What does ‘muhaymin’ mean?


In discussing whether or not the Qur’an affirms the textual reliability of the previous scriptures, Muslims often appeal to ‘muhaymin’ in Q 5:48, claiming that the Qur’an as a ‘muhaymin’ is acting as a ‘quality control’, correcting the errors of those scriptures.

But is this what ‘muhaymin’ means? Have a read below and share your thoughts, either on the original post or here on BT 🙂

https://steelmanapologetics.com/al-muhaymin-the-textual…/



Categories: Islam

60 replies

  1. Hi Richard

    Muhaymin is one of God’s 99 names meaning “watching over,” in control of.” The use of the quadrilateral verb huymana is meant to emphasize that the Qur’an is “in control of” and the determinant judge in deciding what’s genuine and what’s not in earlier scriptures.

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    • Many thanks Paul – much of your statement is what I challenge in the article. Have you any thoughts on the things I mention, e.g. the different potential meanings of the word, different possible roots and backgrounds, and especially the contextual meaning of the word? I’m not sure from your comment why you conclude ‘The use of the quadrilateral verb huymana is meant to emphasize that the Qur’an is ‘in control of’ and the determinant judge in deciding what’s genuine…’? Why does it mean this as opposed to ‘guarding’ ‘watching over’ in the different sense that I propose fits better into the context?

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      • You should consult the hadith for clarification of Quranic text. In Islamic jurisprudence and in exegesis the hadith is given weight only second to the Quran but is consulted for clarification and giving details to a certain commandment ie the number of prayers and the mode of execution.

        These are examples from Bukhari.

        1. Volume 9, Book 92, Number 460:
        Narrated Abu Huraira:
        The people of the Book used to read the Torah in Hebrew and then explain it in Arabic to the Muslims.
        Allah’s Apostle said (to the Muslims). “Do not believe the people of the Book, nor disbelieve them, but say, ‘We believe in Allah and whatever is revealed to us, and whatever is revealed to you.’ ”

        2. Volume 9, Book 92, Number 461 :
        Narrated Ubaidullah:
        Ibn ‘Abbas said, “Why do you ask the people of the scripture about anything while your Book (Quran) which has been revealed to Allah’s Apostle is newer and the latest? You read it pure, undistorted and unchanged, and Allah has told you that the people of the scripture (Jews and Christians) changed their scripture and distorted it, and wrote the scripture with their own hands and said, ‘It is from Allah,’ to sell it for a little gain. Does not the knowledge which has come to you prevent you from asking them about anything? No, by Allah, we have never seen any man from them asking you regarding what has been revealed to you!”

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      • The chain of this hadis is also not very convincing.

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      • Hi Bashar,

        This is an interesting comment – could you elaborate?

        Hi Paul,

        I agree with Ryan below that the first hadith doesn’t require textual corruption – oral corruption/concealing, very prominent Qur’anic themes, fit just as well.

        I might do a post on the second one. I’m not certain even there if he’s talking about textual corruption as opposed to oral corruption – I think the latter might still fit. It’s interesting that it doesn’t say the Qur’an is pure and the former scriptures not, but it talks about how the communities have handled them – ‘YOU [i.e. the Muslims] READ IT… [whereas] the People of the Scripture [have done x, y and z].’

        But even if it does teach textual corruption, is it not possible that Ibn Abbas, who doesn’t claim to be passing on a saying of Muhammad, is putting his own spin on what he thinks the Qur’an is teaching? The language in the middle of the hadith is effectively a summary of Qur’anic statements put together (changed it, distorted it, wrote with their own hands – what these words actually mean in Qur’anic context is debatable). Ibn Abbas then puts his additional comment on this – ‘You read [the Qur’an] pure, undistorted and unchanged’, thus implying the textual corruption of the previous scriptures by comparison.

        Additionally, unless I’m mistaken it is often thought that Hadiths are transitted according to the meaning and not the exact wording. Given how slight changes in wording can express either oral or textual corruption, is it not conceivable that this second hadith was originally ambiguous or about oral corruption, but that over time people the language unintentionally changed slightly (in the natural retelling), and people, without even thinking, phrased it slightly differently such that it suggests textual rather than oral corruption?

        All in all, because of how I read many passages of the Qur’an, it seems to be asking a lot to overturn that because of one hadith. But perhaps you also read those passages differently (though often when discussing them we just come back to this hadith anyway).

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      • Sorry Paul ignore my second comment below, I’m responding to the wrong hadith (it should be to the one brought up by Kmak below)

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      • Actually I stand by that comment! It turns out that the same Musa -> Ibrahim is in the chain of the hadith you and I are discussing, as well as the one that Kmak brought up below.

        In fairness, there are at least 4 narrations along the lines of this hadith, and 3 out of 4 of them not dependant on Ibrahim. But there is some variation in the content and the wording. Perhaps we should listen to the overall theme (the Ahl al-Kitab can’t be trusted with their scripture) rather than specific words which might imply textual corruption.

        Three of the lengthier passages come via al-Zuhri/Ibn Shihab – a shorter version via Ikrima – https://sunnah.com/bukhari:7522

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      • Also another comment – even if the hadith does prove that the Qur’an teaches textual corruption of the former scriptures, this doesn’t necessarily mean that muhaymin in Q 5:48 means this. And my reading of muhaymin in context is that it’s about guarding the previous scriptures in ensuring their rules are followed – the Jews in the passage are rebellious precisely because they have a rule in their scriptures but don’t want to enforce it. This is different from not enacting a law because it was lost generations ago. What would your contextual reading of muhaymin be here Paul?

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      • Searching at sunnah.com for مهيمن only gives you it as one of the names of Allah and as a person’s name عبد المهيمن. I don’t know if sunnah.com is a source to be trusted. Nothing in the authoritative hadith collections that clarifies what it means. Either way.

        Paul’s explanation is the pious one. Not strictly a linguistic one.

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      • Hi Bashar,

        I appreciate your comment and generally agree with it. But you mentioned some concern you had about the isnad of one of the hadith Paul shared – could you share this reflection on the isnad?

