Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Are there Prophecies of Muhammad in the Bible?

Derik Adams

Bassam Zawadi has written an article on "Muhammad in the Bible" (here), attempting to respond to our very own David Wood and his excellent article (here).

First, I don't intend to comment on everything Zawadi has said in his article, since it should be obvious to most readers that he hasn't adequately addressed anything that David has said.

Second, it isn't all that often that I visit Zawadi's website myself, but when I do I always get some kind of a shock. I believe Zawadi has done well in rejecting the use of the "Muhammad in the Bible" polemic, however to some degree he still finds it tenable. I personally believe that in his heart Zawadi already knows that with a sound exegesis of the Scriptures we would never find his prophet explictly or implictly mentioned in them in any way, shape or form.

Let us begin:

"I want to make it clear from the beginning what Muslims actually believe. We believe that Muhammad (peace be upon him) was predicted in the original Torah and Gospel revealed to Moses and Jesus (peace be upon them both) respectively."

The authentic predictions of Muhammad are in the "original Torah and Injeel", but only some of these predictions "REMAIN PRESERVED and found their way into the Bible":

"Some of these prophecies happened to remain preserved and found their way into the Bible, which also contains much falsehood according to Islamic teachings."

But then later:

"Thus, it is not a surprise for a Muslim to find that the predictions of Muhammad (peace be upon him) are vague and some how isolated from the context of the entire Bible. The reason for this is because there is also falsehood in the Bible, which would distort the truth. Thus, the Muslim is not required in any way to prove that Muhammad (peace be upon him) is clearly predicted in the Bible by taking all the verses in the Bible into consideration."

First, since Zawadi apparently believes that prophecies of Muhammad (in the current Bible) are vague and unprovable because of people textually tampering with the Bible how could some of the original predictions in the Torah and Injeel "remain preserved" in the Bible as he said earlier? That is unless he believes the original predictions were actually vague and unprovable which seems to be contrary to what he is arguing for, since he says that was a later development due to textual tampering.

Furthermore he believes the original Torah and Injeel had explicit prophecies and this is what he means by predictions that were not changed or removed. If you take a look at Surah 7:157 (as David Wood had quoted) an explicit prophecy of Muhammad is said to be in the Torah and Injeel with them. This implies an authentic Torah and Injeel existed at least until the 7th century or it implies that corrupted versions contain explicit authentic prophecies. If the latter then Zawadi has falsified the commentaries he provided, and his agreement with these commentaries, since no editing of Muhammad’s predictions had been made (which ironically also proves an authentic Injeel and Torah exist). Also if the former then we have copies of an authentic Torah and Injeel still in existence which falsifies this claim:

"I found this "Muhammad in the Bible" argument to be effective with the Jews and Christians of the Prophet Muhammad's time since many of them still knew the true teachings of the Torah and Gospel despite its textual corruption."

Right now let’s address the effectiveness of this argument in that generation as well as in ours.

First, it is impossible for Jewish and Christian generations to know the teachings of the Torah and Gospel without authentic copies of it. If as Bassam suggests they had textually corrupted copies, (like we also do) then this argument will not work on either generation, as we both have the same problem.

If however Zawadi argues they had more explicit/authentic predictions to work with (than we do) then his argument would apply (to some degree, still flawed), but we have seen in my last paragraph what happens if this claim is true, e.g. the "Muhammad’s description was removed" hypothesis is falsified and/or veracity and tenacity of the Injeel and Torah is proven which falsifies the above quote.

Of course another problem is the confession of the contemporary generation of Christians in Muhammad's time having direct knowledge of the Torah and Injeel, which of course is completely impossible for our generation to have; thus if Allah is going to show equality and fairness, both generations would be provided with the same proofs and evidences since that is the Biblical standard as well as the Quranic standard for the confirmation of prophet(s). Further, if Allah is going to be just he is going to have to only hold that generation accountable for their unbelief in Muhammad as they are the only ones that have scriptural vindication for his prophethood.

So, any way we look at this, the claims in Zawadi's article are self-refuting, contradictory and need to be modified to select one position or another; the article is outright confusing and needs clarification.

Other errors include:

"1) have the term "brethren" to mean Israelites this does not necessarily imply that Deuteronomy 18:18 is limiting the term "brethren" to the Israelites, since it could very well be referring to their cousins as well. No reason could be shown why brethren in Deuteronomy 18:18 could only be speaking about the Israelites."

If Zawadi had read the text, he would have noted that it was not only referring to the "brethren" from Deut. 18:1-12 as Israelites (specifically Levities in this case) but the "brethren" in Deut. 18:13-22 must be Israel as well. Here is why:

We begin by seeing Deut. 18:13-14 addressing Israel (as does v. 15), then verses 16 and 17 explain the purpose of verse 15 and begin to even quote Israel and Yahweh's agreement with the nation. It turns out because of the immediate needs of the nation, they were not able to communicate with the LORD since Moses was not allowed to enter into the promise land, they required an additional successor which would "be like Moses" (vv. 15 and 18) who would mediate and hear the voice of the LORD on behalf of Israel.

Verse 16 and 17 clearly have Yahweh agreeing with Israel that the nation was not able to hear the Lord any longer and actually responds with the promise of raising up a new prophet like Moses for them in this very chapter. For the entire story read Deut. 5 (which is where verses 16 and 17 are referring to) and then we will know why Yahweh is sending the prophet to Israel in the first place; instead of making up utter nonsense like Zawadi has by implying brethren in this context could mean some distant relatives of Israel.

In fact, Zawadi needs to explain how God can forget about his promise for Israel while Deuteronomy and its entire focus is about the Torah given to Israel and their status and history with God and their future and then suddenly magically promise a prophet to a completely irrelevant party of people that have nothing to do with Deuteronomy whatsoever? Is this the level of shocking eisegesis that Zawadi is willing to maintain?

Verses 21 and 22 presuppose that God will actually send a succession of these Prophets for Israel, God gives Israel instructions on how to determine if "a Prophet" (hence the generic multiplicity of such prophets) said something from God. Since again it is specifically Israel asking and God answering Israel, we see that the context is purely "how should Israel manage false prophets?" Again the entire chapter is directed towards Israel alone, including the prophecy and how to test prophets themselves.

Also we have the clear passages in Deuteronomy where Deut. 18:18 is partially fulfilled in Joshua:

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)

So maybe one could in Zawadi’s eisegesis pretend Deut. 18:18 may refer to a non-Israelite faction but in the immediate and neighboring contexts of Deuteronomy all statements in Deut. 18 are referring to Israel and the prophecy has already been set up for Joshua and a succession of future prophets being sent to Israel, ultimately ending in their very own Messiah.

Wait, but Zawadi admits this later on in his article when he is addressing a similar point. Notice what he says in his response to David Wood:

"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."

"My Response:

What does it mean when Jesus told the disciples that the Comforter "dwelleth" with them? Well, I don't find it radically impossible to understand this as meaning that the Comforter dwells in their knowledge and understanding. It doesn't necessarily imply that he literally lives with them (again, remember that Jesus was known to speak in a figurative way). Thus, Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) being predicted to these people is "dwelling with them" because they have foreknowledge of his coming.

Secondly, it could also be understood that the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) "dwells with the people" because he is alive through his teachings. When the Qur'an in Surah 3:101 says that the Prophet (peace be upon him) is in our midst we understand this as him being alive in his teachings (see Imam Qurtubi's commentary on that verse).

So why can't we say that Jesus is saying the same thing here, especially since he is known to have spoken figuratively?

Someone may object to the fact that Prophet Muhammad's teachings weren't around at that time and Jesus said "dwelleth with YOU" and that this shows he was speaking to the disciples.

However, this shows the misunderstanding of the use of the word 'you'. Christians have no problem claiming that Deuteronomy 18:18 refers to Jesus even though the verse says 'you' to a specific group of people at least a thousand years before the birth of Jesus. So as we can see the usage of the word 'you' could seem to be referring to future generations to come."

Notice Zawadi is aware of the fact that "you" throughout Deut 18:13-22 is addressing Israel, and he has taken up the allegedly Christian methodology of saying "you" doesn't mean "you" but it means "thousands of years away in completely different circumstances, culture, language etc".

Jochen Katz pointed out to me the misrepresentation of the Christian position Zawadi is making here:

"But in reality, there is a huge difference in the two texts, and the way Zawadi wants to handle it. In the text in Deuteronomy, the YOU refers to Israel as a identifiable group, the nation. It does not mean "exactly and only those people who are standing there RIGHT NOW", but it is understood that there will always be some members dying and some new members be born into Israel, but this promise still holds to Israel as a nation.

The reason to reject this as a prophecy of Muhammad is not that he comes "too late" but that he is not "of Israel". So, Zawadi's time distance issue is a strawman. It is not the issue.

Moreover, as you already pointed out, there is a multiplicity of prophets in view in Deuteronomy, which need to be tested. The Deut. passage covers the wider future of Israel.

The passage in John is different, it speaks very specifically about the group of disciples standing in front of him. Jesus is leaving THEM, and he will send THEM the comforter instead. Jesus spoke figuratively at some times, but not always, and there is no indication in the text that he is speaking figuratively here. And he does not speak about "teaching" (the teaching of Jesus was already with them, it didn't need to come to them in the future), but he speaks about a person to replace the person of Jesus who was with them.

Zawadi's interpretation is simply contrieved and unnatural."

Adding further to what Mr Katz has said: God isn't giving the impression he is going to "postpone" his promised prophet for over 2500 years and then send a prophet for the Edomites or the Ishmaelites. Over-all it is not an ambigious text, God is sending a series of prophets to Israel and it isn't a thousand years away, it starts after Moses specifically for the Promised Land which is the entire focus and context of Deuteronomy anyhow!

Again Zawadi had said:

"Christians have no problem interpreting the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 to not be referring to the state of Israel, even though the passages before it clearly were. Similarly, I have no problem with stating that the word "brethren" could be referring to non-Israelites even though the word was referring to Israelites a few verses earlier."

Notice that if Zawadi is consistent (with his own appeal to the Christian methodology) he either must:

A) Accept Isaiah 53 is about the Messiah (i.e. his suffering and death being essential to his coming, contrary to the teachings of Islam) and Deuteronomy 18 is referring to Mohammed , or

B) Reject the Christian methodology used for interpreting Isaiah 53 and therefore reject Deuteronomy as referring to Muhammad.

Zawadi cannot have it both ways.

Further Zawadi cannot just state that the Christian Exegesis of Isaiah 53 is a parallel to his own view of Deut 18. He must prove everything from top to bottom is exactly the same. This offered parallel, of course, clearly isn't an example of what Zawadi is looking for, since none of the same literary factors or circumstances apply.

Let us suppose for a moment Zawadi is right that the Christian view of Isaiah 53 is as eisegetical as his view of Deuteronomy 18. Is this intended to provide a justification for Zawadi to maintain his belief that Deuteronomy 18:18 could be referring to "other brethren" outside Israel? Of course not! Unless he wants to come across as a dishonest exegete then even mentioning this is a waste of time!

And finally Zawadi’s conclusion to his own article:

"My main interest was to respond to David Wood's arguments against the major prophecies and to show that he hasn't clearly proven any of his points. I have no interest in continuing further into the discussion."

Well it isn't at all that hard to see why. What a complete and utter mess Zawadi has put himself in. I can see why he wants to stay away from this argument, because this is possibly one of the worst arguments Muslims have ever used for the validity of Muhammad, but at the same time, according to the Biblical and Quranic standards, it is the only way of verifying Muhammad as a true prophet, which is the dilemma Muslims have.

For more on this dilemma please read: