according to the
Qur'an and the Hadith
Ghiyathuddin Adelphi and Ernest Hahn
The Integrity of the Bible according to the Qur'an
The Integrity of the Bible according to the Hadith
This book is intended for both Muslims and Christians. It is intended for Christians in order to help them understand prevalent Muslim responses to the Bible. It is intended for both Muslims and Christians in order to help them understand what the Qur'an and the Hadith (Muslim traditions), the main sources of Islamic faith, say about the Bible.
The Qur'an frequently refers to the Tawrat (Torah) of Moses, the Zabur (Psalms) of David, the revelations of the prophets and the Injil (Evangel) of Jesus. Sometimes Muslims call the whole Old Testament "the Tawrat" and the whole New Testament "the Injil". Since God has revealed these Scriptures to the Jews and the Christians, the Qur'an calls Jews and Christians "the People of the Scripture" (ahl ul-kitab).
Yet when Christians attempt to share their Scriptures with Muslims, Muslim attitudes toward these Scriptures often differ severely. Some Muslims kiss the Injil which the Christian offers them and read it with reverence. Some Muslims forbid their fellow-Muslims to accept it. A few Muslim fathers beat their children who read it. Still other Muslims may burn it or tear it to shreds. Some Muslims receive it politely in order not to offend their Christian friends, but inwardly hold it in contempt. Some Muslims, who sincerely desire to read it, read it in secret, lest other family members taunt them for reading it.
Why these various attitudes? Some Muslims simply accept the fact that these Scriptures are God's Word. Other Muslims, however, sincerely feel that the present People of the Scriptures are really "the People of False Scriptures". They believe that Christians have corrupted their Scriptures so that these Scriptures are no longer trustworthy. They feel that Christians who encourage Muslims to read their Scriptures are, consciously or unconsciously, simply deceiving Muslims. For does not the Glorious Qur'an say that these Scriptures are corrupted and abrogated?
This, then, is the question which this book attempts to answer. It limits itself primarily to evidence about Christian Scriptures from the Qur'an and the Hadith, because these are usually the sole criteria acceptable to Muslims. Only briefly and incidentally does it appeal to the Muslim to consider other evidence in support of the genuineness of these Scriptures -- evidence which really requires another book.
While attempting to answer this question, we are aware that some Muslims question the possibility of unprejudiced Christian interpretation of Islamic revelation. We are also aware that the issue here has emotional as well as intellectual implications. We can only assure Muslim readers that our intention, in trying to determine what the Qur'an and the Hadith say about our Scriptures, is not to criticise the Qur'an and the Hadith but to understand them on this point, and perhaps to help some Muslims to understand them a little better.
Translations of Quranic passages are taken from M.M. Pickthall's The Glorious Koran, since, it appears, most Muslims in India acquainted with English translations of the Qur'an accept his translation.
Henry Martyn Institute,
The new edition of this work adds quotations from three modern scholars on the subject of tahrif. The quotations are included in Appendix III. A few other minor changes have been made.
"Christians say that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died on the cross. We Muslims cannot accept these teachings because we know that God has no son. If God had a son, who is God's wife? Nor would God let His prophet Jesus die the shameful death of a cross. We know that these teachings are inventions of those people who later falsified the true teachings of Jesus. In fact, they even changed the Injil, as the Jews have changed their Holy Books. The true Injil, the true Tawrat and other Holy Books are no longer with you." Thus Muslims throughout the centuries have charged Christians with changing the text of their Scriptures. Still other Muslims may add that the original Injil was taken into heaven when Jesus was taken into heaven, or that the Qur'an has abrogated the Injil so that mankind is no longer in need of the Injil. Through the use of one or a combination of these three allegations, multitudes of Muslims in the past and present have dismissed the message of the Christian Scriptures. Or if they read the Injil, they read it with a mind that is already often prejudiced by such allegations.
It is difficult for any Christian to understand the whole, or even a part, of this Muslim response to Christian Scriptures. Here are some possible implications arising out of such allegations:
1. Sound texts of the Old Testament and the New Testament in their original Hebrew and Greek languages are no longer available. (In fact they are available.)
2. At a particular time and at a particular place, or at particular times and particular places, all Christians were so corrupt in heart that they joined together to corrupt their Scriptures in their original languages and in their many translations.
3. So also both Jews and Christians maliciously united together to perpetrate this fraud.
4. Since no other people, including Hindus, Buddhists, and people of many other religions, accept that Christians and Jews undertook this fraud, Muslims alone are able to produce the historical evidence for it. (But do they ever really produce it?)
5. The many Bible Societies and other organizations involved in translating and distributing the Bible continue to perpetrate this fraud, wilfully or ignorantly, in some 2000 languages of the world.
6. God has allowed and allows Christians and Jews to perpetrate and perpetuate this fraud against His Word, His unchangeable Word.
7. If the Holy Injil had been taken into heaven with Jesus, God left all Christians without divine guidance for centuries. Or if all Scriptures had been textually corrupted, God left all mankind without His pure Word from the time of their corruption.
Such implications are staggering to the mind as well as to the heart! In fact, however, all historical evidence, including the vast number of ancient texts of the Christian Scriptures in their original or translated languages which antedate the Qur'an, points to the remarkable preservation of the Christian Scriptures from the time of their origin until the present.
Yet if the Muslim rejects this fact, there are still other courts of appeal which he may be more ready to heed: the Qur'an and the Hadith (Muslim traditions). In Part Two we shall consider references from the Hadith to the Christian Scriptures. In Part One, we shall attempt to answer the following questions:
a. What does the Qur'an say about the other Scriptures?
b. Is there any Quranic evidence which substantiates the common Muslim claim that other Scriptures have been abrogated, textually perverted (tahrif-i lafzi) or taken into heaven, in such a manner that these Scriptures no longer possess a contemporary validity?
1. Recipients of Other Scriptures
Let us first note the persons through whom these various Scriptures other than the Qur'an are given. Abraham and Moses received scrolls and/or books (87:18,19; 53:36,37). These are apparently the only two direct references to Abraham as recipient of a written revelation. References to Moses (Aaron and the Children of Israel are occasionally included) and the Book, the Tawrat, which he received, abound (41:45; 37:114-117; 46:12; 25:35; 28:43; 23:49; 6:92; 32:23). David received the Psalms (17:55; 4: 163). Jesus received the Scripture, the Injil (19:30; 57:27; 5:46).
2. Mode of Revelation of Other Scriptures
All of these books were revealed by God in the same way as the Qur'an. God caused them to descend (nazzala, anzala).
Aforetime, for a guidance to mankind; and hath revealed the Criterion (of right and wrong). Lo! those who disbelieve the revelations of Allah, theirs will be a heavy doom. Allah is Mighty, Able to Requite (the wrong). 3:3,4
It is worthy of note that the disciples of Jesus were also inspired. (5:111)
3. Content of Other Scriptures
The various revelations possess the same essential content. In fact, the Quranic revelation is stated to be contained within the previous Scriptures (not the reverse, as we often hear from Muslim friends).
