Similarities between Prophet Musa and Prophet Mohammad
“We have sent a messenger to you to be your witness, just as We sent a messenger to Pharaoh” [Al-Quran: Surah Al-Muzammil 73:15]
“I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brethren like thee (Moses), and I will put my words in his mouth. He will tell them what I command him.” [Torah, Old Testament, Chapter V, Deuteronomy 18:18].
In comparative religions there has been renewed interest in finding similarities and differences between Prophets Musa, may Allah exalt his mention, and Prophet Muhammad, may Allah shower His blessings and peace upon him. This is due to the commonalities in each prophet’s origin and life, and the fact that their ancestry traces back to Prophet Ibrahim, peace be upon him, from whose progeny originate the three most popular religions in the world. Out of the two dozen prophets mentioned in the Quran, Prophet Musa is mentioned the most (136 times).
In studying the lives of great personalities, including divine prophets, it is natural to draw parallels between their qualities and achievements. For this reason, when Jewish and Christian scholars write about the founders of Abrahamic faiths, they tend to be partial in placing their own prophet on a higher intellectual pedestal in comparison with other prophets. Some Judeo-Christian scholars go the other extreme of denying the divine prophethood of Muhammad, peace be upon him, and rejecting Islam as an Abrahamic religion on the grounds that Mohammad’s lineage does not come from the progeny of Ibrahim’s younger son Ishaq and his son Yaqub. They pick out references from the Quran to claim that Muhammad’s God made mistakes and rectified these by cancelling certain verses of the holy Quran and replaced these with newer verses. They say Musa was a learned man, whereas Muhammad was unlettered, or that Musa spoke to God and Muhammad only spoke to Gabriel. They even interpret the prophesy of a later prophet coming after Musa in the Torah (Deuteronomy 18:18) as a reference to the coming of Isa, and not Muhammad. They deny the fact that despite being unlettered, Mohammad’s divine message was so eloquent, so convincing and so comprehensive that it was beyond any human’s capacity to talk without God putting these words in his mouth. Mohammad came from the line of Ismail, the elder brother of Ishaq, and therefore was like a brother to Musa. On the other hand, Isa’s lineage cannot be traced to Ishaq because of his holy fatherless birth. Prophet Isa was also not given a Sharia law by Allah as was given to Musa and Muhammad.
It is a double blessing that while the criticism of Muhammad by the deniers of Islam itself falls to ground in its detail, Muslims are forbidden by Allah to find fault with any of the prophets of Allah or draw any comparisons between them or assign them an order of merit. It is one of the fundamental articles of Muslim faith to believe that all prophets of Allah are equal in rank and there is no difference among them. Allah assigned all His messengers a clear mission and sent them to their assigned nations to guide them to the right path. Prophet Musa was sent to challenge the pagan beliefs of the people of Egypt and invite them to worship one God, and free the children of Yakub (Israel) from the bondage of the Pharaoh. Prophet Muhammad was sent to free the people of Arab Peninsula of their pagan practices and liberate them from their inhuman practices and decadent traditions. He succeeded in his mission by shaping a society that later ruled the world and brought enlightenment to the dark ages of human history. However, as Muhammad is the last and final prophet of Allah, his Sharia law is for all humanity till the end of time.
The similarities pointed out between Prophets Musa and Mohammad in this essay are by no means an attempt to establish a ranking of the two great prophets of Islam. It is aimed primarily to show how close these two messengers of Allah are in their mission and message, and how they are described in the Quran.
Both Prophet Musa and Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon them, came from the line of Ibrahim. Musa came from the line of prophets from Ibrahim’s younger son Ishaq and Mohammad came from the line of Ibrahim’s elder son Ismail.
Both Prophets were raised in noble households. While Musa grew up in the Egyptian palace of the Pharaoh, Muhammad grew up in the socially established family of Banu Hashim of Arabia, whose head was the well-respected chief, Abdul Muttalib, and after his death, his son Abu Talib. As children, both Prophets were raised by people who were not their birth parents. Both Prophets lived ordinary lives and for a short time worked as shepherds in their younger years. They got married like ordinary people, had children, were threatened with death for spreading their anti-establishment ideas but prevailed and died natural deaths. Both were forced to flee from their places of birth due to the actions of their community and migrated to new places where they established residence.
Both Prophets received prophethood from God after they had married and socially earned their reputation as honest and trustworthy people. It is noteworthy that the divine revelation came to each of them on a mountain. Musa went to the burning bush on Mount Sinai where he was spoken to by God, and Muhammad went to Mount Hira where he met Gabriel in a cave. Both were sent to ungrateful and unruly nations who disobeyed them after receiving guidance. Musa’s followers broke the rule of Sabbath and took to calf worship in his absence and were condemned to go into exile for 40 years. Muhammad’s followers embraced the very things they were warned against, such as greed for material life, tribal loyalties and taking infidels and polytheists as their friends and well-wishers. Despite being in impressively large numbers they remain ineffective and divided into sects and sub-sects.
In their latter years, both Prophets became religious and political heads of their communities. They were not kings like Prophets Dawood and Suleyman, but they were great political and social reformers. They established a new legal order for their communities and gave them a divine sharia law to follow. They established authority and participated in holy wars against the infidels. Both Prophets were very concerned about their Ummah and prayed to God to forgive their mistakes. It is believed that both Prophets will intercede with God on the day of judgement on behalf of their respective Ummah to forgive them and grant them paradise.
