If the mountain won’t come to Muhammad, then Muhammed must go to the mountain
This old proverb means that if one cannot get one’s own way, one must seek an alternative. It is a good example of ellipsis in that the main clause is often omitted without detracting from the meaning, similar to other expressions like, if the cap fits, when in Rome, when the cat’s away…etc. The first citation for this proverb is Francis Bacon Essays (1625) in which Bacon relates a supposedly well-known story about Muhammad the prophet, who tries to impress his followers by making them believe he can summon a hill to him, from the top of which he will offer prayers for the observers of his law. The hill of course stays put. At which point, Muhammad allegedly shrugged and said, “Then Muhammad will go to the hill.” It appears to be an apocryphal story because it does not appear anywhere in the Koran, nor is it known in Islamic culture. It has, however, remained as an English proverb, in which Bacon’s original hill soon became a mountain from about 1640 onwards.