Allah the Almighty refers to Jesus as ‘Eesaa’ (peace by upon him); and ‘Bible/ New Testament’ as ‘Injeel’ in the Noble Quran. According to Islamic teachings, the holy book of Bible / New Testament is not in the state as was revealed by Allah the Almighty. As Allah’s teachings revealed in the Bible were changed by many people over the years, Allah revealed His message for the final time on Prophet Muhammad in the Noble book of the Holy Quran. The Noble Quran (along with other prophetic narrations) clearly explain the events behind the birth, life, teachings and miracles of Jesus.
The Story of Maryam and the Birth of Jesus
Jesus was born to Mary (Maryam), the daughter of Imran, an Imam of Bayt Al-Maqdis (the holy place in Jerusalem). Ibn Kathir, a renowned historian and Muslim Scholar during the 14th century, gives a detailed account of the birth and childhood of Maryam (Mary). As Maryam’s mother was childless, she prayed and vowed to Allah that if He blessed her with a child, “she would dedicate her child to His worship and in taking care of holy places in Bayt Al-Maqdis.” Her prayers were granted and she was blessed with a baby girl, Maryam, who was given under the guardianship of Zakaria (Zachariah), a very pious man.
The piety of Maryam is best explained by the words of Prophet Muhammad (SallAllhu Alayhi Wa Sallam): “The best woman (in her time) was Maryam, daughter of Imran, and the best woman (during the Prophet’s time) is Khadijah (his first wife who was 15 years older than him), daughter of Khuwaylid (Kathir I. , Tafsir Ibn Kathir, p. 763.)
Maryam had truly devoted her life to the worship of Allah and her guardian. The birth of Jesus (peace by upon him) was not the only miracle in her life. Zakaraya (Zachariah), for example, often found her with food and supplies that were sent miraculously from Allah. One day, Allah sent the angel Jibraeel (Gabriel) to Maryam (Mary) to give her the news about the birth of a child named ‘Eesaa’ (Jesus), who would later speak from the cradle. This piece of news shocked the Virgin Mary, who questioned how it was possible for her to have a child when no man had ever touched her (Quran 19:20). To this, Allah replied that whatever He wills, happens (Quran 19:21). Thus, she withdrew from people to hide her pregnancy and when she finally delivered the baby, she was commanded by Allah to go back to Jerusalem with the baby.
When Maryam (Mary) was reproached by people for committing a sin, she pointed towards the baby who spoke that he was appointed as a prophet by Allah (Quran 19: 30-33).
Speaking from the cradle was Jesus’ first miracles but it was intentionally kept secret by many Jews of the time. This is because they feared that the son of Mary could be an impending threat to Judaism. Therefore, instead of believing in the miracle of Allah, they accused her of a great misdeed and hid this truth from the rest of the people out of fear that people would turn away from Judaism towards Jesus and his teachings.
Similarities between the real teachings of Jesus and Islam
Through Jesus, Allah the Almighty wanted to revive the true message of Prophet Musa (Moses) and all other prophets who had been sent before Jesus. Mostly, the message of all prophets was the same: to believe in the oneness of Allah and not to associate anyone in His deity, and to follow His commandments. Thus, it is clear that the real teachings of Jesus, in general, were the same as the religions that preceded Christianity and as were brought later by Islam.
As Jesus grew, he realized that the children of Israel had forgotten the teachings of Musa (Prophet Moses) and that many of the Jews had changed the religion to a great extent. They also had monopolized the religion to serve their material desires and interests, while the people suffered. Jesus (peace by upon him), therefore, was sent by Allah the Almighty to show the children of Israel the right path. In this regard, it can be stated that Jesus was an ethnic prophet – a messenger of Allah for the children of Israel only, unlike Prophet Muhammad, who was sent later by Allah for the entire humanity.
Some of Allah’s commandments preached by Prophet Eesaa ‘Jesus’ were the same as were preached by Prophet Muhammad and that became part of Islamic teachings. These include prohibition of eating pork and consuming alcohol, circumcision in flesh, ablution before prayers, prostration in prayers, and covering of heads and bodies by women (to practice modesty). Fasting is also a common act of worship in Islam, Christianity and Judaism. Jesus also forbade his people not to take or give interest (usury) on money, which is also strictly forbidden in Islam.
