EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is the third of a five-part series exploring the differences between Christianity and Islam in the weeks leading up to the 5th anniversary of the terrorist attacks by Islamic radicals on Sept. 11, 2001.
GRACEVILLE (FBW)—Many Christians experience surprise when they learn of the esteem Muslims grant to Jesus, a man illustrious in this world and the next (Surah 3:40). The Qur’an mentions Jesus in 93 ayas (verses) in fifteen Surahs (chapters).
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What do Muslims believe about Jesus? How do their beliefs about Jesus contrast with their convictions about Muhammad?
First, Muslims affirm that Jesus was no more than a prophet or apostle of Allah. For Muslims, the concept ‘Son of God’ implies a physical, sexual relation between God and a woman. Allah has no consort like pagan gods (Surah 6:101).
Muslims believe Muhammad, is the ‘seal of the prophets’ (Surah 33:40). By ‘seal of the prophets,’ Muslims claim that Muhammad was the greatest and last prophet. Other prophets spoke to their generations. As the last prophet, Muhammad revealed the message of Allah to all peoples.
Second, Islam teaches the virginal conception of Jesus. The Qur’an affirms that Allah created Jesus in the womb of the virgin Mary through his will (Surah 3:43). The Qur’an denies that Jesus had a normal human development as taught in the Bible (Lk. 2:52). In the Qur’an, an infant Jesus spoke from the cradle claiming to be a servant and prophet of Allah (Surah 3:41; 5:109; 19:30-31). An infant Jesus, therefore, identified himself as only a prophet, an implicit denial of a status above humanity.
Nothing exceptional happened at the birth of Muhammad. His birth was normal in every way except that his father, Abdullah, died before he was born.
Third, Jesus performed mighty miracles. The Qur’an acknowledges that Jesus performed many of the same types of miracles as recorded in the Gospels. He gave sight to the blind, cleansed the lepers, and restored life to dead individuals (Surah 5:110). The Islamic tradition does not report Jesus performing a nature miracle. In the Gospels, nature miracles, such as the calming of the sea, caused the disciples to reflect on the identity of Jesus (Mark 4:41). The Qur’an twice reports a miracle not recorded in the biblical gospels. Jesus turned clay into a figure of a bird and brought the clay bird figure to life by breathing into the bird (Surah 3:43; 5:110). The second-century Infancy Gospel of Thomas records the same miracle.
The Qur’an records no miracles performed by Muhammad. For Muslims, the only miracle associated with Muhammad is the Qur’an itself. Indeed, in response to demands from people for a sign, Muhammad claimed he was no more than an apostle, that is, not a worker of miracles (Surah 17:90-93). Later Muslim traditions ascribed numerous miracles to Muhammad including the splitting asunder of the earth’s moon.
Fourth, the Qur’an affirms the sinlessness of Jesus. The Qur’an details the sins of other prophets of Allah including Adam (Surah 20:119), Abraham (Surah 6:77), Moses (Surah 2:248), and David (Surah 38:20-24). Jesus is unique among prophets in that the Qur’an does not ascribe sin to Jesus. Gabriel announced to Mary that she would give birth to a holy son (Surah 19:19). Noteworthy English translations of the Qur’an translate ‘holy’ as ‘pure’ or ‘faultless.’
In the Qur’an, Muhammad readily acknowledges his sinfulness (Surah 40:55; 42:5; 48:2; 94:1-3). In the Islamic hadith (stories about the prophet), Muhammad prayed for forgiveness seventy times a day.
Fifth, the Qur’an denies the crucifixion of Jesus (Surah 4:157-158). Muslims believe the crucifixion narrative of the biblical gospels to be a fiction. Jesus, therefore, did not atone for sins through his sacrificial death. Muslims affirm that the Jews crucified someone who looked like Jesus, either Simone of Cyrene or Judas Iscariot. Muslims argue that Allah would not allow an esteemed prophet to suffer the horrendous indignation of crucifixion. Allah, then, snatched Jesus to heaven without death.
Muslims attach no theological significance to the death of Muhammad. The followers of Muhammad buried him in Medina ñ now the site of a mosque.
Sixth, Muslims believe that Jesus predicted the coming of Muhammad. The Qur’an records the following prophesy of Jesus, ‘Of a truth I am God’s apostle to youÖto announce an apostle that shall come after me whose name shall be Ahmad!’ (Surah 61:6). Muslims understand ‘Ahmad’ to be a form of Muhammad, ‘praised one.’ Muslims believe that John 16 is a corrupted account of Jesus’ prediction regarding Muhammad. Speaking of the Holy Spirit, Jesus predicted a Helper or Comforter (literally one called alongside to help) to come after Him. The transliteration of the Greek word for Comforter is ‘paraclete.’ Muslims contend that the correct reading is ‘periklytos’ (literally ‘praised’- hence Muhammad). Yet, the Comforter cannot be human in the context of Jesus’ teachings in John. The Comforter abides with disciples forever (John 14:16), the world does not see the Comforter (Jhn. 14:17), the Comforter dwells within believers (Jhn 14:17), the Comforter is a spirit (Jhn. 14:17, 26; 16:13), and the mission of the Comforter points to Jesus (Jhn 16:14). Muhammad fulfilled none of these prophecies about the Comforter. The Comforter is the Holy Spirit.
Seventh, Muslims regard Jesus as an important figure of the end times. Since Jesus did not die, his ministry is not complete. Jesus himself predicted he would die in peace (Surah 19:33). Jesus, then, must return to die peacefully after which he will be buried beside Muhammad in Medina. The return of Jesus functions as a sign of the hour of judgment (Surah 43:61). Muslims disagree about the role of Jesus in the end-times. Sunni Muslims equate Jesus with a messianic type figure that kills the Antichrist, destroys Gog and Magog, breaks all crosses, and inaugurates a brief time of peace before the hour of judgment. Shi’ite Muslims believe that Jesus returns to prepare the way for the coming messianic figure—a descendant of Muhammad.
A comparison of Muslim beliefs about Jesus and Muhammad provides helpful insight. Islam teaches the virginal conception of Jesus and the normal conception of Muhammad. Jesus performed mighty miracles whereas in the early Muslim tradition Muhammad performed no miracles. Jesus committed no sin yet Muhammad acknowledged his sin. Jesus ascended to heaven whereas followers placed Muhammad’s body in a grave. The Old Testament contains over one-hundred prophecies of the first coming of Jesus. Muslims misinterpret Christian Scriptures to claim a few passages predicted the coming of Muhammad. Jesus functions as a key figure in the Islamic understanding of end-times. Muhammad has no role in the end-times prior to the Judgment.
Jesus is a virginally conceived, miracle-working, sinless, foretold, ascended, and end-time figure. From a Christian perspective, only deity explains these truths.
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