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Muhammad and Jesus Compared

By Richard Gunther


First of all, this essay is written to make the differences between Christianity and Islam clear. It is not written to cause conflict with, or to criticize Islam. I seek only what is true, and if there is any agreement let us enjoy it together within the limits of the truth.

Secondly, if you are a Christian and are not sure about this subject, or what you ought to believe about Christianity and Islam, this will help you. If you are a believer in Islam this will help you see how different Islam is from Christianity, and how different Christianity is from Islam.

But before we go any further, we must sort out what exactly we are discussing.

By 'Christianity' we DO NOT mean church buildings, ministers in black clothes and white collars, pews, organ music, hymns, and all the religious paraphernalia which has grown around the original teachings of Jesus. Nor do we mean Popes, Archbishops or clergy. Nor do we mean the Crusades, Jesuits, or the Inquisition. Nor do we mean cults which call themselves 'Christian' but are in fact liars and deceivers – such as Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. Many incredibly horrible and distorted things have been done in the name of Christianity, but none of them deserve the name Christian.

By 'Christianity' we mean the simple message as taught by Jesus, that he alone is the way, the truth and the life – the only Saviour for the world, and the one who came to die for all the world's sin. He claimed these things for himself – it was not something his followers decided to make up. He taught that his followers ought to love each other and care for the people around them, serving and blessing the world in whatever way they can, keeping themselves morally clean and making Jesus central to all their service.

By 'Islam' we mean several things, because there are several blocks or schools of Islam. Most of the 1.9 Islamics in the world are Sunnite, which means they are moderate. 90% of Muslims in the Middle East are Sunnite. The next largest block is Shi'ite, which is conservative, which means they take the Koran more literarally, and it is mainly from these that the militants come. A third block is made up of followers of Ahmdiyan, who claimed to be the Messiah and image of Muhammad. Finally there is the Sufi block, which is mystical and obscure unless you are initiated into their teachings.

A faithful Muslim must declare, either out loud in his his thoughts, the words: “There is no God but Allah, and Muhammad is his prophet (or messenger). This declaration of faith sets Islam apart from Christianity, because Jesus taught that he alone was God's prophet, and that the name of God is Father. Obviously you cannot believe both points of view at the same time, because one excludes the other. Immediately we see that there is conflict: either Jesus is the prophet from God, or Muhammad is. How could these two opposite claims be examined fairly, so that the correct one is revealed? One way might be to examine the historical leaders of both Islam and Christianity.

Muhammad and Jesus - compared.

Muhammad was born in Mecca, near the Middle Western coastal region of Arabia, between 570 and 580 AD. His father's name was Abdullah (or Abd Allah), but he died two months after Muhammad was born. His mother was Aminah, and she died when Muhammad was six. At the time Mecca was a large commercial city, known for its Ka'aba (which means “cube”), a building famous for its 360 idols containing images of the moon god Hubal, and the Black Stone. Muhammad's family was of the relatively poor Hashemite clan of the Quraysh tribe, and it is the patriarch of that tribe called Fihr of the Kinanah tribe, who Muslims claim to be a descendant of Ishmael. Ishmael was a son of Abraham, through Keturah. It is through this family tree that Muslims claim to be inheritors of the promises given to Abraham (Genesis 21:18)

After Muhammad's mother died he was sent to live with his grandfather, Abd-al-Muttalib, who provided a Bedouin foster mother for him, called Halimah, and he was raised in the desert. After the death of his grandfather, when Muhammad was eight, he returned to Mecca to live with his uncle Abu Talib. All of his early family history is from traditional sources and may not be accurate.

When Muhammad was twenty five he married a wealthy forty year old widow Khadijah, after she proposed to him. Muhammad remained with Khadijah for twentyfive years and had two sons, who died in infancy, and four daughters. After Khadijah died in 619 or 620, Muhammad married a widow of a disciple, and a seven year old – who moved in with him when she was ten. Her name was Ayisha.

His seventh wife was his daughter-in-law. By the time of his death he had 12 wives and two concubines, including Maryam, an Egyptian coptic slave. Interestingly, in the Koran (Sura 4:31) a man is allowed to have only four wives, and in Sura 4:31 marriage to one's daughter-in-law is prohibited. How did Muhammad avoid breaking these two laws? He conveniently received a new revelation that allowed him to do so, for example, he claimed that God ordered Zaid, his adopted son, to divorce his wife so Muhammad could marry her.

