Another way to see the distinct difference between Islam and Christianity is to view miracles. How are miracles treated within each religion, and more importantly, what is their purpose?
Within Islam, there are not miracles in the same way that Christians think of miracles as retold in the Bible. In Islam, the Qur’an itself is the miracle. In fact, when people asked Muhammad for a miracle, he told them to read the Qur’an (Qur’an 29-50-51; 17:88-94). Again, to restate this to be clear, from the Muslim perspective, the Qur’an is the miracle. In fact, the Arabic word for “sign” is “ayat,” the same word that refers to a verse of the Qur’an. These words are the same because from a Muslim point of view, each ayat of the Qur’an is a sign from Allah. As Ahmed Deedat, a well-known recent Muslim apologist said:
“Again and again when miracles are demanded from the prophet of God by the cynical and frivolous few, he is made to point to the qur`an – message from high – as ‘the miracle.’ The miracle of miracles! And men of wisdom, people with literary and spiritual insight, who were honest enough to themselves, recognised and accepted al-qur`an as a genuine miracle.” [i]
To better understand the Muslim mindset, imagine that instead of using the word “verse,” we referred to each passage of the Bible as miraculous. Each time a preacher took to a podium to begin reading a chapter, he would tell us to turn to book such-and-such, chapter so-and so, miracle number 1. Therefore, in order to examine Muhammad’s “miracle” of bringing the Qur’an, we must view the Qur’an itself. Since the Qur’an itself is the miracle, we are forced to examine some of its passages to see what kind of miracle Muhammad was given. We will do so, at the same time comparing these to the miracles of Christ. As always, while doing so, we will be alert to what kind of doctrinal reversals or inversions we may encounter.
Looking back to Christ, consider the miracles He performed. He gave sight to a blind man (John 9), raised a man from the dead (John 11), healed a paralytic (Mark 2), and fed thousands of people with a couple pieces of fish and bread (Matthew 14). Now let’s look at Muhammad’s miracle, delivering the Qur’an. Close inspection reveals a very different type of miracle when turning the pages of the Qur’an. Muhammad’s miracle states that Muslims should ask for permission before leaving Muhammad at a big event (Qur’an 24:62). Muhammad’s wives would receive double punishment for indecency (Qur’an 33:30). Muhammad was able to take more wives than other Muslims (Qur’an 33:50). Muhammad was allowed to marry his adopted son’s wife (Qur’an 33:37). Visitors to Muhammad’s house were explicitly told to leave right after dinner so as not to be an annoyance (Qur’an 33:53). Private criticism of Muhammad is forbidden. (Qur’an 58:9). Finally, people speaking to Muhammad should do so in a soft voice (Qur’an 49:2).
A distinct pattern becomes evident. All of the miracles of Jesus were to help other people. Never once did He perform a miracle that aided his own earthly status as a human. He never once made food to feed himself, used miracles to amuse Himself, or gave Himself special permission for something by supernatural means. Indeed, such use of miracles for Jesus’ own comfort and benefit were proffered by Satan in the wilderness and therefore temptations to sin (Matthew 4:1-11). Even in the case where Jesus had Peter catch two fish to pay the two drachma tax, Jesus emphasizes that this isn’t for His own benefit, but rather to keep others from being offended (Matthew 17:27).
On the other hand, in the case of Muhammad, many of his miraculous Qur’anic recitations were rather convenient to his earthly existence. Even one of Muhammad’s wives noted this:
Narrated Hisham’s father:
Khaula bint Hakim was one of those ladies who presented themselves to the Prophet for marriage. ‘Aisha said, “Doesn’t a lady feel ashamed for presenting herself to a man?” But when the Verse: “(O Muhammad) You may postpone (the turn of) any of them (your wives) that you please,’ (33.51) was revealed, ” ‘Aisha said, ‘O Allah’s Apostle! I do not see, but, that your Lord hurries in pleasing you.'” [ii]
One thousand four hundred years later, it’s hard to know how much sarcasm Muhammad’s wife voiced in the above passage. What isn’t difficult to see is that Aisha recognized the quickness in which Muhammad’s life was made more convenient and enjoyable at the revelation of this particular verse of the Qur’an. The miracle of the Qur’an made Muhammad’s earthly life more pleasant, whereas the miracles of Jesus made other people’s lives better. Indeed, we find the two historical figures in diametric opposition to each other. Jesus performed miracles to the benefit of others and never for Himself. In fact, oftentimes Jesus’ miracles were done at a cost to Himself. Ultimately, the miracle of Jesus’ resurrection was done at the cost of a torturous death. Alternately, Muhammad’s miracle of the Qur’an made his own life more comfortable.
Why is there this discrepancy? What does this say about these two miracle workers? Is one type of miracle more deserving of our respect than the other, and if so, why? This can be a great segue into the sacrificial work of Jesus. These are questions where the contrast between Jesus and Muhammad can be discussed delicately to show their vast differences.
[i] Quote from Achmed Deedat, reprinted on http://www.jannah.org/articles/qurdeed.html, Accessed April 26, 2009
[ii] Sahih Bukhari: Volume 7, Book 62, Number 48
Insightful comparison. I’ve been impressed with the frequency with which the prophet produced sudden revelations from God when he needed them in his life.
This has been known to happen in other religions where prophets claim continuing revelations. Think Salt Lake City.
Good stuff Bob. Very informative and easily understood.
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