3.3. AXIOM 3: Belief in the existence of the books of which God is the author
Muslims believe that God wrote 315 books (as per Mohammed’s teaching related in the Hadith). Each one was brought to humankind by a messenger for his time. However, only 8 of these messengers are identified in the Qur’an. These are:
And the following four about whose books we are told nothing:
The remaining 307 messengers and their books are not mentioned at all in either the Qur’an or Hadith, and we have no information about them or the messengers who received them. This has led to a very great deal of speculation concerning the identity of these messengers (some Muslims believe that these may have included the Pharaoh Akhenaten, for example). Each of the books was to be followed until a new book was revealed. At that point, this new revelation superseded the old. Mohammed is said to be the last messenger, and so there will be no more revelations to override the Qur’an.
Today the vast majority of Muslims believe the Qur'an we have is the same one Mohammed had, and it is the uncreated word of Allah, eternal. However, Muslims have not always been in agreement. Two hundred years after the death of Mohammed, there was a significant theological debate lasting 18 years concerning the origin of the Qur’an (this is known as “Miḥnat Khalq al-Qur’an,” or the ordeal regarding the creation of the Qur’an). Muslim scholars throughout the Islamic Empire at this time held two opposing views. Muslim rationalists of the time believed that the Qur’an was not eternal; rather it was created by Allah and it wasn’t a miracle. Sunni Muslims on the other hand believed the Qur’an to be the eternal word of Allah, uncreated, and a miracle. The Caliphs (Islamic rulers) took the side of the rationalists, and many Sunni scholars were killed, flogged, or imprisoned. This debate essentially ended when the Caliph Mutawakkil changed his opinion and ordered a reversal of the doctrine.
What about the Torah, the Psalms and the Gospel? Mohammed is reported as saying: “Do not believe the people of the Book, nor disbelieve them, but say, ‘We believe in Allah and whatever is revealed to us, and whatever is revealed to you.’ ” (Sahih Bukhari). However, Muslims believe that only the Qur’an survives in its original form, with any other surviving texts being corrupted. We will return to further discussion of this claim later on, but for now let us just point out that such accusations – as well as being disproved by evidence – is illogical at best. Muslims claim that the Bible has been corrupted, without any proof; similarly, Shi‘a Muslims say that Sunni Muslims have corrupted the Qur’an. In both cases, the question must be asked: what proof is there of this claim? And if Allah didn’t protect his earlier revelations, what makes us think he has protected the Qur’an?
We might still think that a belief in the original Injeel of ‘Isa (Jesus) might be a good starting point for discussion with Muslims. Unfortunately, almost everything about the Injeel in Islam is problematic, starting with the name. The word injeel comes from the Greek word “ευαγγέλιον” (euangelion). The problem with this is its Greek origin. The Qur’an says: “[w]e sent not a Messenger except with the language of his people.” (Qur'an 14:4) It also says Jesus was sent to the Israelites, and so we have ask why a Jewish prophet would be sent with a Greek book. Another issue is that Muslims do not believe that the four gospels of the New Testament are the Injeel, and as such are not inspired by God. Yet as we will discuss in a later chapter, they claim that the New Testament contains prophecies about Mohammed. Why would this matter, since they do not believe the New Testament to be true! Ultimately Muslims claim to believe in a few scattered verses from the Bible, accepting whatever they think agrees with Islam and reject anything which doesn’t. Even though the Apostle Paul is rejected by virtually all Muslims as an imposter and a liar, Mohammed would take the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians 2:9 and attribute them to Allah as we will see later.