Tahrif (Arabic: _ar. تحريف "corruption, forgery"; the stem-II verbal noun of the consonantal root "ArabDIN|ḥrf", "to make oblique") is an Arabic term used by Muslims with regard to words, and more specifically with regard to what Islamic tradition supposes Jews and Christians to have done to their respective Scriptures. Most
Muslims(excepting groups such as the Mu'taziliand Ismailisects as well as a few Islamic scholars and members of various liberal movements within Islam) believe that Jewsand Christianshave deliberately changed the text of the Jewish Torahand the Christian Bible, through altering words from their proper meaning, changing words in form, or substituting words or letters for others. This is considered by Islam to be a deliberate change which distorted the word of God, and which thus necessitated the giving of the Qur'an to Muhammad, to correct this perceived distortion. Such substitution is also termed "ArabDIN|tabdīl" "alteration, substitution" (from the root "ArabDIN|bdl" "substitute"), a wider term used also in other contexts, but in the Qur'anand later literature practically synonymous with tahrif (e.g. Commentaries of Mudjahid b. Djabr Al-makki). The doctrine of tarifis central to the Islamic faith because the Qu'ranexplicitly validates the Jewishand Christiantexts [Surah 2:89] [Surah 2:91] [Surah 3:3] [Surah 46:12] , yet the Qu'ranis very different to the other texts.
Qur'an and the doctrine of tahrif
The Qur'an accepts books known as the
Tawrat(the Torah, or perhaps the entire Hebrew Bible), Zabur(the Book of Psalms) and the Injil(the Gospels, or perhaps the entire New Testament) as genuine divine revelations taken from the same Guarded Tablets as the Qur'an itself and brought by true messengers to both Jews and Christians respectively.
Although the Qu'ran never explicity says so, Muslim tradition reads the Qur'an as accusing the Jews of having deliberately altered the Torah and the rest of
Hebrew Bible, and Christians of deliberately altering the New Testament.Fact|date=February 2007 The Qur'an does not specify exactly which parts are meant, however they are usually considered to be the places where the Qur'an and the Bible differ.
Relevant verses on which the doctrine of tahrif is based are (
* 3:78. There is among them a section who distort the Book with their tongues: (As they read) you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, "That is from Allah," but it is not from Allah. It is they who tell a lie against Allah, and (well) they know it!
* 4:46. Of the Jews there are those who displace words from their (right) places, and say: "We hear and we disobey"; and "Hear what is not Heard"; and "Ra'ina"; with a twist of their tongues and a slander to Faith. If only they had said: "We hear and we obey"; and "Do hear"; and "Do look at us"; it would have been better for them, and more proper; but God hath cursed them for their Unbelief; and but few of them will believe.
* 5:13. But because of their breach of their covenant, We cursed them, and made their hearts grow hard; they change the words from their (right) places and forget a good part of the message that was sent them, nor wilt thou cease to find them — barring a few — ever bent on (new) deceits: but forgive them, and overlook (their misdeeds): for God loveth those who are kind.
* 2:75. Can ye (o ye men of Faith) entertain the hope that they will believe in you? — Seeing that a party of them heard the Word of God, and perverted it knowingly after they understood it.
* 2:58-59, 7:161-2. And remember it was said to them: "Dwell in this town and eat therein as ye wish, but say the word of humility and enter the gate in a posture of humility: We shall forgive you your faults; We shall increase (the portion of) those who do good." But the transgressors among them changed the word from that which had been given them so we sent on them a plague from heaven. For that they repeatedly transgressed.
The Qur'an also contains different narratives of several Biblical historical accounts and stories. Muslims have commonly used the distortion of the text doctrine to justify these differences. See
Biblical narratives and the Qur'anfor further details about the difference in narratives.
Types of Tahrif
Amin Ahsan Islahiwrites about four types of Tahrif: [ Amin Ahsan Islahi, " Tadabbur-i-Qur'an", 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 252]
# To deliberately interpret something in a manner that is totally opposite to the intention of the author. To distort the pronunciation of a word to such an extent that the word changes completely. For example, the word ‘مروه’ was changed to ‘موره’ or ‘موريا’.
# To add to or delete a sentence or discourse in a manner that completely distorts the original meaning. For example, according to Islam, the Jews altered the incident of the migration of the Prophet Abraham in a manner that no one could prove that Abraham had any relationship with the Ka‘bah.
