This post intends to explain the basis of the position that the Qurʾān teaches that previous scripture is corrupt. We attempt to prove this position using implicit and explicit evidence, while also utilizing the findings of modern western scholarship to supplement our interpretation. We will then provide an explanation for particular verses (such as Q5:44-47) that have somehow been taken to suggest that the Qurʾānic author does not teach that biblical scripture is corrupt.
Implied Textual Corruption in the Qurʾān
Let us firstly suppose that the Qurʾān does not teach that previous scripture is corrupt. If this is the case, it is fair to say the following would be the implication—
If the Qurʾānic author really believed that the biblical scriptures extant with the Jews and Christians were wholly authentic, and had better access to these scriptures, the Qurʾān would have been more faithful to them.
This position stands poorly in light of recent scholarly work on the Qurʾān: In fact, many scholars affirm that the Qurʾānic author had enough awareness of Jewish and Christian tradition to dialogue with their communities in informed and rather specific ways (Zellentin, 2017). Through this interaction, the Qurʾān establishes itself as ‘correcting’ earlier tradition. The departure from biblical tradition is conscious and deliberate.
For the purposes of this post, providing several examples as follows shall suffice —
1. Aaron and the calf: In Sūrah 2, al-Baqara, verse 93, the formulation of the covenant at Mount Sinai between God and the Israelites is alluded to. God commands the Israelites to “take what is given to [them] with determination”, to which the Israelites reply, “We hear and we disobey”, or samiʿnā wa ʿaṣaynā in Arabic. This is a deliberate Arabic wordplay on the Hebrew text of Deuteronomy 5:27, where the Israelite response in the same context is actually shamaʿnū w-asīnū — “we hear and we shall do”.The Qurʾānic author goes on to make a point in the same verse: that they disobeyed God’s command to stay fast to the covenant by worshipping the golden calf.
Yet elsewhere, the Qurʾān, in detailing the same episode, does something interesting: It clears Aaron of any sort of wrongdoing associated with the making of the calf, insisting that instead it was some other Israelite named as-Sāmiri (Q20:85 – 97). This seems to be a conscious and deliberate departure from the known biblical tradition: The Qurʾānic author knew the story well enough to engage in interlinguistic wordplay, and so probably also knew that Aaron was responsible for the worship of the calf in the biblical episode. In departing from the biblical story in sūrah Ṭaha, the Qurʾān has performed a corrective retelling. This is in line with the general (though not absolute) sinlessness of Qurʾānic Prophets.
2. The promise of John the Baptist: When describing the promise to Zechariah for the birth of John the Baptist, both the Qurʾān (Q19:7-11) and the Gospel of Luke (Luke 1:17) relate that Zechariah asked for a ‘sign’ so he may know when God shall cause Elizabeth to conceive. What follows in the Lukan tradition is that God afflicts him with muteness for his disbelief in God’s power (Luke 1:20). Here, again, the Qurʾān departs from the Bible in a specific and meaningful way: Instead of cursing Zechariah, God affirms his request for a sign — and tells him that it shall be that he stays silent for three days “while being sound” (sawiyyan). It is as though the author is conscious of the biblical tradition and wishes to rebut it. Zechariah, the Qurʾān insists, voluntarily stayed mute by the order of God, and not cursed to do so, as it is told in the Lukan tradition. The Qurʾān author has correctively retold the story, transforming it from one where a prophet’s prayer for a sign is rejected, to one where it is affirmed, following the example of Abraham’s prayer in Q2:260.
3. The Dream of Joseph: Various corrections on the story of Joseph characterize the Qurʾānic retelling of his life in the 12th Sūrah. Broadly speaking, the story of Joseph generally follows the outline of the biblical one, except for these particular corrections. For example, both Genesis (Gen 37:9-10) and the Qurʾān (Q12:4) feature Joseph’s dream of both his parents and brothers bowing to him. Yet in the Genesis account, Joseph’s mother is dead (Gen 35:19), and only his brothers bow to him (Gen 42:6). The Qurʾān smooths this out this story by omitting the death of Joseph’s mother, and depicting the dream as being fulfilled completely, with both of Joseph’s parents joining his brothers in bowing to him (Q12:99-100). Here, again, the Qurʾānic author is conscious of the story, having known the promise made to Joseph in his youth, and adds an additional component to the biblical fulfilment of the promise in order to make it complete.
We have provided only three examples of a consistent attitude of the Qurʾān towards biblical traditions. This general trend is best summarized by Holger Zellentin’s terminology of “corrective retelling” by which the Qurʾān “partially fulfils” and “partially frustrates” (2017, p. 17) Jewish and Christian tradition. More examples are provided by Khan and Randhawa (2016, chapters 9-10).
In each of these above instances, the Qurʾānic author knows well enough the stories it is retelling – but we see a conscious divergence in relating the details in contrast with the biblical accounts. If the author really thinks these traditions are canonical, why not repeat them faithfully? Let us advocate for some hypothetical scenarios. Firstly, that the Qurʾānic author knew of these stories, but did not know they were from the bible. But then, where would the Qurʾānic author have imagined these stories to be coming from when retelling them? Clearly, he is conscious of the fact that Jews and Christians were given a scripture, which is presented to be similar to his own and confirmed by it to some degree (Q2:41). The Qurʾān tells these stories, and its author would naturally expect this previous scripture to contain such stories too. Secondarily, we need to presume some level of knowledge and agency to the Qurʾān. It simply strains credulity to say the Qurʾānic author is totally ignorant of the ‘basic facts’ of biblical tradition while being able engage in wordplay with the Hebrew of Deuteronomy. How can we affirm this, yet somehow maintain that the author does not even know that the passage he is interacting with is from the bible? This position is too simple, and raises more problems than it solves.
A modification on this objection goes as follows: That the Qurʾānic author heard these stories through Jewish and Christian intermediaries, and corrected their distorted readings of the bible. As such, the Qurʾān depicts itself as attempting to go back to the extant text of the Biblical books, circumventing the distortion of the oral traditions transmitted through the Jews and Christians to the Prophet. This argument is essentially the accusation of taḥrīf al-maʿna (distortion of meaning), a charge that does indeed exist in the Qurʾān.
In this case, however, we must question whether it is expedient for the Qurʾānic author to only resort to ‘distortion of meaning’ and not the text. Insisting that the Jews and Christians are simply ‘reading their scripture wrong’ where it does not agree with the Qurʾān does not seem like a convincing move; it is wholly falsifiable by the Jewish and Christian audience that the Prophet seeks to convince. On the other hand, holding that the scripture in their hands is in itself defective is, at least in the time of the Prophet, non-falsifiable, and serves the Qurʾānic author better (similarly, see Saleh, 2016). It merely makes sense for the Qurʾān to make the claim of textual corruption in addition to accusations of distortion of meaning, and this is exactly what we see, as shown in the following section.
Explicit textual corruption in the Qurʾān
Q2:79 — ‘Woe to those who write the Scripture…’
With the implied evidence in mind, we shall turn to key passages about textual falsification present in the Qurʾān. The first is Q2:79, which explicitly lays the charge of scriptural forgery on the Prophet’s Jewish interlocutors:
فَوَيْلٌ لِلَّذِينَ يَكْتُبُونَ الْكِتَابَ بِأَيْدِيهِمْ ثُمَّ يَقُولُونَ هَٰذَا مِنْ عِنْدِ اللَّهِ لِيَشْتَرُوا بِهِ ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا ۖ فَوَيْلٌ لَهُمْ مِمَّا كَتَبَتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَوَيْلٌ لَهُمْ مِمَّا يَكْسِبُونَ
‘So woe to those who write the Book (al-kitāb) with their hands, then say that ‘this is from God’ so that they may gain a poor sum. So woe to them for what their hands have written, and woe to them from what they earn.’
This key passage is probably the most explicit charge of textual corruption present in the Qurʾān. The wording here for “the Book” is al-kitāb, a term with fairly definite biblical connotations throughout the Qurʾān, and certainly so in the same Sūrah (see 2:101, 2:87 and 2:44 for some of many examples). Can those who argue against scriptural falsification provide a reasonable alternative interpretation for what ‘al-kitāb’ could mean in this context? There have been attempts. White (2013) writes that “the ayah does not speak at all of altering what Allah has sent down or given. It refers to wholesale fraudulent creation of works that the authors say come “from Allah” that seemingly they attempt to sell to others.” This, with respect, seems to be an attempt to avoid the obvious meaning of the verse given what al-kitāb is supposed to imply throughout the Qurʾān. White’s reading requires us to presuppose more than what the verse is saying, i.e. that the concrete noun ‘the Book’ refers to some previously unmentioned forged scripture. Reynolds (2010) faces similar issues with his interpretation of Q2:79.
Furthermore, White arbitrarily differentiates wholesale book forgery and partial textual corruption, writing that 2:79 “is not about inserting foreign material or excising other material from the Torah or Injil, but manufacturing counterfeit Scripture for profit.” Yet in verse Q3:78, we see that the Qurʾān accuses the Jews of ‘distorting al-kitāb’ in order that one would think it is ‘from al-kitāb’ when it is ‘not from al-kitāb’. This verse unambiguously refers to existing biblical scripture, and Q2:79 follows the construction: Just as the Jews distort ‘al-kitāb’ in Q3:78 and falsely claim it is from God, they also ‘write al-kitāb’ and falsely claim it is from God. There is no cause to argue that Q2:79 could not be referring to biblical scripture when Q3:78 uses the same pattern of language to refer to it. Clearly, ‘al-kitāb’ can and does include portions of biblical verses. This is a plain reading of the verse.
Thus, the best interpretation of this verse is one that of taḥrīf an-naṣṣ (textual corruption). The Qurʾān, in its supercessionist polemic with the Jews, is laying the serious charge of scriptural corruption, a charge that follows the same pattern of changing the words which God had told them to say in Q7:162. Both the misinterpretation and intentional distortion of God’s words form a piece of the bigger criticism of the Qurʾān towards the People of Scripture for failing to keep faithful to God and their covenant with him. In particular, it accuses them with not keeping fast to the revelation that they were told to follow (Q62:5), misinterpreting it (5:14), distorting it (5:75) and hiding it (6:91). Deliberate tampering with the text of the scripture they were given is a natural part and the culmination of this ‘scriptural abuse’ around which the Qurʾān constructs its polemic against the Jewish (and even Christian) opponents of the Prophet. Thus, that the Qurʾān would accuse them of corrupting scripture is neither controversial nor hard to believe.
Q5:13-14: Distorting and Forgetting
Another important verse on textual corruption is Q5:13-14, where the People of Scripture are accused of ‘distorting words’ and ‘forgetting what they were reminded of’:
فَبِمَا نَقْضِهِمْ مِيثَاقَهُمْ لَعَنَّاهُمْ وَجَعَلْنَا قُلُوبَهُمْ قَاسِيَةً ۖ يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ عَنْ مَوَاضِعِهِ ۙ وَنَسُوا حَظًّا مِمَّا ذُكِّرُوا بِهِ ۚ وَلَا تَزَالُ تَطَّلِعُ عَلَىٰ خَائِنَةٍ مِنْهُمْ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا مِنْهُمْ ۖ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاصْفَحْ ۚ إِنَّ اللَّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ. وَمِنَ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا إِنَّا نَصَارَىٰ أَخَذْنَا مِيثَاقَهُمْ فَنَسُوا حَظًّا مِمَّا ذُكِّرُوا بِهِ فَأَغْرَيْنَا بَيْنَهُمُ الْعَدَاوَةَ وَالْبَغْضَاءَ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ ۚ وَسَوْفَ يُنَبِّئُهُمُ اللَّهُ بِمَا كَانُوا يَصْنَعُونَ
‘And for their breaking of the covenant we cursed them, and we made their hearts hard. They distort words from their places, and they forgot a part of what they were reminded. You [Prophet] will always find treachery in all but a few of them. Overlook this and pardon them: God loves those who do good.
And from those who say, ‘We are Christians’ we took a pledge, but they forgot a part of what they were reminded, so we stirred enmity between them until the day of resurrection, when God shall imform them of what they did.’
The interpretation of these verses seem to preponderate towards some form of scriptural loss. The proximity of distorting words from their places (yuḥarrifūna al-kalima ʿan mawāḍiʿihi), clearly a reference to scripture, with ‘forgetting a part of what they were reminded of’ (wa nasū ḥaẓẓan mimmā dhukkirū) seems to support the idea that their ‘forgetting’ is a scriptural one, too. The verse intends to say that their scriptures are incomplete, because they have failed to remember them faithfully. One does not ‘forget’ something which is already present with them: This is why the charge of intentional distortion of scripture is additional to the charge of forgetfulness in Q5:13. Interestingly, we note that this forgetfulness extends towards Christians in the following verse.
The aforementioned verses are probably the most explicit concerning textual corruption of scripture. There are, of course, other verses that may suggest this, but vary on the seriousness of the charge (see Keating, 2014, for a longer list).
Finally, we shall discuss certain verses that feature prominently against the idea of textual corruption.
Arguments against textual corruption
This following section takes a closer look at a group of verses that are used to prove that the Qurʾān maintains that the scriptures of the People of Scripture are wholly extant during the time of the Prophet.
Q5:44-47 – ‘Judging’ by previous scripture:
One of the more prominent arguments against the idea of textual corruption is based on the verse Q5:47 and its contextualizing passage. We shall read the plain meaning of this passage, and show that they do not suggest any sort of absolute scriptural approval as suggested by White (2013).
Let us begin with noting that the literary context of the verses, and indeed one of the themes of sūrah al-māʾidah, is legislative in nature. The Prophet is providing legal injunctions to the community he oversees: This is clear from the initial passages of the sūrah. Importantly, the Prophet is not only legislating over Muslims but also the People of Scripture: for example, Q5:5 legislates that the food of the Muslims is lawful for the Jews and Christians, and that women from the Jewish and Christian community may take Muslim men as husbands. Later in the sūrah, we are shown that the Jews themselves were coming to the Prophet for legal injunctions (Q5:42-43).
Thus, the verses Q5:44 – 5:47 are providing a fuller account of how Jews and Christians ought to legislate among themselves while living along the Muslim community under the legislative authority of the Prophet. Evidently, the Qurʾān expected these two scriptural groups to continue following the legal regulations of their scripture to some degree, insofar as they remain Jews and Christians. Again, the legislative language is clear from the repeated use of “judge” (yaḥkum – Q5:47) and “judgment” (ḥukm – Q5:44).
But which legislations, specifically, does the Qurʾān compel them to follow from the Torah and the Gospel? For the Jews, we see that after prescribing that they follow the judgment of the Torah (Q5:43), it alludes to the lex talionis (the Biblical law of retribution) in Q:5:45. It is possible that there was a historical incident among the Jewish community where the law was supposed to be implemented, but they were hesitant to apply it, and so went to the Prophet to gain an alternative ruling (Q5:41). The Qurʾān responds to this by stating that it is the Prophet’s choice to give them a ruling, but that they should not be seeking a ruling anyway given that the law of retribution (Q5:45) is already present in the Torah (Q5:43). Finally, it encourages the Jews to stick to the same law that they are trying to avoid following, because the Prophets and the Rabbis of the past held fast to “what they were entrusted to preserve from the scripture — bimā ʾustuḥfiẓū min al-kitābi (Q5:44)”. Thus far, there is nothing in the passage that suggests a universal approval: If we assume that the Qurʾān teaches that contemporaneous scripture is corrupt, this passage can be understood coherently.
Similarly, Q5:47 need not be read in a way that suggests a universal approval of the contents of the Gospel. Just as the Jews ought to follow the legal injunctions of the Torah, the Christians, too, ought to judge (yaḥkum) by the legal injunctions of the scripture which they were given. To stress, this is not a total approval of their scriptures, but at most an approval of Christian ritual purity and food laws (see footnote 4), given that the Qurʾān is specifically speaking about legal injunctions. Again, this reading is congruent with the idea that previous scripture is not wholly sound.
This interpretation is both natural from the context and the legislative wording of the passage. Even if we suppose the approval of Jewish and Christian scriptural legislation is wholesale, and not qualified as we have argued here, this affirmation does not go beyond anything but legislative material according to the plain reading of this passage. But why does the Prophet require these scriptural communities to continue to live by these legislations? These verses are less to do with affirming the shared truth of the three scriptural communities – indeed, throughout the Qurʾān we see a critique of the People of Scripture – but rather, acknowledge a practical reality. The Prophet had to legislate to the scriptural communities he was overseeing. While the Qurʾān plainly required them to convert to the nascent faith of Islam and recognize him as a prophet, it is clear that they did not all do so. So, what then? What were these communities to do? The following verse (Q5:48) gives the answer: they should continue to follow their individual legislative codes, whether in particular instances (as argued here) or universally, or otherwise they may also come to the Prophet for judgment as an alternative.
This argument is not controversial, as one of the critiques of the Qurʾān towards the Jews is that they are not even living by their books even as it is extant with them (Q2:44, Q3:23). Elsewhere the Qurʾān acknowledges the respective differences between Christians and Jews communities (Q2:113), and tells them that God shall inform them of their individual errors, just as in Q5:48.
Thus, to summarize, the passages Q5:44-48 do not imply some sort of absolute scriptural approval as some have argued. Instead, they approve of particular legal regulations that are apparently still operative for Jews and Christians under the Prophet’s rule. These practical consideration arise from the simple fact that they were living alongside the early Muslim community over whom Muḥammad was the legislator. These verses are neither pro- nor anti-taḥrīf, and can be read coherently in light of the verses of textual corruption clearly taught by the Qurʾān as argued earlier.
With this in mind, the problems with previous readings such as White’s (2013) are apparent. He has simply misunderstood the wording of the passage and seems to think that scriptural confirmation is an all-or-nothing affair. He writes:
[This verse] means “the gospel” had to exist in the days of Muhammad. If it was corrupted and lost before the seventh century, how could the People of the (already lost) Gospel judge by what Allah had revealed (but then had let disappear)? It makes no sense to command Christians to judge by a lost or corrupted document. So the Qur’an’s author believed the gospel was still in Christian possession.
White ignores the legislative nature of the verses as evident by their language and context, and ignores the practical reality behind them. Telling Christians to ‘judge’ by the Injīl was meaningful to the audience and not contradictory to Qurʾānic teachings on scriptural corruption. Certainly, the ‘Gospel’ was still in possession with the Christian community – as was the ‘Torah’ – but this has no bearing on whether the Qurʾānic author thought they were wholly sound.
Similarly, Q5:68 shall be read in light of clear accusations of textual corruption that occur elsewhere in the Qurʾān. Given that a part of the critique against the People of Scripture is that they corrupted and forgot their books, ‘upholding’ these books naturally means not corrupting and not forgetting them. How, then, shall they undo this? As the Qurʾān claims to present the same teachings of Jesus and Moses, then naturally, following the Qurʾān is to follow these previous books. The verse is stressing a continuity between previous scripture in their idealized, uncorrupted forms, while encouraging the People of Scripture not to reject it, precisely because of this continuity.
As a concluding remark, we should note that Muslim commentators such as Al-Razi interpret Q5:47 as saying that the Christians ought to follow from the Gospel that which does not contradict the Qurʾān. This raises the question as to why the passage does not simply ask them to follow the Qurʾān instead, and why it, in the following verse, seems to encourage the three scriptural communities of the Torah, Gospel and the Qurʾān to ‘race towards good’ according to “which they had been given”. The alternative interpretation provided here, and similarly by Keating (2010) seems more plausible.
‘None can change the words of God’
Another set of verses utilized to ‘prove’ that the extant scriptures are verses that suggest that none can “Change the words of God”. Among these are Q6:115, Q18:27 and Q10:64, featuring the formula: ‘Lā tabdīla li-kalimāt illāh’ (No change to the words of God), and ‘Lā mubaddila li-kalimātihi’ (there is no changer of His words). This argument is plainly amateurish, and is only addressed here because it is so frequently made. The term “words of God” has several meanings, and it is not clear in any of these contexts that it is referring to previous revelation. What is clear, however, is that those who received revelation can ‘change’ God’s revealed word in Q7:161 and Q2:59, where God had told the Jews to say a certain statement – qawl – but they consciously changed it (baddalahū).
Thus, these verses do not apply to the Bible as revealed. This barely needs pointing out, of course, as the rather frequent term “God’s word” generally refers to God’s decree and intent: Examples being Q40:6, Q17:16, and Q36:7 among many others.
The charge of textual corruption and loss of previous scripture are clearly taught in the Qurʾān. The evidences for this are two-fold: Firstly, there is an approach to Biblical traditions within the Qurʾān that implies a conscious disagreement and departure. Secondly, there is also explicit evidence, most particularly but not limited to Q2:79 and Q5:13-14. These verses clearly teach textual corruption, and this idea fits neatly into Qurʾānic polemic against the Jewish and Christian audience of the Prophet. Finally, the key verses such as Q5:44-48 that have been taken by some to show the Qurʾān affirms in totality the extant scripture of the Jews and Christians are actually qualified and function under legislative realities of the Prophetic communities. They can easily be read to be congruent with the explicit teaching of the Qurʾān.
Goudarzi, M., 2018. The Second Coming of the Book: Rethinking Qur’anic Scripturology and Prophetology. Harvard University.
Keating, S.T., 2014. Revisiting the Charge of Taḥrīf: The Question of Supersessionism in Early Islam and the Qurʾān, in: Nicholas of Cusa and Islam. BRILL, pp. 202–217.
Khan, N.A., Randhawa, S., 2016. Divine Speech: Exploring Quran As Literature. Bayyinah.
Reynolds, G.S., 2010. On the Qurʾanic accusation of scriptural falsification (taḥrīf) and Christian Anti-Jewish polemic. Journal of the American Oriental Society 130, 189–202.
Saleh, W.A., 2016. Narratives of Tampering in the Earliest Commentaries on the Qurʾān.
White, J.R., 2013. What Every Christian Needs to Know about the Qur’an. Baker Books.
Zellentin, H., 2017. Trialogical Anthropology: The Qur’ān on Adam and Iblis in View of Rabbinic and Christian Discourse. The Quest for Humanity–Contemporary Approaches to Human Dignity in the Context of the Qurʾānic Anthropology 61–131.
Zellentin, H.M., 2013. The Qur’ān’s legal culture: the Didascalia Apostolorum as a point of departure. Mohr Siebeck.
 Who as-Sāmiri is supposed to be is a contested question. It seems probable, given the similarity to the biblical Samaria, that the Qurʾān is alluding to the future calf worship of the Northern Kingdom. This is fitting, given that the Qurʾānic as-Sāmiri’s sin is also calf worship. Thus, the title is typological.
 Some translators take sawiyyan to describe the “three nights” and not “Zechariah”. Thus, the text is saying ‘three whole nights’. But even then, Zechariah’s health is implied as he is not cursed, and the point made here still holds: The Qurʾān is transforming a story about a prophet being cursed to one where his prayer to God is affirmed. Commentators such as az-Zamakhshari and al-Razi interpret sawiyyan as describing Zechariah, thus accepting the Lukan intertext.
 Interestingly, recent studies by Goudarzi (2018) have uncovered the decidedly Mosaic connotations of the term: Moses, just like Muḥammad, was given ‘the Book’ (Goudarzi, 2018, p. 96).
 From the wider context of the passage as we have encountered thus far, the Jews are the primary audience, while the proscription to the Christians is made secondarily. No Gospel law is appealed to in the immediate context. However, recent work by Zellentin (2013) has uncovered a good degree of overlap between the food laws of the Qurʾān (Q5:3 as an example in this context) and that of certain contemporary Christian communities, laws which ultimately have their source in Acts of the Apostles (Acts 15:20). The Christian communities following these laws and the Qurʾān both ascribe them to Jesus (Zellentin, p. 179). In sum, the Qurʾānic injunction to follow the legal regulations of the Gospel would have been understandable by the Christian audience whom the Prophet is legislating over, and these injunctions have overlap with Qurʾānic law: Thus, the Qurʾān stresses that Christians follow what ‘God has revealed therein’ (bimā anzala Allāhu) of the Injīl (Q5:47).
 Hence, the Qurʾān is muhaymin (Q5:48) – ‘authoritative’ over previous scripture in contrast to merely muṣaddiq (confirming) which is said of both the Qurʾān and the Injīl in Q5:46-48.
65 thoughts on “Does the Qur’an teach previous scripture to be corrupt?”
Assalamualaikum akhi this article seems incomplete. It would’ve been better had you addressed verses where the Qur’an confirms that which is “between the hands”. The link below explains this phrase :
The phrase bayna yadayhi is just an ancient Arabic way of saying “before you / in front of you”. Think of the English usage: “the sea was before us,” “I place before you this book,” etc. Hence it makes perfect sense that it refers to something present. I can understand why many have confused the word “before”. It doesn’t mean before in time.
Another example is when someone addresses a king with the words, “I’m standing here before you.” Hence the person is present before the king. It actually means before the presence of someone.
Jazak Allahu Khayran,
Right, I agree. I just don’t see the fuss about it. Even if you interpret bayna yadayhi has temporal, the Qurʾān also uses “ʿindahum”, i.e. what is with them. The Qurʾān has a general overlap with the bible, in its stories, in its belief about God (we are speaking about the Hebrew biblical canon here). The Qur’an both confirms (broadly) the biblical narratives while rejecting particulars. This pretty easily comes in under ‘confirmation’ and corruption. This question should come under an article about how the Qur’an confirms biblical tradition, not whether it preaches it is corrupt.
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Akhi can you explain 2:148?
It stresses that all religions should strive for good deeds based on previous laws. How can we reconcile this with the fact that all people must adopt the Final Shariah?
Also care to explain 5:60-70 in which they are to judge by the Gospel
Disclaimer: This is my personal opinion.
I think the explanation for these verses is the same as what I gave for 5:44-47 in the post.
I believe that the Prophet simply allowed various legal communities to exist under him, similar to how Shari’ah allows Christians and Jews to continue practising their canonical laws. The key difference here is that the Qur’an is making a moral judgment on these people of the book: a Jew who tries to abide by the Torah law is more righteous than one who does not, even after Islam, but that does not dissolve his obligation to convert to Islam. I think the Qur’an is being realistic here in that you can’t expect everyone to convert (see v. 6:35). Since the Prophet legislated over the people of the book, he obviously did need to provide them some legal guidance. There seems to be a hierarchy where polytheistic ‘ways of life’ are totally rejected, and Jewish/Christian/maybe Zoroastrian codes are tolerated, but Islam is on top of all those.
Either way, the Qur’an is very clear that there is no absolute salvation in disbelieving in the Prophet. Note the context of 2:148 is talking about the direction of prayer. in v. 144-145 God is reassuring the Prophet not to worry about the criticism of the People of the Book for not praying towards Jerusalem. Why is that? Because God gave each community their own prayer direction! The Qur’an has dealt with the criticism by saying that ‘You’re right, we’re right too’ with respect to the Qiblah.
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Akhi I hope you’re writing an article on the confirmation/endorsement argument. We have brothers in YouTube tackling said argument who totally missed the point on what “bayna yadayhi” means. Looking forward to the new article.
There are in fact other verses that imply textual corruption, abandonment of scripture and breaking into conflicting sects :
13:36, 37, 3:19-24, 41:44, 45, 42:13-15, 57:16, 2:174-176, 11:110, 111, 5:14, 19:37, 30:32, 23:53, 10:93, 45:17, 3:104-107, 21:92-94, 16:64, 2:213 & 253, 3:55, 5:14, 19:34, 37, 43:65
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And 3:19-24 seem to imply that the Jews fell into disagreement regarding the deen and murdered Prophets and righteous men who tried to bring them back into the fold of truth
The mention of as-Samiri is not necessarily a typology. It could be an Arabic rendition to the Egyptian Shemer meaning foreigner, sojourner as with Fir’aun = Per’aa, Haman = Ha-Amun
According to the Torah especially the book of Exodus, Musa AS and the Israelites escaped to Canaan alongside foreign non-israelite believers. I recommend reading the commentaries of Yusuf Ali and Muhammad Asad.
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This is a nice idea, esp. given the Hebrew bible shows a fair bit of suspicion towards foreigners bringing in non-Israelite gods.
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Assalamualaikum akhi I need your help with verse 6:146 of the Qur’an. The verse states that the fat of cattle and sheep is forbidden unto the Jews except what their “backs carry” or “entrails” or what is “mixed with bone”.
According to the tafsirs which you can find in quranx and altafsir, the fat that is permitted for the Jews is, “the fat that cling to the entrails” and “the fat that is on the rump and mixed with the tailbone”.
However, when we go to the Torah, we see that these fats are prohibited for the Jews as well. Consider verses Exodus 29:22, Leviticus 3:9, 17, Leviticus 7:3, Leviticus 8:25 and Leviticus 9:19 for the prohibition of the fat tail/rump i.e fat of the rump and tailbone and verses Leviticus 3:3, 9, 14, 4:8, 8:16, 25 for the prohibition of the fat upon the innards i.e. fat carried by the entrails.
Of course they’re those who are using this to “prove” and spearhead the argument that the author of the Qur’an is “ignorant” (nauzubillah). I need your help. Please shed some light on this.
Jazak Allahu Khayran,
I forgot to mention that the Qur’anic verse and the verses of the Torah all refer to a specific species of sheep and ram. They’re referring to the fat-tailed sheep/ram which have baggy deposits of fat in their hindquarters and tails
No, I disagree.
-As-Sāmiriyy is without any doubt a nisbah form.
-Shemer as an Egyptian loanword has yet to proven. But it rather seems like pure speculation.
-The same goes for ha-Amen. Ad-hoc with no evidence.
-Instead a topos makes more sense. Haman as the evil vizier of the king appears in Esther as well (here: Achaemenid)
-Pharaoh is of course right. The oldest example of its usage might be Ex 15, considered by many to be archaic.
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The Book of Esther is a concoction mixed with Persian fantasies. Even the name sounds similar to Ishtar. I recommend visiting islamic-awareness
As for the identity of Haman also visit the website. The Qur’an tells about a long living and long reigning pharaoh. According to archeological evidence, the only pharaoh that comes close to the pharaoh in the Qur’an is Ramesses II. Ramesses II had with him a subordinate named Bakenkhonsu. He was the First Prophet and High Priest of the deity Amun. The title for such a position is Ha-Amun. Bakenkhonsu is known to have oversaw egyptian architecture. In the Qur’an the pharaoh asked him to build a lofty tower as a challenge to see and meet Allah SWT.
Yes it sounds speculative but that doesn’t mean that it should be discarded out of hand. The possibility is still there.
By the way: I was reminded of as-Samiri as ‘samarian’ from your tweet earlier.
What do you mean?
Samaria didn’t came into existence until the 8th century BCE
Not that I want to give him more press but did you see david woods videos on the subject? If so what’d you think of his input on the topic at hand?
I haven’t seen it, no. Maybe you can summarize his input.
Again as much as I hate to give him press it’s only fair if you watch the video yourself.
Okay, I listened to it.
– He basically just makes up a new meaning for Q2:79 without considering the lexical connotations of al-kitāb. Throughout sūrah al-Baqarah, al-kitāb *does* mean the Hebrew scriptures. I gave a few examples of those in my article. I really don’t think this verse could be read reasonably in any other way. Do you? He seems to gloss over this and then goes on to argue against some unidentified tafsir opinions. Where does he get the idea that this is talking about exegesis? Is there anything in the verse that implies it? He appealed to context – but his point about “only some Jews did this” is totally irrelevant. What happens with scriptural corruption is that the “corruption” starts off locally and then promulgates until it is widely transmitted.
– I skimmed over his discussion on whether it was one contemporary Jew or whether it was the entire Jewish community. While Sūrah al-Baqara is targetted at the Prophet’s jewish audience, all the critique appeals to the shared history of the Jews – for example, their frequent disobedience to Moses and worshipping other gods. The Qur’an isn’t literally saying that the jews in front of the Prophet knew Moses personally or made the calf personally, it’s an attack on their tradition of disobedience – which the Qur’an alleges they are continuing. Similarly, the Qur’an is accusing Jews *past and present* of changing the scriptures of God (see my argument in the article).
– The encouragements to the Jews and Christians to follow the scriptures faithfully should not be muddled with the question as to whether these scriptures are totally sound. From a theological perspective, a Jew who is keeping the commandments faithfully rather than twisting and changing it even in its corrupted form is simply a more faithful Jew. There is nothing contradictory about this idea, and I don’t see why the Qur’an can’t compel Jews and Christians to stay faithful to these scriptures, if they are not going to become Muslims.
– As far as I am concerned, his discussion on “if a single person changes a part of the torah, does that change the whole torah” is, again, totally beside the point. The Qur’an does not explain how and when this corruption happened – only that it did. And, from a historical-critical perspective, this is completely unquestionable. The pentateuch does not wholly represent the revelation of Moses, multiple sources and anachronisms can be detected quite easily.
– There are other verses that teach that the Jews changed the scripture, but they can be read several ways: Either meaning distorting the words of God, or changing them actively (yuḥarrifūna). 2:79 is the most unequivocal – once you accept that scriptural corruption is a possibility that the Qur’an teaches, a lot of these now become a part of the discussion on scriptural corruption.
– The “words of God cannot be changed” argument is plain silly.
Anyway, there’s no purpose of doing a systematic refutation since the points he’s arguing against aren’t the ones I make… this is generally why I avoid polemical takes and stick to academic reading. These sorts of arguments really miss the forest for the trees. I gave three examples where the Prophet Muhammad seems to have known the contents of Jewish and Christian scripture. Do you not think he knew that they believed that aaron made the calf in the bible, the same bible he is making Hebrew puns out of? Why does he contradict this – surely, it would give him more legitimacy in the eyes of the Jewish audience just to go with it? Think about it – the Prophet had every impetus to say that the Jews corrupted their scripture. If he’s being totally careless and getting their traditions wrong accidentally (which I don’t think is the case), SURELY someone would have told him about the fact that his scripture contradicts previous scripture? Why, then, WOULDN’T he claim that the Jews changed their scripture? This is the most natural argument to make, and this is exactly what we see in 2:79.
And this is exactly why many critical scholars (I would say the majority, as Walid Saleh pointed out) believe that the Qur’an teaches taḥrīf. If the argument for tahrif had no weight, scholarship wouldn’t even be considering it.
PS. I will say this though – some of the arguments Muslims make, saying that ‘the bible today is not at all the original revelation’ is mistaken. The Qur’an does refer to the Old Testament as the Torah in places (see my post about 7:157). In the context of polemic, there’s a tendency to disparage it wholesale, but the Qur’an’s stories are mostly biblical with its own improvements and corrections. The Qur’an also clearly speaks highly of these scriptures – even 2:79 intends to attack the Jews first and foremost, for not treating their scripture as it should be treated.
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While I agree with your overall point, I would respectfully disagree the Hebrew Bible is the Torah and the NT is the Gospel. Allow me to first point some issues with this position:
Passages explicitly show this is not wahy:
Let’s look at the “gospels” Christians claim:
Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, (Mark 1:14)
Jesus went throughout Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom, and healing every disease and sickness among the people. (Matthew 4:23)
but he said to them, “I must preach the gospel of the kingdom of God to the other towns as well; for I was sent for this purpose.” (Luke 4:43)
Was Isa(as) going around reading Paul’s letters to the people? What about “the gospel according to” Mark, Matt, Luke, and John? These texts were written decades after his(as) ascension so on that basis alone the NT cannot be the Injeel which is the Scripture he(as) was given. (I have a theory though more in a sec) Same with the Pentateuch:
27The LORD also said to Moses, “Write down these words, for in accordance with these words I have made a covenant with you and with Israel.” 28So Moses was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant—the Ten Commandments. (Exodus 34:27-28)
Sooooo, Allah, had Musa write down the above passage? Again that makes no sense (also couple Musa(as) writing about his own death) These people have clearly lost the Torah and critical scholars have picked the biblical text apart.
There is an easier explanation (at least for the Injeel) We know for sure two things historically in regards to Isa(as)
1. He taught in parables
2. Early Christians had his sayings in a hadith book style like the Gospel of Thomas (which givens no context)
You need a unifying text that unites all the early Christian sects like the actual believers, the “proto-orthodox” and the Gnostics. That text is more than likely the Injeel. Do we have that? Yes, and it’s simple, the parables.
