Christians often talk about developing a relationship with Christ and accepting him into their lives. They assert that Jesus is much more than a man and died on the cross to free mankind from the original sin. Christians speak of Jesus with love and respect, and it is obvious he holds a special place in their lives and hearts. But what about Muslims; what do they think about Jesus and what place does Jesus Christ hold in Islam?
Someone unfamiliar with Islam may be surprised to learn that Muslims love Jesus too. A Muslim will not speak the name of Jesus without respectfully adding the words “may peace be upon him”. In Islam, Jesus is a loved and esteemed man, a Prophet and Messenger calling his people to the worship of the One True God.
Muslims and Christians share some very similar beliefs about Jesus. Both believe that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and both believe that Jesus was the Messiah sent to the people of Israel. Both also believe that Jesus will return to earth in the last days. However in one major detail they are worlds apart. Muslims believe with certainty that Jesus is not God, he is not the son of God and he is not part of a Trinity of God.
In the Quran, God spoke directly to Christians when He said:
“O people of the Scripture! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, nor say of God aught but the truth. The Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, was a Messenger of God and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary and a spirit created by Him; so believe in God and His Messengers. Say not: ‘Trinity!’ Cease; it is better for you! For God is One God, glory is to Him, Far Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And God is All Sufficient as a Disposer of affairs.” (Quran 4:171)
Just as Islam categorically denies that Jesus was God, it also rejects the notion that mankind is born tainted by any form of original sin. The Quran tells us that it is not possible for one person to bear the sins of another and that we are all responsible, before God, for our own actions. “And no bearer of burdens shall bear another’s burden.” (Quran 35:18) However, God, in His infinite Mercy and Wisdom has not abandoned mankind to their own devices. He has sent guidance and laws that reveal how to worship and live according to His commands. Muslims are required to believe in, and love all of the Prophets; to reject one is to reject the creed of Islam. Jesus was but one in this long line of Prophets and Messengers, calling the people to worship One God. He came specifically to the People of Israel, who had at that time gone astray from the straight path of God. Jesus said:
“And I have come confirming that which was before me of the Torah, and to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden to you, and I have come to you with a proof from your Lord. So fear God and obey me. Truly! God is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. This is the Straight Path.” (Quran 3:50-51)
Muslims love and admire Jesus. However, we understand him and his role in our lives according to the Quran and the narrations and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Three chapters of the Quran feature the life of Jesus, his mother Mary and their family; each reveals details not found in the Bible.
The Prophet Mohammad spoke of Jesus many times, once describing him as his brother.
“I am the nearest of all the people to the son of Mary, and all the prophets are paternal brothers, and there has been no prophet between me and him (i.e. Jesus).” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
Let us follow the story of Jesus through Islamic sources and come to understand how and why his place in Islam is of such significance.
The Quran informs us that Mary, the daughter of Imran, was an unmarried, chaste and pious young woman devoted to the worship of God. One day while she was in seclusion, the Angel Gabriel came to Mary and informed her that she was to be the mother of Jesus. Her response was one of fear, shock, and dismay. God said:
“And We wish to appoint him as a sign to mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a matter decreed.” (Quran 19:21)
Mary conceived Jesus, and when the time came for him to be born, she took herself away from her family and travelled towards Bethlehem. At the foot of a date palm tree Mary gave birth to her son Jesus.
When Mary had rested and recovered from the pain and fear involved in giving birth alone, she realised that she must return to her family. Mary was afraid and anxious as she wrapped the child and cradled him in her arms. How could she possibly explain his birth to her people? She heeded the words of God and made her way back to Jerusalem.
God knew that if Mary tried to offer explanations, her people would not believe her. So, in His wisdom, he told her not to speak. From the first moment Mary approached her people they started to accuse her, but she wisely followed God’s instructions and refused to respond. This shy, chaste woman merely pointed to the child in her arms.
The men and women surrounding Mary looked at her incredulously and demanded to know how they could possibly speak to a babe in arms. Then, by the permission of God, Jesus, son of Mary, still a babe, performed his first miracle. He spoke:
“Verily! I am a slave of God. He has given me the Scripture and made me a Prophet; and He has made me blessed wheresoever I be, and has enjoined on me prayer, and alms, as long as I live, and dutiful to my mother, and made me not arrogant, unblest. And peace be upon me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive!” (Quran 19:30-34)
Muslims believe Jesus was the slave of God and a Messenger sent to the Israelites of his time. He preformed miracles by the will and permission of God. The following words of Prophet Muhammad clearly summarise the importance of Jesus in Islam:
“Whoever bears witness that there is no god but God Alone, with no partner or associate, and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger, and that Jesus is His slave and Messenger, a word which God bestowed upon Mary and a spirit created by Him, and that Heaven is real, and Hell is real, God will admit him through whichever of the eight gates of Heaven he wishes.” (Saheeh Bukhari and Saheeh Muslim)
 For details of his miraculous conception and birth, please refer to the articles on Mary
We have already established that Jesus, son of Mary, or as he is called by Muslims, Eissa ibn Maryam, performed his first miracle while cradled in Mary’s arms. By the permission of God he spoke, and his first words were “I am a slave of God,” (Quran 19:30). He did not say “I am God” or even “I am the son of God”. His first words established the foundation of his message, and his mission: to call the people back, to the pure worship of One God.
At the time of Jesus, the concept of One God was not new to the Children of Israel. The Torah had proclaimed “Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is One,” (Deuteronomy: 4). However, God’s revelations had been misinterpreted and abused, and hearts had become hardened. Jesus came to denounce the leaders of the Children of Israel, who had fallen into lives of materialism and luxury, and to uphold the law of Moses found in the Torah which they had even changed.
Jesus’ mission was to confirm the Torah, to make lawful things that were previously unlawful and to proclaim and reaffirm the belief in One Creator. Prophet Muhammad said:
“Every Prophet was sent to his nation exclusively, but I was sent to all mankind,” (Saheeh Buhw-hkhari).
Thus, Jesus was sent to the Israelites.
God says in Quran that He would teach Jesus the Torah, the Gospel and the Wisdom.
“And He will teach him the Book and the Wisdom, the Torah and the Injeel.” (Quran 3:48)
In order to effectively spread his message, Jesus understood the Torah, and he was provided with his own revelation from God – the Injeel, or Gospel. God also endowed Jesus with the ability to guide and influence his people with signs and miracles.
God supports all of His Messengers with miracles that are observable and make sense to the people the Messenger has been sent to guide. At the time of Jesus, the Israelites were very knowledgeable in the field of medicine. Consequently, the miracles Jesus performed (by the permission of God) were of this nature and included returning sight to the blind, healing lepers and raising the dead. God said:
“...And you heal those born blind and the lepers by My leave. And behold! You bring forth the dead by My leave...” (Quran 5:110)
Neither the Quran nor the Bible refers to the boyhood of Jesus. We can imagine, however, that as a son in the family of Imran, he was a pious child devoted to learning and eager to influence the children and adults around him. After mentioning Jesus speaking in the cradle, the Quran immediately recounts the story of Jesus moulding the figure of a bird from clay. He blew into it and by God’s leave it became a bird.
“I design for you out of clay, as it were the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by God’s Leave.” (Quran 3:49)
The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, one of a set of texts written by early Christians but not accepted into the tenet of the Old Testament, also refers to this story. It recounts in some detail the story of the young Jesus fashioning birds from clay and breathing life into them. Although fascinating, Muslims believe the message of Jesus only as it is recounted in the Quran and the narrations of Prophet Muhammad.
Muslims are required to believe in all the books revealed by God to mankind. However, the Bible, as it exists today, is not the Gospel that was revealed to Prophet Jesus. The words and wisdom of God given to Jesus have been lost, hidden, changed and distorted. The fate of the texts of the Apocrypha of which the Infancy Gospel of Thomas is one is testament to this. In 325AD, the Emperor Constantine attempted to unify the fractured Christian Church by calling a meeting of Bishops from all over the known world. This meeting became known as the Council of Nicaea, and its legacy was a doctrine of Trinity, previously inexistent, and the loss of somewhere between 270 and 4000 gospels. The council ordered the burning of all gospels not deemed worthy to be in the new Bible, and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas was one of them. However, copies of many Gospels survived, and, although not in the Bible, are valued for their historical significance.
Muslims believe that Jesus did indeed receive revelation from God, but he did not write down one single word, nor did he instruct his disciples to write it down. There is no need for a Muslim to try to prove or disprove the books of the Christians. The Quran frees us from the need to know if the Bible we have today contains the word of God, or the words of Jesus. God said:
“It is He Who has sent down the Book to you with truth, confirming what came before it.” (Quran 3:3)
“And We have sent down to you the Book in truth, confirming the Scripture that came before it and dominant over it. So judge among them by what God has revealed.” (Quran 5:48)
Anything beneficial for Muslims to know from the Torah or the Injeel is stated clearly in the Quran. Whatever good maybe found in the previous books is found now in the Quran. If the words of today’s New Testament agree with the words of the Quran, then these words probably form the part of Jesus’ message that did not become distorted or lost over time. The message of Jesus was the same message that all the Prophets of God taught to their people. The Lord your God is One, so worship Him alone. And God said in the Quran about the story of Jesus:
“Verily! This is the true narrative and, none has the right to be worshipped but God, the One and the Only True God, Who has neither a wife nor a son. And indeed, God is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.” (Quran 3:62)
 Misha'al ibn Abdullah, What did Jesus really say?
 Sheikh Ahmad Deedat. Is the Bible God’s word?
Chapter 5 of the Quran is named Al Maidah (or The Table Spread with Food). It is one of three chapters in the Quran that deal extensively with the life of Jesus and his mother Mary. The other chapters are chapter 3 Aali Imran (The Family of Imran) and chapter 19, Maryam (Mary). Muslims love Jesus and honour his mother, but they do not worship them. The Quran, which Muslims believe to be the direct words of God, holds Jesus and his Mother Mary, and indeed their whole family – the family of Imran, in very high regard.
We know that Jesus lived amongst his people the Israelites for many years, calling them back to the worship of the One True God and performing miracles by the permission of God. Most of those around him rejected his call and failed to heed his message. However, Jesus had gathered around him a group of companions called Al Hawariyeen (the disciples of Jesus) in Arabic.
God said in the Quran:
“I (God) put in the hearts of Al-Hawariyeen to believe in Me and My Messenger, they said: ‘We believe. And bear witness that we are Muslims.’” (Quran 5:111)
The disciples referred to themselves as Muslims; how could this be when the religion of Islam would not be revealed for another 600 years? God must be referring to the general meaning of “Muslim”. A Muslim is anybody who submits to the One God and His obedience, and anybody whose allegiance and loyalty is to God and the believers above all else. The word Muslim and Islam come from the same Arabic root - sa la ma - and that is because peace and security (Salam) is inherent in one’s submission to God. Thus it can be understood that all the Prophets of God and their followers were Muslims.
Jesus’ disciples said to him:
“Jesus, son of Mary! Can your Lord send down to us a table spread (with food) from heaven?” (Quran 5:112)
Were they asking Jesus to perform a miracle? Did the disciples of Jesus who called them selves Muslim feel unsure about the ability of God to provide miracles at will? It is unlikely, as this would be an act of disbelief. The disciples of Jesus were not asking if it were possible, but rather if Jesus would call upon God at that specific time to provide them with food. However, Jesus may have thought otherwise, for he replied:
“Fear God, if you are indeed believers (Muslims).” (Quran 5:112)
When they saw Jesus’ reaction, his disciples tried to explain their words. Initially they said “We wish to eat thereof.”
They may have been very hungry and wanting God to satisfy their need. Asking God to provide us with sustenance is acceptable, for God is the Provider, the One from Whom all provision emanates. The disciples then went on to say, “and to satisfy our hearts.”
They meant that their faith would become even stronger if they saw a miracle with their own eyes, and this is confirmed by their closing statement. “And to know that you have indeed told us the truth and that we ourselves be its witnesses.”
