Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Do Muslims Have the Whole Koran?

The punchline is this - "a goat ate it."  In discussions regarding Qur'anic preservation, the following hadith is sure to come up:
Reported ‘Aisha (RA): ‘the verse of stoning and of suckling an adult ten times was revealed, and they were (written) on a paper and kept under my pillow. When the Messenger of Allah (PBUH) expired and we were occupied by his death, a goat entered and ate away the paper.’ (Sunan Ibn Majah, Hadith 1944)
(See also, Musnad Ahmad 6/269 Hadith 26359, if you don't like the chain of narration in Sunan Ibn Majah)

Notice the following about that hadith.

1) Shortly after Mohamed's death, a goat came into Aisha's sleeping area and ate the paper that she had placed under her pillow.

2) The paper had "the verse" on it.

3) This verse was about (a) stoning and (b) suckling an adult ten times.

While the Koran that the Muslims have today mentions stoning, there is no verse regarding suckling an adult ten times, much less any verse about both together (both suckling and stoning).

Sometimes the authenticity of the above hadith is challenged.  Perhaps more needs to be said about that, but it is not the only relevant hadith.

Here is another hadith that has more attestation (these three ahadith are related, as you will see):
'A'isha (Allah be pleased with, her) reported that it had been revealed in the Holy Qur'an that ten clear sucklings make the marriage unlawful, then it was abrogated (and substituted) by five sucklings and Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) died and it was before that time (found) in the Holy Qur'an (and recited by the Muslims). (Sahih Muslim, Book #008, Hadith #3421)

'Amra reported that she heard 'A'isha (Allah he pleased with her) discussing fosterage which (makes marriage) unlawful; and she ('A'isha) said: There was revealed in the Holy Qur'an ten clear sucklings, and then five clear (sucklings). (Sahih Muslim, Book #008, Hadith #3422)

Yahya related to me from Malik from Abdullah ibn Abi Bakr ibn Hazm from Amra bint Abd ar-Rahman that A'isha, the wife of the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, "Amongst what was sent down of the Qur'an was 'ten known sucklings make haram' - then it was abrogated by 'five known sucklings'. When the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, died, it was what is now recited of the Qur'an." Yahya said that Malik said, "One does not act on this." (Malik's Muwatta, Book #30, Hadith #30.3.17)
Notice that in these accounts, it is again stated that the "ten sucklings" were in the Qur'an.  There is a claim that this was then abrogated in favor of five sucklings.

But there is more!
Yahya related to me from Malik from Nafi that Salim ibn Abdullah ibn Umar informed him that A'isha umm al-muminin sent him away while he was being nursed to her sister Umm Kulthum bint Abi Bakr as-Siddiq and said, "suckle him ten times so that he can come in to see me." Salim said, "Umm Kulthum nursed me three times and then fell ill, so that she only nursed me three times. I could not go in to see A'isha because Umm Kulthum did not finish for me the ten times." (Malik's Muwatta, Book #30, Hadith #30.1.7)

Yahya related to me from Malik from Nafi that Safiyya bint Abi Ubayd told him that Hafsa, umm al-muminin, sent Asim ibn Abdullah ibn Sad to her sister Fatima bint Umar ibn al-Khattab for her to suckle him ten times so that he could come in to see her. She did it, so he used to come in to see her. (Malik's Muwatta, Book #30, Hadith #30.1.8)

This seems to be an example of the application of the "ten sucklings" principle.  Why would Aisha suggest that an adult go be suckled ten times?  Doing so would, in her mind, make the person a foster relative.  And a foster relative (while prohibited from marriage) would be permitted to see her unveiled.

It seems clear that all this testimony provided above regarding the missing verse of the Qur'an is linked back to Aisha.  Was she lying or mistaken?  Perhaps she was.  If Muslims want to insist she was lying or mistaken, how can I prove she was telling the truth?

On the other hand, why assume Aisha was lying?  From a historical standpoint, is there any record of anyone challenging Aisha's claim during her lifetime?  She was one of Muhammad's wives.  If she was lying, wouldn't one of Muhammad's companions be able to say so and have that testimony preserved amongst the ahadith?

In short, why isn't the above historical evidence - as such - credible?  Do you accept that your Koran is short at least one verse, or do you reject that idea based on presuppositions that have nothing to do with history?


P.S. Incidentally, there is at least one attempted Muslim response to the issues above (example).  That response relies on questioning the authenticity of the narration.  However, the response is honest enough to admit that there is an alternate chain of narration that does not have the flaw above.  Moreover, the response highlights the existence of other narrations with different words (presumably referring to some of the second category I identified above).  These other narrations, however, just highlight the problem.

Secondly, the response suggests that Mohammed said that the verse about stoning couldn't be written.  It's not clear what this is supposed to prove.  It seems to further support the idea that the written Qur'an is not complete.

Thirdly, the response points out that in some of the narrations, the verse is described as abrogated.  However, why should the abrogated verse be omitted from the Koran?

The response's conclusion is even more puzzlingly odd:
Moreover ‘Aisha (RA) lived through the whole period of Qur’an compilation during the time of Abu Bakr (RA) and Usman (RA) while she was unanimously considered an authority for herself so if she had any thought about some verses missing she would have brought it to attention of other Companions of the Prophet (PBUH). Infact we have evidence of Usman (RA) making special endeavor of consulting ‘Aisha (RA) and her records for verifying the official compilation. See Ibn Shabba’s Tarikh Al-Madina p.997. Despite all this she never raised the issue supporting our conclusion that no part of the Qur’an was lost even if the narration is considered reliable.
What is odd is that the respondent thinks this helps his case. Aisha is deemed by Usman as a reliable authority on the Qur'an during the period of compilation, yet her uncontested testimony is that part of the Qur'an was lost.  To say she "never raised the issue" begs the question at best - more to the point there is a record of her raising the issue, and supporting evidence that she really believed it to have been revealed, or at least really claimed to believe it to have been revealed.  Her testimony also explains why she couldn't hand over the verse to Usman during the period of compilation.


Ron Van Brenk said...

Weird stuff, TF.

A whole lot of euphemism happening here. And not just about seeing someone "unveiled".

Your research seems conclusive... but the Quar'anic concession doesn't make sense. Neither does the abrogation.
And how does this relate to stoning?

The best sense of this that I can make- is that in order for re-marriage for the divorced to occur, his marriage to another must occur. Since marriage to another must occur to validate the divorce (his three-fold oath).
And that his new marriage must be validated by ten sucklings (a euphemism). And then re-marriage to the old may occur. Without threat of stoning.
And that a sister was a convenient and trustworthy temporary wife.

Does that make sense?
And did the abrogation occur just for the Prophet?

Muslim said...

It is well known that there have been verses of the Qur'an that were once recited by the community of Muslims, and then abrogated and removed from the final version of the Qur'an. All this was sanctioned by Muhammad and that is why this issue that was raised by Aisha doesn't mean that she thought that the Qur'an was incomplete, she was merely pointing out that this ruling had once been in the Qur'an. That is what is meant by Aisha not raising the issue when Osman came to consult her about the compiling of the Qur'an. While she did believe that the verses in question were once in the Qur'an, she didn't claim that they should be included in the final version of it.

turretinfan said...

a) Are you trying to suggest that Muhammad was around during the period of compilation of the Qur'an? If so, what's your support for this claim? The story I usually hear is that the Qur'an wasn't "compiled" until after his death, during the caliphate of Abu Bakr (about 6 months after Muhammad had died).

b) Where did Muhammad say that "abrogated" verses should not be "removed" from the "final" Qur'an? I am open to the idea that he said this, but can you provide a citation to some hadith for this?

c) Isn't removing things that were revealed one of the accusations of Muslims against Christians and Jews?

Muslim said...

a) He wasn't around when it was being compiled into a physical book (a "mushaf"). He did however, before his death, compile a final "version" of it, where the abrogated verses were excluded. The final version was recited aloud among the Muslims and memorized but not written down until Abu Bakr made that happen.

b) I'm a bit confused about your question. Abrogated verses, that are excluded from the final version of the Qur'an, are, by their nature, supposed to be removed from it. So why would he say that they should not? Perhaps I have misunderstood your religion. Maybe it will answer your question if I mention this hadith, found in the collection of al-Bayhaqi and others (cf. al-Saheehah, v. 6, p. 975): Narrated by Umar b. al-Khattab: "I once came to the Prophet, and the verse pertaining to stoning was mentioned. I asked the Prophet: 'O Messenger of Allah, dictate to me the verse, so that I may write it down.' The Prophet responded: 'No, I cannot do this anymore.'" So the verse wasn't supposed to be considered as a part of the final version of the Qur'an.

c) In the case of the Qur'an, it was God Himself who decreed how the final version of it should be. It wasn't a matter of random people tampering with the text, it was the Prophet himself who decided how the text should be according to the command of God. In the case of the Bible, we don't believe that, for instance, Moses himself decided upon the final text of todays Pentateuch.

