How can we answer those who claim that the Torah was not distorted?

The Details of the Question

- Is there any evidence from the Torah itself for those who claim that the Torah was not distorted?
- Is the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel?
- If the Torah was distorted/changed, why is there a command in the Quran for Jews and Christians to judge by the Torah and the Gospel?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

There is a lot of evidence that the Torah we have today was distorted. The Torah that Moses received in the form of tablets and dictated to the Jews is not the same as the Torah we have today.

Although the Torah was revealed to Moses, the Torah we have today mentions the tomb of Moses and even states that the tomb of Moses has been lost. The Torah’s statement regarding the issue is as follows:

“And Moses the servant of the Lord died there in Moab, as the Lord had said. He buried him in Moab, in the valley opposite Beth Peor, but to this day no one knows where his grave is. Moses was a hundred and twenty years old when he died, yet his eyes were not weak nor his strength gone. The Israelites grieved for Moses in the plains of Moab thirty days, until the time of weeping and mourning was over.” (The Bible, Deuteronomy 34/5-8)

It is clear that the statements above were added to the Torah later. Yet, they are reported as if they were from the Torah.

The Quran confirms the Torah revealed by Allah to the prophets of Sons of Israel. It describes the Torah as a light and a message (al-Anbiya, 21/48), a guide (al-Isra 17/2), guidance and mercy (al-Qasas, 28/43). On the other hand, the Quran also informs us that the Torah was distorted: They write the Book with their own hands, and then say: “This is from Allah”. (al-Baqara, 2/79) They change the word from that which had been given them. (al-Baqara, 2/59, 75) They displace words from their (right) places. (an-Nisa, 4/46; al-Maida, 5/13, 41; al-A’raf, 7/162) They conceal the clear (Signs). (al-Baqara, 2/159, 174; al-Maida, 5/15; al-An’am, 6/91) They forget a good part of the message that was sent them. (al-Maida, 5/13-14)

The Torah itself admits that Sons of Israel distorted their book, the Torah, and says in the words of the prophet Jeremiah:

“So you distort the words of the living God, the Lord Almighty, our God.” (Jeremiah, 23/36)

There is no need for deep research to understand that the Torah was distorted. A short look at the lines of the Torah will reveal many examples of its distortion. The Torah attributes a son to God. (Genesis, 6/2; Psalm, 2/7) It is stated that God is a consuming fire. (Deuteronomy, 4/24) Tiredness is attributed to God. (Genesis, 2/2) Ridiculous stories such as God’s wresting with Jacob and being beaten by him are narrated. (Genesis, 32/28)

It is not only God who is slandered. His prophets are also slandered in the Torah. The Prophet Adam is presented as a deified person in the language of God and both God and Adam are slandered:

“The man (Adam) has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.” (Genesis, 3/22-23)

It is stated that in the Torah that Noah’s daughters, who made him drink wine, committed adultery with him and that his own daughters became pregnant by him. (Genesis, 19/30-36) Another ugly allegation against the same prophet is that he was raped by his grandson Kan’an while he was drunk. (Genesis, 9/20-25) The Prophet Abraham also has his share of slander in the Torah. This great prophet is portrayed as a man who gave away his wife Sarah to Pharaoh with his own hands. (Genesis, 12/14-19)

In the Torah, Jacob is portrayed as a person who rebelled against God and rebuked Him. (Numbers, 11/10-15) According to the Torah, Aaron was the one who made the golden calf idol and ordered its worship. (Exodus, 32/1-5; 24, 35)

In the Torah, David is presented as a tyrant who committed adultery with the wife of a commander named Uriah, had an illegitimate child with her, and conspired to have her husband Uriah killed in order to marry her. (2 Samuel, 11/2-27) Solomon is portrayed as an idol worshipper who was deceived by the idolaters among his wives. (Kings, 11/4) The same prophet is shown as a person reciting lewd and obscene poems. (Song of Songs, 1/1-4)

The Quran strongly condemns Sons of Israel’s first slandering their prophet and then adding it to their holy books. Many of the prophets in the Torah are also mentioned in the Quran. However, the Quran does not include any narration that would be incompatible with the honor and dignity of the prophethood of any of the prophets mentioned in it. Besides, it also exonerates some of the slandered names in the Torah. One of them is Aaron, who is accused of worshipping idols in the Torah. The Quran gives the true story of the incident and states that Harun tried to prevent the idolatrous Jews, but he was unable to do so. (al-A’raf, 7/150; Taha, 20/90-94)