Both Prophets have the unique distinction of being succeeded by the same Prophet, Isa, son of Maryam. Prophets Musa was followed by Prophet Isa in his first coming from his immaculate birth to the time he was raised to the heaven, and Prophet Muhammad will be followed by the second coming of Prophet Isa closer to the end of time when he will descend from the heaven on a dome of the Grand Mosque of Damascus to kill Dajjal. Both Prophets have been followed by false claimants of prophethood after their demise.
Both Prophets went through a journey of understanding the divine wisdom and appreciating that no divine messenger can claim to have all knowledge except what Allah reveals to him. This is illustrated in Surah Al-Kahaf (Chapter 18) wherein Prophet Muhammad is advised not to undertake to provide an answer to the ‘People of the Book’ on his own when asked about the details of the companions of the cave without invoking the help of Allah and saying Ayn Yasha Allah (18:23-24). Also in the same Surah, Prophet Musa learns that there are things in Allah’s kingdom the answers to which are known only to few selected persons but not him, and he requests Khizr to explain his three actions which Musa could not understood until he was told what they meant. (18:78).
Both Prophets were blamed by their enemies of having some deformity. Prophet Musa was a shy person and used to keep himself fully covered in clothes. Some disbelievers spread the rumor that Musa had some skin disease or hernia. Allah silenced them by causing Musa to be seen naked in perfect condition while he was searching for his clothes after taking a bath. Allah mentions this in the Quran as: “Be not like those who annoyed Musa, but Allah proved his innocence of that which they alleged, and he was honourable in Allah’s sight (69:1). In another Surah Allah says: “O believers, be not like those who abused Musa; then Allah cleared him of what they say, and he in the sight of Allah was distinguished.” (33:69). The infidels in Makkah also used to level accusations against Prophet Muhammad. They alleged that as a child Muhammad had a spiritual experience which was manifested as epilepsy and that he was possessed by a demon. Allah says in the holy Quran: “The disbelievers almost strike you down with their looks; when they hear the Quran they say, ‘he must be mad’ (68:51). In another place Allah says: “By the grace of your Lord, (O prophet) you are neither an oracle nor a madman” (52:29).
Both Prophets were addressed by Allah differently to help them convey the divine message to their pagan nations. Allah spoke to Musa on the mountain by the burning bush and gave him ten commandments, but He did not reveal Himself to Musa. Allah did not speak to Muhammad directly and sent the holy spirit archangel Gabriel to to convey His divine message to him, but Allah called Muhammad to witness the eternal heavens on a night journey that was faster than the speed of light ((17:1). It is said in the Hadith that in that journey when Prophet Muhammad met Prophet Musa, he was advised by Musa to get the number of daily obligatory prayers reduced by Allah from fifty to five, as Musa was aware that his Ummah had failed to perform the obligatory prayers commanded to them by Allah. Prophet Muhammad was able to get the obligatory prayers reduced to five for his Ummah but with their reward being equal to that of fifty, as Allah’s word never changes. (Book of Hadith Tirmidhi 213). It is no coincidence that that the verse describing the heavenly journey of Prophet Muhammad in the holy Quran is followed by a verse about Allah giving the Book to Prophet Musa to guide the children of Israel.
It is said that Prophet Musa performed miracles which the holy Quran confirms but it is alleged that Prophet Mohammad did not perform any miracle. The context of this comparison is incorrect. In the time of Prophet Musa, magic was popular with the Egyptians and its practitioners were patronised by the Pharaoh. Therefore Musa was given the miracles to render their magic ineffective. In Prophet Muhammad’s time, magic was not as much in fashion as was the power of compassion and kindness in contrast to the harsh and violent nature of the Arabs to win over hearts and minds. Prophet Muhammad was given these qualities and was sent as a mercy to all the people, Muslims and non-Muslims (21:107). His compassion made him so effective that infidels used to stop their tribesmen from hearing Muhammad because they feared that Muhammad will influence them and make them embrace Islam. It was therefore not less than a miracle that in a short time of ten years, the entire Arabian peninsula accepted Islam and those who raised the arms to resist it were subdued. Prophet Muhammad’s return to Makkah without shedding a single drop of blood was also not less than a miracle. This was the same city from where he had migrated to Madinah in the dark hours of one night after learning that the tribal lords of Makkah had decided to kill him. Another living miracle of the Prophet is the holy Quran which Allah revealed to Prophet Mohammad. By Allah’s decree, the Quran’s original text has remained unchanged from the time of Prophet Muhammad till today and will remain so till the end of time (15:9). It is also simultaneously read and memorised by millions of Muslims, which is another miracle.
These two Prophets also have something in common about their followers. While the followers of Prophet Musa took his brother and Nabi Aron as their grand Rabbi, the Shia Muslims also took Prophet Muhammad’s companion and first cousin Ali, as their Imam and Mola.
Finally, both Prophet Musa and Prophet Muhammad were humans. In his early days Musa murdered a man unintentionally. He was mindful of his stammer. Muhammad was cautioned in the Quran for not paying attention to the blind man (80-1-10). He was also told that except for blood lineage no person could be taken as son by his adopted ‘father’. None of the prophets of Allah were exempt from human needs. They ate food and walked in markets. They engaged in conversations with their followers, answered the questions of non-believers, mediated the disputes of people and dispensed justice. Prophet Musa and Prophet Muhammad, may the peace and blessings of Allah be on them, were the messengers of Allah, but they were not partners or associates of Allah as the followers of Isa, son of Maryam, claim in the trinity of the father, son, and the holy ghost. May Allah save us from Shirk which is the highest form of oppression and an unpardonable sin.