‘If thou wert in doubt as to what We have revealed unto thee, then ask those who have been reading the Book from before thee….’ (Surah, 10, Yunus, verse 94)
According to Surah 7, Al A’raf, verse 157, Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) the prophet of Islam is foretold in the Torah and the Gospel. However, a closer look at the context of the Biblical passages commonly referred to by Muslims, will show that they cannot be interpreted that way. The quotes are all taken from the N.I.V. translation of the Bible.
The Lord had said to Abram, ‘…I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.’
Dr. Jamal Badawi and some other Muslims claim that God would bless the whole earth through Muhammad (p.b.u.h) the descendant of Ishmael. (see ‘What the Bible says about Muhammad’, IPCI, pages 26-27) After all, he was the firstborn to Abraham through Hagar, an Egyptian maidservant, and the traditional rights the first son had as heir is, according to the law, not depending on the social status of his mother. However, the Bible is very clear in saying that God, by his sovereign choice, would fulfil his covenant through the seed of Isaac, the son given to Sarah, Abraham’s first wife:
And Abraham said to God, ‘If only Ishmael might live under your blessing!’ Then God said, ‘Yes, but your wife Sarah will bear you a son, and you will call him Isaac. I will establish my covenant with him as an everlasting covenant for his descendants after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard you: I will surely bless him; I will make him fruitful and will greatly increase his numbers. He will be the father of twelve rulers, and I will make him into a great nation. But my covenant I will establish with Isaac, whom Sarah will bear to you by this time next year.’ (Genesis 17: 18-21)
Deuteronomy 21:15-17 assures the rights of inheritance to the firstborn son, to the one who literally was the first to be born. Since Abraham lived about 600 years before God gave the Israelites this law through Moses, it is not applicable to him. This rule was also set aside with divine approval in Jacob’s and Solomon’s cases. Even in the Quran certain laws, such as to how many wives one is allowed to marry, did not apply to Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) The New Testament says:
‘For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on a promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise. (Galatians 3:18, see also 3:6-23)
Ishmael’s situation also has to be understood in the light of an ancient custom, illustrated in Old Assyrian marriage contracts, the Code of Hammurapi and the Nuzi tablets (mid-2nd millennium B.C.). There we find that if a wife could not bear children to her husband, she was allowed to give him her maidservant to provide an heir. Every legal right of a child that was born in that way was passed on to the real wife. These laws allowed her to turn a mother of such a child again into her former state of a servant. In case the wife would suddenly be able to bear children she could disinherit the child of the maidservant. This is exactly what happened to Ishmael, the son of Abraham, born by the maidservant Hagar:
‘The child grew and was weaned, and on the day Isaac was weaned Abraham held a great feast. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, and she said to Abraham, ‘Get rid of that slave woman and her son, for that slave woman’s son will never share in the inheritance with my son Isaac.’ The matter distressed Abraham greatly because it concerned his son. But God said to him, ‘Do not be so distressed about the boy and your maidservant. Listen to whatever Sarah tells you, because it is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned. I will make the son of the maidservant into a nation also, because he is your offspring.’ (Genesis 21:8-13, see also 25: 1-6)
God in his sovereignty chose to bless the whole world through Isaac’s line. Surah 29, Al ‘Ankabut, verse 27 (see also Surah 45, Al Jathiyah, verse 16) confirms this by stating that the prophethood and the scripture are to be found in Isaac’s and Jacob’s line, with the children of Israel. Nowhere in the Quran is it written that from Ishmael’s seed too there would one day rise up a prophet. As seen above, this is confirmed in Genesis 17:20-21 where we read that God will fulfil his covenant through Isaac only. God remains faithful to his promise even though the Israelites have disobeyed him many times during their history. They were and are being severely punished for their stubbornness, yet God has still not chosen to reveal himself through prophets coming from outside the line of Isaac and Jacob. The following verse verifies this:
But Zion said, ‘The Lord has forsaken me, the Lord has forgotten me.’ ‘Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I (God) will not forget you! See I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.’ (Isaiah 49:14-16, see also 2 Tim 2:13, Rom 3:3-4)
‘The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so. The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me (Moses) from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.’ The Lord said to me: ‘What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account. But a prophet who presumes to speak in my name anything I have not commanded him to say, or a prophet who speaks in the name of other gods, must be put to death.’
Because Ishmael was Isaac’s half-brother, Muslims interpret the words ‘from among your own brothers’ to mean ‘from among the descendants of Ishmael.’ They conclude that since Muhammad (p.b.u.h) was a descendant of the Ishmaelites this prophecy must speak about him. The preceding chapter shows clearly that this is not the case. By defining the very words on which the Muslim argument is built we will see that they refer to a brother Israelite not to a brother Ishmaelite:
‘Be sure to appoint over you the king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your own brothers. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite. (Deuteronomy 17:15)
Even though this verse refers to a different incident, nevertheless the words under question are used again. It is a normal exegetic procedure to define a phrase according to how it is used in the close context, especially so if it is explained there. When it comes to a choice between accepting the interpretation of men or the Bible the latter must naturally be given preference. This explanation is the only one that can be accepted in the light of Deuteronomy 18:14. There Moses tells his brothers, the Israelites, not to follow the detestable practices of the nations in regard to having contact with the supernatural world. At that time everybody else, including the Ishmaelites, belonged to those nations! Therefore, if verse 15 would refer to a prophet coming from the Ishmaelites, this surely would have been clearly stated! The verses 20-22 (they mention the criteria for “a” not “the” true prophet) which follow after Deuteronomy 18:15 disclose that it is first and foremost a collective reference to all true prophets who will follow. They all, like Moses, were to act as mediators between God and the people. The Israelites had a frightening experience with the Creator on Mount Sinai and since then they did not want Him to speak to them personally. (Exodus 20:18-21) At their request God would send prophets who will speak in His name to them. In this way they will hear the words God put into the mouths of His prophets. In Acts 3:21-26 we read that Jesus was the unique, messianic fulfilment of that prophecy:
‘…Jesus must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. For Moses said, ‘The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you’…When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you…’
John 6:14 confirms that fact:
After the people saw the miraculous sign that Jesus did, they began to say, ‘Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.’
If the words in Deuteronomy 18 ‘…a prophet like me…’ are not examined in relation to their neighbouring verses, as explained above, they give raise to all kinds of speculations. Some Muslims say Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) was like Moses because, unlike Jesus, they both had a father and a mother, both where born in a natural way, both married and had children, etc. What they fail to conclude is that many prophets can be paralleled to Moses in some things but not in others. One could just as well say Jesus was the promised prophet because, like Moses but unlike Muhammad (p.b.u.h.), he was saved from death as a baby (Exodus 1:17, 2:2-10, Matthew 2:16), transfigured (Exodus 34:29, Matthew 17:1-7), preached about sacrifice being the way to get forgiveness of sins (Leviticus 4, Matthew 26:28, Hebrews 9:22), and called himself a Jewish prophet (Luke 4:16-24); Jesus too spoke in God’s name (John 17:8) and performed many miraculous signs (See also Luke 8:48-55) In contrast to him, there is no sign recorded of Muhammad (p.b.u.h) in the Holy Quran that would be accepted as such by his enemies:
The Unbelievers say, ‘Why is not a Sign sent down to him from his Lord?” Say, “Truly Allah leaveth, to stray, whom He will; But He guideth to Himself those who turn to Him in penitence..” (Surah 13, Al Ra’d, verse 27, see also verse 31)
To say that the Quran was a miracle given to Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) is unreasonable because many could write a piece of literature and then claim it miraculously came from God. Neither its poetic beauty nor the fact that it has been faithfully recorded down the ages would support such a claim. Otherwise, Shakespeare who wrote the best English prose and whose work has not suffered any change could be called a prophet of God as well in a few hundred years.