Which the True Spirit hath brought down
Upon thy heart, that thou mayest be (one) of the warners,
In plain Arabic speech.
And lo, it is in the Scriptures of the men of old. Is it not a token for them that the doctors of the Children of Israel know it? 26:192-197
"Our God and your God is One" (29:46). Doing one's duty toward God is enjoined in the Qur'an as in the other revelations (4:131). God has ordained that religion (din) in the Qur'an which He commanded to past prophets (42:13). The true believer finds his representation in the Tawrat and the Injil (48: 29). As in the Qur'an, so in the previous revelations it is stated that those who ascribe a partner to Allah are the losers (39:65; cf. 54:41-43; 98:6). Yet for each community, "We have appointed a divine law and a traced-out way" (5:48); Jesus had come "to make lawful some of that which was forbidden unto you" (3:50). Such a variation however does not suggest the superiority of one revelation over the other.
4. Excellencies of Other Scriptures
Even a superficial reading of the Qur'an betrays the excellencies of other Scriptures. The Tawrat is called the Book of Allah (5:44; cf. 2:101; 3:23), the Word of Allah (2:75). It is described as a guidance, a guide and reminder for men of understanding (40:53,54), an example and a mercy (11:17; 46:12), a light and reminder (21:48), a guidance and a light (5:44),
The Scripture given to Moses is designated the Criterion (furqan), a designation which some Muslims apparently consider peculiar to the Qur'an and a testimony to its uniqueness. (21:48; 2:53)
Similar descriptions are attributed to the Injil. Jesus received "clear proofs" (2:87; 61:6) and
5. Universal Significance of Other Scriptures
If the book revealed to Moses is for the Children of Israel, it is also for mankind. (6:92; 28:43)
The Injil, as well as the Tawrat, possesses a universal significance.
Aforetime, for a guidance to mankind; and hath revealed the Criterion (of right and wrong). Lo! those who disbelieve the revelations of Allah, theirs will be a heavy doom. Allah is Mighty, Able to Requite (the wrong). 3:3,4
How blessed the Children of Israel!
6. Confirmation and Availability of Other Scriptures
As we have noted, the contents of the various revelations are similar. Moreover, later revelation confirms previous revelation. Thus the Injil confirms the Tawrat:
The latter verse also notes that Jesus (in conjunction with His confirmation) had come "to make lawful some of that which was forbidden unto you".
This theme of confirmation is especially pronounced in relation to the position of the Qur'an toward the Scriptures previous to it.
Still several references refer to the Qur'an's confirmation of Scriptures of the People of the Book which are with the People of the Book.
And believe in that which I reveal, confirming that which ye possess already (of the Scripture), and be not first to disbelieve therein, and part not with My revelations for a trifling price, and keep your duty unto Me....
Enjoin ye righteousness upon mankind while ye yourselves forget (to practice it)? And ye are readers of the Scripture! Have ye then no sense? 2:40,41,44
The reader can only conclude from these passages that the Qur'an considers previous revelations granted to the People of the Book to be in their possession and at their disposal. There is no indication that these Scriptures have been taken to heaven, that they have been abrogated or textually corrupted. On the contrary, the existence of the Scriptures is not only presumed; it is explicitly stated. In fact, the Qur'an not only confirms these Scriptures; it is the protector, watcher, custodian of previous Scriptures (5:48), not the abrogator of previous Scriptures.
Many other Quranic passages demonstrate the continuity of previous revelations. The Scripture was given to Moses as a guide to the Children of Israel (32:23-26). The Children of Israel inherited the Scripture of Moses (40:53; cf. 42:14). It is a guidance to the Children of Israel (17:2). Prophethood and Scripture were placed among the seed of Noah and Abraham (57:26); so also that of Isaac and Jacob (29:27; cf. 45:16). The Scripture reveals to the Children of Israel their works of corruption (17:4; cf. 3:65,66). John is told to hold fast the Scripture (19:12). Mary put faith in the words of her Lord and His Scriptures (66:12). As well as the Gospel, Jesus is taught "the Scripture and Wisdom and the Tawrat" (3:48). Thus, in reference to Jews contemporary with Muhammad:
Say (O Muhammad): O ye who are Jews! If ye claim that ye are favoured of Allah apart from (all) mankind, then long for death if ye are truthful. 62:5,6
These Jews have studied the Scriptures. Among them are those in a position to make men keep the Scriptures and establish worship (7:169,170). The contemporary Jews are readers of the Scripture (2:44; 2:113) as are also the Christians (2:113). Christians recite the revelations (ayat) of Allah (3:113). Muhammad is advised, if in doubt, "to question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee". 10:95
If they had observed the Torah and the Gospel and that which was revealed unto them from their Lord, they would surely have been nourished from above them and from beneath their feet. Among them are people who are moderate, but many of them are of evil conduct.
O Messenger! Make known that which hath been revealed unto thee from thy Lord, for if thou do it not, thou wilt not have conveyed His message. Allah will protect thee from mankind. Lo! Allah guideth not the disbelieving folk.
Say: O People of the Scripture! Ye have nought (of guidance) till ye observe the Torah and the Gospel and that which was revealed unto you from your Lord. That which is revealed unto thee (Muhammad) from thy Lord is certain to increase the contumacy and disbelief of many of them. But grieve not for the disbelieving folk.
Lo! those who believe, and those who are Jews, and Sabaeans, and Christians -- Whosoever believeth in Allah and the Last Day and doeth right -- there shall no fear come upon them neither shall they grieve. 5:65-69
Within this passage the Qur'an admonishes the People of the Book to observe also the Tawrat and the Injil, failing which they are disbelievers (kafirun). In the light of such passages, would it not be a perverted interpretation of the Qur'an to suggest that the Scriptures themselves in the possession of the People of the Book at the time of Muhammad were perverted, abrogated or taken into heaven? If genuine texts were not available, how could the Qur'an order the People of the Book to observe and obey corrupted texts? It is worthy of note that Muslim scholars consider Surah 5 to be among the final revelations of the Qur'an.
7. Belief in Other Scriptures Enjoined upon All
The Qur'an further enjoins all to believe in
To disbelieve in these Scriptures is to wander far astray.
If, then, belief in all the Books is enjoined upon all the faithful, is it possible that the Qur'an would direct the faithful to believe in books whose content is corrupted and abrogated, especially in view of the fact that there appears to be no warrant for the supposition that the former books were corrupted and abrogated in the course of time? If, again, it is presumed that the other books have been taken into heaven, is this not a presumption running contrary to the witness of the Qur'an itself?
Moreover, does belief in "the Scriptures which He revealed aforetime" mean that believers recognise that these Scriptures existed or they exist, but that now believers need not pay attention to them? If believing in the Qur'an means to learn, to understand and follow its contents, does not believing in the previous scriptures mean the same thing?