One of the prophets of Sons of Israel slandered in the Torah and exonerated by the Quran is Solomon. In the distorted Torah, Solomon is portrayed as a blasphemer and idolater just because of his tribe. (1 Kings, 11/5, 9) The Quran, on the other hand, rejects this slander of the Jews by saying, “They followed the words of the evil ones.” It exonerates Solomon with the following statement:

“The blasphemers were, not Solomon, but the evil ones.” (al-Baqara, 2/102) 

Furthermore, the story of creation, the story of Adam, the story of the people of Noah and the story of the people of Lot are not told in a false way in the Quran, unlike in the Torah, but in a way that is accurate and free from slander unworthy of the position of prophethood.

It is understood from all this that the Quran’s verification of the previous books does not mean that it verifies the current Torah and Gospel, as we have them today. Besides, even if it confirms them as they are, it does not mean that they are still valid today and that those who follow them will attain salvation. This is because the previous books, such as the Torah and the Gospel, expired and they were abrogated by the Quran.

The Decree on Following the Current Torah and Gospel

Since the Torah and the Gospel were distorted, how can we explain the Quran’s demand that the Jews judge among themselves by the Torah? The following is stated in the Quran:

“But why do they come to thee for decision, when they have (their own) law before them?- therein is the (plain) command of Allah. yet even after that, they would turn away. For they are not (really) People of Faith.” (al-Maida, 5/43)

The following is stated about Christians:

“Let the people of the Gospel judge by what Allah hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel.” (al-Maida, 5/47)

Those statements do not indicate that the Torah and the Gospel were not distorted or that those who follow them will attain eternal salvation.

We must evaluate the verses in their context. In the verses preceding the verses above, it is mentioned that some insincere people from among the Jews wanted to apply to the Prophet for a judgment. There were also some of the Jews who said to them, “If Muhammad says so and so, accept his judgment, but if not, do not accept his judgment.” After emphasizing their insincerity, Allah Almighty leaves the Prophet free to judge them:

“If they do come to thee, either judge between them, or decline to interfere… If thou judge, judge in equity between them.” 

In the verses we have quoted above, the Jews are hesitant about the judgment; if you judge the way they want, they will accept it, but if not, they will not accept it. Since they are Jews, they should follow their own book and judge by it. However, they do not sincerely believe in it either!

As it is seen, the verse describes a special case. The decree in the Torah on the matter they want to be judged is one of the undistorted decrees. The verse describes that special case, but it also mentions a legal principle that is valid at all times:

Jews and Christians living in areas where Islam is dominant can apply to Muslim courts if they wish and be judged by Islamic decrees; or, if they wish, they can be judged by their own books, namely the Torah and the Bible. It is their natural right. The Quran observes “human rights” not only in this matter, but also in other matters. It does not oppress people of different faiths. It allows them to judge among themselves according to their beliefs.

Similarly, the verse stating that Christians are allowed to judge among themselves with the Gospel also states that it is their natural right to do so. Islam does not force anyone to believe. It does not forcefully say, “You will abandon this religion and follow that one!” As a requirement of the freedom of faith it recognizes, it leaves every member of every religion free to follow the commandments and prohibitions of his own religion, and even helps him if he wants to be judged according to his own religion. Otherwise, freedom of faith would be meaningless.

If those verses stated that following the existing Torah or Gospel was a command of Allah and that following them would lead to eternal salvation, the Prophet (pbuh) would not have invited them to Islam.

Besides, even if the Torah and the Gospel had not been distorted, following them would not lead to eternal salvation. As a matter of fact, Allah Almighty states the following:

“We did send apostles before thee, and appointed for them wives and children: and it was never the part of an apostle to bring a sign except as Allah permitted (or commanded). For each period is a Book (revealed). Allah doth blot out or confirm what He pleaseth: with Him is the Mother of the Book.” (ar-Ra’d, 13/38-39)

“For every term there is a book.” That is, there is a shari’ah for every period. In that period, the decrees of that Shariah are valid and there is an obligation to follow that Shariah in that period. After that period expires, Allah abrogates that Shari’ah and replaces it with another.

The period after the advent of Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the period of the Quran. The other books expired and were abrogated. Furthermore, accepting Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) as a prophet and following what he brought is a requirement of the commandments of both the Torah and the Bible because both books foretold the coming of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).

