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The Qur'an has quite a bit to say about the Jews, the Christians, and their scriptures. Although it is taken as an article of faith by most Muslims today that the Jews and Christians either deliberately changed or accidentally allowed their scriptures to be corrupted over the years, the Qur'an never actually says this. Rather, the Qur'an is full of remarks to the effect that it is simply a continuation of the message given by Allah to all his prophets and apostles. As it lacks a firm basis in the Qur'an, the doctrine of the corruption of the scriptures of the people of the book is one that many scholars below do not believe. In the modern day it is often noted by Muslim scholars how impossible this doctrine seems from a historical view. The very large differences in doctrine and belief, though, between modern Muslims and the other "people of the book", however, makes the conclusion that the other scriptures are corrupted almost impossible to escape for the orthodox Muslim.
Allah brought down the Torah and the Gospel:
He hath revealed unto thee (Muhammad) the Scripture with truth, confirming that which was (revealed) before it, even as He revealed the Torah and the Gospel.
And We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow in their footsteps, confirming that which was (revealed) before him in the Torah, 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).
And when Jesus son of Mary said: O Children of Israel! Lo! 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.
The previous people of the book have hid or disregarded this scripture though:
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.
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 plain Scripture, Whereby Allah guideth him who seeketh His good pleasure unto paths of peace. He bringeth them out of darkness unto light by His decree, and guideth them unto a straight path.
Nothing in the Qur'an, though, is other than what was given to the previous apostles of Allah:
Naught is said unto thee (Muhammad) save what was said unto the messengers before thee. Lo! thy Lord is owner of forgiveness, and owner (also) of dire punishment.
Abdullah Ibn ‘Abbas
Abdullah ibn ‘Abbas, Muhammad’s cousin and one of his companions
“They corrupt the word” means “they alter or change its meaning”, yet no one is able to change even a single word from any Book of God. The meaning is that they interpret the word wrongly.
The word “Tahrif” [corruption] signifies to change a thing from its original nature; and there is no man who could corrupt a single word of what proceeds from God, so that the Jews and Christians could corrupt only by misrepresenting the meanings of the word of God.
Al-Razi (865 – 925) One of the most famous Muslim scholars, called "the Imam of Muslim Imams".
How could there be any alteration in the Book whose words' sharpness has reached a great level of circulation in the East and in the West? … For no change can occur in a book that is well circulated among men. Every wise man can see that the alteration of the Bible was impossible for it was well circulated among men of different faith and backgrounds.
Al Tabari (838 – 923) openly acknowledged that the authentic Taurat and Injil remained in the hands of the Jews and the Christians. His only charge was that they did not always understand or accept the true meaning of their teachings
... the first one which came into existence, is the Torah, which is in the hands of the People of the Book...As to the Gospel which is in the hands of the Christians, the greater part of it is the history of the Christ, His birth and His life.
Fakhruddin Razi (1149 - 1209), was a Persian Sunni theologian.
The Jews and early Christians were suspected of altering the text of the Taurat and Injil; but in the opinion of eminent doctors and theologians it was not practicable thus to corrupt the text, because those Scriptures were generally known and widely circulated, having been handed down from generation to generation.
Sayyid Ahmad Khan
Sayyid Ahmad Khan (1817 - 1898), was a prominent and influential Muslim modernist
As far as the text of the Bible is concerned, it has not been altered. No attempt was made to present a diverging text as the authentic one.
Ibn Mazar and Ibn Hatim state, in the commentary known as the Tafsir Durr-I-Mansur, that they have it on the authority of Ibn Muniyah, that the Taurat (i.e. the books of Moses), and the Injil (i.e. the Gospels), are in the same state of purity in which they were sent down from heaven, and that no alterations had been made in them, but that the Jews were wont to deceive the people by unsound arguments, and by wresting the sense of Scripture … Shah Waliyu ‘Illah (in his commentary, the Fauzul âl-Kabir), and also Ibn ‘Abbas, support the same view.
T. P. Hughes in "Dictionary of Islam"
Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub
Dr. Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub (born 1938), is a Muslim scholar and professor of Islamic Studies and Comparative Religion at Temple University (USA).
Contrary to the general Islamic view, the Qur'an does not accuse Jews and Christians of altering the text of their scriptures, but rather of altering the truth which those scriptures contain. The people do this by concealing some of the sacred texts, by misapplying their precepts, or by altering words from their right position.
... both the Hebrew Bible and the N.T. took their final form long before the rise of Islam. The Qur'an speaks of both the Torah and the Gospel as in them is guidance and light. It calls on the two faith-communities to judge by what God had revealed in their Scriptures. It also speaks that both Jews and Christians altered words from their right places and had forgotten some of what God had revealed for them. This does not mean distorting, adding, and deleting of the Scriptures. Therefore, Qur'anic references to tahrif, or alteration, are more to interpretation rather than changing the texts.
Muhammad 'Abduh (1849 - 1905), was an Egyptian jurist and religious scholar
... the charge of corruption of the Biblical texts makes no sense at all. It would not have been possible for Jews and Christians everywhere to agree on changing the text. Even if those in Arabia had done it, the difference between their book and those of their brothers, let us say in Syria and Europe, would have been obvious...We believe that these Gospel accounts are the true Gospel.
Mawlawi Muhammad Sa'id
... as God says in the beginning of the Qur'an: “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
Ismail ibn Kathir (1301–1373) was a Muslim muhaddith (narrator), faqīh, mufassir, and historian. He is the author of the most respected and widely used tafsir (commentary on the Qur'an).
[Quoting Muhammad talking of the Jews and Christians]"David died in the midst of his friends. They were not led astray, nor changed [their books]. The Friends of Christ stayed in His ordinances and guidance for two hundred years"
Sayyid Ahmad Husayn Shawkat Mirthi
The ordinary Muslim people acknowledge that the Injil is the Word of God. Yet they also believe through hearsay (taqlidi 'aqida) that the Injil is corrupted, even though they cannot indicate what passage was corrupted, when it was corrupted, and who corrupted it. Is there any religious community in this world whose lot is so miserable that they would shred their heavenly Book with their own hands, and then, after restlessly patching it with sackcloth, they must throw dust in the eyes of the people? True, some religious communities change the meaning (tahrif-i ma'nawi) of their Scriptures. 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.
Mawlawi Chirag ud-Din
The Qur'an commands us to believe and to honour the previous Scriptures and apostles. According to Surah (Nisa): “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?
A significant point of tension between today’s Muslims and the ‘People of the Book’ (Jews and Christians) is the common Muslim belief that the Jewish and Christian scriptures that exist today are corrupted and cannot be relied upon in any matters of faith, religion or law. Although this is a popular view, most classical scholars of the Qur’an were far more cautious in their understanding of Qur’anic texts on this issue. This article explores the Qur’an’s references to distortion of scriptural meaning and text, and the views of scholars, particularly Tabari, Qurtubi, Razi, Ibn Taymiyya and Qutb. Qur’anic words such as tahrif are popularly accepted today as referring to deliberate distortion of scripture; however, classical scholars have interpreted the Qur’an’s references in a number of different ways.Almost all suggested that distortion occurred mainly through interpretation and not in the text itself. Although the Qur’an refers to tahrif (distortion), it also exhibits the utmost respect for previous scriptures. Early Muslims adopted a narrow view of scripture, partly because of the nature of the Qur’an, and also in response to the more established religions of Judaism and Christianity, to assert the ‘purity’ of the Qur’an and Islam. Saeed notes that the Jewish and Christian scriptures that exist today are, according to most scholars, largely unchanged since the time of Muhammad and should be respected now as they were then.
Introduction to Abdullah Saeed's "The Charge of Distortion of Jewish and Christian Scriptures"
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- ↑ Kitaab (the book of) Al-Tawheed, Baab(chapter) Qawlu Allah Ta'ala, Bal Huwa Qur'aanun Majeed, fi lawhin Mahfooth
- ↑ Imam Muhammad Isma'il al-Bukhari in Dictionary of Islam, T. P. Hughes, Kazi Publications, Inc, 3023-27 West Belmont Avenue, Chicago Il. 60618, 1994, p.62
- ↑ p.327 of his Third Volume
- ↑ Tabari, The Book of Religion and Empire, p.51
- ↑ M. H. Ananikian, “The Reforms and Religious Ideas of Sir Sayyid Ahmad Khan”, The Moslem World 14 (1934) p.61
- ↑ T. P. Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, Kazi Publications, Inc, 3023-27 West Belmont Avenue, Chicago Il. 60618, 1994, p.62
- ↑ “Uzayr in the Qur'an and Muslim Tradition” in “Studies in Islamic and Judaic Traditions”, ed. W. M. Brenner and S. D. Ricks, The University of Denver, 1986, p.5
- ↑ May 15, 2008 e-mail to author.
- ↑ Jacques Jomier, “Jesus, The Life of the Messiah”, C. L. S., Madras, 1974, p.216
- ↑ Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidaya wa al-Nihaya
- ↑ Prof. Abdullah Saeed - The Charge of Distortion of Jewish and Christian Scriptures - The Muslim World. Vol. 92, 2002