A response to 6.5

Isaiah's vision


Ever since Muhammad uttered the claim that the Bible foretold him, Muslim apologists have been desperate to prove that references to Muhammad are found there. That is understandable; if he was correct, that would help to authenticate his prophethood, if he was incorrect, then he was ignorant, misleading or deceptive, and his prophethood would be discounted.

Muhammad's claim is found in the Qur'an: Sura (chapter) 7:157:

Thus, the Qur'an states that the writings of the Torah and the Gospel foretell Muhammad.

However, despite their claims, there has been no proven reference to Muhammad in the Bible. He fits no criteria. In this response to Misha'al 's section 6.5, we will examine yet another of the desperate Muslim claims concerning Muhammad in the Bible. This particular claim is based upon the text of Isaiah 21:7-17. I'll end this introduction by asking, "When will Muslims begin to be honest in their attempts to understand and define other people's scriptures?"

And just a note to the more discerning reader. In the Qur'an, Muhammad used the word "Torah". Isaiah is not considered to be part of the "Torah", which are the books of the Law. So, at the outset, Misha'al errs in defining Isaiah as part of the Torah. However, Muslims could assume that Muhammad meant the entire Bible when he claimed he was mentioned in the Torah and Gospel. Taking that into account, we'll proceed with our review of Misha'al's work.

Misha'al used the KJV. To do a more professional job, he should have used a better translation, such as the NIV, RV, or NASB. Another big part of Misha'al problem is that he fails to understand the text itself, perhaps because of it's archaic language.

I'll start with the text of Isaiah 21, but instead of only referencing verses 7-17, I'll quote the entire chapter. That way, more of the context of the passage will be understood. My quote is taken from the KJV [King James Version], followed by the NIV [New International Version]

Note: I'll note my references by putting [ ] brackets around a reference number.


Isaiah 21: (KJV)

1) The burden of the desert of the sea. As whirlwinds in the south pass through; so it cometh from the desert from a terrible land. 2) A grievous vision is declared unto me, the treacherous dealer dealeth treacherously, and the spoiler spoileth. Go up Elam: besiege Media: all the sighing thereof have I made to cease. 3) Therefore are my loins filled with pain: pangs have taken ahold upon me, as the pangs of a woman that travaileth: I was bowed down at the hearing of it; I was dismayed at the seeing of it. 4) My heart panted, fearfulness affrighted me: the night of my pleasure hath he turned into fear unto me. 5) Prepare the table, watch in the watchtower, eat, drink: arise ye princes and anoint the shield. 6) For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth. 7) And he saw a chariot with a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, and a chariot of camels; and he hearkened diligently with much heed: 8) And he cried, A lion: My lord, I stand continually upon the watchtower in the daytime and I am set in my ward whole nights. 9) And behold there cometh a chariot of men with a couple of horsemen. And he answered and said, "Babylon is fallen, is fallen; and all the graven images of her gods he hath broken unto the ground. 10) O my threshing, and the corn of my floor: that which I have heard of the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, have I declared unto you. 11) The burden of Dumah. He calleth to me out of Seir, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? 12) The watchman said, The morning cometh and also the night, if ye will inquire, inquire ye: return, come. 13) The burden upon Arabia. In the forest in Arabia shall ye lodge, O ye traveling companies of Dedanim. 14) The inhabitants of the land of Tema brought water to him that was thirsty, they prevented with their bread him that fled. 15) For they fled from the swords, from the drawn sword, and from the bent bow, and from the grievousness of war. 16) For thus hath the LORD said unto me, Within a year, according to the years of an hireling, and all the glory of Kedar shall fail: 17) And the residue of the number of archers, the mighty men of the children of Kedar, shall be diminished: for the LORD God of Israel hath spoken it.

Isaiah 21: (NIV)

"An Oracle concerning the Desert by the Sea: Like whirlwinds sweeping through the southland an invader comes from the desert , from a land of terror. 2) A dire vision has been shown to me: The traitor betrays, the looter takes loot. Elam, attack! Media, lay siege! I will bring to an end all the groaning she caused. 3) At this my body is racked with pain, pangs seize me, like those of a woman in labor; I am staggered by what I hear, I am bewildered by what I see. 4) My heart falters, fear makes me tremble; the twilight I longed for has become a horror to me. 5) They set the tables, they spread the rugs, they eat, they drink! Get up, you officers, oil the shields! 6) This is what the Lord says to me: "Go post a lookout and have him report what he sees. 7) When he see chariots with teams of horses, riders on donkeys or riders on camels, let him be alert, fully alert." 8) And the lookout shouted, "Day after day, my lord, I stand on the watchtower; every night I stay at my post. 9) Look, here comes a man in a chariot with a team of horses. And he gives back the answer: "Babylon has fallen, has fallen! All the images of its gods lie shattered on the ground! 10) Oh my people, crushed on the threshing floor, I tell you what I have heard from the Lord Almighty, from the God of Israel. 11) An oracle concerning Dumah: someone calls to me from Seir, "Watchman, what is left of the night? Watchman, what is left of the night?" 12) The watchman replies, "Morning is coming, but also the night. If you would ask, then ask; and comeback yet again. 13) An oracle concerning Arabia: You caravans of Dedanites, who camp in the thickets of Arabia, 14) bring water for the thirsty; you who live in Tema, bring food for the fugitives. 15) They flee from the sword, from the drawn sword, from the bent bow and from the hear of battle. 16) This is what the Lord says to me: "Within one year, as a servant bound by contract would count it, all the pomp of Kedar will come to an end. 17) The survivors of the bowmen, the warriors of Kedar, will be few" The Lord, the God of Israel, has spoken.


Before I address Misha'al's argument below, let me urge the reader to consider the wider context of this passage. This is part of the announcement of God's punishment on several nations, which is listed in the chapters 13-24 of the Isaiah. Many nations are mentioned. In chapters 18, 19, and 20, Egypt and Cush (Ethiopia) are named, in chapter 17 - Damascus (Syria), in 15 and 16 - Moab (Jordan), in chapter 14 - Assyria and Philistine, in chapter 22 - Jerusalem, and 23 - Tyre, and so on. Each chapter describes judgment upon these nations.

Another facet of this passage is see that God uses nations to punish other nations. In Isaiah 8:7, God says He is going to use Assyria as one instrument of judgment. Likewise in chapter 21, God is going to use Elam and Media as instruments of judgment on various nations.

It is certainly not impossible to have a "positive" prophecy in the midst of the oracles of judgment, but the whole context of these passages shows that severe judgment and punishment are going to be dealt out to various nations and groups of people. Nor do the words in this prophecy really look any different from all the "judgment of God on the nations" oracles that come in chapters before and after the specific text of chapter 21.

Clearly, it takes no scholar to understand that Isaiah 21 is a prophecy of doom on Babylon, Edom, Arabia, and others. There are no Messianic prophecies found here.


Before proceeding, let me provide some relevant historical material. Isaiah prophesied this around 700 BC. Babylon was conquered in 539 BC by the Elamites and Medes under Cyrus II [1, p. 243 - 250]. These are historical facts, they fit within the context of Isaiah's prophecy; and they fulfill the prophecy. Just as Isaiah predicted, Babylon was conquered. Northern Arabia and Kedar were attacked and conquered by Nebuchadnezzar (605 - 562 BC.) [1, p.1533].


I've broken up Misha'al's paper into "points", and I'll address it as such. I'll start Misha'al's quotes by prefacing it with "Misha'al writes", and I'll begin my response with "My response".


Misha'al writes:

My response.

Misha'al makes an error here in trying to tie Isaiah 21:7 to John 12:14. Misha'al was either deliberately being deceptive to his readers, or was ignorant of the actual reference for John 12:14. Most any Sunday school student will know that John 12:14 is a quote from Zachariah 9:9, not Isaiah 21:7. Misha'al misinterpreted Isaiah 21:7. That verse is not a reference to Jesus, but a reference concerning what the lookout or watchman was to look for. These mounted people were messengers from afar, as is shown in verse 9.


