The Bible is Changed – Really?
Some Muslims believe that Christians have corrupted the Bible, whereas their book, the Qur’an, upholds the same Bible, treating it as the word of God.
God revealed them
The Qur’an uses the following terms to refer to parts of the Bible: -
Tawrat – Torah, the first five books of the Bible
Zabur – the Psalms
Injil – the Gospel
Saha’if – the books of the prophets
The Tawrat, the Zabur, and the Saha’if are known as the Holy Scriptures of the Jews. Christians call them the Old Testament. The Injil referred to as the Holy Scriptures of the Christians is the New Testament. The Qur’an accepts them as God’s revelation: ‘... confirming that which was (revealed) before it, even as He revealed the Torah and the Gospel’ (Sura 3:3).
A Guidance for Mankind
The Qur’an emphasizes that the Tawrat, the Zabur, the Saha’if, and the Injil are God’s books, His word, light, and “Furqan” (that is, the criterion for judgment).
1. Tawrat - Torah:
a. is the book of God (Sura 2:101, 3:23, 5:44)
b. is guidance and reminder for men of understanding (Sura 40:53-54 )
c. is light and guidance (Sura 5:44)
d. is “the Criterion” (Sura 2:53, 21:48)
a. “has clear proofs” (Sura 2:87)
b. was “... bestowed on him (Jesus)”.
c. has “... guidance and light” and
d. is “confirming ... the Torah” (Sura 5:46)
The Qur’an emphasizes that the Injil and the Tawrat are guidance for all humanity, “clear testimonies for mankind, and a guidance and a mercy” (Sura 28:43, cf. 3: 3-4, 6:92).
Injil as a Standard
The Qur’an encourages Christians to judge according to the Injil: “Let the people of the Gospel judge by that which Allah hath revealed therein. Whoso judgeth not by that which Allah hath revealed, such are evil livers” (Sura 5:47). Had Muhammad known of any reason to believe that the Injil was not authentic, would the Qur’an have commanded Christians to judge by it? Yet nowadays, some Muslims allege that the Holy Gospel, Injil, has been grossly distorted. Either Muslims who cast doubt on the integrity of the Bible are wrong, or Muhammad was severely mistaken.
God’s word never Changes
The Qur’an claims that no one can alter the word of God. It says, “It is the law of Allah which hath taken course aforetime. Thou wilt not find for the law of Allah aught of power to change” (Sura 48:23). In another place, the Qur’an says, “There is no changing the word of Allah – that is the Supreme Triumph” (Sura 10:64; 6:34).
The Qur’an as a Guardian
The Qur’an not only claims to confirm the previous Scriptures but also claims the responsibility of being “the watcher over it” (Sura 5:48). Al-Baidhawi (d. 1300) in his Tafsir Anwar al-Tanzil explains that “watcher over it” means, “The Qur’an is the protector of all the sacred books to preserve them from any kind of change.”
The Qur’an does not suggest “alteration.”
The word tahrif is never used in the Qur’an to suggest that the Biblical text had been altered or corrupted. This word is occasionally used to accuse Jews (but not Christians) of concealing the truth, but in no way to imply that the text had been corrupted.
Different Kinds of “Tahrif”
In the Qur’an, the word “tahrif” is used with the following meanings: -
1. To mispronounce words. For example, the Qur’an accuses certain Jews of deliberately distorting Muhammad’s words to pervert their meaning: “Some of those who are Jews change words from their context ... distorting (yal’ona) with their tongues and slandering religion” (Sura 4:46, cf. 3:78). In his Tafsir al-Kabir, Imam al-Razi (d. 1228) states that alteration referred to is in the meaning.
2. To misinterpret verses. For example, some, according to the Qur’an, “... used to listen to the Word of Allah then used to change it (tahrif), after they had understood it, knowingly.” (Sura 2:75). In his book “Alfouz al Kabir fi Usulal Tafsir” Shah Waliullah states that in the Qur’an, “tahrif” refers to the Jews misquoting or mistranslating the Torah. He asserts that the original was not and cannot be altered as God’s word.
The accusations of Muslim apologists did not arise until long after Muhammad’s death. Such allegations that ‘the Scriptures had tampered with’ first appeared in their writings during the 12th century.
Some claim that the Injil and the Tawrat were corrupted before the Prophet of Islam came. If that were so, why does the Qur’an assert that the message revealed to Muhammad was simply a confirmation of the previous Scriptures (Sura 5:48)?
According to the Qur’an, written approximately seven hundred years after Jesus, the Torah and the Injil were flawless even in Muhammad’s time. Had the Injil not been genuine and accurate, the Qur’an would not have instructed Christians to judge by what God had revealed in the Gospel (Sura 5:47; 68).
Others charge that the Tawrat and the Injil were changed sometime after Muhammad began preaching. Thus, they contradict the Qur’an’s claim to be the guardian of earlier inspired books (Sura 5:48) and inevitably accuse the Qur’an of having failed in its role as Muhayman - Guardian!
If the pre-Islamic Scriptures had been corrupted, why does the Qur’an order Muslims to believe them? For it bids them to: -
“Say (O Muslims): ‘We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us, and which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac and Jacob, and the tribes and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinctions between them, and unto Him, we have surrendered” (Sura 2:136; 3:48).
Numerous manuscript copies of all parts of the Bible, written centuries before the time of Muhammad, are available today. For example, the Dead Sea Scrolls, written before 68 A.D., contain every book of the Old Testament except the book of Esther. Some of the oldest Greek manuscripts of the entire New Testament, found in Codex form, are also accessible. In various libraries, manuscript portions of the New Testament date back to the second century, and some small papyrus fragments to the 1st century, even from when the writers were still alive. These documents help to verify the reliability of the present-day Bible as we have today. They also confirm that the Bible current in Muhammad’s time did not differ in any item of doctrine that Muslims question. God, who preserved his word in the past, can maintain it in the future (Isaiah 40:8; 1 Peter 1:24-25).
The Bible is changed – Really?
If the Bible and the Qur’an do disagree, they cannot both be right. Has, then, the Qur’an made a mistake in vindicating the Bible? No! For reference has been made to the historical documents which confirm the Bible. We urge Muslims to follow the Qur’an’s clear advice to Muhammad and his followers: - “If thou art in doubt concerning that which We reveal unto thee, then question those who read the Scripture (that was) before thee” (10:94).
Because it is indeed “... a guidance to all mankind” (Sura 3:4).
For a leaflet format, download it from here.
Note: This subject is dealt with in further detail in Dr. Steven Masood’s book, The Bible and the Qur’an: A question of integrity (247 pages), available at this website here.