Saturday, February 13, 2010

Muhammad and the Bible

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.

Dr. al-Ashqar:
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!"


Usama said...

If the Qur'an had a Jewish-Christian' origin, one would expect to find in the Qur'an the same errors and distortions that are in the Old and New Testaments.

How can you interpret the existence of some stories which were not mentioned in the widely-known Bibles but only found in some codices that were found recently, these were not known to the contemporary Christians of Prophet Mohammed.

Did Mohammed read the Red Sea Scroll, which remained hidden in one of the caves of the Dead Sea and only were found in the 1948? Did Mohammed read the codices of Naga Hamadi in Egypt and that were only found a few years ago?

Did Mohammed read the Bible of Judas which was found recently in Egypt and only translated into English a few years ago in United States? This bible in conformity with the Holy Qur’an concerning the story of Crucifixion, it states that it was not Jesus who was crucified and some one else was.

Did Mohammed know all of these languages that these codices were written in?

Usama said...

Where does the Bible mentioned Prophet Saleh, Prophet Hud, Prophet Shu'ayb, Prophet Idris, Prophet Dhul-Kifl?

Cyril Lucar said...

Usama, the difficulty with your reasoning is that it isn't reasoning at all, it is simply repetition of the claims of Islamic apologists.

You seem to not actually know that the "Red Sea Scroll" is actually a vast collection of scrolls and fragments of the Essene community, or that Gnostic documents of Nag Hammadi (like the DEAD SEA Scrolls) have nothing at all to do with Islam. And you certainly don't have any familiarity with the GOSPEL of Judas, which is not a BIBLE at all. Muhammed making the oft-repeated claim that Jesus didn't die on the cross is evidence of nothing, except that he is a disbeliever in Jesus the Messiah.

Why are the vast majority of you aggressive, uneducated and unable to reason clearly? I very much think the belief system of Islam keeps your mind in as much bondage as your heart.

Unknown said...

We Muslims believe, that Jesus was one of the mightiest messengers of God that he was the Christ, that he was born miraculously without any male intervention (which many modern-day Christians do not believe today), that he gave life to the dead by God's permission and that he healed those born blind and the lepers by god's permission. In fact, no Muslim is a Muslim if he or she does not believe in Jesus!
The Christian does not know that the true spirit of charity which the Muslim displays, always, towards Jesus and his mother Mary spring from the fountainhead of his faith - the Holy Quran. He does not know that the Muslim does not take the holy name of Jesus, in his own language, without saying Eesa, alaihi assalam ("Jesus, peace be upon him")

The Christian does not know that in the Holy Quran Jesus is mentioned twenty five times. For example:

"We gave Jesus, the son of Mary, clear signs and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit" (The Holy Quran 2:87)

"O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary..." (3:45)

"...Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of god..." (4:171)

"...And in their foot steps we sent Jesus the son of Mary..." (5:46)

"And Zakariya and John, and Jesus and Elias: all in the ranks of the righteous." (6:85)

I would really like for any Christian to please ask QUESTIONS they have regarding Jesus (pbuh) in Islam or in fact any other aspect of Islam. I will try my level best to answer and to prove to you that there might be problems with the Muslims of today but Islam certainly is the perfect religion. Thanks

Quotable Quotes: said...

I am glad you are continuing to read my blog. Just yesterday I heard someone encourage people to read, read, read, and when they were finished to read some more. It seems you are someone who is following that example, and I wish you the best.

Cyril Lucar said...


Lots of Christians know about the Koranic portrayal of Jesus. We just don't find it a) credible; b) insightful; c) interesting. From the Christian point of view, the problem is not that we're unaware of the Koran's brief appropriations and misrepresentations of the Gospels, it's that Muslims don't understand what the Bible says about Jesus. You don't have the whole story, just snippets (and wildly misinformed ones at that). We'll read the Koran, you read the Gospels, and then we'll have something to talk about.

nboukaram said...

I will not argue any of the points either "side" has mentioned as I am in the process of studying "both sides of the coin" at the moment although that expression does not accurately portray the continuity of the One God's message - you get the drift. In addition, I find that humans beings aren't really interested in actually seeing or hearing the truth or even getting closer to God. They are just trying in all of their arrogance to prove what they believe is right even if their beliefs couldn't survive two seconds in court. If all each party is aiming at is proving the other wrong with no interest in uncovering the truth then all I have to say is السلام عليكم

Anonymous said...

Prophecy Servant of God
` ` ` ` ` ` ` `
word Atmak not necessarily means ‘whom I uphold’ but is infact a name

the writing of Atmak is אתמך
the writing of Ahmad is אחמד

Isaiah 42:1
God says
“Behold, 'My Servant' (pronounced as Abd-ee), ‘whom I uphold’ (pronounced as Atmak);

God mentioning about the coming of His servant
Behold My Servant Ahmad (Isaiah 42:1) - so who is this Ahmad as in God'servant?

