The Ten Wise Jews

There are several accounts, both Jewish and Christian, which claim that Muhammad was instructed by Jewish scholars. The Christian account comes from Theophanes who died around AD 818. This text pre-dates Ibn Hisham's biography of Muhammad (AD 834) as well as the Traditions which date between 2 and 3 centuries after the death of Muhammad.

According to Muslim traditions, several Jewish Rabbis accepted Islam including 'Abd Allah ibn Salam and Ka'b al-Ahbar. Besides those two, Ibn Ishaq lists eight other Rabbis who "took refuge in Islam" but "hypocritically professed it". The number of the rabbis [10] is interesting because the Traditions claim that Muhammad once said:

"If ten Jews were to believe in me, then [all] the Jews would believe in me." (Sahih Bukhari, 2.207)

The Qur'an does not make mention of these "teachers", however, Surah 16:103 says:

"We know indeed that they say, "It is a man that teaches him." The tongue of him they wickedly point to is notably foreign, while this is Arabic, pure and clear."

The earliest account was written by Theophanes who said:

At the beginning of his advent the misguided Jews thought he was the Messiah who is awaited by them, so that some of their leaders joined him and accepted his religion while forsaking that of Moses who saw God. Those who did so were ten in number and they remained with him until his first sacrifice. But when they saw him eating camel meat, they realized that he was not the one they thought him to be and were at a loss what to do. Being afraid to abjure his religion, these wretched men taught him illicit things directed against Christians and remained with him (Theophanes, 333).

The first Jewish account of this was written during the late 9th or early 10th century:

This is the book of the story of Muhammad who dwelt in the sheep-pasturing place, which is called the New Mountain, and how he fared until he went up to San'a and to the Hijaz by reason of the monk who was in Balqin on a pillar that is called "the sign of the sun." And those Rabbis who had joined him, came and reminded him of his affair and fabricated for him a book. They inserted at the beginning of a chapter from his Qur'an their names and they inserted the words : "Thus did the wise men of Israel advise the wicked Alm [or 'illem - referring to Isaiah 56:10], making it hidden and distorted so that it would not be understood .... (Ten Wise Jews, 402).

The Jewish author uses the last sentence to create proof for his claims, creating a play on words with the mysterious terms in the Qur'an :

"Thus did the wise men of Israel advise the wicked Alm"

"Thus did advise" (kakhah ya'asu) produces the letters khy's which we find in Sura 19:1 as:

Kaf. Ha. Ya. 'Ain. Sad.

"the wise men" (hakheme) gives hm, which is found in Suras 41-46 as:

Ha. Mim.

"of Israel" (yisra 'el) becomes ys found in Sura 36 as:

Ya. Sin.

and "Alm", which is a reference to Isaiah 56:10 (His watchmen are blind: they are all ignorant, they are all dumb ['illem] dogs, they cannot bark; sleeping, lying down, loving to slumber.) is found in Suras 2, 3, 7, 13, and 30-32 as:

Alif. Lam. Mim.

Source : Seeing Islam as Others Saw It, Robert C. Hoyland, (Princeton NJ: Darwin Press), 1997, pp. 505-508.
Further discussion on this topic: The Ten Wise Jews and the Fallacy of Distraction

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