By Ghulam Rasool Dehlvi, New Age Islam
26 Dec 2012
Islam lays great emphasis on respecting and honouring all religions and their messengers. The number of prophets and apostles sent by God, according to Islam, amounts to some 124, 000. A Prophet (called ‘Nabi’ in Arabic), according to Islam, is a man sent by God, but not with a special dispensation or book; while an Apostle (called ‘Rasool’ in Arabic) is one who comes either with a special dispensation or to whom a special book has been revealed. All apostles are prophets but not all prophets are apostles. Jesus Christ was both Prophet and Apostle according to Islam. So, it is important that our Christian brethren know how well Islam speaks of Jesus Christ. It will help both Christians and Muslims develop mutual respect and enhance spiritual ties between them.
The Holy Quran has mentioned Jesus Christ 25 times with high regard for him. It calls him as Isa or the Messiah, Sign of Allah, Spirit of Allah, Word of Allah, a servant of Allah, the son of Mary, a prophet of Allah and as a last apostle to the children of Israel.
Birth of Jesus
According to Islam, the birth of Jesus was a great miracle of Allah as he was born without a father. It is spoken of as “a sign of Allah’ greatness” in the holy Quran:
“And make mention of Mary in the Scripture. When she withdrew from her people to an eastern chamber, and choose seclusion from thine, and we sent Our Spirit unto her, and it assumed for her the form of a perfect man. She said: Behold! I seek refuge in the Beneficent One from thee if thou art God fearing (begone from me!). He said: I am only a messenger of your Lord that I may bestow upon you a holy son. She said: How shall I have a son when no mortal has touched me, and I am not unchaste. He said: So (shall it be). The Lord sayeth: It is easy for Me, and We shall make him a sign unto mankind, and a Mercy from us. And it is a thing decreed. And she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a far place. (10: 16-22).
Message of Jesus
Going by the Islamic doctrine, God sent Jesus to convey the very divine message to mankind that was revealed by a chain of Prophets before him. That is, God is the Lord of him and of all mankind and only He is to be worshiped:
“When Jesus came with Clear Signs, he said: "Now have I come to you with Wisdom, and in order to make clear to you some of the (points) on which ye dispute: therefore fear Allah and obey me. For Allah, He is my Lord and your Lord: so worship ye Him: this is a Straight Way” (43.63-64)
The Holy Qur'aan defines the mission of Jesus (pbuh) as follows:
1. To confirm (the laws) that already existed even before his arrival, from the Torah (in the Old Testament); (Noble Quran 61:6)
2. To give the good news (the gospel) of the arrival of a messenger, who comes after him, whose name will be 'Ahmad' (another name of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). (Noble Quran 61:6)
3. To teach the Children of Israel, unto whom he was sent, matters of wisdom; (Noble Quran 43:63)
4. To clarify certain matters in which they (Jews) differed; (Noble Quran 43:63)
5. To legitimize certain things that were earlier banned for them. (Noble Quran 3:50)
Followers of Jesus
The holy Quran also speaks so well of the followers of Jesus:
“O you who have believed, be supporters of Allah, as when Jesus, the son of Mary, said to the disciples, "Who are my supporters for Allah?" The disciples said, "We are supporters of Allah." And a faction of the Children of Israel believed and a faction disbelieved. So We supported those who believed against their enemy, and they became dominant” (61:14).
Miracles of Jesus
In the following verses, the Quran highlights the attributes and miracles of Jesus:
When God said, "Jesus, son of Mary, recall My favors to you and your mother. (Recall) how I supported you by the Holy Spirit, made you speak to people from your cradle and when you grew up, taught you the Book, gave you wisdom, the Torah, and the Gospel. (Recall) when, by My will, you made a sculpture of a bird out of clay, blew into it, and it turned into a real bird by My Will. (Recall) how, by My will, you healed the deaf, the lepers, and raised the dead. (Recall) when you came to the Israelites in the house with clear miracles and I saved you from their mischief, even though the disbelievers among them said, "This is obviously magic"(5:110).
Muhammad and Jesus
Given such a lofty prophetic status of Jesus in Islam, a question automatically may arise here as to why God ended His revelations with Muhammad (pbuh) and not with Jesus? The reason, from the Islamic viewpoint, is that although Jesus had the entire truth from God and was capable to convey it to his people, the Children of Israel, to whom he was sent (The Quran: 43:63) his people were not capable enough to receive and preserve the divine message of God. So how could they convey it to the entire world? They were so harsh and hard-heartened that they had killed a large number of prophets before and even tried to crucify Jesus on the cross. For this reason Jesus had predicted for the "spirit of truth and the most praised" (Ahmed or Muhammad in Arabic) to come after him and to perfect what was revealed to him and his predecessors. Furthermore, almost all previous revelations had been corrupted and distorted due to their followers’ petty interests and vain controversies. So, there was a pressing need to revive and rejuvenate the message of God that was later fulfilled by the final prophet Muhammad (pbuh) through Islam. Thus, God completed and perfected his message revealed to Jesus and his predecessors, through Muhammad (pbuh).
For example, Jesus (pbuh) taught the basic message of mixing Justice with Love and passiveness. He revealed the “Golden Rule” that we are to love our neighbours as ourselves. But the question was unanswered as to should we how love our neighbours, and what the love for neighbour requires from us. The completeness of this moral teaching was left to another prophet. Then God sent the last prophet Muhammad who answered this final question and systemized the laws of morality. Thus, the glory of Islam consists of both the beautiful sentiment of Jesus and the absolute justice of Moses in a framework of the definite laws.
Numerous verses of the Quran indicate that the teachings of Islam have been completed, perfected, and preserved and have been meant universally for all the Worlds. Such Quranic statements refer to the complete code of life enunciated in Islam. However, they do not deny earlier prophets’ spiritual teachings and moral instructions, as many Muslims today try to claim falsely and thus obstruct interfaith harmony and dialogue between Islam and Christianity. In fact, they will always remain valid until and unless they are distorted or fabricated by their followers’ ulterior motives.