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The Qur’an Confirms Previous Books of God

The Message of Islam Team
9/29/2009
11363 views

 

 “Verily, this is in the former scrolls—the Scriptures of Abraham and Moses”

(Qur’an, Surah A’la, 87:18-19)

 

If an inquirer wants to know about the Qur’an, the Qur’an is the best authority on the matter.  The Qur’an describes itself, saying, “(revealed in) a clear Arabic tongue,” (26:195); “a balm for what is in the breasts,” (10:57); “a scripture wherein there is no doubt,” (2:2); “a source of healing and mercy for the believers,” (17:82); “a guidance for mankind,”  (2:185).  Among the many self-depictions contained in the Qur’an is the recurrent phrase, “confirming previous revelation”[i] (2:97).  The Qur’an was never meant to introduce radical new dogma to mankind.  Rather, it resurrects the message of those lost or distorted books that came before it, i.e. the Scrolls of Abraham, Psalms of David, Torah of Moses, and Gospel of Jesus. 

 

If there is essentially nothing new in the Qur’an, one might question, why has it been revealed at all?  Admittedly, we have completely lost the books of Abraham; not a single letter remains.  However the Torah, Psalms and New Testament still exist.  Why is there a need for the Qur’an? 

 

The Qur’an itself answers this query, saying, “And We[ii] verily gave Moses the Scripture, but there hath been dispute concerning it; and but for a Word that had already gone forth by thy Lord, it would have been judged between them; but lo! They are in hopeless doubt concerning it,” (Qur’an, Surah Fussilat, 41:45).  This verse occurs amid a discussion of the distortions inflicted upon the previous books.  God says, “Lo! Those who distort Our revelations are not hid from Us.  Is he who is hurled into the Fire better, or he who cometh secure on the Day of Resurrection?  Do what ye will.  Lo! He is Seer of what you do,” (41:40).  Rabbis, pastors, popes, and preachers alike—no one has the authority to change the word of God, and yet they have altered it again and again over the centuries.       

 

No such alteration has occurred in the history of the Qur’an.  In fact, God promised to preserve the Qur’an, whereas He did not promise to preserve the books of Abraham, David, Moses, or Jesus (peace be upon them all).  God describes the Qur’an, saying, “Lo! It is an unassailable Scripture.  Falsehood cannot come at it from before it or behind it—a revelation from the Wise, the Owner of Praise,” (41:41-42).  In this pledge, God guarantees the preservation of the Qur’an, although previous books entrusted to previous nations were violated by those followers. 

 

With newly edited versions of the Bible coming out every year, we do not need much evidence to convince modern observers that the true, original scripture has been lost over time.  Although some Christians believe that each new edition of the Bible is guided in its evolution, it certainly is no longer verbatim what was said by Jesus Christ (peace be upon him).  Historical timelines relating the original documentation of the New Testament likewise show a tragic loss of authenticity between words dropped from the lips of Jesus Christ and those letters compiled and stamped “New Testament” by the early Church Councils. 

 

The Qur’an, on the other hand, has a distinctive history of meticulous preservation.  It was written immediately, dictated by Muhammad (peace be upon him) to his personal scribes[iii].  The manuscript of the Prophet (peace be upon him) was safe kept in his house, although he could not read it himself, being illiterate.  An official manuscript of the state was compiled during the Caliphite of Abu Bakr (about one year after the death of Prophet Muhammad), relying on original manuscripts written in the lifetime of the Prophet (peace be upon him).[iv]  However, the Qur’an was and is mainly preserved by memorizers who still populate the Muslim nation by the thousands.  The power of this oral transmission method should not be underestimated.  Every accent mark memorized is scrutinized by teachers before “Isnad” is acknowledged for a Hifz student[v].   

 

If these textual quotes and historical facts do not convince a person, we can also reason that if the original language of revelation is dead, then the book is not accessible to modern worshippers. Devout followers who seriously accept their book as the literal words of God desire, and indeed require, a personal connection to their holy book.  A translator is an unacceptable middleman, which is why one finds Non-Arab Muslims all over the world striving to learn the Arabic language.  Arabic is by no means a dead language, as are Aramaic, New Testament Greek, and Latin.  The need for a book in a spoken, live language is merely logical.      

 

Another reason behind the revelation of the Qur’an after the Torah and New Testament is that it does contain a few adjustments in laws.  Whether these adjustments are new to mankind or simply a correction of what Jews and Christians altered in their books differs case to case.  The Qur’an says, “Lo! This Qur’an narrates unto the Children of

Israel most of that concerning which they differ,” (Qur’an, Surah an-Naml, 27:76).  These juristic rulings do not largely change the religion itself.  The face of the religion, its core principles and fundamental message, is recognizable to those who read the previous books. 

 

So why do some Judeo-Christian people find it difficult to accept the Qur’an, although it closely resembles their own holy books in its basic message to humanity? 

