No. of Surahs in Ubayy’s Mushaf

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم الحمد لله وحده و الصلاة و السلام على من لا نبي بعده و على آله و أصحابه أجمعين

No. of surahs (chapters) in the Mushaf (personal Qur’an copy) of Ubayy bin Ka’b –may Allah be pleased with him, is one of the top ten arguments of orientalists and Christians against the Muslim assertions on fool proof preservation of the Qur’anic text.

It is said that Ubayy’s mushaf had two “additional surahs” and the polemicists make use of such statements arguing against the unanimity of the earliest Muslims on the Qur’an’s content.


1. The narrations

The arguments sprouts from the narrations quoted in the well known work al-Ittiqan of Hafiz Suyuti.

Mentioning about the no. of surahs, he writes;

وَفِي مُصْحَفِ أُبَيٍّ سِتَّ عَشْرَةَ لِأَنَّهُ كَتَبَ فِي آخِرِهِ سُورَتَيِ الْحَفْدِ وَالْخُلْعِ

“And in the mushaf of Ubay there were [one hundred and] sixteen surahs for towards the end of it he had written the surahs ‘al-hafd’ and ‘al-khal’’.” (al-Ittiqan vol.1 p.226)

After this he quotes on the authority of Abu ‘Ubayd a narration from Ibn Sirin that he said;

كَتَبَ أُبَيُّ بْنُ كَعْبٍ فِي مُصْحَفِه.ِ فَاتِحَةَ الْكِتَابِ وَالْمُعَوِّذَتَيْنِ وَاللَّهُمَّ إِنَّا نَسْتَعِينُكَ وَاللَّهُمَّ إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ

John Glichrist puts it the following way;

"Written in the text of Ubayy ibn Ka'b were the Fatihal-kitab (the Opening Surah) and the Mu'awwi-thatayni (the Charm Surahs) and Allahumma innaa nasta'iinka (the opening words of Suratul-Khal' meaning 'O Allah, we seek your help') and Allahumma ayyaaka na'budu (the opening words of Suratul-Hafd meaning 'O Allah, we worship you')". (as-Suyuti, Al-Itqan fii Ulum al-Qur'an, p.153)

2. Wording of the alleged surahs

Hafiz Suyuti has himself recorded the wording of these alleged surahs.

اللَّهُمَّ إِنَّا نَسْتَعِينُكَ وَنَسْتَغْفِرُكَ وَنُثْنِي عَلَيْكَ وَلَا نُكْفُرُكَ وَنَخْلَعُ وَنَتْرُكُ مَنْ يَفْجُرُكَ
اللَّهُمَّ إِيَّاكَ نَعْبُدُ وَلَكَ نُصَلِّي وَنَسْجُدُ وَإِلَيْكَ نَسْعَى وَنَحْفِدُ نَرْجُو رَحْمَتَكَ وَنَخْشَى عَذَابَكَ إِنَّ عَذَابَكَ بِالْكُفَّارِ مُلْحَقٌ.

O Allah! We beg help from You alone; ask forgiveness from You alone, and praise You and are not ungrateful to You and we part and break off with all those who are disobedient to you.
O Allah! You alone do we worship and pray exclusively to You and bow before You alone and we hasten eagerly towards You and we fear Your severe punishment and hope for Your Mercy as your severe punishment is surely to be meted out to the unbelievers.

See, al-Ittiqan 1/227

Note: In some narrations there are additional words in the first part.

Thereafter al-Suyuti quotes multiple narrations showing companions recited these “two surahs” in the prayers.

3. Reality of these alleged surahs

These words dubbed as “surahs” are actually a supplication taught to the Holy Prophet –peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- by the Archangel Gabriel.

