Quran and Islamic Jurisprudence – Part 16
There is a copy of an old Quran kept in the mosque of al-Hussain in Cairo. Its script is of the old style.
Manuscripts of the Quran
* In London’s museum, one can find Hazrath Uthman’s (RA) copy of Quran written on gazal skin belonging to 58 A.H. All the copies at that time were called as Uthman’s copies.
The Damascus Manuscript
* Al-Kindi (d. around 236/850) wrote in the early third century that three out of four of the copies prepared for ‘Uthman were destroyed in fire and war, while the copy sent to Damascus was still kept at his time at Malatja.
* Ibn Batuta (779/1377) says he has seen copies or sheets from the copies of the Quran prepared under ‘Uthman. He saw in Granada, Marakesh, Basra and other cities.
* Ibn Kathir (d. 774/1372) relates that he has seen a copy of the Quran attributed to ‘Uthman, which was brought to Damascus in the year 518 Hijra from Tiberias (Palestine). He said it was ‘very large, in beautiful clear strong writing with strong ink, in parchment, I think, made of camel skin’.
* Some believe that the copy later on went to Leningrad and from there to England. After that nothing is known about it. Others hold that this mushaf remained in the mosque of Damascus, where it was last seen before the fire in the year 1310/1892.
The Egyptian Manuscript
* There is a copy of an old Quran kept in the mosque of al-Hussain in Cairo. Its script is of the old style, and it is quite possible that it was copied from the Mushaf of ‘Uthman.
The Madinah Manuscript
* Ibn Jubair (d. 614/1217) saw the manuscript in the mosque of Madinah in the year 580/1184. Some say it remained in Madinah until the Turks took it from there in 1334/1915. It has been reported that this copy was removed by the Turkish authorities to Istanbul, from where it came to Berlin during World War I. The Treaty of Versailles, which concluded World War I, contains the following clause:
‘Article 246: Within six months from the coming into force of the present Treaty, Germany will restore to His Majesty, King of Hedjaz, the original Koran of Caliph Othman, which was removed from Medina by the Turkish authorities and is stated to have been presented to the ex-Emperor William II.”
The manuscript then reached Istanbul, but not Madinah.
The Samarkand Manuscript
* This is the copy now kept in Tashkent (Uzbekistan). It may be the Imam manuscript or one of the other copies made at the time of ‘Uthman.
* It came to Samarkand in 890 Hijra (1485) and remained there till 1868. Then it was taken to St. Petersburg by the Russians in 1869. It remained there till 1917. A Russian orientalist gave a detailed description of it, saying that many pages were damaged and some were missing.
* A facsimile, some 50 copies, of this mushaf was produced by S. Pisareff in 1905. A copy was sent to the Ottoman Sultan ‘Abdul Hamid, to the Shah of Iran, to the Amir of Bukhara, to Afghanistan, to Fas and some important Muslim personalities.
* One copy is now in the Columbia University Library (U.S.A.).
* The manuscript was afterwards returned to its former place and reached Tashkent in 1924, where it has remained since. Apparently the Soviet authorities have made further copies, which are presented from time to time to visiting Muslim heads of state and other important personalities.
* In 1980, photocopies of such a facsimile were produced in the United States, with a two-page foreword by Prof. M. Hamidullah. a great scholar from India, who lived in Paris.
The ‘Ali Manuscript
* Some sources indicate that a copy of the Quran written by the fourth Caliph ‘Ali (RA) is kept in Najaf, Iraq, in the Dar al-Kutub al-’Alawiya. It is written in Kufi script, and on it is written: “Ali bin Abi Talib wrote it in the year 40 of the Hijra’.
The Quran in print
The first Quran for which movable type was used was printed in Hamburg (Germany) in 1694. The text is fully vocalized. Probably the first Quran printed by Muslims is the ‘Mulay Usman edition’ of 1787, published in St. Petersburg, Russia, followed by others in Kazan (1828), Persia (1833) and Istanbul (1877). The Orientalists relied on Uthman’s copy of translation.
The Egyptian Edition
The Quranic text in printed form now used widely in the Muslim world and developing into a ‘standard version’, is the ‘Egyptian’ edition, also known as the King Fu’ad edition, since it was introduced in Egypt under King Fu’ad. This edition was first printed in Cairo in 1925/1344H. Numerous copies have since been printed.
The Sa’d Nursi Copy
Finally, the Quran printed by the followers of Sa’id Nursi from Turkey should be mentioned as an example of combining a hand-written beautifully illuminated text with modern offset printing technology. The text was hand written by the Turkish calligrapher Hamid al-’Amidi. It was first printed in Istanbul in 1947, but since 1976, has been produced in large numbers and various sizes at the printing press run by the followers of Sa’id Nursi in West Berlin (Germany).
Anatomy of Mushafs
Aya and Surah
Aya actually means ‘sign’. In technical language it is the shortest division of the Quranic text, i.e. a phrase or sentence. The revelation is guidance from God to mankind and it is therefore not at all surprising to find that its smallest divisions are called (guiding) ‘signs’.
Surah means literally ‘row’ or ‘fence’. In technical language, it is the passage-wise division of the Quranic text, i.e. a chapter or part, set apart from the preceding and following text.
(The writer is Sr. Advisor, Muslim Public Affairs Council -MPAC)