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Do the Shī‘ah believe in the taḥrīf [distortion] of the Qur’an?

Reply: Renowned Shī‘ah scholars are of the opinion that the Holy Qur’an is free from any kind of tarīf [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 () 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: لَحَٰفِظُونَ لَهُ وَإِنَّا الذِّكْرَ نَزَّلْنَا نَحْنُ إِنَّا ﴿ “Indeed We have sent down the Reminder and indeed We will preserve it.”[1]

It is obvious that when the Shī‘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 Imām followed by the Shī‘ah, ‘Alī (‘a), who was always in the company of the Holy Prophet () 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:

“.لايضلّ الّذى الهادي و لايغشّ الّذي النّاصح هو القرآن هذا أنّ واعلموا

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

“.الْمُبِيْنُ سَبَبُهُ وَ المَتِيْنُ اللهِ حَبْلُ فَإِنَّهُ القُرآنِ هٰذَا بِمِثْلِ أَحَدًا يَعِظْ لَمْ سُبْحَانَهُ اللهَ إنَّ

 “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]

سراجًا و مصابيحه تطفأ لا نورًا الكتاب عليه أنزل ثمّ

“.برهانه لايخمد فرقانًا و نهجه لايضلّ منهاجًا و توقّده لايخبوا

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 Shī‘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 Shī‘ah scholars have consensus of opinion that the Holy Prophet () 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 hadīth is among the mutawātir hadīths, which has been narrated by both the Shī‘ah and the Sunnī. From the aforementioned statement, it is obvious that the Shī‘ah believe that the Book of Allah (the Qur’an) will undergo no alteration; for, if it undergoes any tarīf [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 mutawātir hadīth.

4. The traditions of the Imāms followed by the Shī‘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 “hadīths” 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 Shī‘ah books of jurisprudence and hadīth include a lot of narrations in this regard. We shall only quote one of them:

Imām a-ādiq (‘a) says:

“.زُخْرُفٌ فَهُوَ الْقُرآنَ الْحَدِيْثِ مِنَ يُوَافِقْ لَمْ مَا

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

It is also clear from these adīths 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 Shī‘ah scholars, who have always been the forerunners of the Islamic and Shī‘ī 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 some of them:

a. Abū Ja‘far Muammad ibn ‘Alī ibn usayn Bābawayh al-Qummī, known as “Ṣadūq” (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 Murtaḍā ‘Alī ibn usayn Mūsawī ‘Alawī, known as ‘Alam al-Hudā (d. 436 AH), says:

A group of the Prophet’s Companions such as ‘Abd Allāh ibn Mas‘ūd, Ubayy ibn Ka‘b and others recited the Qur’an from the beginning to the end to the Holy Prophet () 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. Abū Jafar Muḥammad ibn Ḥasan aṭ-Ṭūsī, known as “Shaykh aṭ-Ṭā’ifah” (d. 460 AH), says:

As for the talk about the imperfection and addition in the Qur’an, it cannot be covered in this book; for, all Muslims have consensus of opinion that nothing has been added to the Qur’an, and regarding the supposition of imperfection, it is rejected by Muslims. The idea of the absence of addition is more concordant with our school. This idea has been acknowledged and approved by Sayyid Murtadā and the outward meaning of hadīths also confirms this fact. A small number of Shī‘ah and Sunnī narrators points to the narrations which talk about the imperfection and alteration in the Qur’anic verses. These narrations which have been transmitted by Shī‘ah and Sunnī are among the solitary reports’[8] which need not to be known or abided by, and they had better be discarded.[9]

d. Abū Alī aṭ-Ṭabarsī, the author of an exegesis named Majma‘ al-Bayān, 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.[10]

e. Alī ibn Ṭāwūs al-Ḥillī, known as “Sayyid Ibn Ṭāwūs” (d. 664 AH), says: “The Shī‘ah view is that no alteration has taken place in the Qur’an.”[11]

f. Shaykh Zayn ad-Dīn al-‘Āmilī (d. 877 AH) explains the following verse, لَحَٰفِظُونَ لَهُ وَإِنَّا الذِّكْرَ نَزَّلْنَا نَحْنُ إِنَّا ﴿ “Indeed We have sent down the Reminder and indeed We will preserve it”[12] and says it means: “We (Allah) shall protect and keep the Qur’an from any alteration, change and addition.”[13]



[1] Sūrah al-Ḥijr 15:9.

[2] Nahj al-Balāghah (ubī a-āliḥ), Sermon 176.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid., Sermon 198.

[5] Uūl al-Kāfī, vol. 1, “Kitāb Fal al-‘Ilm,” “Bāb al-Akhdh bi’s-Sunnah wa Shawāhid al-Kitāb,” hadīth 4.

[6] Al-I‘tiqādāt, p. 93.

[7] Majma‘ al-Bayān, vol. 1, p. 10 as quoted from the reply to Al-Masā’il a-arāblusiyyāt by Sayyid Murtaā.

[8] Khabar al-wāid or āad: Although termed ‘solitary report’, this refers to any report that is not mutawātir. [Trans.]

[9] At-Tibyān, vol. 1, p. 3.

[10] Majma‘ al-Bayān, vol. 1, p. 10.

[11] Sa‘d as-Su‘ūd, p. 144.

[12] Sūrah al-Ḥijr 15:9.

[13] Ihār al-aqq, vol. 2, p. 130.

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