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  • Writer's pictureAhmed

A Pertinent Question

The third question, an affirmative answer to which establishes the need of the

Quran, is: Had the earlier books come to suffer from defects which called for a new

book, which was the Quran? In answer to this we must remember that the first criterion by which we can measure the usefulness of a book is freedom from external interference. A revealed book is superior to a man-made book because we can assume that the former will not lead us into error. God is sheer guidance. In a book revealed by Him, therefore, we may expect to find only light and truth, no darkness or error. If our conception of God does not imply such a trust in what He reveals, then that conception has no value. If communications from God also can err, then what ground have we for holding divine teaching superior to human teaching? Belief in a book entails belief that that book is free from error. It is possible, however, that a book originally revealed by God may come to suffer from human interference. If the contents of a book have suffered additions and subtractions at human hands, then that book can no longer serve as a guide. When we examine the earlier revealed books from this point of view, we find them entirely unsatisfying. The followers of the Old Testament regard it as a revealed book. Christians also describe it as a Book of God, and Muslims also think that it was a revelation. But it is one thing for a book to be revealed, and quite another for that book to retain intact its revealed text. No doubt, all the three peoples—Jews, Christians and Muslims, agree that God spoke to the Prophets of the Old Testament. But they no longer believe, and external and internal evidence no longer support the view, that the record of the Old Testament as we possess it today constitutes the word of God as it was first revealed. From the history of Israel we learn that in the time of Nebuchadnezzar the books of Israel were burnt and destroyed. They were rewritten by the Prophet Ezra, and of Ezra we read in Jewish literature:

It was forgotten but Ezra restored it.

And again:

Ezra re-established the text of Pentateuch, introducing therein the Assyrian or

square characters.

Similarly we read:

He showed his doubts concerning the correctness of some words of the text by

placing points over them. Should Elijah, said he, approve the text, the points

will be disregarded; should he disapprove, the doubtful words will be removed

from the text

From these quotations it is evident that the Torah, in whatever form it existed at the time whether the form which Ezra gave to it or the form which it had received from earlier times—was a very uncertain and unreliable book. Its general text could no longer be regarded as the word of God preserved in pristine purity. The "Book of Ezra" is no longer included in the Bible as we know it today. Yet it is no less reliable than any of the other books of the Bible. It is called the "Greek Book of Ezra." In olden times it was put before the books of Ezra and Nehemiah. Later on Jerome, a notable Christian priest who was entrusted by the Pope with the task of editing the Bible, dropped it out of the Bible on the ground that its Hebrew original was no longer available. This book is described, by some as the third book of Ezra and by some as the second book. In any event it seems that though this book was dropped out of the Bible, a great majority of Jews and Christians describe it as the "Book of Ezra". In verses 20-25 of the 14th chapter of this book we read:

Behold, Lord, I will go, as thou hast commanded me and reprove the people which are present: but they that shall be born afterward, who shall admonish them? Thus the world is set in darkness, and they that dwell therein are without light. For thy law is burnt, therefore, no man knoweth the things that are done of thee, or the works that shall begin. But if I have found grace before thee, send the Holy Ghost into me, and I shall write all that hath been done in the world since the beginning, which were written in thy law, that men may find thy path, and that they which will live in the latter days may live. And he answered me, saying, Go thy way, gather the people together, and say unto them that they seek thee not for forty days. But look thou prepare thee many box trees, and take with thee Sarea, Dabria, Selemia, Ecanus, and Asiel, these five which are ready to write swiftly; And come hither, and I shall light a candle of understanding in thine heart, which shall not be put out, till the things be performed which thou shalt begin to write.

From this it appears that Ezra and the five scribes worked hard for forty days in

seclusion and with the help of God composed 204 books. In verse 44 of this very

chapter we read:

In forty days they wrote two hundred and four books.

