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This article belongs to the general theme: Sources (al-´Usul)
All Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version, Holy Bible ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.
All Qur'an quotations are taken from The Qur'an Interpreted, by Arthur J. Arberry
"We Muslims have been favoured by God because He has made our Qur'an inclusive of all the heavenly religions. Thus, Islam has abrogated all the religions that proceeded it."
From a Correspondent in Tunis
Grace to you and peace from God. I am replying to the question you raised in your letter:
"Why do [I] believe that Jesus died and was killed when the Qur'an says that God raised him up?"
It is true that the Qur'an says that God raised him up, but it was after death, because it says: "O Jesus, son of Mary, lo I will let you fall asleep (Inni mutawaffika, meaning "I will let you die") causing you to ascend to me and I am cleansing you of those who disbelieve and setting those who follow you above those who disbelieve until the day of resurrection" (Al Imran 3:55).
Although these words are quite clear, Muslim scholars have differed in explaining their meaning. One group says that al-wafat here does not mean "death", while another group says that he actually died, and there are various interpretations which the different groups quote as support. The first group offers the following explanations:
a) Sleep: From al-Methanna who said, "I was told by Ishaq who was told by Abdulla Ibn Ja'far, and he from his father who was told by Rabi'a, that Inni mutawaffika means `death while asleep.' And God raised him in his sleep" (al-Tabari 7133).
b) Departure from this world: Quoted from Ali Ibn Sahil after Dhmiri son of Rabi'a, after the son of Shudab, after Matar al-Waraq when he said, "Taking you out of this world and not by death" (al-Tabari 7134).
c) Taking possession of someone/thing: From Yunis who said, "We were told by Ibn Wahab, quoting Ibn Zaid, that the Arabic Inni mutawaffika means Qabidhak, or `I am taking possession of you'" (al-Tabari 7139).
As for the second group, they admit that al-wafat here means "death", and they have the following justifications:
a) Al-Muthanna said, quoting Abdulla Ibn Saleh from Ali and from Ibn Abbas who said, "Inni mutawaffika means, `I called you to die'" (al-Tabari 7142).
b) Ibn Hamid said Selma told us from Ibn Ishaq who told us from Wahab Ibn Munabi al-Timani that he said, "God let `Isa bin Maryam (Jesus, son of Mary) die three hours and then raised him" (al-Tabari 7142).
c) Ibn Hamid said, "We were told by Selma, quoting Ibn Ishaq, that the Christians claim that God called him to die seven hours of the day; then God raised him again" (al-Tabari 7143).
A third group says that the word al-wafat here means "to defer or delay". This group relies upon some words which have come down from Muhammad to the effect that he said that `Isa, son of Mary, will descend and slay the anti-Christ, then remain on earth a certain period (and narrators differ as to the length of this period); he would then die and Muslims would pray over him and then bury him (al-Tabari 204/3).
Since there are differences of opinion among Muslim scholars, and differences in their interpretations of the Qur'anic verses concerning the last days of Christ, the sincere investigator can only resort to the texts in the Gospel, which have no such contradictions concerning the death of Christ, his resurrection and his ascension.
In reality, there are texts in the Qur'an which categorically settle the question as to whether Christ died, even though some commentators tenaciously hold to a literal interpretation of the words, "They did not kill him, and they did not crucify him" (Sura al-Nisa' 4:157). First among these texts is the Qur'anic statement where Allah says: "O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people: `Take me and my mother as two gods beside Allah?' He said: `Be glorified,... I said nothing to them except what you commanded me... and when you let me fall asleep (die) you were the watcher over them'" (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:116,117, compare Muhammad Ali's text, page 276 on verses 116-117).
As to the evidences of the death of Christ, these are numerous and I have cited them in a booklet entitled, " The Cross in the Gospel and the Qur'an."
You can find it at: http://www.the-good-way.com/eng/article/a10.htm
There is a widespread idea among Muslims to the effect that the Qur'an has abrogated God's religion which we find in the Torah and the Gospel. Many have fanatically held to this view, confronting us with some amazing conclusions.
They say that all the prophets in the days of Moses and after him went by the Law of Moses and followed his books until the days of Christ; every prophet of Christ's time and after him went by Christ's law and followed his book until the time of Muhammad; and the law of Muhammad will never be abrogated until the day of resurrection. We read that a group of Islamic scholars had decided that Muhammad is the prophet of this age and his religion abrogates the religion of previous prophets. In reply to this, we say this allegation has no basis in truth because the Qur'an never referred to this subject; neither did the Hadith. Thus, it makes this allegation void of any substance; it is a mere opinion, because it turns the teachings of the Qur'an upside down, confusing it and making it say things which it has never said. In reality, this allegation cannot stand the test of truth for the following reasons:
1) Abrogation means "to invalidate" and "to remove the effect," and this does not apply to the text of the Torah and the Gospel because their judgements are still applicable and binding on hundreds of millions of the human race in different parts of the world. We live according to its authority. The greatest world powers with authority and progress in the field of learning and discovery follow its judgements. No one can deny that most nations are indebted for their present civilisation to the spread of the Torah and the Gospel in their lands.
2) If the Qur'an has come to abrogate the Torah and the Gospel, invalidating their authority, it would not emphatically enjoin its people to uphold their judgements and follow their doctrines, and it would not have said: "People of the Book, you are nothing until you perform the Torah and the Gospel" (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:71). Rather, it would have said: "People of the Book, you are nothing until you perform the Qur'an instead of the Torah and the Gospel which it has abrogated." Furthermore, if the Qur'an had come to abrogate the Gospel, it would not have been proper for it to say: "So let the people of the Gospel judge according to what God has sent down therein. Whoever will not judge according to what God has sent down, they are ungodly" (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:50). Also, if God had wanted to invalidate the Torah and the Gospel by the coming of the Qur'an, it would not have been permissible for the Qur'an to say to Muhammad: "Yet how will they make you their judge? They have the Torah in which is God's judgement" (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:46). If God had sent Muhammad to abrogate the religion of Moses and Christ, this would not have been consistent with the Qur'an, for it says to him: "So if you are in doubt regarding what we have sent down, ask those who recite the Book before you" (Sura Yunis 10:94).
3) It would be reasonable to say that the Qur'an abrogates the Torah and the Gospel, and has taken their place, if it would contain all that is in these books of instructions, judgements and divine ways of salvation, or if it had come with some better teaching to lift the standards of the human race. There is no substitute among humanity in any age for what is in these books, and the Qur'an itself testifies to this fact when it says: "We sent not any before you except men to whom we revealed; ask the people of the remembrance if you do not know" (Sura al-Nahl 16:43). Al-Jallalain has commented that the people of the remembrance are the scholars of the Torah and the Gospel. If one should be ignorant of something, then they would know it (al-Jallalain pg. 357).
We read the following statement in the Qur'an: "Truly, it is the revelation of the Lord of all, being brought down by the faithful spirit upon your heart that you should be one of the warners in the clear Arabic tongue. Truly, it is in the scriptures of the ancients" (Sura al-Shu`ara' 26:193-196). This means that the Torah and the Gospel contain all that is in the Qur'an of precepts, judgements and spiritual teaching, so that it cannot abrogate them because they are the law of God. It may be that the idea of abrogation has found favour with the populace and even with some of the elite because those who allege it have depended upon the historical criticism which has come from atheists in Europe who claimed that the account of the creation of the world and of Adam, in the Torah, contradicted science.
How can the Muslims forget that these very same European critics have criticised similar accounts which occur in the Qur'an. For example: "Surely your Lord is God who created the heavens and the earth in six days; then sat himself upon the throne directing the affair. Intercessor there is none save after his leave. That then is God your Lord, so serve him" (Sura Yunis 10:3). Also, "He created man from the clay like the pattern and he created the jinn from a smokeless fire" (Sura al-Rahman 55:14).
Scholars of historical criticism have said that the Gospel does not accurately transmit the news of Christ, and that Mark and Luke were not his disciples and had not seen him and therefore could not have replied on his words. They have also said that John wrote his account of the Gospel fifty years after Christ's ascension and that we cannot accept it because he could not possibly have kept in his mind all the sayings and the actions of Christ, remembering in detail all that Christ had said and done during that time.
Replying to that, we would ask, "If the Gospel did not accurately transmit the news of Christ, and the accounts of the Gospel according to Mark and Luke were not written by these men, and if John could not remember all that Christ had said and done in detail, what then is the Gospel which the Qur'an came to confirm?" There is another matter which we need to mention; namely, that in the Qur'an there are several accounts of the creation of the world and the creation of man. We would ask, "Was the time between these creations and the descent of the Qur'an shorter than the time from the ascension of Christ and the time when John wrote his account of the Gospel which God had inspired him to write?"
In reality, abrogation is not at all applicable to the Torah and the Gospel, but only applies to some texts in the Qur'an. Muslim scholars do not deny this, for one famous man, al-Suyuti, said, "Abrogation is something which God has only favoured this nation with." In fact, abrogation in the Qur'an has been mentioned in two places:
1) "And for whatever verse we abrogate or cast into oblivion, we bring a better or the like of it. Do you know that God is powerful over everything?" (Sura al-Baqara 2:100). Al-Tabari interprets this verse as follows: "If we abrogate verses, changing their power and altering their applicability, we bring something better than what we have invalidated, or one like unto it" (al-Tabari 1/280). Al-Jallalain makes this comment: "When we invalidate or cause you to forget or eliminate the verses, we bring a better one in its place."
2) "We sent not ever any messenger or prophet before you but that Satan cast into his fancy. But God allows what Satan casts; then, God confirms his signs" (Sura al-Hajj 22:52). Al-Jallalain interprets this as follows: "The prophet read Sura The Star in Mecca, and when he reached verse twenty-six with the words, `And how many angels are in the heavens whose intercession avails nothing save after Allah gives leave to whom He chooses and accepts,' which Satan put on his tongue without his knowing it, he said, `Polytheists said, "he has not mentioned our gods favourable before and so they worshipped and they worshipped."'" Thus, the following text descended: "We sent not ever any messenger or prophet before you, etc." (al-Jallalain pg. 447). Ibn Hatim, quoting Ibn Abbas, said, "It may be that the inspiration came to the prophet by night and he forgot it the following day and thus the Sura descended with the words, `we do not abrogate a verse or invalidate it without bringing one better than it.'" Thus, we see from all these comments and interpretations that there is no basis to the allegation that the Psalms came to abrogate the Torah; nor the Gospel, the Psalms; nor the Qur'an, the Gospel.
The Hajj Rahmat Allah al-Hindi in his book, "Idh har al-Haqq," said, "The saying that the Torah has been abrogated by the Psalms and the Psalms by the Gospel and the Gospel by the Qur'an has no basis either in the Qur'an or in the Hadith." This scholar has spoken the truth in what he said. The Qur'an, contrary to the allegations of those who believe in abrogation, denies these allegations categorically, since it says: "He has laid down for you as religion that with which he charged Noah and that which we have revealed to thee, and that with which we charged Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. Perform the religion and scatter not regarding it" (Sura al-Shura 42:14).
Since this is the Qur'an's view of the religion which preceded it, it is ridiculous to say that the Qur'an has abrogated the Bible or that Islam has abrogated what preceded it of God's religion in the Torah and the Gospel. I cannot understand how any Muslim allows himself to hold this view while the main goals of his Qur'an are to guide him to the precepts and laws of the people of the Book, for it says: "God desires to make clear to you and to guide you in the institutions of those before you and to turn you towards God who is all knowing all wise" (Sura al-Nisa' 4:26).
Also, we read the following statement in Sura al-Baqara 2: "Say you, we believe in God and in that which has been sent down on us, and sent down on Abraham, Ishmael, Ishaq, and Jacob and the tribes, and that which was given to Moses and Jesus and the prophets of their Lord; we make no division between any of them and to him we surrender" (Sura al-Baqara 2:136).
The Muslim, according to this text, is required to believe the law of the prophets who came before the Qur'an, and this principle makes the whole idea of abrogation wholly contradictory to the teachings of the Qur'an which emphasises this fact by saying: "We make no division between any of them."
Al-Tabari, in his interpretation of this passage, says: "That which was given to Moses and the prophets, (the Torah which Moses brought and the Gospel which Jesus brought and the books which all the prophets brought, and which we affirmed and established) are all true guidance and truth and light from God. All that we mentioned by the prophets about God is truth and right guidance and they are self-consistent, all following the same system calling people to believe in one God and obey him" (al-Tabari 3109).
How could the Qur'an abrogate the Holy Scriptures when it is that which was said to have come confirming what was in them? It says: "...when a book from God came to them confirming what was with them." This is a clear testimony which admits of no other interpretation or interpolation because confirmation cannot agree with abrogation which, in effect, is to invalidate. In other words, it is impossible for a book to abrogate another book which it came to confirm. In Sura Al Imran, we have the following verse: "He has sent down upon you the book with the truth confirming what was before it, and he sent down the Torah and the Gospel previously to the people" (Al Imran 3:3).
We read, in the exposition of al-Jallalain, that "before the descent of the Qur'an, the Torah and the Gospel came to guide people from error" (al-Jallalain 66). As for al-Tabari, he says, "The Qur'an came confirming those books of God which were before it, which had come from the mouth of his prophets and his apostles and affirming what the apostles of God had brought because the rank of all these is identical. Thus, there is no contradiction. He sent down the Torah to Moses and the Gospel to Jesus before, as a guidance to people and a clear guidance from God regarding the things which they disagreed about" (al-Tabari 6/160-1).
We would say God's guidance has not been nullified nor have the books inspired of God for guidance been invalidated, because the world is still in need of them in order to bring it out of the darkness of ignorance into the light of true knowledge. No, there is nothing in the texts of the Qur'an which indicates it has abrogated the Holy Bible or invalidated its precepts. On the contrary, we see the Qur'an urging the people of the Torah and the Gospel to follow the divine statutes of the Holy Bible earnestly. Prominent expositors like al-Zamakhshari, al-Baidawi, and al-Jallalain are unanimous that the Qur'an has not come to abrogate the divine books which came before it.
In a letter from a young man, we have, in brief, a statement that the Qur'an was the perfection of prophecy, and that Muhammad was the seal of the prophets or the crown of the prophets; and for that reason, the Qur'an abrogates the Torah and the Gospel and abrogates all the other religions. It may be that this young man, like many others, has been used to repeating the words of some biased persons whose purpose is to divert people from reading the Torah and the Gospel and enjoying the blessings which are in them. Thus, people may be enlightened by what is in them of spiritual truths, which bring a man nearer to God, while trying to serve their own ends, ignoring the Qur'anic texts which refer to the Bible as the King of all books and a mercy to all mankind, such as Sura al-Ahqaf 46:12. It sets apart, as examples, those believers who sincerely observe its judgements, as in Sura al-An`am 6:90. Moreover, it regards the Bible as the good reference for removing all doubts, as in Sura Yunis 10:94. There are many other texts which state that the Qur'an was confirming the Bible and watching over it and supporting it. Therefore, it is very strange and mischievous to claim that the Qur'an has abrogated and invalidated what it contains of religious teachings accepted by several hundred million people throughout the world.
Whoever reads the Bible carefully will see that the teachings in its divine books are all consistent with one another and that they follow one direction; namely, to declare God's purpose to mankind. Thus, in its clear texts, there are neither abrogators nor abrogated, for we find in the books of the Old Testament how God created the earth and made man and how sin entered into the world. After that, we read about the divine promise of a Saviour who would be of the seed of a woman and would come in the fullness of time. While awaiting that event, the Lord God made a covenant with Abraham in which he confirmed to him that the Saviour would come from his offspring; he then renewed this promise to Isaac and Jacob. Next, we read how the divine Saviour filled the visions of the prophets and was the subject of their preaching down the years. When Moses appeared, the Law was given to him, and in it there were great and precious promises; and so the visions of the prophets became clearer. Those who followed Moses spoke of the Saviour who would come in the name of the Lord. Furthermore, the books which they wrote agree with what Moses had written. Some of them describe the way that this divine Saviour would come in the name of the Lord. Some of them portray the miracles that would accompany his teaching and his redemptive death; they do this so graphically that they mention the name of the town in which this Saviour would be born. As for the Gospel, it sets out the events of the life of the Saviour, his teaching, his death, his resurrection, and his ascension, as a fulfilment of the prophecies which had come in the Torah and the Psalms.
