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The Bible is changed - Really?

It is supposed by many Muslims that the Bible that Christians have today is a corruption of an original text that has been lost. They charge Christians with distorting the Bible. Yet, on the other hand, their holy book, the Qur’an, upholds the same Bible, calling it the word of God.

God Caused them to Descend (or revealed them)

In the Qur’an, the following terms are used with reference to parts of the Bible:-

  1. Tawrat – Torah, the first five books of the Bible
  2. Zabur – the Psalms
  3. Injil – the Gospel
  4. Sahaif – the books of the prophets

The Tawrat, the Zabur and the Sahaif are called the Holy Scriptures of the Jews, which Christians call the Old Testament. The Injil is called the Holy Scripture of the Christians, which Christians call the New Testament. The Qur’an states that all these Scriptures were revealed by God, ‘confirming that which was (revealed) before it, even as He revealed the Torah and the Gospel’ [1].

A Guidance for Mankind

The Qur’an emphasises that the Tawrat, the Zabur, the Injil, and the Sahaif are God’s books, His word, light, and “Furqan”, which means a criterion for judgement.

  1. Tawrat
    1. is the book of Allah. [2]
    2. is a guidance and reminder for men of understanding. [3]
    3. Is light and guidance. [4]
    4. Is “the Criterion”. [5]
  2. Injil
    1. “has clear proofs”. [6]
    2. Was “bestowed on him (Isa/Jesus)”.
    3. Has “guidance and light”.
    4. Is “confirming . . . the Torah”. [7]

The Universality of the Tawrat and the Injil
The Qur’an insists that the Injil and the Tawrat are guidance for all mankind, “clear testimonies for mankind, and a guidance and a mercy”. [8]

The Holy Injil as a Standard

Christians are told to judge according to the Injil, “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.” [9]

The Qur’an would hardly command Christians to judge by their book if Muhammad had had reason to believe that it had been changed, even in the slightest degree. Yet many Muslims today allege that the Holy Gospel has been grossly distorted. Either the Muslims who cast doubt on the veracity of the Bible are wrong or Muhammad was wrong.

God’s Word never Changes

The Qur’an claims that no one can alter the word of God. “It is the law of Allah which hath taken course aforetime. Thou wilt not find for the law of Allah aught of power to change.” [10] In another place, the Qur’an reads; “There is no changing the word of Allah – that is the Supreme Triumph.” [11]

The Qur’an as a Guardian

The Qur’an not only claims to confirm the previous Scriptures but also claims the responsibility of being, “the watcher over it”. [12] Al-Baidhawi explains that “watcher over it” means, “The Qur’an is the protector of all the sacred books to preserve them from any kind of change”. [13]

The Qur’an does not suggest “alteration”

In the Qur’an there is no suggestion of alteration or corruption of the biblical text by use of the word “tahrif”. The Qur’an, using the word “tahrif”, occasionally accuses Jews (but not Christians or ‘the people of the book’) of concealing the truth, but it in no way implies that the text had been corrupted.

Different Kinds of “Tahrif”

In the Qur’an, the word “tahrif” is used with the following meanings:-

  1. To pervert words from their meanings by distorting them with the tongue. For example, the Qur’an accuses certain Jews of deliberately mispronouncing words spoken by Muhammad: “Some of those who are Jews change words from their context, distorting with their tongues and slandering religion.” [14]
  2. To misinterpret verses. For example, they “used to listen to the Word of Allah then used to change it, after they had understood it, knowingly.” [15]

The Facts

Accusations by Muslim apologists that the text of the Injil and the Tawrat had been corrupted did not arise until long after the Prophet Muhammad. Accusations that the Scriptures had been tampered with first appeared in their writings during the 12th century. [16]

Before the Prophet of Islam

Some claim that the Injil and the Tawrat were corrupted before the coming of the Prophet of Islam. If that were so, why does the Qur’an affirm that the message revealed to the Prophet Muhammad was simply a confirmation of the previous Scriptures?

According to the Qur’an, which was written approximately seven hundred years after the writing of the Injil; the Tawrat and the Injil were in pure form in the Prophet Muhammad’s time. Had the Injil not been genuine and totally accurate at this time, the Qur’an would not have instructed Christians to judge by that which God had revealed in the Gospel.

After the Prophet of Islam

Others charge that the Tawrat and the Injil were changed some time after the Prophet Muhammad began preaching. However, this charge contradicts the Qur’an, since it claims to be the guardian of the previous inspired books. Thus, anyone who claims that there has been a corruption of the text of the Tawrat or of the Injil also, inevitably, charges the Qur’an with failure in its role as Guardian!

If the pre-Islamic Scriptures had been corrupted, why does the Qur’an order Muslims to believe them? For it is written in the Qur’an:-

“Say (O Muslims): ‘We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and which was 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 distinctions between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered”. [17]

Documentary Evidence

Numerous manuscript copies of all parts of the Bible, written centuries before the time of Muhammad, are available today. For example, the Dead Sea Scrolls, which were written before 68 A.D. contain every book of the Old Testament, except the book of Esther. Some of the oldest Greek manuscripts of the entire New Testament, found in Codex form, are also accessible. Two such examples are the Codex Alexandrinus and the Codex Sinaiticus. These manuscripts date from the fourth and fifth centuries A.D. and may be studied in the British Museum in London. Another early manuscript from the same era is the Codex Vaticanus, found in the Vatican Library. There are in various libraries manuscript portions of the New Testament which date back to the second century which may also be studied. The reliability of the present-day Bible may be verified by comparison with such documents.

The modern translations are basically the same in content as those present in Muhammad’s time. They do not differ in any belief or doctrine. God has preserved his Word in the past and is able to preserve it in the future.

The Bible is changed – Really?

If the Bible and the Qur’an do disagree, they cannot both be right. Has, then, the Qur’an made a mistake in vindicating the Bible? No, for reference has been made to the historical documents which substantiate the Bible. We urge Muslims to follow the Qur’an’s clear advice to the Prophet Muhammad and his followers: “And if thou art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee.” [18]

Why? Because it is truly “a guidance to all mankind”. [19]

(Steven Masood)

Bible quotations are from the New International Version. Qur’anic quotations are from “The Meaning of the Glorious Qur’an”, trans. Mohammad Marmaduke Pickthall (Karachi: Taj Company, n.d).

References

  1. [1] Qur’an 3:3
  2. [2] Qur’an 2: 101, 3:23, 5:44
  3. [3] Qur’an 40:53-54
  4. [4] Qur’an 5:44
  5. [5] Qur’an 2:53, 21:48
  6. [6] Qur’an 2:87
  7. [7] Qur’an 5:46
  8. [8] Qur’an 28:43, cf. 3: 3-4, 6:92
  9. [9] Qur’an 5: 47
  10. [10] Qur’an 48: 23
  11. [11] Qur’an 10: 64, 6: 34.
  12. [12] Qur’an 5: 48
  13. [13] Qazi Nasiruddin Abusaeed Abdullah bin Umar al-Baidhawi (1300 AD) wrote a well-known commentary on the Qur’an, originally called “Anwar-al-tunzeel”, but now known as “Tafsir-e-Baidhawi”.
  14. [14] Qur’an 4: 46, cf. 3: 78. The Imam Fakr al Din Al Razi (d. 1228) believed that the “tahrif” referred to in the Qur’an was in meaning, not in text. He wrote the voluminous commentary on the Qur’an which is properly known by many Muslims as “The Great Tafsir”.
  15. [15] Qur’an 2: 75. In his book “Alfouz al kabeer fi Osulal tafsir” Shah Waliullah states that in the Qur’an “tahrif” refers to the Jews misquoting or mistranslating the Torah and he asserts that the original was not and cannot be altered, it being the word of God.
  16. [16] Colin Chapman, “You Go and do the Same” (CMS: London 1983). p. 53.
  17. [17] Qur’an 2: 136
  18. [18] Qur’an 10: 94
  19. [19] Qur’an 3: 4.
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