Response to: The Collection and Preservation of the Qur’an


بسم الله الرحمن الرحیم

The following is a response to Ayatullah Al-Khoei’s book Al-Bayan fi Tafseer Al-Quran, namely, the two chapters entitled: “The Collection and Preservation of the Quran”. The chapters were translated onto the site. The World Federation of KSI Muslim Communities described this book as, “a masterpiece by Shi’a as well as Sunni scholars.” This is a shocking statement since Al-Khoei spends a large portion of the book attacking Sunni beliefs in the Qur’an. All will be exposed in our article for all to see.

The article has been divided into the following categories:

Al-Khoei’s Personal Views Regarding the Qur’an

Al-Khoei’s Admission that some Shias Believed in Tahreef

Al-Khoei’s Accusations against Ahlulsunnah Regarding Tahreef

Al-Khoei’s Criticisms towards the Sunni Stance of the Compilation of the Qur’an

Additional Important Points Raised by Al-Khoei

Before even getting to the refutations, we present the readers with the author’s personal views regarding the Qur’an: 

Al-Khoei’s Personal Views Regarding the Qur’an

1- Al-Khoei believes that the ‘Shia infallible’ Imams taught tahreef Al-Qur’an!

The examples provided by Al-Khoei to demonstrate his point that Sunnis believe in tahreef are extremely problematic, namely the narration which states that there is a verse that speaks of the stoning of adulterers. Al-Khoei (p. 9) comments that “there is nothing in the Qur’an today which indicates the law of stoning the adulterers. And if the reports are to be considered true, then it follows that an ayah has definitely disappeared from the Qur’an.” However, the narration itself can be found in Shia source Al-Kafi as well. Al-Kulayni 7/1714 narrates that Abu Abdullah (as) said: Stoning is in the Qur’an, it is Allah’s saying: “If the old man and woman fornicate, then stone them, for they have fulfilled their desire.”

Al-Majlisi authenticates the narration in Mir’aat Al-Uqool 23/268. He also says: This is one of the verses that was abrogated in recitation.

Al-Khoei, of course, is aware of this narration in Shia books, which is why he did not comment on it in his Bayan. However, he did comment on this issue elsewhere. He states in the book Mabani Takmilat Al-Minhaj 1/195-196 from the narration of Ja’afar Al-Sadiq that this is indeed authentic and that Al-Sadiq taught naskh(Abrogation) out of taqiyyah! Ayatullah Al-Milani in his Al-Tahqeeq fi Nafi Al-Tahreef (p. 164) confirms Al-Khoei’s view and does not comment on it.

Be aware that naskh according to Al-Khoei is tahreef. Therefore, Al-Khoei is saying that the Imams taught tahreef, but did this out of taqiyyah!

In other words, the ‘Shia infallible’ Imams taught the people kufur, which is tahreef of the book of Allah!

2- Al-Khoei Believes that the Qu’ran cannot be used for Religious Rulings!

This chapter was never translated by the Shia website but can be found in the original work on page 164. (Al-A’alami Publishing House, Third Edition: 1974)

After a lengthy chapter discussing the various recitations of the Qur’an, Al-Khoei argues that none of them are reliable. This is extremely problematic since this refers to all the diacritical marks found in the Qur’an and all that is left is the shapes of the letters.

He explains:

“In truth, the recitations hold no evidence and cannot be used for the extraction of religious rulings. The evidence of this is that each one of the reciters may have erred, and there is no evidence from the intellect or the revelation that we should follow a specific recitation.”

Al-Khoei explains (p. 165 – Arabic edition):

“The reason that the reciters varied in their recitations is because the masahif (copies of the Qur’an) that have been to the lands did not include diacritical marks, and this strengthens it (the view that the reciters recited the Qur’an from their own ijtihad.)”

He also says (p. 124 – Arabic edition) after explaining that the reasons of preserving the Qur’an are plenty and available, and that which is in such a condition needs to be mutawatir in its nature. He adds:

“…and whatever arrives only from the path of ahaad surely cannot be from the Qur’an.”

From the above, we come to the conclusion that Al-Khoei firmly believes that the Qur’an’s diacritical marks have all been added to the Qur’an by fallible men, and that there is no way of determining which recitation is correct. Due to this, one cannot extract rulings from the Qur’an. Of course, Al-Khoei does not explain this, but one understands that the only way of extracting rulings from the Qur’an is if the infallible Imam extracts the rulings from a verse, or speaks of a verse in a context in which a ruling can be derived.

Al-Khoei (p. 167 – Arabic edition) finally admits that the intellect would cause one to re-read the Qur’an, one recitation at a time, in order to encompass every verse of a surah. However, Al-Khoei asserts, this is nullified by the narration of the Imams who says that it is permissible to recite with these Sunni recitations (even if they are flawed).

The two above views that Al-Khoei shares regarding the Qur’an are self-destructive. His purpose from writing this book was to defend the Shia view of the Qur’an, but his slip-ups in a couple of paragraph have exposed his beliefs a.

3- When was the Qur’an Compiled According to Al-Khoei?

He said (p. 255 – Arabic edition) after three pages of evidences that the Qur’an was compiled during the life of the Prophet peace be upon him:

“How can anyone say that the Qur’an was compiled as late as the caliphate of Abi Bakr?”

Then (p. 503 – Arabic edition) to prove that Ali was a memorizer of the Qur’an, he argued that after the death of the Prophet peace be upon him, Ali swore to not wear a cloak until he collected the Qur’an!

Al-Khoei’s Admission that some Shias Believed in Tahreef

He said on (p. 7):

Of course, there has been a small group of traditionalists, both among Shi’as and Sunnis, who held that the Qur’an has been tampered with.”

Note: The Shia translators have translated the word (جماعة) in the original Arabic to a “small group” instead of “group”, since they were in damage control mode.

We say: We are in agreement that this is the view of some Shias, but we disagree that this is the view of Sunnis. We shall examine the evidences that Al-Khoei provides.

He also said (p. 26) when discussing narrations of tahreef:

“Of course, the abundance of certain reports from Masumin (peace be upon them) gives us enough reason to presume that they have been correctly attributed. Among them are traditions which have been reliably reported, and therefore we do not see any need to go into the details of their authenticity.”

However, Al-Khoei himself rejects these narrations personally, even though he believes that they are authentic (p. 31):

“To them we say that they have to interpret such reports the same way as those concerning the elucidatory additions in the codex prepared by Amir al Mominin(‘a). And if that sounds improbable, then the reports must be rejected as false because they are against the Qur’an and the Sunnah. Most of the reports in this vein are weak, while falsehood of some of them is evident from their content.”

Notice that Al-Khoei is referring to most reports and not all. Therefore, there is no reason to doubt that he accepts that there are authentic narrations from Shia books that the Qur’an has been tampered with.

Refer to our article on ten authentic narrations from Shia sources that prove that Shia sources endorsed the idea of tahreef.

Al-Khoei’s Accusations against Ahlulsunnah Regarding Tahreef

Al-Khoei, after providing thirteen narrations about abrogation, rejects the view that the Prophet was the cause behind the abrogation of verses. He argues (p. 13):

“If one says that the Prophet (‘s) himself recommended it, then it is a claim which calls for substantiation. All Ulama’ are agreed upon the principle that the Qur’an cannot be superseded or abrogated by an isolate report ‑ i.e. a tradition which has been reported singly. The jurists have made this abundantly clear in their works on the principles of jurisprudence. In fact, Shafi’i and many other scholars go further to say that the Book of God, (i.e. the Qur’an) cannot be superseded or abrogated by even those traditions which have reached continuity and acquired wide spread currency. This has been confirmed by Ahmed b. Hanbal in one of the two traditions reported by him. Even those who proposed that a continuous and widespread Sunnah may potentially supersede the Qur’an, have confirmed that such a situation has in reality never occurred. In view of the foregoing, it is incorrect to ascribe the abrogation to the Prophet (‘s). Even those reports which mention the omissions clearly say that it occurred after the Prophet (‘s).”

To summarize, Al-Khoei is arguing that one cannot affirm that a verse is abrogated with a solitary report. This is because the Qur’an is mutawatir (consecutive), while the narrations are ahaad (solitary).

However, Al-Khoei is mistaken in the application of this ruling upon the verses, for Sunni scholars were only referring to the established Qur’an. They were not talking about abrogated verses that do not exist in our Qur’an.

To simplify, Al-Khoei’s quotes from Sunni scholars portray a cautious group that will reject a hadith if it suggests the abrogation of a verse, since the hadith has less weight. Established Qur’anic verses include rulings and are read in prayer, thus, it is mandatory to be cautious with them.

However, a hadith that speaks of a verse that was once Qur’anic is not the same as an established verse in the Qur’an that is unanimously agreed upon, recited in prayer, and is used for legislation. Hence, there is nothing problematic with accepting a narration that says, “This was once a part of the Qur’an,” if the verse is no longer there, even if it is from a solitary authentic report.

Al-Khoei’s Criticisms towards the Sunni Stance of the Compilation of the Qur’an

In this section, we list Al-Khoei’s arguments against the Sunni view of the compilation of the Qur’an. His arguments were listed in a question-answer format. We have highlighted those in red and will include our responses in black below his answers. It is important to note that when Al-Khoei is criticizing the Sunni view, he is referring to the twenty-two narrations that he has quoted from Sunni sources about that subject. He listed those narrations on p. 32-39.

1- When was the Qur’an compiled as a book?

The second report says it was compiled during the rule of Uthman. The first, third, fourth and some of the later reports explain that it was in the era of Abu Bakr. And the seventh and twelfth report indicate that it was during Umar’s caliphate.

The common Sunni stance is that the Qur’an was collected twice. One during the time of Abu Bakr when it was simply gathered into one book, while the second was during the time of Uthman, when he eliminated the masahif and gathered the people upon one recitation (as Al-Khoei admits on p. 47). This action by Uthman was referred to as “Uthman’s collection of the Qur’an”.

As for the narrations that state that Omar compiled the Qur’an, then those are weak.

Al-Khoei’s first narration comes through Abdullah bin Mohammad bin Khalad, who is anonymous according to the editor of Masahif Ibn Abi Dawud (the origin of the report). See 2/748.

The second narration can be found in Kanz Al-Ummal #4767, but it is simply a quote from Ibn Al-Anbari’s book Al-Masahif. The latter has been lost for centuries, so we do not have access to the chain that contains this quote.

2- Who undertook to compile the Qur’an during the era of Abu Bakr?

The first two traditions and the twenty second say that it was Zaid b. Thabit, but the fourth report says it was Abu Bakr himself; and that he only asked Zaid to go through what he himself had collected. And the fifth report together with the others indicate that the task was undertaken by Umar and Zaid.

The fourth report can be easily reconciled with the first, second, and twenty second traditions. The only information that the fourth narration adds is that Abu Bakr had collected the Qur’an in parchments. This does not mean that he necessarily had collected the whole Qur’an, but fragments only. If he had collected the whole Qur’an, there would be no need for Zaid to “go through what he himself had collected.” For those that don’t consider this report reconcilable with the others, then one may dismiss it, for it is disconnected since it comes through the path of Salim and Kharija, who were both not born at the time.

The fifth report is easily reconcilable, since it suggests that Omar was given the task of assisting Zaid. Zaid is mentioned alone in other reports since he was given the main task.

3- Was Zaid given sole authority to compile the Qur’an?

The first tradition clearly states that Abu Bakr gave him sole authority. He told Zaid: “You are a young, intelligent man, and we find no fault in you. You were also a scribe, writing down the revelations for the Messenger of Allah (‘s). So attend to the Qur’an and compile it”. These words are explicit. But the fifth and other traditions reveal that the writing was substantiated by two witnesses, so much so that when Umar came with the verse of rajm, it was rejected.

These are also easily reconcilable. The answer is that Abu Bakr gave Zaid the sole authority to conduct the compilation of the Qur’an, which led to the gathering of witnesses.

Al-Khoei’s statement that Omar’s request to add the verse of Rajm into the Qur’an being rejected is weak. Al-Khoei only mentions this from the path of Al-Layth bin Sa’ad who was born at the end of the first century.

