IT was the last day of the year, and, under a huge canopy, erected at no little expense by Maulavi Jabbar, Ghulam 's father, a restless and excited crowd of Muslims awaited the long-talked-of discussion between Maulavi Ibrahim and the missionary, Mr. Williams. The day was bright and sunny, but a cold wind blew from the north, and ever and anon raised a cloud of dust in the spacious courtyard of the great landowner. The people sat on mats which had been spread on the ground, but at one end of the enclosed area a few chairs had been placed upon a raised platform, and testified to the importance of the great man whose home was now to be the scene of the first public discussion between Muslim and Christian in that part of East Bengal.

News of the gathering had spread far and wide, and the people were literally packed into the available space, waiting, with no little impatience, for the chief actors to appear. The audience was a curious one. The majority of those who composed it, one could easily see, were ignorant peasants, as little able to judge of the merits of such a discussion as they were to understand the Arabic in which they had been taught to say their prayers five times a day. Of the rest, a few were intelligent merchants with some education, several were maulavis from the surrounding villages, two were doctors, some half a dozen taught the rising generation how to spell more or less correctly the simple Bengali of the primary schools, and last, but not least, there was Isma'il Jabbar, landowner, president of the Anjuman-i-Islam, and chairman-elect of the meeting now to be held.

The munshi had carried out well his self-appointed task of arranging for the meeting, and a code of rules, which limited both the subject and the method of discussion, had been drawn up and signed by both maulavi and missionary. Briefly, these limited the discussion to the original terms of the challenge—the Qur’anic testimony to the Christian Scriptures—and provided that each speaker should have the platform in undisputed possession for thirty minutes, after which each should be given a further fifteen minutes for reply.

It still wanted some minutes to ten, the hour fixed for the discussion, when the missionary arrived at the pandal, and, accompanied by the munshi, proceeded to place on the low table which had been provided for the purpose, a number of Arabic, Urdu and Bengali books which he had brought with him in his bullock-cart. There was a lull in the buzz of conversation as he appeared, and necks were strained to see the foreigner who was soon to cross swords with the Islamabad champion. The first impression created by the missionary was a good one, for he was no sooner within the large enclosure than he began to courteously salute those nearest to him, and, as Ghulam's father, who had been waiting his arrival, hastened forward to greet him, he returned the latter's polite and effusive welcome with evident pleasure. Then followed introductions; and the audience was quick to notice that the missionary extended his hand in friendly greeting to Maulavi Ibrahim, who now advanced at the call of the chairman; and, then, these formalities over, the latter opened the meeting in a short introductory speech before calling upon the champion of Islam to state his case.

As Maulavi Ibrahim rose to address the meeting he received a tremendous ovation, and the whole audience rose and cheered again and again, whilst delirious shouts of ‘Allah Akbar’ resounded through the great assembly. Surely if ever man entered upon a great task under favourable circumstances, Maulavi Ibrahim did that December morning as he faced nearly a thousand men, all of whom, but two, were in deepest sympathy with him, and longed to see him come victorious out of the battle of words upon which he was about to enter. But stop! did we say, all but two; nay, but there was one other in that great assembly, besides the two Christian preachers, whose heart beat in unison with theirs, and who longed that the truth might prevail, and error be for ever cast out of that Bengal village, and yet, as Ghulam listened to those hoarse cries of ‘Allah Akbar’ which swept the pandal and made the very air electric, his heart sank within him; for it was two against a thousand, and, as he knew only too well, a thousand blinded with prejudice and intoxicated with excitement. Would they give the Christian fair play? Could his father, just and polite though he was, restrain the angry feelings of a hostile mob? As the young student mused thus, he half regretted having pressed the missionary to come. But there was little time for reverie, for the maulavi was on his feet, and, as the first wild burst of welcome died away, he began his speech, and Ghulam's attention was thereafter riveted upon his old teacher.

The maulavi began by an eloquent reference to the past glories of Islam, and he reminded his hearers of the wonderful spread of the religion of the Arabian Prophet in the early centuries of its history. Then, turning to the matter before him, he called the attention of those present to the fact that another great Faith was claiming to share with Islam the religious conquest of India. ‘Rather’, he continued, ‘that Faith claims to be the only religion for men to-day, and its emissaries are everywhere seeking to turn the steps of the unwary, and force upon them a Scripture which has, long since, been both corrupted and abrogated. Wherever we go, in village or in market, we meet these Christian preachers with their Injil, and, not content with teaching that that book is the uncorrupted word of God, they even presume to say that our noble Qur'an teaches the same thing! That being so, I have undertaken to prove from the pages of our Holy Book that the Jews and Christians have so corrupted and mutilated the Taurat and Injil, both by addition and subtraction, that those books can no longer be regarded as the word of God, and are, therefore, quite unworthy of our serious regard. It is unnecessary for me to deal with this matter in detail. You all know that it is as I say; and so I shall proceed at once to prove by quotations from our Holy Qur'an that the Jews and Christians have not only cut out many prophecies concerning the Prophet of God, on whom be the peace and blessing of God, but have, likewise, added many false stories about the Prophet 'Isa, on whom be the peace and blessing of God. The first verse to which I will call your attention is found in Qur’an Al-Baqarah 2:75, and runs thus,

أَفَتَطْمَعُونَ أَن يُؤْمِنُواْ لَكُمْ وَقَدْ كَانَ فَرِيقٌ مِّنْهُمْ يَسْمَعُونَ كَلاَمَ اللّهِ ثُمَّ يُحَرِّفُونَهُ مِن بَعْدِ مَا عَقَلُوهُ وَهُمْ يَعْلَمُونَ.

‘Desire then ye that for your sakes (the Jews) should believe? Yet a part of them heard the word of God and then perverted it after they had understood it, and knew that they did so.’ ‘Here then is my first proof,’ continued the maulavi, ‘that the Jews and Christians have corrupted the Taurat and Injil, for it is here distinctly stated that certain of them ‘perverted’, in other words corrupted, the word of God after they had heard and understood it. Is it not clear from this passage that the Taurat and Injil have been altered by Jews and Christians? Of course it is; and I can only wonder at the temerity of these missionaries in affirming so confidently that their Scriptures are, the same to-day as they were before the time of the Prophet Muhammad, on whom be the peace and blessing of God. It is not difficult to guess at the nature of the alterations here referred to, and without doubt they included the erasion of the name of Muhammad the Apostle of God, on whom be the peace and blessing of God, as well as the addition of many false doctrines about the person of the Prophet 'Isa, on whom be the peace and blessing of God.

Another verse of the noble Qur'an which teaches that the Taurat and Injil have been corrupted is in Qur’an Al-Baqarah 2:159. It is there written,

إِنَّ الَّذِينَ يَكْتُمُونَ مَا أَنزَلْنَا مِنَ الْبَيِّنَاتِ وَالْهُدَى مِن بَعْدِ مَا بَيَّنَّاهُ لِلنَّاسِ فِي الْكِتَابِ أُولَئِكَ يَلعَنُهُمُ اللّهُ وَيَلْعَنُهُمُ اللاَعِنُونَ.

‘Verily those who conceal aught that we have sent down, either of clear proof or of guidance, after what we have so clearly shewn to men in the book, God shall curse them, and they who curse shall curse them’. Here, again, we see it distinctly stated in the noble Qur'an, that some people of the Jews used to ‘hide’ certain parts of the Taurat, and though we are not told to what those passages referred, yet it is not difficult to understand that they referred to the coming of the last and greatest Prophet Muhammad, on whom be the peace and blessing of God.

Again in Qur’an Ali 'Imran 3:71, we have another clear charge of ‘hiding’ the words of God, made against the Jews and Christians. It is there written,

يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لِمَ تَلْبِسُونَ الْحَقَّ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتَكْتُمُونَ الْحَقَّ وَأَنتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ.

‘O People of the Book! why clothe ye the signs of God with falsehood? Why wittingly hide the truth?’ What can this passage mean but the corruption of the Taurat and Injil? In this verse the Jews and Christians are not only accused of ‘clothing the truth with falsehood’, that is of adding false stories and doctrines to the word of God, but they are also, accused of ‘hiding’, in other words, of cutting out certain passages from the Taurat and Injil. How, then, can these Christian missionaries affirm that those Scriptures have not been corrupted? and how dare they urge Muslims to study them?

Yet another proof that the Taurat and Injil have been corrupted by Jews and Christians is furnished by the words of Qur’an Ali 'Imran 3:78. It is there distinctly stated that

وَإِنَّ مِنْهُمْ لَفَرِيقاً يَلْوُونَ أَلْسِنَتَهُم بِالْكِتَابِ لِتَحْسَبُوهُ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَمَا هُوَ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَيَقُولُونَ هُوَ مِنْ عِندِ اللّهِ وَمَا هُوَ مِنْ عِندِ اللّهِ.

‘Verily some are there among them who torture the Scriptures with their tongues in order that ye may suppose it to be from the Scripture, yet it is not from the Scripture and say “this is from God,” yet it is not from God.’ ‘This passage’, continued the maulavi, is one of the clearest in the noble Qur'an which proves that the Taurat and Injil have been corrupted by the people of the Book, for it asserts that certain passages which they affirmed were from God, that is, were a part of the Scriptures, were really not a part of the Scriptures at all. Surely this verse refers to the false stories about the alleged death of the Prophet 'Isa, upon whom be the peace and blessing of God, upon the cross. Such stories are false we know, because the noble Qur'an tells us that he was taken up alive into heaven. It is to this, then, the passage refers when it speaks of the people of the Book torturing the Scriptures with their tongues.’

As the maulavi paused in his recital, there arose a perfect storm of applause from the assembled multitude, and shouts of ‘Allah Akbar’ again rent the air. As they did so Ghulam's heart sank within him. The passages of the Qur'an which the maulavi had just quoted seemed to afford incontrovertible proof of the corruption of the Christian Scriptures, and they left the young student lost in a maze of perplexity and doubt. It seemed to him as if, in a few short moments, his newly-found belief in the integrity of the Taurat and Injil had been shattered to pieces, and he gazed with a look of helpless entreaty at the face of the Christian missionary as the latter sat silently waiting for the maulavi to resume his speech. Ghulam detected no trace of either anger or anxiety upon the face of Mr. Williams; on the contrary the latter's calm, unruffled features brought him a certain amount of relief, and he once more settled himself to listen as the maulavi again began to speak.

‘There is no need to multiply quotations,’ the latter began, ‘those I have already given are amply sufficient to prove what I undertook to prove in this meeting, but I shall, by way of emphasis, bring forward one or two more verses of the noble Qur'an before I sit down, and first let me read you the 46th verse of Qur’an An-Nisa' (4:46).’

مِّنَ الَّذِينَ هَادُواْ يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ عَن مَّوَاضِعِهِ.

‘And of those who are Jews there are those who pervert the words from their places.’ Here again we have clear proof of the corruption of the Jewish Scriptures. It is this very perversion of which we Muslims complain, and by reason of which we steadfastly refuse to read the Taurat or consider its claims. How in the face of such statements of the Holy Qur'an these Christian missionaries can maintain that that book proves the integrity of the Taurat and Injil passes my comprehension, and, so, after bringing forward one more quotation, I shall gladly resume my seat in order to hear what the foreigner has to say in reply.

‘My last quotation,’ continued the maulavi, ‘is from Qur’an Al-Ma’idah 5:13.

It reads thus:—

يُحَرِّفُونَ الْكَلِمَ عَن مَّوَاضِعِهِ وَنَسُواْ حَظّاً مِّمَّا ذُكِّرُواْ.

‘They perverted the words from their places, and forgot a portion of that which they were reminded of.’ Here, again, we are distinctly told that the Jews ‘perverted,’ the words of the Taurat from their places, in other words, corrupted the text of the Taurat. Not only so, but the Qur'an says that they ‘forgot’ portions of the Scriptures altogether. How, then, can good Muslims be expected to believe in and study Scriptures which have been so shamefully treated? No! the noble Qur'an is sufficient for us; for God has protected it from all change, and only by following its holy precepts can we attain to the joys of paradise.’

So saying, Maulavi Ibrahim ‘Ali resumed his seat midst a storm of applause, which only moderated when the chairman stood up and thus addressed the gathering: ‘Muslim brethren! You have heard the learned address of Maulavi Ibrahim. He promised to prove from the pages of the noble Qur'an that the Taurat and Injil have been corrupted by Jews and Christians, and we all agree, I am sure, that he has amply fulfilled his promise. Speaking for myself I must say that I had no conception that there were so many references in the noble Qur'an to the corruption of the Christian Scriptures. The maulavi deserves our grateful thanks for making the matter so clear, and for confirming us in our own holy religion. We must not forget, however, that this is a public discussion between Maulavi Ibrahim and the Christian missionary, Mr. Williams, and, according to the terms of the agreement made respecting this meeting, the latter now has the right to address the assembly. In now calling upon the Christian priest to make his reply, I can only express the hope that you will all behave like gentlemen, and give the speaker a fair and respectful hearing. I am told that the missionary is an Arabic scholar, and has visited Cairo, Damascus and other great Muslim cities. He, therefore, is entitled to our respect, and, on your behalf, I now call upon him to address the meeting.’

A low murmur went round the assembly as the missionary rose to reply, but it soon died away into silence as he began to speak thus: ‘Mr. Chairman and Muslim friends’, he began, ‘I must, first of all, thank you very heartily for inviting me to be present at this great assembly in order to reply to the remarks made by Maulavi Ibrahim ‘Ali with regard to the Taurat and Injil. By the terms of the agreement made with the maulavi I am debarred from bringing forward, at this time, the most convincing proofs of the integrity of those holy Books drawn from history and literature, and must confine myself to observations regarding the testimony of the Qur'an to their authenticity and integrity. In doing this it must not be inferred that I thereby acknowledge the Qur'an to be the word of God, or that I am even prepared to accept it as a reliable guide in the important matter of deciding whether we should study and follow the teaching of the Taurat and Injil. All I desire to show here this morning is that the Qur'an does not teach that the text of the Taurat and Injil has been corrupted in the manner which many modem Muslims affirm, and that, therefore, their refusal to read those divine Books, based upon any such belief, is both unreasonable and foolish. My reading of the Qur'an has been very thorough, and I am bound to say that I have found no passage which states that the text of the Taurat and Injil has been altered by either Jews or Christians. On the contrary, there are many passages in the Qur'an which make it clear that those Books have not been altered in the way alleged.

