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  #1  
Old 03-17-2004, 11:03 PM
Beastal Beastal is offline
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Origin of "If Muhammad won't come to the mountain.."

Just wondering where this phrase comes from. I am assuming it's talking about Islam's Prophet Muhammad?
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  #2  
Old 03-17-2004, 11:41 PM
Loopus Loopus is offline
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The full phrase is "If the mountain won't come to Muhammad, then Muhammed must go to the mountain." Muhammed went up Mt. Hera where supposedly the angel Gabriel spoke to him, making him the prophet of Islam. The point of the saying is that you have to take action if you want anything to happen. The mountain wasn't going to come to Muhammed; he had to go to it.
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Old 03-17-2004, 11:44 PM
Beastal Beastal is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Loopus
The full phrase is "If the mountain won't come to Muhammad, then Muhammed must go to the mountain."

You sure it's not the other way around?
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  #4  
Old 03-17-2004, 11:48 PM
Atticus Finch Atticus Finch is offline
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Loopus, are you sure? That makes sense as a maxim, but I've heard the exact opposite before - the mountain coming to Muhammad.

It's definitely not a Qu'ranic thing - perhaps there was some English folk tale re Muhammad?
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  #5  
Old 03-18-2004, 12:55 AM
Loopus Loopus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Beastal
You sure it's not the other way around?
I've heard it both ways, but I always thought the other way around was a corruption, since it doesn't seem to make any sense. I guess I could be wrong, but someone would have to explain to me what it's supposed to mean for the mountain to have to come to Muhammed.
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  #6  
Old 03-18-2004, 01:58 AM
Bromley Bromley is offline
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The way that always made sense to me was, "If Muhammad won't come to the mountain, then the mountain will come to Muhammad." That is, Muhammad is so powerful/worthy of respect that even the mountains will move for him. I was wrong .

The actual expression is, "If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad will go to the mountain." Bartleby:

Quote:
If someone wonít do this thing for me, Iíll do it for myself. The proverb can also be interpreted this way: we may find a way to make a difficult situation better if we simply think about the situation in different terms.
What they fail to note is that muslims have no idea what this expression means, having never bumped into it. It's been on the SDMB here and here.
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  #7  
Old 03-18-2004, 06:01 AM
Floater Floater is offline
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What I have heard is that it is not the prophet who is involved, but a much later magician with the same name who once had fooled his audience into believing that he could move a mountain. When he didn't succeed he shrugged his shoulders and said that "If the mountain won't come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain".
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  #8  
Old 03-18-2004, 07:01 AM
netscape 6 netscape 6 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Loopus
I've heard it both ways, but I always thought the other way around was a corruption, since it doesn't seem to make any sense. I guess I could be wrong, but someone would have to explain to me what it's supposed to mean for the mountain to have to come to Muhammed.
I've heard the moutain coming to Muhammad version. I usually hear in the context of if someone won't do something, make it so them not doing it of no consequence.


Example: Fred forgets to shut the door. Someone puts a spring on the door so if Fred forgets to shut the door it will shut it's self. This would be refered to as if Muhammad won't go to the moutain making the moutain come to Muhammad.
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  #9  
Old 03-18-2004, 07:04 AM
Homeboy Homeboy is offline
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Google says : Francis Bacon, Essays - 12. "Of Boldness"

...The people assembled; Mahomet called the hill to come to him, again and again; and when the hill stood still, he was never a whit abashed, but said, If the hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the hill...

Apparently "mountain" is a corruption.

I'll gladly stand corrected if someone has an earlier source...
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  #10  
Old 03-18-2004, 10:37 AM
Aldebaran Aldebaran is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bromley
What they fail to note is that muslims have no idea what this expression means, having never bumped into it.
I'm familiar with it since childhood.
Yet I can't confirm that it really refers to "Muhammed the Prophet of Islam" .


Salaam. A
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  #11  
Old 03-18-2004, 12:33 PM
Bippy the Beardless Bippy the Beardless is offline
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What a great thread, I really learnt something new from this, thankyou all.
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  #12  
Old 03-18-2004, 05:31 PM
Bromley Bromley is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aldebaran
I'm familiar with it since childhood.
Yet I can't confirm that it really refers to "Muhammed the Prophet of Islam" .


Salaam. A
I should have added a qualifier that I was going on statements in the other threads and on Google and not speaking from experience . When I did a quick search on it, it seemed that it was quite common in Indonesia [unsupported and quickly formed opinion]. IIRC, you are a Saudi, which messes with the, "Muslims have no idea what this expression means."

Is it common knowledge over there? I take it that it's not in any religious text?
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  #13  
Old 03-18-2004, 06:53 PM
Aldebaran Aldebaran is offline
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Why should I be Saudi ? (My guess is that you read too much of the fantasies posted by The Famous Mehitabel .... )

In fact, I heard of it because my late mother was Belgian. This particular proverb was however not something I heard in our family or hers. I became familiar with it through the mother of a child I often played with when visiting my grandmother in Belgium.
The "Muhammed" and "mountain" in it drew my attention and curiosity, so I asked my grandmother about it. She gave me the explanation of its meaning and I didn't actually asked if it had then something to do with the Prophet or not (she was Catholic, so she wouldn't have been placed very well to answer that anyway).

However, the other explanation given here also rings vaguely a bell in my memory - I must have heard that somewhere - but I don't recall if that "Muhammed" was actually about some magician, and in which context it was placed then.

All of that was when I was a child and I even completely forgot about it... Until I saw it here. It is a bit surprizing for me to see that it also exists in an English translation and obviously in the same meaning.


Salaam. A
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Old 03-18-2004, 06:58 PM
Aldebaran Aldebaran is offline
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Forgot: My suggestion is that it could have somehow its origin in Islamic sources about how Muhammed received the first revelation.


Salaam. A
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  #15  
Old 03-20-2004, 04:46 PM
Bromley Bromley is offline
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Apologies for the assumption - I thought that'd I'd read it somewhere. So you grew up in a muslim family/community and yet only really encountered this expression when you visited a predominently Christian country?

In which case, it seems likely that Bacon was indeed writing about a commonly told (in Europe) tale that related to someone other than the Muhammad.
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  #16  
Old 03-20-2004, 05:45 PM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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I seem to recall we had a thread about this before. According to James Michener, who researched Islamic lore while writing his novel Caravans and wrote an article about Islam as a byproduct, this old chestnut has nothing to do with the Prophet Muhammad and refers to the hero of some Turkish trickster stories from only a few centuries ago.
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  #17  
Old 03-20-2004, 06:01 PM
Aldebaran Aldebaran is offline
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Well, I also heard it with referring to Mozes. So maybe it has a Christian background after al

Salaam. A
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  #18  
Old 03-20-2004, 06:17 PM
MC Master of Ceremonies MC Master of Ceremonies is offline
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I'm sure He-man said "if the moon won't come to the mountain, then the moutain will go to the moon" in one episode.
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  #19  
Old 03-20-2004, 09:47 PM
The Flying Dutchman The Flying Dutchman is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aldebaran
Well, I also heard it with referring to Mozes. So maybe it has a Christian background after al

Salaam. A
Um, Moses was a Jew.
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  #20  
Old 07-02-2013, 06:54 AM
iesanz iesanz is offline
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'mountain' may be a metaphor

I have heard that where 'mountains' are mentioned in the Qur'an it may refer to the powerful tribal leaders in Makkah who drove the Muslims to eventually migrate to Madinah. Mohammad (saw) concluded a controversial but brilliant treaty outside Makkah with those powerfull Quraish tribal leaders when attempting a pilgrimage. He soon returned victorious for the first hajj, and those leaders capitulated which guaranteed the victory of Islam in Arabia. Just a thought as there are many parables in th Qur'an and hadith (sayings attributed to the Prophet)
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  #21  
Old 07-02-2013, 09:52 AM
eltro102 eltro102 is offline
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the only time i've heard this is as some islamophobic "joke" - saying that the world will have to bend to Islam (the mountain coming to muhammad) rather than Islam changing to bend to the world
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Old 07-02-2013, 11:27 AM
Lion Lion is offline
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Originally Posted by eltro102 View Post
the only time i've heard this is as some islamophobic "joke" - saying that the world will have to bend to Islam (the mountain coming to muhammad) rather than Islam changing to bend to the world
I've never heard it used in this context. It's origin as an Islamic parable makes this even less likely.
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  #23  
Old 07-02-2013, 02:07 PM
Elendil's Heir Elendil's Heir is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bromley View Post
The way that always made sense to me was, "If Muhammad won't come to the mountain, then the mountain will come to Muhammad." That is, Muhammad is so powerful/worthy of respect that even the mountains will move for him....
That's how I always heard and interpreted it, and I always assumed it was a quotation or a paraphrase from the Koran.
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  #24  
Old 07-02-2013, 02:36 PM
hogarth hogarth is offline
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Originally Posted by Elendil's Heir View Post
That's how I always heard and interpreted it, and I always assumed it was a quotation or a paraphrase from the Koran.
Same here. A zombie taught me something today.
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  #25  
Old 08-26-2013, 09:06 AM
drsdv drsdv is offline
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Well I am a muslim,I have read Quran several times and there is no such thing in Quran.Actually i saw this and googled it .By the way I am Turk and i have never heard of something like this so i think that is also not true.
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  #26  
Old 08-26-2013, 09:24 AM
Ludovic Ludovic is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johanna View Post
I seem to recall we had a thread about this before.
I'm trying to think....ohhhhh, maybe about 9 years ago
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  #27  
Old 08-26-2013, 10:36 AM
sailor sailor is offline
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LMGTFY

Quote:
http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/if_the...me_to_Muhammad

"If the mountain won't come to Muhammad then Muhammad must go to the mountain."

