FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Jesus, a Muslim Prophet?

Every year in December, Christians all around the world celebrate Christmas, marking the birth of Jesus Christ. In fact, when it comes to venerating Christ, most Christians tend to go out-of-the-way and claim ownership of Christ. In Christianity, Jesus is viewed as the Son of God, or God Incarnate.

However, there is another religion that pays equal, if not greater, respect to Jesus, albeit in a slightly different manner.

Islam.

Unlike Christianity that began respecting Christ only after he had left this world, Islamic veneration of Jesus began during the lifetime of Prophet Muhammad himself.

Islam views Jesus as a Prophet of God, rather than Son of God. Jesus, or Isa as he is called in Arabic, is referred to by name in nearly 25 different verses of The Quran, with titles such as Messenger, Prophet, and even Messiah. In fact, all Muslim theologians view Jesus as a precursor to Prophet Muhammad.

So, is the fact that both Christianity and Islam respect Jesus enough to build bridges between the two religions? Or are the different versions a source of perennial tension between adherents of the two faiths?

The Muslim Jesus

In Islam, Jesus is viewed as an icon of asceticism — a moral, spiritual and social role model. Ibn Arabi described Jesus as “the epitome of sainthood”, whereas al-Ghazali called him “the prophet of the soul”. Quite obviously, such descriptions are unique in their own way, and are different from the Christian narrative of a Divine Jesus.

In fact, even when Islam talks about the mother of Jesus, Virgin Mary, the focus is not on the miracle itself but on the miraculous birth. The Virgin Mary, or Maryam, holds an exalted spiritual position. Prophet Muhammad described her as one of the four “perfect” women in the history of humanity. She is also the only woman mentioned by name in The Quran, and there is an entire chapter named after her.

However, for Muslims, the Virgin Birth is not proof of the divinity of Jesus, but that of special status of Jesus. Islam rejects the Christian concepts of Trinity, Crucifixion and Resurrection. According to Islamic narrative, Jesus was not crucified, but risen bodily to Heaven by God. This is where Islam and Christianity differ. To quote the Christian theologian Jonathan Bartley:

“There is a fundamental tension at the heart of interfaith dialogue that neither side wants to face up to, and that is that the orthodox Christian view of Jesus is blasphemous to Muslims and the orthodox Muslim view of Jesus is blasphemous to Christians.”

Another viewpoint in this context is the fact that Islamic conception of Jesus — devoid of divinity and outside the Trinity — is in sync with the beliefs of the earliest Jewish and Christian sects, primarily the Ebionites and Nazarenes, who viewed Jesus as Messiah, but not as Son of God. As such, Muslim Jesus is the historical Jesus, as claimed by Cambridge academic John Casey:

“Islam’s Jesus is what Jesus might have been without St. Paul or St. Augustine or the Council of Nicaea.”

This can be traced back to the underlying concept of Islam in itself: Islam, unlike other faiths, is an intellectual and moral acknowledgment of the Sovereignty of One True God, sans the additional mythological luggage.

Islam And Christianity: Two Faiths, One God

Amidst such differences, why can it not be possible to seek reasons for reconciliation between Christianity and Islam? After all, Jesus is indeed an esoteric part of Islamic faith and practice. Unlike Jewish tradition that by and large rejects Jesus, Islamic tradition has a place for Jesus at the very core of its devotion. This very idea of a Muslim Jesus is enough to fortify the resolve for peace between the two communities.

The Islamic view of Jesus is a salutary reminder of the times when both Christians and Muslims were more open to each other. In modern times, though, there is a tendency among Christians to claim ‘ownership’ over Jesus Christ — our Saviour, our Lord Jesus, our Messiah, not yours! On the other hand, certain Muslims too have nowadays started viewing Jesus as an icon of private reverence — our views towards Jesus are more respectful than yours!

However, such differences should not hinder the desire for co-existence — let us not forget that interfaith dialogue starts from acceptance and recognition of existing differences. Furthermore, in spite of doctrinal differences between Christianity and Islam, there are many areas of significant overlap as well — both Christians and Muslims believe that before the end of the world, Jesus Christ will return and defeat the Antichrist (In Islam, referred to as Masih ad-Dajjal or The False Prophet).

As such, as 2014 comes to an end, let us hope that in the coming days, both Muslims and Christians learn to live together in peace, and the differences between the two faiths lead to informed arguments, not uninformed attacks. After all, this is what The Quran has ordered us to do (29:46):

And argue not with the People of the Book (that is, Jews and Christians) unless it be in (a way) that is better, save with such of them as do wrong; and say: “We believe in that which hath been revealed unto us and revealed unto you; our Allah and your Allah is One, and unto Him we surrender.”

Sufyan bin Uzayr is the author of Sufism: A Brief History”. He writes for several print and online publications, and regularly blogs about issues of contemporary relevance at Political Periscope. You can also connect with him using Facebook or Google+ or email him at sufyanism@gmail.com

More articles by:

Sufyan bin Uzayr is the author of Sufism: A Brief History”. He writes for several print and online publications, and regularly blogs about issues of contemporary relevance at Political Periscope. You can also connect with him using Facebook or Google+ or email him at sufyanism@gmail.com

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
February 26, 2020
Matthew Hoh
Heaven Protect Us From Men Who Live the Illusion of Danger: Pete Buttigieg and the US Military
Jefferson Morley
How the US Intelligence Community is Interfering in the 2020 Elections
Patrick Cockburn
With Wikileaks, Julian Assange Did What All Journalists Should Do
Manuel García, Jr.
Climate Change and Voting 2020
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Russiagate: The Toxic Gift That Keeps on Giving
Andrew Bacevich
Going Off-Script in the Age of Trump
Jeremy Kuzmarov
Anti-Russian Xenophobia Reaches Ridiculous Levels
Ted Rall
Don’t Worry, Centrists. Bernie Isn’t Radical.
George Wuerthner
Whatever Happened to the Greater Yellowstone Coalition?
Scott Tucker
Democratic Socialism in the Twenty-First Century
Jonah Raskin
The Call of the Wild (2020): A Cinematic Fairy Tale for the Age of Environmental Disaster
George Ochenski
Why We Shouldn’t Run Government Like a Business
Binoy Kampmark
Julian Assange and the Imperium’s Face: Day One of the Extradition Hearings
Nozomi Hayase
Assange’s Extradition Hearing Reveals Trump’s War on Free Press Is Targeting WikiLeaks Publisher
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon? (Part Two)
Max Moran
Meet Brad Karp, the Top Lawyer Bankrolling the Democrats
David Swanson
Nonviolent Action for Peace
Ed Sanders
The Ex-Terr GooGoo Eyes “The Russkies Did it!” Plot
February 25, 2020
Michael Hudson
The Democrats’ Quandary: In a Struggle Between Oligarchy and Democracy, Something Must Give
Paul Street
The “Liberal” Media’s Propaganda War on Bernie Sanders
Sheldon Richman
The Non-Intervention Principle
Nicholas Levis
The Real Meaning of Red Scare 3.0
John Feffer
Cleaning Up Trump’s Global Mess
David Swanson
How Are We Going to Pay for Saving Trillions of Dollars?
Ralph Nader
Three Major News Stories That Need To Be Exposed
John Eskow
What Will You Do If the Democrats Steal It from Sanders?
Dean Baker
What If Buttigieg Said That He Doesn’t Accept the “Fashionable” View That Climate Change is a Problem?
Jack Rasmus
The Nevada Caucus and the Desperation of Democrat Elites
Howard Lisnoff
The Powerful Are Going After Jane Fonda Again
Binoy Kampmark
Viral Losses: Australian Universities, Coronavirus and Greed
John W. Whitehead
Gun-Toting Cops Endanger Students and Turn Schools into Prisons
Marshall Sahlins
David Brooks, Public Intellectual
February 24, 2020
Stephen Corry
New Deal for Nature: Paying the Emperor to Fence the Wind
M. K. Bhadrakumar
How India’s Modi is Playing on Trump’s Ego to His Advantage
Jennifer Matsui
Tycoon Battle-Bots Battle Bernie
Robert Fisk
There’s Little Chance for Change in Lebanon, Except for More Suffering
Rob Wallace
Connecting the Coronavirus to Agriculture
Bill Spence
Burning the Future: the Growing Anger of Young Australians
Eleanor Eagan
As the Primary Race Heats Up, Candidates Forget Principled Campaign Finance Stands
Binoy Kampmark
The Priorities of General Motors: Ditching Holden
George Wuerthner
Trojan Horse Timber Sales on the Bitterroot
Rick Meis
Public Lands “Collaboration” is Lousy Management
David Swanson
Bloomberg Has Spent Enough to Give a Nickel to Every Person Whose Life He’s Ever Damaged
Peter Cohen
What Tomorrow May Bring: Politics of the People
Peter Harrison
Is It as Impossible to Build Jerusalem as It is to Escape Babylon?
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail