What do you think of Muhammad? Do you regard him as a prophet?
Many people ask us this question, so we must, of course, give a clear answer…
We judge a prophet by his message. A prophet does not speak for himself. Rather, he speaks for God. But how can we know if his message is true and if God really sent him?
God began to reveal himself to man from the very beginning. He has never left mankind with no knowledge of himself. From the wonderful beauty of the creation, we can see something of the power and wisdom of God. But this knowledge was not sufficient for man to know God personally and to understand how to worship, serve and please him.
Musa and the Tawrat
God sent prophets to teach man how to live according to his will. The first of these prophets was Musa (Moses), who composed the Torah. The Torah begins with the creation of the universe and also contains the stories of earlier prophets, beginning with Hawa (Adam and Eve), and continuing with Nuh (Noahh), Ibrahim (Abraham), Isaac and Jacob. Musa led the people of Israel out of slavery under Pharaoh in Egypt, through the desert and to the borders of Palestine. Then his successor, Joshua, defeated the peoples of Palestine and the children of Israel settled there.
God inspired other prophets both to speak his words to the children of Israel and to record their history. Their books are collected together in the Old Testament. They include the Zabur, or Psalms, of Daoud (David). Daoud was the greatest of the kings of Israel. After the reign of his son Suleiman (Solomon) the kingdom of Israel began to decline. The Assyrians conquered the northern part of the country and took the people into exile. Later, the Babylonians captured Jerusalem and destroyed the temple, which Solomon had built. They also took the leaders and many of the people into exile in Babylon.
God allowed these disasters to happen because the people of Israel had so often disobeyed him. They did not keep the laws he gave them through Musa. They worshipped other gods and idols. They did not act with justice and compassion for the poor. However, God’s purpose in punishing them was to make them realise and admit their sins and then seek his forgiveness. In exile in Babylon, some of God’s people turned back to him. They longed to return to their own country. God in his goodness made this possible. The Babylonians were defeated by the Persians and the Persian king Cyrus allowed the Jews to return home.
But the problems of the Jewish people were still the same. They still found it difficult to serve and please God and be faithful to him. They were ruled by foreign nations – first the Persians and then the Greeks and Romans. They longed for God to save and rescue them. They hoped a great Saviour, or Messiah, would come, defeat their enemies and enable them to live according to God’s laws.
Isa and the Injil
When Isa was born, the people of Israel were living under the domination of the Romans. At that time, the mighty Roman empire controlled most of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East. The Jews thought their Messiah would defeat the Romans and bring them freedom.
However, Isa’s mission was very different. He came, first of all, to deliver all people – not just Israel – from their sins and failures to keep God’s laws. He did this by taking the full responsibility for the sins of the world and paying their penalty – death. The prophet Isaiah had prophesied this in his book in the Old Testament. Isaiah was so sure that these things would happen to the Messiah that he wrote in the past tense, as if they had already happened:
But he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all.
He was oppressed and treated harshly, yet he never said a word. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter. And as a sheep is silent before the shearers, he did not open his mouth. Unjustly condemned, he was led away. No one cared that he died without descendants, that his life was cut short in midstream. But he was struck down for the rebellion of my people. He had done no wrong and had never deceived anyone. But he was buried like a criminal; he was put in a rich man’s grave. (Isaiah 53:5-9)
Isa knew that he must die but that then God would raise him up from the dead. He would conquer death not by escaping it but by dying and then rising again. Isa was crucified in front of many eyewitnesses – both his enemies and his friends. He then rose again and appeared not to his enemies but to his disciples. The apostle Peter later wrote:
We are witnesses of everything Jesus did in the country of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They killed him by hanging him on a cross, but God raised him from the dead on the third day and caused him to be seen. He was not seen by all the people, but by witnesses whom God had already chosen – by us who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one whom God appointed as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name. (Acts 10:39-43)
Muhammad and the Qur’an
Muhammad did not accept the great truth of the Injil – that Isa the Messiah died and rose again. We read in the Qur’an:
That they said (in boast), ‘We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah’;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not. (Surat Al Nisa (The women) 4:157, translation: Yusuf Ali)
We do not know why Muhammad rejected the truth of Isa’s death and resurrection. But God cannot lie and his message does not change. A true prophet of God would have affirmed that Isa died and rose again. Therefore, we cannot accept that Muhammad was a prophet inspired by God.
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