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Taḥrīf (Arabic: تحريف‎‎, "distortion, alteration") is an Arabic term used by Muslims for the alterations which Islamic tradition claims Jews and Christians have made to the revealed books, specifically those that make up the Tawrat (or Torah), Zabur (possibly Psalms) and Injil (or Gospel).

Traditional Muslim scholars,[1] based on Qur'anic and other traditions,[2] maintain that Jews and Christians have changed the word of God.


The theme of tahrif was first characterised in the writings of Ibn Hazm (10th century), who rejected claims of Mosaic authorship and posited that Ezra was the author of the Torah. He also systematically organised the arguments against the authenticity of the Biblical text in the first (Tanakh) and second part (New Testament) of his book: chronological and geographical inaccuracies and contradictions; theological impossibilities (anthropomorphic expressions, stories of fornication and whoredom, and the attributing of sins to prophets), as well as lack of reliable transmission (tawatur) of the text. He explains how the falsification of the Torah could have taken place while there existed only one copy of the Torah kept by the Aaronic priesthood of the Temple in Jerusalem. Ibn Hazm's arguments had a major impact upon Muslim literature and scholars, and the themes which he raised with regard to tahrif and other polemical ideas were modified only slightly by some later authors.[3][4][5]


Amin Ahsan Islahi writes about four types of tahrif:[6]

  1. To deliberately interpret something in a manner that is totally opposite to the intention of the author. To distort the pronunciation of a word to such an extent that the word changes completely.
  2. To add to or delete a sentence or discourse in a manner that completely distorts the original meaning. For example, according to Islam, the Jews altered the incident of the migration of the Prophet Abraham in a manner that no one could prove that Abraham had any relationship with the Kaaba.
  3. To translate a word that has two meanings in the meaning that is totally against the context. For example, the Aramaic word used for Jesus that is equivalent to the Arabic: ابن‎‎ ibn was translated as "son" whereas it also meant "servant" and "slave".
  4. To raise questions about something that is absolutely clear in order to create uncertainty about it, or to change it completely.

Gary Miller (Abdul-Ahad Omar) believes that the Qur'an criticizes the handling of scripture by some Jews and Christians rather than their holy books. According to Gary Miller, the Qur'an only makes the following three accusations:[citation needed]

  • "The Qur'an says some of the Jews and Christians pass over much of what is in their scriptures."
  • "Some of them have changed the words, and this is the one that is misused by Muslims very often giving the impression that once there was a true bible and then somebody hid that one away, then they published a false one. The Qur'an doesn't say that. What it criticizes is that people who have the proper words in front of them, but they don't deliver that up to people. They mistranslate it, or misrepresent it, or they add to the meaning of it. They put a different slant on it." (Qur'an 2:75)[original research?]

Qur'an and the claim of the distortion of the text itself

Here are some of the relevant verses from Qur'an itself. They fall in different categories as mentioned by Islahi above.

1. So woe to their learned people, who write the law with their own hands and then say to the people, "This is from Allah," so that they might gain some paltry worldly end. (They do not see that) this writing of their hands will bring woe to them and what they gain thereby will lead to their ruin. Baqra:79

2. O Muslims, do you then expect that these people will accept your invitation and become believers? whereas there have always been among them some who have been hearing the Word of God, understanding it well and then perverting and tampering with it knowingly. Baqra:75

3. Then, for their breach of the covenant We cast them away from Our mercy and caused their hearts to harden. (And now they are in such a state that) they pervert the words from their context and thus distort their meaning, and have forgotten a good portion of the teaching they were imparted, and regarding all except a few of them you continue to learn that they committed acts of treachery. Pardon them, then, and overlook their deeds. Surely Allah loves those who do good deeds. Al Maeda:13

4. And they do not assign to Allah the attributes due to Him when they say: Allah has not revealed anything to a mortal. Say: Who revealed the Book which Musa brought, a light and a guidance to men, which you make into scattered writings which you show while you conceal much? And you were taught what you did not know, (neither) you nor your fathers. Say: Allah then leave them sporting in their vain discourses. Al Inaam:91

5. And there is a party among them who twist their tongues while reciting the Book to make you think that it is part of the Book when in fact it is not. They say: 'It is from Allah', when in fact it is not from Allah. They falsely fix a lie upon Allah, and do so wittingly. Aale Imraan:78

See also


  1. ^ Ibn Hazm, al-Qurtubi, al-Maqrizi, Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn al-Qayyim and recently Rahmatullah Kairanawi among many others. (See Izhar ul-Haqq, Ch. 1 Sect. 4 titled (القول في التوراة والإنجيل).
  2. ^ See, for example, Ibn Hajar's explication of Bukhari's
  3. ^ The Encyclopedia of Islam, BRILL
  4. ^ Power in the Portrayal: Representations of Jews and Muslims in Eleventh- and Twelfth-Century, chapter "An Andalusi-Muslim Literary Typology of Jewish Heresy and Sedition", pp. 56 and further, Tahrif: p. 58, ISBN 0-691-00187-1
  5. ^ Under Crescent and Cross: The Jews in the Middle Ages, p. 146, ISBN 0-691-01082-X
  6. ^ Amin Ahsan Islahi, Tadabbur-i-Qur'an, 2nd ed., vol. 1, (Lahore: Faran Foundation, 1986), p. 252

External links

  • Islamic Awareness, Is The Bible In Our Hands The Same As During The Time Of Muhammad?
  • Corruption in the Bible: The Muslim Stance
  • Is The Bible Corrupted?
  • What the Gospels Mean to Muslims
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