Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Revisiting Isaiah 42

Addendum: The Theology of Isaiah

Contrasted with the teachings of Muhammad

Sam Shamoun

In our previous discussion we examined the over all context of the book of Isaiah in order to conclusively establish that Muhammad could not have been the servant mentioned by the prophet in the 42nd chapter. Here we are going to take a brief look at Isaiah’s theology and contrast it with what Muhammad proclaimed for the express purpose of providing additional evidence that Muhammad could not be possibly be a true prophet.

According to Isaiah, a Child will be born to reign forever upon David’s throne as the Mighty God in the flesh:

“For unto us a child is born (yeled yulad), unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God (El Gibbor), The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.” Isaiah 9:6-7

What makes this a rather shocking prophecy is that in the very next chapter, Isaiah identifies Yahweh as the Mighty God:

“And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God (El Gibbor).” Isaiah 10:20-21

And since Isaiah says elsewhere that there is no other god besides Yahweh,

“Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God (El) formed, neither shall there be after me.” Isaiah 43:10

“Tell ye, and bring them near; yea, let them take counsel together: who hath declared this from ancient time? who hath told it from that time? have not I the Lord? and there is no God (Elohim) else beside me; a just God (El) and a Saviour; there is none beside me. Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God (El), and there is none else.” Isaiah 45:21-22

This, therefore, means that the Child to be born must be Yahweh God Incarnate!

Thus, the prophet is envisioning a time when God Almighty shall become a man, which directly contradicts the Quran’s express denial of Allah being born. What makes this rather interesting is that the Muslim scripture even goes as far as to employ the exact Arabic cognate of the Hebrew word yulad to refute the possibility of Allah ever allowing himself to be begotten:

He begetteth (yalid) not, nor is He begotten (yulad); S. 112:3 Y. Ali

The other problem that Muslims face with trying to find Muhammad in the book of Isaiah is that the prophet speaks of Yahweh lifting up his beloved Servant to a very highly exalted position:

“Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled (yarum wa'nissa), and be very high.” Isaiah 52:13

As we saw previously, Isaiah describes the exaltation of the Servant in the exact same way that the prophet speaks of Yahweh being enthroned from a very high and lofty place:

“In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up (ram wa'nissa), and his train filled the temple. Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly. And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory. And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke. Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts.” Isaiah 6:1-5

“For thus saith the high and lofty One (ram wa'nissa) that inhabiteth eternity, whose name is Holy; I dwell in the high (marom) and holy place, with him also that is of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones.” Isaiah 57:15 – cf. 2:11-17; 5:16; 33:5, 10

As noted before, this means that Yahweh has raised his Servant to share in his sovereign rule over the entire creation. The following Jewish exposition shows just remarkable this prophecy is:

“I will now proceed to my exposition. 13 Behold my servant shall have understanding. From the prophet’s saying ‘understanding,’ it may be seen that all the lofty predicates which he assigns to him have their source in this attribute; in virtue of his comprehensive intelligence he will attain an elevation above that even of the most perfect men in the world. He shall be high and exalted, and lofty exceedingly. According to the Midrash of our Rabbis; he will be higher than Abraham, who was first of all a ‘high father,’ and afterwards a father of a multitude. He will be more exalted than Moses, who was ‘exalted’ above the exalted ones of Levi (cf. Num. iii. 32), who was a prophet such that ‘none arose like him in Israel,’ (Deut. xxxiv. 10), who ‘saved’ Israel ‘with a great salvation’ (cf. I Chron. xi. 14) when they came out of Egypt, and the report of whom spread into all places until ‘the dukes of Edom were confounded’ before him, and ‘trembling seized the mighty men of Moab, and all the inhabitants of Canaan melted away’ (Ex. xv. 15). But this one will be exalted far above Moses: for when he gathers together our scattered ones from the four corners of the earth, he will be exalted in the eyes of all the kings in the whole world, and all of them will serve him, and will exalt him above them, as Daniel prophesies concerning him, ‘All nations, peoples, and tongues shall serve him’ (Dan. vii. 14, 27). He will be loftier than Solomon, whose dignity was so lofty that he is said to have ‘sat on the throne of the Lord’ (I Chron. xxix. 23), and our Rabbis say that he was king over both the upper and the nether world. But THE KING MESSIAH, in his ALL-COMPREHENDING INTELLIGENCE, will be loftier than Solomon. Exceedingly above the ministering angels, because that same comprehensive intelligence will approach [God] more nearly than theirs. For it is an exceedingly high privilege, that one whose nature is compound and material should attain to a grade of intelligence more nearly Divine than that which belongs to the incorporeal; and so it is said of him that ‘his strength is greater than that of the ministering angels,’ because these have no impediment in the exercise of their intellect, whereas that which is compound is continually impeded in consequence of material element in its nature. Accordingly, the grade of his intelligence being such as this, he is said to be ‘lofty exceedingly,’ and his strength to be ‘greater than the angels.’… And when this ‘servant of the Lord’ is born, he will continue to be marked by the possession of intelligence enabling him to acquire from God what it is impossible for any to acquire until he reaches that height wither none of the sons of men, EXCEPT HIM, have ever ascended: from that day he will be counted with his people Israel, and will share their subjugation and distress; ‘in all their affliction’ (Is. lxiii. 9) he will be exceedingly afflicted; and because of their being outcasts and scattered to the ends of the world, his grief will be such that the colour of his countenance will be changed from that of a man, and pangs and sicknesses will seize him (for great grief, as physicians know, by producing melancholy, subjects a man to many diseases); and all the chastisements which come upon him in consequence of his grief will be for our sakes, and not from any deficiency or sin on his part which might bring punishment in his train, BECAUSE HE IS PERFECT, IN THE COMPLETENESS OF PERFECTION, as Isaiah says (xi. 2f.). Truly all his pains and sicknesses will be for us…” (R. Mosheh Kohen Ibn Crispin (14th century AD), as quoted in The “Suffering Servant” of Isaiah According to the Jewish Interpreters, translated by Samuel R. Driver and Adolf Neubauer, with an introduction by Edward B. Pusey [Hermon Press, New York: Reprinted in 1969], pp. 101-103; bold and capital emphasis ours)

In this rabbinic reference, the Jewish author tied in Isaiah 52:13-53:12 with Psalm 2:7, 110:1 and Daniel 7:13-14, and ascribed them all to the King the Messiah. And do pay close attention to the rabbi’s candid admission that the exalted language of Isaiah 52:13 goes above and beyond what can be said of an ordinary creature.

