‘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)
Muslims and Christians believe in the infallibility of the original Biblical manuscripts. But many adherents of Islam have been taught by their leaders that today’s Bible has undergone substantial changes with regard to its early manuscripts and their translated versions. We shall here limit the investigation of the matter to using mainly accepted Muslims sources. The booklet ‘A Christian Response to Muslim Beliefs’ (see free offers) is one of many resources giving evidence for the reliability of the Bible from other perspectives.
As the verses below show, the Quran makes it quite clear that the Bible, known as the Torah and the Injil, was found reliable in Muhammad’s time, the sixth century. A comparison between a twenty first century Bible and a copy from the sixth century proves that they are substantially the same. Today’s Bible is indeed unchanged! The quotations below are taken from ‘The Meaning of the Holy Quran’ translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali and published by Armana Corporation, USA, 1989. Because of a lack of space it has not always been possible to print whole verses. The reader is encouraged to look up the references and their contexts in either the Quran or the Bible.
1.) ‘And 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)
‘Those who have been reading the book from before thee’ are Jews and Christians who read the Torah and the Injil (Gospel)! If they were reading corrupted holy books, their minds would have been influenced by many misconceptions. It would therefore make no sense for Allah to command those who are in doubt to ask Jews and Christians who allegedly were mislead by changed Scriptures! In order to follow the mandate in this verse it is absolutely necessary to believe that the Scriptures before Islam are uncorrupted! Here the question may be asked: ‘Are what is known as the Torah and the Injil in Muhammad’s time identical with today’s Bible that contains the Old and the New Testament?’ Regarding the Injil an affirming answer has already been given in ‘The History of the Quran and the Injil’ (See, free offers). The Old Testament too is identical with the Torah as seen from the following reasoning: The Hebrew word ‘Torah’ means literally ‘law, instruction’. It refers to the revelations given to Moses. ‘The term was often applied to the Pentateuch (the first five books of the Old Testament, e.g. 1 Chronicles 16:40) as a whole; and as the importance of the Prophets and Writings grew, it was sometimes used to describe them all as divinely revealed instructions and traditions.’ (‘Dictionary of Beliefs and Religions’ by Rosemary Goring, Wordsworth Editions Ltd, 1995)
A. Evidence from the Bible
Sometimes when the law is spoken of in the Injil, the New Testament, it is used in the all including sense. In Romans 3 Paul quotes verses from the book of Psalms and from the Prophets but then he concludes in verse 19 with, ‘what the law (Torah) says…’ (See also 1 Cor. 14:21) Jesus himself referred to the Psalms as ‘the law (Torah)’ in John 10:34. Another example is found in John 12:34 where the Jews speak of verses from Psalms 89:36, Isaiah 9:7, and Daniel 7:14 as ‘the law (Torah)’. In the Quran too the meaning of ‘Torah’ where all 39 books of the Old Testament are included is used. This becomes clear when one looks at the evidence found therein, and in history:
B. Evidence from the Quran
Several verses in the Quran bear witness to the truth that the Torah was unchanged at the time of Jesus.
In Surah 19, Maryam, verse 12, Yahya, who lived at the time of Jesus was told ‘to take hold of the Book, (the Torah).’ Surah 3, Ali’Imran, verse 48 tells us that Jesus was also taught in the Torah.
Numerous verses, such as Surah 34, Saba, verse 31, Surah 35, Fatir, verse 31, attest to the truth that the Torah was uncorrupted in the time of Muhammad in the sixth century AD The Arabic phrase ‘bain yadaihi’ which is used in these references to the Torah literally means ‘between his hands.’ Dr. W. Campbell writes in his book ‘The Quran and the Bible in the light of history and science’, (Middle East Resources, 1994, page 37) ‘…usually it is an idiom for ‘in his presence’, or ‘in his power’, or ‘in his possession,’ or ‘at his disposal…'(see also Surah 34, Saba’, verse 12) In the Quran some Jewish contemporaries of Muhammad are called ‘those who guide and do justice in the light of truth,’ besides many others whose reputation was not so favorable in the sixth century. (Surah 7, Al Araf, verse 159, see also Surah 5, Al Ma’idah, verse 66) The very fact that they were commended so highly shows that they were in possession of the uncorrupted Torah. History tells us what was part of it.
