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In which year was Mohammad considered a "prophet"? Who first started calling him that?

Per dictionary:

prophet /ˈprɑfət/ /ˈprɒfɪt/

..future is a foggy mystery, but a prophet sees beyond that fog to speak about what’s to come. A fortune teller is a prophet, and so is a savvy computer designer who knows how technology will change in ten years. Prophet comes from the Greek word for “spokesman,” which explains another definition of prophet: someone who speaks on behalf of God.

<rant>I disavow this clever use of homonym, for it primaf appears that someone is trying to trick the listener into thinking the claim is Mohammad has made prophesies (and if that's the claim, this Q would be Whatever's his prophecy?) putting him at the same level as actual prophets when "Prophet" here merely refers to a spokesman/messenger.</rant>In fact the trickery employed here seems to be two-fold, first downgrading Christ to merely-a-prophet and then upgrading Mohammad to the same level.</rant>

For answer, please kindly include a dictionary quote too [perhaps starting from an arabic one].

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  • In your website, one definition of prophet: "someone who speaks by divine inspiration; someone who is an interpreter of the will of God"
    – The Z
    Commented Jun 10 at 21:03
  • @TheZ, ? . "someone who speaks on behalf of God".
    – Pacerier
    Commented Jun 10 at 21:07
  • Below that section is where they provide the actual definitions.
    – The Z
    Commented Jun 10 at 21:16

1 Answer 1

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In Arabic, Muhammad is referred to as a نبي (nabi), which is normally translated as "prophet".

The term in Arabic is derived from the root (ن ب أ), from which are also derived the verbs نبّأ (nabba'a, to inform) and the noun نبأ (naba'a, news). The general meaning of nabi here can be understood to be "one who brings news/information/revelation (from Allah)".

Pertinent to your question, this term parallels the Hebrew term נָבִיא (navi), which had a similar meaning in the Old Testament and is the term used to identify the biblical prophets. The Arabic usage of nabi was clearly meant to reflect the same usage and refers to (in most cases) the same prophets.

At the time of Muhammad, the Hebrew bible had already been translated into Greek; the Greek translation of the Hebrew navi was προφήτης (prophetes), from which the English "prophet" was clearly derived.

So to directly answer your question, "In which year was Mohammad considered a "prophet"?", the answer would pretty much be when he started ministering, so around 610 AD. The term nabi/navi was already in use and understood with the same meaning during the time of Muhammad's revelation when he was identified as such, and the translation of navi=prophet was already well-established through the Greek scriptures by this time, which were written centuries prior, and from which the subsequent English translations were based.


As to the historicity of the translation, I can't speak for when the term itself was first used in English to refer to Muhammad specifically since there was no direct contact between England and the Islamic empire; early literature of the western world encountering Islam would've likely been translated from the Latin (propheta) or French (profete). I was however able to find the following excerpt from "The Alcoran of Mahomet", an English translation of the Qur'an published in 1649 and translated by Alexander Ross, showing the term clearly in use with this meaning by that time:

"They believe that Mahomet was a very great Prophet, whom God sent into the world to teach men…"

I can't say that this was the first time the term was used in this context, but this translation of the Qur'an (translated by Christians for a Christian audience) predates the first Muslim-published English-language translation by centuries.

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