The Place of Prominence

Often when I write these articles, I appreciate God all the more by seeing the contrasts with the god of Islam. One such example of this came about as I considered how Muhammad and Jesus interacted with those around them. Specifically, what were the expectations that were laid on those who lived their daily lives in close proximity with these two religious figures? What does the Qur’an teach regarding expected behaviors for those who were near to Muhammad, and how does that correspond to Biblical teachings?

Let’s start by examining how Muslims were told to treat Muhammad. Yet even before we do so, this must be put in proper perspective. The Qur’an typically speaks of broader issues regarding attitudes and beliefs, but it rarely details how Muslims are to enact and codify the laws given. For example, the Qur’an tells Muslims to prostrate themselves in prayer, but it doesn’t spell out how many times per day, what they are to say, or the order of prayer. These details are stipulated in the Hadiths. All this is to say that when the Qur’an makes special mention of particulars regarding behavior, it merits extra attention.

Given that, the Qur’an dives into an unusual level of specificity regarding how Muslims should behave around Muhammad. One of the things the Qur’an teaches is that Muslims are not allowed to leave Muhammad without explicitly asking permission first.

[24.62] Only those are believers who believe in Allah and His Apostle, and when they are with him on a momentous affair they go not away until they have asked his permission; surely they who ask your permission are they who believe in Allah and His Apostle; so when they ask your permission for some affair of theirs, give permission to whom you please of them and ask forgiveness for them from Allah; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

In this next verse, Muslims are specifically told not to linger too long in Muhamad’s house in order to avoid any extended conversation. Also, nobody is allowed to remarry his widows after his death.

[33.53] O you who believe! do not enter the houses of the Prophet unless permission is given to you for a meal, not waiting for its cooking being finished– but when you are invited, enter, and when you have taken the food, then disperse– not seeking to listen to talk; surely this gives the Prophet trouble, but he forbears from you, and Allah does not forbear from the truth And when you ask of them any goods, ask of them from behind a curtain; this is purer for your hearts and (for) their hearts; and it does not behoove you that you should give trouble to the Apostle of Allah, nor that you should marry his wives after him ever; surely this is grievous in the sight of Allah.

And finally, whenever in the company of Muhammad, people should speak in soft tones so that their good deeds won’t be debited from their account.

[49.2] O you who believe! do not raise your voices above the voice of the Prophet, and do not speak loud to him as you speak loud to one another, lest your deeds became null while you do not perceive.

When you put these all together, the resulting picture becomes quite clear. Muhammad was given the place of honor in whatever circumstance he was in. People were to give him extra respect as the prophet of Islam, and extra care was to be taken to show Muhammad’s elevated level amongst those around him.

Jesus warned about exalting oneself to a place of honor (Luke 14:8), the consequences of doing so, (Luke 14:11), and He warned others about following such people (Luke 20:46).

Alternatively, consider Jesus as He walked on this earth. As God Himself in the flesh, it didn’t matter who he was with. He was always the most important person in the room. No finite human could have anything to say of value in the sight of an infinite God. Yet Jesus, though deserving of all respect and worship, placed Himself in the position of servanthood (Mark 10:45). During a discussion regarding who was the greatest amongst them, Jesus declares that though it is Himself, yet He serves the disciples rather than claim the benefits of any high stature. From Luke 22:27

For who is greater, the one who reclines at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves.

And of course Jesus illustrates this truth even more pointedly as He washes the disciples’ feet (John 13:5). He doesn’t do this because clean feet are the key to godliness. Jesus tells the disciples that even though He is Lord, He takes the lowest position in order to illustrate concepts of humility and servanthood. In other words, He gives this example to illustrate how we are all to serve one another (John 13:15).

In Islam, Muhammad was given special privileges. In Christianity, Jesus came to serve others. Can the pattern of behaviors be any more dissimilar?

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One Response to The Place of Prominence

  1. Jeanne says:

    “Jesus tells the disciples that even though He is Lord, He takes the lowest position in order to illustrate concepts of humility and servanthood.”

    I am also reminded of Philippians 2:5-7: “5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.”

    Robert, I share your appreciation of these contrasts. Jesus becomes ever more beautiful when we see them.

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