C. Evidence from history
Like in the case of the Injil, the New Testament, the formation of an official list (canon) of the books that were part of it took a considerable time. When finally an official list was approved it was done so in defense against a growing number of heretical writings. The official list merely confirmed what had been accepted by the Jews centuries before. Then it was unnecessary because there was a common agreement as to which writings were part of the Torah. After giving nine solid reasons for an early formation of the canon of the Old Testament, the authors of ‘An Introduction to the new Testament’ (by D. Carson, D.J. Moo, L. Morris, Apollos, 1992, pages 491-92) conclude saying, ‘It appears, then, that there is adequate evidence to support the view that there was a (closed) canon of Scripture to serve as a model in the formation of the New Testament canon. Even if this point be disputed, there is entirely convincing evidence that the Torah (here meaning the Pentateuch) and the Prophets were viewed as closed collections by the first century AD’ The Illustrated Bible Dictionary (by F.F.Bruce, 1980, IVP, Leicester) concludes an extensive research by saying that the whole Hebrew Bible canon as we know it today existed around 200 BC 2.) ‘All food was lawful to the Children of Israel, except what Israel made unlawful for itself, before the Law (of Moses) was revealed. Say, ‘Bring ye the Law and study it, if ye be men of truth.’ (Surah 3, Ali ‘Imran, verse 93)
In this specific incident the Jews are asked to bring their own Law, the Torah. They are commanded by God to study it in order to find the right answer to a particular question. Maududi, the renowned Islamic scholar, said, that it addressed the difference between Muslims and Jews in regard to eating the meat of camels, hares and coneys. In opposition to Islam, Judaism prohibits the eating of them according to today’s Torah (Deuteronomy 14:7). ‘But, the open challenge of the Quran to them to bring the Torah in proof thereof shows that the commandments referred to above did not exist in the Torah at that time and were inserted afterwards; otherwise the Jews would have at once accepted the challenge of the Quran and presented the commandments thereof.’ (See, ‘The meaning of the Quran’, Vol. I, 12th Edition 1992, by S. Abdul Maududi, Islamic Publications (Pvt) LTD., Pakistan, comment on Surah 6, Al-Anam, verse 145, hereafter referred to as ‘Maududi’) This view is problematic because it ignores the fact that today’s English translations of the Torah, such as the N.I.V., are based on the Masoretic text the standard edition of the Hebrew Old Testament. It was prepared by Jewish scholars, called Masoretes, mainly from 500 to the 950 AD They introduced vowel points into the consonantal (consonants only) Hebrew text. They also studied each letter, word and phrase and wrote marginal notes commenting on proper grammar and spelling. (See, ‘The World Book Encyclopedia’, Volume 2, 1982, USA, page 222b) Furthermore the translators compared it with a number of other sources still in existence today, the most important of which are:
The Dead Sea Scrolls, written in Hebrew at about 100 BC, discovered in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s in Palestine. ‘Among the fragments discovered are complete copies or parts of every Old Testament book except Esther, and the variations in the text after a thousand years of copying are minimal.’ (See, ‘Answers to Tough Questions’, by Josh Mc Dowell and Don Stewart, 1980, USA)
The Septuagint, a translation of the Old Testament Hebrew Scriptures into Greek, at about 250 BC
The Syriac Peshitta, a translation of the whole Bible into the common language of certain parts of Syria, from either the first or second century AD
The Vulgate, the entire Bible translated into Latin at about 400 AD
In none of the above sources is Deuteronomy 14:7, the verse under consideration, missing! Looking at all the evidence one can impossibly say that it was missing in the prophet of Islam’s time and only later inserted into the text!
3.) ‘But why do they come to thee for decision, when they have (their own) Law before them? -Therein is the (plain) command of Allah;…. (Surah 5, Al Ma’idah, verse 43) Maududi comments on this verse: ‘…sometimes, when their own law did not suit them, they would take their cases to the Holy Prophet in the hope that they might obtain a more favorable decree from him than they could from their own law.’ (Ibid) This shows clearly that even corrupted Jews would never change the written Torah! They were only prepared to conceal the meaning of it. In spite of their wickedness, they did not dare to change the written form of the Torah! That is why, according to the Quran, Allah told them to look up their own law in which is the plain command of God!
4.) ‘Let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel.’ (Surah 5, Al Ma’idah, verse 47)
This command is given to Muhammad’s contemporaries, it is written in the ‘present’ tense which in the Arabic language can also refers to the future! If the Gospel (Injil) was corrupted at that time then surely Allah would never have asked the people of the Gospel, the Christians, to believe in it!
5) ‘If only they had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. There is from among them a party on the right course…’ (Surah 5, Al Ma’idah, verse 69)
The fact that there were Jews and Christians ‘on the right course’ in Muhammad’s time confirms the Torah and the Gospel to be unchanged in the 6th century AD! Certainly, they could never have been described in such an honorable way if they had ‘stood fast’ by corrupted Holy Books!
6.) ‘Say: O People of the Book! Ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law, the Gospel and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord….’ (Surah 5, Al Ma’idah, verse 68)
7.) ‘No change can there be in the Words of Allah. This is indeed the supreme Felicity.’ (Surah 10, Junus, verse 64)
No Muslim would doubt that the Torah and the Injil are words of Allah too! Therefore, it is impossible for man to change them. God has the power to watch over His word and to preserve it. The passages above attest to the fact that the Bible, consisting the Torah (Old Testament) and the Injil (New Testament) was unchanged and trustworthy in the time of Muhammad, that is in the 6th century AD!
Many Muslims are told that only parts of the Bible remained unchanged. Faith is only put in those statements which are supposed to confirm one’s own opinions. Some Jews did the same in the days of Muhammad. Surah 2, Al Baqarah, verse 85 condemned them for doing so. There is no reason why that judgement for such a view should not apply anymore today.
The Quran nowhere explicitly states the Injil (Gospel) was changed! But what about the Torah? History shows that whenever God revealed Himself, most of His people fell into disobedience after a period of time. So it was with the Jews. In spite of this sad fact Surah 7, Al A’raf, verse 159 states there were always good Jews who remain true to the book God gave them:
‘Of the people of Moses there is a section who guide and do justice in the light of truth.’
God’s word is truth and good Jews surely would never have changed the meaning or even the words of their Holy Book!
‘There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: (as they read) you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, ‘That is from Allah,’ but it is not from Allah: It is they who tell a lie against Allah…’ (Surah 3, Ali ‘Imran, verse 78)
In the verse quoted above the Jews are reading parts of their Book wrongly while the written words remain unchanged.
‘But because of their breach of their Covenant, We cursed them, and made their hearts grow hard: They change the words from their (right) places and forget a good part of the Message that was sent… (Surah 5, Al Ma’idah, verse 13)
The phrase ‘They change the words from their (right) places’ could mean that they tampered with the text of the Book. However, the second possibility, that the true meaning was distorted, not the text itself, (see also Surah 5, Ma’idah, verse 44) will have to be given preference in the light of the wider context (see above) which clearly shows that:
-The unchanged Torah was with the Jews of Muhammad’s time. (Surah 5, Al Ma ‘idah, verses 43, 68) -It was referred to by the Prophet in matters of dispute. (Surah 3, Ali ‘Imran, verse 93)
In Surah 2, Al Baqarah, verses 75-79 (in verse 75 Jews are listening to the Quran being recited); Surah 4, Al Nisa, verse 46;, the Jews are accused of changing, writing down wrongly, what Muhammad () said. After checking all these references it becomes clear that the Torah remained unchanged!
For many Muslims the Hadith provides a key to the correct understanding of the Quran. It is therefore most interesting to see what it has to say about the accuracy of the Jewish-Christian Scriptures. According to a tradition found in Mishkat al-Masabith, Book II, chapter 1, pages 62,63, Muhammad confirms that the Jews and the Christians read the Torah and the Gospel. He does not say anything about them being corrupted! In Bukhari’s chapter ‘How revelation first began’ we read that the prophet of Islam was taken to Khadijah’s cousin, Waraqa ben Naufal. He used to translate the Torah and the Gospel as God granted him strength. It does not say that he translated corrupted Holy Books! In the Mishkat al-Masabith, Book XVI, chapter 1, page 758, we read how Muhammad judges according to the Torah that is before him without saying anything about it being changed! Out of the numerous traditions about this subject there is only one reference found in Bukhari, Sahih, Kitab al-Shahada, number 29, which says that the people of the Book changed it’s actual text. It may be possible that individual Jews in Arabia corrupted distinct texts of the Torah. Some Muslims would interpret Surah 2, Baqara, verses 78-79 to refer to the Torah and not to the Quran as mentioned above. But what about all the copies found already in other parts of the world? It is not possible that they have been changed in the same way. Besides that, the Christians who also believe in the Torah of the Jews, were known to be in great opposition to them. How could they have come together to corrupt their common Scriptures?
The Quran and the Hadith make it clear that the Bible has not been changed before the time of Muhammad. Otherwise God would have demanded to believe in Scriptures that were already corrupted. As said already, if we assume that changes were made while or after the prophet’s time, we can simply compare a twenty first century copy with one that was written before the sixth century. The result will be that all the teaching remained the same! The attentive reader is left with a fundamental problem of discrepancy. A number of Biblical teachings are described as erroneous in the Quran. Yet the latter confirms the former to be the unchanged word of God! Surah 4, Nisaa, verse 82 says that the Quran is not from God if one finds discrepancies in it! Muslims who say that the Bible is corrupted contradict their own book. Many who leave room in their hearts for the possibility that they could be wrong in the beliefs they were taught from early childhood, will be left deeply moved after reading this article. It is those Muslims the author of it can identify with. His life too was worked out for him by others. For a number of years he lived more or less comfortably within the boundaries set by people often ‘in the name of God’. Confronted by many other religions and ideas of how to live a meaningful live he set out to discover the truth for himself. In that process, realizing that it is impossible to detect infinite reality as a finite being, he prayed wholeheartedly, ‘God if you are there, show me which way is the right one.’ A few days later he heard the Eternal One speaking through some passages of the Bible which was given to him by a friend! After confessing his sins he asked Jesus to come in his life and use it for his glory. Since that incredible experience the author’s life changed literally like day and night! He now follows Jesus Christ who died for his sins on the cross, who rose again on the third day, who promises eternal life in heaven and who says:
‘In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the word was God. The word became flesh and made his dwelling among us….He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him….Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.’ (John 1:1,14,11)
The author lovingly pleads with you, ‘pray for God to reveal to you who Jesus really is!’