What Does the Quran say about the Bible: Corrupted or Uncorrupted, Valid or Invalid (2009)

       Ehteshaam Gulam

What does the Quran say about the Bible? Is it corrupted? Valid or Invalid? Here Ehteshaam Gulam responds to this age old polemic by Christian apologists who want to claim that the Bible is valid according to the Quran-- and proves them demonstrably wrong.

         1. What does the Quran mean when it is talking about the Torah, Psalms and the Gospel?

Muslims believe in the revealed books of Allah. This includes the Quran (the final revelation to Mankind, Allah’s love letter to humanity) and the earlier books of revelation given by Allah to his various messengers over time. While all of Allah’s messengers and Prophets received divine revelation some Prophets were given an actual book or oral type of revelation. Those messengers who were given these books were referred to as the messengers of Allah. The Quran notes five such books of revelation: The Book given to Prophet Abraham [1], the Book given to Prophet Moses (The Torah or Law) the book given to King David (The Psalms) and the Gospel given to Prophet Jesus and finally the book given to Prophet Muhammad (The Quran). This can be found in the Quran in several places:

Or do they envy mankind for what Allah hath given them of his bounty? but We had already given the people of Abraham the Book and Wisdom, and conferred upon them a great kingdom. (Quran 4:54)

….and to David We gave the Psalms (Quran 4:163)

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. (Quran 5:46)

Now what does the Quran mean when it says Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus (peace and blessings be upon all of them) all got their individual books? The Quran means that these books were revealed to their messengers in their original form (probably meaning as an oral message). So these books were given to the four messengers of Allah, directly by a revelation from Allah. After these messengers received these revelations, some messengers like Abraham, Moses and David wrote these revelations down and others didn’t like Jesus. After Abraham, Moses and David died, the book of Abraham was lost, The Torah of Moses was corrupted and badly edited as time went on and most of the Psalms of David were written by unknown writers. As for the Gospel, well as soon as Jesus left the earth—the New Testament was badly corrupted by unreliable oral traditions, growing legends, fictional forms and cheats and frauds who were pretending to be apostles of the original church (like Paul of Tarsus).

           2.Where the Quran says the Bible has been corrupted

The Quran says that the current Torah, Psalms and Gospel (the New Testament) have been badly corrupted. Numerous passages of the Quran refer to man’s distortion and alterations of the previous books of revelations from Allah. These passages in the Quran note that the received books by the People of the Book, The Jews and the Christians, do not conform to the original revelations that were given to Moses, David and Jesus. The following verses from the Quran are among the more direct in addressing this distortion of the prior books of Allah.

Can ye (o ye men of Faith) entertain the hope that they will believe in you?- Seeing that a party of them heard the Word of Allah, and perverted it knowingly after they understood it… Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say:"This is from Allah," to traffic with it for miserable price!- Woe to them for what their hands do write, and for the gain they make thereby. (Quran 2:75,79)

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, and (well) they know it! (Quran 3:78)

And remember Allah took a covenant from the People of the Book, to make it known and clear to mankind, and not to hide it; but they threw it away behind their backs, and purchased with it some miserable gain! And vile was the bargain they made! (Quran 3:187)

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 them, nor wilt thou cease to find them- barring a few - ever bent on (new) deceits: but forgive them, and overlook (their misdeeds): for Allah loveth those who are kind. From those, too, who call themselves Christians, We did take a covenant, but they forgot a good part of the message that was sent them: so we estranged them, with enmity and hatred between the one and the other, to the day of judgment. And soon will Allah show them what it is they have done. (Quran 5:13-14)

No just estimate of Allah do they make when they say: "Nothing doth Allah send down to man (by way of revelation)" Say: "Who then sent down the Book which Moses brought?- a light and guidance to man: But ye make it into (separate) sheets for show, while ye conceal much (of its contents): therein were ye taught that which ye knew not- neither ye nor your fathers." Say: "Allah (sent it down)": Then leave them to plunge in vain discourse and trifling. (Quran 6:91)

There are of course many other passages in the Quran which say the Bible has been corrupted. [1]

           3.Where the Hadith say the Bible has been corrupted

The Hadith (sayings and actions of Prophet Muhammad in Islam) as well point out to Biblical Corruption. Consider these hadith:

