How the Quran differs from the Bible

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It is a common allegation among Christians that the Koran is a mere copy of the Bible; that the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) simply plagiarized “his” book from the pages of the Bible.

It is true that the Prophet Muhammad received the Koran AFTER the birth of the Bible; and it is also true that the books of the Bible and the Quran cover many commonalities. But the conclusion of Christian critics that the Prophet had studied the Bible with the aim of copying its verses in order to somehow fabricate the Quran is absurd and untenable for the reasons discussed below.

arabic bible

First, there was no Arabic translation of the Bible available at the time of the Prophet, as Ernst Würthwein informs us in his book, The Text of the Old Testament:

With the victory of Islam, the use of Arabic spread widely and for the Jews and Christians of the conquered lands, it became the language of daily life. This gave rise to the need for Arabic versions of the Bible, a need which was met by a number of mostly independent versions primarily intended for interpretation. (Würthwein 104)

Thus, the first translations of the Hebrew Bible into Arabic appeared after the advent of Islam. In fact, the oldest dated manuscript of the Old Testament in Arabic dates from the first half of the 9th century.

What about the New Testament?

Sidney H. Griffith, who has done extensive research on the appearance of Arabic and the New Testament, says that

The oldest dated manuscript containing the Gospels in Arabic is Sinai Arabic MS 72. Here the text of the four canonical Gospels is marked according to the lessons of the time cycle of the Greek liturgical calendar of the Church of Jerusalem. A colophon informs us that the MS was written by Stephen of Ramleh in the year 284 of the Arabs, that is to say 897 AD. (Griffith 131–132)

And the Prophet Muhammad had died in the first half of the 7th century, to be precise, in 632 CE.

Illiterate prophet

Second, it would be ironic if the illiterate prophet Muhammad was able to study and assimilate all the sources – Christian, Jewish, Zoroastrian, Hanif and ancient Arabic beliefs – before compiling the Quran. Indeed, his illiteracy was recognized even by the enemies of Islam 1,400 years ago. And there is no record of the pagan Arabs of Mecca accusing Muhammad of pretending to be illiterate when in reality he is literate.

Allah the Almighty has also answered this in the Quran:

[And thou wast not [able] recite a book before this one [Book came] neither are you [able] to transcribe it with your right hand: in this case, indeed, the speakers of vanities would have doubted. No, these are signs evident in the hearts of those who are endowed with knowledge: and only the unrighteous reject Our signs.](Al-`Ankabut 29:48-49).

No translation

Third, Muhammad’s language was Arabic and the Quran was revealed to him in Arabic. It is the original Arabic Quran which is always called the Quran, not just any translation. But the language of the Old Testament was ancient Hebrew, and Jesus was a Jew who spoke Aramaic, which was a dialect of Hebrew, an East Semitic language. But the books of the New Testament, including the Gospels, were written in Greek, a Western language, sometime after Christ.

The Bible is a collection of writings produced at different times in history and written by different writers. The many denominations of Christianity disagree on the canon (the list of books accepted by the church as authoritative or divinely inspired) of the Christian Bible. Some of these books are not universally accepted. The Catholic Encyclopedia has this to say on the subject:

The idea of ​​a complete and clear canon of the New Testament existing from the beginning, that is, from apostolic times, has no basis in history. The Canon of the New Testament, like that of the Old, is the result of a development, a process both stimulated by disputes with skeptics, both inside and outside the Church, and delayed by certain natural obscurities and hesitations, and which will only reach its definitive end with the dogmatic definition of the Tridentine Council. (“New Testament Canon”)

There is much confusion about the earliest extant texts of the Bible. The oldest extant manuscript of the Bible is believed to be the Codex Vaticanus (held in the Vatican Library), which is slightly older than the Codex Sinaiticus (held in the British Library), both of which were transcribed in the fourth century. .

As for the story of Jesus, there were at least 50 gospels written in the first and second centuries AD. Four of them (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John) were included in the official canon in the fourth century CE and are found in all Bibles today. All original copies of the gospels have been lost. What we have now are manuscript copies, which are an unknown number of replicas removed from the originals.

Rudolf Bultmann, a prominent teacher of 20th-century New Testament studies, writes of the life of Jesus:

We can no longer know anything today about the life and personality of Jesus, since the early Christian sources are not interested in either one or the other, and are moreover fragmentary and often legendary; and other sources about Jesus do not exist. (Bultman 8)

The oldest of the four gospels is that of Mark and it was written between 57 and 75 CE, according to scholars. The other gospels were composed much later than this one, and the last of the four gospels (that of John) was probably written between 85 and 100 CE. All of these gospels were originally in Greek and their authorship is a matter of dispute.

Self-reference

The Bible does not contain self-reference; that is, the word Bible does not appear in the Bible. In fact, only certain Christian groups believe that the Bible – in its entirety – is the revealed word of God. The presence of so many contradictions and obviously questionable ideas makes this assertion untenable.

By comparison, the Quran’s claim to be the record of the word of God dictated to His Prophet is confirmed by the following facts: The speaker in the Quran is God speaking directly to man, while the words of the Prophet, called Hadith, are found in other books. The Quran repeatedly says it is the word of God. It has a self-reference; that is, it is named 70 times like the Quran.

Memorization

The verses of the Quran were revealed to Prophet Muhammad during the 23 years of his life as events in the development of God’s religion called for divine guidance. As soon as the Prophet received these verses, he dictated them to his disciples, who not only wrote them down, but also memorized them. There were so many people who had memorized the Quran that it can be said that from the first day of its revelation, the Quran was in people’s hands and hearts.

Before the death of the Prophet, the entire Quran was written, examined and verified by the Prophet himself. Since then, it has remained safe from corruption, as several copies were in the possession of Muslims. It was not possible to make changes to its verses, even if someone wanted to, because a standard copy was kept. Moreover, so many Muslims had memorized the Quran that they would have recognized any changes. Moreover, God has promised in the Quran [Certainly, it was We Who revealed the Reminder (the Qur’an) and certainly We shall preserve it] (Al-Hijr 15:9).

At the time of the Prophet’s death, a number of the Prophet’s Companions had already assembled the portions of the Quran with them into one volume. It was during the time of the first caliph, Abu Bakr, that a prominent scholar and scribe of the Prophet, Zayd ibn Thabit, was appointed to compile an official version. After meticulous work, he prepares the official collection (mushaf).

Incorruptibility

One of the main reasons for the continued incorruptibility of the Quran is that it has been preserved in its original language, unlike the Bible. No one in the Muslim world has ever thought of replacing it with a translation. So, the Quran we have today is the same Quran that the Prophet received from God. Its authenticity and authenticity are therefore beyond reproach.

One of the miracles of the Quran, revealed 14 centuries ago, is the fact that it can be read and understood by Arabic speakers living today. Every language undergoes changes over time, and a hundred or two hundred years is enough for a language to undergo substantial changes. So anyone who knows the rudiments of the history of languages ​​knows that logically it should be impossible for the Arabic-speaking peoples of today to read and understand a 14-century-old book. And yet, every day, every hour, every minute, in fact every second of the 24 hours of the 365 days of each year of past centuries has been enlivened by the reading and study of Koranic verses. And it continues in the future. The volume and scope of it is multiplying in every way imaginable with the advent of multimedia. It started in the time of the Prophet and it has continued unceasingly to the present day, making it the ubiquitous miracle of the Prophet Muhammad rivaling all other miracles.

Allah says [This is the Book; in it is Sure Guidance, no doubt, for those who are God-conscious] (Al-Baqarah 2:2) In another verse we read [And say: “The Truth has arrived, and Falsehood perished; for Falsehood is bound to perish”] (Al-Isra’ 17:81).

By Professor Shahul Hameed**


Sources
Bultmann, Rudolf. Jesus and the Word. Son of Charles Scribner, New York, 1958
“Canon of the New Testament.” Catholic Encyclopedia (www.newadvent.org).
Griffith, Sidney H. “The Gospel in Arabic: An Inquiry into Its Appearance in the First Abbasid Century.” in Oriens Christianus, volume 69, pp. 131-132.
Würthwein, Ernst. The Text of the Old Testament. Grand Rapids, Michigan: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1988.
**Professor Shahul Hameed is a consultant for the Discover Islam section of IslamOnline.net. He also writes occasionally for other sections. He was previously chairman of the Kerala Islamic Mission in Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. Her books focus on comparative religion, the status of women, science and human values.
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