Jews For Islam
Muhammad in The Jewish Bible
(4) The Mystery Of The "Mispa"
In this article, as the title shows, I shall try to give an exposition of the ancient Hebrew Cult of Stone, which they inherited from Abraham, their great progenitor , and to show that this Stone-Cult was instituted at Mecca by that Patriarch and his son Ishmael; in the land of Canaan by Isaac and Jacob; and in Moab and elsewhere by the other descendants of Abraham.
By the term "Stone-Cult ," let it be understood, I do not mean stone-worship, which is idolatry; by it I understand the worship of God at a specially consecrated stone meant for that purpose. In those days, when the chosen family were leading a nomadic and pastoral life, it had no settled habitation where to build a house, especially dedicated to the worship of God; they used to erect a particular stone a round which they used to make a hajj; that is to say, to turn round seven times in the form of a dancing-ring. The word hajj might frighten the Christian readers and they might shrink at its sight because of its Arabic form and because of its being at present a Muslim religious performance. The word hajj is exactly identical in meaning and etymology with the same in the Hebrew and other Semit ic languages. The Hebrew verb hagag is the same as the Arabic hajaj, the difference being only in the pronunciation of the third letter of the Semitic alphabet gama l, which the Arabs pronounce as j. The Law of Moses uses this very word hagag or haghagh (1) when it orders the festival ceremonies to be performed. The word signifies to compress a building, an altar or a stone by running round it at regular and trained pace with the purpose of performing a religious festival of rejoicing and chanting. In the East the Chr ist ians still practice what they call higga either during their festival days or a t weddings. Consequently, this word has nothing to do with pilgrimage, which is derived from the Italian pellegrino, and this also from the Latin peregrinus - meaning a "foreigner ."
Abraham during his sojourns frequently used to build an altar for worship and sacrifice at different places and in particular occasions. When Jacob was on his way to Padan Aram and saw the vision of that wonderful ladder , he erected a stone there, upon which he poured oil and called it Bethel, i.e. "The House of God"; and twenty years later he again visited that stone, upon which he poured oil and "pure wine," as recorded in Genesis xxviii. 10-22; xxxv. A special stone was erected as a monument by Jacob and his father in law upon a heap of stones called Gal’ead in Hebrew, and Yaghar sahdutha by Laban in his Aramaic language, which means "a heap of witness." But the proper noun they gave to the erected stone was Mispa (Gen. xxxi. 45-55), which I prefer to write in its exact Arabic form, Mispha , and this I do for the benefit of my Muslim readers. Now this Mispha became later on the most important place of worship, and a center of the national assemblies in the history of the people of Israel. It was here that Naphthah - a Jewish hero - made a vow "before the Lord," and after beating the Ammonites, he is supposed to have offered his only daughter as a burnt offering (Judges xi). It was at Mispha that four hundred thousand swordsmen from the eleven tribes of Israel assembled and "swore before the Lord'' to exterminate the tribe of Benjamin for an abominable crime committed by the Benjamites of Geba ’ and succeeded (Judges xx. xxi.). At Mispha all the people were summoned by the Prophet Samuel, where they swore before the Lord '' to destroy all their idols and images, and then were saved from the hands of the Philistines (I Sam. vii). It was here that the nation assembled and Saul was anointed king over Israel (1 Sam. x) . In short , every national question of great moment was decided at this Mispha or at Bethel. It seems that these shrines were built upon high places or upon a raised platform, often called Ramoth, which signifies a "high place." Even after the building of the gorgeous Temple of Solomon, the Mispha s were held in great reverence. But , like the Kaaba at Mecca , these Misphas were often filled with idols and images. After the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple by the Chaldeans, the Mispha still maintained its sacred character as late as the time of the Maccabees during the reign of King Antiochus (l).
