The Qur'an and the Injil
How the Qur'an supports the Bible
Many Muslims have been told that the Bible was originally given by God, but that it has been altered by those who received it. The question that these notes address is whether this is what the Qur'an really teaches and whether it is a reasonable position for a Muslim to take.
The notes begin by taking a look at what the Qur'an really does say about the Old and New Testaments and then goes on to ask whether this is a reasonable thing to say. Finally it takes a look at the logical implications of what the Qur'an says.
Prophets of God
The Shahada, (Muslim statement of belief) requires Muslims to believe in Kutuballah, the books of God. If such a belief is to be more than an empty form of words it is essential for a Muslim to investigate those books. Anything less would be hypocrisy, claiming a belief without having taken any action as a result of it.
The Qur'an confirms this view. Sura 4 (Nisaa - the Women) contains the following verses:-
163 We have sent thee inspiration, as We sent it to Noah and the Messengers after him: We sent inspiration to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes, to Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon, and to David We gave the Psalms.
164 Of some apostles We have already told thee the story; of others We have not; — and to Moses Allah spoke direct. (Q 4:163,164)
This asserts that God inspired the various Old Testament prophets, including characters from the book of Genesis (Noah, Abraham, Ishmael/Ismail, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes) and prophets who wrote the Old Testament (Moses, David Solomon and Jonah). It also supports the teaching that Jesus carried a message from God. Other verses go further still.
Say: "We believe in Allah, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ismail, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in [the Books] given to Moses, Jesus, and the Prophets, from their Lord: We make no distinction between one and another among them, and to Allah do we bow our will." (Q3:84)
This verse says that God revealed books to various prophets of the Bible. Some those to whom the words came are mentioned by name, but the writers of the Bible are included here in the phrase "the prophets", a phrase which would include the New Testament Apostles as well as such people as Isaiah, Jeremiah and Daniel. The verse then goes on to say that God makes no distinction between the various prophets, an idea which is developed further in Sura 4 (Nisaa - the Women).
150 Those who deny Allah and His apostles, and [those who] wish to separate Allah from His apostles, saying: "We believe in some but reject others": And [those who] wish to take a course midway, —
151 They are in truth Unbelievers; and We have prepared for Unbelievers a humiliating punishment.
152 To those who believe in Allah and His apostles and make no distinction between any of the apostles, We shall soon give their rewards: For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.
This passage places a requirement on Muslims to accept the words of the Old Testament Prophets and the New Testament Apostles. Muslims are not expected to make any distinction between prophets; they are not expected to believe the words of Muhammad more than the words of Muhammad. Anyone who makes a distinction between them and believes one more than another is defined to be an unbeliever - kafir. This is what the Qur'an says, regardless of what later scholars have said.
This may come as a surprise to many Muslims; a large proportion of Muslims have been taught that Muhammad‘s words are of more value than the words of other prophets and some Muslims have never studied the words of any of the prophets of the Bible. However, the position taken by the Qur‘an is that these prophets are as important as Muhammad.
The Law and the Gospel in the Qur‘an
One of the significant points about the teaching of the Qur‘an is that it refers to the Gospel (Injil), the Law (Tawrat) and to other writings of the Bible, including Psalms. The references are clear and straightforward, and assert that these writings are from God.
The Law of Moses
The Qur‘an refers to a work called the Tawrat. This is the Torah, the Hebrew name for the Law of Moses which is the first five books of the Bible. However the Qur'an sometimes appears to use the word to refer to other parts of the Old Testament as well.
The Qur'an is in no doubt that the Torah was given by God to prophets, and that it is therefore the Word of God.
Sura 3:(Al-i-Imran - The family of Imran) Allah... sent down to thee [step by step], in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law [of Moses] and the Gospel [of Jesus] before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the Criterion [of judgement between right and wrong]. (Q3:2-3)
There are several passages in the Qur'an which indicate that the Torah was available at the time of Jesus in the form in which it was given to Moses. Here are some of them:-
- This section is from Sura 3 (Al-i-Imram - The family of Imram). It starts in v45 with a description of events when the birth of Jesus was announced to Mary by the angel. It goes on to say of Jesus: And Allah will teach him the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel, and [appoint him] an apostle to the Children of Israel, [with this message]:... [I have come to you], to attest the Law which was before me... (Q3:48-50). This passage tells that Jesus had the task of bearing witness to the truth and accuracy of the Law that God had before given to Moses. It describes this as a book; the Qur'an is talking about the written law which was available at the time of Jesus.
