The view of Muslims towards the Taurah and the Injil (literally the Torah and the Gospel; this is the common Arabic expression for the Jewish and Christian Scriptures) was the subject of this week's "Shariah and Life" program on al-Jazeera TV with Umar Sulayman al-Ashqar, former Dean of Islamic Law at Jordan's al-Zarqa University. I would like to summarize what Dr. al-Ashqar said, and then add my comments.
Muslims believe five progressive revelations were given by Allah to his Prophets. The first was given to Abraham and is now extinct. The Torah was given to Moses, the Zamur (Psalms) to David, the Injil to Jesus, and the Quran to Muhammad. Each of these revelations contained the same essential message that there is only one God and he alone is to be worshipped. The Shariah (religious system of law) given to each prophet was not the same, but was to be obeyed until the next prophet came. The Jews were to obey Moses until Jesus and Jesus was to be obeyed until Muhammad, who is to be obeyed by all people for all time.
The prophets are all linked, like the links of a chain, with each connected to those before and after him. Illustrating this, Muhammad said, "The family of prophets is like a man who marries several wives and has sons from each one. As the sons have different mothers but all have the same father, so we prophets have different Shariahs but the same message."
The revelations were all given without error, and each Prophet predicted the coming of Muhammad who is the final and greatest prophet. All Quranic expositors agree that in Quran 3:81 Allah informed all the prophets about Muhammad. This verse states that Allah told all the prophets to keep the wisdom he had given them until a Messenger would come to confirm this wisdom and whom they were to obey. Allah then asked the prophets if they agreed to this, and they replied they did. This pact is described in the verse as the Covenant of the Prophets.
There are two main differences between the earlier revelations and the Quran. Each of those was only given for the prophet and his people. The Torah was given to Moses for the Jews of his day, and the Injil was given to Jesus for his people. Only the Quran is given to all people for all time. Secondly, only the Quran has been preserved from corruption. God allowed the previous revelations to be corrupted because their followers were corrupt, and also because they were only temporary. Even if they would have remained uncorrupted, they would have been abrogated by the Quran because they contained much information that was superseded by the Quran. The Jews of Moses' day, for example, took communal baths (Book 003, Number 0669). This immoral practice would certainly have been abrogated by the higher moral standards of the Quran.
Not all of the Torah and Injil have been corrupted. The Ten Commandments, for example, are included in the Shariah of Islam, as are passages discussing mercy for orphans. Two main principles can be followed to determine what has been corrupted in the earlier revelations. First is that any account relayed differently in the original than in the Quran has been corrupted, because the Quranic rendition is accurate. As an example, Genesis begins by stating that Allah created the world in six days and rested on the seventh because he was tired. The Quran also states that Allah created the world in six days, but it is impossible that Allah who is all-powerful could become tired and need to rest. The addition in Genesis is a corruption added by the Jews sometime during their history. The teaching in the Injil that Jesus was crucified is also a corruption added later by his disciples, because the Quran states he was not crucified.
The second way to recognize corruption is to understand that Allah has protected all the prophets from committing major sins. It is impossible for a prophet to commit immorality, or to kill anyone without just cause after receiving his call to prophethood. The many stories in the Torah describing the lewdness of the Jewish prophets, including the drunkenness and nakedness of Noah, Lot offering his daughters for sex to the men of Sodom and then later sleeping with these same daughters, David committing adultery with Bathsheba, and Solomon's detailed description of lovemaking in the Song of Solomon, are all corruptions deliberately added to the text by the Jews.
Allah gave the Quran to protect the earlier revelations from further corruption, and to call their followers to Islam. Quran 2:40-42 commands the Children of Israel to obey their revelations that lead them to Islam, not to mix error with falsehood or deny what they know to be the truth about Muhammad. Much of surat al-'Imran, chapter 3 of the Quran and especially beginning with verse 64, speaks of the "Common Word" (3:64) that exists between Muslims, Christians, and Jews calling them all to Islam.
From the time he began to envision uniting the Arabs under one banner with him as leader, Muhammad recognized the importance of gaining the support of the Christians and the Jews. This support could only come if he could convince them that he himself was both a prophet and a king, similar to their great King David who was accepted as prophet before he was crowned as king. The hundreds of repititions of the Biblical stories in the Quran, strategically changed to make Muhammad similar to those prophets, were intended to persuade the Jews and Christians that he indeed was a prophet just like their heroes of old.
If the stories of Noah, Joseph, Abraham and Moses are retold in chapter after chapter of the Quran, why is there hardly any mention of the "real" Hebrew prophets such as Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah, and the dozen or so others whose writings bear their names in the Old Testament? The answer is that Muhammad was an illiterate storyteller who lived in an illiterate society of fellow poets and storytellers. Arabic itself was only a semi-literate language. The all-important diacritical vowel markings and dots placed above and beneath Arabic letters to distinguish one from another were only added later when the Quran was codified by the Caliph Uthman. There were no Arabic books at the time of Muhammad, and Arabic writing for those who were literate did not extend much beyond lists of goods and materials carried on the camel caravans that traveled back and forth across the Arabian deserts.
Muhammad's society was one of oral tradition, poetry, and story telling. Compare the story of Joseph in Genesis, almost bland in its simplicity, with the intrigue of the Quranic rendition after the story was repeated around caravan campfires for thousands of years. Noah building a ship to save his family from destruction, Moses having a conversation with a burning bush, and Abraham about to sacrifice his son on top of a mountain were all adventures that could be repeated again and again, and all found their way into the Quran. But the Hebrew prophets Micah, Joel, and Amos? There is no adventure to be found in their books, and there is no mention of them in the Quran. It is doubtful that Muhammad even heard of them.
Muhammad's insistence that prophets were all protected from major sins is easy to understand, because he included himself. Beheading 800 Jewish males of Medina for not accepting him as a prophet as he had hoped was not murder, because prophets cannot commit murder. "Marrying" a beautiful female captive of war the day after killing her husband was not rape, because prophets cannot commit rape. Sleeping with his wife's lovely Christian slave was not adultery, because prophets cannot commit adultery.
For the last five months, Zakaria Boutros on al-Hayat TV has discussed hundreds of examples of Muhammad stealing material from the Bible, as well as many other sources, and inserting it into the Quran. The host of "Shariah and Life" is obviously aware of this because one of his questions to Dr. al-Ashqar was, "Christians say that the Quran itself has corrupted the Injil and the Torah. What is your response to that?
Dr. al-Ashqar answered five months of Boutros' evidence with a single sentence, "Our answer is that Allah revealed the Quran to Muhammad in perfection. Quran 15:9 says, "We have sent down the Quran, and surely we will guard it from corruption!"