Did Ibn Abbas (Muhammad’s first cousin) believe that the Bible was Corrupt? Part I
”We start touching here about the authenticity of the ahadiths (Tradition, Sunna) ”
al-Bukhari records Muhammad’s first cousin and close companion Ibn
Abbas,considered one of the greatest Islamic scholars of all time,
making the claim that all of God’s revealed Books remain uncorrupted.
He is reported to have said that no person is able to change any of the
words from God’s Scriptures, but that they could distort their meanings by
LV. The words of Allah Almighty, "It is indeed a Glorious Qur'an preserved on a Tablet." (85:21-22) "By the Mount and an Inscribed Book" (52:1-2): Qatada said that "mastur" means "written". "Yasturun" (68:1) means "they inscribe", and the Umm al-Kitab (43:4) is the whole of the Qur'an and its source. [He said that] "ma talfizu" (50:18) means: "He does not say anything but that it is written against him." Ibn 'Abbas said, "Both good and evil are recorded," and "yuharrufuna" (4:46) means "they remove". NO ONE REMOVES THE WORKS[sic] OF ONE OF THE BOOKS OF ALLAH ALMIGHTY, BUT THEY TWIST THEM, INTEPRETING THEM IMPROPERLY. "Dirasatihim: (6:156) means "their recitation" "Wa'iyya" (69:12) is preserving, "ta'iha" (69:12) means to "preserve it". "This Qur'an has been revealed to me by inspiration that I may warn you," meaning the people of Makka, "and all whom it reaches"(6:19) meaning this Qur'an, so he is its warner. (Aisha Bewley, Sahih Collection of al-Bukhari, 100. Book of Tawhid (the belief that Allah is One in His Essence, Attributes and Actions); source)
Renowned Sunni commentator Ibn Kathir cited al-Bukhari’s statements from Ibn Abbas regarding the incorruptibility of the Holy Scriptures, as well as the view of another Muslim who also believed that God’s Scriptures couldn’t be corrupted:
Mujahid. Ash-Sha’bi, Al-Hassan, Qatadah and Ar-Rabi' bin Anas said that, means, "They alter (Allah’s Words)."
Al-Bukhari reported that Ibn ‘Abbas said that the Ayah means they alter and addalthough none among Allah’s creation CAN REMOVE THE WORDS OF ALLAH FROM HIS BOOKS, THEY ALTER AND DISTORT THEIR APPARENT MEANINGS. Wahb bin Munabbih said, "The Tawrah and Injil REMAIN AS ALLAH REVEALED THEM, ANDNO LETTER IN THEM WAS REMOVED. However, the people misguide others by addition and false interpretation, relying on books that they wrote themselves." Then,
As for Allah’s books, THEY ARE STILL PRESERVED AND CANNOT BE CHANGED." Ibn Abi Hatim recorded this statement … (Tafsir Ibn Kathir – Abridged, Volume 2, Parts 3, 4 & 5, Surat Al-Baqarah, Verse 253, to Surat An-Nisa, verse 147 [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, Houston, New York, Lahore; First Edition: March 2000], p. 196;source)
It would seem pretty clear from the foregoing that the first Muslims (at least two prominent ones) believed that the Scriptures that were revealed before the Qur’an such as the Torah/Law of Moses and the Injil/Gospel of Jesus remained intact and uncorrupted.
But not everything is as it seems, for we find another narration from Imam Bukhari where Ibn Abbas purportedly taught that Jews and Christians corrupted their Holy Scriptures:
Narrated Ubaidullah bin Abdullah bin Utba: Ibn Abbas said, "O Muslims? How do you ask the people of the Scriptures, though your Book (i.e. the Qur’an) which was revealed to His Prophet is the most recent information from Allah and you recite it, the Book that has not been distorted? Allah has revealed to you that the people of the scriptures have changed with their own hands what was revealed to them and they have said (as regards their changed Scriptures): This is from Allah, in order to get some worldly benefit thereby." Ibn Abbas added: "Isn’t the knowledge revealed to you sufficient to prevent you from asking them? By Allah I have never seen any one of them asking (Muslims) about what has been revealed to you." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 48,Number 850)
Narrated 'Ubaidullah bin ‘Abdullah: ‘Abdullah bin 'Abbas said, "O the group of Muslims! How can you ask the people of the Scriptures about anything while your Book which Allah has revealed to your Prophet contains the most recent news from Allah and is pure and not distorted? Allah has told you that the people of the Scriptures have changed some of Allah’s Books and distorted it and wrote something with their own hands and said, ‘This is from Allah,’ so as to have a minor gain for it. Won’t the knowledge that has come to you stop you from asking them? No, by Allah, we have never seen a man from them asking you about that (the Book Al-Qur'an) which has been revealed to you." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 614; see also Volume 9, Book 92, Number 461)
It should not come as a surprise to the readers that Islamic apologists use this specific narration to prove that the first Muslims did not hold to the textual integrity of the Holy Bible.
This obviously presents us with a dilemma since we have two conflicting reports, both of which are attributed to Ibn Abbas, presenting two contradictory views of the Holy Bible.
There are several ways in which this dilemma can be resolved. The first is to simply accept the fact that al-Bukhari has preserved two conflicting and contradictory traditions regarding Ibn Abbas’ views of the previous Scriptures. This wouldn’t be the only place where al-Bukhari has narrated contradictory reports, some of which we will provide at the conclusion of our discussion.
In light of this, it is the narration which best comports with what the Qur’an actually teaches that should be accepted as genuine. Since the Qur’an explicitly confirms the authority and preservation of the former Revelations, the Holy Bible (*), this means that the narration where Ibn Abbas questions the textual integrity of the previous Books must be rejected.
The other approach is to try to reconcile both of these conflicting reports so that one narration doesn’t cancel out the other, and there is a way that this can be done. Note, for instance, what Ibn Abbas allegedly said:
… You read it pure, undistorted and unchanged, and Allah has told you that the people of the scripture (Jews and Christians) changed their scripture and distorted it, and wrote the scripture with their own hands and said, ‘It is from Allah,’ to sell it for a little gain …
The above citation seems to be referring to the following Qur’anic passage:
So woe to those who write the Book with their hands, and then say, ‘This is from Allah,’ that they may sell it for a little price. So woe to them for what their hands have written, and woe to them for their earnings. S. 2:79
We have already demonstrated elsewhere (1; 2) that this specific passage in its respective context is NOT speaking of Jews and Christians corrupting the text of the Holy Bible. It refers to a specific group (not all) of unlettered Jews that were ignorant of the content of the Scriptures who then went about falsifying their own revelation for monetary gain. Ibn Kathir provides support for this exegesis from his quotation of Wahb ibn Munabbih who said:
… However, the people misguide others by addition and false interpretation, relying on books that they wrote themselves…
Wahb was aware that the People of the Book had written books which were used to misguide others, and yet these books had no bearing on the textual integrity and incorruptibility of the Law and the Gospel which he says can never be changed. This supports the position that Sura 2:79 is referring to these uninspired books, not to the books of the Holy Bible, which certain groups such as the Jews wrote by their own authority.
It is also quite plausible that the book(s) that the author of the Qur’an had in mind was material such as the Talmud, the codification of uninspired oral traditions which the Jews claimed had Divine authority and sanction. The Qur’an’s stance, if referring to such sources, is similar to the position held by Jesus in regards to these uninspired Jewish traditions:
"So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, ‘Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with "unclean" hands?’ He replied, ‘Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: "These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men." You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.’ And he said to them: ‘You have a fine way of setting aside the commands of God in order to observe your own traditions! For Moses said, "Honor your father and your mother," and, "Anyone who curses his father or mother must be put to death." But you say that if a man says to his father or mother: "Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is Corban" (that is, a gift devoted to God), then you no longer let him do anything for his father or mother. Thus you nullify the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And you do many things like that.’" Mark 7:5-13
Christ speaks of the Jews nullifying God’s true Word through their interpretations and traditions, which sounds quite like what the Qur’an is saying. The NT even warns against traditions which contradict God’s revealed Word:
"See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ." Colossians 2:8
Even taking the worst-case scenario that this specific citation does refer to Biblical tampering,this still wouldn’t prove wholesale textual corruption. The reference specifically says that only a party of them wrote false revelation and sold it for gain. Yet at the same time the Qur’an says that there were others who would not allow the revelation to be tampered with for the sake of monetary profit:
And there are, certainly, among the People of the Book, those who believe in God, and that which has been revealed to you, in that which has been revealed to them, bowing in humility to God. They will not sell the signs of God for miserable gain. For them is a reward with their Lord, and God is swift in account. S. 3:199
Thus, these righteous individuals would serve as a check for the others since the former would have uncorrupt copies of the Holy Scriptures in their possession by which to detect any corruptions to the Biblical manuscripts. As Christian author and Islamic scholar E.M. Wherry said:
The inference drawn by modern Muslims from passages like this, that, according to the Qur’an the Jewish and Christian Scriptures have been corrupted, and are therefore no longer credible, is entirely unjustifiable. Admitting the charge made here against certain Jews to be true (and the Christian need not deny it), it proves nothing concerning the text of present copies. On the contrary, the charge implies the existence, at that date, of genuine copies. (A Comprehensive Commentary On The Qur’an, Chapter II. Entitled Surat Ul Baqr (The Cow)., p. 318; source)
Another renowned Christian scholar of Islam, Sir William Muir, masterfully summed this up:
The preceding context refers to ignorant persons who were acquainted only with rabbinical glosses or foolish traditions. It would seem to be the same persons who are here referred to as having written out such glosses or traditions, and then brought them to Mahomet as possessed of divine authority, saying perhaps that they were just as binding as the Scriptures themselves.
Al kitâb means literally "the writing," and not necessarily the Jewish Scriptures. It may, however, be here taken as signifying "the Book"; viz., that which these ignorant Jews wished to be taken for the Scripture,—or as similar in authority with it.
The text, then, describes a class of ignorant Jews who opposed Mahomet; namely, those who wrote out passages probably from their traditions, glosses, or rabbinical books, and brought them forward as authoritative and divine;—such glosses for instance as "that stoning for adultery was not imperative according to the Mosaic Law"; or, such as gave another interpretation to passages of the Old Testament which had been appropriated by Mahomet's adherents as bearing out his claims to be the Prophet that should arise. Therefore Mahomet cursed them for writing out that which was simply human in its origin, and then producing it as if it was possessed of divine authority.
Thus Adul Câder, the Urdoo translator, in his commentary on the verse:—"These are they who, after their own desire, put things together, and write them out for the common people, and then ascribe them to God or the prophet."
يهه وه لوك هين جو عوام كو أنكي خوشي موافق باتين جور كر لكهه ديتى هين اور نسبت كرتى هين طرف خداكى يا رسول كى
Baidhâwi thus explains the passage:—"And perhaps there is meant that which the Jews wrote out of commentaries (or interpretations) about the punishment of the adulteress."— 1
ولعله أراد به ما كتبوه من التأويلات الزانية
Viewed thus, the allusion clearly is to the improper authority, either habitually, or casually in the present instance, held by the Jewish opponents of Mahomet to attach to the opinions and commentaries of their doctors. There is nothing that can be fairly held to imply any tampering with, or interpolation of, the manuscripts of the Scriptures. The Jews have in all ages been as noted for the scrupulous, and even superstitious, care with which they have preserved the exact text of their sacred books, as the Mahometans themselves for their care of the Corân. Their character in this respect is not affected, nor does it appear that Mahomet intended to impugn it, by the very different accusationthat they brought forward the interpretations of their doctors, or rabbinical traditions, or extracts copied from these, and alleged for them an authority equal to that of the Scriptures. That the Jews attached an undue weight, as they have from the earliest times, to the uninspired dicta of their, rabbins, does not imply any defect of veneration, or any want of care, for the inspired Scriptures themselves.
It is, therefore, a gratuitous assumption that, because the Jews made copies of what were merely human compositions, and then produced them before Mahomet as having a divine authority, they in any way tampered with the sacred Scripture. Had they gone even further, and having written out fabricated passages, fraudulently pretended in argument that they were extracts from the Pentateuch (though such a construction of the text is not the natural one), it would not even then have amounted to such a charge; it would not by any means have implied that they altered or interpolated their copies of the Scripture. The charge would in that case have resembled the one which follows in Art. CX., where by "twisting their tongues," or by a deceptive mode of recitation, passages were made to appear to belong to the Scriptures, which did not in reality. Butsuch imputation, like the present, is altogether a different charge from that of corrupting the Manuscripts of the Old Testament.
NOTE, first; the accusation is addressed to the Jews of Medîna alone. Whatever else may be its scope, it does not extend beyond them. For instance, no such imputation is,in any verse of the Corân, ever hinted against the Christians, or their Scriptures.
NOTE, second; the accusation, whatever it was, did not affect the confidence of Mahomet in the genuineness and purity of the Old Testament as then in the hands of, and current amongst, the Jews of Medîna. This is evident from the tenor of all thesubsequent passages in which the value and authority of the Scriptures are spoken of in as high, unqualified, and unsuspecting terms as before. (The Coran Its Composition and Teaching; And the Testimony It Bears to the Holy Scriptures, pp. 141-144; source)
Ibn Abbas may have also been referring to the following verse:
There is among them a section who distort the Book WITH THEIR TONGUES: (As they read) you would think it is a part of the Book, but it is no part of the Book; and they say, ‘That is from Allah,’ but it is not from Allah. It is they who tell a lie against Allah, and (well) they know it! S. 3:78
Here, the changes and distortion refer to a misinterpretation of the text, i.e. "with their tongues".The people were evidently reciting or quoting certain things and passing it off as being part of the actual text. This view is in accord with Al-Bukhari's citation of Ibn Abbas, where the latter stated that the people changed and distorted the apparent meanings of the scriptures but the text still remained unchanged.
We can therefore conclude from the foregoing that Ibn Abbas (if in fact he actually taught all that al-Bukhari attributed to him) was not claiming that the text of the Holy Scriptures had been corrupted. Rather, Ibn Abbas was only referring to people changing the text BY THEIR TONGUES, i.e. through their misinterpretation, and to books which were written such as the Talmud which in no way impact the textual veracity of those list of Biblical Books which both the Jews and Christians held in their possession
Here now are some sahih (so-called sound) reports from al-Bukhari and Imam Muslim which contradict each other.
Narrated Ibn Abbas: The Prophet was cupped while he was in the state of lhram, and also while he was observing a fast. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 31, Number 159)
The translator states:
Hadith No. 159 CONTRADICTS the Hadith of Al-Hasan. Apparently the Muslim jurists have given VARIOUS INTERPRETATIONS to discard THIS CONTRADICTION: Ash-Shafi’i says, "Both Ahadith are correct, but the one narrated by Ibn ‘Abbas is stronger as regards its series of narrators; yet it is better to avoid cupping while observing Saum (fast). But the verdict is to be taken from the Hadith of Ibn ‘Abbas. I have the knowledge that the Prophet's companions and their followers and all Muslim scholars think that cupping does not break one’s Saum (fast)." Ibn Hazm thinks that Al-Hasan’s Hadith is INVALIDATED by another authentic Hadith narrated by Abu Sa’id which goes: "The Prophet permitted cupping for a person observing Saum (fast)." (Fath Al-Bari, Vol. 5, Pages 79-81). (Al-Imam Zain-ud-Din Ahmad bin Abdul Lateef Az-Zubaidi,The Translation of the Meanings of Summarized Sahih Al-Bukhari Arabic-English, Translated by: Dr. Muhammad Muhsin Khan [Maktaba Dar-us-Salam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh Saudi Arabia])
Did Muhammad wash only once or twice?
Narrated Ibn 'Abbas: The Prophet performed ablution by washing the body parts only once. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 4, Number 159)
Narrated 'Abdullah bin Zaid: The Prophet performed ablution by washing the body partstwice. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 4, Number 160)
Did Muhammad see his Lord? Reports that say he didn’t:
Narrated Masruq: I said to 'Aisha, "O Mother! Did Prophet Muhammad see his Lord?" Aisha said, "What you have said makes my hair stand on end! Know that if somebody tells you one of the following three things, he is a liar: Whoever tells you that Muhammad saw his Lord, is a liar." Then Aisha recited the Verse:
'No vision can grasp Him, but His grasp is over all vision. He is the Most Courteous Well-Acquainted with all things.' (6.103) 'It is not fitting for a human being that Allah should speak to him except by inspiration or from behind a veil.' (42.51) 'Aisha further said, "And whoever tells you that the Prophet knows what is going to happen tomorrow, is a liar." She then recited:
'No soul can know what it will earn tomorrow.' (31.34) She added: "And whoever tells you that he concealed (some of Allah's orders), is a liar." Then she recited: 'O Apostle! Proclaim (the Message) which has been sent down to you from your Lord…' (5.67) 'Aisha added. "But the Prophet saw Gabriel in his true form twice." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 378)
Narrated Masruq: ’Aisha said, "If anyone tells you that Muhammad has seen his Lord, he is a liar, for Allah says: ‘No vision can grasp Him.’ (6.103) And if anyone tells you that Muhammad has seen the Unseen, he is a liar, for Allah says: ‘None has the knowledge of the Unseen but Allah.’" (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 477)
Reports that say he did:
It is narrated on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas that he (the Holy Prophet) saw (Allah) with, his heart. (Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0334)
It is narrated on the authority of Ibn Abbas that the words: "The heart belied not what he saw" (al-Qur'an, Iiii. 11) and "Certainly he saw Him in another descent" (al-Qur'an, Iiii. 13) imply that he saw him twice with his heart. (Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0335)
Do women nullify prayers or not? Yes they do:
Abu Dharr reported: THE MESSENGER OF 'ALLAH (may peace be upon him) SAID: When any one of you stands for prayer and there is a thing before him equal to the back of the saddle that covers him and in case there is not before him (a thing) equal to the back of the saddle, HIS PRAYER WOULD BE CUT OFF BY (passing of an) ASS, WOMAN, AND BLACK DOG. I said: O Abu Dharr, what feature is there in a black dog which distinguish it from the red dog and the yellow dog? He said: O, son of my brother, I asked the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) as you are asking me, and he said: The black dog is a devil. (Sahih Muslim, Book 004, Number 1032)
Abu Huraira reported: THE MESSENGER OF ALLAH (may peace be upon him) SAID: A WOMAN, AN ASS AND A DOG DISRUPT THE PRAYER, but something like the back of a saddle guards against that. (Sahih Muslim, Book 004, Number 1034)
No they don’t:
Narrated ‘Aisha: The things which annul the prayers were mentioned before me. They said, "Prayer is annulled by a dog, a donkey AND A WOMAN (if they pass in front of the praying people)." I said, "You have made us (i.e. women) dogs. I saw the Prophet praying while I used to lie in my bed between him and the Qibla. Whenever I was in need of something, I would slip away, for I disliked to face him." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 9, Number 490)
How many wives did Solomon sleep with?
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Prophet Solomon who had SIXTY WIVES, once said, "Tonight I will have sexual relation (sleep) with all my wives so that each of them will become pregnant and bring forth (a boy who will grow into) a cavalier and will fight in Allah's Cause." So he slept with his wives and none of them (conceived and) delivered (a child) except one who brought a half (body) boy (deformed). Allah's Prophet said, "If Solomon had said; ‘If Allah Will,’ then each of those women would have delivered a (would-be) cavalier to fight in Allah’s Cause." (See Hadith No. 74 A, Vol. 4). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 93, Number 561)
Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "Solomon (the son of) David said, ‘Tonight I will sleep with SEVENTY LADIES each of whom will conceive a child who will be a knight fighting for "Allah's Cause."’ His companion said, ‘If Allah will.’ But Solomon did not say so; therefore none of those women got pregnant except one who gave birth to a half child." The Prophet further said, "If the Prophet Solomon had said it (i.e. ‘If Allah will’) he would have begotten children who would have fought in Allah's Cause." Shuaib and Ibn Abi Az-Zinad said, "NINETY (women) IS MORE CORRECT (than seventy)." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 635)
Narrated Abu Huraira: (The Prophet) Solomon said, "Tonight I will sleep with (my)NINETY WIVES, each of whom will get a male child who will fight for Allah’s Cause." On that, his companion (Sufyan said that his companion was an angel) said to him, "Say, ‘If Allah will (Allah willing).’" But Solomon forgot (to say it). He slept with all his wives, but none of the women gave birth to a child, except one who gave birth to a half boy. Abu Huraira added: The Prophet said, "If Solomon had said, ‘If Allah will’ (Allah willing), he would not have been unsuccessful in his action, and would have attained what he had desired." Once Abu Huraira added: Allah apostle said, "If he had accepted." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 79, Number 711)
Narrated Abu Huraira: (The Prophet) Solomon son of (the Prophet) David said, "Tonight I will go round (i.e. have sexual relations with) ONE HUNDRED WOMEN (my wives) everyone of whom will deliver a male child who will fight in Allah’s Cause." On that an Angel said to him, "Say: ‘If Allah will.’" But Solomon did not say it and forgot to say it. Then he had sexual relations with them but none of them delivered any child except one who delivered a half person. The Prophet said, "If Solomon had said: ‘If Allah will,’ Allah would have fulfilled his (above) desire and that saying would have made him more hopeful." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 62, Number 169)
The foregoing demonstrates that just because al-Bukhari recorded a statement from Ibn Abbas that seems to imply his belief that the Holy Bible has been corrupted this still doesn’t really prove much since we find other statements of Ibn Abbas claiming that God’s Books can never be changed. One cannot simply assume that one narration is sound without providing evidence why he or she thinks that it is. We feel that we have provided the evidence showing why the quotation from al-Bukhari where Ibn Abbas affirms his belief in the incorruptibility of the Holy Scriptures is sounder since it best comports with the evidence furnished by the Qur’an itself as well as from the textual transmission of the Holy Bible. Now it is possible of course that Ibn Abbas did believe that the previous Revelations had been corrupted, and if he did then this would only show that he stood against the testimony of his own religious scripture and the evidence of the textual transmission of the Holy Bible which conclusively shows that God has preserved his true Word intact, despite all the variant readings.