Anyone versed in biblical scripture, and anyone who has studied the condition of the world before the prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ, would conclude that Almighty God had to send a messenger. This was for two reasons: people were waiting for the final prophesied messenger, and an All-Compassionate God could not let the atrocities of the world continue much longer.
And has it not been a sign to them that it is recognized by the scholars of the Children of Israel? [ash-Shu‘arâ’ (26): 197]
Though some contemporaries of the last prophet rejected him out of animosity and prejudice, and others simply hadn’t yet been guided, some of the biblically versed—like ‘Abdullâh b. Salâm (rA)—quickly accepted Islam, and that was of the proofs Allah cited against Quraysh, since most of the Arabs were illiterate, did not ascribe to any scripture, and held that the Jews were superior to them for being People of the Book.
These People of the Book knew God’s promise to bless Ishmael; and to make from him in particular a great nation. They did not believe that being born of a slave-woman detracted from his legitimacy, and knew that the first-born son of Abraham was most entitled to the covenant (had it been meant to be only for one the two sons, which is not the case here, as we Muslims believe). Despite adulteration, there still remained—until today, even—clear indicators of the prophethood of Muhammad ﷺ in the Judeo-Christian tradition, of which we will mention a select few.
A Great Nation
And also of the son of the bondwoman I will make a nation, because he is thy seed. And Abraham rose up early in the morning, and took bread, and a bottle of water, and gave it unto Hagar, putting it on her shoulder, and the child, and sent her away: and she departed, and wandered in the wilderness of Beersheba. And the water was spent in the bottle, and she cast the child under one of the shrubs. And she went, and sat her down over against him a good way off, as if it were a bowshot: for she said, Let me not see the death of the child. And she sat over against him, and lift up her voice, and wept. And God heard the voice of the lad; and the angel of God called to Hagar out of heaven, and said unto her, What aileth thee, Hagar? Fear not; for God hath heard the voice of the lad where he is. Arise, lift up the lad, and hold him in thine hand; for I will make him a great nation. [Genesis: 21/13-18, KJV]
A “great nation” in biblical terminology can never be a nation of polytheists or idolaters. Therefore, when did the progeny of Ishmael become a great nation worshipping the one true God? This did not happen at anyone’s hand before Muhammad ﷺ. Some claim that this took place in Sinai, but this is sheer absurdity, because it was a given that the Arabs were a people who forever maintained knowledge of their lineage, which they traced back to Ishmael. Nobody ever denied this history, while on the opposite end, nobody has ever documented a great Ishmaelite nation in Sinai. It is a staggering proposition that the Ishmaelite Arabs were somehow all mistaken about their ancestry that converges at Ishmael, and that a great Ishmaelite nation rose and then vanished in Sinai without anyone ever knowing. Couple these historical facts with the biblical description of Paran—where Abraham left Ishmael—being a wilderness south of Jerusalem, making it even clearer that Paran must be Mecca. Hence, both the historical facts and biblical texts concur that the Meccans were the descendants of Ishmael, and that his mother brought him a wife from Egypt, not that his offspring took residence in Sinai, Egypt.
Zamzam and the Flourishing City
Then God opened her (Hagar’s) eyes and she saw a well of water; and she went, and filled the bottle with water and gave the lad a drink. And God was with the lad; and he grew, and dwelt in the wilderness and became an archer. And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran: his mother took him a wife out of the land of Egypt. [Genesis: 21/19-21]
In Mecca, there exists the well of Zamzam—the oldest spring of water the world has ever known. Put the two millennium before the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ aside, and merely consider the multitudinous millions of pilgrims visiting for Hajj and ‘umrah over the past 1,500 years. They all return home with immeasurable gallons of Zamzam water. Alongside this, an endless round-the-clock supply of this water is transported to Qubâ’ and the Prophetic Mosque in Madinah, while residents of Mecca have tanks installed in their homes for standardized Zamzam delivery. Hence, this was certainly a blessed well which Hagar and Ishmael received, and a clear first brick set by God for this city to flourish.
Shining from Paran
And this is the blessing, wherewith Moses the man of God blessed the children of Israel before his death. And he said, ‘The Lord came from Sinai, and rose up from Seir unto them; he shined forth from mount Paran, and he came with ten thousands of saints. From his right hand went a fiery law for them. [Deuteronomy: 33/1-2]
Sinai (Egypt) is a clear reference to Moses (peace be on him) and the Torah, and Seir (Palestine) is an allusion to Jesus and the Evangel. If we refuse to accept that the third reference is to Muhammad ﷺ and the Quran, we will be stranded for another momentous event suitable for mention alongside Sinai and Jerusalem. At the climax of his ministry, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ returned to Paran (Mecca), marching with 10,000 of his Companions, and reinstating in that land the worship of the one true God alone. Polytheism and idolatry were ousted from around the House built by Abraham, and the glory of God shone anew.
