Judaism, Christianity and Islam all share the concept of divine revelation being sent down by God for the benefit and guidance of mankind. Islam acknowledges the scripture that was revealed to Moses, the Tawrah, as well as the scripture that revealed to Jesus, the Injeel. These are often translated as ‘Torah’ and ‘Gospel’, respectively. The Qur’an also acknowledges the scriptures revealed to other prophets, such as Abraham and David.
Where Islam differs is the question of whether the versions of the Bible which exist today are the same divine revelation that was bestowed upon Moses, Jesus, and other prophets. The aim of this article is not to prove that modern Bibles are corrupted texts. Rather, it is to discuss the different opinions that exist with regard to how the original Tawrah and Injeel relate to Bibles that exist today. We will also clarify the correct Islamic position in this regard.
When it comes to the Bible in light of Islam, there are three main positions:
- The Bible of today is the very same Tawrah and Injeel that were revealed to Moses and Jesus.
- The Bible of today is a mixture of truth, corruption and revelation.
- The Bible of today contains some truth but no revelation whatsoever.
We will now discuss each of these:
1. The Bible of today is the very same Torah and Injeel that were revealed to Moses and Jesus.
This position is quite a popular polemic among Christian apologists. To substantiate this claim they must resort to twisting and misinterpreting verses of the Qur’an and prophetic narrations in the ahadith. The aim is to try and convince Muslims that the Bible we have today is a 100% divinely revealed text, and therefore Muslims must blindly accept what it has to say.
This position is by far the weakest of the three as it goes directly against the Islamic source texts and understanding of the companions, those who best understood the Qur’an as they were closest to the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. There are numerous verses of the Qur’an that speak of the corruption of the scriptures of the Jews and Christians, here is one example:
Ibn Abbas, a companion who learnt the Qur’an directly from the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ, explained this verse as follows:
Here Ibn Abbas is saying that the traits and descriptions of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ were changed in the Book.
In the following narration, Ibn Abbas is even more explicit about the corruption of the Jewish and Christian scriptures:
This is a position that is supported by the Biblical textual criticism of mainstream Jewish and Christian scholarship.
The Qur’an provides a metric, a measure, by which we can determine the origins of a scripture:
Here the Qur’an tells us that if it contained internal inconsistency, then it cannot be from Allah. The point is that contradiction is a product of human infallibility, and obviously not what we would expect of the All-Wise and All-Knowing Creator. The Bible is not only internally contradictory, but it also contradicts the Qur’an on fundamental issues of Islamic creed. By this Qur’anic standard then, the Bible has, at least for those parts that are contradictory, been tampered with by man.
In summary, to claim that Islam endorses the Bible of today as a 100% divinely revealed text is completely incorrect.
2. The Bible of today is a mixture of truth, corruption and revelation.
This position is the understanding that the Bibles of today are a mixture of truth, corruption and revelation. As we will see, it is the position that best explains the collective verses of the Qur’an, ahadith, and the statements of the companions. It is important to point out that the Bibles of today cannot be equated with those scriptures that were originally revealed to Moses and Jesus. That is to say, the Old Testament does not equal the Tawrah, and the New Testament does not equal the Injeel. That clarifies what the Bible is not. We will now go into detail about what the Bible is, from an Islamic perspective. When it is said that the Bible contains truth, what I mean is that there are verses which are factually correct in what they’re saying, even though they may not originate in revelation. One example is the wisdom sayings found in books like Proverbs. In addition to truthful verses, there are also corrupted verses. Corruption can be intentional or unintentional. An example of intentional corruption is the story of Abraham where the son of sacrifice was changed from Ishmael to Isaac. Unintentional corruption is when verses undergo accidental changes during the copying process, such as missing words or spelling mistakes. The third category is those verses that are divine in origin. These are remnants of revelation from the original Tawrah and Injeel that can be found within the numerous versions of the modern Bible.
You may be wondering, how can we say with certainty what is, and is not, divinely revealed? We can use the Qur’an as our external criterion to judge its contents. Indeed, one of the names of the Qur’an is al-Furqan, that which distinguishes between truth and falsehood. In fact, Allah commands the People of the Book to judge their scriptures by the Qur’an:
Using this Qur’anic methodology, we can identify verses within modern Bibles which are divine in origin. Let’s look at some examples:
The tawheed of Jesus
These words of Jesus revealed by the Qur’an are reflected in the New Testament:
The Qur’an’s quotation of Jesus is found in Mark’s quotation of Jesus and this shows that this particular verse of the Bible has an origin in revelation. We can see that the wording between the Qur’an and New Testament in the verses above is slightly different. What we do have is a portion of the Bible that originates in the teachings of Jesus and then later on was transmitted to us in meaning (in an altered form in translation). The only way we can know that these are the words of Jesus is because the Qur’an confirms it. Not only does this confirm the words of Jesus, by extension it also confirms the Shema of the Old Testament which Jesus was quoting: “Hear O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord is One” [Deuteronomy 6:4].
