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Controversies over 9:128/129

Copyright (c) 1995 Aisha Y. Musa All Rights Reserved

The history of the text the Qur'an shows that verses found at the end of Surat al-Tawba (9:128/129) are distinguished from other verses in the Qur'an by the number and variety of conflicting reports regarding their collection and placement in the text. These reports are related by such well-respected and widely accepted scholars as al-Bukhari and Jalal al-Din alSuyuti, among others. The verses are unique in two important respects. These are classical orthodox Muslim sources, not the works of heterodox, or heretical sects. Abu Abdullah Muhammad al-Bukhari (d. 256 AH/870 CE) is famous as a collector of hadiths, or traditions of Muhammad. His most famous work al-Jami al-Sahih is considered by the majority of traditional Muslims to be the most authentic collection of prophetic hadiths, and the most important book after the Quran. Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (d. 1509 CE) was renown as a scholar in a variety of disciplines who wrote many important works. The one which concerns us here is his, al-Itqan fi `Ulumil-Quran, one the most extensive works ever written on the various fields of Quranic Studies. Here, we will examine the various reports found in these and other works, related to 9:128/129, and bring out some of the questions these reports raise about the collection of the text and the criteria used to include, or exclude verses. We will consider some of the answers suggested by traditional scholarship, as well as what remains to be addressed and answered. We will see that the verses are unique in two important respects. First, it is generally agreed upon by Muslims that God determined the arrangement of the Qurans verses (al-Suyuti vol. 1, 60). But we will see that several reports indicate the placement of 9:128/129 in the written text was decided by others after Muhammad's death. Second, although other verses required a minimum of two witnesses to be accepted and written in the text, 9:128/129 was reportedly found with only one man. Accounts differ as to exactly who that man was, and as to the circumstances under which the verses were placed in the Qur'an.

But each account shows just one man reporting them. Two men whose names figure prominently in the reports we will examine are Zaid ibn Thabit and Ubayy ibn Kaab. Both of these men were from Medina, and were Muhammads chief secretaries. They were primarily responsible for writing down the verses of the Quran as they were revealed. In his History, al-Tabari reports that Ubayy was the first to write for Muhammad in Medina (vol. 9, 147). Various sources indicate that Zaid ibn Thabit was quite young at the time of the Hijra--Muhammads emigration from Mecca to Medina in 622 CEbeing only about 11. Despite his youth, Zaids intelligence and language abilities gained him a position as one of Muhammads most important secretaries. It was Zaid who was given the primary responsibility for collecting and organising the text of the Quran after Muhammads death (EI 1, viii, 1194b-1195a). The first indication of the uniqueness of 9:128/129 appears in the story related by al-Bukhari about the collection of the Qur'an during the Caliphate of Abu Bakr. After describing how Abu Bakr and `Umar convinced him to collect the Qur'an, Zaid ibn Thabit says: So I pursued collecting the Qur'an from bare palm branches, thin, flat, white stones, and the hearts of men until I found the end of Surat al-Tawba with Abu Khuzaima al-Ansari. I did not find it with anyone other than him: Indeed a messenger has come to you from among yourselves. Your suffering is hard on him... to the conclusion of Bara'a (al-Bukhari, Matn vol. 3, 225). Three versions of this account are found in al-Bukhari,in his section on the collection of the Qur'an (cited above), in his section on the scribe of the messenger, and in his section on the explanation of Surat Bara'a [al-Tawba]. Some versions say the verses were found with Khuzaima al-Ansari rather than Abu Khuzaima (alBukhari,Matn; vol. 3, 140, 226). Every history of the collection of the Qur'an quotes some version of it, making it perhaps the most repeated story on the subject. One other verse, 33:21, is the subject of a similar report mentioning Khuzaima al-Ansari. Two versions are included by alBukhari, in the discussion of the collection of the Qur'an under `Uthman, and in the section on the explanation of Sura 33 (al-Azhab). The second of these quotes Zaid ibn Thabit as saying: When we copied the pages into volumes, I failed to find a verse from Sura al-Azhab, that I used to hear God's messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, reciting. I did not find it with anyone except Khuzaima al-Ansari, whose testimony God's messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, had made as the

