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CHRIST OR NOT CHRIST?

Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

Syed M. Waqas

Bab-ul-Ilm Research Foundation


Spring, 2015
www.birf.weebly.com
Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

CONTENTS

Title Page

1. Foreword 3

2. Introduction 5

3. Birth and Childhood of Jesus 9

4. Jesus—More Than a Prophet? 14

5. Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus 20

6. The Gospel, According to the Qur'an 23

7. Jesus and the End-Times Messiah 26

8. Critical Appreciation 31

9. Bibliography 33

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Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

“We gave Jesus the son of Mary Clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit.”

(AL-QUR'AN 2:87)

F OREWORD
The paper seeks to demonstrate a deep underlying connection between the Islamic 'Isa
and the New Testament Christ rather than treating and branding the Qur'anic portrayal of Jesus
as a "stand alone" concept hanging in a theological blank. I will deal with the subject of Jesus in
the Qur'an in objective terms in this paper without getting the authorial "self" involved at any
level. Before properly entering into the text of the paper, however, it would be beneficial to lay
out some basic principles about the research methodology I will follow in the following pages. I
will refer to the Islamic Scripture as the Qur'an throughout this paper. The proper rendering of
the Scripture in religious, linguistic, and historical frameworks, however, is the Glorious Qur'an,
Noble Qur'an or Wise Qur'an when translated from Arabic. The appellation Holy Qur'an is less
formally used among Muslims, because there is no textual reference to this particular
construction in the Qur'an itself. However, the tendency of terming the Islamic Scripture as the
Holy Qur'an is becoming more commonplace in English literature produced on Islam for its
compatibility with the generic rendering of the Christian Scripture as Holy Bible. Similarly, the
Qur'an is also written as the Koran, which is not being followed in the present paper because it is
not the standard Islamic style for transliterating the Arabic title of the Islamic Scripture in
English.1

The paper is structured according to the major Qur'anic precepts and concepts on the
person of Jesus Christ. Moreover, the comparative study, when and where so needed, is carried
out on two fronts: comparison with the Bible and comparison with the Orthodox Islamic position
regarding Jesus on certain points whose provenance is not the Qur'an itself. All of the Arabic
words, titles of books, and names are italicized—unless otherwise mentioned.

I will not refer to the Qur'anic Jesus as Muhammad’s own 'imaginative' portrayal of Jesus
because it is one of those two extreme positions taken up by the polemicists and the apologists
regarding the Qur'an. The polemical scholarship generally refers to the worldview about Jesus
stipulated in the Qur'an as Muhammad’s view and version of the Judeo-Christian character of
Jesus, whereas the apologetic scholarship, on the other hand, always speaks of it as God’s true
statement of Jesus—hence the Creator’s own stance. I will follow the middle path in the paper
and will therefore refer to the Qur'an as the living source behind the Islamic tradition of Jesus,
which is always active as the subject seeks characterization.

1
There are also some other accepted ways to transliterate it in English, such as Qur’an, Quraan, and Qurān.

3
Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

I have not restricted myself to one particular translation of the Qur'an for the present
work, for such a thing does not fulfill the requirement of an academic research paper with respect
to the transmission of the Holy Book’s message. However, I have preferably benefited from the
renowned translation of ‘Abdullah Yousaf ‘Ali.

The formatting style for citing the chapter and verse of the Qur'an is different from that of
the Bible. Although it appears identical to a general reader, it certainly is not. Unlike the books
of the Bible, the Qur'an is not a library of assorted materials, such as books by many authors, and
it is therefore treated as a singularity divided in chapters called Sūrahs. It is the reason why when
we simply make a reference to the Qur'an, such as 4:157, it effectively serves the purpose
because it stands for the 4thSūrah/chapter of the Qur'an, Sūrah Nisā, and 157th verse—the only
place where the account of Jesus’ crucifixion is given. On the other hand, we are required to
mention the title of the biblical book before the chapter and verse number, from which the
reference originates.
Lastly, I have adopted those special characters typically used for the transliteration of
Arabic into English, such as ā, ī, ū, in order to familiarize the reader with Islamic terminology on
a more academic plain in this paper. This is indeed crucial for a higher degree of research in an
interfaith context.

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Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

INTRODUCTION

‘Isa ibn Maryam, “Jesus the son of Mary,” is the personal name employed by the Qur'an,
the sacred Scripture of Islam, throughout its text for the founder of Christianity, the Christ
Jesus. In spite of its metronymic nature, this long name is not treated as a metronymic in the
proper sense of the word because ibn Maryam always occurs to distinguish Jesus in the same
way as a personal name does. This particular Qur'anic construction, speaking from an Islamic
perspective, emphasizes and reinforces the fact of Mary’s immaculate character and Jesus’
virginal birth in the Qur'anic conscience.2 The Qur'an recognizes Jesus as one of the mightiest
Prophetic-Messengers of God (Arabic, Rasūl; Greek, Apostolos) in the long chain of divine
emissaries. This unbroken chain commences with the Prophet Nūḥ—the biblical Patriarch Noah.
He is accepted as the first Rasūl, whereas Adam is considered the Father of humanity and the
first Prophet.

Jesus is Al-Masīḥ, "the Christ," in the paradigm of the Qur'an, which is an honorific title
conferred upon, and strictly reserved for the historical person of Jesus alone. The Qur'an does
not seem to have used the epithet of al-Masīḥ as a surname or an acquired title because it
occurs in a fashion that speaks of Jesus’ ordination by God even before his birth.3 However, this
area will be explored further in the coming pages in an attempt to understand what the Qur'an
exactly means by employing the aforesaid New Testament term.

Critically speaking, Jesus of the Qur'an is not radically different from that of the New
Testament, for the persona, role, and accomplishments of Jesus do not harbor any major
discrepancies between the Qur'anic and the New Testament portrayal of Jesus at a superficial
level. The fundamental difference, however, stems from the premise upon which the ministry
of Jesus is built in the consciousness of the two Scriptures. The Qur'an, in spite of

2
Baidawi in Geoffrey Parrinder, Jesus in the Qur’an, (New York: Oxford University Press, 1977), 22.
3
The Qur'an contradicts with the Gospels (Matthew 3:16-17; Mark 1:10-11; Luke 3:21-22) on the ordination of
Jesus as "Christ" on the eve of his baptism by John the Baptist. In this sense, therefore, the Qur'an officially
initiates the ministry of Jesus at the time of his birth.

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Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

acknowledging the virginal birth and miraculous powers of Jesus, denies the doctrine of
"Sonship" and does not canonize for Jesus the status of the "Son of God." Following its strict
code of divine unity (Arabic, Tawḥīd), the Islamic Scripture does not entertain the Christian
notion that gives space to the Trinitarian principle of Jesus’ Messianism tied into the concept of
deity. It maintains that God cannot have a son and therefore Jesus is only ‘Abd-Allah, "Servant
of God," in the first place and a Prophetic-Messenger in the second.4 It would be interesting to
analyze what the Qur'an postulates on the subject in question, which inadvertently projects the
conflict between the Christian and the Muslim theologies. The Qur'an comments on the
Christian doctrine of Sonship in the following words:

"The Christians say the Messiah is the Son of God that is a saying from their mouths."

(Sūrah Tawbah 9:30)

The strongest polemical argument that corresponds with all such ideas about God,
however, proceeds from one of the shortest chapters of the Qur'an that constitutes the
fundamental principle of the nature of Godhead being an absolute unity in Islam. It is the Sūrah
112, which reads as follows:

"Say: He is Allah, the One and Only. Allah, the Eternal, the Absolute. He begets not, nor is He
begotten. And there is none like unto Him."

(Sūrah Ikhlāṣ 112:1-5)

Unlike the Gospels, interestingly, there is no linear or historical biography of Jesus in the
Qur'an. It does not tell the story of Jesus in one place, for there is no particular chapter in the
Qur'an, where, in the fashion of the Synoptic Gospels, the whole story is given a biographic
snapshot by following a certain storyline. References to the birth, childhood, teachings,
ministry, miracles, and important events of the life of Jesus are scattered throughout the
Qur'anic text, which makes it overwhelmingly difficult for an ordinary reader to piece them all

4
This particular notion partially corresponds with Matthew 12:18, Mark 1:11, Acts 3:13 and 3:26. The Arabic word
‘Abd, “servant,” is the same word as the Hebrew word ‘Ebed in Isaiah 42:1. Paul also refers to this in Philippians 2:7
saying, “he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant.” Paul has used the Greek word doulos
here, which means ‘slave/servant.’ The other Greek term used in the New Testament with reference to ‘servant’ is
pais, which is often translated as "son."

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Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

together to make up one story. Jesus is mentioned both directly and indirectly in 93 verses of
the Qur'an out of the 6236 total verses.5 He is indirectly spoken of as the Nazarene, because his
followers are addressed as Naṣārā, "the Nazarenes." The Qur'an does not bring into reference
the traditional Arabic term used for the followers of Christ, al-Masīḥūn, "the Christians." In a
similar fashion, the disciples of Christ are awarded a title not traditionally used in the Arabic
language for a disciple. The plural word used some 13 times in the Qur'an to refer to the
disciples of Christ is Ḥawāriyyūn, which lexically means ‘those who whiten the clothes by
washing and beating.’6 Nevertheless, the context of the term dictates the meaning and implies
‘close companions of Christ' who are the 'fair helpers.’7

It is beyond doubt that the Qur'an accords immense respect to the persons of both
Jesus and his mother, Mary. As a matter of fact, the only Qur'anic chapter named after a
woman is the 19th chapter, which is named after Jesus' mother as Sūrah Maryam. She holds the
highest Qur'anic standard of purity and is defended against the Jewish stigmatization and
maculating of her character with reference to Jesus’ birth. The Qur'an stipulate this position in
such loud and clear terms as below:

“Allah hath set the seal on their (Jews’) hearts for their blasphemy, and little is it they believe; that
they rejected Faith; that they uttered against Mary a grave false charge.”

(Sūrah Nisā 4:156)

The Qur'an, furthermore, goes on defending Mary in a compelling apologetic discourse,


declaring (a) 'she guarded her chastity,' and that (b) 'God has chosen and sanctified her above
the women of all nations.’8

Jesus, as the Qur'an maintains, was sent to the "children of Israel" (Arabic, Banī Isrā’īl)
to command and steer them in righteousness and bring them back to the truth revealed in the

5
Gregory A. Barker and Stephen E. Gregg, Jesus Beyond Christianity: The Classic Texts (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 2010), 84.
6
Edward William Lane, Arabic-English Lexicon (Vol. 2, Cambridge: Islamic Text Society, 1984), art. HWR.
7
‘Abdul Mannan ‘Omar, Dictionary of the Qur’an: Arabic-English (2nd Edition, Hockessin: Noor Foundation
International, 2005), p. 141, art. HWR.
8
(a) Sūrah Anbiyā 21:92; (b) Sūrah Al 'Imrān 3:42.

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Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

Torah from their ungodly ways. Jesus almost always speaks in the Qur'an within the contextual
framework of the children of Israel.9

“(The Children of Israel, I have come to you), to attest the Law which was before me. And to make
lawful to you part of what was (before) forbidden to you; I have come to you with a Sign from your
Lord. So fear Allah, and obey me.”

(Sūrah Al 'Imrān 3:50)

9
The Qur'an echoes Matthew 15:24 here with the explicit connotation of limiting Jesus’ ministry to the Nation of
Israel alone.

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Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

Birth and Childhood of Jesus

The Qur'an sheds some light on the birth and childhood of Jesus in a manner that is
noticeably different from the Gospels. The Qur'an, even though it does not handle it in a great
detail, remains conservative in preserving the prophecy and immaculate birth of Jesus in the
overall presentation of its thesis. The language structure in the Qur'an reflects an ‘eternal
present continuum,’ which does not treat history in a chronological sequence.10 The style of the
Qur'an is, therefore, neither historical nor biographic when it deals with the person and
ministry of Jesus Christ. This is partly true of other major characters in the Qur'an. It will appear
on a closer examination that the Qur'an simply makes references to Jesus in accordance with a
given situation while telling anecdotes from a presumably historical life of Jesus. Critically
speaking, the Qur'anic style of portraying Jesus is ethical and theological, which is interlocked
with the central ethical-theological framework of the Scripture. It is, therefore, not unwise to
suggest that Jesus maintains a close resemblance with Abraham, Moses, David, and John the
Baptist in the Qur'an with respect to the nature of his prophetic ministry.11

The birth story of Jesus is told in the 19 th chapter, Sūrah Maryam. It is the most
complete Qur'anic account of the birth of Jesus and his miracle of speaking in the cradle. All
other accounts are brief and pithy, which only serve as a reference back to the account found in
the 19th chapter. It is, therefore, important to take a glance at the account of Sūrah Maryam.

“Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place toward
the East. She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then We sent her our angel, and he
appeared before her as a man in all respects. She said: “I seek refuge from thee to (Allah) Most
Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear Allah.” He said: “Nay, I am only a messenger from thy
Lord, (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son. She said: “How shall I have a son, seeing that no
man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?” He said: “So (it will be): Thy Lord saith, ‘that is

10
Tarif Khalidi, The Muslim Jesus, (Cambridge: Harvard University, 2001), 10.
11
Sūrah Mā'idah 5:75, “Christ the son of Mary was no more than an apostle; many were the apostles that passed
away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah doth
make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth!”

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Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us’: It is a
matter (so) decreed.” So she conceived him, and she retired with him to a remote place. 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!” 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 (by
gesture); ‘I have vowed a fast to (Allah) Most Gracious, and this day will I enter into no talk with
any human being.’” At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him (in her arms).
They said: “O Mary! Truly an amazing thing hast thou brought! O sister of Aaron! Thy father was
not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman unchaste!” But she pointed to the babe. They said:
“How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?” He (Jesus) said: “I am indeed a servant of
Allah. He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet; and He hath made me blessed
wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live; (He) hath made
me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable; so peace is on me the day I was born,
the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)!” Such (was) Jesus the son of
Mary: (it is) a statement of truth, about which they (vainly) dispute.”12

(Sūrah Maryam 19:16-34)

Interestingly enough, there is no mention of Joseph, the carpenter, in the Qur'an's


storyline of both Jesus and Mary. In the traditional commentaries of the Qur'an, this absence of
Joseph from the text of the Qur'an is approached on ethico-theological grounds, maintaining,
that such a companionship of Mary and Joseph before or on the eve of Jesus’ birth does not fit
in the moral-perfection-model introduced in the Qur'an.13 It could magnify, as is evident from
the scriptural language, the stigma of Jesus' fatherless birth and reinforce Jewish propaganda

12
The Qur'anic account of Jesus’ birth shares various features with the canonical Gospels of Matthew and Luke.
However, some of those features and nuances are also similar to those found in the extracanonical sources, such
as the Infancy Gospel of Mary and First Infancy Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Qur'an does not strictly follow the
Gospel pattern in telling the birth account of Jesus. An interesting question—and a logical one in the present
scenario—someone might want to ask at this stage is whether or not these anecdotes as told in the Qur'an were
adopted from both canonical and extracanonical Gospels. If the answer is to be sought in the affirmative, we will
still be left in blank regarding the follow-up question if Muhammad, the Prophet of Islam, had an access to such a
library of Christian sources beyond the Arabian lore.
13
Parrinder, Jesus, 23-24.

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Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

against Mary to the effect of maculating the moral characters of both mother and the son.14
Every measure of care is taken to portray Mary as a perfectly chaste and upright person in
order to establish the virginal birth as a principle for the life of Jesus being a "Sign of God."
Understandably, the Qur'anic ethics cannot afford to put Mary in the custodianship of Joseph,
which, if so done, would be tantamount to casting doubt on Mary’s conduct. This is obviously
not the case in Matthew.

“This is how the birth of Jesus the Messiah came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married
to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be pregnant through the Holy
Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to
public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel
of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to
take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She
will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his
people from their sins.”

(Matthew 1:18-21)

Approaching the subject from a critical angle requires raising an important question
here: did Muhammad ever get a chance to hear about any of the important characters, places,
and events in the life of Jesus, such as Joseph, Paul, Peter, Judas, Bethlehem, Nazareth,
Jerusalem, and God as Father, Baptism, and the Church? Even a cursory reading in the Qur'an
will reveal the fundamental truth that the Prophet of Islam was relatively better off in Judeo-
Christian religious tradition than most of his countrymen. However, how far well-versed he was
in this area is a matter still dependent upon further research and exploration. It is noteworthy
that the earliest and purportedly the most authentic biography of the Prophet Muhammad,
Sīrat Rasūl Allah by Muhammad ibn Isḥāq, includes a report from the court of the Abyssinian
king, the Negus, who confirmed the authenticity of the above Qur'anic account of Jesus in the

14
Sūrah Maryam 19:20, “She (Mary) said: “How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am
not unchaste?” – See also Sūrah Anbiyā 21:91, “And (remember) her who guarded her chastity: We breathed into
her of Our spirit, and We made her and her son a sign for all peoples.”

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Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

presence of several clergymen.15 The biographer Ibn Isḥāq says that Ja’far ibn Ṭayyār, a
renowned Companion and cousin of the Prophet, recited the first portion of Sūrah Maryam on
the inquiry of the Negus regarding Jesus’ status in Islam. On hearing the words of the Qur'an, it
is told that “the Negus wept until his beard was wet and the bishops wept until their scrolls
were wet.”16

Another short narration of Jesus’ story occurs in chapter 5, Sūrah Mā’īdah, where it
presents the events succeeding his birth, especially the period of ministry when Jesus is granted
the revelation of God's Word and ordained as a Messenger. It is the time when he starts
performing those grandiose miracles traditionally associated with him within and without the
New Testament canon.

“O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount My favour to thee and to thy mother. Behold! I strengthened thee
with the Holy Spirit, so that thou didst speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I
taught thee the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel and behold! Thou makest out of clay, as it
were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and thou breathest into it and it becometh a bird by My leave,
and thou healest those born blind, and the lepers, by My leave. And behold! thou bringest forth the
dead by My leave. And behold! I did restrain the Children of Israel from (violence to) thee when thou
didst show them the clear Signs, and the unbelievers among them said: ‘This is nothing but evident
magic.’”

(Sūrah Mā'īdah 5:110)

The Qur'an further systematizes its patchwork by asserting that the miraculous birth of
Jesus does not have to be approached exclusively from the Christian doctrinal position. It offers
an alternative argument for canonizing and defending the virginal birth and negating its
associative "deity" connotation simultaneously, which appears to be a byproduct of the virgin
birth concept in conventional theology.

“The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him:
“Be.” And he was!”

15
This exceptional occurrence came to pass during an event marked in the Islamic Calendar as the “Second Flight
to Abyssinia” (616-617 AD).
16
Muhammad ibn Isḥāq, Sīrat Rasūl Allah, Trans. Guillaume, A., The Life of Muhammad (Oxford: Oxford University
Press, 1955), 152.

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Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

(Sūrah Al 'Imrān 3:59)

The Islamic Scripture is almost completely silent on the youth and pre-ministry period of
Jesus' life. Apart from the miraculous birth, it deals with the life of Jesus in a way of
propositional argument by putting most of the statements made about Jesus and his teachings
into God's personal discourse. Jesus himself, on the other hand, only rarely makes appearance
in a dialogue, and wherever he so does, the dialogue generally proceeds with God himself as
the active speaker. A number of such dialogues in the Qur'an occur in a post-Apocalypse, End-
Times setting, which, according to the Muslim theology, is the final resurrection of all the dead
and is therefore referred to with multiple appellations, such as the "Day of Resurrection, Day of
Recompense, Day of Reckoning," and "Day of Assemblage." In this sense, Jesus assumes the
role of a witness against those who committed the grave sin of shirk, "association of partners
with God," in his name and claim to follow his Gospel.

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Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

Jesus—More Than a Prophet?

