Muslim Jesus 1

Tarif Khalidi, in his ground-breaking The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature, introduces the “Muslim gospel” and then provides translation and brief commentary on 303 sayings/stories about Jesus in Muslim literature. It is just the sort of book more of us need to read. Why? It is important in our changing world to become more aware than ever of Islam’s perception of Jesus. What do we learn?
1.o Brief Context for the Muslim Jesus:

Between 700-800 AD (100-200 for Muslims), travelling “Successors” or “Successors of Successors” of Muhammad, centering in Kufa (in Iraq), began to create an Islamic view of Jesus in story and sayings. “These preachers and ascetics were a mobile group, traveling from place to place, admonishing rulers or else turning away from politics, shocked at the luxury and moral degeneracy of the ruling classes, and preaching a more personal type of piety” (31). We are to imagine these ascetic teachers as the Muslim counterpart to the contemporary Christian “desert fathers.” And, like the desert fathers, these Successors were opponents of the development of power, political ideology and compromise, and luxury among the ruling elites among the Muslims.
Another integral element to the whole of the Qur’an when it comes to Jesus is to oppose Christianity’s “Trinity” by charging Jesus’ followers with distorting the original, by creating a “tri-theism,” and the Qur’an tries to cleanse Jesus of the distortions by his followers. Essentially, he is de-deified, his crucifixion is largely left out of the picture, and the Ascension becomes central.
2.0 Major Contours of the Muslim Jesus
Part of their message revolved around re-actualizing Jesus by Islamicizing Jesus. The Jesus of the Muslim texts moves from Jesus as an ascetic saint, to the lord of nature, to the miracle worker, and to the social and ethical model. Eventually, Jesus is adopted to become a wise saint who teaches pithy sayings.
Khalidi creates, by sorting out these 303 sayings/stories the “Muslim gospel.” I’m not sure if he thinks this “gospel” existed (like the scholarly “Q”) or if this is just a modern compilation as an analogy to the Christian Gospels.
But, the Muslim Jesus is not simply a creation by Muslims; in light of the diversity of Judaism, the diversity of Eastern Christianity, and a variety of other influences (not the least of which was Hellenism), the Muslim Jesus is hybrid product that spoke to the various levels and influences on Muslims.
In our next posts we will begin to look at the 303 various sayings/stories in The Muslim Jesus.

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  • I’ll be reading. 🙂 I worked as a missionary to Muslims in the 1980s and have been interested in this topic for a long time.

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  • Jpb

    Scot, what is the purpose of Tarif Khalidi’s book? Is he trying to explain the Muslim Jesus to outsiders? To some degree I find it odd that a Muslim would write an entire book about Jesus considering where he stands in their history/theology.

  • Jordan,
    He is simply translating and providing a commentary on what he calls the “Muslim gospel”. It is the sayings and events about Jesus in the Muslim tradition.

  • thank you for this study. I have read alot on this topic and was passionate while at university about ministering to my muslim friends. My city in Australia (and indeed most cities in Australia) are seeing a rise in muslim migrants and its my hope that our churches begin to be full of them.

  • from my last remark:
    …for clarification I should say, he considers himself in some ways to be Islamic, I think, while I think he would call himself a Christian.

  • Facinating! I’ve added it to my wishlist, and I’ll be following the discussion.

  • read it. loved it. changed my perception of Muslims perception of Jesus.
    looking forward to future posts / discussions…

  • >>>”We are to imagine these ascetic teachers as the Muslim counterpart to the contemporary Christian “desert fathers.”

  • Whoops, I meant to say that this is not entirely accurate. The many Sufi sources in Khalidi’s book would be viewed by a majority of Muslims more like we (Orhtodox Christians) would view Gnostic stories about Jesus. Certainly not Orthodox.

  • Razi

    I believe that comments of both natures – negative as well as positive should be posted. i do believe in Jesus but as a prophet that all. I can not worship a god that dies; I can not worship a man. Jesus I believe was just a prophet who did miracles, great miracles – A MAN who did miracles, that it! If he is to be worshiped then why not worship MOSES or ADAM or ABRAHAM! You can not find god in Idols or human he is far more supreme than that!