- There are two short passages in Sura 5 (al-Ma'ida - The spread table) which also refer to the witness that Jesus was to give to the Law. The first of these is: And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: Therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: A guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah. (Q5:49) This passage tells us that part of the mission of Jesus was to testify to the accuracy of the Law of Moses - in other words, to confirm it.
- Sura 61 (Al-Saff - The Battle Array) contains these words: And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: "O Children of Israel! I am the apostle of Allah (sent) to you, confirming the Law (which came) before me... (Q61:6)
- Sura 5 (al-Ma'ida - The spread table): To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: So judge between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have We prescribed a Law and an Open way. If Allah had so willed, he would have made you a single People, but (His Plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: So strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute; (Q5:51)
- But why do they come to thee for decision, when they have (their own) law before them? — Therein is the (plain) command of Allah; yet even after that, they would turn away. For they are not (really) People of Faith. (Q5:46),
- If only the People of the Book had believed and been righteous, We should indeed have blotted out their iniquities and admitted them to Gardens of Bliss. 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: But many of them follow a course that is evil. O Apostle! Proclaim the (Message) which hath been sent to thee from thy Lord. If thou didst not, thou wouldst not have fulfilled His Mission. And Allah will defend thee from men (who mean mischief). For Allah guideth not those who reject Faith. 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.It is the revelation that cometh to thee from thy Lord, that increaseth in most of them their obstinate rebellion and blasphemy. But sorrow thou not over (these) people without Faith. (Q5:68-71)
- Sura 12 (Yusuf - Joseph): There is, in their [the prophets‘ and apostles‘] stories, instruction for men endued with understanding. It is not a tale invented, but a confirmation of what went before it, —a detailed exposition of all things, and a Guide and a Mercy to any such as believe. (Q12:111)
- Sura 10 (Yunus - Jonah): This Koran is not such as can be produced by other than Allah; on the contrary it is a confirmation of [revelations] that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book—wherein there is no doubt—from the Lord of the Worlds. Q10:37
- Sura 35: (Fatir - the Creator): That which We have revealed to thee of the Book is the Truth, — confirming what was (revealed) before it... (Q35:31)
- Sura 40 (Al-Mumin - the believer): We did aforetime give Moses the Guidance, and We gave the Book in inheritance to the Children of Israel - A Guide and a reminder to men of understanding. (Q40:53-54)
- Sura 46 (Al-Ahqaf - The winding sandtracts): And before this, was the Book of Moses as a guide and a mercy: And this Book confirms [it] in the Arabic tongue; to admonish the unjust, and as Glad Tidings to those who do right. (Q46:12)
The New Testament
The Qur‘an also refers to the Injil, a word translated as ”Gospel• in most English versions. The Qur‘an may sometimes use the term to refer to the general message of Jesus and the New Testament Apostles, but there is no doubt that in most places it refers to the books of the New Testament. This is clearly the case in the following reference:-
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. (Q7:156-157)
The Qur'an is equally clear that the New Testament was given by God
- Sura 5 (al-Ma'ida - The spread table): ...Behold! I taught thee the Book and Wisdom... (Q5:113)
- Sura 9 (al-Tauba - repentance): Allah hath purchased of the Believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the Garden (of Paradise): They fight in His Cause and slay and are slain: A promise binding on Him in Truth, through the Law, the Gospel, and the Koran: And who is more faithful to his Covenant than Allah? Then rejoice in the bargain which ye have concluded: That is the achievement supreme. (Q9:111)
- Sura 5 (al-Ma'ida - The spread table): 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. (Q5:50)
- If only the People of the Book had believed and been righteous, We should indeed have blotted out their iniquities and admitted them to Gardens of Bliss. 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: But many of them follow a course that is evil. O Apostle! Proclaim the (Message) which hath been sent to thee from thy Lord. If thou didst not, thou wouldst not have fulfilled His Mission. And Allah will defend thee from men (who mean mischief). For Allah guideth not those who reject Faith. 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. - It is the revelation that cometh to thee from thy Lord, that increaseth in most of them their obstinate rebellion and blasphemy. But sorrow thou not over (these) people without Faith. (Q5:68-71)
To summarise, the Qur'an asserts that the New Testament was given by God through prophets and that the words of the New Testament were preserved by God at least until the time of Muhammad. The evidence of the manuscripts available from before the time of Muhammad is that the text of the New Testament is unchanged since this time. According to the Qur'an, the New Testament is therefore the word of God.
