AS SEEN BY THE QUR’AN
AND THE MUSLIM TRADITIONS
WHAT THE QUR’AN SAYS ABOUT THE BIBLE
Whenever a Christian quotes the Bible to a Muslim in order to establish why he believes something, the Muslim almost always responds by saying, “BUT YOU CHANGED YOUR BIBLE.” In making this very serious accusation Muslims usually use the word “harrafa” and quote verses from the Qur’an where this word is used. Therefore in this chapter, we are going to make a detailed study of what the Qur’an actually says about the Torah of Moses, the Psalms (Zabur) of David and the Gospel (Injil) of Jesus.
At this point someone will surely say, “But how can a non-Muslim make any valid study of the Qur’an?” I would be the first to agree that there is some validity to this objection in the sense, that to understand a book from “the inside” requires a prior commitment to the “world view” of that book. However since the Qur’an says of itself that it is a “clear book” written in “a clear Arabic” (`arabiyun mubinun) so that the unbelieving Quraish could understand, we are going to make a study in the same way that Christians would study such a question in the Bible.
We are going to look at all the verses which have any bearing on the subject and examine them in their context. Sometimes this context is only one verse or even half of a verse. But sometimes, it is necessary to examine a whole page in order to show clearly the meaning of a word or phrase.
Muslim writers have also begun to recognize the need for this type of study. In the preface to his book, God of Justice, Dr. Daud Rahbar writes, “If we are to construct a fair narrative of Muslim Theology and Quranic Exegesis, the first important prerequisite of this study will be a knowledge of what the Qur’an meant to the Prophet and people round him within their historical context.”
He goes on to say that commentators of the Qur’an did not coordinate and compare all the verses on a subject before giving their interpretation. As an obvious, but unimportant example, he speaks of Al-Baidawi commenting that in the phrase “earth and heaven”, earth is mentioned first “for when you have to climb, you move from bottom upwards.” Dr. Rahbar goes on to say, “Thereupon, I looked up Baidawi for several passages of the Qur’an in which the very phrase occurs with `the heaven’ preceding `the earth’, but here obviously Baidawi failed to remember what he had said previously.”
At the end of his preface Dr. Rahbar claims to be the first Muslim to make this type of coordinated study. He says, “After all, an exhaustive collection is the full data. What right have we to quote a couple of passages on a subject when there are another three hundred on the same? Of this pioneer aspect of the work I am absolutely sure. Muslim scholarship is invited to improve upon the analysis or classifications of the exhaustive collections of Quranic contexts made herein, but that classified exhaustive collections are made here for the first time none will deny.”
For the English translation of the Quranic passages I have used The Holy Qur’an as translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali as a starting point. However, on many occasions where it seemed that Muhammad Pickthall in English or Muhammad Hamidullah’s French translation were closer to the original I have used them, and rarely I have used an idea from Masson’s French translation.
In addition, there are some verses where the Arabic words were so important to the discussion that I chose to make my own literal translation. This bends the English out of shape, but my purpose was to allow those readers who are not familiar with Arabic to enter into the discussion.
We will start with the Quranic verses referring to the Torah at the time of Jesus and then move forward through history to the verses referring to the Torah and the Gospel during the life of Muhammad. Finally we will look at the verses which specifically refer to tahrif (change). Now, having set the stage with these explanatory remarks, I here present my exhaustive study of what the Qur’an says about the Bible.
A. VERSES SHOWING THE TORAH TO BE TRUE AT THE TIME OF JESUS
A1. Mary (Maryam) 19:12, Middle Meccan in -7 AH.
God says, “`Oh Yahya! (John the Baptist) take hold of the Book with might’: and We gave him wisdom as a child.”
A2. The Family of `Imran (Ali `Imran) 3:48, 2-3 AH.
The Angel Gabriel is speaking to Mary about Jesus before Jesus’ birth and says: “And he (God) will teach him the book and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel“
A3. The Forbidding (Al-Tahrim) 66:12, 7 AH.
“and Mary (Jesus’ mother)…believed in the words of her Lord and His Books“
A4. The Family of `Imran (Ali `Imran) 3:49-50, 2-3 AH.
Jesus says, “I have come to you…attesting to (the truth of) what is between my hands of the Torah, and to make lawful to you a part of that which is forbidden to you.”
A5. The Battle Array (Al-Saff) 61:6, from 3 AH.
“And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: `Oh Children of Israel! I am the apostle of God to you, confirming that which IS between my hands from the Torah…‘”
A6. The Table (Al-Ma’ida) 5:49, 10 AH.
“And in their footsteps (of Moses and the Jews) We sent Jesus the son of Mary, attesting to (the truth of) the Torah which was between his hands; and We gave him the Gospel – therein is guidance and light and attesting to (the truth of) the Torah which was between his hands: a guidance and an admonition to the righteous.”
“Then will God say, `O Jesus son of Mary! Recount my favor to you and to your mother when I strengthened you with the Holy Spirit, so that you spoke to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I taught you the Book and Wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel…
According to these verses, the last of which came in the final revelation of 10 AH, John the Baptist (Yahya) was commanded to take hold of the “Book” [A1]; Mary the mother of Jesus believed in God’s “Books” [A3]; God promised before Jesus was born to teach him the Torah [A2]; Jesus said that his Gospel “attested to the truth of the Torah between his hands” [A4,A5]; and God attests, in Muhammad’s time, that He taught Jesus the Torah [A6,A7]. We can only conclude from this that the True Unchanged Torah was present in the first century when Jesus lived.
Since the Sura of The Forbidding (Al-Tahrim) from 7 AH quoted above [A3] says that Mary believed in “His (God’s) Books” (kutubihi), this must refer to the Books which the other Prophets brought to the Jews, as well as the Torah of Moses.
B. VERSES SHOWING THAT TRUE CHRISTIANS WERE LIVING DURING THE PERIOD BETWEEN JESUS AND MUHAMMAD
B1. The Table (Al-Ma’ida) 5:113-114, 10 AH.
“Then will God say, `O Jesus son of Mary! Recount my favor to you… Behold! I taught you the Book and Wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel…
“And behold! I inspired the disciples (al-hawariyun) to have faith in Me and My apostle (Jesus). They said (to Jesus), `We have faith and (you must) bear witness that we are Muslims (submitted ones).“
B2. The Family of `Imran (Ali `Imran) 3:52-53, 2-3 AH.
“When Jesus found unbelief on their part he said, `Who will be my helpers to (the work of) God?’ The disciples said, `We are God’s helpers. We believe in God and (you must) bear witness that we are Muslims (submitted ones). “`Our Lord we believe in what You have revealed and we follow the apostle (Jesus).'”
B3. The Battle Array (Al-Saff) 61:14, 3 AH.
“O ye who believe! Be ye helpers of God: as said Jesus the son of Mary to the disciples, `Who will be my helpers for God?’ The Disciples said, `We are God’s helpers!’ Then a portion of the Children of Israel believed, and a portion disbelieved: but We gave power to those who believed against their enemies, and they became the ones that prevailed.“
B4. Iron (Al-Hadid) 57:26-27, from 8 AH.
“And We sent Noah and Abraham, and established in their descendants prophecy and the Book: and some of them are rightly guided, but many are rebellious.
“Then We sent after them our apostles and We sent Jesus the son of Mary, and bestowed on him the Gospel; and We ordained in the hearts of those who followed him compassion and mercy; and monasticism, they invented it. We did not command it…yet We bestowed on those among them who believed, their due reward, but many of them are rebellious.” cp. 5:85.
We learn from this verse that although monasticism is not of God, there were true believers among these followers of Jesus who received their “due reward” (in heaven).
Historically, monasticism started in the 4th century, although certain men, such as Paul of Thebes, lived a separate life as hermits in the third century. St. Anthony of Egypt was the first to organize even a loose group in 305 AD, and in the Sinai, too, monasticism began about the same time.
B5. The Cave (Al-Kahf) 18:10,25, Meccan.
“Behold, the youths betook themselves to the Cave. They said, `Our Lord! Bestow on us mercy from Yourself, and dispose of our affair for us in the right way’ …”
So they stayed in their Cave three hundred years, and (some) add nine (more)…”
Yusuf Ali, in several notes to his translation of the Qur’an, refers this to 7 young Christian men of Ephesus who, while fleeing from persecution, hid in a cave and did not wake up for 300 yrs. He discusses various dates which terminate between 440 and 450 AD, and says that the Khalifa Wathiq (842-846 AD) sent an expedition to examine and identify the locality. Hamidullah mentions this possibility, but thinks that the passage refers to a time well before Christianity. However, Toufiq Al-Hakim in his play Ahel Al-Kahf describes them clearly as Christians.
B6. The Zodiacal Signs (Al-Buruj) 85:4-9, Early Meccan.
“Woe to the makers of the pit (of fire), fire supplied with fuel, Behold, they sat over against the (fire), and they witnessed (all) that they were doing against the believers. And they ill-treated them for no other reason than that they believed in God…”
Hamidullah, in the notes to his translation, refers this to a Jewish King of Yemen, Dhou Nuwas, who during the 6th century persecuted the Christians, burning alive those who didn’t want to become Jews. The Khalifa Omar built a large Mosque in Yemen to honor these Christians. Yusuf Ali also mentions it as one of three possible explanations.
The first three references clearly refer to Jesus’ followers as being “inspired” by God to follow the Messiah [B1], choosing to be “God’s helpers” [B2.B3], and “becoming the ones who prevailed” [B3]. In addition some true believers remained even when monasticism was practiced [B4] starting in the 4th century in Egypt.
If references [B5] and [B6] were understood by Muhammad and the people of Mecca in their historical context to refer to Christians, then these are Quranic attestations that there were true Christians, acceptable to God, in Ephesus (Modern Turkey) in 450 AD; and in Yemen in the 6th Century when these Christian Martyrs were burned alive.
Admittedly the verses say nothing about the doctrines of these Christians. But true believers in groups as far apart as Turkey and Yemen would surely have left copies of their scriptures and writings — some of which would have come down to us. If their scriptures had been different from the Torah and the Gospel which we know today, then we would certainly have found their traces.
C. VERSES SHOWING THAT THE TORAH AND THE GOSPEL WERE TRUE AND UNCHANGED AT THE TIME OF MUHAMMAD.
C1. The City of Saba (Saba) 34:31, Early Meccan.
“And the unbelievers say, `We will not believe in this Qur’an, nor in that which IS between his (its) hands (the Torah and the Gospel)‘…”
Note: The CAPITAL LETTERS show verbs which are in the present tense for Muhammad and his people. Italics have been used for phrases speaking of groups of Jews or Christians at the time of Muhammad spoken of as believers or unbelievers in order to emphasize that there were always some true believers who would not have changed their own scriptures.
C2. The Originator of Creation (Fatir) 35:31, Early Meccan.
“That which we have revealed to you of the Book is the truth, attesting to (the truth of) that which IS between his (its) hands (the Torah and Gospel)…”
C3. Jonah (Yunus) 10:37, Late Meccan.
“This Qur’an is not such as can be produced by other than God; but it is a verification of that (the Torah and Gospel) which IS between his (its) hands, and the explanation of the book, wherein there IS no doubt, from the Lord of the worlds.”
C4. Joseph (Yusuf) 12:111, Late Meccan.
“…It (the Qur’an) is not a fabricated story, but a verification of that (the Torah and Gospel) which IS between his (its) hands, a detailed explanation, a guide and a mercy to the people who believe.”
C5. The Cattle (Al-An`am) 6:154-157, Late Meccan.
“Then We gave Moses the Book complete as to whatever is excellent, and explaining all things in detail, and a guide and a mercy, that they might believe in the meeting with their Lord. And this (the Qur’an) is a Book which We have revealed, blessed: so follow it and be righteous, that you may receive mercy: lest you should say, `The Book was sent down to two peoples before us, and for our part, we remained unacquainted with all that they learned by assiduous study;’ or lest you should say: `If the Book (Torah and Gospel) had only been sent down to us, we should have followed its guidance better than they.’“
C6. The Believer (Al-Mu’min) 40:69-70, Late Meccan.
“Do you (Muhammad) not see those who dispute concerning the signs of God? How are they turned away? Those who REJECT the Book, and that (book) with which We sent our apostles, they shall know when the collars shall be around their necks, and the chains, they shall be dragged along.”
