By Fedwa Wazwaz
Jesus, son of Mary, peace and blessings upon them, is a revered religious figure and the bedrock of Christianity. He also is a venerated figure in Islam, the faith of some 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide.
The Prophet Muhammad, peace and blessings upon him, said: “Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all the people to Jesus, the son of Mary, peace and blessings upon him. The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one.”
Like Christians, Muslims believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, upon him be peace, and in his miracles. Jesus’ life and mission are mentioned in eleven chapters of the Qur’an. A few of the chapters are titled: Maryam (Mary the mother of Jesus); Imran (noble family of Jesus), and Ma’ida (the Last Supper). Jesus, upon him be peace, is glorified in the Qur’an and is referred to as “the Messiah,” “a Word of God,” and “a Sign of God.”
Muslims regard Jesus, upon him be peace, as one of the mightiest messengers of God. He and his supporter, John the Baptist, and John’s father, Zachariah, are two other prophets of God and are of an unbroken noble lineage going back to the patriarch of monotheism, Abraham. Peace and blessings upon them all.
His miraculous birth began when his maternal grandmother, Hanna, who was barren, prayed for a child to devote to God’s service. God answered her prayer by giving her Mary. The Quran calls Mary “the most honored woman among all nations.”
When Mary, upon her be peace, matured, Archangel Gabriel came to her and said: “‘O Mary! God 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 God.’ ”
Being a chaste virgin, Mary could not comprehend this news.
Gabriel comforted her by explaining that, when God wishes to create anything, He says, “Be,” and it is. Muslims find similarities between Jesus’ birth and that of Adam, peace and blessings upon them, who was created without a father or mother. Jesus’ miraculous birth was a sign to people of the spiritual world who understood the spirit of the Divine Law. The Laws of God were not meant for those in power to dominate the weak, but to protect the weak from the exploitation of the strong. During Jesus’ time, the laws of God were divorced from the spirit of God. The Laws became an end instead of a means to nurture hearts and aid humanity in their worship of God.
Like every woman, Mary, upon her be peace, suffered during childbirth, but her suffering was compounded by her fear of how she would explain her pregnancy to her noble family. Muslims believe Jesus, peace and blessings upon him, performed his first miracle in the cradle by defending his mother’s honor to her family and people.
Muslims do not believe in original sin or that Jesus’ death was atonement for our sins. Rather, Muslims believe Jesus’ mission was to complement the legalism of the Torah and the prevalent materialism at the time with humility and spirituality, which were missing in his time.
In Islamic tradition, it is narrated that once Jesus, peace and blessings upon him, and his disciples were outside the temple of Solomon, and the disciples said, “O Messiah of God, look at the House of God! What could be finer?” Jesus replied, “Amen. Amen. But I say to you that God will not leave one stone of this House standing. Indeed, God will destroy it because of the misdeeds of its people. God does not build anything of worth with gold or silver, nor even with these stones. Righteous hearts are more beloved to God than these stones. For God cultivates the earth with righteous hearts; and, in their absence, the earth is destroyed.”
What are righteous hearts? Jesus was once insulted over and over but he replied with prayers and supplications every time. One of the disciples asked him, O spirit of God, you respond with goodness every time you are insulted! He replied, “A man can only spend from what he owns.”
Jesus, upon him be peace, confirmed the Torah, but he also emphasized the importance of compassion, mercy, love, humility and self-purification as vital in learning the words of God’s message and acquiring the wisdom to act upon it. His spirituality and words emphasized the merciful and loving attributes of God’s nature.
For example, when the priests brought before him an adulteress, and they asked him to enforce the Mosaic Law of stoning her to death, Jesus responded: “Whoever among you is sinless can stone her.” No one eligible arose. Jesus turned to the woman who knelt before him crying and told her to stand up, adding: “O Lord, forgive her sins.”
According to Islamic teachings, once Jesus, peace and blessings upon him, met IblÏs [Satan] and IblÏs said, “Is it not true that only what has been decreed will happen?” Jesus replied, “That is true.” Then IblÏs said, “So throw yourself down from the top of this mountain, and let us see if you live or not!” Jesus answered, “The servant does not test his master; rather, it is the master who tests his servant.”
Like many prophets who were empowered by miracles to suit their time and circumstances, Jesus, upon him be peace, was empowered by God to communicate divinity not only in words but by many miracles as well. Jesus, the son of Mary, upon him be peace, said, “God has given me the power to give life to the dead, sight to the blind, sound to the deaf; but He did not give me the power to heal the fool of his foolishness.”
During the last supper Jesus, upon him be peace, had with his disciples, he prayed for a “holy table” to be sent down from the heavens, so it fell before him, covered with a napkin. It is said that thousands of people ate from it, and yet never exhausted it.
Muslims believe after plots were made to kill Jesus, upon him be peace, he was not crucified but raised to the Heavens like the Biblical figures Enoch and Elijah. However, Jesus will come back again as a just ruler and this time, like Moses and Muhammad, peace and blessings upon them, he will marry, have children and lead a war against the oppressors on earth and die a natural death.
Although there are differences between the Muslim and Christian view of Jesus, upon him be peace, the Qur’an repeatedly guides Muslims not to dispute with other monotheists over matters of doctrine. Muslims must make known their faith, but only God guides people to Islam. “It is true you wilt not be able to guide whom you love; but God guides those whom He will and He knows best those who receive guidance. ”
Fedwa Wazwaz is a Palestinian-American freelance writer who lives in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota.