In my debate with Osama Abdallah where he flailed about looking for a prediction for Muhammad in the Bible, Osama brought up Deuteronomy 33:2, which says:
“The Lord came from Sinai
and dawned from Seir upon us;
he shone forth from Mount Paran;
he came from the ten thousands of holy ones,
with flaming fire at his right hand.”
Osama was actually hoping to convince people that this passage is a prediction of the coming of Muhammad since Muhammad brought a law after Moses and conquered Mecca at the head of ten thousand men.
My reply to this slip-shod argument was short and simple: 1) The passage is talking about Yahweh; 2) it is a poetically dressed narrative of what happened rather than a prediction of something in the future; and 3) al-Tabari said the number Muhammad led in his conquest of Mecca was twelve-thousand. Several other points could have been made, but given the strength of these reasons, the lack of any serious reply from Osama, and the time constraints of the debate, I deemed this to be more than adequate at the time.
In an attempt to clean up Osama’s mess that was just about as inept as anything Osama said in our debate, a fact that provides one of many reasons why he won’t accept my debate challenges (1, 2, 3) and even begs me in e-mails not to respond to his drivel (available upon request), Yahya Snow wrote a blog post and produced a video in which he claims I made an unbelievably horrendous error in my response to this argument. Moreover, since for Yahya all roads refuting Islam lead to the doorstep of Sam Shamoun, I must have picked this argument up from Sam, whose name never even came up in the debate and was never cited as the source of my information. (Although I will mostly focus on the issue itself, one should not miss that Yahya’s reply was less of an attempt on Yahya’s part to actually interact with this alleged prophecy for Muhammad and my refutation of it and more of an opportunity that Yahya seized upon to attack Sam, with whom Yahya is clearly obsessed. As readers of his blog have observed, Yahya spends less time trying to prove or even defend Islam against Christian criticism and more time engaging in vindictive character assassinations, which is a sure sign of the poverty of the case that Yahya thinks can be made for his brand of stone-kissing paganism.)
So, what was my grand error according to Yahya? Was it in thinking that the passage is talking about Yahweh? No. Was it in saying the passage is a historical narrative rather than a prediction? No. My grand error according to Yahya was in saying that the number of Muhammad’s marauders in the attack on Mecca according to al-Tabari was 12,000 rather than 10,000. Since Sam has also made this point in an article that absolutely trounces the Muslim appeal to Deuteronomy 33:2, Yahya insists that the blame for this must be laid at Sam’s feet. (You can as surely expect Yahya to interact with all of what Sam wrote on Deuteronomy 33:2 as he did when replying to what I said on this issue in the debate.)
Lest readers miss the significance of this, note that both of the first two points are sufficient to rule out a Muhammadan fulfillment of Deuteronomy 33:2. If the passage is talking about Yahweh, and clearly it is, then it is not talking about Muhammad (unless Muslims want to commit shirk and say Muhammad is Yahweh). And if the passage is a record of what happened rather than a prediction of the future, and clearly it is, then it is not predicting the coming of Muhammad or anyone else. And so, even if it were the case that I (and Sam) misunderstood al-Tabari, it would still leave intact the two major reasons that stand over against taking the passage as a reference to Muhammad. (This makes all the more embarrassing the temerity of Yahya in saying that the third point was trumped up out of desperation on our part to disprove the claim that Muhammad’s coming was predicted in Deuteronomy 33:2. In light of the first two points, the third point, the one Yahya fixates on, is altogether inconsequential.)
So, what about the number of people Muhammad waylayed the Meccans with? Even before coming to al-Tabari it should be observed that a number of Muslim scholars say Muhammad attacked Mecca with 12,000 men.
For example, Allamah Muhammad Baqir Al-Majlisi in Volume 2, section 43, of his Hayat Al-Qulub: A Detailed Biography of Prophet Muhammad said:
Shaykh Mufeed, Shaykh Tabarsi and Ibn Shahr Ashob etc. have narrated that the important event of the conquest of Mecca occurred in the month of Ramadan, in the eight year of Hijrat. The majority of writers declare that the conquest was achieved on the thirteenth of the aforesaid month, but some maintain that it was on the twentieth. The cause of renewed hostilities with the Quraish was that at Hudaibiyah, the Prophet concluded a truce with the Quraish and took under his protection the tribe of Khaza, while Kananah tribe leagued with Meccan chiefs...
One of the men replied that the tribe of Khaza was encamped there. Abu Sufyan said that tribe was too small to have so many fires. Abbas now announced to Abu Sufyan, and told him that the fires were at the camp of the Messenger of Allah (S), WHO WITH TWELVE THOUSAND MEN WAS COME TO TAKE MECCA. “What hope is left?” replied Abu Sufyan. “This,” said Abbas, “that you mount behind me and go with me to the Prophet and obtain security for yourself and people.”
Allama Hussein Ansariyan in section 5 of his Morality of the Holy Prophet, writes:
When the Holy Prophet conquered Mecca WITH HIS STRONG ARMY OF TWELVE THOUSAND SOLDIERS, he treated people so kindly that they all were surprised. No one could believe that a victor could treat the defeated party in this way. People of Mecca had gathered in the Sacred Mosque to see the leader of Muslims and Islam come out of Ka`bah and judge those who committed all kinds of persecution against him for thirteen years. However, after breaking the idols, the Holy Prophet came out of Ka`bah addressing the people of Mecca as such, “O people! You were bad kinsmen and neighbors for me.
We are told the following on p. 228 of M. Siddik Gumus’ book Endless Bliss:
Rassulallah, TOGETHER WITH TWELVE THOUSAND HEROES, after departing from Medina on the tenth day of Ramadan, CONQUERED MECCA on Thursday, the twentieth of Ramadan, in the eigth year of the Hegira. On the following day, Friday, when reciting the khutbah, he had a black turban around his blessed head. After staying eighteen days in Mecca, he went to Hunayn...
On the Islamic Thought website we read:
In 8A.H, the Conquest of Mecca took place, WHERE TWELVE THOUSAND PEOPLE ACCOMPANIED THE PROPHET. This was the place where people would greet the Prophet with stones and insults, hurting him and wounding him. Now, eight years later, they were flocking in thousands to catch a glimpse of him. People thought the Prophet would declare The Day of Revenge, but the Holy Prophet declared The Day of Mercy. The Prophet said, “I will behave towards you as Yosef behaved towards his brothers. The Quran says, “He said, there is no reproach on today, may Allah forgive you, and He is the most merciful of the merciful.” (12:92) (Online source)
Another Islamic source says the following:
When the Holy Prophet conquered Mecca WITH HIS STRONG ARMY OF TWELVE THOUSAND SOLDIERS, he treated people so kindly that they all were surprised. No one could believe that a victor could treat the defeated party in this way. People of Mecca had gathered in the Sacred Mosque to see the leader of Muslims and Islam come out of Kaba and judge those who committed all kinds of persecution against him for thirteen years. However, after breaking the idols, the Holy Prophet came out of Kaba addressing the people of Mecca as such, “O people! You were bad kinsmen and neighbors for me. You expelled me from my hometown and fought against me in an unmanly way. You did not spare any attempt to persecute me, my friends and my companions. You killed my uncle, Hamzah. You fought against Allah’s Messenger so I have the right to avenge myself on you. Based on this right, your men must be killed, your wives and children must be taken captive, your property must be seized by the conquerors, and your houses must be demolished. But I leave the judgment to you. What do you think?”? Suhayl ibn `Amr, representing his people, said, “We speak good and think good. You are an honorable brother and an honorable nephew who has power over us.”? These words impressed the tenderhearted Prophet in such a way that his eyes were filled with tears. People of Mecca started weeping. Then the Holy Prophet said, “I do the same thing as my brother Joseph did. There is no sin upon you today. May Allah forgive you; He is the Most Compassionate, the Most Merciful.”? (Seerah: Moral Habits of The Holy Prophet - Part 4; emphasis mine)
One of the many reasons so many Islamic scholars would say there were twelve thousand men who accompanied Muhammad to conquer Mecca is because of the following statement from Ibn Kathir:
I note that according to the statements of ‘Urwa, al-Zuhri and Musa b. ‘Uqba, the total number of the 2 armies with which he faced Hawazin was 14,000, SINCE HE HAD BROUGHT 12,000 TO MECCA, in their view, and 2,000 of the al-tulaqa’ had been joined to these. (Ibn Kathir, The Life of the Prophet Muhammad: Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya [UK: Garnet and Ithaca Press, 2,000], translated by Trevor Le Gassick, Vol. 3, p. 440; emphasis mine)
With the above in mind, it should not be hard to understand why I (and Sam) would think that al-Tabari is saying basically the same thing in the following quote:
Ibn Humayd- Salamah- Ibn Ishaq- 'Abdallah b. Abi Bakr: The Messenger marched with 2,000 Meccans and 10,000 of his companions [who had marched with him and] with whose help God had facilitated the conquest of Mecca. Thus there were 12,000 in all. The Messenger of God placed 'Attab b. Asid b. Abi al-'As b. Umayyah b. 'Abd Shams in charge of Mecca [to look after] the men who stayed behind while he proceeded to confront Hawazin." (The History of Al-Tabari: The Last Years of the Prophet, translated and annotated by Ismail K. Poonawala [State University of New York Press, Albany 1990], Volume IX, p. 8.)
As I (and Sam) understood this statement from al-Tabari, the 2,000 Meccans and 10,000 companions who marched with Muhammad to attack Hawazin are the same as those who helped facilitate the conquest of Mecca. But Yahya insists that Muhammad brought only ten thousand men to Mecca, and that the 2,000 Meccans who accompanied Muhammad and his ten thousand companions to confront Hawazin refers to those who converted in Mecca consequent upon Muhammad’s conquest (that’s right, it was through military might that Muhammad gained converts).
