"FIGHTING IN THE WAY OF ALLAH" © KB 2012

Jihad in the Life of Muhammad: Jesus and Muhammad Opposition, Mockery and Rejection

Part 10

JESUS CHRIST AND MUHAMMAD
OPPOSITION, MOCKERY AND REJECTION

 

Jesus Christ and Muhammad: Opposition, Mockery and Rejection

Although lessons can be learned from the statesmanship of Muhammad in his relations with the Jews, from his strategic ability and warrior actions what enduring values for humanity can be deduced from this phase in Muhammad's life we shall have to leave to the reader himself to discern as we admit our inability to do so. On the contrary, we can only discern elements which, if followed, would only lead to the destruction of humanity and ethnic cleansing on a global scale. The events, actions and reactions related so far, and especially Muhammad's relations with the Jewish tribes of Medina clearly show that anyone who opposes Muhammad and his message, anyone who offends him or who even dares criticise him deserves ruthless punishment, including death. Let us not forget that all Muslims ideally model their lives on Muhammad, on his thoughts, actions and reactions. The spirit of Muhammad is very much alive today.

While Muhammad was circumambulating the Ka’ba, which at that time was the focal point of idol worship, and, after kissing the black stone, he became the object of ridicule. It is interesting to note his reaction, perfectly in keeping with what we have seen in the first years after the flight to Medina. Being in a position of weakness in Mecca Muhammad could not carry out the following threat:
While they were thus discussing him the apostle came towards them and kissed the black stone, then he passed them as he walked round the temple. As he passed they said some injurious things about him. This I could see from his expression. He went on and as he passed them the second time they attacked him similarly. This I could see from his expression. Then he passed the third time, and they did the same. He stopped and said, 'Will you listen to me O Quraysh? By him who holds my life in His hand I bring you slaughter."(Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 183)1
Muhammad never forgot his oath and it is important to bear in mind that his wish for revenge overshadows future relations, policies and decisions in the early Medina phase. The word for “slaughter” used above is dhubh, used also for the slaughter of animals. We have seen how, in Medina, Muhammad, in a position of authority and power, progressed easily and frequently from violent language to violent actions.

How often has this pattern of behaviour of the prophet of Islam been put into practice even in our time! One only has to think of the violent protests, words and actions directed against Salman Rushdie 2 or against those responsible for drawing and publishing the well-known Danish satirical cartoons depicting Muhammad. 3 Is this one of the “enduring values for humanity” that is spoken of? 4 Is this the way forward for humanity? Is this the way man should react in face of ridicule? Some might perceive this as the “natural” way. It may have crossed the minds of some, in face of ridicule, to wish the person dead but fortunately it is rare for a person to translate this thought into reality and it is also rare for a person to express such a thought in public; not so for Muhammad. To wish the death of someone who ridicules you may be “natural” and, indeed, Muslims pride themselves that Islam is the “natural way”.5 However, as God is not “natural” but “super”natural, his thoughts, ways and actions are also “super”natural and so must it be for those who wish to conform to the will of God. The scriptures of the Judaeo-Christian tradition state quite clearly:


For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

God is supernatural, our origin is supernatural, our destiny is supernatural, the way to get there is supernatural and religion consists in perceiving the natural in the light of the supernatural to give it meaning and direction; it is not a “natural” but “super”natural way. The Christian faith is that the whole of humanity is moving forward to its supernatural destiny, towards being summed up in Christ at the end of time (Ephes. 1:10). Islam claims to be the “natural” way and this, indeed, seems to be the pattern that Muhammad followed in his relations with the Jews: the “natural” wish for revenge, the “natural” wish for ambitions to be unopposed, the “natural” wish to be feared if not loved following the principles of Machiavelli rather than of God. 6 The Christian way is the “supernatural way”; it transcends the natural just as God transcends man.

The Christian believes that the way is “super”natural and believes that the “natural” man cannot comprehend the things of God as they are foolish to him:
the natural person does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God, for to him it is foolishness, and he cannot understand it, because it is judged spiritually. (1 Cor. 2:14)
We have seen that Muhammad’s ways, thoughts, actions and reactions are purely “natural”, and furthermore, of the most violent kind. The fact that pre-Islamic times were violent is no justification as a person who claims to be the voice of God to mankind, a prophet, should manifest the mind of God and transcend what is negative, evil and destructive in society. Gandhi lived in difficult and turbulent times and so did Jesus who also lived in an oppressed nation. Popular hopes of political freedom were pinned on him to such an extent that the people wanted to make him king:
When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, "This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world." Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone. (John 6:14, 15)
 As the real voice of God, the word or logos he shunned the worldly ambition of becoming a powerful leader:
Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants (would) be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here." (John 18:36).
Instead he announced the real message of God: that he who is to be the greatest among men must be their servant:
The greatest among you must be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted. (Matthew 23:11)
The logic of God is that those who claim to represent him (i.e. prophets) should not lord it over people but serve them as did Christ:
If there is any encouragement in Christ, any solace in love, any participation in the Spirit, any compassion and mercy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, with the same love, united in heart, thinking one thing. Do nothing out of selfishness or out of vainglory; rather, humbly regard others as more important than yourselves, each looking out not for his own interests, but (also) everyone for those of others. Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Because of this, God greatly exalted him and bestowed on him the name  that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bend, of those in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord,  to the glory of God the Father. (Ephesians 2:1-11)
From these texts from Jewish and Christian scriptures it is not difficult to see that there is absolutely no continuity of thought and spirit between Muhammad and the prophet Isaiah and Jesus Christ. This lack of spiritual continuity is, of course, one of numerous elements incompatible with the claim that Muhammad was the “seal of the prophets”.

One is almost inevitably invited to contrast the two historical figures that inspired the two greatest religions, Muhammad, prophet of what is natural, and Jesus Christ who revealed the supernatural in his own person, actions and reactions. The way they reacted to opposition, rejection and mockery is radically different and by briefly examining this difference we can easily discover not only who genuinely reveals the will of God and enduring values for humanity but also which model (Jesus or Muhammad, Christianity or Islam) really inspires peace and authentic human development.

When Jesus had to face the reality of his message and person being rejected by the Jews his reaction is exemplified in many passages including the following:
Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how many times I yearned to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her young under her wings, but you were unwilling! (Matthew 23:37)

Now as He drew near, He saw the city [Jerusalem] and wept over it, (Luke 19:4)

Jesus answered him, "Friend, do what you have come for." Then stepping forward they laid hands on Jesus and arrested him. And behold, one of those who accompanied Jesus put his hand to his sword, drew it, and struck the high priest's servant, cutting off his ear. Then Jesus said to him, "Put your sword back into its sheath, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot call upon my Father and he will not provide me at this moment with more than twelve legions of angels? (Matthew 26:50-53)
When being questioned, after his arrest, Jesus was asked to defend himself from the false charges brought against him. He said not a word in his own defence and was led like a lamb to the slaughter similar to the sacrifice of the lamb of Abraham in substitution for Isaac and announced by the prophet Isaiah:
Yet it was our infirmities that he bore, our sufferings that he endured, while we thought of him as stricken, as one smitten by God and afflicted. But he was pierced for our offenses, crushed for our sins, upon him was the chastisement that makes us whole, by his stripes we were healed. We had all gone astray like sheep, each following his own way; But the LORD laid upon him the guilt of us all. Though he was harshly treated, he submitted and opened not his mouth; like a lamb led to the slaughter or a sheep before the shearers, he was silent and opened not his mouth. Oppressed and condemned, he was taken away, and who would have thought any more of his destiny? When he was cut off from the land of the living, and smitten for the sin of his people, a grave was assigned him among the wicked and a burial place with evildoers, though he had done no wrong nor spoken any falsehood. (Isaiah 53:7)
He did not slaughter, as Muhammad swore to do and did, but was led to the slaughter. He neither authorised killing nor killed, unlike Muhammad who both authorised killing and killed many times. The reader is free to follow the model he finds most conducive to enduring values for humanity.