testimony of two men... (al- Bukhari, Matn vol. 3, 175). This account differs significantly from the account about 9:128/129 in that here Zaid says that he used to hear the messenger recite the verse in question. But when in the report regarding the end of Surat al-Tawba, he says he found it with no one else. The story about the verse in Surat al-Ahzab is the only account in alBukhari that accords special status to Khuzaimas testimony. But this is odd, because Zaid himself says he heard the verse from Muhammad, making him a second witness. A similar account, in the section on the collection of the Quran, does not mention such special status. Nor is it mentioned in any of the accounts al-Bukhari relates from Zaid about 9:128/129. It has however, on the strength of Zaids word in this single report, served to support the inclusion of these two verses in the Quran. Although it is not found in the editions of al-Bukhari consulted here, in al-Burhan fi `Ulum al-Qur'an, al-Zarkashi quotes a variant account of the collection under Abu Bakr, citing al-Bukhari as his source, which says: with Abu Khuzaima alAnsari whose testimony the prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, had made as the testimony of two men (al-Zarkashi vol. 1, 234). In the Itqan, al-Suyuti quotes the collection account from al-Bukhari as it appears in the edition cited here. But in his discussion of the number of witnesses he quotes from Ibn Ashta's Kitab al-Masahif: The people would come to Zaid ibn Thabit and he would only write a verse from two upright witnesses. Even though the end of Surat al-Bara'a was not found except with Khuzaima ibn Thabit, he said: Write it, for God's messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, made his testimony as the testimony of two men. So it was written, even though `Umar brought the verse of stoning and it was not written because he was alone (Ibn Ashta in al-Suyuti vol. 1,58). Special status allegedly accorded to Khuzaima's (or Abu Khuzaima's) testimony by the Prophet is one way in which the discrepancy in the number witnesses has been addressed. Another argument mentioned by al-Suyuti is that two witnesses meant one written and one remembered. He mentions two views of this argument. One is that writing without memory was not sufficient and the other that memory without writing was not sufficient. So, when Zaid ibn Thabit said, I did not find it with anyone other than him, it meant he did not find it in writing with anyone else (al-Suyuti; vol. 1, 58). This argument implies that it was memorized by others. But if this

was the case, and if memory and writing constituted the two required witnesses, why was there concern that Khuzaima was the only witness? We will see that this discussion of what constituted "two witnesses" takes on added significance in light of other accounts related to 9:128/129. So far, we have considered only the accounts reported in alBukhari. But what of the series of reports that mention others as the sole witness, reporting these verses under other circumstances? In the reports of Zaid ibn Thabit only Khuzaima or Abu Khuzaima is associated with 9:128/129. But a number of accounts in al-Suyuti and other sources offer quite a different story about these verses and their placement in the text. By far, the greatest number of varying accounts is found in Kitab alMasahif by Ibn Abu Dawud al-Sijistani (d. 316 AH), son of the famous hadith collector Abu Dawud, whose Sunan is one of the six canonical collections of hadith accepted by the vast majority of traditional Muslims. This important work was discovered and edited by Arthur Jeffery in the first half of this century. His main interest was in Ibn Abu Dawuds detailed listing of a number of variant Quran codices, rather than the diverse assortment of traditions regarding the collection of the text. In addition to sections on the collection's of Abu Bakr and `Uthman, Ibn Abu Dawud also includes a section about a collection done by `Umar ibn al-Khattab and a section devoted specifically to reports about verses 9:128/129. Along with several variants of the accounts recorded in alBukhari Ibn Abu Dawud includes quite a different story: On the authority of Ubayy ibn Ka`ab, they were collecting the Qur'an from the volume of Ubayy. Men were writing, while Ubayy ibn Ka`ab was dictating to them. When they reached the end of the verse in surat Bara'a {S. 9 V. 127}: Thus, God has diverted their hearts, for they are people who do not comprehend, they asserted that this verse was the last of what God, the Exalted, revealed of the Qur'an. Then, Ubayy said, "God's messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, had me recite two verses after this: Indeed, a messenger has come to you from among yourselves. Your suffering is hard on him. He is anxious over you, compassionate and merciful to the believers...", to the end of the sura. He said, "So this is the last of what wasrevealed of the Qur'an" (Ibn Abu Dawud vol.2, 30). The above is from the section on verses 9:128/129. The same story is included in the section on the collection of Abu Bakr, where it says that this occurred at that time (vol. 1, 9). This story raises some

