Which Bible do Muslims read?

It seems that Muslims on the web use Biblical verses to prove a point. I’m curious to know if this is traditional method from early Islamic existence or specifically internet age method or let’s say late 80s onwards phenomena.

So whatever the case may be, pls refer to the title of this thread. Which Bible are they using and why?

MJ

The early muslims couldn’t have appealed to the Bible even if they wanted to because, at the time of Muhammad’s ministry, the Bible had not yet been translated into arabic (and even then, the overwhelming majority of Makkan and Medinan people were illiterate). I don’t know when muslims first got their hands on Bibles, nor do I care all that much. I read Christian material and listen to sermons for the sake of understanding Christianity better. I use the ESV study Bible for most of my Biblical reading; I also use the NRSV whenever I want to compare its translation to the ESV’s (it helps to have more than one translation so that I can clarify what certain obscure verses mean).

The ESV is definitely my favorite. In my copy, which is a study Bible, the commentary has an obvious Calvinistic bias, so you just have to be aware of that when you read through it. I also picked up a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church today. I’m a student of camparitive religion; I spend money buying materials that most muslims don’t have the time for (or don’t care to devote themselves to).

I read on another thread that Mohammed’s wife had a cousin married to a Christian and Mohammed learned about Christianity from this person. Not sure which kind of Christianity this person followed - ebonite or nestorian I think were the terms used. Might have influenced how the Muslims understood Christianity.

So in your case you are not really interested if other Muslims don’t bother reading the Bible. Do you know of any imams may read even if they could?

When you talk about Calvinistic bias is interesting. What is the issue with those Bibles to you? I’m again very curious in that since you mention it.

MJ

I know you are not interested and sorry if this sounds like pushing facts down your throat: There are Christian scriptures in Arabic (not necessarily all canonical Bibles used by mainstream Christianity), primarily among which was the Infancy Gospel to the Arabs.

There are differing accounts of when the Infancy Gospel to the Arabs was written. Most non-Muslim scholars opine that it was the 5th century, meaning before Islam. Muslim scholars tend to conclude that it was translated into Arabic after Islam, so removed one possibility that Mohammad was influenced by an Arabic gospel. I am not sure whether any evidence has been presented to back up this assertion or is it another example of facts following conclusion (Mohammad couldn’t have been influenced by anyone else regarding the Quran and so the Arabic Gospel must have been translated after Mohammad).

The fact that the overwhelming majority of the people in Arabia at that time was illiterate cannot be a factor in whether an Arabic Bible exists. (Its like saying that most Jewish men in Jesus’ time was married and so Jesus must have been married; or that most American presidents have been white and so Obama couldn’t have been president). After all, most Christian evangelisation (at least in my part of the world) started with the translation of the catechism/Gospels/NT/Bible into the vernacular even though only the ruling elite was literate. In fact, some peoples did not have a written language and the translation of the Bible started with developing a written language where one did not exist - so you can have a vernacular Bible even if everyone is illiterate.

The influence of non-canonical Gospels on the Quran is very clear. The Quran contains two stories about Isa (Jesus to us) that are absent from our Bible (i) the baby Isa spoke in the cradle (sura 19:29-30) and (ii) the child Isa creating birds out of clay and breathed into them to make them fly (sura 5:110). Both these stories can be found in the Infancy Gospel to the Arabs - (i) v1 & (ii) v 46. The Infancy Gospel to the Arabs is a based on the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (different from the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas), probably written in late 2nd century, which was later translated into Syriac and from there into Arabic.

The Quran also have a very exhaustive treatment of Maryam (Mary to us), with Maryam being mentioned more often in the Quran than Mary in the Bible. Indeed, she even have sura 19 named after her. Again much of the material came from the Protoevangelium of James. (Before Catholics start discounting this apocryphal book, this book has provided us with the names of the parents of Mary and many Catholics would recognise stories in it that resembles our Marialogical stories). it was known to be translated into Arabic but I am not aware if any manuscript survived.

Add to it the role of Waraqa bin Neufal (uncle to Mohammad’s wife, to whom he turned after being confused after his first encounter with the angel Jibril), whose Ebionite (I assume that his is an Ebionite despite a minority & Muslim view that he was Nestorian) views correspond with that of Mohammad - Ebionites deny the divinity of Jesus (that Jesus was only a prophet), the crucifixion & resurrection (Jesus did not die on the cross) and the Trinity (the prophets did not speak with the Holy Spirit), coupled with great devotion to the Mosaic Law. Ebionites were believed have survived into the 12th century in south-western Arabia with one Muslim account from that time referring to Jews who accept Jesus as a prophet.

Ebionite scriptures include the OT books plus only an amended Gospel of Matthew (minus the first 2 chapters), sometimes referred to as the Gospel to the Hebrews. If Waraqa was an Ebionite, Mohammad would have been sympathetic with the view that there is only one Gospel and that Christians have added/amended to that Gospel.

Besides these, there were many Christian Arabs tribes during the time of Mohammad, including Catholic-Orthodox Christians (St Aretas was a Arab martyr). Arabs have been Christians since NT times, with Arabs being among those preached to on Pentecost day (Acts 2:11) and Paul referred to a journey he made to Arabia (Gal 1:17). Those Arab Christians must have had scriptures and those who are not mainstream Christians would have their own apocryphal scriptures, not to mention non-Christian sects like Mandeans who have scriptures with at least a passing mention to Jewish & Christian figures. How many of these scriptures are known to Mohammad and had influenced him (I find) is hard to say. I find much of the theories speculative and circumstantial.

So for now, I would stick to the Infancy Gospel of the Arabs (or Thomas), the Protoevangelium of James and the Gospel of the Hebrews being known to Mohammad that could have shaped his thinking about Christianity. Would be happy for anyone to add to this with some scholarly evidence - no speculation please.

I was told that when our govt opened diplomatic relationship with the Vatican, the PM’s delegation to Rome included our Archbishop and Muslim leaders. When in Rome, our Archbishop brought the Muslim leaders to the Vatican library to show them an entire section on Islamic studies. The Muslim leaders were amazed that we studied their religion. Tell you something, doesn’t it?

Hi drac, I am glad to meet a Muslim willing to study comparative religion from the respective religion’s point of view.

Noticing your label of ‘Sunni/Sufi’, just a question on how to you reconcile the Sunni part of yourself with the Sufi? They are both very different, especially with regards to the authority to guide one’s religious life.

Actually, the view held by most historical critics%between%, is that the Greek New Testament (particularly the gospels of Matthew and Mark) had Aramaic source texts. In other words, The Aramaic language which was the primary language of Jesus and his Twelve Apostles was the language of the originals for the New Testament. So it is quite possible that copies were available to them.

I never said that I don’t care if muslims abstain from reading the Bible. What I said was that I don’t care when the Bible was first read by the early muslims. Shabir Ally is an imam from Toronto and he knows a lot about the Bible; he studied at the University of Toronto.

The problem I have with Calvinistic bias in the ESV study Bible is that, like every Calvinist I have ever seen, it undercuts the message of the book of James. These people want to say that the author of the book of James believed in salvation by faith alone, which is a dreadful misunderstanding, in my view.

Yeah, I agree that Christ [peace be upon him] and his disciples spoke Aramaic. All the historical sources I’ve looked at say that. Would the people in Muhammad’s context have understood Aramaic, though? that’s what you’d have to prove to make a strong case that there was some borrowing going on by the muslims.

Good question. I don’t think they are contrary by necessity. Sure, many branches of Sufism are irreconcilable with Sunnism, but there is a type of Sufism that affirms the Sunnah (which is where the name ‘sunni’ derives its name from). Men like Abdul-Qadir Jilani and Ahmad Sirhindi [may Allah have mercy on them] both gave a passionate defense of the sunnah, while also holding to esoteric principles of Sufism, such as the concepts of Fana and Baqa, which mean annihilation and subsistence [of the ego, not of the body]. Both of them were sufis and sunnis. Heck, Jilani is highly revered even by muslims who are on the opposite spectrum, which is Salafism.