The verses of retribution
Here the Qur’an associates the retribution of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth with the divinely revealed Tawrah. We find something very similar in the Old Testament Book of Exodus:
A quotation from the Psalms
Here the Qur’an mentions a verse that was divinely revealed to David. If we turn to the Old Testament Book of Psalms, we can find this very statement, just as Allah proclaims:
What awaits believers in paradise
This hadith about the unimaginable delights of paradise is an expansion of the verse of the Qur’an, “And no soul knows what has been hidden for them of comfort for eyes as reward for what they used to do” [32:17], as confirmed by the Prophet in the above narration. This information about the rewards of paradise pertains to revelation about the unseen, and is virtually identical to a quote of Paul from the New Testament:
However, as it is written:“What no eye has seen,
what no ear has heard,
and what no human mind has conceived”—
the things God has prepared for those who love him— [1 Corinthians 2:9]
What’s interesting is that Paul is quoting some other scripture that has preceded him, as he says “as it is written”. Nowhere can we find such a statement in the Old Testament, however something very similar can be found in the apocryphal book the Gospel of Thomas: “Jesus said: ‘I will give you what no eye has seen and what no ear has heard and what no hand has touched and what has not entered into the heart of man’” [Gospel of Thomas, saying 17]. It’s quite interesting that the Gospel of Thomas attributes this teaching directly to Jesus. So here we have the perfect example of a remnant of some genuine revelation discussing elements of the unseen that has been preserved in the modern Bible and the apocrypha.
The judgement on the Israelites
This Qur’anic verse was revealed in response to an incident between the Prophet and some Israelites. A deputation from the Children of Israel asked him for judgement on a man found guilty of adultery. Here the Qur’an highlights the fact that the Israelites already possessed the judgement (ruling) for that which they were enquiring about, in their very own scripture. The following ahadith provide more information about the incident which the Qur’an was revealed in response to:
Notice how in both narrations the Prophet asked them for the ruling on adulterers in their Torah. When they gave him the answer from the Torah, the Prophet enacted the punishment. We find the same ruling in the Old Testament Book of Leviticus:
This confirms that it is a punishment ordained by Allah, as confirmed by the Prophet and Abdullah bin Salam, and alluded to by the Qur’anic revelation sent down in response over the incident. But nowhere do we find anything in the Old Testament about the need for four witnesses or an analogy about eyeliner. This reinforces the idea of remnants of revelation being within the Bible, the ruling has been preserved but in modified form.
The parable of Jesus about Muslims
The verse above describes the characteristics of the Muslims, as prophesied in the Tawrah and Injeel. The Prophet Muhammad ﷺ and his companions were foretold to be a mixture of strength and humility. Strong against enemies of God, yet humble toward God and other believers. A form of the parable of the sown seed as mentioned in regards to the Injeel has been recorded in the New Testament in the Gospel of Mark:
Here Jesus is relating to his disciples a prophecy about the coming kingdom of God on earth.
Signs of the Day of Judgement
There are numerous verses of the Qur’an which describe the events surrounding the Day of Judgement. We find an immense amount of overlap with the New Testament, in particular the Gospel of Matthew:
|Qur’an||Gospel of Matthew|
|Blowing of trumpet and descent of angels||And on the day when the trumpet shall be blown… [27:87]
And [mention] the Day when the heaven will split open with [emerging] clouds, and the angels will be sent down in successive descent. [25:25]
|And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other. [24:31]|
|Sun and Moon losing their light||He asks, “When is the Day of Resurrection?” So when vision is dazzled And the moon darkens And the sun and the moon are joined… [75:6-10]
So when the stars are made to lose their light, and when the heaven is rent asunder… [77:8-10]
|The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light… [24:29]|
|Destruction of stars||When the heaven becomes cleft asunder, and when the stars become dispersed, and when the seas are made to flow forth. [82:1-3]||…the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. [24:29]|
We can see that the Bible matches what the Qur’an is saying about many of the events of the end of the world. How did this knowledge come to the author of the Gospel of Matthew, did they make numerous lucky guesses? Since this is knowledge that relates to the unseen, then by definition it must be divine in origin.
Jesus and the crucifixion
The Qur’an reveals that Jesus was saved from crucifixion:
We can see that contrary to what Christians believe, Jesus was not crucified, rather he was “raised up to God”. There is in fact a prophecy in the Old Testament which specifically relates to Jesus, and it states that the angels would “lift him up” before any harm would come to him. In the New Testament, Jesus affirms that the Old Testament prophecy is about himself:
Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’” [Matthew 4:5-7]
We can see that Satan challenged Jesus by applying an Old Testament prophecy to him. Jesus responds by affirming the prophecy (“It is also written…”). The prophecy being quoted can be found in Psalm 91:
|Psalm 91:10-15||Matthew 4:5-7|
|no harm will overtake you, no disaster will come near your tent.
For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands, so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.
You will tread on the lion and the cobra; you will trample the great lion and the serpent.
“Because he loves me,” says the Lord, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name.
He will call on me, and I will answer him; I will be with him in trouble, I will deliver him and honor him.
|Then the devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the highest point of the temple. “If you are the Son of God,” he said, “throw yourself down. For it is written:
“‘He will command his angels concerning you,
and they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.’”
Jesus answered him, “It is also written: ‘Do not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
If this is a genuine Messianic prophecy about Jesus, then it clearly eliminates any possibility of a crucified Messiah. This then disproves the Christian doctrine about the death of Jesus on the cross. It also relates to knowledge of the unseen, because the Qur’anic verses about Jesus being “raised up to God” are a fulfilment of the Old Testament prophecy:
|Psalm 91:11-12||Qur’an 4:157-158|
|For he will command his angels concerning you to guard you in all your ways; they will lift you up in their hands…||… they certainly did not kill him. God raised him up to Himself|
Although the Qur’an does not mention that it will be angels that will lift Jesus up, we know from authentic ahadith that when Jesus returns to fight the Dajjal he will descend on two angels:
The sleepers in the cave
The Qur’an makes mention of the people of the cave in Surah Al-Kahf:
According to the exegete Ibn Kathir, these verses were revealed in response to some questions that the pagan Arabs brought to the Prophet Muhammed in order to test his prophethood:
As these three questions and the stories concerned the history of the Christians and the Jews, and were unknown in Hijaz at the time, hence they were used by the pagan Arabs to test whether the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ possessed knowledge of the unseen.
