Accuracy and preservation of the Qur’an

The Doctrine of Imamah
August 6, 2015
Rasulullah’s salla Llahu `alayhi wa sallam attitude towards his Household
August 6, 2015

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Accuracy and preservation of the Qur’an


Yet another prerequisite, as indicated earlier, for a perennial nubuwwah is that the revelation vouchsafed to the last and final Rasul salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, which forms the basis of its doctrines and teachings, and serves as a connecting link between the Creator and the created, should be preserved without a change of a dot, should remain intelligible and be recited and learnt and studied by people at all times as a living scripture. It should not meet the fate of earlier revelations which were mutilated and changed, nor should it become an ancient writing to be preserved like an archaeological exhibit.

Qur’anic pronouncements on the subject are quite clear and explicit. At the time the Qur’an was being revealed to Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam by the Archangel Jibraʼil ‘alayh al Salam, and Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam felt anxious to commit it all the more readily to his memory in order to produce the word of Allah exactly, without any change to others, he was promised that:


اِنَّ عَلَیۡنَا جَمْعَہٗ وَ قُرْاٰنَهٗ ﴿۱۷﴾ فَاِذَا قَرَاۡنٰهُ فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْاٰنَهٗ ﴿۱۸﴾ ثُمَّ اِنَّ عَلَیۡنَا بَیَانَهٗ

Ours it is to gather it, and to recite it. So when we recite it, you follow its recitation. Then Ours is to explain it.[1]


The promise to fix the Qur’an in the memory of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam having been fulfilled; it was conveyed to the people who memorised it in part or the whole of it. Thereafter expeditions and battles followed; Muslims began to be dispersed in distant lands, but the Qur’an continued unchanged in its original form since Allah has already held out His word to safeguard it till the end of time.


اِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَ اِنَّا لَهُ لَحٰفِظُوْنَ

Verily We! It is We who have revealed the Reminder and We are its Guardian.[2]


Testimony of non-Muslim Scholars

It is not necessary to cite here the findings of Muslim scholars about the preservation of the Qur’an for nobody has ever expressed any doubt about it except the Shia. Absolute purity of the Qur’anic text, free of all corruptions, accretions and mutilations, is the creed held by those belonging to Ahl-Sunnah.[3]

Let us have a testimony of a few non-Muslim, especially Christian scholars, who agreed that the Qur’an is “Most widely read book in existence.”[4]

European scholars of Islam, commonly known as Orientalists, do not share the faith of the Muslims that the Qur’an was revealed by Allah, but they agree with them that the Qur’an has never been subjected to anything, such as, redaction of the Holy Text. Sir William Muir, not very sympathetic to Islam and its Rasul salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and whose allegations against the latter in his Life of Mahomet forced Sir ‘Ahmed Khan known for his liberal views and modernism, to pen the Khutbat-e Ahmediyyah to refute him, acknowledges the textual purity of the Qur’an in these words:


Contending and embittered factions, taking their rise in the murder of ‘Uthman himself within a quarter of a century from the death of Mahomet, have ever since rent the Mahometan world. Yet but one Coran has been current amongst them; and the consentaneous use by them all in every age up to the present day of the same Scripture, is an irrefragable proof that we have now before us the very text prepared by command of the unfortunate Caliph. There is probably in the world no other work which has remained twelve centuries with so pure text.[5]


Wherry writes in his commentary on the Qur’an:


The text of the Qur’an is the purest of all works of a like antiquity.[6]


Lane-Poole testifies:


It is an immense merit in the Kuran that there is no doubt as to its genuineness… That very word we can now read with full confidence that it has remained unchanged through nearly thirteen hundred years.[7]


Bosworth Smith has reached the conclusion that:


In the Kuran, we have beyond all reasonable doubt, the exact words of Mohammad salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, without subtraction and without addition.[8]


Prof. Arnold writes in the Islamic faith:


The text of this recension substantially corresponds to the actual utterances of Muhammad salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam himself.[9]


Many more evidences can be produced in support of the preservation of Qur’anic text in its original form but it is perhaps not necessary to prolong with further citations.


Shia Creed in regard to the Qur’an

Let us now take the Shia belief in regard to the Qur’an. They hold that the Qur’anic text was mutilated; there is almost consensus among their scholars on this point.[10]

‘Allamah Nuri Tabrasi has written a treatise entitled Fasl al Khitab fi Ithbat Tahrif Kitab Rabb al Arbab[11] (The definitive conclusion in proving the distortion of the book of the absolute Lord of the lords) in which he says that more than two thousand reports handed down by the Imams positively assert that there have been many alterations in the text of the Qur’an that we have at present.[12] Until the tenth or eleventh century, that is, to the time of ‘Allamah Baqir al Majlisi — who was the greatest expounder of the Shia creed — or even thereafter , the Shia doctors have been advertising the view that the Qur’an has been subjected to alterations, additions and redactions.[13]


We have already referred to ‘Allamah Khomeini’s views in regard to the Qur’an wherein he said that:


It posed no problem to delete the verses (declaring ‘Ali as the vicegerent of Rasulullah salla Llahu ‘alayhi wa sallam and the principle of Imamah), to make interpolations in the divine Scripture and to put the Qur’an out of sight to the end of time.

