"Uthmani script" in the Kazan Mushaf

24 May


At the end of April 2024, was held a round table within the walls of the Russian Islamic Institute on the topic “Problems of integration of Kazan Basma in the Volga-Ural region in modern times”. In his report, Mufti of Tatarstan Kamil hazrat Samigullin reminded future hafiz that the Kazan edition of the Quran of 1803 was the first printed copy that met the Ar-Rasm Al-Uthmani standard. The name can be translated as “Uthmani script” - this is the standard and fundamental basis for writing the canonical text of the holy book of Muslims.

The Quran was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ in the form of divine revelations; His associates memorized them, and then wrote them down on everything they could get their hands on. After the death of the Prophet ﷺ , the entire written down sacred text was kept by his companions in the form of parchment scrolls and pieces of cloth. Muslims memorized the Quran, and many of them had their own copies of the text. Already during the reign of the third Rightly Guided Caliph Uthman ibn Affan in the regions of the Caliphate, disagreements began to arise more often regarding the reading options of the Quran.

According to legend, the companion Huzaifa ibn al-Yaman - “keeper of the secrets of the Missioner ﷺ ”, returning from a military campaign in South Azerbaijan, told Uthman about the disagreements he saw. The Righteous Caliph convened a council in 645, at which it was decided to bring all the records of the Quran to a single model. Then the sacred text was depicted in accordance with the rules and customs of writing Arabic words of that era, in compliance with all the requirements of the canonical commission headed by Hazrat Zayd ibn Thabit. During the life of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ hazrat Zayd wrote down the revelations.

Under the supervision of Caliph Uthman ibn Affan, the revelations of the Almighty were transferred to paper using the Kufic Arabic script. The uniqueness of this writing of the sacred text, called Ar-Rasm Al-Uthmani, was to reflect all the variants of reading and recitation of the Quran. The Uthman Commission adopted and established the canonical copy - Mushaf al-Imam. Today, almost all editions of the Holy Quran are reproductions of this standard. Muslim scholars for centuries have declared the obligation to follow the “Uthmani script”.

But let's return to the Russian Empire at the end of the 18th century. In 1787, by decree of Empress Catherine II, a printed Quran was published in Arabic in St. Petersburg. Despite the primacy of Europeans in book printing, including the publication of the sacred text of Muslims, their copies contained errors or even criticism of Islamic doctrine. The St. Petersburg Quran was printed in a font specially cast for this purpose, based on the drawings of Mullah Uthman Ismail. He also prepared the text itself and provided it with comments printed in the margins of the pages. Thanks to its “Muslim character” the mushaf published in St. Petersburg gained popularity in the Islamic world.

Already in 1800, in Kazan, at the request of the Tatars from many provinces, was opened the first printing house - Asian, as it was called. In this regard , Arabic fonts and printing equipment were transported from St. Petersburg and transferred to Gabdulgaziz Burashev, who took on the costs of organizing the printing house. Specialists also left St. Petersburg: proofreader Hamza Mamyshev and typesetter Gali Rakhmatullin. The first Russian mufti, Muhammedzhan Khusainov, showed interest in publishing; he appointed a temporary censor, the Kazan imam Muhammed Abdrazyakov. Through the efforts of these people, was born the famous mushaf, the “hero” of the proverb known throughout the Muslim world: “The Quran was revealed in Hijaz, read in Cairo, written in Istanbul, printed in Kazan”.

There are different opinions regarding the date of the Kazan edition of the Quran. The appearance of “Kazan Basma” is tied to 1801. But in fact, then was published the Haftiyak Sharif, a collection of selected surahs. The “Catalogue of Books Printed in the Printing House of the Imperial Kazan University” contains the output data of the complete edition of “Kazan Basma” of 1803. Apparently, during these two years, preparations were made for the printing of the Quran in accordance with the generally accepted standard. This discrepancy in dates is pointed out by Kamil hazrat Samigullin, discussing the current problems of publishing a unique mushaf. The text of his article can be found in the collection of scientific reports of the forum “The Theological Heritage of Muslims of Russia”, held in October 2021 at the Bulgarian Islamic Academy.

Iraqi scientist Ghanim Kaddouri Al- Hamad in his work “Printing Mushafs in the City of Kazan” emphasizes that the Kazan edition of the Quran of 1803 is the first printed in the Muslim world in accordance with the Ar-Rasm Al-Uthmani standard. The Mufti of Tatarstan refers to this work, declaring the value of “Kazan Basma” for Russian scientific theology. Moreover, Kamil hazrat Samigullin notes the differences in the St. Petersburg and Kazan editions. The words “maliki yaumiddin” and “al- kitaab” in the Kazan Quran are written without alif in accordance with the “Uthmani script”, and in St. Petersburg - with alif. There aren't any non-canonical comments for the mushafs in “Kazan Basma”.

Subsequently, Kazan publishers moved away from the standard of “Uthmani script”. Tatar theologians wrote about this - Shigabutdin Marjani in his book “Useful and Important” and Musa Bigeev in his work entitled “Graphic amendments to editions of the Quran”. Both works were taken as a basis in the Religious Board of Muslims of the Republic of Tatarstan in the preparation of the updated “Kazan Basma”, published on the eve of the 1100th anniversary of the adoption of Islam by Volga Bulgaria. As part of this activity, Dr. Muhammad Abay was invited from the Turkish Marmara University to develop a computer font. Scanning and digitizing each letter of “Kazan Basma” made it possible to compose a set of modern computer characters on the foundation of an authentic typographical print.

Today, the digital font “Kazan Basma” is available to everyone - it can be downloaded on the official website of the Religious Board of Muslims of the Republic of Tatarstan. After more than a thousand years, the “Uthmani script” remains the most reliable guarantee of the preservation of the Holy Quran from changes, distortions and any additions. Everything ingenious is simple, and this “primitive” method of writing miraculously combines several options for reading and reciting the sacred text. However, to maintain the standard and benchmark, impressive knowledge is required, but to quote Mufti Kamil hazrat Samigullin: “... This is the preface of any science. We read many books to understand only one - the Quran”.



GSV "Russia - Islamic World"

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