The incident of the sleepers in the cave is nowhere to be found in modern Bibles. However, we find mention of it in the ancient Jewish text The Assumption of Moses. Although this text was referred to by several of the early church fathers, such as Origen, today it is considered apocryphal i.e. not part of the official biblical canon. This text supposedly relates prophecies told to Joshua by Moses, one of which is the story of the sleepers in the cave:
The story of the sleepers in the cave was even circulated among Christians. The earliest account that survives is The Youths of Ephesus, recorded by a Syriac bishop, Jacob of Serugh, dated to around the fifth century:
The son of the prefect and his seven companions spoke up, “We are not going to bow down to dumb idols, the work of human hands. Ours is the Lord of the heavens. He will help up. To Him we bow down, and to Him offer the purity of our heart. You have as king, Zeus and Apollo, along with Artemis. We have as king, the Father and the Son, along with the Holy Spirit.” [Guidi, Testi Orientali Inediti, 1, 19, #31-39]“We beseech you, Good Shepherd, who has chosen His servants, guard your flock from this wolf who thirsts for blood.” The Lord saw the faith of the blessed lambs, And He came to give a good wage for their recompense. He took their spirits and brought them up to heaven, and He left a watcher to be the guardian of their limbs.” [Guidi, Testi Orientali Inediti, 1, 19-20, #58-62]
Two sophists, sons of princes, were present there, and they thought that the Lord was going to raise them up. They made tablets of lead and palced them beside them, and the reason why the youngsters went to hide in the cave, and in what time period they had fled from Decius the king. [Guidi, Testi Orientali Inediti, 1, 20, #69-73]
We can see that many of the details found in The Youths of Ephesus match the Qur’anic account. While the Qur’an does not provide a date for when this event happened, The Youths of Ephesus does mention the evil king Decius who reigned in the third century.
So whether these stories are divine in origin or not depends on whether this incident about the sleepers in the cave was known at the time the authors penned the original works. If these are just stories that were recorded after the event of the sleepers in the cave, then they are nothing more than historical truths that have been documented and handed down. If, however, these texts pre-date the incident of the sleepers in the cave then it is knowledge of the unseen which makes it divine in origin by definition. In which case, we have a situation where revelation has made its way even into texts that Jews and Christians consider apocryphal.
The Qur’an and the Talmud
The Qur’an states that God revealed to the Children of Israel the severity of taking a life and the greatness of saving a life:
This teaching cannot be found in the Old Testament. However, it can be found in the Babylonian Talmud:
Judaism as a religion is based not only upon the Old Testament but also upon the Rabbinic tradition of the Talmud. Whereas the Old Testament is the written law that Moses received directly from God, the Talmud is believed to contain the oral law that has been passed down from generation to generation. The purpose of this example is to show that even the Talmud contains some teachings that are divine in origin. In this case it has not been preserved in scripture but rather the traditions of the Rabbis.
The Qur’an relates stories about the Prophets that can be found in the Talmud, for example the story of Abraham and the idols:
So he made them into fragments, except a large one among them, that they might return to it [and question]. They said, “Who has done this to our gods? Indeed, he is of the wrongdoers.”
They said, “We heard a young man mention them who is called Abraham.”
They said, “Then bring him before the eyes of the people that they may testify.”
They said, “Have you done this to our gods, O Abraham?”
He said, “Rather, this – the largest of them – did it, so ask them, if they should [be able to] speak.” [21:58-63]
A similar story can be found in the Talmud:
Such stories about Prophet Abraham are by definition divine in origin, as they relate to the unseen. The events that they narrate took place in the ancient past, long before the Children of Israel were sent Prophets and revelation.
A play on the words of the Old Testament
Here the Qur’an narrates to us an incident with the Children of Israel. Of course, commentators note that the Qur’an does not imply that the statement “we hear and disobey” was actually vocalised by the Israelites, since the mountain did not fall on them and their descendants exist today. The point that the Qur’an is making is that their actions reflected this very attitude of “hearing and disobeying”, hence the statement “And their hearts absorbed [the worship of] the calf because of their disbelief”. In other words, according to the Qur’an, the Israelites might as well have stated that they had heard and disobeyed because of their worship of the calf. This statement of “hearing and disobeying” is a brilliant play on words from the Old Testament Book of Deuteronomy:
We can see in the Old Testament, the Israelites say, “we hear and we obey”, which is “shama‘nu wa asinu” in Hebrew. The Qur’an seems to mirror this with its use of very similar sounding Arabic verbs to turn this very phrase on its head. The Qur’an mentions “sami’na wa asayna”, or “we hear and we disobey”. This use of language demonstrates a deep knowledge of Hebrew, and is just one example of the masterful rhetoric that the Qur’an is capable of. The purpose of this example is not to prove that this portion of the Old Testament is revelation, but rather to demonstrate how the Qur’an engages directly with the Hebrew of the Old Testament and makes theological points using it.
So far we have looked at numerous examples of Biblical revelation from the perspective of the Qur’an. We also find examples in the authentic ahadith:
The miracle of the breath of Jesus
In this hadith, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ is describing a prophecy about how Jesus will use his breath to vanquish his foes at the time of the Dajjal. We find this very same prophecy made by Paul in the New Testament:
The “lawless one” is a reference to the Anti-Christ, the false Messiah who the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ called Dajjal. Paul obviously did not pluck this very specific detail about the breath of Jesus out of thin air. He must have had access to some of the authentic teachings of Jesus about the end of the world.