‘Maulavi Ibrahim has quoted several passages from the Qur'an which, he says, prove that the Taurat and Injil have been corrupted, but he must know that his mere affirmation is not enough in such a case. We must ask what meaning was put upon such passages by Muhammad himself and by his early followers. The ancient commentators of the Qur'an cannot be ignored in such a case. It is fair, I think, to assume that Maulavi Ibrahim has quoted the strongest passages which he could find in support of his contention, consequently if I can show that, with regard to every passage which he quotes, the ancient commentators affirm that only corruption of the meaning is meant, then it will be safe to assume that those other passages of the same nature which, he says, are to be found in the Qur'an, have the same meaning. At any rate I am quite prepared to discuss any further quotations which the maulavi may care to make when he addresses you for a second time. Learned Muslims speak of two kinds of corruption—corruption of the text, which they call tahrifu'l-lafzi; and corruption of the meaning, which they call tahrifu’l-ma’nawi. It is failure to distinguish between these two kinds of corruption which has led Maulavi Ibrahim to imagine that the Qur'an accuses the Jews and Christians of altering their Scriptures. The fact is, as I shall now prove, the Qur'an nowhere suggests that those people had altered the text of the Taurat or Injil, but it again and again accuses them of giving false interpretations of its meaning. We know how, even in our own day, some men, either from ignorance or wickedness, such as the late Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian in the Punjab, twist the obvious meaning of the Qur'an, but we also know how absolutely impossible it would be for such persons to alter the text of the Qur'an—unless, indeed, they could first persuade all the other Muslims of the world to alter their copies of the Qur'an as well! Let us now turn to the passages referred to by the maulavi. The first is the seventy fifth verse of Qur’an Al-Baqarah (2:75), and reads thus; ‘Desire ye then that for your sakes the Jews should believe? Yet a party of them heard the word of God, and then, after they had understood it, perverted it, and knew that they did.’ The maulavi brings forward this verse of the Qur'an to prove that the Jews and Christians had corrupted the Taurat and Injil, but if he had taken the trouble to consult the great Muhammadan commentators of the Qur'an before he came here this morning, he would have learned that the true meaning of the passage which he has quoted is simply that the Jews altered the meaning of the words they heard. Thus Baidawi, after quoting various opinions of the commentators, says in is famous commentary, that the words mean فيفسرونه بما يشتهون ‘They interpret it according to what they desire’. In other words, ‘the corruption’ referred to is in the meaning assigned to the word of God, and not to the text itself. There is absolutely no suggestion that the Jews altered the words of the Taurat. On the contrary, the great Muslim leader in India Sir Syed Ahmed Khan in his Mohomedan Commentary on the Holy Bible, page 79, referring to this very passage, says: ‘The clause “heard the word of God and then, after they had understood it, perverted it”, shows that the change was only verbal in reading; not that the written words of the text were changed?’ Thus we see that the passage quoted by the maulavi proves nothing more than that certain Jews were wont to attribute false meanings to certain passages of the Taurat. In the Tafsir-i-Durr-i-Manthur it is recorded that

وأخرج ابن المنذرِ وابن أبي حاتم عن وَهَبْ بْنُ مُنَبِّهٍ قال: إِنَّ التَّوْرَاةَ وَالْإِنْجِيلَ كَمَا أَنْزَلَهُمَا اللَّهُ لَمْ يُغَيَّرْ مِنْهُمَا حَرْفٌ، وَلَكِنَّهُمْ يُضِلُّونَ بِالتَّحْرِيفِ وَالتَّأْوِيلِ، وَكُتُبٍ كَانُوا يَكْتُبُونَهَا مِنْ عِنْدِ أَنْفُسِهِمْ، وَيَقُولُونَ هُوَ مِنْ عِنْدِ اللَّهِ، فَأَمَّا كُتُبُ اللَّهِ فَإِنَّهَا مَحْفُوظَةٌ وَلَا تُحَوَّلُ.

‘It is related by Ibnu'l-mandhar and Ibn Abi’ Hatim from Wahab ibn Mumba that not a letter has been altered of the Taurat and Injil from that which was sent down by God; but they (the Jews) used to lead people astray by changing and altering the meaning. They used also to write books from themselves and then say, “it is from God”; when they were not from God. But the (real) books of God were protected from change, and had not been altered.’ One is not surprised to be told that the Jews used to alter the meaning of the Taurat by false exegesis, for to this very day they misinterpret the many prophecies of that book concerning the Prophet 'Isa, and refuse to believe in him as a Prophet sent from God. They do not, however, dare to alter the actual words of those prophecies. Now, as then, they confine themselves to false exegesis of the word of God.

The great Bukhari gives us an indication of the manner in which the Jews used to mislead the Muslims in their interpretation of the Taurat, for on page 84 of the third volume of his great collection of traditions he tells us that

روى أبو هُرَيْرَةَ قَالَ كَانَ أَهْلُ الْكِتَابِ يَقْرَءُونَ التَّوْرَاةَ بِالْعِبْرَانِيَّةِ وَيُفَسِّرُونَهَا بِالْعَرَبِيَّةِ لِأَهْلِ الْإِسْلَامِ.

‘There is a tradition from Abu Huraira that he said, The people of the book used to read the Taurat in Hebrew, and explain it to the people of Islam in Arabic.’  26  Obviously, therefore, according to Abu Huraira, it would be a comparatively easy task for the Jews to mislead their ignorant hearers, and make them believe that the contents of the Taurat were very different from what they actually were. It is undoubtedly to this that the Qur'an refers when it accuses the Jews of altering the Taurat.

The second passage quoted by Maulavi Ibrahim 'Ali is also found in Qur’an Al-Baqarah 2:159 and reads thus: ‘Those who conceal aught that we have sent down either of clear proof or of guidance, after what we have so clearly shown to men in the Book, God shall curse them, and they who curse shall curse them.’ The ‘concealing’ referred to in the verse quoted by the maulavi is taken by him to mean corruption of the text of the word of God. In fact, he would have us believe that it refers to the cutting out by Jews and Christians of certain passages of the Taurat and Injil which referred to the coming of the Prophet Muhammad. Far from that being the case, however, a reference to the great Muslim commentaries of the Qur'an makes it clear that this verse, like the one quoted previously, furnishes an example of Tahrifu’l-ma’nawi, and has no reference whatever to any alteration of the actual words of Scripture. Thus the great Muslim scholar and famous exegete Fakhru'd-din Razi says in his commentary, called al-Kabir that

قَالَ ابْنُ عَبَّاسٍ: إِنَّ جَمَاعَةً مِنَ الْأَنْصَارِ سَأَلُوا نَفَرًا مِنَ الْيَهُودِ عَمَّا فِي التَّوْرَاةِ مِنْ صِفَاتِ النَّبِيِّ عَلَيْهِ الصَّلَاةُ وَالسَّلَامُ، وَمِنَ الْأَحْكَامِ، فَكَتَمُوا، فَنَزَلَتِ الْآيَةُ.

‘Ibn ‘Abbas said that a band of the Helpers (Ansar) asked a company of Jews as to what was in the Taurat concerning the coming of the Prophet, on whom be the peace and blessing of God, and concerning certain commands, but they concealed the matter; and then was sent down this verse.’ The same explanation of the passage is given by Ibn Hisham in his Life of the Prophet. There it is stated that certain people,

سأل اليهود عن بعض ما في التوراة فاكتموه إياهم وأبو أن يخبروهم عنه فأنزل الله عزل وجل إن الذين يكتمون.

