Surah al-Walayah & Surah al-Nurayn: Their Authenticity & Literary Style

M S M Saifullah

© Islamic Awareness, All Rights Reserved.

First Composed: 17th March 1998

Last Updated: 8th December 2005


Assalamu-`alaykum wa rahamtullahi wa barakatuhu:

1. Introduction

It has been claimed by Christian missionaries at their website that some Shi'ite's have two more chapters in their Qur'an called Surah al-Nurayn and Surah al-Walayah. Regarding the Surah al-Walayah, they used to say [obviously deleted now!]:

Source: The Sura was taken from the book "ALThWRh AL'YARANYh FY MYzAN AL'sLAM" (The Iranian revolution in the balance of Islam), published in Egypt. This is a Sunni book attacking the Shia. The author claims he has taken it from the Shia Qur'an. Only problem is that the Sunni author didn't realize that he was digging his own grave with publishing this sura.

Such views are also echoed by Steven Masood, a well-known Christian writer. He says:

Among the writings of Shia scholarship, we find two Surahs al-Wilayah and an-Nurain which are believed by some to be the part of the Qur'an but which have been rejected by Sunni Ulema. The style and oration is similar to that of the Qur'an.[1]

The Christian apologist Abdallah `Abd al-Fadi after quoting Surah al-Nurayn claims that this surah is "similar to the Qur'an and in perfect harmony with it" and refutes the "Qur'an's allegation that no one can "bring a sura like it"."[2]

Our methodology is to check the Shi'ite sources and see what they say about the status of the Qur'an. After that check what the Western scholars say about the two Surahs allegedly from Shi'ite sources and their stylistic features.

2. The Shi'ite Sources

In the section "The Belief Concerning The Extent (Mablagh) Of The Qur'an" Abu Ja`far, the well-known Shi'ite theologian of 4th century of hijra says:

Says the Shaykh Abu Ja`far: Our belief is that the Qur'an, which Allah revealed to his Prophet Muhammad is (the same as) the one between the two boards (daffatayn). And it is that which is in the hands of the people, and is not greater extent than that. The number of suras as generally accepted is one hundred and fourteen.[3]

And again:

And he who asserts that we say it is greater in extent than this (the present text) is a liar.[4]

This would have been a proof good enough to stop here and dismiss what the missionaries are claiming about the "Qur'an" which Shi'ites have. But let us go further and expose the deceptive methodology. Momen, talking about the two surahs mentioned above, says:

A small minority of Shi'is have attempted to get much larger passages (and even the whole suras) accepted as being missing portions of the Qur'an but without success.[5]

Quoting the history of the Shi'ite belief regarding the Qur'an, Momen says:

With regards to the question of the text of the Qur'an, it has already been noted that the early Shi'is believed that the Qur'an has been altered and parts of it has been suppressed. The Nawbakhtis are said to have adhered to this view although it went against their usual position of agreeing with Mu'tazili thought. The compiler of the earliest, authoritative collection of Twelver Traditions, al-Kulyani, seems to have given some substance to this view in several of the Traditions that he relates. Ibn Babuya, however, takes the position that the text of the Qur'an is complete and unaltered. Al-Mufid appears to have wavered somewhat on this point during his lifetime. He seems to have accepted the fact that parts of the Qur'an had been excised by the enemies of the Imams in some of his early writings, although he refused even then to state that anything had been added. In his later writings, however, al-Mufid had reinterpreted the concept of omissions from the text of the Qur'an to mean that the text of the Qur'an is complete (although he does allow that the order needs to be changed) but that what has been omitted is the authoritative interpretation of the text by `Ali. In this manner, al-Mufid and most subsequent Shi'i writers were able to fall into line with the rest of the Islamic world in accepting the text of the Qur'an as contained in the recension of `Uthman.[6]

Now we have said enough about the Shi'ite sources. Let us now discuss the view of the orientalists.

3. Surah al-Walayah & al-Nurayn: Their History & Studies On Them

Between 1055 / 1645 and 1068 /1658, there appeared in India, during the time of Mughal rule, an anonymous book written in Persian called Dabistan-i Madhahib or "Schools of Religious Doctrines". In this book, two additional surahs and verses are mentioned that are not to be found in the official text of the Qur'an. The two surahs bearing the names "Surah al-Walayah" and "Surah al-Nurayn". The Dabistan attracted considerable attention in the West. Dabistan-i Madhahib had been published for the first time in 1809 in Calcutta, India.[7] The book describes life under Mughal rule in India in existing religious communities. It consists of twelve chapters, each of them dedicated to a different group. Surprisingly, the author starts with the Parsis and continues with the accounts of Hindus, Tibetans, Jews, Christians, Muslims, Philosophers and Sufis. The account of the Parsis seems to be the most comphrehensive of the whole book.

In 1842, these two surahs from Dabistan-i Madhahib were for the first time fully translated into a European language by the French orientalist Garcin de Tassy.[8] Only a year after Mirza Alexandre Kazem-Beg, wrote a commentary on this translation.[9] Interesting in this regard is the publication and the translation of the manuscript which came into light in 1912 in the Indian city of Bankipore. Although it is said to contain the same surahs and other additions, no further information on the manuscript is provided. The translation of the surahs was published by St. Clare Tisdall in the journal The Moslem World in 1913. The manuscript is said to be some 200-300 years old, at least.

Figure 1: Surah al-Walayah in the Bankipore Manuscript of the Qur'an [See Tisdall's work].

THE NATURE AND STYLISTIC FEATURES OF THE SURAHS

Surah al-Walayah and Surah al-Nurayn are considered forgeries and their stylistic features are poor imitation of the Qur'an riddled with grammatical errors. St. Clare Tisdall writes:

The reader (of the original Arabic especially) is irresistibly led to the conclusion that the whole of these additions, - with the possible exception of Sura al-Nurain, - are forgeries. The style is imitated from the Koran, but not always very successfully. There are some grammatical errors, unless these are due to the transcriber. Occasionally the meaning which the context shews to be that in which a word is used is later than the time to which the Koran belongs. The verses are largely, however, centos of Koranic passages taken from their context. The amount of repetition shews the writer's determination to prove what he wished to prove at all costs.[10]

And talking about the nature of these two surahs, St. Clare Tisdall says:

We notice also that some, - or, perhaps, only one person, - among the Shi'ites decided to forge the passages which we are considering. Doubtless he thought the end justified the means. He certainly must have determined to insert these forgeries in the Koran and to get his own sect to adopt them. But, although it was so greatly to their apparent interest to accept these additional passages, yet the Shi'ites did not do so. The forger found it impossible to introduce a single such altered verse into the Koran. This, we may again say in passing , is highly to the credit of the Shi'ah community in general. Although they think that they are staking their eternal happiness on the truth of their contention that `Ali and his family are the true and Divinely commissioned inheritors of Mohammad's spiritual rights, so far as these could be handed down to others, yet they have never permitted a single one of these forgeries to become incorporated into their copies of the Koran.[11]

He went on to say:

So, far as we know, the manuscript which we are now concerned with is the only one in existence which, together with the genuine surahs of the Koran, also contains these Alterations and Additions. To get them generally accepted, even by Shi'ites, proved impossible. The attempt to Sunnites to adopt them was probably never made, for its hopelessness must have been evident even to the forger himself.[12]

Commenting on the two surahs, von Grunebaum says:

The only two Shi'ite surahs which have come to light are obvious forgeries; the other omissions that would have been dictated mostly by dogmatic considerations foreign to the 'Uthmanic period can not be substantiated, and the Shi'ites themselves have never been able to agree on the alleged distortion of the sacred text of their adversaries.[13]

Therefore, the Shi'ite and the Western scholars are in agreement that these two surahs are forgeries. The Shi'ites also agree on the text of the Qur'an which is same as that used by Sunni Muslims. Mahmoud Ayoub says:

Hence Muslims. and especially Shi'i Muslims, have insisted that God revealed to Muhammad both the Qur'an and its exegesis. The sacred text of the Qur'an, or what is contained 'between the two covers', is what Muhammad taught the generality of faithful.[14]

Let us now turn our attention to the author of these two forged surahs.

AUTHOR OF THE TWO FORGED SURAHS

The discovery of the Dabistan had been ascribed to a Shi'ite, however, without any specification of name of denomination as suggested by Tisdall and others.[15] However, this view has been criticized by Joseph Eliash. Concerning the text from Bankipore and Dabistan-i-Madhahib, he says:

Concerning the Bankipore text, its only connection with the Imami Shi'a is the claim that the manuscript was brought from the Nawwab in Lucknow which was a centre of Imami learning in India. This alone does not constitute it into an authoritative Qur'an for the Imami Shi'a... As to the Dabistan-i-Madhahib, it is significant to note that the author does not identify himself with the Shi'a. He discusses twelve different religions practised in his time in India and devotes just a few pages to the Shi'a which he entitles "Statements about the second sect of Muslims who are known as Shi'a" and prefaces his remarks by phrases such as "the author of this book relates what he learned from Mulla Muhammad Ma'sum, Muhammad Mu'min and Mulla Ibrahim, who in the year of 1053 (AD 1643) were in Lahore and from others" and the like. He precedes the 'Surah al-Nurayn" by the following statement: "Some of them (the Shi'a) say the `Uthman burnt the copies of the Qur'an and excluded (rejected) some of the surahs which were on the dignity of `Ali and his excellence, on of the surahs is this." The Dabistan-i-Madahib was critically edited and translated into english in the year 1843, the editors are not certain of the identity of the author. The give the date of the death of the supposed author, Muhsin Fani, as probably 1081/1670, and state that he was "of the philosophic sect of Sufis", "a native of Kachmir, a learned man and respectable poet, a scholar of Mulla Yakub, Sufi of Kachmir", but make no mention whatsoever that he was Shi'a authority. Hence Dabistan cannot be referred to as an Imami Shi'a source and nor can its author be called Imami-Shi'i.[16]

This is in line with the recent research that has shown that the author of Dabistan was, in fact, not a Shi'ite at all, but rather a Parsi.[17]

4. Do These Surahs Exist In The Early "Codices Of The Companions"?

This is a very interesting exercise. Even if one assumes what some Shi'ites says is true concerning `Uthman, its authenticity can easily be verified by the work of Arthur Jeffery on the "early companion Codices". Jeffery collected some 'variant' readings attributed to `Ali as well as Zaid bin `Ali. It is interesting to note that none of these Codices have either of these surahs. The Codex of `Ali can be found in Materials For The History Of The Text Of The Qur'an: The Old Codices[18] and the Codex of Zaid bin `Ali can be found in "The Qur'an Readings Of Zaid bin `Ali".[19]

5. Conclusions

Surah al-Walayah and Surah al-Nurayn are considered forgeries by both Shi'ite and Western scholars. This is further confirmed by their absence in Jeffery's studies on "variants" attributed to `Ali as well as Zaid bin `Ali. The stylistic features of Surah al-Walayah and Surah al-Nurayn are a poor imitation of the Qur'an and riddled with grammatical errors. Contrary to the expectation that they are a Shi'ite forgery, modern research has shown that the composer of the two forged surahs is a Parsi.

And Allah knows best!


References

[1] S. Masood, The Bible And The Qur'an: A Question Of Integrity, 2001, OM Publication: Carlisle (UK), pp. 191-192.

[2] `Abdallah `Abd al-Fadi, Is The Qur'an Infallible?, 1995, Light of Life: Villach (Austria), p. 139.

[3] Abu Ja`far Muhammad ibn `Ali ibn al-Husayn ibn Babwayh al-Qummi, I'tiqadatu'l Imamiyyah (The Beliefs of Imamiyyah), English translation: A Shi'ite Creed, 1982 (Revised) Asaf A. A. Fyzee, World Organization of Islamic Services: Tehran (Iran), p. 77.

[4] ibid.

[5] M. Momen, An Introduction To Shi'i Islam: The History and Doctrines of Twelver Shi'ism, 1985, George Ronald: Oxford, p. 173.

[6] ibid., p. 81.

[7] "Dabestan-E-Madaheb", Encyclopaedia Iranica, 1993, Volume VI, Mazda Publishers: Costa Mesa (CA), p. 532. Also see "Dabistan al-Madahib", Encyclopaedia Of Islam (New Edition), 1965, Volume II, E. J. Brill: Leiden and Luzac & Co.: London, p. 74.

[8] G. de Tassy, "Chapitre inconnu du Coran", Journal Asiatique, 1842, Volume XIII, pp. 431-439.

[9] M. Kazembeg, "Observations sur Chapitre inconnu du Coran", Journal Asiatique, 1843, Volume XIV, pp. 371-429.

[10] W. St. Clair Tisdall, "Shi'ah Additions To The Koran", The Moslem World, 1913, Volume III, p. 229.

[11] ibid., pp. 229-230.

[12] ibid., p. 230.

[13] G. E. von Grunebaum, Islam: Essays In The Nature And Growth Of A Cultural Tradition, 1961, Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd.: London, p. 80; For a similar statement see also B. Todd Lawson, "Note For The Study Of A Shi'i Qur'an", Journal of Semitic Studies, 1991, p. 282.

[14] M. Ayoub, "The Speaking Qur'an and The Silent Qur'an: A Study of The Principles and Development of Imami Shi'i Tafsir", in A. Rippin (Ed.), Approaches to the History of the Interpretation of the Qur'an, 1988, Clarendon Press: Oxford, p. 178.

[15] W. St. Clair Tisdall, "Shi'ah Additions To The Koran", The Moslem World, 1913, op. cit., pp. 229-230; "Dabistan al-Madahib", Encyclopaedia Of Islam, 1965, Volume II, op. cit., p. 74.

[16] J. Eliash, "The Shi'ite Qur'an: A Reconsideration Of Goldziher's Interpretation", Arabica, 1969, Volume XVI, p. 19.

[17] "Dabestan-E-Madaheb", Encyclopaedia Iranica, 1993, op. cit., pp. 533-534; Also see M. M. Marcinkowski, "Some Reflections On Alleged Twelver Shi`ite Attitude Towards The Integrity Of The Qur'an", The Muslim World, 2001, Volume 91, p. 142.

[18] A. Jeffery, Materials For The History Of The Text Of The Qur'an: The Old Codices, 1937, E. J. Brill: Leiden, pp. 182-192.

[19] A. Jeffery, "The Qur'an Readings Of Zaid bin `Ali", Rivista Degli Studi Orientali, 1936, Volume XVI, pp. 249-289.

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