Ben: Beyond Mary, what is the view and role of Jesus in Islam? What are some of the beliefs regarding Jesus that Muslims and Christians hold in common?
Ejaz: Jesus, known as Isa in the Qur’an, is one of the five most exalted Prophets (Ulul Az’m Ambiah)- the other four being Noah, Abraham, Moses and Muhammad-peace be upon all of them. He is considered the Messiah (Masih) in Islam. I had written a post on the status of Jesus in Islam in the summer. Here are some salient points to remember.
- He was born of a miraculous birth, without a father. The Qur’an gives a parallel with Adam’s birth.
- He was a Prophet and a messenger of God. He is the word of God, the spirit of God (Ruh Allah). All people in this world will honor him, and he will be honored in the hereafter.
- However, he is considered neither divine nor the Son of God. Jesus preached the unity of God. This is emphasized in the Qur’an repeatedly. Making partners with God is a major sin.
- He performed many miracles, as noted in the New Testament also, all of them by the will of God, and thus the ultimate power and supremacy lies with God. These miracles include giving life to the dead, curing the lepers and the blind, breathing life into clay to make into a bird and speaking from the cradle as a newborn.
Following is a very small sample of verses from the Qur’an reflecting his high status in Islam. Gospel is known in the Qur’an as Injil, meaning ‘good news.
Those messengers We endowed with gifts, some above others: To one of them Allah spoke [referring to Moses]; others He raised to degrees (of honor); To Jesus the son of Mary We gave clear (Signs), and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit. 2:253
And We sent, following in their footsteps, Jesus, the son of Mary, confirming that which came before him in the Torah; and We gave him the Gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the Torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous. And let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah has revealed therein. And whoever does not judge by what Allah has revealed—then it is those who are the defiantly disobedient. 5:46-47
Muslims believe Jesus ascended to heaven on the command of God and that he will return before the end of times to bring justice to the world.
Behold! Allah said: ‘O Jesus! I will take you and raise you to Myself and clear (purify) you (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow you superior to those who reject faith, to the Day of Resurrection: Then shall you all return unto me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein you dispute.’ The Qur’an 3:55
The disciples of Jesus, though not mentioned by name, also receive high praise in the Qur’an. It is worth mentioning here that Allah means, ‘the God’ in Arabic. Some translators use ‘God’ while others retain the word ‘Allah’ when translating into English
When Jesus found unbelief on their part He said: ‘Who will be my helpers to (the work of) Allah?’ Said the disciples: ‘We are Allah’s helpers: We believe in Allah, and you bear witness that we are Muslims [Submitters].’ 3:52
What does the Qur’an say about Christians?
Sure you must have seen the “anti-Semitic” and “anti-Christian” verses flashed on TV screens or heard them from the pulpit or on social media. What people may not have seen are the numerous other verses that speak so highly of them. If we believe that God is not (and does not need to be) politically correct, then praise and criticism are part and parcel of any community. (Christians and Jews are often mentioned as People of the Book – referring to Torah and Gospel).
Not all of them are alike: Of the People of the Book are a portion that stand (for the right): They rehearse [recite] the Signs [revelations] of God all night long, and they prostrate themselves in adoration. They believe in God and the last day, and they enjoin what is right and forbid the wrong and they strive with one another in hastening to good deeds, and those are among the good. And whatever good they do, they shall not be denied it, and God knows those who guard (against evil). 3:113–115
The following verse essentially states that no one has the monopoly on the paradise in the hereafter. Another verse (5:69) is essentially the same, with the addition of ‘they shall have their reward from their Lord’ in the verse quoted below.
Surely those who believe (in the Qur’an), and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, whoever believes in God and the Last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.2:62
When I see Christians do good deeds, helping the needy, showing kindness to others etc, I know it is a gift from God Almighty.
Then We made Our messengers to follow in their footsteps, and We sent Jesus, son of Mary afterwards, and We gave him the Gospel and We put in the hearts of those who followed him kindness and mercy. 57:27
In a recipe to the Muslims of all times, Prophet Muhammad laid down rules of engagement with the Christians. It prohibits Muslim rulers (and believers) from damaging the churches and calls for protecting their religious rights.
No one is allowed to plunder these Christians, or destroy or spoil any of their churches, or houses of worship….They must not give anything of their income but that which pleases them—they must not be offended, or disturbed, or coerced or compelled. Their judges should not be changed or prevented from accomplishing their offices, nor the monks disturbed in exercising their religious order.
Interfaith Dialogue in the Qur’an-Highlighting Similarities:
Ben, I love that you are asking to highlight the commonalities between Islam and Christianity. I take home at least two messages from the following verse that I quote frequently at the interfaith speeches and panels at the churches and synagogues. When engaged in a dialogue, first of all, we need to be on our best behavior, and secondly, we should highlight commonalities to bring people together.
Do not argue with the People of the Book except in the best manner— except for those wicked amongst them, and say: “We acknowledge what was revealed to us and in what was revealed to you; Our God and your God is the same. To Him we peacefully surrender.” 29:46
So let’s keep the dialogue open, to find commonality and build bridges between Muslims and Christians to bring people closer together. Like Jesus said, ‘Love your neighbor’.
And yes, he did not put an asterisk on the ‘neighbor’. He did not say ‘love your neighbor except if they are Muslims (or whatever else)’. He asked to ‘love thy neighbor’-period.
So let’s put the period back after ‘neighbor’.
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