Jesus Christ: A Prophet of Islam

Islam, as the religion that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him), is younger than Judaism and Christianity. It perceives it self as the completion of the line of prophecy both in message and person; humanity was ready for the final revelation and final prophet. Islam is inclusive and, therefore, the Islamic creed would be incomplete without believing in all the prophets who were mentioned in the Qur’an, including those of the Children of Israel. The essential monotheistic messages that were revealed before Islam are also included in what a Muslim believes “Say: We believe in Allah and what has been revealed to us, and what was revealed to Abraham and Ishmael and Isaac and Jacob and the tribes, and what was given to Moses and Jesus and the prophets from their Lord; we do not make any distinction between any of them and to Him do we submit.” Qur’an, 3:84[1] It is no wonder that Paul Schwarzenau, in Korankunde für Christen, referred to the Qur’an as an ecumenical revelation.[2] Compatible with Schwarzenau’s idea, is the Islamic paradigm for convivencia amongst the children of Abraham and beyond.

This could be done while consciously celebrating the right to be different. This paradigm could not be found elsewhere; it would be anachronistic to claim so. It is for this reason that I advocate an Islamic theology of soft-otherness, for the Jew or the Christian is not totally other for the Muslim. Nevertheless, the Islamic worldview presents theological and historical narratives that are different from the position that evolved and became dominant in Christianity, and from the essential Jewish position regarding Jesus Christ (Peace be upon him). While the paper is critical of their theological positions, this does not reflect in any way a less than perfect love on the part of the author towards Jesus Christ himself. This is a matter of faith. A Family Profile: Al `Imran, Mary and Jesu From the beginning of life on earth, divine guidance was bestowed on humanity through the agency of the prophets. The monotheistic message formed the core of revelation; whenever it suffered from change (ex. human editing) it was reconfirmed through a new prophet and revelation. This process continued until humanity was ready for a final universal revelation in the form of the Qur’an. From an Islamic perspective, all the prophets, from Adam to Muhammad (Peace be upon them), are prophets of Islam. Jesus Christ was one of them and came before Prophet Muhammad, the Seal of the Prophets.[3] Jesus Christ’s story in the Qur’an begins with the positioning of his maternal lineage[4], the family of `Imran, within the family of prophets: “Allah did choose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of `Imran above all people- Offspring, one of the other; and Allah hears and knows all things.” Qur’an, 3: 33-34 The family of `Imran goes back to Adam through the family of Abraham (including the children of Ishmael and Issac) and Noah. It is as if there was a fourth spiritual stage for humanity. There is a sense of spiritual elation that paves the way for the emergence of Jesus Christ. This impeccable family background begins with his maternal grandmother dedicating her daughter Mary (Peace be upon her), while still in her womb thinking that she was a male, to the service of Allah: “Behold! A woman of `Imran said: “O my Lord! I do dedicate unto Thee what is in my womb for Thy special service: so accept this of me: for Thou hearest and knowest all things. When she was delivered, she said: “O my Lord! Behold! I am delivered of a female child!”…Qur’an, 3:36 Her mother named her Mary (Mariam) and asked Allah SWT to protect her and her offspring from Satan. Allah SWT accepted her in a unique way: “Right graciously did her Lord accept her; He made her grow in purity and beauty…” Qur’an, 3:37 Prophet Zachariah Takes Care of Mary: Mary became an orphan as a child and many people competed to take care of her. It reached the stage that they had to cast their lots: “…You were not with them when they cast lots with their “pens”, as to which of them should be charged with the care of Mary; nor were you with them when they disputed [this issue].” Qur’an, 3: 44 “To the care of Zachariah was she assigned” but the surprise was that whenever he went to check on her, to take care of her and to bring her provisions, as her guardian, he was surprised to find out that divine intervention took care of her miraculously: “…Every time that he entered the niche [where she worships] to see her, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said: “O Mary! Whence [comes] this to you?” She said: “From Allah: for Allah provides sustenance to whom He pleases, without measure.” Qur’an, 3:38 Mary’s answer made Zachariah conscientious of Allah’s Omnipotence. He seized that moment, which was full with spirituality, to make a supplication to Allah SWT. Zakariya’s wife was barren and he prayed for offspring! The answer came very quickly with good tidings: “O Zachariah! We give you good news of a son: his name shall be Yahya: on none by that name have We conferred distinction before.” Qur’an, 19: 7 Yahya, or John the Baptist as known in English, was a prophet, like his father: “O Yahya! Take hold of the Book with might”: And We gave him Wisdom even as a youth.” Qur’an, 19: 12 Prophet Muhammad referred to Jesus and Yahya, in the story of the Ascension (Al-Mi`raj), as the “maternal cousins” (Ibna Al-Khalah).[5] The Qur’an did not say much about Yahya’s life. He was described as being “noble, chaste, and a prophet”.[6] His vocation as a prophet must have rendered support to Jesus Christ. Mary and Jesus: No Divinization: It is no wonder that the Qur’an declares that Mary was chosen over all women of earth. Through divine acceptance, she reached a very high spiritual rank, for she was prepared for a great role that surpasses human imagination: “Behold! The angels said: “O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee and purified thee- chosen thee above the women of all nations. O Mary! Worship thy Lord devoutly: prostrate thyself, and bow down [in prayer] with those who bow down.” Qur’an, 3:42-43 No other woman was mentioned in the Qur’an by name except Mary and no woman was praised and distinguished like her. According to Ibn Hazm, Mary was a prophetess, because she received revelation. This position, albeit being in the minority amongst Muslim scholars, reflects the very high status that Mary was accorded. Nevertheless, like all other human beings, she was ordered to worship her Lord, Allah SWT, for how could one think otherwise? The Qur’an inculcates a deep respect for Mary and her son, but never places them above humanity. To the contrary, the Qur’an stresses their very humanity “Christ, the son of Mary, was no more than a Messenger; many were the Messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had to eat food [to subsist]. See how Allah does make His Signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth!” Qur’an, 5: 75 This verse is part of an anti-Trinity Qur’anic critique: “They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for there is no god except One God. If they desist not from their word [of blasphemy], verily a grievous punishment will befall the blasphemers among them.” Qur’an, 5: 73 Because of the de facto divinization of Mary and the formal divinization of Jesus Christ, Allah SWT asks Jesus a rhetorical question: “And behold! Allah will say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Did you say unto people, ‘Worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of Allah?” He will say: “Glory to You! Never could I say what I had no right [to say]. Had I said such a thing, You would indeed have known it. You know what is in my heart, though I know not what is in Yours. For You know in full all that is hidden. Never said I to them aught except what You did command me to say, to wit, ‘Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord’…” Qur’an, 5: 116-11 The words of Jesus are those of a mortal with limited knowledge and a real servant who recognizes the Omniscient Lord. He submitted to Allah SWT and conveyed the message to his people. There are additional Qur’anic verses that reject all polytheistic theologies. While it is beyond the scope of this paper to enumerate all of them, few representative verses will further highlight the Tawhidic narrative. The first example is a very short chapter dedicated to the confirmation of the oneness of Allah SWT, and the rejection of any organic relationship with His creation “Say: “Allah is Unique [in His Oneness]! Allah, the Source [of everything]. He has not fathered anyone nor was He fathered, and there is nothing comparable to Him!” Qur’an, Chapter 112 This is probably the second most recited chapter in the Qur’an after the Opening chapter (i.e. Al-Fatiha), the recitation of which is imperative during the five daily prayers. Also, chapter 112 is featured in Dhikr.[7] This is translated in the life of the religious Muslim into hundreds, if not thousands, of recitations every year of verses the content of which has anti-Trinitarian content. This is deeply inculcated in the psyche of the Muslims. While the language of this chapter is general, I have never failed to remember, as a background, the Christian narrative about the Sonship of Jesus Muslims understand the “Son of God” literally; it is a physical relationship that presupposes a female companion to God, and that this son is the fruit of the relationship. The Islamic theological narrative about Jesus Christ does not allow room for a metaphorical or symbolic “Sonship”. The end of the chapter of Mary includes a very critical account of the idea of Sonship which is addressed in general language. Nevertheless, it is understood in this context to be a reference to the claim that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. The Qur’anic narrative reflects how grave this claim is “They say: “[Allah] Most Gracious has begotten a son! Indeed you have put forth a thing most monstrous! As if the skies are ready to burst, the earth to split asunder, and the mountains to fall down in utter ruin. That they should invoke a son for [Allah] Most Gracious. For it is not consonant with the majesty of [Allah] Most Gracious that He should beget a son. Not one of the beings in the heavens and the earth but must come to [Allah] Most Gracious as a servant.” Qur’an, 19: 88-9 Furthermore, Jesus Christ’s humanity is emphasized every time he is called the “son of Mary”[8], or when he is described as a “servant”[9] who is a recipient of Allah’s favors and as a prophet whose vocation is to call the people to worship the only Lord that exists: “..fear Allah and obey me. For Allah, He is my Lord and your Lord: so worship ye Him: this is a straight way.” Qur’an, 43:64 The miraculous and fatherless birth of Jesus Christ is not a valid reason to raise him to a status above that of a normal human being. The Qur’an uses the story of Adam, who was created without a father or a mother, to illustrate the humanity of Jesus Christ. Being created without a father reflects the Omnipotence of Allah, rather than the divinity of the created: “The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, and then said to him: “Be”: and he was.” Qur’an, 3: 59 In essence, all creation came into existence through “Be”: “Verily, when He wills a thing, His Command is, “Be”, and it is!” Qur’an, 36: 82 Allah SWT is absolutely distinguished from His creation. There are no grey areas; all that which is limited to space-time relationships, all that which is historical, all that which exists here and now is different from Him: “…there is nothing whatever like unto Him…” Qur’an, 42:1 Every being, no matter how high this being ranks in the order of the created, remains in a state of otherness in relationship to Allah SWT. Yes, Jesus Christ came into existence miraculously, and he ranks high among the prophets and messengers, yet he remains a human being in every respect. The nature of Jesus Christ is summarized in the following verses that form a reminder to the Christians, and everyone else: “O People of the Book! Commit no excess in your religion: nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was [no more than] a Messenger of Allah, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary, and a Spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His Messengers. Say not “Trinity”: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is One God: Glory be to Him: [Far exalted is He] above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs. Christ does not disdain to serve and worship Allah…” Qur’an, 4:171-172 There are numerous other verses that condemn those who say, because of the Trinity, that Jesus is God: “They do blaspheme who say: “Allah is Christ the son of Mary.” But said Christ: “O Children of Israel! Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.” Whoever joins other gods with Allah- Allah will forbid him the Garden, and the Fire will be for the wrongdoers. There will be no one to help. They do blaspheme who say Allah is one of three in a Trinity for there is no god except One God…” Qur’an, 5:72-73 The last verse rejects the Trinity construct and considers it blasphemous. All three “persons” of the Trinity do exist in the Qur’an independently. Allah SWT is different from both, the Spirit of the Holy[10] (i.e. the Archangel Gabriel) and Jesus Christ. Allah SWT is the Creator, and the other two are creatures, accidentals, that are dependent in their existence on Allah SWT. It is He who strengthened and supported Jesus Christ through the Spirit of the Holy “Those Messengers We endowed with gifts, some above others: To one of them Allah spoke; others He raised to degrees [of honor]; to Jesus the son of Mary, We gave clear [Signs], and strengthened him with the Spirit of the Holy.” Qur’an, 2: 253 The language of the verse leaves no room for speculation about the inequality of the three; Jesus Christ needed help, the Spirit of the Holy was used to render support to Jesus, and all took place at the Will of Allah SWT The gap between the Islamic monotheism and Christian Trinitarian theology cannot be bridged. This could explain the following Qur’anic call “Say” “O People of the Book! Come to common terms as between us and you: that we worship none but Allah; that we associate no partners with Him; that we erect not, from among ourselves, lords and patrons other than Allah.” If then they turn their back, say ye: “Bear witness that we (at least) are Muslims (bowing to Allah’s will).” Qur’an, 3:64 Today, there is a prominent Christian theological trend represented by Hans Küng. He realized “how great the distance is between the original statements about Father, Son and Spirit and the later dogmatic Church teachings on Trinity”. To solve the problem, he came up with a new definition of the Trinity where it becomes “God’s revelation in Jesus Christ through the Spirit”, and where Jesus being “chosen and authorized by God.” Murad Hofmann commented on Küng’s theology, he said “If the real intention of this Christology is to say that Jesus is neither begotten by God nor that he is consubstantial with him, and that God’s spirit does not represent a divine person, then it is Muslim and confirms the statement that ‘Muslims are the better Christians’- and, incidentally, the older Christians. Only in the Qur’an has the Christology of the Jewish Christians, as rediscovered by Küng remained pure.”[11] The Miraculous Pregnancy: In a chapter of the Qur’an that was named after her (i.e. Maryam), Mary is portrayed as a very pious woman who dedicated her time to worship Allah SWT. Indeed, she chose to do so in seclusion out of piety. It is there that the Angel appeared before her in order to reveal to her the news about bearing a child without ever knowing a man: “Relate in the Book [the story of] Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East. She placed a screen [to screen herself] from them; then We sent to her Our angel, and he appeared to her as a man in all resects.” Qur’an, 19: 16-17 The sudden appearance of the angel before her, in the form of a man, was not welcomed! Any woman in her status would have rejected his presence. As a pious woman, she sought refuge in Allah SWT, for she expected evil: “She said: “I seek refuge from thee to [Allah] Most Gracious: [come not near] if you do fear Allah.” Qur’an, 19: 18 The mission and nature of this “man” was revealed to her; it was time to tell her about her own mission in carrying the Word of Allah, a Sign and challenge for humanity: “He said: “Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord, to announce to thee the gift of a [spiritually] purified son.” Qur’an, 19: 19 First, Mary had to go through the sudden presence of the angel in her isolated spot where she worships Allah SWT, and now the news of conceiving a son! The news must have had a tremendous psychological impact on her. One can easily detect the initial rejection: “She said: “How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?” Qur’an, 19: 20 Yet, the angel made clear that it was divine decree, and that the only way forward was submission to His will: “He said: “So [it will be] thy Lord saith, ‘That is easy for Me: and [We wish] to appoint him as a Sign unto people and a Mercy from Us’: it is a matter [so] decreed.” Qur’an, 19: 21 The essence of this message was repeated in the chapter of Al `Imran, where the angels give glad tidings of a “Word” from Allah, and that his name will be “Christ Jesus son of Mary”. He will be held in honor in both worlds and that he will speak to people in the cradle and as a mature person. In addition, Allah SWT will teach him the “Book and Wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel.” [12] Within the same context, Mary confirms her piety as a state that contradicts the notion of carrying a son without knowing a man. The answer stressed Allah’s Omnipotence; He created the laws of nature but is not bound by them “…Allah creates what He wills: when He has decreed a Plan, He but says to it, ‘Be’ and it is!” Qur’an, 3: 47 Mary conceived him and she went to a remote place where she went through labor. Here she wished the whole story did not happen, for it is one thing to be pregnant and it is another to carry the child home. This happening to a well-known pious single woman was too much to handle; she wished she was dead: “So she conceived him, and she retired with him to a remote place. And childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree: she said [in her anguish]: ‘Ah! Would that I had died before this! Would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!” Qur’an, 19: 22-23 Yet there was a voice that tried to console her during these difficult times: “But he cried to her from beneath her: “Grieve not! For thy Lord had provided a rivulet beneath thee; And shake towards yourself the trunk of the palm tree; it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon you. So eat and drink and cool your eye. And if you do see any human being, say: ‘I have vowed a fast to [Allah] Most Gracious, and this day will I enter into no talk with any human being.'” Qur’an, 19: 24-26 Whose voice was it? Muslim scholars differed on the source of the voice. Ibn Kathir (d.774 AH) stated that Ibn Abbas’ [companion and cousin of Prophet Muhammad] said the voice came from [the archangel] Gabriel, because Jesus did not speak until Mary reached her family. Also, this position was adopted by Sa`eed Ibn Jubair, Al-Dahhak, `Amr Ibn Maimun, Al-Sadi and Qatadah that it was the angel Gabriel, peace be upon him, meaning that he called her from the bottom of the valley. The other position is reflected by Mujahid who said that it was Jesus son of Mary who spoke to her.