In today’s world, it is much easier than in years past to navigate your way to an unknown address. The advent of GPS devices and Google maps has changed how we find our way around. Back in the day, receiving accurate directions was tricky business. Before modern navigation systems, the preferable method of getting to an unknown destination was to follow someone else who knew where they were going.
How does this relate to Christianity and Islam? As it happens, both Muhammad and Jesus had something to say about where they were going after they died. During the final week of Jesus’ life, He relayed a lot of instructions and encouragement to His disciples. In particular, He wanted to assure them that while He was leaving them physically, He had a purpose behind His departure and that He would be awaiting them. Jesus told the disciples that He was going to make preparations for their eventual arrival in heaven.
2 In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. 3 If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also (John 14:2-3)
Jesus was informing the disciples that He was going ahead of them to heaven to get things ready, but that they too would be there with Him at some point in the future. This level of certainty about where we go after death is an entirely different topic and will be discussed in a future article (Ephesians 1:13-14). For now, let’s stay focused just on the fact that Jesus announced that He Himself was going to be with the Father and to prepare a place for His followers. Jesus knew where He was going, and what He would be doing when He arrived there.
What did Muhammad say about his final destination after death? A person might assume that Muhammad would have said he would be with Allah after he died, but this is not the case. In one of the Hadith, one of the early Muslims was discussing whether her father would reside in heaven or Hell. Muhammad clearly stated that nobody could be certain of anyone’s final destination, even that of himself. Muhammad stated that “By Allah, though I am the Apostle of Allah, yet I do not know what Allah will do to me,” [i] This Hadith is quite reliable since it is attested to by multiple chains of narration. Since this statement has been corroborated by so many early Muslims, it subsequently occurs in multiple other Hadith as well. [ii]
This contrast is so stark that it cannot be ignored. Jesus clearly knew where He was headed after His physical death. Muhammad was uncertain. As for myself, if I want to get somewhere, it seems obvious that I want to follow someone who knows where they are going rather than someone who isn’t clear on how to get there either. In Jerry Trousdale’s book “Miraculous Movements,” he shares the story of one Muslim who contemplates this very same thought. The speaker was talking to his grandfather about some of the Hadith mentioned earlier, and the conversation picks up as follows,
I ran to my grandfather and said, “What did Mohammad say when he was dying?” And he repeated these things to me. I said, “Grandfather, look at Jesus. He said he was going to his Father and he would prepare a place for his followers, and after that he will come back. But Mohammad doesn’t know where he is going, so which one would you follow?” And he said, “The one that knows where he is going.” And I said, “I am going to a church.” And that’s how I came to know the Lord. [iii]
Where are you going? Perhaps the better question is how will you get there? Will you follow someone who knows the way, or someone who isn’t sure where he will wind up?
[i] Sahih Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 58, Number 266. http://www.sahih-bukhari.com/Pages/Bukhari_5_58.php
[ii] Sahih Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 87, Number 131. http://www.sahih-bukhari.com/Pages/Bukhari_9_87.php
[iii] Trousdale, Jerry. Miraculous Movements. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2012, p79.