In the last chapter we examined the testimony of the Qur'an concerning the integrity of the Torah-Old Testament and the Gospel-New Testament. This does not terminate our investigation, however, because Muslims have another source of information and doctrine called the Hadith.
The word Hadith could be translated as a speech or a saying or even small talk. But in Islamic theology the term refers to a narrative concerning a deed or utterance of the Prophet Muhammad reported by his companions. These are broken down into various classes such as the Hadith Qudsi in which God Himself speaks, and the Hadith Nabawi in which the words, and the custom or practice (Sunna) of Muhammad are recorded.
At one time the words "sunna" and "hadith" were almost synonymous, but later the word "sunna" came to have a special religious meaning. The sayings and practices of Muhammad, in addition to being repeated for the spiritual edification of the believer, were codified as legally binding precedents. Called the "Sunna", it thus became a second source of law in addition to the law found in the Qur'an, and the following story will help us understand its importance.
After having lived in Tunisia for some time, I met a Mu'addib. A Mu'addib is a person who helps the families of the dead in their mourning by reciting the Qur'an over the graves of the dead relatives. This man, though poorly dressed, was very well informed. Not only did he know his own religion, but he was knowledgeable about many subjects - quoting Abraham Lincoln and other men of history.
As we talked, the conversation turned to religion, and when he spoke about Islam he made the following statement,
"Our religion is based on the Qur'an and the Hadith, 50-50."
To give another example of the importance of the Hadith (also called "traditions" in English) it has recently been reported that 200,000 volumes of the Qur'an and the Hadith of Al-Bukhari have now been printed in the Uygur language in China. We would expect that after many years of persecution under atheism and the Red Guard, the Muslims would want to reprint the Qur'an just as the Chinese Christians want to reprint the Bible. But we see that in addition they wished to print a collection of the Hadith. (Al-Bukhari, along with Muslim, is one of the most respected of those who collected the traditions of Muhammad.)
When in conversation, Muslims quote Hadith almost as often as the Qur'an to prove a doctrine under discussion. One friend explained it this way, "The Qur'an gives the basic doctrine. The Hadith shows the things which are not clear in the Qur'an and makes plain the decrees of the Qur'an".
The Editor of the book Quarante Hadiths de Imam Nawawi says in his preface, "The Qur'an, the word of God revealed to Muhammad; and the Hadith, the teachings of the Prophet, are the two sources of Islam. The knowledge of this religion would be impossible apart from these two texts."
Poetically, it is of course very beautiful to speak of the Hadith as a text, and there is every reason for a believer to do that. However to speak of the Hadith as a text also gives the impression that it has set boundaries and that everyone agrees as to the contents. Unfortunately this is not the case; and it is at this point that there is a very important and difficult problem with the Hadith. It is the problem of knowing which Hadiths are authentic, and which ones are not.
Over the years many stories were told about Muhammad. Then people began to realize that not all of the Hadith were authentic so they made special studies and searched out the oldest collections. E. K. Ahamed Kutty of the University of Calicut, India, in speaking of the collection made by Bukhari, says,
"He took into consideration 600,000 Traditions out of which he accepted only 7,397, or according to some authorities, 7,295. The same tradition is often repeated more than once under different chapters. Disregarding these repetitions, the number of distinct Hadith is reduced to 2,762."
From this we understand that only 3000 or 4000 Hadith were judged to be authentic or "strong". The others were thrown out as "weak", or to use a Christian word, "apocryphal".
Why would a false Hadith be written? I suppose to glorify Islam and Muhammad, or support a favorite doctrine. Fazlur Rahman in his book Islam gives the following example,
"With the growing inner rupture between Sufi practice ... on the one hand and the emerging orthodox system on the other, a new body of Hadith also came into existence. The Sufis, in order to justify their stand, formulated (i.e. verbally invented) statements, sometimes quite fanciful and historically completely fictitious, which they attributed to the Prophet."
But it was not only the Sufis, for on page 65, after quoting "the so-called Hadith according to which the Prophet said,
`Whatever of good speech there be, you can take it to have been said by me'."
