Damien F. Mackey
The ‘life’ of Mohammed will be shown to consist of, to a large extent, a string of biblical episodes (relating to, for instance, Moses; David; Job/Tobias; Jeremiah; Jesus Christ), but altered and/or greatly embellished, and re-cast into an Arabian context.
This has been achieved with the greatest of skill, conflating all of these disparate sources, and re-arranging them into a thrilling epic of literary magnificence.
The Neo-Assyrian Factor
Whilst it is not to be commonly expected for ancient Assyria to be discussed in the context of the Prophet Mohammed, given that the Assyrian empire had dissolved in the C7th BC, and here is Mohammed supposedly in the C7th AD, I found reason to raise this issue in Part One:
Because an event that is said to have taken place in the very year that Mohammed was born, c. 570 AD, the invasion of Mecca by 'Abraha[s] of the kingdom of Axum [Aksum], has all the earmarks, I thought, of the disastrous campaign of Sennacherib of Assyria against Israel.
Not 570 AD, but closer to 700 BC!
Lacking to this Qur'anic account is the [Book of] Judith element that (I have argued in various places) was the catalyst for the defeat of the Assyrian army. But that feminine detail is picked up, I believe, in the story of the supposedly AD heroine, Gudit (possibly Jewish), who routed the Axumites. Hence read: Gudit = Judith; and Axum can substitute for Assyria. If that famous biblical incident involving neo-Assyria is some sort of chronological marker for the very beginning of those “biblical episodes” pertaining to Mohammed (as mentioned above), then the era of king Sennacherib of Assyria must be our (revised) starting point. And, indeed, it is there that we find one who displays some striking resemblances to Mohammed: he is Tobias, the son of Tobit, who was born at this time, and whom I have identified with the prophet Job. His father Tobit tells us about this arduous time for his family, continuing on into the reign of Sennacherib’s successor, Esarhaddon (Tobit 1:18-22):
I [Tobit] also buried any whom King Sennacherib put to death when he came fleeing from Judea in those days of judgment that the king of heaven executed upon him because of his blasphemies. For in his anger he put to death many Israelites; but I would secretly remove the bodies and bury them. So when Sennacherib looked for them he could not find them. Then one of the Ninevites went and informed the king about me, that I was burying them; so I hid myself. But when I realized that the king knew about me and that I was being searched for to be put to death, I was afraid and ran away. Then all my property was confiscated; nothing was left to me that was not taken into the royal treasury except my wife Anna and my son Tobias.
But not forty days passed before two of Sennacherib’s sons killed him, and they fled to the mountains of Ararat, and his son Esarhaddon reigned after him. He appointed Ahikar, the son of my brother Hanael over all the accounts of his kingdom, and he had authority over the entire administration. Ahikar interceded for me, and I returned to Nineveh. Now Ahikar was chief cupbearer, keeper of the signet, and in charge of administration of the accounts under King Sennacherib of Assyria; so Esarhaddon reappointed him. He was my nephew and so a close relative.
Ahikar and Luqman
More needs to be said about the immensely important Ahikar, too, because his wisdom - for much of which he would have been indebted to his uncle Tobit - has been drawn upon in the Qur'an (http://archive.org/stream/TheStoryOfAhikar/Ahikar_djvu.txt):
ON THE USE OF THE LEGEND OF AHIKAR
IN THE KORAN AND ELSEWHERE.
We pass on, in the next place, to point out that the legend of Ahikar was known to Mohammed, and that he has used it in a certain Sura of the Koran.
There is nothing a priori improbable in this, for the Koran is full of Jewish Haggada and Christian legends, and where such sources are not expressly mentioned, they may often be detected by consulting the commentaries upon the Koran in obscure passages. For example, the story of Abimelech and the basket of figs, which appears in the Last Words of Baruch, is carried over into the Koran, as we have shown in our preface to the Apocryphon in question. It will be interesting if we can add another volume to Mohammed’s library, or to the library of the teacher from whom he derived so many of his legends.
The 31st Sura of the Koran is entitled Lokman (Luqman) and it contains the following account of a sage of that name.
* We heretofore bestowed wisdom on Lokman and commanded him, saying, Be thou thankful unto God: for whoever is thankful, shall be thankful to the advantage of his own soul: and if any shall be unthankful, verily God is self-sufficient and worthy to be praised. And remember when Lokman said unto his son, as he admonished him.
O my son, Give not a partner unto God, for polytheism is a great impiety.
O my son, verily every matter, whether good or bad, though it be of the weight of a grain of mustard-seed, and be hidden in a rock, or in the heavens, God will bring the same to light: for God is clear-sighted and knowing.
O my son, be constant at prayer, and command that which is just, and forbid that which is evil, and be patient under the afflictions that shall befall thee: for this is a duty absolutely incumbent upon all men.
And be moderate in thy pace, and lower thy voice, for the most ungrateful of all voices surely is the voice of asses.’
Now concerning this Lokman, the commentators and the critics have diligently thrown their brains about. The former have disputed whether Lokman was an inspired prophet or merely a philosopher and have decided against his inspiration: and they have given him a noble lineage, some saying that he was sister’s son to Job, and others that he was nephew to Abraham, and lived until the time of Jonah.
Others have said that he was an African: slave. It will not escape the reader’s notice that the term sister’s son to Job, to which should be added nephew of Abraham, is the proper equivalent of the ἐξάδελφος by which Nadan and Ahikar are described in the Tobit legends.
Job, moreover, is singularly like Tobit.
A few comments are due here. Concerning the last statement “Job … is singularly like Tobit”, that is because, I believe, that Job was Tobias, the very son of Tobit.
Most interesting, too, that “Lokman … was a sister’s son to Job”. In my ten part series, “Friends of the Prophet Job”, I tentatively identified Ahikar with “Bildad the Suhite” (https://www.academia.edu/12171292/Friends_of_the_Prophet_Job._Part_Two_Bildad_the); Lokman, with “Zohar the Naamathite” (https://www.academia.edu/12373380/Friends_of_th); and the Aesop (who will be mentioned below) also with Zophar the friend of Job (https://www.academia.edu/12373952/Friends_of_the_Prophet_Job._Part_Three_Zophar_th).
Now, returning ‘Ahikar in the Koran’:
That [Lokman] lived till the time of Jonah reminds one of the destruction of Nineveh as
described in the book of Tobit, in accordance with Jonah’s prophecy. Finally the African slave is singularly like Aesop … who is a black man and a slave in the Aesop legends. From all of which it appears as if the Arabic Commentators were identifying Lokman with Ahikar on the one hand and with Aesop on the other; i.e. with two characters whom we have already shown to be identical.
The identification with Aesop is confirmed by the fact that many of the fables ascribed to Aesop in the west are referred to Lokman in the east: thus Sale says: —
‘The Commentators mention several quick repartees of Luqman which agree so well with what Maximus Planudes has written of Aesop, that from thence and from the fables attributed to Luqman by the Orientals, the latter has been generally thought to be no other than the Aesop of the Greeks. However that may be (for I think the matter may bear a dispute) I am of opinion that Planudes borrowed a great part of his life of Aesop from the traditions he met with in the east concerning Luqman, concluding them to have been the same person, etc. …’. *
These remarks of Sale are confirmed by our observation that the Aesop story is largely a modification of the Ahikar legend, taken with the suggestion which we derive from the Mohammedan commentators, who seem to connect Lokman with Tobit on the one hand and with Aesop on the other.
Comment: In all of this we find ourselves firmly grounded in the neo-Assyria era of the C8th BC.
The article now focusses upon the relevant Qur'anic text:
Now let us turn to the Sura of the Koran which bears the name Lokman, and examine it internally: we remark (i) that he bears the name of sage, precisely as Ahikar does: (ii) that he is a teacher of ethics to his son, using Ahikar’s formula ‘ ya bani ‘ in teaching him: (iii) although at first sight the matter quoted by Mohammed does not appear to be taken from Ahikar, there are curious traces of dependence. We may especially compare the following from Ahikar: ‘ O my son, bend thy head low and soften thy voice and be courteous and walk in the straight path and be not foolish And raise not thy voice when thou laughest, for were it by a loud voice that a house was built, the ass would build many houses every day.’
Clearly Mohammed has been using Ahikar, and apparently from memory, unless we like to assume that the passage in the Koran is the primitive form for Ahikar, rather than the very forcible figure in our published texts. Mohammed has also mixed up Ahikar’s teaching with his own, for some of the sentences which he attributes to Lokman appear elsewhere in the Koran. But this does not disturb the argument. From all sides tradition advises us to equate Lokman with Aesop and Ahikar, and the Koran confirms the equation. The real difficulty is to determine the derivation of the names of Lokman and Aesop from Ahikar ….
Some of the Moslem traditions referred to above may be found in Al Masudi c. 4 : ‘ There was in the country of Ailah and Midian a sage named Lokman, who was the son of Auka, the son of Mezid, the son of Sar. ….
Comment: The mention of “Midian” in association with Lokman is also most significant in my context, because as I have argued in:
A Common Sense Geography of the Book of
it was from Midian (wrongly given as “Media”) that the Naphtalian clan of Tobit and some of his relatives hailed.
Continuing with the article:
Another curious point in connexion with the Moslem traditions is the discussion whether Loqman was or was not a prophet.
This discussion cannot have been borrowed from a Greek source, for the idea which is involved in the debate is a Semitic idea.
But it is a discussion which was almost certain to arise, whether Lokman of whom Mohammed writes so approvingly had any special … as a prophet, because Mohammed is the seal of the prophets.
And it seems from what Sale says on the subject, that the Moslem doctors decided the question in the negative; Lokman * received from God wisdom and eloquence in a high degree, which some pretend were given him in a vision, on his making choice of wisdom preferably to the gift of prophecy, either of which was offered him.’ Thus the Moslem verdict was that Lokman was a sage and not a prophet.
On the other hand it should be noticed that there are reasons for believing that he was regarded in some circles and probably from the earliest times as a prophet. The fact of his teaching in aphorisms is of no weight against this classification: for the Hebrew Bible has two striking instances of exactly similar character, in both of which the sage appears as prophet. Thus Prov. XXX. begins :
* The words of Agur the son of Jakeh, even the prophecy*
and Prov. xxxi begins :
*The words of king Lemuel, the prophecy that his mother taught him.’
Both of these collections appear to be taken from popular tales*, and they are strikingly like to the sentences of Ahikar.
At the conclusion of the Syntipas legends, when the young man is solving all the hard ethical problems that his father proposes to him, we again find a trace of Ahikar, for he speaks of the ‘ insatiate eye which as long as it sees wealth is so ardent after it that he regards not God, until in death the earth covers his eyes.’ And amongst the sayings of Ahikar we find one to the effect that * the eye of man is as a fountain, and it will never be satisfied with wealth until it is filled with dust.’ Dr Dillon points out that this is one of the famous sayings of Mohammed, and if that be so, we have one more loan from Ahikar in the Koran.
Cf Sura 102, ‘The emulous desire of multiplying [riches and children] employeth you, until ye visit the graves.’ ….
[End of quotes]
In Part One, “Mecca”, which archaeologically could not have any bearing upon Abraham, was re-cast as “Jerusalem; the name Mecca having been derived, it was suggested, from the Arabic Muqa (Mecca) in Bayt al-Muqaddas …”.
And the Ka'aba (meaning “Cube”) was identified as the “Holy of Holies”, the most sacred place in the Temple of Yahweh in Jerusaalem.
Thus it is not entirely surprising to find the “Meccans” having their own Levite-like custodians of the holy place (http://sheikyermami.com/2014/01/global-warming-is-a-fraud-the-mohammedan-winter-is-here-to-stay/): “Mohammed … was descended from the noble but impoverished family of Hashim, of the priestly tribe of Koreish, who were the chiefs and keepers of the national sanctuary of the Kaaba”.
Even the name, Hashim, looks like the Hebrew, Ha Shem (“The Name”, it being a term for God).
We also learned in Part One that Mohammed had encountered a young man from Nineveh – quite an anomaly. And the pair discussed the prophet Jonah whom Mohammed called his “brother”.
Tobit, for his part, well knew of the prophet Jonah, having warned his son, Tobias (14:4): “Go into Media [sic], my son, for I surely believe those things which Jonah the prophet spoke about Nineveh, that it shall be overthrown”.
I would re-set the childhood of Mohammed, therefore, to the reign of king Sennacherib of Assyria, and have Tobias/Job as a major biblical matrix for it. Tobias’s/Job’s long life in fact, which extends - according to my revision - from Sennacherib to beyond the Fall of Nineveh, will suffice to encompass “biblical episodes” attached to Mohammed from his birth to his marriage to Khadijah bint Khuwaylid.
My primary source here, serving as a biography of Mohammed, will be Yahiya Emerick’s Muhammad (Critical Lives), Alpha, 2002: