Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

This Fact Will Never Change –

The Words of God Are Unchangeable! Pt. 2

Sam Shamoun

We continue with our rebuttal.

We turn now to Zawadi’s failed attempt of dealing with al-Tabari’s exegesis of Q. 6:115.

First of all, I already cited Al-Tabari's commentary on 6:115 and illustrated that Al-Tabari is referring to the promises that God makes in His revelations.

And we explained how even that interpretation implies that God’s inspired Books can never be corrupted.

Zawadi then quotes al-Tabari’s explanation of Q. 6:34:

"and none can change His words". None can change the words of Allah. Allah's words are those which He sent down to His Prophet Muhammad of which is His promise to him that he would attain victory over those who opposed him and grant triumph to those who pledged allegiance to him. (Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Jami' al-bayan fi ta'wil al-Qur'an, Commentary on Surah 6:34, Source)  

So again we see that Al-Tabari is speaking about the fact that none can alter God's ability to fulfill His promises.

This again proves that Zawadi is incapable of accurately reading and/or understanding what even his own quotations say. Let me highlight the parts that Zawadi missed:

Allah's words are those which He sent down to His Prophet Muhammad OF WHICH IS His promise to him that he would attain victory over those who opposed him and grant triumph to those who pledged allegiance to him.

Did Zawadi not bother paying careful attention to the words “OF WHICH IS”? Does Zawadi not see that this indicates that al-Tabari wasn’t limiting Allah’s words to his promises of victory? Can he not comprehend that this means that these promises are only a PART of the words that Allah says can never be changed?

Zawadi goes on to claim:  

Thirdly, we know that Al-Tabari did not believe that the Bible was a revelation from God as demonstrated here.

This is another one of Zawadi’s lies which is refuted here:

More importantly, none of the quotations from al-Tabari which Zawadi cited proves that God’s previous Scriptures have been corrupted. Let us look at them carefully:

What is meant by this: It is referring to those who distorted the book of Allah from the Jews of Bani Israel, and they wrote a book on which THEY PUT THEIR INTEPRRETATIONS IN OPPOSITION TO THAT WHICH ALLAH REVEALED TO HIS PROPHET MOSES peace be upon him, then they sold it to a people who have no knowledge of what is in it NOR WHAT IS IN THE TORAH and are ignorant of what is in the books of Allah in order to gain worthless materialistic benefits. (Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Jami' al-bayan fi ta'wil al-Qur'an, Commentary on Surah 2:79, Source)

I want to the readers to see the bold and capitalized part of the quotation since it again illustrates Zawadi’s inability to comprehend what he reads. Al-Tabari clearly says that those who wrote a book containing their interpretations of the Torah tried to pass it off to individuals who had no knowledge of what the Torah contained!

This establishes two vitally crucial points. First, the book that these particular Jews wrote was not the Torah, but a commentary on it, which actually perverted the meaning of the Torah. Al-Tabari may pretty well be referring to the Talmud, which rabbinic Judaism accepts as inspired and an authoritative guide to understanding the Torah of Moses, but which often perverts its meanings.

Second, the fact that they only sold this to individuals who had no knowledge of the Torah presupposes that there were others who knew what was in the Torah and the rest of the Books of God, and therefore would not be deceived by what these individuals had written.

Here is the other quotation from al-Tabari, which Zawadi erroneously thinks proves his case:

They distort the speech of their Lord, which He sent down to their Prophet Moses peace be upon him, and that is the Torah, they substitute it and write from their own hands other than what Allah has revealed to their Prophet and they say to the ignorant ones of their people "This is the speech of Allah that He sent down to His Prophet Moses peace be upon him and the Torah that He revealed to him." (Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Jami' al-bayan fi ta'wil al-Qur'an, Commentary on Surah 5:13, Source)  

It is vitally important that we first read the immediate context in order to get a proper understanding:

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 God loveth those who are kind. From those, too, who call themselves Christians, We did take a covenant, but they forgot a good part of the message that was sent them: so we estranged them, with enmity and hatred between the one and the other, to the day of judgment. And soon will God show them what it is they have done. O people of the Book! There hath come to you our Apostle, revealing to you much that ye used to hide in the Book, and passing over much (that is now unnecessary): There hath come to you from God a (new) light and a perspicuous Book, - Wherewith God guideth all who seek His good pleasure to ways of peace and safety, and leadeth them out of darkness, by His will, unto the light, - guideth them to a path that is straight. S. 5:13-16 Y. Ali

In the first place, as the context itself demonstrates, the words of this passage are directed to the Jews and Christians who had come into contact with Muhammad.

Second, there is nothing in this passage which says that they changed words from their right places by corrupting the text of the Scripture. The Quran itself testifies elsewhere that one can actually change words by misinterpreting them:

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 God," but it is not from God: It is they who tell a lie against God, and (well) they know it! S. 3:78 Y. Ali

Third, this very same Surah goes on to say that the Jews living alongside Muhammad were supposed to judge by the Book which God had given them, since it contains God’s judgment, as well as guidance and light. It also condemns anyone who refuses to judge by it.

It then goes on to say that the prophets themselves judged by the very same Book which the Jews of Muhammad’s time possessed, and that both the Lord Jesus and Muhammad came to confirm its textual veracity (cf. 5:43-48).

Interestingly, Ibn Kathir cites a hadith in connection with the “revelation” of this particular section of Q. 5, which gives us an idea of Muhammad’s attitude towards the Torah that the Jews of his day were reading:

... Abu Dawud recorded that Ibn `Umar said, "Some Jews came to the Messenger of Allah and invited him to go to the Quff area. So he went to the house of Al-Midras and they said, ‘O Abu Al-Qasim! A man from us committed adultery with a woman, so decide on their matter.’ They arranged a pillow for the Messenger of Allah and he sat on it and said…

<<Bring the Tawrah to me.>> He was brought the Tawrah and he removed the pillow from under him and placed the Tawrah on it, saying

<<I TRUST YOU and He Who revealed it to you.>> (Q. 5:41; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)

Muhammad’s actions prove that he actually believed that the original, uncorrupt revelations of God were still extant and that they were in the possession of the Jews and Christians. Now if Muhammad didn’t really believe that the Torah, which the Jews handed him, was an accurate copy of the original then he was being dishonest and deceptive. Muhammad was deliberately misleading the Jews into thinking that he truly believed that their respective Scripture was the very the Word of God, when in fact he actually thought that it was corrupted.

We will have more to say about this point later on.

So at the most, the only thing that al-Tabari’s comments prove is that a certain group of Jews living near and during the time of Muhammad had corrupted their copies of the Torah. However, there were other Jews (as well as Christians) who did (and would) not change their copies, since they were righteous and god-fearing, just as the Quran itself bears witness:

Yet they are not all alike; some of the People of the Book are a nation upstanding, that recite God's signs in the watches of the night, bowing themselves, believing in God and in the Last Day, bidding to honour and forbidding dishonour, vying one with the other in good works; those are of the righteous. S. 3:113-114 Arberry

And there are, certainly, among the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians), those who believe in Allah and in that which has been revealed to you, and in that which has been revealed to them, humbling themselves before Allah. They do not sell the Verses of Allah for a little price, for them is a reward with their Lord. Surely, Allah is Swift in account. S. 3:199 Hilali-Khan

And now to Zawadi’s final quote from al-Tabari:  

Regarding the verse 'Confound not truth with falsehood': The truth: it is the Torah that Allah revealed to Moses. Falsehood: it is what they have written from their own hands.... It was reported that Ibn Abbaas and others said 'Do not mix the truth of what you have in the Book with falsehood' and that is the changing and substituting.

And Abu Al A'alya said that the Jews said 'Muhammad has arisen but not from amongst us' so their acknowledgement of his arising is truth but their rejection of him is false, and Ibn Zayd said: What is intended by 'truth' is the Torah and 'falsehood' is what they substituted or changed from it from the mentioning of Muhammad and other issues. Mujahid said: Do not mix Judaism and Christianity with Islam, and Qutada said that as well. I say (Tabari): The statement of Ibn Abbaas is more correct because it is more general and applies to the rest of the statements and Allah is the source of all strength. (Ibn Jarir al-Tabari, Jami' al-bayan fi ta'wil al-Qur'an, Commentary on Surah 2:42, Source)

This again shows that Zawadi has a hard time understanding sources. In the first place, how would the Jews be able to distinguish truth from falsehood if they no longer had uncorrupt copies of God’s revelation telling them what the truth is? 

Secondly, it is obvious from what is being said here that this is referring to certain Jews around Muhammad who allegedly removed prophecies of him from their respective copies. This obviously cannot extend to all Jews (or even Christians for that matter) everywhere or at all times, since they would have absolutely no reason to remove any of these alleged predictions when they had never met Muhammad.

In fact, the Quran itself confirms that the Torah and Gospel of Muhammad’s time still contained these alleged prophecies:

(Now the Law has been revealed to Prophet Muhammad.) Follow the Messenger, the Prophet who is a non-Israelite, and who was unlettered before the Revelation (29:48). They find him well described* in the Torah and the Gospel with them. He enjoins upon them the Right, and forbids them the Wrong. He declares Lawful all good things, and declares Unlawful only the unclean things. He relieves people from the burdens they carried. He breaks the shackles that they used to wear, of mental and physical slavery, and brings them from darkness to Light (5:15-16), (65:11), (76:4). Those who believe in him, honor him, support him, and follow the Light that came with him, are the eternally successful. *(Deuteronomy xviii, 15 and 18. Gospel of John 14:16, 15:26, 16:7 PARACLETOS = COMFORTER, from original Greek PERICLYTOS = THE PRAISED ONE. In Aramaic, MAWHAMANA = THE PRAISED ONE) S. 7:157 Shabbir Ahmed

Those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet who can neither read nor write (i.e. Muhammad) whom they find written with them in the Taurat (Torah) (Deut, xviii, 15) and the Injeel (Gospel) (John xiv, 16)… Hilali-Khan

By pointing to Deuteronomy 18:15, 18 and John 14-16 as alleged predictions of Muhammad, these Muslims have unwittingly identified the Torah and the Gospel of the Quran with the Old Testament/Pentateuch and the New Testament/Gospels respectively!

Zawadi cites Ibn Kathir quoting al-Tabari stating that whatever conforms to the Qur'an from the previous Scriptures are true, and whatever doesn’t is false. Since we have already dealt with that exact quotation in this article, there’ll be no need to do so here.

So much for Zawadi’s assertion that al-Tabari affirmed that the Holy Bible has been corrupted.

Zawadi next accuses me of deceptively cutting and pasting what al-Tabari says concerning Q. 6:115, which only goes to prove that Zawadi doesn’t know a thing about citing sources. Nor does he have a clue how to argue logically or coherently.  He writes that the part where al-Tabari says that nothing can change Allah’s words which he revealed in his Books are,

“… only the first part of the sentence! It's amazing that Shamoun accuses me of only quoting a part of Al-Tabari's commentary while he is only quoting a part of a sentence from Al-Tabari's commentary!”

Zawadi is again making it obvious that he is trying to save face after being exposed and humiliated for deceptively and selectively citing his sources. I quoted the part that was relevant in establishing the fact that the meaning of Q. 6:115 is that none can corrupt the Books which God has revealed since the Scriptures are also his words. Conveniently, Zawadi chose to hide that section from his readers.

Zawadi erroneously assumes that the part he cited somehow changes the meaning and therefore undermines my point. However, all this simply proves is that Zawadi shouldn’t be doing apologetics since he is a major embarrassment to his fellow Muslims.

As I clearly demonstrated, the section of al-Tabari’s quotation that Zawadi chose to focus on still ends up establishing my point regarding the incorruptibility of the Holy Scriptures. If the words spoken of in Q. 6:115 refer to Allah’s promises then a person must know where to find such promises, which in this case would be the Scriptures that Allah revealed. More importantly, an individual must be able to trust that the Scriptures that contain the promises of Allah are reliable, otherwise s/he can never know for certain what those promises are. 

In fact, even the promise to preserve these words presupposes that Allah actually made such a promise in the first place! However, if the inspired Scriptures could be, and have been, corrupted then Zawadi has absolutely no way of knowing whether Q. 6:115 and 18:27 are actually Allah’s promises at all! As we previously noted, these passages may have been inserted by later scribes or editors who wanted to deceive Muslims into believing that the Quran which they possessed contained the original “revelations” that Muhammad passed on to his followers.  

To simplify this further so that Zawadi finally gets the point, if the Scriptures are corrupted then a person can never know whether Allah’s promises have been changed or removed altogether. Nor could they know that the promises found in Q. 6:115 or 18:27 actually come from Allah at all, if in fact these Books have been changed.   

As a further indication that Zawadi is dealing with issues that are well beyond his intellectual capacity to adequately address, here is what he goes on to say:

As for Al-Tabari's statement "The liars cannot add or delete from Allah's BOOKS." Al-Tabari is not denying that textual corruption has occurred, since he goes on to say "Allah is revealing that the words they (the people of the book) are corrupting were not revealed by Allah, since Allah's word cannot be changed or substituted." Al-Tabari is claiming that the Jews and Christians corrupted their own books, but Al-Tabari is claiming that Allah is telling us that these corrupted words were not revealed by Him. Why? It's because no one could add to Allah's words or delete from Allah's words. Allah's words can only come from Allah and no one else. That is all that Al-Tabari is saying.

Zawadi still doesn’t get it. If no one can add or delete anything from the Books of Allah THEN THOSE BOOKS MUST STILL BE IN EXISTENCE TODAY! Now the question which Zawadi has to answer is, WHERE ARE THESE UNCORRUPT BOOKS THAT ALLAH REVEALED TO THE JEWS AND CHRISTIANS? If you keep insisting that it is not the Holy Bible then please point out the Books which Allah did reveal and which have not been corrupted. After all, if the Quran and al-Tabari are right then this means that we still have access to these incorruptible Books and therefore can examine them.

The answer is obvious, unless of course you happen to be Zawadi. Since the only Scriptures that the Jews and Christians have always possessed are those contained within the Old and New Testaments respectively, this means that these must definitely be the incorruptible Books which God revealed.

After all, the Quran has Muhammad appealing to the Scriptures which the Jews and Christians of his time had in their possessions. It even has him saying that he has come to confirm the authenticity and veracity of their Scriptures. Again, the only Books that the Jews and Christians possessed at that time were the Old and New Testament Scriptures.

The Quran also exhorts the Jews and Christians to follow and uphold the teachings of their respective Scriptures, which again can only mean the Old and Testaments.

We are further told that all the prophets, including Jesus himself, confirmed and ruled by the Book which God had revealed, and that Jesus was given the Gospel which the Christians of Muhammad’s day were commanded to follow and judge by. Once again, this can only be referring to the Books of the Old and New Testament.

Therefore, the Old and New Testament Scriptures must be the incorruptible Books which God revealed since these are the only Scriptures – the only Torah and Gospel – which the Jews and Christians have always possessed.

This is precisely why some Quranic translations have no hesitation to translate or equate the words Torah and Gospel with the Old and New Testaments, just as we find in the following translation.

He descended on you The Book with the truth, confirming to what (is) BETWEEN HIS HANDS, and He descended the Torah and the New Testament/Bible. From before guidance to the people, and He descended the Separator of Right and Wrong/Koran, that those who disbelieved with God's verses, for them (is) a strong (severe) torture, and God (is) glorious/mighty, (owner) of a revenge/punishment. S. 3:2-4 Ahmed Ali

And He teaches/instructs him The Book and the wisdom and the Torah and the BIBLE/Holy book descended on Jesus And confirming to what (is) BETWEEN MY HANDS from the Torah and to permit/allow for you some (of) what was forbidden on you, and I came to you with a sign/evidence from your Lord, so fear and obey God and obey me. S. 3:50 Ahmed Ali

And how (do) they ask you to judge/rule, and at them (is) the Torah/OLD TESTAMENT, in it (is) God's judgment/rule, then they turn away from after that, and those are not with the believing. That We descended the Torah/OLD TESTAMENT, in it (is) guidance and light, the prophets those who submitted/surrendered, judge/rule with it, to those who guided/Jews, and the knowledgeable Lord worshippers, and the religious scholars with what they memorized/safe kept (learned) from God's Book, and they were not on it witnessing/present; so do not fear the people and fear Me, and do not buy/volunteer with My signs/verses a small price, and who does not judge/rule with what God descended, so those, they are the disbelievers. And We wrote/decreed on them in it, that the self (is) with the self, and the eye (is) with the eye, and the nose (is) with the nose, and the ear (is) with the ear, and the tooth (is) with the tooth, and the wounds/cuts (are) equal revenge/punishment equal to crime, so who gave charity (forgave) with it, so it is cover/substitution for him, and who does not judge/rule with what God descended, so those, those are the unjust/oppressors. And We sent after (following) on their tracks with Jesus, Mary's son confirming for what (is) BETWEEN HIS HANDS from the Torah/OLD TESTAMENT, and We gave him the NEW TESTAMENT/BIBLE in it (is) guidance and light, and confirming to what (is) BETWEEN HIS HANDS from the Torah/OLD TESTAMENT, and guidance and a sermon/advice/warning to the fearing and obeying. And the NEW TESTAMENT'S/BIBLE'S people should judge/rule with what God descended in it, and who does not judge/rule with what God descended, so those, they are the debauchers. S. 5:43-47 Ahmed Ali

And if that they took care of the Torah/Old Testament, and the Bible/New Testament and what was descended to them from their Lord, they would have eaten from above them and from below their feet; from them (is) a nation economizing/moderate , and many from them what they were making/doing became bad/evil/harmful… Say: "You The Book's people, you are not on a thing, until you KEEP UP the Torah/Old Testament and the Bible/New Testament, and what was descended to you from your (P) Lord." And what was descended to you (S/M) from your Lord increases (E) many of them tyranny/arrogance, and disbelief, so do not grieve/sadden on the nation, the disbelieving. S. 5:66, 68 Ahmed Ali

when God said: "You Jesus Mary's son, remember My blessing on you and on your mother, when I supported you with the Holy/Sanctimonious Soul/Spirit, you speak/converse (to) the people in the crib/cradle and aged approximately between thirty to fifty years, and when I taught/instructed/informed you The Book, and the wisdom, and the Torah/Old Testament, and the New Testament/Bible, and when you create as a shape/form (of) the bird/birds with My permission, so you blow in it, so it will be flying/birds, with My permission, and you cure and heal the blind/born blind, and the leper with My permission, and when you bring out the dead with My permission, and when I prevented/stopped Israel's sons and daughters from you, when you came to them with the evidences, so those who disbelieved from them said: "That that (is) except clear/evident magic/sorcery." S. 5:110 Ahmed Ali

Those who follow the messenger, the prophet the illiterate/belonging to a nation, whom they find him written at them in the Torah/OLD TESTAMENT, and the NEW TESTAMENT/BIBLE… S. 7:157 Ahmed Ali

Then We sent after/made to follow on their tracks with Our messengers, and We sent after/made to follow with Jesus Mary's son, and We gave/brought him the Bible/New Testament, and We made/put in (the) hearts/minds (of) those who followed him mercy/compassion, and mercy and monkhood/monasticism they invented/innovated it , We did not order/ dictate it on them except (their) wishing/desiring God's acceptance/ approval , so they did not tend/protect it its deserved/just protection/keep , so We gave/brought those who believed from them their reimbursement; many/much from them (are) debauchers. S. 57:27 Ahmed Ali

It is obvious why Zawadi doesn’t want to accept this fact. He knows that if the Quran confirms that the Holy Bible is the uncorrupt revelation of God then Muhammad is a false prophet and one of the antichrists that the Holy Bible said would come (cf. Matthew 7:15-20; 24:5, 23-25; 2 Corinthians 11:2-4, 13-15; 1 John 2:22-23).

Now there is a way for Zawadi to get around this dilemma. He can simply admit that the Quran is wrong concerning the incorruptibility of God’s Words since the Torah and the Gospel have been changed and corrupted. However, if the Quran is in error regarding this issue then it cannot be the word of God and Muhammad must therefore be a false prophet.

We will leave it to Zawadi to decide how he will solve the mess that he and his religious sources have created for both himself and his fellow Muslims.