This discussion is confined to the issues of styles of expression and the language of the Divine Books. The divine laws and rulings and the historical narratives and their use and purpose will be taken up in a separate section.
It is known that teachings of Jesus Christ, though recorded in Greek, were originally delivered in Hebrew. That is, both the Torah and the Gospels were delivered in the same language. Also, it is a fact that both Arabic and Hebrew, languages of the Divine Books, share a same origin. They necessarily share many things and each one of them may be taken as a guide towards understanding the language of the other. Moreover, the major themes discussed in these Books share a common platform as well: all have sprouted from the same pure stream of Divine inspiration. Thus, it is only natural that they contain similar underlying themes. Another important fact to be considered is that the Holy Quran promises that it will explain the issues left unclear to the People of the Book. Hence, it is also beneficial to gain an understanding of such outstanding issues which are debatable amongst the earlier recipients of Revelation. Another point worth considering is that the Holy Quran claims to confirm the previous revelations , hence the commonalities between them only helps to increase our faith and belief in the Divine Revelations. Plus, the Holy Quran targets removing the difference that arose among the People of the Book and settling their disputations. All other books are basically an inspired message coded in the words of the Prophets and are in a kind of verse. This obliges the students of these Books to study them in the light of the Holy Quran. However, the earlier books have been abrogated and their language has died out. Thus, if someone intends to study them he should take guidance from the language and style of the Holy Quran for understanding their language.
I have stressed these points because I believe that many things mentioned in the Torah and the Gospels have caused dispersion among the adherents of these books. Had they been acquainted with Arabic they would have been able to see the right course. Jesus Christ rightly said that (Matthew 4:25):
“Man is cast in abyss by the words and is saved by reaching at its true meaning”*
They, on the contrary, fell upon the words and got lost. The case of the Muslims is not much different: some of the Muslims even dare to make a mockery of the verses of the Gospels. If only they could discover the affinity of such verses with that of the Quran they would have appreciated that they are the first ones who are obliged to have faith in the facts which they poke fun at. The Holy Quran obliges us to believe in things we are not clear about (mutashabihat) and I do not see any reason why this directive cannot be applied to our attitude towards the previous scriptures. The Holy Quran unequivocally states that rejecting a divine command merely because one cannot understand its real meaning is a great sin (10:39):
Nay, they reject that of which they have no comprehensive knowledge, and the final sequel of it has not yet come to them; even thus did those before them reject (the truth); see then what was the end of the unjust.
Similarly, the Prophet (sws) has said (Bukhari No:4215):
Do not confirm what the People of the Book report (from their sacred books for they have failed to preserve it) and do not reject it either (for its antecedent may not yet have been manifested upon you)
It would be right to think that an attempt to interpret the Quranic text in the light of the earlier Divine Books may cause us to misconstrue the text because these Books have been exposed to manipulation and have been changed and corrupted. I do not advocate the view that the Quran should be interpreted in the light of these scriptures in the first place. What I maintain is that the verses of the Quran should be pondered in the light of their parallels by an expert of its language. Then if one finds something in the Scriptures which is akin to the statement of the Holy Quran in meaning and style of expressions, or is closely related with a Quranic assertion, then pondering over both and comparing their style of expression may help us understand the eloquence of the Holy Quran. Apart from this, if, in a certain case, we prefer one of the various meanings of a multifaceted Quranic word or expression, we may grow more confident in our interpretation once it is corroborated by the earlier revelations. We will also, then, become clear over the meaning and significance of certain things mentioned in the earlier Books which have been unclear to us until now. This will also help the scholars among the followers of the earlier revelations understand the veracity of the last revelation of God and will assist our scholars appreciate the veracity of their book. It will, in turn, create a positive relationship between the followers of the Quran and that of the other Scriptures and will eventually open the ways to guidance for the latter.
Having said that, however, we find that many Muslims make a mockery of the verses of the Gospels. One can only complain to God of such an unbecoming behaviour. Muslims should not ignore the fact that they have been allowed to argue with other only in a beautiful and decent manner. The Almighty has strictly forbidden using invective language for others. We see that this attitude from our side has only widened the gulf of difference between the adherents of the two faiths and has, as result, made it much more difficult for the People of the Book to submit to the truth. If the Holy Quran contains clear and plain truth then we need not worry: the Truth always prevails and Light is bound to remove darkness. We cannot think of a more sound reasoning for us than to put both the sources before us equally and give the choice to the people to select what is evidently right and authentic. Those gifted with pure nature and sound understanding will not find it difficult to decide which one to choose. Concerning people with this quality, the Holy Quran says (39:18):
Those who listen to the Word, and follow the best (meaning) in it…
The above mentioned facts forced me to find out what the Old Testament and the New Testament contain. I have pursued this course with pure and true intentions with complete faith in God. I resort to Him alone for help through the path of virtue.
A separate introduction will be devoted to the discussion over the factors which caused the Christians to go astray and erroneously interpret their sacred texts. The whole edifice of the Christian theology has been founded on such erroneous interpretations. These issues include the meaning and explanations of the words ‘ab (father for God) and ‘ibn (son for Jesus), Jesus’ statement that God will make him sit at His right hand, that he will descend among an army of angels to judge the people on the Last Day, that he will send Paraclete to instruct in details of the Shariah, and that the generation of his time will observe with their very eyes what he had threatened them with. The real meaning and manifestation of all these references, with the help of God, will be explained.
* The reference provided here by the translator is incorrect. Matthew (4:25) does not have this line in the current versions of the New Testament. The original Urdu version of the text does not cite any reference for this quote
This is a rendering of English translation of Muqaddimah – Tafsir Nizam ul Quran by the permission of the translator, Tariq Mahmood Hashmi. Original version available here.