C7. Winding Sand Tracts (Al-Ahqaf) 46:12, Late Meccan.
“And before this was the Book of Moses as a guide and a mercy: and this Book is a verification (of it) in the Arabic tongue to warn those who transgress and as glad tidings to the righteous.”
“Behold, We turned towards you a company of Jinns listening to the Qur’an…When the (reading) was finished they returned to their people as warners. They said, `O our people! we have heard a Book revealed after Moses attesting to (the truth of) that which IS between his (its) hands (the Torah) – guiding to the truth and to a straight path.'”
C9. The Heifer (Al-Baqara) 2:91, 2 AH.
“When it is said to them, `Believe in what God has sent down,’ they say, `We believe in what was sent down to us (the Torah)’: yet they reject all besides, even if it be truth attesting to (the truth of) what IS WITH THEM (the Torah)…”
C10. Family of `Imran (Ali `Imran) 3:3, 2-3 AH.
“It is He (God) who sent down to thee the Book in truth, attesting to (the truth of) what IS between its (his) hands (the Bible), and He sent down the Torah and the Gospel before this as a guide to mankind.”
C11. The Women (Al-Nisa’) 4:162-163, 5-6 AH.
“But those of them (the Jews) that are grounded in knowledge, and the believers, BELIEVE in that which has been revealed to you (Muhammad) and in that which has been revealed before you… We have sent thee inspiration, as We sent it to Noah and the prophets after him, and We sent inspiration to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, and to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon, and to David we gave the Psalms.”
C12. Repentance (Al-Tauba) 9:111, 9 AH.
“God has bought from the believers their selves and their wealth, and for them is the garden (of Paradise) if they fight in the ways of God: and whether they kill or are killed, the promise of God IS true in the Torah and the Gospel and the Qur’an, and who is more faithful to his promise than God?”
C13. The Table (Al-Ma’ida) 5:51, 10 AH.
“To you (Muhammad) We revealed the book in truth, attesting to (the truth of) that which IS between his (its) hands from the scripture (the Torah and Gospel), and guarding it (wa muhaiminan `alaihi)…”
We find in these verses a strong testimony to the Torah and the Gospel as being true and present at the time of Muhammad.
The Qur’an is an Arabic “verification” of the Book of Moses [C7] which is necessary because the Meccans couldn’t understand what “the two peoples before” them had learned by “assiduous study”; or they would have followed it better” [C5]. Further, it is an explanation of the Torah and the Gospel “wherein there IS no doubt” [C3], and a guard over it [C13].
The Meccans say, “We will not believe in the Qur’an, nor in that which IS between its hands” of the Torah and the Gospel [C1]. Some of the Jews say that they believe only in what was sent to them even if the Qur’an attests to (the truth of) “what IS WITH THEM” [C9]. The warning is given that those who REJECT (now) the Qur’an and “that (the former books) which we sent our apostles” will be judged [C6]. “But those of the Jews who are grounded in knowledge BELIEVE” in what was revealed to Muhammad and in (the Torah) which was revealed before him [C11]; and the Jinns also believe in both the Qur’an and the Torah [C8].
In the Sura of Repentance, one of the last revelations given, it says, “The promise of God IS true in the Torah, the Gospel, and the Qur’an” [C12].
Finally it is necessary to mention the phrase “between his hands” (bain yadaihi) found in many of these verses [C2,C3,C4,C8,C10,C13 and A5,A6 above]. I have chosen to translate it word for word because that gives the sense of the present tense which it has. Sometimes it has the literal meaning “between or in his hands”, but usually it is an idiom for “in his presence”, or “in his power”, or “in his possession”, or “at his disposal”. Examples are “The words are between your hands”, meaning “you have the floor” or “you may speak”. “No weapons are between his hands”, meaning “he is unarmed”. Sura 34:12 speaks of Solomon and “the Jinns who worked between his hands”. In the text Yusuf Ali translates this passage as “worked in front of him”, but in a note he explains, the Jinns “worked under his eyes”.
The sense of these verses, therefore is that the Qur’an has come to confirm, attest to and verify the Torah and the Gospel which are now “in its presence” or “before its eyes”. With the other verses discussed above from this section they show that Muhammad acknowledged the existence of a valid Torah and Gospel “under his eyes”.
D. VERSES WHERE MUHAMMAD ACTUALLY QUOTES OR APPEALS TO THE TORAH AND/OR THE GOSPEL.
D1. The Star (Najm) 53:33-38, Early Meccan.
“Do you (Muhammad) see the one who turns back? Gives a little, then hardens (his heart)? What has he knowledge of the unseen so that he can see? Nay, IS he not acquainted with what IS in the books of Moses and of Abraham who fulfilled his engagements? – namely that no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another.”
D2. The Poets (Al-Shu`ara’) 26:192-197, Middle Meccan.
“Verily this is a revelation from the Lord of the worlds. The Spirit of faith came down upon your heart with it that you might be one of the warners in the plain Arabic tongue. And truly it IS in the Scriptures (Zubur) of the former people. IS it not a sign to them that the learned of the Children of Israel RECOGNIZE it.“
D3. Ta-Ha 20:133, Middle Meccan from -7 AH.
“They (the Meccans) say, `Why does he not bring us a sign from his Lord?’ What! Has not a clear sign come to them in what IS in the former pages (al-suhuf al-aulla )?“
According to Baidawi’s commentary on this verse – The “former pages” refers to “the Torah and the Gospel and all the divine books.”
D4. The Prophets (Al-Anbiya’) 21:7, Middle Meccan.
“And before thee (Muhammad), We sent no one, except men, to whom We granted revelation. ASK (plural) the people of the Scripture message, if you don’t know.”
D5. The Prophets (Al-Anbiya’) 21:105, Middle Meccan.
“Before this We wrote in the Psalms, after the Message (given to Moses): `My servants, the righteous, shall inherit the earth.’“
This is a direct quotation from Psalm 37:29 which reads, “The righteous shall inherit the earth and dwell therein forever.” When considered with the preceding quotation from the same Sura (21:7), it is clear that, according to the Qur’an, God is quoting from the Psalms as still present and true at the time of Muhammad.
D6. Gold Adornments (Al-Zukhruf) 43:44-45, Late Meccan.
“The (Qur’an) is indeed a message for you (Muhammad) and your people, (all of) you shall be brought to account, and ASK those of our apostles whom we sent before thee, `Did We appoint any deities other than the Most Merciful whom they should worship?'”
According to Baidawi, Jelaleddin, and Yusuf Ali, “ask those of our apostles whom we sent before thee” means enquire of their people – those learned in their writings and doctrines. Therefore those writings and doctrines were clearly available in Muhammad’s time.
D7. Jonah (Yunus) 10:94, Late Meccan.
“If you (Muhammad) are in doubt regarding that which We have revealed to thee, ASK those who READ the book from before you…“
D8. The Bee (Al-Nahl) 16:43-44, Late Meccan.
“And We have not sent before you (Muhammad) other than men to whom we granted revelation. And (all of you) ASK the people of the (Scripture) Message if you don’t know.”
D9. The Children of Israel (Bani Isra’il) 17:101, Late Meccan from -1 AH.
“To Moses We gave nine clear signs. ASK (O Muhammad) the Children of Israel…”
“Say, `Whether you believe in it (the Qur’an) or not (O Meccans), it is true that those to whom knowledge came before it, when they hear it recited unto them fall down upon their faces worshiping… and it increases their humility.”
D11. Thunder (Al-Ra`d) 13:43, Late Meccan.
“And those who disbelieve say, `You (Muhammad) are not sent.’ Say, `God is sufficient as a witness between me and you, and also he who HAS the knowledge of the book.'”
D12. The Heights (Al-A`raf) 7:156-157, Late Meccan.
“And I will write down (my mercy) for those who are righteous and give alms and who believe in our signs; who follow the apostle, the unlettered prophet, whom they find written in the Torah and the Gospel that IS WITH THEM.“
D13. The Heights (Al-A`raf) 7:159, Late Meccan.
“Of the people of Moses there is a group (umma) who guide with truth and judge by it.“
D14. 7:168-170, Late Meccan.
“He broke them (the Jews) up into sections on this earth. Some of them are righteous, and some of them are not. We have tried them with blessings and with adversities in order that they might return to Us…What! has there not been taken from them the covenant of the Book, that they should not say of God other than the truth, and they diligently STUDY that which is therein… As to those (Jews) who HOLD FAST by the Book and observe prayer; verily We shall not detract from the reward of the righteous.”
D15. The Heifer (Al-Baqara) 2:113, 2 AH.
“The Jews say, `The Christians are not (founded) upon anything.’ And the Christians say, `The Jews are not (founded) upon anything.’ And yet they READ the Book“
D16. The Family of `Imran (Ali `Imran) 3:23, 2-3 AH.
“Do you not see those to whom a portion of the Book came. They were called to the Book of God (Torah) that it might judge between them. Then a party of them turned aside and declined.”
The commentators refer this verse to various incidents, but they agree that a dispute was submitted by the Jews to Muhammad for arbitration. He proposed to these Jews to determine the question by actual reference to their Scriptures, but they refused and went away.
“It is not for a man to whom is given the Book and wisdom and prophecy that he should then say to people, `Be worshipers of me in place of God.’ But rather, `Be true teachers** (rabbaniyin), since you teach the Book and you STUDY it earnestly.‘”
(**Every translator is different here. I followed Masson)
“All food was lawful to the Children of Israel except what Israel made unlawful for itself before the Torah was revealed. Say, `BRING the Torah and READ it, if you are men of truth.‘ If any, after this, invent a lie and attribute it to God, they are indeed transgressors.”
D19. The Women (Al-Nisa’) 4:60, 5-6 AH.
“Have you (Muhammad) not seen those who fancy that they believe in that which hath been revealed unto thee, and in that which has been revealed before thee? They desire to go for a mutual decision unto the Taghut (an idol); yet verily they have been commanded (in the Torah) to disbelieve therein, and Satan desires to deceive them into a wide deception.”
D20. The Victory (Al-Fath) 48:29, 6 AH.
“On their faces (of the Muslim believers) are their marks, the traces of their bowing (in worship). This IS their likeness in the Torah; and their likeness in the Gospel IS like a seed which sends forth its blade, then makes it strong. It then becomes thick, and it stands on its own stem, and delights the sower.”
This seems to be a definite allusion to Jesus’ words as recorded in Mark 4:26-28 which reads:
“and he said, `This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground… all by itself the soil produces grain – first the blade, then the head, and then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe he puts the sickle to it because the harvest has come.'”
D21. The Table (Al-Ma’ida) 5;46, 10 AH.
“But why do they (the Jews) come to thee for decision, when they HAVE the Torah in which IS the command of God.”
D22. 5:48, 10 AH.
“We ordained therein for them (the Jews): `Life for life, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal.’ But if any one REMITS the retaliation by way of charity, it IS an act of atonement for himself. And if any fail to JUDGE by what God has revealed, they are wrong-doers.”
Here the Qur’an quotes God as repeating the law which He gave to Moses in the Torah Exodus 21:23-25 where He ordered,
“…You are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”
Then the Jews of Medina are warned, “if any fail to JUDGE by (the Torah) … they are wrong-doers”.
D23. 5:50, 10 AH.
“And let the People of the Gospel JUDGE by what God has revealed in it. If any fail to judge by what God has revealed, they are licentious.”
D24. 5:68-71, 10 AH.
If only the People of the Book had believed and been righteous, we should have blotted out their sins and admitted them to gardens of bliss. If only they had performed the Torah and the Gospel and all that was revealed to them from their Lord, they would have eaten from above and from under their feet. Among them is a People (umma) on the right course, but evil is that which many of them do… Say, “O People of the Book! You are not (founded) on anything until you PERFORM the Torah and the Gospel, and what was revealed to you from your Lord.” …
In the above verses there is a continuing testimony to the presence during Muhammad’s lifetime, of a true Torah and Gospel, recognized by the Muslims and non-Muslims alike.
In Mecca an unbeliever who turns away IS acquainted with what IS in the books of Moses and Abraham [D1]. A clear sign has come to them in “what IS in the former pages” [D3], and Muhammad appeals to “he who HAS knowledge of the Book” [D11].
It is stated that the coming of the Qur’an “IS in the scripture of the former people” and “the learned of the Children of Israel RECOGNIZE it” [D2]. Those to whom knowledge came before BELIEVE in it [D10]. Some Jews are righteous and “hold fast by the book” [D14], but there are others who do not accept Muhammad even though “they diligently STUDY” their book [D14].
Both the Jews and Christians “READ the book” [D15], and “STUDY it earnestly” [D17].
There are some righteous Jews [D14] who GUIDE with truth and JUDGE by it [D13], and among the Jews and Christians is a people on the right course [D24].
Meccans are told, “ASK the People of the Scripture message if you don’t know” [D4,D8], and “ASK those of our Apostles whom we sent” – that is ask their people who are learned in their writings and doctrines [D6].
Muhammad is told, “ASK those who READ the Book from before you, if you are in doubt” [D7], and “ASK the Children of Israel” about the nine clear signs given to Moses [D9].
According to other passages God repeats commands from the Torah, warning the Jews to JUDGE by them [D22], and quotes from the Psalms of David [D5]. He appeals to worshiping as the likeness of Muslim believers which is to be found in the Torah, and alludes to growing seed in the Gospel of Jesus as the likeness of believers from the Gospel [D20].
Muhammad tells the Jews to bring the Torah that “it might JUDGE between them” [D16]. On another occasion he tells them, “BRING the Torah and READ it if you are men of truth” [D18].
God asks Muhammad why the Jews come to him for judgement when “they HAVE the Torah in which IS the command of God” [D21]; and the Christians are told to “JUDGE by what God has revealed in it (the Gospel)” [D23].
God speaks of “the Torah and the Gospel that IS WITH THEM” [D12]. And in the last Sura which came to Muhammad – the Sura of the Table (Al-Ma’ida) from 10 AH – both Jews and Christians are told “you are not (founded) on anything until you PERFORM the Torah and the Gospel, and what was revealed to you from your Lord” [D24].
One of the commentators, Ibn Ishaq, relates the following Hadith concerning this passage [D24]. He says:
“Rafi son of Haritha and Salam Ibn Mashkum and two others, came to Muhammad and said to him, `O Muhammad! do you not claim to be a follower of the religion of Abraham and of his faith, and do you not believe in that which we have of the Torah and do you not testify that it is truly from God.’
“He replied, `Yes, in truth, but you have invented new doctrines, and you deny that which is therein regarding which a covenant was taken from you; and you conceal what you have been commanded to show to mankind. Therefore, I separate myself from your new ideas.’
“They said, `And as for us, we hold by that which is in our hands, and we follow the truth and guidance; and we do not believe in you and we will not follow you.’
“Then the great and glorious God revealed, `Say, O People of the Book! You are not (founded) on anything until you perform the Torah and the Gospel and what was revealed to you from your Lord.'”
If this hadith is true then, by itself, it proves that Muhammad believed in the Torah available to the Jews in Medina in 10 AH. And, even if it is not a strong hadith, it is an important testimony to the fact that Muslims of the first and second century of the Hejira knew about a valid Torah and Gospel with them in Arabia.
With or without the above hadith, the 24 passages which we have looked at in this section and the 13 from the previous section, make a total of 37 quotations which testify to a true Torah and Gospel being available to the people of Mecca and Medina while Muhammad was alive.
Muslims may claim that the true Torah and true Gospel, which were present in Arabia, are different from those presently available. But where are they?!? Surely some Muslim would have preserved such important books in one of the many Muslim libraries found throughout the Islamic world, even if only to help the Jews and Christians obey the Quranic instruction to “perform the Torah and the Gospel”. Moreover, we would then be able to compare them with the copies which have been preserved by the Jews and Christians.
In fact, this is not the case. No such ancient copies have been preserved by the Muslims. Over the whole world there is only one Torah, which IS WITH both Jews and Christians, and one book called the Gospel. which IS WITH the Christians.
E. VERSES WHICH SAY THE TORAH AND/OR THE GOSPEL ARE GOOD, BUT THE TIME ABOUT WHICH THEY SPEAK IS NOT CLEAR.
In the introduction to this chapter I said that a true study of a subject must include all the verses – all the data relevant to the subject. Some 55 other Quranic passages also speak of the Torah and the Gospel, but since they neither deny or affirm the presence of these books at the time of Muhammad, only their verse references are listed.
As an example of this type of passage let us look at the following verse from the Sura of the Women (Al-Nisa’) 4:136, 5-6 AH. It reads:
“O ye who believe! Believe in God and His apostle, and the book which He has sent to His apostle and the book (Torah) which He sent down from before.”
When taken by itself, we cannot tell whether Muhammad is commanding the Muslims to believe in a Torah which is present with them while Muhammad is speaking, or only to believe that God gave Moses a true Torah which was “sent down from before” and could have been changed at a later date.
Here are the references, listed from the earliest to the latest:
74:31, 87:18, 25:35, 35:25, 34:23-24, 54:43, 37:114-117, 19:28-29, 21:48, 29:27, 29.46-47, 32:23, 40:53-55, 41:45, 42:15, 45:16-17, 45:28-29, 46:10, 11:16-17, 28:43, 28:48-49, 28:52-53, 23:49, 13:36, 17:2, 17:4-7, 17:55, 6:20, 6:114, 6:124, 98:1, 2:1-5, 2:53, 2:87, 2:121, 2:136, 2:144-145, 2:176, 2:213, 2:285, 3:65, 3:81, 3:84, 3:99, 3:119, 3:183-184, 3:187, 62:5, 4:51, 4:54, 4:131 4:136, 4:150-153, 4:171, 57:25, 5:62, 5:85-86.
Every reader is free to look them up and bring one or all of them to the discussion, if he feels that they will change the conclusions.
F. VERSES STATING THAT THE CHRISTIANS DIFFERED AND FOUGHT EACH OTHER.
F1. The Consultation (Al-Shura) 42:13-14, Late Meccan.
“He has ordained to you the religion which He commanded to Noah, and which We have revealed to you, and which we commanded to Abraham, Moses, and Jesus – saying, `maintain the true religion and be not divided (la tatafarraqu) in it… And they became divided only after knowledge reached them, through selfish envy among them. Had it not been for a word from your Lord to an appointed term, the matter would have been settled between them. But truly those who inherited the Book after them are in a perplexing doubt concerning it. “
F2. The Clear Evidence (Al-Baiyina) 98:4, Early Medina.
“Nor did the People of the Book become divided (tafarraqa) until after there came to them clear evidence.”
F3. The Heifer (Al-Baqara) 2:253, 2 AH.
“To Jesus the son of Mary We gave clear (signs) and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit. If God had so willed succeeding generations would not have fought each other, after clear (signs) had come to them. Yet they fell to variance (akhtalafu) and some believed and some rejected.“
F4. The Family of `Imran (Ali `Imran) 3:19, 2-3 AH.
“And those to whom the Book came did not fall to variance (akhtalafa) until after the knowledge (of divine truth) came to them – envying each other.”
F5. The Table (Al-Ma’ida) 5:15-16, 10 AH.
“And of those who say, `we are Christians’, We have taken their covenant and they have forgotten a part of that whereby they were admonished. So We have placed enmity and hatred between them, until the day of judgement. And soon will God show them what it is they have done. “O People of the Book! There has come to you Our Apostle, revealing to you much that you used to hide in the Book, and passing over much (that is now unnecessary).”
We see from these verses that the Christians became divided [F1,F2] through selfish envy [F2,F4]. They fell to variance [F3,F4]; so God placed enmity and hatred between them [F5]; and they fought each other [F3].
Concerning their Book and their covenant, they forgot a part [F5]; they used to hide much [F5]; and they are in perplexing doubt [F1].
But as we saw in Section B, and as we read here in [F3], “some believed“. That the Christians fell to variance and killed each other is confirmed by secular and church history. The Egyptian Coptic Church was declared heretical by the Roman and Byzantine Churches, but they all had exactly the same Bible; just as the Shiites have fought the Sunni Muslims, but they all have the same Qur’an.
In none of these verses does it say that even unbelieving Christians changed their Bible, and certainly the believing Christians wouldn’t change it.
G. VERSES STATING THAT THE JEWS REFUSED THE QUR’AN AND TRIED TO CHANGE IT, OR CONCEALED VERSES IN THEIR OWN TORAH AND THREW ITS MEANING BEHIND THEM.
G1. The Cattle (Al-An`am) 6:89-92, Late Meccan.
“These were the men (the prophets from Noah to Jesus listed in verses 84-86) to whom We gave the Book, and authority, and prophethood: if these reject the same, We shall entrust their charge to a new people who do not reject it… and they do not estimate God with a just estimation, when they say, `God has not revealed anything to man.’ Say, `Who sent down the book, which Moses brought, a light and a direction to mankind? You make it upon sheets of paper which you show and conceal much: and you are taught that which you knew not, neither your fathers‘ … And this book We have revealed, blessed, attesting to (the truth of) that which IS between his (its) hands (the Torah), and that you might admonish the mother of cities and all around her.”
G2. The Prophet Hud (Hud) 11:110, Late Meccan.
“And verily We gave Moses the book, and they (the Jews) fell to variance regarding it. And had not the word gone forth from thy Lord, surely the matter had been decided between them; and verily they are in perplexing doubt concerning the same.”
(same idea in 10:93)
G3. The Heifer (Al-Baqara) 2:40-44, 2 AH.
“O children of Israel!… believe in what I (God) reveal, attesting to (the truth of) that which IS WITH YOU (the Torah), and be not the first to reject faith in it, nor sell my signs for a small price… and do not clothe truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth while you know it… Do you command righteousness for people and forget yourselves, and yet you STUDY the book.”
G4. 2:85. 2 AH.
“What! Do you believe in part of the book and reject part? Whosoever among you does this, his reward shall be none other than disgrace in the present life and in the Day of Judgement they shall be cast into a more awful torment.”
“And when there comes to them a Book from God, attesting to (the truth of) that which IS WITH THEM (the Torah)… they refuse to believe in it…miserable is the price for which they have sold their souls.”
“He (Gabriel) brings it (revelation) upon thy heart, attesting to (the truth of) that which is between his (its) hands (the Torah)… and when there came to them an apostle from God, attesting to (the truth of) that which IS WITH THEM (the Torah), a faction (fariq) of those to whom the Book came threw away the Book of God behind their back as though they didn’t know (what was in it).”
G7. 2:140, 2 AH.
“Or do you say that Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes were Jews or Christians? Say, `Do you know better than God?’ Ah, Who is more unjust than those who conceal the witness which they HAVE from God?”
“The people of the Book know this as they know their own sons; but some of them conceal the truth which they themselves know.”
“Those (of the Jews) who conceal the clear (signs) and the guidance after we made it clear to the people of the Book, on them shall be God’s curse.”
“Those who conceal what God revealed in the Book and purchase with it a small profit, they shall eat naught but fire in their bellies…”
G11. The Family of `Imran (Ali `Imran) 3:69-71, 2-3 AH.
“A section (Ta’ifa) of the People of the Book desire to lead you astray. But they shall not lead astray any but themselves and they do not perceive. Ye People of the Book! Why do you reject the signs of God, and you yourselves are witnesses. Ye People of the Book! Why do you clothe truth with falsehood, and conceal truth, and you yourselves HAVE knowledge.“
“Among the People of the Book are some who, if entrusted with a hoard of gold, will (readily) pay it back; others, who if entrusted with a single silver coin, will not repay it unless you constantly stand demanding.”
“And there are, certainly, among the People of the Book those who believe in God, and in that which has been revealed to you (plural), and in that which has been revealed to them, bowing in humility to God. They will not sell the signs of God for a miserable gain. For them is a reward with their Lord, and God is swift in account.”
In these verses many charges are made against the Jews. They “fell to variance” regarding the Torah, and are “in perplexing doubt” about it [G2]. They write their books on separate sheets of paper which they “show and conceal much”, according to what they want to let the Muslims see [G1].
The main charges, though, are what the Jews do in relation to the Qur’an. They reject faith in the Qur’an [G3,G4] and reject the signs of God [G11]. They sell God’s signs and their own souls for a miserable price [G3,G10,G13]. They conceal the truth – the testimony to the Qur’an – in their own Scriptures [G33,G7,G8,G9,G10,G11], and they clothe truth about the Qur’an with falsehood [G3,G11]. They believe in the part of the Qur’an that pleases them and reject part [G4], or they throw it away behind their back [G6].
But at the same time the Qur’an testifies that they have the Torah WITH THEM” [G3,G5,G6]; and attests to the truth of the Torah “which is between its hands” (in its presence) [G1,G6]. The Jews “HAVE a witness from God” [G7]; they “are witnesses” [G11]; they “HAVE knowledge” [G8,G11]; and they STUDY the Book” [G3].
This can best be summarized by looking again at quotation G3, from the Sura of the Heifer (Al-Baqara) 2:40-44, from 2 AH.
“O children of Israel!…believe in what I (God) reveal, attesting to (the truth of) that which IS WITH YOU (the Torah), and be not the first to reject faith in it, nor sell my signs for a small price… and do not clothe truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth while you know it… Do you command righteousness for people and forget yourselves, and yet you STUDY the book.”
The Qur’an comes attesting and certifying to the truth of the Torah which is WITH the Jews and which they STUDY. The unbelieving Jews command righteousness for others, but forget it for themselves because they lie when they reject the Qur’an and conceal the truth about it in their own Scriptures. The Qur’an also testifies that there are among the people of the Book those who are completely honest [G12], and who believe in God, and some of them also believe in the Qur’an as well as the Torah.
But in all of these verses there is no statement from God that even unbelieving Jews changed the written words of their Torah, and Jews like Abdullah Ibn Salam and Mukhairiq who had accepted the Prophets message and become Muslims certainly wouldn’t have changed it.
H. VERSES SPEAKING SPECIFICALLY OF “TAHRIF”.
There are four verses in the Qur’an where the Jews are accused of changing or altering (harrafa) words, and one verse where they are accused of twisting their tongues when they read. We will now examine these verses in their complete context. However, we must remember that the preceding 50 to 60 quotations also represent a wider context for these verses – the context provided by the entire Qur’an.
H1. The Family of `Imran (Ali `Imran) 3:78, 2-3 AH.
“There is among them (the People of the Book) “a party” (fariq) who (in reading) twist their tongues with the Book so that you will count it from the Book and it is not from the Book. And they say it is from God and it is not from God. And they say a lie against God and they know (it).”
In this verse the People of the Book are accused of twisting the words or the pronunciation while they read. They do this so that the hearers will think that this different meaning is from the Book (the Torah) and from God. But, the verse goes on to say, “it is not from the Book” and “it is not from God”.
H2. The Table (Al-Ma’ida) 5:13-14, 10 AH.
“God formerly took a covenant from the Children of Israel, and We appointed twelve captains among them… “And because of their (the Jews) breach of their covenant, We cursed them, and made their hearts grow hard. They change the words from their (right) places and they forgot a part of that whereby they were admonished. You will not cease to find deceit in them, excepting a few of them, but pardon them, and forgive, for God loves those who are kind.”
The unbelieving Jews, whose hearts have been made hard because they broke the covenant, “change the words from their (right) places” and “forget (on purpose) a part of” their own law.
Taken by itself, this verse might mean that the Jews were cutting up their Torah with a knife in order to change some verses around and omit ther verses completely. But in Sections D and E above, and [H6] below, the Qur’an appeals to the Torah as being present WITH the Jews; as BEING READ by them; as HAVING the command of God in it.
Therefore the passage must mean that the Jews were covering some verses and reading others out of context, as in the famous example of the verse of stoning. In Arabic this is called “al-tahrif al-ma`nawi” or “changing the meaning”.
It is also necessary to emphasize the little phrase “except a few“. There were a few who were serious, who believed, even as the Qur’an attests in the following quotation. They would never have altered either the meaning or the words of their Torah.
H3. The Family of `Imran (Ali `Imran) 3:113-114, 2-3 AH.
“Not all of them are alike. Some of the People of the Book are an upright people. They recite the signs (or verses) of God in the night season and they bow down worshiping. They believe in God and the last day. They command what is just, and forbid what is wrong and they hasten in good works, and they are of the righteous.”
In the next three quotations I believe that the Qur’an is accusing some of the Jews, not of changing their own Torah, but of altering and distorting what Muhammad said when he was reciting and explaining the Qur’an.
H4. The Heifer (Al-Baqara) 2:75-79, 2 AH.
“Can you (O men of faith) still earnestly desire that they (the Jews) will believe in you? and verily a party (fariq) among them hear the Word of God; then they pervert it knowingly after they have understood it. “And when they meet the believers they say, `we believe’; but when they meet each other in private they say, `Why do you tell them what God has revealed to you (in the Torah), that they may engage you in argument about it before their Lord? What, do you not understand?’ “Do they not know that God knows what they conceal and what they make public? “And there are among them illiterates, who know not the Book except their desires. They follow nothing but what they think. “And woe to those who write the book with their own hands and then say, `This is from God’, that they may sell it for a small price, Woe unto them for what their hands have written, and woe unto them for that which they gain.”
“A party” of the Jews (not all) hear the Qur’an and say to the Muslims, “We believe”. Then they “pervert” Muhammad’s explanations knowingly and respond in the manner described in detail in the following passage from the Women. But in private one rebukes the other saying, “Why do you tell them what the Torah says? The next time they will use it against you.”
H5. The Women (Al-Nisa’) 4:44-47, 5-6 AH.
