It is a matter of Islamic belief that God, in His mercy, has sent prophet after prophet to lead people forth from darkness to light. The belief in all of God’s revealed books forms an integral part of Islamic faith.
These divine books commanded justice in everything and exhorted invited men to repent.
The Quran describes Torah as Furqan (the Discriminator between right and wrong). It says “We gave Moses and Aaron the Discriminator, and gave them a light (Dhia) and a Reminder for the righteous (21:48). Furqan means that ideological standard which enables man to distinguish between Truth and falsehood. Dhia means divine guidance, which leads a man out of the darkness of the wrong path and puts him in the light of the straight path. In this way God has arranged for the guidance of man through His messenger.
But it is possible for God’s guide book to provide guidance in the real sense only when a man is anxious about his fate in the Hereafter. This anxiety makes him so serious that he attaches more importance to Truth and righteousness than to any other thing.
The Books Mentioned in the Quran
Of the holy books, four find mention in the Quran: the Sahifa, scrolls given to Abraham; the Tawrat, the revelations made to Moses; the Zabur, the psalms given to David; the Injil, the teachings given to Jesus. It is a belief of a Muslim that each of these (as well every other Books sent by God to His Prophets) was originally a complete revelation. However, for a variety of reasons, most of these revealed books sent by God could not be preserved. For instance, the Quran mentions the scriptures given to Abraham (87:14-19). as Sahifa, but these are no longer in existence and were lost completely. Others were changed in various ways by human intervention.
Thus these previous scriptures are no longer in their original form. They could best be described as edited versions of divine revelations, which have been altered from time to time by editors and commentators. So we can say that those ancient scriptures, which still exist today, have not been preserved from human interpolations. They have been tampered with at will by their adherents, who have retained the portions they wanted to and deleted the portions they disliked. Therefore, these scriptures have lost their veracity.
The Quran, the last of the divine books, is the only revealed scripture which has been preserved from human interpolation.
The Quran enshrines these teachings, which were basically the same as were to be found in previous revealed scriptures. But these scriptures are no longer preserved in their original state. The Quran has been preserved in its original state; therefore, it is an eternal guidebook which will never lose its relevance.
A. The Towrah
The term Towrah is simply the Arabic equivalent for the Hebrew Torah, and normally understood as ‘The Law’ given by God to the Prophet Moses. The Quran gives abundant testimony to the Towrah, and it is mentioned more than any other revealed book. Sometimes it is simply called ‘The Law’.
‘We have revealed the Torah having guidance and light. By it, the prophets who surrendered themselves to God judged the Jews, and so did the rabbis and the divines, by what they were required to guard of God’s books, and to what they are witnesses. ‘Have no fear of people: fear Me, and do not take a small price for My revelations. Unbelievers are those who do not judge in accordance with God’s revelations.
‘(In the Torah) we decreed for them a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds punishment. But if a man charitably forbears from retaliation, his remission shall atone for him. Transgressors are those that do not judge in accordance with God’s revelations.’ (5:44-46).
From this quotation it can be seen that the Quran calling the Towrah a book of ‘guidance and light’ testifies that God had revealed it as the Law for the Jews.
Sometimes in the Quran, the name Towrah refers not only to the books of the Prophet Moses, but to the entire Hebrew scripture of the Jews, especially in the verses, which mention the Towrah and Injil together. ‘He has revealed unto you (Muhammad) the scripture with truth, confirming that which was (revealed) before it, even as He revealed the Torah and the Injil.’ (3:3).
When the Quran uses the expression ‘People of the Book’, it always means all the three communities: the Jews, the Christians, and the Muslims: ‘You People of the Book! Why dispute you about Abraham, when the law (Towrah) and the Injil were not revealed till after him? Have you no understanding?’ (3:65).
According to the Quran, the Towrah, the book that God revealed to Moses for the guidance of the Children of Isreal (Bani Israil), did in fact contain guidance and God’s commands, admonition and a clear explanation of many things of the world, and of God’s mercy. There are many verses regarding the granting of a book to Moses in which the Towrah is mentioned although not by name. The tablets (alwah) are also mentioned and they mean the same scripture:
‘And We ordained for him in the Tablets in all the matters, admonition and explanation of all things, (and said): ‘Take and hold these with firmness and enjoin thy people to hold fast by the best of the percepts…’ (7:145).
But when Moses went back to his people with the Law inscribed on the Tablets (7:150) they had meanwhile turned away from God and the Truth and he became very angry. He prayed for them and they repented. ‘When the anger of Moses was appeased, he took up the tablets: in the writing thereon was Guidance and Mercy for such that fear their Lord’ (7:154).
The Towrah, as originally revealed to Moses, must have been in the Hebrew language. But there is no copy of the original Book given to Moses extant today. As a matter of fact, during their long turbulent history, the Jews repeatedly lost their revealed books. According to the Quran, they also failed to maintain the standards prescribed by their scriptures. They made it ‘into (separate) sheets for show’ and concealed much of its content. Therefore differences have arisen among them, as they have distorted and changed God’s word and its meaning. The Old Testament is considered by today’s Jews as the Book revealed by God. But it cannot simply be equated with the Towrah mentioned in the Quran. The reason for this is that the Old Testament contains also the Zabur, the book of guidance given to the Prophet David. The Zabur is mentioned in the Quran as a revelation separate from the Towrah.
b. The Zabur
The term Zabur is the Arabic equivalent of the Hebrew word ‘zimr’, which is usually translated into English as ‘psalm’. It was the book of revelation given to the Prophet David or Daud. In the Hebrew and Christian scriptures it is a part of the Old Testament. David was a prophet, but he was also a great ruler and singer of the divinely inspired hymns praising God and His creation, which form the Zabur.
In the Quran, the Zabur is mentioned by name only three times:
‘…And to David We gave the Psalms.’ (4:163)
‘And it is your Lord that knows best all beings that are in the heavens and on earth: We did bestow on some prophets more (and other) gifts than on others: and We gave David (the gift of) the Psalms.’ (17:55)
‘Before this We wrote in the Psalms, after the Message (given to Moses): My servants, the righteous, shall inherit the earth.’ (21:105)
Thus the Quran, and also the traditions, very clearly confirms the Muslim belief in four heavenly books. The Quran mentions no other such heavenly books, though it mentions many prophets, some of them by name, and attributes many divine revelations to them.
David, to whom God revealed the Zabur, was gifted with great eloquence and a beautiful voice. All gifts were given to the prophets according to the needs of the world and the times in which they lived. The Psalms were intended to be sung for the worship of God and the celebration of God’s greatness.
The Psalms are still extant and have been incorporated into the Bible. However, their present form may possibly be different from the original. Nonetheless, to a great extent, the Psalms retain their original state.
c. The Injil
The Injil is the revelation given to prophet Isa. The term Injil is derived from a Greek word, which, when translated into English means ‘gospel’ and it occurs twelve times in the Quran.
In Muslim belief Isa or Jesus, the son of Mary, is considered to be the prophet immediately preceding the Prophet of Islam. His birth was miraculous and by the grace of God he was endowed with a life-giving spirit. Both he and his pious mother, Mary, are mentioned in the Quran many times.
‘We sent after them Jesus, the son of Mary, and bestowed on him the Gospel; and We ordained in the hearts of those who followed him compassion and mercy.’ (57:27)
This particular verse of the Quran very clearly states that the Prophet Jesus was given the real Injil, which stressed the compassion and mercy of God. Most of the time, whenever mentioned in the Quran, Injil is coupled with the Towrah or the law given to Moses. But there is always emphasis on the continuity of revelation and its culmination with the final revelation that is the Quran.
‘It is He Who sent down to you (step by step), the truth, the Book (the Quran), confirming what went before it: and He sent down the Towrah (of Moses) and the Injil (of Jesus),’ (3:3)
‘And God will teach him the Book and Wisdom, the Towrah and the Gospel.’ (3:48)
The Injil mentioned in the Quran is not exactly what the Christians today consider their scripture, the Gospel of the Bible. The Injil in fact was the book revealed to the Prophet Isa himself and it is that book, which is mentioned in the Quran. The Gospel of the Christians is a compilation made one hundred years after the prophethood of Isa and was written down in Greek. Besides the Gospels attributed to the four apostles (John, Luke, Mark, and Matthew), it contains letters of Paul and Peter to the early Christian communities, as well as other written material. That is why the Quran and the traditions often refer to the corruption of the original scriptures. All heavenly books were sent by God for the guidance of mankind and to enable their adherents to judge all issues according to the divine laws as set forth in these Books.
d. The Quran
The Quran, the Book of God, enshrines teachings, which were basically the same as were to be found in previously revealed scriptures. But these ancient scriptures are no longer preserved in their original state. Later additions and deletions have rendered them unreliable, whereas the Quran, preserved in its original state, is totally reliable.
The Quran has 114 chapters. Its contents in a nutshell are: belief in one God, and considering oneself answerable to Him; firm belief that the guidance sent by God through the Prophet Muhammad is the truth and that man’s eternal salvation rests thereon.
The position of the Quran is not just that it is one of the many revealed scriptures but that it is the only authentic divine Book. All the other Books, due to human additions and deletions, have been rendered historically unreliable. When a believer in the previous revealed scripture turns to the Quran, it does not mean that he is rejecting his own belief, but rather amounts to his having re-discovered his own faith in an authentic form.
The Quran is a sacred book sent by the Lord of all creation. It is a book for all human beings, because it has been sent by that Divine Being who is the God of all of us.
The Quran is no new heavenly scripture. It is only an authentic edition of the previous heavenly scriptures. In this respect, the Quran is a book for all human beings, of all nations. It is the expression of God’s mercy for one and for all. It is a complete message sent by God for every one of us. The Quran is a light of guidance for all the world just as the sun is the source of light and heat for all the world.
According to the Quran, Islam means submission. The religion of Islam is so named because it is based on obedience to God. A true believer in Islam is one who subordinates his thinking to God, who follows God’s dictates in all aspects of his life.
Islam is the religion of the entire universe, for the entire universe and all its parts are functioning in accordance with the law laid down by God.
Such behaviour is also desired of man. Man should also lead his life as God’s obedient servant just as the rest of the universe is fully subservient to God. The only difference is that the universe has submitted to God compulsorily, while man is required to submit to the will of God by his own choice.
When man adopts Islam, first of all it is his thinking which is affected by Islam, then his desires, his feelings, his interests, his relations, his love and his hatred. All are coloured by his obedience to God’s will.
When man, in his daily life comes under God’s command, his behaviour with people and his dealings are all moulded by the demands of Islam. From inside to outside he becomes a person devoted to God.
Man, as the Quran tells us, is God’s servant. Indeed, the only proper way for man to live in this world is to live as the servant of God. Islam, in fact, is another name for this life of servitude to God. Where the Islamic life is devoted to the service of God, the un-Islamic life unashamedly flouts the will of God. Islam teaches man to lead an obedient life and surrender himself completely to the will of God. It is people who do so who will share God’s blessings in the next world. This is the essence of the teachings of the Quran.