Muhammad (pbuh) in the Bible [P1-Eng]


Reference to the Bible.

Is it justifiable for Muslims to quote the Bible? There appears to be two common and extreme misconceptions about the Muslims’ attitudes towards the Bible:

a) that Muslims base their faith in full or in part on the Bible.
b) that Muslims reject the Bible in total and accept no single word of it.

For Muslims, the Quran is the last but not the only book revealed by Allah to mankind through His messengers. It is, however, the only holy book which remained intact from the time of its revelation until the present time. Not only is the full text of the Quran available, but it is also available in the full and exact form as uttered by Prophet Muhammad (Sallallahoalaihiwasalam), at the time of its revelation and in the original language in which it was revealed (Arabic). No addition, deletion, or interpolation found its way into the Quran. For Muslims, the Quran is the only remaining authoritative and authentic revelation available to mankind; authoritative because an objective study of Quran clearly shows its divine origin; and authentic because of the conclusive evidence that it remained intact and was transmitted to us as it was revealed without being mixed with human and philosophical ideas and doctrines. As such, Muslims do not need any other scriptures to base their faith on, either in full or in part.

On the other hand, it is erroneous to think that Muslims reject the Bible entirely. There are at least two reasons for this:

a) One of the main articles of faith in Islam is the belief in all prophets and messengers sent before the advent of the last of them. Prophet Muhammad. This also necessitates believeing in the holy books revealed to those prophets int he original forms of their revelation.

b) According to the Quran all prophets were Muslims (i.e. those who consciously and lovingly submitted to the will of Allah), what they taught was nothing but earlier versions of Islam (conscious and loving submission to Allah) and their sincere followers were Muslims as well. The fact that the transmission of earlier revelation, prior to the Holy Quran came to suffer from inaccuracies and misinterpretations does not justify a total and categorical rejection of such scriptures. There are bound to be some passages and portions of the Bible whose essence, if not wording, need to be rejected by Muslims.

Criterion of Acceptance

What is the Muslim basis or criterion for accepting or not accepting portions of passages from the Bible? The Quran itself provides such a criterion:

[And unto you have We revealed the Scripture with the truth confirming whatever Scripture was before it, and having supremacy over it…} [Holy Quran 5:48]

This emphasizes two main aspects of the Quran:

a) The Quran confirms those teachings or passsages of previous scriptures which remained intact.

b) The Quran is the last, complete, authoritative and authentic revelation. It is the final arbiter and the only criterion to correct any inaccuracy or misinterpretation which might have occurred in the transmission of earlier scriptures. It helps in discovering human additions to or interpolations of previous revelations, even as it reveals possible deletions which might have taken place through the centuries prior to its revelation (the Quran). Indeed one of the names of the Quran is al-Furqan (the criterion which distinguishes between right and wrong, truth and falsehood).

It follows therefore that a Muslim has no reason to reject the essence of any passage in the Bible if such a passage is confirmed by the Quran. For example, we read in the New Testament a reiteration of one of the Ten Commandments:

And Jesus answered him. The first of all commandments is, hear, O Israel. the Lord our God is one Lord” (Mark 12:29)

A Muslim who reads this passage in Bible and compares it with the Quran can find no objection to its essence. After all the Quran confirms:

[Say He is Allah, the One and Only (God)) {Quran : 112:1)

If, however, a Muslim reads in the Bible (or other previous scriptures for that matter) accusations of major moral sins levied against great prophets or doctrines which are totally negated in the Quran, the Muslim accepts only the Quranic version as the original unadulterated truth, revealed by Allah.

Likewise, if the Bible (or other scriptures) contains apparent prophecies about the advent of Prophet Muhammad, and if the Quran confirms that fact, then there is nothing unusual or objectionable in referring to such prophecies.
Quranic reference to prophecies

Is there any conclusive Quranic basis for claiming that the Bible did contain prophecies about the advent of Prophet Muhammad?

The original revelations given to prophets in the past contained a complete and clear profile of the advent of Prophet Muhammad. Even in its present form(s) the Bible still contains several such prophecies as will be shown in the forthcoming writings.

