I have a question about whether or not a certain idea has ever been discussed within the Islamic intellectual tradition, and if so, which scholar(s) and/or school(s) of thought did so. The idea is as follows: Has it ever been suggested that while the Quran as it was passed from the angel Gabriel to Muhammad was the word of God, verbatim, the codex that was produced during the reign of Caliph Uthman was perhaps not a perfect facsimile? I ask because questioning the fidelity of the Uthmanic codex seems to avoid the heretical idea that the Quran itself is imperfect, since "Quran" can refer to the unwritten Quran, the literal words of God as they were delivered to Muhammad, while at the same time acknowledging that other codices existed before the Uthmanic one.

Essentially, then, this would be the belief that the Quran -- the literal words of God -- were given to mankind verbatim through the prophet Muhammad, but through human error and the passage of time, they were not preserved properly; that the early Islamic community -- not Muhammad, not Gabriel, and certainly not God -- bungled the message. This may seem heretical since in the Quran itself it is written that what is contained in the Quran is true, but it seems to me that this can be countered by saying that God was speaking about the unwritten Quran, the Quran as it was delivered to the Prophet; this Quran was indeed true and perfect. The problem was that the fallible human beings who were given it did a poor job memorizing and then recording it.

In case my question is unclear, let me rephrase it more succinctly. I want to know if it's ever been seriously discussed that the unwritten Quran that Muhammad brought to the people of Arabia was perfect, but that the people who memorized and wrote it down were imperfect stewards of it, leading them to remember it differently and thus imperfectly by the time Uthman commissioned that it be collected.

Thank you in advance for your replies.

1 Answer 1


No, because it would go completely against the Quran itself:

Indeed, it is We who sent down the Qur'an and indeed, We will be its guardian. (15:9)

This is and has always been understood as a promise from Allah that he will preserve the Quran, so any claim to the effect that the Quran was corrupted in transmission like the previous revelations would be regarded equally as Kufr as denying its infallibility.

  • But doesn't this thinking imply that anything (including people) whose guardian is God thus cannot be tampered with by man, and to say it can is considered kufr? But in 59:23, for example, we read that "He is God: there is no god other than Him, the Controller, the Holy One, Source of Peace, Granter of Security, Guardian over all, the Almighty, [...]" So God is the guardian not just of the Quran but the guardian of everything, per the Quran, but certainly it's true that man can displease God by sinning and harming that which God is guardian over. Nov 21, 2018 at 4:01
  • @J.W.Gracie You have to be careful with English translations. The word I am referring to "Hafizoon" means protector in the sense I said. "Muhaymin" in the verse you mention has a different meaning of Overall Watcher/Overseer. Both can be translated into the vague word "guardian" but that does not mean their meanings are the same.
    – The Z
    Nov 21, 2018 at 5:11
  • This logic is circular. The current Qur'an only guarantees its own perfection if it is already taken as given that the current Qur'an is in and of itself perfect; the argument fails if that initial assertion is incorrect. The whole point of the question is whether any scholarly traditions take (or at least seriously consider) that position.
    – goldPseudo
    Nov 21, 2018 at 6:57
  • And what about 87:6-7, in which it is written "[Prophet], We shall teach you [the Quran] and you will not forget––unless God wishes". Doesn't this quite explicitly leave the door open to the possibility of parts of the Quran that were taught to Muhammad being forgotten? And if they are, it can simply be explained as being the will of God. Nov 23, 2018 at 16:46
  • @J.W.Gracie Everything happens with God's wishes including the preservation of the Quran. This doesn't really prove whether the Quran will or will not be preserved though. Also this verse is specifically about the Prophet (SAW) remembering and forgetting. Are you claiming that the Prophet (SAW) himself forgot some of the Quran? Also no scholar denies that there are parts of the Quran that are forgotten or no longer relevant: it is called abrogation. The question is whether you think that the Quran's non-abrogated content has been corrupted in transmission.
    – The Z
    Nov 23, 2018 at 21:50

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