(An Excerpt from Mufti Taqi Usmani’s ‘Ulum-ul-Quran)
Translation by Dr. Muhammad Swaleh Siddiqui published under the title An Approach to Qur’anic Sciences, Darul Isha’at Karachi 2000.
Transcription in e-format and correction of mistakes in the translation by Waqar Akbar Cheema
Some Orientalists are making a mountain out of a molehill through false assumptions on the basis of rare recitals of the Qur’an. Particularly Goldziher and Jeffery have quoted several examples of these recitals and have drawn self-conceived inferences from them. In these pages it is not possible to present all those examples and expose the reality about them. For this task a whole book will be required. Also we feel that it this would be unnecessary. However, we wish to mention some fundamental facts about the rare recitals, and we do hope that with these in view the readers will understand the rejection of the false assumptions of these Orientalists that they have made on the basis of rare recitals.
We have stated earlier that Muslims are united on their understanding that only such recitals of the Qur’an are reliable that fulfill three conditions, namely
1. The Particular recitals can be incorporated in ‘Uthmani script.
2. It should confirm to the rules of the Arabic Grammar.
3. It must have proof of the authentic uninterrupted transmission from the Holy Prophet (saw), or at least it must be popular among the scholars of Recitals.
Any Recitals lacking even one of these three conditions is termed “Rare Recital” and no one in the entire Ummah took it as reliable. A close look on “Rare Recitals” reveals that one or more of the following defects are present in them.
1. Sometimes that recital is totally innovated, just as recitals of Abdul Fadl Muhammad bin Ja’far Khuza’I that he has attributed to Imam Abu Hanifa. Darqutni and all other scholars have exposed them and declared that they are all innovated.
2. Sometimes they have very weak precedents, just like the recitals of Ibn -us-Samifa and Abdus Samal or many of those recitals which Ibn Abi Dawud has attributed to different Companions and their followers in his Kitab-ul-Masahif.
3. Sometimes precedent is correct but infact it is not the recitals of the Qur’an, but a Companions or his follower added one or more words during ordinary discourse as an explanation to some word of the Qur’an. Since Qur’an in its entire substance was uninterrupted and thousands of Huffaz were present in every period of time, there was no danger of actual addition in the original text due to additions of explanatory words. Hence, such explanations were not considered objectionable. For example, it is reported that Sa’ad bin Abi Waqqas read a verse (4:12) as;
وله أخ أو أخت من أم
ولتكن منكم أمة يدعون إلى الخير ويأمرون بالمعروف وينهون عن المنكر ، ويستعينون الله على ما أصابهم وأولئك هم المفلحون
In this the phrase; ويستعينون الله على ما أصابهم is exegetical addition because if it had been part of the Qur’an in 'Uthman’s recital, it must have been present in the transcriptions compiled by him. But this phrase is not to be found in any of his seven transcriptions.
There are many such examples found in Rare Recitals.
4. Sometimes it happened that certain recitals were abrogated in the last days of the Prophet’s life but some Companion who had already memorized it remained unaware of this act, hence he continued to recite it as he had learnt. Because the other Companions knew that this had been abrogated they did not recite it not did they consider it to be correct recital anymore.
5. It appears from some Rare Recitals that probably some follower of Companions made a mistake in the recitation of the Qur’an quite unintentionally (as sometimes happens even with eminent Huffaz) and listener reported it as he had heard.
Whatever “Rare Recitals” of the Qur’an have been reported; most come under one of the above five situations. Obviously, no question arises for accepting these Recitals as reliable. Consequently, the Ummah never relied on them in any age. That is why these recitals could not even become popular, nothing to say of their being uninterrupted. Hence the inferences drawn by the Orientalists on the basis of “Rare Recitals” that (God Forbid) differences exist in the text of the Qur’an, is such an unfounded and absurd idea that it deserves no consideration at all from scientific and research point of view. And Allah knows the best!
NOTE: Also useful will be a reading of a chapter from Muhammad Mustafa Al-Azami's monumental work History of the Qur'anic Text from Revelation to Compilation. Download the book HERE and read Chapter 11: Causes of Variant Readings i.e. pp. 151-164
 Madhahib Tafsir Al-islami by Goldziher and Arthur Jeffery's Materials for the History of the text of the Quran, Leiden 1936 p.6, Arabic translation by Dr. Abdul Halim Najjar.