Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Did Muhammad Know Yahweh? Pt. 1

Sam Shamoun

In this series of replies, we are going to address the following article which has to do with Muhammad being ignorant of God’s covenant name Yahweh revealed in the Holy Bible.

The writer seeks to explain why Muhammad never used the sacred name of God, which is represented by four Hebrew letters, namely, yod heh waw (or vav) heh, i.e. YHWH or YHVH. This is commonly referred to as the Tetragrammaton (“four letters”).  

The author’s errors begin early on, since he quotes Exodus 3:14-15 and states that “The Hebrew word that is translated as ‘I AM’ in English, is YHWH (known as the Tetragrammaton) which commonly the Christians read as Yahweh or Jehovah but inserting vowels.”

The writer is mistaken since the Hebrew word translated as “I AM” isn’t YHWH, but ehyeh which comes from the same root as the sacred name.

He then argues that the exact pronunciation of the Tetragrammaton has long been forgotten in order to justify Muhammad’s blatant ignorance of the divine name. This is nothing more than a red herring, as well as smoke and mirrors aimed at distracting the readers from the initial point which the writer conveniently doesn’t address at all. Instead, he focuses his “rebuttal” on showing what the name YHWH means so as to establish how Muhammad affirmed the meaning of the name even though he never bothered to use it.

This, of course, raises a host of problems. First, since Muslims believe that Muhammad was sent to restore the religion of Abraham and call people back to the pure, undiluted worship of the true God, then surely he would have been able to restore the proper annunciation of the sacred name. After all, if God took the time to send someone to restore his true religion, then he could also have restored the correct way of saying the name which he wanted all believers to know him by:

“God further said to Moses, 'You are to tell the Israelites, “Yahweh, the God of your ancestors, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.” This is my name for all time, and thus I am to be invoked for all generations to come.’” Exodus 3:15 New Jerusalem Bible (NJB) 

Yah is my strength and my song, to him I owe my deliverance. He is my God and I shall praise him, my father's God and I shall extol him. Yahweh is a warrior; Yahweh is his name.” Exodus 15:2-3 NJB

“And Yahweh descended in a cloud and stood with him there and pronounced the name Yahweh. Then Yahweh passed before him and called out, ‘Yahweh, Yahweh, God of tenderness and compassion, slow to anger, rich in faithful love and constancy, maintaining his faithful love to thousands, forgiving fault, crime and sin, yet letting nothing go unchecked, and punishing the parent's fault in the children and in the grandchildren to the third and fourth generation!’” Exodus 34:5-7 NJB

“Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Extol Him who rides on the clouds, By His name YAH, And rejoice before Him.” Psalm 68:4 New King James Version (NKJV) 

“May they know that You alone—whose name is Yahweh—are the Most High over all the earth.” Psalm 83:18 Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB)

I am Yahweh, that is My name; I will not give My glory to another or My praise to idols.” Isaiah 42:8 HCSB

“Therefore, I am about to inform them, and this time I will make them know My power and My might; then they will know that My name is Yahweh.” Jeremiah 16:21 HCSB

“'Yahweh who made the earth, who formed it and set it firm -- Yahweh is his name -- says this, ‘Call to me and I will answer you; I will tell you great secrets of which you know nothing.’” Jeremiah 33:2-3 NJB

“Yahweh is the God of Hosts; Yahweh is His name.” Hosea 12:5 HCSB

Second, this ignores the fact that the four letters which make up the sacred name are still preserved by God in the Hebrew Scriptures. In light of this, Muhammad could have easily included the sacred name into the consonantal text of the Quran by simply using the Arabic letters which correspond to the Hebrew Tetragrammaton, namely Ya Ha Wa Ha. In fact, this is how the sacred name appears in the Arabic translations of the Hebrew Bible: يهوه. This would at least show that he had some knowledge of the name which had been revealed to the patriarchs and the prophets. 

This leads me to my third point. Another reason why we would expect Muhammad to have employed the Tetragrammaton is because Muslims seek to convince Jews and Christians that he was the prophet like Moses that was prophesied to come in Deuteronomy 18:15-19. Surely, the prophet like Moses would have known and made use of the Tetragrammaton, just like Moses did. 

The reality is that Muhammad did not know the name because he wasn’t a true prophet, and therefore did not know the true God who had spoken to the patriarchs and who had commissioned prophets like Moses. This is brought out by the fact that not only was Muhammad ignorant of the sacred name, he also contradicted the very theology of Moses as recorded within the Torah, or Pentateuch.

For instance, Yahweh revealed through Moses that he is a spiritual Father to his people (in fact to the entire creation), who chose Israel to be his firstborn Son:

“Then you shall say to Pharaoh, ‘Thus says the Lord, “Israel is My son, My firstborn. So I said to you, ‘Let My son go that he may serve Me’; but you have refused to let him go. Behold, I will kill your son, your firstborn.”’” Exodus 4:22-23

And like a father does to the children he loves, Yahweh was forced to discipline Israel due to their rebellion against him:

“All the commandments that I am commanding you today you shall be careful to do, that you may live and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord swore to give to your forefathers. You shall remember all the way which the Lord your God has led you in the wilderness these forty years, that He might humble you, testing you, to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep His commandments or not. He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord. Your clothing did not wear out on you, nor did your foot swell these forty years. Thus you are to know in your heart that the Lord your God was disciplining you just as a man disciplines his son.” Deuteronomy 8:1-5

“Do you thus repay the Lord, O foolish and unwise people? Is not He your Father who has bought you? He has made you and established you… You neglected the Rock who begot you, And forgot the God who gave you birth. The Lord saw this, and spurned them Because of the provocation of His sons and daughters. Then He said, ‘I will hide My face from them, I will see what their end shall be; For they are a perverse generation, Sons in whom is no faithfulness.” Deuteronomy 32:6, 18-20

Yet Muhammad comes along nearly 2200 years later and denies that his god is a father to anyone, let alone Israel:

But the Jews and the Christians say, "We are the children of Allah and His beloved." Say, "Then why does He punish you for your sins?" Rather, you are human beings from among those He has created. He forgives whom He wills, and He punishes whom He wills. And to Allah belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth and whatever is between them, and to Him is the [final] destination. S. 5:18 Sahih International

And they say, "The Most Merciful has taken [for Himself] a son." You have done an atrocious thing. The heavens almost rupture therefrom and the earth splits open and the mountains collapse in devastation That they attribute to the Most Merciful a son. And it is not appropriate for the Most Merciful that He should take a son. There is no one in the heavens and earth but that he comes to the Most Merciful as a servant. S. 19:88-93 Sahih International

As such, he cannot be a true prophet, let alone the prophet like Moses.

This brings us to the conclusion of the first part of the rebuttal. It is therefore time to move on to part 2.