Prophet Muhammad: The Awaited Prophet
A Companion once asked God’s Messenger to talk about himself. He said:
“I am the one for whose coming Abraham prayed and of whom Jesus gave glad tidings.”6
This alludes to the following Qur’anic verses:
(Abraham prayed): “Our Lord, raise up in their midst a Messenger from among them who shall recite unto them Your signs, and teach them the Book and Wisdom, and purify them. Verily you are the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.” (2:129)
When Jesus, son of Mary, said: “O children of Israel! I am indeed a Messenger of God to you, confirming that which was [revealed] before me in the Torah, and bringing good tidings of a Messenger who shall come after me, whose name is Ahmad [the Praised One].” (61:6)
The Messenger of God was expected. All preceding Prophets spoke of and predicted his coming. The Qur’an (3:81) specifically states that God made a covenant with the Prophets that they would believe in and help the Messenger who would come after them and confirm the Message that they brought.7
The current versions of the Torah, the Gospel, and the Psalms still contain verses alluding to Prophet Muhammad, and even to his Companions. The late Husayn Jisri (1845–1909) found 114 such allusions and quoted them in his Risalat al-Hamidiya. We cite a few examples here, beginning with:
The Lord came from Sinai and dawned over them from Seir; He shone forth from Mount Paran (Deuteronomy 33:2).
This refers to the Prophethood of Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, respectively. Sinai is where Prophet Moses spoke to God and received the Torah. Seir, a place in Palestine, is where Prophet Jesus received Divine Revelation. Paran is where God manifested Himself to humanity for the last time through His Revelation to Prophet Muhammad.
Paran is a mountain range in Makka. It is mentioned in the Torah (Genesis 21:19-21) as the desert area where Hagar was left by her husband Abraham to live with her son Ishmael. The Zamzam well also is located there. As stated in the Qur’an (14:35-37), Abraham left Hagar and Ishmael in the valley of Makka, which was then an uninhabited place between the mountain ranges of Paran.
It is because of such explicit predictions in the Torah that the Jews were expecting the Last Prophet and knew that he would appear in Makka.
The verse of Deuteronomy, according to the Arabic version published in London (1944), continues: He came with myriads of holy ones; in his right hand was an axe of fire with two edges. This refers to the promised Prophet, who would have many Companions of the highest degree of sainthood and would be allowed—even ordered—to fight his enemies.
The following verses also promise his coming:
The Lord said to me [Moses]: “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you 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 will Myself call him to account.” (Deuteronomy 18:17-19)
It is clear from these verses that a Prophet like you among their brothers means a Prophet from Ishmael’s line, for Ishmael is the brother of Isaac, the forefather of the Children of Israel. The only Prophet who came after Moses and resembled him in many ways (e.g., bringing a new law and waging war against his enemies) is Prophet Muhammad. The Qur’an points to this:
We have sent to you a Messenger as a witness over you, even as we sent to Pharaoh a Messenger (73:15).
‘Abd Allah ibn ‘Amr, an ascetic warned by the Prophet not to neglect sleeping with his wife and to fast only on alternate days, is reported to have said: “It was common knowledge to the communities of previous religions that God would send a Prophet to humanity as a bearer of good tidings and a warner. I personally read in the Torah these verses about him:
We have sent you, O Prophet, to humanity as a bearer of good tidings and a warner, and as a support and refuge for the common folk. You are My servant and Messenger. I have called you Mutawakkil [the one who puts his trust in God]. He is not one rude, repelling and angry, and shouting in the streets. He does not repel evil with evil; instead, he excuses and forgives. God will not make him die before He guides through him the deviating nation to the right path by declaring there is no deity but God.”8
This report was confirmed by ‘Abd Allah ibn Salam and Ka‘b al-Akhbar, the most learned scholars of the Jewish community at the time of the Prophet. They later converted to Islam.
We also read about the Prophet in the Psalms of David:
He will rule from sea to sea and from the river to the ends of the Earth. The desert tribes will bow before him, and his enemies will lick the dust. The kings of Tarsish and of distant shores will bring tribute to him; the kings of Sheba and Seba will present gifts to him. All kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him, for he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the weak and the needy, and save the needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight. Long may he live! May gold from Sheba be given to him. May people ever pray for him and bless him all day long. Let corn abound throughout the land; on the tops of the hills may it sway. May his name endure for ever; may it continue as long as the sun. All nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed. (Psalms 72:8-17)
More emphatically and frequently than any other Prophet, Jesus gave good tidings of the Last Messenger. In the Gospel of John, Jesus promises his arrival using several names:
But I tell you the truth: It is for your good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Paraklit will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment. (John, 16:7-8)
Here, Prophet Muhammad is referred to as the Paraklit. This Greek word means “the Distinguisher between Truth and Falsehood” and “one who is much praised.”9 Christian interpreters have given it various meanings, such as Counselor (New International Version by International Bible Society, placed and distributed by Gideon’s International), Helper (American Bible Society), or Comforter (The Company of the Holy Bible), and claim that it refers to the Holy Spirit. But they have never been able to establish whether the Holy Spirit came down after Jesus and did what Jesus said it would do.
If the Holy Spirit is Archangel Gabriel, he came many times to the Messenger of God to bring Divine Revelations. Further, Jesus mentioned and predicted the Paraklit with other names but the same function, as seen below:
When Paraklit comes—the Spirit of truth—who comes from the Father, he will testify about me. (John 15:26)
I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking what is mine and making it known to you. (John 16:12-14)
I will not speak with you much longer, for the Prince of this world is coming. And I posses nothing of him. (John 14:30)
Who has come after Jesus other than Prophet Muhammad, as the Comforter who has comforted human beings against their fear of death, worries of the future, and spiritual ailments? As the Helper, who has helped humanity attain real peace and happiness in both worlds? As the Prince of the world, who has ruled almost half the world for fourteen centuries and has become the beloved of billions? As the Spirit of truth, who has testified to Jesus, brought glory to him by declaring his Prophethood against the Jews’ denial and the Christians’ deification, and restoring his religion to its pristine purity through the Book revealed to him?
What shortcomings do some Christians attribute to Prophet Muhammad, in contrast to Jesus and other Prophets, that, while many among them believed in him within a few decades of his death, they persist in denying him?
Mawlana Jalal al-Din al-Rumi, a great Sufi saint, expresses in the following stanza the good tidings of Prophet Muhammad found in the Gospel:
In the Gospel, Mustafa is mentioned with his attributes. In him is the mystery of all the Prophets; he is the bringer of happiness. The Gospel mentions him with his external form and features, and also with his personal virtues and Prophetic qualities.
The Old and New Testaments, despite the questionable authenticity of their current versions, still contain references to the Last Prophet. We have quoted some of these. If, one day, the original copies or the least altered copies of the Torah and the Gospel are discovered, they will contain explicit references. This may be deduced from the Traditions that say Christianity will be purified of its borrowed elements.
Many Others Awaited the Prophet
Owing to the numerous predictions of his coming, everyone was waiting for Prophet Muhammad. In that dark era of human history, humanity was waiting for one who would destroy unbelief and breathe new life into the world. Judaism and Christianity, being God-revealed religions in origin, had no more to offer. Those who had studied the old books without prejudice, especially the monk Bahira, were waiting for him to come.
Many Makkans also were waiting, one of the foremost being Zayd ibn ‘Amr, ‘Umar ibn al-Khattab’s uncle. He had rejected idolatry, led a pure life, and used to address people as follows: “There’s no good in the idols you worship. I know of a religion that will soon be taught and spread. It will be proclaimed no later than a few years from now, but I don’t know whether I’ll live long enough to witness it.”
According to ‘Amr ibn Rabi‘a, Zayd gave a detailed description of the expected Prophet:
I am expecting a Prophet who is about to come. He will appear among Ishmael’s descendants and ‘Abd al-Muttalib’s grandsons. He is of middle height, neither too tall nor too short. His hair is neither curly nor straight. His name is Ahmad. His birthplace is Makka. His people will force him to leave Makka, and he will emigrate to Yathrib (Madina), where his religion will spread. I have traveled from place to place searching for Abraham’s religion. However, all the Jewish and Christian scholars I spoke to advised me to wait for him. He is the Last Prophet; no Prophet will come after him. I may not live long enough to see him, but I have believed in him.
At the end of his introduction, Zayd told ‘Amr ibn Rabi‘a: “If you live long enough to see him, greet him for me.” Years passed before Prophet Muhammad declared his Prophethood. ‘Amr ibn Rabi‘a, having declared his faith to the Prophet, explained what Zayd had told him and conveyed his greetings. The Prophet returned his greetings and added: “I saw Zayd in Paradise, trailing his robes.”10
Among those seeking the truth was Waraqa ibn Nawfal, a Christian scholar and paternal cousin of Khadija, the Prophet’s wife. When the first Revelation came, Khadija told Waraqa what had happened. Waraqa replied:
“Muhammad is a truthful man. What he saw is that which occurs at the beginning of Prophethood. The being who came to him is Gabriel, who also came to Moses and Jesus. Muhammad will be a Prophet. If I live long enough to witness his declaration of Prophethood, I will believe in him and support him.”11
One of those seeking the Last Prophet was the Jew ‘Abd Allah ibn Salam. The Jews had such confidence in him that they called him “the lord, son of a lord.” His greatness equaled that of even the greatest Companions, such as Abu Bakr and ‘Umar, and God would consider his testimony to the Qur’an equal to the testimony of a people:
Say: “Have you considered? If it be from God, and you do not believe in it, and a witness from among the Children of Israel bears witness to its like, and believes, and you wax proud, God guides not the people of the evildoers.” (46:10)
This great Companion describes how he found the Prophet:
When God’s Messenger emigrated to Madina, I went to see him, as did everyone else. He was sitting amidst a group of people when I went in, and saying: “Give food to others and greet them.” His speech was so sweet and his face so charming that I said to myself: “I swear by God that one with such a face cannot lie.” Without delay I declared my belief in him.12
The Jews and Christians of that time recognized God’s Messenger. As stated in the Qur’an, They recognize him as they recognize their sons (2:146). After his conversion, ‘Umar asked ‘Abd Allah ibn Salam if he had recognized God’s Messenger. “I recognized him,” Ibn Salam answered, and added: “I may doubt my children, my wife might have deceived me, but I have no doubt about God’s Messenger being the Last Prophet.”13
Although the Jews and Christians recognized him, most envied him and, out of prejudice and envy, did not believe:
When there came to them a Book from God confirming what was with them—and they aforetime prayed for victory over the unbelievers—when there came to them what they recognized, they disbelieved in it; and the curse of God is on the unbelievers. (2:89)
After his conversion, ‘Abd Allah ibn Salam said to God’s Messenger: “O Messenger of God, hide me in a corner and then summon all the Jewish scholars in Madina to ask about me and my father. Their assessment will certainly be positive. Then let me come out to declare my conversion.” God’s Messenger accepted this suggestion.
When the Jewish scholars gathered, God’s Messenger asked them what they thought of Ibn Salam and his father. All of them answered: “They are among our noblest and most learned people.” Upon this, God’s Messenger asked again: “How would you react if he affirms me?” They responded: “It is impossible that he will affirm you!” Ibn Salam then came out and declared his conversion, whereupon the Jewish scholars immediately changed their attitude and retorted: “Ibn Salam is the most wicked among us, and the son of the most wicked.”14
Prophet Muhammad was one who had been sought for centuries. Salman al-Farisi was one of those seekers. Originally a Magian (a fire worshipper), he had left his native Persia due to his burning desire to find the eternal truth. Before embracing Islam, he worked for several Christian monks, the last of whom advised Salman on his deathbed:
Son, there is nobody left to whom I can commend you. But according to what we read in our books, the Last Prophet is about to appear. He will come with the pure creed of Abraham and will appear in the place to which Abraham emigrated. Nevertheless, he will emigrate to another place and settle there. There are explicit signs of his Prophethood. For example, he will not eat of charity but will accept gifts, and the seal of Prophethood will be between his shoulders.
Now, let Salman narrate the rest of his story:
I joined a caravan heading for the place mentioned by the late monk. When we arrived at Wadi al-Qura’, they sold me to a Jew as a slave. When I saw gardens of date palms, I thought the Prophet would emigrate to this place. While I was working there, another Jew from the Banu Qurayza bought me and took me to Madina. I began working in his date-palm garden. There was no news yet of God’s Messenger. However, one day I was harvesting dates when a cousin of my Jewish owner came up hurriedly. He said in great anger: “Damn it! The people are flocking to Quba. A man from Makka, who claims Prophethood, has come. They think he’s a real Prophet.”
I began to tremble with excitement. I climbed down from the tree and asked: “What are you talking about?” My owner saw my excitement and slapped my face with the back of his hand, saying: “It doesn’t concern you, mind your own business!”
On the same day, as the sunset, I went to him in Quba and gave him as alms the food I had brought with me. God’s Messenger did not touch it, but said to those around him: “Help yourself to this.” I told myself: “This is the first sign.” On another occasion I gave him something as a gift. He accepted it and ate it with his Companions. “This is the second sign,” I told myself.