8. Other Scriptures Confirm the Qur'an
The Qur'an further assumes the existence and validity of the other Scriptures in that it appeals to the Arabs who deny the revelation of Muhammad to seek confirmation for the validity of his message from the People of the Book. The People of the Book have knowledge and therefore recognise the truthfulness of the Qur'an. (34:6)
Is it not a token for them that the doctors of the Children of Israel know it? 26: 196,197 (cf. 46:10,12)
And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men whom We inspired. Ask the followers of the Reminder if ye know not. 21:7
Ask those of Our messengers whom we sent before thee: Did We ever appoint gods to be worshipped beside the Beneficent? 43:45
Those unto whom we gave the Scripture recognise (this Revelation) as they recognize their sons. Those who ruin their own souls will not believe.
Who doth greater wrong than he who inventeth a lie against Allah and denieth His revelations? Lo! The wrong-doers will not be successful. 6:20,21
But when there came unto them the Truth from Our presence, they said: Why is he not given the like of what was given unto Moses? Did they not disbelieve in that which was given unto Moses of old? They say: Two magics that support each other; and they say: Lo! in both we are disbelievers....
Those unto whom we gave the Scripture before it, they believe in it,
And when it is recited unto them, they say: We believe in it. Lo! it is the Truth from our Lord. Lo! even before it we were of those who surrender (unto Him). 28:48,52,53; (cf. 17:101,107; 2:101,111; 16:43; 13:36; 3:99)
In the event of doubt Muhammad himself is to appeal to the Scriptures of the People of the Book.
Shall I seek other than Allah for judge, when He it is who revealed unto you (this) Scripture, fully explained? Those unto whom We gave the Scripture (aforetime) know that it is revealed from thy Lord in truth. So be not thou (O Muhammad) of the waverers. 6:115
In the face of this further evidence does it not seem strange to assert that the former Scriptures have been abrogated, textually corrupted or taken into heaven? For if any such assertion is genuine, how could the Qur'an enjoin upon doubters and unbelievers, indeed how could the Qur'an enjoin upon Muhammad himself, if he were to waver, to refer to the People of the Book or to former Scriptures themselves? Obviously the People of the Scriptures can measure the validity of the Qur'an with true Scriptures only, not with corrupted Scriptures.
9. The Qur'an Distinguished from Other Scriptures
Within the Qur'an itself what seems to distinguish the Qur'an from former revelations is primarily the fact that it has appeared in the Arabic language for a people not familiar with the language of other Scriptures.
Which the True Spirit hath brought down
Upon thy heart, that thou mayest be (one) of the warners,
In plain Arabic speech.
And lo, it is in the Scriptures of the men of old.
Is it not a token for them that the doctors of the Children of Israel know it? 26:192-197.
And this is a blessed Scripture which We have revealed. So follow it and ward off (evil), that ye may find mercy.
Lest ye should say: The Scripture was revealed only to two sects before us, and we in sooth were unaware of what they read;
Or lest ye should say: If the Scripture had been revealed unto us, we surely had been better guided than are they. Now hath there come unto you a clear proof from your Lord, a guidance and a mercy; and who doeth greater wrong than he who denieth the revelations of Allah, and turneth away from them? We award unto those who turn away from Our revelations an evil doom because of their aversion. 6:156-158 (cf. 46:12; 41:44)
10. Jews and Christians Reprimanded
It is true that the Qur'an severely reprimands the Jews, and to a much lesser degree the Christians also, for their unbelief. It is also true that the Qur'an exhorts Muhammad to arbitrate disputes among the People of the Book (42:15). But why this reprimand and exhortation? The Children of Israel are charged with unbelief in the Qur'an which confirms what is in their possession (2:89). They reject the qiblah (2:145). They are even charged with idolatry (4:51, 60).
Mankind were one community, and Allah sent (unto them) Prophets as bearers of good tidings and as warners, and revealed therewith the Scripture with the truth that it might judge between mankind concerning that wherein they differed. And only those unto whom (the Scripture) was given differed concerning it, after clear proofs had come unto them, through hatred one of another. And Allah by His will guided those who believe unto the truth of that concerning which they differ. Allah guideth whom He will unto a straight path. 2:213
And We verily gave Moses the Scripture, but there hath been dispute concerning it; and but for a Word that had already gone forth from thy Lord, it would ere now have been judged between them; but lo! they are in hopeless doubt concerning it. 41:45
Yet thus far we detect no evidence for textual corruption or abrogation of the former Scriptures.
There remain, however, more serious charges against the People of the Book in relation to the Scriptures themselves.
And when they fall in with those who believe, they say: We believe. But when they go apart one with another they say: Prate ye to them of that which Allah hath disclosed to you that they may contend with you before your Lord concerning it? Have ye then no sense?
Are they then unaware that Allah knoweth that which they keep hidden and that which they proclaim?
Among them are unlettered folk who know the Scripture not except from hearsay. They but guess.
Therefore woe be unto those who write the Scripture with their hands and then say, "This is from Allah," that they may purchase a small gain therewith. Woe unto them for that their hands have written, and woe unto them for that they earn thereby. 2:75-79
From the context it is evident that the Jews are addressed. The Word of Allah under consideration which they are accused of changing (harrafa, hence tahrif) is probably the Tawrat. They are also accused of writing the Scripture in a deceptive manner. But do these accusations necessarily imply that the Jews were actually corrupting once and for all a genuine text? (That a genuine text is in their possession is presupposed by the reference "Word of Allah". Only an available genuine text could prove or disprove the charge of corruption.) This can hardly be a necessary deduction from the verses themselves under consideration or from the many other references within the Qur'an concerning the genuineness of the Scriptures at hand among the Jews. Yet if we insist upon an actual corruption of the genuine text, would this not nullify other numerous references within the Qur'an regarding the genuineness of the Tawrat so that the Qur'an would become self-contradictory? Or further, assuming that an actual corruption of the manuscripts themselves took place, may it not be asked if all Jewry necessarily followed in the footsteps of those Jews here addressed? And if all Jews in the world joined in this corruption, did all the Christians of the world, who also possess the Tawrat, assent to these changes? To deduce thus a general corruption of the Tawrat among all Jewry and Christendom, for all subsequent ages, from one specific instance of corruption by a small colony of Jews in so remote a place as Madina, as is here assumed for the moment, is hardly a legitimate deduction. Moreover, we read a little later in the same Surah:
Those unto whom We have given the Scripture, who read it with the right reading, those believe in it. And whoso disbelieveth in it, those are they who are the losers. 2:121
How could they read the text with a right reading if the text itself was corrupt? How could the Qur'an itself confirm a corrupted text in their possession (2:89)?
If on the other hand the "Book of Allah", as stated in the passage under question, is the Qur'an, would the Muslim concede the possibility of its textual alteration by the Jews? Hardly. In any event, the whole of the passage scarcely encompasses any reference to the Injil. The conclusion consonant with the Qur'an itself, to use the terminology of Islam, is that such corruption of the text is tahrif-i ma'nawi, not tahrif-i lafzi.
