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'There is no changing the words of God', but what about previous Scriptures?


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Author Topic: 'There is no changing the words of God', but what about previous Scriptures?  (Read 203 times)
AceOfHearts
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« on: October 20, 2007, 04:30:36 pm »

Assalamu alaikum,

I was speaking to a practicing Chrisitian friend who said how the Qur'an said "Words of God cannot be changed", but could not cite a reference.

He thinks there is a contradiction as previous Sciptures have been altered according to the Qur'an.

I have looked into the Verses. Two of them I found most probably contain the Verse he (the Christian friend) was refering to as it uses the expression 'words of God cannot be changed';.

I have concluded that these Verses refer to 'God's decree' when it says kalima or kalimaat (word/words), and not the directly revealed Scriptures of God.

Lets look at Verse No. 1:

"Messengers before you were denied, but they were patient for what they were denied, and they were harmed until Our victory came to them; there is no changing the words of God. News of the messengers has come to you." [Qur'an 6:34]

Lets look at the discussion of the Verse. It continues the discussion from the previous Verse, of the disbelievers rejecting the Messenger. It consoles the Prophet by saying how Messengers before were denied, how they were patient in the face of harm. However, the Verse states how God's victory came to them (at a predetermined time). To emphesise that it is God's decree that God will help his messengers by sending 'victory' after hardship, God says 'There is no changing the words of God'. The words of God, is the 'decree' of God. This is supported by the following Verses where 'words' of God have been explicitly used to refer to the 'decrees'  of God:

"The angels called out to him [Zacharia] while he stood praying in the sanctuary, 'God gives you news of John, confirming a word from God" [Qur'an 3:39]

The above Verse, the word "word" is used to refer to a decree of God that John will be born. So the 'word (decree) of God' is that John is to be born, and the comming of John is now "confirming a word (decree) of God".

Also note the same in the following Verse:

"The angels said, 'Mary, God gives you news of a word from Him, whose name will be Massiah, Jesus son of Mary, who will be held in honour in this world, and the next, who will be one of those bought near to God" [Qur'an 3:45]"

Again note, the "word" from God, is the 'decree' of God, which is that the comming of Jesus, son of Mary. If we go back to the original Verse under discussion:

"Messengers before you were denied, but they were patient for what they were denied, and they were harmed until Our victory came to them; there is no changing the words of God. News of the messengers has come to you." [Qur'an 6:34]

Looking at the Verse, the sudden mentioning of "there is no changing the words of God" makes sense only if we interpret it correctly to mean there is no change in the 'decree' of God. The decree of God in this Verse being the fact that God's will was that he will send victory to the messenger. If we read the Verse while interpreting it to mean 'Scriptures of God', it would like the following:

"...and they were harmed until Our victory came to them; there is no changing the words of God (scriptures?). News of the messengers has come to you." [Qur'an 6:34][/b]

The sudden change of context to mention there is no change in God's Scripture, and then back to the original context would not be fitting. It is actually all under one context because as we have seen, 'words' mean the promise, which is the victory in this Verse. We can now see that the word 'word' has been used in the Qur'an to refer to God's decrees or promises.

Now let's look at the the other Verse which uses 'words of God' to refer to God's decrees and promises:

"For God's allies, there is no fear over them nor will they grieve. Those who believed and were aware, for them are glad tidings in the worldly life and in the Hereafter. There is no changing the words of God. Such is the great success." [Qur'an 10:64]

In the above Verse, the word of God, that is, the decree of God, is that for 'those who believed and were aware' they will have "glad tidings in the worldly life and in the Hereafter. That is the promise and decree of God, the word of God. If we interpret it to mean 'Scriptures of God', then it would not make as much sense to have a sudden jump in the context, notice the change in context while you interpret "words" as 'scriptures':

"...for them are glad tidings in the worldly life and in the Hereafter. There is no changing the words (sciptures?) of God. Such is the great success." [Qur'an 10:64]

We can draw an analogy of this Qur'anic expression with the english expression 'he kept his words', or 'I will keep my word' etc.

Note that these Verses we have discussed do also refer to the promises made in the previous Scriptures (Torah, Gospels etc.) as well as the Qur'an. Even if the previous Scriptures have been altered, the decrees and promises made in the original revelation of the previous Scriptures are hundred percent true promises that God will keep to, even if the actual words of the Scriptures have been altered. Thus, even if we were to take the expression 'there is no chaning in the God's words' to refer to previous Scriptures, it is still valid, because it is refering the God's binding promises and decrees of those Scriptures that were originally revealed ie. promises of the reality of the Hereafter, Resurrection, Heaven, Hell, the fact that the evil ones are punished with evil and the good ones are rewarded with good etc..

Ok that will be it. However, I would be greatful if anyone here knows of any other Verses which uses the word 'word' (kalima) in this way, so I can use it to further back up the interpretation (just like the Verse of Mary and Zacharia). Many thanks, and thanks for reading.
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Zeynab
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« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2007, 07:08:57 pm »

 BismEm


Walaikum salaam brother AOH.  Thank for this very good read.

