THE TRUTH ABOUT JESUS by Dr. Maneh Al-Johani

"We Muslims believe, that Jesus was one of the mightiest messengers of God that he was the Christ, that he was born miraculously without any male intervention, that he gave life to the dead by God's permission and that he healed those born blind and the lepers by god's permission. In fact, no Muslim is a Muslim if he or she does not believe in Jesus!"

Though Jesus is mentioned by name in twenty-five places in the Holy Quran, he is also addressed with respect as: Ibn Maryam, meaning "The son of Mary"; and as the Maseeh (in Hebrew it is the Messiah), which is translated as "Christ". He is also known as Abdullah, "The servant of Allah"; and as Rasul u Allah, the messenger of Allah.

He is spoken of as "The Word of God", as "The Spirit of God", as a "Sign of God", and numerous other epithets of honor spread over fifteen different chapters. The Holy Quran honors this mighty messenger of God, and the Muslims have not fallen short over the past fourteen hundred years in doing the same.

 Quotation from the Holy Qur'an
 They say, 'God taken to Him a son.' Glory be to Him. He is all-sufficient; to Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth; you have no authority for this. Do you say concerning God what you do not know? (10:68)

The controversy about the personality of Jesus Christ is the major difference between Islam and Christianity. This difference keeps the followers of the two religions apart. Muslims look at Jesus Christ as a great Prophet of God and love and respect him as much as they love and respect Abraham, Moses and Muhammad. Christians on the other hand consider Jesus as God or son of God, a concept that Muslims cannot accept. Islam teaches that Jesus never made such a claim for himself. As a matter of fact all the cardinal doctrines of Christianity that are rejected by Islam centeraround the personality of Jesus. Specifically these are:

1. The Trinity

2. The Divinity of Jesus

3. The Divine Sonship of Christ

4. Original Sin, and

5. Atonement.

It is clear that all these dogmas are the result of over-exhalting Jesus Christ above what God wants him to be. These differences focusing on the personality of Jesus have overshadowed the many similarities between Christianity and Islam.

INTRODUCTION

The Islamic view of Jesus lies between two extremes. The Jews, who rejected Jesus as a Prophet of God, called him an impostor. The Christians on the other hand, consider him to be the son of God and worship him as such. Islam considers Jesus as one of the great Prophets of God and respects him as much as Abraham, Moses and Muhammad. This is in conformity with the Islamic point of view of the oneness of God, the oneness of Divine guidance, and the complimentary role of the subsequent messages of God's messengers.

Although the Qur'an does not present a detailed life-account of Jesus, it highlights the important aspects of his birth, his mission, his ascension to heaven and passes judgements on the Christian beliefs concerning him.

MARY

The Qura'nic account of Jesus starts with the conception of his mother, Mary. The wife of Imran, Mary's mother, vowed to dedicate her child to the service of God in the temple. Zacharia, who took charge of Mary, used to find food with Mary. When he asked her how she got it she answered that it was from God. The Quranic verses read:

When the wife of Imran said, 'Lord, I have vowed to you, in dedication, what is within my womb. Please accept it from me. you are the Hearer and knower'.
And when she gave birth to her she said, 'Lord, I have given birth to her, a female... And I have named her Mary end commend her to you with her seed, to protect them from the accursed Satan.'Her Lord received the child with gracious favor, and by His goodness she grew up comely, Zacheria taking charge of her. Whenever Zacharia went to her in the Sanctuery, he found her provisioned. 'Mary', he said, 'how comes this to you? ''From God', she answe red. Truly God provisions for whomsoever He will without reckoning. (3:95-7)

 GLAD TIDINGS AND JESUS'S BIRTH

When Mary became a woman, the Holy Spirit (the Archangel Gabriel) appeared to her as a man bringing her the news of a son. We read the following dialogue in the Qur'an between Mary and the angels:

When the angels said, 'Mary. God gives you good tidings of a Word from Him whose name is Messiah Jesus, son of Mary; high honored shall he be in this world and the next, near stationed to God. He shall speak to men in the cradle, and of age, and righteous she shall be.' 'Lord', said Mary, 'how shall I have a son seeing no mortal has touched me? 'Even so' he said, 'God
creates what He will.' When He decrees a thing He does but say to it, "Be", and it is.' (3:45-7)

Mary conceived the child miraculously and retired to a distant place where she awaited her delivery. The Qur'an in a chapter entitled 'Mary' tells us how Mary felt and what the Jews told her when she brought the child home:

She conceived him and withdrew with him to a distant place. And the birthpangs surprised her by the trunk of the palm-tree. She said, 'would I had died before this. and become a thing forgotten.' The one from below her called to her, 'Do not grieve; see, your Lord has set below you a rivulet. Shake also toward you the palmtrunk. and there shall come tumbling upon you
dates fresh and ripe. Eat therefore, and drink, and be comforted; and if you should see any mortal, say. "I have vowed to the All-Merciful a fast, and today I will not speak to any man." Then she brought the child to her folk carrying him; and they said, 'Mary, you have surely committed a monstrous thing. Sister of Aaron, your father was not a wicked man, nor was your mother a woman unchaste.' Mary pointed to the child. but they said, 'How shall we speak to one who is still in the cradle, a little child?' He said, 'Lo, I am God's servant; God has given me the Book and made me a Prophet. Blessed he has made me, wherever I may be; and he has enjoined me to pray. and to give the alms, so long as I live, and likewise to cherish my mother; he has not made me arrogant or wicked. Peace be upon me, the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I am raised up alive.' (19:22-23)

NOT THE SON OF GOD

Jesus is not the son of God. He was, obviously enough, the son of Mary. The verses continue:

That is Jesus, son of Mary, in word of truth, concerning which they are doubting. It is not for God to take a son unto Him. Glory be to Him! When He decrees a thing. He but says to it "Be". and it is. (19:34-5)

The Qur'an recognizes the fact that Jesus had no human father but this does not make him the son of God or God Himself. By this criterion Adam would have been more entitled to be the son of God because he had neither a father nor a mother. So the Qur'an draws attention to the miraculous creation of both in the following verse:

Truly the likeness of Jesus, in God's sight, is as Adam's likeness; He created him of dust. then said He unto him, "Be", and he was. (3:59)

The Qur'an rejects the concept of the Trinity as strongly as it rejects the Sonship of Jesus. This is because God is One. This is the essence of all monotheistic revelations. Three, by reason and by simple arithmetic, are not one. The Qur'an addresses the Christians in the following verses in the chapter entitled "Women".

People of the Book, go not beyond the bounds in your religion, and say not as to God but the Truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only the Messenger of God, and His Word that He committed to Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in God and His Messengers, and say not, 'Three'. Refrain. better is it for you. God is only One God. Glory be to Him - that He should have a son! To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth, God suffices for a guardian.

The Messiah will not disdain to be a servant of God, neither the angels who are close to Him. Whosoever disdains to serve Him and waxes proud. He will assuredly muster them to Him, all of them.

As for the believers, who do deeds of righteousness, He will pay them their rewards in full, and He will give them more, of His bounty; as for them who disdain and wax proud, them He will punish with a severe punishment, and they shall not find for them, apart from God, a friend or helper. (4:171-3)

The denial of Jesus' divinity (and for that matter Mary's divinity) is presented in the Qur'an as a topic of dialogue at the Day of Judgement between God Almighty and Jesus. All the messengers and the nations will be gathered in front of God and He will ask the messengers how they were received by their peoples and what they said to them. Among those who are
going to be questioned is Jesus:

And when God said, 'O Jesus son of Mary, did you say unto men, "Take me and my mother as gods. apart from God?" He said, 'To you be glory! It is not mine to say what I have no right to. If I indeed said it, you knew it, knowing what is within my soul, and I do not know what is within your soul. you know the things unseen. I only said to them what you did command me: "serve God, my Lord and your Lord." And I was a witness over them, while I remained among them; but when you did take me to yourself, you were yourself the watcher over them; you are the witness of everything. If you punish them, they are your servants, if you forgive them, you are the Almighty, the All-wise.' God said, 'This is the day the truthful shall be profited by their truthfulness. For them await gardens underneath which rivers flow therein dwelling forever, God being well-pleased with them end they well-pleased with Him; That is the mighty triumph'.