From this we may conclude: (a) that in the time of the Prophet Ezra, who lived about 450 years before Jesus, the Torah and the books of the other Prophets had become mixed up; (b) that no reliable copy of these books was then in existence; (c) that Ezra wrote down the books again. True, we are told that the books were revealed. But revealed only means that God helped in their composition. It does not mean that the text, word for word, was revealed by God. We learn from Jewish history that Ezra himself rejected parts of the text on the ground of unreliability, and that he left the final decision about them to Elijah. The Torah as we know it today, therefore, is not the Torah which was revealed to Moses. It is the Torah which Ezra recorded from his memory, and about parts of which he himself was in doubt. We should even say that the present Torah is not even the one which Ezra wrote, for Ezra wrote 204 books, and we do not find 204 books in the Bible. Of Ezra’s memory, Christian scholars themselves express great doubts. Adam Clark, the well-known commentator of the Bible, says in his commentary (1891), under I Chronicles (7:6), that here Ezra mistakenly writes names of grandsons instead of sons and that to try to reconcile contradictions of this kind is useless (p.168). In 7:6 we read: The sons of Benjamin; Bela and Becher, and Jediael, three; whereas in 8:1 we have: Now Benjamin begat Bela his firstborn, Ashbel the second, and Aharah the third, Nohah the fourth, and Rapha the fifth. Jewish scholars take the view that Ezra did not quite know whether a given person was son or grandson of another person. When this is the view held by Jewish and Christian scholars of Ezra’s memory, how can ordinary Jews and Christians and other ordinary people be satisfied about the spiritual value of a book with as little authority as the Bible? Let us now pass on to the internal evidence on the point. The most important and the most decisive argument in this connection is provided by Deuteronomy (34:5-6): So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the Lord. And he buried him in a valley in the land of Moab, over against Beth-peor: but no man knoweth of his sepulchre unto this day. These verses show clearly that they were composed and added hundreds of years after the time of Moses. It does not stand to reason that God ever addressed Moses, saying, "Nobody knows about your sepulchre unto this day." Can such words be addressed to a living human being? Can the words "unto this day" be used in a speech addressed to him? Then in verse 8 we read: And the children of Israel wept for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days: so the days of weeping and mourning for Moses were ended. This verse also shows that it cannot have been revealed to Moses but is a later addition. Then in verse 10 we read: And there arose not a Prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. This also does not seem to be a revelation of Moses but an invention made many hundreds of years after his death and entered in the Book of Moses. It is possible that it is the work of Ezra, but it may equally be the work of somebody else. For further internal evidence on the point that the Torah, as we know it, was compiled after the time of Moses, and that it contains the writings of other persons, we should read Genesis 14:14. And when Abram heard that his brother was taken captive, he armed his trained servants, born in his own house, three hundred and eighteen, and pursued them unto Dan. Compare this passage with Judges 18:27-29, in which it is said that this city which is called Dan in the book of Genesis was first called Laish. About 80 years after Moses this city was conquered by Israel and renamed Dan. We read: And they took the things which Micah had made, and the priest which he had, and came unto Laish, unto a people that were as quiet and secure: and they smote them with the edge of the sword, and burnt the city with fire. And there was no deliverer, because it was far from Zidon, and they had no business with any man; and it was in the valley that lieth by Beth-rehob. And they built a city and dwelt therein. And they called the name of the city Dan, after the name of Dan their father, who was born unto Israel: howbeit the name of the city was Laish at the first. The point is that a name which was proposed 80 years after Moses, could not possibly occur in the Book of Moses. It is quite clear, therefore, that the Book of Moses had additions made to it after his death and many writers entered in it their own thoughts and speculations. This sort of editing is not confined to the Book of Moses. Other books of the Bible also suffer the same fate. In Joshua 24:29 we read: And it came to pass after these things, that Joshua the son of Nun, the servant of the Lord, died, being an hundred and ten years old. Similarly in Job 42:17 it is written So Job died, being old and full of days. From these quotations it is quite obvious that the book of Joshua was not recorded by Joshua and the book of Job was not recorded by Job. They were instead the compilations of persons who came later, and who compiled these books from what they heard from other people. It is possible also that the Prophets whose teachings are recorded in the Bible collected the word of God as it was received by them, but the records left by them could not endure the ravages of time, and when they became extinct the people who came after wrote them again from their memory, and in doing so entered many of their own thoughts and judgements into them. Is it any wonder that these books, which on historical as well as on their own internal evidence are maimed and mutilated, ceased to give satisfaction to their readers? Is it any wonder that therefore, God also withdrew His protection from them so that mankind began to look and long for a book which should be free from and immune to all kinds of human interference? If even after these books had become contaminated, God had not revealed to the world a book which could be regarded as the very word of God, and protection of which from human interference could not be doubted, then we would have had to admit that God is not concerned to guide man and that He sows the seed of faith not in the soil which brings forth certainty and conviction but in the soil which brings forth uncertainty and doubt and that He wishes to confer upon belief not even the measure of certainty which disbelief enjoys. But can we entertain such a thought? Is it worthy of God? If it is not true, and it certainly is not true, that God is not concerned to guide man, then we have to look for the book which superseded the Bible and replaced this garbled and interpolated version of the word of God.


Will be continued... Can't wait, read the full book online at https://www.alislam.org/library/books/Introduction-Study-Holy-Quran.pdf


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