Jesus in Islam
“[Jesus] said, ‘Indeed, I am the slave of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet.’ ” Qur’an 19:30
Muslims Love Jesus
Jesus is a figure who is loved and revered by billions of people the world over, yet there is much confusion surrounding the status of this colossal personality. Islam is a religion of pure monotheism, or, in other words, the worship of The One and only true God – known as “Allah” in Arabic. Islam is also a religion of many great Prophets and Messengers, one of whom is Jesus (peace be upon him). A man highly respected and revered by two major faiths: Islam and Christianity. What does this man, Jesus, have to do with Islam? Muslims and Christians both hold Jesus in high regard but view him in very different ways. This text aims to clarify the issues surrounding Jesus: Was Jesus God, or was he sent by God? Who was the real historical Jesus?
Jesus as a Prophet & Messenger
In Judaism, Jesus (peace be upon him) is denied as the Messiah. This is in stark contrast to Christianity, where he is worshipped as a deity, or the son of God. Islam takes the middle ground and actually acknowledges Jesus as an honourable Prophet and Messenger of God, as well as the Messiah. He is neither God nor is he part of a Trinity.
“[Jesus] said, ‘Indeed, I am the slave of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet.’” Quran 19:30
Muslims view Jesus in the same way they view all Prophets of God – highly respected and loved. To disbelieve in him or any other Prophet or Messenger within Islam, such as Moses, Abraham or Muhammad (peace be upon them), takes one out of the fold of Islam. Prophets are not worshiped, because doing so is an act for God alone, since it is He who created them and all that exists.
Jesus as God or son of God
The concept of Jesus being God, or the begotten son of God is inconsistent with the old testament, the Qur’an and numerous passages within the New Testament.
Some Christians claim that “Jesus is God” or part of a trinity - that he is the incarnation of God on earth, and that God took on a human form. However, according to the Bible, Jesus was born, ate, slept, prayed and had limited knowledge – all attributes not befitting God. God has attributes of perfection whereas Man is the opposite. How can anything be two complete opposites simultaneously?
Islam teaches that God is always perfect. To believe that God became a man is to claim that God is or was (at some point in time), imperfect. A Christian must ask him/herself, does the idea of a god who was once a weak helpless child, one who could not survive without food, drink or sleep, be the same Almighty God described in the Old Testament? Surely not.
One may ask, “If God can do anything, why can’t he become a man?” By definition, God does not do ungodly acts. God does not do anything that would make Him, something other than God. If God became man and took on human attributes, he would, necessarily, no longer be God.
Some ambiguous verses of the Bible can be applied erroneously to show that Jesus is in some way divine. But if we look at the clear direct verses of the Bible, we see again and again that Jesus is being referred to as an extraordinary human being and nothing more. The Bible contains many verses in which Jesus speaks and behaves as if God is a separate being to himself. For example:
1.Jesus “fell on his face and prayed.” (Matthew 26:39) If Jesus was God, then would a God fall on his face and pray? And who would he be praying to?
1.The Bible calls Jesus a Prophet (Matthew 21:10-11), so how could Jesus be God and be God’s Prophet at the same time?
1.Jesus said, “I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than me.” (John 14:28)
1.Jesus said, “I ascend unto my Father, and your Father, and to my God, and your God.” (John 20:17) If Jesus was God, then why would he say, “to my God, and your God,” and who was he ascending to?
If Jesus was God, he would have clearly told people to worship him, and there would be clear verses in the Bible stating this; yet he did the opposite and disapproved anyone worshipping him: “And in vain they worship me.” (Matthew 15:9)
Some Christians also claim the “Jesus is son of God”, but we should ask ourselves what does this actually mean? Surly God is far removed from having a physical and literal son. Rather we find the term “son of God” is symbolically used in the earliest biblical languages for a “righteous person”, or those beloved by God. It is used throughout the old testament and new testament for many righteous people such as David, Solomon and Israel -not exclusively used for Jesus. Among them verses such as:
“. . .Israel is my first-born son,” (Exodus 4:22)
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9)
“the son of Enosh, the son of Seth, the son of Adam, the son of God” (Luke 3:38)
Is the meaning of “son” literal or metaphoric (to anyone who is righteous or beloved by God)? Jesus said: “that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. . . . Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:45-48)
For more verses in the Bible, please refer to the section titled “Jesus and the Bible” in this site.
From Qur’anic perspective, numerous verses clearly indicate, Jesus was not God, nor was he the begotten son of God, as it does not befit His Majesty to have children. Claiming that God has a son would mean to attribute human qualities and limitations to the All-Mighty, and God is far removed from such imperfection.
“He neither begets nor was He begotten” (Qur’an 112:3)
“Surely, they have disbelieved who say: ‘Allah is the Messiah, son of Mary.’ But the Messiah [i.e. Jesus] said: ‘O Children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.’” Qur’an 5:72
“It is not befitting for Allah to take a son; exalted is He! When he decrees an affair, He only says to it, ‘Be’ and it is.” Qur’an 19:35
A Christian must ask him/herself, does the idea of a god who was once a weak helpless child, one who could not survive without food, drink or sleep, be the same Omnipotent, All Mighty God described in the Old Testament? Surely not!
“And do not say, ‘Three [God is part of a trinity]’; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs what is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of Affairs.” Qur’an 4:171
As for those who continue in their blasphemy, God says: “If they desist not from their word (of blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them” Qur’an 5:73
Father and the Lord
In the same way, when the word ‘Father’ is used to refer to God it shouldn’t be taken literally. Instead, it’s a way of saying God is the creator, sustainer and supreme master of all. There are many verses for us to understand this symbolic meaning of the word ‘Father’, for example: “One God and Father of all.” (Ephesians 4:6)
Also, Jesus was sometimes called ‘Lord’ by the disciples. This term is used in the original languages of the Bible, for God as well as for people who are held in high esteem. For example, in the Greek New Testament, the term Kyrios is used for both ‘Lord’ as well as to name the owner of the vineyard (Matthew 20:8), and the master who beat the disobedient servant (Luke 20.42-47).
In other parts of the Bible, Jesus is even called a ‘servant’ of God by the disciples: “The God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus.” (Acts 3:13) This clearly shows that when ‘Lord’ is used to refer to Jesus, it is a title of respect, not of divinity.
Attempts are made to explain the complexity of the above issues of the nature of God and the nature of Jesus, which can be quite confusing or unsatisfying. However, the key point to ponder is: Why would God make it so hard to understand? How do these complicated teachings compare with the simple, clear and pure teachings of “the concept of God in Islam” (please refer to the section titled “Concept of God in Islam” in this site)?
Mary, the Mother of Jesus
Mary, the noble virgin, holds a great status within Islam and an entire chapter within the Qur’an is named after her. Allah says:
“And remember when the Angels said: ‘O’ Mary, Indeed Allah has chosen you, purified you, and chosen you from amongst all the women.’” Qur’an 3:42
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) also recalls her high status with his statement: “The best of the world’s women was Mary (at her lifetime).”
The Birth of Jesus
The Angel Gabriel was sent to Mary in the form of a man, with glad tidings of a child who was to be born miraculously without a father.
“Then We sent to her Our spirit (angel Gabriel), and he appeared before her in the form of a man in all respects. She said: ‘Surely I seek refuge from you with the Most Beneficent (God), if you do fear God.’ He said: ‘I am only a messenger of your Lord: to announce to you the gift of a righteous son.’ She said: ‘How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?’ He said, ‘Thus [it will be]’. Your Lord says, ‘It is easy for Me, and We will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter [already] decreed.’” Qur’an 19:17-21
Some claim that his miraculous birth is evidence of Jesus’ divinity. However, Jesus was not the first to come into existence without a father, as Prophet Adam (peace be upon him) before him had neither a father nor mother. God says:
“The likeness of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: ‘Be’, and he was. This is the truth from your Lord, so be not of the disputers.” Qur’an 3:59-60
Surely, if Jesus is worshipped due to having no father, Adam is more deserving of worship since he was created without either parent.
What was his message?
Jesus was sent to the Children of Israel to confirm the message of the past Prophets – to believe in the One True God (Allah). He was also taught by Allah the Books of old (i.e. the previous revelations), as God says:
“And He (Allah) will teach him the Book and the wisdom and the Torah and the Injeel (Gospel).” Qur’an 3:48
The Prophets of the Old Testament such as Abraham, Noah and Jonah never preached that God is part of a Trinity and did not believe in Jesus as their savior. Their message was simple: there is one God and He alone deserves your worship. It is not logical for God to send Prophets for thousands of years with the same essential message, only to suddenly change it, claim that He is now a part of a trinity, and to stipulate the belief in the divinity of Jesus to be saved.
