Answering Osama Abdullah’s Open Challenge #1
I came across this challenge on Osama Abdullah’s Answering Christianity website a while back, and had filed it away in my mental “to do” list, but then promptly forgot about it until this summer. Here Mr. Abdullah, a Muslim apologist of the sort more prone to making wild pronouncements and fantastical claims than logical, reasoned arguments, tries to eisegete Mohammed into the Bible, by claiming that Deuteronomy 33:2 is a prediction by Moses about the Muslim conquest of Mecca, which he and other Muslim apologists try to equate with the Paran found in Deuteronomy. The most pertinent part of Mr. Abdullah’s challenge at this point appears below,
In Deuteronomy 33:2, we see Moses peace be upon him predicting that GOD Almighty will execute His Holy Judgement in the city of Paran by 10,000 of Believers:”And he said, The LORD came from Si’-nai, and rose up from Se’-ir unto them; he shined forth from mount Pa’-ran [Mecca in Arabic], and he came with ten thousands of saints: from his right hand went a fiery law for them. (From the King James Version Bible, Deuteronomy 33:2)”We also read about the same prophecy by Prophet Enoch peace be upon him:”And Enoch [Idris in Arabic, one of Allah Almighty’s Prophets peace be upon all of them to the people of Israel.] also, the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard [speeches] which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. (Jude 1:14-15)”Now, according to the Islamic history, the city of Mecca (Paran) was liberated by Prophet Muhammad’s 10,000-men army. The irrefutable historical proofs for this are located in this article: The story of the 10,000 Muslims who liberated Mecca (Paran) in the Bible.Now, since these prophecies were foretold in the Bible’s Old Testament, I would like to openly challenge any Jewish Rabbi or Christian Priest or Minister to answer the following question for me:Where in the Bible do we see any Prophet executing the Judgement of GOD Almighty specifically in the city of Paran (Mecca, the city that Abraham took Hagar and Ishmael to)?
What Mr. Abdullah (and generations of Muslim apologists before him) is essentially claiming is that Deuteronomy 33:2 predicts the Muslim conquest of Mecca, with an army conveniently redacted by Muslim historiographers to 10,000 men. The purpose, of course, is to try to lend legitimacy to Muslim claims concerning Mohammed’s propheticity, and thus induce Christians and Jews to believe that Mohammed must have been some sort of long-awaited prophet foretold in God’s Word, and from this, to become Muslims. However, is this effort really truthful, or are Muslims tinkering with their terminology to make their story fit in with the Biblical statement?
To begin dealing with this claim, the postulation that Paran can be equated with Mecca must first be examined. Pretty much the sole basis for the identification of Paran with Mecca stems from an incidental comment made by a medieval Muslim geographer named Yaqut al-Hamawi. In the geographical work which he finished around 1225 AD, he wrote,
“Faaraan: After the alif there is a raa’ and it ends in a nun. An Arabicized Hebrew word. It is one of the names for Mekkah mentioned in the Torah. It has been said that it is a name for the mountains of Mekkah. Ibn Makulan Abu Bakr Nasr Ibn al-Qaasim Ibn Qudaa`ah al-Qudaa`i al-Faaraani al-Iskandari said “I have heard it is a reference to the mountains of Faaraan, that is to say, the mountains of the Hijaaz. In the Torah God came from Sinaa’ and dawned from Saa`iir and became known from Faaraan”; they are the mountains of Filastiin, and it is His sending down of the Injiil upon Isa, peace be upon him, and His revealing from Mount Faaraan the fact of His sending down the Qur’an upon Muhammad, peace be upon him. It is said Faaraan is the mountain of Mekkah; Faaraan is also a village in the region of Sughd, one of the provinces of Samarqand, to whom Abu Mansuur Muhammad Ibn Bakr Ibn Isma`iil al-Samarqandi al-Faaraani traces his origins. This was transmitted from Muhammad Ibn al-Fadl al-Larmaani and Nasr Ibn Ahmad al-Kindi the Qur’anic scholar, from whom Abu al-Hasan Muhammad Ibn Abd Allah Ibn Muhammad al-Kaaghidhi al-Samarqandi transmitted. Abu Abd Allah al-Qudaa`i said, “Faaraan and al-Tur are two districts in southern Egypt.”1
It is upon the basis of Yaqut’s testimony that Muslims trumpet this identification and the subsequent apologetic claim. Now, it should be apparent to the discerning reader that there are several problems with relying on the above to try to nail down something as important as a prophecy. Yaqut’s sole source is based upon the hearsay of one man, who says that “the mountains of Faran” (Paran)2 was a name for the mountains around Mecca. No explanation is given as to where this identification came from, or why one would not logically place Paran in the Sinai peninsula, where both Mts. Sinai and Seir also exist. As such, his statement is hearsay, and little fit to be evidence for overturning the uniform consensus which geographers and scholars have held for centuries. Further, Yaqut notes that this name is “an Arabicised Hebrew word”. The obvious question is, “Why would Arabs located over 1000 km from Palestine refer to mountains in their heartland with Hebrew names? One would logically presume that there would be no need to “Arabicise” names for landmarks existing right in the middle of the indigenous Arabian civilisation.
