Many Christians and Jews are amazed when they learn that numerous stories and figures they know from their own sacred texts can also be found in the Quran and the authentic traditions of Prophet Muhammad.
In all the sacred texts stories are designed to teach us lessons and demonstrate the power of God. They also show us that humankind continues to face the same dilemmas that were faced in Biblical times.
In the following four articles we will take Biblical figures found in the Quran and add another dimension to the stories found in the Biblical texts.
Part 1 – Jesus in the Quran
Chapter Three of the Quran is called The Family of Imran. It is a chapter dedicated to Jesus and his family. The Imran mentioned is Jesus’ grandfather, the father of his mother Mary. Several chapters of Quran tell the same stories that Christians are familiar with about the life of Jesus, the Messiah.
However they add more depth to all the stories and the people in them. It is as if they have taken the stories in the Bible and filled in some of the missing details.
This is not surprising because in the third verse of this third chapter God says that He has sent down the book (the Quran) confirming what came before it; the Torah and the Injeel (Gospels). Many Christians are attracted to Islam because it offers the answers to many of the questions that have been puzzling them.
Muslims are required to believe equally in all the prophets of God, and to believe in all the revelations, in so far as they agree with the Quran. If there are discrepancies it is because the versions of the Bible (Torah and Injeel) that we read today have been altered, mistranslated or lost.
Jesus is an important figure in Islam. The big and insurmountable difference between Jesus in Islam and Jesus in Christianity is the fact that in Islam Jesus is a human being, a man, no more and no less. He is a prophet and messenger from God, he is not a god nor does he have any godlike qualities or attributes. However that does not mean that he is not special.
Jesus’ life is filled with miracles. In some he is the recipient of the miraculous power of God and in others he performs miracles by the will and with the permission of God.
Chapter five of the Quran, The Table Spread with Food, also deals extensively with information about Jesus and his followers. The table spread with food refers to a meal enjoyed by Jesus and the disciples. They asked Jesus to request that God to send down a table spread with food. As if to demonstrate Jesus’ status God fulfilled his request. This meal was to be a recurring commemoration for them and it is likely that it was the meal Christians refer to as the Last Supper.
Chapter five also contains a lengthy verse in which God asks Jesus (and us) to remember the favors and bounties God bestowed upon him and his mother. (Quran 5: 110)
As an infant Jesus spoke to the people surrounding and berating his mother. When questioned about her disappearance and then reappearance with a baby in arms, Mary bore their criticism and directed their questions to the child. “How can a small baby speak to us?” they asked. It was a miracle.
Babies do not speak, but Jesus spoke clearly and succinctly.
I am the slave of God; he has given me a scripture and made me a prophet. He has blessed me and made me not arrogant and I am dutiful to my mother. God has asked me to pray and give charity, and peace is upon me all the days of my life.
The full text of the baby Jesus’ words can be found in yet another chapter of Quran dedicated to Jesus and his family; Chapter 19, named after his mother Mary.
The Bible is silent about Jesus’ childhood. After his birth we are left to wonder about his life until we find him in the temple around the age of twelve. Islam provides us with a snapshot of his childhood.
The Quran tells us that the child Jesus had made a small bird out of clay. He held it in his hands and breathed into and behold it was a living bird that fluttered into the air. This was a miracle performed by Jesus with the permission of God.
When Jesus grew up and began to teaching he gathered many followers due to the miracles he performed.
Both Quran and the Bible tell us about healing lepers, curing the blind and raising the dead. God allowed Jesus to perform these miracles in order to convince the disbelievers that he was certainly sent to them by God. Jesus did not represent himself as divine and in both books he goes to great lengths to disprove their false beliefs.
During his time on earth Jesus faced the same joys and tribulations faced by all members of the human race. He questioned the purpose of his life, he pondered the forces of nature, and he perceived the signs and evidences of God.
Jesus grew in knowledge and as he moved into the days of his Prophethood he encountered the same hardships that all of the Prophets and Messengers of God faced. He worked long and hard to deliver his message, that there is only One God, yet he was disbelieved and betrayed by many of his own people.
God performed a miracle when he restrained the Children of Israel (Jews) from killing Jesus. God says in Quran that they were resolved to kill Jesus even though he came to them with clear proof (of his prophethood). Jesus was not killed nor was he crucified, although it was made to look as if he was crucified. Instead God raised him to the heavens.
Jesus was an example of the Quranic verse (Chapter 10 verse 107) where we are told that if God wishes the person good there is nothing that can take away those favors or blessings. The children of Israel and the Romans were intent on doing harm to Jesus, they wanted to take the life of one of God’s chosen messengers but God did not allow that to happen.
Jesus’ role in the worldly life would not come to an end in that place, or in that time. The method He used to prevent Jesus’ death by crucifixion is often a topic of debate by Muslim scholars but the fact that God took Jesus up to Himself is not ever questioned.
Jesus will return to earth towards the end of time and Islam considers his return one of the signs that the Day of Resurrection is approaching. Various incidents throughout Jesus’ life demonstrate God omnipotent power.
Jesus’ life is covered by Quran and the authentic stories and traditions from the life of Prophet Muhammad. We are able to learn little details that deny Jesus’ divinity but at the same time make him more accessible to people who were unsatisfied with the trinity doctrine.