        Best wishes,

        Richard

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      • If you check the Isnad of the hadith Paul cites you’ll note a number of issues. It’s Ibn Abbas- Ubaidullah- Ibrahim – Musa bin Ismail. Ubaidillah isn’t identified further. It cannot be the Caliph Umar’a son cus he died before Zuhri was born. So who is this anonymous Ubaidullah? Another problem is that if Zuhri passed it on to Ibraham (bin said bin Ibrahim? Again not explicitly identified) he was 13 when Zuhri died. Zuhri was isolated due to illness in the later part of his life. So let’s say he could have been 10-12 years old when he heard it. That’s very young and we know that Ibn Abbas probably misremembered things due to his young age when the prophet died. Too many problems with this isnad. You need to check with the other isnads to see if they are better than this one.

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      • Hi Bashar,

        Thank you for the comment, yes that’s an interesting point about Zuhri’s age.

        Here is another chain of transmission of virtually the same hadith – http://muslimscholars.info/timeline2.php?arabic=0&head=Sahih%20Bukhari%20Book:%2052,%20Hadith:%202685:%20%3Cfont%20color=brown%3EYahya%20bin%20Yahya%20bin%20Bukayr%3C/font%3E%E2%80%94%E2%80%94%C2%BB%3Cfont%20color=purple%3Eal-Laith%20bin%20Sa%27d%3C/font%3E%E2%80%94%E2%80%94%C2%BB%3Cfont%20color=purple%3EYonus%20bin%20Yazid%20bin%20Abi%20al-Nijad%3C/font%3E%E2%80%94%E2%80%94%C2%BB%3Cfont%20color=blue%3Eal-Zuhri%3C/font%3E%E2%80%94%E2%80%94%C2%BB%3Cfont%20color=blue%3E%27Ubaydullah%20bin%20%27Abdullah%20bin%20%27Utba%3C/font%3E%E2%80%94%E2%80%94%C2%BB%3Cfont%20color=darkgreen%3Eibn%20Abbas%3C/font%3E&size=160&cyear=120&id=30399&intWidth=50&type=7&cal=AH&cond=id%20in%20(30399,20023,20475,11013,11004,17,)

        This one seems to avoid the problem of relying on the witness of a very young person. Ibn Sa’d entry on Yunus is interesting. Bashar perhaps you could help me with the Arabic?

        يونس بن يزيد الأيلي وكان حلو الحديث كثيره وليس بحجة وربما جاء بالشيء المنكر
        (Hopefully the Arabic comes through okay, it sometimes gets ruined when you post it online)
        Yūnus ibn Yazīd al-ʾyly wa-kāna ḥlw al-ḥadīth kathīrhu wa-laysa bi-ḥujjah was-rubbamā jāʾa bi-l-shayyʾi al-munkar

        Yunus ibn Yazid al-Ayli. And he was sweet/pleasant in a lot of hadith/conversation (a ‘sweet talker’?), and there is no proof/argument, and perhaps he came with something unacceptable (munkar).

        Interesting article on al-Zuhri’s reliability – http://quransmessage.com/forum/index.php?topic=898.0

        And here – http://monthly-renaissance.com/issue/content.aspx?id=574

        Al-Zuhri is also in this third similar narration – https://sunnah.com/bukhari:7523

        There is a shorter narration that bypasses al-Zuhri – https://sunnah.com/bukhari:7522

        I personally wonder if the broad gist of the Hadith is authentic, going back to Ibn Abbas, but that Al-Zuhri has lengthened it by mixing in some of his own interpretive comments. The articles I shared note that he was accused of doing this.

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      • This chain looks more good. Yunus is still a problem. In the hadith he is only identified as Yunus and no more. Who is this anonymous Yunus? If he is Yunus bin Yazid (d. 776 year of birth unknown) who got it from Zuhri (d. 741) then we have the issue we can’t be sure when Zuhri stopped passing on hadith and at what age Yunus might have heard it, was he very young for example like in the previous example? Who knows. I don’t know if the issue of giving only one name like Yunus, Ubaidullah, Musa, Ibrahim etc. is with Sunnah.com or if this is a problem in the manuscripts of Bukhari.

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      • Richard, if you’d taken the tafsir of ayah 49 into consideration with ayah 48 by applying reliable Quranic commentaries & exegesis, Muhayminan essentially encompasses as Ibn Jarir explains, sited in Ibn Kathir’s commentary:

        ……” Ibn Jarir said, “The Qur’an is trustworthy over the Books that preceded it. Therefore, whatever in these previous Books conforms to the Qur’an is true, and whatever disagrees with the Qur’an is false.”

        and moreover,

        “So judge between them by what Allah has revealed, and follow not their vain desires…) and he was commanded to judge between them by our Book.”. ( The Quran)

        (And follow not their vain desires, DIVERGING AWAY FROM THE TRUTH that has come to you”.. i.e The Quran

        “The Ayah commands: Do not diverge from the truth that Allah has ordained for you, to the vain desires of these miserable, ignorant people.

        Again, in consideration with ayah 48-49 with proper Quranic exegesis, the multifaceted meanings of Muhayminan, encompasses the notion that whatever in these previous Books conforms to the Qur’an is true, and whatever diverges from the Qur’an is false., therefore, the Qur’an clearly denies the textual reliability of the previous scriptures that obviously directly contradict the Quranic teachings and theology.

        Therefore, the Qur’an as a ‘muhaymin’ is indeed acting as a ‘quality control’, correcting the errors of those corrupted scriptures, simple 🙂

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      • I’ve got to disagree. Nothing to indicate the meaning quality control. Neither in the Quran nor hadith,

        Probably it means what is in their books can be judged by and whatever games they play, Muslims shouldn’t go along with that. But stick to what is actually in the Torah (and obviously the Quran as well).

        This is confirmed by the hadith in which some Jews come to Muhammad in hope he would give a lenient judgement on two fornicators. Muhammad refused but swore on the Torah saying “I believe in thee and the one who sent thee” and would only meet out whatever punishment was found in the actual Torah.

