A Christian Rebuttal to a Muslim response to
Dr. James R Whites "Anonymous Books and Inspiration"
A specific Muslim writer has undertaken the task of addressing Christian apologist Dr. James R. Whites articles on Islam (*), specifically those dealing with Shabir Ally, prompting us to respond to some of the points raised by this particular "apologist." We will be interacting with some of the points he raises in this "rebuttal" (*), namely the part which discusses the Islamic view of the Holy Bible.
Muslim Polemics and the Bible
According to Muslims, the writings in the hands of the Jews and the Christians are not the original revelations, even though they may contain some inspired teachings. They give the misleading impression that this is what the author of the Quran actually believed and taught.
Muslims are commanded to believe in the Jewish-Christian Scriptures
What makes this rather sad and unfortunate is that this is a distortion of the Quranic view of the Holy Bible. For example, there are several passages that command Muhammad to affirm and testify to his belief in the Books which were in the hands of the Jews and Christians:
Dispute not with the People of the Book save in the fairer manner, except for those of them that do wrong; and say, 'We believe in what has been sent down to us, and what has been sent down TO YOU; our God and your God is One, and to Him we have surrendered.' S. 29:46
The Messenger believes in what was sent down to him from his Lord, and the believers; each one believes in God and His angels, and in His Books and His Messengers; we make no division between any one of His Messengers. They say, 'We hear, and obey. Our Lord, grant us Thy forgiveness; unto Thee is the homecoming.' S. 2:285
O believers, believe in God and His Messenger and the Book He has sent down on His Messenger and the Book which He sent down before. Whoso disbelieves in God and His angels and His Books, and His Messengers, and the Last Day, has surely gone astray into far error. S. 4:136
The question one should immediately ask in light of these texts is, what were theses Scriptures which both Muhammad and his followers were commanded to believe in which both the Jews and Christians possessed at that time?
The Quran confirms the Jewish-Christian Scriptures that were extant at Muhammads time
The Muslim scripture further claims that it actually confirms those very Scriptures which were in the hands of the Jews and Christians during Muhammads time:
And believe in that I have sent down, confirming that which IS WITH YOU, and be not the first to disbelieve in it. And sell not My signs for a little price; and fear you Me. S. 2:41
He has sent down to you the Book with truth, confirming that WHICH IS BETWEEN HIS/ITS HANDS (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi), and He sent down the Taurat and the Injeel before this as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion. Then those who reject Faith in the signs of Allah will suffer a severe torment, and Allah is the Mighty, Lord of Retribution. S. 3:3-4 our translation
Some of the Jews pervert words from their meanings saying, 'We have heard and we disobey' and 'Hear, and be thou not given to hear' and 'Observe us,' twisting with their tongues and traducing religion. If they had said, 'We have heard and obey' and 'Hear' and 'Regard us,' it would have been better for them, and more upright; but God has cursed them for their unbelief so they believe not except a few. You who have been given the Book, believe in what We have sent down, confirming what IS WITH YOU, before We obliterate faces, and turn them upon their backs, or curse them as We cursed the Sabbath-men, and God's command is done. S. 4:46-47
And this Quran is not such as could be forged by other than Allah, but it is a confirmation of that WHICH IS BETWEEN HIS/ITS hands (tasdeeqa allathee bayna yadayhi)and a clear explanation of the Book there is no doubt in it from the Lord of the worlds. S. 10:37 our translation
In their stories is surely a lesson to men possessed of minds; it is not a tale forged, but a confirmation of WHAT IS BETWEEN HIS/ITS HANDS (tasdeeqa allathee bayna yadayhi), and a distinguishing of every thing, and a guidance, and a mercy to a people who believe. S. 12:111 our translation
In fact, the Quran is intended to be an Arabic version of the Judeo-Christian Scriptures, specifically a confirmation of Moses Book in Arabic for Arabs since they hadnt received a divinely revealed Scripture in their language:
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. S. 46:12 Y. Ali
Then We gave Moses the Book, complete for him who does good, and distinguishing every thing, and as a guidance and a mercy; haply they would believe in the encounter with their Lord. This is a Book We have sent down, blessed; so follow it, and be godfearing; haply so you will find mercy; lest you should say, 'The Book was sent down only upon two parties before us, and we have indeed been heedless of their study'; S. 6:154-156
The Quran further refers to the Book which both Jews and Christians were reciting:
The Jews say, 'The Christians stand not on anything'; the Christians say, 'The Jews stand not on anything'; yet they recite the Book. So too the ignorant say the like of them. God shall decide between them on the Day of Resurrection touching their differences. S. 2:113
Once again, these verses raise the question concerning the contents of the Scriptures that were in the hands of the Jews and Christians during this period, i.e. what Book were these religious communities reading which was available for examination?