Let us consider Surah 5:12-15:
And because of their breaking their covenant, We have cursed them and make hard their hearts. They change words from their context and forget a part of that whereof they were admonished. Thou wilt not cease to discover treachery from all save a few of them. But bear with them and pardon them. Lo! Allah loveth the kindly.
And with those who say: "Lo! we are Christians," We made a covenant, but they forgot a part of that whereof they were admonished. Therefore We have stirred up enmity and hatred among them till the Day of Resurrection when Allah will inform them of their handiwork.
O People of the Scripture! Now hath Our messenger come unto you, expounding unto you much of that which ye used to hide in the Scripture, and forgiving much. Now hath come unto you light from Allah and a plain Scripture.
The Jews are again charged with changing (harrafa) words from their context and forgetting a part of that whereof they were admonished. As we have seen in our consideration of the previous passage (2:75-79), is not again the most logical charge against the Jews that of tahrif-i ma'nawi? For, as in the previous reference, it is obvious that the Jews are familiar with a genuine text. It is a part of this genuine text which they disregard. It is therefore logical to assume that the change of words is a change from the pure text by a word-of-mouth report. Moreover, though most of the Jews are declared treacherous, there are a few of them who are considered innocent, i.e., they do not alter the true text by word-of-mouth. Other factors under discussion in Surah 2:75-79 apply to this passage also.
To be sure, if we were to divorce this passage from the rest of the surah itself, as well as the rest of the Qur'an, we could submit a much more effective case for the possibility of tahrif-i lafzi. But the charge of tahrif-i ma'nawi is more in accord with the numerous above-cited references to the existence and validity of the Tawrat, even more so in the light of the passage which soon follows:
Regarding the charge against Christians: It is stated that "they forgot a part of that whereof they are admonished". There is here no hint that the Christians altered the text of the Injil or, for that matter, the Tawrat and the other Holy Books in their possession.
Surely any discussion concerning the corruption of the Tawrat, Zabur and other Holy Books, which Jews and Christians have in common to this very day, must consider this mutual custody. Suppose, for the sake of discussion, that the Jews in Madina were guilty of tahrif-i lafzi. Does the error of the Jews also automatically involve the Christians in this error? It no more follows than to suggest, again for the sake of discussion, that if Shi'a Muslims altered the text of the Qur'an, non-Muslims could charge Sunni Muslims with similar alteration. Nor, for that matter, would the charge of corruption against the Jews of Madina necessarily imply that Jewry throughout the world would alter their pure text in accordance with an altered text in the hands of the Jews of Madina.
We may consider the following passage also:
Listeners for the sake of falsehood! Greedy for illicit gain! If then they have recourse unto thee (Muhammad) judge between them or disclaim jurisdiction. If thou disclaimest jurisdiction, then they cannot harm thee at all. But if thou judgest, judge between them with equity. Lo! Allah loveth the equitable.
How come they unto thee for judgement when they have the Torah, wherein Allah hath delivered judgement (for them)? Yet even after that they turn away. Such (folk) are not believers.
Lo! We did reveal the Torah, wherein is guidance and light, by which the Prophets who surrendered (unto Allah) judged the Jews, and the rabbis and the priests (judged) by such of Allah's Scripture as they were bidden to observe, and thereunto were they witnesses. So fear not mankind, but fear Me. And barter not My revelation for a little gain. Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed: such are disbelievers.
And We prescribed for them therein: The life for the life, and the eye for the eye, and the nose for the nose, and the ear for the ear, and the tooth for the tooth, and for wounds retaliation. But whoso forgoeth it (in the way of charity) it shall be expiation for him. Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed: such are wrong-doers.
And We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow in their footsteps, confirming that which was (revealed) before him, and We bestowed on him the Gospel wherein is guidance and a light, confirming that which was (revealed) before it in the Torah -- a guidance and an admonition unto those who ward off (evil).
Let the People of the Gospel judge by that which Allah hath revealed therein. Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed: such are evil-livers.
And unto thee have We revealed Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it.
So judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed, and follow not their desires away from the truth which hath come unto thee. For each We have appointed a divine law and a traced-out way. Had Allah willed He could have made you one community. But that He may try you by that which He hath given you (He hath made you as ye are). So vie with another in good works. Unto Allah ye will all return and He will then inform you of that wherein ye differ.
So judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed, and follow not their desires, but beware of them lest they seduce thee from some part of that which Allah hath revealed unto thee. And if they turn away, then know that Allah's will is to smite them for some sin of theirs. Lo! many of mankind are evil-livers. 5:41-49
In this passage the assertion of the Qur'an that the Jews change words from their context appears to apply to the revelations which Muhammad received and not to the revelation of the Tawrat. If this is the case, the Muslim would hardly grant that the Jews could change the actual words of the Qur'an in a manner that future generations of Muslims would automatically inherit a corrupted Quranic text. If, then, the charge against the Jews is related to the recitations of Muhammad, it must be a charge of tahrif-i ma'nawi rather than tahrif-i lafzi. Such a conclusion is again in consonance with the nature of the charges in the preceding two passages.
Within the same verses we are reminded that the Jew does have the genuine Tawrat in his possession ('indahum); that the Christian also has the genuine Gospel in his possession. Again there is no hint that the Christian has distorted the Injil by way of interpretation, omission or other changes within the written text itself.
If, on the other hand, we assume the text of the Tawrat and Injil to be corrupted, abrogated or no longer present on earth in their purity, does this not render preposterous the judgement of the Qur'an that the Jews are to judge themselves according to the Tawrat and that "the People of Gospel judge by that which Allah hath revealed therein"? How are they to judge themselves by abrogated or corrupted Scriptures? And how can they be declared "evil-livers" (fasiqun), if they do not judge by what they do not have?
The following verses reveal a similar charge:
Allah knoweth best (who are) your enemies. Allah is sufficient as a Helper.
Some of those who are Jews change words from their context and say: "We hear and disobey; hear thou as one who heareth not" and "Listen to us" distorting with their tongues and slandering religion. If they had said: "We hear and we obey; hear thou and look at us" it had been better for them, and more upright. But Allah hath cursed them for their disbelief, so they believe not, save a few.
O ye unto whom the Scripture hath been given! Believe in what We have revealed confirming that which ye possess, before We destroy countenances so as to confound them, or curse them as We cursed the Sabbath breakers (of old time). The commandment of Allah is always executed. 4:44-47
Again the Qur'an states that the Jews change (harrafa) words from their context. To this is added the charge that they distort (lawa) with their tongues. On this passage, classical Quranic commentaries indicate that such changes and distortions have no reference to the Jewish Scriptures themselves. They are rather Jewish attempts to ridicule Muhammad and some of his words.
Yet even supposing that such charges of change and distortion are in reference to the Jewish Scriptures, in view of the general attitude of the Qur'an toward other Scriptures, and the statement within this passage which distinctly states that the Scripture is in possession of the Jews, it is again impossible to draw the conclusion here that the Jews alter their Scripture itself so that the text itself becomes once and for all perverted. Further, we observe that neither here nor elsewhere is there any claim that the Christians are guilty of changing words from their context.
