Jesus in the Quran

November 20, 2009 at 9:00 pm (Christianity, Islam)

My intention in this post is to give some Quranic verses and commentary from Muhammad Asad about Jesus. My intention is not to present my own views about Jesus. I would prefer not to get into any debates about the divinity of Jesus or other headaches like that.

The reason I want to post these is that they give what I think is a very reasonable account of Jesus within the context of the Islamic picture. (Whether it’s reasonable generally, I’m not going to say.) The interpretation differs from some Islamic concepts I’ve heard about Jesus, but I had difficulty assimilating those concepts into Islam, so I was interested by what I read here.

Firstly, the Quran seems to use Christian language – words that could be translated as “holy spirit” and so on – but seems to mean different things by it than what Christians mean, as explained. I’ve noticed this in other passages; it seems to reproduce previous scripture while narrowing and refining the definitions.

2:87 For, indeed, We vouchsafed unto Moses the divine writ and caused apostle after apostle to follow him; and We vouchsafed unto Jesus, the son of Mary, all evidence of the truth, and strengthened him with holy inspiration.*

* This rendering of ruh al-qudus (lit., “the spirit of holiness”) is based on the recurring use in the Qur’an of the term ruh in the sense of “divine inspiration”. It is also recorded that the Prophet invoked the blessing of the ruh al-qudus on his Companion, the poet Hassan ibn Thabit (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dd’ud and Tirmidhi): just as the Qur’an (58: 22) speaks of all believers as being “strengthened by inspiration (ruh) from Him”.

Here we see Jesus referred to as God’s word, but meaning really just the fulfilment of God’s promise:

4:171 O FOLLOWERS of the Gospel! Do not overstep the bounds [of truth] in your religious beliefs,* and do not say of God anything but the truth. The Christ Jesus, son of Mary, was but God’s Apostle – [the fulfilment of] His promise which He had conveyed unto Mary – and a soul created by Him.** Believe, then, in God and His apostles, and do not say, “[God is] a trinity”. Desist [from this assertion] for your own good. God is but One God; utterly remote is He, in His glory, from having a son: unto Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth; and none is as worthy of trust as God.

* I.e., by raising Jesus to the rank of divinity. Since here the Christians are addressed specifically, I render the term kitab as “Gospel”.

** Lit., “His word which He conveyed unto Mary and a soul from Him”. According to Tabari, the “word” (kalimah) was “the announcement (risalah) which God bade the angels to convey to Mary, and God’s glad tiding to her” (a reference to 3: 45) – which justifies the rendering of kalimatuhu as “[the fulfilment of] His promise”. (See also note on 3: 39.) As regards the expression, “a soul from Him” or “created by Him”, it is to be noted that among the various meanings which the word ruh bears in the Qur’an (e.g., “inspiration” in 2: 87 and 253), it is also used in its primary significance of “breath of life”, “soul”, or “spirit”: thus, for instance, in 32: 9, where the ever-recurring evolution of the human embryo is spoken of: “and then He forms him [i.e., man] and breathes into him of His spirit” – that is, endows him with a conscious soul which represents God’s supreme gift to man and is, therefore, described as “a breath of His spirit”. In the verse under discussion, which stresses the purely human nature of Jesus and refutes the belief in his divinity, the Qur’an points out that Jesus, like all other human beings, was “a soul created by Him”.

The virgin birth was something I could not understand in an Islamic context. Somehow I managed to completely miss the footnotes the first time around, but I already started to notice that the Quran doesn’t explicitly say Jesus was born to a virgin. It turns out on closer inspection that Muhammad Asad concurs with this.

19:19 [The angel] answered: “I am but a messenger of thy Sustainer, [who says,] ‘I shall bestow upon thee the gift of a son endowed with purity.’ ” 19:20 Said she: “How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me? – for, never have I been a loose woman!” 19:21 [The angel] answered: “Thus it is; [but! thy Sustainer says, ‘This is easy for me*; and [thou shalt have a son,] so that We might make him a symbol unto mankind and an act of grace from Us.’ ” And it was a thing decreed [by God]: 19:22 and in time she conceived him, and then she withdrew with him to a far-off place.

* Cf. the identical phrase in verse 9 above, relating to the announcement of John’s birth to Zachariah. In both these cases, the implication is that God can and does bring about events, which may be utterly unexpected or even inconceivable before they materialize. In connection with the announcement of a son to Mary, the Quran states in 3:47 that ‘‘when He wills a thing to be, He but says unto it, ‘Be’ – and it is’’: but since neither the Quran nor any authentic Tradition tells us anything about the chain of causes and effects (asbab) which God’s decree “Be’’ was to bring into being, all speculation as to the “how” of this event must remain beyond the scope of a Quran-commentary. (But see also note on 21:91.)

It says to see 21:91, so here that is too. This is a verse that could easily be misconstrued as supporting the virgin birth if it was read with that in mind as a preconception:

21:91 AND [remember] her who guarded her chastity, whereupon We breathed into her of Our spirit*
and caused her, together with her son, to become a symbol [of Our grace] unto all people.

* This allegorical expression, used here with reference to Mary’s conception of Jesus, has been widely – and erroneously – interpreted as relating specifically to his birth. As a matter of fact, the Quran uses the same expression in three other places with reference to the creation of man in general – namely in 15:29 and 38:72, “when I have formed him… and breathed into him of My spirit” and in 32:9, “and thereupon He forms [lit., “formed”] him fully and breathes [lit., “breathed’’] into him of His spirit”. In particular, the passage of which the last-quoted phrase is a part (i.e., 32:7-9) makes it abundantly and explicitly clear that God “breathes of His spirit” into every human being. Commenting on the verse under consideration, Zamakhshari states that “the breathing of the spirit [of God] into a body signifies the endowing it with life’’: an explanation with, which Razi concurs. (In this connection, see also note on 4:171.) As for the description of Mary as allati ahsanat farjaha, idiomatically denoting ‘‘one who guarded her chastity” (lit., “her private parts”) it is to be borne in mind that the term ihsan – lit., ‘‘[one’s] being fortified [against any danger or evil]” – has the tropical meaning of “abstinence from what is unlawful or reprehen­sible’’ (Taj al-Arus), and especially from illicit sexual intercourse, and is applied to a man as well as a woman: thus, for instance, the terms muhsan and muhsanah are used elsewhere in the Quran to describe, respectively, a man or a woman who is “fortified [by marriage] against unchastity”. Hence, the expression allati ahsanat farjaha, occurring in the above verse as well as in 66:12 with reference to Mary, is but meant to stress her outstanding chastity and complete abstinence, in thought as well as in deed, from anything unlawful or morally reprehensible: in other words, a rejection of the calumny (referred to in 4:156 and obliquely alluded to in 19:27-28) that the birth of Jesus was the result of an “illicit union”.

OK, so potentially no virgin birth… what about death? I’m sure we’ve all heard the Islamic concept that Jesus did not die, but take a look at this.

3:55 Lo! God said: “O Jesus! Verily, I shall cause thee to die, and shall exalt thee unto Me, and cleanse thee of [the presence of] those who are bent on denying the truth; and I shall place those who follow thee [far] above those who are bent on denying the truth, unto the Day of Resurrection. In the end, unto Me you all must return, and I shall judge between you with regard to all on which you were wont to differ.

It’s pretty clear, isn’t it? But then in the following verse the Quran appears to deny the crucifixion. At a Sufi workshop I was told that this verse had, in the past, been understood to mean that Jesus went willingly to the cross (and so nobody forcibly killed him). The interpretation by Muhammad Asad, on the other hand, is that the crucifixion did not happen at all and was a legend, and so the means of Jesus’ death is left unspecified.

4:157 and their boast, “Behold, we have slain the Christ Jesus, son of Mary, [who claimed to be] an apostle of God!”  However, they did not slay him, and neither did they crucify him, but it only seemed to them [as if it had been] so;* and, verily, those who hold conflict­ing views thereon are indeed confused, having no [real] knowledge thereof, and following mere con­jecture. For, of a certainty, they did not slay him: 4:158 nay, God exalted him unto Himself** – and God is indeed almighty, wise.

