What are the differences between Jesus and Muhammad?
The founder of Islam is revered by millions, but when we compare his life and teachings with that of Jesus Christ, we find some very major contrasts and differences. When we examine the lives and beliefs of these two men, we find that they are as different as night and day.
With 570 articles on Islam to be found on this website, I of course have often written about the differences between Islam and Christianity. Here are several such pieces that are worth consulting:
But since I have just penned four pieces in a row looking at how Christianity differs from other major world religions, including the religions of the East, let me here contrast these two religious leaders. It will become quite clear that there are many deep differences between these two.
First and foremost, Muhammad was a mere man, like every other person on earth. He even admitted to this in the Koran, such as in Surah 18:110. Jesus on the other hand was fully man but fully God – the second person of the Trinity. He is Immanuel – God with us. Indeed, he was put to death by the religious authorities for making himself equal with God.
Muhammad often mentioned Jesus, or Isa, but saw him only as a prophet – certainly not as God in the flesh. But Jesus was always fully aware of his divine nature and his divine mission, even while a child. He left the comforts of heaven, came to do the work of God, and then returned to the Father.
The prophet of Allah did believe in the virgin birth of Jesus (Surahs 3:45–48 and 19:18–22), but he denied his crucifixion and resurrection (Surah 4:155–159). The gospel accounts fully attest to all three. It is perfectly clear that Jesus was born to die – that he was a man on a mission, and after suffering death for mankind, he would rise from the dead.
Muhammad only became aware of his mission when he supposedly received revelations in 610 AD at age forty – but he first thought these were demons attacking him. Jesus is the eternal God, so he was always fully aware of his earthly mission to save people from their sins. That is why the Incarnation took place – God in the flesh.
Muhammad saw himself as simply the messenger of Allah. The words of the Koran were dictated to him by the Angel Gabriel as the final revelation of Allah. Jesus left us no book, but being God, he is the ultimate writer of the 66 books of the Bible. He did not see himself as simply being a prophet or a messenger of God, but God in the flesh.
Not only did Muhammad never claim to be divine, he also never said that he was without sin, and he had to ask for forgiveness (Surah 40:55). Jesus was the perfect, sinless man who challenged people to find any sin in his life. They could not. Again, all that those who hated him could do was claim that he was being blasphemous by saying and doing the sorts of things only God can do.
Muhammad denied that he could forgive the sins of others, but Jesus made this the centre point of his teachings. This and other actions which only God could do is what repeatedly enraged the religious leaders of the day. Again, they wanted him killed because he was making himself out to be God.
The Koran denies that Muhammad gave signs or performed any miracles (although the revealing of the Koran is said to be miraculous). The gospels record numerous miracles that Jesus performed, from healing various illnesses, casting out demons, feeding the multitudes, and even raising people from the dead. The Koran even mentions many of these miracles of Jesus.
Islam’s prophet was committed to violence to spread the faith, and he was a warlord. He actually ordered or led 86 military campaigns during his lifetime. Jesus on the other hand never used violence and never said the faith should be spread by force, by coercion, or by violence. While Muhammad killed many and ordered the death of many, Jesus never killed anyone nor commanded it.
While seeking tolerance while he lived in Mecca, when he lived in Medina Muhammad formed an army and ordered holy war against unbelievers and enemies. Jesus told Peter to put away his sword, and commanded – and fully modelled – love of all people, even one’s enemies. Jesus and the Bible emphasise love – Muhammad and the Koran do not.
The Koran tells Muslims to kill the infidel (eg., Surah 9:5), and Muhammad led the way by example here, killing many and ordering the deaths of many others. Jesus said we should love our enemies, bless them, and forgive them, and he did just that, even while hanging on the cross to take the punishment we deserve upon himself so that we might find forgiveness of sins.
Muhammad especially disliked Jews and Christians, and his followers have been killing them ever since. Although seen as “people of the book,” he hated them since they rejected his claims. Jesus of course was Jewish, and he showed love to Jew and Gentile alike.
Muhammad had at least 13 wives, the youngest being Aisha who he married when she was a six-year-old child, and he consummated that “marriage” when she was just nine. Jesus of course remained single all his life, although having one wife is fully acceptable to God.
