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An examination of 37:103 in the early qur’an manuscripts

A claim was made by some that the Samarkand codex is textually a lot different when compared the standard version of the Qur’an. A facsimile edition is available at corpus coranicum. Unfortunately, I could not get my hands on the fascimile edition published in 2004 by the Islamic University of Tashkent.

The “Uthman” qur’an in Tashkent is promoted by many scholars as if it belonged to Sayyiduna Uthman when he was killed. The truth is, it is definately not the qur’an of Uthman may Allah be pleased with him, and experts have dated this manuscript to second century of hijra. We have many other manuscripts which are far more early than the Tashkent qur’an. Also, if we base ourselves on the facsimile edition of 1905 published by Pisarev, this manuscripts contains many mistakes. So it is certainly not the qur’an which Uthman was reading when he was killed. What about the blood which is present on the manuscript? Zahid al-Kawthari rightly concludes:
وكثير من الماكرين يجترئون على تلطيخ بعض المصاحف القديمة بالدم ليظن أنه الذي كان بيد عثمان رضي الله عنه حينما قتل. وكم من مصاحف ملطخة بالدم في خزانات الكتب والله ينتقم منهم.

“Many deceivers had the audicity to stain the old mushafs with blood in order to assume that it is was in the possession of Uthman (may Allah be pleased with him), when he was killed. How many mushafs were soiled with blood in the libraries? Allah will take revenge on them.” (Al-Maqalat, al-maktaba al-tawfiqiyya p. 32)

Most early manuscripts of the qur’an can be found online on the websites of the libraries or on the website of the corpus coranicum which has a large collection of several quranic manuscripts: https://corpuscoranicum.de/handschriften/index/

Let me say first it is disappointing to only see a handful of Muslims studying qur’anic manuscripts, orthography rasm etc. while orientalists are publishing several books and articles on this topic.

Some missionairies were stating there are a lot differences when the Tashkent qur’an is compared with the qur’an we have today. An example they give is verse 37:103:
they give is verse 37:103:
-In line #2 the ‘original’ of Q37:103 has waw then mim-alif, while the modern version has fa-lam-mim-alif (see p. 67 of main text)

Now the fascimile edition of the Tashkent qur’an does contain wa ma aslama, which does not make any sense when the verse is read in context, because we know both Ibrahim and Ismail (peace be upon them) actually did submit theirselves to Allah. So this wording is simply a scribal error and this becomes clear when we take a look at other manuscripts.

Facsimile edition of Pisarev (1905)

When we compare this facsimile edition with several other early manuscripts, it is clear it was a mistake of the scribe. Moreover, the preservation of the qur’an is based on oral tradition, not on what is mentioned in unknown manuscripts. Errors in manuscripts, which is a separate topic, have been existed for a long time and were familiar to scholars. Scribes used to correct these mistakes later on. Whatever the case is, there are dozens of manuscripts that go back to the first century, stating the correct wording which is: fa-lamma aslama.

In the Tashkent copy called “al-mushaf al-imam”, published by dar tallas, Syria in 2004, with the support of the late president of the Emirates Nahayanm, the copiist did write fa-lamma but it remains unclear whether this copy was based on the original manuscript.

See p. 962 of the pdf file which is available online:

al-mushaf al-imam published by Dar Tallas, Syria (2004)

If we take a look at several early manuscripts of the first century, we see that the manuscripts did mention fa-lamma aslama, corresponding with the standard version of the qur’an. One can clearly see, the wording فلما اسلما (fa-lamma aslamaa) in verse 37:103 can be observed in the manuscripts dating from the first century, up until the second and third century. See below for such examples.

Is. 1615 I, Chester Beatty Library, Dublin

Is. 1615 I is dated to first century and one can find more information about this manuscript here.

Berlin, Staatsbibliothek: Wetzstein II 1913 (Ahlwardt 305)

Wetzstein II 1913 is dated to the second half of 1st century or early 2nd century of hijra. See here.

Kairo, al-Maktaba al-Markaziyya li-l-Maḫṭūṭāt al-Islāmiyya: Großer Korankodex (folio 788r)

The “Uthman” qur’an present in Cairo is dated to late 1st century / early 2nd century of hijra. About this manuscript, the following was mentioned:
“The verse endings and the tenth verse marker in this manuscript show striking similarity with those present in the Samarqand manuscript attributed to ʿUthmān. This suggests that these two manuscripts are probably contemporary.”

Gotthelf-Bergsträßer-Archiv: “Saray Medina 1a” (= Istanbul, Topkapı Sarayı Müzesi: M 1)

Saray Medina 1a is dated by some to the first century of hijra while others ascribe it to early second century. See here for more information.

B. L. Or. 2165, British Library, London

B. L. Or. 2165 is dated to the first century of hijra. More information about the manuscript can be viewed here:

“Based on the similarity between Arabe 328a and B. L. Or. 2165, Dutton suggests re–dating this manuscript to the time just before the Umayyad Caliph Walid (r. 86–96 AH), i.e., within the period 30–85 AH with the latter end of this time scale being safer. The last part of first century hijra dating for this manuscript was also suggested by Rabb.[9] Thus, these studies confirm the earlier datings of Karabacek and Grohmann.”

The following three manuscripts belong to a later period and one can see all manuscripts have the wording fa-lamma aslama.

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France: Arabe 333 (d)

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France: Arabe 355 (a)

Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France: Arabe 357 (folio 73v)

Now all of these manuscripts are mentioning the correct wording, so what is mentioned in the Tashkent qur’an is simply a mistake. Especially since we have far more earlier manuscripts like Saray Medina 1a, Is 1615 I, Or 2165, Wetzstein II etc that can be dated back the first century, stating all fa-lamma aslama.