Muslim Scholar Says "Holes" in Traditional Account of Quran
Are there “holes” in the traditional Muslim understanding of how we got the Quran? One respected and conservative Sunni scholar thinks so. Dr. Yasir Qadhi is a Pakistani-American Muslim scholar who is widely respected in the Muslim community. In a recent interview with Muhammad Hijab, he described a crisis he had while completing graduate studies at Yale University. The crises had to do with the various ahruf and qira’at (i.e. versions) of the Quran. In the interview, Qadhi does not explain the issue further and he repeatedly states that the issue should not be discussed in public.
The interview caused quite a controversy amongst Muslims such that Muhammad Hijab (the man interviewing Qadhi) decided to delete this portion from the video on his YouTube channel. However, the full interview is available (as of July 14, 2020) on Qadhi’s YouTube channel. (See links below.) The issue has caused so much controversy because it affects the oft-repeated claim that the Quran in existence today is exactly the same as the Quran that the prophet Muhammad gave to the first Muslims. Here are some quotes from that interview.
And I would never bring it up in public… When you do a deep dive is when things get very, very awkward and difficult… This is not a joke brothers and sisters… Now for the first time I’m telling you here… these are very, very difficult issues and the most advanced of our scholars, they’re not quite fully certain how to solve all of the unanswered questions… These issues should only be discussed amongst people who know what qira’at are… and by the way this is now a well known open secret amongst many Muslim graduate students and academics around the world. Traditional understandings of ahruf and qira’at cannot answer some of these pressing questions that are now being poked by… academics outside of the faith tradition.
You see, in a Muslim environment there is always some respect that we have for the Quran… When you go to academia they don’t have that red line. And they’re gonna just, you know the famous story of the emperor with no clothes, they’re gonna just point out, ‘no, that doesn’t make any sense’ or ‘that’s not true’ and ‘this and that.’ And they’ll bring issues which I’m not going to mention explicitly, that you know are true because they’re in your own books. They’re not inventing anything new… I don’t even want to be explicit… and it’s very clear… that the standard narrative has holes in it. That’s what I’m gonna say. The standard narrative does not answer some very pressing questions…
This is no longer hidden news. More and more professors and academics are writing stuff and it’s being publicized on Twitter… And by and large our ulema [i.e. scholars] in the eastern world are not aware, by and large, of what’s going on in the western side of things. And they’re not answering those questions in a manner that it needs to be answered. This is something all of us, that are in academia, fully acknowledge.
This issue of ahruf and qira’at has troubled the ummah [i.e. Muslim community] from the very beginning… You will not find one lecture of mine about this issue. It should never be brought up in public… This is not something you discuss amongst the masses… It’s not wise. These problems are now becoming mainstream.
Yasir Qadhi’s full interview: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8Dc1HJ8Uif4&app=desktop
(See 1 hr 20 min to 1 hr 30 min for the quotes above.)
Note: As of (approximately) July 2020, Dr. Qadhi has set this video to "private" so that it is no longer viewable. However, you can still watch much of the interview by searching YouTube for "yasir qadhi muhammad hijab preservation of quran" or similar words.