The Life of Jesus
Jesus is loved and respected by approximately 2 billion Christians worldwide, but did you know that he is equally cherished, as a prophet of God, in the world’s second biggest religion? In Islam, Jesus is given a unique recognition and honour. Not only is he mentioned by name 25 times in the Quran, but Muslims are also taught to say, “peace be upon him” after referring to him. All this serves to highlight the great status of Jesus in Islam.
But what exactly do Muslims believe about Jesus? And how similar are the Muslim and Christian beliefs in regards to his life?
Similar to the Christian tradition, Muslims believe in the miraculous conception of prophet Jesus. In fact, the Quran goes into great detail of his birth in an entire chapter dedicated to his mother – the Virgin Mary. In Islamic teachings, Mary is described as one of the few women who attained perfection in worship. She holds great significance and is adored as one of the most pure and devout figures in Islam. The Quran reveals how she was told that she would give birth to a child named Jesus, who would be honoured and loved in this life and the next.
However, this doesn’t mean that Jesus was the Son of God; rather, it gives prominence to his status and virtue as one of God’s messengers. It’s also worth considering that God draws a parallel with the unique birth of the Prophet Jesus and the origins of Adam – who was born without a mother and father! – in a previous chapter:
“Indeed, the example of Jesus to Allah is like that of Adam. He created Him from dust; then He said to him, “Be,” and he was.” [Noble Quran 3:59]
Both instances demonstrate God’s power and ability to do all things. The virgin birth of Prophet Jesus was a great sign for the people, and future generations, of God’s own existence and strength. It was also an indication that he was to become one of the greatest of God’s messengers.
His Message And Miracles
Muslims not only believe in Jesus, but all the other respected prophets of God mentioned in the Bible, such as Abraham, Moses and Noah. The prophet Jesus continued their legacy and spent his life spreading the same, simple message: To believe and worship one God and to do righteous deeds.
“(Jesus said), “Indeed, I am the servant of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet.” [Noble Quran 19:30]
The Islamic narrative of Jesus also complements the Christian belief that Jesus was able to perform many miracles. Both the Bible and the Quran mention his amazing ability to heal the blind, cure the lepers and bring life to the dead. The Quran further elaborates on a similar miracle of Jesus giving life to birds made from clay.
“I design for you from clay [that which is] like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of Allah.” [Noble Quran 3:49]
Like the other prophets, Jesus performed his miracles by God’s will and permission. He used them to convey the message of truth and convince his followers of the divine message – not his own divinity.
The life of the prophet Jesus was extraordinary, but the details before the end of his mission are particularly interesting, as Muslims believe he foretold the coming of a final prophet.
Jesus And Muhammad
Muhammad (peace and blessings be upon him) is well known to be the final messenger of God in Islam. But what is his special connection with the prophet Jesus?
The prophet Jesus is actually the second last prophet of Islam i.e. there was no other messenger between him and Muhammad ﷺ. This link is another reason for Jesus to be venerated in the Islamic faith.
“And [mention] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said, “O children of Israel, indeed I am the messenger of Allah to you confirming what came before me of the Torah and bringing good tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name is Ahmad.” [Noble Quran 61:6]
The Bible also anticipates that God will send a special person in several places. In the Old Testament, God says:
“Here is my servant, whom I uphold, My chosen one in whom I delight.” [Isaiah 42:1]
The phrase “chosen one” is particularly interesting as this is one of the titles given to Muhammad ﷺ.
The prophet Muhammad ﷺ himself referred to Jesus on numerous occasions. In one narration he said,
“I am most close to Jesus, son of Mary, among the whole of mankind in this worldly life and the next life. They said: Allah’s Messenger how is it? Thereupon he said: Prophets are brothers in faith, having different mothers. Their religion is, however, one and there is no Apostle between us (between I and Jesus Christ).” [Sahih Muslim]
Muhammad ﷺ confirmed and re-established the same message brought by prophet Jesus and revered him as the “word” and “spirit” of God. Although all of God’s messengers are held in great esteem, Muhammad ﷺ emphasised the exceptional rank of Jesus. He told his companions that if anyone were to testify, “…Jesus is the servant of God, His word and spirit, as He communicated to Mary…” they would enter Paradise!
The Return of Jesus
Muslims believe that Jesus did not die on the cross, but it was only made to seem that way. In reality, God took him into heaven. However, like the Christians, they also expect his return.
“And peace is on me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive.” [Noble Quran 19:33]
Both Christian and Islamic traditions speak of the anti-Christ (known as Dajjal in Arabic) who will appear at the end of times. They affirm that the anti-Christ will wreak havoc and bring great trials to the people. It is during this hour that the prophet Jesus will return and defeat the anti-Christ, bringing peace and justice.
His significant role and status in Islam means Muslims have as much love and admiration for him as Christians. So how can we all show our love? The best way is to have a desire to learn from his life and follow his true teachings of the eternal message of God.