(Draft Article) Fatal Flaw in the basis of Twelver Shiaism

(Please read the notice concerning our draft articles)

بِسْمِ اللَّـهِ الرَّحْمَـٰنِ الرَّحِيم

By MuslimAnswers.net Team

We will use the present article to post a number of declarations from current-day Twelver Shia scholars about the issue of whether the belief in the preservation of the Quran is part of the dharura (necessities) of the Twelver Shia religion or not. In our view, their answers expose a very serious flaw in the manner in which Shiaism’s beliefs and jurisprudence would be developed. We have taken this from the site of a Shia scholar named Murtadha al-Basha who gathered these statements himself from the declarations of the grand ayatullahs. The link is:


The questions are:

س 1: هل أن القول بنفي التحريف عن القرآن الكريم، يعد من ضروريات الدين، أو من ضروريات المذهب، أو أنه لا يعد من الضروريات أصلاً؟

س2: ما هو حكم من ألتـزم بثبوت التحريف في القرآن الكريم، لا عن شبهة، ولا عن خطأ، وإنما عن اعتقاد جازماً بذلك؟

Question 1: (With respect to) the saying of lack of Tahrif (alteration) in the Holy Quran, is it part of the necessary beliefs in the religion, or is it a part of the necessary beliefs in the Madhab[2] (i.e. Twelver Shiaism), or is it not at all part of the necessary beliefs?

Question 2: What is the judgment on the one who insists on the certainty of alteration in the Holy Qur’an, not due to doubts, nor due to mistakes, but due to a firm belief in this?

Now notice the answers, since they are important to consider when discussing this issue with any Twelver Shia:

جواب المرجع الحائري – دام ظله

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

ج1ـ ليس من ضروريات الدين ولا المذهب.

ج2ـ يعدّ جهله هذا جهلاً مركباً

The answer from Marja’ Al-Hairi-may Allah lengthen his shadow

With the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful

Answer 1: It is not from the necessities of the religion nor of the Madhab.

Answer 2: He will be steeped in Ignorance; this is a very compound ignorance.

جواب مكتب المرجع مكارم الشيرازي – دام ظله

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

بعد تحية والسلام؛

جواب: القول بنفي التحريف ليس من ضروريات الدين و المذهب ولكنه نتيجة الأدلة القوية العقلية و النقلية.

2- هو مخطئ قطعاً.

Answer from the office of Marja’ Makarem Shirazi-may Allah lengthen his shadow

With the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful :

After greetings and salutations

Answer: The saying concerning the lack of distortion in the Quran is not part of the necessities of the religion, nor of the Madhab, but rather is the result of strong logical and textual evidences.

2: He is definitely mistaken.

جواب مكتب المرجع السيد الشيرازي – دام ظله

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

السلام عليكم ورحمة الله وبركاته

الجواب1: الظاهر أنه ليس من ضروريات الدين ولا المذهب مع إن القول بعدم التحريف معلوم عندنا.

الجواب2: إذا كان اعتقاده ناشئاً عن اجتهاد غير مقصر فيه فهو معذور، وينبغي العمل على رفع الشبهات وتوضيح الأمور على حقيقتها.

The answer from the office of Marja’ Syed Shirazi-may Allah lengthen his shadow

With the name of Allah, the All-Merciful, the Very-Merciful :

Peace, mercy and blessings of Allah be upon you:

Answer 1: The apparent is that this is not part of the necessities of the religion nor of the Madhab, even though the saying of lack of distortion is known amongst us.

Answer 2. If his belief emerged from an Ijtihad[3] that was not constrained then he is excused, and it is incumbent on us to work in order to lift his doubts and explain to him the things as they are in truth.

جواب مكتب المرجع الشاهرودي – دام ظله

بسمه تعالى

ج1- ليس من الضروريات نعم نفي التحريف بالزيادة من المسلمات و متفق عليه بين الكل .

