Dated Texts Containing The Qur’an From 1-100 AH / 622-719 CE

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First Composed: 9th May 2007

Last Modified: 28th June 2013

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Assalamu ʿalaykum wa rahamatullahi wa barakatuhu:

1. Introduction

In the last few decades a controversy has arisen over the period in which the text of the Qur’an became codified. The traditional view was that the third caliph, ʿUthmān (r. 23-35 AH / 644-61 CE), charged a group of men at Madinah with collecting and standardizing the text.[1] He commissioned one of the Prophet's former secretaries, Zayd ibn Thabit, and several prominent members of the tribe of Quraysh, ʿAbd Allāh b. al-Zubayr, Saʿīd b. al-ʿĀs, and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān b. al-Harith are those most often mentioned, to produce a standard copy of the text, based on the compilation in the keeping of Hafsah, daughter of second caliph ʿUmar. If there was any disagreement over language among members of the commission, it was to be resolved in accordance with the dialect spoken by Quraysh. Once the standard text had been established, several copies were made and sent to major cities in the Islamic state, specifically Damascus, Basra, Kufa, and among others (c. 30 AH / 650 CE).

As for the revisionistic views, many theories have been proposed as to how the Qur’an/Islam came about. According to these various revisionistic schools of thought, Islam was originally a Jewish sect (pace Hagarism);[2] the Qur’an was contemporaneous with the sira (pace John Wansbrough);[3] Islam arose in the Negev desert somehow allegedly validating Wansbrough's hypothesis (pace Yehuda Nevo);[4] the Qur’an came after the sira and ḥadith (pace Uri Rubin);[5] the Qur’an was an Iraqi product and predates the sira (pace G. R. Hawting)[6] and, recently, the Qur’an is a product of Syriac Christianity (pace Christoph Luxenberg).[7] It seems that these revisionistic schools often follow methodologies that do not agree with each other (whether in whole or in part) and none of them seem to agree on any one particular scenario, be it historical, social, cultural, political, economic or religious. Something that appears to be more fundamental in their analyses is that the revisionists are willing to formulate any theory to lend verisimilitude to their opinions concerning the Qur’an/Islam, no matter how much it contradicts all of the available well-established evidence, documentary or otherwise.

In this article, we want to present the dated texts containing the Qur’an in the first hundred years of Islam (1-100 AH / 622-719 CE) as seen in the Arabic inscriptions, coins and Qur’anic manuscripts. These dated texts are chosen on the basis of their date and provenance. There exist numerous Qur’anic manuscripts, whether in the form of fragments or substantial texts, from the first century of hijra without any definite provenance. These manuscripts are not included in the presentation below. Based upon the date and provenance, the texts will be geographically mapped to give an idea about the distribution of the Qur’an in the Islamic state. Not included in the corpus below is the basmalah (i.e., bism Allāh al-raḥmān al-raḥīm) although it is a part of the Qur’anic verse 27:30. It is used from very early times and is employed for many tasks in the daily life of a Muslim.

A few words need to be said about the use of the Qur’an in Islamic tradition. A narrow focus on the Qur’anic text and continued efforts to establish and preserve the ‘Uthmanic standard without deviation have persisted throughout the history of Islam, but side by side with that concern there has been a tradition of drawing upon and modifying that text for a variety of rhetorical purposes. It is a common feature in sermons (khutbah) and speeches to juxtapose disparate Qur’anic passages, conflation, shift of person, and occasional omission of brief phrases. Thus it is not surprising to see such a feature in the dated texts containing the Qur’an listed below. Such a creative use of the Qur’an was hardly unique to Islam, and indeed it would be more surprising if no such tradition had developed. In one particular case from a Qur’anic inscription from the 1st century or very early 2nd century AH, located in al-Hanakiyya some 110 km east-northeast of Madinah, Donner has shown that the person writing the inscription put the passage in the first person so that it would apply to himself, resulting in a slight change in wording of part of the verse in question (Qur’an 3:67).[8] The tradition was, however, dependent upon recognition of the text by the listeners - a strong indication that the Qur’an was already the common property of the Muslim community in the Islamic state by the end of the 7th century CE.

2. List Of Dated Qur’anic Texts From 1-100 AH / 622-719 CE


An Arabic Inscription From Cyprus, 29 AH / 650 CE.

Qul hū Allāhu ahad Allāhu al-ṣamad lam yalid wa-lam yulad wa-lam yakun lahu kufūwan aḥad [Complete Qur’an 112]

Translation: Say: God the one, God the eternal, He did not beget and was not begotten. And there is none like unto Him.