Now, what does the word Mispa mean? It is generally translated into a "watch-tower ." It belongs to that class of Semitic nouns - Asma Za r f - which take or drive their name from the thing that they enclose or contain. Mispa is the place or building which derives its name from sapha , an archaic word for "stone." The usual word for stone in Hebrew is iben, and in Arabic hajar . The Syriac for stone is kipa . But safa or sapha seems to be common to them all for some particular object or person when designated as a "stone." Hence the real meaning of Mispa is the locality or place in which a sapha or stone is set and fixed. It can be seen that when this name, Mispa , was first given to the stone erected upon a heap of stone blocks, there was no edifice built around it . It is the spot upon which a sapha rest s, that is called Mispa .
Before explaining the significance of the noun sapha I have to tax again the patience of those of my readers who are not acquainted with the Hebrew. The Arabic language lacks the p sound in its alphabet just as much as the Hebrew and other Semitic languages, in which the letter p, like g, is sometimes soft and is pronounced like f or ph. In English, as a rule, the Semitic and Greek words containing f sound are transliterated and written by the insertion of "ph" instead of "f," e.g. Seraph, Mustapha , and Philosophy. It is in accordance with this rule that I prefer to write this word sapha to safa
When Jesus Christ surnamed his first disciple Shim’on (Simon) with the significant title of "Petros" (Peter ), he must evidently have had in his mind this ancient sacred Sapha which had been lost long ago! But , a la s! we cannot positively set out the exact word which he expressed in his own language. The Greek form Petros in the masculine gender - Petra in the feminine - is so un-classical and unGreek, that one is astonished at it being ever adopted by the Churches. Did Jesus or any other Jew ever dream of calling the fisherman Ba r Yona , Petros? Decidedly not . The Syriac version called Pshitta has frequently rendered this Greek form into Kipha (Kipa ). And the very fact that even the Greek text has preserved the original name "Kepha s," which the English versions have reproduced in the shape of "Cepha s," shows that Chr ist spoke the Arama ic language and gave the surname "Kipha " to his principal disciple.
The old Arabic versions of the New Testament have frequently written St . Peter ’s name a s "Sham’un’ as-Sapha "; that is to say, "Sion the Stone." The words of Christ : "Thou art Peter ," etc., have their equivalent in the Arabic version in the form of "Anta s-Sapha '' (Matt . xvi. 18; John i. 42, etc.).
It follows, therefore, that if Simon is the Sapha , the Church which was to be built on it would naturally be the Mispha . Tha t Chr ist should liken Simon to Sapha and the Church to Mispha is very rema rkable; but when I come to divulge the mystery hidden in this similitude and the wisdom embodied in the Sapha , then it must be a ccepted as the most marvelous truth of Prophet Muhammad’s merit to his glorious title: ’THE MUSTAPHA’!
From what has been stated above, our curiosity would naturally lead one to ask the following questions: -
(a ) Why did the Muslims and Unitarian descendants of Abraham choose a stone to perform their religious service on or around it? (b) Why should this particular stone be named sapha ? (c) What is the writer driving at? And soon - perhaps several others.
The stone was selected as the best suitable material upon which a traveling devotee offered his sacrifice, poured his pure oil and wine, (1) and performed his religious services around it . It was more than this; this stone was erected to commemorate the vows and certain promises which a prophet or righteous man made to his Creator , and the revelation he received from God.
Consequently, it was a sacred monument to perpetuate the memory and the sacred character of a great religious event . For such a purpose no other material could surpass the stone. Not only does the solidity and durability of the stone make it suitable for that purpose, but it's mere simplicity, cheapness, worthlessness in a lonely place would guarantee it against any attraction of human avarice or enmity to steal or destroy it . As is well known, the Law of Moses strictly forbids to chew or carve the stones of the altar . The stone called Sapha was to be absolutely left natural; no images, inscriptions, or engravings were to be wrought upon it , lest any one of these should be worshipped in time to come by the ignorant people. Gold, iron silver , or any other metal, could not answer all these qualities required in the simple stone. It will be understood, therefore, that the purest , the most durable, eligible, and the safest material for a religious and sacred monument could be none other than the stone.
The molten bronze statue of Jupiter worshipped by the heathen Roman Pontifex Maximus, was taken away from the Pantheon and recast into the image of St . Peter by order of a Chr ist ian Sovereign Pontiff; and indeed, the wisdom embodied in the Sapha is admirable and wor thy of all those who worship no other object besides God.
