By Keith Thompson
According to certain texts like Koran 7:157 and Islamic traditions, Muhammad is claimed to be prophesied in the Jewish and Christian scriptures. Since Muhammad’s time, Muslims have therefore fervently searched the Bible for anything that can sound like a prophecy of Muhammad.
Genesis 17:20 and Ishmael
For example, Muslims say that because Genesis 17:20 calls Ishmael a great nation, and because Muslims say Muhammad came from the line of Ishmael, they claim this is claiming Islam will be a great nation.
But, Genesis 16:11-12 also likens the Ishmaelites a violent donkey or ass of a man. Do Muslims want to say this is a positive prophecy of Muhammad and Muslims? Are they willing to say Muhammad and Muslims are violent asses of men?
Second, the great Ishmaelite nation is not about Islam. The nation is spoken of and its twelve princes are listed later in Genesis 25:13-15 as ancient people long before the time of Muhammad. That was the great nation.
Lastly, being called a “great nation” is not necessarily a compliment or saying the people are good or have God’s favour. In Joshua 23:9 we’re told Israel’s enemies the Lord drove out were “great and strong nations.” Also in Jeremiah 50:9 ungodly pagan nations are called “great nations.” And evil Babylon is called a great nation in Jeremiah 50:41.
Deuteronomy 18:15, 18’s Prophet like Moses
Next, Deuteronomy 18:15, 18 predicts that a future prophet like Moses will rise up “from among you [i.e., the Israelites],” and “from among your [the Israelite’s] brothers.” Muslims falsely claim this is a prophecy of Muhammad (Ahmed Deedat, What the Bible says about Muhammad, [Islamic Book Service], pp. 5-6).
However, this is about Jesus as Peter in Acts 3:22 testified, not Muhammad. We know this because although the Muslims argue the Hebrew term “brothers” here (âchi) can mean “a person from any nation related to the Jewish people,” the fact is the context shows the word should be understood in its other sense, i.e., “a person of the same people” or “a person of Israel” – something Muhammad was not (F. Brown, S. Driver, C. Briggs, The Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, [Hendrickson Publishers, 2010], p. 26). This is because in context the Hebrew word is clearly used in reference to people from among the nation of Israel.
For example, a little earlier in Deuteronomy 17:15 we’re told about Jews selecting a Jewish king for themselves from among their “brothers” (Deuteronomy 17:15), and not from a foreigner, which shows “brothers” here refers to “fellow Israelites.” And in Deuteronomy 18:1-2, 5 we’re told the tribe of Levi would not be given a land allotment like their other “brothers” i.e., “Israelites in different Jewish tribes” (Deuteronomy 18:1-2, 5). Thus, in context “brothers” clearly refers to people from the twelve tribes of the Israelites, and not a foreigner like Muhammad.
Moreover, the future prophet cannot refer to a non-Israelite like Muhammad because Deuteronomy 18:14-15 says the Israelites must not look to the other pagan nations who looked to fortune tellers and diviners since God would instead provide the Israelites with a prophet of their own from among their own brothers. Thus, it only makes sense if the prophet was an Israelite, not someone from a pagan nation like Arabia such as Muhammad.
Yet, in light of v. 15 saying the prophet will be like Moses, Muslims claim Muhammad was more like Moses than Jesus was, and thus Muhammad must be in view. However, when Deuteronomy 18:15, 18 teach this prophet would be like Moses, we are not left to guess in what sense. The text provides its own criteria. Verse 18 explains in what sense he will be like Moses, “I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him” (Deuteronomy 18:18). This is how the prophet would be like Moses. It was Jesus who did this in a greater and more profound way than Muhammad. As Jesus himself proclaimed, “. . . I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me” (John 8:28). And: “Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me” (John 14:24). Muhammad on the other hand often spoke his own words such as his convenient revelations that suited his passions. And he spoke the words of Satan in the infamous “satanic verses.”
Evidence for these two things will now be given.