[13] If it where the angel who spoke to Mary, the narrative would form simply a continuation of the message of support. This, however, poses a different problem; it means that the angel stayed there through out the pregnancy, for there are no indications of any interruptions of his stay. One can note that verse 22 was the first verse to state that Mary became pregnant, verse 23 she went through labor, and the voice in verse 24. Some Muslim scholars spoke of a miraculous short term pregnancy, yet there is nothing to substantiate this from the Qur’an. In addition, the Qur’an already stated that after the conception she retired to a “remote place” (19:22). This remoteness is relative to the place where the conception took place; it could be interpreted also as an end to the particular mission of the angel, leaving Mary alone. At any rate, those who said it was the voice of the angel, they positioned him at the bottom of the valley. This understanding presupposes the inappropriate presence of the angel, since he had the form of a man, in the immediate place where she delivered her son, and that this place is high; no name of the place was given “And We made the son of Mary and his mother as a sign: We gave them both shelter on high ground, affording rest and security and furnished with springs.” Qur’an, 23:50 Note in the above verse that Allah SWT is rendering support to Mary and her son, and that the agency of the angel is absent. This understanding provides support to the second position. If it where the voice of baby Jesus, it would simply be the beginning of his support to his mother; this would have given her courage to take him to her family. Once her family exclaimed about the baby, he came to her rescue, for if she were left on her own, no one will believe her: “At length she brought the [babe] to her people, carrying him [in her arms]. They said: “O Mary! Truly an amazing thing you have brought! O sister of Aaron![14] Your father was not a man of evil, nor your mother a woman unchaste! But she pointed to him. They said: “How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?” He said: “I am indeed a servant of Allah: He [revealed] to me the Book and made me a prophet; And he made me blessed wheresoever I be, and enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live: And [He] made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable; So Peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life [again].” Qur’an, 19: 27-32 A tradition of Prophet Muhammad adds another attribute of Jesus Christ that attests to his special status: Abu Hurayrah (May Allah be pleased with him) narrated that the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) said: “There is no newly born except that [at the moment of birth] Satan disturbs him, so he begins to cry from Satan’s disturbance with the exception of the son of Mary and his mother.” Then Abu Hurayrah added: Recite if you will [the supplication of Mary’s mother in the Qur’an, 3:37]: “…And I commend her and her offspring to Thy protection from Satan, the Accursed one.” [15] The overall picture was summed up in the chapter Al-Tahrim in a context that considered her as a spiritual raw model. Each of two women, the wife of the Pharaoh and Mary, was presented “as an example for those who believe”: “And Mary the daughter of `Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into [her body] of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of his Revelations, and was one of the devout [servants].” Qur’an, 66:12 One can reflect on the beauty of fourteen hundred years of Islamic literature that reflect the message of the Qur’an and the Sunnah vis-à-vis Mary. Muslim scholars through out the ages held Mary in high esteem and never doubted her chastity. The Islamic position reflects the truth about her; she was a very pious woman whom Allah SWT accepted. She was chaste and carried Jesus miraculously without a father. There are two non-Muslim extreme positions regarding Mary. The first group considered her the God-bearing (theotokos) Mary, the “Mother of God” and began praying to her. The second group went to extremes in the opposite direction where Mary is accused of being unchaste and that Jesus Christ is the fruit of adultery. According to The Jewish Encyclopedia[16], the word ‘mamzer’ (=Hebrew for bastard) was applied to Jesus. This latter group, according to the Qur’an, is from amongst the “People of the Book” who “worshipped the calf” (Qur’an, 4:153), were commanded to “transgress not in the matter of the Sabbath”(Qur’an, 4:154), who “broke their Covenant…slew the Messengers in defiance of right” (Qur’an, 4: 155) and: “That they rejected Faith; that they uttered against Mary a grave false charge.” Qur’an, 4: 15 After the encounter between Mary and her family, and the miraculous speech of baby Jesus Christ in defense of his mother, the Qur’an does not provide other details about his childhood. He reemerged in the Qur’anic narrative as an adult prophet preaching the word of Allah SWT and performing miracles in support of his vocation as a Messenger. The Gospel (Al-Injil): Allah SWT, out of His Mercy, never left humanity without guidance. This why He sent one messenger after another and sometimes there was more than one messenger or prophet. There are four revealed books that were mentioned by name in the Qur’an; other than the latter they include the Torah of Moses, the Zabur of David and the Injil of Jesus. After mentioning Noah, Abraham and that there were prophets amongst their offspring, there appears Jesus Christ as a continuum of the line of prophecy: “Then, in their wake, We followed them up with [others of] Our messengers: We sent after them Jesus the son of Mary, and bestowed on him the Gospel…” Qur’an, 57:27 The relationship between the Gospel (=Injil, which is always mentioned in the singular in the Qur’an)[17] that Jesus received and the Torah can be illustrated through the following verse which appears in a context that mentions some of the laws of the Torah, Jews’ relationship to it and that it is imperative to judge according to revelation: “And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah. Let the People of the Gospel judge by what Allah had revealed therein…” Qur’an, 5: 46-47 As a messenger to the Children of Israel, Jesus Christ stated that, in addition to the Signs that he brought to them from their Lord, he came to them in order to confirm the Torah which was before him. Yet, vis-à-vis the Law, he addressed them by saying: “And to make lawful to you part of what was [before] forbidden to you…” Qur’an, 3:50 The confirmation of the previous message means a confirmation of the theology of Tawhid. It is simply attesting to the oneness of Allah, a message that was brought by every prophet: “For We assuredly sent amongst every people a messenger, [with the command], “Serve Allah and eschew Evil…” Qur’an, 16:36 Some of the content of the Gospel, other than the confirmation of Tawhid and the relationship to the Torah and the Mosaic Law, was revealed in the Qur’an. One of the most remarkable messages was a prophecy about the coming of Prophet Muhammad: “Those who follow the Messenger, the unlettered (Ummiyy) Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own [Scriptures], in the Torah and the Gospel…” Qur’an, 7:157 The same message was confirmed in another Qur’anic narrative: “And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: “O Children of Israel! I am the messenger of Allah [sent] to you, confirming the Torah [which came] before me, and giving Glad Tidings of a Messenger to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad…” Qur’an, 61:6 This particular verse inspired many Muslim scholars to explore the Gospels and the Torah. Numerous books were written throughout Islamic history on this subject. As an example, they saw verses such as Deuteronomy 18:18[18] as a reference to Prophet Muhammad rather than Jesus. There is a very important correlation between “from their brethren” (Deut. 18:18) and the “unlettered” adjective in Qur’an, 7:157. To begin with the latter, “unlettered” is a very popular translation, which is indeed an interpretation, of ‘Ummiyy’, the original word in Arabic. Once it is mentioned, ‘Ummiyy’ denotes illiteracy. Prophet Muhammad was indeed unlettered but there is another meaning that was ignored: “Among the People of the Book are some who, if entrusted with a hoard of gold, will [readily] pay it back; others amongst them, who if entrusted with a single silver coin, will not repay it unless you constantly stood demanding, because they say, “there is no call on us [to keep faith] with these Gentiles (Ummiyyin = pl. of Ummiyy)…” Qur’an, 3:75 The Arabs were mostly illiterate at the time the Qur’an was revealed, but it cannot be a reference to illiteracy in this verse, for it would include the illiterate Jew. A prophet was expected, but he was expected to come from the line of Isaac, not Ishmael. Here I invoke the phrase “from their brethren” (Deut. 18:18). If the prophecy were about someone from their brothers, he would have been from the line of Isaac, or more precisely, from the line of Jacob because Esau was also excluded from the picture through deception! “From their brethren” would be the descendants of Abraham through his son Ishmael. Essentially, the People of the Book rejected Prophet Muhammad because he was a non-Israelite Prophet. Considering the etymology of Ahmad, there is a prophecy in Haggai, ii, 7 that corresponds to Qur’an, 61:6 “And I will shake all nations, and the desire of all nations will come” The original Hebrew word for desire is himda. The word ‘desire’ is so general that it could be applied to any prophet. Himda on the other hand has the same three consonants identical with Ahmad (h-m-d). The name Jesus Christ, for example, does not have any shared consonant with himda. Abdul-Ahad Dawud, formerly David Keldani, a priest of the Uniate-Chaldean sect, had the following to say: “The Gospel of St. John, being written in Greek, uses the name Paracletos, a barbarous form unknown to classical Greek literature. But Periclytos, which corresponds exactly with Ahmad in its signification of “illustrious,” “glorious” and “praised,” in its superlative degree, must have been the translation into Greek of Himda or probably Hemida of the Aramaic form, as uttered by Jesus Christ. Alas, there is no Gospel extant in the original language spoken by Jesus!”[19] The Miracles: The miracles in the Qur’an are out of the ordinary events that take place at the hands of a prophet to support him in his vocation. It is Allah SWT who enables the prophet to perform the miracle by His leave or directly He interferes in history and allows the miracle to take place. The miracle, or rather Sign (ayah) in the language of the Qur’an, points in the direction of Allah, the Omnipotent, and not in direction of the prophet has no control over its course. Jesus Christ was no different; he was allowed several miracles. In addition to being a Sign himself, being the Word of God, and not God the Word, Jesus Christ had the following miracles: “Then will Allah say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount my favor to you and to your mother. Behold! I strengthened thee with the spirit of the holy, so that you did speak to the people in infancy and in maturity. Behold! I taught you the Book and Wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel. And behold! You did make out of clay, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and you did breath into it, and it became a bird by My leave, and you did heal those born blind, and the lepers, by My leave. And behold! You did bring forth the dead by My leave. And behold! I did restrain the Children of Israel from [harming] you when you showed them the Clear Signs, and the unbelievers among them said: “This is nothing but evident magic.” Qur’an, 5: 110 There are other miracles that took place at the hands of Jesus Christ. He informed the Children of Israel about things that they have done or kept in the privacy of their homes: “…And I declare to you what you eat, and what you store in your houses. Surely, therein is a Sign for you if you did believe.” Qur’an, 3:49 One other remarkable miracle that took place upon a request from Jesus Christ’s Disciples (Al-Hawariyyun) was the Table with food that was sent down from heavens. Jesus Christ warned them against such a demand and asked them to fear Allah. They, on the other hand, wanted this Table as an assurance that Jesus told them the truth. Jesus, then, made the following supplication: “Jesus the son of Mary Said: “O Allah our Lord! Send us from heaven a Table set [with viands], that there may be for us-for the first and the last of us- a solemn festival and a Sign from You; and provide for our sustenance, for You are the best Sustainer [of our needs].” Allah Said: “I will send it down unto you…” Qur’an, 5:114-115 This last verse came with a warning, for those who witness a miracle like this and eat from it are expected to be true believers through and through. No names are mentioned of those Disciples, but their emergence as a group took place in a context in which Jesus Christ sensed animosity towards his message from the Children of Israel: “When Jesus found unbelief on their part he said: Who will be my helpers [to the work of] Allah?” The Disciples said: “We are Allah’s helpers: we believe in Allah, and you bear witness that we are Muslims.” Qur’am, 3:52 The “Crucifixion”! Jesus Christ was sent to the Children of Israel. Some of them believed in his prophethood and the rest were unbelievers. At one point, they plotted against him (Qur’an, 3:54). They forgot that they were dealing with Allah SWT who saved His servant miraculously: “Behold! Allah said: “O Jesus! I will cause you to die (mutawaffika)[20] and raise you to Myself and clear you [of the falsehoods] of those who blaspheme…” Qur’an, 3:55 Those who plotted against Jesus Christ, the High Priest and the Sanhedrin, were convinced that their scheme was fulfilled and that Jesus was crucified. They were not aware of a divine plan that saved him: “An that they said [in boast], “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”-but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no certain knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for a surety they killed him no- Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.” Qur’an, 4: 157 Several legends emerged in the attempt to interpret this verse. “But so it was made to appear to them,” sparked human imagination. Muhammad Assad in his commentary on the crucifixion story said that “the Qur’an categorically denies the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. There exist, among Muslims, many fanciful legends telling us that at the last moment God substituted for Jesus a person closely resembling him (according to some accounts, that person was Judas) who was subsequently crucified in his place. However, none of these legends finds the slightest support in the Qur’an or authentic Traditions, and the stories produced in this connection by the classical commentators must be summarily rejected. They represent no more than confused attempts at “harmonizing” the Qur’anic statement that Jesus was not crucified with the graphic description, in the Gospels, of his crucifixion.”[21] Another aspect associated with the story of the crucifixion in Christianity is the idea of salvation. The Islamic worldview allows room for repentance throughout the life of the human being. Every human being is born with a clear record; there is no concept of Original Sin, and Eve is not responsible for the fall in the Qur’an.[22] Every human being is responsible for her deeds and repentance is a direct relationship with Allah, the Forgiver (Al-Tawwab). That no one is responsible for what others are committing is a recurrent theme in the Qur’an[23] “…Every soul draws the meed of its acts on none but itself: no bearer of burdens can bear the burden of another…” Qur’an, 6:164 In addition, the Islamic worldview vis-à-vis the Original Sin construct is in line with Deut. 24:16; both of them differentiate between the responsibility of parents and children. [24] The fact that Jesus Christ was not crucified and that he was raised to Allah SWT does not mean that he is not mortal. He was destined, like other human beings, to be born, to die and to be resurrected “So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the Day that I shall be raised up to life [again].” Qur’an, 19:33 The Second Coming: It might be helpful at the beginning of this section to affirm that there are no direct references in the Qur’an to the second coming of Jesus Christ (Peace be upon him). In the best scenario, we talk about the interpretation of some verses in the light of many traditions that confirm the second coming. On the other hand, there are contemporary scholars who did not venture beyond what the Qur’an says. The belief in the Qur’an does not mean a belief in the interpretation of any scholar in particular. Muslims never adopted any book of exegesis and Muslim scholars have always kept a healthy distance from such a position. In addition, Islamic scholarship is a decentralized activity, whereby any scholar has the freedom to get involved in Qur’anic exegesis. This decentralization kept the interpretation of the Qur’an a lively and thriving academic field. Yet, it allowed a plethora of opinions that could not be substantiated always through the Islamic sources. The Hadith part is also a very sophisticated field. The Sunnah of Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) is a manifestation of the Qur’an itself in the life of the Prophet. It also explains and augments the message of the Qur’an. Nevertheless, despite a very deep respect and acceptance of certain compendia of Hadith, such as Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, there are challenges and there is no consensus about accepting the compendia in toto. If the Hadith is authentic, and has limited independent chains of narrators, such as one or two independent chains of narrators (i.e. Ãhãd), there are two different positions regarding the inclusion of such Hadith in Islamic faith. While there are those who would accept the Ãhãd tradition, in matters of faith, there are those who reject it; they would include it in practical juridical matters only. The multiple chains of narrators are described as Mutawãtir. The latter category could indicate multiple confirmation of the whole text (i.e. the wording) of the Hadith or a confirmation of its message, with the wording being different, or even including other issues or details that are not part of every Hadith. The first is described as Mutawãtir Lafzan, and the second as Mutawãtir Ma`nan Raising Jesus Christ from amongst his people brought the first chapter of Jesus Christ’s life to its completion. The Qur’an did not provide details about what is next except for couple of verses such as the following: “And [Jesus] shall be a Sign [for the coming of] the Hour [of Judgment]…” Qur’an, 43:61 This verse could be interpreted in three ways. The first depends on transliterating the first Arabic word in the verse. The first word in Arabic is wainnahu; it comprises three words: “wa” is “and”, “inna” is “verily” and “hu” is a suffixed pronoun. The pronoun in Arabic is the equivalent of “he” in English, and in the absence of “it”, this pronoun could refer to Jesus, for the whole context is about him, or, according to Al-Hassan Al-Basri and Sa`eed Ibn Jubayr, the pronoun refers to the Qur’an itself The other two interpretations are concerned with Jesus Christ. One of them is the position of Ibn Ishaq; he considers the miracles themselves that Jesus performed to be the Sign for the Hour. Bringing the dead back to life is a reminder of what will be the case on the Day of Judgment The last position speaks directly about a second return of Jesus Christ and that this return is an indication of the end of time. This is the position of Mujahid. In addition, Ibn Kathir attributed this position, using indirect speech which weakens the report, to Abu Hurayrah, Ibn `Abbas, Abu Al-`Aliyah, Abu Malik, `Ikrimah, Al-Hassan, Qatadah and Ad-Dahhak. Some of them are scholars from amongst the companions of the prophet and the rest are second generation. Ibn Kathir, furthermore, stated that there are numerous traditions of the Prophet that speak about Jesus descending before the Day of Judgment, and that Jesus will be a just leader and a fair ruler.[25] These traditions reflect a new role for Jesus Christ that he did not experience before; he will fulfill a role of a community leader who implements Islam: Abu Hurarya narrated that Allah’s Messenger (Peace be upon him) said: “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, surely [Jesus,] the son of Mary will soon descend amongst you and will judge mankind justly [as a Just Ruler]; he will break the Cross and kill the pigs and there will be no Jizya (i.e. taxation taken from non-Muslims). Money will be in abundance so that nobody will accept it, and a single prostration to Allah [in prayer] will be better than the whole world and whatever is in it.” Abu Huraira added: “If you wish, you can recite [this verse of the Qur’an]: “And there is none of the People of the Book [Jews and Christians] but must believe in him [i.e. Jesus as an Apostle of Allah and a human being] before his death. And on the Day of Judgment he will be a witness against them [if they do not believe].”[26] Qur’an, 4:159 Breaking the Cross is a metaphor for deconstructing post-revelational Christian theology, which took a sharp turn at the first council of Nicaea in 325 CE. Greek philosophy and culture, especially neo-Platonism, greatly influenced Christian theology, moving it further away from the original monotheism message; the New Testament preached nothing about a trinity of three eternal persons. Killing the pig, on the other hand, is a metaphor for reinstituting the Law (i.e. Shari`ah). Other traditions provide additional details. These include Jesus landing in Damascus, and that he will kill the anti-Christ, the false Messiah (Al-Massih Al-Dajjal), near Lydda (Lod, in Palestine).[27] The prominent scholars who stated that the traditions that report Jesus Christ’s second coming, reached the level of being Mutawãtir include Mahmoud Al-Alousiyy in his Ruh Al-Ma`ani; he stated that these traditions could have reached (la`allaha balaghat) the Mutawãtir Ma`nan. Moreover, a prominent scholar of Hadith, Ibn Kathir, said that “the traditions, that report the Messenger of Allah (peace be upon him) telling about Jesus (peace be upon him) descending before the Day of Judgment as just leader and impartial ruler, are Mutawãtir.” This was the essential position of Ibn Hajar in Fath Al-Bari Sharh Sahih Al-Bukhari.[28] The names of the scholars that confirmed the Mutawãtir status of these traditions are too many to enumerate here. There are those who dedicated whole books to this issue with the same result. Some of the scholars and titles include Muhammad Zahid Al-Kawthari, Nazrah `Abirah fi Maza`im man Yunkir Nuzul `Issa `Alayhi Al-Salam Qabla Al-Akhirah (1362 AH); Abdullah Al-Ghumari, `Aqidat Ahl Al-Sunnah fi Nuzul `Issa `Alayhi Al-Salam (1369).[29 The other school, that does not accept these traditions to be Mutawãtir, and that they remain within the sphere of Ãhãd, includes some prominent names such as Sheikh Muhammad Abdo. He also attempted to interpret these traditions metaphorically. The descending of Jesus means that the spirit of his message that includes his teachings about mercy, love and peace, will prevail.[30] Not all the traditions that deal with the second coming are sound, and not all of them are found in Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim, the most authentic compendia of hadith. To reflect the complexities and nuances of the science of hadith, dealing with these other traditions and their place in Islamic theology, I would like to use the following hadith which was narrated by Ibn Jarir in Ad-Durr Al-Manthur, through what he described as a “sound chain of narrators” (bi-sanadin sahih): Ka`b Al-Ahbar (May Allah be merciful to him) said: “When Jesus (Peace be upon him) saw that only a few people believed in him, and that many rendered him a liar, he complained to Allah about that. Allah revealed to him: “I am going to cause you to depart this life (mutawaffika) and raise you to me, and whoever I raise to myself is not dead. Then I will send you [back to earth] to the anti-Christ and you will kill him, and you will live for twenty four years, then I will cause you to die like the [normal] death of the living.” Ka`b added: “This [previous statement] is reinforced by the tradition of the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him), he said: “How does an Ummah wither away, when I am at the beginning of it and Jesus [comes] at the end of it?” Sheikh Ahmad Shaker commented on this hadith by saying: “Ka`b Al-Ahbar’s narration from the hadith of the Messenger of Allah (Peace be upon him) is mursal[31] (i.e. Ka`b could not have reported this from the hadith of the Messenger of God). Regardless of the status of the hadith as having a sound chain of narrators, all of Ka’b Al-Ahbar’s narrations are invalid, and cannot be used as a proof of anything. Indeed, Mu`awiyah (May Allah be pleased with him) critiqued Ka’b Al-Ahbar and said about him: “He was amongst the most truthful narrators amongst those who report about the People of the Book, yet we found that he lies.”