Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

The Incomplete and Imperfect Quran

Sam Shamoun

In this article I am going to quote a variety of Muslim sources confirming that the present text of the Quran is an incomplete and imperfect record of what Muhammad initially recited since it is missing a great bulk of what he transmitted to his followers. The evidence will show that there were verses, phrases, clauses, surahs etc. known only to some Muslims, which were then subsequently lost when those individuals died. 

Note, for instance, what the following references say: 

“Umar bin al-Khattab asked about a verse of Allah’s book, they answered: ‘It was with a man who got killed on day of Yamama (battle)’. He (Umar) said: ‘We all shall return to Allah’. Then he ordered to collect the Quran, therefore he was the first one who collected it in one book.” (Kanz ul Ummal, Volume 2, p. 574) 


Umar was once looking for the text of a specific verse of the Qur’an he vaguely remembered. To his deep sorrow, he discovered that the only person who had any record of that verse had been killed in the battle of Yamama and that the verse was consequently lost. (Ibn Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Masahif, p. 10 – see also as-Suyuti’s al-Itqan fi ‘ulum al-Quran, volume 1, p. 204) 

In the Muqaddamah of Q. 33, Jalaluddin as-Suyuti recorded a statement from Sufyan al-Thawri (d. 161 A. H), as narrated by his student Abd al-Razaq al-Sanani (d. 211 A. H.): 

 وأخرج عبد الرزاق عن الثوري قال : بلغنا ان ناسا من أصحاب النبي صلى الله عليه و سلم كانوا يقرأون القرآن أصيبوا يوم مسيلمة فذهبت حروف من القرآن  

“Abd al-Razaq narrated from Al-Thawri that he said: ‘I have come to know that people from the Sahaba of the Prophet who used to recite the Quran were killed on the day of Musaylama and with their deaths letters from the Quran were lost (Zahab).’” (Tafsir Dur al-Manthur, Muqaddamah of Surah Ahzab, Volume 6, p. 558) 

Here are two reports which speak of the missing verse of stoning in connection with the loss of much of the Quran: 

“Abd al-Razzak in Al-Musannaf from Ibn Abbas said: Umar bin Al-Khattab ordered a person to gather people for Salat of Jama’at. He then ascended on a pulpit, praised Allah and said: ‘O people! Do not get afraid about the verse of Al-Rajm because it is a verse that was revealed in the book of Allah and we recited it but it was lost [Zahab], WITH MUCH OF THE QURAN GONE WITH MUHAMMAD; and the proof of that is that the prophet would stone, and Abu Bakr would stone, and I have stoned and there will come people from this nation who would deny the stoning.’” (Tafsir Dur al-Manthur, Muqadmah of Surah Ahzab


Zirr ibn Hubaish reported: "Ubayy ibn Ka'b said to me, 'What is the extent of Suratul-Ahzab?' I said, 'Seventy, or seventy-three verses'. He said, 'Yet it used to be equal to Suratul-Baqarah and in it we recited the verse of stoning'. I said, 'And what is the verse of stoning'? He replied, 'The fornicators among the married men (ash-shaikh) and married women (ash-shaikhah), stone them as an exemplary punishment from Allah, and Allah is Mighty and Wise."' (Al-Itqan fi ‘ulum al-Quran, p. 524)

In case a Muhammadan apologist attempts to reject these reports on the grounds that they happen to be false, we will merely quote what Jalaluddin as-Suyuti himself stated in the preface of his book Dur al-Manthur concerning the veracity of the reports found all throughout: 

“Praise be to Allah… who has given me the ability to conduct a commentary of his great book based on what I have received of the transmitted reports with high valued chains.” 

There are other sources which confirm that much of the Quran has been lost, never to be discovered again: 

“Ismail bin Ibrahim narrated from Ayub from Naf’i from Ibn Umar who said: ‘Verily among you people one would say that he has found the Quran while he is unaware of what the total quantity of the Quran was, because most of the Quran has been lost. Rather one should say that verily he has found the Quran that has appeared.’” (Fadhail al-Quran, by Qasim bin Salam (d. 222 A.H.), Volume 2, p. 135) 

The following authorities all cite this particular narration: 

Al-Itqan fi ‘ulum al-Quran by Suyuti, rendered into Urdu by Maulana Muhammad Haleem Ansari, Volume 2, p. 64 (Idara Islamiat, Lahore). Here is an English translation of this specific report taken from another version of the Itqan

It is reported from Ismail ibn Ibrahim from Ayyub from Naafi from Ibn Umar who said: "Let none of you say 'I have acquired the whole of the Qur'an'. How does he know what all of it is when much of the Qur'an has disappeared? Rather let him say 'I have acquired what has survived.'" (Al-Itqan, p. 524) 

Tafsir Dur al-Manthur Volume 1, p. 106. 

Tafsir Ruh al-Mani, Volume 1, p. 25. 

And here is what the scholars said about the transmitters of the foregoing report: 

Ismail bin Ibrahim  

Dahabi said, “Hujja” (Al-Kashif, Volume 1 p. 242). 

Ibn Hajar said, “Thiqah” (Taqrib al-Tahdib, Volume 1, p. 90).  

Ayyub al-Sakhtiani

Dahabi said, “The master of scholars’ (Siar alam al-nubala, Volume 6, p. 15). 

Ibn Hajar said, “Thiqah Thabt Hujja” (Taqrib al-Tahdib, Volume 1, p. 116).  


Dahabi said, “The Imam of Tabi’in” (Al-Kashif, volume 2, p. 315). 

Ibn Hajar said, “Thiqah Thabt” (Taqrib al-Tahdib, Volume 2, p. 239). 

The words Thiqah, Thabt and Hujja are used to describe men of integrity who were deemed to be completely reliable and trustworthy in narrating hadiths. 

And just in case a Muhammadan wants to argue that the word Zahab doesn’t mean that verses of the Quran are lost or have disappeared, but rather that they have been abrogated, here is narration from al-Bukhari that refutes this lie: 

أرسل إلي أبو بكر مقتل أهل اليمامة وعنده عمر فقال أبو بكر إن عمر أتاني فقال إن القتل قد استحر يوم اليمامة بالناس وإني أخشى أن يستحر القتل بالقراء في المواطن فيذهب كثير من القرآن إلا أن تجمعوه وإني لأرى أن تجمع ۔۔۔ 

Narrated Zaid bin Thabit: Abu Bakr As-Siddiq sent for me when the people of Yamama had been killed (i.e., a number of the Prophet’s Companions who fought against Musailama). (I went to him) and found ‘Umar bin Al-Khattab sitting with him. Abu Bakr then said (to me), “Umar has come to me and said: ‘Casualties were heavy among the Qurra’ of the Qur’an (i.e. those who knew the Quran by heart) on the day of the Battle of Yamama, and I am afraid that more heavy casualties may take place among the Qurra’ on other battlefields, whereby a large part of the Qur’an may be lost (Zahab). Therefore I suggest, you (Abu Bakr) order that the Qur'an be collected.’ I said to `Umar, ‘How can you do something which Allah's Apostle did not do?’ `Umar said, ‘By Allah, that is a good project.’ `Umar kept on urging me to accept his proposal till Allah opened my chest for it and I began to realize the good in the idea which `Umar had realized.” Then Abu Bakr said (to me), “You are a wise young man and we do not have any suspicion about you, and you used to write the Divine Inspiration for Allah's Messenger. So you should search for (the fragmentary scripts of) the Qur'an and collect it in one book." By Allah If they had ordered me to shift one of the mountains, it would not have been heavier for me than this ordering me to collect the Qur'an. Then I said to Abu Bakr, "How will you do something which Allah's Messenger did not do?" Abu Bakr replied, "By Allah, it is a good project." Abu Bakr kept on urging me to accept his idea until Allah opened my chest for what He had opened the chests of Abu Bakr and `Umar. So I started looking for the Qur'an and collecting it from (what was written on) palm stalks, thin white stones and also from the men who knew it by heart, till I found the last Verse of Surat at-Tauba (Repentance) with Abi Khuzaima Al-Ansari, and I did not find it with anybody other than him. The Verse is: 'Verily there has come unto you an Apostle (Muhammad) from amongst yourselves. It grieves him that you should receive any injury or difficulty… (till the end of Surat-Baraa' (at-Tauba) (9.128-129). Then the complete manuscripts (copy) of the Qur'an remained with Abu Bakr till he died, then with `Umar till the end of his life, and then with Hafsa, the daughter of `Umar.” (Sahih al- Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 61, Number 509

Umar was obviously not worried about verses being abrogated, but was afraid that passages would vanish without a trace. 

Sadly for him and the rest of the Muslims, his fears came true since much of the Quran has been lost, never to be recovered again. 

For instance, in the short section on the codex (mushaf) of Abdullah Ibn Umar, in speaking of the differences in the readings between Abdullah and the other companions of Muhammad, Muslim scholar Ibn Abi Dawud quotes Abu Bakr ibn Ayyash as saying: 

Many of the companions of the Prophet of Allah had their own reading of the Qur'an, but they died and their readings disappeared soon afterwards. (Ibn Abi Dawud, Kitab al-Masahif, p. 83) 


Many (of the passages) of the Qur'an that were sent down were known by those who died on the day of Yamama… but they were not known (by those who) survived them, nor were they written down, nor had Abu Bakr, Umar or Uthman (by that time) collected the Qur'an, nor were they found with even one (person) after them. (Kitab al-Masahif, p. 23)

According to Daraqutni, the author of the Book al-Masahif, Abdullah bin Sulaiman bin Al-Ashath bin Ishaq Al-Sajastani, the son of Abu Dawud, who was the author of Sunan Abu Dawud, was Thiqa (Tadhkirat Al-Huffaz, Volume 2, p. 771; Tarikh Baghdad, Volume 9, p. 468). Imam Dhahabi also declared him Thiqa (Al-Siar fi Al'am Al-Nubala, Volume 14, p. 505). Abu Hamid bin Asad Al-Maktib said, ‘I never saw someone in knowledge like Abdullah bin Al-Ashath’ (Tarikh Baghdad, Volume 9, p. 465).

Renowned Muslim scholar and the darling of the Salafis, Ibn Taymiyyah, candidly acknowledged that the Quran’s textual corruptions started to take place in the very lifetime of Muhammad’s companions and their followers: 

“And likewise some of the Salaf denied words from the Quran such as the denial of some of them of the verse, ‘Have not yet those who believe known’ (13:31), and them saying that it is, ‘Has it not been made clear to those who believe’; and the denial of reading the verse by others (of the Salaf), ‘And your Lord has ordained (quthiyah) that you worship none but He,’ and they said that it is, ‘And you Lord has advised (wassa).’ And some of them used to delete Al-Mu’waithatayn (Surahs 113-114) from their copies of the Quran (mushaf) and others used to write a surah called Surat-ul-Qunut and this is a known mistake that is known by consensus (Ijma), and via multiple successive transmission (mutawatur). And even with this the tawatur had not been established for them and so they are not kuffar. It is only after showing one the mutawatur proof (that if he rejects it) then he is kafir.” (Majmoo’ al-Fatawa, Volume 12, p. 492) 

Another Muslim scholar named Abu Muhammad Ali bin Ahmed Ibn Hazm al-Andalusi (c. 994-1064) stated that Uthman introduced changes and mistakes into the Quran: 

“Abu Muhammad said: This is the description of Uthman’s work that (was compiled) in the presence of the companions. While copying the masahif (codices) he burnt what he burnt from them from what he had changed intentionally or by mistake.” (Al-Ahkam fi usul Al-Ahkam, Volume 1, p. 528) 

With the foregoing in view we are now ready to cite specific examples of corruptions and deletions. 


According to the Islamic sources, surah 9 of the Quran was approximately the same size as surah 2, a chapter that consists of 286 verses. And yet surah 9 only has 128 verses, which means that it is missing over hundred verses! 

“Malik said among what had been narrated by Ibn Wahb and Ibn Al Qasim and Ibn Abdul Hakam is that when the first part of Surat Bara’at was lost, ‘Bismillah Al Rahman Al Raheem’ was also lost along with it. It has also been narrated from Ibn Ajlan that he heard that Surat Bara’at was equal to the length of Surat Al Baqarah or approximately equal to it, so the part was gone and because of that ‘Bismillah Al Rahman Al Raheem’ wasn’t written between them (between the lost and the remaining part).” (Tafsir al-Qurtubi, Volume 8, p. 62, Surah Bara`t [Chapter 9]) 

Jalaludin as-Suyuti, quoting scholars like Tabarani, Hakim and Ibn Shaibah, stated that: 

 عن حذيفة رضي الله عنه قال : التي تسمون سورة التوبة هي سورة العذاب والله ما تركت أحدا إلا نالت منه ولا تقرأون منها مما كنا نقرأ إلا ربعها 

“Hudhaifah narrated that the Surah which you call Tawbah is actually Surah ‘Azaab [wrath] and you just recite ONE FOURTH of what we used to recite.” (Tafsir Dur al-Manthur, Volume 3 p. 208) 

And here are a few reports which all claim that Q. 33 (Surah Ahzab) initially had approximately one hundred thirty to two hundred more verses that are now all gone and have disappeared from sight: 

“Ubai bin Ka’ab inquired of someone: ‘How many verses were there in the chapter of al-Ahzab?’ He replied, ‘72 or 73 verses.’ Ubai bin Ka’b then said: ‘I had seen this Surah more or equal to Surah Baqarah.” (Tafsir Dur al-Manthur, Volume 6, p. 558) 

“Aisha narrated that during the lifetime of the prophet 200 verses were recited in Surah Ahzab but when Uthman collected the Mushaf, he only succeeded in locating the present number of verses.” (Tafsir Dur al-Manthur, Volume 6, p. 560) 

“Aisha narrates: ‘Surah Ahzab contained 200 verses during the lifetime of Prophet but when the Quran was collected we only found the amount that can be found in the present Quran.” (Tafsir Qurtubi, Volume 7, p. 113) 


We are going to list some passages which are said to be missing words, clauses, phrases etc. 


