Was Muhammad a true or false prophet? Muhammad is considered to be a prophet of Islam but should he be accepted by Christians as a true prophet? If “yes,” why should they accept him? What qualifies him? If “no,” then why not? What disqualifies him?
In the end this question requires a 100% “yes” or “no” answer because we are evaluating Muhammad’s claim to be a God-ordained prophet and apostle who brought God’s commands to all mankind. He claimed that the God of Moses and Jesus sent him to restore the true faith and true believers are now required to put their faith in him. (Quran 4:136) Muhammad claimed he was the last of the prophets and Islam was to be accepted as a certified, God-decreed legitimate faith, meant to supersede Judaism and Christianity.1 Muhammad’s assertion of his prophethood, as equivalent to the Biblical prophets, is an integral part of his message. A “partly yes, partly no” answer avoids the issue and misleads the audience. While Muhammad proclaimed many of the same things Moses and Jesus proclaimed, such as there is only one God, he also proclaimed many things that differed or contradicted what Moses and Jesus taught, e.g. dietary laws and Jesus’s Sonship. Muhammad allowed no room for a pick and choose buffet of faith; it was all or nothing:
And whoso seeketh as religion other than the Surrender (to Allah) it will not be accepted from him, and he will be a loser in the Hereafter.2 (Quran 3:85)
Therefore, since Muhammad claimed to be a God-ordained prophetic voice, en toto, we must evaluate that claim, not as a simple inspiring and motivating mystical speaker but as someone bringing a new faith, with laws, commands, and rituals, against the Biblical “prophet” standard. This is our starting point and ultimately where we must end. In-between there is room to identify and agree with various aspects of Islam that align with Christian truth3 but that is an aside from validating his prophetic claim. Anything less is incomplete and disingenuous.
Validating Muhammad’s prophethood, even in a generic way, lends credibility to him and Islam. If Muhammad were a true prophet of God then to one degree or another Christians would be obligated to consider and possibly implement Islamic tenets. After all, if God the Father gave Muhammad commands for all mankind, then wouldn’t Christians be required to obey them? On the other hand, if he were a false prophet then Christians are obligated to reject Islam, take a stand, and say, politely, wisely, and firmly that Muhammad was not a prophet of God. If this is the case then Muhammad would correctly be identified as a false prophet.
For the purposes of this article there are two key questions that need to be answered:
Question 1) Which Muhammad are we talking about? On one side there is the traditional Muhammad, the Muhammad of Islam for about the past 1400 years. On the other side are the Muhammads created recently by various Muslim and non-Muslim revisionists. There are many of these Muhammads and they all don’t get along. They are created from opinion, conjecture, and various possibilities based upon interpretations of recent discoveries of non-Islamic historical data. The barnyard is full of these Muhammads.
Question 2) What is the definition of prophet, and false prophet, from a Biblical Christian point of view? What guidelines and standards should be used to identify a true or false prophet?
TASK 1) DEFINING THE TWO MUHAMMADS
I’ve listed two distinct Muhammads, the one of Islam, i.e. the traditional historical Muhammad, and the ever-morphing one of the non-Muslim revisionists.
THE TRADITIONAL MUHAMMAD
As a Christian worker primarily in Islam, my focus is not academics, instead it is upon engaging the world as it is. If I am going to accept or reject Muhammad as a prophet I need to engage his claim established in the faith of his followers and in the understanding of non-Muslims. This claim is the traditional claim, built upon the Islamic source material texts: the Quran, hadith, and sira. The traditional Muhammad is taught and proclaimed by the major Sunni and Shia theological schools, and he is the Muhammad that the world’s 1.2 billion Muslims obey. Today’s Muslim terrorists commit their sins and crimes in his cause, and conversely, many honest, intelligent, good-natured Muslims follow him and in his name do good works. He is the Muhammad with whom the world interacts. He is the Muhammad whom the Popes and Presidents, Religious and Atheists, pundits and professors, polemicists and apologists, name. He is the Muhammad of today’s reality. The Islamic world, and the world at large, know only one Muhammad: the traditional Muhammad.
Doesn’t it make sense that the traditional Muhammad be our primary focus? Afterwards, different Muhammads invented from interesting academic and intellectual evaluations, theories, bits of data, and multiple possibilities, can be considered.
If Muhammad’s words and deeds align with Biblical requirements for prophethood then one could grant some type of legitimate “prophet” status to Muhammad. However, if Muhammad’s message is at odds with the Biblical “prophet” requirements then Muhammad should be labeled as a false prophet. Clarity and precision are needed.
THE REVISIONIST’S MUHAMMAD
I work in the engineering world. Several years ago a senior engineer designed a product for a customer’s requirements. He was considered to be the subject expert and few people were capable of critiquing his design. Initial prototypes confirmed that his design worked and would probably fulfill all requirements. However, a new experienced engineer was hired and he was assigned to the same program. He evaluated the design and stated that it would fail at required operational extremes and he proposed an alternate design. Understandably, conflict ensued! The senior engineer was greatly offended and outspoken in his criticisms of the new engineer because he felt his reputation threatened and he responded aggressively. The ugly, one-sided conflict, continued for some time until prototype testing was performed. It validated the new engineer’s critical statements and his alternate design. The senior engineer’s design was rejected and he never lived down the shame.
In the world of engineering designs work or they don’t. Some designs look good on paper but fail when prototyped, tested, or manufactured. Most of us live in the functional world where the theories behind the functioning have been proven or disproven. It can be a harsh and challenging world.
However the theological world is a soft, malleable, loosely defined world. This is due in part to it being a world of concepts, ideas, theories, and opinions. These can be difficult to nail down precisely and they vary from person to person. Further, you cannot manufacture a theological theory and put it through validation testing.
Because theology is pliable one can inject personal viewpoints into his beliefs. Intelligent men can project anything that tickles their fancy. For example, some writers suggest that Jesus was an alien! Other writers claim that Jesus could have been a practicing homosexual! Some writers claim Muhammad never existed, others claim he was an amalgamation of various Muslim leaders! Anything goes because of theology’s squishy nature. Theologians have a personal Gumby to stretch into whatever form they desire.
This subjectivity of concepts and beliefs allows personal convictions and desires to be stretched as “personal interpretations” and within the world of Christianity there is no shortage of polarized opinions from various scholars. Today some insist that adultery, homosexuality, abortion, even pagan worship, is not sin and is acceptable to God (take the American Episcopalian church for example). These ideas can morph into actions. Some religious leaders have caused great good, e.g. Mother Theresa and Franklin Graham, or great evil e.g. Jim Jones and David Koresh.
If engineers practiced their profession like many of today’s degreed theologians practice theology they would be laughed out of the company and put out on the street. They would lack the ability to analyze data and think critically. Their opinions, personal preferences, and sympathies, would take precedence over logic and data. Their designs would fail.
One Christian who argues for Muhammad to be accepted by the church as a prophet is “Harley Talman.” That name is a nom de plume for a missionary who spent many years in the Islamic world and now teaches religion. He wrote a detailed article and argued that Muhammad should be considered a prophet of God, but perhaps not equal to the Biblical prophets. His article is found here: Is Muhammad Also Among the Prophets?
He makes his argument in a demure, almost evasive, manner. It is packed with maybes, mightbes, and possibilities. After reading his article a couple times it was obvious, that despite his protestations, he wants to loudly proclaim that Muhammad was indeed a prophet of God.
Talman’s argument is not built upon the historical Muhammad and he does not argue that we should accept the historical Muhammad as a prophet.
The most widely accepted version of Muhammad, based upon Islamic tradition, is dubious. (p3)
The sub-sections which follow reflect on various Christian views of Islam, a revised history of Muhammad and the movement he founded, and a theological reassessment of the prophet of Islam, all based on a potentially more objective portrayal of his character and actions. (p3)
Based upon his “dubious” view, his Muhammad purposely excludes most of the traditional Islamic biographical source materials from his evaluation (the hadith and sira). Talman deems revisionist Muhammad as a prophet because of his spiritual and inspirational preaching. He argues that Christians need not accept all things Islamic but instead take an ‘eat the cherry and spit out the pits’ approach.
“Like a number of Christian scholars of Islam, I believe there is biblical warrant for considering the possibility of some kind of positive prophetic status for Muhammad.” (p14)
He may be seen as fulfilling a prophetic role, whether in response to general revelation or special, whether as a preacher or religious leader, whether as an ecstatic or charismatic prophet, or something more. (p17)
Throughout his article Talman provides various statements upon which he builds his argument for Muhammad’s prophethood. Talman draws from people’s theories, interpretations, and pronouncements to create his kinder and gentler “prophet.” There are too many statements to list but I’ll provide a few. He then argues that the church at large should accept him as such. Here is a selection of quotes from other Christians:
Patriarch Timothy 1:
Muhammad taught about God, His Word and His Spirit, and since all prophets had prophesied about God, His Word and His Spirit, Muhammad walked, therefore, in the path of all the prophets. (p15)
Where the Prophet Muhammad gained insight into who that Person is–for example in his conviction, against a polytheistic background, of the oneness of God–his utterances to that effect are truly in the lineage of the biblical prophets. (p15)
we should not let the whole history of Islam cloud our assessment of Muhammad. If it can be said that God spoke ‘directive prophecy’ through Cyrus, who announced the end of exile (2 Chron. 36:22; Ezra 1:8), then why could God not have spoken a directive word through Muhammad? (p15)
A prophet is an agitator, someone who walks around temple and palace stating his criticism, who rages against the injustices political leaders are committing. A true prophet does not adopt the drab and colorless language of his society, does not speak the jargon of diplomats, the language of theologians or a priestly caste, or the rigid prose of the business world. (pp15, 16)4
In my own words, Talman’s argument is that we should consider Muhammad to be a prophet because he had an encounter with God, taught some truths, spiritual disciplines, and virtues, and he led people from paganism to monotheism. Muhammad was not perfect but he taught morals. He did not have a full revelation or understanding of Jesus Christ but he respected and honored Jesus greatly. Muhammad intended to lead people into a godly lifestyle in harmony with believers in other faiths, but for various reasons conflicts and wars ensued. Christians today don’t have to accept everything Muhammad commanded but we should honor him as some type of legitimate God-used prophet.
Talman’s general assessment is the opposite of what the traditional Muhammad claimed. Muhammad claimed great prophethood for himself and that he and all of his word, his Quran, were to be obeyed strictly. The Quran commands all true believers to imitate Muhammad’s lifestyle found in those rejected source materials.
Part one of this article will engage with and evaluate Islam’s traditional Muhammad. Parts 2 and 3 will address, in a limited degree, Talman’s “evidence” and his Muhammad creation.
TASK 2) CHRISTIAN DEFINITION OF TRUE AND FALSE PROPHETS
The second task is to establish a definition for “Biblical prophet” according to Christianity. The word prophet is loaded with preconceptions and Christians across the spectrum will have different responses to someone identified as, or claiming to be, a Biblical prophet. Logically, if a man claims to be or is identified as a prophet of God but is then found to not be such a prophet, then he is a false prophet.
I dug into this part of the topic and searched to find a concise definition, a requirements list, for a Biblical prophet. I wanted to compile such a list but I did not find exactly what I hoped for. I gathered and reviewed many pages of notes and comments as I studied various theological writings and many Scriptures related to “prophet.” Initially, I could only develop a loose definition. However, after more study, thought, and deliberation, I was able to put together sufficient criteria for a Biblical prophet. (I would like to present a detailed examination of this topic because it is relevant and intriguing but for space sake it is beyond this article’s scope.
In general terms, a prophet is or is identified as a spokesman for a deity, speaking that deity’s words. Throughout the Bible many “prophets” are mentioned. Some are false prophets who represent Pagan faiths, some are unnamed prophets, some start off good and go bad, and others die for their faith in the God of Israel. Over and over again it is seen that a prophet is simply a spokesperson for any particular deity.
Here is a simple definition of prophet one that is fulfilled by numerous people Jewish, Christian, Pagan, or otherwise:
1. a person who speaks for God or a deity, or by divine inspiration.
5. a person regarded as, or claiming to be, an inspired teacher or leader.
In human history, within that general “prophet” scope on a spiritual or mystical level, there are many people who claimed to be or are identified as prophets who had a message that differed from Christianity’s message. Here are a few of the people who roughly fit that definition: Zoroaster, Albruna, Tenrikyo, Tenskwatawa, and Völva.
If a Christian were to argue that these “prophets” be accepted by the church as Biblical prophets they would be rejected on a variety of grounds. Some were inspiring speakers, some predicted things, some seemed to have spiritual insights, some taught moral principles, but generally Christianity rejects them as Biblical prophets. One could argue, (as Talman does for Muhammad), that these prophets brought something of spiritual value and in some cases caused people to seek after a true God, but we would be foolish to put them on Biblical footing because of some of the other things they taught, or did.
As the topic approaches “prophets” who claimed prophethood closer to the Judeo-Christian landmark the water becomes muddied. For example there is Joseph Smith, Ali Muhammad Shir?zi, Sun Myung Moon, and of course Muhammad. All of these men fulfill Talman’s low bar of “prophet.” Being tied or related to Christianity in one way or another their claims or identifications as prophets being gifted from God can be more difficult to assess.
Additionally this article lists many of people who claimed to be prophets during Muhammad’s time: How Muhammad Became the Final Prophet Please take a look at the graphic. Muhammad had a lot of prophetic company! There was no shortage of prophets in Arabia!
Obviously we need a more biblically precise definition for “prophet” and “false prophet” than the generalities Talman provided.
As mentioned, the Bible does not provide a concise definition of prophet, but there are a number of examples, guidelines, and references we can draw from and develop strong standards. These standards are higher than a simple and generic, inspiring or spiritually motivating bar that any “Guru Rajneesh” could fulfill.
In Biblical terms a prophet is one who proclaims God’s word to men. My challenge here is to provide a context, scope, and constraint upon a Biblical definition for prophet, and false prophet, and measure Muhammad against it. There are two sources I will look to: Christian theological writings and the Bible.
CHRISTIAN THEOLOGICAL WRITINGS
I’ll start with the Christian theological writings first because they set a limited scope based on Scripture. Following them, the Word of God will nail down specific requirements and restrictions.
The Didache http://www.historian.net/didache.htm (Teachings of the Twelve Apostles) is a first century Christian treatise addressing a wide variety of topics that involved the Church. Some early Church Fathers esteemed it highly and considered it to be on par with Scripture. I start with it because it shows that the early Church also had the challenge of identifying true or false apostles.
Section 11 addresses this topic and I’ll quote several passages.
11:1 Whosoever therefore shall come and teach you all these things that have been said before, receive him;
11:2 but if the teacher himself be perverted and teach a different doctrine to the destruction thereof, hear him not;
11:3 but if to the increase of righteousness and the knowledge of the Lord, receive him as the Lord.
11:9 but if he ask money, he is a false prophet.
11:13 From his ways therefore the false prophet and the prophet shall be recognized.
11:14 And no prophet when he ordereth a table in the Spirit shall eat of it;
11:15 otherwise he is a false prophet.
11:20 And whosoever shall say in the Spirit, Give me silver or anything else, ye shall not listen to him;
This quote highlights that there were two primary criteria that the early Church used to determine true or false prophets: truthful teaching and moral conduct.
Modern Christian writings
Here are some standard definitions of “prophet”:
The “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament” has some 80 pages analyzing this word. Here are some comments:
The prophet is essentially a proclaimer of God’s Word. … Most comprehensively it can mean “to proclaim the revelation, the message of God, imparted to the prophet”5
“As the examples show, the passion and resurrection of Jesus are at the heart of the proof from prophecy as of primitive Christian preaching as a whole.6
“His proclamation is the Word of God and testimony of Jesus Christ, Rev 1:2, 19:9.7
The New International Commentary on the New Testament on Revelation 19:9 states:
…the “testimony of Jesus” is the witness that was borne by Jesus (subjective genitive). By his life and death Jesus has demonstrated to his followers what it means to bear a faithful witness (1:5; 3:14) to the message revealed by God.8
Continuing on the meaning of “testimony of Jesus”, the Commentary continues:
It could mean that the witness or testimony that Jesus bore is the essence of prophetic proclamation – the principle that dominates prophecy. However, John’s readers would certainly understand his reference to “the spirit of prophecy” in terms of the Holy Spirit as the one who inspired all prophecy. Peter spoke of the Spirit of Christ who moved in the OT prophets to predict the sufferings of Christ and the glories that would follow (1 Pet 1:10, 11) and that prophecy came as the result of men speaking from God as they were being carried along by the Holy Spirit.9
Kittel also has several pages dedicated to false prophets. Here is a key quote:
“Miracles could not serve as accrediting signs because the false prophets of the last days use miracles as a means of seduction, Mk 13:22 par. Mt 23:23; Rev. 13:13; 16:13f; 19:20. Thus note was taken of the teaching and conduct of the prophets. A presupposition of genuine prophecy is a right confession of Jesus Christ: “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God,”… But agreement with the Christological confession of the Church is hardly a sufficient confirmation of genuine prophecy. False prophets, too, can confess Jesus Christ, prophesy in His name and play the role of true preachers so perfectly that it is hard to see that they are liars. Hence their conduct must be scrutinized.10
Baker’s Evangelical Dictionary has several good comments for both prophets and false prophets:
A prophet was an individual who received a call from God to be God’s spokesperson, often connected with some crisis that was about to occur, and then announced God’s message of judgment and/or deliverance to Israel and the nations.
This is what makes the discernment of what constitutes pseudoprophecy so difficult, for many of the false prophets also subscribed to some of the same theological traditions as did the canonical prophets.
False Prophets in the New Testament.
False prophets continued to make their presence felt well beyond the days of the Old Testament; indeed, Jesus warned his disciples, and through the apostles, he warned the early church about the character and teachings of such frauds.
As was characteristic of false prophets in the Old Testament, their New Testament counterparts were also motivated by greed ( 2 Peter 2:3 2 Peter 2:13 ), exhibited arrogance ( 2 Peter 2:18 ), lived immoral lives ( 2 Peter 2:2 2 Peter 2:10-13 ), and generally could be described as ungodly persons (Jude 4).
I found this website to have some excellent statements on defining a prophet: What is a Prophet?
Notice first that God chose His messengers. Notice also that God told them what to do.
1. To reveal the nature and attributes of God to men.
2. To make known to men the laws of God.
3. To call the people back to obedience to God’s laws.
4. To exhort the people to sincerity in worship.
5. To warn them of Divine judgment upon sin, both personal and national.
6. To foretell future events which God had willed.
7. To foretell the coming of the Messiah, the Savior.
8. To record the history of God’s dealings with men.
9. To record the Word of God in the Holy Scriptures.
Notice that God warned the people that all pagan practices and customs were strictly forbidden. In particular, God warned them not to seek help or guidance through occult practices like divination, witchcraft or necromancy (the belief that spirits of dead people can be used to obtain help).
There are many similar websites that discuss prophets and false prophets but I did not find much that differed from the above.
In general Muhammad could claim to fulfill most of these “prophet” points.
· Muhammad claimed to speak God’s word.
· Muhammad claimed to receive revelations from God (through Gabriel).
· Muhammad claimed to proclaim God’s laws, to call men to repentance, and to foretell the future.
· Muhammad claims to honor Jesus as a great prophet and acknowledge that Jesus was indeed the Messiah and the Word of God!
· Muhammad claimed to be an exemplary moral person who obeyed God’s laws scrupulously.
The only significant point I see contradiction is on Muhammad’s testimony to Jesus Christ (see the Kittel and NICNT comments above). A serious Christian would argue that Muhammad did not testify to Jesus Christ as crucified, risen, Lord, Savior, or Son of God, but rather to Him only as a great prophet. Christians who don’t take their faith seriously will overlook this point: “Is it important to identify Jesus as Lord, Savior, Messiah, and Son of God?”
Therefore, taken as a whole, I found that the theological writings identified two themes consistently which must be examined to determine Biblical prophethood: 1) Message: Was Muhammad’s message in phase with a Biblical message?, and 2) moral conduct: Did Muhammad’s moral conduct conform to the Biblical standard?
Note that examining a man’s moral conduct is not a special judgment. Christians are instructed to evaluate all men’s fruit. This is not a search for perfection, for “all have sinned,” but rather of sound conduct found in passages like Titus 1 and 1 Tim 3. So there is nothing unique or unfair in examining a supposed prophet’s moral conduct and comparing it to a Scriptural standard.
THE BIBLE’S PASSAGES ON TRUE AND FALSE PROPHETS
Jesus’s love and care for the church included warning them against false teachers and false prophets and we should take note of those details. Scripture, as our boundary marker, our guidepost, provides theological definition and understanding of true and false prophets.
Four initial observations.
There are some 460 Bible verses using the word “prophet.” I found four overarching points as I surveyed “prophet” and “false prophet.”
a) The NT Scriptural emphasis is upon false prophets more so than upon prophets. This is because the ministry of the prophets in the New Testament presupposed a correct doctrine and holy lifestyle. There are several NT prophets mentioned (Eph 4:11, 1 Cor 14:29, Acts 13: 1, 15:32), and it is understood that they maintained sound doctrine as accepted leaders by the church. In relation to their ministry, Jesus is identified as the “cornerstone,” which means their ministry is built upon Christ’s teachings. This contrasts with Muhammad’s claim that he was told by the same God to bring a new and superseding faith.
b) The second was that God spoke to the prophets directly: There is a continual historic flow of events where: “The word of the Lord came to the prophet abcxyz.” (2 Sam 24:11, 1 Kings 13:20, 1 Kings 18:36, etc.). God spoke directly with most of the Biblical prophets. On rare occasions He spoke through angels but His most frequent, and primary, mode of communication was direct God-to-man. In Muhammad’s case, almost all of Allah’s communication with him was through a spirit whom Muhammad eventually believed to be the angel Gabriel.
If you value the Bible as a standard then this should trouble you. This in and of itself does not disqualify Muhammad but it clearly establishes Muhammad as a second rate prophet. Muhammad made mountainous claims about his message, and support, from Allah. Why then didn’t God speak with him directly? Allah’s primary mode of communication with Muhammad is misaligned with the Biblical standard.
c) Third was the abundance of false prophets. Throughout the OT there are many false prophets giving counsel and spiritual guidance. Often they would persecute the true prophets. These false prophets misled thousands of Israelites, and Israelite leaders, into believing in and obeying their prophecies. (Jer 23:25, Isa 9:15, Matt 7:15, etc.)
d) The fourth overarching detail is that there were hundreds, if not thousands, of legitimate prophets! There were even schools for these prophets. We don’t know their names, we don’t know what they did specifically, and they are only mentioned occasionally, but there were many of them. (1 Sam 10:10, 1 Kings 18:4, 2 Kings 2:15, Rev 22:9).
