No. of Surahs in the Mushaf of Ibn Mas’ud

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم الحمد لله وحده و الصلاة و السلام على من لا نبي بعده و على آله و أصحابه أجمعين

You will never find a Christian missionary talking about the preservation of Holy Qur’an and then failing to come up with issue of the surahs missing from Ibn Mas’ud’s mushaf. 

Surahs missing in Ibn Mas’ud’s Mushaf

It is said that Ibn Mas’ud’s mushaf (codex) did not have three surahs, al-Fatiha and al-mu’awwazatayn (al-Falaq and al-Nas) i.e. Nos. 1, 113 & 114. (See al-Ittiqan 1/270 al-Haiyaal-Misriya, Cairo, 1974)
We shall deal the issue of al-Fatiha and al-mu’awwazatayn separately. For each case we shall first see the reports becoming the basis for the confusion and then probe further to find out the truth. 


Al-Fatiha means the ‘al-fatiha al-kitab’ i.e. opening of the Book (al-Qur’an). And its status is such an established one in Islam that no Muslim can be negligent about it. It is recited multiple times in every salah five times a day. 

Ibn Mas’ud did recognize it a part of the Qur’an

Al-Fatiha’s status as a part of the Qur’an is established from the Qur’an itself. In Surah 15 it is said: 

وَلَقَدْ آتَيْنَاكَ سَبْعًا مِنَ الْمَثَانِي وَالْقُرْآنَ الْعَظِيمَ

“We have given you the seven oft-repeated verses and the glorious Qur‘an.” (Qur’an 15:87) 

Here “seven oft-repeated verses” refers to Surah al-Fatiha. 

Quoting Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Ibn Dhurays, Ibn Munzar and Ibn Mardwiyah, al-Suyuti gives us the following narration; 

It is narrated from Ibn Mas’ud, regarding the word of Allah, ‘We have given you the seven oft-repeated verses’ He said: “[It is] Fatiha al-Kitab.”  (Durr Manthur 5/94, Dar al-Fikr, Beirut) 

This plainly confirms that the al-Fatiha was indeed a part of the Qur’an in the view of Ibn Mas’ud just like the rest of Muslims. 

Why Ibn Mas’ud did not write it in his Mushaf

If Ibn Mas’ud –may Allah be pleased with him- did recognize al-Fatiha a part of the Qur’an, why did he not write it in his Mushaf? He himself solves the riddle. 

In a narration given by Abu Bakr al-Anbari, it is stated; 

“’Abdullah bin Mas’ud was asked as to why he did not write al-Fatiha in his Mushaf. He replied, ‘If I were to write I would write it before every surah.’” Abu Bakr al-Anbari explains this saying every raka’ah (in prayers) starts with al-Fatiha and then another surah is recited. It is as if Ibn Mas’ud said, ‘I have dropped it for the sake of brevity and I have trusted its preservation by Muslims (collectively).’ (al-Qurtubi, al-Jami al-Ahkam al-Qur’an. Dar al-Kutab al-Misriyah, Cairo, 1964 vol.1 p.115) 

Thus we learn, if he did not write a certain thing in his mushaf it does not mean it was not part of the Qur’an to his understanding. This is a vital point, I will ask the readers to bear in mind. 

Al-Mu’awwazatayn (Surah Nos. 113 & 114):
Ibn Mas’ud did recognize al-mu’awwazatayn a part of the Qur’an

The evidence that Ibn Mas’ud did consider al-mu’awwazatayn a part of the Qur’an, is too strong. Consider the following points; 

1- The foremost medium of preservation of the Holy Qur’an has always been memory of the Muslim masses. In the article about Qur’an preservation during Holy Prophet’s –may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- time I shared a Hadith on this point and here I reproduce it. 

Allah Almighty said to the Holy Prophet- may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him: 

"I sent the Book to you which cannot be washed away by water." (Sahih Muslim, Hadith 5109) 

Muslims experts of Qira’at (recitals) have always preserved the unbroken chain of authorities of back to the Holy Prophet –may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and all his followers. And the Mutawatir Qira’ats are the ultimate and greatest authority on the words of the Holy Qur’an. 

