Addressing a Typical Muslim Polemic
Muslims like to bring up passages from the Holy Bible which they feel are indecent and highly offensive, in order to prove that these parts cannot be the Words of God. One example that they consider highly graphic and inappropriate is Gods command to Isaiah to roam naked among the people:
"In the year that the commander in chief, who was sent by Sargon the king of Assyria, came to Ashdod and fought against it and took it, -- at that time the LORD had spoken by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go, and loose the sackcloth from your loins and take off your shoes from your feet, and he had done so, walking naked and barefoot -- the LORD said, As my servant Isaiah has walked naked and barefoot for three years as a sign and a portent against Egypt and Ethiopia, so shall the king of Assyria lead away the Egyptians captives and the Ethiopians exiles, both the young and the old, naked and barefoot, with buttocks uncovered, to the shame of Egypt." Isaiah 20:1-4
We have already addressed this text here. In the current article, we will therefore not exhaustively deal with this particular reference, apart from citing the following commentaries to show what the text is not saying:
naked--rather, "uncovered"; he merely put off the outer sackcloth, retaining still the tunic or inner vest (1Sa 19:24; Am 2:16; Joh 21:7); an emblem to show that Egypt should be stripped of its possessions; the very dress of Isaiah was a silent exhortation to repentance. (Jamieson, Fausset, Brown Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible; online source)
II. The making of Isaiah a sign, by his unusual dress when he walked abroad. He had been a sign to his own people of the melancholy times that had come and were coming upon them, by the sackcloth which for some time he had worn, of which he had a gown made, which he girt about him. Some think he put himself into that habit of a mourner upon occasion of the captivity of the ten tribes. Others think sackcloth was what he commonly wore as a prophet, to show himself mortified to the world, and that he might learn to endure hardness; soft clothing better becomes those that attend in king's palaces (Matthew 11:8) than those that go on God's errands. Elijah wore hair-cloth (2 Kings 1:8), and John Baptist (Matthew 3:4) and those that pretended to be prophets supported their pretension by wearing rough garments (Zechariah 13:4); but Isaiah has orders given him to loose his sackcloth from his loins, not to exchange it for better clothing, but for none at all--no upper garment, no mantle, cloak, or coat, but only that which was next to him, we may suppose his shirt, waistcoat, and drawers; and he must put off his shoes, and go barefoot; so that compared with the dress of others, and what he himself usually wore, he might be said to go naked. This was a great hardship upon the prophet; it was a blemish to his reputation, and would expose him to contempt and ridicule; the boys in the streets would hoot at him, and those who sought occasion against him would say, The prophet is indeed a fool, and the spiritual man is mad, Hosea 9:7. It might likewise be a prejudice to his health; he was in danger of catching a cold, which might throw him into a fever, and cost him his life; but God bade him do it, that he might give a proof of his obedience to God in a most difficult command, and so shame the disobedience of his people to the most easy and reasonable precepts. When we are in the way of our duty we may trust God both with our credit and with our safety. The hearts of that people were strangely stupid, and would not be affected with what they only heard, but must be taught by signs, and therefore Isaiah must do this for their edification. If the dress was scandalous, yet the design was glorious, and what a prophet of the Lord needed not to be ashamed of. (Matthew Henry Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible; source; bold emphasis ours)
at that time Jehovah spake by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, Go, and loose the sackcloth from off thy loins, and put thy shoe from off thy foot. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.