Rahman goes on to say,
"On no other hypothesis than this can we explain the fact that palpably post-prophetic developments - the theological positions with regard to human freedom, Divine Attributes, etc. - were verbally attributed to the Prophet himself."
Therefore, the nagging question still remains, "Which Hadiths are true?"
When asked how he knew which Hadith were true, one man answered, "Whichever one seems to make sense to me." That requires a basic assumption for each Hadith. Another man, a school teacher, responded, "For ten years I have been asking myself this question and I still don't know." Other Muslims solve the puzzle by refusing to accept the Hadith as revelation.
Part of the problem may be that religious leaders and speakers continue to use the doubtful Hadith when it suits their purpose. Imam An-Nawawi chose his Forty Hadiths in the 7th century AH, or the 14th century AD, and in his introduction he gives this long explanation concerning the value of choosing and memorizing 40 Hadith. He says,
"We have been told according to `Ali ibn Abi Taleb, `Abdallah ibn Mas`ud, Ma`ad ibn Jabal, Abu al-Darda', Ibn `Umar, Ibn `Abbas, Anas Ibn Malik, Abu Huraira and Abu Sa`id al Khudri (may God be pleased with them) through several chains of authority and in different versions that the Messenger of God (God bless him and grant him salvation) said,
`Whoever memorizes 40 Hadith concerning the points of his religion for the benefit of my community, God will raise him on the day of resurrection in the rank with the religious teachers and the theologians.'
"And in another version it says, `God will raise him on the day of resurrection as a completely knowledgeable teacher'. And in the version of Abu al-Darda' it says, `At the day of resurrection, I will be for him an intercessor and a witness'. The version of Ibn Mas`ud says, `It will be said to him, "Enter heaven by any gate that you wish'". Finally, according to Ibn `Umar, `It is written (that he will be) in the rank of the theologians and he will be assembled with the martyrs.'"
How great is our surprise then, after all these proof texts, to find that he continues with the following words,
"However, the theologian specialists in Hadiths are agreed that this Hadith has a weak coefficient of authenticity in spite of the numerous paths of transmission." [sic] (translations mine)
Continuing, he goes on to say that although "The theologians have agreed that one can refer to weak (doubtful) Hadiths when it is a matter of good works", he decided to refer only to strong (authentic) Hadiths: especially those from the collections of Al-Bukhari and Muslim.
When we read that the specialists have decided that the above tradition concerning Hadith is weak (doubtful), in spite of all those paths of transmission, we can only conclude that it must be very difficult for a person of only average religious education to make a judgement in relation to the validity of any given Hadith.
Secondly, when we see the type of discussion which the experts themselves can have on the subject, it must be even more discouraging for the ordinary believer. In an article called, "The Antichrist - between Truth and Fantasy" by Dr. Ahmad `ud An-Nashash, the author quotes three other writers concerning the subject of the Antichrist who is mentioned in certain Hadiths. In two of the quotations the authors' criteria for judging a Hadith as valid are also mentioned.
`Abd-ar-razzaq Naufal, after stating that there is no mention of the Antichrist in the Qur'an and some other discussion as to why he thinks that the Hadiths in question are not valid, goes on to ask, "How then can we hold on to these Hadiths which have no Quranic support.. ?"
Later in the same article Mustapha Mahmud is quoted in the following words, "The Muslims receive their religious beliefs from two sources: the Book (Qur'an) and the Sunna, without making any distinction between them because the strong, or authentic sunna is revelation." (Then he gives the following Quranic quotation from the Sura of the Star (Al-Najm) 53:3-4 to prove it.)
"He (Muhammad) does not speak on the basis of desire. It** is no less than revelation revealed."
Therefore whenever we find a strong (authentic) Hadith we must accept it, whether it has corresponding proof from the Qur'an or not. But, if a strong Hadith contradicts the text of the Qur'an, that is another matter...and would require exegesis of the Hadith and discussion of the antecedence of one over the other..."
And so we see that one expert, Naufal, says that a Hadith must have some support from the Qur'an. The second one, Mahmud, says that this is not necessary; that everything that the Prophet said is by revelation, whether Qur'an or Hadith. In addition the possibility is raised that a strong (well-attested) Hadith could contradict the Qur'an and then a study would have to be made.
That some Hadith are strong is no doubt true. There is at least one which even has Biblical confirmation as we shall see later in this chapter. Hamidullah is convinced that Al-Bukhari's collection is valid. He says in the introduction to his translation of the Qur'an,
"Suppose that Al-Bukhari says, `I heard from Ahmad ibn Hanbal, who received it from `Abdar-Razzaq, who received it from Ma'mar, who received it from Hammam, who heard it from Abu Huraira, that the Prophet said such and such. Since the end of the 2nd World War, Manuscripts of Hammam, Ma'mar, and `Abdar-Razzaq have been found. (However he does not give the dates of these copies) The work of Ahmad has been known for a long time. Thus, in searching in the sources from before Al-Bukhari, we find that he neither lied, nor gathered the simple folklore of his time, but he based his work on authentic written sources."
But in spite of Hamidullah's defense of the Hadith, the uncertainty remains for each Muslim. In addition it spills over into Christianity.
THE GOSPEL AS HADITHS
When Muslims read the Gospel of Jesus Christ according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, they sometimes complain and say, "These accounts are only Hadith. This is not like the Qur'an." I understand by this that for them the Qur'an is revealed law telling them how to live, while most of the Hadith are narrative accounts of events in the life of Muhammad - especially events which explain why certain verses were revealed. They believe that the Bible ought to be like the Qur'an, and when they find large sections of narrative material they say, "These are just Hadiths," implying that it is not the true Word of God, or that it is on some lower second class level.
As an example let us look at a few verses from the Gospel according to Luke 8:19-21 where it reads,
Now Jesus' mother and brothers came to see him, but they were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, waiting to see you."
He replied, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice."
As I understand it, Muslims would expect the true Gospel to include only the words in boldfaced type which would be considered the words of God through Jesus. Then in another book there would be a Hadith saying,
According to James the half-brother of Jesus (may God be pleased with him) the occasion for the revelation of Luke 8:21 was as follows,
Now my mother and brothers and myself came to see Jesus, but we were not able to get near him because of the crowd. Someone told him, "Your mother and brothers are standing outside, wanting to see you."
And then the verse was revealed, "My mother and brothers are those who hear God's word and put it into practice."
This Hadith was transmitted by Luke and Mark in their books, which (along with those of Matthew and John) are the most valuable among the collections of Hadiths.) (Material in Italics arranged or added)
As a second example we might take Jesus' teaching on food as found in Mark 7:15 where he said,
"Nothing outside a man can make him `unclean' by going into him. Rather it is what comes out of a man that makes him `unclean'."
This would be considered Quranic type material and then in some other book we would find the following Hadith.
According to Peter, one of the twelve closest disciples (may God be pleased with him and with them), Jesus' teaching about food as found in Mark 7:15 and 20-23 was revealed in the following manner.
The Pharisees and some of the teachers of the law who had come from Jerusalem...saw some of us eating food with `unclean' - that is ceremonially unwashed - hands... So the Pharisees and teachers...asked Jesus, "Why don't your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with `unclean' hands?"...
Again Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "listen to me, everyone, and understand this. Nothing outside a man can make him `unclean' by going into him. Rather, it is what comes out of a man that makes him `unclean'."
After he had left the crowd, we entered the house, and we asked him about this parable.
"Are you so dull?" he asked. "Don't you see that nothing that enters a man from the outside can make him `unclean'? For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body"...
Then he went on and the whole saying was revealed: What comes out of a man is what makes him `unclean'. For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and make a man `unclean'."
This Hadith was transmitted by Mark who wrote it down from Peter, Matthew also transmitted it.
Again the material in Italics has been added by me, but everything else is included in the Gospel account as given in Mark 7:1-2,5,14-23.
Therefore, it is clear to all who have read it that the Gospel does not correspond to Muslim expectations. As these examples show, Jesus' words from God and the historical explanatory material are woven together.
