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Spring 2016 · Vol. 45 No. 1 · pp. 32–46 

The Qur’an’s Respectful View of the Bible

Gordon Nickel

The accusation that the Bible has been corrupted or deliberately falsified is popular among many Muslims. Muslim polemicists especially like to make it.

It is impossible to support the Muslim accusation of the corruption of the Bible with verses from the Qur’an that actually name the earlier scriptures.

But the charge has many problems, one of the main ones being that the Qur’an, the scripture of Muslims and a major source of their authority, makes no such accusation. In fact, as many Muslim and non-Muslim scholars have observed, the Qur’an speaks of the earlier scriptures (the Torah and the New Testament) only in the most positive and respectful way.

The Qur’an contains much material related to earlier scriptures. Sometimes these are identified by name; other times they are identified by the prophet to whom they are believed to have been revealed. In other cases, earlier scriptures seem to be indicated by terms that are less clear and therefore understood by Muslim interpreters in various ways. {33}

Why, then, do polemicists use verses from the Qur’an to support their accusation? Only a few vague verses in the Qur’an leave any doubt about earlier scriptures. These few verses must be read in the light of the many positive verses that are reviewed below.

This chapter does not claim that the Qur’an proves the Muslim accusation of the corruption of the Bible is false. Rather, its goal is simply to show that the Qur’an does not accuse the Bible of corruption. Since Muslims around the world look to the Qur’an for all of their beliefs and actions, it is reasonable to first test the charge of corruption against what the Qur’an actually says. The following descriptions of the contents of the Qur’an that deal with earlier scriptures are then checked against the understandings of top scholars of Qur’anic Studies, both Muslim and non-Muslim.


Three particular earlier scriptures are mentioned by name in the Qur’an: the Tawrāt, the Injīl, and the Zabūr. 1 It is reasonable to assume that these terms correspond to three important parts of the Bible: the Torah, the Gospel, and the Psalms. The names Tawrāt and Injīl first appear at the beginning of the third sūra, at Q 3:3. The name Zabūr first appears at Q 4:163.

The term Tawrāt appears eighteen times in the Qur’an. 2 It appears six times in the third sūra 3 and seven in the fifth sūra, 4 but not at all in Sūras 1, 2, 4, and 6. Beyond the fifth sūra, the word Tawrāt occurs only five times. 5

The term Injīl occurs twelve times in the Qur’an. 6 The pattern of its occurrence is similar to that of the term Tawrāt: three times in the third sūra, 7 five times in the fifth sūra, 8 and beyond the fifth sūra only four other times. 9 Indeed, in all but two of its occurrences, the term Injīl appears in tandem with Tawrāt. 10 The pattern of occurrence of the terms Tawrāt and Injīl, with its concentration in the first five sūras and its sparseness beyond, raises interesting questions about the contents of the Qur’an and the intended audiences of its various parts. In particular, the frequency of both terms in Q 5:43-68 is worthy of note.

The singular noun Zabūr occurs three times in the Qur’an. The root z-b-r, however, appears a total of thirteen times. 11 The pattern of occurrence of Zabūr is quite different from the other two names of scriptures: in the first five sūras, Zabūr appears only once (Q 4:163) and its plural form only once (Q 3:184). The singular Zabūr never appears together with the other two names of scriptures. If fact, it does not even appear in the near contexts of the other names. Though the names of the previous scriptures do not appear in the second sūra, Muqātil ibn Sulaymān {34} (d. 767) found all three referred to already at Q 2:4. He completed the scriptural phrase “and what was sent down before you,” with “upon the prophets, meaning al-Tawrāt and al-Injīl and al-Zabūr.” 12

The verses in which these scriptures are mentioned by name provide some basic information about the qur’anic approach to them. The reader first learns that Allah sends down the Torah (Tawrāt) and the Gospel (Injīl) (Q 3:3). The Torah and the Gospel are revealed after the time of Abraham (Q 3:65). Subsequently, Allah teaches ʿĪsā the Torah and the Gospel (Q 3:48, 5:110), and ʿĪsā in turn confirms the truth of the Torah (Q 3:50, 61:6). The Gospel confirms the Torah (Q 5:46). The Torah contains “the command [ḥukm] of Allah” (Q 5:43). Allah prescribes for the Jews in the Torah, “A life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds retaliation” (Q 5:45). 13 Jews and Christians are said to be able to find “the messenger, the ummī prophet” 14 mentioned in the Torah and Gospel (Q 7:157). The Qur’an claims a “similitude” with the Gospel: that true believers are “like a seed that sends forth its shoot, then makes it strong, it then becomes thick, and it stands straight on its stem, delighting the sowers—that he may enrage the disbelievers with them” (Q 48:29). 15

Of the three Zabūr references, we find in two of the verses the concept that Allah gives the Zabūr to David (Q 4:163, 17:55). The third occurrence is set in the form of a saying of Allah at Q 21:105 that he writes in the Zabūr, “The earth shall be the inheritance of my righteous servants.” 16 Al-Ṭabarī (d. 923) wrote about Zabūr at Q 4:163, “It is the name of the book that was revealed to David, just as he named the book that was revealed to Moses as the Tawrāt and that which was revealed to Jesus as the Injīl and that which was revealed to Muḥammad as the furqān, because that is the name by which what was revealed to David was known. The Arabs say zabūr Dāwud, and because of that the rest of the peoples know this book.” 17 Muqātil commented on Zabūr at Q 4:164: “It contains neither statute nor command, neither obligation nor permitted nor forbidden, [but has] 150 sūras.” 18

None of the verses in the Qur’an that explicitly mention the names Tawrāt, Injīl or Zabūr makes a negative statement about these earlier scriptures. There is no hint in any of these verses that the earlier scriptures exist in a corrupt or falsified state—which is the accusation of Muslim polemicists against the Bible.

The Qur’an contains several passages that either quote or resemble expressions from the Bible. The resemblances between a few qur’anic expressions and Old Testament verses have already been noted: Q 5:45 with Exodus 21:23; Q 21:105 with Psalms 37:9; and Q 48:29 with Psalms 72:16. Q 7:40 includes the phrase, “until the camel passes through the {35} eye of the needle,” though there is no apparent awareness in the context that this may come from the Gospel (Matthew 19:24). The only time that the Qur’an claims the Torah, the Gospel, and the Qur’an hold a specific content in common is at Q 9:111. The common content is said to be “a promise binding upon Allah,” that believers “fight in the way of Allah; they kill and are killed.” In addition to seeming to offer a quotation from the Psalms, Q 48:29 claims the likeness of those with Islam’s messenger is mentioned in the Torah and in the Gospel: they are “hard against the unbelievers, merciful one to another.” They bow and prostrate, seeking bounty from Allah and good pleasure. “Their mark is on their faces, the trace of prostration.”


In addition to references to particular scriptures, the Qur’an contains many references to kitāb or al-kitāb. 19 By context, many of the occurrences of kitāb may be reasonably related to one or more of the earlier scriptures. At least, this is how many Muslim commentators on the Qur’an have understood verses using this term. Herbert Berg observed that “for a large number of qur’anic passages that contain the word kitāb, al-Ṭabarī and the early exegetes understood the word to refer to one of or both of the scriptures of the Jews and Christians, namely the Tawrāt and the Injīl.” 20 An interesting example of this is when al-Ṭabarī interpreted the phrase in Q 2:2, “dhālika al-kitāb,” generally understood by Muslims to refer to the Qur’an. Because the Arabic is “that kitāb” rather than “this kitāb,” some of al-Ṭabarī’s authorities suggested the phrase must refer to the Torah and Gospel. 21

When “the book” is associated with Moses, it is reasonable to assume that it refers to the Torah. The first reference of this kind in a canonical reading of the Qur’an comes at Q 2:53: “And when we gave to Moses the book and the criterion [furqān], that haply you should be guided.” The phrase “we gave to Moses the book” repeats at Q 2:87, 6:154, 11:110, 17:2, 25:35, 32:23, and 41:45. At Q 37:117, Aaron is included with Moses in “and we gave them the manifesting book.” A similar phrase, apparently indicating the Torah, is “the book of Moses” at Q 11:17 and 46:11. A third variation comes at Q 6:91: “Who sent down the book that Moses brought as a light and a guidance to men?” 22

Other verses in the Qur’an offer a variety of clues that “the book” may indicate the earlier scriptures. 23 For example, at Q 2:44 the children of Israel are addressed with the question, “Will you bid others to piety, and forget yourselves while you recite [tatlūna] the book?” The same phrase about reciting the book is used about both Jews and Christians at Q 2:113. A second verb describes the action at Q 10:94: “If thou art in {36} doubt regarding what we have sent down to thee, ask those who recite [yaqraʾūna] the book before thee.” At Q 6:156, “the book” seems to indicate both the Torah and the Gospel: “The book was sent down only upon two parties before us, and we have indeed been heedless of their study [dirāsa].” All these verses could be reasonably interpreted to allude to the Torah and/or the Gospel. 24

The phrase “the book of Allah” occurs nine times in the Qur’an, several times where it might bring to mind an earlier scripture. From its context at Q 5:44, kitāb Allāh indicates the Torah: “Surely we sent down the Torah, wherein is guidance and light; thereby the prophets who had surrendered themselves gave judgment for those of Jewry, as did the masters and the rabbis, following such portion of the book of Allah as they were given to keep and were witnesses to.” At Q 2:101, “a party of them that were given the book reject the book of Allah behind their backs.” It would be reasonable to assume that the phrase here refers to an earlier scripture. Muslim commentators often assumed exactly this. For example, Muqātil explained “the book of Allah” at Q 2:101 as “what is in the Torah from the matter [amr] of Muḥammad.” 25 On the occurrence of “the kitāb of Allah” in Q 3:23, al-Ṭabarī explicitly says, “[I]t is the Torah.” 26

In Q 2:177, “true piety” is described as, among other things, believing in “Allah and the last day, and the angels, and the book [kitāb], and the messengers.” A similar formula appears twice in the Qur’an with kitāb in the plural. The messenger believes in “Allah, his angels, his books [kutub] and his messengers.” 27 In Q 66:12, Mary “confirmed the words of her Lord and his books.” A further use of the plural comes in Q 98:2-3: “A messenger from Allah, reciting pages [ṣuḥuf] purified, therein true books.” 28

These and other occurrences of kitāb do not come with the suggestion that a corrupted text is in mind, or that an earlier scripture has been or is in the process of being corrupted. The straightforward impression to take from these verses is that the writings being alluded to are thought of in a positive and respectful way.


The Qur’an also contains a number of other terms for written records that may be understood to refer to earlier scriptures. These include references to scrolls, parchments, tablets, and revealed books. 29 For example, Q 53:36-37 mentions “the scrolls [ṣuḥuf] of Moses and Abraham.” The same writings are called “the former pages” (ṣuḥuf al-ūlā) at Q 87:18. 30 There is also mention of parchments at Q 6:91 in connection with “the book which Moses brought”: “You put it into parchments [qarāṭīs].” 31 {37} A second word for parchment appears at Q 52:1-3: “By the Mount [Ṭūr] and a book inscribed in a parchment [raqq] unrolled.” 32

The word tablets (alwāḥ) comes three times in Sūra 7 in the context of an extended narrative about Moses and the children of Israel. At Q 7:145, Allah declares, “We wrote for him on the tablets [al-alwāḥ] 33 of everything an admonition [mawʿiẓa], and a distinguishing [tafsīl] of everything.” The narrative relates that in the meantime, the children of Israel make a golden calf and Moses discovers it. He puts down the tablets (Q 7:150) in order to discipline his brother Aaron. His prayer to Allah seems to calm him down. “And when Moses’ anger abated in him, he took the tablets; and in the inscription [nuskha] 34 of them was guidance [hudan], and mercy [raḥma] unto all those who hold their Lord in awe” (Q 7:154). 35

Another term for revealed writings, al-zubur, appears at Q 3:184, 16:44 and 35:25; at Q 26:196 it comes in a possessive construction, “the scriptures of the ancients [al-awwalīn].” 36 Two of these verses put the term zubur in a parallel relationship with “the clear signs” (bayyināt) and “the illuminating book” (al-kitāb al-munīr) (Q 3:184, 35:25). A third occurrence lists zubur with “the clear signs” and “the remembrance” (al-dhikr) (Q 16:44). At Q 26:196 the term could be said to be parallel with “the revelation [tanzīl]” in Q 26:192. 37


Among other expressions in the Qur’an that might be taken to allude to the previous scriptures, mention should be made of kalām and kalim. These nouns appear in several verses that seem to accuse people of “tampering” actions; and Muslim exegetes have tended to identify these terms with particular scriptures. Three of the four occurrences of kalim (“words; utterances”) 38 in the Qur’an come in such “tampering verses.” Kalim is the object of the tampering verb each time. Four verses containing another form of this root, kalimāt, state confidently that humans cannot change (baddala) the words of Allah. “No one can change [lā mubaddila] the words [kalimāt] of Allah” (Q 6:34). The same active participle appears in Q 6:115 and 18:27, where the object is “his words.” Q 10:64 also states, “there is no changing [tabdīl] the words of Allah.”

The term kalām (“speech, word”) similarly occurs only four times in the Qur’an, always in association with Allah. One of those occurrences is explicitly linked with Allah’s revelation to Moses: “He said, ‘Moses, I have chosen thee above all men for my messages and my utterance [kalāmī]; take what I have given thee, and be of the thankful.’ And we wrote for him on the tablets of everything of admonition, and a distinguishing of everything” (Q 7:144-145). {38}


Another indication of the qur’anic approach to the earlier scriptures comes from the language of confirmation. A series of verses seems to claim that the recitations of the present have essential links to revelations of the past.

