إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ
Indeed, We have sent down the Reminder, and indeed We will preserve it.
(Sūrat al-Hijr, No. 15, Āyat 9)
Those who have studied the history of the compilation of the Quran will appreciate that from the onset of Islam, Muslims gave a lot of importance to recording and memorizing this holy scripture. For example, in the Battle of Yamāmah fought by the Muslims shortly after the demise of Prophet Muhammad sallal-lāhu ‘alayhi wa-ālihi wasallam, it is said that seventy huffāz (those who had memorized the entire Quran) were martyred. In the words of the fifth century Hijrī scholar, Sayyid al-Murtadā:
The fact is that the motive to preserve, transmit and bestow care on the Quran was deeper than that given to anything else. The attention given to the Quran was unprecedented, because it is the miracle of prophethood, the source of the knowledge of the sharī‘ah and the religious laws. Muslim scholars have spared no effort to protect and preserve it, to the extent that they have recorded the minutest differences in its vowels, letters, verses, and methods of recital. How could there then be anything changed or omitted from it, with all this sincere care and strict precision? (Taken from Ma‘rifat in Introduction to the Sciences of the Quran, 2:292)
In addition to such historical evidence, a combination of three theological arguments can be put forward to establish the fact that the Quran is free from any distortion:
1. Firstly, an intellectual argument can be given to prove that nothing has been added to the Quran. This is argument is itself based on the fact that the Quran is an inimitable miracle. Its language is so eloquent and beautiful that even a single line of it cannot be mimicked by man (this discussion has been taken up in other Quranic Reflections published earlier). It only follows then that nothing could have possibly been added to the Quran. Had man added something indiscernible to the Quran then there would be no difference in the Divine speech of the Quran and the additional speech of man!
2. After having established the fact that every verse in the Quran before us is indeed from Allah ‘azza wajall, a traditional proof can be put forward to establish that nothing has been removed. This traditional proof is none other than the verse from Sūrat al-Hijr quoted at the onset of this Reflection. Allah has said in this verse, “Indeed We will preserve it” indicating that He has guaranteed that for all posterity the Quran shall be safeguarded from distortion.
3. Hadith of the Imams clearly prove that the Quran will always be a light of guidance for believers. It has not been subjected to change to diminish its pure light. Imam Ali ‘alayhis-salām says: Know that this Quran is the adviser that never deceives and the guide that never misleads. (Nahjul Balāgha, Sermon 176). He also says: Allah, the Glorified, has not admonished anyone as He has done through lines of this Quran; it is Allah’s strong cord and His trustworthy means. (Ibid)
The Quran is the criteria through which truth is discerned from falsehood. It is a standard through which all things are judged. Even the Hadith that we have are judged through the Quran. If they agree with its verses, they are deemed correct. Otherwise, they are rejected. Shī‘ah books of jurisprudence have many narrations about the Quran being the criterion.
It is worthy of mention that it does not appear that any Muslim has ever claimed something was added to the Quran. However, there have been a small number of Shī’ah scholars who claimed that in the first century of the Hijrah, certain verses or words of the Quran were removed from the original scripture. For example, a well-known Shī‘ah scholar of hadīth who lived over a hundred years ago, by the name of Muhaddith Nūrī, wrote a book in this regard named Fasl al-Khitāb. By quoting several narrations from the Ahl al-Bayt ‘alayhimus-salām, Muhaddith Nūrī attempted to prove that the names of the Ahl al-Bayt (a) for example had been omitted from the Quran.
However, this opinion has been categorically rejected by later scholars. Those who are interested in reading more about this topic can refer to the end of the second volume of Āyatullāh Muhammad Hādī Ma‘rifat’s book, Introduction to the Sciences of the Quran.
We pray to Allah the Almighty to allow us to hold fast to the two weighty things left by the Noble Messenger of Allah (s) for his nation, both the Quran and the Ahl al-Bayt (a).
Sources: Muhammad Hadi Ma‘rifat, Introduction to the Sciences of the Quran.