Belief in Divine Books

Belief in Divine Books

Faith and Beliefs

يَا أَيُّهَا الَّذِينَ آمَنُواْ آمِنُواْ بِاللّهِ وَرَسُولِهِ وَالْكِتَابِ الَّذِي نَزَّلَ عَلَى رَسُولِهِ وَالْكِتَابِ الَّذِيَ أَنزَلَ مِن قَبْلُ وَمَن يَكْفُرْ بِاللّهِ وَمَلاَئِكَتِهِ وَكُتُبِهِ وَرُسُلِهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الآخِرِ فَقَدْ ضَلَّ ضَلاَلاً بَعِيدًا (136:4)

Believers! have faith in God and His prophet, in the Book He has revealed to His prophet, and also in the books He has previously revealed and [remember that] he who denies God, His angels, His books and His prophets and the Last Day has strayed far. (4:136)

Just as the Almighty has sent prophets to guide mankind, similarly He has revealed His Books to these prophets for this purpose. The purpose of these Books is that people have with them the written guidance of God in His very words so that they can judge between what is right and what is wrong through these Books and are able to resolve their differences through them and in this manner they are able to adhere to the truth regarding their religion. The Qur'an says:

وَأَنزَلَ مَعَهُمْ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ لِيَحْكُمَ بَيْنَ النَّاسِ فِيمَا اخْتَلَفُوا فِيهِ (2 : 213)

And with these [Prophets], He sent down His Book as the decisivetruth so that it may settle these differences between people. (2:213)

وَأَنزَلْنَا مَعَهُمُ الْكِتَابَ وَالْمِيزَانَ لِيَقُومَ النَّاسُ بِالْقِسْطِ (25:57)

And with these [Messengers] We sent down Our Book which is the Judge [between the right and the wrong] so that [through it] people are able to adhere to justice [regarding religion]. (57:25)

At this point of time, the anthology of books found in the Bible shows that apparently these Books were given to each and every prophet in some form or the other. Just as the Qur'an (87:19) mentions the Torah and the Gospel, it also refers to the scripture of Abraham (sws). The above quoted verses (2:213; 57:25) also corroborate this premise. All these Books are Books of God. Thus the Qur'an requires of the Muslims to broadly profess faith in these Books without any discrimination. Out of these, however, four Books occupy exceptional importance: The Torah, The Psalms, The Gospels, The Qur'an. The following paragraphs introduce these Books.

The Torah

The Torah was revealed to Moses (sws). It is generally thought to be composed of five books which are found at the beginning of the Bible and which are called the Pentateuch. They are: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. A deep deliberation on these books shows that the content of the first four books is historical narration in which the Torah is found in the chronological order, and in Deuteronomy the Torah has been arranged in the form of a book in the same manner as the Qur'an was. In its present shape, it was probably compiled in the fifth century BC. However, the way the Prophet Jesus (sws) has referred to it, one can say that it has his corroboration to some extent. The Hebrew text of the Torah which is now found in manuscripts and published form is called the Massoretic Text. It is generally accepted that besides this text there were other variants also in ancient times and at places there were important differences between them. The Samaritan Torah and specially the Septuagint show evidence of these differences.

The guidance of God provided by the prophets to mankind has two categories: the shari'ah (the law) and the hikmah (the wisdom). It is the shari'ahwhich constitutes the major portion of the Torah and thus it is named so on this basis. The Qur'an calls it هُدًى لِّبَنِي إِسْرَائِل (17: 2) (The guidance for the Israelites, (17:2)) and تَفْصِيْلاً لِكُلِّ شَئٍ (6: 154) (The detail of everything, (6:154)). The Qur'an also says that it contains the directive of God (5:43), it is guidance and light (5:44) and mercy for the people (7:154). No doubt the Qur'an (5:13) also mentions the interpolations of the Jews; however, this also is a reality that it broadly corroborates its version which was available with the Jews in the times of Muhammad (sws).

The Psalms

The Psalms is the name of the book revealed to David (sws). It is a collection of hymns which are called Psalms. The Book of Psalms now found in the Bible has five books and one hundred and fifty Psalms. Although psalms attributed to other people have also found their way in this collection, but a discerning mind can feel the grandeur of a divine discourse in hymns about which it has been specified that they are from David (sws). Like the Gospel, it is the hikmah which constitutes the Psalms and the Qur'an corroborates it as a book revealed by God.

The Gospel

The Gospel was revealed to Jesus (sws). One of primary objectives of his advent was to give glad tidings of the last prophet. The word "Gospel" means "good news" and on this very basis it has been named so. As has been the case of divine scriptures, it too was revealed piecemeal keeping in view the needs of preaching and propagation. Before it could be compiled in the form of a Book, Jesus (sws) was lifted from this earth because of the rebellious and arrogant behaviour of his people. Thus it is not an arranged Book but independent orations and speeches which have reached the later generations through the oral tradition and written memorandums. Many years later, when people started to compile the biography of Jesus (sws) in the form of booklets, these orations were appropriately inserted at various places. These booklets are called the Gospels. In the early days of Christianity, they were present in large number. In 382 AD, the leaders of the Christian church under Pope Damasus selected four of them and abandoned the others and regarded them to be apocryphal. In the Bible, we find the four Gospels according to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. The were originally written in Greek whereas the language of Jesus (sws) was Aramaic and he delivered his speeches and sermons in this language. The authors of these Gospels converted to Christianity much later than Jesus (sws) and none of these was written before 70 AD and the Gospel according to John was perhaps written a century after Jesus (sws) in the city of Epheus in Asia minor. In spite of this, the sermons, parables and speeches that were found in these Gospels are so conspicuous in divine grandeur that any person aware of the style of divine literature cannot deny them. Thus it can safely be said that a greater part of the Gospel in which the Qur'an asks us to profess faith is preserved in these biographical booklets.

The Qur'an

This was revealed to Muhammad (sws), the last prophet of God. It is regarded as the mizan (scale that tells good from evil) and the furqan (distinguisher between good and evil) by the Almighty in the Qur'an itself (42:17; 25:1) and a muhayminon the previous scriptures. The word muhaymin is an adjective formed from the words هَيْمَنَ فُلاَنٌ عَلَى كَذَا which means "a guardian" and "a protector".It means that the Qur'an is the real authentic and trustworthy version of the Book of God. Thus, in matters of religion, everything accepted or rejected shall be decided under the guidance of the light provided by it.

وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَمُهَيْمِنًا عَلَيْهِ فَاحْكُم بَيْنَهُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللّهُ وَلاَ تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءهُمْ عَمَّا جَاءكَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ (5: 48)

And [O Prophet!] We have revealed to you the Book with the truth in confirmation of the Book before it, and standing as a guardian over it. Therefore, give judgement among men according to the guidance revealed by God and do not yield to their whims by swerving from the truth revealed to you. (5:48)

It consists of 114 surahs, most of which form pairs with regard to their contents. They are composed in seven sections in accordance with the sequence of the preaching endeavour of the Prophet (sws). Its language is Arabic and it has been revealed to the heart of the Prophet (sws) with the directive of God. The Prophet (sws) presented it to his people and from them it was transferred through the consensus and through the verbal and written perpetuation of the Muslims. Consequently, in divine literature, this is the only Book about which it can be said with full certainty that it is present with us in its original form, shape, language and arrangement without the slightest bit of change. The way it has been transmitted through tawatur (perpetuation) is a miracle in itself because this is the only Book in this world which even at this time can be read out verbatim from its beginning to the end by thousands who have memorized it. History tell us that in the last fourteen hundred years this mode of transmission has not ceased for a single day. It is evident from this that it is the Almighty Who has made arrangements to protect the Qur'an. He says:

إِنَّا نَحْنُ نَزَّلْنَا الذِّكْرَ وَإِنَّا لَهُ لَحَافِظُونَ (9:15)

It was We that revealed the Reminder, and shall Ourself preserve it. (15:9)

وَإِنَّهُ لَكِتَابٌ عَزِيزٌ لَا يَأْتِيهِ الْبَاطِلُ مِن بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَلَا مِنْ خَلْفِهِ تَنزِيلٌ مِّنْ حَكِيمٍ حَمِيدٍ (41: 41-42)

And there is no doubt that it is a mighty scripture. Falsehood cannot reach it neither from in front of it nor from behind it. It is a revelation from a wise and glorious God. (41:41-42)

The various aspects of protection of the Qur'an towards which this verse alludes to are explained thus by Imam Amin Ahsan Islahi:

First, during the time of revelation of the Qur'an the Almighty made arrangements that the devils are unable to interfere in the process of divine revelation in any way. Although there is a permanent arrangement to prevent the devils from eavesdropping and listening to divine matters but … during the time of the revelation of the Qur'an special arrangements were made in preventing devils from meddling in revelations in any way so that nothing is able to enter the Qur'an from in front of it (مِن بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ).

Second, the angel which the Almighty selected to reveal the Qur'an has been called by the Qur'an (81:21) as "the one endued with power, held in honour before the Lord of the Throne, obeyed in Heaven, moreover trustworthy." In other words, the angel is so powerful that evil spirits cannot overpower him; he is the head of all angels and he cannot forget anything. Whatever is entrusted to him by the Almighty, he fully protects. There is not a semblance of a chance that the slightest of change can take place in the revelation entrusted to him. He has a very high rank before the Almighty which shows that he is ahead of all other creatures as far as abilities are concerned – It is obvious that all this elaborate arrangement has been made to close the doors to any evil entering the Qur'an from its very origin.

Third, the very person who was entrusted with the Qur'an was firstly, the best of human beings in all respects and secondly, the responsibility of memorizing, arranging and safeguarding the Qur'an was taken up by the Almighty: لَا تُحَرِّكْ بِهِ لِسَانَكَ لِتَعْجَلَ بِهِ إِنَّ عَلَيْنَا جَمْعَهُ وَقُرْآنَهُ فَإِذَا قَرَأْنَاهُ فَاتَّبِعْ قُرْآنَه ثُمَّ إِنَّ ُعَلَيْنَا بَيَانَه (75: 16-19) ([To acquire] this [Qur'an] swiftly [O Prophet!] do not move your tongue hastily over it. Indeed, upon Us is its collection and recital. So when We have recited it, follow this recital [of Ours]. Then upon Us is to explain it [wherever need be], (75:16-19))

It is evident from various narratives that whatever text of the Qur'an would be revealed the Prophet (sws), his close Companions (rta) would memorize it. In every Ramadan, the Prophet (sws) would read it out to Gabriel or listen from him so that no possibility of any error or omission should remain and this reading out or listening to would be according to the sequence the Almighty had arranged it. Also evident from certain narratives is that in the last Ramadan of his life, this mutual presentation of the Qur'an took place twice. Then in this very arrangement and recital the whole of the Qur'an was written down and later the rightly guided caliphs sent its copies to various cities. This elaborate treatment was not received by any of the previous scriptures and about the Torah no one knows that when its constituent scriptures were assembled and who was responsible for this task.

Fourth, the Qur'an is a miracle with regard to its eloquent selection of words and the meanings they convey. And so distinct is it in this aspect to other discourses that they cannot match it. So much so, the words of the Prophet (sws) himself – who was the recipient of the Qur'an and as the most eloquent among everyone – could not rival it. Thus there is no possibility that any extraneous addition be made into it. Consequently, works of people who have dared to answer the challenge of the Qur'an to bring something similar to it are preserved in history and literature. If a person compares them with the Qur'an, he will notice the same difference between them as between a pearl and a pebble. In this manner, it is as if the doors to any adulteration from the front too (مِنْ خَلْفِهِ) have been closed.

Fifth, together with the promise of protecting the Qur'an, the Almighty has also promised to protect and safeguard its language till the Day of Judgement. Because of the fact that the languages of some divine scriptures became extinct a lot of changes and interpolations were introduced by way of translations and we have no clue about them now. However, the real language of the Qur'an is safe and sound and will remain so till the Day of Judgement. Hence there is no possibility of any evil creeping into it by way of translations and commentaries. If anyone would try to introduce some evil in it, men of learning can easily sift it out by testing it against the original text.[1]

(Translated from Ghamidi's Mīzān by Shehzad Saleem)

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