Sunnis and Shiites: One Qur’an or Two?

First of all, we’d like to draw your attention to the fact that the Shiites are generally considered Muslims. All Muslims should be alert against the schemes and plots planned by the enemies of Islam. They are the ones who want us to disagree and fight each other. We should not give them this chance. The Imamite Shiites are Muslims as all the characteristics the Sunnis have agreed on for describing a person as Muslim apply to them. Moreover, there is no authentic hadith in the Sunni collections of hadith which indicates that the Qur’an had been altered in any way.
Sheikh Muhammad Ibrahim Zidan, head of the Shari`ah Desk at and lecturer at Islamic Universities, states the following: It is established that no falsehood can approach the Qur’an at all, and that Almighty Allah has promised that He Himself will preserve it against corruption and alteration. The majority of Muslims, Sunni and Shiite, are unanimous that the Qur’an is sanctified and beyond alteration whether by addition to it or subtraction from it.
Based on this, accusing the Imamite Shiites of altering the Qur’an is a serious matter that needs to be dealt with seriously, too.
First and foremost, no one is to doubt that the Imamite Shiites are Muslims. All the characteristics the Sunnis have agreed on for describing a person as Muslim apply to them. This is not to disregard the nature of the differences between the two sects. The issue at hand is to be dealt with in light of three points:
1. Judging the concerned sects by the opinions of their majority, not by the deviant views of some of their followers.
2. Seeing how the eminent Sunni scholars consider the accusation that the Shiites have altered the Qur’an.
3. Discussing the Shiites’ directing of the same accusation to the Sunnis.
Judging the Concerned Sects by the Opinions of Their Majority, Not by the Deviant Views of Some of Their Followers
When it comes to the Sunnis’ accusation that the Shiites have altered the Qur’an, it is fair to say that it has been proved that some of the Imamite Shiites have already said in point blank statements that the Qur’an has been altered, or at least that some words have been deleted from it. But to be precise, this opinion is held by very few Shiites throughout the history of the Shiite sect. If this is so, would it be rational to regard a deviant opinion held by very few followers of a certain sect as a general attitude held by this sect? Is it fair to form a general attitude toward a certain sect from an eccentric opinion pronounced within it?
If a deviant view among a certain group is to be taken as a general judgment on this group, why then have the eminent scholars bothered about refining the different juristic rulings given on the different issues, classifying some as not to be followed, being based on weak evidence or deviant opinions, and some as to be dependable, being agreed upon by the majority?
a rational way of thinking dictates that we judge sects or schools by the general views held by the majority among them, not by individual deviant opinions that some of their members adopt.
Based on this rational principle that the Sunni scholars follow in their studies, it becomes illogical and unreasonable to say that the deviant opinion that says the Qur’an has been altered and that the Shiites have a Qur’an other than the one the Sunnis believe in forms a general trend among the Shiite sect.
Such an eccentric view might have acquired some weight if the eminent Shiite scholars had not criticized it openly and rendered it as deviant from the general path of the sect. Since there are clear statements voiced by eminent Shiite scholars that refute such a deviant view, we should disregard it, labeling it only as eccentric and odd.
In fact, the majority of Shiite scholars have judged the hadiths that the Shiite deviant opinions cited for their claim that the Qur’an has been altered as false statements interpolated in hadiths or as hadiths whose chain of narrators are not authentic.
the eminent Shiite Imams Abu Al-Qasim Al-Khuie and Muhammad Hussein At-Tabatabaie criticized the attitude of those deviant Shiites and classified the hadiths taken by them as evidence for their claim that the Qur’an has been altered into four sections:
1. Hadiths that clearly mention altering the Qur’an as the hadith of Sheikh As-Saduk reported to the effect that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: “Three will complain (to Almighty Allah)
on the Day of Judgment: the Qur’an, the mosque, and the Prophet’s descendents. The Qur’an will say, ‘O my Lord! They altered me and tore me.’ The mosque will say, ‘O my Lord! They neglected me and did not observe my rights.’ And the Prophet’s descendents will say, ‘O my Lord! They killed us, expelled us, and displaced us.’”

2. Hadiths that indicate that some verses of the Qur’an mention the names of the imams the Shiites hold in high esteem, such as the hadith reported by Al-`Ayyashie that Abu Ja`far As-Sadiq (a descendent of Imam `Ali) said, “Had the Qur’an been recited according to its (true) revelation, one would have found us mentioned by name in it.”
3. Hadiths that indicate that some words of the Qur’an have been altered by others, such as the hadith reported by `Ali ibn Ibrahim Al-Qummi to the effect that Allah says (in Surat Al-Fatihah), “Sirat man an`amta ghair al-maghdubi `alaihim wa ghair ad-dallin” [instead of “Sirata al-ladhina an`amta `alaihim ghair al-maghdubi `alaihim wa la ad-dalin”].
4. Hadiths that indicate that the Qur’an has been altered by deleting some words from it.
then the two eminent scholars (Abu Al-Qasim Al-Khuie and Muhammad Hussein At-Tabatabaie) started criticizing these hadiths in a rational way. According to them, first, these eccentric hadiths are not beyond being interpolated or invented, especially when we know that it is agreed upon that there are many false statements that hypocrites have interpolated into the Hadith. Hence, the hadiths cited with respect to altering the Qur’an cannot be counted upon.
