Authenticity of the Qur’an, God’s final revelation
Introduction: The proof of the above contention is given in two parts. The first part relates to the relevant Qur’anic verses justifying the Qur’an as God’s final revelation and the promise by Allah to guard it from corruption, and in the second, the process by which the Bible ( i.e. the Old and the New Testament) and the Qur’an came to be written. This will help to determine their respective authenticity.
15:9 Behold, it is We Ourselves have bestowed from on high, step by step, this reminder: and, behold, it is We who shall truly guard it [from all corruption].10
10. This prophecy has been strikingly confirmed by the fact that the text of the Qur’an has remained free from all alterations, additions or deletions ever since it was enunciated by the Prophet in the seventh century of the Christian era; and there is no other instance of any book of whatever description, which has been similarly preserved over such a length of time. The early-noted variants in the reading of certain words of the Qur’an, occasionally referred to by the classical commentators, represents no more than differences in respect of diacritical marks or of vocalisation, and, as a rule, do not affect the meaning of the passage in question.
5:48 And unto thee [O Prophet] have we vouchsafed this divine writ, confirming the truth of whatever there still remains of earlier revelations and determining what is true therein. 64 Judge, then, between the followers of earlier revelation in accordance with what God has bestowed from on high,65 and do not follow their errant views, forsaking the truth that has come unto thee…….. (see also 5:44, 46 and 49).
64. The participle muhaymin is derived from the quadriliteral verb haymana, “he watched over a thing” or “controlled it”, and is used here to describe the Qur’an as a determininant factor in deciding what is genuine and what is false in earlier scriptures. (see Manar VI, 410ff.)
65. Lit., “judge, then, between them …..”, etc. This apparently applies not merely to judicial cases but also to opinions as to what is right or wrong in the ethical sense. As is evident from the mention of the “followers of the Gospel” in the preceding verse (5:47) and of the Torah in earlier passages (5:44), the people spoken of here are both Jews and Christians.
16: 63 By God, [O Prophet,] even before thy time have We sent apostles unto [various] communities: but [those who were bent in denying the truth have always refused to listen to Our messages because] Satan has made all their own doings seem goodly to them: and he is [as] close to them today [as he was to the sinners of yore]; hence, grievous suffering awaits them.
16:64 And upon thee [too] have We bestowed from high this divine writ for no other reason than thou might make clear onto them all [questions of faith] on which they have come to hold divergent views, and [thus offer] guidance and grace unto people who will believe.
41: 41 Verily, they who are bent on denying the truth of this reminder as soon as it comes to them – [they are the losers]: for, behold, it is sublime divine writ: 41:42 no falsehood can ever attain to it openly, and neither in a stealthy manner,35 [since it is] bestowed from on high by One who is truly wise, ever to be praised.
35. The above is one one of the Qur’anic passages on which the great commentator Abu Muslim al-Isfahani (as quoted by Razi) bases his absolute rejection of the theoty of “abrogation” (for which see note 87on 2:106). Since the “abrogation” of any Qur’an-verse would have amounted to its ibtal – that is, to an open and implied declaration that it was henceforth to be regarded as null and void – the verse in question would have to be considered “false” (batil) in the context of the Qur’an as it is before us: and this as Abu Muslim points out, would clearly contradict the above statement that “no falsehood can ever attain it”.
2: 106 Any message which We annul or consign to oblivion We replace with a better or similar one. 87 Dost thou not know that God has the power to will anything?
87. The principle laid down in this passage – relating to the suppression of the Biblical dispensation by that of the Qur’an – has given rise to an erroneous interpretation by many Muslim theologians. The word ayah (“message”) occuring in this context is also used to denote a “verse” of the Qur’an (because every one of these verses contain a message). Taking this restricted meaning of the term ayah, some scholars conclude from the above passage that certain verses of the Qur’an have been “abrogated” by God’s command before the revelation of the Qur’an was completed. ……… On the other hand, the apparent difficulty of interpreting the above Qur’anic passage disappears immediately if the term ayah is understood, correctly, as “message”, and if we read this verse in conjunction with the preceding one (2:105), which states that the Jews and the Christians refuse to accept any revelation which might supersede that of the Bible: for, if read in this way, the abrogation relates to the earlier divine messages and not any part of the Qur’an itself.