important issues. First, it mentions neither Zaid, nor Khuzaima. Instead, we see Ubayy ibn Ka`ab as the only person who knew the verses in question. The others believed that 9:127 was the end of the sura and of the revelation. It also says that Ubayy was dictating to them from his volume (mashaf). This indicates that Ubayy not only knew the verses, but had them in writing. If Ubayy knew them and had them in his mashaf, how could Zaid find them with only Khuzaima (or Abu Khuzaima)? It is important to remember that Zaid and Ubayy were Muhammads chief secretaries and close companions. They were primarily responsible for recording the verses of the Quran, as they were revealed. It is unreasonable to think that one of them did not know what the other had recorded. It could be argued that the dictation mentioned took place based on what Zaid had already collected. But if that was the case, Zaid would have already established the authenticity and placement 9:128/129. Why then, would the writers who were taking dictation think that 9:127 was the end of the revelation? Further, Ubayy says they were the last of what was revealed. This would mean that they were revealed in Medina. But the traditionally accepted view is that they were revealed in Mecca. Al-Suyuti quotes the same story, claiming Ibn Abu Dawud as his source, with slight, but significant variations: On the authority of Ubayy ibn Ka`ab, they were collecting the Qur'an and when they reached the end of the verse in surat Bara'a: Thus, God has diverted their hearts, for they are people who do not comprehend, they thought that this was the last of what had been revealed. Then, Ubayy said,"God's messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, had me recite two verses after this: Indeed, a messenger has come to you from among yourselves..."to the end of the sura, (and he said) "Meccan." (al-Suyuti vol. 1, 61). In Ibn Abu Dawuds account, both in the section on Abu Bakrs collection, and in the section on 9:128/129, there is no mention of Ubayy saying, Meccan. The issue of when the verses were revealed is important. If they had been revealed in Mecca, can it be reasonably argued that they were known by only one manwhether Khuzaima or Ubayyfrom Medina? Would they not have been memorised, if not written, by some of the Muslims who had migrated from Mecca? Further questions are raised by two other accounts reported by Ibn Abu Dawud. n the beginning of the section on 9:128/129 he cites:

Ibn Zubair said, "Al-Harith ibn Khuzaima brought two verses from the end of surat Bara'a: Indeed, a messenger has come to you from among yourselves. Your suffering is hard on him. He is anxious over you, compassionate and merciful to the believers, until His saying, the Lord of the glorious throne, to `Umar. So he [`Umar] said, 'Who is with you in this?' He [AlHarith] said, 'I only know that I bear witness that I heard them from God's messenger, peace and blessings be upon him.' Then, `Umar said, 'And I bear witness that I heard them from God's messenger, peace andblessings be upon him.' Then he said, 'If it was three verses, I would make them a separate sura. Then, they looked for a sura from the Qur'an and attached them to it. Thus, it was attached at the end of Bara'a" (Vol. 2, 30). This story adds al-Harith ibn Khuzaima and `Umar to the list of those who reportedly knew verses 9:128/129, with `Umar supporting alHarith's testimony. If `Umar heard them from the messenger, why did Zaid reportedly find them only with Khuzaima (or Abu Khuzaima)? This again, goes back to al-Suyuti's discussion of what constituted "two witnesses." It also indicates that they used their own reasoning to decide where the verses would go in the text. In his discussion of this report, alSuyuti says, Ibn Hajar says, "This shows that they were putting together the verses of the suras according to their own reasoning [ijtihad], while the rest of the reports indicate that they did not do any of that except according to what was determined by God [tawqif]" (vol. 1, 61). The final account Ibn Abu Dawud relates regarding 9:128/129 once again credits Khuzaima ibn Thabit with reporting them, but under very different circumstances than the other accounts involving him: So, `Uthman ibn `Affan stood up and said, 'Whoever has something from the Book of God, let him bring it to us.' And nothing would be accepted until two witnesses testified to it. Then, Khuzaima ibn Thabit came and said, "I see that you left out two verse that you did not write." They said, "What are they?" He said, "I learned from God's messenger, peace and blessings be upon him, {S. 9 V. 128}: Indeed, a messenger has come to you from among yourselves. Your suffering is hard on him. He is anxious over you, compassionate and merciful to the believers...," to the end of the sura. `Uthman said, "I bear witness that they are from God. So, where do you think you should put them?" He said, "Conclude the last of what was