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      • Hi Purple Rain,

        First of all thank you for you reply – even though I disagree, I appreciate you taking the time, and that your comment is relevant and informative 🙂

        So I have actually read and translated some of Ibn Jarir (al-Tabari) on Q 5:48, specifically what he says on muhaymin. But searching through all of his Arabic commentary on 48-49, I cannot find what Ibn Kathir attributes to him – at least if one takes the quotation marks all the way to the end as you (and this website – http://m.qtafsir.com/Surah-Al-Maeda/Praising-the-Quran;-the-Comma—) do. Ibn Jarir does indeed talk about the Qur’an being aminan (trustworthy) alayha (over it, concerning it? see the next verb), but also as shahidan alayha (testifying to it) annahu haqq min inda allah (that it is truth from God), hafizan laha (guarding it). How we put all of these things together is of course a matter of interpretation.

        But I do not find Ibn Jarir saying ‘Therefore, whatever in these previous Books conforms to the Qur’an is true, and whatever disagrees with the Qur’an is false.’ Now maybe I’ve missed it, in which case I am very happy to be corrected. Or perhaps Ibn Kathir has reworded it such that I cannot easily find what he is referring to. Or perhaps this latter part of the saying is Ibn Kathir’s explanation of what al-Tabari means when he says ‘aminan alayha’.

        But also I would point out, as I do in the article, that our earliest complete commentary Muqatil (this is 600 years before Ibn Kathir) has nothing about muhaymin as a quality control over the previous scriptures. Nor does Tafsir Jalalayn, around the time of Ibn Kathir, understand muhaymin as necessarily anything more than testifying. His commentary is short, admittedly, but he could have shortly expressed the concept such as Ibn Kathir attributes to Ibn Jarir. Instead he, like Muqatil, tersely translate muhayminan as ‘witness’/’witnessing’ (shahid).

        Furthermore, both al-Tabari and Ibn Kathir list a number of attributed meanings to this word. When a word has a large ‘semantic domain’ we must look at any individual usage of the word to determine which meaning or meanings apply there. You have not engaged with my argument from the text of the Qur’an that nothing there requires anything about the previous scriptures being corrupted.

        The other comments you make I fully agree with – yes the Qur’an ensures that the law of God is followed, but the point of those citations is that they ‘follow…their vain desires’ and ‘diverge away from’ the truth, a truth that they know! This is why the passage is puzzled why Jews and Christians come to Muhammad instead of following what has been decreed in the Torah (v. 43) and Gospel (47).

        ‘the multifaceted meanings of Muhayminan…therefore, the Qur’an clearly denies…’ – you have selected one possible out of multiple meanings of muhaymin and insisted the Qur’an must mean this in Q 5:48, even though you have not addressed my contextual argument about why this does not fit in Q 5:48.

        So I’m afraid I disagree, but I appreciate your taking the time, and please do get back to me if I’ve missed where Ibn Jarir says what Ibn Kathir attributes to him.

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    • The isnad of the short hadith is much bad. Ayoub is completely unknown and Hathem bin Wardan doesn’t fit in the right time.

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      • You do make an interesting point about whether the brief names on Sunnah.com (unless perhaps they are abbreviating?) can reliably be identified with specific individuals as is suggested on the website I posted. Perhaps one day I will look into this more. sunnah.com sometimes just gives a name like Ayoub, but sometimes it is more specific (e.g. Ali ibn X) – which makes me suspect they are not abbreviating. They do abbreviate in the English translation, leaving out most of the chain of narration – but I’m not sure why they feel the need to abbreviate in the Arabic.

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  2. This is the understanding of Ibn Taymiyyah

    We understand that the dominance of the Qur’an over the older books of scripture has many faces. So it witnessed their truthfulness, testified to the lies where they were distorted and it is a ruler by approving what God has approved and cancelling what he cancelled, so it is a witness to the historical narrations and a judge to what are the orders of Allah.

    According to Sheikh al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah.

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  3. This is devastating.

    that every counter example falls to
    ” depend(s) solely or… heavily, on the debatable interpretation of a word whose root, of debatable origin, is used only twice in the entire Qur’an.”

    is evidence of this

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  4. 1. Volume 9, Book 92, Number 460:
    Narrated Abu Huraira:
    The people of the Book used to read the Torah in Hebrew and then explain it in Arabic to the Muslims.
    Allah’s Apostle said (to the Muslims). “Do not believe the people of the Book, nor disbelieve them, but say, ‘We believe in Allah and whatever is revealed to us, and whatever is revealed to you.’ ”

    This is not Muhammed is saying the Torah is corrupt.

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  5. A friend sent me these comments:

    Many points but i will try to be quick the first thing that comes to mind when I read muhaymen is ‘quality control’, but that needs not conflict with ‘guardian’ when understood as guarding the scripture in its original unadulterated form. Despite for instance the Torah ‘in the hands’ being corrupted this does not entail that the original Torah given to Moses is. And the Quran is guardian of the latter and not the former. This is especially the case when the Quran preserves Aqeeda I.e. creed of old scripture from which must conform with Quran. Aqeeda does not change but law can and has changed and this known as ‘Naskh’. So the Quran acts as quality control broadly and acts as guardian of the original uncorrupted scripture when preserving Aqeeda and some relevant news ‘akhbar’. Although other verses in the Quran already says that some Ulama of the people of the book already do change their scripture, we need not to rely on such verses to say that scripture is corrupted from an Islamic perspective. Quran is all ‘Haqq’ and whatever goes against it is ‘batel’ if there’s a creed or news that contradict what is clearly in Quran then it is corrupted. And when the Quran asks the people of the book to apply their book it means to apply what they know is the original unadulterated book when it comes to belief in Allah and his prophet and some do know it despite themselves changing it. And it can mean apply the legal ruling that you claim to subscribe to… so one is creed and the other legal ruling and both are consistent.

    Although there many other things that can be said but I hope this helps.

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  6. It seems obvious that from a close reading it the earliest Muslims clearly did not believe that the text of Holy Scriptures was unreliable- Allah would preserve his word and you have the Gospel in your hands. The debate was over if Christians and Jews changed words from their context.

    As time went on this was obviously untenable and so later sources argue for a change in word and general textual corruption.

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    • This is false. Ibn Abbas, a companion, said they are corrupt. No amount of gymnastics can change that.

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    • Ryan: It seems obvious that from a close reading it the earliest Muslims clearly did not believe that the text of Holy Scriptures was unreliable…

      We know from the following report that the early Muslims DID believe in the textual corruption of the bible. The initiative by Uthman to standardize the Quranic Rasm (skeleton text) was explicitly motivated by a desire to save the Quran from experiencing the same fate as the bible.

      Hudhaifa bin Al-Yaman came to `Uthman at the time when the people of Sham and the people of Iraq were Waging war to conquer Arminya and Adharbijan. Hudhaifa was afraid of their (the people of Sham and Iraq) differences in the recitation of the Qur’an, so he said to `Uthman, “O chief of the Believers! Save this nation BEFORE THEY DIFFER ABOUT THE QURAN AS JEWS AND CHRISTIANS DID BEFORE”.

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      • There’s a problem with this hadith. The two last transmitters Musa and Ibrahim are anonymous. No details are given other than Musa and Ibrahim. The time between them and Zuhri is also problematic.

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      • Hi Bashar,

        Later Muslim tradition, at least, will claim to know who these Musa and Ibrahim are –

        http://muslimscholars.info/timeline2.php?arabic=0&head=Sahih%20Bukhari%20Book:%2066,%20Hadith:%205038:%20%3Cfont%20color=purple%3EMusa%20bin%20Isma%27il%20al-Munqari%20al-Tabudhaki%3C/font%3E%E2%80%94%E2%80%94%C2%BB%3Cfont%20color=purple%3EIbrahim%20bin%20Sa%27d%20bin%20Ibrahim%3C/font%3E%E2%80%94%E2%80%94%C2%BB%3Cfont%20color=blue%3Eal-Zuhri%3C/font%3E%E2%80%94%E2%80%94%C2%BB%3Cfont%20color=darkgreen%3EAnas%20bin%20Malik%3C/font%3E%E2%80%94%E2%80%94%C2%BB%3Cfont%20color=darkgreen%3EHudhayfah%20ibn%20al-Yaman%3C/font%3E&size=160&cyear=120&id=20040&intWidth=50&type=7&cal=AH&cond=id%20in%20(20040,20150,11013,19,145,)

        Do you think this is in an incorrect guess? Why is the time between them and Zuhri problematic in your opinion?

        Ibn Sa’d does note that Ibrahim, although ‘very trustworthy in hadith, perhaps he made mistakes in hadith’.

        http://muslimscholars.info/timeline2.php?arabic=0&head=Sahih%20Bukhari%20Book:%2066,%20Hadith:%205038:%20%3Cfont%20color=purple%3EMusa%20bin%20Isma%27il%20al-Munqari%20al-Tabudhaki%3C/font%3E%E2%80%94%E2%80%94%C2%BB%3Cfont%20color=purple%3EIbrahim%20bin%20Sa%27d%20bin%20Ibrahim%3C/font%3E%E2%80%94%E2%80%94%C2%BB%3Cfont%20color=blue%3Eal-Zuhri%3C/font%3E%E2%80%94%E2%80%94%C2%BB%3Cfont%20color=darkgreen%3EAnas%20bin%20Malik%3C/font%3E%E2%80%94%E2%80%94%C2%BB%3Cfont%20color=darkgreen%3EHudhayfah%20ibn%20al-Yaman%3C/font%3E&size=160&cyear=120&id=20040&intWidth=50&type=7&cal=AH&cond=id%20in%20(20040,20150,11013,19,145,)

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      • Bashar: There’s a problem with this hadith.

        Is there a problem with the Hadith according to the majority of Hadith scholars? Is there a problem with this Hadith according to you?

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      • I already explained the issues. If you can address the real issues instead of talking like it’s a meme maybe we’d get somewhere.

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      • Troll pretending to be a Hadith expert: I already explained the issues. If you can address the real issues instead of talking like it’s a meme maybe we’d get somewhere.

        Can you name at least 5 scholars who find the hadith problematic?

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      • Instead of responding with memes or appeal to authority, address the points. If not willing to actually address points, but responding with memes, the troll, my dear, is you.

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      • Bashar: Instead of responding with memes or appeal to authority, address the points. If not willing to actually address points, but responding with memes, the troll, my dear, is you.

        The fact that you can’t name a single scholar in support of your position says a lot. I am not appealing to authority. I am simply assessing the LIKELIHOOD of your claims in light of existing scholarship. What’s the probability that some random, clearly dishonest, idiot on the internet is providing a correct assessment of the historicity of the relevant Hadith when the vast majority of Hadith scholars don’t take issue with the report? Exactly 0.

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      • I pointed out several issues with Isnad’s that you haven’t answered except by an hominems.

        It’s already been pointed out dhat wstern accademics are sceptical of ahadith in general and of hadith this type of hadiths that go back to Ibn Abbas in particular. It was also pointed out there are conflicting reports from Ibn Abbas,

        If you can reply to the issues I pointed out go right ahead. Abealing to authority and ad hominems in blace of direct answer doesn’t add anything constructive to the discussion. What the point of reply if only in memes and name calling? Did anybody call you names?

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      • Bashar: I pointed out several issues with Isnad’s that you haven’t answered except by an hominems.

        It doesn’t matter if YOU disagree with the historicity of the Hadith. Again, you’re just some random idiot on the internet.

        Bashar: It’s already been pointed out dhat wstern accademics are sceptical of ahadith in general and of hadith this type of hadiths that go back to Ibn Abbas in particular. It was also pointed out there are conflicting reports from Ibn Abbas,

        The reports about the Quran’s collection and standardization are considered by many Western academics to be likely historical . For example, Gregor Schoeler writes in his book, The Oral and the Written in Early Islam:

        …with F.Schwally we can probably identify the following points as their authentic core: the instigator of the collection was either the later caliph Umar or Umar’s daughter, Hafsah; Zayd ibn Thabit…was commissioned with its execution; and finally, the resulting copy was for a long time in the possession of Hafsah and was used as the basis of the first official edition of the text, commissioned by the caliph Uthman and again supervised by Zayd …there is no reason for us to mistrust tradition on this issue: it would have been much more obvious to connect this extraordinary phenomenon-the Quran as the first proper Arabic book-with the Prophet himself and to place its collection into his lifetime.

