Why are there two Qur’ans?

Koran1The Qur’an is Islam’s most holy book. While Muslims believe Allah has revealed many written works, including the Old and New Testaments, these revelations ended with the Qur’an, which supersedes all others.

For all practical purposes, Muslims accept only the Qur’an as the Word of God. They believe Jews and Christians have corrupted Allah’s earlier revelations in the Bible, although they honor the writings of Moses, who was given the Tawrat (Torah); David, the Zabur (his Psalms); and Jesus, the Injil (Gospel).

Where the Qur’an and the Bible disagree with one another, Muslims embrace the Qur’an as true and reject the Bible as tainted.

But what happens when the Qur’an contradicts the Qur’an, as it sometimes does?

A brief look at history and the doctrine of “abrogation” sheds light on the Muslim view of divine revelation.

Mecca and Medina

According to Islamic sources, Muhammad received his first revelation in Mecca in 610 A.D. As the angel Gabriel delivered the messages, Muhammad committed them to memory and began preaching a new brand of monotheism to his polytheistic countrymen.

These early “Meccan” passages mostly were peaceful and religious in tone. “Let there be no compulsion in religion,” urges Surah 2:256. Further, Jews and Christians are called “people of the book,” meaning they are recipients of Allah’s earlier revelations.

But something changed when Muhammad fled for Medina a decade later. Bill Warner, in The Life of Muhammad, explains: “He preached the religion of Islam for 13 years in Mecca and garnered 150 followers. He was forced to move to Medina and became a politician and warrior. During the last 9 years of his life, he was involved in an event of violence on the average of every 6 weeks. When he died, every Arab was a Muslim. [Muhammad] succeeded through politics, not religion.”

The later “Medinan” passages, sometimes called the “second Qur’an,” bear evidence of this change. Jews are compared to apes and pigs (2:65; 5:60; 7:166), while those who believe in Jesus as the Son of God are cursed (9:30).

After Muhammad’s death, his followers compiled the Meccan and Medinan recitations into a single, unified volume. The Qur’an is organized into 114 surahs, or chapters, from the longest to the shortest. The absence of context and chronology makes understanding the Qur’an difficult unless read with the Sunna, consisting of the Sira (Muhammad’s life) and the Hadith (a collection of Muhammad’s words and deeds).

Even so, when Muslims read the Qur’an and come to conflicting passages, how are they resolved?

Abrogation to the rescue

The answer is the Muslim doctrine of abrogation. This simply means that when two passages contradict, the more recent passage “abrogates,” or overrides, the earlier one.

But this doctrine creates more problems than it solves. For example, one verse in the Qur’an affirms the doctrine of abrogation (2:106), but an earlier verse says, “No change can there be in the words of God” (10:64).

A second, and larger, problem is that the Medinan passages promote hatred of and violence toward non-Muslims, particularly Jews and Christians. One could argue that those persecuting “kafirs,” or infidels, in Islamic states are true believers, while those living in peaceful coexistence are less faithful to the cause.

Some Muslims may respond by saying the Bible also promotes abrogation. For example, the Law of Moses commands an adulterer to be stoned (Lev. 20:10). Yet Jesus sets free a woman caught in the very act (John 8:2-11).

The answer lies in the nature of Scripture. Unlike the Qur’an, the Bible is God’s progressive revelation. Each verse, chapter, and book builds upon the others until we have the complete written revelation of God in the 66 books of the Christian canon.

Difficult passages, which some mistakenly call contradictions, are resolved when we consider context, genre, purpose, perspective, and sense (literal vs. figurative language).

As for the adultery issue cited above, Paul Copan provides insight in his excellent book, Is God a Moral Monster? “The law of Moses is not eternal and unchanging…. Old Testament sages and seers themselves announced that the law of Moses was intentionally temporary…. So let’s not think that we’re talking about the universal application of all Old Testament laws for post-Old Testament times.”

Jesus could uphold the Law and forgive the woman caught in adultery because He understood the Law’s true intent – to be our guardian until Christ so that we may be justified by faith (Gal. 3:24).

As the Creator, Sustainer, and Savior of the world, Jesus has the sovereign authority to forgive sins because He is sin’s remedy – which the two Qur’ans tragically deny.

 

This column first appeared July 29, 2014, in The Pathway, the news journal of the Missouri Baptist Convention.

10 comments

  1. Emmanuel C.A

    It’s incredible how most Muslims are ignorant of Koran. I believe when true knowledge supersede selfish ambition, believing that Jesus is the Son of God will automatically fly.

  2. CS Kelly

    When the term abrogation is used by Moslems to discuss conflicting statements of the Prophet; determination is not based dating the statement, as you suggest. The term abrogation means that where there are conflicting statements measurement of true or false, decisions as to which is most authentic, is based on which is closest to the Prophet. For example, more weight would be given to a statement if it is cased as: “I heard the Prophet say”, as apposed to “I heard John tell Mary that Peter said the Prophet said” The first of the two would be deemed more authentic, not because of its dating but because of it’s closer relationship to the Prophet.
    You are correct in stating that there are two Q’rans. One version for Shia and one for Sunni. The Shia attribute to Mohammed predictions for the return of the hidden Imam, which the Sunni version does not. Each claims the other is heresy and the bloodshed over this issue, which dates back to the 8th century, continues to this day. I find that the existence of two radically different books both claiming to be the exact and unchangeable word of God as dictated to the Prophet through Gabriel discredits both.
    Interestingly, I also find the Old Testament radically different from the Hebrew Bible.

  3. emmanuel

    my deepest questions and concerns are correctly and peferctly answered in this block. i do realise that Jesus Christ is the only source of life..i wish muslims would realise this amazing,deep and profound yet simple truth.Jesus is lord.

  4. patrick dlamini

    LETS US ALL SEARCH OUR MUSLEMS AND CHRISTIANS CHARACTERISTICS IF WE DO FIT TO THOSE OF OUR CREATER (GOD OR ALLAH). DO WE REALLY QUALIFY TO BE HIS SONS AND DAUGHTERS AND ONE DAY WE SHALL BE WITH HIM.. we need to understand our relegious creation history.

  5. Temiloluwa ALIU

    Genesis 16:12- He [Ishmael] will be like a wild donkey among men. His hand will be against every man, and every man’s hand against him. He will live opposite all of his brothers.”

    Ishmael [Islam] is the precausor of Al-Qaeda, The Taliban (previously known as the mujahideen), Hamas (absolute cowards, they shoot rockets and pray in mosques that they hit Israeli homes), Al-shabaab, Boko Haram and lots more… this is only the first phase of Ishmael’s prophecy- his hand against every man; very soon, every man’s hand will be against him!

    My father, Rev. Olusola Areogun once said, ‘Don’t condemn what another person believes unless you have something better to offer them. For this reason, I want us to consider the following scriptures:

    Hebrews 12: 14- Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord.

    James 3:18- And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

    Matthew 5:9- Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

    It makes more sense when we link what Jesus said in Matthew 5: 9 to the record of John in John 1: 12; when he was introducing Jesus, he said, “But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name. (Read John 1: 1-36 for in-depth understanding).

    We see here that power to make peace only comes through believing in Jesus and accepting Him as Lord and Saviour.

  6. Albert

    Haruna danbaba Said–
    Mecca, wanted recognition and acceptance from the Jews and Christians of his time.
    He never got from the two groups (Jews and Christians).
    First of all it’s not true that Muhammad did not get recognition, his followers were helped by a Christians Utopian King by stopping the Mecca which in the beginning were idolaters from persecuting Muhammad followers. Second Jesus is the founder of the real truth you have to understand that all Christians are not perfect and same goes for the Jews and all other religions but to be fare do not try to practice what suits you. Giving some examples four women for each man, forcing your believes to others, to kill in the name of God that is blasphemy in itself and a long list that never ends which of course some of these points were in the Old Testament not just the Qur’an this is what it means not to put new wine in old Jars you cannot have the sweets and soup in the same plat at the same time because you and up sick by looking at it.
    Albert.

  7. Jonah Folowabi

    The Qur’an also contradict itself where it say Islam is a religion of peace is there any peace in the world today? Also thou shall not kills, according to the ten commandment both in the Qur’an and in the Bible, are the Muslim not killing Christians and non Muslim in the name of killing for Allah so that Allah will grant them paradise. So which of the book is contradict itself if not the Qur’an.

  8. Albert

    Albert 18-9-2014.
    When Jesus said do not fill old jars with new wine or do not try to repair a new dress with an old peace, what does it all mean? Unfortunately it is nothing more than discrimination if the Old Testament is practised with the new. Meaning that in changing the old Mosses low with new more loving statement then stick to the old barbaric action that use to take place. Good havens it would be a disaster to disfigure someone for every wrong doing. We would have 100% of the human race disfigured and why the old law is so discriminate against women we hear digesting news in our time. Why not using the same rules on man, let’s face the truth we man would love to have more than one women. In one word what do you expect when some people like to ken wooding the word of God the way they pleases.

  9. Jerry Bitrus

    Quite educative and instructive. It is also evident today in our world. Wherever the Muslim are in a small number, they seem peaceful. But whenever ther have a substantial number, then they start to torment trouble. So their present posture and behavior in the world is historic. God help us.

  10. haruna danbaba.

    It is very true, the Qua’ran has portrayed two different pictures for the Jews and Christians: while the Meccan Suras/Verses friendlily considered Jews and Christians as “people of the BooK”, the Medina Suras/Verses considered the Jews and Christians as adversaries. In the beginning of his new religion Muhammad, while in Mecca, wanted recognition and acceptance from the Jews and Christians of his time. This he never got from the two groups (Jews and Christians) who continued to view his message and claim of prophet-hood with skepticism, and as he gained more followers and stronger in influence, his hatred was kindled. The second face of the Qua’ran ( which is rooted in severe hatred) is the problem of the world today with the growing number of terrorism.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s