"Sackcloth was regarded as the appropriate dress for prophets; it was made of the coarse hair of the goat." As for the instruction here to walk naked and barefoot, it is a mistake to think that Isaiah was totally nude. Hailey's quotation from Delitzsch has this: "What Isaiah was directed to do was simply opposed to common custom, not to moral decency." No doubt, he actually wore a loin cloth or some other very abbreviated garment. This instead of the prophet's customary dress was sensational enough. It is amazing that very respected commentators will flatly contradict the Word of God on a matter of this kind. Barnes pointed out that men consider it beneath the dignity of the royal prophet to have gone so long without his clothes. Lowth suggested that he walked naked and barefoot only for three days, which stood for three years! "Rosemuller supposed this to mean `only at intervals' for three years." To all such objections and suggestions, there remains the solid answer of the text: "And he did so, walking naked and barefoot." (James Burton Coffmans Commentaries on the Old and New Testament; source; underline emphasis ours)
like as my servant Isaiah hath walked naked and barefoot;
not wholly naked, for that would have been very indecent and dangerous indeed; but without his upper garment, as Saul, (1 Samuel 19:24) and David, (2 Samuel 6:14,20) or with rent and ragged clothes, and old shoes, as Jarchi interprets it, and which might be only when he appeared abroad; and how long he thus walked is not certain, whether only one day, as some, or three days, as others, or three years, which is not said, though our version inclines to it; but the three years next mentioned are not to be joined to Isaiah's walking, but to the thing signified by it; for the accent "athnach" is at the word which is rendered "barefoot", and distinguishes this clause from the following. The Septuagint indeed puts the phrase "three years" into both clauses, but it only belongs to the latter: (The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible; source; underline emphasis ours)
2. (2) The LORD gives Isaiah a sign to act out.
At the same time the LORD spoke by Isaiah the son of Amoz, saying, "Go, and remove the sackcloth from your body, and take your sandals off your feet." And he did so, walking naked and barefoot.
a. Remove the sackcloth from your body, and take your sandals off your feet: Before this, Isaiah wore an outer garment of sackcloth - clothes of mourning. Now, God tells him to remove his outer garment of sackcloth, and to take his sandals off.
i. "God would sometimes have his prophets to add to their word a visible sign, to awaken people's minds to a more serious consideration of the matters proposed to them." (Poole)
b. And he did so, walking naked and barefoot: We shouldn't think that Isaiah was nude, completely without clothing. Instead, he only wore the inner garment customary in that day - sort of like wearing only your underwear or a nightshirt. The message wasn't nudity, it was complete poverty and humiliation. Isaiah dressed as the poorest and most destitute would dress.
i. "One need not imagine that Isaiah walked around stripped for the entire three years or that Ezekiel lay on his side for 390 days without getting up (Ezek. 4:9). Perhaps part of each day was used for those designated purposes." (Wolf)
ii. "Not stark naked, but stripped as a prisoner, his mantle or upper garment cast off." (Trapp)
iii. "Other prophets were asked to go through equally difficult experiences as signs to Israel. Hosea endured a trying marriage, and Ezekiel's wife died as an illustration for the nation (Ezek. 24:16-24)." (Wolf) (David Guzik's Commentaries on the Bible; source; bold emphasis ours)
This should solve the "problem" of Isaiahs ‘nakedness’ in the Bible.
Allah's naked prophet
Want we want to do in this section is to apply the Muslim criteria against the Quran and the Sunna of Muhammad to see whether these sources measure up to the Islamic standards of decency. We want to show that the Quran and the so-called authentic Sunna fail to pass the very test used by Muslims to determine whether a certain document or statement is truly the Word of God.
The Quran warns Muslims not to do what the Israelites did to Moses:
O you who believe! Be not like those who annoyed Mūsa (Moses), but God cleared him of that which they alleged, and he was honourable before God. S. 33:69 Hilali-Khan
The narrations and commentators claim that this citation was given in reference to an incident which took place between Moses and his people who were slandering him. Moses people would bathe naked together whereas Moses would take a bath all by himself, which led them to assume that he had a physical deformity which he was trying to hide. Allah caused a stone to run off with Moses clothing so that the latter would chase after it while he was naked, allowing the Israelites to gaze on his nude body in order to see that he had no physical defects. The Sahihayn narrate:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah's Apostle said, "(The Prophet) Moses was a shy person and used to cover his body completely because of his extensive shyness. One of the children of Israel hurt him by saying, 'He covers his body in this way only because of some defect in his skin, either leprosy or scrotal hernia, or he has some other defect.' Allah wished to clear Moses of what they said about him, so one day while Moses was