Saturday, March 26, 2011

Mohammed: The Character of a Prophet?

Having covered briefly the historical highlights of Mohammed’s life, I suppose it is right to talk a little about his personal life and more importantly, his character. The objective is to provide you with a general idea of who he was as a man, as a person. As is the case with each of us, there are positive and negative character traits that make us who we are. We are all created in the image of God and we have that to point to as the ground for any positive traits that exist in us. On the other hand, we are all fallen sinners and this fact accounts for the negatives that we find in others as well as in ourselves.

As a child, Mohammed suffered from seizures that resemble what we now know as epileptic fits. It is not my contention that he suffered from that disease. It is enough to point out that what Moslem scholars call miraculous episodes were actually convulsions resembling epileptic fits and may well have been brought on by epilepsy. We have not sure way of knowing. As Mohammed grew into adulthood, we made a living by attending to caravans and as a shepherd. It should be noted that a shepherd was a disreputable occupation by Arabs. Mohammed would later glory in this occupation and point to David and Moses as examples of prophets who were shepherd’s before they were prophets. Mohammed, according to tradition was of medium size, slender, broad shouldered, strong, with black eyes and black hair.  He possessed a commanding look. Perhaps if he were living in our culture we might say that he had “presence.” He had a fertile imagination, was a skilled poet and he was religiously astute.

Mohammed married Chadijah, a rich, 40 year-old widow when he was twenty-five. While her father disapproved of the union, she was able to keep him drunk long enough to complete the ceremony. The marriage was a happy one. Some attribute Mohammed’s faithfulness to his dependence on Chadijah because she gave him only what he needed and never allowed him any control over her wealth. The two had six children, all of whom died except for one. After his wife passed, he took a dozen or so wives. Mohammed became somewhat knowledgeable of the traditions of Judaism and Christianity while on commercial journeys to Syria. However, this knowledge was imperfect at best. It is widely believed that Mohammed was illiterate and dictated his revelations and beliefs to scribes who would record them.

After three years of laboring, Mohammed had only managed to collect some forty converts. Some may observe that this accomplishment relatively successful compared to the twelve of Jesus Christ. However, Christ had more than twelve. There were at least one-hundred and twenty gathered at Pentecost. Nevertheless, this progress was depressing to Mohammed. He left Mecca in fear of his life and journeyed ten days to Medina. There he was received and built a small army of just over three-hundred. Having won his first battle against a force twice his size, his success was underway.

Mohammed was long abhorred in Christendom as an evil imposter, a liar and antichrist. Mohammed had a melancholic and nervous temperament and was prone to extravagant hallucinations. Mohammed had serious issues with depression and suicide. His mind was neither clear nor sharp, but strong and fervent, under the influence of an exuberant imagination. Was Mohammed driven by his fear of God or by a thirst for power and glory? It is difficult to say. One thing stands sure: he did not fear the God that is. That fear is a gift of grace that results in complete surrender to His revealed will which is clearly expressed in the person of Jesus Christ and propagated in sacred Scripture, which is also a direct expression of divine decree.

Mohammed was a very sensual man. The wife who was closest to him, Ayesha, said the prophet loved three things: women, perfumes, and food. He had his heart’s desire of the first two, but not of the last. His followers excused his behavior and used Abraham, David, and Solomon in doing so. He claimed extra revelation that exempted him from the normal limit of four wives. He married by revelation, his adopted son’s wife, Zeynab. In fact, he married Ayesha, his favorite wife when he was fifty-three and she only nine. She brought her doll-babies with her when she was acquired to be his wife.  Philip Schaff comments,

To compare such a man with Jesus, is preposterous and even blasphemous. Jesus was the sinless Saviour of sinners; Mohammed was a sinner, and he knew and confessed it. He falls far below Moses, or Elijah, or any of the prophets and apostles in moral purity. But outside of the sphere of revelation, he ranks with Confucius, and Cakya Muni the Buddha, among the greatest founders of religions and lawgivers of nations.
As believers we have no choice but to be as candid with folks about the truth of historical events and about the lies that are spread in the name of religion. Mohammed, while possessing admirable leadership traits, was not an admirable human being. He was kind to his friends and merciless to those who dared disagree with him or oppose him in anyway. He was ruthless toward his enemies compared to Jesus Christ who stood before his accusers like a lamb being led to slaughter. Though he could have called the armies of heaven, he restrained his right and surrendered his will to the will of his father. Nevertheless, make no mistake about it: Christ will one day return with the armies of heaven and when that day arives, all liars and opponents of Christianity will be required to give an account for their deeds. The judgment of God stands ready to spring upon every soul that rejects his or her Creator.

[1] Schaff, P., & Schaff, D. S. (1997). History of the Christian church. Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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