4- Were there some verses which remained unrecorded till the time of Uthman?

Most of the traditions say that no verses remained unrecorded, but the second report says that some of the verses remained unwritten.

This is a mistake by Al-Khoei. The second report may seem to indicate such if we hold the view that Zaid bin Thabit relied solely on the first mus-haf. However, according to evidences provided by Dr. M. M. Al-Azmi in his “The History of Qur’anic Text” p. 91-93, the first mus-haf was only used as a secondary source to correct what was gathered by Zaid in his second collection. Al-Azmi provides a solid narration by Ibn Shabba to illustrate that this was the case.

5- Did Uthman omit anything from what was compiled before him?

Most of the traditions quoted above say that he did not exclude or omit anything. But the fourteenth report tells us that he struck off some parts from the previous compilation, and ordered the Muslim to do the same.

This is false. The narration states that Uthman erased his personal copy of the mus-haf. It does not say that he omitted anything from the compilation of Abu Bakr.

6- From what sources did Uthman prepare a book copy of the Qur’an?

The second and fourth report say: he relied upon the notes and pages collected by Abu Bakr. Then the eighth, fourteenth and fifteenth traditions reveal that he relied upon two witnesses, and upon those who claimed to have heard the ayah from the Prophet (‘s).

This is easily reconciled since both occurred. Uthman had his commission rely on witnesses and then cross-checked it with the previous compilation.

7- Who asked Abu Bakr to compile the Qur’an?

The first report says that Umar did it, and that Abu Bakr conceded after having first refused. Then he sent for Zaid who also conceded after having declined. But the tenth report tells us that Zaid and Umar jointly asked Abu Bakr to undertake the work, and he conceded after having consulted the Muslims.

Al-Khoei quotes Sulaiman bin Arqam. He is weak according to the author of Al-Tahtheeb and the earlier sources of Rijal.

8- Who prepared the master copy and sent its editions to various cities?

The second report says it was Uthman, while the twelfth tells us it was Umar.

The narration can be found in Kanz Al-Ummal #4767, but it is simply a quote from Ibn Al-Anbari’s Masahif. It has been lost for centuries, so we do not have access to the chain that contains this quote.

9- When were the two verses added to the Surah of Bara’ah?

The first, eleventh and twenty second reports reveal that this happened during the time of Abu Bakr, and the eighth report together with others say that it happened in the era of Umar.

The reports that mention that this happened during the time of Abu Bakr can be found in Saheeh Al-Bukhari. The report that mentions that this occurred during the time of Omar was narrated by Yahya bin Abdulrahman bin Hatim who was not even born during the time of Omar. The first report is the correct one.

10- Who came up with those two verses?

The first and twenty second reports say they were brought in by Abu Khuzaimah, while the eighth and eleventh reports say it was Khuzaimah. These are two gentlemen who had no relationship with each other at all, as reported by Ibn Abd al Barr.

The eighth report mentions that this occurred during the time of Omar was narrated by Yahya bin Abdulrahman bin Hatim who was not even born during the time of Omar.

The eleventh report comes from the path of Mohammad bin Omar Al-Waqidi who has been classified as a liar by many classical scholars. See the source of the narration in Al-Tabaqat by Ibn Sa’ad 5/311.

11- How were they accepted as being parts of the Qur’an?

By a sole witness, as mentioned in the first, ninth and twenty second report. By the accompanying witness by Uthman, as shown in the eighth; and by the supporting witness by Umar as shown in the eleventh.

Refer to response #10.

12- Who did Uthman appoint for dictating and writing of the Qur’an?

(i) Uthman appointed Zaid, Ibn az Zubair, Saeed and Abdu Rahman as writers (see Report n. 2)

(ii) He appointed Zaid for writing, and Saeed for dictating, (see Report n. 15)

(iii) He appointed a person from Thaqif to write down, and a person from Huzad to dictate; (see Report n. 16)

(iv) The writer was not from Thaqif and the one who dictated was not from Huzad.(see Report n. 18)

(v) The dictation was by Ubay b. Kaab, and Saeed gave grammatical inflections to what Zaid wrote down (see Report n. 19)

(vi) The twenty second report adds the name of Abd ar Rahman together with Saeed.

