This essay on two of the most highly influential religious icons in history was written for a University of Phoenix - Axia College course on World Religions. For students who come to this page based on the subject matter, please be aware that you *will* be caught if you plagiarize this material.
The central figures within a religion are so often referenced that to the believer that figure plays a far more integral part in a person’s spirituality than their pastor, preacher, holy leader, or other spiritual influences. For the Christian faiths, this figure is Jesus Christ, believed to be the son of God. For the Muslim people, there is Muhammad, the greatest Prophet. Chronicled in the holy texts of both faiths are Jesus and Muhammad and much controversy exists surrounding the lives of these men. Additionally, there are numerous similarities between these two important figures as well as a number of differences. Their deaths had effects that changed the shape and course of their representative religions in different ways. Following their deaths, their words took on new form, as did their vitality within the realm of worship in both religions. Jesus and Muhammad inspired large congregations to follow them; became teachers and wise men, but where the common points between them end and the differences take over shows the broad distinction between the two.
The Lives of Jesus and Muhammad
Separated by over five hundred years, the lives of Jesus and Muhammad played their roles in their religions and are undeniable in the scope and magnitude of their affect on their followers. One academic difficulty in tracing the life of Jesus as well as the life of Muhammad lies in the historical accuracy of their births and lives. Religious texts proclaim them both to have lived; however these texts, compiled in a range of decades to hundreds of years after their deaths, contain discrepancies that quickly became the source of academic debate. Both figures are hard to trace in their birth time as well, with various accountings recording their births differently.
Despite the discrepancies, accounts of their lives and their entrances into spiritual revelation and growth are quite similar in multiple ways. At some time in their early to middle 30s, both Jesus and Muhammad began to minister. As their ministries progressed, so too did the scandal surrounding them, and the discomfort of traditional population from which they hailed. In Jesus’ case, his ministry was a deviation from Jewish tradition at the same time a supplement and extension of it, (Britannica, 2009) while later Muhammad would anger his tribe with his exclamations of God’s truths (Kikim Media, 2002).
By comparison, the lives of Jesus and Muhammad were both bloody in different periods. Muhammad and his people engaged in a number of battles, and he died of illness (Kikim Media, 2002). Jesus lived and ministered peacefully, but at the time of his death one of his followers betrayed him, whereupon he died by way of crucifixion.
One of the most important differences between Muhammad and Jesus is their admission of connections with God. Jesus was clear in his proclamation that he was the son of God, that his connection with God was one of birthright. Muhammad, on the other hand, stated clearly and emphatically that he was merely a messenger, a deliverer of God’s word, and no more. The points of resurrection in the case of Jesus, and in Muhammad’s quiet death in Medina reinforce the claims made while they lived.
After Jesus and Muhammad
Yet another of the similarities between Jesus and Muhammad was that their deaths served as a kind of catalyst for the swelling of followers in both religions, but after their deaths this is where their common points end. While the scriptures state that Jesus resurrected three days after his entombment, Muhammad did not, being buried in Medina. Certainly the number of worshippers in modern times shows that Christianity has spread more than Islam, but the numbers are staggering nonetheless.
Christian followers believe that Jesus died, only to resurrect three days following and to appear to various people before ascending to heaven. In the days of his life and after his death, prayer made to Jesus is equal to a prayer made to God, while prayer in the Islamic faith centers and focuses not on Muhammad, but on God himself. The deaths of Jesus and Muhammad cause regard of them to rest on different levels, with Jesus as part of the Christian Trinity, and Muhammad as a Prophet who was not God.
The followers of Islam and Christianity share common holy places as well as a point of contention over these holy sites. Tracing back to these figures in both religions and the fervor of belief about them give an indication of the value of Jesus to the Christians, and Muhammad to the Muslims, despite their differences of worship.
Muhammad spoke vehemently that he was not God, only a man who had experienced revelation. Through his teachings, Muslims worship none but God. Muhammad is seen as the messenger of God, a Muslim of highest esteem. Thus, there are no methods by which Muslims worship Muhammad. As previously mentioned, Christians believe Jesus to be the son of God, and worship him as such to this day. Christian beliefs surrounding Jesus include:
- Jesus died for the sins of humankind, gaining God’s favor for the human race again.
- Through worship and reverence of Jesus and his teachings, Christians may lead a good life, with the goal of living sinless as Jesus was.
- As the son of God, Jesus was the earthly connection between humankind and God, regarded as a gift and grace from on high.
The Legacy of Jesus and Muhammad in Modern Times
Jesus is an integral and every day part of worship for people of the Christian faith. Through prayer, sermons and religious holiday, praise and worship focus on Jesus, God, and the grace of them. The Bible spreads the message of Jesus Christ, and the lessons of the Bible teach followers the method and ways by which they reach Heaven to live forever with Jesus and God. Converts to the Christian faith proclaim their acceptance of Jesus as Lord and that through him is the way to Heaven and eternal salvation.
Muhammad’s role in Islamic tradition has not changed in the last 1400 years. He was, and is, still the Prophet, God’s chosen messenger and the guide by which Muslims model their lives. With his devotion to God and spread of God’s message, and his status as the last Messenger of God fashion Muhammad into the paragon of God’s servants. Modern Muslims know Muhammad to be just a man, and while they respect him as a leader, a historical figure and a spiritual font from which sprang the truth from God, they do not worship him, now or ever.
Multiple sources cite the number of Christian followers in modern day to be over two billion strong. Alternately, the followers of Islam number above one billion people. With these vast numbers, reverence for the legacies of Jesus and Muhammad seems to be and remain a central part of the religious beliefs of roughly half of the population of the Earth, making them two of the most important religious figures in the history of the world.
While being two vital figures, with backgrounds and futures drastically different from one another, their influence on the religions they represent is very similar in that they greatly shaped the course of both their religions and through the belief in them, the path the followers of Christianity and Islam would take. One could say that Jesus and Muhammad share as much in common in concept and execution of their principles as they part similarities in the events of their lives. The worship of Jesus and the acknowledgement of Muhammad by every member of these two very different faiths create a common bond of holiness, despite the social and regional barriers.
Encyclopædia Britannica (2009). Jesus Christ. Retrieved December 05, 2009, from http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/303091/Jesus-Christ
Kikim Media. (2002). Muhammad: Legacy of a Prophet. Retrieved December 04, 2009 from http://www.pbs.org/muhammad/timeline_html.shtml