Jesus and Mohammad...part 1
by, Aug 12th 2011 at 03:09 PM (1104 Views)
From the early sixties and into the seventies, with the cultural revolution came a change in the way that generation wanted to look at 'religious experience'. It was, for many, a search for deeper meaning outside of what the older culture had to offer in religion and social values. One of those ways was the experience of Eastern religions. India was the 'Mecca' of choice, and visits to 'Ashrams' became a type of religious pilgrimage for many teens.
It was also true that many Indian Gurus or 'teachers' came to America to enlighten multitudes of seekers. Now, Eastern religions, mainly in the form of Buddhistic teachings and Indian Yogo instructors, had been around since the turn of the century, but in the late sixties and early seventies it became a movement that grew exponentially and then rapidly declined as the Eighties gave a new name to the protesters of the sixties, the 'me' generation. They were older and turned to more 'common' pursuits of making a living.
One religion that hung around amid the 'Eastern Experience' was the Islamic religion. However, to many in the sixties, it just seemed to be too much 'Establishment Monostheism' and so it grew much slower than the other more esoteric teachings. It was among the Black Civil Rights movements in America that Islam, in the form of the Black Muslim movement, held it's strongest sway among Black Americans. Louis Farrakhan became it's popular, prolific and most political face to the public.
However, it was external events that brought the Mid-East into sharper focus in the American view of the world. The 'Six Days War' in the sixties and the 'Yom Kippur War' in the seventies, both involving Israel and various Islamic states (notably Egypt, Jordan, Syria with Arab oil backing). The conflict, both bringing stinging defeats to the united Islamic states, was further sharpened in the Islamic eyes by, perceived or actual, backing of Israel by the American government. Oil embargoes followed, with the strongest being in 1973.
Just to keep it short, the rise of the PLO and 'suicide bombers' brought the political side of Islamic politics to the front in sharp, graphic focus. Islamic fundamentalism was now in the American consciousness. The bombers were promised 'Paradise' for their acts of 'bravery', and so religion and politics, with an Islamic flavor, became merged in the emerging picture we created for the Middle East and the Islamic religion, right or wrong as the case may be seen. This line was followed through the Russian occupation of Afghanistan and the resulting war of freedom and it's resulting victory for the Afghanis almost a decade later.
It was the American politician from Texas, Charlie Wilson, who pushed America into backing the Afghan freedom fighters with American arms and training, and this cemented an uncertain union that turned deadly for the US on September 11, 2001. The term 'Jihad', with Allah's backing in the form of Moslem clerical approval, took on a meaning that will never be the same as it was before '9/11'. This spawned two American wars, one in Afghanistan and one in Iraq. Within American discourse that followed, the left and right published their own interpretations and reactions to the resulting conflicts. The narrative on the Islamic religion split along the same lines, as such always seems to do in American political/economic/social discourses.
There are two caveats that I must bring forward. The first, is that what I have narrated is from the American side of the history. Europeans have had their own history with Islamic followers and the immigrations in recent years. The Moslem presence there has been far longer than what the US has experienced. The Moorish Moslems occupied Spain up until the time of Columbus, and Europe has had a Moorish presence as a result of Colonial policies of various European countries such as England and France.
The second caveat involves the Mormons and the Prophet, Joseph Smith. On the face of his account, there are some similarities in the way the two holy texts were gained. However, if one looks at the history of it all, the differences are far more significant and glaring. Mohammad comes out far the beter of the two, if that is any compliment. That being said, there are some interesting similarities in the histories of the two which will be drawn out in later parts. Up front, it should be pointed out that their 'theologies' bear no similarity, and especially the way 'god' is revealed. Islam is strictly Monotheistic, while Mormon theology, once the advanced part is known, is in no respects Monotheistic.
When you compare the early history of the Christianity and Islam, differences just jump off the page into life. As a Christian, I have chosen this part since it was over a three hundred year period that Christianity grew through years of oppression and persecution, some of it quite harsh, to become accepted in the time of Constantine. It was also, in this period, that the text of the New Testament was set in place or canonized. It was after this period, from the Protestant perspective, that so much seemed to slide off into unnecessary additions to what was the Christian life and worship.
After Constantine made Christianity the 'state religion', some Christians chose to take revenge on the Pagans and even the Jews, claiming it was a just pay back for the almost three centuries of persecution 'they' endured at the hands of Pagans and Jews. This, from the perspective of New Testament teaching, was not Godly at all, but it was justified by many extraneous papers, decrees, and laws; in short, there was no way to justify what they did from the teaching of Jesus Christ.
It was during the same 'three hundred year' window that the Koran was first set down, though, as we will see, the debate would continue for years after ward. The codification of the Koran was from a different process than what Christians would see as God's way of 'inspiring' scripture. It is this difference that is the first point of contrast between the two. The Moslem view of Canonicity seems quite foreign to most Christians, and raises a few skeptical eyebrows for many Westerners.
Mohammad followed a different path in establishing his creed. He taught his beliefs, argued with the unbelievers, and sought to establish his monotheism in the face of a Pagan culture. He sought to create a 'tribe of followers' by teaching, by some military means, by robbing caravans when needed, and by moving from one place to the next. He established a large following in one city, and returned to his 'home town' in force to eventually win control for his particular religious teachings. After his death, the next three hundred years were a time furious militaristic expansion on the part of the followers of Muhammad. This last phase just amplified what had been true about the creative phase under Mohammad.
Of course, there are the doctrinal differences that exist between what Mohammad taught and what Jesus taught. Again, the differences in teaching are there also, but are secondary to the discussion; except for the miracles Jesus preformed, there are no equivalents in the Koran. The basic understanding of God, sin, atonement and, especially, the idea of substitutionary death are different between the two, or do not exist at all in the Koran. Mohammad had no place for 'The Old Rugged Cross', or and empty tomb.
Curiously, though, if you believe in Christ as He taught, you also believe in God; as Jesus makes the point in John's Gospel, 'You believe in God, believe also in Me.' The same is true for the Islamic teaching, if you believe Mohammad, then you will believe Allah [God]. The point is, at least for the conservative interpretation of each belief, the messengers are tied up with their message and with God. It is an awkward point to make, but one that is apparent as you learn more about each belief.
Jesus, in His teaching, and in the Apostolic teaching, was the fulfillment of much earlier prophecy; and is even that which was the final revelation of God's message to His people. This prophetic and historic background is the subject of the Old Testament writings, which are interpreted in the New Testament writings. Thus, from the Christian perspective, we can follow the ribbon of promise from the start of scripture in Genesis, and follow it's winding path through to Jesus Christ.
Mohammad, also, claimed to be the last prophet, and the Koran names a line of prophets that came before Mohammad. To the Moslems, Mohammad is the last and greatest prophet. But, the historic background is not drawn out like it is in the Old Testament Scriptures. Indeed, there is no 'history' in the Koran. It is just a book of conversation between god and mohammad that is then passed on to Mohammads followers.
Looking back down the road, Islam has had a combative existence with those of the West, and with the countries it overran in it's first surge of growth. For the most part, Protestant Christians took no note of it, Protestants seemed to face west and in America, it barely registered except in Academic circles for many, many years. It was the rise of Communism that grabbed the theological attention of most Protestants, but with the fall of communism, Islamic fundamentalism, for many reasons, has stepped forward.
In many parts of the world, Christians are openly persecuted and killed by Islamic fundamentalists. As Islam grows in this age, it seeks to establish it's own state and hold sway over all others. It is forbidden for Christians to proselytize in most Moslem countries, and many have paid the price in many ways for holding to the Name of Christ in the wake of Islamic wars in many countries in Africa and across the Mid-East and Far East. It is, in the face of this fact, that Christians need to take note and prepare a witness for Moslem wherever we meet them. It must be patient, quiet and loving; but firm, strong and straight forward. We must use those Spiritual weapons that God grants through prayer to be the shining lights in the encroaching darkness.