The Qur’an and Alteration

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SHAFAQNA-

The revealed scriptures brought by previous Prophets have, unfortunately, been gradually subjected to alteration and interpolation over the years. In addition to what is said in the Qur’an to this effect, there is historical evidence to corroborate this fact. In contrast, nothing has been added to or taken from the Holy Qur’an itself. The Holy Prophet of Islam received 114 chapters of the Qur’an, and this constitutes, among other things,an eternal memorial of himself, and he delivered them intact into this world.

The scribes of the Revelation, especially Imam ‘Ali, who wrote down the revealed verses from the very beginning, have preserved it ever since from all interpolation. Despite the passage of fourteen centuries since its descent, not a single verse or chapter has been added to or taken away from the Holy Qur’an. We allude below to some of the reasons why the Qur’an has, of necessity, remained free of any alteration.

1. How could the Qur’an possibly be subject to alteration when God Himself has guaranteed its preservation and protection?

It is said:

Truly, We, even We, reveal the Reminder [that is, the Qur’an], and verily We are its guardians. (Sura al-hijr, XV: 9)

2. God has prohibited the entry of any kind of falsehood into the Qur’an:

Falsehood cannot come at it from before it or from behind it. A revelation from the Wise, the Owner of praise. (Sura Fussilat, XLI:42)

As God has denied all possibility of falsehood entering the Qur’an, this means that anything that might lead to the weakening of the Qur’an—such as adding words or verses, or taking them away—is likewise excluded; thus, one can say with absolute certainty that this Scripture has not been altered in any way.

3. History shows us that the Muslims were graced in a special way as regards learning and memorizing the Qur’an. At the time of the Revelation, the Arabs were famed for their excellent, powerful memories, so much so that after hearing a long sermon just once, they were able to repeat it by heart afterwards.

In such a context, where there were so many people who knew the Qur’an by heart, how could anyone claim that it might have been altered?

4. There is no doubt that Imam ‘Ali had a difference of opinion, in certain matters, with the other three caliphs, and that he expressed these differences in a clear and logical manner, in for example, the sermon entitled Shiqshiqiyya, one of his most famous discourses. But we observe that this great soul, to the end of his life, never said anything about even a single word of the Qur’an having been altered. If, God forbid, such an alteration had in fact taken place, a person such as he would never have remained silent. Rather, we see the contrary: that he continuously called upon people to meditate upon the Qur’an:

‘O people, for whosoever follows the Qur’an, there is no poverty or indigence; and without following the Qur’an, there is no riches or freedom from want. So throughout your lives, sow the seed of the Qur’an [in your hearts] and follow it.’

For these, and other reasons, the great scholars of the ahl albayt, from the beginning of Islam to the present day, have stressed the immunity of the Qur’an against any alteration (tahrif). It must be stressed that this has been the position of all Shi’i authorities in all periods; and to this day, all the Shi’i leaders without exception uphold this position.

Reference:

Ayatollah Jafar Sobhani, Doctrines of Shii Islam, A Compendium of Imami Beliefs and Practices, Translated and Edited by Reza Shah-Kazemi, published by I.B.Tauris Publishers, London • New York  2003.

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