by Vijay Chandra
One aspect of the Qur’an’s claim and teaching that captures the attention of most Christians is its claim that the Bible makes prophecies regarding Muhammad, and that by name. Given that most evangelicals are not even certain whether Islam came before or after the days of Jesus, it is fully understandable why they would be unaware of how important it is for the Qur’an, and hence for modern Muslims, to find biblical prophecies about Muhammad. But as to the Qur’an, if in fact, it insists that Muhammad is prophesied in the Bible and we discover this is not the case, we have a clear example of, at best, a misunderstanding for us. Islam insists that the author of Qur’an is God himself. Documentation of a specific error relating to the Scriptures of those who came before Muhammad would be a crucial element of any honest examination of Muhammad’s claims and Islamic faith. No Muslim who seeks the truth, [al-Haqq], could ignore such a problem in the text.
First, it is our desire to examine the key Qur’anic texts [or surah] and then look at the main biblical texts that Muslims say fulfill the Qur’an’s claims. We face the issue of ‘multiple views’ for while many Muslims point to specific texts and insist that many biblical passages refer to Muhammad, others, especially in the West, hesitate to be specific and some observe that the Qur’an leaves the matter vague and does not provide specific references and hence they will not firmly identify exact texts. The more conservative the Muslims, the more likely he or she is to believe that at least the texts we will examine here are directly related to Muhammad as a prophet.
“The Unlettered Prophet’’
We will look at some of the texts from the Meccan period, in Surah Al-Araf, 7:157.
“Those who follow, the Messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find described in their Torah and the Gospel—he will enjoin on them good and forbid them evil, he will make lawful for them good and forbid them evil, he will make lawful all good things prohibit for them what is foul, and he will relieve them of their burden and the fetters that were upon them—those that believe in him, honor him, support him, and follow him the light which has been sent down with him, they were successful”. Let us look carefully at this Qur’anic quotation. The key line “whom they find described in their Torah and Gospel”. Yet some translations, such as the Saheeh International, depart from the majority of other English translations and show a particular apologetic bias on the matter of preservation [or lack of] of biblical text [represented in Torah and Injil]. These render this phrase “in what they have of Torah and the Gospel”, implying a loss of a portion of the Scriptures. Nothing in either the context or the language indicates a reference to the corruption of Torah and Injil. There are some other renderings. Here are some:
“whom they will find described in Torah and the Gospel [which are] with them” [ Pickthall].
“whom they find mentioned in their own[scriptures],–in law and the Gospel”[ Yusuf Ali].
“whom they find written down with them in the Taurat and Injeel” [ Shakir].
‘whom they find written down with them in the Torah and the Gospel” [ Arberry]. Some of the more imaginative renderings expand upon the phrase.
“whom they find mentioned in their own Law and Gospel [Deuteronomy 18 and John[ Aziz] follow the Messenger, the Prophet who is non-Israelite, and who was unlettered before the revelation [29:48]. They find him well described” in the Torah and the Gospel with them. [The note that is added reads, “Deuteronomy 18:15 and Deuteronomy 18:18, Gospel of John 14:26, 15:26, 16:7, PARACLETOS—COMFORTER, from original Greek [ PERICLYTOS—THE PRAISED ONE [Shabire Ahmed] whom they find written with them in the Taurat [Torah] (Deuteronomy 18:15), and the Injeel [Gospel] (John 14:16)”.
There is much discussion of just what ‘unlettered prophet’ means, but we need not be detained by it, we need to focus on what the Qur’an is claiming.
The context includes a discussion about Moses and the prophet of Israel. Right before this ayah, we read, “I shall ordain it for those who fear [Allah] and pay the zakat and those who believe in our signs” [the Qur’an]. This defines ‘who’ follows ‘the Messenger, the unlettered prophet’, which is confirmed in the ayah. We will look further in the verses below. The point I want to make is the Qur’an has lots of Biblical citations which Muhammad borrowed from the Bible. They use these citations and in turn, they claim that the Bible is corrupted. I will examine a few more verses which they use to show that Muhammed was prophesied in the Bible.