The Muslim expositors provide the answers:
O you who have been given the Scripture, believe in what We have revealed, of the Quran, confirming what is with you, of the Torah, (Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Q. 4:47; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)
(And this Qur'an) which is recited to you by Muhammad (pbuh) (is not such as could ever be invented in despite of Allah; but it is a confirmation of that which was before it) it is a confirmation of the Torah, the Gospel, the Psalms and all other Scriptures in that they all call to the profession of divine Oneness and contain the traits and description of Muhammad (pbuh) (and an exposition of that which is decreed for mankind) the Qur'an exposits the lawful and the prohibited, the commands and prohibitions. (Therein is no doubt from the Lord of the Worlds) from the Master of all worlds. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsir Ibn Abbas, Q. 10:37; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)
(In their history) in their events, the event of Joseph and his brothers (verily there is a lesson) a sign (for men of understanding) for people endowed with intelligence. (It is no invented story) the Qur'an is not an invented story (but a confirmation of the existing (Scripture)) a confirmation of the Torah, the Gospel and all the others scriptures; it confirms the profession of monotheism and other legal rulings as well as the story of Joseph (and a detailed explanation of everything) a detailed explanation of the lawful and the unlawful, (and a guidance) from error (and a mercy) preventing from chastisement (for folk who believe) in Muhammad (pbuh) and in the Qur'an which was revealed to you from your Lord, and Allah knows the secrets of His Book'. (Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsir Ibn Abbas, Q. 12:111; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)
These Muslim exegetes had no problem identifying the Scriptures that were in the hands of Muhammad as the Torah, the Gospel, the Psalms etc., which presupposes that these Books were still extant and available for examination. Otherwise how can the Quran be said to confirm the Books that were in the hands of the Jews and Christians if these Scriptures were lost or corrupted to such an extent that they no longer accurately preserved or reflected the original inspired Writings?
This leads us to our next point.
The Quran on the identity of the Torah (Old Testament) and Gospel (New Testament)
One is immediately struck by the irony of the Qurans frequent references to the availability and authority of Bible Books such as the Torah and the Injil (Gospel), and what those terms would have meant to Muhammad in his historical context, with the repeated Muslim assertion that the Quran doesnt confirm the Scriptures that we possess today.
The reason it is rather ironic is because the Quran provides evidence that the Torah and the Gospel which these communities were reading during Muhammads time are virtually identical to the Scriptures that we possess today:
Yet how will they make thee their judge seeing THEY HAVE the Torah, wherein is God's judgment, then thereafter turn their backs? They are not believers. Surely We sent down the Torah, wherein is guidance and light; thereby the Prophets who had surrendered themselves gave judgment for those of Jewry, as did the masters and the rabbis, following such portion of God's Book as they were given to keep and were witnesses to. So fear not men, but fear you Me; and sell not My signs for a little price. Whoso judges not according to what God has sent down - they are the unbelievers. And therein We prescribed for them: 'A life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds retaliation'; but whosoever forgoes it as a freewill offering, that shall be for him an expiation. Whoso judges not according to what God has sent down -- they are the evildoers. S. 5:43-45
Here, command is given to the Jews of Muhammads day to consult the Torah, the Book of God, since it contains Gods judgment. It even references a verse from that very Torah which helps us to identify it, a citation which can still be found today:
"But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise." Exodus 21:23-25
This isnt the only place where the Quran quotes from the Judeo-Christian Scriptures:
For We have written in the Psalms, after the Remembrance, 'The earth shall be the inheritance of My righteous servants.' S. 21:105
This is a direct reference to the following Psalm:
"But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever." Psalm 37:11, 29
What makes the above Quranic references to the Torah and the Psalms all the more interesting is that they presuppose a very high view of the Bibles authority and inspiration. Contrary to the assertions of many a Muslim polemicist (including this particular Muslin writer who is responding to Dr. White), these specific texts assume that the very words of the Scriptures are actually Gods, despite the fact that these writings fully incorporate the distinct personalities of the various human agents that were involved in their production. The Qurans author didnt think for a moment that Gods use of human authors to reveal his Divine truths somehow undermined the Scriptures inspiration. The author of the Quran didnt assume that the Holy Bible wasnt as divine or authoritative as the Quran simply because the former was communicated through various human authors who used different literary genres whereas the latter was allegedly dictated word for word.