Although mentioned last, being a witness to the truth and seeing the miracles that are its supporting evidence were the most important justifications for their request. The disciples were asking Prophet Jesus to perform this miracle by the leave of God so that they could be witnesses before all of mankind. The disciples wanted to spread the message of Jesus by proclaiming the miracles they witnessed with their own eyes.
“They said: ‘We wish to eat thereof and to satisfy our hearts, and to know that you have indeed told us the truth and that we ourselves be its witnesses.’ Jesus, son of Mary, said: ‘O God, our Lord! Send us from heaven a table spread (with food) that there may be for us - for the first and the last of us - a festival and a sign from You; and provide us sustenance, for You are the Best of sustainers.’” (Quran 5:113-114)
Jesus asked for the miracle. He prayed to God, asking that a table spread with food be sent down. Jesus also asked that it this be for all of them and that it be a festival. The Arabic word used by Quran is Eid, meaning a festival or celebration that reoccurs. Jesus wanted his disciples and those that came after them to remember the blessings of God and be thankful.
We have much to learn from the supplications made by the Prophets and other righteous believers. Jesus’ supplication was not just for a table spread with food, but for God to provide them with sustenance. He made it comprehensive because food is but a small part of the sustenance provided by the Best of Sustainers. Sustenance from God encompasses all the necessary requirements for life including, but not limited to, food, shelter, and knowledge. God replied:
“I am going to send it down unto you, but if any of you after that disbelieves, then I will punish him with a torment such as I have not inflicted on anyone among (all) the worlds of mankind and jinn.” (Quran 5:115)
The reason why God’s response was so absolute is that if one disbelieves after being provided with a sign or miracle from God, it is worse then disbelieving without seeing the miracle. You may question as to why. It is because once one has seen the miracle, one has first hand knowledge and understanding of the omnipotence of God. The more knowledge a person has, the more responsibility he has before God. When you have seen the signs, the obligation to believe and spread the message of God becomes greater. God was commanding Jesus’ disciples on receiving this table spread with food to be aware of the great responsibility that they had taken upon themselves.
The day of the table did become a feast day and celebration for the disciples and followers of Jesus, but, as time passed, the real meaning and essence of the miracle was lost. Eventually Jesus came to be worshipped as a god. On the Day of Resurrection, when all of mankind will stand before God, the disciples will bear the great responsibility of knowing the true message of Jesus. God will speak to Jesus directly and say:
“O Jesus, son of Mary! Did you say unto men: ‘Worship me and my mother as two gods besides God?’ He (Jesus) will say: Glory be to You! It was not for me to say what I had no right. Had I said such a thing, You would surely have known it. You know what is in my inner self though I do not know what is in Yours, truly, You, only You, are the All Knower of all that is hidden and unseen. Never did I say to them aught except what You (God) did command me to say: ‘Worship God, my Lord and your Lord.’” (Quran 5:116-117)
Those of us who have been blessed with this true message of Jesus, the same message spread by all of the Prophets including the last prophet, Muhammad, will also bear great responsibility on the Day of Resurrection.
The idea of Jesus dying on the cross is central to the Christian belief. It represents the conviction that Jesus died for the sins of mankind. The crucifixion of Jesus is a vital doctrine in Christianity; however Muslims reject it completely. Before describing what Muslims believe about Jesus’ crucifixion, it may be useful to understand the Islamic reaction to the notion of original sin.
When Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree in paradise, they were not tempted by a serpent. It was Satan who deceived and cajoled them, whereupon they exercised their free will and made an error in judgement. Eve does not bear the burden of this mistake alone. Together, Adam and Eve realised their disobedience, felt remorse and begged for God’s forgiveness. God, in his infinite mercy and wisdom, forgave them. Islam has no concept of original sin; each person bears responsibility for his own deeds.
“And no bearer of burdens shall bear another’s burden”. (Quran 35:18)
There is no need for God, a son of God, or even a Prophet of God to sacrifice himself for mankind’s sins in order to buy forgiveness. Islam refuses this view entirely. The foundation of Islam rests on knowing with certainty that nothing should we worshipped but God alone. Forgiveness emanates from the One True God; so, when a person seeks forgiveness, he must turn to God submissively with true remorse and beg forgiveness, promising not to repeat the sin. Then and only then will sins be forgiven.
