The Quran as Guardian of the Bible

Revisiting the Meaning of Muhaymin

Sam Shamoun

The Quran claims to confirm and bear witness to the authority of the Holy Bible:

And We have sent down to thee the Book with the truth, confirming the Book that is between his hands and preserving/witness to it (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi mina al-kitabi wa-muhayminan alayhi)… S. 5:48 our translation

Christians take this verse as an explicit testimony to Muhammad’s absolute belief and complete trust in the textual reliability of the Holy Bible:

This passage contains the clearest evidence that, according to the Corân, the Scriptures, in current use amongst the Jews and the Christians (عندهم) in Mahomet's time, had been "sent down" or revealed, (أنزل) had been "given" (أتي) by God himself; that they were, in their then extant form, authentic and genuine, and were to be held an indisputable rule of judgment. The same expressions are used both of the Old and the New Testaments; and it is added with reference to each, "Whoever doth not judge according to that which God hath revealed, they are the UNBELIEVERS,—the TRANSGRESSORS,—the FLAGITIOUS." To add solemnity to the sentence, it is reiterated three times. Scriptures, thus authoritatively set up in the Corân as the absolute test of right and wrong, must needs have been regarded by its author as pure and unadulterated.

The candid Mussulman may easily satisfy himself, (and he ought to spare no labour to satisfy himself,) that the very same Old and New Testaments are now in use amongst the Jews and Christians, as were in use amongst them in the seventh century. Abundant proof will without difficulty be found of this in manuscripts, translations, commentaries, and quotations, of a date long prior to the time of his prophet. When we call upon him, then, "to judge according to that which God hath revealed," let him beware of disobedience to the command of God; let him take heed lest in rejecting the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, and blaspheming their sacred contents, he should bring upon himself the punishment denounced against the contemnor of the word of God;—and, "refusing to judge according to the Scriptures which God hath revealed," or even to acknowledge them, he incur the doom of "the unbeliever" (kâfir, الكافر) of "the transgressor" (الظالم) or of "the flagitious" (الفاسق) here solemnly pronounced by the Corân.

The Corân, besides attesting the Jewish and Christian Scriptures, is here further declared to be itself their custodian or witness. "A custodian over it, that is, a keeper over the whole of the (sacred) books, such as shall preserve them from change, and witness to their truth and authority", ومهيمنا عليه ورقيباً على سائر الكتب يحفظه عن التغير ويشهد لها بالصحة والثبات Baidhâwi.

Where are the books thus preserved in their integrity, watched over, and witnessed to by the Corân, if they be not those same Scriptures, which we now,—as did the Jews and Christians of Mahomet's age,—hold in our hands, and read in our Churches and in our houses, and have done so uninterruptedly ever since the time of Mahomet, and for centuries before? (Sir William Muir, The Corān - Its Composition and Teaching; And the Testimony it Bears to the Holy Scriptures, Section II: Passages revealed at Medina, pp. 204-205; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Many Muslim dawagandists, however, argue that the reference indicates that the Bible is only true and authoritative when it agrees with the Quran. Muslim polemicists base this on a specific word which is used here, namely muhaymin. They understand this term to mean that the Quran serves as a quality control agent determining what parts of the previous Scriptures have remained intact and which portions have been corrupted:

Criterion of Acceptance

What is the Muslim basis or criterion for accepting or not accepting portions or passages from the Bible? The Qur’an itself provides such criterion:

"And unto you have We revealed the Scripture with the truth, confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watch over it ….." (the Qur’an 5:48)

This emphasizes two main aspects of the Qur’an:

a) The Qur’an confirms those teachings or passages of previous scriptures which remained intact.

b) The Qur’an is the last, complete, authoritative and authentic revelation. It is the final arbiter and the only criterion to correct any inaccuracy or misinterpretation which might have occurred in the transmission of scriptures. It helps in discovering human additions to or interpolations of previous revelations, even as it reveals possible deletions which might have taken place through the centuries prior to its revelation (the Qur’an). Indeed one of the names of the Qur’an is al-Furqan (the criterion which distinguishes between right and wrong, truth and falsehood).