* Thus, the Qur’an categorically denies the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. There exist, among Muslims, many fanciful legends telling us that at the last moment God substituted for Jesus a person closely resembling him (according to some accounts, that person was Judas), who was subsequently crucified in his place. However, none of these legends finds the slightest support in the Qur’an or in authentic Traditions, and the stories produced in this connection by the classical commentators must be summarily rejected. They represent no more than confused attempts at “harmonizing” the Qur’anic statement that Jesus was not crucified with the graphic description, in the Gospels, of his crucifixion. The story of the crucifixion as such has been succinctly explained in the Qur’anic phrase wa-lakin shubbiha lahum, which I render as “but it only appeared to them as if it had been so” – implying that in the course of time, long after the time of Jesus, a legend had somehow grown up (possibly under the then-powerful influence of Mithraistic beliefs) to the effect that he had died on the cross in order to atone for the “original sin” with which mankind is allegedly burdened; and this legend became so firmly established among the latter-day followers of Jesus that even his enemies, the Jews, began to believe it – albeit in a derogatory sense (for crucifixion was, in those times, a heinous form of death-penalty reserved for the lowest of criminals). This, to my mind, is the only satisfactory explanation of the phrase wa-lakin shubbiha lahum, the more so as the expression shubbiha li is idiomatically synonymous with khuyyila 1i, “[a thing] became a fancied image to me”, i.e., “in my mind” – in other words, “[it] seemed to me” (see Qamus, art. khayala, as well as Lane II, 833, and IV, 1500).

** Cf. 3: 55, where God says to Jesus, “Verily, I shall cause thee to die, and shall exalt thee unto Me.” The verb rafa ahu (lit., “he raised him” or “elevated him”) has always, whenever the act of raf’ (“elevating”) of a human being is attributed to God, the meaning of “honouring” or “exalting”. Nowhere in the Qur’an is there any warrant for the popular belief that God has “taken up” Jesus bodily, in his lifetime, into heaven. The expression “God exalted him unto Himself” in the above verse denotes the elevation of Jesus to the realm of God’s special grace – a blessing in which all prophets partake, as is evident from 19: 57, where the verb rafa nahu (“We exalted him”) is used with regard to the Prophet Idris. (See also Muhammad ‘Abduh in Manar III, 316 f., and VI, 20f.) The “nay” (bal) at the beginning of the sentence is meant to stress the contrast between the belief of the Jews that they had put Jesus to a shameful death on the cross and the fact of God’s having “exalted him unto Himself”.

Again, I don’t want to discuss whether or not this is plausible. I just wanted to show what the Quran says and how this might be interpreted. My main point is that what Asad calls “fanciful legends” about Jesus within the Islamic tradition find no basis in the Quran. Another concept which is absent from the Quran is the idea of the second coming of Christ. I would guess that comes from hadiths, whether strong or not I don’t know.

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74 Comments

  1. LK said,

    This was fantastic thank you. Jesus in Islam is one of my top struggles, especially the Crucifixion. However, the notes you gave make some sense on how it could have happened, but possibly didn’t include the saving of sins.

    Again thank you!

    • Sarah said,

      (Jesus in Islam is one of my top struggles, especially the Crucifixion).

      Hmm.. how come?

      if you don’t mind me asking, of course.

  2. Candice said,

    That was a nice read. I really want to buy this translations with notes… You have it. It’s worth the 50$??

    The main critique Asad seems to get is his dismissal of miraculous events by rationalizing. I think this is what I most look forward to reading in his translation. I like these types of interpretations because I see the Qur’an as very alegorial and metaphorical and I don’t think it’s all to be taken literally.

    So interesting to see that he doesn’t believe in the virgin birth.

    • aynur said,

      I would say YES it’s definitely worth $50!! 🙂

    • Sarah said,

      It probably is worth it, Candice, unless you want to read it online for free (there is a link on my sidebar).

      I like the rationalising of “miraculous” events too. I guess I have a really hard time believing in miracles. Maybe it means I don’t really have much faith in God deep down. Or maybe it just means I don’t expect God to break natural laws… if the natural laws are broken then the world doesn’t make sense, and so I can’t figure ANYTHING out about life.

  3. LK said,

    Because the Qur’an, or at least popular belief, states that the entire event never happened. Now, for some reason I am ok with the “dieing for our sins” not happening but I find it almost impossible to believe that the event did not happen. Its very possible that they could have made a spectacle of Jesus in this manner, they surely would have wanted to make an example of him. Those in power all over were so terrified of his abilities and his pull with the people. Also, the Qur’an would be discounting a huge chunk of the Bible, and the only portion that seems to stay rather consistent in all versions and editions. The Qur’an has not discounted any other parts of the Bible completely, only the crucifixion does it seem to say was false.

    I’ve just started focusing on this subject so I am not far in my research I also dont want to highjack Sarah’s post )I think when the Qur’an says “the crucifixion did not happen” it means that it did not happen for the reason most Christians believe it to have happened. But I don’t know, I’m no scholar and I can’t wrap my head around it. I hope to find some answers from a couple of books I have on the way. I will then post my discovery at my blog.

  4. Sarah said,

    (not happening but I find it almost impossible to believe that the event did not happen).

    In Arabic, the verb (but it only seemed to them [as if it had been] so) stubely suggests to me – and to some scholars- that indeed.. a spectacle of Jesus (peace be upon him) was crucified insteed of him.

    and no, there are no “fanciful legends” involved. =)

    I’m kinda surprised, though, that Asad didn’t believe in the virgin birth! (I mean that was the whole point why Jesus birth was a miracle and a “sing” to the Jews to begin with, right?). I don’t think he was correct at all in this particular interpretation.

  5. caraboska said,

    The fact remains that it is more than possible to interpret the Qur’an as meaning that Jesus was conceived by the power of God’s spirit, born of a virgin (and I should point out that this is all Christians mean when they refer to Jesus as ‘God’s son’, *nothing* more), that he went willingly to the cross (and therefore it can be said that no one *killed* him), that he did actually die on the cross, that he was raised again, and yes, that he will come back.

    It is even possible to connect Jesus with the Qur’anic concept of the ‘authorized intercessor’. I even heard of a situation where a certain Muslim somewhere in Africa came to such a conclusion, began offering his prayers to God in Jesus’ name (i.e. through Jesus’ intercession), a small group of people gathered around him, doing the same thing, and he ended up paying the ultimate price for his faith and practice.

    And then there is the matter of who Abraham’s ‘child of promise’ is. Many believe that it is Ishmael, although apparently this is not stated explicitly in the Qur’an, so that it could be Isaac, as it is in the Bible – all the more so that the Qur’an is laced with references to God’s covenant with the Jews. This is important, at very least from a Biblical standpoint, because Jesus’ identity as Messiah is based in part on his being descended from the ‘child of promise’.

    The only thing about Jesus that I have found thus far in the Qur’an which absolutely cannot be reconciled with my understanding of the Bible is the verse that says that those who say Allah is the Messiah are unbelievers.

    • Sarah said,

      Forgot to mention!

      caraboska, you also said:

      The fact remains that it is more than possible to interpret the Qur’an as meaning that Jesus:

      1. he went willingly to the cross (It’s pretty vague in the Quran, but I see how one might come to this conclution).

      2. did actually die on the cross (well, that.. is VERY unlikely, to say the least. Since the Quran clearly states that he was not killed at all).

      3. that he was raised again (he was raised up, I agree).

      4. he will come back (yes, definitly. Although Islam differs from christianity on the outcome of his second coming).

      • caraboska said,

        Well, the word used in the Qur’an may not say literally, I will cause you to *die* – I had a Muslim native speaker of Arabic explain the literal meaning, and he said the word used means ‘to fall asleep’. And he confirmed to me that this expression can be used to mean ‘to die’.

        And if we understand the verse that says ‘they did not kill him’ to mean that no one killed him because he went willingly (i.e. he gave his life rather than having it taken from him by force), then I don’t see any problem at all in interpreting the Qur’an to mean that Jesus died and only after that rose to heaven.

        And while we are on the subject of the Second Coming, even that can apparently be interpreted in a couple of different ways – even among Muslims. One says that Jesus will not die before Israel comes to believe, and the other says that when Jesus comes, no Jew will die before coming to believe. The problem is that the Qur’an just says ‘he’, and the antecedent is unclear.

        • Sarah said,

          (verse that says ‘they did not kill him’)

          Ah, but the verse didn’t stop there!

          it immediatly counties by saying : “nor crucified him”.

          So wethir Jesus went to the cross willingly or not, the Quran clearly says that God saved him from being killed.

          • caraboska said,

            I don’t see that. I apply the same reasoning to the word ‘crucify’ there as I do to the word ‘kill’. They did not take his life from him by force, he gave it. They did not put his body on that cross by force – he gave it.

            • Sarah said,

              But how can you be so sure?! when there is not even a single evidance to support your interpetation??

              Why would the Quran say: ‘they did not kill him’ and then immedetly say: “nor crucified him” if they both have the same reasoning??

              A person who gave his life away means either that he was KILLED or that he killed himself. He wouldn’t have died in normal circumstances.

              If you beilive Jesus died on the cross, then he WAS crucified! it doesn’t matter at all if he went to the cross willingly or by force.

              A person who got himself shoot while trying to protact someone is STILL dead from gun shoot! it doesn’t matter at all if he willingly gave his life away. The case of death will not change.

              And the Quran clearly said and meant: “Jesus was not crucified”.

              Heck, there is even some other verses where God basically tell Jesus “I will save you from those wrong-doers”…

              it can’t get any more obvious than that, really.

              • caraboska said,

                I think the problem here is that in both cases, the Qur’an says *they* (i.e. the Jews and Romans) did not kill him, nor did *they* crucify him – even if it says ‘they’ only once, ‘they’ are clearly the subject of both verbs. The question is, again, who the agent is. And I believe that Jesus was – he gave his life rather than having it taken away. And God did indeed save Jesus. He raised Jesus from the dead and took him up to heaven.

  6. anon said,

    “the Quran seems to use Christian language”…..actually these terms are better explained in Judaism rather than Christianity. Ruh-al-Qudus (Arabic) = Ruach Hakodesh (Hebrew)—-in fact studying Judaism (as the Jews understand it—not as Christians assume it to be)—is helpful in understanding the Quran.
    —-for example, Judaism does not interpret the story of Adam and Eve as “original sin”—and neither does the Quran.

    • Sarah said,

      Thanks for this, anon. I am very interested in looking again at the Bible from the Jewish perspective.

      • anon said,

        When I looked into Judaism, it was a surprise how very close both Islam and Judiasm are….In fact, a Rabbi who blogged about his interfaith experience said that of the 3 Abrahamic religions, Christianity seems the “odd man out”.
        In my opinion, God could have created Jesus Christ(pbuh) as he created Prophet Adam(pbuh)—without parents—instead he chose Mary(pbuh) to be his mother. Why?—In Judaism, a child is not considerd “Jewish” unless he is born of a Jewish mother. Mary(pbuh) helps establish the Jewishness of Prophet Jesus(pbuh) clearly, without doubt. In the Quran, Prophet Jesus(pbuh) is called Masih (Moshiach=Hebrew—Prophet=”Nabi” in Arabic). It is possible this could be because Jesus Christ(pbuh) was the last Prophet to be sent to the Jewish people—-as the fulfilment of the Covenant with Prophet Abraham(pbuh) that his progeny would be guided. (And Prophet Muhammed(pbuh) also fulfills this covenant by being the guide to Prophet Abraham’s decendants through Ishmael)

        • Sarah said,

          anon,
          Yes, I’ve noticed Jesus is referred to as Masih. I’m coming round to the idea that he is more than just a prophet in Islam. But I don’t know exactly what Masih/Moshiach means. The Jews don’t believe Jesus filfilled the appropriate prophecies. The Christians do, but they also believe he fulfilled prophecies about dying for transgressions of others. The Islamic view must be different from both. I will have to look into it.

          • caraboska said,

            Mashiach means ‘Anointed One’. In a general sense, an ‘anointed one’ in the Hebrew Bible context could be basically one of three things: a prophet, a priest, or a king. It is my understanding, however, that traditional Judaism does teach that there is to be one Messiah in particular – The Messiah, so to speak – but that he has not come yet.

            The major passage in the Hebrew Bible on which Christians base their belief that Messiah is to die for other people’s transgressions is omitted from the Orthodox Jewish lectionary. I once sat down with a couple of Orthodox Jewish guys in college to see how accurate my Engish translation was, comparing with the Hebrew original, and they basically refused to translate the relevant verse for me. They insisted that ‘it’s difficult to understand’ and proceeded to give me Rashi’s commentary on it instead.

            On the other hand, in the Jewish Publication Society (JPS) edition of the Hebrew Bible – done by the Conservative Jewish movement in the States – the chapter in question (Isaiah 53) does not differ materially from the translations that are in common use among Christians. Hmm.

            • anon said,

              I don’t know a lot about Judaism—but it is also my understanding that Mosiach means “annointed as in preists of Prophets and also for kings. “Mosiach Nagid” means “annointed” in the sense of an annointed king. Cyrus the Great of Persia is reffered to as the Mosiach Nagid—because he built the Jewish temple (539BCE?)
              Mosiach in Judaism is a human being–neither divine nor semi-divine. It is interesting that the Quran refers to the line of Mary (pbuh) from the house of “Amram”(Imran)—the father of Aaron and Moses(pbuh)—-I could be wrong—but Aaron’s line became the Levites?—the preists of Judaism?

              I came across an article where some were debating if Judaism refers to 2 different Mosiachs rather than 1 and that a confusion may have resulted in them becomming combined into one concept——it might have simply been a speculation and not a real issue……

              • caraboska said,

                Yes, there is a thread in Orthodox Judaism that thinks that way – one Mashiach who will die for the sins of the people, another who will reign as king over Israel in the end times. This instead of one Mashiach who will die and then rise again, and then come back to reign…

                Yes, among the Orthodox, it is commonly considered that Mashiach will be a real person – but no more than that. There are more liberal threads which do not take it literally. Some think that Mashiach is Israel, some think it is a Messianic age, and not a person… But yes. The Orthodox do view Mashiach as a specific human individual.

  7. Sarah said,

    (The fact remains that it is more than possible to interpret the Qur’an as meaning that Jesus was conceived by the power of God’s spirit, born of a virgin).

    but.. isn’t that what we usually mean by a “virgin birth”?

    I’m a little confused.

    (I even heard of a situation where a certain Muslim somewhere in Africa came to such a conclusion, began offering his prayers to God in Jesus’ name).

    Ah, but this is what we muslims call minor “shirk” (shirk basically means: worshipping other than God, associating partners with him, giving his characteristics to others beside him).

    Major shirk is the only unforgivable sin. According to the Quran, God forgives any sin except for major shirk (since It is the vice that is opposed to the virtue of tawhid).

    If a person, however, was not aware that what he did was shirk and there was no one to correct him, then God, out of his mercy, will forgive him .

    (The only thing about Jesus that I have found thus far in the Qur’an which absolutely cannot be reconciled with my understanding of the Bible is the verse that says that those who say Allah is the Messiah are unbelievers).

    I can understand that.

    But that’s what the concept of Tawhid in Islam is all about.

    That concept was nearly dying before God, as we beilive, sent the Quran.

  8. caraboska said,

    Sarah,

    Of course, that is what we mean by ‘virgin birth’. My point here is that the post seems to be saying that the Qur’an does not necessarily speak of a virgin birth in the case of Jesus (which I admit was quite a surprise – I’ve read the Qur’an at least two or three times, and it never crossed my mind that it had anything else but a virgin birth in mind when speaking of the manner of Jesus’ coming to earth).

    I realize that traditional Islam regards something like praying to God in Jesus’ name as shirk. But my understanding is that the Qur’an does teach that it is at least theoretically possible for there to be an authorized intercessor – though no names are mentioned as being identiied with the ‘authorized intercessor’.

    And it was on that basis specifically that the person came to the conclusions that he did. So I don’t see that he was in fact assigning any partners to God or in any way going beyond the bounds of what the Qur’an *actually says* (not how it is traditionally interpreted).

    I would beg to differ with you about whether Tawhid was a dying concept before the Qur’an came. The Jewish people have subscribed to Tawhid for millenia, and while there is a relatively small number of Jews on the planet, God has watched over them and not allowed them to die out.

    • Sarah said,

      (I realize that traditional Islam regards something like praying to God in Jesus’ name as shirk. But my understanding is that the Qur’an does teach that it is at least theoretically possible for there to be an authorized intercessor).

      I’m not too sure how did you get to this conclution…

      Can you elaborate, please?

      (The Jewish people have subscribed to Tawhid for millenia, and while there is a relatively small number of Jews on the planet, God has watched over them and not allowed them to die out).

      You’re right.. Jews were monotheis, but Tawhid mean much more that just monotheism.

      Allow me to explain in some depth.

      There are three main categories of Tawhid in Islam:

      1. Tawhid ar-Rububiyah (Maintaining the Unity of Lordship): This category is based on the fundamental concept that God alone caused all things to exist when there was nothing; He sustains and maintains creation without any need from it or for it; and He is the sole Lord of the universe and its inhabitants without any real challenge to His sovereignty. In other words, God reigns supreme over all that exists, has existed, or will exist.

      This doesn’t just mean recognising the Lordship of God in terms of sheer power, but also recognising that Allah is responsible for all that happens within the universe, no matter whether we consider it good or bad. Everything that happens occurs by the will of God alone, not by luck or chance. (all Abrahamic religiouns agree on that).

      2. Tawhid al-Asmaa was-Sifaat (Maintaining the Unity of Allah’s Names & Attributes): This area of Tawhid has a number of aspects. Firstly, God should only be referred to according to what is written in the Qur’an, or how the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) referred to Him, as written in any of the *authintic* hadith collections.

      Secondly, God must not be given any attributes of any created being. For example, there are numerous examples in the Old and the New Testement where God is given some human attributes, such as fatigue (so much so that after He created the universe, He needed to take a rest for an entire day!) and regret.

      Thirdly, created beings should not be given any of the names or attributes of God. (One example of this is a fortune-teller who claims to see the future, yet knowledge of the future is something which only belongs to God. Also it is not allowed to name oneself ‘Ar-Rahim’ “the Most Merciful”, but it is okay to use the name ‘Abdul-Rahim’ “servant of the Most Merciful”).

      3. Tawhid al’Ibadah (Maintaining the Unity of Worship): This area of Tawhid is probably the most obvious one, as it ensures that any act of worship is directed at God alone, and not towards any people or objects.

      • aynur said,

        Regarding #2 … about created beings not given any of the names of attributes of God. in [9:128] Prophet Muhammad (saw) is given the attribute of ‘rahim’ – which is only otherwise only used as one of God’s attributes throughout the whole Qur’an.

        in [7:188] the footnote in my Qur’an says that “no created being has or could have any share, however small, in any of the Creator’s qualities or powers.”

        ???

        • Sarah said,

          I think I should’ve made myself more clearer.

          “rehim” means “merciful”, which is a virtue that God expect all of us to have. The prophets in the Quran imboded many great virtues (which is excepteable, since God choose them to be our role models in life. So you have Muhammad who is “rahim” and Jacob who’s “sabor” (paitent) ect ect).

          But God is not just “merciful”, he is THE merciful”, as in: The source of all mercy, and the one who’s mercy is perfect.

          So no one is allowed top call himself AL rahim (THE mercifu;). Only rahim or the servent of the rahim.

          • aynur said,

            Thank you for the explanation. I was kind of *guessing* at that but I wanted to post that and see what you had to say. 🙂

  9. caraboska said,

    Authorized intercessor – Qur’an 2:255, 10:3.

    Tawhid – OK, let me get this straight: it’s not Tawhid unless we describe God only according to the names or attributes listed in the Qur’an or hadith? That sounds an awful lot like ‘ascribing partners’ to my (admittedly Christian) ears. Of course, I would not presume to describe God in a manner that conflicts with the Bible, but there is no set of names for God in the Bible, nor is there any list of attributes. Only one name is given for God in the Bible, and it is not even really a name, because it means ‘I am’ [or, in the expanded form also given there, ‘I am who I am’]. This is God describing himself. When we talk about God, the proper form means ‘He is’. In other words, God does not have a name. He *is* His name, and cannot be limited by any mere lists of attributes.

    Now where did you get the idea that the Bible teaches that God rested because he was tired? The Bible teaches quite the contrary – that God does not grow tired or weary. So if He rested, it was for some other reason. He rested as a way of setting that day apart and making it holy.

    The Bible does not anthropomorphize God. Quite the opposite. It says that we are created in God’s image. This means that we are like mirrors that reflect Him. Any characteristic of ours in its pure form (i.e. unmarred by sin) is a mere reflection of the ‘real deal’ to be found in God.

    Another thing: it also means we are not to make graven images of God (a fact which has unfortunately escaped the notice of many people who identify themselves as Christian, who think it is OK to make pictures of God or the saints and even pray in front of them). We are to *be* that image. That means that we are to be holy as God is holy. We are to reflect His attributes in our daily lives. In other words, God is merciful – then that means we are to be merciful. This is the only ‘image-making’ (if it can be called that) that is permitted in the Bible.

    Let me get another thing straight: are you saying that the only acceptable way of worship is the pillars of Islam? Again, that sounds like ‘ascribing partners’ to me. A religion. A practice. Let me ask you something: is God the only savior, or isn’t He? If He is, then how can we contribute in any way to our salvation? If we try, are we not committing idolatry, ascribing to our own works that which is to be ascribed only to God (i.e. salvation)?

    The funny part is that the Qur’an actually does teach that we cannot even have faith, much less do good works, except by God’s leave. We cannot even do anything deserving of God’s guidance without His leave. It is all grace, in other words. God really is the only savior. Unfortunately, the vast majority of Muslims seem to think that their works do contribute materially to their salvation, so that the aim is to have the good deeds balance out the bad ones. To me, this smacks of ‘ascribing partners’.

    Indeed, I have met very few people outside of the Christian faith who understand the full implications of God’s being the only savior and explicitly refrain from ‘ascribing partnership’ in this matter. I wonder why that is, if Christians are such mushrikeen as traditional Islam seems to teach?

    Of course, there are those who claim that this all means that Christians ‘just have faith’ and then do as they d*** well please and think that all will go well on Judgment Day. The fact of the matter is that the Bible teaches that while good works are not, as it were, a ’cause’ of salvation, they are an effect. True faith will result in good works.

    It is my belief that this is a proper interpretation of the Qur’an in this matter as well – that we can contribute nothing to our salvation, we cannot even have faith without God’s leave. But once God has given living faith to us, then the *effect* will be good works.

    You will notice that hadith are conspicuously absent from my discussion of the Qur’an, just like church tradition is conspicuously absent from my discussion of the Bible. Just like Islam has its Qur’an-aloners, Christianity has its Bible-aloners. They are called Protestants 😛

    In practice, unfortunately, a lot of people who call themselves Protestants actually do adhere to some ‘official church teaching’ concerning what the Bible teaches – which is very nice, except that sometimes this teaching does not adhere to the Bible.

    So there are even people out there who protest even against the Protestants. They are, or at least historically were called Quakers 😛 Unfortunately, many Quakers have now made a tradition of having a lack of tradition. So there is at least one person out there who protests – albeit mildly and peaceably – even against the Quakers. That’s me. And when you have such a person reading the Qur’an, I suppose it is to be expected that – for exactly the same reasons she takes the attitude of a Bible-aloner – she will take the attitude of a Qur’an-aloner as well 😀

    • Sarah said,

      Hello again~ =)

      I’ll try to give you a full replay as soon as I have enough time, but unfourtantly I have an exam tommorow… so wish me luck!

      • caraboska said,

        Absolutely, may God guide you in studying and taking your test so that you will know everything you are to know that will be useful for your future and be able to give account of same on your exam.

        • Sarah said,

          (it’s not Tawhid unless we describe God only according to the names or attributes listed in the Qur’an or hadith?)

          I was actually talking about muslims here. We can only call God by what He called himself, and we can’t come up with new names for Him. Of course, that doesn’t apply to people from other religions.

          (That sounds an awful lot like ‘ascribing partners’ to my (admittedly Christian) ears).

          Um.. How come???

          Honestly, your definition of ‘ascribing partners’ is pretty bizzar to me.

          (He *is* His name, and cannot be limited by any mere lists of attributes).

          Forgot to add: God’s names are not limited to 99 names. There are other names which He didn’t share with us.

          I have no idea how did you conclued that God’s “names” and “attributes” limit him at all.

          His “names” and “attributes” is our way to know Him in a very personal level, and utlimitly love and worship him (because If God is “unlike anything we can ever imagine” then we might feel distant from Him, unless He told us more about Himself) .

          Giving God human attributes is the only way to limit God, because it’s confusing “creator” with “creation”.

          (The Bible teaches quite the contrary – that God does not grow tired or weary).

          (So if He rested, it was for some other reason. He rested as a way of setting that day apart and making it holy).

          …. Can’t you see how those two sentences conditrect each other?

          “rest” means having the ability to feel tired, isn’t it?

          (And verily We created the heavens and the earth, and all that is between them, in six Days, and naught of weariness touched Us). (Quran: 50:38)

          Note: “Us” can be a plural of respect in Arabic, not a plural of numbers.

          (are you saying that the only acceptable way of worship is the pillars of Islam? Again, that sounds like ‘ascribing partners’ to me. A religion. A practice. Let me ask you something: is God the only savior, or isn’t He? If He is, then how can we contribute in any way to our salvation? If we try, are we not committing idolatry, ascribing to our own works that which is to be ascribed only to God (i.e. salvation)?)

          What?! 0_o

          I don’t get it… are you saying that WE muslims invented the the pillars of Islam??? It’s right there in the Quran!

          No true muslim will ever dare to speak on behalf of God.

          You are now speaking on behalf of God.

          Did he tell you that He didn’t want to send any religion??

          {And they did not appraise God with true appraisal when they said, “God did not reveal to a human being anything”}. (Quran: 6:91).

          Do you are any proof of that??

          {Bring your proof of what ye state if ye are truthful}. (Quran: 2:111).

          Look.. I hate arguing, I really do, especially on the Internet. So let’s clarify some things before I address the rest of your comment.

          My intent is NOT to convince you of my side because you cannot tell another person what to think. My point is, however, to correct some of the mistakes you said about the Quran.

          You seem like a very nice and lovable person, and I don’t want to unintentionaly say something that might hurt your feelings. But if I did, then please expect my sincer apolegy.

          (The funny part is that the Qur’an actually does teach that we cannot even have faith, much less do good works, except by God’s leave).

          Not to sound very blunt, but have you seriously studied the Qur’an???

          Yes, the Qur’an says we cannot have faith or do good and bad works, except by God’s leave. Because if we could do any of that by ourselves without God’s permition, that means we have powers outside of God’s athurity, which is another form of “Shirk”.

          (You will notice that hadith are conspicuously absent from my discussion of the Qur’an)

          Which a HUGE mistake! Because authintic hadiths helps explain the Quran properly.

          • aynur said,

            “I don’t get it… are you saying that WE muslims invented the the pillars of Islam??? It’s right there in the Quran! ”

            I just wanted to stick my 2 cents in here. Technically, yes the pillars in the Qur’an, but not stated as the “pillars”. The outline for the pillars of Islam is from the hadiths.

            “Islam has been built upon five things – on testifying that there is no god save Allah, and that Muhammad is His Messenger; on performing salah; on giving the zakah; on Hajj to the House; and on fasting during Ramadhan.”

            [Al-Bukhari & Muslim]

            • Sarah said,

              (Technically, yes the pillars in the Qur’an, but not stated as the “pillars”).

              Which is why I stressed on the great important of authintic Hadiths. Because if you studied the Quran without giving the science of Hadith a fair study, then your knowladge will only be lacking, or even worst, completely mixed up.

            • Sarah said,

              Let me put it in a more clearer way:

              The Prophet was a perfect human being.

              His teaching (recorded in the authentic hadiths) is therefore perfect.

              Therefore, _authentic_ hadiths are a key source for understanding the religion (while inauthentic hadith aught to be rejected).

              Man is not God, neither was the Prophet, but there’s nothing to say that God out of His grace could not send a being in whom mankind could have complete confidence in following, i.e. a sinless and infallible human. (if not sinless and infallible, how could we have trust in following them, how would we know when they’re right, and when they’re wrong? If they could be wrong, wouldn’t that contradict the command to obey them (i.e. does it make sense we’d be commanded to obey someone in error and sin, and be held to punishment if we didn’t?))

              The key distinguisher here is the word “authentic”.

              I would add this is a very compelling reason to argue why it was necessary for a succession (political, spiritual, and such) to have been established by the Prophet by the command of God to protect this religion for said corruptions and forgery.

              Think of it this way. God sent the Quran, His book. Some of the ayat of the Quran are muhkamat (firm) but some of are mutashabiha (ambiguous) (see 3:7). So, does it not make sense that he would also have sent someone to explain the Book as such? But in the absence of face to face, in person, contact with such a person, how are you going to learn of their teachings? Obviously, someone would have to transmit this, and eventually you would want it to get written down.

              This is where the authentic hadith come in.

              We need the teachings of the Prophet to get the complete picture.

              • aynur said,

                “a sinless and infallible human.”

                See [80:1-10], Muhammad Asad’s footnote – explains that the sharp Qur’anic rebuke “implies,firstly, that what would have been a minor act of discourtesy on the par of an ordinary human being, assumed the aspect of a major sin, deserving a divine rebuke, when committed by a prophet; and, secondly, it illustrates the objective nature of the Qur’anic revelation: for, obviously, in conveying God’s reproof of him to the world at large, the Prophet “does not speak out of his own desire””

                • Sarah said,

                  (what would have been a minor act of discourtesy on the par of an ordinary human being, assumed the aspect of a major sin, deserving a divine rebuke, when committed by a prophet).

                  I think Asad’s went a little overboard with this sentence (Yusef Ali’s commetery don’t share this view, if I recall). Prophets in the Quran never made any kind of major sins when it comes to covay the message (like the Prophets in the Bible did), but they did commit few mistakes or minor sins (unintentionly).

                  A Prophet is the best in his community morally and intellectually. This is necessary because a prophet’s life serves as a role model for his followers. His personality should attract people to accept his message rather than drive them away by his imperfect character. After receiving the message, he is infallible. That is, he would never commit any major sin. He might make some minor sins (unintentionly) and mistakes, which are usually corrected by revelation.

                  Did you read about the “major sins” Prophet Mouhamad did?

                  1. He frowns at a noisy, blind man’s face.

                  2. He forbid himself to eat honey, to please his wife.

                  3. He freed some war slaves before he got the permetion from God to do so.

                  Now how are these “major” sins??

                  • aynur said,

                    You stated that he was “sinless” and “infallible”. But now you’re saying prophets comment “minor sins”. You’re contradicting yourself.

                    Of course he was a great man, very honest and trustworthy. The Qur’an does not say they’re “major sins” but there were minor sins/mistakes. What is the definition of infallible? That means incapable of error. So your definition of infallible (never committing major sins) is different than the dictionary’s definition.

                    • Sarah said,

                      Ugh, I hate it when I can’t explain myself in simple English.

                      I meant they were “sinless” and “infallible” of covaing their message. As in: they never told a lie about God, they never backed down from spraading His words, they feared people more than they feared God, they never forgot about thier mission ect ect (many prophets in the Bible, however, were not sinless in this regard. For Example, Prophet Soleman worshiped idols at the end of his life).

                      When it comes to their lives as human beings (besided being Prophets of God) they had momments of human weaknesses and mistakes, and some of them commit minor sins unintentioaly.

                      (of course not all Prophets are on the same level. The Quran sais that the best five of them were: Noah, Abrahem, Moses, Jesus, and Muhamad).

                    • Sarah said,

                      correction: they NEVER feared people more than they feared God.

                    • aynur said,

                      @Sarah – hmmm, for some reason there was no ‘reply’ under your last comments under mine. 😉

                      What you said makes perfect sense. There *are* Muslims that believe Prophet Muhammad (saw) was perfect, and could not makes mistakes (even tiny minor ones), even though the Qur’an shows otherwise.

                      Regarding the best 5 prophets … I thought the Qur’an doesn’t state specifically who the highest regarded prophets are? Just that we are not to make any distinction between them … if I’m mistaken (which is quite possible I am), would you be able to point out the Qur’an verses that show that? 🙂

  10. Sarah said,

    The more traditional Islamic position, as Sarah has mentioned, is that the crucifixion did not happen but someone else got crucified in Jesus’ place. Here are some links to Ahmad Deedat in a debate about this, which might be of interest. He’s an entertaining speaker and actually his arguments – which are based ENTIRELY on the Bible and nothing else – are quite interesting. They almost make the idea sound reasonable.

    His theory seems to be that Jesus escaped death by crucifixion although he did not escape at least some of the punishment – flogging, etc. He suggests that the authorities were in a hurry to get it done, and to take him down from the cross before the Sabbath, so perhaps he is suggesting that Jesus wasn’t dead when he was taken off the cross. Or perhaps he is suggesting they didn’t really go through with it but just tried to pass it off as done. Or perhaps that they let him go and substituted someone else. I’m not sure.

    Part 6: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kicQeLUsKRk&feature=related
    Part 7: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wzENjNCY4QQ&feature=related
    Part 8: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_kNX0fAJ1TQ&feature=related
    Part 9: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yNcHa8UsFI8&feature=related

    Also I looked up Mithraism which apparently is an ancient pagan cult with a surprising similarity to Christianity, and some people think the events of Christianity never happened and were legends “borrowed” from this cult. They even go as far as to say Jesus never existed. I think this cannot be true becuase his teachings about the poor and meek etc are so different to that cult. But as for the events of his life, I’m not sure.

    This kind of thing bothers me a lot and makes me feel very unstable.

    I guess we cannot possibly prove the historicity of anything, and so we can’t prove or disprove a religion based on its accounts of historical events. It would be convenient if we could. But even those accounts are open to interpretation anyway. As Caraboska has shown, it is possible to interpret the Quran as saying the same thing as the New Testament, with the exception of the divinity of Jesus. So even if you could build a time machine to go back and prove that the crucifixion happened, it would not disprove the Quran.

    It would be so much easier if we could prove or disprove that something was the word of God. But I can’t imagine how that could ever be done. And so I don’t know how I could ever be convinced of anything.

    As I said in a comment earlier, I don’t even really believe in miracles. So I don’t expect to see predictions of future events in scripture, or scientifically accurate descriptions of things prior to scientific knowledge. I know people claim these exist. But they can always be denied. They are never completely conclusive. So why would God bother? I feel like maybe the real reason to believe in something is because it agrees with your innate spiritual understanding. Which means you could get to that belief on your own anyway. And I think that has to be the case, for the sake of fairness and justice. So maybe revelation and prophethood are just consequences of a person’s deep spirituality, and not direct interventions by God. But then I can also see they have a big impact on the world, so perhaps there is some divine plan behind it. I don’t know.

    • Sarah said,

      I’ve noticed that you tend to come up with too many conclutions in a relatively short time.

      All I can do is to give you the advice my teacher gave me:

      (Learn, study, ponder, pray, and THEN decide.

      Don’t rush into things, give yourself more time and let it sink into your mind.

      Fortify yourself with patience, and be humble and willing to change, understand that Truth will not submit to you, rather you must submit to Truth. Do not ignore the details, but understand that it is fundamentals which come first).

      • Sarah said,

        Sarah: I’m not really concluding anything, but I certainly do try to come to conclusions, you are right. I want more than anything to come to a conclusion. Maybe this is a test of my patience or something. But it is really upsetting me. I really don’t like being unsure.

        I felt more sure when I started praying. That is WHY I started praying. Now I feel less sure, and I am finding it hard to keep up prayers. I don’t know whether I should keep them up, or “give it more time” and not push myself.

        I am constantly reading and thinking. Maybe too much.

        Maybe my desire to belong to a religion has become something unhealthy. I want to worship God, how can that have become unhealthy? How can it be that I want to believe and yet can’t? What am I supposed to think? That I am doing something wrong? Or that God hasn’t yet allowed me to believe? 😦

        • Sarah said,

          Oh Sarah, you have no idea how much I feel your pain right now. =(

          Trust me, 8 months ago, I’ve lived through the exact same ordeal.. but thank God, I finally put it all behind me.

          It might be silly to ask this, but do you beilive in Satan?

          There is a Hadith that said whenever a person comes closer to the truth, Satan tries his hardest to lead him astray from it (out of envy). There are also verses that talk about this, where Satan said to God:

          “Because thou hast thrown me out of the way, I shall surely sit in ambush for them on thy straight path: Then will I assault them from before them and behind them, from their right and their left: Nor wilt thou find, in most of them, gratitude (for thy mercies).”

          “I shall surely sit in ambush for them on thy straight path” is the word that sent shiver down my spine when I first read that verse. Because it means that whenever we try to get closer to God (by following the “straight path”) Satan will be there waiting for us to lead us astay (of course he has no control whatsoever over us, he merely whispers in our hearts and that’s it).

          I honestily could sense that in myself.

          When I first started learning about Islam, I noticed that every time I find myself agreeing with the Quran, the questions and doubts suddenly became so frequent and so intense that I literarly felt like bangging my head against a wall.

          There have been sleepless nights, countless hours pausing around with a million thought running through my mind, and few dark momments where I just wanted to die.

          The prayers where the only thing that kept me going. I felt such amazing peace and connection with God through it. Not every singel prayer did that, but the few ones that did was worth all the time and agony I went through.

          So DON’T you ever leave the prayers! espacially not right now, when you need them the most.

          Ask yourself: compaired to last year, how much your belifes changed? a lot, right? (and mostly for the better, if I’m not mistaken).. so why are you so afraid that your belifes now won’t change for the better in the future??

          Why do you think that God will leave you without guidence while you so desperatly seek it??

          The journy is still ahead of you, so don’t end it or try to predict an ending for it so soon.

          Here’s an idea: sit down tonight and write all the things you beilive in about God and religion, and all the things you find diffeculty to beilive in.

          Thank God for the things he made clear for you and made it easy to accept, and pray hard for him to open your heart and mind to help you figure out the things you still you find diffeculty to beilive in.

          And I’ll pray for you tonight.

          May God bless you,

          you absoulotly deserve it~

          • Sarah said,

            Thank you Sarah, you are an angel 😉
            It really helps to know someone else has gone through this.
            How did you become sure in the end?
            I think I will do what you suggest, and write down what I believe and what I struggle with. I think I might have to humble myself and put aside what I want, even if what I want is something good. Maybe I really am at the mercy of God here and I have to realise that. Whatever the experience of “certainty” is, it is not something I can produce for myself.

        • Sarah said,

          PS. And you should totally watch this awesome lecture by Dr. Jeffrey Lang! =)


















          • Sarah said,

            Sarah – thanks for these links – I just watched the whole lot it was so interesting!

  11. Nikki said,

    Growing up reading the Bible as 100% fact, inspired word of God…as a new Muslim something I still struggle with is the crucifixion of Jesus (or lack thereof). Truthfully, if what Caraboska said is valid, that in the Qur’an Jesus actually COULD have died and then been raised up, without being divine and without it being for the ‘sins of the world,’ I would be soooo much more comfortable with my faith in Islam. I no longer believe in the divinity of Jesus, of course, but I can’t just throw out all four gospels…. I think they teach us a lot about Jesus’ teachings, and his human-ness, even if they do have their flaws. It would be a MAJOR flaw, though, to borrow a whole crucifixion story from some cult. I can’t buy that. I also can’t buy Judas being crucified in his place. My husband seems to take that as Islamic ‘fact’ when it’s really all just speculation.

    • caraboska said,

      Nikki,

      An old pastor of mine – who unfortunately passed away some years ago – summed it up like this: the differences between Christianity and every other religion boil down to two things: 1) who Jesus is, and 2) what he did for us (i.e. what his mission was). The very reason the question of whether Jesus died on the cross (before being raised up to heaven) is so important is very much tied up in the question of what he was supposed to accomplish by dying. Not to mention that the Bible understands the fact of his being raised up again (from the dead) as proof that its claims about his identity are true.

      And conversely, the reason it is so important in the traditional interpretation of the Qur’an that he did not die, is that this interpretation does not accept the idea of a sacriice for the sins of the whole world, or even the necessity thereof – much less the idea that Jesus is anything more than a prophet.

      So that if Jesus did not in fact die before being raised up to heaven, the whole message of the Bible in its present form falls apart, while if he did actually die, it opens the door to a view that those who treat the Qur’an as Scripture do not accept – this whole idea of redemption and even Jesus’ being much more than just a prophet.

      • anon said,

        Re:–Nikki’s post……..
        I hope I am not intruding in this discussion—-But, if looked from a different perspective—-God is compassionate and merciful—since there is no concept of “original sin” there is no need of a “crucifixion”—so if God is powerful enough to “create” simply by ordering “be”—he is certainly powerful enough to prevent Jesus Christ(pbuh) from suffering unnessessarily—He is compassionate and merciful—and Jesus Christ(pbuh) was a “Muslim” (one who submits–to God) thus he brings hope to all humans of the compassion and mercy of God.

  12. caraboska said,

    I am going to be basically offline for the next few days, so I would like to wish everyone a fruitful discussion, which I look forward to rejoining on Friday God willing. And for any Americans among us, I wish you a Happy Thanksgiving.

    • Sarah said,

      Take care, caraboska!

      and may God bless you~ =)

  13. susanne430 said,

    Interesting post and discussion! 🙂

  14. Sarah said,

    I’ve found out there is a verse in the Quran which has been said to refer to the second coming of Jesus. It’s in Sura 43. M. Asad (below) has rendered it as referring to “this divine writ” and not to Jesus, something that is open to question because the masculine pronoun (he/it) is used rather than a name or noun. But looking at the surrounding verses, which are about Jesus, I can see a strong case for it being about Jesus.

    (59) [As for Jesus,] he was nothing but [a human being -] a servant [of Ours] whom We had graced [with prophethood], and whom We made an example for the children of Israel. (60) And had We so willed, [O you who worship angels,] We could indeed have made you into angels succeeding one another on earth! [Implying not only that Jesus was not a supernatural being, but that the angels, too, are mere created beings finite in their existence – as indicated by the phrase “succeeding one another” – and, therefore, utterly removed from the status of divinity (Baydawi).] (61) AND, BEHOLD, this [divine writ] is indeed a means to know [that] the Last Hour [is bound to come]; [Whereas most of the commentators regard the pronoun hu in innahu as relating to Jesus and, consequently, interpret the above phrase as “he is indeed a means to know [i.e., an indication of the coming of] the Last Hour”, some authorities – e.g., Qatadah, Al-Hasan al-Basri and Said ibn Jubayr (all of them quoted by Tabari, Baghawi and Ibn Kathir) – relate the pronoun to the Quran, and understand the phrase in the sense adopted in my rendering. The specific mention of the Last Hour in the above context is meant to stress man’s ultimate responsibility before the Creator and, therefore, the fact that worship is due to Him alone: and so this parenthetic passage follows logically upon the mention of the false deification of Jesus.] hence, have no doubt whatever about it, but follow Me: this [alone] is a straight way. (62) And let not Satan bars you [from it] – for, verily, he is your open foe! (63) NOW WHEN Jesus came [to his people] with all evidence of the truth…

    Wikipedia tells me that in Islam the second coming is all to do with apocalyptic events, the Mahdi, ad-Dajjal, Gog and Magog, etc. I don’t know enough about it to comment really. I had considered it unreasonable that Jesus should have a special place in Islam, but I’m beginning to think maybe not after all. It’s not immediately obvious what the role of Jesus could be, but that doesn’t mean there can’t be one. Another thing that has made me think is the fact that Jews dispute whether Jesus was the Messiah because, among other reasons, the Messiah was supposed to bring a reign of peace and world unity or something like that. Perhaps the only way Christians (and Muslims?) can answer this problem is by claiming this will happen in a second coming.

    I still don’t see any need for the virgin birth and I still don’t think the Quran is explicit about it. Impregnation of virgins by divine beings is the stuff of legends and could definitely have been borrowed from elsewhere, imho. From my reading, the other events that I think could be from pagan legends are: the last supper with 12 disciples (the first account of which was actually written by Paul), the sacrificial death, and resurrection. It seems likely the crucifixion event is historical, and so the Quranic denial can only be understood as saying either he went to the cross willingly, or he somehow escaped death by crucifixion while everyone thought it had gone ahead.

    • Sarah said,

      (Jews dispute whether Jesus was the Messiah because, among other reasons, the Messiah was supposed to bring a reign of peace and world unity or something like that).

      As far as I know, Islam didn’t really claim what the Jews claimed.

      Islam sees the title of “The Messiah” as being mainly one of special respect and honour, not one tied to a specific role outside of or greater than his role as an Islamic-style prophet. The title merely describes that as a prophet, Jesus is given a special honour in being granted an additional title of honor and respect.

      Jesus second coming is mainly to unify the Muslim Ummah under the common purpose of worshiping God alone in pure Islam, thereby ending divisions and deviations. Muslims also believe that at that time Jesus will dispel Christian and Jewish claims about him.

      (I still don’t see any need for the virgin birth and I still don’t think the Quran is explicit about it).

      Hmm.. perhaps it’s not 100% clear in the translation, but it is actually pretty explicit in the original Arabic text.

      The Quran calls Mary “Al-batul”, which is similar to “nun” (a woman who devout herself compeletly to God alone), but it usually means “the honorbale virgin” in Arabic.

      (Impregnation of virgins by divine beings is the stuff of legends and could definitely have been borrowed from elsewhere, imho).

      I wouldn’t go as far as that. Myths can sometimes be founded upon a real event.

      Interestingly enough, there is a Hadith that says at the very End of Time Islam will completely disapear from the face of the earth, to the point where people will call the religion of Islam a “myth” or “tales of our ancisters”.

      (It seems likely the crucifixion event is historical)

      is it, really?

      I dunno…

      • Sarah said,

        Sarah:

        OK, sometimes I forget that the Muslim view is that the Jewish scriptures changed! So that adds more complications. 🙂

        But why should Jesus get the special honour of coming back at the end of time? Why not Muhammad for example?

        I guess Jesus could have been born to a virgin. Nothing is impossible! And yes, I suppose it could have been a coincidence that there are other stories like that. Any person considered divine or semi-divine would probably have to be believed to have a god as a father. I think this is what bothers me about the story. It looks like a device used to support the idea of divinity.

        When I said the crucifixion event is historical, I meant it was not a mere legend – somebody actually got crucified and this was believed to be Jesus. Of course according to traditional Islam Jesus did not die this way. But there was still “a crucifixion event”.

        • Sarah said,

          (But why should Jesus get the special honour of coming back at the end of time? Why not Muhammad for example?)

          Because there will be no point of Prophet Mouhamad’s return.

          I remmember a Shaikh once answerd that question beautifully. I can’t remember his excat words now, but he mentioned that part of the reason why he’ll be back is to dispel Christian and Jewish claims about him, and how after that there will be no such thing as Judaism or Christianity anymore.. now that the thruth about Jesus is finally reaveled.

          By the way, Jesus is not the only Prophet with such special honouring. Prophet Noah, Abrahim, and Moses are just as much respected state (as well as Prophet Mouhamed).

          Abrahim is called “God’s beloved”, and Moses is called “Kalem Allah” (the only one who God spoke directly to).

          • Sarah said,

            Thanks for explaining that – so all prophets were different with different honours. That makes sense, I guess.

            Will everyone believe Jesus when he comes back?

            • Sarah said,

              (Will everyone believe Jesus when he comes back?)

              Yep. If I’m not mistaken, I remmber there is a Quranic verse that suggest just that (that some jews and christians will not bilieve the thruth about Jesus until they meet him face to face).

              • anon said,

                Personally, I don’t believe in Jesus Christ(pbuh) comming back—as I remember, there is a verse in the Quran about Prophet Jesus(pbuh) dispelling myths but it is on Judgement day. (by the way–interestingly–“day” in the Quran does not mean 24 hr “earth day” but as the Quran explains, could be a thousand years or even 50 thousand years)
                I can agree that “virgin” birth is not the main idea—rather, that Propeht Jesus(pbuh) does not have a father(paternal lineage)—that whole King David stuff—so that the connection/”prophesy” to “establishing kingdom” does not work.?……(Apparently—according to the Quran, Prophet Jesus(pbuh) spoke as a baby-thereby establishing his specialness—without particularly requiring “virgin birth” scenario for that purpose)—this brings up another point—had God wanted, he could have given Prophet Jesus(pbuh) a father—but he did not—-why?

  15. Achelois said,

    Now that I am able to comment, I thought I’d finally leave my comment on this post 🙂

    I always thought it was quite plainly given in the Quran that Mary was a virgin:

    She said: “How can I have a son, when no man has touched me, nor am I unchaste?” (Quran 19:20). It is an exact and correct translation from the Arabic text.

    These are the exact words used in the apocryphal text of The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary:

    “How can that come to pass? For while, according to my vow, I never know man, how can I bring forth without the addition of man’s seed?”

    In fact, the verses in the Quran where the birth of Mary is announced to her mother also parallel those used in The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary.

    Verses from Surah Maryam correspond to those in The Gospel of the Nativity of Mary and The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, both of which are apocryphal texts. We read that Jesus spoke from his cradle. Those are details found in the same order and exact details in the apocryphal Infancy Gospel of Thomas written much earlier than the compiled Quran.

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Achelois – thanks for your comment. I never mentioned the similarity between the Quranic accounts of Jesus’ life and the Christian sources, but of course it’s apparent. I think when I wrote this post, I was thinking that Muhammad knew those stories and God utilised the stories he knew already to teach him things.

      I thought that one possibility was that God was confirming only the parts of the story that were true – like including the angelic announcement to Mary, but not the part that said she actually conceived as a virgin (which I didn’t think made sense in an Islamic context). Leaving room for her to have married in the meantime and conceived naturally.

      Another possibility was that it was another “legend” whose truth or falsehood didn’t really matter but was being told in the Quran to make some other point. There are a lot of such legends in the Quran, pre-existing legends, involving unrealistic things like talking birds, and Muhammad Asad interprets these as literary devices and not literal truth.

      The major difference between the Quranic and Biblical accounts of the life of Jesus, of course, is the denial of the crucifixion (if indeed it is a denial). I wonder if you had any thoughts on that? Maybe as Caraboska said it was to make the message of the Bible fall apart.

  16. Achelois said,

    Very good points. I must think about them now.

    I had written a post on my previous blog about Jesus’crucifixion in the Quran. It was a protected post. I’ll dig it out and will email it to you. Will that be alright? Personally I don’t think it is denied in the Quran.

    I like that M. Asad explains many verses as not literal and I guess it is understandable and it all makes sense – God refers to popular legends to explain matters. I think it is Asad who thinks that even the incident of the ‘ababeel’ and the ‘people of the Cave’ are legends used to explain the power of God?

    But when we accept that those were just legends and not actual events then Quran becomes a book of legends (albeit written beautifully) which it itself claims it is not. Also, if God shows His power by using stories that we know are not true then how do we accept God’s power? That is what I don’t understand in Asad’s explanations.

    The sections in Quran from apocryphal texts are more difficult for me to understand . No one knows who wrote them and if they are even real. And if all past events mentioned in the Quran are from popular legends and non-canonized texts then what is real? Am I making sense? What is then literal is perhaps only the direct commands to the Prophet which is certainly not enough without the background that Biblical references offer.

    Have you read Edip Yuksel’s interpretation? It is also quite interesting.

    • Wrestling With Religion said,

      Oh yes, please do email me your thoughts on the crucifixion – I’d love to read it.

      I agree – although it makes the legends make more sense to view them as literary devices, it is not very clear why God would do that. When God could just tell true stories instead. It is almost as if it was meant to seem non-supernatural. How are we meant to believe in it then?

      I haven’t heard of Edip Yuksel, I will look that up!

    • susanne430 said,

      Achelois, I’d love to read your post about that as well. If you don’t mind. Thank you!

  17. Achelois said,

    OK, I’ll email you both something else 😉 that I have been thinking about sending. Instead I’ll post here part of the post on Jesus.

    Here it is:

    I stumbled upon this interesting book “Jesus: Myths & Message” by Lisa Spray. You can read the entire book online here.

    Personally, I believe that the body of Jesus was crucified and tortured at the Cross, but that God “caused him to die” and took away his soul (Quran, 5:117) while his body’s empty shell was put up on the Cross. In this way his body was crucified – he was crucified – but he was already clinically dead so to speak, and was taken up by God. The Quran clearly states that Jesus “was caused to die” (5:117) so those Muslims who claim he didn’t die but ascended to Heaven in body and soul, need to read the Quran again. In both the Quran and the Bible Jesus refers to a time when he was ‘amongst the people’ (i.e. a time when he was alive). In the Quran he is believed to have said this to God and in the Bible to his companions after resurrection.

    Therefore, Spray’s book clarified a lot of issues (if not all) that I had in my mind about what exactly the Gospel teaches us about Jesus. It talks about his miracles, yet non-divinity, and about his crucifixion, alleged resurrection, and death. I don’t know whether Spray is Muslim – her book is published on a Mosque site and refers a lot to Khalifa (a Quranist who believed he was a Messenger of Allah and was murdered in the same masjid). I usually read Khalifa’s work with a grain of salt but his explanation of the Crucifixion makes sense.

    Quite an interesting book, although it goes against both Muslim and Christian popular thoughts and beliefs.

    ————

    • Nikki said,

      Thank you so much for sharing that! As I stated before, the crucifixion is still a real struggle for me. I believe the evidence really points to it as historical fact, but yet most Muslims say it never happened. The idea that someone else was put in his place doesn’t appeal to me either. I feel like that would equate to God confusing the people on purpose.

      But then again, if Jesus really was crucified, in both the Qur’an and the Bible, what was the purpose? In the Bible that purpose is clear, and the reason is clear, they thought he was claiming to be the son of God.

      Hmmm. Sorry, I’m thinking as I type. So, crucified or not, the Qur’an does not deny the fact that they ‘wanted’ to crucify him. As I just stated, in the Bible it states that they wanted to crucify him for blasphemy and claiming to be the Son of God. What is the Muslim reasoning then? Without studying any scholarly work on this, my guess would be that Muslims probably think they wanted to kill him for stirring up the Jewish community, bringing to light the faults of the Pharisees, and amending the law.

      I am no longer able to believe that God had to, in essence, kill a part of himself in order to forgive me. I can’t really see the point in that, even with knowledge of most of the Christian arguments. I also can no longer swallow the fully human/fully God conundrum.

      That leaves the question, though, what was the point of Jesus’ crucifixion, or at the very least, persecution? And why is he the one that’s coming back in the end?

      • Wrestling With Religion said,

        Thanks Achelois. That is interesting. So they did not kill him or crucify him, because God ended his life before they got the chance… but it appeared to them that it had been so, because they did actually hang his body on the cross. It makes some sense. I guess I’m still not sure why God would intervene and take Jesus’ life.

        Nikki – there are many Biblical scholars who dispute the authenticity of Jesus calling himself one with the Father and all that – which really only occurs in John’s gospel. I’m not sure about the term “son of God”, but I do know that this term probably meant something quite different in Judaism to what Christians meant by it. All the great Kings of Israel were sons of God. It is more of a metaphor I guess. So even if he called himself that, it doesn’t have to mean he was calling himself the second person of a trinity.

        • Achelois said,

          This is what Quranist Khalifa and Spray believed. Khalifa explains in Sprays book that he believed Jesus suffered a heart failure from shock. It is similar to the Swoon Theory.
          I believe Jesus was crucified and died at the cross – whether he died before torture or after, it does not matter. What matters is that he was killed and his plea “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” stands witness that he was both shocked and in pain.
          What also matters is that he allowed himself to be crucified – for God. For His love. While he may have momentarily thought that God had forsaken him (perhaps he always thought that since he was Truth that he would be rescued), he never forsake God. That is why he is perfection for me. Show me anyone who died like him for God and I’ll change my mind.
          Why would God make him die like that? Thinking about it, I think there could be a couple of reasons why. 1) Everyone dies some sort of death. His was meant to be through crucifixion. No lessons there apart from that was how it was meant to be. 2) He was always sinless and pure love and humility. Crucifixion immortalized him for eternity. Perhaps that is why there are people who deny his crucifixion because then he stands above everyone else.
          But I think more than that what is important to think about is why was he crucified? Did he really call himself the son of God as ‘’the second person in the trinity”? I think it had political motives. Why did the Prophet kill the Jews of Medina – they neither blasphemed against God nor did they claim to be children of God? They were killed not for religious but political reasons. Perhaps Jesus was a great political threat to the Romans and was killed for political reasons and not any religious reason?

          • caraboska said,

            Achelois, From the Roman standpoint – for it is they who actually performed the deed – it most definitely was for political reasons and only that. And those among the Jews who contributed to Jesus’ death by turning him in definitely used that to manipulate the Romans into taking action. From the standpoint of most of the Jews involved (not counting Judas, who was motivated by money), the problem was in some measure a religious one, and in some measure the feeling that Jesus was a threat to the authority of the religious leaders. The problem was that since they were under Roman rule, they could not themselves actually carry out the death penalty for apostasy that they would have used if they had not been under foreign rule.

            From Jesus’ standpoint, his sinless death was supposed to provide redemption for humanity. It was supposed to be the ultimate fulfillment of the Torah’s sacrificial system.

  18. Achelois said,

    Not opening a can of worms on purpose but I think we read too much into how an iconic person dies. I was reading online the other day that someone said Prophet Muhammad was poisoned and that is how he died and so he can’t be a prophet.
    Another said that he died because he failed the Mubahala (prayer match) with the Christians of Najran. It was a unique viewpoint. It is said in the Quran that the Prophet was asked by Allah to take his family to enter a cursing match with the delegation from Najran. He brought his daughter, Ali and grandsons. This happened in 10 Hijri but Muslims say the match never took place. In mubahala both opposing parties pray constantly and fervently to God to show the truth and whoever is lying or is wrong dies within one year of the match. I was reading that some missionaries have recently pointed out that the prophet died within a year in 11 Hijri, Fatima died soon afterwards and Ali and his sons were murdered.
    It made me think how the birth, life and death of every important person would be used to explain personal viewpoints and beliefs. This may be enough proof for someone to reject Muhammad as a prophet, and Jesus’ crucifixion may be enough proof for someone to believe in him as the savior.
    Just thinking aloud.
    PS: I found this link (http://www.aaiiln.org/artikelen/Boek-The%20Ahmadiyya%20Case.PDF) that discusses why Ahmedis do not believe that Mary was a virgin based solely on the Quran.

  19. Jasmine said,

    Hey Sarah! :0)
    I didn’t read through this volume of comments so apologies if what I say has been covered already…
    This is a mad topic as well, not just what happened – but also what happened next? I mean, where did Jesus go? When did he go? HOw did he go? Its a mystery and a half – it’s like watching the first Lord of the Rings trilogy and never seeing the rest, and then wondering for the next 2000 years: did frodo make it or no?

    If you can find an answer to what happened to Jesus in the end, that would be great :0)

    Jasmine xx

  20. Sarah said,

    LOL, Jasmine 😀
    There are some wacky theories out there. I guess we’ll never know.

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