Mount Paran

“God (his guidance) came from Teman, and the Holy One from mount Paran. Selah. His glory covered the heavens, and the earth was full of his praise.”

Habakkuk 3:3

The wilderness of Paran is where Abraham’s wife Hagar and his eldest son Ishmael, the father of the Arabs, settled (Genesis 21:21) in the Arabian desert. Specifically, Makkah (Please see Map 1, page 440). Makkah is, of course, the capital of Islam in Arabia and the birthplace of Muhammad (pbuh). 

Indeed, it was Hagar and Ishmael themselves who transformed a barren patch of desert into what is now the capital of Islam, “Makkah.” Mount Paran is the chain of mountains in that same region which the Arabs call the “Sarawat mountains.”

According to J. Hasting’s Dictionary of the Bible, Teman is an Oasis just North of Madinah. Muhammad (pbuh) did indeed come from Paran. About 622 AD, he and his followers were forced to migrate from Makkah (Paran) to Madinah (Teman) where he spent the rest of his prophetic life teaching it’s people the guidance of God (the Qur’an).

These two cities, Makkah, and Madinah, are such critical importance to a Muslims faith that every single chapter of the Qur’an is classified as either “Makkia” (revealed in Makkah) or “Madaniyyah” (revealed in Madinah).

When someone describes someone as having “come from” a certain town, this is usually interpreted as meaning that that person was born in that town. In other words, that town is this man’s “home town.” However, when one reads the words “God came from…,” the meaning is quite different.

It is quite obvious that the verse is not implying that a given location is God’s “home town.” Jews, Christians, and Muslims all affirm that God Almighty is Omnipresent* and Eternal. So, if this is the case, then we can not say that God Himself “came” or “went” to a given place since that would imply that there are times and places where God’s knowledge and supervision is NOT present, and thus, it is possible to hide from God since I could go to a place where God has not “come” and is not present in His knowledge.

So, if God is Omnipresent (present in knowledge everywhere at the same time), then we begin to realize that it is not God “Himself” that is “coming” from a given place, rather it is God’s guidance and mankind’s recognition of God that is being established in a given location.

In other words, in a place where the true worship of God and the true knowledge of His message were absent, God blesses them with knowledge of Himself and His message. In this way, they become “acquainted” with God, and “meet” or “learn of” Him. In this fashion, although God Almighty was ever present in His knowledge, with them and all of His creation, they are only now beginning to comprehend His presence.

Once we understand that the people of Mount Paran and Teman are described as becoming aware of the message of God and His guidance, and we realize that Paran and Teman are to Islam what Jerusalem is to Judaism or Christianity, then we begin to see the emergence of a prophesy of the coming of the final message of God.

This is because Muhammad (pbuh) first received the prophethood of Islam in the cave of “Hira’a” located in the highest part of the mountains of Paran (see section 6.2). Jesus (pbuh) never in his life traveled to Paran nor Teman. Muhammad, however, was born in Paran, he became the prophet of Islam there, and it was the capital of the Islamic religion in that day and this.

No man from Paran, throughout history, has had his praise sung in so many nations as has Muhammad (pbuh). The name “Muhammad” itself literally means in Arabic “The praised one.”

Through the teachings of Muhammad, God is now being praised by over one billion Muslims around the world.

However, if we were to look more closely at this verse, we would find even greater detail of this coming message. The word which has been translated here as “Holy One” is the Hebrew word “qadowsh” {kaw-doshe’} which has the multiple meaning of “sacred, holy, Holy One, saint, set apart.” In this specific verse the translator’s judgment drove them to translate it as “Holy One” (notice the capitals), thus, they understood this verse to simply mean “God came from Teman and God came from mount Paran.”

However, if this was the intended reading then why did God choose to use the word “God” in one place and “Holy One” in the other? There must be a reason for this specific wording. Actually, there is.

If we were to read Exodus 19:6 we would find that the same translators of the Bible have translated this same Hebrew word as “holy nation.” In Exodus 29:31 it is translated as “holy place,” and in Zec. 14:5 they translated it as “saints.”

Thus, we see that according to the witness of these same translators of the Bible, this verse of Habakkuk 3:3 could (or more correctly, should) be translated as “and the saint from mount Paran,” or “and the holy one from mount Paran” (no capitals). This is important, why?

If we were to accept everything these Biblical translators are teaching us and to accept that the word “qadowsh” can be translated as “Holy One,” or as “holy one,” or as “saint,” or as “holy,” etc. based upon the meaning most appropriate for the chosen verse, then we realize that although it would be completely appropriate to interpret the coming of Islam from the mountains of Makkah as “the Holy One” coming from “mount Paran,” still, it would be more precise to say that “the holy one” (or “the saint”) came from “mount Paran.” This is because Muhammad (pbuh) was born on Paran (Makkah) and first received the message of Islam in the mountains of Makkah.

So why does the first part of this verse say, “God came from Teman” and not “The Holy One came from Teman”?

Well, the reason for this is that Islam was indeed first revealed to Muhammad (pbuh) in Makkah, however, he and his followers remained persecuted and in constant fear of death from the pagans of Arabia while they resided in Makkah (see chapter 10). This continued for a period of thirteen years.

During this period, the Muslims were beaten, starved, tortured, and killed. This situation was hardly conducive of the Muslims openly preaching the message of God to all of mankind. For this reason, the knowledge of the persecution that one must endure upon acceptance of Islam prevented many from openly accepting it or preaching it to others.

However, this all changed in the beginning of the fourteenth year. That is when God Almighty commanded Muhammad (pbuh) to emigrate with his companions to Teman (Madinah). Although the pagans escalated their persecution of the Muslims into all-out warfare at this point, still, within the boundaries of the city of Madinah they had begun to enjoy a measure of freedom and autonomy.

This freedom manifested itself in their ability to not only preach the message of God within the city itself, but they also began to send delegations to the surrounding cities inviting them to Islam. In other words, the message of Islam did not truly begin its “global” phase until it reached “Teman” or Madinah.

This is why the verse says, “God came from Teman, and the holy one from mount Paran” In fact, just as the Christian calendar starts with the presumed date of the birth of Jesus (pbuh), so does the Islamic “Hijra” calendar start with the year in which the Muslims emigrated to Madinah.

According to him and some Christians I’ve interacted with, Paran is a plain which extends from the northern border of Beersheba to Mount Sinai, which is bounded by Canaan in the north and by Mount Sinai in the south, with Egypt to its west and Mount Seir to its East. Even Others think that it is situated on the western slope of Mount Sinai.

But the research of old Arabian geographers and some Christian scholars go to prove that Paran was the name given to the hills of Makkah.

Do I have evidence for this claim or I’m just making things up?

In the Arabic translation of the Samiri (Samaritan) Torah, which was published in 1851, Paran is shown to be situated in Hijaz, thus:

“Wa-sakana barrīyata Farana (Al-hijazu) Wa-akhadhat la-hu Ummuhu Imra ‘atan min-ardi misra “

“And he dwelt in the wilderness of Paran (Hijaz), and his mothertook him a wife out of the land of Egypt.”  Even Professor Haseeb Shehada, an Israeli scholar and professor in his translation of the Samaritan Pentetauch On pp. 90. suggested an identification of western Arabia which is known as Hijaz

Let’s look at what the biblical commentators has to say about it.

According to the Clark commentary of the Bible, it is written of ‘paran’ thus:

“He dwelt in the in the wilderness of paran – This is generally allowed to have been part of the desert belonging to Arabia petraea, in the vicinity of Mount Sinai and seem be it’s uniform meaning in the sacred writing”. According to the strong biblical dictionary, Paran is a desert of Arabia.

“H6290 Pârân from H6286; a desert in Arabia -paran” Sebeos, a seventh century Armenian bishop and historian, when describing

the Arab conquest of his time, wrote in his ‘Armenian history of Sabeos on page 95-97. that the Arabs:

“Assembled and came out from Paran” Encyclopaedia Biblica, edited by Reverend T. K. Cheyne, asserts on page 3583 that:

“Paran refers to the Arab tribal names, farran or faran.”

The Dead Sea Scrolls, which are dated to the second century BCE and represent the oldest surviving manuscript evidence for the Old Testament along

With other apocryphal books, link Ishmael and his descendants to Arabia:

“And Ishmael and his sons, and the sons of Keturah and their sons, went together and dwelt from Paran to the entering in of Babylon in all the land which is towards the East facing the desert. And these mingled with each other, and their name was called Arabs, and Ishmaelite.”  (Dead Sea Scrolls, Book of Jubilees, p.118, verses 12-13.)

The fifth century chronicler Sozomen, a Christian historian who wrote much about the history of the Church, wrote in his “Ecclesiastical History of the church pp 309” that Arabs descended from Ishmael.

“The son of Abraham and were, as a result, originally called Ishmaelites. They practiced circumcision like the Jews, refrained from the use of pork and observed many other Jewish rites and customs. “Indeed, there are some among them, even at the present day,” he wrote, “who regulate their lives according to the Jewish precepts.”

Hence, the Paran (or Pharan) of Ishmael was certainly in the Arabian Peninsula Known as ‘Hijaz’.

Irfan Shahid, one of the world’s most renowned authorities on pre-Islamic, ancient Arabian geography/history, stated that there was a place called Pharan in Hijaz, which belonged to the Sulaym tribe. (Byzantium and Arabs in the forth century pp. 325)

Let me now refer to the Biblical verse which appears in Hebrew thus:

“He lived in the wilderness [AV: untilled valley] of Paran; and his mother took a wife for him from the land of Egypt.” Genesis 21:21

The phrase ‘midbar-Paran’ is significant. In Hebrew, midbar means‘uninhabited tract’ or ‘untilled region’, a ‘sterile desert’ and ‘solitary region’. Read Isaiah 27:10 and Jeremiah 2:31

This word is so used metaphorically for a sterile woman. It is an admitted fact that the term ‘the untilled valley’ has invariably been used for Makka.

It is alleged in Encyclopaedia Biblica . art “paran” that “it is not easy to understand all the Old Testament passages relative to Paran.”

Even Jerome, an antiquarian of great repute, and Eusebius, an ecclesiastical historian, write that “Paran is a town over against Arabia southward, three days’ journey from Aila eastward.”

(Encyclopedia biblica, art ‘Paran’)

Conflicting references as given in the Bible relative to Paran can guide us but little. All that we can ascertain from the Book of Genesis is this, that Ishmael dwelt in the valley of Paran. History tells us that Ishmael had twelve sons who settled down in different parts of Arabia.

Thus, Paran can be that particular place where the children of Ishmael dwelt at the time when the Bible was compiled; and that was Arabia.

It has been discovered from Assyrian inscriptions that the name ‘Kedar’ of Ishmael’s son is used to mean Arabia:“the Assyrian inscriptions several times mention the Kidru or Kadru.

Once, in an inscription of Assurbanipal, the name is used even as a synonym of Arabia”.(Encyclopedia biblical art, ‘Ishmael’)

Paul writes in his Epistle to the Galatians 4:24-26:

“Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One isfrom Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother.”

This shows that place-names such as Sinai, Jerusalem and Paran are also used allegorically. Two nations are meant here:

one descended from Isaac whose mother was Sarah, and the other from Ishmael whose mother was Hagar. The coming of the Lord on mount Sinai is in two ways: the giving of the Law to Moses, in the children of Sarah, and also to Muhammad, the ‘like of Moses’, in the descendants of Hagar.

Paran may also be considered in the same way. One Paran may be that which is mentioned in the words “the cloud settled down in the wilderness of Paran” Numbers 10:12 (this cloud was being followed by the Israelites and was leading them to where to take the “tabernacle of the testimony”).

And there is the Paran of Arabia, over which came the clouds giving the great spiritual rain of revelation – that is the shining forth of the Lord from Paran.

The Biblical text does not lend support to you or anyone who locate Paran in Sinai or other places might suggest.

Let me conclude with these points:

1. According to the book of Numbers 10:12, the wilderness of Sinai and that of Paran are different places.

2. The Book of Genesis 14:6 draws a distinction between Mount Seir and Mount Paran.

3. In Numbers 12:16 we are told that Paran is reached after passing through Hazeroth and that on the way back from Canaan, Paran comes before Kadesh Numbers 13:26 which thus appears to lie on the northern border of Paran. Genesis 14:6-7

4. The 1 Book of Kings11:18 tells us that Paran lies on the route to Midian and Egypt, and Midian is situated in Hijaz.

5. The view that Paran is on the western slope of mount Sinai is erroneous for the children of Ishmael never dwelt there.

The foundation of Islam was built upon truth and evidence not only faith. Islam is like the moon, you’re barking at it is useless, it will only end up falling back on you or drain your energy. Islam doesn’t need you; you need it so try looking into it with an objective mind.

Allah knows Best.

Almighty Allah is the highest and most knowledgeable, and the attribution of knowledge to him is the safest.

Right from Almighty Allah and wrong from me and Satan

Prepared by Mohamad Mostafa Nassar- Australia. 

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Arrogance is not only a sign of insecurity, but also a sign of immaturity. Mature and fully realised persons can get their points across, even emphatically without demeaning or intimidating others.