The Collection of the Qur'an
Burton (John), Qur'an
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Back Cover Blurb

  1. The most surprising feature of the Muslim traditions on the collection of the Qur’an is their denial of any role in the process to Muhammad himself. The merit of assembling and preserving the record of the momentous divine revelations has been variously ascribed to some half dozen of the Prophet's associates or Companions, and these ascriptions have usually been treated as hopelessly conflicting. Dr Burton argues that they are in perfect agreement. Their sole function was the deliberate exclusion of Muhammad.
  2. Dr Burton demonstrates in his analysis of the original Muslim sources a series of subtle distinctions, the most significant being that between the Qur’an document (mushaf) and the Qur'an source (Kitab allah). The former, the universally acknowledged text of Scripture, was alone to be used for liturgical purposes. In the long-continuing debates between the many regional schools of Islamic law, on the other hand, each group of scholars proclaimed its right to adduce variant readings. This development underlines the use of the Qur'an as a source, and the attribution of a local codex to one or other of the Prophet's Companions shows the Qur'an source, like the Sunna (the acts and sayings of Muhammad according to tradition), being furnished with its pedigree (or isnad).
  3. A crisis seemed imminent when in the second Muslim century (roughly between A.D. 850 and 950) certain legal views which were agreed between the schools were rejected by a powerful fundamentalist group on the ground that they were not mentioned in the Qur'an texts. Two replies were offered. The first, that the Prophet himself had legislated on these matters, proved unsatisfactory since it raised the problem of the repeal of the Qur'an. The second suggestion, that these matters had been treated in the Qur’an and the relevant verses omitted on the assembly of the texts, ensured that medieval Islam would regard the mushaf as incomplete. This certainty necessitated the placing of the collection of the Qur'an in the period following the Prophet’s death.
  4. This analysis of early Muslim traditions is the first such work for many years to challenge existing scholarly interpretations, and Dr Burton argues his case with a wealth of detail. It is a book which all students of Islam will find required reading.

  1. PART I: The Qur’an and the Islamic legal sciences
    1. Introduction – 3
    2. The Islamic legal sciences – 8
    3. The sub-science of naskh – 46
      → Naskh al hukm wa al tilawa – 46
      → Naskh al hukm duna al tilawa – 49
    4. The background to the emergence of the third mode of naskh – 68
      → 1. The exegesis – 68
      → 2. The Fiqh: the penalty for adultery – 72
      → 3. A second instance of the third mode of naskh – 86
    5. The mushaf; an incomplete record of the Qur’an – 105
  2. PART II: The history of the collection of the Qur’an texts
    1. The first collection – 117
    2. The ‘Uthman collection – 138
    3. The Qur’an collections: a review – 160
    4. The isnad of the Qur’an – 190
      → The tawatur of the mushaf – 220
    5. General conclusions – 225
    Works cited – 241
    Notes – 245
    General Index – 260
    Index of Qur’anic references – 272

  1. The thesis of the book is controversial. There’s a, not unsympathetic, review at Purrostami - Examination of the View of John Burton Concerning the Relationship between Abrogation and Collection of the Qurʾān.
  2. The book has been translated into Persian, as reported in Tehran Times - John Burton’s “The Collection of the Qur’an” published in Persian. The review is supportive but ends with a confusion of our author with another with similar interests and a similar name (see Wikipedia: John Burton-Page).
  3. Our author died on 5th February 2014, according to Telegraph Announcements: Burton (Defunct) “John Burton M.A. B.A. PhD., Emeritus Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, University of St. Andrews. Beloved husband and father. Body bequeathed to medical research. No flowers or letters please.
  4. A further review, which I don’t have access to, is Review of John Burton, The Collection of the Qurʾan, Cambridge 1977; Patricia Crone and Michael Cook, Hagarism. The Making of the Islamic World, Cambridge 1977. It also reviews another book in my collection ("Crone (Patricia) & Cook (Michael) - Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World").
  5. See also Answering Islam: John Burton and the Mushaf of Muhammad, a site (Answering Islam) that may be worth following up on.

Book Comment

CUP, Cambridge, 1979. Paperback. Typescript font!

Text Colour Conventions (see disclaimer)
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  2. Mauve: Text by correspondent(s) or other author(s); © the author(s)

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