Did A Rabbi In Medina Think Prophet Muhammad Was A Pre-Messiah?

Rabbi Mukhayriq was a wealthy and learned leader of the tribe of Tha’labah who fought along side Prophet Muhammad in the battle of Uhud and was martyred on Saturday, March 19, 625 C.E.

That Saturday morning. Rabbi Mukhayriq addressed his people and asked them to go with him to help Muhammad. His tribe's men declined, saying that it was the day of the Sabbath and fighting on the Sabbath was forbidden by God, except for self defense.

The first century Jewish historian Josephus writes that the Jews at the time of Alexander the Great volunteered to join his army as long as they could also be permitted to practice their traditions [and not fight on Shabbat and Holy Days], and he gladly agreed. (Antiquities XI, 399)

Rabbi Mukhayriq chastised his congregation for not seeing the deeper meaning of the pagan Arabs of Mecca’s coming attack on Muhammad that Sabbath; and announced that if he died in the battle his entire wealth should go to Muhammad.

Rabbi Mukhayriq did die that Sabbath day in battle against the pagan Meccans. When Muhammad, who was seriously injured in that same battle, was informed about the death of Rabbi Mukhayriq, Prophet Muhammad said, "He was the best of Jews.”

Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger as saying: If ten scholars of the Jews would follow me, no Jew would be left upon the surface of the earth who would not embrace Islam. (Sahih Muslim Book #039, Hadith #6711) and Abu Huraira narrated: “The Prophet said, "Had only ten Jews (among their chiefs) believed me, all the Jews would definitely have believed me." (Sahih Al-Bukhari Book #58, Hadith #277)

Prophet Muhammad inherited seven gardens and other forms of wealth from Rabbi Mukhayriq and used this wealth to establish the first waqf -- a charitable endowment -- of Islam. It was from this Jewish endowment that the Prophet of Islam helped many poor people in Medina.

When Muhammad migrated from Mecca to Medina in 622, he signed a treaty with the various tribes that lived in and around Medina. Some of these tribes had embraced Islam, some were still pagan and others were Jewish. All of them signed the treaty with Muhammad that is referred to by historians as the Constitution of Medina. The first Islamic state, a multi-tribal and multi-religious state, established by Muhammad in Medina, was based on this social contract.

According to article 2 of the constitution, all the tribes who were signatories to the treaty constituted one nation (Umma). Mukhayriq's people, too, were signatories to this treaty and were obliged to fight with Muhammad in accordance with article 37 of the constitution, which says: "The Jews must bear their expenses and the Muslims their expenses.

Each must help the other against anyone who attacks the people of this document. They must seek mutual advice and consultation, and loyalty is a protection against treachery. A man is not liable for his ally's misdeeds. The wronged must be helped.”

So in a way, Rabbi Mukhayriq, this well respected Jewish scholar in Medina, was merely being a good citizen and was fulfilling a social contract. Or perhaps Rabbi Mukhayriq expected the Arabs to play a role in the messianic era by eliminating the Byzantines and restoring the land of Israel to its former owners.

These ideas could have come from earlier visions of Rabbi Shimon Ben Yoḥai, a prominent religious figure during the Second Jewish Revolt (132-35 C.E.) who was famous for his rejection of Roman rule and culture. Several apocalyptic texts attributed to him feature predictions about the last days. Two works in particular, The Secrets of Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai and The Prayer of Rabbi Shimon ben Yoḥai, seem to contain revelations that foretell early Islamic history.

“He explained the Torah verse “he beheld the Kenite” (Torah Numbers 24:21). Metatron the Prince of the Presence said, “Do not fear, for the Holy One, Blessed be He, only brings the kingdom of Ishmael in order to save you from this wickedness (Roman Empire). He will raise up over them (the Jews) a prophet in accordance with His will, who will conquer the land (of Israel) for them and they (the Jews) will come and restore it in grandeur, and there will be great strife between them (the sons of Ishmael) and the sons of Esau.

Rabbi Shimon said, “How do we know that they (the Arabs) are our salvation?” Metatron answered, “Did not Prophet Isaiah say, “And he saw a troop with a pair of horsemen, one riding an ass (Prophet Jesus), one riding a camel (Prophet Muhammad). (Isaiah 21:7).”

The reference to Numbers 24:21 suggests that the original vision contained a messianic interpretation of the Arab conquest of Palestine in which the Kenites subdue the oppressive Byzantines. The “rider” is Prophet Muhammad, whose appearance is described in messianic terms. Isaiah 21:5-7 became a widely cited text as proof that the Hebrew Scriptures predicted Prophet Muhammad. The author expected the Arabs to play a role in the pre-messianic period by defeating the Byzantines and restoring the land to Israel.

The use of the Isaiah passage connects the Arabs’ mission with that of the Messiah: the Arabs are the liberators prophesied by Isaiah.

Perhaps it is about people like Rabbi Mukhayriq that the Quran says: "There are, certainly, among Jews and Christians, those who believe in God, in the revelation to you, and in the revelation to them, bowing in humility to God. They will not sell the Signs of God for a miserable gain! For them is a reward with their Lord" (3:199).

Did Rabbi Mukhayriq believe that Muhammad was indeed a legitimate prophet of the One God, who had sent so many prophets to banu Israel? I believe he did.

First of all, Rabbi Mukhayriq may have heard directly from Prophet Muhammad that at Sinai, when Allah gives the Jewish People the Torah, He also makes a covenant with the Children of Israel. Allah raises the mountain above the whole Jewish people saying, “Hold firmly to what We have given you (the Torah) and remember what is in it.” (Qur’an 2:63)

The rabbi must have known that there is a similar narrative in the Talmud, that Prophet Muhammad could not have known about without a Divine source: “Rav Avdimi said: “The Holy One, lowered the [uprooted] mountain over them like a bucket, and said to them, ‘If you accept the Torah, fine; but if not, here will be your grave.” (Talmud Shabbat 88a)

Second, Rabbi Mukhayriq may have believed that Prophet Muhammad was not only a Prophet, but was also one of God's Anointed; who with his Arab followers would enable and facilitate the Jewish people's return to the land of Israel as is predicted in the Bible; just as the Persian King Cyrus the Great (who is called one of God's Anointed by Prophet Isaiah) had enabled and facilitated the return of Jews to Israel eleven centuries earlier.

The fact that the Persians had just a few years previously (614 CE) captured the Land of Israel from the Eastern Roman Empire may, in the rabbi's mind, have stimulated this belief. This event is mentioned in the Qur’an: “The (Roman) Byzantines have been defeated in the nearest land. But they, after their defeat, will overcome (their enemies) within three to nine years. To Allah belongs the command before and after.” (30:2-4)

Perhaps this unorthodox rabbi saw the arrival of Prophet Muhammad in Medina only eight years after the Persians had captured Jerusalem, as God’s answer to Rabbi Mukhayriq’s Messianic hopes, and viewed fighting alongside Muhammad as his personal voluntary fight in support of monotheism, as well as a witness to his faith in the imminent arrival of one of God's Anointed Messiahs (not the final Son of David Messiah, but like Elijah, Cyrus, or the Son of Joseph Messiah) who will precede the Son of David Messiah.

Third, Rabbi Mukhayriq may have known that Paul himself believed that individual private revelations were still possible, and had perhaps happened to him [Paul]. “I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained, I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. and I know that this man…was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.” (2 Corinthians 12:1-4)

So if could happen to Prophet John and Prophet Jesus why not to Prophet Muhammad?
Thus, this unorthodox rabbi viewed fighting alongside Prophet Muhammad as his personal voluntary fight in support of monotheism as well as a witness to his faith in the arrival of one of God's Anointed Messiahs (although everyone has heard of the final Son of David Messiah, the rabbis also speak of Messianic forerunners like Prophet Elijah, and a Son of Joseph Messiah, who will precede the the Son of David Messiah.

The Qur’an refers to Prophet Abraham as a community or a nation: “Abraham was a nation/community [Ummah]; dutiful to God, a monotheist [hanif], not one of the polytheists.” (16:120)

If Prophet Abraham is an Ummah; then fighting between the descendants of Prophets Ishmael and Isaac is a civil war and should always be avoided. And prior to the 20th century Arabs and Jews never made war with each other.

If all Arabs and Jews can live up to the ideal that ‘the descendants of Abraham’s sons should never war against each other’ is the will of God; we will help fulfill the 2700 year old vision of Prophet Isaiah: “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria. The Assyrians will go to Egypt, and the Egyptians to Assyria.

The Egyptians and Assyrians will worship together. In that day Israel will join a three-party alliance with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing upon the heart. The LORD of Hosts will bless them saying, “Blessed be Egypt My people, Assyria My handiwork, and Israel My inheritance.”…(Isaiah 19:23-5)

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