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The History of the Bible and the Quran-Part 2

Questioner

Lady D

Reply Date

Jan 28, 2017

Question

Salam. I have a sincere Christian friend. He has asked me about the history of translating the sacred scripture. I need to clarify for him when exactly the Bible was translated into Arabic. Also, when was it translated from its original language and what was its original language? Also, when were the Qur'an and Torah translated into other languages and what were their original languages? Please give me a clear, chronological answer documenting how and when the three scriptures were collected and written down in books. I need you to give me historical facts without offending my friend, for sometimes Muslims use an aggressive, sarcastic tone when comparing how the Bible was compiled to how the Qur'an was kept and honored. Of course, our Islam respects others and should never be insulting. Thank you for your tolerance of my words.

Consultant

Answer


The History of the Bible and the Quran-Part 2 - About Islam

Salam, 

Thank you for contacting About Islam with your question. 

Please find the second and final part of the answer to your question below. Find the first part at the link here.

History of the Quran 

In comparison, the Quran’s claim as the record of the word of God dictated to His prophet, is borne out by the following facts: The speaker in the Quran is God talking directly to man.

The sayings of the Prophet, called hadiths, are in other books. The Quran repeatedly says that it is the word of God. It has self-reference; that is to say, it names itself 70 times as the Quran. 

The verses of the Quran were revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be on him-PBUH), in the course of 23 years of his life, as and when the events in the unfolding development of the religion of God called for divine guidance.

As soon as the Prophet (PBUH) received these verses, he dictated them to his disciples, who not only wrote them down, but also learned them by heart.

There were so many people who memorized the Quran, we can say that from the first day of its revelation, as it were, the Quran was in the hearts and hands of the people. 

Before the death of the Last Prophet (PBUH), the whole of the Quran was written down, examined, and verified by the Prophet himself. From that time onward, it has remained safe from corruption, as several copies of it were in the possession of the Muslims.

Also, from the moment the verses were revealed, up to the present day, a considerable number of Muslims have learned them by heart.

Did you know that the Quran is the most frequently read book in the world? Five times a day in prayer, Muslims have to recite from its chapters.

This has been continuing throughout history, so it has been impossible to make any changes to its verses, even if someone wanted to do so.

Moreover, God has promised in the Quran:

{Certainly, it was We Who revealed the Reminder (the Quran) and certainly We shall preserve it.} (Al-Hijr 15:9)

At the time of the Prophet’s (PBUH) death, a number of the Prophet’s Companions had already assembled the portions of the Quran into a volume. It was during the time of the first khalifah, Abu Bakr, that Zayd ibn Thabit, a leading scholar and scribe of the Prophet, was appointed to compile an official version.

After meticulous work, he prepared the official collection (mushaf). One of the foremost reasons for the Quran’s continued incorruptibility is that it has been preserved in its original language.

Thus, the Quran we have today is the same Quran that the Prophet (PBUH) received from God. Its authenticity is unimpeachable. 

One of the miracles of the Quran, which was revealed 14 centuries ago, is the fact that it can be read and understood by the Arabic-speaking people living today.

Every language undergoes changes as time passes, and a hundred or two hundred years is long enough for a language to undergo substantial changes.

Thus, anyone who knows the rudiments of the history of languages, knows that logically it should be impossible for the Arabic-speaking peoples of today to read and understand a book 1,400 years old.

And yet, every day, every hour, every minute, in fact, every second of the 24 hours of the 365 days of every year of the past centuries has been alive with the reading and the studying of the Quranic verses. And so it goes on into the future. 

Our Creator says in the Quran:

{This is the Book; in it is Sure Guidance, no doubt, for those who are God-conscious.} (Al-Baqarah 2:2)

I would like to underscore the fact that there was no Arabic translation of the Bible in existence during the time of the Last Prophet (PBUH). (For more about this, read: Is The Bible Really The Source Of The Quran? 

Ernst Würthwein informs us in his book The Text Of The Old Testament:

With the victory of Islam the use of Arabic spread widely, and for Jews and Christians in the opened lands it became the language of daily life. This gave rise to the need for Arabic versions of the Bible, which need was met by a number of versions mainly independent and concerned primarily for interpretation.” (Ernst Würthwein, The Text Of The Old Testament, 1988, William B Eerdmans Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, Michigan, pp. 104.)

Thus, the first translations of the Hebrew Bible in Arabic appeared after the advent of Islam. In fact, the oldest dated manuscript of the Old Testament in Arabic dates from first half of the ninth century. 

What about the New Testament? Sidney H Griffith, who has done extensive research on the appearance of the Arabic New Testament says:

The oldest, dated manuscript […] was written by Stephen of Ramleh in the year 284 of the Arabs, i.e., 897 AD.” (Sidney H Griffith, “The Gospel In Arabic: An Enquiry Into Its Appearance In The First Abbasid Century,” Oriens Christianus, Volume 69, p. 131-132).

It is well known that the Prophet (PBUH) did not know how to read or write—he was illiterate. So, the charge that he plagiarized the Bible is untenable, even if an Arabic copy existed in his time. Allah Almighty answered such criticism fourteen centuries ago in these verses:

{Your Companion is neither astray nor being misled. Nor does he say (aught) of (his own) Desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him. He was taught by One Mighty in Power.} (An-Najm 53:2-5)

I hope this answer is informative and Allah knows best. In case you need more information, please do not hesitate to contact us again. 

Thank you and please keep in touch. 

Salam

Please continue feeding your curiosity, and find more info in the following links:

Was the Qur’an Written During The Prophet’s Lifetime?

Did Prophet Muhammad Copy the Bible?

Could the Qur’an Be a Copy of the Bible?!

Is the Bible the Word of God?

Scriptures of People of the Book 




About Professor Shahul Hameed

Professor Shahul Hameed is an Islamic consultant. He also held the position of the President of the Kerala Islamic Mission, Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.


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