It seems that not only were these ancient documents found in the mosque at Sana, but some of them found their way into the art market and were flogged off as examples of Arabic calligraphy. Thus finding their way into the public domain. Unlike the 35,000 photographs of the other fragments found with them AFAIK.
Unfortunately, my computer refuses to download the accompanying images because of some Javascript problem. They include at least one image of a palimpsest section of a very early Koran - maybe pre-Uthmanic - revealed by UV light.
I haven't read the extensive footnotes yet but they look Quite Interesting.
http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/ ... soth.html#
Edit: correct acronym
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Re: Qur'anic origins and immutability

#15  Postby Aurlito » Mar 19, 2010 8:58 pm

During alphabet transition, few words have changed. so what? it didn't the whole perspective en masse. Islam was very popular by the time that Mohammad kicked it. and revelation was over so it was spread over in whole Muslim world as soon as his death. and that guy, "Abu-Baker" burnt all the alternative versions that other tribes of Arabia had. for bible change was inevitable because it became pluralized after nearly 3 centuries. but soon after Mohammad's death Iran and lands that today we call Syria and Iraq were submitted to Khalifa. changing Quran was impossible.
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Re: Qur'anic origins and immutability

#16  Postby Sphynxcat » Mar 19, 2010 9:11 pm

Aurlito wrote:During alphabet transition, few words have changed. so what? it didn't the whole perspective en masse. Islam was very popular by the time that Mohammad kicked it. and revelation was over so it was spread over in whole Muslim world as soon as his death. and that guy, "Abu-Baker" burnt all the alternative versions that other tribes of Arabia had. for bible change was inevitable because it became pluralized after nearly 3 centuries. but soon after Mohammad's death Iran and lands that today we call Syria and Iraq were submitted to Khalifa. changing Quran was impossible.


But if it was only a few words that had been changed, but not the whole perspective, then why should Abu Bakr feel the need to destroy the other versions if the disgressions in those korans other than the one he had settled upon were little more than cosmetic? Seems like overkill to me, if that was the case.
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Re: Qur'anic origins and immutability

#17  Postby Oeditor » Mar 19, 2010 9:26 pm

Ah, glad you're still there Aurlito - I wasn't sure whether anyone was interested.
I'm not concerned with whether anything was changed en-masse, simply whether the Koran, as now seen, is the unchanged word of a god. Even if I were to accept that it was the word of a god in the first place, there seems to be mounting evidence that the word now preached is not exactly the same as Mohammed "heard" during his visions. For the idea of the immutable incorruptible word of a god being present in today's versions of the Koran to be refuted, it needs only one word to be shown to have been changed.
I cannot see the pictures in the article but if the text is correct they contain evidence that earlier, different, versions existed.
As for your remark
Aurlito wrote:soon after Mohammad's death Iran and lands that today we call Syria and Iraq were submitted to Khalifa. changing Quran was impossible.
you are confusing supernatural purity of a book with violent aggressive suppression of dissidence. They did quite a good job though, it must be admitted. Better retain one's head, however bullied and corrupted, than be dead. It doesn't alter the facts though: it's been changed, my friend.
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Re: Qur'anic origins and immutability

#18  Postby z8000783 » Mar 20, 2010 12:39 pm

Nice thread Oeditor.

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Re: Qur'anic origins and immutability

#19  Postby Aurlito » Mar 20, 2010 1:15 pm

Sphynxcat wrote:
Aurlito wrote:During alphabet transition, few words have changed. so what? it didn't the whole perspective en masse. Islam was very popular by the time that Mohammad kicked it. and revelation was over so it was spread over in whole Muslim world as soon as his death. and that guy, "Abu-Baker" burnt all the alternative versions that other tribes of Arabia had. for bible change was inevitable because it became pluralized after nearly 3 centuries. but soon after Mohammad's death Iran and lands that today we call Syria and Iraq were submitted to Khalifa. changing Quran was impossible.


But if it was only a few words that had been changed, but not the whole perspective, then why should Abu Bakr feel the need to destroy the other versions if the disgressions in those korans other than the one he had settled upon were little more than cosmetic? Seems like overkill to me, if that was the case.

Abu Bakr was just being cautious. If you've read Seven Pillars of Wisdom or seen its movie, you'll know that Arabia is a large desert with many tribes with many antithetical traditions per se and hostility between these tribes made things more difficult. if each one of them wanted to have its own version of Quran then Islam would be eliminated by Iranians at the first lunar century. different versions of Quran that Abu Bakr destroyed only had slight differences but enough to provoke tribes to compromise their unity (that was brought by Islam).

Oeditor wrote:I'm not concerned with whether anything was changed en-masse, simply whether the Koran, as now seen, is the unchanged word of a god. Even if I were to accept that it was the word of a god in the first place, there seems to be mounting evidence that the word now preached is not exactly the same as Mohammed "heard" during his visions. For the idea of the immutable incorruptible word of a god being present in today's versions of the Koran to be refuted, it needs only one word to be shown to have been changed.
I cannot see the pictures in the article but if the text is correct they contain evidence that earlier, different, versions existed.

Not too late after death of Abu Bakr, Omar gathered something like a committee that included Ali, Mohammad's cousin that was his protege since he was eight. they edited the main manuscript the way Ali wanted so I think it's as correct as it could be.
you are confusing supernatural purity of a book with violent aggressive suppression of dissidence. They did quite a good job though, it must be admitted. Better retain one's head, however bullied and corrupted, than be dead. It doesn't alter the facts though: it's been changed, my friend.

How a book can be supernaturally pure if violence, aggression and oppression originates from it? I think you have to choose another word to describe it.
And note that all Muslims were willingly submitted otherwise it wouldn't spread.
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Re: Qur'anic origins and immutability

#20  Postby cherries » Mar 20, 2010 1:43 pm

Oeditor wrote:[derail]
Aurlito wrote:
Oeditor wrote:Developing country doesn't mean "a place full of stupid superstitious people" anymore. they've focused on their education and improved level of education in their country probably enough to avoid being compared to medieval Christians.
I asked *whether* there are Muslims who have Korans that they can't read. It seems that the literacy rate in Afghanistan is 28% and in Bangladesh 52.5% - both countries with predominantly Muslim populations. Is it customary for the illiterate members of those countries to possess copies of the Koran? I don't know. I don't suppose many people in mediaeval Europe had copies of the Bible when it was only available in Latin or Greek - they used to chain them up the the churches to stop people stealing them. [/derail]


muslims in south east asia learn to read the quran without understanding it.they are taught to follow religious teachers rather than to interpret the religious texts themselves.they do learn arabic in school though but that wont help them to understand the quran until they have completed school,possibly never if they suck at it(i think the language of the quran differs anyway from modern arabic).

doesn't it say in the quran that the miracle of the quran lies in that it never has been and will be changed over time,if even one letter changed there is no miracle and that's the end of it. :drunk:
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