My understanding of Sufism primarily comes from Abdul Qadir-Jilani and Ahmad Sirhindi. They presented evidence that Islam does, in fact, have an internal aspect (in fact, all aspects of Shariah do). You may say “what about warfare?”. Even when it comes to warfare, it cannot be done properly unless the ego is, by grace of Allah, kept to a minimum. The winner is not who kills the most people-- it is whoever weeps over the lives that are lost. All throughout the Qur’an good intentions are stressed. Warfare is not considered, by the Qur’an, where all bets are off.

This is something that I feel my Salafi brothers and sisters are sorely lacking; when you focus so much on ritual and you reduce the need for purification of the heart, you’re walking on sketchy ground.

Take, for example, when prophet Moses [peace be upon him] saw what he saw on Mount Sinai. His ego shattered; nothing remained except selfless devotion (that is Fana and Baqa in a nutshell). His life was more or less a constant stream of miracles and closeness to Allah that he never would’ve experienced otherwise.

Jim, I will present a response to your long post about Waraqa and infancy gospels in a PM as soon as I can, lest I venture too far off topic in this thread.

I would have thought that, with the great dependance on Hebrew Scripture and the sura on Mary and the numerous references of Jesus, that the Bible would be of interest to Muslims, with the warning of possible corruptions of course.

Ok, I decided to post here instead.

"I know you are not interested and sorry if this sounds like pushing facts down your throat: There are Christian scriptures in Arabic (not necessarily all canonical Bibles used by mainstream Christianity), primarily among which was the Infancy Gospel to the Arabs."

On what basis is this supposed Gospel a christian scripture? do christians teach from it? do you believe that this Gospel is true, as in, God-breathed?

**"*There are differing accounts of when the Infancy Gospel to the Arabs was written. Most non-Muslim scholars opine that it was the 5th century, meaning before Islam. Muslim scholars tend to conclude that it was translated into Arabic after Islam, so removed one possibility that Mohammad was influenced by an Arabic gospel. I am not sure whether any evidence has been presented to back up this assertion or is it another example of facts following conclusion (Mohammad couldn’t have been influenced by anyone else regarding the Quran and so the Arabic Gospel must have been translated after Mohammad).

The fact that the overwhelming majority of the people in Arabia at that time was illiterate cannot be a factor in whether an Arabic Bible exists… [shortened].*"**

Fair point, but that’s irrelevant. I never said that there couldn’t have been an arabic Bible on the basis that illiteracy was common in the 7th century. I said that even if there was one, the muslims could not have appealed to it. It was in the context of where I was asked, by MartinJordan, when muslims started reading the Bible.

"The influence of non-canonical Gospels on the Quran is very clear. The Quran contains two stories about Isa (Jesus to us) that are absent from our Bible (i) the baby Isa spoke in the cradle (sura 19:29-30) and (ii) the child Isa creating birds out of clay and breathed into them to make them fly (sura 5:110). Both these stories can be found in the Infancy Gospel to the Arabs - (i) v1 & (ii) v 46. The Infancy Gospel to the Arabs is a based on the Infancy Gospel of Thomas (different from the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas), probably written in late 2nd century, which was later translated into Syriac and from there into Arabic."

I have not done sufficient reading on Gnostic gospels and such, but I will say… so what? the Bible does not contain every single thing that Jesus said and did. I very much disagree that it’s clear that the Qur’an was influenced by these pseudo Gospels. I see you speaking in possibilities rather than anything concrete (i.e. It’s possible that Muhammad knew about this, or it’s possible that such-and-such was in circulation). The Infancy Gospel of Thomas contains statements where it is said that Jesus was worshiped. You really think Muhammad quoted from a source that he thought was true, but contained verses that contradicted his own theology? so he didn’t believe his own teachings?

May I suggest that that is a significantly less than academic approach? because I do not believe that history is something that’s merely possible.

"Add to it the role of Waraqa bin Neufal (uncle to Mohammad’s wife, to whom he turned after being confused after his first encounter with the angel Jibril), whose Ebionite (I assume that his is an Ebionite despite a minority & Muslim view that he was Nestorian)… [shortened]."

Waraqa [may Allah have mercy upon him] is someone we know almost nothing about. The references to him in Hadith literature are few and far between, so to say that he was an Ebionite, I don’t know where you’re getting that. This is pure guesswork on your part.

"Ebionite scriptures include the OT books plus only an amended Gospel of Matthew (minus the first 2 chapters), sometimes referred to as the Gospel to the Hebrews. If Waraqa was an Ebionite, Mohammad would have been sympathetic with the view that there is only one Gospel and that Christians have added/amended to that Gospel."

Well, that assumes that the Qur’an are the words that Muhammad came up with on his own. That is not the orthodox Islamic position. We believe that every single letter was revealed to him by Gabriel, who was speaking on behalf of God. I know christians don’t believe that, but I’m just telling you about it in case you didn’t know. Anyhow, what we know of the Ebionites [which isn’t very much], is largely taken from early Christian fathers, who may not have been the most unbiased persons.

I don’t know if you’re expecting me to defend the idea that Ebionites were orthodox or whatever. I won’t because they have no effect on anything I believe or do. Like I said before, you would need to prove that Waraqa [may Allah have mercy on him] was an Ebionite in order for any of this to have any relevance.

"Besides these, there were many Christian Arabs tribes during the time of Mohammad, including Catholic-Orthodox Christians (St Aretas was a Arab martyr)… [shortened]."

Yes, it is true that there were plenty of arab christians during Muhammad’s time. The Catholic Church had already decided on the Biblical canon hundreds of years before Muhammad’s birth, though. If these unorthodox Gospels were somehow relevant to understanding the Qur’anic text, it would speak higher of this theory if there was concrete evidence of anything at all that you’re proposing. I do not approach the texts of the Bible and pull theories out of thin air on what might have possibly happened if certain groups had had their own scriptures at a certain time that may have been the same time the New Testament writers were around.

You, however, do do that with the Qur’an. There are so many caveats there. That’s not how meaningful history, scholarship or exegesis is done. I am unimpressed by this guesswork and attempts to piece together Islamic history based upon unproven and questionable assumptions.

Hi drac

Sorry it wasn’t an attempt to start a debate. So, no defense of Muslim point of view is called for. This was a question posted by Martin and I replied to him as a Christian with an understanding of Western Roman framework of scholarship, not a Muslim framework of scholarship. So sorry if I did not make clear the post was not directed at you other than those related to your comments that I included. Maybe I didn’t make clear where the response to you ended and where the reply to Martin’s question started.

Anyway, here we again see a difference between Christian and Islamic approaches to their respective scriptures and I am glad to note that you seem to understand that there is a difference.

Your comments here is probably a misunderstanding of my reason for referring to it. I think that is dealt with in the following passage in my earlier post.

I said that even if there was one, the muslims could not have appealed to it. It was in the context of where I was asked, by MartinJordan, when muslims started reading the Bible.

I very much disagree that it’s clear that the Qur’an was influenced by these pseudo Gospels. I see you speaking in possibilities rather than anything concrete (i.e. It’s possible that Muhammad knew about this, or it’s possible that such-and-such was in circulation). The Infancy Gospel of Thomas contains statements where it is said that Jesus was worshiped. You really think Muhammad quoted from a source that he thought was true, but contained verses that contradicted his own theology? so he didn’t believe his own teachings?

Agreed, but the reply was not directed at Muslims or from a Muslim point of view although I believe it to be more likely than not to be closer to the reality, although we will never conclusively know unless we have a time machine. I would accept that Muslims do not hold to the ideas I presented and I do not ask them to. It really is based on your methodology that you use (your starting point being that the Quran is written by God himself and given to Mohammad) and since we use different methodologies, it is highly unlikely we will be able to come to an agreement even with the same set of facts. So, there is a point where we both have to respect each other’s point of view and just try to understand each other’s mindset (and therefore their context) when we hear what the other has to say.

Here, I am not talking about possibilities but rather probabilities. The fact that the probability is not 100% doesn’t mean it should be rejected. Whether the theory is fit to be used depends on (i) what we want to use it for - archeological purposes normally require a higher % probability than for doctrinal reasons as the latter can draw on other sources (eg., tradition) to define; (ii) our feel as to what the % is - different people may have ideas of how likely the theory reflects reality, for many different reasons (iii) the implications of the conclusions - orthodox Islam would normally have to disagree with any theory counter to their dogma that the Quran cannot be wrong, being the sole scripture that is protected by God from falsification. So, your rejection of the hypothesis would be consistent with Muslim values and methodology: in fact, I would say that you would be betraying your faith for you to agree with us.

So, to explain the point from a non-Muslim point of view (since Muslims are not allowed to consider this point due to the conclusions it will arrive at), I would find the probability of the influence of apocryphal Gospels have on the Quran is high as the similarities in the stories indicate a link (common technique used by historians). Of course the possibility exists that both Mohammad and the writers of the apocryphal gospels independently came up with the same story. Possible but I think unlikely. There is also the possibility that God himself wrote the Quran and had an unknown prophet introduce certain stories to the sect with the Infancy Gospel to the Arabs - Again Christian scholars reject this (not because of the conclusions) but because of the lack of evidence outside of the Quran.

Waraqa [may Allah have mercy upon him] is someone we know almost nothing about. The references to him in Hadith literature are few and far between.

Oh yes, most (or is it all) of what we know come from Muslim sources. We know that he was an uncle of Khatijah. We know that after Mohammad’s first encounter with Jibril, he went over to Khatijah who took him to Waraqa, who then told him that it was an authentic revelation and advised him accordingly. Obviously, Mohammad must have thought very highly of him to have go to him for advise at such a turning point of his life. Actually, Mohammad said as much.

Was Waraqa an Ebionite or a Nestorian? Muslim sources called him a Nestorian but again, without any evidence to support this (if there is, let me know). A study of Waraqa’s views (the little that we can glean) indicate that he is more likely to be Ebionite than Nestorian. We also know that there was little evidence of a Nestorian bishopric in Mecca (though that will not prove anything, of course) whereas we know there was an Ebionite community in Arabia. However, I did point out that this is not conclusive and noted that there are alternative views on Waraqa’s sect. I think I have done justice in presenting such facts to let the reader decide. Muslims (Ok, outside of Sufism) however are dependent on their ustaz to tell them the facts. Sorry, that’s how Islam works today.

I do not approach the texts of the Bible and pull theories out of thin air on what might have possibly happened if certain groups had had their own scriptures at a certain time that may have been the same time the New Testament writers were around.

Of course you won’t because the way Muslims approach scriptures are different from mine (here, I said mine as proper scholarship may offend many Christians, especially the literalist ones). Most Bible scholars agree on non-Biblical influence on the Bible. First, of course, the OT is Jewish. Second, many of Paul’s writings include elements from Greek philosophy. Also, the parallels between Genesis stories and the Epic of Gilgamesh (for eg) can lead to certain conclusions not to the liking of fundamentalist Christians (sad that the same arguments and sense of offense that we see among Muslims also arise with fundamentalist Christians). The difference with Muslims is the starting point is that the Koran is written by God himself and cannot exist within the context of human history - it cannot be influence by human agents and has always existed unchanged. Non-fundamentalist Christians see scriptures as written by humans, under the inspiration of God. We study the background, the historical events that provide the context, the intention of the writer.

So, if the historical context tells us of an external influence on the scripture, there is no reason for a Christian bible scholar to be offended because facts are facts. Muslim scholars cannot do what Christian scholars do.

