Taḥrīf (Arabic: تحريف, "distortion, alteration") is an Arabic term used by Muslims for the alterations which Islamic tradition claims Jews and Christians have made to biblical manuscripts, specifically those that make up the Tawrat (or Torah), Zabur (possibly Psalms) and Injil (or Gospel).
Traditional Muslim scholars, based on Qur'anic and other traditions, maintain that Jews and Christians have changed the word of God. Based on the current Textual criticism scholarly consensus, the most reliable editions of these documents available are the Biblia Hebraica Quinta (the Hebrew Bible Tanakh, or Old Testament) and the Novum Testamentum Graecae (the New Testament, a document relating to the Injil).
The theme of tahrif was first characterised in the writings of Ibn Hazm (10th century), who rejected claims of Mosaic authorship and posited that Ezra was the author of the Torah. He also systematically organised the arguments against the authenticity of the Biblical text in the first (Tanakh) and second part (New Testament) of his book: chronological and geographical inaccuracies and contradictions; theological impossibilities (anthropomorphic expressions, stories of fornication and whoredom, and the attributing of sins to prophets), as well as lack of reliable transmission (tawatur) of the text. He explains how the falsification of the Torah could have taken place while there existed only one copy of the Torah kept by the Aaronic priesthood of the Temple in Jerusalem. Ibn Hazm's arguments had a major impact upon Muslim literature and scholars, and the themes which he raised with regard to tahrif and other polemical ideas were modified only slightly by some later authors.
Types of tahrif
- To deliberately interpret something in a manner that is totally opposite to the intention of the author. To distort the pronunciation of a word to such an extent that the word changes completely.
- To add to or delete a sentence or discourse in a manner that completely distorts the original meaning. For example, according to Islam, the Jews altered the incident of the migration of the Prophet Abraham in a manner that no one could prove that Abraham had any relationship with the Kaaba.
- To translate a word that has two meanings in the meaning that is totally against the context. For example the Aramaic word that is equivalent to the Arabic: ابن ibn was translated as "son" whereas it also meant "servant" and "slave".
- To raise questions about something that is absolutely clear in order to create uncertainty about it, or to change it completely.
Qur'an and the claim of the distortion of the text itself
Gary Miller (Abdul-Ahad Omar) believes that the Qur'an criticizes the handling of scripture by some Jews and Christians rather than their holy books. According to Gary Miller, Qur'an only makes the following three accusations:
- "The Qur'an says some of the Jews and Christians pass over much of what is in their scriptures."
- "Some of them have changed the words, and this is the one that is misused by Muslims very often giving the impression that once there was a true bible and then somebody hid that one away, then they published a false one. The Qur'an doesn't say that. What it criticizes is that people who have the proper words in front of them, but they don't deliver that up to people. They mistranslate it, or misrepresent it, or they add to the meaning of it. They put a different slant on it." (Qur'an 2:75)
- "Some people falsely attribute to God what is really written by men."(Qur'an 6:100-102)
The argument of tahrif is also found in an early polemical text attributed to the Byzantine Emperor Leo III with the statement that Jews and Christians share the same, widely known divine text, and that Ezra, the covenantal architect of the Second Temple, was a pious, reliable person. The same arguments appear in later Jewish writings.
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Modern critics of tahrif assert that:
- There is little physical manuscript evidence of alteration to the Biblical texts. Also devotion of the Jewish people to the Torah and the meticulous copying of text by the Massoretes runs against Muslim charges. The oldest Dead Sea Scrolls versions c. 280 BCE – 68 CE match current usage with only minor variations. This is answered by the fact that all what was found in Qumran were mostly fragments. The only book which was found to be nearly complete is Isaiah, but all other Old Testament books were fragments. This doesn’t prove that the Old Testament at that time was the same as it is now. Adding the fact that many para biblical books found within Dead Sea Scrolls as Genesis Apocryphon, Apocryphal Pentateuch, Enoch, Jubilees were also within the Dead Sea Scrolls.This puts another question mark on the Old Testament canon at that time.
- Jews and Christians were hostile to each other. Little agreement could have been achieved. For example in the 1st century St Paul was regularly attacked by the Jews (Acts 23v12) and anti-Jewish attacks were a regular occurrence by 372CE. This is answered by the fact that early church fathers accused the Jews of manipulation in the Old Testament. This is seen through the dialogue between Justin Martyr and Trypho where Justin Martyr accused the Jews of removing passages in Ezra talking about Jesus. Also St. John Chrysostom admitted in his Homilies on Gospel Matthew when he came to the verse quoting the Old Testament” which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene." saying: "And what manner of prophet said this? Be not curious, nor overbusy. For many of the prophetic writings have been lost; and this one may see from the history of the Chronicles. For being negligent, and continually falling into ungodliness, some they suffered to perish, others they themselves burnt up and cut to pieces. The latter fact Jeremiah relates; the former, he who composed the fourth book of Kings, saying, that after a long time the book of Deuteronomy was hardly found, buried somewhere and lost. But if, when there was no barbarian there, they so betrayed their books, much 56 more when the barbarians had overrun them. For as to the fact, that the prophet had foretold it, the apostles themselves in many places call Him a Nazarene. ”
- Biblical inerrancy
- Categories of New Testament manuscripts
- Great and abominable church - Mormon equivalent doctrine
- Islamic holy books
- Internal consistency of the Bible
- Textual variants in the New Testament
- Ibn Hazm, al-Qurtubi, al-Maqrizi, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn al-Qayyim and recently Rahmatullah Kairanawi among many others. (See Izhar ul-Haqq, Ch. 1 Sect. 4 titled (القول في التوراة والإنجيل).
- See, for example, Ibn Hajar's explication of Bukhari's
- The Encyclopedia of Islam, BRILL
- Power in the Portrayal: Representations of Jews and Muslims in Eleventh- and Twelfth-Century, chapter "An Andalusi-Muslim Literary Typology of Jewish Heresy and Sedition", pp. 56 and further, Tahrif: p. 58, ISBN 0-691-00187-1
- Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages, p. 146, ISBN 0-691-01082-X
- Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i-Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 252
- See also: John C. Lamoreaux, Early Eastern Christian Responses to Islam (chapter 1) in Medieval Christian Perceptions of Islam: A Book of Essays
- A. Jeffery, Ghevond's text of the correspondence between Umar II and Leo III, in Harvard Theol. Review, xxxvii , 269–321
- Garry K. Brantley, M.A., M.Div. (April 1995). "The Dead Sea Scrolls and Biblical Integrity". Reason & Revelation (Apologetics Press). 15: 25–30. Retrieved 2008-12-03.
- "Dead Sea Scrolls- Non Biblical Compositions- Parabiblical Texts' AND manuscript".
- "St Ambrose and the Jews p1". Retrieved 2008-12-03.
- "Chapter LXXII.—Passages have been removed by the Jews from Esdras and Jeremiah.".
- "NPNF1-10. St. Chrysostom: Homilies on the Gospel of Saint Matthew Hoomily IX.".