‘Asked the Jews concerning certain things which were in the Taurat, but they hid them, and refused to inform them of the matter. Then the glorious God sent down the words “Verily those who conceal”’, etc. As a matter of fact this ‘concealing’ of the truth by the Jews is referred to more than once in the Qur'an, but nowhere does it mean that they altered or cut out the actual words of Scripture. Here is a remarkable confirmation of what am saying, continued the missionary, as he took up a large Arabic volume from the table before him. This is the celebrated Mishkatu’l-Masabih in which the most important traditions collected by Bukhari and Muslim are to be found. Here in this section entitled Kitabu’l-Hadud is a tradition which throws a flood of light upon these verses of the Qur'an in which the charge of ‘concealing’ the word of God is made. It is as follows:—

وعَنْ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ بْنِ عُمَرَ إنَّ الْيَهُودَ جَاءُوا إلَى رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَذَكَرُوا لَهُ أَنَّ رَجُلًا مِنْهُمْ وامْرَأَةً زَنَيَا. فَقَالَ لَهُمْ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ مَا تَجِدُونَ فِي التَّوْرَاةِ فِي شَأْنِ الرَّجْمِ؟ فَقَالُوا نَفْضَحُهُمْ وَيُجْلَدُونَ. قَالَ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ سَلَامٍ كَذَبْتُمْ أن فِيهَا آيَةُ الرَّجْمِ فَأَتَوْا بِالتَّوْرَاةِ فَنَشَرُوهَا فَوَضَعَ أَحَدُهُمْ يَدَهُ عَلَى آيَةِ الرَّجْمِ فَقَرَأَ مَا قَبْلَهَا وَمَا بَعْدَهَا. فَقَالَ لَهُ عَبْدُ اللَّهِ بْنُ سَلَامٍ ارْفَعْ يَدَك. فَرَفَعَ يَدَهُ، فَإِذَا فِيهَا آيَةُ الرَّجْمِ، فَقَالَ: صَدَقَ يَا مُحَمَّدُ فيها أية الرجم، فَأَمَرَ بِهِمَا النَّبِيُّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَرُجِمَا.

‘And from ‘Abdu'llah bin ‘Umar (it is related) that Jews came to the Prophet of God, on whom be the peace and blessing of God, and informed him that a man and a woman of the Jews had committed adultery. The apostle of God said to them, “What do you find in the Taurat in the matter of stoning (adulterers).” They said: “(it is written), disgrace them and whip them”. 'Abdu'llah bin Salem replied: “You lie. Verily the command to stone them is found in it”. Then they brought the Taurat and opened it; but one of them (i.e. one of the Jews) placed his hand over the verse of stoning and read what preceded and what followed it. But ‘Abdu'llah bin Salim said: “Lift up your hand.” Then he raised his hand, and lo! In the Taurat was the verse of stoning. Then they said: “He has spoken truly, O Muhammad, in it is the verse of stoning.” Then the Prophet of God, on whom be the peace and blessing of God, commanded that they should both be stoned, and they were so.’ This tradition affords an interesting example of the way in which the Jews used to ‘conceal’ the word of God, and it is noteworthy that both in the Tafsiru’l-Qadari, p. 39, and the Tafsiru’r-Raufi, p. 135, it is stated that the verse of the Qur'an quoted by Maulavi Ibrahim with regard to ‘concealing’ the word of God refers to the question of the stoning of adulterers. As a matter of fact the verse of stoning remains in the Taurat up to the present day, and may be seen in the twenty-second chapter of the Book of Deuteronomy. Thus what we have said is sufficient to show the baselessness of the maulavi's assertion that the charge of ‘hiding’ the word of God refers to the corruption of the actual text of Scripture; and so we pass on to an examination of the remaining verses quoted by him.

‘The next verse quoted by the maulavi is Qur’an Ali 'Imran 3:71, and runs as follows: “O People of the Book! why clothe ye the truth with falsehood?” Why wittingly hide the truth?’ The Muslim apologist asks us to believe that this verse proves the corruption of the Taurat and Injil by Jews and Christians, but a reference, as before, to the works of the great Muslim commentators proves beyond the shadow of a doubt that there is no allusion whatever here to Tahrifu’l-lazi, or corruption of the words of Scripture. The occasion of the utterance of the words quoted is recorded by Ibn Hisham in his Life of the Prophet, and is as follows:—

وقال عبد الله بن صيف، وعدي بن زيد، والحارث بن عوف، بعضهم لبعض تعالوا نؤمن بما أنزل على محمد وأصحابه غدوة ونكفر به عشية حتى نلبس عليهم دينهم لعلهم يصنعون كما نصنع ويرجعون عن دينه فأنزل الله عز وجل فيهم: يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لِمَ تَلْبِسُونَ الْحَقَّ بِالْبَاطِلِ وَتَكْتُمُونَ الْحَقَّ وَأَنْتُمْ تَعْلَمُونَ.

'Abdu'llah bin Saif 'Adi bin Zaid and al-Harith bin 'Auf spoke together thus. Come! let us in the morning believe in what has been sent down upon Muhammad and his companions, and let us disbelieve it in the evening in order that we may confuse their religion for them, and that they may act in like manner as ourselves, and turn back from their religion. Then sent down the glorious God concerning them the words, ‘O People of the Book! why clothe ye the truth with falsehood? Why wittingly hide the truth?’ From the words of Ibn Hisham it is clear that the reference in this verse of the Qur'an is to certain lying Jews who, in order to lead the Muslims from their faith, pretended in the morning to believe in Muhammad and the Qur'an, ‘hiding’ the truth of the matter, and ‘clothing’ with falsehood their real intentions, but openly avowing their disbelief in him in the evening.  27  Here, again, we see that there is not even the implication that the Jews tampered with the actual words of the Scriptures; and the maulavi must be hard pressed indeed for arguments, when he has to quote such a passage to prove the corruption of the Taurat and Injil.

‘Yet another verse quoted by Maulavi Ibrahim is Qur’an Ali 'Imran 3:78. It reads as follows: ‘And some truly are there among them who torture the Scriptures with their tongues, in order that ye may suppose it to be from the Scripture, yet it is not from the Scripture. They say, “it is from God”, yet it is not from God.’ The maulavi claims this verse of the Qur'an as one of the clearest proofs of the corruption of the Taurat and Injil. If that be so, then I am afraid he has lamentably failed to prove his case, because the great commentators of the Qur'an candidly admit that there is no hint even of Tahrifu’l-lazi in this passage. All that is said in the verse in question is that certain Jews, at the time of reading the Taurat, introduced into their reading words and phrases which had no existence in the written passages before them. They assured their Arab hearers that these creations of their own imagination were part of the Word of God which lay open before them. Let me again quote the learned Syed Ahmad Khan. On page 77 of his Mohomedan Commentary on the Holy Bible he says: ‘This verse shows that the Scripture readers were in the habit of substituting words of their own for those of the text, but it does not show that there was any tampering with the written text itself.’ The great commentator ‘Abbas says in his comment on this verse:—

يقولون على الله الكذب وهم يعلمون أنه ليس ذلك في كتابهم.

‘They speak lies against God, and they know that what they say is not in their book.’  28  Where, then, is the Tahrifu’l-lazi in this passage? Is it not clear that Maulavi Ibrahim, without trying to understand the passage, has jumped to certain conclusions which are quite contrary to the true meaning. The great scholar ‘Abbas makes it clear in his comment that certain Jews were in the habit of falsely adding to their reading of the Taurat certain words and phrases which were not in the book at all which lay open before them. The phrase ‘torture with their tongues’, far, then, from being a proof that the Taurat and Injil have been corrupted, rather shows that the altering took place in the course of the verbal repetition of the Taurat, and not in the text itself.

‘The maulavi also quoted Qur’an An-Nisa' 4:46 in support of his charge that the Taurat and Injil had been corrupted. The passage is as follows: ‘Among the Jews are those who pervert the words from their places.’ The maulavi expresses surprise and indignation that we Christian missionaries should continue to urge our Muhammadan brethren to read the Taurat and Injil whilst passages such as this remain in the Qur'an. Muslims, he tells us, steadfastly refuse to consider the claims of those books so long as such passages exist to prove their corruption. In reply, I can only express my surprise and sorrow that a man of such learning and ability as Maulavi Ibrahim ‘Ali should talk thus without first enquiring as to the real meaning of the verse he quotes; for if he had done so, he would have found that the words used in this verse refer to the words of Muhammad himself, and not to those of the Taurat at all! If the maulavi had taken the trouble to read the words of the Qur'an which follow this verse, he would have been saved from his foolish mistake, for there it is made clear that the Jews used certain words of the Muslims with a bad meaning in order to vex and dishonour the Prophet, and this is the ‘perversion’ referred to in the text. The whole passage will make this clear. It is as follows: ‘Among the Jews are those who pervert the words from their places, and say: “We have heard and we have obeyed. Hear thou, but as one that heareth not; and ‘Look at us’ (راعنا — Ra’ina)” perplexing with their tongues, and wounding the Faith by their revilings’. Here we see that the simple context of the passage, quite apart from the explanations of the commentators, amply suffices to show that there is no mention whatever of the Taurat in the verse. And yet Maulavi Ibrahim bases his refusal to read the Taurat on such passages.

‘Before I close my remarks I will read to you the words of one or two Muslim exegetes from these books on the table before me. Here is the work of the great Muslim commentator Jalalu'd-din.  29  He tells us that, in order to ridicule Muhammad, some of the Jews used to alter certain salutations current amongst the people. For example, they used to come to the Prophet, he tells us, and instead of saying السلام عليك ‘peace be on thee,’ they used to say, السام عليك ‘may disaster overtake thee!’ Imam Fakhru'd-din Razi says that the passage refers to the fact that the Jews used to come to Muhammad and ask him certain questions, but, after taking their leave of him, they used to alter the words he had taught them. With regard to the word Ra'ina, which the Prophet had taught his followers, ‘Abdul-Qadir says that:—

یہ لفظ یہودیوں ککی زبان میں بُری بات تھی یا گالی تھی مسلمانوں کو دیکھ کر یہودی بھی معنی بد اپنے دل میں رکھ کر حضرت کو کہتے کہ راعنا اس واسطے مسلمان کوحکم ہوکہ لفظ راعنا نہ کہو۔

‘This word (Ra'ina) was a bad word in the Jews’ language or was abuse. Seeing the Muslims the Jews also, keeping the bad meaning in their minds, used to address the Prophet by the word Ra'ina. For this reason the Muslims were commanded not to use the word Ra’ina.’

‘In the Tafsiru’l-Qadari, p. 168, it is explained that,

یہود راعنا کے عین کے زیر کو بڑھاکر راعینا کہتے تھے یعنی اے ہمارے چرواہا یعنی آنحضرت پر گائے بکری چرانے کے ساتھ طعن اور تعیض کرتے تھے۔

‘The Jews lengthening the letter 'ain (e) of the word Ra’ina (look on us) pronounced it Ra’ ína, that is, “O our shepherd”. In other words, they addressed the Prophet of God, on whom be the peace and blessing of God, as a shepherd of cattle and goats, taunting and reproaching him.’  30  It is also said in the same Tafsir that the meaning of the passage is that God addressing Muhammad, said:—

اے میرے حبیب تیرے دشمن یہود تیری باتیں اپنے محل اور موقع سے بدل ڈالتے ہیں۔

‘O, my beloved, thy enemies the Jews are changing thy words from their places.’ From what has been said by the commentators, as well as from the context of the verse it is clear, therefore, that Maulavi Ibrahim has totally failed to understand the meaning of the passage which he quoted. That being so, his refusal to read and obey the Taurat and Injil is void of any foundation.

‘The last verse of the Qur'an quoted by the maulavi to prove that the Taurat and Injil have been corrupted is Qur’an Al-Ma’idah 5:13. It is as follows: “They shift the words of Scripture from their places, and have forgotten part of what they were taught.” Imam Razi says in his Tafsiru'l-Kabir that these words refer to the command of the Taurat to stone adulterers. But, as I have already shown, that command is still standing in the Taurat, so that it is clear from the words of Imam Fakhru’d-din-Razi that the “shifting” here alluded to was verbal only, and did not refer to the actual written words of the Scripture. This is exactly what Syed Ahmed Khan has said in his famous Mohomedan Commentary on the Holy Bible, p. 79. He there writes ‘The words, “forgotten what they were taught,” is to be understood as implying that the people perverted the meaning of Scripture, and not that they mutilated the text.’

‘This completes my discussion of the passages of the Qur'an, quoted by Maulavi Ibrahim ‘Ali to prove the corruption of the Taurat and Injil, and in view of the great authorities whom I have quoted, I think you will agree with me, gentlemen, that he has quite failed to prove anything of the sort. Not one of the verses quoted by him has anything to do with the corruption of the text of the Bible. At most they refer to changes made in the explanation of the Scriptures, or to the hiding of the truth from Muslims and others.

‘One thing is certain. If the Taurat and Injil had been corrupted in the way some Muslims pretend, it is certain that Muhammad would have warned the people against those books; but, far from that being the case, we find the Qur'an commanding Jews and Christians in the strongest terms to study and obey these very Scriptures. Thus in Qur’an Al-Ma’idah 5:68 it is written:—

قُلْ يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لَسْتُمْ عَلَى شَيْءٍ حَتَّىَ تُقِيمُواْ التَّوْرَاةَ وَالإِنجِيلَ وَمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَيْكُم مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ.

‘O, People of the Book! ye have no ground to stand on until ye observe the Taurat and Injil and that which has been sent down to you from your Lord.’ The words ‘Ye observe’ are explained in the Tafsiru’l-Qadari, p. 236, to mean یعنی ان پر عمل کرتے ‘that is, act according to them.’ So we see the Qur'an urges Jews and Christians in the strongest terms, to follow and obey the Taurat and Injil. This verse alone is sufficient to prove that the Jewish and Christian Scriptures have not been corrupted; for who would tell men to obey a corrupted Gospel? The maulavi has apparently forgotten the words of the Qur'an: لا مُبَدِّلَ لِكَلِمَاتِ اللهِ ‘There is none who can change the words of God,’ and he fails to see that, in accusing the Taurat and Injil of being corrupted, he is giving a blank denial to one of the clear statements of his own Qur'an! No! my friends, the Taurat and Injil have not been corrupted. They are still, as the Qur'an teaches, ‘a light and guidance for men,’ and I conclude these imperfect remarks by entreating you to study for yourselves those wonderful books which the Qur'an again and again calls the ‘word of God!’

As the missionary resumed his seat a low murmur of excited comment rose through the assembly, which, had not the chairman quickly risen to his feet, would soon have degenerated into an unseemly squabble. For there were not a few in the audience that December morning who had, long since, become dissatisfied with the supercilious and scornful attitude which the maulavi consistently adopted towards them, and who now rejoiced, in spite of their religious prejudices, at his obvious discomfiture. On the other hand, there were still more who, blinded by prejudice and ignorance, saw in the missionary's words a distinct attack upon their faith, and resented all the more, because they were unable to answer him, the arguments drawn from their own religious literature with which he had so conspicuously silenced the maulavi. But the chairman was on his feet, and the murmurs died away into silence as he began to address the great audience. ‘Muslim brethren’ he said: ‘you have heard the reply of the missionary, and I shall not stand long between you and the maulavi, who is doubtless anxious to reply to the arguments which have been so ably put before you by the sahib. But one thing I must say before I sit down, and it is this: like many others here this morning, I have been astonished at the knowledge which this foreigner possesses both of our religion and our literature. Whatever we may think of his arguments—and I confess I wait with no little eagerness to hear our maulavi's reply—we must at least pay the tribute of respect to his learning and eloquence. His knowledge of Islam and of the Arabic language is only equalled by his perfect command of our own Bengali tongue. It has been a pleasure to listen to him, although, as a good Muslim, I could have wished that his address had dealt with some other topic. However, we are all eager to hear what Ibrahim maulavi has to say in reply, and so, without further delay, I will now ask him to again address you’.