Yahya didn’t provide any analysis of this portion of al-Tabari to say why his interpretation is to be preferred, so there really isn’t anything to reply to on this score, other than to say that his interpretation renders the Islamic sources contradictory on this matter (little surprise) since as we have seen other Muslims said Muhammad conquered Mecca with 12,000 men. But for the sake of argument, let’s suppose Yahya did make a case for his reading and it was convincing. If we take Yahya’s reading for granted, i.e. if we say that the 12,000 men who attacked Hawazin consisted of 10,000 of the companions that accompanied Muhammad to Mecca and 2,000 of the newly converted Meccans, then we are still left with the fact that al-Tabari taught that Muhammad conquered Mecca with the help of more than 10,000 of his companions. How is this so? Well, according to Yahya’s reading of al-Tabari, while Muhammad took 10,000 of his companions against Hawazin joined together with the 2,000 newly converted Meccans who wanted in on the Jihad action, we still have to account for the body of men who remained behind in Mecca, no doubt to occupy and keep hold of the recently acquired real estate, who were left under the charge of Attab. Here is the quote from al-Tabari again:
Ibn Humayd- Salamah- Ibn Ishaq- 'Abdallah b. Abi Bakr: The Messenger marched with 2,000 Meccans and 10,000 of his companions [who had marched with him and] with whose help God had facilitated the conquest of Mecca. Thus there were 12,000 in all. The Messenger of God placed 'Attab b. Asid b. Abi al-'As b. Umayyah b. 'Abd Shams in charge of Mecca [to look after] THE MEN WHO STAYED BEHIND while he proceeded to confront Hawazin." (ibid., p. 8; bold emphasis mine)
The men who remained behind must have been a part of those who went to Mecca with Muhammad, for the Meccans who converted went with Muhammad to Hawazin. Since the only other number given in the Islamic sources for how many went to Mecca besides 10,000 is 12,000, then the only available number provided in the Islamic sources that can be inferred from al-Tabari at this place in his writings is the latter. In light of the view of Muslims like ‘Urwa, al-Zuhri and Musa b. ‘Uqba, it would appear that al-Tabari took the view here that 12,000 accompanied Muhammad to Mecca, 2,000 remained behind under the charge of Attab when Muhammad and the rest of his marauders confronted the Hawazin, and 2,000 Meccans took their place. The discrepancy at this point appears to be that ‘Urwa, al-Zuhri and Musa b. ‘Uqba appear to have believed that everyone went to Hawazin.
So the fact remains, on either reading of al-Tabari, the number of Muhammad’s henchmen was more than 10,000 when he attacked Mecca.
What makes Yahya’s insistence on the number being 10,000 so ironic is that by his insistence he is actually undermining the Muslim appeal to Deuteronomy 33:2 just as much as when he tacitly conceded my first two points by his demonstrated inability to reply to them (just like he failed to reply to several other responses made to him in the past [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10], something that sent him into hiding for the better part of a year). If this figure is so important to insist upon, then Yahya must think this is just the number specified in Deuteronomy 33:2. But the Hebrew if taken literally does not actually say 10,000 men. The word used, rebabah, is actually employed frequently as a figure of speech that refers to unspecified myriads, and if the rendering “ten thousands” is pressed literally then it would mean twice as many as ten thousand since the word is plural and not singular.
Update: July, 16th
Yahya still doesn’t seem to get it as appears from some of his more recent comments on this issue where he ignores what I wrote above, including the relevant comments on the one issue he is consumed by. He is so bent on attacking Sam that he can’t see that he is trying to find evidence for Sam conning me that just doesn’t exist. In Yahya’s mind I was misled into believing that al-Tabari supported the 12,000 number (as other Muslims also taught) because of what Sam wrote. As I said above, I did not read Sam’s article any time prior to my debate with Osama. I did not see how Sam quoted al-Tabari. I only saw the article after Yahya pretended to be a super-sleuth and “deduce” that Sam was the source of my information.
The evidence Yahya brings as proof of Sam's deception is that he only quoted the relevant part from al-Tabari about the number of men who helped facilitate the attack on Mecca, but he did not also include the rest of the quote which tells us that these men were going on to attack Hawazin. But there is nothing wrong with only quoting that part of something that is relevant to the point being made, provided it does not misrepresent how it would be understood in context. But Sam read the context the same way I did. He read it in a way that it was consistent with what some other Muslims have said, such as Urwa, al-Zuhri and Musa b. ‘Uqba. Therefore, the way Sam cited it is perfectly acceptable. The rest of the context does not falsify this reading in our understanding. Besides all that, even if Yahya were to finally get around to proving instead of merely asserting that the rest of the context does falsify our understanding in one way, as I pointed out in the article it would still confirm it in another way. So by bringing up the context Yahya only digs the whole deeper for himself. And given that Dueteronomy 33:2 is not talking about ten thousand men anyway, Yahya’s insistence ends up blowing the bottom right out from under his feet and the feet of his false prophet.