Isaiah 42 is an interesting prophecy telling about Muhammad ﷺ. This prophecy was told in the Hadiths, there is a lot of variation between it and what is said in Isaiah, but textual variants are present much in the Bible, and there are many inaccurate quotes of the Old Testament made by writers of the New Testament.
Characters of the Prophet foretold
Let’s examine the Biblical prophecy:
Isaiah 42:1 Behold, my servant, whom I uphold; my chosen, in whom my soul delighteth: I have put my Spirit upon him; he will bring forth justice to the Gentiles.
The Chosen Servant of God
The first thing the prophecy tells about is that the one being foretold is a servant of God. This can’t be applied on Jesus (Peace be upon him) according to the Christian view since Christians say that Jesus is God. It may be said that this talks about the human nature of Jesus, but this won’t be a logical solution because if God wants to foretell about his coming, He would have foretold about the divine nature not the human nature as since all of us are already human beings, so there will be nothing new in the prophecy. Besides, the verse tells that this servant shall be chosen by God, God doesn’t choose Himself but He chooses a man to be a prophet among human beings.
Sent to the Gentiles
Then the prophecy says that he will bring justice to the gentiles, this also is not Jesus (Peace be upon him) because he said:
Matthew 15:24 I was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel.
Some might say that he ordered the disciples to preach the gospel to the whole world, but actually these were the disciples not Jesus himself, and this was confirmed by Albert Barnes in his commentary on Mat 15:24:
“Mat_15:24 But he answered and said, I am not sent … – This answer was made to the woman, not to the disciples.
The “lost sheep of the house of Israel” were the Jews. He came first to them. He came as their expected Messiah. He came to preach the gospel himself to the Jews only. Afterward it was preached to the Gentiles, but the ministry of Jesus was confined almost entirely to the Jews.” (Source here)
Arabia shall Rejoice by His coming
Moving to Isaiah 42:11, we see that prophecy gives 2 special places; Kedar and Sela:
Isaiah 42:11 Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voice, the villages that Kedar doth inhabit; let the inhabitants of Sela sing, let them shout from the top of the mountains.
Kedar is the second son of Ishmael (Genesis 25:13), Sela is a mountain in Medina, and it was mentioned in some hadiths. You may say that the Bible’s dictionary tells that Sela is Petra. However, it happens in the Bible that there is more than a place with the same name as the case of Seir for example:
Formed like H8163; rough; Seir, a mountain of Idumaea and its aboriginal occupants, also one in Palestine: – Seir.(Strong’s dictionary)
So if there is more than one Seir, there could be more than one Sela, especially when we see that nothing happened in Petra with Jesus (Peace be upon him), and even if it was Petra, Petra is in Jordan which is mainly a Muslim country.
It may be also said that this verse meant that all people will be happy with the coming of Jesus. However, Christianity in Arabia was limited in Najran in Yemen, and in the borders with the Roman country which was mostly a political alliance not a real belief. But as for the overwhelming majority of Arabs, they were not Christians, and Christians were very few. Even before Islam comes, I never heard about a main Christian church in Arabia as that in Antioch, Alexandria, Ephesus or Rome. I never heard of an Arab church father. But when Islam came, all Arabs became Muslims. If the prophecy really meant Christianity it would have mentioned a major Christian city not the center of Islam.
Isaiah 42 tells about a prophet with a new law
The prophecy continues saying:
Isaiah 42:4 He will not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set justice in the earth; and the isles shall wait for his law.
The prophecy approaches and says that the isles shall wait for his law, Prophet Muhammad ﷺ came with the final law, while Jesus (Peace be upon him) didn’t come to abolish the law but to fulfill it, and then Christians claimed that the Mosaic law was for the Jews only but they are not committed to it, that’s why they don’t circumcise, eat pork,…etc. At the same time, Jesus said that he just came to fulfill the law, not that he will have a new detailed law as the case of Moses and Muhammad ﷺ. Besides, the Christian faith is mainly concerned with salvation through faith only not through law and works, so when we say that the isles shall wait for his law, this couldn’t be applied on Jesus.
Fighting the enemies of God
Then the prophecy tells that he will fight God’s enemy which is certainly what Muhammad ﷺ did, while Jesus(Peace be upon him) didn’t fight.
Isaiah 42:13 Jehovah will go forth as a mighty man; he will stir up his zeal like a man of war: he will cry, yea, he will shout aloud; he will do mightily against his enemies.
Is the final prophet sent in a pagan or a Jewish environment?
Then it tells that those who worship the idols would come into shame.
Isaiah 42:17 They shall be turned back, they shall be utterly put to shame, that trust in graven images, that say unto molten images, Ye are our gods.
Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was sent to a pagan environment, while Jesus (Peace be upon him) was sent to the Jews, and he was never concerned with worshiping images as the Old Testament was, because his conversation with the Jews was mainly to prove that he came from God and that he is the Messiah.
Morals of the Prophet Foretold
The prophecy tells about the morals of that servant of God saying, you can read the morals section to see who Prophet Muhammad ﷺ was, see for example these hadiths:
Isaiah 42:2 He will not cry, nor lift up his voice, nor cause it to be heard in the street. 3 A bruised reed will he not break, and a dimly burning wick will he not quench: he will bring forth justice in truth.
Anas Ibn Malik reported:
I served the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) for ten years, and, by Allah, he never said to me any harsh word, and he never said to me about a thing as to why I had done that and as to why I had not done that. (Al Bukhari)
The Prophet ﷺ never took revenge (over anybody) for his own sake but (he did) only when Allah’s Legal Bindings were outraged in which case he would take revenge for Allah’s Sake. And he never used bad language. He used to say “The best amongst you are those who have the best manners and character. He never criticized any food (presented him), but he would eat it if he liked it; otherwise, he would leave it without expressing his dislike. ( Al Bukhari more than one hadith)