It follows therefore that a Muslim has no reason to reject the essence of any passage in the Bible if such a passage is confirmed by the Qur’an. For example, we read in the New Testament a reiteration of one of the Ten Commandments:

"And Jesus answered him. The first of all commandments is hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is one Lord" (Mark 12:29)

A Muslim who reads this passage in the Qur’an can find no objection to its essence. After all the Qur’an confirms:

"Say He is Allaah, the One and Only (God)" (The Qur’an 112:1)

If, however, a Muslim reads in the Bible (or other previous scriptures for that matter) accusations of major moral sins levied against great prophets or doctrines which are totally negated in the Qur’an, the Muslim accepts only the Qur’anic version as the original unadulterated truth, revealed by Allah (God).

Likewise if the Bible (or other scriptures) contains apparent prophecies about the advent of Prophet Muhammad, and if the Qur’an confirms that fact, then there is nothing unusual or objectionable in referring to such prophecies. (Jamal Badawi, Muhammad in the Bible; online sources: 1, 2)

We have already addressed this issue in some depth, the links of which will be provided at the conclusion of our discussion. What we hope to do in this article is to show that even if we grant the meaning proposed by Muslim polemicists like Dr. Badawi this still wouldn’t support the oft-repeated assertion that the Bible is corrupted according to the Quran.

But first we turn to the lexical data to see how the words saddaqa ("confirm") and muhaymin are defined.

Lexical Meaning

ha-Ya-Miim-Nun = to watch over, oversee, expand the wings (hen over their chickens), control. To be witness to, offer security and peace, protect, determine what is true. muhaimanun - guardian to watch and determine what is true and what is false witness, afforder of security and peace, controller and superintendent of all the affairs, protector.

haymana vb. (quad 1) pcple. act. 5:48, 59:23   (Project Root List; source)

Sad-Dal-Qaf = to be truthful, true, sincere, speak the truth, establish or confirm the truth of what another has said, verify, keep faith, observe a promise faithfully, fulfill, speak veraciously, hold anyone as trustworthy. sadaqa fi al-qitaali - to fight gallantly. tsaddaqa - to give alms. sidqun - truth, veracity, sincerity, soundness, excellence in a variety of different objects, salubrious and agreeable, favourable entrance, praise. saadiqun - one who is true and sincere, one who speaks the truth. saadiqah - perfect woman. sadaqat (pl. saduqaat) - dowry. siddiiq - person who is trustworthy, sincere. saddaqa - to confirm, verify, fulfil. asdaqu - more true.

Sadaga (prf 3rd. p.m. sing.): He spoke the truth, declared the truth.
Sadagat (prf 3rd. p. f. sing.): She spoke the truth.
Sadaquu (prf. 3rd. p.m. plu.): They told truth, proved truthful.
Sadaqta (prf 2nd. m. sing.): Thou told the truth.
Sadaqna (prf. 1st. P. plu.): We fulfilled.
Saddaqa (prf 3rd. p.m. sing. II): Verified; Judged correctly; Accepted the truth; Believed; Proved true.
Saddaqat (prf. 3rd. p. f. sing. II): She testified, declared her faith in.
Saddaqta (prf. 2nd, p.m. sing. II.): Thou fulfilled.
Yusaddiqu (imp. 3rd. p.m. sing. II.): He confirms; Bears (me) out.
Yusaddiquuna (imp. 3rd. p.m.plu. II): They testify, accept the truth.
Tusaddiquuna (imp. 2nd. p.m. plu. II.): You realize the reality of, admit the truth.
Tasaddaga (prf. 3rd. p.m.sing. V.): He chooses to forego (and gave as charity).
Tasaddaquu (imp. 3rd. p.m. plu. V. acc.): You choose to fore go (and give as charity).
Tasaddaq (prt. m. sing. V): Be charitable, show us charity.
Yassaddaquu (imp. 3rd. p.m. plu. V. acc.): They forego, remit as a charity.
Assaddaga (imp. 1st. P. sing. V. ace.): I would have given alms.
Nassaddaqanna (imp. 1st. p. plu. V.): We will surely give alms.
Sidqun/ Sidqan (acc./n.): Truthfulness.
Saadiqun/Saadiqan (acc./ act. plc. n:. sing.): True; Truth-teller; Truthful.
Saadiquun/Saadiqiin (acc./ ap-der. m. plu.): Truthful ones.
Saadigdtu (ap-derf plu.): Truthful women.
Sadagatin/Sadagatan (acc./gen. n.): Charity; Alms.
Sadaqaat (n. plu.): Charities; Alms.
Saduqaat (n. plu. of Saduqatun): Dowries.
Sadiiqun (act. 2nd. pic. m. sing.): Friend.
Asdaqu (m. sing, elative.): More truthful than.
Siddiqun (m, sing. ints.): Man of truth and veracity.
Siddiigatun (f sing. ints.): Woman of high truthful and veracity.
Siddiiquna/Siddiiqiina (gen./ m. plu. ints.): Truthful ones.
Musaddiqun / Musaddiqan (acc./ ap-der. m. sing. II.):' Fulfilling; Confirming one.
Musaddiqiin (ap-der, m. sing. II. gen.): Confirming one.
Mutasaddiqiina (ap-der. m. plu. acc. gen. V.): Alms givers; Charitable ones.
Musaddiqina (ap-der m. plu. acc. V ): Alms-givers; Charitable ones.
Mutasaddiqaat (ap-der. f. plu. V.): Almsgiver women.
Musaddiqaat (ap-der. f. plu. V.): Almsgiver women.
Tasdiiqun (v. n.): Confirmation.

