Despite having to now admit that the Quran contains thousands of variant readings and that there conflicting Arabic versions of the Islamic scripture, Muslims still claim that none of these differences affect any core tenet of the Islamic faith.
Unfortunately for these Muslims such is not the case as I am about to demonstrate.
The following verse mentions Muhammad’s astonishment over the disbelievers’ denial of his prophetic claims:
In fact, you are astonished (‘aijb’ta) ˹by their denial˺, while they ridicule ˹you˺. S. 37:12 (Dr. Mustafa Khattab, The Clear Quran https://www.islamawakened.com/quran/37/st69.htm)
What is not commonly known is that there is actually an alternate version where it is actually Allah who expresses astonishment and bewilderment over the people’s rejection of his so called messenger:
“In fact, I WAS ASTONISHED (‘ajib’tu) by their denial, while they ridicule you.”
This reading is mentioned and highlighted by one of Salafi Islam’s greatest scholars, namely, Ibn Taymiyyah in a treatise where he seeks to affirm that laughing and amazement are two actual characteristics that Allah literally possesses and exhibits:
The Fourth Hadith: Concerning THE AFFIRMATION OF AMAZEMENT, and some other Attributes
That is his statement “Our Lord IS AMAZED at the despair of His slaves, and the closeness of His goodness. He is looking at you, in severe despair, so He continues laughing, knowing that your relief is near.” A Hasan Hadith.
❖ Amazement: it is to be astonished by a thing and this occurs for two reasons:
The first reason: The unawareness, on behalf of the one amazed, of one of the reasons for the amazing incident, such as when something happens to him suddenly without any expectation. This is impossible with respect to Allah, Exalted is He, because He is All-Knowing. Nothing is hidden from in the heavens or the earth.
Secondly: That the reason (of the amazement) is that this thing is outside of what is normal for it, and from what is appropriate for it; not because of any incapability of the one that is amazed; such as him doing an action that is astonishing, whose like is not appropriate for him.
This is affirmed for Allah, Exalted is He, because such amazement is not as a result of an imperfection, but it is amazement because of the case of the one doing what is amazing.
❖ His statement: “Our Lord IS AMAZED at the despair of His slaves.”
Despair is the worst of all forms of hopelessness; the Lord, the Mighty and Sublime, IS AMAZED at the entrance of severe hopelessness into the heart of the slave.
❖ “And the closeness of His change” The Waw (and) means “with” meaning: “with the closeness of His change.”
So, the Lord, the Mighty and Sublime, IS AMAZED at how we are pessimistic while He, Glorious and Exalted is He, changes things quickly. He changes a situation to another situation with just a word and that is “Be” and it is.
❖ His statement: “He is looking at you:” that is, Allah is looking at us with His Eyes.
❖ “In severe despair:” Al-Azil is the one in a difficult situation, while Qanitin: is plural of Qanit who is the one that despairs of relief and removal of difficulty.
So the Prophet mentioned the case of man and the case of his heart. His case is that he falls into a difficulty, and his heart despairs of hope feeling far removed from the relief.
❖ “He continues Laughing:” He continues laughing due to this amazing situation. How do you despair of the mercy of the most merciful of those who are merciful, Who says to something: “Be” and it is?
❖ “knowing that your relief is near:” That is, the removal of your severe situation is near.
❖ There are a number of Attributes in this Hadith:
Firstly: Amazement; based on his statement: “Our Lord is amazed at the despair of His slaves.” THE GLORIOUS QUR’AN HAS POINTED TO THIS ATTRIBUTE. Allah, Exalted is He, says:
Nay I WONDERED (‘Ajibtu) while they mock. (As-Saffat 37:12)
According to the recitation with Damma on the Ta’i.
— It also contains a clarification of Allah’s power, based on his statement: “And the closeness of His change” and that His, the Mighty and Sublime, power is perfect. Whenever He wills, He changes the situation from one state to the opposite within a short period of time.
— It also affirms looking, based on his statement: “He is looking at you.”
— And affirms laughing, based on his statement: “He continues laughing.”
— And similarly, knowledge: “knowing that your relief is near”
— And mercy, because the relief is from Allah, which is evidence of Allah’s mercy for His slaves.
And with all of these Attributes which this Hadith is evidence for, IT IS OBLIGATORY UPON US TO AFFIRM THAT THEY ARE REAL FOR ALLAH, the Mighty and Sublime, ACCORDING TO THEIR REALITIES, AND THAT WE NOT MAKE Ta’wil WITH THEM.
❖ The behavioral benefit in this, is that when someone knows this about Allah, Glorious and Exalted is He, he will avoid this matter; that is despairing of Allah’s mercy. And it is for this reason that despairing of Allah’s mercy is one of the major sins. (Commentary On Shaikh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah’s Al-‘Aqidah Al-Wasitiyyah, by The Virtuous Shaikh, Al-‘Allamah Muhammad bin Salih Al-‘Uthaymin [Darussalam Publications, 2008], Volume 2, pp. 41-44; capital emphasis mine)
 From the Hadith of Abu Razin, according to Ibn Kathir in his explanation of His saying, Exalted be He: “Or think you that you will enter paradise.” (Al-Baqarah 2:214) and its wording is: “Your Lord IS AMAZED” and in place of Ghiyarihi (His change), there is Ghaythihi (His rain). (Ibid., p. 41; capital emphasis mine)
 Translation note: Referring to the recitation of As-Saffat 37:1. Meaning, ‘Ajibtu (with Damma on the Ta’); “I wondered” as in the recitation reported FROM IBN MAS’UD AND OTHERS, while what is popular is ‘Ajibta (with Fath on the Ta’) which is “You wondered.” (Ibid., p. 43; capital emphasis mine)
Pay attention to the candid admission by Ibn Taymiyyah and the commenter al-Uthaymin that there is a variant rendering of Q. 37:12 found in the readings of some of Muhammad’s closest companions such as Abdullah ibn Masud, where it is actually Allah who is astounded over the ridicule of the disbelievers.(1)
What makes this all the more interesting is that Ibn Taymiyyah appealed to this very reading in order to prove that his deity literally experiences astonishment and amazement, emotions of his deity which he further established on the basis of the so-called indisputable ahadith of Muhammad that he cited.
The alternate renderings to Q. 37:12 are acknowledged by the following Quranic translation, which lists some of the different Arabic variants in its footnotes:
Rather, yousg were amazedd as they ridicule. And when reminded, they remember not. S. 37:12
Qd Hamza, Al-Kes’ai and Khalaf read it as: “Rather, I gravely noted as they ridicule.” (Fadel Soliman, Bridges’ Translation of the Ten Qira’at of the Noble Qur’an [AuthorHouse, 2020], p. 299; bold and underline emphasis mine)
We, thus, have a Quranic variant and several allegedly sound narrations attributed to Muhammad confirming that Allah experiences amazement, in fact bewilderment, over the actions of creatures.
Now this helps us appreciate why there are conflicting readings of Q. 37:12. It only makes sense that Muslims would be uncomfortable with the Quran attributing such an emotion as amazement to their god, since this would attribute ignorance and mutability to Allah. Therefore, being convinced that their lord was/is an omniscient, immutable being that knows beforehand what his creatures would do, they decided to fix the text by changing it to comport with their theological assumptions.
So much for the perfect preservation of the Quran and the repeated claim that no variant reading affects an essential, cardinal doctrine of Islamic theology.
(1) Now in case the readers do not know the importance of Ibn Masud, he happens to be one of the four men whom Muhammad personally singled out to learn the Quran directly from, due to his vast knowledge of its contents and composition:
Narrated Masruq: ‘Abdullah bin Masud was mentioned before Abdullah bin ‘Amr who said, “That is a man I still love, as I heard the Prophet saying, ‘Learn the recitation of Quran from four from ‘Abdullah bin Mas’ud –he started with him–Salim, the freed slave of Abu Hudaifa, Mu’adh bin Jabal and Ubai bin Ka’b.” (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 153 https://www.searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=58&translator=1&start=0&number=153)
Masruq reported: We used to go to Abdullah b. ‘Amr and talk to him, Ibn Numair said: One day we made a mention of Abdullah b. Mas’ud, whereupon he said: You have made mention of a person whom I love more than anything else. I heard Allah’s Messenger as saying: Learn Qur’an from four persons: Ibn Umm ‘Abd (i. e. ‘Abdullah b. Mas’ud) he started from him-then Mu’adh b. Jabal and Ubayya b. Ka’b, then Salim the ally of Abu Hudhaifa. (Sahih Muslim, Book 031, Number 6024 https://sunnah.com/muslim/44/164)
Masruq reported: We were in the company of Abdullah b ‘Amr that we made a mention of a hadith from Abdullah b. Mas’ud; thereupon he said: That is a person whose love ever remains (fresh in my heart) after I heard Allah’s Messenger as saying: Learn Qur’an from four persons: Ibn Umm ‘Abd, i.e. Abdullah b. Mas’ud and he started from his name-then Ubayy b. Ka’b and Mu’adh b Jabal. Zuhri did not make a mention of the words yaquluhu in his narration. (Sahih Muslim, Book 031, Number 6025 https://www.searchtruth.com/book_display.php?book=031&translator=2&start=0&number=6008)
Thus, the Arabic manuscript of one of the most (if not THE most) important Quranic compilers did not agree with the reading of Q. 37:12 found today. Instead, his rendering attributed ignorance and mutability to Allah, proving that Muhammad’s god is not the perfect being that Muslims have erroneously been led to believe him to be.