I have been asked many times in the past few days about my thoughts on the uprisings in Egypt and Libya. In short, the issue is not solely political, but theological as well. Since this blog is not about politics, I will take the road less traveled. What exactly is the Muslim’s view of Muhammad that causes such visceral reactions?
Muslims complain that Christians believe in and worship “a man.” Closer examination of how Muslims treat Muhammad offers yet another bizarre twist when comparing Islam and Christianity. While Muslims technically do not worship Muhammad, in many ways their actions tell a much different tale. Everything from the Islamic creed, to how Muslims behave in everyday life, to the Qur’an itself appears a lot like Muhammad worship.
In this first of a four part series on the worship of Muhammad, consider the shahada, the Muslim creed. To become a Muslim, a person must recite the shahada in Arabic. Roughly translated, the shahada is as follows,
“I bear witness that there is no god but Allah, and I bear witness that Mohammad is the messenger of Allah”
Notice that this is a two part testimony. Of course Muslims believe that there is no god but Allah, but look at the rest of the shahada. Part two of the Muslim creed is that you must also believe that Muhammad brought the message of Allah.
Consider these words within a Muslim tract discussing the shahada,
“The second part of the Shahada means that Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) is the servant and chosen messenger of Allah. No one must have two opinions about this matter.” [i]
From the Muslim perspective, a person who believes in the concept of God without believing that Muhammad brought “the” message is not a Muslim. In other words, believing in Allah is not enough to be called a Muslim. A Muslim must also believe that Muhammad is Allah’s messenger. So what was that message? One part of it is that Muhammad’s actions are to be followed as closely as possible (Qur’an 33:21). This means, by corollary, Islam requires belief “in a man.” Some readers may think this an overextension of Islamic doctrine. Yet consider what the Qur’an itself has to say on the issue of belief,
[49.15] The believers are only those who believe in Allah and His Apostle then they doubt not and struggle hard with their wealth and their lives in the way of Allah; they are the truthful ones.
Muslims must believe both in Allah as well as Muhammad, his apostle. It is true that the way in which Muslims are to believe in Muhammad is very different than the way a Christian is commanded to believe in Jesus. However, Christians are not required to state a creed that they believe that Isaiah and Haggai are prophets in order to be a Christian. Of course, we do believe they are prophets, but stating it isn’t part of any Christian confession. In contrast, if a Muslim does not believe in Muhammad, he is not a Muslim and cannot go to paradise, thus making the religion of Islam oddly coupled to a man. Not only is the belief in Muhammad as the messenger stressed from the positive standpoint as referenced in the previously cited passage of the Qur’an, but unbelief in Muhammad is stressed from the negative standpoint in many passages as well. Hellfire is guaranteed for those who do not believe in and obey both Allah AND his apostle.
[4.14] And whoever disobeys Allah and His Apostle and goes beyond His limits, He will cause him to enter fire to abide in it, and he shall have an abasing chastisement.
The instructions Muslims receive on how to lead their lives result in worship of Muhammad in every way but name only. To understand this, we must recognize that Islamic doctrine is such that belief in God alone gives Muslims no rules for life. The Qur’an gives some instructions, but in a vacuum it doesn’t have nearly enough detail to allow for a workable system to live out faith. A devout Muslim therefore must look to Muhammad, whose life is the only one believed to be of sufficient record to be followed as the premier example. This is becoming obvious even to Muslims, and when a Muslim dares state it, he may be branded heretical. This next quote is from such an accused Muslim, Anna Jordan. Please remember this is not some Christian author discussing perceptions of Muslims; this is a Muslim describing the state of her own religion.
While they have adamantly insisted they do not deify Mohammed, they have sought to supplement God’s word by looking for guidance in the words and actions of Mohammed, thereby elevating the prophet to a status never ordained by God. [ii]
For a religion which stresses not believing in “a man,” it seems strange that the creed of initiation must include him and that the holy book requires obedience to him. Muslims are inadvertently doing exactly what they loudly proclaim must not be done. In the next part of this series, the Qur’an will be examined in more detail as to how it equates Allah and Muhammad in some rather compromising comparisons.