Hmmm…Interesting!: The Torah and The Mountain


In the Name of God, the Subtle, the Loving

A very frequent charge of the Islamophobes against the Prophet is that he “borrowed” Christian stories and traditions for the Qur’an. That is how they explain away the – sometimes very close – similarities between the Bible and the Qur’an. Read this passage of the Qur’an about Moses:

AND HAS the story of Moses ever come within thy ken? Lo! he saw a fire [in the desert]; and so he said to his family: “Wait here! Behold, I perceive a fire [far away]: perhaps I can bring you a brand there from, or find at the fire some guidance.” But when he came close to it, a voice called out: “O Moses! – Verily, I am thy Sustainer! Take off, then, thy sandals! Behold, thou art in the twice hallowed valley. and I have chosen thee [to be My apostle]: listen, then, to what is being revealed [unto thee]. “Verily, I – I alone – am God; there is no deity save Me. Hence, worship Me alone, and be constant in prayer, so as to remember Me! Behold, [although] I have willed to keep it hidden, the Last Hour is bound to come, so that every human being may be recompensed in accordance with what he strove for [in life]. Hence, let not anyone who does not believe in its coming and follows [but] his own desires divert thee from [belief in] it, lest thou perish! “Now, what is this in thy right hand, O Moses?” He answered: “It is my staff; I lean on it; and with it I beat down leaves for my sheep; and [many] other uses have I for it.” Said He: “Throw it down, O Moses!” So he threw it – and lo! it was a snake, moving rapidly. Said He: “Take hold of it, and fear not: We shall restore it to its former state. “Now place thy hand within thy armpit: it will come forth [shining] white, without blemish, as another sign [of Our grace], (20:9-22)

Now read this passage about Moses in Exodus 4:2-7:

Moses answered, and said: They will not believe me, nor hear my voice, but they will say: The Lord hath not appeared to thee. Then he said to him: What is that thou holdest in thy hand? He answered: A rod. And the Lord said: Cast it down upon the ground. He cast it down, and it was turned into a serpent, so that Moses fled from it. And the Lord said: Put out thy hand, and take it by the tail. He put forth his hand, and took hold of it, and it was turned into a rod. That they may believe, saith he, that the Lord God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, hath appeared to thee. And the Lord said again: Put thy hand into thy bosom. And when he had put it into his bosom, he brought it forth leprous as snow. And he said, Put thine hand into thy bosom again. And he put his hand into his bosom again; and plucked it out of his bosom, and behold, it was turned again as his other flesh.

Case closed, right? The Prophet “copied” the Torah? Not exactly.

The Qur’an talks about how the Children of Israel were given the Law and Mount Sinai was held above their heads:

AND LO! We accepted your solemn pledge, raising Mount Sinai high above you, [and saying;] “Hold fast with [all your] strength unto what We have vouchsafed you, and bear in mind all that is therein, so that you might remain conscious of God!” (Qur’an 2:63)

Critics of Islam claim that this is not supported by the Biblical text, and it seems their claim is correct:

And Moses brought forth the people out of the camp to meet with God; and they stood at the nether part of the mount. (Exodus 19:17)

See? The text says that they were at the nether part of the mountain. There is nothing to indicate that the mountain was held over them. So, the critics may say, not only did the Prophet Muhammad “copy” the Bible, he copied it incorrectly.

Not so fast!

I was surfing the web and I happened to come across this:

According to the Talmud (Avodah Zarah 2b), G-d offered the Torah to all the nations of the earth, and the Jews were the only ones who accepted it. The story goes on to say that the Jews were offered the Torah last, and accepted it only because G-d held a mountain over their heads! (In Ex. 19:17, the words generally translated as “at the foot of the mountain” literally mean “underneath the mountain”!)

I also found this:

“And they stood under the mount” (Exodus 19:17), Rabbi Abdimi bar Hama bar Hasa said: ‘This teaches that the Holy One, blessed be he, overturned the mountain upon them like an [inverted] cask, and said to them, “If you accept the Torah, it will go well with you; if not, there shall be your burial.”‘

b. Shabbat 88a

Wow. So, the actual Hebrew means the mountain was held over their heads! That is exactly as the Qur’an says it happened. Now, it is well known that the Prophet Muhammad was illiterate, and he did not study the Biblical texts. And this verse was revealed in the city of Medina, long after his cousin Waraqah ibn Nawfal (who did study the Biblical texts) died. Thus, the claim that Waraqah taught the Prophet the Bible is incorrect.

Thus, the Qur’an is consistent with the original Hebrew Biblical text that Mount Sinai was held above the Children of Israel.

Hmmm….Interesting, eh?

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