The term muṣaddiq, from ṣaddaqa, means confirming, attesting, or pronouncing to be true, 39 as in its first qur’anic appearance, “And believe in that I have sent down, confirming [muṣaddiqan] that which is with you, and be not the first to disbelieve in it” (Q 2:41). This active participle occurs eighteen times in the Qur’an. Of that total, fourteen occurrences are distributed throughout Sūras 2-6. Beyond Sūra 6 there are four occurrences, two of them in Sūra 46. 40 In addition, the term taṣdīq, 41 verbal noun of ṣaddaqa, appears at Q 10:37 and 12:111.

The object of the participle and verbal noun is generally one of a number of indistinct phrases that could be understood to refer to earlier scriptures. The most frequent object is mā bayna yadayhi 42 and similar phrases at Q 2:97; 3:3, 50; 5:48; 6:92; 35:31; 46:30; and 61:6. A second frequent object is “what is with them” 43 and similar phrases at Q 2:41, 89, 91, 101; 3:81; and 4:47. The subject of confirmation in those verses is generally “what I have sent down” (Q 2:41) and similar phrases. “A book [kitāb]” or “the book” is frequently specified: at Q 2:89, “a book from Allah”, and in one of the taṣdīq verses, “this qurʾān” (Q 10:37). Other subjects include “a messenger” (Q 3:81) and “a messenger from Allah” (Q 2:101).

The Torah appears as the object of confirmation at Q 3:50, 5:46 and 61:6. In those verses, the subjects are ʿĪsā and the scripture sent down upon him, the Injīl. At Q 46:12, the Torah is updated by hādha kitāb: “Before it was the book of Moses for a model and a mercy; and this is a book confirming, in Arabic tongue, to warn the evildoers, and good tidings to the good-doers.” 44 At Q 3:39, angels say to Zakariyya, “Allah gives you good tidings of Yaḥyā, confirming a word [kalima] from Allah.”

In two of the verses, there appear parallel phrases that shed light on the meaning of confirmation. The first is at Q 5:48: “We sent to you the book in truth, confirming [muṣaddiq] what is before it from the book, and guarding it in safety [muhaymin].” The second is at Q 10:37: “it is a confirmation [taṣdīq] of what is before it, and a distinguishing [tafṣīl] of the book, wherein is no doubt.”

The impression given by these verses containing muṣaddiq or taṣdīq is that the recitation conceived of as being sent down by Allah in the present is thought to align with what God sent down in the past, 45 indicating a claim of correspondence. These verses vouch for the truth {39} of earlier revelations, which is the sense of ṣaddaqa. At the same time, these verses bring the authority of past revelations to bear on the present recitation.


The Qur’an provides uniformly respectful qualitative descriptions of the earlier scriptures. A striking example is at Q 6:154: “Then we gave Moses the book, complete for him who does good, and distinguishing everything, and as a guidance [hudan] and a mercy [raḥma].” These and other expressions are repeated throughout the Qur’an. The Torah is characterized as containing “guidance and light [nūr]” (Q 5:44). The same phrase is used to describe the contents of the Gospel: “guidance and light” (Q 5:46). In the same verse, the Gospel is also called “guidance and admonition [mawʿiẓa] to the godfearing.” The Torah is said to contain “the judgment [ḥukm] of Allah” (Q 5:43). The book given to Moses is described as a guidance to the children of Israel (Q 17:2, 32:23). Allah also gives “the book of Moses” for a standard [imām] and a mercy (Q 11:17, 46:12). The tablets Allah writes for Moses contain “an admonition and a distinguishing [tafṣīl] of everything” (Q 7:145). The book given to Moses and Aaron is described as the “manifesting” [mustabīn] book (Q 37:117).

In other contexts, the qur’anic attitude toward the earlier scriptures can be seen in the actions associated with them. Q 3:93, for example, is an appeal to opponents in the midst of a polemical encounter to “Bring you the Torah now, and recite it, if you are truthful.” 46 A similar understanding is given at Q 10:94: “If you are in doubt regarding what we have sent down to you, ask those who recite the book before you.” These verses seem to indicate that the Torah was readily available, and could be produced to resolve disputes or answer questions. 47 They also assign authority to the contents of the Torah. A third situation of this type is seen at Q 5:43, where the Torah is said to be with (ʿinda) the Jews and to contain Allah’s decision. At Q 5:44, the prophets and religious leaders of the Jews are said to have judged the Jews according to the Torah, and these leaders were entrusted with the protection of “the book of Allah.” 48 Similarly, the “people of the Gospel” are urged to make their judgments according to the contents of the Gospel (Q 5:47). All of the People of the Book are also challenged to “stand fast” or act according to the Torah and Gospel (Q 5:66, 68).

These qur’anic descriptions of the earlier scriptures are uniformly positive and respectful. The most natural impression for a reader to take from these verses would be that the Qur’an assumes the earlier {40} scriptures are available and intact. There seems to be no hint in any of the verses related to the earlier scriptures that the recitation of the present contradicts the contents of the earlier scriptures. There is no suggestion in these verses that any of the earlier scriptures exists in an altered state. The references to earlier scriptures in the Qur’an do not cause the reader to think of their corruption.

Many scholars who have studied the Qur’an without prejudice have agreed with these simple observations about the positive tone of the Qur’an toward the earlier scriptures. Hava Lazarus-Yafeh wrote, “The Ḳur’ān accepts the Tawrāt and Indjīl as genuine divine revelations taken from the same Guarded Tablets as the Ḳur’ān itself and brought by true messengers to both Jews and Christians respectively.” 49 Carra de Vaux referred to “the great reverence with which the Qur’ān” speaks of the Gospel. 50 William Muir concluded, after an extensive survey of qur’anic passages that refer to the earlier scriptures, “The highest value is attributed by the Corân to the Jewish and Christian Scriptures. They are always spoken of with veneration. There is not a single expression regarding them throughout the Corân, but what is dictated by profound respect and reverence.” 51


From this survey of the contents of the Qur’an, it is clear that in all of the verses in which the earlier scriptures are actually named, the Qur’an has only positive and respectful things to say about them. It is impossible to support the Muslim accusation of the corruption of the Bible with verses from the Qur’an that actually name the earlier scriptures. Further, any honest reading of all of the qur’anic verses that can reasonably be assumed to refer to the earlier scriptures must acknowledge the overwhelmingly positive and respectful tone of this material. If there are verses among these that have been used to support an accusation of corruption, we must look more closely at their content and the ways in which Muslims interpreted them during the first centuries of Islam. But even these verses must be understood in the context of the totality of the Qur’an’s teaching on the earlier scriptures.

A number of scholars have used the Qur’an’s positive material on the earlier scriptures as a criterion to judge the Muslim accusation of the corruption or falsification of the Bible. These scholars conclude that the verses of the Qur’an themselves make no accusation of the textual corruption of earlier scriptures.

William Montgomery Watt of Edinburgh University wrote that a study of the qur’anic approach to the earlier scriptures must distinguish between “what the Qur’ān actually says” and “all later interpretations.” 52 {41} After an examination of the Qur’an, Watt concluded, “the Qur’ān does not put forward any general view of the corruption of the text of the Old and New Testaments.” 53 Watt repeated this view in a later publication and there added, “Manuscripts of the Bible are still extant which antedate Muḥammad, but there is absolutely no suggestion in the Qur’ān that the whole Bible has been corrupted at some time in the distant past, nor that there had been the collusion between Christians and Jews which would have been necessary in order to corrupt the Old Testament.” 54

Muslim scholar Mahmoud Ayoub also stated this position:

Contrary to the general Islamic view, the Qur’an does not accuse Jews and Christians of altering the text of their scriptures, but rather of altering the truth which those scriptures contain. The people do this by concealing some of the sacred texts, by misapplying their precepts, or by “altering words from their right position.” However, this refers more to interpretation than to actual addition or deletion of words from the sacred books. 55

Watt and Ayoub thus agree that the meaning of the qur’anic verses on the earlier scriptures is different from how some of those verses came to be interpreted and—indeed—from what came to be the general Islamic view.

A third scholar who made a similar judgment was Ignazio Di Matteo. After reviewing the interpretations of verses on the earlier scriptures in the Qur’an by al-Ṭabarī and Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, Di Matteo concluded, “According to the Qur’ān, the text of the holy scriptures has been altered neither before Muḥammad, nor even during his life-time by those Jews and Christians who were not favourably disposed towards his mission. In the Qur’ān taḥrīf means either false interpretation of the passages bearing upon Muḥammad or non-enforcement of the explicit laws of the Pentateuch, such as the stoning punishment.” 56

Abdullah Saeed is another Muslim scholar who finds no accusation of corruption in the Qur’an. Saeed distinguished between verses about the earlier scriptures and verses about the custodians of those scriptures. “In no verse in the Qur’ān is there a denigrating remark about the scriptures of the Jews and Christians. Instead, there is respect and reverence. Any disparaging remarks were about the People of the Book, individuals or groups, and their actions.” 57

A major article on “The corruption of the scriptures” was written by St. Andrews University professor John Burton, in which he related the qur’anic references to earlier scriptures directly to the Bible:

Many non-Muslims are still firmly of the belief that Jews and Christians are accused in the Qur’ān of having tampered with {42} the texts of the revelations to the prophets now collected into the Old and New Testaments of their Bible. This is because they regularly encounter such charges in their reading. The accusation is a commonplace charge against the People of the Book by the Muslims, not, however, because of what the Qur’ān says, but because of what the Muslims say the Qur’ān says. In other words, it is mere exegesis. 58

Dr. Burton made a distinction between what the Qur’an actually says about the earlier scriptures and the way in which Muslims have interpreted the Qur’an on this theme. He agrees with the straightforward observation that the Qur’an does not accuse the Jews and Christians of having falsified the Bible.