According to Ibn Masud, both Q. 5:67 and 33:25 originally had a reference to Muhammad’s first cousin and son-in-law Ali: 

“Hafiz Ahmed bin Musa bin Mardawayh has narrated with his isnad from Abdullah Ibn Masud that: ‘During the lifetime of the prophet we used to recite this verse as: O Apostle! Deliver what has been sent down to you from your Lord; ‘that Ali is the Maula of the Muminin,’ if you don’t…” (Tafsir Ruh al-Mani, Q. 5:67, Volume 9, p. 193) 

“Ibn Mardawayh narrated from Ibn Masud that: ‘We used to recite this verse as, ‘and enough was Allah for the believers in their fight ‘via Ali ibn Abi Talib.’” (Tafsir Ruh al-Mani, Q. 33:25, chapter 21, p. 157) 

“Ibn Abi Hatim, Ibn Mardawayh and Ibn Asakir have narrated from Abdullah Ibn Masud that: ‘We used to recite this verse in the following manner, and enough was Allah for the believers in their fight ‘via Ali ibn Abi Talib.’” (Tafsir Dur al-Manthur, Volume 5, p. 192) 


Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet: O ye that believe! Send ye blessings on him, and salute him with all respect. S. 33:56 A. Yusuf Ali 

Jalaluddin as-Suyuti records in his Al-Itqan fi ‘ulum al-Quran

“Hameedah Bint Yunus narrates: ‘My father [Abi] who was 80 years old recited for me the verse of salutation from the Mushaf of Aisha with the following words: i.e. Allah and His angels send blessings on the Prophet: O ye that believe! Send ye blessings on him, and salute him with all respect. And on those who came to the first lines of prayers. This verse was in this very manner before Uthman had made changes to the Quran.” (Al-Itqan (Urdu version), Volume 2, p. 65 – see also Tafsir Dur al-Manthur, Volume 5, p. 220, “Verse of Salutation”)


And admonish thy nearest kinsmen, S. 26:214 Y. Ali 

The ahadith indicate that there are words which have been omitted from this passage: 

CDLXVI: The Tafsir of Surat al-Masad which begins "Perish the hands of Abu Lahab"

"Tabba" (111:1) means |he lost" and "tabab" (40:37) is "loss" and "tatbib" (11:101) means destruction. 

4687. Ibn 'Abbas said, "When it was revealed, 'And admonish your nearest kin,' 'AND YOUR SINCERE TRIBE AMONG THEM' the Prophet, went out and climbed as-Safa and called out, 'O companions!' They said, 'Who is this?' They gathered to him and he said, 'If I were to tell you that there is a cavalry coming from the foot of this mountain, would you believe me?' They answered, 'We have never found you to tell a lie.' He said, 'I am a warner to you, warning of a severe punishment.' Abu Lahab said, 'May you perish! Is it only for this that you have gathered us?' and he got up and left. Then there was revealed, 'Ruin to the hands of Abu Lahab and ruin to him!' (111:1) He perished." That is how al-A'mash recited it on that day. (Aisha Bewley, Sahih Collection of al-Bukhari, Chapter 68. Book of Tafsir

It is reported on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas that when this verse was revealed: "And warn thy nearest kindred" (and thy group of selected people among them) the Messenger of Allah set off till he climbed Safa' and called loudly: Be on your guard! They said: Who is it calling aloud? They said: Muhammad. They gathered round him, and he said: O sons of so and so, O sons of so and so, O sons of 'Abd Manaf, O sons of 'Abd al-Muttalib, and they gathered around him. He (the Apostle) said: If I were to inform you that there were horsemen emerging out of the foot of this mountain, would you believe me? They said: We have not experienced any lie from you. He said: Well, I am a warner to you before a severe torment. He (the narrator) said that Abu Lahab then said: Destruction to you! Is it for this you have gathered us? He (the Holy Prophet) then stood up, and this verse was revealed: "Perish the hands of Abu Lahab, and he indeed perished" (cxi. 1). A'mash recited this to the end of the Sura. (Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0406)   


Oh prophet, (and Oh you believers)! If you (must) divorce your women, divorce them for a (prescribed) period. Count the period (correctly). Fear Allah, your Lord, and do not _ unless they have committed a flagrantly immoral act _ expel your divorced women out of their homes. The women too should not leave their homes. These are the confines of Allah. Anyone overstepping the limits of Allah actually commits an outrage upon himself. You do not know! (During that period), Allah may well bring about something (to cause reconciliation between the husband and wife). S. 65:1 Dr. Munir Munshey 

The following reports indicate that this is another verse that has a part missing from it: 

Abu Zubair reported that he heard 'Abd al-Rahman b. Aiman (the freed slave of 'Azza) say that he asked Ibn 'Umar and Abu Zubair heard: What is your opinion about the person who divorced his wife in the state of menses? Thereupon he said: Ibn Umar divorced his wife during the lifetime of Allah's Messenger while she was in the state of menses. Upon this Allah's Messenger told him to take her back and so he took her back and he (further) said: When she is pure, then either divorce her or retain her. Ibn 'Umar said that Allah's Apostle then recited this verse:" O Apostle, when you divorce women, divorce them AT THE COMMENCEMENT OF their prescribed period" (Ixv 1). (Sahih Muslim, Book 009, Number 3489

Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar: 

AbdurRahman ibn Ayman, the client of Urwah, asked Ibn Umar and AbuzZubayr who was listening: What do you think if a man divorces his wife while she is menstruating? He said: Abdullah ibn Umar divorced his wife while she was menstruating during the time of the Apostle of Allah. So Umar asked the Apostle of Allah saying: Abdullah ibn Umar divorced his wife while she was menstruating. Abdullah said: He returned her to me and did not count it (the pronouncement) anything. He said: When she is purified, he may divorce her or keep her with him. Ibn Umar said: The Prophet recited the Qur'anic verse: O Prophet, when you divorce women, divorce them IN THE BEGINNING OF their waiting period." 

Abu Dawud said: This tradition has been narrated by Yunus b. Jubair, Anas b. Sirin b. Jubair, Zaid b. Aslam, Abu al-Zubair and Mansur from Abu Wa'il on the authority of Ibn 'Umar. They all agreed on the theme that the Prophet commanded him to take her back (and keep her) till she was purified. Then if he desired, he might divorce her or keep her with him if he wanted to do so. The version narrated by al-Zuhri from Salim from Nafi' on the authority of Ibn 'Umar has: The Prophet commanded him to take her back (and keep her) till she is purified, and then has menstrual discharge, and then she is purified. Then if he desires, he may divorce her and if he desires he may keep her. 

Abu Dawud said: A version like that of Nafi' and al-Zuhri has also been transmitted by 'Ata al-Khurasani from al-Hasan on the authority of Ibn 'Umar. All the versions of this tradition contradict the one narrated by Abu al-Zubair. 

Grade: SAHIH (Al-Albani): Reference: Sunan Abi Dawud 2185 

In-book reference: Book 13, Hadith 11 

English translation: Book 12, Hadith 2180 (; capital, italicized and underline emphasis ours) 


The hadith record a rather embarrassing story of a sheep devouring a copy of the Quran which contained the missing verses on stoning and on the issue of women allowing adults to suckle their breasts ten times: 

Sunan Ibn Majah 

The Chapters on Marriage 

It was narrated that ‘Aishah said: 

“The Verse of stoning and of breastfeeding an adult ten times was revealed1, and the paper was with me under my pillow. When the Messenger of Allah died, we were preoccupied with his death, and a tame sheep came in AND ATE IT.”

1: These verses were abrogated in recitation but not ruling. Other ahadith establish the number for fosterage to be 5. 

Grade: HASAN (Darussalam)

English reference: Vol. 3, Book 9, Hadith 1944

Arabic reference: Book 9, Hadith 2020 (; capital and underline emphasis ours)

The reason why this proves to be quite embarrassing is because the Quran claims that Allah has sworn to preserve his revelations (cf. Q. 6:115; 15:9; 18:27; 75:16-19). And yet it Allah proved to be quite helpless in preventing a docile animal from destroying the only copy of the Quran which contained two important verses that he sent down for the benefit of his community! 

So much for the Muslim claim that the Quran is the only religious scripture that has been perfectly preserved. 

Further Reading 

Jam Al-Qur’an: The Codification of the Qur’an Text

Who believes the Quran has been a victim of Tahreef? 

Early Debates on the Integrity of the Quran Pt. 1 - See also this link 

The Quran Testifies To Its Own Textual Corruption 

The Irreparable Loss of Much of the Quran

Challenge to the Muslims Concerning the Quran [Part 1], [Part 2], [Part 3], [Excursus]

Textual Integrity