By: Sadullah Khan
"Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter, he is of those nearest to Allah"; [Qur'an 3:45]
Belief in Prophets (May Allah's Peace be upon all of them)
Islam emphasizes the universality of the institution of prophethood. According to the Qur'an, there is not a single nation in the world to which a prophet has not appeared sometime in history: "There is not a people but a warner has gone among them" [Q35:24]. And again: "For every nation there is a messenger" [Q10:47]
The Qur'an mentions about 25 of the Biblical Prophets by name [Q4:163] and we are further told that there have been prophets besides those mentioned in the Qur'an: "And We sent messengers We have mentioned to thee before, and messengers We have not mentioned to thee" [Q4:164] .
It is an Islamic article of Faith to believe ...
in all Prophets; from Adam through Abraham, Moses, Jesus to Muhammad (peace be upon them) [Q2:184]
all Prophets were models of excellence who were commissioned to guide humankind [Q2:213]
the mission of Prophets was to establish justice for all [Q57:25]
that Prophets were the embodiments of Righteousness;
"And Zachariah, John, Jesus and Elijah;
all of these were of the most Righteous." [Q6:85]
It is an accepted fact in Islam that the struggle and legacy of the prophets (peace be upon them) serve as universal guides, excellent examples and as sources of hope and inspiration.
Status of Maryam/Mary
Mary, the mother of Jesus, is a prominent figure in Islam and the only woman mentioned by name in the Qur'an. The Qur'an upholds Mary as one of the four perfect examples of womanhood [Q66:12] . Mary is mentioned more times and more biographical information about her is contained in the Qur'an than in the entire New Testament.
The birth of Jesus Christ is described in twice in the Qur'an - chapter 3 and chapter 19. Reading from the beginning of his birth, we come across the story of Mary, and the esteemed position which she occupies in the House of Islam, before the actual annunciation of the birth of Jesus is made.
The Qur'anic account of Mary includes the pregnancy of her mother, Mary's birth and the annunciations of the coming birth of Jesus: "Remember how she preserved her chastity, into whom We breathed a life from Us, and made her and her son a token for humankind" [Q21:91]. The Qur'an teaches that Mary is to be revered because she completely submitted herself to God's will, even though it meant that her own family would accuse her of unchastity when it was discovered that she was pregnant [Q19:16-21] .
The mother of Jesus (peace be upon them) is accorded highest respect and considered as among the most noble in the estimation of Allah. [Q3:33] Behold! the angels said: O Mary! Allah has chosen you and purified you, chosen you above the women of all nations." [Q3:42]
The entire chapter 19 titled Maryam/Mary in the Qur'an and another (chapter 3) is titled Al-'Imran after the family of Mary.
Jesus /'Isa referred to 9 times in the Qur'an as 'Isa and 16 times as 'Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus son of Mary)
Mary is considered chaste, virtuous, receiver of God's spirit, a testimony to the veracity of God's message and piously obedient [Q66:11]
Jesus (pbuh) himself is recorded as saying about his respected mother,
Uniqueness of Jesus (pbuh)
Virgin birth -The Qur'an gives an account of the birth of Jesus in chapter 3. Mary is described as being a virgin, chosen by God, and considered with great honor. "Behold! the angels said: O Mary! Allah gives you glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary." [Q3:45] . Verse 47 relates the response of and to Mary, "She said: O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me? He said: 'Even so: Allah creates what He wills: When He has decreed a plan, He merely says to it, 'Be,' and it is!" The Qur'an thus affirms and Muslims believe that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary. The birth is seen as a sign (ayah) of Allah's power and as a miraculous event. And Muslims have a high regard also for Mary. However, the Qur'an presents Jesus as the son of Mary and not as the Son of God, a significant point particularly emphasized.
Like Adam (pbuh) -Though the unique birth of Jesus with one parent is no indication of divinity just as Adam's creation was without any parentage [Q3:59] .
Messiah -It is obvious that Jesus holds an exalted place within Islam. Some of the honorable epithets of Jesus (pbuh) mentioned in the Qur'an are ... prophet / nabi, messenger of God / rasul, of the Righteous / min-as-salihin, word of Allah / kalimatu-Llah), spirit from God / ruhun mina' Llah, positive sign/symbol for humanity / aayatun lin- naas, mercy from God / rahmatan minna, the son of Mary / ibne Maryam, eminent in this world and the next / wajihan fid-dunya wal-aakhirah, and most unique of all... the Messiah / masih.
Miracles -The Qur'an speaks of Jesus possessing intellect and eloquence in childhood [Q19:30] and documents some of Jesus' miracles, including curing the sick, restoring the sight of the blind and reviving the dead, with God's permission [Q5:110] .
The Qur'an specifically mentions two miracles which the Bible does not contain;
1. The Qur'an records Jesus as an infant verbally defending Mary's innocence [Q19:27-35]. In Surah 19:27-34, Jesus speaks from the cradle to state his mission. Jesus said, "I am indeed a servant of Allah Who has given me revelation and made me a prophet."
2. The Qur'an [Q5:110] also reports that Jesus formed a bird out of clay, and blew into it, and it came to life and flew away.
This last miracle is not recorded in the canonical New Testament but does appear in the non-canonical Gospel of Thomas.
It must be remembered that all miracles / mu'jizah performed by prophets (pbuh) are done through the agency of the prophets but by the power and authority of God. Jesus' miracles too are considered basically in the line of his being a prophet and in God's enabling and permitting him to do so. The Qur'an thus stresses the fact that the miracles of Jesus were performed by the permission and power of God [Q5:110] .
No Easter Commemoration
Millions of Christians commemorate the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus (pbuh), and this begs the question that if Jesus is important to Muslims, why do Muslims then not commemorate Easter. Though Muslims accept Jesus (pbuh) as a great prophet, revere his exemplary mother Mary, and believe that Jesus is the Messiah; Muslims do not accept the major concepts that are central to the commemoration of the Easter weekend. Among these concepts are...
Divine Incarnation and Trinity [Q4:171][Q112:1-4] -Allah is ONE in an absolute sense, no one shares in His Lordship nor in His divinity; nothing is equal or comparable to God. This is in keeping with the command, "and Jesus answered him, the first of all the commandment is, Hear, O Israel; The LORD our God is One LORD." [Mark 12:29]. In promoting a great human such as Jesus (pbuh) to divinity, does not elevate Jesus as much as it minimizes the concept of the divine; is not making the finite infinite as much as making the perfect imperfect; not an elevation of Jesus, but rather a devaluation of the Divine.
Crucifixion -Christ, according to Muslim belief, did NOT die on a cross [Q4:157] but was rather elevated by Allah and saved from being killed [Q4:158].
Resurrection -Not having died, Jesus could NOT have been resurrected [Q4:156].
Inherited Sinfulness [Q2:285] -Babies are born pure and no one is born bearing the sin of any one and no one bears the burden of another [Q17:15] .
Redemption / Atonement -Muslims do not believe in the doctrine of Original Sin, so there is no theological need for the all-atoning sacrifice of Jesus through his crucifixion and resurrection. Muslims further believe that each person will be held accountable before God for his/her own actions and thus responsible for their own salvation. Therefore, we will not be able to rely upon anyone else, not even Jesus or Muhammad, to save us from our sins. Sins are those acts we deliberately incur by our choice of actions, we are responsible and hence personally accountable. In Islam there is no notion of redemption for one's sin by another. Each one is accountable for himself/herself [Q99:7-8] and for each person according to his/her personal striving [Q2:286] .
Jesus is ...
Jesus denied by some as a fictional character, accused of being an illegitimate child by some, misconceived as divine by many; considered as a Prophet and Messiah in Islam. People do have differing perspectives on Jesus' life and teachings, but his spiritual legacy, as a righteous and principled guide, his mission as a Prince of Peace offers an alternative opportunity for people of faith to recognize their shared religious heritage.
Allah bears testimony to the truthfulness of Jesus; his mission, character, status and his very being. "Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: a statement of truth, about which people dispute." [Q19:34].
All sincere ones would do well to reflect on the verse in the Quran reaffirming Islam's eternal message of spiritual unity: "Say: 'We believe in God and the revelation given to us and to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and message given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to all Prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and it is unto Him that we surrender ourselves." [Q2:136]