JESUS'S MISSION

Now one might ask: If the Qur'an denies the Trinity and the Sonship of Jesus, what was the real mission of Jesus according to the Qur'an?

Jesus was a link in a long chain of prophets and messengers sent by God to various societies and nations whenever they needed guidance or deviated from the teachings of God. Jesus was especially prepared by God to be sent to the Jews who had deviated from the teachings of Moses and other Messengers. As he was miraculously supported by God in conception, birth and childhood, he was also supported by numerous miracles to prove that he was a messenger from God. However, the majority of the Jews rejected his ministry. The Qur'an tells us about Jesus' mission in the following verses which are a continuation of the verses quoted earlier in which the glad tiding was brought to Mary:

And He will teach him the Book, the wisdom, the Torah, the Gospel and make him a Messenger to the children of Israel saying, "I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. I will create for you out of clay as the likeness of a bird; then I will breathe into It, and it will be a bird, by the power of God. I will also heal the blind and the leper and bring to life the dead, by the power of God. I will inform you too of the things you eat, and what you treasure up in your houses. Surely in that is a sign for you if you are believers. Likewise I will confirm the truth of the Torah that is before me, and to make lawful to you certain things that before were forbidden unto you. I have come to you with a sign from your Lord; so fear God, and obey me. Surely God is my Lord and your Lord; so serve Him. This is a straight path". (3:45-51)

In another verse of the Qur'an, Jesus confirmed the validity of the Torah which was revealed to Moses and he also brought the glad tidings of the coming of a final messenger after him. This is clearly indicated in the following verse:

And when Jesus son of Mary said. 'children of Israel. I am indeed the Messenger to you, confirming the Torah that is before me, and giving good tidings of a Messenger who shall come after me, whose name shall be the praised one (note that this is translation of Ahmad which is Prophet Muhammad's name). (61:6)

JESUS RAISED TO HEAVEN

It is a sad fact of history that not many follow "the straight path", to which people were called by Jesus. He was followed by a few disciples who were inspired by God to support him. Not only that, but the non-believers plotted to kill Jesus, but God had a better plan for him and his followers as the Qur'an tells us in the following verses:

And when Jesus perceived their unbelief, he said, 'who will be my helpers in the cause of God? The Apostles said, 'we will be helpers of God.' We believe in God; be witness of our submission. Lord, we believe in that you have sent down, and we follow the Messenger. Inscribe us therefore with those who bear witness.' And they devised, and God devised, and God is the best of
devisers. When God said, 'Jesus, I will take you to me and will raise you to Me, and I will purify you of those who do not believe. I will set your followers above the unbelievers till the Ressurrection Day. Then unto Me shall you return, and I will decide between you, as to what you were at variance on. As for the unbelievers, I will punish them with a terrible punishment in this world and the next; they shall have no helpers.' (3:52-6)

As the above verses indicate, Jesus was raised to heaven before he died.

This means that according to the Qur'an he was not crucified. It was the plan of the enemies of Jesus to put him to death on the cross, but God saved him and somebody else was crucified. This plot and the false accusation of Mary are considered by the Qur'an to be some of the sins of the non-believing Jews. All this is clear in the following quotation:

And for their unbelief, and their uttering against Mary a mighty calumny, and for their saying, 'We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the Messenger of God'... yet they did not slay him, neither crucified him, only a likeness of that was shown to them. Those who are at variance concerning him surely are in doubt regarding him, they have no knowledge of him, except the following of surmise; and they did not slay him of certainty... no indeed; God raised him up to Him; God is Almighty, All-wise. There is not one of the people of the Book but will assuredly believe in him before his death, and on the Ressurrection Day he will be a witness against them. (4:156-9).

