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I realize this is a rather broad question. I'm looking for a broad answer as well, with just a general overview of the relevant material. I will likely ask more specific followup questions.

As Islam was founded several hundred years after Christianity, and is also an Abrahamic religion, and Islam, for example, views Jesus as a prophet of Allah, whose life is most well known through the Christian New Testament, I am left wondering how Islam regards these religious texts.

What is the relationship between Islam and the Christian New Testament? What authority, if any, does it have, and how should it be read and understood by a Muslim?

  • You can maybe summarize what is Christian New Testament. – user44 Jul 7 '12 at 18:51
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    @yasar11732: I have added a link... I am happy to add more. What additional description would you like to see? – Flimzy Jul 7 '12 at 18:52
  • Muslim attitude towards Bible is in the maxim: "Bible is not the word of God, the word of God is in the Bible" – user549 Sep 18 '15 at 12:38
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Muslims are required to believe in all previous books sent by God including Torah and Injil (verses 2:2, 2:285). Regarding these books Quran states that the new book sent to Mohammad (PBUH) confirms what is in the hands of the followers of the previous books (i.e. what Christians and Jews had at the time of the prophet which we know is the same as the current books) and clarifies what is disputed among them (e.g. verse 2:41).

It also maintains that parts of the previous books has been altered (though I don't remember any verse that explicitly says this about Injil, it mainly object to what Christians say not to the book). Regarding Jews it states that some Jewish scholars write words from themselves and then claim that it is from God.

The contents of the four gospels are more or less consistent with Islamic views, though some are a bit less so. In particular, the opening part of the gospel according to John, and the parts regarding Jesus's (PBUH) death and resurrection are not consistent with Quran. Also the word son and father should be interpreted the same way as those in Old Testament and should not be held as literal in the way they are interpreted today by most Christians. In other words Jesus (PBUH) is called "son of God" the same way that Israelities and other are referred to as such in the books of Old Testament.

I should add that considering the importance of these beliefs for most Christians today, one can say the Christian reading of these books are heavily inconsistent with Islam and Quran explicitly points out these as false. According to Quran, Jesus was a human born without a father, the analogy for his creation in Quran is the creation of Adam, he was a major prophet but not son of God (there is no such thing according to Quran), he was taken (from Earth/this world) and ascended towards God, he was not put on cross and he didn't die. There are also some other minor points where Quran's narration differs from those of some the gospels.

These does not apply to the other books of the new testament (e.g. writings of the apostles) and the rulings of the Church (e.g. the rulings in 3rd century A.D. about Jesus (PBUH) being God and trinity).

A considerable part of Quran is devoted to speaking with Jews and Christians and in such arguments Quran often refers to the contents of the Torah and Injil to advance its point. Also Quran says that in case Jews/Christians do not accept Islam and remain on their religion they should follow the rulings of their own books. For example, the verse following the one mentioned in SystemDown answer (verse 5:47) says:

وَلْيَحْكُمْ أَهْلُ الْإِنجِيلِ بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ فِيهِ ۚ وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ فَأُولَٰئِكَ هُمُ الْفَاسِقُونَ

And the followers of Injil must judge based on what is sent in it and whoever does not judge based on what God has sent those are the rebellious.

and continues with (verse 5:48):

وَأَنزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ الْكِتَابَ بِالْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ مِنَ الْكِتَابِ وَمُهَيْمِنًا عَلَيْهِ ۖ فَاحْكُم بَيْنَهُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ ۖ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ عَمَّا جَاءَكَ مِنَ الْحَقِّ ۚ لِكُلٍّ جَعَلْنَا مِنكُمْ شِرْعَةً وَمِنْهَاجًا ۚ وَلَوْ شَاءَ اللَّهُ لَجَعَلَكُمْ أُمَّةً وَاحِدَةً وَلَٰكِن لِّيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِي مَا آتَاكُمْ ۖ فَاسْتَبِقُوا الْخَيْرَاتِ ۚ إِلَى اللَّهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًا فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ

And truthfully we sent to you the book, a confirmation to what is between their hands from the book and a guardian on them, thus judge between them based on what God has sent and do not follow their desires while the truth has come to you, for each of you we have put a [set of religious] laws and a light and if God wanted he could make [all of you] one nation but [God wants] to test you about what he has given to you. So hasten towards doing good, towards God is your return, all of you, then he will tell you about what you disputed on.

and (verse 5:49):

وَأَنِ احْكُم بَيْنَهُم بِمَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَاءَهُمْ وَاحْذَرْهُمْ أَن يَفْتِنُوكَ عَن بَعْضِ مَا أَنزَلَ اللَّهُ إِلَيْكَ ۖ فَإِن تَوَلَّوْا فَاعْلَمْ أَنَّمَا يُرِيدُ اللَّهُ أَن يُصِيبَهُم بِبَعْضِ ذُنُوبِهِمْ ۗ وَإِنَّ كَثِيرًا مِّنَ النَّاسِ لَفَاسِقُونَ

and judge between them based on what God has sent and do not follow their desires, and be alert of them lest they beguile you from some of what God has sent to you. And if they turn away, be assured that for some of their crime it is God's will to punish them. And truly most people are rebellious.

From these it seems that Quran orders the prophet to rule among Christians based on their own book.

In verses 3:113-115 Quran says:

لَيْسُوا سَوَاءً ۗ مِّنْ أَهْلِ الْكِتَابِ أُمَّةٌ قَائِمَةٌ يَتْلُونَ آيَاتِ اللَّهِ آنَاءَ اللَّيْلِ وَهُمْ يَسْجُدُونَ

Not all of them are alike, of the people of the book are a portion that stay up rehearsing the signs of God all night long, and they prostrate themselves in adoration.

يُؤْمِنُونَ بِاللَّهِ وَالْيَوْمِ الْآخِرِ وَيَأْمُرُونَ بِالْمَعْرُوفِ وَيَنْهَوْنَ عَنِ الْمُنكَرِ وَيُسَارِعُونَ فِي الْخَيْرَاتِ وَأُولَٰئِكَ مِنَ الصَّالِحِينَ

They believe in God and the judgement day; they enjoin what is right, and forbid what is wrong; and they hasten in [doing] good works, they are in the ranks of the righteous.

وَمَا يَفْعَلُوا مِنْ خَيْرٍ فَلَن يُكْفَرُوهُ ۗ وَاللَّهُ عَلِيمٌ بِالْمُتَّقِينَ

Of the good that they do, nothing will be rejected; and God is omniscience about the righteous.

In these verses, "signs" seems to refer the verses of their own books. In addition to the context of these verses which is about the people of the book and not Muslims, the fact that verse 3:114 does not include believing in Quran and the prophet seems to support the fact that these are not the people of the book who have accepted Islam.

Quran's general attitude seems to be that these are good books (even in their current altered versions), Quran confirms what is right in them and points out the parts that they have been altered (at least the most important issues).

  • I'm curious why you choose to use the word Injil instead of Bible. Would you elaborate please? – Mohamad Oct 27 '12 at 14:59
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    @Mohamad, first Injil translates to Gospel not Bible. I used the word Injil which is used in Quran since the question is asking from what is the viewpoint of Islam. – Kaveh Oct 27 '12 at 21:40
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Christianity (along with Judaism) is recognized by Islam as a predecessor. Christians are part of what is known as Ahl al-Kitab (people of the scripture) and have special considerations (Muslims may eat their food and marry their women).

Muslims believe that the New Testament was originally a book of holy scripture called Al-Injil (translated sometimes as the Gospel) that was revealed to Isa (Jesus) very much like the Quran was revealed to Mohammad. See this ayah:

And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous.

Al-Ma'idah (5:46)

Muslims believe that this book of holy scripture was later altered by human hands and is no longer the word of Allah. The following ayah describes Allah's wrath at those who altered His holy scripture:

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. But pardon them and overlook [their misdeeds]. Indeed, Allah loves the doers of good.

Al-Ma'idah (5:13)

Quran was revealed to Mohammad as Allah's final word and testament, and as such obsoletes all other scriptures before it which includes the New Testament. Thus, the New Testament enjoys no authority in the Islamic view, although some Muslim scholars will refer to it as an historical document on the lives of some of Allah's messengers and prophets.

As for Muslims reading the New Testament, there is no clear consensus on that (as far as I know) from scholars. Some forbid it, others allow it with reservations.

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Kaveh and SystemDown shared very good answers; would add that regarding reading the New Testament, or the whole Bible generally, I can confirm that it is significantly discouraged for laymen, the uneducated, and non-scholars among Muslims to read any of the old books, as it would not be possible for such individuals to discern what conforms to monotheistic submission (Islam), as it was re-taught to Muhammad (after it has been taught to Moses and Jesus and delivered by them), from what was altered. On the other hand, well-researched Muslim scholars like Ahmed Deedat and Dr. Zakir Naik did not just read the Bible, but they could actually quote parts of it from memory to audiences.

  • Hi there, and welcome to the site! Your remark should probably be a comment instead of an answer. – ashes999 Jul 16 '12 at 15:10
  • @ashes999 Thank you; that makes sense now that you've pointed it out. Will keep this in mind next time I contribute to a question. – Rok Jun 10 '18 at 3:37

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