QUESTION: How Does Islam View The Person Of Jesus Christ?
ANSWER: Islam accepts Jesus Christ as a prophet. Indeed, He is one of their prophets. We can summarize the Muslim view of Jesus Christ as follows.
1. Jesus Is An Important Figure In The Quran
To begin with, the Quran treats Jesus as a very important figure. Indeed, His name is found in ninety different verses scattered in fifteen Surahs in the Quran. Therefore, He is prominent in Islam’s holy book.
2. Islam Gives Jesus A Number Of Honorable Titles
The Quran gives him a greater number of honorable titles. In fact, He is given more titles than any other figure in the past. For example, the Quran calls Jesus such things as a ‘sign,’ ‘witness,’ a ‘mercy,’ an ‘example,’ and ‘one who is upright.’
There is more. The Quran gives Jesus the titles Messiah, Son of Mary, Messenger, Prophet, Servant, Word of God, and a Spirit from God. This give further evidence of His prominence.
3. Islam Teaches Jesus Was Born Of The Virgin Mary Without A Human Father
According to Islam, Jesus is the only prophet to have been born of a virgin. It says that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary without a human father. The Quran says.
Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! God sends you the glad tiding, through a word from Him, his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the hereafter and (shall be) of those nearest to God. And he shall speak to men in the cradle and maturity and be one of the righteous.” She said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has ever touched me?” An angel answered: “Even so; God creates what He wills; when he wills a thing to be, he but says unto it, ‘BE’- and it is. And God will teach him the Book and wisdom, the (original) Torah and the Gospel and (will make him) an apostle to the children of Israel, (with this message): “ ‘I have come to you, with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the shape of bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by God’s leave; and I heal those born blind and the lepers and revive the dead by God’s leave; and I shall let you know what you may eat and what you should store up in you houses. Surely in that is a sign for you if you are believers. And (I have come) to confirm the truth of whatever still remains of the Torah that was revealed before, and make lawful to you some of the things which (before) were forbidden unto you. And I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord; so fear your God and obey me.” Truly, God is my Lord and your Lord; Then worship Him (alone); this is a straight way’” (Surah 3:45–51)
According to Islam, Jesus had a unique birth.
4. Jesus Was A Created Being
While Jesus, in Islam, was born of a virgin, they also insist that He is a created being, not God the Son. The Quran says.
The similitude of Jesus before Allah is that of Adam. He created him from the dust, then said to him, “Be” and he was (Surah 3:59).
This verse has some ambiguity to it. Muslims says it refers to Allah creating Jesus. However, the “he” could refer to Adam whom the Scripture says was created from the dust.
5. He Was A Miracle Worker By Allah’s Permission
According to Islam, Jesus did indeed perform miracles while He was here upon the earth. The Quran says His miracles were possible because Allah allowed it. The Quran says.
“O Jesus, son of Mary! Remember My favor unto you and unto your mother; how I strengthened you with the holy Spirit, so that you speak unto mankind in the cradle as in maturity; and how I taught you the Scripture and Wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel; and how you did shape of clay as it were the likeness of a bird by My permission, and didst blow upon it and it was a bird by My permission, and you did heal him who was born blind and the leper by My permission; and how you did raise the dead, by My permission” (Surah 5:110).
Jesus is different from Muhammad who had no miracles attributed to him. Yet Jesus had to have Allah’s permission to work these miracles.
6. Jesus Was A Prophet But Not The Son Of God
Islam says that Jesus was a prophet of God but not the Son of God. In fact, according to Islam, He was a lesser prophet than Muhammad. Islam sees Muhammad as the last and greatest of the prophets. He is the “seal of the prophets.” The Quran says.
“They blasphemed who said: “Verily, God is the Christ, son of Mary.” - seeing that the Christ (himself) said: “O children of Israel! Worship God (alone), my Lord and your Lord.” Verily, whoever ascribes divinity to any being beside God, unto him will God deny paradise; and such evildoers will have no one to help them! They blasphemed who said: “Behold, God is one of three in a trinity” - whereas there is no god except One God. If they do not desist from what they say (in blasphemy), verily a grievous penalty will befall the blasphemers among them. Will they not, then, turn towards God in repentance, and ask His forgiveness? For God is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful. The Christ, son of Mary, was but an apostle; there were apostles who preceded him; and his mother was one who never deviated from the truth; and they both ate food (like other mortals). Behold how clear We make these messages unto them; and then behold how perverted are their minds! Say: “Would you worship, beside God, aught that has no power either to harm or to benefit you - when God alone is All-Hearing, All-Knowing?”(Quran 5:72–76).
The distinction is clearly made between Jesus and God. According to this passage, it is blasphemy to equate Jesus with God in any sense.
Elsewhere it says.
“And when God said, ‘O Jesus, son of Mary, did you say unto men, “Take me and my mother as gods, apart from God?”’ He said, ‘To You be glory! It is not mine to say what I have no right to. If I indeed said it, You knew it, knowing what is within my soul, and I do not know what is within Your soul; You know the things unseen. I only said to them what You did command me: “Serve God, my Lord and your Lord.” And I was a witness over them, while I remained among them; but when You did take me to Yourself the Watcher over them; You are the witness of everything’ (Quran 5:116, 117).
Islam, as well as the Quran, makes it very clear that Jesus was not God’s Son, but rather only a prophet of Allah.
