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17. Understanding Islam

13.2. Challenges to the validity of the Bible as Muslims believe it has been abrogated by the Qur’an

The second main area of challenge to Christianity comes through the Islamic concept of abrogation. This is the belief which states that the Qur’an cancels out all divine texts which came before it. Although this doctrine is not stated clearly in the Qur’an or Hadith, it is suggested by a Qur’anic verse and a Hadith. The Qur’an says:

“And whoever desires other than Islam as religion ‒ never will it be accepted from him, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers.” (Qur’an 3:85)

Additionally, Mohammed is claimed to have said:

“By Him in Whose hand is the life of Muhammad, he who amongst the community of Jews or Christians hears about me, but does not affirm his belief in that with which I have been sent and dies in this state (of disbelief), he shall be but one of the people of Hell-Fire.” (Sahih Muslim).

Muslims believe that only Islam is acceptable to Allah, which means to Muslims all other religions are abrogated by the Qur’an.

To assess such a claim let us understand what is meant by abrogation. To abrogate something is to repeal it, abolish it, revoke it, override it, etc. In this sense, abrogation can only apply to laws or rules but it cannot by definition apply to historical events, which means the Qur’an can’t change any historical event of any book which came before it. However, when we read the Qur’an we find exactly the opposite ‒ the Qur’an changed the story related in Exodus! The Qur’an says “the Samaritan” misled Israel and led them into worshipping the golden calf, even though Samaria didn’t even exist at the time of Exodus.

Not only does the Qur’an change history, it also mixes several historical events together. For example, in one verse it confuses three different historical time periods. It quotes Pharaoh at the time of Moses as saying:

“O Haman! Build for me a tower that haply I may reach the ways of access.” (Qur’an 40:36)

However, Pharaoh lived more than a thousand years before Haman (the minister of Ahasuerus mentioned in the book of Esther), and more than a thousand years after the tower built in an attempt to reach the heavens (the tower of Babel described in Genesis 11).

Modern day Muslims try to explain this away by saying “Haman” is two words “Ha Man” from “Ha-Amon” the high priest of Amon. Unfortunately of course that neither works nor solves the problem. It doesn’t work because Egyptians wouldn’t use the Hebrew definite article “Ha.” Even if this were true (it isn’t), we have still not explained why he is put in the same time period as the tower of Babel.

Another example of error is when the Qur’an says one of Noah’s sons drowned during the flood (Qur’an 11:42). We know from the Bible however that his entire family were alive after the flood.

Other Qur’anic claims which oppose the historical accounts in the Bible include Job being described as a descendant of Isaac (Qur’an 6:84), Ishmael being a prophet and messenger (Qur’an 19:54), and the denial of the crucifixion (Qur’an 4:157). While it’s conceivable that commands might be abrogated, it is impossible for historical events to be abrogated. Furthermore most of the stories in the Qur’an are very unclear and they can only be understood from the Bible.

Abrogation refers not only to earlier books, but also to earlier parts of the Qur’an which are contradicted by parts written later. Thus it may be a necessary concept to accept Islamic teachings as without it there would be far too many contradictions within the Qur’an itself for it to be acceptable and reliable. Though we cannot mention all these here, among the things in the Qur’an which are abrogated are things that Mohammed initially believed to be part of the Qur’an revealed to him by Allah, but were later claimed to be from Satan:

“Never did We send a Messenger or a Prophet before you, but when he did recite the revelation or narrated or spoke, Shaitan (Satan) threw (some falsehood) in it. But Allah abolishes that which Shaitan (Satan) throws in. Then Allah establishes His Revelations. And Allah is All-Knower, All-Wise.” (Qur’an 22:52)

These verses then needed to be abrogated. However, this problem clearly has nothing to do with the Bible at all. One of the many misunderstandings Muslims have of the Bible is that they think it is or it functions like the Qur’an; this isn’t the case at all. The Bible was written to teach believers who believed based on what they saw and heard, whether at the time of Moses and the prophets of the Old Testament or at the time of the apostles of the New Testament. It wasn’t written as a challenge for unbelievers or to even make believers. In the Bible you are made a believer by the Holy Spirit convicting you and the Father granting you repentance.

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