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Posts tagged ‘Exploring Islam’

Exploring Islam 12

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Exploring Islam

12. The Jesus of Islam

Part 3 – The Cross

In light of what we have previously outlined regarding the Islamic view of Jesus we are now going to finally consider what happened at the cross. For the Christian the crucifixion of Jesus is fundamental and indeed is ultimately why he came as the Saviour of the world. However, as we have seen previously regarding salvation in Islam no such atoning sacrifice is possible. Whilst the Qur’an does not deny the historical event of the crucifixion, it is does deny that it was the Islamic prophet Jesus who was killed.

Qur’an 4:157 – ‘“Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them.’

This is a fascinating verse which many Muslims are aware of given the prominence of Jesus in discussions with Christians. It is reliant upon the understanding that Allah respects his chosen prophets to such a degree that a humiliating death by crucifixion would not be permitted. Nothing more is said regarding this matter in the Qur’an and it begs the question from a non-Muslim perspective of proof. Outside of this verse there seems to be no other supporting evidence that this was the case. And I guess this is to be expected as the concept itself suggests that all present at the crucifixion and presumably all the subsequent historians were hoodwinked into believing the opposite.

Admittedly, Christianity faces a similar but I think less taxing burden of proof in their defence of a risen Jesus from the tomb on Easter morning. So instead of dying on the cross, the Islamic Jesus was taken up into heaven during this mystical switch and remains there to this day.

Again, this is a unique aspect of Jesus within Islam which no other prophet including Muhammad can claim. Jesus has a further role to play in the grand scheme of history according to Islam. At the end of time before judgement day comes, Jesus will return to the earth still as a physical man and successfully lead all those chosen by Allah into Islam. The Qur’an does not speak much of this aspect leaving Muslims to rely strongly on the traditions contained in the Hadith.

Unlike in Christianity who affirms Jesus’ role in judgement, the Islamic Jesus finally dies before this happens and leaves Allah to judge the world. So this marks the conclusion of the Exploring Islam series. I have enjoyed preparing and writing these podcasts and I hope that you have benefited from them. Remember my original goal was to dispel some of the misunderstandings of Islam which are so prevalent in Western societies and can be the source of much tension with our Muslim neighbours.

Even though there are significant differences between Islam and Christianity I hope I have equally showed that there are similarities even bridges for discussion. I have found the best way to facilitate this is from the attitude of respect and friendship, things which Muslims themselves value highly.

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Exploring Islam 11

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Exploring Islam

11. The Jesus of Islam

Part 2 – Jesus remains a man not a god

Despite Jesus’ unusual birth to a virgin Islam still considers him to be simply a man chosen by Allah to be a prophet. He is viewed as a created being from the dust just as Adam was (Qur’an 3:59). To consider Jesus as anything more than his humanity would be to ascribe to him some status of divinity, and as we have seen previously this is a serious sin.

Allah reveals himself through the Qur’an as being one, and in being the only one. He is if you like singular in construction and the only one of his kind. During Muhammad’s life the early Church was spreading rapidly throughout the world and he would have heard of their radical concept of a Trinitarian God – that is a God which is three in one.

Such a paradox, which is accepted in Christianity through faith and the testimony of the Bible, seemed to simply be a wilful act to distort the truth about Allah and elevate a man into a deity. If you remember from one of the first podcasts in this series at the birth of Islam Muhammad was reacting against an Arab people who were polytheists, that is belief in and the worship of many different gods and spirits. Muhammad placed the Christian view of Jesus into this category.

The Qur’an summarises all of this in the following: Qur’an 4:171 – ‘O People of the Scripture! Do not exaggerate in your religion nor utter anything concerning Allah save the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only a messenger of Allah, and His word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers, and say not “Three” – Cease! (It is) better for you! – Allah is only One God. Far is it removed from His Transcendent Majesty that He should have a son.’

Interestingly, there are two aspects regarding the Islamic view of Jesus which are not fully explained. In the previous verse you may noticed that Jesus is referred to as a ‘word’ and a ‘spirit’ from Allah. What exactly does this mean? The Qur’an does not make any further reference to it and they are unique to him.

From a Christian perspective Jesus being described as a ‘word’ is familiar as it is found in the opening verses of John’s Gospel to denote his divinity. Alongside this, the Qur’an also makes the unexpected claim that Jesus was holy, faultless, pure, or righteous depending on your translation from the Arabic in Qur’an 19:19.

These characteristics are commonly associated with divinity outside of Islam and offer a stark contrast to Muhammad who required forgiveness for his sins (Qur’an 48:2). Many Muslims are not aware of this last verse and can take offense at the suggestion that their greatest prophet is in fact sinful, so refer to it with care and respect.

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This now is available to buy as a book on Amazon :

UK/Europe – £3 – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Exploring-Islam-exploring-diversity-Christian/dp/1507774567/

USA – $7 – http://www.amazon.com/Exploring-Islam-exploring-diversity-Christian/dp/1507774567/

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Exploring Islam 10

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10. The Jesus of Islam

Part 1 – A Prophet with Miraculous Signs

Today we start looking at how Islam views Jesus. He is not the most important person in Islam, which is reserved for Muhammad, but as he is for Christianity it is prudent to understand how Muslims view him. This will be released over 3 successive weeks…

As we have seen in previous sections Islam views many characters from the Old Testament as Islamic prophets and the same is said of Jesus from the New Testament. Islam considers their understanding of who Jesus was and his religious affiliation to be the original correct one, and that Christianity has over time corrupted this truth to place him as the forerunner for their religious system.

As a prophet he was blessed by Allah with miracles in order to convince those who saw him of his divine messenger status. One of these was the production of the holy book called the Gospel which Islam views as containing a similar message to that of the Qur’an, but specifically given by Allah to the people of Israel. Jesus’ role as a prophet was to reach out to the Jewish people and properly teach them about Allah through using the existing Islamic version of the Torah (or Old Testament law) and his Gospel (Qur’an 5:49).

However, no original Islamic versions of these writings have been found. Most Muslims are not challenged by this as they place supreme authority on the Qur’an’s testimony. In addition to the Gospel Jesus displayed other signs, the first being his miraculous birth to a virgin named Mary.

She says – Qur’an 5:47 – ‘My Lord! How can I have a child when no mortal has touched me? He said: So (it will be). Allah creates what He will. If He decrees a thing, He says to it only Be! And it is.’

The account of Jesus’ birth in the Qur’an is remarkably similar to that found in the Christian Bible. However, the Qur’an also affirms that Jesus was capable of speaking ‘like that of an adult’ even when he was only a baby (Qur’an 5:110). This verse also lists other miracles Jesus did through the will and power of Allah; he breathed life into a lump of clay which turned into a bird, he healed leapers, and raised the dead. Jesus was indeed a prominent figure during his day.

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This now is available to buy as a book on Amazon :

UK/Europe – £3 – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Exploring-Islam-exploring-diversity-Christian/dp/1507774567/

USA – $7 – http://www.amazon.com/Exploring-Islam-exploring-diversity-Christian/dp/1507774567/

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Exploring Islam 09

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Exploring Islam

9. The possibility of Salvation

We have previously looked at the concept of sin in Islam and Christianity, now we shall naturally move onto their ideas of salvation. Salvation is the common idea that there is a need to be saved from punishment and condemnation for sinful acts, ultimately seen in going to Paradise and Heaven. Paradise for the Muslim is not about spending time in the presence of Allah as his transcendence still remains even here. For the Christian, Heaven is all about worshipping God directly in his presence in a way which is not fully possible now because of sin. This fundamental difference can help us see how and why their routes for salvation are equally dissimilar.

 

Salvation Within Islam

Within Islam salvation is mostly a concept based upon works seen in belief and actions;

Qur’an 3:57 – ‘But as for those who believed and did righteous deeds, He will give them in full their rewards.’

It is something which at first glance is achievable by the Muslim on their own, unlike a Christian who believes that only God can help them out of their sinful predicament. Recognising that you are a slave unto Allah, after all this is what the word ‘Muslim’ literally means, and that it is your duty to be obedient to his law in the way you live your life.

However, despite the most ardent attempts by the most committed Muslim does not guarantee entrance into Paradise. Allah’s will in deciding who does gain entry is always above any actions by any person even if they are in accordance to the law. Ultimately, a Muslim’s salvation is in the hands of Allah, in a way predestined, and they will never know for sure their fate.

Qur’an 7:178 – ‘Whoever Allah guides – he is the [rightly] guided; and whoever He sends astray – it is those who are the losers.’

Salvation Within Christianity

(For more about salvation in Christian thought on this website, please do click here. )

These ideas are in stark contrast with salvation found in Christianity, of which only a summary is presented. In order for forgiveness to be given by God for humanity’s sin punishment must be borne by someone. Instead of every individual suffering death for their disobedience God, in Jesus Christ, chose to suffer the penalty of death on their behalf.

1 Peter 2:24 – ‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed.’

This is something alien to the Muslim where a substitutionary sacrifice for sin is outright refused as even possible. We will talk about how Islam views Jesus in a later podcast. Earning salvation for the Christian is therefore not achieved by their own efforts or successes even though the Bible does advocate a way of life which God wishes. Instead, forgiveness is a gift to humanity out of God’s grace, love and desire to have a real personal relationship with his creations which would not be possible with sin in the way.

Ephesians 2:8 – ‘For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God.’

Although there are concepts of predestination within Christianity, salvation once accepted by a person and confirmed by the Holy Spirit is guaranteed by God giving a sense of peace and assurance which a Muslim is forever searching for.

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This now is available to buy as a book on Amazon :

UK/Europe – £3 – http://www.amazon.co.uk/Exploring-Islam-exploring-diversity-Christian/dp/1507774567/

USA – $7 – http://www.amazon.com/Exploring-Islam-exploring-diversity-Christian/dp/1507774567/

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