Do the Shi‘ah believe in the tahrif (distortion) of the Qur’an?

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Do the Shi‘ah believe in the tahrif (distortion) of the Qur’an?
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Renowned Shi‘ah scholars are of the opinion that the Holy Qur’an is free from any kind of tahrif {distortion}, and the version of the Qur’an which is in our hands today is the same as the heavenly book which was revealed to the Holy Prophet (S) and it has been subject to no deletion or addition. In order to clarify this point, let us consider pieces of evidence that follow:

1. The Lord of the worlds has guaranteed the Muslims to preserve and protect the heavenly scripture, i.e. the Qur’an, saying:

“Indeed We have sent down the Reminder and indeed We will preserve it.”1

It is obvious that when the Shi‘ah in the world take the Qur’an as the reliable basis of their thinking and action, they recognize the value of this noble verse and believe in the message it conveys regarding God’s protection and preservation of the Book of Allah.

2. The great Imam followed by the Shi‘ah, ‘Ali (‘a), who was always in the company of the Holy Prophet (S) and one of the scribers of the revelation, has called people on various occasions to abide by this very Qur’an. Below are some of what he has said in this regard:

“Know that this Qur’an is the adviser that never deceives and the guide that never misleads.”2

“Allah, the Glorified, has not admonished anyone as He has done through lines of this Qur’an; it is Allah’s strong cord and His trustworthy means.”3

Then, Allah sent to him the Book as a light whose flames cannot be extinguished, a lamp whose gleam does not die, a way whose direction does not mislead, and a separator (of good from evil) whose arguments do not weaken.4

The magnificent words of the great leader of the Shi‘ah (Imam Ali) make it clear that the Holy Qur’an is like a radiant light which always illuminates the path of the human beings who abide by it and it is subject to no change that causes its flames to extinguish or human beings to get lost.

The magnificent words of the great leader of the Shi‘ah make it clear that the Holy Qur’an is like a radiant light which always illuminates the path of the human beings who abide by it and it is subject to no change that causes its flames to extinguish or human beings to get lost.

3. The Shi‘ah scholars have consensus of opinion that the Holy Prophet (S) has said:

“Verily, I am leaving among you Two Weighty Things: the first is the Book of Allah (Qur’an) and the other is my progeny, the members of my Household {Ahl al-Bayt}. If you hold fast to them, you will never go astray.”

This hadith is among the mutawatir hadiths, which has been narrated by both the Shi‘ah and the Sunni. From the aforementioned statement, it is obvious that the Shi‘ah believe that the Book of Allah (the Qur’an) will undergo no alteration; for, if it undergoes any tahrif {distortion}, holding fast to it will neither guarantee guidance nor eliminate misguidance, and this does not accord with what has been confirmed by the text {nass} of this mutawatir hadith.

4. The traditions of the Imams followed by the Shi‘ah, which have been narrated by all our scholars and jurists confirm that the Qur’an is the criterion for distinguishing truth from falsehood and the standard by which good is separated from evil in the sense that any statement, including the “hadiths” that came down to us should be judged according to the Qur’an. If it is in agreement with its verses, it is correct and authentic; otherwise, it is deemed a fabrication and incorrect.

The traditions of the Imams followed by the Shi‘ah, which have been narrated by all our scholars and jurists confirm that the Qur’an is the criterion for distinguishing truth from falsehood and the standard by which good is separated from evil in the sense that any statement, including the “hadiths” that came down to us should be judged according to the Qur’an. If it is in agreement with its verses, it is correct and authentic; otherwise, it is deemed a fabrication and incorrect.

The Shi‘ah books of jurisprudence and hadith include a lot of narrations in this regard. We shall only quote one of them:

Imam as-Sadiq (‘a) says:

“Any statement that is not in accord with the Qur’an is futile and false.”5

It is also clear from these hadiths that alteration has no place in the Qur’an, and thus, this sacred book can forever be a criterion for recognizing the difference between truth and falsehood.

