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Question for Muslim colleagues, collaborators and friends

February 3, 2011
A few months ago I needed help to identify a linguistic marker in the Hebrew Torah and Jewish colleagues came to my rescue. None of our online colleagues knew the answer but they knew scholars who did, and I got input from all over the world. This time it is a test for Muslims who are collaborating with us. (My question may seem obtuse to others, but it will make sense when the book is finally in your hands.)

To footnote something in my final commentary chapter, I have a question about the "script" of Chapters 113 and 114 of the Quran. By script, perhaps I mean calligraphy. Here is what I wrote so far in the commentary, and then my question.

"Through several chains of transmitters we learn that Muhammad`s illustrious Companion, Hadrat Abdullah bin Mas’ud, did not regard these two final chapters as Quranic at all. He refrained from including them in his personal collection of the Quran in the era prior to the establishment of the household version in the possession of Hafsa as the “authorized version,” the official Medina Codex. The fact that the Muawizatayn, as these two chapters are known, does appear in the household edition is enough for most commentators to be sure that Muhammad himself did recite them, though his esteemed Companion later insisted that the command to recite them was merely enjoined upon the Prophet (sallalahu alayhi wa ala alihi salam) “for seeking God’s refuge.” They have the ring of solace about them, and one can easily relate to the Prophet turning to God in this way in times of stress, no matter the manner in which God revealed them to him."

What I am asking about, is whether the two gems of the Muawizatayn were originally or sometime written in a different calligraphy from the rest of the Quran, a practice that one Muslim colleague tells me continues today, especially among the Shia of Iran. That is the question. I am told that from earliest times, with little comment as to the roots of the practice, Chapters 113 and 114, the Muawizatayn, were written not in Arabic script but in Persian calligraphs using Persian Taliq script or Persian Nastaliq script. Even after Persians adopted the Arabic script, these verses continued to be written in Persian script and are occasionally written in Persian Shekasteh script like ????? still today. Could anyone verify that, and are there scholarly references regarding a calligraphy unique to these verses?

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Posted by: Brian Arthur Brown