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Jesus and Muhammad Methods of Spreading their Messages
All the passages below are taken from Mark A. Gabriel’s* book “Jesus and Muhammad” published in 2004.
Muhammad: The first seven years in Medina.
Age: 53 to 60
Jesus: The final one to two years of ministry up to his final journey to Jerusalem.
Age: 34 to 35
Jesus practiced his ministry the same way from beginning to end. But in Muhammad's life, there was an event that marked a major change. It was the flight from Mecca to Medina known as the hijra. In this chapter we will see what happened after Muhammad's move and how he worked with his twelve leaders to spread Islam. We will also see how Jesus worked with his twelve disciples to spread his message.
We will also look at a major subplot in their lives---the opposition they encountered from the Jewish communities or religious leaders of their day.
MUHAMMAD'S ARMY SPREADS ISLAM
In the last chapter, we left Muhammad just after he completed his treaty with the two strongest tribes of Medina. At this point, he began sending his followers in small groups from Mecca to live in Medina. This took a few months.
Muhammad weeps over Mecca
When Muhammad was ready to personally emigrate from Mecca to Medina, he went to the top of the mountain that overlooked Mecca and said, "0 Mecca, I swear you are the closest city to my heart, and if it weren't for your people who forced me out, I wouldn't have left."1
In other words, Muhammad was saying how much he loved Mecca. Remember Muhammad's words because we will revisit them when he returns to Mecca eight years later.
After this, Muhammad and one of his most loyal followers, Abu Bakr, left Mecca at night and made it to Medina safely. This is known as the second hijra, or pilgrimage.2 The Islamic calendar marks dates according to A.H., or after hijra. Therefore a date such as A.H. 5 refers to the fifth year after Muhammad immigrated to Medina.
After years of seeking protection, Muhammad was now in a position of safety. What did he do?
Permission to fight
In Mecca, Muhammad had spent thirteen years being cooperative and tolerant, not driven toward violence. He frequently forgave those who hurt him and did not try to take revenge. After he moved to Medina, this soft lamb turned into a roaring lion.
Before the end of his first year in Medina, Muhammad announced that Allah had given him permission to fight. Islamic history records:
Then the apostle prepared for war in pursuance of God's command to fight his enemies and to fight those polytheists who were near at hand whom God commanded him to fight. This was thirteen years after his call.3
During the first couple of years in Medina, Muhammad led some raids personally, but he also sent his relatives and loyal followers on raids of their own. This included sending his Uncle Hamza with thirty soldiers to ambush a caravan from Mecca and sending a cousin to attack some members of the Quraysh tribe as they were traveling outside of Mecca.4
The people of Mecca did not organize any large-scale attacks on Muhammad after he left Mecca. However, Muhammad ordered an attack against a large caravan from Mecca that had gone out to Syria and was returning home. This was a major turning point in the history of Islam.
This attack was more than just economic; it was an attack against Mecca's survival. The caravans went out only twice a year. They returned with food, sugar, salt, and clothing that the people needed to survive. Mecca was in a desert where the people couldn't produce very much food, so they really depended on trade. If Muhammad had succeeded in his attack on the caravan, Mecca would have suffered from many shortages.
As it was, the leader of the caravan, Abu Sufyan, heard about Muhammad's plot and avoided the place where Muhammad was waiting in ambush. (Remember this man because he will be a part of Muhammad's story again later.) The people of Mecca decided, however, that Muhammad needed to be punished for his intentions. They went to fight him, and the two parties met in the Valley of Badr. Muhammad only had about three hundred men, but they won a surprise victory and killed or captured many of the Meccans (Battle of Badr, A.D. 624, A.H. 2).5 This made him the strongest leader in Arabia. (Even though he had defeated their army, the city of Mecca remained under the control of the Quraysh at this time.)
The Battle of Badr brought holy war to a whole new level. Muhammad said that the angel Gabriel came to him with new revelations about how to handle their success. This is surah 8 of the Quran, titled "The Spoils of War." This chapter talks about the battle and gives some practical instruction. Let's look at four key points.
