The Qur'an's Teaching about the Word of God

I. MUSLIM TREATMENT OF THE BIBLE
IN DEBATES WITH CHRISTIANS

In a widely-publicized debate held in Durban, South Africa, in 1981, Christian apologist Josh McDowell met Muslim apologist Ahmed Deedat to discuss the question: Was Christ crucified? In the debate, Deedat began his arguments by declaring that the testimony of the four Gospels was worthless because the four evangelists did not sign their names to their Gospels; therefore their testimony could not be received in a modern court of law. Regarding a statement in the Quran that Jesus did not die on the Cross, Deedat said he believes it because "The Muslim believes this authoritative statement as the veritable Word of God. And as such, he asks no questions, and he demands no proof. He says, "There are the words of my Lord; I believe, and I affirm." . . . In a nutshell, the Christian asks how can a man a thousand miles away from the scene of the happening of the crucifixion and 600 years in time away from the happening know what has happened in Jerusalem? The Muslim responds that these are the words of God Almighty.[1]

Deedat went on to ridicule many of the statements in the Scriptures regarding the death and Resurrection of Christ as hearsay. In these opening statements, he therefore set the following tone: the Quran is the word of God; the Bible is error and hearsay. In his rebuttal, Josh brought out many fine points and was faithful in giving his own testimony. Yet this basic thesis of Deedat, that the Bible was not the Word of God and the Quran was, so that the Quran was to be trusted in an unthinking fashion while the Bible can be mocked, was never challenged.

Mr. Deedat,, after his debate with Josh McDowell, apparently was encouraged by his own arguments. He subsequently presented himself as a Bible scholar and wrote a booklet entitled "Is the Bible God's Word?"[2] On page 14 of this booklet, Deedat claims that there are some fifty thousand errors in the Bible. This figure is, of course, ridiculous, and he probably got the number from the literature of the Jehovah's Witnesses, who some years previously had derived this number by adding up all the marginal notes found in some Bibles (those that have the gutter running down the middle of the page to show parallel references and alternate possible translations).

In the year 2002, a Christian evangelistic association in a Muslim country received a challenge to a debate from an Islamic training college. The Christians joyfully accepted and a date was set. When the day for the debate arrived, the Muslim group was well prepared with a barrage of charges regarding what they labeled as "contradictions" in the Bible. The Christians were not prepared for this assault on their Scriptures; the Muslims left exultingly, and the Christians had to be content with a permission to continue to distribute a limited number of Bibles because the book had some historical interest, but not because it was regarded as a divine book by their Muslim opponents, who went away more convinced than ever in the rightness of their own cause and the wrongness of the Christians' gospel.

II. "CONTRADICTIONS" IN THE SCRIPTURE:
CHARGES AND COUNTER-CHARGES

The Bible covers several thousand years of history, and many details of a historical nature are given that describe events under such diverse kingdoms as those of Egypt, Assyria, Babylonia, Persia, and Rome, as well as the many events confined to the history of Israel. It may be contrasted in this regard to the Quran, for which the historical references are limited to what Muhammad would have known from the folk-lore of his tribe, plus several references to material found in the Bible. These Quranic references lack much of the historical detail found in those passages of the Bible that the Quran refers to. This relative paucity of historical material in the Quran is readily explained by Muhammad's limited knowledge of history and the deficiencies in his sources of information regarding the Bible. Those sources of Biblical knowledge seem to have been various Jews and Nestorian Christians whom he met in his travels as a caravaneer. While the Quran does not have much historical information from outside Muhammad's own time and tribal traditions, it has frequent and sometimes lengthy passages dealing with Biblical stories that Muhammad would have heard from the Jews and Christians he came in contact with. Passages in the Quran that restate these stories have glaring and well-known errors in their retelling. Muslim apologists know these errors and contradictions well, and they have invented ingenious explanations for them. It is not the purpose here to enumerate these errors in the Quran, since they are well described in other writings, and they would be apparent to anyone knowledgeable about the Bible who would be reading the Quran for the first time.

The Christian apologist has traditionally followed one or both of two approaches when confronted by a Muslim apologist with apparent contradictions in the Scriptures. The first approach is to give a reasonable explanation to show that the alleged contradiction is only apparent, not real. The second is to take the offensive and point out the contradictions in the Quran.

