We need to change the Qur’an! Not quite the kind of headline that you would expect in the Saudi press, but this was exactly the message of two recent articles that appeared in the Kingdom.
The first was published by journalist Ahmed Hashem in ‘Saudi Opinions’ on the 10th of January. Hashem states that there have been huge numbers of copyist errors since the text of the Qur’an was supposedly fixed for all time under Caliph Uthman Bin Affan (ruled 644-656). Hashem lists as many as 2,500 errors that occur in the Qur’an that Muslims read today, citing many concrete examples. He, therefore, urges the Saudi authorities to take action in order to: “…make the text more readable for present day Muslims and more linguistically correct.”
This rather startling admission that there are fundamental issues with the reliability of the Qur’anic text was followed by an article published on 20 July 2020 on the Saudi website Elaph, written by Iraqi Kurdish researcher Jarji Gulizada. In it he echoes Hashem’s call that fundamental changes should be made to the Qur’anic text because in its present form: “…it is not suitable for the Islamic nation in the modern world, and especially for non-Arab Muslims.”
The articles caused a major furor across the Arab world, particularly because they threw a searchlight on an issue that is rarely addressed in the Muslim world: Namely that serious questions can be asked about the process through which the Qur’an was written down, preserved and transmitted.
At the very least it should tell us that the cozy certainties that the Qur’an has ‘never been changed, never been altered’ (words used in an ad on the London Underground recently) are very far of the mark.
I look at this issue in depth in my book ‘The Mecca Mystery – Probing the Black Hole at the Heart of Muslim History’, along with many other questions about the early history of Islam.