Should Muslims read the Tawrat, Zabur and Injeel?

Should Muslims read the Tawrat, Zabur and Injeel?

"If they (Jews and Christians) had observed the Torah and the Gospel and that which was revealed unto them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. Among them there are people on the right course but many of them are of evil conduct."
(Quran, 'Al-Ma'ida' 5:66)

What are the Tawrat, Zabur and Injeel?

Muslims are commanded in the Quran, Surah 4, Al Nisa, verse 136, to believe in the books God revealed to the Jews and the Christians. The Tawrat is the Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew word 'Torah'. It is normally understood as the law that was revealed to Hazrat Musa (Surah 5, Al Ma'ida, verses 47-48a). However, the Tawrat also includes the rest of the books that are found in todays, 21st century Bible, the Old Testament, for the following reasons:

• When the Quran mentions the revelations given to the people of the book, the Jews and the Christians, (Surah 3, Ali'Imran, verses 3 and 65) it only refers to the Tawrat and the Injeel but never to the Zabur. That book, however, was also revealed by God to the Jewish prophet Hazrat Dawud (Surah 4, Al Nisa, verse163). This indicates that it was included in the Tawrat. Such a conclusion is supported by a hadith (Mishkat Al-Masabih, vol. 2, p. 1237) that tells of a similar occasion. Ka'b is reported as quoting the Tawrat with sayings that find their parallels in the book of Isaiah (chapter 42) rather then the books revealed to Hazrat Musa. Isaiah is part of the Nevi'im (Prophets) the second division of the Hebrew Bible. 'Zabur' is the Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew word 'zimra', translated as "psalm" and has the meaning "song, music". When the Quran mentions the Zabur, it is probably a reference to the third division of the Hebrew Scriptures, known as the Writings, or Kethubim. It begins with the Psalms and, along with the first two divisions, the Torah and the Nevi'im (Prophets) has been recognized by Jews since about 450 BC (Talmud: Bava Basra 14b-15a, Rashi to Megillah 3a, 14a) until today, by Jesus (Luke 24:44) and by early church fathers. Igantius, for example, was a disciple of the Apostle John who is known as one of Jesus' first followers. (See Ignatius in, "ad Philad." 5 +6; "ad Smyrn." 7) This church leader has therefore an excellent 'Isnad'. The Arabic word means 'chains of narration'. They determine the authenticity of a saying by being closely related to the one who made it in the first place.

• In Surah 2, Al Baqarah, verse 136 we read: 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. (also Surahs 5, Al Ma'idah, verses 69-71, 113) What is meant by the phrase, "that which the Prophets received"? The Quran mentions Job (4:163), Solomon (2:102), Jonah (4:163), Ezekiel [or possibly Isaiah] (21:85), and Ezra (9:30). These are biblical prophets whose books are not lost but found in the Old Testament. It would make little sense to say one believes in revelations that are not available and therefore not known anymore. It is very likely that Surah 3, Ali'Imran, verse 48 refers to those books when it says: "And He [God] will teach him [Isa] the Scripture and wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel."

• Jesus and his followers used the words, "law" and "prophets" interchangeably to refer to the whole Old Testament. (Compare John 10:34 with Psalm 82:6, 1 Corinthians 14:21 with Isaiah 28:11-12, Matthew 5:17-18, 7:12, Romans 3:10-19: quoting from the Psalms, Ecclesiastes, and Isaiah, but not from the law in the narrow sense of the word, Acts 3:18, 21 -22, Hebrews 1:1). When the Quran speaks positively about the Tawrat in the present tense in the sixth century AD it is doing so in the light of what it was at that time.

The Injil is the Arabic equivalent of the Greek word 'euaggelion'. It is normally understood as the Gospel of Hazrat Isa (Surah 57, Al-Hadid, verse 27). However, the Injil also includes the rest of the books that are found in today's, 21st century New Testament of the Bible for the following reasons:

• "Injil" or "Gospel" occurs about 77 times in the New Testament. The message in it, whether spoken or written, is called "the Gospel" (Mark 1:1, Romans 16:25,26, 1 Thess. 1:5). Hazrat Isa committed his Injil into the hands of his followers to publish throughout the world.

• Various historical documents clearly show that the early church used the word "Gospel" as a title for all or part of the New Testament before Islam arrived: Toward the end of the second century, Irenaeus wrote: "The Word gave to us the Gospel in a fourfold shape, but held together by one Spirit". (Harrison, Introduction to the New Testament, pg. 99.) In the fourth century AD, Chrysostom wrote, "We assert, therefore, that, although a thousand Gospels were written, if the contents of all were the same, they would still be one, and their unity no wise infringed by the number of writers. -- Whence it is clear that the four Gospels are one Gospel; for, as the four say the same thing, its oneness is preserved by the harmony of the contents, and not impaired by the difference of persons" (Schaff, A Select Library of Nicene and Post- Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church: First Series. vol. 8, pg. 7.) F.F Bruce, Rylands Professor of Biblical Criticism and Exegesis at the University of Manchester, England, wrote: "At a very early date it appears that the four Gospels were united in one collection. They must have been brought together very soon after the writing of the Gospel according to John. This fourfold collection was originally known as "The Gospel" in the singular, not "The Gospels" in the plural; there was only one Gospel... Ignatius, bishop of Antioch, refers to "The Gospel" as an authoritative writing, and as he knew more than one of the four "Gospels" it may well be that by "The Gospel" sans phrase he means the fourfold collection which went by that name. ("The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?" 1943, pg. 23.) About other books in the New Testament Bruce writes:

"The corpus Paulinum, or collection of Paul's writings, was brought together about the same time as the collecting of the fourfold Gospel. As the Gospel collection was designated by the Greek word Euangelion, so the Pauline collection was designated by the one word Apostolos... (Ibid., p.25.) Augustine, one of the most famous early church fathers wrote in the fourth century, "For I ask them, is it good to take pleasure in reading the Apostle? or good to take pleasure in a sober Psalm? or good to discourse on the Gospel? They will answer to each, 'It is good'." (The Confessions of St.Augustine, pg. 144.)

• A Hadith of great reliability shows that the prophet of Islam credited wahi (Divine Inspiration) to 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 close to what Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:9, a book that is part of today's New Testament: '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. Christian theologian B.B. Warfield sums up the whole topic under discussion well when he writes: "The earliest name given to this new section of Scripture was framed on the model of the name by which what we know as the Old Testament was then known. Just as it was called "The Law and the Prophets and the Psalms" (or "the Hagiographa"), or more briefly "The Law and the Prophets," or even more briefly still "The Law"; so the enlarged Bible was called "The Law and the Prophets, with The Gospels and the Apostles" (so Clement of Alexandria, "Strom." vi. 11, 88; Tertullian, "De Præs. Hær." 36), or most briefly "The Law and the Gospel" (so Claudius Apolinaris, Irenæus); while the new books apart were called "The Gospel and the Apostles," or most briefly of all "The Gospel." This earliest name for the new Bible, with all that it involves as to its relation to the old and briefer Bible, is traceable as far back as Ignatius (A.D. 115), who makes use of it repeatedly (e.g., "ad Philad." 5; "ad Smyrn." 7). ("The Inspiration and Authority of the Bible", p. 413.)
Have the Tawrat, Zabur and Injil been corrupted?

If a corruption of the texts had occurred one need to ask the questions, when should it have happened, how and by whom? What exactly has been distorted and why? There must be a reason behind such a deception. What would be the advantage or benefit from it? Muslims best look up their Quran to find out what it says about such serious charges.

And believe in what I have sent down [= the Qur'ān], confirming what is with you [= the Tawrāt (Torah) and the Injīl (Gospel)], and do not be the first to disbelieve in it, and do not buy with My Verses [= the Tawrāt (Torah) and the Injīl (Gospel)] a small price, and fear Me and Me Alone. And do not clothe the truth with falsehood, or hide the truth – and you know.... Do you order the people in righteousness and you yourselves forget? And are you reciters of the Book? Do you not understand?
(Surah 2 , A-. Bagaraah, verses 41-42, 44)

According to Tafsīr at-Tabarī, "what is with you" is the Tawrāt [Torah] and the Injīl [Gospel]. (Tafsīr at-Tabarī, Vol.1, p.253; see: [Aftab Alam Khan], The Meaning of the Noble Qur'ân: Word-for-word English translation, Volume-1 (Part 1-5) (New Delhi: Islamic Book Service, 2006), pp.11-12)

"What is with you" is described as "My Verses", the ones of Allāh Himself. It is not possible that the Qur'ān could be confirming as God's Word ("My Verses") a text which has been changed. Neither is it possible to hide the truth if one does not have it any longer, or to recite books they allegedly no longer have.

Ibn Isaaq, the earliest biographer of Muhammad comments on Verse 44: '... do not conceal the knowledge which you have about my apostle and what he has brought you when you will find it with you in what you know of the books which are in your hands .... would you forbid men to disbelieve in the prophecy you have ... you contradict what you know to be in My book ('The Life of Muhammad (Sirat Rasul Allah). Translated by A. Guillame. New York: Oxford University Press, 1955. p 250).

'And if thou wert in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the book from before thee..' (Surah 10, Yunus, verse 94)

'Those who have been reading 'the book from before thee' are Jews and Christians! It would make no sense for Allah to command doubters to ask people for guidance whose Scriptures had been corrupted! Several verses in the Quran bear witness to the truth that the Tawrat was unchanged at the time of Hazrat Isa. In Surah 19, Maryam, verse 12, Yahya, who lived at the time of Hazrat Isa was told 'to take hold of the Book, (the Torah).' Surah 3, Ali'Imran, verse 48 tells us that Jesus was also taught in the Torah.

Numerous verses attest to the truth that the Tawrat was uncorrupted in the time of Muhammad, the sixth century AD (Surah 34, Saba, verse 31, Surah 35, Fatir, verse 31). The Arabic phrase 'bain yadaihi' which is used in these references to the Torah literally means 'between his hands.' This usually is an idiom for 'in his possession,' or 'at his disposal'. Some Jewish contemporaries of Muhammad are called 'those who guide and do justice in the light of truth,' besides many others whose reputation was not so favourable. (Surah 7, Al Araf, verse 159) The very fact that they were commended so highly shows that they were in possession of the uncorrupted Torah.

'…Say, 'Bring ye the Law and study it, if ye be men of truth.' (Surah 3, Ali 'Imran, verse 93) In this specific incident the Jews are asked to bring their own Law, the Tawrat. They are commanded by God to study it in order to find the right answer to a particular question. 'But why do they come to thee for decision, when they have (their own) Law before them? -Therein is the (plain) command of Allah;.... (Surah 5, Al Ma'idah, verse 43)

Maududi comments on this verse: '...sometimes, when their own law did not suit them, they would take their cases to the Holy Prophet in the hope that they might obtain a more favourable decree from him than they could from their own law.' ('The meaning of the Quran', 12th Edt. 1992, S.A. Maududi, Isl. Publ., Pakistan) This shows clearly that even corrupted Jews would never change the written Tawrat! They were only prepared to conceal the meaning of it. In spite of their wickedness, they did not dare to change the written form of the Tawrat! That is why, according to the Quran, Allah told them to look up their own law in which is the plain command of God!
'Let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel.' (Surah 5, Al Ma'idah, verse 47)
This command is given to Muhammad's contemporaries, it is written in the 'present' tense which in the Arabic language can also refers to the future! If the Gospel (Injil) was corrupted at that time then surely Allah would never have asked the people of the Gospel, the Christians, to believe in it!

How can the "People of the Injīl" be expected to "judge" by what Allāh had revealed in it if it had been changed before the provision of the Qur'ān?

Some might argue that only some of the Injīl is God's Word, but not all of it. However, this would still make it impossible for people to "judge" by it because they would not know which parts provide a reliable basis for judgment.

Ibn Ishaq tells us, that the prophet of Islam was delighted that he abided by the Torah in making his decision when the Jews did not: "I am the first to revive the order of God and His Book and to practice it" (p 267).
'If only they 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. There is from among them a party on the right course...' (Surah 5, Al Ma'idah, verse 69)

Ibn Ishaq comments: [Four Jews came to Muhammad and said]: "Do you not allege that you follow the religion of Abraham and believe in the Torah which we have and testify that it is the truth from God?" He replied, "Certainly, but you have sinned and broken the covenant contained therein and concealed what you were ordered to make plain to men, and I dissociate myself from your sin." They said, "We hold by what we have. We live according to the guidance and the truth and we do not believe in you and we will not follow you." So God sent down concerning them: "Say, O scripture folk, you have no standing until you observe the Torah and the Gospel and what has been sent down to you from your Lord ...." (5:68, p 268).

Furthermore, the fact that there were Jews and Christians 'on the right course' in Muhammad's time confirms the Torah and the Gospel to be unchanged in the 6th century AD! Certainly, they could never have been described in such an honourable way if they had 'stood fast' by corrupted Holy Books!

'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, Al Ma'idah, verse 68)

'No change can there be in the Words of Allah. This is indeed the supreme Felicity.' (Surah 10, Junus, verse 64)
Since the Tawrat and the Injil are words of Allah it is impossible for man to change them. God has the power to watch over His word and to preserve it.


The Arabic word used by Muslim scholars to describe the supposed corruption of the sacred Scriptures is 'Tahrif'. A distinction is made by them between a corruption of meaning or of words. All the most celebrated among the earliest commentators on the Quran speak only about the first corruption of meaning. (e.g. Imam Muhammad Ishmail al-Bukhari. He formed his opinion on the authority of Ibn Abbas. Ibn Mazar and Ibn Abi Hatim mentioned only the first type of corruption on the authority of Ibn Muniyah in the 'Tafsir Durr-i-Mansur'. The same opinion is also held by Shah Waliyu 'Ilah in 'Fauzu l Kabir' and by Imam Fakhru 'd-din. 'Dictionary of Islam', T.P. Hughes, Asia Publishing House, London 1988). Contrary to these authorities modern Muslim commentators hold the view that only parts of the Bible remained unchanged. Faith is only put in those statements which are supposed to confirm one's own opinions. Some Jews did the same in the days of Muhammad. Surah 2, Al Baqarah, verse 85 condemned them for doing so. There is no reason why that judgement for such a view should not apply anymore today.

The Quran nowhere explicitly states the Injil (Gospel) was changed! But what about the Tawrat? History shows that whenever God revealed Himself, most of His people fell into disobedience after a period of time. So it was with the Jews. In spite of this sad fact Surah 7, Al A'raf, verse 159 states there were always good Jews who remain true to the book God gave them:

'Of the people of Moses there is a section who guide and do justice in the light of truth.' God's word is truth and good Jews surely would never have changed the meaning or even the words of their Holy Book!

'There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: (as they read) you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, 'That is from Allah,' but it is not from Allah: It is they who tell a lie against Allah...' (Surah 3, Ali 'Imran, verse 78)

In the verse quoted above the Jews are reading parts of their Book wrongly while the written words remain unchanged.

'But because of their breach of their Covenant, We cursed them, and made their hearts grow hard: They change the words from their (right) places and forget a good part of the Message that was sent... (Surah 5, Al Ma'idah, verse 13)

The meaning of the phrase 'They change the words from their (right) places' occur also in Surah 5:41and is explained by Ibn Ishaq:

[A Jewish couple were caught in adultery. Some rabbis sent them and other Jews to Muhammad saying, if he prescribes tajbih (a lesser form of punishment) he is a king and follow him, but if he prescribes stoning he is a prophet. The apostle then went to the rabbis and asked them to bring out their learned men. He then asked] Abdullah b. Suriya, ... the most learned man living in the Torah ... as to whether the Torah did not prescribe stoning for adulterers. "Yes," he said, .... Then he [Muhammad] said: "They change words from their places, saying, If this be given to you receive it, and if it is not given to you, i.e. the stoning, beware of it, ..."

When the apostle gave judgment about them he asked for a Torah. A rabbi sat there reading it having put his hand over the verse of stoning. `Abdullah b. Salam struck the rabbi's hand, saying, "This, O prophet of God, is the verse of stoning which he refuses to read to you." The apostle said, "Woe to you Jews! What has induced you to abandon the judgement of God which you hold in your hands?" They answered: "The sentence used to be carried out until a man of royal birth and noble origin committed adultery and the King refused to allow him to be stoned. Later another man committed adultery and the king wanted him to be stoned but they said No, not until you stone so-and-so. And when they said that to him they agreed to arrange the matter by tajbih and they did away with all mention of stoning." The apostle said: "I am the first to revive the order of God and His book and to practise it." They were duly stoned ... (p. 266-267).

What about Surah 2, Al Baqarah, verses 75-85? Here is what Ibn Ishaq, the earliest biographer of Muhammad had to say about the passage:

Verse 75: "who listen to the word of God ... the Torah" [refers to the event mentioned in verse 55 where some Jewish leaders told Moses they wanted to hear God when He spoke to him. Moses took them up on to the mountain and they heard and understood God's voice]. Then he went back with them to the Children of Israel and when he came to them a party of them changed the commandments they had been given; and when Moses said to the Children of Israel, 'God has ordered you to do so and so,' they contradicted him and said God had ordered something else. It is they to whom God refers. (P 251)

Thus God blamed them for what they were doing, He having in the Torah prohibited them from shedding each other's blood and charged them to redeem their prisoners ... they [two Jewish tribes] shed each other's blood while the Torah was in their hands by which they knew what was allowed and what was forbidden them ... When the war came to an end they ransomed their prisoners in accordance with the Torah ... God said in blaming them for that: 'Will you believe in a part of the scripture and disbelieve in another part?' [2:85] i.e. would you redeem him in accordance with the Torah and kill him when the Torah forbids you to do so ... (2:83-86, p 253).

Surah 4, Al Nisa, verse 46;, the Jews are accused of changing, writing down wrongly, what Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) said. Further evidence from the Hadith and classical Islamic commentaries that the books were not corrupted
LV. The words of Allah Almighty, "It is indeed a Glorious Qur'an preserved on a Tablet." (85:21-22)

"By the Mount and an Inscribed Book" (52:1-2): Qatada said that "mastur" means "written". "Yasturun" (68:1) means "they inscribe", and the Umm al-Kitab (43:4) is the whole of the Qur'an and its source. [He said that] "ma talfizu" (50:18) means: "He does not say anything but that it is written against him." Ibn 'Abbas said, "Both good and evil are recorded," and "yuharrufuna" (4:46) means "they remove". NO ONE REMOVES THE WORKS[sic] OF ONE OF THE BOOKS OF ALLAH ALMIGHTY, BUT THEY TWIST THEM, INTEPRETING THEM IMPROPERLY. "Dirasatihim: (6:156) means "their recitation" "Wa'iyya" (69:12) is preserving, "ta'iha" (69:12) means to "preserve it". "This Qur'an has been revealed to me by inspiration that I may warn you," meaning the people of Makka, "and all whom it reaches"(6:19) meaning this Qur'an, so he is its warner.