alladhīna ātaynāhum al kitāb in the Qur’an

Those whom we gave the law

alladhīna ātaynāhum al kitāb – those whom we gave the law

This article is from The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation.

Here, then, are all the verses in which this formula occurs as the Traditionalist understands them, with the operative clause underlined.

Those to whom We have given the Book recite it with its true recital. They [are the ones who] believe in it. And whoever disbelieves in it – it is they who are the losers. (2:121)

Those to whom We gave the Scripture know him [i.e., Prophet Muḥammad (ṣ)] as they know their own sons. But indeed, a party of them conceal the truth while they know [it]. (2:146)

Those to whom We have given the Scripture recognize it as they recognize their [own] sons. Those who will lose themselves [in the Hereafter] do not believe. (6:20)

Those are the ones to whom We gave the Scripture and authority and prophethood. But if they [i.e., the disbelievers] deny it, then We have entrusted it to a people who are not therein disbelievers. (6:89)

[Say], “Then is it other than Allāh I should seek as judge while it is He who has revealed to you the Book [i.e., the Qur’ān] explained in detail?” And those to whom We [previously] gave the Scripture know that it is sent down from your Lord in truth, so never be among the doubters. (6:114)

And [the believers among] those to whom We have given the [previous] Scripture rejoice at what has been revealed to you, [O Muhammad], but among the [opposing] factions are those who deny part of it [i.e., the Qur’an]. Say, “I have only been commanded to worship Allah and not associate [anything] with Him. To Him I invite, and to Him is my return.” (13:36)

Those to whom We gave the Scripture before it – they are believers in it. (28:52)

And thus We have sent down to you the Book [i.e., the Qur’ān]. And those to whom We [previously] gave the Scripture believe in it. And among these [people of Makkah] are those who believe in it. And none reject Our verses except the disbelievers. (29:47)
[Saheeh International]

On the basis of what we have already looked at in this Article we know this should be translated as those whom we gave the law. The remaining question is what it signifies.

What the Traditionalist understands by this is confused, and there is no obvious starting point. But we have to begin somewhere and it may as well be with 29:47.

And thus We have sent down to you the Book [i.e., the Qur’ān]. And those to whom We [previously] gave the Scripture believe in it. And among these [people of Makkah] are those who believe in it. And none reject Our verses except the disbelievers. (29:47)
[Saheeh International]

The primary problem with this statement is that it is not true; rather, it would not be true if al kitāb did in fact signify the Qur’an (lots of people who were given scripture before did not and do not believe in the Qur’an).

My position is that the value we have here is verbatim correct as per the analysis in previous sections of this Article – i.e. those whom we gave the law – but that its force is emphatically on we, meaning those for whom God specifically intended the law. With this reading the statement is true.

Let us look now at 28:52.

Those to whom We gave the Scripture before it – they are believers in it. (28:52)
[Saheeh International]

The Traditionalist thinks that it at the end of the sentence refers to the Qur’an. Such a reading again gives us a verse which is patently not true. Plenty of people possessed of scripture before the Qur’an do not believe in the Qur’an. However, given our reading here, it makes perfect sense. Here is the Traditionalist’s rendering again with slight modifications:

Those to whom We gave the law before it – they are believers in it. (28:52)

What is being said here is that those whom God (specifically) gave the law before it (i.e. before this revelation) are believers in it (i.e. the law). The law of Mūsā or of any other prophet is fundamentally one with the law in the Qur’an. The law is not the same thing as the Qur’an; it is a subset of it.

I invite the reader to look at the following verse and consider what is being said. The phrase in question is underlined.

And [the believers among] those to whom We have given the [previous] Scripture rejoice at what has been revealed to you, [O Muhammad], but among the [opposing] factions are those who deny part of it [i.e., the Qur’an]. Say, “I have only been commanded to worship Allah and not associate [anything] with Him. To Him I invite, and to Him is my return.” (13:36)
[Saheeh International]

The Traditionalist has been forced to add parenthesis so he can publish with a straight face. Mentally remove the parenthesis in the underlined portion and we have a statement which falls over in the slightest breeze: the ‘believers’ among those to whom God gave previous scriptures (that is – given the Traditionalist’s reading – the Jews and the Christians) far from rejoice at what was revealed to the messenger. More typically, they are ignorant of it, indifferent towards it or actively against it.

Here is the Traditionalist’s verse again, though modified in the light of what we now know:

And those whom We gave the law rejoice at what has been revealed to you, [O Muhammad], but among the factions are those who deny part of it. Say, “I have only been commanded to worship Allah and not associate [anything] with Him. To Him I invite, and to Him is my return.” (13:36)
[Saheeh International]

Again, what is being discussed here is that those whom God (specifically) gave the law rejoice in what was revealed to Muḥammad. The distinction is again between those whom God specifically gave the law (and therefore believe in it) and those who received the law by some other means. The law is one. The law is not the same thing as the Qur’an, it is a subset of it.

Time and again the Quran tells us that without God’s will no-one can grasp anything of his knowledge. Here, for instance, I am reproducing the Traditionalist’s rendering of the famous verse at 2:255 with an example of what I mean underlined.

Allāh – there is no deity except Him, the Ever-Living, the Sustainer of [all] existence. Neither drowsiness overtakes Him nor sleep. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. Who is it that can intercede with Him except by His permission? He knows what is [presently] before them and what will be after them, and they encompass not a thing of His knowledge except for what He wills. His Kursī extends over the heavens and the earth, and their preservation tires Him not. And He is the Most High, the Most Great. (2:255)
[Saheeh International]

In the verses we are studying under the current rubric, in all cases it is overtly stated that God gave the recipients the law. This is why they understood, embraced or rejoiced at that same law when they saw it in the Qur’an.

All instances in the text are footnoted.

References

2:121, 2:146, 6:20, 6:89, 6:114, 13:36, 28:52, 29:47.

About the Author Sam Gerrans

Sam Gerrans is an English writer and speaker with professional backgrounds in media, strategic communications, and technologies. He is driven by commitment to ultimate meaning, and focused on authentic approaches to revelation and Realpolitik. He is founder of Quranite.com and author of The Qur’an: A Complete Revelation where his consistent, Qur'an-centric hermeneutical methodology is applied to the text of the Qur’an in its entirety. Read more...

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