Muhammad and Jesus against Satan

Few people know that Muhammad says in the Quran that he takes refuge in Allah from evil witches who cast spells.

Few people know that early reliable Islamic sources reveal that before Muhammad's ministry went public in Mecca, he nearly committed suicide multiple times.

Few people know that early reliable Islamic sources say that he was bewitched by a Jewish magician for 'a long period' in Medina.

But maybe more people know that early reliable Islamic sources says that Muhammad believed Satan inspired him, out of his despair, to recite some verses that made it into the Quran—the so—called Satanic verses.

To repeat, these facts come from reliable early Islamic sources, not from the imagination of non—Muslims. This cannot be overemphasized. Early Muslim scholars themselves report these events and beliefs held by their prophet.

This article analyzes these facts. First, we look at Muhammad's life in Mecca, when these fears and suicidal thoughts and Satanic inspirations first came up. Second, we examine his life in Medina after his Emigration or Hijrah there in AD 622. It will be discovered that he maintained his fears and odd beliefs about dark powers even during this time.

Finally, in the interest of Comparative Religions, we will study how Jesus dealt with the kingdom of darkness. Suffice it to say here that he never once was fearful of it. In fact, the New Testament says he terrified demons, casting them out of harassed and oppressed people.

The purpose of this article is to explore ALL of Islam,  so the uninformed and misinformed can gain some understanding of this worldwide religion.

A warning, though.

C. S. Lewis says in the preface of his book Screwtape Letters that readers should avoid two extremes in the matter of dark powers. On the one hand, skeptics may believe that all of this talk about the devil is myth or rubbish. They have succumbed to modern rationalistic philosophy or scientific materialism. Satan is delighted that these hyper—skeptics no longer believe in him. Now he can ruin their lives without their knowing it.

But on the other hand, the religiously inclined may let their curiosity about the dark world run a way with them, dabbling in things that are dangerous and forbidden. These extremists have given up too much of their reason.

Both positions are wrong.

So let's analyze these historical and textual facts in early Islam, steering clear of the two extremes.

Muhammad at Mecca

Muhammad wandered alone when he first felt concerned for his fellow Meccans. It was in these lonely hours that the spirit world hit him hard traditionally dated at AD 610.

Suicidal thoughts

Muhammad became suicidal during two times in his life, and the second time shows him climbing cliffs multiple times, in order to throw himself off.

First, before Muhammad's ministry went public, when he first received revelations, he was so confused that he became suicidal. The early Muslim historian Tabari (d. 923) records this tradition:

I [Muhammad] said to myself, 'Your humble servant (meaning himself [Muhammad]) is either a poet or a madman, but Quraysh [a large Meccan tribe] shall never say this of me. I shall take myself to a mountain crag, hurl myself down from it, kill myself, and find relief in that way.' [emphasis added] (Tabari, Muhammad at Mecca, trans. W. Montgomery Watt and M V McDonald, vol. 6, SUNYP, 1988, p. 71, Arabic p. 1150)

Muhammad says here that he despised poets and madmen. On the one hand, he did not want that reputation thrown on him by his opponents among the Quraysh. But on the other, he was terribly oppressed with the onslaught of revelations. He claims that Gabriel treated him roughly, such as pressing down on him, physically. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place, metaphorically. So what was his solution? He decided to take himself to a mountain crag and throw himself off of it, killing himself.

Before that act of desperation, however, Muhammad told his first wife Khadija that he was either a poet or a madman. She ran to tell her cousin Waraqa, a Christian and supposedly a scholar. Her cousin, a blind, venerable old man, told her that Muhammad had not encountered Satan. Waraqa referenced Moses as receiving revelations from Gabriel. This calmed Muhammad's fears.

However, the Torah never mentions this archangel, so the Christian 'scholar' was wrong to compare Muhammad and Moses. Gabriel appears by name only four times in the entire Bible (Daniel 8:16 and 9:21; Luke 1:19 and 26). While Daniel prostrated himself in holy fear before Gabriel, and Zechariah and Mary, the mother of Jesus, wondered at his presence, they never suffered from extreme confusion or suicidal thoughts.

So there is a vast difference between the Bible and early Islamic traditions on visitations from Gabriel, who has replaced, wrongly, the Holy Spirit in Islamic theology. Gabriel of the Bible commands respect, but he did not physically mistreat Daniel, Zechariah or Mary. Gabriel of the Quran, in contrast, does physically mistreat Muhammad to the point of his suicidal confusion. This is standard for Muhammad and Allah. Islam contains seeds of Christianity and the Bible, but Muhammad and his deity take things too far.

For more analysis on the differences between the Gabriel of the Bible and the Gabriel of the Quran, see this article,  and scroll down to 'Who was this spirit that called himself Gabriel.' Also, see this article

The second example of suicidal thoughts takes place during one spiritual dry season in Muhammad's life. The revelations from Gabriel ceased, so he again became desperate. The historian Tabari records this tradition:

The inspiration ceased to come to the messenger of God for a while, and he was deeply grieved. He began to go to the tops of mountain crags, in order to fling himself from them. [emphasis added] (vol. 6, p. 76 / 1155)

It takes a long time to climb high crags—and he did this more than once. What were his thoughts during the climbs? What did he think as he looked down from the heights? Surely he felt mentally harassed. But in the nick of time, Gabriel would appear to him and tell him to stop.

Regardless of this alleged divine intervention, it is not too much to ask what kind of prophet this is. Suicide by throwing himself off a cliff a plurality of times? To an outsider to Islam, Muhammad seems disturbed and unstable. Though blunt, that is a fair interpretation of the facts found in Islamic sources.

How do traditional Muslim apologists (defenders) respond? They seek to discredit the historian Tabari (except when he presents Muhammad as good and noble) because they have the prior belief that Muhammad would not do this. But reputable historians reasonably and correctly believe that Tabari is preserving reliable traditions precisely because no Muslim scholar would dare make this up on his own, nor would he receive this tradition from a non—Muslim. Also, this last tradition on his suicide attempts is recorded by the hadith collector and editor Bukhari (d. 870), whom traditional Muslims consider as completely reliable: Interpretation of Dreams, no. 6982 (cf. Bukhari, Revelation, no. 3 and Tabari, vol. 6, p. 76 / 1155). Since this tradition is reliable, then why not the one about his first suicide attempt when he was afraid that he was either a madman or an inspired poet (see above, Tabari, vol. 6, p. 71 / 1150)?

This severe confusion leading to suicide attempts happened before Muhammad's ministry went public. This is a troubling start for a founder of a religion. Do the evil and Satanic harassments stop after his public ministry begins? Sadly, they do not.

For more analysis of Muhammad's suicidal thoughts, see this article.

The Satanic verses

After a lot of opposition from Muhammad's fellow Meccans, he became discouraged. His own tribesmen, some of his family, and others in and around Mecca tried to talk him out of his opposition to their gods, offering him money and prestige. They suggested that they worship each others' gods. At first he turned them down (Sura 109, though Watt sees this sura coming after the Satanic verses, when Muhammad monotheism grow more clearly). His desire (note the key word) for reconciliation was strong. Muhammad and the Meccan men were gathered together, and Tabari the historian picks up our account.

First, the historian mentions Muhammad's motives for the Satanic verses. He writes:

With his love for the tribes and his eagerness for their welfare it would have delighted him if some of the difficulties which they made for him could have been smoothed out, and he debated with himself and fervently desired such an outcome . . . . (Tabari, vol. 6, p. 108 / 1192)

Then Tabari records the verses from Sura 53, which encourages the Meccans to receive intercession from their three main goddesses. He writes:

Then God revealed:

By the Star when it sets, your comrade [Muhammad] does not err, nor is he deceived;  nor does his speak out of (his own) desire [Sura 53:1—3]

And when he came to the words:

Have you thought upon al—Lat and al—Uzza and Manat, the third, the other? [Sura  53:19—20]

Satan cast on his tongue, because of his inner debates and what he desired to bring upon his people, the words:

These are the high—flying cranes, verily their intercession is accepted with approval.  [53:21?] (Tabari, ibid.)

This last verse is not found in the Quran today, but was replaced with a polemical verse:

'Are you [polytheists] to have the male and He [Allah] the female?' (Arberry's translation, Sura 53, note 7).

Here the interpolator argues that the human polytheists prefer the male child, whereas they consign to Allah female children. In seventh—century Arab culture, this was unfair to the deity. The interpolator uses the beliefs of the polytheists against them because they worshipped the daughters of the higher god. Why should only humans get sons?

Be that as it may, the Meccans were thrilled to hear Muhammad accepting their goddesses, whose shrines were located near Mecca. Both he and they prostrated themselves. The Meccan men joyfully retuned to their homes and stopped their persecution of him. Some Muslims, who immigrated to Abyssinia across the Red Sea due to persecution, heard of this new cooperation, so they returned to Mecca. However, Muhammad regretted those words. Perhaps a few weeks later or even months later (depending on how long it took for word to reach the Abyssinian emigrants), Gabriel came to Muhammad and reproved him for his words, abrogating or canceling the Satan—inspired verses.

Tabari records the change:

Then God cancelled what Satan had thus cast, and established his verses by telling him that he was like other prophets and messengers, and revealed:

Never did we send a messenger or a prophet before you but that when he recited (the Message) Satan cast words into his recitation . . . God abrogates what Satan casts. Then God established his verses. God is knowing, wise. [Sura 22:52] (Tabari, vol. 6, p. 109 / 1193)

This verse from Allah contains an error. Jesus, whom Muslims regard merely as a prophet, is never recorded in the Four Gospels as speaking Satan—inspired words. In fact, it is impossible to find these egregious falsehoods in great Biblical prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel while they were speaking under divine guidance. Though the last three prophets are not sinless, they do not speak out of inspiration from Satan. Sura 22:52 contradicts a (baseless) belief in Islam that all prophets must be sinlessly perfect. How can Satan—inspired words spoken by a prophet or messenger keep him sinless?

It is natural that Muslims would react against this entire episode, because it makes their prophet seem unworthy of honor and being followed. But the prominent and reputable Islamologist W. Montgomery Watt, who helped translate and annotate Tabari's sixth volume, is reasonable and therefore correct when he observes:

The truth of the story cannot be doubted, since it is inconceivable that any Muslim would invent such a story, and it is inconceivable that a Muslim scholar would accept such a story from a non—Muslim. (Tabari, Introduction, vol. 6, p. xxxiv)

Before leaving this section, it should be pointed out that this episode about the Satanic verses can be also found in other early Muslim sources, besides Tabari. First, Watt in his book Muhammad at Mecca (Oxford UP, 1953, p. 102) cites Tabari in his commentary, who cites a number of sources, notably a certain Abu 'l—'Aliyah. Second, the Muslim historian and judge Waqidi (d. 823) in his Kitab al—Maghazi (Book of Military Campaigns, ed. by Marsden Jones; also translated into German by the great Old Testament scholar, J. Wellhausen) records it. Third, it is found in the biographer Ibn Saad (d. 844) in his Kitab al—Tabaqat al—Kabir (the Great Book of Generations, trans. S. Moinul Haq).

Again, Muslims seek to discredit these two early Muslim scholars along with Tabari, but Watt is correct. It is inconceivable that a Muslim would invent this story on his own or accept it from a non—Muslim. Other early sources that omit this unpleasant story probably do so 'because . . . it was discreditable to the Prophet' (Watt and McDonald in Tabari, vol. 6, p. 108, note 170; cf. Bukhari, Commentary, no. 4862).

This Satanic inspiration calls into doubt the other revelations in the Quran during the Meccan period. If Satan inspired Muhammad in three verses, he may have inspired him in others. It is a fact that Muhammad confuses many Old Testament stories in his Meccan suras (and Medinan suras)—not to mention his Christology (doctrine of Christ). How do we know that these verses are reliable? Simple. We compare the stories in the Quran about Noah, Abraham, Lot, and Moses, for example, with those in the Bible. The Bible and the Quran differ widely. Therefore, Muhammad was making up his stories, or he had inspiration from a being other than God, or he incorporated fictions into the Quran from bad human sources.

For more information on the Satanic verses and a response to Muslims' reactions, see this article. It also has William Muir's translation of Waqidi on the matter. Muir's biography of Muhammad in a section dealing with the Satanic verses can be read here.

Satan and witchcraft and knots in the hair

The hadith by the collector and editor Bukhari indicates that Muhammad believes that some sort of knots in the hair is the result of Satan and witchcraft.

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Messenger said, 'During your sleep, Satan puts three knots at the back of the head of each of you. On every knot he reads and exhales the following words, 'The night is long for you, so stay asleep.' When that person wakes up and remembers Allah, one knot is undone; and when he performs ablution, the second knot is undone, and when he offers Salat (prayer) the third knot is undone and one gets up energetic in a good mode [sic, mood] with a good heart in the morning; otherwise he gets up in a bad mode [sic, mood], lazy.' (Bukhari, Night Prayer, no. 1142; cf. Creation, no. 3269)

Muhammad provides steps to purge oneself from the influence of Satan, by rituals. Should we take him literally and seriously about the knots coming from witchcraft? He seems to take this phenomenon literally and seriously in the Quran.

Sura 113, a short one, revealed in Mecca, says in its entirety:

113:1 Say [Prophet], 'I seek refuge with the Lord of daybreak 2 against the evil in what He has created, 3 the evil in the night when darkness gathers, 4 the evil in witches when they blow on knots, [emphasis added] 5 the evil in the envier when he envies.' (MAS Abdel Haleem, The Qur'an, Oxford UP, 2004)

This short sura says that nighttime brings evil, and it implies that witches work their Satanic magic at certain times of the twenty—four hour day. This link to the times of the day agrees with Bukhari's hadith, so the transmitter Abu Huraira is right, though it is unclear when he narrated this hadith after AD 628. It is included here in the Meccan section because Sura 113 was revealed during this period. Muhammad held this belief early in his ministry.

Further, Sura 113 says that Muhammad takes refuge in Allah. Thus, he appears insecure and even fearful of dark powers. Granted, he is only human, so maybe he had no choice. He does not seem to have enough spiritual authority to rebuke Satan with his words alone. Muhammad did not lose his fear of the dark power of witchcraft, even after he moved to Medina.

To conclude this section, Muhammad is seen, according to Islamic sources, to be suicidal when he despairs. It is one thing to be discouraged, but thoughts of suicide are unhealthy. Next, early Islamic sources say that Satan influenced him in Sura 53, the so—called Satanic verses. Also, Sura 22:52 indicates that he listened to his own desires in his dark revelation. What was happening to the Quranic revelations at this time? He was wrong about the Old Testament and Jesus in his Quran. Do his stories about them reveal he had tapped into the spirit world, or was he making them up on his own, or did he listen to deficient human sources? Whichever one is the case (or all of them), this is troubling. Finally, Sura 113 depicts him as taking refuge in Allah, not taking authority over dark powers. Refuge is not bad for a human messenger. But Muhammad, the founder of a worldwide religion, is supposedly the best moral example to ever walk this earth. But his subjection to suicidal thoughts and Satanic forces question his example.

Muhammad at Medina

It is a sad fact that Muhammad's confusion and Satan's influence keep going after his Hijrah or Emigration from Mecca to Medina in AD 622.

A Jewish magician

After Muhammad's Emigration, his contact with Jews increased exponentially. A large Jewish community thrived in Medina. But at least one Jew had some dark powers that overwhelmed the prophet for 'a long period.'

In a section titled 'The Names of the Jewish Adversaries,' the biographer Ibn Ishaq records a tradition that says a Jew named Labid b. Asam 'bewitched the apostle of God so that he could not come at his wives' (p. 240 / 352). The translator of Ibn Ishaq, A. Guillaume, after debating in a footnote the reliability of the account and concluding that it is strong, says that the spell lasted for a year. 

