Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Would Jesus Approve of Muhammad?

Part 1: Mercy

Keith Thompson

It seems as though Muslims, with their unconditional love for Muhammad, often forget to take serious issues into account when believing in Islam. For example, Jesus Christ, while expanding the kingdom of God in the first century, set the moral standard for future followers of God. He gave specific examples of how humans are to conduct themselves. He ordered the people of God to observe and examine the fruits of potential wicked false prophets that would come.

"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them." Matthew 7:15-20

In the quest for truth, if we were to use Jesus' criteria for morality for pointing out false prophets, it would be a wise idea to examine Muhammad's actions in light of Jesus' moral teachings. If Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, went against the established moral teachings of Christ that future generations under the new covenant must follow, then both the Christians and the Muslims ought to take that into consideration. Jesus Christ said in Matthew 5:7, with respect to how the future generations must act, "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy." Jesus says that a follower of God must be a merciful person under Christ's new law - which the future generations were to look to. It is important to note that Old Testament prophets were sometimes ordered by our great God to not show any mercy when carrying out God's orders. However, this was before the Messiah came and established his peaceful teaching and new covenant. No more are the followers of God to not show mercy. As Jesus Christ, the prince of peace of Isaiah 9:6, brought the new teaching of love and harmony for mankind, that is to be followed from now on.

"This I command you, that you love one another." John 15:17

"If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF," you are doing well." James 2:8

"In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets." Matthew 7:12

"But flee from these things, you man of God, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, perseverance and gentleness." 1 Timothy 6:11

"Be at peace with each other." Mark 9:50

"But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;" 1 Peter 3:15

"Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble." 1 Peter 3:8

"Dear friends, let us love one another." 1 John 4:7

Under the new covenant, followers of God have been given a new universal moral law. The actions of the great Old Testament prophets that Muslims often condemn do not make them guilty of breaking Jesus teachings, as many of Jesus commands are first century commands specifically meant for the new covenant peoples. Although the prophets of old were under a moral system, they were not yet subject to many of Christ's specific new covenant commands. Thus when they carried out God's will not showing mercy in some situations, they are not to be questioned, as back then they were doing the will of Almighty God.

"The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it." Luke 16:16

The generations following Christ, however, are subject to the specific commands of being merciful people. Along with being merciful, we are also ordered to obey the Old Testament rule of not murdering people. Jesus did not negate this command in his teaching, rather he repeated it because it is universally valid. Murder is the unlawful act of taking the life of someone. This is prohibited explicity by Jesus Christ.

"Jesus replied, " 'Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, honor your father and mother,' and 'love your neighbor as yourself.'" Matthew 19:18-19 (NIV)

It can be argued that killing in self-defense or in defense of your country is permitted, however, the unlawful act of murder is not. Would Jesus approve of how Muhammad behaved? Did Muhammad demonstrate that he was of God by following Jesus' command of showing mercy with respect to murder? In the Sunan Abu Dawud we discover that Muhammad did not show mercy at all. Instead, when Muhammad was informed that his followers would kill people for merely talking negatively about him, Muhammad brushed the murders off as if they were nothing - showing he was not a merciful man and that his fruit was not of God.

"A blind man had a slave-mother who used to abuse the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and disparage him. He forbade her but she did not stop. He rebuked her but she did not give up her habit. One night she began to slander the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and abuse him. So he took a dagger, placed it on her belly, pressed it, and killed her. A child who came between her legs was smeared with the blood that was there. When the morning came, the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) was informed about it. He assembled the people and said: I adjure by Allah the man who has done this action and I adjure him by my right to him that he should stand up. Jumping over the necks of the people and trembling the man stood up. He sat before the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and said: Apostle of Allah! I am her master; she used to abuse you and disparage you. I forbade her, but she did not stop, and I rebuked her, but she did not abandon her habit. I have two sons like pearls from her, and she was my companion. Last night she began to abuse and disparage you. So I took a dagger, put it on her belly and pressed it till I killed her. Thereupon the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: Oh be witness, no retaliation is payable for her blood." (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4348) 

Muhammad's response to this reported honor killing is not in line with Jesus' moral teachings regarding how humans are to be merciful. Muhammad merely implied that her life was worth nothing instead. Here is another case.

"Narrated Ali ibn AbuTalib: A Jewess used to abuse the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and disparage him. A man strangled her till she died. The Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) declared that no recompense was payable for her blood." (Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4349)

Muhammad failed to meet Jesus' standard of morality and thus Muhammad has been spotted out as having bad fruit. Although Muhammad may have had better days where he was merciful, that does not erase these terrifying examples. Just because Muhammad may have done nice things once in a while that doesn't negate the fact that he was guilty of committing wicked acts. Another example of how Muhammad failed to meet Jesus' moral requirements is explained in the Gospel according to Matthew. The account states: "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven..." Matthew 5:43-45.