The accusation of distorting the Scripture with their tongues is made in Surah 3:78, 79, on this occasion also, according to Muslim scholars, in relation to the Jews.
It is not (possible) for any human being unto whom Allah had given the Scripture and wisdom and the Prophethood that he should afterwards have said unto mankind: Be slaves of me instead of Allah; but (what he said was): Be ye faithful servants of the Lord by virtue of your constant teaching of the Scripture and of your constant study thereof.
It appears that the Jews pretended to read portions of their Scriptures, whereas in reality what they spoke did not derive from the Tawrat itself. We also learn from this passage that they consciously distort the Scripture with their tongues while they constantly study and teach the Scripture. The perversion is that much more reprehensible just because they in fact do possess the Scripture! If the genuine Scriptures are not with them, how can they be reprimanded for distorting them?
Several other passages note that the Children of Israel have made such changes (baddala):
But those of them who did wrong changed the word which had been told them for another saying, and We sent down upon them wrath from heaven for their wrongdoing. 7:162
Ask of the Children of Israel how many a clear revelation We gave them! He who altereth the grace of Allah after it hath come unto him (for him), lo! Allah is severe in punishment. 2:211
The first and second passages hardly refer to the Tawrat. If the third passage does refer to the Tawrat, in the light of the context and the comments which have preceded, the change of tahrif-i lafzi seems scarcely appropriate.
Still other passages infer that the People of the Book conceal the Truth (al-haqq) and the testimony which they receive from Allah; or they "fling it behind their backs" and "purchase a small gain therewith":
Or say ye that Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes were Jews or Christians? Say: Do ye know best, or doth Allah? And who is more unjust than he who hideth a testimony which he hath received from Allah? Allah is not unaware of what ye do. 2:140
Those unto whom we gave the Scripture recognize (this revelation) as they recognize their sons. But lo! a party of them knowingly conceal the truth. 2:146
Those who hide the proofs and the guidance which We revealed, after We had made it clear in the Scripture: Such are accursed of Allah and accursed of those who have the power to curse. 2:159
Lo! those who hide aught of the Scripture which Allah hath revealed, and purchase a small gain therewith, they eat into their bellies nothing else than fire. Allah will not speak to them on the Day of Resurrection, nor will He make them grow. Theirs will be a painful doom. 2:174
O People of the Scripture! Why disbelieve ye in the revelations of Allah when ye (yourselves) bear witness (to their truth)?
O People of the Scripture! Why confound ye truth with falsehood and knowingly conceal the truth? 3:70,71
And (remember) when Allah laid a charge on those who had received the Scripture (He said): Ye are to expound it to mankind and not hide it. But they flung it behind their backs and brought thereby a little gain. Verily evil is that which they have gained thereby. 3:187 (cf. 3:199)
Those are they whom Allah guideth, so follow their guidance. Say (O Muhammad, unto mankind): I ask of you no fee for it. Lo! it is naught but a Reminder to (His) creatures.
And they measure not the power of Allah its true measure when they say Allah hath naught revealed unto a human being. Say (unto the Jews who speak thus): Who revealed the Book which Moses brought, a light and guidance for mankind which ye have put on parchments which ye show, but ye hide much (thereof), and by which ye were taught that which ye knew not yourselves nor (did) your fathers (know it)? Say: Allah. Then leave them to their play of cavilling. 6:91,92
Most of these quotations cited here apply to the Jews, though a few probably also refer to the Christians. Though various charges of a severe nature are levelled at the People of the Book, there is here also no direct evidence to substantiate the charge of tahrif-i lafzi. The passages rather tend to presume that the Scriptures are in the possession of the People of the Book. How otherwise could the People of the Book be accused of knowingly concealing them (2:146; 3:71), flinging them behind their backs or purchasing a small gain therewith? For they themselves, though disbelieving in the revelations of Allah, bear witness to the truth (3:70). In fact it is specifically stated that the Jews show the Book of Moses on parchments, though they hide much of it, "by which ye were taught that which ye knew not yourselves nor (did) your fathers (know it)" (6:92). No charge of altering the texts upon the parchments themselves, with the result that the texts themselves as written lose their value and validity, is brought against the Jews.
11. Prophecies regarding Muhammad in Other Scriptures
It is well known that many Muslim scholars on the authority of Surahs 7:157 and 61:6 have attempted to show that the Tawrat and the Injil prophesy the advent of Muhammad and that Jesus has brought good tidings of a messenger who comes after him, whose name is "the Praised One", i.e., Ahmad.
And when Jesus son of Mary said: O Children of Israel! I am the messenger of Allah unto you, confirming that which was (revealed) before me in the Torah, and bringing good tidings of a messenger who cometh after me, whose name is the Praised One. Yet when he hath come unto them with clear proofs, they say: This is mere magic. 61:6
To comment upon the investigations and the conclusions of these scholars is not pertinent to our present consideration. What is pertinent, however, is the fact that later Muslim scholarship familiar with the Bible has continued its efforts until the present time to establish Biblical prophecies relevant to the above-cited passages. The Quranic verses themselves thus have served as a deterrent in many instances to the wholesale charge that the Jews and Christians have corrupted the Scripture texts themselves (tahrif-i lafzi). For if it be supposed that Jew and Christian possessed such an enmity against their Muslim neighbours that they would resort to tahrif-i lafzi, would not these texts within the Bible, which many Muslims claim to refer to Muhammad, be the first to be expunged? And if they were expunged, would not this negate the current validity of the Quranic passages just quoted? Yet the search continues. Is there not within this search a tacit Muslim admission that both Jew and Christian sufficiently honour the Scriptures to refrain from changing them in such an arbitrary fashion?
But be the present situation as it may: Within these verses is ample evidence to demonstrate once more the existence and validity of the Tawrat and the Injil at the time of Muhammad himself. For if the assertion is made that the Scriptures of the Jews and Christians were abrogated, altered in text itself so that the text can no longer be valid, or taken into heaven, how could the Qur'an appeal to such individual prophecies, as we have previously seen it appeal to the whole of these Scriptures? If, then, it be agreed that the Scriptures were in vogue at the time of Muhammad, is it really possible that since this time, all Jewry and Christendom (including, may we assume, many men of moral and intellectual integrity) should gather together to perpetrate such an act of deceit against Islam in changing their Scriptures? Should Christians in defending Jesus employ the weapon of deceit which He himself so vehemently denounces?
We may briefly summarize our findings:
a. Even these references separated from their context need not necessarily be interpreted or understood as written corruptions within the actual text itself (tahrif-i lafzi).
b. The abundance of evidence within the immediate context of these verses, as well as the total general witness of the Qur'an to the contrary, nullifies the charge of tahrif-i lafzi.
c. Even if a specific case of tahrif-i lafzi could be established, this would hardly offer authoritative evidence for a general worldwide corruption of Scriptures by Jews and Christians.
b. Arbitrary alterations while reading aloud a correct text;
c. Omitting parts of the correct text;
d. Verbal interpolation within the correct text;
e. Wrong exposition of the true text.
