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Knowledge, Humanity, Religion, Culture, Tolerance, Peace

Scriptures

CHAPTER – 12

 

FAITH IN THE SCRIPTURES

 

* Introduction:
The sacred writings of religions, comprising a large portion of the religious literature of the world. The sacred scriptures containing the message of guidance are available to the people after the messengers are gone. Allah says: “He has spelled out His revelations for people who want to understand.”(Qur’an;10:5). Scriptures vary in form, volume, age, and degree of sacredness. Nearly all scriptures were originally oral and were passed down as memorized texts through several generations before being put in writing except Qur’an, the sacred scripture of Islam, which besides being memorized was also written down at the time of revelation under direct supervision of the Prophet (peace be upon him). None of the present books of the Bible have reached through the manuscript of its author. The available manuscripts date from several centuries after the original books were written. The books of New Testament lack conformity, there are more than 5000 manuscripts, written during different periods by different authors mostly unknown. [* This introduction is not part of original script by the author, but has been added here for the general information only.]

 

The Holy Qur’an

 

The Holy Qur’an is the Divine Book - the miracle revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). Anyone who alleges that the Holy Qur’an was compiled by Muhammad (peace be upon him), refuses to acknowledge him as a prophet, but is virtually describing him as a 'God'. We Muslims say, "There is no one worthy of worship except Allah (God) and Muhammad is His Servant and His Messenger." The Holy Qur’an is a unique book, which cannot be compiled by any human being, nor can it be revealed by anyone but God. Therefore, anyone who says that Muhammad (peace be upon him) produced the Holy Qur’an is attributing Divinity to him. Muhammad (peace be upon him) was illiterate. He did not know how to read or write and never went to school - in fact there was no school in his town at that time. Furthermore, the town he was born was far from being a cultural centre in the modern sense of civilization. How, then, could such a person produce a work like the Holy Qur’an? He came from a village surrounded by dark mountains and the wilderness of the desert - a remote place, which is known neither to the citizen of Rom, Byzantine or Persia nor any resident of this town acquainted with the Greek or Latin philosophy nor still the literature of India or Iran. It was a town, devoid of any academic tradition and activity. There was no one even with a minimum level of education and knowledge. And our Prophet did not travel from his village, except to go to Busra in the valley of Howran in Syria, another town, slightly bigger than his own, where he only stayed for a few days. So, how could someone, with such a background produce a work like the Holy Qur’an which is miraculous?
Biographies have been written about men of genius, and the history of nations in different periods has also been written. But no other book has the same remarkable background as the Holy Qur’an. Mozart composed a piece of music when he was less than ten years old, and the well-known Arab poet, Bashshar-ibn-Burd wrote a poem at a very early age. Likewise, Shakespeare has left us a rich collection of masterpieces. In fact he was not counted as an eminent literary figure during his lifetime. Great achievements have been produced. An unknown youth may write an excellent story or evolve a scientific theory because he is a genius. But ingenuity is not something only possessed by educated people or university graduates. It may appear in the most unexpected quarters. Those who become well-known in the scientific field or in literature or the arts may have been a century ahead of their times, excelling their contemporaries by fifty or even one hundred per cent. However, their excellence will be bound by certain limits and constraints. But no one, in the entire history of mankind, has lived in circumstances similar to those in which Muhammad (peace be upon him) lived, and at the same time has managed to convey a masterpiece to the world similar to the Holy Qur’an, with excellence in divergent fields:

 

a)      The Holy Qur’an excels its literary values.
b)      It is a masterpiece of law and jurisprudence. It contains an entire legal system which is perfect in every detail.
c)      A marvelous compilation on theology and Divine Wisdom and reveals such metaphysical secrets as were never known to mankind nor could be discovered by human wisdom alone.
d)      It reveals laws and phenomena pertaining to nature which were unknown to anyone, not only during the time of the Prophet, ‘some of these laws were discovered only 1300-1400 years later, while others still remain undiscovered’.

 

The Holy Qur’an challenges all mankind. Men and the jinn were asked to produce ten Sura (chapters) or at least one, like the chapters of the Holy Qur’an, but they failed to produce even one Sura (chapter). This challenge is still open, and the inability still continues. The illimitability of the book is now established beyond doubt. Its excellence is noticeable in every Sura (chapter). It would be incorrect to say it can be observed in some and not in others.
The inimitability of the Qur’an is an established fact but do not try to trace it in the fashion of the scholars of rhetoric’s by pointing out particular topics, because this inimitability is not in its vocabulary or the revelation of the unknown or in any particular par to of it. The Qur’an as a whole is compilation replete with beauty and elegance; it is a different matter that each person may judge its beauty from his own point of view. One well-known government official declared his faith in Islam when he heard the verse: “Does man think that We cannot (resurrect him and) bring his bones together again? Yes indeed. We are able to make whole his very fingertips!”(Qur’an;75:3-4). This verse made the official think about the reason why the Almighty referred to the fingertips in particular. What is their significance? Indeed, the fingertips consist of the various patterns of fingerprints. There are no two people whose fingerprints are identical. No doubt it is a Divine act of creation that remained unknown until its discovery in recent times. This is further proof that the Holy Qur’an is a Divine book, revealed to Muhammad (peace be upon him). There are more facts and information that still remain undiscovered yet are written about in the Holy Qur’an. Every now and then scholars find some new information in it, which contributes to human knowledge in general and to the better understanding of Islam by all.
It is therefore essential that the Holy Qur’an should be reinterpreted. The men of literature should interpret it according to his field of study, likewise the legal specialist, the astronomer, the psychiatrist, the social scientist and the historian. Each may interpret it in the light of his particular area of study and prove that it is the word of God. The miracles of earlier prophets were of transient nature, they had happened at that time, and then they were over (even many people of modern times now decline to accept them, and consider they a myths). But the miracle granted to Muhammad (peace be upon him) is eternal and everlasting, it is renewed and recited every day and will continue till the last Day. The miracles of the earlier prophets served as proof of their prophethood and message (scripture), they were extraneous to it, while in the case of Muhammad, the miracle is itself the miracle of his Prophet hood, and The Message (scripture). It is in itself an ever living miracle. May peace be upon him and all the Prophets and Messengers who preceded him.

 

