For, this fellow-man of yours is not a madman;
Quick – who said that in the midst of an end-time prophecy?
And what’s the significance of it?
Here’s a hint. Just before this, the prophecy includes these things:
- the sun goes dark
- the stars go dark
- mountains vanish
- the seas are boiling
- Hell and paradise can both be seen
- the deeds of men are made known
OK – who is it?
If you guessed any Christian – thanks for playing along – but you’re wrong.
It was Muhammad. Sura 81, verse 22.
This particular translation is the one from CAIR (The Council on American Islamic Relations).
“madman” in the Qur’an
One interesting note – this is the second Sura in which the Prophet claims to not be a madman. It’s only the 7th revelation he received, and it’s already been necessary to say three times that he’s not a madman – that he’s not crazy. The second was from Sura 68, verse 51. The first was Sura 68, verse 2. The one at the top (the third one), is Sura 81, verse 22.
Let’s look at Sura 68 first. BTW – I didn’t bring up this topic at the time I wrote about Sura 68, because the message of “Don’t be like Jonah” was more important. But let’s view it now. This come right after the part about not being like Jonah.
[68:51] Hence, [be patient], even though they who are bent on denying the truth would all but kill thee with their eyes whenever they hear this reminder, and [though] they say, “[As for Muhammad,], behold most assuredly he us a madman!”
This makes it sound like others are calling him a madman. And maybe they even were. There’s nothing in the commentaries that I have to point either way,
There’s another instance related to Sura 68. I’ve covered this extensively in The introduction to Sura 68, so won’t include all the details here. If you haven’t already read it – I encourage you to do so, What we see is that Sura 68 (the second one revealed) was at least partially a response to Muhammad’s fears that the first revelation (Sura 96) was from a Jinn – or evil spirit. Muhammad himself was afraid he was a madman, so the following verse was included –
[68:2] You (O Muhammad) are not, by the Grace of your O Lord, a madman.
So it’s clearly not just “other” people considering him a madman.
And so we have the third instance –
[81:22] For, this fellow-man of yours is not a madman
Apparently there was a need to convince both the Prophet himself and those around him that he wasn’t a madman.
It’s interesting – that this subject keeps coming up.
“madman” in the Bible
I thought it would be interesting to see where “madman” comes up in the Bible. Searching the NIV, we find it five times – all in the Old Testament.
David as a “madman”
This occurs while Saul was trying to kill David –
That day David fled from Saul and went to Achish king of Gath. 11 But the servants of Achish said to him, “Isn’t this David, the king of the land? Isn’t he the one they sing about in their dances:
“ ‘Saul has slain his thousands,
and David his tens of thousands’?”
1Sa 21:12 David took these words to heart and was very much afraid of Achish king of Gath. 13 So he pretended to be insane in their presence; and while he was in their hands he acted like a madman, making marks on the doors of the gate and letting saliva run down his beard.
1Sa 21:14 Achish said to his servants, “Look at the man! He is insane! Why bring him to me? 15 Am I so short of madmen that you have to bring this fellow here to carry on like this in front of me? Must this man come into my house?”
So we see that David wasn’t actually a madman – and only pretended, successfully, to be mad in order to save his life.
Elisha as a madman
This time, it’s the prophet Elisha, delivering a message from God that Jehu is anointed by The LORD as king over Israel.
2Ki 9:1 The prophet Elisha summoned a man from the company of the prophets and said to him, “Tuck your cloak into your belt, take this flask of oil with you and go to Ramoth Gilead. 2 When you get there, look for Jehu son of Jehoshaphat, the son of Nimshi. Go to him, get him away from his companions and take him into an inner room. 3 Then take the flask and pour the oil on his head and declare, ‘This is what the LORD says: I anoint you king over Israel.’ Then open the door and run; don’t delay!”
2Ki 9:4 So the young man, the prophet, went to Ramoth Gilead. 5 When he arrived, he found the army officers sitting together. “I have a message for you, commander,” he said.
“For which of us?” asked Jehu.
“For you, commander,” he replied.
2Ki 9:6 Jehu got up and went into the house. Then the prophet poured the oil on Jehu’s head and declared, “This is what the LORD, the God of Israel, says: ‘I anoint you king over the LORD’S people Israel. 7 You are to destroy the house of Ahab your master, and I will avenge the blood of my servants the prophets and the blood of all the LORD’S servants shed by Jezebel. 8 The whole house of Ahab will perish. I will cut off from Ahab every last male in Israel—slave or free. 9 I will make the house of Ahab like the house of Jeroboam son of Nebat and like the house of Baasha son of Ahijah. 10 As for Jezebel, dogs will devour her on the plot of ground at Jezreel, and no one will bury her.’ ” Then he opened the door and ran.
2Ki 9:11 When Jehu went out to his fellow officers, one of them asked him, “Is everything all right? Why did this madman come to you?”
“You know the man and the sort of things he says,” Jehu replied.
2Ki 9:12 “That’s not true!” they said. “Tell us.”
Jehu said, “Here is what he told me: ‘This is what the LORD says: I anoint you king over Israel.’ ”
2Ki 9:13 They hurried and took their cloaks and spread them under him on the bare steps. Then they blew the trumpet and shouted, “Jehu is king!”
While the officers with Jehu at first called Elisha a madman and Jehu responded as he did – the officers, in spite of their their earlier assessment of Elisha – didn’t believe that he hadn’t said something important. Further – just based on what Elisha told Jehu – they then proceeded to celebrate the new king.
Jehu as a madman
Just a few verses later, we see Jehu described as a madman type of chariot driver.
2Ki 9:18 The horseman rode off to meet Jehu and said, “This is what the king says: ‘Do you come in peace?’ ”
“What do you have to do with peace?” Jehu replied. “Fall in behind me.”
The lookout reported, “The messenger has reached them, but he isn’t coming back.”
2Ki 9:19 So the king sent out a second horseman. When he came to them he said, “This is what the king says: ‘Do you come in peace?’ ”
Jehu replied, “What do you have to do with peace? Fall in behind me.”
2Ki 9:20 The lookout reported, “He has reached them, but he isn’t coming back either. The driving is like that of Jehu son of Nimshi—he drives like a madman.”
2Ki 9:21 “Hitch up my chariot,” Joram ordered. And when it was hitched up, Joram king of Israel and Ahaziah king of Judah rode out, each in his own chariot, to meet Jehu. They met him at the plot of ground that had belonged to Naboth the Jezreelite. 22 When Joram saw Jehu he asked, “Have you come in peace, Jehu?”
Again – not a real madman. Just an adjective to describe the way he was driving the chariot.
A Proverb about acting like a madman
Pr 26:18 Like a madman shooting
firebrands or deadly arrows
Pr 26:19 is a man who deceives his neighbor
and says, “I was only joking!”
Certainly an accurate use of the word. But not directed at any one person.
A lie, claiming The LORD said to punish a madman like Jeremiah
This is like something that would come from a modern day soap opera – lies and deceit all over the place.
Jer 29:24 Tell Shemaiah the Nehelamite, 25 “This is what the LORD Almighty, the God of Israel, says: You sent letters in your own name to all the people in Jerusalem, to Zephaniah son of Maaseiah the priest, and to all the other priests. You said to Zephaniah, 26 ‘The LORD has appointed you priest in place of Jehoiada to be in charge of the house of the LORD; you should put any madman who acts like a prophet into the stocks and neck-irons. 27 So why have you not reprimanded Jeremiah from Anathoth, who poses as a prophet among you? 28 He has sent this message to us in Babylon: It will be a long time. Therefore build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce.’ ”
Jer 29:29 Zephaniah the priest, however, read the letter to Jeremiah the prophet. 30 Then the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: 31 “Send this message to all the exiles: ‘This is what the LORD says about Shemaiah the Nehelamite: Because Shemaiah has prophesied to you, even though I did not send him, and has led you to believe a lie, 32 this is what the LORD says: I will surely punish Shemaiah the Nehelamite and his descendants. He will have no one left among this people, nor will he see the good things I will do for my people, declares the LORD, because he has preached rebellion against me.’ ”
So we end up with God did not call Jeremiah a madman, and did not want him punished. In fact, God Himself promised to punish the liar (Shemaiah) Himself.
Where does that leave us with the word madman used in reference to Muhammad?
The last instance of “madman” in the Bible seems to be at least on the same track as what we see in the Qur’an up to this point. It’s a question about the messenger – and was the statement truly from God, or not?
For a more complete comparison, here are the rest of the verses from Sura 81 –
[81:22] For, this fellow-man of yours is not a madman:
[81:23] He truly beheld [the angel – beheld] him on the clear horizon,
[81:24] and he is not one to begrudge others the knowledge [of whatever has been revealed to him] out of which is beyond the reach of human perception.
[81:25] Nor is this [message] the word of any satanic force accursed.
[81:26] Whither, then, will you go?
[81:27] This [message] is no less than a reminder to all mankind
[81:28] – to every one of you who will to walk a straight way.
[81:29] But you cannot will it unless God, the Sustainer of all the worlds, wills [to show you that way].
Similar – but not exactly the same as that last reference with Jeremiah.
Items to consider:
- While the charge of madman was falsely made against Jeremiah – God Himself took revenge for the lie. Nothing like that happened in Sura 81.
- Why the reference (again) to satanic forces?
- There’s a contradiction in verses 28 & 29. Verse 28 says that any person can will to walk a straight way. However – verse 29 turns around and says exactly the opposite – that no one can walk a straight way unless God shows them that way. This is very much like the free will versus predestination thoughts in Christianity. True – they are both put forward by Christians as Christian beliefs. But never by the same person. Logically, they cannot both be true. Ultimately, we’ll find out which one it is.
So what do we do with these thoughts?
Pray to the God of Abraham. Pray to Jesus.
I am one of those who believe in free will. If we pray to the God of Abraham, who is claimed as the father of both Christianity and Islam – He will make the truth known. The God of Abraham made a promise to Hagar and Ishmael. He saved Ishmael from certain death when there was no (visible) water – but the water well had actually been there all along. In the same way, He will make the truth visible to us.
If we pray to Jesus – who is known and revered (although differently) in both religions – He will also make the truth known. Jesus said –
Lk 11:9 “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. 10 For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.
So ask – honestly and openly ask – and He will answer.