Even though the Qur'an provides sketchy details about the life of Jesus, it does indeed
seem convinced in ascertaining the essential difference between the prophetic ministry of
Jesus and those of the rest of the Prophets. While critically analyzing the sketch of Jesus in the
Qur'an, it becomes obvious that the Qur'an does not ordain Jesus as merely a Prophet (Arabic,
Nabī) in the conventional sense. It is, however, often believed by both Muslims and non-
Muslims about the status of Jesus in the Qur'an that he is only a Prophet in the likeness of
other Prophets. What needs to be appreciated in this context is the differentiation of the
conceptual threshold of the word Prophet in the Judeo-Christian and the Islamic traditions.
Prophecy in the Bible does not carry the same function and meaning as it does in the Qur'an.
The Qur'an attempts to bring more understanding to the concept in question by bringing near
perfection through infallibility to the office of prophecy (Arabic, Nabuwwah).17

The Qur'anic Jesus appears to be a client of a higher designation than what is typically
the Hebraic understanding of a Prophet. In fact, Jesus is one of the five towering personalities
of the Qur'an along with Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Muhammad. In order to be more
precise in the study of the prophetic tradition upheld and perpetuated in Islam, we must
undertake a qualitative appraisal of the office of prophecy at this point. Prophecy, or
Prophethood as Muslims call it, does not bear the same character in the biblical tradition and
Islam even though the Hebrew and Arabic languages use the same word for denoting
"prophet." A Prophet in the Qur'an surrenders his will to the Will of God and acts in the
manner of God's mouthpiece. There is no space for a Prophet to contradict divine injunctions,
nor can he seek salvation for anyone including his own family members unless it is so
ordained by God himself. Prophets are raised among their own people and they speak the

17
For instance, a Prophet does not commit deadly sins in the Qur'anic theorem—a concept that does not echo in
the Bible and remains exclusively reserved for Christ himself. The Qur'an does indeed acknowledge the "error of
judgment" element among the Prophets and prefers to call it ẓallah, "slip," rather than dhanb, "sin" (Sūrah
Baqarah 2:36)

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Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

language of their countrymen, because the Qur'an emphasizes on the crucial importance of
infallible communication in prophetic discourse.

The Qur'an recognizes the claim of the historical Jesus as al-Masīḥ, “the Christ,” but his
Messianic ministry is viewed without universal application as exclusively intended for the
nation of Israel. The Rhema of Christ, which falls within the divine communication paradigm of
the Qur'an, is assigned the title of Injīl, "Good News"—reminiscent of the Greek εὐαγγέλιον.
The Qur'an declares that the Injīl given to Jesus is a light and guidance from God for his
followers.18 Notably, Islamic schools of theology and law believe that the Injīl is the third book
of God in the line of four, which includes the Tawrat, "the Law," Zabūr, "the Psalms," Injīl, "the
Gospel," and the Qur'an itself. The Islamic Scripture attempts to contextualize the ministry of
Jesus in its historical framework and maintains that Jesus was raised to prophecy in order to
cleanse the Law of Moses from the legalism and corruption of the Jews. God had accorded
him the knowledge of the Law through Waḥī, "revelation," and granted him infallible insights
into the Prophetic Writings and the Wisdom literature. Such a progression of revelation,
therefore, culminated in the Gospel message of Jesus, which was proclaimed as the divine
decree for the Hellenistic world.19

From the point of view of ethics and civility, the Qur'an speaks of Jesus in high terms
and grants him the highest standard of purity.20 He is portrayed with a kind of moral
perfection that no other character in the Qur'an is endowed upon. Such unique traits echo the
New Testament Jesus, particularly that of the Evangelist John's theological characterization of
the historical Jesus. This seems to make a case for the view that John's principle of Logos
(λόγος), "Word," plays a part in the making of the Qur'anic Jesus.21 Jesus is, for instance,
spoken of in the Islam's Holy Writ as Kalimah, “a word,” from Allah. In the Qur'anic context,

18
Sūrah Mā'idah 5:46: “And in their footsteps We sent Jesus the son of Mary, confirming the Law that had come
before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come
before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah.”
19
Sūrah Al 'Imrān 3:48; Sūrah Mā'idah 5:110.
20
Sūrah Maryam 19:19.
21
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the
beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life,
and that life was the light of all mankind. (John 1:1-4)

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Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

this word Kalimah is a creative-imperative, “Be,” which was once uttered during the creation
scheme and thus "it was."22 In this respect, philosophically, the Kalimah (or the Logos) of the
Qur'an falls closer to Philo's Logos concept in resemblance than that of John's. It is
noteworthy that some Christian critics of the Qur'an still see a connection between the Logos
of the Fourth Gospel’s prologue and the aforesaid Qur'anic Kalimah.23 Such a view is,
however, opposed by Muslims, because majority of the classical and modern commentators
of the Qur'an insist that the term in question does not mean the Word of God; instead, it is a
generic rendering of the divine principle of creation recognized in the Qur'an with the Arabic
word Kun, “Be,” which can only mean "a word of God" in the case of Jesus.24 This
interpretation will, in all likelihood, make more sense when it is understood with the analogy
of the conceptual difference between Logos and Rhema in the Christian theology.

The Qur'an proceeds with its argument to build a case for the humanity of Christ while
incorporating these important terms and titles.

“O People of the Book!25 Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth.
Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of Allah, and His Word, which He
bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His apostles. Say not
‘Trinity’: desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah. Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He)
above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a
Disposer of affairs.”

(Sūrah Nisā 4:171)

Another important aspect of Jesus' person in the Qur'an is that he is one of the Ulu al-
‘Azm Anbiyā, “the Arch-Prophets,” a category that includes the top five Messengers of God in
the Qur'an.26 In the Qur'anic paradigm, this particular epithet is applied to a person in a
situation of difficulty where he is tried in the ways of the world, but his resoluteness remains

22
It is interesting to note that John the Baptist (Arabic, Yahiya) is also entitled to the same honorific title
Kalimatullah, “a Word of God,” in Sūrah Al 'Imrān 3:38-39.
23
Frederic Ntedika Mvumbi, The Identity of Christ in Islam (Nairobi: Paulines Publications, 2008), 94-95.
24
Parrinder, Jesus, 45-46.
25
Ahl al-Kitāb, “the People of the Book,” meaning the Jews and the Christians. It is also sometimes translated as the
"Followers of the Bible."
26
Sūrah Shūrā 42:13.

16
Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

unwavering. For such a person faith is the ultimate strength and perseverance as well as
passion is the key to success in the sight of God. From a stylistic point of view, moreover, the
language of the Qur'an is eloquent and terse, called saj, "prosaic poetry," which only allows
room for brief descriptions without getting into much details. The interpretation of the Qur'an
by the Prophet Muhammad and the details of the characters, places, and events of the Qur'an,
therefore, make effective appearance in the Ḥadīth literature, the second source of Islamic
religion.

The Qur'an makes another huge leap and recognizes Jesus as Rūḥullah, “the
Breath/Spirit of God.”27 The act of employing this title for Jesus seems a Qur'anic stratagem for
the appropriation of the Qur'anic theology against the mythical notion of god-savior's
preexistence (cf. John 1:14) and miraculous birth, which Christian theology came to adopt as a
mandatory character for the ideal of Christ, the heavenly Savior. This specific title is accorded to
clear Mary off the Jewish accusation of misconduct by maintaining that Jesus was born without
an earthly father because his conception was the result of God's breath of life. The Qur'an also
uses the terminology of blowing spirit or breath of life when speaking of the creation of
Adam—possibly the creation of humanity in general: "So when I have fashioned him and had a
spirit of My Own creation breathed into him" (Sūrah Ṣād 38:72).

Like his wonder works in the New Testament, Jesus performs identical astonishing
miracles in the Qur'an to outwit and shake the phenomenology of his audience, whereof some
happen to have their origins in the extracanonical Infancy Gospels.28 He heals the leper and
quickens the dead. The New Testament ingredient of "exorcism" is missing in the making of the
Qur'anic Christ, however. Moreover, it is not the will of Jesus himself that is the source of his
miracles, according to the Qur'an, because his entire miraculous activity is commissioned by
God (Arabic, bi-idhni'llah), and thus God alone is the source.

"And (appoint him) a messenger 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

27
Sūrah Nisā 4:171 – The Rūḥullah epithet remotely corresponds with the accounts of both Matthew and Luke
because Mary gets “pregnant through the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 1:18)
28
Jan A.B. Jongeneel, Jesus Christ in World History (Frankfurt: Peter Lang, 2009), 128.

17
Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allah's leave: And I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and
I quicken the dead, by Allah’s leave; and I declare to you what ye eat, and what ye store in your
houses. Surely therein is a Sign for you if ye did believe.”

(Sūrah Al 'Imrān 3:49)

The Qur'an maintains that Jesus is raised within the Mosaic covenant and therefore he is
the follower of the Torah in his personal capacity. In the Qur'an, Jesus also confirms the Law of
Moses as the ultimate path of salvation and consecrates it as the Word of God and guidance for
the children of Israel.

“(I have come to you), to attest the Law which was before me.29 And to make lawful to you part of
what was (Before) forbidden to you; I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord. So fear Allah,
and obey me.”

(Sūrah Al 'Imrān 3:50)

There is yet another aspect to Islam's reception of Jesus that needs to be discussed in
this reference. Islam's Apocalypse concept is incomplete without Jesus. Although most of the
details about the "Second Coming" of Jesus occur in the Ḥadīth literature, Jesus is spoken of in
the Qur'an as a “Sign” of the Hour—the Day of Judgment. The Qur'an confirms in Sūrah 43:61 in
the words as follows:

“And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt
about the (Hour), but follow ye Me: this is a Straight Way.”

(Sūrah Zukhruf 43:61)

The above cited verse becomes the main platform for all of the subsequent
development of Islam’s Messianic Jesus. This subject of Jesus’ messianic role will be dealt in
relatively more detail under a different heading in the pages to follow.

When it comes to the teachings of Jesus, the Qur'an appears resolute in its antithetical
stance to the Pauline teachings of the New Testament. It does not acknowledge that Jesus
preached his own "deity" and commanded—or even allowed—his followers to "worship" him.
29
Matthew 5:17 echoes in places such as Sūrah 3:50 in the Qur'an. The resemblance usually remains only partial in
such accounts and statements.

18
Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

As a matter of fact, the Qur'an's rejection of the doctrine of Trinity is a key component of its
theological view of Christianity, for it views Trinity as an offense on the holiness, omnipotence,
and unity of the ultimate Being of God. The transcendental God of the Qur'an is deeply—and
sometimes exclusively—concerned with His absolute oneness, which, the Qur'an maintains, is
'blasphemed' if it is voiced through a polytheistic doctrine, such as Trinity. The Qur'an,
therefore, takes a step forward and advises the Ahl al-Kitāb, "the People of the Book," to
refrain from using the theologically culpable term, Trinity, for describing the nature of God's
unity. To this effect, it enjoins:

“Say not ‘Trinity’; desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one, only Allah.”30

(Sūrah Nisā 4:171)

30
Similarly, it enunciates in Sūrah Ma’idah 5:73: “They do blaspheme who say: Allah is one of three in a Trinity: for
there is no god except One Allah.”

19
Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

Crucifixion and Resurrection of Jesus

The orthodox Islam believes that Jesus was not crucified.31 He survived the Roman
crucifixion and was lifted up by God to Himself, as the only reference to his crucifixion in the
Qur'an seems to point out (Sūrah Nisā 4:157-158). The question as to how he survived the
crucifixion has never fully been appreciated and answered because the Qur'an is silent on this
subject. There are various theories available about the escape of Jesus, which, by and large,
emanate either from the Islamic Hebraic tradition, the so-called Isrā'īliyāt, or from some weakly
supported prophetic traditions, al-Ḥadīth. The most prominent among such exegetical theories
is called the "Substitution Theory," which is hinged upon by Muslim scholars across the board,
i.e. from humble positions to the highest echelons. This theory purports that a certain other
individual was substituted with Jesus in the chaos that erupted before cross.32 However, it is
important to note that no such claim can be traced from within the Qur'an itself. The Qur'an
mentions the crucifixion event in only one verse, where it denies the crucifixion and killing of
Jesus as a counter-claim to the Jewish boast of having killed the ‘self-appointed Messiah,’ the
envoy of God. The Qur'an adopts a polemical approach at this stage in order to condemn Jewish
bragging and declares them as a misled multitude that follows "delusions."

“That they (the Jews) said boasting, “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah.
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. Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise. And
there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him before his death; and on the Day of
Judgment he will be a witness against them.”

(Sūrah Nisā 4:157-159)

31
The use of the term 'orthodox' requires some clarification here because a modern religion of Islamic background,
Aḥmadiyyah, from the Indian Subcontinent claims that Jesus died a natural death and Ghulām Aḥmad of Qādiān,
the founder of the sect, is the 'Second Coming' of Christ.
32
Chawkat Moucarry, The Prophet and the Messiah, An Arab Christian’s Perspective on Islam and Christianity
(Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 2001), 135.

20
Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

Various interpretations have been offered for this obscure passage from within and
without the Islamic world. At times, commentators have also ventured to take these verses,
especially when viewed in the light of Sūrah 3:55, as a tacit affirmation of the crucifixion as a
historical event while denying only the part that the Jews have claimed to play in it.33 Christian
polemicists usually treat the above verses of the Qur'an as bearing the influence of Docetism—
potentially an influential candidate for spreading Gnosticism in the Near East and Arabia in the
history of late Christian Gnosticism.34

The Qur'an does not appear to have been familiar with the doctrine of the
"resurrection" of Jesus. In fact, the Qur'an lacks the tomb image in toto, let alone the empty
tomb visited by the female followers of Jesus after his resurrection. The Qur'anic Jesus does not
die on the cross to have to descend into the tomb for the ultimate test of resurrection—the
proof of divinity for the church. He is taken up by his Lord (Arabic, Rabb, not Abba, "father")
unto Himself, which the exegetes claim is a place in the highest heavens.

“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. Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is
Exalted in Power, Wise.”

(Sūrah Nisā 4:157-158)

The theology of the Qur'an is altogether devoid of the word “Father” with reference to
God. The New Testament expression "Father in Heaven" is fundamentally alien to the linguistic
structure of the Qur'an, whereas the word Allah for God is indistinctly employed throughout
the text even in the context of the Prophets of the ancient, such as Noah, Abraham, Moses,
David, and Jesus. It again goes back to the theological framework of the Qur'an where no
distinction is made between any of the Prophetic-Messengers and therefore Jesus shares the
same essential qualification of prophetic ministry as others do.35

33
Neal Robinson, Christ in Islam and Christianity (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1991), 108-109.
34
Khalidi, Muslim Jesus, 12.
35
“Say: “We believe in Allah, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael,
Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the Prophets, from their Lord: We make
no distinction between one and another among them, and to Allah do we bow our will.” (Sūrah Al 'Imrān 3:84)

21
Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

The denial of Jesus’ crucifixion—and by default that of his subsequent resurrection—has


been an orthodox doctrinal position of Muslims ever since the writing and redaction of the
Qur'an’s classical commentaries. It is plausible, however, that the doctrine of ascension-
beyond-crucifixion did not start off within the same theological character during the lifetimes of
the Prophet Muhammad. It is also possible that the first generation after the Prophet believed
in relatively different details about Jesus’ final events than those canonized and dogmatized
afterwards in the second and third generations of posterity. From a historical-critical point of
view, such a characterization of the Islamic Jesus was an aftermath of Judeo-Christian linguistic
and doctrinal influence on Islam's evolving thought, particularly, under the Damascus Caliphate
of the Umayyad Dynasty.36

Today, the trends of benefiting from Judeo-Christian sources and giving credence to the
historical details available in them about Jesus’ life and crucifixion are again gaining currency
among Muslim researchers and historical scholarship in the academic world and outside alike.

36
Jongeneel, Jesus in World History, 128.

22
Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

The Gospel, According to the Qur'an

Injīl, "the Evangel," according to the Qur'an is radically different from that of the New
Testament conception and transmission of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. The Qur'an’s reference
to the Gospel is an abstract concept, which is not grounded, per se, in the history of Christian
theology. By the time of the Prophet Muhammad, Christianity was only six hundred years old,
which leaves out the possibility of including the Qur'anic narrator's thoughts on the later
developments. It is noteworthy that Muslim scholars often treat the Qur'anic reference to the
Gospel of Jesus as identifiable with the New Testament itself, which, on the other hand, is
claimed to have been corrupted over the course of time.37 Such an approach is, however,
unrealistic because the Qur'an itself yields evidence to support a radically different postulate
on the contrary.

An important question that begs an answer is: what does the Qur'an really mean by
the Injīl and what is the message of Jesus within the scope of its theological worldview? The
Qur'anic Injīl is given a vocal expression and an unequivocal meaning in one of the verses of
the Qur'an in Sūrah 61. It reads:

“And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: “O Children of Israel! I am the messenger of Allah
(sent) to you, confirming the Law (which came) before me, and giving the Good News/Evangel of a
Divine Messenger to come after me, whose name shall be Aḥmad.38” But when he came to them
with Clear Signs, they said, “This is evident sorcery!” (Emphasis added)

(Sūrah Ṣaff 61:6)

The Arabic rendition of the Gospel is Injīl, which is an Arabized version of the Greek
εὐαγγέλιον, transcribed in English as Euangelion. The Qur'an has mentioned the word Injīl on
twelve different occasions in the exclusive meaning of the "revelation" granted to Jesus, the

37
Oliver Leaman, The Qur'an: An Encyclopedia (New York, NY: Routledge, 2006), 298.
38
Prophet Muhammad’s first name given to him by his mother at his birth. Name Muhammad was given later on
by his grandfather, ‘Abdul Muṭṭalib.

23
Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

son of Mary, "the Christ."39 Jeffery Arthur, a noted Orientalist and the author of The Foreign
Vocabulary of the Qur’an, suggests Ethiopic wangel as the origin of the word Injīl and claims
that its ‘long vowel is almost conclusive evidence of the Arabic word having come from
Abyssinia.’40 However, it is not known from any reliable source as to how and when the word
in question entered into the Arabic language to become Injīl. The Arabic root for the noun Injīl
is najala, which means "to draw water from" or "to father a child," and thus the word itself
implies posterity.41 The term adopted in the Qur'an for the Christ's revelation, Injīl, however,
encompasses the trajectory of the contents of Waḥī, “Revelation/Inspiration,” and Kitāb,
“Divine Book" or "Manifesto,” which are considered the foundation of prophecy in the Islamic
weltanschauung. While the word Injīl represents the revelation and/or manifesto of Christ,
there is yet another word employed in the Qur'an to mean "good news" in an identical lexical
field as in the New Testament. The Islamic Scripture, therefore, yields two different
dimensions of the "good news" of Jesus, which apparently seems to bring more complexity to
the problem than ease in solving it.

Arabic noun Bushrā or Basharā means "good news," and it is this same root employed
in the above referenced verse of the Qur'an (61:6). In this sense, as the Qur'an articulates it,
an important part of Jesus’ Gospel message was also to proclaim the coming of a glorified
Prophet after him. We are left, therefore, with no ambiguity that the Islamic Scripture has
dealt with the Christian concepts and terminology on an relatively different lexical—and often
conceptual—threshold in order to adapt them to its own fundamental doctrinal and
theological principles and positions.

The Muslim scholarship of Biblia Hebraica and Christology attempts to trace the
connection of the Qur'anic Gospel, as framed in Sūrah Ṣaff 61:6, with the Comforter or
Paraclete (παράκλητος) of John 14:16.42 Similarly, the 7th chapter of the Qur'an, Sūrah A'rāf,
also alludes to this particular notion of the "good news" against a somewhat broader

39
Parrinder, Jesus, 145.
40
Jeffery Arthur, The Foreign Vocabulary of the Qur’an (Baroda: Oriental Institute, 1938), 72.
41
D.S. Margoliouth, Chrestomathia Baidawiana: The Commentary of El-Baidāwī on Sura III (London: Luzac & Co.,
1894). 2.
42
Maulana Abdul Haq Vidyarthi, Muhammad in World Scriptures (Vol. 1, Columbus, OH: Ahmadiyya Anjuman
Isha‘at Islam Lahore Inc., 1999), 382-383.

