God promises in the Quran, that He will guard and preserve the Quran.
[15:9] Absolutely, we have revealed the reminder, and, absolutely, we will preserve it.
(٩) إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ
The misunderstanding individuals have from this verse is that they think it is physically impossible for anyone to tamper with the ink and paper of the Quran or the recitation of the Quran. This is not true. Today we can find variations in recitation, spellings, verse counts, and even words in different Quran manuscripts. Since God never fails in His promise this means that our understanding of how God preserves the Quran needs to be reassessed.
God created a system by which any falsehood or distortion that attempts to enter the Quran can be identified and fixed. This can be due to either intentional distortions carried out by malicious actors or from honest mistakes carried out by scribes or reciters. This is like having a shirt that is stain resistant, that even if it gets dirty the stains can easily be removed. As part of this promise, there are a number of ways to date that the authenticity of the Quran has been preserved.
Memorization of Recitation
The first mechanism is through the memorization of the recitation of the Quran. Since the initial revelation of the Quran over 1400 years ago, billions of people have memorized parts of the Quran, and millions of people have memorized the entire book gaining the title of huffaz which translates to Classical Arabic as guardian, as they are serving as guardians of the Quran. This was particularly useful before the proliferation of the Quran mass-produced in books with the diacritical marks. Such that, if one person recited an alternate form of the Quran all the individuals who memorized the Quran can call out and correct this distortion.
Mus’haf (Written Text)
The second way that the Quran has been preserved to date has been through the written text known as the mus’hafs. The earliest mus’hafs did not contain the dots (nuqat) or diacritical marks (tashkil). Interestingly enough while the diacritical marks were invented after the revelation of the Quran by Abu al-Aswad al-Du’ali (d. 69 AH/688 CE), Nasr ibn ‘Asim, Yahya ibn Ya’mur, and al-Khalil ibn Ahmad (170 AH/786 CE) the dots were around even prior to the Quran, yet were not utilized in the earliest Quran manuscripts until after the introduction of the diacritical marks. The presumed reason for this was that prior to the introduction of the diacritical marks there was no way to safeguard the recitation of the Quran from incorrect pronunciations. Therefore, in an attempt to keep the Quran from being inaccurately recited, every mus’haf that was dispatched would always be accompanied by an approved professional reciter known as a quri’ (pl. qurra’). This way the mus’haf could be only fully decoded under the supervision of a professional reciter to safeguard against inaccurate recitations which could alter the meaning of the words in the Quran. But once the diacritical marks were introduced then individuals could determine the proper tajweed (pronunciation) from the script alone.
Classical Arabic Grammar
The third mechanism for protecting the Quran from alteration is through the syntax of Arabic grammar. The Classical Arabic grammar of the Quran is very similar to computer code, such that one letter change can have a cascading effect on the overall sentence structure and therefore cause a syntax error. This is most notably observed by the gender of the word, the tense, and if it is singular, dual, or plural. This creates a system by which if a change is applied in a single word it can very likely break the grammar of the entire sentence. Therefore, if someone intentionally or accidentally makes an alteration to a single word this distortion can be rectified by checking its grammar against the rest of the sentence.
Qira’at and Ahruf
Up until 1974, these three mechanisms were the only known presumed ways for how the Quran was preserved, but despite these three methods, there was still some dispute about the authentic Quranic text and recitation. This is best depicted in the various styles of recitation in the Quran.
Qira’at and Ahruf (sing. harf, pl. ahruf) refer to the style of recitation of the Quran. While there are disputes about the exact meaning of these words in the context of the various ways of reciting the Quran, generally Qira’at deals with the audible recitation and its vocalizations, while ahruf deals with the ways of pronunciation with can directly impact the meaning and textual aspect of the Quran.
According to traditional sources, it is generally agreed that there are seven styles of recitation. The most common style that is by far the most prevalent is that of the Hafs recitation, which is commonly utilized by ~95% of the Muslim world, if not more. After the Hafs, the next most common recitation style is that of Warsh which can be found still used in North and West Africa and in some parts of Sudan and Egypt. The third most common style is that of Qalun which can be found in Libya. And finally, al-Duir which can be found in Sudan as well as parts of Egypt and Chad. Out of all the various recitations, these four styles are still used today and are still being mass-produced in printed form.
While the various recitations mostly impact the dialect of how the Quran is recited which has no impact on the meaning there are some differences that cause major concern. Firstly, the verse numbers between the recitations vary, and secondly, on some rare occasions, the differences in recitation causes the word meanings to be slightly altered. When traditionalists are asked about these differences they claim that they are all authentic, and point to the following Hadiths to justify this claim.
Abu Juhaym reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “The Quran is recited in seven ways. Do not argue over the Quran, for arguing over the Quran is an act of unbelief.”Source: Musnad Aḥmad 17199
Grade: Sahih (authentic) according to Al-Suyuti
Abdullah ibn Abbas reported: The Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “Gabriel, upon him be peace, taught me to recite the Quran in one reading and I requested another. I continued to ask for more until he stopped at seven readings.”Source: Ṣaḥīḥ al-Bukhārī 4705, Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 819
Grade: Muttafaqun Alayhi (authenticity agreed upon) according to Al-Bukhari and Muslim
I heard Hisham bin Hakim bin Hizam reciting Surat-al-Furqan in a way different to that of mine. Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) had taught it to me (in a different way). So, I was about to quarrel with him (during the prayer) but I waited till he finished, then I tied his garment round his neck and seized him by it and brought him to Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ) and said, “I have heard him reciting Surat-al-Furqan in a way different to the way you taught it to me.” The Prophet (ﷺ) ordered me to release him and asked Hisham to recite it. When he recited it, Allah s Apostle said, “It was revealed in this way.” He then asked me to recite it. When I recited it, he said, “It was revealed in this way. The Qur’an has been revealed in seven different ways, so recite it in the way that is easier for you.”Sahih al-Bukhari 2419; Book 44, Hadith 9; Vol. 3, Book 41, Hadith 601
The problem with such understanding is that these narrations contradict the verses of the Quran which inform us that there is only one single Master Tablet of the Quran.
[85:21] Indeed, it is a glorious Quran.
(٢١) بَلْ هُوَ قُرْآنٌ مَجِيدٌ
[85:22] In a preserved master tablet.
(٢٢) فِي لَوْحٍ مَحْفُوظٍ
Additionally, the Quran explicitly states that it was revealed in clear Arabic without any ambiguity. But if we are to believe that it was revealed in seven different versions because Muhammad was concerned that his people could not understand it, then this means that it wasn’t clear enough for the people to understand this would be a clear contradiction.
[39:27] We have cited for the people every kind of example in this Quran, that they may take heed. [39:28] An Arabic Quran, without any ambiguity, that they may be righteous.
(٢٧) وَلَقَدْ ضَرَبْنَا لِلنَّاسِ فِي هَٰذَا الْقُرْآنِ مِنْ كُلِّ مَثَلٍ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَذَكَّرُونَ
(٢٨) قُرْآنًا عَرَبِيًّا غَيْرَ ذِي عِوَجٍ لَعَلَّهُمْ يَتَّقُونَ
Harf = Distortions
These verses inform us that there is only a single form that is the correct Quran, while other forms are distortions. Interestingly, in the Classical Arabic of the Quran the word harf/ahruf in the context of scripture is used specifically to mean “distortions”, while in Modern Arabic this word can simply mean speech.
[2:75] Do you expect them to believe as you do, when some of them used to hear the word of GOD, then distort it, with full understanding thereof, and deliberately?
أَفَتَطْمَعُونَ أَنْ يُؤْمِنُوا لَكُمْ وَقَدْ كَانَ فَرِيقٌ مِنْهُمْ يَسْمَعُونَ كَلَامَ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ يُحَرِّفُونَهُ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَا عَقَلُوهُ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ
[4:46] Among those who are Jewish, some distort the words beyond the truth, and they say, “We hear, but we disobey,” and “Your words are falling on deaf ears,” and “Raa’ena* (be our shepherd),” as they twist their tongues to mock the religion. Had they said, “We hear, and we obey,” and “We hear you,” and “Unzurna (watch over us),” it would have been better for them, and more righteous. Instead, they have incurred condemnation from GOD due to their disbelief. Consequently, the majority of them cannot believe.
