|“Our Prophet (peace be upon him) forbade his people from attacking innocent caravans and only took what had been taken from his people by the polytheists.”
After his eviction by the Quraish in Mecca, Muhammad and his Muslims found refuge many miles away in Medina where they were not being bothered by their former adversaries. Despite this, Muhammad sent his men on seven unsuccessful raids against Meccan caravans before finally finding one – whereupon they murdered the driver and plundered the contents. This particular caravan was especially vulnerable because the attack came during the holy months, when the merchants were least expecting it due to the generally agreed upon rule that the tribes of the area would not attack each other during that time:
The shaved head caused the Muslims to look like pilgrims rather than raiders, which instilled a false sense of security in the drivers. However, Islam was a different sort of religion from what the Meccans were used to:
According to Ibn Kathir, the Muslims living in Mecca did not dispute that their brethren in Medina had killed, captured and stolen from the Quraish, but they were reluctant to accept that this had occurred during the sacred months:
Faced with losing face by admitting his error, Muhammad went into his hut and emerged with a convenient and timely revelation “from Allah” that provided retroactive permission for the raid (and, of course sanctioned the stolen possessions for his own use):
Notice that the Quran does not say that the Meccan Quraish were guilty of killing Muslims, only that they were “persecuting” them by preventing them from the ‘sacred mosque’ (the Kaaba). The killing of the Meccan driver by the Muslims was the first deadly encounter between the two adversaries. This is of acute embarrassment to contemporary Muslim apologists, who like to say that Islam is against killing for any reason other than self-defense.
For this reason, there has arisen the modern myth that the Muslims of that time were simply “taking back” what was theirs – rather than exacting revenge and stealing. Contemporary apologists like to say that Muhammad and his followers were basically robbed by the Meccans on their way out of town. (The 1976 movie, “The Message,” perpetuates this misconception).
Apologists are somewhat vague as to how property theft justifies killing (particularly on the part of someone they otherwise like to portray as a paragon of virtue); nor do they attempt to explain how the particular victims of subsequent Muslim raids (usually the caravan drivers and laborers) were directly responsible for this supposed theft. A larger problem is that there is no evidence to support the misconception that the Muslims were “taking back what was theirs”; in fact, it is specifically contradicted by the early historical record.
The event of the first attack on Meccan caravans is detailed quite well by Muhammad’s biographer, Ibn Ishaq/Hisham, but nowhere does he mention the contents of the caravan as being Muslim property. In fact, Ishaq explicitly describes the goods as belonging to the Meccans:
Note also that the cargo plundered from the caravan included raisins, which would have long since perished had they been from grapes grown and dried by the Muslims before they left Mecca nearly a full year earlier. Moreover, a fifth of the loot was given to Muhammad as war booty, which would not have been the case if it rightfully belonged to another Muslim (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 425).
Most of the Muslims living in Mecca had few assets to begin with, having come largely from the lower rungs of the social ladder, but those who did would have had several years to liquidate their assets or transport them to a new location. As the instigator of the discord, Muhammad was the only Muslim literally forced to flee Mecca in the dead of night, but even his business affairs were sewn up on his behalf by Ali, his son-in-law:
” Restoring deposits” means returning property to people who had left them in Muhammad’s care, similar to a bank returning money to depositors. This would not have been possible had Muhammad’s wealth been confiscated. Given that his had not been, it is unlikely that anyone else’s was either, since he was the primary interest of the Quraish.
So, if the Muslims at Medina weren’t trying to recover stolen goods, why were they plundering Meccan caravans? Muhammad explains the real reason for the looting and the killing:
Thus, the justification for killing the Meccans and stealing their goods is purely religious. The only thing stolen from the Muslims was their ability to enter the sacred mosque (ie. complete the Haj ritual at the Kaaba). The innocent caravan drivers were fair game for Muhammad’s deadly raids simply because Muslims felt “kept back from the way of Allah” by the “unbelief” of the Meccan leadership. This is all the more apparent by the next major episode in which Muhammad sent his men to plunder caravans, which precipitated the Battle of Badr:
In this case the Meccans were returning to Mecca from a business trip to Syria. Any goods they were carrying would have been purchased from the Syrians.
Over the next nine years, the principle source of income for Muslims was wealth forcibly extracted from others. The targets of misfortune expanded well beyond the Meccans. By the time Muhammad died, his men were finding excuse to raid and steal from many other Arab tribes, Jews and even Christians. Like the mafia, a protection racket gradually evolved where other tribes were allowed to live peacefully provided they paid tribute to Muslim rulers.
It is against Islam to rape Muslim women, but Muhammad actually encouraged the rape of others captured in battle. This hadith provides the context for the Qur’anic verse (4:24):
The Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) sent a military expedition to Awtas on the occasion of the battle of Hunain. They met their enemy and fought with them. They defeated them and took them captives. Some of the Companions of the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) were reluctant to have intercourse with the female captives in the presence of their husbands who were unbelievers. So Allah, the Exalted, sent down the Qur’anic verse: (Sura 4:24) “And all married women (are forbidden) unto you save those (captives) whom your right hands possess.” (Abu Dawud 2150, also Muslim 3433)
Actually, as the hadith indicates, it wasn’t Muhammad, but “Allah the Exalted” who told the men to rape the women in front of their husbands – which is all the more reason to think of Islam differently from other religions.
Note also that the husbands of these unfortunate victims were obviously alive after battle. This is important because it flatly contradicts those apologists who like to argue that the women Muhammad enslaved were widowed and thus unable to fend for themselves. (Even if the apologists were right, what sort of a moral code is it that forces a widow to choose between being raped and starving?)
There are several other episodes in which Muhammad is offered the clear opportunity to disavow raping women – yet he instead offers advice on how to proceed. In one case, his men were reluctant to devalue their new slaves for later resale by getting them pregnant. Muhammad was asked about coitus interruptus in particular:
“O Allah’s Apostle! We get female captives as our share of booty, and we are interested in their prices, what is your opinion about coitus interruptus?” The Prophet said, “Do you really do that? It is better for you not to do it. No soul that which Allah has destined to exist, but will surely come into existence.” (Bukhari34:432)
As indicated, the prophet of Islam did not mind his men raping the women, provided they ejaculated within the bodies of their victims.
As one might imagine, Muhammad’s obvious approval of raping women captured in battle and his own personal participation as recorded in many places is of intense inconvenience to the Muslim apologists of our time. For this reason, some of them attempt to explain away these many episodes and Qur’anic references to sex with captives by pretending that these are cases in which women have fled bad marriages and sought refuge with the Muslims. Some apologists even refer to them as “wives,” even though the Qur’an makes a clear distinction between “those whom thy right hand possesses” and true wives (see Sura 33:50).
Beyond the desperation of the 21st century apologist however, there is absolutely nothing in the historical text that supports this rosy revision of Muslim history. The women of the Banu Mustaliq were sold into slavery following their rape:
“We went out with Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) on the expedition to the Bi’l-Mustaliq and took captive some excellent Arab women; and we desired them, for we were suffering from the absence of our wives, (but at the same time) we also desired ransom for them. So we decided to have sexual intercourse with them but by observing ‘azl (Withdrawing the male sexual organ before emission of semen to avoid-conception). But we said: We are doing an act whereas Allah’s Messenger is amongst us; why not ask him? So we asked Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him), and he said: It does not matter“ (Sahih Muslim 3371)
In fact, female slaves were traded like any other simple commodity by Muhammad and his band of devoted followers:
“Then the apostle sent Sa-d b. Zayd al-Ansari, brother of Abdu’l-Ashal with some of the captive women of Banu Qurayza to Najd and he sold them for horses and weapons.” (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham/Hisham 693)
Is it Islamic to sell one’s wife for horses? Clearly these were not wives!
More importantly, by definition a “captured” woman is not one who is fleeing her husband. She is fleeing her captor (ie. the Muslim slave raider). This hadith describes a typical raid, in which the women and children are captured as they are attempting to flee the attacking Muslims:
“…and then we attacked from all sides and reached their watering-place where a battle was fought. Some of the enemies were killed and some were taken prisoners. I saw a group of persons that consisted of women and children [escaping in the distance]. I was afraid lest they should reach the mountain before me, so I shot an arrow between them and the mountain. When they saw the arrow, they stopped. So I brought them, driving them along” (Sahih Muslim 4345)
The Muslim narrator sees the women trying to escape (following the massacre of their men) and cuts off their route by shooting an arrow into their path. These aren’t women trying to seek refuge with the Muslims. They are trying to avoid capture by the Muslims.
The same hadith goes on to recount that Muhammad personally demanded one of the captured women for his own use:
I drove them along until I brought them to Abu Bakr who bestowed that girl upon me as a prize. So we arrived in Medina. I had not yet disrobed her when the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) met me in the street and said: “Give me that girl.”(Sahih Muslim 4345)
The prophet of Islam and his companions used war to collect women for personal sexual use and for trading. Unless she was arbitrarily declared as someone’s wife, the woman became a sex slave. In no case was her fate tied to anything that she had personally done, nor was she given a choice about her future.
|“Our Prophet (peace be upon him) was a great man who would never order any measure that might do harm to an innocent child.”|
It is probably fair to say that Muhammad did not approve of killing children intentionally. A verse from the Quran laments the pre-Islamic Arab practice of infanticide against baby girls, for example. Other evidence from the Hadith suggests that he instructed his men not to kill children in battle if it could be avoided, but to capture them for slavery.
He also gave children a reprieve, when telling his people to “kill those who disbelieve in Allah”:
But Muhammad’s definition of a child was not the same as contemporary understanding. Following the surrender of the Qurayza stronghold, he ordered the execution of every male child who had reached puberty. His men had the boys drop their pants so that that anyone with pubic hair could be beheaded (Abu Dawud 4390).
Keep in mind that many Muslims also insist that Aisha reached puberty at age nine, since that is the age that Muhammad began having sex with her. If so, then he might have considered the age for “manhood” among boys to be around twelve.
Muhammad also played a bit loose with the lives of women and children during wartime. As recorded in both Bukhari and Sahih Muslim:
This does not justify the targeted killing of women and children per se, but it does prove that collateral damage is entirely acceptable if it accomplishes the military goal of spreading Islamic rule. The Quran, in verse 9:36, states that unbelievers should be fought “altogether” or “collectively.”
Muhammad used a catapult against the city of Taif – a catapult kills indiscriminately. The only crime those citizens were guilty of was rejecting his claims of being a prophet and evicting him.
Muhammad drew a distinction between Muslim and non-Muslim children and implied that it would be permissible to kill a child who has no prospect of accepting Islam:
After capturing Mecca, the prophet of Islam also ordered the execution of two “singing girls” who had mocked him in verse:
“Our Prophet (peace be upon him) never approved of slavery. He once purchased the life of a slave who came to him, liberating him from his master!”
Here is the real story on which that excerpt (of Muhammad ‘liberating a slave’) is based:
Muhammad actually “purchased” the slave by trading two black slaves, which is hardly a shining example of emancipation. Not only that, it establishes the fact that Muhammad owned and traded African slaves. As a wealthy businessman, he certainly could have liberated all three slaves, but chose instead to sell the two Africans into an uncertain future.
It is also obvious from the passage that Muhammad felt he had been conned into liberating the slave who had come to him, since he was not told of his status as a slave. Because, of this, Muhammad decided that he would not be duped again. In the future, he would always ask first about whether a man was free or not before deciding whether to accept allegiance.
There is also no record of Muhammad “liberating” slaves captured in battle, unless there was something to be personally gained from it. In fact, he made slaves out of those who were previously free people, particularly if they were women and children. Sometimes he used families as leverage to force their men into accepting Islam:
Captured women were passed out like party favors to his men, some of whom were then passed along to others (just like the Islamic State does with Yazidi women). This passage tells of Muhammad giving women as sex slaves to the three men who would become his successors, the future caliphs Umar, Uthman and Ali:
Allah gave Muslim men a divine mandate to keep as many sex slaves as they wished (Quran 4:24,33:52…). Contemporary apologists sometimes pretend that this applies only to women captured in battle (see also Myth: Muhammad Would Never Approve of Rape), but the same privilege is granted to believing men in 70:30, a passage “revealed” to the Muslims in Mecca, when there had been no battles.
Much could be written about Muhammad’s prolific and well-documented relationship with slaves, but one of the most insightful examples comes from this hadith (which is repeated elsewhere):
According to this hadith, the very pulpit that Muhammad preached Islam from was constructed from slave labor on his command! Now does this sound like Muhammad had a problem with slavery?
The notorious Loonwatch.com site has been claiming that 94% of all terror attacks have nothing to do with Islam. What they aren’t saying is that according to their own source, Muslims are 35 times more likely to commit acts of deadly terror – and that’s just in the United States.
Since January, 2010 the Islamic propaganda outlet, Loonwatch.com, has prominently posted an article with the title “All Terrorists are Muslim… except the 94% that aren’t.” Although not saying exactly who it is that believes “all terrorists are Muslim”, the gist of the piece is that an FBI report from seven years ago concluded that the vast majority of attacks have nothing to do with Islam.
As Loonwatch puts it:
- Only 6% of terror attacks are by Muslims
- 7% of terrorism is by Jewish extremists
- 66% of terror attacks are by leftists and Latinos
This would appear to defy common sense. Reports of bombings, shootings, stabbings and even beheadings by terrorists cross the newswire each day. Some are indeed the work of communist groups or nationalists, but the vast majority are clearly the product of Islamic extremists who kill in the name of religion.
Loonwatch is playing a couple of tricks here – the biggest being that they are drawing on domestic data only. In other words, when they say that 94% of terrorists aren’t Muslim, they actually mean in the United States, where terror attacks are relatively rare and Muslims make up only 1% of the population.
So, if we ignore the overwhelming bulk of attacks across the globe, Muslims are “only” six times more likely to commit acts of terror than the general population. The numbers get even worse for Loonwatch on closer examination.
As it turns out, much of the FBI list includes “violence” against property rather than people. In fact, the formula used by the agency to define terrorism is somewhat fuzzy. While it includes tree-spiking and bank robbery, for example, it somehow omits the Arizona assassination of a Sunni cleric by Iranian terrorists in 1980, the 1990 murder of Rabbi Kahane by an Islamic radical at a New York hotel, and even the killing of two CIA agents by a Muslim extremist at Langley in 1993.
When Americans hear the word ‘terrorism’, however, what comes to mind isn’t vandalism, but rather those acts of genuine violence that are intended to cause loss of life. So, how do we focus on these incidents and filter out the rest?
Well, perhaps the best way of knowing whether terrorists are serious about killing people is if they actually do. Since Muslims and non-Muslim terrorists have equal opportunity to kill, Loonwatch shouldn’t object to an analysis of only those attacks which cause deaths. What does the data have to say when we exclude non-lethal attacks?
Even by the FBI’s curious standard, the sort of truly violent terrorism that most concerns Americans is extremely rare in the United States. Only 29 attacks on their list of incidents between 1980 and 2005 resulted in actual death. Of these 29 attacks, Islamic extremists were responsible for 24%, accounting for 2,981 kills (civilians only), while the non-Muslim attack body count is 196.
Thus, what the FBI report is really saying is that a demographic which makes up only 1% of the American population accounts for one-fourth of all deadly terror attacks in the U.S. and 94% of related casualties! (The 94% statistic is somewhat ironic because it is the same figure than Loonwatch is touting to dispel concerns). The Jewish population in the U.S. is more than twice that of Muslims, but there were only three so-called Jewish attacks during the entire 25 years (all by the “Jewish Defense League”) with a total of three killed.
Since 2005, there have been at least six additional deadly attacks that would probably qualify as terrorism in the U.S. even to the FBI. One was the 2012 shooting by a skinhead that resulted in six deaths at a Sikh temple and the other five were by Muslims, which left 19 dead. This means that since 1980, Muslims in the U.S. have been 35 times more likely to commit terror than all other demographics combined.
Now, the point of all this isn’t to “prove” that any particular person is dangerous. The numbers are quite low and it is unlikely that the Muslim you know personally is all that different from you, much less plotting mass murder. A person’s nominal religion is not grounds for thinking a certain way about them or for reaching conclusions that are based on anything other than their own words or deeds.
What we are demonstrating is how Muslim propaganda groups like Loonwatch and CAIR knowingly manipulate the public into false conclusions about Islam using disingenuous methods. They are also dishonest when they try to confuse people into thinking that criticism of Islamic bigotry means hatred for Muslims.
Taqiyya may be a part of Islamic law, but a noble cause never requires a lie.
Then again… how noble can a religion really be when it’s most vocal members are far more concerned about image rather than the dead and dismembered victims of its most devout?
Note: A 2013 study by the Brookings Institute found that 77% of terror attack plots in the United States were motivated by Islam. A 2015 study found that 99.5% of all suicide attacks worldwide were also motivated by Islam.
Editor’s Note: The well-funded Loonwatch previously analyzed our own list of Islamic terror attacks looking for reasons to discount the extent of the violence and the moral obligation of Muslims to act. Not surprisingly, the terror continues – and will until vocal Muslims like these direct their efforts toward ending Islamic terror rather than trying to make the rest of us think it doesn’t exist.
In recent months, some prominent Catholics have taken pains to emphasize the supposedly special ties between Islam and Catholicism. In an editorial for The Angelus, the Los Angeles archdiocesan newspaper, Fr. Ronald Rolheiser called for greater solidarity with Islam. More recently, Msgr. Stuart Swetland, president of Donnelly College, appeared to suggest that Catholics are required to believe in the peaceful nature of Islam. Meanwhile, in Rome, a delegation of U.S. bishops and a delegation of Iranian religious leaders issued a joint statement which include this paragraph:
Christianity and Islam share a commitment to love and respect for the life, dignity, and welfare of all members of the human community…We hold a common commitment to peaceful coexistence and mutual respect.
Iranian religious leaders are committed to peaceful coexistence? The peaceful nature of Islam is binding Catholic doctrine? We should be seeking greater solidarity with Islam? Such talk might have resonated with Catholics a few years ago, but now it has a dated quality about it. It flies in the face of facts with which we are now all familiar.
If nothing else, the recent push to put a happy face on Islam is a case of very bad timing. The American bishops’ faith in their Iranian counterparts comes at a time when all the evidence suggests that the chief commitment of Iranian religious leaders is to the destruction of the “Great Satan” (America). And while Church leaders are plumping for greater solidarity with Islam, much of the rest of the world wants nothing to do with it. In Europe, for example, various polls have shown that a majority of citizens believe that Islam does not belong in Europe. Angela Merkel’s party is doing badly in German elections precisely because of her Islam-friendly policy. If the Church continues to pursue solidarity with Islam, it is likely to alienate a great many non-Muslims. In Europe, for example, it will be increasingly identified with the secular elites whom many now view as traitors for having facilitated Islam’s cultural putsch.
But these are pragmatic reasons for not pursuing solidarity with Islam. Are there any theological reasons?
Ironically, one reason that many Catholics take an optimistic view of Islam is also the chief reason for doubting that there can be any reconciliation with Islam. Some Catholics make much of the fact that Jesus is mentioned in the Koran and is honored by Muslims as a great prophet. This respect for Jesus, they assume, is a guarantee that Islam cannot be too far away from the truth. But the fact that Jesus is included in Islamic tradition is a two-edged sword.
Saint Paul specifically warns about the misappropriation of Jesus:
“For if someone comes and preaches another Jesus than the one we preached…or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you submit to it readily enough” (2 Cor 11: 4).
Six hundred years after Paul, Muhammad came along and started preaching a different Jesus—a very different Jesus. If anything, the Muslim Jesus is an anti-Jesus; he directly contradicts the claims of the Jesus of the Gospels. In the Koran, Allah addresses the “people of the Book” (Christians) and warns them to speak the truth about God: “The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was no more than God’s apostle…So believe in God and His apostles and do not say ‘Three’ [‘Trinity’ in some translations]…God forbid that he should have a son!” (4: 171).
