The Hebrew Bible in Islam in THE CAMBRIDGE COMPANION TO THE HEBREW BIBLE/OLD TESTAMENT

An overview of the Hebrew Bible in the Islamic religious tradition. A must read article just made available on-line. 

download for free here:

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Categories: Quran, Recommended Reading

5 replies

  1. This article grasped my attention once you posted on the blog. Walid Saleh! I think he wrote an essay in (The Study Quran ) about the Quranic commentaries. Of course as a muslim, I have to disagree in some points he wrote. I know what he wrote is the kind of writing that people want “academically”. However, we are believers! We should be careful how to phrase our words towards Quran otherwise we might slip easily to area where Allah will not be satisfied. These are some of my personal thoughts about the article.

    *The History from Quranic perspective:
    I’m aware that historians and according to secular standards are not pleased with history that Quran presents. In fact, Dr Joseph Lumbard stated like this ” Quran is very frustrating for historians “. In contrast, as a muslim I believe firmly that the history that Quran presents is accurate 100%. I believe the history from Quranic perspective must be considered, and it could be a discipline by itself. Why I’m telling this? Because the scholars in the west seemingly cannot approach Quran except by the biblical lense while it should be the way around. Also, they must approach Quran as Quran presents itself. This is very important. Moreover. I don’t know, but I think this has to do in someway with superiority in the west. There is a remarkable centricity in the way that they think. For example, they categorize the religions originated in the middle east as “western religions” in the academic domains. Subsequently, I think even their approach to the history is related to this biased centricity. However, in a general sense if you asked an ordinary bedouin Arab, who are the oldest people you think? He would probably answer the people of A’d or Thamud. On the other hand, if you asked an ordinary guy in America or Europe the same question, he would probably answer the Greek. From this example, you might imagine what the history means for each side. Our view as muslims for the history is much longer than others,and the reasons are related to our culture and most importantly because of Quran.

    In Quran, the range and the period of history is very very long compared to the biblical narratives. In bible, we see that Noah was in the same period of Abraham. Also, we can conclude the age of humanity is just 6000 years. There is difference should be considered. In addition, many historians got shocked once the archaeological discoveries popped out during the colonial period in Middle East. They realized the story of humanity civilization is much older than of what they had thought. The Story of Civilization, a book for Will Durant, could be seen as a result for that shock. On the other hand, Quran has already told us the story of humanity didn’t begin with Israelites and their story about the land. There were series of nations got the message of God according to Quran. Quran reads (( And A’d and Thamud and inhabitants of AlRass, and many generations between them )) Surah (25:38) translation. One of commenter said ” it’s enough to know what (many) means When Allah said it “. Imam Al Biqa’i whom Walid Saleh talked about concluded, up to his method, that the age of humanity is almost 100,000 years! Indeed, there are many examples could be shown how Quran got it right regarding the history,and some people converted to Islam because of the accurate history that Quran presents, one of whom is Maurice Bucaille. He was fascinated by how Quran used, for instance, the titles King & Pharoh for each period in Egypt.

    There is a series under translation to English which I hope to be done very soon about the history and how can we look at from three perspective which are :
    a- The secular one.
    b- The corrupted revelation (biblical one).
    c- The pure revelation ( Quranic one).
    In sum , Quran talks as absolute authority and as all knowing about (Torah and Injil). This point has to be considered. It would be a big mistake if scholars dismissed the Torah and Injeel from Quranic view and overlapped it with the canonized bible according to christians and jews.

    =============
    Page 5 ( in the PDF file ) :
    “The most important examples given in
    the Qur’an of such revealed Scriptures are the Torah of Moses (tawrat),
    the Gospels of Jesus (injil, here the Qur’an gives to Jesus what he never
    claimed to have), and the Psalms of David (zabiir)”.
    Injil that Quran was talking about has always been a something given to Jesus. Quran says that repeatedly. Jesus in Quran definitely said that Allah gave him that book.
    Oddly, after Walid gave the definition of what the scriptures mean according to Quran, he said
    “Attempting to characterise the position of the Qur’an towards the
    Hebrew Bible “.

    =============
    PP6
    “there are contradictory, though not irreconcilable, positions
    expressed in the Qur’an vis-a-vis the authority and authenticity of the
    Scriptures of Judaism and Christianity. There are many instances where
    these Scriptures are called upon to vindicate Muhammad; they are called
    ‘light and guidance”.
    No! there are not contradictory positions. It’s just scholars don’t allow for themselves to read according to Qur’anic definition for Torah and Injil. Till this day, we still believe that the Torah given to Moses & Injil given to Jesus are light and gidince.
    Quran talks about the (REALITY) of things even though people might disagree. For example, Quran addresses the trinity as polytheism thought christians don’t agree. However, the reality for things could be different of what people think.

    =============
    PP7
    It was about how Quran used the example of (jews and christians) to prove the concept of the (prophethood) which Meccans had denied. It’s true that Quran demanded from Meccans to ask the people of the book about this phenomenon (i.e prophethood & Scriptures). That by itself doesn’t mean that they have the pure revelation.

    =============
    PP8
    “We should not be surprised, however, to see such a positive attitude
    towards the Scriptures of Judaism and Christianity at the outset of
    Muhammad’s career”.
    Quran was talking about the (concept). The (Concept) is something different from what these scriptures contain by details. It’s like when jews and muslims are united against atheism. In that context, of course the outlines of what jews have in their scriptures are light such as One God who is God of Abraham, angels, and prophets.
    That by itself doesn’t mean that theirs scriptures have not been corrupted.

    “Ultimately, the Qur’an saw itself as
    the continuation of the history of Judaism and Christianity”.
    Wrong! Quran saw itself as the continuation of the history (behind) judaism and christianity which is worshiping only one God who is God of our father Abraham although they(judaism/christianity) got deviated in many things from that history.

    “In the case of Muhammad, it would
    be the sufficient sign; he would refuse to perform any of the miracles
    demanded of him, although the Qur’an does admit that Moses and Jesus
    performed such deeds – a contradiction that places the Qur’ an in an
    unenviable position”. !!!
    It seems Walid Saleh cannot differentiate between Miracles God gave to his prophets from the beginning of their mission and from Miracles that people request according to their desires.
    So according to Quran there are 2 types of Miracles:
    A- Miracles God gave to his prophets initially so that people will recognize that man as a prophet. For example, ( Rod & Hand of Moses, Healing of Jesus to his people, Quran & Splitting the Moon for the prophet ﷺ)
    If people didn’t believe by this kind of miracles, Allah will not punish them at the moment that didn’t believe. Allah will be patient till there would be no excuse for them.
    From reading the Quran, most people didn’t believe although they saw these miracles.
    Pharaoh considered the Road & Hand of Moses were just magic, for instance. So often we read the Pharaoh demanded other miracles according to his desires which leads us to the second type of miracles

    B- Miracles that people request upon their desires. For example, Pharaoh asked Moses this:
    Surah 43:53 translation reads
    “Why, then have armlets of gold not been cast upon him, and why do angels not accompany him?”
    In fact, Quran gave many examples of this type. Israelites asked Moses to see the face of God. Disciples of Jesus asked him a Table sent down from heaven. I invite you all to read Quran and read what Allah responded to this kind of requests. In this kind of miracles, If people didn’t believe, they would be punished very soon with a great punishment.
    However, the only people given this kind of miracles was people of Saleh(Thamud). They requested She -Camel with specific attributes according to Islamic exegesis, yet they disbelieved, and the punishment was horrible.
    When Quran mentioned some miracles which Meccans asked from the prophetﷺ such as ( Flying, turning the mountains of Mecca to gold), Quran answered them ” Naught hinders Us from sending signs, save those of old denied them. And we gave unto Thamud The she-camel as a clear portent, but they wronged her. And We do not send down our signs , save to inspire fear”.
    In sum, Quran was talking about the latter kind of miracles. There’s no “unenviable position” as Walid phrased it. Quran is sufficient. Signs of creations that Quran talks about. Reflect in Mountains, rains, stars and heavens. These are miracles and just because we are used seeing them, that doesn’t cancel them as a great miracles. Just because Pharaoh was used seeing magic, that doesn’t mean the Rod of Moses wasn’t miracles, so that’s why the magicians believed in Moses according to Qur’anic narrative because they had the knowledge and so were the companions of the prophet ﷺ who believed in Quran and how miraculous it is compared to any saying of the human beings.