[32] Sheikh`Abdul-Fattah Abu Ghuddah commented on the same hadith; he tried to render it support through cross-references, then he concluded by saying: “The statement of Ka`b includes strange and bizarre [ideas]; it does not go beyond being a narration of the People of the Book (Al-Akhbar Al-Isra’illiyah) that we [Muslims] are not required to believe in it or reject it.”[33] I realize that choosing one hadith to address the issue if the Isra’illiyat is essentially a reductionist position. Yet, I hope that it reflects the unique knowledge that enables the Muslim scholars to critique both the traditions and the narrators themselves. Endnotes: [*] Associate Professor of Philosophy and Islamic Studies / Al-Quds University-Jerusalem [1] Cf. “The Messenger believes in what has been revealed to him from his Lord, as do men of faith. Each one [of them] believes in Allah, His angels, His books, and His Messengers. [The believers say]: “We make no distinction between one and another of His Messengers…” Qur’an, 2:285 [2] Murad Hofmann, Islam: The Alternative (Reading: Garnet Publishing, 1993) p. 21 [3] “Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but [he is] the Messenger of Allah, and the Seal of the Prophets: And Allah has full knowledge of all things.” Qur’an, 33:40 [4] Needless to say that, from an Islamic perspective, Jesus Christ had absolutely no paternal lineage as well be discussed later on. Even the metaphorical use of “Father” is ruled out in Islamic theological discourse in favor of a pure monotheistic belief system (i.e. Tawhid). This Qur’anic position should be contrasted with two conflicting accounts of Jesus Christ’s genealogy in the Gospel of Mathew (1:1-16) and the Gospel of Luke (3: 23-38). These two accounts have different names and different number of generations. [5] Literally, they are the two sons of the maternal aunts. Bukhari, Sahih, Hadith # 3598. [6] Qur’an, 3:39 [7] It is the recollection of the name of Allah. It could use supplications taught by Prophet Muhammad or simply reciting the Qur’an. [8] Qur’an, 43:57 [9] Qur’an, 43: 59 [10] Ruh Al-Qudus. ‘The Holy Spirit’ is not an accurate translation. [11] Hofmann, pp. 25-26 [12] Qur’an, 3: 47-48 [13] Ibn Kathir, Tafsir (Beirut: Dar Al-Jil, 1988) vol. 3, p. 115 [14] Muhammad Asad, in the Message of the Qur’an, had the following footnote to explain why Mary was called “Sister of Aaron”? : “In ancient Semitic usage, a person’s name was often linked with that of a renowned ancestor or founder of the tribal line. Thus, for instance, a man of the tribe of Banu Tamim was sometimes addressed as “son of Tamim” or “brother of Tamim”. Since Mary belonged to the priestly caste, and hence descended from Aaron, the brother of Moses, she was called a “sister of Aaron” (in the same way as her cousin Elisabeth, the wife of Zachariah, is spoken of in Luke I, 5, as one “of the daughters of Aaron”. Muhammad Asad, Translator; The Message of the Qur’an (Dar Al-Andalus: Gibraltar, 1980) p. 460 [15] Al-Mundhiri, Mukhtasar Sahih Muslim (Amman: Al-Maktabah Al-Islamiyyah, 1412 AH) # 1619 (Sahih Muslim vol. 7,# 96-The Istanbul Edition) [16] “Jesus.” Jewish Encyclopedia. 24 July 2004 [17] The Qur’an recognizes the revelation of one Gospel that does not exist anymore in its original form. This is why there is no recognition of the Canonical Gospels or those described as Apocryphal. [18] “I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and I will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.” Deut.18:18. In What the Bible Says about Muhammad, Ahmad Deedat lists several similarities between Prophets Moses and Muhammad in explanation of “like unto thee”. These include normal natural birth and death for both, that each got married, and that both were prophets and political leaders at the same time. [19] Abdul-Ahad Dawud, Muhammad in the Bible, 5th ed. (Doha: The Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs, 1994) p. 24. [20] The etymology of the root w-f-y (i.e. of mutawaffika) invokes the notion of completion and fulfillment. It is different from the root m-w-t which is associated directly with death (cf. Qur’an, 19:33). Therefore, mutawaffika created uncertainty about what happened to Jesus Christ right before he was raised in order to avoid the crucifixion. There are Muslim scholars who interpreted it to indicate the death of Jesus, while others interpreted it in terms of a kind of sleep, since the Qur’an does use the same root for sleeping, for it is presented in the Qur’an as a kind of death. (cf. Qur’an, 39:42). All interpretations speak of a certain completion. Some interpretations could be classified as Israeliyyat (i.e. reflecting either Jewish or Christian narratives that either contradict or do not have corresponding Islamic sources in the Qur’an or the authentic compendia of Hadith). Cf. Ibn Kathir, vol. 1, p. 346 [21] Asad, p. 134 [22] See Qur’an, 2:35-37. The Qur’an uses dual grammatical verbal forms to describe the fact that Adam and Eve were deceived by Satan without their names being mentioned. The narrative renders the identification of the first one to succumb to deception mission impossible. The fall ended almost immediately with Adam repenting and Allah SWT accepting his repentance. [23] Cf. Qur’an, 17:15; 35:18; 39:7; 53:38. [24] Deut.24:16 : “The fathers should not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers: every man shall be put to death for his own sin.” [25] Ibn Kathir, vol.4, p. 135. [26] Bukhari, Sahih, vol. 4, book 55, # 657. [27] Cf. Muslim, 18:63; Abu Dawud, 4:117; Al-Tirmidhi, 9:92; Ibn Majah, 2:1356; Ahmad, 4:181; Al-Hakim, 4:492 [28] Muhammad Anwar Shah Al-Kashmiri; Abdul Fattah Abu Ghuddah, ed., Al-Tasrih bima Tawatar fi Nuzul Al-Masih, 5th ed (Beirut: Dar Al-Qalam, 1992) pp. 57-61. [29] cf. Al-Kashmiri, pp. 56-57. [30] Muhammad Nasser Al-Din Al-Albani, Qisat Al-Massih Al-Dajjal wa Nuzul `Issa `Alayhi Al-Salam wa Qatlihi Iyyah (Amman: Al-Maktabah Al-Islamiyyah, 1421 AH) p. 9 [31] Mursal is a category of hadith where the companion who narrated the hadith is the last one on the chain of narrators, and not Prophet Muhammad. This means that the hadith has absolutely no place in the formation of Islamic creed. [32] Narrated by Al-Bukhari. [33] Al-Kashmiri, pp. 246-247

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