I have started this debate before and I refuted all the arguments made by Con, I am waiting for more. Before accepting the challenge, make sure that you have read the first debate (as not to repost the same baseless allegations.). Also, I expect my opponent to be more educated (in islamic sciences) than the clown in the first debate.
Link to the first debate: http://www.debate.org...
I accept the debate.
I know a little about Koranic scholarship and am interesting in researching this. Best of luck Pro.
A Short History of the compilation of the Qur'an
Although several companions had memorized the Qur'an during the Prophet's lifetime, it had not been physically compiled into one book (mus'haf). The parchments containing the verses were scattered throughout the community.
At the battle of Yamama, several memorizers of the Qur'an died. Because of his attachment to the Book of Allah, Umar then tried to convince Abu Bakr to compile it into one book as to make sure that even if all the Qurra died, they would have it in their possession. Even though Abu Bakr was opposed to this idea because the Prophet never undertook this task, he finally accepted and charged Zayd Ibn Thabit of collecting it 'from parchments, scapula, leaf-stalks of date palms and from the memories of men' (Sahih Bukhari, Kitabul Tafir, Hadith 4603)
During the conquest of Azerbaijan and Armenia, conflicts over the superiority of their recitation started to arise among soldiers from Sham (the Levant) and Iraq. Witnessing the quarrels, Hudhayfa ibn al-Yaman came back from the frontlines to report the incident to Uthman and he urged the Caliph to resolve the problem.
Following this, Uthman charged Zayd Ibn Thabit to (re)compile (with the help of a commission made of companions) the Qur'an. He did so and NONE OF THE COMPANIONS OBJECTED TO THE CONTENT OF THE QUR'AN. The final mus'haf was compared to the one made under Abu Bakr, it 'did not differ in anything'.(Mushkil al-Athar, Hadith 2645)
The Different Qira'at
We have several modes of recitation of the Qur'an coming to us with mutawatir chains of narrations going to Prophet Muhammad. This means that unless hundreds of people came together as to conspire to corrupt the content of the Qur'an, what we have must be from the Messenger of Allah.
I am going to have to pass this round, because I got lazy. Since Pro didn't open with many arguments I request that eh bolster his round 1 arguments rather than just passing the round back to me. I *will* post a complete round in the next. I will give my outline this round in order to provide Pro something to argue against.
I will address three things in my arguments:
1. Dictation of Qu'ran to Muhummad
I will argue that regardless of whether or not there was an angel Gabrielle that dictated to Muhummad, that Muhummad has *the* version of the Qu'ran that we are debating about. And that we cannot well-define what this Qu'ran even is. I will argue that the Qu'ran(s) we have today are a different compilation of texts from Mohummad and do not resemble the original's form.
2. Composition of the textual Qu'ran
I will argue against Mohummad authoring *all* of the Qu'ran, and the inherent problem of later compilations by Uthman ibn Affan et al.
3. Oral & Written Transmission
I will argue against the notion of perfect textual transmission, the existance of divergent manuscripts and the impossibility to determine whether or not the early manuscripts underwent changes due to the burning of (most) existing Codexes (which we already know are divergent).
Back to Pro!
1)I am eager to see your evidences to back this claim up.
2)You will have to explain how they are divergent and tell us what changes did Uthman made to the Qur'an.
Within this debate I will discuss three aspects of the Qu’ran
- 1. Oral Transmission
- 2. Textual Collection
- 3. Canonisation
To win this debate I intend to demonstrate at least 1 of 2 things:
- 1. It’s impossible to demonstrate the Quran was well-preserved
- 2. The Quran has been changed
Demonstrating either of these contentions are sufficient to negate the resolution, which requires Pro to demonstrate the Qu’ran was well-preserved.
What is the Quran
This is not a trivial question. The Islamic answer would be along the lines of “The message of Allah as revealed to him”, thus a verbatim depiction of this. However we are not obliged to accept this presupposition. Thus, for the purpose of this debate, the “Quran” is the earliest form of what Mohammad claimed was revealed to him, regardless of whether or not it actually was.
This seems reasonable enough for the purposes of this debate. Thus now we must apply this to what I am expected to show this debate, which will be that the Qu’ran as defined cannot be shown to be the message of Muhammad. Muslims generally believe the Qu’ran is free of corruption and is verbatim what was revealed to Muhammad, thus the standards for affirming ‘well-preserved’ are far higher than would generally be accepted for other texts, since even a missing sura, or changes in the meaning would constitute serious changes within the Qu’ran to those it’s relevant to.
Pro is correct in affirming that the Qu’ran existed almost/completely entirely oral tradition in the early years, thus the Qu’ran existed predominantly in human memory. Muhummad himself was illiterate and it would have been strange to write anything down during the time of Muhummad anyway since it would never be regarded as a complete text (since it was expected Muhummad would receive further revelations).
Moreover we are left wondering about the reliability of the Quran as it was passed through Muhammad’s lifetime. Did Muhammad dictate to a handful, who dictated to others, and so on and so forth, or did Mohammed dictate to many>
The problem of the former is we are left with one or a handful of people’s recollection of memorised portions, of which any errors would be passed down to the next generation, and so on. Thus a rapid accumulation of errors would result. The problem here is that we cannot hope to verify how reliable these earliest oral traditions were to the Qu’ran as Muhummad has it. We know that branching transmission accumulated errors in this fashion from other branching fields, such as with the spread of manuscripts and accumulation of errors in the New Testament.
Thus, even if there were hundreds of people at one point who had the Quran memorised, they would be memorised from the same sources of error (copying a corrupt file on your computer a million times will give you a million corrupt copies).
Collection of the Qu’ran
The Qu’ran was revealed in a disjointed manner, and some Suras were only (allegedly) revealed to Mohummad shortly before his death, thus the Qu’ran existed amongst reciters in a similar fashion.
According to aid bin Taibit, the Battle of Yamama resulted in heavy losses of reciters of the Qu’ran, and the battle occurred only a year after the death of Muhummad. It was feared by aid bin Taibit that large portionsthe Qu’ran was lost:
“"Casualties were heavy among the Qurra' of the! Qur'an (i.e. those who knew the Quran by heart) on the day of the Battle of Yalmama, and I am afraid that more heavy casualties may take place among the Qurra' on other battlefields, whereby a large part of the Qur'an may be lost. Therefore I suggest, you (Abu Bakr) order that the Qur'an be collected."”
Regardless of whether or not large portions of the Quran was lost is besides the point. The minimal point here is that the Qu’ran was not expansive and sound enough at the time that it could take major losses of reciters without a strong possibility of portions being lost. Thus we can be reasonably confident that there is a strong possibility of loss not only during this battle, but in via. other methods as well. The last portion of the quote affirms that only one person was known to possess the short final Sura, thus the Qu’ran must have been in a fragile state.
“until I found the last verse of Surat at-Tauba (repentance) with Abi Khuzaima al-Ansari, and I did not find it with anybody other than him”
Pro argues that the test we have today is the Uthman canonisation, but does not demonstrate this. Our earliest complete manuscripts of the Qu’ran are 150-300 years removed from the originals, and we cannot state with confidence what happened in the interluding period. Moreover there is no evidence of the Qu’ran existing in complete written form until the last decade of the 7th century.
There would have been significant motivation for changes to be induced as well, given that Islamic missionaries has to contend with Christian & Jewish traditions, for which we already have examples of motivated changes.
- 1. http://www.usc.edu...
- 2. http://en.wikipedia.org...
- 3. "Towards a Prehistory of Islam," Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, vol.17, Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 1994 p. 108.
'Muhummad himself was illiterate and it would have been strange to write anything down during the time of Muhummad anyway since it would never be regarded as a complete text (since it was expected Muhummad would receive further revelations)'
At the time of the Prophet, the Qur'an was written down (by his scribes), but it was not compiled into one single book. This is well known. I do not understand the underlined part, are you referring to abrogation? Why would it be strange to write down the revelation?
'Did Muhammad dictate to a handful'
Muhammad recited the Qur'an to his followers and he dicatated it to his scribes.
'we are left with one or a handful of people’s recollection of memorised portions'
This is simply not true. Several companions knew the whole Qur'an by heart (they learned it directly from the Prophet Muhammad, the reference is in the first debate). In addition, the other muslims knew portions of it.
'they would be memorised from the same sources of error'
All the different Qira'at can authentically be traced back to the companions, you have to prove that they (being the sources of error according to you) wrongly recited the Qur'an.
'It was feared by aid bin Taibit that large portionsthe Qu’ran was lost'
That is not what the hadith says, more heavy casualties may take place among the Qurra' on other battlefields, whereby a large part of the Qur'an may be lost. As I mentioned before, several companions who knew the whole Qur'an were still alive. The narration says that heavy casualities MAY take place on OTHER battlefields, the sahabas were afraid that certain portions of it may be lost IF there are more casualties among the Qurra, it does not say that large parts were lost. (You did not read the first debate and my intro...)
'The last portion of the quote affirms that only one person was known to possess the short final Sura, thus the Qu’ran must have been in a fragile state.'
“until I found the last verse of Surat at-Tauba (repentance) with Abi Khuzaima al-Ansari, and I did not find it with anybody other than him”
Narated By Kharija bin Zaid : Zaid bin Thabit said, "When the Qur'an was compiled from various written manuscripts, one of the Verses of Surat Al-Ahzab was missing which I used to hear Allah's Apostle reciting. I could not find it except with Khuzaima bin Thabit Al-Ansari, whose witness Allah's Apostle regarded as equal to the witness of two men. And the Verse was: "Among the believers are men who have been true to what they covenanted with Allah." (Volume 004, Book 052, Hadith Number 062)
When Zaid bin Thabit was compiling the Qur'an, he did not merely rely on the memory of the compagnions; for each single verse, he needed a written manuscript (as to physically confirm the existence of the verse) and the testimony of companions aknowledging that they knew the verse by heart. In this case, even though the verse was known by those who had memorised it, he could only find the MANUSCRIPT with Khuzaima bin Thabit Al Ansari.
As for the Canonisation, you simply discard our oral tradition which confirms the conservation of the Qur'an. If somebody had tried to corrupt the Qur'an, it would have been authentically reported by numerous narrators.
Note back to my two target points:
1. It’s impossible to demonstrate the Quran was well-preserved
2. Qu’ran has been changed
Pro’s opening round and subsequent rounds have mainly been charged with rebutting the second point. However, even if this point is true, that is not sufficient to carry the resolution – that the Qu’ran is well-preserved. Moreover there is no contest by Pro on the standard he needs to achieve to carry the resolution, thus we can consider that point conceded. Thus I will analyse my opponent’s arguments so far.
Reliability of Oral Tradition
Pro holds very strongly to the notion that the oral tradition and capability of memorisers, however if it this really was the case then we would expect the personal copies that survived (which would have been derivative from the memorisers, or Mohummad’s scribes) to virtually all be perfect, verbatim. We cannot test for this the way we like since Ulthman had ordered the destruction of all other manuscripts, but we the personal copies we are aware of did contain deviations in vowel usage, the order or suras and the inclusion of certain suras.
For example, the Abdullah ibn MasF3;ud’s codex was missing the 1st, 113th and 114th suras. Note that Abdullah ibn MasF3;ud was one of Muhummad’s earliest converts who knew seventy suras himself from Muhummad.
Other manuscripts are known to contain numerous variations form the Uthmanic text, for example the recently discovered Sana'a manuscript contains the standard Uthmanic Text at the beginning and contains numerous variations in the latter portion. This is particularly impressive since it is one of the oldest known manuscripts we have, with the parchment itself dating to before 671 AD.[1,2]
Pro would have to demonstrate that these both these reciters AND Mohummad were essentially perfect in their recall of the Qu'ran, and that this message was essentially set in stone before the collection under Uthman occurred.
What was written in the Qu’ran simply can not the Qu’ran that was known in oral traditions, we know this because the Qu’ran we had then was originally composed in an imprecice form of early Qu’ranic Arabic. The language lacked the diacritical marks necessary to pronounce and understand the meaning of the verses (as Muhummad had them). Thus passages could be both read and interpreted a plethora of ways. The introduction of diacritical marks and voweling marks which added the necessary precision did not perfected until the middle of the ninth century, two centuries removed from the time of Mohummad.
Thus, the message of the Qu'ran as dictated by Mohummad cannot be said to be preserved in the Qu'rans we can buy today. Moreover we have good reason to think numerous changes did occur, such as is seen in the Sana'a manuscript such as the Imam hafs, Imam Warsh, Qulan, al-Duri, Al-Suri, Hismam etc., all of which are in use in parts of the world today.
History of the Quran
I have no objections here. I could concede all of this and it wouldnt help Pro advance his case. It appears to be historically accurate according the Hadithspresented anyway. While the transmission of the Qu'ran is relatively conservative after the 12th century, the transmission of the Hadiths was almost certainly not conservative. Thus I put to Pro, how can he claim that the Hadiths from which he is presenting evidence is accurate>
For example historian John Esposito put it:
"Modern Western scholarship has seriously questioned the historicity and authenticity of the hadith...the bulk of traditions attributed to the Prophet Muhammad were actually written much later."
Thus his arguments are only as good as the evidence he presents, which is itself dubious.
Pro makes no arguments that the Qu'ran was transmitted and preserved between the period of compilation, to it's textual composition and transmission. Thus Pro has yet to present a complete case and thus has failed his BoP so far.
3. Esposito, John (1998).
First of all, I would like to mention that you have very little grasp of this subject. As you admitted in the comment section, 'I only read about Quranic history when I started this debate. I know a lot more now that I did 1 week ago,' you 'knowledge' is very limited.
With all the thousands of Muslims alive at the time, if there were people corrupting the Qur'an, we would surely have mention of it in our oral tradition. It seems to me that you do not understand the sciences of hadith very well.
I have adressed Ibn Mas'ud's Codex in my first debate, I will not repeat myself.
You said ' The language lacked the diacritical marks necessary to pronounce and understand the meaning of the verses' but you did not mention the reason for this. In the early days, people knew the Quran by hear, they did not need the the diacritical marks. When you said that 'passages could be both read and interpreted a plethora of ways', that is true if you do not know the Qur'an and that was the reason why diacritical marks were added: to help the new converts.
The uppertext of the Sana'a manuscripts does not differe (in recitation) from the Uthmanic copies, but the lower one does. Here are quotes from scholars in the field:
'Jones admits there have been 'trifling' changes made to the Uthmanic recension. Khalidi says the traditional Muslim account of the Koran's development is still more or less true. 'I haven't yet seen anything to radically alter my view,' he says. [Jones] believes that the San'a Koran could just be a bad copy that was being used by people to whom the Uthmanic text had not reached yet. 'It's not inconceivable that after the promulgation of the Uthmanic text, it took a long time to filter down.' (http://en.wikipedia.org...)
It should al so be noted that the story was blown out of proportion:
' Although the Yemeni authorities' openness proved a boon to scholarship, they were to be punished for it. The American media amplified the erroneous words of G. Puin, purveying a narrative that belittled Yemen and misrepresented the work done there. The Arab press in turn exaggerated the American story'
It is funny that you mentioned the Qira'at (of Imam Hafs, Qaloon, etc...) because in fact, it is an argument agaisnt you for two reasons:
1. Read my post in Round 2
2. If Uthman burned all the other manuscripts to limit the numbers of variantions, why do these Qira'at still exist? The answer is that they were originally included in the manuscripts. (It amazes me that you are debating me and that you have no idea about this). Go read on the 7 ahruf.