# To translate a word that has two meanings in the meaning that is totally against the context. For example the Hebrew word that is equivalent to the Arabic ‘ابن’ was translated as ‘son’ whereas it also meant ‘servant’ and ‘slave’.
# To raise questions about something that is absolutely clear in order to create uncertainty about it, or to change it completely.
Origin of tahrif
The relevant Qu'ranic verses, if indeed referring to the alteration of biblical text, do not state explicitly how the alteration of the various biblical texts was done and when, but later commentaries give various explanations:
* Some relate it to the times of
Moses. Fact|date=February 2007
* Some relate it to some time after Moses and before Jeremiah quoting: "How can you say, 'We are wise, and the law of the LORD is with us'? But, behold, the false pen of the scribes has made it into a lie. "(From the RSV Bible, Jeremiah 8:8). See also Deuteronomy 31:25-29.
* Later authors accuse Israelite kings or priests, especially
Ezrathe Scribe or Byzantine rulers. Fact|date=February 2007
*The accusation that Jewish contemporaries of Muhammad concealed Biblical material, e.g. the punishment (stoning) for adultery or the Biblical prediction of Mohammad's prophecy is also considered to be tahrif (see, for example,
Tahrif in the first centuries of Islam
In early Islam, tahrif was limited to an understanding that the holy books were misinterpreted for immoral purposes. Fact|date=September 2008 There was no belief that the texts themselves of the Torah or Injil were changed. Fact|date=September 2008 This early belief also contradicts the modern, popular belief that the books were misinterpreted through centuries of innocent and accidental mistranslation and copy errors. Originally, Muslims believed tahrif only occurred by a few Jews done purposefully. Therefore, the text of the
Torahwas the very same as the text of the Tawrat and the Gospels the same as the Injil. However, few Muslims read the Torah or Gospels because the Qur'an was considered by the pious to be vastly superior.
Early scholars known to support the lack of change of the Tawrat and Injil are Ibn al-Layth, Ibn Rabban, Ibn Qutayba, Al-Ya'qubi, Al-Tabari, Al-Baqillani, Al-Ma'sudi. [Camilla Adang, "Muslim Writers on Judaism & the Hebrew Bible from Ibn Rabban to Ibn Hazm", ISBN 90-04-10034-2.]
Several different ideas existed as to the motivation of tahrif:
* Others stated explicitly that the Jews do so in order to hide the "fact" that Muhammad was predicted in their Torah.
* Some explained that tahrif means that the Jews 'made the lawful forbidden and the forbidden lawful, and took the truth as falsehood and the falsehood as truth'. See for example
Al-Tabarion 2:59, cited above.Fact|date=February 2007
The personality of
Ezrabecomes very involved in the polemics in the 10th century, and especially with Ibn Hazm, an Andalusian savant, who explicitly accused Ezra of having falsified and added interpolations into the Biblical text.
The theme of tahrif found its first detailed elaboration in the writings of Ibn Hazm. He also arranged systematically and in scholarly detail the arguments against the authenticity of the Biblical text in the first (
Tanakh) and second part ( New Testament) of his book: chronological and geographical inaccuracies and contradictions; theological impossibilities (anthropomorphic expressions, stories of fornication and whoredom, and the attributing of sins to prophets), as well as lack of reliable transmission ( tawatur) of the text. He explains how the falsification of the Torahcould have taken place while there existed only one copy of the Torah kept by the Aaronic priesthoodof the Temple in Jerusalem. Ibn Hazm’s impact on later Muslim polemics was great, and the themes which he raised with regard to tahrif and other polemical ideas were updated only slightly by some later authors. ["The Encyclopeadia of Islam", BRILL] ["Power in the Portrayal: Representations of Jews and Muslims in Eleventh- and Twelfth-Century", chapter "An Andalusi-Muslim Literary Typology of Jewish Heresy and Sedition", pp. 56 and further, Tahrif: p. 58, ISBN 0-691-00187-1] [ "Under Crescent and Cross": The Jews in the Middle Ages, p. 146, ISBN 0-691-01082-X]
Criticism of Tahrif
The doctrine of tahrif has undergone heavy criticism by both religious and secular scholars alike. The main objection to tahrif is that archaeological records, such as the
Dead Sea Scrollsvalidate the entire Torah, confirming that the Old Testamentof the Biblewe have today has not been intentionally altered since at least 200 B.C.[http://www.centuryone.com/25dssfacts.html] [http://www.loc.gov/exhibits/scrolls/] , and presumably the same text that must have been circulating at the time of Muhammed over 800 years later. With respect to the New Testament, it has been preserved in more manuscripts than any other ancient work, having over 5,400 complete or fragmented Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in various other ancient languages including Syriac, Slavic, Gothic, Ethiopic, Coptic and Armenian, the earliest fragments of which date back to c. 125 AD[http://scriptorium.lib.duke.edu/papyrus/texts/manuscripts.html] . Thus the criticism is that since the Bible today is essentially the same as it was well before the time of Muhammed, the claim of Tahrif is unfounded from an archaeologicalperspective. If the Old Testament & New Testament were to be corrupted as the Tahrif claims, then one must postulate a miracle of conspiracy to change all the several Scriptural texts in various manuscripts and translations which is next to impossible.
Qur'an and the claim of the corruption of the text itself
SomeWho|date=September 2008 claim that above explanations are against the Qur'an itself, since it states that the Tawrat and Injil were known by
Jesus(5:110) "Then will God say: "O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount My favour to thee and to thy mother. Behold! I strengthened thee with the holy spirit, so that thou didst speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I taught thee the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel (..)". Since Jesus knew all the Scripture and taught it, the alteration of these biblical texts has to fall between the period of Jesus and Muhammad.
Furthermore the Qur'an states that those who follow the Law and the Gospel have to stand fast by them and that both the Law and the Gospels are revelations from God. The conclusion that could be drawn from this, since it not possible to stand fast by something when it is not known or altered, that the text of biblical texts were at least in the time of Mohammed not corrupted according to the Qur'an (5:68-69)
Islamic scholars, such as Gary Miller, believe that Qur'an criticizes the handling of scripture by "some" Jews and Christians rather than their holy books. According to Gary Miller, Qur'an only makes the following three accusations [http://www.themodernreligion.com/comparative/christ/bible_meaningtomuslims.html] :
* "The Qur'an says some of the Jews and Christians pass over much of what is in their scriptures."
* "Some of them have changed the words, and this is the one that is misused by Muslims very often giving the impression that once there was a true bible and then somebody hid that one away, then they published a false one. The Qur'an doesn’t say that. What it criticizes is that people who have the proper words in front of them, but they don’t deliver that up to people. They mistranslate it, or misrepresent it, or they add to the meaning of it. They put a different slant on it."
* "Some people falsely attribute to God what is really written by men."
Among the earliest Christian documents on Islam in retrospect are the letter Maximus the Confessor wrote between the year 634 and 640 to Peter the Illustrious and the three writings of
Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem (d. 639) ranging from 634 till 637.Absent from these writings is any sense that the Arabs were spurred by a new religion.The Melkites, those who had lost their empire, ascribed the success of the Muslims to Christian sins. The " Apocalypse of Pseudo-Methodius", written between 685 and 692 (Syriac version), state among other things that the Muslims were given to rule over the Christians for their punishment and purification. The first Melkite example of doctrinal refutation is Anastasius of Sinai (d.c. 700). [See also: John C. Lamoreaux, Early Eastern Christian Responses to Islam (chapter 1) in Medieval Christian Perceptions of Islam: A Book of Essays]
The argument of tahrif is also refuted in an early polemical text attributed to the Byzantine Emperor Leo III [A. Jeffery, Ghevond's text of the correspondence between Umar II and Leo III, in Harvard Theol. Review, xxxvii  , 269–321] with the statement that Jews and Christians share the same, widely-known divine text, and that
Ezra, the covenantal architect of the Second Temple, was a pious, reliable person. The same arguments appear in later Jewish writings.
Critical views on Mohammed's reference to the Bible
According to some scholars on the field of Middle East studies, Who|date=July 2007
Muhammad's attachment to the Bible was doubtless born of a desire to give legitimacy to his own message, to stress the affinity of Islamto the two better established and more widely accepted monotheistic faiths, and most specifically to Judaism.Who|date=April 2008 The "religion of Abraham" motif served that end, as did the Qur'an extensive citation of biblical material and Muhammad's acceptance of Jews as "People of the Book". But if that was Muhammad's intent, the situation was quite different for later Muslims. Their problem was to separate and distinguish themselves from those other two groups, to disengage themselves, so to speak, from their prophetically bestowed biblical heritage. [International Journal of Middle East Studies, Vol. 26, No. 1. (Feb., 1994), pp. 147-148.]
Christian and Jewish response to tahrif
Christians and Jews deny that any person or group ever committed tahrif to their scriptures. They note that none of the teachings that Muslims believe were removed from the scripture are found in the most ancient scriptural manuscripts.Who|date=July 2007
Christians and Jews readily discuss that biblical manuscripts have textual variants. The entire study of biblical
textual criticismhas been devoted to this. These variants exist most often as misspellings, grammatical mistakes, and the existent of two similar words. The substantial changes of theology and narration that tahrif describes have not been found.
Roman Catholicswho use the old Douay-RheimsVersion of the Bible claim that the King James Version(the most common Protestant translation) was created using corrupted Greek and Hebrew texts, and that the Douay-Rheims, being a direct translation of the Latin Vulgate, created from unadulterated Greek and Hebrew texts available in the fourth century, is purer than the King James.
The historical biblical archaeological record appears to refute accusations of tahrif because the
Dead Sea Scrolls(a variety of Jewish texts written before the 1st centuryCE, among them the earliest known Hebrew versions of the Tanakh) have been fully translated, [ The Dead Sea Scrolls Bible: The Oldest Known Bible Translated for the First Time into English (2002) HarperSanFrancisco. ISBN 0-06-060064-0] for the greater part validating the authenticity of both the Hebrew Masoretic Text, used by Judaism and many Christian demoninations, and the Greek Septuagint, the version of the Old Testamentused by the Eastern Orthodox Church. [ [http://www.septuagint.net Septuagint ] ]
In addition, the historical era in which the earliest extant versions of the
New Testamentwere compiled is so close to the time period of the events that they discuss (less than a hundred years), that many scholars, both Christian and secular, would find the idea of such a massive textual and topical distortion as alleged by charges of tahrif to be unfounded. [ [http://www.carm.org/evidence/textualevidence.htm Manuscript evidence for superior New Testament reliability ] ]
unni Islam, Shi'a Islam, and claims of tahrif regarding the Qu'ran
According to Shmuel Bar, some Sunni classical religious literature contains accusations that "The Shiites have a Qur’an that includes verses (
Surah of Wilaya and Nurayn) which are not in the Sunni Qur’an and that were forged in order to justify Ali’s right to succession. In doing so, the Shiites distort the Qur’an (tahrif)". It is also claimed that the Shiites have forged hadiths in order to justify their doctrines." [ [http://www.hudson.org/files/publications/Current_Trends_Islamist_Ideology_v2.pdf Current trends in Islamist ideology (Volume 2)] , Center on Islam, Democracy and the Future of the Muslim World (Hudson Institute), p. 91. Article about this publication: [http://www.futureofmuslimworld.com/research/pubID.26/pub_detail.asp Sunnis and Shiites: Between Rapprochement and Conflict] ]
In “Kashf-ul-Irtiyab fe Radd Fasl-el-Khitab” (i.e., Exposing Suspicion in Answering the Decisive Speech) has transmitted a group of quotations by eminent Shiite scholars concerning the textual authenticity of the Qur’an, he quotes the scholars:
*Abu Ja’far Ibn Babuway Al-Qummi (died 381 A.H.)
*As-Sayyid Al-Murtada ‘Ali Al-Musawi (died 436 A.H.)
*Shaykh al-Ta’ifah (i.e., Authority of the Sect) At-Tusi (died 461 A.H.)
*Abu ‘Ali Al-Tabarasi (died 548 A.H.)
*As-Sayyid Ibn Tawus (died 644 A.H.)
*Mullah Muhsin Fayd Al-Kashani (died 1091 A.H.)
*Muhammad Baha’ al-Din Al-‘Amili Al-Baha’i (died 1104 A.H.)
*The critical scholar Zayn al-Din Al-Bayadi.
*The Jurist Sayyid Nurullah At-Tasturi [ [http://www.geocities.com/noorullahwebsite/shiites.html “Kashf-ul-Irtiyab fe Radd Fasl-el-Khitab”, page 57] ]
These are the quotations of some of the most authentic Shi'i scholars:
"Our belief is that the Qur’an is what is between the two covers and it is what is in people’s hands, nothing more. Whosoever attributes to us that we say rather than this is a liar". [ [http://www.geocities.com/noorullahwebsite/shiites.html Is the Qur’an Corrupted? Sheikh As-Sadouq, "Al-I'tiqadat", Volume 1, page 57.] ]
"The knowledge of authentic transmission of the Qur’an is like the knowledge of great countries and events, prominent accidents, famous books and written Arabic poetry for care is intensified and causes are available to properly transmit and guard it, and it reached such an extent that nothing else has ever reached.The Qur’an was, during the lifetime of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him), compiled and arranged until the Prophet (peace be upon him) assigned a group of Companions (Sahaba) to memorize it. It was displayed and recited before the Prophet (peace be upon him) and some Companions as Abdullah Ibn Mas’ood and Ubai Ibn Ka’b recited the whole Qur’an many times before the Prophet (peace be upon him). All this indicates that it was compiled and arranged, neither amputated nor scattered …….Who disagreed among the Imamiyyah and Al-Hashawiyyah (two Shi’ite sects) are not to be considered for disagreement is attributed to some traditionists who related weak reports whom they believed to be true. However, such reports cannot refute what is already known and agreed upon its authenticity. [ [http://www.geocities.com/noorullahwebsite/shiites.html At-Tabarasi, "Majma'-ul-Bayan", Volume 1, page 15] ]
Shaykh Tusior Shaykh al-Ta’ifah (i.e., Authority of the Sect):
"Talking about it being increased or decreased is unacceptable because increasing is agreed upon its falsehood. As for decreasing, different Muslim sects are apparently against it and this matches the authentic belief of our sect and was affirmed by Al-Murtada (may Allah be pleased with him). This is explicit in various reports, however, some reports were related about decreasing parts of it and moving parts from place to place, but they are loner reports and do not indicate decisive knowledge. So, it prior to ignore them and quit being preoccupied with them because they cannot be interpreted. Even if they were authentic, it would not be against what is between the two covers for its authenticity is well known and none among the Ummah objects to or rejects it. Our reports agree upon reading it, holding by it and displaying any disagreement in branches before it, whatever agrees with it is accepted and whatever disagrees is rejected. An irrefutable tradition is reported on authority of the Prophet (peace be upon him) that he says: “I’m leaving in you the two weights (Ath-Thuqlain) by whom if you hold by, you will never be lost: Allah’s Book and my family, the inhabitants of my house. They will never separate till they join me in the Hawd”. This indicates that it is present every time because he cannot command us to hold by it if it is corrupted" [ [http://www.geocities.com/noorullahwebsite/shiites.html "Tafsir-us-Safi", Volume 1, page 55] ]
The above two Suras are considered as a forgery and do not appear in the Shia published Qur'ans. Shia Muslims consider the accusation that they are using a different Qur'an as one of the
misconceptions about the Shi'a.
However, all the Qur'ans published in all the Shi'a countries such as Iran are the same as those published in Sunni countries. Shi’ites recite the Qur’an according to the Qira’t of Hafs on authority of ‘Asim which is the prevalent Qira’t in the Islamic world. [ [http://www.geocities.com/noorullahwebsite/shiites.html Is the Qur’an Corrupted? Shi’ites’ View] ]
Some Muslims have also pointed that the different denominations have different
Bible versionsand do not agree regarding their canon.
With more manuscripts with no two copies that agree completely in their wording being studied by scholars, many passages in the Bible are generally acknowledged as interpolations. Examples include:
*The Trinity passage in 1 Jn 5:7
*End of Mark 16:12-20
*Lk23:34. The NAB comments: this portion of Luke 23:34 does not occur in the oldest papyrus manuscript of Luke and in other early Greek manuscripts and ancient versions of wide geographical distribution.
* [http://www.islamic-awareness.org/Quran/MuhBible.html Is The Bible In Our Hands The Same As During The Time Of Muhammad(P)?]
* [http://web.archive.org/web/20051216022546/http://www.themodernreligion.com/comparative/christ/christ_islambridge_bcorrupt.htm Corruption in the Bible: The Muslim Stance]
* [http://web.archive.org/web/20051218034634/http://www.themodernreligion.com/comparative/christ/bible_tampered_qa.htm Is The Bible Corrupted?]
* [http://web.archive.org/web/20051218034658/http://www.themodernreligion.com/comparative/christ/bible_meaningtomuslims.html What the Gospels Mean to Muslims]
* [http://www.answering-islam.org/Quran/Bible/index.html What the Qur'an and other very early Muslim sources say about the Bible]
* [http://www.geocities.com/noorullahwebsite/shiites.html Is the Qur’an Corrupted? Shi’ites’ View ]
The Satanic Verses
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