Thursday, November 17, 2011

What's a Prophet Supposed to Act Like?

I've had a very busy week, so this is going to be a short, no references, not frills post.

I was looking through a blog earlier called 30 Mosques in 30 Days and I don't know why, the thought occurred to me:

A lot of people say, and I've said it, that Mohammed didn't act like a prophet.

But really, if you're looking at the prophets/patriarchs/what have you in the Jewish/Christian canon, did Mohammed do anything that they didn't do? Was he worse or better than any of them?

I think they were all men who acted in accordance with their times: they did some things that were advancements in morality for the times and others that weren't. But we count the ones before Christ as prophets and Mohammed as a fraud or deluded because of the Christian belief that since Christ was God incarnate there's no further need for a Prophet.

Which, fine. That makes sense if you follow that thought process. But I don't know that saying, 'Well Mohammed didn't act like a Prophet. He was too...'insert adjective here'.' works, really.

/end tired, random thought post


  1. Oh,I totally agree. I don't think I've ever used that line for dismissing Muhammad's prophethood. If anything the OT prophets/kings/patriarchs are probably recorded as worse than Muhammad, yet most (many?) Muslims are shocked that "we've" made "our" people out to be such sinners. I'm fine with OT characters being sinners and I'm fine with Muhammad being that way as far as prophet status goes.

    I dismiss Muhammad's prophet status for different reasons. The Quran as well.

  2. I agree too. Many of the prophets did questionable things. If I remember right Solomon killed A LOT of people. We just know more about Muhammad than the rest. I still think he could be a prophet, but I'm not sure I like him much. If that makes sense?

  3. Susanne,

    I'm pretty sure I've used it, if only in my own head. I can remember thinking, 'well, he doesn't act very prophet like...'

    Now, upon further review and education I've come to the conclusion that the prophets all acted badly from modern standards. If that doesn't invalidate the possibility of the Christian prophets being prophets then I don't see why it would invalidate the possibility of Mohammed being a prophet.

    Of course there are other reasons to reject the idea of Mohammed being a prophet, and if Mohammed wasn't a prophet then the Qur'an can't be from God.

  4. LK,

    The prophets acted really badly quite often, if you look at it.

    I do think it makes sense. Looking at Mohammed (or many of the other prophets) as simply great men and leaders of their times you can compare them to other great men. And we all know that those who rise to power, those who become great are very rarely nice, easygoing people.

  5. Ah,I see. Well, I've always thought you were honest also about the prophets in Christianity and Judaism being sinners. I thought we'd had these talks about the Bible not hiding their humanity and not making them sinless. I know I have personally held a huge grudge against King David for years. I liked the boy David fine enough, but the king...not much at all.

    It sounds like you were thinking like a Muslim in that you held prophets to a more perfect standard. (Thus why they are shocked that we made "our" prophets into adulterers, murderers, drunks,etc.) Granted,if they are supposed to be our models for how to act, OK. But the Bible really tells us to act like Christ for the most part. So?

  6. Oh, interesting thought about people who aren't nice and easygoing coming to power. I guess this also makes me ask "what is power?" Is it the ability to impose your will on others by force, through persuasion/reason, through your vast armies, through law/government on and on?

    And what is "becoming great"? Ooooh, more questions to consider! Thanks!

  7. I really think it was more a case of one of those things I hadn't really *thought* about. I don't think I've ever expected the prophets (or anyone) to be perfect, but we grew up with sanitized versions of the OT and how all of their actions were acceptable because they were done at God's behest. Then you come across someone who isn't automatically filed under 'it's okay because he's a prophet' and...yeah. I think I just never really rubbed two brain cells together on that one! :D No excuse!

    'I guess this also makes me ask "what is power?" Is it the ability to impose your will on others by force, through persuasion/reason, through your vast armies, through law/government on and on?'

    All of the above. There're plenty of kinds of power, sure. But the ones that we tend to remember are the ones who have done great, 'impossible' things. We remember the people who explored or conquered, the ones who brought 'order' to chaos. The ones who changed the world around them. And they tend to be the people who will do whatever they view as necessary in order to reach their goals. Which makes them not very 'nice' by our standards.