مِنَ الَّذِينَ هَادُوا يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ عَنْ مَوَاضِعِهِ وَيَقُولُونَ سَمِعْنَا وَعَصَيْنَا وَاسْمَعْ غَيْرَ مُسْمَعٍ وَرَاعِنَا لَيًّا بِأَلْسِنَتِهِمْ وَطَعْنًا فِي الدِّينِ وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ قَالُوا سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا وَاسْمَعْ وَانْظُرْنَا لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَهُمْ وَأَقْوَمَ وَلَٰكِنْ لَعَنَهُمُ اللَّهُ بِكُفْرِهِمْ فَلَا يُؤْمِنُونَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا
[5:13] It was a consequence of their violating the covenant that we condemned them, and we caused their hearts to become hardened. Consequently, they distorted the words out of context, and disregarded some of the commandments given to them. You will continue to witness betrayal from them, excepting a few of them. You shall pardon them, and disregard them. GOD loves those who are benevolent.
فَبِمَا نَقْضِهِمْ مِيثَاقَهُمْ لَعَنَّاهُمْ وَجَعَلْنَا قُلُوبَهُمْ قَاسِيَةً يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ عَنْ مَوَاضِعِهِ وَنَسُوا حَظًّا مِمَّا ذُكِّرُوا بِهِ وَلَا تَزَالُ تَطَّلِعُ عَلَىٰ خَائِنَةٍ مِنْهُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِنْهُمْ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاصْفَحْ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ
[5:41] O you messenger, do not be saddened by those who hasten to disbelieve among those who say, “We believe,” with their mouths, while their hearts do not believe. Among the Jews, some listened to lies. They listened to people who never met you, and who distorted the words out of context, then said, “If you are given this, accept it, but if you are given anything different, beware.” Whomever GOD wills to divert, you can do nothing to help him against GOD. GOD does not wish to cleanse their hearts. They have incurred humiliation in this world, and in the Hereafter, they will suffer a terrible retribution.
يَاأَيُّهَا الرَّسُولُ لَا يَحْزُنْكَ الَّذِينَ يُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْكُفْرِ مِنَ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا آمَنَّا بِأَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَلَمْ تُؤْمِنْ قُلُوبُهُمْ وَمِنَ الَّذِينَ هَادُوا سَمَّاعُونَ لِلْكَذِبِ سَمَّاعُونَ لِقَوْمٍ آخَرِينَ لَمْ يَأْتُوكَ يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ مِنْ بَعْدِ مَوَاضِعِهِ يَقُولُونَ إِنْ أُوتِيتُمْ هَٰذَا فَخُذُوهُ وَإِنْ لَمْ تُؤْتَوْهُ فَاحْذَرُوا وَمَنْ يُرِدِ اللَّهُ فِتْنَتَهُ فَلَنْ تَمْلِكَ لَهُ مِنَ اللَّهِ شَيْئًا أُولَٰئِكَ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يُرِدِ اللَّهُ أَنْ يُطَهِّرَ قُلُوبَهُمْ لَهُمْ فِي الدُّنْيَا خِزْيٌ وَلَهُمْ فِي الْآخِرَةِ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ
So how do we determine which style of recitation is correct for the instances when it causes an alternate meaning to the words in the Quran? This takes us to the fourth mechanism by how the Quran is preserved, which is by the encryption code of the Quran known as Code 19.
According to Sura 74, the Quran informs us that the Quran is guarded via a mathematical encryption mechanism that is far beyond human ability, particularly due to the fact that it was embedded in the source code of the Quran from its inception and has been preserved to date via the number 19.
Sura 74 of the Quran is entitled Al-Muddath-thir, which is translated as The Hidden Secret. The word muddathir signifies something that is hidden in plain sight, which could be understood in another way as encryption. In sura 74, it discusses the disbeliever who God has blessed yet they claim that the Quran is clever magic and that it is manmade:
[74:18] For he reflected, then decided.
[74:19] Miserable is what he decided.
[74:20] Miserable indeed is what he decided.
[74:21] He looked. [74:22] He frowned and whined.
[74:23] Then he turned away arrogantly.
[74:24] He said, “This is but clever magic!
[74:25] “This is human made.”
The verse then continues to rebut this claim by the number 19 with the following verses:
[74:30] Over it is nineteen.
[74:31] We appointed angels to be guardians of Hell, and we assigned their number (19)
(1) to disturb the disbelievers,
(2) to convince the Christians and Jews (that this is a divine scripture),
(3) to strengthen the faith of the faithful,
(4) to remove all traces of doubt from the hearts of Christians, Jews, as well as the believers, and
(5) to expose those who harbor doubt in their hearts,
and the disbelievers; they will say, “What did GOD mean by this allegory?” GOD thus sends astray whomever He wills, and guides whomever He wills. None knows the soldiers of your Lord except He. This is a reminder for the people.