The Arabic Islamic Inscriptions On The Dome Of The Rock In Jerusalem, 72 AH / 692 CE.

Inscriptions In The Inner Octagonal Arcade

Lahu al-mulku wa lahu al-ḥamdu yuhyī wa yumītu wa huwa ʿala kulli shayin qadīr [a conflation of Qur’an 64:1 and 57:2].... inna allāha wa malā'ikatahu yusallūna ʿala al-nabīyi yā ayyuhā al-ladhīna āmanū sallū ʿalayhi wa sallimū taslīmā [Complete Qur’an 33:56]... yā ahla al-kitābi lā taghlū fī dīnikum wa lā taqūlū ʿala allāhi illā al-ḥaqqa innamā al-masīhu ʿĪsa abnu maryama rasūlu allāhi wa kalimatuhu alqāhā ila Maryama wa rūhun minhu fa'āminū billāhi wa rusulihi wa lā taqūlū thalāthatun antahū khayrāan lakum innamā allāhu ilahun wāḥidun subhānahu an yakūna lahu waladun lahu mā fī al-samāwāti wa mā fī al-ardi wa kafa billāhi wakīlā. lan yastankifa al-masīhu an yakūna ʿabdāan lillāhi wa lā al-malā'ikatu al-muqarrabūna wa man yastankif ʿan ʿibādatihi wa yastakbir fasayaḥshuruhum ilayhi jamīʿā [Complete Qur’an 4:171-72].... wa al-salāmu ʿalayhi yawma wulidu wa yawma yamūtu wa yawma yubʿathu hayyā [Complete Qur’an 19:33, with change from first to third person].... dhālika ʿĪsa abnu maryama qawla al-haqqi al-ladhī fīhi yamtarūn. mā kāna lillāhi an yattakhidha min waladin subhānahu idhā qada amrāan fa'innamā yaqūlu lahu kun fayakūn [Complete Qur’an 19:34-35].... inna allāha rabbī wa rabbukum fāʿbudūhu hādhā sirātun mustaqīm [Complete Qur’an 19:36, except for initial "wa"].... shahida allāhu annahu lā ilāha illā huwa wa al-malā'ikatu wa ūlū al-ʿilmi qā'imāan bil-qisti lā ilāha illā huwa al-‘azīzu al-ḥakīm. inna al-dīna ʿinda allāhi al-islāmu wa mā akhtalafa al-ladhīna ūtū al-kitāba illā min baʿdi mā jā'ahumu al-ʿilmu baghyāan baynahum wa man yakfur bi'āyāti allāhi fa'inna allāha sarīʿu al-hisāb [Complete Qur’an 13:18-19].

Translation: Unto Him belongeth sovereignity and unto Him belongeth praise. He quickeneth and He giveth death; and He is Able to do all things.... Verily God and His Angels bless the Prophet; O you who believe, bless him and salute him with a salutation!.... O, People of the Book! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning God save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of God, and His Word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in God and His messengers, and say not 'Three' - Cease! (it is) better for you! - God is only One God. Far be it removed from His transcendent majesty that He should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And God is sufficient as Defender. The Messiah will never scorn to be a servant unto God, nor will the favoured angels. Whoso scorneth His service and is proud, all such will He assemble unto Him".... Peace be on him the day he was born, and the day he dies, and the day he shall be raised alive!.... Such was Jesus, son of Mary, (this is) a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt. It befitteth not (the Majesty of) God that He should take unto Himself a son. Glory be to Him! When He decreeth a thing, He saith unto it only: Be! and it is".... Lo! God is my Lord and your Lord. So serve Him. That is the right path".... "God (Himself) is witness that there is no God save Him. And the angels and the men of learning (too are witness). Maintaining His creation in justice, there is no God save Him, the Almighty, the Wise. Lo! religion with God (is) Islam. Those who (formerly) received the Book differed only after knowledge came unto them, through transgression among themselves. Whoso disbelieveth the revelations of God (will find that) lo! God is swift at reckoning".

Inscriptions In The Outer Octagonal Arcade

Qul hū Allāhu ahad Allāhu al-ṣamad lam yalid wa-lam yulad wa-lam yakun lahu kufūwan aḥad [Complete Qur’an 112].... inna allāha wa malā'ikatahu yusallūna ʿala al-nabīyi yā ayyuhā al-ladhīna āmanū sallū ʿalayhi wa sallimū taslīmā [Complete Qur’an 33:56].... al-ḥamdu lillāhi al-ladhī lam yattakhidh waladāan wa lam yakun lahu sharīkun fī al-mulki wa lam yakun lahu wa līyun mina al-dhulli wa kabbirhu takbīrā [Complete Qur’an 17:111 complete except for the initial wa quli, i.e., "and say"].... lahu al-mulku wa lahu al-hamdu yuhyī wa yumītu wa huwa ʿala kulli shayin qadīr [a conflation of Qur’an 64:1 and 57:2]....

Translation: Say: God the one, God the eternal, He did not beget and was not begotten. And there is none like unto Him.... Verily God and His Angels bless the Prophet; O you who believe, bless him and salute him with a salutation!.... Praise be to God, Who hath not taken unto Himself a son, and Who hath no partner in the Sovereignty, nor hath He any protecting friend through dependence. And magnify Him with all magnificence".... Unto Him belongeth sovereignity and unto Him belongeth praise. He quickeneth and He giveth death; and He is Able to do all things.

The Copper Plaque Inscriptions At The Dome Of The Rock In Jerusalem, 72 AH / 692 CE.

lam yalid wa-lam yulad wa-lam yakun lahu kufūwan aḥad [Part of Qur’an 112:3-4]... allāhumma mālika al-mulki tu'utī al-mulka man tashā'u wa tanzi‘u al-mulka mimman tashā'u [Part of Qur’an 3:26]... kataba ʿala nafsihi al-raḥmata [Part of Qur’an 6:12]... wasiʿat raḥmatuhu kulla shayin [Part of Qur’an 7:156, with shift from first to third person]

Translation: He begotteth not nor was begotten and there is none comparable unto Him... Owner of Sovereignty! Thou givest sovereignty unto whom Thou wilt, and Thou withdrawest sovereignty from whom Thou wilt... He hath prescribed for Himself mercy...

Northern Inscription

lam yalid wa-lam yulad wa-lam yakun lahu kufūwan aḥad [Part of Qur’an 112:3-4]... [Muḥammad rasūl Allāh] arsalahu bi-l-huda wa dīn al-ḥaqq liyudhhiru ʿala al-dini kullahi wa-law karih-al-mushrikūn [Almost complete Qur’an 61:9 with an adjustment at the beginning to introduce Muḥammad]... Āmannā billāhi wa mā unzila ila Muḥammad wa mā ūtiya al-nabīyūna min rabbihim lā nufarriqu bayna aḥadin minhum wa naḥnu lahu muslimūn [Part of Qur’an 2:136 or 3:84, with change of person and omission of the central section, where Ibrahim, Ismaʿil, Ishaq, Yaʿqub, the "tribes", Musa, and ʿIsa are mentioned individually].

Translation: He begotteth not nor was begotten and there is none comparable unto Him... Muḥammad is the messenger of God whom He sent with guidance and the religion of truth that He might make it prevail over all religions even if the associators are averse... We believe in God and that which was revealed unto Muḥammad and that which the Prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered.

Arab-Sassanian Coin Of The Kharijite Rebel Qatarī Ibn al-Fujāʾa, Bīshāpūr, 75 AH / 694-695 CE.

Obverse margin: lā ḥukm illā lillāh [Qur’an 12:40, 12:67 and 6:57. Initial ini’l changed to ]

Judgement belongs to God alone.

Aniconic Silver Coins ("Reformed Coinage"), Minted By The Umayyad Caliph ‘Abd al-Malik, From 77 AH / 696 CE.

Reverse field: Allāhu aḥad Allāhu al-ṣamad lam yalid wa-lam yulad wa-lam yakun lahu kufūwan aḥad

God the one, God the eternal, He did not beget and was not begotten. And there is none like unto Him [Complete Qur’an 112 except for the initial qul hu. However, the "reformed" dīnār also omits the verse wa-lam yakun lahu kufūwan aḥad ("And there is none like unto Him") ].

Reverse margin: [Muḥammad rasūl Allāh] arsalahu bi-l-huda wa dīn al-ḥaqq liyudhhiru ʿala al-dini kullahi wa-law karih-al-mushrikūn [Almost complete Qur’an 61:9 with an adjustment at the beginning to introduce Muhammad]

Muḥammad is the messenger of God whom He sent with guidance and the religion of truth that He might make it prevail over all religions even if the associators are averse.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah Containing Qur’an 38:26, 80 AH / 699-700 CE.

yā Dāwūdu innā jaʿalnāka khalīfatan fī al-ardi faḥkum bayna an-nāsi bil-ḥaqqi wa lā tattabiʿi al-hawa fayudillaka ʿan sabīli allāhi inna al-ladhīna yadillūna ʿan sabīlillāhi lahum ʿadhābun shadīdun bimā nasū yawma al-ḥisāb [Complete Qur’an 38:26].

