The Commonalities – Should a Muslim and a Christian Read Each Other’s Sacred Book?

Shalom and a Warm Welcome

1.5 billion Muslims believe that Muhammad is a prophet. What is the revelation that he brings?

The Muslims believe that God reveals His Word via divine dictation in the form of Holy Books to guide human kind throughout different time in history. According to Islam, Quran is the final revelation or the last Holy Book and it is revealed to Prophet Muhammad through angel Gibrail or Jibrail. With the huge number of adherents, should not one seriously ask what message does he bring? What is in the Quran?

What does Quran say about the book of Torah, Psalms and Gospel?

Several surah in Quran say that the Quran clarifies and perfects the truth and confirms the previous Holy Books, the main ones are Taurat or Torah (revealed to Musa or Moses), Zabur or Psalms (revealed to Daud or David) and Injil of Gospels (revealed to Isa or Jesus). 

To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah. It is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute; (al-Ma’ida 5:48 Translation Yusuf Ali)

The Muslims refer to the Quran as their core source of true wisdom and knowledge. The Word in the Quran is revealed in Arabic and given gradually within twenty three years to Prophet Muhammad. Its dictation is completed just before he died in 632 A.D. The major compilation work of the Quran is done by Zayd ibn Thabit under the patronage of Caliphate Uthman (the third caliph). This compilation is called the ‘Uthmani version’ and is divided into 114 chapters or surahs. Many scholars suggest that eighty six of these surahs are revealed when Prophet Muhammad lived in Mecca and twenty eight in Madinah.

Is it true that there is only one and only version of the Quran?

The compilation of the Quran was completed in 651 AD, and it is said that a few copies were made and distributed to five cities; Kufa, Basra, Damascus, Mecca and Medina. The Quran does affirm that the grand Quran does have variants:

And We have bestowed upon thee the Seven Oft-repeated (verses) and the Grand Qur’an (Al-Hijr 15:87 Translation Yusuf Ali).

These variants later evolved into fourteen riwayat all together (Qira’a). However, they do not vary much from the Uthmani version. The earliest original Quran manuscript is lost but a report from BBC in 2006 reports that a fragment of the Uthmani Hejaz version is found in Tashken, Uzbekistan.

In 1924, King Fuad of Saudi Arabia funded the mass publication of Cairo edition of the Quran under the scholarly work of Al-Azhar University Cairo, Egypt. By the mid of 20th century, other versions of the Quran are already very difficult to find. Today the Quran has been translated into many languages and many commentaries have been written. The most widely used English translation of Quran is of Yusof Ali and al-Jalalayn. Some of the well-known commentaries in Arabic are of al-Tabari, Tafsir al-Jalalayn, al-Baydawi and al-Manar. Only some of them have been translated into English.

Do you have a Bible? Do you have a Quran?

While the Muslims and Christians share many common values, appreciation towards each other’s Holy Books is very uncommon. However, Islam is very respectful towards all Books that form the major parts of the Bible. What does the Quran say about the Holy Books that are hold dearly by the Jewish and the Christians? One verse says that these Holy Books are protected:

And recite (and teach) what has been revealed to thee of the Book of thy Lord: none can change his Words, and none wilt thou find as a refuge other than him (Surah al-Khaf 18:27 Translation Yusuf Ali)

On the other hand, there are also verses that say the Words in Torah, Zabur and Injil have been displaced, changed or perverted (based on Yusuf Ali’s translation of Quran).

Can ye (o ye men of Faith) entertain the hope that they will believe in you?- Seeing that a party of them heard the Word of Allah, and perverted it knowingly after they understood it. (al-Baqara 2:75 Translation Yusuf Ali)         

Does this mean that the words themselves have been changed or the meanings have been changed? These are some of the questions that both adherents may discuss in Abrahamic Faith theological dialogue.

The Bible – a sacred Book or a History Book?

The Christians believe that the Bible, which consists of the Old Testament (the main corpus is first written in Hebrew) and the New Testament (first written in Greek) is a witness to God’s presence in human history. The content of the Hebrew Bible and the Tanakh of the Jewish is almost the same except the arrangement of the books is slightly different. The former groups the writings into the Torah or the law, history, poetry and the prophets while the Tanakh arranges the books chronologically. The New Testament is divided into the Gospels, the Acts of the Apostles, the Epistles and the revelation.

The Christians also believe that the Old Testament foreshadows the New Testament in which comes the new covenant revealed by and through Jesus Christ, the ‘living Word’ so that the people may know the fullness of the truth.

“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God and they will be my people.” (Jeremiah 31:33 NIV)

Does God speak through vernacular languages?

The writing of the Bible spans over more than a thousand years. The scriptures to the Christians are “God-breathed” and this means: first, the writers are divinely inspired when they write the texts and that their human characters and communities are imprinted in the writings. Second, the readers who believe in the sacredness of the Bible receive the inspiration from the Spirit of God as they read and meditate on the scriptures, either in its original languages or in the vernacular languages.  

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness.” (2 Timothy 3:16 NIV)

Today, the Bible has been translated into many native languages while continuous reference is made to its initial languages: Hebrew and Greek. The translation work into the vernacular languages is to be done as accurate as possible to the original meanings and biblical scripture warn not to add or to take away of the Words lightly. Some examples of English tranlsation Bibles are the New International Version, New Revised Standard Version and King James Version. Many commentaries for these versions are also available in hard-copies and on-line. Today, the availability of the concordance and commentaries on the Bible helps a reader with exegesis and interpretative work and self-relfection.

Below are some Quran surahs that can be studied according to their context. I invite you to read and share what you have discovered.

Peace be with you.

بِسْمِ اللّهِ الرَّحْمَنِ الرَّحِيمِ

Positive:

وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَمُهَيْمِنًا عَلَيْهِ فَاحْكُم بَيْنَهُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ وَلاَ تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءهُمْ عَمَّا جَاءكَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ لِكُلٍّ جَعَلْنَا مِنكُمْ شِرْعَةً وَمِنْهَاجًا وَلَوْ شَاء اللّهُ لَجَعَلَكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَلَكِن لِّيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَآ آتَاكُم فَاسْتَبِقُوا الخَيْرَاتِ إِلَى الله مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what Allah hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the Truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have we prescribed a law and an open way. If Allah had so willed, He would have made you a single people, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to Allah. it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute; (al-Ma’ida 5:48)

  قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لَسْتُمْ عَلَى شَيْءٍ حَتَّىَ تُقِيمُواْ التَّوْرَاةَ وَالإِنجِيلَ وَمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكُم مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ وَلَيَزِيدَنَّ كَثِيرًا مِّنْهُم مَّا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكَ مِن رَّبِّكَ طُغْيَانًا وَكُفْرًا فَلاَ تَأْسَ عَلَى الْقَوْمِ الْكَافِرِينَ   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.” It is the revelation that cometh to thee from thy Lord, that increaseth in most of them their obstinate rebellion and blasphemy. But sorrow thou not over (these) people without Faith. (al-Ma’ida 5:48) Others in al-Ma’ida 5:43, 44, 47            

 وَلَقَدْ كُذِّبَتْ رُسُلٌ مِّن قَبْلِكَ فَصَبَرُواْ عَلَى مَا كُذِّبُواْ وَأُوذُواْ حَتَّى أَتَاهُمْ نَصْرُنَا وَلاَ مُبَدِّلَ لِكَلِمَاتِ اللّهِ وَلَقدْ جَاءكَ مِن نَّبَإِ الْمُرْسَلِينَ Rejected were the apostles before thee: with patience and constancy they bore their rejection and their wrongs, until Our aid did reach them: there is none that can alter the words (and decrees) of Allah. Already hast thou received some account of those apostles. (al-Anaam 6:34)

وَتَمَّتْ كَلِمَتُ رَبِّكَ صِدْقًا وَعَدْلاً لاَّ مُبَدِّلِ لِكَلِمَاتِهِ وَهُوَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيمُ The word of thy Lord doth find its fulfilment in truth and in justice: None can change His words: for He is the one who heareth and knoweth all. (al-Anaam 6:115)

 لَهُمُ الْبُشْرَى فِي الْحَياةِ الدُّنْيَا وَفِي الآخِرَةِ لاَ تَبْدِيلَ لِكَلِمَاتِ اللّهِ ذَلِكَ هُوَ الْفَوْزُ الْعَظِيمُ – For them are glad tidings, in the life of the present and in the Hereafter; no change can there be in the words of Allah. This is indeed the supreme felicity. (Yunus 10:64)

 فَإِن كُنتَ فِي شَكٍّ مِّمَّا أَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ فَاسْأَلِ الَّذِينَ يَقْرَؤُونَ الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلِكَ لَقَدْ جَاءكَ الْحَقُّ مِن رَّبِّكَ فَلاَ تَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْمُمْتَرِينَ 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: the Truth hath indeed come to thee from thy Lord: so be in no wise of those in doubt. (Yunus 10:94)

  إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَWe have, without doubt, sent down the Message; and We will assuredly guard it (from corruption). (al-Hijr 15:9)

   وَاتْلُ مَا أُوحِيَ إِلَيْكَ مِن كِتَابِ رَبِّكَ لَا مُبَدِّلَ لِكَلِمَاتِهِ وَلَن تَجِدَ مِن دُونِهِ مُلْتَحَدًا And recite (and teach) what has been revealed to thee of the Book of thy Lord: none can change His Words, and none wilt thou find as a refuge other than Him. (al-Kahf 18:27)   

وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ لَيْسَتِ النَّصَارَى عَلَىَ شَيْءٍ وَقَالَتِ النَّصَارَى لَيْسَتِ الْيَهُودُ عَلَى شَيْءٍ وَهُمْ يَتْلُونَ الْكِتَابَ كَذَلِكَ قَالَ الَّذِينَ لاَ يَعْلَمُونَ مِثْلَ قَوْلِهِمْ فَاللّهُ يَحْكُمُ بَيْنَهُمْ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فِيمَا كَانُواْ فِيهِ يَخْتَلِفُونَ – The Jews say: “The Christians have naught (to stand) upon; and the Christians say: “The Jews have naught (To stand) upon.” Yet they (Profess to) study the (same) Book. Like unto their word is what those say who know not; but Allah will judge between them in their quarrel on the Day of Judgment. (al-Baqara 2:113)

 

Negative:

 

 أَفَتَطْمَعُونَ أَن يُؤْمِنُواْ لَكُمْ وَقَدْ كَانَ فَرِيقٌ مِّنْهُمْ يَسْمَعُونَ كَلاَمَ اللّهِ ثُمَّ يُحَرِّفُونَهُ مِن بَعْدِ مَا عَقَلُوهُ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَCan ye (o ye men of Faith) entertain the hope that they will believe in you?- Seeing that a party of them heard the Word of Allah, and perverted it knowingly after they understood it. (al-Baqara 2:75)

 

فَوَيْلٌ لِّلَّذِينَ يَكْتُبُونَ الْكِتَابَ بِأَيْدِيهِمْ ثُمَّ يَقُولُونَ هَذَا مِنْ عِندِ اللّهِ لِيَشْتَرُواْ بِهِ ثَمَناً قَلِيلاً فَوَيْلٌ لَّهُم مِّمَّا كَتَبَتْ أَيْدِيهِمْ وَوَيْلٌ لَّهُمْ مِّمَّا يَكْسِبُونَ  – Then woe to those who write the Book with their own hands, and then say: “This is from Allah,” to traffic with it for miserable price!- Woe to them for what their hands do write, and for the gain they make thereby. (al-Baqara 2:79)

 

مِّنَ الَّذِينَ هَادُواْ يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ عَن مَّوَاضِعِهِ وَيَقُولُونَ سَمِعْنَا وَعَصَيْنَا وَاسْمَعْ غَيْرَ مُسْمَعٍ وَرَاعِنَا لَيًّا بِأَلْسِنَتِهِمْ وَطَعْنًا فِي الدِّينِ وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ قَالُواْ سَمِعْنَا وَأَطَعْنَا وَاسْمَعْ وَانظُرْنَا لَكَانَ خَيْرًا لَّهُمْ وَأَقْوَمَ وَلَكِن لَّعَنَهُمُ اللّهُ بِكُفْرِهِمْ فَلاَ يُؤْمِنُونَ إِلاَّ قَلِيلاً Of the Jews there are those who displace words from their (right) places, and say: “We hear and we disobey”; and “Hear what is not Heard”; and “Ra’ina”; with a twist of their tongues and a slander to Faith. If only they had said: “We hear and we obey”; and “Do hear”; and “Do look at us”; it would have been better for them, and more proper; but Allah hath cursed them for their Unbelief; and but few of them will believe.(al-Nisa 4:46)

 

فَبِمَا نَقْضِهِم مِّيثَاقَهُمْ لَعنَّاهُمْ وَجَعَلْنَا قُلُوبَهُمْ قَاسِيَةً يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ عَن مَّوَاضِعِهِ وَنَسُواْ حَظًّا مِّمَّا ذُكِّرُواْ بِهِ وَلاَ تَزَالُ تَطَّلِعُ عَلَىَ خَآئِنَةٍ مِّنْهُمْ إِلاَّ قَلِيلاً مِّنْهُمُ فَاعْفُ عَنْهُمْ وَاصْفَحْ إِنَّ اللّهَ يُحِبُّ الْمُحْسِنِينَ – 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 them, nor wilt thou cease to find them- barring a few – ever bent on (new) deceits: but forgive them, and overlook (their misdeeds): for Allah loveth those who are kind. (al-Ma’ida 5:13)

 

يَا أَيُّهَا الرَّسُولُ لاَ يَحْزُنكَ الَّذِينَ يُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْكُفْرِ مِنَ الَّذِينَ قَالُواْ آمَنَّا بِأَفْوَاهِهِمْ وَلَمْ تُؤْمِن قُلُوبُهُمْ وَمِنَ الَّذِينَ هِادُواْ سَمَّاعُونَ لِلْكَذِبِ سَمَّاعُونَ لِقَوْمٍ آخَرِينَ لَمْ يَأْتُوكَ يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ مِن بَعْدِ مَوَاضِعِهِ يَقُولُونَ إِنْ أُوتِيتُمْ هَذَا فَخُذُوهُ وَإِن لَّمْ تُؤْتَوْهُ فَاحْذَرُواْ وَمَن يُرِدِ اللّهُ فِتْنَتَهُ فَلَن تَمْلِكَ لَهُ مِنَ اللّهِ شَيْئًا أُوْلَئِكَ الَّذِينَ لَمْ يُرِدِ اللّهُ أَن يُطَهِّرَ قُلُوبَهُمْ لَهُمْ فِي الدُّنْيَا خِزْيٌ وَلَهُمْ فِي الآخِرَةِ عَذَابٌ عَظِيمٌ – O Messenger. let not those grieve thee, who race each other into unbelief: (whether it be) among those who say “We believe” with their lips but whose hearts have no faith; or it be among the Jews,- men who will listen to any lie,- will listen even to others who have never so much as come to thee. They change the words from their (right) times and places: they say, “If ye are given this, take it, but if not, beware!” If any one’s trial is intended by Allah, thou hast no authority in the least for him against Allah. For such – it is not Allah’s will to purify their hearts. For them there is disgrace in this world, and in the Hereafter a heavy punishment. (al-Ma’ida 5:41)

 
See Yusuf Ali online Quran translation: http://www.mysticletters.com/quran-viewer/arabic-yusuf-ali/18.php
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7 thoughts on “The Commonalities – Should a Muslim and a Christian Read Each Other’s Sacred Book?

  1. Do you think that interfaith community members can learn more about each other by scriptural reading and understanding of not only their own sacred Book and also of other’s? Yes or No and why?

  2. Awet says:

    Thank you for the illustrative verses, Norani! These seem to provide a compelling argument for a Quranic interpretation of the Jewish and Christian scriptures as being the uncorrupted word of God.

    • Thanks for your comment Awet. I am amazed to read these surah too. Anyway, if a holy book is corrupted, that also means that some of the contents are correct. It is always an enriching experience to do interfaith scriptural readings. I believe we will discover our own spirituality by learning about others too.

  3. David W. Shenk says:

    My confession is that I am a person of the Book who has been formed me through the Word of God revealed in the Book and supremely through the Messiah who is the incarnation of the Word of God. Jesus has promised that all who build upon his words will never be destructed. By the grace of God I seek to obey the teachings of Jesus and build upon the foundation that he provides.

  4. Ari says:

    Wow… I learned a lot…i am aware of the version in interpretations…but i didn’t know that there are several version of the Quran to begin with…Now i understand why there are several variant of Islam…

    • The variations in the variants are not very far from the Uthmani’s version (the earlier version). I believe the interpretation of the Quran has greater contribution towards the divisions in Islamic traditions. For example, those who read and embraced the commentary of Sayid al-Qutb tend to lean more towards radicalism in Islam. But I know what you mean that we often thought there is only one version. I think many Muslims are not aware of the variants too.

  5. Greg Livingstone says:

    Wonderful gracious presentations…but it takes so much to overcome 1400 years of people called “Christians” and people called “Muslims”, killing, hating one another. How can a Muslim be open to the message of the Injil if he is told so doing is to become a traitor to his people?

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