Déroche (François), The One and the Many. The Early History of the Qur’an, Yale University Press, 2022. ISBN 978-0300251326 (English Translation of Le Coran, une histoire plurielle - Essai sur la formation du texte coranique, Paris, Seuil, ("Les Livres du nouveau monde"), 2019, 304 p. ISBN 978-2021412529)
François Déroche, professor at the Collège de France, is the world’s foremost authority on early Qur’anic manuscripts and a leading scholar of the history of the Arabic book. He lives in Paris.
According to Muslim dogma, the recited and written text of the Qur’an as we know it today scrupulously reflects the divine word as it was originally sent down to Muhammad. An examination of early Islamic sources, including accounts of prophetic sayings, and cross-checks against the oldest Qur’anic manuscripts reveal that plurality was in fact the outstanding characteristic of the genesis and transmission of the Qur’an, both textually and orally.
By piecing together information about alternative wordings eliminated from the canonical version, the one that gradually came to be imposed during the first centuries of Islam, François Déroche shows that the Qur’an long remained open to textual diversity. Not only did the faithful initially adopt a flexible attitude toward the Qur’anic text, an attitude very different from the absolute literalism later enforced by Muslim orthodoxy, but Muhammad himself turns out to have been more concerned with the meaning than the letter of the divine message.