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Summary of 10.8 "Source of the Quran VII - Learning from Others?"

Last week was part of a series of the examination of the source of the Quran or its authorship.  When we began we said that there are three basic possible assumptions: if the Quran was authored by Prophet Muhammad, if he learned it from another source or if it is a revelation from Allah.  In several programs we examined the possibility that Prophet Muhammad was the author of the Quran and in several programs we showed that this was a totally untenable assumption.  Last week’s program examined the second assumption.  Is it possible that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) learned the Quran through some other source.  We tried to examine whether there could have been a possible human teacher from whom the Prophet could have learned the Quran.  We analyzed it in terms of the characteristics of the Prophet himself as a truthful person and the fact that the environment that he was brought up in did not provide for this kind of knowledge or information.  We discussed other aspects with respect to Jews or Christians living in the Arabian peninsula or people that he might have meat in his limited travel.  We concluded that his life was exposed to everyone and that everyone could see who his contacts were.  His opponents kept a watch on him and if there was the slightest evidence of a human teacher/s it would have been clearly recorded in history.  This shows that if there were any teacher of the Quran to the prophet it was non but Gabriel the Angel of revelation.  We find this in the Quran in (53:6).


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

Host:  Was the Quran influenced by the Bible?

Jamal Badawi:

It is interesting to notice that for centuries in recent decades lots of orientalist have been busying themselves in trying to discover the parallels between the two Books.  The basis behind this was to show the influence of the Quran or the Judeo-Christian tradition on Islam.  In this endeavor there seems to have been a number of points that were either concealed or forgotten.  First of all, to assume that there is any influence of any previous scriptures on the Quran in fact would be another way of saying that Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was one of the most plagiarizers in human history who carefully studied previous scriptures, chose specific things that would constitute a consistent perfect fit and came up with a new ideology and claimed that it came from a divine source.  We have already seen in previous programs that on the basis of psychological, historical, logical grounds that this kind of assumption is far from reality.  A point that is forgotten was expressed nicely by Dr. Tibawi in his useful volume called “Speaking Orientalists” published by the Islamic Center in Geneva Switzerland.  As a historian and scholar he says that the similarity between any two compositions is not sufficient evidence that one of them copied from the other.  He gives a very reasonable argument which is used by historians.  Both books could in tern be based on a third source.  If the Quran and the Bible were human books which we do not believe they were there is no sufficient evidence to prove any of it.  There are definitely certain parts of the Bible that might have  remained intact and reflect the basis of the revelation which was given to Prophets before.

We find that the Quran is totally and completely nothing but the pure word of Allah.  If Allah was the source of both revelations, it would answer the question of there being similarity.  Because the source of revelation that was given to Moses, Jesus, David or other Prophets is the same source that gave this revelation to Muhammad.  What then is strange that there are certain things in the Quran which are similar to the Bible?  This doesn’t mean that one copied from the other.  In fact, some scholars say that if we take the ten commandments that we may find that in some religions that preceded Christianity and Judaism like Hinduism one might find similar statements.  Does this mean that Judaeo Christian traditions were all copied from Hindu scriptures?  Nobody can make that unreasonable assumption.  In this kind of discussion there seems to be an implicit assumption that a scripture, which is older has more validity than one that is more recent which is not necessarily true.


Host:  Why are older scriptures not more dependable than a latter one?

Jamal Badawi:

Suppose that we assume that two scriptures were equally preserved and were intact in their purity would be a different story all together.  The situation here is different.  If there were sufficient historical, logical or otherwise that the later revelation was revealed with the intention of superseding a prier revelation.  Then this becomes more important and its relevant recency becomes a positive rather than a negative.  If God revealed His will in different ways throughout human history and kept in mind through revelation of the human race and then came with the last form of revelation, being more recent and being last is an advantage which doesn’t make older scriptures more valid because it is supposed to supersede it.  The Quran makes a reference to this characteristic in (5:48).

Second, to compare scripture one has to keep in mind the question of authenticity and how far each of them remained intact.  There is ample evidence that only in the case of the Quran and no other scripture revealed before it do we find clear evidence and proof that it was not subjected to being mixed with human interpretation at a later time.  It was recorded in the lifetime of the Prophet under his supervision and in the same original language.  Again one can not compare the older verses the recent, but one must look carefully into the relative authenticity and how each of them reached us today.


Host:  Because you say that the Quran supersede previous scriptures does this mean that there should be no comparisons or any attempt to compare the Bible and the Quran?

Jamal Badawi:

There may be some who hold the view that one would be comparing two documents which are quite different.  As one is a combination of revelation plus other commentary of the followers of the Prophet which is the case of the Bible verses a Book which is totally and exclusively the world of Allah or revelation without any human agent contributing to its content.  In my humble understanding I do not see a problem in making comparisons whether this is being made by a Muslim scholar or a non Muslim scholar if the intention behind it is to analyze issues and try to develop a better understanding of some of the common problems, provided that the basic differences between the Bible and the Quran are kept in mind.


Host:  What are fundamental differences between the Quran and the Bible?

Jamal Badawi:

First, when we speak about the Bible we are not talking about one book but rather a composite of 66 different books (in the Protestant version as the Catholic version has a few more books).  These books were written by many different authors during different periods of human history.  We compare this with the Quran and we find it to be quite different because the Quran is just one cohesive consistent book and there is no question of there being more than one author as it all was a direct revelation to the last Prophet: Muhammad.  There is no discrepancy of the time of writing as it was written during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and more specifically during his mission which was from the age of 42 to 63.  Secondly, when we talk about the Bible one is talking about a mixture of both certain injunctions and teachings which may have had divine origins as revealed to earlier Prophets.

The Bible also has interpretations added to it by later followers.  The pure revelation does not have this commentary.  Notice that even the words of Prophet Muhammad himself are kept totally separate from what he uttered the state of revelation when the Quran was dictated to him word for word.  His other sayings are known as Hadith and are compiled in totally separate volumes.  There is a big difference between them and the scripture.  The third comparison is that in the case of the bible we find that in both the Old Testament as well as the New Testament there is an element of biography about the Prophets rather than what they received by way of revelation.  For example the Book of Deuteronomy speaks about Moses and what he did.  It talks about him not about what he taught.  In the New Testament, the four Gospels talk about Jesus which are basically four biographies which talk about Jesus written by his followers.  In the Quran we find that it is not simply a biography about Prophet Muhammad written by his followers.  There is no human interference in what the Quran contains.  There might be certain incidents where the word of Allah mentions something that happened in the lifetime of the Prophet, by way of commandments and directives.  The Quran is not a biography about the Prophet or others.  This is known as Serah which is the story of the lifetime of the Prophet which is completely different from Hadith or Prophetic sayings.

In the case of the Bible we find that there are several books which were written many years after the death or after their mission ended on earth.  This is why we find that Biblical scholars indicate that there are a number of difficulties because of this method of preservation.  There are some issues about the authorship of some of the books and who the authors were of certain books.  In the Book of Hebrew in the New Testament the Biblical scholars wonder if it was written by Paul or someone else.  There are other books like Titus which scholars question whether it was written by Paul or if it was attributed to him.  Because many of these books are not available to us in the original language that the Prophets spoke we find that there are questions regarding the identity of the translators.  Who were the translators, when were they translated and when was it written?  Biblical writers refer to this and F.C Grant in his book “Gospels, Their Origin and Growth.”  In the 1960 addition of Encyclopedia Britannica we find that it indicates that before Gospels gained prestige because one or the other was adopted by the major churches of the time.  An interesting from Encyclopedia Americana in the 1959 addition: Volume 3 (pg. 651-653) it indicates that “we have no certain knowledge as to how or where the for called Canon came to be formed.”  It is also known in History that the four Gospels are not the only ones.  In the case of the Quran this problem didn’t ever arise because the entire Quran was written down directly from the mouth of the Prophet, was memorized by multitudes around him during his life time in the original language in which the Quran was revealed.  The original language was Arabic and if there is any doubt one can go to the original.  In that sense we can say there was no human judgement involved in what is to be contained in the Quran.


Host:  What does it mean not to have any human judgement and how does that relate to the Question of comparison?

Jamal Badawi:

Take for example the New Testament and more particularly the four Gospels.  We are told by Church historians that the four Canonized Gospels which we find in the available copies of the Bible were not the only accounts of Prophet Jesus (PBUH).  There were many Gospels but only these four were selected in the Conference of Nice in the year 325 AD.  This was many decades after Jesus (PBUH).  We are not discussing on what bases these were selected and others that were rejected because again we are not talking about something that is uniformly agreed to.  For examples some historians refer to the Gospel of St. Barnabas which is not accepted as a Canonized Gospel and has some fundamental differences from the four other Gospels with respect to the divinity of Prophet Jesus (PBUH).

We are told by Church historians that in the various subsequent conferences sometimes some books would be accepted and at a latter time they would be rejected or the reverse.  The books of the Bible were not always the same throughout history and have always been a matter of dispute and subject of human judgement.  Human beings sat in conferences to determine which part was revelation and which part was not.  The main issue here is that there is no such parallel to the Quran, we never heard in Islamic history that religious scholars tried to determine what Surahs of the Quran should be included in the Quran and what should not.  Nobody has the right to do that because no body has the right to supersede the will of Allah.  There is not such problem in case of the preservation of the Quran.  This doesn’t mean that a Muslim should say that they do not believe in any of the Bible.  What i am saying basically is that when comparisons are made one has to keep in mind these fundamental questions.


Host:  So do Muslims accept some portions of the Bible despite the difficulties we just discussed?

Jamal Badawi:

This is basically true.  Some earlier statements in this program it was indicated that it is part of Muslim belief, a fundamental part of faith, is to believe in the original Holy Scriptures or Holy Books in their original form that were given to previous Prophets.  This doesn’t change because of the difficulties involved in recording and the authenticity of the Bible.  The acceptance of the Muslim of the previous Scriptures is qualified with its consistency with the Quran, the last revelation of the Creator.  Anything that is consistent with the Quran can be accepted by the Muslim.  We should keep in mind that when the Quran refers to legitimate revelations or Holy Books given to previous Prophets in the past like the Torah to Moses, Injeal to Jesus or Zabour to David it doesn’t mean that these are synonymous with what we call a Bible.  This is a very common error that we find in non Muslims as well as some Muslims who do not understand this basic difference.

Some of the points that I will mention may sound elementary to a Jewish or Christian viewer but I want to indulge in this so that Muslims who do not have that much familiarity with the Bible so that there will be a more mutual understanding where everybody has clarity of what certain terms mean.  To start with the Quran mentions previous scriptures given to Prophets.  More specifically it talks about the leaves given to Abraham, Al Zabour given to David whether it is the same as the Psalms given to David, Tourah given to Moses or Al Injeal given to Jesus.  A Muslim who rejects any of these books in their original form is rejecting Islam.  Part of the belief in Islam is believing in the Prophets and what was given to these Prophets.  The point is that the term Bible actually refers to a collection of 66 books (Protestant version) with two sections known as the Old Testament (before Jesus PBUH) and the New Testament (after Jesus PBUH).

In the Old Testament there is a total 39 books and the New Testament has 27 books.  The Old Testament is composed of 39 books and only the first five of them are referred to as the Law or Pentateuch which is sometimes referred to as the Torah of Moses.  These include Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  It is quite significant to realize that when the Quran speaks about the Torah given to Moses it does not speak about the Bible, the Old Testament or even of the five books of the Law.  The reason being is that the Quran speaks of the Torah which was given to Prophet Moses as a revelation.  When we examine these five books one would find for example in the Book of Genesis there are certain historical aspects that preceded the coming of Moses.  We do not know if these were part of the revelation given in Mount Sini or it it is based on previous writings.  Second, in the book of Exodus speaks of the story of the Israelites and their deliverance from Egypt which occurred before Moses received the Torah.

The fifth book of the Law includes the book of Deuteronomy which includes addresses and preachings of Prophet Moses not necessarily just what God told him to preach which could be his own interpretation.  It includes certain portions which were written down after Moses.  Towards the end of chapter 34 in the book of Deuteronomy in verses 5-12 it speaks about Moses dying in such and such land and being buried which is something that took place after the lifetime of Moses.  How can that be part of the Torah received by him on Mount Sini.  Similarly if we take the New Testament we find that it speaks about Jesus being given a revelation called Al Injeal which is not the same as the New Testament which includes more than the Gospels.  It is not equivalent to any or all of the four Gospels either because they are biographies of the life of Jesus but not necessarily what the Quran refers to as specific instructions and revelation given to Prophet Jesus (PBUH).  I do not mind making comparisons if we are aware of these differences.


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