Which is Most Correct: Mohammed or Muhammad?

I’m reviewing the page proofs for Recovering the Reformed Confession (cover art to appear here soon). My copy editor, who has done a fantastic job, has Muhammad. I’m pretty sure I had “Mohammed” originally. I have no personal preference but with transliterated words (e.g. Peking -> Beijing) things are fluid and maybe I’ve been left behind, so to speak.

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  1. A couple of observations. 1) Presumably, it’s the same or a similar phenomenon in vowels that explains the difference in spelling between Usama and Osama (bin Laden, that is). 2) The preference for Muhammad as the spelling seems to be at least a 20th C phenomenon, perhaps even a post-WWII phenomenon. I seem to remember seeing Mohammed in Hodge and Warfield (or was it their contemporaries?). I remember it being used (along with Muslims in place of Moslems) in the early 70s when I studied Islam in the religious studies department under Akbar Muhammad at Vanderbilt.

  2. Think of it as a Semitic word, RSC.

    The M’ at the front has “barely” a vowel sound after it. Think mem prefix with a hatef sigol.

    The accent is on “hamm” with a strong, doubled consonant at the end. Think dagesh forte.

    The “ed” is tacked on lightly at the end. Now you can pronounce and spell the name like a native Arabic speaker. Congrats.

    See, you never know how being an MK will benefit you … !

  3. Exactly. And most of us just use the transliterations (or western versions of names, as frequently in the OT) we were once given long ago.

    There may well be literary conventions or publishing protocols or informal “politically correct” guidelines that editors follow.

    But the bottom line–its a foreign language.

  4. Hi Lawrence,

    Thanks for this. I left the text the way the copy editor had it.

    No, the book doesn’t say anything about Islam but it the Reformed response to Islam is a fascinating topic and I’ve encouraged some of our MA (HT) students to work on it. I think one of them actually is.

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