Essay: Jesus and Mohammed

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Jesus & Mohammed

More than any two religions on Earth, Christian and Muslim traditions share striking similarities (George, 2002, p. 20). At a time in our global society when Muslims as a group are viewed unfavorably because of the actions of a few, it is important to understand the commonalities of these two faiths and appreciate how devotees similarly worship their God. Christians and Muslims together comprise over 40% of the world's population (George, p. 9). It is important to facilitate mutual understanding between these groups, which populate nearly half our globe. One can gain a better understanding of Christianity and Islam by exploring the parallels between the lives of Jesus and Mohammed, the ways in which each is worshipped, and the ways in which their messages are carried out in the world today.

Jesus and Mohammed: Comparing Their Lives

Jesus was born in Bethlehem -- in the modern day west bank of Palestine -- just after the reign of Herod (37 -- 4 BC). Herod was a half-Jewish king who was a puppet of the Romans (Peters, 2010, p. 3). At the time Jesus was born, Herod's son Archelaus ruled; he was considered "brutal and tyrannical," causing Joseph and Mary to take Jesus from Bethlehem to Nazareth, which was outside Archelaus' territory (Elwell and Yarborough, 1998, p. 50).

Mohammed was born in Mecca in a.D. 570. Unlike Jesus, there are no stories of Mohammed's early childhood, though it was said that when he was born, the sky was so bright with stars that it seemed liked daylight. In that way, his birth is similar to that of Jesus; the sky on the night Jesus was born was lit brightly by a star that guided the wise men (Gabriel, 2004). Jesus' birth was heralded by the angel Gabriel, the same angel who literally squeezed the word of God from Mohammed when Mohammed was forty years old (Green, Atkinson, and Syeed, 2003).

No mention is made of Mohammed's father. His mother died when he was six and he was raised by his grandfather and his uncle. As a young man, he worked as a caravan leader. Jesus' father, Joseph, was a carpenter, and it is believed that Jesus also worked as a carpenter, at least for a time.

Jesus' mother, Mary, was especially chosen to be the mother of God. The Gospel of Matthew emphasizes that the coming of Jesus is "the supreme event in history, planned and prophesied by God centuries before it occurred…Every circumstance that surrounded the birth, life, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus is seen as the fulfillment of prophesy" (Elwell and Yarborough, p. 80). There are many references in the Bible to Jesus as the son of God or that God was His father: Matthew 4:5, 8:29, 10:32, 11:27, 16:15-17, 27:43, 28:19; Mark 1:11; Luke 2:49, 10:22; and John 3:16-18, 5:17-18, 10:36-38; 11:4 (Gabriel). Jesus worked miracles in His own name and in the name of His Father. He was worshipped at birth and at His resurrection, and He is worshipped to this day by Christians around the world, who consider Him to be part of the Holy Trinity -- three persons in one God (father, son, and Holy Spirit).

By contrast, Mohammed was never considered a deity and was not worshipped during his lifetime, nor is he worshipped today. The Koran denies God could have a son: "No son (or offspring) did Allah beget, nor is there any ilah (god) along with Him" (Surah 23:91, in Gabriel, 2004). Mohammed himself declared he was the final prophet of Allah as prophesied by both the Old Testament and the New Testament. In Sufah 18:10, it is written that Mohammed said "I am only a man like you" (Gabriel, 2004). Mohammed was, and is, considered a great prophet. The words of God were given to him; these words became the Koran. When Mohammed died, he was gone from this Earth forever. He was not resurrected, as was Jesus.

Jesus and his followers were avid students of the Bible (Peters, 2010, p. 5). Mohammed was, in some ways, a student of the teachings of Jesus. Gabriel (2004) reported that Mohammed said "I am most close to Jesus, son of Mary, among the whole world of mankind in this worldly life and the next life."

There is some evidence in the Bible that Jesus had brothers. Mohammed was an only child. There is no evidence in the Bible that Jesus ever married, whereas Mohammed had thirteen wives during his lifetime and "spend a fair amount of energy managing his wives" (Gabriel, 2004).

Jesus and Mohammed were both teachers. Both assembled a group of twelve close followers. Both men were influenced by the religion of their day and spent time at the worship centers of their regions (Gabriel, 2004). The difference was that Jesus embraced the beliefs of his people, whereas Mohammed began to question the idol worship that his people practiced. While both men had legions of followers, it is important to note that "Jesus' message was particularly offensive to the religious leaders of the Jews, just as Muhammed's message was particularly offensive to the idol worship leaders in Mecca (Gabriel, 2004). Jesus so angered religious leaders that he was tricked into breaking the law so that he could be put to death, which happened when he was approximately thirty-three years old. Mohammed lived to an old age, around sixty-six, and died when he was poisoned as various factions struggled for control. Some said that Mohammed could not have been a prophet of God or he would have known he was being poisoned, but it is also argued that Mohammed's time had come and he was being called back by Allah. That he was vulnerable to death shows that he was human, as he claimed to be.

After the death of Jesus, the Bible tells that He was buried in a tomb. A large rock was placed in front of the tomb. After the three days, the rock was moved and the body of Jesus was no longer there. His resurrection from the dead proved to many that he was indeed the son of God.

After the deaths of Jesus and Mohammed, their followers continued to carry on the traditions each had begun. Over time, Christianity developed from the teaching of Jesus and Islam developed from the teachings of Mohammed. Today, Christianity is the largest religion in the world, with over two billion members (ReligiousTolerance.org, n.d.). Within Christianity, there are many individual faith groups, including Roman Catholics, who comprise approximately fifty percent of Christians (ReligiousTolerance.org). Other groups include Eastern Orthodox, Evangelical groups such as Episcopals, Presbyterians, Southern Baptists, Methodists, Missouri Synod Lutherans, and progressive groups such as the Unitarians. Although teaching and practices of faith vary among these groups, all are founded on the central principle that Jesus is the son of God.

Christians' guidebook is the Bible, said to be the world of God. The Old Testament tells of the creation of mankind and the struggles of various peoples in very early history. The New Testament tells of the life and teachings of Jesus. Christians believe in the holy trinity, that is, that God is three persons in one, the father, the son, and the holy spirit. They believe that Jesus died on the cross for their sins and that one day He will return and lead Christians to heaven.

Today, Islam is the second largest religion in the world, with perhaps 1.57 billion followers (www.ReligiousTolerance.org). It is a religion that is rapidly increasing its numbers. Islam means "submission to the will of God" (Wisdom Fund, 2003). Practitioners of Islam, called Muslims, believe that their guidebook, the Koran (sometimes spelled Quran in the western alphabet), is the word of God, revealed to Mohammed over a period of twenty-three years.… [END OF PREVIEW]

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