This is precisely where the problem lies for Muslims since what Isaiah says about the Servant’s exalted status conflicts with Muhammad’s message that Allah does not allow anyone to share in his sovereign rule over creation:

Knowest thou not that it is Allah unto Whom belongeth the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth; and ye have not, beside Allah, any guardian or helper? S. 2:107 Pickthall

He unto Whom belongeth the Sovereignty of the heavens and the earth, He hath chosen no son nor hath He any partner in the Sovereignty. He hath created everything and hath meted out for it a measure. S. 25:2 Pickthall – cf. S. 17:111

The other major problem that Muslims face is that Isaiah identifies Yahweh as Israel’s spiritual Father who made and saves them:

“Doubtless thou art our father, though Abraham be ignorant of us, and Israel acknowledge us not: thou, O Lord, art our father, our redeemer; thy name is from everlasting.” Isaiah 63:16

“But now, O Lord, thou art our father; we are the clay, and thou our potter; and we all are the work of thy hand.” Isaiah 64:8

The spiritual Fatherhood of God is even more strongly emphasized by the inspired NT writers, particularly by the Lord Jesus who often spoke of God as his Father and the Father of all true believers:

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

“And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” Matthew 23:9

“And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses.” Mark 11:25-26

“All things are delivered to me of my Father: and no man knoweth who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.” Luke 10:22

“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee:” John 17:1

“Jesus saith unto her, Touch me not; for I am not yet ascended to MY Father: but go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto MY Father, and YOUR Father; and to my God, and your God.” John 20:17

In fact, the Christian Scriptures go as far as to identify the one true God as the Father:

“These words spake Jesus, and lifted up his eyes to heaven, and said, Father, the hour is come; glorify thy Son, that thy Son also may glorify thee: as thou hast given him power over all flesh, that he should give eternal life to as many as thou hast given him. And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17:1-3

“but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” 1 Corinthians 8:6

one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.” Ephesians 4:6

This affirms that spiritual Fatherhood is an essential and intrinsic aspect of God’s personal identity, that being the Father is who and what God is, not something he decides to become at some point in time.

And yet Muhammad comes hundreds of years after God’s inspired emissaries and denies that his god is a father to anyone, especially to Jews, Christians, or even Jesus himself:

(Both) the Jews and the Christians say: "We are sons of God, and his beloved." Say: "Why then doth He punish you for your sins? Nay, ye are but men,- of the men he hath created: He forgiveth whom He pleaseth, and He punisheth whom He pleaseth: and to God belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between: and unto Him is the final goal (of all)." S. 5:18 Y. Ali

The Jews say, Ezra is the son of God: And the Christians say Christ is the son of God. They say this (only) with their mouths: They imitate the saying of those who were unbelievers in former times. May God curse them (literally: fight against them)! How can they be so infatuated? S. 9:30 Sale – cf. 6:101; 19:88-93; 21:26; 39:4; 72:3

As far as the NT is concerned, Muhammad’s denial of the Fatherhood of God and the Sonship of Christ makes him one of the antichrists that was to come into the world:

“Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: [but] he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also.” 1 John 2:22-23

Muhammad is also at odds with Isaiah’s teaching that Yahweh’s Servant will offer his life as an atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world:

“As many were astonied at thee; his visage was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men: so shall he sprinkle many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him:
for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider. Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground: he hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see him, there is no beauty that we should desire him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgment: and who shall declare his generation? for he was cut off out of the land of the living: for the transgression of my people was he stricken. And he made his grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death; because he had done no violence, neither was any deceit in his mouth. Yet it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief: when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin, he shall see his seed, he shall prolong his days, and the pleasure of the Lord shall prosper in his hand. He shall see of the travail of his soul, and shall be satisfied: by his knowledge shall my righteous servant justify many; for he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore will I divide him a portion with the great, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong; because he hath poured out his soul unto death: and he was numbered with the transgressors; and he bare the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.” Isaiah 52:14-53:12

With the foregoing in view, how could Isaiah have predicted the coming of Muhammad when the message of the latter is in direct opposition to the very core teachings found in the book of Isaiah? Do Muslims really want us to believe that Isaiah would announce the coming of a man who contradicted the prophet’s inspired testimony concerning the nature of God, the Person and role of the coming Davidic King, and the plan of salvation?

In light of the foregoing, Muslims need to stop appealing to Isaiah 42 as a prophecy of Muhammad since their prophet’s message directly conflicts with some of the essential doctrines of the book of Isaiah. They must come to grips with the fact that Isaiah’s testimony does not support their beliefs about Muhammad being a messenger of the true God. On the contrary, Isaiah’s proclamation provides further evidence that Muhammad was a false prophet who perverted the revelation brought by the inspired emissaries of the one true God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and who then became incarnate in the Person of Jesus Christ.

All Scriptural citations taken from the Authorized King James Version (AV) of the Holy Bible.