Can God‘s Word be Changed?
Another set of passages in the Qur'an indicate that it is impossible to change the revelation of God. These passages include:-
- Sura 2 (Baqara - The heifer): ...There is none that can alter the Words [and Decrees] of Allah... (Q6:34)
- Sura 10 (Yunus - Jonah): ...No change can there be in the Words of Allah... (Q10:64)
As the Qur'an states that God's word cannot be changed, it therefore requires the conclusion that the Bible has not been changed.
This, of course, is consistent with the passages which are sometimes quoted by Muslims to indicate that the Bible had been corrupted. These passages in reality claim that some Jews (possibly the majority) and some Christians (again quite probably the majority) have ignored the Bible and not paid proper attention to it, but even these passages assume that the Bible is unchanged.
There is more of a problem for the Qur'an, because the Qur'an itself explicitly states that the Qur'an was changed before it was written down. Here are some passages to this effect:-
- Sura 2 (Baqara - the heifer): None of our revelations do we abrogate or cause to be forgotten, but we substitute something better or similar: Knowest thou not that God hath power over all things? (Q 2:106)
- Sura 16 (Nahl - The bee): When we substitute one revelation for another - and God knows best what he reveals [in stages], They say "Thou art but a forger" but most of them understand not. (Q 16:101)
The internal logic of this is that the Qur'an cannot be God's word. Here is how the reasoning works:-
- The word of God can not be changed
- The Qur'an has been changed
- Therefore the Qur'an is not God's word.
The Qur‘an is a witness to the Bible
According to its own words the Qur'an gives a witness to the inspiration and authority of the Bible. Here are four passages which show this:-
- Sura 2 (Baqara - the heifer): And when there came to them an Apostle from Allah, confirming what was with them, ... (Q2:101)
- Sura 3 (Al-i-Imran - The family of Imran): It is He Who sent down to thee [step by step], in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel [of Jesus] before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the Criterion [of judgement between right and wrong]. (Q3:3)
- Sura 4 (Nisaa - The woman): O ye People of the Book! Believe in what We have [now] revealed, confirming what was [already] with you, ... (Q4:47)
- Sura 10 (Yunus - Jonah): This Koran is not such as can be produced by other than Allah; on the contrary it is a confirmation of [revelations] that went before it, and a fuller explanation of the Book—wherein there is no doubt—from the Lord of the Worlds. (Q10:37)
The Crux of the Argument
The Qur'an testifies that the Bible was inspired by God and hence written by prophets, that the Old Testament was available unchanged in the time of Jesus and that the whole Bible was available unchanged in the time of Muhammad. It also asserts that it is impossible for the Word of God to be changed, and as the Qur'an asserts that the Bible is God's word this also is covered.
There is therefore an inescapable conclusion. Anyone who believes that the Qur'an is true must also believe that the Bible is true. Indeed the Qur'an makes this point explicitly:-
Sura 5 (al-Ma'ida - The spread table): It was We who revealed the Law [to Moses]: Therein was guidance and light. By its standard have been judged the Jews, by the Prophets who bowed [as in Islam] to Allah's Will, by the Rabbis and the Doctors of Law: For to them was entrusted the protection of Allah's Book, and they were witnesses thereto: Therefore fear not men, but fear Me, and sell not My signs for a miserable price. If any do fail to judge by [the light of] what Allah hath revealed, they are [no better than] 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 any one remits the retaliation by way of charity, it is an act of atonement for himself. And if any fail to judge by [the light of] what Allah hath revealed, they are [no better than] wrongdoers. (Q5:47,48)
Essentially this passage states that anyone who does not judge by the Bible (in this case the Law of Moses) is no better than an unbeliever or a wrongdoer. This is strong language, and expresses an absolute confidence that the Bible was a message from God at the time that the Qur'an was written.
We know from manuscript evidence that the Bible we have today is the same as the Bible was at the time of the writing of the Qur'an (and indeed long before this).
One can thus go on to look at the whole argument:-
- According to the Qur'an, any faithful Muslim must accept the Bible as the Word of God.
- However, the Qur'an contains teachings which contradict the Bible.
- This produces a logical dilemma, which can only be resolved by the conclusion that the Qur'an is not entirely the Word of God.
John the Bearded