Jesus was derided in his claim to be king and a crown of thorns was placed on his head. He was derided as he hung on the cross with the letters INRI (Iesus Nazarenus Rex Iudaeorum, Jesus the Nazarene, King of the Jews) placed above his head on the cross and again no violent reaction, verbal or otherwise. On the contrary, from the cross, among his last words were: “Father, forgive them, they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). No wonder Muhammad and his revelations deny the crucifixion as not only is it a stunning non-verbal condemnation of the Muhammad’s attitude to derision and persecution but is also an eloquent revelation of the supernatural way, the way of God; what is foolishness for the natural man is wisdom of God:
The message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. ... Has not God made the wisdom of the world foolish? ... For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength. ... God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong. (1Cor. 18-28)
The cross is the logic of God, the wisdom of God (“my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord. As high as the heavens are above the earth, so high are my ways above your ways and my thoughts above your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)”).  How different is this self-sacrificing servant of humanity from the warrior prophet of Islam! There is no continuity, there is no essential affinity.
When Jesus, after the resurrection, returned to meet those of his followers who had denied him and abandoned him, the only words he had for them as they were together in fearful apprehension in the upper room in Jerusalem were “peace be with you” and he repeated the same words immediately after (John 20:19).  This radical difference between the behavioural patterns of Jesus Christ and Muhammad are an eloquent rebuttal of the claim that there exists spiritual continuity or any other form of continuity from Abraham, Moses, Isaiah Jesus and Muhammad.

The fate that Muhammad reserved and that Islam still reserves for those who deny him or those who, having believed return to disbelief (apostasy) was, and still is, death:

Narrated 'Ikrima:
Some Zanadiqa (atheists) were brought to 'Ali and he burnt them. The news of this event, reached Ibn 'Abbas who said, "If I had been in his place, I would not have burnt them, as Allah's Apostle forbade it, saying, 'Do not punish anybody with Allah's punishment (fire).' I would have killed them according to the statement of Allah's Apostle, 'Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him.'" 7

Let each person make up his own mind as to whom he should follow, whom he should accept as his role model and which is the religion of peace. The Christian jihad (the utmost effort in the way of God) is sublimely expressed in the following words:

Bless those who persecute (you), bless and do not curse them. Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. Have the same regard for one another; do not be haughty but associate with the lowly; do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil; be concerned for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, on your part, live at peace with all. Beloved, do not look for revenge but leave room for the wrath; for it is written, "Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord." Rather, "if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head." Do not be conquered by evil but conquer evil with good. (Romans 12:14-21)
There are radical and irreconcilable differences between these two models proposed for humanity. In the case of Jesus the enduring values for humanity include identification with the suffering of others, empathy, sympathy, a burning sense of helplessness because of man's obduracy the total rejection of violence as a solution, universal love which includes the sacrifice of one's own life for the salvation of others and finally the full realisation that God does not need man's violence, he does not need man to fight on his behalf, there should not be any "fighting in the cause of God", there is no need for jihad al saif, (jihad of the sword). 8 Furthermore, there is no spiritual continuity between Muhammad and the line of prophets that came before him, including Jesus Christ, and to which he claims to belong as “seal of the prophets”. It is a claim that does not stand up to analysis.

It does not come as a surprise that in many Muslim lands violence is the order of the day, either Muslims killing Muslims or Muslims killing Christians and Jews or obliging them to migrate for the territorial expansion and consolidation of Islam as is happening, for example, in northern Nigeria today and, more subtly in many European cities. This is the spirit of Muhammad, the spirit of jihad. The Muslim writer, Maududi, was right in asserting that Islam should not be considered a religion in the conventional sense:
We are forced to admit the point that if you regard Islam as a religion in the conventional meaning of the term and if, indeed, Islam be a conventional type of religion, the necessity for ‘Jihad’ cannot be justified.9
In fact, some non-Muslims would claim that it is not a religion in any sense and that it is rather a man-made ideology, a socio-political system with a religious façade.

We end this section with the following rhetorical question: if the Jewish and Christian religions are religions in the conventional sense, how on earth can one even attempt to establish any sort of continuity and vindicate the claim that Muhammad is the “seal of the prophets”?



NOTES

1 A. Guillaume, The Life of Muhammad, A Translation of Ibn Isḥāq’s Sīrat Rasūl Allāh, Oxford University Press, Pakistan, 2011, p. 131.
2 Sir Ahmed Salman Rushdie, novelist (1947-). His novel, The Satanic Verses (1988) caused aggressive outbursts of protests throughout the Islamic world, the end result of which was the issuing of a fatwā against him by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, February 14, 1989. The title of the novel alludes to the verses that were once part of the Qur’an but were later removed. In order to convert the Meccan polytheists to his message Muhammad encouraged the worship of three pagan gods. Muhammad later admitted that he had been deceived by Satan, hence the appellation “satanic verses”. It was considered offensive to the figure of Muhammad and a reward was offered to anyone who killed Rushdie but due to stringent police protection in Britain the death sentence was never carried out. However, the fatwā has never been revoked. It is easy to see, on the basis of these pages on Muhammad’s treatment of the Jews, that the protests and fatwā and encouragement to kill follow both Islamic tradition and the pattern of behavior of Muhammad himself.
3 30 September 2005 the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published a series of satirical cartoons ridiculing Muhammad.  The publication was followed by aggressive protests among Muslims the world over. The Danish embassy in Pakistan was bombed and the Danish Embassies in Syria, Lebanon and Iran were set alight. One of these cartoons irreverently depicts Muhammad with his favourite wife, Aisha. Muhammad married her when she was only six and the marriage was consummated when she was nine. Thanks to the violent response to the cartoons they are readily available on the Internet and still the object of interest and curiosity for many..
4 This is the subtitle of a book written by a Muslim which a friend advised me to read, an interesting work but has serious limitations when comparing Islam and Christianity and which also glides over or completely omits anything in the Qu’ran, hadith and Sira that contradicts the subtitle. The volume is by Seyyed Hossein Nasr, The Heart of Islam, Enduring Values for Humanity.
5 This is the title of a book by Abdul Wahid Hamid, Islam the Natural Way.
6 Niccolò Macchiavelli, Il principe, chapter 17. Niccolò di Bernardo dei Machiavelli (1469 – 1527), Italian diplomat, playwright, political philosopher: “Upon this a question arises: whether it be better to be loved than feared or feared than loved? It may be answered that one should wish to be both, but, because it is difficult to unite them in one person, it is much safer to be feared than loved, when, of the two, either must be dispensed with.
The original text reads:  “Nasce da questo una disputa: s'elli è meglio essere amato che temuto, o e converso. Rispondesi che si vorrebbe essere l'uno e l'altro; ma perché elli è difficile accozzarli insieme, è molto più sicuro essere temuto che amato, quando si abbia a mancare dell'uno de' dua.”
7 Sahih Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 84, Number 58.

8 This does not mean, of course, that there have not been Christians throughout history and in day to day living who have not deviated from these norms of Scripture. This is the direction Christians are moving, these are the enduring principles and values for Christians and for the whole of humanity as it journeys on its way to its final destiny, the fulfilling of God’s plan “to sum up all things in Christ, in heaven and on earth” (Ephesians 1:10)
9 Abul a’la Maududi, Jihad in Islam, The Holy Koran Publishing House,  Beirut, Lebanon, 1980, p. 4.

 

 

 

 

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