[74:32] Absolutely, (I swear) by the moon.
[74:33] And the night as it passes.
[74:34] And the morning as it shines.
[74:35] This is one of the great miracles.
[74:36] A warning to the human race.
Code 19 and Preservation of Quran
So what does this have to do with the preservation of the Quran. It ends up every facet of this Quran is secured by the number 19, which serves as a form of an encryption key to validate the words, verses, suras of the Quran. This code provides us confidence that this Quran has not been distorted since its original revelation, and that God, Lord of the Universe, was the author of this message.
For instance, in Sura 74 alone we find the following facts:
- The verse 74:31 has 57 words = 19 x 3
- The first 19 verses of Sura 74 contains 57 words = 19×3 words
- The number of words from the beginning of Sura 74:1 to 74:30 where it mentions “nineteen” = 19 x5 = 95 words
- The number of letters from the beginning of Sura 74 to the word “nineteen” in 74:30 = 361 = 19 x 19 letters
- From 74:1-8 there are exactly 19 [19×1] words
- From 74:1-19 there are exactly 57 [19×3] words
- From 74:1-30 there are exactly 95 [19×5] words
- From 74:1-31 there are exactly 152 [19×8] words
But these signs go beyond Sura 74 and encompass the entire Quran. For instance, we see that the Quran contains 114 suras, which is 19 x 6, and that the opening statement of the Quran, Basmlah, has 19 letters.
We see that the word Allah in all its forms occurs 2698 times in the Quran which is 19 x 142. We see that if we add all the verses where the word Allah occurs in the Quran we get 118,123 which is 6,217. We see that the other two names of God in the opening statement also occur in the Quran in multiples of 19. Ar-Rahman occurs 57 times which is 19×3, while Ar-Rahim occurs 114 times which is 19×6.
But the real core of Code 19 is regarding the initialed Suras. In the Quran, there are 29 suras that begin with Quranic initials.
For 1400 years, individuals did not know what the meaning of these initials represented. Upon the discovery of code 19 in 1974, it became known that there is a numerical connection between these letters, their respective suras, and the number 19. Such that the frequency of these initials in their respective Suras occurs in multiples of 19.
Take for example Sura 50, which contains the initial ق (qaf) which can be represented as Q in English. If we count all the occurrences of qaf in the Arabic you will see that this initial occurs 57 times in the Quran, which is 19 x3.
Sura 42 has two sets of initials, حم (ha mim) H.M. as well as عسق (ayn, seen, qaf) ‘A,S,Q. If we count just the occurrence of qaf in the Arabic Quran we see that this letter also occurs in this sura 57 times, which is also 19 x3. This is despite that Sura 42 is almost twice as long as Sura 50. Additionally, if we count all the ayns, seens, and qafs in this sura we get 209 which is 19 x11.
The letters حم (ha mim) H.M. prefix Suras 40 through 46. If we count all the has and mims in these suras we get a total of 2147 = 19 x 113.
|Sura||Frequency of Occurrence|
The Arabic initial saad prefixes three suras, 7, 19, and 38, and the total occurrence of the letter “S” (Saad) in these three suras is 152, 19×8.
|Sura No.||Frequency of The letter “Saad”|
Spellings and Code 19
It is noteworthy that in 7:69, the word “Bastatan” is written in some printings with a “Saad,” instead of “Seen.” Code 19 proves that the proper spelling is with a seen and not a saad.
We see a similar occurrence with the words al-layl (the night) and allātī (those whom). Today if you pick up any Arabic Quran you will see that in half the copies the word al-layl (the night) will be written one of two ways. Either, الَّيْلِ , written with two lams or, اللَّيْلِ , with three lams. So which version is correct?
By entering either spelling in the Quran and seeing the impact it has on the 13 lam initialed suras we can determine once and for all which spelling is correct. What we find out when we do this is that the correct spelling of layl in the Quran is unequivocally written with only two lams and not three. This is because if we were to utilize the spelling with three Lams we see that the following suras are no longer multiples of 19.
For instance, the count of lams in sura 2 would be off by three extra, sura 3 would be off by four extra, sura 7 would have one extra, sura 10 would be off by 3 extra. These issues compound for each of the respective Lam initialed suras that contain the word al-layl in it. But if we go with the spelling of layl with only two lams we see that all these errors are fixed.