Who was the person crucified instead of Jesus? The Qur'an does not elaborate on this point nor does it give any answer to this question. The interpreters of the Qur'an have suggested a few names. But all these are individual guesses not supported by the Qur'an or the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.

This means that Jesus will come back before the Day of Judgement. Again the Second Coming is not clearly mentioned in the Qur'an. However, the explanators of the Qur'an understood the last verse of the above quotation: there is not one of the people of the Book but will assuredly believe in him before his death, and on the Resurrection Day he will be a witness against them, to mean that Jesus will come back and all the Christians and the Jews will believe in him before he dies. This understanding is supported by authentic sayings of the Prophet Muhammad.

 Because of the Qur'an, Muslims love and respect Jesus as they love and respect the Prophet Muhammad. Moreover, the Qur'an reports some of Jesus's miracles which are not reported in the present gospel. For example, the Qur'an tells that Jesus spoke in the cradle and was able to tell people what they ate or treasured in their houses, to mention just a few. The choice of the present four gospels was imposed in the conference of Nicea 325 C.E. under the auspices of the pagan Emperor Constantine for political purposes. Literally, hundreds of gospels and religious writings were considered apocrypha, i.e. books of doubtful authenticity. Some of those books were written by Jesus's disciples. If they were not more authentic than the four gospels they were of equal authenticity. Some of them still are available such as the Gospel of Barnabas and the Shepherd of Hermas which agree with the Qur'an.
The Unitarian concept and the humanness of Jesus is not only held by Muslims but also by Jews and by some early groups of Christianity such as the Ebonite's, the Corinthians, the Basilidians, the Capocratians and the Hypisistarians to name several early sects. The Aryans, Paulicians and Goths also accepted Jesus as a prophet of God. Even in the modern age there are churches in Asia, in Africa, the Unitarian church, and Jehovah Witnesses who do not worship Jesus as God.
Most serious studies of the Bible have shown that it contains a large portion of additions which neither Jesus nor the writers of the gospels said. The church, as Heinz Zahrnt said, "put words into the mouth of Jesus which he never spoke and attributed actions to him which he never performed." Those conclusions were arrived at by some members of the church. However, they are kept secret or available only to the specialists. One of those, who has shown that most of what the church says about Jesus is baseless is Rudolf Augustein in his book Jesus Son of Man, (published in Germany 1972 and translated into English 1977). The problem with present Christianity is the personality of Jesus which is completely misunderstood. Jesus' nature, mission and claimed death and resurrection, are all challenged by studies in the field. One of those is a book entitled The Myth of God Incarnate which appeared 1977 (edited by John Hick) and written by seven theologian scholars in England.

To sum up, Islam considers Jesus as one of God's great prophets. His mission was to preach the Oneness of God and to lead man to his Lord. He never claimed to be other than a servant and a Messenger of God. The Qur'anic account of his life and mission is supported by overwhelming evidence. The Muslims do believe in and are awaiting the Second Coming of Jesus. He will come back not as God to judge the non-Christians, but as Jesus, God's servant. His coming is to correct the misconception which people have developed about his personality and his mission. According to a saying of the Prophet Muhammad, he will stay for forty years which is going to be the happiest years of life on this earth. At that time everybody will believe in him as the messenger, not the Son of God. However, what about those who will not be able to live till his second coming? They better do it now! The Prophet Muhammad said:
"Whoever believes that there is none worthy of worship but God, alone without partner, that Muhammad is His messenger, that Jesus is the servant and messenger of God, His word which He bestowed on Mary and a spirit proceeding from Him, and that Paradise and Hell are true, shall be received by God into Heaven." (A Hadith from the collections of al Bukhari).