Kitaab Al-Masaahif from Ibn Abi Dawud


Bassam Zawadi


Acknowledgment: Many thanks to brother Hamza A. Bajwa for assisting me in writing this article. 


Several critics appeal to the book Kitaab Al Masaahif authored by Ibn Abi Dawud, the son of the famous hadith collector Abu Dawud, for it contains narrations that speak about Qur'anic variants which missionaries then utilize to attack the textual credibility of the Qur'an.

Many Christian missionaries try to bring up the whole issue regarding Al Hajjaj changing the Quran. This report is found in Ibn Abi Dawud's Kitaab Al Masaahif.


Sheikh Muhammed Salih Al-Munajjid says regarding this report in Kitaab Al Masaahif:


With regard to what is mentioned in the question, quoting from al-Masaahif by Ibn Abi Dawood, there follows the report concerning that and the ruling thereon: 


It was narrated from 'Abbaad ibn Suhayb from 'Awf ibn Abi Jameelah that al-Hajjaaj ibn Yoosuf changed eleven letters in the Mus-haf. He said that in Soorat al-Baqarah 2:259 it said lam yatasanna wa'nzur, with no ha', and he changed it to lam yatasannah wa'nzur (they show no change, and look.) 

In al-Maa'idah 5:48 it said sharee'atan wa minhaajan, and he changed it to shir'atan wa minhaajan (a law and a clear way) 

In Yoonus 10:22 it said, Huwa alladhi yunshirukum and he changed it to Huwa alladhi yusayyirukum (He it is Who enables you to travel.) 


In Yoosuf 12:45 it said Ana aateekum bi ta'weelihi and he changed it to Ana unabbi'ukum bi ta'weelihi (I will tell you its interpretation) 


In al-Zukhruf 43:32 it said, Nahnu qasamnaa baynahum ma'aayishahum and he changed it to Nahnu qasamnaa baynahum ma'eeshatahum (It is We Who portion out between them their livelihood) 


In al-Takweer 81:24 it said, Wa ma huwa 'ala'l-ghaybi bi zaneen and he changed it to Wa ma huwa 'ala'l-ghaybi bi daneen (and he withholds not a knowledge of the unseen) 


Kitaab al-Masaahif by al-Sajistaani, p. 49. 

This report is da'eef jiddan (very weak) or mawdoo' (fabricated), because its isnaad includes 'Abbaad ibn Suhayb, whose hadeeth is to be rejected.

'Ali ibn al-Madeeni said: his hadeeth is no good. Al-Bukhaari, al-Nasaa'i and others said: he is matrook (to be rejected). Ibn Hibbaan said: he was a Qadari who promoted his innovated ideas, and he narrated things which a beginner in this field would realize were fabricated if he heard them. Al-Dhahabi said: he is one of those who are to be rejected. See Meezaan al-I'tidaal, by al-Dhahabi, 4/28. (Source)


For more detailed evidence of this weak narration, read this article.


Christians also attempt to appeal to other narrations in the book that discuss Qur'anic variants. However, when doing so they try to put too much stock on the reliability of this book. One neophyte Christian apologist by the name of Nabeel Qureshi states in defense of Kitaab Al Masaahif:


(By the way, the most scholarly book I have read from a modern Muslim regarding the Quran is called The Sciences of the Quraan by Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi. He provides excellent evidences, though I disagree with many of his conclusions. Solely providing evidences sets him apart from most modern Muslim scholars. Anyhow, in this book, Qadhi lauds Ibn Daud for excellent scholarship. My use of this source, therefore, is not just a "Christian tactic" but is well-reasoned and Muslim-corroborated.(Source, bold emphasis ours)


He also went on to say in response to a Muslim who questioned the scholarly credibility of this book:


Why don't you have an argument with your Muslim brother (just about the only scholarly Muslim writing I've ever seen) Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi: "This book (Kitab al-Masahif) is an excellent reference, and it contains the necessary insaads for each narration, so the authenticity of each narration may be ascertained." (Sciences of the Quran, 388) Yes, Qadhi mentions that this book came with mixed reviews from hadith scholars, but I could have told you that without having been there simply because of the type of material mentioned in the book. Say anything that even begins to approach the truth about the Quran, and muslims get infuriated. (Ibid, bold emphasis ours)


Let's examine Nabeel's first claim, which is that Yasir Qadhi praised this book for excellent scholarship. Is this, in fact, true? This is what Yasir Qadhi actually states in his book (and the funny part is that Nabeel cites it as well but doesn't realize what he is citing):


The second book in Jeffery's collection is his editing of 'Abdullah Ibn Abee Daawood's (d.316 A.H.) Kitaab al-Masaahif. The author is none other that [sic] the son of the famous collector of the Sunan, Aboo Daawood as-Sijistaani (d. 275 A.H.). However, he did not enjoy the same prestige as his father, and he has mixed reviews from the scholars of hadeeth. Nonetheless, the book is an excellent reference, and it contains the necessary isnaads for each narration, so the authenticity of each narration may be ascertained. It deals, as its title indicates, with the mus-haf; it discusses the writing of the wahy, the various mus-hafs of the Companions and their differences; the compilations of Aboo Bakr and 'Uthmaan; the division of the Qur'aan; the writing of the mus-haf, and certain aspects of fiqh related to the mus-haf. (A. A. Y. Qadhi (2003), An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'aan, (UK: Al-Hidaayah Publishing and Distribution), p. 388) 


Notice what Yasir Qadhi is actually saying. He is not lauding the book for "excellent scholarship," as Nabeel mistakenly insinuates. Rather he is only lauding the book for being an "excellent reference" because it "contains the necessary isnaads for each narration", which means - and this is the most relevant part - "the authenticity of each narration may be ascertained".


Since Nabeel praises Yasir Qadhi's scholarship:


By the way, the most scholarly book I have read from a modern Muslim regarding the Quran is called The Sciences of the Quraan by Abu Ammaar Yasir Qadhi.


He should carefully note that Yasir Qadhi made it clear that any narration must have an authentic isnaad before it is to be accepted. Yasir Qadhi states:


...More importantly - and this is the greatest flaw of the book - the authenticity of these recitations has to be established. In other words, how can the reader be assured that these recitations were actually recited? Jeffery himself admits,


"The question arises, of course, as to the authenticity of the readings ascribed to these Old Codices. In some cases it must be confessed there is a suspicion of readings later invented by the grammarians and theologians being fathered on these early authorities in order to gain prestige of their name. The suspicion is perhaps strongest in the case of distinctly Shee'ite readings..." [Jeffery, p. 15]


From a Muslim standpoint, we have recourse to the isnaad. Jeffery, however, be­lieves the isnaads to hold very little, if any, value. Due to this opinion, he does not quote isnaads, for each variant reading. Therefore, in order to find the authenticity of a certain reading, it is necessary to go back to the thirty works from which Jeffery compiled his work, verify which one of them mentions this reading, and then check its isnaad for authenticity. (This is supposing that the original work even mentions an isnaad, for some of these recitations are merely referenced in later works without any isnaad.)


However, from Jeffery's own position on the concept and reliability of isnaad, he contradicts himself. If he does not believe in the authenticity of the isnaad system, then from where are all of these readings obtained? After all, it is through isnaads that all of the readings of the Companions and Successors has [sic] been handed down to us. If Jeffery were to apply his standards and implement his belief of the isnaad system, all of these readings should be doubted, just like their hadeeth counterparts! But, not surprisingly, Jeffery concludes, 'On the whole, however, one may feel confident that the majority of readings quoted from any reader really go back to early authority'. This clear double standard on Jeffery's part is not surprising; whenever an Orientalist finds some information that he feels can be used to discredit Islaam and cast doubts on it, then he will use it, no matter what the context, authenticity or actual implica­tions of the text may be. (A. A. Y. Qadhi (2003), An Introduction to the Sciences of the Qur'aan, (UK: Al-Hidaayah Publishing and Distribution), p. 386) 


Indeed, no one could have said it better.


Nabeel also says regarding Yasir Qadhi's book:


just about the only scholarly Muslim writing I've ever seen (bold emphasis ours)


This clearly illustrates that Nabeel hasn't bothered himself to get familiar with Islamic scholarship.


First of all, the best Islamic literature is written in Arabic, and most of it has not been translated into English. Nabeel does not know Arabic; thus, for him to say "only scholarly Muslim writing I've ever seen" is a complete joke, and he would be laughed at in scholarly Muslim circles. It's like trying to have someone take you seriously when you say, "This is the best car I have ever seen", yet you never saw a car produced in Japan or Europe before.


Secondly, there are plenty of scholarly books written on this subject in the English language. Here are just some of them that come to mind:


Dr. Muhammad Mohar AliThe Qur'an and the Orientalists: An Examination of their Main Theories and Assumptions, Publisher: Jam'iyat Ihyaa' Minhaaj al-Sunnah (2004)


Muhammad Mustafa al-AzamiThe History of the Qur'anic Text from Revelation to Compilation: A Comparative Study with the Old and New Testaments, Publisher: UK Islamic Academy (2003)


Abu Ameenah Bilal PhilipsUsool at-Tafseer - The Methodology of Qur'aanic Explanation, Publisher: A S Noordeen (2002), Available online


Mufti Muhammad Taqi UsmaniAn Approach to the Qur'anic Sciences, Publisher: Darul Ishaat (2000) 


Nabeel's statement makes him lose a lot of credibility in the eyes of the Muslims (not that he had any to begin with).  


In conclusion, Kitaab Al Masaahif contains narrations that need to be investigated individually to determine their authenticity. We can't just cherry-pick what we like. We must rely on an objective standard such as the isnaad system, which filters out the weak and fabricated narrations from the authentic ones. 





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