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The Writing of the Qur'an

In the previous edition, we discussed how Khalifah Uthman gave order for the standardization of the Qur'an. When the copy of the Qur'an was written, the old koofee script was used. This script is almost incomprehensible to modern-day Arabic readers. The mushafs were written without any hamzahs, dots (nuqat) or vowel marks' (tashkeel [i.e. fatha, kasra and damma]).

This was the traditional manner of writing at the time. Therefore, for example, a straight line could represent the letter baa, taa, thaa and yaa, and each letter could have any of the vowel marks assigned to it. It was only by context that the appropriate letters and vowels could be differentiated. The Arabs at that time were accustomed to such a script, and would substitute the appropriate letter and vowel depending on the context.

The Uthmaanic mushaf was arranged in the order of the surahs present today. There were no indications signifying the ending of verses, and the only sign that a surah had ended was the basmallah. There were no textual divisions (into juz'u, hisb etc.) this was done so that the Qur'an be preserved with utmost purity; only the texts of the Qur'an, unadorned with later embellishments was written.

This was the appearance of the original uthmaanic Qur'an. There is a striking difference between the modern Qur'an and the Uthmaanic mus-haf. The process of change was gradual.

The first change to occur was the addition of the diacritical marks. There are varying reports as to who the first person to add the tashkeel was. The name commonly mentioned is that of a tabi' by the name Abu al-Aswad ad-Du'aly (d.69 AH), who was also the first to codify the science of Arabic grammar (nahw).

According to one report, Ali bn Abi Talib (RA) told him to make the mus-haf easier for the people to recite, but he initially declined to do so, since he did not believe it was necessary. However, he once heard a person recite the verse,

“Allaah and His Messenger break off all ties with the pagans” (Q9 [Tawbah]:3)

as “Allaah breaks off all ties with pagans and His Messenger.” This drastic change in meaning occurred by changing only one vowel (i.e. pronouncing rasooluh as rasoolih)

Abu al-Aswad said: “I did not think the state of the people had degenerated to this level!” Recalling the advice of Ali, he went to Ziyad ibn Abeehee, the Governor of Iraq under Ali ibn Abi Taalib (RA) and requested him to supply him with a scribe. Abu al-Aswad told the scribe, "If I pronounce (the vowel) a, then write a dot above the letter.

If I pronounce it as u, then write a dot in front of the letter. If I pronounce an i, then write it below the letter.” (al-Hamad).

Abu al-Aswad was reacting to the problems that had arisen amongst the non-Arabs, who had embraced Islaam and were new to the Arabic language. They had difficulty in reading the script of Uthmaan, without tashkeel. Thus Abu al-Aswad started the rudimentary art of tashkeel.

While Abu al-Aswad was officially the first in tashkeel, reports have it that his students Nasr ibn 'Asim and Yahya ibn Ya'mar were the first to officially add dots (nuqat) to differentiate between the alphabets. However, they were not the first to do so as both Hassan al-Basree and Muhammad ibn Seereen had preceded them to add nuqat on their private mus-hafs. The Students of Abu al-Aswad only did it officially.

Types of Mujmal

In the last edition we discussed al-mujmaal and its rulings in some details. In this edition we shall focus on the types of ijmaal. There are many type and they include the following:

For the word to be mushtariq i.e. having more than one meaning and there are no contextual evidences to identify the intended meaning.

For the word to be ghareeb (strange) for instance Allaah says:

“Verily, man (disbeliever) was created haluu.” (Q70 [Ma'arij]:19)

The word 'haluu' is strange but Allaah explained its meaning in the following two verses:

“Irritable (discontented) when evil touches him, and niggardly when good touches him.” (Q70 [Ma'arij]:20-21)

For the word to be transferred from its linguistic meaning to its technical (legal) meaning, though many scholars do not consider this to be under mujmaal. An example of this is 'salaah' which linguistically means supplication/prayer. But technically it refers to a mode of worship that has some utterance and actions; it begins with takbeer and ends with tasleem. The same thing applies to zakaat and hajj. It is the sunnah that explains the intended legal meaning of these words. We would not have understood the legal meanings of these words if not for the explanation of the sunnah.

One or Many Words

Ijmaal may occur in a single word as in the examples give above and may occur in a phrase or a compound word. Other examples of ijmaal in single words include: 'qaala' which means to say something or to have siesta; and 'al-qur'u' which means menstruation or purity.

An example of ijmaal in a phrase or a compound word is the phrase in the Qur'an:

“… or he (the husband), in whose hands is the marriage tie, agrees to forego...” (Q2 [Baqarah]:237)

The scholars say this could refer to the husband of the lady divorced or her waliyy (guardian)

Absolute or Partial

Ijmaal can also be absolute or partial. A statement is said to be mujmaal if no one can understand it except the speaker himself explains what he intends by it. For instance when salaat was made compulsory it was made mujmaalah until Jibreel came and explained it. So we say this type of mujmaal is mutlaq (absolute).

However, this type of ijmaal does not exist any longer because the Prophet (salallahu alayhi wa sallam) had explained all of this before his death. Allaah says:

“With clear signs and Books (We sent the Messengers). And We have also sent down unto you (O Muhammad SAW) the reminder and the advice (the Qur'an), that you may explain clearly to men what is sent down to them, and that they may give thought.” (Q16 [Nahl]:44)

As for the partial ijmaal, this occurs when someone is not aware of the contextual and situational evidences that surround a particular statement while someone else is aware of them. So we say the statement has a nisbi (partial) ijmaal with respect to the other person.

However, people outdo one another in the knowledge of this type of ijmaal due to the difference in their knowledge, intellect and experience. And those who know are asked to explain to those who know not.

This article was culled from the publications of Deen Communication Limited