Every year in December, Christians all around the world celebrate Christmas, marking the birth of Jesus Christ. In fact, when it comes to venerating Christ, most Christians tend to go out-of-the-way and claim ownership of Christ. In Christianity, Jesus is viewed as the Son of God, or God Incarnate.
However, there is another religion that pays equal, if not greater, respect to Jesus, albeit in a slightly different manner.
Unlike Christianity that began respecting Christ only after he had left this world, Islamic veneration of Jesus began during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad himself.
Islam views Jesus as a Prophet of God, rather than Son of God. Jesus, or Isa as he is called in Arabic, is referred to by name in nearly 25 different verses of The Quran, with titles such as Messenger, Prophet, and even Messiah. In fact, all Muslim theologians view Jesus as a precursor to Prophet Muhammad.
So, is the fact that both Christianity and Islam respect Jesus enough to build bridges between the two religions? Or are the different versions a source of perennial tension between adherents of the two faiths?
Jesus, A Muslim Prophet
The Muslim Jesus
In Islam, Jesus is viewed as an icon of asceticism — a moral, spiritual and social role model. Ibn Arabi described Jesus as “the epitome of sainthood”, whereas al-Ghazali called him “the prophet of the soul”. Quite obviously, such descriptions are unique in their own way, and are different from the Christian narrative of a Divine Jesus.
In fact, even when Islam talks about the mother of Jesus, Virgin Mary, the focus is not on the miracle itself but on the miraculous birth. The Virgin Mary, or Maryam, holds an exalted spiritual position. Prophet Muhammad described her as one of the four “perfect” women in the history of humanity. She is also the only woman mentioned by name in The Quran, and there is an entire chapter named after her.
However, for Muslims, the Virgin Birth is not proof of the divinity of Jesus, but that of special status of Jesus. Islam rejects the Christian concepts of Trinity, Crucifixion and Resurrection. According to Islamic narrative, Jesus was not crucified, but risen bodily to Heaven by God. This is where Islam and Christianity differ. To quote the Christian theologian Jonathan Bartley:
“There is a fundamental tension at the heart of interfaith dialogue that neither side wants to face up to, and that is that the orthodox Christian view of Jesus is blasphemous to Muslims and the orthodox Muslim view of Jesus is blasphemous to Christians.”
Another viewpoint in this context is the fact that Islamic conception of Jesus — devoid of divinity and outside the Trinity — is in sync with the beliefs of the earliest Jewish and Christian sects, primarily the Ebionites and Nazarenes, who viewed Jesus as Messiah, but not as Son of God. As such, Muslim Jesus is the historical Jesus, as claimed by Cambridge academic John Casey:
“Islam’s Jesus is what Jesus might have been without St. Paul or St. Augustine or the Council of Nicaea.”
This can be traced back to the underlying concept of Islam in itself: Islam, unlike other faiths, is an intellectual and moral acknowledgment of the Sovereignty of One True God, sans the additional mythological luggage.
Islam And Christianity: Two Faiths, One God
Amidst such differences, why can it not be possible to seek reasons for reconciliation between Christianity and Islam? After all, Jesus is indeed an esoteric part of Islamic faith and practice. Unlike Jewish tradition that by and large rejects Jesus, Islamic tradition has a place for Jesus at the very core of its devotion. This very idea of a Muslim Jesus is enough to fortify the resolve for peace between the two communities.
The Islamic view of Jesus is a salutary reminder of the times when both Christians and Muslims were more open to each other. In modern times, though, there is a tendency among Christians to claim ‘ownership’ over Jesus Christ — our Saviour, our Lord Jesus, our Messiah, not yours! On the other hand, certain Muslims too have nowadays started viewing Jesus as an icon of private reverence — our views towards Jesus are more respectful than yours!
However, such differences should not hinder the desire for co-existence — let us not forget that interfaith dialogue starts from acceptance and recognition of existing differences. Furthermore, in spite of doctrinal differences between Christianity and Islam, there are many areas of significant overlap as well — both Christians and Muslims believe that before the end of the world, Jesus Christ will return and defeat the Antichrist (In Islam, referred to as Masih ad-Dajjal or The False Prophet).
As such, as 2014 comes to an end, let us hope that in the coming days, both Muslims and Christians learn to live together in peace, and the differences between the two faiths lead to informed arguments, not uninformed attacks. After all, this is what The Quran has ordered us to do (29:46):
And argue not with the People of the Book (that is, Jews and Christians) unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: “We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our Allah and your Allah is One, and unto Him we surrender.”
One thought on “Jesus, A Muslim Prophet”
The God of Jews and Christians is a tribal God and not a Universal Allah which Muslims are commanded to worship.
The New Testament (NT) had and being corrupted by interested people for their political agenda. First major corruption resulted in the publication of Scofield Bible in 1909), which became the Bible of pro-Israel Christian Zionists. American writer Grace Helsell explained the affects of this distortion in her December 1988 article, Israeli Extremists and Christian Fundamentalists: The alliance.
There are 27 books in the New Testament – none of them is claimed to be written by Jesus. St. Paul (one of Jesus’ persecutors in his early years) is author of thirteen of these books. In order to give the NT a ‘devine flavour’ – five books from the Old Testament (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy) were included.
Paige Turner MD, having been a born-again Christian for 22 years, she devoted her life in studying Bible and holy Qur’an to find material to apply to convert Muslims to Christianity. However, to her great surprise – in her comparison, she found many historical lies and distortion of the so-called “Bible bieng the Word of God”. In her book “How to Prove That Christianity Is Not True” published in 1992 – she wrote that “nothing in the Old Testament pertains to Jesus”, which the priests quote to ignorant Christians. For example:
Genesis 17:19 – “And God said, Sarah thy wife shall bear a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac; and I will establish my convenant with him for everlasting convenant, and with his seed after him.”
According to Dr. Turner – God also blessed and multiplied Ishmael, who was another son of Abraham. At this point God told Abraham and Isaac and all male members of their household to be circumcised. this makes no reference to any Messiah, but rather states that He will establish his convenant with Isaac and that it would be everlasting (as long as they obey Lod). The verse, however, had nothing to do with Jesus.
Isaiah 53:7 – “He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth Not his mouth.”
Howevr, according to Mark 14:61-62; Luke 22:70; John 18:37, and Matthew 27:11 – the ‘sheep did open his mouth in front of Pilate and the chief priests (rabbis). Therefore, the statement in Isaiah 53:7 cannot be interpreted as pertaining to Jesus.
Numbers 24:17 – “I shall see him but not now. I shall behold him but nigh; there shall come a star out of Jacob, and a scepter shall rise out of Israel, and shall smite the corners of Moab, and destroy all the children of Seth.”
When did Jesus destroy any children anywhere? When did he smite the corners of Moab? King David, a descendant of Jacob, did these things. He, David, is the star out of Jacob and scepter (king) that shall rise out of House of Israel.
Genesis 49:10 – “The scepter shall not depart from Judah (one of Jacob’s sons); nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh coms and unto him shall be gatherings of the people be.”
Jacob was gathering his sons to explain why Judah (according to Bible he fathered two boys from his own widowed daughter-in-law) is best qualified to assume the family’s leadership role when Jacob can no longer function as leader. In other words, he is speaking a “living will” to his immediate inheritors, without mention of any Messiah.
Hosea 11:1 – “When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt.”
The prophet here is speaking of the Exodus of House of Israel out of Egypt and complains in the next vesrs that they sacrificed to Baalim and burned incense to graven images. Clearly this is no reference to any future time, but to the time already past.
Isaiah 9:6,7 – “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulders; and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace……..”
This verse refer to the child that Isaiah fathered with the (previously ) virgin prophetess (while two friends watched), and is the third of three prophecies related to this child – which all were proven false.
1. King of Syria did invade and defeated King Ahaz (2 Chronicles 28).
2. Child was not named Immanuel but Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. Joseph and Mary did not name their child Emmanuel either.
Deuteronomy 18:15 – “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethern, like unto me, unto him ye shall hearken.”
Prophet Moses (as) was warning the Levites. Jesus was of the tribe of Judah, not the tribe of Levi, and therefore, could not be the prophet referred to in this verse. The prophecy was for Moses’ brother Aaron, who next speaks in place of Moses.
Dr. Turner mentions dozens of other verses from Jewish Bible which have nothing to do with the arrival of Jesus among the House of Israel.
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