Support for Burton’s view comes from Lebanese scholar Martin Accad. Accad warns against reading into verses of the Qur’an later Muslim meanings of taḥrīf (the term used by Muslim polemicists as an accusation of corruption).

In the Qur’ânic context, taḥrîf is principally an ambiguous accusation raised against the Jews. Moreover, [all four verses containing the verb ḥarrafa] more readily lend themselves to being understood as accusations of misinterpretation, taḥrîf maʿna, rather than textual corruption, taḥrîf lafẓ. One should not therefore too quickly conclude, as most do today, that these verses were automatically understood in the sense of textual corruption of the whole Bible, for this would represent an anachronism. 59

Accad’s perspective on the meaning of the qur’anic verses came from a close examination of twenty-five treatises written by Muslim authors during the first six centuries of Islam. 60

Finally, Matthias Radscheit demonstrated how the positive qur’anic content on the earlier scriptures helps us understand what the Qur’an must mean by taḥrīf. Reflecting on the impression left by the qur’anic material on “tampering” with earlier scriptures, Radscheit wrote, “That it did not mean falsification of the fixed written Torah or Gospel shows itself—negatively—in that taḥrīf is never connected explicitly with these books, and—positively—by the verses which exhort the ahl al-kitāb to hold to what is in their scriptures.” 61


  1. Arthur Jeffery, “The Qur’ān as Scripture” The Muslim World 40 (1950): 202.
  2. Cf. Camilla P. Adang, “Torah,” Encyclopaedia of the Qur’ān [=EQ], gen. ed. Jane Dammen McAuliffe (Leiden: Brill, 2006), 5:300.
  3. At Q 3:3, 48, 50, 65 and 93 (x2). {43}
  4. At Q 5:43, 44, 46 (x2), 66, 68 and 110.
  5. At Q 7:157, 9:111, 48:29, 61:6 and 62:5. Lazarus-Yafeh asserted that all eighteen occurrences appear in “sūras from the Medīnan period.” “Tawrāt,” Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition [=EI2], eds. P. J. Bearman et al. (Leiden: Brill, 2000), 10:393.
  6. Cf. Sidney H. Griffith, “Gospel,” EQ 2:342. Karl Ahrens and other scholars suggested that the qur’anic term Injīl comes from the Greek euaggelion via the Ethiopic wangēl. “Christliches im Qoran,” Zeitschrift der Deutschen Morgenländischen Gesellschaft 84 (1930): 24.
  7. At Q 3:3, 48 and 65.
  8. At Q 5:46, 47, 66, 68 and 110.
  9. At Q 7:157, 9:111, 48:29 and 57:27.
  10. Injīl appears on its own only at Q5:47 and 57:27.
  11. Cf. J. Horovitz - [R. Firestone], “Zabūr,” EI2, vol. 11, 372; and Dawid Künstlinger, “Die Namen der ‘Gottes-Schriften’ im Qurān,” Rocznik Orientalistyczny 8 (1937), 74–75. The plural form zubur is treated below in “Other writings.”
  12. Tafsīr Muqātil ibn Sulaymān, ‘Abd Allāh Maḥmūd Shiḥāta, ed. (Beirut: Mu’assasat al-Ta’rīkh al-‘Arabiyya, 2002), vol. 1, 84.
  13. Closely resembling Exodus 21:23–25; cf. Leviticus 24:20; Deuteronomy 19:21. J. Horovitz, “Tawrāt,” The Encyclopaedia of Islam [=EI], eds. M. Th. Houtsma et al. (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1934), vol. 3, 706. Another passage which may be claiming to relay words from the Torah—though that name is not specified—is Q 2:83–84: “And when we took compact with the children of Israel: ‘You shall not serve any save Allah; and to be good to parents.’ ” This resembles parts of the Decalogue in Exodus 20. M.S. Seale claims that the Qur’an provides “a version of the Ten Commandments, even though an incomplete one” at 17:23–37. “How the Qur’an Interprets the Bible,” in his Qur’an and Bible: Studies in Interpretation and Dialogue (London: Croom Helm, 1978), 74–75. Hartwig Hirschfeld points out that Muslim commentators like al-Tha‘labī also found the Decalogue at 17:23–37, as well as at 6:152–154. New Researches into the Composition and Exegesis of the Qoran (London: Royal Asiatic Society, 1902), 81–82.
  14. English translations of qur’anic verses in this chapter are indebted to Arthur Arberry, The Koran Interpreted (Oxford University Press, 1964); and occasionally to Marmaduke Pickthall, The Meaning of the Glorious Qur’an (Karachi: Taj Company, n.d.). However, translations sometimes reflect literal renderings of the Arabic text.
  15. Lazarus-Yafeh suggested that this may be a quotation from the Psalms (cf. Psalms 1:3; 72:16; 92:14). “Tawrāt,” 393. But Carra de Vaux heard in Q 48:29 an echo of Jesus’s parable of the sower. “Indjīl,” EI, vol. 2, 502.
  16. Arie Schippers identified this with Psalm 37:9, 11 and 29. “Psalms,” EQ 4:315. Lazarus-Yafeh called it an exact quote. “Tawrāt,” EI2 10:393. Horovitz wrote, “Apart from Sūra xxi.105 the Ḳur’ān contains other passages bearing a close resemblance to verses from the Psalms, especially from Psalm civ. Moreover the majority of the passages in the Ḳur’ān which remind us, by sense and sound, of the Bible, are from the Psalms.” “Zabūr,” EI, {44} vol. 4, 1184. See also Hirschfeld, New Researches, 73–77; and Richard Bell, “Muhammad’s Knowledge of the Old Testament,” in Presentation Volume to William Barron Stevenson (Studia Semitica et Orientalia II) (Glasgow: Glasgow University Oriental Society, 1945), 14, for further suggestions of parallels between the Qur’an and the Psalms.
  17. Abū Ja‘far Muḥammad ibn Jarīr al-Ṭabarī, Jāmi‘ al-bayān ‘an ta’wīl āy al-Qur’ān, eds. Maḥmūd Muḥammad Shākir and Aḥmad Muḥammad Shākir, Second edition (Cairo, 1955–69), 9:402.
  18. Tafsīr Muqātil ibn Sulaymān 1:462.
  19. Occurrences of kitāb both singular and plural number 261. Cf. Daniel Madigan, “Book,” EQ 1:242. Jeffery provides an overview of these occurrences in “The Qur’ān as Scripture,” 47–55.
  20. “Ṭabarī’s Exegesis of the Qur’ānic Term al-kitāb,” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 63 (1995): 768.
  21. al-Ṭabarī, Jāmi‘ al-bayān, 1:128–29.
  22. Muslim exegetes understood that all these cases refer to the Torah.
  23. Julius Augapfel, “Das Kitāb im Qurân,” Wiener Zeitschrift für die Kunde des Morgenlandes 29 (1915): 386–90.
  24. Again, this is how Muslim exegetes have understood these verses.
  25. Tafsīr Muqātil ibn Sulaymān, 1:126.
  26. Jāmi‘ al-bayān, 6:290. Also Muqātil, Tafsīr Muqātil ibn Sulaymān, 1:269; cf. Ibn Isḥāq, Sīra, 2:394; Wāḥidī, Asbāb, 52. Herbert Berg writes, “in his commentary to the Qur’ān’s use of the expression the kitāb of God, al-Ṭabarī explains the term using the full variation of the term kitāb generally except, oddly, the Qur’ān itself.” “Ṭabarī’s Exegesis,” 773.
  27. Q 2:285; cf. 4:136, where the belief is both in the book which Allah sent down before, and in the books of Allah.
  28. These are four of the five occurrences of kutub in the Qur’an. The fifth is at Q 34:44.