There was a dead silence as the Muslim champion rose to his feet, and expectancy, mingled with fear, was written deeply upon the faces of many in the great audience. Could the Muslim meet the arguments of the Christian? Would he be able to show that, after all, it was textual corruption of the Christian Scriptures to which the Qur'an referred? Such were the questions which rose unbidden to the lips of many, and the excitement of the audience rose to fever pitch as the maulavi began to speak. لَا إله إِلَّا الله ومُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ الله ‘There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is the Apostle of God’; أَعُوذُ بِرَبِّ النَّاسِ ‘I betake me for refuge with the Lord of men,’  31  he cried, as he looked out over the mass of human beings seated before him. ‘O, true believers say,

هُوَ اللَّهُ أَحَدٌ. اللَّهُ الصَّمَدُ. لَمْ يَلِدْ وَلَمْ يُولَدْ.

‘He is God alone! God the Eternal! He begetteth not, and He is not begotten, and there is none like unto Him:  32  O, Muhammadan brethren, these Christians call the Prophet 'Isa, on whom be the peace and blessing of God, the son of God, but far be it from Him that He should have a son. They also falsely teach that the Prophet ‘Isa’ on whom be the peace and blessing
of God, died upon the cross as an atonement for the sins of men. How, then, can such people be accepted as guides and teachers in matters affecting our holy Qur'an?’ It matters not to me whether this Christian can prove that the corruption of the Taurat and Injil referred to in our holy Book is only corruption of the meaning, and I shall not waste my time this morning by dealing further with that point. It really is not important; for even if it could be proved that no alteration has taken place in the written words of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, yet we all know that by the descent of the noble Qur'an those Scriptures have been abrogated. Consequently they are no longer to be studied or obeyed. The noble Qur'an is clear on this point, and I shall, therefore, content myself with quoting one or two passages to that effect. The first passage to which I would call your attention is Qur’an Al-Baqarah 2:106. It is there written:—

مَا نَنسَخْ مِنْ آيَةٍ أَوْ نُنسِهَا نَأْتِ بِخَيْرٍ مِّنْهَا أَوْ مِثْلِهَا.

‘Whatever verses we may annul or cause (thee) to forget, we will bring a better one or its like’. Here, then, is my answer to the Christian priest. Why should we busy ourselves over questions of corruption when it is so clearly stated in the noble Qur'an that the ‘better’ verses of that Book have abrogated the preceding Scriptures? This verse alone furnishes a sufficient answer to the laboured arguments of the Christian priest; for when it is so clearly stated that God would abrogate the former Scriptures of the Jews and Christians, and cause men to forget them, then it is evident that He does not intend that men should read, much less obey, them. I am surprised that the Christian priest, with all his knowledge of the Qur'an, does not know of the presence of this verse in that Book. Is it that he is wilfully concealing that knowledge? At any rate, this is my answer, and until it can be shown that the Qur'an has not abrogated the Taurat and Injil I decline to consider the matter further. I would, in passing, remind the missionary that it is a matter of common experience that when an earthly monarch dies his successor not infrequently abrogates the laws his predecessor had made, and introduces others more suited to the new circumstances and times. So it is with religion. At the time of the Prophet Moses, upon whom be the peace and blessing of God, the laws of the Taurat were in force, but when the Prophet David was born the Zabur became the rule of faith and practice. Later, with the advent of the Prophet 'Isa, the Injil became current, and the preceding dispensations were abrogated. So, in like manner, when the Prophet of God, on whom be the peace and blessing of God, began to preach the holy doctrines of Islam, then the Qur'an was sent down to abrogate the former religions and Scriptures. Consequently the Qur'an is now alone the standard by which men must shape their actions, and its precepts alone are able to guide them to the joys of Paradise.

'There is, in addition to the passage I have just quoted, another in Qur’an An-Nahl 16:101, which teaches the same thing. It runs as follows:—

وَإِذَا بَدَّلْنَا آيَةً مَّكَانَ آيَةٍ وَاللّهُ أَعْلَمُ بِمَا يُنَزِّلُ.

‘And when we change one verse for another, and God knoweth best what he revealeth.’ Here, again, it is clearly stated that God abrogates one Scripture in favour of another which follows it, so that there can be no doubt whatever, that both the Taurat and the Injil have been abrogated by the noble Qur'an. There is little need for me to say more. The holy religion of Islam is the last and perfect religion, just as Muhammad, the Apostle of God, on whom be the peace and blessing of God, is the seal of the Prophets and the great Intercessor at the day of judgement. Let no Muslim, therefore, be led astray by the words of the Christian missionary, for ‘whosoever craves other than Islam for a religion, it shall surely not be accepted from him, and in the next world he shall be among the lost.’  33 

There was a moment's silence as the maulavi resumed his seat, and, then, something like a sigh of relief rose from the lips of the assembled Muslims. Few of the latter were educated men, and fewer still were keen enough to see that the maulavi, in attempting to turn the argument into another channel, was not only begging the question which had brought them together, but, in so doing, was acknowledging in a very real manner his own inability to answer the arguments of the missionary. The crowd, therefore, was perfectly satisfied with the new position its champion had taken up, and was quite persuaded that his words constituted a sufficient reply to all that had been advanced by the missionary in support of the integrity of the Taurat and Injil. Not a few of those present, however, were eager to know how the Christian would meet this new attack upon his faith, and attention was once more strained as the latter again rose in answer to the Chairman's invitation.

‘I am surprised and disappointed, he said, at the reply of Maulavi Ibrahim, which, as a matter of fact, is no reply at all; for he made no attempt to answer my contention that wherever in the Qur'an the corruption of the Taurat and Injil is referred to, the reference is only and always to corruption of the meaning by false interpretation, and never to corruption of the text. Under these circumstances it would be perfectly legitimate for me to refuse to take cognizance of the new argument now advanced by the maulavi, until he attempts some more satisfactory reply to my previous argument; but for the sake of the many Muslims present, as well as for the sake of the truth itself, I will waive that objection, and proceed to show that the maulavi is as mistaken in his judgement regarding the question of the abrogation of the Christian Scriptures as he is with regard to that of their corruption.

‘The maulavi declares that the Jewish and Christian Scriptures have been abrogated by the Qur'an, and that, therefore, it is no longer incumbent upon men to study those books. He bases his view upon two passages of the Qur'an, which, he affirms, teach most clearly that the Taurat and Injil have been completely annulled by the Qur'an, so that the latter book is now the only guide to faith and practice. I will deal, first of all, with the passages quoted by the maulavi, and will then pass to a few observations, largely based upon the Qur'an, with regard to the question of abrogation in general.

‘The maulavi refers, first of all, to Qur’an Al-Baqarah 2:106. The verse reads as follows: ‘Whatever verse we may annul or cause (thee) to forget, we will bring a better or its like’. The maulavi affirms that this verse proves the abrogation of the Taurat and Injil by the Qur'an, and, taking his stand upon this arbitrary conclusion, he refuses either to obey or read the Scriptures which preceded the Qur'an. My reply is this: the maulavi is either grossly ignorant, or perversely deceitful in the position which he takes up, for the great Muhammadan commentators of the Qur'an are unanimous in affirming that the passage quoted by the maulavi refers, not to the alleged abrogated verses of the Taurat and Injil, but to those verses of the Qur'an itself—and the commentators say they number no less than two hundred and twenty-five—which have been abrogated by later verses of the Qur'an. The question, then, resolves itself into one of the comparative authority of Maulavi Ibrahim on the one hand, and the great Muslim commentators of the Qur'an on the other—commentators, let me remind you—whose views are invariably based upon the utterances of Muhammad himself or of the Companions (ashab), as they have been preserved to us in the traditions. Let me, then, read to you the comments of some of these great scholars of Islam on the passage quoted by the maulavi. Here is what the two Jalals say in the Tafsiru'l-Jalalain,  34  with regard to the verse,

ولما طعن الكفار في النسخ وقالوا إن محمداً يأمر أصحابه اليوم بأمر وينهى عنه غداً فنزل ما ننسخ.

‘and when the unbelievers taunted (Muhammad) concerning abrogation, and said, verily Muhammad commands his companions a certain thing to-day and forbids it to-morrow, then came down the words, “Whatever we annul, etc.” With regard to the words “Cause (thee) to forget,” the same commentators say, أي ننسكها ونميحها من قلبك “that is, will cause thee (O Muhammad) to forget it, and will blot it out of thy heart.” From these words of the great commentators, the Jalalain, it is clear that the words of the text refer, not to the Taurat and Injil at all, but to the words of Muhammad himself. God, moreover, would, according to the same authorities, cause Muhammad to forget what had previously been revealed to him. The whole matter, as explained by the Jalalain, is perfectly easy of comprehension. Muhammad, more than once, had occasion to reverse certain commands and prohibitions which he had laid upon his followers with regard to Jihad, the Qibla and so on. These changes called down upon him the ridicule of the unbelievers in the language quoted by the Jalalain. In reply it is stated that God would bring a better verse than the one abrogated by him. This is the unanimous view of Muslim commentators, and I cannot but regret that Maulavi Ibrahim should make such baseless charges against the Christian Scriptures without first taking the trouble to enquire as to the real meaning of the verse he quoted.

‘Let me quote another leading commentator of the Qur'an, the great Qadi Baidawi. On page twenty-two of his famous commentary he says:—

نزلت لما قال المشركون أو اليهود ألا ترون إلى محمد يأمر أصحابه بأمر ثم ينهاهم عنه ويأمر بخلافه.

‘This (verse) came down when the idolaters or the Jews said, Do ye not see Muhammad, he commands a certain thing to his followers, and afterwards forbids them concerning it, and commands them the very opposite.’

‘In the Tafsiru’l-Qadari (p. 26), it is said that the passage means:—

جوکچھ منسوخ کردیا ہم نے آیات قرآن سے ۔۔۔لاتے ہیں ہم بہتر اس منسوخ کی ہوئی آیت سے جیسے دس کافروں کے ساتھ ایک غازی کا مقابلہ منسوخ کردیا اور دوکافروں کے ساتھ مقرر کیا۔۔۔ اورجیسے قبلہ کو بیت المقدس سے کعبہ کی طرف پھیر دیا۔

‘Whatever verse we abrogate from the Qur'an we will bring a better than such abrogated verse, as, for example, the command for one Muslim warrior (Ghazi) to fight ten infidels was abrogated, and the command given for one Ghazi to fight only two infidels; and as, for example, the changing of the Qibla from Jerusalem to the Ka’aba at Mecca.’

In the Tafsiru’r-Raufi, (p. 114), it is said that the words mean:—

جوکچھ موقوف کرتے ہیں ہم آیتوں سے قرآن شریف کے

‘Whatever we abrogate of the verses of the noble Qur'an.’ After which the commentator enters into a long disquisition relating to the various kinds of abrogation which have taken place with regard to the Qur'an.

In the well-known commentary of 'Abdu'l-Qadir (p. 17) we read, that the verse means:—

جوموقوف کرتے ہیں ہم کوئی آیت قرآن کی موافق مصلحت وقت کے یا بھلادیتے ہیں اس آیت کو دلوں سے تولاتے ہیں ہم یعنی بھیج دیتے ہیں ہم اس سے اچھی جیسے کہ لڑائی میں اول حکم تھا کہ دس کافروں سے ایک مسلمان لڑے پھر حکم ہوا کہ دوکافروں سے ایک مسلمان لڑے یہ آسانی ہوئی مسلمانوں پر برابر اس کے آیتہ بھیجتے ہی ںجیسے کہ پہلے حکم تھا کہ بیت المقدس کی طرف سجدہ کرو پھر مکے کی طرف نماز کا حکم ہوا۔

‘Whatever verse of the Qur'an we abrogate according to the exigences of the time or cause to forget front the heart, then we will bring, that is send, a better than it, as, for instance, at first, in war, the command was that one Muslim should fight ten infidels, afterwards the command was given that one Muslim should (only) fight two infidels, which was easier for the Muslims. “We will send a verse equal to it”, may be instanced by the command which at first existed to bow towards the holy temple at Jerusalem, whereas the command was afterwards given to say the prayers in the direction of Mecca.’

‘I could go on repeating such quotations,’ continued the missionary, ‘but it is surely unnecessary to bring further evidence to show how hopelessly mistaken the maulavi is in affirming that the verse he has quoted has any reference to the Taurat and Injil. From what I have said it must be perfectly clear to every one who is not blinded by prejudice and bigotry that the passage in question has reference only to the verses of the Qur'an.’

‘The maulavi has quoted one other passage in support of his position. It is found in Qur’an An-Nahl 16:101, and reads as follows: ‘and when we change one verse for another, and God knoweth best what he revealeth.’ This verse has exactly the same meaning as the one previously discussed, i.e. it refers to certain verses of the Qur'an which have been changed, that is abrogated, by others. The Muslim commentators of the Qur'an are unanimous on this point; but Maulavi Ibrahim would have us believe that the passage teaches the substitution of the verses of the Qur'an for those of the preceding Scripture. In order to show how opposed the maulavl is to the best Muslim commentators of the Qur'an, I will quote the remarks of a few before resuming my seat.

‘In the Tafsiru'l-Jalalain it is written that:—

قالوا أي الكفار للنبي صلى الله عليه وسلم إنما أنت مفترٍ كذاب تقوله من عندك بل أكثرهم لا يعلمون حقيقة القرآن وفائدة النسخ.

‘They, that is the infidels, said to the Prophet, on whom be the peace and blessing of God, thou art only a forger, thou speakest (these things) from thyself; but most of them do not know the truth of the Qur'an and the benefit of abrogation.’  35  Is it not clear from this comment of the Jalalain that the Qur’anic abrogation of one command by another called forth the derisive taunts of the unbelievers that the Prophet himself was the author of them!

‘In the Tafsiru'l-Baidawi (p. 366) the verse is explained thus:—

قالوا أي الكفرة إنما أنت مفتر متقول على الله تأمر بشيء ثم يبدو لك فتنهي عنه.

‘They, that is the infidels, said, thou art only a forger against God, thou commandest something and afterwards forbiddest it.’ Qadi Baidawi here makes it clear as noonday that the passage refers to the commands of the Qur'an, and has nothing whatever to do with the Taurat and Injil. ‘Abdu'l-Qadir and others give substantially the same explanation of the words quoted by the maulavi, and leave no manner of doubt that the words refer solely to the Qur'an. Thus it is proved that in neither of the passages quoted by the maulavi is there the slightest foundation for the erroneous belief that the Taurat and Injil have been abrogated by the Qur'an. On the contrary, there are many passages of the Qur'an which make it abundantly clear that those books have not, and cannot be, abrogated in the way some ignorant Muslims imagine. For example, when dealing with the subject of the alleged corruption of the Taurat and Injil, I read a verse of the Qur'an to you, Al-Ma’idah 5:68, in which the People of the Book were informed that they had no ground to stand on until they observed (i.e. obeyed) the Taurat and Injil. But it is inconceivable that God should command men to follow an abrogated Scripture. Thus this very passage alone furnishes undoubted proof that the Scriptures of the Jews and Christians have not been abrogated.

‘Again, we are told in Qur’an Ali 'Imran 3:93 that on a certain occasion when Muhammad became involved in an argument with some Jews concerning lawful and unlawful food he was told to say:—

فَأْتُواْ بِالتَّوْرَاةِ فَاتْلُوهَا إِنْ كُنتُمْ صَادِقِينَ.

‘Bring ye then the Taurat and recite it, if ye be men of truth.’ But surely it is inconceivable that the Prophet should refer to an abrogated Scripture for a decision on disputed points. Surely his very action in calling for a reference to the Taurat proves that that book had not been abrogated.

‘Again, Muhammad repeatedly described the Qur'an as sent down مُصدّقاً لما بَيْن يديُه ‘confirmatory of previous Scriptures’, Qur’an Al-Ma’idah 5:48. Now the Qur'an cannot both ‘confirm’ and ‘abrogate’ the same books, and since it is repeatedly stated in that book that it was sent to ‘confirm’ the previous Scriptures, it is surely presumption for any one to insist that it has abrogated them.

‘Again, in the Qur'an, people are warned not to make any difference whatever between the different books of Scripture, and so we find in Qur’an Al-Baqarah 2:136 these words:—

قُولُواْ آمَنَّا بِاللّهِ وَمَآ أُنزِلَ إِلَيْنَا وَمَا أُنزِلَ إِلَى إِبْرَاهِيمَ وَإِسْمَاعِيلَ وَإِسْحَقَ وَيَعْقُوبَ وَالأسْبَاطِ وَمَا أُوتِيَ مُوسَى وَعِيسَى وَمَا أُوتِيَ النَّبِيُّونَ مِن رَّبِّهِمْ لاَ نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّنْهُمْ وَنَحْنُ لَهُ مُسْلِمُونَ.

Say ye: ‘We believe in God, and that which hath been sent down to us, and that which hath been sent down to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and that which hath been given to Moses and to Jesus, and that which was given to the prophets from their Lord. No difference do we make between any of them; and to God are we resigned.’ What greater proof could you ask, my friends, than this, that the Taurat and Injil have not been abrogated? Here we find the distinct command, repeated, too, in other parts of the Qur'an, to make no distinction whatever between the Qur'an and the preceding Scriptures. All are alike from God, and all claim our faith and reverence. One cannot but marvel, in the face of such texts as these, at the temerity of men who so blindly denounce as abrogated what the Prophet described as being in exactly the same category as the Qur'an! The fact is, there is not a single passage in the whole Qur'an which states that the Qur'an has abrogated the Taurat and Injil. So obvious is this fact that many learned Muslims have candidly admitted it, and affirmed their conviction that no abrogation of the Jewish and Christian Scriptures has taken place.

‘Before I conclude my remarks,’ continued the missionary, ‘I will quote one or two Muslim scholars in support of what I have said. Commenting on the words of Qur’an Al-Ma’idah 5:66, ‘If they (the People of the Book) observe the Taurat and the Injil and what hath been sent down to them from their Lord, they shall surely have their fill of good things from above them and from beneath their feet’, Muhammad 'Abdu’l Hakim Khan in his Commentary of the Qur'an (p. 213) says: ‘Then how absurd is the opinion expressed so often by the Muhammadans, and on their authority by Christians, that the holy Qur'an abrogates the preceding Scriptures. Nowhere does the holy Qur'an contain a single word that may express the abrogation of the Pentateuch or of the Gospel or of other Scriptures; but it repeatedly claims to be a confirmation of their teachings. Abrogation it affirms of devilish inspiration only.’ The honoured founder of Aligarh college, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, says in his Mohomedan Commentary on the Holy Bible, (p. 268) ‘Those who imagine it to be a part of the Muhammadan creed that one law has totally repealed another, are utterly mistaken, and we do not believe that the Zabur (Book of Psalms) abrogated the Taurat (Pentateuch); that the Taurat in turn gave way to the Injil (New Testament); and that the New Testament was suppressed by the Holy Qur'an. We hold no such doctrine, and if any ignorant Muhammedan should assert to the contrary, he simply knows nothing whatever about the doctrines and articles of his faith.’

‘Another Muslim scholar, Shaikh Haji Rahmatu'llah, says in his book the lzharu'l-Haqq that the opinion that the Taurat and Injil have been abrogated by the Qur'an is only that of ignorant and uninstructed Muslims; and he continues on pages eleven and twelve of his book as follows:—

فقوله نسخ التوراة بنزول الزبور ونسخ الزبور بظهور الإنجيل بهتان لا أثر له في القرآن ولا في التفاسير بل لا أثر له في كتاب من الكتب المُعتبرة لأهل الإسلام والزبور عندنا ليس بناسخ للتوراة ولا بمنسوخ من الإنجيل وكان داود عليه السلام على شريعة موسى عليه السلام وكان الزبور أدعية.

‘The statement that the Taurat was abrogated by the Zabur, and the Zabur by the appearance of the Injil is a falsehood of which there is no trace in the Qur'an or in the commentaries; nay, there is no trace of it in any authoritative book belonging to the people of Islam. And in our opinion the Zabur does not abrogate the Taurat, nor is it abrogated by the Injil. David was subject to the religious law of Moses, and the Zabur was (a collection of) prayers.’ I commend the testimony of the three great Muslims I have quoted to the careful attention of Maulavi Ibrahim ‘Ali before I pass on to one or two closing remarks.

‘It only remains for me, in concluding, to entreat the maulavi, and every other Muslim in this great audience, to study carefully and earnestly the holy word of God as contained in the Taurat and Injil. The theory of abrogation put forward by the maulavi has neither the support of the Qur'an nor of reason; for if we give the matter a moment's consideration, it will appear palpably evident that abrogation, even if its action on the previous Scriptures be admitted, can, at most, only apply to commands. History can never be abrogated, and the records of the life and claims of the Prophet 'Isa are as true to-day as when they were first preached by the fishermen of Galilee. The great Muslim scholar Jalalu'd‑din Seyuti truly says in the Itqan (p. 22) لا يقع النسخ إلا في الأمر والنهي ‘abrogation only can take place in relation to commands and prohibitions.’ Mazhari says the same, النسخ إنما يعترض على الأوامر والنواهي دون الأخبار ‘abrogation only happens in connexion with commands and prohibitions— never with facts.’ That being so, is it not your highest wisdom, O, my Muslim brothers, to study the life and teachings of the Prophet 'Isa, whom you call the ‘Word of God’ and ‘Spirit of God’? Let me entreat you not to neglect so important a matter, for in that Injil, which I have to-day proved to be neither corrupted nor abrogated, it is recorded that the Prophet 'Isa himself said, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me.’  36

There was a tense silence as the missionary ceased speaking, and men looked from one to another with something like amazement written upon their faces. Isma’il Jabbar, the chairman, was visibly affected, and, without the semblance of a speech, abruptly dismissed the assembly. Then, after taking a hasty farewell of the Christian preacher, he sought the seclusion of his house. As he did so, the crowd melted away from the courtyard, only to gather outside, however, into excited knots of eager disputants. The words of the missionary had fallen like a thunderbolt into the midst of their complacency, and they began to realize for the first time in their lives that the call to consider the claims of the Christian Scriptures could not be set aside by the repetition of dull platitudes, repeated from their very childhood, about ‘corruption’ and ‘abrogation’. Most of those present felt, even when not prepared to openly admit it, that the maulavi had been badly worsted in the discussion, and that they could no longer, with any show of reason, refuse the Christian invitation to study the Taurat and Injil. Not a few of the more openminded amongst them did, indeed, secretly resolve to secure for themselves a copy of the Christian Scriptures, and before the missionary left for his distant home in Dhanpur he had sold a full dozen copies of the Injil to those earnest seekers after truth.

31. Qur'an an-Nas 114:1.

32. Qur’an Al-Ikhlas 112: 1-4. + 1-3.

33. Qur’an Ali 'Imran 3:85.

36. Gospel of John 14:6