Understanding Islam – Part 14 (The Quran Codex)

The Quran was not one document as it exits today from the beginning.  There was more than one.  As with the Bible uniformity of its contents was desired and needed.  The Bible written by many authors, inspired by God, was assembled into what it is today in the 4th Century.  The books, its contents, were written, and included as essentially determined by a panel to be the inspired works.  The early Christian church had much of the contents, but not in one place.  They had the gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, the letters of Paul, and other documents – the Old Testament also) and choose those that reflected the consistencies of the early Christian communities faith.  Even when there were differences they were included as they represented the views from more than one source having experienced Jesus and the reality of the Incarnation.  The early Christian communities did not have the benefit of the acceptance of the authority in power and often suffered periods of persecution.  Not until Constantine came to power in Rome, almost 300 years after Christ, was there a decree allowing for Christians to freely worship as they choose.  The faith in Christ before that grew on its own excitement and acceptance of what God revealed through Christ.  Constantine, more secular than religious at the time, saw the need for some uniformity of the expressions of the espoused Christian faith and the books used in study and worship.  He assembled many bishops, from the East and the West, to come to grips with the books to be used and to prepare a succinct statement of the faith.  It was to reflect what the Christians already knew to be true.   This resulted in the Nicene Creed. (The Nicene Creed is produced at the end of this Blog for reference)

As with the Bible, so with the Quran the final book was chosen by men.  From Alister McGrath’s book, Heresy, I have taken the following excerpt:  “Following the death of the Prophet Muhammad in 632, a political structure for ruling the new Muslim state emerged.  Known as ‘the caliphate,’ it grew both in power and territory during the centuries following Muhammad’s death, conquering the lands of the Fertile Crescent to the north.  Within the expanding territory, often referred to as the ummah, Islam was enforced as the official state religion.  During the period of the first two caliphs, Abuy Bakr (632-634) and Umar (634-644), the codification of the Qu’ran was carried out as the number of individuals who had committed it to memory (the ‘Companions of the Prophet’) began to diminish.  Yet the process of committing the Qu’ran to writing led to textural divergencies. Thus the codex of Abdullah ibn Mas’ud became the standard text for the Muslims at Kufa in Iraq, while the codex of Ubayy ibn Ka’b was widely used in Damascus in Syria.  Aware that this situation might lead to factionalization and disunity within the emergent Islamic state, Umar ordered the production of an offiial, authorized text of the Qu’ran.  All other texts, whether complete or fragmentary, were ordered to be destroyed.” (pg. 56)

I found this very interesting.  It implies the Qu’ran was written after Muhammad’s death.  Those that compiled the Qu’ran had recited its verses for years. It was only a short time after the death of the Prophet that the words were written, yet there was more than one document, and for a number of years the proclamations to the Muslims in different areas were not the same.  For the sake of uniformity one document was selected.  This was the right thing to do.  Yet it brings into question, for me anyway, and I certainly respect the subsequent historical dedication to maintaining the final Qu’ran in its original Arabic over these many years, the role of humans in preparing this document, a document viewed as the “revelation of Allah” by the words written themselves. 

Jesus, as seen by the Muslims as a Prophet, and an important one, did not give the words of the Bible to the Christians, they were inspired, yes, but not direct recitations from Jesus.  There are many quotations ascribed to Jesus, but the words as a whole came from sources ranging from Moses, to Isaiah, David, Jeremiah, Amos, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, Paul and Peter, and more.  The Old Testament prophesied the coming of the New Testament, the new covenant, and God’s revelation in his Son, consubstantial with the Father, ‘truly God and truly human.’  Available to the early Christian church soon after Christ’s death, resurrection and ascension, were letters of Paul, and then those of the gospel writers.  What they wrote was not a repeat of what they were told to recite, but a reflection of personal experiences, events involving the Risen Lord that actually occurred in their presence and in the world in which they lived and experienced life with others.

From Heresy:  “the enforcement of ideas by force, the suppression of liberty, and the violation of rights….This theme (was) of major importance  in western Europe during the Middle Ages, and is of growing importance in the Islamic world today.” (pg. 13)  We must all be free to choose our religion and the means to our salvation.  If you believe there is a possibility of life after death then you must come to grips with the pathway to your future and follow.  If not, then a secular life, a life where death only results as an ending to a time on earth, serving no purpose, our existence only to then die, is offered; then too it is only the authority of government that regulates and the authority of a supreme being holds no sway.  But you need to choose, and be free to choose, and then to suffer according to your choice and relationship with the governing authority of your choice, be it God, Allah, or the President, Prime Minister, Tribal Leader, or Czar/Despot of your Country.

May the world find peace, love and understanding.  May the people of the world speak up and stand up so as to lead us to such a pleasant existence where all religions can co-exist, whether or not the supernatural is involved.  What happens after death will then be left to the judge of your choosing, or no judge at all. 

For reference:  The Nicene Creed  –  “I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible. And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made. Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end. And I believe in the Holy Ghost, the Lord and Giver of Life; who proceeds from the Father and the Son; who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified; who spoke by the prophets. And I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the remission of sins; and I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.”

Grace and peace and blessings to the people of the world.

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