It is useful, however, to start with documenting the above statement.

a) Describing true believers, the Quran states:

“Those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet whocan neither read nor write, whom they will find described in the Torah and the Gospel which are with them). He will enjoin on them that which is right and forbid them that which is wrong. He will make lawful for them all good things and prohibit for them only the foul; and he will relieve them of their burden and the fetters that they used to wear. Then those who believe in him, and honor him, and help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him: they are the successful”. (Holy Quran 7:157)

This Ayah (verse) indicated that the characteristics as well as the teachings of that “Apostle, the unlettered Prophet” were mentioned in the “Torah” and the “Gospel”.

b) Quoting the Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him), the Quran states:

And when Jesus, son of Mary said: O children of Israel: Lo! I am the messenger of Allah unto you, confirming that which was (revealed) before me in the Torah, and bringing good tidings of a messenger who will come after me, whose name is praised one. Yet when he has come unto them with clear proofs, they say: This is mere magic“. (Quran 61:6)
And interesting aspect of this Ayah is that it indicates that in the original revelation uttered by Prophet Jesus, even the name of the long-awaited Messenger was given: Ahmed, which is another name of Prophet Muhammad. This issue will be further discussed later on.

Name or Signs?

Turning on the Bible, some may hasten to ask: I read the Bible several times, but never saw the name Muhammad. What is the justification for the title “Muhammad in the Bible?”

Many Christian theologians find no difficulty in pointing out what they consider as clear prophecies of the advent of Jesus. Where in the Old Testament does the name Jesus appear? Nowhere! The main question is whether or not the profile of “that prophet” to come was materialized, and who fits that profile?

The profile of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) was so clear to many Jews and Christians among his contemporaries that many of them embraced Islam and accepted him as the fulfillment of numerous Biblical prophecies. Ever since, there have been many others who arrived at the same conclusion. Further questions pertaining to the possible mention of Muhammad’s name will be discussed later.

Biblical prophecies about Jesus.

Does the previous discussion mean that ll prophecies which were believed to have been fulfilled in Prophet Jesus, actually fulfilled in Prophet Muhammad instead?

There is no reason to rule out the possibility that some of the Old Testament prophecies were in fact fulfilled in Prophet Jesus. This does not constitute a problem for the Muslims. On the authority of the Quran alone, the Muslims accept Jesus as a legitimate and major prophet of Allah. The same was reiterated in the saying of Prophet Muhammad. There are, however, several Old Testament prophecies which were for a long time misinterpreted so as to apply to Jesus. Such prophecies do in fact refer to Prophet Muhammad. One such prophecy is in Deuteronomy 18:18 to be discussed later. Analysis and reinterpretation of such prophecies should in no way reflect negatively on the honored status of Prophet Jesus in the hearts of Muslims. It is rather a revelation of the truth which would have been proclaimed by Jesus himself if he were among us today.
Main elements in Muhammad’s (peace be upon him) profile.

What then are the elements of the “profile” of Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) as depicted in the Bible?

That profile includes six crucial elements:

1) The Lineage of the Prophet,
2) His characteristics,
3) The location from which he was to come,
4) The revelation which was to be given to him,
5) Events which were to take place in his lifetime, and
6) The time when he was to come.

Lineage of “That Prophet”

Prophet Abraham: Common Father

Jews, Christians, and Muslims claim a common father, Prophet Abraham, the patriarch of montheism. What does his family tree look like?

A Simple look at it may help show some of the key figures in the Abrahamic family tree.

Abraham married Sarah. From their union they had in their progeny the following prophets: Issac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon, and Jesus.

Abraham married Hajar. From their union they had in their progeny the following prophets: Ishmael and Muhammad. [peace be upon them all]

According to Bible, Abraham was first married to Sarah who happened to be a baren woman and bore him no children (Genesis 16:1)

In the chronology of the Book of Genesis, God made an important promise to Abraham, even before any child was born to him.

And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing. And I will bless them that bless thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.” {Gen 12:2-3}

In a later chapter in the Book of Genesis (Gen. 16) we are told that Sarah gave Abraham a handmaid (Hajar) to be his wife, in the hope that she may bear a child to Abraham.

Hajar did bear Abraham’s first child whose name Ishmael (peace be upon him), meaning “God hears”, was given by the angels (Gen 16:11). For the following fourteen years, Ishmael was Abraham’s only child.

After the birth of Ishmael and before the birth of Issac, God’s promise to bless the families of the earth through Abraham’s descendants was repeated:

“As for Me, behold, My covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations.” (Gen 17:4)

Another pleasant surprise was in store for Abraham. In his old age, his first wife, Sarah, was to bear him another child, Isaac (peace be upon him) (Gen. 21:5)

The Bible tells us that because of jealousy, Sarah asked her husband Abraham to cast out Ishmael and his mother Hajar (Haggar) (Gen. 21:10) who subsequently dwelt in the wilderness of “PARAN” (Gen. 21:21).

God’s promise to bless the descendants of Abraham was indeed realized. Through Abraham’s second son Issac came the Israelite prophets, including Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, Solomon and Jesus (peace be upon them all), the last Israelite prophet. Fulfillment of God’s promise through the israelite branch of Abraham is clearly and abundantly articulated int he Bible. How was that promise fulfilled through the Ishmaelite branch of the Abrahamic family tree? Or was it fulfilled at all? Or has it yet to be fulfilled?

To start with, God does not renege on His promises, nor does He forget them. It is intersting to note that while the Bible contains elaborate details about the israelite branch, the Ishmaelite branch is virtually ignored. With the exception of a few references here and there, the Bible is virtually silent on the Ishmaelites.

If it is accepted that God does not renege on His promises (aprerequisite of faith for any believe in God) then we are left with two possibilites:

1) that such a promise of blessing which included the Israelites had been fulfilled;
2) that it is yet to be fulfilled.

It is well known that out of the descendants of Ishmael came the last great prophet of monotheism, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), whose followers constitute nearly one-fifth of the total world population in all corners of the earth.

After blessing the descendants of Isaac, the Israelites, for centuries with spiritual leadership, and after many lapses and rebellions against God on their part, a final chance was given to them through the mission of the last Israelite prophet, Jesus. When Jesus too was rejected, it was now time in God’s plan to fulfill His promise to the Ishmaelite branch as well, the branch which remained obscure until it was made a “Great Nation” through the mission of the well-known Prophet Muhammad, (peace be upon him), a descendant of Abraham through Ishmael. That shif of prophet hood and spiritual leadership to the Ishmaelite branch of Abraham’s descendants brought to completion the centuries-old promise of God to bless the families of the earth through Abraham and father of monotheism and patriarch revered by Jews, Christians and Muslims.

To any unbiased mind, the above evidence alone suffices to show the connection between such great prophets as Abraham, Isaac, Ishmael, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad.

If such prophecies about the advent of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) are that obvious, how is it that millions of Bible readers could not come to such a conclusion?

Putting other reasons aside, it seems that a combination of erroneous notions and misinterpretations are partly responsible for this situation.

Let’s analyze some of these notions.

Objections to the inclusion of Ishmael in God’s Covenant with Abraham

Where Ishmael and his descendants excluded from God’s promise and covenant?

A common, yet erroneous, answer to this question is yes.

A number of reasons are given:

a) Ishmael was not a legitimate son of Abraham.

According to the commentators of the Interpreter’s Bible:

“Ishamel, Like Isaac, is a descendant of Abraham, but Isaac is the child of ultimate promise, born to Sarah the true wife while Ishmael is born of the slave girl. Though he came of the stock of Abraham. Yet it was right that he should be separated from the legitimate son.”

[The interpreter’s Bible, Abingdom Press, N.Y., 1952 Vol 1, P 605 Emphasis added]

This argument cannot be supported logically, morally, or even on the basis of the available version of the Bible itself. Did the alleged state of bondage of Hajar prevent her from being a legitimate wif of Abraham. WHy was she not a “true” wife? And if she were not a “true” wife like Sarah, what kind of wife was she?
The text of the Bible, not withstanding the possibilities of later insertions or changes, does not make such a claim. In Genesis (16:3) Hajar is described as Abraham’s wife.

If Hajar was a legitimate wife of Abraham, there are no grounds whatsoever for questioning the legitimacy of her son Ishmael. Indeed the Bible refers to Ishmael as Abraham’s Seed who was the first born child of Abraham.

Even if Hajar was a bondswoman, does that effect the rights and privileges of her son Ishmael?

The answer can be found in the Bible itself. In Hebrew traditions, the first-born son was to have double portions of honor, even inheritance, and that right could not be changed due to the status of his mother.

In the Interpreter’s Bible, we read the following commentary on Deut. 21: 15-17:

“However, the law of the first-born had ancient sanction, and so long as it was accepted justice demanded that mere favouritism not be allowed to deprive the eldest son of his rights.”

It should be noticed that God does not subscribe to human attitudes of ethnic or racial superiority or exclusivism, much less the submergence of spiritual and human qualities of mankind because of a certain unfortunate state of bondage. The fallacy of Ishmael’s inferior status owing to his mother’s “inferior” social status is not contrary to the moral, humanitarian and universal nature of God’s revelation cherished by any believer in Him.
b) Only Isaac was the son of promise and covenant.

Sometimes reference is made to the following verses in the Book of Genesis:

“But My Covenant will I establish with Isaac” [Gen 17:2]

“For in Isaac shall thy seed be called” (Gen 21:12)

An interesting question is raised here: Is it possible that the writer(s) of this book (Genesis) inserted such statements to favour his own clan, himself being an Israelite?

According to Interpreter’s Bible:

“Many Israelites did not want a God who would be equally the God of all nations on the earth. They did not want one who would be impartial Holiness. They wanted a God who would be partial to them. So we read in Deuteronomy of demands for a complete extermination of all non-israelitish people of Palestine (Deut. 7:2) and as to the carrying out of that injuctino read the harsh sentences of Deut. 20:10-17”.

The possibility of insertions introducced to the supposedly “Original” text of revelation is a matter that many Biblical scholars reality admit, including those scholars who are earnest believers in Christianity such as the editors of and contributors to The Interpreter’s Bible.

For example, the word “Egyptian” which appears in Genesis (16:3) in reference to Hajar is suspected to be an insertion and that Hajar was indeed a Bedouin and not an Egyptian woman.

In addition to such a possibility, if not likelihood, of insertions in Gen (17:21) and (21:12), they do not in themselves conclusively exclude Ishmael from the promise and covenant of God.

Both verses could be understood to refer to the relatively “near” future extending over centuries during which the covenant of God and the seeds of Prophet-hood were to be mainly in the Israelite branch of Abraham’s family. Such limitations, however, does not mean or imply the exclusion of the descendants of Ishmael for good. When these two verse (Gen. 17:12 and 21:12) are examined within the context of other verses in the same book, it becomes evident that the Ishmaelites were included in God’s promise and His covenant with Abraham:

i) God’s covenant with Abraham was made before the latter had any children (Gen. 12: 2-3). It was reiterated after the birth of Ishmael and before the birth of Isaac (Gen 17:4)

ii) While Gen (21:12) indicates that in Isaac shall Abraham’s seed be called, the very following verser (Gen. 21:13) calls Ishmael Abraham’s Seed.

iii) As Isaac was blessed in the same book (Genesis), Ishmael is also specifically blessed and hence is included in God’s promise.

“….of the son of the bondswoman (i.e. Ishmael) will I make a great nation because he is thy seed” (Gen. 21:13)

The above promise was further confirmed a few verses later:

“Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation. (Gen. 21:18)

I may be noted here that when God speaks of “greatness”. He does not speak merely of numbers. “Greatness” in His own criterion is above all founded on faith, spiritual heritage and religious leadership.

c) The Son of Promise must be one or the other: Isaac or Ishmael.

This is typically expressed in a statement like the following:

“Ishmael is set aside as the inheritor of the Covenant. The fact that the (supposed) elder son of Abraham did not become the heir of the divine promise is accounted for in J2 by Hajar’s flight before the child’s birth (Ch. 16), and in E by her explusion with the child (21: 9-21) …”

One may inquire at this point:

i) Why should there be only one child as the heir of the divine promise? Why not both sons in view of the evidence discussed already?

ii) What type of divine justice punishes an innocent child because of his mother’s flight before he was even born (especially if that flight was prompted by the jealousy and mistreatment of Sarah)?

iii) What type of divine justice (or even common sense) is it that punishes an innocent child because he and his mother were “expelled” to satisfy Sarah’s ego and bless her jealousy? Was Sarah dictating her desires to God, too?
Why were Ishmael and hajar taken away?

If Muslims too believe that Hajar (Abraham’s wife) and her son Ishmael were settled in a different location, what is their version of the story? And how does that version compare to the Biblical version?

The Muslim Version:

Prophet Abraham received instructions from God to take Hajar and her baby Ishmael to a specified barren and lifeless place in Arabia (Paran), more specifically to Makkah (Mecca). In the Quran Abraham is quoted:

“Our Lord! I have made some of my offspring to dwell in a valley without cultivation by thy sacred house; in order, O Lord, that they may establish prayer: So fill the hearts of some among men with love towards them, and feel them with fruits: So they may give thanks.” (Holy Quran – 14: 37)

When Abraham began to leave Hajar and Ishmael alone in such barren wilderness, Hajar cried to him: “Where are you leaving us?” The question was repeated three times but no answer was given by Abraham. Hajar then asked: “Did God ordain you to do this?” Abraham said: “Yes.” In complete faith and trust on God she responded “Then, He will not suffer us to be lost.”
When Hajar ran out of water, she started to hasten between two little hills called as-Safa and al-Marwah in search of water or for any passing traveler. After she hastened seven times without success, she returned to check on her baby (Ishmael) who was crying and kicking the ground with his heels. In this moment of despair and apparent certain death, a spring of water suddenly gushed forth from under Ishmael’s feet. That well later came to be known as the well of Zamzam. Since water is the most crucial element in desert life, some Bedouins began to settle around the well, gradually growing into the most important city in Arabia, Makkah. Centuries later, out of the descendants of Ishmael came the last prophet of Allah, Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessing be upon him) who was born in Makkah some five centuries after the mission of the last Israelite prophet, Jesus.

It is interesting to note that until the present time, the hills of as-Safa and al-Marwah are still easily identifiable. Indeed, hastening between these two hills is part of the annual rites of Hajj performed by innumerable pilgrims every year. This rite is actually performed partly in commemoration of Hajar’s search for water and it dates back to Ishamel, long before the advent of Prophet Muhammad. Likewise, the Well of Zamzam which mirculously gushed forth under baby Ishmael’s feet is still gushing with water until this time. Hundreds of thousands of pilgrims to Makkah (recently about two million) drink from it annually and many others drink from it all year round.

The Biblical Version:

Sarah, Abraham’s first wife, was jealous of Hajar and her son Ishmael. She did not want Ishmael to inherit with her son Isaac as Ishmael was the son of the “bondswoman”. She was particularly angry because of what she considered as mockery on the part of Ishmael towards his younger brother Isaac while they were playing together. This incident took place after Isaac was weaned.

Abraham obeyed his wife Sarah whose demand of casting out the “bondswaoman” and her son was blessed by God who told Abraham to “hearken unto her voice”.

One morning Abraham rose up, gave provisions and water to his wife Hajar and put her child Ishmael upon her shoulder, and left them in the wilderness of Beer Sheba in southern Palestine. When Hajar ran out of water, she could not stand sitting there and watching her child die. An angel appeared before her and showed her a spring of water of which she went and brought drink to the lad. The angel further told hier, “Arise, lif up the lad and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation.”

Ishmael dwelt in the wilderness of “Paran”. He begot twelve sons, one of whom was named “Kedar”.

