"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Muhammad & Jesus -- On Being the "Word of God"

My first post about the Quran has generated lots of interesting discussion (over sixty comments presently!), and I greatly appreciate all who have taken time to comment. I've learned some interesting points of view indeed! A few days ago one lady really caught my attention by writing,

"As we Muslims all know Prophet Mohammed was described as the walking Qur’an."

She was discussing how Muhammad exemplified the message of the Quran so well that they could essentially follow his example and "keep" the Quran so to speak. Fair enough. But the terminology just stuck with me and later I replied to her in the comments section about it. Tonight while I was walking around the neighborhood I decided that I wouldn't be able to finish my thoughts on Quran 7 and really wanted to reflect more on this topic first anyway. This is what I wrote in the comments of my post in reply to S's words about Muhammad.

I mused over this a bit and got to thinking how this was so similar to how we think of Jesus. Get this....

You believe Muhammad was "walking Quran" and the Quran to you is the Word of God, right? So in a sense Muhammad is the Word of God in the flesh.

Christians often say Jesus is the Word of God...the Word of God made flesh. See this from John 1:

1In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2He was with God in the beginning.

14The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

It's quite amazing how similarly we think of our respective "prophets of most distinction," isn't it? This came to me more after I'd already replied to you and I thought later maybe it was worth sharing. I do realize Christians think of Jesus as God, and Muslims don't think of Muhammad that way so there is that HUGE difference, however, this "Word of God made flesh" similarity between the two was quite interesting. :)

The words of someone expresses that person. Our thoughts, ideas and comments are really not worth much if we cannot express them so that others can hear or read or experience them. Therefore I see how important the Word of God is and even how "it" is part of Him. How "it" can be Him. Maybe this is why Jesus said if you've seen me, you've seen the Father. He was an expression of God, the Word of the Almighty. You read the Gospels and see how entwined God's message and Jesus are. Jesus, the expression (Word) of God? Perhaps.

The only thing I want to add is that also I believe many Muslims believe the Quran is uncreated and eternal which is also how we see Jesus. (Of course if we truly believe him to be God!)

Jesus himself shocked the Jews of his day when he said that Abraham who'd lived hundreds of years prior to Jesus' birth and life on earth had rejoiced to see his day. Here's the passage from John 8.

48The Jews answered him, "Aren't we right in saying that you are a Samaritan and demon-possessed?"

49"I am not possessed by a demon," said Jesus, "but I honor my Father and you dishonor me. 50I am not seeking glory for myself; but there is one who seeks it, and he is the judge. 51I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps my word, he will never see death."

52At this the Jews exclaimed, "Now we know that you are demon-possessed! Abraham died and so did the prophets, yet you say that if anyone keeps your word, he will never taste death. 53Are you greater than our father Abraham? He died, and so did the prophets. Who do you think you are?"

54Jesus replied, "If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. 55Though you do not know him, I know him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know him and keep his word. 56Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad."

57"You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!"

58"I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I am!"

Soon I will post by thoughts on Quran 7, Lord willing.


Suroor said...

Very interesting!

I know you have always said that the kind of reverence Jesus receives openly in Christianity matches the reverence Muhammad receives not-so-openly in Islam.

Suroor said...

I wanted to ask:

What does this similarity mean to you?

Susanne said...

Suroor, I'm not so sure "not-so-openly in Islam" is correct. With the exception of our calling Jesus "Lord," I actually find Muslims often revering Muhammad more than many Christians revere Jesus. And much of that is to the Christians' shame! If they say Jesus is Lord or Jesus is God, yet don't bother to do what he says then that is not good! We must obey God, yes?

On the other hand, Muslims - who do not say Muhammad is God - revere him to the extent that they mimic him in very detailed areas of life. Even using the bathroom according to his instructions! THAT - to me - is, um, bizarre! I think there are some things that we don't have to implement from hundreds of years ago. Societies change, technologies change...why are "we" stuck urinating and entering bathrooms like some guy did 1,400 years ago?

This similarity shows how truly Muhammad is revered. Right up there with being the uncreated, eternal Word of God. Which is what we call Jesus and they call shirk. Except for the fact that they practice shirk yet deny it. Whereas we embrace Jesus as our Lord.

To me Jesus IS the expression of God. He is God coming down to earth in order to teach us HIS way...to lead us to Himself and to have relationship with us.

If God kept all things in His godly state, His "godly language" (if you will), HOW would we know about it? Do we speak the Language of God? Do we speak "Godlish"? God loved us enough to show us the way to Him. He came down to our level in a sense. He gave us His Word (Jesus) to teach us. We can't fully understand God - no way. However, I do think God showed us Himself when He sent Jesus (the Word) to Earth.

THIS is why Jesus claimed to be the Way, the Truth and the Life. God is the Way, God is the Truth and God is the Life.

People think God in three persons isn't logical therefore it must be rejected. Cannot God do anything He desires including coming to earth and living among His creation? Just because our rational minds can't understand it, doesn't mean it is not possible.

With God ALL things are possible. Jesus said, "I and my Father are one." Why can it not be possible that God came to earth to show us the way to Himself?

Just musing out loud. (Seemingly really loud, huh? LOL!) Sorry if this is not what you wanted when you asked your question. I appreciate your comments. :)

kat said...

I don't think the phrase "walking Quran" meant "God" or equal to God. It could have meant that the way the Prophet(pbuh) interpreted and understood the Quran was so good that if Muslims follow his habits, character, and thinking, we would also be able to come close to interpreting/understanding the Guidance of the Quran properly like he did?

Different people have different levels of spirituality---some need to emulate everyhting about the Prophet(pbuh) minutely, others uare able to understand things moe generally, and still others understand the spiritual dimesnsions of the Prophets life rather than focusing on the earthly dimension----depends on an individuals level of spiritual growth.

kat said...

not sure what connotations "word of God" has in Christianity, but in the context of the Quran, it means "revelation" or "Guidance from God".

Sarah said...

"The words of someone expresses that person. ... Therefore I see how important the Word of God is and even how "it" is part of Him."

Yes, I was reading about ideas like this in an Islamic philosophy text by Averroes (Ibn Rushd). About the extent to which God's attributes are part of him. I think it was this sort of philosophising that led to the adoption of the doctrine of an uncreated Quran.

Sarira said...

Hello, Susanne!

I inspired a post!! Yay, me! Hehe!

The first time you mentioned this point I thought it was really interesting. I still do, but I do see basic differences between our way of thinking and Christianity’s way of thinking. For starters, Kat said the basic idea that I wanted to say. We believe the 'walking Qur'an' description that Aisha provided of the Prophet to mean that the Prophet embodied all of the Qur'anic principles, wisdom, values, etc. That is, the Prophet's character and behavior embodied the practical message of Islam- the Qur'an- the Divine Message of God.

However, it is important to note something extremely essential in Islam. In Islam we believe that one cannot swear by anything but by God and that if one does so, they are taken out of the faith of Islam ( if they actually mean it). Now, some scholars have deemed it permissible to swear by the Qur'an, since it is literally the Word of God, but the fact remains though that no scholar has said that it is alright to swear by Prophet Mohammed and Prophet Mohammed never swore by ‘using himself’.

You might be thinking, but Sarira, didn’t you say he was the walking Qur’an? Yes, I did say that he was the walking Qur'an, and yes, he represented the implementation of the Word of God, but was he the actual Qur'an? No, he only implemented the Qur'an to the fullest degree possible. In fact, saying 'wa nabi' (“By the Prophet as in a swear”) is in no way (read bold and underlined, lol) permissible in Islam.

In fact, although I do not know of a hadith or saying that says it, I personally do believe that Prophet Moses embodied the ‘uncorroput’ Torah, that Prophet Jesus embodied the ‘uncorrupt’ Bible. Both were prophets- there is no way that they would have contradicted the Word of God they delivered to the people (unless it was for example something small that they repented from)- so to me, they also embodied the messages they came with. Does that make each one of them God? No, it makes each one of them the best examples sent by God to implement His Word.

