The Islamic holy book is called the Qur’an. It was supposedly given to Muhammad by the angel Gabriel over a number of years, and is considered to be divinely inspired. It was written in Arabic, which is considered by Muslims to be the language of heaven. Because of this, most Muslims will only recite the Qur’an in Arabic, regardless of their first language (1). Many Muslims believe that the Qur’an cannot be understood except in its original Arabic, and some believe that it is no longer divinely inspired if translated. “Any translation of the Qur’an immediately ceases to be the literal word of Allah, and hence cannot be equated with the Qur’an in its original Arabic form. In fact, each of the translations… is actually an interpretation which has been translated.” (2) In contrast, it is not required of Christians to read the Bible in its original Hebrew and Greek. The words of the Bible are considered to be divinely inspired even in their translation.
It appears that Muhammad was influenced by the different religions around him when he wrote the Qur’an. In comparison to the Bible, it contains many of the same stories. The biblical narratives about Adam, Abraham and Moses, for example, have counterparts in the Qur’an, but with differences. Sometimes the stories have been completely distorted, or carry factual errors (3).
One interesting feature of the Qur’an is that it considers the Torah, Psalms and Gospels to have been divinely inspired, but corrupted. Muslims believe that because of this, the Qur’an was given as the final revelation of God, and thus supersedes the Jewish and Christian scriptures (4). However the Bible says “it is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law” (Luke 16:17) and “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35). The Scriptures are not corrupted and are unchanging. The Bible also warns about adding to God’s Word (e.g. Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18-19).
(1) Sobhi Malek, Introduction to Islam (Springfield: Global University, 2004), 30.
(2) University of Southern California-Muslim Student Association Compendium of Muslim Texts, The Noble Qur’an [online]. [Cited April 26, 2007.]
(3) Ibid, 34.
(4) William J. Saal, Reaching Muslims for Christ (Chicago: Moody, 1991), 34.
Also of Interest: Did Jesus Foretell Muhammad?