Jesus Christ in Islam
By Yahya Ibrahim - Lecture delivered Perth, Australia
All Praise is for Allah alone. He is the Rabb of all that exists. Surely, we send the highest Salah and Salam upon the Final Prophet, the leader of the pious and upon his family, companions and those who follow their example with Ih’san till the Day of Reckoning.
Before we begin, I will give you a primer on some of the Arabic words that I will use in my lecture today:
Allah: Literally means "the God", "the One who is deserving of worship".
Qur’an: The final scripture according to Muslim tradition; the final Word of God.
Sala Allahu ‘alihi was-Salaam: You may hear me use this phrase after mentioning the names of the prophets. It means "may the peace and blessings of God be upon him".
Today’s lecture is intended as an educational discussion. But it will also be useful for us to learn about each others’ beliefs, because the scholars – past and present – have said, "The root cause of hatred is ignorance".
Jesus is known to the Muslims as ‘Issa – this is the name for Jesus that we have been given in our scriptures.
To Muslims, Jesus – or ‘Issa – is a saviour, a reformist, the Messiah (the anointed one), the "Word of God". He was elevated to heaven. He could cure the ill, raise the dead, fashion inanimate objects and blow life into them, all by the Will of God.
We believe that the one who disbelieves in Jesus is not a Muslim, because the person who disbelieves in one the prophets disbelieves in all of them. So Muslims believe in Jesus and in his message. His message was one with all the other messengers. In the Qur’an, it is said that God never sent a messenger to mankind except that he was sent with one warning: Worship Allah alone.
Muhammad (sala allahu ‘alihi was-Salaam) said:
"I am the most worthy of ‘Issa bin Marium in this life and in the hereafter." They (Sahaba) asked: "Why is that O Messenger of Allah (sala allahu ‘alihi was-Salaam)?"
He (sala allahu ‘alihi was-Salaam) replied: "The Prophets are paternal (bloodline) brethren (from fathers side). Their mothers may be different (races, peoples, bloodlines) yet their Deen is always one (Islam)." Reported by Bukhari and Muslim.
Therefore this necessitates that he who disputes the validity of one of the true Prophets and Messengers has in fact reviled and disputed all of them. One cannot believe in Muhammad (sala allahu ‘alihi was-Salaam) and not believe in ‘Issa (Alihi as-Salaam). Equally, one cannot truly believe in ‘Issa and not believe in Muhammad (sala allahu ‘alihi was-Salaam). To truly accept one Prophet or Messenger necessitates the acceptance of all those who came before him and all who will come after him, ending with Muhammad (sala allahu ‘alihi was-Salaam).
My lecture today will cover four main points:
1. Who was Mary – because before looking at Jesus in Islam, we must first recognise the status of Mary in Islam.
2. The immaculate conception.
3. The special traits sent to Jesus by Allah as a way of proving to all humanity of the truth of the essential divine
4. The Muslim perspective on the crucifixion, and what came after.
1. Maryam (Mary) the daughter of ’Imran
Of the most poignant and telling mother-son relationships in the Quran is that of ‘Issa bin Marium (Alihi as-Salaam). For the first and last time in history a Prophet would not be addressed by his father’s name. Rather, he is referred to as Jesus the son of Mary.
To assess and grasp the true virtue of ‘Issa (Alihi as-Salaam) it is necessary to learn about his mother Marium ibnata ‘Imran (Alihi as-Salaam).
Mary’s mother grew to be of an old age, and became barren. She prayed to God for one final child, whom she would dedicate in God’s service. When she conceived in old age, she said as records to us in the Quran says:
"Allah chose Adam, Nuh (Noah), and the family of Ibrahim and the family of ‘Imran above the ‘Alameen (all creation during their respective times). Offspring, one of the other and Allah is the All-Hearer, All-Knowing.
(Remember) when the wife of ‘Imran said: ‘O my Lord! I have vowed to You what (the child that) is in my womb to be dedicated for your services (free from all worldly work and obligations; solely for your worship) so accept this from me. Verily you are the All-Hearer (You hear my Du‘a) and the All-Knowing (and you know my sincere intention in fulfilling this vow).’
Then when she gave birth to her (Marium), she said ‘O my Lord! I have given birth to a female child.’ – And Allah knew better what she brought forth (He is the Creator), - ‘And the male is not like the female, and I have named her Marium (literally = pure maidservant of Allah), and I seek refuge with You (Allah) for her and her offspring from the Shaytan (Satan), the outcast.’
So her Lord (Allah) accepted her with goodly acceptance. He made her grow in a good manner and put her under the care of Zakariyya (Prophet Zachary)." Ali-‘Imran 3:33-37
When Mary’s mother gave birth to Mary, she was saddened that the child was a girl. This was because, in Jewish tradition, there are very few religious acts of devotion that could be performed by a female. Of 514 daily acts of devotion, only 4 required of a Jewish woman.
She named her child Maryam, which means "the pure one", or "the one who is purified". Allah accepted the young female child into His service, and chose Zakariyyah – or Zacchariah – to be her caregiver. Zakariyyah was one of the prophets of Islam. He was chosen out of all of the scribes of his time, who were gathered together and instructed to throw their pens into a stream. They were told that whoever’s pen flowed against the current would be the child’s guardian. Zakariyyah’s pen was the one that flowed against the current.
Of Maryam, the Prophet Muhammad (sala Allahu ‘alihi was-Salaam) said: "Of men, many have attained completion with their Lord. But of women, there were four – Marium the daughter of ‘Imraan, Asiyah the wife of Pharoah, Khadeejah bint Khuwaylid and Fatimah the daughter of Muhammad." (Agreed Upon)
The Prophet Muhammad (sala Allahu ‘alihi was-Salaam) also said of Maryam, that when every child is born, the devil pricks the child at the time of its birth, and the child cries out, except for Maryam and her son.
Rasool ul Allah (sala Allahu ‘alihi was-Salaam) mentions: "No new born escapes the prick (touch) of the Shaytan at the time of their birth. (The touch is what) causes them to begin to scream. Only Marium and her son (escaped being molested by the Shaytan)." Reported through authentic narrations in the Musnad of al-Imam Ahmed and the Sahih of al-Imam Muslim.
Allah said in the Qur’an:
"And (remember) when the angels said: "O Maryam! Verily, Allah has chosen you, purified you (from polytheism and disbelief), and chosen you above the women of the ’?lam?n (mankind and jinn)." Qur’an – Surat ?l-Imr?n 3: 41
Thus, Maryam was chosen above all of humanity to bear ‘Issa.
Chapter 19 of the Qur’an is titled "Maryam", and is dedicated to her story and the immaculate conception.
2. Immaculate conception
In the Qur’an, Muhammad is told to recite the story of Maryam:
"And mention in the Book (the Qur’an, O Muhammad, the story of) Maryam, when she withdrew in seclusion from her family to a place facing east. She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then We sent to her Our Ruh (the angel Gabriel), and he appeared before her in the form of a man in all respects. She said: ‘Verily, I seek refuge with the Most Gracious (Allah) from you, if you do fear Allah.’ (The angel) said: ‘I am only a messenger from your Lord, (to announce) to you the gift of a righteous son.’ She said: ‘How can I have a son, when no man hath touched me, nor am I unchaste?’ He said: ‘So (it will be), your Lord said "That is easy for Me (Allah): And (We wish) to appoint him as a sign to mankind and a mercy from Us (Allah), and it is a matter (already) decreed (by Allah)." ‘ " Qur’an – Surat Maryam 19: 16-21
Jesus was named the "Word of God", because Allah said "Be" and he was. Allah sets forth a parable between Jesus and Adam: Adam was taken from the earth, not born from the womb of a woman. Allah says:
"Verily the likeness of ‘Issa (Jesus) before Allah is the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then (He) said to him: ‘Be’ – and he was." Qur’an – Surat ?l-Imr?n 3: 59
Jesus did not have a father. But this does not mean that Jesus is divine and worthy of worship, because Adam’s existence was more miraculous than that of Jesus.
