Saturday, June 11, 2016

Comparison of Joseph Smith and Muhammad

As I have been reading about Islam recently I have been struck many times by the impression that many of the experiences of the Islamic prophet Muhammad were mirrored by the Mormon prophet Joseph Smith. As I read I sometimes put "JS" or "Joseph Smith" in the margin when similarities between their experiences jumped out at me. Here are some similarities I noted:

Scripture as Evidence of Prophetic Calling

"Muslims regard the Quran as the most important miracle of Muhammad, a proof of his prophethood..." (Wikipedia, Quran)

"The most singular evidence in support of Joseph Smith's claim to being a spokesman for Almighty God was the publication of a scriptural record, the Book of Mormon." (Ezra Taft Benson, October 1981 Ensign, "Joseph Smith: Prophet to Our Generation")

Each was Uneducated

The Koran says that Muhammad was illiterate: "Those who follow the Messenger, the Prophet [Muhammad] who can neither read nor write..." (7:157) "Muhammad's illiteracy was taken as a sign of the genuineness of his prophethood." (Wikipedia, Quran)

"Joseph Smith had an elementary school education and wasn't known for having great writing skills. Did he write [the Book of Mormon] on his own? Could you, even with the help of your college education and the Internet write such a book?" (Mormon DNA)

Sites of First Revelations are Holy Sites

"Often overlooked because of its proximity to the great shrines of Mecca, the Cave of Hira is nevertheless one of the great if underappreciated holy sites of Saudi Arabia. It was in this tiny cave...that [the Prophet] received his earliest divine revelations that would ultimately lead to the founding of the Islamic faith. Although a stop at the Cave of Hira is not a mandatory part of the traditional pilgrimage to Mecca...[it is] nevertheless a very popular detour for visitors to the Holy City." (The Complete Pilgrim)

"Every year thousands of Mormons make a pilgrimage to Palmyra, to...visit the historic places where their religion originated. The most holy of those sites is the Sacred Grove, a wooded patch adjacent to the Smith family farm where Smith had what is known as the First Vision." (Business Insider)

Challenge to Write a Revelation

God, through Muhammad, challenged the Arabs to produce a work of similar caliber as the Koran. The challenge came in three stages. First he challenged them to create a whole book: "Say: 'If all mankind and the jinn would come together to produce the like of this Koran, they could not produce its like even though they exerted all and their strength in aiding one another.'" (17:88) Then he challenged them to write ten chapters: "Or do they say that he has invented it? Say [to them], 'Bring ten invented chapters like it, and call [for help] on whomever you can besides God, if you are truthful." (11:13) Then he challenged them to write a single chapter: "And if you all are in doubt about what I have revealed to My servant, bring a single chapter like it, and call your witnesses besides God if you are truthful." (2:23)

William E. McLellin was not impressed with the revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants. He attempted to write one and the attempt "was a miserable failure." It also resulted in a revelation [D&C 67:5-8] "Your eyes have been upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and his language you have known, and his imperfections you have known; and you have sought in your hearts knowledge that you might express beyond his language; this you also know. Now, seek ye out of the Book of Commandments, even the least [revelation] that is among them, and appoint him that is the most wise among you; Or, if there be any among you that shall make one like unto it, then ye are justified in saying that ye do not know that they are true; But if ye cannot make one like unto it, ye are under condemnation if  ye do not bear record that they are true."

Book of Scripture is Unmatched

"In Islam, i'jaz or inimitability of the Quran is the doctrine which holds that the Quran has a miraculous quality, both in content and in form, that no human speech can match." (Wikipedia, I'jaz)

"I [Joseph Smith] told the brethren that the Book of Mormon was the most correct of any book on earth, and the keystone of our religion, and a man would get nearer to God by abiding by its precepts, than by any other book." (History of the Church, 4:461)

Angel Gabriel

Muhammad's first and subsequent revelations came from the archangel Gabriel. (Wikipedia, Muhammad's first revelation)

Joseph Smith heard the voice of the angel Gabriel. (D&C 128:21)

Initial Instruction for Sacred Book Repeated Multiple Times by an Angel

The angel Gabriel visited Muhammad and asked him to "Recite" three times before Muhammad finally did recite what Gabriel asked him to. Then Gabriel voiced, "O Muhammad thou art the Messenger of God, and I am Gabriel" twice while Muhammad was leaving the Cave of Hira. (Martin Lings, Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, pages 44-45)

The angel Moroni visited Joseph Smith and told him there was a book written upon gold plates giving an account of the inhabitants of the Americas and means prepared for him to translate them. This same message was repeated to Joseph two more times that night and a third time the next morning (Joseph Smith History, 1:30-49)

Each is named in their Sacred Book

"But those who believe and do righteous good deeds, and believe in that which is sent down to Muhammad [the Koran], for it is the truth from their Lord, He will expiate from them their sins, and will make good their state." (47:2)

"...I the Lord,...called upon my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., and spake unto him from heaven, and gave him commandments;...And after having received the record of the Nephites, yea, even my servant Joseph Smith, Jun., might have power to translate through the mercy of God, by the power of God, the Book of Mormon." (D&C 1:17, 29) "For Joseph [in Egypt] truly testified, saying: A seer shall the Lord my God raise up, who shall be a choice seer unto the fruit of my loins...Wherefore, the fruit of thy loins shall write and the fruit of the loins of Judah shall write; and that which shall be written by the fruit of thy loins, and also that which shall be written by the fruit of the loins of Judah, shall grow together, unto the confounding of false doctrines and laying down of contentions , and establishing peace among the fruit of thy loins, and bringing them to the knowledge of their fathers in the latter days, and also to the knowledge of my covenants, saith the Lord....And his name shall be called after me [Joseph]; and it shall be after the name of his father [Joseph]. And he shall be like unto me; for the thing, which the Lord shall bring forth by his hand by the power of the Lord shall bring my people unto salvation" (2 Nephi 3:6, 12 and 15)

Words are Collected

Muhammad's words, actions and habits are collected in the hadith, and along with the Koran, helped develop Islamic jurisprudence, practice and theology. (Wikipedia, Hadith)
The Joseph Smith Papers or Project is a project with the goal of collecting and publishing all of the manuscripts and documents created by or under the direction of Joseph Smith. (Wikipedia, The Joseph Smith Papers) Joseph Smith's words and actions, along with the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants and Pearl of Great Price, are the foundation for Mormon theology and practice.

Description of Angels

"Gabriel came to the prophet. He was splendidly dressed, his turban rich with gold and silver brocade, and a cloth of brocaded velvet was thrown over the saddle of the mule he was riding." (Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources, by Martin Lings, page 237, hereafter Muhammad) Muhammad "heard a voice above him saying: 'O Muhammad, thou art the Messenger of God, and I am Gabriel.' He raised his eyes heavenwards and there was his visitant, still recognizable but now clearly an Angel, filling the whole horizon,.." (Muhammad, page 45) "[T]here came unto us a man whose clothes were of exceeding whiteness and whose hair was of exceeding blackness, nor were there any signs of travel upon him, although none of us knew him. He sat down knee unto knee opposite the Prophet, upon whose thighs he placed the palms of his hands...Then the stranger went away, and I stayed a while after he had gone; and the Prophet said to me: 'O Umar, knowest thou the questioner, who he was?' I said: 'God and His Messenger know best.' He said: 'It was Gabriel. He came unto you to teach you your religion.'" (Muhammad, pages 346-347)

