By: Sr. Magda Saleh
In giving presentations about Islam to non-Muslims over the past few years, I have found that one of the greatest misconceptions they have is that they think Muslims do NOT believe in Jesus Christ. They are usually truly dumbfounded when they learn that we, as Muslims, hold Jesus alayhi-s-salam in the highest regard, and that we believe that his mother, Maryam, was elevated by Allah to a status above all other women in creation (Surat Aali-Imraan, Ayah 42).
It is important for us, as Muslims, especially during this holiday season which supposedly honors Jesus Christ, to understand what the Qur'an says about him as well, and to know the commonalities and differences between what we believe and what Christians believe.
I believe that it always good to define the terms we are using, so that everyone is clear on what we are discussing. I have found that many Muslims get offended when I use the name "Jesus Christ;" they tell me that he is referred to as Messiah (maseeh) in the Qur'an, and not as "Christ."
The word "christ" comes from the Greek word "christos," which means to be "anointed" in English. In Arabic, the word "anointed" is "maseeh," or Messiah, in English, which originated from the Hebrew word for "anointed." So, if "christ" means "anointed," and "maseeh/messiah" means anointed, then "christ" means "maseeh," and the two terms are inter-changeable.
What, then, does "anointed" mean? There are several agreed-upon meanings:
- Chosen; the "anointed" person who would spread the message to others.
- To rub or smear with oil. It was a symbolic tradition for priests to rub a follower's head with oil, as he blessed him to go out into the world and spread the message.
- The one who cures by caressing.
Thus, when Allah refers to Jesus in Surat Maryam as "al-maseeh Isa ibn Maryam,' it is, in English, the "Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary," or "Jesus Christ, son of Mary."
Those who followed Christ, then, were called "Christians."
So what of the Christians' stipulation that Jesus is their savior; anyone who accepts him as their savior will go to heaven and will be saved from punishment of the hell-fire.
Jesus said, in the Gospels (Bible): "Follow me, and you will attain eternal salvation." The words of Isa alayhi-s-salam are words that were taught to him by Allah SWT. He was telling his followers to follow him and his teachings, which he always reminded them were from Allah. It was true, Allah promised all believers: If they followed the messenger that was sent to them, and obeyed Allah's teachings, they would be saved from the Hell-Fire and would reside in Jannah (heaven) eternally. It was only after Isa alayhi-s-salam was raised to Allah, that his followers manipulated his teachings and began to actually worship him instead of simply following what he taught.
So what of the Jesus's miracles (including the Virgin Birth), the Disciples, the Last Supper, the Resurrection, and Jesus's return to earth before the Day of Judgment to again call people to follow him, so that they will be saved?
Some of Jesus's Miracles
The Virgin Birth: In Islam, as in Christianity, we believe that Jesus had no father; we believe that Gibreel came to her and gave her the news that she would bear a son (Surah 3, Ayah 47; and Surah 19, Ayahs 20 & 21).
Healing the Blind and the Lepers; Breathing Life into a Clay Bird; and Bringing Life to the Dead: In Islam, as in Christianity, we believe that Jesus healed the blind and the lepers, he breathed life into a clay bird, and he brought life to the dead, all by the grace and with the permission of Allah (Surah 3; Ayah 49)
The Disciples (Followers of Jesus): In Arabic, the Disciples of Jesus are the Hawaariyyoon, and they are mentioned in several surahs in the Qur'an, including Surah 3, Surah 5 and Surah 19. As is the belief in Christianity, the Qur'an states that some of the Disciples turned against Jesus and did not believe in him. Unlike the Bible, however, the Qur'an does not mention the specific names of the disciples.
- The Last Supper: The disciples, at one point, had asked Jesus to prove his prophethood by asking Allah to send down a table laden with food. Allah SWT responded by sending down this table to them as proof. (Surah 5; Ayahs 112-115). In the Bible, it does not state that the table was set as a proof of Jesus's prophethood. In the Bible, it is described as the last meal that Jesus shared with his disciples before he was betrayed by some of them.
- The Resurrection (Rising of the Dead) in the Bible vs The Raising of Jesus to Heaven in the Qur'an: The Qur'an states very clearly that the people of Judea did NOT kill Jesus; his soul was raised to heaven. In the Bible, it states that Jesus died on the cross and then, three days later, was resurrected from death and raised to heaven. The point that both Muslims and Christians agree on is that Jesus, Isa alayhi-s-salam, lives now in heaven and will return to earth before the Day of Judgment.
- The Anti-Christ: In Islam, the anti-Christ, is al-Maseeh ad-dajjaal, or the False Messiah (False Christ). Both Christianity and Islam teach that the anti-Christ will come before the second coming of Jesus to try to deceive humanity. Those who follow the anti-Christ, or ad-dajjal, will be lost, and those who follow Jesus, Isa alayhi-s-salam, are promised eternal lives in heaven.
In conclusion, we, as Muslims, must believe in all of the prophets and in all of their teachings. What they taught was from Allah, and was the truth. What we do not believe in are the manipulations that took place after the Prophets died or were raised to Allah. Thus, there are many more commonalities between Muslims and Christians than differences. The main differences between Muslims and Christians with regards to Isa alayhi-s-salam, is that Islam very clearly states that Jesus was NOT a god, nor was he the son of Allah. His teachings were to be followed, but he was NOT to be worshiped. (Surah 5; Ayahs 72-75)
Our beloved Prophet Muhammad SAWS's coming was prophesied in the Bible; he is mentioned by name in the Gospels of Barnabus, which are not accepted my many Christian scholars. The Gospel of Barnabus also clearly states that Jesus is but a messenger of Allah, and NOT a god.
Muhammad SAWS was sent to teach the religion of submission to one Creator, Allah SWT, Islam, and complete all of the teachings that came before it.