questioning the canon through revealing the process of the construction of the Koran is serious andpotentially dangerous business.The important issue then to highlight for this film is that while the early conflict within theCaliphate was over succession and thus political power, it had also been over the manner of thecreation and institutionalization of the hegemonic status of the Uthman vulgate written between 632and 656. This is the historical pivot upon which the logic of this film rests. Its potential interpretive andpolitical consequence is greatly understated. It is in essence then also a film about the origins of theconflict between the Shiite and Sunni Muslims, that is, those who followed Ali or Abu Bakar, those who
descended in the Prophet’s blood
line versus those who did not. Intervening conflict and differences inritual practices aside, imagine the sense of physical and spiritual connection that a pious Muslim mustfeel in the presence of the original book commissioned by Uthman,
one of the Prophet’s companions.
This elemental emotional charge sets up a wonderful context for a history lesson on the origins of theVulgate as a full and exact perpetual echo of the revelations - contested at the outset but not thereafter,at least that is, after the Hussein massacre in which the Sunni put down the Shiite revolt.From that decisive moment in history, the Shiites were forced to recognize the Vulgate as thesole and legitimate version of the Koran. Thus th
e discovery and analysis of the Sana’a fragments
ispotentially extraordinarily dangerous as it opens an old and original wound. It
returns us to Ali’s
accusation that Uthman had reduced the Koran to a single text in his despotic decision to forbid theother versions of the Korans. Remember that Ali is recorded as having declared this objection to theVulgate
: “The Koran was several books and you have reduced them to one!” Similarly, another of the
companions, Ibn Masud refused to accept the canonization and was publically punishedthough the film does not tell us how. In this way, particular points in the film carry enormousconsequence as does the central purpose itself which is to reveal how the Koran as we know it todaywas created.Recall too that Ali was assassinated by Uthman in 656 and that Uthman was in turnassassinated by Ul
awiyah/Muhawiyah. In fact, Ali’s severed head is still kept there in the mosque and
much revered as we witness in the film. And as for the original text, huge, 1,450 years old and inimmaculate condition, here it is in Cairo having being moved there at some point from Samarkand.Again without seeing the film and thus the original Vulgate itself, one can imagine the extreme sense ofveneration believers must have in being able to see and touch such a manuscript. In that, this filmcannot fail to have a powerful impact on Muslims in particular by connecting them to places, texts andevents that resonate powerfully in the collective historical consciousness of the Muslim world.