I read online someone arguing the following:

Jesus was not a Christian, Buddha was not a Buddhist, Muhammad was not a muslim.

There are many things wrong with this quote, but I specifically was wondering about Muhammad. I understand that he is regarded as the founder of Islam, but was he, himself, a Muslim?

  • 2
    Say, "Indeed, my prayer, my rites of sacrifice, my living and my dying are for Allah , Lord of the worlds. No partner has He. And this I have been commanded, and I am the first [among you] of the Muslims." quran 6:162 6:163 quran.com/6/162
    – melbx
    Nov 7, 2016 at 18:59
  • 1
    It sounds to me that its a way of saying that the original forms of these religions are significantly different from the much later forms. Nov 8, 2016 at 1:50

4 Answers 4


There are some perspectives which may be taken into account when analyzing this statement:

  • Is the Islam of Muhammad () the same Islam which we -now- live or practice?

The answer would clearly be a no (or at least we are far away from it) in the last 14 centuries we have done all what we have been warned from: like we have become many sects fighting each other instead of being a big community (read for example 3:103, 3:105 30:32 and 42:13-14) instead of justice (16:90) and Allah's law citizens in Muslim countries suffer from inequity, corruption, inequality (women/men, black/white ~ racism, tribalism, etc.) ... and much more which doesn't go ahead neither with the teachings of the Quran nor the sunnah of Muhammad ().

  • Was Muhammad a Muslim?

He was the first who obeyed and practiced the words of the Quran so he definitely was a Muslim from this perspective (read for example 16:44).

By his submission to Allah he was a Muslim as were according to the Understanding of Muslims all the Prophets before (read for example 3:19, 3:67 and 6:162-163).


Within the respective traditions, the first is true (at least for the mainstream and largely dominant churches that say Jesus was god - why would he worship himself?), the other two are false. From without the traditions, I suspect what someone saying this might mean is that the modern forms the traditions take are significantly different from what they started out as.


The person who has said this might be meaning that religions have an identical, universal essence and differences among them are accidental, i.e. stemming from different cultural settings (that generate unique ritual forms and symbols for each religion), or interpretations of their followers, etc. And since it is these unique temporal aspects that people generally associate with the titles of each religion, and since it is also these aspects that obscure and mask the shared ontological origin of several religions, the negation of the said titles from their founders could be a way to draw attention to their identical esoteric aspect that can no longer be distinguished by these particular monikers.

As a side note, there's one prominent philosophical school that expounds on this idea, the School of Perennial Philosophy founded by Rene Guenon, a French intellectual who argued for transcendental unity of religions despite their differences in the domain of temporal manifestation. Guenon himself was a convert to Sufism and followed Islamic sharia since he believed that commitment to the external form of one particular religion is key in realizing the identical esoteric truths that has inspired different religious forms. Guenon studies these esoteric truths within the Neoplatonic philosophy which is based on the three ontological principles: The One, Intellect and Soul, (corresponding accordingly to the idea of God, angel and soul in religious terms.)

Based on the above insight, we can qualify the statement you quoted with respect to Prophet Muhammad. Prophet Muhammad was a Muslim in the sense that he submitted to the transcendent truths (e.g. God and angel of revelation) that inspired his own ministry but precisely because of the universal nature of these said truths, his message must no be regarded as particular concern of one particular group of people who specifically distinguish themselves as "Muslims" but of any human being who recognizes the universality of the said truths.

  • Comments appreciated for downvotes.
    – infatuated
    Nov 8, 2016 at 3:08
  • I didn't down-vote, in fact I upvoted; perhaps the down-voter thought it sufficiently oriented towards Islam in the middle passage? Seyyid Nasr from what I've read is also an exponent of Perennial philosophy. Nov 8, 2016 at 7:14
  • @MoziburUllah, Thank you. Maybe! I've read that Nasr has been inspired by Guenon.
    – infatuated
    Nov 8, 2016 at 7:21
  • you're welcome, he mentions him plus Corbin & Schuon. Nov 8, 2016 at 7:22

Christian literally means follower of Jesus Christ. Buddhist also means follower of Buddha. Jesus (puh) of course not one of his followers. Same as Buddha.

But Muslim doesn't mean follower of Muhammad (puh) in this way. Muslim doesn't mean Muhammadian (if its the right word). Muslim means someone who submitted his/her will to One True God, in Arabic, Allah.

For example, Jesus(puh) was a Muslim, but not a Muhammadian, because in his time, Prophet Muhammad (puh) haven't been born yet. Abraham, Adam, Lut (peace be upon them all) and all other true prophets plus their true ummah were all Muslims, but not Muhammadians.

So, Prophet Muhammad (puh) was Muslim, but not Muhammadian either.

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