Zara Faris

The Majestic Furqan: 5:48 and 3:4

The Majestic Furqan: 5:48 and 3:4

Background

It has been suggested by some Christian writers that verse 5:48 of The Majestic Qur’an (“TMQ”) promises the preservation of the Bible, in its entirety, from loss and corruption; Muslims must, therefore abandon any claims to the contrary. I refer to this suggestion herein as the “Preservation Idea”.

In particular, some Christian writers have accused M. Asad’s translation of 5:48, which does not support the Preservation Idea, of including interpolation. My four-point analysis of his translation concludes (i) that Asad’s translation does not include interpolation and is not deviant; and, separately, (ii) that the Preservation Idea does not hold up under 5:48. This has elicited a lengthy response by Mutee’a Al Fadi and Sam Shamoun of Answering Islam (authors referred to as “F&S” herein).

A preliminary note, following which my counter-response begins:

F&S assert that the Qur’an suffers from “poor grammar”, “faulty composition” and “contradictions”, with there being “no end to such problems” whilst,simultaneously, invoking its precision, methodology, intent and correctness in order to harness 5:48.

F&S cannot pursue both lines of reasoning. If the former, then their invocation of 5:48 must be substantiated, lest the selection be deemed cherry picking. If the latter, then they accept the perfection of the entire Qur’an. In order to establish their current claims about 5:48, F&S must proceed on the former, fallacious basis.

1 – Asad’s Style: Interpretations not interpolations

(i) F&S concede that translations of the Qur’an will, at best, be interpretations, or meanings, of the Qur’an, stating that the Arabic can be translated “faithfully, if not even in an exact match“.

In order to categorise Asad’s translation as ‘interpolation’, F&S must widen the meaning of ‘interpolation’, and narrow the scope of ‘interpretation’. As such, they initially reject that a translation is, at best, an interpretation or a meaning, and describe my relaying of this as “untrue” and “futile”. One need not be an Arab, an Arabist or a linguist to understand that a bare word-for-word translation is incapable of fully rendering all of the context, connotations and richness of the original text. This is non-contentious and one can observe this with other languages also, although this is especially clear with Qur’anic Arabic.

My bare word-for-word rendition was not an ironic contradiction, as F&S would allege, but demonstrates my point exactly: that such an approach strips the original of its context and meaning, and this is why translators must clarify, inter alia, who/what is being referred to, the secondary meaning of a word, or the meaning of an idiom (such as ‘bayna yadayhi’). This explains why there is a great number of subtly differing interpretations andexegeses of the Qur’an, instead of a single canonised rendition. This is interpretation (and not interpolation).

F&S ultimately confess that the Arabic can be translated “faithfully, if not even in an exact match“, and themselves provide 9 differing translations of 5:48, which they describe as all being “faithful to the meaning of the verse“. Unfortunately, F&S then revert to confusing ‘interpretation’ with ‘interpolation’, even describing my use of the word ‘interpretation’ as a criticism of Asad’s translation.

(ii) F&S make a number of misrepresentations of my analysis, for example, that I conclude Asad’s translation to be “very weak and can be considered a poor choice”.

I have described Asad’s translation as “thoughtful and deeply involved in the interpretation and meaning”. F&S, kindly indicate where I have described it as “weak” and “a poor choice”.

2 – The two functions: Musaddiq and Muhaymin

Musaddiq – “confirming the truth

(i) F&S suggest that Asad has tactically translated 5:48 inconsistently with that of other verses, claiming that he should also have translated 3:39 and 66:12 as “confirming the truth of whatever remains of”, simply because the phrase begins with the root for “confirming”.

F&S say that they reached this idea after a ‘quick survey’ of the Qur’an. Upon closer inspection, the Arabic in these ayat state “musaddiqan bikalimatin min Allah” and “saddaqat bikalimaati rabbihaa”. In other words, the object of the confirmation is the ‘kalimah/aat’ (word/s) of Allah and not ‘maa bayna yadayhi min…’. By way of reminder, we are dealing with ‘…maa bayna yadayhi min…’ and it is with this phrase that Asad has derived the meaning “…of whatever there still remains of…” Why would he interpret 3:39 and 66:12 with these words when they are not there?

3 – Muhaymin – “determining what is true therein”

(i) F&S state that “muhaymin” is virtually synonymous with words of the root “h-f-dh”.

As mentioned earlier, F&S have selectively invoked the precision of the Qur’an. Earlier in their response, they expounded in length as to the Qur’an’s informed choice to use the preposition “min” (from/of) instead of “ba’d” (some/part), stating that “the Qur’an could have easily pointed that out by using the appropriate term to denote such”. However, in response to my highlighting that the Qur’an uses words of the root “h-f-dh” when describing the preservation of the Qur’anic text, F&S club these terms together as “virtually synonymous”. Why, for the avoidance of doubt, would the Qur’an not then simply use the same word, “h-f-dh”? Because they are not synonymous, and neither is the promise.

Notably, the word “muhaymin” is used only twice in the Qur’an – once to describe the Qur’an’s relationship to previous scriptures (the other occasion is in describing the attributes of Allah (swt) (59:23)). F&S seek to rely on this one occasion, wherein there is substantial discourse as to the different meanings of the word, to claim the Preservation Idea (see 3(ii) below for differences in discourse).

(ii) That some classical exegetes agree that “muhaymin” means to preserve

F&S’ insistence claims to be supported by exegesis, of which there is difference of opinion therein. Such difference is discussed and highlighted in Sam Shamoun’s own article, (with his own approved translations of exegeses), where he concludes, “it does become obvious from the preceding citations that this word is actually unclear as to its PRECISE meaning, and therefore all the commentators are merely SPECULATING as far as the EXACT meaning of the word is concerned.” For clarity, I would like to refer F&S to 3:3-4, as set out in 3(iii) below.

That they do indeed seek to rely on this exegesis is, again, contradictory to the approach they adopt when the exegesis does not support the Preservation Idea. For example: some of the exegetes which are cited in Sam Shamoun’s own article discuss the very same interpretation put forth by Asad, namely that the Qur’an corroborates what is true of previous scriptures and disavows what is false of them (for example, see Ibn Jarir). Note that az-Zamakhshari, Ibn Kathir, Ibn Juraij and al-Baghawi and al-Tabari all adopt the same position as Asad.

Despite Asad’s interpretation being considered a perfectly valid one, and propounded by many exegetes (including exegetes cited by F&S), F&S continue to label Asad’s interpretation as ‘interpolation’, creating the illusion of Asad’s deviance where there is none.

(iii) The Qur’an as al-Furqan – the ‘Criterion

Let us read 5:48 in light of a more explicit verse: TMQ 3:3-4. The first part of this verse is almost identical in wording to 5:48, and then proceeds to specify: “He sent down to you the Book with truth, confirming what was ‘bayna yadayhi’… [the verse next specifies the ‘previous texts’] …And He sent the Torah and the Injeel before as guidance for the people [the verse next clarifies the role of the Qur’an] And He revealed the Furqan. Indeed, those who disbelieve in the verses of Allah will have a severe punishment…”

Furqan’ is derived of the root f-r-q, meaning to separate, divide, differentiate; make a distinction between things; the derivative ‘furqan’ means to be a criterion or a proof. This verse is saying that the Qur’an is the criterion. The Qur’an is designated as al-Furqan not once, but several times (see also 2:185, 25:1). If there is any difficulty in understanding the wonderful expression of the role of the Qur’an in relation to the previous scriptures in 5:48, then 3:3-4 will assist.

3 – Adh-Dhikr – the Reminder

F&S also present 15:9 TMQ and 41:42 TMQ as evidence that Allah (swt) promises to preserve the Bible under the umbrella of ‘scripture’. These verses refer to the revelation being guarded as ‘adh-Dhikr’ (‘the Reminder’).

With regards to 15:9, F&S provide a number of additional verses using ‘adh-Dhikr’ which, according to F&S, refers to ‘the scriptures in the possession of the Jews and Christians’ (i.e. show that ‘adh-Dhikr’ does not refer exclusively to the Qur’an). However, in order to then harness 41:42, F&S must claim that ‘adh-Dhikr’ refers exclusively to the Qur’an as they say with regards to 41:42, that the Qur’an ‘appeals to the former book to confirm its message’, i.e. that the subject of preservation in 41:41-42 is the Qur’an and it is safe from the ‘Torah, Psalms and Gospel’.

F&S must decide whether they think that adh-Dhikr refers to all of the scriptures collectively, or just the Qur’an and then choose which they think supports the Preservation Idea, as concurrently they serve to contradict the Preservation Idea.

Conclusion

We see that the Preservation Idea fails to manifest in more than just 5:48, and that Asad’s interpretation is shared by many exegetes, as set out above, including exegetes that F&S themselves rely on. As such, F&S’ objection to Asad’s translation appears to be a necessary formality. It is symbolic of their greater contention with the Qur’an itself, as it refuses to evidence a promise that they attribute to it.

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20 replies »

  1. You seriously call this a rebuttal? Honestly Williams? Anyway, tell your friend to look for our refutation of this “reply” which will appear sooner than later, Lord willing.

    • We will provide a refutation to help the writer improve their linguistic and Islamic knowledge. They have a long way to go.

      • So by becoming a christian make you an expert in Arabic Quran and Islamic studies? lol

        Btw, arrogance is really a trademark of AI team.

  2. Da’ee, the reason why we even waste time on something like this is because people like you tend to live in a fantasy world where if people don’t respond to the garbage Muslim propagandists produce then that means in your mind that we have been utterly silenced and are incapable of refuting the nonsense you gentlemen tend to spew out. So that is the main reason why we even take time out of our schedules to respond to such polemics in order to teach you gents a lesson for blaspheming the true God and trying to convert people to a lie through the use of lies and deceptions. So do make sure to read and enjoy our responses since, by God’s grace, you may see the truth clearly and leave your religion.

    • Look who decided to show up Sam Shamoun ! and look what he is telling ,the rebuttal is not serious enough!.

      I want to tell him that the point which he and his like minded people are raising has been dealt in a scholarly way long time back but he just doesn’t want to give up .He keeps repeating the same arguments.

      He in his articles never quote scholars ,he have his own take on various topics and just brushes aside what the scholars say as is obvious in this case.

      Coming on to his rebuttals ,they can be summarized as highly unscholarly ,abusive ,off topic and lacking basic knowledge.

      He says our religion is a lie . Probably he is thinking we follow the Bible ,a book which is agreed to by the scholars of his own community to be scientifically absurd , historically deviant ,have been tampered upon and containing hundreds of contradictions.

      Is this what you call your true faith Sam ? , then congratulations for your true faith . We Muslims are happy to follow our false religion based on Quran which is historically accurate, scientifically spot on, is perfectly preserved and having absolutely no contradictions unlike your Bible.

      That is the beauty Quran ,it beats the Bible any day ,come to Islam Sam.

      • No Worry. If the scholars we quoted are not enough, we will make sure the next respnse is beefed up with Islamic Scholars who actually agree with us. I pray you will enjoy reading it soon.

    • Coming to your frequent polemic about Muslims not debating Muslim topics which you were even repeating on your Facebook page ,i want to turn your kind attention to the debate which Br.Bassam had with Nabeel on the topic of the preservation of the Quran .

      Do the see the dabate Sam ,see what happened to Nabeel in that debate, that is what will happen if you debate on the topic of preservation of Quran with Muslims.

      Your 3 Gods Father,Son and Holy spirit could not prevent their book from being corrupted but surprisingly the book brought by Mohammed who is a false prophet according to you is well preserved !! .

      This is again the beauty of Quran ,which if your 3 Gods see ,then all 3 of them the Father ,son and Holy spirit will convert to Islam.

      Coming to your favorite topic is Mohammed the prophet of God then you should see the debate what Br.Sami had with your like minded friend David Wood .In that debate Sami refuted each and every point you and your friend bring and in the end your friend could not prove anything.

      In summary come to Islam and leave your worship of 3 Gods and also leave the nonsense of Trinity and hypostatic union.

  3. Thank you for the reminder Paul. I will keep your rules in mind. However, in the meantime you need to ban Rambo John from posting here since he has sent me some very blasphemous and insulting comments on facebook, such as wanting to sleep with my wife, some of which have already been published here: http://www.answeringmuslims.com/2012/05/muslim-commenter-sinks-to-new-low.html. You should see the rest of his comments. Since you claim that you want to maintain a positive image you then need to reprimand his vile, filthy behavior.

  4. Sam Shamoun has attempted to post two comments on this thread which were clearly in violation of the MDI Blog Rules, especially 1, 4 and 5:

    1. No personal attacks
    4. Be courteous in your debating style
    5. No gratuitous insults against a person’s beliefs.

    The MDI Editor will allow comments from Sam when he chooses to demonstrate the basic courtesy and respect that he demands so vociferously from others.

    Paul
    MDI Blog Editor.

  5. The Bible is not corrupted. Some manuscripts that never got in to the Bible were corrupted. There is a difference.

    All the Koran can do is give us a one-dimensional view of a short period of time with a sparsity of historical facts. Nothing more. The rest was nothing more than redacted Bible stories. If this does not prove that it is not of divine origin I don’t know what does.

    • Erasmus you might like to tread:

      The Orthodox Corruption of Scripture: The Effect of Early Christological Controversies on the Text of the New Testament

      The victors not only write the history, they also reproduce the texts. In a study that explores the close relationship between the social history of early Christianity and the textual tradition of the emerging New Testament, Ehrman examines how early struggles between Christian “heresy” and “orthodoxy” affected the transmission of the documents over which, in part, the debates were waged. His thesis is that proto-orthodox scribes of the second and third centuries occasionally altered their sacred texts for polemical reasons–for example, to oppose adoptionists like the Ebionites, who claimed that Christ was a man but not God, or docetists like Marcion, who claimed that he was God but not a man, or Gnostics like the Ptolemaeans, who claimed that he was two beings, one divine and one human. Ehrman’s analysis makes a significant contribution to our understanding of the social and intellectual history of early Christianity and raises intriguing questions about the relationship of readers to their texts, especially in an age when scribes could transform the documents they reproduced to make them say what they were already thought to mean, effecting thereby the orthodox corruption of Scripture.

      Reviews

      “This detailed, carefully argued, and thoroughly documented study should be purchased for collections serving faculty and graduate students in New Testament studies and church history.”–Choice

      “Ehrman’s arguments throughout deserve our attention; they are frequently compelling….Clearly set out and persuasively presented….Variants that treat of Christ’s person and function must from now on always be considered with reference to Ehrman’s thesis.”–Novum Testamentum

      “This book is highly recommended as an excellent work of scholarship that is of great importance in the development of New Testament studies. Here is a new voice that addresses some of the central theological and historical issues.”-Journal of Theological Studies

      “Bart D. Ehrman has written a book which will stimulate the casual reader and intrigue the academic or professional reader of the New Testament….An excellent work and definitely invaluable for lay or scholars.”–Anglican Theological Review

    • How can Muslims be assured that the Qur’an is the Word of God?

      1. Physical incapacity. The prophet was physically incapable of writing the Quran. History has him as an unlettered man who could not write anything more than his own name. How could he write a book?

      2. Sincerity. The prophet was morally constrained to tell the truth about the origin of the Quran. He was noted to be so honest and trustworthy that even his enemies called him al-Amin (the trustworthy). Moreover, he suffered persecution, refused offers to compromise, and maintained his message for a period of twenty-three years. Historians of religion have to conclude that he was sincere.

      3. Psychology. The Quran speaks to the prophet, commands him, and even criticizes him. Such contents do not point to the prophet as the self-conscious author. On the other hand, the author declares himself to be the creator of the heavens and the earth.

      4. History. The prophet was incapable of writing the Quran. The Quran details items of history which were not known to the prophet or his contemporaries. And independent studies confirm that the Quran was true in what it said.

      5. Prophecy. The Quran speaks prophetically, detailing what the future holds. Then the future unfolds exactly as foretold. Who could author such a book?

      6. Science. The Quran draws attention to a wide range of physical phenomena in order to teach moral lessons. The statements were not meant to teach science. Yet modern scientists are amazed at the accuracy of these statements. For example, the Quran said things about the growth and development of the human embryo which could not be studied without the use of a microscope. Dr. Keith Moore was professor and chairman of the Department of Anatomy at the University of Toronto. After reviewing the Quranic statements he said: “”I am amazed at the accuracy of these statements which were already made in the 7th century AD.”” Such knowledge in the Qur?an points to God as its source.

      7. Consistency. The Quran challenges skeptics to find errors in it, which, if found, would disprove its divine claim. But no one has yet been able to point to a real error in it.

      8. Inimitability. A unique feature of the Quran is that no one is able to produce a book that would match its beauty, eloquence and wisdom. The Quran itself challenges humankind to produce even a chapter like it. But no one has been able to do it.

      These eight reasons together form a strong cumulative case in favor of the Qurans divine origin. Hence Muslims can be confident that the belief of Islam, which is based on the Quran, is true.

      From Shabir Ally

  6. Hello Jesus, when people defer to Muslims not debating islamic subjects, they mean famous Muslims like Shabir Ally and Zakir Naik. Zakir Naik once debated an old man who had no debate experience and won, not very impressive.

    Anyway as for Zawadi, he clearly points out his definition of “Quran Preservation” is “Quran preservation as defined by the Muslims and Islam”. Yes that’s great circular reasoning. The preserved Quran is defined how Muslims define it, wow so is the Bible. God preserved the message by preserving every textual variant. This is the same kind of reasoning. In fact both religions ignore the obvious reasoning that the only way to preserve a book completely intact and faithfully is to have the autograph to compare to. Which is exactly for example how we can see the book of mormon has changed so much. Yes the autograph is absolute proof.

    Anyway I have gone through Zawadi’s stuff here:

    http://www.answeringabraham.com/2012/01/quranic-preservation-errors-made-by.html

    His response was so bad, I left it there and it requires no rebuttal for the objective reader, Zawadi does all the damage by proving he can’t refute a single point.

  7. My thoughts are that we sohlud pray for this gentleman in question. The Bible teaches us not to speak ill about his anointed whether they do good or bad things I feel we sohlud self reflect and ask ourselves do we always act how a Christian sohlud act Show this man mercy and go into prayer

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