Dr Brown writes:
Folks, studies by scholars in the West on the transmission of the Quran all rely *solely* 1) on books of Quranic recitations written by major Muslim scholars like al-Dani (d. 444 AH), Ibn Abi Dawud (d. 316 AH) and Ibn al-Jazari (d. 833 AH) as well as other works like books on Quranic language and grammar by al-Farra’ (d. 207) and al-Zajjaj (d. 311 AH); and 2) on manuscripts of the Quran produced and preserved by Muslims.
One talk I just listened to “blew the whole lid off” conclusions made by late medieval Muslim scholars on Quranic readings… by literally regurgitating word for word one of those scholars, the famous Hadith scholar al-Sakhawi (d. 906), pointing out the errors made by his peers. How is this “shocking”? It’s like unearthing the shocking fact that lots of economists were wrong as pointed out by… some major economists… in leading journals of … economics!
A recent “landmark” book on Quranic readings revealed the shocking, shocking conclusion that not all the canonical readings of the Quran are mutawatir across time etc… which the book clearly admitted was the opinion of Ibn al-Jazari, the pillar of the science of Quranic readings, among others. In fact, this is also the opinion of al-Shawkani (d. 1834 CE) (just in case someone wants to throw soomee loong voowelled insults at me). The reason for this is simple: If you take the usuli definition of tawatur… there is no “usuli definitions of tawatur” because there are several contenders none of which is agreed on even by usulis and 2) almost all these contending usuli definitions are insanely demanding to the point that, as Ibn al-Salah (d. 643 AH) and many others have pointed out, no Hadith actually fulfills them! Ibn al-Jazari and others were just making the same point for the Quranic readings. As Ibn Hanbal, Muslim al-Wa’ili, Abu Ya’la etc. all pointed out: tawatara really means “its transmission was widespread (ishtahara turuquhu).” Saying not all the canonical readings of the Quran are mutawatir at all stages says more about the problem of usuli definitions of tawatur (problems usulis themselves pointed out!) than it does about the Quranic readings, which have always been very well known (one indication of this is how they’re written down in so many books). In fact, I feel bad pointing out the flaws of usuli definitions of tawatur since it’s what mid-tier Muslim scholars do to sound smart and it’s kind of bush league.
Folks, Muslim students of knowledge being “shocked” by white people regurgitating the contents of their own books to them is… embarrassing. And I’m not talking about books by some marginal weirdo who died falling into a well after drinking too much wine and trying to write an epistle on how Jahannam is actually the name of a duck. I’m talking about books by the dons of those respective sciences, whose works have been studied, copied, printed, reprinted etc. for centuries! This is just straight up mental colonization. Do better. Earn the right to be heirs to the people whose books you’re hearing about. Get some grit.
PS: As David Drennan points out, ditto for other fields.
PPS: To be real, my whole career is basically based on translating ideas from Muhammad Zahit Kawthari, the Ghumari family, and a few other modern Muslim scholars. I’m not qualified to shine their shoes. I’ve succeeded by the bounty of God, Who made me a decent writer and white.
Taken from Dr Jonathan Brown’s Facebook post. Read the discussion there.