Al-Baihaqi records, Khalid bin Abi ‘Imran narrated:

بَيْنَا رَسُولُ اللهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ يَدْعُو عَلَى مُضَرَ إِذْ جَاءَهُ جَبْرَئِيلُ فَأَوْمَأَ إِلَيْهِ أَنِ اسْكُتْ فَسَكَتَ، فَقَالَ: " يَا مُحَمَّدُ إِنَّ اللهَ لَمْ يَبْعَثْكَ سَبَّابًا وَلَا لَعَّانًا، وَإِنَّمَا بَعَثَكَ رَحْمَةً، وَلَمْ يَبْعَثْكَ عَذَابًا {لَيْسَ لَكَ مِنَ الْأَمْرِ شَيْءٌ أَوْ يَتُوبَ عَلَيْهِمْ أَوْ يُعَذِّبَهُمْ فَإِنَّهُمْ ظَالِمُونَ} [آل عمران: 128] ثُمَّ عَلَّمَهُ هَذَا الْقُنُوتَ: اللهُمَّ إِنَّا نَسْتَعِينُكَ ...

“While the Messenger of Allah - peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- was supplicating against the Mudhar, Gabriel came to him and signaled him to remain silent, so he became silent. Then Gabriel said, “O Muhammad, Allah has not sent you to disparage or condemn, rather he has sent you as a mercy. And he has not sent you to bring torment. ‘Not for you, [O Muhammad, but for Allah], is the decision whether He should [cut them down] or forgive them or punish them, for indeed, they are wrongdoers.’ [Qur’an 3:128] Then he taught him this supplication, ‘O Allah! We beg help from You alone …’” (Sunan al-Kubra, Hadith 3142)

Apparently, the Prophet –may Allah bless him- was praying against the Mudhar tribe with strong words asking for the torment in their favor, so Allah reprimanded him with the words in Qur’an 3:128 and made Gabriel teach him the under consideration words as supplication(s) in its stead.

4. Why repeat in the ritual prayers?

One may however like to point out the narrations that say the companions recited these words in the prayers itself.

In al-Ittiqan (1/227-228) the narrations quoted show that ‘Umar, Ubayy and Abu Musa –may Allah be pleased with them all- used to supplicate with these words in the prayers.

The truth simply is that Islamic juristic law in light of the prophetic example sanctions this supplication to be made in the regular ritual prayers (salah) itself, therefore we find many companions supplicating with these words. This extra supplication is done on daily basis in the last rak’ah of the Witr prayers and at the times of confrontation with the enemy even in the fajr (morning) prayers. (Some scholars do it in the Fajr regularly as well). As such one can pray with any words, and there are other supplications also mentioned in hadith narrations, but these particular words were taught directly by Gabriel, much the same way as the Qur’an was revealed, therefore, Muslims generally had more love for these words to repeat in their prayers.

Abu al-Hasan al-Qattan quoted in his work al-Matulaat, the narration of Abban bin Abi Ayyash who inquired Anas –may Allah be pleased with him- about these supplications and got the following reply;

وَالله إِن أَنْزَلَتَا إِلَّا من السَّمَاء

“By Allah, these two are revealed from the heavens.”
(Durr Manthur, Dar al-Fekr, Beirut n.d. vol.8 p.695)

We have already seen the precise information how these words were taught by angel Gabriel. This is to highlight the reason for the companions’ preference of these words as ‘qunoot’ supplication in Witr and Fajr prayers.

This simple fact explains all the narrations about companions and their students reciting these words in prayers.

5. ‘Uthman (RA) and these words

Orientalists and Missionaries usually suggest that the Qur’an the Muslims know today was standardized by ‘Uthman and therefore does not represent the consensus of the earliest Muslims, but only his political authority. With such baseless ideas fixed in their minds the simple plain reasoning that none of the companions who recited these words in prayers ever made any effort to get these words recorded in officially prepared copies of the Qur’an, is not expected to move them much. However we have evidence that even ‘Uthman recited these words in prayers.

