The Islâmic view of Jesus (or, “Îsâ” in Arabic, - peace be upon him) lies between two extremes. The Jews, who rejected ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ) as a Prophet, called him an imposter. The Christians, on the other hand, considered him to be the son of God and worship him as such. Islâm considers ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ) to be one of the great Prophets of Allâh and respects him as much as Ibrâhîm (Abraham), Műsa (Moses), and Muhammad (peace be upon them all). This is in conformity with the Islâmic view of the oneness of God (Allâh), the oneness of Divine guidance, and the complementary role of the subsequent mission of Allâh’s messengers.
The essence of Islâm- willing submission to the will of Allâh- was revealed to Adam ( - peace be upon him), who passed it on to his children. All the following revelations to Nűh (Noah), Ibrâhîm, Műsa, ‘Îsâ (Jesus), and, finally, Muhammad (peace be upon them all) are in conformity with that message, with some elaboration to define the relation between man and God, man and man, man and his environment, and living according to Allâh’s instructions. Thus, Islâm views any contradictions among revealed religions as a man-made element introduced into these religions. The position of ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ) in the three major creeds- Judaism, Christianity, and Islâm- is not an exception.
Although the Qur’ân does not present a detailed life-story of ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ), it highlights the important aspects of his birth, his mission, his ascension to heaven, and passes judgment on the Christian beliefs concerning him. The Qur’ânic account of ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ) starts with the conception of his mother, Maryam (Mary, peace be upon her), whose mother, the wife of Imrân, vowed to dedicate her child to the service of God in the temple. When Maryam () became a woman, the Holy Spirit (the angel Jibraîl ) appeared to her as a man bringing her the news of a son. We read the following dialogue in the Qur’ân between Maryam () and the angel:
When the angels said: ‘O Mary! Allâh gives thee glad tidings of a Word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (unto Allâh).
He will speak unto mankind in his cradle and in his manhood, and he will be of the righteous.’
She said: ‘My Lord! How can I have a child when no mortal has touched me?’ He said: ‘So (it will be). Allâh creates what He will. If He decrees a thing, He says unto it only: “Be!” and it is.’ (Âli-Imrân, 3:45-47)
In a chapter (sűrah) entitled “Maryam” (Mary), the Qur’ân tells us how Maryam () gave birth to her son, and how the Jews accused her when she brought the child home:
Then she brought him to her own folk, carrying him. They said: ‘O Mary! Thou hast come with an amazing thing. O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a wicked man nor was thy mother a woman unchaste.’
Then she pointed to him. They said, ‘How can we talk to one who is in the cradle, a young boy?’
He spoke: ‘Lo! I am the servant of Allâh. He has given me the Scripture and has appointed me a Prophet; And has made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and has enjoined upon me prayer and alms-giving so long as I live; And (has made me) dutiful toward her who bore me, and has not made me arrogant, wicked. Peace be upon me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive!’ (Maryam, 19:27-33)
In the same chapter, following the above quotation, Allâh assures Muhammad ( - peace and blessings of Allâh be upon him), and through him the whole world, that what is told above is the TRUTH about ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ), although the Christians might not accept it. ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ) is NOT the “son of God”: he was, obviously enough, the son of Maryam ( ). The verses continue:
Such was Jesus, son of Mary: (this is) a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt. It befits not Allâh that He should take unto Himself a son. Glory be to Him! When He decrees a thing, He says unto it only: ‘Be!’ and it is. (Maryam, 19:34-35)
After this strong statement about the nature of ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ), Allâh directed Muhammad ( ) to call the Christians to worship the one God: “And lo! Allâh is my Lord and your Lord. So serve Him. That is the straight path.”
The rejection of the very idea of Allâh having a son is restated later in the same chapter with even stronger words:
And they say: ‘The Beneficent has taken unto Himself a son.’
Assuredly you utter a hideous thing, whereby almost the heavens are torn, and the earth is split asunder and the mountains fall in ruins; That ye ascribe unto the Beneficent a son, when it does not behoove the Beneficent that He should choose a son. There is none in the heavens and the earth but cometh unto the Beneficent as a slave. (Maryam, 19:88-93)
The Qur’ân recognizes the fact that ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ) had no human father, but this does not make him the son of God, or God Himself. By this criterion, Adam () would have been more entitled to be the son of God, because he had neither a father nor a mother, so the Qur’ân draws attention to the miraculous creation of both in the following verse:
Lo! The likeness of Jesus with Allâh is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, then He said unto him: ‘Be!’ and he is.
The Qur’ân rejects the concept of the Trinity- God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit- as strongly as it rejects the concept of ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ) as the son of God. This is because GOD IS ONE. Three cannot be one. The Qur’ân addresses Christians in the following verses from the Surah entitled “An-Nisaa” (The Women):
O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter aught concerning Allâh save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allâh, and His Word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allâh and His messengers, and say not “Three.” Refrain! (it is) better for you! Allâh is only One God. Far is it removed from His transcendent majesty that he should have a son. His is all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And Allâh is sufficient as Guardian.
The Messiah will never scorn to be a servant of Allâh, nor will the favored angels. Whoso scorns His service and is proud, all such will He assemble unto Him;
Then, as for those who believed and did good works, unto them will He pay their wages in full, adding unto them of His bounty; and as for those who were scornful and proud, them will He punish with a painful doom, and they will not find for them, against Allâh, any protecting friend or helper. (An-Nisaa, 4:171-174)
The denial of ‘Îsâ’s (Jesus’, ) divinity (and, for that matter, of Maryam’s divinity) is presented in the Qur’ân in the form of a dialogue, at the Day of Judgment, between the Almighty and ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ). All the messengers and their nations will be gathered before Allâh and He will ask the messengers how they were received by their people and what they said to them. Among those who will be questioned is ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ):
And when Allâh says: ‘O Jesus, son of Mary! Did thou say unto mankind: “Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allâh?”’ he says: ‘Glorified art Thou, it was not mine to utter that to which I had no right. If I did say it, then Thou knew it. Thou know what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy mind. Lo! Thou, only Thou, art the Knower of things hidden. I spoke unto them only that which Thou commanded me, (saying): “Worship Allâh, my Lord and your Lord…”’ (Al-Mâidah, 5:116-117)
Mission and Message
Given that the Qur’ân denies the Trinity and the son-ship of ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ), what, according to the Qur’ân, was the real mission of ‘Îsâ (Jesus, )? The answer is that ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ) was a link in a long chain of prophets and messengers sent by Allâh to various nations and societies whenever they needed guidance or deviated from His teachings. ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ) was especially prepared by Allâh to be sent to the Jews, who had deviated from the teachings of Műsa (Moses, ) and other messengers. As he was miraculously supported by Allâh in his conception, birth, and childhood, he was also supported by numerous miracles to prove that he was a messenger from Allâh. However, the majority of the Jews rejected his prophethood.
In another verse of the Qur’ân, ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ) confirmed the validity of the Torah which was revealed to Műsa (Moses, ), and also conveyed the glad tidings of a final messenger who would follow him:
And when Jesus, son of Mary, said: O Children of Israel! Lo! I am the messenger of Allâh unto you, confirming that which was (revealed) before me in the Torah, and bringing good tidings of a messenger who will come after me, whose name is the Praised One. (As-Saff, 61:6)
Note that “Praised One” is a translation of “Ahmad”- the Prophet Muhammad’s () name. Careful study of the New Testament shows that ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ) refers to the same prophet in John 14:16-17: “And I will give you another Counselor (the Prophet Muhammed ), to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth”.
The usual explanation of this prophecy is that the counselor referred to is the Holy Spirit, but this explanation is excluded by a previous verse in John: “Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you.”
The characteristics of this counselor, as can be derived from the prophecy, are that he will stay forever with believers, he will glorify ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ), and he will speak what he hears from God. All four characteristics apply to the Prophet Muhammed ( ). He came six centuries after ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ). He came with a universal and everlasting message, fulfilling the prophecy that the counselor will stay forever with the faithful. He glorified ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ) as a great Prophet. The Qur’ân attributes to ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ) miracles not mentioned in the Bible. Prophecies in the Bible’s Old and New Testaments, as well as specific verses in the Qur’ân, show how the Prophet Muhammed ( ) is rejected by Jews and Christians out of prejudice and misunderstanding, rather than careful study of the Bible.
It is a sad fact of history that not many are following the “straight path” to which people were called by ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ). He was only followed by a few disciples inspired by Allâh to support him. The nonbelievers plotted- as they would against Muhammad ( ), six centuries later- to kill ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ). But Allâh had a better plan for him and his followers, as the Qur’ân tells us:
But when Jesus became conscious of their disbelief, he cried: ‘Who will be my helpers in the cause of Allâh?’ The disciples said: ‘We will be Allâh's helpers. We believe in Allâh, and bear thou witness that we have surrendered (unto Him). Our Lord! We believe in that which Thou hast revealed and we follow him whom Thou hast sent. Enroll us among those who witness (to the truth).’
And they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allâh schemed (against them): and Allâh is the best of schemers.
(And remember) when Allâh said: ‘O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering thee and causing thee to ascend unto Me, and am cleansing thee of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow thee above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then unto Me ye will (all) return, and I shall judge between you as to that wherein ye used to differ.’ (Âli-Imrân, 3:52-55)
As the above verses indicate, ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ) was taken and raised to Heaven. He was not crucified. It was certainly the plan of the enemies of ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ) to put him to death on the cross, but Allâh saved him and someone else was crucified:
And because of their disbelief and of their speaking against Mary a tremendous calumny;
And because of their saying: ‘We slew the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, Allâh's messenger.’ They slew him not, nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain, but Allâh took him up unto Himself. Allâh was ever Mighty, Wise.
There is not one of the People of the Scripture but will believe in him before his death, and on the Day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them. (An-Nisaa, 4:156-159)
The Qur’ân does not explain who was that person crucified instead of ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ), nor elaborates on the Second Coming of ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ). However, commentators of the Qur’ân have always interpreted the last verse of the above quotation to mean that ‘Îsâ (Jesus, ) will return, and that all Jews and Christians will believe in him before he dies, as Muslims already do. This understanding is supported by authentic sayings (Hadîth) of the Prophet Muhammed (), may the peace and blessings of Allâh be upon him and upon all the messengers of Allâh.
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