"[A] personage appeared at my bedside, standing in the air, for his feet did not touch the floor. He had on  a loose robe of most exquisite whiteness. It was a whiteness beyond anything earthly I had ever seen;...His hands were naked, and his arms also, a little above the wrist; so, also, were his feet naked, as were his legs, a little above the ankles. His head and neck were also bare. I could discover that he had no other clothing on but this robe, as it was open, so that I could see into his bosom. Not only was his robe exceedingly white, but his whole person was glorious beyond description, and his countenance truly like lightning....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." (Joseph Smith History, 1:30-33)

The Greatest of Prophets

"...[W]e shall be the leaders on the Day of Resurrection...Abraham is the intimate friend of God, Moses is the purified of God, and I [Muhammad] am the beloved of God. With me is the banner of praise on the Day of Resurrection." (The Book of Hadith: Sayings of the Prophet Muhammad, from the Mishkat al-Masabih, by Charles Le Gai Eaton, pages 137-138) "Muhammad is given a higher position [among the Prophets] since he was the last of all the Prophets and [the[ Quran as the final word of God was revealed unto him which completed and compiled all the commandments and guidelines set for humankind by Allah. Also Muhammad's way of life has been made by Allah as an example for all human beings to follow upon."  ( Who are the 5 highest prophets according to Islam?)

"Joseph Smith, the Prophet and Seer of the Lord, has done more, save Jesus only, for the salvation of men in this world, than any other man that ever lived in it." (D&C 135:3)  "...Joseph Smith of the greatest prophets that has ever lived on the earth. He was the instrument in God's hand in ushering in the present gospel dispensation, the greatest of all, and the last of all in preparation for the second coming of the Master."  (Ezra Taft Benson, October 1981 General Conference)

A Prophet is Not Always a Prophet

Muhammad "passed by while people were fertilizing palm trees and asked them what they were doing. When they told him, he said, 'Maybe it would be better if you did not do this.' So they stopped and as a result the fruits were reduced. When they mentioned this to him, he said to them, 'I am only a human being. When I command you regarding your religion, accept it; but when I command you based on my own opinion, I am merely a human being.'" (The Book of Hadith, page 9)

"This morning I...visited with a brother and sister from Michigan, who thought that 'a prophet is always a prophet;' but I told them that a prophet was a prophet only when he was acting as such." (History of the Church, 5:265)


"The term theocracy signifies belief in governance by divine guidance, a form of regime in which religion or faith plays the dominant role. It denotes thus a political unit governed by a deity or by officials thought to be divinely guided." (, Theocracy)

"In Islam, the community established by the prophet Muhammad (c. 570-632) in Medina (622-632) was a theocracy in which Muhammad served as both temporal and spiritual leader."  (, Theocracy)  "The Prophet...was certain that God would open up Syria to his armies of Islam...[H]e announced an expedition against the Byzantines, and set about mustering by far the largest and best equipped army that he he had led...[T]he army was thirty thousand strong, with ten thousand horse...[T]he Prophet himself rode forth and took command....[L]et it be known that they would put to death any man of Thaqif who fell into their hands unless he abandoned his polytheism...[I]f they entered Islam their territory would be under the protection of the Islamic state...Christians of Najran...sought to make a pact with the Prophet. They were of the Byzantine rite...[T]he Prophet made with them a favorable treaty according to which, in return for the payment of taxes, they were to have the full protection of the Islamic state for themselves and their churches and other possessions." (Muhammad, pages 330-331, 335 and 338-339)

"The Council of Fifty...was a Latter Day Saint organization established by Joseph Smith in 1844 to symbolize and represent a future theocratic or theodemocratic 'Kingdom of God' on earth. Smith...hoped to create this Kingdom in preparation for the Millennium and the Second Coming of Jesus." (Wikipedia, Council of Fifty)  "Joseph established thriving cities in Ohio, Missouri, and Illinois; produced volumes of scripture; sent missionaries throughout the world; orchestrated the building of temples; served as mayor of Nauvoo, one of the largest cities in Illinois, and as general of its militia, the Nauvoo Legion; and was a candidate for the presidency of the United States." (, American Prophet Joseph Smith)

Multiple Wives

Muhammad was married to 13 wives. His first was at age 25 to the 40 year old Khadija. They had two sons and four daughters. They also adopted a slave as a son. His youngest wife was Aisha, daughter of his close friend, Abu Bakr, who was age 7 when they married (the marriage was not consummated until she was age 9). He had one other child, Ibrahim ibn Muhammad, from his marriage to Mariyah al-Qibtiyya, an Egyptian Coptic slave who was gifted to him by the Christian ruler of Egypt. (Wikipedia, Muhammad's wives and Children of Muhammad) The "ruler of Egypt sent [Muhammad] a rich present...[which included] two Coptic Christian slave girls...The girls were sisters, Mariyah and Sirin, and both were beautiful, But Mariyah was exceptionally so, and the Prophet marveled at her beauty. He...lodged Mariyah in [a] nearby house...[and] would visit her both by day and by night; but his wives became so openly jealous that she was unhappy, and he then lodged her in Upper Medina. Aisha and the others [wives] were at first relieved, but they soon found that they had gained nothing. For the Prophet did not visit Mariyah any the less often...They well knew that he [Muhammad] was altogether within his rights - rights that had been recognized from the time of Abraham and before. Were they not all...descended from the union of Abraham with the bondmaid Hagar? Moreover, the law revealed to Moses had corroborated such rights, and the Koran itself expressly allowed a master to take his bondmaid as concubine on condition of her free consent." Muhammad received a revelation which is now chapter 66 in the Koran. "O Prophet! Why do you ban [for yourself] that which God has made lawful to you, seeking to please your wives?...If you two [Aisha and Hafsah - both wives] turn in repentance to God [it will be better for you], your hearts are set upon the ban; but if you aid each other against him [Muhammad], verily, God, even He, is his Protector, and Gabriel, and the elect of the faithful; and beyond these, the angels are massed to help him. It may be, if he divorce you, that his Lord will give him wives in your stead who are better than you, submissive unto God, believing, devout, penitent, inclined unto worship and fasting, widows and virgin maids." (Muhammad, pages 286-287; Koran chapter 66)

Joseph Smith's wives are more difficult to determine because the marriages took place secretly. Joseph was legally married to one wife, Emma Hale, and they had 11 children (2 were adopted and 5 died at birth or before attaining age 2) [Wikipedia, Children of Joseph Smith].  It appears he had about 33 additional wives, 11 of which were married to other men at the same time. The youngest was Nancy Winchester, age 14 or 15. (wivesofjosephsmith) It appears that he may have fathered as many as 5 children from these marriages: Sylvia Sessions Lyon, whose recognized father was Windsor Lyon; Frank Henry Hyde and Orson Washington Hyde, whose recognized father was Orson Hyde; John Reed Hancock, whose recognized father was Levi Hancock; and George Algernon Lightner, whose recognized father was Adam Lightner (Children of Joseph Smith and DNA Research).  The revelation on plural marriage, Doctrine and Covenants Section 132, says, "let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those [wives] that have been given unto my servant Joseph...But if she will not abide this commandment, then...I will...give unto him an hundred fold in this world, of...wives...And if he have ten virgins given unto him...he cannot commit adultery..." Emma allowed several of Joseph's wives to live in her home, but then reneged and Joseph arranged for them to live elsewhere. In August 1843, Joseph told William Clayton that Emma had totally resisted plural marriage "and he had to tell her he would relinquish all for her sake...He however told me he should not relinquish anything." (Emma Hale at wivesofjosephsmith)

Contested Succession Through Family Line

After Muhammad's death his succession became an issue. He had no adult sons who survived to adulthood, so his close friend, Abu Bakr succeeded him as the first caliph. This was disputed by some who believed that Ali, Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law, who was married to his daughter, Fatimah, was his designated successor. Ali and Fatimah had two sons, Hasan and Husayn, both direct descendants of Muhammad. Ali later became the fourth caliph, after Abu Bakr, Umar and Uthman. After Ali died, a dispute as to succession arose between Hasan, Ali's son, and Muawiya, who was to become the first of what became known as the Umayyad Caliphate. Hasan ultimately ceded the caliphate to Muawiya, but later Muawiya, concerned that Hasan would be an obstacle, arranged to have Hasan poisoned by Hasan's wife to ensure that his own son, Yazid, would succeed to the caliphate. Many expected the caliphate to return to Ali's line upon Muawiya's death. So Husayn, Hasan's younger brother, rejected a request for allegiance by Yazid and Yazid killed Husayn and about 72 of his family at the Battle of Karbala. Ultimately, the Shia Muslims, now about 15% of Muslims, believe that succession comes down through Ali and his line. The much large Sunni Muslims, about 85% of Muslims, do not believe in that succession. (Wikipedia: Shia Islam, Umayyad Caliphate, Fatimah, and Succession to Muhammad)

After Joseph Smith's death his succession also became an issue. Several church leaders claimed that Joseph had indicated his oldest son, Joseph Smith III, would be his successor, but Joseph III was only 11 years old at his father's death. Joseph's younger brother, Samuel, was also a potential candidate, but he died about a month after his brother.  At a conference about 1 1/2 months after Joseph's death, the majority of church members decided to follow Brigham Young, who was president of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles, over Sidney Rigdon, who was a member of Smith's First Presidency. The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints was formally reorganized in 1860, 16 years after Joseph's death, with Joseph III as the leader. He was supported by Emma Hale Smith, his mother and Joseph's wife; Joseph's son and Joseph III's brother, David Hyrum Smith, who was one of Joseph III's counselors; and later by Joseph's brother William Smith. Some time later William Smith himself claimed succession and claimed that Brigham Young had had Joseph's brother Samuel poisoned (no evidence exists for this claim). The Reorganized Church, which until recently had a successor of Joseph as its prophet and leader, was later named the Community of Christ and now has about 250,000 members. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints which recognizes Brigham Young as Joseph's successor, currently has about 15 million members. (Wikipedia: Succession crisis (Latter Day Saints); Community of Christ; Emma Smith; William Smith (Latter Day Saints); David Hyrum Smith)

As I started to research this topic I found that the comparison of Joseph Smith and Muhammad and Mormonism and Islam started early and has been noted by many people. The New York Herald referred to Joseph as "the modern Mahomet" shortly after Joseph's death. Other similarities noted by others include: (1) both believed their faith represented the original religion of Adam and the prophets thereafter; (2) both believed the Bible was adulterated from its original form; (3) both believed Christianity did not conform to the original religion taught by Jesus; (4) neither believe in the Trinity or Original Sin; (5) both believed their faith to be the only completely true religion on the earth; (6) both believed good deeds are required for salvation, not just faith; (7) both emphasized charitable giving; (8) both emphasized chastity; (9) both required fasting at specified times; (10) both discouraged the use of alcohol and gambling; (11) both recognized a form of ablution (Joseph Smith as part of the temple rites); (12) both believed in plural marriage and the possibility of a continuation of marriage into the next life; and (13) both believed there were varying degrees of reward and punishment in the hereafter. (Wikipedia, Islam and Mormonism; Islamic and Mormonism Similarities; The Muhammad - Joseph Smith Comparison: Subjective Metaphor or a Sociology of Prophethood?; A Latter-day Saint Perspective on Muhammad)


  1. Very interesting and well-researched material. It will be ok interesting to follow the comments on this post.

  2. This is really interesting. I thought about this comparison in our travels last year.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. The Quran was addressing skeptics of different faiths and ideological backgrounds. They denied or questioned the message of Allah, so Allah needs an amplifier to make His statement and also setting clear. quran translation in english