1.Simple to learn and memorize
2. Many have Islamic equivalents lostcoin=lost camel, workers, the seed, etc
3. Since their “ambiguous” they’re easy to twist.
4. We know from the Quran that Allah teaches in parables:
“He gives you this metaphor, drawn from your own lives. Would you make your servants full partners with an equal share in what I’ve given you? Would you fear them like you fear each other? This is how I make My verses clear to those who use their common sense.” (30;28)
5. The one time the Quran quotes the Injeel its a parable:
“… their parable given in the Gospel is like a seed that sprouts from the ground, (which) He then strengthens it so it becomes tougher and it then stands firmly on its stalk delighting the one who planted it….” (48:29)
6. None of the parables contain shirk
What the Christians did was take these parables (the actual Injeel) and framed their twisted narratives and false stories around them. Idk yet with the Torah but if Christians who are much later than the Jews did this then only Allah knows what the Jews did with their text. And Allah hu alim.
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I have always wondered where exactly in the New Testament is the reminisce of the Injeel, since the canonical gospels merely give a biography-type third-person story of Jesus. Thus, your hypothesis in interesting and worthy of consideration. However, given that the Injeel are all parables, do you think it’s plausible that the revelation of the Injeel was an actual book that Jesus taught (like the Qur’an), or an inspiration to Jesus’ heart from which he taught the meaning of the inspiration (much like the conception that the hadith are revelation, albeit of a different type, and that the Prophet’s character was the Qur’an)? If we accept the latter, it would seem as though it would go against orthodoxy, although I don’t have any references to back that claim.
I would agree with you, but my intent is to say is that these books do contain a core of the truth of the earlier revelation – but my point is more semantic. I think the Qur’an uses the word “torah” and “gospel” in a broad enough sense to say that the Christians and Jews possess these scriptures, even if in their incomplete forms; rather than these scriptures being totally lost and then being replaced with other, unrelated scriptures.
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To clarify – the 4 gospels, insofar as they preserve particular sayings of Jesus, do contain the Injil in some sense. As a case in point.
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When we consider the Injil we have to understand that Jesus AS came to confirm, and perhaps restore to an extent, the revelations of the Torah.
The Apocryphal Gospel of James was possibly extant in 7th century Hijaz. There were also remnants of Jesus’ true followers specifically the Nazarenes and Ebionites.
The Gospel of James and other Jewish-Christian gospels portray Jesus AS as a pious Torah-observant Jew.
[…] **This argument is made by Taha Soomra; see footnote 1 of https://ponderingislam.com/2020/06/17/does-the-quran-teach-previous-scripture-to-be-corrupt/ […]
[…] Finally, even if As-Samiri does mean Samaritan, this could be a typological allusion to biblical Samaria, who also worshipped a calf centuries after the Exodus. In this case, As-Samiri is a Qur’anic designation of the subject, rather than the subject’s actual historical name/title (which, if Aaron, may have led to his confusion with Harun (as), hence the false attribution of the calf’s construction to the latter). As Taha Soomra argues in a footnote: […]
Assalam alaikum wrwb. What is the answer against the argument that” the 2:79 is directed towards a specific sect of jews ,;Like the verses about believing Uzair as son of god and believing Angel Gabiel their enemy was for a specific group of people only “?
Seems irrelevant to me. From a believer’s perspective, it’s possible to believe that only a small group of the Israelite scribal class were responsible for taḥrīf, the writings of which were then disseminated to canonical status. I think people should deal with the ‘selective critique’ of the old testament in the Qurʾān which forms an important part of the taḥrīf argument.
Thanx brother for replying .Perhaps i think i was not able to express myself clearly .I meant to ask if some one argue that as Quran 9:30 ,Quran 2:97 was geared towards a specific group of heretic jews .Similarly Quran 2:79 is geared towards specific group of jews only who wrote heretic scripture. It is not Explicit proof for corruption of orthodox scriptures eg.LXX,DSS
Fair point but that is why I pointed out that al-kitab consistently refers to canonical scriptures within the Qur’an and also Sura al-baqara and nothing else. Not some random heretical book by a random sect.
This counter argument is weird and just ignores Qur’anic vocabulary.
Thanx. It was helpful .
You know that in less than 9 lines you have destroyed the apparent “biggest historical error/anachronism of the quran” concerning al-samiri…
I have never thought that it was a typology, I have read long tentatives of explanation of this verse, going from saying that samiri means sumerian to trying to argue that the samaritans ewisted as a distinct and isolated group even at the time of the exodus
(This is a repost because I’m not sure if my original post went through or not)
this is a very interesting website that you have here. As someone who has been studying the Bible and the Quran for nearly a decade now, I’m finding the articles you have here to be very intriguing. I was unaware that the Quran contained wordplay jabbing at Arabic translations of the Old Testament. The Old Testament itself contains many instances of wordplay and not too subtle jabs at the gods of the surrounding nations. I suppose that’s one thing that can be missed when one reads something translated into one’s own language instead of the original texts. You miss out on many of the subtleties and nuances that occur. The same occurs with the polemical passages, which many modern readers miss because they were not born into that particular culture.
Anyway, I have a few thoughts regarding this article that I would like to leave up here.
The first is on the issue of 2:79. I’m not going to dispute that the term al-kitab refers to Scripture as you have shown is very hard to discount an alternative rendering of the term, but I’m honestly having a hard time seeing 2:79 as having anything to do with altering the text of the pre-existing writings. Unless I’m missing something, it almost sounds like the ayat is condemning individuals who craft pseudepigrapha (that is, texts allegedly written by some great luminary of the past, such as Enoch or Abraham but in reality were written in much later times) and try to sell them for profit claiming they are from God.
Secondly, while I know that most Islamic scholars from the time of al-Muqadassi and subsequently ibn Hazm believed that Christians and Jews had purposefully rewritten their Scriptures, it seemed that many Islamic scholars and commentators interpreted the idea of scriptural distortion is primarily occurring not so much on a textual level, but rather on an interpretive one.
For example, ibn Layth wrote to Byzantine Emperor Constantine VI on behalf of Harun al-Rashid and in his correspondence he stated that the meaning of the Scriptures had been distorted without any additions or subtractions to it. Ibn Rabban, a convert from Christianity to Islam, viewed that the Christians in the Jews had distorted the meanings of their Scriptures. Ibn Qutayba also viewed the Scriptures had been misinterpreted, destroyed by fire and restored by Ezra accurately.He viewed the previous scriptures as useful historical sources and even used certain portions of them because he believed they contain prophecies foretelling the coming of Mohammed. This was in complete contrast to the Abbasid caliphate al-Mahdi, who is said to believe that prophecies pertaining to Mohammed had been expurgated from the Christian and Jewish texts.
Similarly, al-Tabari believed the distortion of Scripture was interpretively based, not written. He too believed that the previous Scripture had been destroyed by fire and restored by Ezra, which is why the Jews considered him to be a son of God. Al-Baqillani viewed that corruption occurred in inadvertent errors made during the process of translation rather than a willful corrupting of the text. And al-Ma’sudi viewed that the Torah had not been corrupted and no new laws had been added, but rather that old ones were reinstated. He viewed that the meaning of the Torah had been distorted, but not the text.
Of course, I’m willing to admit that my knowledge of all the early Islamic scholars and commentators is not complete. Maybe there were some who viewed the previous scriptures as al-Muqadassi and ibn Hazm did before their time. If so, I’m willing to change my mind and adjust accordingly. When I’m wrong, I’m willing to admit that I’m wrong.
But at any rate, I really enjoy your website. It gives me a lot to think about and I really enjoy reading your arguments as I find them to be very engaging. I look forward to reading more of what you have on here, as well as what you may produce in the future.
Thank you for your interesting comment. I have a few thoughts on what you have mentioned—
“but I’m honestly having a hard time seeing 2:79 as having anything to do with altering the text of the pre-existing writings. Unless I’m missing something, it almost sounds like the ayat is condemning individuals who craft pseudepigrapha (that is, texts allegedly written by some great luminary of the past, such as Enoch or Abraham but in reality were written in much later times) and try to sell them for profit claiming they are from God. ”
I would like to know the basis of this interpretation. The reason I explored the meaning of الكتاب here is because the Qurʾān fairly regularly uses it to refer to canonical scripture, hence Jesus is taught الكتاب and Moses is given الكتاب. This, combined with how the Qurʾān treats biblical and extra-biblical stories (as open to conscious editing) more generally, justifies my interpretation. I don’t really think the Qurʾān goes out of its way to explicitly differentiate apocrypha from canonical scripture. So this interpretation would really be an anomalous instance of such explicit reference to apocrypha.
I am not fully versed on the treatment of the bible by later Muslim scholars. However, as far as I am aware, the issue is fairly ambivalent and there are scholars on either side in both the early period and the late one. For example, Christian apologetic texts from the earliest period of Islam consciously attempt to argue against accusations of scriptural textual corruption and forgery. Both views are also reflected in early tradition. What this tells me is that both interpretations are reasonable views to hold.
You’re very welcome. 😊
The reason that I was thinking that this passage could refer to pseudepigrapha or really any kind of falsely attributed text is because the party mentioned is writing something that they are trying to pass off as authentic Scripture with the motive of making quick cash. To me, this sounds reminiscent of how many Gnostic sects produced texts claiming to be the secret teachings of Jesus or his disciples as far as 1 to 3 centuries after the New Testament had been written. However, I have seen the opinion of one tafsir (I can’t recall who the author was) that suggested that this could be a reference to the rabbinical texts, such as the Mishnah, the Talmud and extra-biblical Jewish traditions God did not approve of (and the Biblical Jesus was very critical of, calling them traditions of men and heavy burdens no one could carry).
And in the Study Quran on page 38, one interpretation of 2:79 is referenced on the authority of unnamed exegetes who view the passage in question to be a group of Jews that wrote something down and tried to pass it off on the ignorant as a get-rich-quick scheme. Of course, several other interpretations are given (such as alterations prophecies pertaining to Muhammad), but I thought that the previous opinion was at least worth mentioning here as it seems similar to mine.
You are correct when you say that the Quran does not differentiate between the canonical Scriptures of Christians and Jews and the apocryphal writings. I would even argue that it does not differentiate between Scripture and later works, like the rabbinical writings. For example, al-Ma’idah 32 contains an echo of the Talmudic tractate Sanhedrin 4:5, where killing one person is akin to killing the entire world and saving a life is like saving an entire world and Al-Qasas 76 is similar to Numbers Rabbah 22:7 and Exodus Rabbah 51:1 in that all three testify to Korah’s great wealth. Based upon my reading of the Quran, it seems that almost all the religious writings of Christians and Jews have some kind of divine spark in them, elsewise I don’t think there would be any allusions made these texts in the first place.
You do touch on something that I did not look into until after I posted my comment, that the earliest Christian polemics against Islam address both textual and interpretive distortion. I was not aware of this at the time and I need to make a point of looking into it further when I’m able to. One thing that kind of confused me was that I was looking into the issue of tahrif and I was reading in the Study Quran (which is edited by Muslim scholars and contains valuable classical and modern commentary from a variety of Islamic viewpoints) on page 36 that the opinion of early scholars was that the meaning of the text had been distorted, but not rewritten. But based on what I read earlier and what you said regarding the polemics, I’m not entirely sure if that view is accurate.
Ah, but this is very protestant thinking :). Just as the Qur’an interacts with these post-biblical traditions and gives them some due, so to did the Jewish and Christian audiences take these texts and traditions very seriously. Think about it, it is odd that the Qur’an would address or interact with traditions that are very obscure in a dialectic context. Church writings and apocrypha, though not scripture, are very well attested to in late antiquity and it is clear that Christians continued to read them and take them as authoritative (many near eastern churches reflect art found in post-biblical traditions). So widespread this was that it even became the practice of the byzantine state (ie. heraclius) that religious narratives with political undertones (say the Syriac Legend of Alexander) were promulgated among Christians at the time.
Likewise, Rabbinic Jews literally believe/d in the inspired nature of the talmud (Torah she-be’al peh). I think saying that the Qur’an is differentiating between these post-canonical writings and the biblical text is… anachronistic? If the Prophet was born in a post-protestant world you might expect such a thing. As it is, I think Muslims would take a broader view of canonicity than many Christians (nowadays) do, as you touched upon. This is something we see in our ouwn religion- there are many post-Qur’anic authoritative texts such as hadith compilations and early legal manuals.
I do appreciate the comment from the Study Qur’an but I am hesitant to limit the scope of Qur’anic verses to one particular instance involving one person. Additionally, they lean universalist theologically which might explain why they would lean towards a softer form of tahrif. Still, I accept that the interpretation that affirms biblical texts as a *possibly valid* interpretation (one that some Muslim and non-Muslim scholars have taken), though I think the evidence preponderates for a harder form of tahrif.