in seclusion, he took off his clothes and put them on a stone and started taking a bath. When he had finished the bath, he moved towards his clothes so as to take them, but the stone took his clothes and fled; Moses picked up his stick and ran after the stone saying, 'O stone! Give me my garment!' Till he reached a group of Bani Israel WHO SAW HIM NAKED then, and found him the best of what Allah had created, and Allah cleared him of what they had accused him of. The stone stopped there and Moses took and put his garment on and started hitting the stone with his stick. By Allah, the stone still has some traces of the hitting, three, four or five marks. This was what Allah refers to in His Saying:-- "O you who believe! Be you not like those Who annoyed Moses, But Allah proved his innocence of that which they alleged, And he was honorable In Allah's Sight." (33.69) (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 55, Number 616)
Amongst the traditions narrated from Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) on the authority of Abu Huraira, the one is that Banu Isra'il used to take a bath naked, and they looked at the private parts of one another. Moses (peace be upon him), however, took a bath alone (in privacy); and they said (tauntingly): By Allah, nothing prohibits Moses to take a bath along with us, but sacrotal hernia. He (Moses) once went for a bath and placed his clothes on a stone and the stone moved on with his clothes. Moses ran after it saying: O stone, my clothes, O stone, my clothes, and Banu Isra'il had the chance to see the private parts of Moses, and said: By Allah, Moses does not suffer from any ailment. The stone then stopped, till Moses had been seen by them, and he then took hold of his clothes and struck the stone. Abu Huraira said: By Allah, there are the marks of six or seven strokes made by Moses on the stone. (Sahih Muslim, Book 003, Number 0669)
Hammam b. Munabbih reported that Abu Huraira reported many ahadith from Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) and one, of them speaks that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) is reported to have said: Banu Isra'il used to take bath (together) naked and thus saw private parts of one another, but Moses (peace be upon him) used to take bath alone (in privacy), and they said: By Allah, nothing prevents Moses to take bath along with us; but scrotal hernia. One day when he (Moses) was taking bath (alone) he placed his clothes upon a stone, but the stone began to move along with his clothes. Moses raced after it saying: My garment, stone; until (some of the people) of Banu Isra'il looked at the private parts of Moses, and they said: By Allah, there is no trouble with Moses. The stone stopped after he (Moses) had been seen. He took hold of his garments and struck the stone. Abu Huraira said: I swear by Allah that there were six or seven scars on the stone because of the striking of stone by Moses (peace be upon him). (Sahih Muslim, Book 030, Number 5849)
The two Jalals commented:
O you who believe, do not behave, towards your Prophet, as did those who harmed Moses - when they would say, for example, 'The only reason he does not wash with us is that he has an inflammation in his testicles' - whereat God absolved him of what they alleged: when Moses placed his robe on a rock to go to wash, the rock hurtled away with it until it came to a halt amid a group of men from the Children of Israel. As Moses chased it and took his robe to cover himself, they saw that he had no such inflammation (udra is an inflammation of the testicle). And he was distinguished in God's sight. An instance of our Prophet (s) being subjected to hurt was when [on one occasion] while dividing up the spoils a man said to him, 'This division has not been done to please God!', whereat the Prophet (s) became enraged and said, 'May God have mercy upon Moses, for truly he was hurt with worse than this, but endured' - reported by al-Bukhari. (Tafsir al-Jalalayn; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)
And a commentary attributed to Ibn Abbas claims:
(O ye who believe! Be not) in harming the Prophet (pbuh) (as those who slandered Moses) they accused him of having swollen testicles, (but Allah proved his innocence of that which they alleged, and he was well esteemed in Allah's sight) he has a high standing and status in Allah's sight. (Tanwīr al-Miqbās min Tafsīr Ibn 'Abbās; source; bold and underline emphasis ours)
In light of the Muslims complaint against the Holy Bible we expect that they will be consistent and reject the Quran and the so-called sound narrations for failing their own standard of decency and propriety. After all, there cant be any thing more shameful and disgusting than the above Islamic narrations accusing one of the greatest prophets of God of not only chasing after a stone, but of also running completely naked in front of hundreds of thousands of peopleSahih Muslim stating explicitly that the people looked at his private parts!
Yet again, this particular sample of Muslim polemics fails the test of consistency. There are only two options:
1. A prophet of God can be honorable and honored before God and the people even if he appears naked in public. Then the Muslim attack on the Bible on such grounds is baseless and hypocritical.
2. Mentioning an incident of nakedness of a prophet disqualifies a faith from being Gods true religion. Then Islam is exposed as false.
