Aal-Imran · Juz 3 · Qur'an Tafseer

Altering the Words of the Scripture

In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

Tafseer Surah Aal-Imran Ayah 78

In this ayah, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala talks about a group that alters the words of the Scripture. They say things that were not revealed by Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

They distort the words with their tongues, change them from their appropriate places, and alter their intended meanings. They do this to deceive the ignorant people by making it appear that their words are in the Book of Allah. They attribute their own lies to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala, even though they know that they have lied and invented falsehood.

Imam Bukhari reported that Ibn ‘Abbas (RA) said that the ayah means they alter and add although none among Allah’s creation can remove the Words ofAllah from His Books, they (the Jews) alter and distort their apparent meanings. Wahb ibn Munabbih said, “The Torah and the Gospel remain as Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala revealed them, and no letter in them was removed. However, the people misguide others by addition and false interpretation, relying on books that they wrote themselves. Then, ‘they say, this is from Allah, but it is not from Allah.’ As for Allah’s Books, they are still preserved and cannot be changed.”

Ibn Abi Hatim recorded this statement.

Ibn Katheer comments: However, if Wahb meant the books that are currently in the hands of the People of the Book, then we should state that there is no doubt that they altered, distorted, added to and deleted from them. For instance, the Arabic versions of these books contain tremendous error, many additions and deletions and enormous misinterpretation. Those who rendered these translations have incorrect comprehension in most, rather, all of these translations. If Wahb meant the Books of Allah that He has with Him, then indeed, these Books are preserved and were never changed.

Examples of their alterations in the Book of Allah:

In Surah An-Nisa it appears,

“Among the Jews are those who distort words from their [proper] usages and say, ‘We hear and disobey’ and ‘Hear but be not heard’ and ‘Ra’ina,’ twisting their tongues and defaming the religion.” (Qur’an 4:46)

[Tafseer Surah an-Nisa Ayah 46]

In Surah Al-Baqarah it appears,

“…and then distort the Torah after they had understood it while they were knowing?” (Qur’an 2:75)

[Tafseer Surah Al-Baqarah Ayah 75]

We learn that there were three kinds of alterations:

1.Changes in the words
2.Changes in the meaning of the word
3.Concealing the truth

Ayaat 79-80 – No Prophet Ever Called People to Worship Him or to Worship Other than Allah

Background of the Revelation of These Ayaat


It was during the presence of the deputation from Nijran that some Jews and Christians had said, “O Muhammad, do you want us to worship you the way Christians worship Jesus, son of Mary?” He said, “I seek refuge with Allah that we worship someone other than Allah or call on others to do so. Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has not sent us to do that.”

Ayah 79 means it is not for a person whom Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala has given the Book, knowledge in the Law and prophethood to proclaim to the people. “Worship me instead of Allah,” meaning, along with Allah. If this is not the right of a prophet or a messenger, then indeed, it is not the right of anyone else to issue such a claim.

This criticism refers to the rabbis, priests, and teachers who misguided people, unlike the messengers and their sincere knowledgeable followers who implement their knowledge. The prophets and the messengers only convey what Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala commands them, as their honorable messengers conveyed to them. They also forbid what Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala forbade for them, by the words of His honorable messengers. The messengers, may Allah’s peace and blessings be on all of them, are the emissaries between Allah and His creation, conveying Allah’s Message and Trust. The messengers indeed fulfilled their mission, gave sincere advice to the creation and conveyed the truth to them.

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala narrates the statement that they would say, “Be pious scholars of the Lord because of what you have taught of the Scripture and because of what you have studied.” The messengers advised the people to become “Rabbaniyoon”. Ibn ‘Abbas (RA), Abu Razin and several others said that Rabbaniyoon means, “wise, learned and forbearing.” Ad-Dahhak commented on Allah’s statement, “…because of what you have taught of the Scripture and because of what you have studied,” whoever learns the Qur’an deserves to become a Faqih [learned].

[Who is a Rabbani?]

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,Nor could he order you to take the angels and prophets as lords.” The prophets were sent to the earth with the message of Tawheed – the belief in the Oneness of God. They cannot command people to worship other than God, whether a prophet or an angel.

“Would he order to you disbelief after you had been Muslims?” meaning, he would not do that, for whoever calls to worshipping other than Allah, will have called to Kufr [disbelief/denial]. The prophets only call to emaan [faith] which commands worshiping Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala alone without associating any partners to me.

At another place in the Qur’an, Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala says,And We sent not before you any messenger except that We revealed to him that, ‘There is no deity except Me, so worship Me.’” (Qur’an 21:25)

“And We certainly sent into every nation a messenger, [saying], ‘Worship Allah and avoid Taghoot [false deities].’” (Qur’an 16: 36)


“And ask those We sent before you of Our messengers; have We made besides the Most Merciful deities to be worshipped?” (Qur’an 43:45)

Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala said about the angels,

“And whoever of them should say, ‘Indeed, I am a god besides Him’ – that one We would recompense with Hell. Thus do We recompense the wrongdoers.” (Qur’an 21:29)


-We learn that whoever gains knowledge in the Deen should connect people to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and not to himself. This teaches us the real purpose of studying Deen – connecting to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala.

-There are two kinds of people – one who earns Dunya on the Deen [seeks fame, attention of the people] and those who connect themselves and other people to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. The one connected to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala is a Rabbani – he is connected to Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala and that is the purpose of his life. He focuses on the Hereafter rather than the temporary pleasures of this world. He does not like fame or attention. He is indifferent to temporary losses and gains. He strives to please Allah subhanahu wa ta’ala. He is focused in one direction and does not get distracted by other things.

-A person who knows he is here for a temporary time will leave whatever he knows is unimportant and will not benefit him tomorrow

DOWNLOAD PDF: Tafseer Surah Aal-Imran Ayaat 78-80

رَبَّنَا تَقَبَّلْ مِنَّا ۖ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ السَّمِيعُ الْعَلِيم                
“Our Lord, accept [this] from us. Indeed You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing.” [Al-Baqarah 2: 127]

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