If I understand correctly, Islam accepts several holy books as authored by Allah. Obviously, Muslims are encouraged to read the Quran, but among these books are the Bible (or Gospel) and the Torah, and it's not clear to me whether or not Muslims are encouraged to read them too.

Question: Are Muslims encouraged to read the Bible and/or the Torah? Why or why not?

As in: Would it be worthwhile? Could reading these books lead a Muslim astray? Is there some things a Muslim should know before reading them?

On one hand, they're authored by Allah. But, at the same time, they're not treated the same way as the Quran, nor do I encounter e.g. Muslims reading or quoting from the Bible. There may also be some underlying politics involved here. It's unclear to me how to interpret this.

This question Why Muslims are not allowed to read Torah? has vague and unreferenced answers. The OP of this question How should one read the bible as a muslim? writes "...the Bible is said to be either corrupted or superseded by the Quran." The answer to this question The Bible vs The Qur'an writes "...the Qur'an is the word of God applicable today". The top answer to this question Which part of the Christian Bible is corrupted? writes "...a large chunk of the New Testament was written by Paul, whom the Qur'an doesn't recognize as a Prophet". And the answer to this question Why Islam contradicts with Quran about the authenticity of Bible? says "...the Gospel and Torah was revealed from Allah but this does not validate its current day authenticity or require us to believe in its present day content entirely."

My impression from the above linked questions is that it's either discouraged, or, at least, not strongly encouraged. Nobody seems to be arguing that it's critical for a Muslim to read these books.

  • I've grew up in a Sunni family and reading the Bible wasn't discouraged; and I've personally read portions of both the Old & New Testament; but this is just anecdotal without scholarly backing; I see that one answer has done so, and much more usefully than my comment. – Mozibur Ullah Aug 11 '16 at 9:40
  • Bible is actually formed from Gospel, Torah and Psalms of prophet David( PBUH). But Bible isn’t the word of God, but Gospel, Torah, Psalms are indeed the words of God but sooner later they were corrupted, only Quran was saved from corruption( meaning that it has been protected). – Alex A Nov 13 '18 at 23:24

Refernce(s) for prohibitting it

Those who may say that it is not allowed for Muslims to read the Torah and the Bible or any other "Holy Book" would refer to a narration which was compiled by al-Bazzar and Imam Ahmad and qualified as weak by some scholars:

It was narrated from Jaabir ibn ‘Abdullah (may Allah be pleased with him) that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (may Allah be pleased with him) came to the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) with some written material he had got from one of the people of the Book. He read it to the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), and he got angry and said: Are you confused (about your religion), O son of al-Khattaab? By the One in Whose hand is my soul, I have brought it (the message of Islam) to you clear and pure. Do not ask them about anything, lest they tell you something true and you disbelieve it, or they tell you something false and you believe it. By the One in Whose hand is my soul, if Moosa were alive, he would have no option but to follow me.”.

On this basis one could prohibit reading any other holy book except the Quran as it should be enough for us and as it states that it is the most (or absolutely) correct revelation. One could also add this statement of ibn 'Abbas from sahih al-Bukhari:

"Why do you ask the people of the scripture about anything while your Book which has been revealed to Allah's Messenger (ﷺ) is newer and the latest? You read it pure, undistorted and unchanged, and Allah has told you that the people of the scripture changed their scripture and distorted it, and wrote the scripture with their own hands and said, 'It is from Allah,' to sell it for a little gain. Does not the knowledge which has come to you prevent you from asking them about anything? No, by Allah, we have never seen any man from them asking you regarding what has been revealed to you!"

which goes ahead with (29:51). See also this hadith from sahih al-Bukahri which is quote saying that some of the people of the book used to translate their scripture to Muslims.

That's why scholars like ..

Al-Qurtubi (may Allah have mercy on him) said:
If the one who reads it – namely the Qur’an – will have a tenfold reward or more for each letter, according to what we mentioned in the introduction to this book, then turning away from it and towards other Books is misguidance and loss, and it is a bad deal and waste of time. (Fatwa)

But one can also say: At the time this happened our religion Islam was still not fully established, as some rules may have come later. For example many people say that the Prophet prohibited writing down or compiling his hadith which seems to be a similar case (Be aware that there are narrations showing that our Prophet even allowed it to some of his companions). So if we assume both cases are similar than it after the last revelation of the Quran it should have been allowed to cross-check the truth of Quran with other earlier revelations. Maybe it was at the beginning frowned about because there were still pagans, and people were still close to worshiping idols, so maybe they could have a fall back! This means one could say the Question is: should we understand this Prohibition for 'Omar as a general prohibition for all Muslims or was it due to the circumstances a more likely temporary prohibition?

Most scholars agree that only a well-versed with strong faith person (a scholar for instance) is allowed to read those books to be able to debate non-Muslims and establish proofs against their false teachings!

Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar (may Allah have mercy on him) said (in fath al-Barry):
With regard to this matter, it is important to note that in the case of those who are not well-versed in knowledge and are lacking in faith, it is not permissible for them to read any of those books. (From the same fatwa as above)

this means for ordinary people the above prohibition applies:

An-Nawawi (may Allah have mercy on him) said (in rawdat at-Talibeen):
The books of the Torah and Gospel are among the things that it is prohibited to seek benefit therein, because they changed and altered them.

A-Rahibani (May Allah have mercy on him) said (in matalib uwli aN-nuha): It is not permissible to study the books of the people of the Book, based on textual evidence, because the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) got angry when he saw ‘Umar (may Allah be pleased with him) carrying a page of the Torah. … And they should not read books that contain both truth and falsehood, or narrate what they learn from them, because that may be detrimental to belief. (From the same fatwa as above)

So the major opinion among scholars seem discouraging reading books of other faiths and beliefs. I think it depends on the faith of the person and the intention, so one couldn't say it's generally prohibited or allowed.

For more details read the full linked fatwa and see also this fatwa in Arabic. They show that even if the majority of scholars discourage reading Bible and Torah there's a strong enough evidence contradicting their verdict. Of course the major reason that may defend their view to some extent is the fact that they say it is prohibited for the ordinary Muslim (only).

Reference for a permission

Those who may say that it is allowed for Muslims to read the Torah and the Bible or any other "Holy Book" would refer to this Hadith which was compiled by Imam Ahmad in his Musnad and abu Dawod in his sunan:

relate traditions from the children of Isra'il; there is no harm.

A longer versions can be found in sahih al-Bukhari and jami' at-Tirmdihi both on the authorithy of Abdullah ibn 'Amr.

In sahih Muslim you may find a hadith which doesn't refer to bani Israel (the children of Israel or Jews) at all and has apparently a similar wording it is one of the evidences for not allowing to take down hadith.

The (shared and displayed) statement of the hadith was interpreted as follows: It is allowed to narrate traditions of bani Israel which are in their books (without checking the narrator chains).
Al-Khattabi added that this doesn't allow to tell lies about them.
Imam Malik said: this means that it is allowed to narrate about them what is good. While itz is not allowed to tell one knows is a lie.
Imam a-Shafi'i said: it means narrate about them what you are sure that it is not a lie, and what you can tolerate of it there's no harm in narrating it. And he quoted a statement of a hadith as an evidence:

... Whatever the people of the Book tell you, do not verify them, nor falsify them ...

and there was neither a prohibition nor a permission to tell what one is absolutely certain about.
a-Tybi explained: There's no contradiction between the permission in this hadith and the prohibition in an other neither for narrating from or about nor reading in their books, because here he meant telling their stories like killing themselves for repentance. While the prohibition was about following their rulings because they have been made void by his shari'a or at the beginnings of Islam when the rulings were not settled yet, so afterwards he gave permission as the reason for the prohibition was no more given.

These statements are taken and translated (by myself) from this Arabic fatwa.

Some works that have discussed other faiths based on a deep insight of their texture and rulings

AFAIK only a few scholars wrote books and discussed other faith based on a deep insight of the rulings and theology of these religions. For example ibn Hazm the Andalusian (dhahiri scholar) in his Al-Fasl fi al-Milal wa al-Nihal الفصل في الملل والأهواء والنحل (The Separator Concerning Religions, Heresies, and Sects) and later al-Shahrastani the Persian (sunni shafi'i scholar) in his Kitāb al–Milal wa al-Nihal كتاب الملل والنحل (The Book of Sects and Creeds) these are the major works in this subject. While most Muslim scholars like al-Ghazaly have primarily discussed the false believes and thoughts of sects which have been cerated within Islam or based on Islamic traditions. Ibn Hazm of course had the opportunity to grow up in a more liberal Islamic environment in which Jews and Christians played a big role however his book also covers other religious faiths like Hindu etc.

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    not allowed for Muslims ? I strongly disagree, I am Muslim and I read little in the Bible and it was amazing. I still receive daily letter regarding the bible, why I shouldnt read in the bible ? it teach many beautiful things in different way. if somone read quraan before , he will not be misslead, on the contrary he will understand islam relegion better – Moudiz Aug 11 '16 at 12:24
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    @Moudiz if you read my answer you may find out that i question this, but most scholarly opinions i could find are discouraging it for "ordinary Muslims"! – Sassir Aug 11 '16 at 12:55

This answer is based on two lectures I gave a few months ago on what Quran itself says about Injil and Torah.

In my lectures I went over every verse in Quran that refers to Injil, Torah, the book, the books, ... directly or indirectly. There is not even a single verse in Quran that forbids reading Injil/Torah, there is not even a single slightly negative verse in Quran about them. On the other hand Quran is full of verses that praises both of them. Quran considers itself a strengthening of those previous books and often tell the followers of Torah and Injil to go bring them and read what is in them together. It actually goes further and makes it a requirement to believe in them to be a believer. In verses 2:2-5 Quran describes the righteous and it states that one of the attributes of the righteous is believing in previous sacred books as they do in Quran. A Muslim following Quran has to believe in those previous books as he believes in Quran. In verse 2:285 Quran says that the Prophet and his believers believe in the holy books. It is also useful to contrast this with verse 2:113 where it discusses the arguments between Jews and Christians claiming that the other one has nothing from truth and then criticizes them stating that both of the read the book. This shows that Quran does not approve disrespecting and disregarding Injil and Torah. Anyone who acts like that is behaving similar to those criticized in this verse.

In verse 28:49 Quran tell the Prophet to say that "if you are honest bring me a book from God which is better in guiding from those two and I will follow it" and from the previous verse it is clear that one of those two books from God is Torah.

Also see verses 5:44-50 and 5:65-70. Quran speaks extremely highly of both Injil and Torah and considers them full of light and guidance. There is no warning in Quran against reading them so it is natural for anyone who believes in Quran to seek the light and guidance that is in Torah and Injil as well.

Some Muslims disregard these verses from Quran by using the excuses that they are altered. This argument doesn't hold face when one looks clearly: Quran is not talking about some historical book that didn't exist at the time of the Prophet but Torah and Injil as it existed during the Prophet's time and we have very strong historical documents to show that Torah and Injil as we have it today is the same as what was present at the time of the Prophet.

As I understand, anyone telling you that you should shun Injil and Torah is telling something against Quran's teachings. This is a widespread major divergence from the teachings of Quran as we can see from the starting and ending verses of second Sura. Both Injil and Torah are sacred books from God and anyone who is seeking God should naturally be interested in hearing what is said in them. This attitude is part of the sickness that befall on Judaism and Christianity and I think it comes from a form of communal selfishness and pride and a feeling of superiority based on group association (not good deeds!) and these things are strongly frowned upon in Quran.

In verses 23:51-54 we have

يَـٰٓأَيُّهَا ٱلرُّسُلُ كُلُوا۟ مِنَ ٱلطَّيِّبَـٰتِ وَٱعْمَلُوا۟ صَـٰلِحًا ۖ إِنِّى بِمَا تَعْمَلُونَ عَلِيمٌۭ * وَإِنَّ هَـٰذِهِۦٓ أُمَّتُكُمْ أُمَّةًۭ وَ‌ٰحِدَةًۭ وَأَنَا۠ رَبُّكُمْ فَٱتَّقُونِ * فَتَقَطَّعُوٓا۟ أَمْرَهُم بَيْنَهُمْ زُبُرًۭا ۖ كُلُّ حِزْبٍۭ بِمَا لَدَيْهِمْ فَرِحُونَ * فَذَرْهُمْ فِى غَمْرَتِهِمْ حَتَّىٰ حِينٍ

O Prophets, eat from clean foods and do good deeds, truly I am full-aware of what you do. And this nation of yours is a single nation and I am your Lord so be mindful of me. But [their followers] divided their affairs between them to pieces, each group rejoices [among themselves] because of what is with them [from the book and ignores the rest]. So leave them in their confused ignorance until the time [of judgement].

