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Textual Criticism and Qur'an Manuscripts [Paperback]

Keith E. Small

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Book Description

Aug. 2 2012 0739177532 978-0739177532 Reprint
This unique work takes a method of textual analysis commonly used in studies of ancient Western and Eastern manuscripts and applies it to twenty-one early Qur'an manuscripts. Keith Small analyzes a defined portion of text from the Qur'an with two aims in view: to recover the earliest form of text for this portion, and to trace the historical development of this portion to the current form of the text of the Qur'an. Small concludes that though a significantly early edited form of the consonantal text of the Qur'an can be recovered, its original forms of text cannot be obtained. He also documents the further editing that was required to record the Arabic text of the Qur'an in a complete phonetic script, as well as providing an explanation for much of the development of various recitation systems of the Qur'an. This controversial, thought-provoking book provides a rigorous examination into the history of the Qur'an and will be of great interest to Quranic Studies scholars.

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Textual Criticism and Qur'an Manuscripts + In Search of the Original Koran: The True History of the Revealed Text
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Review

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.

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Amazon.com: 4.6 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
27 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars QUALITY CONTRIBUTION May 11 2011
By D. Brubaker - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
In this book, which draws from his 2008 doctoral dissertation, Dr. Small surveys the status of, and issues within, Qur'an textual criticism, giving a discussion of the range of variations and development in the manuscripts he considers: 22 manuscripts (19 of which are from the 1st 4 centuries). Dr. Small has included greyscale images of a page or two from each of the manuscripts / mushafs under discussion as well as approximate dates and physical and stylistic descriptions of each. Among his topics are: *orthographic variants involving long vowels, *copyist mistakes, *diacritical mark variants and variants affecting grammar, *rasm variants, *variant verse divisions, *physical corrections to manuscripts, *discerning intentionality / non-intentionality in variants, and *effects of orality upon written transmission. Perhaps most importantly, Dr. Small applies a methodology (reasoned eclecticism) which has served biblical textual criticism for more than a century but is not controlled by a particular religious or political ideology and is flexible enough to take into account the issues unique to the transmission of Arabic texts and the process of development of the Arabic written forms. "Textual Criticism and Qur'an Manuscripts" will certainly be an essential reference for anyone working in the field of the history of the written text of the Qur'an. It will also be a good primer on the current status of Qur'anic textual studies for laypeople as well as religious scholars who wish to learn more about the earliest manuscripts of the Qur'an.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Important, technical, and instructional; useful for intellectual progress in Islam Nov. 26 2013
By Abraham Phillips - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A work that nearly stands alone by subject matter and technical depth. Examines over 20 different manuscripts carefully (includes photocopies of them) and gives explanation for why much of the textual tradition of the Qur'an was either lost or intentionally destroyed. Some of the textual variants seemed trivial to me personally, as have many Biblical variants, but there was an even handed treatment of the material evidence. I felt the text constructed the purposes and methods of textual criticism in a respectful manner beginning from the ground up. Not a very welcome text in the eyes of Islamic fundamentalism but useful for thoughtful inquiry concerning the text's reliability.
4.0 out of 5 stars the book is a good treatment of a subject in need of study Aug. 31 2014
By agentx216 - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
While this book isn't for everyone as it tends to be written for those who know some history of Islam and have some understanding (or willing to learn on the fly) of textual criticism on a whole, the book is a good treatment of a subject in need of study. I have not seen much in recent Islamic study that suggests a critical, non-dogmatic look at the text and transmission of the Koran. Dr. Small does a good job in tackling a small section of what could be a larger commentary. Dr. Small takes a trees from the forest approach and looks at a small and conservative section of the Koran with some good credentials and a good number of manuscripts. He treats the subject fairly and pulls from his experience with New Testament textual criticism to establish a good basis for his study. The beginning of the book sets up the middle nicely and while it could get a little rough in the middle for people without much experience in the subject of TC, one can follow along with what he sees ( a video series would be a great supplemental to this book). The best part of the book is the conclusions he draws and the writing at the end. Again, Dr. Small treats the text fairly but is very honest and open at how little the current Koran can trace itself back to the autograph(s). The New Testament is the pinnacle of textual transmission for any literature of the early era, and the Koran has a different pathway it takes for transmission and origination. Modern Islamic scholarship tends to be too dogmatic to treat the transmission of what early Muslim authors had no trouble admitting. The history of of early Islam that Dr. Small points to is enlightening and interesting. If you get into textual criticism study or a deeper study in witnessing and debating Muslims (or understanding their full history) this is a book to pick up for sure. Final Grade - A-
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Must read before doing textual criticism on the Qur'an Oct. 5 2013
By V. K. Inman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
An excellent work and correctly done textual criticism. It would have been better is he had given us a critical text, even of a short passage, as a better arrangement of his findings. It would also have been better if he had used lessons learned from Hebrew Bible textual criticism since this more closely parallels the text criticism of the Qur'an. But at least he is doing textual criticism on the Qur'an which few others are doing.
7 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Much needed advancement... Aug. 27 2011
By Textual Critic - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Great contribution to the field, opening up more needed/healthy dialogue regarding these issues. Many people will profit from reading this work, as have I.

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