A Mus­lim View­point : Con­trast­ing Jesus and Muhammad

Chris­tians often like to con­trast Jesus and Muham­mad by say­ing that Jesus (P) was a man of love and peace while Muham­mad (P) was a man of war and imple­ment­ed vio­lent” laws. But we must real­ize that Jesus’ career was cut short by his depar­ture. Had he suc­ceed­ed in his first com­ing to com­plete his mis­sion there can be no doubt that his career would have involved some use of force. As we have seen, the New Tes­ta­ment says that dur­ing his sec­ond com­ing when his mis­sion will be com­plet­ed he will come with a rod of iron. And there is evi­dence that even dur­ing his first com­ing, in a low­ly and weak posi­tion, he was not total­ly against the use of force.

Some gospel tra­di­tions sug­gest that his dis­ci­ples car­ried arms which one of them used1 and he him­self ini­ti­at­ed the arm­ing of the dis­ci­ples2, although the gospel writ­ers in var­i­ous con­tra­dic­to­ry ways try to min­i­mize the impli­ca­tions of these tra­di­tions. He report­ed­ly said that he did not come with peace but with sword3. He turned the tables of traders in the Jerusalem tem­ple4, which is an act of phys­i­cal force. Some schol­ars even sug­gest­ed that Jesus (P) and his dis­ci­ples were well-armed and they came to Jerusalem to free Pales­tine from the Romans, but this is high­ly improbable.

Had Jesus’ mis­sion come to some type of com­ple­tion dur­ing his min­istry he would have looked very sim­i­lar to Muham­mad. On the oth­er hand, had the Prophet Muham­mad (P) been killed dur­ing his migra­tion from Makkah, he would have appeared like Prophet Jesus, on whom be peace. The prophets and mes­sen­gers of God are all essen­tial­ly of the same spir­it. Any dif­fer­ences among them are due to the scope of their work and the cir­cum­stances in which they operate.

Prop­er use of force can usu­al­ly take place with­in a sys­tem of law which is enforced by a legit­i­mate author­i­ty. Wars and vio­lence are often the result of a lack of exis­tence of such a sys­tem of law and a legit­i­mate author­i­ty to enforce it. This was the case in the Ara­bi­an penin­su­la where dif­fer­ent tribes lived with­out any well-defined sys­tem of law and with­out any rec­og­nized author­i­ty to enforce it. The world as a whole has also been in a sim­i­lar sit­u­a­tion so far. There are often wars because there is no well-estab­lished sys­tem of law and no legit­i­mate author­i­ty to enforce it.

After the World War II such a sys­tem is slow­ly evolv­ing. But this process will not suc­ceed with­out the prin­ci­ples of faith in God and the here­after and of the brotherhood/​sisterhood of all human beings. It is one of the mis­sions of Islam to estab­lish these prin­ci­ples in the world and to there­by lead it to peace and sta­bil­i­ty. That is, what the Prophet (P) achieved dur­ing his life in Ara­bia in terms of rec­on­cil­ing the hearts of the var­i­ous Arab tribes, Islam wants to achieve in the world as a whole by rec­on­cil­ing dif­fer­ent nations and groups and to bring them under a sin­gle brotherhood/​sisterhood serv­ing the one true tran­scen­dent God.

As it is well known, the Prophet Muham­mad (P) engaged in war­fare, most of the time defen­sive. This use of force pro­ceeds from love. Before the Prophet (P), Ara­bia was inhab­it­ed by tribes who were not under any sys­tem of law enforced by a legit­i­mate author­i­ty. There was no mech­a­nism to set­tle dis­putes which often led to feuds that con­tin­ued for many gen­er­a­tions. The Prophet Muham­mad (P) unit­ed these tribes into a sin­gle broth­er­hood so that there may not be any violence.

The Qur’an itself refers to this :

And remem­ber the favour of God on you : how you were ene­mies and He rec­on­ciled your hearts so that you became as broth­ers by the grace of God ; and how you were at the brink of an abyss of fire and He saved you from it5

This uni­fi­ca­tion, how­ev­er, could not have tak­en place with­out resis­tance which made some war­fare necessary.

Dur­ing all the bat­tles that the Prophet (P) fought, only a few hun­dred peo­ple were killed. And after vic­to­ry all those who for years fought the Prophet (P) were for­giv­en. There was noth­ing like the treat­ment of the sub­ju­gat­ed peo­ple that we see in the Bible. When the city of Makkah was con­quered, the Qur’an did not tell the Prophet (P) to kill every­thing that breathes but rather said the following :

When comes the help of God, and Vic­to­ry, and thou (O Prophet) dost see the peo­ple enter the reli­gion of God in crowds, Cel­e­brate the prais­es of thy Lord, and pray for His for­give­ness : for He is Oft-Return­ing (in grace and mer­cy)6

War­fare requires some con­sol­i­da­tion of one’s troops and in Qur’an, 60 : 1 – 6 the Qur’an brings its fol­low­ers on a war foot­ing. But in the mid­dle of prepar­ing the Mus­lims for war, the pos­si­bil­i­ty of love and rec­on­cil­i­a­tion with the ene­mies is held out.

It may be that God will gen­er­ate love between you and those of them with whom you are now at enmi­ty. God is capa­ble (of all things); God is for­giv­ing and mer­ci­ful7

It is indeed unholy to insti­gate vio­lence, but that does not mean that any and all acts of vio­lence is wrong. There are vio­lence which are sense­less and not right at all, and there are vio­lence which is unavoid­able and jus­ti­fi­able. Islam is against the for­mer but allows the lat­ter only in cer­tain and lim­it­ed cas­es. The Prophet Muham­mad (P) clear­ly showed how to com­bine the two : vio­lence and love.

And only God knows best.Endmark

Cite this arti­cle as : Mohd Elfie Nieshaem Juferi, A Mus­lim View­point : Con­trast­ing Jesus and Muham­mad,” in Bis­mi­ka Allahu­ma, Octo­ber 7, 2005, last accessed April 14, 2024, https://​bis​mikaal​lahu​ma​.org/​p​o​l​e​m​i​c​a​l​-​r​e​b​u​t​t​a​l​s​/​j​e​s​u​s​-​m​u​h​a​m​m​a​d​-​c​o​m​p​a​r​i​s​on/
  1. Mark 14:47[]
  2. Luke 22:35 – 38[]
  3. Matthew 10:34 – 39 ; Luke 12:51 – 53, 14:26 – 27[]
  4. Mark 11:15 – 19 ; Matt 21:12 – 17 ; Luke 19:45 – 48 ; John 2:13 – 22[]
  5. Qur’an, 3:103[]
  6. Qur’an, 110:1 – 3[]
  7. Qur’an, 60:7[]

Published:

in

, ,

Author:

Tags:

Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *