Haris Ahmad, Student Jamia Ahmadiyya Canada
The concept of prophethood is central to many religions, including Islam and Christianity. Both religions believe in the existence of prophets who were sent by God to guide humanity and convey His message. Interestingly, the advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa is also mentioned in the Bible. This remarkable prophecy is also mentioned in the Holy Quran, and over the years, many Christians have raised objections to it, claiming that the Quran has distorted this biblical prophecy by applying it to Prophet Muhammadsa, instead of Jesusas. (Wherry, Elwood Morris, and George Sale. A Comprehensive Commentary on the qurán. Comprising Sale’s Translation and Preliminary Discourse, with Additional Notes and Emendations; Together with a Complete Index to the Text, Preliminary Discourse, and Notes. K. Paul, Trench, Trübner & Co1896. preface p. 7); (Geisler, Norman L., and Thomas A. Howe. When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties. Baker Books, 1992. pp. 125-126)
The prophecy mentioned in the Bible is found in the book of Deuteronomy, where it states:
“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)
This prophecy is addressed to Mosesas, and many Christians interpret it to refer to Jesusas. (Henry, M., & Church, L. F. (1960). Matthew Henry’s commentary on the whole Bible. Marshall, Morgan, & Scott, p. 624-625); (Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., & Brown, D. (1886). A commentary, critical, practical, and explanatory, on the old and new testaments: With A bible dictionary, compiled from dr. Wm. Smith’s standard work, and a copious index, chronological tables, maps and illustrations. W.J. Shuey, pp. 299-300)
However, it is also mentioned in the Holy Quran in several chapters.
قُلۡ اَرَءَيۡتُمۡ اِنۡ کَانَ مِنۡ عِنۡدِ اللّٰہِ وَ کَفَرۡتُمۡ بِہٖ وَ شَہِدَ شَاہِدٌ مِّنۡۢ بَنِيۡۤ اِسۡرَآءِيۡلَ عَلٰي مِثۡلِہٖ فَاٰمَنَ وَ اسۡتَکۡبَرۡتُمۡ ؕ اِنَّ اللّٰہَ لَا يَہۡدِي الۡقَوۡمَ الظّٰلِمِيۡنَ
“Say, ‘Tell me, if this is from Allah and you disbelieve therein, and a witness from among the children of Israel bears witness to [the advent of] one like him, and he believed, but you are too proud, [how should you fare]?’ Verily, Allah guides not the wrongdoing people.” (Surah al-Ahqaf, Ch.46: V.11)
اَلَّذِيۡنَ يَتَّبِعُوۡنَ الرَّسُوۡلَ النَّبِيَّ الۡاُمِّيَّ الَّذِيۡ يَجِدُوۡنَہٗ مَکۡتُوۡبًا عِنۡدَہُمۡ فِي التَّوۡرٰٮةِ وَالۡاِنۡجِيۡلِ ۫ يَاۡمُرُہُمۡ بِالۡمَعۡرُوۡفِ وَيَنۡہٰہُمۡ عَنِ الۡمُنۡکَرِ وَيُحِلُّ لَہُمُ الطَّيِّبٰتِ وَيُحَرِّمُ عَلَيۡہِمُ الۡخَبٰٓئِثَ وَيَضَعُ عَنۡہُمۡ اِصۡرَہُمۡ وَالۡاَغۡلٰلَ الَّتِيۡ کَانَتۡ عَلَيۡہِمۡ ؕ فَالَّذِيۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا بِہٖ وَعَزَّرُوۡہُ وَنَصَرُوۡہُ وَاتَّبَعُوا النُّوۡرَ الَّذِيۡۤ اُنۡزِلَ مَعَہٗۤ ۙ اُولٰٓئِکَ ہُمُ الۡمُفۡلِحُوۡنَ
“‘Those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet, the Immaculate one, whom they find mentioned in the Torah and the Gospel [which are] with them. He enjoins on them good and forbids them evil, and makes lawful for them the good things and forbids them the bad, and removes from them their burden and the shackles that were upon them. So those who shall believe in him, and honour and support him, and help him, and follow the light that has been sent down with him — these shall prosper.’” (Surah al-A’raf, Ch.7:158)
اِنَّاۤ اَرۡسَلۡنَاۤ اِلَيۡکُمۡ رَسُوۡلًا ۬ۙ شَاہِدًا عَلَيۡکُمۡ کَمَاۤ اَرۡسَلۡنَاۤ اِلٰي فِرۡعَوۡنَ رَسُوۡلًا
“Verily, We have sent to you a Messenger, who is a witness over you, even as We sent a Messenger to Pharaoh.” (Surah al-Muzzammil, Ch.73: V.16)
The objections raised by Christians are based on a misunderstanding of the Quranic verses that mention this prophecy. The Quran does not distort the biblical prophecy, but rather confirms and fulfils it by referring to the advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. The Bible mentions many prophets who were sent by God, including Mosesas, Jesusas, and the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa. However, each prophet had a certain mission and message, and the prophecy in Deuteronomy has specific conditions and signs attached to it.
To further explain how this prophecy alludes to the Holy Prophetsa, we shall, albeit briefly, break it down and look at the signs mentioned within, so that it is easy to digest.
First sign: “I will raise them up a Prophet”
Muslims believe that Muhammadsa was a Prophet of God, but Christians claim that Jesusas possesses the characteristics of both a perfect man and a perfect God. So, how can this prophecy of Deuteronomy apply to Jesusas? In the entire history of mankind, if God were to descend on the earth for the first and last time, referring to him as a Prophet would be a hard blow to his grandeur and majesty.
Second sign: “From among their brethren”
This, in a nutshell, means that the Prophet to be raised would be from among the brethren of Bani Isra’il.
When we read Chapter 25 of the book of Genesis, it reveals the ancestral connection between Bani Isra’il and Bani Isma‘il. Thus, proving that the people of Bani Isra’il are collectively the brothers of Bani Isma‘il. (Genesis, 25)
Some Christian scholars argue that there are references in the Bible to Bani Isra’il being called each other’s brothers. (Geisler, Norman L., and Thomas A. Howe. When Critics Ask: A Popular Handbook on Bible Difficulties. Baker Books, 1992, pp. 125-126) This does not necessarily mean that the prophesied messenger must come from Bani Isma‘il; however, a closer look at the texts makes it clear that in those references, the term “brothers” is used individually to refer to specific individuals within Bani Isra’il. In contrast, the prophecy mentioned in Deuteronomy refers to another group of people who are collectively called the “brethren” of Bani Isra’il. This group is believed by Muslims to be the people of Bani Isma‘il, as they are the only other descendants of Prophet Abrahamas who are mentioned in the same context as Bani Isra’il.
Third sign: “Like unto thee”
This means that the Prophet who was to be raised among the brethren of Bani Isra’il will reflect and bear a likeness to Prophet Mosesas.
We shall now determine who best fits this description, while keeping in mind the Christian beliefs when referring to Jesus.
Point 1: As Prophet Mosesas was a law-bearing, so too was the Prophet Muhammadsa, who was to be like Moses, was a law-bearing prophet; however, Jesusas did not bring any law. (Matthew 5:17)
Point 2: Prophet Mosesas and Prophet Muhammadsa completed the mission assigned to them by Allah, passed away, and were buried at the place of their demise. However, Prophet Jesusas, as Christians believe, left his mission and was lifted to be saved from Romans. (Mark, 16:19)
Point 3: Both, Prophet Mosesas and Prophet Muhammadsa migrated to their land where they faced opposition; however, as mentioned above, Jesus was lifted up – as per the Christian belief. (Luke, 24:51)
Fourth and final sign: “And will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.”
It’s worth noting that the Gospels were written after the time of Jesusas and in a different language than the one he spoke. (www.college.columbia.edu/core/content/new-testament/context) Thus, while they hold great religious significance, they cannot be considered the literal word of God. On the other hand, every word of the Holy Quran is directly from God and to this day remains unchanged.
When we examine the lives of these two Prophets – Prophet Mosesas and Prophet Muhammadsa – we see to whom this aspect truly applies.
For 23 years, the Holy Prophetsa tirelessly propagated every letter, word, and verse of the Holy Quran. His companions recorded it on various materials, and many committed it to memory. At one point, he asked a gathering of one hundred thousand people, “Have I conveyed the message to you?” and when they all responded affirmatively, he raised his hands to the sky and said, “O God, bear witness! O God, bear witness! O God, bear witness!” (Riyad as-Salihin, Kitab al-muqaddimat, Hadith 205)
According to Christian belief, Jesusas is regarded as the son of God and possesses divine powers; however, there are no direct claims of this nature made by Jesusas himself in the scriptures. In fact, he often hesitated to reveal his messianic identity to others, instructing his disciples not to share this knowledge with anyone. For example, in the book of Matthew, it is written:
“Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ.” (Matthew 16:20)
Jesusas himself solves this problem for us. In the Gospel of John, he clearly tells us that the above-mentioned prophecy doesn’t refer to him:
“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 16:12-13)
In conclusion, the advent of the Holy Prophet Muhammadsa fulfilled this prophecy. The Quranic verses that mention this prophecy are a testament to the unity of the Abrahamic faiths and show the truthfulness of the Holy Quran. They also provide a basis for mutual understanding and respect between Muslims and Christians.