The hadith collector and editor Bukhari, who is considered completely reliable by devout Muslims, has the same tradition, except that Labid is a hypocrite allied with the Jews. A hypocrite is a nominal Muslim who will not jump when Muhammad cracks the whip, but mentioning Labid's alliance with the Jews is calculated nonetheless to make him seem extra—evil.

This hadith is short and narrated by Muhammad's wife Aisha:

Once, the Prophet was bewitched so that he began to imagine that he had done a thing which in fact he had not done. (Bukhari, Al—Jizya, no. 3175; cf. Creation, no. 3268)

But the following hadith narrates more fully what no. 3175 means, which agrees with Ibn Ishaq, above. Muhammad was so deceived that he believed that he had sexual relations with his wives, though in reality he did not.

Narrated Aisha: Magic was worked on Allah's messenger so that he used to think that he had sexual relations with his wives when he did not. (Bukhari, Medicine, no. 5765 and 5766; cf. Invocations, no. 6391)

The hadith goes on to say that two men appeared to Muhammad in a dream and revealed to him that two fetishes, a comb and hair stuck in it, perpetuated the spell, and lay hidden near a well. (One tradition says that the comb had knots in it; see the previous section, no. 3.) The two men revealed where the two items were, and Muhammad sent some Muslims to get them. He ordered the well to be plugged up with earth. It is odd that in the hadith just before nos. 5765 and 5766, Bukhari quotes Sura 20:69, which says that the magicians or sorcerers of the Pharaoh in Moses' time will never prosper.

Apparently, though, this Jewish magician (or a hypocrite allied with Jews) prospered over Muhammad for a while, because Bukhari records a tradition that says that Muhammad was praying for relief from the spell for 'a long period' (Creation, no. 3268), and we should recall that the translator of Ibn Ishaq says that the spell lasted as long as a year.

A strange wrestling match

The following strange account of Satan's attack on Muhammad shows that the human and mortal messenger (Sura 3:144) cannot simply rebuke the devil with words only. Instead, he has to get into a bizarre wrestling match with him.

The Prophet once offered Salat ( prayer) and said, 'Satan came in front of me and tried to interrupt my Salat (prayer), but Allah gave me an upper hand on him and I choked him. No doubt, I thought of tying him to one of the pillars of the mosque till you get up in the morning and see him. Then I remembered the statement of Prophet Sulaiman (Solomon), 'My Lord! Forgive me, and bestow on me a kingdom such as shall not belong to any other after me' [Sura 38:35]. Then Allah made him (Satan) return with his head down (humiliated).' (Bukhari, Actions in Prayer, no. 1210; cf. Stories of the Prophets, no. 3423).

This tradition is confusing. He wanted to tie Satan to a post so that Muslims could see him, as if to offer evidence that Muhammad is powerful. Another tradition in Bukhari has Muhammad saying to his followers on a human, relational level:

'fight with anyone who passes in front of you while you are praying (i.e. prevent him violently e.g. pushing him violently), because such a person is a satan' [sic] (Bukhari, Creation, no. 3274;

A Muslim, following Muhammad's advice, gets into a scuffle with another Muslim during prayer (Bukhari, Prayer, no. 509). Apparently, one Muslim walked in front of another, so they fought. The offended person specifically cites Muhammad's words and called the offender 'a satan' (Bukhari, Creation, no. 3274). Violence and fighting are never far from Muhammad's teachings.

In any case, why did Muhammad wrestle with the devil (assuming this really happened)? Since Muhammad was a prophet, he must not fight with just anyone, like a mere human adversary. He must fight Satan. His spiritual prestige and status are at stake, after all. But he should have shown Satan to his followers. Sadly, though, the evidence of Muhammad's power disappeared with the spirit being.

Maybe the hadith mentioning Solomon (no. 1210) demonstrates something more sinister in its reference to the earthly kingdom of the Old Testament king. Does the hadith reveal that Muhammad had his mind fixed on the establishment of an earth—bound kingdom like Solomon's? He seems to say that he, like this king of yore, was destined for military and material and political greatness, so Satan weakened and left in disgrace. If so, the human messenger was filled with visions of grandeur and conquest down here on earth.

This interpretation is supported by a saying of Muhammad recorded by another reliable hadith collector and editor, Muslim (d. 875):

'Verily, the Satan [sic] has lost all hopes that the worshippers would ever worship (him) in the peninsula of Arabia' . . . (no. 6752).

It is worth noting that Muhammad subdued most of the Arabian Peninsula by military violence and bloodshed, forcing polytheists to convert or die and collecting taxes far and wide. (His primary companions Abu Bakr and Umar finished the conquests after his death in AD 632.) Muhammad was rich and powerful in the worldly sense, beyond his wildest dreams. Then the Muslim armies stormed out of the Peninsula, conquering to the north, east, and west.

All in all, this wrestling match is confusing, because Muhammad's spiritual power, whatever it was, seems entwined with his quest for status and a worldwide earthly kingdom. At the very least, his belief caused strife in some Muslims.

Muhammad's superstitions on avoiding evil powers

Besides taking refuge in Allah (see Sura 113, above), how else does Muhammad avoid dark powers? He follows superstition. These two hadith passages represent others:

....'If somebody takes some Ajwa dates every morning, he will not be affected by poison or magic on that day till night (Bukhari, Medicine, nos. 5768, 5769, and 5779)

Hadith no. 5779 says seven dates—seven is a significant number, denoting special powers.

After Muhammad says that a crowing rooster is seeing angels, the prophet reports:

....[W]hen you listen to the braying of the donkey, seek refuge in Allah from the Satan [sic] for it sees Satan (Muslim, no. 6581)

Eating dates and staying away from a braying donkey? An objective interpretation of these traditions in Bukhari and Muslim must conclude that Muhammad lacked spiritual authority to resist evil. He was, in fact, superstitious. He was not offering Muslims the spiritual ability for resisting or fighting off demons or Satan.

For more examples of Muhammad's superstitions, click on this article and read the many hadith passages.

To conclude this section, Muhammad believed that he was bewitched by a magician for a year. A reliable Islamic source (Bukhari) says that he was so delusional that he believed that he was having sex with his wives, but in reality he was not. Reliable Islamic sources say that Muhammad got into a physical wrestling match with Satan. But this narrative is confusing, because Muhammad's spiritual power, whatever it was, seems entwined with his quest for status and a worldwide earthly kingdom. At the very least, his belief caused strife in some Muslims. Finally, Muhammad's advice to his followers, according reliable Islamic sources, says that they should eat dates and avoid braying donkeys, in order to avoid evil.

All of these facts seem to reveal a prophet confused or less than confident in his spiritual authority over the kingdom of darkness.

This contrasts strongly with the life of Jesus Christ.

The Three—year Ministry of Jesus

Jesus was always victorious over Satan and demons during his three—year ministry. At no time did he show the slightest fear of them. In fact, he terrified them. Blessedly, he gave his disciples the same authority and courage, so they do not have to fear them.

Jesus decisively resists Satan during the Temptation.

Before the ministry of Jesus went public, in the great temptation or the great test (the Greek word can be translated either way), he is led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for the express purpose of being tested or tempted by Satan. It is important to realize that the Spirit was leading him, not an evil power. Jesus was victorious over all three temptations.

First, Satan questions Jesus' status as the Son of God. 'If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread' (Matthew 4:3), but Jesus rebukes him with Scripture: 'It is written: 'Man shall not live by bread alone'' (Matt. 4:4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3). This means that Jesus resists the desire for bread suggested to him by Satan. This can apply to all desires of the flesh. Religious founders must be wary of their fleshly desires, like sex with multiple partners or the quest for money and power (political or spiritual) by conquest and war.

Second, Satan took him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple, again questioning his Sonship (the very thing Muhammad does in his Quranic 'revelations'). 'If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.' Satan then misused Psalm 91:11—12, which says that God will give his angels command concerning him, so that he will not strike his foot against a stone. These two verses are quoted out of context, because they say nothing about throwing oneself off a high place. Thus, Jesus rebuked the devil with Scripture: 'It is also written: 'do not put the Lord your God to the test'' (Matt. 4:6; Deut. 6:16).

Two things are to be noted about this second temptation or test. First, Satan was testing the nature of Christ, his Sonship; the Son of God was not suicidal due to despair about being called a madman or a deranged poet or about God's absence, for the Holy Spirit (who is not Gabriel as Islamic theology wrongly teaches) was leading him. Second, Satan knows how to quote Scripture, even though he takes verses out of context. This serves as a hint about the Satanic verses in the Quran. Muhammad said in Sura 22:52 that Satan insinuates something into the desire of every prophet. This is true for Muhammad, but not for Jesus who is more than a prophet. Also, if Satan knows how to quote the Old Testament in a bad way, and the Quran is filled with discrepancies and errors about the Old Testament and about the New Testament, then this does not look good for the source of inspiration of the Quran. Who inspired the errors in the Quran about the Old Testament and even about the New Testament?

Third, Satan led him up to a high place and showed him all the kingdoms of this world—their glory and political authority (exousia in Greek means political authority; cf. Luke 4:6 and 12:11, 20:20, 23:7). He offered all of this to the Son of God, claiming that it belonged to himself and that he had the right to give it away. However, Jesus again rebuked the devil, citing Scripture: 'Away from me, Satan! It is written: 'You shall worship the Lord your God and serve him only'' (Matt. 4:10; Deut. 6:13). Thus, Jesus was following the Holy Spirit in allowing Satan to test him, but when Satan's time was up, Jesus was decisive in his final rebuke: 'Away from me, Satan!' Then angels ministered to him, but not as the Quranic Gabriel does, with physical mistreatment and oppression. 

In this third test, Jesus defeated Satan with the true Scriptures and with his own spiritual authority, when the devil offered him all the kingdoms of this world, militarily, materially, and politically. By definition, 'kingdom' at the time of Christ must include political authority and material resources, backed by a strong military. However, Jesus raised his vision to a spiritual transformation of the world, one soul at a time, without killing them and taking their money by military violence and bloodshed. Then his disciples went north, south, east, and west, transforming the world only by preaching a simple message, backed by their powerful and risen Lord, the Son of God.

This is the exact opposite of Muhammad's path. He waged many wars to conquer most of the Arabian Peninsula, forcing people to convert or die. Backed by a strong military, he robbed them of their material resources and political authority, legalized, of course, by 'revelations' in his Quran to kill and tax them. His companions finished the conquests and then stormed out of Arabia, shedding blood wherever they went. They robbed cities of their political authority and their material resources.

The Quran in 22:52 says that Satan puts desires into the heart of every prophet. Was Muhammad a prophet?

Jesus takes authority over Satan throughout his ministry

Throughout his three—year ministry, Jesus exercised spiritual authority over the kingdom of darkness, wherever he went. After the great test (Luke 4:1—13) Luke records the first public encounter with a demon:

In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 'Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God! 'Be quiet!' Jesus said sternly. 'Come out of him!' Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him. (Luke 4:33—35)

Jesus cast the demons out without rituals and loud pleading. Instead, he speaks a stern command: 'Come out of him!' This reveals spiritual authority and decisiveness.

So how did the people react? Did they recognize his spiritual authority? Luke says:

All the people were amazed and said to each other, 'What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!' And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area. (Luke 4:36—37)

It is imperative to understand that Jesus did not fear the kingdom of darkness. In fact, demons had to submit to him when he came on the scene, as this passage in Luke demonstrates. He was not put under a spell by a magician under the control of Satan, even though his enemies falsely accused him of casting out demons by the power of Satan (Luke 11:14—26 and Matt. 12:24—28). Jesus replied with the famous words that any kingdom (or house) divided against itself cannot stand. If he casts out demons by Satan's power, then Satan's kingdom is divided.

This spiritual authority is exercised against Satan time and again in Jesus' ministry, eventually culminating in Christ's bodily Resurrection, after which Jesus says: 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me' (Matt. 28:18).

This is far different from Muhammad's life since he himself admits that he came under the spell of a magician for 'a long period.'

Jesus grants his authority to all of his followers, even today

We just read Christ's words in Matthew 28:18, which say that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. He gives his followers authority, as well. But before his Resurrection, he did this for seventy—two unnamed disciples when he sent them out to preach in the towns and villages before Christ got there (Luke 10:1—24). When they came back, they reported to Jesus their experiences:

The seventy—two returned with joy and said, 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name' (Luke 10:17).

It is important to understand that they did not drive out demons in their own name, but in the name of Jesus. This phrase 'in the name of' means 'by the authority and power of' the person who commissions or sends—in this case Jesus sent and commissioned the seventy—two. This verse has never been abrogated or cancelled. So today Christians have power over Satan, but not by themselves. They have it only in Christ's name or authority or power, as they serve him. Sadly, though, too many Christians do not avail themselves of this gift, or they abuse it. Either side goes to the two extremes mentioned in the introduction to this article.

Thus, Jesus gives to all of his disciples firm and decisive authority over dark powers, in his name. He tells them to take refuge in him. He did not tell them to eat fruit to avoid magic or to avoid braying donkeys that supposedly can spot demons.

This is far different from Muhammad's counsel. He advised people to do these last two things. In the Quran, does he allow Muslims decisively and firmly to resist or cast out demons in his name?

Conclusion

Both traditional Islam and Christianity assert that Satan is a real spirit being, and that he has a kingdom of evil spirit beings called demons. The two religions differ, however, in how they deal with this kingdom, in at least five ways.

First, Muhammad was suicidal before his ministry went public. He climbed up on high crags to throw himself off. In contrast, Jesus was on a high cliff, led ultimately by the Holy Spirit. His nature as the Son of God was challenged (a challenge that Muhammad repeats in his Quran). He was not in despair, entertaining suicidal thoughts. Proof? He rebuked Satan decisively. He did not run home, hiding under blankets.

The Quran says in 22:52 that Satan has cast some evil into the desires of all prophets. Reliable evidence suggests that he did this to Muhammad in his Satanic verses (Sura 53:19—20).

In contrast, never once did Jesus ever speak out of the will of Satan. After all, Jesus doe not fit in to Sura 22:52 because he is more than a prophet. He is the eternal Son of God. He cast out demons and evil; he did not have evil cast into him.

Second, Muhammad took refuge in Allah from evil witches and their spells (Sura 113). In contrast, throughout his ministry Jesus walked confidently, taking authority over the kingdom of darkness. His followers take refuge in him.

Third, Muhammad says he was put under the spell of a Jewish magician (or a hypocrite allied with Jews) for 'a long period.' At no time was Jesus ever put under a spell. For those who know the New Testament even casually, this idea is absurd.

Fourth, Muhammad supposedly wrestled with Satan physically, wanting to tie him up to a pillar in the mosque. He did not tie him up because he remembered Solomon's words about a large kingdom. Though this account is confusing, it seems to suggest that Muhammad also wanted or was destined to have a large kingdom. Whatever the case, it is disappointing that Muhammad did not tie Satan to the pillar, so that we could have evidence of his spiritual power.

On the other hand, Jesus never physically wrestled with Satan. He didn't have to. He rebuked him with mere words. This shows divine authority and control.

Fifth and finally, Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of this world, but Jesus rebuked him decisively, realizing that this is the greatest temptation for a religious founder. Thus, choosing the path of non—violence and peace, Jesus and his disciples turned the world upside down by preaching alone. They did not wage jihads against anyone who refused to submit. Constantine and the Medieval Crusaders are not foundational to Christianity. Only Jesus and the New Testament authors are.

On the other hand, Muhammad and his followers did wage military jihad on people who did not submit. They did establish earthly kingdoms by means of armies, making blood flow in the streets and money flow back to Arabia.

Which path is the one that lead to spiritual security from the wiles and strategies of Satan? Which path leads to inner peace, away from Satanic mental harassments and fears?

Jesus delivers. Muhammad feared.

James M. Arlandson may be reached at jamesmarlandson@hotmail.com

Few people know that Muhammad says in the Quran that he takes refuge in Allah from evil witches who cast spells.

Few people know that early reliable Islamic sources reveal that before Muhammad's ministry went public in Mecca, he nearly committed suicide multiple times.

Few people know that early reliable Islamic sources say that he was bewitched by a Jewish magician for 'a long period' in Medina.

But maybe more people know that early reliable Islamic sources says that Muhammad believed Satan inspired him, out of his despair, to recite some verses that made it into the Quran—the so—called Satanic verses.

To repeat, these facts come from reliable early Islamic sources, not from the imagination of non—Muslims. This cannot be overemphasized. Early Muslim scholars themselves report these events and beliefs held by their prophet.

This article analyzes these facts. First, we look at Muhammad's life in Mecca, when these fears and suicidal thoughts and Satanic inspirations first came up. Second, we examine his life in Medina after his Emigration or Hijrah there in AD 622. It will be discovered that he maintained his fears and odd beliefs about dark powers even during this time.

Finally, in the interest of Comparative Religions, we will study how Jesus dealt with the kingdom of darkness. Suffice it to say here that he never once was fearful of it. In fact, the New Testament says he terrified demons, casting them out of harassed and oppressed people.

The purpose of this article is to explore ALL of Islam,  so the uninformed and misinformed can gain some understanding of this worldwide religion.

A warning, though.

C. S. Lewis says in the preface of his book Screwtape Letters that readers should avoid two extremes in the matter of dark powers. On the one hand, skeptics may believe that all of this talk about the devil is myth or rubbish. They have succumbed to modern rationalistic philosophy or scientific materialism. Satan is delighted that these hyper—skeptics no longer believe in him. Now he can ruin their lives without their knowing it.

But on the other hand, the religiously inclined may let their curiosity about the dark world run a way with them, dabbling in things that are dangerous and forbidden. These extremists have given up too much of their reason.

Both positions are wrong.

So let's analyze these historical and textual facts in early Islam, steering clear of the two extremes.

Muhammad at Mecca

Muhammad wandered alone when he first felt concerned for his fellow Meccans. It was in these lonely hours that the spirit world hit him hard traditionally dated at AD 610.

Suicidal thoughts

Muhammad became suicidal during two times in his life, and the second time shows him climbing cliffs multiple times, in order to throw himself off.

First, before Muhammad's ministry went public, when he first received revelations, he was so confused that he became suicidal. The early Muslim historian Tabari (d. 923) records this tradition:

I [Muhammad] said to myself, 'Your humble servant (meaning himself [Muhammad]) is either a poet or a madman, but Quraysh [a large Meccan tribe] shall never say this of me. I shall take myself to a mountain crag, hurl myself down from it, kill myself, and find relief in that way.' [emphasis added] (Tabari, Muhammad at Mecca, trans. W. Montgomery Watt and M V McDonald, vol. 6, SUNYP, 1988, p. 71, Arabic p. 1150)

Muhammad says here that he despised poets and madmen. On the one hand, he did not want that reputation thrown on him by his opponents among the Quraysh. But on the other, he was terribly oppressed with the onslaught of revelations. He claims that Gabriel treated him roughly, such as pressing down on him, physically. He was stuck between a rock and a hard place, metaphorically. So what was his solution? He decided to take himself to a mountain crag and throw himself off of it, killing himself.

Before that act of desperation, however, Muhammad told his first wife Khadija that he was either a poet or a madman. She ran to tell her cousin Waraqa, a Christian and supposedly a scholar. Her cousin, a blind, venerable old man, told her that Muhammad had not encountered Satan. Waraqa referenced Moses as receiving revelations from Gabriel. This calmed Muhammad's fears.

However, the Torah never mentions this archangel, so the Christian 'scholar' was wrong to compare Muhammad and Moses. Gabriel appears by name only four times in the entire Bible (Daniel 8:16 and 9:21; Luke 1:19 and 26). While Daniel prostrated himself in holy fear before Gabriel, and Zechariah and Mary, the mother of Jesus, wondered at his presence, they never suffered from extreme confusion or suicidal thoughts.

So there is a vast difference between the Bible and early Islamic traditions on visitations from Gabriel, who has replaced, wrongly, the Holy Spirit in Islamic theology. Gabriel of the Bible commands respect, but he did not physically mistreat Daniel, Zechariah or Mary. Gabriel of the Quran, in contrast, does physically mistreat Muhammad to the point of his suicidal confusion. This is standard for Muhammad and Allah. Islam contains seeds of Christianity and the Bible, but Muhammad and his deity take things too far.

For more analysis on the differences between the Gabriel of the Bible and the Gabriel of the Quran, see this article,  and scroll down to 'Who was this spirit that called himself Gabriel.' Also, see this article

The second example of suicidal thoughts takes place during one spiritual dry season in Muhammad's life. The revelations from Gabriel ceased, so he again became desperate. The historian Tabari records this tradition:

The inspiration ceased to come to the messenger of God for a while, and he was deeply grieved. He began to go to the tops of mountain crags, in order to fling himself from them. [emphasis added] (vol. 6, p. 76 / 1155)

It takes a long time to climb high crags—and he did this more than once. What were his thoughts during the climbs? What did he think as he looked down from the heights? Surely he felt mentally harassed. But in the nick of time, Gabriel would appear to him and tell him to stop.

Regardless of this alleged divine intervention, it is not too much to ask what kind of prophet this is. Suicide by throwing himself off a cliff a plurality of times? To an outsider to Islam, Muhammad seems disturbed and unstable. Though blunt, that is a fair interpretation of the facts found in Islamic sources.

How do traditional Muslim apologists (defenders) respond? They seek to discredit the historian Tabari (except when he presents Muhammad as good and noble) because they have the prior belief that Muhammad would not do this. But reputable historians reasonably and correctly believe that Tabari is preserving reliable traditions precisely because no Muslim scholar would dare make this up on his own, nor would he receive this tradition from a non—Muslim. Also, this last tradition on his suicide attempts is recorded by the hadith collector and editor Bukhari (d. 870), whom traditional Muslims consider as completely reliable: Interpretation of Dreams, no. 6982 (cf. Bukhari, Revelation, no. 3 and Tabari, vol. 6, p. 76 / 1155). Since this tradition is reliable, then why not the one about his first suicide attempt when he was afraid that he was either a madman or an inspired poet (see above, Tabari, vol. 6, p. 71 / 1150)?

This severe confusion leading to suicide attempts happened before Muhammad's ministry went public. This is a troubling start for a founder of a religion. Do the evil and Satanic harassments stop after his public ministry begins? Sadly, they do not.

For more analysis of Muhammad's suicidal thoughts, see this article.

The Satanic verses

After a lot of opposition from Muhammad's fellow Meccans, he became discouraged. His own tribesmen, some of his family, and others in and around Mecca tried to talk him out of his opposition to their gods, offering him money and prestige. They suggested that they worship each others' gods. At first he turned them down (Sura 109, though Watt sees this sura coming after the Satanic verses, when Muhammad monotheism grow more clearly). His desire (note the key word) for reconciliation was strong. Muhammad and the Meccan men were gathered together, and Tabari the historian picks up our account.

First, the historian mentions Muhammad's motives for the Satanic verses. He writes:

With his love for the tribes and his eagerness for their welfare it would have delighted him if some of the difficulties which they made for him could have been smoothed out, and he debated with himself and fervently desired such an outcome . . . . (Tabari, vol. 6, p. 108 / 1192)

Then Tabari records the verses from Sura 53, which encourages the Meccans to receive intercession from their three main goddesses. He writes:

Then God revealed:

By the Star when it sets, your comrade [Muhammad] does not err, nor is he deceived;  nor does his speak out of (his own) desire [Sura 53:1—3]

And when he came to the words:

Have you thought upon al—Lat and al—Uzza and Manat, the third, the other? [Sura  53:19—20]

Satan cast on his tongue, because of his inner debates and what he desired to bring upon his people, the words:

These are the high—flying cranes, verily their intercession is accepted with approval.  [53:21?] (Tabari, ibid.)

This last verse is not found in the Quran today, but was replaced with a polemical verse:

'Are you [polytheists] to have the male and He [Allah] the female?' (Arberry's translation, Sura 53, note 7).

Here the interpolator argues that the human polytheists prefer the male child, whereas they consign to Allah female children. In seventh—century Arab culture, this was unfair to the deity. The interpolator uses the beliefs of the polytheists against them because they worshipped the daughters of the higher god. Why should only humans get sons?

Be that as it may, the Meccans were thrilled to hear Muhammad accepting their goddesses, whose shrines were located near Mecca. Both he and they prostrated themselves. The Meccan men joyfully retuned to their homes and stopped their persecution of him. Some Muslims, who immigrated to Abyssinia across the Red Sea due to persecution, heard of this new cooperation, so they returned to Mecca. However, Muhammad regretted those words. Perhaps a few weeks later or even months later (depending on how long it took for word to reach the Abyssinian emigrants), Gabriel came to Muhammad and reproved him for his words, abrogating or canceling the Satan—inspired verses.

Tabari records the change:

Then God cancelled what Satan had thus cast, and established his verses by telling him that he was like other prophets and messengers, and revealed:

Never did we send a messenger or a prophet before you but that when he recited (the Message) Satan cast words into his recitation . . . God abrogates what Satan casts. Then God established his verses. God is knowing, wise. [Sura 22:52] (Tabari, vol. 6, p. 109 / 1193)

This verse from Allah contains an error. Jesus, whom Muslims regard merely as a prophet, is never recorded in the Four Gospels as speaking Satan—inspired words. In fact, it is impossible to find these egregious falsehoods in great Biblical prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel while they were speaking under divine guidance. Though the last three prophets are not sinless, they do not speak out of inspiration from Satan. Sura 22:52 contradicts a (baseless) belief in Islam that all prophets must be sinlessly perfect. How can Satan—inspired words spoken by a prophet or messenger keep him sinless?

It is natural that Muslims would react against this entire episode, because it makes their prophet seem unworthy of honor and being followed. But the prominent and reputable Islamologist W. Montgomery Watt, who helped translate and annotate Tabari's sixth volume, is reasonable and therefore correct when he observes:

The truth of the story cannot be doubted, since it is inconceivable that any Muslim would invent such a story, and it is inconceivable that a Muslim scholar would accept such a story from a non—Muslim. (Tabari, Introduction, vol. 6, p. xxxiv)

Before leaving this section, it should be pointed out that this episode about the Satanic verses can be also found in other early Muslim sources, besides Tabari. First, Watt in his book Muhammad at Mecca (Oxford UP, 1953, p. 102) cites Tabari in his commentary, who cites a number of sources, notably a certain Abu 'l—'Aliyah. Second, the Muslim historian and judge Waqidi (d. 823) in his Kitab al—Maghazi (Book of Military Campaigns, ed. by Marsden Jones; also translated into German by the great Old Testament scholar, J. Wellhausen) records it. Third, it is found in the biographer Ibn Saad (d. 844) in his Kitab al—Tabaqat al—Kabir (the Great Book of Generations, trans. S. Moinul Haq).

Again, Muslims seek to discredit these two early Muslim scholars along with Tabari, but Watt is correct. It is inconceivable that a Muslim would invent this story on his own or accept it from a non—Muslim. Other early sources that omit this unpleasant story probably do so 'because . . . it was discreditable to the Prophet' (Watt and McDonald in Tabari, vol. 6, p. 108, note 170; cf. Bukhari, Commentary, no. 4862).

This Satanic inspiration calls into doubt the other revelations in the Quran during the Meccan period. If Satan inspired Muhammad in three verses, he may have inspired him in others. It is a fact that Muhammad confuses many Old Testament stories in his Meccan suras (and Medinan suras)—not to mention his Christology (doctrine of Christ). How do we know that these verses are reliable? Simple. We compare the stories in the Quran about Noah, Abraham, Lot, and Moses, for example, with those in the Bible. The Bible and the Quran differ widely. Therefore, Muhammad was making up his stories, or he had inspiration from a being other than God, or he incorporated fictions into the Quran from bad human sources.

For more information on the Satanic verses and a response to Muslims' reactions, see this article. It also has William Muir's translation of Waqidi on the matter. Muir's biography of Muhammad in a section dealing with the Satanic verses can be read here.

Satan and witchcraft and knots in the hair

The hadith by the collector and editor Bukhari indicates that Muhammad believes that some sort of knots in the hair is the result of Satan and witchcraft.

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah's Messenger said, 'During your sleep, Satan puts three knots at the back of the head of each of you. On every knot he reads and exhales the following words, 'The night is long for you, so stay asleep.' When that person wakes up and remembers Allah, one knot is undone; and when he performs ablution, the second knot is undone, and when he offers Salat (prayer) the third knot is undone and one gets up energetic in a good mode [sic, mood] with a good heart in the morning; otherwise he gets up in a bad mode [sic, mood], lazy.' (Bukhari, Night Prayer, no. 1142; cf. Creation, no. 3269)

Muhammad provides steps to purge oneself from the influence of Satan, by rituals. Should we take him literally and seriously about the knots coming from witchcraft? He seems to take this phenomenon literally and seriously in the Quran.

Sura 113, a short one, revealed in Mecca, says in its entirety:

113:1 Say [Prophet], 'I seek refuge with the Lord of daybreak 2 against the evil in what He has created, 3 the evil in the night when darkness gathers, 4 the evil in witches when they blow on knots, [emphasis added] 5 the evil in the envier when he envies.' (MAS Abdel Haleem, The Qur'an, Oxford UP, 2004)

This short sura says that nighttime brings evil, and it implies that witches work their Satanic magic at certain times of the twenty—four hour day. This link to the times of the day agrees with Bukhari's hadith, so the transmitter Abu Huraira is right, though it is unclear when he narrated this hadith after AD 628. It is included here in the Meccan section because Sura 113 was revealed during this period. Muhammad held this belief early in his ministry.

Further, Sura 113 says that Muhammad takes refuge in Allah. Thus, he appears insecure and even fearful of dark powers. Granted, he is only human, so maybe he had no choice. He does not seem to have enough spiritual authority to rebuke Satan with his words alone. Muhammad did not lose his fear of the dark power of witchcraft, even after he moved to Medina.

To conclude this section, Muhammad is seen, according to Islamic sources, to be suicidal when he despairs. It is one thing to be discouraged, but thoughts of suicide are unhealthy. Next, early Islamic sources say that Satan influenced him in Sura 53, the so—called Satanic verses. Also, Sura 22:52 indicates that he listened to his own desires in his dark revelation. What was happening to the Quranic revelations at this time? He was wrong about the Old Testament and Jesus in his Quran. Do his stories about them reveal he had tapped into the spirit world, or was he making them up on his own, or did he listen to deficient human sources? Whichever one is the case (or all of them), this is troubling. Finally, Sura 113 depicts him as taking refuge in Allah, not taking authority over dark powers. Refuge is not bad for a human messenger. But Muhammad, the founder of a worldwide religion, is supposedly the best moral example to ever walk this earth. But his subjection to suicidal thoughts and Satanic forces question his example.

Muhammad at Medina

It is a sad fact that Muhammad's confusion and Satan's influence keep going after his Hijrah or Emigration from Mecca to Medina in AD 622.

A Jewish magician

After Muhammad's Emigration, his contact with Jews increased exponentially. A large Jewish community thrived in Medina. But at least one Jew had some dark powers that overwhelmed the prophet for 'a long period.'

In a section titled 'The Names of the Jewish Adversaries,' the biographer Ibn Ishaq records a tradition that says a Jew named Labid b. Asam 'bewitched the apostle of God so that he could not come at his wives' (p. 240 / 352). The translator of Ibn Ishaq, A. Guillaume, after debating in a footnote the reliability of the account and concluding that it is strong, says that the spell lasted for a year. 

The hadith collector and editor Bukhari, who is considered completely reliable by devout Muslims, has the same tradition, except that Labid is a hypocrite allied with the Jews. A hypocrite is a nominal Muslim who will not jump when Muhammad cracks the whip, but mentioning Labid's alliance with the Jews is calculated nonetheless to make him seem extra—evil.

This hadith is short and narrated by Muhammad's wife Aisha:

Once, the Prophet was bewitched so that he began to imagine that he had done a thing which in fact he had not done. (Bukhari, Al—Jizya, no. 3175; cf. Creation, no. 3268)

But the following hadith narrates more fully what no. 3175 means, which agrees with Ibn Ishaq, above. Muhammad was so deceived that he believed that he had sexual relations with his wives, though in reality he did not.

Narrated Aisha: Magic was worked on Allah's messenger so that he used to think that he had sexual relations with his wives when he did not. (Bukhari, Medicine, no. 5765 and 5766; cf. Invocations, no. 6391)

The hadith goes on to say that two men appeared to Muhammad in a dream and revealed to him that two fetishes, a comb and hair stuck in it, perpetuated the spell, and lay hidden near a well. (One tradition says that the comb had knots in it; see the previous section, no. 3.) The two men revealed where the two items were, and Muhammad sent some Muslims to get them. He ordered the well to be plugged up with earth. It is odd that in the hadith just before nos. 5765 and 5766, Bukhari quotes Sura 20:69, which says that the magicians or sorcerers of the Pharaoh in Moses' time will never prosper.

Apparently, though, this Jewish magician (or a hypocrite allied with Jews) prospered over Muhammad for a while, because Bukhari records a tradition that says that Muhammad was praying for relief from the spell for 'a long period' (Creation, no. 3268), and we should recall that the translator of Ibn Ishaq says that the spell lasted as long as a year.

A strange wrestling match

The following strange account of Satan's attack on Muhammad shows that the human and mortal messenger (Sura 3:144) cannot simply rebuke the devil with words only. Instead, he has to get into a bizarre wrestling match with him.

The Prophet once offered Salat ( prayer) and said, 'Satan came in front of me and tried to interrupt my Salat (prayer), but Allah gave me an upper hand on him and I choked him. No doubt, I thought of tying him to one of the pillars of the mosque till you get up in the morning and see him. Then I remembered the statement of Prophet Sulaiman (Solomon), 'My Lord! Forgive me, and bestow on me a kingdom such as shall not belong to any other after me' [Sura 38:35]. Then Allah made him (Satan) return with his head down (humiliated).' (Bukhari, Actions in Prayer, no. 1210; cf. Stories of the Prophets, no. 3423).

This tradition is confusing. He wanted to tie Satan to a post so that Muslims could see him, as if to offer evidence that Muhammad is powerful. Another tradition in Bukhari has Muhammad saying to his followers on a human, relational level:

'fight with anyone who passes in front of you while you are praying (i.e. prevent him violently e.g. pushing him violently), because such a person is a satan' [sic] (Bukhari, Creation, no. 3274;

A Muslim, following Muhammad's advice, gets into a scuffle with another Muslim during prayer (Bukhari, Prayer, no. 509). Apparently, one Muslim walked in front of another, so they fought. The offended person specifically cites Muhammad's words and called the offender 'a satan' (Bukhari, Creation, no. 3274). Violence and fighting are never far from Muhammad's teachings.

In any case, why did Muhammad wrestle with the devil (assuming this really happened)? Since Muhammad was a prophet, he must not fight with just anyone, like a mere human adversary. He must fight Satan. His spiritual prestige and status are at stake, after all. But he should have shown Satan to his followers. Sadly, though, the evidence of Muhammad's power disappeared with the spirit being.

Maybe the hadith mentioning Solomon (no. 1210) demonstrates something more sinister in its reference to the earthly kingdom of the Old Testament king. Does the hadith reveal that Muhammad had his mind fixed on the establishment of an earth—bound kingdom like Solomon's? He seems to say that he, like this king of yore, was destined for military and material and political greatness, so Satan weakened and left in disgrace. If so, the human messenger was filled with visions of grandeur and conquest down here on earth.

This interpretation is supported by a saying of Muhammad recorded by another reliable hadith collector and editor, Muslim (d. 875):

'Verily, the Satan [sic] has lost all hopes that the worshippers would ever worship (him) in the peninsula of Arabia' . . . (no. 6752).

It is worth noting that Muhammad subdued most of the Arabian Peninsula by military violence and bloodshed, forcing polytheists to convert or die and collecting taxes far and wide. (His primary companions Abu Bakr and Umar finished the conquests after his death in AD 632.) Muhammad was rich and powerful in the worldly sense, beyond his wildest dreams. Then the Muslim armies stormed out of the Peninsula, conquering to the north, east, and west.

All in all, this wrestling match is confusing, because Muhammad's spiritual power, whatever it was, seems entwined with his quest for status and a worldwide earthly kingdom. At the very least, his belief caused strife in some Muslims.

Muhammad's superstitions on avoiding evil powers

Besides taking refuge in Allah (see Sura 113, above), how else does Muhammad avoid dark powers? He follows superstition. These two hadith passages represent others:

....'If somebody takes some Ajwa dates every morning, he will not be affected by poison or magic on that day till night (Bukhari, Medicine, nos. 5768, 5769, and 5779)

Hadith no. 5779 says seven dates—seven is a significant number, denoting special powers.

After Muhammad says that a crowing rooster is seeing angels, the prophet reports:

....[W]hen you listen to the braying of the donkey, seek refuge in Allah from the Satan [sic] for it sees Satan (Muslim, no. 6581)

Eating dates and staying away from a braying donkey? An objective interpretation of these traditions in Bukhari and Muslim must conclude that Muhammad lacked spiritual authority to resist evil. He was, in fact, superstitious. He was not offering Muslims the spiritual ability for resisting or fighting off demons or Satan.

For more examples of Muhammad's superstitions, click on this article and read the many hadith passages.

To conclude this section, Muhammad believed that he was bewitched by a magician for a year. A reliable Islamic source (Bukhari) says that he was so delusional that he believed that he was having sex with his wives, but in reality he was not. Reliable Islamic sources say that Muhammad got into a physical wrestling match with Satan. But this narrative is confusing, because Muhammad's spiritual power, whatever it was, seems entwined with his quest for status and a worldwide earthly kingdom. At the very least, his belief caused strife in some Muslims. Finally, Muhammad's advice to his followers, according reliable Islamic sources, says that they should eat dates and avoid braying donkeys, in order to avoid evil.

All of these facts seem to reveal a prophet confused or less than confident in his spiritual authority over the kingdom of darkness.

This contrasts strongly with the life of Jesus Christ.

The Three—year Ministry of Jesus

Jesus was always victorious over Satan and demons during his three—year ministry. At no time did he show the slightest fear of them. In fact, he terrified them. Blessedly, he gave his disciples the same authority and courage, so they do not have to fear them.

Jesus decisively resists Satan during the Temptation.

Before the ministry of Jesus went public, in the great temptation or the great test (the Greek word can be translated either way), he is led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for the express purpose of being tested or tempted by Satan. It is important to realize that the Spirit was leading him, not an evil power. Jesus was victorious over all three temptations.

First, Satan questions Jesus' status as the Son of God. 'If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread' (Matthew 4:3), but Jesus rebukes him with Scripture: 'It is written: 'Man shall not live by bread alone'' (Matt. 4:4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3). This means that Jesus resists the desire for bread suggested to him by Satan. This can apply to all desires of the flesh. Religious founders must be wary of their fleshly desires, like sex with multiple partners or the quest for money and power (political or spiritual) by conquest and war.

Second, Satan took him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple, again questioning his Sonship (the very thing Muhammad does in his Quranic 'revelations'). 'If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down.' Satan then misused Psalm 91:11—12, which says that God will give his angels command concerning him, so that he will not strike his foot against a stone. These two verses are quoted out of context, because they say nothing about throwing oneself off a high place. Thus, Jesus rebuked the devil with Scripture: 'It is also written: 'do not put the Lord your God to the test'' (Matt. 4:6; Deut. 6:16).

Two things are to be noted about this second temptation or test. First, Satan was testing the nature of Christ, his Sonship; the Son of God was not suicidal due to despair about being called a madman or a deranged poet or about God's absence, for the Holy Spirit (who is not Gabriel as Islamic theology wrongly teaches) was leading him. Second, Satan knows how to quote Scripture, even though he takes verses out of context. This serves as a hint about the Satanic verses in the Quran. Muhammad said in Sura 22:52 that Satan insinuates something into the desire of every prophet. This is true for Muhammad, but not for Jesus who is more than a prophet. Also, if Satan knows how to quote the Old Testament in a bad way, and the Quran is filled with discrepancies and errors about the Old Testament and about the New Testament, then this does not look good for the source of inspiration of the Quran. Who inspired the errors in the Quran about the Old Testament and even about the New Testament?

Third, Satan led him up to a high place and showed him all the kingdoms of this world—their glory and political authority (exousia in Greek means political authority; cf. Luke 4:6 and 12:11, 20:20, 23:7). He offered all of this to the Son of God, claiming that it belonged to himself and that he had the right to give it away. However, Jesus again rebuked the devil, citing Scripture: 'Away from me, Satan! It is written: 'You shall worship the Lord your God and serve him only'' (Matt. 4:10; Deut. 6:13). Thus, Jesus was following the Holy Spirit in allowing Satan to test him, but when Satan's time was up, Jesus was decisive in his final rebuke: 'Away from me, Satan!' Then angels ministered to him, but not as the Quranic Gabriel does, with physical mistreatment and oppression. 

In this third test, Jesus defeated Satan with the true Scriptures and with his own spiritual authority, when the devil offered him all the kingdoms of this world, militarily, materially, and politically. By definition, 'kingdom' at the time of Christ must include political authority and material resources, backed by a strong military. However, Jesus raised his vision to a spiritual transformation of the world, one soul at a time, without killing them and taking their money by military violence and bloodshed. Then his disciples went north, south, east, and west, transforming the world only by preaching a simple message, backed by their powerful and risen Lord, the Son of God.

This is the exact opposite of Muhammad's path. He waged many wars to conquer most of the Arabian Peninsula, forcing people to convert or die. Backed by a strong military, he robbed them of their material resources and political authority, legalized, of course, by 'revelations' in his Quran to kill and tax them. His companions finished the conquests and then stormed out of Arabia, shedding blood wherever they went. They robbed cities of their political authority and their material resources.

The Quran in 22:52 says that Satan puts desires into the heart of every prophet. Was Muhammad a prophet?

Jesus takes authority over Satan throughout his ministry

Throughout his three—year ministry, Jesus exercised spiritual authority over the kingdom of darkness, wherever he went. After the great test (Luke 4:1—13) Luke records the first public encounter with a demon:

In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, 'Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God! 'Be quiet!' Jesus said sternly. 'Come out of him!' Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him. (Luke 4:33—35)

Jesus cast the demons out without rituals and loud pleading. Instead, he speaks a stern command: 'Come out of him!' This reveals spiritual authority and decisiveness.

So how did the people react? Did they recognize his spiritual authority? Luke says:

All the people were amazed and said to each other, 'What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!' And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area. (Luke 4:36—37)

It is imperative to understand that Jesus did not fear the kingdom of darkness. In fact, demons had to submit to him when he came on the scene, as this passage in Luke demonstrates. He was not put under a spell by a magician under the control of Satan, even though his enemies falsely accused him of casting out demons by the power of Satan (Luke 11:14—26 and Matt. 12:24—28). Jesus replied with the famous words that any kingdom (or house) divided against itself cannot stand. If he casts out demons by Satan's power, then Satan's kingdom is divided.

This spiritual authority is exercised against Satan time and again in Jesus' ministry, eventually culminating in Christ's bodily Resurrection, after which Jesus says: 'All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me' (Matt. 28:18).

This is far different from Muhammad's life since he himself admits that he came under the spell of a magician for 'a long period.'

Jesus grants his authority to all of his followers, even today

We just read Christ's words in Matthew 28:18, which say that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. He gives his followers authority, as well. But before his Resurrection, he did this for seventy—two unnamed disciples when he sent them out to preach in the towns and villages before Christ got there (Luke 10:1—24). When they came back, they reported to Jesus their experiences:

The seventy—two returned with joy and said, 'Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name' (Luke 10:17).

It is important to understand that they did not drive out demons in their own name, but in the name of Jesus. This phrase 'in the name of' means 'by the authority and power of' the person who commissions or sends—in this case Jesus sent and commissioned the seventy—two. This verse has never been abrogated or cancelled. So today Christians have power over Satan, but not by themselves. They have it only in Christ's name or authority or power, as they serve him. Sadly, though, too many Christians do not avail themselves of this gift, or they abuse it. Either side goes to the two extremes mentioned in the introduction to this article.

Thus, Jesus gives to all of his disciples firm and decisive authority over dark powers, in his name. He tells them to take refuge in him. He did not tell them to eat fruit to avoid magic or to avoid braying donkeys that supposedly can spot demons.

This is far different from Muhammad's counsel. He advised people to do these last two things. In the Quran, does he allow Muslims decisively and firmly to resist or cast out demons in his name?

Conclusion

Both traditional Islam and Christianity assert that Satan is a real spirit being, and that he has a kingdom of evil spirit beings called demons. The two religions differ, however, in how they deal with this kingdom, in at least five ways.

First, Muhammad was suicidal before his ministry went public. He climbed up on high crags to throw himself off. In contrast, Jesus was on a high cliff, led ultimately by the Holy Spirit. His nature as the Son of God was challenged (a challenge that Muhammad repeats in his Quran). He was not in despair, entertaining suicidal thoughts. Proof? He rebuked Satan decisively. He did not run home, hiding under blankets.

The Quran says in 22:52 that Satan has cast some evil into the desires of all prophets. Reliable evidence suggests that he did this to Muhammad in his Satanic verses (Sura 53:19—20).

In contrast, never once did Jesus ever speak out of the will of Satan. After all, Jesus doe not fit in to Sura 22:52 because he is more than a prophet. He is the eternal Son of God. He cast out demons and evil; he did not have evil cast into him.

Second, Muhammad took refuge in Allah from evil witches and their spells (Sura 113). In contrast, throughout his ministry Jesus walked confidently, taking authority over the kingdom of darkness. His followers take refuge in him.

Third, Muhammad says he was put under the spell of a Jewish magician (or a hypocrite allied with Jews) for 'a long period.' At no time was Jesus ever put under a spell. For those who know the New Testament even casually, this idea is absurd.

Fourth, Muhammad supposedly wrestled with Satan physically, wanting to tie him up to a pillar in the mosque. He did not tie him up because he remembered Solomon's words about a large kingdom. Though this account is confusing, it seems to suggest that Muhammad also wanted or was destined to have a large kingdom. Whatever the case, it is disappointing that Muhammad did not tie Satan to the pillar, so that we could have evidence of his spiritual power.

On the other hand, Jesus never physically wrestled with Satan. He didn't have to. He rebuked him with mere words. This shows divine authority and control.

Fifth and finally, Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of this world, but Jesus rebuked him decisively, realizing that this is the greatest temptation for a religious founder. Thus, choosing the path of non—violence and peace, Jesus and his disciples turned the world upside down by preaching alone. They did not wage jihads against anyone who refused to submit. Constantine and the Medieval Crusaders are not foundational to Christianity. Only Jesus and the New Testament authors are.

On the other hand, Muhammad and his followers did wage military jihad on people who did not submit. They did establish earthly kingdoms by means of armies, making blood flow in the streets and money flow back to Arabia.

Which path is the one that lead to spiritual security from the wiles and strategies of Satan? Which path leads to inner peace, away from Satanic mental harassments and fears?

Jesus delivers. Muhammad feared.

James M. Arlandson may be reached at jamesmarlandson@hotmail.com