Tahreef of the Holy Quran – The Sunni Viewpoint

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Distortion (tahreef) in the Holy Quran has been a subject of much debate among the Muslims. A section of Muslims, as is their wont, accuse the Shias of holding this belief and even allege that Shias have a Quran of their own which is distinct from that of the common Muslims. These Muslims would have been better off referring to Shiite traditions on Tahreef as also comparing the so-called ‘Shiite Quran’ with their own Quran to settle the issue of the Shiite version of the Quran.

While scholars across both sects have their views on tahreef in the Quran, Shia scholars by consensus based on the Quran and Sunnah believe that the present-day Quran is a source of guidance and it is wrong to claim that anything has been added to it.

Differences in recitation and interpretation is not tahreef
The tahreef in Shia books alleged by these Muslims does not refer to tahreef in concept or meaning. It is a variation in the recitation (Qeraa’at) only. Tahreef is when the concept or meaning is changed so that people are unable to distinguish truth from falsehood.

The Shias do not subscribe to tahreef of this nature. It is their belief that the present-day Quran has been revealed on the Prophet (s.a.w.a.) and transferred and explained by the successors (Imams (a.s.)) of the Prophet (s.a.w.a.). The variations are in the Qeraa’at of the Imams (a.s.) and do not qualify as tahreef and therefore not worth debating.

Tahreef in taavil and tafseer
The tahreef that has found its way is the tahreef in interpretation (taavil and tafseer) of Quranic verses which cannot be denied with the numerous books written on exegesis (tafseer) of the Quran including by Sunni scholars, each with its own interpretation. If there was no tahreef of this nature, there would be consensus regarding the tafseer of the Quran and there would be only sect in Islam instead of the numerous sects at present.

Views of Sunni scholars on tahreef
On studying Sunni traditions we learn that the belief in tahreef of Quran is widely documented and accepted as a reality. It is therefore perplexing why without referring to such traditions these Muslims are quick to point fingers of accusation at the Shias. We have undertaken the defense of the Holy Quran as a Book of Guidance that cannot be tainted with accusations of tahreef and have established that the belief in tahreef forms part of the Sunni school rather than the Shiite creed.

1. Most of the verses in Quran have been omitted
Ibn Mardavayh narrates from Umar b. Khattab who narrates from the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a): Quran comprises of one million and twenty seven thousand alphabets (huroof) i.e. 1,027,000 alphabets. Anyone who recites them with patience and forbearance will be given an alphabet (hurf) for each alphabet, whereas Quran comprises of a little over three hundred thousand i.e. 300,000 alphabets.

Al- Durr al-Mansoor, vol. 6 pg 422, Majma’ al-Zawaaed vol. 7 pg 163, Kanz al-Ummaal vol. 1 pp 517, 541

2. Most of the verses of Surah Ahzaab have been omitted
It has been narrated from Huzaifah: Umar asked me regarding the number of verses in Surah Ahzaab. I replied seventy two or seventy three.

Umar said: If all of them were present, its length would be like that of Surah Baqarah and the verse of stoning (rajm) was also in it.

Haakim considers this tradition as correct from the aspects of its narrators.

Kanz al-Ummaal vol. 2 pg 480, Musnad-o-Ahmad vol 5 pg 132, Mustadrak-o-Haakim vol. 2 pg 415 and vol. 4 pg 359, Sunan-o-Baihaqi vol. 8 pg 211

3. A verse of Surah Taubah has been deleted
It has been narrated from Huzaifah thus:

What you read as Surah Baraa’at (Taubah) is one fourth of original Surah and you call it as Surah Baraa’at whereas its name was Surah Azaab.

The chain of narrators of this tradition is correct according to Haakim.

Mustadrak-o-Haakim vol. 2 pg 330, Al-Durr al-Mansoor vol. 1 pg 105

4. Surah of Khayaali, Khul’a, Hafad and another Surah
A. According to several Sunni traditions these two chapters (Khayaali, Khal’a) were present in a particular Quran and Umar used to recite them before ruku.

B. As per the tradition of Ibn Dhurais in the Book of Virtues, it has been narrated from Hammaad that these two chapters were part of the Mus’haf of Ibn Abi Ka’ab. In the same book, the above two chapters as per the Qeraa’at of Ubayy and Abu Musa, were known as the two chapters of the Mus’haf of Ibn Abbas.

C. In the same way Muhammad b. Nasr narrates from Is’haaq that in the book (Mus’haf) of Ubayy b. Ka’b the chapters of Ikhlaas, Falaq, Naas, Khul’a, Hafad and an another surah existed. (Shall be discussed later)

D. Muhammad b. Nasr also narrates from Ata b. Saa’ib that Abu Abdul Rahman read the chapters of Khul’a and Hafad for him.

E. Some of them also believe that these two chapters were present in the book which Umar entrusted to his daughter Hafsah.

F. Text of Surah Khayali, Khal’a

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم اللهم انا نستعینک و نستغفرک و نثنی علیک و لا نکفرک و نخلع و نترک من یفجرک

G. Text of Surah Khayali Hafad

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم اللهم ایاک نعبد و لک نصلی و نسجد و لک نسعی و نحفد و نخشی عذابک و الجد و نرجوا رحمتک ان عذابک بالکافرین ملحق

H. Text of the Surah from the book of Ubayy b. Ka’ab

This is the text of the Surah that Ibn Ishaq claims was a part of book of Ubayy b. Ka’ab

بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم اللهم لا تنزع ما تعطی و لا ینفع ذالجد منک الجد سبحانک و غفرانک و حنانیک اله الحق

Kanz al-Ummaal vol. 8 pg 74, 75, 78; Al-Nihaayah vol. 4 pg 238; Tareekh al-Madinah vol. 3 pg 1,009, Kitab al-Umm vol. 7 pg 147; Al Majmoo Taleef by Nawavi vol 3 pg 493

5. Belief that Surah of Falaq and Naas are other than Quran

We find Sunni traditions claim that the chapters of Falaq and Naas were known to be used as amulets (taveez) and for curing the wounds of eyes and for repelling harm.

Ahmad b. Hanbal narrates a tradition from Zarr:

I informed Ubayy b. Ka’ab – Your brother Ibn Masood has omitted Surah of Maoozatain (i.e. Falaq and Naas) from Quran and he did not reject.

The narrator asked Sufyaan: Did he mean the brother of Ibn Masood?

He said: Yes, these two chapters were not in the book of Ibn Masood because he never heard the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) reciting them in prayers. Similarly Ahmad b. Hanbal narrates that Ibn Masood included these two chapters in his Mus’haf and said: These two are not from the Book of Allah.

Musnad-o-Ahmad vol. 5 pg 130, Tareekh Medinah Munawwarah vol. 3 pg 1, 101, Majma al-Zawaaed vol. 7 pg 149

6. Belief that a verse was ingested by a goat

A surprising point narrated in Sunni traditions is that the verse of elderly people and children being mahram (i.e. those with whom mingling is permissible as marriage is prohibited) was revealed but was subsequently omitted. To establish this they narrate that Aaesha had written this verse on a paper and put it under her pillow and a goat ate it.

It seems that the revealed Quran was only with her and all the writers of revelation were unaware of it. It has been narrated by Aaesha thus: A verse was revealed in Quran that considered feeding a child ten times a reason for becoming mahram and later a verse was revealed that stated feeding five times as sufficient and abrogated the previous verse and till the time of the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) it was a part of Quran and was recited as Quran.

Saheeh-e-Muslim vol. 4, pg 167, Sunan Daarimi, vol. 2, pg 157

It has been narrated by Aaesha: The verse of stoning and suckling of a grownup was revealed and I wrote it on a paper and kept it under my seat. When I was preoccupied at the time of the Holy Prophet’s (s.a.w.a) demise a goat came and ate it.

Sunan-o-Ibn Maajah vol. 1 pg 625

It is necessary to note that Sunni jurists including Shaafi’ee have passed verdicts based on these traditions that feeding five times makes one mahram and jurists like Sufyaan Thauri, Maalik b. Anas and Abdullah b. Mubaarak have narrated that feeding becomes a cause of making a person mahram even if it is less than five times provided that the milk has entered the body.

Sunan-o-Tirmidhi vol 2 pg 309

Such verdicts based on the aforementioned verse were not merely passed, they were even acted upon. For instance, it is reported that Aaesha sent a man to her sister for breast-feeding to the objection of Umme Salmah and other wives of the Noble Prophet (s.a.w.a.).

7. Belief regarding the omission of the verse – If you struggle in the way of Allah like you did for the first time

It has been narrated in the Musnad of Umar from Masourin that Umar b. Khattaab asked Abdul Rahman b. Auf: Was there not a verse like this before – If you struggle in the way of Allah like you did for the first time. I have not invented it.

Abdul Rahman affirmed: It has been omitted from the Quran. Kanz al-Ummaal vol. 2 pg 567

8. Belief regarding the verses of ” ان انتفائکم ” and ” الولد للفراش – the child belongs to the bed

Adi b. Adi b. Umairah b. Furooh narrated from his father who related from his grandfather that Umar asked Ubayy b. Kaab: Was this verse not in the Quran “ان انتفائکم من آبائکم کفر بکم” He replied: Yes He asked : Was this verse not in the Quran “الولد للفراش و للعاهر الحجر”

He replied in the affirmative.

Kanz al-Ummaal vol 6 pg 208

9. Belief regarding omission of the verse on stoning and other verses

Bukhaari in his Saheeh narrates a tradition from Ibn Abbas that on returning to Medinah after his last Hajj, Umar mounted the pulpit and said:

I am afraid that time will pass and its length becomes a cause for some people to say that by Allah I did not see the verse of stoning in Quran and will be deviated and will not obey the order of Allah while in reality the verse of stoning in the Book of Allah is for the married women and men who have committed adultery and evidence also establishes it or they accept it themselves or the woman conceives as a result of adultery. Another verse that I read in Quran is: ترغبوا عن آبائکم فانه کفر بکم ان ترغبوا عن آبائکم او ان کفرا بکم ان ترغبوا عن آبائکم And it has also been mentioned that Umar said in the above tradition: If you would not say that Umar did an addition to the Book of Allah I would have written the verse of stoning with my hand.

Bukhaari vol. 8 pl 25 and vol. 8 pg 113

The above fact has also been mentioned by other traditionalists like Muslim, Ibn Maajaah, Abu Dawood and Tirmizi who after narrating this tradition stress its authenticity.

Muslim vol. 5 pg 116, Sunan Ibn Maajaah vol. 1 pg 625 and vol. 2 pg 835, Sunan-e-Abi Dawood vol. 2 pg 343, Sunan Tirmizi vol. 2 pg 442

10. Belief regarding the omission of the verse of Jihad in the last era

It has been narrated by Abdul Rahman b. Auf that Umar asked him about the verse ‘…and struggle in the way of Allah as is the right to struggle’

Have you not read this verse in the following manner: Struggle in the way of Allah in the last era like you struggled in the beginning. Abdul Rahman replied in the affirmative and asked: Which is the time referred to in this verse?

Umar: It is the time when Bani Ummayyah will be governors and Bani Mughairah ministers. In another tradition it is mentioned that Abdul Rahman replied thus to Umar: This verse among a number of other verses have been omitted from Quran and have been abandoned.

Al-Durr al-Mansoor vol. 4 pg 371, Kanz al-Ummaal vol. 5 pg 567

11. Belief regarding omission of the verse الا بلغوا قومنا

Sunni traditions narrate that the verse regarding the martyrs at the Well of Maoonah i.e. B’er-e-Maoonah (a group that went for propagation to Najd and were martyred by the Bani Lahyan) was revealed thus : الا بلغوا قومنا قد لقینا ربنا فرضی عنا و ارضانا

Bukhaari vol 3 pg 204, 208, vol. 4 pg 35 and vol. 5 pg 42, Muslim vol. 2 pg 135, Musnad-o-Ahmad vol. 3 pgs 109, 210, 255, 289; Sunan-o-Baihaqi vol 2 pg 199

12. Belief regarding omission of the verse ذات الدین and وادی التراب

It has been narrated from Ubayy b. Ka’b that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) said: Allah has ordered me to recite the Holy Quran for you and from all the verses I recited are these two verses: If there was for son of Adam a part of wealth he would wish for a second part and if he had the second part also he would wish for the third one and nothing save dust will satiate him.

And the second verse is: Surely the only religion with Allah is the upright religion, which is other than Judaism and Christianity, and he who does good has not disbelieved.

Mustadrak al-Haakim vol. 2, pg 224 and vol. 7 pg 140; Kanz al-Ummaal vol. 2 pg 567

13. Belief regarding omission of Tasbeehaat-e-Arba’aa

It is apparent from certain Sunni traditions that Tasbeehaat-e-Arba’aa is a part of Quran. For instance it has been narrated by Samarah that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) said: Four things are the best words and are from Quran. Start (reciting) it wherever you like: سبحان الله و الحمد لله و لااله الا الله و الله اکبر

Musnad-o-Ahmad vol. 5 pg 11, 20, Sunan-o-Nisaaee, vol. 2 pg 143

14. Belief that the text of the Holy Quran can be altered

The most sacrilegious Sunni view with regards to Tahreef is that it is permissible for someone to say that – I can change the words of Quran provided that I do not change punishment into forgiveness and vice versa.

It has been mentioned in traditions that a person recited Quran before Umar, who reviled him. The man said: I recited in a similar manner before Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) and he did not indicate to me to do the opposite.

They went to the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) and he supported the Quran of the other person at which Umar felt offended. At this Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) informed Umar: All of Quran is correct provided that punishment is not changed into forgiveness and vice versa. And similarly it has been narrated that the Holy Prophet (s.a.w.a) said: Recite Quran on seven alphabets, all of which are intercessors and sufficient, with the condition that chastisement is not changed to forgiveness and vice versa. For instance you say تعالmeaning come here or اقبل both have the similar meaning.

Musnad-o-Ahmad vol 4 pg 30 and vol 5 pg 41, 51, 124

There are many Sunni traditions with this theme and are deemed authentic and reliable. For example one can refer to:

Majma’ al-Zawaaed, vol. 7 pg 150,

Diyaar-e-Bakr, vol. 1 pg 382,

Usud al-Ghaabah Fi Marefah al-Sahaabah, vol. 5 pg 156,

Al-Itqaan of Jalaal al-Deen Suyuti, vol. 1, pg 168

Kanz al-Ummaal of Ali Ibn Abd al-Malik famous as Muttaqi al-Hindi, vol. 1 pg 550, 619 and vol. 2 pg 52, 603

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