That’s a flat denial of the Trinity and a rejection of the Fatherhood of God and the Sonship of Jesus. In other places, Allah denies the Incarnation and the Crucifixion. It’s not as though these are peripheral teachings of the Church whose denial can be overlooked for the sake of fellowship. These beliefs are the foundation of the Faith.
Muslims hold that Muhammad did not write the Koran, but merely recited what Allah had told him. Thus, there are two contradictory revelations. In one, God tells us that He is a Trinity and that Jesus is the Son of the Father. In the other “revelation,” Allah says he is not a Trinity and he curses those who say that Jesus is the Son of God.
Not much wiggle-room there. This is not a misunderstanding that can be papered over with dialogue and happy talk about shared respect for Jesus. It’s not the same Jesus. And, unless you want to dispense with the laws of logic, it’s not the same God.
Islam stands apart from other non-Christian religions in its specific rejection of Christian tenets. Jesus is in the Koran not because Muhammad revered him, but because Muhammad wanted to put him in his place. In order to establish himself as the final prophet of God, Muhammad had to first undercut the Christian claim that Jesus is the fulfillment of all prophecy. Rather cleverly, he did not reject Jesus. Instead, he appropriated him for his own purposes. To clear the way for his own prophethood, he reassigned Jesus as a Muslim prophet.
Although Jesus is supposedly a great prophet in Islam, he doesn’t have a great deal to say or do in the Koran. By contrast, Muhammad is mentioned frequently. The phrase “God and His Apostle” recurs throughout the Koran. There are many dozens of admonitions along the order of “Believe in God and His Apostle,” “Obey God and His Apostle,” and “Have faith in God and His Apostle.”
According to Islamic teaching, assigning a partner to God is the worst possible sin—the very sin that Christians have committed by identifying Christ as the Son of God. Yet, in effect, Muhammad assigned himself the position of partner to Allah. Read through the Koran and see how many times the two are mentioned in the same breath. One gets the impression that obeying Muhammad is the equivalent of obeying Allah. In fact, verse 4: 80 says just that: “He that obeys the Apostle obeys God.” And verse 4: 149 warns believers not to “draw a line between God and His Apostle.”
As presented in the Koran and in Islamic tradition, Allah and Muhammad are a package deal. You can’t have one without the other. The Islamic confession of faith declares that “there is no God but God and Muhammad is the messenger of God.” As a Muslim, you are not allowed to dispense with the second half. In Reliance of the Traveller, one of the most authoritative guides to Islamic belief, we read:
Allah has made him [Muhammad] the highest of mankind, rejecting anyone’s attesting to the divine oneness by saying ‘There is no God but Allah,’ unless they also attest to the Prophet by saying ‘Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah’ (v 2.1)
In Islam, Muhammad is referred to simply as the Prophet. But what kind of prophet was he? Here’s a hint. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus warns his listeners to “beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Mt. 7:15). Does Muhammad qualify as a false prophet? It would seem so. He proclaims that God is not a Trinity and that Jesus is neither divine nor a savior. He rejects almost all of the central Christian teachings.
Was Muhammad a false prophet? It could be reasonably argued that he was the false prophet par excellence—perhaps the person whom Jesus had most in mind when he delivered his warning. There were false prophets in the days of Peter and Paul, but does anyone remember their names? Did any of them found a religion that is still alive and growing? Could any of them claim a following of 1.6 billion people?
There is a curious lack of curiosity about Muhammad on the part of Catholic leaders. He is not mentioned in Nostra Aetate, the document on which the current optimistic assessment of Islam is built. He is not mentioned in the Catholic Catechism’s statement on the Church’s relationship with the Muslims. He is not, as far as I know, mentioned by Pope Francis, although Francis has spoken favorably about Islam on several occasions.
But Islam is inseparable from Muhammad. If he was a false prophet who presented a false picture of Jesus, then Islam, despite whatever truths it contains, is a false religion. For prudential reasons, you might not want to shout that from the rooftops. On the other hand, you ought not keep insisting that Catholics share much in common with Islam.
Fortunately, there are signs that the Church’s Pollyannaish view of Islam may be in for a revision. The Church’s Islam policy is coming under increasing scrutiny. Up until a year or two ago, Catholic journalists tended to avoid the subject of Islam except to report on terrorist attacks or on the Pope’s meetings with imams. As for news analysis, most writers simply echoed the Vatican’s semi-official narrative that terrorism has nothing to do with Islam. More recently, however, Catholic columnists have begun to question that narrative. More and more Catholic writers and intellectuals are taking a closer, more clear-eyed look at the Church’s relationship with Islam.
A number of bishops and cardinals have also begun to question the Church’s stance on Islam. American Cardinal Raymond Burke, Hungarian Bishop Lazlo Kiss-Rigo, Spanish Cardinal Antonio Canizares, and Iraqi archbishops Louis Sako and Amel Shamon Nona, along with others have expressed dissatisfaction with Church policy on Islam and/or Vatican policy on Muslim migration.
Most importantly, the dogmatic authority of Nostra Aetate has come into question in higher Church circles. This is significant because the two paragraphs on the Muslims in that document are the linchpin of the argument that Christianity and Islam are similar faiths that share much in common. But according to Archbishop Guido Pozzo, the Secretary of the Pontifical Commission Ecclesia Dei, “Nostra Aetate does not have any dogmatic authority, and thus one cannot demand from anyone to recognize this declaration as being dogmatic.”
Nostra Aetate seems to have been intended primarily as a gesture of outreach to non-Christian religions. But somehow, over the years, it came to be seen by many as the Church’s final and definitive statement on Islam. It became the trump card in any discussion of Islam among Catholics. Catholics who questioned the Church’s pro-Islam policies were told that the Church had spoken, and that was that.
Now that Nostra Aetate is being put in proper perspective, the way is open for Catholics to develop a fuller, more reality-based picture of Islam. Hopefully, they will not waste any time in doing so.
William Kilpatrick is the author of Christianity, Islam, and Atheism: The Struggle for the Soul of the West, and a new book, The Politically Incorrect Guide to Jihad. For more on his work and writings, visit his website, turningpointproject.com.
This three part series assesses the question “should some type of legitimate prophethood be conferred upon Muhammad.” (Part 1, Part 2) In this third part we conclude the examination of Harley Talman’s argument.
Issue c) the criteria for prophethood
Talman’s criteria for evaluating a true or false prophet:
In this section, I will demonstrate the inadequacy of the most commonly used criteria for validating or rejecting prophets (their moral blamelessness, their absence of hostility with Christianity or their performance of miracles). Instead I will propose that the most important issue is their attitude toward Christ and the Scriptures. (p10)
Talman establishes “attitude toward Christ and our Scriptures” as his primary prophethood evaluation criteria and subsequently supports his argument with assertions based on Old Testament leaders and events.
This topic was discussed in Part 1 which identified the primary Biblical criteria for determining a true or false prophet: a) did the person’s message align with the Gospel message?, and b) did the person have strong moral conduct? (cf. Matthew 7:15, 16). Against those, Muhammad fails. Talman refrains from using Scripture but rather uses his own theory: attitude toward Jesus and the very same Scriptures that provide actual requirements.
Muhammad’s attitude towards which Jesus?
Talman builds his argument using Muhammad’s view of Christ:
1. Regarding allegiance/relationship (with Christ) it was very positive, though more distant than in the NT. Jesus is presented as unique—bearing titles and ascriptions that exalt him far above all other prophets and the Qur’an strongly affirms the biblical Scriptures that bear witness to him. (p12)
Talman references respectful statements about Jesus found throughout the Quran. That is true. However, we must take the whole of the Quran to evaluate Muhammad’s attitude towards Christ.
Just as Talman questioned “which Muhammad?” so too we can question, “which Jesus was Muhammad talking about?” During the times of the early church there were people preaching “a different Jesus” and in the world today there are religious bodies which preach a different Jesus, e.g. Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons. Just as the Mormon Jesus is radically different from Christianity’s Jesus, so too is Muhammad’s Jesus. Therefore, the question “Which Jesus was Muhammad talking about?” is pertinent.
Muhammad’s Jesus is not the Son of God
An evaluation of Muhammad’s description of Jesus based on the entirety of his statements in the Quran tells me that Muhammad was talking about a different Jesus. Muhammad’s Jesus has significant differences with the Biblical Jesus. The most important being that Muhammad emphatically denied that Jesus is the Son of God. Sura 112:3: “He begets not, nor is He begotten.” Contrast Muhammad’s denial with Peter’s affirmation:
… Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some say that thou art John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 16:13-17
It wasn’t good enough that some said that Jesus was a great prophet. That didn’t cut it. That was honorable, but insufficient. This is only as far as Muhammad could go. In contrast to Muhammad, Peter nailed it when he said, “You are the Messiah, the Son of God.” Note that Peter tied being the Messiah with being the Son of God. Note that Jesus said that Peter’s words were “revelation from God.”
Jesus believed that identifying Himself as the Son of God was critical. So did Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin. During his interrogation of Jesus the moment of truth came with his final challenge:
…The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?” They answered, “He deserves death!” (Matthew 26:63-66)
Jesus faced a life or death decision: say He was the Son of God and die, deny He was the Son of God and live. Jesus chose truth, He spoke truth: He was the Messiah, the Son of God. That important question, and more important answer, cost Him great pain and His life. Just as those Jews persecuted Jesus for saying He was the Son of God, so too today, Muslims persecute Christians who say Jesus is the Son of God. Yes, Jesus’s Sonship is important.
Note here that what Jesus identified as “revelation” to Peter, that Jesus is the Son of God, contradicts Muhammad’s “revelation” in the Quran. Therefore, either our God is an idiot, or we are talking about two separate Gods. I’m with option #2.
In light of the truth and glory given to Christ as the Son of God, Muhammad’s sura 112 is a very negative statement about Jesus. Muhammad didn’t intend to denigrate Jesus; he was ignorant, misled, or deceived. Nevertheless, the spiritual and theological ramifications of his denial are very negative: faith in Jesus as the Son of God is a requisite for eternal life: “He who has the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have the life.” 1 John 5:12
The importance of Jesus as the Son of God
From another perspective, in the vein of Talman’s belief that “revelation” was given to Muhammad, I think it is fair to ask, “Why didn’t God give Muhammad the revelation that Peter received?” After all, “Gabriel” had Muhammad’s ear for 23 years! Don’t you think that just once, just once in those 23 years, that he could have told Muhammad,1 that Jesus is the Son of God? Instead, Gabriel tells Muhammad the opposite, that Jesus is not the Son of God! This denial by Muhammad and his Allah is repeated strongly. To me, this is a mountain, to Talman, it is a molehill.
Muhammad and Allah agree with me. Islam views the belief that “Jesus is the Son of God” as a mountain. However, it is a stumbling block to them and they argue it from the other side of the spectrum: Muhammad did not tolerate anyone proclaiming Jesus as God’s Son. Here are two versions of the Quran 9:30:
Sahih International: The Jews say, “Ezra is the son of Allah “; and the Christians say, “The Messiah is the son of Allah.” That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved (before them). May Allah destroy them; how are they deluded?
Pickthall: And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah, and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah. That is their saying with their mouths. They imitate the saying of those who disbelieved of old. Allah (Himself) fighteth against them. How perverse are they!
“May Allah destroy them” is a curse from Muhammad and Allah. It is not a prayer, plea, or hope for guidance, rather it is a curse for destruction. This verse is understood as the direct speech of Allah himself.
Jesus says believing that He is the Son of God is revelation from God, Muhammad says believing that Jesus is the Son of God is cursed by Allah. If Jesus is the Son of God then isn’t Muhammad cursing Him?
Isn’t Allah fighting and killing Christians who believe Jesus is the Son of God serious?2Doesn’t that verse alone give Muslims cover to persecute, attack, and kill Christians? Talman over looks this by saying: “I am persuaded that these verses attack aberrant, not biblical, Christianity.” (p12) Crone’s criticisms of Donner’s “Christology” argument, that Jesus’s divinity is addressed, are applicable here as well. Muhammad denied any possibility of Jesus being God’s Son.
Further, you’ll not find many Muslims agreeing with Talman and you’ll not find any Islamic scholars agreeing that the orthodox Christian definition of “Son of God” is acceptable. You’ll just get rebuffed and mocked. Islam categorically denies Jesus is the Son of God in any way, shape, or form. Talman is re-inventing Islam to suit his own particular gumby theology.
Different Jesuses: Muhammad cursed!
As mentioned, during the time of the early church there were people preaching a different Jesus and different Gospels. Paul addressed them:
For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, (2 Corinthians 11:4).
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse! (Galatians 1:6-9).
Notice that Paul repeats God’s curse on false messengers? He does not do that often does he? Proclaiming false Christs and false gospels is a vile sin!
But isn’t this exactly what Muhammad did? The Quran, as Allah’s pure word, quotes false Gospels that present a false Jesus. For example, the Quran quotes the Arabic Infancy Gospel in 19:28-33, and the Protevangelium of James in 3:37, and the Nativity of Mary in 3:44. There’s a long list of New Testament Apocrypha quotes in the Quran. That gospel, the message that the “angel” gave Muhammad, was a different gospel than Christianity’s gospel. Therefore I say, according to our Scriptural standard, “God’s curse is upon Muhammad!”
Prophet’s sins, violence, and covenants.
Talman makes a number of other points to buttress his argument, three of which I wish to address.
P1) Talman attempts to justify Muhammad’s sins by pointing out that Solomon and David committed gross sins yet God used them. He argues that if Solomon and David were immoral and sinful, but still considered prophets, why couldn’t the same standard be applied to Muhammad?
David committed adultery and shed innocent blood in order to cover up his sin. Solomon, who authored three books in the OT canon, makes Muhammad’s weakness for women pale in comparison to his passions; (p10)
P2) He defends Muhammad’s use of force by citing Joshua’s use of force:
Are we also to condemn Joshua, who was divinely directed to undertake a campaign of total annihilation of the Canaanites (including their children)? (p11)
P3) He suggests that Muhammad was living faithfully against the theology of the Old Testament covenant:
It may be that Muhammad was living faithfully according to the theology of a previous dispensation. (p11)
R1) Their sins justifies Muhammad’s sins
Regarding the sins of David and Solomon, (and others he mentioned) Talman fails to note that they were identified as sins and condemned; whereas Muhammad taught his sinful actions, such as the murder of a mother of five children, Asma bint Marwan3were blessed by God. The contrast here is that the Israelite’s God condemned sin, Muhammad’s Allah blessed it.
R2) Their violence justifies Muhammad’s violence.
If you examine Muhammad’s theology of jihad, it was far more reaching and brutal than the rules of warfare that God laid out for Israel. This topic requires a great deal of discussion, far more than can be done here. However, if you wish to make a serious, in-depth examination of God’s command’s to conquer Canaan, spend several hours studying Glenn Miller’s Scriptural and historical analysis of the events:
How could a God of Love order the massacre/annihilation of the Canaanites? How could a God of Love order the massacre of the Canaanites?
I’ll quote his conclusion:
Conclusion: Judgment is called God’s “strange work” in the OT prophets. What for us humans is the problem of “why does God not do anything about evil and cruel people” is simply the other side of His patience with us. He hopes that we will accept a love of the truth and a commitment to value. In love, He deliberately “believes the best” (I Cor. 13).
What started out as the “Unfair genocide of the Canaanites” ended up as the “Less-than-they-deserved punitive deportation from the land”–filled with patience and mercy and ‘second chances’. It was nonetheless a judgment, and nonetheless involved death–as it later would be repeated to His people.
Far from being the “genocide of an innocent people for land-hungry Israelites”, it was instead the “firm, yet just–and even a little merciful to the masses–removal of a people from a tract of land, mostly through migration.”
Here are three additional articles that compare war in the Old Testament to Islamic jihad.
Good question – Is the Bible “as violent” as the Quran/Hadith? by Glenn Miller
A Series of Answers to Common Questions by Sam Shamoun
How Does Jihad Compare with Old Testament Warfare? by Nabeel Qureshi
If you view this topic shallowly then the violence appears to be equivalent. However, when you study the details behind the violence you see great contrast between what God commanded the Israelites, and what Allah commanded the Muslims.
R3) Was Muhammad living faithfully under a previous dispensation?
This is a nonsensical statement. Talman suggests that Muhammad was living faithfully under the Old Covenant. Yet Christianity was established in the Arabian peninsula before Muhammad’s birth4, and that “covenant” was known by Muhammad and the Hijaz Pagans. If the true God were revealing spiritual truth to Muhammad He would have motivated him towards Christianity, not Judaism. Had Muhammad chosen to accept Jesus as Lord perhaps he could have functioned like a Christian reformer in Arabia, of course without all the bloodshed and forced conversions.
Further, how could Muhammad be living faithfully under the old covenant when he persecuted and killed many of the Jews around him?
Talman’s argument tries to justify Muhammad’s violence by implying that while Muhammad had a generic understanding of Christianity he was somehow intimate enough with Judaism to live faithfully under its laws. That’s nonsense. Muhammad invented his own faith, Islam, by borrowing from several other faiths. Islam is a synthesis, a stew, of Judaism, Christianity, Paganism, mixed with Muhammad’s own changing theology, and seasoned heavily with Satan’s ghost peppers. To his final dying breaths, when he cursed Christians and Jews, Muhammad lived faithfully to his Islam.
Case in point: when he was attacking the Banu Nadhir Jews, he burnt down their palm trees. When the Jews challenged Muhammad about his breaking of the OT law prohibiting their destruction, Muhammad said that God gave him permission to break the law because the Jews were so evil. John Gilchrist discusses this in his excellent book, “Muhammad and the Religion of Islam.” Muhammad went against the Old Testament law and justified himself when challenged by the Jews. Gilchrist comments:
Once again, as in the aftermath of the Nakhlah raid, a divine revelation was required to justify a clear breach of Arab custom, let alone a willful disregard for the Law of God as revealed through the prophet Moses.5 6
Muhammad transgressed the Old Testament and justified it by saying Allah commanded him to do so! This example of Muhammad’s words and actions show that he was not living faithfully according to a previous dispensation.
Conclusion on Talman’s “Criteria for Prophethood”
Talman chose poorly in identifying his criteria, “attitude,” for prophethood. Whatever Muhammad’s attitude towards our Scriptures it is clear that he did not know, or accept, their content. Talman’s criteria sets a low, vague, ineffective, bar. After all, how many religious speakers, from any religious vein, have a disrespectful attitude toward Jesus? There are Hindus, Buddhists, and even Atheists who quote Scripture and “respect” Him, but they don’t say He’s the Son of God. Talman’s criteria is a rationalized, grey, and philosophical that is easily fulfilled by many non-Christian self-proclaimed “prophets” who preached a different Jesus, such as Joseph Smith, Bahá’u’lláh, Sun Myung Moon, and Mirza Ghulam Ahmad. Does Talman argue for the church to accept these men as prophets as well?
It’s not much of a criteria is it?
Muhammad fails Talman’s criteria once the details of Muhammad’s viewpoint are examined. How can one say Muhammad had a correct attitude when Muhammad was talking about the wrong Jesus?
The Sonship of Jesus Christ sets Islam and Christianity a million miles apart. That criteria is paramount. Jesus is:
the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. Hebrews 1:3
John spoke of seeing the eternal Word of God and wrote, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” God spoke audibly during Jesus’s baptism and said, “You are My beloved Son in Whom I am well pleased!”
John’s purpose for writing his gospel:
but these have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. (John 20:31)
Muhammad denied the Son therefore he did not have the Father (1 John 2:23). Muhammad denigrated the Son of God when he said that “God does not beget nor is He begotten.”
Issue d) IV. Muhammadan Prophethood Reconsidered / possibilities for a positive prophetic role for Muhammad.
Here Talman repeats much of what he argued earlier. Believing that he’s laid a theological foundation for considering Muhammad to be a prophet he explores various ways for Christians to accept Muhammad’s prophethood and message. He does not make any strong points here but provides a wide variety of supportive Christian comments. I’ll comment on a few.
An odd statement:
However, it does entail seeking to interpret the Qur’an exegetically and with regard to its biblical subtext, rather than primarily through the lens of later Islamic tradition. (p14)
This is another bizarre statement. He wants to shift the study and interpretation of Muhammad and his message from one based on the hadith and sira to one based on “biblical subtext.” If anyone can claim to have understood, and taught, the Quran accurately it is the traditional, historical, great Islamic scholars who used the hadith and sira. Unlike Talman’s approach, they approached the Quran exegetically. They referenced and used the hadith and sira, because they provide context, something the Quran fails to provide. It is that context which often enables you to understand the Quran’s meaning. You will not successfully understand much otherwise. In using those contexts those scholars sought to understand the Quran’s true meaning. Apart from those source materials, even with a purely subjective “biblical subtext,” you are left with personal interpretation, a theological “soup of the day”; again Talman’s gumby theology.
Quotes from other Christian authors: Timothy Tennent et. al., do they know what they are talking about?
One of the problems with the numerous quotes that Talman uses is that it assumes that these Christians are familiar with Muhammad’s sins, violence, and Biblical contradictions. When I first began to learn about Islam I too explored the possibility that Muhammad could have been some type of prophet. It is not difficult to reach a negative conclusion once you know the details of Muhammad’s life.
Will Timothy Tennent confirm that a man who engaged in sex with a nine year old girl, who commanded his followers to make war upon Christians and Jews, who denied Jesus as the Son of God, who cursed Christians with his dying breath, who entrenched the practice of slavery, is a prophet? I’d ask him if I had his email contact information.
Sadly, it is not difficult to find Christians today who bow the knee to the god of political correctness, or Mammon, and are quick to praise Muhammad. Yale produces them by the dozen. I’ve engaged a couple of them and they fold quickly: they are unable to dialog about Muhammad because they have not been taught, or have not studied, the source materials.
Talman quotes dozens of authors. Some have “scholar” status. But not everything a so-called scholar says is accurate. One big problem I have with Christian “scholars” is that many of them assume they are qualified to comment on everything. A strength in one area does not equal a strength in another. The deeper I go into Islam the wider it becomes. Few men, have the drive, time, money, and resources to become expert in all.
One person Talman quotes is Anton Wessels. The quote he used was odd so I purchased a used copy of Wessels’s book. It didn’t take long to see that his book is just a religious-fantasy apologetic for Muhammad. I could only bring myself to read a couple of sections. Wessels correlated Muhammad’s experiences and sayings with Jesus’s and Biblical prophets in a blind, simplistic fashion. Here is an example:
Muhammad is also called to be a prophet. His call involves both auditory and visual experiences: what he hears (Q96) and what he sees on that occasion (Q53:1-18) Muhammad’s experiences are strikingly similar to the earlier prophets, such as Isaiah, who hears a voice saying, “Cry out,” and the prophet asks, “What shall I cry?” (Isa 40:6). These same words are used to relate what happened to Muhammad. …
Muhammad is very shocked by the fact that God speaks to him. It is then no wonder that that first experience astonishes him greatly. He even thinks of taking his own life, fearing he may be majnun – insane, or possessed.7
Wessels makes a weak correlation here. If you want to compare Muhammad’s visitation experience with Isaiah’s, you need to go to Isaiah 6, not 40. There Isaiah encountered the living God. Isaiah is initially fearful because he is conscious of his sin in God’s presence:
“Woe is me, for I am ruined!
Because I am a man of unclean lips,
And I live among a people of unclean lips;
For my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” (Isaiah 6:5)
However a seraph comforts him:
He touched my mouth with it and said, “Behold, this has touched your lips; and your iniquity is taken away and your sin is forgiven.” (Isaiah 6:7)
Now Isaiah is full of faith, assured, and confident. He is ready to serve God and says, “Here I am, send me!”
Conversely, as mentioned in part 1, Muhammad’s experience in the cave with a spirit was the exact opposite. Muhammad was in terror and he fled believing he was demon possessed or insane. He then attempted suicide but that spirit stopped him. Thereafter Muhammad suffered from depression and attempted suicide many more times during the next couple of years.8 God did not leave Isaiah in a state of terror and depression. You’ll not find any Biblical characters having the same destructive experience. A real encounter with our God does not leave people depressed and suicidal; experiences with demonic powers do.
Wessels’s work here was poor. It was another straw for Talman to grasp and use.
Conclusion on Talman’s “Criteria for Prophethood”
It is foolish for Christians to sift, cherry pick, wiggle and worm, and devise some type of legitimate prophetic role for Muhammad when the whole of his experience and actions were anti-Christ in nature. Everyman has both good and bad traits. Don’t turn a blind eye towards an evil man’s ministry and embrace him with a hug and a kiss. Don’t give this false prophet the honorable title of “prophet” because he preached “one God.” There is far more to Islam and Muhammad’s message.
There’s a Murphy’s Law on Research: “Enough research will tend to support whatever theory.” If you look long enough you’ll find quotes enough to support a belief. Talman’s argument is like cotton candy: volume, not substance. It is religious fiction. When the theological details and the historical facts are known in context, Talman’s “potentially more objective” fantasy ends.
Talman’s argument failed to provide theological grounds for accepting Muhammad as any type of legitimate prophet. His methodology is irrational. His use of the non-Muslim historical materials is deceptive; when they are examined fully they contradict rather than support his point. Muhammad’s “revelation” experience ran counter to Biblical experiences with God and his subsequent “revelatory” message contradicts the Gospel. Talman’s shallow criteria for determining legitimate prophethood is so low and superficial that many “prophets” could pass his test. Is that the standard today’s church wants to use?
Talman wants Christians who disagree with him to lower their indignation. However, based upon Scriptural instruction and example, and upon the contexts of the Muslim and non-Muslim historical writings, I disagree. Now that I’ve finished examining Talman’s argument I am more offended that a Christian would embrace a false prophet who persecuted and oppressed the church. Muhammad and real Islam have brutalized millions of Christians. Muhammad’s message leads people away from Christ and he has led billions to eternal death. Satan seeks those whom he may devour and there are few tools more beautifully exploited by Satan than Muhammad. Satan uses Muhammad to undo the work of Christ.
In discussing Talman’s article with Jochen Katz, Jochen made the following observation:
My immediate observation and question would be: first, the whole aim is to find some way to consider Muhammad as a prophet in some sense. Everything is tuned and selected for that ultimate purpose. The question is not: what is the evidence, but which pieces of “evidence” can I collage/assemble together so that a Muhammad of my liking appears? That leads to the second question: why would he want to do so? If the Muhammad he creates that way has little in common with the Muhammad the actual Muslims are believing in, how would it help our relationship with actual Muslims when we deconstruct their Muhammad and shape him into something else, creating a Muhammad in our wishful image? Isn’t that even more “disrespectful” to Islam and Muslims than engaging in our discussions with the Muhammad they believe in and hold dear? Isn’t that ultimately not taking seriously the Muslims and their faith? How should that help in any way to build good relationships upon which to make progress on a better understanding of the true God and his revelation?
That hits the nail on the head. Talman cherry-picked anything he could so he could advance Muhammad’s cause. The question is “Why is Talman so passionate for Muhammad’s prophethood to be accepted by the church?
What fool would smear blood and filth upon the bride’s white dress?
Questions for Talman
Q1) You said that you do not necessarily accept all of the Quran’s verses and statements. What specific verses or themes do you object to, and why?
Q2) If you view those verses as incorrect does that mean that Muhammad was wrong?
Q3) Aside from not having a “respectful view toward Christ and the Scriptures” what would a person have to do for you to label them as a false prophet?
Lessons from our failure: lessons from the early church
My biggest criticism in all of this is not for Talman’s disease-laden argument. Instead it is for Evangelical Church leadership. That the Evangelical branch would allow false teaching to be taught in and infect their schools and seminars indicates weakness and spiritual apathy.9
Let’s compare the churches of Revelation to what Talman is doing and our present state.
Ephesus, Pergamum, and Thyatira
The Ephesians were stronger spiritually than we are today. They were active; they tested, then consequently rejected, wicked false prophets. However, they were growing cold and had left their first love. Therefore, Jesus threatened them with losing their church: “will remove your lampstand.” While the American Evangelicals are active, they are not as a whole rejecting false prophets. Some have left their first love and have grown weak, unable to test and verify truth. Talman is leading them to embrace a false prophet.
The Christians at Pergamum had sunk lower than the Ephesians. They had left their first love, grown weak, and some had embraced false teachings. Likewise Talman and some other Christians today have embraced the false prophet Muhammad and are teaching the church to embrace a false prophet.
The Thyatirans had degenerated further. Not only had they left their first love, they accepted a false prophet and some were in bed with her. Isn’t this where Talman would have the church? Flirting with and embracing Muhammad and some of his word? If Islam is partly demonic in nature then isn’t Talman leading the church to partake in demons? (See 1 Cor 10:14-22 for applicable reasoning).
In his prodigious commentary on Revelation (rated by some to be the best commentary on Revelation), David Aune comments on the spiritual breakdown of these churches:
“… they may point to the fact that the second-generation Christians had developed a comfortable accommodation with the pagan world.”10
Isn’t this what Evangelical church leadership is doing when they ask you to accommodate Muhammad as a prophet?
A little leaven leavens the whole lump. In our weakness and arrogance we are led astray. Take a hard look at God’s harsh rebukes to the church:
“I will remove the lampstand,”
“I will make war against them with the sword of My mouth,”
“I will throw her on a bed of sickness, and those who commit adultery with her into great tribulation, unless they repent of her deeds.”
Wasn’t it essential for the Lord to rebuke the churches for leaving their first love, for tolerating and even partaking with false prophets? Then isn’t it essential that we identify and reject false prophets and false teaching? If Talman truly believes “in essentials, unity” then he needs to take a hard look at what he is doing, evaluate it from the Lord’s point of view, and repent. He is not trailblazing a new and healthy path, he is spreading his infection to the church.
If there is a God, and if the New Testament is His word, then shouldn’t we be taking this seriously? Certainly more seriously than many of the current leaders in the Evangelical church who are embracing Muhammad as some type of prophet? Shouldn’t we be erring on the side of caution? Who wants to roll the dice on embracing false doctrine and false prophets? I don’t. Instead, I challenge myself to ensure that I do not leave my first love.
We are fighting against powerful demonic spiritual forces. This is why God’s word instructs us to wear the full set of God’s armor. The very same powerful spiritual forces that assaulted and deluded Muhammad, that used him as their weapon and taught him that Jesus is not Lord, that Jesus is not the Son of God, that Jesus was not crucified, are engaged in war with the church. Talman aids these dark forces by advocating some type of recognized prophethood for Muhammad. He’s instructing the church to take off their helmets.
Is it so hard to understand what God is saying to the church, our church? Is it so hard to see the false doctrine Talman is foisting upon the church? C’mon guys, cross-check this for yourselves!
Why did Christians tolerate or honor a false prophet? Revelation tells us that it is because they have left their first love. Men argue for something they are passionate about. Talman’s gone native and his love for Muhammad blinds him to Muhammad’s sins. He’s embraced Muhammad and like a love-struck lover he argues, “but that’s not the Muhammad I know, he’s really a decent guy.”
I love Jesus. He’s entered my life as Lord, saved me, and given me a depth of love, joy, and peace that I could not find elsewhere. He’s been so good to me. I love Him and His church. I don’t want to see them led astray.
I hate Islam. It is a religion with good and bad in it. But the bad is spiritual poison. Just as some poisons and pesticides today are a mixture of good and harmful, so too is Islam.
If the Lord were to write letters to the churches today He would surely criticize and condemn the teachings of Muhammad as He did the Nicolatians. He would surely rebuke Christians for embracing and honoring a false prophet as He did for Thyatira and Pergamum. And, He would surely say that we too have left our first love.
Jan 15th, 2017
A picture of Muhammad tormented in hell.
Giovanni da Modena Last Judgment Fresco
1 Muhammad, the man who claimed he was “The Messenger of God,” who claimed that Gabriel met with him each year to review the Quran, the man who claimed that faith in Islam meant obedience to Allah and His Messenger. I’m not trying to argue from silence, I’m pointing out a huge inconsistency and the contradiction.
2 By the way, if Allah has been fighting against the Christians who say Jesus is the Son of God, I’d say he’s failed terribly and done a shoddy job of it. Christianity is the fastest growing faith and these new Christians believe Jesus is the Son of God.
4 See Trimingham, J. S. , “Christianity Among the Arabs in Pre-Islamic Times”, Longman Group Limited, London, 1979.
5 Gilchrist, John, “Muhammad the religion of Islam” published by Jesus to the Muslims. 1986 It can be found on the web at: http://www.answering-islam.org/Gilchrist/Vol1/1c.html In the book it is found on pages 42, 43.
6 You can read Ibn Ishaq’s account, and related commentary (tafsir), on pages 437 – 439.
7 Wessels, Anton, “The Torah, the Gospel, and the Qur’an,” Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 2013, (pp 42, 43).
8 This period was anywhere from six months to two and a half years.
9 I am not alone in criticizing current church leadership. Julie Roys states similar: http://www.christianpost.com/news/russell-moore-controversy-shows-evangelical-leaders-lack-courage-172599/ “I fear evangelicalism is in this doom loop today. We’re increasingly succumbing to culture —and we’re often led by people who are more concerned about offending friends than honoring God. If we’re ever going to thrive, it’s going to take real leadership — leadership that’s willing to say what’s unpopular and follows God, rather than men.”
10 Aune, David, “Revelation,” Word Biblical Commentary, Word, Dallas, Texas, 1997, p155
Should Christians confer some degree of authentic “prophethood” upon Muhammad?
Part one, False Prophet Muhammad, identified two distinct Muhammad’s: the traditional and Harley Talman’s revised version. It also established Biblical standards and metrics for identifying true or false prophets. The traditional Muhammad fails completely when compared to the Biblical requirements for prophethood: his message, Islam, contradicts the Gospel message, and his moral conduct was abhorrent. The Islamic source materials, the Quran, hadith, and sira, portray Muhammad as a man with both good and bad characteristics. However, they also accept, if not justify, him as thief, murderer, lustful, and hateful. Based upon his wicked character and his false message the conclusion that Muhammad was a “false prophet” is as certain as apples fall from trees.
Parts 2 and 3 review Harley Talman’s argument for his revisionist Muhammad to be accepted as prophet, to some degree, by the Bride of Christ.
Talman bases his argument upon several points: evidence of tampering in the Islamic source materials, (i.e. the hadith and sira), interpretation “potentials” of non-Islamic writings, loose theological standards, and various historical theories. Because some of these cast doubt upon the integrity of the hadith and sira, he rejects the use of the hadith and sira to detail and define Muhammad‘s life and actions. For example, Talman uses Dan Gibson’s theory that Petra, (in modern day Jordan), not Mecca, was the site of Islam’s holy city and upon that and other similar theories states:
The most widely accepted version of Muhammad, based upon Islamic tradition, is dubious. (p3)
If such a fundamental historical “fact” in Islamic history as the location of “Mecca” could have been created by Muslim revisionist historians, then how much can we trust their accounts of other matters? Therefore, there is good reason to be skeptical about many aspects of Muhammad’s life as well as the emergence and expansion of Islam as set forth in Islamic traditions (their authority with Muslims notwithstanding). Thus, we are compelled to evaluate the historical narrative these traditions present in light of non-Muslim historical documents and archaeological evidence. What one finds is that when this is done, our view of Muhammad and Islam is significantly altered, along with our view of Muhammad in relation to redemptive history.1 (p3)
These theories enable Talman to dismiss the authoritative Islamic source materials and build his personal Muhammad.2
The sub-sections which follow reflect on various Christian views of Islam, a revised history of Muhammad and the movement he founded, and a theological reassessment of the prophet of Islam, all based on a potentially more objective portrayal of his character and actions. (p3)
Talman identifies four facets for review and examination in order to identify Muhammad as a prophet:
This article will focus on a reconsideration of four issues: our understanding of Muhammad and Islam, our theology of revelation, the criteria for prophethood, and possibilities for a positive prophetic role for Muhammad. (p2)
His four facets:
a) our understanding of Muhammad and Islam
b) our theology of revelation
c) the criteria for prophethood
d) possibilities for a positive prophetic role for Muhammad.
We’ll review Talman’s methodology, and his four points, and contrast them with scholarly approaches, non-Islamic historical writings, the Quran, references from the hadith and sira, and with Scripture, to evaluate the soundness of Talman’s arguments.
Talman generally3 discards the hadith and sira and relies on non-Muslim writings and interpretations of the Quran.
However modern scholars, and some of the previous extremely skeptical scholars of the hadith and sira, have shifted their positions due to recent archeological and historical document discoveries. They now approach the Islamic sources with a more reasoned, analytical, and rational approach, just as scholars approach other historical veins. It is no secret that both hadith and sira have been subjected to editing, the earliest Muslim scholars themselves attest to fraud within their faith’s writings. Real scholars however, do not jettison the entire corpus of Islamic source materials, but labor to identify trustable and reliable data. This is true in any data analysis science. Just as the early Muslim scholars sifted through the available hadith to separate true from false, or classify sound from weak, so too today Islamic scholars, both Muslim and non-Muslim, continue to analyze the hadith and sira.
Gregor Schoeler’s details this shift:
Only three years after publishing his much-quoted article ‘The quest for the historical Muhammad’ in which he expressed his unreserved pessimism about our ability to establish any hard facts about early Islamic history, F. E. Peters (1994) wrote – according to Patricia Crone – a thoroughly ‘traditional’ study about the Prophet. R. Hoyland, a former student of Crone and now the pre-eminent authority on non-Islamic sources about early Islam, re-examined the non-Islamic sources Crone and Cook quoted in Hagarism. He shows that they are hardly suitable to support an alternative account of early Islamic history; on the contrary, they frequently agree with Islamic sources and supplement them. A few years ago, Crone and Cook themselves publicly repudiated the central hypothesis advanced in Hagarism. In their most recent publications, leading historians of early Islam such as F. Donner and C. Robinson strike a decidedly critical note when it comes to the new ‘scepticism’.4
Schoeler then lists a number of recent discoveries that confirm key details found in the Islamic sources and concludes:
So much for the external evidence which confirms at least some details of the Islamic historical tradition about early Islamic history. This book however, deals with the Islamic historical tradition itself. More and more representatives of recent scholarship are prepared to admit that, in addition to ‘bad’ reports Islamic tradition also contains ‘good’ ones. Thus, they distance themselves from the ‘sceptical paradigm’. … The author of the last statement, C. Robinson, qualifies his claim in a footnote by admitting that he considers the so-called isnad-cum-matn analysis ‘promising’.5
Schoeler notes one reason older scholars deviated into the irrational theory of radical skepticism by quoting Bernheim’s comments on these scholar’s earlier modus operandi:
…scholars soon found out that their statements about one and the same event often enough contradicted each other; instead of trying to find out if they could still discover the truth or if there were ways to eliminate the sources of error they had detected, they carried skepticism to extremes by claiming that, due to the unreliability of transmission, there was no way at all to obtain valid information about the past…
Apparently, discarding tradition and freely sketching a radically alternative past on an empty canvas has a special appeal for these scholars.6
In the rest of his book Schoeler provides several technical examples of his “isnad-cum-matn analysis” process.
Similar to Schoeler, Harald Motzki, uses the meticulous isnad-cum-matn analysis method to analyze the hadith and sira events. He describes his methodology and presents the analysis example of Muhammad’s murder of the Jewish man Ibn Abi l-Huqayq. He writes:
The method of isnad-cum-matn analysis which I used in the following investigation consisted of several steps. 1) As many variants as possible equipped with an isnad (or fragments of it) were collected. 2) The lines of transmission were compiled in order to detect their common links in the different generations of transmitters. On the bases of the results first hypotheses on the transmission history were formulated. 3) The texts of the variants were compared in order to establish relationships and differences between them concerning structure and wording. This also allowed the formulation of statements about their transmission history. 4) The results of isnad and matn analyses were compared. At this point conclusions with regard to their transmission history of the tradition in question could be drawn: an approximate date from when the tradition in question must have been in circulation, who were the earliest transmitters, how did the text change in the course of transmission and who was responsible for it, etc.7
Commenting on Motzki’s book, reviewer Wim Raven writes:
What is striking in this volume is the increasing acceptance of the isnaad-analytical method which was invented by J. Schacht (Origins of Muhammadan Jurisprudence, 1950) and refined by G.H.A. Juynboll and, differently, by Schoeler and Motzki. There are far more sources available now than in the days of Watt, and if one is prepared to go through painstaking detail, research can be brought to another level. The researcher has to collect all the versions of a story and analyze their content together with their isnaads. This makes it possible, if one is lucky, to establish a short list of transmitters which are common to all or nearly all isnaads. In many cases, the youngest of these, the so-called “common link,” will be the person who proliferated the story.
Originally the common-link method was the domain of the skeptics. Now it has spread more widely and is applied not only to hadith but also to sira texts.8
Other similar and intelligent approaches to this field are presented by Görke in “Prospects and Limits in the Study of the Historical Muhammad.” Gorke
Görke notes that the traditional Islamic source materials are questionable, but he also states that the non-Islamic references are also just as questionable, (something Talman misses completely), and far more incomplete:
The non-Muslim literary sources do not provide relief either. There are a number of sources referring to the beginnings of Islam that predate the Islamic sources. However, they do not contain substantial material pertaining specifically to the life of Muḥammad. In many cases, these sources are also open to interpretation. Finally, there are no non-Muslim sources that could highlight the social, political or spiritual context of the Ḥijāz at the relevant time and thus provide a background against which information on Muḥammad could be assessed. (p2)
Görke uses the same objections and worse, against the non-Muslims sources that Talman uses for his Muhammad. They are subject to interpretation, some were written with personal bias, some of them have been edited, details are lacking, and material is scant.
But Görke does not knee-jerk react and throw out the entire lot of either the Muslim or non-Muslim writings:
The fact that accounts on the life of Muḥammad were only recorded in written sources more than 150 years after his purported death does not preclude the possibility that such accounts were transmitted faithfully and accurately in the time between the event and their recording in these sources. Also, a lack of contemporary sources does not entail the impossibility of making statements about the historicity of an event. (p4)
His book presents similar approaches to analyzing the hadith and sira.
These are far more rational, logical, and scholarly approaches for the study of Muhammad’s life than to simply say, “oh well, these earliest writings may be doubtful, so I guess we’ll discard them.”
Even doubting critic like Patricia Crone, who ameliorated her skeptical position, admitted there was core truth in the hadith and sira.
We shall never be able to do without the literary sources, of course, and the chances are that most of what the tradition tells us about the prophet’s life is more or less correct in some sense or other. Crone
Another perspective on the early non-Muslim writings comes from fundamentalist Muslims. They have also examined the historical non-Islamic writings, such as those covered in Hoyland’s work, and have reached the same conclusion as I have: these writings confirm the sira and hadith accounts.9 Talman’s approach of ignoring the details and cherry picking select writings enables him to create a colorful wisp of smoke, a fairy tale Muhammad.
Conclusion on Talman’s methodology
This topic should be approached similar to the way data analysts approach situations where there are many versions of the same event. Perhaps you could call this “forensic data analysis.” They collect the data, correlate it, contrast it, and nail down as many facts as possible. They are aware that people’s memory plays tricks on them, and that key facts can be forgotten, or colored. They ask a “why” series of questions about the event, they identify the bias of witnesses, they correlate names, times, dates, places, etc.
That approach is similar to what Schoeler, Motzki, Görke, and others do and it is the opposite of what Talman has done.
Talman’s methodology is not only flawed, it is irrational. I am not a scholar in their field and that gives me a more objective eye. It is foolish to wholly discard the backbone and flesh of Islam because of some tampering. It implies cosmic conspiracies and generations of moral corruption. I am not trying to be offensive but that approach tells me that these earlier “scholars” were not that good, and their approach reveals unanchored arrogance. I don’t see why I must esteem scholars who invent and champion stupid theories, Christian or not.
Talman’s four issues:
Issue a) our understanding of Muhammad and Islam
Talman presents his Muhammad and Islam as compatible with Christianity.
His two key points:
1) The earliest Christians who encountered Muhammad were more favorable and positive about Muhammad and Islam than later Christians. Muhammad was not understood to be evil or portrayed in a harsh light.
The critical question is: Does our present perception of Islam accurately represent what Islam was in the time of Muhammad and what he intended his movement to be? (p4)
2) Muhammad’s message and mission was in harmony with the local Christian beliefs. His Christology was a variant of existing Christologies of the various Christianitys existing in the Hijaz, and the Quran’s apparent criticisms of Christianity are actually criticizing unorthodox Christian doctrine.
This harmonizes with the view of scholars who contend that Qur’anic verses allegedly critical of Christianity are best understood as challenging or correcting unorthodox Christianities or disputed Christologies. Reliable historical and textual evidence supports this understanding. (p5)
This indicates that they viewed Islam as an alternative Christology, not as a different religion. C. Jonn Block concludes that they even recognized a distinction between the teachings of Muhammad and the behaviors of his followers to the degree that Muhammad himself may have been considered a prophet from a Christian perspective. (p5)
Talman presents his revisionist Muhammad as being in harmony with real Christianity; Muhammad’s anti-Christian teachings were actually directed against unorthodox Christianity and he posited an alternate Christology. Subsequent hostilities between the Christians and Muslims were the results of other problems, issues, and misunderstandings.
Talman is wrong on both points.
1) Using only the historical non-Muslim writings we find a picture similar to what the sira and hadith paint. For example, Robert Hoyland is the expert in the non-Muslim writings about Muhammad. He wrote a chapter in Motzki’s book and commented that many of the harsh recent and medieval criticisms of Muhammad were rooted in the earliest Christian writings:
The same is true for various other attributes, deeds and doctrines of Muhammad, which recur for centuries in European polemical tracts and all of which have their roots in the very earliest Eastern Christian writings about the Prophet.10
Hoyland quotes some of the earliest writings about Muhammad from various non-Muslim writings and how they identify Muhammad with titles or characteristics of his prophethood. Here are quotes from two of the titles.
The first attribute/title:
Muhammad the Initiator of the Conquests
In the year 945, indiction 7, on Friday 4 February (634) at the ninth hour, there was a battle between the Romans and the Arabs of Muhammad.11 (Thomas the Presbyter, ca. 640)
Then God brought the Ishmaelites against them like sand on the sea shore; their leader was Muhammad and neither walls nor gates, armor or shield, withstood them; they gained control over the entire land of the Persians.12 (Syrian chronicler, ca 660)
(Muhammad exhorting his soldiers to attack and conquer other countries)
You are the sons of Abraham, and God will realize in you the promise made to Abraham and his posterity. Only love the God of Abraham and go and take possession of your country which God gave to your father Abraham, and none will be able to resist you in battle, for God is with you.13 (p278)
When a most numerous multitude of Saracens had gathered together, they invaded the provinces of Syria, Arabia, and Mesopotamia. Above them, holding the leadership, was one Muhammad by name.14 (Mid-eighth-century Spanish writer).
Hoyland summarizes these:
The idea that Muhammad initiated the Arab conquests comes through very clearly in these sources.15
Hoyland then cites Theophilus of Edessa commenting on Muhammad’s actions:
To corroborate his word, he led a band of them who were obedient to him and began to go up to the land of Palestine, plundering, enslaving and pillaging. He returned laden (with booty) and unharmed, and thus he had not fallen short of his promise to them.
Once dispatched, it was not enough for them to frequent Palestine alone, but they ranged far and wide, killing openly, enslaving, ravaging and plundering. Even this was not enough for them, but they would make them pay tribute and enslave them. Thus, gradually, they grew strong and spread abroad. And they grew so powerful that they subjected almost all the land of the Romans and also the kingdom of the Persians under their sway.16
The 2nd attribute/title:
Muhammad the Prophet/False Prophet.
However, just because the Christians knew Muhammad was deemed a prophet by his own people does not mean they themselves accepted him as such. In general, of course, they did not. Christians living in Muslim-ruled lands were at least content to say that “Muhammad walked in the way of the prophets” in that he brought his people to knowledge of the one true God and recognition of virtue, but Byzantine authors designated him rather as “the forerunner of the Antichrist” and “a false prophet.”17
Hoyland then mentions the Christian polemics against Muhammad:
Thus, for example, much of the reason for the presentation by Christian writers of Muhammad as a reviver of an original Abrahamic religion was to emphasize that his religion was nothing new, indeed that it was primitive, not having benefited from any of Jesus’ modernizations.18
Finally, Hoyland comments on another early Christian observation about Muhammad and the Muslims:
For example, Christian authors reveal to us how numerous were the prisoners-of-war taken by the Muslims and how extensively this affected non-Muslim society, both physically and mentally. They illustrate how preoccupied the Muslims were with matters of security and how suspicious they were that Christians might be conspiring with the Byzantines against them.19
All of these quotes from early non-Muslim sources paint the same exact picture the sira and hadith paint. Muhammad and his Muslims, attacked, plundered, killed, and enslaved. There is little difference between what Muhammad and his Muslims did with what ISIS does now. The earliest non-Muslim historical writings tell us that hundreds of thousands of people, Christian and non-Christian, suffered by Muhammad’s hand. They attributed their sufferings to Muhammad’s teachings and actions.
To answer Talman’s question: Does our present perception of Islam accurately represent what Islam was in the time of Muhammad and what he intended his movement to be? The answer is “Yes.” The non-Muslim historical writings depict the same Muhammad the hadith and sira present.
Patricia Crone was also aware of what the earliest Christian writings said about Muhammad:
There is no doubt that Mohammed existed, occasional attempts to deny it notwithstanding. His neighbours in Byzantine Syria got to hear of him within two years of his death at the latest; a Greek text written during the Arab invasion of Syria between 632 and 634 mentions that “a false prophet has appeared among the Saracens” and dismisses him as an impostor on the ground that prophets do not come “with sword and chariot”. It thus conveys the impression that he was actually leading the invasions.
The second part of Talman’s “understanding of Muhammad” is that Muhammad’s teachings and pronouncements against Christianity were directed against non-orthodox Christian teachings. Talman relies heavily on Fred Donner’s book, “Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam.”
See part 1 of this article which uses the Quran’s anti-Christian verses, in context, and shows that the Quran contradicts and even condemns all aspects of the Gospel message:
a) Jesus was crucified and died for our sins
b) He was resurrected from the dead
c) We are to put our faith in Him as the Son of God
d) We are to receive and obey Him as Lord.
All of these points above are contradicted by verses in the Quran.
Muhammad does not get a pass because he believed in one God. So do the demons. The Quran’s passages contradict Talman’s argument.
Patricia Crone also rejected Donner’s thesis. Her sharp review of Donner’s book states (bold emphasis mine):
The main problem is that the only direct evidence for Donner’s central thesis is the Quranic verses on the believing People of the Book; all the rest is conjecture. The verses in question tell us nothing about events after the death of the Prophet, and it has to be said that the Medinese suras of which they form a part are not suggestive of ecumenicalism. They are full of bitterly hostile polemics against Jews and Christians, both of whom are charged with polytheism, deification of their own leaders, deification of themselves, and more besides. The Jews are faulted for rejecting Jesus, the Christians for deifying him. If there were believers among the People of the Book in Medina, an obvious explanation would be that they were Jewish Christians, a well-known hypothesis that Donner does not consider. The Jacobite, Nestorian, and Melkite Christians that the Muslims encountered in Syria, Egypt, and Iraq were unquestionably polytheists by Quranic standards, and with all due respect to Donner, the fact that they disagreed about Christology does not help, given that their disputes were premised on Christ’s divinity.
Donner says so many strange things in this book that one wonders what is going on. P. Crone – Donner
Conclusion on Talman’s “Our understanding of Muhammad and Islam”
Talman argues that the early Christians were receptive to Muhammad’s message and that they considered him to have some type of prophetic role. The exact opposite is true. Muhammad was viewed as a false prophet, a war-monger, a slaver. Talman also argues that the Quran’s message is compatible with Christ’s message. Again the opposite is true: Muhammad’s message contradicts Christ’s message at every crucial point save the “one God” belief.
An ex-Muslim scholar once said, “Jesus came to undo the works of Satan, Muhammad came to undo the work of Christ.” That sums up this point accurately.
Issue b) our theology of revelation
Talman’s argument is that God gives revelation to non-Christians and Muhammad was such a recipient. It has a number of facets, and he goes off on a tangent or two, but his primary thrust is that Muhammad encountered God and received revelation. Therefore Christians can confer some degree of legitimacy upon Muhammad as a prophet and his Quran as God’s word.
Talman builds this argument in several steps. First he identifies “special revelation” and “post-canonical and present-day prophecy” and their operation within the church. I agree fully with this specific point. God does speak to the church through modern day Christian prophets whose messages must be sifted. He then argues that there can be prophets outside of the Judeo-Christian faiths.
While acknowledging such a possibility for those in the Judeo-Christian heritage, some may question the possible existence of such prophets outside of this stream. However, they should remember that Balaam was the recipient of divine revelation from the true God whom he claimed as “the Lord my God” (Num. 22:18). (p7)
In general, I do agree that God can use non-Christians to speak revelation truth. However, an important semantic distinction must be made. Since there are different definitions for “prophet” we need to be precise in our usage. Within the context of the church a prophet is someone who has a specific ministry and gifting who speaks God’s word to the church. Outside of the church a prophet can mean many more things as I described in Part 1. A Christian teacher should distinguish between a legitimate church prophet, (like those found in the book of Acts, and found today in various Charismatic ministries), and a non-Christian prophet speaking in some type of ministerial mode. I would not tell Christians that a non-Christian is a prophet because he is speaking some truth, without adding clarification. If that non-Christian “prophet” proclaimed things that contradicted the Gospel, and rejected and refused correction, then I would, according to our Scripture, label him a false prophet. Truth mixed with falsehood is like poison mixed with whole food; it is still poisonous. This is the case with Muhammad.
Talman extends his general concept of revelation and prophecy to Muhammad and argues that Muhammad did indeed encounter God. He references the Dutch theologian Johan H. Bavinck who notes one of Muhammad’s experiences:
In the “night of power” of which the ninety-seventh sura of the Koran speaks, the night when “the angels descended” and the Koran descended from Allah’s throne, God dealt with Muhammad and touched him. God wrestled with him in that night, and God’s hand is still noticeable in the answer of the prophet, but it is also the result of human oppression.
Bavinck asserts that it was truly God (not an evil angel) whom Muhammad encountered in his revelatory experiences.
Thus Bavinck can acknowledge that Muhammad (at least at some point and in some way) encountered the true and living God in his revelatory experiences. Contradictory differences from biblical revelation could be attributed to imperfect responses by him, by the community that succeeded him, and by the People of the Book whom they encountered. (p8)
I believe Talman’s summary statement on his view of Muhammad’s prophethood and legitimacy of revelation is:
As Christians, we do not regard the Qur’an to be utterly infallible and authoritative, but need not rule out the possibility of God’s calling and using Muhammad as a prophet (like Saul in the OT or a charismatic prophet in the present era). (p9)
Talman’s argument suffers from at least two flaws: 1) he fails to evaluate Muhammad’s message as a whole, 2) his statement “Contradictory differences from biblical revelation could be attributed to imperfect responses by him, by the community that succeeded him, and by the People of the Book whom they encountered,” runs counter to Muhammad’s message and his asserted edict from God.
1) Talman argues from an “eat the cherries, spit out the pits” position. However, this is not the Biblical approach. Had Saul also called for the worship of a different God, or made calls to abandon Moses, then the Israelites would have rejected him as a false prophet and probably put him to death. A false prophet could say some truthful things but that would not absolve them of gross error. Here is the Old Testament’s position:
If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the Lord your God is testing you to find out if you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall follow the Lord your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has counseled rebellion against the Lord your God who brought you from the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of slavery, to seduce you from the way in which the Lord your God commanded you to walk. So you shall purge the evil from among you. (Deut 13:1-5)
The Old Testament accepts that false prophets can speak truth and perform miracles. However, the evaluation does not end there. Their message as a whole was evaluated. The Israelites were commanded to NOT take an “eat the cherry, spit out the pits” approach. Instead the opposite was true. They were to kill false prophets, to “purge the evil from among you.”
Note God’s action in this: He was testing the Israelites to see if they loved Him. He allowed those false prophets to challenge His people to see if they loved him truly. If we follow Christ’s command, to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, then shouldn’t we rejected false prophets and false messages?
Talman’s own argument works against him because he admits that the Quran contradicts the Word of God. Since it contradicts the Word of God it shows that Bavinck is wrong. Muhammad encountered an evil spirit, not the true God. That also is what Muhammad believed initially:
“So I read it, and he departed from me. And I awoke from my sleep, and it was though these words were written on my heart. (Tabari: Now none of God’s creatures was more hateful to me than an (ecstatic) poet or a man possessed: I could not even look at them. I thought, Woe is me poet or possessed – Never shall Quraysh say this of me! I will go to the top of the mountain and throw myself down that I may kill myself and gain rest. So I went forth to do so and then) when I was midway on the mountain, I heard a voice from heaven saying “O Muhammad! thou are the apostle of God and I am Gabriel.”20 Muhammad Suicide
Muhammad’s initial reaction was correct because he was assaulted by a demonic power. After years of struggling with this spiritual and psychological trauma he broke down mentally and gave himself over to that dark, malevolent power. His conscience became seared. That explains why he could subsequently kill, murder, and torture others without mercy.
Muhammad’s revelation experience contradicts the Biblical model. Search the Scriptures and see that no one ever becomes depressed and suicidal because they encountered the living God. God does not cause His chosen messengers to become depressed and suicidal for years at a time.
2) Talman’s statement, “Contradictory differences from biblical revelation could be attributed to imperfect responses by him, by the community that succeeded him, and by the People of the Book whom they encountered“ is confused or unclear. Muhammad did receive “revelations” that contradict the Bible. Talman attributes them to those three factors. However, none of them played a role in the revelation he received. The single occurrence of Muhammad’s “imperfect response,” i.e. the episode of the Satanic Verses, has his Gabriel reproving him of his error. After being reproved by Gabriel Muhammad states:
I have obeyed Satan and spoken his words, and he has taken part in God’s authority on me.21
Consequently, Muhammad’s error was corrected.
Aside from that episode, the community that succeeded Muhammad, and the People of the Book, played no role in distorting and corrupting Muhammad’s message, the Quran. There are many versions of the Quran that exhibit many variations, but none of these variants distort or corrupt the Quran or its message.
Conclusion on Talman’s “our theology of revelation”
Talman extends his definition of revelation to include Muhammad’s experiences and message. However his initial experience and subsequent content of his entire message disqualifies him from being able to claim that the spirit with whom he interacted was sent by God. The Quranic message contradicts the Gospel and any claim of “revelation from God” must be rejected. Muhammad was a false prophet who spoke some truth. So has every other “false prophet” the world has seen.
Continue with Part 3.
1 Gregor Schoeler’s introduction in “The Biography of Muhammad Nature and authenticity” documents this skeptical approach from the 19th century to now. Recent scholarship is taking a more rational approach in dealing with the Islamic sources.
2 The earlier scholars who rejected the source materials en toto did so because of hesitation of accepting doubtful material as truth, not because they wanted to paint a rehabilitated picture of Muhammad.
3 Talman’s article is seasoned heavily with quotes from many authors. These quotes are used to support assumptions about Muhammad’s statements and actions, or the Quran’s meaning. Often they are built on context provided by the hadith and sira. Yet Talman argues that those texts are unreliable. Talman is inconsistent in his argument. Bear this in mind as you read his work.
4 Gregor Schoeler, “The Biography of Muhammad”, Routledge, New York, New York, 2014, p13
5 ibid. p15
6 ibid. p17
7 Harald Motzki, “The Biography of Muhammad The Issue of the Sources”, Brill, Leiden, 2000 (p174, 175).
8 https://ghurabalbayn.files.wordpress.com/2012/05/ravenreviewmotzki.pdf (page 628 of Journal of Law & Religion)
9 For those of you who would like to read a detailed Muslim refutation of the skeptic’s “non-Muslim sources” argument see http://www.islamic-awareness.org/History/Islam/Inscriptions/earlysaw.html These fundamentalist Muslims use the same books and references that Talman, and I, have used, plus a few more. Their conclusion is the same as mine: the non-Muslim writings corroborate many of the sira’s and hadith’s details.
10 Harald Motzki, “The Biography of Muhammad The Issue of the Sources”, Brill, Leiden, 2000. (p276)
11 ibid. 278 (Hoyland also cites this in his book “Seeing Islam as Others Saw It”, Darwin Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1997. p120)
12 ibid. 278
13 ibid. 278
14 ibid. 279
15 ibid. 279
17 ibid. 286
18 ibid. 286
19 ibid. 292
20 Guillaume, A., “The Life of Muhammad”, a translation of Ibn Ishaq’s “Sirat Rasul Allah”, Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan. (p106)
21 Rubin, Uri, “The Eye of the Beholder”, Darwin Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 1995 (p161)
Was Muhammad a true or false prophet? Muhammad is considered to be a prophet of Islam but should he be accepted by Christians as a true prophet? If “yes,” why should they accept him? What qualifies him? If “no,” then why not? What disqualifies him?
In the end this question requires a 100% “yes” or “no” answer because we are evaluating Muhammad’s claim to be a God-ordained prophet and apostle who brought God’s commands to all mankind. He claimed that the God of Moses and Jesus sent him to restore the true faith and true believers are now required to put their faith in him. (Quran 4:136) Muhammad claimed he was the last of the prophets and Islam was to be accepted as a certified, God-decreed legitimate faith, meant to supersede Judaism and Christianity.1 Muhammad’s assertion of his prophethood, as equivalent to the Biblical prophets, is an integral part of his message. A “partly yes, partly no” answer avoids the issue and misleads the audience. While Muhammad proclaimed many of the same things Moses and Jesus proclaimed, such as there is only one God, he also proclaimed many things that differed or contradicted what Moses and Jesus taught, e.g. dietary laws and Jesus’s Sonship. Muhammad allowed no room for a pick and choose buffet of faith; it was all or nothing:
And whoso seeketh as religion other than the Surrender (to Allah) it will not be accepted from him, and he will be a loser in the Hereafter.2 (Quran 3:85)
Therefore, since Muhammad claimed to be a God-ordained prophetic voice, en toto, we must evaluate that claim, not as a simple inspiring and motivating mystical speaker but as someone bringing a new faith, with laws, commands, and rituals, against the Biblical “prophet” standard. This is our starting point and ultimately where we must end. In-between there is room to identify and agree with various aspects of Islam that align with Christian truth3 but that is an aside from validating his prophetic claim. Anything less is incomplete and disingenuous.
Validating Muhammad’s prophethood, even in a generic way, lends credibility to him and Islam. If Muhammad were a true prophet of God then to one degree or another Christians would be obligated to consider and possibly implement Islamic tenets. After all, if God the Father gave Muhammad commands for all mankind, then wouldn’t Christians be required to obey them? On the other hand, if he were a false prophet then Christians are obligated to reject Islam, take a stand, and say, politely, wisely, and firmly that Muhammad was not a prophet of God. If this is the case then Muhammad would correctly be identified as a false prophet.
For the purposes of this article there are two key questions that need to be answered:
Question 1) Which Muhammad are we talking about? On one side there is the traditional Muhammad, the Muhammad of Islam for about the past 1400 years. On the other side are the Muhammads created recently by various Muslim and non-Muslim revisionists. There are many of these Muhammads and they all don’t get along. They are created from opinion, conjecture, and various possibilities based upon interpretations of recent discoveries of non-Islamic historical data. The barnyard is full of these Muhammads.
Question 2) What is the definition of prophet, and false prophet, from a Biblical Christian point of view? What guidelines and standards should be used to identify a true or false prophet?
TASK 1) DEFINING THE TWO MUHAMMADS
I’ve listed two distinct Muhammads, the one of Islam, i.e. the traditional historical Muhammad, and the ever-morphing one of the non-Muslim revisionists.
THE TRADITIONAL MUHAMMAD
As a Christian worker primarily in Islam, my focus is not academics, instead it is upon engaging the world as it is. If I am going to accept or reject Muhammad as a prophet I need to engage his claim established in the faith of his followers and in the understanding of non-Muslims. This claim is the traditional claim, built upon the Islamic source material texts: the Quran, hadith, and sira. The traditional Muhammad is taught and proclaimed by the major Sunni and Shia theological schools, and he is the Muhammad that the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims obey. Today’s Muslim terrorists commit their sins and crimes in his cause, and conversely, many honest, intelligent, good-natured Muslims follow him and in his name do good works. He is the Muhammad with whom the world interacts. He is the Muhammad whom the Popes and Presidents, Religious and Atheists, pundits and professors, polemicists and apologists, name. He is the Muhammad of today’s reality. The Islamic world, and the world at large, know only one Muhammad: the traditional Muhammad.
Doesn’t it make sense that the traditional Muhammad be our primary focus? Afterwards, different Muhammads invented from interesting academic and intellectual evaluations, theories, bits of data, and multiple possibilities, can be considered.
If Muhammad’s words and deeds align with Biblical requirements for prophethood then one could grant some type of legitimate “prophet” status to Muhammad. However, if Muhammad’s message is at odds with the Biblical “prophet” requirements then Muhammad should be labeled as a false prophet. Clarity and precision are needed.
THE REVISIONIST’S MUHAMMAD
I work in the engineering world. Several years ago a senior engineer designed a product for a customer’s requirements. He was considered to be the subject expert and few people were capable of critiquing his design. Initial prototypes confirmed that his design worked and would probably fulfill all requirements. However, a new experienced engineer was hired and he was assigned to the same program. He evaluated the design and stated that it would fail at required operational extremes and he proposed an alternate design. Understandably, conflict ensued! The senior engineer was greatly offended and outspoken in his criticisms of the new engineer because he felt his reputation threatened and he responded aggressively. The ugly, one-sided conflict, continued for some time until prototype testing was performed. It validated the new engineer’s critical statements and his alternate design. The senior engineer’s design was rejected and he never lived down the shame.
In the world of engineering designs work or they don’t. Some designs look good on paper but fail when prototyped, tested, or manufactured. Most of us live in the functional world where the theories behind the functioning have been proven or disproven. It can be a harsh and challenging world.
However the theological world is a soft, malleable, loosely defined world. This is due in part to it being a world of concepts, ideas, theories, and opinions. These can be difficult to nail down precisely and they vary from person to person. Further, you cannot manufacture a theological theory and put it through validation testing.
Because theology is pliable one can inject personal viewpoints into his beliefs. Intelligent men can project anything that tickles their fancy. For example, some writers suggest that Jesus was an alien! Other writers claim that Jesus could have been a practicing homosexual! Some writers claim Muhammad never existed, others claim he was an amalgamation of various Muslim leaders! Anything goes because of theology’s squishy nature. Theologians have a personal Gumby to stretch into whatever form they desire.
This subjectivity of concepts and beliefs allows personal convictions and desires to be stretched as “personal interpretations” and within the world of Christianity there is no shortage of polarized opinions from various scholars. Today some insist that adultery, homosexuality, abortion, even pagan worship, is not sin and is acceptable to God (take the American Episcopalian church for example). These ideas can morph into actions. Some religious leaders have caused great good, e.g. Mother Theresa and Franklin Graham, or great evil e.g. Jim Jones and David Koresh.
If engineers practiced their profession like many of today’s degreed theologians practice theology they would be laughed out of the company and put out on the street. They would lack the ability to analyze data and think critically. Their opinions, personal preferences, and sympathies, would take precedence over logic and data. Their designs would fail.
One Christian who argues for Muhammad to be accepted by the church as a prophet is “Harley Talman.” That name is a nom de plume for a missionary who spent many years in the Islamic world and now teaches religion. He wrote a detailed article and argued that Muhammad should be considered a prophet of God, but perhaps not equal to the Biblical prophets. His article is found here: Is Muhammad Also Among the Prophets?
He makes his argument in a demure, almost evasive, manner. It is packed with maybes, mightbes, and possibilities. After reading his article a couple times it was obvious, that despite his protestations, he wants to loudly proclaim that Muhammad was indeed a prophet of God.
Talman’s argument is not built upon the historical Muhammad and he does not argue that we should accept the historical Muhammad as a prophet.
The most widely accepted version of Muhammad, based upon Islamic tradition, is dubious. (p3)
The sub-sections which follow reflect on various Christian views of Islam, a revised history of Muhammad and the movement he founded, and a theological reassessment of the prophet of Islam, all based on a potentially more objective portrayal of his character and actions. (p3)
Based upon his “dubious” view, his Muhammad purposely excludes most of the traditional Islamic biographical source materials from his evaluation (the hadith and sira). Talman deems revisionist Muhammad as a prophet because of his spiritual and inspirational preaching. He argues that Christians need not accept all things Islamic but instead take an ‘eat the cherry and spit out the pits’ approach.
“Like a number of Christian scholars of Islam, I believe there is biblical warrant for considering the possibility of some kind of positive prophetic status for Muhammad.” (p14)
He may be seen as fulfilling a prophetic role, whether in response to general revelation or special, whether as a preacher or religious leader, whether as an ecstatic or charismatic prophet, or something more. (p17)
Throughout his article Talman provides various statements upon which he builds his argument for Muhammad’s prophethood. Talman draws from people’s theories, interpretations, and pronouncements to create his kinder and gentler “prophet.” There are too many statements to list but I’ll provide a few. He then argues that the church at large should accept him as such. Here is a selection of quotes from other Christians:
Patriarch Timothy 1:
Muhammad taught about God, His Word and His Spirit, and since all prophets had prophesied about God, His Word and His Spirit, Muhammad walked, therefore, in the path of all the prophets. (p15)
Where the Prophet Muhammad gained insight into who that Person is–for example in his conviction, against a polytheistic background, of the oneness of God–his utterances to that effect are truly in the lineage of the biblical prophets. (p15)
we should not let the whole history of Islam cloud our assessment of Muhammad. If it can be said that God spoke ‘directive prophecy’ through Cyrus, who announced the end of exile (2 Chron. 36:22; Ezra 1:8), then why could God not have spoken a directive word through Muhammad? (p15)
A prophet is an agitator, someone who walks around temple and palace stating his criticism, who rages against the injustices political leaders are committing. A true prophet does not adopt the drab and colorless language of his society, does not speak the jargon of diplomats, the language of theologians or a priestly caste, or the rigid prose of the business world. (pp15, 16)4
In my own words, Talman’s argument is that we should consider Muhammad to be a prophet because he had an encounter with God, taught some truths, spiritual disciplines, and virtues, and he led people from paganism to monotheism. Muhammad was not perfect but he taught morals. He did not have a full revelation or understanding of Jesus Christ but he respected and honored Jesus greatly. Muhammad intended to lead people into a godly lifestyle in harmony with believers in other faiths, but for various reasons conflicts and wars ensued. Christians today don’t have to accept everything Muhammad commanded but we should honor him as some type of legitimate God-used prophet.
Talman’s general assessment is the opposite of what the traditional Muhammad claimed. Muhammad claimed great prophethood for himself and that he and all of his word, his Quran, were to be obeyed strictly. The Quran commands all true believers to imitate Muhammad’s lifestyle found in those rejected source materials.
Part one of this article will engage with and evaluate Islam’s traditional Muhammad. Parts 2 and 3 will address, in a limited degree, Talman’s “evidence” and his Muhammad creation.
TASK 2) CHRISTIAN DEFINITION OF TRUE AND FALSE PROPHETS
The second task is to establish a definition for “Biblical prophet” according to Christianity. The word prophet is loaded with preconceptions and Christians across the spectrum will have different responses to someone identified as, or claiming to be, a Biblical prophet. Logically, if a man claims to be or is identified as a prophet of God but is then found to not be such a prophet, then he is a false prophet.
I dug into this part of the topic and searched to find a concise definition, a requirements list, for a Biblical prophet. I wanted to compile such a list but I did not find exactly what I hoped for. I gathered and reviewed many pages of notes and comments as I studied various theological writings and many Scriptures related to “prophet.” Initially, I could only develop a loose definition. However, after more study, thought, and deliberation, I was able to put together sufficient criteria for a Biblical prophet. (I would like to present a detailed examination of this topic because it is relevant and intriguing but for space sake it is beyond this article’s scope.
In general terms, a prophet is or is identified as a spokesman for a deity, speaking that deity’s words. Throughout the Bible many “prophets” are mentioned. Some are false prophets who represent Pagan faiths, some are unnamed prophets, some start off good and go bad, and others die for their faith in the God of Israel. Over and over again it is seen that a prophet is simply a spokesperson for any particular deity.
Here is a simple definition of prophet one that is fulfilled by numerous people Jewish, Christian, Pagan, or otherwise:
1. a person who speaks for God or a deity, or by divine inspiration.
5. a person regarded as, or claiming to be, an inspired teacher or leader.
In human history, within that general “prophet” scope on a spiritual or mystical level, there are many people who claimed to be or are identified as prophets who had a message that differed from Christianity’s message. Here are a few of the people who roughly fit that definition: Zoroaster, Albruna, Tenrikyo, Tenskwatawa, and Völva.
If a Christian were to argue that these “prophets” be accepted by the church as Biblical prophets they would be rejected on a variety of grounds. Some were inspiring speakers, some predicted things, some seemed to have spiritual insights, some taught moral principles, but generally Christianity rejects them as Biblical prophets. One could argue, (as Talman does for Muhammad), that these prophets brought something of spiritual value and in some cases caused people to seek after a true God, but we would be foolish to put them on Biblical footing because of some of the other things they taught, or did.
As the topic approaches “prophets” who claimed prophethood closer to the Judeo-Christian landmark the water becomes muddied. For example there is Joseph Smith, Ali Muhammad Shir?zi, Sun Myung Moon, and of course Muhammad. All of these men fulfill Talman’s low bar of “prophet.” Being tied or related to Christianity in one way or another their claims or identifications as prophets being gifted from God can be more difficult to assess.
Additionally this article lists many of people who claimed to be prophets during Muhammad’s time: How Muhammad Became the Final Prophet Please take a look at the graphic. Muhammad had a lot of prophetic company! There was no shortage of prophets in Arabia!
Obviously we need a more biblically precise definition for “prophet” and “false prophet” than the generalities Talman provided.
As mentioned, the Bible does not provide a concise definition of prophet, but there are a number of examples, guidelines, and references we can draw from and develop strong standards. These standards are higher than a simple and generic, inspiring or spiritually motivating bar that any “Guru Rajneesh” could fulfill.
In Biblical terms a prophet is one who proclaims God’s word to men. My challenge here is to provide a context, scope, and constraint upon a Biblical definition for prophet, and false prophet, and measure Muhammad against it. There are two sources I will look to: Christian theological writings and the Bible.
CHRISTIAN THEOLOGICAL WRITINGS
I’ll start with the Christian theological writings first because they set a limited scope based on Scripture. Following them, the Word of God will nail down specific requirements and restrictions.
The Didache http://www.historian.net/didache.htm (Teachings of the Twelve Apostles) is a first century Christian treatise addressing a wide variety of topics that involved the Church. Some early Church Fathers esteemed it highly and considered it to be on par with Scripture. I start with it because it shows that the early Church also had the challenge of identifying true or false apostles.
Section 11 addresses this topic and I’ll quote several passages.
11:1 Whosoever therefore shall come and teach you all these things that have been said before, receive him;
11:2 but if the teacher himself be perverted and teach a different doctrine to the destruction thereof, hear him not;
11:3 but if to the increase of righteousness and the knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord.
11:9 but if he ask money, he is a false prophet.
11:13 From his ways therefore the false prophet and the prophet shall be recognized.
11:14 And no prophet when he ordereth a table in the Spirit shall eat of it;
11:15 otherwise he is a false prophet.
11:20 And whosoever shall say in the Spirit, Give me silver or anything else, ye shall not listen to him;
This quote highlights that there were two primary criteria that the early Church used to determine true or false prophets: truthful teaching and moral conduct.
Modern Christian writings
Here are some standard definitions of “prophet”:
The “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament” has some 80 pages analyzing this word. Here are some comments:
The prophet is essentially a proclaimer of God’s Word. … Most comprehensively it can mean “to proclaim the revelation, the message of God, imparted to the prophet”5
“As the examples show, the passion and resurrection of Jesus are at the heart of the proof from prophecy as of primitive Christian preaching as a whole.6
“His proclamation is the Word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ, Rev 1:2, 19:9.7
The New International Commentary on the New Testament on Revelation 19:9 states:
…the “testimony of Jesus” is the witness that was borne by Jesus (subjective genitive). By his life and death Jesus has demonstrated to his followers what it means to bear a faithful witness (1:5; 3:14) to the message revealed by God.8
Continuing on the meaning of “testimony of Jesus”, the Commentary continues:
It could mean that the witness or testimony that Jesus bore is the essence of prophetic proclamation – the principle that dominates prophecy. However, John’s readers would certainly understand his reference to “the spirit of prophecy” in terms of the Holy Spirit as the one who inspired all prophecy. Peter spoke of the Spirit of Christ who moved in the OT prophets to predict the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow (1 Pet 1:10, 11) and that prophecy came as the result of men speaking from God as they were being carried along by the Holy Spirit.9
Kittel also has several pages dedicated to false prophets. Here is a key quote:
“Miracles could not serve as accrediting signs because the false prophets of the last days use miracles as a means of seduction, Mk 13:22 par. Mt 23:23; Rev. 13:13; 16:13f; 19:20. Thus note was taken of the teaching and conduct of the prophets. A presupposition of genuine prophecy is a right confession of Jesus Christ: “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God,”… But agreement with the Christological confession of the Church is hardly a sufficient confirmation of genuine prophecy. False prophets, too, can confess Jesus Christ, prophesy in His name and play the role of true preachers so perfectly that it is hard to see that they are liars. Hence their conduct must be scrutinized.10
Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary has several good comments for both prophets and false prophets:
A prophet was an individual who received a call from God to be God’s spokesperson, often connected with some crisis that was about to occur, and then announced God’s message of judgment and/or deliverance to Israel and the nations.
This is what makes the discernment of what constitutes pseudoprophecy so difficult, for many of the false prophets also subscribed to some of the same theological traditions as did the canonical prophets.
False Prophets in the New Testament.
False prophets continued to make their presence felt well beyond the days of the Old Testament; indeed, Jesus warned his disciples, and through the apostles, he warned the early church about the character and teachings of such frauds.
As was characteristic of false prophets in the Old Testament, their New Testament counterparts were also motivated by greed ( 2 Peter 2:3 2 Peter 2:13 ), exhibited arrogance ( 2 Peter 2:18 ), lived immoral lives ( 2 Peter 2:2 2 Peter 2:10-13 ), and generally could be described as ungodly persons (Jude 4).
I found this website to have some excellent statements on defining a prophet: What is a Prophet?
Notice first that God chose His messengers. Notice also that God told them what to do.
1. To reveal the nature and attributes of God to men.
2. To make known to men the laws of God.
3. To call the people back to obedience to God’s laws.
4. To exhort the people to sincerity in worship.
5. To warn them of Divine judgment upon sin, both personal and national.
6. To foretell future events which God had willed.
7. To foretell the coming of the Messiah, the Savior.
8. To record the history of God’s dealings with men.
9. To record the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures.
Notice that God warned the people that all pagan practices and customs were strictly forbidden. In particular, God warned them not to seek help or guidance through occult practices like divination, witchcraft or necromancy (the belief that spirits of dead people can be used to obtain help).
There are many similar websites that discuss prophets and false prophets but I did not find much that differed from the above.
In general Muhammad could claim to fulfill most of these “prophet” points.
· Muhammad claimed to speak God’s word.
· Muhammad claimed to receive revelations from God (through Gabriel).
· Muhammad claimed to proclaim God’s laws, to call men to repentance, and to foretell the future.
· Muhammad claims to honor Jesus as a great prophet and acknowledge that Jesus was indeed the Messiah and the Word of God!
· Muhammad claimed to be an exemplary moral person who obeyed God’s laws scrupulously.
The only significant point I see contradiction is on Muhammad’s testimony to Jesus Christ (see the Kittel and NICNT comments above). A serious Christian would argue that Muhammad did not testify to Jesus Christ as crucified, risen, Lord, Savior, or Son of God, but rather to Him only as a great prophet. Christians who don’t take their faith seriously will overlook this point: “Is it important to identify Jesus as Lord, Savior, Messiah, and Son of God?”
Therefore, taken as a whole, I found that the theological writings identified two themes consistently which must be examined to determine Biblical prophethood: 1) Message: Was Muhammad’s message in phase with a Biblical message?, and 2) moral conduct: Did Muhammad’s moral conduct conform to the Biblical standard?
Note that examining a man’s moral conduct is not a special judgment. Christians are instructed to evaluate all men’s fruit. This is not a search for perfection, for “all have sinned,” but rather of sound conduct found in passages like Titus 1 and 1 Tim 3. So there is nothing unique or unfair in examining a supposed prophet’s moral conduct and comparing it to a Scriptural standard.
THE BIBLE’S PASSAGES ON TRUE AND FALSE PROPHETS
Jesus’s love and care for the church included warning them against false teachers and false prophets and we should take note of those details. Scripture, as our boundary marker, our guidepost, provides theological definition and understanding of true and false prophets.
Four initial observations.
There are some 460 Bible verses using the word “prophet.” I found four overarching points as I surveyed “prophet” and “false prophet.”
a) The NT Scriptural emphasis is upon false prophets more so than upon prophets. This is because the ministry of the prophets in the New Testament presupposed a correct doctrine and holy lifestyle. There are several NT prophets mentioned (Eph 4:11, 1 Cor 14:29, Acts 13: 1, 15:32), and it is understood that they maintained sound doctrine as accepted leaders by the church. In relation to their ministry, Jesus is identified as the “cornerstone,” which means their ministry is built upon Christ’s teachings. This contrasts with Muhammad’s claim that he was told by the same God to bring a new and superseding faith.
b) The second was that God spoke to the prophets directly: There is a continual historic flow of events where: “The word of the Lord came to the prophet abcxyz.” (2 Sam 24:11, 1 Kings 13:20, 1 Kings 18:36, etc.). God spoke directly with most of the Biblical prophets. On rare occasions He spoke through angels but His most frequent, and primary, mode of communication was direct God-to-man. In Muhammad’s case, almost all of Allah’s communication with him was through a spirit whom Muhammad eventually believed to be the angel Gabriel.
If you value the Bible as a standard then this should trouble you. This in and of itself does not disqualify Muhammad but it clearly establishes Muhammad as a second rate prophet. Muhammad made mountainous claims about his message, and support, from Allah. Why then didn’t God speak with him directly? Allah’s primary mode of communication with Muhammad is misaligned with the Biblical standard.
c) Third was the abundance of false prophets. Throughout the OT there are many false prophets giving counsel and spiritual guidance. Often they would persecute the true prophets. These false prophets misled thousands of Israelites, and Israelite leaders, into believing in and obeying their prophecies. (Jer 23:25, Isa 9:15, Matt 7:15, etc.)
d) The fourth overarching detail is that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of legitimate prophets! There were even schools for these prophets. We don’t know their names, we don’t know what they did specifically, and they are only mentioned occasionally, but there were many of them. (1 Sam 10:10, 1 Kings 18:4, 2 Kings 2:15, Rev 22:9).
In sum, there were many prophets, both true and false, who were active during the OT and NT times. There was far more ongoing spiritual warfare than I realized.
BIBLICAL PASSAGES RELATED TO FALSE PROPHETS
Below are some of the Biblical passages relevant to our review of false prophets. How they are identified, i.e. how their message and moral conduct failed to line up with God’s word. I will only quote a few passages in full. (All quotes are from the New American Standard Bible).11
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Matt 7:15, 16
You will know who the false prophets are by their fruits, i.e. their actions. The evaluation of moral conduct point is stated in the theological writings I noted earlier.
For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. Matthew 24:24-25
False prophets will continue to successfully mislead people, perhaps even Christians, until Christ’s return. They will use signs and miracles as proof of their prophethood.
2 Pet 2:1-3 makes the point that false prophets will teach and permit sexual sin and carnality. See also Rev 2:20
2 Corinthians 11:3, 4, 12-15 shows: 1: Satan inspires false preachers to proclaim different Christs, and different Gospels, 2) Satan dresses himself in the costume of an angel and interfaces with men to deceive them. His servants also practice evil deeds.
1 Cor 10:14-22 shows: 1: demonic powers are behind the worship of false gods, and 2: Christians can be misled or misinformed and fellowship with demons. As Christians we should not be mixing demonic elements with our Eucharist, with the body and blood of Christ. See also 1 Tim 4:1.
James 2:19 establishes that believing in “one God” is not sufficient for being right with God. James is saying, “You believe there is only one God? So what? Demons also believe in one God but they will be cast into hell.”
James 3:13-18 shows that demonic motivations are revealed by jealousy, selfishness, carnality, and violence.
Gal 1:6-17 shows: 1: angels can bring false gospels, 2: God’s plan was to reveal His Son through Paul’s life, 3: men or angels who preach a false gospel should be damned to hell. See also Acts 9:20, 2 Cor 1:19.
John 3:18 mandates that believing in Jesus as the Son of God is part of the Gospel. Not believing in Jesus as the Son of God leads to hell. See also John 3:16, 36, 20:31.
These Scriptures establish boundaries for Biblical prophethood: the prophet’s message and the prophet’s moral conduct. These are the same boundaries that the early church and modern theological writers identified. Further, the New Testament identifies these key details for identifying false prophets: preaching a different Jesus, preaching a different gospel, not identifying Jesus as the Son of God, sinful lifestyle, and sexual immorality.
THE GOSPEL MESSAGE CONTRASTED WITH MUHAMMAD’S MESSAGE
First, an evaluation of Muhammad’s message. How does it compare to the Gospel message? Here is the basic Gospel derived from Scripture, 1 Cor 15:1-4, John 20:31, Rom 10:9, 10, Rev. 3:20:
a) Jesus was crucified and died for our sins
b) He was resurrected from the dead
c) We are to put our faith in Him as the Son of God
d) We are to receive and obey Him as Lord.
How does Muhammad’s message align with the Gospel message?
a & b) Muhammad denied that Jesus was crucified (therefore He could not have been resurrected):
“And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger – they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain. Quran 4:157, 158.12
There are various interpretations of this verse but the majority of Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified. See The Crucifixion of Christ – A Christian Critique of the Quran
c) Muhammad denied that Jesus was the Son of God.
There are several of Quran verses that state this:
Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He begetteth not nor was begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him. Quran 112.13
In Miroslav Volf’s book, “Do We Worship the Same God?” we find a quote from Muslim scholar Reza Shah-Kazemi commenting on Sura 112:
There is evidently a theological impasse here, a fundamental incompatibility between the respective conceptual forms taken by belief in the same God. Even if Christians retort to the above verses by denying any kind of carnal relation in the “sonship” of Jesus, insisting that the sonship in question does not occur in time and space, but is an eternal principle, of which the historical Incarnation is but an expression, it is nonetheless clear that the Qur’an emphatically rejects the idea that “sonship” – whether physical, metaphorical, or metaphysical – should form part of any creedal statement regarding God. In other words, it rejects the validity of ascribing to Jesus the status of “son of God,” and in so doing rejects a belief that constitutes a cardinal tenet of Christian faith.14
See also my discussion of Volf’s book: Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?
Other Quran verses that deny Jesus is the Son of God: 2:116, 9:30, 19:34-36.
d) Muhammad denied that Jesus is Lord.
And behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah’?” He will say: “Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, Thou I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden. 5:11615
Lo! the likeness of Jesus with Allah is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, then He said unto him: Be! and he is. 3:59-6016
“O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. 4:17117
See also Quran 5:116 and 3:56, 60.
Summary of Muhammad’s message contrasted with the Gospel message.
Muhammad contradicted these four key Gospel requirements. His statements in the Quran, which Muslims believe are God’s literal words, are contradictions not “different understandings.” Islam’s God says “Jesus is not my Son!”, Christianity’s God says Jesus “is My beloved Son!” These Gods do not agree. Either Jesus is the Son of God, or He is not. It is a simple, black and white, all or nothing, preposition.
This leads us back to the Scriptural evaluation of whether or not a person is a true prophet. Muhammad fails to meet the standards or requirements stated in 2 Corinthians 11:3, 4, 12-15, 1 Cor 10:14-22, Gal 1:6-17, John 3:18, etc. By comparing the content of Muhammad’s message found in the Quran and comparing it to Christ’s message in the Bible, we can conclude that Muhammad is not a true prophet. Muhammad was a false prophet.
In this evaluation we let the Quran and the Bible speak for themselves. They both spoke and contradicted each other. The same God could not have spoken both Scriptures. Different Gods established different faiths.
MUHAMMAD’S MORAL CONDUCT EVALUATED
The other aspect of evaluating true or false prophethood is examining the person’s moral conduct. Here we constrained to use the sira and hadith to find examples of the traditional Muhammad’s conduct because the Quran contains little of value here. However, Quran references will be added as applicable.
Muhammad’s life is a story of how a man who started in weakness ended with great power. This power extended from political, to judicial, to sexual. How did he handle that power? How did he treat those who disagreed with him or even criticized him? On this note, Plato said, “The measure of a man is what he does with power,” and Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Men in power have the ability to treat others fairly, morally, or harshly. This will be part of the consideration.
I have studied the sira and hadith in some depth and I’ve found that Muhammad was a man, just like any other man. He had good and bad characteristics, strengths and weaknesses. He made many sacrifices on behalf of his followers. He loved them, cared for them, and was generous to them. Most all of the time he treated them fairly and with respect. All Christians should concede and agree that Muhammad had a good, humble, and loving side. He sincerely loved his followers.
However, throughout history most religious people come into contact with people who disagree with them and are not their followers. Muhammad had a great deal of contact with non-Muslims. How was his conduct toward the non-believers? I am not talking about dealing with enemy combatants, rather I am talking about men and women who disagreed with Muhammad and rejected his claim of prophethood.
No expectation of sinlessness exists here. Moral perfection is not required. King David was a murderer, a sinner, yet used by God. We will not use a microscope or a magnifying glass to review Muhammad’s conduct. Instead, we will look at Muhammad’s life and his questionable actions and see if he justified them, or repented of them. King David repented of his sin against Uriah.
I’ll present five cases that present aspects of Muhammad’s character.
1) Dealings with critics: Abu Afak, Asma Marwan
2) Dealings with money: Kinana
3) Treatment of female slaves
4) Judgment of the Meccan slave girls
5) Treatment of his soldier Dihya
1) Dealings with critics: Abu Afak, Asma Marwan
Abu Afak and Asma Marwan were critics of Muhammad. The both denied his prophethood. Neither was a threat to Muhammad. Abu Afak was 120 years old, and Asma Marwan was a mother of 5 children, one which still nursed. Because they spoke out publically against Muhammad’s claims Muhammad had them murdered. Both were stabbed to death while they slept.
Key quotes from the sira:
The apostle said, “Who will deal with this rascal for me?” Whereupon Salim b. Umayr, brother of B. Amr b. Auf, one of the “weepers”, went forth and killed him.18
When the apostle heard what she had said he said, “Who will rid me of Marwan’s daughter?” Umayr b. Adiy al-Khatmi who was with him heard him, and that very night he went to her house and killed her. In the morning he came to the apostle and told him what he had done and he [Muhammad] said, “You have helped God and His apostle, O Umayr!” When he asked if he would have to bear any evil consequences the apostle said, “Two goats won’t butt their heads about her”, so Umayr went back to his people.19
Key quote from the Quran:
Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves. 48:2920
2) Dealings with money: Kinana
Kinana was a Jewish leader and he was taken captive by the Muslims during the battle of Khaybar. Rumor had it that he knew of buried treasure. Muhammad wanted it. When asked by Muhammad to produce it, Kinana said he knew nothing about it. Muhammad ordered that Kinana be tortured until he “talked.”
Key quote from the sira:
Torture him until you extract what he has.” So he kindled a fire with flint and steel on his chest until he was nearly dead. Then the apostle delivered him to Muhammad b. Maslama and he struck off his head, in revenge for his brother Mahmud.21
Muhammad and the Death of Kinana
3) Treatment of female slaves
When Muhammad attacked and plundered others he took men, women, and children as slaves. He would give the female slaves to his soldiers as their property. His soldiers used the slaves for their sexual pleasure. These slave women were allowed to be raped because they were property. The Quran grants this to the soldiers because they were “what their right hand possesses.” (Note that Muhammad himself had a pretty female slave, Mariyah. Because she was Muhammad’s property he used her for sex).
Key quote from the Quran:
Save worshippers. Who are constant at their worship. And in whose wealth there is a right acknowledged for the beggar and the destitute; and those who believe in the Day of Judgment, and those who are fearful of their Lord’s doom – Lo! the doom of their Lord is that before which none can feel secure – and those who preserve their chastity save with their wives and those whom their right hands possess, for thus they are not blameworthy; 70:22-3022
Also see 23:5,6, 4:24
Key quotes from the hadith:
Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri that during the battle with Bani Al-Mustaliq they (Muslims) captured some females and intended to have sexual relations with them without impregnating them. So they asked the prophet about coitus interruptus. The prophet said, “It is better that you should not do it, for Allah has written whom He is going to create till the Day of Resurrection”.
Qaza’a said, “I heard Abu Said saying that the prophet said, “No soul is ordained to be created but Allah will create it.”23
Abu Sirma said to Abu Said al Khudri: “O Abu Said, did you hear Allah’s messenger mentioning about al-azl (coitus interruptus)?” He said, “Yes”, and added: “We went out with Allah’s messenger on the expedition to the Mustaliq and took captive some excellent Arab women; and we desired them for we were suffering from the absence of our wives, (but at the same time) we also desired ransom for them. So we decided to have sexual intercourse with them but by observing azl” (withdrawing the male sexual organ before emission of semen to avoid conception). But we said: “We are doing an act whereas Allah’s messenger is amongst us; why not ask him?” So we asked Allah’s messenger and he said: “It does not matter if you do not do it, for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born”.24
Muhammad and the Female Captives
(Note that Muhammad also had a female slave, Mariyah, he used for sex because she was “pretty” and it was allowed by virtue of her being his slave).
4) Judgment of the Meccan slave girls
When Muhammad began his ministry in Mecca he spoke out against paganism and mocked the families of the Quraysh leaders. In response they mocked and persecuted him. Over time Muhammad’s love for his former clansmen turned to hatred because of how forcefully they opposed his claim as prophet. In particular there were three slave girls, who may have been forced into prostitution by their owners, who were very effective in humiliating Muhammad with their witticisms and songs: Qaribah, Fartana, and Sara. These slave girls were the lowest of the low in Mecca. Even unbelieving people would feel some sympathy for their plight.
Key quotes from the sira:
The apostle of Allah entered through Adhakhir, [into Mecca], and prohibited fighting. He ordered six men and four women to be killed, they were (1) Ikrimah Ibn Abi Jahl, (2) Habbar Ibn al-Aswad, (3) Abd Allah Ibn Sa’d Ibn Abi Sarh, (4) Miqyas Ibn Sababah al-Laythi, (5) al-Huwayrith Ibn Nuqaydh, (6) Abd Abbah Ibn Hilal Ibn Khatal al-Adrami, (7) Hind Bint Utbah, (8) Sarah, the mawlat (enfranchised girl) of Amr Ibn Hashim, (9) Fartana and (10) Qaribah.25
There should be no doubt that these slave girls hurt Muhammad’s feelings deeply. Because when he returned and conquered Mecca he ordered that these three slaves be killed wherever they were found. There was no regeneration in Muhammad’s heart. Instead we see only deep bitterness, hatred, and vengeance. These slaves should have been pitied, instead Muhammad wanted them dead.
Eventually two were killed and one was forgiven.
Muhammad and the Meccan 10
5) Treatment of his soldier Dihya
Following the battle of Khaybar, Muhammad, as was his custom, was going to distribute his female slaves to his soldiers. One of his soldiers knew of a very beautiful Jewish women, Safiya, and he wanted her for himself. He went to Muhammad and asked if he could pick a slave for himself. Muhammad allowed Dihya to do so and Dihya took Safiya. However, other Muslims told Muhammad that she was so beautiful that she was only fit for him alone. Muhammad commanded Dihya to present Safiya before him. Muhammad took one look at her beauty and took her away from Dihya for himself. Here is one case in which Muhammad defrauded one of his men due to his sex drive.
Key quotes from the hadith:
So the Prophet said, ‘Bring him along with her.’ So Dihya came with her and when the Prophet saw her, he said to Dihya, ‘Take any slave girl other than her from the captives.’ Anas added: The Prophet then manumitted her and married her.”26
Muhammad, Islam, and Sex
Summary of Muhammad’s moral character.
Islam is a man’s religion, it is a religion of power. Power of Muhammad over the Muslims, power of the Muslims over the non-Muslims, power of the Muslim man over the female. Even Aisha noticed how Allah catered to Muhammad’s desires.27
In all of these examples we see Muhammad’s sanction for his murdering, theft, destruction, rape, slavery, and lust. He did not view these as sins to repented of (as David did), instead Muhammad viewed these deeds as Allah-sanctioned.
There are many more examples of Muhammad’s immorality, and dubious spiritual authenticity.
Despite his outward discipline of prayer, these five examples depict a man who on the inside, in his heart, was murderous, angry, and carnal. The Jewish leaders who persecuted Jesus were also disciplined in prayer and ritual. However those outward shows never transformed their heart. So too Muhammad looked good on the outside but was rotten on the inside. He was not a mercy to mankind, but rather the trail of blood in Muhammad’s wake grew ever wide.
When held against Jesus’s teachings, Muhammad is found to be a carnal and sinful man. By the Islamic evidence alone on the basis of his moral character we can conclude that Muhammad was a false prophet.
The movie, “Into the Wild” details the life of a young independent man, Christopher McCandless, who ventured to Alaska and lived in the wild. Things go wrong for him and he is forced to live off the land eating roots, seeds, and berries. He ate the seeds of a plant he believed to be nontoxic, however the seeds were toxic and he grew sick and died. This true and tragic story again highlights a key point for us, “things that look similar may be quite different.” Perhaps if Christopher would have been more knowledgeable or discerning things would have turned out differently.
Jesus warned us, His followers, to beware of false teaching and false prophets. Why did He warn us? If it wasn’t important then why did He waste His breath?
It is interesting that immediately after Jesus warned His disciples of false prophets He then warned them of knowing Him well enough to do His will:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many [n]miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23.
If Christians are so willfully blind that they are unable to identify a false prophet of Muhammad’s scale, how could they be expected to know the Lord? Only foolish, careless Christians would look to them to be their teachers.
In Revelation 2:6 and 15 God says that He hates the deeds of the Nicolatians. If God hates evil deeds and false doctrines shouldn’t we? Is there any false prophet in history who has taught such false doctrine and done as much damage to the church, the bride of Christ, as Muhammad? Dedicated Muslims have martyred far more Christians than the Roman Empire.
The Bible provides guidelines for determining a true or false prophet: content of message and content of moral character. Muhammad’s message contradicts, denies, and opposes the Gospel message on all major points. By the Biblical standard Muhammad must be identified as a false prophet. Muhammad’s character also fails the Biblical standard: Muhammad was a murderer, liar, thief, and lascivious. By the Biblical standard Muhammad must be identified as a false prophet. Christians, grounded in their faith, devoted to their Savior, and faithful to the word of God, have the strength and integrity to reject Muhammad’s claim as a prophet.
This evaluation of Muhammad’s prophethood reaches a conclusion easily: Islam’s prophet was a false prophet. Franklin Graham called Islam a “very evil and wicked religion.” I agree with brother Graham. I would say that Muhammad, judged by his teachings and actions, was a “very evil and wicked false prophet.” Sidney Griffith, in “The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque,” notes that some of the earliest Christian writings about Muhammad identified him as a false prophet.28 Those early Christians got it right. I join in harmony with them and say that Muhammad was a false prophet.
We have evaluated the traditional Muhammad’s prophethood. This is the Muhammad of Islam’s history, and of the world today. This is the only Muhammad in play. When the details from the Quran, hadith, and sira are examined Muhammad can only be identified and labeled as a false prophet, an enemy of Christ, and persecutor of the bride of Christ.
Continue to Part 2.
ADDENDUM A: Muhammad in the arts.
There was a time when Muhammad was viewed by the church just like ISIS is viewed today: a bringer of evil, tragedy, and suffering. In “Dante’s Inferno” Dante’s Inferno, Canto 28, Muhammad, punished for his sins of scandal and schism, is depicted as suffering daily disemboweling:
A cask by losing centre-piece or cant
Was never shattered so, as I saw one
Rent from the chin to where one breaketh wind.
Between his legs were hanging down his entrails;
His heart was visible, and the dismal sack
That maketh excrement of what is eaten.
While I was all absorbed in seeing him,
He looked at me, and opened with his hands
His bosom, saying: “See now how I rend me;
How mutilated, see, is Mahomet;
In front of me doth Ali weeping go,
Cleft in the face from forelock unto chin;
And all the others whom thou here beholdest,
Disseminators of scandal and of schism
While living were, and therefore are cleft thus.
A devil is behind here, who doth cleave us
Thus cruelly, unto the falchion’s edge
Putting again each one of all this ream,
When we have gone around the doleful road;
By reason that our wounds are closed again
Ere any one in front of him repass.29
Here is an artist’s rendering of God’s judgment upon Muhammad in hell:30
ADDENDUM B: Other recommended articles:
1) Sam Shamoun addresses other aspects of Muhammad’s claim to be a prophet:
“Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist – he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” 1 John 2:22-23 NIV
2) Charisma Magazine has an excellent examination of false prophet’s messages. Those of you familiar with the character and fruit of Muhammad’s “companions” will immediately recognize the stark contrast between Islam’s fruit and Christianity’s fruit.
Different Character—What kind of people does the message produce? The true believer pursues goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (1 Peter 1:5-7)
3) Those of you who want to see a video that identifies similar and additional reasons why Muhammad is a false prophet:
Silas 22 Nov 2016
1 See Nuh Ha Mim Keller, “Reliance of the Traveller”, Beltsville Maryland, Amana, 1991, section w4.3.
2 Pickthall, Mohammed, “The Meaning of the Glorious Koran”, Mentor, New York, 1953
3 The same could be done for other faiths such as Mormonism, Zoroastrianism, and Buddhism.
4 Would Donald Trump fit Wessel’s definition?
5 Kittel and Friedrich, “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,” Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmanns, 1968, Volume 6, 829.
6 ibid., 833
7 ibid., 849
8 See Robert H. Mounce, “The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Book of Revelation, Revised, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, 1977, 349.
9 ibid., 849, 850
10 Kittel and Friedrich, “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,” Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmanns, 1968, Volume 6, 856.
11 New American Standard New Testament, Foundation Press, La Habra, California, 1972
12 Mohammed Pickthall, “The Meaning of the Glorious Koran”, Mentor, New York, 1953
13 Mohammed Pickthall, “The Meaning of the Glorious Koran”, Mentor, New York, 1953
14 Volf, Miroslav, “Allah: A Christian Response”, Harper One, New York, New York, 2011, p. 81
15 Ali, Yusuf, “The Holy Qur’an”, Amana, Beltsville, Maryland, 1989
16 Mohammed Pickthall, “The Meaning of the Glorious Koran”, Mentor, New York, 1953
17 Ali, Yusuf, “The Holy Qur’an”, Amana, Beltsville, Maryland, 1989
18 Guillaume, A., “The Life of Muhammad”, a translation of Ibn Ishaq’s “Sirat Rasul Allah”, Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan, 675.
19 ibid., 675, 676
20 Mohammed Pickthall, “The Meaning of the Glorious Koran”, Mentor, New York, 1953.
21 Guillaume, A., “The Life of Muhammad”, a translation of Ibn Ishaq’s “Sirat Rasul Allah”, Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan, 515.
22 Mohammed Pickthall, “The Meaning of the Glorious Koran”, Mentor, New York, 1953.
23 Bukhari, Muhammad, “Sahih Bukhari”, Kitab Bhavan, New Delhi, India, 1987, translated by M. Khan, volume 9 #506.
24 Muslim, Abu’l-Husain, “Sahih Muslim”, International Islamic Publishing House, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1971, translated by A. Siddiqi, volume 2, #3371
25 Ibn Sa’d, (d. 852 A.D.), “Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir”, (Book of the Major Classes), translated by S. Moinul Haq, Pakistan Historical Society, volume 2, 168.
26 Bukhari, Muhammad, “Sahih Bukhari”, Kitab Bhavan, New Delhi, India, 1987, translated by M. Khan, volume 1, #367.
27 ibid., volume 6, #311
28 Sidney Griffith, “The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque”, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 2008, 24, 25.
An Analysis of the Muslim Appeal to Biblical Prophecy
By David Wood
According to many Muslims, the Bible is full of prophecies about Muhammad. Christian apologists have spent a great deal of time refuting this claim, but, as the following account will demonstrate, the Bible does contain clear prophecies about Muhammad. Nevertheless, the Muslim search for prophecies supporting Islam has been sloppy; as a result, defenders of Islam have failed to provide a single well-evidenced example of a Biblical prediction about their prophet. Thus, after briefly examining the Qur’anic claim to Biblical support, I will show (1) that the standard Biblical verses used by Muslims to support this claim are extremely problematic for Islam, and (2) that Christian apologists are wrong when they claim that the Bible is silent when it comes to Islam.
The Qur’an expressly states that both the Old and New Testaments contain references to Muhammad:
Those who follow the Messenger, The unlettered Prophet, Whom they find mentioned In their own (Scriptures)—In the Law and the Gospel— … It is they who will prosper. (Qur’an 7:157)
And remember, Jesus, The son of Mary, said: “O Children of Israel! I am the messenger of Allah (Sent) to you, confirming The Law (which came) Before me, and giving Glad Tidings of a Messenger To come after me, Whose name shall be Ahmad [i.e. Muhammad].” (Qur’an 61:6)
Similarly, early Muslim writings suggest that the Bible contains numerous prophecies about Muhammad:
Ata Ibn Yasar narrated: “I met Abdullah bin Umar bin Amr bin Al-As and asked him: ‘Tell me about the description of Allah’s Apostle (the blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) which is mentioned in the Torah (i.e. Old Testament).’ He replied: ‘Yes, By Allah, he is described in the Torah with some of the qualities attributed to him in the Qur’an.’”
I was told the story of Abdullah bin Salam, a learned rabbi, by one of his family. He said: “When I heard about the apostle I knew by his description, name, and the time at which he appeared that he was the one we were waiting for, and I rejoiced greatly thereat. . . . I emerged and said: ‘O Jews, fear God and accept what He has sent you. For by God you know that he is the apostle of God. You will find him described in your Torah and even named.’”
Among the things which have reached me about what Jesus the Son of Mary stated in the Gospel which he received from God for the followers of the Gospel, in applying a term to describe the apostle of God, is the following. It is extracted from what John the Apostle set down for them when he wrote the Gospel for them from the Testament of Jesus Son of Mary: “He that hateth me hath hated the Lord. And if I had not done in their presence works which none other before me did, they had not had sin: but from now they are puffed up with pride and think that they will overcome me and also the Lord. But the word that is in the law must be fulfilled, ‘They hated me without a cause’ (i.e. without reason). But when the Comforter has come whom God will send to you from the Lord’s presence, and the spirit of truth which will have gone forth from the Lord’s presence he (shall bear) witness of me and ye also, because ye have been with me from the beginning. I have spoken unto you about this that ye should not be in doubt.”
So Heraclius ordered the Roman generals [who were Christians] to assemble in a room and commanded that the doors should be fastened. Then he looked down on them from an upper chamber (for he was afraid of them) and said: “O Romans, I have brought you together for a good purpose. This man [i.e. Muhammad] has written me a letter summoning me to his religion. By God, he is truly the prophet whom we expect and find in our books, so come and let us follow him and believe in him that it may be well with us in this world and the next.”
Recognizing the importance of the Qur’anic assertion that the Bible contains clear prophecies about Muhammad, Muslims have spent nearly fourteen centuries trying to find these prophecies. While hundreds of verses have been suggested as candidates, only a handful are now being seriously put forward as Biblical references to Muhammad. Of this handful, two are most common: Moses’ prophecy of a prophet similar to himself and Jesus’ prediction of the coming “Comforter.” Since these are Islam’s most significant examples of Biblical support for Muhammad, we shall call these two prophecies the “Major Prophecies.” The remaining, less important ones shall be referred as the “Minor Prophecies.”
The Major Prophecies
In his note on verse 7:157 of the Qur’an, commentator Yusuf Ali offers the following evidence for the claim that Muhammad is mentioned in “the Law and the Gospel”:
In this verse is a prefiguring, to Moses, of the Arabian Messenger, the last and greatest of the Messengers of Allah. Prophecies about him will be found in the Tawrah and the Injil [Gospel]. In the reflex of the Tawrah as now accepted by the Jews, Moses says: “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me” (Deut. 18:15): the only Prophet who brought a Shari’ah [Law] like that of Moses was Muhammad al Mustafa, and he came of the house of Isma’il, the brother of Isaac, the father of Israel. In the reflex of the Gospel as now accepted by Christians, Christ promised another Comforter, (John 14:16): the Greek word Paraclete which the Christians interpret as referring to the Holy Spirit is by our Doctors taken to be Periclyte, which would be the Greek form of Ahmad.
Hence, to defend the validity of the Qur’an on this issue, Ali offers a single prophecy from the Old Testament and another from the New Testament. Together, these two predictions form the “one-two punch” of the Argument from Biblical Prophecy. Yet Muslims have to tear both prophecies out of context in order to make them conform to the Islamic interpretation. (This is why Islamic books and pamphlets rarely quote entire passages; to do so would expose the context and would refute the argument.) A careful analysis reveals the truth about these texts.
The first of the Major Prophecies comes from Deuteronomy, where Moses predicts the rise of another prophet:
The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken; according to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not. And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him. (Deuteronomy 18:15-19)
Muslims argue that this prophecy could only have been fulfilled by Muhammad, who, like Moses, was a lawgiver, a prophet, and a military leader. Further, this Prophet was to come from the brethren of the Israelites, which must be a reference to the Ishmaelites (Muhammad’s purported ancestors), for Ishmael was the brother of Isaac, the father of Israel. These facts, along with other similarities between Muhammad and Moses, support the identification of “the Prophet” with Muhammad.
If we were to take Deuteronomy 18:15 by itself, completely ignoring the rest of the book, we might have some reason to agree with the Muslim apologists on this issue. However, even a cursory examination of the context of this prophecy demonstrates the flaws in the Islamic position.
First, the passage says that God will raise up a prophet like Moses, because the Israelites didn’t want to speak directly with God. The Israelites said, “Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God … that I die not,” and God replied, “They have well spoken that which they have spoken.” Hence, when verse 18:15 is taken in context, we see that the Jews were asking for a mediator, someone to stand between them and God just as Moses did. The ultimate fulfillment of this passage would be someone who stands as a permanent mediator between God and man. While Muhammad could certainly be viewed as an intermediary of some sort, the passage seems to fit more comfortably if the Prophet is Jesus. At best, one could argue that Muhammad was a link in the chain of transmission from the Qur’an, from Allah, to Gabriel, to Muhammad, to mankind. But this doesn’t fulfill the prophecy. Muslims don’t believe in the sort of mediator required by Deuteronomy 18. In Christianity, however, Jesus is a permanent mediator: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time” (1 Timothy 2:5-6).
Next, Moses says that God will raise up a prophet “from the midst of thee.” Since he is talking to Israelites, it sounds as if God is telling them that he will raise up a prophet from the midst of Israel. In any case, Muhammad surely wasn’t raised up from the midst of Jews. Jesus, on the other hand, was born and raised in Israel, so the context again fits more comfortably if Moses is referring to Jesus.
Third, although Muslims often claim that the term “brethren” must refer to the Ishmaelites, the Book of Deuteronomy shows that this claim is completely false. To be sure, “brethren” can be used to refer to people other than the Jews, and it is used in this manner with the Edomites earlier in Deuteronomy (see 2:4). However, the term “brethren” is most commonly used when referring to other Israelites:
If there be among you a poor man of one of thy brethren within any of thy gates in thy land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, thou shalt not harden thy heart, nor shut thine hand from thy poor brother. (Deuteronomy 15:7)
That this verse refers to fellow Israelites is clear from the verses that follow, for Moses tells his listeners not to ignore the brother just because the year for canceling debts is near (the year of debt-cancellation was meant for fellow Israelites).
“Brethren” is also used regarding the selection of a king:
When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me; thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother. (Deuteronomy 17:14-15)
The Jews obviously weren’t being commanded to seek an Arab king here. Rather, they were commanded to get a king “from among thy brethren,” meaning a fellow Jew. The term “brethren” is even used as a reference to other Israelites in Deuteronomy 18, the same chapter from which the prophecy is taken:
The priests the Levites, and all the tribe of Levi, shall have no part nor inheritance with Israel: They shall eat the offerings of the LORD made by fire, and his inheritance. Therefore shall they have no inheritance among their brethren: the LORD is their inheritance, as he hath said unto them. (Deuteronomy 18:1-2)
The Levites were to have no inheritance among their brethren (the other tribes of Israel). This is how chapter 18 begins, and we’re never given so much as a hint that the meaning of “brethren” has changed so that, by verse 15, it refers to Ishmaelites. Given this repeated use of “brethren” to refer to Israelites, it is disturbing to read Muslim polemics which claim that “Ishmaelites” is the only possible interpretation of “brethren.” Consider, for instance, what Deedat says about “brethren”:
The children of Isaac are the brethren of the Ishmaelites. In like manner Muhammed is from among the brethren of the Israelites because he was a descendent of Ishmael the son of Abraham. This is exactly as the prophecy has it—”FROM AMONG THEIR BRETHREN”. (Deut. 18:18). There the prophecy distinctly mentions that the coming prophet who would be like Moses, must arise NOT from the “children of Israel” or from “among themselves”, but from among their brethren. MUHAMMAD THEREFORE WAS FROM AMONG THEIR BRETHREN!
Contrary to what Deedat suggests, Moses’ prophecy doesn’t say that the prophet must not come from the children of Israel. Indeed, given the repeated use of “brethren” to refer to Israelites in Deuteronomy (especially in chapter 18), it is a wonder that anyone would interpret it otherwise. Deedat is therefore either completely ignorant of how “brethren” is used in Deuteronomy, or deliberately deceptive towards his Muslim readers (knowing that few of them will actually examine his absurd claim).
Fourth, the conclusion of the Book of Deuteronomy tells us how we should interpret Moses’ phrase “like unto me”:
And Joshua the son of Nun was full of the spirit of wisdom; for Moses had laid his hands upon him: and the children of Israel hearkened unto him, and did as the LORD commanded Moses. And there arose not a prophet since in Israel like unto Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face, in all the signs and wonders, which the LORD sent him to do in the land of Egypt to Pharaoh, and to all his servants, and to all his land, and in all that mighty hand, and in all the great terror which Moses shewed in the sight of all Israel. (Deuteronomy 34:9-12)
Here the phrase “like unto Moses” suggests a prophet who would speak with God face to face and perform signs and wonders “in the sight of all Israel.” Muhammad doesn’t fit either of these criteria. He claimed to have received his revelations from Gabriel, not directly from God, and he admittedly could not perform miracles. Jesus, however, both performed miracles (as even the Qur’an acknowledges) and spoke directly with God:
Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. (John 5:19-20)
Then said Jesus unto them, When ye have lift up the Son of man, then shall ye know that I am he, and that I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things. (John 8:28)
For I have not spoken of myself; but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak. And I know that his commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto me, so I speak. (John 12:49)
He that loveth me not keepeth not my sayings: and the word which you hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. (John 14:24)
Finally, while Muslims appeal to Deuteronomy 18:15-19 as evidence for their prophet, they would do well to read the next verse, which, when combined with a certain embarrassing event from Muhammad’s life, turns out to be proof against the prophet of Islam. In Deuteronomy 18:20, God declares:
But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.
Here God gives us two criteria for recognizing a false prophet: (1) If a person delivers a revelation which doesn’t come from God, the person is a false prophet; and (2) if a person speaks in the name of other gods, the person is a false prophet. Interestingly, Muhammad meets both criteria, for he delivered the infamous “Satanic Verses” (i.e. verses he gave to his followers as part of the Qur’an but later claimed were inspired by Satan). Since these verses did not come from God, Muhammad meets the first criterion. And since the verses promoted polytheism, Muhammad meets the second criterion as well. Hence, the very passage that Muslims claim as their primary Biblical prophecy about Muhammad turns out to proclaim that Muhammad can’t be a prophet at all! (For a much fuller treatment of Deuteronomy 18:20 as evidence against Muhammad, see “The Deuteronomy Deductions.”)
True, Moses and Muhammad had some similarities. Nevertheless, when we examine the context in Deuteronomy, we find that these similarities count for little. Moses told the Israelites that God would send them another intercessor; in the New Testament, Jesus is the mediator between God and man. Moses told the Israelites that God would raise up a prophet from the midst of them; whereas Jesus was born in Israel, Muhammad was born in what is now Saudi Arabia. Moses told the Israelites that the prophet would come from among their “brethren,” a term that is used over and over again to refer to their fellow Israelites; Jesus was a Jew, yet Muhammad was an Arab. Moses was known as a miracle worker who spoke directly to God; it is Jesus, not Muhammad, who was like Moses in these respects. On top of all this, Deuteronomy 18:20 rules out Muhammad as a prophet.
Of course, Muslims are free to believe that Moses’ prophecy in Deuteronomy 18 refers to Muhammad. But when they offer this verse as evidence of Muhammad’s prophethood, the burden of proof of is on them. Since the major characteristics of the Prophet in Deuteronomy apply most directly to Jesus, Muslims need to find another Major Prophecy to sustain the Qur’anic claim to Biblical support.
At this point, Muslims turn to the book of John, where Jesus predicts the coming “Comforter”:
If ye love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. I will not leave you comfortless: I will come to you. (John 14:15-18)
These things have I spoken unto you, being yet present with you. But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. (John 14:25-26)
But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me: and ye also shall bear witness, because ye have been with me from the beginning. (John 15:26-27)
Oddly enough, Muslims see these passages as predictions of the coming of Muhammad. Indeed, after quoting all three passages about the Comforter, Maulana Muhammad Ali maintains, “All these prophetic words predict in unequivocal terms the advent of another prophet after Jesus.” Muslims reason that, since the Comforter will not come unless Jesus returns to the Father, this prophecy cannot possibly be referring to the Holy Spirit, for the Holy Spirit was already present in Jesus. Thus, Jesus must have been predicting the rise of another prophet, and (for some reason) Muhammad is the only possible candidate. Such a claim is, to say the least, quite baffling to anyone familiar with John’s Gospel.
First, Muslims draw this prophecy from a book that begins by declaring that Jesus is God and that he created all things (John 1:1-3). In the Book of John, Jesus claims to have existed before Abraham (8:58) and describes himself as the ladder between heaven and earth (1:51; cf. Genesis 28:10-17). A blind man who receives his sight worships Jesus (9:35-38), and Thomas calls Jesus “My Lord and my God” (20:28). Jesus is crucified, dead, buried, and resurrected, events that are at odds with the Qur’an. Further, in the very chapters to which Muslims appeal for their predictions about Muhammad, Jesus proclaims that he is the only way to God (14:6), that anyone who has seen him has seen the Father (14:9), that he is “in the Father” and that the Father is in him (14:11), that he can answer prayers (14:14), and that we cannot bear fruit unless we abide in him (15:4). We might wonder why Muslims appeal to a book that is so diametrically opposed to Islam. However, we must remember that Muhammad declared that there are prophecies about him in the New Testament. Muslims are thus forced into grasping at anything that will help them vindicate Muhammad’s claim.
Second, the three passages from John repeatedly identify the Comforter as the Holy Spirit (or the “Spirit of Truth”). Yet Muslims argue that these verses simply can’t refer to the Holy Spirit:
The terms of the prophecy do not warrant the conclusion that they are applicable to the Holy Ghost. “If I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you” are words too clear to need any comment. The New Testament says that John was filled with the Holy Ghost even before he was born. Then it speaks of Jesus himself as receiving the Holy Ghost in the shape of a dove. Thus the Holy Ghost used to visit men before the time of Jesus as well as in his own time.
This argument clearly misses the point of Jesus’ prediction. Jesus acknowledges that the Spirit was already with them: “… for he dwelleth with you.” The prophecy was that the Spirit would be in them and dwell with them forever. This was something entirely new, and it was by no means invalidated because the Spirit was already in Jesus.
Third, as we just saw, Jesus says that the Comforter would be with his disciples forever. In no sense was Muhammad ever with Jesus’ disciples, let alone with them permanently.
Fourth, according to the prophecy, the world cannot receive the Comforter because it cannot see him. Thousands of people saw Muhammad during his lifetime, for he was visible. Thus, the invisible Comforter cannot be the visible Muhammad.
Fifth, Jesus tells the disciples that the Comforter was already with them. While the Holy Spirit was with Jesus’ disciples, Muhammad wasn’t born for more than five centuries after this prophecy and therefore couldn’t have been with them.
Sixth, the Comforter was to be in the disciples. Muhammad is not in Jesus’ followers and never will be. The Holy Spirit, on the other hand, filled the believers at Pentecost and has been in Christians ever since.
Seventh, Jesus said that he would send the Comforter from the Father. Muslims do not believe that Muhammad was sent by Jesus; they believe that Muhammad was sent by God. So, unless Muslims are willing to admit that Jesus is God, they should not accept this as a prophecy about Muhammad.
Finally, prior to his ascension, Jesus predicted that his followers would “be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence” (Acts 1:5). The Holy Spirit came to Jesus’ followers shortly after his ascension to the Father:
And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance. (Acts 2:1-4)
Thus, the fulfillment of this prophecy came within a matter of days. Muhammad came more than five hundred years later.
Putting all of this together, we see that Muhammad could not have been the Comforter. He was not with the apostles, he was not in the apostles, he was not with them forever, he was not invisible, he was not sent by Jesus, and he did not come quickly, as Jesus said he would. Yet the Holy Spirit matches this description perfectly. Jesus identified the Comforter as the Holy Spirit, who was with the disciples, was in them at Pentecost, was invisible, came quickly, was sent by Jesus, and has been with Christians for nearly two thousand years. Given the facts, Muslims who apply these verses to Muhammad should be ashamed of themselves.
The Minor Prophecies
Although the most popular Muslim prophecies completely fail upon closer inspection, Muslim apologists have offered a number of other weaker examples of predictions about Muhammad. They are less common because, in context, they typically have nothing to do with a coming prophet or the rise of another religion. Muslims therefore have to force their own meaning into these prophecies, but they do so at the expense of their own integrity.
In addition to the prophecies discussed above, Maulana Muhammad Ali offers three other Biblical prophecies about the rise of Muhammad. Yet he begins, oddly enough, by quoting some verses from the Qur’an regarding the coming of a final prophet, and he goes on to argue that only Muhammad fits the description of the “Messenger” in these verses. Ali thus quotes verses given by Muhammad as evidence that Muhammad was the one proclaimed in the verses!
After engaging in this bit of circular reasoning, Ali offers a promise made to Abraham (cleverly combined with a later promise about Ishmael) as the first prediction of the rise of Islam:
Now the LORD had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: 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 curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed. (Genesis 12:1-3)
And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. (Genesis 17:20)
Ali considers this to be the first “prophecy announcing the advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammad.” However, while I quoted the first passage in context, I left the second passage as it appears in Ali’s book. Watch what happens when we include the surrounding verses:
And Abraham said unto God, O that Ishmael might live before thee! And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him. And as for Ishmael, I have heard thee: Behold, I have blessed him, and will make him fruitful, and will multiply him exceedingly; twelve princes shall he beget, and I will make him a great nation. But my covenant will I establish with Isaac, which Sarah shall bear unto thee at this set time in the next year. (Genesis 17:18-22)
Hence, to support his case, Ali quotes a promise that God made to Abraham, then quotes a verse about Ishmael, claiming that it shows that the promise refers to Ishmael and his descendents (i.e. Muhammad). Yet, in quoting the verse, he leaves out all the surrounding material, which states that the covenant was to be made, not with Ishmael, but with Isaac. Knowing that few of his readers will be so bold as to actually look up the references he cites, Ali has no difficulty wrenching this verse from its context, giving it a meaning far different from the one expressed in Genesis.
Nevertheless, Muslims still argue that this passage predicts the rise of a nation from Ishmael’s descendents, and that such a prediction can only refer to the rise of Islam. However, the fulfillment of this prophecy took place in the Book of Genesis, not twenty-six centuries later in Mecca:
Now these are the generations of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, whom Hagar the Egyptian, Sarah’s handmaid, bare unto Abraham: and these are the names of the sons of Ishmael, by their names, according to their generations: the firstborn of Ishmael, Nebajoth; and Kedar, and Adbeel, and Mibsam, and Mishma, and Dumah, and Massa, Hadar, and Tema, Jetur, Naphich, and Kedemah: these are the sons of Ishmael, and these are their names, by their towns, and by their castles; twelve princes according to their nations. (Genesis 25:12-16)
Ali’s second example is Moses’ prediction of a prophet like himself, which we have already addressed. His third prophecy also comes from Deuteronomy:
And this is the blessing, wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. And he said, The LORD came from Sinai, And rose up from Seir unto them; He shined forth from mount Paran, And he came with ten thousands of saints: From his right hand went a fiery law for them. (Deuteronomy 33:1-2)
Notice that this passage says nothing about prophets. It is a description of God’s victory in bringing the Israelites into the Holy Land. God was with them as they passed Sinai, Seir, and Paran. Indeed, the language used by Moses to describe God’s help is common in the Old Testament:
LORD, when thou wentest out of Seir, When thou marchedst out of the field of Edom, The earth trembled, and the heavens dropped, The clouds also dropped water. The mountains melted from before the LORD, Even that Sinai from before the LORD God of Israel. (Judges 5:4-5)
O God, when thou wentest forth before thy people, When thou didst march through the wilderness; Selah. The earth shook, the heavens also dropped At the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved At the presence of God, the God of Israel. … The chariots of God are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels: The Lord is among them, as in Sinai, in the holy place. (Psalm 68:7-8, 17)
Yet Muslim apologists claim that Moses’ words at the beginning of his blessing aren’t a description of God’s victory; instead, they are a prediction of three great prophets. Ali argues:
“Coming from Sinai” refers to the appearance of Moses, while “rising up from Seir” refers to the conquest of Seir by David. Now Paran is admittedly the ancient name for the land of Hijaz, where arose Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be upon him) from among the descendents of Ishmael.
Most Muslim commentators, however, believe that “Seir” refers to the prophethood of Jesus, not to the conquest of Seir by King David. Thus Badawi claims:
Deuteronomy 33:1-2 combines references to Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. It speaks of God (i.e. God’s revelation) coming from Sinai, rising from Seir (probably the village of Sa’ir near Jerusalem) and shining forth from Paran. According to Genesis 21:21, the wilderness of Paran was the place where Ishmael settled (i.e. Arabia, specifically Mecca).
These interpretations are fraught with difficulties. Moses’ blessing begins by saying that the LORD (not the prophets) came from Sinai, rose up from Seir, and shined forth from Mount Paran. To say that this really refers to prophets requires an unjustified leap of interpretation, especially since similar language is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to describe God’s victories over Israel’s enemies. Further, while God gave a revelation at Sinai, the Muslim interpretations of “Seir” are problematic. Ali holds that it refers to David’s conquest of Seir, but what does this have to do with the rise of a prophet or the giving of revelation? Badawi says that the reference to Seir probably refers to the village of Sa’ir near Jerusalem. But this view is preposterous. The Pentateuch mentions Seir numerous times as the place where the Edomites settled, and the same word is used in Deuteronomy 33. Needless to say, the Edomites didn’t settle in the village of Sa’ir near Jerusalem, which makes it impossible to link Jesus to Seir. Additionally, Paran (near Mecca, according to Muslims) is also mentioned several time in the Torah:
And the children of Israel took their journeys out of the wilderness of Sinai; and the cloud [i.e. the glory of the LORD] rested in the wilderness of Paran. (Numbers 10:12)
And afterward the people removed from Hazeroth, and pitched in the wilderness of Paran. (Numbers 12:16)
And Moses by the commandment of the LORD sent them from the wilderness of Paran: all those men were heads of the children of Israel. (Numbers 13:3)
And they went and came to Moses, and to Aaron, and to all the congregation of the children of Israel, unto the wilderness of Paran, to Kadesh; and brought back word unto them, and unto all the congregation, and shewed them the fruit of the land. (Numbers 13:26)
These be the words which Moses spake unto all Israel on this side Jordan in the wilderness, in the plain over against the Red sea, between Paran, and Tophel, and Laban, and Hazeroth, and Dizahab. (Deuteronomy 1:1)
Mount Paran is in northwestern Sinai, a great distance from Mecca. However, even if Paran were the land of Muhammad, as Badawi claims, the Torah would simply be telling us that the Israelites spent time there during their flight from Egypt, and that the fiery pillar of the glory of God rested there for a time. It makes sense, then, to think that Moses’ report that the LORD “shined forth from mount Paran” refers to the LORD literally shining forth from Mount Paran, not to Muhammad figuratively shining forth with the Qur’an in Mecca.
Ali’s final prophecy (other than Jesus’ prediction of the coming Comforter) is taken from Isaiah:
The burden upon Arabia. In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge, O ye traveling companies of Dedanim. The inhabitants of the land of Tema brought water to him that was thirsty, They prevented with their bread him that fled. For they fled from the swords, From the drawn sword, and from the bent bow, And from the grievousness of war. (Isaiah 21:13-15)
According to Ali, this “burden upon Arabia” is a clear prophecy about Muhammad:
In the first place the word “Arabia” is by itself significant enough. Then the mention of one who fled sheds still further light on the object of the prophecy. The history of the world records but one such flight that has won the importance of a red-letter event—the flight of the Holy Prophet Muhammad from Makkah. … A yet clearer testimony, however, is contained in the words, “he fled from drawn swords.” History confirms that the Holy Prophet Muhammad fled from Makkah while his house was still surrounded by blood-thirsty enemies with drawn swords ready to fall upon him in a body as soon as he came out. … These two authoritative facts of history, supplemented by a direct mention of the land of Arabia as the birth-place of the Promised Prophet, furnished an indisputable clue that the prophecy refers to the Holy Prophet Muhammad.
Before we agree with Ali that this prophecy is “indisputable,” perhaps we should read the next two verses, which he conveniently leaves out of his quotation:
For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Within a year, according to the years of a hireling, And all the glory of Kedar shall fail: And the residue of the number of archers, The mighty men of the children of Kedar, shall be diminished: For the LORD God of Israel hath spoken it. (Isaiah 21:16-17)
The verses that Ali omits provide a timeframe for when the prophecy was to be fulfilled. The fulfillment was to take place within a year of the prophecy! While we cannot be certain when the prophecy was made, we know that Isaiah wrote during the expansion of the Assyrian empire, and that the Assyrians began invading Arabia in 732 B.C. Further, the inhabitants of Tema lived approximately four hundred miles north of Mecca, so it is difficult to imagine how the prophecy could apply to Muhammad’s flight from Mecca. It seems most reasonable, then, to conclude that Isaiah prophesied about the Assyrian empire’s attacks on Arabia that occurred during his own lifetime, not about Muhammad’s flight from Mecca more than a thousand years later.
This concludes Ali’s evidence that the Bible speaks about Muhammad. Other Muslim apologists offer a few additional prophecies, but they all suffer from the same problems. After examining five Biblical “prophecies” about Muhammad, we can see that the method Muslims use in their Argument from Biblical Prophecy consists of the following steps:
Step One: Find any verse in the Bible that can be interpreted, by a stretch of the imagination, as a prophecy about Muhammad;
Step Two: Wrench the verse from its context, ignoring the verses that precede it and those that follow;
Step Three: Ignore all obvious, common-sensical interpretations of the prophecy, especially those that were fulfilled shortly after the prophecy was given;
Step Four: Popularize the prophecy and the Muslim interpretation in books, pamphlets, sermons, and internet articles, knowing that few people will ever critically examine the passage.
While such a method appears detestable to the uninitiated, it comes quite naturally to many Muslim apologists. Nevertheless, it isn’t really their fault. Muhammad claimed that the Bible is full of prophecies about the rise of Islam, so Muslims are doing their best to find those prophecies. They’ve spent nearly fourteen centuries searching for at least two unambiguous predictions (one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament), yet all their attempts have failed. This presents an enormous problem for Islam, for this lack of Biblical support leads to a devastating conclusion. Since Muhammad claimed that the Bible predicts the rise of Islam, the following syllogism refutes Muhammad’s prophethood:
Premise One: If Muhammad was a true prophet, the Bible must contain numerous clear prophecies about him (for this is what he claimed).
Premise Two: There are no clear prophecies about Muhammad in the Bible.
Conclusion: Therefore, Muhammad was not a true prophet.
Of course, this means that the Muslim search for Biblical support has actually backfired and shown the religion to be false. However, such a conclusion may be too hasty, for, in reality, the Bible does contain prophecies about Muhammad. Muslims have simply overlooked them.
The True Prophecies
Consider the following passages drawn from the New Testament:
Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? (Matthew 7:15-16)
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another. And many false prophets shall arise, and shall deceive many. (Matthew 24:9-11)
And no marvel, for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works. (2 Corinthians 11:14-15)
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron. (1 Timothy 4:1-2)
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
These verses need not be applied solely to Muhammad. Yet, without a doubt, Muhammad is a fulfillment of many New Testament prophecies. First, Jesus said that false prophets come in sheep’s clothing, but are actually ravening wolves. Muhammad fits this criterion better than anyone else in history. He convinced his followers that he was the greatest moral example in history, yet he murdered countless people, took part in the slave trade, allowed husbands to beat their wives, allowed his men to have sex with their female slaves, had at least nine wives at one time, admittedly proclaimed verses from Satan, and had sex with a nine-year-old girl. If Muhammad doesn’t fulfill Jesus’ prophecy, then who does?
Next, Jesus said that false prophets would arise, and that they would deceive many. There are currently more than a billion Muslims in the world, and Islam is one of the world’s fastest growing religions. This means that Muhammad is the greatest false prophet of all time, and the most obvious fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy.
Third, the Apostle Paul said that Satan masquerades as an angel of light. If Muhammad had been aware of this, perhaps he would have trusted his first instinct when a spirit claiming to be Gabriel suddenly appeared to him. (Muhammad’s first impression of his revelations was that he was under demonic attack.) This is a clear fulfillment of Paul’s words.
Fourth, Paul said that people would give heed to “seducing spirits” and “doctrines of devils.” Muhammad’s infamous “Satanic Verses” provide a striking example of this. The Prophet of Islam received revelations saying that it was okay for his followers to pray to gods besides Allah. Later, he claimed that Satan had put those words on his lips. Muhammad was therefore seduced by the doctrines of Satan, just as Paul predicted.
Fifth, Paul predicted that a time would come when people would not listen to sound doctrine. Instead, they would turn their ears away from the truth and listen to fables. An application of this prophecy can be made to Muslims today. While there are many Muslims who seek the truth, there are also many who don’t seem to care where the evidence points. Instead of acknowledging that Islam is an untenable religion, they go to teachers like Jamal Badawi and Shabir Ally, who tell them what they want to hear.
These prophecies may all be applied to Muhammad and to Islam. Thus, when Muhammad claimed that other messengers of God had prophesied about him, he was correct. The problem is that these messengers predicted the rise of false prophets, not the rise of a new religion after Christianity. Tragically, most people haven’t heeded the warnings of the prophets. To this day, many even reject the words of Christ. Yet when a man rises from the dead, vindicated by God, everyone should listen to what he says. And when this risen man tells us that false prophets will come, we should probably be suspicious of anyone claiming to be a prophet—especially one with Muhammad’s character flaws. Indeed, in addition to his other flaws, Muhammad is guilty rejecting one of the clearest prophecies in history, a prophecy about the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth:
Who hath believed our report? And to whom is the arm of the LORD revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, And as a root out of a dry ground: He hath no form nor comeliness; And when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; A man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: And we hid as it were our faces from him; He was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, And carried our sorrows: Yet we did esteem him stricken, Smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: The chastisement of our peace was upon him; And with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned every one to his own way; And the LORD hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, Yet he opened not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: And who shall declare his generation? For he was cut off out of the land of the living: For the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, And with the rich in his death; Because he had done no violence, Neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: When thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, He shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: By his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; For he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, And he shall divide the spoil with the strong; Because he hath poured out his soul unto death: And he was numbered with the transgressors; And he bare the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors. (Isaiah 53:1-12)
1 “Prophecies about the advent of Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings of Allah be upon him, are met with in earlier sacred books and had great currency among the nations. . . . The Qur’an asserts that the appearance of the Holy Prophet was foretold by each and all of the foregoing prophets, through whom the covenant was also made with their respective peoples that they would accept him when he made his appearance” (Maulana Muhammad Ali, Muhammad the Prophet [St. Lambert: Payette and Sims, 1993], p. 22).
2 All Qur’an quotations are taken from the Abdullah Yusuf Ali translation.
3 Sahih Al-Bukhari, Dr. Muhammad Matraji, tr. (New Delhi: Islamic Book Service, 2002), Number 2125.
4 Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah (The Life of Muhammad), A. Guillaume, tr. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), pp. 240-241.
5 Ibid., pp. 103-104.
6 Ibid., p. 656.
7 Yusuf Ali, Note 1127. Ali, like many other Muslim commentators, believes that the Greek Paracletos (comforter, helper, counselor) should be rendered Pariclytos (which, he claims, is the Greek form of Ahmad). However, there are more than 5,000 extant Greek manuscripts of John’s Gospel, and not a single one agrees with Ali’s claim. Muslim apologists fail to realize that, when a claim is made, evidence is required. There is simply no justification for the idea that the verse should read “Periclytos.”
8 All Bible quotations are taken from the King James Version, since this is the version that Muslims typically use in their apologetics.
9 Ahmad Deedat, What the Bible Says About Muhammad (New Dehli: Islamic Book Service), p. 13.
10 “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?” (Qur’an 28:48). Ibn Ishaq adds: “[Muhammad said]: ‘How unfortunate is the death of Abu Umama! The Jews and the Arab hypocrites are sure to say “If he were a prophet his companion would not die” and (truly) I have no power from God for myself or for my companion (to avert death)’” (p. 235).
11 Qur’an 3:49.
12 Maulana Muhammad Ali, Muhammad in the Bible, p. 27.
13 Ibid., p. 27.
14 Ibid., pp. 22-23.
15 Ibid., p. 24.
16 Ibid., p. 25.
17 See Jamal Badawi, “Muhammad in the Bible.”
18 Maulana Muhammad Ali, Muhammad in the Bible, p. 26.
19 For references, see “Islam Beheaded.”
20 For more on this, see “A Bewitched Prophet?”
21 See “A Bewitched Prophet?”