Verses from the Quran that suggest alleged corruption or perversion of the Bible

While the Quran speaks very highly of the former scriptures in many places there are other references which Muslims cite in support of their contention that the text of the Bible has been wilfully tampered with. In the light of his high view of scripture this is the last thing we should expect to hear from the lips of Muhammad. We consider the following verses, which are typical and representative and supply comments which reflect the context of the verse.

1) > “Seeing that a party of them heard the Word of Allah, and perverted it knowingly after they understood it.” (Al-Baqarrah 2:75)

Comment: They perverted it, (altered, corrupted), and knew that they did so this is a general charge against the Jews with reference to their own Scripture’s.

2) > “But the transgressors among them (Jews) changed the word from that which had been given them so we sent on them a plague from heaven. For that they repeatedly transgressed” (Al-A’raf 7:162)

Comment: This is explained by the commentators as referring to an incident in Jewish history when, instead of saying hittat (forgiveness) as divinely commanded, the Jews wilfully mispronounced the word to make it habbat (corn).

3) >”There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: (As they read) you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, “That is from Allah,” but it is not from Allah: It is they who tell a lie against Allah, and (well) they know it!” (Al-Imran 3:78)

Comment: The implication is that by a deceptive mode of recitation, in fact mispronunciation, passages were made to appear as coming from the book, though in reality they were not; in other words, the Jews were pretending that they were reading from their Scripture.

4) > “Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say: “This is from Allah,” to traffic with it for miserable price! Woe to them for what their hands do write, and for the gain they make thereby” (Al-Baqarrah 2:79)

Comment: This is said of ignorant Jews who sought to deceive Muhammad by presenting to him passages written out by them from their traditions and rabbinical books, and asserting that they were authoritative and divine.

5) > “And cover not truth with falsehood, nor conceal the truth when ye know” (Al-Baqarrah 2:42).

Comment:  The concealing was said to be concealing verses in the Taurat which were supposed to be in praise of Muhammad.

6) > “No just estimate of Allah do they make when they say: “Nothing doth Allah send down to man (by way of revelation)” Say: “Who then sent down the Book which Moses brought? a light and guidance to man: But ye make it into (separate) sheets for show, while ye conceal much (of its contents): therein were ye taught that which ye knew not neither ye nor your fathers.” (Al-An’am 6:91)

Comment: Ibn Ishaq says that when asked to read out the verse of stoning for adultery in the Mosaic law a Jewish leader actually laid his hand on the incriminating verse, whereupon one named ‘Abdullah ibn Salam, a renegade Jew, struck away the hand of the reader saying: “There, Prophet of God, there is the verse if stoning which he refuses to read to thee”!

7) > “Of the Jews there are those who displace words from their (right) places, and say: “We hear and we disobey”; and “Hear what is not Heard”; and “Ra’ina”; with a twist of their tongues and a slander to faith. If only they had said: “What hear and we obey”; and “Do hear”; and “Do look at us”; it would have been better for them, and more proper” (An-Nisa 4:46)

Comment:  The complaint here made is that the Jew “perverted” words of salutation to make them sound like abuse

8  > “O Messenger! let not those grieve thee, who race each other into unbelief: (whether it be) among those who say “We believe” with their lips but whose hearts have no faith; or it be among the Jews, men who will listen to any lie, will listen even to others who have never so much as come to thee. They change the words from their (right) times and places” (Al-Maidah 5:41).

This charge of perversion, or “dislocation”, of words is quite general; the actual illustrations given at this place have nothing whatever to do with the Scriptures.

Further instances of such “concealment”,

> “The people of the Book know this as they know their own sons; but some of them conceal the truth which they themselves know” (Al-Baqarrah 2:146).

>”Those who conceal the clear (signs) We have sent down, and the guidance, after We have made it clear for the people in the Book, on them shall be Allah’s curse” (Al-Baqarrah 2:159)

> “Ye People of the Book! Why do ye clothe truth with falsehood, and conceal the truth, while ye have knowledge?” (Al-Imran 3:71)

 

Two facts emerge from a consideration of these passages

(1) The people against whom Muhammad brings these charge are Jews, not Christians; no such complaint is made against the latter in any part of the Quran;

(2) Even so, in no case are the Jews charged with having tampered with the text of their Scriptures. Indeed, due to the high regard the Quran has to the earlier books it is unthinkable that by these expressions Muhammad intended to imply actual corruption of the text. On the other hand, it may fairly be argued that these complaints rather testify to the genuineness of the Scriptures in Muhammad’s day, for there can be no “mispronunciation “unless the right word is there; one cannot “write wrongly” unless the correct text be before one; there can be no “hiding the truth” unless one has the truth to hide.

 

Early Muslim Commentators agree that no corruption of the text took place

Many early Muslim writers recognized that no verbal corruption (tahrif-i-lafzi) occurred in the former scriptures. Tahrif-i-lafzi may be effected by adding words or phrases not in the original text; striking out words or phrases from the text and substituting other words, differing in meaning from those struck out.

Imam Bukhari (810-870 A.D.,) stated there is no man who could corrupt a single word of what has proceeded from God, so that the Jews and Christians could corrupt only by misrepresenting the meaning of the words of God (The Muhammedan Commentary, pp 79 f.).

Also Fakhruddin Razi (1150-1210 A.D.) when commenting on the verse: “Those who conceal Allah’s revelations in the Book, and purchase for them a miserable profit, they swallow into themselves naught but Fire” (Al-Baqarrah 2:174) states, on the authority of Ibn ‘Abbas, a nephew of Muhammad, that “The Jews and early Christians were suspected, of altering the text of the Taurat and Injil; but in the opinion of eminent doctors and theologians, it was not practicable thus to corrupt the text, because those Scriptures were generally known and widely circulated, having been handed down from generation, to generation. No interpolation could therefore be made in them, although it is admitted that some people used to conceal their true sense and interpretation” (op. cit., p 81).

It is the opinion of these and other authorities that the “corruption” which the Quran has in view, in such verses as we have quoted, is perversion of meaning and interpretation. Technically this is corruption (tahrif) not of the text (tahrif-i-lafzi verbal corruption) but of the corruption of meaning, or interpretation (tahrif-i-Ma’nawi)

For instance, Fakhruddin Razi expounds the significance of the words “mix not the truth with falsehood” in 2:42 and 3:71 as follows: “The Jews were always denying the rightful interpretation of these prophecies, and busied themselves in captious and unprofitable disputations, and in striving, by over-strained arguments and illogical reasoning, to explain away their true meaning. It was then that this ayat was sent down from heaven enjoining them not to adulterate truth with falsehood, so as to mislead people by the doubts they cast upon the true sense of the disputed passages of Scripture.”. “The phrase ‘knowingly concealing the truth,’ has reference to the dissembling conduct of the Jews, in that they perverted the sense of those prophecies in the Old Testament which pointed to the coming of Muhammad as God’s Apostle. The right apprehension of those predictions demanded much thought and judgment, and the Jews used to strive to conceal the passages which conveyed the truth. (Op.cit. pp, 86 f.)” In other words, the Jews are charged with concealing and lying about the contents of their Book and with twisting it with false interpretation. They are even likened in the Quran to an ass laden with valuable books, of the contents and value of which it is grossly ignorant:

> “The similitude of those who were charged with the (obligations of the) Mosaic Law, but who subsequently failed in those (obligations), is that of a donkey which carries huge tomes (but understands them not). Evil is the similitude of people who  falsify the signs of Allah” (Al-Jumu’ah 62:5).

 

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