Second Hard Question

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Every month I am posting a challenging question for those involved with Muslim ministry and dialogue. I look forward to your comments and you may agree or disagree. The main thing is to have an enriching discussion for all. For the month of February the question is:

Is Muhammad a Prophet?

This is a difficult question to answer only because I think it is better to avoid these kinds of questions until you have a good relationship with your Muslim friend. You don’t want to insult your friend or their faith, especially when you are forming a relationship. Given the Islamic reverence for Muhammad as the “true Muslim,” they could easily be offended.

There are some positive things we can say about Muhammad — and we should try to be positive. Muhammad wanted to reform the faith of his Arab brothers and sisters, who were at that time polytheistic. Muhammad was deeply offended by their polytheism and their idolatry. As Christians we also worship one God and are offended by idolatry. We can admire Muhammad’s burning passion to lead his people to monotheism.

But we need not dwell on Muhammad. If possible, we should shift the focus to Jesus. That is where the strength of our witness lies, on the person and ministry of Jesus as revealed in all four gospels. Once we lead people there the Holy Spirit will help us the rest of the way.

When Jesus was posed hard questions in his ministry, he often responded with another question that led to a more important discussion. Sometimes we can’t avoid the hard questions, but if we can lead people into truth through questions rather than debate, we will get farther in our goal — which is to share the love and grace of God that we find in Jesus with our Muslims neighbors.

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Dear Greg:
I noticed a lengthy postlude to your question that included an aversion to debate, a stated desire to only focus on the positive, and a shift to the person of Jesus. All of these are laudable, but can avoid the question that you posed.
The Jews of Muhammad's time had to answer the question you posed. They had the Hebrew Testament in their hands. They looked at the Biblical qualifications for a prophet--i.e. one who did not only foretell but one who spoke on behalf of God--or forthtold. According to their criterion---not mine--as much as Muhammad had the persuasiveness of someone convinced that they had a divine commission, which most "prophets" including Joseph Smith of the Mormons had, they found that his claims were lacking according the following categories from Deuteronomy 18.
1. YHWH said if a prophet speaks "a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak" or speaks in the name of false gods, that person is a false prophet (v. 20).
[see http://www.answering-islam.org/Authors/Wood/deuteronomy_deductions.htm ]
2. YHWH said "if the word does not come to pass or come true" that person is a false prophet. (v. 22).
[see http://answering-islam.org/Nehls/Ask/proofs.html]
for a longer discussion

The prophet according to Deuteronomy 18 was to speak on behalf of YHWH, and thus for Muhammad to pass the true prophet test, everything that YHWH has revealed in the Bible would be the test of truthfulness of the Qur'an. If the Qur'an is anywhere out of sync, then the true prophet test would fail according to this test.

Secondly, Christians who have the New Testament have a further criterion
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already (1 John 4:1-3 ESV).”

--Since it is clear that in the larger context of I John, a true prophet must and would confess that Jesus is Lord and the Son of God and is equal to God. Clearly this is not the case of the Qur'anic writings, the hadith, or the life of Muhammad.
For further reading see the material from the Arabic speaking Father Zacharia Botros
http://www.raymondibrahim.com/islam/was-muhammad-a-messenger-from-god-or...

Was Muhammad a prophet?
I will respond with a question as you recommended: "Was Joseph Smith a prophet?" Regarding Smith, all we can say is that he was a self-appointed, charismatic leader who used religion to further his appeal and thus you might call him a prophet. According to Biblical definitions, however, Smith is clearly a false prophet..