Examples of Variants in Early Qurans

I'm currently at an inaugural meeting of IQSA, the International Qur'anic Studies Association. Fascinating research is being conducted by scholars of many religious backgrounds on the Qur'an. Two scholars that I highly respect, Keith Small and Daniel Brubaker, are here. Both focus on textual variants in Quranic manuscripts.

Instead of keeping their research to myself, I'm adding one of Daniel Brubaker's articles to my blog. Be sure to follow their work if you are interested in Quranic variants! The original article can be found here: http://iqsaweb.wordpress.com/2013/07/01/kalala/

Also, read Keith Small's groundbreaking work here:
Textual Criticism and Qur'an Manuscripts

Partial taping on kalāla in one early muṣḥaf

The earliest Qur’āns represent a tangible anchor to the early history of Islam. Some of the manuscripts we have today are very early, in one case having been radiocarbon-dated with 99.2% probability to 675.5 AD.[1]  In my forthcoming doctoral dissertation, I explore the range and types of scribal change that exist in eleven early Qur’āns or groups of manuscripts, including some discussion of the type of textual treatment I mention below.

SOURCE: Tayyar Altıkulaç, Al-Mushaf Al-Sharif Attributed to Uthman Bin Affān: The Copy at Al-Mashhad Al-Husayni in Cairo / Edited by Tayyar Altıkulaç; Foreward by Halit Eren.– Critical Ed., 2 vols. (Istanbul: Organisation of the Islamic Conference Research Centre for Islamic History, Art and Culture (IRCICA), 2009). 148.

The monumental and early Cairo muṣḥaf al-sharīf  (recently published in facsimile by IRCICA, ISBN 9789290631972, 2vol.)[2] contains in places what appears to be tape covering lines or portions of text. The purpose of this tape is unclear; one possibility related to me recently is that it may have been applied to strengthen the pages at points where overly-acidic ink had eaten through the page.[3]

On page 147 (verso), there is a single instance: the last word of line 7, kalāla of Q4:176, has been taped over in this way. There is no damage to the page evident from the facsimile on the reverse side of the page.

This particular taping has left exposed the tops of the upward-extending letters, namely, the two presumed lams and the upper tip of the presumed ta’ marbuta.  This codex is written with formal and evenly spaced letter forms most similar to those of Déroche’s B.II category.[4]

An interesting feature here is that the space between what appear to be the first and second lam is at least ten times the standard spacing between consecutive lams throughout the pages of this manuscript written by this scribe. There are two other instances of consecutive lams on this page; both are consistent with the standard spacing, which maintains a distance between consecutive lams of about one-third to one-half the width of the nib.

The kalāla of 4:176 is one of two instances of the word kalāla in the Qur’ān; the other is at verse 12 of the same sura. The word kalāla at 4:12 of this muṣḥaf (page 102 verso, possibly the work of a different scribe) is intact and original. The distance between its lams is slightly more than one nib-width.

The overwriting of kalāla at Q4:12 in BNF 328a has been noted by David Powers and forms a basis for his theory concerning the development of the doctrines of inheritance and adoption.[5] The possibility exists that what is under this tape could shed further light on Powers’ theory.

This type of taping is rare in Qur’ān manuscripts.  I have encountered it so far in only one other codex, the Sana‘ā’ muṣḥaf al-sharīf, also available in a quality facsimile edition from IRCICA (ISBN 9789290632351).[6]  The taping, unlike most scribal corrections found in the earliest Qur’ān manuscripts, appears to be a relatively modern phenomenon, perhaps within the last two-three centuries.

I was received warmly and hospitably at IRCICA in Istanbul by its Director, Dr. Halit Eren in November 2011. Dr. Eren was gracious and pleased to see scholarly interest in these early Qur’āns. In the days following my visit, I noted with curiosity the existence of these taped portions throughout this facsimile, which I had obtained from IRCICA on that trip, but did not have the opportunity to look more closely at that time. More recently, I have inquired of IRCICA about the taping in this muṣḥaf; whether the experts there know when it may have occurred or by whom, as well as whether the text underneath is known to be intact.

In addition to the two maṣāḥif mentioned above, two other early monumental Qur’ān codices have recently been published in facsimile editions by IRCICA and ISAM:

Topkapi muṣḥaf al-sharīf (ISBN 9789290631675)[7]

Istanbul muṣḥaf al-sharīf, (ISBN 9789753895231)[8]

These manuscripts are treasures and scholars working in early history of the written Qur’ān will want to be aware of them.



  1. Some people have return to know automotive title loans as having ungodly and unconscionable interest rates. There ar several articles, reviews or reports that have payday loans corona given people the inaccurate impression concerning this loan. tho' it cannot be denied that they are certain automotive title disposition firms with such varieties of interest rates, not all disposition firms ar exercise such act. really and extremely, automotive title loans became helpful to people. These loans have given them the prospect to satisfy their needs, build the desired payments and manage their current cash drawbacks. More so, they have been recognized by the government..

  2. Nabil, correct me if I'm wrong. The hadith view would say that after Uthman burning the Qur'ans there should be a single text, no further readings or variants, correct?

    However the latest work of scholars like Doroche, Brubaker show two issues with that view:
    1. The manuscripts available today show variants, even though they are dated post Uthman time.
    2. The variations go beyond just variant readings, but actually several different variations more serious.

    Am I correct?

  3. Dr. Nabeel, I would like to post your biography and some of your videos on my blog to encourage my friends. Would that be ok sir?

  4. An article already analysed these questions : M. Lamsiah, Édouard-M. Gallez, Suspicions of ideological manipulation and codicology :
 A provisional synthetic approach to the Koran, in K.-H. Ohlig & M. Gross (dir.), Die Entstehung einer Weltreligion III, Inârah-Sammelband 7, Schiler Verlag, Berlin-Tübingen, 2014.
    This aricle is available on academia.edu or on http://rootsofislamtruehistory.com/subpages/Codicology_and_suspected_verses.htm (or PDF).

  5. oh dear - 2 words.... Birmingham Codex. Oldest Quran, circa time of Muhammad pbuh - oh and guess what ... It's the same as the widely used Uthmani codex all Muslims use and memorise ... Something rarely if ever seen in the Romanised religion and heavily edited book of the Aramaic prophet of Palestine called ISA pbuh.

  6. Nabeel, Bless you my Brother! I am a Born-Again Believer and I want to share with you the most important healing scripture that brought me deliverance it is Is. 53:3-5! God has already given us healing Brother! it is a part of our Salvation, so begin to take your healing and confess the Words of healing each day over your body and read Matthew from chapter four, and you will see that it is God's will for us to BE healed--right now! I love you and you are in my prayers! Sister Denise R. Curtis, Myrtle Beach South Carolina

  7. Nabeel, our words are creative force, and just as our Lord spoke--so must we speak! Yet, it must be His Words of Life we speak, The Scriptures, our agreeing with what He has said about us! We are over-comers, We are victorious and We are Healed! Too many times as Believers, we are cheated out of our healing because we do not realize that it is already ours! The secret is in The Word of God, and in our speaking that Word over our bodies daily! if you will notice, everywhere Jesus went He healed! Where Faith was displayed, He healed!

    Matthew 4:23-24(KJV)

    And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.

    And his fame went throughout all Syria: and they brought unto him all sick people that were taken with divers diseases and torments, and those which were possessed with devils, and those which were lunatic, and those that had the palsy; and he healed them.