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 Nativity in Islam and Baby Jesus Speaking from the Cradle

 Nativity in Islam and Baby Jesus Speaking from the Cradle December 23, 2021

I had published a post earlier about the account of Annunciation as they appear in the Qur’an and the Gospels. As we near Christmas, it is worthwhile to review Islamic aspects of the annunciation, nativity, and something that does not show up in the canonized Gospels- Jesus speaking from the cradle.

Only two of the canonized Gospels (of Matthew and Luke) actually narrate the birth of Jesus- both placing it in Bethlehem. The Gospels of Mark and John are pretty quiet about nativity.  Chapter 1 and 2 of Matthew’s Gospel relate the story of the birth of Jesus at the time of King Herod. Joseph, husband of Mary, at first did not believe the Immaculate Conception until an angel told him “…for the child within her was conceived by the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:21). It does not detail the account of the birth like Gospel of Luke does in chapter 2. After the account of annunciation in chapter 1, foretelling the miraculous birth of Jesus, without a father, chapter 2 then goes on to relate the birth of Jesus. There was a census at the time of the Roman king Augustus, and Joseph had to return to his ancestral town for the census. The local shepherds came to know about the birth of Jesus when angels descended to give them the good news. According to the Gospel of Luke, after the birth, Jesus was presented to the temple in Jerusalem in accordance with the Jewish custom, when he was eight days old. It then goes on to state that Jesus “grew healthy and strong”, and the next verse fast forwards to when Jesus was 12 years old. There is no story in between day 8 and year 12 of Jesus’ life.

Qur’an’s Account of Nativity

The Qur’an, as per its tradition, does not give specifics on the whereabouts of Jesus or his age at various events in his life. Its account of annunciation is very similar to the one in the Gospel of Luke-something I detailed in an earlier post.

But here I wanted to point out a story not mentioned in any of the canonized Gospels- one where Jesus speaks from the cradle when the villagers arrived and started to question Mary about her innocence. The following passages are from chapter 19, named after Mary (Surah Maryam). Rather than answering them herself, she pointed to the baby Jesus, who then defended her mother.

But she pointed to the baby. They said: “How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?” He (Jesus) said: “I am indeed a servant of Allah: He has given me revelation and made me a Prophet; And He has made me blessed wheresoever I be, and has enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live; (He) has made me kind to my mother, and not insolent, unblessed; So peace (Salam) is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)”! Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: (it is) a statement of truth, about which they (vainly) dispute. The Qur’an 19:29-34

Before we discuss him speaking at the cradle further, let’s examine what happened before baby Jesus spoke from the cradle.

And mention Marium (Mary) in the Book when she drew aside from her family to an eastern place;
So she took a veil (to screen herself) from them; then We sent to her Our spirit, and there appeared to her a well-made man.
She said: Surely I fly for refuge from you to the Beneficent Allah, if you fear (God)
He said: “Nay, I am only a messenger from your Lord, (to announce) to you the gift of a holy son.
She said: When shall I have a boy and no mortal has yet touched me, nor have I been unchaste?
He said: Even so; your Lord says: It is easy to Me: and that We may make him a sign to men and a mercy from Us, and it is a matter which has been decreed.
So she conceived him; then withdrew herself with him to a remote place.
And the throes (of childbirth) compelled her to betake herself to the trunk of a palm tree. She said: Oh, would that I had died before this, and had been a thing quite forgotten!
Then (the child, or a voice, according to some translations) called out to her from beneath her: Grieve not, surely your Lord has made a stream to flow beneath you;
And shake towards you the trunk of the palm tree, it will drop on you fresh ripe dates:
So eat and drink and refresh the eye. Then if you see any mortal, say: Surely I have vowed a fast to the Beneficent Allah, so I shall not speak to any man today.
And she came to her people with him, carrying him (with her). They said: O Marium! surely you have done a strange thing.
O sister of Aaron![in reference to her ancestry], your father was not a bad man, nor, was your mother an unchaste woman.
But she pointed to him. They said: How should we speak to one who was a child in the cradle?

The Qur’an 19:16-29

But what about some Apocryphal Gospel?

Even though the two canonical Gospels that address nativity don’t mention Jesus speaking from the cradle, one of the apocryphal Gospels, Gospel of Infancy of the Savior, does make a reference to Jesus speaking from the cradle, though the words have divergent implications- literally and dogmatically.

He has said that Jesus spoke, and, indeed, when He was lying in his cradle said to Mary, his mother: “I am Jesus, the Son of God, the Logos, whom thou hast brought forth, as the Angel Gabriel announced to thee; and my Father has sent me for the salvation of the world.” v2

Regardless of whether this was mentioned in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke or not, some may argue that a baby simply cannot speak from the cradle. It is just not conceivable.

But what else about Jesus’ life is conceivable?

His birth without a father?

him giving life to the dead?

curing the lepers?

giving eyesight to the blind?

Muslims believe that he was given these miracles with the permission of God. Not only him speaking from the cradle, but his name was also chosen before he was conceived, as the following passage (annunciation) in the Qur’an shows.

[And mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – honored in this world and the Hereafter and among those nearest [to Allah ]. He will speak to the people in the cradle and in maturity and will be of the righteous.” She said, “My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” [The angel] said, “Such is Allah ; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is. And He will teach him writing and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel And [make him] a messenger to the Children of Israel, [who will say], ‘Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay [that which is] like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of Allah . And I cure the blind and the leper, and I give life to the dead – by permission of Allah . And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Indeed in that is a sign for you, if you are believers. And [I have come] confirming what was before me of the Torah and to make lawful for you some of what was forbidden to you. And I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear Allah and obey me. (3:45-50)

As for the reasons behind performing such miracles, again the Quran is very clear: they were performed as clear signs of (and from) God.

 

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