“Hast thou not turned your vision to those who were given a portion of the Book? They buy and sell error… Of the Jews there are those who change the words from their (right) places, and say: `we hear and we disobey’; and `hear what is not heard’, and `Ra’ina’ with a twist of their tongues and a slander to faith. If only they had said: `We hear and we obey’; and `Do hear’; and `Do look at us’; it would have been better for them and more upright; but God has cursed them for their unbelief; and they will not believe except a few. O you to whom the Book came, believe in what We sent down (the Qur’an), attesting to (the truth of) what IS WITH YOU (the Torah), before we deface your countenances…”
As in the preceding passage the charge is made against “those” (some) of the Jews “who change the words”; but here several examples are given – examples where Muhammad’s words are being altered. Yusuf Ali explains this exceedingly well in his notes to this passage. He says,
“A trick of the Jews was to twist words and expressions, so as to ridicule the most solemn teaching of Faith. Where they should have said, `we hear and we obey,’ they said aloud, `We hear,’ and whispered, “We disobey.” Where they should have said respectfully, `We hear,’ they added in a whisper, `What is not heard,’ by way of ridicule. Where they claimed the attention of the Teacher, they used an ambiguous word apparently harmless, but in their intention disrespectful. `Ra’ina’ if used respectfully in the Arabic way, would have meant `Please attend to us’ (or `Do look at us’). With a twist of their tongue, they suggested an insulting meaning, such as `O thou that takest us to pasture!’, or in Hebrew, `Our bad one!'”
H6. The Table (Al-Ma’ida) 5:44-51, 10 AH.
“O Apostle! Let not those grieve thee, who race each other into unbelief (whether) among those who say, `We believe’ with their mouths but whose hearts have no faith; or among the Jews who listen to any lie – who listen to other people that never even come to thee. They change the words from their (right) places.
They say, `If ye are given this, take it, but if not, beware!’… If they do come to you, either judge between them or decline to interfere. If you decline, they cannot hurt you in the least. If you judge, judge between them in equity, for God loves the just. But why do they (the Jews) come to you (Muhammad) for decision, when they HAVE the Torah in which IS the command of God? Yet even after that they turn away for they are not believers. Truly We revealed the Torah in which IS guidance and light. The prophets that submitted themselves to God judged thereby those that were Jews; and the rabbis and doctors (did the same), for to them was entrusted the protection of God’s Book and they were witnesses to it. Therefore (O Jews) fear not men, but fear me, and sell not My signs for a miserable price and those who do not judge by what God revealed, they are unbelievers.
“We ordained therein for them, `life for life, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal. But if anyone REMITS the retaliation by way of charity, it IS an atonement for him. And those who fail to JUDGE by what God revealed they are sinners.
“And in their footsteps we sent Jesus the son of Mary, attesting to (the truth of) what was between his hands of the Torah, and We gave him the Gospel, in which IS guidance and light, and attesting to the truth of) what was between his hands of the Torah, and guidance and exhortation to the righteous.
“Let the people of the Gospel JUDGE by what God revealed in it. And those who do not judge by what God revealed, they are licentious.
“To you (Muhammad) We revealed the Book in truth, attesting to (the truth of) what is between its hands (in its presence) of the Book, and guarding it. So judge between them by what God revealed, and do not follow their vain desires—diverging from the truth that has come to you. To each among you We have given a law and a way. If God had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He has given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to God.”
In this last passage the situation is the same. Some “among the Jews” who will listen to any lie – even to quotations of Muhammad’s words from people who never heard him – “change the words from their (right) places.” They say, “If Muhammad gives you such and such a statement, accept it. If not, beware.” The explanations of Muhammad are being altered and rejected by them, not their own Torah.
However, even if I am mistaken in this interpretation, and these last three passages also speak about “al-tahrif al-ma`nawi” where the Jews change the meaning of their own Scriptures, the context of these verses clearly states the following facts:
1. Some? Many? Perhaps even most? of the Jews did not believe. But SOME DID believe in God and wanted to do His will.
2. The Qur’an attests to the truth of the Torah which is WITH THEM.
3. God is quoted as saying that the Jews “HAVE the Torah in which is the command of God”.
4. “Life for life, eye for eye” is quoted from the Torah (Exodus) as valid law by which Jews are to JUDGE unless they wish to REMIT the penalty.
5. The People of the Gospel are told to “JUDGE by what God revealed in it“.
We can only conclude from these passages – the very passages which speak about “tahrif” – that in the time of Muhammad there were upright Jews and Christians who owned, read and obeyed the true Torah and the true Gospel.
As we have examined what the Qur’an says about the Torah, the Gospel, and the People of the Book, the various groups of verses have led us to the following conclusions:
Group A. The true Torah was available to John the Baptist (Yahya), Mary, Jesus and his disciples in the 1st century.
Group B. The Qur’an attests to the presence of true Christian believers at least to the beginning of monasticism in 300-350 AD. It seems correct to assume that these true believers did not change their own Gospel or the Qur’an would have called them false believers.
Group C. The Qur’an attests to the truth of the former books between its hands, i.e., “in its presence” or “under its eyes”. These books are WITH the Meccans, but the Arabic Qur’an was necessary because the Meccans couldn’t understand the former books.
Group D. According to the Qur’an, God, or Muhammad under God’s orders, appealed to the Torah and Gospel more than 20 times. The Psalms of David and the Torah are quoted. Muhammad asks the Jews to bring the Torah to settle a dispute. People READ the Torah and the Gospel which are WITH THEM.
Group F. The Christians differed and fought each other and forgot part of the Book, but there are no verses which say they ever changed, altered or corrupted the text.
Groups G. and H. Some of the Jews are guilty of “al-tahrif al-ma`nawi” because they conceal things written in their own books and throw the references they don’t like behind their backs. They reject the Qur’an, clothe it with falsehood, sell the signs of God for a miserable price, and are doubly guilty of “tahrif” because they also change Muhammad’s explanations. But in all of this, there is not one verse claiming that even these unbelieving Jews changed their own written text of the Torah, and certainly the believing Jews would not change it, nor let the others change it.
The Qur’an says in the Sura of the Cattle (Al-An`am) 6:34, “There is no changing to the Words of God“; and again in Jonah (Yunus) 10:64, “There is no change to the Words of God.“
The only possible conclusion from our study of the Qur’an is that copies of THE TRUE TORAH AND THE TRUE GOSPEL were present in Mecca and Medina at the time of Muhammad. Furthermore, since no Muslim has brought forth from one of the great Islamic libraries an ancient manuscript of a different Torah or a different Gospel, and since no archaeological discoveries have shown any carved quotations which differ from the Torah and Gospel present WITH US now; I am firmly convinced that the books which were available in Mecca during the lifetime of Muhammad were identical to
THE TORAH AND THE GOSPEL WHICH WE READ TODAY.
Next chapter: The Hadith and the Sunna