The first may be designated as tahrif-i lafzi; the rest as tahrif-i ma'nawi. (See the first edition of Encyclopaedia of Islam, in loco.)
The Hadith also confirm the integrity and existence of the previous Scriptures. Thus, according to Mishkat ul-Masabih, Book I, Ch. VI:
He also said that the People of the Book used to read the Torah in Hebrew and expound it in Arabic to the Muslims, so God's messenger said, "Neither believe nor disbelieve the people of the Book, but say,
Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered" (Qur'an 2:136). Bukhari transmitted it.
Muhammad neither affirms nor denies the interpretation of the People of the Book. Nor does he comment on the actual content of the Tawrat. In his commentary on Bukhari Ayni explains that the Muslims were unable to know whether or not the interpretations given by the People of the Book really accorded with the Tawrat, adding that confirming a lie or denying the truth provokes the wrath of God.
Somewhat similar are traditions found in Mishkat ul-Masabih, Book VIII, ch. I, p. 454; Book I, ch. VI, p. 49; Book XX, ch. I, p. 892:
Jabir told how 'Umar b. al-Khattab brought God's messenger a copy of the Torah saying, "Messenger of God, this is a copy of the Torah." When he received no reply he began to read to the obvious displeasure of God's messenger, so Abu Bakr said, "Confound you, do you not see how God's messenger is looking?" So 'Umar looked at God's messenger's face and said, "I seek refuge in God from the anger of God and His messenger. We are satisfied with God as Lord, with Islam as religion, and with Muhammad as Prophet." Then God's messenger said, "By Him in whose hand Muhammad's soul is, were Moses to appear to you and you were to follow him and abandon me, you would err from the right way. Were he alive and came in touch with my prophetic mission he would follow me." Darimi transmitted it.
Salman said he read in the Torah that the blessing of food consists in ablution after it, and when he mentioned that to the Prophet he said, "The blessing of food consists in ablution before it and ablution after it." Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud transmitted it.
Here also Muhammad neither forbids the reading of the Tawrat nor denies its existence. His silence really confirms its existence.
Likewise, according to Mishkat ul-Masabih, Book XXVI, ch. XXXIX, pp. 1371, 1372:
It is beside the point that the reporter of this tradition identifies the two books (kitabain) as the Injil and the Qur'an rather than the Old Testament (Tawrat) and the New Testament (Injil). To the point is the fact that this tradition also assumes the existence of these Books, at least the Injil.
The following tradition is also found in Mishkat ul-Masabih, Book II, ch. I, pp. 62, 63:
Like the Qur'an, the Hadith criticise Jews and Christians for their ignorance. Yet Muhammad clearly shows that they read the Tawrat and the Injil, not a corrupted or abrogated Tawrat or Injil. Perhaps he was referring to Arab Jews and Christians who could not understand the languages of the Tawrat and Injil. But was Waraqa bin Nawfal an exception?
Here may one venture to ask how many people read any sacred Scripture with understanding?
In the chapter "How Revelation First Began", Bukhari describes how Muhammad received his first revelation, the initial verses of Surah 96, and how he first returned to Khadijah. Then he quotes the part of the Hadith relevant here:
This tradition also indicates that the Book (al-kitab: probably the Old Testament) and the Injil were available and were even known in isolated areas of Arabia.
The following tradition is also found in Mishkat ul-Masabih, Book IV, ch. XLIII, p. 285:
Initially Ka'b misrepresents the Tawrat, i.e., he is guilty of tahrif-i ma'nawi. Ka'b then refers to the Tawrat, not a corrupted Tawrat, and admits his error.
Mishkat ul-Masabih cites several traditions (Book XXVI, ch. XVIII, pp. 1232, 1233 and ch. XIX, p. 1244) which indicate that the Tawrat prophesies the coming of Muhammad.
Anas told that when a young Jew who was a servant of the Prophet became ill, he went to visit him and found his father sitting by his head reciting the Torah. God's messenger said to him, "I adjure you, Jew, by God who sent down the Torah to Moses, do you find in the Torah any account or description of me, or anything about my coming forth?" On his replying that he did not, the young man said, "Certainly, messenger of God, I swear by God that we do find in the Torah an account and description of you and a statement about your coming, and I testify that there is no god but God and that you are God's messenger." The Prophet then said to his companions, "Remove this man from beside his head and look after your brother." Baihaqi transmitted it in Dala'il un-Nubuwa.
Other traditions making the same claim are recorded in Mishkat ul-Masabih (pp. 1237, 1249). Again all these traditions presume the existence of the genuine Tawrat. The father of the sick child quotes from the Tawrat. None of these traditions claims that the Jews have corrupted the text of the Tawrat.
It is beside the point here whether or not the claim that this passage refers to Muhammad is valid. In the first of the above two passages, one hears echoes of Isaiah 42:1-4. The Injil claims that this passage finds its fulfillment in Jesus (Matthew 12:18-21) who, according to the Qur'an also, opened the eyes of the blind. Can this evidence be dismissed?
According to the Mishkat ul-Masabih, Book XVI, ch. I, p. 758:
Here Muhammad openly accepts the command of the Tawrat and gives no indication that it has been abrogated or corrupted. This is one incident to which the Qur'an refers when it accuses the Jews of concealing and changing the Tawrat, verbally but not textually.
Furthermore in the Mishkat ul-Masabih, Book XIII, ch. III, p. 667:
According to this passage, Muhammad has knowledge of the Tawrat and even quotes it. Moreover he indicates what is written in the Tawrat, not what was written in the Tawrat and is now corrupted or abrogated.
According to the Mishkat ul-Masabih, Book XVII, ch. III, p. 795:
In the reign of 'Umar also no word is spoken against the existence and integrity of the Tawrat.
One tradition from Bukhari has come to our attention which apparently supports the frequent claim of Muslims that the People of the Book corrupt the actual text of their Scriptures:
If this were the sole reference to the previous Scriptures in the Hadith, it would certainly fortify the Muslim claim that the People of the Book corrupt their Scriptures. Yet, to the best of our present knowledge, it must be considered as a single reference among many other references within the Hadith to the other Scriptures. According to these other references Waraqa writes these Scriptures, not corrupted Scriptures; Muhammad states that the Jews and Christians read these Scriptures, not corrupted Scriptures; with a copy of these Scriptures at hand, Muhammad judges according to these Scriptures, not corrupted Scriptures; Muhammad quotes these Scriptures, not corrupted Scriptures.
Moreover, is it significant that, while in the immediately above tradition Muhammad discourages his followers from asking the People of the Book questions, a couple of other above-cited traditions indicate Muhammad himself asks them questions? In addition one might wonder how to reconcile this tradition with the Quranic passages that invite Muslims to consult the People of the Book (21:7) and even Muhammad himself to consult them! (10:95)
It is possible, of course, that individual Jews foolishly corrupted individual texts of their books or, in other words, that there are isolated instances of actual textual corruption. This would allow us to reconcile this single tradition with the remaining traditions which accept the genuineness of these previous Scriptures. Otherwise we are faced with conflicting evidence in the Hadith, a conflict which many Muslims would simply not accept.
Moreover, as we have seen, if this single tradition refers to a universal corruption of all texts with all Jews and Christians, its evidence again contradicts the total evidence of the Qur'an. We are then forced to decide either in favour of this single tradition or in favour of the remaining traditions and the total evidence of the Qur'an.
Hence, the Hadith also support the Quranic position that the previous Scriptures have not been corrupted. To the best of our knowledge, no tradition claims that the previous Scriptures have been abrogated and that the Injil has been taken into heaven.
A further citation from Bukhari (Book, at-Tauhid), moreover, makes our choice even simpler. With reference to Qur'an 85:21.22, he cites ibn `Abbas's definition of yuharrifuna ("they corrupt") as follows:
In short, they do not corrupt the text itself but the meaning of the text. Here the Hadith, like the Qur'an, allows for the possibility of interpreting Scriptures falsely (tahrif-i ma'nawi), not for corrupting the actual text of the Scriptures (tahrif-i lafzi).
It is true that our evidence from the Hadith on this issue may be meaningless to those Muslims who have little trust in the Hadith. Yet, assuming we have not missed any pertinent references and our evidence is correct, we may ask: Regardless of anyone's opinion about the Hadith, is it merely co-incidental that the Hadith appear to be almost devoid of any reference to the corruption of the previous Scriptures and that they are totally devoid of any suggestion of abrogating these Scriptures? Moreover, is it co-incidental that the Mishkat ul-Masabih has not included a single reference to corruption or abrogation of the previous Scriptures? This might well suggest that Muslims seriously initiated the claim of tahrif-i lafzi in regard to the previous Scriptures only some centuries after Muhammad, since the Hadith so often reflect not only the times of Muhammad and his companions but also the intervening period up to the times of the collectors of the Hadith.
According to the Holy Injil:
Since the time of the original edition we have been able to locate the following references to essentially this same single tradition in The Translation of the Meanings of Sahih al-Bukhari, translated by Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan, Kitab Bhavan, New Delhi, 1984, Vol. III, p. 526 (Volume 3, Book 48, Number 850), and Vol. IX, pp. 330, 461 (Volume 9, Book 92, Number 461 and Volume 9, Book 93, Number 614).
The following verses especially are vital to Quranic teaching about abrogation:
And when We put a revelation in place of (another) revelation, - and Allah knoweth best what He revealeth - they say: Lo! thou art but inventing. Most of them know not. 16:101
We shall make thee read (O Muhammad) so that thou shalt not forget
Save that which Allah willeth. Lo! He knoweth the disclosed and that which still is hidden; 87:6,7 (cf. 13:39)
The early Muslim community uniformly applied these passages quite naturally and Quranically to the Qur'an itself: One passage (ayat) of the Qur'an abrogates another passage (ayat) of the Qur'an. Their logic: God knows best and has power over all things, just as the Qur'an itself says. Such a change does not make Muhammad a forger. He is only revealing what God reveals to him. For, as he is made to say: "It is not for me to change it (the Qur'an) of my own accord. I only follow that which is inspired in me" (10:16). The following tradition from Mishkat ul-Masabih, transmitted by Daraqutni, seems to confirm this:
Some Muslims of the more recent past and present, however, have found this application of abrogation to be distasteful and even embarrassing. Hence they have rejected the natural application of the early Muslim community and applied it to the previous Scriptures. In this way, one ayat of the Qur'an cancels an ayat of previous Scripture, not an ayat of the Qur'an.
There is simply no evidence within the verses cited above or elsewhere in the Qur'an to support this "modern" interpretation. Nor do the Hadith and classical commentaries support this. If this "modern" interpretation is correct, it would abrogate those Quranic passages also which command the People of the Scriptures to judge according to the Tawrat and the Injil. Why these commands, if these Scriptures are abrogated? It is incumbent upon any interpreter to patiently hear what the text itself says, not to impose his own feelings and ideas upon the text in order to satisfy his own conveniences or prejudices.
As we have previously mentioned, the Qur'an reprimands Christians also for their unbelief. Yet elsewhere the Qur'an speaks in glowing terms about Christians. God has placed compassion and mercy in the hearts of the disciples of Jesus (57:27). A party of the People of the Book (Christians) recite the Scriptures (ayat) at night, believe in God and the Day of Resurrection, do good and forbid evil, and are numbered among the righteous (3:113,114). Their priests and monks are praised, despite adverse comments about them elsewhere (5:82; 9:34). That these Quranic descriptions are applicable to Christians who are contemporary with Muhammad is clear from the following verse:
In the light of this eulogy, are Christians contemporary with Muhammad believers and do they do good works despite the fact that they have no true Bible or that they corrupt it? If they corrupt these Scriptures or use corrupted Scriptures, are their leaders, whom the Qur'an praises, unaware of this act or condone it? In fact, the Qur'an says that Christians recite the Scriptures (the Bible), not corrupted Scriptures. Why then should Muslims disparage people (whom the Qur'an praises) for corrupting their Scriptures (when the Qur'an praises them for reading their Scriptures)?
To this, if we may anticipate, some Muslims may reply that they reprimand Christians because they do not believe the Qur'an. But whether or not the Christian believes the Qur'an is a completely different question. The question we are considering here is: Did Christians contemporary with Muhammad corrupt their Scriptures or read Scriptures which they or other Christians before them have corrupted? To this the Qur'an gives its verdict: No! It is again a different question whether the Qur'an later abrogates this praise, or whether or not such abrogation can be considered as a possibility, or whether or not there are other reasons for rejecting the Bible.
Nor should we neglect passages from the Qur'an which speak well of Jews.
Do these Jews do their good works with a corrupted Tawrat?
No doubt, most Muslims familiar with the subject of tahrif assume that the People of the Scriptures have wilfully altered the text of their Scriptures. For those of them who read and understand the Qur'an, it is easy to isolate individual Quranic texts which appear to support their position. Tahrif-i lafzi applied to Christian Scriptures appears a simple and convenient solution to explain the differences between the Qur'an and the Bible. As we have seen, such a procedure does justice neither to the Qur'an nor to the Bible.
On the other hand, it would be quite unfair for us to suggest that all Muslim scholars in the past and present have followed this procedure and adopted this conclusion. Ibn Khaldun, Ar-Razi, al-Ghazzali, and Ibn Taymiyya have honoured the integrity of the text of the Bible. The Egyptian scholar, Muhammad 'Abduh, acknowledges that the charge of corruption of the Biblical texts
In regard to the four Gospel accounts of the New Testament, he adds: "We believe that these Gospel accounts are the true Gospel."
Mawlawi Muhammad Sa'id, a former inspector of schools in Punjab, writes:
And who believe in that which is revealed unto thee (Muhammad) and that which was revealed before thee, and are certain of the Hereafter.