Islam has always treated women as second-class citizens, and Muhammad fostered this, normally describing them in negative terms. For example, he permitted the rape and marriage of captured slave women (see Surah 4:24), while Jesus elevated the status of women and treated them with the highest respect.
Muhammad spoke of a master-slave relationship with Allah. He called himself a slave of Allah (Surah 2:23). Islam means submission, and the good Muslim simply submits, asking no questions. Jesus was God’s beloved Son, and he came to restore our relationship with God – a love relationship. We can have a loving and close relationship with our heavenly Father, something Muhammad never affirmed or countenanced.
Muhammad, being just a sinful man, is of course still in the grave, but Jesus rose from the dead on the third day. And he predicted his resurrection ahead of time, along with many other predictions that were fulfilled in detail. These numerous fulfilled predictions further attest to his divine status.
Obviously much more can be said, and some of the articles I linked to above will give you more detail on the various differences. But the contrast between Muhammad and Jesus could not be greater. Indeed, the contrast between Islam and Christianity could not be greater.
Let me conclude with three important quotes. The first comes from Ravi Zacharias. Just after the Islamic terror attacks in September 2001, he penned a brief book called Light in the Shadow of Jihad. In it he says this about Jesus:
The Son was not born; the Son was given. He was not born because He eternally exists. His name is Jesus. He is the stone uncut by human hands. He came to offer forgiveness to us all and to teach us what it means to be part of His family and to honor one another. Humility was His hallmark. Goodness was His essence. When Peter tried to keep Him from being arrested, He told Peter to put away his sword. In His life, in His death, and in His resurrection, He showed us what a perfect life looks like. He built no earthly kingdom and refused to be conscripted as a king, but He raised up a formidable group of followers who, with His message, have conquered the hearts of men and women throughout history. He sought no political power because control is not the same thing as reverence. He told us to set our eyes not upon bricks and mortar, but upon a city whose builder and maker is God. He seeks to dwell not in buildings made with hands, but in the hearts of men and women. The Christian faith is not about land or a place. It is about a relationship.
The second quote offers an incisive contrast to this. It is by a former Muslim, born in Egypt, who is now a Christian, living in America – Nonie Darwish. She says this in her important book, Wholly Different:
Islam is not about transforming hearts and renewing minds; it is about conquering lands and enslaving minds. That was all that was on Muhammad’s mind, even when he was on his deathbed, when he said, “No two religions are allowed in Arabia” and ordered the forced conversion, expulsion, or ethnic cleansing of Jews and Christians and the murder of pagans.
After his death, Muhammad’s successors continued the very profitable business of conquering non-Muslims and seizing their wealth. They conquered the Middle East with incredible speed. Expansion became a way of life, a business, and the holy right and duty of every Muslim individual, leader, army, and government. To this day, the world still suffers from Islamic jihad.
My final quote is from a former Muslim who became a Christian evangelist, Nabeel Qureshi. He said this: “I left Islam because I studied Muhammad’s life. I accepted the Gospel because I studied Jesus’ life.”
For further reading
I already have a lengthy but somewhat older bibliography on Islam featuring 130 books: billmuehlenberg.com/2012/10/25/recommended-reading-on-islam/
Let me here just present a few titles that are relevant to this article:
Darwish, Nonie, Wholly Different: Why I Chose Biblical Values Over Islamic Values. Regnery, 2017.
Durie, Mark, Revelation? Do We Worship the Same God? CityHarvest Publications, 2006.
Gabriel, Mark, Jesus and Muhammad. Charisma House, 2004.
George, Timothy, Is the Father of Jesus the God of Muhammad? Zondervan, 2002.
Licona, Michael, Paul Meets Muhammad. Baker, 2006.
Power, Bernie, Understanding Jesus and Muhammad. Acorn Press, 2016.
Qureshi, Nabeel, Answering Jihad. Zondervan, 2016.
Qureshi, Nabeel, No God But One: Allah or Jesus? Zondervan, 2016.
Qureshi, Nabeel, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. Zondervan, 2014.
Spencer, Robert, The Truth About Muhammad. Regenery Publishers, 2006.
Zacharias, Ravi, Light in the Shadow of Jihad. Multnomah, 2002.
Zacharias, Ravi, The Prince and the Prophet: Jesus Talks with Mohammed. 2004, cancelled: to be released posthumously.