Sunday, February 14, 2016

Comparing Jesus and Mohammed/Muhammad

Jesus and Mohammed have shaped the course of history and the destiny of man for over two millennia. Christianity and Islam are currently the largest religions with a following of 1.8 billion and 1 billion respectively. No other religion in the world comes close to achieving such numbers. These are the only two religions that have a global presence; in other words you will find Muslims and Christians present in every territory in the world. Both Jesus and Mohammed shared a lot of similarities and differences which is reflected in their respective religions. This hub compares and contrasts the lives of Jesus and Mohammed and examines the impact their deaths had on their followers. It also examines the history and manner of worship of both religions.

Similarities of Jesus & Mohammed

Historically, we encounter reports of miraculous events before and upon the Birth of both leaders. The Christian Bible talks of a host of Angels appearing to shepherds (Bible, Luke 2:8 NIV). There is also the star of Bethlehem, a celestial body, said to have guided three Magi to the birthplace of Jesus where they rendered gifts. (Bible, Mathew 2:2 NIV). As for Mohammed, the Quran reports that as a baby he was sent to be taken care of by a nurse which was the custom in those days. Halimah, his nurse, explains that with the entrance of Prophet Muhammad, blessings showered her life such that their property and herd increased daily. Although drought had spread throughout the deserts and cities, Halimah's sheep were healthy and full of milk. Their shriveled trees prospered and grew back green leaves. The camels regained their milk. Furthermore, a number of ill people who came to their house were cured because of the presence of Prophet Muhammad (www.roshd.org/eng/beliefs/?BEL_CODE=128).Both religious leaders are said to have performed miracles during the course of their lives. The new testament in the Bible is full of stories of miracles such as the turning of water into wine, the feeding of a multitude from a few fish and bread, the healing of the sick and the restoration of sight to the blind (Fisher, 2005). These reports of miraculous happenings provided evidence around which religious credence was given to both Jesus and Mohammed that eventually led to the widespread acceptance of the religions.

The other similarity between the two leaders is that their arrival caused a religious disruption - in the sense that both led to the establishment of new religions; religions that were previously non existent. Jesus proved a challenge to Judaism with his proclamation that he was the son of God. Mohammed on the other hand was brought up in a Judaic and Christian setting only to declare later at around the age of 40 that the Angel Gabriel had visited him and delivered a message from Allah asking him to recite what became the first words of the Quran.

Both men live a life of generosity and humility. This aspect of their lives is well chronicled in the respective religious books.

Differences between Jesus & Mohammed

Despite the similarities mentioned above, there were also stark differences between the two. The most obvious is of course the fact that both men do not belong to the same period in history. Mohammed lived about 600 years after Jesus.
Whereas historically there is no known biological father of Jesus, Mohammed’s father died while he was an infant. There is also no indication that Jesus had a family of his own whereas Mohammed was a family man with many wives and children.
The messages of both religious leaders in a number of areas are also quite contrasting. The subject of how to deal with religious enemies is particularly interesting. The Christian Bible as well as various scholars reports Jesus as teaching people to conquer through love and to “turn the other cheek”. Also, in the NIV Bible at Luke 22:52, Jesus' disciples started to fight against those that came to arrest Jesus; he stopped them, and healed a man injured in the fight. The emphasis of Christian doctrine as far as this subject is concerned is one of forgiveness, prayer, tolerance and love. In contrast, the Quran as well as various Islamic teachings state that Mohammed was granted permission by Allah to wage war to protect religion and unite the people. (The Quran, Sura 9:5, 29) This is the root of “Jihad” (holy war) ideology. Mohammed waged numerous wars but constantly pardoned enemies so long as they agreed to convert. This was after the leaders of Mecca declared war on Muslims whom they had all along viewed with suspicion. Mohammed directed the first attack but was injured in the subsequent retaliation by Mecca. A compromise culminated in the practice of Muslims facing Mecca while praying as opposed to Jerusalem.
The other stark difference between Jesus and Mohammed is that while Mohammed called himself a messenger from God, Jesus on numerous occasions declared that he was the son of God. For example, while as a young boy his parents found Jesus in a temple discussing the Torah with Rabbis. Upon leaving Jesus stated aloud “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”(The Bible, Luke 2:49 NIV)
There is also the issue of the manner of death. Mohammed died in the hands of his wife Aisha whereas Jesus was crucified by the Romans in cahoots with the Jewish leadership for blasphemy. More important is the claim that Jesus resurrected and ascended to heaven and never actually died. This is a major belief in the Christian religion.

Impact of the Death of Both Leaders on their Respective Religions

The death of Mohammed created considerable chaos in the Muslim world. This was mainly due to the fact that there was no heir apparent to fill the leadership vacuum. As a consequence, disagreements broke about between the Shia’s and Sunni’s. The Shia’s believed that leadership belonged to Mohammed’s direct descendants. The Sunni’s on the other hand were of the opinion that the Caliphs should provide leadership. No compromise to this situation could be achieved so there was a serious split that exists to this day. After this initial period of confusion, Islam continued to proliferate growing over the years and being exported to far away lands such as India, Afghanistan, and The North & East African coast.

The death of Jesus and more importantly the ascension claim, led to a cementing of the belief that Jesus was the son of God. His disciples took the message of Jesus to all corners of the Roman Empire and Christianity spread like wildfire. Despite an initial period where Christians were persecuted for about 300 years, by 313 AD Christianity had become the religion of the Roman Empire. Their numbers had grown too large for Emperor Constantine I to ignore or take for granted.

Worship & Spreading Religion

Jesus was constantly worshiped by those who had heard of his miracles. The Christian Bible has numerous instances where people worshiped Jesus by praising him verbally or throwing themselves at his feet. Christians continue to worship Jesus as the son of God, it is the Christian belief that Jesus had been God in human form shown by this quote from the Christian Bible "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." (The Bible, John 1:14 NIV).

Mohammed on the other hand is not worshipped but rather is revered as the last messenger of God. Unlike Jesus, Mohamed never claimed divine status and actually disagreed with the notion that Jesus was the son of God. "Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger: many were the messengers that passed away before him ..." (The Quran, Sura 5:75). According to Islamic Web, the Declaration of Faith of Islam makes it clear that Muslims are taught only to worship God. This declaration is as follows: "There is nothing divine or worthy of being worshipped except for Almighty God, and Muhammad is the Messenger and Servant of God". (www.islamicweb.com/begin/myth3.htm)

Both Jesus and Mohammed placed great emphasis on spreading their messages. We find in the Christian Bible that right at the onset, there was an emphasis on spreading the message of Christ. Nothing demonstrated this better than the famous quote by Jesus, “come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men” (The Bible, Mathew 4:19 NIV). This statement was made when he was calling his first disciples beside the Sea of Galilee. The implication being that the disciple would be used to spread the message of Christ. This act of spreading the message continues to be performed actively today with Christian missionaries travelling far and wide to spread the message of Christ.

Muslims have traditionally used conversion and military conquest to spread the teachings of Islam. Numerous holy wars were fought in the name of Allah and the losers were given the option to convert to Islam. Expansion of the Islamic state was an understandable development, since Muhammad himself had successfully established the new faith through conversion and conquest of those who stood against him. (history-world.org/islam4.htm). Today the practice leans more toward conversion though there are radical elements within the Muslim world who still advocate for a more aggressive approach.

References

  1. Do Muslims Worship Muhammad? Retrieved March 23, 2009 from www.islamicweb.com/begin/myth3.htm
  2. Fisher, M.P. (2005). Living religions (6th Ed.). New Jersey: Prentice-Hall Inc.
  3. Islam from the Beginning to 1300, 2002. Retrieved March 23, 2009 from history-world.org/islam4.htm
  4. Prophet Muhammad in His Youth. Retrieved March 23, 2009 from www.roshd.org/eng/beliefs/?BEL_CODE=128
  5. The New International Version (NIV) Bible, 2000, pub. by Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan, USA.
  6. The Quran, translated by N.J. Dawood, pub. by Penguin Books, London, England.

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