Ask the People of the Book

Sami Zaatari


Often times Christian missionaries will try to trick Muslims by using the following Quranic verse:

If thou wert in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee: the Truth hath indeed come to thee from thy Lord: so be in no wise of those in doubt. (10:94)

They will quote this verse and then say 'see, you Muslims should come to us if you have questions concerning God and what he taught'.

So what does Surah 10:94 actually teach? Is Surah 10:94 something to be applied in the general sense, or is this verse to be applied in the specific sense? Well had our missionary friends bothered to give the context of this verse, and in what sense it applied, they would then see that this verse is not a verse they can utilize for their missionary purposes.

Now what's the difference between the general and specific? Well for the general sense it would mean that if we Muslims have any question regarding any matter to do with religion, then we should go to the Christians for the answers. However if the verse is for the specific sense, then this means that it is only limited to one specific issue, basically on one specific topic and subject, hence the question we are to ask the Christians only deals with the specific question in hand.

Now Surah 10:94 is to be applied in the specific sense, not the general, hence Surah 10:94 is dealing with one specific issue, which if you happen to be in doubt about, then go ask the Christians. This then brings us to the next issue, what specific topic is Surah 10:94 referring to, well the specific issue that is being mentioned here is the advent of Muhammad's (AS) prophethood.

The Quran is telling the prophet and the Muslims that if you happen to be in doubt about Muhammad (AS) as a prophet, then simply console the people of the book, and they will be able to confirm this is the truth due to the fact that Muhammad (AS) was prophesised and foretold in their own books.

The Quran makes it clear that Muhammad (AS) is prophesised in the previous scriptures:

 "Those who follow the messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures),- in the law and the Gospel;- for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honour him, help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him,- it is they who will prosper." (7:157)

Ibn Kathir comments on this verse:

This is the description of the Prophet Muhammad in the Books of the Prophets. They delivered the good news of his advent to their nations and commanded them to follow him. His descriptions were still apparent in their Books, as the rabbis and the priests well know. Imam Ahmad recorded that Abu Sakhr Al-`Uqayli said that a bedouin man said to him, "I brought a milk-producing camel to Al-Madinah during the life time of Allah's Messenger. After I sold it, I said to myself, `I will meet that man (Muhammad) and hear from him.' So I passed by him while he was walking between Abu Bakr and `Umar, and I followed them until they went by a Jewish man, who was reading from an open copy of the Tawrah. He was mourning a son of his who was dying and who was one of the most handsome boys. The Messenger of Allah asked him (the father), (I ask you by He Who has sent down the Tawrah, do you not find the description of me and my advent in your Book) He nodded his head in the negative. His son said, `Rather, yes, by He Who has sent down the Tawrah! We find the description of you and your advent in our Book. I bear witness that there is no deity worthy of worship except Allah and that you are the Messenger of Allah. ' The Prophet said (to the Companions),

So this is the context of Surah 10:94, it is about going to the people of the book and asking them about the prophet Muhammad, the prophesies that foretold of his coming! So if any of you are in doubt about the message, then go ask the people of the book, and if they are honest they will affirm that Muhammad (AS) is mentioned in their own books.

Surah 10:94 is not applied in the general sense, it is only on a very specific issue, which is the advent of Muhammad (AS) in the Bible!

Here is some additional commentary from other scholars, with thanks to Brother Bassam Zawadi:

Ibn Jarir at-Tabari (d.311 A.H.-923 A.D.) comments on the verse: "God says to His Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) that if you are in doubt about the truthfulness of what We told you in Revelations - that the children of Israel had not differed concerning your prophet hood before you were sent by God as an Apostle to His people, for they found you prophesied in their scripture, and they knew you from the description of you given in the Torah and Injil - you must confer with those who read the sacred book before you, that is, the people of the Torah and the people of the Gospel, such as Abdullah Ibn Salam and those who, like him, were honest and had faith in you: do not ask those who are dishonest or are unbelievers." (At-Tabari, Jami', vol. II, p. 115)

At-Tabari reported Ibn Abbas as saying that the book referred to in the verse was the Torah and the Gospel; the people with whom Muhammad (peace be upon him) was commanded to confer were those who lived in Muhammad's time and believed in him. The Prophet was to turn to them if questions as to the foretelling of his own prophet hood in those books arose. The only object of possible doubt was then Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself, and the people with whom he was to confer were restricted to those who believed in his mission. Furthermore, Muhammad (peace be upon him) had been prophesied in the scriptures  - Jewish and Christian - but these prophecies had been denied by the majority of Jews and Christians except for those who had come to accept that such prophecies were truthful and had become Muslim.

So this is the context of Surah 10:94, it has all to do with asking the people of scripture about the advent of Muhammad (AS) found within the Bible.

Now some Christians and Jews will say that ?well Muhammad is not in the Bible', well if they do say that then all that proves is that the Bible is corrupt! The Quran states that the prophet Muhammad is in the Bible, if he is not according to what they say, then this cannot be the same Bible that the Quran is referring to. As they so often say, you can't have your cake and eat.

And Allah Knows Best!