Variant of Qur’an 33: 56 – A Myth
Mohamad Mostafa Nassar
Some Islamophobes use a narration from al-Suyuti’s al-Ittiqan to insinuate as if there was a variant in Qur’an 33:56 in the mushaf of ‘Aisha -may Allah be pleased with her. Some cults use the same report to attack the mainstream Muslim texts and scholarship.
Quoting from Abu ‘Ubayd Qasim bin Salam’s Fada’il al-Qur’an, al-Suyuti puts the narration as;
عَنْ حُمَيْدَةَ بِنْتِ أَبِي يُونُسَ قَالَتْ قَرَأَ عَلَيَّ أَبِي وَهُوَ ابْنُ ثَمَانِينَ سَنَةً فِي مُصْحَفِ عَائِشَةَ ” إِنَّ اللَّهَ وملائكته يصلون على النبي يأيها الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا صَلُّوا عَلَيْهِ وَسَلِّمُوا تَسْلِيمًا وَعَلَى الَّذِينَ يُصَلُّونَ الصُّفُوفَ الْأُوَلَ ” قَالَتْ قَبْلَ: أَنْ يُغَيِّرَ عُثْمَانُ الْمَصَاحِفَ
Humaydah bint Abi Yunus narrates: “My father who was eighty years old recited for me the verse of salutation from the Mushaf of Aisha: “Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet: O ye that believe! Send ye blessings on him, and salute him with all respect. And on those who came to the first lines of prayers.” She said, “[It was so] before Uthman changed (ghayyara) the Masahif.” (al-Ittiqan 3/82 Section 47)
The narration comes of Abu ‘Ubayd’s Fada’il al-Qur’an 1/324. It is also narrated by Ibn Abi Dawud in his Kitabul Masahif No.238
There are two issues here.
1- Did ‘Aisha –may Allah be pleased with her- actually consider the words “And on those who came to the first lines of prayers.” a part of the Qur’anic text?
2- Did Uthman –may Allah be pleased with him- actually changed the Masahif in the sense of distorting them? Why did he change the Masahif?
Authenticity of the narration:
Firstly the narration is not reliable according to the rules of reporting. It has been graded as Da’if (i.e. weak) due to the weakness of a sub narrator Muhammad bin Abi Humayd. See,
Al-Ittiqn fi ‘Uloom al-Qur’an with research of scholars at Markaz Dirasat al-Qur’ania, Saudi Ministry of Publications p.1458
Kitabul Masahif with research by Dr. Muhibbudin Wa’iz, Darul Basha’ir al-Islamiyya, Beirut, 2002 part 1.p.370
Reality of the issues:
Let me elaborate on the two issues raised on this narration.
Truth about the additional words in Qur’an 33:56:
1- The additional words i.e. “And on those who came to the first lines of prayers” were never a part of the Qur’anic text. These words are actually a Hadith of the Messenger of Allah –may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. Reports on this account come from Bara’ bin al-‘Azib and Sayyidah ‘Aisha herself –may Allah be pleased with them both.
Narrations from ‘Aisha –may Allah be pleased with her- are found in Sahih Ibn Hibban (Hadith 2163, 2164) as well but the similar words as in the narration under consideration are found in al-Mu’jam of Abu Bakr Muhammad bin Ibrahim Ibn al-Muqri’ (d. 381 A.H.).
عَنْ عَائِشَةَ قَالَتْ: قَالَ النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ: «إِنَّ اللَّهَ عَزَّ وَجَلَّ وَمَلَائِكَتَهُ يُصَلُّونَ عَلَى الصُّفُوفِ الْأُوَلِ»
It is narrated from ‘Aisha that she said: The Prophet –may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- said: “Verily Allah Almighty and His angels send blessings on (those who pray in) first lines (in salaah).” (al-Mu’jam li-Ibn al-Muqri’ Hadith 1218, Dar al-Kotob al-Ilmiyah, Beirut, 2003 p.225. The report has been classified as Sahih)
It is clear that ‘Aisha –may Allah be pleased with her- actually heard it from the Holy Prophet –may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- as a Hadith. It is thus easy to understand that she added these words to her personal manuscript with Qur’an 33:56 only because it is related to point mentioned there.
Actually it is only due to the importance of the issue Sayyidah ‘Aisha had written these words along with the verse mentioning something similar i.e. Allah and His angels sending blessings.
Ibn al-Jazri writes about the fact of companions writing additional material in their personal masahif;
“At times they used to add to the recital the commentary for clarification and explanation for they were people knowledge. As they had learnt the Qur’an from the Prophet –may Allah’s peace and blessings be upon him, so they were safe from any confusion (between the actual Qur’an and its commentary). And at times some of them would even write it along with the actual text.” (al-Nashr fil Qira’at al-‘Ashr 1/32. Also quoted in al-Ittiqan fi ‘Uloom al-Qur’an)
A similar case regarding ‘Aisha’s –may Allah be pleased with her- personal mushaf has been explained earlier.
Did ‘Uthman distort the masahif?
The second issue is, if ‘Uthman distorted the Masahif? An ordinary reader would get the impression from the wording of the otherwise dubious narration that ‘Uthman distorted the masahif. This is far from the truth!
Actually ‘Uthman –may Allah be pleased with him- involved himself with the process of doing away with anything that could give rise to controversies about the Qur’anic text as we have earlier discussed. In this case too, he was simply trying to get all the masahif uniform or confiscating and even destroying some personal masahif.
Details of his bid at changing the masahif can be understood from the following narrations.
Talking about the reaction of Ibn Masud to ‘Uthman’s afforts, Khumayr bin Malik said:
“Changes (ghayyara) in the Masahif were ordered.” (Musnad Ahmad, Hadith 3929)
And further according to Ibn Abi Dawud’s Kitab al-Masahif Abu Qilabah reports that Malik bin Anas (grandfather of Imam Malik) told him;
“When the mushaf had been prepared [‘Uthman] wrote to people of all cities: ‘I have done so and so. And I have omitted (from the mushaf) what was with me (of commentary and abrogated part), so you too erase (from the masahif) what is with you (of the same).’” (Kitab al-Masahif, Narration 75)
Even if the narration is accepted it does not put to question the stability of and uniformity of the Qur’an text with all Muslims. ‘Aisha –may Allah be pleased with her- had added the words only because they were relevant to the Qur’an and she had heard these from the Messenger of Allah –may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him. What she did was a known practice with some of the Companions, and it never caused confusion to the Muslims as a community.
And ‘Uthman –may Allah be pleased with him- did not distort the masahif, rather he simply arranged for getting the commentary notes etc. removed from the masahif to avoid any potential trouble.
in-sha’Allah some other famous lies of the kind will be responded to in coming days.
Indeed Allah knows the best!
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