This article concentrates on what can be termed canonical variation in Old Arabic. This concentrates on variation within normed varieties of classical linguistic writing, namely the grammarians’ own observations on variation, their meta-linguistic conceptualization of variation and Qurʔaanic variation as embodied in the qiraaʔaat and in the Maʕaaniy al-Qurʔaan literature. Notable is the fact that with some significant exceptions variation was viewed as phenomena to be accommodated within a linguistic explanation, not as the object of prescriptivist criticism. Indeed, for the arguably most incisive observers of spoken Arabic, Sibawaih and Al-Farraʔ, the analysis of variation enhanced the theoretical sophistication of their linguistic models.