However, later, according to Islamic teachings, the true message of Jesus along with the text of the Injeel (Bible) was changed by people causing them to deviate from the true teachings of Eesaa / Jesus. For example, many Christians believe that circumcision is in heart and not in flesh.
Miracles of Prophet Jesus
Jesus’ birth and his speech in the cradle are clear manifestations of his miracles. The Fifth chapter of the Noble Quran ‘Al-Maida’ is named after another miraculous incident in the life of Jesus. Once, his disciples asked him to request Allah for a table laden with food. His request was granted and his disciples witnessed how the heavenly table laden with heavenly food, descended from the skies for them.
Jesus was also blessed by Allah the Almighty with the miracle of healing lepers and blinds. He could also breathe life into objects made of clay and raise the dead from their graves, as willed by Allah the Almighty. He could tell what people had eaten and what they had stored in their houses. The Quran (3:49) clearly states that his miracles were purely granted by Allah and in no way it could be inferred that he had Godly powers, as believed by Christians.
Islamic views that refute the claim that Jesus was the son of God
Allah strongly refutes in the Quran about Jesus being the son of God. Allah the Almighty has always referred to Jesus as ‘Isa, Ibn-e-Mariam’ (Jesus, son of Mary) in the Noble Quran. Allah states in the Quran that it does not befit Allah, the Creator of the universe, to bear children. Jesus was born without a father because of the miracle of Allah, a power that only Allah holds. Allah states in the Quran that the birth of Jesus is similar to Adam, who was born without parents. Therefore, Islamic teachings hold that Eesaa (Jesus) was a prophet and messenger, similar to all other prophets that came before him and also similar to Prophet Muhammad who came as the final prophet and messenger of Allah to revive Allah / God’s message. The Muslims, therefore, do not attribute any divinity to Eesaa (Jesus) as Christians do.
Misinterpretations about the term ‘Son of God’
Even if it is accepted that Jesus was called ‘son of God’ in the Bible, it is important to recognize that even in the Hebrew Bible, God called other prophets His sons too. This is because in the Hebrew tradition, this term was used in the metaphoric sense only. Therefore, literal translation of this term may have actually led to the misinterpretation of the reality of Jesus and other teachings in Christianity. According to many narrations, Jesus himself called himself a ‘son of man’ rather than ‘son of God’ (Bible, Luke 9:22) and rebuked those who called him so (Bible, Luke: 4:41).
Islamic View of the Disciples of Jesus
Jesus’ disciples (referred to as ‘Al-Hawariyyun’ in Arabic in the Quran) have been mentioned in the Quran as pious and truthful people. However, their names or identities have not been revealed. The Christians believe that the New Testament was written by the eight Disciples of Jesus (peace by upon him) namely, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, Peter, James and Judah. Historical evidence proves that some of these men had never even met Jesus Christ in person!
Death of Jesus
The Islamic and the Christian views differ greatly regarding the death of Jesus. The Noble Quran clearly states that Jesus did not die. Allah the Almighty made him ascend to the heavens before his alleged crucifixion, and the person who was instead crucified was not Jesus but a man of his resemblance. [Quran 4:156-158]
The story as stated in the Quran and explained by Ibn Kathir is that when certain Jews of the time realized that many people had started to turn to Jesus to get divine guidance, they decided to kill him by crucifying him and making him wear a crown of thorns. Jesus came to know about these plans when he was with his disciples.
According to Ibn Kathir, Jesus asked his twelve companions who would volunteer to be made to look like him. This obviously was according to Allah’s will. Jesus (peace by upon him) also promised that whoever volunteered to become like him, would be with him in the heavens. One of his very young disciples agreed to this and stepped up to the task. Hence, Allah the Almighty made that person look exactly like Jesus and instead raised Jesus / Eesaa up to the Heavens. After Jesus had ascended, the disciples came out of the house and the Jews found the man who resembled Jesus and believing that he was Jesus, crucified him.
The Second Coming of Jesus
The Quran also states that Jesus would return to this world before the Day of Judgement. He would come as the follower of Prophet Muhammad because he had brought the last message of the One God, Allah. On his return, Jesus will also refute the Jewish claim that he was crucified and the Christian claim that he was God or son of God. Prophet Muhammad (peace by upon him) also asserted that Jesus then would die his natural death after his second coming and then, the Islamic perspective about Jesus would be believed by everyone.
(This above was a short summary of the e-book ‘Jesus – The Prophet Who didn’t Die).