Islam and the Book: The heart of the matter

I (Raphy) meet a Muslim on are regular basis. We are very fond of one another. We were discussing the Muslim view that the Bible is corrupted. Our conversation went like this:

R – Is there anything in the existing Torah (the whole Jewish scriptures) or the Injil (NT) that Muslims accept?
M – There are bits and pieces.
R – Which ones are those?
M – The ones mentioned in the Quran.
R – The Quran says:

“It was We who revealed the Law to Moses, therein was guidance and light … and in their footsteps, We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel, therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him, a guidance and admonition to those who fear Allah. To thee (Mohammed) We sent the Scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety.” (Surah 5:47-51).

In Mohammed’s day, were there any Jews and Christians who were following the Law of Moses and the Gospel?

M – Yes.
R – Then they must have had an uncorrupted version of the Torah and Gospel.
M – No, they didn’t.
R – But then how could these Jews and Christians remain faithful to the Law of Moses and the Gospel?
M – They carried the pure Law of Moses and the Gospel in their hearts.
R – Didn’t they get it into their hearts through their heads – through words, written words, a text. Surely, there can be no Islam without a Quran; indeed, all religions depend on texts. The Quran says:

“They did not form any proper estimate of Allah when they said: ‘Allah has not revealed anything to any man.’59 Ask them: ‘The Book which Moses brought as a light and guidance for men and which you keep in bits and scraps, some of which you disclose while the rest you conceal, even though through it you were taught that which neither you nor your forefathers knew – who was it who revealed it?’ Say: ‘Allah!’- and then leave them to sport with their argumentation” (Surah 6:91).

Are you saying that the Book of Moses that Allah was referring to had become so corrupted that Jews never managed to preserve an uncorrupted version from time immemorial?

M – Only bits and pieces. Also, the Torah and the Injil were written down by human beings and so errors crept in, whereas the Quran is a pure creation of Allah with no human interference. That is why we are sure that it is free of error.

R – Why then does the Quran say this about the People of the Book?

“Dispute not with the People of the Book, save in the fairer manner, except for those of them that do wrong; and say: ‘We believe in what has been sent down to us, and what has been sent down to you; Our God and your God is One and to Him we have surrendered'” (Sura 29:45).

If Allah says “dispute not with the People of the Book” doesn’t it follow that – at the time of Mohammed – there existed a book, a written text that “has been sent down to you; Our God and your God is One and to Him we have surrendered.”

M – No; by “Book” Allah means what used to be written in the “Book” before it became corrupted, which happened long ago before anyone can remember. In Mohammed’s time, the “Book” that Allah is talking about didn’t exist as a written text; it existed in a few of the “People of the Book’s” hearts.