The Islamic View of Jesus (peace be upon him)
The Islamic view of Jesus (or, “Isa
in Arabic, ;- peace be upon him) lies between two extremes. The Jews, who rejected Isa (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. Islam considers Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ) to be one of the great Prophets of Allah and respects him as much as Ibrahim (Abraham), Musa (Moses), and Muhammad (peace be upon them all). This is in conformity with the Islamic view of the oneness of God (Allah), the oneness of Divine guidance, and the complementary role of the subsequent mission of Allah’s messengers.
The essence of Islam- willing submission to the will of Allah- was revealed to Adam ( peace be upon him), who passed it on to his children. All the following revelations to Nuh (Noah), Ibrahim, Musa, Isa (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 Allah’s instructions. Thus, Islam views any contradictions among revealed religions as a man-made element introduced into these religions. The position of Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ) in the three major creeds- Judaism, Christianity, and Islam- is not an exception.
Although the Qur'an does not present a detailed life-story of Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ), 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'anic account of Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ) starts with the conception of his mother, Maryam (Mary, peace be upon her), whose mother, the wife of Imran, vowed to dedicate her child to the service of God in the temple. When Maryam (Peace be upon her) became a woman, the 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'an between Maryam (Peace be upon her) and the angel:
When the angels said: ‘O Mary! Allah gives thee glad tidings of a Word from Him, whose name is the Messiah, Jesus, Peace be upon him son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (unto Allah).
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). Allah creates what He will. If He decrees a thing, He says unto it only: “Be!” and it is.’(Ali-Imran, 3:45-47)
In a chapter (surah
) entitled “Maryam” (Mary), the Qur'an tells us how Maryam (Peace be upon her) 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 Allah. 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, Allah assures Muhammad ( peace and blessings of Allah be upon him), and through him the whole world, that what is told above is the TRUTH
about Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ), although the Christians might not accept it. Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ) is NOT
the “son of God”: he was, obviously enough, the son of Maryam (Peace be upon her). The verses continue:
Such was Jesus, (Peace be upon him) son of Mary: (this is) a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt. It befits not Allah 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 Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ), Allah directed Muhammad (Peace be upon him) to call the Christians to worship the one God:
And lo! Allah is my Lord and your Lord. So serve Him. That is the straight path.
The rejection of the very idea of Allah 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'an recognizes the fact that Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ) had no human father, but this does not make him the son of God, or God Himself. By this criterion, Adam (Peace be upon him) would have been more entitled to be the son of God, because he had neither a father nor a mother, so the Qur'an draws attention to the miraculous creation of both in the following verse:
Lo! The likeness of Jesus with Allah is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, then He said unto him: ‘Be!’ and he is.
The Qur'an 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 Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ) as the son of God. This is because GOD IS ONE
. Three cannot be one. The Qur'an 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 Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, (Peace be upon him) son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His Word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three.” Refrain! (it is) better for you! Allah 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 Allah is sufficient as Guardian.
The Messiah will never scorn to be a servant of Allah, 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 Allah, any protecting friend or helper. (An-Nisaa, 4:171-174)
The denial of Isa’s (Jesus’, ) divinity (and, for that matter, of Maryam’s divinity) is presented in the Qur'an in the form of a dialogue, at the Day of Judgment, between the Almighty and Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ). All the messengers and their nations will be gathered before Allah 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 Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ):
And when Allah says: ‘O Jesus, (Peace be upon him) son of Mary! Did thou say unto mankind: “Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah?”’ 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 Allah, my Lord and your Lord…”’ (Al-Maidah, 5:116-117)
Mission and Message
Given that the Qur'an denies the Trinity and the son-ship of Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ), what, according to the Qur'an, was the real mission of Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him )? The answer is that Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ) was a link in a long chain of prophets and messengers sent by Allah to various nations and societies whenever they needed guidance or deviated from His teachings. Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ) was especially prepared by Allah to be sent to the Jews, who had deviated from the teachings of Musa (Moses, ) and other messengers. As he was miraculously supported by Allah in his conception, birth, and childhood, he was also supported by numerous miracles to prove that he was a messenger from Allah. However, the majority of the Jews rejected his prophethood.
In another verse of the Qur'an, Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ) confirmed the validity of the Torah which was revealed to Musa (Moses, ), and also conveyed the glad tidings of a final messenger who would follow him:
And when Jesus, (Peace be upon him) son of Mary, said: O Children of Israel! Lo! I am the messenger of Allah 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 (Peace be upon him) name. Careful study of the New Testament shows that Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ) refers to the same prophet in John 14:16-17
: “And I will give you another Counselor (the Prophet Muhammed Peace be upon him), 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 Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ), and he will speak what he hears from God. All four characteristics apply to the Prophet Muhammed ( Peace be upon him). He came six centuries after Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ). He came with a universal and everlasting message, fulfilling the prophecy that the counselor will stay forever with the faithful. He glorified Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ) as a great Prophet. The Qur'an attributes to Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ) miracles not mentioned in the Bible. Prophecies in the Bible’s Old and New Testaments, as well as specific verses in the Qur'an, show how the Prophet Muhammed ( Peace be upon him) is rejected by Jews and Christians out of prejudice and mis*un*der*standing, 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 Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ). He was only followed by a few disciples inspired by Allah to support him. The nonbelievers plotted- as they would against Muhammad ( Peace be upon him), six centuries later- to kill Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ). But Allah had a better plan for him and his followers, as the Qur'an tells us:
But when Jesus became conscious of their disbelief, he cried: ‘Who will be my helpers in the cause of Allah?’ The disciples said: ‘We will be Allah's helpers. We believe in Allah, 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 Allah schemed (against them): and Allah is the best of schemers.
(And remember) when Allah 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.’
As the above verses indicate, Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ) was taken and raised to Heaven. He was not crucified. It was certainly the plan of the enemies of Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ) to put him to death on the cross, but Allah 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, Peace be upon him son of Mary, Allah's mes*senger.’ 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 Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah 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.
The Qur'an does not explain who was that person crucified instead of Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ), nor elaborates on the Second Coming of Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him). However, commentators of the Qur'an have always interpreted the last verse of the above quotation to mean that Isa (Jesus, Peace be upon him ) 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 (Hadith
) of the Prophet Muhammed (Peace be upon him), may the peace and blessings of Allah be upon him and upon all the messengers of Allah.)