1. The revelation told Muslims how to divide the goods that they captured from the defeated army.
And know that out of all the booty that ye may acquire (in war), a fifth share is assigned to Allah, and to the Messenger, and to near relatives, orphans, the needy, and the wayfarer.
-SURAH 8:41, ALI TRANSLATION
In other words, Muhammad took 20 percent (part of which he could distribute to those in need), and the remaining 80 percent was divided among the people who fought with him. This sounds pretty good when your army has three hundred people, but later his army had up to ten thousand men. With an army that size, each fighter only got 0.008 percent compared to Muhammad's 20 percent. This caused some complaints among the soldiers.
2. The revelation commanded Muslims to continue to fight anyone who rejected Islam.
Fight them until there is no more Fitnab (disbelief and polytheism, i.e. worshipping others besides Allah) and the religion (worship) will be for Allah Alone [in the whole of the world].
O Prophet (Muhammad)! Urge the believers to fight. If there are twenty steadfast persons amongst you, they will overcome two hundreds.. .because they (the disbelievers) are people who do not understand.
The only way to be safe from Muhammad's army was to accept Islam.
Say to those who have disbelieved, if they cease (from disbelief), their past will be forgiven. But if they return (thereto), then the examples of those (punished) before them have already preceded (as a warning).
3. The revelation told Muslims to prepare for future missions.
And make ready against them all you can of power, including steeds of war ...to threaten the enemy of Allah and your enemy.
- SURAH 8:60
4. The revelation commanded them to "fight hard."
0 you who believe! When you meet (an enemy) force, take a firm stand against them and remember the Name of Allah much (both with tongue and mind), so that you may be successful.
Muhammad taught that his mission was to spread Islam through the use of holy war. He gave his followers authority to attack unbelievers and seize their belongings.
MECCA TRIES TO STOP MUHAMMAD
All of Arabia felt threatened by Muhammad. In A.H. 5, some idol worshipers from Mecca joined with some Jews from Medina to attack Muhammad. The Muslims dug trenches around the city of Medina and successfully discouraged the Meccans, who retreated. Almost no fighting occurred. Known as the Battle of the Trench, this event is very important in Islamic history because if Muhammad had suffered a decisive defeat, the future of Islam would have been threatened.
As it was, Muhammad continued to spread Islam through his military. He personally accompanied the fighters on twenty seven raids, and in nine of those he was on the battlefield fighting along with them. The Muslims conducted a total of thirty-eight raids and expeditions while Muhammad lived in Medina.6
Muhammad continued to report revelations from the angel Gabriel during this time. These messages were collected and added to the Quran, as before. The new revelations called for spreading Islam by force.
Now, let's turn to Jesus near the end of his life and see how he instructed his disciples to spread his message.
JESUS SENDS HIS DISCIPLES TO SPREAD THE GOSPEL
Unlike Muhammad, who changed greatly after he moved to Medina, Jesus did not change his message or method of spreading it. As he entered into his third year of ministry, he continued to travel, speak in synagogues or public places, heal the sick, cast out demons, and perform other miracles. The common people were drawn to him, and most religious leaders felt threatened by him. In this setting, he gave his twelve disciples instructions for going out without him to spread the gospel. Later he called a larger group of seventy-two to do the same things. Let's look in detail at what he told them.
As I present Jesus' instructions to his disciples, I will put them in perspective with the instructions that Muhammad gave his people.
1. Muhammad gave his people authority to wage war, but Jesus gave his disciples a different kind of authority. The Book of Matthew says:
He...gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness. -MATTHEW 10:1
After giving them authority, Jesus commanded his followers to:
Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons.
2. Muhammad gave his people instructions about how to divide the goods that they seized from unbelievers. Jesus forbid the disciples to ask people for money or to carry money with them.
Freely you have received, freely give. Do not take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts.
But Jesus allowed his followers to stay in people's houses and eat with them.
Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages.
