Thursday, February 6, 2003

Author compares words of Jesus, Muhammad

By Richard N. Ostling
The Associated Press

Joey Green

Here's an unusual religious triple play: A Jewish writer compiles a book that compares the words of Jesus with those of Muhammad from six centuries later.

Jesus and Muhammad: The Parallel Sayings was edited by Joey Green, who also produced Jesus and Moses: The Parallel Sayings (both Ulysses Press). As an added feature, he commissioned a foreword by Sayyid M. Syeed, secretary general of the Islamic Society of North America.

Islam does not really regard the Quran as "sayings" of Muhammad, but direct words from God revealed through the prophet. In that sense, these words are properly parallel with sayings of Jesus, because Christianity regards him as God made man and his words as precisely those of God.

Some of Green's selections come from the Hadith, a collection of authoritative traditions about Muhammad, rather than from the Quran, and are appropriately considered "sayings of Muhammad."

Green hopes "this book brings all humanity closer together" and believes that "in nearly every case the ethical lessons Jesus preached - love, compassion, peace, forgiveness and repentance - match the core values revealed to Muhammad."

Syeed agrees that the sayings show "the common source of inspiration for the family of Abrahamic faiths - Judaism, Christianity and Islam." Especially since Sept. 11, 2001, he writes, it's important to strengthen bonds among believers of three faiths that have "shared values and heritage."

Despite this multicultural slant, Green does note that the Quran says the Jews and Christians altered or neglected some of God's words, "incorporating factual inaccuracies and fabricating other messages into the Bible." Islam believes these flaws in the Bible made revelation of the Quran necessary.

Green's introduction leans toward the Muslim view by stating that "the Gospels frequently contradict each other and are sometimes inconsistent with historical fact." Traditional Christian responses to the charge are ignored, and Green never hints that some raise questions about Muslim traditions.

Though Green stresses affinities, he pairs several passages that underscore differences between Jesus and Muhammad.

Many more could have been cited. For example, Green quotes Jesus' teaching of monogamous marriage in Matthew 19:4-6, but not Quran 4:3, which allows men up to four wives.

Green's least satisfying section, given its pertinence, deals with "jihad," which in Islam means "struggle" for spiritual strength or justice, but can involve physical confrontation and, on occasion, "holy war."

Nonetheless, Green's material provides much to ponder for serious-minded Jews, Christians or Muslims.

Sample similarities:

Jesus states the positive commandment "love your enemies" (Matthew 5:44), while a Hadith states the same negatively: "Do not hate one another."

Jesus' "Do to others what you would have them do to you" (Matthew 7:12) compares with this Hadith: "None of you has faith unless he loves for his brother what he loves for himself."

Jesus' "Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy" (Matthew 5:7) is close but not identical with Quran 39:10: "Good is the reward for those who do good in this world."

Jesus: "When you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen" (Matthew 6:6). Quran 7:55: "Call on your Lord humbly and in secret."

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