Published: 00:00 GMT Standard Time - Wednesday 23 December 2009
The Muslim Jesus
The Muslim Jesus
Christianity is founded on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. “Christ is our Cornerstone,” wrote an early Christian hymn writer, “on Him alone we build; on His great love our hopes we place of present grace and joys above.”
However, there is currently a controversy over the relationship between the Jesus who is known, loved and worshipped by millions of Christians, and the figure of “Jesus” (called ‘Isa in the Qur’an and in the hadith) as found in Islam. Some Christians engaged in dialogue with Muslims have argued that the ‘Isa of the Muslim sources, the Qur’an and hadith, is essentially the same as the Jesus of the New Testament.
But if this is true, all the principal teachings of Christianity will need to be reinterpreted. Christians have traditionally viewed Jesus Christ as the second person in the Godhead, the Lord who is to be worshipped and adored. Christ’s incarnation and substitutionary death on the cross are seen as God’s redemptive plan from all eternity, forming the basis of God’s offer of free salvation to all who believe.
Islam, on the other hand, claims that ‘Isa was a mere human being, although it accepts and reveres him as a sinless prophet and miracle worker. It also affirms his virgin birth and his return to earth (though as a Muslim). But Muslims reject the phrase “Son of God” as blasphemous, because they interpret it in a literal and physical sense. Islam denies ‘Isa’s deity, incarnation, crucifixion, atoning sacrifice and resurrection. Muslims claim that someone else was crucified in his place. Islam thus denies the very heart of the Christian faith.
For Muslims, Muhammad and not ‘Isa is the perfect man, the God-given perfect example. Muhammad is seen as vastly superior to ‘Isa, and in Islamic practice the veneration of Muhammad is widespread. He has become an eternal Christ-like figure, for whose sake God created the world, the only real intercessor and mediator.
All nature joins in homage, all men adore;
Thee who brought light to a darksome world;
Ya Rasool Allah! my homage I make to thee;
Ya, Nabi Allah! my love I tender thee;
My life, my all, for thee I gladly give;
Thy divine message shall with me forever live.1
Early Islam emerged out of Muhammad’s conflict with the Jews and Christians of Arabia. Passages on ‘Isa in the Qur’an and hadith are thus part of a polemical attack on Biblical truth concerning Jesus.
There are two main sources for the Muslim “Jesus”: the Qur’an gives a history of his life, whilst the hadith collections establish his place in the Muslim understanding of the end times.