7: The Christ of the Qur’an
by Charles Welty
n a personal interview with the author, the late Walter Martin once
remarked, “You can be right about everything else, but if you’re wrong
about Jesus, you’re eternally wrong.” To the Mormons, Jesus Christ is the
spirit brother of Lucifer and was conceived after sexual relations by Adam
with the Virgin Mary. To the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jesus Christ is not
Jehovah God, but merely a god. It is the doctrine of Christ which sets a
religion or a cult apart from mainstream Christianity, Martin maintained.
Who, then, is the Christ of the Qur’an? What does the Qur’an teach
about the birth of Jesus, His life, His death and His resurrection? And
what do Islamic commentators say the Qur’an teaches on the subject?
We shall examine the Qur’an’s teachings about Jesus in six specific areas.
We shall consider what the Qur’an says about His birth, His
apostleship, His nature, His death and resurrection and His apostles.
Along the way, we shall review the opinions of Islamic scholars and
commentators, such as A. Yusuf Ali and others, on the meaning of the text
of the Qur’an.
The Qur’an on Christ’s Birth
The Qur’an teaches Jesus Christ was conceived of Mary when she was a
virgin. Beyond that, the teachings of the Qur’an are in sharp
contrast to the Gospel records. According to the Qur’an, Mary gave
birth to Jesus under a palm tree.
And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree.
She cried (in her anguish): “Ah! would that I had died before
this! Would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!”
She was alone and a voice called to her. The voice told her to eat
from the dates of the palm tree, but then told her to lie to anyone who
spoke to her. She was instructed to tell anyone she saw that she
was under a vow not to eat or drink, and that she could not speak with
But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm-tree): “Grieve not!
for thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee; and shake towards
thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: it will let fall fresh ripe dates
upon thee.” So eat and drink and cool (thine) eye. And if thou dost see
any man, say “I have vowed a fast to God Most Gracious, and this day
will I enter into no talk with any human being.”
After the birth of the baby, when she
was confronted by her people, the baby Jesus is alleged to have spoken up
in a miraculous defense of his mother.
But she pointed to the babe. They said: “How can we talk to one
who is a child in the cradle?” He said: “I am indeed a servant of God:
He hath given me revelations and made me a prophet; and He hath made me
blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me prayer and chastity as
long as I live…”
The Qur’an on Christ’s
The Qur’an teaches that the Christ was
an apostle to the Jews. The Biblical meaning of the term apostle is
“one who is sent” and so we have no quarrel with this designation.
However, the Qur’an also teaches that the confirmation of His apostleship
rests in an apocryphal story which relates Jesus turning clay pigeons into
And appoint him an apostle to the Children of Israel, (with this
message): “I have come to you, with a Sign from your Lord, in that I
make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe
into it, and it becomes a bird by God’s leave…”
The Qur’an teaches that Jesus was no
more than an apostle. It cautions the Jews (referred to as the
“People of the Book”) not to consider Christ as anything more.
People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion; nor say of God
aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an
apostle of God…
We also read that Jesus was no more than an apostle:
Christ the son of Mary was no more than an Apostle; many were the
apostles that passed away before him…
The Qur’an on Christ’s
The Qur’an emphatically denies the doctrine of the deity of Jesus Christ
and the Trinity.
Say not “Trinity”; desist: it will be better for you; for God is One
God; Glory be to Him.
Ali comments on Sura 4:171:
Just as a foolish servant may go wrong by excess of zeal for his master,
so in religion people’s excesses may lead them to blasphemy or a spirit
the very opposite of religion. The Jewish excesses in the
direction of formalism, racialism, exclusiveness, and rejection of
Christ Jesus have been denounced in many places. Here the
Christian attitude is condemned, which raises Jesus to an equality with
God; in some cases venerates Mary almost to idolatry; attributes a
physical son to God; and invents the doctrine of the Trinity, opposed to
all reason, which according to the Athanasian Creed, unless a man
believes, he is doomed to hell forever. Let our Muslims also
beware lest they fall into excesses either in doctrine or in formalism.
