Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Muhammad: "Seal of Prophethood between his shoulders on the left side of his shoulder"?

Common Mole
Versus Uncommon Mole?
(Image from CosmeticSurgery.com)

I am currently looking into an issue that I initially broached on February 3, 2007. Here is part of what I posted at that time concerning the mole on Muhammad's back that was interpreted by some of Muhammad's contemporaries as the sign of his prophethood, literally understood as the seal of his prophethood:
The mole is mentioned in Sahih Muslim, Book 30: "The Book Pertaining to the Excellent Qualities of the Holy Prophet (may Peace be upon them) and His Companions (Kitab Al-Fada'il)":

Chapter 28: The Fact Pertaining to the Seal of his Prophethood, its Characteristic Feature and its Location on his Body . . .

Book 30, Number 5793:

Abdullah b. Sarjis reported: I saw Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) and ate with him bread and meat, or he said Tharid (bread soaked in soup). I said to him: Did Allah's Apostle (may peace be upon him) seek forgiveness for you? He said: Yes, and for you, and he then recited this verse:" Ask forgiveness for thy sin and for the believing men and believing women" (xlvii. 19). I then went after him and saw the Seal of Prophethood between his shoulders on the left side of his shoulder having spots on it like moles.
At the time of my post, I noted concerning the mole on Muhammad's back that "Abdullah b. Sarjis states that it is 'between his shoulders on the left side of his shoulder,' which sounds a bit odd, as if it were in more than one place."

I am still wondering about this point, and I know that some of my readers have knowledge of Arabic and of Muslim traditions. Was there some uncertainty about the mole's position?



At 2:37 PM, Anonymous Charles said...

I know absolutely nothing about this subject, but the reference sounds fairly clear to me: the mole was between his shoulder blade, but to the right of center--that is, to the left of his (right) shoulder (blade).

At least, this was how I interpreted it immediately upon reading it.

At 3:25 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Charles, did you mean "between his shoulder blades"?

Anyway, your explication is probably correct and the problem one of translation.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 10:42 AM, Anonymous Charles said...

Yep, that's what I meant: "between his shoulder blades."

English be so confusing sometimes.

At 12:30 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Now, yuh talkin'.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 6:44 PM, Blogger aladdin said...

It is just a matter of sloppy translation. I checked the oringinal Sahih Muslim and the mole is located exactly at the prophet's left Naged, which is an archaic Arabic world that means, simply, shoulder blade.

At 7:25 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Aladdan. That's very helpful.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 6:45 AM, Anonymous erdal said...

I don't own Sahih Muslim in Arabic language, so that route is closed to me. But I can add a few factlets:

1) It's not "mole", but "birthmark". Moles are pedestrian, slightly icky things, birthmarks are more of a sign, a stamp, or (in this case) a "seal of the prophets" (ghattam an-nabiyyun[??]). Birthmarks are un-icky and mysterious. Prophets and kings carry them. (David? Solomon? Joseph? I can't remember. Harun al-Rashid had one. And Mikhail Gorbatchev). Their form is interpreted and discussed. Moles are for dermatologists.

2) I vaguely remember that the fact that Mohammed carried this birthmark is an argument in the question about the nature of his prophethood. Was he the last prophet "so far" or "ever"? Does "final prophet" mean only "having the last word" (this is not cortroversial, I guess) or also "last one ever to appear" This question is still under discussion as far as I know, but I don't know the details. I don't even remember who holds which opinion and what currently counts as heretical.

3) I recall even more vaguely several stories about the form and origin of the "mole": Things like the boy Mohammad being "branded" by an angel (or a lion or something) in a fight or a desert or a cave or after his heart was put on a scale, or whatever. It't childhood lore, probably not even in the hadith. It all flows together. I think I was told that the birthmark (at least some birthmark, maybe it wasn't Mohammed's?) read "Hussain" -- which is certainly not what Sunnis would be told...
4) Now that I think about it: I believe there is some ambiguity in the Arabic phrase "ghat(a/i)m an-nabiyyin". It can mean "seal/stamp/sign of the prophets" or "last/final of the prophets", depending how it is vocalized.

At 6:55 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Thanks, Erdal. That's an interesting distinction between "mole" and "birthmark" -- though I can imagine some ambiguity in whether a particular epidermal feature is one or the other.

I've seen both translations for the mark on Muhammad, so I wonder if the Arabic word itself is ambiguous (or differs according to the Hadith).

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 8:04 AM, Anonymous erdal said...

Heh, talk about posting prematurely...

a) apparently, even the question of mole vs. birthmark vs. "lump of flesh" is the subject of heated debate.

b) There is a batch of ahadith that tell the story of how the monk Bahira (in a desert) identified the boy Mohammed as being the last prophet of the Jews and Christians because of the mole (among other signs). Now I remember that, too, but I still believe there are additional stories out there about how he got the mole.

c) Some non-sahih narrations also state that the birthmark contained writing that said: "Muhammadun Rasulullah" and "sir fa'innaka mansur" = "Go forth for you shall certainly be granted victory." (http://www.livingislam.org/fiqhi/fiqha_e54.html)

d) There are also traditions that claim that the birthmark disappeared right after Mohammed died. (Lost the URL)

e) Abdallah ibn Masud counted precisely 3 hairs on the mole.

f)And I remembered the story about the birthmark that reads "Hussain": That was Ali's birthmark, which is now attached to the Kaaba wall and can't be erased or painted over. Also, Ali's mother Fatima walked through the wall of the Kaaba at this spot (to give birth to Ali inside). Stricly Shiite story of course.

At 8:42 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Erdal, thanks, these give me more leads. If you checked the earlier, linked post on Muhammad's 'mark', you'll see that I'm wondering about a mole of Don Quixote's back, "the mark of a strong man" -- specifically, I'm wondering if Cervantes was alluding to hadith about Muhammad's mark.

I'll have to check the Spanish at some point, too. Scholarships takes me rather far abroad, but I am, after all, a Gypsy Scholar...

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 3:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

when i was born a six point star was my birth mark on my left side wat r ur opinions on that

At 6:10 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

My opinion?! Am I some expert on birthmarks? Okay, I'll hazard a guess. Maybe the Lion of Judah?

What's your opinion?

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 11:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you check into the Tribe of Benjamine? There is something aobut a birthmark between the sholder blades. I have one and my Aunt had one in the same place. We know things others don't. I think it has meaning in most culturs but we in America have forgoten. I am just now learning about Muhammad haveing one. It is an amazing time where you can Google and find out so much.

At 6:23 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anonymous, thanks for the note. I'd never heard of this in connection to the tribe of Benjamin.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 11:51 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

You are welcome. Here is were it comes from and the link I found it at. Mine is raised and flesy not like your picture and I remeber my Mom hitting it when brushing my hair from a young age. I found out about it while doing a family geneology. It was said we were related to Royalty so I was just wondering and found it and of course it made me courious.

Deuteronomy 33 contains the blessing pronounced by Moses on
the patriarchs of each of the twelve tribes. Of Benjamin, Moses
says, 'The beloved of the Lord shall dwell in safety by him; and
the Lord shall cover him all the day long, and he shall dwell
between his shoulders.' (33:12) In other words Benjamin and his
descendants were singled out for a very special and exalted
blessing. That much, at any rate, was clear. We were, of course,
puzzled by the promise of the Lord dwelling 'between Benjamin's
shoulders'. Should we associate it with the legendary Merovingian
birthmark - the red cross between the shoulders?

At 4:02 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

The verse is certainly puzzling. I'll have to look into it sometime.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 6:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Prophet Muhammad's "mark" was neither a mole nor a birthmark. It was what we would call today a KEYLOID,a raised scar or puffed scar. which stood out and was the same color as his body, except that small areas of the keloid scar was dark. Also there were little holes in it from which hairs grew. It was not always the same shape as it change shapes over the years from a round lump to what resembled a hand with closed fingers, a foot, a myrt leaf, etc.

At 7:19 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Anonymous, thanks for the comment. Do you have citable sources for your information?

Jeffery Hodges

* * *

At 2:54 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello everyone. Excuse me Anonymous but what is myrt leaf? Or anyone who knows ? Thank you very much! Bye :)

At 6:30 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'm guessing "myrtle" leaf was meant.

Jeffery Hodges

* * *


Post a Comment

<< Home