You have quoted Esposito, but that is nothing new to me. The bulk of the narrations were rejected by Muslim Scholars and only thousands were accepted as having an authentic isnad (out of hundreds of thousands).
Here is what scholars have to say about hadith:
"Work with the narrative sources, both those that have been available to historians for a long time and others which have been published recently, made it plain that their wholesale rejection as late fiction is unjustified and that with a judicious use of them, a much more reliable and accurate portrait of the period can be drawn than has been realized so far." (http://en.wikipedia.org...)
"The mere fact that ahadith and asanid were forged must not lead us to conclude that all of them are fictitious or that the genuine and the spurious cannot be distinguished with some degree of certainty."
Conclusion: our oral tradition is not dubious.
You said that we do not have early manuscripts. Here is one that is from the time of the Khulafa ar Rashidoon ('20-40 years of the death of Islam’s Prophet Muhammad'):
It contains about 85% of the text of the Qur'an!
I thank garet for this debate, it was short and interesting. I am going to separate this round into two portions. First I will assess Pro’s positive case, then I will assess my negative case. This will be important for voters to assess who won this debate.
Burden of Proof Analysis
Pro drops all my points regarding analysis of the burden of proof, thus Pro is forced to comply by the standards I outlined that he must meet in order to show the Qu’ran was “well-preserved”.
It is my position that this is a burden that Pro has not, and simply cannot meet within this debate.
Do I even need to explain this one? Pro attacks my knowledge of Qu’ranic history and cites things I said outside of this debate. While this is an obvious ad hominum, it is also a character assassination. If Pro has problems with what I said, then he should show how what I said is unsound. Arguments and evidence are what matter in a debate.
Pro doesn’t contest my definition of what the “Qu’ran” is (as is what was dictated by Muhummad), thus Pro needs to show that the Qu’ran we have today is essentially the same as the Qu’ran Muhummad dictated to his followers.
Pro has only really argued for a precise compilation of the first text, and thus even if we accept all of Pro’s arguments he has not in principle shown the Qu’ran is well-preserved. Pro’s only arguments against change are the controversy that intentional changes upon compilation would lead to, yet we are not committed to believe there were many/any intentional changes.
Pro then made arguments for there existing chains of recitations but does not allude to their accuracy and reliability. I can readily concede that generally no intentional changes were made but that does not at all demonstrate the Qu’ran was well-preserved as he has yet to account for the natural degradation of oral transmission. He simply assumes it is accurate but does not demonstrate it.
Pro agrees that the Qu’ran, according to our sources, was largely/most entirely oral in it’s nature. Pro simply doesn’t answer to my point. IF this early oral tradition from Muhummad to his early followers and communities was accurate, THEN we would expect virtually no discrepancy amongst the early versions of the Qu’ran at the time. Pro simply handwaves this point despite the fact that Uthman burned all the variant versions that existed at the time when he compiled the Qu’ran into a single text/oral tradition/whatever.
We simply wouldn’t expect variations IF oral tradition was as reliable as Pro claims it to be.
Fragility of Qu’ran
I will concede my inaccuracies with the interpretation of what the Hadith says on Zaid’s narration regarding him fearing portions of the Qu’ran may be lost.
However, even considering this, my original point stands. The Qu’ran would not be in such a vulnerable state that other battles would cause loss of significant portions of it if it was very widespread and if it was sound. Even if the compilation was based on manuscripts, it means we are relying upon the accuracy of these written manuscripts (which is already dubious) and the accuracy of the oral traditions at the time.
Remember, I am not advocating for intentional changes, as a plethora of unintentional errors inevitably creep in any copying & transmission process, this includes in computing.