In sum, there were many prophets, both true and false, who were active during the OT and NT times. There was far more ongoing spiritual warfare than I realized.
BIBLICAL PASSAGES RELATED TO FALSE PROPHETS
Below are some of the Biblical passages relevant to our review of false prophets. How they are identified, i.e. how their message and moral conduct failed to line up with God’s word. I will only quote a few passages in full. (All quotes are from the New American Standard Bible).11
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Matt 7:15, 16
You will know who the false prophets are by their fruits, i.e. their actions. The evaluation of moral conduct point is stated in the theological writings I noted earlier.
For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. Behold, I have told you in advance. Matthew 24:24-25
False prophets will continue to successfully mislead people, perhaps even Christians, until Christ’s return. They will use signs and miracles as proof of their prophethood.
2 Pet 2:1-3 makes the point that false prophets will teach and permit sexual sin and carnality. See also Rev 2:20
2 Corinthians 11:3, 4, 12-15 shows: 1: Satan inspires false preachers to proclaim different Christs, and different Gospels, 2) Satan dresses himself in the costume of an angel and interfaces with men to deceive them. His servants also practice evil deeds.
1 Cor 10:14-22 shows: 1: demonic powers are behind the worship of false gods, and 2: Christians can be misled or misinformed and fellowship with demons. As Christians we should not be mixing demonic elements with our Eucharist, with the body and blood of Christ. See also 1 Tim 4:1.
James 2:19 establishes that believing in “one God” is not sufficient for being right with God. James is saying, “You believe there is only one God? So what? Demons also believe in one God but they will be cast into hell.”
James 3:13-18 shows that demonic motivations are revealed by jealousy, selfishness, carnality, and violence.
Gal 1:6-17 shows: 1: angels can bring false gospels, 2: God’s plan was to reveal His Son through Paul’s life, 3: men or angels who preach a false gospel should be damned to hell. See also Acts 9:20, 2 Cor 1:19.
John 3:18 mandates that believing in Jesus as the Son of God is part of the Gospel. Not believing in Jesus as the Son of God leads to hell. See also John 3:16, 36, 20:31.
These Scriptures establish boundaries for Biblical prophethood: the prophet’s message and the prophet’s moral conduct. These are the same boundaries that the early church and modern theological writers identified. Further, the New Testament identifies these key details for identifying false prophets: preaching a different Jesus, preaching a different gospel, not identifying Jesus as the Son of God, sinful lifestyle, and sexual immorality.
THE GOSPEL MESSAGE CONTRASTED WITH MUHAMMAD’S MESSAGE
First, an evaluation of Muhammad’s message. How does it compare to the Gospel message? Here is the basic Gospel derived from Scripture, 1 Cor 15:1-4, John 20:31, Rom 10:9, 10, Rev. 3:20:
a) Jesus was crucified and died for our sins
b) He was resurrected from the dead
c) We are to put our faith in Him as the Son of God
d) We are to receive and obey Him as Lord.
How does Muhammad’s message align with the Gospel message?
a & b) Muhammad denied that Jesus was crucified (therefore He could not have been resurrected):
“And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah’s messenger – they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain. Quran 4:157, 158.12
There are various interpretations of this verse but the majority of Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified. See The Crucifixion of Christ – A Christian Critique of the Quran
c) Muhammad denied that Jesus was the Son of God.
There are several of Quran verses that state this:
Say: He is Allah, the One! Allah, the eternally Besought of all! He begetteth not nor was begotten. And there is none comparable unto Him. Quran 112.13
In Miroslav Volf’s book, “Do We Worship the Same God?” we find a quote from Muslim scholar Reza Shah-Kazemi commenting on Sura 112:
There is evidently a theological impasse here, a fundamental incompatibility between the respective conceptual forms taken by belief in the same God. Even if Christians retort to the above verses by denying any kind of carnal relation in the “sonship” of Jesus, insisting that the sonship in question does not occur in time and space, but is an eternal principle, of which the historical Incarnation is but an expression, it is nonetheless clear that the Qur’an emphatically rejects the idea that “sonship” – whether physical, metaphorical, or metaphysical – should form part of any creedal statement regarding God. In other words, it rejects the validity of ascribing to Jesus the status of “son of God,” and in so doing rejects a belief that constitutes a cardinal tenet of Christian faith.14
See also my discussion of Volf’s book: Do Christians and Muslims Worship the Same God?
Other Quran verses that deny Jesus is the Son of God: 2:116, 9:30, 19:34-36.
d) Muhammad denied that Jesus is Lord.
And behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah’?” He will say: “Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, Thou I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden. 5:11615
Lo! the likeness of Jesus with Allah is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, then He said unto him: Be! and he is. 3:59-6016
“O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. 4:17117
See also Quran 5:116 and 3:56, 60.
Summary of Muhammad’s message contrasted with the Gospel message.
Muhammad contradicted these four key Gospel requirements. His statements in the Quran, which Muslims believe are God’s literal words, are contradictions not “different understandings.” Islam’s God says “Jesus is not my Son!”, Christianity’s God says Jesus “is My beloved Son!” These Gods do not agree. Either Jesus is the Son of God, or He is not. It is a simple, black and white, all or nothing, preposition.
