One Qur’an?

The common claim made by Muslims today is that there is only one Qur’an. The majority say it has come down from their prophet uncorrupted and unchanged, in word and letter. A few may admit there are some slight differences in qiraat (recitations) but the meaning does not change.

Let’s look at one example from the text of the Qur’an, and we will see that neither of these claims hold up to scrutiny.

1) Surah 85:22 – The Guarded Tablet

Is this tablet upon which the Qur’an is inscribed intrinsically or extrinsically guarded? That is to say, is it an attribute of the tablet that it is guarded, in effect guarding itself, or is it guarded by Allah?

The reason I ask the question is because there is a grammatical difference in the word guarded depending on whether you are reciting a Hafs Qur’an or a Warsh Qur’an. Below is a picture of the relevant text in both Riwayat, and you will see that the Warsh on top ends with a dammah (indicating the adjective is in the nominative case), while the lower text ends with a kasrah below the last letter (indicating the word is in the genitive case).

Ibn Kathir makes the following comment regarding an earlier word in the same Surah that has the same problem (al-majidu v15):

This word has been recited in two different ways: either with a dammah over the last letter, which is an attribute of the Lord, or with a kasrah under the last letter, which is a description of the Throne.’

The same distinction can be made of the word ‘guarded’ in v22. In the Warsh, the dammah is over the last letter, thus referring to an attribute of the tablet – it is intrinsically guarded. This must mean that the tablet exists immutably in and of itself. It needs no-one to guard it for it simply cannot be changed or corrupted, increased or decreased. It therefore must be perfectly eternal, thus claiming equality with Allah. That’s a big problem if I’m not mistaken.

In the Hafs, the kasrah is under the last letter, and therefore this indicates the word is descriptive, simply saying that the tablet is guarded. The context makes clear it is Allah who guards the tablet (a singular inscribed tablet, with a singular text) from corruption and change.

This makes much more sense grammatically, and has less problems theologically. However, there is a big difficulty logically, for the very existence of the variant in the Warsh riwayat proves the claim of a guarded tablet (if there even is one) to be false.

So, the guarded tablet has not been guarded. Just as the Muslim sources claim that Allah has not been able to preserve the Torah, Zabuur or Injil.

Why would we trust the words of a god who cannot be trusted to preserve his word?

Come to Jesus Christ. He is the incarnate Word of God, and He doesn’t change. He is the same, yesterday, today and forever. The message He gave to Abraham, and to Moses, before His incarnation, is the same message He preached during His incarnation. It is a message that is consistent and preserved uncorrupted throughout the Bible, from beginning to end, and summarised in these words:

‘Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’.

Romans 5:1