The Dajjal and the descent of Jesus
The ahadith go into great detail about the characteristics of Dajjal and include advice on what believers should do when he arises. We find an immense amount of overlap with the New Testament, in particular the Gospel of Matthew:
|Hadith||Gospel of Matthew|
|Deception of Dajjal||Whoever hears of the Dajjal, let him flee from him, for by Allah, a man will come to him thinking that he is a believer, then he will follow him because of the specious arguments he puts forward. 
Part of his fitnah will be that he will say to a Bedouin, Do you think that if I resurrect your father and mother for you that you will testify that I am your lord?’ He will say, ‘Yes.’ So two devils will appear to him in the image of his father and mother, saying, ‘O my son, follow him for he is your lord.’” 
|For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. [24:24]|
|Believers told to flee to mountains||Umm Shareek reported: She heard the Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, say, The people will flee from the False Messiah by taking shelter in the mountains… ||So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. [24:15-16]|
|Unequalled fitnah in all of history||From the time of the creation of Adam until the Hour begins, there will never be a bigger creation than the Dajjal ||For then there will be great distress, unequalled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equalled again. [24:21]|
|Jesus will descend from sky||In the meantime, while the Dajjal will be busy doing this and this, Allah will send down the Messiah son of Mary. He will descend in the eastern part of Damascus, near the white minaret (tower), dressed in the two yellow garments, with his hands resting on the arms of two angels. ||Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. [24:30]|
|Believers will gather under Jesus||The Hour will not be established until the son of Mary descends amongst you as a just ruler. ||When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. [25:31-32]|
We can see that the Bible matches what the ahadith say about many of the prophecies about Dajjal. How did this knowledge come to the author of the Gospel of Matthew, did they make numerous lucky guesses? Since this is knowledge that relates to the unseen, then by definition it must be revelation from Allah. We should not be surprised that Jesus warned his followers about the Dajjal, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ taught that every Prophet warned their own people about him: “I warn you of him, and there was no prophet but warned his followers of him.” 
The day of Adam’s creation
Notice how in this hadith, Ka’b read the Torah and affirms that what the Prophet stated was true, that Adam was created on a Friday. If we read the creation account in the Old Testament Book of Genesis we will see that Adam was created on the sixth day (being Friday):
This is yet another example where knowledge of the unseen, in this case our origin as human beings, has been preserved in the Bible.
The nearness of Jesus and Muhammad
In the following hadith, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ taught that he was nearest to Jesus: “I am the nearest of all the people to the son of Mary, and all the prophets are paternal brothers, and there has been no prophet between me and him” . It seems that this nearness transcends mere chronology, as when we compare the Sunnah to some of the teachings that have been attributed to Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew, we find a remarkable similarity:
|Hadith||Gospel of Matthew|
|Allah has decreed for the son of Adam his share of zina which will inevitably catch up with him. The zina of the eye is looking and the zina of the tongue is speaking. The heart wishes and longs and the private part confirms that or denies it. ||You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. [Matthew 5:27-28]|
|None of you will have faith [complete faith] till he loves me more than his father, his children and all mankind. ||Anyone who loves their father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves their son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me. [Matthew 10:35-37]|
|For one of you to be stabbed in the head with an iron needle is better for him than that he should touch a woman who is not permissible for him. ||If your right eye causes you to stumble, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to stumble, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell. [Matthew 5:29-30]|
|Allah will not be merciful to those who are not merciful to people. ||For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. [Matthew 6:14-15]|
|Allah shades seven people on the day when there is no shade but His. He mentioned among them: a man who gives in charity so secretly that his left hand does not know what his right hand has given. ||But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. [Matthew 6:3-4]|
|If you were to rely on Allah as He should be relied on, He would provide for you as He provides for the birds. They go out early in the morning hungry and return in the evening full. ||Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothes? Look at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. [Matthew 6:25-26]|
|Jannah is surrounded by hardships and the Hell-Fire is surrounded by desires. ||Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. [Matthew 6:13-14]|
We can see that when we compare the ahadith and teachings that have been attributed to Jesus, the similarity is uncanny. The style of speaking is similar, as are the use of analogies. These are similarities that go beyond chance and coincidence. We can be confident that at least some of the words of Jesus have been preserved in translation in modern Bibles.
So far we’ve looked at examples from both the Qur’an and ahadith to support the position that there are remnants of revelation within modern versions of the Bible. Not only is this the position of the Qur’an and ahadith, but it also represents the understanding of the companions. For example, here is a statement by the companion Ata bin Yasar that highlights a prophecy about Muhammad ﷺ in the Torah in possession of the Jews of Medina:
If we examine the Old Testament, we find that these statements, which the companion identified as revelation, bear a striking resemblance to the Book of Isaiah:
|Hadith||Isaiah 42:1-3; 6-7|
|“You are My servant and My Messenger. I have named you al-Mutawakkil (meaning ‘one who depends upon God’).”||Here is my servant, whom I uphold,
my chosen one in whom I delight;
I will put my Spirit on him,
and he will bring justice to the nations.
|“…You are neither discourteous, harsh, nor a noise-maker in the markets”||He will not shout or cry out,
or raise his voice in the streets.
|“…You do not do evil to those Who do evil to you, but you deal With them with forgiveness and kindness.”||A bruised reed he will not break,
and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out.
In faithfulness he will bring forth justice;
|“…God will not let him die till he makes upright the crooked people”||I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,
|“…with which will be opened blind eyes,deaf ears and enveloped hearts.”||to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.
How the companions of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ could have come to know of this prophecy in the Jewish scriptures is an interesting question. The most probable answer is that they came to know about them from the Jewish converts to Islam, especially Rabbis such as Abdullah ibn Salaam and Ka’ab Al Ahbar  who were leading scholars of the Torah at the time of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
The nature of the Bible’s revelation
In looking at the Qur’an, ahadith and statements of the companions, we’ve established that modern Bibles contain revelation. This is beyond reasonable doubt, as the examples that we’ve looked at include knowledge of the unseen, such as information about the hereafter and future prophecies. These are so accurate, as confirmed by Islamic sources, and so numerous that they defy chance and coincidence. Knowledge of the unseen, especially, must originate from Allah as this is a special type of knowledge that only He possesses; so these verses are divine in origin by their very definition.
An important point that has to be covered is the question of the nature of this revelation. Revelation is of two types, wording and meaning. To demonstrate this, let’s take the following verse of the Qur’an (17:30):
This statement is revelation in wording. It is the verbatim speech of Allah that has been transmitted without any change or modification. This is an English translation of the verse:
“Over it are nineteen”
This can no longer be considered revelation in wording, because in translating the verse into English we have obviously changed the words. What has been preserved is the meaning, which is still revelation as it represents knowledge of the unseen about Hell.
To make this distinction between wording and meaning clear, let’s take the Sunnah as an example. Both the Qur’an and Sunnah are considered divine revelation; however, it is essential to note that there is a big difference between the Sunnah and the Qur’an. The Qur’an is revelation that is the verbatim speech of Allah, transmitted to us word for word. The Sunnah is the sayings of the Prophet, as conveyed to us by his companions, and can be transmitted in two forms –lafdhi (verbatim) or ma’anawi (meaning). With the former, the companions memorised the statements of the Prophet and conveyed them to us word for word, without any variation. With the latter, the companions paraphrased his words but captured their essential meaning. This is why we find different companions describing the same events or same speech of the Prophet ﷺ in variant wording. It’s why the companions would often end their narrations by saying “he said something like this”, because they conveyed the meaning in many instances and but not always the exact wording of the Prophet ﷺ. For example, Abu Umar Al-Shaybani reported that he sat with Ibn Mas’ud who would tremble when he narrated from the Prophet ﷺ. He used to add the words “…or something similar to this” or “words to that effect” . Here the companion Ikramah said something similar at the end of the narration: “Rafi’ b. Khadij reported that Allah’s Messenger came to Medina and the people had been grafting the trees. He said: ‘What are you doing?’ They said: ‘We are grafting them,’ whereupon he said: ‘It may perhaps be good for you if you do not do that,’ so they abandoned this practice (and the date-palms) began to yield less fruit. They made a mention of it (to the Holy Prophet), whereupon he said: ‘I am a human being, so when I command you about a thing pertaining to religion, do accept it, and when I command you about a thing out of my personal opinion, keep it in mind that I am a human being.’ Ikrima reported that he said something like this” . The important point is that when it comes to the Sunnah, the different forms of authentic ahadith, both those in wording and in meaning, are considered to be revelation. Let’s now apply this principle to the Bible. What is the nature of its revelation? We lack written records of the original revelation given to Moses and Jesus. We also have the issue of modern Bibles being based on ancient manuscripts written in the languages of Hebrew and Greek, and as such we can’t say with certainty that they contain revelation in wording as we don’t know which languages the original Tawrah and Injeel were revealed in. What we can say with certainty is that modern Bibles contain the meaning of some revelation, for those portions that are affirmed by the Qur’an and authentic ahadith. Those portions that have an origin in revelation are similar to ahadith that are transmitted in meaning.
One contention raised is that the Bible as a whole is more analogous to fabricated ahadith. It is claimed that since modern Bibles suffer from a number of serious textual issues, such as corruption, unknown authorship and the lack of chains of transmission going directly back to the Prophets, therefore we must treat the entire Bible corpus in the same way that we would fabricated ahadith. So, in the same way that we would never say that fabricated ahadith contain revelation we also should not do so for the Bible. It’s true that the Bible contains fabrications, of which there are many; this is an undeniable fact and even the stance of Christian scholars. Now with regards to comparing the Bible to fabricated hadith, this is an incorrect analogy. A fabricated hadith must have a chain. Any text without a chain doesn’t qualify to be a hadith, fabricated or otherwise. In the science of hadith, strictly speaking, a text without a chain is not a hadith, it is not even considered as a candidate. What is a fabricated hadith? It is a lie against the Prophet ﷺ. When a hadith is fabricated, that means the matn, the content, is actually a lie. So there is no comparison between a fabricated hadith and the prophetic verses of the Bible, because as we’ve seen there are biblical verses that are backed by Islamic sources. These cannot be classified as fabrications because the Qur’an and authentic ahadith ‘own’ them, which elevates them in status and confirms they are divine in origin. Such verses of the Bible, strictly speaking, may lack chains of transmission, but in actual fact have the strongest possible backing – the Qur’an and Sunnah.
Another contention raised is that the Qur’an and ahadith quote portions of the Tawrah and Injeel that cannot be found anywhere in modern Bibles, and this therefore proves that modern Bibles are not the same as the Tawrah or Injeel that existed in seventh century Arabia. We’ve already highlighted instances of variants in the examples analysed, where certain details are completely missing in the Bible or slightly different. But does this prove that Bibles of today bear no resemblance to the original Tawrah and Injeel? This conclusion does not logically follow for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s a fallacy to say that because some of it is different, therefore everything is different. Secondly, we know from history and manuscript discoveries that variants of the Bible have existed through most of its recorded history. Virtually every manuscript discovery is of a variant nature, so for variants to have existed in seventh century Arabia is not unusual, it’s to be expected. Through history, some Jewish and Christian sects have had different canons, for example some Jewish groups rejected all but the first five books of the Old Testament and some Christian groups rejected the writings of Paul. Variants are one thing, but to say that a unique Torah or Injeel existed in seventh century Arabia, and to then claim that they bear no resemblance whatsoever to the Bible of today, is an entirely different matter. There is simply no physical evidence to support such an assertion. In fact, there are many pre-Islamic manuscript discoveries of the Old and New Testaments – such as the Dead Sea Scrolls, Codex Vaticanus and Codex Sinaiticus – that are very similar and form the basis of modern versions of the Bible. Thirdly, this contention is inconsistent. Since it postulates that divergence implies different texts, then the inverse must also hold true, convergence implies textual commonality.