 

Firstly, distortions of previous books penetrated the essential message of the religion, notably by the introduction of the trinity concept in early christianity.[1]  Christian rhetoric promoting Jesus Christ as a savior in place of God Himself deters people from the monotheistic message of the Qur’an, because they fear that without the trinity doctrine they will be eternally doomed to hellfire. 

 

Previous generations, closer to the time of Jesus, were also closer to the initial, original message of Jesus and his Scripture.  About this more educated, monotheistic generation of Christians, God says, “Those unto whom We gave the scripture before it [i.e. the Qur’an], they believe in it.  And when it is recited unto them, they say: ‘We believe in it.  Lo! It is the truth from our Lord.  Lo! Even before it we were of those who surrender (unto God).  These will be given their reward twice over,” (Qur’an, Surah al-Qasas, 28:52-54).  Their reward is double because they accepted two prophets, since their lifetime witnessed the overlapping of Jesus’s time and Muhammad’s time (peace be upon them both)[vi].        

 

Secondly, people are neglectful of religion as an issue in their life in general.  We still see a large number of converts to Islam from Judeo-Christian heritage.  However, in our modern age, the vast majority of people are out of touch with their religious scripture.  Spirituality is not a high priority for most people.  Qur’an relates this negligence.  After reciting stories of many prophets, including John, Jesus, Moses, and Aaron, God says, “These are they unto whom Allah showed favor from among the Prophets, of the seed of Adam of those whom We carried (in the ship) with Noah, and the seed of Abraham and Israel, and from among those whom We guided and chose.  When the revelations of the Beneficent were recited unto them, they fell down, adoring and weeping. [vii]  Now there hath succeeded them a later generation who have ruined worship and have followed lusts.  But they will meet deception,  save him who shall repent and believe and do right.  Such will enter the Garden, and they will not be wronged aught.”  (Qur’an, Surah Maryam, 19:58-60)

 

It seems that our modern generation is so absorbed by worldliness and materialism that we do not know the Torah or Gospel well enough to recognize their sequel in the Qur’an.[viii]  

 

In the Western hemisphere, we are admittedly a producer-consumer society.  Most productive adults’ schedules are heavily burdened with inordinate work hours, and leisure time is filled with entertainment rather than worship.  Hedonistic lifestyle choices dominate our Western culture, and it is very difficult to detach ourselves from this overwhelming push toward temporal, superficial aims.  Our hearts are not softened to the subtle joys of prayer, though many of us deeply crave a more spiritual, purposeful existence. 

 

Thirdly, Muslims need to do more to present the Qur’an to Judeo-Christian communities.  Interfaith meetings are a part of Islamic tradition, and the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was keen to recite the Qur’an to all other religious groups during his lifetime.  He held a special counsel with Christian leaders of his age, inviting them to the Qur’an.  The Qur’an instructs Muslims to tell People of the Scripture, meaning Jews and Christians, “And say: ‘We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our God and your God is One, and unto Him we surrender,” (Qur’an, Surah al-Ankibut, 29:46). 

 

The Qur’an speaks for itself, once a person ventures to pick it up and explore its verses.  But Muslims must work[ix] to make the Word of God available to people so that they can make an educated choice for themselves.         

 

Will another book come?  Once a person realizes that God has revealed a succession of holy books, it is natural to question what book may come next. 

 

Muslims assert that the Qur’an is the final word of God because Muhammad is His final messenger.  While every previous scripture foretold a future prophet, the Qur’an declares, “This day have I perfected your religion for you and completed My favor unto you, and have chosen for you as religion Al-Islam[x],” (Qur’an, Surah Maidah, 5:3).  It also says, “Muhammad is not the father of any man among you[xi], but he is the messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets, and Allah is Aware of all things,” (Qur’an, Surah Ahzab, 33:40).    

 

The Qur’an is our last chance to adhere to God’s words.  In the Qur’an, we have a great opportunity to read God’s authentic words verbatim, to have a conversation with God Himself.  And the Qur’an is not only given to the Children of Israel, but to all humankind.  Each and every one of us is invited to listen, to understand, and to believe in the Qur’an, a Scripture whose prophet was foretold in previous books. 

 

The heritage of the Scrolls, Psalms, Torah, and Gospel is a part of the Qur’an’s broader history, the history of God’s communications with mankind.  Through this relationship, Muslims walk in the path of Abraham the upright, as the Qur’an says,

“Say: Lo! As for me, my Lord hath guided me unto a straight path, a right religion, the community of Abraham, the upright, who was not an idolator.

Say: Lo! My worship and my sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah, Lord of the Worlds.  He hath no partner. This am I commanded, and I am first of those who surrender (unto Him),”  (Qur’an, Surah An-Am, 6:161-163).  This heritage and confirmation is reiterated in other verses, including, “Say (O Muhamad): We believe in Allah and that which is revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and that which was vouchsafed unto Moses and Jesus and the Prophets from their Lord.  We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered,” (Qur’an, Surah Aly Imran, 3:84). 

 

Accepting Islam means confirming all those previous prophets and holy Scriptures.  A Muslim is not a person who derides the Torah of Moses or Gospel of Jesus (peace be upon them).  As the Qur’an describes, “The Messenger believes in that which has been revealed unto him from his Lord and (so do) the believers.  Each one believes in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers—We make no distinction between any of His messenger[xii]—and they say: ‘We hear, and we obey.  Grant us Thy forgiveness, Our Lord!  Unto You is the journeying,’” (Qur’an, Surah Baqarah, 2:285).  Conversely, when a Jew or Christian embraces Islam, he or she does not abandon the righteousness preached in the Torah and Gospel.  A convert to Islam from Judeo-Christian heritage extends his or her faith in the Torah or Bible to the next chapter in God’s revelation, the confirmation of previous books, the final word to humanity, the holy Qur’an. 

 



End Notes

 

[i] A similar phrase occurs at least a dozen times in the Qur’an, including (5:48; 2:41; 2:89; 2:91; 2:101; 3:3; 3:81; 4:47; 6:92; 35:31; 46:12; 46:30).  For an example in context, you may refer to the verses, “Allah! There is no God save Him, the Alive, the Eternal.  He hath revealed unto thee (Muhammad) the Scripture with truth, confirming that which was revealed before it, even as He revealed the Torah and the Gospel aforetime, for a guidance to mankind; and hath revealed the Criterion (of right and wrong). Lo! Those who disbelieve in the revelations of Allah, theirs will be a heavy doom.  Allah is Mighty, Able to Requite,” (Qur’an, Surah Aly Imran, 3:1-4).

 

 

[ii] “We” here is a singular royal pronoun and does not indicate plurality. 

 

[iii] notably Zaid ibn Thabit

 

[iv] Compiling an official state manuscript of the Qur’an, a deliberate preservation measure, was prompted by the sudden death of several hundred memorizers in the Battle of Yamama, 633 C.E (11 A.H).  Later on,  during the Caliphite of Uthman, copies were scribed and distributed to governors of major cities in the Islamic Empire. Manuscripts of the Qur'an from the first century still exist today, some displayed in museums and some kept in protected libraries.  (For more information see:

www.islamic-awareness.org)

  

[v] The preservation of the Qur’an is a fascinating topic, and many authors have addressed this issue.  The book Ulum al-Qur’an, by Ahmed von Denfer, is an invaluable resource in English giving in brief the history of the Qur’an and its sciences.  It is available online at islamworld.com. 

         

The word Hifz means memorization.  A Haafiz is a memorizer of the entire Qur’an.  In order to possess a Sanad or Isnad, however, the memorizer must gain approval for his memorization and recitation accuracy from a qualified teacher.  After that rigorous examination, he or she would be part of the Sanad, or Chain, of memorizers.  That means he or she would know, by name, who taught who from the lips of the Prophet (peace be upon him) to him or herself throughout time without any “missing link”.  Students seeking Sanad obviously take their role in preserving the Qur’an very seriously.   

 

[vi] A special relationship exists between Jesus and Muhammad (peace be upon them both).  Prophet Muhammad spoke about Prophet Jesus, saying, “I am most akin to Jesus Christ among the whole of mankind.  And all the prophets are of different mothers but one religion.  No prophet was born between my time and that of Jesus,” (recorded by Bukhari and Muslim). 

 

 

[vii] A similar verse states, “And it is a Qur’an that We have divided that thou mayest recite it unto mankind at intervals, and We have revealed it by successive revelation.  Say: Believe therein or believe not, lo! Those who were given knowledge before it, when it is read unto them, fall down prostrate on their faces, adoring, saying: ‘Glory to our Lord! Verily the promise of our Lord must be fulfilled.’ They fall down on their faces, weeping, and it increaseth humility in them,”  (Qur’an, Surah Israel, 17:106-109).

 

 

[viii] Of course, there are those who know their holy book well, and do easily recognize the signs of the messenger in the man called Muhammad (peace be upon him) and the words of God in the book called Qur’an, and yet they reject Islam.  This rejection is usually motivated by insincere worship, arrogance, and political power-seeking.  Their religious identity is nationalistic or ethnic rather than spiritual.   

 

 

[ix] Our work to present the Qur’an in a fair and objective light is even more challenging in this day and age, wherein Western media spins current affairs and fictional drama concerning Muslims—and it’s often difficult to distinguish one genre from the other—into stereotypes that promote Islamophobia and mass paranoia against Muslims and Islam.

 

 

[x] Al-Islam means The Islam, or The Surrender (i.e. to God). 

 

[xi] Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) had two sons, Qasim and Ibrahim, both of whom died in childhood.  Only his daughters lived into adulthood, and of them only Fatimah survived him.  As this verse of Qur’an states, the legacy of the Prophet Muhammad was not a familial dynasty but a religious message.  No one like him would follow in his stead. 

 

 

[xii] This means that Muslims do not selectively confirm or exclude prophets, but they accept them all wholeheartedly. 

 






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