Other problems exist as well. Mecca is, of course, a city, not a mountain, and is actually located in a valley. Deuteronomy 33:2 explicitly states that the LORD is coming from mount Paran, indicating a single peak, not a chain or group of mountains. Yaqut himself identifies Paran as a group of mountains, which does not correlate with the Paran mentioned in the Bible. Further, Yaqut’s exposition is self-contradictory in that he identifies all three of these mountains (Sinai, Seir, and Paran) as “mountains of Filastiin” (Palestine), which again, seems to cast doubt upon his concurrent claim that Paran is Mecca. As such, the statement of Yaqut, which Muslim apologism has rested upon for well-nigh eight centuries, is a very weak foundation upon which to try to construct a Biblical prophecy about Mohammed.
Yaqut’s testimony is further weakened in that either he or his source seem to be the originators of the “Mecca=Paran” equation. Evidence from another much more well-known and well-traveled Muslim geographer contradicts Yaqut’s testimony, indicating that before Yaqut, the identification of Paran with Mecca was not known. Abu Abdallah Muhammad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Abdallah Ibn Idris al-Qurtubi al-Hasani, hereafter known as Al-Idrisi, produced a much more systematic and in-depth geography of the Muslim world of his time, this one written around 1154 AD (or roughly 70 years before Yaqut). In it, he speaks also of Paran, which he refers to as “Faran Ahrun“ (Paran of Aaron)
“This district lies 40 miles from Al Kulzum, and along the sea coast. The city of Faran stands at the bottom of a gulf. It is a small town where certain of the Arabs have their camping ground. Over against Faran is a place where the sea has formed a bay, and beside it is a mountain of very hard rock. The waters surge round this and encircle it, and when the winds rise, the passage thereof is difficult, and no one can accomplish it, except with great effort. Travelers are frequently lost there, unless Allah save and guard them. According to the common saying, this is the sea wherein Pharaoh – Allah curse him! – was drowned.”3
Al-Idrisi’s identification seems little plausible if one tries to apply it to Mecca. He states that Paran stands at the bottom of a gulf, and indicates that the sea forms a bay next to the city. Mecca is around 80 km inland from the Red Sea. He further states that it is a “small town” where “the Arabs have their camping ground”. At the time of his writing, Mecca was certainly not a small town, and certainly would not have been referred to as a “camping ground” by a Muslim! Further, Al-Idrisi positively nails down the location of Paran in the Sinai peninsula. He comments that the common saying was that the sea on which Paran sat was the sea where Pharaoh was drowned during the attempt to recover his Israelite slaves during the Exodus. Tradition in all three groups, Muslim, Jewish, and Christian, has been that this event occurred in the Gulf of Suez, which is the western finger of the Red Sea that forms a “V” around the Sinai peninsula. Thus, in his mind as well as the minds of his readers at the time, his reference would definitely be to a town on the bank of the Gulf of Suez. Further, he states precisely that Paran was 40 miles (in modern distance units, of course) from Al-Kulzum. Kulzum was an ancient town on the Gulf of Suez that served sometime as a fortress for controlling the canals in the region. Kulzum finds mention in the “Thousand and One Arabian Nights” stories, where it serves as the castle and capital for the Blue King, a king of the Jinn. A more serious identification is made by Burton in his translation and commentary of that literary work, however,
“The old name of Suez-town from the Greek Clysma (the shutting), which named the Gulf of Suez “Sea of Kulzum.” The ruins in the shape of a huge mound, upon which Sá’id Pasha built a Kiosk-palace, lie to the north of the modern town and have been noticed by me. (Pilgrimage, Midian, etc.) The Rev. Prof. Sayce examined the mound and from the Roman remains found in it determined it to be a fort guarding the old mouth of the Old Egyptian Sweet-water Canal which then debouched near the town.”4
None of this is located even remotely near to Mecca or the Hijaz, but all are located in the Sinai peninsula. The identifying information seems to conclusively identify a site located at or near the headwaters of the Suez finger of the Gulf.
Further, internal evidence from the Bible itself firmly places Paran in the Sinai peninsula. Paran is mentioned on a handful of occasions in the Old Testament, most of which are inconclusive for giving a positive location, but a few of which prove very informative. In I Kings 11:15-18, we see a parenthetical aside detailing the escape of an Edomite royal heir named Hadad to Egypt during the time when David and Joab killed the males of Edom in a campaign. They fled to Egypt for protection with the Pharaoh, and their route is said in this passage to have been from Midian (a region south of Israel around the headwaters of the Gulf of Aqaba, the other finger of the Red Sea) to Paran, and then on to Egypt. Now, it would seem to make little sense for them to flee from Midian to a place 1000 km south, then return by the same route5 so as to go to Egypt. However, the placement of Paran near the headwater of the Gulf of Suez would make perfect sense for this passage.
The other passage of interest is Genesis 21:21, which describes the circumstance of Ishmael after he and his mother Hagar were expelled from Abraham’s household. This verse states that he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran, and that his mother took for him a wife from the women of Egypt. This gives additional evidence for placing Paran in Sinai over towards Egypt. As Hagar herself was Egyptian, it would seem natural that after her expulsion, she would return to the people of her nativity, and thus would approach Egypt. That she took a wife for Ishmael from the Egyptians also suggests proximity to Egypt, as she (being an expelled slave woman) would not have had the resources to send for a woman in a land over 1200 km away, which the populated parts of Egypt would have been from Mecca. As such, the biblical testimony which touches on the location of Paran also contradicts the attempt to locate Paran at Mecca.
Lastly, even without the details of locations, it should be understood that the Muslim apologetic attempt to cast Deuteronomy 33:2 as a prophecy about Mohammed simply makes no sense, either logically or theologically. To begin, the passage is not even uttered in any sort of prophetic way. In fact, it is given in the past tense, it is detailed by Moses as an event which had already occurred. Further, the verse explicitly states that it is the LORD who came from mount Paran. In the Hebrew, this is referring to YHWH, making this a direct reference to God Himself coming down from mount Paran in a picture of anthropomorphy. Unless Muslims wish to equate Mohammed WITH God, then they cannot read this text naturally and still try to find Mohammed in it.
In the same vein, let us look again at Mr. Abdullah’s use of Jude 14-15 as supporting evidence,”And Enoch [Idris in Arabic, one of Allah Almighty’s Prophets peace be upon all of them to the people of Israel.] also, the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied of these, saying, Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard [speeches] which ungodly sinners have spoken against him. (Jude 1:14-15)”
Abdullah further supports his claim along this line with this statement from his “10,000 Saints” page in which he quotes Vidyarthi,
This prophecy of Enoch clearly refers to the Holy Prophet [pbuh] for the following reasons:
1. Only the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] had ten thousand saints with him. We have shown elsewhere that these saints accompanied the Prophet [pbuh] at the conquest of Makka.
2. The Holy Prophet [pbuh] executed judgment upon all the unbelievers at the conquest of Makka and convinced ungodly Makkans of their ungodly deeds.
3. The Christians kept waiting for the coming of the Lord even after Christ had come, for this epistle of Jude was written long after Christ and the Christians knew that it referred to come other personage who, from the time of the Prophet Enoch up to the time of Christ, had not appeared. The prophecy was therefore clearly for the Prophet Muhammad [pbuh] and for none else.
“Muhammad In World Scriptures,” supra, at p. 24.6
Points #1 and #2 of Vidyarthi’s statement are predicated upon the idea of Mecca being synonymous with Paran, which we have seen above is unsupported by fact. Hence, these two points can be summarily dismissed. Point #3, which dovetails with Abdullah’s own argument from Jude 14-15, is incorrect on several counts as well. We note that the statement in Jude is a quotation (from The Book of Enoch 1:9), and itself refers to the statement of the coming of the LORD with His saints made in Deuteronomy 33:2. As such, Jude is also speaking of a past event, and the one which Vidyarthi claims Jude forecast after Christ (using the misleading terminology “prophet”, which doesn’t actually appear in the text, so as to induce a psychological connexion of this event to the “prophet” Mohammed) actually had already come and fulfilled the same statement made as a past tense in Deuteronomy 33:2. Hence, we see that just as with Deuteronomy 33:2, Jude’s statement was not a future prophecy, as it has already been fulfilled by the LORD coming with ten thousand saints and executing judgment through the giving of the law, which condemns all men and convicts them as sinners before God. And again, we note the same error which Muslims make with Deuteronomy 33:2, which is the failure to notice that it is the Lord (a term used as a title in the New Testament only for the personages of God) who comes with His ten thousands of saints. Do Muslims really want to try to equate Mohammed as God?
Vidjarthi’s argument about Christians continuing to wait for the coming of the LORD signals his own lack of awareness of even the basics of Christian theology. Christians have, since the very inception of the churches, awaited the second coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. There has been no instance where Christians have been waiting for the coming of another who was NOT Jesus Christ, and in fact, the teaching of the Bible commands Christians to be on the watchful against others besides Jesus Christ who would come claiming the mantle of Messiahship and a place as the Lord (cf. Matthew 24:23-27). Further, Vidyarthi’s statement is somewhat misleading. He says, “The Christians kept waiting for the coming of the Lord even after Christ had come…”. Rather, the Christians kept waiting for the second coming of the Lord, not the first coming of someone else besides Jesus Christ.
