Birth of Jesus and Muhammad
This is an interesting moment in time. Today is Christmas, which is observed by Christians to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ, and yesterday was Mawlud an Nabi, which celebrates the birth of Prophet Muhammad, 'Alayhimas salaam [peace be upon both of them].
It is also the time of heightened rhetoric against Islam and Muslims, worldwide troubles, and of course an election year in this country. All of these things have come together at the same time.
While it is true that the birthday celebrations of both Prophets are innovations, in the sense that they did not instruct their followers to do it, nonetheless it does serve as a time when we can derive lessons from them.
For Muslims, we believe in both Jesus and Muhammad, whereas the Christian believes in Jesus. The Qur'an speaks on Jesus and rejects what are now considered mainstream doctrine in Christendom, such as Jesus' supposed divinity, that he was the literal son of God, and that he dies for mankind's sins. Certainly we know this already, so is there anything else we learn from the Islamic sources besides doctrinal or polemical arguments?
Humanity of Jesus and Muhammad
Allah tells Our Prophet to proclaim, simply "Say: I am a man similar to yourselves." Another Quranic verse has God tell him to make the proclamation even more strong "Say: I am nothing more than [Innama] a man like yourselves."
The life of Muhammad, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam, is a demonstration of the same life of Jesus. He, upon whom be peace, says, according to the Qur'an: "Peace was upon me the day I was born, the day I shall die, and the day I shall be brought back to life." [Q 19:33]
Birth, death, and the emergence to face a public accounting before Allah is a reality for us all, Jesus and Muhammad are no different!
Allah told the Prophet, as recorded in the Qur'an, the prayer of insightful believers. They pray "Our Lord, you are the gather of mankind, on a day in which there is no doubt." [Rabbana Innaka Jaami'un Naasi Liyaumin laa rayba feeh.]
So both Jesus and Muhammad were cognizant of facing God and taught this reality to their followers. Indeed, Muslims daily are to recognize this when we recite "Ruler of the day of Judgement" [Maalikee Yaumid deen] in Salaah.
Truly gaining from the sources
Muslims have the Qur'an and Sunnah. However, we also have a rich history, a spiritual culture that has produced scholars of great insight, men and women who have studied many sources, gathering materials that would benefit their students. We have in this age been guilty of overlooking these materials.
One such reference is the great scholar Imam Abu Haamid Al-Ghazzali, or simply Imam Al-Ghazzali, whose most important work is Ihyaa 'Uloom id-Deen. The name of this work itself is important, it means The Revival of Religious Sciences.
This work has been widely criticized in our history, particularly his usage of Ahadeeth declared weak or even Mawdoo' [narrations falsely attributed to the Prophet], nonetheless we should appreciate this work and works like it, and examine what this great scholar saw as useful to his readers.
Traditions from Jesus from Islamic sources
In the Ihyaa, a tradition is recorded in which Jesus 'alayhis salaam was asked "Who taught you the rules of conduct?" Perhaps the questioner had the oppurtunity to interact with him and saw his character as exemplary, and wanted to simply know where he acquired this breeding.
Jesus responds " No one! I simply keep away from that which I don't like in others!"
So if we see hastiness, arrogance, ignorance in others, that should alert us to avoid adopting those characteristics in ourselves.
Another tradition recorded in the Ihyaa has Jesus say "Do not take the world [Dunya] as a Lord, so that the world does not take you as its slaves."
The servants of Allah, followers of Prophets, are not to be swayed by the trends and vices of this world. Nor are they to be swayed by internal calls to that which is lowly. These are all issues of the Nafs. May Allah show us truth as truth, and give us the ability to follow it.
Comparing Jesus and Muhammad
When comparing the two, Jesus is the one that gets called "The Prince of Peace". In today's world, we find people calling Our Prophet ['alayhis salaatu was salaam] a "warlord"!
As Muslims, we are, in fact, connected to both Prophets. So it's an incorrect expression to call Muhammad "Our Prophet"! Jesus and Muhammad both belong to us. To follow Muhammad is to also follow the essence of what Jesus and the other prophets brought. To break them apart or see them separate is- according to the Qur'an, manifest Kufr.
"The Messenger [Muhammad, Sall Allahu 'alayhi wa sallam] believes in all that has been sent to him from his Lord, as do the Mu'minoon. All of them believe in God, His angels, his scriptures and his messengers. There is no distinctions between any of his messengers.." [Q 2:285]
Attributes of Prophet Muhammad's followers
The Qur'an tells us the qualities of those who follow Muhammad. We are told
"That which is with Allah is beneficial and most lasting [Khayrun wa Ab-qaaaa] for people of Imaan, who trust their Lord. They avoid the great sins, indecencies, and when angered, are [nonetheless] forgiving." [Q 42:36-37]
Sometimes the opponents of Islam will say "Jesus said forgive your enemies, to forgive those who trespass against you." and they will add "Your Mohammud was all about conflict." They will disrespect the Prophet's name intentionally!
However, what Muhammad the Messenger instilled in his followers, as seen from this Qur'an, without doubt, is that even in the midst of temporary anger, the quality of forgiveness is still in their personalities!
When the Prophet entered Makkah, the enemy capital, he issued a general amnesty which included those who actually planned and even took part in the events leading to battle, death of his followers, assassination attempts etc.
Think about the companions, such as 'Ali. In battle, he was about to strike an enemy down when the latter spat upon him. 'Ali backed off, because previously it was a battle for what is right, and did not want to act with anger, making it a personal issue.
The Prophet is himself reported to have said that the strong man is not the one who can wrestle another down, but the one who restrains himself when angry.
That is the teaching of our Prophet, the manifestation of the ethics this Deen is to create.
So while Jesus and Muhammad may be different in what was emphasized, their overall roles are the same. Character development, patience, clean hearts, God-fearing, and able to see the big picture.
Let us create within ourselves what Jesus had, what Muhammad had.
Sayyidah 'A'ishaa describes the Prophet as one whose character was the Qur'an. So we should want to be the same.
The Qur'an tells us that Jesus sumarized his teachings and what he was about in one short sentence.
"Verily, God is My Lord and Your Lord , so worship him, this is a straight path." [Q 3:51]
So we want a personality that serves God and God alone, not in the service of trends or ego.