Misha'al writes:

My response:

Misha'al continues his error in assuming that Muhammad was the rider on the camel. First he twists the quote into saying "who would ride the camel". Review the Isaiah text again, it says in KJV, "And he saw a chariot [with] a couple of horsemen, a chariot of asses, [and] a chariot of camels." Isaiah 21:7. The reference is to a man in a chariot. Muhammad never rode a chariot that I know of. Camels, yes, but not chariots.

Further, Misha'al assumes it must be Muhammad as the rider on the camel (chariot). But many famous people have ridden camels. I'm sure Alexander the Great did, Caesar could have, and, I'm sure Moshe Dyan did as well. Perhaps Isaiah saw Moshe Dyan in his vision leading the victorious Israeli troops routing the Arabians, Kedarites, Edomites, Babylonians, etc.!


Misha'al writes:

My response:

Misha'al is ignorant of the history of the Mideast. Isaiah predicted that Babylon would be conquered by the Elamites and Medes, not someone from Arabia (vs. 2). As said earlier, Babylon was conquered in 539 BC by the Elamites and Medes. This verse has no relation to the aggressive, conquering armies of Islam. This prophecy was fulfilled long before Muhammad was born. Future, Misha'al makes another mistake in assuming that this verse is related to monotheism. It isn't. The Isaiah text states that the idols of the Babylonians would be destroyed. There is no mention of anyone establishing monotheism.

Also, Babylon was not conquered by the Muslims until well after Muhammad's death. How then can Muhammad be the rider on a camel annoucing the fall of Babylon? In fact, he never did.


Misha'al writes:

My response:

Misha'al errs when he asserts that this verse relates to the Muslims of Muhammad's time. Take the passage in context. Clearly, Isaiah is referring to the judgment upon Arabia of that time. This was fulfilled by both the Assyrians and Babylonians attacking the Arabs during their reigns of power. Again, this prophecy of judgment on Arabia was fulfilled long before Muhammad.

There is another error committed by Misha'al's part. He is taking the passage out of context, and mis-applying it to Muslims of today. I could do the same thing. After all, there are Saudi Christians now, meeting in underground churches. Would it be appropriate for me to say that this verse applies to them?

Note Misha'al's last sentence here, he says, "So the Muslims of Arabia (and subsequently Muslims everywhere) would be assigned the burden of God's message." If understood properly, the "burden" on Arabia is a judgment on them. If Misha'al feels that this verse is related to the Muslims, then Misha'al is saying that they are being judged by God..... not assigned the task of preaching Islam.


Misha'al writes:

My response:

Misha'al again misleads his readers. He says "Tema" was "just north", of Medinah. How much is "just north"? Tema is about 400 kilometers north of Medina!, not just a few miles away. Remember, distances of that size isolated communities far more than they do today. In that time Muhammad's migration to Yathrib (Medina's name before Muhammad got there) had nothing to do with Tema, nothing at all. Had Tema been on the way from Mecca to Medina, that would be a possibility. But Tema is further away from Medina than Mecca and in the opposite direction. It is utter nonsense to suggest that people in Tema had anything to do with Muhammad's migration. In fact, not even the Islamic sources tell us people of Tema helped Muhammad in the hijra. Misha'al is either ignorant, or deceptive, assuming his Muslim readers would not check his references. Interestingly, in this section her refers to a different Bible dictionary than in section 6.4 and he still is not able to read the dictionary. Without having access to this particular one, all Bible dictionaries I have ever seen list "Tema" and "Teman" as two successive entries. It is amazing in how often Misha'al can overlook this or see it and not realize that it contradicts his claims.

There is another error on Misha'al's part in this section. The "inhabitants" of Medina didn't greet Muhammad and his followers with open arms. Misha'al implies that the entire city was eagerly waiting for Muhammad. This was not so. Only the immigrants from Mecca and the handful of Qaylites waited for him. The Jews numbered just under 1/2 of the cities population, and they and most of the other inhabitants of Yathrib were curious, suspecting, but not open-armed. Most were skeptical. Within about a year's time, the Jews, en masse had rejected him. The Jews mocked him, and proved his "religion" and "revelations" wrong, i.e., the Jews made a fool out of Muhammad, and were a threat to his credibility. Eventually, he either forced them to leave, or massacred and enslaved them.


Misha'al writes:

My Response:

This is another of Misha'al's errors. This one deals with geography. He says that "Kedar is also synonymous with all of Arabia in general, as in Ezekiel: "Arabia, and all the princes of Kedar." Ezekiel 27:21.

Yet the fact that Ezekiel separately lists them proves that they are not synonymous. Read the entire passage in Ezekiel it is full of describing separate places. Therefore, though they are close in proximity, perhaps adjacent according to Ezekiel's time, they are separate, distinct, places. Would Misha'al consider Iran and Iraq, or India and Pakistan, as synonymous? Geographically, Kedar was located east and slightly south of Israel, in what is today the southern part of Jordan, [1, p. 1258]. Arabia is used in the Bible to mean the entire Arabian peninsula, or just the north western section, [1, p. 145]. Therefore, since both are listed separately, I think that Isaiah viewed them as distinct.


Misha'al writes:

My response:

What does this have to do with the verse in Ezekiel? Further, the victory of Badr was not a major turning point. Shortly thereafter, Muslims were badly defeated at the battle of Uhud. Muhammad even received a severe facial wound, an arrow pierced his cheek, knocking out a tooth or two, and caused him to bleed profusely. So, that this time, the Muslims were not a major power.


Misha'al writes:

My response:

This is a terrible presentation of history. He mis-interprets Isaiah 21 as a prophecy of Muhammad. It was a prophecy of the destruction of some of the countries of the Mideast. And, historically, all of this prophecy was fulfilled long before Muhammad. Another of Misha'al's errors is that he states that Jewish groups migrated to Arabia to await "the final prophet" even though there is in all of scripture no reference to a prophet from Arabia.

(Misha'al has not even pointed out any such awareness at the beginning of this chapter as he claimed. Furthermore, since the Jews did not believe in Jesus, even if those riders were prophets - which they are not -, in Misha'al's scheme of things they would still wait for the rider on the ass before they would wait for the one on the camel. Furthermore, the prophecy advised to put up watchmen on the lookout where they were, i.e. in Israel. It didn't tell them to emigrate to Arabia.)

Historically, it has been shown that the Jewish groups probably left Israel because of the oppression of the Romans, and to search for improved economic opportunities. There is no doubt that the Jews were culturally superior to the Arabs of that time. The Jews came and flourished. Many Arabs converted to Judaism because of their superior culture. Misha'al misleads his readers into thinking Medina and Khaibar were "barren parched deserts". He is wrong. There places were fertile oasis'. There were fruitful palm groves there. Khaibar's date palms were known throughout the land. The Jews in that area became leading merchants, craftsman, and farmers. Misha'al also writes "the Jews were constantly threatening the Arab inhabitants of Madinah (Medina)." Again, he is either ignorant of Arab history, or misleading his readers. The Jews settled there before the Qaylites. The Jews there were not a united group of people, they were divided at times, and even joined in battles against each other. The Qaylites were also divided. They also fought amongst themselves. In fact, that was one of the reasons Muhammad came on the scene; they wanted a peacemaker.


Misha'al writes:

My response:

Let's take Misha'al argument in perspective. First he says the Jews left their fertile lands in search of finding the next prophet. Then he says they recognized Muhammad as the prophet, but refused to own up to the truth; they refused to submit to Muhammad. Doesn't this sound incredulous? Imagine, they left everything in search of the prophet, but when they realized who he was, they turned against him because he was not a Jew! If the Jews were willing to pay such a great price and sacrifice all, to find the next prophet, do you really think they would have rejected him because he was not a Jew? No, I don't think so. That is not rational, or consistent. If the Jews had really recognized Muhammad as a prophet, they would followed him. Instead, to the bitter end, the Jews were against Muhammad, preferring to be massacred rather than follow an impostor.

Again, Misha'al perpetuates his inaccurate idea that the Jews there were looking for a prophet. Most weren't. As stated prior, they went there to escape oppression and to establish a better life for themselves. They rejected Muhammad because they were able to see through him and his false claims. By the time Muhammad came onto the scene, the Jews were weaker than the Arabs, so they didn't do the "threatening". If anybody threatened, it was the Arabs. The Jewish clans were clients of the Arab tribes in that area. Actually, before Muhammad, the Jews and Arabs got along fairly well.

Next, Misha'al makes another error. He says, "These inhabitants of Madinah would later become among those very first followers of Muhammad who would one year later go on to fulfill the prophesy of Isaiah by defeating the "mighty men of Kedar" in the very first battle of the Islamic nation, the battle of Badr." This is terrible geography. Kedar is the in northern part of the Arabian Peninsula. The battle of Badr was fought between people from Medina and people from Mecca. There were no Kedarites at that battle. Imagine someone saying that the American Civil War was fought between the Northern States and the Eskimos of Canada! Yet that is akin to what Misha'al is saying.


Misha'al writes:

My response:

Again, the people who fought against Muhammad were not Kedarites, but Qurayshi... i.e. Meccans. At that point in history, the land of Kedar was probably Christianized to some extent, and either under Byzantine or Persian rule. And again, Badr was not the turning point for Islam; the Muslims suffered a terrible defeat a short while later.


Misha'al writes:

An unfortunate misconception which has managed to creep into many Western beliefs is that Islam was only spread through force and the sword. Today, however, this notion is beginning to be recognized for the absurdity that it was. A Christian missionary, Sir Thomas W. Arnold says:

"...of any organized attempt to force the acceptance of Islam on the non-Muslim population, or of any systematic persecution intended to stamp out the Christian religion, we hear nothing. Had the caliphs chosen to adopt either course of action, they might have swept away Christianity as easily as Ferdinand and Isabella drove Islam out of Spain, or Louis XIV made Protestantism penal in France, or the Jews were kept out of England for 350 years. The Eastern Churches in Asia were entirely cut off from communion with the rest of Christendom throughout which no one would have been found to lift a finger on their behalf, as heretical communions. So that the very survival of these Churches to the present day is a strong proof of the generally tolerant attitude of Mohammedan [sic] governments towards them" The Preaching of Islam, A History of the Propagation of the Muslim Faith, Sir Thomas W. Arnold, Westminster A. Constable & Co., London, 1896, p. 80.

My response:

I doubt that Arnold knew what he was talking about. Islam was spread primarily by the sword. Read Muir's "The Caliphate" for the details. Egypt, the Maghreb, Spain, Southern France, East Europe, Turkey, the Indian sub-continent were all conquered by the sword, and people were coerced into converting to Islam through various means. Usually, they were denied normal rights and had to pay extra taxes. When they couldn't pay, things got rough for them, so they converted to Islam to keep the Islamic government off their backs. Also, non-Muslims were treated as "dhimmies", or "protected people". Who did they need protection from? They needed protection from the Muslims! As Albert Memmi summerized the Jewish status under Islam in the twentieth century as "Roughly speaking, in the best of cases, the Jew is protected like a dog which is part of man's property, but if he raises his head or acts like a man, then he must be beaten so that he will always remember his status". [2, p. 32, 33].

