Islam teaches that Jews and Christians have corrupted their scriptures, while the Qur’an remains pure and thus free of error. One reason why free of error is that the Qur’an, like Allah, is uncreated, thus, eternal, and so not susceptible to change. I examine the argument of corruption of the Bible with a helping hand from David Wood and “Christian Prince.” The latter is Christian Iraqi with qualifications in Islamic law and the literature of Islam.
In David Wood’s “Muslims have no clue what their own scriptures say about the Bible,” he quotes Shabir Ally.
“Why not [the preservation of] the previous books then? God was sending one book after another, God was sending one prophet after another so that if the message of the previous prophets was changed over time, that was not much of a great issue because another prophet came to restore the message and bring it back to its pristine purity. So, for example, when previous messages were confused by people, Jesus came and restored it, and preached again ‘this is the word of God for you.’ Now after him, the message becomes diluted again, and the prophet Muhammad (PBUH) comes and restores the message and puts it in its final form. Now it cannot be diluted because if it is diluted, people would be left without the guidance. This is why God has undertaken t preserve the Qur’an as he has not done with the previous books.”
There are many verses in the Qur’an that contradict the Islamic notion that God has preserved only the Qur’an.
Surah 5:47-48 (Malik) 47 Therefore, let the people who follow the Injeel (Gospel) judge by the Law which Allah has revealed therein; those who do not judge by the Law which Allah has revealed, they are the transgressors. 48 To you, O Muhammad, We have revealed this Book with the truth. It confirms whatever has remained intact in the scriptures which came before it and also to safeguard it. Therefore, judge between people according to Allah’s revelations and do not yield to their vain desires diverging from the truth which has come to you…
Here is Pickthall’s translation of verse 48: And unto thee have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it. So judge between them by that which Allah hath revealed, and follow not their desires away from the truth which hath come unto thee…
Compare Malik “whatever has remained intact” with Pickthall’s (Yusuf Ali’s translation is similar) “confirming whatever Scripture was before it” [the Bible – my square brackets].
By replacing the faithful translation of “confirming whatever came before it” (Pickthall and Ali) with the misleading “whatever has remained intact,” Malik misleads English speakers with words such as “whatever” (the leftovers?) remained intact (was left over after the Jews and Christians had corrupted there texts).
In the above passage it is Allah who revealed the Bible. Thus 1. Allah decreed that it be written, and 2. the Bible that Allah revealed was in possession of the Jews and the Christians at the time the above Qur’anic verses appeared. And these verses state that this Book/Scripture [the Qur’an]…confirms whatever came before it (Torah and Gospel).
But see Surah 3:84:
Say:”We believe in Allah and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham Ismail, Isaac, ,Jacob and the Tribes, and in (Books) given to Moses Jesus and the Prophets from their Lord; we make no distinction between one and another among them and to Allah do we bow our will (in Islam).”
The Arabic does not have the words in brackets – in Islam. Pickthall’s translation omits these words because the last two Arabic words of the verse are ahu muslimoona, which means “to Allah we bow/submit/surrender our will.” Arabic Muslim/Islam means “surrender/submit.” Islam, in spite of what many Muslims assert, does not mean “peace.”
A Muslim would say that the words “make no distinction among them” in the above verse does not mean that all revelations from God are of equal worth but rather that all God’s prophets were of equally good character.
Regarding “what was revealed” (Surah 3:84 above), Shabir Ally and other Muslims believe that the Qur’an affirms the initial inspiration of the previous scriptures but not their preservation and authority. On the contrary, the Qur’an (7th century) affirms all three – inspiration, preservation and authority.
He has revealed to you this Book with the Truth, confirming the scripture which preceded it, as He revealed the Taurat (Torah) and Injeel
(Gospel), 4. before this, as a guidance for mankind and also revealed this Al-Furqan (criterion for judgment between right and wrong). Surely those who reject Allah’s revelations will be sternly punished; Allah is Mighty, capable of retribution.
David Wood points out that Muslims don’t believe that the Bible was preserved because they say it contradicts the Qur’an, for example, Jesus is the eternal Son of God; he died and rose from the dead. So, the Muslim reasons thus: the Qur’an affirms the inspiration of the Bible. They open the Bible and see it contradicts the Qur’an. Ergo, the Bible was not preserved but is corrupted. We saw, in contrast, that the Bible was preserved. If not, then Allah/Muhammad must be a fool.
Surah 7:157 says: “Those who follow the apostle the unlettered prophet whom they find mentioned in their own (Scriptures – the Bible); in the law and the Gospel; for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil: he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him honor him help him and follow the light which is sent down with him it is they who will prosper.” (The Jews and Christians mentioned above are those living in Muhammad’s time).
Muslims say Muhammad was prophesied in the Bible. I thought the Bible was corrupted, which implies that no one knows Arthur (or Muhammad) from Martha. Muslims will say that there are bits of Bible that were preserved; the bits that gel with the Qur’an.
Another verse – Surah 18:27 (Yusuf Ali)
“And recite (and teach) what has been revealed to thee of the Book of thy Lord: none can change His Words and none wilt thou find as a refuge other than Him.”
So no one can corrupt the Lord’s (Arabic rabb) word. Is there any wiggle room left for the Muslim. Yes. He says “the Book of the Lord refers to different times and climes: “For each period Is a Book (revealed).” So, for thousands of periods and of specific groups, God revealed his word to thousands of prophets where the revelations were unique to that period/group/language. All were corrupted, says the Muslim, except the Qur’an. This means that Allah’s word has been corrupted more than anyone’s word in history. But as we see ad nauseam in the Qur’an, Allah says that no one can corrupt his word.
I turn to Christian Prince:
Here is a paraphrase of Christian Prince’s critique of Shabir Ally’s argument that the Bible has been corrupted by the Jews and the Christians.
In the Qur’an it says that Allah gave the Torah and the Gospel. Alas, he did not protect them. Muslims say that Christians and Jews corrupted the Torah and the Gospel. Is this true? According to Islam, yes – and no. “Because Islam is a stupid religion, says Christian Prince (CP), made by a stupid mental idiot, it contradicts itself.” CP is going to show that Shabir Ally, in trying to prove that the Christians and Jews corrupted their book, ends up proving the opposite. Someone will ask Shabir how the Qur’an was preserved. Because he is overconfident he makes statements that destroy what he is trying to prove.
Everything people do is according to a divine plan. The Muslims believe there is nothing out of the divine plan. The Bible, according to Islam, is God’s word, and, if God’s word, is eternal (like the Qur’an), and therefore it cannot be corrupted. Allah is the infallible guardian of his word, Shabir Ally says that Allah is the guardian and preserver of the Qur’an only, protecting it from all corruption. He tries to prove his point by quoting Surah 15:9:
The Reminder al-thikra
Asad: Behold, it is We Ourselves who have bestowed from on high, step by step, this reminder: and, behold, it is We who shall truly guard it [the Qur’an, from all corruption].
Malik: Surely We have revealed this reminder (The Qur’an); and We will surely preserve it Ourself.
Pickthall: Lo! We, even We, reveal the Reminder, and lo! We verily are its Guardian.
Yusuf Ali: We have without doubt sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (the Qur’an, from corruption).
Shabir Ally, and the four Muslim translators above, state that the “Reminder” in Surah 15:9 above refers to the Qur’an only, and so the Bible is excluded.
Christian Prince says surah 15:9 has nothing to do with the Qur’an. Not so fast; CP is trigger happy. A better approach is to ask Shabir, which CP then does, the question, “How do you know [the word “reminder” in] this verse has to do with the Qur’an? Let us examine, says CP, other verses where “reminder” appears. “Reminder” in surah 21:7 refers not to the Qur’an but the Bible.
Malik: The Rasools [Prophets] which We sent before you, O Muhammad, were also human to whom We sent revelation. If you, O objectors, do not know this, then ask the people of the reminder (Jews and Christians).
“Revelation” refers to the “reminder” (the Bible) of the Jews and the Christians.
Asad: For [even] before thy time, [O Muhammad,] We never sent [as Our apostles] any but [mortal] men, whom We inspired-hence, [tell the deniers of the truth,] “If you do not know this, ask the followers of earlier revelation.” (Asad note: “Literally “followers of the Bible, which in its original, uncorrupted form represented one of God’s “reminders” to man”).
Malik: The Rasools [Prophets] which We [Allah] sent before you, O Muhammad, were also human to whom We sent revelation. If you, O objectors, do not know this, then ask the people of the reminder (Jews and Christians).
Pickthall: And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men whom We inspired. Ask the followers of the Reminder if ye know not?
Yusuf Ali: Before thee also the apostles we sent were but men to whom We granted inspiration: if ye realize this not ask of those who possess the Message.
Christian Prince points out that when these verses were “sent down” the Qur’an had not been completed yet. The Muslim might argue that the “reminder” (“message”), in this case, the Qur’an, can still be in progress, and therefore, not the finished product,
Surah 21:105 also refers to the Bible as the “reminder/message/revelation”:
Malik: We wrote this in The Zaboor (Psalms xxxvii, 29) after the reminder (Torah given to Musa): that as for the land, My righteous servants shall inherit it.”
Pickthall: And verity We have written in the Scripture, after the Reminder: My righteous slaves will inherit the earth:
Yusuf Ali: Before this We wrote in the Psalms after the Message (given to Moses): My servants the righteous shall inherit the earth.”
Christian Prince comments:
“Allah made people responsible for protecting the bible. He found out (according to Muslims) he was wrong to do that, so never again. So he decided with the Qur’an that he would preserve it himself. Look how stupid, how silly this argument is. This Abdul is saying to us that Allah made a stupid decision, he trusted the rabbis, which means that Allah is not the almighty, because if the almighty is almighty, he should not trust someone who is corrupt. How do we know the rabbis are corrupt? Because the Muslims are accusing the rabbis of being corrupt. No decent man will corrupt his holy book unless he is corrupt himself, evil. Allah decides to correct it. So today (Allah says) I made a stupid mistake, and I promise you I will never do it again. I tried it once, I will never try it again. [Comment Allah, according to the Islamic literature tried it thousands of times in different times with different groups/languages]. This is the stupid logic of this religion called Islam. Can you find me anyone more stupid than Allah, because he is trusting the wrong ones to protect his book? And Allah is the one who is divine, and he (Shabir Ally) just said to us that no human being can do anything except from the plan of Allah. So how does this work? It’s stupid it’s funny, it’s dummy.”
I comment on CP’s last sentence: CP, like the majority of Christians, do not understand that owing to the fact that God is sovereign over everything, it follows that His decrees, even evil acts (such as the crucifixion) are compatible with man’s freedom, and thus man is responsible for the evil he does. (See more here: “We can’t let confusion get in the way of God’s decree: Response to a liberal Muslim”). With regard to the preservation/corruption of the Bible, the issue is that God (of the Bible) says (Isaiah 40:8) says: “The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” And the (Muslim and Christian) Messiah says: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.”
Alan Shlemon in his “Ambassador Guide to Islam” (pp.23-24) writes:
“And Sayyid Ahmad Husayn Shawkat Mirthi notes how counterintuitive it is to claim that a religious community would knowingly corrupt their own scriptures. The ordinary Muslim people acknowledge that the Injil is the Word of God. Yet they also believe through hearsay (taqlidi ‘aqida) that the Injil is corrupted, even though they cannot indicate what passage was corrupted, when it was corrupted, and who corrupted it. Is there any religious community in this world whose lot is so miserable that they would shred their Muslim scholar Mahmoud Mustafa Ayoub agrees. He doesn’t believe that Christians and Jews corrupted the Bible. Instead, he believes they misunderstood and misapplied it. Contrary to the general Islamic view, the Qur’an does not accuse Jews and Christians of altering the text of their scriptures, but rather of altering the truth which those scriptures contain. The people do this by concealing some of the sacred texts, by misapplying their precepts, or by “altering words from their right position” (4:26; 5:13, 41; see also 2:75).”
“However, this refers more to interpretation than to actual addition or deletion of words from the sacred books. The Qur’an does not claim Jews and Christians corrupted the Bible. What it claims is that certain Jews and Christians distorted the meaning, interpretation, and application of their scriptures. The biblical text has remained the same prior to, during, and after the 7th century. Muslims who claim the Bible is corrupt either force the Qur’an into contradiction or worse, make Allah sound like a failure. The Qur’an assured Muslims in the 7th century that they could trust the Bible. If it was reliable then, it is reliable today. Here is a chart from Shlemon, p. 17.
Yet another verse: “If you are in doubt regarding what We have revealed to you, ask those who have been reading the Book before you (Muhammad). In fact, the truth has indeed come to you from your Rabb: therefore, do not be of those who doubt” (Surah 10:94):
There are only two possibilities: the Bible is corrupted or not corrupted. If corrupted then Qur’an is wrong because it says the Bible is not corrupted. If the Bible is not corrupted then the Qur’an is also false and that score because it denies events in the Bible such as the death and resurrection of Christ.
Finally, Jesus says to the Jews, “unless you believe that I am (Greek ego eimi, Hebrew Yahweh) you will die in your sins.” He says this to Muslims, Jews and the rest of mankind.