Textual Criticism

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Textual criticism completely relates to text, therefore it has nothing to do with music, art, or literature. Basically, this is defined as the science of discovering errors in text and the art of removing it, and on the assumption that it is not an exact science, A. E. Housman defines it as the art of discovering errors in text and the art of removing it. In the context of the Qur’anic studies, this study does not have the big attention by scholars, both Muslims and non-Muslims, without disregarding some exception however.

Basically, classicists divide the process of textual criticism into three phases: recension, examination, and emendation. The analyst have to establish the preliminary text for the first phase, than he has to examine it whether it is the best text or not, and finally when he find that it is not, he has to attempt emending it. If these three phases is well done, the result is the revised edition of the text analyzed which is proper to be claimed closer to the author’s original.

The first phase, for the Qur’an, does not give much contribution since the standard Egyptian edition is quite good, and this phase then is not needed. However, it was said that it remains important to get an idea of what this Egyptian edition consists of, therefore Bellamy explores the short explanation on Qur’anic text history, from the beginning until it takes the shape as this standard edition.

The errors to be isolated in the second phase, the examination step, are in some possibilities of conditions: (1) the lack of good sense in the word or passage and the resulting variety of opinion among scholars as to what it means, (2) the word is transmitted in more than one form, and (3) the word is claimed to be dialectal or foreign. In order to be acceptable, an emendation must pass 4 requirements: (1) It makes better sense than the received (analyzed) text, (2) it must be in harmony with the style of the Qur’an, (3) it should be paleographically justifiable, and (4) it should show how the correction occurred in the first place. But the most important of these is the semantic criterion.

Further for the third step, Bellamy describes that the earliest generations of reciters and transmitters of Uthmanic recension realized that it contained mistakes. The problem of the mistakes is resolved in three ways: (1) some simply corrected the text, (2) the other retained the text as it was and corrected their recitation, and (3) the other recited it as it was written. He then attaches the example of ‘inna hazaini lasahirani’ case, besides the other, for the better explanation.

Then, the article describes the emendation done by later scholars. Noldeke discusses the law in wama anta bimu’minina wa law kunna mu’minina. He claims that this phrase implies that the speaker admitted to have a lie. He suggests than that Muhammad might be putting his own condemnation of the speakers in their own mouths, thus the text is then the author’s (Muhammad) original, and no need the emendation. The other scholars, J. Barth, attempts to examine the inner connections of the surahs and their possible disjunctions, to point out insertion in the original context, and to make other critical contribution. He bases his work on the assumption that the text has been disarranged and that many verses, phrases, and word are out of the original place. The result of his work is the rearrangement of Q. 97: 4-5 to be biizni rabbihim hatta mathla’i al-fajr; salamun hiya min kulli amr. Nevertheless, this kind of study, which attempt to restore the original by moving bits and pieces of text from one place to another done by J. Barth and Blachere, could not pass the fourth requirement of accaptable emendation: to show how the corruption came about. The other scholar, Christoph Luxemberg, deals critically with the single words, phrases, and syntactic constructions of Qur’an to be traces of Syriac.

In the next pages, Bellamy explore some selected emendations, however, he said, due to the limit of paper, he has to omit most of discussions provided and the comments from Muslims. The words or phrases emended are many, such as hasab, ummah, abban, sijjil, etc. This resume will then show some selected of selected emendations described by Bellamy.

For the case of sab’un min al-masani, there are some peculiarities. Al-masani is then emended to mataly (something read); lam is miswritten and replaced with nun because the difference is too short. Also for sab’ is claimed to be originally syai’. The phrases then become walaqad ataynaka syai’a min al-matali wa al-Qur’an al-‘azim.

The other most interesting emendation is to the word of ‘Isa, which Christians call Jesus. The Question is why Qur’an should call Jesus ‘Isa, since eastern Christians call Yasu’ or Iso, and as the word of ‘Isa does not occur before Qur’an as well as it has no satisfactory derivation. These premises therefore suggest the scholars to claim this word might be mistake. To solve the problem, Bellamy compares the word of Massiya (the word of Messias without “s” nominative singular ending) with Masih (after dropping the “al” definite article). Mim is emended to ‘ain, ya’ to ha, and four minims are ya’ and sin, thus it is ‘isa.

Nevertheless, the real problem is why Muhammad would reject Yasu’ as the alternative. He suggests that the word of aswa’a, sa’a, and yasu’u refer to the action of the two cowper glands which secrete a fluid when sexually stimulated. Thus, the word ridicule Muhammad’s claim that Jesus was a prophet.

From the examples provided, I could conclude that the emendations are potentially discussed by the scholars because historically copying Qur’an in early periode involved no diacritic as well as the text is just stand on the vowel less alphabets.


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