How is Jesus perceived in Islam?
There are many questions that come to mind when the name Jesus is mentioned. Some people say he was a Prophet; others call him Almighty God’s, while others say he was a very wise man. But whatever your idea is, one thing remains certain: he was not your ordinary man. So if there is something special about him, why all the confusion?
There was a debate on TV many years back, and at the end of the debate – “Christianity and Islam” – which appeared on the SABC-TV program “Cross Questions” on Sunday 5th June 1983, the Chairman, Mr. Bill Chalmers commented: “I think it can be said from this discussion that there is, at present, somewhat more accommodation on the Islamic side for the founder of Christianity than there is on the Christian side for the founder of Islam. What the significance of that is, we leave it to you, the viewer, to determine, but I do think you will agree that it is a good thing that we are talking together.”
“Bill” as he is popularly addressed, without any formalities, on all his programs, by all his panelists, is extremely charming and stupendous in his humility. He is a picture of what the Holy Quran portrays of a good Christian:
“…And nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say: ‘We are Christians’: because among these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world. And they are not arrogant.” [Al-Qur’aan 5:82]
Just who was Jesus anyway?
Jesus lived about 2,000 years ago in ancient Palestine when the Roman Empire was at its zenith. He was not conceived in the usual way, but was implanted in the womb of a young woman named Mary. Almighty God’s simply commanded, “Be” and he was. In this sense, he was “a word” of Almighty God’s and a special sign for humanity. In fact, he was the last in a long line of religious guides sent to the Jews.
Mary, The Blessed
Mary was a righteous woman. Her mother dedicated her to Almighty God’s service even before she was born. As a child, she lived a life marked by health and righteousness, which others pointed to in admiration. She was raised by the wise Zachariah, who instilled in her, a beautiful sense of faith in Almighty God. When she had become a young woman, Mary sought to purify herself further before her Lord. Knowing that the hustle of life in the towns was distracting, she withdrew from her people to a sanctuary in the East. There she could meditate in seclusion and peace. Suddenly, on a day that seemed no different from the rest, an angel of Almighty God visited her, disguised in the likeness of a human. Afraid of so strange a sight, Mary prayed for protection, but the strange being reassured her and declared that he was a messenger from the Lord to announce the glad-tidings of a faultless son. Mary, astounded, asked how this was possible seeing that no man had ever touched her. But the angel replied, “Your Lord says, it is easy for Me” But when she felt the little child within her, she fled her sanctuary out of fear of what her family would do or say when they heard the news. Mary, however, was not to face hardship. When in her despair she cried out to Almighty God for oblivion, a voice soothed her and she found shade and a cool spring. Under a date-palm in the warmth of late summer, she made her dwelling and there bore the child unlike any other in human history.
Shortly thereafter, Mary returned to her community carrying the child who was to be called Messiah, Jesus, and son of Mary. When her people saw her with the baby in her arms they couldn’t believe their eyes, let alone accept her word. They refused to believe when she told of an angel who came and told her she was chosen above all other women to carry this burden. They accused her of infidelity and implied that she had ruined the family name. Mary, being overwhelmed, simply motioned towards the child meekly.
Now the child was the product of a miracle and consequently, miraculous things began to happen. In defense of his mother and of the truth, the infant Jesus spoke saying,
“I am a servant of Almighty God. He has given me Scripture and has made me a Prophet. He has blessed me wherever I may be and has made prayer and charity my duty as long as I live” (Al-Qur’aan 19:30-31]
Throughout his youth, Jesus remained dutiful to his mother and developed quickly in intelligence, wisdom, and piety. He dumbfounded the learned and was greatly admired by those around him who appreciated his talents. He claimed to be a sign of Almighty God and a Messenger to the Israelites.
His people had strayed from the spirit of truth and placed their trust in legalism, thereby burying their sense of mercy beneath dusty scrolls and rituals. Finally, when he came of age, Jesus began to travel and preach throughout the land of Palestine about a return to the truth of the old revelations and a rejection of all that man had added. In his task he was supported by the spirit of truth, the angel Gabriel.
The Gospel, His Message
He taught that love and mercy overcome hate and anger and that only a true and sincere faith in the Creator and obedience to His will can bring a person salvation in this life as well as in the next. To reinforce his message, which was called “Injeel” (Good News), Almighty God granted him the performance of miracles. He healed the sick, uplifted the distressed, cured lepers, and revived the dead. All these things he did with the permission of Almighty God, never taking credit for any of them.
He led a simple and pious life. Soon he attracted an inner-circle of devoted followers who listened to his teachings with fervor and humility. These disciples, among them Peter, Barnabas, and John helped him carry the message of Divine Love to the people. They helped him in his mission.
Trials & Tribulations
But no righteous man of Almighty God is without trial and tribulation. As the message of Jesus began to gain wider acceptance, a small clique of hypocrites and evil men began to plot against him. They were the priests and leaders of the Jews whose position and wealth depended upon their place as the sole interpreters of religion to the masses. They pursued him and his followers and eventually captured him. Though they abused him, he never renounced his faith in the one Almighty God. So in their anger they plotted to crucify him on a Roman cross. But Jesus slipped from their grip at the last moment, and all the while they thought they had succeeded. They were sure they had killed him but Almighty God answered Jesus’ prayer and saved him from their schemes. Confusion overtook the mob and they might have killed the man who betrayed Jesus instead. In any case, Jesus escaped from their grasp. Then Almighty God removed Jesus from this world into another dimension, to a place with Him, not to return until a later time.
With their teacher gone, the devoted followers of Jesus tried to maintain the purity and simplicity of his teachings. But they were soon besieged and overtaken by a flood of Roman and Greek influences, which eventually so buried and distorted the message of Jesus that only a little of its truth now remains. Strange doctrines of Jesus being a man-god, of god-dying, of saint worship and of god being made up of different parts came into vogue and were accepted by many of those who took the name “Christians” centuries after Jesus.
What does Islam say about Jesus? A servant of Almighty God . . .
The Qur’aan tells us a lot of wonderful things about Jesus. As a result, believers in the Qur’aan love Jesus, honor him, and believe in him. In fact, no Muslim can be a Muslim unless he or she believes in Prophet Jesus.
It will be quickly obvious that they often referred to him as a servant of Almighty God, but never Son of Almighty God. Peter, for example, said: “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus” [Acts 3:13].
Peter further said: “God raised up his servant” [Acts 3:26], where the title servant refers to Jesus. Not only was it Peter, but the entire group of believers viewed Jesus as Almighty God’s servant. When they raised their voices together in prayer to Almighty God, in the course of their speaking to Almighty God they called Jesus “your holy servant Jesus whom you anointed” [Acts 4:27]. They repeated this title also in verse 30. Consistently, Jesus was being called servant of Almighty God’s by the original followers of Jesus.
Some people mistakenly thought that the disciples called Jesus Son of Almighty God. An inconsistency of translation actually helped to give this wrong impression. In the King James Bible, the translators call Jesus “Son of Almighty God” in Acts 3:13, 26, and “child of Almighty God” in Acts 4:27. They simply translated the Greek word paida as “son” or “child”. But the word paida also means “servant”, and the present context demands this translation since the author of Acts is trying in this passage to establish that Jesus is indeed the servant of Almighty God.
The translators knew that the Greek word paida means servant. When the same word was used for David in chapter 4, verse 25, they translated it “servant”. Why not call Jesus also by the same title? Or, if they feel that “son” is the correct translation, why not also call David “Son of Almighty God”? Jesus and David are both called by the same title in Greek. Why not call them by a same title in English also?
Other translators recognized this inconsistency and corrected it in the modern translations of the Bible. Therefore the New International Version of the Bible and many others call Jesus Servant of Almighty God in the verses quoted above. Nevertheless, the fact that Jesus was Almighty God’s servant was so well known that even the King James Bible called him by this title in Matthew 12:18. Referring back to Isaiah 42:1, Matthew identified Jesus as the servant of the one true Almighty God Yahweh.
What Do Muslims Think About Jesus (Esa)?
Muslims respect and venerate Jesus Christ. They consider him to be one of Almighty God’s greatest messengers to humankind. The Qur’aan re-affirms his miraculous birth and his miraculous abilities. Furthermore, his mother Mary is regarded as one of the most pure and exalted women of all creation. As the Qur’aan says:
“Behold! the angel said: ‘Almighty God has chosen you and purified you and has chosen you above the women of all nations. O Mary! Almighty God gives you the good news of a word from Him, whose name shall be Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, honored in this world and the hereafter, and one of those brought near to Almighty God” [Al-Qur’aan 3:42].
Islam regards its teachings to be a re-affirmation and culmination of the teachings of previous monotheistic religions like Judaism and Christianity. Hence, all Muslims believe in Moses and Jesus as Prophets of Almighty God. As it states in Al-Qur’aan:
“Say, we believe in Almighty God and that which was revealed unto us, and that which was revealed unto Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob, and the tribes and that which was entrusted unto Moses and Jesus and the Prophets from their Lord We make no distinction between any of them and unto Him we have submitted” [Al-Qur’aan 3:84].
A Muslim never refers to him simply as “Jesus”, but always adds the phrase “upon him be peace.” The Qur’aan confirms his virgin birth, and an entire surah (chapter) of the Qur’aan is entitled “Mary.” The Qur’aan describes the Annunciation as follows:
“She said: ‘O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?’ He said: ‘Even so; Almighty God creates what He wills. When He decrees a thing, He says to it, “Be!” and it is.'” [Al-Qur’aan 3:42-7]
Jesus was born miraculously through the same power that had brought Adam into being without a father: “Truly the likeness of Jesus with Almighty God is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust and then said to him, ‘Be!’ and he was.” [Al-Qur’aan 3:59]
During his prophetic mission, Jesus performed many miracles. The Qur’aan tells us that he said:
“I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I make for you out of clay, as it were, a figure of a bird, and breathe into it and it becomes a bird by Almighty God’s leave. And I heal the blind, and the lepers, and I raise the dead by Almighty God’s leave.” [Al-Qur’aan 3:49]
Neither Muhammad nor Jesus came to change the basic doctrine of the belief in One Almighty God, brought by earlier prophets, but to confirm and renew it. In the Qur’aan, Jesus is reported as saying that he came:
“To attest the law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden to you; I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear Almighty God and obey me.” [Al-Qur’aan 3:50]
The Qur’aan says that Jesus was born of a virgin and he spoke while he was still only a baby, that he healed the blind and the leper by Almighty God’s leave, and that he raised the dead by Almighty God’s leave.
What then is the significance of these miracles? First, the virgin birth. Almighty God demonstrates his power to create in every way. Almighty God created everyone we know from a man and a woman. But how about Adam? Almighty God created him from neither a man nor a woman. And Eve from only a man, but not a woman. And, finally, to complete the picture, Almighty God created Jesus from a woman, but not a man.
What about the other miracles?
These were to show that Jesus was not acting on his own behalf, but that he was backed by Almighty God. The Qur’aan specifies that these miracles were performed by Almighty God’s leave. This may be compared to the Book of Acts in the Bible, chapter 2, verse 22, where it says that the miracles were done by Almighty God to show that he approved of Jesus. Also, note that Jesus himself is recorded in the Gospel of John to have said,
“I can do nothing of my own authority” [Al-Qur’aan 5:30].
The miracles, therefore, were done not by his own authority, but by Almighty God’s authority.
What did Jesus teach?
The Qur’aan tells us that Jesus came to teach the same basic message which was taught by previous prophets from Almighty Godï¿½that we must shun every false gods and worship only the one true Almighty God. Jesus taught that he is the servant and messenger of that one true Almighty God, the Almighty God of Abraham. These Qur’aanic teachings can be compared with the Bible [Mark 10:18; Matthew 26:39; John 14:28, 17:3, and 20:17] where Jesus teaches that the one he worshiped is the only true Almighty God. See also Matthew 12:18; Acts 3:13, and 4:27 where we find that his disciples knew him as Servant of Almighty God.
The Qur’aan tells us that some of the Israelites rejected Jesus, and conspired to kill him, but Allah (Almighty God) rescued Jesus and raised him to Himself. Allah will cause Jesus to descend again, at which time Jesus will confirm his true teachings and everyone will believe in him as he is and as the Qur’aan teaches about him.
Jesus is the Messiah. He is a word from Allah, and a spirit from Him. He is honored in this world and in the hereafter, and he is one of those brought nearest to Allah. Jesus was a man who spoke the truth which he heard from Almighty God. This can be compared with the Gospel According to John where Jesus says to the Israelites: “You are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from Almighty God [John 8:40].
The only records that have come down to us concerning Jesus are some sketchy biographical material, poorly researched and compiled, which can in no way be representative of the full and accurate Message of Jesus, the Son of Mary. The time of the final and incorruptible Message was not yet at hand. It would be left to the last prophet of Almighty God, Prophet Muhammad, to clarify the truth from man’s additions and deletions.
Jesus taught the same eternal message that was taught by all the Messengers of Almighty God, from Adam, on through Noah, Abraham, Moses and ending with the mission of Almighty God’s last Guidepost to humanity, Prophet Muhammad, whose coming was foretold by Jesus himself.
Every nation and every people, from the Aztecs to the Greeks, have received a Prophet or a Messenger from Almighty God. Jesus was the last of a series of Messengers sent to the Israelites, but they consistently strayed from the path of surrender to Almighty God. Each of the many Messengers spoke a different language and followed varied customs. Yet the core faith taught by each was the same: surrender your imperfect and fickle will to the perfect will of the Power that is greater than you. You will then find the peace and freedom that only the Creator of all things can provide. Then you must do what is right and good to your fellow creatures. This way of life is called Islam (surrender to Almighty God and find peace).