Chapter 7
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Click here to purchase a printed copy of this bookChapter 7: The Christ of the Qur’an

by Charles Welty

I

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!”[1]

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 anyone.

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.”[2]

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…”[3]

The Qur’an on Christ’s Apostleship

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 real birds.

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…”[4]

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.

O 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…[5]

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…[6]

The Qur’an on Christ’s Deity

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.[7]

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.[8]

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…”[9]

The Qur’an further declares that to equate Christ as God is blasphemy:

In blasphemy indeed are those that say that God is Christ the Son of Mary…[10]

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…[11]

The Qur’an condemns Christians for calling Christ “Lord.”

…And (they take as their Lord) Christ the son of Mary; yet they were commanded to worship but One God: there is no God but He.[12]

In regards to the messianic title “Son of God,” the Qur’an actually curses Christians who proscribe this title to Jesus Christ:

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 truth![13]

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.[14]

 The Qur’an on Christ’s Death and Resurrection

The Qur’an teaches that Christ did not die on the cross of Calvary.

…[T]hey [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…[15]

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 Himself…

Further, the Qur’an teaches in Sura 4:159 that Jesus will die some time in the future, prior to the Day of Judgment.

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…[16]

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.”[17]

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 61:14:

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 God’s helpers!”

The Qur’an, then, paints a portrait of Jesus Christ that is not the same as the Biblical picture.


[1]Sura 19:23

[2]Sura 19:24-26

[3]Sura 19:29-31

[4]Sura 3:49

[5]Sura 4:171

[6]Sura 5:75

[7]Sura 4:171

[8]Ali: Note 675 at Sura 4:171.

[9]Ali: Note 676 at Sura 4:171.

[10]Sura 5:17

[11]Sura 5:75.

[12]Sura 9:31

[13]Sura 9:30.

[14]Sura 3:59

[15]Sura 4:157

[16]Ali: Note 664 at Sura 158.

[17]Sura 3:52

 


Introduction Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5 Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13 Chapter 14 Appendix

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