By S. Abdullah Tariq
The comforter foretold by Jesus Christ as reported by Gospel of John has been interpreted by Christians and Muslims differently Muslim scholars of comparative religion are unanimous in their opinion that the comforter referred to in the Bible, is non other than Prophet Muhammad (Pbuh), which glad tiding, the Christ gave according to Qur’an 61:6. On the other hand, the Christian scholars, disputing their claim, offer two different explanations of the ‘comforter; Let us analyses this ‘Key’ word.
The language spoken by Jesus Christ was Syriac. Unfortunately there are no ancient manuscripts available in the world today, to know the exact word spoken by the Christ. Whatever the original word, it was translated into Greek, which in turn has been translated as Comforter, Counsellor, Consolator, Assistant, Advocate, Consoler, Deprecator or Teacher in different English translations. What was the Greek word in the earliest Greek translations, can also be not known, as the oldest available Greek translation, today is from the 4th Century A.D. The present Greek Canon records it as Paracletus, while the Muslim scholars believe that it would have been Periclytos in the earlier Greek translations which are extinct today. Translating the names and then changing them with other words in different translations and versions is nothing new, they claim. Incidently, ‘Periclytos’ may be translated as ‘Ahmed’, while Paracletus has been translated as Comforter or Teacher or other more than a dozen words. Muslims have a very strong case when they produce a historical witness from the 8th century A.D. which goes as under.
The language of Palestine, the homeland of Jesus, remained Syriac upto well after 9th Century when Hebrew replaced it. The famous Muslim historian of 9th Century in his famous work ‘Seerah’ (the life of the Prophet (Pbuh)) has mentioned, quoting the 8th century historian Ibn-e-Ishaq, the Syriac word of the 8th century versions of the New Testament. The word, he writes, “is ‘Munhamanna’ which means Ahmed in Arabic and may be translated as Periclytos in Greek.” This record proves that the original word translated in earlier Greek translations would have been ‘Periclytos’ meaning ‘Ahmed’ in Arabic, instead of Paraclete.
This, however, is a Muslim historian’s witness in favour of the Muslim stand and is untenable in the Eyes of Christians.
Now, the Muslims’ argument has received a verification from a reliable Christian source also. The renowned historian and a Christian scholar, Sir William Muir, though disputing the Muslim Claim, has surrendered that earlier Arabic versions of the New Testament had also given ‘Ahmad’ as its translation. In his famous ‘Life of Mahomet’ (abridged edition, London (871,P.5), he wrote.
“The child was called Mahomet. This name was rare among the Arabs, but not unknown. It is derived from the root ‘Hamd’ and signifies, ‘The Praised.’ Another form is Ahmad, which, having been erroneously employed as a translation of ‘The Paraclete in some Arabic versions of the New Testament, became a favourite term with Mohametans, specially in addressing Jews and Christians, for it was, they said, ‘The title under which the Prophet (Pbuh) had been in their books predicted.”
Sir William Muir, the scholar and renowned historian, though differing with Ahmed being the actual translation of the original Syriac word, has however, covertly admitted in his above statement, that the word ‘Ahmad’ has also been given as translation of the word in some earlier Arabic versions of N.T., which of course was subsequently changed in later versions.