The Ten Commandments in the Quran

The ten commandments in the Old Testament and the Bible are of fundamental significance for religions and cultures based on the Judeo-Christian tradition. It is a microcosm of God’s covenant with humanity. 

Does the Quran refer to the ten commandments? 


First, let me share the Ten Commandments from Exodus in the Bible: 

The Ten Commandments in Exodus 20:1–17 read as follows:

And God spoke all these words, saying, ‘I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.

[1] You shall have no other gods before (or: besides) me.

[2]  You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness of
anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or
that is in the water under the earth. You shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the
children to the third and the fourth generation of those who hate me, but showing steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments.

[3] You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the
Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes his name in vain.

[4] Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall
labour, and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to
the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work, you, or your son,
or your daughter, your male servant, or your female servant, or your
livestock, or the sojourner who is within your gates. For in six
days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them,
and rested the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath
day and made it holy.

[5] Honour your father and your mother, that your days may be long
in the land that the Lord your God is giving you.

[6]  You shall not murder.

[7]  You shall not commit adultery.

[8] You shall not steal.

[9] You shall not bear false witness against your neighbour.

[10]  You shall not covet your neighbour’s house; you shall not covet
your neighbour’s wife, or his male servant, or his female servant, or
his ox, or his donkey, or anything that is your neighbour’s.’

The Ten Commandments are reinforced in the New Testament. Jesus, who refers to them as simply ‘The Commandments’ (Mark 10:19), proclaimed them as binding under the New Law and provided a short list of them (Matthew 19:17–19).


References to the Ten Commandments, or God’s Covenant, in the Quran

Q. 2:83–84 

And remember We took a covenant from the Children of Israel (to this effect): Worship none but Allah; treat with kindness your parents and kindred, and orphans and those in need; speak fair to the people; be steadfast in prayer; and practise regular charity. Then did ye turn back, except a few among you, and ye backslide (even now).

And remember We took your covenant (to this effect): Shed no blood amongst you, nor turn out your own people from your homes: and this ye solemnly ratified, and to this ye can bear witness.

Q. 7:142–145

We appointed for Moses thirty nights, and completed (the period) with ten (more): thus was completed the term (of communion) with his Lord, forty nights. And Moses had charged his brother Aaron (before he went up): “Act for me amongst my people: Do right, and follow not the way of those who do mischief.”

When Moses came to the place appointed by Us, and his Lord addressed him, He said: “O my Lord! show (Thyself) to me, that I may look upon thee.” Allah said: “By no means canst thou see Me (direct); But look upon the mount; if it abide in its place, then shalt thou see Me.” When his Lord manifested His glory on the Mount, He made it as dust. And Moses fell down in a swoon. When he recovered his senses he said: “Glory be to Thee! to Thee I turn in repentance, and I am the first to believe.”

(Allah) said: “O Moses! I have chosen thee above (other) men, by the mission I (have given thee) and the words I (have spoken to thee): take then the (revelation) which I give thee, and be of those who give thanks.”

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: soon shall I show you the homes of the wicked,- (How they lie desolate).”


The Ten Commandments in the Quran According to Al-Thaʿlabi

The 11th-century Islamic scholar, Al-Thaʿlabi, wrote extensively on this subject in his popular work (‘The Legends of Pre-Islamic Prophets’). Side Note: Al-Thaʿlabi wrote an interesting story about the ten commandments involving the angel Gabriel making tablets out of a tree in paradise and then giving Moses a pen made out of light that stretched all the way from Earth to Heaven. 

Al-Thaʿlabi describes the commandments as being in Quran verses 17:22-39: 

(22) Set not up with God another god, or thou wilt sit condemned
and forsaken.

(23) THY LORD HAS DECREED:

[1] You shall not serve any but Him, and to

[2] Be good to parents, whether one or both of them attains old age with
thee; Say not to them ‘Fie’ Neither chide them, but Speak unto them words respectful, (24) and Lower to them the wing of humbleness out of mercy and say, ‘My Lord, have mercy upon them, as they raised me up when I was little.’ (25) Your Lord knows very well what is in your hearts if you are righteous, for He is All-forgiving to those who are penitent. (26) And

[3] Give the kinsman his right, and the needy, and the traveller; and
Never squander; (27) the squanderers are brothers of Satan, and
Satan is unthankful to his Lord. (28) But if thou turnest from them,
seeking mercy from thy Lord that thou hopest for, then speak unto
them gentle words. (29) And Keep not thy hand chained to thy neck, nor outspread it widespread altogether, or thou wilt sit reproached and denuded. (30) Surely thy
Lord outspreads and straitens His provision unto whom He will;
surely He is aware of and sees His servants. (31) And

[4] Slay not your children for fear of poverty; We will provide for you
and them; surely the slaying of them is a grievous sin. (32) And

[5] Approach not fornication; surely it is an indecency, and evil as a way. (33) And

[6] Slay not the soul God has forbidden [to be killed], except by right.
Whosoever is slain unjustly, We have appointed to his next-of-kin
authority; but let him not exceed in slaying; he shall be helped. (34)
And

[7] Do not approach the property of the orphan, save in the fairest
manner, until he is of age. And fulfil the covenant; surely the
covenant shall be questioned of. (35) And

[8] Fill up the measure when you measure, and weigh with the straight
balance; that is better and fairer in the issue. (36) And

[9] Pursue not that thou hast no knowledge of; the hearing, the sight,
the heart – all of those shall be questioned of. (37) And

[10] Walk not in the earth exultantly; certainly thou wilt never tear the
earth open, nor attain the mountains in height. (38) All of that – the
wickedness of it is hateful in the sight of thy Lord.

