What are the Tawrat, Zabur and Injil?
It is common knowledge that Muslims recognize four remaining holy books out of a total of 104 revelations, of which 100 are missing. Although Muslims are often taught that the 3 remaining books previous to the Koran have been altered, still, Muslims for the most part, respect those 3 holy books. The 3 holy books are known as the Tawrat, Zabur, and Injil.
This article will not deal with the Muslim belief in abrogation of previous scriptures, nor will it major on the Muslim belief in the corruption of the scriptures by Jews and Christians. The purpose of this paper is to examine the various opinions held regarding these 3 holy books. How did they come up with that understanding?
Let it be stated here that this author has confidence that the Tawrat, Zabur and Injil extant today amongst Jews and Christians (i.e. the Holy Bible), are the same as those books originally given by almighty God.
Muslim belief about the previous holy books has been in part shaped by the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)'s interaction with Jews and Christians of his time. Some of these Jews and Christians were his earlier converts. The prophet's first wife, Khadijah was known as a Christian before converting to Islam, as was her cousin Waraka (or Warqa), who was considered a serious Bible student and perhaps even a translator of Scripture. So it would be beneficial to try to understand exactly what the Koran says about those holy books, and also what Jews and Christians of that time would have thought about the books. In doing this, we will also look at the holy Injil's use of various titles for different Scriptures.
The Muslim Understanding of the 3 Holy Books
General Muslim understanding today of the Tawrat, Zabur, and Injil, is somewhat simplistic. Each is thought to be a revelation in the form of a written book that was given through Hazrat Musa, Dawud, and Isa (peace be upon them) respectively. But there is some divergence of opinion:
- Some Say Tawrat equals the Pentateuch:
Three sections of the Bible are cited by the Koran as being Divinely revealed: the Pentateuch, or Books of Moses (Tawrat); the Psalms of David (Zabur); and the Gospels of Jesus (Injil) (Glasse, The Concise Encyclopedia of Islam, pg. 72.)
- Some Say Tawrat equals the Old Testament:
Others however, would say that the Tawrat is more or less the entire revelation given to the Jews:
The religious dissociation of Abraham and other religious personalities from the main body of Jews and Christians was an inevitable consequence of two strands among Jews and Christians. The Qur'an continuously praises the one strand, and condemns the other, e.g., 'From among them (i.e., the People of the Book) there is an upright group but most of them perpetrate misdeeds' (V, 66). They were asked to live up to the Torah and the Evangel (V, 68), but, like the proprietors of all organized religious traditions, Jews and Christians quarrelled among themselves and each claimed that the keys of salvation were firmly in their exclusive grasp: 'The Jews say the Christians have nothing to stand on and the Christians say the Jews have nothing to stand on, and they both read the Book' (II, 120). (Fazlur Rahman, Islam, pg. 27)
It may be inferred from the preceding quote from Fazlur Rahman that the Scriptures of the Jews and Christians may be summed up in the words Torah (or Tawrat) and Evangel (or Injil), i.e. the Old Testament and the New Testament. This thinking is partly due to the Koran's own testimony, more of which will be seen later. The same belief is expressed by A.J. Arberry, noted English Muslim in his introduction to his translation of the Koran:
In many passages it is stated that the Koran had been sent down 'confirming what was before it', by which was meant the Torah and the Gospel; the contents of the Jewish and Christian scriptures, excepting such falsifications as had been introduced into them, were therefore taken as true and known. (Arberry, The Koran Interpreted, pg. xi.)
- Some Say Tawrat equals a Lost Book:
Abdullah Yusuf Ali seems to equate the Tawrat with the Old Testament, "Vaguely we may say that it was the Jewish Scripture." (Ali, The Holy Qur'an: Text, Translation and Commentary, pg. 282.) However, because of his belief in the corruption of the Bible, there are qualifiers:
But it was lost before Islam was preached. What passed as "The Law" with the Jews in the Apostle's time was the mass of traditional writing which I have tried to review in this Appendix. (Ali, Ibid., pg. 285.)
The "mass of traditional writing" to which he refers is the Talmud (Ali, Ibid., pg. 284.) (see section on Interval Between Christ and Muhammad for more).
So in Ali's opinion, the Tawrat no longer exists.
- Some Say Injil equals a Lost Book:
Regarding the Injil, the same divergence of opinion is true. This divergence however, is only variations of the same theme. The "same theme" is this, the Injil has been corrupted. Some holding this belief vehemently, say that the Injil is no longer extant, and that today's New Testament bears little, if any, resemblance to the original Injil:
The Injil (Greek, Evangel=Gospel) spoken of by the Qur'an is not the New Testament. It is not the four Gospels now received as canonical. It is the single Gospel which, Islam teaches, was revealed to Jesus, and which he taught. Fragments of it survive in the received canonical Gospels and in some others, of which traces survive (e.g., the Gospel of Childhood or the Nativity, the Gospel of St. Barnabas, etc.). (Ali, Ibid., pg. 287.)
- Some Say Injil equals the Gospels of New Testament:
Toward the other end of the spectrum is Cyril Glasse, a western Muslim scholar. He uses three different names for the Injil interchangeably, Gospels of Jesus, the Gospel, and New Testament:
Three sections of the Bible are cited by the Koran as being Divinely revealed: the Pentateuch, or Books of Moses (Tawrat); the Psalms of David (Zabur); and the Gospels of Jesus (Injil)...
However, the Gospels and Psalms have found no place in an Islamic canon and their contents are mostly ignored and unknown to Muslims. Moreover, the Gospel poses particular difficulties in Islam. Leaving aside the distinction between direct revelation from God, which is the case of the Koran (in Arabic tanzil, which corresponds to sruti in Sanskrit), and secondary inspiration (in Arabic ilham, the equivalent of smrti in Sanskrit), which is the case of the Gospels, the Christian Gospel clashes with Islamic understanding of doctrine on several points, most importantly regarding the nature of Jesus...
Muslims believe that the New Testament as used by Christians is incorrect and has, somehow, been falsified. (Glasse, Ibid., pg. 72.).
So there is divergence, but it is only a matter of degree. Because of supposed corruption, some Muslims refuse to accept the New Testament as the Injil.
- Some Say Injil equals the New Testament:
Some, despite supposed corruption, do identify the two as one and the same. Hughes made an interesting comment along this line back in 1885:
Injil is used in the Qur'an, and in the Traditions, and in all Muhammadan theological works of an early date, for the revelations made by God to Jesus. But in recent works it is applied by Muhammadans to the New Testament. (Hughes, Dictionary of Islam, pg. 211.)
For some Muslims it is difficult to conceive of the fact that Hazrat Isa did not speak or write the Injil. A multiplicity of authors for the various New Testament books is a new concept to them.
- All (?) Say Zabur equals the Psalms of Hazrat Dawud (David):
The Zabur or Psalms, does not seem to be a big issue. Except for the comment by Cyril Glasse above about the Psalms, very little is said or discussed about this matter.
Some Say Tawrat, Zabur and Injil equals the Bible:
To top this all off, reference must be made to Abd-al-Rahman Azzam, respected Muslim leader and founder of the Arab League, as well as one who was instrumental in steering Malcolm X towards a more orthodox Islam:
The Imam Ibn-al-Qayyim said, "God (may He be praised and glorified) sent His messengers and revealed His books that people may measure with the justice on which Heaven and earth have dwelt." (Azzam, The Eternal Message of Muhammad, pg. 102.)
In commenting on this quote, Azzam says, "By books is meant the ones revealed by God: the Bible, the Koran." (Azzam, Ibid., pg. 102n.) Azzam equated the other three heavenly books with none other than today's Holy Bible.
(Copyright © 2001 Al-Kitab Scripture Research Institute
[http://al-kitab.org]. Used by permission.)