And Arnold says, "they might have swept away Christianity as easily as Ferdinand and Isabella drove Islam out of Spain". This shows that Arnold didn't know his history. It was difficult for Ferdinand and Isabella to drive the Muslims out. In fact, if it weren't for the fact that the last few Muslim groups were divided, their final expulsion would have taken many years later. Ferdinand was able to divide and conquer, and even at that it was a difficult and time consuming task. It took the Spaniards over 700 years to re-conquer Spain.


Misha'al writes:

My response:

Misha'al says "Muslims waged their wars in self-defense or in order to abolish idolatry, tyranny, slavery, and oppression." This is deception. Muslim armies attacked and conquered in search of booty, pure and simple. Muslims never outlawed slavery because the Qur'an allows them to take slaves. Muhammad enslaved over 10,000 people. When Muslims conquered the Indian subcontinent, thousands of Buddhists were massacred. Muslims have committed massacres throughout history.

Muhammad even cut down palm trees when fighting the Banu Nadhir, [Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasulallah, page 437]. When the Jews asked him about it, he replied that God allowed him to break God's law in order to fight the Jews, [Koran, Sura 59:5]. Muslim armies robbed Spain of many valuables. Muslims took back 1000 Spanish virgins to Damascus to be their concubines. The Muslim armies were crusaders also. [Payne, "The History of Islam", p. 138].


Misha'al writes:

My response:

Misha'al is correct in claiming Indonesia was not conquered by force. I would also throw in Malaysia, and parts of Africa. Outside of these areas, all Muslim lands today were conquered by force. And, Islam keeps its people by force. So much for there being "no compulsion in religion". The Islamic law of apostasy is death for those that leave Islam. [Mawdudi, "The Punishment of the Apostate According to Islamic Law", p. 18]. Wouldn't you describe that as compulsion? What do you call a religion that denies freedom of thought and freedom of choice? Muslims are commanded to kill apostates wherever they are. And, Muslims are very brutal to non-Muslims. Even in Indonesia, in the last few years, over 100 churches have been damaged or destroyed by Muslim mobs, some of them numbering in the thousands. [Voice of the Martyr, May, 1998]. Even the head of the largest Muslim political party in Indonesia acknowledged this. So, what does this really say about Islam? Where Islam rules, non-Muslims suffer.


Misha'al writes:

My response:

This is more historical nonsense. Muslims frequently outnumbered their opponents. And, if you want to get right down to it, where was Allah when the Jews defeated the Muslims in four wars during this century? Some estimates put the population ratio at 80 to 1! If you're looking for who God has helped, look at how the Jews whipped the Muslims. If anything, those victories came from God. Little ol Israel beat the pants off of Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, and troops from other Muslim nations as well.

As far as the Muslims beating the Byzantines; that was no great feat. The Byzantines and Persians were fought out. They had been at war with each other almost continuously for nearly 127 years. Their troops were exhausted and demoralized. The Muslims were relatively fresh and well motivated. ["The People's Chronology", Henry Holt and company].

History is full of examples of motivated but outnumbered armies winning great battles. Look at how the Vietnamese beat the Americans, the Mexicans defeated the French. the Afghanis beat the Russians. Examine Alexander the Great's exploits, or Julius Caesar's victories. More often than not, they were outnumbered. In fact, Caesar with 15,000 men faced and defeated an army of about 120,000 in 53 BC during the Gaulic wars. I could go on and on. The point is that the Muslim victory over the Byzantine army was no miracle.


Misha'al tried to prove that Isaiah 21 contained prophecies concerning Muhammad and the Muslims. He failed. As is evident, the prophecies in Isaiah 21 dealt with the countries near Israel at that time. And, as is documented by history, those prophecies were fulfilled.

Misha'al made contextual errors in trying to relate Tema to Muhammad and trying to relate Kedar with Mecca. Misha'al made historical errors related to the Jews in Yathrib, the Qaylites who came later, and concerning the wars various Muslim armies fought. He also overlooked the Jews victories over the Islamic forces during this century. His argument, that Isaiah 21 predicts Muhammad is to be rejected.


1. Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible, Baker Book House.

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