Once, I attended the funeral for a deceased Companion. I came close to God’s Messenger in the cemetery. After greeting him, I stood behind him in the hope of seeing the Seal of Prophethood. His shoulders were bare, and the seal was just as the monk had described it. I couldn’t help kissing it in tears, after which I told him my story. He was very pleased and wanted his Companions to hear my story.15
People who sincerely sought him found him. Whoever seeks him will find him, whereas those who remain obstinate and ruled by their evil-commanding selves will drown in unbelief and hypocrisy. Mughira ibn Shu‘ba narrates:
One day I was with Abu Jahl in Makka. God’s Messenger came over and invited us to accept Islam. Abu Jahl rebuked him, saying: “If you are doing this so that we will testify before God in the other world that you performed your mission of Prophethood, we will do it. Leave us then, O man, to ourselves!” When God’s Messenger left us, I asked Abu Jahl if he admitted Muhammad’s Prophethood. He said that he did, and then added: “I know he is truly a Prophet. Nevertheless, we compete with the Hashimites in everything. They have been boasting of providing food and water to the pilgrims. Now if they begin to boast of having a Prophet, I won’t be able to endure it at all.”16
This is typical of the thoughts cherished by the Abu Jahls of the past and the present. Intelligent people who are not prejudiced and whose willpower is not paralyzed cannot help but believe in Islam and God’s Messenger. In this respect, God says to His holy Messenger:
We know well that their talk grieves you; in truth they deny not you, but it is the signs of God that the evildoers condemn (6:33).
How could they accuse him of lying, for he was known by everybody as al-Amin (the truthful one)? The testimony of one of his bitterest enemies, ‘Utba ibn Abi Rabi‘a, proves that even his enemies admitted his truthfulness.
The Qurayshi leaders met to discuss how to prevent the spread of Islam. They sent ‘Utba in the hope that he could persuade the Messenger to stop. He asked: “Who is better, O Muhammad, you or your father?” God’s Messenger did not answer, probably because silence is the best answer to such an absurd question. ‘Utba continued: “If your father was better than you, he cannot have been following the religion you are now preaching. If, by contrast, you are better than your father, then I am ready to listen to what you have to say.”
God’s Messenger inquired: “Is that all you intend to say?” ‘Utba said that it was, and fell silent. Then, God’s Messenger knelt and began reciting from Surat al-Fussilat. By the time he reached: But if they turn away, then “I warn you of a thunderbolt [as fell in times past upon the tribes] of ‘Ad and Thamud” (41:13), ‘Utba was trembling as if caught by fever. He had to put his hand on the lips of God’s Messenger and said: “Please stop, for the sake of the God in whom you believe!” ‘Utba returned home bewildered.
The Qurayshi leaders were waiting for him anxiously. Fearing that ‘Utba might have accepted Islam, Abu Jahl knocked at his door and, when admitted, angered ‘Utba by saying: “I heard Muhammad treated you very generously and feted you, and in return you believed in him. This is what the people are saying.” Angrily, ‘Utba replied:
You know I don’t need to be feted by him. I am richer than all of you. But his words shook me. They weren’t poetry, nor did they resemble those of a soothsayer. I don’t know how I should respond. He’s a truthful person. While I was listening to his recitation, I feared that what happened to ‘Ad and Thamud might happen to us.17
They had been expecting a Prophet for a long time. Everybody knew al-Amin’s character, and no one had ever heard him lie. They were charmed by his personality and the Qur’an’s eloquence, but yet could not overcome their pride and arrogance, or the envy and rivalry, and proclaim their belief. Nor could they bring their habits and lifestyle into accord with his Message. Is this not true of all those who, knowing the truth, persist in unbelief?
By M. Fethullah Gülen
6. Muttaqi al-Hindi, Kanz al-‘Ummal, 11:384.
7. Behold, Allah took the Covenant of the Prophets, saying: “I give you a Book and Wisdom.
Then a Messenger comes to you, confirming what is with you. Believe in him and help him.” Allah asked: “Do you agree, and take this Covenant as binding?” They replied: “We agree.” He said: “Then bear witness, and I am with you among the witnesses.”
8. Bukhari, “Buyu‘,” 50; Ibn Hanbal, 2:174.
9. For more information on “Paraclete”, see Unal, Ali. The Qur’an with Annotated Interpretation in Modern English, The Light, Inc. Sura as-Saff, 61:6, note 4)
10. Ibn Kathir, Al-Bidaya, 2:223.
11. Bukhari, “Bad‘u al-Wahy,” 3.
12. Ahmad ibn Hanbal, Musnad, 5:451.
13. Mukhtasar Tafsir Ibn al-Kathir, 1:140.
14. Bukhari, al-Anbiya’, “Bab Khalq Adam,” 2.
15. Ibn Hisham, Sira, 1:228-34.
16. Kanz al-‘Ummal, 14:39-40; Ibn Kathir, 3:83.
17. Ibn Kathir, 3:80-81; Ibn Hisham, 1:313.