I didn’t know whether to be impressed or worried about the way my friend James spoke with reverence and respect for the prophet Muhammad. We were hanging out at the local coffee shop with our friend Abdu, and the conversation had quickly turned to Islam’s honored prophet. Abdu wanted to know what we thought about Muhammad. With pride and excitement, he began to tell us what a great man he was.
I wanted to boldly expose Muhammad as a false prophet, and convince our friend that Jesus was the final revelation from God. But James, being the quiet and thoughtful person he is, did things very differently. He spoke of Muhammad with phrases like, “Peace be upon him”. He actually praised the prophet for teaching the oneness of God! Was this permissible in sharing our faith or was this compromise? Was it okay to actually point out something positive about Muhammad?
I decided to sit back and nod. Often.
I have a lot to learn, and my friend James is a solid follower of Christ who has been sharing the Gospel with Muslims for many years. He evidently knows something I do not about reaching our Muslim friends with the love of Christ. As we left, Abdu agreed to begin reading the Injeel with James next week! I was amazed at how we got from talking about Muhammad to an actual plan to read the Bible together.
What Do You Think of Muhammad?
Spend any time with Muslims, and this question will be asked. How do Christians answer?
Muslims have great respect for Muhammad and look to him as God’s final messenger and prophet. He is often called the “seal of the prophets”. If a Muslim friend asks you what you think of Muhammad, a courteous response will open the door for further dialogue. It will also demonstrate respect to your friend.
A Positive Focus
There are several honorable, good things about Muhammad that we can note. He taught the oneness of God, a belief Christians and Muslims share. He united the warring Arab tribes. It is also said that because of his strong monotheistic stance, when Muhammad conquered Mecca in 631 AD, he entered the Ka’aba and destroyed 360 idols. The Ka’aba became the most sacred site in Islam.
And, contrary to much of the oppression we see today, Muhammad did indeed grant a few more rights to women. At the time of his birth, women in seventh-century Arabia had few if any rights. Baby girls were often buried alive. Muhammad ended infanticide and taught that women and men are equal before God.
These are all positive things we can affirm to our Muslim friends, showing honor to the good that Muhammad did.
Always Lead the Discussion to Christ
Respect for Muhammad does not equal compromise of the Gospel message. In fact, respectfully discussing Muhammad can lead to rich discussion about Jesus. Always seek to lead the discussion to Christ. One woman answers the question this way: “I think Muhammad was a great man, because he said many wonderful things about my Lord and Savior, Jesus.”
When compared to the person and power of Jesus, the facts about Muhammad speak for themselves. Muhammad pleaded for God to forgive his sins; Jesus was sinless. Muhammad formed a faith community of believers who strive to gain God’s favor; Jesus came to abolish the law and made a way for all persons, regardless of merit, to enter heaven. Muhammad died in the seventh century and is buried; Jesus Christ conquered death and is alive today.
Emphasize the Uniqueness of Christ
Jesus Christ was sinless from birth (see 1 Peter 2:22). This truth is not only Christian belief but also affirmed in the Qur’an. According to the Qur’an, the angel Gabriel (Jibril) appeared to Mary to announce her conception of Jesus, saying,
I am only a messenger of your Lord, to announce to you a faultless son. Surah 19:19
Jesus, not Muhammad, is the only Redeemer of mankind.
But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. Romans 3:21-24
Jesus the Word of God
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1
In all discussions with our Muslim neighbors, whether about Muhammad, the Bible, or the rights of women, we must make it our goal to lead the conversation to Jesus. One of the most impactful ways to do this is to ask your friend if he or she has ever read the Injeel, or New Testament, and offer one as a gift. Former Muslims declare time and time again that they encountered the power of Jesus when they read the Injeel for themselves and were convinced He was the Messiah. Jesus, the Word of God, reveals His uniqueness through his living scripture.
The way we handle our conversations about Muhammad can determine if we ever make it to the topic we love to discuss most: the love of Jesus for every single person. Do not be afraid to show respect to the revered prophet of Islam. Muhammad’s own words testify to the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.