The earliest appearance of the phrase is from Chapter 12 of the Essays of Francis Bacon, published in 1625:

Mahomet made the people believe that he would call a hill to him, and from the top of it offer up his prayers, for the observers of his law. The people assembled; Mahomet called the hill to come to him, again and again; and when the hill stood still, he was never a whit abashed, but said, If the hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will go to the hill.

It was published in John Ray's 1670 book of English proverbs. Though widely attributed to Muhammad, the prophet of Islam who lived in Arabia in 6th century, there is no written or oral tradition that traces this phrase back to him.

This phrase does not belong to Prophet Muhammad. It actually belongs to Museylamah who claimed to be prophet after Muhammad's death. When he claimed to be prophet, people asked him to show a miracle like Prophet Muhammad did. Then, he called the hill. Yet, the hill did not come and he said mentioned phrase.
Quote:
http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/i...-muhammad.html

Meaning - If one's will does not prevail, one must submit to an alternative.

Origin
The full phrase 'If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain' arises from the story of Muhammad, as retold by Francis Bacon, in Essays, 1625:

Mahomet cald the Hill to come to him. And when the Hill stood still, he was neuer a whit abashed, but said; If the Hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet wil go to the hil.

Present uses of the phrase usually use the word 'mountain' rather than 'hill' and this version appeared soon after Bacon's Essays, in a work by John Owen, 1643:

If the mountaine will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet will goe to the mountaine.
The phrase in common in Spanish and other languages.
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  #28  
Old 08-26-2013, 11:20 AM
Simplicio Simplicio is offline
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Did Musaylimah move a mountain or was that just PR?

The wikitionary entry seems a bit confused. Is the story first attested by Francis Bacon, or an earlier Muslim source discussing Musaylimah? Wikipedia says Musaylimah was a false prophet who had a reputation as a magician, but doesn't discuss the mountain story.
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  #29  
Old 08-26-2013, 12:05 PM
bibliophage bibliophage is online now
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Wiktionary, like its sister site Wikipedia, can be edited by just about anybody. In this case it was probably edited by somebody who didn't know what he was talking about. Musaylimah existed but there is no evidence he had anything to do with the mountain story. In the absence of evidence to the contrary, I will presume that Francis Bacon invented the story. From context, it is clear Bacon thought "Mahomet" was a kind of mountebank. There is no indication that by "Mahomet" Bacon meant anybody other than the prophet Muhammad. That was then a common spelling of the name. The first edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica, published about a century and a half later still used that spelling, alongside "Mohammed."

Last edited by bibliophage; 08-26-2013 at 12:05 PM..
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  #30  
Old 08-26-2013, 12:52 PM
sailor sailor is offline
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My take is

3- I interpret the original story by Francis Bacon in a different way.
Quote:
Surely, as there are mountebanks for the natural body, so are there mountebanks for the politic body; men that undertake great cures, and perhaps have been lucky, in two or three experiments, but want the grounds of science, and therefore cannot hold out. Nay, you shall see a bold fellow many times do Mahomet's miracle. Mahomet made the people believe that he would call an hill to him, and from the top of it offer up his prayers, for the observers of his law. The people assembled; Mahomet called the hill to come to him, again and again; and when the hill stood still, he was never a whit abashed, but said, If the hill will not come to Mahomet, Mahomet, will go to the hill. So these men, when they have promised great matters, and failed most shamefully, yet (if they have the perfection of boldness) they will but slight it over, and make a turn, and no more ado.
He talks about charlatan politicians who promise things they cannot deliver and later pretend that what they did do is equivalent. Mahomet says he will call the mountain and the mountain will come, then when the mountain does not come he says he will go to the mountain and he pretends it is the same thing. The crux of it is that what he promised and what he did are totally different and yet he pretends they are equivalent. (It seems the lying politician is not a new thing under the sun.)

But today the phrase is used with a different meaning.

2- The saying "If the mountain won't come to Muhammad, then Muhammed must go to the mountain" is today used to mean someone being practical. If the plumber calls and says he can't come because his car broke down, instead of just waiting for him to repair his car you go pick him up and get the work done.

1- As evidenced by this thread, a large segment of the population have totally misunderstood and misinterpreted the saying.
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