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Finding the Biblical Jesus in Islamic Traditions

By Rickey K Hood

Most Christians have little knowledge of the Muslim understanding of

Jesus. Some Christian’s misunderstanding of Islam is that Muslims reject

Jesus all together, but they would be surprised to learn that Muslims

believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, his miracles and even Jesus’ Second

Coming. The stories and events in both Christian and Islamic traditions

share many similarities but also obvious differences. It is my attempt

in this essay to find the biblical base for many of the Islamic doctrines

that can be found in Christian literature. In my search for the biblical

base in Islam I will make clear comparisons of the scriptures from both

Islamic and Christian sources.

Islam, by tradition, is a re-teaching of the knowledge passed on by

earlier Prophets (writers). The Prophets of the Bible from Adam to Jesus

are all revered in Islam and by Quranic doctrine there should not be any

distinction between one prophet and the next:

Quran Surah 4:152

“To those who believe in Allah and His messengers

And make no distinction between any of the messengers.”


But the Prophet Jesus is a unique case. The Quran and other Islamic

sources separate Jesus from the other Prophets. He is often mentioned

in the Qur’an and is a principal teacher next to Muhammad in Islamic

tradition. He is given the title of Word of God and Spirit of God

denoting a special place of honor in the order of the Prophets.

Christians would not be offended by such praise toward their Savior and

Lord, but there is more to the understanding of the Islamic vision of

Jesus that is utterly different from the Jesus of the Gospels. In the

Gospels Jesus is sent by God to redeem the world from sin. He is the Son

of God and the Lord of mankind. But the Jesus in Islam is a

controversial Prophet. He is the only Prophet in the Qur’an who

deliberately distance himself from the doctrines that his

community is said to hold of him. The Qur’anic Jesus is in open

opposition to the Christian doctrines of his deification and the trinity:

Qur’an Surah 5:116, 117

“And behold! Allah will say: O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto

men, ‘Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allahâ’. He will say: ‘Glory to thee!

Never could I say what I had no right (to say). Never said I to them except what thou didst command me to say, to wit. worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.’”


How then can the biblical Jesus of the Gospels be found in the Qur’ân and

other Islamic sources? Though Islam paints a very different portrait of

Jesus it is based on many of the sources found in the Christian

scriptures. My starting place for the search will begin with the births

of John the Baptist and Jesus.

Qur’an Surah 19:2-5

“(This is) a mention of the mercy of thy Lord of his servant Zechariah.

Behold! He cried to his Lord in secret. Praying: O my Lord! Infirm

indeed are my bones, and the hair of my head doth glisten with gray. My

wife is barren, so give me an heir as from thyself.”

Luke 1:5-7

“In the time of Herod King of Judea there was a Priest named Zechariah and

his wife Elizabeth. Both of them were upright in the sight of God, but

they had no Children, because Elisabeth was barren and they were well in

years.


Qur’an Surah 3: 39-41; Surah 19:7.

“While he was standing in prayer in the chamber, the angel called unto

him: Allah doth give thee glad tidings of Yahya (John) to confirm the

truth of a Word from Allahâ. (His prayer was answered): O Zachariah!

We give thee good news of a son: his name shall be Yahya (John): on none

by that name have we conferred distinction before.”

Luke 1:9-13

“He was chosen by lot, according to the custom of the priesthood to go

into the temple and burn incense. And the an angel of the Lord appeared to

him standing at.. the alter of incense. ‘Do not be afraid, Zachariah;

your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and

you are to give him the name John.’”


Qur’an 19:8; 10-11

“He said: ‘O My Lord how shall I have a son, when my wife is barren and I

have grown quite decrepit from old age.’ The angel said, ‘thy Lord says ‘It is easy for me…’ (Zachariah) said: ‘O my Lord! Give me a sign.’ The angel said, ‘Thy sign shall be that thou salt

speak to no man for three nights although thou art not dumb.’ So Zachariah came out to his people from his chamber: he told them by signs to celebrate Allah’s praises.”

Luke 1: 18,19; 22

“Zechariah asked the Angel, ‘How can I be sure to this? I am a old man

and my wife is well along in years.’ The angel answered, ‘I am Gabriel

and now you will be silent and not able to speak until the day this

happens.’ When he came out, he could not speak to them for he kept

making signs to them but remained unable to speak.”


Qur’an Surah 3:42

“Behold! The angel said: O Mary! Allah hath chosen thee

And purified thee and chosen thee above the women of all nations.”

Luke 1:28

“The angel went to her and said, Greetings, you who are highly favored!

The Lord is with you.”


Qur’an Surah 3:45

“ ‘Behold!’ The Angel said: ‘O Mary! Allah giveth thee

Glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name

Will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor

In this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to

Allah.’”

Luke 1:30-32

“But the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor

with God. You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to

give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of

the Most High.’”


Qur’an Surah 3:47

“She said: ‘O my Lord! How shall I have a son

When no man hath touched me?’ He said: ‘Even so;

Allah createth what He willeth: when He hath decreed

A matter, He but saith to it, ‘Be’ And it is!’”

Luke 1:30-33

“’How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’

The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of

the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be

called the Son of God. For nothing is impossible with God.’”

The Gospel of Luke is the only book of the four gospels that bear

similarities with the Qur’an in its telling of the births of John and

Jesus. The births of these (so called) historical Prophets are problematic because

all that is known are spiritualistic accounts, nothing factual, recorded in the New

Testament, as you can see the same accounts are also recorded spiritualisticly in the

Qur’an, as it tells of the same Biblical events in the same Lukean

detail.

The Biblical Jesus was a man that was strongly identified as a

revealed expression of God’s presence on earth. He was a man, as

Whitherington says it, “who saw visions and received revelations in the

spirit and who experience the spirit’s power and used it to heal the sick and

cast out demons.” The miracles of Jesus are well known and believed

among Muslims. His healing of the sick and raising of the dead are well

recorded in the Gospels, but these same accounts are also recorded in the

Qur’an. The Qur’an recounts these events in Jesus’ life and ministry, this

time without a parallel biblical context. These accounts are in a poetic

narrative from a first-person perspective, a God perspective. Though a

context narrative is missing the events are consistent with the life

and ministry of the Biblical Jesus.

Qur’an Surah 5:110a

Then will Allah say: O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount My favor to thee

and to thy mother. Behold! I strengthened thee with the Holy Spirit so

that thou did speak to the people in childhood and in old age.

Luke 2:42, 46,47

When he was Twelve years old, they went up to the feast. After being missing for three

days, they [Mary and Joseph] found him [Jesus] in the temple courts,

sitting among the teachers, listening and asking questions. Everyone who

heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers.


Qur’an Surah 5:110b

Behold! I taught thee the book and wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel

Luke 2: 40

And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the

grace of God was upon him.


Qur’an Surah 5:110c

And behold! Thou makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird,

By My leave.

And thou breathiest into it and it becometh a bird

By My leave.

Infancy Gospel 15:2,6

Who when they were at play, he (Jesus) made clay into several shapes. He

had also made the figures of birds and sparrows, which when he commanded

to fly, did fly.


Qura’n Surah 5:110d

And thou healest those born blind, and the lepers,

By My leave.

And behold! Thou bringest forth the dead

By My leave

Luke 7:12,13-15

As he approached the gate of the town a dead man was being carried out,

the only son of a widowed mother. The Lord was moved with pity upon

seeing her and said to her, Do not cry. Then he stepped forward and

touched the coffin; Young man, I bid you get up. The dead man sat up

and began to speak.


Qur’an Surah 5:110e

And behold! I did restrain the Children of Israel from (violence to) thee

The Clear Signs,

Luke 4:29,30

They got up, drove him (Jesus) out of the town, and took him to the brow

of the hill on which the town was built, in order to throw him down the

cliff. But he walked right through the crowd and went on his way.


Qur’an Surah 5:110f

And the unbelievers among them said: This is nothing but evident magic.

Luke 11:15

But some of them said, by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, he is driving

out demons.


The Qur’anic text of these events are like bullet points of the life of

Jesus as seen in the above examples. As a curious note once again the

Qur’an pulls greatly from the Gospel of Luke for its image of Jesus.

In a well-known forged passage in Josephus’ work the Jewish Antiquities,

written probably in the early 90s CE, Josephus was said to say the following about

Jesus: At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man a doer of

startling things, a teacher of people who received the truth with

pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many

Greeks. The book, The Muslim Jesus, speaks of Jesus as a wise man,

teacher and worker of signs. This collection of Islamic sayings and

teaching of Jesus, was not found as a complete corpus in any one

Islamic source. Rather, it was scattered in works of ethics and popular

devotionals and histories of prophets and saints. The Muslim Jesus is a

collection of sayings attributed to Jesus. In appearance it brings to

mind the format of the Gospel of Thomas, a collection of ‘what Jesus

said.’ There is no particular subject order, much of the narrative is

missing but the major elements that identify the teachings of the

biblical Jesus are preserved. These writings were written during the

years of 748 CE to 1791 CE. Much of the Sayings in this collecting

borrow heavily from the Synoptic Gospels with only slight variation.

Some of the Sayings can be traced back to Christian monks and apocrypha,

though most have their origins from Sufi mysticism.


The Muslim Jesus: Saying #4

Jesus said, (1) If it is a day of fasting for one of you, let him anoint

his head and beard and wipe his lips so that people will not know that he

is fasting. (2) If he gives with the right hand let him hide this from

the left hand. (3) If he prays, let him pull down the door curtain, for

God apportions praise as He apportions livelihood.

Matthew 6:17-18; 6:3,6

(1)when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it

will not be obvious to men that you are fasting. (2) But when you give

to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is

doing. (3) But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray

to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done

in secret, will reward you.


The Muslim Jesus: Saying #7#

Jesus said to his disciples, (1) Do not take wages from those whom you

teach, except such wages as you gave me. (2) Salt of the earth do not

become corrupt. Everything when if becomes corrupt can be treated with

salt, but if salt is corrupted it has no remedy. (3) Know that you

possess two traits of ignorance: laughter without [cause for] wonder, and

morning nap without wakefulness.

Matthew 10:9,10; 5:13

(1) These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions. Do not

take along any gold or silver or copper in your belts: take no bag for

the journey, or extra tunic, or sandals or a staff; for worker is worth

his keep. (2) You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its

saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for

anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.


The Muslim Jesus: Saying #34

Satan said to Jesus when he placed him in Jerusalem, you claim to raise

the dead. If you can truly do so ask God to turn this mountain to

bread. Jesus said, Do all people live for bread? Satan said, If

you are what you claim to be, jump from this place, for the angels will

receive you. Jesus said, God ordered me not to put myself to the test,

for I do not know whether He will save me or not.

Matthew 4:3-7

The tempter came to him and said, If you are the Son of God, tell these

stones to become bread. Jesus answered, It is written: Man does not

live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of

God. The devil took him to the holy city and had him stand on the

highest point of the temple. If you are the Son of God, he

said, throw yourself down. For it is written: He will command his

angels concerning you, and they will lift you up in their hands, so that

you will not strike your foot against a stone. Jesus answered him, It

is also written: Do not put the Lord your God to the test.


The Muslim Jesus: Saying #201

Jesus said, The scholars of evil are like rocks, which has fallen into

the mouth of a river: it neither drinks the water nor allows the water to

pass to the crops. The scholars of evil are also like the channels of a

sewer: their exterior is white plaster and their interior is foul; or

like tombs which are grand on the outside full of dead bones inside.

Matthew 23:13,27

Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut

the kingdom of heaven in men’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor

will you let those enter who are trying to. Woe to you, teachers of the

law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which

look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of dead men’s

bones and everything unclean. In the same way, on the outside you appear

to people as righteous but on the inside, you are full of hypocrisy and

wickedness.


The Muslim Jesus: Saying #211

It is written in the Gospels, He who prays for those who treat him badly

defeats Satan.

Luke 6:27-28

But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate

you. Pray for those that mistreat you.


The Muslim Jesus: Saying #294

Jesus said, What does it profit a man if he sell his soul for all that

is in the world, and then leaves all that he sold it for as an

inheritance to someone else while he himself has ruined his soul?

Blessed is he who saves his soul, preferring it to all that is in the

world.

Matthew 16:26

What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits

his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul?


In these sayings Jesus shows himself as a holy man, and God’s Sophia (Wisdom).

The Muslim Jesus is in agreement with the Biblical Jesus when it

refers to him as the Word of God and a Spirit of God made flesh.

He is, according to Whitherington, a bearer or conveyer of the divine

presence on earth [this] would not have been true of Prophets in early

Judaism.


The Biblical Jesus was also an apocalyptic preacher convinced of his

place in eschatological (end-time) events. Apocalyptic predictions were popular before,

during and after the time of Jesus and even more so in the 21st Century.

Jesus predictions put him in the same company as Isaiah and Daniel

as a Prophet of God’s final judgment on

the nations. Islam inherited this eschatology (end-time theology) and

apocalypticism (revelation: revealing of future events) theology from

Christianity and Judaism. Jesus preaching as an end-of-the-world

prophet in the Synoptic Gospels raises the issue of whether Jesus meant

the end of the world, or simply the end of his world as it was. Islamic

apocalypticism raises the same questions. Is this final conflict a

localized event or a global exchange? It is definitely clear that Jesus

is a major player in the end time prophecy. Both Christians and

Muslims believe that ultimately not just the world order as known in Jesus and Mohammad's day

will change, but the world itself and all its inhabitants would be radically

changed when God chose to bring human history to a close. In the

gospels Jesus quotes Daniel when he refers to the abomination that

causes desolation, Christian tradition calls this character the Anti-

Christ. Islam also has an eschatological Jesus (end-time Jesus) similar

to the Jesus of the Gospels. The final conflict will be between Jesus

and the Dajjal (Anti-Christ).

Hadith (a)#

Then it [the question about the Hour] was referred to Jesus, who

said, No-one knows about its timing except God.

Matthew 24:3; 24:36

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciple came to him

privately. Tell us, they said, when will this happen and what will be

the sign of your coming and of the end of the age? No one knows about

that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only

the Father.


Ibn Majah Vol. 1, Book 1, Hadith 64

"O Messenger of Allah, when will the Hour be?' He (Muhammad pbuh) said: 'The one who is being asked about it does not know more than the one who is asking.

Matthew 24:3; 24:36

As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciple came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”…“No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

Ibn Majah Vol. 5, Book 36, Hadith 4077

“…What my Lord told me was that the Dajjal (Anti-Christ) will appear, and when he sees me he will begin to melt like salt in water. God will destroy him when he sees me…”

Matthew 24:15

“So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand…”

Ibn Majah Vol. 5, Book 36, Hadith 4081

…My Lord has told me that when that happens, the Hour will be very close, like a pregnant woman whose time is due, but her family do not know exactly when she will deliver.”

Matthew 24:7-8

Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.

Sahih Muslim 2937 a Book 41, Hadith 7015

Allah would send Jesus, 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.

Matthew 24:30-31

At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory.


In conclusion, the person of Jesus is a matter of interpretation. In

Christian belief he is the Son of God and Savior of the world. For both

Muslims and Christians Jesus is a teacher, preacher, healer, wonder-

worker, prophet and Christ. In my search for the historical Jesus in

Islam I have shown clear parallels of the Jesus of both faiths. Though

Islam paints a portrait of Jesus in its own image, the Jesus before them

is the same Jesus of the Synoptic Gospels and the historical records as

seen in the writings of Josephus. I hope this essay has served as a tool

to enlighten Christians and Muslims about the man named Jesus.



Footnotes

The Holy Quran. (Al-Madinah Al-Munawarah, Saudi Arabia: Holy Qur’an

King Fahd, Printing Complex 1989).

2Tarif Khalidi, The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic

Literature. (Cambridge, Massachusetts: First Harvard University Press,

2003), 12

3 The Holy Bible: The New International Version. (Grand Rapids,

Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973)

4 Whitherington III, Ben, the Jesus Quest: the third search for the Jew

of Nazarath. New expanded edition. InterVarsity Press P. O. box 1400,

Downers Grove, Illinois. 1997, 93

5 Holy Qur’an. 323.

6 The Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden. (Hudson

Street, New York, NY: A Meridian Book, 1926), 34.

7 This is not historical, but this shows how the Qur’an borrowed from

other text that was once concerned scripture

8 Witherington, 162.

9 Khalidi, 3

10 Ibid. 53.

11 Matt. 6:17,18. New International Version.

12 Khalidi, 55.

13 #3 is unique to the Muslim Gospel, it does not compare with any

sayings of the Biblical Jesus.

14 Khalidi, 72.

15 Khalidi, 165.

16 Khalidi, 170.

17 Khalidi, 213.

18 Whitherington, 162.

19 Ibid. 97.

20 Ibid.

21 At-ur-Rahim, 271. (a b, c)

22 At-ur-Rahim, 273.

Bibliography

‘Ata’ur-Rahim, Muhammad and Thomas, Ahmad, Jesus Prophet of Islam.

Ta-Ha Publishers Ltd., 1 Wynne Road. London, United Kingdom: Ta-Ha

Publishers, 1996.

Bible: The New International Version. Zondervan Publishing House.

Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan Publishing House, 1973.

Khalidi, Tarif, The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic

Literature.

Harvard University Press. Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University

Press, 2003.

Lost Books of the Bible and the Forgotten Books of Eden. A Meridian

Book.

375 Hudson Street, New York, NY: A Meridian Book, 1926.

Qur’an. King Fahd Holy Qur’an Printing Complex, P. O. Box 3561

Al-Madinah Al-Munawarah, Saudi Arabia: Fahd Holy Qur’an Printing, 1989.

Whitherington III, Ben, The Jesus Quest: The Third Search for the Jew of

Nazarath.

InterVarsity Press P. O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity

Press, 1997.

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