There are problems that arise when either of these types of response is pursued. For the first response, answering an apparent contradiction: although we should be prepared as much as possible to answer such charges, yet given the tremendous scope of the Bible's history and its immense variety of topics presented, it is impossible for any one person to be fully knowledgeable about the many facets of information that someone could bring up and then say that this is in contradiction to some "fact" that he or she got from somewhere else. I learned this many years ago, when five other young men and myself were pallbearers at a funeral, and in the long ride in a limousine to the grave site, the liberal minister who was conducting the funeral thought it was his duty to tell us repeatedly that the Bible was full of errors. He did this both going to the grave site and returning, so that finally I said quite forcefully that he had now told us five times that the Bible was full of errors, and each time I had asked him to name one, but he had never replied to my request--so now name one. His response: in 2 Chronicles 3:1, Mount Zion was mistakenly called Mount Moriah.

This verse in 2 Chronicles hides within it a marvelous insight, if it is used in conjunction with the only other reference to Mt. Moriah in the Bible, which is in Genesis 22:2, and also with the view of various authorities that Golgotha was on an extension of this same Mt. Moriah, just outside the city walls. Regarding the specific charge of a wrong name, the charge is unwarranted. But I did not know this at the time, and so the best I could do was to ask the minister if he had ever read any conservative explanation of this verse beside the one liberal source he cited. He had not. The point of this is that many of us have had similar experiences, where someone brings up an apparent contradiction in the Scripture, and either we have never realized there was any problem in the text because of our limited knowledge, or if we are able to provide a reasonable answer, the skeptic will bring up some other apparent contradiction and switch the discussion to that. It usually makes no difference to such questioners that every seeming contradiction he or she could bring up has probably been dealt with in an adequate manner by some Christian writer. If they are not sincerely seeking the truth and are unwilling to look into such sources, then the vast breadth of knowledge given in the Bible affords ample possibilities for those who are trying to invent contradictions instead of seeking the truth.

To answer a charge of a contradiction in the Bible with a counter-charge of a contradiction in the Quran, or even to initiate a discussion with such an attack on the Quran, has the immediate danger of causing offence and a categorizing of yourself as an enemy of all righteousness,[3] since the Muslim has been taught from childhood that the Quran is the most sacred object in all the universe. Thus, although there may be some circumstances in which we need to point out errors in the passages of the Quran (for instance, when a Moslem apologist is building his case for the perfection of the Quran, or when he insists on building his case on alleged contradictions in the Bible), yet it is best to heed John Gilchrist's advice when he says ". . . nor do we suggest that Christians should quote such passages in a tit-for-tat response to Muslim objections."[4] The Christian apologist or Christian witness should try to steer discussions away from such charges and counter-charges. The goal is not to win a debate, but to see a life transformed by the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God, through faith in Christ.

III. A THIRD APPROACH

There is an alternative approach to such charges against the Scripture as are brought by some (not all) Muslims, and it takes advantage of the fact that whatever else Muhammad learned from his Jewish and Nestorian teachers, he learned that the Bible was the Word of God. He incorporated this teaching in the Quran, in numerous passages. Some of these passages are included in the three sections at the end of this article, which are meant to be made available in the form of a small tract. The sections cite passages in the Quran declaring that 1) The Holy Bible is the Word of God, 2) The Word of God cannot be changed or lost, and 3) Neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament was lost in Muhammad's day. Of course there is abundance of evidence that neither have the Scriptures been lost since Muhammad's time. Modern translations of the Scripture are made from manuscripts in various libraries that come from a time before Muhammad, so that these modern translations are faithful to copies of the Scriptures that existed in Muhammad's day. The Bible has not been lost or corrupted, either before or after the time the Quran was written.

This is all contrary to present Islamic teaching, which holds that the Injil (Gospel) and the Torah (a word used in the Quran to include the whole Old Testament) have been greatly corrupted and much of their teaching has been lost over the centuries. The three main topics at the end of this monograph are designed to counteract this teaching. The Quran itself is a great help to that end, plainly stating that any Muslim who follows tradition and does not accept the statements of the Quran that the Old Testament and New Testament are the Word of God "hath wandered far away" . . . and is a "disbeliever in truth" for whom is prepared "a shameful doom."

There is a certain similarity between present-day Islam and the state of Christianity during the Middle Ages. For hundreds of years, nominal Christendom forgot the teachings of God's Word, following instead the various traditions that often conflicted with the Scriptures. The leaders of nominal Christendom during this time were men who themselves scarcely bothered to read the Scriptures, and if they did so, whatever teachings they found there that condemned their immoral lifestyle were ignored in favor of practices of the religious hierarchy, which came to have greater and greater control over all aspects of society. This was the time of the Crusades, when both sides in the conflict thought they were fighting a "holy war," but both sides committed terrible atrocities in the name of their religion.

Although there were genuine Christians during all this time who sought their guidance from the Scriptures rather than from the politico-religious hierarchy, yet it was not until the Reformation that there was a widespread turning of many countries, especially in northern Europe, back to the Scriptures as their source of authority, rather than following blindly the traditions taught by their entrenched religious leaders. However, a similar movement has never taken place in the Moslem world, as evidenced by the widespread tradition that Muslims do not need to read the Bible, or even by the teaching of Deedat and others, plainly contradicting the Quran, that the Bible is not God's Word and that it contains numerous contradictions to either external history or to statements within itself.

The Christian apologist, then, should expose these teachers who make such statements about the Holy Bible for what they are--men who follow tradition rather than the teaching of the Quran.[5] By not accepting the words of the prophets in the Bible, and by making distinctions between what the Quran says and "that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the Prophets received from their Lord" (Surah 2:136), the Quran condemns these men as "disbelievers in truth" for whom is reserved "a shameful doom." These are terrifying words. They do not come from any enemy of Islam, but from the Quran.

The Christian apologist needs to understand the principle that in many matters Islam is following tradition rather than the words of the Quran. This is particularly true of the Quran's teaching about the Bible. The Holy Scriptures are even confiscated and burned in Saudi Arabia and other Muslim lands. I would think the best way for a Christian apologist to present this wrong attitude toward the Bible would not be as an attack, but as a matter of great sadness. That sadness should be intensified by the recognition that much of Christendom was in the same state during the Middle Ages, and in the modern world there are many who consider themselves Christians but who do not live according to the teachings of their Holy Scriptures. These things should be freely admitted or confessed. Surah 2:170 from the Quran, and Mark 7:7 and 7:9 from the Gospels, can be presented in this way--not in an confrontational manner, but as a matter of great sadness, the consequences of which (following tradition rather than God's Word) are the immoral practices we see today throughout Christendom and the Islamic world.

One way for Christian evangelists or radio preachers to restore to Islamic listeners their lost heritage in the Old and New Testaments would be to start with some passage in the Quran that describes an event in the Bible. There are numerous such passages, and in most if not all cases the subject being discussed in the Quran cannot be fully understood without the further explanation in the Bible.[6] The pattern then would be to read the selected passage in the Quran, and then ask questions about the passage--questions that can be answered by going to the appropriate Old or New Testament passage. The pattern here should always be to go from the Quran to the Bible, never vice versa. But Christians who live in a largely Muslim culture will know the best way to present such ideas, going beyond the few suggestions I am making here. The eventual purpose should be the same as the purpose for which the Bible was written, namely to bring men and women into a place of forgiveness with God through the merits of the shed blood of the Messiah.

The three sections at the end of this piece outlining the Quran's teaching about the Bible should be adapted as necessary to the various needs to which this small tract could be put. If the Christians presenting the tract are fluent in Arabic, they may wish to make a different translation than that of Pickthall[7] for the Quranic verses. There may also be some verses in the Quran or in the Scriptures that are deemed more appropriate, or the explanatory text may also need adaptation for the intended audience. It may also be advisable where Arabic is widely known to first print the Quran's verses in Arabic, since Muslims hold that any translation of the Quran cannot properly be called the Quran. In a purely Arabic-speaking country, of course, the whole tract would be in Arabic. The ones adopting these pages should also be aware that verse numbers in different editions of the Quran may differ by one from the verse numbers in Pickthall's translation. Finally, most speakers of Arabic prefer that "Quran" be spelled with the apostrophe as "Qur'an," where the apostrophe represents a consonant in Arabic similar to the Hebrew aleph. "Qur'an" is spelled this way in the three sections of the tract, although the simpler spelling has been used in these explanatory notes.

It is my feeling that this tract, or an adaptation of it, may be most useful if designed in an attractive way as a small leaflet to be inserted loosely in the front of all Bibles or New Testaments distributed to Muslims. Such Bibles or New Testaments should always be printed in at least a nice a format as the Muslim has come to expect for his Quran. It would also seem to be good practice to have the word "Holy" on the cover: "The Holy Bible." Christians ministering to Muslims may want to memorize the statements in the Quran regarding the Bible, since memorizing these several verses is far easier than trying to anticipate all possible charges against the truth of God's unique and eternal Word, the Holy Bible.


Following are the contents of
the three pages that could
be made into a small tract.

1. Does the Qur'an Teach That the Holy Bible
Is the Word of God?

Yes. The places that demonstrate this in the Qur'an are numerous. For example (Pickthall's translation):

2:53 "We gave unto Moses the Scripture, and the Criterion (of right and wrong), that ye might be led aright."

-- similarly 2:87. 2:121, 2:146, 3:3, 3:84, 4:54, 4:150, 7:145, 11:110, etc., etc. In Surah 9:111 the teaching of the Torah and the Gospel is binding even on Allah.

Both Testaments, the Old and the New, are from God:

2:136 "Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which was revealed unto us and that which was revealed unto Abraham, and Ishmael, and Isaac, and Jacob, and the tribes, and that which Moses and Jesus received, and that which the Prophets received from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and unto Him we have surrendered."

4:136 "O ye who believe! Believe in Allah and His messenger and the Scripture which He hath revealed unto His messenger, and the Scripture which He hath revealed aforetime. Whoso disbelieveth in Allah and His angels and His scriptures and His messengers and the Last Day, he verily hath wandered far astray."

4:150,151 "Lo! those who disbelieve in Allah and His messengers, and seek to make a distinction between Allah and His messengers, and say: We believe in some and disbelieve in others, and seek to choose a way in between; Such are disbelievers in truth; and for disbelievers We prepare a shameful doom."

Compare the last two references. The Qur'an says that anyone who believes the Qur'an but not the Bible is truly a disbeliever, awaiting a shameful doom.

2. Can the Word of God be Changed or Lost?

The Qur'an says: "Perfected is the word of the Lord in truth and justice. There is naught that can change His words." (Surah 6:116)

"There is no changing the words of Allah." (Surah 10:65)

The Bible also affirms that its words will never change or be lost:

Isaiah 40:8 (also First Peter 1:25), NIV: "The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God stands forever."

Matt. 5:18, NIV: "I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished."

Matt. 24:35 & Luke 21:33, NIV: "Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away" (spoken by the Messiah).

Luke 16:17, NIV: "It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law."

John 10:35, NIV: ". . . the Scripture cannot be broken."

Yet Moslem tradition is that the word of God in the Torah and Gospel has been lost or changed.

Beware of following such traditions of men.

"And when it is said unto them: Follow that which Allah hath revealed, they say: We follow that wherein we found our fathers. What! Even though their fathers were wholly unintelligent and had no guidance?" (Surah 2:170)

"You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions!" (Injil (Gospel) as recorded by Mark, 7:9, NIV)

3. Were the Old and New Testaments Lost in Muhammad's day?

Surah 2:40,41 "O children of Israel . . . believe in that which I reveal, confirming that which ye possess (of the Scripture) . . ."

5:43,44 "how come they [the Jews] unto thee [Muhammad] for judgement when they have the Torah, wherein Allah hath delivered judgement (for them)? . . . Lo! We did reveal the Torah . . ."

62:5 ". . . those who are entrusted with the Law of Moses . . ."

54:52 "And every thing they did is in the Scripture." These show that the Jews had their Scriptures in Muhammad's day. Regarding the Christians:

5:47 "Let the people of the Gospel judge by that which Allah hath revealed therein."

