Is it just a coincidence that both Prophet Jesus and Prophet Muhammad did not have at least one adult son to carry on their message?
All Muslims know that Prophet Muhammad was the last of the Prophets sent by God. But it is not clear why Allah, after thousands of years of sending prophets to every nation in the world in their own language, stopped sending Prophets.
The Qur’an simply says: “Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Apostle of Allah and the Last of the prophets; and Allah is cognizant of all things.” (33:40) But why does the second half of this verse follow after the first half.
Because just as Prophet Muhammad had no son to inherent his authority and rule the Muslim community; so too should the highest religious authority in each future religion not be an inherited position.
Even more important, the last book of the Torah, the Book of Deuteronomy, states that there are four sacred languages which will bring monotheism to all the world’s peoples: “The Lord came from Sinai and appeared to them from Seir; he shone on them from Mount Paran and came with ten thousand holy ones, with lightning from his right hand for them.” (33:2)
Almost all Muslim commentators have claimed that according to the Torah Prophet Ishmael lived in Paran (Genesis 21:21), as did his descendants. Given that Prophet Muḥammad was a descendant of Prophet Ishmael he also must have lived in Paran. And if Paran is the area around Mecca, then Deuteronomy 33:2 clearly refers to Prophet Muḥammad’s future role.
Some rabbinic Midrashim do state that Sinai refers to Prophet Moses and the Hebrew Torah. Seir refers to Esau (who is linked to Rome, the Catholic and Eastern Churches, and the Greek and Latin languages). Paran refers to Prophet Ishmael (Muḥammad’s forebear in Islamic tradition) and the Arabic Qur’an. ‘And He (God) came with ten thousands of saints’ – this is Aramaic.
The Deuteronomy 33:2 text that speaks about four different locations and directions is interpreted by the rabbis in terms of languages that the rabbis felt became holy because each one was used for a different Sacred Scripture. The “ten thousands of saints” refers to the many sacred texts that came from ancient Mesopotamia like the Epic of Gilgamesh and the Enuma Elish; and the later Aramaic texts of Mandaeism, Mithraism, Manichaeism. and those influenced by the Iranian religion of Zoroastrianism. These are the Sabaean religions referred to in the Qur’an.
These Rabbinic Midrash texts claim that God offered the Torah to the non-Israelite nations before He gave it to the Israelites but that each of them rejected it for various reasons. This explains why, after thousands of years of sending prophets to every nation in their own language, God decided to pursue a different method. None of the prophets God had sent had succeeded in establishing an ongoing monotheistic community that lasted to our time.
So God decided to rescue the Hebrew speaking descendants of Prophets Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who had become enslaved in Egypt, by offering them and their descendants an opportunity to escape the darkness of oppression and live in the light of God’s covenant.
The Hebrew word brit means covenant —a committed partnership relationship- is a central principle in Jewish theology. According to the Bible the relationship between God and Israel is similar to a marital partnership. God said to Moses: “Speak thus to the house of Jacob, and tell this to the children of Israel… Now if you listen to me and keep my covenant, then you will be my special possession out of all the peoples, for the whole earth is mine. You will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation. These words you shall speak to the people of Israel” (this is the proposal) “Moses came and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all these proposals as God had commanded him. All the people answered together, “All that God has proposed, we will do. (the acceptance, similar to the “I do” at a wedding) Moses brought this answer back to the Lord.” (Exodus 19:5-8)
A personal brit, a loving committed partnership, requires at least two individuals who have the desire and the ability to make a choice to commit themselves to one another; to choose and to be chosen. This is what God and Israel did at Sinai. However, while God chose Israel, Jews are not THE chosen people; they are A chosen people, the first of several monotheistic religions. A parent can have many children but only one is the firstborn. “These are the words of the Lord, Israel is my first-born son.” (Exodus 4:22)
The Jewish people was the first community to enter into a sacred relationship with the one God, but they are not the only ones to do so. “All the families of the earth shall be blessed through you (Jacob) and your descendants.” (Genesis 28:14) In later centuries other communities were formed that Jews see as our younger siblings. That process will continue until all nations have a sacred relationship to the one God of Israel. “Each nation will walk in the name of its God, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever.” (Micah 4:5)
Thus, even in the Messianic Age, other nations will be free to faithfully follow their vision of the one God of Abraham, as Jews, Christians and Muslims do to this very day.
But why were Jews the first chosen people? God’s love isn’t based on popularity or large numbers. “It was not because you were more numerous than any other nation that the Lord cared about you and chose you, for you are the smallest of nations; it was because of the Lord’s love for you, and his oath to your ancestors.” (Deuteronomy. 7:7-8) And because God loved their ancestors: “… the Lord cared for your ancestors, loving them, and chose their descendants after them from all nations, as you are this day.” (Deuteronomy. 10:15) “I will fulfill my covenant between myself and you (Abraham) and your descendants after you, generation after generation, an everlasting covenant, to be your God, yours and your descendants after you.” (Genesis 17:7)
It is hard for me to explain why I fell in love with my wife of 56 years and not with some of the other equally lovable women I dated before I met Judy. All I know is that it happened only with her. Indeed. I do not think I really understood at that time how truly wonderful she was and how lucky I was to be her husband. But within a few years I began to view my good fortune to be married to my wife as a gift from God. This feeling has continued to grow stronger over the decades we have lived together.
I do not believe that my wonderful marriage partnership is the result of my being the best husband, or the best person in the world. I am far from that. And although I believe that my wife is a gift from God, I do not believe she is the best of all possible wives. Our partnership is however, the best for us. In the same way, being a chosen people doesn’t make you better, but it does make your relationship special.
Being in a committed loving relationship results in more giving (Mitsvot-Jewish duties), more receiving (Torah, Prophets and sages) and more grief (because each cares about the other). “For you alone have I cared among all the nations of the world, therefore I will castigate you for all your iniquities.” (Amos 3:2)
Although the prophet Amos says that God only cares for Israel; he also says “Israelites are like Ethiopians to me” (Amos 9:7), This seems to be a logical contradiction; but it reflects the difference between an emotional relationship like love, which is always felt to be unique, and a rational understanding that others also have unique relationships that are similar to your’s.
Thus, while Israel can’t adore any other God; God can and does redeem other nations. “Are not Israelites like Ethiopians to me? Says the Lord. Did I not bring Israel up from Egypt, the Philistines from Crete and the Aramaeans from Kir?” (Amos 9:7)
Most, but not all, of the descendants of Prophets Abraham Issac and Jacob did remain loyal to the brit-covenant that their ancestors made with God at Mount Sinai. But the Torah itself faithfully records the frequent mood swings and ambivalences felt by the Jewish people while in the desert on the way to Sinai. God’s proposal was the most awesome offer they had ever received. If many people today have a problem making a long term commitment, what about people who had been slaves only three months earlier.
Some said yes right away. Others thought about it for many hours. Most of them made a commitment, but some were still undecided. There was still a minority, mostly men, who were afraid to commit. The women had convinced almost all the hesitant men. Only a small minority still held out. So would the fear of making a life long open ended commitment by an ambivalent few, keep everyone else in the Jewish people from accepting God’s proposal of a lifetime partnership?
Fortunately, God came to the rescue. According to Rabbi Avdimi, “The Holy One, blessed is He, lowered the [uprooted] mount Sinai over them like a bucket, and said to them, ‘If you accept the Torah, fine; but if not, there will be your grave.” (Talmud Shabbat 88a) Sometimes, the ardor of the proposal makes all the difference.
The Qur’an refers to this ‘offer you cannot refuse’ “We raised the Mountain over you saying: Hold firm to what we have given you, and study its commandments; so that you may attain piety towards God, (choosing to love God) and His protection (as God’s chosen beloveds).” (2:63)
Even if you are chosen by your lover to get married, you still have to chose to make the commitment in return.
Thus, the Hebrew Bible now has its committed believers, and with Prophet Jesus the Greek New Testament now has its committed believers, and with Prophet Muhammad the Arabic Qur’an now has its committed believers. So the Qur’an’s Messenger was the Last of the descendants of Prophet Abraham to fulfill Deuteronomy 33:2 for neither Prophet Jesus nor Prophet Muhammad had sons.