This brings us onto another contention. Just because God says X in the Qur’an, or that the Prophet said X, and we find X in the Bible, then that does not mean that X in the Bible itself is divine in origin. This is the fallacy of the undistributed middle, where two different things are equated due to a common middle ground that is misused. Below is a generic example:
- All As are Cs
- All Bs are Cs
- Therefore all As are Bs
The above fallacy is in the conclusion. Since A and B share the common category C, it doesn’t follow that A is the same as B.
Another example includes:
- John needs oxygen to survive
- My dog needs oxygen to survive
- Therefore John is my dog
As can be seen above, the middle ground that is misused is oxygen. Although the first two premises are true, that both John and my dog need oxygen to survive, it doesn’t follow that John is my dog .
From the point of view of information that is general in nature, this criticism is correct. For example, Allah states in the Qur’an that He created the world, and the Bible also states that God created the world, then it is true that we cannot conclude that the Bible verse originates from Allah. It could just be a general statement in the Bible that happens to coincide with the Qur’an. However, this criticism does not apply to the biblical examples of revelation that we have analysed, as they relate to aspects of the unseen. Knowledge of the unseen is a special category of knowledge that only Allah possesses. Such knowledge cannot be attributed to other than Allah. Now, if only one or two instances were present in the Bible, then it could be put down to a lucky guess or two. But the sheer number of instances that are present in the Bible, along with the details they provide, goes beyond chance and coincidence. Moreover, Allah and His messenger ﷺ proclaim, as a statement of fact, that these instances are present in the scriptures of the People of the Book. These are proclamations that are general in nature, unless evidence is brought forward to prove otherwise, so by default they encompass the Bibles of today. Therefore, we can be certain that the Bibles of today contain content that is divine in origin, and indeed we have found this to be the case. Allah and His messenger ﷺ have certainly spoken the truth.
Support in classical Islamic scholarship
Many classical Muslim scholars discussed the status of the Bible in relation to the original Tawrah and Injeel. Ibn Taymiyyah explains the range of views that existed in his day:
Note that according to Ibn Taymiyyah, the minority view is that “the scriptures are altogether empty of sacredness”, whereas the majority “maintain that the four Gospels contain but a few of God’s words”. The renowned Qur’anic exegete Ibn Kathir, a student of Ibn Taymiyyah, states that his teacher inclined toward the latter view:
We can see that Ibn Taymiyyah took a balanced, middle position with regards to the scriptures of the People of the Book. Note how he stated “As for those who argued that it [the Torah] is entirely corrupted from beginning to end without sparing one letter, they are mistaken”. Like with all his refutations, Ibn Taymiyyah’s writings on the Bible demonstrate that he had a deep insight into the subject matter. He highlighted specific prophecies about the coming of Muhammad ﷺ which he believed were revelation. For example, he attributes Deuteronomy 33:2 in the Old Testament to Allah :
Sulaiman ibn Abdul-Qawi al-Tufi, another student of Ibn Taymiyyah, was the first Muslim scholar to have produced a commentary on both the Qur’an and the Bible . He also adopts this middle position on the Bible:
The scholar Ibn Hazm wrote works of monumental significance in comparative religion. He was the first theologian of his kind to systematically study the religious doctrines of Islam, Judaism and Christianity. Ibn Hazm categorised the passages of Christian scripture into three groups :
- Remnants of the true Injeel, such as the prophecies of Jesus about Muhammad.
- Verses that are true but not necessarily remnants of the true Injeel.
For example, he fully accepted verses such as Luke 4:24 where Jesus says “Truly I tell you, no prophet is accepted in his hometown”. He described it as a part of the Injeel that God protected and kept as a testimony against Christians . The criteria by which Ibn Hazm judged between the real Injeel and falsehood is the Islamic sources – he accepted what is consistent rejected what is incompatible e.g. by contradiction . Any portion that is neither sanctioned nor discredited could be true or false and Muslims should neither believe nor disbelieve . He believed that the Injeel has been lost except for a few portions .
Ibnul Qayyim al-Jawziyyah, another classical scholar and giant in comparative religion, also holds this position about the Bible containing revelation. He goes so far as to identify numerous prophecies throughout the Bible which he refers to as revelation. For example, he attributes Deuteronomy 18:18 in the Old Testament to Allah :
Another example is Deuteronomy 33:2 which he refers to as ‘basharah’ :
In the language of the classical scholars, ‘basharah’ in this context means prophecies about the coming of Muhammad ﷺ. We can see similar language in the Qur’an:
It’s important to acknowledge that there is not a consensus on the status of the Bible. Other classical Muslim scholars held very different views on this matter. But these opinions by the likes of Ibn Taymiyyah, Sulaiman ibn Abdul-Qawi al-Tufi , Ibn Hazm and Ibnul Qayyim, who were all giants in comparative religion, carry weight because they had a deep insight into the Bible.
3. The Bible of today contains some truth but no revelation whatsoever.
This position claims that while modern versions of the Bible contain some truth, such as biographical information about the Prophets and other historical events, we cannot say, with any degree of certainty, that divine revelation can be found within. So, not a single verse can be considered revelation, in any sense of the word, because they cannot be linked back to Allah or His divinely inspired Prophets.
