Sunday, January 20, 2008

Jesus in Islam

The Messiah

A very important personality to Muslims, Jesus Christ is mentioned by name in the Qur'an twenty-five times. He was Al-Maseeh [The Messiah], awaited by the Jewish people. The Jewish people expected a leader to defeat their enemies in a military conflict, however Jesus had a much greater and more difficult of a task, i.e. a mission of spiritual priorities and renewal, a rejuvenation of the intent of the law [of Moses], rather than blind obedience to ritual and tradition.

Woe to you, teachers of the Law and Pharisees, you Hypocrites! You give a tenth of your spices-mint, dill and cummin. But you have neglected the most important matters of the law-justice, mercy and faithfulness. You should have practiced the latter, without neglecting the former. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. [Matthew 23:23-24]

..Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and all your mind and all your strength. The second is this-'Love your neighbor as yourself' there is no commandments greater than these [Mark 12: 29-31]

Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. [ Luke 11:42]

Died for mankind's sins?

The current ideas associated with the Messiah in Christendom, such as his death-sacrifice as atonement for mankind's sins, is not supported by Islamic teachings. We would like to point out some of the following Biblical texts food for thought.

"[John the Baptist said] Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not think you can say to yourselves 'We have Abraham as our father' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire" [Matt. 3:8-10]

In this Biblical text, we have a lesson of personal responsibility and deeds which must be shown to have some sort of positive effect. Otherwise, faith is not useful to the believer. Also of interest, from the Bible, is Matt. 12:33, 13:31-34.

The same essential teaching is given in the Qur'an.

...And none can bear the burdens of another. Then, to your Lord is your return, he will tell you the truth of that which you disagreed about [Q 6:164]
None can bear the burden of another, man has nothing, except what he worked for, the result of his work will be seen {by God}. [Q 53:38-40 also see vv.41-48]

Son of God

Another point of difference between the Islamic teachings and Christian perspectives is the idea that Jesus Christ is the "son of God". In the Bible, this phrase, as well as similar phrases, are clearly used in a metaphorical sense, and should not be taken in a literal, physical sense. Please see as examples from the Bible Genesis 6:2,4, Exodus 4:22, Luke 3:38 and many other passages.

I have often pointed out in discussions and lectures with Christians that in many Eastern cultures, phrases such as "Father" "son' "Uncle" "Aunt" etc..are used to denote familiarity and respect, and is not understood to refer to blood-relationships.

To avoid such confusion, the Qur'an advocates using clear and unambiguous language when discussing the Divine, and the relationship to creation.

Say: He is God alone. God the eternal. He did not give birth, nor was he given birth to, and nothing exists like him. [Q 112:1-4]

In numerous other Quranic texts, the doctrine of God having children is addressed. Concerning Jesus himself, we are told:

Surely in God's sight, [the status of] Jesus is similar to that of Adam.He created him from dust, then said to him 'Be' and he was. [Q 3:59]


It is well known that Islam does not accept the doctrine of Jesus' Divinity. Even from the Bible, we can find that Jesus prayed { Matt. 4:2}. If Jesus prayed, then to whom was he praying? To himself? Nonetheless, the doctrine has entered mainstream Christian ideology, and while we are not concerned here with how it entered the Christian religion, it should be noted that many in Christian ranks, on the basis of their own Biblical understanding, have not accepted this idea. Nonetheless, the Qur'an does claim to have a Christology that is pure and representative of the teachings of Jesus. Some examples are given below.

A man given scripture and wisdom, and designated as a Prophet, will not tell people 'Worship me' and not God. However, he would say 'Become devoted worshipers of the Nourisher {of the Universe}. You have taught scripture, and you have studied it.
And he would never order you to take angels and Prophets as Lords. Would he order you to rejection {Kufr}, after you have been submissive {to God}. [Q 3:79-80]

A vivid picture of the day of Judgment is given in the Qur'an, in which God is depicted as asking Jesus if he ever proclaimed Divinity for himself. To this, Jesus replies:

...I did not say to them anything except what you ordered me to say 'Worship God, my Lord and your lord... [ Q 5:117]


All Biblical quotes are taken from the NIV study Bible [2002, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, Michigan.

All Quranic texts are translated from the original Arabic by the author.


Asim said...

waheed if there is one thing that I gathered from my readings, it is that jesus himself seemed utterly convinced that his death would reconcile man and G_D.

it is utterly pointless to suggest otherwise to christians.

to put it simply -
Matt. 26:28, "for this is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for forgiveness of sins."

John 10:11,15 “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep...15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep."

Therefore I said to you that you will die in your sins; for unless you believe that I am He, you will die in your sins.

There is simply no other way to look at it.

Shamsuddin Waheed said...

Dear Asim,

There are many ways at looking at things. Try to think of this issue from another way, the idea that Jesus had to die. That itself is based on the assumption that human nature itself is an evil and sinful one, owing from the 'fall' of Adam and Eve, eating from the forbidden tree.

Can any of us really be held responsible for the actions of our ancestors far removed? Is it really fair for a just and merciful God to punish a person's children for an action of the parent? That does not happen in human courts, so how about the court of God?

Another way of looking at this is from the mainstream Christian view that Jesus, the "begotten son of God" was sent by his own father to take on the sin and therefore the punishment of mankind in order to reconcile or make pure humanity's picture in the presence of God "the father".

Does that idea not make God seem petty and unjust? I'm mad at you, so I kill my own son? Sounds a bit deranged!

It is my hope that this conversation will strike an interest in exploring the questions as to the reality of God, not to offend or hurt Christian sensitivities.

Light123 said...

waheed,I have some comments,when you said that it's not right that GOD should punish the children for their parents transgression.If that tree is bad would HE not cut it down?and if the tree is half good and half bad,wouldn't HE groom the tree so that it would be all good?And The FATHER didn't send HIS Son to die as a sinful man would die,but to glorify HIMSELF thru HIS Son(john6:38).An another thing is about Jesus didn't practice what He preached??Did you actually read the gospels?or did you follow the leader who will guide you both of you into the pit(matt14:15),For when Jesus walked in human vessel,He healed many sick people and FORGAVE their sins,just like with that adultrous woman.And the legion of demons,they begged Him not to torture them and let them go in the pigs,and He didn't torture them,but let them go into the pigs and drowned to death.So Jesus didn't set an example for His followers.And if you wanna see His divinity as His beginning is not of this world,read thru the book of John,and if you still doubt, then read it from the demons that Jesus the Lord casted out,because they were confessing that He is The Son of GOD.

Shamsuddin Waheed said...

There are great differences between trees and humans. For one thing, trees do not commit crimes, they exist to provide shade, to clean the air, etc..for life on this world. Humans have the ability to do good as well as to do evil. Now, if a person commits evil, let's say murder, it would be unjust to punish the murderer's son or some other innocent party. God is just, so we have no choice but to reject the idea that he sent his 'son' [who is also Divine according to Christian doctrine] to die for the sins of other people.

John 6:38 says that Jesus was sent to do the will of God. As a Muslim, I agree with that assertion. Incidentally, that also negates the idea that he was God, because it says that he 'was sent'.

You mentioned "An another thing is about Jesus didn't practice what He preached??Did you actually read the gospels?or did you follow the leader who will guide you both of you into the pit(matt14:15)"

I did not say that in this article, but rather in the lecture with the same name. I don't know if you listened to the entire lecture, but that was explained in great detail, and I would encourage you to listen again to it. Jesus and Muhammad had slightly different missions, may peace be on both of them.

To answer your query, yes I have read the Bible, as well as many works on the Bible and religion.

As for your views regarding Jesus being God's son, I have already given my thoughts on this in the original post, with Biblical examples.