How is the Qur'ān Preserved if it has Variant Readings - Shaykh Muhammad Bazmool
Added on 15 January 2019
Some Christians and Orientalists say that the Qur'ān has not been preserved against alteration, you have variant readings. What is your answer to this fallacy, may Allāh bless you?
Shaykh Muḥammad Bāzmūl
This fallacy has been refuted by Islamic scholars. They reply that the Qur'ān is preserved and these readings contribute to the preservation of the Qur'ān, because they are restricted and their veracity is beyond doubt due to the large number of narrations through which they have been transmitted (mutawātir). So they are part of the Qur'ān and we say: the mutawātir readings are all a part of the Qur'ān and the variations amongst them is an act of mercy from Allāh.
"And we have made the Qur'ān easy to remember, so is there anyone to remember?" [al-Qamar 54:15]
It is therefore preserved against alteration, restricted, and cannot be added to or subtracted from. These ten mutawātir readings are all Qur'ān to us, and they have been preserved. No one has subtracted anything from them or added anything to them until the present day, and their chains of narration are mutawātir all the way to the Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم) , they do not have just one chain of narration but rather, they have been conveyed by the masses from one person to another starting with Allāh's Messenger (صلى الله عليه وسلم).
Furthermore, these different readings – differing in a synonymic way – are not conflicting, contradictory or antonymic. Each one compliments the other, agrees with it, and sometimes adds extra meaning. This is in stark contrast to their gospels. The gospels of these unbelievers, as al-Juwayni, al-Qarāfi, Ibn Taymiyyah and others say, are dissimilar and full of contradictions. What is one gospel contradicts what is in another, and the content of one psalm contradicts the content of another, to the extent that the Christian scholars concluded that that these differences can neither be explained nor reconciled.
With no way out, they invented a system of Hermeneutics in which the interpretation of what is being read is according to the what the person reading it deems fit for him. In this way they opened up the doors of Subjectivism and allowed each reader to form his own interpretation.
This is something not found with us with regards to the Qur'ān, for the Noble Qur'ān, the readings, all of them have their own specific authoritative interpretations that are recognised by the scholars. It is neither proper nor allowable for anyone to come up with an interpretation that opposes the approved scholarly interpretations and explanations of the meanings of those verses.
It follows then, that the Qur'ān with its readings is not like the Bible and its conflicting gospels.
And from Allāh alone is help sought.