Skip to content

Intisar A. Rabb, Non-Canonical Readings of the Qurʾān: Recognition & Authenticity, 8 J. Qurʾānic Stud. 84 (2006).

Abstract: Recently, Yasin Dutton published ‘Some Notes on the British Library's “Oldest Qur'an Manuscript” (Or. 2165)’, in which he concludes that this 1st/7th century Qur'anic manuscript aligns with the Damascene reading of Ibn Āmir. Dealing with the same manuscript, this paper first qualifies that conclusion and attempts to shed more light (and raise further questions) on the location and number of the manuscript copyists or editors by examining variants in orthography, verse-divisions, the style of the text, and symbols within the manuscript, with attention to both the canonical and non-canonical variants. When viewed alongside studies of Qur'anic history rooted in traditional Hadīth, some observations emerge that have to do with the two overwhelming, and somewhat paradoxical features of the manuscript: its striking uniformity and the discrepancies within it. The second section of this paper thus seeks to evaluate this manuscript against works on the qirācāt tradition and its systemetisers, in order to seek out clues for a clearer view of the pre-canonical landscape of readings, and indeed of the nature of the canon itself. It notes the apparent fluidity of Qur'anic manuscript production and readings transmission, identifies concerns that may have driven tradition-minded scholars to settle the text, and explores the criteria they developed for assessing recognition and authenticity in the formation of the canon.