5:68 "Say: O people of the Scripture! Ye have naught (of guidance) till ye observe the Torah and the Gospel . . ."

How could the Christians observe something that was lost or corrupted? Neither the Old or New Testaments were lost in Muhammad's day. Since some copies of the Old and New Testaments that were in circulation in Muhammad's day are still in existence, it is clear the Scriptures have not been corrupted since then. Modern translations of the Bible are made from these ancient copies.

21:7 "And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men whom we inspired. Ask the followers of the Reminder [the Jewish Scriptures] if ye know not."

29:46 "And argue not with the People of the Scripture unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; 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."

It would be foolish to ask questions of the Jews or Christians if they did not have their Scriptures, or if their Scriptures were not to be trusted. Not only was Muhammad to ask questions of them, but he was to believe in the revelation that the Jews and Christians (the People of the Scripture) possessed.

Muslim tradition, however, teaches that both the Torah and the Injil (Gospel) have been corrupted and lost. This is not what the Qur'an teaches. Beware of following the traditions of men.

"And when it is said unto them: Follow that which Allah hath revealed, they say: We follow that wherein we found our fathers. What! Even though their fathers were wholly unintelligent and had no guidance?" (Surah 2:170)

"They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men." (The Injil (Gospel) as recorded by Mark, 7:7, NIV)


[1] Josh McDowell and John Gilchrist, "The Islam Debate" (San Bernadino, CA: Here's Life Publishers, 1983) pp. 143-44. The words are from the transcript of the debate. back to text

[2] "Is the Bible God's Word?" by Ahmed Deedat, Al. I. Obaba, editor. 1990: African Islamic Mission Publications. back to text

[3] Quran, Surah 29:49: ". . . and none deny our revelations save wrong-doers." The Christian should try to avoid being categorized by his hearers as a "wrong-doer" if he can, yet being careful not to compromise his stand for the truth in order to please non-Christians. back to text

[4] Online: http://www.answering-islam.org/Gilchrist/Vol2/7b.html back to text

[5] There are verses in the Quran which would seem to contradict its statements that Muslims should look to Christians and Jews for advice in interpreting the Scripture. There are also numerous places where the teachings of the Quran contradict plain statements in the Old and New Testaments. The Christian apologist has no need to explain these contradictions of the Quran with the Bible or the Quran with itself. These are problems for Muslims but not for Christians. The focus should always be turned back to the statements in the Quran that affirm that the Bible is the Word of God, a Word that has never been changed or corrupted. back to text

[6] Such passages are: the story of Adam and Eve in Surah 2:30-37. Deliverance of Israel from Egypt (2:49-50). Aaron's golden calf (2:51-54). Giving of Ten Commandments (2:53). Manna and quail (2:57). Saul, David, and Goliath (confused with story of Gideon) 2:249-251. Israel's fearfulness to enter Canaan (5:20-26). Cain and Abel (5:27-30--do not include v. 31, which is from a Jewish legend). Adam and Eve in garden (7:19-25). Creation 7:54. Noah 7:59-64. Moses before Pharaoh (7:103-136; not understandable without prior knowledge of Book of Exodus). Giving of Ten Commandments (7:142-154). Noah and Flood (11:25-48). Abraham and Sarah (11:69-73). Lot in Sodom (11:74-83). Joseph (Surah 12). Abraham promised a son (15:51-56). Lot and Sodom (15:57-74). Moses at burning bush, etc. (20:9-97). Noah and Ark (23:23-41). Moses and Aaron again (26:10-66). Lot and Sodom (26:160-174). Moses, Aaron, and Pharaoh (28:3-40). Lot and Sodom (29:28-34). Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, not Ishmael (37:101-110). Jonah (37:139-148). Nathan before David (38:18-26; much in need of clarification). Noah's warnings (71:1-28). back to text

[7] Mohammed Marmaduke Pickthall, translator: "The Meaning of the Glorious Koran" (New York: Mentor Books, 1953). back to text


Click here for documentation on who began the man-made tradition--a tradition that contradicts both the Bible and the Qur'an--that parts of God's eternal Word, the Holy Bible, have been changed or lost.

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