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AHMAD OR THE HOLY SPIRIT?

We now come to the name Ahmad, which appears only one time in the Quran https://answeringallah.com/jesus-christ-the-muhammad-of-the-quran/

Once again, is this another of Muhammad’s names as later tradition asserts, or is it a further case of a descriptive noun that may not necessarily be referring to the so-called Muslim prophet?

At least more than one Quranic translator understood it as a description as opposed to a proper name:

And when Jesus son of Mary said: O Children of Israel! Lo! I am the messenger of Allah unto you, confirming that which was (revealed) before me in the Torah, and bringing good tidings of a messenger who cometh after me, whose name is the Praised One (ahmadu). Yet when he hath come unto them with clear proofs, they say: This is mere magic. S. 61:6 Pickthall

When Jesus, son of Mary, said, “O children of Israel, I am God’s messenger to you, authenticating what is present with me of the Torah and bringing good news of a messenger to come after me whose name will be ‘most acclaimed.’” But when he showed them the clear proofs, they said, ‘This is clearly magic.’* (The Quran: A Reformist Translation http://www.studyquran.org/resources/Quran_Reformist_Translation.pdf)

In fact, the evidence shows that for the first century of Islam Ahmad wasn’t viewed as a proper name:

  1. Ahmad is commonly regarded as a variant form of Muhammad, following the standard interpretation of Qur’an 61:6, where Jesus says to the Israelites that he brings “good tidings of a messenger who comes after me, whose name is Ahmad.” (Ahmad is, of course from the same root as Muhammad, namely h-m-d.) There are strong grounds, however, for thinking that for the first century or so of Islam the word ahmaduwas understood as an adjective meaning “more praiseworthy” and not as a proper name; see Watt, “His Name is Ahmad,” Muslim World, xliii (1953): 110-17. (The History of al-Tabari: Muhammad at Mecca, translated and annotated by W. Montgomery Watt and M.V. McDonald [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany, NY 1988], Volume VI (6), p. 64; bold emphasis mine)

Interestingly, the translators of the Reformist Translation shut down the notion of Ahmad being another proper name for Muhammad:

061:006 The word ahmad is an adjective meaning “most acclaimed” or “most celebrated.” Traditional sources consider it a proper name for Muhammed. This contradicts historical facts. The name of the prophet that came after Jesus was Muhammed, which is used in the Quran four times. Centuries after the departure of Muhammed, Muhammed-worshipers fabricated 99 names, including Ahmad, for Muhammed, in order to compete with the attributes of God. They could not accept one God having so many beautiful attributes, with their second god having only one attribute, Muhammed. They included many divine attributes, such as, “The First, The Last, The Judge…” in their list for Muhammed. Furthermore, we do not find the word Ahmad in the Bible. Rather we see the translation of the Greek adjective, “paracletos“.

“And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter/Counselor (paracletus), that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16). Also, see John 14:26; 15:26 16:7.

Jesus predicted the coming of another prophet. The one whose coming was foretold by Jesus is mentioned as “Paracletos” or “Periclytos” in Greek manuscripts. Paracletos means advocate, comforter, or counselor. Periclytos, on the other hand, means “admirable one” (in Arabic ahmad). The “spirit” here, does not mean other than human. There are cases where the word “spirit” is used for humans (2 Thessalonians 2:2; 1 John 4:1-3).

If indeed Jesus had prophesied the proper name of the prophet after him, this prophecy would have gotten the attention of almost every one of his supporters. Furthermore, we would see many people among his supporters and later Christians giving the name Ahmad to their sons, hoping that their sons would fulfill the prophecy. But, we do not even see a single Christian named Ahmad. Therefore, the Aramaic or Hebrew equivalent of this word did not become a name. However, the name Muhammed sharing the same root and similar meaning with the word ahmad is instructive. (Ibid., p. 458)

It is ironic that these Muslims try to connect the prophecy of Ahmad with Jesus’ promise to send forth the Holy Spirit upon his own disciples since this actually helps to make my case that Ahmad has nothing to do with Muhammad. More on this point later, but first I will allow the following Muslims scholars refute the assertion that Jesus in John’s Gospel was announcing the advent of Islam’s prophet:

6 A function of every Divine messenger is to confirm the revelations that have come before; thus 6:92 says of the Quran, This is a blessed Book that We have sent down, confirming that which came before it (cf. 35:31; 46:30). That the prophets would confirm one another is said to be part of the primordial covenant that they made with God in 3:81 and 33:7. The prophets’ confirmation of other messengers is also understood to refer to those who would follow them in time, and several verses are interpreted as references to the mention of the Prophet Muhammad in the Old and New Testaments (see 7:157c). The name Aḥmad means “most praised”; it derives from the same root as Muhammad—  -md — and has long been recognized by Muslims as one of the many honorific names given to the Prophet by God Himself. This is based upon a saying of the Prophet: “I have several names: I am Muhammad; I am Aḥmad; I am al-Māḥī (the Effacer) by means of whom God eliminates unbelief.” Many other aadīth simply refer to the Prophet as Aḥmad.