Muhammad said Koran 33:37 was revealed to allow him to marry his adopted son’s wife Zaynab after Muhammad got aroused seeing her scantily dressed (The History of Al-Tabari, Vol. 8, trans. Michael Fishbein [State University of New York Press, 1997], pp. 2-3). One could also mention how at first Muhammad would give his wives equal attention on separate nights. But then afterwards he began to favor certain wives and Koran 33:51 was conveniently revealed to him which said he should spend nights with wives even though it was not their turn. Muhammad’s wife Aisha, keen on what was taking place, then said the following in response: “I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires” (Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 6, Book 60, Hadith 311). Moreover, one night it was Hafsa’s turn to be with Muhammad but she had to go somewhere. Muhammad therefore decided to instead have intimate relations with one of his slave girls he was not married to in Hafsa’s bed, namely Mary the Copt. Hafsa found out and was very upset (Sunan An-Nasa'i 3411; Tafsir Jalalayn, 66:1). In response Muhammad claimed Koran 66:1 was revealed to him in order to justify his behavior. It says, “O Prophet! Why do you ban (for yourself) that which Allah has made lawful to you, seeking to please your wives?” (Koran 66:1). These are but a few of Muhammad’s convenient revelations which prove he spoke his own words and not words from a holy God. Thus, he was not the prophet like Moses who spoke the words of God.
In the “satanic verses” episode Muhammad gave homage to three false goddesses – thereby speaking in the name of other gods (e.g. The History of al-Tabari, Vol. 6, p. 107; Ibn Isaq, Life of Muhammad, pp. 165–166; Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 6, Book 60, Hadith 385; Koran 17:73-75; 22:52; Tafsir al-Jalalayn, Al-Wahidi and al-Zamakhshari affirm Koran 22:52 refers to the satanic verses episode as being real). Thus, he was not the prophet like Moses who spoke the words of God.
Although Muhammad is not the predicted prophet of Deuteronomy 18:15, 18, he is nevertheless predicted elsewhere in Deuteronomy 18, that is, in v. 20. There we read, “But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die” (Deuteronomy 18:20). Ironically Muhammad fulfilled this when he admittedly delivered the satanic verses.
Lastly, out of desperation some Muslims claim Deuteronomy 34:10 is a prophecy of Moses saying the prophet like him will not come from Israel. The verse says, “And there has not arisen a prophet since in Israel like Moses, whom the LORD knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10). However, that text is not a prophecy of the distant future but immediate future at the time of Joshua and the people of Israel in his day (Deuteronomy 34:9). Since that time the prophet like Moses had not yet come to the people of Israel.
Deuteronomy 33:1-2 and Mount Paran
Now, Muslims sometimes bring up Deuteronomy 33:1-2 which says,
“1This is the blessing with which Moses the man of God blessed the people of Israel before his death. 2He said, ‘The LORD came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran; he came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand’” (Deuteronomy 33:1-2).
Here Muslims falsely claim the first geographical reference, Sinai, refers to Moses delivering God’s message. They claim the second reference, Seir, allegedly refers to Palestine and Jesus giving the message. And the third reference, Mount Paran in Arabia, allegedly predicts Muhammad giving God’s message along with 10,000 Muslim soldiers.
However, this is not at all what is being discussed. Instead, Old Testament scholar Eugene H. Merrill observes that this
“is a poetic rendition describing the Lord’s past dealings with Israel in terms of Epiphany. He appeared as conquering hero to Israel, the sovereign Lord of the heavens who made a covenant with them and who was able, on that basis, to dispense the blessings that followed. As most scholars have noted, the imagery here is that of a Divine Warrior marching at the head of his armies on behalf of those whom he had chosen for protection and blessing. The same motifs appear elsewhere, especially in the Song of the Sea following the exodus (Exod 15:1b-18); the Song of Deborah (Judg 5:2-5), Ps 68 (esp. vv. 7-10); and the prayer of Habakkuk (Hab 3:2-15). . . . Weather at Sinai, Seir or Paran, he was available to them to reveal, sustain, and deliver” (Eugene H. Merril, Deuteronomy, ed. E. Ray Clendenen, The New American Commentary, [B&H Publishing, 1994], pp. 433-434).
Indeed, the text is referring to God’s Divine warrior-like protection, covenant and blessing of the ancient Israelites in Sinai, Seir and Paran. God’s dealings with the ancient Israelites in Seir are discussed in texts like Deuteronomy 2:4: “and command the people, ‘You are about to pass through the territory of the people of Esau, who live in Seir; and they will be afraid of you. So be very careful’” (Deuteronomy 2:4). Regarding God’s dealings with the ancient Israelites in Paran, this is discussed in Numbers 10:12: “and the people of Israel set out by stages from the wilderness of Sinai. And the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran” (Numbers 10:12). So this already happened. It’s not about Muhammad in Paran. And in Numbers 13:3: “So Moses sent them from the wilderness of Paran, according to the command of the LORD, all of them men who were heads of the people of Israel” (Numbers 13:3). And Numbers 13:26: “And they came to Moses and Aaron and to all the congregation of the people of Israel in the wilderness of Paran” (Numbers 13:26). So this has nothing to do with Muhammad, but God being with the Israelites in the wilderness of Paran or wilderness of Arabia during their ancient travels.
Lastly, it is talking about the Lord, not Muhammad, coming with 10,000 of His holy angels to the ancient Israelites (Earl S. Kalland, Deuteronomy, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 3, [Zondervan, 1992], p. 219). Simply read v. 2 carefully: “He said, ‘The LORD [YHWH] came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran; he came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand’” (Deuteronomy 33:2). Thus, the text is clear it is about God coming with 10,000, not Muhammad coming with 10,000. God coming with thousands of his holy ones is a common theme in the Bible (e.g. Psalms 68:17; Jude 1:14).
Song of Solomon 5:16 names Muhammad?
Now, Muslims also cite Song of Solomon 5:16 and claim it mentions Muhammad. It says, “His mouth is most sweet, and he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem” (Song of Solomon 5:16). Muslims claim since the Hebrew word for “lovely” here is makh-mawd' dim, and this sounds similar to the name “Muhammad,” therefore it is a prophecy of Muhammad.
However, there are numerous difficulties with this argument. First, just because a Hebrew word sounds similar to the name of a person in a different language, that does not mean it’s a prophecy of that person. As David Wood observes, “. . . we must conclude that since the Hebrew word for “mouse” is akbar, we should translate the Arabic sentence “Allahu Akbar” as “Allah is a mouse”! Why aren't Muslims embarrassed that their top apologists are using arguments which, if taken seriously, would prove that their god is a rodent?” (David Wood, Zakir Naik Proves That Allah Is a Mouse!)
Secondly, the context of Song of Solomon 5:16 has nothing to do with Muhammad. In that text Solomon’s bride is complementing Solomon in a romantic fashion calling him lovely or desirable. Muhammad was anything but lovely and desirable. Muhammad was a demon possessed, child raping, adulterous, thieving, mass-murdering, perverted, women-beating, torturing, tongue-sucking, jihadist false prophet who invented convenient revelations, etc.
Thirdly, the same Hebrew word in the singular, machmâd, appears in 2 Chronicles 36:19 referring to precious vessels being burnt and destroyed and in Isaiah 64:11 referring to the pleasant buildings of the Jews being laid waste. Does that mean Muhammad was burnt, destroyed and laid waste?
Isaiah 9:6 about Muhammad’s Moles?
Next, according to various Muslims, Isaiah 9:6 is actually a prophecy of Muhammad. The text reads, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). The 8th century Muslim scholar Ali Tabari argued “government shall be upon his shoulders” really meant “the sign of prophecy shall be on his shoulders” (Ali Tabari, The Religion and the Empire, trans. Mingana, p. 95). In other words it’s allegedly talking about Muhammad’s hairy moles on his shoulders as an alleged sign he is a prophet.
However, Isaiah 9:6 is clearly about Christ, not Muhammad. The ancient Jewish Targum of Isaiah affirms this text is about the Messiah, as does Targum Jonathan and Midrash Rabbah Deuteronomy. Moreover, this person is called “Mighty God” which is what Christians call Jesus. Muslims do not call Muhammad “Mighty God.” Lastly, the Hebrew word ham·miś·rāh does not mean “sign of prophecy” will be on his shoulder, as though it were referring to Muhammad’s shoulder moles. It means “dominion” and “rule” will be on his shoulders (William D. Mounce, Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, [Zondervan, 2006], p. 986). The same Hebrew word is used in the very next verse, Isaiah 9:7, where it says “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end. . .” (Isaiah 9:7). If Muslims were right this would mean the increase of Muhammad’s mole would never end. And that would be one large mole!
Isaiah 21:7, 9 Predicts Muhammad Riding on Camels?
Next, Muslims sometimes claim Isaiah 21:7, 9 refer to Jesus and Muhammad riding on donkeys and camels. However, this isn’t about Jesus riding a donkey. That prophecy is in Zechariah 9:9. This isn’t about Muhammad riding on camels either.
Instead Isaiah 21:7, 9 is about Isaiah having a man posted to look for riders on horses, donkeys and camels who would be bringing news from the far country. The message brought from the riders to the watchman was that God caused ancient Babylon to fall by the hands of the Assyrians according to v. 9. (Geoffrey W. Grogan, Isaiah, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 6, [Zondervan, 1986], p. 135). So this is not about Muhammad.
However, Muslims claim since an oracle concerning Arabia is given in v. 13, this must mean the text is about Muhammad. But the problem is vv. 11-12 is an oracle against Edom, and then vv. 13-17 is an oracle against Arabia. These are separate from the events in vv. 7, 9 regarding the camels and donkeys. Moreover, this prophecy against Arabia ends by saying “Within a year, according to the years of a hired worker, all the glory of Kedar will come to an end” (Isaiah 21:16). Did Muhammad come one year after this prophecy was made? No.
Isaiah 29:11-12 Predicts Illiterate Muhammad being given the Koran?
Now, Muslims bring up Isaiah 29:11-12 which mentions one being given a book while being told to read, to which the person responds by saying they cannot read. The text says, “And the vision of all this has become to you like the words of a book that is sealed. When men give it to one who can read, saying, ‘Read this,’ he says, ‘I cannot, for it is sealed.’ 12And when they give the book to one who cannot read, saying, ‘Read this,’ he says, ‘I cannot read’” (Isaiah 29:11-12). Muslims argue v. 12 is similar to the Koran, Sunna and Sira literature which report Muhammad’s encounter with the supposed angel Gabriel in the Cave of Hira where Muhammad was told to read part of the Koran but said he could not (Koran 96:1-5; Sahih Bukhari, Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 3).
However, this is not what Isaiah 29:12 is talking about. In context “the book” which could not be read is not the Koran but instead a vision of Isaiah which is metaphorically described as being sealed in a scroll the Jews could not understand due to being blind (v. 11a). And the vision contained in this metaphorical scroll or book is of God allowing the nations to attack Israel for its disobedience as a judgement, and then at the last moment stopping the nations from doing so as a rescue (vv. 1-10). So when vv. 11-12 mention those who are told to read the scroll (i.e., understand the vision) and yet they can’t, this symbolizes blind, disobedient ancient Israelites who did not understand Isaiah’s vision. That’s the context. It is not about Muhammad and the Koran.
As Old Testament scholar Geoffrey W. Grogan notes, “The whole point of vv. 11-12 is that Isaiah’s own God-given vision was a closed book to the people of Jerusalem. . . . He who could not read . . . the ordinary inhabitant of Jerusalem – was at once removed further still from understanding” (Geoffrey W. Grogan, Isaiah, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Vol. 6, [Zondervan, 1986], p. 188).
Further proof this is about disobedient ancient Israelites not understanding Isaiah’s vision and not about Muhammad and the Koran is seen in the next verse, v. 13, which says, “And the Lord said: ‘Because this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men’” (Isaiah 29:13). These are the blind people described in vv. 11-12 who could not understand (i.e., read) Isaiah’s vision sealed in the metaphorical scroll or book. So are Muslims really going to say this is actually about Muhammad and that Muhammad only honored God with his lips but that his heart was far from God, and that Muhammad taught commandments of men and not God?
Luke 5:36 Predicts Islam as the New Garment?
Now, Muslims will also cite Luke 5:36 which says, “He also told them a parable: ‘No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it on an old garment. If he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old’” (Luke 5:36). Muslims claim the new garment is Islam and that the old garment is the Jews.
However, Islam is not being discussed. In the immediate context Jesus and his disciples were dining with sinners and tax collectors to evangelize them. Then the Pharisees questioned them as to why they would dine with such people. Jesus’ point in his explanatory parable is that evangelizing the righteous as opposed to sinners would be like putting a piece of a new garment on an old garment. It makes no sense. Rather, Jesus came to save the lost and that’s why he was dining with tax collectors and sinners. It has nothing to do with Islam.
Matthew 21:43 shows the Kingdom was given to Islam?
Next Muslims sometimes bring up Matthew 21:43 which says, “Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruits” (Matthew 21:43). Muslims take this to mean the kingdom will be taken from the Jews and given to the Muslims.
