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Summary of 10.9 "Source of the Quran VIII - Borrowing from the Bible I"

The first point we clarified last time was that any similarity between the Bible or any previous scripture and the Quran doesn’t mean that the most resent copied from the older one because both scriptures could have based this information on the same original source which in this case is divine revelation.  Second, we indicated that the relevant recency of the Quran is an advantage because as the Quran indicated it came as the criterion or a revelation from Allah to superseded previous revelations, confirming what remained intact and correcting interpretations that may have not been entirely correct and giving comprehensive guidance to human life on earth.  If we want to make comparisons between the Bible and the Quran we have to keep in mind some essential differences which we discussed depending on it all being revelation, part revelation, human interpretation, when and how these things were written and if they are available in the original language in which the Prophet uttered and so on.  Likewise we pointed out some common errors which non-Muslims or even Muslims make in equating some of the Quranic terminology that refers to previous scriptures such as Al Zabour, Al Toura and Al Injeal with the usual Psalms, Torah or Gospel or even in some cases with the Old Testament or New Testament and we indicated that these are not identical in that the Muslim obligation to believe in previous scriptures and holy books revealed to the Prophets and not to biographies written by their followers about what they taught.  The main thing really was just to show that the Quran was a quite independent as a set of revelation from God both in terms of the creeds contained in the Quran as well as matters of history.


10.10   Source of the Quran IX - Borrowing from the Bible II

Host:  How is the conception of Allah or God compares in the Quran and the Bible?  How does this confirm that the Quran was not influenced by the Bible?

Jamal Badawi:

A basic similarity between the beliefs of Jews, Christians and Muslims is the belief in one true universal Compassionate, Mighty, Just, Creator and Sustainer of the universe.  Whether the Creator is called Allah, Arabic, or God there is this common ground to start from.  To be honest there are some points that are basically different.  The first thing that strikes any student of both scriptures is the notion of anthropomorphism in the Bible or the way it depicts God as a sort of super man or super human.  The evidences of this are quite plentiful and this point alone shows that the Quran could never have been influenced by the Bible.  For example in the first book of Genesis in (1:26) we are told that God created man in His own image.  This leads the reader to believe that God is just like humans because man is made in God’s image.  I am aware that some may claim that image means spiritual because God is spiritual not material.  My feeling is that this is more of an apologetic or questionable response because of three reasons.  This statement doesn’t only appear in the first chapter of the Book of Genesis but it also appears in chapter five in the first verse.  Interestingly enough this is the same term or expression used to refer to the son of Adam Seth because it said that Adam got a child in his likeness after his image.  Apparently the usage of the term seemed to imply the physical image.

A second reason that the notion of spiritual image is not very convincing is that the notion of Allah resembling humans might have contributed to the notion that emerged later on in the New Testament of Jesus being the God incarnate.  We all know that these types of interpretations have influenced the thoughts of Christians throughout history.  The famous artist Michael Angelo in his depiction of God as an old man and Jesus as a younger man by His side, seemed to show that this was a more common interpretation of what image of God really means.  The third reason is that in the other quotations that we may discuss or refer too we will find that this notion of anthropomorphism, thinking of God in human terms, is not only in the first chapter of the first book of Genesis but it is repeated in many other contexts.

For example in the third chapter of the book of Genesis (8-11) we are told that when Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree they hid themselves and then they heard the Lord walking in the freshness of the day and they hid themselves and then He started calling them.  He asked where they were and they said they were naked and he asked how they knew that they were naked and if they had eaten from the tree.  The implication seems to be quite obvious as to how Adam and Eve could hear the Lord walking in the Garden unless the image of God is more physical being moving and making that noise.  The same point is made about the story of Prophet Noah when the Arc settled on Mount Araghat.  The Book of Genesis in (8:21) we are told that he offered a burnt offering, then it says that the Lord smelled the sweet savor which is giving him human characters of smell for example.  Fourth we get the impression from the Bible that God is like a human and He forgets and doesn’t need someone to remind him.  Fourthly, we get the impression from reading the Bible that God is like a human he forgets and may need someone to remind him and he may have to move from one place to the other to find out what is going on.

A quick reference is in the ninth book of Genesis (15-16) when that there is a bow in the clouds so that God remembers His covenant, or in the book of Genesis chapter 18 of God going to Sodom and Gomorra to find out what people were doing.  A fifth point is the notion that God needed rest like the humans.  In the second chapter of the book of Genesis in verse 2 we are told that God created the Heavens and the Earth in 6 days and then He rested.  And this is the origin of the word Sabbath.  This again seems to be of a super human or a manlike type of God.  Sixth, before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorra in the 18th chapter of the book of Genesis that the Lord appeared to Abraham and he sat in the tenth door in the heat of the day.  The seventh point is that there are times that a Muslim reader gets the impression from reading the Bible that God is like a human and He forgets, regrets and doesn’t know what would happen in the future and is surprised at things happening.  This is clear shortly before the story of the flood in Genesis (6:6).  The same notion was repeated when God thought to punish the Israelites because of their infractions as we find in the book of Exodus in chapter (32:14).  These are only seven examples which show anthropomorphic thinking of God.  There are other things that a Muslim may notice in the bible which shows how God is sometimes worried as if He is competing with the power of the humans.


Host:  Are there reference that could be checked to examine these statements?

Jamal Badawi:

Going back to the book of Genesis and the famous story of Adam and Eve we are told in the second book in (2:9) that the tree which was forbidden to Adam and Eve was the tree of knowledge and provided the distinction between right and wrong.  We are also told that when they ate from that tree one of the main reasons that God didn’t like that behavior was because he was afraid that the human would “become one of us” as is found in (3:22) of the book of Genesis.  In Islamic understanding the knowledge of right and wrong was inherent in human nature before they ate from the tree.  Eating from the tree was a result of human nature.  In the same chapter (3:22-24) we are told that God was worried that after Adam and Eve ate from the tree of knowledge they may move on and eat from the tree of life and as such live forever.  It says that God placed a flaming sword which moved in many directions in order to keep the way of the tree of life.  Similarly in the famous story of the building of the tower of Babel which appears in Genesis (11:5-9) that God looked down at what man had built and was worried that the human race united, their language was one and that there was nothing that they wanted to do that they could be restrained from doing.  He decided to confound their languages, which is the source of the term Babel, so that they can not understand each other.  Again this seems to indicate that there was a sense of worry that the human power may be competing with His might.  A third example is the reason why Jacob was called Israel.  In the famous story depicted in Genesis (32:22) where it says that Jacob when he was alone one night wrestled with a man and then realized that this man was the Lord and that Jacob prevailed over God, even though He touched the thigh of Jacob and took it out of its joint, but in any case Jacob was triumphant.  Then it says that God blessed him that night and it was indicated that God told him that his name would no longer be Jacob but Israel because he had power with men and with God.  These are three indicators that the perception of God in the Bible seems to indicate a sort of human like nature to God which is a limitation.


Host:  How do the references from the Bible compare to those found in the Quran?

Jamal Badawi:

While the Quran emphasis the individual intimate relation between the human and the creator we find that there is a parallel emphasis on the transcendence of the Creator and His dissimilarity from anything that He created.  In that sense we can say that the concept of monotheism in the purest form called towheed is quite different in some important respect from the New Testament, the Old Testament and from the notion common among Jews or Christians.  The Quran doesn’t have any notion of a God incarnate or a God who became a man.  In (9:13), (4:69), (76:77), (15:19) and numerous other places where the basic emphasis that Jesus (PBUH) was a human being and great messenger and Prophet of God and the notion of trinity is absolutely untraceable in the Quran.  In addition to this if we compare citations that are in the Quran with some of the points that were raised earlier we find that the notion of an anthropomorphic God has no parallel in the Quran.  In (42:11) in the Quran it says “there is nothing whatever like unto Him.”  In (6:103) again it indicates that thoughts can not comprehend God but He comprehends all visions and thoughts.

In (112:1-4) “Say: He is Allah, the One and Only; Allah, the Eternal, Absolute; He begetteth not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.”  We notice agin the basic notion of the transcendence and that He is dissimilar to any other creator or otherwise is consistent with other situations in the Quran which show that He doesn’t need rest or sleep as we find in (2:255) where it indicates that God doesn’t get overtaken by slumber.  In (42:11) we find the same thing and that He created the heavens and the earth without exerting any effort.  There is no question in the Quran of God worrying about the increasing power of the human.  In (36:82) of the Quran we are told that His command if He wills it to be is simply to say to it “Be” and it is.  How can the creator of the heavens and earth be worried about power, knowledge or strength of humans?

The Quran indicates that God’s knowledge includes the past present and future.  References on this can be found (2:5-6) and (6:59).  In the Old Testament God is depicted as a tribal God (for example the God of Israel) but in there is not a single place where the Quran refers to Allah as the God of Qurishe as opposed to the God of Israel, nor was her referred to as the God of Arabs or Israel.  It speaks of God as the universal God of all humanity and the universe.  From the first Surah to the last the emphasis is on Lord of the universe and Lord of humankind.  Through this series of citations the main point is that there are fundamental differences in the concept of towheed in the Quran compared with either the Old or New Testament.  These differences are not just casual differences but the  Quranic concept is presented with a great deal of consistency but shows that it is totally independent from the either the Old or New Testament.  It is perhaps the purest, most profound yet simple conception about the creator that can be found anywhere.


Host:  What similarities and differences are related to the question of the Quran borrowing from the Bible?

Jamal Badawi:

In the Judaeo Christian as well as the Islamic view there is an agreement that God chose certain individuals and showed His will to them and put them in charge of communicating the message to the rest of mankind.  In the Quran we find that unlike the Bible the Prophet is not presented as someone who has the power of prophecy.  The concept of a Prophet in the Quran seems to stand between two extremes.  The extreme that one finds in the Old Testament of major moral sins and shaky belief and the other extreme that is found in the New Testament which exaggerates the importance of Prophets to the point of deifying them.


Host:  Why are these differences important?

Jamal Badawi:

Two things are easily detectable by a Muslim reader of the Bible.  One is that some Prophets are accused of having a compromise in matters of belief or faith in God.  Second, some Prophets are accused of major sins and moral sins which one would not expect from an average reasonable individual.  The example of the first one is that of Aaron the brother of Moses.  We are told in the book of Exudes in the beginning of chapter 32 that when Moses went to Sini to receive the Torah from God that it was Aaron who collected the gold from the women and made it into a golden calf.  The Quran makes it clear that he was innocent of this kind of story.

In the case of Prophet Solomon who is regarded as a Prophet we are told in the first book of Kings in (11:4) that towards the end of his life his wives turned his heart away from God and inclined towards to gods.  As far as the question of moral sin attributed to Prophethood which the Quran doesn’t accept: from Prophet Abraham we are told that he claimed that Sarah was his sister which resulted in the Pharaoh taking her and was about to take her as his concubine.  This appears in the 12th chapter in the book of Genesis in verses 12-16.  The Problem is that the same behavior is attributed to Prophet Abraham when he went to see the king of Gerar which is found in the 20th chapter of the book of Genesis.  Again he claimed his wife to be his sister and that the king took her.

The other example of this is a contemporary of Prophet Abraham, Prophet  Lute and the story of his two daughters is quite famous and is found in the Book of Genesis(19:30-38) where a major moral crime was attributed to Lute.  It was attributed in the same chapter that he gave his two daughters to the people of Sodom and Gomorra to do with them as they pleased just to save his guests.  Similar moral infractions were attributed to Prophet David and his story with the wife of Uriah, the Hittite and that he committed adultery with her and used all kinds of deception to conceal it which is found in the second book of Samuel in chapter 12.  This is quite different from the way that the Quran depicts those great personalities.


Host:  Can we address the question of sin, human nature and how to overcome sin; how does the Bible and Quran compare on this issue?

Jamal Badawi:

Perhaps if we backtrack to the issue of Prophet it might pave the way to understanding what sin means in the Quran and how it compares to the Bible.  As compared with this kind of description we find that within the Quran there is only praise for them.  They are praised as individuals who are steadfast in their firm belief in God, in terms of their high moral qualities as we find in the Quran in (3:33) and (19:41-59).  These show that from an Islamic standpoint a Prophet is really the best model for his people and if the Prophet was a person who could compromise matters of faith and belief how could he be entrusted by God to communicate his message to mankind?  If the Prophet tells people day and night not to commit adultery, do not lie or steal and then he commits those sins these teachings would not have any meaning or weight.  The notion of the Prophet here is considerably different.  This is what is referred to as the Ismah or infallibility of the Prophets.  This means they are humans and are capable of committing small mistakes here and there but but to commit major sins in matters of belief or behavior is not something that is really befitting the Prophets and their role in human history.  The Quran presents them as the select of the select as we find in (6:68) and (21:73) and that the Prophets are the best models for humankind to follow.


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