Christians and Muslims claim to serve the same God. However, Christian and Muslim teachers have convinced their adherents that God had rejected the other group. This has led to an acrimonious and sometimes violent relationship between Christians and Muslims over the past 1,300 years. Both of these groups believe that they will stand before the God of Abraham at the end of the age. Can these brothers, who have been kept apart for far too long, be reconciled before that time?
An Honest Look at Mohammed
Mohammed was born in 570 AD. He was an orphan and was raised by his uncle who was a trader. Mohammed also became a trader where he traveled from his home in Mecca around the Arabian Peninsula.
When Mohammed was 25 years old, he married a widow named Khadīja and took no other wife during her lifetime. When Mohammed was 40 years old, he reported receiving revelation from an angel. The message was that the Ishmaelites should reject their idols and submit to the One God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who was the God of the Jews and the Christians. His wife believed him, and she called her Christian cousin, Waraqa, who encouraged Mohammed that he was God’s prophet to the Ishmaelites, but to expect persecution.
Before Mohammed started preaching, Mohammed was financially well off, and he belonged to an influential family of the descendents of Ishmael. However, he risked it all and preached an unpopular message.
Mohammed started preaching in Arabia when he was 40 years old, and he preached a message of non-violence for the next 9 years. His message included:
- return to the religion of Abraham, and worship the One God, who is identified as the one God of Abraham, the Jews and the Christians;
- adopt responsible cultural practices;
- believe God’s revelation sent to the Old Testament prophets, and recorded in the Gospel;
- believe in the Messiah Jesus, who was born of the virgin Mary;
- believe that there is a resurrection and a judgment where everyone’s eternal future would be determined;
- believe that the Holy Sprit was sent to strengthen and guide believers;
- reject the ways of satan; and
- avoid the penalty of eternal hell fire.
Mohammed interacted with several Christian and Jewish religious leaders during his lifetime; however, many of them rejected him and his message. Mohammed’s message of returning to the One God of Abraham was very unpopular in the polytheistic region. It resulted in many family divisions, and severe persecution of those who forsook the dominant polytheistic religion. Many of his followers fled to Ethiopia in 615 AD to escape the persecution in Arabia. However, Mohammed remained in Mecca under the protection of his uncle.
From a Message of Peace to the Sword
Mohammed’s uncle and wife both died in 619 AD and to escape persecution, Mohammed fled from Mecca. Mohammed later declared that he was sent to humanity to call them to serve God alone. Later, he claimed that God had given him permission to defend his followers, and then to execute God’s judgment on the surrounding nations.
Mohammed sent letters to: Roman Emperor Heraclius, Persian king Khosrow II, Ethopian king Negus, the Egyptian king Muqauqis, and the kings of Uman, Yamama, Yaman, Bahrayn and Ghassani, warning them to submit to God or to face the consequences. After Mohammed’s death in 632, the Islamic armies would go on defeat most of these kingdoms, including the Persian and Roman armies. The Islamic army’s victories during the first approximately 100 years were as impressive as those undertaken by the Israelite army under Joshua approximately 1,000 years earlier. (See the Open Letter to Muslims for further information)
The Compilation of the Qur’an
Mohammed did not write the Qur’an during his lifetime, but his scribe had written the dictated messages on hundreds of stones, bones, and leafs. Approximately 24 years after Mohammed’s death, the final written compilation of the Qur’an was completed. However, rather than order the compiled chapters chronologically, they were ordered generally from the longer to the shorter chapters.
Of all of the books ever written, in any civilization of this world, and at any time in recorded history, the Qur’an is perhaps the easiest book to misunderstand and to misinterpret for three principal reasons:
- its non-chronological ordering;
- the end of the ‘Period of Judgment’ is not recorded in the Qur’an;
- the Qur’an contains responses to various questions, teachings, and behaviors of Jews and Christians, but it rarely includes the questions.
These issues have led to Islamic teachers making the following unverified assumptions.
- Since the initial 9 years of non-violent teachings appeared to conflict with the later retaliatory and ‘Period of Judgment’ instructions, then some later “violent” verses permanently replaced or abrogated some earlier more “peaceful” ones.
- The ‘Period of Judgment’ or ‘Holy War’ is to continue until the end of time.
- Since the Qur’an is responding in a negative way to Christian religious traditions that had developed at the time, then the Bible had to have been corrupted.
Understanding the Qur’an
These assumptions actually damage the integrity of several verses in the Qur’an. However, they have become entrenched in Islamic religious tradition for the past 1,300 years. Given these challenges, the proper interpretation of the Qur’an requires a working knowledge of the following:
- the Qur’an read in chronological order;
- the Books of the Bible, to which the Qur’an refers the reader;
- the historical biography of Mohammed;
- the development of Christian and Jewish religious traditions from the time of Jesus to the time of Mohammed;
- a history of Rome, Persia, and Arabia, whose activities are recorded in the Qur’an;
- the Islamic commentaries, in order to understand the Islamic traditional interpretations.
Brothers Kept Apart
After undertaking this research over the past 30 years, I have found that there is harmony between the principal teachings of the Bible and the Qur’an. Given that both Christians and Muslims claim that the same God was the principal author of their Book, then why should anyone be surprised that there is harmony between both books?