Translation: O David, we have indeed made you a vicegerent on earth. So judge between men in justice, and do not follow your desires which will mislead you from the path of God. Verily, for those who stray from the path of God is severe chastisement, for those who have forgotten the Day of Reckoning.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah Containing Qur’an 56:28-40, 80 AH / 699-700 CE.

[fī] sidrim makhḍūd. wa ṭalḥim manḍūd. wa dhillim mamdūd. wa māin maskūb. wa fākihatin kathīrah. lā makhṭūʿatin wa lā mamnūʿah. wa furushim marfūʿah. innā anshanāhunna inshā. fajaʿalnāhunna abkārā. ʿurban atrābā. li aṣḥābil yamīn... thullatum min al-awwalīn. wa thullatum min al-akharīn [Complete Qur’an 56:28-40, with an addition of "What will be the Companions of the Right Hand" between verses 38 and 39]

Translation: [They will be] among Lote tree without horns. Among Ṭalḥ trees with flowers, piled one above another; in shade long-extended; by water flowing constantly and fruit in abundance. whose season is not limited nor [supply] forbidden. And on couches raised high, We have created them of special creation. And made them pure [and undefiled], full of love [for their mates], equal in age. For the Companions of the Right Hand... A [goodly] number from those of old. And a [goodly] number from those of later times.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah Containing Qur'an 4:87, 80 AH / 699-700 CE.

Allāhu lā ilāha illā hua layajmʿannakum ilā yawn al-qiyāmati lā rayba fīhi wa man aṣdaqu min-allāhi ḥadīthan [Complete Qur’an 4:87].

Translation: God - there is no deity except Him. He will surely assemble you for the Day of Resurrection, about which there is no doubt. And who is more truthful than God in statement.

Arab-Sassanian Fals From Veh-az-Āmid-Kavād (Arrajān), 83 AH / 702-703 CE.

Muḥammadun rasūlu’llāhi wa’lladhīna yatlūna maʿahu ashiddāʾu ʿalā’l-kuffāri ruḥamāʾu baynahum [Part of Qur’an 48:29 with the addition of yatlūna].

Translation: Muḥammad is the Messenger of God, those who recite with him are severe [in their dealings] with the unbelievers, compassionate among themselves.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah Dated 84 AH / 703-704 CE.

yā ayyuhā al-nāsu attaqū rabbakumu al-ladhī khalaqakum [Part of Qur’an 4:1]... wa al-ladhīna min qablikum laʿallakum tuflihūn [Part of Qur’an 2:21 and 2:189].

Translation: Oh mankind, fear your Lord who created you... and those who came before you if you wish to be successful.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah Containing Qur’an 20:130, 84 AH / 703-704 CE.

wa sabbiḥ biḥamdi rabbika qabla tulūʿi al-shamsi wa qabla ghurūbihā wa min ānā'i al-layli fasabbiḥ wa atrāfa al-nahāri laʿallaka tarda [Almost complete Qur’an 20:130].

Translation: So laud the praises of your Lord before the rising of the sun and before its setting, and during a portion of the night, and at the thresholds of the day, so that you may be pleased [with God's subsequent reward].

Inscription In A Mosque In Damascus, Built By Caliph Walīd, 86-87 AH / 705-706 CE.

Lā ikrāha fī al-dīni qad tabayyana al-rushdu mina al-ghayyi faman yakfur bit-tāghūti wa yu'umin billāhi faqadi astamsaka bil-ʿurwati al-wuthqa lā anfisāma lahā wa allāhu samīʿun ʿalīm [Complete Qur’an 2:256].

Translation: There is no compulsion in religion, the right way has become distinguished from error, and he who rejects false deities and believes in God has grasped a firm handhold that will never break, God is all-hearing and all-knowing.

Jabal Usays (Syria) Inscription Containing First Line Of The Throne Verse (Qur’an 2:255), 93 AH / 711 CE.

Allāhu lā ilāha illā huwa al-ḥayyu al-qayyūmu [Part of Qur’an 2:255, the Throne Verse (Ayat al-Kursi)].

Translation: God! None has the right to be worshipped but He, the Ever Living, the One who sustains and protects all that exists.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah Dated 98 AH / 716-717 CE.

wa man yatawakkal ʿala allāhi fa-allāhu [huwa] hasbuhu wa-[inna] allāha bālighu amrihi wa [ ] qad jaʿala allāhu likulli shay'in qadrāan [Almost complete Qur’an 65:3].

Translation: Whomsoever places their trust in God, He will suffice them. Verily, God will fulfill His purpose. Indeed, He has set everything in measure.