Similarities betwen the two versions

How does this tradition compare with the Muslim version? There appears to be at least three similarities between the two versions:

i) That Hajar and Ishmael were taken away from Palestine and dwelt in the wilderness (of Paran);

ii) That Hajar ran out of water and was worried about the life of her son Ishmael;

iii) That, unexpectedly, she had access to water which she gave to her son to save his life.
Difference between the two versions

According to Muslim version:

Hajar and Ishmael were taken away because of a specific divine instruction given to Abraham as a part of the divine plan. When the time came, Prophet-hood was to shift from the israelites to the Ishmaelites after the rejection of the last israelite prophet, Jesus, by the Israelites.

Hajar and Ishmael were taken to the wilderness of Arabia, specifically to Makkah and not to Beer Sheba.

This incident took place before the birth of Isaac and not after, when Ishmael was a baby, which is a further confirmation of the real reason for Hajar and Ishmael’s apparent exile as stated in the first difference.
Analysis of Differences:

Is reconciliation of these differences possible? Let’s focus on the last difference, namely did this incident take place before or after Isaac’s birth?

If we were to accept the Biblical verson, we would encounter a number of inconsistencies and contradictions.

It is abundantly clear from the story in (Gen. 21: 14-19) that Ishamel was a little baby at the time. Following is the documentation of his statement:
According to Gen 16:16 Abraham was 86 years old when Ishmael was born. And according to Gen 21:5, Abraham was one hundred years old when Isaac was born. It follows that Ishmael was already fourteen years old when his younger brother Isaac was born.

According to Gen 21: 14-19, the incident took place after Isaac was weaned. Biblical scholars tell us that “the child was weaned about the age of three”.

If follows that when Hajar and Ishmael were taken away Ishmael was a full grown teenager seventeen years old.

The profile of Ishmael in Gen 21: 14-19, however, is that of a small baby and not of a teenager. Why?

First according to The Interpreter’s Bible, the original Hebrew for Gen. 21:14 was “…and put the child upon her shoulder”. The same reading is rendered in the Revised Standard Edition of the Bible. Then, how would a mother carry a seventeen years old teenager “upon her shoulder”? Certainly he was strong enough to carry his mother! Ishmael must have been a baby!

Secondly, in Gen 21:15, we are told that Hajar “cast” the child under one of the shrubs. Again, according to this Biblical text Ishmael must have been a baby and not a teenager.

Thirdly, in Gen 21:16 we are told that Hajar sat away so that she may not see the death of the child before her own eyes. Is that a profile of a husky seventeen years old teenager who probably was capable of being worried about his mother dying before his eyes? Or is it obviously a profiel of a small helpless baby or at most a small child?

Fourthly, according to Gen 21:17, the angels told Hajar “arise, lift up the lad”. Is a seventeen years old young man a proper object to be “lifted up” by a woman? or is that a reference to a small child or a baby?

Fifthly, in Gen 21:19, we are told that Hajar went to fill the bottle with water “and give the lad a drink”. One would expect a strong young man of seventeen to go and bring water to his mother instead.

The above analysis leads to the inevitable conclusion that while the Bible contains some truths as explained earlier, there is also evidence of human additons, deletions and interpolations which only a subsequent authentic revelation (The Quran) could clarify. The Islamic version of the story is fully consistent and coherent from A to Z; Ishmael was a baby and Isaac was not born yet when this incident took place. This coherence and consistency are confirmed by centuries-old traditions and even actual locations in Makkah (Mecca) where Hajar and Ishmael settled. This clearly implies that the real reason behind their settlement in Arabia (Paran) was not the dictation, jealousy, ego or sense of racial superiority on the part of Sarah. It was rather God’s plan; pure and simple.

It may be relevant to indicate that this issue is not the only instance of inconsistency in respect to Ishmael’s story. The Interpreter’s Bible compares the story of Hajar and Ishmael in Gen. 21: 14-19, with that in an earlier chapter (Gen. 16:1 -16) and concludes “the inclusion in Genesis of both stories so nearly alike and yet sufficiently different to be inconsistent, is one of many instances of the reluctance of the compilers to sacrifice any of the traditions which has become established in Israel”.

…to be Continued

 

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