How do the two compare? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.
I have been going through the Hadiths of Al-Bukhari lately where he narrates what people said about the life of Muhammand, the prophet of Islam. Tonight, I read about the Night Flight, which is the time that Muhammad says that he went to heaven. I have already written about that in comparison to the resurrection. Now I would like to compare it to the accounts of Paul’s Damascus Road experience.
“Sure. I can easily open up the Bible online, but where am I suppose to find the account of the journey in the night? No problem. I already did it for you. The Biblical references we are using meanwhile are in Acts 9, 22, and 26.
Let’s start by first comparing where these two people were socially. Paul was on the up and up. He was trained by the best of his time, was a Roman citizen, highly knowledgeable in Judaism and the pagan thought of his day, and would have been on the path to more and more greatness in his field.
Muhammad was a merchant. Nothing against merchants, but most of them don’t reach fame and glory as merchants.
What Paul got for his accounts is told in 2 Cor. 11. The list is not a good one to go through. What did Muhammad get? He fought in a lot of battles, received honor as being called Allah’s apostle, got a lot of booty in the form of wealth, and we can say he got a lot in another way in having multiple wives.
Paul went from being a somebody recognized by the leading officials of his day, a place of honor, to being an outcast and tying himself to one of the most despised if not the most despised movement of his day, never received great wealth or women, and was beheaded in prison.
From a purely social perspective, one of these men benefitted a lot more than the other.
Looking at the accounts of Paul, the first one in Acts 9 has it being said about him how much he must suffer for the name of Jesus. He is rendered blind and has to be led by the hand by those he formerly persecuted. These accounts do not really glorify Paul. From 2 Cor. 12, we also know Paul didn’t glorify himself. When he gave an account of what happened to him, he didn’t even say it was him directly and he says to avoid arrogance, he was given a thorn in the flesh and pleaded for it to be taken from him three times. This was done to make sure Paul would be humble.
Meanwhile, in Muhammad’s account, he is personally guided by the angel Gabriel, and at every step on the journey he is told how excellent his visit is and he gets to meet the who’s who of prophetic history and get the right hand of fellowship. He then becomes the advocate before Allah pleading for his people. Who does he go back and report to in this but Moses over and over.
One of these accounts has the main person looking awfully good.
Both accounts are subjective, but to be fair, there are some aspects of Paul’s account said to be objective, such as what his companions could have said or his being rendered blind. His change from persecutor to preacher is much better known. We don’t have this for Muhammad. All we have is his word.
So in the end, even if we can’t demonstrate one of them is definitely historical, I have to say the odds seem more in Paul’s favor. He would gain nothing from a worldly perspective and he was incredibly humbled in the accounts. From Muhammad, we have the opposite.
Make your choice which one you think is more likely to be true.
(And I affirm the virgin birth)