It quotes part of 65:3 as it is and the rest of the verse is slightly modified without changing the meaning. The words in square brackets indicate the actual word in the Qur’an in place of the word preceding it.

A Rock Inscription From Makkah Containing Qur’an 56:28-40 Dating From First Century Of Hijra.

fī sidrin makhdūdin. wa talḥin mandūdin. wa zillin mamdūdin. wa mā'in maskūbin. wa fākihatin kathīrahin. lā maqtūʿatin wa lā mamnūʿahin. wa furushin marfūʿahin. innā ansha'nāhunna inshā'an. fajaʿalnāhunna abkārāan. ʿurubāan atrābāan. li'asḥābi al-yamīn. mā asḥābi al-yamīn. thullatun mina al-awwalīna. wa thullatun mina al-ākhirīna. [Complete Qur’an 56:28-40 with an addition of mā asḥābi al-yamīn between verses 38 and 39 perhaps to give a fitting conclusion to the inscription]

Translation: [They will be] among Lote tree without horns. Among Talh trees with flowers, piled one above another; in shade long-extended; by water flowing constantly and fruit in abundance whose season is not limited nor [supply] forbidden. And on couches raised high, We have created them of special creation. And made them pure [and undefiled], full of love [for their mates], equal in age. For the Companions of the Right Hand. What will be the Companions of the Right Hand. A [goodly] number from those of old. And a [goodly] number from those of later times.

Inscription From Ta'if Containing Qur’anic Verse 33:56.

inna allāha wa malā'ikatahu yusallūna ʿala al-nabīyi yā ayyuhā al-ladhīna āmanū sallū ʿalayhi wa sallimū taslīmā [Complete Qur’an 33:56].

Translation: Verily God and His Angels bless the Prophet; O you who believe, bless him and salute him with a salutation!

The "Great Umayyad Qur’an" From The Time Of Caliph Al-Walid and many early hijazi manuscripts.

This monumental Qur’anic manuscript, perhaps one of the most well-studied and is dated it to the last decade of the 1st century of hijra, around 710-715 CE, in the reign of the Umayyad Caliph al-Walīd. It was found in Ṣanʿāʾ (Yemen). Its origin appears may have been from Syria.


3. Codification Of The Qur’an - Early Or Late?

Recently Christoph Luxenberg had attempted to show that the Qur’an was drafted in a mixed Aramaic-Arabic tongue and based upon Christian Aramaic texts, contrary to the traditional view of its composition in Arabic and derived from Arabian religious traditions. His hypothesis would place the genesis of the Arabic Qur’an some 150 years after the advent of Islam. To lend verisimilitude to his hypothesis, Luxenberg requires the burden of proof, and in order to assemble such ‘evidence’, Luxenberg finds himself forced to rubbish certain indisputable historical facts in the process of creating new ones. Take for example the Dome of the Rock which some western scholars view as an important milestone in relation to the early codification of the Qur’an. According to Luxenberg, it is a Christian Church built as a memorial to Jesus containing Christian inscriptions which record, amongst other things, the theological disputes between the camps of the Hellenised and Syrian Christians regarding the divinity of Jesus. The phrase muḥammadun ‘abdullāhi wa rasūluhū does not mean ‘Muhammad is the slave of God and his Messenger’, rather it means ‘Praised be the slave of God and His messenger’ which Luxenberg considers as a plain unambiguous reference to Jesus.[9] Contradicting the claims of Luxenberg, numerous 1st century AH Arabic-Greek bilingual papyri from the time of Umayyad caliph ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan[10] (65-86 AH / 685-705 CE) as well as later ones such as Egyptian National Library Inv. No. 67 (90-91 AH / 709-710 CE), PER Inv. Ar. Pap. 3976 (98-99 AH / 716-717 CE) among others[11] clearly translate the Arabic phrase muḥammad rasūl Allāh in Greek as ‘maamet apostolos theou’ i.e., ‘Muhammad is the Messenger of God’, thus confirming that ‘Muhammad’ was considered as a proper name and not "praised" or "praiseworthy". Even more damaging, however, is the failure of Luxenberg to anchor his hypotheses in any believable historical context. If we direct our focus on three Christian Syriac apocalyptic texts originating in the milieu of northern Mesopotamia, contemporaneous with the inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock (i.e., composed in or shortly after 691/92 CE), the Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius, the Edessene Apocalypse and the Gospel of the Twelve Apostles, one will observe the common usage of strong religious overtones in relation to the importance of Jerusalem hitherto unparalleled in earlier Christian Syriac texts, thus showing an awareness of recent historical developments in the city, the construction of the Dome of the Rock along with its “anti-Christian” Arabic inscriptions, built in the very same city as the holiest Christian sanctuary, the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Reinink aptly observes,

Though there are textual and literary differences between these works, they agree in one most important aspect: the Arab rule is to be destroyed fairly soon by the highly idealized figure of the Christian emperor of Byzantium who, in a « holy war » against the Muslim enemies of Christianity, will restore Christian authority over Jerusalem and establish a universal pax Christiana, which will last until the end of times.[12]

Luxenberg's ideas have also generated potential clones that claim the alleged Syro-Aramaic (= Syriac) reading of the Qur’an. One such work is by George Sawma called The Qur’an Misinterpreted, Mistranslated, And Misread: The Aramaic Language of the Qur’an[13] - a hastily edited book with a raft of spelling mistakes as well as numerous factually incorrect statements. To justify his claims of the "Aramaic language of the Qur’an", Sawma says that the Arabic alphabet "developed out of a form of the Aramaic alphabet"[14] and that the compilation of the Qur’an mentioned in Sahih of al-Bukhari dates "more than 200 years after the death of Muhammad".[15] According to him, with such a late source for the collection of the Qur’an, it is highly likely that there is "little trace" of the actual events that happened.[16] Furthermore, Sawma claims that between the period of death of the Prophet in 632 CE to the beginning of Marwanid rule in 690 CE there are no "written documentations covering the rise of Islam".[17] Simply put, Sawma considers the entire Qur’anic text to have been composed in Syro-Aramaic;[18] the Arabs difficulty in understanding the Qur’an being a direct result of their mistaken belief that it was composed in Arabic![19] In order to further bolster his case, he uses the works of Crone, Cook, Wansbrough and Luxenberg to affirm the late compilation of the Qur’an.[20]

In order to check these claims, let us now plot the geographical distribution of the texts containing the Qur’an from the 1st century using the corpus of dated texts containing the Qur’an [Figure 1(a)]. It is seen that the geographical distribution of the early Qur’anic texts range from Cyprus in the north to San‘a' in the south. This means that the Muslims of 1st century of hijra were already aware of the existence of the Qur’an in a broad geographical expanse of the Islamic state. Furthermore, they were using various Qur’anic verses in their writings, whether to express the message of Islam or to remember God. This suggests that the codification of the Qur’an was already completed in the 1st century of hijra. Such a conclusion was reached by Estelle Whelan using the inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock as well as Islamic literary sources.[21]

(a)

(b)

Figure 1: (a) Geographical distribution of dated texts containing the Qur’an from 1-100 AH / 622-719 CE. (b) Geographical distribution of Aramaic and the Aramaeans (the people who spoke Syriac).[22]

A further confirmation of early codification also comes from a recent work of Harald Motzki who had discussed the Western views on the collection of the Qur’an by dealing with the works of Wansbrough (Qur’anic Studies: Sources & Methods Of Scriptural Interpretation, 1977, Oxford University Press), Watt (Muhammad's Mecca, 1988, Edinburgh), Nöldeke and Schwally (Geschichte des Qorans, 1938, Leipzig), Casanova (Mohammad et la fin du Monde, 1911, Paris), Mingana ("The Transmission Of The Qur’an", 1916, Journal Of The Manchester Egyptian And Oriental Society) and Burton (The Collection Of The Qur’an, 1979, Cambridge University Press) and compared them using the isnad and matn analysis of the reports dealing with the collection of the Qur’an by Abu Bakr and ‘Uthman as mentioned in various hadith collections. His analysis conservatively dates the availability of the hadith of collection of the Qur’an to the last decades of 1st century of hijra by using the date of death of Anas b. Malik. Beyond that Motzki is not willing to commit as one can see in his conclusions:

We are unable to prove that the accounts on the history of Qur’an go back to the eye-witnesses of the events which were alleged to have occurred. We cannot be sure that the things really happened as is reported in the traditions. However, Muslims account are much earlier and thus much nearer to the time of the events than hitherto assumed in Western scholarship. Admittedly, these accounts contain some details which seem to be implausible or, to put it more cautiously, await explanation, but the Western views which claim to replace them by more plausible and historically more reliable accounts are obviously far away from what they make themselves out to be.[23]

If Luxenberg and Sawma were indeed correct in their assessment concerning the origins of the Qur’anic text, one would expect some form of evidence of the Qur’an in Syro-Aramaic language. On the contrary, the dated texts that we have from the first century of hijra are in Arabic as opposed to Syro-Aramaic. Unfortunately for them, they agree with the Qur’anic text that we have today. More importantly, this makes ‘Uthman's codification of the Qur’an (c. 30 AH / 650 CE) and the first dated Qur’anic text as seen on the tombstone inscription in Cyprus (29 AH / 650 CE) nearly contemporaneous. Furthermore, if we consider folios of the early hijazi manuscripts which are tentatively dated to first half of the first century of hijra, then the time period between ‘Uthman's codification of the Qur’an and the appearance of one of the earliest manuscript of the Qur’an is at most 20 years. Such a brief time for shifting the language of the Qur’an from Syro-Aramaic to Arabic now becomes a highly untenable proposition. Moreover, the proposition that the Qur’an was originally written in Syro-Aramaic is also highly unlikely as the geographic location of Aramaic language and Aramaeans (Syriac speaking people) does not even overlap with area where the Qur’an first appeared - Makkah and Madinah - the Arabic speaking areas of the hijaz [Figure 1(b)]. Looking closely, the Arabic Qur’an is also to be found in those areas where Syriac was a spoken language. Both the theses of Luxenberg as well as Sawma are bereft of any study dealing with existing early documents such as manuscripts, inscriptions, coins and papyri; the result of which has lead them to propose extravagant ideas concerning the origins of the Qur’an.

4. Conclusions

Although the Western scholars are aware of the corpus of dated Qur’anic texts from the 1st century of hijra, they seem to have not attracted sufficient attention. The sole exception are the Arabic inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock which have been the subject of intense study for about 80 years.[24] In this article, we have discussed the corpus of dated texts of the Qur’an with a definite provenance with the intention of studying their geographical distribution. It was seen that the dated Qur’anic texts from the 1st century of hijra show a very wide geographical distribution - from Cyprus in the north to San‘a' in the south and that the earliest dated Qur’anic text is nearly contemporaneous with ‘Uthman's codification of the Qur’an. The presence of Arabic text in the dated Qur’anic texts from 1st century of hijra and their wide geographical distribution also poses problems for the claim that the Qur’an was originally a Syro-Aramaic text. Contrary to the claim of the late compilation of the Qur’an by some of the Western scholars, a wide geographical distribution of the Qur’anic text suggests that the Qur’an was already codified, became a public property resulting in a tradition of drawing upon and modifying that text for a variety of rhetorical purposes.

And Allah knows best!

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References

[1] A. von Denffer, ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, 1994, The Islamic Foundation: Leicester (UK), pp. 31-56; M. M. al-A‘zami, The History Of The Qur'ānic Text From Revelation To Compilation: A Comparative Study With The Old And New Testaments, 2003, UK Islamic Academy: Leicester (UK), pp. 67-107

[2] P. Crone & M. Cook, Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World, 1977, Cambridge University Press: Cambridge.

[3] J. Wansbrough, Qur’anic Studies: Sources & Methods Of Scriptural Interpretation, 1977, Oxford University Press; idem., The Sectarian Milieu: Content & Composition Of Islamic Salvation History, 1978, Oxford University Press.

[4] Y. D. Nevo, "Towards A Prehistory Of Islam", Jerusalem Studies In Arabic And Islam, 1994, Volume 17, pp. 108-141; J. Koren & Y. Nevo, "Methodological Approaches To Islamic Studies", 1991, Der Islam, Volume 68, pp. 87-107; Y. Nevo & J. Koren, Crossroads To Islam: The Origins Of The Arab Religion And The Arab State, 2003, Prometheus Books: New York.

[5] U. Rubin, The Eye Of The Beholder: The Life Of Muhammad As Viewed By The Early Muslims. A Textual Analysis, 1995, Studies In Late Antiquity And Early Islam - 5, The Darwin Press; Princeton (NJ).

[6] G. R. Hawting, The Idea Of Idolatry And The Emergence Of Islam: From Polemic To History, 2002, Cambridge Studies in Islamic Civilization Series, Cambridge University Press.

[7] C. Luxenberg, Die syro-aramäische Lesart des Koran: Ein Beitrag zur Entschlüsselung der Koransprache, 2000, Das Arabische Book: Berlin.

[8] F. M. Donner, "Some Early Arabic Inscriptions From Al-Hanākiyya, Saudi Arabia", Journal Of Near Easter Studies, 1984, Volume 43, Number 3, pp. 183-186 (Inscription W1); F. M. Donner, Narratives Of Islamic Origins: The Beginnings Of Islamic Historical Writing, 1998, Studies In Late Antiquity And Early Islam - 14, The Darwin Press, Inc.: Princeton (NJ), pp. 62-63. NB: The first two lines of this inscription contain a verbatim quote of part of Qur’an 10:90.

