What is the meaning of the following verse of the Qur’an:
But why do they come to thee for decision, when they have (their own) Torah before them – therein is the (plain) command of Allah; yet even after that, they would turn away. For they are not (really) People of Faith. (5:43)
What does the Qur’an mean here? Does the Qur’an say that Jews have their Torah and that the Torah is a word of God?
Before explaining the cited verse of the Qur’an, I would first like to clarify that the Qur’an does not refute the fact that even though the Torah could not remain completely secure from alterations and wastage, yet it still entails the word of God. Those parts of the Torah, which remained secure over time and which were accurately translated and transmitted to the subsequent generations do entail God’s guidance to man.
Keeping this clarification in perspective, let us now turn toward the cited verse of Surah Al-Maidah and see what it says. In my opinion, an accurate translation and punctuation would itself clarify its subject matter. The verse should be translated and punctuated as:
[O Prophet,] How can they make you a judge – while they have the Torah with them, in it is God’s directive – and then [after hearing your decision] turn away?
As the given translation would clarify, the verse is not criticizing or expressing surprise at the behavior of the Jews in bringing their disputes to the Prophet (pbuh) for decisions, rather than deciding these disputes through the Torah. On the contrary, the verse is actually criticizing them and expressing surprise at their behavior of first making the Prophet (pbuh) a judge in their disputes and then – even though his decisions coincide with those of the Torah which lies with them – turning away from the Prophet’s decisions. In other words, the verse is not saying that the Jews should not bring their disputes to the Prophet (pbuh), but decide them through the Torah; it is actually saying that the Jews should not refuse to accept the Prophet’s (pbuh) decisions, after having made him the judge and after knowing that his decisions are the same as given by God and as recorded in the Torah.
I hope the above explanation would clarify the verse.
January 25, 2001