Narrated Abu Huraira: The people of the Scripture (Jews) used to recite the Torah in Hebrew and they used to explain it in Arabic to the Muslims. On that Allah's Apostle said, "Do not believe the people of the Scripture or disbelieve them, but say:-- "We believe in Allah and what is revealed to us." (2.136) (Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 12)

Narrated Ubaidullah: Ibn 'Abbas said, "Why do you ask the people of the scripture about anything while your Book (Quran) which has been revealed to Allah's Apostle is newer and the latest? You read it pure, undistorted and unchanged, and Allah has told you that the people of the scripture (Jews and Christians) changed their scripture and distorted it, and wrote the scripture with their own hands and said, 'It is from Allah,' to sell it for a little gain. Does not the knowledge which has come to you prevent you from asking them about anything? No, by Allah, we have never seen any man from them asking you regarding what has been revealed to you!" (Bukhari Volume 9, Book 92, Number 461)

Narrated 'Ubaidullah bin 'Abdullah: 'Abdullah bin 'Abbas said, "O the group of Muslims! How can you ask the people of the Scriptures about anything while your Book which Allah has revealed to your Prophet contains the most recent news from Allah and is pure and not distorted? Allah has told you that the people of the Scriptures have changed some of Allah's Books and distorted it and wrote something with their own hands and said, 'This is from Allah, so as to have a minor gain for it. Won't the knowledge that has come to you stop you from asking them? No, by Allah, we have never seen a man from them asking you about that (the Book Al-Qur'an ) which has been revealed to you. (Bukhari Volume 9, Book 93, Number 614)

So the first hadith is saying that as long as the Torah agrees with the Quran, it is to be believed however if the Torah doesn’t agree with the Quran then it is not to be believed. Some Christian apologetics only quotes the second Bukhari Hadith #614 to point out that Islam doesn’t have anything to say about Biblical corruption. But this hadith too is saying that the Bible is corrupt. When it says changed some of Allah’s books, it means the Torah, Psalms and the Gospels and that the Bible is not reliable and Muslims shouldn’t go to the people of the scripture since their books are now distorted. Also pay attention to the hadith #461 I quoted. The hadith states that the Jews AND the Christians had distorted and wrote the scripture with their own hands that was given to them. In other words their books were not the same ones given to Moses and Jesus and that’s what the Quran 3:3 is speaking about… the orginal books of Prophets Moses and Jesus which we clearly don’t have today.

                 4. Scholars of the Bible say the Bible has been badly edited and corrupted over time

Critical scholars today are generally in agreement that the sources of the Pentateuch were 4 separate documents written in different times by different authors. These source documents were called the J (Jehowah/Yahweh), E (Elohim) D (Deuteronomic), and the P (priestly), documents. Internal evidence shows that “J” originated from the southern kingdom of Judah and was the earliest to be documented around 900BC; “E” was written in the northern kingdom of Israel probably about a century or so later. The “D” document is dated to about 700BC. The documents were then combined into one by the priesthood, who added their own “Priestly” tradition to it, during the Babylonian exile (after 560 BC). We are not concerned here with the basis of this theory as our purpose is simply to show that it could not have been written by Moses-a fundamentalist bedrock belief.  For more on this read Anderson, A Critical Introduction to the Old Testament.

The gospels are not eyewitness accounts

-Allen D. Callahan, Associate Professor of New Testament, Harvard Divinity School

Some scholars say so many revisions occurred in the 100 years following Jesus' death that no one can be absolutely sure of the accuracy or authenticity of the Gospels, especially of the words the authors attributed to Jesus himself.
-Jeffery L. Sheler, [2]

Even the Biblical book of Jeremiah clearly states that the scribes of the ancient Israelites altered the revealed scriptures given to the Israelites by Allah, and thus changed them “into a lie”.

" 'How can you say, "We are wise, for we have the law of the LORD," when actually the lying pen of the scribes has handled it falsely? (Jeremiah 8:8 New International Version)

5. Conclusions/Notes/Bibliography

So in conclusion, one can see that the Quran maintains that the books of the Jews and Christians have been corrupted, altered and edited over time. When the Quran talks about the Torah, Psalms and the Gospel it is speaking about the original versions given to Moses, David and Jesus. It is not talking about the current Torah, Psalms and the Four Canonical Gospels we have today.

Notes and Bib:

[1] For more verses from the Quran which point to the Bible being corrupted see Quran 4:46, 5:41,44, 6:91, 10:93, 11:110, 15:90, 41:45, 62:5

[2] "The catholic papers," (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)