Returning to the issue at hand, namely the availability and the precise identity of the Bible Books, the Quran further states that Jesus was sent to confirm the Torah which he possessed:
And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Torah THAT IS BETWEEN HIS HANDS (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi mina al-tawrat) and We gave to him the Gospel, wherein IS guidance and light, and confirming the Torah THAT IS BETWEEN HIS/ITS HANDS (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi mina al-tawrat), as a guidance and an admonition unto the godfearing. S. 5:46 our translation
Fortunately we are in position to know what the Torah Jesus held in his hands looked like, what its exact contents were. As a result of the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls in 1947, along with Jesus' extensive use of the OT Scriptures as documented in the NT Books, we know that the Scriptures which he was reading and confirming to be from God are the very same Books that we have today. This solidifies the case that the Torah has not been corrupted since Jesus basically confirmed the authority of the same Scriptures we now possess.
The Gospel or Gospels? Does the Quran confirm the NT Books?
Muslims also assume, albeit erroneously, that since the Quran does not mention the words Gospels (plural) but Gospel (singular) this somehow suggests that the Muslim scripture is not endorsing the canonical Gospels that are found in the NT. They further contend that the Quran describes this Gospel as something that was taught to Jesus by God which further proves that this cannot be the NT Gospels.
The problem with these assertions is that this overlooks the fact that the author of the Quran is using the term Gospel in a manner which comported with the understanding of the people during that time. The Quran is referring to the Christian understanding of the word Gospel, just as the following texts demonstrate:
So let the People of the Gospel judge according to what God has sent down therein. Whosoever judges not according to what God has sent down -- they are the ungodly. S. 5:47
Say: 'People of the Book, you do not stand on anything, until you perform the Torah and the Gospel, and what was sent down to you from your Lord.' And what has been sent down to thee from thy Lord will surely increase many of them in insolence and unbelief; so grieve not for the people of the unbelievers. S. 5:68
those who follow the Messenger, 'the Prophet of the common folk, whom they find written down with them in the Torah and the Gospel, bidding them to honour, and forbidding them dishonour, making lawful for them the good things and making unlawful for them the corrupt things, and relieving them of their loads, and the fetters that were upon them. Those who believe in him and succour him and help him, and follow the light that has been sent down with him -- they are the prosperers.' S. 7:157
God has bought from the believers their selves and their possessions against the gift of Paradise; they fight in the way of God; they kill, and are killed; that is a promise binding upon God in the Torah, and the Gospel, and the Koran; and who fulfils his covenant truer than God? So rejoice in the bargain you have made with Him; that is the mighty triumph. S. 9:111
The foregoing demonstrates that one must consult the available historical data in order to see how Christians would have understood Muhammads repeated appeal to the Gospel which they possessed seeing that he was addressing them. Yet this approach will make it abundantly clear that the Quran must be referring to the NT Scriptures that we still possess today since this is what the Christians had with them and this is what they judged by.
Even if a Muslim were to insist that this could only refer to the Gospel of Jesus, not to the NT epistles or to the Apocalypse, then s/he would still have to contend with the fact that the term would have been understood within its historical setting as a reference to the four Canonical Gospels.
After all the Church, early in its history, began referring to the four Gospels as the Gospel (singular) since these were viewed as four witnesses to the one Gospel of Christ. As the late NT scholar F. F. Bruce explained:
"At a very early date it appears that the four Gospels were united in one collection. They must have been brought together very soon after the writing of the Gospel according to John. This fourfold collection was known originally as The Gospel singular, not The Gospels in the plural; there was only one Gospel, narrated in four records, distinguished as according to Matthew, according to Mark, and so on. About A.D. 115 Ignatius, bishop, of Antioch, refers to The Gospel as an authoritative writing, and as he knew more than one of the four Gospels it may well be that by The Gospel sans phrase he means the fourfold collection which went by that name." (Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? [Intervarsity Press; Downers Grove Il., rpt. 1992], CHAPTER III - THE CANON OF THE NEW TESTAMENT, p. 23; source; bold emphasis ours)
Second century Christian apologist Irenaeus confirms Bruces point:
We have learned from none others the plan of salvation, than from those through whom THE GOSPEL has come down to us, which they did at one time proclaim in public, and, at a later period, by the will of God, handed down to us in the Scriptures, to be the ground and pillar of our faith. For it is unlawful to assert that they preached before they possessed perfect knowledge, as some do even venture to say, boasting themselves as improvers of the apostles. For, after our Lord rose from the dead, [the apostles] were invested with power from on high when the Holy Spirit came [upon them], were filled from all [His gifts], and had perfect knowledge: they departed to the ends of the earth, preaching the glad tidings of the good things [sent] from God to us, and proclaiming peace of heaven to men, who indeed do all equally and individually POSSESS THE GOSPEL OF GOD. Matthew also issued a written Gospel among the Hebrews in their own dialect, while Peter and Paul were preaching at Rome, and laying the foundations of the Church. After their departure, Mark, the disciple and interpreter of Peter, did also hand down to us in writing what had been preached by Peter. Luke also, the companion of Paul, recorded in a book THE GOSPEL preached by him. Afterwards, John, the disciple of the Lord, who also leaned upon His breast, did himself publish a Gospel during his residence at Ephesus in Asia. ANF, Vol. 1, Against Heresies 3.1.1. (David T. King and William Webster, Holy Scriptures, The Ground and Pillar of Our Faith, Volume III, The Writings of the Church Fathers Affirming the Reformation Principle of Sola Scriptura [Christian Resources - 1505 NW 4th Avenue - BattleGround, WA 98604], p. 17; bold and capital emphasis ours)
Such, then, are the first principles of the Gospel; that there is one God, the Maker of this universe; He who was also announced by the prophets, and who by Moses set forth the dispensation of the law, - [principles] which proclaim the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, and ignore any other God or Father except Him. So firm is the ground upon which THESE GOSPELS rest, THAT THE VERY HERETICS THEMSELVES BEAR WITNESS TO THEM, and, STARTING FROM THESE [DOCUMENTS], each one of them endeavors to establish his own peculiar doctrine. For the Ebionites, who use Matthew's Gospel only, are confuted out of this very same, making false suppositions with regard to the Lord. But Marcion, mutilating that according to Luke, is proved to be a blasphemer of the only existing God, from those [passages] which he still retains. Those, again, who separate Jesus from Christ, alleging that Christ remained impassible, but that it was Jesus who suffered, preferring the Gospel of Mark, if they read it with a love of truth, may have their errors rectified. Those, moreover, who follow Valentinus, making copious use of that according to John, to illustrate their conjunctions, shall be proved to be totally in error by means of this very Gospel, as I have shown in the first book. Since, then, OUR OPPONENTS DO BEAR TESTIMONY TO US, and make use OF THESE [DOCUMENTS], our proof derived from them IS FIRM AND TRUE. ANF, Vol. 1, Against Heresies 3.11.7. (Ibid., pp. 21-22; bold and capital emphasis ours)
It is not possible that the Gospels can be either more or fewer in number than they are. For, since there are four zones of the world in which we live, and four principle winds, while the Church is scattered throughout all the world, and the pillar and ground of the Church is THE GOSPEL, and the spirit of life; it is fitting that she should have four pillars, breathing out immortality on every side, and vivifying men afresh. From which fact, it is evident that the Word, the Artificer of all, He that sitteth upon the cherubim, and contains all things, He who was manifested to men, has given us THE GOSPEL under four aspects, but bound together by ONE SPIRIT. ANF, Vol. 1, Against Heresies 3.11.8. (Ibid., p. 22; bold and capital emphasis ours)
What the foregoing shows is that the Qurans repeated appeal to the Gospel would have clearly been understood by Muhammads Christian contemporaries as a reference to their canonical Gospels, if not to their entire NT collection. There is simply no way of denying this on historical grounds.
