Response to Zakir Hussain regarding Song of Solomon’s

The fourth and final prophecy that Zakir Hussain used in his recent debate with Dr. White is the fact (in the linked mp3, see 24:40 – 30:40) that there is a description of a beloved one in Song of Solomon.

Mr. Hussain quotes in part, but we will quote the whole description:

Song of Solomon 5:9-16
What is thy beloved more than another beloved, O thou fairest among women? what is thy beloved more than another beloved, that thou dost so charge us? My beloved is white and ruddy, the chiefest among ten thousand. His head is as the most fine gold, his locks are bushy, and black as a raven. His eyes are as the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters, washed with milk, and fitly set. His cheeks are as a bed of spices, as sweet flowers: his lips like lilies, dropping sweet smelling myrrh. His hands are as gold rings set with the beryl: his belly is as bright ivory overlaid with sapphires. His legs are as pillars of marble, set upon sockets of fine gold: his countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars. His mouth is most sweet: yea, he is altogether lovely. This is my beloved, and this is my friend, O daughters of Jerusalem.

Mr. Hussain argued that (a) one of the titles for Mohammed is “beloved;” (b) that Mohammed had white skin with redness in it; (c) that Mohammed had black, wavy hair; (d) that “raven” could also be translated “Arab”; and (e) that Mohammed was the leader of 10,000 men at the taking of Mecca.

First, Mr. Hussain is treating this description as though it were intended literally, although it is part of a large piece of poetry. In context, the passage is not intended to provide a physical description of any real person. It’s simply describing a person who is very beautiful in the eyes of a united monarchy Jewish woman.

Second, Mr. Hussain has selectively quoted. While he claims that the description matches Mohammed “to a T,” does it really? Were his eyes like the eyes of doves by the rivers of waters washed with milk? On the contrary, his eyes were black – not blue, blue-green, or green (any of the colors of rivers of water).

Were Mohammed’s cheeks like spice beds and sweet flowers? Were his lips like lilies dropping perfumed oil? Were his hands like gold rings set with beryl? Was his belly like bright ivory overlaid with sapphires and were his legs like marble pillars set upon sockets of fine gold?

What Mr. Hussein has done is simply identify a few characteristics of the person described and compare those characteristics to Mohammmed.

Third, in context there is no obvious reason to view this passage as a prophecy of someone to come. In context, the poem is either love poetry for Solomon (written from the perspective of one of his wives) or by Solomon, and this love poetry stands as metaphor, parable, or typology of the relationship between Christ and the church.

Moreover, Mr. Hussain’s claim about Mohammed’s title that he was “the beloved of Allah” does not really fit the text very well at all, unless Allah is being portrayed as a woman in the text (something that would be extremely surprising to any of my Muslim friends, I think).

Furthermore, “black as a raven” is definitely “black as a raven,” not “black as an Arab.” While the words for Arab and raven use the same Hebrew letters (though not the same vowel points), it is not true that the term here can be translated “Arab” even if we ignore the vowel points.

Likewise, “black as an Arab” would be a rather odd description of an Arab, no? It’s a simile, not an identity.

Mr. Hussain further argued that the term translated “altogether lovely” is actually the word “Mohamed.” And the word may actually come from a cognate root. But the text does not say, “His name is [word]” but rather “he is [word].”

Mr. Hussain continued by suggesting that the passage in question should be continued past verse 16 of chapter 5 (the last verse of that chapter) into chapter 6.

The passage at the beginning of Chapter 6 states:

Song of Solomon 6:1-3
Whither is thy beloved gone, O thou fairest among women? whither is thy beloved turned aside? that we may seek him with thee. My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies. I am my beloved’s, and my beloved is mine: he feedeth among the lilies.

I’m not sure of a polite way of pointing this out to Mr. Hussain, but this discussion appears to be a sort of poetic way of describing a particular kind of physical intimacy that the woman receives. Hopefully no explanation is required, assuming Mr. Hussain is married.

Furthermore, even if we took this literally, while the “bed of spices” may be literally referring to a garden of balsam (an aromatic plant), the other of the items in this garden is the lily. As Dr. White pointed out during the debate, while Mecca may be known for Balsa, it is not known for lilies. So, again, we find Mr. Hussain simply selectively quoting.

– TurretinFan

N.B. It should go without saying, but this post should not be taken as in any way a criticism of Dr. White’s response during the debate. I was able to spend an unlimited amount of time preparing my response, and I am not required to fit my responses to each of Mr. Hussain’s arguments into a fixed amount of time or space. In a real debate, the debaters have to prioritize based on limited preparation time and limited response time.

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