Imam Khomeini’s Fearless Attack on Muhaddith Nuri’s Scholarship

On the topic concerning the binding force of the apparent meaning[1] of the Qurān (ujjiyyah Ẓawāhir al-Qurān), Imām Khomeinī (1902 – 1989) in his Anwār al-Hidāyah[2] brings up the subject of corruption (taḥrīf) of the Qurān. In this section, he launches a ruthless and fearless attack on Muḥaddith Nūri[3] (1838 – 1902) especially given he had written a detailed work attempting to prove the omission of hundreds, if not thousands, of verses from the Qurān.

The harsh reality is that several great Shī’ī scholars – particularly those who trod the path of the Akhbārī school of thought – believed many verses to be missing from the Qurān we have today. To prove this, they cite different arguments, though their strongest evidence is the presence of numerous traditions in works of ḥadīth that imply this. Some scholars such as ‘Allāmah Majlisī even make the claim that these traditions are so many in number that they have reached a level of tawātur (i.e. they lead us to certainty that verses are missing from the Qurān).[4] A great number of refutations were written against Muḥaddith Nūri by subsequent Shī’ī scholars, many of which have been published.

Given this context, Imām Khomeinī writes the following on pgs. 244-247 of volume 1 of Anwār al-Hidāyah:

If the matter was the way the author of Fal al-Khiāb has imagined it to be[5]

someone whose books do not result in knowledge and have no practical benefit, because his methodology was to merely present weak traditions that scholars have ignored and the great scholars from the classical period like the three Muḥammads[6] (r) did not entertain such traditions.

This is the state of most of his books of traditions, like al-Mustadrak. Do not ask about the rest of his books which are filled with strange tales and stories, most of them resemble comedy more so than anything serious. Though he (r) was a righteous individual and a pursuer, his affinity for collecting weak, rare, and strange reports that the sane intellect and conscious does not accept was greater than anything useful he had said.

Even more shocking are his contemporaries who were men of vigilance! How could they have been indifferent and heedless to such an extent that, that which took place, took place, whereupon the skies wept as if it were about to collapse onto the earth?

Generally speaking: If the matter was the way he and his likes have mentioned, that the Divine Book had mentioned the Ahl al-Bayt (a) and their merits, or that it had the mention of Amīr al-Mu’minīn and the proof of his guardianship and Imāmah, then[7] why didn’t Amīr al-Mu’minīn, Fāṭimah, al-Ḥasan, al-Ḥusayn – peace be upon them – and Salmān, Abū Dharr, Miqdād, ‘Ammār, and the rest of the companions who continued to prove his caliphate, never used even one of those divinely revealed verses to prove their argument?

Why did he (a) continue to rely on the traditions of the Prophet (p) while the Qurān amongst them was clearer? If the Qurān had the name of Amīr al-Mu’minīn and his infallible progeny, their merits and the evidence regarding their caliphate, then why was the Prophet (p) fearful during the Farewell Ḥajj during the last year of his life when one of the final divinely revealed verses was the verse of Tablīgh, where it says [5:67] and Allah will protect you from the people.

And why did the Prophet (p) need to ask for ink and pen while he was passing away only to explicate the name of ‘Alī? Did he (p) think his words would have had a greater effect than the effect of Divine Revelation?

All in all, the invalidity of this horrible and atrocious opinion is clearer than that it be obscure for someone with intellect. However, this corrupt view has circulated despite the presence of scholars of Islam and protectors of the Sharī’ah of the leader of humankind.


[1] Ḥujjiyyah Ẓawāhir al-Qurān is a topic discussed in legal theory (Uṣūl al-Fiqh) since the Akhbārīs did not believe the apparent and prima-facie meaning of the Qurān was binding. They brought different arguments for their position and in this specific work Imām Khomeinī goes through three of their arguments and offers a refutation to each of them. One of their main arguments was that the Qurān has been altered and whatever understanding we get from reading it has the possibility of it being deficient and therefore only an infallible Imām can inform us regarding it.

[2] These are his marginal notes on Ākhund Khorasāni’s (1839 – 1911) work on legal theory called al-Kifāyah.

[3] Muḥaddith Nūrī was a student of Shaykh ‘Abd al-Ḥusayn Tehrānī (d. 1869) – also known as Shaykh al-‘Irāqayn – and later Mīrza Shīrāzī (d. 1896), famous for his Tabaco Fatwā. Muḥaddith Nuri’s most popular students were Shaykh ‘Abbās Qumī, the author of the popular work of supplication Mafātīh al-Jinān, and Āqā Buzurg Tehrānī, the author of the 25-volume bibliographical work al-Dharī’ah. Muḥaddith Nūrī is most famously known for two of his works Mustadrak al-Wasāil and Faṣl al-Khiṭāb. I have also translated one section of his Persian work Lu’lu wa Marjān which can be read here.

[4] ‘Allāmah Majlisī writes in his Mirāt al-‘Uqūl, vol. 12, pg. 525 while commenting on ḥadīth #28:

فالخبر صحيح و لا يخفى أن هذا الخبر و كثير من الأخبار الصحيحة صريحة في نقص القرآن و تغييره، و عندي أن الأخبار في هذا الباب متواترة معنى، و طرح جميعها يوجب رفع الاعتماد عن الأخبار رأسا بل ظني أن الأخبار في هذا الباب لا يقصر عن أخبار الإمامة فكيف يثبتونها بالخبر

The report is ṣaḥīḥ, and it should not be hidden that this report and many other authentic reports are explicitly clear that verses of the Qurān are missing and changes were made to it. In my opinion the reports regarding this are mutawātirah in meaning and to discard all of them implies abandoning one’s trust in traditions altogether. In fact, I presume that the reports on this matter are not any less than the reports on the topic of Imāmah itself, so how do they prove that with traditions.

[5] The response to this conditional if-statement comes much later

[6] Shaykh al-Kulaynī, Shaykh al-Ṣadūq and Shaykh al-Ṭūṣī

[7] This is the response to the conditional if-statement

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