Did Some Rabbis Once Think Prophet Muhammad Was Authentic? – OpEd


According to the both the Bible and the Qur’an, since the days of Adam and Eve, many chosen humans in the distant past have heard the One God speaking to them. These people are titled as Prophets or Messengers in the three Abrahamic religions.

The Hebrew Scriptures, the Greek New Testament, and the Arabic Qur’an all agree that in the distant future, in the Era of the End of Days-Judgement Day; there will be a few chosen humans who will express, by words and deeds, God’s goals for all humanity.

These future Messengers usually have a special name or title like: Messiah son of Joseph, Messiah son of David, and Prophet Elijah in Judaism, and Jesus’ second coming in Christianity, or Mahdi in Islam.

Since these future End of Days Messengers were forecast more than 1500-2800 years ago their personal details will only become clear to us when they arrive. All we need to know now is that they will indeed come as a fulfillment of God’s goal for all humanity.

Just as the followers of Jesus son of Mary were disappointed when most Jews did not accept Jesus as a Messiah; the followers of Prophet Muhammad were disappointed that most Jews and Christians did not accept Muhammad as an authentic Prophet.

As the Qur’an states: “Those to whom We gave the Scripture (Jews and Christians) recognize him (Mohammad) as they recognize their sons (in a crowd). But verily, a party of them conceal the truth while they know it (2:146).

It is clear that Christians did not accept Muhammad as a legitimate prophet because they believed Prophet Jesus was a part of a Holy Trinity; while the Qur’an explicitly states: “The Messiah (Jesus) the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary, a soul/spirit from Him (God). So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say Three: desist! – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son.” (4:171)

But why did not all the Jews of Medina support Prophet Muhammad? I think most Jews were afraid that after the death of Prophet Muhammad, his ex-pagan polytheist followers would turn him into a son of God and worship him, just as the followers of Jesus had turned him into a Son of God; and not only worshipped him, but persecuted Jews who would not worship Jesus.

That did not happen, but by the time Prophet Muhammad died, the three major Jewish tribes in Medina had already been defeated in inter-tribal fighting and banished from Medina.

There were many Medina Jews however, especially in the early years, who did support Prophet Muhammad. One of was Rabbi Mukhayriq, a learned leader of the Jewish tribe of Tha’labah, who fought and died alongside Prophet Muhammed in the battle of Uhud on March 19, 625 CE.

Ibn Ishaq, the earliest biographer of Prophet Muhammad, who wrote about this event specifically says about Mukhayriq: “He recognized the Apostle of Allah by his description, and by what he found in his [Jewish] scholarship. However, Rabbi Mukhayriq was accustomed to his own religion, and this held him back (from converting), before he died in the battle of Uhud.”

Why did Rabbi Mukhayriq identify so strongly with Prophet Muhammad activities? He may have thought that Muhammad was not only a Prophet for polytheists, but also for Jews, Prophet Muhammad might be a Messianic figure-one of God’s Anointed- who with his Arab followers would enable and facilitate the Jewish people’s return to the land of Israel as is predicted in the Bible; just as the non-Jewish Persian King Cyrus the Great, who was called one of God’s Anointed by Prophet Isaiah (45:1) had enabled and facilitated the return of Jews to Israel eleven centuries earlier.

The fact that the Persian Empire had just 11 years before (in 614 CE) the battle of Uhud on March 19, 625 CE, captured the Land of Israel from the Eastern Roman Empire (where Jews had been oppressed and persecuted for many centuries) may, in the rabbi’s mind, have stimulated his belief that the Messianic Age was coming closer and closer.

Prior to the invasion of Palestine in 614 CE, King Khosrau made an agreement with the official head of Babylonian Jewry, that Jews would provide 20,000 soldiers for the Persian army to participate in the capture of Jerusalem. King Khosrau appointed Nehemiah ben Hushiel, the son of the Exilarch, as symbolic leader of Persian troops.

Since Nehemiah was a known mystic, King Khosrau was certain he would not interfere in military or political affairs.The united forces took Jerusalem by storm after a 21 day siege (July, 614 CE).

This event is referred to in the Qur’an: “The (Roman) Byzantines have been defeated in the nearest land. But they, after their defeat, will overcome within three to nine years. To Allah belongs the command before and after.” (Qur’an 30:2-4)

Indeed, perhaps because the Persians feared Nehemiah’s messianic pretensions, or they thought support from a larger Palestinian Christian population was more valuable than the smaller number of Palestinian Jews; three years after Nehemiah was appointed, the Persians executed the Jewish governor of Jerusalem with his sixteen top supporters in 617.

Perhaps Rabbi Mukhayriq saw the arrival of Prophet Muhammad in Medina only five years later, as God’s answer to his Messianic hopes, and viewed fighting alongside Muhammad as his personal voluntary fight in support of monotheism, as well as a witness to his faith in the imminent arrival of one of God’s Anointed Messiahs (not the final Son of David Messiah, but an Elijah, King Cyrus, or the Son of Joseph type Messiah) all of whom will precede the Son of David Messiah.

Rabbi Mukhayriq may also have believed that Prophet Muhammad’s total rejection of polytheism would someday lead to the destruction of the 360 idols housed in the Ka’bah; and other polytheistic practices would received similar treatment.

The pagan Arabs in that generation were extremely immersed in superstitious beliefs and activities like Tatayyur (belief in omens), Tanjeem (astrology), Tabarruk (seeking blessing from objects) and Kahanah (soothsaying); that had been condemned by Allah in the Torah of Musa 18 centuries before:

“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not learn to imitate the detestable ways of the nations there. Let no one be found among you who sacrifices their son or daughter in the fire, who practices divination or sorcery, interprets omens, engages in witchcraft, or casts spells, or who is a medium or spiritist or who consults the dead. Anyone who does these things is detestable to the Lord; because of these same detestable practices the Lord your God will drive out those nations before you.

“You must be blameless before the Lord your God. The nations you will dispossess listen to those who practice sorcery or divination. But as for you, the Lord your God has not permitted you to do so. The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your fellow Israelites. You must listen to him.” (Deuteronomy 18:9-15)

The last verse in that passage Rabbi Mukhayriq must have applied to Prophet Muhammad. As it turned out, Muhammad died just a few years prior to the Muslim Arab conquest of Syria, Israel and Egypt.

Ever since Emperor Hadrian crushed the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 CE, Jews were banned from settling, indeed even approaching Jerusalem. To the outrage of local Christians, the new Muslim authorities abolished the Roman and later Byzantine restrictions on Jewish settlement in Jerusalem.

Seventy Jewish families from the Galilee were soon settled in Jerusalem, and thus a Jewish presence in the City of David was restored after more than five centuries. The Jews lived under benevolent Muslim rule in their holy city until the first Crusaders massacred all the Jews, along with all the Muslims, in the summer of 1099.

In later generations at least one Jewish Midrash viewed the Muslim conquest as having saved Jews from the many generations of persecutions they had suffered from Christian Byzantine rulers. This ninth century apocalyptic Midrash called “The Prayer of Rabbi Shimon ben Yokhai”, a second century CE, well known mystic and visionary, who after 40 days and nights of prayer, had a vision of the Kenites (Byzantine Romans); followed by a vision of the kingdom of Ishmael (the Arabs) who will succeed the Byzantine Romans.

The archangel Mettatron then informed Rabbi Shimon ben Yokhai that: “The kingdom of the Kenites (the future Byzantine Romans) will come to Jerusalem, subdue it, and murder more than thirty thousand in it. Because of the oppression which they (the Byzantine Romans) oppress Israel (the Jewish People) the Blessed Holy One will send the Ishmaelites (Arabs) against them (the Byzantine Romans) to make war with them, so as to deliver the Israelites from their hand.”

Thus, it is possible for Jews to recognize Prophet Muhammad to be an authentic non-Jewish Abrahamic prophet for the non-Jewish peoples of the world, because Islam, unlike Christianity, does not say that every one in the world must accept Jesus as a savior.

If we all can live up to the ideal that religious pluralism as the will of God. we will help fulfill the 2700 year old vision of Prophet Isaiah: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt, and the Egyptians to Assyria. The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel  will join a three-party alliance with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing upon the heart. The LORD of Hosts will bless them saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.”…(Isaiah 19:23-5)

Rabbi Allen S. Maller

Allen Maller retired in 2006 after 39 years as Rabbi of Temple Akiba in Culver City, Calif. He is the author of an introduction to Jewish mysticism. God. Sex and Kabbalah and editor of the Tikun series of High Holy Day prayerbooks.

One thought on “Did Some Rabbis Once Think Prophet Muhammad Was Authentic? – OpEd

  • December 18, 2021 at 5:33 pm

    Why does Rabbi Maller feel compelled to engage in Christian tropes? He ignores the fact that Jews themselves (the Hasmoneans) forcibly converted — by violence — a very large portion of the peoples of greater Palestine. Herod’s family is the best known example. BEFORE the Crusades, the Muslims invaded the most areas of what was then Christendom (even as far west as the southern areas of France) and forcibly and very violently caused numerous conversions to Islam (the best example is Spain and Portugal). The Crusades came later and as a direct result of Muslim atrocities in destroying Christian presence in the Holy Land. Finally, Jews are not now “persecuted” in almost every modern truly-Christian country and in fact are not required to convert and can openly practice their faith. However, In most Muslim countries Jews are in fact persecuted, if not massacred, and are (like the Christian populations) told to convert, or else. By the way, Islam is the only religion that still holds a fairly widespread view that only its adherents will be saved. Grow up – cut out the well worn and false Christian tropes.


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