It should also be remembered that not only is the erected Sapha a sacred monument , but the very spot and the circuit in which it is situated as well. And it is for this reason that the Muslim hajj, like the Hebrew higga , is performed round the building where the Sacred Stone is fixed. It is a known fact that the Karamatians who carried the Black Stone from the Kaaba and kept it in their own country for some twenty years, were obliged to bring and put it back in its former place because they could not draw the pilgrims from Mecca . If it had been gold or other precious object , it could not have existed, at least , for some five thousand years; or even if it had had on it some carvings or images of art , it would have been destroyed by the Prophet Muhammad hiself.
As to the meaning - or rather meanings - of the Sapha , I have already referred to them as qualities of the stone.
The word consists of the consonants "sadi" and "pi" ending with the vowel "hi" both as a verb and noun. It means, in its qalform, "to purify, to watch, to gaze from distance, and to choose." It also has the meanings of "to be firm and sound"; in its piel paradigm, which is causative, it simply means "to make a choice, to cause to elect ," and so on.
A man who watched from a tower wars called Sophi (2 Kings ix. 17, etc.). In ancient times - that is, before the building of the Temple of Solomon - the Prophet or the "Man of God" was called Roi or Hozi, which means the "seer " ( 1 Sam. ix. 9). The Hebrew scholars are, ofcourse, familiar with the word Msaphpi, or rather Msappi, which is equivalent in orthography to the Arabic musaphphi, which signifies "one who endeavors to elect that which is pure, sound, firm," and so forth. The watchman on the Tower of Yizrael, as quoted above, was gazing and watching sharply from a great distance to distinguish a company of persons coming on towards the town. He saw the first messenger of the King who arrived and joined the group but did not return.
The same as the case with the second and the third envoy. It was later on that the Sophi could distinguish the chief of the group as Jehu. Now, what then was the business and the office of that watchman? It was to look out sharply from some distance to distinguish one among the others with a view to understanding his identity and his movements, if at all possible, and then to inform his king. If you ask: What was the business and the office of the solitary Sophi of the Mispa ? the answer - which would merely be that he used to watch from the minaret of the Misppha (Mispa ) in order to distinguish the identity of the pilgrims in the desert , or that he used to keep watch against some danger - could not satisfy an eager inquirer . If so, the Mispha would lose its religious and sacred character , and would rather seem to assume that of a military watchtower . But the case with the Sophi of the Mispha was quite different . Originally the Mispha was only a simple shrine on a solitary high place in Gil'ead where the Sophi with his family or attendants used to live. After the conquest and occupation of the land of Canaan by Israel, the number of the Mispha s increases, and they soon become great religious centers and develop into institutions of learning and confraternities. They seem to be like the Islamic Mevlevi, Bektashi, Neqshbendi, and other religious confraternities, each one of them being under its own Sheikh and Mur shid. They had schools attached to the Mispha , where the Law, the religion, the Hebrew literature and other branches of knowledge were taught . But over and above this educational work, the Sophi was the supreme head of a community of initiates whom he used to instruct and teach the esoteric or mystic religion which we know under the name of Sophia . Indeed, what we term to-day Sufis were then called nbiyim or "prophet s," and what is called, in Islamic takka s, zikr or invocation in prayer , they used to term "prophesying." In the time of the Prophet Samuel, who wa s the head of the State a s well a s that of the Mispha institutions, these disciples and init ia tes had become very numerous; and when Saul was anointed and crowned, he joined the zikr or religious practice of invocation with the initial test and was announced everywhere: "Behold Saul also among the Prophet s." And this saying became a proverb; for he was also "prophesying" with the group of prophet s (1 Sam. x 9-13). The Sufism among the Hebrews continued to be an esoteric religious confraternity under the supremacy of the Prophet of the time until the death of King Solomon. After the division of the kingdom into two, it appears that a great schism had taken place among the Sufis too. In the time of the Prophet Elia s, about 900 B.C., we are told that he wa s the only true Prophet left and that all others were killed; and that there were eight hundred and fifty prophet s of the Ba a l and Ishra who "a te a t the table of Queen Izabel" (1 Kings xviii. 19). But only a few years later , Elia s’s disciple and successor , the Prophet Elisha , a t Bethel and a t Jericho is met by scores of the "sons of Prophet s" who foretell him about the imminent ascension of his master Elia s (2 Kings ii.).
