In Sura 7:155-157 we find a prayer by Moses and then Allah's response to him (Yusuf Ali's translation):
[7:155] And Moses chose seventy of his people for Our place of meeting: when they were seized with violent quaking, he prayed: "O my Lord! if it had been Thy will Thou couldst have destroyed, long before, both them and me: wouldst Thou destroy us for the deeds of the foolish ones among us? this is no more than Thy trial: by it Thou causest whom Thou wilt to stray, and Thou leadest whom Thou wilt into the right path. Thou art our Protector: so forgive us and give us Thy mercy; for Thou art the best of those who forgive. [7:156] And ordain for us that which is good, in this life and in the Hereafter: for we have turned unto Thee." He said: "With My punishment I visit whom I will; but My mercy extendeth to all things. That (mercy) I shall ordain for those who do right, and practise regular charity, and those who believe in Our signs;- [7.157] those who follow the messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures),- in the law and the Gospel;- for he commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure); He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them. So it is those who believe in him, honour him, help him, and follow the light which is sent down with him,- it is they who will prosper." [7.158] Say: "O men! I am sent unto you all, as the Messenger of Allah, to Whom belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth: there is no god but He: it is He That giveth both life and death. So believe in Allah and His Messenger, the Unlettered Prophet, who believeth in Allah and His words: follow him that (so) ye may be guided."
The structure of the text is clear and the various parts are highlighted with different colors. 155-156a is Moses praying to Allah for mercy and forgiveness. Then, in 156b (second part of verse 156) Allah's response to Moses begins and it continues through to the end of 157. Allah gives criteria for the people whom he will be merciful with, introducing each criterion with "those, who ..." (1) do right, (2) believe, (3) follow the messenger.
Then in 158 a new discourse begins. In Yusuf Ali's Qur'an, it is set apart even more strongely by giving it the header "[Section 20]". In verse 158 then the text continues with Allah's command to Muhammad to recite (to his own people) that he is this messenger, the unlettered prophet that was mentioned to Moses in verse 157. As such, 157 is the preparation of 158, the authentication for Muhammad that he is indeed a/the true prophet from God because he has already been foretold in the Torah and the Gospel.
Isn't that powerful proof for the prophethood of Muhammad?
It would be part of positive evidence if it were true. But there are two major problems with this claim.
Many verses in the Qur'an make clear that the Gospel is given to Jesus - but Jesus was born over a thousand years [about 1400] after Moses. For Allah to speak to Moses and say that the people can find the unlettered prophet mentioned in the Gospel is a strong anachronism since the Gospel is not available to Moses and will not be available for another 1400 years.
those who follow the messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (scriptures),- in the Law and the Gospel;- ... "
This is one of several time compressions which are found in the Qur'an, i.e. stories involving several persons (or items) who in historical reality are separated by hundreds of years.
The obvious problem is that since the Gospel has not yet been revealed at Moses' time, nobody was able to find anything in this nonexisting gospel. Muhammad was indeed unlettered, i.e. not well educated in the earlier scriptures, and this is a quite obvious blunder which is hard to reconcile with divine authorship, let alone with the direct speech of God in response to Moses.
A second problem surfaces when we focus on the phrase "the unlettered prophet". Nowhere in the Torah or the Gospel is there any mentioning of an unlettered prophet.
There are prophecies about future prophets, particularly about "the prophet like Moses", but the Qur'an gives one and only one distinctive characteristic by which we may recognize which prophecy is meant and this characteristic is that the prophet is refered to as unlettered. But that is a false statement since nowhere in the Torah or the Gospel is a (future or any) prophet called "unlettered".
If that which is given as evidence of authenticity for Muhammad's prophethood turns out to be false, what then is the conclusion we have to draw from that?
Even though there starts a new discourse in 7:158 I have included it above since I heard from one Muslim, responding to the problem by claiming: Since the verses 157 & 158 both contain the word "ummi" (unlettered) and the present tense in the word "follow", this shows that 7:157 is really directed to Muhammad just like verse 158. But this obviously tortures the structure of the text beyond reasonableness on grammatical grounds as well as destroying the very argument 157 tries to present namely that the earlier prophet Moses already knew about this unlettered prophet to come.
It remains, Muhammad is his own and his only witness. He claims to be a prophet and for authentication he points to the words he himself speaks. Whether they are made to look like coming from Allah, or not, they are the words coming to us from Muhammad and there is no outside confirmation of his prophethood. Even if there were prophecies about an unlettered prophet in the Torah and the Gospel, any person (not educated in the Biblical scriptures) could claim them as refering to himself. On which basis should we accept such a claim?
But as it is, there are no such prophecies and therefore this claim put into the mouth of Allah by Muhammad is the undoing of his claim to prophethood.
Muslim Response by
Date: Sat, 9 Aug 1997
Those who follow the Apostle, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own (Scriptures) - in the Law and the Gospel. Surah 7.157 you made a comment that there is no mention of the unlettered prophet in the Scriptures, well i would like to correct you on that Account..And the Book is delivered to him that is no learned, saying: 'Read this I pray thee'. And he saith: 'I am not learned.' ' (Isaiah 29:12). Tell me to whom does God Give his revelations to.... This the Exact Question the angel Gabriel Gave to the Prophet , Read.... I am not learned,"And I will put my words in his mouth." (Deut 18:18). To whom does God put his words in there mouths, what does it mean.... It means that, that person will be given what to say by God....History tells us that when Muhammed was forty years of age he was in a cave some three miles north of the City of Mecca. In the cave the Archangel Gabriel commands him in his mother tongue: 'Eqra!', which means 'Read!', or 'Recite!' Muhammed was terrified, and in his bewilderment replied that he was not learned!. The angel commands him a second time with the same result. For the third time the angel continues. Now Muhammed, grasps that what was required of him was to repeat! to rehearse! And he repeats the words as they were put into his mouth. Likewise Jesus says of the Spirit of Truth that He shall not speak from himself....John 16;7-15 proves my point , who is this person that will not speak from himself in the old testament and the new testament, the person that will not speak but in the name of God....
You have not read it carefully. The Qur'an claims it is in the Torah and the Gospel, but Isaiah is neither of the two. The Jewish Scriptures have three parts: Law (Torah), Prophets (Nebiim), Writings (Kethuvim). And Isaiah is not in the Torah, but in the Prophets. As such your answer doesn't solve anything.
Also, please read all of Isaiah 29 in context and you will see that it doesn't talk about an unlettered Prophet at all. In addition that is something which happens in Jerusalem, not in Arabia.
Also, if you want to connect verse 12 with Muhammad, are you prepared to apply verse 13 to Muhammad as well? I suggest you better quickly drop this line of argument or the very text you propose proves that Muhammad doesn't know a thing about the true God. Because the whole point of this passage is that there is NO revelation from God with the people the passage speaks about.
Contradictions in the Qur'an
Answering Islam Home Page