Speaking of Islam

Few Christians are aware of it, but Islam (lit., ‘submission to God’) not only regards Jesus as an important prophet and messenger of God who lived some six hundred years before its own founder, the “final” prophet Muhammad, but in its holiest book, the Qur’an, mentions him with great respect by name, reference, or direct quotation no less than 167 times.

Of course, the Qur’an doesn’t actually use the name ‘God’, but rather a name commonly used by various Arabic tribes in their own assorted, pre-Islamic religions since ancient times: Allah—a contraction of the Arabic term al-ilāh, literally ‘the god’ and closely related to a couple of ancient Hebrew names for God, El and Elohim, as found in the original, Hebrew language of the Old Testament (see July 24th blog).

A Christian approaching the religion of Allah for the first time through the Qur’an, then, might be surprised to find that it too teaches that Jesus (who appears in its pages under the Arabic name Isa) was the Messiah (Arabic al-Misah), sent by God to guide the Children of Israel (bani isra’il) with a new revelation as contained in the apocryphal Gospel of Jesus, (al-Injeel, ‘the Gospel’, Islam’s second holiest book); and that he was born of a virgin, performed miracles, was accompanied by disciples, and after being rejected by the Jewish establishmentwas simply called back to heaven. Indeed, the Islamic story of Jesus speaks of him as an important prophet in a long line of important, divinely inspired prophets reaching all the way back to Abraham, but completely rejects the Christian idea that he was divine, the son of God, and died on the crossor that he was was even crucified.

And meanwhile, it speaks of Jesus’ mother Mary (Arabic Maryam) as the greatest of all women. The only woman even mentioned in the Qur’an, it does so some seventy times—more than the Bibleultimately focusing on her far more than has any other ancient source, while variously referring to her as the Virgin, the Purified, the Keeper of Chastity, the Mother of Isa, the Mother of the Messiah, the Female Exemplar, the Maternal Heroine, the Exalted, the Queen of All Saints, the Mystical Maryam, etc.; with her narrative unfolding in a consistent manner throughout, from the Qur’an’s earliest chapters as set down in Mecca to its last, in Medina.

In other words, the main difference, and of course inevitable, inescapable bone of contention between these two Abrahamic and monotheistic religions—today the two most populous in the world, although among the rest, only Buddhism actually seeks converts—is whether Jesus should be regarded as divine. Pity.

As for those among you who might hasten to add that Christianity has certainly never behaved in the violent, inhumane manner that Islam is clearly on record as having done from time to time—including at this very moment in history—well, stay tuned.


Sources

Wikipedia, Islam https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam

Wikipedia, Christianity and Islam https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity_and_Islam

Wikipedia, Jesus in Islam https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_in_Islam

Wikipedia, Mary in Islam https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mary_in_Islam

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