What does the Koran say about the previous scriptures?
The term Tawrat is simply the Arabic equivalent for the Hebrew Torah, normally understood as the law of Moses (Hazrat Musa). The Koran gives abundant testimony to the Tawrat, so much so, that it is mentioned more than any other part of the Bible:
It was We who revealed the Law (to Moses): therein was guidance and light. By its standard have been judged the Jews, by the Prophets who bowed (as in Islam) to God's Will, by the Rabbis and the Doctors of Law: For to them was entrusted the protection of God's Book, and they were witnesses thereto: Therefore fear not men, but fear Me, and sell not my Signs for a miserable price. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what God hath revealed, they are (no better than) Unbelievers. We ordained therein for them: "Life for life, eye for eye, nose for nose, ear for ear, tooth for tooth, and wounds equal for equal.".... (surah 5:47,48a)
From this quotation it can be seen that the holy Koran highly esteems the Tawrat ("guidance and light"), and as having been revealed by Allah. Also a quotation from the Tawrat is given, which seems to be from Exodus 21:23-25,
But if there is serious injury, you are to take life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. (Ex. 21:23-25)
In al-Koran it sometimes appears that the term Tawrat refers not only to the books of Hazrat Musa (pbuh), but to the entire Hebrew Scriptures, especially in verses that mention the Tawrat and Injil together:
He hath revealed unto thee (Muhammad) the Scripture with truth, confirming that which was (revealed) before it, even as He revealed the Torah and the Gospel (3:3, Pickthall)
Ye People of the Book! Why dispute ye about Abraham, when the Law and the Gospel were not revealed till after him? Have ye no understanding? (surah 3:65)
Three "people of the book" are in view in these verses -- Jews, Christians, and Muslims. Their respective "books" in a nutshell are the Tawrat, Injil, and Koran. The second verse mentions only two, but implies Muslims, whom the others should emulate. This particular understanding of Tawrat is borne out in the Hadith:
Abu Harairah said: When the Prophet (may peace be upon him) went to his bed, he used to say: O God! Lord of the heavens, Lord of the earth, Lord of everything, Who splittest the grain and the kernel, Who hast sent down the Torah, the Injil and the Qur'an, I seek refuge in Thee from the evil of every evil agent whose forelock thou seizest...(Sunan Abu Dawud, vol. 3, pg. 1403.)
Of course, the prophet knew that the Zabur had also been sent down, but perhaps in his thinking he was including it under the Tawrat, i.e. the Jewish Scriptures. Another tradition makes an apparent quote from the Tawrat, a prophecy regarding the Prophet:
Ka'b, quoting the Torah, said we find written, "Muhammad God's messenger, My chosen servant, is not rough, or coarse, or loud-voiced in the streets, he does not requite evil with evil, but forgives and pardons. His birthplace will be in Mecca, his place of emigration in Taiba, his kingdom in Syria, and his people will be those who are devoted to praising, who praise God in prosperity and adversity, who praise God in every alighting-place, who declare God's greatness on every rising ground, who watch for the sun and observe the prayer when its time comes, who tie their lower garments round their middle, who perform ablution at their extremities, who crier summons in the open air, who are the same in fighting as they are in prayer, who make a low sound at night like the buzzing of bees." (Mishkat Al-Masabih, vol. 2, pg. 1237.)
The section in bold-type is of interest because of its parallel to Isaiah 42:1-4:
Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations. He will not shout or cry out, or raise his voice in the streets. A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out. In faithfulness he will bring forth justice; he will not falter or be discouraged till he establishes justice on earth. In his law the islands will put their hope.
The rest of the quote from the Hadith claims to come from the Tawrat as well. If you compare with the rest of Isaiah 42, you do seem some parallels. For example, Isa. 42:11 speaks of the "desert" and "Kedar", probably being the Arabian desert and the territory of Haidar (Kedar), the forefather of the Prophet (pbuh). As well, Isa. 42:10-12 speak of a lot of people praising God, many of whom live in the Arabian desert. Now back to the real point of all this... This tradition refers to the book of Isaiah as being part of the Tawrat, backing up the idea of the Tawrat sometimes being used to refer to the entire Hebrew Scriptures, that is, the Old Testament.
This term "Zabur" is the Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew zimra, translated in the King James Version as "psalm" in Ps. 81:2 and 98:5. The Hebrew word has the meaning "song, music", as in Ex. 15:2, "The Lord is my strength and song". It along with zamir (song) and mizmor (psalm) is a derivative of zamar, meaning "sing, sing praise, make music". (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, vol. 1, pg. 245.)
In the Koran, the Zabur is mentioned by name only three times:
"...And to David We gave the Psalms." (surah 4:163)
"And it is your Lord that knoweth best all beings that are in the heavens and on earth: We did bestow on some Prophets more (and other) gifts than on others: and We gave to David (the gift of) the Psalms." (surah 17:55)
"Before this We wrote in the Psalms, after the Message (given to Moses): 'My servants, the righteous, shall inherit the earth.'" (surah 21:105)
The last reference is of interest because of the quotation from Psalm 37:29 which says, "the righteous will inherit the land and dwell in it forever." Many Muslims scholars think that it also has reference to Exodus 32:13, "...it will be their inheritance forever."
Well-known Christian apologist, C. G. Pfander went as far to say that al-Koran's reference to the Psalms is actually a reference to the third division of the Hebrew Scriptures, known as the Writings or Kethubim: "as it begins with the Psalms, it is so styled in the Gospel (Luke 24:44) and in the Qur'an alike". (The Balance of Truth, pg. 51.)
"Injil" is Arabic for euaggelion in Greek, evangel or gospel in English. The term occurs twelve times in the holy Koran:
"We sent after them Jesus son of Mary, and bestowed on him the Gospel; and We ordained in the hearts of those who followed him Compassion and Mercy." (surah 57:27)
This particular reference is of interest for several reasons. First, it states that Hazrat Isa was given the Gospel by God, from which Muslims infer that the real Gospel (i.e. real New Testament) came from the mouth and pen of the prophet Isa. Second, as an aside, God made Christians to have two distinctive qualities -- compassion and mercy. It is reminiscent of the heading of most surahs of the Koran, and the common formula for blessing and beginning any good work: Bismillahir Rahmanir Rahim, "In the name of Allah, most gracious, most merciful". It seems that Christians are said to have the character of God! What a testimony the holy Koran gives regarding followers of Hazrat Isa! Third, this verse is the only one out of twelve specific mentions of the Injil or Gospel in the Koran that does not also mention the Tawrat (Law). The Injil is almost always coupled with the Tawrat (see also 3:3, 48, 65; 9:111; 5:49, 50, 69, 71, 113):
"Muhammad is the Apostle of God; and those who are with him are strong against Unbelievers, (but) compassionate amongst each other. Thou wilt see them bow and prostrate themselves (in prayer), seeking Grace from God and (His) Good Pleasure. On their faces are their marks, (being) the traces of their prostration. This is their similitude in the Tawrat; and their similitude in the Gospel is: Like a seed which sends forth its blade, then makes it strong; it then becomes thick, and it stands on its own stem, (filling) the sowers with wonder and delight..." (surah 48:29)
The verse states that the Prophet's Companions were a mixture of humililty and strength. Strong against enemies of God, humble toward God and other believers. It says that their humble prostration in prayer is like that found in the Tawrat (cp. Numbers 16:22, "Moses and Aaron fell facedown..."). Then it says that the strength and victory of Muslims is like that spoken of in the Gospel, apparently referring to the parables of Isa:
"...A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain -- first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head... ...like a mustard seed, which is the smallest seed you plant in the ground. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds of the air can perch in its shade." (Mark 4:26-28, 31-32)
The group of Muslims started off small but grew quickly to become an international force. However, the main point we need to see is that this is one of ten Koranic references which couple the Law and the Gospel closely together, implying that the totality of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures can be summed up in the phrase "the Law and the Gospel". One more example:
"Those who follow the messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write, whom they will find described in the Torah and the Gospel (which are) with them." (surah 7:157, Pickthall)
Another interesting verse. It states that the coming of the Prophet is prophesied in the Book of the Jews, and in the Book of the Christians. From the Torah, Muslims usually refer to Deut. 18:15 as indicating Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh),
The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. (Deut. 18:15)
It is explained that only Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) qualifies to fulfill this because the phrase, "from among your own brothers" is taken to mean "from among those who are brothers to you Jews, that is, Ishmaelites for example". They see it as significant that the Prophet was not a Jew. As far as Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) being prophesied in the Injil goes, it is helpful to look at another Koranic verse:
"And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: 'O Children of Israel! I am the apostle of God (sent) to you, confirming the Law (which came) before me, and giving Glad Tidings of an Apostle to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad.'" (surah 61:6)
This verse does not have the word Injil or Gospel but it does give the idea that news of the coming of Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) is in the Injil. This verse also reinforces the "law and gospel" couplet pattern in the Koran. Muslim scholars look to an emended version of verses in John's Gospel to support this Koranic statement:
"Ahmad", or "Muhammad", the Praised One, is almost a translation of the Greek word Periclytos. In the present Gospel of John, xiv. 16, xv. 26, and xvi. 7, the word "Comforter" in the English version is for the Greek word "Paracletos", which means "Advocate", "one called to the help of another, a kind friend", rather than "Comforter". Our doctors contend that Paracletos is a corrupt reading for Periclytos, and that in their original saying of Jesus there was a prophecy of our holy Prophet Ahmad by name. Even if we read Paraclete, it would apply to the holy Prophet, who is "a Mercy for all creatures" (xxi. 107) and "most kind and merciful to the Believers" (ix. 128). (Ali, Ibid., pg. 1540, footnote.)
Muhammad often addresses Christians in the Koran, such as,
"Let the People of the Gospel judge by what God hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what God hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel." (surah 5:50)
Christian leader Michael Nazir-Ali in commenting on the preceding ayat makes an observation which is perhaps worth as much as everything else that has been said:
"The point here is not what Muhammad [pbuh] thought the Injil to be...but what in fact it was at his time. He is, in the above passage, exhorting the Christians of his day to look into the Injil for guidance. Now, if these Christians had responded to such an exhortation and had looked into their Injil or evangel into what would they have looked? The answer is quite obvious: They would have looked into their New Testament (which is also ours)..." (Nazer-Ali, Islam: A Christian Perspective, pg. 14.)
Tawrat, Zabur, and Injil together
Nowhere in the Koran are these three books mentioned together. They are not even mentioned within the same surah. To find all three together, you have to go to the Hadith:
Abu Huraira told that when God's messenger once asked Ubayy b. Ka'b how he recited in the course of the prayer and he recited Umm al-Qur'an [the first surah of the Koran], he said, "By Him in whose hand my soul is, nothing like it has been sent down in the Torah, the Injil, the Zabur, or the Qur'an, and it is seven of the oft-repeated verses and the mighty Qur'an which I have been given." (Mishkat Al-Masabih, pg. 454.)
This tradition neatly encapsulates the Muslim belief in four heavenly books. The Koran mentions no other such heavenly books, but it does mention biblical prophets who are not contained in the Pentateuch, Psalms, or New Testament.
Other Prophetic Voices
Biblical prophets who fall outside the pale of the three accepted books of the Bible and yet are mentioned in the Koran are, Job (4:163), Elijah (6:86), Elisha (6:87), Solomon (2:102), Jonah (4:163), Ezekiel [or possibly Isaiah] (21:85), and Ezra (9:30). In addition, there are other non-prophet biblical characters mentioned such as Goliath (2:251), Korah (28:76ff), King Saul (2:247ff), and the Queen of Sheba (27:22). All this serves to indicate that the names Tawrat, Zabur, and Injil, cover more than those Scriptures given through Hazrat Musa, Dawud, and Isa (pbut). It is in fact, a strong argument that the whole of the Holy Bible is indicated by these three titles. The argument strengthens a little when you read verses like these,
"Say (O Muslims): We believe in God and that which is 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." (surah 2:136)
This verse leaves open the possibility of other Scripture which is not included in the Tawrat and the Injil. Surely more must be intended than just the Zabur and the Koran? There are other verses also:
"If only they [i.e. the People of the Book] had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side." (surah 5:69)
Say: "O People of the Book! Ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord." (surah 5:71)
Some Muslim scholars take the bold phrases (my doing) to refer only to the Koran. Some however, seem to be unsure and lack dogmatism. Certainly, at least the Zabur must be included here, and perhaps other writings. Other verses showing a wider field of revelations are 5:113 and 3:48. They are almost identical in content, speaking of how God would teach Hazrat Isa. Surah 3:48 is given here:
And He [God] will teach him [Isa] the Scripture and wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel. (surah 3:48, Pickthall)
Torah is clear, and so is Gospel, but what is meant by "the Scripture"? Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi seems to represent the safe and common position, "the revealed Books in general". (Tafsir-ul Qur'an, vol. 1, pg. 227.) The word for "Scripture" in Arabic furnishes no clues because it is al-kitab, the generic word used for any holy book including the Koran. But since it is so generic, perhaps we could say the Scripture includes the writings which speak of Elijah (Hazrat Ilyas), Elisha (Al-Yasa), Ezekiel (Dhul-Kifl or Hizkil), Jonah (Hazrat Yunus), etc. However, these could also be comprehended in a more general understanding of Tawrat to signify "the Jewish Scriptures", including the Tawrat proper, the Psalms and writings, and the Prophets.
We did aforetime grant to the Children of Israel the Book, the Power of Command, and Prophethood; We gave them, for Sustenance, things good and pure; and We favoured them above the nations. (surah 45:16)
Abdullah Yusuf Ali comments on this verse in this way:
Israel had the Revelation given through Moses, the power of judgment and command through the Kingdom of David and Solomon, and numerous prophetic warnings through such men as Isaiah and Jeremiah. (Ali, Ibid., pg. 1358).
He seems to recognize the words of Isaiah and Jeremiah as legitimate prophecy from God. This is remarkable in view of the fact that such prophets are mentioned neither in the Koran nor the Hadith.
A Hadith of great importance shows that Hazrat Muhammad (pbuh) attributed wahi (Divine Inspiration) to at least one of the Apostle Paul's writings:
Abu Huraira told that after God's messenger had stated that God most high has said, "I have prepared for my upright servants what eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor has entered into the heart of man," he added, "Recite, if you wish, 'No soul knows what comfort has been concealed for them'." (Bukhari and Muslim)
This is quite close to what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:9,
But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him. (1 Cor. 2:9)
The quoted Hadith closely follows Paul's wording. To top it off, it says that God most high said this! Then the prophet Muhammad (pbuh) must have thought 1 Corinthians was part of God's Word, as part of the Injil. Though many Hadith are admittedly unreliable, this one (like all mentioned in this article) are of high authority and considered trustworthy. This one gets a double portion, being found in both Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim.
In al-Koran, Tawrat can refer to the law of Moses or the entire Old Testament revelation, depending on the context. The Zabur is at least the Psalms of David, but perhaps equivalent to the Kethubim, the third division of the Hebrew Bible. The Koran does not militate against such an interpretation. The Injil is that revelation given to the Christians, i.e. the New Testament. From the Koran's testimony we learn that in addition to the 3 previous holy books, there are other prophets who may have been given written revelation from God. The Hadith help define the previous holy books to be exactly three, but show us also that an unnamed prophet might make contribution to a holy book (i.e. the apostle Paul contributed to the Injil).
(Copyright © 2001 Al-Kitab Scripture Research Institute
[http://al-kitab.org]. Used by permission.)