We see a similar difference in spelling with the word allātī (those whom). In half the manuscripts of the Quran, we will see this word written with two lams like so: اللَّاتِي and in the other half of the manuscripts, we will see it written with a single lam like so: الّٰتِیۡۤ. So which one is correct?
This word occurs one time in Sura 12 which is an A.L.R. initialed sura. If we use the form written with two lams we see that the counts of lam in this sura and the total A.L.R. in this sura are no longer a multiple of 19, but if we use the form written with a single lam then the counts conform to the mathematical structure of the Quran.
One of the most fundamental aspects of Code 19 and the preservation of the Quran was the determination that verses 128 and 129 of Sura 9, the last revelation of the Quran and the only Sura without a Bismallah, were added after the prophet’s death. These verses were always suspect via the historical account and the linguistic account, but Code 19 provided the mathematical proof that these two verses were not part of the originally transmitted Quran and were only added later.
Code 19 and Verse Count
So how does Code 19 help resolve the differences in recitation?
One of the major differences in the various recitations occurs in the determination of the number of verses in the Quran.
If we look at the above table we see that only the Hafs recitation of the pure Quran contains a number of verses that are a multiple of 19. This shows that the number of verses in the Quran is 6,346 = 19 x 334. This includes the 6234 numbered verses and 112 un-numbered verses (Basmalahs). It is also worth noting that if we add the digits we get 6+3+4+6=19. This corresponds with the verse counts per the Hafs recitation of the Quran.
Code 19 and Hafs
If we look at Code 19 against the other recitations we find that only the Hafs recitation corresponds with the foundations of the mathematical structure of the Quran. For instance, sura 36 of the Quran has the initials: يس (ya siin). The letter “Y” occurs in this sura 237 times, while the letter “S” (Seen) occurs 48 times in the Hafs recitation. The total of both letters is 285, 19×15. But if we look at the Warsh and Qalun recitations we see that Y only occurs 236 times which generates a total of 284 occurrences of Y and S in this sura and therefore not a multiple of 19. This is because of the following difference in the recitation of the word يَعْقِلُونَ.
[Hafs 36:68] Whomever we permit to live for a long time, we revert him to weakness. Do they not understand?
(٦٨) وَمَنْ نُعَمِّرْهُ نُنَكِّسْهُ فِي الْخَلْقِ أَفَلَا يَعْقِلُونَ
[Warsh & Qalun 36:67] Whomever we permit to live for a long time, we revert him to weakness. Do you not understand?
(٦٨) وَمَنْ نُعَمِّرْهُ نُنَكِّسْهُ فِي الْخَلْقِ أَفَلَا تَعْقِلُونَ
Future Potential Ways of Preservation
The reason that at the beginning of this article I stated that these are the mechanisms that God utilized to preserve the Quran that we have “to date” is that up until 1974 the fourth mechanism of Code 19 was not known by people so there is no reason to doubt that future generations will not discover other mechanisms that God has utilized for the further protection and preservation of the Quran.
Looking retrospectively, it seems that the mechanisms that guard the Quran become progressively stronger as the sophistication of the people increases causing more skepticism towards the Quran. Extrapolating that further, the following verse potentially provides some ideas to how these mechanisms for further preservation could come to fruition and provide even more assurances for the believers.
[41:53] We will show them our proofs in the horizons, and within themselves, until they realize that this is the truth.* Is your Lord not sufficient, as a witness of all things?
(٥٣) سَنُرِيهِمْ آيَاتِنَا فِي الْآفَاقِ وَفِي أَنْفُسِهِمْ حَتَّىٰ يَتَبَيَّنَ لَهُمْ أَنَّهُ الْحَقُّ أَوَلَمْ يَكْفِ بِرَبِّكَ أَنَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ
From this verse, we could extrapolate that potentially in the future perhaps someone discovers by God’s leave that the verses of the Quran have been embedded inside the DNA of the human being or in the Cosmic background radiation that floods the universe.
Variant Readings of the Qur’an, A Critical Study of Their Historical and Linguistic Origins, Ahmad ‘Ali Al-Imam, The International Institute of Islamic Thought, 2006
The History of the Qur’anic Text, From Revelation to Compilation, A Comparative Study with the Old and New Testament, Second Edition, M.M. Al-Azami, 2011
The Qur’anic Manuscripts, Paulo J. Soares
The Rise of The North Arabic Script And Its Kuranic Development, With A Full Description of the Kuran Manuscripts In the Oriental Institute, The University of Chicago Press, John Albert Wilson, Thomas George Allen