In the light of Islam’s understanding of original sin and forgiveness, we can see that Islam teaches that Jesus did not come to atone for the sins of mankind; rather, his purpose was to reaffirm the message of the Prophets before him.
“.. None has the right to be worshipped but God, the One and the Only True God…” (Quran 3:62)
Muslims do not believe in the crucifixion of Jesus, nor do they believe that he died.
Jesus’ message was rejected by most of the Israelites as well as the Roman authorities. Those who believed formed a small band of followers around him, known as the disciples. The Israelites plotted and conspired against Jesus and formulated a plan to have him assassinated. He was to be executed in public, in a particularly gruesome manner, well known in the Roman Empire: crucifixion.
Crucifixion was considered a shameful way to die, and “citizens” of the Roman Empire were exempt from this punishment. It was designed to not only prolong the agony of death, but to mutilate the body. The Israelites planned this humiliating death for their Messiah – Jesus, the messenger of God. God in his infinite mercy prevented this abominable event by putting the resemblance of Jesus on somebody else and elevating Jesus alive, body and soul, to heaven. The Quran is silent about the exact details of just who this person was, but we know and believe with certainty that it was not Prophet Jesus.
Muslims believe that the Quran and the authentic narrations of Prophet Muhammad contain all the knowledge mankind needs in order to worship and live according to God’s commandments. Therefore, if small details are not explained, it is because God in His infinite wisdom has judged these details to be of no benefit to us. The Quran explains, in God’s own words, the conspiracy against Jesus and His plan to outwit the Israelites and raise Jesus to heaven.
“And they plotted to kill Jesus and God planned too. And God is the Best of the planners.” (Quran 3:54)
“And because of their boasting, "We killed Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of God." But they killed him not, nor crucified him, but the resemblance of Jesus was put over another man, and those who differ therein are full of doubts. They have no (certain) knowledge; they follow nothing but conjecture. For surely, they killed him not. But God raised him (Jesus) up unto Himself. And God is Ever All-Powerful, All-Wise.” (Quran 4:157-158)
The Israelites and the Roman authorities were not able to harm Jesus. God says clearly that He took Jesus up to Himself and cleared him of the false statements made in Jesus’ name.
“O Jesus! I will take you and raise you to Myself and clear you of the forged statement that Jesus is God’s son.” (Quran 3:55)
In the previous verse, when God said He “will take” Jesus, he uses the word mutawaffeeka. Without a clear understanding of the richness of the Arabic language, and knowledge of the levels of meaning in many words, it may be possible to misunderstand God’s meaning. In the Arabic language today the word mutawaffeeka is sometimes used to denote death, or even sleep. In this verse of Quran, however, the original meaning is used and the comprehensiveness of the word denotes that God raised Jesus to himself, completely. Thus, he was alive at his ascension, body and soul, without any injury or defect.
Muslims believe Jesus is not dead, and that he will return to this world in the last days before the Day of Judgement. Prophet Mohammad said to his companions:
“How will you be when the son of Mary, Jesus descends amongst you and he will judge people by the Law of the Quran and not by the law of Gospel.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
God reminds us in the Quran that the Day of Judgement is a Day that we cannot avoid and cautions us that the descent of Jesus is a sign of its nearness.
“And he, Jesus, son of Mary shall be a known sign for the Hour. Therefore have no doubt concerning it. And follow Me! This is the Straight Path.” (Quran 43:61)
Therefore, the Islamic belief about Jesus’ crucifixion and death is clear. There was a plot to crucify Jesus but it did not succeed; Jesus did not die, but ascended to heaven. In the last days leading up to the Day of Judgement, Jesus will return to this world and continue his message.
After reading and understanding what Muslims believe about Jesus, son of Mary, there may be some questions that come to mind, or issues that need clarification. You may have read the term “People of the Book” and not been completely clear about what this meant. Likewise, while exploring the literature available about Jesus you could have come across the name Eissa and wondered if Jesus and Eissa were the same person. If you are considering investigating a little further or perhaps reading the Quran, the following points may be of interest.
