Qur'an Error:

Israel’s Response to the Covenant

The Quran erroneously states that when God made a covenant with Israel through Moses, the people responded by saying that they disobey:

There came to you Moses with clear (Signs); yet ye worshipped the calf (Even) after that, and ye did behave wrongfully. And remember We took your covenant and We raised above you (the towering height) of Mount (Sinai): (Saying): "Hold firmly to what We have given you, and hearken (to the Law)": They said: "We hear, and WE DISOBEY:" And they had to drink into their hearts (of the taint) of the calf because of their Faithlessness. Say: "Vile indeed are the behests of your Faith if ye have any faith!" S. 2:92-93 Y. Ali

God’s true Word, the Holy Bible, teaches otherwise:

"When Moses went and told the people all the LORD's words and laws, they responded with one voice, ‘Everything the LORD has said we will do.’ Moses then wrote down everything the LORD had said. He got up early the next morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain and set up twelve stone pillars representing the twelve tribes of Israel. Then he sent young Israelite men, and they offered burnt offerings and sacrificed young bulls as fellowship offerings to the LORD. Moses took half of the blood and put it in bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on the altar. Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, ‘We will do everything the LORD has said; WE WILL OBEY.’ Moses then took the blood, sprinkled it on the people and said, ‘This is the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you in accordance with all these words.’" Exodus 24:3-8

This is reiterated here:

"‘Now fear the LORD and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your forefathers worshiped beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the LORD. But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your forefathers served beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.’ Then the people answered, ‘Far be it from us to forsake the LORD to serve other gods! It was the LORD our God himself who brought us and our fathers up out of Egypt, from that land of slavery, and performed those great signs before our eyes. He protected us on our entire journey and among all the nations through which we traveled. And the LORD drove out before us all the nations, including the Amorites, who lived in the land. We too will serve the LORD, because he is our God.’ Joshua said to the people, ‘You are not able to serve the LORD. He is a holy God; he is a jealous God. He will not forgive your rebellion and your sins. If you forsake the LORD and serve foreign gods, he will turn and bring disaster on you and make an end of you, after he has been good to you.’ But the people said to Joshua, ‘No! We will serve the LORD.’ Then Joshua said, ‘You are witnesses against yourselves that you have chosen to serve the LORD.’ ‘Yes, we are witnesses,’ they replied. ‘Now then,’ said Joshua, ‘throw away the foreign gods that are among you and yield your hearts to the LORD, the God of Israel.’ And the people said to Joshua, ‘We will serve the LORD our God AND OBEY HIM.’ On that day Joshua made a covenant for the people, and there at Shechem he drew up for them decrees and laws. And Joshua recorded these things in the Book of the Law of God. Then he took a large stone and set it up there under the oak near the holy place of the LORD. ‘See!’ he said to all the people. ‘This stone will be a witness against us. It has heard all the words the LORD has said to us. It will be a witness against you if you are untrue to your God.’" Joshua 24:14-27

Regardless whether one holds to or rejects the inspiration of the Holy Bible, there is one fact which even liberal critical scholarship wouldn’t contest or disagree with; the Pentateuch and the book of Joshua were written much closer in time to the events of the Exodus and the conquest of Canaan. These documents are therefore more reliable than the Quran, which comes roughly two thousand and one hundred (2100) years after the time of Israel’s Exodus.

The Pentateuch and Joshua are also the official historical documents that the Jews have always turned to in regard to their origin and sacred history, not the Quran. And who would be better qualified to know the history of Israel than the Israelites themselves? Even the Quran itself exhorts Muslims to turn to the Jews when seeking information regarding Israel’s sacred history:

And verily We gave unto Moses nine tokens, clear proofs (of Allah's Sovereignty). Do but ask the Children of Israel how he came unto them, then Pharaoh said unto him: Lo! I deem thee one bewitched, O Moses. S. 17:101 Pickthall

Thus, when the Quran disagrees with the Pentateuch in regard to Israel’s history, the Quran is in error, a point which cannot be debated on historical or logical grounds.

There is an additional error within the Quran relating to this subject. It seems that Muhammad was receiving information from the Jews who were actually twisting and distorting their sacred history without him realizing it until it was too late. Note again the wording of surah 2:93:

And when We made a covenant with you and raised the mountain over you: Take hold of what We have given you with firmness and be obedient. They said: We hear and disobey (samiAAna waAAasayna). And they were made to imbibe (the love of) the calf into their hearts on account of their unbelief Say: Evil is that which your belief bids you if you are believers. Shakir

And now compare this with the following verse:

Of the Jews there are those who displace words from their (right) places, and say: "We hear and we disobey (samiAAna waAAasayna)"; and "Hear what is not Heard"; and "Ra'ina"; with a twist of their tongues and a slander to Faith. If only they had said: "What hear and we obey"; and "Do hear"; and "Do look at us"; it would have been better for them, and more proper; but God hath cursed them for their Unbelief; and but few of them will believe. S. 4:46 Pickthall

The statement in the latter passage, i.e. who displace words from their (right) places, and say ..., implies that Muhammad became aware that the Jews had lied to him regarding what was actually written in the Bible regarding Israel’s acceptance of the covenant. Yet, it was too late for Muhammad to do anything about it since he had already uttered the words of surah 2:93 to the Jews, claiming that these were revelation from Allah. He could not, therefore, recant his position without causing further embarrassment. As noted Christian Apologist John Gilchrist writes:

Whereas the Meccans had simply ridiculed his message and generally resorted to sheer abuse of their kinsman, the Jews were able to trace many of these teachings to their own folklore and produce more damaging evidence against him. As Muhammad could not read their scriptures they were able to constantly provoke him with their knowledge and often frustrated him with subtle twists of phrases which he could not immediately detect but which entertained the Jewish bystanders. For example, Exodus 24.7 states that the Jews at Sinai answered Moses "All that the Lord has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient", but in the Qur'an we discover that the Jews, when commanded to hearken to God's Law on the Mount, allegedly answered "We hear and we disobey" (Surah 2.93). Muhammad later discovered that his informants had subtly misled him on this point and the Qur'an duly censures them for this particular deception:

Of the Jews there are those who displace words from their (right) place and say: "We hear and we disobey". Surah 4.46

It was too late, however, to rectify the unfortunate error that they had succeeded in introducing into the text of the Qur'an. As Muir continues, "Mahomet evidently smarted at this period under the attacks of the Jews" (The Life of Mahomet, p. 179). Other authors comment in a similar vein:

It was not that the Jews refused to recognise Muhammad as a prophet, nor even that they engaged in political intrigue against him, serious as such attitudes and actions were. Much more serious was the Jewish attack on the ideational basis of Muhammad's preaching. It had been claimed that the Qur'an was a message from God and thus inerrant; and it had also been claimed that there was a large measure of identity between the Qur'anic message and what was to be found in the previous scriptures. If the Jews, then, maintained that there were errors and false statements in the Qur'an (because it disagreed with their Bible) and that therefore it could not be a message from God, they were threatening to destroy the foundations of Muhammad's whole religious movement. (Watt, What is Islam?, p. 102).

(Source: www.answering-islam.org/Gilchrist/Vol1/1c.html)

If a Muslim rejects the connection between surahs 2:93 and 4:46, he is still left with this problem: the Quran is wrong about the response of the Israelites to God regarding obeying the covenant. That they failed to live up to the covenant stipulations is a given, but this is different from claiming that they vocally disavowed to obey the covenant of God.

Sam Shamoun

Asif Iqbal wrote a Muslim response to the above.

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