On the Regionality of Qurʾānic Codices

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Hythem Sidky

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Abstract




The ʿUthmānic codification of the Qurʾān as described by Muslim sources includes the distribution of at least four regional exemplars to Syria, Medina, Basra, and Kufa. Orthographic variants between these codices were identified and collected by Muslim scholars in the rasm literature. This paper explores the subject of qurʾānic regionality through material evidence. Combining philological, literary, and phylogenetic analysis, a stemma of early qurʾānic manuscripts is constructed and compared against idealized representations. This process of reconstruction identifies four ancestral codices from which all examined manuscripts descend. It illuminates the presence of a new regional subgroup I have termed neo-Basran, suggesting a local orthographic reform. Additional evidence is presented for the historicity of the ʿUthmānic canonization and the distribution of four regional exemplars. Ḥimṣ, as opposed to Damascus, is also identified as the city to which the Syrian exemplar was dispatched. Finally, a comparison of literary reports against the earliest manuscripts reveals that knowledge of the regional variants does not date back to the time of canonization but was accumulated over time through careful scrutiny of regional muṣḥafs.




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