Meet ‘Isa’, Muhammad’s Fabled ‘Jesus’
The Qur’an (Quran, Kuran, Koran, Coran or al-Qur’?n), the religious text ostensibly revealed to Muhammad by “Allah” through the angel “Jibril”, is considered by Muslims to be the “final revelation” of ‘Allah”. In it, we find fables about various persons who are also mentioned in the Torah and in the Christian New Testament. Among them is “Isa”, who Muslims claim is Jesus.
Though Christians believe Jesus to be the Son of God and the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, Muslims consider “Isa” to be merely a prophet, in much the same manner that Jews and Christians consider Elijah to be a prophet. Muhammad also is considered a prophet; the last one sent by God and, therefore, because he ostensibly brought the “final revelation”, he is deemed by Muslims to be the most special prophet of all. As a “prophet”, “Isa” holds a special place in the mind of Muslims. Among the more zealous Muslims, we may find a willingness to strongly defend the name of “Isa”, who they will sometimes refer to as “Jesus”. For this reason, it is sometimes perceived that Muslims hold “Jesus” in higher honor than even Christians do. Since zeal for error should never be mistaken for holiness, it’s important that we understand more precisely what it is that Muslims believe about “Isa” (“Jesus”).
As a convert who was raised in a protestant home, I completely understand what it’s like to know “about” Jesus without really “knowing Jesus”. Today, Ash Wednesday, 2011, is the twentieth anniversary of my recognizing the Real Jesus in the Eucharist. Because of my own life experience, I understand that ignorance can be remedied through the grace of God and through our willingness to spread the truth about the Real Jesus provided that those who do not really know Jesus are willing to accept that their current view of Him is not altogether the truth. For this reason, it is important that we understand what Muslims believe, on some level, and be willing to engage them in dialogue and also to pray for their understanding of the Real Jesus.
Muhammad’s view of Jesus is fundamentally flawed, both in the Qur’an and in the “Hadith” which offers context for the Qur’an much like the writings of the Early Church Fathers offer context for the Christian Scriptures.
In the Qur’an, we can hear certain ‘echoes’ of stories from the Christian Scriptural account of Jesus. As an example, I will offer two passages from the Christian Scriptures about Jesus and a passage from the Qur’an about Muhammad’s “Jesus” character.
And Jesus came into the quarters of Caesarea Philippi: and he asked his disciples, saying: Whom do men say that the Son of man is? But they said: Some John the Baptist, and other some Elias, and others Jeremias, or one of the prophets. Jesus saith to them: But whom do you say that I am? Simon Peter answered and said: Thou art Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answering, said to him: Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven. And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
In John 6, from the Christian Scriptures, Jesus offers a hard saying that challenges His followers.
And he said: Therefore did I say to you, that no man can come to me, unless it be given him by my Father. After this many of his disciples went back; and walked no more with him. Then Jesus said to the twelve: Will you also go away? And Simon Peter answered him: Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and have known, that thou art the Christ, the Son of God. Jesus answered them: Have not I chosen you twelve; and one of you is a devil? Now he meant Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon: for this same was about to betray him, whereas he was one of the twelve.
Though the above passages are very different from what is said in the Qur’an, we can clearly hear an ‘echo’ of the above exchanges in the Qur’an, Sura 3:
But when Jesus felt [persistence in] disbelief from them, he said, “Who are my supporters for [the cause of] Allah ?” The disciples said,” We are supporters for Allah . We have believed in Allah and testify that we are Muslims [submitting to Him]. Our Lord, we have believed in what You revealed and have followed the messenger Jesus, so register us among the witnesses [to truth].” And the disbelievers planned (sometimes translated as ‘schemed’), but Allah planned (‘schemed’). And Allah is the best of planners (‘schemers’). [Mention] when Allah said, “O Jesus, indeed I will take you and raise you to Myself and purify you from those who disbelieve and make those who follow you [in submission to Allah alone] superior to those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me is your return, and I will judge between you concerning that in which you used to differ.
Clearly, there are certain ‘parallels’ between the real Jesus and Muhammad’s fable. Reading Sura 3, which speaks of “Jesus” (Muhammad’s fable version) Christians can recognize certain ‘echoes’ from Scriptural stories. At the same time, the many contradictions that may sound somewhat “scriptural” to Christians, and things that are made up out of whole cloth, make up most of the references to Jesus in Sura 3. Unfortunately, ‘echoes’ from the Word of God can be quite deceiving. Satan himself had no trouble quoting Scripture. In fact, Satan could quote Scripture better than Muhammad did. After all, Muhammad could not even read.
Though Muhammad couldn’t read, he did have access to Christian teaching on Jesus. It is instructive that Muhammad wrote the first 80 verses of Sura 3 after receiving a visit from three Christians, one of whom was a bishop. (More on that visit at the end of the article.)
In the Hadith, the “Jesus” of Muhammad is described as one who will return to judge….but also to do away with Christianity.
Translation of Sahih Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 34, 425:
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Apostle said, “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, son of Mary (Jesus) will shortly descend amongst you people (Muslims) as a just ruler and will break the Cross and kill the pig and abolish the Jizya (a tax taken from the non-Muslims, who are in the protection, of the Muslim government). Then there will be abundance of money and no-body will accept charitable gifts.
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Apostle said, “The Hour will not be established until the son of Mary (i.e. Jesus) descends amongst you as a just ruler, he will break the cross, kill the pigs, and abolish the Jizya tax. Money will be in abundance so that nobody will accept it (as charitable gifts).
Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Apostle 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 Holy Book): — ‘And there is none Of the people of the Scriptures (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.” (4.159) (See Fateh Al Bari, Page 302 Vol 7)
Clearly, this is not the Jesus we Christians know. He is a figment of Muhammad’s imagination.
Perhaps the foremost fundamental flaw in Muhammad’s personal view of Jesus — the error he adopted that may be primarily responsible for his getting so much else wrong in his fable — is his rejection of the Incarnation. It was his rejection of the Incarnation that brought those Christian visitors to see him, to discuss the matter of how it is that God could become man. When they explained to Muhammad the circumstances of Jesus’ conception, Muhammad replied:
“You lie. Your assertion that God has a son, your worship of the cross, and your eating pork hold you back from submission.”
As it stands, it is Muhammad’s unwillingness to accept Jesus as the Son of God — as God Incarnate — that held him back from understanding the truth.
I have no doubt that Muhammad now knows the truth about Jesus, but his followers continue to this day to reject Jesus as the Son of God. There is hope, however. Islam does accept the Virgin Birth, and they hold Mary in high esteem.
But when she delivered her, she said, “My Lord, I have delivered a female.” And Allah was most knowing of what she delivered, “And the male is not like the female. And I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge for her in You and [for] her descendants from Satan, the expelled [from the mercy of Allah ].”
And [mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah has chosen you and purified you and chosen you above the women of the worlds.
Under the mantle of the Blessed Virgin Mary, it could very well be that many Muslims will find their way to Jesus.