Many people in the west judge about Islam, the religion of which they know very little, relying on another religion, Christianity, of which they know much more. Which is natural of course, but not very logical, because their source texts, while being similar in some respect, differ a lot in other respects.
The greatest difference is the degree of detalization in information about what their key figures, Jesus and Muhammad respectively, taught and did. Let us examine the initial situation, accepting for the sake of argument the versions which followers of these religions believe to be true.
Jesus preached for 3 years and had only 12 disciples. He was executed, and all of them were later executed as well. A situation not very favourable for presenting, preserving and promoting whatever knowledge.
Muhammad preached for 23 years and by the time he died, by very rough estimates he had about 100,000 followers. He died a head of theocratic community he had formed, i.e. his words became law of the country. Every word of the Koran was written down and stories about what Muhammad did or said were transmitted orally in dozens of parallel chains of narrations until they were all written down a couple centuries later.
For these obvious reasons, the longest gospel, Luke’s, makes less than 20,000 words. Sira, Muhammad’s biography, makes 274,838 words. Plus numerous short stories providing more detail, Hadith. The most authoritative Bukhari’s collection makes additional 645,745 words. The difference in availability of detail is simply huge. Muhammad’s Sunna, his words and deeds, describe in smallest detail how Muhammad looked, what he wore, how he combed his hair, in how many gulps he drank a cup of water, how he made love and how he waged jihad.
Another difference is approaches. Jesus mainly gave general principles and parables illustrating them. Muhammad mainly gave specific rules. When Christians ask themselves “What would Jesus do?”, in most cases they can only guess. They don’t know how Jesus would treat his wife, because he never had one. They don’t know how Jesus would fight a war, because Jesus didn’t fight wars. They don’t know how Jesus would judge a criminal, because he told not to judge. For Muslims, the question “What would Muhammad do?” has very specific answers easily obtainable from their local imam or mullah. Sharia, Islamic overall lifestyle, has dos and donts for every aspect of individual and public life based on what Muhammad said (either in the Koran or in the Hadith) and precedents how he implemented it.
Do you think this difference in detalization and approaches make Islam less prone to free interpretation?