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Christ’s Missing Years: Any Details in Islam?

28 December, 2023
Q Christians believe that 13 years of Prophet Jesus's life are missing. Hindus believe that these years were spent in India. What does Islam have to say about this?


Short Answer:  The claims about Jesus’ travel to India are exaggerated and their sources are unreliable. What is absolutely necessary for us to know about Jesus’ life is mentioned in the Quran and Hadith. The rest is irrelevant. So in Islam, the question of any missing years does not arise in the case of any prophet, including Jesus of Nazareth.


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The Missing Years

In Aristotelian philosophy, there is a theory that ‘nature abhors a vacuum’ and therefore, empty space would always be trying to suck in gas or liquids to avoid being empty.

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In Christian religious history too, we find a similar process of the vacuum in Jesus’s life history. So this vacuum has led to fantastic theories and stories.

Jesus’s years between twelve and thirty are left totally blank in the Gospels. There is nothing mentioned about his whereabouts or his activities during this time. These are the years commonly called his “missing years”.

Now centuries after Jesus, we have several accounts of where Jesus was during these “missing years”.

One such account is given in the book called, The Unknown Life of Jesus Christ by the Russian writer, Nicolas Notovitch.

Notovitch writes that during his travel to Tibet he found an amazing, ancient manuscript in a monastery, which supplied him the material for his controversial book published in France in 1894.

In the foreword of his book, Notovitch wrote how he took advantage of a short stay in Ladakh among Buddhist monks to obtain the privilege of seeing the manuscripts relating to Christ. With the aid of an interpreter, he had them translated from the Tibetan tongue.

According to the story, Jesus visited Nepal and the Himalayan Mountains and thereafter went to “the valley of Rajputan and went westward, preaching to diverse people”.

It is also said that Jesus was twenty-nine years of age when he finally arrived back in Palestine.

Jesus in India?

There are two other books about the life of Jesus in the East after the alleged crucifixion.

The first one is, A Search for the Historical Jesus. From Apocryphal, Buddhist, Islamic & Sanskrit Sources written by Fida M. Hassnain. The second one is Jesus Lived in India by Holger Kersten.

The second book is a thorough and methodical examination of the evidence of Christ’s life beyond the Middle East before the alleged crucifixion and elsewhere after it.

This is an exhaustive research into Christ’s travels after the alleged Crucifixion, his arrival in India with the Mother Mary, and finally his death and entombment in Kashmir.

This is a summary of the two books:

For about sixteen years, Christ traveled through Turkey, Persia, Western Europe, and possibly England. He finally arrived with Mary at a place near Kashmir, where she died.

After many years in Kashmir, teaching to an appreciative population, who venerated him as a great prophet, reformer, and saint; he died and was buried in a tomb in Kashmir itself.

Assessment of the India Theory

If we examine the claims in all those books on Jesus’ life in India against the background of the Gospels and the Judaic traditions that served as a background to the mission of Jesus, the following facts come to light:

The claims about Jesus’ travel to India are exaggerated and their sources are unreliable.

The alleged scrolls that Nicolas Notovitch claimed to have seen have never been produced and the monks who were supposed to possess them denied any knowledge of them. (Gregory Koukl, Jesus’s Missing Years)

The Gospel accounts of Jesus portray a strong repugnance on the part of Jesus towards tolerating gentile culture steeped in idolatry, as he was brought up in Hebraic traditions.

And above all, the Gospels clearly teach that he stayed in Palestine. Hence there is no shred of evidence to show that he had, at any time, crossed its boundary.

The Muslim Position

With regard to the Muslims’ take on this issue, the Quran has mentioned twenty-five prophets by name. It has given, in some cases, details of the challenges they faced in the performance of the mission entrusted to them.

In some other cases, we find only a very brief mention of their role as prophets.

From the Islamic point of view, all prophets of Allah deserve equal respect from us. And this rule applies whether their life history is given in detail or not.

And no prophet’s life is narrated in detail to include events that happened in every year of their life.

The Quran mentions only what Allah has deemed necessary to inform us, by way of teaching His guidance. In the matter of the life of prophets, no systematic ‘biography’ of a prophet is given in a modern sense.

What is absolutely necessary for us to know from the Islamic point of view about Jesus’ life and mission has been mentioned in the Quran and the Hadith (prophetic traditions). The rest is irrelevant.

Therefore, in Islam the question of any missing years does not arise in the case of any prophet, including Jesus of Nazareth.

I hope this answers your question. Please keep in touch.

Walaikum Asalam.

(From Ask About Islam archives)

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