ج2- ليس هناك من يلتزم بالتحريف بنحو مطلق نعم ادعي بعضهم وقوع النقيصة في بعض الآيات استنادا إلى ظاهر بعض الروايات الواردة من الفريقين العامة و الخاصة وهي محمولة علي إرادة التأويل و التفسير وربما مقصود هذا القائل ذلك أيضا و على كل حال فلو قصد إثبات التحريف بمعني النقيصة حقيقة فهو مشتبه و إن اعتقد بذلك جازما لان اعتقاده حصل لشبهة


Answer from the office of Marja’ Shahroudi-may Allah lengthen his shadow:

With His Exalted Name:

Answer 1:  It is not from the necessary things, yes the (belief in) the lack of alteration by means of addition is incontestable and it is accepted by all.

Answer 2:  There is no one who accepted alteration with such certainty[4]. Yes there were some who said about the occurrence of deletions in some of the Verses, supporting themselves with the apparent wordings of some of the narrations which have come from both sides, the general people and the specific ones[5], and these ones (i.e. these narrations) are taken as interpreting and commenting (of the Verses)[6], and perhaps these people meant this as well[7] and in any case, if he is insisting on the certainty of alteration by means of true deletion then he is in doubt, even if his belief in this is strong and certain, since his belief is based on doubt[8].

Now it is important for us to consider what the above means. From the answers above we can gather:

1. In Twelver Shiaism, the question of whether someone believes in the authenticity of the text of the Qur’an that is in our hands is not a religious question. What this means is that they do not consider this belief as being an essential part of their religion, nor of the Holy Qur’an as being a true primary source from which other matters are deduced- this is so because believing in the authenticity of the Qur’an is not considered a delineating line in their religion.  So we have to wonder: How did the Twelver Shias come to the certain conclusion that (for example) the Imamah of Ali (Radhia Allahu Anhu) is a primordial tenet of their religion which can never be called into question by any Twelver Shia, while the basis for the Prophethood of Muhammad – which is the prerequisite to accept the Imamah of Ali- is based on the text of the Qur’an being authentic, which is something which the Twelver Shias can call into question? This is a perfect example of putting the horse before the carriage, of declaring certain beliefs to be beyond dispute and of being pillars of the religion while claiming that the basis upon which these beliefs were supposed to be formulated are not themselves pillars of the religion nor are they essential parts of the religion.

2. Holding belief in alteration of the Quran according to Twelver Shias is a flaw of logic, not a flaw in faith. For us Sunnis, it would be like if a Sunni says that Australia does not exist. Yes, he is mistaken, in error, he may even be called stupid, but he cannot be called a non-Muslim, since belief in the existence of Australia is not part of Islam. So to go back to Shiaism, what they are saying is along the same lines: The person has made an error to be corrected, but has not gone over the red line separating Islam from disbelief.

If it is possible for a person to have doubts about the correctness of the primordial sources he is using and still maintain his religion (as the Shias claim), then this is a recipe for total destruction of the religion.

Now, we need to be clear: We are not saying at all that any of the Shia scholars mentioned above believe in alteration of the Quran, for this is not what is being said by them. What we are saying is that they do not hold the preservation of the Quran to be a necessity of their faith, nor do they expel from their religion those who might take a stance favoring alteration of the Quran. Note that the questioner stated about what would happen if someone were to believe in alteration with total conviction, not based on doubts. Even in that case, the Shia scholars clearly said that such a person, in spite of being an ignorant, very mistaken, and in need of reform, was still a Shia in their view.

Another important point was from the answer given by ash-Shahroudi: He states that no one can possibly be certain of a belief in alteration given that it is based on doubt. However, he also says that there were some who believed in alteration of the Quran based on the apparent text of some narrations. We answer by saying that if a Shia scholar either of the past or the present can hold such a wrong view about such an important topic based on doubtful evidences, then this will definitely lead to totally wrong conclusions in every single aspect of the religion from his part, since he has based all of his articles of faith and basis for formulating decrees on wrong assumptions.

Not only this, but if we carefully consider the second answer of Syed Shirazi, we come up with another difficulty: He says that even if the hypothetical person who is convinced of distortion in the Qur’an has come to this conclusion based on an unrestrained juridical effort – meaning that he came to the conclusion after considering all the narrations, evidences, and so forth- even then the job of those who hold on to the correct position is only to remove this wrong position from him, not to excommunicate him.[9]   

These responses also bring up the question about the reliability of the narrations of the Twelver Shias and their Imams. As it is known, one of the foundations through which it can be ascertained as to whether a narration is correct or incorrect is by comparing it with the text of the Holy Qur’an. Now, if the authenticity of the text of the Qur’an is not an essential part of the Twelver Shia religion nor its cornerstone, then how will it be used as a judge to differentiate the correct from the incorrect, the true from the spurious? Additionally, now that no narration can ever be taken as an essential part of the Twelver Shia religion (since there is no authentic text against which to compare it, so it reaches the level of speculation at best), then we can confidently say that all proofs in Twelver Shiaism are speculative in nature, and likewise the beliefs derived from such texts are also speculative, even if the Twelvers contend that they are otherwise.

If we actually go forward with the line of reasoning presented to us, then we would have no choice but to say that Twelver Shiaism is more like a philosophy than a religion: It has declared certain things to be primordial parts of the religion that cannot be questioned, and then seeks to find proofs for their beliefs, whether these proofs are rational or textual. Such a state of affairs would work if Twelver Shiaism openly stated that it was a philosophy, but once it claims to be a revealed religion while at the same time stating that the authenticity of its primary sources is not a matter of necessary beliefs, it exposes itself to rightful criticism from all quarters, and in fact collapses under the very weight of its own admissions.

We end this short article supplicating to Allah that the falsehood of incorrect beliefs is shown to all those who sincerely seek the truth, and to open the hearts of all human beings to that the truth which He has sent for the benefit of humanity.

[1] Accessed on the 2nd November 2012.

[2] It is our view that the Shias’ declaration of their way as a ‘Madhab’ is misleading. This is because the Twelver Shias have fundamental creedal differences with the Ahl-us-Sunnah; however, calling themselves a ‘Madhab’ would lead the normal person to think that they differ with us only in matters of practical acts of devotion. Indeed they do differ with us the Ahl-us-Sunnah on many acts of devotion, but our main criticism of them is with respect to creedal divergences. 

[3] The process of deriving the rulings after investigating the matter through the use of all relevant texts and opinions.

[4] Shahroudi’s response in this case seems to say that if one does not believe in both deletions and additions to the Qur’an, it cannot be a ‘complete belief’ in alteration- if we consider this phrase of his, in addition to his first response. This seems to be a case of deliberately making an excuse for those who may have held the belief that deletions occurred in the Qur’an from among the Twelvers, by saying that they did not believe that any additions took place in the Qur’an, so they could not have believed in Tahrif ‘with certainty’.

[5] In Shia terminology, the Sunnis are the “general people” and the Twelver Shias are the “specific people”

[6] That is, for him, such narrations which outwardly imply distortion in the Qur’an are to be taken as interpreting and commenting on the Qur’anic Verses.

[7] That is, perhaps they accepted it only with the understanding that it was meant as an interpretation and commentary of such Verses.

[8] That is, for this ayatollah, such a person is excused since he is having a belief based on wrong evidences.

[9] We mention this matter again because one may raise the objection that a certain person can be excused if all the relevant information concerning the topic was not available to him (until such information is made known to him, at which time he will become legally responsible for any heretical views held). But here we see that Syed Shirazi is removing even this possibility, which makes it clear that according to him, there is absolutely no way in Twelver Shiaism to anathematize those who may hold views concerning Tahrif of the Qur’an.