Allah also says in the Qur’an that Jesus and his mother would become tired, and would need sustenance. Therefore, they could not be divine.
The story of the Immaculate Conception is continued in the Qur’an:
"So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a far place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a date palm. She said: ‘Would that I had died before this, and had been forgotten and out of sight!’ Then [the baby ‘Issa] cried unto her from below her, saying: ‘Grieve not: your Lord has provided a water stream under you.’ " Qur’an – Surat Maryam 19: 22-24
Jesus spoke to Maryam as a miracle from God, to tell her that she should not be fearful and she should not be in sorrow. Maryam was instructed that when she returned to her family, she was not to answer any of their questions. So when they confronted her, she pointed to the child. They said, "How can we ask this child in the cradle?" Then the baby Jesus spoke, and said:
" ‘Verily I am a slave of Allah, 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 Salaat (prayer) and Zakaat (alms-giving or charity), as long as I live. And to be 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!’ Such is ‘Issa, son of Maryam. (It is) a statement of truth, about which they doubt." Qur’an – Surat Maryam 19: 30-34
That is the story of the immaculate conception as it is related to us in the Qur’an.
3. Special attributes of Jesus
The immaculate conception was one of the many miracles that Allah gave to Jesus.
In Islamic sources, Jesus began as a shepherd, as were all of the prophets of God before they received their Message. Jesus knew the Torah, and could read and write from the time of infancy.
Jesus grew up knowing his cousin Yahya (John the Baptist). Both of them would together call to the worship of God.
Jesus never once said: "Worship me" – this was not befitting for any of the Messengers of God.
Jesus lived a full life, but he was fought against and hated and reviled by different enemies, including the evil rabbis of the time, who wished for power and status.
The scholars state that every Prophet and Messenger was sent with the type of evidence, signs, and proofs that their respective nations would respond to. During the time of Musa (Alihi as-Salaam), magic and illusions were widespread and falsely attributed to false deities. So Allah sent Musa with what would eclipse Pharaoh’s magicians. During the time of ‘Issa (Alihi as-Salaam) curing the ill was seen as a divine power. Allah therefore sent ‘Issa and granted him unique abilities.
Allah will remind ‘Issa of these abilities on the Day of Judgment as Allah describes them to us in Suratil Ma’idah (5:110-115):
"(Remember) when Allah will say (on the Day of Resurrection), ‘O ‘Issa son of Marium! Remember My Favour to you and to your mother when I supported you with Ruh ul-Qudus (Jibreel) so that you spoke to the people in the (from the) cradle (at a young age) and (while) in maturity. Jibreel aided you in ordering the people to work good deeds and to submit themselves to Allah while staying away from evil deeds throughout the whole of your time with them (people).
And when I taught you writing, al-Hikmah (the power of reasoning, logic, understanding. Putting everything in its proper place at the proper time for the proper reason), and the Torah and the Injeel (Gospel). Allah granted ‘Issa all of these intellectual capabilities from his inception as some of the people of Tafseer have stated. We do not establish this claim as truth, nor do we deny it as falsehood.
And when you made out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My Permission, and you breathed into it, and it became a bird by My Permission.
And you healed those who were born blind (not just those who happened to have lost their sight), the lepers by My Permission.
And when you brought forth the dead by My Permission.
And when I restrained the Children of Israel from you (when they resolved to kill you) since you came unto them with clear proofs, and the disbelievers among them said, ‘This is nothing but evident magic.’ This was the greatest miracle granted by Allah to ‘Issa. We will shortly begin discussing the intricacies of how ‘Issa was saved from the Jews and the Romans. This ayah also shows that those who sought the death of ‘Issa were the Jews and not the Romans per-say. The ayah also shows that there were Jews who believed (Hawarieen or Disciples) and those who disbelieved.
And when I (Allah) put in the hearts of al-Hawarieen (the Disciples of ‘Issa) to believe in Me and My Messenger (you O ‘Issa), they said: ‘We believe. And bear witness that we are Muslims.’ This ayah shows clearly that Allah places guidance in the hearts of individuals. There were many that rejected the truth although they also witnessed the aforementioned miraculous occurrences. Guidance is solely from Allah, as is the misguidance of those whom were destined to reject the truth and Light of Tawheed.
(Remember) when the disciples said: ‘O ‘Issa, son of Marium! Is your Lord able to send down to us a table spread (with food) from heaven?’ ‘Issa said, ‘Fear Allah, if you are indeed believers!’ Although they have seen clay birds being brought to life, the blind and lepers alleviated of their illness, the raising of the dead and many other miracles, they still say, "Is your Lord able!" The syntax of their question implies that if your Lord does not furnish us this table spread then He is UNABLE, not unwilling!
They said, ‘We wish to eat thereof and to be stronger in Faith, and to know that you have indeed told us the truth and that we ourselves be its witnesses.’
Once again the weakness of their faith is apparent. The syntax in their statement indirectly implies that if you have told us the truth and you really are a Prophet and a Messenger then your Lord will bring down the table spread that we request. Otherwise you have not spoken the truth. They admit that their faith is weak. ‘Issa (Alihi as-Salaam) therefore invokes Allah for the table spread.
‘Issa, son of Marium, said, ‘O Allah, 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 to Sustain.’ The request although seemingly simple enough in comparison with the other miracles performed by ‘Issa is of a different nature. The request of the Disciples is a challenge to Allah. Sufyan ath-Thawri (radiya Allahu ‘Anhu) states: A day of festivity means a day that we can mark with your worship.
Salman al-Farisi (radiya Allahu ‘Anhu) said: A day for us to mark by remembering you.
Allah said, ‘I am going to send it down unto you, but if any of you after that disbelieves, then I will punish him a torment such as I have not inflicted on anyone among (all) the ‘Alamin (all that exist, mankind and Jinn).’
‘Abullah bin ‘Amr bin al ‘Aws (radiya Allahu ‘Anhu) states: "The three most punished peoples on the Day of Ressurrection shall be: The Hypocrites (at time of Rasool ul Allah), those who disbelieved after the Table spread was brought down, and Pharaoh and his legions.
4. The Muslim perspective on the crucifixion
Jesus was saved by God for the end of times. Allah said in the Qur’an:
"And because of their (the Jews) disbelief and uttering against Marium a grave false charge (that she has committed illegal sexual intercourse);
And because of their (the Jews) saying (in boast), ‘We killed the Messiah ‘Issa, son of Marium, the Messenger of Allah (they say this in mockery),’ – but they killed him not, nor crucify him, but the resemblance of a ‘Issa was put over another man (and they killed that man). And (surely) those who differ therein are full of doubts (amongst themselves). They have no (certain) knowledge, they follow nothing but conjecture (speculation). For surely they killed him not.
But Allah raised him (Rafa‘ahu) up (‘Issa’s body and soul together) unto Himself. And Allah is Ever All-Powerful, All-Wise." Qur’an – Surat An-Nis?’ 4: 157
The Jews and the Romans proclaimed in joy: "We have killed the Messiah!" But they did not kill him or crucify him; but he was saved by God and raised to heaven.
Allah says in Surati Ali-‘Imran (3:54-58):
"And they (the disbelievers from the Jews and Romans) plotted (to kill ‘Issa), and Allah Planned too. And Allah is the Best of Planners.
