Muslim View of the Ten Commandments

Religious Issues in the Ten Commandments

Moral compass with Ten Commandments
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Islam does not accept the absolute authority of the Bible, teaching that it has become corrupted over the years, and therefore it does not accept the authority of the listing of the Ten Commandments that appears in the Bible. Islam does, however, accept the status of both Moses and Jesus as prophets, which means that the commandments are not completely ignored, either.

The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments (found in the book of Exodus in the Torah and known as the "Decalogue") are a central part of Judaism and Christianity. They occur in three places in the Old Testament of the Bible: Exodus 20:1–17, Exodus 34:14–38 and Deuteronomy 5:5–21. According to those passages, the commandments were divinely revealed to Moses on Mount Sinai and engraved on two tablets of stone. 

In effect, the Ten Commandments are a summary statement of the covenant between God and the Israelites, and they are arguably the founding principles for those two religions, the tablets on which the faiths were erected. But what does Islam think? 

Islam and Authenticity

When Muhammed and the Islamic scholars carved out their piece of the Abrahamic religions, they argued that Islam was not a repudiation of Christianity or Judaism, but a reformation of those faiths. The Islamic reformation of the Abrahamic faith, they said, took it back to the authentic monotheism that both Christians and Jews had neglected over time.

The primary issue brought up by the meteoric rise of the Islamic faith in the 7th–8th centuries CE, that of the authenticity of the theology, had been a serious problem studied by Jewish and Christian scholars for generations before Muhammad. In particular, scholars felt that Paul's version of Christianity had strayed too far away from the original monotheism: an extreme view said that the Pauline theology was approaching paganism. The rise of Islam led to the reoccurrence of those discussions, and to the appearances of new sects, such as Karaism, an Arabic/Jewish sect that emerged in the second half of the 8th century CE. 

One question that Islam provoked was how old were the 10 Commandments? Did the Patriarchs before Moses practice God's commandments and was the Torah of the Patriarchs different from the Torah of Moses? 

The 10 Commandments in the Quran

The Qur'an makes reference to the Ten Commandments twice. Quran Book 7:142–5 describes how Moses received the divine tablets. but doesn't describe what was on them.

  • "And We ordained laws for him in the tablets in all matters, both commanding and explaining all things, (and said): 'Take and hold these with firmness and enjoin thy people to hold fast by the best in the precepts'..." (Quran 7:142–5)

The other, in Book 2, says:

  • "Remember when we made a covenant with the children of Israel: You shall not serve any save God, and to be good to parents, and the near kinsman, and to orphans, and the needy, and speak good to all people, and perform the prayer, and pay the alms." (Quran 2:83–4)

Comparisons of Islamic and Judaic Rules of Behavior

Early and classic Muslim commentators discussed the belief that the Israelites broke the Covenant made at Sinai, and conjecture what the tablets were made of: but in the end, to Muslims, it doesn't matter what was written on those tablets, because the Quran is the perfect iteration of divine law. The Qu'ran's commandments are found in (Quran 6:151–153), and although they are not completely in concordance with the Jewish Ten Commandments, there are some parallels.

Similar Commandments in Islam and Christianity
Islam (Quran 6:151–153) Christianity (Bible Exodus 20:2–17)
Say, come, I will recite what God has made a sacred duty for you: Ascribe nothing as equal with God. You shall have no other gods before or besides me.
You shall not make for yourself a carved image, and bow down to them or serve them.
Be good to your parents. Honor your father and your mother.
You shall not kill your children on a plea of want; we provide sustenance for you and for them. ---
You shall not approach lewd behavior whether open or in secret. You shall not commit adultery.
You shall not take life, which God has made sacred, except by way of justice and law. Thus does God command you, that you may learn wisdom. You shall not kill.
And you shall not approach the property of the orphan, except to improve it, until he attains the age of maturity. Thou shalt not steal.
You shall not covet your neighbor's wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or his ox, or his ass, or anything that is your neighbor's.
Give full measure and weight, in justice; no burden should be placed on any soul but that which it can bear. ---
And if you give your word, do it justice, even if a near relative is concerned; and fulfill your obligations before God. Thus does God command you, that you may remember. You shall not bear false witness against thy neighbor.
--- Remember the Sabbath day and keep it holy.
--- You shall not not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain.

Thus, while Islam doesn’t exactly have its own "Ten Commandments," it does have its own versions of many of the basic prohibitions given in the Ten Commandments. Because they accept the Bible as an earlier revelation of God they don’t object to things like displays of the commandments in public spaces. At the same time, though, they aren’t likely to see such displays as a religious duty or necessity because as described above they don’t accept the absolute authority of the Bible.

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