CONNECTING THE DOTS: DIACRITICS, SCRIBAL CULTURE, AND THE QUR'AN IN THE FIRST/SEVENTH CENTURY

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Adam Bursi

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Abstract

Modern historians assert that the earliest manuscripts of the Qur'an were written in an Arabic scriptio defectiva, devoid of orthographic aids such as consonantal diacritics and vowel markers. In fact, the earliest extant manuscripts—those in the Hijazi script, dated to the first/seventh century—do exhibit consonantal diacritics, though only sporadically and insufficiently to create a completely unambiguous text. Previous studies have provided inconclusive results regarding the uses of these spare diacritics and have suggested that scribes may have purposefully excluded them from Qur'an manuscripts in order to allow different readings of the text to coexist in the same text. Focusing on the few diacritics that do appear in early manuscripts, this paper situates early Qur'an manuscripts within the context of other Arabic documents of the first/seventh century that exhibit similarly infrequent diacritics. Shared patterns in the usages of diacritics indicate that early Qur'an manuscripts were produced by scribes relying upon very similar orthographic traditions to those that produced Arabic papyri and inscriptions of the first/seventh century.


http://dx.doi.org/10.31441/jiqsa.3.2018.a005

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