‘Time Leap’ in the Qur’ān
Question asked by .
Answered by Dr. Shehzad Saleem

Many verses in the Qur’ān say that the Injīl was given to Jesus (sws) who was born several hundred years after Moses (sws). But in 7:155-157 the problem is that Moses (sws) prays to Allah and in Allah’s response to Moses (sws) we read:

Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (Scriptures), - in the Tawrāt and in the Injīl …(7:157)

But most certainly the Injīl had not been revealed at the time of Moses (sws). The obvious problem is that if the Injīl had not been revealed yet at that time, nobody would have found anything in a non-existing Injīl. So is the Almighty talking about a non-existent Injīl? Please clarify.


In order to understand the Qur’ān, one must have a strong grasp of the various styles of the Qur’ānic verses. Among these styles is a style called ‘Idrāj’.1

In this style, a few verses are inserted between a group of verses as a comment. This has various forms. One of its forms (like the one found in these verses) is to relate historical happenings to the people who were present before the Qur’ān when it was being revealed so that these foremost addressees could know the relevance of a certain historical happening to them. Consider now the section of verses which surrounds 7:157:

And Moses chose seventy of his people for Our place of meeting: when they were seized with violent quaking, he prayed: ‘O my Lord! If it had been your will you could have destroyed, long before, both them and me: Would you destroy us for the deeds of the foolish ones among us? This is no more than your trial: by it You may lead astray whom you want and lead to the right path whom You may desire. You are our Protector: so forgive us and give us Your mercy; for You are the best of forgivers. And ordain for us that which is good, in this life and in the Hereafter: for we have turned unto You. He said: ‘With My Punishment I visit whom I will; But My Mercy extends to all things. That (Mercy) I shall ordain for those who do right, and practise regular charity, and those who believe in Our Signs – Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (Scriptures) in the Torah and in the Injīl – 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 were upon them. So those who believe in him, honour him, help him, and follow the Light which is sent down with him – it is they who shall prosper. Say: ‘O men! I am sent to you all, as the Messenger of Allah, to Whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: it is He that gives both life and death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, who believes in Allah and His Words: follow him that [so] you may be guided.’ -- Of the people of Moses there is a section who guide and do justice in the light of truth. We divided them into separate nations in twelve tribes. We directed Moses by inspiration, when his [thirsty] people asked Him for water: ‘Strike the rock with thy staff’: out of it there gushed forth twelve springs: each group knew its own place for water. We gave them the shade of clouds, and sent down to them Mann and Quail, [saying]: ‘Eat of the good things we have provided for you’: [But they rebelled]; to Us they did no harm, but they harmed their own souls.’ (7:155-160)

In this section of verses, verse 157 to verse 159 form an Idrāj (insertion of a comment) by the Almighty. Consequently verse 156 is directly related to verse 160. The parenthetical section (157 to 159 shown in bold) is a comment to relate the tale of Moses (sws) and its implications with the direct addressees of the Qur’ān when it was being revealed. In other words, what is being said is that while at the time of Moses (sws) salvation depended upon piety, Zakāh and belief in the verses of Allah (the Torah in this case), the present addressees will only be saved if they do the things mentioned in verses 157 and 158. After their enlistment and a statement of exhortation from the Prophet Muhammad (sws) in the words: Say: ‘O men! I am sent to you all, as the Messenger of Allah…, verse 160 then shifts back to the history of Moses (sws) and takes its cue from verse 156. These are subtle aspects of the Qur’ān and can only be appreciated if a person has strong grasp of the various styles and constructions of Qur’ānic Arabic.

The following group of verses illustrates another instance where this style [Idrāj] can be observed in the Qur’ān.

And We also sent Abraham as a Prophet. Behold, he said to his people: ‘Serve Allah and fear Him: that will be best for you if you understand! ‘For you do worship idols besides Allah, and you invent falsehood. The things that you worship besides Allah have no power to give you sustenance: then seek you sustenance from Allah, serve Him, and be grateful to Him. To Him will be your return. And if you reject [me], so did the generations before you [rejected their respective Prophets] and the duty of a Prophet is only to communicate clearly [the message]. See they not how Allah originates creation, then repeats it. Truly that is easy for Allah. Say: Travel through the earth and see how Allah did originate creation; so will Allah recreate: for Allah has power over all things. He punishes whom He pleases, and He grants mercy to whom He pleases, and to Him will you be returned. Neither on earth nor in the heavens will you be able to break free from the grasp of Allah, nor will you have, besides Allah, any protector or helper. Those who reject the Signs of Allah and the Meeting with Him [in the Hereafter] – it is they who shall despair of My mercy: it is they who will suffer a most grievous penalty. So nothing was the answer of [Abraham’s] people except that they said: ‘Slay him or burn him.’ But Allah did save him from the Fire. Verily in this are Signs for people who believe. (29:16-24)

A careful analysis of these verses shows that verses 19 to 23 (shown in bold) are a comment from the Almighty inserted in the discourse of Abraham (sws) to his nation. These verses from the Almighty address the Quraysh and present arguments for the Day of Judgement so that a mere historical happening is related to the first addressees of the Qur’ān. From verse 24, the Abrahamic episode is retaken with a portrayal of the response of Abraham’s nation.



1. See Zarkashī, Burhān, 2nd ed, vol. 3, [Beirut: Dāru’l-Fikr, 1980], p. 294-5.

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