The following is stated in the chapter of Deuteronomy of the Torah: “I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their fellow Israelites, and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them everything I command him. I myself will call to account anyone who does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, is to be put to death.” (The Bible, Deuteronomy, 18/18-20)

The following is stated in the same chapter:

“They made me jealous by what is no god and angered me with their worthless idols. I will make them envious by those who are not a people; I will make them angry by a nation that has no understanding.” (The Bible, Deuteronomy, 32/21)

That nation that has no understanding is the Arabs because the Arabs were the most ignorant and the most primitive people at that time. They had no knowledge of Shari’ah and civilization. Jews called them ignorant, i.e., illiterate, people.

Stating that he is mentioned in the Torah, Jesus says that those who believe in the Torah should follow him. The following is stated in John:

“But do not think I will accuse you before the Father. Your accuser is Moses, on whom your hopes are set. If you believed Moses, you would believe me, for he wrote about me. But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say?” (The Bible, John, 5/45-47)

Similarly, our Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was foretold by Jesus (pbuh). Jesus is reported to have said the following in John:

“But now I am going to him who sent me. None of you asks me, ‘Where are you going?’ Rather, you are filled with grief because I have said these things. But very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment.” (The Bible, John, 16/5-8).

The following is stated in another place:

“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever.” (The Bible, John, 14/15-16)

As it is seen, both the Torah and the Bible foretold the coming of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh). Therefore, recognizing the Prophet Muhammad as a prophet and obeying what he preached are obligatory decrees of the Torah and the Gospel.

At this point, the following objection may come to mind:

“You say that the Torah and the Gospel were distorted, and at the same time you want to draw certain conclusions by quoting from the existing Torah and the Gospels. Is it not a contradiction?”

When we say that these books were distorted, we do not mean that they were distorted from beginning to end and that they are completely fabricated. If the Quran confirms what is narrated in these books in particular, the issue changes completely. As a matter of fact, the Holy Quran also informs us that the Prophet Muhammad was foretold in the previous books and that People of the Book (Ahl al-Kitab) knew that Muhammad was a prophet:

“The people of the Book know this as they know their own sons; but some of them conceal the truth which they themselves know.” (al-Baqara, 2/146)

Therefore, believing in the prophethood of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is also a commandment of the Torah and the Gospel. However, if the People of the Book say, “We accept that Muhammad is a prophet” and continue to follow the Torah and the Gospels, they will not attain eternal salvation.

“Those who believe (in the Quran), and those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Christians and the Sabians,- any who believe in Allah and the Last Day, and work righteousness, shall have their reward with their Lord; on them shall be no fear, nor shall they grieve.” (al-Baqara, 2/62)

Citing the verse above as evidence, some people say that if Jews follow the Torah and Christians follow the Gospel, they will deserve eternal salvation, i.e., Paradise. They say: “Three elements are mentioned in the verse: Belief in Allah, belief in the Hereafter and good deeds. If a person brings these three things together in himself, he deserves eternal salvation.”

First of all, it should be noted that it is not appropriate to take a verse from the Quran and draw a conclusion without taking into account other verses of the Quran that are related to that issue. Other related verses must be taken into consideration in order to reach a sound conclusion. It is possible for one verse to mention some elements of the issue and another verse or verses to mention other elements of the issue. For example:

“O ye who believe! Believe in Allah and His Messenger, and the scripture which He hath sent to His Messenger and the scripture which He sent to those before (him). Any who denieth Allah, His angels, His Books, His Messenger., and the Day of Judgment, hath gone far, far astray.” (an-Nisa, 4/136)

The verse above adds new ones to the elements of belief mentioned in the previous verse.

So, the previous verse contains only some of the relevant elements. If we want to reach a conclusion regarding the issue, we must consider all the related verses within the wholeness and system of the Quran. Allah Almighty states the following about People of the Book:

“So if they believe as ye believe, they are indeed on the right path; but if they turn back, it is they who are in schism; but Allah will suffice thee as against them, and He is the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.” (al-Baqara, 2/137)

As it is understood from the verse above, it is necessary for everybody, whether they are People of the Book or others, to believe in all that is revealed in the Quran in order to attain eternal salvation. Muhammad (pbuh) is a prophet sent to all humankind. It is necessary to believe in what he brought in terms of what is to be believed, as well as to follow his instructions in other issues. Allah Almighty addresses People of the Book as follows:

“Say: ‘O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah, to Whom belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: it is He That giveth both life and death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the Unlettered Prophet, who believeth in Allah and His words: follow him that (so) ye may be guided.’” (al-A’raf, 7/158)

Therefore, Jews and Christians’ belief in Muhammad’s prophethood theoretically will not save them; they must follow him in order to be on the right path. The following is stated in another verse:

“Those to whom We sent the Book before this,- they do believe in this (revelation): And when it is recited to them, they say: ‘We believe therein, for it is the Truth from our Lord: indeed we have been Muslims (bowing to Allah’s Will) from before this.’ Twice will they be given their reward, for that they have persevered...” (al-Qasas, 28/52-54)

The ones among from Ahl al-Kitab who will attain salvation are those who believe in the Quran and do what it orders.

The verse they cite as evidence for their view does not say that Jews and Christians will attain salvation if they follow their own books. It says that the door of repentance is open for them too and invites them to believe in Allah and the Day of Judgment sincerely and to do good deeds. It states that if they do so, they will enter Paradise. However, belief in Allah also necessitates belief in the Quran He sent down and in the Prophet He sent, and to act according to His instructions.

With the advent of Muhammad (pbuh), the previous religions are no longer valid and the way of salvation is the religion of Islam that he conveyed:

“If anyone desires a religion other than Islam (submission to Allah., never will it be accepted of him; and in the Hereafter He will be in the ranks of those who have lost (All spiritual good).” (Aal-i Imran, 3/85)

The verse explains that the religion that will be accepted after the advent of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the religion that consists only of his messages because the verse is mentioned in the chapter of Aal-i Imran, which deals with the deviation of Ahl al-Bayt and the invitation to them to believe in Muhammad (pbuh) and follow him., The chapter deals entirely with People of the Book From the beginning of the chapter up to the verse above. Their deviation from the true path is narrated and they are told that the religion brought by Muhammad (pbuh) is the truth and that they have to follow it. There are two verses that are mentioned before this verse in the chapter and that are noteworthy for our issue. The first one is as follows:

“Say: ‘If ye do love Allah, follow me: Allah will love you and forgive you your sins: For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.’” (Aal-i Imran, 3/31)

The verse addresses People of the Book and explains that the only way for them to win Allah’s love is to follow Muhammad (pbuh). Following the Prophet Muhammad necessitates not only believing in him, but also following the whole of his messages.

The second verse is as follows:

“Behold! Allah took the covenant of the prophets, saying: ‘I give you a Book and Wisdom; then comes to you an apostle, confirming what is with you; do ye believe in him and render him help.’ Allah said: ‘Do ye agree, and take this my Covenant as binding on you?’ They said: ‘We agree.’ He said: ‘Then bear witness, and I am with you among the witnesses.’” (Aal-i Imran, 3/81)

The verse explains that a promise was obtained from People of the Book with the tongue of the prophets, that they were regarded to have promised to follow and support Muhammad (pbuh) when he came. Due to this promise obtained from them, they have to follow and support Muhammad (pbuh) when he is sent as a prophet. That is the requirement of submission to Allah. That is why, when it is said in the verse above that the religion to be accepted is Islam, what is meant by it is the “religion of Islam”, which consists the messages of Muhammad (pbuh).

Among the religions that exist today, there is only one religion that can be called the religion of Islam, and it is the whole of the messages of Muhammad (pbuh).

“This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (al-Maida, 5/3)

The verse above expresses this issue clearly.

It means that the messages of the Quran complete the messages of the previous books; although the previous messages were called Islam, from then on, the completed form would be called Islam. In other words, if surrendering to the previous books in their own times was Islam, surrendering to the Quran after its revelation would be Islam. It is clearly stated in the chapter of al-A’raf that the People of the Book who will attain salvation are those who believe in Muhammad (pbuh) and follow him in all issues, accepting that what he commands as orders and what he forbids as prohibitions:

“Those who follow the apostle, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures),- in the law and the Gospel;- for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honor him, help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him,- it is they who will prosper.” (al-A’raf, 7/157)

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) called not only the polytheists but also People of the Book to believe in him and to practice what he preached. In fact, if they do not embrace Islam and do not obey Muhammad’s message, they will be obliged to pay jizya as a result of the war to be fought against them:

“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.” (at-Tawba, 9/29)

Thus, the Quran’s confirmation of the preceding books means confirmation of the divinity of the originals of those books and their validity in their time. The way to attain eternal bliss today is to believe in Muhammad (pbuh) as a prophet and to follow his messages.

Besides, following his messages is also a requirement of believing in the Torah and the Gospel because every prophet foretold the prophet who would come after him and commanded his followers to follow the prophet who would come after him.


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