sadaqa vb. (1)
perf. act. 2:177, 3:95, 3:152, 5:113, 9:43, 12:26, 21:9, 27:27, 29:3, 33:22, 33:23, 36:52, 39:74, 47:21, 48:27
n.vb. 5:119, 6:115, 10:2, 10:93, 17:80, 17:80, 19:50, 26:84, 33:8, 33:24, 39:32, 39:33, 46:16, 54:55
pcple. act. 2:23, 2:31, 2:94, 2:111, 3:17, 3:93, 3:168, 3:183, 4:87, 4:122, 5:119, 6:40, 6:143, 6:146, 7:70, 7:106, 7:194, 9:119, 10:38, 10:48, 11:13, 11:32, 12:17, 12:27, 12:51, 12:82, 15:7, 15:64, 19:54, 21:38, 24:6, 24:9, 26:31, 26:154, 26:187, 27:49, 27:64, 27:71, 28:49, 29:29, 32:28, 33:8, 33:24, 33:35, 33:35, 34:29, 36:48, 37:157, 40:28, 44:36, 45:25, 46:4, 46:22, 49:15, 49:17, 51:5, 52:34, 56:87, 59:8, 62:6, 67:25, 68:41

sadaqah n.f. 2:196, 2:263, 2:264, 2:271, 2:276, 4:114, 9:58, 9:60, 9:79, 9:103, 9:104, 58:12, 58:13

sadiq n.m. 24:61, 26:101

saduqat n.f. (pl. of saduqah) 4:4

siddiq n.m. 4:69, 5:75, 12:46, 19:41, 19:56, 57:19

saddaqa vb. (2)
perf. act. 34:20, 37:37, 37:105, 39:33, 66:12, 75:31, 92:6
impf. act. 28:34, 56:57, 70:26
n.vb. 10:37, 12:111
pcple. act. 2:41, 2:89, 2:91, 2:97, 2:101, 3:3, 3:39, 3:50, 3:81, 4:47, 5:46, 5:46, 5:48, 6:92, 35:31, 37:52, 46:12, 46:30, 61:6

tasaddaqa vb. (5)
perf. act. 2:280, 5:45
impf. act. 4:92, 9:75
impv. 63:10, 12:88
pcple. act. 12:88, 33:35, 33:35, 57:18, 57:18   (Project Root List; source)


As the readers can see, the general meaning of saddaqa is to confirm as true, to bear witness to, to verify. Muhaymin, however, can mean to determine whether something is true or false. Yet the use of both terms in the same verse makes it rather apparent that muhaymin cannot mean that the Quran determines which parts of the Holy Bible are false or have been corrupted. After all, Q. 5:48 states that the Muslim scripture confirms the Book which was between Muhammad’s hands. How, then, can it falsify a Scripture which it also confirms to be true and reliable?

The fact that muhaymin is coupled with the verb saddaqa leads us to conclude that its meaning in this particular verse is that the Muslim book guards/protects/safeguards/assures the Holy Bible. Admittedly, there is also another plausible meaning of the term which we will discuss shortly.

With the foregoing in perspective we can now turn our attention to English versions of the Quran to see how both Muslims and non-Muslims have translated the verse.

English Muslim Versions

An examination of the various English translations of the Quran shows that most of them understand muhaymin to mean that the Quran not only testifies to the authority and preservation of the Holy Bible but also guards and protects it from corruption.

