Truth about the alleged variant in Qur’an 33: 6

Sam Shamoun in his article on alleged variants in the Qur’an has raised the issue of Ubayy’s so-called different reading of Qur’an 33:6.

In Qur’an we read the verse as;

“The Prophet is closer to the Believers than their own selves, and his wives are their mothers ...” (33:6)

Yet there are some reports that Ubay bin Ka’b (RA), a companion of the Prophet (PBUH), used to recite the verse as;

"The prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves, and he is a father to them, and his wives are their mothers."

Clearly the underlined words are an addition to the established reading.

The Truth:

In an earlier post discussing the reality of rare recitals of the Qur’an we learnt that;

‘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.’

We have evidence that same happened in the case under consideration.

1- The additional words were abrogated:

ุนู† ุฃุจูŠ ู…ูˆุณู‰ ุฅุณุฑุงุฆูŠู„ ุจู† ู…ูˆุณู‰، ู‚ุงู„: ู‚ุฑุฃ ุงู„ุญุณู† ู‡ุฐู‡ ุงู„ุขูŠุฉ ุงู„ู†َّุจِูŠُّ ุฃَูˆْู„َู‰ ุจِุงู„ْู…ُุคْู…ِู†ِูŠู†َ ู…ِู†ْ ุฃَู†ْูُุณِู‡ِู…ْ ูˆَุฃَุฒْูˆَุงุฌُู‡ُ ุฃُู…َّู‡َุงุชُู‡ُู…ْ ู‚ุงู„: ู‚ุงู„ ุงู„ุญุณู†: ู‚ุงู„ ุงู„ู†ุจูŠّ ุตู„ู‰ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุนู„ูŠู‡ ูˆุณู„ู…: "ุฃู†ุง ุฃูˆْู„ู‰ ุจูƒُู„ّ ู…ُุคู…ِู†ٍ ู…ِู†ْ ู†َูْุณِู‡ِ" ู‚ุงู„ ุงู„ุญุณู†: ูˆููŠ ุงู„ู‚ุฑุงุกุฉ ุงู„ุฃูˆู„ู‰: ุฃูˆْู„َู‰ ุจุงู„ู…ُุคْู…ู†ูŠู† ู…ِู†ْ ุฃู†ْูُุณِู‡ِู…ْ ูˆَู‡ُูˆَ ุฃุจٌ ู„َู‡ُู…ْ.

Abu Musa reported that Hassan (RA) recited this verse as; “The Prophet is closer to the Believers than their own selves, and his wives are their mothers.”He reported that Hassan quoted the Prophet (PBUH) to have said, ‘I am closer to every believer than his own self.’ Hassan said; in the initial recital [the verse was], ‘closer to the believers than their own selves, and he is a father to them.’ (Tafsir Ibn Jarir Al-Tabari 20/209)

ุนู† ุนูƒุฑู…ุฉ ุฑุถูŠ ุงู„ู„ู‡ ุนู†ู‡ ู‚ุงู„ : ูƒุงู† ููŠ ุงู„ุญุฑู ุงู„ุฃูˆู„ ุงู„ู†ุจูŠ ุฃูˆู„ู‰ ุจุงู„ู…ุคู…ู†ูŠู† ู…ู† ุฃู†ูุณู‡ู… ูˆู‡ูˆ ุฃุจ ู„ู‡ู…

It is reported from Ikrama that he said, ‘In the earlier recital [it was]; “The prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves, and he is a father to them.’ (Durr Manthur 8/127 Cf. Ibn Abi Hatim)

There two reports are adequate evidence that it was well known to early Muslims that the additional words have been abrogated and they were remembered only as such and no more as part of the actual text.

2- Other companions knew the lapse on the part of Ubayy:

Further we do have solid references to prove that other companions got that Ubayy (RA) just had a lapse of mind on this issue.

ุนู† ุจุฌุงู„ุฉ ุงู„ุชู…ูŠู…ูŠ ، ู‚ุงู„ : ูˆุฌุฏ ุนู…ุฑ ุจู† ุงู„ุฎุทุงุจ ู…ุตุญูุง ููŠ ุญุฌุฑ ุบู„ุงู… ู„ู‡ ููŠู‡ : » ุงู„ู†ุจูŠ ุฃูˆู„ู‰ ุจุงู„ู…ุคู…ู†ูŠู† ู…ู† ุฃู†ูุณู‡ู… ูˆู‡ูˆ ุฃุจ ู„ู‡ู… ูˆุฃุฒูˆุงุฌู‡ ุฃู…ู‡ุงุชู‡ู… ، ูู‚ุงู„ : ุงุญูƒูƒู‡ุง ูŠุง ุบู„ุงู… ، ูู‚ุงู„ : ูˆุงู„ู„ู‡ ู„ุง ุฃุญูƒู‡ุง ، ูˆู‡ูŠ ููŠ ู…ุตุญู ุฃุจูŠ ุจู† ูƒุนุจ ูุงู†ุทู„ู‚ ุนู…ุฑ ุฅู„ู‰ ุฃุจูŠ ุจู† ูƒุนุจ ، ูู‚ุงู„ : ุดุบู„ู†ูŠ ุงู„ู‚ุฑุขู† ، ูˆุดุบู„ูƒ ุงู„ุตูู‚ ุจุงู„ุฃุณูˆุงู‚

It is reported from Bajala Al-Tamimi: ‘Umar found a Mushaf (manuscript) with a boy wherein it was written, ‘the prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves, and he is a father to them, and his wives are their mothers.’ He said, ‘Erase it O boy!’ The boy replied, ‘By Allah I will not erase it and it is so in the Mushaf of Ubayy bin Ka’b.’ So ‘Umar went to Ubayy bin Ka’b. [According to one narration he raised his voice unto him] Ubayy replied; ‘[Occupation with] Qur’an causes me the lapse as you are caused a lapse by the noise in the markets ...’ (Ibn Hajr’s Matalib Al-Aaliya Hadith 3777. Ibn Hajr classified it as Sahih)

Same narration is found in Tafsir Abdul Razzaq Al-Sana’i 5/275 Hadith 2238 and Kanzul Ummal 2/569 Hadith 4746.

This is also supported by the following narration in Sahih Bukhari;

ุนَู†ْ ุงุจْู†ِ ุนَุจَّุงุณٍ ู‚َุงู„َ ู‚َุงู„َ ุนُู…َุฑُ ุฑَุถِูŠَ ุงู„ู„َّู‡ُ ุนَู†ْู‡ُ ุฃَู‚ْุฑَุคُู†َุง ุฃُุจَูŠٌّ ูˆَุฃَู‚ْุถَุงู†َุง ุนَู„ِูŠٌّ ูˆَุฅِู†َّุง ู„َู†َุฏَุนُ ู…ِู†ْ ู‚َูˆْู„ِ ุฃُุจَูŠٍّ ูˆَุฐَุงูƒَ ุฃَู†َّ ุฃُุจَูŠًّุง ูŠَู‚ُูˆู„ُ ู„َุง ุฃَุฏَุนُ ุดَูŠْุฆًุง ุณَู…ِุนْุชُู‡ُ ู…ِู†ْ ุฑَุณُูˆู„ِ ุงู„ู„َّู‡ِ ุตَู„َّู‰ ุงู„ู„َّู‡ُ ุนَู„َูŠْู‡ِ ูˆَุณَู„َّู…َ ูˆَู‚َุฏْ ู‚َุงู„َ ุงู„ู„َّู‡ُ ุชَุนَุงู„َู‰ ู…َุง ู†َู†ْุณَุฎْ ู…ِู†ْ ุขูŠَุฉٍ ุฃَูˆْ ู†ُู†ْุณِู‡َุง

Narrated Ibn Abbas: Umar said, "Our best Qur'an reciter is Ubayy and our best judge is 'Ali; and in spite of this, we leave some of the statements of Ubayy because Ubayy says, 'I do not leave anything that I have heard from Allah's Messenger while Allah said: ‘Whatever verse (Revelations) do We abrogate or cause to be forgotten ...’ (2.106) (Sahih Bukhari, Hadith 4121)

Thus proved that Ubayy (RA) was known for his lapses in forgetting that some revelations were abrogated and the same happened in case of the additional words in Qur’an 33:6.

3- Ubayy agreed to the established reading:

Similarly there is clear proof that Ubai (RA) agreed to the established reading without these words. The evidence is twofold;

a- On Umar’s (RA) inquiry Ubayy (RA) agreed that it was a lapse, albeit due to his being much occupied with remembering Qur’an, but lapse still.

b- We know that Ubayy (RA) was part of the twelve member committee appointed to oversee the standardization of the Qur’anic recitals, doing away with personal errors. See Ibn Abi Dawud’s Al-Masahif Hadith 72

Had he any different opinion and evidence for it he must have argued and got the words into the standard text. While we do not find them in the manuscripts standardized under him we must conclude he was by then at par with other companions on this issue. Indeed the incident of ‘Umar (RA) coming to him took place much before this.

4- Can these words be referred to as 'Variants'?

Having known all the above facts, can we call these words as variants? Not really! Because the Author himself asked for the words to be dropped and as soon as people came to knew about these words being abrogated they gave them up. 'Umar (RA) and other companions learnt about their being abrogated earlier so they stopped reciting them, Ubay (RA) learnt it somewhat later and then agreed to what was established. Hence there is no confusion and all the hue and cry of orientalists is just absurdity at its best!


One can observe that there could be no reason for Muslims to reject or insist on the inclusion of these words in the Qur'an for these words had absolutely no significance as far as essentials of Islamic belief system are concerned.

On the contrary we have some interesting examples of variants from the Bible with great significance regarding the controversies among early Christians.

An example is Luke 3: 22:

In the widely current version it reads;

"And the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased."

While we know that there is another reading of the same in which italicized words are replaced with;

"Today I have begotten thee."

See footnote to Luke 3: 22 The Oxford Annotated Bible R.S.V. 1952 pub. Oxford University Press, New York 1962.

The editors clearly write before giving this reading; 'Other ancient authorities read ...'

This uncommon reading is supported by the words of St. Paul as recorded in Hebrews 1: 5 and 5: 5.

Now the significance of this variant reading becomes evident when we read about a sect called Adoptionists who held that Jesus (PBUH) was adopted as a son by God at the eve of his Baptism. And this is precisely what Luke 3: 22, Hebrews 1: 5 and 5: 5 refer to.

It seems that the uncommon reading was purposefully suppressed to do away with an evidence of Adoptionist views from the Gospels at least!

So Christian fellows are requested to please carry out an analysis of their own scriptures before worrying about the Holy Qur'an -the Last and Final Testament of God for mankind!


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    1. Assalaamu 'Alaikum waRahmatu(A)llaahi waBarakaatuh
      I like the Sheikh Deedat-like militant tone of the article to counter the militant polemic of some Christians.

    2. Wa alaikum assalam wr wb

      I consider myself to be his student so the comment makes me happy! :)

    3. Salam wa alaykum.

      The variants the Bible has aren't due to divine abrogation. They are due to anonymous scribes altering the text, due to theological reasons, or accidental alterations.

      Christians have claimed Psalm 2:7 refers to Jesus. This would cause a problem in their theology.

      "In the majority of witnesses, the voice that comes from heaven alludes to Isaiah 42: "You are my Son, the Beloved, with you I am well pleased" (Luke 3.22). But in a wide range of early patristic sources of the second and third centuries, the voice is said to have quoted Ps. 2.7: "You are my Son, today I have begotten you." This latter form of the text, of course, could have proved useful to those holding to adoptionistic views, for it could be construed to say that it was at Jesus' baptism that he became God's son. It may well be, then, that the form of text attested in the majority of witnesses, in this case, represents an anti-adoptionistic corruption of the original.1"

      1 - For further discussion, .see Ehrman, Orthodox Corruption of Scripture, pp. 62-7. (Bruce M. Metzger & Bart D. Ehrman - The Text of the New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption, and Restoration - 4th Edition - OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS - Pages 285-286).

      If Christian's agree that Psalm 2:7 refers to Jesus, this indirectly means they believe Jesus became God's son at the baptism! This would go against their own belief that he was God's eternal son.