Whoever reads the Torah of Moses, reflecting upon its symbols and sacrifices, will realise the purposes of God in regard to his mercy. He will incline towards him and want to worship him. His heart's desire will be drawn towards the coming Saviour and in him he will find the answers to his hopes and aspirations. The Apostle Paul referred to the aspirations of the people of God in the Old Testament, whom he said had died in the hope of salvation. He said: "All these people were still living by faith, when they died. They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance" (Hebrews 11:13).
In the books of the prophets and the prophetic Psalms, we have brought before us this vision to such an extent that some men of God taught that God, from the beginning, separated a group to himself and trained them gradually, enduring their hardness of heart and their evil deeds. He ordered them to observe certain rituals and precepts of worship with a view of placing a separation between Judaism and heathenism until such time when the promised Saviour would come with blessings for all the nations. However, these rituals, although established by a divine order, do not benefit at all unless they are coupled with a life of holiness and dedication. This truth was revealed to the prophet Micah while he stood perplexed, questioning whether God was satisfied with more sacrifices and burnt offerings of various kinds, for God told him: "He has shown you O man what is good and what does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8).£ In other words, the ceremonials and Mosaic rituals, such as sacrifices and burnt offerings, incense, and washings, were symbols pointing to realities, and these realities were fulfilled in the full spirituality of the New Testament, of which Christ became the agent to all who would believe in him from whatever nation, race, tongue, or colour, in accordance with what is told us in the prophets: "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea" (Isaiah 11:9).
Thus, the New Testament did not abrogate the Old Testament, but it did explain and fulfil it. It portrayed it in its spiritual form, which suits people in every time and place.
I would like to make clear to all that the Law in the Torah was of two kinds: the law of ceremonials, which was given temporarily to the people of the Old Testament in order to set them apart from the heathen nations, and, above that, the moral law which was to protect them from descending utterly into the abominations of the heathen while they awaited the Saviour who would come in mercy and truth. The Apostle Paul referred to this in this statement: "Then indeed, even the first covenant had ordinances of divine service.... It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience--concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation" (Hebrews 9:1-10).
It was announced in the prophet Isaiah that those sacrifices and offerings, which were material, pointed to the Lamb of God, Jesus the Redeemer, who himself was the end of the Law. Compare Isaiah 53, 55; and Revelation 3:18.
Since the "Great Sacrifice" was that to which all other symbolic sacrifices pointed, and since Christ has offered a sin offering for the sins of the world, Christians do not have to offer sacrifices for redemption because Christ is their full sacrifice.
The amazing thing is that the Jews were compelled to stop annual sacrifices for sin, because the Law had ordered them not to make this kind of sacrifice in any other place except the temple in Jerusalem, and this temple has been destroyed. There is no way to revive its glories because the ark of the covenant and all it contained has vanished.
As for the moral law, it is eternal and needs to be observed in every place and time because the commandments which it contains are a divine institution that fix the relationship between God and man. Every violation of its commandments is an offence against God. These commandments were not abrogated by the Gospel of Christ. They were merely expanded and interpreted and given force, and they were consummated by the work of redemption which Jesus accomplished on the Cross.
The conclusion of the matter is that all the teachings of the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments, are constant and do not concede to any abrogation because they represent God's will for mankind, his good and perfect and reasonable will. This emphasises to us that God's way of salvation is the same in every time and place and nation, and all will be condemned who have not believed in Christ whose day Abraham rejoiced to see.
In closing, please accept my warmest regards and my esteem.
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