  8. Hmmm, I think some of the OT was sanitized. Like excusing GOD for having the audacity to destroy his creation in the Flood and order the Israelites to kill in vast quantities. Yes, that was OK'd and the actions of God's people who did it for Him.

    But for real, in the Baptist Sunday School world, I never remember David's adultery and murder conspiracy being winked at as acceptable. Nor Solomon's taking of many wives which led him astray. Nor Abraham's lying. Nor Moses' murder of the Egyptian. Nor Peter's follies (to bring the NT into it.)

    Sorry..just thinking out loud and got carried away! :D

    I consider Jesus fairly nice by our standards. OK, some may not appreciate his hell talk and driving out the people in the temple, but he never lead an army to conquer in his name to convert the world to Jesus-followers. Now people after him (his "followers" *ahem*) are another story ...

    But, yes, for the most part if you want to make a name for yourself in The History of the World, it seems best to be a brute. No wonder so much of history is about men!

  9. Susanne,

    I'm not sure I'd call it sanitized, at least not for the examples you gave. Maybe it's just the phrasing but I don't know that I'd ever think of the Bible as excusing God for killing people or ordering people to be killed. After all, the assumption is that God is good, right? So anything he does has to be good, anything done on his order has to be good and needs no excuse. Right?

    Now I guess we could say that perhaps some of the deeds that were done in God's name in the Bible weren't done at his order. Then we could argue that 'God said to' was used as an excuse/justification for personal/tribal decisions. But how do you pick out which ones are which?

    I'm not saying they were given the big thumbs up or anything, but as far as my recollection goes, they weren't really *taught* about. It was something of a cleaning by omission. Now, admittedly I did stop attending church when I was 14. So maybe this is all information that was deemed too 'adult' for children and would have been covered at an older Sunday school/Bible study. But! If that's the case, there's still got to be a problem with reconciling the kind, gentle prophets and patriarchs with the ones who lie and kill.

    Of course, everyone's experience will vary, even within denominations. So maybe there are Sunday School's out there that don't polish the behavior of the people in the Bible for the kids. I don't know...

    Ah, but Jesus would be the exception to the rule. And he was never powerful in the traditional, historic sense. But like I said, there's all kinds of power. Would I consider Jesus, even laying aside the question of his divinity, a powerful man? In the long view, yes. But that's not the typical way it works.

    If you count him as divine, it takes him even further out of the running since that means he wasn't a 'normal' man at all. Though I would argue that none of the great people in history were 'normal' - if they had been they wouldn't have made history. :)

  10. Nice (if brief) post here, Amber. You're right, a lot of people who aren't Muslim and don't like Islam blow Muhammad out of proportion to make him seem like a deluded, lying sex fiend who just pretended to be a prophet so he could have a harem of beautiful young virgins. But they forget that many prophet-kings (like Solomon) in Jewish and Christian history had large harems with dozens of wives and concubines. Yet they were good men who God approved of, so we'll just pretend that wasn't true. When you look at a lot of stories in the Bible (the flood story of Noah comes to mind immediately), prophets were sent to nations who were corrupt and doing great evil in the world, so that these nations would have the opportunity to repent and do good instead. Why can't people even give the benefit of the doubt that Muhammad was a prophet who was sent to the Arab people at a very dark time, when idol worship, murder, warfare, and abuse of women and children were rife? Baby girls were being murdered simply for being born female and women were broodmares who could be beaten mercilessly and divorced on a whim. I see Muhammad, widely known as an honest man, was sent as a mercy from a loving God to those people, to warn them from their evil ways.

  11. Heather,

    Isn't there some saying about brevity being the soul of wit? :)

    I've decided that the misreading of Mohammed's character and the expectation of a certain level of 'goodness' as we judge it in current times is a wide spread version of what happened to me. The unconscious idea that prophets are 'good people' when they're really not. I'm not saying they're terrible people, but they're not Gandhi, you know?

    Then there's the people who just take facts, out of context and portray them in the worst possible light on purpose in order to make people turn away in disgust. Those are the people who, for whatever internal reason, need an 'other' to hate. And Islam is really popular for that, not just now, though it's getting worse, but historically as well.


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