        As for academic skepticism of Hadith, it is not as black and white as you are making it out to be. Daniel W. Brown writes in the Wiley Blackwell Concise Companion to the Hadith:

        …advances in methodology may have the potential to move us beyond narrow debates over authenticity. For example, the rigorous and sophisticated methods of textual criticism pioneered by Schoeler, Motzki and Gorke open the possibility of reconstructing and recovering different layers of tradition…

        In the same work, Pavel Pavlovitch writes:

        Current methods of Hadith analysis combine study of the isnad, many principles of which were formulated and applied by Muslim Hadith critics in the classical period, with thorough examination of the matn…Thus, in many instances, the study of isnads together with an in-depth textual and philological analysis of the matns enables us to engage systematically and cogently the issue of the authenticity of Muslim traditions…

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      • Hi Kmak,

        Just to say I agree that a good portion of non-Muslim Western scholarship has a more optimistic view of our ability to trace things back than has been the case in the past. But from my experience, this is a far cry from (and I know you’re not explicitly saying this) assuming that all or even the majority of what someone like Bukhari says is reliable is therefore reliable. So yes Western scholars may consider the account of the Qur’an’s compilations credible, but support of the plausibility of one particular hadith doesn’t mean that all hadith would be viewed as favourably. And the ability to be able to better analyse the isnad to determine how far back we can go may take us only, say, to the second century, rather than back to Muhammad himself.

        Best wishes,

        Richard

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      • You don’t address the issues pointed out with the isnads of the hadiths. But again use an hominems. Tells me you don’t have an actual argument to make excebt an hominems.

        Then the scholars you cite are a few holdouts. Ginneraly scholars are very scebtical of the hadith. The same Brown in the same work you cite, says on p. 44:

        Apart from these noteworthy holdouts Goldziher’s broad premise won the day: the vast bulk of Hadith literature will be of little help as a source for seventh-century Arabia or the career of the Prophet, rather it will provide evidence about the beliefs of the Muslim community and the development of Islamic law and piety. Debate then moves on to the question of whether we can find convincing ways to get behind the third-century literary sources and if so how far into the early second or late first century the hadith might take us. Post-Goldziher hadith studies might be seen as a series of attempts to slowly, painstakingly and partially fill the yawning gap in our knowledge of early Islam that he exposed”.

        Even Motzky agree with Schact in many places

        Isnad matn analysis is so so. Sometimes also show that whole section are added to sahih hadith. Like analyse of Ulrikke Mitter “The majority of the dwellers of hell-fire are women” in Motzky volume

        But you not address my actual points with Isnad or concerns with this type of hadith from Ibn Abbas and that there are contradictory reports from Ibn Abbas. If you don’t haven anything to actually add excebt for ad hominem and appeal to authority what’s is your point?

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      • Bashar: You don’t address the issues pointed out with the isnads of the hadiths.

        Again, YOU are the only one who finds the report about Uthman standardizing the Quran problematic. I take scholars seriously, not internet trolls who want to win debates through dishonesty.

        Bashar: Then the scholars you cite are a few holdouts. Ginneraly scholars are very scebtical of the hadith.

        You are attacking a straw man. I did not say western academics are not skeptical of hadith. I specifically said the situation isn’t black and white. Now tell me, why do you cling onto western academics when it comes to the reliability of hadith but you reject the majority of western academics when they say the Quran speaks of the textual corruption of earlier scriptures?

        Liked by 1 person

      • We talk about the Isnad of the Ibn Abbas hadith, Isuue in Isnad, scholars sceptical of Ibn Abbas hadith many were fabricated when not about legal, contradictory reports from Ibn Abbas etc. All you make are personal attacks. General sccebticism of hadith and methods. Don’t give quotes from those books if they not support your points.

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    • Hi Ryan,

      What conflicting narratives from Ibn Abbas are you thinking of?

      Best wishes,

      Richard

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      • Thank you 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

      • Atlas shared some of them. I’d note nothing has been put forward to say these contradictions don’t exist- simply an attempt was made to handwave them away.

        There are also examples in the early Sirah and the Quran itself -if read closely and critically.

        I’d note that from a historical standpoint the Isnad is meaningless. Modern historical criticism is interested in the content (what in hadith science is called the Matn however Matn does not go far enough). From a historical perspective this is an utterly uncontroversial statement.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Ryan,

        My understanding (limited I confess) of modern, even non-Muslim, hadith criticism is that although the isnad is not a guarantee of authenticity, we can study it (along with the matn) to help trace the provenance of a hadith, even if not all the way back to Muhammad. I’m thinking of scholars like Motzki, Juynboll, isnad-cum-matn analysis, common links, etc. Is that your understanding, or are you more sceptical like Michael Cook, who theorises about how seeming common links might be artificial?

        Best wishes,

        Richard

        Liked by 1 person

      • Yeah I don’t place much provenance in them- even Muslim scholars acknowledge that the number of hadiths transmitted by Ibn ‘Abbās appears to increase over time .

        Additionally as has been noted by Muslim Scholar Johnathan AC Brown the early compilers;

        “dealt stringently with the isnāds of hadiths dealing with law and dogma but were lax with material concerning history (maghāzī), the virtues of people or acts (fadā’il), pious preaching (wa‘z), the end of days (malāhim), good manners, and the meaning of Qur’anic terms (tafsīr).”

        that last part is particularly relevent in this discussion

        Brown goes on to say that ;

        “this material easily passed through the hadith scholars’ critical filters. These were the doors that Sunni scholars left open for forged material.”

        This is not an Orientalist saying this! I’d also add that this same thing happened with the early church!