The phrase, ‘…I will put my words in his mouth…’ (verse 18), is used when other prophets are mentioned, such as Jeremiah (1:9) or Balaam (Numbers 22:38). It describes in a figurative way the form of divine inspiration that is common to the prophets in general, including Jesus (John 8:25-28) They are to pass on the words given by God only. The prophets were to speak in God’s name only. (Verse 19) God has many different names, the most common among whom are: -His general name ‘Elohim’ (Hebrew) occurs 2550 times in the Bible. It is translated ‘God’ in English and ‘Allah’ in Arabic. -His descriptive name ‘Adonai’ (Hebrew) is used 340 times and is translated ‘Lord’ in English and ‘Rabb’ in Arabic. -His specific, personal name is ‘Yahweh’ or ‘Jehovah’, depending on which transliteration is used for ‘YHWH’ (Hebrew). Its occurrence is with 6823 times by far the most. The literal English rendering is ‘I am’. When Jesus told the Jews that he was the great ‘I am’ the Jews wanted to stone him for blasphemy (John 8:58-59). In Deuteronomy 18:21-22 ‘Yahweh’ is used to identify the name of God in whom a prophet was to speak! Since this name was never used in the Quran and has no equivalent in Arabic one has to come to the conclusion that Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) did not fulfil this requirement of a true prophet!
This is the blessing that Moses the man of God pronounced on the Israelites before his death. He said: ‘The Lord came from Sinai and dawned over them from Seir, he shone forth from Mount Paran. He came with myriads of holy ones from the south, from his mountain slopes.’
Bashir Ahmad claims that verse two speaks about three different manifestations of God’s glory. (‘The Holy Quran’ with English Translation and Commentary”, by Bashir Ahamad, second head of the Ahmadiyya community, Islam International Publications, Tilford, Surrey, 1988, general introduction, page lvii) The first one took place on Mount Sinai, when the law was given to Moses. The second one, from Seir is identified with Jesus and his work in Palestine. The third one, from Mount Paran, is perceived to be the revelations given to Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) in Arabia. However, verse one provides the context for the correct interpretation. Moses is said to bless the tribes of Israel. Surely, Islam, the advent of which is allegedly mentioned in verse two, can not be considered to be a blessing to the Israelites! He begins by speaking about the place where God gave His law to them. In putting it as an introduction to the individual blessings, he indicates that obedience towards the law received on Mount Sinai is the source from which the blessings flow. The passage is further written in a poetic stile in the Hebrew language, known as synonymous parallelism. The second or subsequent line repeats or reinforces the sense of the first line. (For another example of this kind see Isaiah 44:22) ‘Like the sun when it rises, and fills the whole of the broad horizon with its beams, the glory of the Lord, when He appeared, was not confined to one single point, but shone upon the people of Israel from Sinai, and Seir, and the mountains of Paran, as they came from the west to Sinai…Seir is the mountain land of the Edomites…’ (‘Commentary on the Old Testament’, by Keil-Delitzsch, W.B. Eerdmanns Publishing, Michigan, Reprinted 1991, ‘Deuteronomy’, page 497) Edom, located South East of Israel, did not belong to Palestine in Jesus’ time. It was occupied by the Jews only during the reign of David and Solomon in 1010-930 BC.
‘Since then, no prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face…’
This verse can not be taken to mean that the promised prophet was to come from outside Israel. It refers only up to the time when Deuteronomy was written, about 1400 B.C.
Song of Songs 5:16
‘His mouth is sweetness itself; he is altogether lovely. This is my lover, this is my friend…’
Some Muslims claim that Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) is mentioned in this passage. The Hebrew word for ‘altogether lovely’ is ‘Mahammaddim’. The plural ending ‘im’, also known as the royal plural, is allegedly given to pay the respect that is due to the prophet of Islam. Dr. Alex Luc, an eminent Hebrew scholar at the well-known Columbia Biblical Seminary in U.S.A has this to say about the argument: ‘The word under consideration is plural. So is the word ‘sweetness’ in that verse. It is not to be labelled as royal plural like ‘elohim (God); rather, it is common for abstract nouns or adjectives to be in a Hebrew plural form, e.g., ‘adulterous’ in Hosea 1:2 is plural, so is a ‘faithful’ man in Proverbs 28:20 and ‘understanding’ in Isaiah 27:11. Even allowing the way the Muslims are turning a non-prophetic text into a prophetic one, they will face the great challenge to see the Hebrew word ‘Mahammaddim’ as Muhammad, a term usually used in a negative context, representing something destroyed and punished because of God’s wrath on his people.’ (Isaiah 64:11; Hosea 9:16; Lamentations 2:4)
It can also not be said that the same word used in two different languages has the same meaning. The word ‘bank’ for example has different signification in English. However none of them can be compared to one of the meanings given in the German language. There the word ‘bank’ can also be used to describe a bench to sit upon. Usually only what comes before or after a word will determine what it is intended to communicate. Song of Songs 5:10-16 describe the man’s beauty in poetic terms. The words ‘altogether lovely’ in verse 16 are used to summarize verses 10-15. He who still thinks verse 16 applies to Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) will have to explain verse one of the same chapter. It refers to the one who is called ‘altogether lovely’ in verse 16 and describes him as someone who has drunk wine! This, according to Islam, is considered to be a great sin!
‘An oracle concerning Arabia: You caravans of Dedanites, who camp in the thickets of Arabia, bring water for the thirsty; you who live in Tema, bring food for the fugitives. They flee from the sword, from the drawn sword from the bent bow and from the heat of battle. This is what the Lord says to me: ‘Within one year, as a servant bound by contract would count it, all the pomp of Kedar will come to an end. The survivors of the bowmen, the warriors of Kedar will be few. The Lord, the God of Israel, has spoken.’
This passage describes, according to Badawi, the incident of the migration of the prophet and the battle of Badr. (Ibid. page 29) But the departure of Muhammad (p.b.u.h) took place on 20st June A.D. 622 and the battle was fought in March A.D. 624, one year and eight month later. (see ‘Dictionary of Islam’, ‘Badr’ and ‘Hijrah’, by T.P. Hughes, Asia Publishing House, 1988) This time stands in contradiction to the ‘within one year’ of the text! The Muslim interpretation does not fit their own historical dates! This prophecy speaks in reality about the attack on the Arabs by the Assyrians in 732 B.C, and the Babylonians did the same under Nebuchadnezzar. (See ‘NIV Study Bible’, Footnotes to text, Zondervan Corporation, 1985.)
‘Who is it he is trying to teach? To whom is he explaining his message? To children weaned from their milk, to those just taken from the breast? For it is: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule a little here, a little there.’ Very well then, with foreign lips and strange tongues God will speak to this people..’
Badawi wants to make his readers believe that the ‘strange’ (other translations have ‘stammering’) tongues, describe Muhammad’s (p.b.u.h.) ‘…state of tension and concentration he went through at the time of revelation.’ The words ‘a little here, a little there’ supposedly speak about the Quran which was revealed in piece meals over a span of twenty three years. (‘What the Bible says about Muhammad’, IPCI, page 29) In reality these verses are part of a prophecy against Samaria and Jerusalem later fulfilled through the Assyrians. The drunken Israelites (verse 7) mocked the prophet Isaiah. God would speak to the scoffing people of stammering tongue a language of the same kind, since he would speak to them by a people that stammered in their estimation. The Assyrian Semitic had the same sound in the ear of an Israelite, as a provincial dialect has in the ear of an educated man. (‘Commentary on the Old Testament’, by Keil and Delitzsch, Eerdmans Publishing, Reprinted 1991, notes on verses)
‘The Lord has brought over you a deep sleep: He has sealed your eyes (the prophets); he has covered your heads (the seers). 11 For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say to him, ‘Read this, please,’ he will answer, ‘I can’t; it is sealed.’ 12 Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, ‘Read this, please,’ he will answer, ‘I don’t know how to read.’ 13 The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men.’
Ahmed Deedat singles out Isaiah 29:12 in an attempt to make it look like a prophecy about Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) After all, he used the same words when first confronted with revelation by the angel Gabriel. (Ibid, page 15) A closer look at the whole chapter 29 shows that the subject under consideration is God’s judgement on the disobedient people of Jerusalem. Because of their stubbornness He has hardened their hearts so that they can not understand His words. Verse 13 describes the low spiritual maturity of him who is told to read but cannot. This should not be said about the prophet of Islam, should it?!
‘Here is my servant, whom I uphold, my chosen one in whom I delight: I will put my Spirit on him and he will bring justice to the nations…Let the desert and its towns raise their voices; let the settlement where Kedar lives rejoice. Let the people of Sela sing for joy…’
In another desperate attempt to find the messenger of Islam foretold in the Bible, Dr. Badawi tries to apply the verses above to him. He connects the awaited one as coming from the descendants of Kedar, the second son of Ishmael, the ancestor of prophet Muhammad. (Ibid, page 28) What he fails to see is that the first two verses are applied to Jesus in Matthew 12:15-21! Badawi does not mention that Isaiah 42:11 also speaks about the people of Sela, the capital of the Edomites whose father was Esau (Genesis 25:29-30), son of Isaac! Both people will rejoice not because the Saviour came from them but to them!