Wha tever may have been the rea l posit ion of the Hebrew Sufis (or Sophees) a fter the grea t religious and na t iona l schism, one thing is cer ta in, namely, tha t the t rue knowledge of God and the esoter ic science of religion wa s preserved unt il the appea rance of J esus Chr ist , who built his Community of the Init ia tes in the Inner Religion upon Simon the Sapha , and tha t the t rue Sophis or seer s of the Chr ist ian Mispha perpetua ted this knowledge and wa tched over it unt il the appea rance of the Elect of Allah, Prophet Muhammad a l-Mustapha - the Hebrew "Mustaphi"!
The Bible mentions - as I said above - numerous prophet s a t ta ched to the Mispha s; but we must we'll understand that , as the Qur ’an clearly declares, "God best knows whom He shall appoint for His Messenger '' that He does not bestow the gift of prophecy on a person on account of his nobility, r iches, or even piety, but for His own pleasure. The faith and all works of piety, medita t ions, spiritual exercises, prayer s, fasting, and divine knowledge may raise a novice to become a spiritual mur shid or guide, or to the rank of a saint , but never to the status of a prophet ; for prophecy is not procured by effort , but is a gift of God. Even among the Prophet s there are only a few who were Messenger s favored with a special book and commissioned to direct a certain people or with a particular mission. Therefore the term "prophet s" a s used in the Hebrew Scriptures is often ambiguous.
I must also remark in this connection that probably the majority of the material of the Bible was the work or production of these Mispha s before the Babylonian Captivity or even earlier , but afterwards has been revised by unknown hands until it has taken the shape which we nowadays have.
It now rema ins to say few words about the Muslim Sufism and the Greek word Sophia (wisdom or love of wisdom); and a discussion of these two systems of high knowledge does lie out side the scope of this a r t icle. Philosophy, in the wider sense of the term, is the study or science of the first principles of being; in other words, it transcends the limits of physics to study the pure being, and leaves behind the study of causes or laws of that which happens or is seen in nature trying to reach the metaphysics which deals with faith, ethics and law known now a s the spiritual aspects of civiliza t ion, while the physic is considered the matter ia aspects of civilization. Thereby it takes the greatest pains to find the truth.
The difference between the Greek Sophia and the Muslim Sufi is tha t the Greek have mixed between the materialistic and spiritual areanas and at the samet ime, they fa iled to received revelation as their top philosopher s i.e. Aristotle and Socrates admitted that dealing in the metaphysics without receiving revelation from the Creator is like crossing the ocean on a piece of wood! Whereas the lucky Muslim Sufis concent rated on the area of ethics and following the foot steps of Prophet Muhammad and his companions in disciplining one’s heart and selfin sailing to reach the High Assembly of the Angels and so forth.
Muslim Sufism is the contemplation on the deeds of Allah and His Creation and ones self and avoiding the contemplation on Allah Himself because the human is made of his environment and sooner use their five senses to describe Allah which becomes exceedingly dangerous as it happened with the Egyptians when they imagined the Sphinx that has head, paws, body etc.
The superiority of the Islamic Sophia to the Greek philosophy is manifest from the object it views at . And it is decidedly superior to the Christian celibacy and monasticism in its indifference towards the consciences and the beliefs of other people. A Muslim Sophi (Sufi) a lways entertains respect for other religions, laughs at the idea of "heresy" and abhors all persecutions and oppressions. Most of the Christian Saints were either persecutors of or persecuted by heretics, and their celebrity consists in their excess of intolerance. This is, alas but only too true.