24
Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

spectrum.43 There are many dimensions in which the Islamic scholars attempt to reconstruct
the Qur'anic concept of the Bushrā from the Gospel of John, the Synoptic Gospels, the
extracanonical Gospels and elsewhere, which is, however, beyond the scope of this present
research.

43
“Those who follow the Apostle (of Allah), the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own
(scriptures),- in the law and the Gospel.” (Sūrah A'rāf 7:157)

25
Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

Jesus and the End-Times Messiah

In spite of acknowledging Jesus as the "Messiah," the Qur'an does not explicitly speak of
the primary or secondary Messianic role of Jesus anywhere across its text. It is evident from the
Qur'an and its complementary literature that the word Messiah is used within an entirely
different connotative construction. The word, Al-Masīḥ, is built into a prophetic frame of
reference within the discourse of the Qur'an, which is far removed from the theology of the
New Testament. There is little evidence in the Qur'an to support the hypothesis that the Islamic
Scripture historically used the Arabic term al-Masīḥ (Hebrew Meshiakh) in the same sense as it
was understood by the writers of the New Testament in the first century. The Qur'an took
appellation of Masīḥ as either a personal name of Jesus or his attributive anointment in the role
of the culminating Messenger of God to the House of Israel.44

The whole concept of the Messianic role of Jesus in Islam was a result of the religious
evolution triggered after Muslims’ dramatic conquests over the lands of the Jews, Christians,
Zoroastrians, and pagans, wherein the Messianic Jesus sprang up ipso facto in the subsequently
following religious evolution.45 We cannot say with absolute certainty whether the Prophet
Muhammad himself ever believed or taught about the Second Coming of the historical al-
Masīḥ, the Son of Mary. It was, however, not an independent ontogenesis of the Islamic Jesus
in his Messianic role; instead, it did find a couple of vague references within the Qur'anic text to
lay its foundation upon. The Qur'an, for instance, only vaguely hints at this notion on those two
places where the role of Jesus is apparently stretched out to the Apocalypse and the Day of
Judgment. The Qur'an says:

“And there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him before his death; and on the Day
of Judgment he will be a witness against them.”

(Sūrah Nisā 4:159)

44
Sūrah Al 'Imrān 3:49-50.
45
Khalidi, Muslim Jesus, 18.

26
Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

“And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt
about the (Hour), but follow ye Me: this is a Straight Way.”

(Sūrah Zukhruf 43:61)

The most widely acclaimed English commentator of the Qur'an in the modern times,
‘Abdullah Yousaf ‘Ali, comments on Sūrah 43:61 in the following words:

This is understood by some commentators to refer to the second coming of Jesus in the Last
Days before Resurrection.46

The rest of the development and embellishing of Jesus’ Messianic figure in Islam is,
more or less, indebted to the early adoption of Hebraic literature in Islam. This particular
assortment of literature was soon afterwards tossed under the heading of Isrā’īliyāt, “the
Hebraic Traditions.”47 Moreover, an equally important role was played by the highly revered
Prophetic traditions of Islam, Ḥadīth, and the Syrian-Egyptian lore in dressing the cloak of
apocalyptic role on Jesus in Islam. It is noteworthy that Jesus is not the only Messianic figure
that has made appearance in Islam’s apocalyptic literature. There is yet another, rather more
powerful Messianic figure with purely Islamic orientation called Al-Mahdī, “the Divinely
Guided,” that has emerged as a byproduct of the "Second Coming" doctrine's adoption by the
Muslims. Such an innovation was, in all religio-historical likelihood, aimed at gratifying the
insatiable desire of Messianic-minded Muslims for a Muslim Messiah. This particular situation
was even more obvious in late seventh century Syria where the aristocratic Arabs interacted
and debated with well-entrenched Christian subjects.

An interesting Ḥadīth account is cited below here to note how the Muslim mind
eventually achieved a psychological superiority over Christianity by adding a messianic figure of
their own above Christian Christ, Jesus.

46
‘Abdullah Yousaf ‘Ali, The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an (New Edition, Beltsville, Maryland: Amana Publications,
1999), 1276.
47
Abdelwahab Meddeb, and Benjamin Stora, A History of Jewish-Muslim Relations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton
University Press, 2013), 628.

27
Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

“'What will be your feelings when the son of Mary will come down to you and your Imam (spiritual
leader) will be from amongst you (in spite of Jesus' presence)!”48

Interestingly enough, Islamic literature on the Second Coming of Jesus is prodigiously


large. Its immensity in comparison with the canonical Christian literature and the
extracanonical Christian lore is surprising, for it surpasses Christian materials in a number of
ways. As a matter of fact, the Islamic Messianic corpus is so vast and diverse that multiple
frameworks and patchworks for reconstructing the final role of Jesus can simultaneously be
developed from it. Some of those accounts of Jesus' Messianic role, for instance, are listed
below in order to get this subject better analyzed and appreciated for the present research.

1. The Messenger of Allah said: “There is no Prophet between me and him (Jesus Christ). He
shall descend (from heaven). You should recognize him when you see him. He is a man
of medium height, (his complexion) is between reddish and white; he will be between
(or dressed in) two slightly yellowish garments; his head looks as if it is dripping
water even though it is not wet. He will fight the (evil) people in the cause of God’s
religion, will break the Cross and kill the swine (pig) and abolish Jizyah (obligatory tax
imposed on the non-Muslims in a Muslim state); and Allah will put an end to all religious
paths except Islam during his time. He (Jesus) will slay the Antichrist and will stay in the
World for 40 years. Then, he will die and the faithful will perform the funeral prayer for
him.49

2. The Messenger of Allah said: “The Antichrist would then walk through the wasteland and
say to it: ‘Bring forth your treasures,’ and the treasures would come out and collect
(themselves) before him like the swarm of bees… It would at this very time that Allah
would send Christ, the son of Mary, and he will descend at the white minaret in the
eastern side of Damascus wearing two garments lightly dyed with saffron and placing his
hands on the wings of two Angels. When he would lower his head, there would fall beads
of perspiration from his head, and when he would raise it up, beads like pearls would
scatter from it. Every non-believer who would smell his odor would die and his breath
would reach as far as he would be able to see. He would then search for him (Antichrist)

48
Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī, Book 60 (“Sayings and Teachings of Prophets”), Ḥadīth No. 3449 – This account rhetorically
establishes that the spiritual leader of the Muslim community will enjoy authority also over Jesus when he returns.
49
Sunan Abū Daw'ūd, Book 37 (“Trials and Fierce Battles”), Ḥadīth No. 4310

28
Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

until he would catch hold of him at the Gate of Ludd (in Israel) and would kill him there.
Then a people whom Allah had protected would come to Jesus, the son of Mary, and he
would wipe their faces and would inform them of their ranks in Paradise and it would be
under such conditions that Allah would reveal to Jesus these words: “I have brought
forth from amongst My servants such people against whom none would be able to fight.50

3. The Messenger of Allah said: “The Daijāl (Antichrist) will appear in my Ummah (Muslim
community), and will live for forty. Then Allah will send Jesus, the son of Mary. He will
closely resemble 'Urwah ibn Masūd (a Companion of Prophet Mohammad). Then he will
pursue him (Antichrist) and kill him. Then, for seven years, the people will live in such a
state that there will be no ill-will or enmity between any two individuals of them.51

4. The Messenger of Allah said: “There would be written three letters k.f.r. (the Arabic root-
word for kufr, “unbelief”) between the eyes of the Daijāl (Antichrist).52

The critics of Islam's Ḥadīth literature are not in consensus about the provenance and
source material for such assorted Messianic accounts. However, what can be determined at
length with a relative degree of certainty is that such a wide range of accounts on apocalypse
and eschatology can in no way be, in their entirety, a product of pure imagination and
speculation. The question as to how much there was in the storehouse of the church tradition,
folklore, popular legend, and apocryphal literature of the Eastern churches across the Christian
belt at the turn of sixth century is open to debate even today.

On the other hand, it is no less than a surprise that the earliest Arabic lectionary or a
partially done Arabic version of the Bible appeared at least two centuries after the death of
Islam's Prophet.53 How could Muhammad have gained access to such a large amount of both
oral and written Christological and apocalyptic materials, scattered from Egypt through Lent,
and across the West Sahara, which the Arabs called Al-Maghrib, might never be answered with
accuracy.

50
Ṣaḥīḥ al-Muslim, Book 19 (“Accounts of the Antichrist and His Features”), Ḥadīth No.7015
51
Ṣaḥīḥ al-Muslim, Book 54 (“The Book of Tribulations and the Signs of the Last Hour”), Ḥadīth No. 7023
52
Ṣaḥīḥ al-Muslim, Book 41 (“The Book Pertaining to the Turmoil and Portents of the Last Hour”), Ḥadīth No. 7008
53
Khalidi, Muslim Jesus, 21.

29
Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

A third voice proposes a potentially more pragmatic solution to this problem. Since the
Qur'anic text is completely void of explicit references—except for the two ambiguous
references listed above—to the Second Coming of Jesus Christ, it is often believed that the
Messianic concepts, found in both Ḥadīth and Tafsīr (Qur'anic Exegesis), entered into Islam
from the Christian world, particularly in Syria and Egypt. Syria was the fertile land of learning
where the first Islamic dynasty of the Caliphs, the Umayyads, were in power and had their seat
in Damascus.54 Thus, a gigantic corpus of Islamic Messianic and Hebraic literature came into
being in the outcome of Muslims' engagement in the Christian enclaves in a period stretching
over a hundred years after the death of the Prophet Muhammad.

It is notable that the Qur'an, at times, stands poles apart from the Ḥadīth literature on
certain important doctrinal, theological, and eschatological subjects including that of the
Messianic figures. This particular reflex crystallizes the crucial change in the Muslim
community’s mood during the legislation and legalization process of Islamic community under
the Umayyad Dynasty, whose administrative needs allegedly brought about the introduction of
several radically new ideas in Islam under the influence of Christian officials that staffed the
Umayyad Empire.55

54
Nicholson Reynold, A Literary History of the Arabs. (New Delhi: Purana Books, 2006), 145.
55
Youssef M. Choueiri (edit.), A Companion to the History of the Middle East. (Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2005),
48.

30
Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

Critical Appreciation

Jesus of the Qur'an, objectively speaking, does not make sense in the theological
paradigm of the New Testament. It stands almost nowhere near the person of Jesus as he
appears in the New Testament when the comparison is drawn in the light of "Cross." However,
the Qur'anic Jesus is systematic within the Qur'an’s own theoretical as well as theological
framework. It not only maintains a close (minus Cross) kinship with the New Testament Jesus,
but also affirms the historicity, miracles, and ministry of Jesus, the Christ. Similarly, the Qur'anic
Jesus also bears inherently rooted resemblance with the Prophet of Islam, which he himself is
said to have confirmed, saying: “I am the nearest of all the people to the son of Mary, and all the
prophets are paternal brothers, and there has been no prophet between me and him (i.e. Jesus).”56

Critically, the Qur'an was a product of its own milieu, where a steeping presence of
apocryphal and gnostic ideas in the folk and literary culture could not be overruled.57 Similarly,
the eastern versions of Christianity, such as the Nestorian, Ebionite, and Coptic churches, were
more romantic in their perception of Jesus and more dedicated in preserving the legend grown
around the person of Jesus than determining the true identity of Christ. The Qur'an sprang
forth as a religious text of a new class of colonizers hitherto unknown, the Arabs, before the
Church of the Great Councils had even enforced its dogmas in the Near East.58 It was, therefore,
natural for the Qur'an to arrive at such conclusions regarding Jesus that were later on viewed as
heretical as well as legendary among Christians.

Some benefit of doubt, however, must be extended to the Qur'an on its portrayal of
Jesus in spite of all polemical attacks. The major charge on the Qur'an, which is generally
leveled by the Christians, contends that the Qur'anic Jesus imitates the Gnostic view of the
"Savior," particularly that of the Docetic version. There is no difficulty in rebutting such an

56
Ṣaḥīḥ Bukhārī, Book 60 (“Sayings and Teachings of Prophets”), Ḥadīth No. 3442
57
Khalidi, Muslim Jesus, 8-9.
58
Khalidi, Muslim Jesus, 7.

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Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

objection in the light of a comparative analysis of Jesus’ two portrayals. The Qur'anic Jesus is
essentially a human figure without divinity, whereas the Docetic Jesus was a supernatural entity
whose shadow walked on earth.59 The Qur'an adds a divine dialogue with Jesus in the setting of
the phase of final judgment called Yaum al-Dīn in Islam, which is sufficient in discerning the
difference between the Islamic view of Jesus and that of the Christian Gnosticism.

“And [know the Day] when Allah will say, “O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, ‘Take
me and my mother as deities besides Allah?’” He will say, “Exalted are You! It was not for me to
say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, You would have known it. You know what is
within myself, and I do not know what is within Yourself. Indeed, it is You who is Knower of the
unseen.”

(Sūrah Ma’idah 5:116)60

59
Todo Outcalt, The Other Jesus. (London: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), 28.
60
Translation: Saheeh International

32
Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

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Making of Jesus in the Qur'an

Moucarry, Chawkat, The Prophet and the Messiah: An Arab Christian’s Perspective on
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The Translations of the Qur'an

‘Ali, ‘Abdullah Yousaf, The Meaning of the Holy Qur’an, New Edition, Beltsville,
Maryland: Amana Publications, 1999.
The Qur'an: English Meanings and Notes by Saheeh International, Jeddah: Abul-
Qasim Publishing House, 2012.

 The Bible translation cited in this paper is the New International Version

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