And in verses 5:47-48 we have

وَلْيَحْكُمْ أَهْلُ ٱلْإِنجِيلِ بِمَآ أَنزَلَ ٱللَّهُ فِيهِ ۚ وَمَن لَّمْ يَحْكُم بِمَآ أَنزَلَ ٱللَّهُ فَأُو۟لَـٰٓئِكَ هُمُ ٱلْفَـٰسِقُونَ * وَأَنزَلْنَآ إِلَيْكَ ٱلْكِتَـٰبَ بِٱلْحَقِّ مُصَدِّقًۭا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ مِنَ ٱلْكِتَـٰبِ وَمُهَيْمِنًا عَلَيْهِ ۖ فَٱحْكُم بَيْنَهُم بِمَآ أَنزَلَ ٱللَّهُ ۖ وَلَا تَتَّبِعْ أَهْوَآءَهُمْ عَمَّا جَآءَكَ مِنَ ٱلْحَقِّ ۚ لِكُلٍّۢ جَعَلْنَا مِنكُمْ شِرْعَةًۭ وَمِنْهَاجًۭا ۚ وَلَوْ شَآءَ ٱللَّهُ لَجَعَلَكُمْ أُمَّةًۭ وَ‌ٰحِدَةًۭ وَلَـٰكِن لِّيَبْلُوَكُمْ فِى مَآ ءَاتَىٰكُمْ ۖ فَٱسْتَبِقُوا۟ ٱلْخَيْرَ‌ٰتِ ۚ إِلَى ٱللَّهِ مَرْجِعُكُمْ جَمِيعًۭا فَيُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا كُنتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ

And the followers of Injil must judge [among themselves] according to what God has sent in it, and whoever does not judge according to what God has sent thus surely they are rebels [against God]. And we sent to you the book rightfully, confirmation to what is in their hands from the book and strengthening on it. Judge among them according to what God has sent and do not follow their desires whereof the right [action] has arrived to you. To each [group of you] we set a law and a light. And if God wanted he could make you all one nation [without disputes] but [he did not do so] to test you in what you are given [from the book]. So speed towards good deeds, towards God is the return of you all thus he will inform you what you were disputing in.

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    To the down voter: my answer might not conform to your believes and may not please you but what is in it is easily verifiable by checking the Quran's verses, so I would suggest that you read Quran if you believe in it. Let me know if you find a mistake in my answer and I will correct it. – Kaveh Aug 12 '16 at 4:46
  • Even if I do agree with your statement about Torah and Injil, Quran doesn't refer to the actual Torah or Injil. As for this Quran is in first place addressing those who changed it like legacy.quran.com/2/75 and legacy.quran.com/2/78-79 – Sassir Aug 12 '16 at 4:54
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    @Sassir, as I have written in my answer, there are many verses in Quran that refers to what was present at the time of the Prophet, not some historical books that did not exist at his time anymore and what we have right now is what was present at the time of the Prophet. The excuse to forbid reading them because they are altered does not hold ground. Quran doesn't refer to what present at the time of Prophet as "altered Injil" and "altered Torah" or "false Injil" and "false Torah", it refers to them as "Injil" and "Torah" so these verses do apply to them. – Kaveh Aug 12 '16 at 4:57
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    E.g. verse 5:93: "... Tell [them]: go bring Torah and read it ...". This is clearly referring to what was present at the time of the Prophet. Or in verse 5:47, it tells Christians to judge according to Injil, clearly this refers to what Christians had at the time. The phrase "لما بین یدیه" in verse 5:48 which Quran states to be confirming and strengthening means "what is available". – Kaveh Aug 12 '16 at 5:13
  • I know but this is used as an evidence for allowing people of the book to be judged based on their shari'a in a Muslim country! Note that I've updated my answer and added a reference for the opposite view! – Sassir Aug 12 '16 at 5:38

If I understand correctly, Islam accepts several holy books as authored by Allah. Obviously, Muslims are encouraged to read the Quran, but among these books are the Bible (or Gospel) and the Torah, and it's not clear to me whether or not Muslims are encouraged to read them too.

Not necessarily. The Injil is recognized to be authored by God but there is disagreement on what the Injil is. Paul's letters, Revelation, the letters of James and Peter, etc... all attribute divine names and attributes to 'Isa (Jesus) and the Holy Spirit. This directly contradicts the Qu'ran where it says that Jesus was mere prophet and other Unitarian aspects in Islam. For this reason and others, you'll find some Dawahish who say that the New Testament is not the Injil. The wikipedia page for Injil explains "Muslims reject that Jesus or any other person wrote the Injil, instead crediting its authorship to God. Many Muslim scholars believe that the Gospel has undergone alteration, that the words and the meaning of the words have been distorted, with some passages suppressed and others added."

The Qu'ran mentions that people had the Injil at the time of Mohammad and we have full copies of the New Testament even centuries beforehand (for this, scholars like Shabir Ally believe that the Injil is embedded in the New Testament and one merely discards anything that doesn't line up with the Qu'ran).

As in: Would it be worthwhile? Could reading these books lead a Muslim astray? Is there some things a Muslim should know before reading them?

As a Christian I would say so but a Muslim may disagree. (I'm reading a transliteration of the Qu'ran presently fyi.) The Qu'ran diverges greatly from the Old & New Testament. For example, in Islam it is believed that prophets are infallible. In Christianity, Jesus is the only sinless one. In the Old Testament Abraham, Moses, Jonah, Isaiah, David, and others sin. God rebukes and corrects them. These are key elements in many of the stories and you're left saying the lengthy events are untrue and without merit from a Muslim-y prospective.

When you come to the New Testament, the theme changes and you hit parts like Romans that says "righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no distinction, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by His grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."

So I'd suggest reading them because the Qu'ran diverges so much from them but a Muslim may recommend not reading them due to that same reason.

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    Muslim-y. The adjectival form of Muslim is Islamic. – TRiG Aug 11 '16 at 16:44
  • "For example, in Islam it is believed that prophets are infallible." Wait, is this true? I've seen people claim that even Prophet Mohammad is fallible (except in conveying the message of God through the Quran). – Rebecca J. Stones Aug 12 '16 at 0:00
  • @RebeccaJ.Stones The concept is called Ismah but is more apparent in Shia Islam than Sunni. For Dawahists like Joshua Evans, they do use the occurrences of Old Testament prophets sinning as a reason to reject the Torah. Example: youtube.com/… – Lan Aug 12 '16 at 13:05

"E.g. verse 5:93: "... Tell [them]: go bring Torah and read it ...". This is clearly referring to what was present at the time of the Prophet......" Kaveh Aug 12 at 5:13

This was commanded because the Prophet peace be upon him knew that the text in their Torah at the time for this particular ruling was still intact and not changed. I will link some YouTube videos from Dr Jamal Badawi, Dr Shabir Ally and Ahmed Deedat shortly.

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  • Then refers to the Jews in this Verse! – Medi1Saif Oct 29 '16 at 7:33

Say, "O People of the Scripture, you are [standing] on nothing until you uphold [the law of] the Torah, the Gospel, and what has been revealed to you from your Lord." And that which has been revealed to you from your Lord will surely increase many of them in transgression and disbelief. So do not grieve over the disbelieving people. ~ Al-Maidah:68

In Al-Quran itself, this ayah told to uphold the law from the abovementioned books. To uphold it one must study.

اللَّهُ نَزَّلَ أَحْسَنَ الْحَدِيثِ كِتَابًا

Allah has sent down the best statement: a consistent Book wherein is reiteration ~ Az-Zumar:23

which statement you have as a guide (in yourself) instead of this holy words

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It would help in your walk in Islam if you were knowledgeable of other religions. This will help you in conversing with those of other faiths. You can discuss the merits of Islam and how it relates to their religious views and perhaps get them to change their faith or visit your Mosque with you. The teachings of Jews, Christians, Muslims, and Wicca are much different from each other. For instance, knowing that Satanists don't actually worship Satan will help you see them as more like Athists. Only through the understanding of others will you be able to convince them to follow the correct path.

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