The Qur’an says: “And remember when Jesus, the son of Mary, said: ‘O Children of Israel! I am the Sent One of God to you; I confirm the Torah that is before me, and I give glad tidings of (another) Sent One to come after me whose title shall be ‘the most illustrious’ (Ahmad [أحمد])” (Q 61:6). When Muslim polemicists/biblicists or classical exegetes look to the Christian writings to confirm this ayah (61:6), they never look further than the Johannine Paraclete (ὁ παράκλητος) passages (John 14-16). The Pshitta, unfortunately, does not provide us with an Aramaic/Syriac translation of the original Greek παράκλητος, but rather transliterates the Greek as “Paraqlata.” Equally unfortunate is that Al-Tayyib also rendered the Syriac term, whatever it was, into the transliterated “al-Fariqlit” (الفارقليط). However John Joseph identifies the Aramaic of Paraclete as Mnahmana, meaning “compassionate,” and Mrahmana (modern Aramaic; related to the Arabic rahman). The word Mnahmana appears to be a intensified participle due to the mem-prefix and nun-suffix, while the triliteral root is na-ha-ma. According to the BDB, Syriac does not contain the triliteral root ha-ma-da, from which Ahmad is derived. If it had, then the Piel (fa’ala) participle would have been something close to Mahmada or Mhamdana, which almost sounds like a morph of Muhammad and Ahmad. Payne-Smith gives the Syriac mnahmana (sp. in מנחמנא Hebrew; Arab. منحمنى) as a derivative of the root na-ha-ma, meaning “to raise to life.” Perhaps the difference between Mnahmana and Mhamdana is due to what Moloney and Kelly call “popular etymology.” This is how Moloney explains the difference between the words Shiluakh and Siloam in his commentary of John 9; Jesus told the blind man to wash in the pool of Siloam (Σιλωάμ), “which means ‘Sent’” (ὃ ἑρμηνεύεται ἀπεσταλμένος [John 9:7.5]); the Hebrew Shiluakh (root: shin-lamed-chet) became the Syriac Siloam (sin-lamed-mem) and these words only have one root letter in common: the penultimate radical lamed. Another example could be the Hebrew Bacca to the Arabic Mecca. The point is, the lack of the chamad (ha-ma-da) Hebrew root in Syriac may be due to the fact that it fell out of use, or was subsumed by the similar sounding nacham (na-ha-ma), in which case, Mnahmana and Mhamdana would be equivalent in meaning, or to put it in Johannine terms, Mnahmana, ὃ ἑρμηνεύεται Mhamdana. It is clear, however, that ὁ παράκλητος is meant as a title rather than as a proper name, thus the Syriac Mnahmana as an equivalent to Ahmad is actually more appropriate than Mhamdana, since the former is in fact an adjectival title of the Prophet Muhammad meaning “the most praised, illuistrious, lauded,” just as “the Christ” is a title of Jesus. Interestingly, the Qur’an calls both Jesus and Muhammad “rahmah” (رحمة), a designation closely related to the modern Aramaic for Paraclete Mrahmana, thus possibly explaining the Johannine phrase “another Paraclete” (John 14:16). Mnahmana, Mrahmana, and Ahmad all share two root letters (chet [ha] and mem [mim]) which is indicative of their possibly common archaic origin.
F.C. Burkitt suggests that due to his contacts with monks at St. Catherine’s monastery, Muslim historiographer Ibn Hisham may have had access to a Syriac manuscript of John’s Gospel (Diatessaron?) from which he translated the following from John 15:23-27:
(23) He who hates me hated the Lord (Arrab). (24) and if I had not done in their presence works none before me did, they would not have had sin. But from now they were getting the better of me and of my Lord. (25) But the word which is written in the Law (Annamus) must be fulfilled: “They hated me gratuitously.” (26) So if Almunhamanna had come, him whom Allah will send you from the Lord (and) Spirit of Justice (truth) (qist) or Holiness (quds): he is that which comes forth from the Lord – he would be a witness to me: (27) and you too because of old you were with me. I have told you about this that you might not be made to stumble.