The truth is, Jesus preached the same message as all the Prophets in the Old Testament. There is a passage in the Bible that really emphasizes this core message. A man came to Jesus and asked, “Which is the first commandment of all?” Jesus answered, “The first of all the commandments is, ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.’“(Mark 12:28-29) So, the greatest commandment, the most important belief according to Jesus, is that God is one. If Jesus was God he would have said, ‘I am God, worship me.’ Instead, he merely repeated a verse from the Old Testament confirming that God is One.
This aligns with the mission of Jesus, as taught in Islam, where Jesus was sent to the Children of Israel to confirm the message of the past Prophets – to believe in the One True God.
“And when Jesus came with (Our) clear Proofs, he said: ‘I have come to you with the wisdom, and in order to make clear to you some of the points in which you differ, therefore fear Allah and obey me. Verily, Allah! He is my Lord and your Lord. So worship Him alone. This is the only Straight Path.’” Qur’an 43:63-64
As an honorable obedient Messenger of God, Jesus submitted willingly to God’s commands. As such, he was a “Muslim” – one who submits to the will and commandments of God.
The Miracles of Jesus
Jesus performed great miracles by the will and permission of God. One of his greatest miracles was that he was conceived with no father. He also spoke as a baby in the cradle to defend his mother against the children of Israel who accused her of fornication.
“He (Jesus) will speak to the people in the cradle and in manhood, and he will be one of the righteous.” Qur’an 3:46
Jesus also gave life to the dead, cured the leper and the blind, all by the will of God:
“Indeed, I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, that I design for you out of clay like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird with God’s permission; and I heal the blind and the leper, and bring the dead to life with God’s permission and I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses; most surely there is a sign in this for you, if you are believers.” Qur’an 3.49
The fact that Jesus (peace be upon him) performed miracles does not mean that he was anything more than a humble servant of God (Allah) and His Messenger. In fact, many Messengers performed miracles, including Noah, Moses and Muhammad (may peace be upon them all) and these miracles only took place by the permission of Allah, so as to prove the authenticity of the Messenger.
Crucifixion or Cruci-fiction?
The Islamic perspective is that Jesus was not crucified, but rather raised up to the heavens. This point is further clarified in the following verses of the Qur’an:
“[The Jews] killed him not, nor crucified him, but the resemblance of Jesus was put over another man (and they killed that 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 Allah raised him (Jesus) up (with his body and soul) unto Himself. And Allah is Ever All-Powerful, All-Wise.” Qur’an 4:157-158
The Return of Jesus
Muslims believe that Jesus will reappear before the Hour, i.e. Day of Judgement, and descend back to earth. God says:
“And he (Jesus, i.e. his descent to earth) shall be a known sign for the coming of the Hour (Day of Judgement).” Qur’an 43:61
He will descend as a Muslim (one who submits to God’s laws) and call others to Islam, rejecting those who took him as other than a servant and Messenger of the One True God. Jesus was born, will return and die, as a Muslim.
Muslims view Jesus in the same way they view all Prophets of God. They respect and love him dearly, however, they do not worship him, as worship is for God alone who created him and everything that exists. Jesus is not god, nor is he the son of god, nor is he three entities in one.
Jesus was as an honorable Prophet sent by God to call to the worship of God alone. This is evident in the Bible and confirmed by the Qur’an. The Islamic belief about Jesus explains who the real Jesus was, whilst maintaining the pure belief about God and His complete Greatness, Uniqueness and Perfection. We invite you to look further and investigate Islam. It is not just another religion. It is the same message preached by Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad – may peace be upon all of them. Islam means ‘submission to God’ and is a natural and complete way of life that encourages one to give due attention to their relationship with God and His creation. Islam teaches that God is the All-Just and All-Merciful and does not need to sacrifice himself to forgive sins nor is anyone “born into sin”. God judges everyone based on their own deeds and everyone is accountable for their own actions.
Islam teaches us to love and respect all the Prophets of God, but loving and respecting them does not mean worshipping them because worship is due only to God. Acknowledging Jesus as a Prophet of God and becoming a Muslim does not mean changing or losing one’s faith. It is about going back to the original and pure teachings of Jesus.