The Old Testament : or the Hebrew Bible – is a collection of works of differing lengths, written over a period of more than nine-hundred years. They were written in several languages and, like the Hadith literature, were based on materials collected from oral traditions. The contents of the Hebrew Bible is the same as Protestant Old Testament, but in a different order. The Catholic Old Testament includes extra books ejected from what became the Protestant version. Judaism does not accept any revelation subsequent to its own. It therefore, precludes the part of the Bible called the New Testament, as well as the Qur’an.
The Bible : The Protestant version accepts the thirty-nine books of the Jewish Scriptures as the Old Testament. The New Testament, comprising twenty-seven books, has been added to the Old Testament. Of these twenty-seven books, four are accounts of the career of Jesus called the Gospels (attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), and one is a report of the activity and the preaching of the early followers of Jesus, which is called Acts of the Apostles (usually referred to as Acts). Then there are twenty-one Epistles (correspondence of various apostles concerning religious instructions), thirteen of which are attributed to Paul, who is the real founder of what we now call Christianity. Finally, there is the book of ‘prophecy’ called Revelations. Christianity does not accept any revelation subsequent to Jesus and his Apostles. It, therefore, precludes the Qur’an.
History of the texts
There were at least three forms of Hebrew text around the third century B.C. They were the Masoteric text, the text used in part for the Greek translation, and the Samaritan Pentateuch. If all three forms of texts were available today a comparison would be possible and a decision could be reached as to what might have been the original text. Unfortunately, what is available is the Dead Sea Scrolls (Cave of Qumran), dating from not much before the arrival of Jesus; and a papyrus of the Ten Commandments of the second century CE., which does not even fully agree with the classical text – the oldest Hebrew text of the Bible which dates from the ninth century CE. The first Greek translation dates from the third century, and we can also mention the Latin version of the fourth century C.E., the Aramaic version, and the Syriac version, the last two being incomplete. The specialists have used all these versions to piece together in a multitude of revisions and versions of the texts that we know today.
In the early days of Christianity, the foremost authority was oral tradition and the teachings of the Apostles. The first writings to circulate were Paul’s letters. In fact, before 140 A.D. people were not aware that a collection of Gospel writings existed. For about thirty or forty years, the Gospel had existed as an almost exclusive oral tradition. The ‘Evangelists, each according to his own outlook have collected and recorded in writing the material handed down by the prevailing tradition. Modern biblical scholars are agreed that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are not the authors of the four Gospels but rather titles attributed to compilations of diverse materials already collected by others. It was not until 170 A.D. that the four Gospels acquired the status of canon.
There were also many writings on Jesus in the early days of Christianity (see Luke 1.1) which the New Testament has excluded. Mention can be made of the Gospel of the Nazarenes, the Gospel of the Hebrews, the Gospel of the Egyptians, the Gospel of Thomas, and the Gospel of Barnabas. These are a few of the many which were in circulation but later burned and banned by order of the Church, from whence their name – Apocrypha – or hidden is derived. In C.E. 367, Bishop Athanasius of Alexandria compiled the list of works which were to carry Church approval. This list was ratified by the Church Council of Hippo in 393, and again by the Council of Carthage four years later. The question can easily be raised as to what arbitrary process was used to select the four Gospels used today, out of the many that were in circulation, especially when some of the excluded books have a perfectly valid claim to historical authenticity. Added to all this, the New Testament has been subjected to fairly drastic editing, censorship, revision, and creative translation, a process which continues to this day.
Thus, the human interference in both the Old and the New Testament is evidently considerable. Different versions of the same description can be found in the Old and the New Testament, as well as contradictions, historical errors, and incompatibilities with firmly established scientific data throughout.
Authenticity of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures
In the West, the critical study of the Scriptures is a recent development. Even today many people are content to accept the Bible – the Old and New Testaments – as it is, without questioning its authenticity or veracity. Only certain of the clergy has a comprehensive knowledge of the Bible, whereas the majority of the laity hears only selected readings as part of a sermon. (Unfortunately the same applies in the use of the Qur’an, despite its authenticity.) One only needs to read some of the specialist studies of the Bible to be aware of the improbabilities and contradictions that exist in the Biblical texts.
