An Episode from the Court of Ma'mun

Imam Al-Qurtubi has authentically reported an event from the court of ` Abbasi Khalifah, Al-Ma'mun. He was used to patronizing occasional debates on intellectual issues at his court where all scholars were welcome. It so happened that a Jew came to attend one of these debates. By his looks, dress and manners, he seemed to be an elegant person. Then, his address during the debate was eloquent and intellectually bright. When the meeting was over, Ma'mun called for him and asked him if he was an Israelite, which he confirmed. To test him, Ma'mun asked him to become a Muslim in which case he could hope to have the best possible treatment from him.

He said that he was not willing to leave the religion of his forefathers which was his religion too. The matter ended there. That person went away. Then, after a year, the same person returned as a Muslim and made a very distinct contribution in the court meeting on the subject of Islamic jurisprudence. After the session was over, Ma'mun called for him and asked him if he was the same person who had come last year. He said: Yes, I am. Ma'mun asked: At that time you had refused to accept Islam. Tell me what made you accept Islam now.

He said: When I went back from here, I decided to do some research on contemporary religions. I am a scribe. I write books and sell them. They bring good price. This time I wanted to make a test. First, I calligraphed three manuscripts of the Torah in which I made some additions and deletions on my own. I took these manuscripts to the Synagogue. The Jews found them interesting and bought them. Then, I did the same things with the Injil. I calligraphed three manuscripts, complete with my additions and deletions, and took them to the Church where the Christians were pleased with these manuscripts and bought them from me. After that, I tried the same thing with the Qur’ an . I calligraphed three good looking manuscripts of the Qur'an, of course with the usual additions and deletions of my own. When I went out to sell them, I faced a problem. Every buyer I went to would take the manuscript, look into it to determine if it was correct or not, and when he would notice additions or deletions made into it, he would quietly return the manuscript back to me.

From this episode, I learnt my lesson that this Book is protected, and protected by Allah Ta` ala Himself, therefore, I embraced Islam. Qadi Yahya ibn Aktham, the narrator of this event says that, by chance, he had the tauf` iq of performing his Hajj in the same year. There he met Sufyan ibn ` Uyainah to whom he related this event. He said: Surely, this is how it should be because this is confirmed by the Qur’ an. Yahya ibn Aktham asked about the ayah he had in mind. He said: When the glorious Qur’ an mentions the Torah and the Injil, there it says: بِمَا اسْتُحْفِظُوا مِن كِتَابِ اللَّـهِ (that is, the Jews and Christians have been entrusted with the responsibility of protecting the Torah and Injil, the Books of Allah - 5:44). This is the reason why, when the Jews and Christians did not fulfill their duty of protecting them, these Books were lost through distortions and alterations. This is contrary to the case of the Holy Qur’ an about which Allah Ta’ ala has said:إِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ (And We are there to protect it - 9). Thus, when Allah Ta’ ala Himself arranged to have it remain protected, then, despite thousands of efforts made by enemies, not a single change in one tiny dot or case mark could be made. Today, over fourteen hundred years have passed since even the blessed age of the Holy Prophet ﷺ and there has been a shortfall and neglect on the part of Muslims in all areas of their religious matters, yet the continuous arrangement of memorizing the Holy Qur’ an all over the world stands firmly established as it was. In every period of time, there are millions of Muslims, old and young, male and female, always present on the scene, blessed people in whose hearts and minds the Holy Qur’ an lives protected. Before them, not even the highest of the high religious scholar can dare recite a single letter of the Qur’ an wrong, for there would be around at that time many, seniors or children, who would promptly apprehend the error.

The Promise to Protect the Qur'an Includes the Protection of Hadith

As a matter of principle, all learned people agree that the Qur’ an is neither the name of the words of the Qur’ an alone, nor that of its meanings alone, instead, a combination of both is called the Qur’ an. The reason is that Qur'anic meanings and subjects appear in other books as well, and as for Islamic writings, their subjects are essentially Qur'anic, but they are not called Qur’ an - because, they are not the words of the Qur’ an. Similarly, if a person were to borrow different words and sentences from the Holy Qur’ an and write an article or treatise, no one will call this too by the name of Qur’ an, even though there is no word from outside the Qur’ an. This tells us that the Qur'an is the exclusive name of the particular Divinely revealed Book the words and meanings of which are simultaneously protected.

This also leads us to the ruling that the practice of people who publish the translation of the Qur’ an only in a foreign language and give it the name, for example, an English Qur’ an or an Urdu Qur’ an, is not permissible at all - because, that is not the Qur’ an. And when we know that Qur’ an is not the name of the words of the Qur’ an alone, but that its meaning too are a part of it, then, the responsibility of protecting the Qur’ an taken upon Himself in this verse by Allah Ta’ ala covers the total protection of the words of the Qur’ an as well as the meanings of the Qur’ an in that they remain protected against alteration or distortion.

And it is obvious that the meanings of the Qur’ an are the same as the Holy Prophet ﷺ ﷺ was sent to teach - as pointed out in the Qur’ an: لِتُبَيِّنَ لِلنَّاسِ مَا نُزِّلَ إِلَيْهِمْ (16:44). It means: 'You have been sent to explain the meaning of what has been revealed for them.' And this is what the verse: يُعَلِّمُهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ : 'Teaches them the Book and the Wisdom' (3:164) also means. And that is why he said:

اِنَّمَا بُعِثتُ مُعَلِّماً

'As for me, I have been sent as a teacher.'

Now, when the Holy Prophet ﷺ was sent to explain the meanings of the Qur'an and to impart education to people, then, he used a set of his sayings and doings as the medium of instruction for his community, and this very set of his words and deeds is known as the Hadith.

One who says that the Ahadith of the Rasul ﷺ of Allah are not absolutely protected is really saying that the Qur'an is not protected.

There are people around who would like to deceive the whole world by saying that the treasure of Ahadith present in authentic books is not trustworthy because it has been documented much later than the blessed age of the Holy Prophet ﷺ . First of all, even this assumption of theirs is not correct because the process of protection and documentation of Ahadith had already started within the age of prophethood itself, though it was completed later. In addition to that, the Hadith of the Rasul of Allah is really the explanation of the Qur’ an and the meaning of the Qur’ an. Their protection is something which Allah Ta’ ala has taken upon Himself. Then, how can it be possible that only the words of the Qur’ an remain protected while the meanings of the Qur’ an (that is, the Ahadith of the Rasul) go to waste?