Imran Khan, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, caused controversy recently when he said in a speech celebrating the anniversary of Muhammad’s birth that, “Jesus Christ has no mention in human history.” Not only is it an erroneous statement to make academically—as confirmed by a plethora of historians (Christian and non-Christian)—but it also shows a monumental ignorance of the Qur’an and Islamic texts. But I wonder if the imams will take Khan to task just as they have Asia Bibi?
One of the fundamental Islamic beliefs is to believe in the earlier prophets—twenty-five are mentioned in the Qur’an—of which there are six major ones: Adam, Abraham, Noah, Moses, Jesus and Muhammad. How can a Muslim be a Muslim, then, and not believe in the historicity of Jesus?
In the Qur’an alone, Jesus is named twenty-six times and referred to in over ninety passages. Whereas in comparison, Muhammad is only named four times, (3:144; 33:40; 47:2 and 48:29, although there are a multitude of references to “the messenger of Allah” which, is obviously a reference to Muhammad). This is aside from the first century testimony of non Christian historians Josephus, Pliny, Mara Bar Serapion, as well as the second century testimony of Suetonius and Tacitus, who all acknowledged the historical impact of Jesus.
Rather than list all of the references here, what follows are ten well accepted Islamic beliefs about Jesus, which show the Qur’an’s acceptance of his historicity and exalted status. Significantly, Muslims explicitly reject the essential Christian doctrine that Jesus was the Son of God and that he died on the cross. But, as it turns out, what the Qur’an does say about Jesus is really quite fascinating since, it could even be argued that it honours Jesus more than it does Muhammad…
As I have mentioned previously—when I summarised what Islam teaches about women—it should be noted that Muslims would argue that their Scriptures can only be properly understood when read in the original Arabic. What follows is the standard English translation of the Qur’an by N.J. Dawood from the Penguin Classics edition, 1956.
1. Jesus was born of a virgin
19:20-21 ‘How shall I bear a child,’ she answered, ‘when I have neither been touched by any man nor ever been unchaste?’ ‘Thus did your Lord speak,’ he replied. “That is easy enough for Me. He shall be a sign to mankind and a blessing from Ourself. Our decree shall come to pass.”’
21:91 ‘And of the woman who kept her chastity. We breathed into her of Our spirit, and made her and her son a sign to all mankind.’
3:47 ‘Lord,’ she said, ‘how can I bear a child when no man has touched me?’ He replied: ‘Even thus. God create whom He will. When He decrees a thing He need only say: “Be,” and it is.’
2. Jesus was born a prophet
3:46 He shall preach to men in his cradle and in the prime of manhood, and shall lead a righteous life.
5:110 God will say: ‘Jesus son of Mary, remember the favour I bestowed on you and on your mother: how I strengthened you with the Holy Spirit, so that you preached to men in your cradle and in the prime of manhood…’
19:29-30 ‘She [Mary] made a sign to them, pointing to the child. But they replied: ‘How can we speak with a babe in the cradle?’
Whereupon he spoke and said: “I am the servant of God. He has given me the Book and ordained me a prophet.
3. Jesus was the only person to be completely without sin
19:19 ‘I am the Lord’s emissary,’ he replied, ‘and have come to give you a holy (faultless) son.’
19:31-32 He has exhorted me to honour my mother and has purged me of vanity and wickedness.
4. Jesus performed amazing miracles
2:87 ‘To Moses We gave the Scriptures and after him We sent other apostles. We gave Jesus son of Mary veritable signs and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit.’
He created and healed the blind and those with leprosy:
3:49 He will say: “I bring you a sign from your Lord. From clay I will make for you the likeness of a bird. I shall breathe into it and, by God’s leave, it shall become a living bird. By God’s leave I shall heal the blind man and the leper, and raise the dead to life.’
He created and raised the dead
5:111 …by My leave you fashioned from clay the likeness of a bird and breathed into it so that, by My leave, it became a living bird; how, by My leave restored the dead to life;
5. Jesus has exalted titles: ‘Word of God’ and ‘Messiah’
3:45 The angels said to Mary: ‘God bids you rejoice in a Word from Him. His name is the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary.
6. Jesus is a spirit proceeding from God
4:171 The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was no more than God’s apostle and His Word which He cast to Mary: a spirit from Him.
7. Jesus’ death and resurrection: two views
4:158 Those that disagreed about him [Jesus] were in doubt concerning him; they knew nothing about him that was not sheer conjecture; they did not slay him for certain. God lifted him up to Him; God is mighty and wise.
19:33 Blessed was I [Jesus] on the day I was born, and blessed I shall be on the day of my death and on the day I shall be raised to life.’
8. Jesus will one day return again
43:61 He [Jesus] is a portent of the Hour of Doom. Have no doubt about its come and follow Me. (Is this correct?)
9. Jesus will come again in judgment
89:22 But when the earth is crushed to fine dust, and your Lord comes down with the angels, in their ranks, and Hell is brought near – on that day man will remember his deeds.
10. Jesus is highly exalted in this world and the next
3:45 He [Jesus] shall be noble in this world and in the world to come, and shall be one of those who are favoured.
All of which is to say there is plenty of evidence regarding Jesus to be found with Islam’s holiest book itself. Islam states others things about Jesus that conflict with the Bible, but the Qur’an certainly accepts the historicity and importance of Jesus, with changes to fit within their Islamic worldview.
It seems that maybe Imran Khan, as leader of a country whose religion is devoutly Muslim, should read before he speaks.
Mark Powell is the Associate Pastor of Cornerstone Presbyterian Church, Strathfield.
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