Second, reviewing the chains of reporters of these hadiths, one finds that most of them are not authentic.
third, many of the verses cited in these hadiths are mentioned in the c
ontext of interpretation, not in the context of the original text of the Qur’an. For example, a Shiite wrote, (Allah says: ‘O Messenger! Make known that which hath been revealed unto thee from thy Lord …’) (Al-Ma’idah: 67) about Imam `Ali.
according to Abu Al-Qasim Al-Khuie and Muhammad Hussein At-Tabatabaie, if it is not believed that the verses mentioned in these hadiths are cited in the context of interpretation, these hadiths are to be refused and regarded as false. This is because it is established that everything reported in relation to religion is to be reviewed in light of Allah’s Book and the authentic Sunnah, and if something contradicts Allah’s Book, it is to be refused and given up.
there are many other statements to the same effect stated by eminent Shiite scholars such as Sheikh As-Saduq, Sheikh Al-Mufid, Ash-Sharif Al-Murtada, Sheikh At-Tawsi, At-Tabtaba’i, Muhammad Al-Hussein Al-Kashif Al-Ghita’, Ibrahim Al-Mawsawi Az-Zingani, Sheikh Muhammad Ridah Al-Mudhafar, Sheikh At-Tabrasi, and Muhammad Gawad Al-Balaghi.
Seeing How the Eminent Sunni Scholars Consider the Accusation That the Shiites Have Altered the Qur’an
In fact, only a very small number of Sunni scholars accuse the Shiites of altering the Qur’an. Reviewing the writings of the early eminent Sunni scholars in the different branches of religious sciences, one finds almost no mention of this accusation at all. This applies to Al-Ash`ari’s Maqalat, Abdul-Qahir Al-Baghdadi’s Usul Ad-Din, and Al-Farq Bain Al-Firaq, Ibn Hazm’s Al-Fasl fi Al-Milal wa An-Nihal, Ash-Shahrastani’s Al-Milal wa An-Nihal, Al-Gwaini’s Al-Irshad, Sa`d Ad-Din At-Ta
ftazani’s Sharh Al-Maqased, Al-Baqillani’s At-Tamhid, Al-Bazdawi’s Usul Ad-Din.
this applies also to the exegeses written by Muhammad ibn Jarir At-Tabari, Jamal Ad-Din Al-Jawzi, Al-Qutbi, Abu Al-Barakat `Abdullah ibn Ahmad An-Nasafi, Ibn Kathir, Abu-Hayan Al-Andalusi, Jalal Ad-Din As-Suyuti Abu As-Su`ud, and Ash-Shawkani.
all those eminent scholars did not mention a thing about the Shiites’ altering of the Qur’an. It was just Imam Al-Fakhr Ar-Razi who referred indirectly to this issue in his At-Tafsir Al-Kabir, but his reference does not concentrate on the accusation as much as it sheds light on Ar-Razi’s way of explaining Judge Abdul-Jabar’s criticizing the belief of some Imamites in the alteration of the Qur’an.
here, I would like to say that as long as the eminent Sunni scholars disregarded this issue in their writings then this is a clear proof that they did not consider it a worthwhile issue to handle.
Discussing the Shiites’ Directing of the Same Accusation to the Sunnis
On the other hand, one finds that the Imamite Shiites have directed the same accusation to the Sunnis. One may find that at least the recent writings of their scholars tackle this issue in some detail. They might take this attitude as a reaction against the Sunnis’ accusing them of altering the Qur’an, too. So they may be excused in this regard.
In fact, there is no need to go into the details of this accusation, but it is worth mentioning that all evidence they cite in this regard are unauthentic hadiths that cannot be counted on, for most of them are either abrogated or are personal opinions of some companions, or the like. There is no single hadith in the Sunni authentic collections of hadith that indicates that the Qur’an which the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) left behind had been altered in any way.
Moreover, many knowledgeable scholars are of the opinion that he who believes that the Qur’an has been changed is regarded as an apostate. Here are some opinions of knowledgeable scholars that assert that the Qur’an has never been altered:
as-Suyuti mentioned that compiling the Qur’an has been tawqifi (something that has come to us from Almighty Allah through divine revelation) and then said, “Judge Abu Bakr said in his book Al-Intisar, ‘We believe that all verses of the Qur’an that Almighty Allah has revealed and ordered to be preserved in the same shape are such as are contained and arranged between the covers of the mushaf compiled at the time of Caliph `Uthman ibn `Affan.’”
al-Baghawi also said in his Sharh As-Sunnah, “The Companions of the Prophet (may Allah be pleased with all of them) compiled between two covers the Qur’an that Almighty Allah has revealed unto his Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) without adding a thing to it or deleting a thing from it.”
al-Khazin also said in the introduction to his tafsir, “It was approved beyond doubt that the Companions of the Prophet (may Allah be pleased with all of them) compiled the Qur’an between two covers according to the arrangement Almighty Allah has revealed unto His Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him) without adding anything to it or deleting anything from it. … They wrote it down exactly as they heard it from Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him); never did they write a verse before or after its set position or changed the order of the verses they learned from Allah’s Messenger (peace and blessings be upon him). … So the Qur’an inscribed in the Preserved Tablet (Al-Lawh Al-Mahfuzh) is exactly the same as the Qur’an we read in our mushafs.”
Moreover, Imam Al-Bukhari dedicated a chapter in his Sahih Al-Bukhari under the title “He who said that the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) did not leave behind something in written words but what is between the covers (that is, the mushaf).” Under this chapter, Al-Bukhari reported that when Ibn `Abbas was asked “Did the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) leave something written down?” Ibn `Abass answered, “He did not leave behind in written form but what is between the covers of the Qur’an.” Muhammad ibn `Ali ibn Abi Talib, known by the name of Ibn Al-Hanafiyah, was also reported to have said so.
Based on the above lines, we can see a common ground between the Shiites and Sunnis in that both sects consider it a deviant view to say that the Qur’an has been altered. Since the majority of both sects refuse such a deviant view, it is absurd to give this issue importance and to make it an obstacle in the way of uniting the Muslim Ummah.