Summary: Such vast differences between Jesus and Muhammad. Jesus a celibate, miracle worker, a very specific goal: to call out a people with whom He will reign. Muhammad married often, with no miracles, with a goal to conquer, by physical means, now...
Here the Christian church is brought sadly into the story of Muhammad. The monastic movement was begun as a reaction to the worldliness that had crept into the church and wrested from it its former glory. Monks centered on the inner life. For some of these men we are grateful and in fact, in debt, as they discovered their own sinfulness and the cure for it.
Martin Luther was a monk. But others went to extremes in lifestyle and teaching that are as unacceptable as Luther's was acceptable. Being a monk in and of itself is not the issue, but what monastic living can drives one to believe and do.
There was a monk, Bahira, who lived in the early days of Muhammad's life. He had been reading documents about a prophet to come. One day, per Lings, he saw a cloud over a caravan in which Muhammad was traveling. The caravan stopped, and in a story that reads much like Samuel's picking out the future king of Israel from Jesse's sons, we learn that Muhammad is indeed the chosen prophet foreseen by the document Bahira had been reading.
True? Supernatural? You will be asking yourself this question throughout as Lings, a dignified scholar of no mean reputation, treats these miraculous occurrences so casually. Keep in mind that supernatural is not the key. From Heaven, is the key. When we see what Muhammad believed and taught about the Son of God, we will no longer worry whether his life was marked with occurrences "beyond nature." We will simply identify the source as above or below.
How was Jesus identified? The Spirit of God took a bodily form, that of a dove, and descended publicly on Jesus. John the Baptist was an eyewitness of this event, and the testimony was recorded for all time. Here, said John, is the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
This was in keeping with what the angels had said about Jesus. He is Saviour. He came to deal with sin. One would think from reading current Christian literature that He came to make us rich and happy in the world's sense. But no, it was always about sin, and still is.
Jesus' identification was clear, His mission was spelled out. He is to eradicate sin. Muhammad is to be a prophet. What Jesus has already done for sin in the hearts of millions, and what He plans to do on His return, will make the statements made about Him satisfactory.
But in what sense Muhammad was a prophet is yet to be seen. Prophets prophesy, but Muhammad never did that. Prophets work miracles, but by his own admission in the Koran, he never did that either. Then we can just say that prophets speak the words of God to their generation. Those who believe that Muhammad spoke truth in his recitations (Koran) therefore can accept him as prophet on that basis.
But those of us who do not believe that he was speaking God's words must say that he is not a prophet on that basis either. Unfortunately there is only one other type of prophet we can name, and that we have already done.
10. Marriage and family
At first it seems we have come to a topic which again does not have content for both men.
Muhammad was married. Again and again he was married. Some say there were about 15 wives. His own teachings limited him to four, but one day a "revelation" came that freed him from the hindrances of the common Muslim.
By age 20 or so, Muhammad was becoming more and more involved in the business world. He was astute in this field, and was gaining a reputation as one who could be trusted, and one who was quite efficient. At age 25, this combination got the attention of a 40-year-old wealthy merchant named Khadijah. She had been twice married already. Initially she hired Muhammad to deliver goods. Enamored by his character and style, she proposed to him in the normal method of the day, and he accepted.
The story goes that an angel promised him a 6-year-old girl as his bride when he was 52. There was no intimacy until the little girl, Aisha, was 9. Lings tries to paint Muhammad here in youthful colors, a man who looked maybe half his age. Given that he had the appearance of a 26-year-old, then, we still think it odd that he would be sharing wedded bliss with a girl who was out playing with her friends on their wedding day.
Later, he married a slave girl from Egypt. Mariyah eventually gave him a son, but not before he had banned her from his presence because of the jealousies arising at home. Then came another convenient reading from Allah, basically telling him to cancel the ban, and if necessary divorce the complaining wives, all of whom could easily be replaced by other women. This reading is now chapter 66 in the Koran. It certainly solved a lot of problems.