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The Quran and the Biblical Texts

BS”D

Warning: This post might be somewhat offending to some Muslims, since it deals in part with the Quran outside the Islamic traditional understanding of it and its message.

As I explained in my last post I did four assignments, and one of them was about how the Quran views and understands the Biblical scriptures. I am not going into detail or post the whole assignments here, that would be a little too much, but there were some aspects which I found rather interesting.

First off, I based the assignments on the findings of Gabriel Said Reynolds (which can be found in his “The Qur’ân and its Biblical Subtext”), who argues that the Quran, as far is it being studied by academics and on its own, should be studied in light of the Biblical texts, which – for him – gives more sense than reading it in light of tafsirs (Islamic commentaries), since that would mean that one would study the Quran through an afterthought, rather than relating to what might be the basis for the Quranic thought, which according to Reynolds are the Biblical texts, and I understand why he thinks so.

Though Reynolds’ book in itself is very interesting I won’t deal so much with its details here – though I might in another post – but more relate to his overall concept.

The second scholar I related to is Mondher Sfar and his “In Search of the Original Koran: The True Story of the Revealed Text” (translated by Emilia Lanier). This book is most likely to offend quite a lot of Muslim minds, since it basically attempts to challenge the Islamic traditional understanding of the Quran as revealed text and how it is revealed. Nevertheless I found it being somewhat in line with Reynolds’ book, and since I did want to challenge the normal understanding of how the Quran viewed the Biblical texts, I related to these two books.

Besides that I related to a etymological inquiry into certain terms, which normally are considered to be related to the Biblical texts, such as Tawrat (Torah, the Five Books of Moses), Zabur (the Psalms of David), and the Injil (the Gospel, relating more to the revelation Jesus got according to the Quran, rather than the four gospels and the New Testament as a whole). I also delved into the usage of suhuf, meaning scrolls or parchment, as well as kitab, meaning book. The two last terms seemed to be rather general, so I did not spend so much time on them. Here I related heavily on Jastrow’s dictionary, as well as the six translations of Pickthall, Yusuf Ali, Sahih International, Muhsin Khan, and Dr. Ghali (all as found at Quran.com – I can highly recommend the website).

What is interesting is not so much that the Quran views itself as being from the same source (God), or that carries the same significance – that it is sent in order to guide in the right direction, as a law from God. What is interesting is that it hints several places that the details of this divine law is not the same as it is presented in the Tawrat, Injil and in the Quran itself. It does hint at the Tawrat being specifically for the Jews, the Injil specifically for the Christians, and the Quran specifically for the Arabs/Muslims. We see it particularly in the fifth Surah (chapter), where Muhammad deals with the question of law and judgment.

What I was especially surprised about was the zabur, which traditionally has been interpreted and understood as being the Psalms of David. This is understandable, considering that David is connected with a revelation called “zabur,” but the term is also used in other contexts. In the following I will quote what I wrote in the assignment:

Zabûr (زَبُور )

Zabur, which root (ز ب ر ) appears 11 times in the Quran, in the forms zubar (زُبَر – 18:96), zubur (زُبُر – 3:184, 16:44, 23:53, 26:196, 35:25, 54:43, 54:52), and zabur (زَبُور – 4:163, 17:55, 21:105), is normally understood as the Psalms given to David, though it is not clear whether it is the collections of psalms as they appear in the Bible (תהילים ).

In Lane’s dictionary he relates to Ibn Barî saying that the ”zibur” (الزبر ) means ”the Book of the Law revealed to Moses and the Gospel and the Kur-an [together]” (Lane, ”Arabic-English Lexicon”, on زبر, pp. 1211). I do not see the sense in relating this root to any other than the one hinted at by Ibn Barî, though he does not mention David in this relation, which is related to the zabûr in the Quran.

21:105 vs. 54:52 – 21:105 speaks of it being told that the righteous will inherit the land, while 54:52 speaks about recording deeds of the criminals. It could be understood from this, that the Zabur is something holding records of people deeds (?). But is it all people, and if so, all in the same “zabur”, or is it only the criminals as it might appear from 54:52 (in this case relate to Pickthall’s translation of zubur to “books of dark prophecies”).

When we relate to the use of the term, we see that it is used with different though related meanings. From a number of verses do we learn that zabur is something sent to more messengers (Quran 3:184, 16:44, 26:196, 35:25 – all expressed in the plural). There does seem to be a contrast between zabur, used in singular, and other messages sent to prophets, where the messages in general is sent to a number of messengers, but the zabur, with the definite article, is related to David only (Quran 4:163, 17:55). These are two of the only times zabur in singular definite form is mentioned in the Quran, the third being in relation to a statement about the righteous and their destiny as being the inheritants of “the land” (Quran 21:105), a statement which reflects Isaiah 60:21 – a possible connection – which could tell of an understanding which covers more than only the Psalms of the Bible. This could hint at the real understanding subscribed to the term, zabûr, to cover those part of the Bible (the TaNaCh part), which includes the Prophetical books as well as the Scriptures (the “NaCh” part, if not all, then at least in the overall meaning). This would also seem to confirm Reynolds’ approach, confirming the link and connection to the Biblical texts. If we relate to the Jewish traditional organization of the Bible, the prophets are gathered under one, “Nevi’im”, and it would seem that this could be the relation between the zabûr and the Biblical texts, except though in the case of the linking of the zabûr to David. Why zabûr is connected, if at all, to the Psalms though these are not normally considered prophetical by the Jewish tradition, can be related to how the Christian tradition views them, indeed as being prophetical, and considering how often the Psalms are connected to being prophecies about Jesus, in some way or another, it is no wonder if the Quran would view the Psalms as being part of the Divine revelations.

Based on this I believe that it would be correct to only understand zabûr as the Book of Psalms in the two cases when it is prescribed to David, if we should understand it in this relation at all, while in any other case, when the Quran talks about az-zubur and az-zabûr (in 21:105) as covering the Bible, except the Torah. It would also seem weird that the Quran did not have any concept of the rest of the books in the Bible, if we only understand zabûr either in context of the Book of Psalms or as covering all Scriptures in general, an understanding I believe we rather should find in the usage of kitâb.”

And with that I will stop here. Please comment and ask if there should be any questions.

All the best


4 Comments

  1. Saleh says:

    Salam,

    I concur with you to a certain extend that The Holy Quran should be studied in light of the Biblical texts,
    The Glorious Quran – 16:43 & 21:07
    “Ask the people who possesessed the remembrance if you do not know”

    It is not that Prophet Muhammad do not know, this was actually the message to his people after him, who were not aware but follow conjectures and attributed it to him 200 years after his demise.
    As far as The Quran is concern, it confirms that The OT [Furqan – 03:04, 02:53. 21:48, 06:89, 05:44], was sent to all mankind thru HIS Prophets mentioned in 06:83 – 86 and that Noah was the first receipient of the OT followed by the messengers after him. Subsquently, Abraham, inherite the OT and he was given additinal directives in the form of suhuf [87:19] and Moses inherite the OT with additional directives [87:19], both suhuf became a Canon [Zabur} of the OT – The Torah. Subsequently, The Canon of Jesus [Injil] was added to the OT – [03:48], [05:44 -48].

    Both The OT & The Torah was inherited by The Arabs and The Israelites. Except for the Zabur of David and Jesus which was given only to the Israelites. This is confirmed by The Glorious Quran

    03:23 & 04:51 – The People who was given a Portion of The Book – without complete Canon.

    To be exact, The OT and its Canon [Torah & Injil] was the Law. The Canon of David was not mentioned as a Canon of Law or part of The OT.

    I can conclude that verses [3:184, 16:44, 26:196, 35:25, 54:43] was refering to The Canons of The OT. As for 23:53 refered to sects, 54:52, refered to the book of deeds

  2. qolyehudi says:

    W’aleyckum as-salâm w’rahmatullah

    I have to object to the boxing of Tawrat with OT, since the Tawrat is more likely referring to the Torah, the Five Books of Moshe Rabenu, A”S, whereas the OT – what in Hebrew is called TaNaCh, consist of all the prophetic writings, as well as a number of historical and poetical writings (among these the Psalms). I find it doubtful that Muhammad would not know the difference between the Torah and the Hebrew Bible as a whole, which I believe is expressed in the Quran quoting a part of the Book of ‘Eshayahu in relation to the term zabûr (Quran 21:105 vs Isaiah 60:21).

    Particularly that Muhammad would not have knowledge or relate to the Hebrew Bible as a whole, seems to me to be unthinkable. He did have a good knowledge of the Jewish Scriptures.

    All the best

  3. Saleh says:

    Salam Bro,

    Yes, Prophet Muhammad AS, knew about the FURQAN [Old Testament] and its canon [Tawrat (Torah) & Injel (Gospel)ONLY when The Glorious Quran was revealed to him – [29:48]. The Quran AKA FURQAN [02:185 ; 25:01] is entirely a NEW TESTAMENT that was revealed to Muhammad AS. Before that, OT and its canons, which I had said earlier, inherited by all the messengers since Noah AS, read the Quran 06:83 -90, 05:44 -48.
    Nowhere in The Quran says that The Tawrat [Torah] was given to Abraham AS nor was it given to Musa AS – [The Glorious Quran -03:65] and nowhere in The Quran says that The Tawrat or The Injel is a KITAB. Show me if you happen to find that in The Quran.

    Only mashaf [scrolls] was given each to Abraham and Musa – Peace to ALL – 53:37, 53:36 – RESPECTIVELY & 87:19 as an ADDITIONAL DIRECTIVES. This is to say, both mashaf added became a Zabur [Canon] AKA as The Tawrat [Torah] of The Furqan [OT] – [02:53],[03:04] & [21:48] that was given to Musa AS.

    As far as 21:105 is concern – which states clearly
    “We have written in The Canon after The Remembrance [OT] – Shall inherit the earth the righteous.”

    From the above Quranic verse SAYS what was written in the Canon of the OT, which i can only refer to the First Canon of The OT and that is The Torah.

    I would really like to discuss this further with you and thank you and Ma assalam.

    Saleh Alhadi

  4. Sunni Ship says:

    Salam/Shalom,

    Mondher says in his book that the Qur’an has changed and was never intended to be compiled together as a book. How would you answer the Muslims who see a mathematical miracle in the compilation of the Surahs of the Qu’ran – i.e. the “19ers”? Is it humanly possibly to produce such a mathematical miracle? For example, the elite are heavily into numerology and so could they have produced such a ‘miracle’ with their superior knowledge of maths? And if so, what’s the purpose of it all? The Qur’an says “Over it are 19” – referring to hell. Mondher is saying that the current compilation of the Quran only seeks to serve “The powers that be” so is this the “hell” being spoken of in the Qur’an? – the hell of social chaos caused by the message of the prophet Mohammed being taken out of context and misinterpreted. Are the elite laughing at the common man and did they leave a clue to their handiwork by deliberately ‘missing’ the Bismillah from Surah 9?

    We’d love to know your views on this because someone told us they were told by a Jewish Rabbi that the Quran was created by Zionists/occultists.
    Please help us in our search for the “missing” bismillah – visit our site : http://www.sunniship.wordpress.com and please comment/reply. .

    An open mind is a healthy mind. Many thanks

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