  29. Künstlinger, “Die Namen der ‘Gottes-Schriften’ im Qurān,” 71–84, gave a wide variety of terms which he said refer to scripture in the Qur’an. Besides those treated here, Künstlinger investigated such terms as dhikr, ḥikma, furqān, qawl, and āya.
  30. Daniel Madigan, “Book,” EQ 1:245. The phrase al-ṣuḥūf al-ūlā also appears at Q 20:133. Further on ṣuḥuf: Künstlinger, “Die Namen der ‘Gottes-Schriften’ im Qurān,” 72–74.
  31. The second occurrence of this word is at Q 6:7: “had we sent down on thee a book on parchment (qirṭāsin).”
  32. An hapax legomenon. On “parchment,” see Julian Obermann, “Koran and Agada: The events at Mount Sinai,” The American Journal of Semitic Languages 57 (1941): 30.
  33. See Obermann, “Koran and Agada,” 37, on “tablets.”
  34. Translation of Arberry and Pickthall. Nuskha is also defined as “transcript” or “copy.”
  35. Of the remaining three occurrences of this root in the Qur’an, one is the singular lawḥ in, “Nay, but it is a glorious qur’ān in a guarded tablet” (Q 85:21–22). {45}
  36. Josef Horovitz, “Zabūr,” EI 4:1184. Horovitz added that occurrences of al-zubur at Q 54:43 & 52 refer to heavenly writings in which human deeds are recorded.
  37. Cf. Horovitz - [Firestone], “Zabūr,” EI2 11:372.
  38. Collective form of kalima.
  39. John Wansbrough rendered muṣaddiq as “verification of earlier prophets and scriptures,” Quranic Studies: Sources and Methods of Scriptural Interpretation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 65.
  40. At Q 6:92; 35:31; 46:12, 30; and 61:6.
  41. Confirmation, attestation; belief; assent, agreement, approval.
  42. Frequently translated “that which was before it,” but which means literally, “what is between his two hands.” Madigan rendered it, “what is already present.” The Qur’ân’s Self-image: Writing and Authority in Islam’s Scripture (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2001), 137.
  43. mā ma‘ahum.
  44. “An exegetically justifiable paraphrase for this would read: ‘Before the Qur’ān was the Tawrāh as a guide and a mercy. This Qur’ān is a book in an Arabic tongue which confirms the Tawrāh in order to warn. . . .’ ” Jane Dammen McAuliffe, “The Qur’ānic Context of Muslim Biblical Scholarship,” Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 7 (1996): 142.
  45. “The general position of the Qur’ān is that it confirms previous revelations, and in particular . . . of the Torah and the Evangel.” William Montgomery Watt, “The Early Development of the Muslim Attitude to the Bible,” Transactions of the Glasgow University Oriental Society 16 (1955–56): 50.
  46. Brannon Wheeler wrote on Q 3:93, “At issue is not the revelatory status of the Torah or the accusation that the text of the Torah has been altered. On the contrary, the exegesis of Q 3:93 depends on the Torah to make its case.” “Israel and the Torah of Muḥammad,” in Bible and Qur’ān: Essays in Scriptural Intertextuality, ed. John C. Reeves (Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, 2003), 79.
  47. Camilla Adang adds to this category Q 16:43 and 21:7: “Ask the people of the remembrance (dhikr) if you don’t know!” “Torah,” EQ 5:303.
  48. But cf. Q 62:5: “The likeness of those who were entrusted with the Torah, but who subsequently failed in those, is as the likeness of a donkey who carries huge burdens of books.”
  49. “Taḥrīf,” EI2 10:111.
  50. “Indjīl,” EI 2:503.
  51. William Muir, The Corân: Its Composition and Teaching; And the Testimony it Bears to the Holy Scriptures (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1895), 222.
  52. Watt, “Early Development,” 50.
  53. Ibid., 53.
  54. William Montgomery Watt, Muslim-Christian Encounters: Perceptions and Misperceptions (London: Routledge, 1991), 32.
  55. Mahmoud Ayoub, “ ‘Uzayr in the Qur’an and Muslim Tradition,” in Studies in Islamic and Judaic Traditions, ed. W. M. Brinner and S. D. Ricks (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1986), 5. {46}
  56. Ignazio Di Matteo, “Il ‘Taḥrīf’ od alterazione della Bibbia secondo i musulmani,” Bessarione 38 (1922): 96.
  57. “The Charge of Distortion of Jewish and Christian Scriptures,” The Muslim World 92 (2002): 429.
  58. John Burton, “The Corruption of the Scriptures,” Occasional Papers of the School of Abbasid Studies 4 (1992, publ. 1994): 95.
  59. Martin Accad, “Corruption and/or Misinterpretation of the Bible: The Story of the Islâmic Usage of taḥrîf,” Theological Review 24, no. 2 (2003): 71.
  60. Martin Accad. “The Gospels in the Muslim Discourse of the Ninth to the Fourteenth Centuries: An Exegetical Inventorial Table,” Islam and Christian-Muslim Relations 14 (2003): 67–91, 205–20, 337–52, 459–79.
  61. Matthias Radscheit, Die koranische Herausforderung: Die taḥaddī-Verse im Rahmen der Polemikpassagen des Korans (Berlin: Klaus Schwarz Verlag, 1996), 82–83.
Gordon Nickel has taught at ACTS Seminaries in Langley, B.C., as assistant professor of intercultural studies for Ambrose Seminary. This article comes out of his PhD dissertation on the earliest commentaries on the Qur’an.
Reprinted, with minor changes, with permission from the author of The Gentle Answer to Muslim Accusation of Biblical Falsification. © 2014 Gordon Nickel. All rights reserved.

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