Where Kedar Lives
Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles. He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause his voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall he not break, and the smoking flax shall he not quench: he shall bring forth judgment unto truth. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth: and the isles shall wait for his law. … Sing unto the Lord a new song, and his praise from the end of the earth, ye that go down to the sea, and all that is therein; the isles, and the inhabitants therefore. Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit: let the inhabitants of the rock sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains.[Isaiah: 42/1-13]
This servant in Isaiah cannot be Jesus (peace be on him), when Christianity and Islam agree he rose without bringing justice to the nations, as his handful of disciples did not possess the strength required to enforce justice. This servant cannot be Moses (peace be on him) who died in the wilderness of Sinai, exasperated by the resistance of his own people. Interestingly, the Bible identifies Kedar as the firstborn of Ishmael. The Bible also asserts that the first son is most entitled to the covenant. These combined truths become painfully problematic for someone wishing to conceal that where Kedar settled fits nothing but Mecca, and that Ishmael’s descendant who gained enough power to enjoin “God’s justice” fits nobody but Muhammad ﷺ. It was because of these glaring facts that they kept hidden that Allah (the Exalted) said,
Those to whom We gave the Scripture know him as they know their own sons. But indeed, a party of them conceal the truth while they know [it]. [al-Baqarah (2): 146]
John and the Prophet
And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And then they asked him, What then? Art though Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou the prophet? And he answered, No.[John: 1/19-21]
Who is “that prophet” who is neither the Christ, nor is he Elijah? Who is “that prophet” whose name apparently does not even need stating, as if his identity was common knowledge and his promised coming was awaited by all? This passage insinuates—at the very least—that people were not just awaiting another prophet, but rather something unique. Indeed, they were awaiting the greatest prophet and the finality of prophethood; one who would illuminate for humanity the path to God one last time—permanently. But where would he come from?
I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him. [Deuteronomy: 18/18]
The prophet they asked John about was not from among them (the Israelites), but rather from among their brethren (the Ishmaelites). The New International Version added “Israelite brethren,”
but this is a very recent change—as if concealing the message is a perpetual work in progress, or that a committee steps in to improvise every time they feel something is going to be correctly interpreted. Secondly, nobody from the Ishmaelites—or from humanity, even—had a greater semblance to Moses than the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ. Thirdly, only Muhammad ﷺ tirelessly taught his followers that not a single word that left his lips should be credited back to him.
By the star when it descends, Your companion (Muhammad) has not strayed, nor has he erred, nor does he speak from [his own] inclination. It is but a revelation revealed. [an-Najm (53): 1-4]
Jesus and the Comforter
Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you?” … “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself, but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. [John: 16/7-13]
Jesus (peace be on him) could not be implying the Holy Spirit here, calling him the Comforter that cannot arrive until Jesus departs, since the Holy Spirit was always with Jesus. Jesus could not be implying Paul or the papacy, since they did away with laws instead of perfecting them, and have not shown us proof that they communicate with the heavens. Only the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ revived the honor of Jesus without burying his legacy of worshipping the Creator alone. Muhammad ﷺ taught his followers that he would only speak that which he would hear, and he would precisely foretell future events.
He brought definitive guidance on all truths, perfecting by it the Divine code of law for humanity. In one splendid metaphor, the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ describes prophethood as a magnificent structure that people observed in awe, short of a single missing brick that needed to be placed in its structure to fill the gap and perfect its glory. He ﷺ then commented, “I am that brick; I am the seal of the prophets.”
Construction of the Ka‘ba
Scriptures aside, simply consider the religious paradigm in Arabia. Among the Arabs, Abraham was recognized as the ultimate patriarch, and due to the esteem they held him in, all paid homage to him – by visiting the House he built in Mecca (the Ka‘ba). Despite the fact that they were idolaters, the polytheists affirmed that Mecca was a special sanctuary whose veneration was desired by God. They saw themselves as the heirs of that heritage, and thus they felt compelled to honor this Ka‘ba that Abraham had erected. Why else would God command Abraham to just leave Hagar and his firstborn infant in a particular place, and a barren wilderness at that? For an Arab whose worldview stems from that paradigm, it is inconceivable that Allah sent Abraham to construct the Ka‘ba, sprung a blessed well beneath it, gave rise to a great nation because of it, and protected it from invasions—just so it would be surrounded by idols and become a venue for depravity. It is no surprise, then, why people at that time were dead sure that something was about to happen, something momentous that would change the entire scene in that part of the world and soon far beyond.
In the next paper, we will examine how the personality of the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was a vivid indication of his prophethood, noticed by those who met him, and those who later studied his life.