‘God came from Teman, the Holy One from Mount Paran. His glory covered the heavens and his praise filled the earth.’
Dr. Badawi thinks that the Holy One to appear from the land of Teman and Mount Paran is the Holy Prophet Muhammad. But chapter 3 and the very verse 3 of Habakkuk identifies the Holy One very clearly as being God Himself! God’s identity is also confirmed in verse 8 of the same chapter! Like in Deuteronomy 33:2, here too, the Hebrew language uses a poetic stile, synonymous parallelism, to express one and the same truth in different words. Teman means “Southland”. God is described as coming from the area south of Israel of which Mount Paran is a part. The passage in Isaiah 21:13-17, which supposedly mentions the migration and the battle of Badr, is in reality referring to an invasion within the Assyrian era.
Let us now look into the passage of the Gospel that is supposedly speaking about the coming of Muhammad (p.b.u.h):
‘He (John the Baptist) did not fail to confess but confessed freely, ‘I am not the Christ.’ They asked him, ‘Then who are you? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the prophet?’ He answered, ‘No’. Ahmed Deedat believes this verse to be a sign that Jesus is not the prophet who was to come since it speaks about three different persons. (‘What the Bible says about Muhammad,’ IPCI,pages 17-19)
However, John 6:14, in which the Jews identify Jesus to be this prophet, shows that there were different opinions among them with regard to his identity. As seen above in Acts 3:21-26 the matter is clarified and he is identified to be Jesus. Deedat further thinks that there is a contradiction between John 1:20-21 and Matthew 17:11-13 where Jesus, in opposite to John the Baptist, declares the latter to be Elijah. (Ibid. page 18) The solution to this apparent contradiction is found by turning to Luke 1:17 where John the Baptist is described as coming ‘…in the spirit and power of Elijah…’ Since Elijah did not die (2 Kings 2:11) the Jews were thinking he would come back in the flesh, literally being the same prophet. John denied being Elijah in that sense. Since John functioned like that Old Testament preacher of repentance, in the spirit and power of him, Jesus affirmed him to be Elijah in that spiritual sense.
‘But I (Jesus) tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away the Counsellor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.’
The Gospel was first written down in the Greek language. The argument is put forward that the Greek word for ‘Counsellor’, ‘paracletos’, is very similar to the word ‘periclytos’ that can be translated ‘the praised one.’ Because this is the meaning of the name ‘Muhammad’ it is concluded that three letters were altered and Jesus was really speaking about the prophet of Islam. However, there is not even one Greek manuscript with the word ‘periclytos’ in existence. This truth is further confirmed by looking at the circumstances in which the word ‘Counsellor’ is used. About him we read in the verse quoted above, that Jesus sends him, in His name. Certainly, every Muslim believes that his prophet was sent by Allah rather than by Jesus or in His name!
‘And I will ask the Father and he will give you another Counsellor to be with you forever- the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you…But the Counsellor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.’ (John 14:16,17,26)
Muhammad (p.b.u.h) has not remained with us forever; he is nowhere called the Spirit of truth; the world has seen him; he has not lived with the disciples and he will not live in them! It is impossible to spiritualize all these marks of recognition of the Counsellor, especially in the light of the above definition of the Counsellor, being the Holy Spirit!
The Ahmadiyya Muslim community has a few more passages through which they try to claim that Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) is found in the Bible. They are not so well known to other Muslims and are therefore dealt with in a separate article entitled, ‘Ahmadiyya Muslim claims answered.’ It can be ordered below.
There is no prediction about Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) found in the Bible. Therefore Muslims are left with no Biblical evidence that would validate the authority of their prophet. This problem leads to another difficulty that is just as serious. It is described in Surah 4, Al Nisa, verse 82:
‘Do they not consider the Quran (with care)? Had it been from other than Allah, they would surely have found therein much discrepancy.
Since the Quran says Muhammad (p.b.u.h.) is foretold in the Bible but as this study clearly shows, he is not, we are faced with the fact that this is a contradiction!