Below is a question I received from a member of this blog’s Facebook page. This question is germane to all Christian-Muslim discussions, therefore, I’ve expanded my response to Thomas for the purpose of this article.
Please is it true that the Quran explicitly says the Bible is corrupt as alleged by the Muslims?
The charge of Bible corruption is one that Muslims of all stripes perennially levy against Christians and Jews (some of them believe Romans were the culprits), but so far, not one Muslim has been able to specifically identify the people who altered the Bible, where it happened, how it happened and provide any evidence to back up their loud assertions.
The fact is, there is no place in the Quran where it explicitly states that the Bible has been textually altered, though it makes references to people (Jews and Christians) hiding, mistranslating and twisting the interpretation of the Bible.
I will proceed to quote ten of these passages and give a summary under each category.
Unless otherwise indicated, all quotes are taken from Mohammed Habib Shakir’s English translation of the Quran.
Sura 2:59 “But those who were unjust changed it for a saying other than that which had been spoken to them, so We sent upon those who were unjust a pestilence from heaven, because they transgressed.”
Sura 2:75 “Do you then hope that they would believe in you, and a party from among them indeed used to hear the Word of Allah, then altered it after they had understood it, and they know (this).
Sura 3:78 “There is among them, a section who distort the Book with their tongues as (they read), you would think it is part of the Book, but it is not part of the Book”
Sura 4:46 “Of those who are Jews (there are those who) alter words from their places and say: We have heard and we disobey and: Hear, may you not be made to hear! and: Raina, distorting (the word) with their tongues and taunting about religion; and if they had said (instead): We have heard and we obey, and hearken, and unzurna it would have been better for them and more upright; but Allah has cursed them on account of their unbelief, so they do not believe but a little.”
Sura 5:41 “O Messenger! let not those grieve you who strive together in hastening to unbelief from among those who say with their mouths: We believe, and their hearts do not believe, and from among those who are Jews; they are listeners for the sake of a lie, listeners for another people who have not come to you; they alter the words from their places, saying: If you are given this, take it, and if you are not given this, be cautious...”
You can see from all these passages that the allegation was that the “people of the Book” were twisting the Bible with their tongues, that is, misinterpreting it.
Not one of these passages ever accuses them of altering the text of the Book. The scenarios described were of people listening to the words flowing out of Muhammad’s mouth and reciting divergent accounts.
This shows that even the Quran affirmed the authenticity and inspiration of the Bible, since it indicated that those altering the Bible with their tongues were cursed and deluded people.
Thus, the Bible is given its proper place in the Quran as God’s Word – a stance that damages the Quran itself.
Other passages accuse Jews and Christians of hiding their Scriptures (which is the truth) from Muhammad:
Sura 3:71 “Ye people of the Book! Why do you clothe truth with falsehood and conceal the truth while you have knowledge” (Ali)
Sura 2:140 “Nay! do you say that Ibrahim and Ismail and Yaqoub and the tribes were Jews or Christians? Say: Are you better knowing or Allah? And who is more unjust than he who conceals a testimony that he has from Allah? And Allah is not at all heedless of what you do.”
Sura 3:187 “And when Allah made a covenant with those who were given the Book: You shall certainly make it known to men and you shall not hide it; but they cast it behind their backs and took a small price for it; so evil is that which they buy”
Sura 5:13-15 “… We cursed them [the Jews] and made their hearts hard; they altered the words from their places and neglected a portion of what they were reminded of… And with those who say, ‘We are Christians’, we made a covenant but they neglected a portion of what they were reminded of … O followers of the Book! indeed Our Messenger has come to you making clear to you much of what you concealed of the Book and passing over much; indeed, there has come to you light and a clear Book from Allah”
From all these verses, it’s clear that while the Quran accuses Jews and Christians of hiding, forgetting or neglecting a portion of the Bible, it never accuses them or anyone else of altering its texts.
This allegation was a convenient excuse Muhammad obviously rehashed to satisfy his narcissism, because he realized that the Jews and Christians rejected his fictionalized, redacted and spurious accounts of bible characters, so rather than admit his ignorance and lies, he blamed them for forgetting or hiding the portions of the Bible which he came to reveal.
Indeed, this was an utterly illogical and self-defeating charge. How could Muhammad who was illiterate know exactly which part of the Bible had been expunged, hidden or forgotten?
Again, why would followers of a faith alter their own sacred book? Can Muslims alter their own book? It doesn’t add up.
The only way out for Muhammad’s followers today is to admit that their guru lied: the Bible was not tampered with. And once a Muslim agrees with this, his faith in Islam must wane.
Finally, there is one passage that comes close to the Muslim’s charge, but it still doesn’t support their claims, if read carefully:
Sura 2:78-79 “And there are among them illiterates who know not the Book but only lies, and they do but conjecture. Woe then, to those who write the Book with their hands and then say: ‘This is from Allah’, so that they may take it a small price; therefore woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they earn”
First, this verse is too vague for any definitive conclusion. It makes a reference to a group of illiterates who don’t know the Bible. This couldn’t be Jews and Christians, since the same Quran says they knew their Scriptures and were literate (e.g. Sura 2:113).
Second, the passage is denouncing those who make a merchandise out of selling the scriptures. The Bible also denounces the same. Even today, there are Muslims who also alter and twist the meanings of Bible passages for pecuniary benefits.
Third, the verse is condemning this group of people, not what they had written. So by any means, the Quran still upholds the integrity and authenticity of the Bible, even while pronouncing woe on those who trade on it or alter it. So, this passage fails to support the Muslim claim.
It’s on this leverage that the Sultan of Oman Professor of Arab and Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne, Abdullah Saeed, wrote:
“If the texts (of the Bible) have remained more or less as they were in the 7th century, the reverence the Quran has shown them at that time should be retained even today. Many interpreters of the Quran from Tabari to Razi to Ibn Taymiyya, and even Qutb appear to share this view” (The Charge of Distortion of Jewish and Christian Scriptures in the Muslim World, Volume 92, 2002, 434).
The idea that Christians or Jews physically altered the Bible wasn’t known in the days of Muhammed until about 400 years after his time. The charge of Bible corruption (tahrif) was made up by Ibn Hazm (Khazm) in the 11th century A.D. in a bid to explain the startling differences between the content of the Bible and their Quran.
It’s still the same deluded mindset from Muhammad at work: the Bible which the Quran desperately appeals to for legitimacy must be “wrong” for their Quran to be “right.”