Faith in the Revealed Books (Scriptures): The Muslims believe in the Holy Qur’an and in all the other revealed books mentioned in it. These are: The Book (Scrolls) of Abraham, The Book of Moses, (The Torah - Old Testament) the Psalms of David and the Gospel (injeel) of Jesus, (part of New Testament). The Holy Qur’an was revealed to confirm the true and original message and to expose the distortions made in earlier messages, hence Qur’an over-rides all and the criterion to gauge what is original and what is fabrication in the old scriptures: “And unto thee (0 Prophet) have we revealed this Divine Writ setting forth the truth, confirming the truth of whatever there still remains of earlier revelations and determining what is true therein.”(Qur’an;5:48).
We therefore believe in whatever the Qur’an has told us abut these Scriptures, and we shall declare him an infidel who refuses to believe in that portion of the Scripture which is mentioned in the Qur’an. Similarly we believe that the portion of these Scriptures quoted in the Qur’an is true and without any distortion, and whatever is stated in these Scriptures which is contrary to Qur’an, is deemed to be unreliable and tampered.
The Scrolls of Abraham:
The Qur’an states that whatever was included in the Scriptures of Abraham was also included in the Scripture of Moses. Allah says: “Nay is He not acquainted with what is In the Books of Moses and of Abraham who fulfilled His engagements? Namely, that no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another; That man can have nothing but what He strives for; That (the fruit of) His striving will soon come In sight: Then will He be rewarded with a reward complete; That to Thy Lord is the final Goal; That it is He who Grants Laughter and Tears; That it is He who Grants death and life;. That He did create In pairs, male and female, From a seed when lodged (in its place); That He hath promised a second creation (Raising of the Dead); That it is He who gives wealth and satisfaction; That He is the Lord of Sirius (the mighty Star); And that it is He who destroyed the (powerful) Ancient 'Ad (people)”(Qur’an;53:36-50).
In other words whatever is stated in these verses was already revealed in the Scriptures of Abraham and Mosses. Similarly, the following verses of the Qur’an also refer to the said teachings conveyed to Abraham and Moses: “The one who will take admonition and purify himself shall be successful, who remembers the name of his Lord and prays. But O men! You prefer the life of this world; while the Hereafter is better and everlasting. Surely the same was said in the earlier scriptures; the scriptures of Abraham and Moses.”(Qur’an;87:14-19).
The Torah:
The Torah is also a book revealed by God. It contains guidance for people as well as the Divine Commandments: “But how is it that they ask thee for judgement seeing that they have the Torah, containing God's injunctions.”(Qur’an;5:43); “Verily it is we who bestowed from on high the Torah, wherein there was guidance and light.”(Qur’an;5:44). And among the Divine commandments it contains are: “And We ordained for them in that (Torah): a life for a life, and an eye for an eye, and a nose for a nose, and an ear for an ear, and a tooth for a tooth, and a (similar) retribution for wounds.”(Qur’an;5:45). The Torah also contains the glad tidings about the coming of our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him): “Those who shall follow the (last) Apostle, the unlettered Prophet whom they shall find described in the Torah that is with them.”(Qur’an;7:151). The Torah describes the character of believers as follows: “Muhammad is God's Apostle; and those who are (truly) with him are Firm and unyielding towards all deniers of the Truth, (yet) full of mercy towards one another. Thou canst see them bowing down, prostrating themselves in prayer, seeking favour with God and (His) goodly acceptance: their marks are on their faces, traced by prostration. This is their parable in the Torah.”(Qur’an;48:29).
The Psalms (Zabur):  
The Psalms (Zabur) is also the Book of God: “And so to David We gave the Psalms. (Qur’an;4:163). It is mentioned in the Psalms that the righteous will inherit the earth. God Almighty says in the Holy Qur’an: “Before this We wrote in the Psalms, after the Message (given to Moses): "My servants the righteous shall inherit the earth."(Qur’an;21:105). The earth in this verse may perhaps mean paradise, as is understood in another verse: “And they will exclaim: Praise be to Allah Who has truly fulfilled His promise and gave us this land to inherit, now we can live in paradise wherever we like." How excellent will be the reward for the righteous!”(Qur’an;39:74).
The Gospel (Injeel):
The (original) Gospel [Injeel, revealed to Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) but not recorded or dictated by him in his life time, hence original script is not available]was also the Book of Allah: “... and We vouchsafed unto him the Injeel(Gospel), wherein there was guidance and light, confirming the truth of whatever there still remained of the Torah...”(Qur’an;5:46). The Qur’an also states that the revealed Injeel(Gospel) contained Commandments of Law, Allah says: “Let then, the followers of the Injeel(Gospel) judge in accordance with what God has revealed therein.”(Qur’an;5:47). It is also stated that the harsh laws of the Torah were amended in Injeel(Gospel): “We are also informed that the Injeel(Gospel) comprises the amended laws of the Torah: And (I have come) to confirm the truth of whatever there still remains of the Torah, and to make lawful unto you some of the things which (aforetime) were forbidden to you...”(Qur’an;3:50). The Bible, like the Torah, conveys the glad tidings of the advent of Muhammad and a description of the believers. The Muslims believe in all these Scriptures, that is Torah, the Psalms and the Injeel(Gospel) and show reverence to them. Similarly, we show great respect for all the Prophets, including Abraham, Moses, David and Jesus Christ (peace be upon them all).
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** NOTE
BIBLE: The Historic Background of & Authenticity
:
The Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) is the scripture of Judaism; the Bible (Old and New Testaments together) is the scripture of Christianity. Word ‘Bible’, is derived from Greek biblos ("book") can be compared with byblos ("Papyrus": The writing material of ancient times and also the plant from which it was derived). In the fifth century after Christ, name ‘Bible’ began to be given to the entire collection of sacred books, the "Library of Divine Revelation." The name Bible was adopted by English theologian and religious reformer John Wickliffe (328-1384), and came gradually into use in the English language. Interestingly the word ‘Bible’ does not exist in the text of Bible. The order as well as the number of books differs between the Jewish Bible, the Protestant and Roman Catholic versions of the Bible. The sixty-six different books of the Bible were composed by many different writers, in three different languages, under different circumstances; writers of almost every social rank, statesmen and peasants, kings, herdsmen, fishermen, priests, tax-gatherers, tentmakers; educated and uneducated, Jews and Gentiles; most of them unknown to each other, and writing at various periods during the long period spread over 1600 years. No original manuscripts exist. There is probably not one book which survives in anything like its original form. There are hundreds of differences between the oldest manuscripts of any one book. These differences indicate that numerous additions and alterations were made to the originals by various copyists and editors. The earliest extant Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures from the original Hebrew is known as Septuagint. Presumably this translation was made for the use of the Jewish community in Egypt when Greek was the lingua franca. The Pentateuch was translated near the middle of the 3rd century BC; the rest of the Hebrew Scriptures were translated in the 2nd century BC. The name Septuagint was derived from a legend that 72 translators worked on the project. Its influence was far-reaching. The Septuagint rather than the original Hebrew Bible was the main basis for the Old Latin, Coptic, Ethiopic, Armenian, Georgian, Slavonic, and some Arabic translations of the Bible.
In Bible, ‘The New Testament’ comprise of 27 Books, which also include four versions of Gospels (Injeels). Traditionally their authorship (highly speculative) is attributed to Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John (the four evangelists), they are placed at the beginning of the New Testament and make up about half the total text. Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) conveyed orally to the people what God had originally revealed to him. His disciples, too, propagated it among the people by the spoken words in such a manner that they presented an admixture of their Prophet's life-story and the verses revealed to Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him). None of this material was put into writing during the lifetime of Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him) or even in the period immediately following him. It fell to the lot of the Christians whose vernacular was Greek to transform the oral traditions into writing. It must be borne in mind that Christ's native tongue was Aramaic and his disciples, too, spoke the same language. Most Greek-speaking authors heard these traditions in the Aramaic vernacular and committed them to writing in Greek. The oral traditions have been put into writing from Aramaic to Greek from 50-70 C.E. Hence the Muslims, while believing in all the previous prophets and ‘original scriptures’ adhere to Qur’an, the final preserved revelations, ‘The Last Testament’ available for the guidance of humanity which abrogated all the previous scriptures]

 

[** This is not part of original book, but has been added here for the general information only.]

 

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