Based on the available historical evidence, Jesus and Muhammad were very different people, with largely contrasting morals. Reflecting these character differences, Jesus’ portrayal of God is very different from Muhammad’s portrayal of Allah. Christian scriptures describe Jesus as a loving peacemaker, who never promoted violence against anyone, for any reason. The original source documents of Islam (the Quran, hadith, biographies and histories), on the other hand, reveal that Muhammad was a warlord, who could be ruthless to non-Muslims. They contain striking descriptions of the casual and matter-of-fact way that Muhammad and his followers trafficked in violence and bloodshed. The Quran, which Muslims believe is Allah’s infallible word revealed to Muhammad, has several passages advocating violence against non-Muslims (“kafirs”), particularly Jews. Muhammad's character and teachings are reflected in Islamic law (Shariah), wherein the penalty for homosexuality and apostasy may be death (officially in at least 8 Muslim countries today, but potentially enforceable by radical Muslims anywhere). Under Shariah, women are inferior to men, and must veil themselves in order to avoid arousing male passions. Muhammad, who is considered by Muslims to be the perfect man, to be emulated, had people killed just for insulting him or for criticizing his religion. Therefore, the continued existence of Islamic terrorism today is understandable. Jesus had harsh words for the hypocritical Pharisees and Sadducees of his time. If Jesus had had the opportunity to confront Muhammad, his words would have been much harsher. However, he would never have advocated violence against Muhammad or his followers. Similarly, those who follow Jesus are to call radical Islamists to task, but we are never to be violent toward them, except, I submit, where necessary to defend others who are unable to defend themselves.
Last night I dreamed that I encountered a group of men discussing how best to deal with a person, in a position of power, whose words and actions they strongly disagreed with. They considered this person (whose actual identity was never mentioned) to be immoral. As their discussion progressed, a consensus was reached that the object of their scorn should be eliminated; i.e., they were planning to act as judge, jury and executioner. They evidently believed that it was more moral to eliminate this person than to allow him to continue abusing (in their view) his position. At this point, I decided to intervene. I stated that they needed to more fully consider the morality of their own planned action. However, rather than trusting their own feelings on this matter, I urged them to ask themselves the following question: “What would Jesus have done?”, and then act accordingly. I further stated that, if they really understood Jesus’ message, they could never go wrong. They would always be taking the moral high ground.
At this point, I awakened. My wife was also awake. I had been talking in my sleep, and she had heard everything I said. She was intrigued by my words and was pleased to have me put them into context.
What a paradise this world would be if we all emulated Jesus. This is clearly far too much to expect considering the current state of affairs, and the manner in which so many children, born innocent and loving, are raised in an abusive culture of religious fundamentalism and/or consumerism. However, every single attempt to do as Jesus would have done makes the world a better place. Let’s do our bit.
Robert Keith's work focuses on the healing of mental illness, particularly where such illness has been fostered by fundamentalist religion. He and his wife have raised four children. As a family, they were always open about Robert’s own struggles and their individual spiritual journeys. Robert is now semi-retired but continues to offer spiritual counseling.