The inclusion of additional writers or those responsible for the dictation is not a contradiction. Some narrators may have no knowledge of the whole committee and simply include those they knew of, while others perhaps had access to additional knowledge.

Al-Khoei was correct in a couple of these sub-points for pointing out that they are indeed contradictions. The third and fourth points are clearly contradictions and the fifth is simply problematic.

The third point is weak, since it comes from the path of Ziyad bin Abi Al-Maleeh, who was weakened by Abu Hatim Al-Razi. This narration can be found in Al-Masahif by Ibn Abi Dawud. It is also considered disconnected since Al-Maleeh never heard from Uthman.

As for the inclusion of Ubai bin Ka’ab in the committee, then we know it is false simply due to the consecutive narrations in other books that clearly show that his recitation is different than the recitation of Zaid. The narration quoted by Al-Khoei can be found in 5/312 in Tabaqat Ibn Sa’ad and it is weak since it comes from the path of Mohammad bin Omar Al-Waqidi, who was condemned as a liar by many classical scholars.

As we can see, most of these contradictions are easily reconcilable, especially after looking into the reliability of these reports. Ironically, Al-Khoei would have a harder time reconciling his beliefs about the compilation of the Qur’an since they are in direct contradiction with one another as we have demonstrated above in the section about Al-Khoei’s beliefs regarding the Qur’an.

Additional Important Points Raised by Al-Khoei

1- After quoting some narrations about certain companions (four or six) having had “collected” the Qur’an during the time of the Prophet peace be upon him. Al-Khoei (p. 42) argued:

“One might argue that the collection or compilation mentioned in these reports denote committing the Qur’an to memory, and not to the papers. This presumption cannot be corroborated. Besides, it is a known fact that there were numerous believers at the time of the Prophet (‘s) who knew the Qur’an by heart, so how can the memorising of the Qur’an be confined to four or six names?”

Al-Khoei may have a point if one believed that the memorizing of the complete Qur’an was exclusive to four or six men. However, this stance is rejected by Ahlulsunnah themselves. Ibn Hajar, for one, indicates that the narration of Anas was simply referring to those that memorized it from the Khazraj time. Refer to p. 48-51 of Dr. Noor Al-Deen Itr’s “Jam’ Al-Qur’an Al-Kareem wa Tawtheequhu fi Ahdi Al-Nabi”.

2- Al-Khoei argued (p. 46) when discussing the details of the two witnesses:

“Surprisingly enough, Ibn Hajar interprets two witnesses as “written evidence” and “evidence of memorization”. I believe he had to take recourse to this interpretation so as to avoid a conflict with the fact that the Qur’an is based on tawatur.”

The tawatur of the Qur’an has been established through the memorization of the companions, as indicated by Al-Khoei himself (p. 45), so Ibn Hajar’s point has nothing to do with establishing tawatur. If one simply wanted to establish tawatur, then one may have simply gathered a group of men, had them sit down, and together compile the Qur’an. However, the companions, as Al-Khoei quoted in several narrations, gathered parchments, leather, bones, rocks, and other materials that included the Qur’an as an additional condition for the inclusion of a verse in the compilation.

Al-Khoei then argued:

“It becomes quite probable that certain parts of the Qur’an which, though current and widespread, were omitted because there was no written evidence.”

This did not occur, for Zaid bin Thabit himself said that he had the whole Qur’an but was waiting for a witness for a final verse. Al-Khoei attempts to cast doubt into the hearts of readers has went a full circle and seems to have caused him to forget what he quoted.

In conclusion, Al-Khoei’s book, which was supposedly praised by both Sunnis and Shias according to the jokers at the World Federation of KSI Muslim Communities, is nothing more than a conversion tool.

Al-Khoei’s attempts to prove that Sunni sources teach that the Qur’an has been manipulated has blown up in his face, for those are the teachings of his infallibles according to him. May Allah give the man what he deserves for making such a statement.

…and praise be to Allah the Most Gracious Most Merciful.

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