7. Jesus Was An Islamic Prophet
Muslims believe Jesus was an Islamic prophet. He was a faithful Muslim, or follower of Allah. He is in a long line of prophets that are mentioned in Scripture. This includes Abraham, Moses, and David. Islam considers all of them to be Islamic prophets. Yet, Jesus is no more than a prophet. Indeed, He is not God the Son according to Islam. Their position is clear.
The Christian Response To Islam’s View Of Jesus Christ
While the Quran gives a certain respect to Jesus, it denies the fundamental essentials of the historical Christian faith with regard to the Person of Jesus Christ. In so doing, Islam rejects his identity as the Savior and Lord of humanity. The Christian response is as follows.
1. Jesus Was The Virgin Born Son Of God
Islam teaches that Jesus was born without a human father. Although it sounds like they believe in the virgin birth of Jesus that is recorded in the New Testament they do not. Jesus’ miraculous conception was a result of the Spirit of God, the Third Person of the Trinity, overshadowing Mary. The Bible explains is this way.
In the sixth month of Elizabeth’s pregnancy, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a village in Galilee, to a virgin named Mary. She was engaged to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of King David. Gabriel appeared to her and said, “Greetings, favored woman! The Lord is with you!” Confused and disturbed, Mary tried to think what the angel could mean. “Don’t be frightened, Mary,” the angel told her, “for God has decided to bless you! You will become pregnant and have a son, and you are to name him Jesus. He will be very great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give him the throne of his ancestor David. And he will reign over Israel forever; his Kingdom will never end!” Mary asked the angel, “But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin.” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby born to you will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God. What’s more, your relative Elizabeth has become pregnant in her old age! People used to say she was barren, but she’s already in her sixth month. For nothing is impossible with God” (Luke 1:26-37 NLT).
Jesus’ conception was due to the miraculous work of God the Holy Spirit. The result was that God the Son, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, became a human being. This is the biblical doctrine of the virgin conception, or virgin birth.
It is not the same doctrine that the Muslims hold of the conception of Jesus. This is important to understand. Islam does not believe in the biblical virgin birth of Jesus!
2. He Was A Miracle Worker By Yahweh’s Power
The Bible says that Jesus performed miracles by the power of the God of Scripture. His name is Yahweh, or Jehovah. It is not the same God, Allah, in whom Muslims believe. We read the following in the Gospel of Luke.
One day while Jesus was teaching, some Pharisees and teachers of religious law were sitting nearby. (It seemed that these men showed up from every village in all Galilee and Judea, as well as from Jerusalem.) And the Lord’s healing power was strongly with Jesus (Luke 5:17 NLT).
The healing power of Jesus Christ was granted by the Lord, the God of Scripture, not Allah the God of Islam.
3. Jesus Is More Than A Prophet: He Is God The Son
Scripture teaches that Jesus is God the Son. He has the same nature or essence as God the Father. The Bible says the following about Jesus’ relationship to God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1 KJV).
While Jesus was fully human He was more than a human being. Indeed, He is Almighty God who became human. God the Father and God the Son have the same essence but they are not the same Person.
4. Jesus’ Teachings Are Not Islamic
The teachings of Islam, which came six centuries after the time of Christ, conflict with the teachings of Jesus in every major area. There is no way to reconcile the Quran and the four gospels. Jesus made it clear where His teachings came from.
Jesus answered them, “My teaching isn’t Mine but is from the One who sent Me” (John 7:16 HCSB).
The source of His teaching was God the Father, not Islam. Therefore, since the teachings of Islam do not originate from God the Father, they should be rejected.
In sum, though Islam may give some respect to Jesus it is nowhere near what He deserves. He is not a mere prophet and He is certainly not a lesser prophet than Muhammad. He is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, God the Son!
Summary To Question 11 How Does Islam View The Person Of Jesus Christ?
Jesus is an important character in the Quran. In fact, here are a number of honorable titles given to Him. The Quran says that He was born of the Virgin Mary without a human father. However, they see Him as a created being.
Jesus is also viewed as a great prophet. He was supposedly the forerunner of Muhammad who was the last and greatest of the prophets. Islam soundly rejects the idea that Jesus is the Son of God. They consider it blasphemy to equate Jesus with Allah in any manner.
Clearly, the Bible and the Quran are at odds concerning the Person of Jesus.
Although it sounds like Islam believes in the virgin birth of Christ such is not the case. Scripture says that Jesus was the virgin born Son of God. He was conceived supernaturally by the Holy Spirit. He was born the sinless Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. He has been God for all eternity but became a human being at a certain point in history. This is the biblical doctrine of the virgin birth. Islam does not accept this to be true.
Furthermore, Jesus worked miracles by the power of Yahweh, not Allah. It is the God of the Old Testament who empowered Jesus, not the God of Islam.
While He was a prophet, He was more than a mere prophet; He was God Himself who became a human being. He cannot and should not be compared to any human prophet, especially Muhammad. Indeed, Christians do not even consider Muhammad a prophet of God.
Finally, the teachings of Jesus are not Islamic. In fact, they are contrary to just about everything for which Islam stands.
There is no way to reconcile the view of Jesus as given in the Quran and the New Testament description of Him. The correct portrait of Jesus is the one in which the eyewitnesses give. This can only be found in the New Testament, not the Quran.
This question is from my forthcoming book “Understanding Islam”