Reliability of Textual Composition
One thing that’s probably worth pointing out is that the textual criticism of the Qu’ran is nowhere near as advanced as in other fields, such as is known in New Testament scholarship. Thus the study of these variant versions is in their infancy. Given this to be the case, Pro cannot in principle argue that the Qu’ran we have today is indeed the Qu’ran as dictated by Muhummad.
Pro concedes my point that the original Arabic of the Qu’ran (as written) was without diacritical marks, I made further points that the original Qu’ran lacked voweling and other punctuation. To give readers a perspective of what this would entail, the sentence I just typed would look something like this:
Clearly, each word can be read a multitude of ways depending on the voweling usage. While I myself do not understand Arabic, one example I could find was:
“For example, the wordقيل (he said), without diacritical marks would look like this: ڡٮل. According to the claims of Orientalists, a reader can then read the word as فيل (elephant), قبل (before), or قَبّل (he kissed). Clearly, reading such different words would have a huge difference in meaning. “[http://www.ummah.com...]
Pro argues that the Qu’ran was primarily carried by oral tradition but this is a concession. If relying on oral tradition then there is no record of what the oral tradition was 100 years earlier, since any changes would be lost to memory. This is not the case with written tradition. Thus Pro cannot in principle affirm the Qu’ran was well-preserved in the period before the Arabic of the Qu’ran gained sufficient precision that we could track changes that could have occurred.
“[Jones] believes that the San'a Koran could just be a bad copy that was being used by people to whom the Uthmanic text had not reached yet. “
How convenient. Between the lines, Pro concedes that the lower text one of the earliest codexes we have of the Qu’ran contains a significant number of deviations from the current Qu’ranic text. Given that Pro has presented no textual criticism of his own to show that this was the exception, and not the norm then my points here stand.
Abdullah ibn Mas’ud’s & Codex
Pro drops my points that this codex also contains many significant variants.
Pro argues that 7 mutually exclusive readings somehow is not an argument against the preservation of the Qu’ran. I have no idea how Pro can claim to have the original meaning of the Qu’ran as dictated by Muhummad if we have seven different versions of it. Ironically many of the variants that are known between for example the Imam Hafs (the most common version used today) and Imam Warsh) are because of variants in application of diacritics and voweling. Which affirms my earlier point regarding lack of precision of the written Qu’ran when it was composed.[http://www.answering-islam.org...]
Reliability of the Hadiths
Pro agrees that most Hadith are of unreliable origins. But makes no case that the Hadiths he uses in this debate are of reliable origins. I could freely concede that there is some truth within the Hadiths, but it must overcome all the same problems the Qu’ran has:
- 1. Was genuinely composed
- 2. Was well-preserved in oral and written tradition to this day
Given that we have no taboo on forging the Hadiths as we do the Qu’ran itself, clearly and evidentially as Pro shows, the Hadiths are of much more dubious origins. The science of the Hadith only works on assumptions of who was alive and what the chain of oral tradition was, but makes very little empirical justification for *how* reliable they are. We simply do not have the manuscripts and textual criticism to say so.
I made the argument regarding complete manuscripts, thus Pro’s argument here with other manuscripts is a strawman. Furthermore I could find no textual criticism literature on either the manuscripts presented by Pro (one was only discovered 2 months ago, so this is understandable), the one discovered earlier however according to Pro’s source:
“Damaged or lost folios were rewritten and added to the codex later and they are clearly of a different hand.
It is extensively dotted perhaps by a later hand. The letters contain vowel marks in the form of red dots according to the method of Ab$3; al-Aswad al-DuF2;alī (d. 69 AH / 688 CE). “
Clearly this manuscript has undergone several changes, thus the reliability of the Qu’ran when it was originally written is unestablished.
Moreover, Pro concedes there were numerous variants in existence during the Uthmanic days. Thus, how can Pro argue that the canonised Qu’ran is reliable if these variants, all of which are also linked to Muhummad, still differ!
Pro has set no standard of evidence for himself, no goalposts, and has forwarded only a minimal positive case. Thus Pro already loses this debate purely on burden of proof grounds. Thanks for the debate.