The character of Jesus in the Qu’ran


While it is true that Jesus is described as a great prophet in the Qu’ran, the Qu’ran strongly condemns the Christian belief that Jesus is the Son of God and that he died on the cross in place of the sinner. Although Jesus is named the Messiah in sura 3,45, this title is not clarified as referring to the Old Testament’s expectations of the anointed saviour. In the same verse Jesus is described as the “Word of God” without being referred to as the eternal incarnated Word of God which is mentioned in the prologue of the Gospel of John. When it says in the Qu’ran that Jesus is “a spirit of God”, it does not confirm his godly identity, but describes only his supernatural conception. The Qu’ran’s descriptions of the life and work of Jesus contain, though, numerous features that make Jesus stand out amidst all the other prophets and this causes quite a few Muslims to reflect on him.


An ambassador of signs and miracles

In the sura 3,45-49, the angels announce to the virgin Mary  that God will teach Jesus the scriptures, the wisdom, the Tora and the gospel and that he will send him as an ambassador to the children of Israel. Jesus is conceived through a word of God. According to the message of the angels, the supernatural birth of Jesus should be a miraculous sign and a sign of compassion for mankind. Furthermore Muslims are astonished when reading that Jesus himself even as an infant in his mother´s cradle addresses the reproaches of illicit sexual relations (cf. sura 19,24ff.). In addition to this, the Qu’ran testifies that later on Jesus, fortified by the Holy Spirit, had done many miracles. The Qu’ran reports in an apparent linkage to the apocryphal scriptures of the Bible how Jesus formed a bird out of clay and how he make it fly (sura 3,49). Besides that he heals the blind and lepers (sura 3,49), in a miraculous way he provides food from heaven for his disciples who are demanding signs (sura 5,112-115) and raises dead persons to new life (sura 3,49). According to the testimony of the Qu’ran, Jesus ought to confirm with the help of his miraculous signs what is already known from the Tora and permit what was formally forbidden.


In sura 3,46 Jesus describes the message behind the miraculous signs: “I come to you with a sign from your lord; fear God and listen to me. Truly, God is my lord and your lord, so worship him. This is the right way.” Yet, when Mohammed claimed to bring the same message as Jesus and the other prophets before him, the heathen Arabs,  Jews and Christians in that knew him demanded the corresponding confirmation of his mission through signs and miracles. Mohammed rejected those demands as unbelief and referred them, as the Islamic theology after him did, to the unique character of the Qu’ran as the greatest miracle. The Qu’ran does not report any miracles of Mohammed, healings or any casting out of demons, while there are some reports on miracles in the Islamic tradition, but even Muslims doubt their credibility.


A man of kindness and mercy

Muslim scholars repeatedly tried to expound by referring to sura 61,6, that Jesus did not announce the coming of the Holy Spirit in John 14, but that he was announcing the coming of Mohammed. Besides the exegetical difficulties that come along with such an interpretation, precisely the completely different concept of how the reign of God should be manifest, points against a continuity between Jesus and Mohammed. The Qu’ran and the tradition describe in detail, the wars that Mohammed lead to implement his Islamic claim to power and his violent action against his personal enemies and adversaries. Even though the Qu’ran does not hand down Jesus‘ command of loving one’s enemy, one cannot find a single word of such actions or aggressions towards his disciples or a violent attitude towards his adversaries. According to sura 5,46 his message rather contained leadership, clarity and an exhortation for God fearing people. According to sura 19,34 he is the “word of truth”. In sura 57,27 it says that kindness or rather mercy and compassion will be laid into the hearts of those who follow Jesus.



A prophet without sin and violence

While Mohammed, as an ambassador of Allah, did not only claim privileges for himself regarding the number of his wives, nothing as such is reported about Jesus. Astonishingly, the Qu’ran, opposite to the later Islamic theology, describes that Mohammed had to pray for the forgiveness of his sins (cf. sura 40,55; 47,19; 48,2), while neither in the Qu’ran nor in the Islamic tradition, Jesus is not accused of a single sin and according to sura 3,45 he is respected in this life and in the afterlife. In the Islamic mysticism, he appears as a great teacher of wisdom and an example for poverty and asceticism. Most of all, it is often the contrast of Mohammed and Jesus in their attitude towards their enemies that shines through and provokes many Muslims into thinking and quite often it arouses their interest for the gospel reports. Biblical reports, such as the occurrence that Jesus healed the ear of a servant of the high priest during his arrest and his rebuking of Peter’s violent action already has convinced many Muslims of the uniqueness of Jesus, together with his message and his way of  preaching.  The former scholar of Al-Azhar University [Cairo, Egypt] Mark Gabriel, is one prominent example.


The message of the cross

Yet this uniqueness of Jesus which is found in some places of the Qu’ran contrasts with the repeated clarification that Jesus is not the son of God, but an ordinary human like all the other prophets and also that he didn´t died on the cross in the place of the sinner. The way the majority of the Muslim theologians interpret sura 4,157-159 is that Judas, the traitor, or someone else was crucified in the place of Jesus. God directly lifted Jesus up into heaven, what also distinguishes him clearly from Mohammed, who died a natural death. Mohammed himself should have felt a deep dislike towards the Christian symbol of the cross. The crucifixion appears to Muslim eyes as an unambiguous disgrace and an unthinkable defeat for a messenger of God. The thought that an innocent person might die for the sins of another person is just as much unfamiliar to the Qu’ran as the mentioned above command of loving one’s enemy. The message of the cross is contradictory to the central content of the Qu’ran, e.g. man, by nature, is capable of doing good and that the grace of God consists only in the leading of the right way by the Qu’ran which tells him what is permitted and what is forbidden. Forgiveness as a gift of God is in contrast to the Islamic justification by works, the symbol of the wages for the reckoning of good and evil deeds is in contrast to the cross, where, according to the biblical revelation, the holy and just God himself paid the most expensive price through his saving love towards the lost sinner.


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