Dots and tashkeel, and the preservation of the Quran


How do we know that the Quran has been preserved? The earlier manuscripts did not have any dots or tashkeel signs. So letters would look the same and people wouldn't be able to distinguish between them. An example of this is matter is in 30:2 where the first word 'ghullibat' without tashkeel could also be ghalabat. This would then translate to the Romans have been defeated, or have been victorious respectively.


For the benefit of the non-Arabic speaking reader, the tashkeel are the signs that are placed above and below the Arabic letters to indicate the correct pronunciation. The first copies of the Quran, as revealed to prophet Muhammad, did not have dots nor tashkeel signs. These were added later to aid the reader of the Arabic Quran to pronounce the letters correctly.

1- The answer to the question: "How do we know that the Quran has been preserved?" will depend on whether we believe that the Quran is the word of God or not.
Let us start with the less attractive case of not believing that the Quran is the word of God. In that case, there can never be a proof that would be accepted by such a person. Ultimately, it is those who believe in the Quran who will benefit from the certainties of the Quran.

And so to the category of those who believe that the Quran is the true Word of God; they will also believe that every word in the Book is absolute truth, including God's promise to preserve the Quran:

Indeed, it is We who brought down the Reminder and We will surely preserve it. 15:9

The preservation of the Quran is not only related to the preservation of the words in the Book, but is also related to everything that was revealed to prophet Muhammad by Gabriel. When Gabriel revealed the Quran to Muhammad, he gave Muhammad the correct pronunciation of every word. Muhammad was then commanded to follow the correct pronunciation that was given to him:

Do not move your tongue (O Muhammad) with it to hasten it (Quran).
Indeed, upon Us is its collection and its recitation.
Then when We recite it, follow its recitation. 75:16-18

The words
"upon Us is its collection" tell us that God guaranteed the proper collection of the Quranic revelation. It also meant that the correct recitation/pronunciation of the Quranic words was part of the revelation, and thus, part of the preservation.

Prophet Muhammad was commanded to adhere to the correct pronunciation and recitation he received. In addition, the duty of the messenger to deliver the Quran to his people (5:99) meant that he conveyed to the people the correct pronunciation and recitation of every word in the Book.

As mentioned, the earlier copies of the Quran did not include dots nor tashkeel signs. People of the time did not need those because they had access to the correct pronunciation from the mouth of the prophet. However, no prophet is immortal. It was then seen that dots and tashkeel could be added to aid the people of future generations to be able to read the Arabic Quran with its correct pronunciation.

It is important here to add that since God promised the preservation of the Quran (15:9), we can safely say that all the dots and tashkeel happened under God's watchful eyes and His permission.
It would be irrational then to suggest that the people who added the dots and tashkeel may have messed up. If they did mess up, then the Quran would be pronounced incorrectly. Incorrect pronunciation can indeed change the meaning of many words. If that was indeed possible, then it would no longer be correct to say that the Quran has been preserved. So what about God's promise for the preservation of the Quran? Was God's promise broken?

Such is God's promise.
God never breaks His promise, but most people do not know. 30:6

As for the inquiry about the first word in 30:2, the tashkeel above the first letter makes it pronounced Ghulibat and not Ghalabat.
Ghulibat means defeated, while ghalabat means were victorious.
The tashkeel, which is part of the preservation gives the correct meaning of this word and all other words of the Book.