bint e aisha wrote:
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For general laymen Muslims, there is no reason to read the books of people of the Book or any other text. For you living in a 97% Muslim country, there is also no reason.
However, it is permitted and even be desired by people of knowledge to read it as it is needed.
For us, it is a regular (almost daily) occurrence to be able to speak to Non-Muslims so we need to have some general familiarity with religions (around us) and their text. This is the commentary underneath the Hadith on this topic in Saheeh Bukhari:
قال الحافظ ابن حجر رحمه الله تعالى : " بخلاف الراسخ ؛ فيجوز له النظر في التوراة والإنجيل ، ولا سيما عند الاحتياج إلى الرد على المخالف ، ويدل على ذلك نقل الأئمة قديما وحديثا من التوراة ، وإلزامهم اليهود بالتصديق بمحمد صلى الله عليه وسلم بما يستخرجونه من كتابهم ، ولولا اعتقادهم جواز النظر فيه ، لما فعلوه وتواردوا عليه " انتهى من " فتح الباري " ( 13 /525 – 526) .
Al-Haafiz Ibn Hajar (RA) said: … unlike the one who is well versed in knowledge. For him it is permissible to read in the Torah and Gospel, especially when he needs to refute an opponent. This is indicated by the fact that the imams (leading scholars), both in the past and more recently, quoted from the Torah to prove to the Jews that they should believe in Muhammad (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) on the basis of what they found in their book. If they did not believe that it was permissible to read it, they would not have done that and persisted in doing so, generation after generation.
T-H-E-N it is the case of Non-Muslims who accept Islam and Ibn Taymiyyah (RA) said:
قال ابن تيمية رحمه الله تعالى : " وإذا حصل من مسلمة أهل الكتاب ، الّذين علموا ما عندهم بلغتهم ، وترجموا لنا بالعربيّة : انتفع بذلك في مناظرتهم ومخاطبتهم ، كما كان عبد اللّه بن سلام ، وسلمان الفارسيّ ، وكعب الأحبار ، وغيرهم ، يحدّثون بما عندهم من العلم ، وحينئذ يستشهد بما عندهم على موافقة ما جاء به الرّسول ، ويكون حجّة عليهم من وجه ، وعلى غيرهم من وجه آخر ، كما بيّنّاه في موضعه " انتهى من " مجموع الفتاوى " (4/109 – 110)
Ibn Taymiyah (may Allah have mercy on him) said: If it so happens that there are some of the people of the Book who convert to Islam, and they have knowledge of what they have in their language and can translate it to us in Arabic, that may be useful when debating with the Jews and Christians or talking to them, as ‘Abdullah ibn Salaam, Salmaan al-Faarisi, Ka‘b al-Ahbaar and others did; they transmitted what they had of knowledge. In that case we may quote what they have that is in harmony with what the Messenger brought, and that will be proof against them in some ways and against others in other ways, as we have explained elsewhere.
I recently learned that T-H-I-S hadeeth is from the beginning era of Islam:
عن جابر بن عبد الله رضي الله عنهما : " أَنَّ عُمَرَ بْنَ الْخَطَّابِ أَتَى النَّبِيَّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ بِكِتَابٍ أَصَابَهُ مِنْ بَعْضِ أَهْلِ الْكُتُبِ ، فَقَرَأَهُ على النَّبِيِّ صَلَّى اللَّهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَغَضِبَ وَقَالَ : ( أَمُتَهَوِّكُونَ فِيهَا يَا ابْنَ الْخَطَّابِ ، وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ ، لَقَدْ جِئْتُكُمْ بِهَا بَيْضَاءَ نَقِيَّةً ، لَا تَسْأَلُوهُمْ عَنْ شَيْءٍ فَيُخْبِرُوكُمْ بِحَقٍّ فَتُكَذِّبُوا بِهِ ، أَوْ بِبَاطِلٍ فَتُصَدِّقُوا بِهِ ، وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ ، لَوْ أَنَّ مُوسَى كَانَ حَيًّا ، مَا وَسِعَهُ إِلَّا أَنْ يَتْبَعَنِي ) "
It was narrated from Jaabir ibn ‘Abdullah (RA) that ‘Umar ibn al-Khattaab (RA) came to the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him) with some written material he had got from one of the people of the Book. He read it to the Prophet (blessings and peace of Allah be upon him), and he got angry and said: “Are you confused (about your religion), O son of al-Khattaab? By the One in Whose hand is my soul, I have brought it (the message of Islam) to you clear and pure. Do not ask them about anything, lest they tell you something true and you disbelieve it, or they tell you something false and you believe it. By the One in Whose hand is my soul, if Moosa were alive, he would have no option but to follow me.” [Ahmed]
It might have been Mufti Tariq Masood who recently touched on this issue but I cannot recall so I will not quote it...