He also asserted that:

The charge of corrupting, (the scriptures) laid by the Muslims against the Jews and the Christians is proven against these companions.[14]


Usul Kafi is one of the most authentic theological works on Shi’ism. It gives a number of examples to show that several verses were deleted from the Qur’an while others were inserted in it.[15] The book makes the allegation that about two-thirds of the Qur’an has been pilfered since it originally contained as many as seventeen thousand verses.[16]

Shia scholars hold that the Qur’an in its original form was compiled by Khalifah ‘Ali radiya Llahu ‘anhu and it is still safe in the custody of the ghaʼib (hidden) Imam. According to their belief the Qur’an with the Imam al Gha’ib is entirely different from the existing one.[17]

A few of their Imams are on record that they possess the original Qur’an known as Mushaf al Fatimah (Fatimah’s Scripture) which was three times more voluminous than the existing Qur’an.[18]


Indifference to the Qur’an

The Noble Qur’an is read as a text-book by practically every Muslim in every part of the world and the number of those who commit it to memory runs into the millions; there is hardly a town where a hafiz cannot be found or where the entire Qurʼan is not recited once or twice in the tarawih[19] salah during Ramadan; yet the Shia have shown little interest in its teaching or preaching, which is apparently a logical result of their attitude towards the Word of Allah.

It is commonly believed that the Shia do not have huffaz or memorisers of the Qur’an. The writer of these lines has had an occasion of meeting with an experience of a similar nature during his tour of Iran in 1973, which confirmed this impression. Wherever there is a Muslim religious gathering, Europe and America not excluded, a Muslim is found who can recite a small chapter or few verses of the Noble Qur’an before initiating the proceedings of a meeting. But in Iran it was otherwise.

The writer had gone to that country as the head of a delegation deputed by the World Muslim Organisation. He was invited to a meeting held to welcome the delegates by an eminent theologian known as ‘Ayatollah’ at his residence in Zarrin N’al, Tehran. The meeting began with the recitation of the Qur’an, but it was read from the copy of the Scripture held by the son of the theologian. The writer also heard the recitation of the Qur’an in the masjids of Qum and Mashhad replayed from the cassettes of Egyptian Qurraʼ.[20]

This indifference to the Holy Qurʼan seems to be the reason why Iranian libraries lack such illuminated copies of the Qur’an as are normally found in almost every library of the Islamic world.


An Eye-opener to Deniers of the Qur’an

How can anyone claiming to be Muslim but denying the absolute purity of the Qur’an, present his creed to others with confidence or claim that Islam is the only saving principle for man? How ugly and unattractive is the picture of Islam and its early adherents painted by those who believe in the perversion of the Qur’an and how can they, with these concepts in their brains, invite others to give faith to the truth of Islam? Does one need anything more to rebut the claim of Islam as the last and eternal faith of mankind?


NEXT⇒ The Doctrine of Imamah

[1]  Surah al Qiyamah: 17-19

[2]  Surah al Hijr: 9

[3]  There are several treatises in Arabic dealing with the preservation, script etc., of the Qur’an in Arabic. Urdu knowing people can go through the Tarikh Suhaf-e Samawi by S. Nawab ‘Ali.

[4]  Charles Fransis potter, The Faith Man Lives By, Kings Wood Surrey, 1935, p. 1; Philip K. Hitti, History of the Arabs, London, 1953, p. 126.

[5]  Sir William Muir, Life of Mahomet, London, 1912, Vol. I, pp. XXII-XXIII.

[6]  Wherry, E. M., A Comprehensive Commentary of the Qur’an, Vol I London, 1896, p. 349

[7]  Lane and Lane-Poole, Selection from the Kuran, Turnber, London, 1879, Intro. p. c..

[8]  Bosworth Smith, Mohammad and Mohammedanism, London, 1874, p. 22.

[9]  Arnold, T. W., Islamic faith, London, p.9,

[10]  Only four Shia scholars: Saduq, Sharif al Murtada, Abu Jafar al Tusi and Abu ‘Ali al Tabrasi are exceptions to this agreed view of the Shia theologians, but some of them have been reported to have recanted their view. Anyway, there is always a doubt that they might have expressed their opinions in favour of purity of the Qur’an because of their accepted principle of taqiyyah or dissimulation of one’s faith.

[11]  This book has recently been published in Pakistan.

[12]Fasl al Khitab, Najaf, 1298 A.H. p. 227.

[13] For details see M. Manzur Nu’mani, Irani Inqilab, Imam Khomeni aur Shi’iyyat, Lucknow, 1984, p. 156.

[14]Kash al Asrar, op. cit., p. 114.

[15]  Al Razi, Al Usul mi a-Jami’ al Kafi, Lucknow, 1302 A.H., pp. 262, 264-66 and 267. The author is reported to have got it approved by Imam Muhammad ibn al Hassan, the twelfth and the hidden Imam.

[16]Usul Kafi, op. cit., p. 271.

[17]  Ibid, p. 271.

[18]  Ibid, p. 160.

[19]  Special prayers offered during Ramadan.

[20]  Reciters of the Qur’an