        As such many hadith have strong Isnads but also contain anachronisms which clearly set them out as later than the 500’s.
        This is then compounded by the differences between Historical criticism (which as a default approaches history sceptically) and the way it was approached by early Muslims
        like Mullā ‘Alī al-Qārī who said that

        ‘it is manifestly obvious that if something has been established by transmission [from the Prophet], then one should not heed any contradiction with sense perception or reason.’

        You have to decide how you’re reading a text and when approaching the Hadith and as a historian you have to do it without special pleading and in the same way you would any other text from antiquity.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Ryan,

        Well said, I would agree with much of that.

        Just to pick up on one thing – al-Qari may indeed have said that, and it is a mindset I have seen. Jonathan Brown wrote an interesting article though (https://www.jstor.org/stable/40377959?seq=1) about early hadith critics who did do matn analysis, even if they generally weren’t very open about it

        Like

      • I am aware of that article I’d reiterate Browns conclusion that;

        “As generations of Western scholars have demonstrated, even the revered Ṣaḥīḥayn are replete with anachronistic reports that grew out of the political, legal and sectarian feuds of the first two centuries of Islam…

        But we need not, and indeed cannot, explain why al-Bukhārī or
        Muslim saw the contents of one anachronistic ḥadīth as unacceptable while approving of another similarly anachronistic report. ”

        This is hardly a ringing endorsement…

        Liked by 1 person

  7. This was compiled 232 years AH. It’s not an early source.

    Like

  8. Hello Richard,
    First of all, not sure what keeps you this long to accept Islam? I’m serious. A man like you should’ve accepted Islam long time ago. What blocks you from doing that? Do you really believe the perfect meaning for your life is to worship a man died 2000 ago? And through what? It’s through the most nonsensical concept humanity have ever heard! Life is short, man! Don’t tell me that you have not realized the falsehood of this religion yet! Qur’an says “But lo, man is well aware of himself ۝ even though he might make up excuses.
    May Allah guide you.

    As for the subject, I think your approach to the matter whether Qur’an approves the previous scripture or not as a whole is simply wrong and polemic. You’ve neglected many factors that should’ve been considered in dealing with this subject. Do you believe like David Woods that this is a dilemma?

    As for the the word Muhaimin and what it means, let me quote At-Tabari.
    He said before he listed what many scholars had to say about it the following:
    The origin of this word means to keep and to watch over. Thus it’s said when a man watches over something keeps an eye on it, and witnesses over it, they say he haiman (the verb form in Arabic of the word).

    At-Tabari, also, quoted Ibn Jurij (died 768 C.E.) saying ” some scholars said that Qur’an is a custodian over the previous books, so when the people of the book tell us about something, we should check the Qur’an. If it’s in the Qur’an, we should believe, but if it’s not, we should deny.

    I think those variety of definitions for this word circulate around the sense of the Qur’an being a custodian.

    Like

  9. Hello Abdullah,

    Thank you for the comment 🙂 I do not believe Islam is true! And so I am not a Muslim. Yes, I believe the perfect meaning of my life is to follow the One God, Triune in Nature, and yes worship the Son who became incarnate, who has both human and divine nature. I believe this because this is what God has revealed. Much like Ashar’ites who believe the Qur’an is eternal, even though the Mutazili thought this violated tawhid, I affirm this bi la kayf because I believe our knowledge of God should start with what he has revealed rather than human reason (even though I do not think the Trinity is against reason).

    I don’t think David Woods and his dilemma is strictly relevant to this verse. It is possible that the Qur’an does teach that the Bible has been corrupted – but even if that is the case, which I don’t believe, that shouldn’t pre-determine whether that is what THIS VERSE teaches, specifically the word muhaymin.

    Absolutely! I have translated some of al-Tabari on this, specifically when he is commenting on muhaymin. Now first of all as I have indicated, some modern scholars think the word may actually be a foreign loan word, which could change our understanding of this verse (e.g. if it means ‘to say amen’ to, that sounds like unqualified approval). I am not a Muslim, and so I am not wedded to the Muslim perspective. But even if I abandon any ideas of a foreign loan word, if I just look at the Qur’an, I see nothing about this word meaning a textual control. If I decide to look at our earliest complete commentary, Muqatil ibn Suleyman, I see nothing about the word meaning a textual control.

    So for me al-Tabari isn’t determinative, but yes I think he is worth paying some attention to. And I can happily accept for the sake of argument what he says. You can make a good case that the Arabic word has something to do with ‘guarding’ or ‘watching’ over. But this says nothing about the previous scriptures being textually corrupted! The Qur’an frequently accuses the People of the Book for concealing, mispronouncing, hiding behind their backs, the previous scriptures. The Qur’an guards the previous scriptures by ensuring they follow what is in their owns texts – as the well known story of Muhammad goes, where he reinstitutes the penalty of stoning (which is still written in the Torah in these stories!) and says ‘I am the first to revive the command of God!. I have argued in my article, and you have not responded to, that this is a good contextual meaning – the Qur’an is a muhaymin over the previous scriptures, ensuring that they follow the legal prescriptions which are still in their scriptures – the Qur’an expresses puzzlement that the Jews come to Muhammad and don’t just judge by their scriptures wherein is the command of God (v. 43), and tells the Christians also to judge by the Gospel (v. 47).

    ‘At-Tabari, also, quoted Ibn Jurij (died 768 C.E.) saying ” some scholars said that Qur’an is a custodian over the previous books, so when the people of the book tell us about something, we should check the Qur’an. If it’s in the Qur’an, we should believe, but if it’s not, we should deny.”’ – ABSOLUTELY! But notice that it’s not when the previous scriptures are corrupted, but ‘when the people of the book TELL US about something’. It’s a common Qur’anic theme that the People of the Book cannot be trusted to accurately represent what is in their scriptures.

    Finally, al-Tabari, and indeed the Muslim exegetical tradition, lists a number of meanings of muhaymin, not just guarding it in some way. That is one of the meanings, but al-Tabari also lists shahidan (witnessing) and musaddiqan (confirming). And so if this word has a number of possible meanings, we must examine muhaymin in Q 5:48 in its context to see what fits best.

    Like

    • Just to back up my point about the Qur’an talking about the Jews and Christians misusing their scriptures, rather than textually corrupting them, check out https://steelmanapologetics.com/the-ratio-of-oral-corruption-to-textual-corruption-verses-and-its-significance/ and https://steelmanapologetics.com/quran-verses-affirming-the-reliability-of-the-torah-and-the-gospel/

      Like

      • “The Qur’an frequently accuses the People of the Book for concealing, mispronouncing, hiding behind their backs, the previous scriptures. Qur’an talking Jews and Christians misusing their scriptures”
        First of all. I think not only does Qur’an refer to the textual corrupting, but also even the bible itself refers to this kind of corrupting.

        However, for the sake of the argument, let’s say that Qur’an only refers to the (misusing of scriptures), have you thought that this (misusing) can be accomplished in a written form?
        I’ll give three examples of this misuse.

        The first one is the misuse between the Hebrew and Greek bible. For example,

        Don’t you think that Paul did misuse that verse, and that corruption has been done purposefully? I mean any one who knows Paul and his notion about the law of God would know that this deletion was not innocent. This example always reminds me with the Israelites Qur’an condemns.

        The second one is the misuse of one gospel to another one. For example, Mark (10:18) got misused by Matthew (19:17).

        The third one is the misuse we find within one gospel itself. For example Mark (7:19). “By saying this, he declared that every kind of food is acceptable in God’s eyes.”
        Jesus in that narration was not declaring that every kind of food is acceptable. Rather he was explaining a deep wisdom for those who don’t care about their intentions when they do what God command. This type of corruption is called Idrāj in Hadith science. When a narrator puts his own comment after hadith, yet the narrator’s student would narrate it afterwards as a part of the hadith itself.

        Finally, this subject needs to consider many factors as I said before. Ask the God of Jesus to guide you, Richard. He knows how.

        Like

      • Hi Abdullah,

        Please excuse me if I don’t reply to this, at least not right now. I have replied to your other comment below as it is directly relevant to this topic. But I hope you can understand that when I post on all sorts of topics, I have Muslims replying asking me to explain and defend multiple different things – it takes a large amount of time to do so. Whereas I really want to focus on putting my thoughts down in articles, and then rather than repeat myself I can refer people to the most relevant article, and we can pick up the discussion there.

        Like

  10. “I do not believe Islam is true! And so I am not a Muslim”
    Yeah.. I already know that, and my question was why? May Allah guide you.

    “I believe this because this is what God has revealed”
    The irony here is that gospels didn’t say anything about the triune God. Also, whoever wrote those books certainly didn’t claim they’re writing revelations from God. Luke’s introduction as an example.

    “Much like Ashar’ites who believe the Qur’an is eternal, even though the Mutazili thought this violated tawhid, I affirm this bi la kayf because I believe our knowledge of God should start with what he has revealed rather than human reason (even though I do not think the Trinity is against reason).”
    Let’s agree first that the internal dispute among muslims has nothing to do with nonsensical concept of Trinity neither by nature nor by its genuinity. Moreover, I don’t think christians understand the nature of this dispute which also found among medieval jews and christians. Not sure why christians desperately try to appeal to this dispute among muslims? The attributes of God and what the proper understanding that we should perceive them by has nothing to do by any mean with the real problem of the Trinity and how nonsensical it is. By the way, neither Mutazili nor Ash’ari are right about this matter. However, it’s another subject for another time. At the end of the day, no muslim would consider that x attribute of God to be a separate entity that has its own will and mind.

    “I affirm this bi la kayf “
    The thing is that you already affirm it with a big fat Kayf ( modality). In fact, you’ve affirmed it as a full human being. You’ve affirmed it as another entity who has his own will and mind besides God, yet they are one God! Again, I think christians don’t understand what they’re talking about when they use this kind of argument to run away from talking about the big elephant in the room. It reminds me with James White(If I remember correctly) when he said that ‘Qur’an created a “problem” because it didn’t identify the oneness of God and whether it’s trinitarian or unitarian!’ as if there’s such a thing called trinitarian oneness! 🙂 But what one can say with this way of thinking?!

    The point is that you can’t appeal to disputes which are applicable to Judaism and Christianity and which we can sense their nature, and you can’t confuse this kind of dispute with the problem of the Trinity. The comparison is simply not applicable.
    And look, I’m not here to debate these subjects that you must already know and have debated many times. I’m here to try to activate the sense of honesty inside you. It’s a Qur’anic method actually. In other words, you know the truth! You can run away from all the people, but you can’t run from yourself!
    Allah عز وجل told us about Pharaoh and his people as the following {They denied those Signs out of iniquity and arrogance although their hearts were convinced17 of their truth. So see how evil was the end of those mischief-makers!} , so I’m urging you to not be like those people.

    “but even if that is the case, which I don’t believe, that shouldn’t pre-determine whether that is what THIS VERSE teaches, specifically the word muhaymin.”
    Maybe! But what is obvious is that you ignited this subject( about the word muhaimin) not for its own sake, but for a bigger one in your mind which is whether Qur’an says that the previous books got corrupted or not. And I’ve told you that your approach to the latter subject is so defective in the first place.

    Also, what I translated from At-Tabri is almost the title for his list. He began with that statement, then he listed what some scholars had to say about it. In fact, At-tabri said the following after his statement “And by the same statement the commentators said, but their expressions of it are varied”, so At-tabari didn’t think that these explanations are contradictory, rather for him they all circulate around the meaning of guardian or custodian.

    “I am not a Muslim, and so I am not wedded to the Muslim perspective.”
    Of course, but At-Tabrit – in case you don’t know- is grammarian and lexicographer. Therefore, when At-Tabri says “Thus it’s said when a man watches over something keeps an eye on it, and witnesses over it, they say he haiman”, he is telling you that’s how he heard Arabs used it during their daily conversations.