However, quite aside from the contradictions in the Biblical texts, there are other serious issues which cannot be ignored. I refer, in particular, to the blatant blackening of the character of the prophets; of barbaric social laws; immoral laws in warfare; and the condoning of outrageous practices such as incest and other issues which conflict with basic sense of morality and human values. For example, Abraham, the great and revered patriarch of all nations was mentioned as a liar (Genesis 12:10-20); Lot committed incest with his own daughters (Genesis 19:33-35); David, whose beautiful Psalms are the texts of sermons in churches and synagogues, committed adultery with Uria’s wife Bath-sheba (2 Samuel 11-4); etc. I refer to a few examples out of many.
Similarly some of the Mosaic laws given below reflect badly on Moses, if one is to maintain, against all reason and logic, that Moses was in fact the writer of the first five books of the Bible.
“And Moses was angry with the officers of the army, the commanders of thousands and the commanders of hundreds, who came from the service in the war. Moses said to them, ‘Have you let all the women live? Behold, these caused the people of Israel, by the counsel of Balaam, to act treacherously against the Lord. Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known man by lying with him. But all the young girls who have not known man by lying with him, keep alive for yourself” (Numbers 31:14-18).
Compilation of the Quran:
The Qur’an was written down and compiled as a book during the lifetime of the Prophet. It was also memorised by many during his lifetime. Thus it is the only Book of Revelation which has remained totally intact. The messages given to the previous prophets were not written down during their lifetime and were manifestly corrupted by human interference. Moreover, the Qur’an, by confirming all the previous revelations, was sent as a guidance for all mankind. It is the last Revelation of God to mankind, a Book which has remained intact and untainted by human interference. The Hadith literature creates doubt about the authenticity of the Qur’an by stating that the Qur’an, as a book, was compiled during the time of Caliph Othman by collection of all the Qur’anic sheets which were kept by different people. Yet, Allah constantly refers to the Qur’an as a book (Al-Kitab), and it is impossible to believe that the Prophet did not manage to compile the Qur’an as a book, over its long period of revelation spreading 23 years. Such thinking is a reflection of the total inability of a large number of Muslims to think beyond what is written in the hadith literature i.e. in this instance, that the Qur’an was compiled during the time of Othman. The verse 15:9 quoted at the beginning of this article states clearly that Allah Himself preserves the Qur’an from being corrupted.
We know for certain that at the time of Jesus the Mediterranean world already had great libraries, book-shops, and many professional writers (scribes). As Arabia was a trading route, and the Arabs were a trading nation, there is a compelling body of evidence to draw one to the view that the Arabs had literate members of their society just like other countries in the region, for sound economic reasons if nothing else, and that the Qur’an was written down and compiled as a book (kitab) during the life time of the Prophet. This argument becomes unassailable when one recalls that the Messenger, sent as he was some 600 years after Jesus, was a man renowned for his fear of God and faithfulness to his duty. Is it feasible that he would have omitted to take basic measures for the preservation of the text, in order to protect it from human interference and corruption? He was in constant guidance from Allah, and yet the hadith literature would have made us believe that Allah has left His divine message to be collected from scattered motley collection of pages, here and there!
My reason for bringing out some of the many anomalies found in the Old and the New Testaments is to prove the point which the Qur’an indicates in many of its verses, namely, that the Old and the New Testament, as they exist today, are not the texts as originally revealed. In fact one of the reason for the revelation of the Qur’an was because the previous books do not exist in their original form. In contrast the Qur’an is free from all anomalies, as it is the Word of God without any other influence or human interference. It contains fundamental messages that are completely consistent with all that the previous prophets received prior to the Qur’anic revelation. It gives the names of many prophets and also states that God sent many other prophets beforehand, to all communities, whose names are not mentioned in the Qur’an. One can make an exhaustive comparison of the Biblical texts and the Qur’an with regard to the narration of events which on the surface appears to be similar and yet hold fundamental differences, due simply to the human elements in the Biblical texts. Where modern scientific investigation has been able to contribute any light, it has consistently found in favour of the Qur’anic presentation. Such authenticity cannot be, and must not be attributed to the hadith literature either, as it is not a divine revelation and therefore consists of much contradiction and human interpretation.
- The verses quoted including the notes are taken from: The Message of the Qur’an by Muhammad Asad. Published by Dar Al-Andalus, Gibraltar.
- A Study of the Qur’an. Published by M. A. Malek. Third revised edition, January 2000.
M. A. Malek 6th March 07.