In certain parts of the world like North Korea and Saudi Arabia you can be executed for having a Bible. In many so-called “Muslim” nations Christians are persecuted and Jews are purged from the land completely. Yet Prophet Muhammad loved Jews and Christians and the Quran calls them the People of the Book, not infidels or unbelievers. It’s a long held belief within the Muslim community that the Bible has been corrupted, and while I do have some problems with the Bible and modern Christianity, that will be examined in a future post. Here I will look solely at what the Quran had to say about the Bible and how Muslims should see it.
And We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow in their footsteps, confirming that which was (revealed) before him in the Torah, and We bestowed on him the Gospel wherein is guidance and a light, confirming that which was (revealed) before it in the Torah – a guidance and an admonition unto those who ward off (evil). (Quran 5:46).
It’s an unfortunate sentiment today that Muslims hate Christians or Jesus. The truth is that Muslims love Jesus. Jesus came to fulfill the Jewish law and the Quran came to confirm the Bible. The Quran speaks favorably of the Bible and Islam follows all of the prophets, from Abraham to Jesus.
It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Jesus) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong). (Quran 3:3).
The Quran calls the Bible, or parts at least parts of it, a light (5:44), an example (11:17), and a warning (17:4). It also states that the authors of the Bible were inspired (4:163; 5:111). In addition, Islam holds the Torah, the Psalms and the Gospel of Jesus sacred to its faith and believing in these books is an essential part of the faith. I should note that the Gospel is the one given to Jesus, not the ones written about him, but nonetheless many of his teachings have been preserved. Contrary to popular belief, the Quran does not undo the previous scriptures it confirms them and weeds out the truth from the falsehood:
And We have revealed to you, (O Muhammad), the Book in truth, confirming that which preceded it of the Scripture and as a criterion over it. (Quran 5:48)
In addition to the Torah, Psalms and Gospel, the Quran also mentions the following people from the Bible:
- The Apostles
- Gog and Magog
- John the Baptist
- Joseph (and his brothers)
- Lot (and his wife)
- Potiphar (and his wife)
- The Queen of Sheba
- King Saul
People mentioned but unnamed include the following:
Now that is a significant part of the Bible narrative also present in the Quran in one form or another. There is nothing in the Quran that prohibits a Muslim from reading or learning from the Bible. In fact, I’ve seen many books that have stories from the Bible and Quran side by side so you can compare and contrast what the two say. On that note it’s important to say that reading the Bible as Muslim should enhance your Islamic experience, not lead you astray. One Hadith cautions against reading the Bible if you are weak in faith or have no previous knowledge of what is true and false but to those who seek to deepen their Islamic faith, the Bible is a valuable tool!
One should note that at the time of Muhammad, the Christian Bible included a section called the Apocrypha, which is no longer part of the modern Bible except in a few select churches. There are also several other texts including the Pseudepigrapha that were circulating around churches at various points over the course of history but that have been excluded from the modern Biblical canon. The Dead Sea Scrolls are also an important discovery when it comes to Bible history and the origins of both Christianity and Islam. You can view the different Bible canons throughout the major traditional churches on Wikipedia.
The important thing to remember here is that the Quran has the final authority over the previous texts, just like the previous texts have authority over the ones that came before them. Keep an open mind and do some historical and theological research when it comes to these texts and the stories mentioned in them from various reputable sources. As a Muslim myself, it’s important for me to also be familiar with the Bible not only to deepen my understanding regarding the roots of my Abrahamic faith and where the prophets come from, but also to promote good and strong interfaith relations with Christians and Jews within the community. We live in a day and age where such things are more crucial than ever and a good place to start is with what we have in common.
So unless you have doubts in faith or your government will kill you for it, as a Muslim you have no reason not to read and study the previous scriptures too.