Posted by Smokey Stover on March 26, 2005

In Reply to: HELP posted by ESC on March 26, 2005

: : Does anyone know the origin of the phrase If you can't get Mohammad to come to the mountain then you'll have to bring the mountain to Mohammad?
: : Thanks!

: From the archives:

: IF THE MOUNTAIN WILL NOT COME TO MOHAMMED, MOHAMMED WILL GO TO THE MOUNTAIN - "If one cannot get one's own way, one must adjust to the inevitable. The legend goes that when the founder of Islam was asked to give proofs of his teaching, he ordered Mount Safa to come to him. When the mountain did not comply, Mohammed raised his hands toward heaven and said, 'God is merciful. Had it obeyed my words, it would have fallen on us to our destruction. I will therefore go to the mountain and thank God that he has had mercy on a stiff-necked generation.' The saying has been traced back in English to 'Essays,' by English philosopher Frances Bacon (1561-1626). It was included in John Ray's book of English proverbs in 1678. First attested in the United States in 'Jonathan Belcher Papers' . In German, the phrase translates as 'Wenn der Berg nicht zum Propheten kommt, mu?der Prophet zum Berg kommen." From Random House Dictionary of Popular Proverbs and Sayings by Gregory Y. Titelman (Random House, New York, 1996). I put the "?" in the German phrase because there was a do-jigger that I don't have.

The German character to which ESC refers is "esszett," (or esszet), that is, double s, used only in blackletter or Fraktur, the now mostly disused German alphabet. It is rendered in the Roman alphabet with a double s, which is what it is. So, "muss" (sc. auf English, must). Also due to a typo, prophet and zum were run together. "If the mountain doesn't to the prophet come, [then] must the prophet to the moutain come," following the German word-order. SS