2- All the Mutawatir Qira’ats do include al-mu’awwazatayn (and certainly al-Fatiha as well). And four of the Mutawatir Qira’ats can be traced back to the Holy Prophet –may Allah’s blessings be upon him- through Abdullah ibn Mas’ud. Here I briefly mention the Mutawatir Qira’ats through Ibn Mas’ud –may Allah be pleased with him with reference to a monumental work on the subject i.e. al-Nashr fi Qira’at al-‘Ashr of Shams al-Din Ibn al-Jazri (d. 833 A.H.) 

i- Qir’at of Aasim: Its chain reaches back to the Holy Prophet –may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- through Zirr through Ibn Masud. 

Please note, the same Aasim and Zirr who are the narrators of the reports in Musnad Ahmad etc. (given below) showing Ibn Masud did not write the two surahs in his Mushaf are the narrators of a mutawatir qira’at from Ibn Masud in which they did recite the two surahs on his authority. See vol.1 p.155

ii- Qir’at of Hamza: Its chain reaches Holy Prophet –may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- through Ibn Mas’ud. See p. 165 

iii- Qir’at of al-Kisai: Its chain back to Prophet also involves Ibn Masud. See p.172 

iv- Qir’at of Khalaf: It also rests on Ibn Masud’s authority. See p.185 

These ‘mutawatir qira’ats’ certainly include al-Muawazzatayn and al-Fatiha and thus leave no doubt that Ibn Mas’ud recognized and recited them as Qur’an. 

Also remember by the consensus of the whole Ummah the chains of these Qir’ats are strongest of all the chains anywhere. See Fawatih al-Rahmout fi Sharh Musallam al-Thabut vol.1 p.12 

The narrations that hint otherwise will be dealt with shortly. 

3. Quoting from al-Daylami, Shaykh Ali Muttaqi, in his gigantic Hadith collection, records a very interesting narration. 

Narrated Ibn Mas’ud: "Excessively recite two surahs. Allah will make you reach higher ranks in the Hereafter because of them. They are al-mu’awwazatayn (i.e. al-Falaq and an-Nas/Nos. 113 & 114) ...” (Kanzul ‘Ummal, Hadith 2743) 

Here in most explicit terms Ibn Mas’ud –may Allah be pleased with him- refers to al-mu’awwazatayn as two surahs, showing he did believe in their divine origin and Qur’anic authority. 

Reality of the opposing narrations:
Now let’s scratch the details of the opposing narrations and see as to what they actually suggest and where the truth lies. 

Reports from Aasim and Zirr

Aasim narrates from Zirr, he told Ubayy that Ibn Mas’ud did not write al-mu’awwazatayn in his mushaf. (Musnad Ahmad, No. 21186) 

Abdah and Aasim narrate from Zirr, he said; “I told Ubayy, ‘your brother Ibn Mas’ud erases them (surah 113 & 114) from his mushaf,’ and he did not object.” (Musnad Ahmad, No. 21189) 

Note the following points; 

1- These reports say Ibn Masud did not write the two surahs in his Mushaf. And discussing the case of al-Fatiha above we concluded not writing in the Mushaf is not same as refusing to accept as part of the Qur’an. 

2- We learn that even after being told of Ibn Masud’s action, Ubayy “did not object.” While it has always been an established fact in the House of Islam that rejecting even a single verse makes one a disbeliever and even liable to capital punishment, it is impossible that Ubay would not react had he known Ibn Masud to altogether reject two surahs. Perhaps he knew Ibn Masud did not refuse to accept them a part of Qur’an even though he did not write them. 

3- al-Suyuti quotes Abu Bakr al-Baqilani (d. 406 A.H.) who said; 

“It is not proved from him that these two surahs are not from the Qur’an. He erased them and dropped them from his Mushaf refusing to put them into writing, not rejecting them as part of the Qur’an. It was so because to him nothing was to be written in the Mushaf except what was commanded by the Prophet –peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- and he did not find them written nor heard an instruction in this regard.” (al-Ittiqan 1/271)

4- With above points in mind recall that Aasim and Zirr themselves recited al-mu’awwazatayn along with the rest of the Qur’an on Ibn Masud’s authority. With same people reciting the surahs on his authority and then reporting him not to write them in his Mushaf, above mentioned explanation sounds the best. 