And (remember) when Allah said: ‘O ‘Issa! I will take you (Mutawaafeek) and raise you to Myself and clear you (of the forged statements) of those who disbelieve, and I will make those who follow you (Monotheists) superior to those who disbelieve (in the Oneness of Allah) till the day of Resurrection. Then you will return to Me and I will Judge between you in the matters in which you used to dispute.’"
We Muslims believe that one day the Antichrist will come, and then Jesus will descend from the heavens and slay him, and will live among the Muslims and rule them. During those times the earth shall be filled with justice and blessing.
Mohammad (sala Allahu ‘alihi was-Salaam) said:
"The earth would be told to bring forth its fruit and restore its blessing and, as a result thereof, there would grow (such a big) pomegranate that a group of persons would be able to eat that, and seek shelter under its skin.
A cow would give so much milk that a whole party would be able to drink it. And the camel would give such (a large quantity of) milk that the whole tribe would be able to drink out of that.
And the sheep would give so much milks that the whole family would be able to drink out of that.
At that time, Allah would send a pleasant wind, which would soothe (people), even under their armpits, and would take the life of every Muslim and only the wicked would survive who would commit adultery like asses and the Last Hour would come to them." Reported by Imam Muslim."
Muhammed (sala Allahu ‘Alihi was-Salaam):
"How glorious will be the time when Jesus lives among you, and you will plant a seed on a barren rock and it will sprout; there will be no drought; vegetation will cover the earth, and a man will be able to sit next to a lion and feel no harm." Authentic – reported by Ad-Dailamee.
Jesus will come again, and will marry and have children, and live for 40 years among us. And soon after he dies, the Day of Judgment will come.
This is the empirical belief of the Muslims as regards Jesus.
Allah (subhanhu wa Ta‘aala) said:
"And they say: ‘The Most Gracious (Allah) has begotten a son (or offspring or children).’ Indeed you have brought forth (said) a most terrible, evil thing. Whereby the heavens are almost torn, and the earth is split asunder, and the mountains fall in ruins, that they ascribe a son (or offspring) to the Most Gracious!
But it is not befitting (the Majesty) of the Most Gracious (Allah) that He should beget a son (or offspring).
There is none in the heavens and the earth but comes unto the Most Gracious as a slave." Marium (19:88-93)
Allah (Subhanhu wa Ta‘aala) says:
"No son (or offspring or children) did Allah beget, nor is there any god along with Him. (If there had been other gods or rivals or sons), behold, each god would have taken away what he had created, and some (gods) would have tried to overcome other (gods)! Glorified is Allah above all that they attribute to Him!" Al-Mu’minoon 23:91
There are more similarities than differences between Muslims and Christians. In Islamic law, we have special rules for "the People of the Scripture", who are similar to us except for some minor differences in major areas of dogma.
We conclude by saying:
"O people of the Book (Jews and Christians): Come to a word that is just between us and you, that we worship none by Allah (alone), and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us shall take others as lords besides Allah." Qur’an – Surat Al-Imran 3: 6
 Rabb: Allah the One and the Only Lord of all that exists. He is the only One deserving of worship. Allah is the Creator, Sustainer, Maintainer, Planner, Giver of Security, Innovator, etc. Rabb is one of the Names of Allah.
 (SAAW=(Salah Allahu ‘alihi wa Salaam): The Salah (prayers) of Allah upon His Prophet, Muhammad, is His mentioning of the Prophet’s name and his praise in front of the angels in the Most High place in the Heavens. Refer to Al-Ahzab 56
 Ih’san: The highest level of deeds and worship. Perfection in ones worship of Allah (SW). When you worship Allah, consider yourself as if you see Him and if you cannot achieve this feeling or attitude, then you must bear in mind that He sees you.
 Amma Ba‘du: An expression used to separate between introductory remarks and the main body of the discourse. It translates into: ‘Whatever comes after.”
Compiled by: Sr. Shadia Rahman
Edited by: Br. Yahya Ibrahim