(Mormonism & Islam, Part 2)
The founding prophets of both Islam and Mormonism were deeply concerned about the state of religious belief and worship in their respective environments. According to Hopfe in Religions of the World:
In the years following his marriage to Khadija, Muhammad began to go into the hills surrounding Mecca and ponder the fate of his people. He was especially concerned about their idolatry and the fate they would have on judgement day when the world ended.(Hopfe 1976: 168)
Joseph Smith, at the end of the Pearl of Great Price, relates the circumstances leading up to his visit to the Sacred Grove to gain an understanding concerning the religious contentions in his environs:
In the midst of this war of words and tumult of opinions, I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together? If anyone of them be right, which is it, and how shall I know? . . . So, in accordance with this my determination to ask God, I retired to the woods to make the attempt.(Joseph Smith 2 1951: 47-48)
According to Andrae, Mohammad's initial call as a prophet came in an encounter with Gabriel described as follows:
. . . he went to Mt. Hira with his family in the month of Ramadan in order to devote himself to solitary religious exercises. "One night," the Prophet states, "Gabrael came to me with a cloth as I slept and said: Recite! I answered: I cannot recite! So he choked me with the cloth until I believed that I should die. Then he released me and said: recite (Iqra)!" The Prophet hesitated, and twice again the angel repeated the harsh treatment. Then finally Mohammed asked: "What shall I recite?" The Angel said: Recite thou, in the name of the Lord of the Worlds who created - - Who created man from clots of blood. Recite thou! For thy Lord is the most beneficent, who hath taught the use of the pen - - hath taught man what he knoweth not (Sura 96, 1-4). "I awoke" said Mohammed, "from my sleep, and it was as if they had written a message in my heart. I went out of the cave, a while I was on the mountain, I heard a voice saying: O Mohammed, thou art Allah's Apostle, and I am Gabriel! I looked up and saw Gabriel in the form of a man with legs crossed in the horizon of heaven. I remained standing and observed him, and moved neither backwards nor forwards. And when I turned my gaze from him, I continued to see him on the horizon, no matter where I turned." Finally the vision vanished, and Mohammed returned to his family.(Andrea 1960: 43-44)
Joesph Smith describes a similar visitation from the angel Moroni:
While I was thus in the act of calling upon God, I discovered a light appearing in my room, which continued to increase until the room was lighter than at noonday, when immediately a personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the ground . . . He called me by name , and said unto me that he was a messenger sent from the presence of God to me, and that his name was Moroni; that God had a work for me to do . . . He said there was a book deposited, written upon gold plates, giving an account of the former inhabitants of this continent, and the source from whence they sprang. He also said that the fullness of the everlasting Gospel was contained in it, as delivered by the Savior to the ancient inhabitants . . . (Joseph Smith, 2 1951: 51)
Joseph Smith's recount of the incident indicates that, similar to Mohammed who affirmed that, wherever he turned Gabriel, was in front of him, the Angel Moroni continued to appear and reiterate his message adding to it each time:
I suddenly discovered that my room was again beginning to get lighted, and in an instant, as it were, the same heavenly messenger was again by my bedside . . . But what was my surprise when again I beheld the same messenger at my bedside, and heard him rehearse or repeat over again to me the same things as before . . . After this third visit, he again ascended to heaven as before.(Joseph Smith, 2 1951: 52)
Soon after that third visit, it was morning and Joseph Smith attempted to attend to his labors of the day. Unable to work, his father sent him back to the house and on the way he fell unconscious. When he awoke he said:
The first thing that I can recollect was a voice speaking unto me, calling me by name. I looked up and beheld the same messenger standing over my head, surrounded by light as before.
Joseph Smith shared the experience with his family:
He then again related unto me all that he had related to me the previous night, and commanded me to go to my father and tell him of the vision and commandments which I had received.(Joseph Smith, 2 1951: 53)
Mohammed also told of his vision to his closest immediate family member, his wife Khadijah who believed him and became his first convert.(Hopfe 1976: 269)
The reaction among their respective communities to the callings and messages of both prophets was adamantly negative and persecutory. According to Fazlur Rahman in his book Islam:
The Prophet's preaching evoked strong opposition from the Meccans . . . All sorts of accusations were laid against the Prophet, that he was a man possessed, that he was a magician, that he had become unbalanced in mind. As the opposition grew, it became fiercer: it changed from anger to ridicule, from ridicule to denunciation . . . The struggle become hot, and relentless persecution its characteristic feature.
Joseph Smith describes a similar situation in his writings:
I soon found, however, that my telling the story had excited a great deal of prejudice against me among professors of religion, and was the cause of great persecution, which continued to increase . . . men of high standing would take notice sufficient to excite the public mind against me, and create a bitter persecution against me; and this was common among all the sects--all united to persecute me.
These are only a few of the many parallels in the lives and characters of both prophets beginning with the original visions of both and the angels instructing both to recite or translate religious scriptures. Mohammed who was unable to read, recited scriptures which became the Quran. Joseph Smith who was unable to write an extensive religious and historical book, translated the gold plates which became the Book of Mormon. Due to heavy persecution, both prophets were obliged to flee their native cities and establish their religious communities in other citie (Mohammed in Medina and Joseph Smith in Nauvoo where both built holy houses of worship. Both became leaders of sizeable religious communities and generals of armies of believers. Both were loyally followed by converts and adherents and both had absolute confidence in themselves as prophets of God. Although both had suffered persecution from members of other religions for their claims, both favored a policy of tolerance for other religions in their communities. Both accepted the Old Testament and Gospels but recognized flaws in the practices of those who followed those scriptures. Both prophets were confident that they restored the true religion of Abraham, Jesus and former prophets. Both revealed the will of God to their own particular nation and eventually the whole world. Both lived in times of confusion and idolatry and restored worship of male deity in cultures who worshiped female deity (Allat and, in the perception of some, Mary). Both prophets were obliged to withhold or compromise higher principles due to the unreadiness of their contemporaries. Both religions were misnamed after leaders: Mohammed of Mormon, a major compiler of the Book of Mormon. Mohammed's wife Aisha rebelled against his later successor Ali; Joesph Smith's wife Emma rebelled against his successor Brigham Young. The Center of Islam was eventually transplanted from its area or origination to Damascus then Baghdad; the center of Mormonism was finally transplanted from its area of origination to Nauvoo then eventually Salt Lake City. Since the early days of both religions Islamic mosques and Mormon temples have been built in many cities and countries. In recent years under the pressures of modernization, both religions have lost a portion of their original zeal; both have been forced by some governments power to suspend theocracy, plural marriage and other original practices.
(Continued in Mormonism & Islam, Part 3)