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Book Review - The Collection of the Qur'An

Book Review - The Collection of the Qur'An

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Published by: Afzal Sumar on Oct 20, 2012
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The Collection of the Qur'an by John BurtonReview by: Wilferd Madelung
International Journal of Middle East Studies,
Vol. 10, No. 3 (Aug., 1979), pp. 429-430Published by:
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Accessed: 19/10/2012 21:28
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Int.
J.
MiddleEast Stud. 10(1979), 429-432PrintedinGreat Britain
BOOKREVIEWS
JOHNBURTON,
The CollectionoftheOur'dJnCambridge: CambridgeUniversityPress,I977).Pp.273.Theprincipalthesisofthepresentbook is that theofficial,so-called'Uthmanic versionoftheQur'anwasestablishedbytheProphetMuhammadhimselfratherthanthethirdCaliph'Uthman,as isgenerallyaffirmedbyMuslim traditionand has beenacceptedbyWesternscholarship followingN6ldekeandSchwally.The author holdsthat this versionis theonlyone that ever existed and thattheMuslimreportsaboutvariantreadingsand codices collectedbyseveralCompanionsofMuhammad whichweresuppressedafter thepromulgationof the official versionby'Uthman and abouttheintentional deletionof someversesbyMuhammadfrom theearly bodyofQur'anicrevelations arefictitious. Hearguesthat theprimarymotiveforthe invention ofthesevariant versionsallegedlysanctionedbytheProphetwastheattemptofthe Muslimscholars of thelawtoestablishaQur'anicbasis forthelegalpracticeoftenfoundto beat variancewith the rules laid downinthestandard version.Inthisregard,heanalyzesthetheoryofnaskh,abrogation,elaboratedbytheMuslimscholars,focusinginparti-cularon thevarietyknown as naskh al-tildwadznal-hukm whichimpliesthe deletionofa text fromtheQur'anwithoutabrogationofthelegalruleestablishedbyit. Theadmissionof thistypeof naskhbysome Muslim authoritiesnecessitated,Dr. Burtoncontends,theexclusionofanyrole ofMuhammadin the collection of thestandardversionsinceitwould beinconceivable thathehimself deletedapassagewhile main-tainingitslegal validity.He furthersuggeststhatthe two versesoftheQur'anreferringtothe occurrenceof naskh ortabdil(II,Io6;XVI,
Ioi)
mean theabrogationofritualorlegalrules ofprevious propheticreligions byIslam,not theabrogationordeletionofQur'anictexts as maintainedbyMuslimtradition.Thestudyoftheearly historyofIslamfacesseveremethodological problems.Islamicsourcesintheformofnarrativereportsarecopiousbutlate.Themotivesfor tendentious transformationand fabrication wereevidentlystrong.Modern scholarshave uncovered thetendentiousness of much of thislate tradition. There hasbeenlessagreementas to howmuchofit thatis notobviouslytendentiousoranachronisticcanbeacceptedasabasis forthehistoryof theearly period.Burtonexpresslyputshisstudyonthebasis oftheresults of the work ofJ.Schachtwho inrespectto theMuslimlegaltraditions came torejectcategoricallyanyattributiontotheCompanions,not tospeakoftheProphet,as fictitious. Hesuggestsplausiblythat thereportsabouttheQur'anreadingsof theCompanionshavenosounder claim toauthenticitythanthelegaltraditions attributed to them and holdsagainstthe methodofSchwallythat 'wecannotinourarrogancecontinue topresumethatguidedbymereliteraryintuitionwecansafely pickourway, selectingorrejectinghadithson theexcuse that wherenomotiveforany particularstatement isdiscerniblebyus,nonewas intended'(p. 234).Onthe-otherhand,onemaywonder ifa closerstudyofthechainof transmitters ofthesereportsincombination withthecontentsmaynotleadto a clearerviewofthedevelopmentandchronologyoftheMuslimtraditionconcerningthecollectionof theQur'an.Suchamethodhasrecentlybeen advocated andemployedwithgood,thoughadmittedlytentative,resultsbyJ.vanEss inastudyofthe Muslimtraditions concern-ing predestination(ZwischenHadit undTheologie[Berlin,I975]).Althoughthis methodcouldnot haveanydirectbearingon theearly periodoftheallegedcodicesof theCompanions,abetterunderstandingofthesubsequentdevelopment might indirectlyshedsomelightontheorigins.Dr.Burton'spositiveconclusion thattheQur'anwas editedandpromulgated by429

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