Throughout the centuries, the Muslim world has argued that the Qur’an is to be read as sola scriptura, with supplementation only from fairly late hadith accounts, but never from the Jewish Bible (the Tanakh being referenced within the Qur’an as the Torah and Zabur). This theological position of the Muslim Ummah was cemented through the late hadith literature where the literary character of Muhammad is claimed to have forbidden Umar ibn al-Khattab from reading the Bible.
Prior to that, however, all evidence seems to indicate that such a divorce was unthinkable. Early Islamic coinage utilized the Menorah, and the Magen David was just as commonly employed. Indeed, the Historical-Critical “Criterion of Embarrassment” (also known as the “Criterion of Double Dissimilitude”) point us to further clues in some embarrassing ahadith, which inform us that the Islamic calendar original corresponded identically to the Jewish lunisolar one. We can even line up the Islamic holidays with Jewish ones, using Yom Kippur as Ashura as the calibration point (as is indicated unambiguously in hadith literature). Indeed, even normative Sunni Islam accepts that the calendar was changed to Lunar only after Muhammad passed from the physical world. The reason seems clearly to distance the burgeoning Muslim community from Jewry – even though Muhammad’s Constitution of Medinah said that Jews and Muslims constitute One Ummah – an Ummatan Wahidatan.
In contrast to modern norms in the Muslim world, Shi`ah accounts, from Muhammad’s direct descendants through `Ali and Fatimah, claim that these descendants – spiritual a’immah (plural of imam) – were extremely well versed in the Jewish scriptures. Similarly, such accounts contend that the Bible would be a primary source of judgment for a future “mahdi“, who would also pray in the Hebrew language. While such accounts are replete throughout the Shi`ah hadith literature – itself being writing as late as the Sunni accounts – normative Ithna `Ashari beliefs today are much closer to mainstream Sunni views, and than they are to the actual hadith narrations attributed to the Ahl al-Bayt, Muhammad’s family, with regard to such matters.
As for the Qur’an itself, it is even more clear; mincing no words whatsoever, and having no awareness of any later notion that it should supersede, or abrogate the Bible. We read, for instance, that if something is already in the Bible, the follower of Muhammad has no business asking him for a decision on such a matter; which is already plainly commanded by God in the Bible.
And why do they come to you for a decision, when they have the Torah before them? Therein is the Command of God; yet even after that, they would turn away. Such are not Believers (Mu’minin/Ma’minim). (5:43)
وَكَيْفَ يُحَكِّمُونَكَ وَعِنْدَهُمُ التَّوْرَاةُ فِيهَا حُكْمُ اللَّهِ ثُمَّ يَتَوَلَّوْنَ مِنْ بَعْدِ ذَٰلِكَ ۚ وَمَا أُولَٰئِكَ بِالْمُؤْمِنِينَ
If you are in doubt as what We have revealed to you, ask those who have been reading the Bible before you. Verily, the truth from your Lord has come to you, so be not of those who waiver [in belief]. (10:94)
فَإِنْ كُنْتَ فِي شَكٍّ مِمَّا أَنْزَلْنَا إِلَيْكَ فَاسْأَلِ الَّذِينَ يَقْرَءُونَ الْكِتَابَ مِنْ قَبْلِكَ ۚ لَقَدْ جَاءَكَ الْحَقُّ مِنْ رَبِّكَ فَلَا تَكُونَنَّ مِنَ الْمُمْتَرِينَ
Criticizing those who don’t adhere to the Torah and Gospel, only hypocrites (munafiqin) are criticized, and not an across-the-board criticism of Jews and Nazarenes (a quasi-Jewish Christian heretical sect). This tells us that the Qur’an viewed the Torah and the singular Gospel used by the Nazarenes, according to historical sources, a singular Hebrew Gospel which the Ebionites (Jerusalem-based pre-Christian, anti-Christian opponents of Paul of Tarsus) and Nazarenes alike utilized (according to the Christian Church Fathers), as being valid, and does not criticize it as being textually invalid or corrupted.
If only they had stood fast by the Torah, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoyed happiness from every side. There is from among them a party on the right course: but many of them follow a course that is evil. (5:66)
وَلَوْ أَنَّهُمْ أَقَامُوا التَّوْرَاةَ وَالْإِنْجِيلَ وَمَا أُنْزِلَ إِلَيْهِمْ مِنْ رَبِّهِمْ لَأَكَلُوا مِنْ فَوْقِهِمْ وَمِنْ تَحْتِ أَرْجُلِهِمْ ۚ مِنْهُمْ أُمَّةٌ مُقْتَصِدَةٌ ۖ وَكَثِيرٌ مِنْهُمْ سَاءَ مَا يَعْمَلُونَ
This clearly says that if those who turned away from the Torah and the Hebrew Original Gospel myth (originally written as a work of fiction, a novel and parable) would have kept to those texts, then they would have enjoyed happiness. This thus precludes the possibility that those scriptures were viewed as corrupt or abrogated by the Qur’an. Furthermore, the Qur’an commands Jews to continue to follow the Brit of the Torah and Mitzvot:
O Children of Israel! call to mind My Favor which I bestowed upon you, and keep up your Covenant with Me as I fulfill My Covenant with you, and fear no one but Me. (2:40)
يَا بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ اذْكُرُوا نِعْمَتِيَ الَّتِي أَنْعَمْتُ عَلَيْكُمْ وَأَوْفُوا بِعَهْدِي أُوفِ بِعَهْدِكُمْ وَإِيَّايَ فَارْهَبُونِ
That is, the Qur’an instructs Jews to continue to practice Yahadut, the praising of Yah through the Covenant of the Mitzvot in the Torah. This is the clearly articulated Covenant to which the Qur’an refers, and which any reader of the Bible is familiar.
The Qur’an in fact says that when those who follow the Bible already hear what Muhammad recited, they recognized it as Biblical and Midrashic stories and instructions ALREADY received.
Those unto whom We gave the Bible before it, they believe in it (28:52)
الَّذِينَ آتَيْنَاهُمُ الْكِتَابَ مِن قَبْلِهِ هُم بِهِ يُؤْمِنُونَ
And when it is recited to them they say: We believe in it surely it is the truth from our Lord; surely we were submitting ones (muslimin) before this. (28:53)
وَإِذَا يُتْلَىٰ عَلَيْهِمْ قَالُوا آمَنَّا بِهِ إِنَّهُ الْحَقُّ مِنْ رَبِّنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا مِنْ قَبْلِهِ مُسْلِمِينَ
Clearly then, a “muslim” is here defined as one who believes in the Bible and follows it. This was a new message to polytheists in the Arab world, but it was nothing at all new to Jews and Nazarenes.
Thus, the Qur’an says, to its polytheist audience, that the Jews and Nazarenes in their midst already know this and are the first to say “we were submitting ones before this”; indicating clearly that “muslim” was not a term for a separate religion, defined by the Qur’an (but instead was a universal practice of obeying God by honoring the instructions in the Bible or the instructions given by Muhammad to the Arabs who had not previously been exposed to the Bible and Midrash. Thus the Qur’an tells the listener to:
“Believe in what I have revealed, verifying that which is with you, and be not the first to deny it, neither sell My communications for a small price; and Me, Me alone should you fear” (2:41).
آمِنُوا بِمَا أَنْزَلْتُ مُصَدِّقًا لِمَا مَعَكُمْ وَلَا تَكُونُوا أَوَّلَ كَافِرٍ بِهِ ۖ وَلَا تَشْتَرُوا بِآيَاتِي ثَمَنًا قَلِيلًا وَإِيَّايَ فَاتَّقُونِ
Thus, the Bible which the Qur’an is “verifying” is “with you” currently, in Muhammad’s day and ever since. ‘Ayah 89 also repeats that the Qur’an is “verifying” the Bible, and that the curse of Allah is on the “kafirin,” the “koferim” in Hebrew; meaning those who apostate from Judaism by breaking the Covenant. How incredibly different that meaning is from “disbelievers” or “infidels,” as the term is commonly rendered in English!
The Bible is not seen as corrupted by the Qur’an, nor is it portrayed as being filled with deformed and distorted accounts that the listener to the Qur’an is to disregard. When Muslims reject the Jewish Bible, they are literally rejecting and disobeying the Qur’an.
For more information on this topic, check out my first masters thesis, entitled: People of the Book: What the Religions Named in the Qur’an Can Tell Us About the Earliest Understanding of “Islam”.