Monday, October 29, 2012

The Four Quls: al Mu'awwidhatayn, Chapters On Seeking Refuge (2/3)

While Rodwell sets out to rearrange and reinterpret Quran according to his fancy, and in the process discredits the effort made by Zayd bin Thabit, as we have seen in Part 1, a more virulent effort is to discredit the Quran itself by desecrating it.

Allow me to make the above sentence more readable.

To the Muslims, Quran is regarded as Words of God.    All these words were preserved in the hearts of the Companions as well as in the written parchments, before they were compiled into a book by Zayd bin Thabit, under the order of the first Caliph, Abu Bakar as Siddiq.  What we have--since then up to  these days--are the exact words as revealed to the Prophet in their genuine and unadulterated form.

Since every word which makes the whole Quran is regarded as the exact Word of God, the Muslims consider every word of it to be sacred (or holy).  Thus, a mere reading of its verses, even without understanding them, is considered a good act which will be rewarded.  The Muslims would generally not touch it without having an ablution, for that would be considered as disrespectful.  If the Quran needs to be destroyed for whatever reason, they would not tear or shred the pages, but would instead burn them.  This is to avoid the Quran from being thrown into a dumpsite and mixed with filthy things.

It short, the whole Quran is considered sacred, including the printed verses on the papers, because they are the exact Words of God which need to be respected.

Desecrating means taking the sacred out of the Quran.

How this is done?

By putting doubt into the authenticity of the Quran, saying that in the process of compiling it, the original Words of Gods have been lost due to many variations that had been in existence when Zayd compiled it.  Thus, what we have is only the version as compiled by Zayd, which is allegedly not agreed upon by all companions.  The present Quran is still considered as the words of God, but not the exact ones.  They are only “mirrors” to the Original Words of God.  Since these words are only mirrors, they are not, in themselves, sacred.  And since they are not sacred, they don’t have to be treated with such reverence, much less to be taken literally and verbatim.

The efforts to discredit the authenticity of the Quran have been going on since the advent of Islam itself.  In our times, one of the leading protagonists is an Orientalist by the name Arthur Jeffery. 

It is not the scope of this article to talk about this subject per se, but an allusion to Jeffrey’s work would be handy to illustrate my present purpose, which is an observation (rather than a commentary) on al Mu’awwidathtayn.

In his lecture, “The Textual History of the Qur'an,” Jeffrey opens his talk innocently enough: 

Wherever we find a religion that has a Scripture, that fact presents scholarship with the problem of the textual history of that Scripture. There are no exceptions to this among the historic religions.

Having said that, he proceeds by giving examples on the Scriptures of  Buddhism and Zoroastrianism :

In the case of Buddhism, for example, we have the problem of the Pali Canon, the Sanskrit Canon, the Tibetan Canon, and the Chinese Canon. In the case of Zoroastrianism there is the liveliest dispute among Iranian scholars at this very moment as to the Avestan text, and, as is well known, the text of the Pahlavi books is an exceedingly complicated problem.

And the problems with Biblical Scripture too:

Each generation of students for the last hundred years has found itself faced with new problems concerning the text of the Old Testament, and our own memories are still fresh with the excitement caused by the discovery of the Chester Beatty Papyri and the Ryland's Gospel fragment, both of which raised lively discussions on matters related to the textual history of the New Testament. 

Having thus described the problems with all religious scriptures, he concludes his opening paragraph by saying:

Whether we face the text of the Book of the Dead, coming from the ancient Egyptian religion, or the text of the Qur'an coming from the youngest of the great historic religions, we have the problem of the history of the text.

Now we have some ideas where he is leading to.  Since all historic religious scriptures have problems with the authenticity of their texts, the Quran too must have similar problem. Jeffrey thus proceeds:

In the case of none of the historic religions do we have the autographs of the original Scriptures. What we have in our hands are the documents that have come down in the various communities, and which have been more or less tampered with in transmission.

Read the above again, and observe that Jeffrey uses the word NONE.  In case you still need translation, it means that Quran is also tempered.  But to show that he means well, Jeffrey says:

This tampering does not mean tampering with evil intent; it may, indeed, have been with very good intent, but nevertheless it was tampering. The Avesta, for example, was written out in Sassanian times in a new alphabet based on the characters of Sassanian Pahlavi, and we have no knowledge whatever of what the original Avestan script was like. Similarly the Hebrew Scriptures as we know them are in the "square script", but this was not the script used when their originals were written.

After explaining how the other scriptures are tempered with, all without malice or ill intention, Jeffrey proceeds with the matter in hand:

When we come to the Qur'an, we find that our early MSS [read, handwritten manuscripts] are invariably without points or vowel signs, and are in a Kufic script very different from the script used in our modern copies. This modernizing of the script and the orthography, and the supplying the text with points and vowel signs were, it is true, well-intentioned, but they did involve a tampering with the text. That precisely is our problem.

Having thus explained how the “tempering” processes took place with the Quran, Jeffrey asserts his point:

We have a received text, a textus receptus which is to be found in all the ordinary copies in popular use. It is not, however, a facsimile of the earliest Qur'an, but a text which is the result of various processes of alteration as it passed down from generation to generation in transmission within the community.

In short, just like other scriptures which are known and proven to be tempered with, the Quran too has been tempered.  What we have, therefore, is not the Original, but an adulterated version due to the alterations that were being passed down from generation to generation.

We shall end our quotation here, because the rest are mere details.  Those interested may go the source itself, which is provided below.(*)

At this point, it suffices to say that, like the accusation on the authenticity of the Quran in the old days, the contemporaneous claims have also been refuted.  The contemporary scholar, Muhammad al-Azami, has written a scholarly work on this subject.

Al- Azami’s scholarly work deserves a topic on its own, and is not the place to discuss it in this piece.  But the point to make is this.  If you read what Jeffrey says, you will notice that he has put the matter rather “innocently” and, as one might say, scholarly.  Likewise with Rodwell, as we have seen in the earlier part. 

This is the characteristic of the contemporary approach in discrediting Islam. Whatever subjects in hands, be it about Quran, Hadith, Seerah, etc., the approach appears innocent, with scholarly intonation, unlike the days of the old, whereby their scholars simply called the Muslims the infidels and the Quran as the work of an impostor. 

Their innocent and scholarly approaches, needless to say, have influenced a great many Muslims who are not aware of their agendas.  Many among the Muslims no longer believe in the authenticity of our Hadith collections.  Many more have taken out the sanctity and sacredness of the Holy Quran, regarding its passages, especially on the Syariah Law, as unsuitable to the modern times.  Quran has been desanctified, desacretized, and secularized.

But are these scholars, who are predominantly Western Christians, driven by scholarly reason?  Are they that innocent?  Could they be driven by something more sinister.

A look at one of the sites devoted to discrediting Islam and defending Christianity would reveal at least some of the reasons. 

But we shall explore that in our concluding part.

Stay tuned.


*Those who are interested with the rest of what Arthur Jeffrey says may go to this site:

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