June 13, 2024
quran on dome of the rock 3
We established in our previous article, "The Canonization of the Qur'an" that the Arabic Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him)

We established in our previous article, “The Canonization of the Qur’an” that the Arabic Qur’an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) and it was canonized in the Caliphate of Abu Bakr (May Allah be pleased with him). We also presented a solid body of evidence in our article “The Original Qur’an” that the same Arabic Qur’an was inscribed on parchments in the Prophet’s life, though it was not in the form of a unified codex.

Western scholarship, however, continues to create myths about the origin and compilation of the Qur’an. Some of them claim that the Qur’an was originally Aramaic and created in the Syriac region. We analyzed this claim in our article “Was the Qur’an Originally Aramaic? It is allegedly said that it was the Marwanid King Al-Malik ibn Marwan, who composed the modern Arabic Qur’an. Stephen Shoemaker argues in his work “Creating the Qur’an: A Historical-Critical Study” (p.43-69):

There is in fact a substantial body of evidence, from both inside and outside of the Islamic tradition, identifying Abd al-Malik as the one who, with the assistance of al-Hajjaj, standardized the Qur’an in the unvarying form that has come down to us today. Paul Casanova and Alphonse Mingana were the first to draw our attention to this tradition, and each argued independently that it presented the most probable circumstances for the Qur’an’s standardization and canonization.” [p.43-44]

S. J. Shoemaker goes further:

“There seems to be little doubt that Abd al-Malik and al-Hajjaj played a critical role in establishing the text of the Qur’an….” [p.44]

He continues:

Al-Hajjaj deputized a committee and charged them with “inspecting all the masahif that were in private ownership, and to tear up every mushaf that differed from the new imperial standard.” [p.45]

He concludes:

Other reports from the Islamic tradition instead describe Abd al-Malik and al-Hajjaj as making considerable alterations to the Qur’anic text, even if these traditions have been largely ignored by most previous scholarship.” [p.45]

He finally remarks:

Perhaps as a part of his campaign to authorize a new imperial version of the Qur’an, Abd al-Malik and his legates first introduced the tradition of a Uthmanic Qur’an along with their codex.” [p.48]

So Stephen Shoemaker finally concludes that the tradition of Uthmanic codices was fabricated by Imam Muhammad ibn Muslim ibn Shehab al-Zohri (May Allah have mercy on him), on the order of Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan to authorize his own version of the Qur’an. This is what Dr. Jay Smith relies upon as an ‘academic research’.

Critical Examination of Shoemaker’s Claim

To critically examine Shoemaker’s claim that the Birmingham Quran manuscript and other oldest Qur’anic manuscripts were compiled during the reign of King Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, we can analyze the script and stylistic differences between these manuscripts and the inscriptions found on the Dome of the Rock, which was indeed commissioned by Abd al-Malik. This comparison reveals significant disparities that undermine Shoemaker’s assertion. Here is a detailed logical argument based on this evidence:

Canonization of the Qur'an
Birmingham Quran Manuscript in Hijazi Script
  1. Historical Context and Commissioning of the Dome of the Rock:
    • King Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, who reigned from 685 to 705 CE, is historically credited with commissioning the construction of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, completed around 691-692 CE.
    • The Dome of the Rock is notable for its extensive and intricate inscriptions, which include numerous Qur’anic verses.
  2. Script and Style of the Dome of the Rock Inscriptions:
    • The inscriptions on the Dome of the Rock are written in a highly developed form of Arabic script known as Kufic.
    • This script is characterized by its angular, elongated, and highly stylized appearance, which represents a mature stage in the development of Arabic calligraphy.
Dome of the Rock inscriptions
Dome of the Rock inscriptions
  1. The Birmingham Quran Manuscript:
    • The Birmingham Quran manuscript, radiocarbon-dated to between 568 and 645 CE, is among the oldest known Qur’anic texts.
    • This manuscript is written in the early Hijazi script, a less developed form of Arabic script that is more cursive and less uniform compared to later scripts like Kufic.
    • The Hijazi script features simpler, more utilitarian strokes, indicating it is an earlier stage of Arabic writing.
  2. Comparative Analysis of Script Development:
    • When comparing the early Hijazi script of the Birmingham Quran manuscript to the advanced Kufic script of the Dome of the Rock inscriptions, it is evident that these scripts represent different stages of development in Arabic calligraphy.
    • The early Hijazi script suggests a period closer to the lifetime of the Prophet Muhammad (570-632 CE) and the immediate post-prophetic era, aligning with the early dissemination and recording of the Qur’an.
    • In contrast, the Kufic script, used in the Dome of the Rock inscriptions, reflects a later, more sophisticated evolution of Arabic writing, likely corresponding to a period after the initial compilation of the Qur’anic text.
  3. Inferences on the Compilation Period:
    • Given the developmental trajectory from early Hijazi to Kufic script, the advanced nature of the Dome of the Rock inscriptions suggests that they were created in a period when Arabic script had already undergone significant evolution.
    • This development would not align with the initial compilation of the Qur’an, which likely used the less developed Hijazi script.
    • Therefore, the claim that the Birmingham Quran manuscript, written in early Hijazi script, was compiled during the reign of Abd al-Malik is inconsistent with the historical and scriptural evidence.
  4. Conclusion:
    • The advanced Kufic script of the Dome of the Rock inscriptions, commissioned by Abd al-Malik, and the early Hijazi script of the Birmingham Quran manuscript indicate different historical periods in the development of Arabic calligraphy.
    • The Birmingham Quran manuscript’s script points to an earlier compilation date, likely closer to the time of the Prophet Muhammad, rather than during Abd al-Malik’s reign.
    • Consequently, Shoemaker’s claim contradicts the substantial epigraphic and historical evidence, demonstrating that the oldest known Qur’anic manuscripts predate the reign of King Abd al-Malik.

This logical argument, grounded in scriptural and historical analysis, highlights the discrepancies in Shoemaker’s claim and supports the earlier compilation date of the Qur’an.

Dome of the Rock (Al-Aqsa)
Dome of the Rock (Al-Aqsa)

So today we don’t recite a Marwanid Qur’an but the original Arabic Quran revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). King Abd al-Malik and his governor of Iraq, al-Hajjaj might have played some role in cosmetic improvements of the Qur’anic script and style to facilitate the recitation for the non-Arabs, including Romans and Persians; but they did not create, compile, or compose any text of the existing Qur’an. Allah knows the best.

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