- Deuteronomy 18:18
Muslims bring up in support of their claims the promise of a coming prophet in [Deuteronomy 18:18] “I will raise up for them a Prophet like you among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him”. Muslims claim the prophet to whom God referred was Muhammad. I must point out here that Muhammad was not a Jew, he was an Arabian.
Let us examine the fact that the statement made to Moses was divinely intended to refer to Jesus Christ—not Muhammad.
Shortly after the establishment of the church of Jesus Christ and the Christian religion [A.D. 30] in Jerusalem on the first Pentecost after the death and resurrection – Acts 2, two of the 12 apostles, Peter and John, went to the Jewish temple and healed a lame man (Acts 3:1-11). When people began to gather in large numbers out of amazement at what had happened, Peter used the opportunity to preach the Christian message to them [Acts 3:12-26]. He made several crucial points pertaining to the person of the Christ.
- The recently crucified Jesus was, in fact, the One Whom the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had glorified (Acts 3:13).
- God had raised Him from the dead (Acts 3:15).
- It was the ‘name’ [i.e., authority/power] of Jesus, and faith in Him, that procured the miraculous healing of the lame man (Acts 3:16).
- The suffering of Christ was predicted previously by God through the prophets (Acts 3:18).
- At the conclusion of human history, God will send Jesus [not any of the prophets, let alone Muhammad—an unmistakable reference to the second coming of Christ immediately preceding the Judgment (Acts 3:20, 21, Romans 14:10, 2 Corinthians 5:10, 2 Thessalonians 1:7, 8, 9). It is at this point that Peter quoted from the passage from Deuteronomy and applied it to Jesus—not to Muhammad (Acts 3:22, 23). Peter’s inspired application is unmistakable, he clearly identified Jesus as the fulfillment: “God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities” (Acts 3:26). Let us note further that God stated explicitly that the prophet that He would raise up would come ‘from your brethren’ (Acts 3:22. cf. Deuteronomy 18:18). In context, He was speaking to Moses, who was a descendant of Isaac and not Ishmael. Arabs are descended from Ishmael and not from Isaac. Ishmael was the son of a bondwoman [Hagar]; she was a maid to Sarah. So Muhammad was not from the brethren of Moses and the Jews. Muhammad was an Arab. He does not fit in the prophecy of Deuteronomy 18.
- John 14-16.
The Muslim apologists try to give credibility for their argument by linking their beliefs to the Bible and its multiple allusions to the Holy Spirit [again, how can they use Holy Spirit since they do not believe in the Trinity] in John 14, 15, and 16. John 16:7 reads “Nevertheless I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I go not away, the Helper will not come unto you, but if I depart, I will send him to you”. Muslims claim that Jesus was referring to Muhammad. Yet anyone who has spent even a minimal amount of effort examining the teaching of John chapters 14, 15, and 16 is astounded that anyone would claim that the “Helper’ [NKJV], “Comforter” [KJV]—the one who stands beside [paracletos]—is to be equated with Muhammad. The three chapters have as their setting Jesus giving His 12 apostles special encouragement and specific admonitions in view of his imminent departure from Earth. He reassured them that even though He was about to exit this earth, He would not abandon them. They would not be left “orphans” (John 14:18). He would send in His place the Holy Spirit Who would teach them and bring to their remembrance those things that Jesus had taught them (John 14:20). The term translated “Helper” occurs three times in the context (John 14:26, 15:26, 16:17). Without question, Jesus was referring to the power and directional assistance that the apostles would receive from the Holy Spirit beginning on the day of Pentecost [Did Muhammad descend on the day of Pentecost? The Qur’an does not even mention that].
Since Islamic apologists do not believe in the notion of Trinity [God in three persons—Matthew 28:19, 2 Corinthians 13:14], they reject the reality of the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit is referred to in the Qur’an, it is speaking of the angel Gabriel [Surah 2:89; 16:102]. But using their own reasoning, the ‘Helper’ cannot refer to Muhammad since the context especially identifies the “Helper” as the “Holy Spirit”. “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26). If Qur’an is correct, and the Holy Spirit is Gabriel, then John 14:26 teaches that the Helper is Gabriel—not Muhammad! NO, John 16:7 does not refer to Muhammad.
- John 1:19-21.