[9] C. Luxenberg, “Neudeutung Der Arabischen Inschrift Im Felsendom Zu Jerusalem”, in K-H. Ohlig & G-R. Puin (Eds.), Die Dunklen Anfänge: Neue Forschungen Zur Entstehung Und Frühen Geschichte Des Islam, 2006, 2nd Auflage, Verlag Hans Schiler: Berlin (Germany), p. 126 with discussion on pp. 129-131. The German text for the phrase muḥammadun ‘abdullāhi wa rasūluhū is rendered as:

Zu loben ist (gelobt sei) der Knecht Gottes und sein Gesandter.

Unsurprisingly, of the thirty-two references cited in Luxenberg's article, not a single reference deals with the dated documentary texts, found in relative abundance before, during and after the construction of the Dome of the Rock. This questionable methodological approach likewise penetrates the author's endeavour at a “historical reconstruction”; no attempt has been made to provide a critical analysis of the early Christian reactions to the building of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem.

[10] J. Karabacek, J. Krall and K. Wessely (Eds.), Papyrus Erzherzog Rainer: Führer Durch Die Ausstellung, 1894, Alfred Hölder: Wein, No. 79 (Inv. Pap. Nr. 4002), p. 19.

[11] For example see, A. Grohmann, Corpus Papyrorum Raineri Archiducis Austriae III, Series Arabica I, Part 2: Protokolle, 1924, Burguerlag Ferdinand Zöllner: Wein, No. 34, 35, 37, 38, 62, 66. These Arabic-Greek bilingual papyri from the 1st century of hijra translates the Arabic phrase muḥammad rasūl Allāh in Greek as ‘maamet apostolos theos’.

[12] G. J. Reinink, "Early Christian Reactions To The Building Of The Dome Of The Rock In Jerusalem", Xristianskij Vostok, 2001, Volume 2, Number 8, p. 241.

[13] G. Sawma, The Qur’an Misinterpreted, Mistranslated, And Misread: The Aramaic Language of the Qur’an, 2006, Adibooks.com.

[14] ibid., p. 72.

[15] ibid., p. 81.

[16] ibid.

[17] ibid., p. 82.

[18] ibid., p. 13.

[19] ibid., p. 14.

[20] ibid., pp. 92-102.

[21] E. Whelan, "Forgotten Witness: Evidence for the Early Codification of the Qur’an", Journal Of The American Oriental Society, 1998, Volume 118, No. 1, pp. 1-14.

[22] J. F. Healey, "Were The Nabataeans Arabs?", Aram, 1989, Volume 1, No. 1, p. 44. The picture is taken from here and slightly modified with some additional information.

[23] H. Motzki, "The Collection Of The Qur’an: A Reconsideration Of The Western Views In Light Of Recent Methodological Developments", Der Islam, 2001, Vol. 78, p. 31.

[24] For extensive treatment on the Dome of the Rock inscriptions see S. Nuseibah & O. Grabar, The Dome Of The Rock, 1996, Thames and Hudson: London (UK); C. Kessler, "‘Abd al-Malik's Inscription In The Dome Of The Rock: A Reconsideration", 1970, Journal Of The Royal Asiatic Society, pp. 2-14; K. A. C. Creswell, Early Muslim Architecture: Part 1 Umayyads, A.D. 622-750 With A Contribution On The Mosaics Of The Dome Of The Rock In Jerusalem And Of The Great Mosque In Damascus By Marguerite van Berchem, 1932, Oxford at the Clarendon Press, Plates 6-9, 13-22; M. van Berchem, Matériaux Pour Un Corpus Inscriptionum Arabicarum, 1927, Tome 2 / 2, Mémoires publiés par les membres de l'Institut Français d'archéologie orientale du Caire, Imprimerie de l'Institut français d'archéologie orientale: Le Caire, No. 215, pp. 228-246.

Van Berchem as well as Clermont-Ganneau concluded there may have been an inscription on the Dome of the Rock dated 65 AH, roughly coinciding with the initial construction efforts, now since lost. This was based on the account of Morone da Maleo, a 17th century Franciscan monk. Sharon however dismisses this account as a concoction courtesy of the “assiduous efforts of a 17th century Jerusalem guide.” See M. Sharon, “An Inscription From The Year 65 AH In The Dome Of The Rock: A Study Of A European Report” in S. Shaked, J. L. Blau, S. Pines & M. J. Kister (Eds.), Studia Orientalia: Memoriae D. H. Baneth Dedicata, 1979, The Magnes Press, The Hebrew University: Jerusalem, pp. 245-253.

The Arabic & Islamic Inscriptions | The Arabic Papyri | The Islamic Coins | The Qur'anic Manuscripts