(BEING CONTINUED FROM 13/09/13)
This view has found expression in some of the creedal statements of the Islamic community, like Fiqh Akbar II, where it is said in article 29:
The report of the ascension is a reality, and whosoever rejects it is an erring schismatic. The appearance of the Anti-Christ, Yadjudj and Madjudj [Gog and Magog], the rising of the sun from the place where it sets, the descent of Isa [=Jesus] from Heaven, as well as the other eschatological signs according to the description thereof in authentic Tradition, are a reality that will take place. (Wensinck 1965:197)
There are many traditions related to the role Jesus will play when he returns to earth in the last day (Stieglecker 1962:745).
One of the best known commentators among Muslims, al Tabari (tenth century) quotes many Islamic scholars and commentators of previous centuries in his commentary on Sura 4:157-158. Their interpretation is the generally accepted interpretation that the crucifixion did not happen,because of God’s rescuing intervention. According to Zaehner (1958:214),
these Muslim interpreters “are rejecting the very words of the Kur’an; they rightly describe themselves as ‘Ahi al Sunna,’ ‘the people of tradition,’ and not as ‘Ahi al Kitab,’ the People of the Book.”
Many different names and titles are given to Jesus in the Qur’an. He is called son of Mary, Masih (Messiah), Word of God, Spirit from God, sure Word, mubarak (the blessed One), one of those brought near (to God), rasul (messenger), nabi (prophet), ‘abd (servant), and one worthy of regard in this world and in the world to come.
The word Masih does not have a special meaning in the Qur’an. It is a borrowed title, without the special connotations it has in the Old Testament and the New Testament.
Word of God (kalima). Jesus is Word of God, not Son of God, because he was created by the Word of God. In the view of Islam, the Word of God has not become flesh, but the Word of God has become Book, in the Qur’an—not incarnation, but what Wolfson (1976) has called “inlibration.”
The important theological discussions in the history of Islam have not been on the role of Muhammad, but on the Qur’an, on the question of whether the Qur’an is the created or uncreated Word of God.
Spirit from God. The birth of Jesus is related to the Spirit of God “… and of the woman (Mary) who kept her chastity. We breathed into her of Our Spirit and made her and her son a sign to all men” (Sura 21:91; 66:12).
In a similar way the Qur’an speaks about the creation of Adam (15:29;38:72). Other verses speak about Jesus’ being strengthened by God with the Holy Spirit (Sura 2:87, 253; 5:110). In these verses, the gift of the Spirit is directly related to the miracles performed by Jesus. The Spirit is not connected with the message preached by Jesus. Suras 16:102 and 26:193 relate
the Spirit to the message preached by Muhammad and contained in the Qur’an. Say: “The Holy Spirit brought it [the Qur’an] down from your Lord in truth to reassure the faithful and to give guidance and good news to those that surrender themselves to God” (Sura 16:102).
Followers of Jesus are criticized in the Qur’an for different reasons. One point of criticism is the disunity among Christians and between Christians and Jews. Having received the same message from God, they should be one;they should accept each other’s prophets.
The Jews say the Christians are misguided and the Christians say it is the Jews who are misguided. Yet they both read the Scriptures (Sura 2:113) Your religion is but one religion, and I am your only Lord. Therefore serve Me. They [Jews and Christians] have divided themselves into schisms, but to Us they shall all return. (21:93) Christians have also gone astray by deifying their prophet, by saying things about Jesus that cannot be true. Unbelievers are those that say: “God is the
Messiah, the Son of Mary.” For the Messiah himself said: “Children of Israel,
serve God, my Lord and your Lord” (5:72).
Muhammad’s perception was that Christians not only worship Jesus,but also his mother.
Then God will say: “Jesus, son of Mary, did you ever say to humankind:
Worship me and my mother as gods beside God?” “Glory to You,” he will answer, “how could I say that to which I have no right? If I had ever said so,You would have surely known it. You know what is in my mind, but I cannot tell what is in Yours. You alone know what is hidden. I spoke to them of nothing except what You bade me. I said: “serve God, my Lord and your Lord.”
This perception was apparently based on what Muhammad heard about Christians and their beliefs. His protest against the deification of Mary (and her son) reminds us of Nestorian objections against calling Mary theotokos.
The trinity the Qur’an explicitly rejects is the trinity of God the Father, Mary the Mother, and Jesus the Son. (When the Qur’an uses the words “son of God,” it uses the Arabic word walad, which means son in a physical sense.)
The question Muhammad struggled with in Medina was the question of how Christians could have wrong ideas about God and his prophet Jesus after having received the divine revelation in their Holy Scripture, the Injil,
brought to them by their prophet. Or, to phrase the question in another way,
why were Christians (and Jews) not willing to accept Muhammad as a prophet for the Arabs, bringing to the Arabs in their language the same message which had been brought already by the prophets of the Jews to the Jews and by Christ to the Christians? The Qur’an answers these questions by stating that “some of the Jews have already heard the Word of God and
knowingly have perverted it” (Sura 2:75; 5:41; Arabic: harrafa, to pervert). In regard to Christians, it is said that they have forgotten or hidden part of the Scriptures (5:15). These and other verses have become the foundation for the doctrine of tahrif, the corruption of Sacred Scriptures. This doctrine states that the message of their prophets became corrupted in the hands of followers of Moses and Jesus. The Qur’an is believed to be the uncorrupted, pure Word God, identical with the Umm al-Kitab, the mother of the book, the original opy of the Book of Allah in heaven. The Qur’an corrects the misconceptions
of Jews and Christians contained in their Scriptures.4
The disappointing experiences with Jews and Christians in the Medinan period were of the reasons why Muhammad started to pay more attention o Abraham, who was neither a Jew nor a Christian (Sura 3:65-68; 2:140), a
man of pure faith, a God-seeker (hanif), a Muslim, one who has submitted himself totally to God (2:135; 4:125). He is described as the friend of God 4:125), as in Isaiah 41:8,9 and James 2:23; as the father of those who believe Sura 22:78), as also in Romans 4:9-16 and Galatians 3:29. There is a certain analogy between the way in which Paul and Muhammad go back to
Abraham in their encounter with Jews (van Leeuwen 1964:230-231).
Among some scholars there is the tendency to interpret Qur’anic sayings about Jesus from a Christian perspective. Emphasis is put on the virgin birth,on the miracles performed by Jesus, on the way the Qur’an speaks about
Jesus as “Word of God” and “Spirit from God,” on the ascension after the crucifixion which did or did not happen, on the rejection of misconceptions of the Trinity, and of Jesus as “Son of God,” misconceptions also rejected
by Christian orthodoxy. One of these scholars, Zaehner (1958:216), writes:
“So far as his Christology is concerned Muhammad, in the Qur’an, nowhere denies and sometimes affirms specifically Christian beliefs Traditional muslim orthodoxy started to deny explicitly specific Christian doctrines.” It is a question of whether Zaehner’s statement is right. The Qur’an speaks about Jesus in a context totally different from the context in which the Bible
speaks about Jesus. That becomes clear when attention is paid to “the history of salvation” in the Qur’an and to the Qur’anic concept of revelation.
(TO BE CONTINUED)
Roelf S. Kuitse is Professor of Missions and World Religions at Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminaries in Elkhart, Indiana. He has worked in theological education in Indonesia and lived in Ghana where he participated in the Islam in Africa Project.
SOURCE Missiology: An International Review