AS for mimicking Prophet Mohammed- the reason why we mimic him is because we truly believe this verse:

"You have indeed in the Messenger of God (Muhammad) a beautiful pattern (of conduct) for any one whose hope is God and the Final Day." (33:21)

Sarira said...

(could i possibly be done? LOl)

Do we commit shirk when we imitate his example? No, because shirk is not about imitating one’s behavior but about associating a partner with God, thinking that salvation comes from other than God. It is believing that there is another divine power/ or for example that God has begotten. Shirk is calling on someone other than God.
This the Qu’ran clearly condemns and this no ‘practicing Muslim’, no matter how much he imitates the Prophet will fall into. No Muslim should call out “O, Mohammed, save me” or something like that. That would be shirk.

In fact, the Prophet himself used to emphasize that he was just a man. It is reported that once a Bedouin met him; when the Bedioun saw him, he was so awed by his presence, he trembled in fear. Seeing this Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said: 'Calm down. I am only the son of a woman who used to eat dry meat in Makkah (meaning a poor woman).'

Also, it is said that once one of the Companions said he was going to do something, “If God willed and if His apostle did, too”. Prophet Mohammed grew so angry and asked him why he was associating a partner with God! He explained that this was blasphemous.

This is our creed- that God is One, and that Prophet Mohammed was his final Messenger, but NO MORE than that. We imitate Prophet Mohammed because we believe that he was the best example sent to mankind. But we never make the mistake of thinking that we are (istagifRallah, may God forgive me) actually imitating God! This could never be. If we thought that, than we would be belittling God’s status. He is not imitatiable. (Of course, we try to be compassionate as we know that He is, merciful, etc.) but when we imitate the way the Prophet used the bathroom, we in no way, think that we are imitating God—that would be shirk, associating Prophet Mohammed wiht God.

At the end of the day, actions in Islam are by intentions. Our intention is simply to follow this beautiful example. Nothing more.


Sarira said...

Susanne- I agree with you; faith isn’t only based on logic- it’s also matters of the heart. But the thing is what you said in one of your last posts about having the strength to question our religion really resonated with me... You said that religion is supposed to save us both in this world and the Hereafter- and you suggested that being that important, it only makes sense that we ask any questions we might have on our mind. And most questions people have are based on logic /rationality (or at least some kind of logic!)...Anyways, back to this post- You asked a question: Can’t God do whatever He wants? Can’t He be 3/Can’t He have a son?

My answer to you is that we believe that Allah is capable of everything. Whatever He wants to do is done by Him merely by Him saying “Be”. There is nothing impossible for Allah- nothing too difficult or beyond Him. His power is unimaginable. As Muslims, we NEVER say God doesn’t have a son because He can’t. We say He doesn’t have a son because He CHOSE not to beget.

I guess my question back to you, then, is: Why does God have to have a son? Does He need a son to save humanity? Wouldn’t that mean that He lacks forgiveness? Or does He NEED a son to show humanity how to worship and please Him? But then, why did He send messengers in the first place? Why did He send Moses, Noah, Lot, Joseph, and the others (peace be upon all of them)? Why didn’t He come, Himself, in the very first place? Or every single time? And why did He suddenly change the basis in creed all of a sudden? Obviously, Moses’ followers didn’t see Jesus, right? And Noah’s followers too- they didn’t see Jesus either. So what was their fundamental creed based on? Are they going to heaven though they didn’t acknowledge God’s son? If so, why did God drastically change the creed that saves people?

Why is it that you (christians, not you) find it so easy to believe God came here (down to our level) to help us understand Him but you find it difficult to believe that He chose someone (like us) and He inspired him, sometimes directly and sometimes through an angel, to help guide us to His Way?

You might throw the question back at me: Well, why don’t Muslims believe God chose to have son? Can’t He choose whatever He wants? Exactly-God did not choose to have a son. It isn’t fitting for the Lord of the Heavens and the Earth to have a son because that would create a power problem: who would be ultimately in control? What if Allah wanted to grant someone something but “his son” did not? Or vice versa? Would one of the Divine Powers have to concede? Moreover, it would become difficult to know who to worship- Allah or His son? Or Both?
As for Allah’s Mercy….Yes, Allah is Loving and Merciful and because of His Mercy, He did not just leave us to try to figure out how to worship Him by ourselves. But He did not come down to teach us; instead, He chose messengers who He instructed on everything. Actually, it was out of His Mercy that He chose a human messenger because He wanted someone who would truly be able to connect with us and to understand our needs, desires, weakness, and faults. Equally important, God wanted someone to show us how to act in all the different stages in our lives (as a spouse, parent, and grandparent) and how to act in the different circumstances we might face. See, God chose Prophet Mohammed to show us how to act when people ridicule us, physically try to hurt us, and evict us from our homes. He sent Prophet Mohammed to show us how to act when a spouse loses his love to Death and when a parent loses a child. Allah chose Prophet Mohammed to show us how to be thankful even when we are poor and can’t find any proper food to eat for over a month.

Sarira said...

Why wasn’t it God, Himself, you ask who came? Now, sure, God, theoretically, can do all of those things but it is not fitting for Him. It wouldn’t be fitting for God to marry a human (like us) to show us how to treat our spouses even when they’re not being that “perfect”? It wouldn’t be fitting for God to be evicted from a place…And it actually wouldn’t really mean anything. What do I mean by that? Let’s say God did come and He was oppressed by humans (istigfir Allah) in the way that Prophet Mohammed was oppressed and the other messengers…well, we all know that God is the One who is truly Powerful. So even if God endured “oppression”, we wouldn’t be taught the true lesson of having faith in God even when the odds are low because hey, it is God…He could suddenly change the situation if He wants.

I'm really sorry Susanne, but I won't be able to see your answers as my sis is fianlly coming and I'll be offline while she's here. But I will be back, God's willing in a 10 days time.

P.s. I did end up revealing 'my name' :P

Sarira said...

OOoo, blogger had told me to cut my post and I accidentally cut off a whole chunk- when I said 'this is our creed'>

This is what I had placed before, 'this is our creed':

the Qur'anic verse:

“Muhammad is no more than an Apostle: many were the Apostles that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will you then turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to Allah; but Allah (on the other hand) will swiftly reward those who (serve Him) with gratitude.” (3:144)

What’s more, we’re all familiar with what Abu Bakr said when the Prophet passed away: “O People! If Muhammad is the sole object of your adoration, then know that he is dead. But if it is Allah (The One God) you Worshiped, then know that He does not die.”

sanil said...

Not quite directly related to your post, but I had a strange thought while reading it and the comments.

The difference I'm seeing (and I might be misinterpreting) between Muslims believing Mohammad embodies the Word and Christians believing Jesus does is that in the Word in Islam isn't God, but something co-eternal. The Word is Truth that exists specifically because God does, and so is obviously connected to God, but it is not itself God, only a descriptor of God.

To say that the Word is God seems to me to be saying something similar to panentheism, that the core Truth of the world is itself God, that everything that exists is a manifestation of God. (Not taken all the way out to that extreme in Christianity, maybe, but they seem to me to have the same core.) There can't be any fundamental Truth that is in any way separate from God, because God is all Truth.

Less traditionally Christian now and more into panentheist Christianity. If that's true, then everything, every person, can also be described as being a manifestation of God. However, the rest of us are corrupted and therefore separated from God, while a perfect person (Jesus) could be the pure manifestation and fully God.

The point sort of got lost in there. I guess basically it was just interesting for me to see the roots of the process theology/panentheist understanding of Jesus in what you were saying. I hadn't thought of it that way before.

Susanne said...

Kat, thank you for your comment. I like the part about people differing on spirituality and thus the degree to which they imitate Muhammad varies. That's a good point.

"not sure what connotations "word of God" has in Christianity, but in the context of the Quran, it means "revelation" or "Guidance from God"."

That's interesting. Well, I could make a case that Jesus revealed God's way and guided us to Him. So I can relate to that Quran connotation you mentioned. Thanks for that!

Susanne said...

Sarah, thanks for the information on what lead to the doctrine of an uncreated Quran!

Sarira, thanks for your comment on the essential differences you saw between the "word of God" thing. I found all you said very interesting about the swearing, why you imitate Muhammad, and, well, just all of it was good for me in learning. I appreciate so much your taking time to share your thoughts!

"Also, it is said that once one of the Companions said he was going to do something, “If God willed and if His apostle did, too”. Prophet Mohammed grew so angry and asked him why he was associating a partner with God! He explained that this was blasphemous."

Honestly I can relate to the Companion after reading sura 8 earlier today. There were a number of times it mentioned "God and the Apostle" together as if they were an unbreakable pair.

Interesting questions you posed for me. :) I think we aren't on the same page concerning "son of God" as it seems you think we believe God had a child...like a relationship with a woman. About this: "What if Allah wanted to grant someone something but “his son” did not?" The unity of Jesus' message and God even to the extent that Jesus claimed "I and my Father are one" shows me that they are on the same page. Maybe when you read the Bible for yourself you will notice this, too.

Hope you have a great time with your sister! Thanks again for your replies. :)

Sanil, I'm glad you shared that. It was loaded so I'll have to ponder it more. Maybe someone else will have some thoughts on it as well. Thank you for writing that. I really enjoyed it!

Thanks everyone for your feedback!

Suroor said...

Susie, I always understood Word of God to mean a - the only - Messenger who didn't need revelations; who didn't need pre-approval of what he was about to say or do; who didn't have to wait to know what to do. He was sort of like pre-programmed to know what to do/say/preach/order and came to earth with the knowledge.

It fits Jesus perfectly.

What I found confusing was that the Quran uses that word for Jesus since it was used by John for Jesus and John also teaches that Jesus was God. Further, John is nobody in Islam neither an apostle nor a prophet so...

Sarira said...

Hey Susanne,

Did you miss me?

Anyways, wow, you’ve covered a lot since my absence! Ma’shaAllah!

You’re fast! My little brother (he’s 13, lol) decided to treat my big sis and her daughter and husband out and I was too sick to go (yeah, I got sick, hehe), so I decided to come visit this blog I’m really addicted to…you might know it…:P LOL

I see that the answer to the ‘disunity’ I see in the concept of the trinity lies in reading the Bible. Actually, I really have been thinking lately about my decision to read the Bible- I’m trying to decide on whether to read it in Arabic or English since either way, they’re both translations and I personally find Arabic to be a much more poetic language (a language attitude, I know. I held a seminar on that subject, myself! LOL). I think it would be fairer to read it in Arabic though since I read the Qur’an in Arabic. The only problem is that I got a phone call that pretty much suggested that I may start working in 2 weeks time (inshaAllah, inshaAllah!). If so, I’ll most likely put it on hold, but we’ll see.

However, I do want to make it clear that I do understand though that obviously my understanding of the trinity does not hold any weight since I haven’t read the Bible, yet.

Okay, off to see your other posts. They’re so many I don’t know where to start! Hehe!

Susanne said...

Suroor, yes, it does fit Jesus perfectly! :)

"What I found confusing was that the Quran uses that word for Jesus since it was used by John for Jesus and John also teaches that Jesus was God. Further, John is nobody in Islam neither an apostle nor a prophet so..."

I can see how that would be confusing for sure! Thanks for sharing that with me!

Susanne said...

Sarira, of course I missed you, but I knew you were visiting your sister. I'm sorry you weren't feeling well enough to join the family, but it was so nice of you visit me here instead. :)

Yeah, I've really been reading and posting a lot. It's like this has become an obsession. :)

Nice that you may have a job! I hope it works out for you! Interesting thinking about whether to read the Bible in Arabic or English. Samer is an Arab, but he read the Bible with me in English. Thankfully his grasp of English is fantastic. Plus I was there to explain things if needed. Ha! I have an Arab Christian friend (about mid-sixties who lives in the US now) ... I could ask him for advice if you want.

I'll be sure to read your other comments soon. Thanks for dropping by!