Report from Abdul Rahman bin Yazid

Abdul Rahman bin Yazid relates that Ibn Mas’ud erased al-mu’awwazatayn from his Mushaf and said they were not part of the Qur’an. (Musnad Ahmad, No. 21188) 

Same is reported in Mu’jam al-Kabir of al-Tabarani. 

1- This report cannot be true for it is a solitary report narrated only through Abdul Rahman bin Yazid. A solitary report that contradicts the evidence based on Mutawatir (i.e. something narrated by such a large no. of people of each generation that their agreement on falsehood or mistake is well beyond reasonable doubt) reports cannot serve as a proof to any effect. 

2- If one says that Ibn Hajr, al-Haithmi etc. have clearly graded its isnad as authentic, then he needs to know what even if isnad (chain of narrators) is authentic a report that contradicts overwhelmingly strong evidence is known as mu’allal i.e. defective. 

Carefully read the definition of defective (mu’allal) hadith given by Ibn al-Salah (d. 643 A.H.) in his Magnus Opus, “Kitab Ma’rifat ‘anwa’ ‘ilm al-Hadith” translated under the title “An Introduction to the Science of Hadith”; 

“A defective hadith is one in which a defect impugning its soundness is detected, although it outwardly appears to be free of the defect. That may apply to an isnad made up of reliable transmitters which outwardly seems to fulfill the conditions of soundness. Someone being alone in transmitting the hadith as well as others contradicting him aid in catching the defect.” (An Introduction to the Science of Hadith, Translated by Dr. Eerik Dickinson, Garnet Publishing Ltd. Berkshire 2006. p.67) 

3- Further, this narration from Abdul Rahman bin Yazid is “shaadh” i.e. anomalous which is not acceptable. Ibn al-Salah quotes its definition from al-Shafi’i who said: 

“… the anomalous hadith is the one which a reliable transmitter relates and which is in conflict with what other people relate.” (An Introduction to the Science of Hadith p.57) 

Evidently it runs in direct contradiction to what is known through mutawatir qira’ats, as mentioned above. Therefore it is rejected as anomalous. 

Ibn Mas’ud’s beliefs

Before quoting the scholars on the essence of the whole issue, let me share further proofs that it is inconceivable to have Ibn Masud –may Allah be pleased with him- refusing to accept these surahs as part of the Qur’an. 

1- We know the report telling us that students of Ibn Masud brought the fact of him not writing the surahs in his Mushaf to the notice of other Companions. It shows the issue was discussed. And had he actually not accepted the surahs as part of the Qur’an, other Companions would have certainly corrected him. 

2- Other reports tell us that Ibn Masud would discuss things with other Companions and would not fail to revise his opinion and admit his mistake, whenever it came to it. 

e.g. we read in Muwatta of Malik; 

“When Abdullah ibn Masud was in Kufa, he was asked for an opinion about marrying the mother after marrying the daughter when the marriage with the daughter had not been consummated. He permitted it. When Ibn Masud came to Madina, he asked about it and was told that it was not as he had said, and that this condition referred to foster-mothers. Ibn Masud returned to Kufa, and he had just reached his dwelling when the man who had asked him for the opinion came to visit and he ordered him to separate from his wife.”
(al-Muwatta, Kitab al-Nikah) 

If this was his attitude in normal issues of jurisprudence, how much more would he have been about Qur’an regarding which he has himself said; 

One who rejected a single letter of the Qur’an, he (is like the one who) rejected the whole of it.” (Musannaf Abdul Razzaq, Hadith 15946) 

3- How is it that his students who discussed the matter with other Companions would not mention the thing to him and he would then not seek to verify it, while we know of his cautiousness on this issue, as he himself reports; 

“We differed about a Surah. We said [and differed if] it has thirty-five verses or thirty six verses. So we went to the Messenger of Allah –may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him [to clarify the matter] …” (Musnad Ahmad, Hadith 832) 

If he would rush to the Holy Prophet –may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him- on differing about a single verse to clarify the matter, how can one assume he would not consult the Companions about three complete surahs and that he would not have been corrected by other Companions? 

What the scholars say

In the end let’s have a look at what various scholars said on this issue. 

Al-Nawawi (d. 676 A.H.) said: 

“The Ummah has agreed that al-mu’awwazatayn and al-fatiha are part of the Qur’an and whoever denies this becomes a disbeliever. And whatever is quoted from Ibn Masud in this regard is not true.” (al-Ittiqan 1/270) 

Abu Hafs ‘Umar al-Nu’mani (d. 775 A.H.) wrote: 

“Report of this opinion from Ibn Masud is a lie and falsehood.” (al-Baab fi ‘Uloom al-Kitab 1/249) 

Shaykh Muhammad bin Nizamuddin al-Ansari (d. 1225 A.H.) said: 

“Attributing the rejection of al-mu’awwazatayn as part of the Qur’an to Ibn Masud is a grave mistake. And whoever attributed such a thing to him, his isnad is not reliable compared to the isnad which have been accepted collectively by all the scholars –infact the whole Ummah. This highlights that attribution of this rejection to Ibn Masud is false.” (Fawatih al-Rahmout bi Sharah Musallam al-Thabut 2/12) 

Al-Khifaji (d. 1069 A.H.) wrote in his notes to al-Baidhawi’s commentary: 

“And what is reported from Ibn Masud that al-fatiha and al-mu’awwazatayn are not from Qur’an has no basis.” (al-‘Inaya al-Qadhi 1/29) 

Other scholars who have vehemently rejected the notion include; 

Ibn Hazm (d. 456 A.H.) See al-Muhalla (1/32)
Abu Bakr Ibn al-Arabi (d. 543 A.H.) See al-Ittiqan (1/270)
Fakhruddin al-Razi (d. 606 A.H.) See Tafsir Mafatih al-Ghayb (1/150)
Zahid bin Hassan al-Kawthari (d. 1371 A.H.) See Maqalat al-Kawthari (p.16) 


1- Ibn Mas’ud –may Allah be pleased with him- did recite al-Fatiha and al-mu’awwazatayn in Qur’an as proved from rigorous evidence of four established qira’ats whose chains of authorities (isnaad) are the strongest chains unanimously accepted by the Ummah. 

2- Ibn Mas’ud –may Allah be pleased with him- categorically identified “Oft-repeated seven verses” mentioned in Qur’an 15:87 as “al-fatiha al-kitab” (Opening Surah of the Book). 

3- He did not write al-Fatiha in his Mushaf but gave his reason and the reason was not refusal or doubting its status as a part of the Qur’an. This proves him not writing some verses is no evidence that he doubted their position within Qur’an. 

4- Ibn Mas’ud –may Allah be pleased with him- mentioned the virtues of two surahs (al-mu’azzatayn), thus refuting the false notions attributed to him. 

5- There are narrations from Aasim and Zirr that Ibn Mas’ud did not write al-Mu’azzatayn in his Mushaf. Same people (along with other people) used to recite the two surahs with the rest of Qur’an on Ibn Mas’ud’s authority. So either the narrations are a mistake or just like al-Fatiha Ibn Mas’ud had some other reason for not writing the two surahs in his Mushaf. 

6- Narration that says he categorically denied their being a part of the Qur’an is defective (mu’allal) and strange (shaadh) because it is a solitary report, narrated only the authority of Abdul Rahman bin Yazid, and contradicts the strongest and multiple isnaad. 

The critics of Islam with all their efforts could find only Ibn Mas’ud’s case to try question the singularity and consensus of the Muslims on the text of the Holy Qur’an whereas in case of Bible, not just an individual or a group of few but whole churches and denominations differ with each other on what all forms the canon. 

Please follow THIS LINK to find Canon Comparative Chart showing what is there in which Bible. See the Christian manuscript is too flexible, you can throw away anything you like and accept whatever you find good for yourself. 

Indeed Allah knows the best!

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