Are Muslims Dishonest With the Name of Jesus?

25 August, 2016
Q Why do Muslims insist on including the name of Jesus in translations of the Quran when Allah did not reveal the name of Jesus to the prophet (peace be upon him) nor is it possible to translate Isa to Jesus. Is it not dishonest to tell Christians Jesus is in the Quran when Jesus is their God and son of their God and Isa was only a man and when Allah confirms in the Quran that there was an elaborate hoax that made that tricked those present into thinking that the Messiah was crucified when he was not and when the Bible actually reveals the hoax and shows that the Messiah was not crucified and his name was not Jesus, the name Jesus being a great part of the hoax? By Allah I pray that you will be honest with your answer.

Answer

Salam Brother Mervyn,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Scholars agree that the name ‘Jesus’ is an anglicized version of the Hebrew name ‘Yeshua’, which is essentially the same as Isaiah or Isa. No one called the real Yeshua ‘Jesus’ when he was on earth, as ‘King’s English’ was a much later phenomenon.

Apparently he and his people did not speak English; they spoke their native tongue Aramaic, which was a dialect of Hebrew. Hebrew and Arabic are closely related Semitic languages; and there are numerous common words and phrases used in both Hebrew and Arabic.

Naturally these words are pronounced somewhat differently in different places separated by distance, both geographic and chronological. So the Hebrew word, shalom (= peace) becomes the Arabic salam and the Hebrew akh (= brother) is the same as Arabic akh etc.

The point to note is that Hebrew and Arabic are sister languages with almost the same grammar and similar vocabulary. Because, the original people who spoke these languages were derived from the same stock of ancestors and lived in proximity.

Western Christians have Europeanized Yeshua, not only by calling him Jesus, but also by portraying him as a white man with blue eyes and reddish hair; forgetting that Yeshua was born as the son of a Jewess called Maryam (Mary) and lived in the Land of Canaan, which comprised the region between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean.

Also, they sometimes claim that the Jesus they believe to be “their God and son of their God” was a being different from the Messiah of the Jews and Masih Isa ibn Maryam of the Muslims.

The Muslim contention is that the “Christian Jesus” was originally the same person mentioned in the Quran. It is noteworthy that the Muslims believe in all the prophets held holy by the Christians. The most important among them were Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus himself.

The Muslims accept the belief that Jesus was born miraculously without a father; that he did perform by the grace of God Almighty several miracles, the most important of which was the restoring of a dead man to life. But Muslims reject the idea that Jesus was God or the “only-begotten son of God”.

An interesting aspect of modern western life is the abundance of hoaxes and conspiracy theories it generates from time to time. In the east these two phenomena are fairly few. But with the influence of the modern media and the so-called globalization, the east is slowly evolving into a mirror image of the west in many aspects of life. So in the east too hoaxes and conspiracy theories about important events are gaining currency.

In your question you use the word, ‘hoax’ not in the exact sense of the term I am afraid. Because, you claim that according to the Quran there was an elaborate hoax involving Jesus’ crucifixion. Here you have misunderstood what the Quran says about it. This is the Quranic statement:

{That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not.} (Quran 4:157)

Here there is no reference to any hoax. You know hoax means, according to Dictionary.com, “something intended to deceive or defraud”, i.e. a deliberate deception or fraud.

In the above verse, God tells us about the alleged crucifixion of Jesus. He says: “they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them”.

The verse does not say that the persons who sought the life of Jesus deliberately allowed him to escape crucifixion. Not at all! It means that they thought that they, as well as those who witnessed their action, were deluded into believing that they were crucifying Jesus.

Muslim exegetes say that someone else was crucified in Jesus’ place. The gospels clearly say that they sought the help of Judas Iscariot to identify Jesus before he was to be arrested, as they could not recognize him. And in the confusion created by the sudden appearance of the Roman soldiers  at night on the scene of the last supper, no one can deny the possibility of getting hold of another person instead of Jesus.

Certainly God in the Quran does not say all this. He only says what effectively means that He did not leave His beloved Messenger Jesus to the mercy of the Roman soldiers: He saved him from the shame of an accursed death on the cross. By no stretch of imagination you can call this a hoax.

A Christian, who believes that Jesus was crucified, can say that this sounds like a conspiracy theory at most. But you know an event can cause a number of conspiracy theories about it and in several cases the ‘official’ story itself is at best a good-looking conspiracy theory.

For Muslims, the Quran is the Word of God that gives the truth. But Christians (except the fundamentalists) do not hold the same belief about the Bible. Their scholars acknowledge the human element in the Bible.

For instance, the famous German theologian Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1996), after careful historical study concluded that:

“The gospel records are a collection of myths, which portray truths about man’s existence rather than tell about actual historical events. According to him, in order to understand the New Testament books it is necessary to “demythologize” them, that is, to strip them of the myth with which the early church had clothed the gospel writings.”

This means that the gospel narratives about Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection and ascension are not trustworthy as historical records. But in their place, the Quranic narrative could be accepted as a valid alternative scenario. On what ground can this claim be brushed aside as a dishonest approach?

And if the name Jesus is ‘a great part of a hoax’ (as you argue), Muslims are not answerable for that either. If the Muslims claimed that ‘Jesus the Son of God’ is in the Quran, it would indeed be dishonest.

Muslims say that Isa ibn Maryam, the Prophet who came in answer to the expectation of a Messiah by the Children of Israel, who worked within the framework of their Torah and preached to them in their own synagogue, is in the Quran.

They also say that this man (no matter he is called Isa, Yeshua or Jesus) never claimed to be God; never asked his followers to worship him or pray to him. This is the correct and truthful Muslim position regarding Jesus and his mission.

As you yourself have written, the name ‘Jesus’ was not revealed to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). But you know that the name ‘Isa’ was revealed to him; and Muslim scholars follow the example of Christian translators who render ‘Yeshua’ into Jesus: they borrow the same name for ‘Isa’ too.

It is an integral part of the Islamic faith to believe in Isa ibn Maryam (or Jesus the Son of Mary) and honor him as much as we honor all other prophets of God, including the Last Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). And if the Jesus story propagated by latter day Pauline Christianity is ‘demythologized’ as Bultmann would have it, we will arrive at the truth about Jesus as underscored by the Quran. Jesus said:

[the truth will set you free] (John 8:32).

So seek the truth and be free. I hope this helps answer your question.

Salam and please keep in touch.

About Professor Shahul Hameed
Professor Shahul Hameed is an Islamic consultant. He also held the position of the President of the Kerala Islamic Mission, Calicut, India. He is the author of three books on Islam published in the Malayalam language. His books are on comparative religion, the status of women, and science and human values.