Muhammad in the Bible

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Claimed prophecies of Muhammad in the Bible have formed part of Muslim tradition from its early history. Subsequent Muslim writers have expanded on these arguments and have claimed to identify other references to Muhammad in the text of the Bible, both in the Jewish Tanakh and in the Christian New Testament. Several Hadith, as well as (according to traditional Muslim interpretations) the Qur'an, state that Muhammad is described in the Bible. The Gospel of Barnabas, which explicitly mentions Muhammad, has also been identified as an ancient prediction about the prophet, but is widely seen by scholars as a fabrication from the Early Modern Age.

Some Muslim writers argue that expectations of forthcoming prophets existed within the Jewish community from before the lifetime of Jesus through to that of Muhammad, and that Muhammad was the final fulfillment of these expectations. Various Christian writers have also interpreted Muhammad in Bible prophecy as being either the False Prophet or the Antichrist.

Quran and Hadith[edit]

The seventh Quranic Sura Al-A'raf contains a passage that has been interpreted to mean that Muhammad was predicted in Jewish and Christian sacred texts.

Those who follow the apostle, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures),- in the law and the Gospel;- for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure).

The phrase "the law and the gospel" [Tawrat and Injil] is interpreted to refer to the Torah and the Gospels.[1][2]

Hadith recorded by Bukhari depict some early Jewish converts to Islam interpreting Isaiah 42 as a prediction of Muhammad.[3][4] The relevant passage begins "Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, [in whom] my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles." In another hadith, Kaab al-Ahbar, a Jewish convert, referred to Isaiah 42:1 "you are my slave and prophet..." by saying it is can be read as "You are my servant, Ahmad, mine elect, ...".[5]

Muhammad as predicted future prophet[edit]

Muslim scholars relied heavily on Christian and Jewish converts. These converts reported the reasons why they converted and mentioned the Bible verses that helped them make their decision. These include claims that passages in Deuteronomy are the Torah verses referred to in Al A'raf, and that the reference to the "Paraclete" in the Gospel of John is the Gospel reference to Muhammad.


Most prolific among those converts was the 12th-century Baghdadi Samau'al al-Maghribi whose book “Convincing the Jews" discussed Deuteronomy 18:18 and Deuteronomy 33:2. He reports in his book that his conversion to Islam followed from two Biblical passages. He claimed that Deuteronomy 18:18 refers to a prophet from the brothers of the Israelites, since the word used for brothers was in singular (i.e. a Brother tribe), he continues "but if they claim that this word is mentioned several times in the Bible referring to Israelites, the reply is the same word was also used to refer to the Edomites, children of Esau in Deuteronomy 2:4. "Their brother" was used to mean the rest of the Israelites but they were all assembled together when God spoke to them in this verse, and if they say the verse came in one of the prophets or allude to any prophet, then the answer that God-binding them under severe penalty will perplex both a coming prophet and the Jews for they will fear punishment both ways, if they obeyed the prophet who changes the law and if they did not obey him because of the original binding to Moses' revealed Law. For this reason Magrebi says Deuteronomy 33:2 gave guidance to interpret Deuteronomy 18:18, by specifying. He says that since the Desert of Paran is associated with Ishmaelites Genesis 21:21, and Muhammad was an Ishmaelite, then it was Muhammad who the prophet referred to in the words "God will flare over mount Paran". He says that the passage is in the future tense to instruct the Jews that it refers to a future prophet, since the verse used three different verbs "dawn, Crest, flare" that allude to different incidents in history, of which the first incident "God dawned from Mount Sinai" happened to them in the past, with Moses.[6]


John 14:16 and 14:26, referring to a Paraclete ("comforter"), have been read by Muslims as a prediction that Muhammad will follow Jesus.[4]

John 14:16 "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever"
John 14:26 "But the Comforter (Paraclete) whom the Father will send in my name, he shall speak to you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you."

Haqq al-yaquin Majlisi interprets this to mean "The Son of Man (Ibn al bashar) [=Jesus] is going and Faraqulit (Paraclete) [=Muhammad] will come after him. He will communicate the secrets to you and expound all things."[4] The earliest Muslim scholar to identify the Paraclete with Muhammad is probably Ibn Ishaq (died 767). Others who interpreted the paraclete as a reference to Muhammad include Ibn Taymiyyah, Ibn Kathir, Al-Qurtubi, Rahmatullah Kairanawi (1818-1891), and contemporary Muslim scholars such as Martin Lings.[7][8]

David Benjamin Keldani, an early-20th-century Christian convert to Islam, created a variation on this argument in his book Muhammad in the Bible (1928), in which he claimed the word Paraclete (παρακλητος paraklētos) in the text of the Greek New Testament was a corruption or alteration of an original Greek word Periclyte (περικλυτος periklytos), meaning "widely famed". This meaning is very similar to the literal translations of the names Ahmad or Muhammad in Arabic ("one who is highly praised"). Keldani suggested that this might be from a hypothetical Hebrew/Aramaic original version of the Gospel of John translated into Greek. Keldani claimed that the word for Comforter found in the Greek text of John was originally written without vowel letters PRCLT, which could be read or understood both as Periclyte or Paraclete. Paraclete (advocate or comforter), according to Keldani, was used instead of the original word. He claimed that the Hebrew/Aramaic word in the original lost Hebrew/Aramaic master copy (or verbal dictation) was thus "Ahmed", which should have been interpreted as a person's name. However, in his theory, "Ahmed" was translated into "Periclyte", which was written "Prclt" and which later was vocalized as "Paraclete" (comforter).

Other arguments[edit]

A Hebrew word מחמדים (MHMDYM, read as maħǎmaddim) appears once in the Hebrew Bible, at Song of Solomon 5:16, where it is translated into English as "desirable" or "lovely". Claims put forth by some Muslim scholars treat this chapter as a prophecy of the coming of Muhammed.[9]:139

Muslims including Muhammad Abu Zahra claim that changes were made to the present-day canon of the Christian Bible, by excluding material that represented the authentic message of Jesus, claiming that the authentic tradition is represented in the Gospel of Barnabas, which contains predictions of Muhammad.[10] A later Muslim writer, Ata ur-Rahîm, claimed that ”The Gospel Barnabas was accepted as a Canonical Gospel in the churches of Alexandria up until 325”.[10] The Gospel of Barnabas is generally seen to be a fabrication made during the Renaissance.[11][12][13]

Muhammad as Antichrist[edit]

Christian writers have also claimed that Muhammad was predicted in the Bible, as a forthcoming Antichrist, false prophet, or false Messiah. According to Albert Hourani, initial interactions between Christian and Muslim peoples were characterized by hostility on the part of the Europeans because they interpreted Muhammad in a Biblical context as being the Antichrist.[14] The earliest known exponent of this view was John of Damascus in the 7th century.[15] In c. 850 CE about 50 Christians were killed in Muslim-ruled Córdoba, Andalusia after a Christian priest named Perfectus said that Muhammad was one of the "false Christs" prophesied in Matthew 24:16.42. The monk Eulogius of Córdoba justified the views of Perefectus and the other Martyrs of Córdoba, saying that they witnessed "against the angel of Satan and forerunner of Antichrist...Muhammed, the heresiarch."[16] John Calvin argued that “The name Antichrist does not designate a single individual, but a single kingdom which extends throughout many generations", saying that both Muhammad and the Catholic Popes were "antichrists".[16]

The prophecy of the "Four kingdoms of Daniel" in Chapter 7 of the Book of Daniel has also been interpreted by Christians as a prediction of Muhammad. Eulogius argued that Muhammad was the Fourth Beast in the prophesy.[17] Another medieval monk, Alvarus, argued that Muhammad was the "eleventh king" that emerged from the Fourth Beast. According to historian John V. Tolan,

In Daniel's description of this beast, Alvarus sees the career of the Antichrist Muhammad and his disciples. This eleventh king who arises after the others, “diverse from the first,” who subdues three kings, is it not Muhammad, who vanquished the Greeks, the Romans, and the Goths? “And he shall speak great words against the most High”: did he not deny the divinity of Christ, thus, according to Saint John, showing himself to be an Antichrist? He “shall wear out the saints of the most High”: is this not a prediction of the persecutions inflicted by the Muslims, in particular of the martyrdoms of Córdoba? He will “think to change times and laws”: did he not introduce the Muslim calendar and the Koran? “[18]


  1. ^ David A. Cheetham, Ulrich Winkler, Interreligious Hermeneutics in Pluralistic Europe: Between Texts and People, Rodopi, 2011, p.372
  2. ^ R. G. Ghattas, Carol B. Ghattas, A Christian Guide to the Qur'an: Building Bridges in Muslim Evangelism, Kregel Academic, 2009, p.103
  3. ^ "Hadith". Hadith. Retrieved 11 May 2013. 
  4. ^ a b c John F. A. Sawyer, The Blackwell Companion to the Bible and Culture, John Wiley & Sons, 2008, p.148.
  5. ^ Ṣābirī, Abū Zayd ʻUmar ibn Shabbah Numayrī ; tarjumah-i Ḥusayn (2001) [730 AD]. Tārīkh-i Madīnah-i Munavvarah volume 2 (Chāp-i 1. ed.). Tihrān: Mashʻar. p. 200. ISBN 9647635001. 
  6. ^ Maghrebi, Samau'al (1964) [1150]. Ifham al-Yahud "Convincing the Jews". Perlmann Moshe. New York Academy for Jewish Research. pp. 45–48, 81, 82. 
  7. ^ Al-Masāq: studia arabo-islamica mediterranea: Volumes 9 à 10 ;Volume 9 University of Leeds. Dept. of Modern Arabic Studies, Taylor & Francis - 1997
  8. ^
  9. ^ Richard S. Hess; Gordon J. Wenham (1998). Make the Old Testament Live: From Curriculum to Classroom. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing. ISBN 978-0-8028-4427-9. Retrieved 4 April 2013. 
  10. ^ a b Leirvik, Oddbjørn (2002). "History as a Literary Weapon: The Gospel of Barnabas in Muslim-Christian Polemics". Studia Theologica - Nordic Journal of Theology 56: 4. doi:10.1080/003933802760115417. 
  11. ^ Cirillo, Luigi; Fremaux, Michel (1977). Évangile de Barnabé. Beauchesne. p. 88. 
  12. ^ Ragg, L & L (1907). The Gospel of Barnabas. Oxford. pp. xi. ISBN 1-881316-15-7. 
  13. ^ Joosten, Jan (April 2010). "The date and provenance of the Gospel of Barnabas". Journal of Theological Studies 61 (1): 200–215. doi:10.1093/jts/flq010. 
  14. ^ Hourani, Albert (1967). "Islam and the philosophers of history". Middle Eastern Studies 3 (3): 206. doi:10.1080/00263206708700074. 
  15. ^ Esposito, John L., The Oxford History of Islam: Oxford University Press, 1999, p.322.
  16. ^ a b McGinn, Bernard, Antichrist: Two Thousand Years of the Human Fascination with Evil, Columbia University Press. 2000, p.86; 212.
  17. ^ Quinn, Frederick, The Sum of All Heresies: The Image of Islam in Western Thought, Oxford University Press, 2008, p.30
  18. ^ Tolan, John, V., Saracens: Islam in the Medieval European Imagination, Columbia University Press. New York: 2002, p.81.

Further reading[edit]