Some Muslims have likened Jesus’ reference to Aḥmad here in the Quran to the reference to the Paraclete (Gk. Paraklētos) or Advocate of whom Jesus speaks in the Gospel of John 14:15– 16: “If you love me, you will keep my commandments. And I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate, to be with you forever” (see also John 16:7–14; Āl, R). Such an interpretation is, however, complicated by the next verse, 14:17, where the Advocate or Paraclete is said to be “the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him. You know him, because he abides with you, and he will be in you,” and by 14:26, where the Advocate is again equated with the Holy Spirit. (The Study Quran [HarperOne, Reprint edition, 2017], p. 1273 https://ia800802.us.archive.org/19/items/TheStudyQuran_201709/TheStudyQuranANewTranslationandCommentary.pdf; bold emphasis mine)

Even though Jesus’ promise of sending the Holy Spirit has nothing to do with the coming of Muhammad, it does have a direct bearing on the interpretation of Q. 61:6.

Instead of assuming that Ahmad is another name for the so-called Islamic prophet, it makes more sense to take it as a description of the Holy Spirit. In other words, Jesus wasn’t speaking of a human prophet to come after him but was rather proclaiming the advent of the Holy Spirit as One worthy of all praise for being the divine messenger sent to continue the work that Christ had begun while he was on earth.

Not only is this supported by the Johannine texts, where Jesus spoke of the Holy Spirit’s descent upon his followers,

“And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him; but you know Him, for He dwells with you and will be in you… But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.” John 14:26

“But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me. And you also will bear witness, because you have been with Me from the beginning.” John 15:26-27

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they do not believe in Me; of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He [a]will take of Mine and declare it to you.” John 16:7-15

But also finds confirmation within the Quran itself, which has God’s Spirit explicitly describing himself as a messenger to Mary, the Lord’s mother, when he appeared to her in the form of a perfect looking man:  

And make mention of Mary in the Scripture, when she had withdrawn from her people to a chamber looking East, And had chosen seclusion from them. Then We sent unto her Our Spirit and it assumed for her the likeness of a perfect man. She said: Lo! I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from thee, if thou art God-fearing. He said: I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son. She said: How can I have a son when no mortal hath touched me, neither have I been unchaste? He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. And (it will be) that We may make of him a revelation for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a thing ordained. S. 19:16-21 Pickthall

What makes the Spirit praiseworthy is that he is the eternal Spirit of God who shares in the one name of the Father and the Son:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” Matthew 28:19

“how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?” Hebrews 9:14

The Holy Spirit is further said to be the very Lord who appeared to Moses:

“who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious. Therefore, since we have such hope, we use great boldness of speech—unlike Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the end of what was passing away. But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ. But even to this day, when Moses is read, a veil lies on their heart. Nevertheless when one turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.” 2 Corinthians 3:6-18

The Spirit’s divine dignity and worth can be seen from the words of the Lord who explicitly stated that anyone blaspheming the Holy Spirit is guilty of committing the one sin that will never be forgiven:

“Therefore I say to you, every sin and blasphemy will be forgiven men, but the blasphemy against the Spirit will not be forgiven men. Anyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man, it will be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this age or in the age to come.” Matthew 12:31-32

“‘Assuredly, I say to you, all sins will be forgiven the sons of men, and whatever blasphemies they may utter; but he who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is subject to eternal condemnation’—because they said, ‘He has an unclean spirit.’” Mark 3:28-30

This is why in one of the most influential and important creeds formulated in the early centuries of the church, a credal confession which all the major branches of Christian embrace, the Holy Spirit is acknowledged as being worthy of receiving the same worship and glory that are given to the Father and the Son:

I believe in one God, Father Almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all ages; Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten, not created, of one essence with the Father through Whom all things were made. Who for us men and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary and became man. He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate, and suffered and was buried; And He rose on the third day, according to the Scriptures. He ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father; And He will come again with glory to judge the living and dead. His kingdom shall have no end.

And in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the Creator of life, Who proceeds from the Father, Who together with the Father and the Son is worshipped and glorified, Who spoke through the prophets.

In one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church.

I confess one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.

I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the age to come. (Nicene Creed https://www.goarch.org/-/the-nicene-creed; bold and italicized emphasis mine)

With the foregoing in perspective, one can make a rather strong case that the Quran’s Muhammad and Ahmad do not refer to the prophet of Islam. Rather, the Muhammad and Ahmad of the Islamic text refer to the Lord Jesus and the Holy Spirit respectively.

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