laḥn (solecism) Tension in Qurʾān Manuscripts







Muslims have historically regarded the Qurʾān as al-kitāb al-mubīn (the Manifest Book, Q.5:15) that was revealed qurānan ʿarabiyyan (Arabic Qurʾān, Q.12:2). It is widely held to be a literary miracle that is unparalleled by any other literature and is considered not a human creation but a divine miracle. Every letter and dot in the Qurʾān is believed to have been revealed from heaven, with no differences between what was revealed and what is found in the maṣāḥif today. However, the earliest literary works show multiple disagreements among early Muslim grammarians and readers regarding the iʿrāb (case ending) of certain words in the Qurʾān. Despite these disputes, these scholars created a system to justify their choices, even if it violated the rules of al-ʿarabiyya. In this paper, the author aims to demonstrate how literary sources justified the cases of laḥn (solecism), particularly in light of the lack of a standardized system of vowels, which increased the ambiguity of the text and its meaning. Additionally, the author will explore the tension found in Qurʾān manuscripts to deviate from the canonical readings in favor of maintaining proper Arabic. Muslims have approached the issue of laḥn in two distinct ways: when laḥn occurs in the rasm, grammarians have created new categories of Arabic grammar to justify the laḥn (e.g., iltifāt). However, when the laḥn occurs in case endings, they had more flexibility to express their disagreement with the eponymous readers by marking the correct case endings as a second reading (e.g., the accusative case of Q.5:38 in Qurʾān manuscript Wetzstein II 1915). The latter case is particularly problematic when considering that qirāʾāt is a sunna, and deviating from the reading traditions of the ten eponymous readers is considered innovation.


Dr. Rami Hussein Halaseh
Harvard University


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