These depend on guidance from their Lord. These are the successful. 2:4,5
Some Muslims imagine that the Injil is corrupted. But as far as corruption is concerned, not even one among all the verses of the Qur'an mentions that the Injil or the Tawrat is corrupted. In the concerned passages it is written that the Jews - yes the Jews, not the Christians - alter the meaning of the passages from the Tawrat while they are explaining them. At least the Christians are completely exonerated from this charge. Hence the Injil is not corrupted and the Tawrat is not corrupted. For it does not necessarily follow that these Scriptures are corrupt because of the wrong opinion of some uninformed persons.
Sayyid Ahmad Husayn Shawkat Mirthi has written:
To say that God has taken the Injil and the Tawrat into heaven and has abrogated them is to defame and slander God. It is to pour ridicule not only upon the Qur'an but upon all the Books. Abrogation always arises because of error. Laws of earthly kingdoms are abrogated because experience has proved that they are harmful. But God makes no mistake, nor does He lack experience.
Writes Mawlawi Chirag ud-Din:
O ye who believe! Believe in Allah and His messenger and the Scripture which He hath revealed unto His messenger, and the Scripture which He revealed aforetime. 4:136
When, therefore, it is commanded to believe in these Holy Scriptures, why consider the study of these Scriptures reprehensible? For when the order to believe the Qur'an and the Holy Scriptures is one and the same, how can one conclude that reading the Qur'an is a meritorious act, but that reading the Holy Scriptures is a punishable offence?
To the best of our knowledge none of these authors was Christian. But they do reasonably indicate some of the dangers affecting the Qur'an also through an unQuranic application of tahrif-i lafzi against the Bible.
More recently, the Muslim scholar Mahmoud Ayoub, while discussing various Muslim commentaries on the Quranic claim that Jews call Ezra "the son of God", adds his own conclusion about the subject of tahrif which concurs with the opinion of Abduh and others noted above:
Adil Ozdemir, a Turkish Muslim scholar, questions Muslim attitudes toward Christians and Christianity, including the Christian Scriptures:
Fr. Jacques Jomier graphically portrays the issue which provoked the thoughts of Mahmoud Ayoub and Adil Ozdemir:
Employed carelessly and merely to suit one's own convenience and prejudice, tahrif-i lafzi can become a dangerous weapon in anyone's hand. It has been wielded by Shi'i Muslims who have charged that Sunni Muslims have corrupted both the text and meaning of the Qur'an. If this claim bewilders the Sunni Muslim, he may appreciate the bewilderment which he causes Christians when he charges that Christians have corrupted the Bible. The simple response to either charge, of course, is to ask for some convincing proof which substantiates the charges.
The burden of proof, as Adil Ozdemir suggests, rests with the Muslims.
In a sense, the Word of God is supremely the Word of God in the particular language in which it has been revealed. Yet in another sense the Word of God is meaningfully the Word of God for someone only when he understands its language. For the Tamil-speaking Muslim, for example, the Qur'an in Arabic is meaningful to him only when he understands it through the medium of Tamil.
Obviously problems regarding the translation of the Qur'an and the significance and status of such translations have not escaped Muslims. Can the (Arabic) Qur'an be translated? In its translated form, is it or is it not the Word of God for Muslims? When, as we are told, Muhammad wrote the Roman governor, Heraclius, a letter which contained Quranic quotations, were the Quranic quotations translations of the Word of God or only interpretations of the Word of God? Or were translations of the Hebrew Tawrat, which were recited from Hebrew into Arabic for Muhammad, the Word of God in Arabic? Surely the vast majority of Muslims in the world, whose mother language is not Arabic, do not consider themselves to be bereft of the Word of God because they know little or no Arabic! For them the command to pray, to fast, etc., in Tamil or Urdu is God's command, God's Word, for them. No doubt it was for this reason that scholars of the Hanafi School, in view of Qur'an 26:192-197, reasonably agreed that since the Qur'an is in "the Scriptures of the men of old" and since "the Scriptures of the men of old" are not in the Arabic language, therefore the Qur'an when translated and recited can still be the Word of God.
Christians have assiduously attempted to translate the Bible, in whole or in part, in as many languages as possible. Wherever possible, such translations are carefully made on the basis of the original languages of the Bible (Hebrew and Greek), not on the basis of English or some other European languages. This has been a practice since the infancy of the Church. For finally what is significant is not that the Word of God be inscribed upon stone or paper, but upon the heart of the faithful so that he digests and delights in the Word of God (cf. Jeremiah 15:16; 31:33). At the same time, most reputable seminaries encourage their theological students to study the Bible in its original Hebrew and Greek languages.
Probably most Muslims and Christians would agree that the Qur'an and Bible, whatever value there may be in reciting them, are not simply to be recited and admired without understanding. They would agree that the Word of God for them is to be mentally and spiritually grasped and practised.
We all may be grateful to God that men have laboured to produce worthy translations of the Qur'an and the Bible from their original languages in order that we can better understand them. Again, better than to quarrel about which is the better book apart from reading them, let us hear their testimonies about themselves, not our testimonies or the testimonies of others about them.
No doubt, the Bible contains copious references to the Sonship of Jesus, to His Cross and to other vital Biblical teachings which, rightly or wrongly understood by Muslims, are often repugnant to them. Some Muslims are familiar with these Biblical teachings through their personal reading of the Bible or through friends familiar with these teachings. If our experience is correct, it is these Biblical teachings which have led many Muslims to claim that the Bible is unreliable. To give substance to their claim that the Bible is unreliable, they simply assume that the Qur'an (and the Hadith) support their claim.
As we have seen, this assumption is incorrect. We venture to say that Muslims who suggest that Christians have corrupted their Scriptures by adding such teachings as the Sonship of Jesus and the crucifixion of Jesus, simply misrepresent not only the Bible and Christians but even the Qur'an. No doubt there are Christians whose character is neither Christian nor attractive to Muslims. Yet here Muslims misrepresent the Christian community as a whole, because Christians have not corrupted a so-called original Injil by adding these teachings to it. They misrepresent the Injil, since the Injil has always taught these doctrines. They misrepresent the Qur'an when they assert that the Qur'an teaches that Christians have corrupted these Scriptures through later insertion of such teachings. If one may venture to paraphrase the Qur'an: "Let the People of the Qur'an, the uncorrupted Qur'an, judge by what God has revealed therein" - rather than distorting its words or concealing its evidence, as many Muslim religious leaders have done and continue to do while instructing their people. Or, does what the Qur'an says to Jews apply to these leaders also: "Believe ye in part of the Scripture and disbelieve ye in part thereof?" 2:85
No doubt, any Muslim has the right to reject the Injil for personal reasons. But let him not support his rejection by affirming that the Qur'an provides evidence for the corruption or abrogation of the Injil. At least, let him read the Bible with an open mind and heart in order to understand Christian doctrines, such as the Sonship of Jesus and the Cross of Jesus, as the Bible itself understands them, not as these Christian teachings are usually expounded by many Muslim religious teachers. If he continues to reject the Injil, he will then understand a little better what he is rejecting.
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