Islamic Perspectives

Importance of Jesus in Islam

By Wajahat Husain

As two of the largest religions in the world, Christianity and Islam are at the forefront of many events taking place around the world.  Collectively, according to estimates in Encyclopedia Britannica, Muslims and Christians make up 55% of the world’s population.  This is a major reason why it is essential for Muslims and Christians around the world to better understand and be aware of each other’s beliefs and practices. The best way for this is to find out what the two religions have in common, rather than concentrate on the differences.  

The first thing that these two great religions have in common is that they are both monotheistic faiths, believing in One God.  After this, the most important unifying factor is the great reverence both faiths have for Jesus (peace be upon him).  While there is the obvious difference of Christians believing in Jesus as God/son of God and Muslims believing Jesus (Isa in Arabic) as a Prophet, the morals and values that Jesus brought forth are similar in both faiths, and form the foundation of both religions.  It is this common thread that can help bridge the gap between Islam and Christianity.  

"Verily, I am a servant of Allah. He has given me the Book, and has made me a prophet, and has made me blessed wherever I may be. And He has enjoined on me prayer and charity as long as I live." (Qur’an, 19:30-31)  This is one of many verses in the Qur’an which clarifies the exalted status of Jesus in Islam and the values he espoused.  

Despite the differences that exist between Christians and Muslims as far as the theological differences about Jesus, there are a number of similarities that exist as well.  In general, the source of information where Muslims obtain Islamic knowledge is the Qur’an.  Words from the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and examples of his life are also used as a source of Islamic faith.  For Christians, their main source of information about Jesus’ life is from the New Testament, specifically from the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.  Using only these sources of information, it can be seen that there are a number of similarities between the Christian and Muslim views of Jesus.  In addition to this, there are a number of traditions from the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his Holy family about Jesus himself and his virtues.

Another key aspect of the life of Jesus is that Muslims and Christians are in agreement about the performance of certain miracles by him. Miracles play a big role in both religions. According to Islam, nearly all Prophets came with a miracle from God as a tool and a proof to show to their people the veracity of their mission, and Jesus was no exception.  

The Bible says, "And now, Lord, look upon their threats, and grant to thy servants to speak thy word with all boldness, while thou stretches out thy hand to heal, and sign and wonders are performed through the name of thy Holy servant Jesus (Acts 4:30).  

In the same vein, the Qur’an mentions the performance of miracles by Jesus.  It says, "And behold: you make out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and you breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by My leave, and you heal those born blind, and the lepers by My leave. And behold! you bring forth the dead alive by My leave. And behold! I did restrain the Children of Israel from (hurting you) when you did show them the Clear Signs, and the unbelievers among them said: ‘This is nothing but evident magic.’" (5:110). This shows how both the Qur’an and Bible agree that Jesus did perform miracles.

The aforementioned similarities are just a sampling, as a complete list would be enough to fill an entire book.  Perhaps, of greater significance is to find out what Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) and his companions have said about Jesus and the words they have attributed to him. There are numerous reports of this kind, but listing a few of them will suffice to show the high respect Islam and its Prophet (pbuh) show to Jesus.  There are also many sayings and words of wisdom that Islam attributes to Jesus.

Imam Ali (as), who was the nephew of the Prophet and the fourth Caliph after him, had this to say about Jesus in one of his sermons to the people, "If you like, I will tell you about Jesus the son of Mary. He used a stone as his pillow, wore coarse clothing and ate rough food. His stew was hunger and his lamp in the night was the moon. His shade in the winter was the east of the earth and its west. His fruit and his basil were what grows from the earth for the cattle. He had no wife to try him, and no son to grieve him. He had no wealth to distract him, nor greed to abase him. He had no mount to ride but his feet, and none were his servants but his own two hands." (Nahjul Balagah)  

Imam Ali also said, "Jesus the son of Mary said, ‘Blessed is he whose silence is contemplation, the sight of whom is an admonition, whose house suffices him, who cries over his mistakes, and from whose hand and tongue people are safe.’”

There is a story about Jesus in Muslim traditions: a man asked Jesus, “Which people is the best?” Jesus took two handfuls of earth and said, “Which of these is the best? The people are created from earth, so the most honourable of them is the most God-fearing.”  

This is just some out of the many examples of the vast knowledge and wisdom attributed to Jesus in Muslim traditions.  
If anything will bring Muslims and Christians together, it is the common bond that exists through this great man. You can call him Jesus or Isa, revere him as God or as a Prophet of God, but no one can deny the fact that Jesus was a gift of God to Mankind and can be used as a unifying factor for all Christians and Muslims.   

This article appeared in The Milli Gazette print issue of 1-15 July 2012 on page no. 20

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