Similarities and Differences in the Lives of Two of History's Most Extraordinary Men
The power of religion is unmatched by any other philosophy. Religion has been utilized throughout history to unite or divide entire populations, to attain political prestige or financial power, and to subjugate society by often thwarting scientific reasoning. Yet, for many, religion has also provided guidance in times of turmoil and a sense of belonging in an often-disjointed world. This latter view of religion is one that those who established two of the world's largest faiths, Christianity and Islam, hoped to promote in the very beginning of time. In order to better understand these two men and the development of their faiths, this paper will conduct an examination of similarities and differences between Jesus and Muhammad's exceptional lives by beginning with the historical circumstances in which the two men lived and continuing with a description of how the two faiths evolved throughout history.
The exact birth year of Jesus is either a few years before or after the first year of the Common Era (Year 1 A.D.). This inexactitude is due to the fact that early Christian monks miscalculated their time in relationship to the life of Jesus. The location of Jesus' birth is also under contest. Some believe that he was born in Bethlehem, which fulfills a rabbinic interpretation of the Old Testament, according to Mary Pat Fisher, who writes on this issue. She states, "Old Testament prophecies [state] that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, the home of David the great king, and in the lineage of David." However, others believe that Jesus may have been born in his own hometown, Galilee, or near Nazareth. The Bible states that Jesus was born to Mary, who was a virgin but conceived him by the Holy Spirit, and Joseph, a carpenter from Bethlehem. Due to fulfilling a Roman rule, Mary and Joseph found themselves in Bethlehem, which was not where they lived, and could find no room at any inn. It is because of this reason that Mary gave birth to Jesus in a manger and named him "God saves." [1: Fisher, M.P. (2005). Living Religions (6th ed.). New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. ]
Fisher states that the above legend is a perfect example of the humility that Jesus taught. Other stories that promote similar facets are developed to describe Jesus' life. For example, though Jesus' childhood is relatively uneventful, as no legends are told until the boy's 12th year, at that time he goes missing and is discovered preaching the Torah in a Temple. This story demonstrates Jesus' sense of divine mission, knowledge of Jewish tradition, and personal connection with God, to whom he referred as "abba," which is a familiar word for "father," according to Fisher. Jesus is generally known to have led the rest of his life in a simple way, stressing spiritual wealth instead of physical extravagance, and leading by example. Eventually, he became famous as a healer, and it is this fact that led to his demise. After crucifixion, Jesus was resurrected, as the Bible states, and proved to his disciples his corporality by eating with them and letting them touch his wounds, after which he once again ascended to Heaven. [2: Kelly, H. (1948). Jesus Christ: Who Is He? The Irish Monthly 76(904). Retrieved from . ]
Jesus' divinity is very different from the life and significance of the Prophet Muhammad. Muhammad was born in Mecca in 570 A.D. And was named "highly praised." His father and mother died when he was very young, so the six-year-old orphan worked for his uncle as a shepherd. Muhammad grew to know the camel business related to trade, and made it his career by managing caravans. At 25, Muhammad was employed by an older widow, named Khadija, whom he later married. Muhammad remained married to his first wife and took no other wives, despite the fact that polygamy was common at that time. Shortly before she died, Muhammad told his wife of a divine revelation he had had. Muhammad reported that he had been visited by the Angel Gabriel, who uttered the following words: [3: Anonymous. (2011). Life of the Prophet Muhammad: Divine Revelation. Retrieved from . ]
"Proclaim in the name of your Lord who created!
Create man from a clot of blood.
Proclaim: Your Lord is the Most Generous,
Who teaches by the pen;
Teaches man what he knew not." [4: Anonymous. (2011). Life of the Prophet Muhammad: Divine Revelation. Retrieved from . ]
Muhammad, convinced by his wife and additional divine visits, that he was a true Prophet, began proclaiming, as he had been advised by the Angel, that people should turn from "pagan polytheism, immorality and materialism" and "worship Allah, the only true God." Muhammad started gaining followers, though their numbers only reached 40 in the first three years, most of who were heavily persecuted since their simple way of life threatened the way of life in Mecca, which emphasized more secular beliefs. Due to the increasing violence, Muhammad and his followers moved to Yathrib, a town of which Muhammad had heard, and where he could have the opportunity to become the leader of 280 people who would follow his word. After conferring with Allah, the small group made the journey to the place they renamed "The City" or Medina. After entrenching his group of believers, Muhammad decided to take over Mecca, and thus became embroiled in a series of disputes with his former city. After four hard battles, however, Muhammad and his followers were victorious, defeated the city of Mecca, and proclaimed it for Islam. By the time he died, in 632, Muhammad had conquered most of Arabia for Islam. [5: Anonymous. (2011). Life of the Prophet Muhammad: Divine Revelation. Retrieved from . ] [6: Anonymous. (2011). Life of the Prophet Muhammad: Divine Revelation. Retrieved from . ]
After Jesus once again rose to Heaven, his followers were heavily persecuted by the Romans. The small sect of Christians was "subject to imprisonment, torture, and confiscation of property," according to Fisher, mainly because Christians were intolerant to the polytheistic beliefs of the Roman Empire. Yet by the year 200 C.E., despite all the hurdles, Christianity became the religion of the whole of the Roman Empire. It is thus from the first century onward, within the Roman Empire, that Christianity begins to organize itself. Many of the disciples begin to record various stories, some of which are recorded in gospel accounts in the Bible. The stories, however, are merely romanticized legends, meant to teach principles and establish Christian theology, not record historical facts. Despite this fact, twenty-seven texts comprising such stories were set and translated into Latin during the fourth century, to spread Jesus' teachings. [7: Fisher, M.P. (2005). Living Religions (6th ed.). New Jersey: Prentice-Hall. ]
Yet even the prophet's disciples did not all agree that they were teaching the same "history," though they did promote the same principles. For example, the Gospel of John is the only one in the New Testament that promotes the idea of Jesus as God in human form. Base on Professor Pagels research, this gospel was written directly to contradict that of Thomas, who states, "God's light shines not only on Jesus but, potentially at least, in everyone & #8230; and encourages the hearer & #8230; to seek to know God thorough one's won divinely given capacity, since all are created in the image of God." Despite this differing opinion, as aforementioned, both gospels teach the same principles, which include looking toward the beginning of time for guidance and emphasizing that the Kingdom of God is already here, as a continuing spiritual reality, and that all shall strive to be part of this Kingdom. Christianity thus continued to evolve throughout the ages, claiming Europe, and later parts of Africa and Asia, and, of course, America, and is today present in the life of billions of people worldwide. [8: Lampman, J. (2003). The ongoing evolution of Christianity. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved from < http://www.csmonitor.com/2003/0515/p18s01-bogn.html>. ]
Muhammad's teachings were spread in a different, more political, way than those of Jesus, in part due to the fact that Muhammad was a human man who controlled a large state. Therefore, after Muhammad's death, his friend was elected the first political successor (caliph) to the Prophet, and by the end of the second caliphate, Persia, Egypt and the Fertile Crescent were "within Muslim fold." Despite the extension of Islam and the politics that came with it, the religion remained quite traditional. For example, Muhammad's life remained precious to Muslims, and many still attempt to emulate his qualities, especially since he continually proclaimed he was simply "a human being" and a "servant of God," just like his peers. Though Muhammad always claimed to be simple, those who saw the Prophet remarked that he was beautiful, noble, humble and kind, which were considered perfect qualities. The Prophet was also wise and was once quoted as…