Hafs & Warsh Qirâ'ât: Are They Different Versions Of The Qur'an?
The Christian missionary Jochen Katz had claimed that Hafs and Warsh Qirâ'ât are different 'versions' of the Qur'an. A concise and interesting article that the missionary had used to reach such a conclusion can be found in the book Approaches of The History of Interpretation of The Qur'an. Ironically, it contained an article by Adrian Brockett, titled "The Value of Hafs And Warsh Transmissions For The Textual History Of The Qur'an", which sheds some light on various aspects of differences between the two recitations. It is also worth noting that, in contrast to Mr. Katz, Brockett used the word transmission rather than text for these two modes of recitations. Some highlights from the article are reproduced below.
In cases where there are no variations within each transmission itself, certain differences between the two transmissions, at least in the copies consulted, occur consistently throughout. None of them has any effect in the meaning.
The author demarcates the transmissions of Hafs and Warsh into differences of vocal form and the differences of graphic form. According Brockett:
Such a division is clearly made from a written standpoint, and on its own is unbalanced. It would be a mistake to infer from it, for instance, that because "hamza" was at first mostly outside the graphic form, it was therefore at first also outside oral form. The division is therefore mainly just for ease of classification and reference.
Regarding the graphic form of this transmission, he further states:
On the graphic side, the correspondences between the two transmissions are overwhelmingly more numerous than differences, often even with oddities like ayna ma and aynama being consistently preserved in both transmissions, and la'nat allahi spelt both with ta tawila and ta marbuta in the same places in both transmissions as well, not one of the graphic differences caused the Muslims any doubts about the faultlessly faithful transmission of the Qur'an.
And on the vocal side of the transmission the author's opinion is:
On the vocal side, correspondences between the two transmissions again far and away outnumber the differences between them, even with the fine points such as long vowels before hamzat at-qat having a madda. Also, not one of the differences substantially affects the meaning beyond its own context... All this point to a remarkably unitary transmission in both its graphic form and its oral form.
He also discusses the Muslims' and orientalists' attitude towards the graphic transmission:
Many orientalists who see the Qur'an as only a written document might think that in the graphic differences can be found significant clues about the early history of the Qur'an text - if cUthmân issued a definitive written text, how can such graphic differences be explained, they might ask. For Muslims, who see the Qur'an as an oral as well as a written text, however, these differences are simply readings, certainly important, but no more so than readings involving, for instances, fine differences in assimilation or in vigour of pronouncing the hamza.
Brockett goes so far as to provide examples with which the interested reader can carry out an extended analysis. Thus, he states:
The definitive limit of permissible graphic variation was, firstly, consonantal disturbance that was not too major, then unalterability in meaning, and finally reliable authority.
In the section titled, "The Extent To Which The Differences Affect The Sense", the author repeats the same point:
The simple fact is that none of the differences, whether vocal or graphic, between the transmission of Hafs and the transmission of Warsh has any great effect on the meaning. Many are the differences which do not change the meaning at all, and the rest are differences with an effect on the meaning in the immediate context of the text itself, but without any significant wider influence on Muslim thought.
The above is supported by the following:
Such then is the limit of the variation between these two transmissions of the Qur'an, a limit well within the boundaries of substantial exegetical effect. This means that the readings found in these transmissions are most likely not of exegetical origin, or at least did not arise out of crucial exegetigal dispute. They are therefore of the utmost value for the textual history of the Qur'an.
And interestingly enough the author went on to say:
The limits of their variation clearly establish that they are a single text.
Furthermore, we read:
Thus, if the Qur'an had been transmitted only orally for the first century, sizeable variations between texts such as are seen in the hadîth and pre-Islamic poetry would be found, and if it had been transmitted only in writing, sizeable variations such as in the different transmissions of the original document of the constitution of Medina would be found. But neither is the case with the Qur'an. There must have been a parallel written transmission limiting variation in the oral transmission to the graphic form, side by side with a parallel oral transmission preserving the written transmission from corruption.
The investigation led to another conviction:
The transmission of the Qur'an after the death of Muhammad was essentially static, rather than organic. There was a single text, and nothing significant, not even allegedly abrogated material, could be taken out nor could anything be put in.
Finally, we would like to establish Adrian Brockett's conclusion on this matter:
There can be no denying that some of the formal characteristics of the Qur'an point to the oral side and others to the written side, but neither was as a whole, primary. There is therefore no need to make different categories for vocal and graphic differences between transmissions. Muslims have not. The letter is not a dead skeleton to be refleshed, but is a manifestation of the spirit alive from beginning. The transmission of the Qur'an has always been oral, just as it has been written.
Therefore, it comes as no surprise that Christian missionaries like Jochen Katz find themselves "refleshing" a dead skeleton in order to comply with their missionary program of outright deception. Of course, regular participants in the newsgroups have time and again witnessed Jochen's tiring displays of dialectical acrobatics - the misquoting of references and the juggling of facts. Surprisingly enough, missionary Katz cannot even support his point of view using the reference , which undermines his missionary agenda of twisting the facts. The reference  has firmly established that:
There is only one Qur'an,
The differences in recitation are divinely revealed, not invented by humans
The indisputable conclusion that the Qur'an was not tampered with.
Recitation Of The Qur'an in Hafs, Warsh & Other Qirâ'ât
A few centuries ago, the Qurra, or reciters of the Qur'an, used to take pride in reciting all seven Qirâ'ât. In light of this fact, we decided to make an informal inquiry into some the Qurra who recite in different Qirâ'ât. Two brothers confirmed the following:
Date: 18 Sep 1997 13:44:37 -0700
From: Moustafa Mounir Elqabbany
I can confirm that al-Husarî did in fact record the entire Qur'an in Warsh, as I have the recording in my possession. A Somali brother also indicated to me that he has a copy of the Qur'an recited in Al-Doori ('an Abî cAmr) recited, again, by al-Husarî. The Qur'an is very widely read and recorded in Qawloon in Libya and Tunisia, so it shouldn't be difficult to acquire those Qirâ'ât either.
And another brother corroborated the following in a private e-mail:
Date: Mon, 27 Oct 1997 21:59:24 +0100
From: Mohamed Ghoniem
Subject: Re: readings
Well, before al-Husary, Abdel Bassit Abdus Samad has recorded the entire Qur'an in Warsh and many cassettes and CDs are on sale everywhere in the Egypt and in France as well. I personally have in Cairo many recordings of other readers such as Sayyed Mutawally and Sayyed Sa'eed exclusively in Warsh. I have seen several cassettes in the reading of Hamzah (from Khalaf's way) on sale in Egypt and I have bought a couple of them during this summer. They were recorded by Sheikh 'Antar Mosallam.
Presently, I have got two CDs recorded by Sheikh Abdel Bassit gathering three readings (Hafs, Warsh and Hamzah). These CDs belong to a series of six CDs on sale publicly in France in the fnac stores.