THE COMPOSITION OF
THE REVEALED TEXT (5)
In our opinion, the publication of the Qur’anic text by the care of Othman had two objectives. First, by legitimizing and protecting the different readings which remained within the limit of the written text and, which have had a commonly recognized Prophetic origin, it prevents impious disputes that may arise concerning these readings. Second, by excluding all that which did not present an absolute accordance with the original, it obstructs a very grave split among Muslims and possible alteration of the text itself by the insertion of some more or less questionable variants or explanations.
This does not mean that the Othmanian edition, or its prototype, contains all the variants which were probably taught by the Prophet under the title of seven letters سبعة أحرف or seven methods of reading. If it preserved the readings that the text, in its definite state, had included, the edition excluded, on the other hand, any form transmitted by individual ways. And this fundamental principle won the agreement of companions present.
We add that the exclusion of variants from the written document does not aim the suppression of the oral usage. The rule left to those who affirmed that they had heard the Prophet reading the Qur’an in a certain manner, the liberty to follow their particular lessons under their moral responsibility, without compelling the whole community of Muslims to follow what they affirmed to have heard. This attitude was asserted by Othman himself: “As for the Qur’an, I prohibited you because I was afraid of a split among you and you can read according to the letter you want.”
Islamic Jurists have always been interested in studying those particular readings to which they always are addressing a certain sacred character. Also, these readings are still utilized by the Sunnites schools, not as a Qur’anic text but as “hadith âhâd” [hadith narrated originally by one person]. They were excluded when the Qur’an was compiled because their authenticity, under their written form, was not sufficiently verified or approved by the Prophet or his representatives. Noting that these unofficial readings do not concern all the surahs of the Qur’an or even the scope of one complete Surah.
The care which appeared to prevail in the constitution of the Qur’anic text by the companions of the Prophet was the strict exactness of every part of the Qur’an with the document first written down under the dictation of the Prophet, then recited in front of him and finally approved by him before his death. It is the absolute objectiveness that remains eternally in their honour.
If the destruction of private manuscripts seems to be excessive, it shows to what extent Othman was foreseeing and realizing the essence of matters . It is to this perceptible act, in fact, that Muslims owe the unity and the stability of their Holy Book. The introduction afterwards of different systems of exterior signs and the existence of this archaic orthography; and of superfluous letters or attached words, in all the actual copies of the Qur’an, and all that exclusively reserved to the Qur’anic writing, are an eloquent testimony of the fidelity with which this holy monument has been transmitted from generation to generation until it reached us. The whole text remains eternally as it was, defying the action of the time.
 In fact, he did not do this from his own will and without consulting the people. His successor, Ali, declared, in one of his speeches, that this rigorous measure was taken unanimously with all the companions present and “If Othman had not done it” added Ali, “I, myself, would have done it” (cf. I.A. Dawood, p. 18-22.)
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