It is also worthy noting that in the time of the first era of Islam, Muslim Sufis were referred to as "Zahid" or "Zohad" and at that time they had no methodology, but they had a complete fellowship of faith and jurisprudence to their respective school. They concentrated on ethics and thinking. The following generation established the methodology of courses to be taken by beginners, the intermediate and the advanced based on the Qur ’an and Prophet ic Quota t ions. It is very clea r tha t the da ily rectition of Qur ’an, the remembrance of the Names of Allah and the prayer on Prophet Muhammad together with a sking Allah for forgiveness and praying at night , fasting during the day are some of the important characteristics. On the other hand, the authentic Muslim Sufi reject any insincere members who fail to keep the way of Prophet Muhammad. Admit tedly, many ignorant people were exposed, thinking that these insincere cases are representative of Muslim Sufism.
They fail to under stand that the (Ihsan) which is one third of the Religion, as demonstrated in the answer of Prophet Muhammad to the question "Wha t is Islam?, What Is Iman, and What is Ihsan? when Prophet Muhammad commented that the one who asked the questioner was the angel Gabriel and that he had come to teach you the Religion. Also, Islam was served by the four schools of jurisprudence while iman was served by faith schools such as Salaf and Asharia and of course Sufi served Ihsan. If some one doubts this let him name the scholars of Ihsan, because if you go to an Islamic Court which belongs to the section of Islam, or go to a Faith school and admit that he has jeouslousy and malice in his heart etc. of the disease of the soul both schools will admit that they have nothing to do with this a spect and refer him to anAbid, worshiper , or Sufi, Shaykh.
As a secondary remark I should like to add that the Muslim authors have a lways written the Greek word "philosophy" in the form of Phelsepha with sin instead of sadi or tzadi, which is one of the constituent letters in the Hebrew and Arabic words Sapha and Sophi. I think this form was introduced into Arabic literature by the Assyrian translators who formerly belonged to the Nestorian sect . The Turks write the name St . Sophia of Constantinople with sadi, but philosophy with sin, like the samekh of the Hebrews. I believe tha t the Greek Sophia is to be ident ified etymologica lly with the Hebrew word; and the idea tha t the Muslim word sophia (sowfiya ) is der ived from the soph, which means "wool," ought to be abandoned.
The true Sophia - or wisdom - the true knowledge of God, the true science of religion and morality, and the infallible selection of the Last Messenger of Allah from among all His Messengers, belonged to the ancient institution of Israel called Mispha , until it is transformed into the Mispha of the Nassara or Christian. It is indeed marvelous to see how complete the analogy is and how the economy of God concerning His dealings with man is carried on with absolute uniformity and order . The Mispha is the filter where all the data and persons are filtered and strained by the Musaphphi (Hebrew, Mosappi) a s by a colander (for such is the meaning of the word); so that the genuine is distinguished and separated from the false, and the pure from the impure; yet centuries succeed each other , myriads of Prophet s come and go, st ill the Mustapha , the Elected One, does not appear . Then comes the Holy Jesus; but he is rejected and persecuted, because there existed no longer in Israel that official Mispha which would have recognized and announced him as a true Messenger of God who was sent to bear witness to the Mustapha that was the Last Prophet to follow him. The "Grand Assembly of the Synagogue" convoked and instituted by Ezra and Nehemiah, the last member of which was "Simeon the Just " (ob 310 B.C.), was succeeded by the Supreme Tribunal of Jerusalem, called the "Sahedr in"; but this latter Assembly, whose President was the Na ssi or the "Prince," condemned Jesus to death because it did not recognize his person and the nature of his divine mission. A few Sophis, however , knew Jesus and believed in his prophetic mission; but the crowds a t one time mistook him for the Mustapha or the "elected" Messenger of Allah, and seized and claimed him king, but he vanished and disappeared from among them. He wasn't the Mustaplta , otherwise it would be ridiculous to make Simon the Sapha and his Church the Mispha ; for the office and the duty of the Mispha was to watch and look for the Last Messenger , so that when he came he would be proclaimed a s the Elected and Chosen One - the Mustapha . If Jesus were the Mustapha , there would be no need for the institution of the Mispha any longer . This is a very deep and interesting subject ; it deserves patient study. Prophet Muhammad a l- Mustapha is the mystery of the Mispha , and the t rea sure of the Sophia .