Did the Jews and Christians of that time recognize
prophet Muhammad and expect his coming?
All the Jews and Christians of that time recognized God’s Messenger, upon
him be peace and blessings. As stated in the Qur’an, They recognize him as
they recognize their sons (al-Baqara, 2.146). After his conversion, ‘Umar
asked ‘Adbullah ibn Salam if he had recognized God’s Messen-ger. ‘I
recognized him’, Ibn Salam answered and added, ‘I may doubt my children – my
wife might have deceived me; but I have no doubt about God’s Messenger being
the Last Prophet.’1
Especially the Jews in Madina were awaiting the coming of a Prophet and
expected that he would appear in Madina. Whenever a conflict appeared
between them and the Arab people of Madina – the Aws and Hajrac tribes –
they threatened them that they would destroy them when the Prophet appeared.
However, although they recognized the Prophet Muhammad as they recognized
their sons, they rejected him only because he did not belong to their tribe:
When there comes to them a Book from the presence of God,
confirming that with them – though before that they were expecting a triumph
over those who unbelieve – and when there came to them what they recognized,
they unbelieved in him. The curse of God is on unbelievers. (2:89)
Most of the Jews and Christians recognized him, most were envious of him
and, because of their prejudice and envy, were left deprived of belief.
When there came to them a Book from God confirming what was
with them – and they aforetime prayed for victory over the unbelievers –
when there came to them what they recognized, they unbelieved in it; and the
curse of God is on the unbelievers. (al-Baqara, 2.89)
After his conversion, ‘Adbullah ibn Salam said to God’s Messenger, upon
him be peace and blessings: ‘O Messenger of God, hide me in a corner and
then summon all the Jewish scholars in Madina to ask about me and my father.
Their assessment will certainly be positive. Then let me come out to declare
God’s Messenger, upon him be peace and blessings, accepted this
suggestion. Ibn Salam hid in a corner and, when the Jewish scholars
gathered, God’s Messenger asked them what they thought of Ibn Salam and his
father. All of them answered unanimously: ‘Ibn Salam and his father are
among the noblest and most learned of us.’ Upon this, God’s Messenger asked
again: ‘How will you react if he affirms me?’ They responded: ‘It is
impossible that he will affirm you!’ Ibn Salam came out at this point and
declared his conversion, whereupon the Jewish scholars immediately changed
their attitude and retorted: ‘Ibn Salam is the most wicked among us and the
son of the most wicked.’2
The conversion of Salman al-Farisi
The Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings, was one who had
been sought for centuries. Salman al-Farisi was one of those seekers.
Originally he was a Magian, a fire worshipper. However, he was inwardly
burning to find the eternal truth, and left home. Before embracing Islam, he
had worked for several Christian monks, the last of whom advised Salman on
Son, there is nobody left to whom I can commend you. But according to
what we read in our books, the Last Prophet is about to appear. He will come
with the pure creed of Abraham and will appear in the place to which Abraham
migrated. Nevertheless, he will emigrate to another place and settle there.
There are explicit signs of his Prophethood. For example, he will not eat of
charity, but will accept gifts, and the seal of Prophethood will be between
his two shoulders.
Now, let us leave it to Salman himself to narrate the rest of his story:
I joined a caravan heading for the place that the late monk had
mentioned. When we arrived at Wadi al-Qura’, they sold me to a Jew as a
slave. When I saw gardens of date palms, I thought that that place would be
where the Prophet would emigrate. While I was working there, another Jew
from Banu Qurayza bought me and took me to Madina. I began working in the
Jew’s date palm garden. There was no news yet of God’s Messenger, upon him
be peace and blessings. However, one day I happened to be harvesting dates
in a tree when a cousin of my Jewish owner came up hurriedly. He said to the
Jew in anger: ‘Damn it all! All the people are flocking to Quba. A man from
Makka, who claims Prophethood, has come, and they imagine him to be a real
I began to tremble with excitement. I climbed down from the tree and
asked the man: ‘What are you talking about?’ My owner saw my excitement and
slapped me on the face with the back of his hand, saying: ‘It does not
concern you, mind your own business!’
On the same day, as the sun set, I went to him in Quba and presented to
him as alms the food that I had brought with me. God’s Messenger did not
himself touch it, but said to those around him, ‘Help yourself to this’.
‘This is the first sign,’ I told myself.
On another occasion, I presented something, but this time as a gift. He
accepted it and ate it with his Companions. ‘This is the second sign,’ I
Once, after one of his Companions passed away, I attended the funeral,
and I came close to God’s Messenger in the cemetery. After greeting him, I
stood behind him in the hope of seeing the seal of Prophethood. His
shoulders were bare. The seal was just as the monk had de-scribed it. I
couldn’t help kissing it in tears and I told him my story. He was very
pleased and wanted also his Companions to hear my story.3
1. Mukhtasar Tafsir Ibn al-Kathir, 1.140.
2. Bukhari, al-Anbiya’, Bab Khalq Adam, 2.
3. Ibn Hisham, Sira, 1.228–34.