By Jason Wilson



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Response to Joseph Islam on the 'hafs' transmission being the 'One' and 'Only' oral transmission given to us by Prophet


by Jason Wilson on Sunday, January 6, 2013 at 10:35am ·



Response to Joseph Islam on the 'hafs' transmission being the 'One' and 'Only' oral transmission given to us by the Blessed Messenger (saw)


In my face-book entry below entitled “Is the Quran Perfectly Preserved Bassam Zawadi vs. Nabeel Qureshi”


Brother Joseph made some comments that I think anyone interested in the subject should have a look at.


After dealing first with the idea of the Qur'an being preserved textually, brother Joseph made an admission that though he believes the Qur'an was penned down during the life of the Blessed Messenger (saw) he concedes the following:


“(2) An academic admission that we do not have the original codex penned from the Prophet or possibly the initial scribes.”


“(4) My position that the Qur'an was transmitted as an oral propagation / recitation en masse and any discussions regarding a written codex is purely secondary.”


Which is an interesting admission considering that he recently wrote an entry “A Case of Pick and Choose” the following:


“How can one ever know that something outside of the Qur'an was ever prescribed by God 'as part of religion' no matter how much intellectualising is carried out with it?”

A very good question indeed.


It is an interesting question coming from a person who admittedly also allows for the five daily prayer based upon masse mutwattir practice.


For example he says,


“Either we have faith in the practice of the people propagated en masse (sunna), or one relies on extraneous sources held in secondary corpuses often DETACHED in time from the Prophetic ministry to make inferences.”


The Holy Qur'an informs us


“The truth comes from Allah alone; so be not of those who doubt.” (Holy Qur'an 3:60)


So having admitted that we are not in possession of any 'original codex' from the Blessed Messsenger (saw) or his companions he turned his attention to the oral transmission of 'Hafs'.


Joseph Islam claims,


“There has ONLY been ONE oral transmission from the Prophet and in its Hafs transmission has been transmitted en masse and is recited by 95% of the population today.”


“Indeed, there are also ancient Hafs 'written' copies and I would respectfully academically contend with the notion that there are intra-variances which ALTER THE MESSAGE within THOSE copies (Hafs-Hafs).


So let us ask our brother what his his proof that there has been 'one' and 'only' one transmission from the Blessed Messenger (saw) outside of a presupposition that this is the case?


  1. How are you certain this is the case when by your own admission we do not have the 'original codex'
  2. What do you check your claim against?
  3. What are these 'ancient Hafs written copies' that you speak of?
  4. When were they dated?
  5. Do you mean to say that there are variances that 'Alter the message' outside of those copies?
  6. If you say yes, than how so and why?


Please note that brother Joseph Islam says in his article here:


“It is usually understood that the seven variations (ahruf) were reduced to one form during the ministry of Caliph Uthman”


“As we will note later in the article, the claim of any variation (ahruf) of the Qur'ans revelationwhatsoever, is completely unsupportable from the Qur'ans own testimony.”



Now what does not seem very academic to me is that Joseph Islam makes a huge to do about the term 'ahruf', yet glosses over the word rather quickly in his introduction above.


Note that he says,


“* Throughout Islamic history, the actual definition of 'ahruf' in this context has been the subject of much academic debateSome scholars have been left baffled as to its actual meaning in the context it has been cited. Some refer to 'ahruf' as dialects, others as synonyms, different types of teachings (wa'd, muhkam, mutashabih, halal, haram, wa'id, imthal), different pronunciations, variant readings, different manuscript codices etc.


He than says,


“For the purpose of this article, the generic English term 'variants' will be used to indicate a difference of some nature that the phrase 'seven ahruf' implies”


I would venture to say that brother Joseph himself is not quite sure what the term 'ahruf' means.


Joseph Islam simply gave us the only case in which the term 'ahruf' appears in noun form in the Holy Qur'an.


So Joseph tells us that 'ahruf' means 'variants' that indicate a difference 'of some nature'. Yet, as already cited above that he already admits that there are 'inter variances' , but he assures us 'they do not alter the message'.


The other statement of his I wanted to get further clarification on was to coin the term 'hafs' copies.


When he says,


“Indeed, there are also ancient Hafs 'written' copies and I would respectfully academically contend with the notion that there are intra-variances which ALTER THE MESSAGE within THOSE copies (Hafs-Hafs).



Yet, he finds the term 'hafs' tenuous as well.

As he says of 'hafs' in his article above “of its alleged reciter, Abu Bakr 'Asim”


So do we label it 'hafs' for the sake of convenience?

What makes it a 'hafs' copy?


In his response to me on my face book page brother Joseph Islam says,


“• "MOST of the variations simply concern orthography or recitation, and it must be said at the outset that none has any effect on the meaning of the text. WITHIN A GIVEN TRANSMISSION, SUCH AS HAFS’, THAT NEVER VARIES. It must also be said that there is no clear dividing line between reading and chanting, so some variations are purely recitative."[3]


• "The variations simply concern orthography or recitation, and it must be said at the outset that NONE has ANY EFFECT ON THE MEANING OF THE TEXT. WITHIN A GIVEN TRANSMISSION, SUCH AS WARS’, THAT NEVER VARIES. Variations in script have been mainly discussed above in chapters 4 and 5. That many of these variations have been covered by those between Hafs copies obviates the need for extensive description here. In general, it was found that, the printed Wars copies and many North-West African manuscripts of the Qur'an, notably here Edinburgh New College ms.1*, belong to a scrupulously adhered-to Tradition." [4]



I am beginning to wonder if Joseph is understanding what Adrian Brockett is saying.