5. Great Shi‘ah scholars, who have always been the forerunners of the Islamic and Shi‘i culture acknowledge that the Holy Qur’an will never be altered. These great figures are too many to enumerate, therefore we shall point to only two of them:

a. Abu Ja‘far Muhammad ibn ‘Ali ibn Husayn Babawayh al-Qummi, known as “Saduq” (d. 381 AH), says:

Our belief regarding the Qur’an is that it is God’s Word and revelation; it is a book which is free from falsehood and incorrectness and it has been sent down by God, the All-wise, and He is its guardian.6

b. Sayyid Murtada ‘Ali ibn Husayn Musawi ‘Alawi, known as ‘Alam al-Huda (d. 436 AH), says:

A group of the Prophet’s Companions such as ‘Abd Allah ibn Mas‘ud, Ubayy ibn Ka‘b and others recited the Qur’an from the beginning to the end to the Holy Prophet (S) many times and all of them confirm that the Qur’an has been compiled and well arranged, and it is free from any deletion and dispersion.7

C. Abu ‘Ali at-Tabarsi, the author of an exegesis named Majma‘ al-Bayan, says:

Regarding the idea of addition in the Qur’an, the entire Islamic ummah has consensus of opinion that it is groundless, and regarding the mutilation of its verses, a small number of our companions and a group of the Hashawiyyah sect of the Ahl as-Sunnah have transmitted narrations which assume that there is addition in the Qur’an, but the thing which our school accepts and regards as correct is the opposite.8

Anyone who delves into history and traditions knows that on account of the tawatur9 of the traditions and narration transmitted by thousands of the Companions, the Qur’an is intact and fixed and the entirety of it has been compiled in the lifetime of the Holy Prophet (S).10

 Also, the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, Hadrat Ayatullah al-‘Uzma Imam Khomeini (q) has a statement in this regard. This statement which we shall quote below is another clear proof:

Anyone, who is aware of the great care taken by the Muslims in compiling, preserving, recording, reciting, and writing the Qur’an will testify to the groundlessness of the notion of “distortion of the Qur’an”, and consider it unbelievable.
Also, the accounts that have been transmitted in this regard will be found either so ‘weak’ {da‘if} that they lack soundness of judgment, or so ‘unknown’ {majhul} that they seem obviously fabricated, or are narrations of other sorts, the explication of which needs writing a comprehensive book.
And were it not for the fear of deviating from the point in question, we would explain the course of history of the Qur’an over the past centuries and make clear that the Glorious Qur’an is exactly the same version of heavenly book which is in our hands, and concerning the difference of opinion among the reciters of the Qur’an, it is something new, which has nothing to do with what Jibra’il al-Amin (Archangel Gabriel the Trustworthy) has brought down onto the pure heart of the Holy Prophet (S).11

Conclusion

The Muslims, both Shi‘ah and Sunni, are of the opinion that the present version of this heavenly book is the same as the original version of the Qur’an which was sent down onto the Holy Prophet (S), and that it is safe from any form of distortion, alteration, addition, and deletion.

This is solid evidence to the groundlessness of the unfair accusation against the Shi‘ah, and if the transmission of pertinent ‘weak’ narrations has led to this accusation, it is worth noticing that such narrations have not been transmitted only by a small faction of the Shi‘ah but also by a group of Sunni exegetes {mufassirun}. Below are some examples:

1. Abu ‘Abd Allah Muhammad ibn Ahmad al-Ansari al-Qurtubi in his exegesis narrates on the authority of Abubakr al-Anbazi from Ubayy ibn Ka‘b, that in the lifetime of the Prophet (S) Surah al-Ahzab (with 73 verses) was the same size as Surah al-Baqarah (with 286 verses) and the ‘verse of stoning’ {ayah ar-rajam} was in that Surah. Now, such alleged verse is not found in Surah al-Ahzab!12

And it is stated in the same book that ‘A’ishah is reported to have said:
“In the lifetime of the Prophet (S) Surah al-Ahzab had 200 verses. Then, after the mushaf was written, we do not find more than that which the present version has!”13

2. The author of the book, Al-Itqan narrates that the number of surahs in Ubayy ibn Ka‘b’s mushaf was 116 because two other surahs called Hafd and Khal‘ were included therein.14
What we all know is that the Holy Qur’an has 114 surahs and there is no trace of such two surahs like Hafd and Khal‘ in the Qur’an.

3. Hibat Allah ibn Salamah, in his book, An-Nasikh wa’l-Mansukh, narrates that Anas ibn Malik is reported to have said:

In the lifetime of the Prophet (S), when we recited the Qur’an we used to read a surah which was similar in size to Surah at-Tawbah (Bara‘ah) in length, and all that I remember of it is only one verse, and that is:

"لو أن لإبن أدم واديان من الذهب لابتغى إليهما ثالثاً ولو أن له ثالثاً لبتغى إليهما رابعاً لأيملاء و جوف إبن أدم إلا التراب و يتوب الله على من تاب."
“Should the Children of Adam have two valleys of gold, he would ask for a third and should he have three he would ask for a fourth. Nothing can fill the bellies of the Children of Adam except dust. God accepts the repentance of those who repent.”

This is while we know that there is no such a verse in the Qur’an, and when we consider its eloquence {balaghah} we find that it is essentially inharmonious.

A small group of both the Shi‘ah and the Sunni schools have narrated ‘weak’ {da‘if} and untenable traditions on “the occurrence of alteration in the Qur’an”. According to the vast majority of the Muslims—both Shi‘ah and Sunni—these weak narrations are not acceptable.

A small group of both the Shi‘ah and the Sunni schools have narrated ‘weak’ {da‘if} and untenable traditions on “the occurrence of alteration in the Qur’an”. According to the vast majority of the Muslims—both Shi‘ah and Sunni—these weak narrations are not acceptable.

According to the Qur’anic verses, authentic {sahih} and mutawatir traditions, consensus {ijma‘} and unanimity of thousands of the Companions of the Prophet (S) and consensus of opinion of the Muslims of the world no such tahrif, alteration, addition, or deletion has taken place and it will never take place.

 

1. Surah al-Hijr 15:9.
"إنا نحن نزلنا الذكر وإنا له لحافظون."
2. Nahj al-Balaghah (Subhi as-Salih), Sermon 176.
"واعلموا أن هذا القرءان هو الناصح الذي لا يغش والهادي الذي لا يضلّ."
3. Ibid.
"إن الله سبحانه لم يعظ أحداً بمثل هذا القرءان فإنه حبل الله والتين سببه المبين."
4. Ibid., Sermon 198.
"ثم أنزل عليه الكتاب نوراً لا تطفأ مصابيحه وسراجاً لا يخبوا توقّده ومنهاجاً لا يضلّ نهجه وفرقاناً لا يخمد برهانه."
5. Usul al-Kafi, vol. 1, “Kitab Fadl al-‘Ilm,” “Bab al-Akhdh bi’s-Sunnah wa Shawahid al-Kitab,” hadith 4.
"ما لم يُوافق من الحديث القرءان فهو زُخرف."
6. Al-I‘tiqadat, p. 93.
7. Majma‘ al-Bayan, vol. 1, p. 10 as quoted from the reply to Al-Masa’il at-Tarablusiyyat by Sayyid Murtada.
8. Majma‘ al-Bayan, vol. 1, p. 10.
9. By tawatur is meant the multiplicity of the sources of a certain report that leads to certitude in the listener that the report is indeed true. A mutawatir hadith is one which has been reported by so many different chains of transmission and such a number of narrators in every generation as normally could not agree to fabricate a tradition without the fact of its fabrication becoming known. {Trans.}
10. Ala’ ar-Rahman, p. 25.
11. Tahdhib al-Usul, “Accounts of Imam Khomeini’s Lectures”, vol. 2, p. 96 {written by Professor Ja‘far Subhani}.
12. Tafsir al-Qurtubi, vol. 14, p. 113, the beginning of the commentary on Surah al-Ahzab.
13. Ibid.
14. Al-Itqan, vol. 1, p. 67.

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