If thou wert in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee…. (Surah, 10, Yunus, verse 94)
Some Muslims believe that the Bible is not needed any more since the advent of Islam. God allegedly introduced a newer version of his will, which effectively cancels the old one. The object of this short article is to show from within the pages of the Quran and the Bible that this view is wrong.
Most of the Islamic scholars agree that either the Quran abrogates certain revelations within the Quran only, or, in addition to that also parts of the Sunna. Other scholars hold the view that the Sunna can abolish the Quran as well as the Sunna. Only a few, among them the Ahmadiyyas, teach that the Quran actually annuls the Bible. (For more details see “‘Ulum al-Quran” by Ahmad von Denffer, Islamic Foundation U.K., pages 104-113)
The minority who believes so is wrong for two main reasons: In Surah 5, Al Ma’idah, verse 48, the Quran is spoken of as confirming the Scripture that was before it and as a watcher over it. The Arabic meaning of the word “watch” (Muhaimin) can also be rendered “one who safeguards”, “stands witness”, “preserves” and “upholds”. This clearly contradicts the view that the revelations given to the prophet of Islam allegedly abrogated the Bible! If this were the case there would be no need to confirm the Torah and the Gospel or even to watch over them in such a determined way.
In Surah 2, Al Baqarah, verse 106 the principle of abrogation is explained: For every revelation that is abrogated something better or similar is substituted. If this verse would refer to the abrogation of the Gospel through the Quran it would mean that the teaching of the former book would be inferior or at least similar to the latter one.
The essence of Christianity consists of the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, which is totally rejected by Islam. (See also 1 Corinthians 15:14) The Bible teaches that through faith in Jesus’ work the assurance of forgiveness of sin, of eternal life in God’s presence through grace (God’s undeserved favour) is available to everyone! He who puts his faith into practice by obeying what the Gospel says will benefit from all these blessings.
Surely this wonderful teaching can not be called inferior or similar to the doctrines of the Quran! There we read about how people may get forgiveness from God mainly through their good works and, if He is willing, by His mercy. Paradise will be a place where God is absent. In Surah 76, Al Insan, verse 5 and Surah 56, Waqi’ah, verses 35-38 we read that what was forbidden on earth will be legal (drinking of wine, and having sexual relationships with many virgins). The prophet taught a real and literal interpretation of these sensual delights in heaven. (See Sahihu Muslim, Mishkat book 23, chapter 13) It normally can only be entered after having spent a long time in hell first. Furthermore, the minority who says the principle of abrogation given in Surah 2, Al Baqarah, verse 106, applies to the Bible will be left without guidelines as regards to their own book. They will have to depend on a later, unsure historical development about the code of abrogation in order to deal with otherwise contradictory passages.
In Surah 58, Al Mujadilah, verse 12, the believers are commanded to give alms before a private consultation with the Messenger. In verse 13 they are told that it is no longer necessary. In Surah 33, Al Ahzab, verses 50-51 Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) is allowed to marry and divorce an unlimited number of women. In verse 52 he is prohibited to continue to do so. In Surah 73, Al Muzzammil, verses 2-4, the prophet of Islam is commanded to spend about half of the night in prayer and reading of the Quran. In verse 20 of the same Surah this is changed into what is easy for him and those who followed his example.
Christianity has got its roots firmly established in the Jewish teachings of the Old Testament and agrees in principal with the following areas: God reveals his plans for the redemption of the whole world in the Jewish Scriptures also known as Torah and Zabur by Muslims. There we learn that a sovereign Creator chooses people, families, tribes, and eventually the Jewish nation out of which the Messiah was to come, to bless the whole world. In no case the selection took place according to their goodness alone, but most importantly because they respond to God’s love by faith, a simple trust that what he said he would do.
Consider Abraham: “He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.” (quote from Gen 15:6) Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.” (quote from Genesis 12:3, 18:18, 22:18) So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. (Galatians 3:6-9)
The law was not given to the Jews so that they could become God’s chosen people by keeping its commandments. Rather it was to enable them to express their gratitude towards God for the fact that they were already chosen. The law taught them about God’s perfect and holy standards and at the same time created an awareness of their own sinfulness. The moral part of it, mainly expressed in the 10 commandments of Exodus, chapter 20, kept them away from descending into the detestable practices of the surrounding nations. The ceremonial part of the law, the regulations regarding sacrifices, offerings, washings and food also separated the Jews from all the other nations of idol worshippers. Most importantly it reminded them that salvation was not based firstly on what human beings do but on God’s ultimate provision in terms of the animals to be sacrificed in a unique, divinely ordained way. The writings of the prophets also contained in the Old Testament make it clear that the ceremonial law was only a shadow (Hebrews 9:1-10) of things to come:
You have no desire for an offering or I would give it; you have no delight in burned offerings. The offerings of God are a broken spirit; a broken and sorrowing heart, O God, you will not put from you. (Psalms 51:16-17, see also 1 Samuel 15:22, Hosea 6:6, Isa, 1:11-15, Micah 6:8)
The prophet Isaiah announced that sacrifices and offerings for sins pointed to the coming Messiah, the redeemer.
‘Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed….. For he was cut off from the land of the living….He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence,… After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light [of life] and be satisfied;…’ (excerpts from Isaiah 53:4-11)
Once the Messiah had come, the ceremonial law which had granted exclusive access to God for the Jewish nation only would become fulfilled in him. From that time onwards the way to the temple, symbolizing God’s presence, would be granted to all nations by faith.
‘This is what Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: In the last days the mountain of the LORD’S temple will be established as chief among the mountains; it will be raised above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.’ (Isaiah 2:1-3)
The identity of the Messiah (Hebrew ‘anointed one’, Greek ‘Christ’) is the only area of disagreement between the two faiths. While the Jews are still waiting for the one who according to the Bible would deliver Israel from its enemies and eventually establish a worldwide kingdom, the Christians have accepted him in Jesus. We can find out which position is more systematically consistent by looking at the following facts. They are verified in detail on our web page (see end of booklet) and are found in the articles mentioned in brackets hereafter. Alternatively, these articles can also be ordered from us free of charge.
The life, death and resurrection of Jesus is not doubted by any serious historian today. (See, ‘Death and Resurrection of Jesus explained to Muslims’)
He fulfilled numerous prophecies, such as the one above, through his life, death and resurrection in remarkable details. (See ‘What the Bible says about your future.’ It also explains why the Jews rejected Jesus)
The claims Jesus made to be equal with God, to forgive other people’s sins, etc., are outrageous and shocking, especially in the light of Jewish thought. Either they were given by a complete lunatic or by someone who indeed spoke the truth. There is no middle way. To think that he was just a good moral teacher, another prophet is simply no option. The records we have of him make the first hypothesis unacceptable. (See,’Jesus- God! An explanation for Muslims’)
As for the moral aspect of the law, Jesus explained the full meaning of it. (see Matthew 5-7) These perfect commandments are still valid, but again only as a means to show gratitude that Jesus saves from sins, not to gain forgiveness. Those decrees can only truly be observed through the help and forgiveness of him who ultimately fulfilled every aspect of them.
As has been seen, the Islamic attempt to declare the Bible as being abrogated creates unsolvable problems when it comes to the interpretation of their own scripture. The Bible is not just valid for today but also superior in its message. No wonder Jesus himself said:
“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practises and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:17-20)
Jesus is clearly saying that the Bible is not going to be annulled until the end of time. He furthermore speaks out against the legalistic, hypocritical, external keeping of the letter of the law, ignoring the spirit, the full meaning of it. The Pharisees, the religious leaders of his day, treated God’s word in a superficial way and were most severely rebuked for it. Only through faith in him who has come to fulfil the complete requirements of the law in a perfect way can we be acceptable to a perfect God:
‘That in the time to come he might make clear the full wealth of his grace in his mercy to us in Christ Jesus: Because by grace you have salvation through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is given by God: Not by works, so that no man may take glory to himself. For by his act we were given existence in Christ Jesus to do those good works which God before made ready for us so that we might do them.’ (Ephesians 2:7-10)
‘Being conscious that a man does not get righteousness by the works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, we had faith in Christ Jesus, so that we might get righteousness (right standing before God) by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law: because by the works of the law will no flesh get righteousness.’ (Galatians 2:16)
Salvation by faith in Jesus is believing with the intellect that the Bible is right about our sinful condition, about who Jesus is and about what he did on the cross for us. Passages that speak about judgement according to works have to be read in the light of what true faith means. This is confirmed when their immediate context is considered. (e.g. Joh 5:28-29, compare with verses 23-24, Mat 16:27 with verses 21-26, 25:31-46 with 23:37-39, Jam 2:14-26). As the German reformer Martin Luther used to say ‘the faith that saves is never alone.’ True faith in Christ shows itself in four ways:
1. Out of thankfulness followers of Jesus do what he tells them: To love God and man. This is the essence and test of true obedience. They desire to follow the moral law set out in the Old Testament and summarized in what is known as ‘the 10 commandments.’ (Exo 20:1-17)
2. Genuine faith in Jesus produces a desire to become more like him, to do what is right and just.
3. Saving faith creates the awareness that this new obedience can only come through faith in Christ. It does not come from focusing on the law, the desperate attempt to meet its demands. Instead it comes from continually fixing one’s eyes on Jesus and his work, by remaining connected to him through being in his presence with one’s thoughts.
4. Lastly, Biblical faith generates a constant abiding in and reliance on Jesus by faith. In this way only the Holy Spirit of God supplies the power for a changed life and lasting fruit. (Rom 8:13, Joh 15:5)