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?

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.

You sure it’s not the other way around?

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?

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.

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 :slight_smile: .

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

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.

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”.

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.

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…

I’m familiar with it since childhood.
Yet I can’t confirm that it really refers to “Muhammed the Prophet of Islam” .
Salaam. A

What a great thread, I really learnt something new from this, thankyou all.

I should have added a qualifier that I was going on statements in the other threads and on Google and not speaking from experience :slight_smile: . 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?

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

Forgot: My suggestion is that it could have somehow its origin in Islamic sources about how Muhammed received the first revelation.
Salaam. A

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.

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.

Well, I also heard it with referring to Mozes. So maybe it has a Christian background after al :slight_smile:

Salaam. A

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.

Um, Moses was a Jew.

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)