This is a continuation from my previous post: REFUTING ADNAN RASHID PT. 3.

The Muslim expositors were all over the map when it came to the precise meaning of the word muhaimin. Here are a few select quotes from the various Muslim expositors, which highlight this point:


And We have revealed to you O Muhammad the Book the Qur’ān with the truth bi’l-haqq is semantically connected to anzalnā ‘We have revealed’ confirming the Book that was before it and watching over it testifying to it — the ‘Book’ means the Scriptures. So judge between them between the People of the Scripture if they take their cases before you according to what God has revealed to you and do not follow their whims deviating away from the truth that has come to you. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; bold and underline emphasis mine)


Regarding “muhaimin” Allah says that He brought down the book (Quran) to you O Muhammad, believing in the books that came before it AND A WITNESS TO THEM (the previous scriptures) THAT THEY ARE TRUTH FROM ALLAH, FAITHFUL TO THEM AND A PROTECTOR TO THEM. The root of “Haymana” means TO PROTECT and WATCH OVER, that is why it is said when a man watches over something and protects it he has “haymana” over it. The present form of the verb is “yu-haymen” and the noun is “haymana”. Based on what we have mentioned, the people of interpretation HAVE DIFFERED in their explanation of this word; for some said that it means to be A WITNESS.

Of those that had the above mentioned opinion it was narrated by Al-Mathny, narrated by Abdullah Ibn Salih, narrated by Mu’awiya Ibn Salih, narrated by Ali Ibn Abu Talha, narrated by Ibn Abbas who stated that “muhaimin” means TO WITNESS.

Narrated by Muhammad Ibn Al-Hussain, narrated by Ahmad Ibn Mufadal, narrated by Asbat, narrated by Al-Suddi who stated that “Muhaimin” over it means A WITNESS over it.

Narrated by Al-Kasim, narrated by Al-Hussain, narrated by Hajaj, narrated Ibn Juraij, narrated by Mujahid who related that “muhamin” over it means the Quran IS A PROTECTOR, A WITNESS AND A CONFIRMER (of the previous scripture). Ibn Juraij and others said that the Quran is a guardian over the previous books so that if the People of the Books mention an issue that was also mentioned in the Quran it is to be believed; otherwise it will not be believed.

It was narrated by Muhammad Ibn Sa’ad, narrated by his father, narrated by his uncle, narrated by his father, narrated by Ibn Abbas who stated that (5:48) “We brought down upon you the Book (Quran) in truth, confirming what is between your hands from the book” refers to the Quran WHICH IS A WITNESS TO THE TORAH AND THE GOSPEL AND CONFIRMS BOTH OF THEM. “Muhaimin” over it means A GUARDIAN over it, judging over the books that came before it.

It was narrated by Yaqub, narrated by Ibn Alia, narrated by Abu Raja who related that he asked Al-Hassan regarding (5:48) “We brought down upon you the Book (Quran) in truth, confirming what is between your hands from the book” who replied, “(The Quran) CONFIRMS ALL THESE BOOKS AND IS A GUARDIAN OVER THEM.” Ikrimah was asked about this verse while I was listening and he replied, “A GUARDIAN over it.”

Others have said that “muhaimin” means TO CONFIRM (BELIEVE IN). Of those who mentioned this opinion are:

Narrated by Yunus, narrated by Ibn Wahab, narrated by Ibn Zaid who said that “muhaimin” means TO CONFIRM IT. EVERYTHING ALLAH HAS GIVEN IN THE TORAH OR THE GOSPEL OR THE PSALMS THE QURAN BELIEVES IN IT and everything Allah has mentioned in the Quran is confirmed and what was spoken about it is true.

Others have said that (5:48) “We brought down upon you the Book (Quran) in truth, confirming what is between your hands from the book” REFERS TO THE PROPHET OF ALLAH. Of those who mentioned this opinion are:

Narrated by Al-Mathny, narrated by Abu Huthaifa, narrated by Shibl, narrated by Ibn Abu Nujaih, narrated by Mujahid who stated that “muhaimin” over it refers to Muhammad who was entrusted with the Quran.

Narrated by Muhammad Ibn Umar, narrated by Abu Asim, narrated by Isa, narrated by Ibn Abu Nujaih, narrated by Mujahid who said that “muhaimin” over it means that Muhammad was entrusted with the Quran.


Ibn Abbas said that “muhaimin” means A PROTECTOR OF IT. Ibn Sa’id Jubair stated that the Quran is A PROTECTOR to what came before it. Ibn Abbas and Al-Hassan also stated that “muhaimin” means “THE FAITHFUL.” Al-Mabrad narrated that the words was originally pronounced “Mu-aymen” where the “A (hamza)” letter was changed into an “H” as in the saying ‘the water was poured’. Al-Zujaj and Abu Ali also said likewise by conjugating the verb to give the meaning “TO BE FAITHFUL TO.”

Al-Jawhari narrated that it means to give protection to him who is scared, for the original form of that word (muhaimin) is actually “A’amana” so there are two “A” (hamza) letters in the word but the second “A” was changed into the letter “E” (ya’) out of necessity so the word became “mu’aymen”. Later the first “A” (hamza) was changed into an “H” to become “muhaimin” as in the saying ‘the water was poured’ and from it is derived the meaning “TO PROTECT.” Abu Ubaid narrated from Mujahid and Ibn Mahees that it is read “mu’haiman” by changing the diacritical mark above the second “M” to give the meaning that Muhammad was given the responsibility of the Quran.


As for what was narrated by Ibn Abu Hatim, narrated by Ikrimah, narrated by Sa’id Ibn Jubair, narrated by Ata’a Al-Kharasani, narrated by Ibn Abu Nujaih and narrated by Mujahid who said that “muhaimin” refers to Muhammad being A PROTECTOR of the Quran, this may be true AS A MEANING but the commentary and Arabic sentence structure supports the earlier stated meaning.


Here is the verse in its immediate context:

Yet how will they make thee their judge seeing they have the Torah, wherein is God’s judgment, then thereafter turn their backs? They are not believers. Surely We sent down the Torah, wherein IS guidance and light; thereby the Prophets who had surrendered themselves gave judgment for those of Jewry, as did the masters and the rabbis, following such portion of God’s Book as they were given to keep and were witnesses to. So fear not men, but fear you Me; and sell not My signs for a little price. Whoso judges not according to what God has sent down – they are the unbelievers. And therein We prescribed for them: ‘A life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds retaliation’; but whosoever forgoes it as a freewill offering, that shall be for him an expiation. Whoso judges not according to what God has sent down — they are the evildoers. And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus son of Mary, confirming the Torah before him (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi mina al-tawrati – lit., confirming that which is between his hands) and We gave to him the Gospel, wherein IS guidance and light, and confirming the Torah before it (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi mina al-tawrati – lit., confirming that which is between his hands), as a guidance and an admonition unto the godfearing. So let the People of the Gospel judge according to what God has sent down therein. Whosoever judges not according to what God has sent down — they are the ungodly. And We have sent down to thee the Book with the truth, confirming the Book that was before it (musaddiqan lima bayna yadayhi mina alkitabi – lit., that which is between its hands of the Book), and assuring it. So judge between them according to what God has sent down, and do not follow their caprices, to forsake the truth that has come to thee. To every one of you We have appointed a right way and an open road. If God had willed, He would have made you one nation; but that He may try you in what has come to you. So be you forward in good works; unto God shall you return, all together; and He will tell you of that whereon you were at variance. And judge between them according to what God has sent down, and do not follow their caprices, and beware of them lest they tempt thee away from any of what God has sent down to thee. But if they turn their backs, know that God desires only to smite them for some sin they have committed; surely, many men are ungodly. S. 5:43-49 Arberry

What makes this passage rather remarkable is that it presupposes the textual purity and abiding validity of the Torah and Gospel, which the Jews and Christians possessed at the time of Muhammad. This explains why Jews and Christians are told that they don’t need Muhammad since they have all the necessary guidance from God in their own respective Scriptures! As the following scholarly source explains:

43-44 … This verse then, along with vv. 44-47, indicates that the Torah and Gospel REMAIN VALID SOURCES of moral and legal judgment AND GUIDANCE for Jews and Christians, respectively, EVEN AFTER THE COMING OF THE PROPHET–INDEED, EVEN IN HIS PRESENCE. See also v. 68 where the People of the Book are likewise enjoined to observe their scriptures… (The Study Quran: A New Translation and Commentary, Seyyed Hossein Nasr (editor-in-chief) [Harper One, November 2015], p. 298; bold and capital emphasis mine)


46 … In the present verse both Jesus and the Gospel he brings are separately described as confirming the Torah. Jesus is also described as confirming the Torah in 3:50 and 61:6, as is John the Baptist in 3:39. That Jesus “confirms the Torah” means that he upholds all Torah rulings not specifically abrogated by the Gospel (T); see also 3:50, where Jesus comes to make lawful unto the Israelites part of that which was forbidden to them. The Gospel here, like the Torah in v. 44, is described as containing a guidance and a light. The Quran is also described as a light in v 15; 7:157; 64:8.

