Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in the United States. This is based both on the immigration of Muslim people and on effective proselytism. Christians are not immune to Muslim "evangelism." The Christian community most affected so far has been the predominantly Protestant African American community. Catholicism has not been targeted as adamantly, and so the American Church's response to Islam has not been overwhelming. However, more and more converts are being made each year. People are abandoning their faith in Jesus the Incarnate God-Man and his Holy Catholic Church or the Churches of our separated brethren in order to embrace a foreign and heretical ideology. While Islam should be held in esteem for its high moral ethic and its faith in the one true and living God, the Catholic must be ready to both defend his faith and share the fullness of truth with Muslims.
Nobody converts from one faith to another without a reason. Islam's American success has not been the result of any show of force. Rather, the success has been partially due to Islam's embracing of the much wronged black culture and partially due to Muslim apologetics. The main focus of this article is to examine Muslim apologists' claims to find Muhammad prophesied in the Bible.
Islam's holy book is the Qur'an, a collection of revelations supposedly made by God to the Prophet Muhammad between 610 and 632 AD. Translator N. J. Dawood writes that "for Muslims, (the Qur'an) is the infallible Word of God, a transcript of a tablet preserved in heaven, revealed to the Prophet Muhammad by the Angel Gabriel." (1) As the revelations came to the illiterate Muhammad through the years, he recited them orally to his disciples. The disciples memorized them, and recorded them after the prophet's death.
Muslims view the Qur'an as the final revelation of God, a culmination of the Old and New Testaments. Muhammad is believed to be the last and greatest of a long line of prophets, including Adam, Abraham, Ishmael, Moses, and Jesus. Islamic salvation history portrays each of these prophets as messengers of Islam. To the Muslim, Islam is the true faith from which God's people fell away time and time again until the advent of the Prophet.
In the seventh Surah of the Qur'an, the Heights, God proclaims:
"I will show mercy to those that keep from evil and give alms, and to those that in our signs believe; to those that shall follow (Muhammad) the Apostle--the Unlettered Prophet--whom they shall find described in the Torah and in the Gospel."
While a few over zealous Muslim apologists identify almost all Messianic prophecy with Muhammad, most are wise enough to recognize the fallacy in that. The majority of today's Muslim apologists rely on three passages of Scripture to support the Qur'anic claim: Deuteronomy 18, Isaiah 42, and John 14.
Addressing the people of Israel, Moses prophesied the coming of a prophet whom Muslim apologists identify with Muhammad.
"The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own brothers. You must listen to him. For this is what you asked of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly when you said, ‘Let us not hear the voice of the Lord our God nor see this great fire anymore, or we will die.' The Lord said to me: ‘What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I myself will call him to account.'" (Deuteronomy 18:15-20)
There are two points in this passage which are significant to the Muslim. First, the prophet is promised to come "from among your own brothers." The Israelites to whom Moses spoke were the descendants of Abraham through his son Isaac. Isaac's brother was Ishmael. Ishmael's descendants are the Arab peoples. Israel's brothers, then, are the Arabs. This passage is speaking of an Arab prophet. Muhammad is the only candidate for an Arab prophet in the line of Old Testament prophets.
The second important point in this passage is that God "will put (his) words in (the prophet's) mouth." This prophet is one who will preach the divine message orally. No mention is here made of any writings. To learn the truth, one must listen to the voice of the prophet. This was fulfilled in Muhammad the Unlettered Prophet who, illiterate, proclaimed his message entirely orally.
These Muslim arguments are plausible only when this passage in taken out of the context of the entire plan of God. It is true that Arabs are descended from the brother of Isaac. However, Jews always reserved the word "brothers" for their own kind. The rift between Jews and Ishmaelites was deep. So deep, in fact, that it continues today, some 35 centuries later. Muslim apologists should be asked to consider how Moses describes the neighboring people, including the Arab "brothers," in the verses which immediately precede v. 15:
"When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices his son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord, and because of these detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you. You must be blameless before the Lord your God." (Deuteronomy 18:9-14)
There was no brotherly love between Jews and Arabs! The prophet like Moses was to be a Jew.
Secondly, the fact that God will put his words into the prophet's mouth hardly proves that the prophet must be "unlettered." Every prophet's main duty was oral proclamation of the Word of God. This is why the Catholic rejects the Protestant notion of sola scriptura. God's message has always been revealed primarily by oral means. Only later were the messages of the prophets written down. Even if it is granted that the prophet must not write, this still does not prove it to be Muhammad.
Muslim apologists should consider that great prophets such as Elijah, Elisha, Nathan, and John the Baptist all came after Moses and all wrote nothing.
There is a prophet who does fit the bill. This prophet is Jewish, from among the Israelite's brothers. The words of God were in this prophet's mouth. Plus, if the Muslim is insistent on this as well, this prophet wrote nothing. The prophet of Deuteronomy is none other than Jesus: "We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the Law, and also the prophets, Jesus son of Joseph, from Nazareth." (John 1:45)
Muslim apologists claim that the Prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of Muhammad.
"Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my Spirit; he shall bring forth justice to the nations...Sing to the Lord a new song, his praise from the end of the earth: Let the sea and what fills it resound, the coast lands, and those who dwell in them. Let the steppe and its cities cry out, the villages where Kedar dwells; let the inhabitants of Sela exult and shout from the mountains." (Isaiah 42:1ff)
The man Kedar was the son of Ishmael and one of the patriarchs of the Arab people, as well as an ancestor of the Prophet Muhammad. Sela is the name of an Arab city, the capitol of Edom. Therefore, claims the Muslim, the servant, God's chosen one (Arabic "Mustafa"), must be an Arab descendant of Kedar. Dr. Salah el Dareer writes: "In verse 11, (the servant) is identified specifically as Kedar and Sela. Kedar or ‘Qaydar' was one of Ishmael's sons and an ancestor of Muhammad--peace be upon him--and Sela was the name of an Arabian city...It is significant that Isaiah identifies the universal prophet both by nation, namely Arab, and tribal descendant, namely Kedar, whose descendants are the tribe of Koreish that lived in Mecca, from whom Muhammad came." (2)
The Muslim interpretation of this passage has several major flaws. First of all, as Dr. El Dareer stated, Muslims claim that Isaiah identifies the servant as a member of the Kedar clan. This is untrue. The context of the passage shows that the servant is to be a universal prophet, who will return God's covenant to all peoples. Kedar and Sela are used as examples of foreign people brought back into the Lord's fold.
Similar things are promised to Egypt, Ethiopia, and Seba. The servant can't come from all four nations. It is more reasonable to assume, then, that this prophet of the Jewish scriptures will be Jewish.
Muslim apologists should be asked to consider the words of this prophecy. Muhammad was not only a religious leader, he was also a warlord. He spread Islam by warfare, and conquered for himself a sizable empire. His Holy Qur'an proclaims: "Slay the infidel wherever you find them!" This is not meant to be an ad hominem attack. Muhammad's character and the prudence of his military exploits are not under consideration here. However, his life of battle proves that he is not the servant of prophecy. Dear Muslim friend, please carefully read the words of the prophecy:
"Here is my servant whom I uphold, my chosen one with whom I am pleased, upon whom I have put my Spirit. He shall bring forth justice to the nations, not crying out, not shouting, not making his voice heard in the street. A bruised reed he shall not break, and a smoldering wick he shall not quench, until he establishes justice on the earth; the coast lands will wait for his teaching." (Isaiah 42:1-4)
The servant is a man of peace, not of war. That man is none other than the Prince of Peace himself, Jesus Christ.
Since the Qu'ran recognizes Jesus as a true prophet of God, it is essential to Muslim apologists that he be portrayed as paving the way for Muhammad. There is only one possibility in all the gospels. Only once does Jesus foretell the coming of another leader. "I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate to be with you always, the Spirit of truth, which the world can not accept, because it neither sees nor knows it." (John 14:16,17) Islamic apologists argue that the Advocate is Muhammad.
The Muslim interpretation of this passage is untenable for several reasons. First and foremost, the passage explicitly states who the Advocate is: "the Spirit of truth which the world can not accept," and again in verse 26, "the Advocate, the Holy Spirit that the Father will send in my name."
The Islamic understanding of this passage is also flawed because, once again, Muhammad does not fit the description of the promised one.
This Paraclete (Advocate or Comforter) is promised directly to the apostles. Muhammad was born in 570 AD and began his ministry in 610 AD, centuries after the apostles died. Christ's Advocate is to "remain with you always." The Prophet Muhammad died June 8, 632. The Advocate is to "be in you." Muhammad was but a man, flesh and bone, who could not possess anyone.
The Paraclete is God the Holy Spirit. He was sent to the apostles on the Day of Pentecost, as recorded in Acts 2. By guiding the Church as the soul of the Body of Christ, this Advocate remains with us always.
These three passages--Deuteronomy 18, Isaiah 42, and John 14--represent Islam's best attempt to find Muhammad in the Bible. When placed back into the proper context, these passages clearly speak of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit, not Muhammad. Muslim apologists have an answer to this. They claim that the Bible has been corrupted by Jews and Christians. This has been their fall back technique since the very beginning. Even the Qur'an declares: "People of the Book, now there has come to you our Messenger, making clear to you many things you have been concealing of the Book, and defacing many things." When Muhammad recognized that the locutions which he received from a spirit being did not jive with the Scripture, he simply claimed that the Scriptures had been corrupted.
Today's apologists mirror the tactic of their prophet. When faced with the evidence that the Advocate of John 14 is specifically called the Holy Spirit, Dr. Salah el Dareer asserted that "the expression, 'which is the Holy Ghost' (v. 26 KJV), is a manifest interpolation put in by the unknown author of this gospel or by a later copyist." (3) Dr. El Dareer's copyist could not been much later, since manuscript and patristic evidence proves that the Old Testament has not changed at all from the second century BC, and the New Testament from the second century AD.
Oxford theologian Stephen Neill describes Islamic apologetics: "It is well known that at many points the Qur'an does not agree with the Jews and Christian Scriptures. Therefore, from the Muslim point of view, it follows of necessity that these Scriptures must have been corrupted. Historical evidence makes no impression on the crushing force of the syllogism. So it is, and it can be no other way. The Muslim controversialist feels no need to study evidence in detail."(4)
Muslims should be called on their inconsistency. The Qur'an directs them to search the Old and New Testaments for the truth. Yet, when this truth disproves Islam, the same Qur'an condemns the Bible.
Muslim apologists claim to have a secret weapon which proves that the Christian Scriptures have been corrupted. Islamic apologists claim that St. Barnabas wrote a Gospel which was once considered canonical. It was condemned by Pope Gelasius and almost all copies destroyed. The Gospel was lost until the 16th century, when an Italian Muslim discovered it, supposedly in the Vatican library.
From the very beginning of this Gospel, its author makes his purpose clear: "Barnabas, apostle of Jesus the Nazarene, called Christ, to all them that dwell upon the earth...(M)any, being deceived of Satan, under pretense of piety, are preaching most impious doctrine, calling Jesus Son of God...among whom is Paul deceived." The Gospel presents a fanciful story of Christ's calling, of his revelation of God's will, his betrayal, and his rescue from death. Judas, in this Gospel, is crucified in place of Christ, who was taken up into heaven.
Of greatest importance to Muslim apologists are Christ's clear prophecies of Muhammad's advent:
"Then said Jesus: ‘So secret is predestination, O brethren, that I say unto you, only to one man shall it be clearly known. He it is whom the nations look for, to whom the secrets of God are so clear that, when he cometh into the world, blessed shall they be that shall listen to his words...He is Muhammad, messenger of God...He is a white cloud full of the mercy of God, which mercy God shall sprinkle upon the faithful like rain.'" (Barnabas 163)
If it could be proven that these words were those of Barnabas or any other early Christian author, the Muslim would have a powerful argument. However, like all other Muslim apologetics, this is wrought with problems. Pages can (and have) been written documenting the contradictions within this Gospel, between the Gospel and the Bible, and between the Gospel and the Qur'an. The claim that this Gospel was considered canonical is false. It is the Epistle of Barnabas, never lost and completely consistent with orthodox Catholicism, that was sometimes considered canonical, and it makes no mention of Muhammad.
A Gnostic Gospel of Barnabas existed in the early centuries of the Church. It no longer exists today. However, as a Gnostic Gospel, it proclaimed a message of occult polytheism, which the Muslim would rightly reject. This Gnostic work was condemned by Pope Gelasius. No evidence exists which would place the Muslim Gospel of Barnabas before the 16th century. It is a blatant forgery by an Italian Muslim so jaded that he would deceive in the name of God.
The entire message of the Bible reveals God's plan to redeem mankind and unite all nations in one universal covenant family and kingdom. This was all fulfilled in the advent of Jesus Christ, the God-Man, and his Holy Catholic Church, "the pillar and foundation of truth."(1 Timothy 3:15)
Having accomplished all this, what need is there for a new prophet, a new book, or a new faith? All nations are now united in God's Church. In every nation from east to west, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered, just as the Prophet Malachi foretold. To be honest, Muhammad, Islam, and the Qur'an, if legitimate, would be the greatest anti-climaxes of salvation history. Catholics should be ready to show Muslim apologists that the truth, the fullness of truth, lies in Jesus Christ, the only name under heaven by which we can be saved.
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