What should we make of this position, especially in light of the numerous Bible verses we’ve analysed which contain detailed and accurate knowledge of the unseen? These verses obviously did not come into the Bible randomly, as this is a special type of knowledge that belongs to Allah, so it is divine in origin by its very definition. To attribute such knowledge to other than Allah and His divinely inspired Prophets, for example by saying that they are merely truths written by normal people, is a very serious matter indeed. The only way to try and get around this problem is to acknowledge that while such knowledge of the unseen is divine in origin, it must still be called “truth” and not “revelation” because it has undergone change in wording. In other words, for this position to distinguish between truth and revelation must mean that the wording has changed to the extent that it can no longer be called “revelation”, but enough of the essential meaning has been preserved such that it can be called “truth”. Is this valid reasoning? To illustrate why it’s incorrect to dichotomise truth and revelation when it comes to the entire Bible, we will look at the Sunnah. If one takes this methodology, which is the concept that change to the wording of a text necessitates that the text loses its divine status, and we extend it by applying it to the Sunnah, then we will run into some serious problems. How has the Sunnah been preserved and conveyed to us? Via the authentic ahadith, which are considered to contain revelation. Recall that earlier we discussed the fact that not all of the authentic ahadith have reached us via the exact wording of the Prophet ﷺ. The ahadith have reached us in two forms, lafdhi (word by word) and ma’anawi (meaning). The majority of hadith literature is in fact ma’anawi. This is why we find different companions describing the same events or same speech of the Prophet ﷺ in variant wording. So, even authentic hadith reach us in variant wordings. For those who maintain that the Bible contains truth but not revelation by virtue of changed wording, this has serious implications. It implies that many authentic ahadith contain truth but not revelation, which is incorrect from an Islamic perspective. We can conclude that a change in wording, in and of itself, does not result in a cessation of being revelation. The ahadith that convey the Sunnah to us in meaning are also revelation, for those that are authentic. For one to remain consistent then, those portions of the Bible backed by Islamic sources must also be considered to be revelation in meaning. To reduce the Bible to mere “truth”, is to be inconsistent, and inconsistency is a sign of a flawed methodology.
Another challenge to this position that the Bible contains truth but not revelation is the many verses of the Qur’an which refer to the scriptures in possession of the Jews and Christians as “Tawrah” and “Injeel”. For example:
We can see here that the Qur’an states that we can find prophecies about Muhammad ﷺ in the Tawrah and Injeel, “in what they have”. In other words, this is a general reference to the scriptures which are in the possession of Jews and Christians. For the Qur’an to refer to their scriptures as the Tawrah and Injeel implies that what they currently possess in their hands contains something of the divinely revealed Tawrah and Injeel. How can this problem be dealt with? One method is that any such verses of the Qur’an and any ahadith that refer to “Tawrah” or “Injeel” are to be interpreted as references to some texts that were in possession of the Jews and Christians in seventh century Arabia at the time of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. These are texts that must be completely different to the Bible of today and have since been long lost. For example, the following narration about Waraqa, the uncle of Khadija, may be put forward in support:
There are a number of problems with this understanding:
1. Such narrations can be interpreted in multiple ways without necessitating that we completely distinguish between the Bible of today and the texts in seventh century Arabia. For example, what if Waraqa was translating the New Testament from other languages, such as Arabic, into Hebrew? Perhaps he was doing it for the purpose of dawah to the Jewish people of Arabia who reject Jesus as the Messiah. We find support for the Injeel being available in multiple languages, such as Arabic, in other versions of this same narration: “The Prophet returned to Khadija while his heart was beating rapidly. She took him to Waraqa bin Naufal, who was a Christian convert and used to read the Injeel in Arabic.” 
2. Every verse of the Qur’an is general until there is evidence to suggest otherwise. Since verse 7:157 above states “in what they have of the Torah and the Gospel”, by default this must be interpreted as a general reference to the scriptures of the Jews and Christians which includes not only the texts that they possessed at the time of the Prophet ﷺ, but also includes the Bible that we have today. Anyone who wants to dispute this must bring forward evidence to prove that verse 7:157 is specific and limited to only a small group of Jews and Christians of the past
3. If we take the Torah as an example, then every manuscript discovery that we possess is, without exception, of a variant nature. In other words, there is no Torah that stands out as being so different that it should be categorised as a completely different text when compared to the first five books of the Old Testament. Some manuscript discoveries consisting of collections of writings might contain additional texts; we’ve already examined one such text in the previous section, The Assumption of Moses. But for the most part their core differences amount to minor variations (changed verses, missing verses, added verses etc.). This is the case even as far back as the Dead Sea Scrolls which pre-date Islam and Christianity. So the burden of proof is on the claimant to bring forward evidence of texts in seventh century Arabia, other than the Old Testament, the apocrypha and their numerous variants that we know of. Otherwise this is an unhistorical claim that undermines Islam as it is a position that borders on the conspiratorial and can therefore reasonably be rejected by Jews and Christians
4. We have already seen numerous Qur’anic verses, ahadith and statements of the companions which reference verses of the Tawrah, statements of Jesus, prophecies about the coming of Muhammad ﷺ, and aspects of the unseen; all of which can be found in modern versions of the Bible.
Another issue is the way in which the Qur’an interacts with the People of the Book. The Qur’an commands Christians to judge by what Allah has revealed within the Injeel:
The criterion for judging what is revelation is, of course, the Qur’an which acts as a filter. How can Christians be expected to “judge” by what Allah has revealed if nothing of revelation can be found in their scriptures today? This would make absolutely no sense. The only way around this problem is to limit the scope of the verse by interpreting it as a reference to “some of the Christians” or to a “long lost Injeel”, or to interpret it rhetorically i.e. Allah is making the rhetorical point that they cannot judge by the Injeel because they no longer possess the Injeel. Again, a verse is general in nature unless proven otherwise. To argue that this verse is limited in nature or rhetorical requires evidence. The proof that this command is general in nature can be found in the statements of the companions such as Ibn Abbas and Ibn Mas’ud, who learnt the Qur’an directly from the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. These companions understood this verse in exactly such a way:
In this article, we have discussed the three main positions with regard to how the original Tawrah and Injeel relate to the Bible of today:
- The Bible of today is the very same Tawrah and Injeel that were revealed to Moses and Jesus.
- The Bible of today is a mixture of truth, corruption and verses that originate in revelation.
- The Bible of today contains some truth but no remnants of revelation.
We’ve seen that the first position is the weakest of all. The third position, that the Bible of today is bereft of all revelation is not only un-Islamic, but it also goes against all known textual evidence of the Bible. Although this stance is more correct than the first, it is still highly problematic. It is the second position – that Bibles of today are a mixture of truth, corruption and revelation – that is a middle path between the other two extremes. The Qur’an, authentic ahadith, and statements of the companions bring to our attention the fact that the scriptures of the People of the Book contain revelation. We have used the Qur’an, Sunnah and companions to identify which portions of the Bible contain revelation in meaning. An analysis of modern Bibles shows that there are numerous examples of knowledge of the unseen which is divine in origin by its very nature. Such content, especially the declarations about the hereafter, Day of Judgement and Dajjal, goes beyond chance and coincidence. We’ve also seen that this view is backed by many classical Muslim scholars, giants in the field of comparative religion who had deep knowledge of the Bible.
We’ve seen that on one hand, Islam teaches that the scriptures of the People of the Book have become corrupted. On the other hand, we have also seen verses and ahadith which refer to the scriptures in the possession of Jews and Christians by their divinely revealed names of the Tawrah and Injeel. For the other positions, these polarised statements are problematic as they cannot be easily reconciled. However, with the nuanced approach that this article recommends, we have no such issues as it best explains all the collective evidence. Any mention of corruption of the scriptures of the People of the Book can be a reference to those portions of modern Bibles that are not divine in origin but rather man-made lies. Any reference to the Tawrah or Injeel can be a reference to those portions of modern Bibles which are revelation in meaning. Thus the collective Qur’anic verses and ahadith which were previously problematic are now harmonious, and there is no need to resort to mental gymnastics, odd tafasir or even conspiracy theories about hidden manuscripts in order to reconcile them. Furthermore, this nuanced approach is robust, reflects the reality of the Bible manuscript discoveries and respects the opinions of the classical Muslim scholars who were most informed on this topic.
1 – Ibn Abbas, Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn Abbâs, Commentary on Surah 2:79
2 – Sahih Bukhari.
3 – Sahih Bukhari.
4 – Sunan Abu Dawud, Hadith no. 3862, Source. Sheikh Albani declared this hadith authentic in Sunan Abu Dawud, hadith no.4452.
5 – Sahih Bukhari.
6 – Sahih Muslim.
7 – The Assumption of Moses, chapter 9.
8 – Mishnah Sanhedrin 4:5.
9 – Midrash Rabbah on Gen. xv. 7.
10 – Sahih Muslim.
11 – Abu Dawood.
12 – Ibn Majah.
13 – Sahih Muslim.
14 – Sahih Muslim.
15 – Sahih Muslim.
16 – Sahih Bukhari.
17 – Sahih Bukhari.
18 – Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 3, Number 1041.
19 – Sahih Bukhari
20 – Sahih Bukhari.
21 – Sahih Bukhari.
22 – Narrated by al-Tabaraani in al-Kabeer, 486. Shaykh al-Albaani said in Saheeh al-Jaami’, 5045, that this hadeeth is saheeh.
23 – Sahih Bukhari.
24 – Sahih Bukhari.
25 – Tirmidhi.
26 – Sahih Muslim.
27 – Sahih Bukhari.
28 – Sahih Bukhari.
29 – Al-Dhahabi, Tadhkirah Al-Huffadh Vol.1 p. 15.
30 – Sahih Muslim.
31 – Explanation of this fallacy taken from Hamza Tzortzis article “DOES THE QUR’AN CONTAIN SCIENTIFIC MIRACLES? A NEW APPROACH ON HOW TO RECONCILE AND DISCUSS SCIENCE IN THE QUR’AN”.
32 – Al-Jawab As-Sahih, vol. 1 p. 367, also vol. 2 p. 16.
33 – Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidayah wa Al-Nihayah, Volume 2, pp. 152-153.
34 – Ibn Taymiyyah, Answering those who altered the religion of Jesus Christ, pp. 334-335.
35 – Lejla Demiri, Muslim Exegesis of the Bible in Medieval Cairo, p. 74.
36 – Sulaiman ibn Abdul-Qawi al-Tufi, Al-Intesarat Al-Islamiyyah, 1/230-232.
37 – Dr. Muhammad M. Abu Laylah, The Qur’an and the Gospels, pp. 128-130.
38 – – Ibn Hazm, Al-Faisal, vol. 2, p. 64
39 – Dr. Muhammad M. Abu Laylah, The Qur’an and the Gospels, p. 128.
40 – Ibid, p. 135.
41 – Ibid, p. 132
42 – Ibnul Qayyim, Guidance to the uncertain in Reply to the Jews and Christians, p. 90.
43 – Ibid, p. 93.
44 – Sahih Bukhari.
45 – Sahih Bukhari.
46 – Abu ‘Abdullah al-Qurtubi, Tasfir al Jami’ li-ahkam al-Qur’an, Commentary on Surah 5:43.
reblogged from Many Prophets, One Message – A Call to The Truth