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Teachings about Love by Jesus and Muhammad
All the passages below are taken from Mark A. Gabriel’s* book “Jesus and Muhammad” published in 2004.
When I was living as a Muslim in Egypt, I was always puzzled y a little saying that the Christians used to put on their cars or frame in their shops. The phrase was Allah Mahabe, or God is love. These two words are never put together in the Quran. I always thought, I wonder what these people are trying to say.
In this chapter my goal is to present a good characterization about what Jesus and Muhammad taught regarding love.
Love must always be understood in the context of a relationship. So as we look at their teachings about love, we are going to discover the nature of the important relationships in Jesus and Muhammad's lives. These relationships revolve around four points:
• His Messenger
• The Believers
• The Unbelievers
Please refer to the graphic on the opposite page. There are a few descriptive words to guide you; however, the purpose of the rest of this chapter is to explain these relationships. Special attention is given to looking for love between these different points.
Let's start by looking at the relationship that guides all the others---the relationship between God and his messenger.
Jesus and Muhammad: Their Key Relationships
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN GOD AND His MESSENGER
Muhammad described himself as a slave of Allah. (See Surah 2:23.) The Quran or the hadith do not talk about Muhammad loving Allah or about Allah loving Muhammad. Muhammad's position was one of a slave empowered by his master's authority.
He who obeys the Messenger (Muhammad), has indeed obeyed Allah.
And whatsoever the Messenger (Muhammad) gives you, take it; and whatsoever he forbids you, abstain (from it).
And whoever contradicts and opposes the Messenger (Muhammad) after the right path has been shown clearly to him, and follows other than the believers' way, We shall keep him in the path he has chosen, and burn him in Hell---what an evil destination!
Jesus described his relationship with God as a son to a father. This was a relationship of mutual love.
When Jesus was being baptized, the Gospel writers report that a voice from heaven said, "This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased" (Matthew 17:5; see also Matthew 12:18 NIV).
Jesus spoke of obeying and loving God, but not of fearing him.
I love the Father and ...I do exactly what my Father has commanded me.
-JOHN 14:31 NIV
Jesus turned to God the Father for comfort. The night before his crucifixion he prayed,
Abba, Father, everything is possible for you. Take this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.
-MARK 14:36 NIV
As he turned to God for comfort, Jesus called him "Abba," the Aramaic word a child would use when speaking to a parent. It was like saying "Daddy." So we see a picture of a personal, loving relationship between Jesus and God.
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE MESSENGER AND PEOPLE
Just as Muhammad called himself a slave to Allah, he said that other Muslims were slaves as well (Surah 50:8).
The Quran puts little emphasis on loving Allah, although it does occasionally mention love for him (Surah 2:165). Instead, it calls for obedience to Allah. What happens if a slave does not obey? He is punished.
And whoever defies and disobeys Allah and His Messenger, then verily, Allah is Severe in punishment. -SURAH 8:13
The revelations said those who disobeyed should be punished, and Muhammad carried out the sentence. For example, the revelations forbid Muslims to drink alcohol. Therefore, Muhammad punished those who disobeyed this law.
Abu Huraira said, "A man who drank wine was brought to the Prophet. The Prophet said, 'Beat him!"' Abu Huraira added, "So some of us beat him with our hands, and some with their shoes, and some with their garments (by twisting it) like a lash."1
The punishment for stealing was to have your right hand cut off. A group of people asked Muhammad to make an exception for a certain woman who had been caught stealing. This is how Muhammad responded.
Usama approached the Prophet on behalf of a woman (who had committed theft). The Prophet said, "The people before you were destroyed because they used to inflict the legal punishments on the poor and forgive the rich. By Him in Whose Hand my soul is! If Fatima (the daughter of the Prophet ) did that (i.e. stole), I would cut off her hand."2
If you ask a Muslim, Do you know how much Allah loves you? he will respond, "I don't know how much he loves me. Only Allah knows." Muslims must wait until Judgment Day to find out if Allah loves them and will invite them into paradise.
We see that Allah has a stern relationship with believers. What does Allah think of unbelievers?
Verily Allah guides not those whom He makes to go astray... .And they will have no helpers.
Allah purposes for some people to be led astray in order to populate the hell he created.
If We had so willed, We could certainly have brought every soul its true guidance: but the Word from Me will come true, "I will fill Hell with Jinns and men all together."
-SuRAH 32:13, ALI TRANSLATION
Allah does not love unbelievers.
The love relationship between Jesus and God the Father was reflected in Jesus' relationship with his followers. Jesus told his disciples that God loved them:
The Father himself loves you because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.
-JOHN 16:27 NIV
Jesus also said that he loved his followers:
As the Father loved me, so have I loved you.
-JOHN 15:9 NIV
Jesus said that he cared for the believers just as a shepherd cares for his sheep.
I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me---just as the Father knows me and I know the Father---and I lay down my life for the sheep.
-JOHN 10:14-15 NIV
Jesus loved his followers, but did he love unbelievers? According to his actions, the answer is yes.
Jesus had the attitude that he was sent to help sinners.
Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
-MARK 2:17 NIV
Jesus said God sent him to the world because God loved the world---those who had not yet believed on him. (See Romans 5:8 NIV).
Jesus said the Most High is "kind to the ungrateful and wicked" (Luke 6:35 NIV).
THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN BELIEVERS AND UNBELIEVERS
So far we have looked at the primary relationship---God and his messenger---and how that is played out in the relationship between the messenger and his followers. We focused on evidence of love. Now we turn to the instructions Muhammad and Jesus gave their followers about loving each other and loving unbelievers.
Similar to Jesus, Muhammad taught that Muslims must hold to a high standard in their behavior toward each other:
And hold fast, all of you together, to the Rope of Allah (i.e., this Quran), and be not divided among yourselves, and remember Allah's Favour on you, for you were enemies one to another but He joined your hearts together, so that, by His Grace, you became brethren (in Islamic faith).
Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those who are with him are severe against disbelievers, and merciful among themselves.
The believers are nothing else than brothers (in Islamic religion). So make reconciliation between your brothers, and fear Allah, that you may receive mercy.
Yet Muhammad called for Muslims to have a completely different attitude toward nonbelievers.
Before jihad was instituted, he warned Muslims to reject non-Muslims as friends:
O you who believe! Take not My enemies and your enemies (i.e. disbelievers and polytheists) as friends, showing affection toward them, while they have disbelieved in what has come to you of the truth. ..and have driven out the Messenger and yourselves (from your homeland) because you believe in Allah your Lord!
After jihad began, he called Muslims to participate in holy war against unbelievers, killing them if necessary in order to make them submit to Islam.
In his final words with his disciples before his death, Jesus told them:
A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.
-JOHN 13:34-35 NIV
Are Christians following this command very well? Sometimes I don't think so. But this is the standard that Jesus set. Jesus said that to inherit eternal life you must "love the Lord your God...and, `Love your neighbor as yourself"' (Luke 10:27 NIV). A religious ruler wanted to justify his attitude toward people he didn't like so he asked Jesus, "Who is my neighbor?" Jesus replied:
A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. "Look after him," he said, "and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have."
Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?
The expert in the law replied, "The one who had mercy on him." Jesus told him, "Go and do likewise."
-LUKE 10:30-37 NIV
Through this parable Jesus taught: your neighbor is not only someone from your own country or someone who shares your beliefs. Your neighbor can be anyone around you.
How else did Jesus ask his followers to love nonbelievers? He told them to go out and preach the good news to them, to heal their sick, to cast out demons, and to raise the dead.
The most important point of this chapter is that Jesus and Muhammad describe the nature of God in very different ways---for Jesus, God is a loving father; for Muhammad, Allah is a demanding master. This description sets the tone regarding love for all their other relationships. To bring this point home, let's imagine that a believer has left the faith. What did Muhammad say Allah would do? What did Jesus say God would do?
The Quran says:
0 you who believe! Whoever from among you turns back from his religion (Islam), Allah will bring a people whom He will love and they will love Him; humble towards the believers, stern towards the disbelievers, fighting in the Way of Allah, and never fear of the blame of the blamers. That is the Grace of Allah which He bestows on whom He wills.
This verse explains that if a person leaves Islam, then Allah will bring other people that are better. Allah does not mourn for the ones who leave him or seek to bring them back. He gets better people.
Surah 39:7 also says: "If you reject (Allah), truly Allah has no need of you" (ALI TRANSLATION).
Now look at the story Jesus told about a shepherd who had one hundred sheep and lost one.
Suppose one of you has a hundred sheep and loses one of them. Does he not leave the ninety-nine in the open country and go after the lost sheep until he finds it? And when he finds it, he joyfully puts it on his shoulders and goes home. Then he calls his friends and neighbors together and says, "Rejoice with me; I have found my lost sheep." I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.
-LUKE 15:4-7; SEE ALSO VERSES 8-10 NIV
Allah finds new believers who will serve him better. In contrast, God the Father searches for the one lost lamb until he finds it and brings it home rejoicing. This is the difference between Allah and God.
Jesus and Muhammad described the nature of God very differently, but they both instructed their followers to pray. In the next chapter we will compare Jesus and Muhammad's teachings on prayer. You will see that their different beliefs about the nature of
God greatly affected their approaches to prayer and their expectations about how God would respond. [143-152]
1. The Correct Books of Bukhari, vol. 8, bk. 8 1, no. 768. Narrated by Abu Salama.
2. Ibid., vol. 8, bk. 81, no. 778. Narrated by Aisha.
*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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