Can Muslims Use the Bible in Dawah?
The hadith of Umar is often given as a reason against the use of the Bible in Dawah. However, this use of Umar’s hadith is based on a failure to distinguish between using the Bible for guidance and using the Bible for Dawah. Umar’s hadith teaches that we cannot use the Bible for guidance. That hadith does not prevent us from using the Bible for Dawah.
In brief, the hadith says that Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, came to the prophet, sallallahu alayhi was sallam, with a copy of the Torah saying here is a copy of the book that was revealed to the prophet Moses, peace be upon him. As he began to read it the prophet’s face showed displeasure until Abu Bakr, may Allah be pleased with him, alerted Umar to notice this. Umar, may Allah be pleased with him, then promptly closed the scroll and reaffirmed his satisfaction with Allah as Lord, with Islam as religion, and with Muhammad, sallallahu alayhi was sallam, as prophet and messenger. The prophet then remarked that if the prophet Musa were alive today he would have to follow the prophet Muhammad, sallalalhu alayhi was sallam.
That in a nutshell is the gist of the hadith. Obviously, the hadith deals with the question of where to find guidance today. The Bible therefore cannot be used for our guidance. The hadith does not prevent us from making reference to the Bible in the limited manner which I will now describe.
The easiest way to prove a point to a person who believes in the Bible is to make reference to the Bible. This does not mean you believe in the Bible or consider it true in even that portion. It makes no difference whether or not you the caller to Islam believes in the Bible passage you are citing. It is important to believe what you preach, but remember that you are not preaching the Bible. You are simply reminding Christians and Jews that if they had read their Bibles carefully they would have to accept Islam.
To illustrate this point, consider that you quote the saying of Jesus in the Gospel of John where Jesus says: "The Father is greater than I." This verse will refute anyone who says he believes the Bible and yet he says that Jesus is equal to the Father. Now you do not call God "Father." But the Christian cannot turn around and demand that on the strength of the same verse you should now dare to call God "Father." You will have to remind him that the Bible is a proof against him, not against you. You were just asking him why his statement about Jesus is opposite to his Bible’s statement about Jesus. He cannot now ask you why your statement about God is different from the Bible because you never claimed to believe in the entire bible.
The Christian can only have a point if he shows that what the Muslim says is contrary to what the Qur’an says. But he will not have a point because Islam is built on the Qur’an. Islam cannot possibly be opposite to the Qur’an. On the other hand, Christianity was not built on the Bible. Christianity began long before the Bible was written and developed independently of the Bible. Some of Christianity’s central doctrines are contrary to the Bible; herein lies the problem.
The best way to deal with this problem is to show Christians where the Bible teaches that Jesus is not equal to God, that he could not have died for the sins of the world, and that Jesus directed his followers to believe in the prophet who was to come after him.