Which part? 😉
This is true. The infancy gospels for example were very popular among average Christians, even though I don’t think they were ever really considered to be scripture by the higher religious class. As in the religious world today, it seemed that even back then there was the popular view and the accepted view among average people and the scholars respectively (I’m looking at you, pre-tribulation rapture). For example, even though 1 Enoch (one of my favorite apocryphal works) was popular with both Jews and Christians, it received a mixed reception from rabbis and church fathers, some who considered it scripture and others who didn’t. The notion that angels rather than God controlled certain elements of nature and could fall from grace disturbed some I guess.
I guess it makes sense that the Quran would interact with these popular narratives in order to provide a polemical response to them or to argue the superiority of the Islamic viewpoint. To me, it is very reminiscent of how ancient Israelite poets often co-opted the language of the Canaanites in how they described their gods to argue for the superiority of Yahweh over them. For example, Deuteronomy 33:26-27 contains language that was used by the Canaanites to describe the gods Baal and El (Yahweh riding across the heavens on the clouds and being described as the eternal God respectively) and the whole of Psalm 28 is really one long passage slamming the god Baal and arguing that it is Yahweh who controls the rain and the fertility of the Earth instead. If you ever have time, I would recommend reading the Ugaritic Baal Cycle and then that psalm and you’ll see what I mean.
It also reminds me of how Paul in Acts 17 was able to communicate his message to the Epicurean and Stoic philosophers by quoting other Greek philosophers and poets like Aratus. I guess the best way of communicating with other people in the Biblical and Quranic sense is to speak to them in a way that they can understand and relate to your message.
I can’t say I’m shocked regarding what you said about Heraclius. being that there was such a close connection between the political and religious worlds in antiquity and the Middle Ages. After all, if a king could convince his people that he was divinely appointed by God or as was the case in the ancient near East that he was in some way deity, it would deter people from rebelling against him. To go against him would be tantamount to fighting against God or the gods.
I do agree that it would be anachronistic to say that the Quran clearly delineates between post canonical texts and accepted scripture. The one thing that I wonder is if that is the case, does this mean that all those other writings are somehow part of the Taurat and the Injil from a Quranic viewpoint, even if their reception among the people of the book was mixed? And if they are not part of them, does this mean that the Quran necessarily accepts that they too are valid scriptures, albeit neglected and/or distorted ones? Or was my initial statement correct, that it views these writings as containing some sort of divine element in them, but maybe they are not exactly scripture (like how Protestants consider the apocrypha be informative, but not inspired)?
Further, if that is the case, does this mean that the non-scriptural narratives that are cited in the Quran are considered to be scripture as well or at least based upon factual events? Would this mean then that the story of the sleepers, the adventures of Dhul Qarnayn and Saleh and his she-camel (All these being some of my favorite portions of the Quran) are also considered to be scripture or is there a separate category for these? If so, would it be proper to understand them as parables, stories that may be embellished yet contain a kernel of Truth or actual events that occurred within history?
Wow, my head hurts. I haven’t typed that many question marks in ages. @_@
Do you have any recommendations for authoritative texts that I should consider taking a look at? Off and on for the past few years, I have been reading Sahih Bukhari, but that’s really about the furthest that I’ve gone. Someday I should take a look at the Sira. It sounds like it would be very useful in placing some context and background for the various Surahs and the life of Mohammed in general. I’ve mostly been focused on studying the Quran itself and seeing what some of the ancient and modern commentators have to say as well as studying its relationship to parallel texts.
While I’m on the subject of parallel texts, I was curious if you’ve ever read Gabriel Reynolds’ the Bible and the Quran or Arthur Droge’s translation of the Quran. I’ve only had brief glimpses online of them, but they seem like books that I would consider buying or taking out from the library since they focus on parallel texts. While Reynolds’ book provides many examples of various textual parallels, he only focuses on the biblical and rabbinical ones and seems to neglect texts that fall outside of those categories. Droge however has a similar focus, but provides much more commentary on the text of the Quran as well as providing maps, charts and other features. I was wondering if you have read them what you thought of them and which one (if either) is a better investment.
Finally, while I’m starting to lean into the opinion of a harder view of tahrif, I’ve come across some passages pertaining to the subject that I’d like to get your opinion on. The passages are Al-An’am 91-93 and Yunus 37-41, 94. I was wondering how these relate to your overall thesis.
I really enjoy discussing these matters with you, Taha. You strike me as someone who is very knowledgeable and has spent a great deal of time studying the Quran, the Bible and other associated texts. I’m not sure how I found your blog, but I’m very glad I did. Yours is a refreshing change of pace from many other Islamic apologetics websites that resort to ad hoc arguments and belittling opponents as ignorant. I definitely am going to read some of your other articles and respond in kind as many of them seem to be very interesting.
Apologies for the late reply.
This is a good comment. Indeed, you have a lot of intertextuality present in both the Hebrew bible and the New Testament. Certain ideas in both the Qur’an and the New Testament are not found in the Hebrew bible, but rather intertestamental literature— for example, details surrounding hell or the role of Satan in the fall of Adam. You also have references to prophecies in 1 Enoch in the book of Jude (you noted that this book received mixed reception).
“The one thing that I wonder is if that is the case, does this mean that all those other writings are somehow part of the Taurat and the Injil from a Quranic viewpoint, even if their reception among the people of the book was mixed? And if they are not part of them, does this mean that the Quran necessarily accepts that they too are valid scriptures, albeit neglected and/or distorted ones? Or was my initial statement correct, that it views these writings as containing some sort of divine element in them, but maybe they are not exactly scripture (like how Protestants consider the apocrypha be informative, but not inspired)?”
I guess the way I see it is a sense where you have the *bible* proper and then you have “biblical commentary”. I suspect that pre-modern Judaisms and Christianities tended to blur the lines between the two. Scriptural interpretation and “retellings” of biblical stories might claim to be true to the bible, but they would often add a lot of extra detail or interpret things in a fanciful manner. Moreover to most people, these might all just be taken to be what “the scriptures” say (most people didn’t really read then anyway). Or perhaps, as you said, they might see them as authoritative but not exactly scripture. It is possible to me that the Qur’an would use the catch-all term of “previous scripture” to refer to the bible and expansions to biblical texts. However, I have nothing explicit on this, so I’m not sure. Either way I think these texts have some currency among the communities that the Prophet himself interacted with.
“Further, if that is the case, does this mean that the non-scriptural narratives that are cited in the Quran are considered to be scripture as well or at least based upon factual events?”
Well, before I answer this, I want to delineate between texts themselves, and the traditions that they represent, the Qur’an does not really point to specific text(s), so there wouldn’t be a question of claiming (say for example) the Protovangelium of James to be inspired in itself. What would be possible is that the Qur’an might be affirming features of certain *narratives*, which were recorded in one or more texts.
Now as for the acceptance of non-scriptural narrative. I do have a bit of a theological answer— I think it really depends on what the specific case is that we are looking at. Going back to your example about Q5:32; why would God claim that He Himself revealed a law that seems to be a legal deduction by a human rabbi? In this instance, I would simply say that, as various oral traditions describing the Prophet’s attitude towards law demonstrate, God did not reveal the entirety of law in the Qur’an or explicit texts, but instead some of it is left to the human scholar to deduce from scripture. These human deductions are still considered God’s own decree if they are correctly conducted. This is something that Islam as indicated by various hadith has in common with rabbinic judaism.
But that’s not exactly a narrative example per se. I think in some cases I would affirm that the texts that the Qur’an coheres with do contain information from real extra-biblical revelation, e.g. the traditions of the veneration of Adam which go well back into the second temple period. Other narratives might not be through an inspired source, but might be (miraculous) history captured by church literature or rabbinic writing, e.g. the seven sleepers. I am writing an article that details the approach for all different sorts of parallels with post-biblical traditions, how Muslims should understand these in light of scripture etc, but that will be a while away.
I wouldn’t open any random hadith book if I were you. These are technical compilations and most of the hadith won’t really make much sense to you, plus they usually list endless variants of the same hadith. I think there are a few selected compilations on praxis, eg. below:
(note that some of the hadith are repeated in their variants, so you don’t have to read the same one over and over again)
Else there is also this:
I believe there are more like that. I also like this website:
Regarding books- GSR’s Qur’an and the Bible I find to be a mixed bag. Often the parallels are not that straightforward (e.g. in a few cases the text he is comparing to is post-Islamic) when you dig up the sources he uses. I also find some of his understanding of what the Qur’an is doing just plain incorrect, he would overlook clear conscious departure from biblical texts as “errors”. I can give examples, *but* overall it’s not a bad book and I (continue to) find it a useful resource.
I will follow up on my views of those verses at a later date (when I can).
That’s all right, man. I understand.
This is true. Like I mentioned in my post to Kaito, the Old Testament is vague at some points regarding the afterlife. It really doesn’t get fleshed out in more detail until much later on, though I would argue that some of these later developments may have been present in earlier tradition (the fate of the righteous, the resurrection, etc.). Regarding Jude, you are correct that it cites the prophecy from 1 Enoch 1:9, which is a later expansion upon Deuteronomy 33:2. Later on in Jude, there is also a reference made to the imprisonment of the Watchers, also found in 1 Enoch. And other intertestamental literature. This is also referenced in 2 Peter 2:4. Of course, then we have to decide whether or not the authors of the New Testament believed that these writings really were scriptural or if they were just quoting them because it suited whatever they were discussing at the given time (like Paul in Acts 17, though the sources he was referencing were not Scripture). I really don’t have an opinion on that matter, because public opinion was divided. Maybe some authors believed they were and others didn’t. Who can say?
I do agree with you that it did seem that there was a blurring between what was Scripture and what was not. I know that the way that I perceive things is much different than an Ancient Near Eastern person would, but I tend to view biblical tradition through a reductionist perspective. What I mean by this is that I usually consider the most accurate account of a narrative to be whatever appeared earliest (Like how the DSS says Goliath was 6.5 feet tall as opposed to later manuscripts that made him much taller).
For that reason, I’m less inclined to believe that Jesus spoke from his cradle, that Abraham was thrown into Nimrod’s furnace or that Enoch went on his fantastic heavenly journeys since the first attestations of these traditions appear hundreds of years after the original texts were written and are not even so much as hinted at in them. I understand that many Christians and Jews probably believed these things to be true, but I have a hard time seeing them as anything other than later legendary developments.
That does make sense. In modern Judaism, the opinions of the ancient sages are regarded to be on par with Scripture itself.
So basically the Quran is reclaiming narratives that it views have value or truth and is setting the record straight?
You mention what you call miraculous history, accounts that do not qualify as Scripture but are attested elsewhere. I guess my question regarding this is the same as I posed earlier: does the Quran assume these miraculous events are historical, or does it view them as some kind of spiritual allegory with a lesson to be learned? Does it matter whether or not they actually occurred?
I’ll be watching for that article.
Thanks for the links. I’ll take a look at them.
I’m probably going to buy it as it does seem very useful, but I will remember what you told me about his analysis. Can you give me three examples of a time when he quotes a source that postdates the Quran or misunderstands what the Quran s trying to say?
Awesome! I look forward to it!
Your conclusion is fair, I won’t argue against that with someone who is coming from a different perspective. But from my view, the canon of the bible would not have been all there is – who can say how many prophetic texts were authored and lost in the second temple period.
I think the Qur’an would take these as literal history. However, usually the narratives are radically different (or sometimes the Qur’an would be producing new narratives with the same themes). A good example might be the story of Moses and his servant boy and parallels with tales about Alexander.
I also think similarly about the New Testament quotations of apocrypha. There are a few good scholarly articles on this – I really think the authors took these books to be authoritative. You would not quote a prophecy from Enoch for rhetorical effect alone, you would have genuinely thought it was something that was to be fulfilled.
Anyhow, the general impression I get is that the Qur’an intends these stories to be true, even if usually differing in significant ways from any precursor stories. I think it would kind of matter if the stories were true, especially if the story tells the tale of God intervening in history to save believers (as in the ashab al-kahf narrative). It’s like saying, well God saves the believers like that time when… except that didn’t really happen, by the way!
But I expand upon this under a theological framework in the article, and I think some of the arguments would be convincing even to non-believers.
Hmm, 3 examples that come to mind:
– GSR states that the theodicy in Surah al-Kahf (moses and the sage) is derived from John Moschus’s Spiritual Meadow– but when I looked into it, the parallel account only exists in only one of the manuscripts, which happens to date to the 13-15th century. Additionally, scholarship on the Spiritual Meadow considers that particular account that parallels the Qur’an a later addition. This isn’t convincing.
– Likewise for the stories surrounding the queen of Sheba, the rabbinic account post-dates the Qur’an.
– He is quick to impute error to the Qur’an based on his own strange readings of it, e.g. he states that the Qur’an “erroneously” blames the israelites for the murder of Abel in 5:32, but that makes no sense as the verse does no such thing.
I can give you more but… it is a useful resource, one I do consult so I would say, go ahead and grab it.
Correction: I meant Psalm 29 and the Quran and the Bible by Gabriel Reynolds
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As you know in the old testament talk of an afterlife, heaven, hell and judgment day is entirely absent in the earlier books, and they only appear (in a very ambiguous manner) in the latter ones, like the book of daniel (probably written around 200 BCE)
In the new testament, talk of the afterlife is more frequent
The Qur’an seem apparently to be aware of that, because in the end of chapter 87, it criticize the jews for giving too much importance to this life instead of the hereafter, and continue to say that this was on the earlier scriptures of abraham and moses, suggesting maybe a corruption?
But most scholars today argue that the concepts of afterlife, hevean, hell etc… were inteoduced in the abrahamic faiths only during the second temple period due to zoroastrian/greek influence on the jewish thinking
I don’t know if you have done any research on those topics, but I want to know what you think about that
I’d like to share some of my own thoughts on your post regarding the Old Testament and the afterlife.
I have to respectfully disagree with you that the older books of the Old Testament are completely silent on the matter of the afterlife. Scattered throughout the Old Testament are references to a place called Sheol, an underworld where all people are fated to go when they die, the righteous and the unrighteous. However, sometimes it’s confusing if Sheol refers to a literal place or a poetic expression for the grave since the Hebrew word literally means grave. Sometimes it seems to be a literal place, other times it’s a poetic metaphor.
In the Second Temple Period, it seems that Sheol was divided into several compartments. One of these was called Abraham’s Bosom, where the righteous dead were to remain until resurrection day and the last judgment. Among those housed there were the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Jesus directly referenced this in Luke 16 when he told the parable of the rich man and Lazarus. Some Christians believe that between his death and resurrection, Jesus went into Abraham’s Bosom and led those there into paradise (a concept which is unattested in the New Testament) or that it is heaven itself, a temporary home for the redeemed until the final judgment when the city of New Jerusalem is established on the earth.
Although the idea of a compartmentalized underworld was probably drawn from Greek mythology, there was always this hope in Jewish thought that man could be rescued from the doom of Sheol. In Psalm 16, David expresses the hope that God will not abandon him to the grave. A similar thought is found in Psalm 49, where the author declares that God will spare him from the fate of the foolish and will redeem his soul from Sheol. And in Psalm 73, the psalmist Asaph (a contemporary of David) makes this bold declaration in verses 23-26:
Nevertheless, I am continually with you;
you hold my right hand. You guide me with your counsel,
and afterward you will receive me to glory.
Whom have I in heaven but you?
And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
My flesh and my heart may fail,
but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.
So as we can see, the concept of an afterlife was present in the earlier books of the Old Testament. There was a belief in a place where the souls of the dead resided, plus a hope for something greater than that fate.
Which leads me to the topic of the resurrection. While Daniel 12 provides the clearest picture of the doctrine in the Old Testament, the belief of a redemption from death itself can be found elsewhere in the Old Testament. In places such as Deuteronomy 32:39 and 1 Samuel 2:6, we read that Yahweh kills and makes alive, that he brings down to the grave and will raise up. In the books of the Kings, there is the story of how Elijah raised a widow’s son from the dead and how Elisha did the same for a young boy.
These poetic passages as well as these two miracles may very well serve as a warm-up for a future resurrection.
That’s not the end of the story. In Isaiah 24-27, which is too long to quote here, we may have one of the earliest accounts of the final judgment and the resurrection (I say may because some scholars view it only pertaining to the restoration of Israel, although others say it refers to the topic at hand).
I’ve heard and you have alluded to the view that these beliefs were borrowed from Zoroastrianism or Greek mythology. I can see the Greek mythology in the division of the underworld, but if the examples I’ve cited above provide hints of an existence better than eternity in the underworld and of an ultimate resurrection, we would have to conclude that it’s possible the Jewish belief may have developed independently or was based upon a common tradition (such as the concept of multiple heavens or a divine counsel) as many scholars argue today.
As far as your question regarding Surah 87, my best guess is that it’s referring to materialism rather than a denial of life after death given the overall context. A similar line of thinking is found in the New Testament in 1 John 2, where believers are admonished not to love the world or the things of the world since they are perishing and are not from God. Too often in life we get distracted by anything and everything and it draws our attention away from the only thing that really matters, the One who loves us. To paraphrase Ash-Shuraa 36, everything else is a waste of time.
PS: Bart Ehrman, who is by no means an evangelical scholar, explores some of what I am talking about above. Although he doesn’t believe there are early attestations for a resurrection in the Old Testament, he does however believe a thorough review of the evidence goes against the theory of the Persian origin:
Thanks for answering
I did a little research on my side, and it seem that zoroastrianism could difficultly have influenced jewish faith
Not only that the dates does not match, but we are not even sure what zoroastrian eschatology looked like back then, their religion had known at least two major reform in it’s history during the sassanid, and later during the muslim era, their holy book, the avesta was written in it’s final form only in the 9/10th century, and the earlier manuscripts of it date back to the 14th century
It seem also that some description of heaven in the avesta are inspired by those in the Quran
Also other jewish concepts which were allegedly copied from zoroastrianism (satan and the angels for exemple) seem to pre-dates in judaism even the life of zoroaster himself ! ( From what I seen I think that the theory that zoroaster lived around 500 BCE makes the most sense)
And the fact that belief in hevean and hell is very widespread among old religions (egyptian mythology, turco-mongolic religions, some religions in india and china a d even some american religions) make it less likely that the concept came from zoroastrianism
Concerning the greeks, although their concept of the underworld somehow resemble the concept of sheol, it’s very unlikely that one was the origin of the other, and greek influence seem to be very minor on the jewish concept of afterlife
If we can summarize the situation here, probably the jewish concept of the afterlife was already present at least back to the babylonian period, and later on developed internally in judaism with only limited external influence
Right now I’m looking if jesus truly talked about heaven and hell (at least in some manner) or not, because I see many persons claiming the opposite (even among some christians who don’t believe in hell)
Do you have any idea about that?
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I think that looking at how the verse is formulated will help us a lot in understanding it’s true meaning
The quran call the “jews” by three names:
– “the sons of israel”
– “those who judaize” (although I most translation it’s only translated as jews or those who says that we are jews)
– “the jews”
Interestingly enough when “the sons of israel” is used it’s always in a positive manner, like how God has chosen the sons of israel among all peoples to make a convenant with them, how God help the sons of israel to escape egypt, how God had blessed the sons of israel etc…
When “jews” is used it’s generally directed to the jews of medina (or at least those of muhammad’s time) and is always followed by a severe critic of their beliefs and disbeliefs, they’re opposition to the prophets etc…
While finally the term “those who judaize” is, first used rarely in the quran, actually as far as I know it’s only used in those 2 verses that i cited, but it also seem very generic, to all the jews only by looking at how the phrase is formulated
Also the fact that christians, sabians and others are cited among those that judaize themself Although the context is talking about jews seem to be more in line with my understanding
And I never said that those who believe in God, and the last day will automatically enter paradise, even muslims are not guaranteed that
I just said that they will not enter hell only because they are jews or christians, and that they have a chance in the day of judgement
As to why God send muhammad in the first place if he will accept everyone who does believe in him, well first i just said that it’s not exactly the case, and second even if he does, judaism and especially christianity is not really the same message that was send down to the israelites prophets and jesus, thus we still need the original message back
Actually they were many great debates in the islamic history to if christians are, from an islamic perspective, still considered as monotheists like the jews or as falling in the “kufr akbar” (great disbelief) just like polytheists, but at the end most of our scholars came to the conclusion that they are still somehow distorted monotheists
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You’re welcome, man. I love discussing these things with people.
That’s kind of the general impression I get when I honestly take a look at the Jewish beliefs in comparison with the other surrounding cultures. It’s really hard to say who influenced who since so much stuff really derived from common traditions. It kind of reminds me of all the different flood myths from around the world, some are different than others and some are very similar to the one in the Bible, even in far flung cultures in the Americas. Heck, you could take most of the gods and goddesses in various religions and just change the names and you pretty much have the same gods. So much of what we have culturally and religiously is pretty common if you stop and think about it.
I came to the same conclusions myself. I don’t think that there ever was really a point when the Israelites did not believe in life after death. It really wouldn’t make a lot of sense for them not to since all the other cultures around them believed in something like that.
To answer your question, Jesus did actually talk about heaven and hell very frequently. There’s a couple of articles that elaborate on what I mean:
As to why there are Christians that say they don’t exist is beyond me when it’s so obviously clear that Jesus himself testified to the fact that they did.
Yeah me too I don’t really understand why many christians deny the existence of hell
Besides that, i did some reaserch on christian view of the afterlife
And there is something that i don’t truly understand, it’s that concept of new heaven and new earth, it seem from what I have seen that heaven is only a sort of temporary place, and that one day God will recreate the world and put the humans back to it…..or something like that?
Actually when thinking about this idea of new hevean and new earth, it come to my mind some verses in the Quran that i have always found obscure
Like this one: [˹Watch for˺ the Day ˹when˺ the earth will be changed into a different earth and the heavens as well, and all will appear before Allah—the One, the Supreme.] (24:48)
Or that: [On that Day We will roll up the heavens like a scroll of writings. Just as We produced the first creation, ˹so˺ shall We reproduce it. That is a promise binding on Us. We truly uphold ˹Our promises˺!] (21:104)
I think the parallel is very clear, especially in the first one
Also the fact that in the qur’an, although the afterlife of the believers and those who did good deeds is called by different names: the garden(s) (jannah/t), paradise (firdaws), eden etc…
Nowhere it is called in the Quran as heavens, and nowhere it’s is said that the paradise is a heavenly one
Also the quran talk about the return to the paradise of adam and eve (although many commentators of the quran said that it was a heavenly one, contradicting by the way both the bible and the quran, i think that i get where the confusion came from by those commentators…)
I still need to do some research on this, but from what I seen, the quranic Paradise is closer to this christian new earth that to the heveans
I think the concept of religious pluralism has a lot to contribute to it. people are just disturbed by the idea that people who don’t subscribe to their belief system will be destined hell.
Truthfully, religious pluralism does not make sense to me. it would make sense that those who refuse to believe a certain way would not be rewarded for their unbelief. Even though it kind of flies in the face of modern sensibilities, pretty much most of the worlds’ major religions declare that they alone have the Monopoly on truth. Buddhism says it, Judaism says it, Islam says it. In Christianity Jesus declares that he is the way the truth and the life and that no one can come to God except through him and the apostle Peter declares that salvation can be found in no other name except that of Jesus.
I know a lot of people are offended at the thought of any kind of religious exclusivity, but to me it makes logical sense no matter what religion makes the claim. The way I see it, all religions can’t be true because they each fundamentally contradict one another. For example, you can’t have reincarnation and karma along with and heaven and hell at the same time. The two concepts mutually contradict one another. To put it differently, a circle can’t be a square and a square can’t be a circle. It’s either one or the other or neither. The same principle applies to religious faith: two or more contradictory claims cannot be true.
Concerning the issue of the new heavens and earth, you are correct that the present world and
heaven are temporary and will someday be replaced by a new heaven and a new Earth. There
also won’t be any ocean, because the ocean is a symbol of chaos and in the New order there
will be no chaos. Creation will be restored to a state of Innocence where there is no more
sorrow or pain or death and God and Jesus will dwell with believers on Earth. This is found in
Revelation 19-22 in detail.
This concept though is not unique to Christianity, as it has its roots in Judaism In what is
referred to as the World or Age to Come. It’s pretty much the same thing, except of course
Judaism does not recognize Jesus is the messiah.
That is incredible it’s been quite some time since I read through the entire Quran (I’m actually I n the process of doing so right now), but I don’t remember ever reading those particular passages. 21:104 in particular reminds me of Isaiah 34:4 and Revelation 6:14 which also speak of the heavens being rolled up like a scroll. Thanks for bringing those to my attention. I’m going to have a watch for more verses like that as I study the Quran.
I’m kind of confused. I always thought that the garden of Eden in Islam was located in heaven or at least a very high place. I was reading the account in Al-Baqarah today about Adam and his wife and in verse 38 God tells them to go down after they succumbed to temptation. To me, this would imply a heavenly garden or at least a highly elevated one.
I do agree that the Islamic concept of paradise and a renewed earth is similar to what is found in Christian belief about the restored creation. However, heaven in Christianity and paradise in Islam have differences as you said. I’m not sure I can really call them differences though, as each vision tends to have a different focus but contains the same themes.
In Christianity, heaven and subsequently the new creation are primarily described as places of fellowship. Heaven is Described as being a place where God is because Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:8 that to be absent from the body is to be present with the Lord. It also says in Hebrews 12:22-24 that heaven is where God, Jesus, the angels and all the redeemed are. There’s really not much physical description given other than that.
There’s actually more detail about the new heaven and the new Earth than about the old heaven. The new creation is described as a place where God and man dwell together. It’s a place where believers worship and serve God and fellowship with him (just as we do in this life). Humanity and its creator will dwell together in peace and unbroken fellowship that had been severed through sin and repaired through the death of Jesus and his resurrection from the dead.
It seems to me that heaven as well as the new creation are focused primarily on relationship with God. While believers are at rest with God and free from the sorrow of this world, the Christian vision of heaven is one not only of comfort, but one of fellowship. Those who believe are in the presence of the creator and Savior of the universe and will be united with him forever. Their voices will join with the voices of the Angels in singing the praises of the one who called them out of darkness and into the light of his marvelous grace (1 Peter 2:9-10).
In Islam it seems that the same concept of fellowship with God is present in paradise (3:15). However, it seems to me that paradise in the Quran emphasizes comfort, security and deliverance from the world. Surah 88 beautifully illustrates this with visions of thrones, goblets and cushions. Not to mention all of the other passages that exquisitely describe paradise with its rivers and gardens. Just as believers in Jesus are said to reign with him as kings and queens, Muslims too are elevated to royalty in the hereafter.
Both visions are undergirded by the same basic notions of comfort, Deliverance, security and fellowship, but each vision focuses on different aspects. In the New Testament, fellowship with God is emphasized. In the Quran, comfort, security and deliverance are the primary emphasis.
Well the Quran , although MANY want it to be like that, does not condemn any non-muslim to hell for eternity, and is far more universalist than christianity for exemple
I think (2:62) and (22:17) are good examples: jews christians, sabians (i’m not very sure about their identity, but the most popular view is that they refer to the followers of John the baptist) , zoroastrians, whoever believe in God and the last day, and even those who take partners may have a chance in the judgement day (by the way, those are from the last verses to be revealed)
Although many have tried to argue that the verses only talk about the jews/Christians before muhammad, i think that it’s very clear that it is a universal call for all jews/christians
The Quran also warn from this attitude of condemning everyone who do not subscribe to our religion to an everlasting fire without any proof, like in verses such as (2:111) and (2:113)
If you refer to those verses that basically say that islam is the only religion for God, and that the kuffars will live in the fire of hell forever
I recommend you to watch this lecture of professor khalil adnani who try to understand the word “islam” in the light of the quran https://youtu.be/zhjUYo0rFpg
(By the way, i have seen that you and Taha have discussed about what is “the kitab” in the Quran, his thesis is entirely about this subject, you should take a look about what he say about that^^)
Also the term “kuffar” is not synonym with “non-muslim” or even “non-believer”
Javad t hashmi had discussed this term at the end of one of his lectures: https://youtu.be/dgt4vbvVX6Q
Also ibn taymiyyah, who is well known to be the most literalist scholar in the entire history of islam, believed that hell was not eternal, and that at some point hell will be destroyed
For the parallels with the books of Isaiah and revelation, actually the Qur’an in his dialogue with the judeo/christian (especially the syriac one) tradition, reuse, reatribute and modify many of their apocalyptic signs to make it’s own message
The clearest example is chapter 99 of the quran wich parallel the scene of the crucifixion in the gospel of matthew
Concerning the garden of eden, me too I used to think that it was a heveanly one…but I changed my mind for many reasons:
1) well…in the bible it is an earthly one…
2) before even creating Adam, God said to the angels that he want to make a co-regent in EARTH, it don’t make too much sense to created him in hevean and then send him to earth
3) the quran is clear that adam was created from the clay/dust of the EARTH, not from that of heaven
4) Satan/Ibliss try to convince adam that the forbidden tree of the garden is a tree of immortality…if adam was already in the heavenly garden he is already immortal^^
5) in the arabic Quran there are two words for “going down” the first is [ihbito], it is used only a few times in the Quran, and wich mean to go from one place to another in EARTH (exemple of this is Moses, after getting angry with the israelites, told them to go down [ihbito] to egypt if they want a secure life, or God when he told Noah after the end of the flood, to go down [ihbit] from his ship)
And the other is [inzal], it mean sending something from heaven, or from a high place, like when God say that he send down [anzalna] water from the sky etc…
The verb used in [2:38] is the first one
Concerning the world to come, yesterday I watched a talk between three prominent french muslim scholars who talked about the eschatology in islam, they have basically argued, quoting a famous french-muslim philosopher, René Guénon, that the Qur’an don’t actually talk about the end of THE world, but about the end of A world and i found that interesting
I have to respectfully disagree with you on this issue. I will admit that there are passages within the Quran that do seem to teach that all people who believe and do good will enter paradise. However, as I have looked into some of the verses you mentioned, I am doubtful that they actually are teaching universal salvation.
You mentioned 2:62, which is probably one of the most famous verses regarding Islam and its relation to other religions. Taken on its own, it does sound like it’s teaching universalism. But as I looked into the broader context surrounding 62, I’m having doubts that is the correct meaning.
62 occurs within the context where a group of Jews from Medina are being called out for their unbelief and hypocrisy. Immediately before this verse there is the discussion of how the Israelites refused to believe and actively rebelled against Moses by building the golden calf and complained about their food. Whereas they disbelieved and performed mischief, 62 is commending those who believe and do good among the Jews and these other groups. It is this group of the people of the book that will inherit paradise.
But does this mean that this passage is teaching a concept of universal salvation? It is my opinion that 2:62 is not a blanket statement that all members of these groups will enter simply because they believe in the same God, the final judgment and do good deeds. Rather, it is my opinion that this passage is teaching that among the groups mentioned that there are those who will be saved and enter paradise along with Muslims, so long as their way of believing aligns with what the Quran teaches.
I believe this point is well illustrated in verses 135-140:
The Jews and Christians each say, “Follow our faith to be ˹rightly˺ guided.” Say, ˹O Prophet,˺ “No! We follow the faith of Abraham, the upright—who was not a polytheist.”
Say, ˹O believers,˺ “We believe in Allah and what has been revealed to us; and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and his descendants; and what was given to Moses, Jesus, and other prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them. And to Allah we all submit.”
So if they believe in what you believe, then they will indeed be ˹rightly˺ guided. But if they turn away, they are simply opposed ˹to the truth˺. But Allah will spare you their evil. For He is the All-Hearing, All-Knowing.
This is the ˹natural˺ Way of Allah. And who is better than Allah in ordaining a way? And we worship ˹none but˺ Him.
Say, “Would you dispute with us about Allah, while He is our Lord and your Lord? We are accountable for our deeds and you for yours. And we are devoted to Him ˹alone˺.
Do you claim that Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and his descendants were all Jews or Christians?” Say, “Who is more knowledgeable: you or Allah?” Who does more wrong than those who hide the testimony they received from Allah? And Allah is never unaware of what you do.
While the Jews and the Christians worship the same God, they are misguided in that they have hidden the original, pure monotheism of Abraham. Yet if they follow what has been revealed through the Quran, they will be rightly guided as opposed to their current state. This passage is saying that Muslims follow what Abraham followed, as well as all the other prophets who came after him, whereas the other groups claim to follow the right path but have distorted the truth (this idea of distortion is also found in the verses immediately following 62).
If we are to assume a universalist reading of 2:62 is the proper understanding, why are two of the groups mentioned in that passage now being decried for having deviated from the truth and for concealing it? If 2:62 is universal in scope, why bother calling out Jews and Christians as being misguided? If they’re going to go to Paradise just by believing in God, believing in the last judgment and doing good deeds, it doesn’t make sense to tell them they’re on the wrong path and the Muslims are on the right one. A universalist reading of 2:62 would presuppose that there would be no such thing as a right or wrong path and would render these verses as nonsensical.
It is for that reason that I think the best way to interpret that verse is to see it as referring to members of those groups who hold to the pure hanif faith of Abraham as Muslims do and acknowledge Mohammed. I think two good examples of this would be Bahira and Waraqa, Christians who believed in Mohammed’s prophethood and were set to possess unadulterated copies of the original Scripture as handed down to the people of the book by God through Moses and Jesus, which are said to be confirmed within the Quran.
This would mean by logical deduction that anyone from those groups mentioned who did not hold this hanif/Muslim viewpoint as taught in the original books and Quran would be excluded from paradise because they are believing in erroneous misinterpretations. A Christian who believed in what the New Testament said about Jesus would not enter paradise because he or she would be committing shirk, which Allah strongly disapproves of throughout the Quran. But if a Christian accepted what the Quran said, they could enter paradise because that would be what really happened. That would make more sense when comparing 2:62 with other passages revealed both earlier and later and with other material found in the same chapter.
So, you are correct to say that 2:62 is a universal call. However, it is a universal call for members of those respective groups to embrace the original version of what they claim to believe.
Now concerning 22:17, it too does seem universalistic and tone. However, looking at other passages with similar wording, I am not convinced that this means that these groups will be saved. Rather, it sounds like it is calling back to other passages where God is judging amongst those who disagreed with each other and
themselves, namely Jews and Christians. It doesn’t say anything regarding their final destiny. Further, the following seven passages describe two groups of people being judged: those who have accepted God’s revelation and those who have not. Those who have not accepted it will be punished terribly, while those who have will be admitted to Paradise.
In a similar vein, I tend to see 2:111-113 as a judgment text as well rather than a possibility that Jews or Christians enter paradise. The fact that God will judge the groups of people mentioned regarding their differences does not sound like it strikes a positive chord in my opinion. 112 could be interpreted from a universalistic understanding, but I think we should ask ourselves if the ones who submit to God and do good works refers to the people of the book or to Muslim believers.
Seeing as how the previous two verses (109 and 110) mention how a certain group wanted the Muslims to convert to their religion and how the Muslims are admonished to keep practicing their faith leads me to suspect that the statement in 112 is an encouragement to Muslims that they will enter paradise and that 113 is saying that God will judge those who wanted to convert the Muslims. In my opinion, this is strengthened by verse 111, where the offending party said that only Jews and Christians enter paradise. This prompts the speaker to challenge this group to bring the proof of this claim, which he says in the following verse that they can’t. 112 also calls back 110, where the believers are encouraged to pray, give alms and do good.
The big issue that I have in saying that the Quran might suggest that The People of the Book (the ones who are not hanif like Muslims are) or anyone who takes partners with God may have a chance of entering paradise along with Muslims that it undercuts the entire foundation of Islam.
Let’s assume for a moment that all that it took to get to paradise was simply to believe in the God of Abraham, the final judgment and do good deeds. Doesn’t matter whether or not a person or group of people got a few teachings wrong here and there, or maybe just maybe they associated somebody or several somebodies with God. All it would take was those three things to get in.
My question is simply this: if that’s all it would take, then why did God call Mohammed to be a prophet in the first place? It wouldn’t matter if people were wrong on a few points, as long as they did those three things, everything would be cool. There wouldn’t be any need for someone to point out the error of their ways. There wouldn’t be any need to call them back to true monotheism. There wouldn’t be any need for another revelation if all it took was simply the three things. The Jews, the Christians, the pre-Islamic Arabs and everybody in between who claimed to believe in the same God could simply follow their own Scriptures and their own customs and they would be fine.