47 Several commentators note that enjoining the people of the Gospel to judge by what God has sent down therein means that they should follow the rulings of the Torah in most cases, since Jesus himself lived largely according to the Torah rulings, with the exception of those that the Gospel abrogates (IK), and since the Gospel itself contains teachings and exhortations, but relatively few legal rulings (Z). This verse indicates that the Gospel REMAINS A VALID SOURCE OF GUIDANCE for the people of the Gospel, just as vv. 43-44 suggest that the Jews can continue to find guidance in the Torah. The CONTINUING VALIDITY of these two scriptures is also suggested in v. 68… Several commentators, however, argue that the exhortation here to follow the Gospel indicates only that they should have followed the Gospel prior to the coming of the Quran, which thereafter abrogated the scripture that came before it (IK, R). This reading seems implausible in light of other Quranic verses, however, since v. 43 questions why the Jews have come to the Prophet for judgment (regarding two Jewish adulterers) when they have the Torah indicating that Prophetic adjudication is not necessary (EVEN DURING HIS LIFETIME) AS LONG AS THEY FOLLOW THEIR OWN SCRIPTURE. And indeed, in issuing his ruling in that case–namely, the implementation of the penalty of stoning, the Prophet stated that his actions were intended to revive (AND THUS LEGITIMATE) the Torah ruling for the Jews (see commentary on 5:41-44). (Ibid., pp. 299-300; bold and capital emphasis mine)


48 This verse addresses the Prophet directly and describes the Book sent down to him–that is, the Quran– as confirming the Book that came before it, just as the Gospel confirms the Torah. The Quran is also described as “confirming” earlier scriptures in 2:41, 89, 91, 97, 101; 3:3, 81; 6:92; 35:31; 46:30. The Quran is further described as a protector (muhaymin) over the previous scriptures, meaning that the Quran testifies to THE VALIDITY OF THE EARLIER SCRIPTURES and serves as their trustee, keeper, and guardian (T, Z). “Protector” (al-Muhaymin) is also one of the Names of God in the Quran (59:23). The idea of the Quran as guardian and keeper of previous revelations is consistent with 5:41c and 5:45c, which report that the Prophet ordered the sentence of stoning for the two idolaters as well as retribution for killing and injury in order to reestablish the original Torah ruling on these matters. When the Prophet “judges between them”–that is, the People of the Book–this verse enjoins him to do so in accordance with what God has sent down, which most major commentators understand to mean that he should judge according to what God had revealed to him, namely the Quran (Bd, T Z). Alternately, it could mean that he should judge the People of the Book according to what God has sent down TO THEM, namely, THEIR OWN SCRIPTURES (WHICH IS WHAT THE PROPHET EXPLICITLY DOES IN THE INCIDENT DISCUSSED IN VV. 41-43). That he should follow not their caprices means that he should not rule in accordance with their unwarranted digressions from or alterations to their own law, as discussed in vv. 41-47 (T), or that he should comply with their desire to alter or neglect what has come to the Prophet himself in the Quran (Bd). The Prophet is similarly warned against following the caprices of the People of the Book in the following verse, as well as in 2:120, 145; 42:15.

Although vv. 41-47, taken together, suggest THE VALIDITY OF JEWS AND CHRISTIANS JUDGING BY THEIR OWN SCRIPTURES, AND THUS THE CONTINUING SPIRITUAL GUIDANCE TO BE FOUND IN THOSE SCRIPTURES, this verse goes farther by asserting the providential nature of different religious communities and their distinct laws and practices. Indeed, the verse does not pertain only to Jews and Christians, but rather makes a universal statement about all religions. For each among you We have appointed a law and a way indicates that different religious communities may have different ritual and legal formulations specifically “appointed” for them by God, and that each religious community is independent of the laws of other such communities, even if the essential truths and principles of the religions are the same (IK, Q, R, T). (Ibid., pp. 300-301; bold and emphasis mine)

With the foregoing in view, this is what we learn from the context of Q. 5:48:

  1. The Jews have the Torah which contains God’s judgment. They are therefore expected to follow the injunctions contained in their Scripture, since it is a guidance and light, as opposed to turning to Muhammad for decision.
  2. The Torah, which is called Allah’s Book, was used by the prophets, rabbis, and scholars to judge their respective communities. The point here is that if the Torah was good enough for the prophets to judge by then surely it is good enough for the Jews to use to decide and judge matters.
  3. Jesus came confirming the Torah that was in his possession and was given the Gospel which also confirmed the Torah.
  4. Christians are exhorted to judge by the Gospel which God gave to Jesus since it contains guidance and light.
  5. The Quran came down confirming the previous Scriptures which Muhammad had access to, and is to be used to judge matters.
  6. It is in this context that the Quran says that Allah has prescribed to each people a law, a way, and an open path.

When we take all of these points into consideration it seems that another plausible interpretation is that the term muhaimin refers to the fact that the Muslim scripture is the guidance from which the followers of Muhammad will decide matters and derive their laws. As such, the Muslim scripture determines what judicial aspects and commands of the previous Scriptures are still binding upon the Muslims and which particular Biblical directives have been replaced by specific Quranic injunctions. This understanding of the word is reflected in the following translations.

In other words, the Quran determines what injunctions of the Holy Bible remain applicable for Muslims and which commands have been canceled. As one Muslim expositor puts it:

2. That is why, in the cited verses, the people of the Torah have been asked to decide, judge and obey in accordance with the Torah and the people of the Injil have been asked to decide, judge and obey in accordance with the Injil – though both these Books and their Shari‘ahs stand abrogated after the appearance of the Holy Prophet. The outcome is that the injunctions of the Torah and Injil which were not abrogated by the Qur’an are obedience-worthy even today. (Mufti Shafi Usmani, Maariful Quran, Volume 3, pp.184-185; source)

Muhammad’s purpose in referring to the role and function of the Quran in respect to the previous Scriptures was to inform his followers that, even though the former inspired Books remain intact and are therefore authoritative, his own legislation replaces or ratifies certain laws that were given through the former prophets/messengers. Muslims are, therefore, expected to implement the directives contained within their own scripture over against the commands found in the previous Books, whereas Jews and Christians can continue to carry out the legislation found in their respective Scriptures.

Muhammad said something similar to Umar who was reading from a copy of the Torah:

Narrated Jabir ibn Abdullah
Umar ibn al-Khattab brought to Allah’s Messenger A COPY OF THE TORAH and said: Allah’s Messenger, This is a copy of the Torah. He (Allah’s Messenger) kept quiet and he (Umar) began to read it. The (colour) of the face of Allah’s Messenger (peace be upon him) underwent a change, whereupon AbuBakr said: Would that your mother mourn you, don’t you see the face of Allah’s Messenger? Umar saw the face of Allah’s Messenger and said: I seek refuge with Allah from the wrath of Allah and the wrath of His Messenger. We are well pleased with Allah as Lord, with Islam as religion, and with Muhammad as Prophet. Whereupon Allah’s Messenger said: By Him in Whose hand is the life of Muhammad, even if Moses were to appear before you and you were to follow him, leaving me aside, you would certainly stray into error; for if (Moses) were alive (now), and he found my prophetical ministry, he would have definitely followed me.
Transmitted by Darimi. (Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 69; bold emphasis mine)

Pay careful attention to the fact that Muhammad didn’t attack the textual veracity of the Torah, which is what we would have expected him to do if he didn’t believe that the Bible remained intact and fully preserved. Rather, Muhammad’s whole issue with Umar reading the Book of Moses is that the Quranic legislation has replaced the Mosaic Scripture and Muslims are therefore obligated to follow Muhammad’s rules as opposed to those given by the previous prophets and messengers.

The Quran says the same thing concerning the advent of Jesus:

And He will teach him the Book, the Wisdom, the Torah, the Gospel… “And confirming the Torah which is between my hands (Wa musaddiqan lima bayna yadayya mina alttawrati), and to make lawful some of that which was forbidden unto you. I come unto you with a sign from your Lord, so keep your duty to Allah and obey me.” S. 3:48, 50

Even though he came to confirm the authority and authenticity of the Torah which he had access to Jesus was also sent to annul certain precepts of the previous revelation which was in his hands. This is basically what the Quran says about its relationship with the previous inspired Books, e.g. Muhammad confirmed the reliability of the Bible while at the same time abrogating some of its legislation and rules.

The point of our examination here is to simply show that Q. 5:48 does not support the oft-repeated Muslim mantra that the Quran teaches that certain parts of the Holy Bible have been corrupted and that Muslims must, therefore, use their religious book to determine which parts of the Biblical text remains unchanged. Rather, the most this specific citation proves is that the Quran allows Muslims to set aside certain Biblical legislation and directives while acknowledging that these inspired Scriptures are fully authoritative and that their respective texts still remain intact and are fully preserved.

Further Reading

The Classical Muslim Commentators and their Exegesis of Surah 5:48 — Muhaimin and Its Relation to the Integrity of the Holy Bible

The Quran as Guardian of the Bible: Revisiting the Meaning of Muhaymin


    1. Great work. This article is really helpful as I’m currently studying this topic. Although, would it be possible if I could get a reference for Al Tabari’s quote on S. 5:48? I can’t seem to find it anywhere in English unless it’s an Arabic exclusive commentary?


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