Islamic term for claimed alterations to holy books preceding the Quran
Quran 22
Quran calligraphy
  • Category
  • Islam portal
  • v
  • t
  • e

Taḥrīf (Arabic: تحريف, transl. 'distortion') is an Arabic-language term used by Muslims to refer to the alterations that are believed in Islam to have been made by Jews and Christians to the holy books of Judaism and Christianity—specifically those that make up the Tawrat (or Torah), the Zabur (or Psalms) and the Injil (or Gospel)—which ultimately distorted the originally-revealed word of God.


Tahrif was first characterised in the writings al-Kasim b. Ibrahim (9th century), who made the claim that the corruption was not in the text of the previous revelations, but in interpretations. Al-Tabari (9th century) held that the tahrif of the Jews was that they had made the lawful unlawful and the unlawful lawful. The corruption of meaning is referred to as "Tahrif al-mana".[1] The corruption of the BiblIcal text was first explicated by Ibn Hazm (11th century), who popularized the concept of "Tahrif al-nass," or corruption of the text. Ibn Hazm rejected claims of Mosaic authorship and posited that Ezra was the author of the Torah. He systematically organised the arguments against the authenticity of the Biblical text in the first (Tanakh) and second part (New Testament) of his book: chronological and geographical inaccuracies and contradictions; theological impossibilities (anthropomorphic expressions, stories of fornication and whoredom, and the attributing of sins to prophets), as well as lack of reliable transmission (tawatur) of the text. He explains how the falsification of the Torah could have taken place while there existed only one copy of the Torah kept by the Aaronic priesthood of the Temple in Jerusalem. Ibn Hazm's arguments had a major impact upon Muslim literature and scholars, and the themes that he raised with regard to tahrif and other polemical ideas were modified slightly by some later authors.[2][3][4]


Amin Ahsan Islahi writes about four types of tahrif:[5]

  1. To deliberately interpret something in a manner that is opposite to the author's intention. To distort the pronunciation of a word to such an extent that the word changes completely.
  2. To add to or delete a sentence or discourse in a manner that distorts the original meaning. For example, according to Muslim tradition, the Jews altered the incident of the migration of Abraham in a manner that no one could prove that Abraham had any relationship with the Kaaba.
  3. To translate a word that has two meanings in the meaning that is against the context. For example, the Aramaic word used for Jesus that is equivalent to the Arabic: ابن ibn was translated as "son" whereas it also meant "servant" and "slave".
  4. To raise questions about something that is absolutely clear in order to create uncertainty about it, or to change it completely.

Quran and the claim of textual distortion

Relevant verses from the Quran. They fall in different categories as mentioned by Islahi:

  • So woe to their learned people, who write the Scriptures with their own hands and then say to the people, "This is from Allah," so that they might gain some paltry worldly end. (They do not see that) this writing of their hands will bring woe to them and what they gain thereby will lead to their ruin. Baqra:79
  • O Muslims, do you then expect that these people will accept your invitation and become believers? whereas there have always been among them some who have been hearing the Word of God, understanding it well and then perverting and tampering with it knowingly. Baqra:75
  • Then, for their breach of the covenant We cast them away from Our mercy and caused their hearts to harden. (And now they are in such a state that) they pervert the words from their context and thus distort their meaning, and have forgotten a good portion of the teaching they were imparted, and regarding all except a few of them you continue to learn that they committed acts of treachery. Pardon them, then, and overlook their deeds. Surely Allah loves those who do good deeds. Al Maeda:13
  • And they do not assign to Allah the attributes due to Him when they say: Allah has not revealed anything to a mortal. Say: Who revealed the Book which Musa brought, a light and a guidance to men, which you make into scattered writings which you show while you conceal much? And you were taught what you did not know, (neither) you nor your fathers. Say: Allah then leave them sporting in their vain discourses. Al Inaam:91
  • And there is a party among them who twist their tongues while reciting the Book to make you think that it is part of the Book when in fact it is not. They say: 'It is from Allah', when in fact it is not from Allah. They falsely fix a lie upon Allah, and do so wittingly. Aale Imraan:78

Reacounts of Quranic Tahrif (Distortion)

Throughout the corpus of hadith and history in Islam, various accounts of the companions of Muhammad recount Quranic text differently than what is in the modern-day copy. One companion, Abdullah ibn Masud the renowned mufassir of the Quran reports that verse 3:33 of the Quran was recited as

¨God selected Adam and Noah, Abraham´s household, Imran´s household, and Muhammad´s household over the worlds¨.[6][7]

Other companions such as Umar, Ibn Abbas, Abu Musa al-Ash'ari, and Ubayy ibn Ka'b recall that two small surahs were not present in the legitimized copy but in some of their own Mus'hafs by the name of Al Hafd and Al Khal´.[8][9]

See also


  1. ^ Lazarus-Yafeh, Haza (2000). Tahrif. Leiden: Brill. p. 111. ISBN 9004112111.
  2. ^ The Encyclopedia of Islam, BRILL
  3. ^ Power in the Portrayal: Representations of Jews and Muslims in Eleventh- and Twelfth-Century, chapter "An Andalusi-Muslim Literary Typology of Jewish Heresy and Sedition", pp. 56 and further, Tahrif: p. 58, ISBN 0-691-00187-1
  4. ^ Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages, p. 146, ISBN 0-691-01082-X
  5. ^ Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i-Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 252
  6. ^ Hossein Modarressi, Studia Islamica, No. 77.,Early Debates on the Integrity of the Quran,1993,Page 31
  7. ^ Abu Hayan al-Gharanti|Al-Bahr Al-Muhit
  8. ^ Hossein Modarressi, Studia Islamica, No. 77.,Early Debates on the Integrity of the Quran,1993,Page 13
  9. ^ Al-Itqan fi Ulum al-Qur’an,Jalaluddin Suyuti,Muneer Fareed

External links

  • Corruption in the Bible: The Muslim Stance
  • Is The Bible Corrupted?
  • What the Gospels Mean to Muslims