Sam Shamoun and Jochen Katz in an article allude to the Qur’anic challenge about Torah in Surah 28 verses 48-49 and allege that it concludes, ’Torah (as it was readily available at Muhammad's time) is equal to the Quran in value of guidance and "is like it"’
Here are the two verses;
“But (now), when the Truth has come to them from Ourselves, they say, "Why are not (Signs) sent to him, like those which were sent to Moses?" Do they not then reject (the Signs) which were formerly sent to Moses? They say: "Two kinds of sorcery, each assisting the other!" And they say: "For us, we reject all (such things)!" Say: "Then bring ye a Book from Allah, which is a better guide than either of them, that I may follow it! (do), if ye are truthful!”’ (Qur’an 28: 48-49)
Every student of the Qur’an knows these verses were revealed in Makkah and are addressed to the pagans there.
The background is that the pagans of Makkah although never believed in the previous scriptures, still had a certain degree of respect for the Jews and used to refer to them for confirming things about Islam from them. Knowing that before Qur’an there was a book said to be revealed from the same source they said they would believe if a book like that, i.e. Torah, was revealed.
Qur’an catches them for their cunning argument saying, did they not reject Torah itself? Means, how can their claim be considered to any effect while they are the ones who never believed in Torah even?
And meanwhile when they consulted some individuals of the Jewish religion and got the testimony of a certain degree of consonance between the message of the Qur’an and the Torah.
As these liars themselves quote William Muir, an orientalist, wrote;
‘A Jew, either residing in the vicinity of Mecca, or having visited it perhaps from Medina or elsewhere,—at any rate known at Mecca,—is quoted to the people of Mecca as bearing testimony to the correspondence of the Corân with the Jewish Scriptures, and accordingly believing in it. "Does not this," says Mahomet, "prove the divine inspiration of the Corân, and yet ye proudly reject it?"’ (The Coran: Its Composition and Teaching p.84)
But when the pagans find some testimony for the Qur’an from the Jewish scriptures they pronounce their belief clearly that they do not accept them both, the Qur’an and the Jewish Law. And thereupon Qur’an asks the Prophet, may Allah bless him, to challenge that if they reject Qur’an and the previous scriptures they should bring something better. Something better than both Qur’an and Torah that they reject!
What do the verses imply?
Does the Qur’anic challenge imply that the Torah revealed unto Moses, may Allah bless him, was preserved till the time of Prophet Muhammad, may Allah bless him, at least? No, it does not. Infact it has nothing to do with the veracity of the Torah as known to the Jewish contemporaries of the pagans addressed in the verse.
Keeping in mind all the other statements of the Qur’an on the previous scriptures, including Torah, the case may be better understood considering the following example;
An automobile company launched a limited edition of a certain model of their brand which was recognized as the best by the experts in the industry. The company also made known that they were working to improve upon its features and that they plan to launch the super-model. Some skeptics, as usual, refused to acknowledge its value even though it proved to be trend setter. And while the company worked on the planned model and waited for the ripe time to launch its master-piece some copycats took some features of their earlier limited edition model, blended it with some other features and produced their own series using their brand name. Gradually owing its lower cost the counterfeit version found its share in the market and for the smaller competitors it became a standard on its own. Later the original producer launched it’s much hyped and craved model. They claimed that although earlier model is obsolete now the fact that it was produced by them only and was the forerunner of their new launch testifies to its greatness in its time. But some skeptical critics still remained adamant not to admit the excellence achieved. They rather argued that if it had the characteristics of the previous model (whose even counterfeits were considered a standard) they could reconsider their position. In response to all such skeptics, who were also among the competitors, the company official’s response was, “While you never recognized the worth of the earlier model even, what moral standing do you have to argue like this? Given that you have so many observations and that you have rejected our claim testified by the saner competitors even, produce something better than both (i.e. previous and latest model)!”
Now this last statement does not mean that earlier model is actually present or is by any means equal to the latest one.
Similarly the Qur’anic challenge does not prove that Torah is actually present in its pristine form nor does it convey that it is equal to Qur’an. To assert this will only be a mistake.
For those who did not actually get the above rather long story from corporate world and its connection with the issue at hand, the ‘previous model’ can be taken to represent Torah (or any earlier scripture) and ‘latest model’ to represent Qur’an. With this in mind I hope those interested in the subject can easily get what the rest of the details stand for.
Indeed Allah knows the best!