(39) THAT IS OF THE WISDOM THY LORD HAS REVEALED TO
THEE:

Set not up with God another god, or thou wilt be cast into Hell,
reproached and rejected.

Al-Thaʿlabi also describes the commandments as being in 6:151-3

(151) Say: ‘Come, I will recite WHAT YOUR LORD HAS
FORBIDDEN YOU;’ that you

[1] Associate not anything with Him, and to

[2] Be good to your parents, and

[3] Slay not your children because of poverty; We will provide you and
them; and that you

[4] Approach not any indecency outward or inward, and that you

[5] Slay not the soul God has forbidden, except by right. That then He
has charged you with; haply you will understand. (152) And that you

[6] Approach not the property of the orphan, save in the fairer manner,
until he is of age. And

[7] Fill up the measure and the balance with justice. We charge not any
soul save to its capacity. And when you speak,

[8] Be just, even if it should be to a near kinsman. And

[9] Fulfil God’s covenant. That then He has charged you with; haply
you will remember.

(153) And that [10] THIS IS MY PATH, STRAIGHT;
SO DO YOU FOLLOW IT, AND FOLLOW NOT DIVERS PATHS lest
they scatter you from His path. That then He has charged you with;
haply you will be godfearing.’ 


The Ten Commandments in the Quran According to Al-Suyuti

15th Century scholar Al-Suyuti states the following in Al-Itqān fi ‘Ulum Al-Qur’an (translated into English as The Perfect Guide to the Sciences of the Qur’an):

Some scholars said: ‘This means that these ayas [of Surah al-Anam]
comprise the very first ten verses that God wrote for Moses in the
Torah. They are [as follows]:

[1] The affirmation that there is no other god but God (tawhıd Allah);
The prohibition of:
[2] Polytheism (shirk);
[3] [Pronouncing] a false oath (al-yamın al-kadhiba);
[4] Dishonouring one’s parents (uquq);
[5] Murder (qatl);
[6] Adultery (zina);
[7] Stealing (sariqa);
[8] Bearing false witness (zur);
[9] Desiring that which belongs to others (madd al-ayn ila ma fı yad alghayr); and
[10] The command to honour Saturday [as a day without work] (al-amr bi ta zim al-sabt).


The Ten Commandments and their Quranic Equivalents According to Al-akım al-Tirmidhı 

The 10th-century scholar Al-akım al-Tirmidhı studied prophetic tradition, mysticism, and promoted the idea of an intimate connection between Biblical Decalogue and the text of the Quran. He provided Quranic verses and their equivalents in the 10 commandments: 

[1] Whoso associates with God anything, God shall prohibit him
entrance to Paradise, and his refuge shall be fire; and wrongdoers
shall have no helpers [Q. 5:72];

[2] God declared about parents: Be thankful to Me and to thy parents; to
Me is the homecoming [Q. 31:14];

[3] He said about murderers [sing. al-qatil]: And whoso slays a believer
wilfully, his recompense is Hell, therein dwelling for ever, and God
will be wroth with him and will curse him, and prepare for him a
mighty chastisement [Q. 4:93];

[4] and about the oath (al-hilf): Do not make God a hindrance, through
your oath, [to being pious and godfearing, and putting things right
between people] [Q. 2:224];

[5] and about the testimony [that there is no other god but God]
(shahada): Pursue not that [which] thou hast no knowledge of; the
hearing, the sight, the heart – all those shall be questioned of
[Q. 17:36]


The Ten Commandments and their Quranic Equivalents According to Al-Kisai

Al Kisai penned the work Qiṣas al-‘Anbiyā’ (Arabic: قصص الأنبياء‎) or Stories of the Prophets. 

He provides the Quranic equivalents of the ten commandments: 

[1] ‘O Moses, I am God. There is no God but I. Worship Me and
associate not anything with Me …’ Ibn Abbas said: The equivalent of
this in the Qur’an is: Be thankful to Me, and to
thy parents; to Me is the homecoming [Q. 31:14].

[2] ‘O Moses, kill not an inviolate soul except rightfully …’ The
equivalent of this in the Qur’an is: And whoso slays a believer
wilfully, his recompense is hell … [Q. 4:93].

[3] ‘O Moses, steal not what belongs to another …’ Ibn Abbas said:
The equivalent of this in the Qur’an is: And the thief, male and
female, cut the hands of both … [Q. 5:38].’

[4] ‘O Moses, commit not fornication with your neighbour’s wife.’ The
equivalent of this in the Qur’an is: Any one of you who has not the
affluence to be able to marry believing freewomen in wedlock, let him
take believing handmaids that your right hand owns … [Q. 4:25].

[5] ‘O Moses, do unto others as you would have them do unto you.’ Ibn Abbas said: The equivalent of this in the Qur’an is: The believers indeed are brothers; so set things right between your brothers …[Q. 49:10].

[6] ‘O Moses, eat not that over which my name has not been spoken.’ Ibn
Abbas said: The equivalent of this in the Qur’an is: And eat not of
that over which God’s Name has not been mentioned … [Q. 6:121].

[7] ‘O Moses, give yourself leisure to worship me on the Sabbath day.’
Ibn Abbas said: And well you know there were those among you that
transgressed the Sabbath … [Q. 2:65].


Sources for this article: 

O People of the Scripture! Come to a Word Common to You and Us (Q. 3:64): The Ten Commandments and the Qur’an. Sebastian Gunther. University of Toronto.