the Jews; and the doctors and the teachers judged by that portion
of the Book of God, of which they were the keepers and the witnesses.
The occasion of the promulgation of this text is very certain. The incident is thus
given by all the commentators, and very picturesque it is. We summarize it as
A breach of the Seventh Commandment was committed by two Jews of Arabia, both of them
being in wedlock. The Mosaic penalty for this is stoning, but the offenders being
influential were able to escape the extreme penalty and were assigned the milder one of
scourging. The case was referred to Muhammad, it being hoped that his ignorance of the
Taurat or his claim to have promulgated another law, would support the mild decision.
The story goes that Muhammad sent for the two sons of Suriya, who were two of the most
learned men in the Jewish community, and were conversant with Hebrew, and demanded of
them, on oath, what the true Mosaic precept was on the subject, and they, in spite of
the furious gestures of the Jews standing round, told the truth, and indicated the Verse
of Stoning in the Taurat. Ibn Ishaq, in his biography of Muhammad, adds the detail that
a Jewish reader actually laid his hand on that incriminating verse, whereupon, one named
Abdu'llah ibn Salam struck away the hand of the reader saying: 'There! Prophet of God,
the Verse of Stoning, which he refuses to read to thee!' To which Muhammad replied:
'Woe to you Jews! what makes you reject the judgement of God when it is in your very
hands!' The end of the story is that orders were given for the stoning of the guilty pair,
and the text. above translated was promulgated, in which Muhammad refers to the work with
which Prophet, Rabbi, and Priest (which titles, according to the commentators, are a
generalized description of the two sons of Suriya) were divinely entrusted with the
guarding of the word of God (the Taurat) and witnessing to it.
Such is the incident, and we draw from it the following conclusions:
1. We have here a most astonishing proof that no Jew dared to tamper with his sacred
text. Here we have a single text greatly disliked by the Jewish community, and especially
their influential people. So much disliked was it that they had mutually consented not to
observe it. Now, what would have been more natural than for them to have obliterated it,
if (as Muslims to-day are never wearied of asserting) it was so easy for the heads of the
Jewish or Christian community to change, not merely one text, but hundreds of texts, yea,
substitute a whole false book for a true one! Yet, here we see that they did not dare to
tamper with even one small unpopular text! They left it.