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The Blue Letter Bible

Don Stewart :: What Is the Holy Book of Islam?

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What Is the Holy Book of Islam? (The Qur’an and Koran)

Islam – Question 5

The source of all authority in Islam is the Quran. Muslims believe that it is the actual words of Allah, the one God, dictated to Muhammad the prophet in the Arabic language. We need to make the following observations about the Quran.

What Is the Quran?

The Quran (also spelled Qur’an or Koran) is the holy book of Islam. It is divided into chapters or surahs. The Quran contains 114 surahs. The surahs are further divided into verses called “ayahs.” References are given like chapter and verse numbers in the Bible. However, the verse numbers will vary according to different printings of the Quran.

The Surahs are not arranged in chronological order. Rather their order is roughly due to their length with the longest ones in the beginning.

The word Quran is derived from an Arabic word qara which means “to read” or “to recite.” It is based on the first word of Surah 96 which begins by saying the following.

Proclaim, or read in the name of your Lord and Cherisher.

It is generally believed that the first five verses of this Surah were the first parts of the Quran that were put in written form.

Except for the first Surah which is a prayer addressed to Allah, Allah himself is the speaker in all of the other Surahs. Thus, the Quran does not consist of Muhammad speaking, but rather Allah.

1. The Claims of Islam concerning the Quran

Islam makes a number of claims about the Quran. They can be summarized as follows.

The Entire Text Was Dictated to Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel

According to Islam, the entire text of the Quran was revealed to Muhammad by the archangel Gabriel. The material was revealed in various portions from A.D. 610 through Muhammad’s death in A.D. 632.

The Quran claims to be a unique revelation from Allah. It says of itself. It says the following of itself.

Say: If men and jinn should combine together to bring the like of this Quran, they could not bring the like of it, though some of them were aiders of others. (Surah 17:88)

Elsewhere it says,

And this Quran is not such as could be forged by those besides Allah, but it is a verification of that which is before it and a clear explanation of the book, there is no doubt in it, from the Lord of the worlds Or do they say: He has forged it? Say: Then bring a chapter like this and invite whom you can besides Allah, if you are truthful (Surah 10:37, 38).

Clearly, it claims to be Allah’s revelation.

The Original Quran Has Existed Eternally in Heaven

Muslims believe there is an original Quran that has existed eternally in heaven. This Quran is on a stone tablet written in the Arabic language, the language of heaven. Since the original Quran is written in Arabic, the Arabic language is given special reverence. This is emphasized in Quran. It says,

These are the verses of the Book that makes things manifest. Surely we have revealed it—an Arabic Quran—that you may understand. (Surah 12:1, 2)

Therefore, the Quran on earth is a representative of the one in heaven.

The Quran Is the Final Revelation of Allah to Humanity

Islam believes that the Quran is the final revelation of the one true, God, Allah. While the Old and New Testament were also given by Allah, the Quran is his final word to humanity. The Quran says,

Allah makes to pass away and establishes what He pleases, and with Him is the basis of the Book. (Surah 13:39)

Since the Quran was dictated by Allah, there are no contradictions in the text.

There Can Be No Authorized English Translations of the Quran

There is not any standard English translation of the Quran, neither could there be. It is believed only the original Arabic version has authority. The Quran, in Arabic, is the perfect Word of Allah.

2. The Collection of the Messages in the Quran

With respect to the collection of these messages, we can make the following observations.

The Message Was Recited by Muhammad to Others

Since Muhammad could not read or write, these revelations were recited by Muhammad to others. The recitations were written down, or memorized, by the companions of Muhammad.

The Recitations Were Collected after Muhammad’s Death

After his death, attempts were made to assemble the Quran by Muslim leaders. The various portions were found written on such things as stones, leaves, and on the shoulder blades of camels. In addition, the memories of those who heard these recitations were used to compile the Quran. The final compilation of the revelation occurred about the year A.D. 650.

3. The Quran and Other Holy Books

According to Islam, the final source of authority is the Quran, which Muslims believe to be the word of Allah. Although Islam teaches that the Old and New Testaments are divinely inspired, they believe that Christians and Jews have corrupted the Scriptures. Islam considers the Bible wrong in any place where it conflicts with the Quran. The Quran is the only trustworthy source of teaching for the Muslims.

Muslims believe the Quran to be the uncreated, literal speech of Allah; the one true God. The Quran says that there has eternally existed in Paradise the Preserved Tablet, which is the eternal Word of God. This is where revelation to humanity descends. (Surah 13:39)
Muslims Believe That the Bible Is God’s Revelation to Humanity

Islam believes the Torah, or the Law of Moses, is also divinely inspired. It says,

Say: We believe in Allah and in that which had been revealed to us, and in that which was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and in that which was given to Moses and Jesus, and in that which was given to the prophets from their Lord, we do not make any distinction between any of them, and to Him do we submit. (Surah 2:136)

It also speaks of the Tavrat and Injeel (the Law of Moses and Gospel) that Allah sent to the Jews and Christians.

He has revealed to you the Book with truth, verifying that which is before it, and he revealed the Tavrat and the Injeel aforetime, a guidance for the people, and he sent the Quran. (Surah 3:3)

The revelations of Allah also extend to the life of Jesus.

Surely We have revealed to you as We revealed to Noah, and the prophets after him, and We revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and Jesus, Job, Jonah and Aaron and Solomon and we gave to David we gave the psalms. (Surah 4:163)

Therefore, the Bible is considered sacred Scripture by Muslims.

The Scripture Is to Be Consulted

Islam teaches that Scripture should be consulted when problems arise. Any problems should be settled by the statements of Scripture. It says,

But if you are in doubt as to what We have revealed to you, ask those who read the Book before you; certainly the truth has come to you from your Lord, therefore you should not be of the disputers. (Surah 10:94)

Thus the Quran encourages people to consult the Scripture.

Muslims Believe the Bible Has Been Corrupted by Jews and Christians

Islam claims the Bible and the Quran are both Holy Scripture given by Allah. The Quran says,

O you People of the Book! Believe in what we have (now) revealed, confirming what was (already) with you. (Surah 4:47)

We also read,

And this is a Book which we have sent down, bringing blessings and confirming (the revelations) which came before it. (Surah 6:92)
Why Do These Holy Books Contradict Each Other?

While the Bible and the Quran are considered to be sacred by Muslims, they are contradictory to each other in much that they teach. Consequently, the Jews and Christians brought a number of arguments against Muhammad and his followers on the basis of what their Scriptures taught. Muslims were forced to come up with some sort of answer to these questions.

The basic question which had to be answered was this: How could there be discrepancies if the Old Testament, the New Testament, and Quran all came from the same source? If the Quran only confirmed what was in the Old and New Testaments then why do we find these contradictions?

Christians and Jews Are Corrupters of the Truth

Muhammad addressed this issue during his time in Medina. He said the Word that had been previously given in the Old and New Testaments had been corrupted by both Jews and Christians; the “people of the Book.”

The Quran makes the following accusation.

Most surely there is a party amongst those who distort the Book with their tongue that you may consider it to be (a part) of the Book, and they say, It is from Allah, while it is not from Allah, and they tell a lie against Allah whilst they know. (Surah 3:78)
The Changes Were Deliberately Made by Jews

Therefore, when the Bible and the Quran are in conflict, the Quran corrects that which was corrupted in the Bible. Muhammad accuses the Jews of knowingly perverting the word of God after having heard and understood it. The Quran says,

Do you then hope that they would believe in you, and a party from among them indeed used to hear the Word of Allah, then altered it after they had understood it, and they know (this). (Surah 2:75)

He accused them of deliberately perverting God’s Word. The Quran says,

[Some people actually] write the Book with their own hands and then say, “This is from God.” (Surah 2:79)

They are said to have purposely changed the Scripture.

[These] transgressors changed the word from that which had been given them. (Surah 2:59)

The Jews are accused of corrupting the text by displacing words, changing them from one place to another. In this way, they twist the things that God has said.

Of the Jews there are those who displace words and say: “We hear and we disobey... with a twist of their tongues.“ (Surah 4:46)

The Quran accuses Christians of neglecting Scripture. It says,

And with those who say, we are Christians, We made a covenant, but they neglected a portion of what they were reminded of, therefore we excited among them enmity and hatred to the day of resurrection; and Allah will inform them of what they did. (Surah 5:14)

The charge of concealment is also leveled against the “People of the Book.” We read elsewhere in the Quran,

“Why do you clothe truth with falsehood,” the People of the Book are asked, “and conceal the truth while you have knowledge?” (Surah 3:71)

These people will be severely judged for their behavior. The Quran says,

Surely those who conceal the clear proofs and the guidance that We revealed after We made it clear in the Book for men, these it is whom Allah shall curse, and those who curse shall curse them (too). (Surah 2:159)

In another place, it says,

Surely those who conceal any part of the Book that Allah has revealed and take for it a small price, they eat nothing but fire into their bellies, and Allah will not speak to them on the day of resurrection, nor will He purify them, and they shall have a painful chastisement. (Surah 2:174)
Muhammad Brought the Light to the Darkened Situation

Muhammad, on the other hand, is depicted as coming into the world to bring light to this darkened situation.

With it Allah guides him who will follow his pleasure into the ways of safety and brings them out of utter darkness into light by his will and guides them to the right path. (Surah 5:16)

Jews are seen as not assigning the correct attributes to Allah. The Quran says,

And they do not assign to Allah the attributes due to Him when they say: Allah has not revealed anything to a mortal. Say: Who revealed the Book which Musa brought, a light and a guidance to men, which you make into scattered writings which you show while you conceal much? And you were taught what you did not know, (neither) you nor your fathers. Say: Allah then leave them sporting in their vain discourses. (Surah 6:91)

Of Christians, it is said that forgot what God had revealed to them.

They forgot a good part of the message that was sent them. (Surah 5:15)

This was Islam’s way of attempting to explain the obvious discrepancies between the Quran and the Old and New Testament. They simply attribute it to deliberate changing of the text by Jews and Christians. Interestingly, some Muslim scholars have concluded that the text wasn’t actually changed by Jews and Christians merely that they misunderstood what was taught. Such is the confusing nature of Islamic belief.

The Gospel of Barnabas Gives a More Precise Life of Christ

Muslims sometime refer to a work called the Gospel of Barnabas as a more authoritative source to the life of Jesus. They believe it gives the correct explanation of what Jesus said and did. In the Gospel of Barnabas, Jesus is said to have been an Islamic prophet, the forerunner of Muhammad.

The Literary Beauty of the Quran

There is one final point which should be mentioned. Those who read the Quran in Arabic testify to its literary beauty. Even non-Muslims agree that it is a great literary work. Muslims often use this to argue for its divine nature. They contend that a book with such beauty could not have come about from mere humans. Consequently, it must be a divine work, a work of God. Thus, the beauty of the Quran is used as the final line of evidence of its divine inspiration.

These points sum up some of the basic facts about the composition of the Quran as well as the way Muslims view this book. To them, the Quran is sacred beyond description.

Christian Response to the Quran

While Islam believes the Quran is the word of Allah, there are a number of problems with this view. They include the following.

1. The Text of the Quran Did Not Always Read the Same

The Islamic tradition teaches that when Muhammad died, in A.D. 632, the various revelations he had recited had not been yet gathered into a single book. They were merely recorded “on palm leaves and flat stones and in the hearts of men.”

While attempts were made to collect the authoritative text recited by Muhammad, a standard text was not created. A number of variations in the text continued to exist until the tenth century. Even in the mid-twentieth century there were two versions still being used. While the main text was used by most Muslims worldwide, a variation of this text was in use in North Africa.

The Quran was originally compiled by one individual, Zaid ibn Thabit. This was done under the guidance of Abu Bakr, the father-in-law of Muhammad. Later, a group of Arab scholars produced a unified version of the Quran in which they destroyed all copies that had variant readings.

Thus the text of the Quran is anything but certain. This should be especially troubling to Muslims since it is believed that the Quran is the believed to have been dictated from an Arabic original in heaven.

There is more. Recent ancient manuscripts of the Quran have surfaced in Yemen. These manuscripts demonstrate further variant readings in the text. All of this should not give a Muslim much assurance that they are reading, or listening to, in Arabic, the exact words of Allah.

2. It Has an Incorrect Understanding of What the Bible Says

While the Quran claims to be the final word of Allah, it does not correctly reflect the truth of Scripture. Time after time it mistakenly attributes something to Scripture that is not there or contradicts its plain teaching. Since God is not the author of confusion, He would not give a revelation to humanity that contradicted which He previously revealed.

3. There Is No Objective Evidence That It Is Divine

We find no objective evidence that the Quran is divinely inspired. There are no predictions that are miraculously fulfilled, no miracles that have adequate testimony, and the founder, Muhammad, is clearly said to have died, been buried, and remains dead.

4. The Text of Scripture Has Not Been Changed

The Islam doctrine of tahrif, that the Scriptures have been corrupted, is not supported by the evidence. In fact just the opposite is true. When the evidence is objectively looked at, it becomes clear that the Scriptures have been transmitted throughout history with amazing accuracy. People today can read the Bible with the confidence that nothing has been added or subtracted.

Therefore, the claims of Islam with respect to the Bible are simply untrue. The text of the Old Testament as well as the text of the New Testament has been transmitted with such accuracy that we can be confident we are reading the same thing as what was actually written.

5. The Gospel of Barnabas Is a Fraud

The gospel of Barnabas, which attempts to give a version of the life and ministry of Jesus that differs from the New Testament, is a fraud. There is no evidence that it was written any earlier than the fourteenth or fifteenth century. It contradicts both the New Testament and the Quran!

It contradicts the New Testament in that it says Jesus was the forerunner to the Messiah who proclaimed the future coming of Muhammad. It also contradicts the Quran by saying Muhammad was the Messiah. Even the Quran acknowledges that Jesus was the Messiah.

6. Literary Beauty Does Not Prove Divine Inspiration

The idea that the Quran may be a literary masterpiece has nothing to do with establishing divine origin. The fact that a book may be a work of beauty does not mean that it is the inspired word of God. If the Quran is what Muslims claim that it is, then there must be some objective evidence to back up their claims. As we have seen, there is none.

7. The Quran Was Written Six Hundred Years after the Life of Christ

Since the Quran was written some six hundred years after the life of Christ, it certainly is in no position to give authoritative statements about what did and what did not happen in the first century A.D. No court of law in the world would accept the testimony of someone living six centuries after the fact who had no personal contact with the events he attempts to rewrite. In short, the Quran would be thrown out of court.

On the other hand, the writers of the New Testament were either eyewitnesses to the events they recorded, or they recorded firsthand testimony of others who were there. Their account of Jesus’ life and ministry is the only one that should be taken seriously.

This sums up some of the basic facts about the Quran, the holy book of Islam. The facts make it plain that this work, whatever its ultimate source, is not the Word of God. While the Bible certainly gives evidence of this the Quran does not.

Summary – Question 5
What Is the Holy Book of Islam? (The Qur’an and Koran)

The Quran is the holy book of Islam. Muslims believe it is the last revelation of Allah to humanity. While the Old and New Testament were divinely given, the teaching of the Quran is the final word on all spiritual matters. It is claimed that the Quran contains the recitations of Muhammad that Allah gave to him through the angel Gabriel.

These recitations were eventually collected by those who heard them or wrote them down. The end result, the Quran, is said to be the exact duplicate of a book that has been written in heaven in the Arabic language. Therefore, it is a perfect book. It cannot be altered in any fashion.

When confronted with contradictions between the Quran and the Hebrew or Christian Scripture, the Quran claims that these older revelations were corrupted by Jews and Christians. The final revelation, the Quran, is Allah’s perfect word. Muslims sometimes cite a work “The Gospel of Barnabas” as giving a more accurate view of the life of Christ. This work supposedly has Jesus as a Muslim prophet.

Finally, the literary beauty of the Quran is often appealed to as a sign of its divine origin. The fact that the Quran in the original Arabic is a work of beauty demonstrates to Muslims that it must be the word of Allah. Indeed, it is argued that no human could compose such a literary masterpiece.

These are the claims Muslims make for the Quran. However, there is no evidence of any of this being true. Indeed, it is impossible to consider the Quran as the final word from the same God who has revealed Himself in the Scripture.

To begin with, there is no exact text of the Quran in existence. Manuscripts that do exist have variations between them. The “perfect text” does not exist. Consequently we do not have the exact words which “Allah” supposedly gave to us.

Furthermore, there is confusion in the Quran with exactly what the Bible does teach. It either misunderstands or misrepresents certain teachings in the Scripture. This makes it clear that it cannot be the final word from the God of the Bible.

Add to this there is no evidence that it is divine. In contrast to the Bible, there are no objective miracles, and no fulfilled prophecy. Indeed, there is nothing in the Quran to indicate its divine status.

The Quran also is in error when it says the text of the Bible has been corrupted. The evidence clearly shows that it has not been. Thus, the Quran makes inaccurate claims about both Jews and Christians.

In addition, the Gospel of Barnabas, which supposedly gives a more accurate view of the life of Christ, is nothing but a fraud.

As far as its literary beauty is concerned, this has absolutely nothing to do with its ultimate origin. To be God’s Word, there has to be more evidence than the work being a literary masterpiece. Supporting facts must be given to back up the claim of divine inspiration. As we have seen, there are no facts to do this.

Finally, there is the matter of the time of the composition of these books. The Quran was written some six hundred years after the life of Jesus Christ. Obviously, Muhammad was in no position to make authoritative statements about Jesus six centuries after the events took place. The primary source for the life of Jesus is the New Testament. It has evidence to support its divine nature. The Quran does not.

Consequently, the Quran should be rejected as a divinely revealed book.

What Are the Basic Beliefs of Islam? ← Prior Section
If the Quran Is Not the Word of God, Then What Was Its Actual Source? Next Section →
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