The Qur’an on the Inspiration of the Torah and Gospel and a Challenge to Islam

The Qur’an teaches that the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament) and the Gospels (the gospels narrating Jesus’ ministry as found in the New Testament) are inspired by Allah. The Qur’an makes several such claims,

“He hath revealed unto thee (Muhammad) the Scripture with truth, confirming that which was (revealed) before it, even as He revealed the Torah and the Gospel” (3:3).

“Lo! We did reveal the Torah, wherein is guidance and a light, by which the prophets who surrendered (unto Allah) judged the Jews, and the rabbis and the priests (judged) by such of Allah’s Scripture as they were bidden to observe, and thereunto were they witnesses” (5:44)

“Say O People of the Scripture! Ye have naught (of guidance) till ye observe the Torah and the Gospel and that which was revealed unto you from your Lord. That which is revealed unto thee (Muhammad) from thy Lord is certain to increase the contumacy and disbelief of many of them. But grieve not for the disbelieving folk” (5:68).

According to these verses, the Torah and the Gospel are divine revelations sent down by Allah. It is also presupposed that the Torah and the Gospel existed at the time that these revelations were sent down and therefore available to their respective communities. Further, the Qur’an is the last in line within this chain of revelation: God first sent down the Torah, then the Gospel, and then the Qur’an which, according to Muslim tradition, was communicated by Muhammad to his followers. Just as the Qur’an provides readers with “guidance” (2:2) and a “clear light” (4:174), so does the Torah and the Gospel, which also provide guidance and light (5:44, 46). In other words, the Qur’an, the Gospel, and the Torah are all comparable in the guidance and light they provide to humanity. The notion of “a guidance and a light” refers to the supernatural origin and truthfulness of the revelation.

This is further indicated in Q10:94. Here it is said that if Muhammad is in doubt that his name is found/prophesied in the Torah or Gospel, he should question those “who read the Scripture (that was) before thee”, referring to those who read the Torah and Gospel before the Qur’an was revealed. Here Allah is giving his divine stamp of approval on the Torah and Gospel.

There is some additional information in other Islamic sources of relevance, such as the hadith. In Sunan Abu Dawud, Muhammad uses the Torah as divine revelation in adjudicating a matter,

“A group of Jews came and invited the Messenger of Allah to Quff. So he visited them in their school. They said: AbulQasim, one of our men has committed fornication with a woman; so pronounce judgment upon them. They placed a cushion for the Messenger of Allah who sat on it and said: Bring the Torah. It was then brought. He then withdrew the cushion from beneath him and placed the Torah on it saying: I believed in thee and in Him Who revealed thee. He then said: Bring me one who is learned among you. Then a young man was brought. The transmitter then mentioned the rest of the tradition of stoning similar to the one transmitted by Malik from Nafi'(No. 4431).” (39.4424, emphasis added)

Have the Torah and Gospel Been Corrupted?

From the above, we learn that Allah revealed the Torah and the Gospel, but this raises significant difficulties for many Muslims today. The difficulties manifest when one compares the Qur’an and the Torah-Gospel together because they present very different, even conflicting, details.

We will observe a few of these. For example, the Qur’an rejects that Jesus died by crucifixion (4:157), yet all four gospels (and the New Testament in general) claim that he died by crucifixion (Mark 15:27-28; Matthew 27:38; Luke 23:33; John 19:18). In the gospels, Jesus is the Son of God (Matthew 3:17; Luke 1:35, 9:35; John 2:16, 5:17, 6:32; 8:42), a claim that the Qur’an strongly rejects (4:171; 5:72-75; 19:35). In the gospels, Jesus is more than just a prophet (he is the Messiah and Son of God who died, via crucifixion, for human sins and was raised from the dead), but in the Qur’an he is just a prophet like others before him (6:84). In fact, the Qur’an teaches that anyone who believes Jesus is God is destined for hell (5:72).

In the Torah, we can turn to the story of Noah and the Great Flood. According to the Bible, Noah’s family and sons were saved on the ark built to ride out the flood (Gen. 7:1, 13), but the Qur’an says one of Noah’s sons rejected the ark and took refuge on a mountain where he drowned (11:42-43). When Abraham (Ibrahim) is about to sacrifice his son Isaac (Ishmael), does God speak directly to Abraham (as in Genesis 22 of the Torah) or through a vision (as in the Qur’an 37:102)? There is the story in the Qur’an of Allah miraculously raising a mountain above the Jews at Sinai that differs from what is found in the Torah. Did the Jews camp in the desert in front of the mountain, as stated in the Torah (Exo. 19:2) or did God miraculously raise a mountain for them, as in the Qur’an (2:63, 93)?

The differences between the Qur’an and Torah-Gospel are broad. It also has theological and religious significance because it forces Muslims to make a difficult decision: either the Torah-Gospel gets things right (and the Qur’an gets things wrong) or the Qur’an gets things right (and Torah-Gospel gets things wrong). Basically, either the Muslim must reject Muhammad as a prophet and the Qur’an as a revelation from God, or he must reject the Torah and Gospel. He will do the latter and allege that Christians have corrupted and altered their texts. This, the Muslim believes, accounts for the differences and contradictions between the Qur’an and the Torah-Gospel.

Criticisms

Critics of Islam and the Qur’an find this to be an insurmountable obstacle. They observe how the Qur’an teaches Allah to safe-guard the words and revelations he sends down. For example, Allah is the guardian of his revelation (15:9) and nothing can change in his words (6:115). In Q18:27, we read that “There is none who can change His words, and thou wilt find no refuge beside Him.” According to Q10:64, “There is no changing the Words of Allah.”

But if this so, then how can Muslims believe that the Torah and Gospel, which we noted are revelations from Allah, were corrupted and changed? Is the Qur’an wrong that Allah protects what he sends down? Moreover, if one accepts, as the Muslim does, that the Torah and the Gospel have been significantly corrupted and changed, then how can we be confident that this has not happened in the Qur’an too? If God’s revelations have been corrupted in the one, then why not also in the other?

In this debate, Muslims are not saying that the Torah and Gospel have merely been corrupted in a few places; rather, they are saying that they have been corrupted to the point of being utterly unreliable. This insight explains why Muslim apologists tend to find attractive many skeptics of the Bible. Bart Ehrman, a reputable New Testament scholar who is certainly no ally to Christian affirmations or conservative Christian views about biblical inerrancy, is popular among Muslims. Ehrman has made many claims that question the accuracy of various stories in the Bible, which is why many Muslims will use his ideas to support the corruption of the Gospel. But as was noted in some detail earlier, the Qur’an does not claim that the Torah and the Gospel were corrupted; rather, they are revelations from God like the Qur’an is a revelation.

Another issue the critic brings up is this: the Qur’an instructs readers to consult the Torah and the Gospel. Q5:68 instructs readers that if they need guidance, they should “observe the Torah and the Gospel and that which was revealed unto you from your Lord.” But this contradicts the Muslim’s claim that these texts have been corrupted. After all, why would the Qur’an encourage readers to consult the Torah and Gospel if they were, as Muslims today claim, corrupted?

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