Yes, I would agree that "word" refers to the standard laws of God that make up His ethical framework and cannot be changed.  It does not refer to the grammar of the Scripture.  And changing the words or senteces of a Divine Scripture has no bearing on His standard laws which are not subject to changes.   However, when the Almighty God says about safe-guarding the Quraan in various ayahs of the Noble Book, then that does refer to protecting the ayahs of the Quraan from being corrupted by human hands.  As we know the former Scriptures were altered.  One might ask, did Allah not protect the former Scriptures?  My answer would be, Allah is certainly more than capable of protecting anything He pleases.  At the same time, He also has His pre-ordained plan to test humankind.  Those who pass most of these tests to His satisfaction will be the triumphant ones on the Day of the Tryst.  And those who fail by carrying out violations, their violations will be proofs of their guilt.  Thus, the former altered Divine Books will be one of the greatest evidences of wrongdoing by mankind on Judgment Day.  The reason why the Almighty Allah decided to protect the Quraan unlike His former Books was because He decided not to send any more Books, prophets or messengers.  Preservation of this final Book in its orginal form, the Noble Quraan, will make it impossible for mankind (universally) to make excuses for their wrongdoing on the Final Day that they hadn't already been warned. 

I think the misunderstandings between the terms "word" and "decree" is because of faulty translation.  Like I've said earlier, I'm a reader of Pickthall's works.  He usually uses the term "law" which is much equivalent to 'decree' and sometimes he uses the term "decree" as well.  Both these terms present a very similar and clear meaning i.e. established norms of the Almighty God and the uniformity of His judgment on the basis of these ethical norms & values.

Besides, one also needs to concentrate on the background of the contents or the context of the ayah one is reading in order to perceive the possible meaning of various terms.  All of us(scholars or not) can only elucidate to the best of their abilities as we perceive it.  The final interpretation of every verse is upto Allah Himself
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AceOfHearts
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« Reply #2 on: October 22, 2007, 08:20:55 pm »

Thanks Sr. Zainab for your input.

The following points I have added to my article (not found in the above article). More supporting evidence:

God’s decree is once again referred to as “God’s words”:

“Those who lagged behind will say, when you venture out to collect the spoils: "Let us follow you!" They want to change God's decrees (literally “words of God”, kalaamallah). Say: "You will not follow us; this is what God has decreed beforehand." They will then Say: "No, you are envious of us." Alas, they rarely understood anything.” [Qur’an 48:15]

This Verse refers to a group of believers who did not choose to fight for justice when the need came, however they were eager to join in the gathering the spoils of war so that they may take some for themselves. This however is violating Verse 59:7 which states that believers shall only take of the spoils of war, that which the messenger gives to them, and withhold from that which the messengers forbids them from. They cannot simply go out and take what they wish. Moreover, having not fought in the way of God but seeking the material things of this life is against the morals of God consciousness. By using our reason and logic alone one can conclude that this would be displeasing to God, thus against God’s natural ordainment or decrees (Verse 59:8 which enlightens us further on who deserves the booty). Also in this Verse, further supporting that decrees of God is what is referred to by “words of God” is supported by what is stated immediately following the expression: Say: "You will not follow us; this is what God has decreed beforehand." So we see how the expression ‘words of God’ have been used in the Qur’an to refer to the ‘decrees of God’.

Another Verse of the Qur’an proves how ‘God’s words’ are often used to mean decrees, verdicts or promises:

“And when our decree (literally: ‘qawl’ = word, saying, speech) is passed against them, We shall bring out a creature from the Earth which will tell them people had no faith in Our Revelations” [Qur’an 27:82]

In above Verse, the fulfilment of a word of God is referring to fulfilment of a decree of God."

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« Reply #3 on: October 23, 2007, 06:25:37 pm »

 BismEm


Walaikum Salaam brother.  Thanks for your informative words.  Your reading seems largely right.  Verse 48:15 broadly refers to Allah's decision about those who've officially embraced Islam yet try to find excuses not to face the enemy and are only interested in the spoils, that He has carved their fate as people who are sedentary and worthless.  This is translated as Allah's "verdict" in Pickthall's translation.  Thus, it's mentioned in the following line of the same ayah "Ye shall not go with us. Thus hath Allah said beforehand."  In other words, the verse reflects the concept that you cannot 'get the cake and eat it too.'  If you want the reward of a deed, you'll simply have to work for it.  This is Allah's verdict or decree.  The same concept is further highlighted in 48:16 which also happens to be a prophecy .. that reward (both in this world and in the next) can only be acquired through hard work and obedience to the laws of Allah as implemented by the Prophet.  This is how I understand it and I'm sure you meant much the same. 

"Those who were left behind will say, when ye set forth to capture booty: Let us go with you. They fain would change the verdict of Allah. Say (unto them, O Muhammad): Ye shall not go with us. Thus hath Allah said beforehand. Then they will say: Ye are envious of us. Nay, but they understand not, save a little."  48:15

"Say unto those of the wandering Arabs who were left behind: Ye will be called against a folk of mighty prowess, to fight them until they surrender; and if ye obey, Allah will give you a fair reward; but if ye turn away as ye did turn away before, He will punish you with a painful doom." 48:16
 

Verse 27:82 is particularly beautiful. 