Yet, according to the context, this “nation” is comprised of sinners and tax collectors at the time of Jesus (21:31-32) as well as Gentiles at his time (8:11-12) who convert to faith in Christ to make up the new Christian community. It is a new people both Jew and Gentile who turn from their sin and follow Christ. As R. T. France observes based on the context, “The vineyard [21:40-43], which is Israel, is not itself destroyed, but rather given a new lease of life, embodied now in a new ‘nation.’ This ‘nation’ is neither Israel nor the Gentiles, but a new entity, drawn from both, which is characterized not by ethnic origin but by faith in Jesus” (R. T. France, The Gospel According to Matthew, ed. Joel B. Green, The New International Commentary on the New Testament, [Wm. B. Eerdmans, 2007], p. 817).
The word “nation” or ethnos in the Greek here can have this type of meaning. The Baur Danker Arndt and Gingrich lexicon affirms Matthew 21:43’s use of ethnos refers to a body of persons united in some way, neither Jew nor Gentile (Walter Baur, Frederick Danker, William Arndt, F. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament, [University of Chicago Press, 2000], p. 276).
John 1:25 Shows a Prophet was Awaited?
Next, Muslims cite John 1:25 where the Jews ask John the Baptist: “. . . why are you baptizing, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?’” (John 1:25; cf. 7:40-41). Muslims argue this shows the Jews there believed the Christ and the awaited prophet like Moses of Deuteronomy 18:15, 18 were distinct people. Hence, while Jesus was the Christ, they argue, Muhammad was the final prophet (Ahmed Deedat, What the Bible says about Muhammad, [Islamic Book Service], pp. 21-22).
However, a bit later in John 1:45 Jesus is identified as the prophet Moses spoke about: “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found him of whom Moses in the Law and also the prophets wrote, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph’” (John 1:45). Also, later in John 5:46 Jesus Himself affirmed he was the prophet Moses predicted: “For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me” (John 5:46). Likewise, in John 6:14 the Jews finally realized Jesus was not only the Christ but also the awaited prophet Moses spoke about: “When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!’” (John 6:14). Hence, while some Jews falsely thought the Christ and prophet were different, eventually by God's grace the people realized Jesus fulfilled both offices. They were correct as we showed by proving Deuteronomy 18:15, 18 cannot be about Muhammad.
John 14-16 shows Muhammad is the Helper or Comforter?
The last text to examine is John 14-16 which concerns “the Helper.” In John 14:16-17 Jesus said the Helper would be given, “16And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Helper, to be with you forever, 17even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:16-17). Muslims commonly claim this is about Muhammad. In fact, in the Hilali Khan translation of the Koran, they insert John 14:16 in parenthesis when Koran 7:157 claims Muhammad is predicted in the “Injil” or “gospel.”
However, there are many reasons this “Spirit of truth” or “Helper” cannot be about Muhammad but is instead about the Holy Spirit of God.
First, the expression “Spirit of truth” used in the Johannine text was current in pre-Christian Judaism and referred to a literal spirit God placed in his people (Testament of Judah, 20; 1QS III, 18L IV, 23-26; p. Andreas, J. Kostenberger, John, eds. D. A. Carson, G. K. Beale, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, [Baker Academic, 2007], 490).
Secondly, this Spirit was promised to the disciples in John 14:16 (i.e., “he [the Father] will give you [the disciples] another Helper.” Since Muhammad was not around at the time of Jesus’ disciples, this cannot be about him.
Thirdly, this “Helper” is explicitly identified as the “Holy Spirit” in John 14:26 - the same Holy Spirit mentioned throughout the gospels who is not Muhammad (e.g. Matthew 1:18; Mark 12:36; John 1:33).
Fourthly, in John 15:26 and 16:7 Jesus says that He sends this Helper. Did Jesus send Muhammad according to Islamic theology? No.
Fifthly, in John 16:14-15 Jesus said, “. . . he [the Helper] will take what is mine and declare it to you. 15All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you” (John 16:14-15). Did Muhammad teach all that the Father has belongs to Jesus? No. Thus, Muhammad is not the Helper.
Now, Muslims typically object and claim the Holy Spirit already dwelled with people before this (Luke 1:15, 41, 67; 2:26; 3:22) and so Jesus could not give it to the disciples again in John 14:16 (cf. 20:22). Thus, they argue, the Helper must refer to Muhammad. However, Jesus’ teaching in John 14:17 is although the Holy Spirit already dwelled with the disciples (and people like John the Baptist), when Jesus ascended the same Holy Spirit would then be in the disciples forever, which is different. Notice verse 17 carefully: “You know him, for he dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:17). There is a difference between the Holy Spirit first dwelling with the disciples and then being in them forever. So Jesus refutes the Muslim argument and shows appealing to Muhammad is not necessary.