When I first started sharing the gospel with Muslims I was surprised by how many of them were already aware of the Bible, prepared to make claims about it and to quote it back to me. I had assumed that I  would explain the Bible to them, but quickly found out that Islamic leaders were already busy teaching Muslims about it.

What a Muslim may have been taught about the Bible will vary, but the most common view is that the Bible has been corrupted and replaced by the Qur’an which has been perfectly preserved. In this article we will look at what the Qur’an says about the Bible, why Islamic leaders teach the Bible is corrupted, and how we can move forward.


What the Qur’an Says About the Bible

Muhammad (d. AD 632) lived in a world with a significant Jewish and Christian presence. His observations of their Scriptures are a major theme in the Qur’an. He mentions by name the Torah and Gospel (Qur’an 3:3, 5:68, 53:36); the Psalms (4:163, 17:55, 21:105); and in a general way, the “books of the prophets” (2:136, 285, 3:84, 4:136) and the “Scriptures of Moses” (53:36). In the Qur’an, Christians and Jews are regularly referred to as, “the people of the book”.

The Qur’an views itself as another one of these Scriptures, and says, in a creedal form, that no distinction is to be made between any of them:

Say, “We believe in God and in what was revealed to us [the Qur’an] and in what was revealed to Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Jacob and the tribes, and in what was given to Moses and Jesus and in what was given to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them.” (Qur’an 2:136)

The Christian Scriptures are still valid and Christians are commanded: “Let the people of the Gospel judge by what God has sent down in it” (Qur’an 5:47). Therefore, according to the Qur’an, Muslims are meant to defend the Bible. Why then do Islamic leaders attack it? The answer is because of what the Qur’an claims about the Bible.


Why Islamic Leaders Teach the Bible Is Corrupted

Muhammad claimed to be a prophet of the same God as the Christians and the Jews. To back up this claim he appealed to the Bible in two ways. First, he said that Jews and Christians can know he is a true prophet because the Qur’an confirms the teaching of the Bible: “O you People of the Book! Believe in what We have revealed [the Qur’an], confirming what is with you [the Bible]” (Qur’an 4:47).

The problem is, the Qur’an does not confirm the teaching of the Bible, even in the most general sense, as this diagram shows:

This creates a problem for Islamic leaders: Why does the Qur’an not confirm the Bible as it claims to do?

The second way that Muhammad appealed to the Bible was by saying it foretold his coming:

Those who follow the messenger [Muhammad], the prophet of his community, whom they will find mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel in their possession. (Qur’an 7:157)

However, the Bible does not foretell Muhammad’s coming as a true prophet. Again, this is a problem for Islamic leaders.

Their solution to these two problems is to blame Christians and Jews for changing their Scriptures. Rather than entertain the possibility that Muhammad may be wrong, they instead blame the other—Christians and Jews. This is the fundamental reason why the Islamic world attacks the Bible rather than supporting and defending it as the Qur’an instructs them to do.


Moving Forward

So how can a Christian respond? First, understand that Islamic teachers are blaming us for the failure of Muhammad’s teaching.

Second, firmly deny their accusation. It is false to say the Bible has been changed and lost its original message. We have ancient copies, ancient translations, and ancient quotes that are used to confirm the text of the Bible. Yes, there are variant readings among these, but with the abundance of evidence, copying errors can be identified and corrected. The critical editions of the New Testament list 1438 variants where there is still some question. This is about 1% of the text, which is excellent preservation for an ancient document.[1]

Third, in addition to criticising the preservation of the biblical text, Islamic teachers claim that there is one perfect Qur’an to replace the Bible. But just as their claims about the Bible are false, so too are their claims about the Qur’an. There is no autograph of the Qur’an from Muhammad, instead his companions made various collections.[2] These different collections caused problems and so a standard version was made, and the other collections destroyed.[3] Even today there are ten different authorised Arabic versions of the Qur’an.[4] Most Muslims are unaware of these different Qur’ans, so showing them helps to create a level playing field and to lower their dismissive attitude towards the Bible.[5]

Fourth, show what the Qur’an says about the Bible. Use the two verses given above to show how the Qur’an does not teach what Muslim leaders claim.

Finally, make sure you invite them to read the Bible so that the Holy Spirit can testify to them the truthfulness of his word.

[1] Elijah Hixson and Peter J. Gurry, Myths and Mistakes in New Testament Textual Criticism, IVP Academic, USA: Illinois, 2019, pp. 8–12.

[2] Sahih al-Bukhari 4986; vol 6, bk 61, no 509.

[3] Sahih al-Bukhari 4987; vol 6, bk 61, no 510.

[4] See my ‘The Different Arabic Versions of the Qur’an’.

[5] For more on this, see my ‘The Preservation of the Qur’an’.