This leads us back to the Scriptural evaluation of whether or not a person is a true prophet. Muhammad fails to meet the standards or requirements stated in 2 Corinthians 11:3, 4, 12-15, 1 Cor 10:14-22, Gal 1:6-17, John 3:18, etc. By comparing the content of Muhammad’s message found in the Quran and comparing it to Christ’s message in the Bible, we can conclude that Muhammad is not a true prophet. Muhammad was a false prophet.
In this evaluation we let the Quran and the Bible speak for themselves. They both spoke and contradicted each other. The same God could not have spoken both Scriptures. Different Gods established different faiths.
MUHAMMAD’S MORAL CONDUCT EVALUATED
The other aspect of evaluating true or false prophethood is examining the person’s moral conduct. Here we constrained to use the sira and hadith to find examples of the traditional Muhammad’s conduct because the Quran contains little of value here. However, Quran references will be added as applicable.
Muhammad’s life is a story of how a man who started in weakness ended with great power. This power extended from political, to judicial, to sexual. How did he handle that power? How did he treat those who disagreed with him or even criticized him? On this note, Plato said, “The measure of a man is what he does with power,” and Lincoln said, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Men in power have the ability to treat others fairly, morally, or harshly. This will be part of the consideration.
I have studied the sira and hadith in some depth and I’ve found that Muhammad was a man, just like any other man. He had good and bad characteristics, strengths and weaknesses. He made many sacrifices on behalf of his followers. He loved them, cared for them, and was generous to them. Most all of the time he treated them fairly and with respect. All Christians should concede and agree that Muhammad had a good, humble, and loving side. He sincerely loved his followers.
However, throughout history most religious people come into contact with people who disagree with them and are not their followers. Muhammad had a great deal of contact with non-Muslims. How was his conduct toward the non-believers? I am not talking about dealing with enemy combatants, rather I am talking about men and women who disagreed with Muhammad and rejected his claim of prophethood.
No expectation of sinlessness exists here. Moral perfection is not required. King David was a murderer, a sinner, yet used by God. We will not use a microscope or a magnifying glass to review Muhammad’s conduct. Instead, we will look at Muhammad’s life and his questionable actions and see if he justified them, or repented of them. King David repented of his sin against Uriah.
I’ll present five cases that present aspects of Muhammad’s character.
1) Dealings with critics: Abu Afak, Asma Marwan
2) Dealings with money: Kinana
3) Treatment of female slaves
4) Judgment of the Meccan slave girls
5) Treatment of his soldier Dihya
1) Dealings with critics: Abu Afak, Asma Marwan
Abu Afak and Asma Marwan were critics of Muhammad. The both denied his prophethood. Neither was a threat to Muhammad. Abu Afak was 120 years old, and Asma Marwan was a mother of 5 children, one which still nursed. Because they spoke out publically against Muhammad’s claims Muhammad had them murdered. Both were stabbed to death while they slept.
Key quotes from the sira:
The apostle said, “Who will deal with this rascal for me?” Whereupon Salim b. Umayr, brother of B. Amr b. Auf, one of the “weepers”, went forth and killed him.18
When the apostle heard what she had said he said, “Who will rid me of Marwan’s daughter?” Umayr b. Adiy al-Khatmi who was with him heard him, and that very night he went to her house and killed her. In the morning he came to the apostle and told him what he had done and he [Muhammad] said, “You have helped God and His apostle, O Umayr!” When he asked if he would have to bear any evil consequences the apostle said, “Two goats won’t butt their heads about her”, so Umayr went back to his people.19
Key quote from the Quran:
Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves. 48:2920
2) Dealings with money: Kinana
Kinana was a Jewish leader and he was taken captive by the Muslims during the battle of Khaybar. Rumor had it that he knew of buried treasure. Muhammad wanted it. When asked by Muhammad to produce it, Kinana said he knew nothing about it. Muhammad ordered that Kinana be tortured until he “talked.”
Key quote from the sira:
Torture him until you extract what he has.” So he kindled a fire with flint and steel on his chest until he was nearly dead. Then the apostle delivered him to Muhammad b. Maslama and he struck off his head, in revenge for his brother Mahmud.21
Muhammad and the Death of Kinana
3) Treatment of female slaves
When Muhammad attacked and plundered others he took men, women, and children as slaves. He would give the female slaves to his soldiers as their property. His soldiers used the slaves for their sexual pleasure. These slave women were allowed to be raped because they were property. The Quran grants this to the soldiers because they were “what their right hand possesses.” (Note that Muhammad himself had a pretty female slave, Mariyah. Because she was Muhammad’s property he used her for sex).
Key quote from the Quran:
Save worshippers. Who are constant at their worship. And in whose wealth there is a right acknowledged for the beggar and the destitute; and those who believe in the Day of Judgment, and those who are fearful of their Lord’s doom – Lo! the doom of their Lord is that before which none can feel secure – and those who preserve their chastity save with their wives and those whom their right hands possess, for thus they are not blameworthy; 70:22-3022
Also see 23:5,6, 4:24
Key quotes from the hadith:
Narrated Abu Said Al-Khudri that during the battle with Bani Al-Mustaliq they (Muslims) captured some females and intended to have sexual relations with them without impregnating them. So they asked the prophet about coitus interruptus. The prophet said, “It is better that you should not do it, for Allah has written whom He is going to create till the Day of Resurrection”.
Qaza’a said, “I heard Abu Said saying that the prophet said, “No soul is ordained to be created but Allah will create it.”23
Abu Sirma said to Abu Said al Khudri: “O Abu Said, did you hear Allah’s messenger mentioning about al-azl (coitus interruptus)?” He said, “Yes”, and added: “We went out with Allah’s messenger on the expedition to the Mustaliq and took captive some excellent Arab women; and we desired them for we were suffering from the absence of our wives, (but at the same time) we also desired ransom for them. So we decided to have sexual intercourse with them but by observing azl” (withdrawing the male sexual organ before emission of semen to avoid conception). But we said: “We are doing an act whereas Allah’s messenger is amongst us; why not ask him?” So we asked Allah’s messenger and he said: “It does not matter if you do not do it, for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born”.24
Muhammad and the Female Captives
(Note that Muhammad also had a female slave, Mariyah, he used for sex because she was “pretty” and it was allowed by virtue of her being his slave).
4) Judgment of the Meccan slave girls
When Muhammad began his ministry in Mecca he spoke out against paganism and mocked the families of the Quraysh leaders. In response they mocked and persecuted him. Over time Muhammad’s love for his former clansmen turned to hatred because of how forcefully they opposed his claim as prophet. In particular there were three slave girls, who may have been forced into prostitution by their owners, who were very effective in humiliating Muhammad with their witticisms and songs: Qaribah, Fartana, and Sara. These slave girls were the lowest of the low in Mecca. Even unbelieving people would feel some sympathy for their plight.
Key quotes from the sira:
The apostle of Allah entered through Adhakhir, [into Mecca], and prohibited fighting. He ordered six men and four women to be killed, they were (1) Ikrimah Ibn Abi Jahl, (2) Habbar Ibn al-Aswad, (3) Abd Allah Ibn Sa’d Ibn Abi Sarh, (4) Miqyas Ibn Sababah al-Laythi, (5) al-Huwayrith Ibn Nuqaydh, (6) Abd Abbah Ibn Hilal Ibn Khatal al-Adrami, (7) Hind Bint Utbah, (8) Sarah, the mawlat (enfranchised girl) of Amr Ibn Hashim, (9) Fartana and (10) Qaribah.25
There should be no doubt that these slave girls hurt Muhammad’s feelings deeply. Because when he returned and conquered Mecca he ordered that these three slaves be killed wherever they were found. There was no regeneration in Muhammad’s heart. Instead we see only deep bitterness, hatred, and vengeance. These slaves should have been pitied, instead Muhammad wanted them dead.
Eventually two were killed and one was forgiven.
Muhammad and the Meccan 10
5) Treatment of his soldier Dihya
Following the battle of Khaybar, Muhammad, as was his custom, was going to distribute his female slaves to his soldiers. One of his soldiers knew of a very beautiful Jewish women, Safiya, and he wanted her for himself. He went to Muhammad and asked if he could pick a slave for himself. Muhammad allowed Dihya to do so and Dihya took Safiya. However, other Muslims told Muhammad that she was so beautiful that she was only fit for him alone. Muhammad commanded Dihya to present Safiya before him. Muhammad took one look at her beauty and took her away from Dihya for himself. Here is one case in which Muhammad defrauded one of his men due to his sex drive.
Key quotes from the hadith:
So the Prophet said, ‘Bring him along with her.’ So Dihya came with her and when the Prophet saw her, he said to Dihya, ‘Take any slave girl other than her from the captives.’ Anas added: The Prophet then manumitted her and married her.”26
Muhammad, Islam, and Sex
Summary of Muhammad’s moral character.
Islam is a man’s religion, it is a religion of power. Power of Muhammad over the Muslims, power of the Muslims over the non-Muslims, power of the Muslim man over the female. Even Aisha noticed how Allah catered to Muhammad’s desires.27
In all of these examples we see Muhammad’s sanction for his murdering, theft, destruction, rape, slavery, and lust. He did not view these as sins to repented of (as David did), instead Muhammad viewed these deeds as Allah-sanctioned.
There are many more examples of Muhammad’s immorality, and dubious spiritual authenticity.
Despite his outward discipline of prayer, these five examples depict a man who on the inside, in his heart, was murderous, angry, and carnal. The Jewish leaders who persecuted Jesus were also disciplined in prayer and ritual. However those outward shows never transformed their heart. So too Muhammad looked good on the outside but was rotten on the inside. He was not a mercy to mankind, but rather the trail of blood in Muhammad’s wake grew ever wide.
When held against Jesus’s teachings, Muhammad is found to be a carnal and sinful man. By the Islamic evidence alone on the basis of his moral character we can conclude that Muhammad was a false prophet.
The movie, “Into the Wild” details the life of a young independent man, Christopher McCandless, who ventured to Alaska and lived in the wild. Things go wrong for him and he is forced to live off the land eating roots, seeds, and berries. He ate the seeds of a plant he believed to be nontoxic, however the seeds were toxic and he grew sick and died. This true and tragic story again highlights a key point for us, “things that look similar may be quite different.” Perhaps if Christopher would have been more knowledgeable or discerning things would have turned out differently.
Jesus warned us, His followers, to beware of false teaching and false prophets. Why did He warn us? If it wasn’t important then why did He waste His breath?
It is interesting that immediately after Jesus warned His disciples of false prophets He then warned them of knowing Him well enough to do His will:
“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many [n]miracles?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.’ Matthew 7:21-23.
If Christians are so willfully blind that they are unable to identify a false prophet of Muhammad’s scale, how could they be expected to know the Lord? Only foolish, careless Christians would look to them to be their teachers.
In Revelation 2:6 and 15 God says that He hates the deeds of the Nicolatians. If God hates evil deeds and false doctrines shouldn’t we? Is there any false prophet in history who has taught such false doctrine and done as much damage to the church, the bride of Christ, as Muhammad? Dedicated Muslims have martyred far more Christians than the Roman Empire.
The Bible provides guidelines for determining a true or false prophet: content of message and content of moral character. Muhammad’s message contradicts, denies, and opposes the Gospel message on all major points. By the Biblical standard Muhammad must be identified as a false prophet. Muhammad’s character also fails the Biblical standard: Muhammad was a murderer, liar, thief, and lascivious. By the Biblical standard Muhammad must be identified as a false prophet. Christians, grounded in their faith, devoted to their Savior, and faithful to the word of God, have the strength and integrity to reject Muhammad’s claim as a prophet.
This evaluation of Muhammad’s prophethood reaches a conclusion easily: Islam’s prophet was a false prophet. Franklin Graham called Islam a “very evil and wicked religion.” I agree with brother Graham. I would say that Muhammad, judged by his teachings and actions, was a “very evil and wicked false prophet.” Sidney Griffith, in “The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque,” notes that some of the earliest Christian writings about Muhammad identified him as a false prophet.28 Those early Christians got it right. I join in harmony with them and say that Muhammad was a false prophet.
We have evaluated the traditional Muhammad’s prophethood. This is the Muhammad of Islam’s history, and of the world today. This is the only Muhammad in play. When the details from the Quran, hadith, and sira are examined Muhammad can only be identified and labeled as a false prophet, an enemy of Christ, and persecutor of the bride of Christ.
Continue to Part 2.
ADDENDUM A: Muhammad in the arts.
There was a time when Muhammad was viewed by the church just like ISIS is viewed today: a bringer of evil, tragedy, and suffering. In “Dante’s Inferno” Dante’s Inferno, Canto 28, Muhammad, punished for his sins of scandal and schism, is depicted as suffering daily disemboweling:
A cask by losing centre-piece or cant
Was never shattered so, as I saw one
Rent from the chin to where one breaketh wind.
Between his legs were hanging down his entrails;
His heart was visible, and the dismal sack
That maketh excrement of what is eaten.
While I was all absorbed in seeing him,
He looked at me, and opened with his hands
His bosom, saying: “See now how I rend me;
How mutilated, see, is Mahomet;
In front of me doth Ali weeping go,
Cleft in the face from forelock unto chin;
And all the others whom thou here beholdest,
Disseminators of scandal and of schism
While living were, and therefore are cleft thus.
A devil is behind here, who doth cleave us
Thus cruelly, unto the falchion’s edge
Putting again each one of all this ream,
When we have gone around the doleful road;
By reason that our wounds are closed again
Ere any one in front of him repass.29
ADDENDUM B: Other recommended articles:
1) Sam Shamoun addresses other aspects of Muhammad’s claim to be a prophet:
“Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist – he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” 1 John 2:22-23 NIV
2) Charisma Magazine has an excellent examination of false prophet’s messages. Those of you familiar with the character and fruit of Muhammad’s “companions” will immediately recognize the stark contrast between Islam’s fruit and Christianity’s fruit.
Different Character—What kind of people does the message produce? The true believer pursues goodness, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love (1 Peter 1:5-7)
3) Those of you who want to see a video that identifies similar and additional reasons why Muhammad is a false prophet:
Silas 22 Nov 2016
1 See Nuh Ha Mim Keller, “Reliance of the Traveller”, Beltsville Maryland, Amana, 1991, section w4.3.
2 Pickthall, Mohammed, “The Meaning of the Glorious Koran”, Mentor, New York, 1953
3 The same could be done for other faiths such as Mormonism, Zoroastrianism, and Buddhism.
4 Would Donald Trump fit Wessel’s definition?
5 Kittel and Friedrich, “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,” Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmanns, 1968, Volume 6, 829.
6 ibid., 833
7 ibid., 849
8 See Robert H. Mounce, “The New International Commentary on the New Testament: The Book of Revelation, Revised, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmans, 1977, 349.
9 ibid., 849, 850
10 Kittel and Friedrich, “Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,” Grand Rapids, Michigan, Eerdmanns, 1968, Volume 6, 856.
11 New American Standard New Testament, Foundation Press, La Habra, California, 1972
12 Mohammed Pickthall, “The Meaning of the Glorious Koran”, Mentor, New York, 1953
13 Mohammed Pickthall, “The Meaning of the Glorious Koran”, Mentor, New York, 1953
14 Volf, Miroslav, “Allah: A Christian Response”, Harper One, New York, New York, 2011, p. 81
15 Ali, Yusuf, “The Holy Qur’an”, Amana, Beltsville, Maryland, 1989
16 Mohammed Pickthall, “The Meaning of the Glorious Koran”, Mentor, New York, 1953
17 Ali, Yusuf, “The Holy Qur’an”, Amana, Beltsville, Maryland, 1989
18 Guillaume, A., “The Life of Muhammad”, a translation of Ibn Ishaq’s “Sirat Rasul Allah”, Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan, 675.
19 ibid., 675, 676
20 Mohammed Pickthall, “The Meaning of the Glorious Koran”, Mentor, New York, 1953.
21 Guillaume, A., “The Life of Muhammad”, a translation of Ibn Ishaq’s “Sirat Rasul Allah”, Oxford University Press, Karachi, Pakistan, 515.
22 Mohammed Pickthall, “The Meaning of the Glorious Koran”, Mentor, New York, 1953.
23 Bukhari, Muhammad, “Sahih Bukhari”, Kitab Bhavan, New Delhi, India, 1987, translated by M. Khan, volume 9 #506.
24 Muslim, Abu’l-Husain, “Sahih Muslim”, International Islamic Publishing House, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 1971, translated by A. Siddiqi, volume 2, #3371
25 Ibn Sa’d, (d. 852 A.D.), “Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir”, (Book of the Major Classes), translated by S. Moinul Haq, Pakistan Historical Society, volume 2, 168.
26 Bukhari, Muhammad, “Sahih Bukhari”, Kitab Bhavan, New Delhi, India, 1987, translated by M. Khan, volume 1, #367.
27 ibid., volume 6, #311
28 Sidney Griffith, “The Church in the Shadow of the Mosque”, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey, 2008, 24, 25.