I understand in Islamic theology that God is ultimately sovereign and does whatever he wants. Even an angel can’t intercede for a person unless God wills it. But if it is to be assumed that somehow God would allow non-Muslims entrance into paradise, I’m having a hard time seeing what the purpose was in calling Mohammed and revealing the Quran. To me, it seems like accepting a tentatively universalistic reading of the Quran undercuts the whole message of it and makes the denunciations of the errors of the pagans, the Jews, the Christians and everybody else seem hollow. After all, if all these groups are ultimately going to be with God, why bother calling them out on their errors? Why bother warning them about the dangers of the Fire if they’re not in manifest error?
I will freely admit that I’m not an Islamic scholar. I haven’t spent nearly as much time studying the Quran as I have the Old and New Testaments, but from a logical point of view, I have a hard time believing that the Quran teaches the possibility of universalism. It just doesn’t seem to line up with the evidence and accepting that viewpoint undermines the basic point of the religion, that all of the people who had Scriptures beforehand messed up and need to be shown the proper way to believe.
I did watch both videos. Regarding what Dr. Adnani said, I think a lot of what I wrote above could also be considered a partial response. As far as the issue of kufr is concerned, I understand that it has more than one meaning. But in looking at all the other meanings that were provided, they all seem to stem back one common source: a state of faithlessness and lack of proper respect for God and humanity. If someone truly believes, they could not act in such ways.
I’ll have to look into it. 🙂
That is interesting regarding ibn Taymiyyah. Hell is not eternal either in Christianity, as it gets destroyed in the lake of fire in the final judgment.
That is one of the things that I do enjoy in studying the Quran, the way that it relates to in response to the broad religious discourse of the times. Like I mentioned to Taha above, it calls to mind how the ancient Israelites often took language and imagery of Canaanite gods and applied it to God to argue for his supremacy over them.
You make some good points regarding Adam and the location of the garden. It does make more sense that the garden would have been on earth. The last part about the different words for going down I think seals the deal that it didn’t necessarily have to be heavenly. Plus the fact that he was creating him to be co-Regent on earth would not make a lot of sense if God created him in heaven and the garden was located in heaven.
You mean like our earth is destroyed and people go to a different earth/dimension?
I went over to Quran Wiki and I looked into the term in question that appears in 2:62 that describes Jewish people there. The term that you and I are talking about is alladhīna hādū, which according to Quran wiki occurs 10 times within the Quran itself. Five times it is rendered as “those who are Jews” (4:46, 5:41, 6:146, 16:18, 62:6), Three times it is rendered as “those who were Jews” (4:160, 5:44, 22:17) and twice it is rendered as “those who became Jews” (2:62, 5:69).
In the context of the passages that we are discussing, it is possible that the verses in question could be speaking in the past tense (which is how Quran wiki’s own translation and Sahih International render it). It could possibly be referring to those who once had been Jewish, but had then converted to Islam or to those who believed in the past before the dawn of Islam. But I’m not sure I’m entirely satisfied with either of those interpretations..
I still am of the opinion that 2:62 and other similarly worded passages like 5:69 and 22:17 are referring to members of those groups who while they are not Muslims, have submitted to God in the primordial sense of submission (the hanif faith of Abraham that I talked about) and thus have aligned themselves with what the Quran is teaching. They wouldn’t be Muslims in the sense that we think of Muslims, but rather they would be followers of the original monotheism, following the footsteps of Abraham, Moses and Jesus (in the Quranic understanding).
As it says in 4:125 :
And who is better in faith than those who ˹fully˺ submit themselves to Allah, do good, and follow the Way of Abraham, the upright? Allah chose Abraham as a close friend.
And in 42:13 :
He has ordained for you ˹believers˺ the Way which He decreed for Noah, and what We have revealed to you ˹O Prophet˺ and what We decreed for Abraham, Moses, and Jesus,1 ˹commanding:˺ “Uphold the faith, and make no divisions in it.” What you call the polytheists to is unbearable for them. Allah chooses for Himself whoever He wills, and guides to Himself whoever turns ˹to Him˺.
So what you’re saying is in Islam no one has absolute certainty that they will enter Paradise, even the most devout Muslim who prays, does alms and believes in God and doesn’t associate anyone with him? I’m kind of confused by that because there are so many verses that seem to say otherwise, almost as if you do those things you’re guaranteed entrance. I always thought that the claim that there was no surety of salvation in Islam was just a put down that some Christian apologists used as an argument against Islam, but was something that the Quran never actually taught.
But the one thing that I’m just having a hard time wrapping my head around is this: if no one not even Muslims can know for sure that they will enter Paradise on the day of judgment, what do we do with all the verses that seem to suggest that those who follow the precepts of Islam will enter Paradise and those who do not will go to hell? I understand in Islamic theology that God is sovereign and ultimately does whatever he wishes according to his will (a belief that is also found in Judaism and Christianity), but why make statements that seem to say people who follow a certain way will enter Paradise and those who do not will go into the fire? If it’s ultimately up to God to decide who deserves mercy and doesn’t deserve Mercy, why does it sound like at times that there is a certainty about the state of the righteous and the unrighteous?
What are the names of some of these debates that you’re talking about? I’d be very curious in reading them. I do think that the Quran is very clear though that Christians who believe that Jesus was the son of God would be disqualified any positive afterlife. 5:72-76 is very clear on the matter. Even though Christians are praised later on in that surah for not being arrogant, it still seems very straightforward that any Christihttps://ponderingislam.com/2020/06/17/does-the-quran-teach-previous-scripture-to-be-corrupt/comment-page-1/#comment-3684an who does not accept what is said regarding Jesus in the Quran is for the most part out of the game, because they are not believing what it is said that Jesus truly taught.
And sorry for the late reply
I haven’t really read all of those debates and works about the status of the christians according to the Quran, but I know that ibn taymiyyah talk about them, and give his own opinion on the matter
Concerning the jews, i have read the entire passage and I’m still not convinced yet that it alludes to the jews that were existing before muhammad’s time
And i think that verses like [3:64] also support my view
Returning to the question of the afterlife in the old testament, i have found some interesting articles on that
Especially this one : https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/themelios/article/the-old-testament-view-of-life-after-death/
That try to argue that the concept of “hell” was already there in the pre-exilic period, ands that there is no contradiction nor (important) evolution between how the early jews viewed the resurrection and how daniel view it
And actually I have found their arguments very convincing
Also the fact that there are some passages that use the resurrection of the dreads as a metaphor for the the restoration of israel (like in ezekiel) actually indicate that the concept was already well known to the israelites to be used by the prophet to describe the returning of the jews, especially that in the parable of the man and the donkey in [2:259], the quran start from the fact that God is capable of resurrecting the deads, to prove that he is capable of restoring a destroyed city or nation
You make a valid point. Several times the Old Testament references books that were extant at the time but are now lost to us today. Some of these include the Book of Jasher and the Book of the Wars of the Lord.
After reading through some of Al-Kahf after I posted my response earlier, I would have to agree with you that the Quran does indeed take these narratives to be historical. Aya 21 for example declares that the account of the Companions of the Cave serves as a sign that the resurrection is true.
Now I believe that the resurrection is true, but I have serious doubts about this story. There’s just too many details that make me question its veracity. Maybe I’m wrong, maybe my 21st century mind is just too skeptical, but I just feel very doubtful about this.
On the New Testament writers, I do think that many of them did assume those accounts were true as well. I’m not sure that I would agree that every single extra biblical narrative was true, but they did seem to believe some of the later traditions were true.
I’m really looking forward to reading the article.
Concerning the issues with GSR’s book, there is one point that should be considered. While the two examples you cited may appear after the Quran was written, we should always consider the possibility that these accounts may be based off of earlier material (much like how the Syriac Legend of Alexander is derived from traditions that were around as early as the first century A.D.).
And on the issue of the Israelites murdering Abel… I don’t know whether I should laugh or shake my head. I don’t see anything that alludes to that anywhere in the text either. I guess that’s the one weakness of critical scholarship: sometimes you get to a point where you start to be too critical.
Regardless though, I definitely will buy it.
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It’s okay, man. I totally understand.
I’m going to take a look at what he said and then see if I can find some of the other debates in question.
I’m with you that 2:62 probably does not refer to Jewish people who lived before the time of Mohammed. Even though alladhīna hādū can be read in the past tense, I think that there is a better way of understanding it if it is to be read that way.
If 2:62 is read in the past tense, it could be referring to people who previously had been Jews, but later embraced Islam. If so, this could be understood as referring to some of the Arabian tribes that early Muslims interacted with who had converted from paganism to Judaism. if this interpretation is correct, this verse then would be speaking of individuals who had once belonged to these religious groups (such as Judaism) but had reverted to Islam.
However, I feel that while this may be a plausible interpretation, the view that I tend to see as the strongest in light of the context of this surah is the one that I articulated in my previous response: that 2:62 refers to Jews who have embraced the true form of Judaism that is illustrated in the Quran, the religion that was revealed to Moses and was expounded on by later Israelite prophets. This would be distinct from the Judaism that is presented in the Tanakh and in later rabbinical writings. Although the Jews who practice this religion would not technically be part of the Muslim community, they would be hanif as Abraham was or submitters in the pre-islamic sense and would thus be numbered among Muslims as the believers who would receive a reward from their lord.
Of course, this reading would hinge on whether or not alladhīna hādū is best understood as being in the present or past tense, which interpreters seem to be divided on but you and I feel it is best understood as speaking in the present tense, although we both have different interpretations of what exactly the verse is speaking about.
How does 3:64 support your view?
That is a very compelling article. I was not aware of some of the passages that were cited in there. Admittedly, I have not read through the entire Bible for quite some time (I mostly study the Bible through an online devotional: https://www.todayintheword.org/ ), but I found that article to be eye-opening on the subject of the Resurrection.
You do also raise a valid point regarding Ezekiel 37 and Al-Baqara 259. In the case of the passage from Ezekiel, I have never considered the possibility that it presupposes the resurrection. I have assumed for some time that it merely was an allegorical representation of the revival of Israel after the Babylonian exile. But now I am beginning to wonder if perhaps there isn’t an underlying presupposition in the concept of a bodily Resurrection in there.
After all, God asks Ezekiel if those bones will live again or not and Ezekiel responds, “O Lord God, you know.” He doesn’t say that they won’t live again, which is what we should expect him to say if they didn’t believe in the concept of a resurrection at that point or that something like it wasn’t possible. It does seem that Resurrection is almost presumed here, which would be yet another nail in the coffin of The argument that it was a late development.
Yeah, right now I’m enjoying reading they’re sources, giving all those references of an afterlife and a resurrection it became very unlikely that this was a later development
I have found a very recent (2015) and interesting book “Disembodied Souls: The Nefesh in Israel and Kindred Spirits in the Ancient Near East” by Richard C. Steiner
He basically argue from pre-exilic biblical and extra-biblical, but most importantly archeological evidences that the early israelites did believe in a disombodied, immortal soul that continue it’s life after the death of the physical body, either to be rewarded by going to heaven, or being punished by torment, and depression from God and/or annihilation of the soul
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It certainly does seem that there is more going on than just the story that university students have been fed for decades that the concepts of afterlife and resurrection were later additions. This is one of the issues I have with academia (though I have my own academic aspirations at times): more often than not, ideas are stated so many times that people start to assume they are true and don’t question them. And then if you try to challenge them, you get laughed at and people act like you’re some kind of heretic or something.
Even though I do have some doubts about some of the various Scriptures that we’ve both discovered regarding the issue of resurrection and afterlife, I do think that there is enough there to make a case against late developments.
I took a glance through the book online and it looks very interesting. I never heard about catching souls inside of pillowcases being alluded to in Ezekiel before. I might take it out from the library as soon as I receive my covid vaccination (one can’t be too cautious in crazy days like these). My favorite subjects in biblical studies are Second Temple Judaism and its relation to early Christianity (like the two powers concept, shared divinity and divine mediators) and early Israelite religion, and the book you mentioned sounds like it would shed a lot of light on early Israelite religion.
You mentioned the concept of annihilation of the soul. What does he have to say regarding that?
I know this might sound kind of odd, but is there any way that I can stay in contact with you through email or social media? I’ve really been enjoying the discussions we’ve had with one another these past few weeks and I was wondering if from time to time I could send you a message and we could swap ideas and have some deep theological discussions.
Yeah sure you can contact me with my email:
I am also actif on twitter if you want https://mobile.twitter.com/KaitoKi11406214
Cool, I’ll write those down and drop you a line!