This detailed study of a series of early manuscripts of the Qur’an is the first work to bring out the full implications of several generations of scholarly activity in the area of Quranic textual studies. By situating the manuscript evidence alongside the information provided by Islamic tradition, Small brings new insights to the history of the development of a standardized text of the Qur’an. Employing processes of textual criticism rigorously developed in New Testament studies, this work provides a fresh view of a controversial topic that has rarely been broached before regarding the establishment of the written text of the Qur’an. Small’s work is certain to reignite a vigorous debate about how scholars assess the evidence provided by written sources when faced with assertions concerning the primacy of simultaneous and robust oral transmission. (Andrew Rippin, University of Victoria, Canada)
In this study, Keith Small applies the principles of textual analysis to twenty-two manuscripts—most of them early—that contain Q. 14:35-41, which describes how Abraham settled his son—presumably Ishmael—in Mecca. Based on a careful and systematic analysis of the manuscripts, Small traces the historical development of the Qur'anic text from the rise of Islam until the 10th century CE. Comparison of the manuscripts with the evidence of literary sources suggests that the text remained open and fluid during the first half of the seventh century, and that the production of a standard text was not completed until the end of that century. This editorial project, sponsored by the Umayyad caliphs, resulted in the destruction of most if not all of the earliest manuscripts, with the result that it is currently impossible to recover the original form of the text. This is an important contribution to scholarship on the Qur'an. (David S. Powers, Cornell University)
About the Author
Keith E. Small is an associate research fellow and visiting lecturer for the Centre for Islamic Studies and Muslim-Christian Relations at the London School of Theology.