A common Muslim reading the previous Divinely revealed books
Fatwa No: 14742

Question

Is it permissible for common Muslims to read the previous Divinely revealed books of the Jews and Christians such as the Injeel (Gospel)?

Answer

All perfect praise be to Allaah, the Lord of the worlds. I testify that there is none worthy of worship except Allaah, and that Muhammad, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, is His Slave and Messenger.

The current books of the Jews and Christians - the Tawraah (Torah) and the Injeel (Gospel), have been distorted by addition, deletion, alteration and corruption. Muslims believe that many parts of these books are not the words of Allaah The Exalted. Examples of this are the concept of the Trinity, the distortion of the glad tidings of the advent of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, the discrediting of the Essence of Allaah The Almighty and the grave defamation of His prophets, may Allaah exalt their mention, found therein.

Allaah The Almighty Himself bears witness that the People of the Book have corrupted and altered their books; He Says (what means):

•       {Do you covet [the hope, O believers], that they would believe for you while a party of them used to hear the words of Allaah and then distort the Tawraah (Torah) after they had understood it while they were knowing?}[Quran 2: 75]

•       {So woe to those who write the "Book" with their own hands, then say, "This is from Allaah ," in order to exchange it for a small price. Woe to them for what their hands have written and woe to them for what they earn.}[Quran 2: 79]

•       {So for their breaking of the covenant We cursed them and made their hearts hard. They distort words from their [proper] usages and have forgotten a portion of that of which they were reminded. And you will still observe deceit among them, except a few of them.}[Quran 5:13]

•       {Among the Jews are those who distort words from their [proper] usages.}[Quran 4: 46]

Muslims do not read the parts of their books that have remained free of distortion because the Quran came to judge and abrogate the previous books and to nullify their rulings. In this regard, Allaah The Almighty Says (what means): {And We have revealed to you, [O Muhammad], the Book in truth, confirming that which preceded it of the Books and as a criterion over it.}[Quran 5: 48]

For this reason, Ibn ‘Abbaas  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him was astonished with Muslims who asked the People of the Book questions when they had the Quran which was revealed to the Messenger of Allaah, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. The Quran satisfies all our religious and worldly affairs, and it was not distorted like their books. Allaah The Almighty tells us that they altered and changed the Book of Allaah and instead wrote their books with their own hands and then claimed that it was revealed from Allaah The Almighty - they did all this to exchange it in return for a paltry price. All these reasons are sufficient to forbid the Muslim from asking the People of the Book about anything. [Al-Bukhari]      

Jaabir reported that ‘Umar  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him once copied a part of the Tawraah in Arabic and brought it to the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, and started to read. Thereupon, the tone of the face of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, changed and he became angry. One of the Ansaar (helpers in Madeenah) objected to what ‘Umar  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him was doing and drew his attention to the anger of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. Subsequently, the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, forbade the people from asking the People of the Book about anything because they had deviated and could not be guided and that even if they managed to tell Muslims about anything, it would be difficult to verify the truthfulness of what they would say. He, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, then swore that if Moosaa (Moses)  may  Allaah  exalt  his  mention had witnessed his call, he would have had no choice but to follow the religion of Islam. [Ahmad and Al-Bazzaar] The Shaafi‘i scholar, Ibn Hajar  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him mentioned that the aggregate narrators of this Hadeeth's narrations prove its authenticity.

Commenting on this Hadeeth, Shaykh Al-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him mentioned that ‘Umar  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him made good use of the advice of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam. When the Muslims entered Alexandria, they found many books of the Romans and sent a message to ‘Umar  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him asking him what should be done with them. He ordered them to be burnt, asserting that the Quran was sufficient.

In another Hadeeth, Abu Hurayrah  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him narrated that during the lifetime of the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, the Jews would read the Tawraah in Hebrew and interpret it for Muslims in Arabic, but the Prophet, sallallaahu ‘alayhi wa sallam, commanded the Muslims neither to believe the People of the Book nor to reject what they say but instead, they were to recite the verse (which means): {We have believed in Allaah and what has been revealed to us.}[Quran 2: 136][Al-Bukhari]

If a common Muslim reads the Tawraah or the Injeel, he might believe their falsehood or reject something that is true, and therefore, a group of scholars held that it is prohibited to read the books of the Jews or the Christians. From the Hanbali School, there was Ibn Muflih who adopted the view of Ahmad in this regard. There was also Al-Buhooti who quoted the aforementioned Hadeeth of ‘Umar  may  Allaah  be  pleased  with  him as proof.  From the Hanafi School, there was Ibn ‘Aabideen who quoted the view of ‘Abd Al-Ghani An-Naabulsi. From the Shaafi‘i school, there was Az-Zarkashi as quoted by Al-Haafith ibn Hajar  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  them all. 

Only scholars who are firmly grounded in knowledge of the Quran and Sunnah are permitted to read these books in order to clarify the falsehood of the People of the Book and refute their allegations. This was stated by the Hanbali scholar Ar-Rayhabaani  may  Allaah  have  mercy  upon  him on the grounds that such scholars possess the ability to deduce proof that refutes their claims, discloses their secrets and exposes their falsehood.

Furthermore, the Fatwas of the Permanent Committee for Islamic Research and the Issuing of Fatwas assert that the previous divinely revealed books have undergone distortion, addition and deletion as Allaah The Almighty mentioned in the Quran. Therefore, it is impermissible for the Muslim to read them and be acquainted with their content unless he is one of those who are firmly grounded in knowledge and wishes to clarify the corruption of these books and the inconsistency of their texts. 

And Allaah Knows best.

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