… confirmatory of previous Scriptures, and their safeguard… A.J. Arberry

… It confirms the Scriptures which came before it and stands as a guardian over it… N.J. Dawood

… confirming the earlier revelations, and preserving them (from change and corruption)… Ahmed Ali (*)

… confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety… Y. Ali

… confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and a watcher over it… Pickthall

… confirming the Scripture that came before it and Mohayminan (trustworthy in highness and a witness) over it (old Scriptures)… Hilali-Khan

… confirming the Book before it, and a protector for it… Mufti Taqi Usmani

… verifying what is before it of the Book and a guardian over it… Shakir

… and fulfilling that which was revealed before it in the Book, and as a guardian over it… Sher Ali

… confirming that which hath preceded it of the Book, and a guardian thereof. Abdul-Majid Daryabadi (*)

… to confirm what was already there from the [previous] Book, and to safeguard it… T.B. Irving (*)

… confirming the Book that was revealed before it, and a guardian over it… Hasan Qaribullah (*)

… confirming the Books preceding it, and a protector and witness over them… Mohammed Aqib Farid Qadri (*)

… confirming to what (is) between his hands from the Book, and guarding/protecting on it… Mohamed Ahmed & His Daughter, Samira (*)

… confirming that which preceded it of the Scripture and as a criterion over it… Translation Of The Meanings Of The Glorious Quran (*)

… fulfilling that which was revealed before it of the book, and as a guardian over it… Muhammad Zafrulla Khan (*)

… fulfilling (the prophecies of) the Scripture which was present before it and stands as a guardian over it… Abdul Mannan Omer (*)

So far neither the lexical data nor the various English versions that we examined agree with the assertion that the Quran functions as a quality control agent that determines which parts of the Bible have remained intact and which portions have been corrupted. We now turn our attention the immediate context in order to see what we can glean from it so as to better grasp Muhammad’s point.

Contextual Meaning

Here is the verse in its immediate context:

Yet how will they make thee their judge seeing they have the Torah, wherein is God's judgment, then thereafter turn their backs? They are not believers. Surely We sent down the Torah, wherein IS guidance and light; thereby the Prophets who had surrendered themselves gave judgment for those of Jewry, as did the masters and the rabbis, following such portion of God's Book as they were given to keep and were witnesses to. So fear not men, but fear you Me; and sell not My signs for a little price. Whoso judges not according to what God has sent down - they are the unbelievers. And therein We prescribed for them: 'A life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds retaliation'; but whosoever forgoes it as a freewill offering, that shall be for him an expiation. Whoso judges not according to what God has sent down -- they are the evildoers. And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus son of Mary, confirming the Torah before him (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi mina al-tawratilit., confirming that which is between his hands) and We gave to him the Gospel, wherein IS guidance and light, and confirming the Torah before it (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi mina al-tawrati – lit., confirming that which is between his hands), as a guidance and an admonition unto the godfearing. So let the People of the Gospel judge according to what God has sent down therein. Whosoever judges not according to what God has sent down -- they are the ungodly. And We have sent down to thee the Book with the truth, confirming the Book that was before it (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi mina alkitabilit., that which is between its hands of the Book), and assuring it. So judge between them according to what God has sent down, and do not follow their caprices, to forsake the truth that has come to thee. To every one of you We have appointed a right way and an open road. If God had willed, He would have made you one nation; but that He may try you in what has come to you. So be you forward in good works; unto God shall you return, all together; and He will tell you of that whereon you were at variance. And judge between them according to what God has sent down, and do not follow their caprices, and beware of them lest they tempt thee away from any of what God has sent down to thee. But if they turn their backs, know that God desires only to smite them for some sin they have committed; surely, many men are ungodly. S. 5:43-49 Arberry

This is what we learn from the context of Q. 5:48:

  1. The Jews have the Torah which contains God’s judgment. They are therefore expected to follow the injunctions contained in their Scripture, since it is a guidance and light, as opposed to turning to Muhammad for decision.
  2. The Torah, which is called Allah’s Book, was used by the prophets, rabbis and scholars to judge their respective communities. The point here is that if the Torah was good enough for the prophets to judge by then surely it is good enough for the Jews to use to decide and judge matters.
  3. Jesus came confirming the Torah that was in his possession and was given the Gospel which also confirmed the Torah.
  4. Christians are exhorted to judge by the Gospel which God gave to Jesus since it contains guidance and light.
  5. The Quran came down confirming the previous Scriptures which Muhammad had access to, and is to be used to judge matters.
  6. It is in this context that the Quran says that Allah has prescribed to each people a law, a way, and an open path.

