Short Answer: Islam is a call to return to the original message of Jesus, a message which Paul of Tarsus did not spread or believe in. For that reason, the Quran mentions many times that it is the continuation of the message given to the true prophets, a group which does not include Paul.
Peace to you, as well, Joseph, and thank you for this question.
Before I converted to Islam, I was a very devout evangelical Christian. I worked as a missionary, spreading the message of Jesus’ death as an atonement for sin.
In order to do this, I attended a Bible college wherein we took many classes on the Apostle, Paul, and his message.
To begin with, what does God say about Jesus true teachings as opposed to the message Paul preached?
Jesus Words vs. Paul’s Words
Allah references heretical teachings regarding Jesus in multiple places throughout the Quran, focusing primarily on the false teaching that Jesus claimed divinity.
God confronts these questions head-on in the Quran in order to dispel any false beliefs. Chief among these verses is Quran, chapter 5, verse 116-117.
And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, “O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, ‘Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah?’”
He will say, “Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, You would have known it. You know what is within myself, and I do not know what is within Yourself.
Indeed, it is You who is Knower of the unseen. I said to them nothing except what You commanded me, that is: ‘Serve Allah, my Lord and your Lord.’ I watched over them as long as I remained among them; and when You did recall me, then You Yourself became the Watcher over them. Indeed, You are Witness over everything. (Quran 5:116-117)
As well, Jesus said:
I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it and it becomes a bird by God’s leave. And I heal the blind, and the lepers, and I raise the dead by God’s leave. (Quran 3:49)
Jesus Words In The Gospels
In other words, the Quran records Jesus saying clearly, “Listen, I am not God. I was sent by God. God is God. I only have the power which He gave me. Worship him alone.”
This message can still be found in the words of Jesus in many places throughout the New Testament:
One of the legal experts heard their dispute and saw how well Jesus answered them. He came over and asked him, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”
Jesus replied, “The most important one is Israel, listen! Our God is the one Lord, and you must love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your being, with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, You will love your neighbor as yourself. No other commandment is greater than these.” (Mark 12:28-31)
Saul of Tarsus Becomes Paul, The Apostle
While walking to the city of Damascus on a mission to persecute Christians, Paul claims that the risen Jesus appeared to him in a mighty vision and told him to stop persecuting the Christians.
During that journey, about noon, as I approached Damascus, suddenly a bright light from heaven encircled me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice asking me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you harassing me?’ I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are harassing,’ he replied. (Acts 22:6-8)
He Flees from The Disciples of Jesus
First of all, it’s important to know that Paul and his message were not initially welcomed into the Christian sphere.
For many years after Paul claimed to have seen the Risen Jesus on the road to Damascus, he was looked at as a heretic, at best.
Paul says Jesus warned him in a vision to escape Jerusalem because “they won’t accept your testimony”:
When I returned to Jerusalem and was praying in the temple, I had a visionary experience. I saw the Lord speaking to me. ‘Hurry!’ he said. ‘Leave Jerusalem at once because they won’t accept your testimony about me.’ I responded, ‘Lord, these people know I used to go from one synagogue to the next, beating those who believe in you and throwing them into prison. When Stephen your witness was being killed, I stood there giving my approval, even watching the clothes that belonged to those who were killing him.’ Then the Lord said to me, ‘Go! I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’” (Acts 22:17-21)
Who is the “they” referring to here? It’s difficult to tell, but it could refer to the pious Jews of the day who rejected Jesus’ controversial teachings, or it could have meant the disciples themselves.
One thing is for sure: the disciples were there when Paul helped murder Stephen, so he knew they were in Jerusalem and claimed that Jesus ordered him to flee from there.
Either way, Paul fled from the disciples and his fellow Jews and did not actually meet any of the disciples of Jesus until 3 years later when he met Peter and Jesus’ brother James.
Islam Is The Continuation of the Message of True Prophets
Ultimately, by the time the Quran was revealed, Christianity had devolved to the point that it was far from the original teachings of Jesus.
In that way, from the Quranic perspective, those who followed Jesus during his lifetime and shortly thereafter and who subscribed to his truly monotheistic message are “People of the Book”, along with the Jews who did not violate their covenants with God to worship Him alone:
“Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people . . .” (Exodus 19:5).
“Then all the people answered together and said, ‘All that the Lord has spoken we will do’ ” (Exodus 19:8).
The heretical Paul of Tarsus was not mentioned in the Quran by name for reasons only God knows, but he is certainly pointed out in his deeds and teachings. We can group him in with the others of his time who took the beautiful teachings of Jesus and bastardized them for their purposes.
And thus have We made for every prophet an enemy from among the criminals. But sufficient is your Lord as a guide and a helper. (Quran 25:31)
Islam is a call to return to the original message of Jesus, a message which Paul of Tarsus did not spread or believe in. For that reason, the Quran mentions many times that it is the continuation of the message given to the true prophets, a group which does not include Paul.
I hope this answers your question.
Satisfy your curiosity by checking out these other helpful links: