CORRUPTION OF THE SCRIPTURES. Muslims charge the Jews and Christians with having altered their sacred books. The word used by Muslim writers for this supposed corruption of the sacred Scriptures of the Jews and Christians is Tahrif.
The Imam Fakhru ‘d-din Razi, in his commentary, Tafsir-i-Kabir, explains Tahrif to mean “to change, alter, or turn aside anything from the truth.” Muslim divines say there are two kinds of tahrif, namely, tahrif-i-ma’nawi, a corruption of the meaning; and tahrif-i-lafzi, a corruption of the words.
Muslim controversialists, when they become acquainted with the nature of the contents of the sacred books of the Jews and Christians, and of the impossibility of reconciling the contents of the Qur’an with those of the sacred Scripures, charge the Christians with the tahrif-i-lafzi. They say the Christians have expunged the word ahmad from the prophecies and have inserted the statement “Son of God,” and the story of the crucifixion, death, and resurrection of our blessed Lord. This view, however, is not the one held by the most celebrated of the Muslim commentators.
The Imam Muhammad Isma’il al-Bukhari (p. 1127, line 7), records thar Ibn ‘Abbas said that “the word Tahrif (corruption) signifies to change a thing from its original nature; and that there is no man who could corrupt a single word of what proceeded from God, so that the Jews and Christians could corrupt only by misrepresenting the meaning of the words of God.”
The Mazar and Ibn Abi Harim state in the commentary known as the Tafsir Durr-I-Mansur, that they have it on the authority of ibn Muniyah, that the Taurat (i.e. the books of Moses), and the Injil (i.e. the Gospels), are in sent down from heaven, and that no alterations had been made in them, but that the Jews were wont to deceive the people by unsound arguments, and by wresting the sense of Scripture.
Shah Waliyu’llah in his commentary, the Fauzu ‘l-Kabi, and also Ibn ‘Abbas, support the same view. This appears to be the correct interpretation of the various verses of the Qur’an charging the Jews with having corrupted the meaning of the sacred Scriptures.
For example, Suratu Ali ‘Imran (iii), 72; ‘There are certainly some of them who read the Scriptures perversely, that ye may think what they read to be really in the Scriptures yet it is not in the Scriptures; and they say this is from God, but it is not from God; and they speak that which is false concerning God against their own knowledge.”
The Imam Fakhru ‘d-din, in his commentary in this verse, and many others of the same character which occur in the Qur’an, says it refers to a tahrif-I-ma’nawi, and that it does not mean that the Jews altered the text, but merely that they made alterations in the course of reading.
But whilst all the old commentators who most probably had never seen a copy of the sacred books of the Jews and Christians, only charge them with a tahri-I-ma’nawi, as being the only solution of the difficulty.
In dealing with such opponents the Christian divine will avail himself of the following arguments: –
1. The Qur’an does not charge the Jews and Christians sith corrupting the text of the sacred books; and many learned Muslim commentators admit that such is not the case.
2 The Qur’an asserts that the Holy Scriptures of the Jews and Christians existed in the days of Muhammad, who invariably speaks of them with reverence and respect.
3. There now exist manuscripts of the Old and New Testament of an earlier date than that of Muhammad (A.D.) 610, 632)
4. There are versions of the Old Testament now extant, which existed before Muhammad; for example, the Septuagint, the Latin vulgate, the Syriac, the Coptic, and the Armenian versions.
5. The Hexapla, or Octapla of Origen, which dates four centuries before Muhammad, gives various versions of the Old Testament Scriptures in parallel columns.
6. The Syrian Christians of St. Thomas of Malabar and Travancorn in the south of India, who were separated from the western world for centuries, possess the same Scriptures.
7. In the works of Justin Martyr, who lived from A.D. 108 to 167, there are numerous quotations from our sacred books, which prove that they were exactly the same may be said of other early Christian writers.
Muslim controversialists of the present day urge that the numerous readings which exist in the Christian books are a proof that they have been corrupted. But those do not affect, in the least, the main points at issue between the Christian and Muslim. The Divine Sonship of Christ, the Fatherhood of God, the Crucifixion, Death, and Resurrection of Christ, the Atonement, are all clearly stated in almost every book of the New Testament, whilst they are rejected by the Qur’an.
The most plausible of modern objections urged by Muslim divines is, that the Christians have lost the Injil which was sent down from heaven to Jesus; and that the New Testament contains merely the hadis or Sunnah – the traditions handed down by Matthes, Mark, Luke, John, Paul and others. It is, or course, a mere assertion unsupported by any proof, but it appears to be a line of argument which commends itself to many modern Muslims.
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam