OceanSide church of Christ
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Islam’s View of Jesus (1)
Victor M. Eskew
Muslims would affirm that Islam has an extremely high view of Jesus Christ. Jesus is discussed in 15 surahs of the Qur’an. Ninety-three verses of the Qur’an mention Him. He is referred to as “a righteous prophet” (6:85); “messenger to Israel” (3:39-51); and “Christ” (3:35). He is called “the Son of Mary” twenty-three times. He is referred to as “the Messiah” eleven times. He is declared to be “the messenger of God” ten times. In addition, He is said to be the servant of God, the Word from God, Spirit, Sign, Example, and Witness. These titles seem to indicate that Islam holds Jesus in high esteem.
The Qur’an also supports the virgin birth of Jesus (3:47). It also affirms that Jesus could perform miracles. It records two miracles said to be done by Jesus that are not mentioned in the New Testament: speaking from the cradle (3:29-33) and forming living birds from clay (5:110).
Even thou Islam speaks highly of Jesus, their view of the Messiah is quite different than the Biblical view. In this article, we want to present the “positive” view of Jesus within the Islamic religion. Please note that we have put the word “positive” in italics.
As we begin this study, we need to be reminded of Islam’s view of Allah. Islam teaches that Allah possesses absolute oneness. Surah 112 states: “Say, he is God, The one and Only, The Eternal, Absolute; He begets not, Nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.” “One of the terms used in the above quoted sura is ‘samad.’ Samad is something that is so seamless and whole that one cannot even conceptualize it as divided or in parts. It has such integral unity that it is absolutely without seam or fissure, completely unified” (www.islamfrominside.com, “Jesus: an Islamic Perspective”). Islam believes that God is one being. No other being can be God. They affirm that God cannot beget, nor is He begotten.
With this understanding, one realizes that Islam believes Jesus to be only a man. However, they refer to Jesus as “Insaan al Kamil” or “the perfect man.” To understand this reference to Jesus, one must learn how Muslims view man. “Man enjoys a very important role in this cosmos. Although all things are made by God and identified with God in as much as being created by Him, man is one who houses an aspect of God within him. In the Qur’an God says He has breathed His spirit into man” (islamfrominside). This spirit enables every man to sense the divine Reality. However, the flesh of man puts a veil between man’s spirit and Allah. “Man has to put aside the veil of the corporeal or material self. Shunning it he is able to let his invisible dimension reflect the light that it so wants to see. This spirit of God which resides in man longs for a reunion with its original; it reaches out and makes man’s soul restless to cleanse itself of all that is not God” (islamfrominside).
Some men have been extremely successful in their efforts to separate from the flesh. “As man lays away his corporeal vestments his inner being sees more clearly. It gains a vision which sees what was previously unseen. Gates of knowledge are opened up to it and before a person will be laid out the secrets of the realities of understanding the universe” (islamfrominside). Those men who separate themselves become an “Insaan al Kamil” or “perfect man.” These men bridge the gap that exists between God and man.
These men become the prophets of God in the Islamic faith. “Such men have been chosen to represent God in every way, they see through Him, hear through Him, walk, grasp, think, love…their every faculty has been captured and they have shackled themselves to the ‘robe of His majesty’” (islamfrominside). One of the Hadiths sums up the perfect man in this fashion: “My servant continues drawing near to me…until I love him, and when I love him, I am the Hearing through which he hears, the Sight through which he sees, the Hand through which he grasps, and the Foot through which he walks” (Hadith Qudsi).
It is in the above context that Jesus is viewed by Muslims. He is called an “ayat” or “sign” of God. “The prophets of God are generally all given this designation. They are all (from Adam to Muhammad) signposts marking the path to God, each one addressing both the universal nature of man and the specific contingencies of his time” (islamfrominside).
There is a sense in which Jesus surpasses many of the other prophets of old. Surah 3:59 says of Jesus: “The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: ‘Be,’ and he was.” “The ‘Word’ is God’s creative word (with which He also created Adam). The ‘Spirit’ is the Divine Spirit (which He also breathed into Adam). Thus Jesus is created according to the mold of Adam – but he is as Adam was before the fall from Paradise, before Adam was put into this world, where God’s presence is veiled and must be sought through signs” (islamfrominside).
Yes, Muslims believe they hold a very high view of Jesus Christ. Even with such a “high view” of Jesus, He is still not God according to the Muslims. He is just a “fully realized man and an apostle of God” (islamfrominside). “But even one who actualizes this potential and attains a type of union with God, does not become God. God remains God” (islamfrominside). Just this one element of the Islamic faith puts it at extreme odds with Christianity that views Jesus as “God” (John 1:1, Phil. 2:5-8).