3. If a city rejected Islam, Muhammad ordered the Muslims to attack it. Jesus said:
If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake the dust off your feet when you leave that home or town. I tell you the truth, it will be more bearable for Sodom and Gomorrah on the day of judgment than for that town.
In other words, Jesus said the cities that rejected his message would be punished by God on judgment Day, not by the disciples in the present life.
Just as he did in his own life, Jesus told his followers to walk away from those who were against them.
When you are persecuted in one place, flee to another.
4. Muhammad told his people to fight hard against unbelievers. Jesus told his followers be ready for unbelievers to fight them. He said that they would be flogged, arrested, and put on trial (Matthew 10:16-19).
The disciples followed Jesus' instructions.
They went out and preached that people should repent. They drove out many demons and anointed many sick people with oil and healed them.
CONFLICTS WITH THE JEWISH PEOPLE
There is a major subplot in the stories of both Jesus and Muhammad---their conflicts with Jews or Jewish religious leaders. Most of Muhammad's interaction with the Jewish people occurred while he was in Medina because Mecca had few Jews. Jesus, who himself was a Jew, interacted with the Jewish people all his life. But he experienced the most conflict with Jewish religious leaders. Let's look first at what occurred in Muhammad's life.
Muhammad's conflicts with the Jews
The largest Jewish community in Arabia was in Medina. After Muhammad moved there, he interacted with Jews every day. He did business with them, visited their homes, and ate with them.
Muhammad expected the Jews to accept Islam because he taught there was only one God, just as the Jews believed. However, the Jews were not impressed by Muhammad's teachings. They wanted him to show them a sign that he was true prophet. The Quran records:
And they say: "Why are not signs sent down to him from his Lord?"
Muhammad's response was that he was only a man, a warner, and that the Quran itself was the only sign people needed.
Say: "The signs are only with Allah, and I am only a plain warner." Is it not sufficient for them that We have sent down to you the Book (the Quran) which is recited to them?
Muhammad debated with the Jews for three years. Then to everyone's shock, he ordered the assassination of a well-known Jewish man who had been criticizing him with poetry (A.H.3). Here's how the event occurred.
In a meeting with some of his followers Muhammad asked, "Who will kill this man for me?" Some Muslims volunteered. One evening, they went to the man's house and invited him to take a walk with them. After they had walked and talked for a while, one Muslim gave the signal, and they attacked the man with swords and a dagger, stabbing him to death.6
Muhammad's attitude toward the Jewish people had changed. He ordered another assassination and, because they refused to accept Islam and posed a threat to him, he systematically routed them out of Arabia.
First, he attacked the Beni Nadir (tribe of Nadir, A.H. 4). He destroyed their date palms and forced the people to leave the village. Two years later he called for a raid on the village of Beni Qurayzah [Kor-AY-zuh]. He put them under siege. After they surrendered, he killed all the men (about six hundred) and took the women and children as slaves (A.H. 5).7 Finally, he drove the Jews out of Khaybar (A.H. 7), a Jewish village near Medina.
Muhammad supported himself and his family with the property he seized from the Jews of Khaybar.
It has been narrated on the authority of Umar, who said: "The properties abandoned by Bani Nadir were the ones which Allah bestowed upon His Apostle for which no expedition was undertaken either with cavalry or camelry. These properties were particularly meant for the Holy Prophet. He would meet the annual expenditure of his family from the income thereof, and would spend what remained for purchasing horses and weapons as preparation for Jihad."8
Muhammad would not tolerate criticism from the Jews, and he would not allow them to live in peace for fear that they would join his enemies to fight against him.
Jesus' encounters with Jewish religious leaders
Six hundred years before the time of Muhammad, the Jews of Jesus' day were also critical of a new message. "The Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose him fiercely and to besiege him with questions" (Luke 11:53).
Just as they did with Muhammad, the Jews asked Jesus for a sign.
Then some of the Pharisees and teachers of the law said to him, "Teacher, we want to see a miraculous sign from you." He answered, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth."
Jesus used the "sign of Jonah" to say that he would die and remain in the grave for three days before he came back to life.
Jesus also offered his healing power and miracles as a sign that he had divine power. When Jesus was teaching his disciples he said, "Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves" (John 14:11; see also Matthew 9:2-7).
Jesus showed frustration and anger with the religious leaders. The Gospels record several times when he spoke out against them forcefully (Matthew 23; Mark 7:1-23; John 8:42-59). He also used parables to protest their actions (Matthew 21:28-46; 22:1-14). However, he did not attempt to cause physical harm to any of them.
Now that we have seen what Jesus and Muhammad did in their public lives during the second half of their ministries, let us take a brief look at their personal lives.
After Muhammad moved to Medina, his personal life changed significantly. While in Mecca, he had remained married to only one wife, Khadija, who died after twenty-five years of marriage. During his first year in Medina, Muhammad signed a marriage contract with the daughter of one of his most loyal followers, Abu Bakr. This would not seem unusual except that the girl was only six years old.9
Islamic history says that Muhammad did not consummate the marriage with the girl, named Aisha [Ah-EE-sha], until she was nine, but this arrangement was highly unusual, even in Arabian society. She remained married to Muhammad until his death, when she was eighteen years old. However, she was not his only wife. Muhammad married eleven others during his years in Medina. Muhammad spent a fair amount of energy managing his wives. (I explain the impact of his wives in more detail in chapter 16.)
In contrast, we have no record that Jesus ever married. He spent his time with his disciples and was particularly close with three of them---Peter, James, and John (Matthew 17:1; Mark 5:37; 14:33). He maintained his relationship with his mother and brothers, and he also had a close relationship with Mary, Martha, and their brother, Lazarus. A small group of women traveled with Jesus and assisted him. (See chapter 16 for more information.)
We are now approaching the end of the lives of both Jesus and Muhammad. The next chapter of this book will look at the final three years for Muhammad (age 61 to 63) and the final few months for Jesus (around age 35 or 36). [48-58]
1. Ibn Kathir, The Beginning and the End, vol.2, pt. 3, p. 215.
2. Ibn Ishaq, p. 324ff.
3. Ibid., p. 280.
4. Ibid., pp. 281-286.
5. Ibid., p. 297.
6. Ibid., pp. 659-660.
7. Ibid., p. 368.
8. The Correct Books of Bukhari, vol. 5, bk. 59, no. 447.
9. The Correct Books of Muslim, bk. 19, no. 4347.
10. The Correct Books of Bukhari, vol. 7, bk. 62, no. 88. Narrated by Ursa.
*Dr. Gabriel was born in Egypt. When he was five-years-old, his uncle, who was an Imam, worked with him to memorize 2-3 verses of the Quran in classical Arabic, almost on a daily basis. By the time he was 12 years old he memorized the complete Quran.
Dr. Gabriel's academic credentials in Islamic scholarship include:
· Bachelor's, master's, and doctorate degrees in Islamic History and Culture from Al-Azhar University, Cairo, Egypt
· Graduating second in his class of six thousand students for his bachelor's degree. This ranking was based on cumulative scores of oral and written exams given at the end of each school year.
· At 28-years old, he was one of the youngest lecturers ever hired at Al-Azhar University. He started lecturing after he finished his master's degree and was working to finish his doctorate.
· Traveling lecturer. The university sent him to countries around the Middle East as a lecturer in Islamic history.
· As a scholar, he spent thirty years studying Islam and the life of Muhammad.
Al-Azhar University is the most respected, authoritative Islamic university in the world. It has been in continuous operation for more than one thousand years.
In addition to his academic training, Dr. Gabriel had practical experience, serving as the imam at a mosque in the Cairo suburbs.
After Dr. Gabriel became a Christian, in his mid thirty, he pursued a Christian education. His credentials in Christian education include:
· Discipleship Training School with Youth With A Mission in Cape Town, South Africa.
· Master's degree in World Religion from Florida Christian University in Orlando, Florida (2001).
· Doctorate degree in Christian Education from Florida Christian University in Orlando, Florida (2003).
· Induction as a fellow in the Oxford Society of Scholars, September 2003.
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