From the time Muhammad began to have mystical experiences his story becomes quite complicated. According to various reliable sources, his first mystical experience happened when he claimed to have been attacked by two men who cut his belly open in search of something. His foster mother found him standing by himself, without any apparent injuries, yet he claimed to have had his stomach cut open. She thought he was demon-possessed. Later he claimed that his non-existent attackers had been angels who had removed all trace of their wounds and cleansed his heart.

In AD 610 he claimed to have received the first of a series of revelations of the Quran (Koran) from God, through the angel Gabriel. He told a wife about this so convincingly she believed him, and so did his cousin Ali, then his slave, and then his best friend Abu Bakr. From then on his followers grew in number without much problem. More slaves were gathered in, and many of the poor and oppressed, and then some wealthy clans. They were convinced because he used the so-called Satanic verses, which have since been deleted from the Koran. They were then known as Sura 53:19 in which his followers were encouraged to worship the three daughters of Allah. Later the angel Gabriel chided Muhammad for claiming divine inspiration for this verse, and told him he did this on his own while under Satan's power, and that he had made the dreadful mistake because he had been preaching to unbelievers.

Many Muslims today claim that the incident over Sura 53:19 never happened, and they saw Muhammad always said there were no other pagan gods or goddesses. At any rate his following grew, and in 621 he was offered protection by some powerful wealthy families in Yathrib. The next significant event after that was the 'hijra'.

The 'hijra' was Muhammad's migration. Islam marks its beginnings from this moment. After Muhammed's uncle died (in 619 or 620) the leaders of the various Meccan tribes and clans vowed to assassinate him. Muhammad claimed that the angel Gabriel warned him of this, so he and his friend Abu Bakr fled to Yathrib 280 miles north of Mecca. At that time Yathrib was a town dominated by Jewish groups, and had no stable government. It was troubled by feuding Arab factions and Jewish tribes. Muhammad arrived on September 20, 622, and stayed there for a while while other Muslim followers arrived. Soon he had built up quite a number, and using his power he established a theocracy (or dictatorship) under his own authority, and took over Yathrib. He renamed it Medina.

Eventually the forces against Muhammad were gathered, and in 627 a Meccan army of 10,000 arrived to attack Medina, but Muhammad and his 3000 men had prepared by digging a trench around the city. This made attacking the city very difficult, so eventually the Meccan army gave up and went home.

At this point the blood-trail of Islam begins. When the people in Medina saw the Meccans retreating they decided to attack a Jewish tribe (the Banu Qurayza). They claimed that this tribe had been secretly in league with the Meccans. The Muslims killed all 800 male Jews and sold the women and children into slavery. They went on to drive two Jewish tribes from their homes and stole all their property.

In 628 they conquered another group of Jews at Khaybar.

In 630 they marched on Mecca itself and took it.

Two years later Muhammad died (June 8, 632. From then on his followers went on with the conquering, taking Palestine and Syria away from the Byzantines (629-641), conquered Iraq and Persia (633-643), Tripoli (644), Toledo in Spain and western India (712), Crete (825), and Sicily (899). In West Africa the Muslims under the leadership of Almoravid pillaged the capital of Ghana (1076). A survivor was Nubia, and one or two small Christian nations, right up to the 1500's.

History books record the details of the gradual progress of Islam's hold over many other nations, but many also shook off its hold and declared their independence. You may like to follow this up for yourself.

Apparently, when Muhammad started his movement, he encouraged nonbelievers to consider Sura 2:256, which says: “Let there be no compulsion in religion.” Later, however, he changed his mind, because Sura 9:5 says: “Fight and slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and seize them, and besiege them, and lie in wait for them.”

Again, in Sura 5:33 we are told: “The punishment of those who wage war against God and His Apostle, and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is: execution, or crucifixion, or the cutting off of hands and feet from opposite sides, or exile from the land.” The Koran calls Jews and Christians “People of the Book” (Sura 5:5,5:19) but that does not mean Muhammad had a high regard for them. In Sura 5:41 Jews are called people “who will listen to any lie” and Christians are called enemies (Sura 5:14). The Koran commands that Muslims must not have Christians or Jews as friends (Sura 5:51).

A glimpse into what it was like to live in a Muslim-dominated city is found in a short piece written in 1796 by the early American statesman Joel Barlow. He was writing about Turkish-controlled Algeria: “The number of mosques . . . is infinite in Algiers. One can look in(to a mosque) while passing before the door, but it is forbidden for an infidel to enter. The penalty for this crime is to become a Muhammadan, to be hanged, or burned alive, depending on whether one is a Christian or a Jew. “

On the positive side, Christians and Jews under Islamic rule usually fared well, in many cases much better than in Roman Catholic Western Europe. Eastern Christians, such as Theophanes (writing in the early 800s) regarded Islam as a heresy and challenged it as they had also challenged Arianism (which said Jesus was just a man), and several other heresies.

The earlist Western Christian contacts with Islam were when the Muslims conquered Spain. Christians paid the 'jizya' in exchange for their freedom. By the ninth century, Christians and Jews worked as tax collectors, political ministers, bodyguards and soldiers. Except for a brief revolt in Toledo in 837 by some Christians and Jews, most Spanish Christians regarded Muslims as fellow monotheists (believers in one God). They also thought Muslims held the Bible in high regard too.

But things changed in the 850's when a man called Eulogius denounced Islam as a heresy and called Muhammad 'the Antichrist” and a false prophet. In Cordova during this time about fifty Spaniards denounced Islam and were put to death. Except for Francis of Assisi (1181 or 1182-1226) and Raymond Lull (1235-1315) there were no significant attempts at missionary efforts to preach the gospel to Muslims until Henry Martyn started to spread the gospel in Muslim India in the early 1800's.

General estimates at the numbers slaughtered in the name of Islam are as follows: from Medina in 1822: 50,000 Greeks and Armenians (1822), 10,000 Armenians and Nestorians (1850), 11,000 Maronites and Syrians (1860), 15,000 Bulgarians (1876), 10,000 Armenians (1894), 325,000 Armenians from 1895-1908), 30,000 Armenians in 1909) (Total of about 1.5 million). Idi Amin Dada murdered at least 300,000 fellow Ugandans. In the 80's and 90's Muslim Arabs in North Sudan were either starving or selling into slavery black Christians and others. Oppression against unbelievers in general and Christians in particular has gone on in Libya, Mauritania, Nigeria, and Tanzania. In Mauritania, in the 1990's one estimate put the number of slaves to Muslims at 400,000. In 1994 Iran began a campaign of persecution against Christians. Even in more “moderate” Muslim nations, such as Saudi Arabia, importation of a Bible, Christian evangelism, and conversion from Islam may be considered a capital offense. The nations where such extreme measures are taken against opposition are also those that practice Islamic law, called the “sharia”. According to 'The State of Religion Atlas' in 1993 there were 16 countries using the Koran or sharia law as their basic law system. Just this year (2005) in Indonesia some Christian women were sentenced to three years in prison for giving Christian teaching to children of Muslims – even though all the children came with full parental permission to the holiday event.

Before anyone thinks this is all one-sided, let it be said that there are many examples of people who have called themselves Christians who have committing equal atrocities on Muslims and others. Does this mean that a religion is to be judged by the way its followers behave? No. That would be illogical. The original teaching of the religion is the core from which all followers come, so it is the core which we must look at, not the followers, if we want to find the truth. It is no good saying “Christianity is false because it teaches people to join the Crusades!” However sincere those Crusaders might have been, it is better to see what the Bible teaches, than what they thought about it. Our opinions are just that – opinions. It may be our opinion that the world is flat, but the facts will always be more important.


The life of Jesus is both strange and incredible, even from before he was born right through to after he died. All anyone needs to do to find out about him is read the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, but a fully-rounded picture of Jesus can be found by reading all 66 books of the Bible. He was predicted four thousand years before he was born, and the details of his life were predicted at least a thousand years before he lived them out. His work, miracles, death and resurrection were all foretold hundreds of years before they occurred. As the person of Jesus is revealed, his words, works and lifestyle also stand out as quite unique. This alone ought to alert us to something: we are dealing with a man like no other. These are the facts. The person of Jesus is not the product of anyone's opinion, The details of his life are recorded in the Bible, and are backed up by archaeology and other scientific disciplines. When we compare Jesus with Muhammad, the latter pales into insignificance.

For more information about Jesus I suggest that you read the four gospels. Note the words Jesus spoke, the works of compassion, the miracles, the love. Note how Jesus stands out as far more than a man, sinless, wise, and holy. See how he draws from people their worship, yet never boasts or leads any of his followers into a 'holy war'. His path is self-sacrifice and service to all people, not the way of the sword.


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