The Qur’an replaces the Bible! What says the Qur’an?

We have seen that both the Qur’an and the Sunnah confirm that the Bible (Taurat, Zabur and Injil that make up al Kitab) has not been changed or corrupted (see here and here).  But the question still remains whether the Bible/al Kitab is superseded, annulled, cancelled or replaced by the Qur’an. What does the Qur’an itself say about this idea?

To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety… Surah 5:48 Al-Ma’ida (The Table)

And before this (Qur’an) was the Book of Moses as a guide and a mercy; and this book (Qur’an) confirms (it) in the Arabic tongue. Surah (46):12 Al-Ahqaf (The Dunes)

And this is a book (Qur’an) which We have sent down, bringing blessings and confirming (the revelations) which came before it.  Surah (6):92 Al-An’am (The Cattle)

That which We have revealed to thee of the Book is the Truth,- confirming what was (revealed) before it: Surah 35:31 (The Angels)

These ayat speak about the Qur’an confirming (not superseding, overriding or replacing) the earlier message of the Bible (al Kitab).  In other words, these ayat are not saying that believers should set aside the early revelation and only study the later revelation.  Believers should also study and know the earlier revelation.

This is also confirmed by the ayat that tell us that there is ‘no distinction’ between the different revelations.  Here are two such ayat that I have noticed:

The Apostle believeth in what hath been revealed to him from his Lord, as do the men of faith. Each one (of them) believeth in God, His angels, His books, and His apostles. “We make no distinction (they say) between one and another of His apostles.” And they say: “We hear, and we obey: (We seek) Thy forgiveness, our Lord, and to Thee is the end of all journeys.”  (Surat 2:285 – The Cow)

Say ye: “We believe in God, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to God (in Islam).” (Surat 2:136 – The Cow)

The first ayah tells us that there is no distinction between the apostles – they all should be listened to and the second says there is no difference between the revelations given by the different prophets – they all should be accepted.  In none of these ayat is there any suggestion that the earlier revelation should be disregarded because the later revelation has superseded it.

And this pattern fits with the example and teaching of Isa al Masih (PBUH).  He himself did not say the earliest revelations of Taurat and then Zabur were cancelled.  In fact he taught the opposite.  Notice the respect and continual and ongoing attention he pays to the Taurat of Musa in his own teaching in the Injil

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law (i.e. Taurat) or the Prophets (i.e. Zabur); I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. 19 Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-20)

In fact, to properly understand his teaching he taught that one must first go to the Taurat and then the Zabur.  Here is how he taught his own disciples:

And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself. (Luke 24:27)

He said to them, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses (i.e. Taurat), the Prophets and the Psalms (i.e. Zabur).” (Luke 24:44)

Isa al Masih (PBUH) did not attempt to bypass earlier revelation.  In fact he started from there in his teaching and guidance.  This is why we also follow his example by starting from the beginning of Taurat to give the foundation to understand the Injil.

The Injil Corrupted! What does the Qur’an say?

I have many Muslim friends. And because I am also a believer in Allah (God), and a follower of the Injil (Gospel) I usually have regular conversations with my Muslim friends about beliefs and faith. In a real sense there is so much we have in common. Yet almost without exception in my conversations I hear the claim that the Injil (and zabur and Taurat which make up al kitab = Bible) is corrupted, or has been changed, so that the message we read today is degraded and full of errors from what was first inspired and written by the prophets and disciples of Allah. Now this is an important complaint, since it would mean that we cannot trust the Bible as read today to reveal Allah’s truth. I read and study both the Bible (al kitab) and the English translation of the Holy Qur’an, and have started to study the Sunnah. What I find startling is that this attitude against the Bible, though so common today, I do not find it in al Qur’an. In fact, it startled me how seriously the Holy Qur’an takes the Bible. I want to briefly show what I mean. (In English I use Yusuf Ali’s translation of the Holy Qu’ran)

What the Qur’an says about the Bible (al Kitab)

Say: “O People of the Book! ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord.” It is the revelation that cometh to thee from thy Lord, that increaseth in most of them their obstinate rebellion and blasphemy. Surah 5:68 Maida (The Table) (See also 4:136)

If thou art in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee: the Truth hath indeed come to thee from thy Lord: so be in no wise of those in doubt. Surah 10:94 Yunus (Jonah)

I note that this declares that the revelation given to the ‘People of the Book’ (Christians and Jews) came from Allah. Now my Muslim friends say this applies only to the original revelation given, but since the original has been corrupted it does not apply to the scriptures of today. But the 2nd ayah talks about those who ‘have been reading’ (in the present tense not past tense as in ‘had read’) the Bible. It is not talking about the original revelation, but the scriptures from the time when al Qur’an was revealed. This was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) over a period of years around 600 A.D. So this passage approves the Bible (Taurat, Zabur and Injil) as it existed in 600 A.D. Other passages are similar. Consider:

And before thee also the apostles We sent were but men, to whom We granted inspiration: if ye realise this not, ask of those who possess the Message. Surah 16:43 An-Nahl (the Bee)

Before thee, also, the apostles We sent were but men, to whom We granted inspiration: If ye realise this not, ask of those who possess the Message. Surah 21:7 Al-Anbiya’ (The Prophets)

These speak of the apostles that preceded the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH). But, crucially, they affirm that the messages given by God to these apostles/prophets were still in possession (at 600 AD ) by their followers. The revelation as originally given had not been corrupted by the Prophet Muhammad’s (PBUH) time.

The Holy Quran says that Allah’s Words cannot be changed

But in a stronger sense, even the possibility of al kitab’s corruption/change is not supported by the Holy Quran. Keep in mind Maida 5:68 (The Law …The Gospel … is revelation that has come from the LORD), and consider the following:

Rejected were the apostles before thee: with patience and constancy they bore their rejection and their wrongs, until Our aid did reach them: there is none that can alter the words (and decrees) of Allah. Already hast thou received some account of those apostles. Surah 6:34 Al-An‘am (Cattle)

The word of thy Lord doth find its fulfilment in truth and in justice: None can change His words: for He is the one who heareth and knoweth all. Surah 6:115 Al-An‘am (Cattle)

For them are glad tidings, in the life of the present and in the Hereafter; no change can there be in the words of Allah. This is indeed the supreme felicity. Surah 10:64 Yunus (Jonah)

And recite (and teach) what has been revealed to thee of the Book of thy Lord: none can change His Words, Surah 18:27 Al-Kahf (The Cave)

So, if we agree that the prophets preceding Muhammad (PBUH) were given revelation by Allah (as Maida 5:68-69 said), and since these passages, many times over, say very clearly that no one can change Allah’s Words, how then can one believe that the words of Taurat, Zabur and Injil (i.e. al kitab = the Bible) was corrupted or changed by men?  It would require a denial of the Qur’an itself to believe that the Bible has been corrupted or changed.

As a matter of fact, this idea of judging various kinds of revelation from God as better or worse than others, though widely believed, is not supported in the Qur’an.

Say ye: “We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma’il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them: And we bow to Allah (in Islam).” Surah 2:136 Al-Baqara (The Cow)    (See also 2:285).

So there should be no difference in how we treat all the revelations.  This would have to include our study of them.  In other words, we should study all the Books.  In fact I urge Christians to study the Qur’an as I urge Muslims to study the Bible.

To study these books takes time and courage.  Lots of questions will be raised.  Surely though this is a worthwhile use of our time here on earth – to learn from all the books which the prophets have revealed.  I know that for me, though it has taken time and courage for me to study all the Holy Books, and it has raised many questions in my mind, it has been a rewarding experience and I have felt Allah’s blessing on me in it.  I hope you will continue to explore some of the articles and lessons on this website.  Perhaps a good place to start is the article on what the haddiths and the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) thought about and used the Taurat, Zabur and Injil (the books that make up al kitab = the Bible).  The link to this article is here.  If you have a scientific interest in how the reliability of all ancient books are determined, and whether the Bible is considered reliable or corrupted from this scientific point-of-view see the article here.

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Introduction: The Pattern of ‘Gospel’ (Injil) in the Qur’an as a Sign from Allah

When I first read the Qur’an I was struck in various ways.  First of all there were rather many explicit and direct references to the Injil (Gospel or New Testament).  But also it was the specific pattern by which ‘the Injil’ was cited that really intrigued me.  Below are all the ayat in the Qur’an that directly mention ‘Gospel’ (Injil).  Perhaps you may notice the pattern that I noticed.  (I am using the Yusuf Ali translation)

It is He Who sent down to you (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the Criterion (of judgment between right and wrong).  Then those who reject faith in the Signs of Allah will suffer the severest penalty  [Surat 3:3-4 (Al-Imran)]

And Allah will teach him [Jesus] the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel [Surat 3:48 (Al Imran)]

You People of the Book! Why do you dispute about Abraham, when the Law and the Gospel were not revealed till after him? [Surat 3:65 (Al Imran)]

And in their footsteps [the prophets] 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 an admonition to those who fear Allah  [Surat 5:46 (Maida)]

If only they [People of the Book] had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent them from the Lord.  [Surat 5:66 (Maida)]

Oh people of the Book! You have no ground to stand upon unless you stand fast by the Law, the Gospel and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord  [Surat 5:68 (Maida)]

Behold I [Allah] taught you [Jesus] the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel..  [Surat 5:110 (Maida)]

.. A promise binding on Him in Truth, through the Law, the Gospel, and the Qur’an  [Surat 9:111 (Tauba)]

This is their similitude in the Taurat [Law], and their similitude in the Gospel is: like a seed which sent forth its blade, then makes it strong, it then becomes thick, and it stands on its own stem  [Surat 48:29 (Fat-h)]

What stands out when you place all the references to the Gospel from the Qur’an together is that the ‘Gospel’ never stands alone.  In every instance the term ‘the Law’ precedes it.   ‘The Law’ is the books of Musa (Moses), commonly known as ‘Taurat’ amongst Muslims and ‘Torah’ amongst the Jewish people.  The Injil (Gospel) is unique among the Holy Books in this regard in that it is never mentioned in isolation.  For example you can find references to the Taurat (Law), and Qur’an that stand alone.  Here are some examples.

We gave Moses the Book completing to those who would do right, and explained all things in detail and this is a Book which we have revealed as a blessing: so follow it and be righteous, that you may receive mercy  [Surat 6:154-155 (Cattle)]

Do they not consider the Qur’an (with care)?  Had it been from other than Allah they would surely have found within much discrepancy  [Surat 4:82 (The Women)]

In other words, we find that when the Qur’an mentions the ‘Gospel’, it always mentions it along with, and just preceded by ‘the Law’.  And this is unique because the Qur’an will mention itself apart from referring to the other Holy Books and it will also mention the Law (Taurat) without mentioning the other Holy Books.

The Pattern Upheld even in the one exception

There is only one exception to this pattern that I have found.  Notice how the following ayah mentions ‘Gospel’

‘And we sent Noah and Abraham and established in their line Prophethood and Revelation and some of them were on right guidance but many of them became rebellious transgressors’.  Then in their wake [Noah, Abraham & the prophets] we followed them up with our Messengers.  We sent after them Jesus the son of Mary, and bestowed on him the Gospel; and we ordained in the hearts of those who followed him compassion and mercy.  [Surat 57:26-27 (Hadid)]

Though this is the only instance of ‘Gospel’ (or ‘Injil’) without being preceded by a direct reference to ‘the Law’, the context of this ayah confirms the pattern.  The preceding ayah (26) had explicitly mentioned Noah, Ibrahim (Abraham) and other prophets and then in this ayah it then mentions ‘Gospel’.  But it is this ‘Law’ – the Taurat of Musa (Moses) – that introduces and explains Noah, Ibraham and other prophets.  So, even in this exception, the pattern remains because the Law’s content, rather than just the label, precedes the mention of ‘Gospel’.

A Sign for us from the Prophets?

So is this pattern significant?  Some may just dismiss it as a random occurrence or due to just a simple custom of referring to the Injil in this way.  I have learned to take patterns like this in the Books very seriously.  Perhaps it is an important sign for us, to help us realize a principle set up and established by Allah himself – that we can only understand the Injil through first going to the Taurat (Law).  It is like the Taurat is a prerequisite before we can understand the Injil.  It may be worthwhile then to first review the Taurat and see what we can learn that may help us to better understand the Injil (Gospel).  The Qur’an does tell us that these early prophets were a ‘Sign’ for us.  Consider what it says:

O you children of Adam! Whenever there come to you Messengers from amongst you, rehearsing my Signs to you – those who are righteous and mend their lives – on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve.  But those who reject Our Signs and treat them with arrogance – they are Companions of Fire, to dwell therein forever  [Surah 7:35-36 (The Heights)]

In other words these prophets had Signs on their life and message for the Children of Adam (us!), and those who are wise and prudent will attempt to understand these signs.  So let us start considering the Injil by going via the Taurat (Law) – considering the first prophets from the beginning to see what Signs they have given us that can help us understand the Straight Way.

We start right at the beginning of time with the Sign of Adam.Then we continue with the Sign of Cain & Abel, Noah, Lut and the Signs of Ibrahim (I, II, III).  Of course you may want to start by answering the question whether the books of Taurat, Zabur and Injil (that make up the Bible) were corrupted.  What does the Holy Qur’an say about this important question?  And the Sunnah?  And information from the science of textual criticism?  On Judgment Day it will be good to have taken the time to become informed.

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