revealed of the Qur'an with them." So Bara'a was concluded with them (vol. 2, 31). Again, we are faced with several important issues. First, Khuzaima informs `Uthman that the two verses had been left out of the Qur'an. This is implies that the collecting and writing had already taken place. Why would Khuzaima go to `Uthman with the verses if Zaid had already collected them from him? Moreover, if Zaid had collected them already, why would `Uthman ask Khuzaima to decide where they should go in the text? Second, there is no question here of Khuzaima as the sole witness, nor any mention of his testimony being equal to that of two men. In fact, here `Uthman serves as the second witness to their authenticity. If Uthman knew the verses and could witness their authenticity, how could Zaid have found them only with Khuzaima? These various reports related to verses 9:128/129 leave us with a number of important unanswered questions. Who knew these verses? Was it Khuzaima, Abu Khuzaima, Harith Ibn Khuzaima, Ubayy ibn Ka`ab? Were they revealed in Mecca, or Medina? When and how where they placed in the text? One possible response to the reports and the questions they raise is that most are simply not sound and have, therefore, been rejected. Soundness is traditionally determined by scrutinising the chain of transmitters (isnad) of a given report. Regarding this, Jeffery says in his introduction: The greatest difficulty has been with the isnads quoted by the author, and although all available controls were applied to them, there may still be some that will not stand the scrutiny of isnad critics. The assistance of Muslim savants in this matter was not very helpful for we could not overcome the principle that every isnad that led to a statement at variance with orthodoxy was ipso facto condemned (viii). We have seen that al-Suyuti quotes various reports from Ibn Abu Dawud in his discussion of the collection of the Quran. While he states that certain reports are weak because of problems with their isnads, he does not do so with respect to the reports dealing with 9:128/129. These reports and the questions they raised take on added importance in light of another report related by al-Suyuti in the Itqan: On the authority of Muhammad ibn Sirin, on the authority of `Ikrima, who said, "After Abu Bakr's inauguration, `Ali ibn Abu

Talib stayed in his house. So it was said to Abu Bakr, 'He is averse to swearing allegiance to you.' Then Abu Bakr sent for him and said, 'Are you averse to swearing allegiance to me?' He said, 'No. By God.' He [Abu Bakr] said, 'What makes you upset with me?' He said, 'I think something has been added to the Book of God. So I said to myself that I will not put on my street clothes except for the Friday prayer until it has been resolved.'" (Vol. 1, 57-58). `Ali does not specify what he thinks was added, but this is a very serious charge. Although many of the Qur'an's verses are the subject of various, often conflicting reports about their meaning, interpretation, or circumstances revelation, no other verses in the Qur'an are the subject of so many diverse reports regarding their collection and placement in the text. Could they be what had made `Ali so upset that he would not leave his house except for prayer? BIBLIOGRAPHY Ahmad ibn Hanbal. Musnad. vol. 5. Cairo: 1313/1896. al-Bukhari, Abu `Abdullah Muhammad b. Isma`il. Matn al-Bukhari. vol. 3 - 4. N.P.: `Isa al-Halabi and Company. 1981. Sahih al-Bukhari. trans. Dr. Musin Khan. vol. 6. Medina: Islamic University. 1981. Ibn Abu Dawud. Kitab al-Masahif. ed. Arthur Jeffery. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1937. Jeffery, Arthur. Materials for the History of the Text of the Qur'an: The Old Codices. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1937. The Qur'an as Scripture. New York: Russel F. Moore Company, Inc., 1952. Two Muqaddimas to the Qur'anic Sciences: The Muqaddima to the 'Kitab al-Mabani' and the Muqaddima of Ibn `Atiyya to his Tafsir. Cairo: The Brothers al-Khaniji, 1954. Nolin, Kenneth E. The 'Itqan' and Its Sources: A Study of 'alItqan fi `Ulum al-Qur'an' by Jalal alDin al-Suyuti with reference to 'al-Burhan fi `Ulum al-Qur'an' by Badr al-Din al-Zarkashi.

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