A major misconception about Islam is that it’s religion with scary, foreign ideas. The truth is, Islamic beliefs, for the most part, are a continuation of the other Abrahamic faiths, Judaism and Christianity.
Our prophet Muhammad was the last of the prophets, which included Noah (Nooh), Abraham (Ibrahim), Moses (Musa), Jesus (Isa) and Adam (conveniently, also Adam!), the first man and prophet of all creation. We believe that the prophets came, not to change the basic belief in one God (or Allah in Arabic), but to confirm and renew it.
In the spirit of Easter festivities, I thought I would pay my respects to Jesus, the last prophet of Islam before Muhammad, may peace me upon them all. This is not an attempt to ‘disprove’ anyone else’s beliefs. Rather, I am summarising the view of the majority of Muslims.
In Islam, Jesus is not a God or son of God. He is a prophet and messenger, sent to the Jews to reinvigorate their belief in God. In the Quran, Jesus is referred to by his name and is also called ‘the Messiah’, ‘a Spirit from Him’, ‘Servant of God,’ and ‘Prophet of God’ and ‘Distinguished in this World and the Hereafter’. We believe that his followers were ‘Muslim’, that is, those who surrendered to God.
We believe in the immaculate conception of Jesus and do not believe that Mary (Mariam) was ever betrothed or married Joseph the Carpenter. In fact, there is no solid mention of Joseph in Islamic literature that I could find (interestingly, my dad was helping me do some research and we found an Arabic, Catholic Encyclopaedia which said that Joseph the Carpenter was 77-87 years older than Mary) .
Surat Mariam, is the Quranic chapter on Mariam and the birth of Jesus. Archangel Gabriel comes to tell Mariam that she is pregnant. Then this happens:
Mariam goes on to give birth to baby Jesus, supported by a palm tree of dates and a small river at her feet. When she took her baby back home, she was faced with people’s questions. Baby Jesus spoke, and amongst other things said:
He was a man of many miracles, with God telling us in 3:49 that Jesus could shape a bird out of clay, and with the power of God, would breathe life into it. He cured the blind and leper and give life to the dead, by the grace of God.
So far, you can say that the Islamic and Christian beliefs differ only in the deity of Jesus – we believed in his miracles, but believed they were a sign of his prophethood.
The most prominent difference comes in what we believe at the end of Jesus’s life. Muslims do not believe that Jesus died on the cross. In fact, we don’t think he died at all. In Surat Al Nisa (The Women), God says:
The Islamic belief is that when it became known that Jesus was to be crucified, a student of Jesus volunteered to take his place on the cross. The story goes a little something like this:
“Just before Allah raised Jesus to the Heavens, Jesus went to his disciples, who were twelve inside the house. When he arrived, his hair was dripping with water (as if he had just had a bath) and he said, ‘There are those among you who will disbelieve in me twelve times after you had believed in me.’ He then asked, ‘Who among you will volunteer for his appearance to be transformed into mine, and be killed in my place. Whoever volunteers for that, he will be with me (in heaven).’ One of the youngest ones among them volunteered, but Jesus asked him to sit down. Jesus asked again for a volunteer, and the same young man volunteered and Jesus asked him to sit down again. Then the young man volunteered a third time and Jesus said, ‘You will be that man,’ and the resemblance of Jesus was cast over that man while Jesus ascended to Heaven. When they came looking for Jesus, they found that young man and crucified him.”
We believe that Jesus will return towards the end of time, preceded by a false messiah and an increase in unrest amongst humanity – more crimes, more hate, more war and more disease. We believe that he will come back to save us from ourselves and preach the oneness of God, as he did when he was a prophet. It is said that he will live 40 years and then will die.
Muslims hold all prophets in high regard and respect Jesus as much as we respect Muhammad. We believe that he was sent as a mercy to mankind.
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