  1. There are variations in the recitation and orthography. 
  2. There are no effects on the meaning of a text with in a GIVEN transmission, but there are between DIFFERENT transmissions!



Joseph Islam also says latter in his article here:


“As we will note later in the article, the claim of different recitations (qiraat) of the Quran's revelation is also completely unsupportable from the Quran's own testimony.”


To support this Joseph Islam makes huge presumptions based upon two passages from the Holy Qur'an.


 075:17-18 "Indeed, Upon Us is its collection (Arabic: jam'ahu) and its recitation (Arabic: qur'anahu). And when We have recited it (qaranahu) then follow its recitation (Arabic: qur'anahu)


It is truly a theological leap to take the above passage as supporting only one particular recitation of the Qur'an. For example, we can use this passage to support any recitation of the Qur'an.


In order for Jospeh Islam to make this case he would have to appeal to those tedious secondary sources-rather they be Islamic or Orientalist assertions.


The second passage he cites is the following:



“And We did not send any messenger but with the language of his people, so that he might explain to them clearly; then God lets go astray whom He wills and guides whom He wills and He is the Mighty, the Wise”


The interesting thing is that this quotation actually negates his interpretation of the first quotation!


The Arabs of Arabia spoke various dialects of Arabic. Would it make any sense to allow for the transmission of the Qur'an in only the dialect of the Quresh when it was the duty of the Blessed Messenger (saw) to explain the Qur'an to them clearly?


Note what Allah says,


“Indeed ,We have sent it down as an Arabic Qur'an that you might understand.” (Holy Qur'an 12:2)


*note Allah could clearly say that the Qur'an was revealed in the dialect of the Quresh only and he did not say this.


Joseph Islam also states,


“To claim that there are absolutely no differences between the two transmissions (Hafs and Warsh) is academically incorrect and amounts to intellectual dishonesty. Such claims are either based on ignorance or sadly, deliberate obfuscation.”



Joseph Islam also states,


“The Hafs transmission remains the widely accepted transmission in the Muslim world today which is attested not only by consensus (and mutawwatir propagation) but also early Quranic codices.”

This could be a bit misleading and I will kindly ask brother Joseph to clarify what he means by this above.


Joseph Islam, are you asserting by this statement that traditional Muslim scholarship (rather you agree with it or not) dismisses the Warsh recitation, as well as the other transmissions?


The follow up question to this is have you ever thought about the role the Ottoman Empire may have played in the wide use of the Hafs transmission of the Qur'an?


Joseph Islam leaves us with a tenuous assertion in his article when he states,


“There was only one Quran that left the Prophet primarily as an oral tradition and backed up by a written tradition. This was transmitted en masse by the Muslim community during the Prophet's ministry. Please see related article (1) below.”



What is the earliest dated manuscript or codex of the Qur'an that supports your assertion that there was only 'only' 'one' recitation of the Qur'an.


After all if the oral and written transmission were working 'in tandem' as you assert than the evidence should support your conclusions as well.


Lastly you quote Andrew Brockett again saying,


As Dr. Andrew Brockett noted:

"There was a single text, and nothing, not even allegedly abrogated material, could be taken out, nor anything be put in..." [13]



Because people may also misunderstand what you are saying here would you say, would you kindly clarify


a) Does Andrew Brockett agrees with your assertion that the Qur'an was transmitted in only one recitation?

b) Does Andrew Brockett agree with your assertion that there is no Ahruf concerning the Qur'an?



As mentioned before your writings are usually very careful and well researched. I would say there seems to be a bit of 'cherry picking' when it comes to Brockett and his research.


I also understand your very logical appeal in your recent entry 'A Case of Pick and Choose'.


Your absolutely correct in asking the questions that you do there.


but what has happened is that you have placed yourself in a much more perilous position than those who rely upon the hadith corpus.


You have a belief in a singular recitation of the Qur'an transmitted as an oral tradition not backed up with any manuscript evidence prior to 300 years after the Blessed Messenger (saw).


You would be hard pressed to find a manuscript of the Qur'an dated earlier than this time period that matches with what you have in your hand.

Again I appreciate that you attempt to interact with the scholarly findings and research of both Muslim and Non Muslim academics.


However, I will find the Qur'an only position untenable because it seems to ignore history and a vast body of evidence that Is contrary to many of its assertions.



I think this is why ultimately you back away from 'proving' the Qur'an from historical sources with the following plea:

“Finally, the Quran is not accepted as God’s word based on its acclaimed preservation par excellence or because the same community that profess its Divine origins also claim it to be fully preserved. The Quran is rather accepted on the basis of its ‘argumentation’ and the ultimate realisation, that no human could have possibly been its author.” 


“For if I found this Book at the bottom of the sea and read it with no soul in sight, I would conclude that God had spoken.”


Al hamdulillah! I am thankful that Allah has given you the guidance!


I would like to ask you concerning this statement.


What particular passages in the Qur'an do you feel reached out to you? What particular passages of the Qur'an proved to you beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is indeed a divine revelation?


The reason I ask this is as you know many people have read the Qur'an, and unfortunately did not come to that conclusion. So I was curious to glean from you what in particular about the Qur'an leaves such an over all awesome impression upon you.


Thank you for your time.