Muslim said...

"Perhaps I have misunderstood your religion" Freudian slip, eh? Obviously, it should be "question".

turretinfan said...

As to (a), where is your evidence of this? I am not denying your claim, simply asking you to document where Mohammad compiled a "final version" of the Qur'an.

As to (b), three points of reply.
First, what the hadith actually says is not that the verse is not supposed to be part of the final Qur'an, but rather only that Mohammad couldn't dictate the particular verse any more. The hadith doesn't say why he couldn't, that this condition of not being able to was going to last permanently, or that he couldn't because it was supposed to be omitted from a final Qur'an or anything like that. It does not even say that the questioner is forbidden from writing down the verse - only that Mohammad cannot dictate it to him. Is there something I'm missing?
Second, this just seems to be another example of a verse that is missing from the Qur'an that you have (although, since it relates to stoning - perhaps it is the same verse that Aisha referenced, but which was written down by that time).
Third, perhaps this seems like a dumb question to someone who has always thought that abrogated verses shouldn't be included - but where did Mohammad say something like "don't recite abrogated verses"? or "don't write down verses that have been abrogated"?

As to (c), even assuming that Mohammad was a prophet, where is the evidence that he controlled the final version of the text? The historical evidence seems to be that first Abu Bakr and then later Uthman/Usman had the greatest control over the content and arrangement of the text. As I understand it, most Muslims don't consider them to have been prophets.

Muslim said...

a) There are several hadiths that tell us that the Prophet assembled or compiled the Qur'an per the command of Gabriel. These hadiths are found in the major collections. A hadith, found in Bukhari, tells us: "Allah's Apostle used to listen to Gabriel whenever he came and after his departure he used to recite it [the Qur'an] as Gabriel had recited it." This hadith is general, and refers to the revelation of the Qur'an. As for the actual form of the Qur'an, the number of verses, the order of the chapters, etc., this was decided upon in the last Ramadan of the Prophet's life. "Gabriel used to recite the whole Qur'an to me every Ramadan, but this year he has recited it to me twice. I do not see (any explanation for this) except that my time (of death) is near" (Bukhari). After the death of the Prophet, Abu Bakr made this into a mushaf.

b) The hadith is pretty clear. The verse of stoning (by the way, you claim in the blog text that the verse of stoning can be found in todays Qur'an - it can't) wasn't supposed to be written down as a part of the Qur'an anymore. I don't see what other interpretation one could have of that hadith. Why would Muhammad say that he cannot dictate it anymore if he didn't mean that it shouldn't be considered a part of the Qur'an? Are you suggesting that he forgot it? That can't be the case, since the actual wording of that verse has been preserved. We have the verse on stoning, it just isn't considered a part of the canonical text anymore.
You wrote: 'Third, perhaps this seems like a dumb question to someone who has always thought that abrogated verses shouldn't be included - but where did Mohammad say something like "don't recite abrogated verses"? or "don't write down verses that have been abrogated"? ' Well, the hadith I quoted says just that. He refused to dictate it to Umar as a part of the Qur'an, because it was abrogated. Abrogated verses can be used to support legal rulings. That is what Aisha did, and Umar as well (he used the verse on stoning as an argument that stoning is a part of the law, even though it had been excluded from the canonical text). The fact that Aisha and Umar mentioned abrogated verses, but never claimed that they should be part of the canonical text of the Qur'an, shows us that abrogated verses shouldn't be recited anymore.

c) Obviously, he cannot have control of the text after his death. But the point is that Abu Bakr and Osman based their compilation of the Qur'an on what they knew from the Prophet.

turretinfan said...

Thanks for your interaction, Muslim.

Ron Van Brenk said...

Am wrong about this euphemism. See here-