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JESUS VS. MUHAMMAD
by Greg Williamson (c) 2010

The following information, including links for further study, is offered as a means of better understanding the differences between Islam and Christianity. It is presented from a Christian perspective, and makes no apologies for asserting the superiority of Jesus Christ and the Christian faith. Christianity and Islam make some very serious -- and very different -- truth claims. Contrary to the muddled thinking of some "enlightened" folk, both cannot be true.

That said, it is crucial that every true Christian:

  • determine to see every person -- including every Muslim -- as a fellow human-being, created in God's image, for whom Christ died.
  • strive to demonstrate Christian love and kindness to every person -- including every Muslim -- with whom we come in contact.
  • never shrink from our God-given commission to boldly proclaim to every person -- including every Muslim -- the life-giving Gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

CONTENTS
Christ is Superior to Muhammad
The Prophet Jesus in Islam
Islam and Violence
Muhammad's Prophetic Call
Alleged Divine Call of Muhammad
Further Study

 

 

CHRIST IS SUPERIOR TO MUHAMMAD

Muhammad, the founder of Islam agreed with Jesus and Moses that God is one, that he created the universe, and that he is beyond the universe. There is considerable agreement over the events of the first sixteen chapters of Genesis, to the point where Hagar was cast out from Abram's house. After this, the Bible focuses on Isaac while Islam is concerned with what happened to their forefather, Ishmael. The teaching of Muhammad may be summarized in the five doctrines:

  1. Allah is the one true God.
  2. Allah has sent many prophets, including Moses and Jesus, but Muhammad is the last and greatest.
  3. The Qur'an is the supreme religious book, taking priority over the Law, the Psalms, and the Injil (Gospels) of Jesus.
  4. There are many intermediate beings between God and us (angels), some of whom are good and some evil.
  5. Each man's deeds will be weighed to determine who will go to heaven and hell at the resurrection. The way to gain salvation includes reciting the Shahadah several times a day ("There is no God but Allah; and Muhammad is his prophet."), praying five times a day, fasting a month each year, almsgiving, and making pilgrimages to Mecca.

Christ offers a superior message.
Jesus made superior claims to those made by Muhammad. Jesus claimed to be God. Muhammad claimed only to be a mere man who was a prophet. If Jesus, then, is not God, he is certainly no prophet. Jesus offered a superior confirmation for his claims. Jesus performed numerous miracles. Muhammad performed no miracles and admitted in the Qur'an that Jesus did many. Only Jesus died and rose from the dead.

Christ offers a better way of salvation.
Unlike the God of Islam, the God of the Bible reached out to us by sending his Son to earth to die for our sins. Muhammad offered no sure hope for salvation, only guidelines for working oneself into Allah's favor. Christ provided all that is needed to get us to heaven in his death, "For Christ also died once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that he might bring us to God" (1 Peter 3:18).

Christ offers a superior model life.
Muhammad spent the last ten years of his life at war. As a polygamist he exceeded even the number of wives (four) he had prescribed for his religion. He also violated his own law by plundering caravans coming to Mecca, some of whom were on pilgrimage. He engaged in retaliation and revenge, contrary to his own teaching.


(Quoted verbatim from the Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics.)

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THE PROPHET JESUS IN ISLAM

Whereas there are some areas of general agreement between the Qur'anic and Old Testament views of prophets (with one major exception being the Islamic claim that they were sinless), there is little substantial correspondence between the Qur'anic and New Testament views of the person of Jesus Christ. According to the Qur'an Jesus was merely a human being who was chosen by God as a prophet and sent for the guidance of the people of Israel.

The Nature of Jesus
Interestingly, in spite of its emphasis on the humanity of Jesus, in many respects the Qur'an seems to portray Jesus as a unique prophet in history. Jesus is mentioned in ninety-three verses of fifteen suras, a total of ninety-seven times (although in most cases quite briefly and only as a name in the prophetic list). He is recognized as a great Hebrew prophet, and only his name along with Abraham's, appears in every list of prophets. The Qur'an gives Jesus [several] honorary titles [although] "to the Muslim they lack entirely the content of deity." ... Furthermore, both the Qur'an and the universal opinion of Muslims vehemently insist that Jesus is not the divine Son of God. The Qur'an is filled with verses that speak against the idea of God begetting a son.

The Qur'an affirms the virgin birth (19:16–21; 3:37–45) and Jesus' many miraculous acts recorded in the New Testament, such as his healings and raising people from the dead. It also refers to miracles of Jesus recorded in the New Testament apocryphal books, such as creating live birds from clay and speaking as a newborn infant in his cradle proclaiming his prophethood (19:29–31; 5:113). In addition the Qur'an affirms that God "raised him up" to heaven (4:158).

In addition to these Qur'anic accounts, we also see a reverential treatment of Jesus in Islamic tradition ... [although] it is a mistake to think ... that Islam portrays Christ as someone more than a mere prophet.

Christ's Mission
Many Muslims believe that Jesus' ministry was limited to the nation of Israel, and his revelation was basically one of confirmation and revision of the Mosaic covenant (5:46–47).

Of the actual content of Jesus' life and message we are given little information in the Qur'an. What we are told is that he was given the gospel by God as guidance for his people, invited people to worship one God (5:72), permitted the Jews to do certain things that were forbidden by the previous law, and performed many miracles for his disciples and the people around him.

[T]he idea that "Jesus had a specific -- some would say a limited -- mission to Jewry is stressed in the Qur'an. Only Muhammad as the 'seal of the prophets' belongs to all times and places." Thus, "the 'universality' which Christianity is alleged to have 'read into' Jesus, violating this more explicitly Jewish vocation, is seen as part of that de-Semiticisation of Jesus' Gospel, which is … attributed to the early Gentile Church."

Christ's Death
Besides the fundamental Muslim and Christian disagreement concerning the person and mission of Jesus Christ, there is also the centuries-long debate about the Qur'anic denial of Jesus' crucifixion. ... "The Quranic teaching is that Christ was not crucified nor killed by the Jews, notwithstanding certain apparent circumstances which produced that illusion in the minds of some of his enemies; that disputations, doubts and conjectures on such matters are vain; and that he was taken up to God."

There are various speculations among Muslim commentators regarding the last hours of Jesus' life on earth. Based on the phrase that "it was made to appear to them," orthodox Muslims have traditionally interpreted this to mean that Jesus was not crucified on the cross, but that God made someone else look like Jesus and this person was mistakenly crucified as Christ. And the words "God raised him up unto Himself" have often been taken to mean that Jesus was taken up alive to heaven without dying.

As to the identity of this "substitute" and the question of how this substitute was changed into the likeness of Jesus, Muslim commentators are not in agreement. Candidates for this individual have ranged from Judas to Pilate to Simon of Cyrene or one of Jesus' close disciples. Some have claimed that one of the disciples volunteered to take upon himself the likeness of Jesus so his master could escape the Jews, but others have insisted that God cast Jesus' likeness on one of Jesus' enemies.

The view that Judas replaced Christ on the cross was again recently popularized in the Muslim world by The Gospel of Barnabas (see Appendix 3). Regarding the question of what then happened to Jesus himself, Muslims usually contend that Jesus escaped the cross by being taken up to heaven and that one day he will come back to earth and play a central role in the future events. Based on some of the alleged sayings of Muhammad it is believed that just before the end of time Jesus will come back to earth, kill the Antichrist (al-Dajjal), kill all pigs, break the cross, destroy the synagogues and churches, establish the religion of Islam, live for forty years, and then will be buried in the city of Medina beside the prophet Muhammad.

It might seem perplexing as to why the Qur'an should deny the death of Christ, an event that is considered by the great majority of humankind as an uncontested fact of history. Sir Norman Anderson explains the Qur'anic motivation for this denial:

The rationale of this is that the Qur'an regularly reports that earlier prophets had at first encountered resistance, unbelief, antagonism and persecution; but finally the prophets had been vindicated and their opponents put to shame. God had intervened on their behalf. So Jesus, accepted in the Qur'an as one of the greatest of the prophets … could not have been left to his enemies. Instead, God must have intervened and frustrated their evil purpose. Muhammad, as himself a prophet -- even the 'seal' of prophets -- had a personal interest in the certainty of divine succour. If Messiah 'IMsam had been allowed to die in this cruel and shameful way, then God himself must have failed -- which was an impossible thought. 

Muslims believe the last and greatest prophet [is] Muhammad. Belief in the prophethood of Muhammad is the second part of the Islamic shahada, "There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is His prophet." Furthermore, according to the Muslim understanding of the prophets' roles in history, all the prophets prior to the advent of Muhammad were limited in their mission.


(Quoted verbatim from Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross.
See book for footnote information.)

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ISLAM AND VIOLENCE

Violence in Islam, whether in the form of terrorism, or the persecution of Christians and other minorities in the Muslim world, or capital punishment for an individual who turns away from Islam, or death threats on Salman Rushdie for allegedly insulting prophet Muhammad, are not simply some isolated incidents or aberrations from the true and peaceful religion of Islam. Such violence in fact goes to the very roots of Islam as found in the Qur'an and the actions and teachings of the prophet of Islam himself. Osama bin Laden quoted some of the very same Qur'anic and hadith passages that we have documented here in order to provide religious justification of his actions (see the transcript of his video tape in the New York Times, 14 December 2001, B4).

We would like to conclude this section by referring to a program produced by Frontline and shown on PBS around the country entitled, "The Saudi Time Bomb." At one point in this program we were told about the state sponsored religious education in Saudi Arabia. According to Frontline, "approximately 35% of school studies is devoted to compulsory Saudi religious education." One of these textbooks published in 2000 was a collection of prophet Muhammad's sayings, which was used by middle school students in Saudi Arabia. One lesson is entitled, "The Victory of Muslims Over Jews." According to a tradition from prophet Muhammad, "The last hour won't come before the Muslims would fight the Jews and the Muslims will kill them so Jews would hide behind rocks and trees. Then the rocks and trees would call: oh, Muslim, oh, servant of God! There is a Jew, behind me, come and kill him." Like a good textbook, the teachings of this saying are summarized in several propositional statements such as:

  • It's fate decided by Allah that the Muslims and Jews will fight till the end of the world.
  • This Hadith predicts for the Muslims God's victory over the Jews.
  • Jews and Christians are the enemies of believers. They will never approve of the Muslims, beware of them (link).

Ideas have consequences. It has also become very clear for our world once again that violent ideas have violent consequences. We are not engaging in old Christian-Muslim polemics when we point out the prevalence of violence throughout the foundations and thus subsequent history of Islam. We are only exposing the teachings in the most original and authoritative sources of Islam. We believe that it is essential for people of goodwill around the world to know that underneath all the political, social, and cultural causes for the rise of violence among Muslims, there is a religious foundation for violence deeply embedded within the very worldview of Islam. The world needs to take the challenge of Islam more seriously than at any other time in the past.


(Quoted verbatim from Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross.)

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MUHAMMAD'S PROPHETIC CALL

Prophetic call and early religious activity
About 610 ... Muhammad had a vision of a majestic being (later identified with the angel Gabriel) and heard a voice saying to him, "You are the Messenger of God." This marked the beginning of his career as messenger (or apostle) of God (rasul Allah), or Prophet (nabi). From this time, at frequent intervals until his death, he received "revelations" -- that is, verbal messages that he believed came directly from God. Sometimes these were kept in memory by Muhammad and his followers, and sometimes they were written down. About 650 they were collected and written in the Qur'an (or Koran, the sacred scriptures of Islam), in the form that has endured. Muslims believe the Qur'an is divine revelation, written in the words of God himself.