When we take all of these points into consideration it seems that another plausible interpretation is that the term muhaymin refers to the fact that the Muslim scripture is the guidance from which the followers of Muhammad will decide matters and derive their laws. As such, the Muslim scripture determines what judicial aspects and commands of the previous Scriptures are still binding upon the Muslims and which particular Biblical directives have been replaced by specific Quranic injunctions. This understanding of the word is reflected in the following translations:

… It confirms the (original) Bible and has the authority to preserve or abrogate what the Bible contains… Muhammad Sarwar (*; emphasis ours)

… confirming previous scriptures, and superseding them… Rashad Khalifa (*)

… authenticating what is present of the Scripture and superseding it… The Message (*)

… It validates and subsumes the true teachings of the earlier Books… G.A. Parwez (*)

According to this understanding, the Quran abrogates, supersedes, or subsumes the earlier Biblical teachings. The Quran determines what injunctions of the Holy Bible remain applicable for Muslims and which commands have been canceled. As one Muslim expositor puts it:

2. That is why, in the cited verses, the people of the Torah have been asked to decide, judge and obey in accordance with the Torah and the people of the Injil have been asked to decide, judge and obey in accordance with the Injil – though both these Books and their Shari‘ahs stand abrogated after the appearance of the Holy Prophet. The outcome is that the injunctions of the Torah and Injil which were not abrogated by the Qur’an are obedience-worthy even today. (Mufti Shafi Usmani, Maariful Quran, Volume 3, pp.184-185; source)

Here is an example of how the Quran annuls previous commands given by God’s true prophets. According to the Torah a man cannot remarry his former wife who has gone on to wed someone else, since this is an abomination:

"If a man marries a woman who becomes displeasing to him because he finds something indecent about her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, and if after she leaves his house she becomes the wife of another man, and her second husband dislikes her and writes her a certificate of divorce, gives it to her and sends her from his house, or if he dies, then her first husband, who divorced her, is not allowed to marry her again after she has been defiled. That would be detestable in the eyes of the LORD. Do not bring sin upon the land the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance." Deuteronomy 24:1-4

Islamic law, however, contradicts this by not just allowing such marriages to take place but by also making it mandatory for the woman to sleep with another husband before she can even be considered lawful for her previous spouse:

A divorce is only permissible twice: after that, the parties should either hold together on equitable terms, or separate with kindness. It is not lawful for you, (men), to take back any of your gifts (from your wives), except when both parties fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by Allah. If ye (judges) do indeed fear that they would be unable to keep the limits ordained by Allah, there is no blame on either of them if she give something for her freedom. These are the limits ordained by Allah. So do not transgress them if any do transgress the limits ordained by Allah, such persons wrong (themselves as well as others). So if a husband divorces his wife (irrevocably), he cannot, after that, re- marry her until after she has married another husband and he has divorced her. In that case there is no blame on either of them if they re-unite, provided they feel that they can keep the limits ordained by Allah. Such are the limits ordained by Allah, which He makes plain to those who understand." S. 2:229-230

Narrated 'Aisha:
Rifa'a Al-Qurazi divorced his wife irrevocably (i.e. that divorce was the final). Later on 'Abdur-Rahman bin Az-Zubair married her after him. She came to the Prophet and said, "O Allah's Apostle! I was Rifa'a's wife and he divorced me thrice, and then I was married to 'Abdur-Rahman bin Az-Zubair, who, by Allah has nothing with him except something like this fringe, O Allah's Apostle," showing a fringe she had taken from her covering sheet. Abu Bakr was sitting with the Prophet while Khalid Ibn Said bin Al-As was sitting at the gate of the room waiting for admission. Khalid started calling Abu Bakr, "O Abu Bakr! Why don't you reprove this lady from what she is openly saying before Allah's Apostle?" Allah's Apostle did nothing except smiling, and then said (to the lady), "Perhaps you want to go back to Rifa'a? No, (it is not possible), unless and until you enjoy the sexual relation with him ('Abdur Rahman), and he enjoys the sexual relation with you." (Sahih Al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 107)

Yahya related to me from Malik from al-Miswar ibn Rifaa al-Quradhi from az-Zubayr ibn Abd ar-Rahman ibn az-Zubayr that Rifaa ibn Simwal divorced his wife, Tamima bint Wahb, in the time of the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, three times. Then she married Abd ar-Rahman ibn az-Zubayr and he turned from her and could not consummate the marriage and so he parted from her. Rifaa wanted to marry her again and it was mentioned to the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, and he forbade him to marry her. He said, "She is not halal for you until she has tasted the sweetness of intercourse." (Malik's Muwatta, Book 28, Number 28.7.17)

For more on this topic we recommend the following articles (1, 2, 3, 4).

Hence, what the foregoing demonstrates is that the most that a Muslim can prove from this verse is that certain Biblical directives have been superseded by the message of the Quran. This reference cannot be used to prove that the Quran somehow teaches that the Holy Bible has been corrupted since that is not the point of the immediate context which goes out of its way to affirm the authority and preservation of the Biblical text.

To repeat, Muhammad’s purpose in referring to the role and function of the Quran in respect to the previous Scriptures was to inform his followers that, even though the former inspired Books remain intact and are therefore authoritative, his own legislation replaces or ratifies certain laws that were given through the former prophets/messengers. Muslims are, therefore, expected to implement the directives contained within their own scripture over against the commands found in the previous Books, whereas Jews and Christians can continue to carry out the legislation found in their respective Scriptures.

Muhammad said something similar to Umar who was reading from a copy of the Torah:

Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah
Umar ibn al-Khattab brought to Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) A COPY OF THE TORAH and said: Allah's Messenger, This is a copy of the Torah. He (Allah's Messenger) kept quiet and he (Umar) began to read it. The (colour) of the face of Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) underwent a change, whereupon AbuBakr said: Would that your mother mourn you, don't you see the face of Allah's Messenger? Umar saw the face of Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) and said: I seek refuge with Allah from the wrath of Allah and the wrath of His Messenger. We are well pleased with Allah as Lord, with Islam as religion, and with Muhammad as Prophet. Whereupon Allah's Messenger (peace be upon him) said: By Him in Whose hand is the life of Muhammad, even if Moses were to appear before you and you were to follow him, leaving me aside, you would certainly stray into error; for if (Moses) were alive (now), and he found my prophetical ministry, he would have definitely followed me.
Transmitted by Darimi. (Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 69; ALIM CD-ROM Version)

Pay careful attention to the fact that Muhammad didn’t attack the textual veracity of the Torah, which is what we would have expected him to do if he didn’t believe that the Bible remained intact and fully preserved. Rather, Muhammad’s whole issue with Umar reading the Book of Moses is that the Quranic legislation has replaced the Mosaic Scripture and Muslims are therefore obligated to follow Muhammad’s rules as opposed to those given by the previous prophets and messengers.

The Quran says the same thing concerning the advent of Jesus:

And He will teach him the Book, the Wisdom, the Torah, the Gospel… "And confirming the Torah which is between my hands (Wa musaddiqan lima bayna yadayya mina alttawrati), and to make lawful some of that which was forbidden unto you. I come unto you with a sign from your Lord, so keep your duty to Allah and obey me." S. 3:48, 50

Even though he came to confirm the authority and authenticity of the Torah which he had access to Jesus was also sent to annul certain precepts of the previous revelation which was in his hands. This is basically what the Quran says about its relationship with the previous inspired Books, e.g. Muhammad confirmed the reliability of the Bible while at the same time abrogating some of its legislation and rules.

Now we obviously don’t agree with the claim of the Quran that it has the authority to abrogate certain parts of the previous Scriptures since this assumes that the Muslim book originates from the same Divine source which authored the former prophetic Books. The fact is that the Quran is not inspired and definitely does not originate from the one true God who spoke through the prophets and apostles by his Holy Spirit.

The point of our examination here is to simply show that Q. 5:48 does not support the oft-repeated Muslim mantra that the Quran teaches that certain parts of the Holy Bible have been corrupted and that Muslims must therefore use their religious book to determine which parts of the Biblical text remains unchanged. Rather, the most this specific citation proves is that the Quran allows Muslims to set aside certain Biblical legislations and directives while acknowledging that these inspired Scriptures are fully authoritative and that their respective texts still remain intact and are fully preserved.

Further Reading

The Classical Muslim Commentators and their Exegesis of Surah 5:48
The Quranic Witness to Biblical Authority: Appendix
No! The Religion of Christ has not been Abrogated
Themes for the Diligent: Has the Qur'an abrogated the Torah and the Gospel?

Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page