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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Finding the Jesus of Islam in Early Christianities

The Following article is Copied from

By Camilla Morrison
In the early days of Islam, a few companions of the Prophet were fleeing persecution in Mecca and sought refuge in Abyssinia. The Christian ruler of the land, Ashama, demanded the companions to read aloud from their scripture and, when one of them recited from the sura of Mary, Ashama and his court were moved to tears. When they were told to make known their beliefs about Jesus, they said that Islam considers Jesus to be a messenger of God, the word of God, and the miraculously born son of the Virgin Mary. After hearing this, Ashama is said to have drawn a line in the sand and said that the differences between them were no more than that thin line. He then decreed that Muslims were allowed safe refuge in his kingdom[1].
It would be nice to think that this story could be applicable to modern Christians and Muslims, but take one look at the news and that thought disappears.
The Qur’an contains ninety-three passages in reference to Jesus and, together, they present a clear picture of what Muslims believe. Chronologically, this begins with Mary, the mother of Jesus. The Qur’an tells the story of Mary’s birth and describes how God graciously accepted her, making her grow in goodness, and entrusting her to be raised by Zachariah[3][4]. God chose Mary above all other women as the most pure and sent angels to give her news that she was to give birth to a pure son[5] called Jesus, the Messiah[6]. The angels tell her that Jesus “will be held in honor in this world and the next”, he “will be one of those brought near to God”, “he will speak to people in his infancy”, and “he will be one of the righteous” [7]. Mary has an entire sura named after her, one of only eight people to have this honor, and is affirmed to have given a virginal birth and to have afterward remained a virgin[8]. It is believed that Jesus was able to speak as an infant; after Mary gives birth to Jesus and carries him back to her people, she is accosted with accusations and it is then where Jesus speaks his first words and defends her honor[9]. In these first words, Jesus declares himself as a prophet and a servant of God who will be raised up after death and return at the final judgment[10].
Throughout his life, Jesus is believed to have performed several miracles by the permission of God; he transforms a clay bird into a real one, heals the blind and the leper, and brings the dead back to life[11]. He was sent to follow in the footsteps of previous prophets and to confirm the Torah that had been sent before him[12]. The Qur’an also says that God gave Jesus the Gospel with guidance, light, and confirmation as a guide and lesson for the followers of God[13]. Jesus is believed to be a fully human prophet; he is never said to claim divinity but instead attributes all he does to the power of God. When asked by God if he ever said for people to take him as a god, Jesus replies, “I would never say what I had no right to say”[14]. The Qur’an also mentions the disciples of Jesus, although not by name. The disciples are said to follow Jesus and declare themselves as Muslims[15].
Regarding the death of Jesus, the Qur’an denies that Jesus actually died or was ever crucified[16]. Muslims believe that Jesus physically ascended into heaven and that the disbelievers claimed victory only because “it was made to appear like that to them”[17]. The Qur’an states that Jesus will return again at the end of days when everyone will be judged on their adherence to Islam[18].
In addition to the Qur’an, Muslims look to the Hadith as an authority on Jesus. Several Hadith expand upon elements of Jesus described in the Qur’an, particularly about the end of his existence on Earth and what comes after. The Hadith present an “image of Jesus as an end-of-time figure”[19]. In one Hadith, Muhammad says, “the son of Mary will come back down among you very soon as a just judge”[20] and in another he says that he has been shown that Jesus will return to defeat the Antichrist[21]. This supports the general thought that Jesus is currently awaiting the end of time when he will “descend to the earth and fight against the Antichrist, championing the cause of Islam” and “point to the primacy of Muhammad” before dying a natural death[22]. Muslims see Jesus as a precursor to Muhammad and believe that Jesus predicted Muhammad’s coming in the canonical Gospel of John.
Many believers of both Islam and Christianity would be shocked at the number of similarities that lie in their sacred texts. Since the Bible was written and compiled before even the birth of Muhammad and therefore can contain no commentary on him or Islam, many Christians would be especially surprised to learn that Muslims regard Jesus as one of Islam’s most important prophets. American Christians in particular have a distorted view of Islam imposed by media and therefore can be entirely unaware of what the religion actually entails. The Qur’an actually contains references to over fifty people and events that are also found in the Bible. It also rerepeatedly affirms the legitimacy of the Torah, the Hebrew bible, or the Old Testament as Christians call it..............more
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