"And when the word is fulfilled concerning them, We shall bring forth a beast of the earth to speak unto them because mankind had not faith in Our revelations."  (27:82)

The word being fulfilled, would most likely refer to the Divine Judgment being completed (or decided) against those who were skeptical during earthly life.  Or .. as you've mentioned, fulfillment of His decree concerning Judgment.  It could even mean fulfillment of His decree concerning the destruction of earth (Last Day) followed by dispensing Divine Justice.  No matter how one looks at it, the basic concept remains unchanged.  After this Judgment is completed, Allah will baffle the skeptics further by making a beast or animal speak to them, testifying to the Truth in which majority of humankind never had faith. 

And Allah knows best. 
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AceOfHearts
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« Reply #4 on: October 23, 2007, 07:29:13 pm »



Thanks for your input sister.

The following is from a brother named Tanveer in free-minds forum. I cannot express how greatful I am for his post. He listed many more Verses.

Peace AceOfHearts,

I agree with your excellent understanding.

Following are some more verses supporting this understanding:

2:124 And Abraham was tested by commands/decrees (bikalimaatin) from His Lord, which he completed. He said: "I will make you a leader for the people." He said: "And also from my progeny?" He said: "My pledge will not encompass the wicked."

7:137 And We let the people who were weak inherit the east of the land and the west of it which We have blessed. And the good word/decree/command (kalimatu) of your Lord was completed towards the Children of Israel for their patience; and We destroyed what Pharaoh and his people were doing, and what they contrived.

8:7 And God promises you that one of the two parties will be defeated by you; and you wish that the one least armed be the one. But God wishes that the truth be manifest with His words/decrees/commands (bikalimaatihi), and that He eliminates the remnant of the rejecters.

10:19 The people were but one nation, then they differed. And had it not been for a previous command/decree (kalimatun) from your Lord, the matter would have been immediately judged between them for what they differed.

10:33 It was thus that your Lord's command/decree (kalimatu) came against those who were wicked, for they do not believe.

11:110 We have given Moses the Scripture, yet they disputed in it; and had it not been for a word/decree/command (kalimatun) which was already given by your Lord, their case would have been judged immediately. They are in grave doubt concerning it.

11:119 Except whom your Lord has mercy upon; and for that He has created them. And the word/decree/command (kalimatu) of your Lord came true: "I will fill Hell with the Jinn and the people together!"

20:129 And had it not been for a word/decree/command (kalimatun) already given by your Lord, they would have been held to account immediately.


37:171-173 directly proves from al-qur'aan that WORD = DECREE/COMMAND according to context.

37:171 Our word/decree/command (kalimatuna) had been passed to Our servants who were sent.
37:172 That they would be made victorious.
37:173 And that Our soldiers are the winners.

39:19 As for those who have deserved the decree/command (kalimatu) of retribution; can you save those who are in the Fire?

40:6 And as such, the word/decree/command (kalimatu) of your Lord has come to pass upon those who rejected, that they are the dwellers of the Fire.

41:45 And We have given Moses the Scripture, but it was disputed in. And had it not been for your Lord's predetermined decree/command (kalimatun), they would have been judged immediately. Indeed, they harbor many doubts about it.

42:14 And they only divided after the knowledge had come to them, due to resentment among themselves. And had it not been for a predetermined decree/command (kalimatun) from your Lord, they would have been judged immediately. Indeed, those who inherited the Scripture after them are full of doubts.

42:21 Or do they have partners who decree for them a system which has not been authorized by God? And if it were not for the word/decree/command (kalimatu) already given, they would have been judged immediately. Indeed, the transgressors will have a painful retribution.

48:26 Those who rejected had put in their hearts the rage of the days of ignorance, then God sent down tranquility upon His messenger and the believers, and directed them to uphold the decree/command (kalimata) of righteousness, and they were well entitled to it and worthy of it. And God is fully aware of all things.
     

The context of the signs determines whether "kalima" is used as "word" or "decree". Where it means literal changing of words, the phrase "yuharrifoona al-kalima" is used (4:46, 5:13), instead of "mubaddila likalimaati Allaahi" usually used for decree/command of The God (6:34, 6:115, 10:64).

An exception seems to be 18:27:

18:27 And recite what has been inspired to you from your Lord's Scripture, there is no changing His words (laa mubaddila likalimaatihi), and you will not find besides Him any refuge.

However, here it is referring to "Lord's scripture/book" (kitaabi rabbika) the words of which will never change, which is a separate thing from the inspired al-qur'aan, as evident from the usage of "min"/from between the two. This is the "umm al-kitaab" in my understanding, which is with The God.

"And recite what has been inspired to you (i.e. al-qur'aan) FROM/MIN your Lord's Scripture (i.e. umm al-kitaab)"

13:39 God erases what He wishes and affirms, and with Him is the mother of the book (umm al-kitaab).

43:4 And it is held honorable and wise in the mother of the book (umm al-kitaab) with Us.

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