He is none other than
Abd-Allah Ahmad (Servant of God, Ahmad) - Prophet Muhammad s.a.w

Unknown said...

Here is a thought for those blessed with knowledge, wisdom and guidance. The Quraan is the only Scripture to mention the story of the Prophet Saleh PBUH. Neither the Bible nor the Torah mentions this story nor is there any other scrolls or historic scriptures which mention about this story and legacy left behind. About this legacy, A place called Al-Ula or Median-e-Saleh in Saudi Arabia, 400km North of Medina, a nation that lived before Prophet Abraham PBUH, who were given such strength that they could carve houses out of mountains but they denied the One Lord of the Heavens and the Earth and ascribed partners to Him so the Lord Almighty sent a destruction with an awful cry and they laid dead prostrated in their homes. But The Lord Almighty, said He left their homes as a lesson for mankind to only those He has Guided. So with this stated, the place is mentioned and to top it all UNESCO, a body that is not even Islamic has declared this place as a World Heritage Site. So if they can realise this fact, is it not time that you researched it for yourself, perhaps even take a trip to the site, in search for the Truth and for Divinely Guidance???

Sahad said...

Its very amusing to read your account of that your notice quran is not revealed to muslims is revealed to whole world.And on your account of the red sea is about musa (moses) whom we consider as a prophet.And your claims of isa(a)(jesus) been prosecuted can be termed as a folly..quran talks about the history from the start of mankind..and it shows ur unknowledgement of quran that u say that quran never talks of judas.You know I am a muslim but I have read the bible . I have argued with you on the basis of that.Quraan talks of everything which is there or not in bible.actually it the explaination of events in bible...I request u to read the english translation of quraan and understand that for urself..if muhammed(s) was a simple man how would he said about the evolution of universe,spider webs ,evolution of clouds and about was through quraan.

Then He turned to the heaven when it was smoke...” (Quran 41:11)

sharfuddin said...

Interesting discussion. My comments are as follows:
If you are looking for reasoning in Islam you won't find it because it is based on faith which comes under the domain of belief. Reasoning comes after faith. If you go by reason then the condemned Archangel who disputed the superiority of Adam in Paradise was right. Adam was low born from dust compared to the high birth of angels from fire. He was also liable to fall and fall he did by eating the forbidden fruit. Yet, in the eyes of the Lord, Adam was the chief of creation and needed to be respected by all angels.
The holy Quran is a miracle of God. It is the only book in the world which is completely memorised and recited by millions every day of the year, year after year. If contains verses which were revealed but later cancelled and replaced by other verses. The cancelled verses have not been removed for a reason. The reason is mentioned in the Quran: to harden the hearts of the unbelievers and make them criticise the Quran and thus leave evidence that they were not ignorant of the Quran but they actually challenged it. Punishment without evidence is unfair and no one can be sent to hellfire without evidence. Allah's method of addressing important things is unique. At the heart of this uniqueness is contradiction. A perfect Book (Quran) having cancelled verses sounds a contradiction. Likewise, the basic tenet of Islam, which is called the Kalema starts with a contradiction. It says there is no God and then having started with no God it says nay there is indeed a God, the one and only God.
The capacity of human mind to process knowledge is finite and yet the human mind is capable of asking astounding questions (another contradiction). If Muhammad was narrating the stories of prophets he heard from passing caravans, he would have repeated these as he heard without editing them. Assuming he had edited them and added from his own by changing events or timelines, he would not have kept the same line throughout throughout his 23 years of receiving the revelation and would have got caught. But it does not happen in the Quran. The stories of prophets narrated in different chapters (with the sole exception of the story of Joseph for which there is a full chapter in the Quran) are consistent throughout the Quran.
Assuming he copied the tales, then we should be reading in the Quran that only Adam ate the forbidden fruit instead of both Adam and Eve committing the original sin; we should be reading that the sacrifice of ram ascribed to Abraham was performed on Issac, not Ishmael; we would have the story that Jonah was punished because he refused to go to Nineveh instead of the story that he left he people of Nineveh fearing that God's wrath will befall them because they did not listen to his message; and we would read in the Quran that Job's misfortunes were because of an argument between the Lord and Satan; and so on. But Muhammad's stories are not his stories not the stories of the caravans; these are stories as he received them from Allah.
Besides the point whether Muhammad borrowed or plagiarised the stories, the fundamental message of Islam in these stories is not the plot but two main lessons that come out from them. One is obedience to Allah, whether in sickness or in health or in the life of luxury or poverty. The second is all prophets of Allah brought the same message of the Unity and Singularity of God to man who has a clear choice of making his path to heaven or hell depending upon the temptations he resists or goes after.
Please excuse my departure from brevity.
Cheers and God bless