Did the Early Shia Believe In Tahrif? Insights from a 2nd Century Hijri Work

By Dr. Hassan Ansari 

In the important work Kitāb al-Rudūd by ʿAbdallāh b. Yazīd al-Fazārī—one of the prominent and influential Ibāḍī theologians of Kūfa in the mid-second century—there is a section devoted to the belief in addition and omission in the Qur’ān.

In this book and his other works, the author repeatedly mentions the Shīʿa with the name rāfiḍa, given his close acquaintance with the Shīʿa in Kūfa and then Baghdād. Nevertheless, in the discussion concerning addition and omission in the Qur’ān, he does not mention the Shīʿa as a group that believes in this at all—even though in various discussions from one end of the book to the other, he mentions and responds to the beliefs of the sects and theological schools of his time.

What is noteworthy is that we know that, in Kūfa, al-Fazārī was Hishām b. al-Ḥakam’s business partner and was completely familiar and connected to him. Later, in Baghdād also, he was in contact with Hishām in the Barmakid court and he participated in the debate assemblies of the former with Hishām and other theologians of time such as Ḍirār b. ʿAmr and so on.

What al-Fazārī writes in this section1 about the belief in addition and omission in the text of the Qur’ān, is exactly what has been discussed in historical narrations and ḥadīth traditions about the muʿawwiḍatayn and the belief attributed to Ibn Masʿūd. Although ʿAbdallāh b. Yazīd al-Fazārī seeks to express the belief of those who believe that there has been addition or omission in the Qur’ān, he is completely silent about the Shīʿa—the rāfiḍa in his words. The most important part in this section is:

قال عبد الله بن يزيد: ثم جاءت طائفة أخری إلی رئيسها، فقالوا: ما تقول فیما اختلف الناس فیه من القرآن، فقد زعموا أنّه قد نقص منه أو زید فيه، فقال: اکتبوا ما أحدثکم. روينا أن إبن مسعود رضي الله عنه أنه قال: یقول : إن المعوذتين لیستا من القرآن وإن أبي بن کعب کان يقرؤها بین السورتین اللتین یدعوا بهما في الوتر، فيقول هما من کتاب الله: (اللهم إنا نستعينك ونستغفرك ونؤمن بك)، إلی قوله: (إنّ عذابك بالکافرين ملحق)، ونحو ذلك مما زعموا أنّه في القرآن فذهب ونقص منه….

ʿAbdallāh b. Yazīd said:

Then another sect came to its leader and said:

What do you say about what the people differed in regarding the Qur’ān, for they had claimed that there were omissions from it or additions in it.

He [the leader] said:

Write what I am saying to you. We have narrated that Ibn Masʿūd, may God be pleased with him, said: The muʿawwiḍatayn are not from the Qur’ān and that Ubayy b. Kaʿb would recite them between the two chapters that he supplicates with in al-Witr, and he says they are both from the Book of God: “O God! We seek your help and ask your forgiveness and we believe in you” until “Your punishment will certainly reach the disbelievers”, and so on which they claimed were in the Qur’ān but then removed and omitted from it…

This shows that the original bedrock of the belief in the taḥrīf, addition and omission of the Qur’ān were fundamentally not the Shīʿa. Rather, it was the opponents of the Shīʿa who fuelled these discussions by transmitting this group of narrations.

Several decades after al-Fazārī, Ibn Shādhān al-Nīshābūrī made this exact point in his book al-Īḍāḥ. What we read in al-Fazārī’s book is a re-affirmation of what Ibn Shādhān said.


  1. al-Salimi, Abdulrahman, eds. “1 The Book of Rebuttals”. In Early Ibadi Theology, (Leiden, The Netherlands: Brill, 2021), 56.