Drac, I am not trying to convert you or prove that you are wrong. You come from a different starting point: I recognise that and would not think you a lesser child of God as a result. I am just pointing out that Muslim scholarship on the scriptures is different from Christians and as a result I do not believe that it is possible in most areas for us to agree. If a question is asked from a Christian point of view, I will respond from a Christian point of view and there is no reason for a Muslim to disagree. If a question is asked from a Muslim point of view, I will respond from a Muslim point of view and I would disagree for Christians to say Muslims are wrong for looking at it using Muslim mentalities.

Still it doesn’t stop us from understanding how the other thinks so that when we hear something from the other religion, we know where he/she is coming from and end up argument where no consensus can be achieved due to different mentalities, and can only generate more heat than light.

Hey drac,

I think if one reads the parallels between the Arabic infancy gospels and other pseudo gospels then it is clear that there was some kind on influence.

If we take it from an academic perspective then we can certainly conclude that the young Jesus making clay birds, or Jesus commanding a tree to bend over for Mary to eat originally came from earlier sources which Muhammad then used.

However, if we look from a “The Qur’an must be true” perspective, then perhaps there’s a reason for this. Perhaps it was a true story that got passed down and eventually written down and then Allah revealed it after to Muhammad? Regardless, we cannot ignore that it was a story being told and Muhammad also related this story.

Tasawwuf (Sufism) is an integral part of Sunnism (Ahlus Sunnah wal Jamaah).

Many of the great Sunni scholars were Sufi such as:

al Junayd, al Ghazali, al Izz Ibn Abdus Salam, al Suyuti, al Subki, Abu Hasan al Shadhili
Abdul Qadir Jilani, al Nawawi, al Bajuri, al Dardir, al Sanusi, Ibn Ata illah, Ahmad Ibn Ajiba, Ahmad Zarruq, Zakhari al Ansari and so many others.

The Sunni scholars who opposed Sufism, did not oppose it as a science (an integral part of the religion), but rather, opposed the heretical Sufis who innovated in the religion.

Ok I won’t press you why you don’t care if early Muslims read the Bible. :slight_smile:

Shabir Ally is an imam from Toronto and he knows a lot about the Bible; he studied at the University of Toronto.

So which Bible is he using? There are even Mormon Bibles, JW Bibles. So This is important or should be clarified. Why? Because the latter take Jesus as a created being, or someone secondary to God. Both (followers mentioned) showed up only in the 19th century.

The problem I have with Calvinistic bias in the ESV study Bible is that, like every Calvinist I have ever seen, it undercuts the message of the book of James. These people want to say that the author of the book of James believed in salvation by faith alone, which is a dreadful misunderstanding, in my view.

Firstly, James should be read from the beginning to the end. It starts with Glory to Jesus. So isn’t that even a bigger deal than what is undercut about Faith and Works?

Plus the latter when it comes to Faith, James clarifies about Abraham’s Faith. When Isaac was about to be sacrificed (and this for example should be a red light to any Muslim like Imam Shabir Ally).

So, I wonder what he thinks of that. ie James 2 : 20 You foolish person, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless[d]? 21 Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. 23 And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,”[e] and he was called God’s friend. 24 You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.

One has to read the context. Im curious in general how Muslims the entire book of James. To be fair the book of James should be read without focusing only on one item.

BTW, Im using the NIV Bible in this instance just for easy English. Im a Douay Rheims Bible reader in actuality.

Hope to hear from you. :slight_smile:

MJ

Why do ask me questions that I would have no way of knowing the answer to? it’s getting annoying.

I have no way of knowing what Bible(s) Shabir Ally uses because I don’t know him. He has many debates on Youtube, though, and he doesn’t seem so irrational so as as to presume that the Watchtower has an orthodox view on Jesus.

…and as for the rest of your post, you are preaching to the choir. May I remind you that I never said that I believe James’ epistle to be divinely inspired? the only reason this was even brought up was because you insisted on knowing why I think the ESV study Bible has a Calvinistic bias.

Are you misunderstanding me on purpose? I have to wonder.

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