The teaching of Islam is that God has given revelation to many prophets before Muhammad (peace be with him and all the prophets); and in particular the Torah (basically, Mosaic Law) of the Jews and the Gospel given to Jesus are singled out for approbation. Jesus is said to have come to confirm the truth in the Torah, and Muhammad came to confirm the truth in both the Torah and the Gospel.
At the same time, though, the Qur’an teaches that previous revelation had been corrupted by the hands of men, so that what presently goes by the name of the Torah and the Gospel is not necessarily the revelation given by God. The role of Muhammad as the “seal of the prophets” involved exposing and correcting the errors which had crept in. In addition, the “seal of the prophets” ‘abrogated’ some of the former revelation, replacing the abrogated portions with things which are better or at least equivalent.
It seems to me, unfortunately, that many Muslims overemphasize the corruptions in the Bible. They ‘bend over backwards’ to find things wrong with the Bible, and leave one with the impression that not only are there corruptions in the Bible; in fact there’s nothing good in the Bible.
Therefore, as those of you who have read previous articles I have written will have observed, I like to point out and emphasize ways in which the Bible and the Qur’an are consistent with each other; ways in which the Qur’an does indeed confirm the truth which is in the Bible (whether ‘Old’ or ‘New’ Testaments). This correspondence can sometimes be rather surprising. It may be shown that the Bible teaches the same truth as the Qur’an contrary to the accepted teachings of ‘orthodox’ Christianity; and it may also be shown that the Qur’an teaches the same thing as the Bible contrary to what many Muslims seem to think.
In this article, I want to show that the Qur’an confirms certain Biblical teachings contrary to the apparent beliefs of many Muslims. It is frequently asserted that the apostle Paul was a ‘false apostle’, more ‘antichrist’ than Christian. A lot of this aversion to Paul stems from his treatment of the Law of Moses. It is certainly well known that he taught that “we are not under law, but under grace”. Paul taught that believing Gentiles must not be required to keep the Law of Moses; keeping the law has nothing to do with being righteous before God.
Many people (including many Muslims) exclaim that this is contrary to what Jesus himself taught in “the Sermon on the Mount” in Matthew 5:17-19. Jesus taught there that he had not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it; and that until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished. (The quotation is from the New Revised Standard Version). I believe that this statement of Jesus has been widely misunderstood; but I don’t intend to examine it today as I have written a previous article about this passage. What I want to point out in this article is that if Paul contradicted Jesus, so did Muhammad inasmuch as the revelation of God given to him actually confirmed the teaching of Paul on this matter.
Consider this passage from Paul’s letter to the Galatian Christians (the following Bible quotations are from the English Standard Version): Gal 3:15 To give a human example, brothers: even with a man-made covenant, no one annuls it or adds to it once it has been ratified. Gal 3:16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. Gal 3:17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. Gal 3:18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. Gal 3:19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.
Notice that Paul goes back to the “Abrahamic Covenant”, given as a promise to Abraham through the obedience of faith. 430 years before God gave the law to Moses, God had made and confirmed a promise to Abraham that all the nations would be blessed in Abraham and his ‘seed’ or ‘offspring’. The later given law could not nullify the previous promise. But the law was added to the Abrahamic covenant because of the transgressions of the Israelite people. Principally, this “transgression” involved their proclivity to engage in idolatry. Moses himself is said to have complained that they were a ‘stiffnecked’ and disobedient people. So the rather stringent restrictions of the Mosaic Law were added to restrain the disobedience of the Jewish people.
With the coming of the Christ, Jesus, the covenant with Abraham began to see its fulfillment as the blessing of God reached out to “all the nations”; and consequently the temporarily intervening Law given to the Jewish people was rescinded. Certainly, the Gentiles were not required to obey all of those laws given to the Jews.
Now notice how the prophet Muhammad confirmed this conclusion of the apostle Paul in Sura 16 (Qur’an quotations are from the Abdel Haleem English version):
(120) Abraham was truly an example: devoutly obedient to God and true in faith. He was not an idolater; (121) he was thankful for the blessings of God who chose him and guided him to a straight path. (122) We gave him blessings in this world, and he is among the righteous in the Hereafter. (123) Then we revealed to you [Muhammad], ‘Follow the creed of Abraham, a man of pure faith who was not an idolater’. (124) The Sabbath was made obligatory only for those who differed about it [the creed of Abraham, who was not an idolater]. On the Day of Resurrection your Lord will judge between them as to their differences.
“Differing about” the creed of Abraham (pure monotheism and pure faith) is most certainly the same as the ‘transgressions’ of which Paul spoke. And the Sabbath was one of those restrictions in the Law of Moses which Paul said was “added because of transgressions”. According to the revelation given to Muhammad, those who now follow the creed of Abraham are not obliged to keep the Sabbath – and to the best of my knowledge, Sabbath keeping has never been a part of the religion of Islam since the time of Muhammad.
So God, through His messenger Muhammad, confirmed what Paul said about the Law – at least as regards the Sabbath (which of course was a major part of the Mosaic legislation): it was given only to the Jews, and is not binding now on anyone who follows the religion of Abraham, whether “Jew” or “Gentile”.
But is the Sabbath the only part of the Law which has been rescinded for those who believe? Not at all. Just prior to the statement about the Sabbath in Sura 16 of the Qur’an, we read this concerning food regulations:
(114) So eat of the good and lawful things God has provided for you and be thankful for His blessings, if it is Him that you worship. (115) He has forbidden you only these things: carrion, blood, pig’s meat, and animals over which any name other than God’s has been invoked. But if anyone is forced by hunger, not desiring it nor exceeding their immediate need, God is forgiving and merciful. (116) Do not say falsely, ‘This is lawful and that is forbidden,’ inventing a lie about God: those who invent lies about God will not prosper – (117) they may have a little enjoyment, but painful torment awaits them. (118) [Prophet], We forbade the Jews what We told you about. We did not wrong them; they wronged themselves.
So all of those food regulations given through Moses were only intended for the Jews; and they brought it on themselves (“wronged themselves”). Muhammad was reminded that God had already informed him about the Jewish food restrictions. This previous revelation is found in Sura 6:
(145) [Prophet], say, ‘In all that has been revealed to me, I find nothing forbidden for people to eat, except for carrion, flowing blood, pig’s meat – it is loathsome – or a sinful offering over which any name other than God’s has been invoked.’ But if someone is forced by hunger, rather than desire or excess, then your Lord is most forgiving and most merciful. (146) We forbade for the Jews every animal with claws, and the fat of cattle and sheep, except what is on their backs and in their intestines, or that which sticks to their bones. This is how we penalized them for their disobedience: We are true to our word.
Here again, it is quite clear that God and His messengers (the ‘spirit’ messenger Gabriel and the human messenger Muhammad) have explicitly confirmed what the apostle Paul said about the Law: it was added to the “creed” of Abraham because of the disobedience of the Jews, and was intended only for the Jews. “Gentiles” who embrace the “religion of Abraham” (particularly as it has been confirmed through Muhammad) are not bound by that Law; their righteousness before God has nothing to do with the “works of the Law”. The same is true for Jews who embrace the Gospel of Jesus and the revelation given to Muhammad: they are “free from the Law” – although they are most certainly not free from obligation to do ethical, moral, and spiritual “works of righteousness”. Those who believe and do good deeds will have their reward with God; but those good deeds are not “the works of the Law (of Moses)”.
This may anger “the Jews” – and they may label it “anti-Semitism” – and it may also anger some Muslims; but it is the truth of God, in keeping with the wisdom God gave to the apostle Paul and the revelation He gave to His prophet Muhammad. Or so it seems to me.