As Reformed Protestant scholar and apologist Dr. James White told Shabir Ally in their debate that took place at Biola University on May 7, 2006:
"Inconsistency is the sign of a failed argument." (Is the New Testament We Possess Today Inspired?; source)
We couldnt have said it any better.
Appendix: Muhammad Exposed
As if the Islamic story of Moses alleged nudity and public show of genitals wasnt bad enough, the so-called sound ahadith even testify that Muhammad exposed his private parts in public!
Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah:
While Allah's Apostle was carrying stones (along) with the people of Mecca for (the building of) the Ka'ba wearing an Izar (waist-sheet cover), his uncle Al-'Abbas said to him, "O my nephew! (It would be better) if you take off your Izar and put it over your shoulders underneath the stones." So he took off his Izar and put it over his shoulders, but he fell unconscious AND SINCE THEN HE HAD NEVER BEEN SEEN NAKED. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 8, Number 360)
Another version of the above hadith includes the following subheading:
VII: The undesirability of being naked in the prayer and elsewhere
357. Jabir ibn 'Abdullah was heard to relate that the Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, was carrying stones with them for the Ka'ba. He was wearing a waist-wrapper. His uncle, al-'Abbas, said to him, 'Nephew, will you take off your wrapper and put it on your shoulders underneath the stones?' He removed his wrapper and put it onto his shoulders and then fell unconscious. After that he was never seen naked." (Aisha Bewley, The Sahih Collection of al-Bukhari, Chapter 8: Book of Prayer; source)
Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah:
When the Ka'ba was rebuilt, the Prophet and 'Abbas went to carry stones. 'Abbas said to the Prophet "(Take off and) put your waist sheet over your neck so that the stones may not hurt you." (But as soon as he took off his waist sheet) he fell unconscious on the ground with both his eyes towards the sky. When he came to his senses, he said, "My waist sheet! My waist sheet!" Then he tied his waist sheet (round his waist). (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 170)
Chapter 18: UTMOST CARE FOR KEEPING PRIVATE PARTS OF BODY CONCEALED
Jabir b. 'Abdullah reported: When the Ka'ba was constructed the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) and Abbas went and lifted stones. Abbas said to the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him): Place your lower garment on your shoulder (so that you may protect yourself from the roughness and hardness of stones). He (the Holy Prophet) did this, but fell down upon the ground in a state of unconsciousness and his eyes were turned towards the sky. He then stood up and said: My lower garment, my lower garment; and this wrapper was tied around him. In the hadith transmitted by Ibn Rafi', there is the word: "On his neck" and he did not say: "Upon his shoulder." (Sahih Muslim, Book 003, Number 0670)
Jabir b. 'Abdullah reported: The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) was carrying along with them (his people) stones for the Ka'ba and there was a waist wrapper around him. His uncle," Abbas, said to him: O son of my brother! If you take off the lower garment and place it on the shoulders underneath the stones, it would be better. He (the Holy Prophet) took it off and placed it on his shoulder and fell down unconscious. He (the narrator) said: NEVER WAS HE SEEN NAKED AFTER THAT DAY. (Sahih Muslim, Book 003, Number 0671)
Muhammad even exhorted a person whose waist sheet fell off to cover his nakedness:
Al-Miswar b. Makhrama reported: I was carrying a heavy stone and my lower garment was loose, and it, therefore, slipped off (so soon) that I could not place the stone (on the ground) and carry to its proper place. Upon this the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: Return to your cloth (lower garment), take it (and tie it around your waist) and do not walk naked. (Sahih Muslim, Book 003, Number 0672)
That the removal of the lower garment meant that Muhammad had exposed his private parts can be seen from the above subheading of Muslim which is an exhortation to keep ones private parts concealed.
What do Muslims say about Muhammad exposing his private parts in public? If it is claimed that Allah clearly disapproved of his action since he caused Muhammad to fall unconscious this still doesn't explain away the problem of his appearing naked. After all, why didn't Allah prevent his prophet from exposing himself, especially when Muslims claim that Allah protected his prophet from sin and shameful acts? What could be more shameful than a prophet exposing his sexual organ?
We again have to ask whether Muslims will be consistent and reject the foundational texts of Islam because they testify that the genitalia of Muhammad was at one time publicly exposed?
Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page