To Muslims, the Prophet Muhammad, called the “seal of the prophets,” is the last of over 124,000 prophets going back to Adam. His name means “praised one,” and Allah in the Qur’an commends him.
Mecca was a center of idol worship in AD 610 when Muhammad first challenged the people to forsake idolatry and embrace Islam. Most Meccans rejected his message and many began to persecute the early Muslims, causing them to flee to the town of Medina in AD 622. This flight is known as the hijara and marked the first year on the Islamic calendar. Medina was more receptive to Muhammad and from this city, through battles and diplomacy, Islam was spread to the entire Arabian Peninsula before Muhammad died in AD 632.
Muslims try to follow Muhammad’s example, known as his sunna, or his way, in every detail possible. Everything is prescribed, from ritual washings before prayer, to hygienic practices in the bathroom. Such detailed behavior is known through large collections of hadith, accounts of Muhammad’s life, words, and behavior passed on by his early followers.
New Testament writers proclaimed Jesus as the fulfillment of the Law of Moses (Taurat) and the predictions of Old Testament prophets. These prophets are quoted in the New Testament. For instance, Matthew quotes various prophets concerning Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), his mother being a virgin (Isaiah 7:14), and even the killing of baby boys by King Herod (Jeremiah 31:15). The prophets also detail the suffering death and resurrection of Jesus (Isaiah 53; Psalm 16:8-11). The Bible points out that God carefully planned and carried out the details of the coming of Jesus in history (Luke 24:27; Acts 3:18).
The Bible contains numerous warning about false teachers and prophets. Jesus predicts the end times will be full of these (Matthew 24:11). Therefore, every teaching must be judged against the truth already revealed in the Bible. Jesus also promised that the Holy Spirit (“The Spirit of Truth”) would guide truth seekers into all truth (John 14-16).
In conversation with Muslims, Christians should remember not to attack Muhammad. Since so much is determined by imitating their prophet, to insult Muhammad is to attack their entire life and culture.
It is wise to find common ground and agree that Muhammad has much in common with Old Testament prophets. Like David and Solomon, he was a political and military leader with multiple wives. Like Moses and Joshua, he united tribes and led them in battle. Like Elijah and many other prophets, he destroyed idols and confronted the corrupt political and economic powers of his day.
Just as Old Testament prophets looked forward to the coming Messiah, Muhammad looked back with respect and admiration to Jesus as the Messiah. The Qur’an calls Isa Al Masih (Jesus) “God’s word” and a “Spirit from Him” (Surah 4:171). It affirms His virgin birth and special role in the end times.
Followers of Jesus do not have to deny or embrace Muhammad in order to exalt the Messiah. It is important to lift up Jesus, not tear down Muhammad.
Information is from “Islam and Christianity,” produced by Rose Publishing.