An Examination of
The Parallel Passages of the Quranic Text:
CONCILIATION OR CONFLICT?
A common allegation presented by Muslim apologists seeking to discredit the New Testament documents is the fact that one often finds in the Gospel accounts stories of Jesus told in a slightly different manner. When reading the NT records, one will find that the writers often modify and summarize Jesus' words in relation to the audience they are writing. This being the case Muslims assert that the Gospels are unreliable and should be discarded.
This assertion presumes that accurate writing requires comprehensive and complete detail in regard to an event being reported. In other words, a writer is obligated to leave nothing out of his narrative when describing an event, even irrelevant material.
Such an understanding on how narratives should be written leaves two problems for Muslims. Firstly, no historian comprehensively records every minute detail but will often summarize and modify his account in order to bring out that material which is relevant to his intended audience. Hence, the gospel writers accurately record Jesus' words in summarized format.
Secondly, this criteria if true would serve to discredit the Quran. The Quran often reports the same events with variant wording. Hence, if the Muslim assumption would be enforced, we would also have to reject the Quran.
In the following examples, citations will be given and highlighted by italics for the sake of comparison. This will help demonstrate that the Quran contains parallel accounts that contain conflicting wording and details.
MOSES AND THE BURNING BUSH
|Has the story of Moses Reached Thee? Behold he saw a fire: So he said to his family, "Tarry ye: I perceive a fire; perhaps I can Bring you some burning brand Therefrom, or find some guidance At the fire." But when he came to the fire, a voice Was heard: "O Moses! "Verily I am thy Lord! Therefore (in My presence) Put off thy shoes: thou art In the sacred valley Tuwa. "I have chosen thee: Listen, then, to the inspiration (Sent to thee). "Verily, I am God: There is no god but I: So serve thou Me (only), And establish regular prayer For celebrating My praise. Verily the hour is coming- My design is to keep it Hidden- for every soul To its reward By the measure of its endeavor. Therefore let not such as Believe not therein But follow their own Lusts, divert thee therefrom, Lest thou perish!" "And what is that in thy right hand, O Moses?" He said, "It is My rod: on it I lean; with it I beat down fodder For my flocks; and In it I find Have Other uses." (God) said, "Throw it, O Moses!" He threw it, and behold it was a snake Active in motion. (God) said "Seize it And fear not: We shall return it at once To its former condition... Now draw thy hand Close to thy side: It shall come forth white (And shining), without harm (or stain),- As a another Sign,- In order that we may show thee (Two) of our Greater Signs. Go thou to Pharaoh For he has indeed Transgressed all bounds." [S. 20:9-24]
|Behold! Moses said to his family "I perceive A fire; soon will I bring you From there some information, Or I will Bring you A burning brand to light our fuel That ye may Warm yourselves." But when he came To the (Fire), a voice Was heard: "Blessed are those In the Fire and those around: And Glory to God, The Lord of the Worlds. "O Moses! Verily I am God, the Exalted In Might, the wise!... "Now do throw thy rod!" But when he saw it Moving (of its own accord) As if it had been a snake, He turned back in Retreat, And retraced not his steps: "O Moses!" (it was said), "Fear not: truly, in My presence, Those called as apostles Have no fear,- But if Any have done wrong And have thereafter substituted Good to take the place of the evil, Truly, I am Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful. "Now put thy hand into Thy bosom, and it will Come forth white without stain (Or harm): (These are) among The nine Signs (thou wilt take) To Pharaoh and his people: For they are A people Rebellious in transgression." But when Our Signs came To them, that should opened their eyes, they said: "This is Sorcery manifest!" And they rejected those Signs In iniquity and arrogance, Though their Souls were convinced Thereof: so see what was The end of those Who acted corruptly. [S. 27:7-14]
|Now when Moses had fulfilled The term, and was traveling With his family, he perceived A fire in the direction of Mount Tur. He said To his family: "Tarry ye; I perceive a fire; I hope To bring you from there Some information, or a burning Firebrand that ye may warm yourselves." But when he came To the (Fire), a voice was heard from the right back Of the valley, from a tree In hallowed ground: "O Moses! Verily I am God, the Lord of the Worlds ... Now do thou throw thy rod! But when he saw it Moving (of its own accord) As if it had been a snake, He turned back in retreat and retraced not his steps: "O Moses!" (It was said), "Draw near, and fear not; For thou art of those Who are secure. "Move thy hand into thy bosom, and it will Come forth to thy side (To guard) against fear. Those are the two credentials From thy Lord to Pharaoh And his Chiefs: for truly They are a people Rebellious and wicked." [S. 28:29-33]
|"Behold! We sent To thy mother, by inspiration, The Message: `Throw (the child) Into the chest, and throw (The chest) into the river: The river will cast him Up the bank, and he will be taken up by one Who is an enemy to Me And an enemy to him': But I cast (the garment Of) love over thee from Me: And (this) in order that Thou mayest be reared Under Mine eye. Behold thy sister goeth forth And saith, `Shall I show you One who will nurse And rear the (child)?' So We brought thee back To thy mother, that her eye Might be cooled and she Should not grieve. Then thou didst slay A man, but We saved thee From trouble, and We tried Thee in various ways. Then didst thou tarry a number of years With the people of Midian. Then didst thou come hither As ordained, O Moses!" [S. 20:38-40]
|"So we sent this inspiration To the mother of Moses: `Suckle (thy child), but when Thou hast Fears about him, Cast him into the river, But Fear not nor grieve: For We shall restore him To Thee, and We shall make Him one of Our apostles... And she said to the sister Of (Moses), "Follow him". So she (the sister) Watched him In the character of a stranger. And they knew not. And We ordained that he Refused suck at first, until (His sister came up and) said: "Shall I Point out to you the people Of a house that will nourish And bring him up For you And be sincerely attached To him?... Thus did We restore him To his mother, that Her eye might be comforted, that she might not grieve, and that She might know the promise of God is true: but Most of them do not understand. [S. 28:7,11-13]
ISRAEL AND OBEDIENCE
|And remember We said: "Enter this town, and eat of the plenty therein As ye wish; but enter The gate with humility, In posture and in words, And We shall forgive you your faults And increase (the portion of) Those who do good." But the transgressors Changed the word from that Which had been given them; So we sent on the transgressors A plague from heaven, for that they infringed (Our command) repeatedly. [S. 2:58-59]
|And remember it was said to them: "Dwell in this town And eat therein as you wish, But say The word of humility and enter the gate In a posture of humility: We shall forgive you Your faults; We shall increase (The portion of) those Who do good." But the transgressors among them Changed the word from that Which had Been given them So we sent on them a plague from heaven For that they repeatedly transgressed. [S. 7:161-162]
Of particular interest is A. Yusuf Ali's footnote:
These verses, 58-59, may be compared to vii. 161-162. There are two verbal differences. Here (ii. 58) we have "enter the town" and in vii. 161 we have "dwell in the town." Again in ii. 59 here we have "infringed (Our command)," and in vii. 162, we have "transgressed." The verbal differences make no difference to the sense. (Ali, The Holy Quran-Translation and Commentary, p. 31, f. 72)
MOSES AND THE SORCERERS
|They said: "O Moses! Whether wilt thou That thou throw (first) Or that we be the first to throw?" He said, "Nay, throw ye First!" Then behold Their ropes and their rods- So it seemed to him on account of their magic- Began to be in lively motion! So Moses conceived In his mind A (sort of ) fear. We said: "Fear not! For thou hast indeed The upper hand: Throw that which is In thy right hand: Quickly will it swallow up That which they have faked What they have faked Is but a magician's trick: And the magician thrives not (No matter) where he goes. So the magicians were Thrown down in prostration: They said, "We believe In the Lord of Aaron and Moses." (Pharaoh) said: "Believe ye In Him before I give You permission? Surely This must be your leader, Who has taught you magic! Be sure I will cut off Your hands and feet On opposite sides, and I Will have you crucified On trunks of palm-trees: So shall ye know for certain, Which of us can give The more severe and the more Lasting punishment." They said, "Never shall we Regard thee as more than The Clear Signs that have Come to us, or than Him who created us! So decree whatever thou Desirest to decree: for thou Canst only decree (touching) The life of this world. For us, we have believed In our Lord: may He Forgive us our faults, And the magic to which Thou didst compel us: For God is Best And Most Abiding." [S. 20:65-73]
So when the sorcerers arrived, They said to
Pharaoh: "Of course- shall we have a suitable
reward if we win?" He said: "Yea, (and more),-
For ye shall in that case Be (raised in posts)
Nearest (to my person)." Moses said to them,
"Throw ye- which ye are about to throw!" So
They threw their ropes And their rods, and said:
"By the might of Pharaoh It is we who will
Certainly win!" Then Moses threw his rod,
When, behold, it straightway swallows up all
The falsehoods which they fake! Then did the
Sorcerers fall down, prostration in adoration,
Saying: "We believe in the Lord of the Worlds,
The Lord of Moses and Aaron." Said Pharaoh:
"Believe ye In Him before I give You
permission? Surely he is your leader who has
Taught you sorcery! But soon shall ye know!"
"Be sure I will cut off Your hands and your feet On opposite sides, and I Will cause you all To die On the cross!" They said: "No matter! For us, we shall but return to our Lord! Only, our desire is That our Lord will forgive us our faults, That We may become Foremost among the Believers!" [S. 26:41-52 (Cf. 7:111-126)]
One Muslim scholar commented on the phenomena of verbal variations of the same stories within the Quran:
Hence, Muslim themselves have discovered and stumbled on the fact that the same Quranic stories contain verbal variations.
These few examples should sufficiently demonstrate to the reader that the Quran, along with the Bible, contain accounts that although parallel, are slightly modified in wording and detail. Other examples include S. 11:77-83 with 15:61-75 and 29:32-34, as well as 26:160-175 with 27:54-58 and 29:28-30.
QUESTIONABLE LANGUAGE OF THE BIBLE?
Another attack on Scripture relates to the biblical usage of "dogs" and "swine" in describing unbelievers and Gentiles (Cf. Matthew 7:6, 15:26; Philippians 3:2). Muslims claim that it is offensive to insinuate that prophets would actually use such descriptions in describing human beings. Hence, to ascribe such terminology to prophets is to accuse them of sin.
It is obvious to anyone reading the Bible that such terms are used metaphorically to show how depraved and corrupt man can be, and is, without the grace of God. Without the guidance of God, man is totally corrupt, doing things that even animals would not do.
Furthermore, the Quran itself uses such metaphors to describe evildoers:
Say: "Shall I point out To you something much worse Than this, (as judged) By the treatment it received From God? Those who incurred the curse of God And His wrath, those of whom some He transformed into apes and swine..." [S. 5:60]
Relate to them the story Of the man to whom We sent Our Signs, But he passed them by: So Satan followed him up and he went astray. If it had been Our Will, We should have elevated him With Our Signs; but he Inclined to the earth, And followed his own vain desires. His similitude is that of a dog; if you attack Him, he lolls out his tongue, or if you leave him alone, He (still) lolls out his tongue. That is the similitude of those who reject Our Signs; So relate the story; Perchance they may reflect. [S. 7:175-177]
For the worst of beasts in the sight of God are the deaf and the dumb, - those who understand not. [S. 8:22]
For the worst of beasts in the sight of God are those who reject Him: They will not believe. [S. 8:55]
The similitude of those Who were charged With the (obligations of the) Mosaic Law, But who subsequently failed in those (obligations) is That of an ASS which carries huge tomes (But understands them not). Evil is the similitude of the people who falsify The Signs of God: And God guides not people who do wrong. [S. 62:5]
In light of these passages, will a Muslim now assume that God sinned (God forbid!) by using such metaphorical expressions to describe evildoers? If not, then to attack the Bible for using such metaphors is unwarranted.
In concluding this paper we must state that there are no good objections against the Bible which a Muslim can bring up. The reason being that every argument presented against the Bible can also be used against the Quran. Instead of attacking the Bible, it is our hope that Muslims will read it with an open heart and discover the glorious riches contained within it.
All Quranic references taken from A. Yusuf Ali's translation
Further articles discussing similar observations are listed here.
Further articles by Sam Shamoun
Articles about the Bible and the Qur'an
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