Exposing the lie of variant in Qur’an 2: 238 (about ‘Asr prayers)
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
In his bulk of lies on Qur’anic variants Sam Shamouns refers to the case of Surah 2 Verse 238 and tries to make an issue of what he calls the missing part on ‘Asr prayers.
He quotes two narrations from Muwatta of Malik; one about Aisha (RA) and another about Hafsa (RA), the Mothers of the Believers. In the following lines we analyze the truth about each of these narrations.
Narration from ‘Aisha (RA):
In Muwatta of Malik we read;
Abu Yunus, the freed slave of A’isha, umm al-muminin, said, ”A’isha ordered me to write out a Qur’an for her. She said, ‘When you reach this ayat, let me know, “Guard the prayers carefully and the middle prayer and stand obedient to Allah.” ‘ When I reached it I told her, and she dictated to me, ‘Guard the prayers carefully and the middle prayer and the asr prayer and stand obedient to Allah.’ A’isha said, ‘I heard it from the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace.’ ” (Muwatta Hadith 288)
Apparently it seems to ‘Aisha Qur’an 2: 238 had some additional words ‘and the asr prayer’ that are not found in the established text.
Consider the following points;
‘Aisha (RA) added the words as an exegesis:
The evidence is;
1- Firstly the statement ‘When you reach this ayat, let me know …’ itself shows that the verse was known without any explicit reference to the ‘Asr prayers. And because to ‘Aisha (RA) the verse actually was about ‘Asr prayers so she wanted it to be clearly stated in her personal copy as a commentary.
2- The words about ‘Asr prayers are not a variant but an exegetical addition. Arabic letter ‘waw’ is not merely used as a conjunction to distinguish the words before and after as some people have contended but also for elucidation. Ibn Kathir writes;
“Evidence that it (waw) is not necessarily used for distinction is many folds; … the letter may just have been used as ‘zaida’ (letters that do not give any additional meaning) as used in Qur’an 6:55 and 6: 75. Or just as an adjective conjunction and not conjunction of nouns, as used in Qur’an 33: 40 and Qur’an 87: 1-4.”
He then gives an example from great Arabic grammarian, Sibwiya who termed the following sentence syntactically correct.
مررت بأخيك وصاحبك
“’I passed by your brother and (wa) friend,’” even though ‘brother’ and ‘friend’ refer to the same person.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir 1/652 under 2: 238)
Even in English the usage of ‘and’ like in the above translation does not imply variance.
3-Following narration also proves this;
عن حميدة ابنة أبي يونس مولاة عائشة قالت: أوصت عائشة لنا بمتاعها، فوجدت في مصحف عائشة:”حافظوا على الصلوات والصلاة الوسطى وهي العصر وقوموا لله قانتين”.
Hamidah the daughter of Abi Yunus, the freed slave of ‘Aisha (RA), narrated: ‘Aisha willed for us her belongings so we found in her copy of the Qur’an: ‘Guard the prayers carefully and the middle prayer, and that is ‘Asr, and stay obedient to Allah.’ (Tafsir Tabari 5/173 Narration 5393)
Clearly the words وهي العصر “and that is ‘Asr” show that there were of exegetical nature and not a part of the actual text of the Qur’an.
Note that the narrator of this narration is Hamidah, daughter of the very person who was asked to write the Qur’an for ‘Aisha (RA) in the narration of Malik.
4- The following narration from the nephew of ‘Aisha (RA) also tells us the same;
عن القاسم بن محمد، عن عائشة في قوله:” الصلاة الوسطى”، قالت: صلاة العصر.
It is narrated from Qasim bin Muhamamd from ‘Aisha (RA) about the saying of Allah; ‘the middle prayer.’ She said; ‘[this is] ‘Asr prayer.’ (Tafsir Tabari 5/175 Narration 5396)
Had the words about ‘Asr actually been a part of the Qu’anic text there was need of her to explain the words preceding the alleged addition. Also if it had some other meaning then ‘Aisha (RA) would have not explained it like this.
5- Also 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. Had she known the words as the word part of the actual Qur’anic text she would have made it known. But such a thing never happened. This supports our contention!
Narration from Hafsa (RA):
A narration very similar to that of ‘Aisha (RA) is found in the same book, Muwatta of Malik;
Narrated “Amr ibn Rafi said, “I was writing a Qur’an for Hafsa, umm al-muminin, and she said, ‘When you reach this ayat, let me know, “Guard the prayers carefully and the middle prayer and stand obedient to Allah.” When I reached it I told her and she dictated to me, ‘Guard the prayers carefully and the middle prayer and the asr prayer and stand obedient to Allah.'” (Muwatta Hadith 289)
1-, 2- Comparing the text of this narration with that of ‘Aisha (RA) above the points 1), 2) mentioned with it are valid for this report too.
3- Following report makes is a direct parallel to the narration in point 3) above and so are its implications.
عَنْ عَمْرِو بْنِ رَافِعٍ ، قَالَ : كَانَ مَكْتُوبًا فِي مُصْحَفِ حَفْصَةَ بِنْتِ عُمَرَ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا حَافِظُوا عَلَى الصَّلَوَاتِ وَالصَّلَاةِ الْوُسْطَى ، وَهِيَ صَلَاةُ الْعَصْرِ ، وَقُومُوا لِلَّهِ قَانِتِينَ
It is reported from ‘Amr bin Nafi’, he said: It was written in the manuscript of Hafsa bint ‘Umar –Allah be pleased with her- ‘Guard the prayers carefully and the middle prayer, and that is ‘Asr, and stay obedient to Allah.’ (At-Tahawi’s Ma’ni Al-Athar 1/293)
LET ME TURN THE TABLES
The above details establish the fact the alleged variant is a hoax. Moreover, we need to see that there seems no reason for any Muslim to concoct or reject the words for they do not add to or take away anything from Islamic belief system. Infact Muslims never had any difference of opinion on this issue.
Whereas concerning Bible we have some wonderful examples. While the exegetical additions of ‘Aisha (RA) and Hafsa (RA) never undermined the authenticity of the Qur’an or raised a controversy among Muslims, we have examples where supposedly such insertions caused a lot of embarrassment to the Christians.
The example of Comma Johanneum earlier discussed also is case of interest in this backdrop. Bruce M. Metzger after giving details about its absence from all the earlier manuscripts says;
“Apparently the gloss arose when the original passage was understood to symbolize the Trinity (through the mention of three witnesses, the Spirit, the water and the blood), an interpretation which may have been written first as a marginal note that afterwords found its way into the text. ” (A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament pub. United Bible Societies, Stuttgart 1975 p.716. Emphasis mine)
The fact that companions used to add exegetical words with the Qur’an is nothing strange. This was so because they were sure for the tawatur established about the actual text that the exegetical word would never be generally confused with the text. Confusion on the part of one or a few odd people does not really harm and the absolute unanimity of the Muslim Ummah over the text testifies to validity of their convictions.
On the other hand similar phenomenon raised a lot of controversies about the Christian scriptures. Even today the bulk of Christianity reads the so-called exegetical addition of 1-John 5: 7 as the supposed ‘Word of God.’ Christians are required to first clear the mess in their own home before showing ‘concern’ about others.
Like an invariable phenomenon again we find the reality of Christian scriptures exposed on the very grounds they make futile efforts to question the veracity of the Holy Qur’an!
INDEED ALLAH KNOWS THE BEST!