    “The Qur’an speaks of itself as a Scripture and demands to be
    treated as one. This understanding of Scripture is projected back onto the
    Torah and the Gospels, and it determines how the Qur’an understands
    what the Torah is and what the Gospels are”.
    Gospel not Gospel(s). In fact, our perspective of what Injil was is more high than the christians’ view. Injil for muslims is word of God himself not words of Jesus even.

    =============
    pp9
    “These books therefore must be scrupulously
    preserved. To later Muslims, any deviation from this model meant that
    the Jewish and Christian Scriptures were no longer divine.”
    The overlapping is very clear in this passage about what Torah and Injil mean according to Quran and what the scriptures mean according to jews and christians which could contain of what Quran meant by Torah and Injil.
    Not to mention that Quran and according to the context could speak about the teachings in general sense of monotheism, God of Abraham , angels , and prophets..etc.
    Moreover, I’ve no idea why scholars in the west insist in “later muslims” notion!

    “The Qur’ an, however, regards itself as more than just a vindication of the
    Torah; it is also a judge and an arbitrator “.
    Amen!
    He mentioned some points neglecting one of the nature of Quran which is that it was sent (piecemeal).

    ==============
    PP11
    Walid satated 4 types of falsification according to Quran. In each one, he quotes the verse referring to the type and the name of that type EXCEPT the textual one! He just quoted the verse referring to it although he mentioned it at first.
    He named
    A- a crime (i.e referring to the textual one without calling it textual falsification )
    B- Deliberately changing its meaning.
    C- Mispronouncing.
    D- Hiding.
    Although Walid was quoting Quran itself, he as a blink of eye said after that “This accusation of falsification, known in Arabic as tahrif, in truth became the prism through which later Muslims
    understood the status of the Bible” !!!

    “the Qur’an takes aim at both the
    Meccans and the Jews: ‘They have no grasp of God’s true measure when
    they say, “God has sent nothing down to a mere mortal.” Say, “Who
    was it who sent down the Scripture, which Moses brought as a light and
    a guide to people, which you made into separate sheets, showing some
    but hiding many?” .
    Jews in this verse denied any book sent down from Allah. This is a big crime as testimony since Allah wanted from them to tell the truth , and I think the translation of this verse is not accurate. Translation should have been like this ” They didn’t measure God with His true measure when they said ” God has not sent down aught to any human being ……the verse “!!
    However, Quran also mentioned those who testified the truth such as Abdullah ibn Salam..

    Then Walid mentioned 4 attitudes of scholars in Medieval era about Torah.
    I remember that Ibn Taymiyyah stated this position ” there are many copies got corrupted, and there are few remained intact till the time of the prophet ﷺ” .

    ============
    PP13
    “The main result of the Qur’an’s ambivalence is that the Hebrew Bible
    never became an official part of the Scripture of the new faith”
    In contrast, the main result of the Qur’an’s clear position that the Hebrew Bible
    never became an official part of the Scripture of the new faith.
    The prophet ﷺ could have easily ordered that, yet he didn’t.

    ” and it appeared in many forms,
    as prophetic traditions Hadith) ascribed to Muhammad; as specifically
    Jewish lore, called in Arabic isra’iliyat !’Israelite material’)”.
    Isra’iliyat are not called (Hadiths),and definitely they are not ascribed to the prophet ﷺ. They are just traditions. However, for western scholars and many christians, Hadiths are traditions while this is not the case for muslims.

    ============
    PP16
    He mentioned ibn Hazm (d. 1064). Ibn Hazm was a great scholar (May Allah reward him & have mercy on him). I like his works.

    ============
    PP17
    “Periodical Jewish conversion
    to Islam meant that specialised knowledge could be codified in polemical
    treatises – since many converts wrote polemical treatises against
    their previous faith”
    That could make us ask why those who converted wrote polemical treatises against
    their previous faith?
    Also, we shouldn’t forget the companions of the prophet such as Abdullah ibn Salam & Mukhayriq. Those were Rabbis!
    Ka’ab Al Ahbar as well who was from the second generation.

    ============
    PP18
    “Yet, even when
    so valued, the Hebrew Bible remained outside the parameters of Islamic
    education;”
    Why? Does this attitude have to do with (later Muslims)?

    ============
    PP19
    Modern period,and how muslims deal with the hebrew bible.
    IMO, Dr Shabir Ally is a great example 🙂

    Walid praised Indian muslim scholars. I agree with him in general. The colonial period of India came with guys such as Mirza who claimed the prophethood.

    ============
    PP20
    ” Modem Standard Arabic owes much
    to the Protestant translation, which revolutionised modern Arabic. The
    Bible was thus enshrined as part of the modern Arabic sensibility and
    became an essential component of the Arabic renaissance. Indeed, since
    many of the modern Arab poets were Christians, and since their Arabic
    was highly shaped by the new translation, modern Arabic is infused
    with biblical language”
    Honestly, I think this is a mere exaggeration, and some statements in this passage are simply not true.
    He needs to back those false informations if he wants to give them genuinity.
    Neither were most modern poets christians, nor does modern Arabic owe anything to the protestant translation.
    For example,Hafeth Ibrahim, Ahmed Shouqi ,and Aqqad were muslims. Also, Arab christians poets were influenced by Quran and many Islamic terminology such as Jack Shmass. Many of them wrote poems praising the the prophet ﷺ & Mecca. I’m not going to pretend that I always follow the poets in modern period since I like the classical ones more. Yet I read always for Elia and Mahmoud Darwish. I think what Walid said is simply not true.

    Allah knows the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Peace,

      Regarding the age of humanity: There’s a hadith stating that David (as) (1000 BCE) lived in the time of latter(!) nations. 3000 thousand years have passed. Latter nations? More realistic if between Adam (as) and David (as) there is a difference of million years! However, I must admit that this Hadith is not 100% saheeh but still good and also there is another strange version of this hadith, maybe you know it too: the one who mentions two right hands of God (swt). But Tirmidhi (ra) stated that the first one is more authentic. Furthermore, there are ahadith stating that our prophet (as) prohibited to count our family tree back to Noah (as). because no one can do this (too long span)? I don’t know if this one is also sound.

      And God knows best!

      Like

    • Abdullah,
      Great critique of the article by Walid Saleh.

      At first glance Walid’s paper looks good, but when you read it more closely and critically there are a lot of problems with it. I didn’t have the will to go into each detail, but I am glad you did, because you discussed much of what I was thinking. It seems like Walid is catering to western scholars in order to earn a credibility in their circles. Adversely by doing this, he will lose credibility among Muslims. I wish he would have the courage and conviction to stand up and do as you said, and study history from a Qur’anic perspective instead of the other way around. I agree with you that this could be a discipline in itself (in fact it already is in Islamic schools of thought) but It could/should as well be a discipline in western universities as well.

      I think he really stretched it when he started talking about the influence of Christian Bible Translation on Modern Arabic, what a joke.

      Like

  2. There are competing versions of related history of the origin of biblical lierature. Many historians harshly criticize using supportive evidence the common version widely accepted by the Academia today.

    Did all existing Judaeo-Christian literature originate after 11th century?
    http://historicityofreligioustexts.blogspot.ca/p/it-may-be-noted-that-you-have-accepted.html

    Like

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  1. Just delivered to my office. Very juicy. – Blogging Theology

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