Another startling example of Muhammad's ruthless behavior and unwillingness to listen to Jesus' 1st century teachings regarding mercy, is contained in Ibn Ishaq's Life of Muhammad - the earliest biography of Muhammad. We learn that after the leader of the Jews of Khaibar, Kinana, did not give up the treasure that Muhammad demanded, he ordered Kinana to be tortured and then eventually beheaded. How merciful!

"Kinana al-Rabi, who had the custody of the treasure of Banu Nadir, was brought to the apostle who asked him about it. He denied that he knew where it was. A Jew came (Tabari says "was brought"), to the apostle and said that he had seen Kinana going round a certain ruin every morning early. When the apostle said to Kinana, "Do you know that if we find you have it I shall kill you?" He said "Yes". The apostle gave orders that the ruin was to be excavated and some of the treasure was found. When he asked him about the rest he refused to produce it, so the apostle gave orders to al-Zubayr Al-Awwam, "Torture him until you extract what he has." So he kindled a fire with flint and steel on his chest until he was nearly dead. Then the apostle delivered him to Muhammad b. Maslama and he struck off his head, in revenge for his brother Mahmud." (Abd Al-Malik Ibn Hisham, Muhammad Ibn Ishaq, The Life of Muhammad, Translated by A. Guillaume [Oxford University Press, 2002], p. 515)

Muhammad disobeyed the Messiah's 1st century commands and did not show mercy to Kinana. Thus, according to Matthew 7:15-20, he is to be rejected as a false prophet. As former Muslim and son of a Muslim Cleric, Emir Fethi Caner remarks:

"Clearly Jesus was a far superior prophet of peace and mercy. Muhammad was ruthless in war, not considering ethical ramifications when he was caught up in the height of savagery. The only Life Jesus Christ voluntarily gave up was his own. His character offers continuous, unassailable, compassion. Muhammad was both erratic and hostile to those who would not follow him." (Emir Fethi Caner, Unveiling Islam: an insider's look at Muslim life and beliefs [Kregel Publications, 2002], p.52)

Now, in this next case I can understand if there is a criminal that needs to be put to death in a state. That is not the problem I have. This is not an attack on Muhammad's decision to kill a ruthless criminal with the death penalty. However, here in Sunan Abu Dawud and Sahih Bukhari we find that instead of enforcing justice by having criminals put to death in a suitable fashion, Muhammad goes out of his way to brutally torture some apostates who murdered a shepherd and his camels. In the following hadith we discover that Muhammad was seriously deranged and not merciful at all.

Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4356:

Narrated Abdullah ibn Umar:
Some people raided the camels of the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him), drove them off, and apostatised. They killed the herdsman of the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) who was a believer. He (the Prophet) sent (people) in pursuit of them and they were caught. He had their hands and feet cut off, and their eyes put out. The verse regarding fighting against Allah and His Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) was then revealed. These were the people about whom Anas ibn Malik informed al-Hajjaj when he asked him.

Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4357:

Narrated AbuzZinad:
When the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) cut off (the hands and feet of) those who had stolen his camels and he had their eyes put out by fire (heated nails), Allah reprimanded him on that (action), and Allah, the Exalted, revealed: "The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His Apostle and strive with might and main for mischief through the land is execution or crucifixion."

Sunan Abu Dawud, Book 38, Number 4359:

Narrated Abdullah ibn Abbas:
The verse "The punishment of those who wage war against Allah 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 side or exile from the land... most merciful" was revealed about polytheists. If any of them repents before they are arrested, it does not prevent from inflicting on him the prescribed punishment which he deserves. (Sunan Abu Dawud book 38. Number 4356, 4357, 4359)

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 71, Number 590:

Narrated Anas:
The climate of Medina did not suit some people, so the Prophet ordered them to follow his shepherd, i.e. his camels, and drink their milk and urine (as a medicine). So they followed the shepherd that is the camels and drank their milk and urine till their bodies became healthy. Then they killed the shepherd and drove away the camels. When the news reached the Prophet he sent some people in their pursuit. When they were brought, he cut their hands and feet and their eyes were branded with heated pieces of iron.

Not only were these men tortured but some traditions say that they were refused water and left to die slow and mutilated. The account states: "I saw one of them licking the earth with his tongue till he died." (Sahih Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 71, Number 589)

This instance is multiply attested and sufficiently evidenced. Now, I don't have a problem with Muhammad ordering the death penalty for brutal criminals. In the US killing an innocent man and his animals would warrant the death penalty in many cases. However, what I do have a problem with is the fact that Muhammad believed that these criminals would go to hell after death yet he was sick enough to torture them ruthlessly before their hell experience. Execution and then hell isn't enough punishment for Muhammad. He has to cut their hands and feet off and burn their eyes out with hot iron! This is not the act of a merciful man following Christ's moral teachings. These are the actions of an evil fanatic with no regard for Christ's teachings.

With respect to the previous instance the author of The Truth About Muhammad Robert Spencer states:

When they were caught, he ordered that their hands and feet be amputated (in accord with Quran 5:33, which directs that those who cause "corruption in the land" be punished by the amputation of their hands and feet on opposite sides) and their eyes put out with heated iron bars, and that they be left in the desert to die. Their pleas for water, he ordered, must be refused. The traditions are clear that one of the main reasons that the punishment was so severe was because these men had been Muslims but had "turned renegade." Muhammad legislated for his community that no Muslim could be put to death except for murder, unlawful sexual intercourse, and apostasy. He said flatly: "Whoever changed his Muslim religion, then kill him. " (Robert Spencer, The Truth About Muhammad Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion, [Regnery Publishing, 2007], p.148)

As previously mentioned by Spencer the death penatly for apostasy is a crucial aspect of Islam. With respect to Muhammad discarding of Jesus' commands regarding mercy we discover that the Islamic view on apostasy contradicts Jesus' merciful commands. Within the New Testament documents there is not one place were Christ or anyone else ordered that apostates should be killed. What is more, apostasy was predicted in the New Testament numerous times but Christians were never ordered to kill them when they left Christianity.

"But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons." 1 Timothy 4:1

If Christians were to kill apostates we would expect the next verse to order their death. However, nothing in the following verses says to punish the apostates.

"For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry." 2 Timothy 4:3-5

Notice that after it is noted that apostasy will take place there is no order to kill them. Instead verse 5 says to keep our head in all situations, endure hardship and be evangelists. As opposed to killing those who fall away, the Christian is ordered to evangelize the lost. Although apostasy is not acceptable (e.g. 2 Thessalonians 2:3; 2 Peter 3:17), we are never commanded to go kill them. The parable of the sower in Luke 8 would have been a perfect place to order apostates killed had the Christian theology been that of killing apostates.

Luke 8:4-15 states:

"While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: "A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown." When he said this, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear." His disciples asked him what this parable meant. He said, "The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to others I speak in parables, so that, " 'though seeing, they may not see; though hearing, they may not understand.'" This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop."

This would have been the perfect time to implement the punishment of apostasy after Jesus predicted it would happen. However, no such implementation was made. In fact, Jesus ordered the opposite. In Matthew 19:19 Jesus said, "... Do not murder," as well as Luke 18:20. In John 6:64-70 when many of Jesus' followers turned their back on him did he order his remaining followers to assassinate them or plot their deaths? No he did not. However, he did let them know that there was an apostate among them, Judas. Did he order them to kill the future apostate? No he did not. As John 13:34-35 states:

"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."

In light of Jesus' teachings and in light of what the New Testament says and does not say about apostasy, how does Muhammad conform to these merciful teachings? Did he contradict Christ and the New Testament by ordering that apostates are to be ruthlessly murdered?

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 260:

Narrated Ikrima:
Ali burnt some people and this news reached Ibn 'Abbas, who said, "Had I been in his place I would not have burnt them, as the Prophet said, 'Don't punish (anybody) with Allah's Punishment.' No doubt, I would have killed them, for the Prophet said, 'If somebody (a Muslim) discards his religion, kill him.' "

Sahih Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 83, Number 17:

Narrated 'Abdullah:
Allah's Apostle said, "The blood of a Muslim who confesses that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah and that I am His Apostle, cannot be shed except in three cases: In Qisas for murder, a married person who commits illegal sexual intercourse and the one who reverts from Islam (apostate) and leaves the Muslims."

It is quite clear that Muhammad contradicted Christ's moral and merciful commands on many accounts. He contradicted Christ on the issue of murder. Instead of acting with love and showing mercy the way Christ taught, Muhammad commanded and did things that one might find a maniac doing in a horror film. For further reading on Muhammad's assassinations and unmerciful behavior see the following related articles (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).

By abandoning mercy, Muhammad gave Muslims like Emir Fethi Caner, the son of a Muslim Cleric, sufficient reason to abandon Islam and turn to the truth of Christianity. Muhammad did not show the mercy that Christ ordered be shown, thus it seems that one is justified in asserting that Muhammad will most likely not be shown mercy on the day of judgement.

Christ has Risen, he is Lord.

Continue with Part 2: Holiness.