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How and Why Scriptures Got Distorted

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  • Mustafa .
    Question I ve got one short question. I can t understand why God wouldn t keep all His books extant. Muslims believe that the Bible has been corrupted.
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 28, 2006
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        Question
      I've got one short question. I can't understand why God wouldn't keep all His books extant. Muslims believe that the Bible has been corrupted. Wouldn't this belief make God look like He's powerless? This is since He couldn't keep His words intact throughout the generation. Thank you.
       
      Name of Counsellor Jasser Auda
       
      Answer
       
      Salam, Plath. 
      Thank you for your question. 
      Questions of why, regarding God's choices, are important because they always reveal deep lessons to learn from the wisdom behind God's decisions. Let us refer to God Himself in search for answers. 
      In the Qur'an, God mentioned how He revealed the Torah to Prophet Moses. After the death of Prophet Moses, God entrusted scholars and rabbis with His Scriptures. God says in the Qur'an what means: 
      *{Verily, it is We who bestowed from on high the Torah, wherein there was guidance and light. On its strength did the prophets, who had surrendered themselves unto God, deliver judgment unto those who followed the Jewish faith; and so did the (early) men of God and the rabbis, inasmuch as some of God's writ had been entrusted to their care; and they [all] bore witness to its truth. Therefore, [O children of Israel,] hold not men in awe, but stand in awe of Me; and do not barter away My messages for a trifling gain: for they who do not judge in accordance with what God has bestowed from on high are, indeed, deniers of the truth!}* (Al-Ma'idah 5:44)
      In these verses, God is saying that He "entrusted" scholars and rabbis with His Scriptures and warned them not to give up the message for any worldly gain. What happened is that some of them did not keep the trust, and they started a long process of distortion of God's message for the sake of gaining some little worldly gains. The wisdom and rationale is to give a lesson to us believers who came after them and received our own message. The lesson is that we are not to distort the message of God by any means for any personal gain, small or big. God also explained the process of how some scholars who were entrusted with His book distorted it. And this is where we Muslims should specifically pay attention in order not to fall into the same mistake. 
      God is teaching Muslims (those who peacefully submit to their Creator) by the example of previous nations. God told us how some "scholars" made a conscious choice of distortion of the word of God. The Qur'an says what means: 
      *{A good many of them were to listen to the word of God and then, after having understood it, to pervert it knowingly.}* (Al-Baqarah 2:75) 
      So they started to "pervert" or "distort" the Scripture with full knowledge and awareness of what they were doing. This is a lesson to Muslims — those who follow the final divine message — and to all believers, to be aware that some "specialist" might not have pure intentions, even towards God's word. 
      God is also teaching us another lesson in regards to the specific method that was used in this distortion, also for us to be aware. It is taking the verses "out of context" in the name of interpretation. The Qur'an says what means: 
      *{Then, for having broken their solemn pledge, We rejected them and caused their hearts to harden [so that now] they distort the meaning of the (revealed) words, taking them out of their context.}* (Al-Ma'idah 5:13)
       The Qur'an also says what means: 
      *{They distort the meaning of the (revealed) words, taking them out of their context.}* (Al-Ma'idah 5:41) 
      And again, the Qur'an says what means: 
      *{There are some of the Jews who distort the meaning of the (revealed) words, taking them out of their context.}* (An-Nisaa' 4:46)
      In other words, God is repeatedly warning us from misinterpretation in the name of interpretation. If a verse is interpreted out of its context, by taking a few words and cutting out the rest, or even by taking the verse out of its historical or linguistic context, then this is a form of distortion as serious as hiding the whole verse.
      If we take the Bible as an example, the process of distortion, in my personal view, was a process of interpretation that happened through translation. When you translate something from one language to another, you are actually giving your own interpretation in the target language of translation, which interpretation could be accurate or distorted, that is, close to or far from the original meaning. 
      This is one of the lessons that we Muslims are to learn as well. The Qur'an should certainly remain in Arabic. Yes, we have to translate its meanings as accurately as we can for many practical reasons (writing articles in English is one of them!). But the original Arabic Scripture has to remain preserved. The way by which Islam preserved its Scripture was to encourage millions of people, in every era, to memorize it by heart and be vigilant to the slightest distortion in it. This is not what happened with the Bible, unfortunately, and what we have now is an English translation of the Greek translation of the original language. The original (Jesus's Aramaic and Moses's Hebrew) is lost. 
      Finally, God is not powerless when He allows His Scriptures to be distorted. There are many evils that happen on this earth, including distorting the Scriptures, that God could prevent. However, God, in His wisdom, created good and evil and gave us the choice. This is our test in life. 
      I hope my answer clarifies the matter for you. In case you need any more explanation, please do not hesitate to write us again. Thank you and please stay in touch. 
      Salam.
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