Muslim scholars have identified verses in the Torah they allege foretell the coming of Muhammad (SAW). Yet long before Muhammad’s birth the Jewish people had different tafsir for these prophecies. Is the reasoning of the scholars compatible with the teachings of Judaism?
Deuteronomy 18:18 – A prophet like Moses (AS)
I will establish a prophet for them from among their brothers, like you, and I will place My words in his mouth; and he shall speak to them all that I shall command him.
Samau’al al-Maghribi, a Jewish apostate to Islam, identified Muhammad as the subject of this verse. He believed that in this context the “brothers” of the Israelites meant the Ishmaelites, his logic was that because the word used for brothers is singular it had to mean a brother tribe. He went on to say that if the Jews claim this word is mentioned elsewhere in the Bible regarding the Israelites, then reply, “the same word was also used to refer to the Edomites, children of Esau in Deut. 2:4″.
Akh, or brother in English, appears 94 times in the last 4 books of the Torah, yet it never once describes the descendants of Ishmael (AS).
- 53 times it describes kinsmen (Jews)
- 30 times it describes biological brothers
- 8 times it describes tribesmen (12 Jewish tribes)
- 3 times it describes Edomites
Al-Maghribi correctly states that the Torah refers to the Edomites as brothers, but he fails to mention that each time it says “brother” the text goes on to explicitly name them as “the Edomites”. In the absence of this name, like in our verse, brother only ever refers to the Children of Israel (AS). That said, even if we were to use al-Maghribi’s logic, the brother of Israel (Jacob) is not Ishmael but Edom.
His theory that the use of brother in the singular infers tribe, takes advantage of the reader’s ignorance of Hebrew (which often uses the singular collectively). A mere twelve verses earlier the Torah states, “When the Levite [singular] will come from one of your cities”, yet this verse is clearly referring to the Levites collectively. So too in our verse, the word brother is used collectively to refer to the Israelites.
This verse like the ones before and after it, is not documenting an individual prophet, but promising there will be future Jewish prophets and providing the criteria to identify them.
Update: We were recently presented with an alternative argument which suggested the verse can’t be talking about raising a prophet from the Jews, as if it were the verse would say “I will establish a prophet for you from among your brothers”, instead it says “I will establish a prophet for them from among their brothers”, by using the word them and the word brother it must be referring to the descendants of Yishmael or Esauv.
This was an easy mistake to make but to understand how the mistake was made we must read the verse in context. In 18:9-15 Moses speaks to the Jewish people, establishing that the rest of this dialogue is about the prophecy the Jewish people will experience in the Land of Israel:
- When you have come to the land the Lord, your God, is giving you, you shall not learn to do like the abominations of those nations.
- There shall not be found among you anyone who passes his son or daughter through fire, a soothsayer, a diviner of [auspicious] times, one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer,
- or a charmer, a pithom sorcerer, a yido’a sorcerer, or a necromancer.
- For whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord, and because of these abominations, the Lord, your God is driving them out from before you.
- Be wholehearted with the Lord, your God.
- For these nations, which you are to possess, hearken to diviners of [auspicious] times and soothsayers, but as for you, the Lord, your God, has not given you [things] like these.
- A prophet from among you, from your brothers, like me, the Lord, your God will set up for you; you shall hearken to him.
This is most probably the cause of confusion, as Moses says “A prophet from among you, from your brothers, like me, the Lord, your God will set up for you” which is almost identical to verse 18 but because Moses is addressing the people he uses the pronoun “you”, where as in verse 18 Moses is quoting something God had previously communicated to him:
- And the LORD said unto me: ‘They have well said that which they have spoken.
- I will raise them up a prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee; and I will put My words in his mouth, and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
As God is addressing Moses about the people the correct pronoun to use is “them”, had God been addressing the people the pronoun could have been “you”. This is the correct and common linguistic style of the Torah, there is no reason to think “them” should mean the descendants of Yishmael as there are numerous instances throughout the Torah where God refers to the Jewish people as them (לָהֶם), for instance:
- But as for thee, stand thou here by Me, and I will speak unto thee all the commandment, and the statutes, and the ordinances, which thou shalt teach them, that they may do them in the land which I give them to possess it.'” – Devarim 5:27
Song of Solomon 5:16 / Song of Songs 5:16 – Muhammad is named in Hebrew in the Song of Solomon
His palate is sweet, and he is altogether desirable; this is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.
Zakir Naik writes that “Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is mentioned by name in the Song of Solomon chapter 5 verse 16: ‘Hikko Mamittakim we kullo Muhammadim Zehdoodeh wa Zehraee Bayna Jerusalem.’ – ‘His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.’
If Zakir is suggesting a Hebrew word is the name of Muhammad (SAW) it is essential he transliterates the word correctly. Unfortunately Zakir’s Hebrew isn’t correct, but as the other words he transliterates are also incorrect we believe this is a mistake made out of ignorance rather than intentionally misleading people. The text actually reads:
- Hebrew: Chiko mametakim vekulo machamadim zeh dodi vezeh rei’i benot yerushalayim
- Zakir:Hikko Mamittakim we kullo Muhammadim Zehdoodeh wa Zehraee Bayna Jerusalem
The text is completely different and is clearly not a reference to Muhammad (SAW), which in Hebrew is spelt מוחמד not מחמדים. In Hebrew Machamadim simply means desirable/ lovely, to suggest it is naming Muhammad is as foolish as saying “santa” and “suntan” are the same word because they have similar consonants.
Shir HaShirim is a poem that describes the love the Jewish people have for Allah (SWT). Jews should love Allah (SWT) to the point where their soul is so bound with the love of God, that they are obsessive over it, lovesick, as one who cannot stop thinking about a woman, and contemplates it constantly, while awake, while eating and sleeping… greater than this should be the love Jews have for God.
As Solomon is actually praising God in Shir Hashirim, suggesting that Muhammad is the subject of the text is akin to declaring that Muhammad and Allah (SWT) are the same. This is outright idolatry and such thoughts should be banished from the believers mind.
Deuteronomy 33:2 – A prophet from Mecca
The LORD came from Sinai – having shone forth to them from Seir, having appeared from Mount Paran, and then approached with some of the holy myriads – from His right hand He presented the fiery Torah to them.
Al-Maghribi also considered this to be a reference to Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. It speaks of God sending a prophet to Sinai (Moses), then another to the village of Sa’ir near Jerusalem (Jesus) and the last prophet was sent to Paran, where Ishmael settled (Muhammad).
Hofia, “He appeared”, is written in the past tense, if it would have read yofia, “He will appear” it could allude to an event that is yet to occur (e.g. a prophet in Paran). But the verse uses the past tense because its describing Allah (SWT) descending from heaven to give the Torah on Mount Sinai, an event that had already occurred.
Isaiah 42:1-13 – The chosen one
- Behold My servant, I will support him, My chosen one, whom My soul desires; I have placed My spirit upon him, he shall promulgate justice to the nations.
- He shall neither cry nor shall he raise [his voice]; and he shall not make his voice heard outside.
- A breaking reed he shall not break; and a flickering flaxen wick he shall not quench; with truth shall he execute justice.
- Neither shall he weaken nor shall he be broken, until he establishes justice in the land, and for his instruction, islands shall long.
- So said God the Lord, the Creator of the heavens and the One Who stretched them out, Who spread out the earth and what springs forth from it, Who gave a soul to the people upon it and a spirit to those who walk thereon.
- I am the Lord; I called you with righteousness and I will strengthen your hand; and I formed you, and I made you for a people’s covenant, for a light to nations.
- To open blind eyes, to bring prisoners out of a dungeon, those who sit in darkness out of a prison.
- I am the Lord, that is My Name; and My glory I will not give to another, nor My praise to the graven images.
- The former things, behold they have come to pass, and the new things I tell; before they sprout I will let you hear.
- Sing to the Lord a new song, His praise from the end of the earth, those who go down to the sea and those therein, the islands and their inhabitants.
- The desert and its cities shall raise [their voice]; Kedar shall be inhabited with villages; the rock dwellers shall exult, from the mountain peaks they shall shout.
- They shall give glory to the Lord, and they shall recite His praise on the islands.
- The Lord shall go out like a hero; like a warrior shall He arouse zeal; He shall shout, He shall even cry, He shall overpower His foes.
There are those that believe this verse speaks of Muhammad, the beloved of God. His messenger that will bring down a law to be awaited in the isles and who “shall not fail nor be discouraged till he has set judgement on earth”. Verse 11, connects the awaited one with the descendants of Kedar, who according to Genesis 25:13 was the second son of Ishmael, the ancestor of prophet Muhammad.
The Torah establishes the subject of these verses when it says “My chosen one” (Ps 135:4, Isa 45:4) and a “light to nations” (Isa 49:6 & 60:3) two expressions that scripture uses exclusively to describe the nation of Israel.*
Trying to link Muhammad’s ethnicity to the prophecy of Kedar relies upon a distortion of sense and a wishful imagination. Verse eleven is actually a vision of the tent dwellers of Kedar building permanent cities and villages at the time the world comes to recognize the sovereignty of Allah.
* This follows the mainstream position as relayed by Rashi, Ibn Ezra cites the subject as Cyrus (according to Saadiah Gaon) or Isaiah, while the Radak believes the subject is the Mashiach.
Hababkkuk 3:3 – The Holy One from Paran
Allah came from Teman; yea, the Holy One from Mt. Paran, with everlasting might. His glory covered the heavens and His splendor filled the earth
Some read the verse “[God’s help] came from [Tayma, an Oasis North of Medina], yea, [Muhammad] from [Mecca, he traveled to Medina after being persecuted]. His glory covered the heavens and his splendor filled the earth”
As the verse is clearly talking about God this mistranslation borders on idolatry. To begin with it spells out Allah in Hebrew and then names the Creator again as the Holy One. All Muslims would love to find the foretelling of Muhammad in the Torah, but we beg the reader not to switch verses that praise Allah to verses that praise Muhammad; For there is no greater insult to monotheism than the elevation of men to deities.