Similarities between the Quran and other scriptures
The similarities between the Quran and previous scriptures have been noticed since the beginning of Islam. However, the Biblical/Jewish tales and their Quranic counterparts do not always match. There are three explanations for this:
- The original Biblical/Jewish scriptures have been corrupted (as Muslims like to claim).
- Muhammad imperfectly borrowed from the Biblical/Jewish scriptures.
- The Quran was corrupted.
It is an epistemological argument which of the three is correct. The Quran’s assertion that the Biblical/Jewish scriptures have been corrupted is mere accusation devoid of evidence. To prove corruption of an older scripture it is logically necessary to provide tangible evidence such as an extant copy of an uncorrupted manuscript. However, to prove a later scripture has either been corrupted or is an imperfect derivation of the previous scripture, one merely has to compare the texts – if one is unable to prove the older scripture has been corrupted then it stands to reason the latter two explanations are likely.
Note: I take the word ‘corruption’ in this context to mean a substantive alteration of the textual meaning, not the change of words or other translational changes.
No Muslim has ever been able to provide irrefutable tangible evidence that the Biblical/Jewish scriptures have been corrupted. Even the Dead Sea Scrolls dating back to at least the Third Century BC can be of no help to the Muslim proposition. So all we have from Muslims is the Quran, and it is irrelevant what the Quran says on the subject if Allah did not see fit to prove himself with tangible evidence.
On the other hand, it is easy to point out the imperfect ‘borrowing’ from previous scripture in the Quran. Muslims speculate that these are merely due to Allah ‘correcting’ the corruption in the previous scriptures. Prima facie this is a good argument, as is the similarity due to a single source argument. It would be interesting to make a closer inspection of the relevant texts and their purported sources of origin.
It is a common proposition that Muhammad most likely borrowed from previous scripture from hearing scriptural accounts told by Christians and Jews. As he was an unscholarly man it is unlikely that he read any previous scriptures, hence the imperfection of his borrowing. The Quran and hadiths suggest Jews were present to do the translation into Arabic for all and sundry to hear so it is not asserted that these previous scriptures from which Muhammad ‘borrowed’ the Biblical/Jewish tales from were translated into Arabic in his day.
I would like to examine this topic in the forum, and I especially invite Muslims to join in the discussion. However, some ground-rules are in order and discussion of what they should be is a necessity. Thus, I propose to adopt an utterly fair and transparent process. Any request by one party for evidence must be similarly matched. Further the standard of evidence must be decided to eliminate the unrealistic. After all, this is a historical / theological discussion, not a criminal forensics investigation. Therefore, as this is a historical discussion, corpus delicti cannot apply, and the standard of evidence necessarily being on balance of probability and the standard of proof being on balance of evidence.