The Paraclete seems to evolve anthropomorphically from a purely spiritual and immortal indwelling entity, “the Holy Spirit,” in John 14, to a more human messenger who “speaks” only what he “hears” and teaches spiritual truths, “the Spirit of Truth,” in John 16. Both are true, as this is yet another example of the Johannine Gospel’s multi-layered aspect. I believe that the Paraclete is the holy spirit of prophecy that inspires men to preserve (and restore) the message of Christ. Christ himself is called a “paraclete”(παράκλητος) in 1 John 2:1 because he is a guided and sanctified prophet who speaks through the Spirit and acts as mediator between God and man. 1 John 4:1 makes it clear that the spirits of prophets must be “tested” in order to determine whether they can be true speakers of the Paraclete (as opposed to speakers of the spirit of the anti-Christ): “Beloved, do not believe in every spirit, but test the spirits (πνεύματα) to determine if they are from God, for many false-prophets (ψευδοπροφῆται) have gone out into the world.” Thus in Johannine nomenclature, “true prophets” and “true spirits” are interchangeable; thus “the Spirit of Truth” can be described as “the Prophet of Truth.” After the widespread interpretive corruption of the Gospel (after “the loss” [منقذا بعد الضياع]), the great restorer of the Gospel, Muhammad, spoke through the agency of the Paraclete and gave us the Qur’an, guidance “unto all truth” about Jesus Christ: “Say: The Holy Spirit revealed it (the Qur’anic message) from your Lord in order to solidify those who have believed, as a guidance and evangelon (Gospel) for the true submitters (قُلۡ نَزَّلَهُ ۥ رُوحُ ٱلۡقُدُسِ مِن رَّبِّكَ بِٱلۡحَقِّ لِيُثَبِّتَ ٱلَّذِينَ ءَامَنُواْ وَهُدً۬ى وَبُشۡرَىٰ لِلۡمُسۡلِمِينَ). The synonymity of “spirit” and “prophet” in John is also found in the Qur’an which refers to the “Messenger after Jesus” as the Ahmad (Mnahmana), because in addition to the interesting etymological correspondences between the Syriac Mnahmana and Ahmad/Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam is the “Spirit (Prophet) of Truth” par excellance, as he is the greatest restorer of the authentic message of Jesus Christ whose core message will remain uncorrupted until the end of time – “he will remain with you forever” (John 14:15). Christian critics of “the Paraclete as Ahmad,” often insist that the descriptions of the Paraclete are only of the Holy Spirit, not a human messenger. Even The Study Qur’an finds the idea of Ahmad being the Paraclete “complicated” by further descriptions of the latter in the Johannine text. However this was not how the Johannine community itself understood the title of Paraclete, as demonstrated above. Additionally, this criticism is ignorant of the fact that according to Christian history, several charismatic Christian “prophets” and preachers, such as Montanus of Phrygia (d. circa late 2nd c. CE) and his female colleagues Prisca and Priscilla, claimed to be the Paraclete, or rather inspired by the Paraclete. Of course Catholic exegetes also confess to an apparent contradiction in the Paraclete passages, if they are to understand the Paraclete as the third person of the Trinity; the Holy Spirit was certainly with Christ during his ministry as well as with Zachariah and John the Baptist for that matter, yet Jesus clearly says that the Paraclete will come after his departure (“for if I do not go, the Helper will not come to you” [John 16:7.5]). If Catholic exegetes can resolve this apparent contradiction by appealing to the enigmatic language of “pre-eternal procession” and “economical sending,” then my contention about the Paraclete as the holy spirit of prophecy finding its greatest manifestation in Muhammad, whose message restored Nazarene Jamsonian/”proto-Johannine” Christology and whose very title Ahmad is etymologically related to “the Paraclete,” is certainly not far-fetched.