Knowing the above, it is then a small matter to “mop up” the rest of Mr. Abdullah’s “challenge”. He finishes this section by asking a series of questions, most of which have little to do directly with this issue, and which can only be answered affirmatively if one is already predispositioned to do so (which only occurs if one is already Muslim).
If Muhammad who liberated the city of Paran (Mecca) with 10,000 Believing Men (Saints) wasn’t the one who fulfilled this Biblical Prophecy, then who was that Prophet?
Answer: There was no prophet who did this. The texts are quite clear that it is the Lord Himself, i.e. God, who came forth to bring His fiery law, which He then gave to Moses.
Wasn’t Muhammad through the Divine Religion of Islam the one who ended the idol worshiping of the 365 gods, and ended the brutal slavery and the torturing of women (burying daughters alive at the age of 4 was the pagan Arabs custom)?
All that Mohammed did was to turn a nascent henotheism into a novel monotheism. He took the idolatry of Arabia, identified his “Allah” with each of the high gods of the various tribes, and melded together an ecumenical religion centred on this Allah7. Allah had previously been the title of various moon gods around Arabia, and there is even Muslim historiography which depicts Mohammed’s father as praying to Allah while standing next to a statue of Hubal, the Lord of the Kaabah8. Far from ending idolatry in Arabia, Mohammed merely specialised it and centred it upon one pagan deity.
Further, we have yet to see any real evidence that Islam ended brutality towards women, at least in any land where Islam actually rules. Should we ask the women in Nigeria who are to be stoned for adultery how much Islam has ended to torture of women? These women, raped, were unable to obtain any justice against their attackers because of the necessity in Islamic shari’a that four male witnesses be present to testify against the rapist. Since a woman’s testimony is worthless in an Islamic court, and since rapists don’t usually carry out their dirty deeds in public, they have been unable to get justice, and instead have been sentenced to death as adulteresses! Let’s ask these women, who are to be buried to the waist and then stoned to death with rocks sized to draw out the suffering (not too big, not too small), how much Mohammed or his religion have eased the suffering of women.
Didn’t Muhammad bring the Arabs from the total darkness of polytheism and evil to the Light of Worshiping the One True Living GOD Almighty and associated no partners with Him?
See above. Allah was merely taken from among a whole host of pagan idols and set us artificially as the “only” god. The fact that he has no partners associated with him means nothing, since he is still a false god, and was an idol before Mohammed destroyed all the idols to hide his origins.
Wasn’t Muhammad fruitful, and a true man of GOD Almighty?
Emphatically no! See here for how “godly” Mohammed really was.
And with this, I conclude this portion of the refutation of Mr. Abdullah’s oft-repeated but little supported claims about Mohammed’s appearing in the Bible.
(1) – Yaqut al-Hamawi, Mu’jam al-Buldan, Vol. III, p.834
(2) – Faran in Arabic is rightly equated with Paran. In Hebrew, both the “p” and the “f“ are represented by the letter “Pe“. The pronunciation of this letter depends upon the presence or lack of the Dagesh Lene within the letter. If it lacked the Dagesh, as it would in unpointed Hebrew scripts (pointing did not arise until the medieval period), then it would indicate the “f” phenome. Further, Arabic does not have the “p” phoneme except in certain loan words. Early Muslims, relatively unfamiliar with the contextual rules of Hebrew that would indicate how to pronounce an unpointed Hebrew text and not naturally using the “p” phoneme anywise, may have inadvertently altered the name Paran to Faran. We can see this phenomenon occurring also in Yaqut’s passage with the the alteration of Palestine to Filistiin.
(3) – Al-Idrisi, Nuzhat al-Mushtaq fi Ikhtiraq al-Afaq, p.2; from G. Le Strange, Palestine under the Moslems, p. 440
(4) – The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night, trans. R.F. Burton, Vol. VII, Tale #154, FN #419
(5) – Which they would have to do. The Red Sea was historically known for its treacherous waters, and was little used for traffic until the time of the Romans, whose ponderous ships could better sustain the rough seas. Thus, their route to Egypt would have to have been by land, back exactly the way they came, to get to the Egyptian court in the northern part of that land.
(6) – This is referring to M.A.H. Vidyarthi, Muhammad In World Scriptures, Vol. I, p. 73
(7) – see http://www.studytoanswer.net/myths_ch3.html#ch3-3
(8) – Ibn Ishaq, Siratu’l Rasul