Muhammad is said to have been perturbed after the vision and first revelation but to have been reassured by his wife, Khadijah. In his later experiences of receiving messages there was normally no vision. (Occasionally there were physical concomitants, such as perspiring on a cold day, and these gave rise to the suggestion, now agreed to be unwarranted, that he was an epileptic.) Sometimes he heard a noise like a bell but apparently never a voice. The essence of such an experience was that he found a verbal message in his heart -- that is, in his conscious mind. With the help of Khadijah's Christian cousin Waraqah, he came to interpret these messages as in general identical with those sent by God through other prophets or messengers to Jews, Christians, and others and to believe that by the first great vision and by the receipt of the messages he was commissioned to communicate them to his fellow citizens and other Arabs. In addition to proclaiming the messages he received, Muhammad must have offered explanations and expositions of them in his own words, as is evident in the large body of prophetic traditions that the community has preserved.

Soon he gathered some sympathetic friends who accepted his claim to be a prophet and joined him in common worship and prayers. These culminated in an act of prostration in which they touched the ground with their foreheads in acknowledgment of God's majesty -- still a cardinal act in Islamic worship. In about 613 Muhammad began preaching publicly ...

The people of Mecca at the time nominally worshipped many gods, but few believed that man was dependent on supernatural powers. The merchants thought most things could be accomplished by wealth and by human planning. Some men regarded Allah as a "high god" who stood above lesser deities. (Allah, the Arabic word for God, is used by Christian Arabs as well as by Muslims.) The earliest passages of the Qur'an revealed to Muhammad emphasize the goodness and power of God as seen in nature and in the prosperity of the Meccans and call on the latter to be grateful and to worship "the Lord of the Ka'bah," who is thus identified with God. Gratitude is to be expressed in generosity with one's wealth and avoidance of niggardliness. As a sanction, men are warned that they will appear before God on the Last Day to be judged according to their deeds and assigned to heaven or hell.

By proclaiming this message publicly, Muhammad gained followers ... The new religion was eventually called Islam -- i.e., "surrender [to the will of God]" -- and its adherents were called Muslims -- i.e., "those who have surrendered" -- though the Qur'an speaks of them primarily as "the believers."


(Quoted verbatim from the Encyclopedia Britannica.)

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ALLEGED DIVINE CALL OF MUHAMMAD

Muhammad claims to be called of God to be a prophet. Indeed, he claimed to be the last of God's prophets on earth, "the Seal of the Prophets" (sura 33:40). The alleged miraculous nature of his call is used by Muslims to prove that Islam is the true religion.

An examination of the facts, even from Muslim sources, reveals that the Muslim view of Muhammad suffers an acute case of overclaim. One does not find, for example, support for the claim that he was called to bring the full and final revelation from God in the circumstances that surround Muhammad's call.

Elements of the Call
Choked by an Angel

During his call Muhammad said he was choked by the angel -- three times. Muhammad said of the angel, "he choked me with the cloth until I believed that I should die. Then he released me and said: 'Recite!' (Iqra). When he hesitated, he received "twice again the repeated harsh treatment" (Andrae, 43–44). This seems an unusual form of coerced learning, uncharacteristic of the gracious and merciful God Muslims claim Allah to be, as well as contrary to the free choice they believe he has granted his creatures.

Deceived by a Demon?
Muhammad himself questioned the divine origin of the experience. At first he thought he was being deceived by a jinn or evil spirit. In fact, Muhammad was at first deathly afraid of the source of his newly found revelation, but he was encouraged by his wife Khadijah and her cousin, Waraqah, to believe that the revelation was the same as that of Moses and that he too would be a prophet of his nation. One of the most widely respected modern Muslim biographers, Muhammad Husayn Haykal, speaks vividly of Muhammad's plaguing fear that he was demon possessed:

Stricken with panic, Muhammad arose and asked himself, 'What did I see? Did possession of the devil which I feared all along come to pass?' Muhammad looked to his right and his left but saw nothing. For a while he stood there trembling with fear and stricken with awe. He feared the cave might be haunted and that he might run away still unable to explain what he saw. [74, emphasis added]

Haykal notes that Muhammad had feared demon possession before, but his wife Khadijah talked him out of it. For "as she did on earlier occasions when Muhammad feared possession by the devil, so now stood firm by her husband and devoid of the slightest doubt." Thus "respectfully, indeed reverently, she said to him, 'Joy to my cousin! Be firm. By him who dominates Khadijah's soul I pray and hope that you will be the Prophet of this nation. By God, he will not let you down'" (ibid., 75). Indeed, Haykal's description of Muhammad's experience of receiving a "revelation" fits that of other mediums. Haykal wrote of the revelation to remove the suspicion of guilt for one of Muhammad's wives:

Muhammad had not moved from his spot when revelation came to him accompanied by the usual convulsions. He was stretched out in his clothes and a pillow was placed under his head. A'ishah [his wife] later reported, "Thinking that something ominous was about to happen, everyone in the room was frightened except me, for I did not fear a thing, knowing I was innocent . . ." Muhammad recovered, he sat up and began to wipe his forehead where beads of perspiration had gathered. [ibid., 337]

Another characteristic often associated with occult "revelations" is contact with the dead (cf. Deut. 18:9–14). The Muslim biographer, Haykal, relates an occasion when "The Muslims who overheard him [Muhammad] asked, 'Are you calling the dead?' and the Prophet answered, 'They hear me no less than you do, except that they are unable to answer me' " (ibid., 231). On another occasion Muhammad was found "praying for the dead buried in that cemetery" (ibid., 495). Haykal even frankly admits that "There is hence no reason to deny the event of the Prophet's visit to the cemetery of Baqi as out of place considering Muhammad's spiritual and psychic power of communication with the realms of reality and his awareness of spiritual reality that surpasses that of ordinary men" (ibid., 496, emphasis added).

Silence and Depression
Also clouding the alleged divine origin of his message is the fact that after this there was a long period of silence which, according to some accounts lasted about three years, during which time Muhammad fell into the depths of despair, feeling forsaken by God, and considering suicide. These circumstances seem uncharacteristic of a divine call.

The Satanic "Revelation"
On another occasion Muhammad set forth a revelation he thought was from God, but later changed it, claiming Satan had slipped the verses into the text. God said to the prophet, "They are but names which ye have named, ye and your fathers, for which Allah hath revealed no warrant" (sura 53:23, Pickethall trans. cf. 22:51). But unfortunately human deception is always a possibility. Muslims themselves believe that all claimants to revelations opposing the Qur'an involve deception. In view of this, it is reasonable to ask whether Muslims have taken seriously the possibility that Muhammad's first impression was the right one, that he was being deceived by a demon. They acknowledge that Satan is real and that he is a great deceiver. Why then dismiss the possibility that Muhammad himself was being deceived, as he first thought?

Human Sources for Qur'an
Finally, some critics see nothing at all supernatural in the source of Muhammad's ideas, noting that the vast majority of ideas in the Qur'an have known Jewish, Christian, or pagan sources. Even the noted biographer, Haykal, unwittingly places his finger on a possible source of Muhammad's "revelations." He wrote,

The Arab's imagination is by nature strong. Living as he does under the vault of heaven and moving constantly in search of pasture or trade, and being constantly forced into the excesses, exaggerations, and even lies which the life of trade usually entails, the Arab is given to the exercise of his imagination and cultivates it at all times whether for good or for ill, for peace or for war. [ibid., 319]

Conclusion
The claim that Muhammad was called of God is not supportable by the evidence. Indeed, the indication, even in Muslim sources, is just the opposite. What is more, there is no supernatural confirmation of this call such as there is in the case of Jesus.

Finally, the character of Muhammad falls far short of his claim. Compared to the impeccable character of Christ, Muhammad pales into insignificance.


Further Study:
Koran online [link]
SBC NAMB Comparison Chart: Islam & Christianity (pdf)
SBC NAMB Belief Bulletin: Islam (pdf)
4Truth.net - Islam [link]
The Death of Jesus
The Resurrection of Jesus
The Deity of Jesus Christ