Husayn [bin ‘Abdul Rahman] said he offered prayers behind ‘Uthman bin Ziyad. After the prayers ‘Uthman bin Ziyad told him that he supplicated with these words and then pronounced;

كَذَا كَانَ يَصْنَعُ عُمَرُ بْنُ الْخَطَّابِ، وَعُثْمَانُ بْنُ عَفَّانَ

“’Umar bin al-Khattab and ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan did the same way.”  (Musannaf Ibn Abi Shaybah, Hadith 7032, Makteba al-Rushd, Riyadh 1409)

This seals the fact. ‘Uthman bin ‘Affan –may Allah be pleased with him- himself recited these words in the prayers and yet we do not find them in the manuscripts prepared under his authority. Is it not enough of evidence that merely recitation in the prayers does not mean the companions considered it a part of the Qur’an? As already shown, it was only a supplication taught to the Prophet by Gabriel and, in turn, to the companions by the Prophet himself.

6. Why did Ubayy write them in his Mushaf?

Even though it was written in the Mushaf of Ubayy, it does not signify that to him the words were part of the actual text of the Qur’an.

Muhammad Abdul Azim al-Zurqani (d. 1367 A.H.) wrote:

“Some of the companions, who used to write Qur’an in one or more personal copies, at times wrote therein what was not from the Qur’an. It included the interpretation of what was difficult to them from the meaning of the Qur’an or the [words that formed the] supplications similar to the supplications in the Qur’an, that could be recited in the prayers at the time of ‘qunoot’ or the like of it. And they knew such was not [itself] the Qur’an. But for the dearth of the writing tools and [the fact that] they used to write Qur’an for themselves alone, keeping from others, it was easy for them because they were themselves free of the danger of mixing and confusing the Qur’an with other than it. Then some people with little insight imagined that whatever was written in those copies was written as Qur’an. But this is not the reality, but the reality is what you have just learnt.”
(Manahil al-‘Irfan fi ‘Uloom al-Qur’an, Dar al-Kitab al-Arabi, Beirut 1415 A.H. p.222)

Similarly Dr. Salah Abdul Fattah al-Khalidi comments on the status of these words;

“‘Umar bin al-Khattab- may Allah be pleased with him- used to recite this in the prayers. And the Messenger –peace and blessings on him- taught it to Ali to recite this in the prayers! Yes this is true. But it’s not that it was from the Qur’an, rather it is a supplication to Allah.
Words of these two alleged surahs are part of the ‘qunoot’ supplication. The Messenger of Allah –peace and blessings of Allah on him- used to supplicate with this in the prayers, and taught this to ‘Umar,’ Ali and others from amongst the companions –Allah be pleased with them all. They all used to beseech Allah with these words in the prayers. And the Muslims heard and reported it from them and mentioned it in the books.”
(Al-Qur’an wa Naqd Mata’in al-Ruhban, Dar al-Qalam, Damascus, 2007 p.277)

Further the text of the Qur’an that all Muslims read today i.e. the so-called Mushaf of Uthman, was dictated to Zaid and co.- may Allah be pleased with them all- by Ubayy and is according to the Qir’at of Ubayy- may Allah be pleased with him.

عن عطاء أن عثمان بن عفان لما نسخ القرآن في المصاحف أرسل إلى أبي بن كعب، فكان يملي على زيد بن ثابت وزيد يكتب ومعه سعيد بن العاص يعربه، فهذا المصحف على قراءة أبي وزيد

It is narrated from ‘Ata that when Uthman bin Affan got the Qur’an written in Masahif, he sent for Ubayy, so he dictated the text to Zaid bin Thabit. Zaid wrote it and with him was Sa’id bin al-‘Aas who perfected its form. This (standard) Mushaf was according to the recitation (qir’at) of Ubayy and Zaid.
(Kanzul Ummal, Hadith 4789 Mo’ssas al-Resalah, Beirut, 1981 vol.2 p.587)

So clearly the Mushaf that we recite today, which includes 114 surahs, was dictated by Ubayy and is according to his recitation- may Allah be pleased with. This kills even the remotest idea of Qur’an, according to him, having something additional to what is known today.

Indeed Allah knows the best!

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3 comments :

    1. great article, nicely refuted. May Allah reward you and your team. Ameen

      ReplyDelete
    2. Alhamdulilah...Perfect

      ReplyDelete
    3. Jazakallahu khayran

      ReplyDelete