Eissa is Jesus. Perhaps because of the difference in pronunciation, many people may not be aware that when they hear a Muslim talking about Eissa, he is actually talking about Prophet Jesus. The spelling of Eissa may take many forms – Isa, Esa, Essa, and Eissa. The Arabic language is written in Arabic characters, thus any transliteration system tries to reproduce the phonetic sound. No matter what the spelling, all indicate Jesus, the Messenger of God.
Jesus and his people spoke Aramaic, a language from the Semitic family. Spoken by more than 300 million people throughout the Middle East, North Africa and the Horn of Africa, Semitic languages include, among others, Arabic and Hebrew. The use of the word Eissa is actually a closer translation of the Aramaic word for Jesus – Eeshu. In Hebrew this translates to Yeshua.
Translating the name Jesus into non Semitic languages complicated things. There was no “J” in any language until the fourteenth century, so consequently, when the name Jesus was translated into Greek, it became Iesous, and in Latin, Iesus. Later, the “I” and “J” were used interchangeably, and finally the name transitioned into English as Jesus. The final “S” on the end is indicative of the Greek language where all male names end in “S”.
When God refers to the People of the Book, He is talking mainly about the Jews and the Christians. In the Quran, the Jewish people are called Bani Israeel, literally the Children of Israel, or commonly the Israelites. These distinctive groups follow, or followed, the revelation of God as it was revealed in the Torah and the Injeel. You may also hear the Jews and Christians referred to as “the People of the Scripture”.
Muslims believe the divinely revealed books before the Quran have either been lost in antiquity, or changed and distorted, but they also recognize that the true followers of Moses and Jesus were Muslims who worshiped One God with true submission. Jesus, son of Mary, came to confirm the message of Moses and to guide the Children of Israel back to the straight path. Muslim’s believe the Jews (Children of Israel) denied Jesus’ mission and message, and the Christians incorrectly raised him to the status of a god.
“O people of the Scripture! Exceed not the limits in your religion other than the truth, and do not follow the vain desires of people who went astray in times gone by, and who misled many, and strayed from the Right Path.” (Quran 5:77)
We have already discussed in previous parts how the Quran deals extensively with Prophet Jesus and his mother Mary. However, the Quran also includes many verses where God speaks directly to the People of the Book, particularly those who call themselves Christians.
The Christians and Jews are told not to criticise the Muslims for no reason other than believing in One God, but God also draws attention to the fact that Christians (those who follow Christ’s teaching) and Muslims have much in common, including their love and respect for Jesus and all of the Prophets.
“.. and you will find the nearest in love to the believers those who say: ‘We are Christians.’ That is because amongst them are priests and monks, and they are not proud. And when they listen to what has been sent down to the Messenger, you see their eyes overflowing with tears because of the truth they have recognised. They say: Our Lord! We believe; so write us down among the witnesses.” (Quran 5:83)
Like Jesus son of Mary, the Prophet Muhammad came to confirm the message of all the Prophets before him; he called the people to worship the One God. His mission, however, was different from the earlier Prophets, (Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and others) in one respect. Prophet Muhammad came for all of mankind while the Prophets before him came specifically for their own time and people. The advent of Prophet Muhammad and the revelation of the Quran completed the religion that had been revealed to the People of the Book.
And God spoke to Prophet Muhammad in the Quran and beseeched him to call to the People of the Book by saying:
“Say O Muhammad ‘O people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians): Come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none but God (Alone), and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides God.’” (Quran 3:64)
Prophet Muhammad said to his companions, and thus to all of mankind:
“I am the nearest of all the people to the son of Mary, and all the Prophets are brothers and there is none between me and him.”
“If a man believes in Jesus and then believes in me he will get double reward.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
Islam is a religion of peace, respect and tolerance, and it applies a just and compassionate attitude towards other religions, particularly in respect to the People of the Book.
 The Encyclopaedia Americana.
 The Oxford English dictionary.
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