Muslim scholars bring another passage in an effort to show biblical support for Muhammad’s claim to be the prophet of God (John 1:19, 20). According to Muslims, they claim that the Jews were waiting for the fulfillment of three distinct prophecies. The 1st was the coming of Christ. The 2nd was the coming of Elijah. The 3rd was the coming of the prophet. Muslims point out that the three questions that were posed to John the baptizer in this passage show the expectation to be true. They further maintain that since the Jews distinguished between the Christ and the Prophet, Jesus Christ was not the prophet mentioned in Deuteronomy 18:15, 18. Muslims certainly are correct in their observation that the Jews of Jesus’s day thought that the Christ and the Prophet were two separate personages. But the meaning and proper application of the Bible does not rest on the perceptions and misconceptions of mere humans. The Bible records the opinions and viewpoints of a wide range of individuals throughout human history—including Satan himself (Matthew 4:3, 6, 9)—even though their opinions and viewpoints were incorrect. The Bible does not authenticate such opinions simply by reporting them. The Jews were confused.
But the real question is, does the Bible indicate the Christ and the Prophet were/are to be understood as the same person? As seen already, the apostle Peter certainly thought so (Acts 3:12, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23). So likewise did the great evangelist and Christian martyr, Stephen—standing before the highest-ranking body of Jewish religion, the Sanhedrin and in the presence of the highest-ranking religious figure in Judaism, the high priest—when Stephen recalled the words of Moses from Deuteronomy (Acts 7:37), and then forthrightly declared Jesus to be the just One Whom they have betrayed and murdered (Acts 7:52). The “Just One” is precisely the same person that Peter declared as the fulfillment of Deuteronomy 18:15, 18, that is Jesus Christ [not Muhammad] as the “Just One”. An objective appraisal of the biblical data yields the unmistakable conclusion that the Bible identifies the prophet of Deuteronomy 18 as Jesus Christ—not Muhammad. Jesus is both the Christ [the anointed one] and the Prophet.
- Song of Solomon 5:16
This is another passage that the Muslims use to indicate that Muhammad was the prophet predicted in this passage. This is found in Song of Solomon 5:16, where it is claimed that Muhammad is actually referred to by name in Hebrew. In English, the verse reads “His mouth is most sweet, yes, he is altogether lovely. This is My beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem” [ NKJV]. A phonetic transliteration of the underlying Hebrew text reads “ Kheeco mahm- tah- keem vuh-coollo ma-kga-madeem zeh dodee veh- tiseh ray-se beh- note -yerushalayim”. Muslims claim that the bolded word, though translated ‘altogether lovely’ is the name of Muhammad [Naik.n.a] We will consider six linguistic evidences that dispute and refute their claim. They have taken the verse out of context and made a pretext, which is wrong interpretation.
We will break down this particular verse as seen in Song of Solomon 5:16 for further clarification:
- The second syllable [kha] utilizes the Hebrew letter ‘heth’ which has a hard initial sound like ‘ch’. It is to be distinguished from the Hebrew letter ‘he’ which is the same as the English letter ‘h’. If Muhammad was being referred to, the simple ‘he’ would have been more linguistically appropriate.
- They claim that “eem [or] im” in ma-kha- madeem in the Hebrew language was “added for respect” [Naik]. This claim is untrue and unsubstantiated. The letters constitute the standard form for changing a singular to a plural—like adding ‘s’ or ‘es’ in English [cf. Weingreen, 1959, pp. 35ff.]. As one scholar who was a professor for oriental language and who also was a student of the well-known German Orientalist [H. F. W. Gesenius] noted in his editorial comment in the Gesenius Hebrew Grammar, “the use of plural as a form of respectable address is quite foreign to Hebrew” [Weingreen. J. A Practical Grammar for Classical Hebrew, Oxford: Clarendon Press, p. 418].
- The meaning of the Hebrew ‘ma-kha- madeem’ is different from the meaning of the word ‘Muhammad’ in Arabic. According to Sheikh Abdal-Aziz, Grand Mufti of Saudi Arabia, the word ‘Muhammad’ is derived from the Arabic root word ‘hamd’ meaning “peace”. It is the emphatic passive participle of the root and can be translated as “the Oft-Praised One”. However, the Hebrew term [makh-mahd] in the passage under consideration has a completely different meaning: it refers to ‘grace’, ‘beauty’[Gesenius, 1979, p.464], “a desirable thing, delightfulness” [Brown Driver and Briggs, 1906, pp. 326-327], “a pleasant thing” [Payne, 1980], or “precious” [Holladay]. English translations render the term “altogether lovely” [ NKJV< NIV, “whole desirable” [ NASB], and “altogether desirable” [ESV, RSV].
No English translation would render the underlying Hebrew as “Muhammad”. All that Muslims and their apologists have done is happen upon a Hebrew word that phonetically sounds somewhat like “Muhammad” and have erroneously concluded the word must be referring to him. Such a thought or handling of linguistic data is wrong and irresponsible. The question again is asked if the Bible is corrupt according to Islamic scholars, why do they use the Bible to justify the prophecies concerning Muhammad?
Further, the claim that Muhammad is intended in the verse completely disregards the context and message of the book of Song of Solomon. The book consists of a dialogue between Solomon, his Shulamite bride-to-be, and the daughters of Jerusalem, with perhaps even God interjecting His comments (Song 5:5), as well as the Shulamite’s brothers (Song 8:8, 9). The term used in Song 5:16 that the Muslims claim refers to Muhammad is also used in Song 2:3 to refer to the Shulamite’s beloved: “Like an apple tree among the trees of the woods, so is my beloved among the sons. I sat down in his shade with great delight”. “Great delight” is the Hebrew word also used in Song 5:16. In both cases, the words of the Shulamite refer to her beloved and not to Muhammad.
4. Forms of the same Hebrew word are used elsewhere in the Old Testament, yet Muslims do not claim that those passages refer to Muhammad. Rightly so, since those verses cannot be forced to fit the notion that Muhammad is under consideration. For example, Isaiah 64:11 mourns the destruction of Jerusalem: “Our holy and beautiful temple, where our fathers praised You, is burned up with the fire. And all our pleasant things are laid waste”. “Pleasant things” is a form of the same word in Song of Solomon 5:16. Would the Islamic apologists contend that Muhammad was “laid waste” in Jerusalem? Additional occurrences of the same word—which dispel the misuse of the term by Muslims—are seen in 1 Kings 20:6, 2 Chronicles 36:19, Lamentations 1:10, 11, Ezekiel 24:16, Hosea 9:9, 16, Joel 3:5 [Wigram, 1890].
5. If the Hebrew word ‘lovely/desirable’ in Song of Solomon were the Hebrew equivalent of the Arabic word ‘praised one’ it still would not follow that Muhammad is being referred to in the Bible. Instead, it would simply be an indication that the underlying word stands on its own as a term used for other applications. For example, the Hebrew word for ‘bitter’ is ma-rah. It is used throughout the Old Testament to refer to the concept of bitter. Yet, due to the unpleasant circumstances in life, Naomi [meaning ‘pleasant’] requested that her name be changed to bitter ‘mah-rah’ to reflect her bitter predicament. It does not follow, however, that when the Hebrew word ‘bitter’ appears in the Old Testament it refers to Naomi. If parents were to name their child Peter, it would not follow that they intended to reflect an association with others in history who have the same name as Peter. Muslim apologists have put the cart before the horse. Their claim is equivalent to parents naming their child “wonderful” or “special” or “beauty”—and then claiming that an ancient had their child in mind when the writer used the word ‘wonderful’ or ‘special’ in referring to another person contemporary to the writer.
All the above verses may be understood with careful study and consideration of the context. The passages in the Bible must be exegeted in their context and not out of their context. The Islamic scholars are devoid of the right hermeneutics. Those who would attempt to use and misuse these words to apply to Muhammad demonstrate that they have a very superficial, cursory understanding of the Bible. One needs to “check it out”. But searching for the truth requires hard study and great effort. It requires faith in God and in His word, a proper motivation, sincerity, and much integrity. But it can be done (John 8:12, 32). Only the Bible gives the truth and this truth makes one free from the bondage of sin. Christ is the truth (John 14:6).