Dr. Jamal Badawi
The main reference for Muslims is the Quran as the last scripture and the last revelation of God that remains intact. In the Quran, it says, “And remember Jesus, the son of Mary, said: O children of Israel! I am the Apostle of God sent to you confirming the Torah, which came before me, and giving Glad Tidings of an Apostle to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad. But when he came to them with Clear Signs, they said: this is evident sorcery.” (61:6) The name Ahmad and Mohammed come from the same Arabic root and in essence are the same name.
On the basis of this particular verse in the Quran, it is obvious that Prophet Jesus did actually foretell the advent of a prophet to come after him and actually even gave his name. This is confirmed further in one of the sayings of Prophet Mohammed; when asked about his birth he said, “I am the answer of the supplication of my father, Abraham, and the glad tidings given by Jesus.”
One of the most important of the prophecies in the New Testament appears in the writings of John. Prophet Jesus, may peace and blessings be upon him, speaks of the Paraclete that will come after him. In Greek, it’s Periklytos. This word has been translated, in the Gospel of John, to the ‘Comforter’ in the King James Version, the ‘Advocate’ in the Epistle, and the ‘Counselor’ by others. We’ll use the term Paraclete.
Descriptions of the Paraclete and his profile appear in the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth chapters of the Gospel of John and the Epistle of John. In chapter 14, verses 15-18 and 26, in chapter 15, verses 26 and 27 and in chapter 16, verses 7 through 15 particularly discuss him. The passage that discusses him, in the Epistle of John, is the first verse in the second chapter. To begin with, these are the main passages that deal with the Paraclete.
To the best of my knowledge, the common stereotype and interpretation of the Paraclete that Jesus foretold is a reference to the descent of the Holy Ghost on the disciples of Jesus on the day of Pentecost. Pentecost is a Jewish festival that used to be celebrated in the spring. It is claimed that about ten days after Jesus died, the Holy Ghost descended on the disciples so that they began speaking in different languages.
In fact, in the Book of Acts, in chapter 2 verses 12-13, describe the disciples as appearing to be drunk and intoxicated, saying things that are unintelligible to one another. Peter defended them and said that this was the Holy Ghost that made them able to speak in different languages. This is the most common interpretation that for hundreds of years has been supported by the official church. Muslim scholars however, take a different view all together from this. They claim that this Paraclete or Comforter about whom Prophet Jesus foretold is Prophet Mohammed. They say that the prophecy is not talking of something vague or a spirit but the prophecy talks of a human being, a person, who would come after Jesus.
Spirit or Human?
First of all, the words of Jesus, in the Book of John (in the verses noted above), talks of the Paraclete as someone who has not yet been sent by the Father and that the world did not know him. Going back, both to the Old and New Testament, you’ll see that the Holy Ghost is something that was already known before Jesus came. In the story of the baptizing of Jesus, John the Baptist says that he saw the Holy Ghost descending upon Jesus. Throughout the scripture of the Old Testament, the concept of the Holy Ghost, the Angel of Revelation, or Gabriel were known to the people whereas Jesus insists that the world does not know the Paraclete and that he was yet to be sent by the Father. The Holy Ghost was sent in a variety of occasions.
Secondly, Jesus also says that “It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” (John 16:7) This means that the going of Jesus is a prerequisite to the coming of the Comforter. He will not come unless Jesus goes. Then this is something that will happen in the future.
Jesus says, “And I will pray to the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” (John 14:16) It is quite significant that he uses the term ‘another’ because if the Paraclete is the Holy Ghost then it is not another. According to the concept of the Trinity, the Son (Jesus), the Father, and the Holy Ghost are all one and the same. When he says another he’s talking about something different and independent.
Historically speaking, not all early Christians subscribed to this early theory that the Paraclete is the Holy Ghost. Those Christians were already familiar with what occurred during the Pentecost. However, we still find throughout Christian history, among Christians, many people have risen claiming to be the Paraclete prophesied by Jesus. If they believe that the Paraclete was a spirit, then there would be no point in doing this. In fact, Johann Mosheim says in his book, An Ecclesiastical History, some such as Saint Augustine and Father Tertullian, at some point in their lives, followed some of those who claimed to being the Comforter. This shows that the Comforter was not really regarded as a spirit but rather a person to come.
The Interpreter’s Dictionary of the Bible, which is a very major and credible source for Christian theology, admits that the original Greek wording of the Gospel’s masculine pronoun and adjectives are used. The word another is used. And it shows that this Spirit is regarded as fully personal. Of course, the main point here is that there is recognition that this passage is talking of another and not something that is part of the trinity. (Pgs. 654-655)
In the New Testament, in the Gospel of John in the chapters mentioned earlier, it is mentioned, more than once, that this Paraclete or sometimes mentioned as the Spirit of Truth will “not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come.” (John 16:13) He will not speak from himself but whatever he hears from the Father he will say. This shows that this Comforter is receiving instruction, knowledge, and revelation from another source- God. If we say that the Comforter is the Holy Ghost, and the Holy Ghost we know is part of God-hood, then he doesn’t need another source to receive revelation from. This, in itself, rejects the notion that the Paraclete is the Holy Spirit, and instead is talking of a human being.
Similarities with Mohammed
Indeed, when looked at the other way around, we can say that this is the exact description of the revelation as given to Prophet Mohammed, may peace and blessings be upon him. One of the main points we said was that Prophet Mohammed was not speaking of his own, the Quran itself says, “Nor does he say aught of his own Desire. It is no less than inspiration sent down to him: he is taught by One Mighty in Power.” (53: 3-5)
Furthermore, it is fully consistent with the nature of Prophet Mohammed and what the Quran, itself, says about his mission. First, the Quran makes it clear that it is the most complete scripture revealed by God. It says, describing the Quran as “explaining all things, a Guide, a Mercy and Glad Tidings.” (16:89)
One of the very last verses in the Quran says, “This day have I perfected your religion for you, completed My favor upon you, and have chosen for you Islam as your religion.” (Quran 5:3) This shows conclusively something, which is not clear in any of the previous scriptures. Only the Quran makes it very obvious and very explicit that it is the last revelation from God and the completion of the message of all prophets.
In a sense, the mission of this prophet to come was to remind people of the truth that Jesus had preached. The Gospel of John uses similar terminology saying that the advent will ‘bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.’ (John 14:26) The Advent will remind the followers of Jesus that what he is teaching is simply that Prophet Jesus was a great messenger of God; Jesus was carrying the news of the final prophet to come after him and that is Prophet Mohammed.
Adapted, with permission, from transcribed audio lectures on www.jamalbadawi.org