In Sura 9 verse 4 of the Quran we read the following verse:
إِلَّا الَّذينَ عاهَدتُم مِنَ المُشرِكينَ ثُمَّ لَم يَنقُصوكُم شَيئًا وَلَم يُظاهِروا عَلَيكُم أَحَدًا فَأَتِمّوا إِلَيهِم عَهدَهُم إِلىٰ مُدَّتِهِم ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ المُتَّقينَ
The literal word for word breakdown of this verse is the following:
All modern day Quran’s will have the 8th word in this verse written as “يَنقُصوكُم” distinctly with a ص. The Arabic word “يَنقُصوكُم” has a trilateral root of “ن ق ص” the meaning of this root is:
ن ق ص = to diminish; decrease; run low; lessen; cause loss or deficiency; consume; fall short; waste; abate.
Here are how some have translated this verse:
(But the treaties are) not dissolved with those Pagans with whom ye have entered into alliance and who have not subsequently failed you in aught, nor aided any one against you. So fulfil your engagements with them to the end of their term: for God loveth the righteous.Yusuf Ali Translation of Sura 9 verse 4
Excepting those of the idolaters with whom ye (Muslims) have a treaty, and who have since abated nothing of your right nor have supported anyone against you. (As for these), fulfil their treaty to them till their term. Lo! Allah loveth those who keep their duty (unto Him).Pickthal Translation of Sura 9 verse 4
Except those of the idolaters with whom you made an agreement, then they have not failed you in anything and have not backed up any one against you, so fulfill their agreement to the end of their term; surely Allah loves those who are careful (of their duty).Shakir Translation of Sura 9 verse 4
Except those of the disbelievers with whom you have entered into a treaty and who have not subsequently failed you in anything nor aided anyone against you. So fulfil to these the treaty you have made with them till their term. Surely Allah loves those that are righteous.
Sher Ali Translation of Sura 9 verse 4
Except for those with whom you had a treaty from among those who have set-up partners if they did not reduce anything from it nor did they plan to attack you; you shall continue the treaty with them until its expiry. God loves the righteous.Progressive Muslims Translation of Sura 9 verse 4
When you read these translations you can almost sense the translators struggle in attempting to make a comprehensive statement when they write “fail you in anything”. What does this phrase mean in the context of the verse?
One translation that stands out from the rest is from Rashad Khalifa. Below is how Rashad Khalifa translated Sura 9 verse 4:
If the idol worshipers sign a peace treaty with you, and do not violate it, nor band together with others against you, you shall fulfill your treaty with them until the expiration date. GOD loves the righteous.Khalifa Translation of Sura 9 verse 4
While Rashad Khalifa’s translation structurally makes more sense, the question is how did he come to this understanding that the word يَنقُصوكُم should be translated as “violate” as opposed to “fail”? One could argue that to fail someone in something in context of عَاهَدْتُمْ (a treaty) could be understood as a violation, but I think there may be another way to look at this.
The Arabic root “ ن ق ض ” has the following meaning:
ن ق ض = to pull down; demolish; break (a contract); undo a thing; violate (a treaty); unravel; untwist.
It is worth noting that when written, symbolically the only difference between these two roots “ن ق ض” and “ن ق ص” is just a single dot.
I investigated eight of the earliest Qurans that I could access that contained this passage to see if any of these Qurans wrote the word “ يَنقُصوكُم ” with a ض. These Quran’s are estimated to be written between ~660AD – ~900AD.
In seven of the eight Quran’s, the Arabic text did not differentiate between ص and ض , both were written without a dot.
In seven of these Quran’s the text did not use dots to differentiate between ص and ض. This was confirmed by looking at the word “ يُرْضُونَكُمْ ” in Sura 9 verse 8 in addition to the word “ يَنْقُصُوكُمْ ” from Sura 9 verse 4. Below are images of each of the manuscripts with the corresponding words identified in a red outline.
This makes it very possible that the proper transcription of this word “ يَنْقُصُوكُمْ ” in Sura 9 verse 4 should be “ يَنْقُضُوكُمْ ”.
But in one manuscript, that happened to be the most worn out, the word appears to be written with a “ض ” .
Here is a closer image:
One can distinctly see three dots on the top of the word. It should be pointed out that in older versions of Quranic script, like the one imaged above, the letter “فَ” is written with no dots while the “ق” is written with a single dot on top. This can be confirmed in the same verse with the the word “الْمُتَّقِينَ ” where only a single dot is used as well.
This provides possible conclusive evidence that the word “ يَنْقُصُوكُمْ ” in Sura 9 verse 4 should actually be “ يَنْقُضُوكُمْ ”. If this is the case, how is it possible that Rashad Khalifa was able to identify the correct understanding of this verse despite most likely reading a version written as يَنْقُصُوكُمْ ?
Additionally, if we look at 2:27, 8:56, 13:20 and 13:25, we see the word: يَنْقُضُونَ which would correspond with the third person plural of يَنْقُضُوكُمْ . This further confirms that يَنْقُضُوكُمْ should be the proper writing for Sura 9 verse 4. Below are the corresponding translation for these verses:
الَّذينَ يَنقُضونَ عَهدَ اللَّهِ مِن بَعدِ ميثاقِهِ وَيَقطَعونَ ما أَمَرَ اللَّهُ بِهِ أَن يوصَلَ وَيُفسِدونَ فِي الأَرضِ ۚ أُولٰئِكَ هُمُ الخاسِرونَ
who violate GOD’s covenant after pledging to uphold it, sever what GOD has commanded to be joined, and commit evil. These are the losers.Quran 2:27
الَّذينَ عاهَدتَ مِنهُم ثُمَّ يَنقُضونَ عَهدَهُم في كُلِّ مَرَّةٍ وَهُم لا يَتَّقونَ
You reach agreements with them, but they violate their agreements every time; they are not righteous.Quran 8:56
وَالَّذينَ يَنقُضونَ عَهدَ اللَّهِ مِن بَعدِ ميثاقِهِ وَيَقطَعونَ ما أَمَرَ اللَّهُ بِهِ أَن يوصَلَ وَيُفسِدونَ فِي الأَرضِ ۙ أُولٰئِكَ لَهُمُ اللَّعنَةُ وَلَهُم سوءُ الدّارِ
As for those who violate GOD’s covenant after pledging to keep it, and sever what GOD has commanded to be joined, and commit evil, they have incurred condemnation; they have incurred the worst destiny.Quran 13:25
الَّذينَ يوفونَ بِعَهدِ اللَّهِ وَلا يَنقُضونَ الميثاقَ
They are the ones who fulfill their pledge to GOD, and do not violate the covenant.Quran 13:20