Muhammad and Jerusalem's Judgment Isaiah 29:12

Question

Islam claims Muhammad was illiterate and therefore the prophecy of Isaiah 29:12 pertains to Muhammad. Is this true?

Answer

Isaiah 29:12 Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, "Read this, please," they will answer, "I don't know how to read."

This prophecy concerns judgment! Look at the fuller context:

Isaiah 29:10-13 The LORD has brought over you a deep sleep: He has sealed your eyes (the prophets); he has covered your heads (the seers). For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read, and say, "Read this, please," they will answer, "I can't; it is sealed." Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read, and say, "Read this, please," they will answer, "I don't know how to read." The Lord says: "These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.
The meaning of the text:

The Assyrian judgment against Jerusalem would come suddenly and unexpectedly. There would be an inability to discern (Isa. 6:10; Exod. 7:13; Rom. 1:24; 11:8; 1 Cor. 2:14). The message of the prophet was concealed from the rebellious of Jerusalem and Judah (cf. Rev. 5:1ff). The Judahites might have well been incompetent and illiterate. The people of Judah and Jerusalem had the trappings of true faith (temple and its service, etc.), but God desired their hearts, not mere formalism. God would confound their wisdom and foil their plans (cf. Isa. 29:15-24; 30:1-7; 31:1-3).

This prophecy is not about Muhammad. The prophecy is not of a future prophet, rather a judgment upon prophets and seers, etc. As part of this judgment, God would take away their ability to understand his Word. In particular, Isaiah 29:12 states that the prophets and seers themselves would be put to sleep and no longer receive revelation from the Lord. Does Islam claim that Muhammad's heart is far from God or that he had a worship that was not according to God's will but according to what men have invented? (Isa. 29:13). Does he have the inability to understand God's Word? The context does not concern Muhammad, nor do I think anyone within Islam after understanding the context of the verses would claim such.

Please see: Christianity and Islam Contrasted

Reference:

Richard Pratt, General Editor. Spirit of the Reformation Study Bible, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 2003.

Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (Thirdmill).