This situation puzzled me for a long time and I didn't really know how to answer when someone said, "These accounts are only Hadith." For the majority of Muslims, any single Hadith is not in the same class as the Qur'an. It can be accepted or rejected according to the understanding of the individual. Other Muslims, because of the difficulties mentioned above, refuse to accept the Hadith as revelation. Since neither of these views represent Christian belief about the Bible, I could not agree and say that the Gospel is just Hadith.
Another thing which puzzled me was that the Qur'an also contains much "Hadith" or "narrative material". Extensive accounts are given about the Devil's fall, Adam and Eve, Noah, Mary the mother of Jesus, and especially Abraham and Moses. The history of Abraham being told the good news of his son Isaac is described in detail in three different passages - the early Meccan Sura 51:24-37, the late Meccan Sura 11:69-83, and the late Meccan Sura 15:51-77. Moreover the 28th Sura is even named "The Story" (Al-Qaa). Why, therefore, should anyone complain because the Gospel has narrative material when the Qur'an also has a considerable amount?
THE KEY TO THE PUZZLE
As I said above, this was all very puzzling. On the one hand the Hadith seemed extremely important; and on the other hand it seemed arbitrary and not important at all. Then I read Fazlur Rahman's book entitled Islam, in which he makes the following statement:
"For, if the Hadith as a whole is cast away, the basis for the historicity of the Qur'an is removed at one stroke." (Italics his, boldfacing mine)
Some readers may disagree with this statement, but if they consider it carefully, I think that they will have to agree that it is true. For although the Qur'an contains narrative material, it has very little narrative material about Muhammad's life, the battles he fought, etc.
Therefore it is true, if the Hadith as a whole were removed, we would know almost nothing about how Muhammad used to go out to fast and meditate in a cave, or how the first revelation came, or the flight to Medina. Though the Battle of Badr is very important to Islamic history, it is mentioned by name exactly one time in the Qur'an, in the Sura of the Family of `Imran (Ali `Imran) 3:123 from 2-3 AH. To understand what happened and why it was so important one must turn to the Hadith, and in Section Three, Chapter III of this book, almost all the material on the origin of the Qur'an is from the Hadith.
The logical conclusion is that the Qur'an, believed by every Muslim to be pure revelation, can only be proved and justified as pure revelation, by using the human, less certain material from the Hadith. Therefore every Muslim, even one who belittles the Hadith, must decide whether the testimony of Abu Bakr, `Umar Ibn Khattab, `Uthman, and the others quoted in the Hadith is true enough and has been transmitted with enough accuracy so that their reports of Muhammad bringing the Qur'an can be believed.
This understanding of the absolute necessity of the Hadith shows that a Muslim has no basis for complaining about narrative material in the Torah and the Gospel. If the great truth of the coming of the Qur'an is validated by human Hadith which are outside of the revelation, Hadith which often have disagreements in their details and sometimes severe scientific errors; on what basis will a Muslim say that the great truth of Jesus' death for our sins cannot be validated by "hadith type material" included in the Gospel revelation?
EXPLANATORY MATERIAL IN THE GOSPEL REVELATION
Christians believe that the men who recorded the Gospel were guided by the Holy Spirit in their choice of Hadith explanatory material" just as they were guided in recording Jesus' words.
The historical narrative truths of
WHY CONSIDER THE HADITHS IN THIS BOOK?
The reader may be asking himself by this time why the Hadith should be brought up in a book concerned with "The Bible, The Qur'an, and Science"? It is because, as we have just seen, the Qur'an is only half of the basis of faith for many Muslims. Any book on the subject should probably be called The Bible, The Qur'an-Hadiths, and Science.
Therefore, it is not enough to study only what the Qur'an says about the Torah and the Gospel. We must also examine what the Hadith says about them. Specifically, we want to see whether they give any support to the charge that Jews and Christians changed the Bible.
Moreover, a number of Hadith have something to say about science. Dr. Bucaille recognizes this and discusses the subject in a short chapter starting on page 242 of his book. He finds that even some strong Hadiths have severe scientific errors in them. This raises theological difficulties, as well as scientific ones, and we will examine one example in detail later on when we discuss scientific problems.
The Integrity of the Bible according to the Hadith
In Chapter I of Section Two we saw that the Qur'an contains more than one hundred references to the Torah and the Gospel. Therefore it is no surprise to find that they are also mentioned in a number of Hadiths. Thus, according to Mishkat al-Masabih, Book I, Ch. VI:
Abu Huraira reported God's messenger as saying, "In the last days there will be lying dajjals who will bring you traditions of which neither you nor your fathers have heard, so beware of them. They will neither lead you astray nor seduce you." Muslim transmitted it.
He also said that the people of the Book used to read the Torah in Hebrew and expound it in Arabic to the Muslims, so God's messenger said, "Neither believe nor disbelieve the people of the Book, but say,
Say (O Muslims): We believe in Allah and that which is 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." (Qur'an 2:136) Bukhari transmitted it.
Muhammad neither affirms nor denies the interpretation of the People of the Book. Nor does he comment on the actual text of the Torah. In his commentary of Bukhari, Ayni explains that the Muslims were unable to know whether or not the interpretations given by the People of the Book really accorded with the Torah, adding that confirming a lie or denying the truth provokes the wrath of God.
Somewhat similar are the traditions found in Mishkat al-Masabih, Book VIII, ch. I, p. 454: Book I, ch. VI, p. 49; Book XX, ch. I, p. 892:
Abu Huraira told that when God's messenger once asked Ubai b. Ka'b how he recited in the course of the prayer and he recited Umm al-Qur'an, he said, "By Him in whose hand my soul is, nothing like it has been sent down in the Torah, the Injl, the Testament Zabr, or the Qur'an and it is seven of the oft-repeated verses and mighty Qur'an which I have been given." Tirmidhi transmitted it...
Jabir told how `Umar b. al-Khattab brought God's messenger a copy of the Torah saying, "Messenger of God, this is a copy of the Torah." When he received no reply he began to read to the obvious displeasure of God's messenger, so Abu Bakr said, "Confound you, do you not see how God's messenger is looking?" So `Umar looked at God's messenger's face and said, "I seek refuge in God from the anger of God and His messenger. We are satisfied with God as Lord, with Islam as religion, and with Muhammad as Prophet." Then God's messenger said, "By Him in whose hand Muhammad's soul is, were Moses to appear to you and you were to follow him and abandon me, you would err from the right way. Were he alive and came in touch with my prophetic mission he would follow me." Darimi transmitted it.
Salman said he read in the Torah that the blessing of food consists in ablution after it, and when he mentioned that to the Prophet he said, "The blessing of food consists in ablution before it and ablution after if." Tirmidhi and Abu Dawud transmitted it.
Here also Muhammad neither forbids the reading of the Torah nor denies its existence. His silence really confirms its existence. Likewise, according to Mishkat al-Masabih, Book XXVI, ch. XXXIX, pp. 1371, 1372:
Khaithama b. Abu Sabra said: I came to Medina and asked God to grant me a good companion to sit with and He granted me Abu Huraira. I sat with him and told him I had asked God to grant me a good companion to sit with and that he suited me. He asked where I came from and I replied that I belonged to al-Kufa and had come desiring and seeking good. He then said, "Do you not have among you Sa'd b. Malik whose prayers are answered, Ibn Mas'ud who looked after God's messenger's water for ablution and his sandals, Hudhaifa who was God's messenger's confident, `Ammar to whom God gave protection from the devil at the tongue of His Prophet, and Salman who was a believer in the two Books? meaning the Injil and the Qur'an. Tirmidhi translated it.
It is beside the point that this tradition identifies the two books (kitabain) as the Injil and the Qur'an rather than the Torah-Old Testament and the Gospel-New Testament. To the point is the fact that this tradition also assumes the existence of a valid Injil.
The following tradition is also found in Mishkat al-Masabih, Book II, ch. I, pp. 62,63:
Ziyad b. Labid said: The Prophet mentioned a matter, saying, "that will be at the time when knowledge departs." I asked, "How can knowledge depart when we recite the Qur'an and teach it to our children and they will teach it to their children up till the Day of Resurrection?" He replied, "I am astonished at you, Ziyad. I thought you were the most learned man in Medina. Do not these Jews and Christians read the Torah and the Injil without knowing a thing about their contents?" Ahmad and Ibn Majah transmitted it, Tirmidhi transmitted something similar from him, as did Darimi from Abu Umama.
As the Qur'an, so the Hadith criticize Jews and Christians for their ignorance. Yet Muhammad clearly shows that they read the Torah and the Injil, not a corrupted or abrogated Torah or Injil. Perhaps he was referring to Arab Jews and Christians who could not understand the languages of the Torah and Injil. Here we must ask how many people read any sacred Scriptures with understanding?
But what of Waraqa bin Naufal? There is no question about whether he could read. In the chapter "How Revelation First Began" Bukhari describes how Muhammad received his first revelation, the initial verses of Sura 96, and how he first returned to Khadijah. Then, to quote the part of the Hadith which is relevant here.
Khadijah took him to her cousin Waraqa ben Naufal. He had accepted Christianity during the Age of Ignorance and he used to write the Hebrew Scripture and the Injil from Hebrew as God granted him strength. Waraqa had become very aged and was bereft of his sight.
This tradition indicates that "the Scripture" (al-kitab) probably the Torah-Old Testament and the Gospel-New Testament, were available and were even known in isolated areas of Arabia.
The following tradition is also found in Mishkat al-Masabih, book VI, ch. XLIII, p. 285:
Abu Huraira said: I went out to at-Tur and met Ka'b al-Ahbar with whom I sat, he telling me about the Torah and I telling him about God's messenger. One of the things I told him was that God's messenger had said, "The best day on which the sun has risen is Friday; on it his repentance was accepted, on it he died, on it the last hour will come, on Friday every beast is on the outlook from dawn to sunrise from the last hour, but not jinn and men, and it contains a time at which no Muslim will pray and ask anything from God without His giving him it." Ka'b said that was one day every year, but when I insisted that it was on every Friday Ka'b read the Torah and said that God's messenger had spoken the truth. Abu Huraira said" I met 'Abdallah b. Salam and told him of my meeting with Ka'b al-Ahbar and of what I had told him about Friday, telling him that Ka'b had said that was one day every year. `Abdallah b. Salam said that Ka'b had lied, but when I told him that Ka'b afterwards read the Torah and said that it was every Friday he said that Ka'b had spoken the truth...
Malik, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi and Nisa'i transmitted it, and Ahmad transmitted it up to the statement that Ka'b had spoken the truth.
Initially Ka'b misrepresents the Torah, i.e., he is guilty of al-tarif al-ma`nawi. Ka'b then refers to the Torah, not a corrupted Torah, and admits his error.
Mishkat al-Masabih cites several traditions (Book XXVI, Ch. XVIII, pp. 1232, 1233 and ch. XIX, p. 1244) which indicate that the Torah prophesies the coming of Muhammad.
`Ata b. Yasar told that he met `Abdallah b. `Amr b. al-As and asked him to inform him of the description of God's messenger given in the Torah. He agreed, swearing by God that he was certainly described in the Torah by part of the description of him given in the Qur'an when it says, "O prophet, We have sent you as a witness, a bearer of good tidings, and a warner, and a guard for the common people. (From Al-Ahzab 33:45 up to here. The following is from the Torah-Old Testament, Isaiah 42:1-3,6-7.) You are my servant and my messenger; I have called you the one who trusts, not harsh or rough, nor loud-voiced in the streets. He will not repulse evil with evil, but will pardon and forgive, and God will not take him till He uses him to straighten the crooked creed so that people may say there is no god but God, and he opens thereby blind eyes, deaf ears and hardened hearts.
Bukhari transmitted it, and Darimi also gives something to the same effect on the authority of `Ata who gave as his authority Ibn Salam.
Anas told that when a young Jew who was a servant of the Prophet became ill, he went to visit him and found his father sitting by his head reciting the Torah. God's messenger said to him, "I adjure you, Jew, by God who sent down the Torah to Moses, do you find in the Torah any description of me, or anything about my coming forth?" On his replying that he did not, the young man said, "Certainly, messenger of God, I swear by God that we do find in the Torah an account and description of you and a statement about your coming forth, and I testify that there is no god but God and that you are God's messenger." The Prophet then said to his companions. "Remove this man from beside his head and look after your brother."
Baihaqi transmitted it in Dala'il al-Nubuwa.
Other traditions making the same claim are recorded in Mishkat al-Masabih (pp. 1237, 1249). Again all these traditions presume the existence of the genuine Torah. The father and the young man who is ill disagree about what the Torah says, but none of these traditions claims that the Jews have corrupted the text of the Torah.
Editor's comments: The quotation from the Torah-Old Testament repeated in the first of the above two passages was accepted as valid by `Ata b. Yasar; and it can be found now, today, in the prophecy of Isaiah written more than 700 years before the Messiah came and more than 1300 years before Muhammad came. It reads,
Isaiah 42:1-3, 6a,7
Thus we have two witnesses - the text of Isaiah in the Torah-Old Testament and the Hadith. Since they show some agreement, it indicates that Isaiah hasn't been changed and allows us to suppose that the rest of the Hadith is probably a fairly reliable record of the conversation.
It is another question, of course, as to whether `Abdallah b. Amr is right in referring the prophecy to Muhammad? The Injil refers it to Jesus in Matthew 12:18-21, and both the Qur'an and the Injil say that it was Jesus who opened the eyes of the blind. That is strong evidence, not to be easily dismissed!
According to the Mishkat al-Masabih, Book XVI, ch. I, p. 758:
`Abdallah b. Umar told that the Jews came to God's messenger and mentioned to him that a man and a woman of their number had committed fornication. He asked them what they found in the Torah about stoning and they replied that they should disgrace them and that they should be beaten. `Abdallah b. Salam then said, "You lie; it contains instruction that they should be stoned to death, so bring the Torah." They spread it out, and one of them put his hand over the verse of stoning and read what preceded it and what followed it. `Abdallah b. Salam told him to lift his hand and when he did so the verse of stoning was seen to be in it. They then said, "He has spoken the truth, Muhammad; the verse of stoning is in it." The Prophet then gave command regarding them and they were stoned to death. In another version it says that he told him to lift his hand and that when he did so, the verse of stoning was clearly in it. The man then said, "It contains the verse of stoning, Muhammad, but we have been concealing it from one another." He then gave command regarding them and they were stoned to death. (Bukhari and Muslim.)
Here Muhammad openly accepts the command of the Torah and gives no indication that it has been abrogated or corrupted. This is one instance to which the Qur'an refers when it accuses the Jews of concealing and changing the Torah, verbally but not textually.
Furthermore in the Mishkat al-Masabih, Book XIII, ch. III, p. 667:
`Umar b. al-Khattab and Anas b. Malik reported God's messenger as saying that it is written in the Torah. "If anyone does not give his daughter in marriage when she reaches twelve and she commits sin, the guilt of that rests on him." Baihaqi transmitted both traditions in Shu'ab al-iman.
According to this passage Muhammad has knowledge of the Torah and even quotes it. Moreover he indicates what is written in the Torah, not what was written in the Torah and is now corrupted or abrogated.
Two traditions from the time when Omar was Khalifa (13-23 AH) also relate to our discussion. According to the Mishkat al-Masabih, Book XVII, chap. III, P. 795:
Sa'id b. al-Musayyib told that a Muslim and a Jew brought a dispute before `Umar, and as he considered the Jew was in the right he pronounced judgement in his favor; but when the Jew said, "I swear by God that you have pronounced just judgement" he struck him with the whip and asked him what caused him to know that.
The Jew replied, "I swear by God that we find in the Torah that no qadi judges rightly without having an angel at his right hand and an angel at his left who direct him and dispose him to what is right as long as he adheres to the right; but when he abandons the right, they ascend and leave him." Malik transmitted it.
The second one is reported by Darimi in Sunan, Muqaddima 56. Abbad ben Abbad Abu Ataba quotes a letter of Omar ben Al-Khattab as saying:
If the doctors and the monks had not feared the disappearance of their ranks and the destruction of their prestige by the observance of the Scripture and expounding it (correctly), they would not have falsified (harrafu) or hidden (katamu) it. But as they went against the Scripture by their acts, they tried to fool the people about what they had done. Fearing the destruction of their prestige and that their corruption would be revealed to men, they falsified (harrafu) the Scripture by their interpretation, and what they could not falsify they hid (katamu). They were silent about their acts in order to keep their prestige and they were silent about the acts of their people acting in complicity. And truly God made a covenant with those to whom the Scripture came that they should make it known to the people an d not hide it, but they deceived with it and were accommodating to themselves with it.
In the first of these Hadith there is no suggestion that Omar refused the right of the Jew to appeal to the Torah. In the second, he accuses the Jews and Christians of "falsifying the Scripture by their interpretation, and what they could not falsify they hid." As does the Qur'an, this last tradition accuses the people of the book of interpreting the Scriptures falsely (al-tahrif al-ma`nawi), but it does not speak of corrupting the actual text of the Scriptures (al-tahrif al-lafzi).
When these two Hadiths are considered along with the previously quoted Hadith which tells of Omar bringing a copy of the Torah to read in Muhammad's presence, we can only conclude that Omar also considered that the Torah was available in an uncorrupted condition.
One exception has come to our attention, a tradition from Bukhari which supports the frequent claim of Muslims that the People of the Book corrupt the actual text of their Scriptures. It is attributed to Abdallah Ibn Abbas who was 14 when Muhammad died and later was appointed Governor of Al-Basrah by Ali. According to Obaidullah ben Abdallah ben Otba, Abdallah Ibn Abbas said:
O Congregation of Muslims, how can you ask questions of the People of the Book, when your book which God revealed to His prophet brings the best tidings about God: Ye read it unfalsified and God has told you that the People of the Book have altered (baddalu) what God wrote, and have falsified (ghaiyaru) the book with their hands, and said, "This is from God," in order to get some paltry reward for it. Has He not forbidden you to ask those people about what you have received in the way of knowledge? By God, we have never seen any one of them asking you about what has been revealed to you.
If this were the sole reference to the previous Scriptures in the Hadith, it would certainly fortify the Muslim claim that the People of the Book corrupt their Scriptures. Yet, to the best of our present knowledge, it must be considered as a single negative reference among the many other references within the Hadith which confirm the presence of a valid Torah and Gospel in the early Muslim community.
It is true that our evidence from the Hadith on this issue may be meaningless to those Muslims who have little trust in them. Yet, regardless of anyone's opinion about the importance of the Hadith, it must be noted that the Mishkat al-Masabih does not include a single reference to corruption of the previous Scriptures. Moreover, assuming we have not missed any pertinent references, it is clear that all the Hadith, with one exception, are devoid of any reference to the corruption of previous Scriptures.
It is possible, of course, that individual Jews foolishly corrupted individual texts of their books, or in other words, that there were isolated instances of actual textual corruption. This would allow us to reconcile this single tradition with the remaining traditions which accept the genuineness of these previous Scriptures.
In summary, according to the Hadith which we have examined, Waraqa writes or translates the "Hebrew Scriptures," not corrupted Scriptures; Muhammad says that the "Jews and Christians read the Torah and the Injil, not a corrupted Torah or Injil. With a copy of the Torah at hand, Muhammad judges according to it, and on another occasion he quotes the Torah and says nothing about it being a corrupted Torah.
Thus the Hadith leads us to the same conclusion as our Quranic study in the last chapter. THERE WAS AN UNCORRUPTED TORAH AND AN UNCORRUPTED GOSPEL WITH MUHAMMAD in Mecca and Medina during the first century of the Hejira.
Table of contents
Answering Islam Home Page