Allahs Books can never be changed
As if this werent enough to demonstrate the fact that the Quran confirms the very Bible books which we now possess, the Muslim scripture further says that Allah will not allow anyone to change his words:
What, shall I seek after any judge but God? For it is He who sent down to you the Book well-distinguished; and those whom We have given the Book know it is sent down from thy Lord with the truth; so be not thou of the doubters. Perfect are the words of thy Lord in truthfulness and justice; no man can change His words; He is the All-hearing, the All-knowing. S. 6:114-115
Certain expositors understood the above reference to be a promise made by Allah to preserve the Quran:
Described in the second verse (115), there are two more distinctive qualities of the Holy Quran sufficient to prove its being the Divine Word. It is said (And the Word of your Lord is perfect in truth and justice. None is there to change His Word) The sixth quality has been identified as that is, there is no one who can change the words of Allah Taala. One form in which such a change can take place is when someone proves a mistake in it because of which it has been changed; or, that some enemy changes it forcibly. The Word of Allah is pristinely pure and far beyond any such possibilities. He has Himself promised that is, We (only We) have revealed the Dhikr (the Quran) and, for it, We (only We) are the Protector 15:9). When so, who can dare break through the protection of Allah and make any changes or alterations in it? For that matter, over fourteen hundred years have passed and there have been against it as compared in numbers, even in power, with those who have been believing it, but not one of them had the courage to introduce one tiny variance in even a vowel point of the Quran. Of course, possible there was a third form of bringing in a change, that is, it be changed through abrogation (naskh)[sic] by Allah Taala Himself. Therefore, Sayyidna Abdullah Ibn Abbas said: This verse indicates that the noble Prophet is the Last Prophet and the Quran, the Last Book. After this, there is no probability of an abrogation- as it has been elucidated in other verses of the Quran. (Mufti Shafi Uthmani, Maariful Quran, Volume 3, pp. 444, 446-447; source; bold emphasis ours)
While others interpreted this to include all of Allahs Books:
The word of God meant in this verse is the Quran. This word is complete in truth and justice. Nothing can change Allahs word which he revealed in his BOOKS. The liars cannot add or delete from Allahs BOOKS. This is referring without a doubt to the Jews and Christians because they are the people of the books which were revealed to their prophets. Allah is revealing that the words they (the people of the book) are corrupting were not revealed by Allah, but Allahs word cannot be changed or substituted. (Tafsir al-Tabari; source)
Yet either interpretation leads to the same conclusion, specifically, Allah would allow no one to corrupt his words which are found in all of his Books. To see how this works out note the following syllogism carefully:
The Bible the Book whose authenticity cannot be doubted
In light of the foregoing should it surprise the readers to find the Quran saying that there is absolutely no doubt concerning the textual veracity of the Holy Bible?
That is the Book (Thalika al-kitab), wherein is no doubt, a guidance to the godfearing who believe in the Unseen, and perform the prayer, and expend of that We have provided them; who believe in what has been sent down to thee and what has been sent down before thee, and have faith in the Hereafter; S. 2:2-4 Arberry
Note what the citation does not say it does not say that "THIS is the book wherein is no doubt," which would obviously be referring to the Quran just as in the following examples:
This is a book (Wa hatha kitabun) We have sent down, blessed, confirming that which is between his/its hands (musaddiqu allathee bayna yadayhi), and for thee to warn the mother of towns and those about her; and those who believe in the world to come believe in it, and watch over their prayers. S. 6:92 our translation
This is the Book (Wa hatha kitabun) which we have sent down; it is a blessing; follow it then and fear; haply ye may obtain mercy. S. 6:155
Rather, it says "THAT is the book," which clearly points to a Scripture other than the Quran. And what other Book could this be if not the Bible, the very Scripture which the Quran repeatedly points to just as we see in the following examples?
Children of Israel, remember My blessing wherewith I blessed you, and fulfil My covenant and I shall fulfil your covenant; and have awe of Me. And believe in that I have sent down, confirming that which is with you, and be not the first to disbelieve in it. And sell not My signs for a little price; and fear you Me. And do not confound the truth with vanity, and do not conceal the truth wittingly. And perform the prayer, and pay the alms, and bow with those that bow. Will you bid others to piety, and forget yourselves while you recite the Book? Do you not understand? S. 2:40-44
And when We gave to Moses the Book and the Salvation, that haply you should be guided. S. 2:53
Not only the choice of the demonstrative pronoun points to another book, but the context of Q. 2:2 actually speaks of two revelations. Verse 4 refers to the one that "has been sent down to thee" (Muhammad), i.e. the Quran, and the one that "has been sent down before thee", i.e. the Bible. "Hatha" (this) refers to something that is near, and "thalika" (that) refers to something that is further away. In the context of the two revelations which are mentioned, "thalika" can only refer to the one that is further away from Muhammad, the one that was sent earlier, i.e. the Bible.
Thus, the Holy Bible is called "the Book wherein is no doubt".
This concludes the first part our examination. Please continue reading Part 2.
The Qur'an About the Bible
Articles by Sam Shamoun
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