Saturday, December 30, 2023

What was the reason of confiscation of the Sana'a Mushaf (Quran) manuscript in Yemen? Is it a complex issue with multiple perspectives and ongoing debate or we are not ready to face the facts?

There is always room for disagreement on theological and historical interpretation but the Sana'a Mushaf manuscript in Yemen is a recent fact, not an opinion or interpretation.  

The question to prepare and preserve the holy text in the shape of a book was a contesting issue in history, right after the death of the Prophet (PBUH). To compile and prepare the revelations the shape of the book and preserve it for the generation to come was neither the decision of the Quranic text nor the decision of the Prophet (PBUH), but after his death, a demand had dictated it.

There was no paper at that time. To write just only one Quran, there was a need for the skins of more than 400 to 500 sheep. 
After the Battle of Mu'tah, many people who had "memorized" the Quran died. Hazrat Umar suggested to the Caliph Abu Bakr that we should compile the holly text otherwise it would be lost. Abu Bakr replied that the Prophet (PBUH) never told us to do this how we can do it? Then Abu Bakr agreed after discussion based on rational argument and he asked Zaid ben Zabit to do this job. 

The point is that the Quran was not in the shape of a book or all text was in one place or with one Katib-e-Wai, and Zaid had searched from door to door of every Katib-e-Wai, to collect all the available text. The question is how the so-called Hafizs were able to memorize it yet the holy text was not in the shape of a book? Is it not correct to suggest that Hafiz at that time meant some sura or verses as the traditions of poetry, people even in this day and age are habitual to memorize the important verses, not the whole poetry.

Moreover, the political aspect is very important. The controversy reemerged at the time of Hazrat Uthman, who was forced to appoint a committee under the leadership of Zaid ben Zabit along with  3 or 4 members of the Quresh tribes from Mecca (Muhajirun) because the accent of the Prophet (PBUH) was Meccan and Zaid was Ansar from Medina. 

The evidence to fabricate or manipulate the holly text by either party to benefit their political agenda is also an important factor. For example, When I was in search of the early Quranic manuscripts, visited Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, where Uthman ibn Affan's Qur'anic manuscripts. It is written that this is the copy that Uthman ibn Affan was reading when he was martyred. But it is also in the note that it had been prepared by Hajjaj ben Yousuf and sent to the Provinces to keep alive the memory of the caliph's assassination, and that the red spots on them were not Uthman blood as people were told but red paint by Hajjaj. (Uthman ibn Affan's Quran, p.91 Pavilion of the Sacred Relics, Topkapi Palace Museum, Istanbul, Turkey).  

The confiscation of the Sana'a Mushaf manuscript in Yemen is a complex issue with multiple perspectives and ongoing debate. Here's what we know:

Historical Context:
  • The manuscript, believed to date from the 8th or 9th century, was discovered in a mosque in Sana'a in 1972.
  • It attracted significant attention due to its variations from the standard Quranic text used today.
  • These variations sparked controversy among scholars and religious authorities, raising questions about the origin and development of the Quran.
Reasons for Confiscation:
  • Preservation: Yemeni authorities confiscated the manuscript in 1981, citing concerns about its preservation and potential misuse.
  • Religious Sensitivity: The variations in the text raised sensitivities among some Muslim communities, leading to concerns about potential manipulation or misinterpretation.
  • Academic Access: Some scholars criticized the limited access to the manuscript, hindering further research and analysis.
Current Status:
  • The manuscript remains under Yemeni government control, with limited access granted to select researchers.
  • Digital reproductions have been circulated, but the controversy surrounding its interpretation and implications persists.
7th Century Manuscripts:
  • No undisputed complete Quran manuscripts dating to the 7th century have been definitively identified.
  • Fragments and early Quranic materials exist, but establishing their exact dates and relationship to the standard text remains an ongoing area of research.
The Sana'a Mushaf manuscript and the question of 7th-century Quranic manuscripts raise complex historical, religious, and academic issues. Understanding the diverse perspectives and ongoing research is crucial for informed discussion.

Important Note:
It's important to avoid attributing definitive meanings or conclusions to the manuscript or its variations without acknowledging the ongoing scholarly debate and potential for misinterpretation. Respecting religious sensitivities and engaging in constructive dialogue based on evidence and research is critical when discussing this topic.

The decision by King Fahad of Saudi Arabia in the early 1980s to prioritize the Hafs recitation of the Quran over the Warsh recitation within the kingdom is a complex issue with multifaceted considerations, and attributing it solely to rational demand or revelation would be an oversimplification. Here's a breakdown of the factors involved:

  • Hafs and Warsh: Hafs and Warsh are two prominent traditions of reciting the Quran, each with slightly different pronunciation and intonation styles. Both trace their lineage back to early Quranic scholars and have been widely used for centuries.
King Fahad's Decision:
  • In the early 1980s, Saudi Arabia, under King Fahad, decided to standardize Quran recitation within the kingdom, favoring the Hafs tradition over Warsh. This decision aimed to achieve greater uniformity in Quranic recitation across mosques and official platforms. But Quran 10:99; 11:118 along with many more reject the idea of conformity and uphold that diversity is part of nature. 
  • Unity and Cohesion: Standardizing recitation aimed to promote national unity and religious cohesion by eliminating potential confusion or discord arising from different recitation styles.
  • Practical Considerations: Having a single standard version facilitated memorization, teaching, and printing of the Quran, streamlining religious education and practices.
  • Political and Religious Context: Some argue that the decision was influenced by the dominance of the Hafs tradition in Najd, the region where the Saudi royal family originated, and its alignment with their preferred religious interpretations.
Rational vs. Revelation:
  • Rational arguments: The decision can be seen as a rational attempt to address practical challenges and promote unity within the context of a centralized Islamic state. The concept of the Islamic state is political, not theological. The Quran 2:106 and 16:101 uphold that change and improvement are continuous processes and reject the idea of one finished product for all time to come. Therefore the demands of the social environment at every historical stage dictate the laws, rules, norms, and morals to change according to the environmental requirements.
  • Revelation-based arguments: Supporters of the decision might argue that the Hafs recitation adheres more closely to the "original" pronunciation of the Quran as revealed to Prophet Muhammad, though attributing absolute authority to either recitation as divinely dictated is a sensitive theological matter.

King Fahad's decision to prioritize Haf's manuscript was a complex political, religious, and practical issue with no single definitive explanation. Understanding the motivations behind the decision requires considering the historical context, practical considerations, and the complex interplay of religious and political factors in Saudi Arabia. Attributing it solely to rational demand or revelation would be an oversimplification and likely inaccurate.

We must not forget the fact that religious matters are often sensitive and nuanced, and respectful dialogue and consideration of diverse perspectives is crucial when discussing such topics. Today everyone inherits the religion of the family to which he or she was born. Therefore religion today is part of local culture and cannot be put to the criteria of a test to prove true or false on the scientific standards because religion is metaphysics not physics. 

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