Let Me Rephrase That!

A Harvest of Contradictions

The first "official" Koran was compiled after the Prophet's death by a scribe by the name of Thabit, who was urged to do so by the successor of the Prophet as leader of the believers, after the death of many of the best memorizers of the Koran at the battle of Yamaha during the so-called War of the Apostates, as were called those who rebelled against Muslim rule after the death of the Prophet Muhammad.

Narrated Zaid bin Thabit Al-Ansari who was one of those who used to write the Divine Revelation:

Abu Bakr sent for me after the (heavy) casualties among the warriors (of the battle) of Yamama (where a great number of Qurra (reciters of the Koran) were killed). Umar was present with Abu Bakr who said, “Umar has come to me and said, ‘The people have suffered heavy casualties on the day of (the battle of) Yamama, and I am afraid that there will be more casualties among the Qurra' (those who know the Qur'an by heart) at other battle-fields, whereby a large part of the Qur'an may be lost, unless you collect it. And I am of the opinion that you should collect the Qur'an.’"

Abu Bakr added, "I said to Umar, 'How can I do something which Allah's Apostle has not done?'"

Umar said (to me), "By Allah, it is (really) a good thing." So 'Umar kept on pressing, trying to persuade me to accept his proposal, till Allah opened my bosom for it and I had the same opinion as Umar.

(Zaid bin Thabit added:) Umar was sitting with him, Abu Bakr, and was not speaking to me).

"You are a wise young man and we do not suspect you (of telling lies or of forgetfulness): and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah's Apostle. Therefore, look for the Qur'an and collect it (in one manuscript)."

By Allah, if he (Abu Bakr) had ordered me to shift one of the mountains (from its place) it would not have been harder for me than what he had ordered me concerning the collection of the Qur'an. I said to both of them, "How dare you do a thing which the Prophet has not done?"

Abu Bakr said, "By Allah, it is (really) a good thing." So I kept on arguing with him about it till Allah opened my bosom for that which He had opened the bosoms of Abu Bakr and Umar. So I started locating Quranic material and collecting it from parchments, scapula, leaf-stalks of date palms and from the memories of men (who knew it by heart).

I found with Khuzaima two Verses of Surat-at-Tauba which I had not found with anybody else, (and they were): "Verily there has come to you an Apostle (Muhammad) from amongst yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty He (Muhammad) is ardently anxious over you (to be rightly guided)" (9:128)

The manuscript on which the Quran was collected, remained with Abu Bakr till Allah took him unto Him, and then with 'Umar till Allah took him unto Him, and finally it remained with Hafsa, Umar's daughter.

Bukhari 60.201

The contradictions in the Koran were evident early on. Umar asked Thabit about these. He replied that it was not up to him to change the hearsay evidence he had collected about what the Prophet preached Allah had revealed to him via the angel Gabriel.

The final official version of the Koran was rushed into production, for reasons explained in the following hadith, during the Caliphate of Uthman, the third caliph:

Narrated Anas bin Malik:

Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were Waging war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur'an, so he said to Uthman, "O chief of the Believers! Save this nation before they differ about the Book (Quran) as Jews and the Christians did before."

So Uthman sent a message to Hafsa saying, "Send us the manuscripts of the Qur'an so that we may compile the Qur'anic materials in perfect copies and return the manuscripts to you."

Hafsa sent it to Uthman. Uthman then ordered Zaid bin Thabit, Abdullah bin AzZubair, Said bin Al-As and Abdur Rahman bin Harith bin Hisham to rewrite the manuscripts in perfect copies.

Uthman said to the three Quraishi men, "In case you disagree with Zaid bin Thabit on any point in the Qur'an, then write it in the dialect of Quraish, the Qur'an was revealed in their tongue."

They did so, and when they had written many copies, Uthman returned the original manuscripts to Hafsa.

Uthman sent to every Muslim province one copy of what they had copied, and ordered that all the other Qur'anic materials, whether written in fragmentary manuscripts or whole copies, be burnt.

Said bin Thabit added, "A Verse from Surat Ahzab was missed by me when we copied the Qur'an and I used to hear Allah's Apostle reciting it. So we searched for it and found it with Khuzaima bin Thabit Al-Ansari. (That Verse was): 'Among the Believers are men who have been true in their covenant with Allah.'" (33:23)

Bukhari 61.510

It was left to future generation of scholars, most of them from the eight to eleventh century, to review the document which the eminent English historian Thomas Carlyle [1795 - 1881] described as "a confused, jumble, crude, incondite, endless iteration…" to come up with a list of revelations, an inventory which is still being argued over fourteen centuries later as to which verses were totally or partially abrogated by something Allah revealed subsequently.

The Koran is very much a hodgepodge of paragraphs or verses called ayats, most of which bear little resemblance in whatever translation you consult to what we understand as a verse i.e. "writing arranged with a metrical rhythm, typically having a rhyme".

The Bible, the King James Version, is about 791,328 words, more than 10 times the number of words in the Koran. It covers a period of more than a thousand years and contains a cast of thousands. For such a monumental work it is surprisingly well ordered.

The Koran, on the other hand, is the inspiration of just one man, from revelations ostensibly from God communicated over a period of just twenty-three years between 610 and 632 A.D. inclusively. Unlike the Bible, the Koran is somewhat disorganized. There is no timeline. The only allowance given to any kind of order is the sequencing of most of the 114 surahs i.e. chapters from longest to shortest and a determination made by scholars as to what surahs were received during the Prophet's time in Mecca, before he was run out of town.

God's Messenger was forced to flee for his life, in part, for insisting that all would join their forefathers in Hell unless they became Muslims, and for what the leadership of the city saw as a ploy by their kin to rule over them by declaring himself the Almighty's ultimate spokesperson, with the immense power that conveyed.

The fear that Muhammad wanted to rule unopposed would prove a fear well-founded after the Prophet arrived in Medina where he was welcomed by the Jews and Arabs of the oasis city who were receptive to a mediator to settle disputes.

33:36 It is not up to any believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have passed a judgement, to have any choice in their affairs. Whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger have gone astray in a manifest manner.

The Before and After Solution

The revelations received during the Prophet's stay in Medina, which became his home and powerbase until his death, are known as the Medinan surahs: 2, 3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 13, 22, 24, 33, 47, 48, 49, 55, 57, 58, 59, 60, 61, 62, 63, 64, 65, 66, 76, 98, 110.

Scholars are in general agreement that the Medinan chapters supersede Meccan surahs, not only because of the timeframe in which there were received, but also because it was at Medina that Allah communicated his more obdurate instructions such as to kill the pagans and to give Christians and Jews the option of paying the jizya, a poll tax to avoid converting (more about this tax in the chapter Verse of the Tax). In the Medinan surahs it is clear that Allah has undergone a transformation and is no longer the sometimes-tolerant deity whom His Messenger introduced to his Meccan kin.

Some commentators further divide the Medinan beginning with Allah's  sanctioning of total war against the infidels i.e. the polytheists followed by His endorsement of a war against the Jews. They point to the attack on Khaibar as that turning point.

I would add a third defining moment, and that would be Allah's sanctioning of attacks on Christians with the Koran's account of the march on the Byzantium settlement of Tabuk and the destruction of the  Christian mosque of Medina.

Ascertaining from which period in the Prophet's life a revelation was received is important in determining if something Allah revealed is still valid or has been abrogated i.e. replaced by a subsequent revelation, but it is not, as you will discover, the only criteria.