Ali, in denying the authorship of the
Apostle John to the Gospel account which bears his own name, says:
The doctrines of Trinity, equality with God, and sonship, are repudiated
as blasphemies. God is independent of all needs and has no need
of a son to manage His affairs. The Gospel of John (whoever wrote
it) has put in a great deal of Alexandrian and Gnostic mysticism round
the doctrine of the Word (Greek, Logos), but it is simply explained…”
The Qur’an further declares that to
equate Christ as God is blasphemy:
blasphemy indeed are those that say that God is Christ the Son of Mary…
And, as we pointed out earlier, the
Qur’an teaches that Jesus was merely an apostle:
Christ the son of Mary was no more than an Apostle…
The Qur’an condemns Christians for
calling Christ “Lord.”
take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary; yet they were commanded to
worship but One God: there is no God but He.
In regards to the messianic title “Son
of God,” the Qur’an actually curses Christians who proscribe this title to
The Jews called ‘Uzair [i.e., Ezra] a son of God, and the
Christians call Christ the Son of God. That is a saying from
their mouth; (In this) they but imitate what the Unbelievers of old used
to say. God’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the
The Qur’an also teaches that Jesus was as Adam, a being created from the
dust of the earth.
The simultude of Jesus before God is as that of Adam; He created him
from dust, then he said to him: “Be” and he was.
The Qur’an on
Christ’s Death and Resurrection
The Qur’an teaches that Christ did not die on the cross of Calvary.
[the Jews] said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the
Apostle of God;” but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it
was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of
doubts, with no (certain) knowledge but only conjecture to follow, for
of a surety they killed him not…
Instead, Sura 4:158 says that God
literally raised him up to heaven while still in his mortal body.
Nay, God raised him up unto
Further, the Qur’an teaches in Sura
4:159 that Jesus will die some time in the future, prior to the Day of
And there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him
before his [Christ’s] death; and on the Day of Judgment He will be a
witness against them…
Interpretation of these verses is hotly contested among Islamic
commentators. Ali states:
There is difference of opinion as to the exact interpretation of this
verse. The words are: The Jews did not kill Jesus, but God raised him up
(rafa’a) to Himself. One school holds that Jesus did not die the usual
human death, but still lives in the body in heaven; another holds that
he did die (v. 120) but not when he was supposed to be crucified, and
that his being “raised up” unto God means that instead of being
disgraced as a malefactor, as the Jews intended, he was on the contrary
honoured by God as His Apostle… The same word rafa’a is used in
association with honour…
Ali goes on to comment on Sura 4:159,
which deals with the return of Christ at judgment day:
Before his death. Interpreters are not agreed as to the exact
meaning. Those who hold that Jesus did not die… refer the pronoun
“his” to Jesus. They say that Jesus is still living in the body
and that he will appear just before the Final Day in preparation for the
coming of Imam Mahdi, when the world will be purified of sin and
unbelief. There will be a final death before the final
Resurrection, but all will have believed before that final death.
Others think that “his” is better referred to “none of the People of the
Book,” and that the emphatic form “must believe” denotes more a question
of duty than of fact.
Other Islamic schools of thought say
Jesus merely swooned on the cross and went on to preach in India, where he
died (see Gleason Archer’s comments on “Islamic
Pre-conceptions of Christianity”).
The Qur’an on Christ’s Disciples
After Jesus had chosen His disciples,
the Qur’an teaches that the disciples declared themselves to be Muslims.
He [Jesus] said: “Who will be my helpers to (the work of) God?” Said the
Disciples: “We are God’s helpers; we believe in God, and do thou bear
witness that we are Muslims.”
The disciples were men who had little
care for anything more important than food and drink. Ali comments
in his Note 825 for Sura 5:112:
The request of the Disciples savours a little of (1) want of faith, (2)
too much attention to physical food, and (3) a childish desire for
miracles or Signs….
Other citations indicate that the
Disciples were merely helpers or partners of God’s work. Consider Sura
O ye who believe! Be
ye helpers of God; as said Jesus the son of Mary to the Disciples, “Who
will be my helpers to (the work of) God?” Said the Disciples, “We are
The Qur’an, then,
paints a portrait of Jesus Christ that is not the same as the Biblical