    “the word may actually be a foreign loan word”
    It doesn’t change anything. The key is how Arabs used it when it’s revealed because as you know the loan word in any language can be expanded or narrowed regarding its meaning by the recipient language! For example, the word Rouge in French means red! The red color. However, in some language that borrowed that word it means the lipstick only!
    For me, the whole subject about the Qur’an being having foreign words got misused and misunderstood. And thank God many linguists scholars realize the mistake of scholars such as Jeffery now. But it’s good to know that even Arthur Jeffery defines this word as the following “That which preserves anything safe. In v. 48 it is used of that preserves scriptures safe from alteration” pp.273

    Final point, Ibn Jurij was clear that Qur’an is a custodian over the previous books, so when the people of the book…, so the sense of the textual corruption can be felt by his statement clearly.

    Like

    • ‘Yeah.. I already know that’ – forgive me if it seemed I had made a redundant statement, but from conversations in the past, I know that Muslims sometimes think I really do know that Islam is true but I just don’t want to accept it.

      ‘The irony here is that gospels didn’t say anything about the triune God. Also, whoever wrote those books certainly didn’t claim they’re writing revelations from God. Luke’s introduction as an example.’ – lots of big topics, I would rather address them in an article once that I can refer people to rather than mention it many times on separate comments. I hope that seems fair.

      I wasn’t trying to claim that the Trinity is exactly like the idea of the eternality of the Qur’an – my point was just one of methodology, that I prioritise revelation over human rationality.

      I affirm that God is one (because he has revealed thus), but also in some way three (because he has also revealed thus). But exactly how we can conceptualise that, I’m not sure if we can, much that I cannot conceptualise how immaterial soul is related to material body. I’m told to believe certain things and so I affirm it even though I cannot fully understand it. That’s what I meant by bi la kayf. Its not 100% bi la kayf because I claim to know things (e.g. God is in some way one, in some way three), but I am bi la kayf in some of the details beyond that.

      ‘But what is obvious is that you ignited this subject( about the word muhaimin) not for its own sake, but for a bigger one in your mind which is whether Qur’an says that the previous books got corrupted or not.’ – yes absolutely, but I have written numerous articles related to this topic (https://steelmanapologetics.com/blog-index/ – see the heading ‘The Qur’an affirms the reliability of the Torah and Gospel’s reliability), and I plan to write more. And so it’s not unreasonable that on each article I want to try and roughly stick to the topic of that article. And over the course of multiple articles, that’s where I can make my holistic case, and we can see whether it is or is not ‘defective in the first place.’

      I’m going to respond to the rest in a second post because I’m going to shift tabs etc, check your comment and al-Tabari etc

      Like

      • Also let me be clear by how I used the word ‘rationality’ in that previous sense, both in terms of how I apply it to myself and what I meant regarding bi la kayf. This may well be my own idiomatic usage, but I think its helpful – by ‘rationality’ I mean the attempt to probe in and understand things by dissecting them with human reason. I think there are some things that we just may not be able to do this. I would contrast ‘rationality’ with ‘reason’, which is that we can actually know (e.g. 2+2=4). So I don’t think we should believe something against ‘reason’ (e.g. 2+2=5), but we can believe something that is against ‘rationality’, the human desire to quantify and analyse everything – there are some things we can’t fully understand. But this isn’t to say that it’s against reason, or even that there can’t be evidence for something that yet we cannot fully understand

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    • Okay so that’s fine that for al-Tabari these meanings may well be complementary, and Ibn Kathir clearly thought so. I would still say that both of them acknowledge multiple possible meanings, and in my article I try and consider from the context of Q 5:48 which of the meanings fits best in Q 5:48. And the idea of being a textual control just doesn’t seem to be fit – the Qur’an does indeed ‘guard’ or ‘watch over’ the previous scriptures, but in Q 5:48 it seems to be by making sure the Jews and Christians follow their scriptures, which they are supposed to judge by (v. 43, 47), but the Jews at least are clearly resistant to.

      Sure, and broadly speaking I think al-Tabari is valuable for recording the perspectives of his own times as to what the word means. Now of course he claims to transmit from earlier authorities what the word means, and there is then a discussion about how reliable earlier reports are. How much weight should we put on the earlier source Muqatil giving just one meaning? Perhaps not a lot, given that he is way more concise than al-Tabari. But as he is earlier he may still indicate what was the primary meaning in his own day. Additionally, Muslim lexicographer sometimes (I confess, I do not know enough about al-Tabari specifically as to whether he falls into this camp) are very keen to find Arabic origins and meanings of what was originally a non-Arabic word – and some modern scholars do suggest this may be a loan word.

      In terms of you saying that it being a loan word may not mean anything – well this depends. I think some Western scholars would say there are times when later exegetes aren’t really sure what a Qur’an word means. Compound this with the desire to find Arabic roots for originally non-Arabic words, its possible that Muslims came to as to what haymana/muhaymin means meant that the originally meaning passed out of general usage.

      ‘The key is how Arabs used it when it’s revealed because as you know the loan word in any language can be expanded or narrowed regarding its meaning by the recipient language! For example, the word Rouge in French means red! The red color. However, in some language that borrowed that word it means the lipstick only!’ Absolutely! But the question is whether in the Qur’an the word muhaymin still means ‘to say amen to’/’red’, or has shifted to the later usage ‘to guard over’/’lipstick’.

      At the end of the day, and especially when a word has a large semantic domain, the contextual usage should determine it. And for me, the contextual usage in Q 5:48 does not suggest textual corruption – indeed the opposite.

      I believe the Qur’an does preserve the previous scriptures safe – safe from not being followed (Q 5:40-58). So I’m fine with that if that’s the meaning.

      ‘Final point, Ibn Jurij was clear that Qur’an is a custodian over the previous books, so when the people of the book…, so the sense of the textual corruption can be felt by his statement clearly.’ – you didn’t respond to my point about how this can be read as a response to ORAL corruption. I’m sure unintentionally but in the ‘…’ you left out ‘tell us about something’. This is a common Qur’anic theme – the People of the Book misrepresent what is in their scriptures.They pronounce it wrong, conceal it, thrust it behind their books.

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