Who is Mary?
It may surprise many people to learn that Mary is one of the most esteemed and respected women in Islam and that the Quran gives her great importance. Maryam is the name of chapter 19 of the Quran, and Chapter 3 is Aali Imran, named after her family. Islam holds the entire family of Imran in very high regard. The Quran tells us that:
“God chose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham and the family of Imran over all others of world’s of mankind and jinn.” (Quran 3:33)
God choose Adam and Noah individually, but He chose the family of Abraham and the family of Imran.
“Offspring of one another.” (Quran 3:34)
The family of Imran are from the descendents of Abraham, the family of Abraham are from the descendants of Noah and Noah is from the descendents of Adam. The family of Imran also includes many people known and respected in the Christian traditions – Prophets Zachary and John (known as the Baptist), Prophet and Messenger Jesus and his mother, Mary.
God chose Mary above all the women of the world. He said:
“And when the angels said: ‘O Mary! Verily, God has chosen you, purified you,and chosen you above the women of the worlds of mankind and jinn.’” (Quran 3:42)
Ali ibn Abu Talib said:
“I heard the Prophet of God saying Mary, the daughter of Imran was the best among women.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
In Arabic the name Maryam means the maidservant of God, and as we shall see, Mary, the mother of Jesus, was dedicated to God even before she was born.
The Birth of Mary
The Bible is unable to give us any details of Mary’s birth; however, the Quran informs us that the wife of Imran dedicated her unborn child to the service of God. Mary’s mother, the wife of Imran, was Hannah. She was the sister of Prophet Zachary’s wife. Hannah and her husband Imran had believed they would never have children, but one day Hannah made a sincere and heartfelt supplication to God begging for a child, and vowing that her offspring would serve in God’s House in Jerusalem. God heard Hannah’s supplication and she fell pregnant. When Hannah realised the glorious news she turned to God and said:
“O my Lord! I have vowed to You what is in my womb to be dedicated for Your services, so accept this, from me. Verily, You are the All-Hearer, the All-Knowing.” (Quran 3:35)
There are lessons to be learned from Hannah’s vow to God, one of which is caring for the religious education of our children. Hannah was not thinking in terms of this world at all, she was trying to ensure that her child was close to God and in His service. These chosen friends of God, such as family of Imran, are the parents whom we should take as our role models. God says many times in the Quran that He is the One who supplies provision for us, and He warns us to save ourselves and our families from the fires of Hell.
In her supplication, Hannah asked that her child be free from all worldly work. By promising that her child would be the servant of God, Hannah was securing her child’s freedom. Freedom is a quality of life that every human being strives to attain, but Hannah understood that true freedom comes from complete submission to God. This is what she aspired to for her yet unborn child. Hannah wanted her child to be a free person, a slave to no man and no desire, but a slave only to God. In due time, Hannah gave birth to a girl, again she turned to God in prayer and said:
“‘O my Lord, I have delivered a female child,’ and the male is not like the female, and I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge with You for her and her offspring from Satan, the outcast.” (Quran 3:36)
Hannah named her child Mary. With reference to her vow to God, Hannah now found herself facing a dilemma. Serving in the House of Prayer was not acceptable for women. Mary’s father, Imran had died before she was born, so Hannah turned to her brother in law, Zachary. He comforted Hannah and helped her to understand that God knew that she had delivered a girl. This girl child, Mary, was from the best of creation. Prophet Mohammad mentioned that whenever a child is born Satan pricks him or her and therefore the child cries loudly. This is a sign of the great enmity between mankind and Satan; however there were two exceptions to this rule. Satan pricked neither Mary nor her son Jesus, due to the supplication of Mary’s mother.
When the time came for Mary to go into the House of Prayer, everybody wanted to take care of this pious daughter of Imran. As was the custom of the time, the men drew lots for the privilege, and God ensured that her guardian was Prophet Zachary.
“So her Lord accepted her with goodly acceptance, and made her grow in a good manner, and put her under the care of Zachary.” (Quran 3:37)
Prophet Zachary served in the House of God and was a wise and knowledgeable man devoted to teaching. He had a private room built for Mary so that she was able to worship God and go about her daily duties in private. As her guardian, Prophet Zachary visited Mary daily, and one day he was surprised to see fresh fruit in her room. It is said that in winter she would have the fresh fruits of summer and in the summer she would have the fresh fruits of winter. Prophet Zachary inquired about how the fruit got there, to which Mary replied, it was indeed God Who provided her sustenance. She said:
“It is from God. Verily, God provides sustenance to whom He wills without limit.” (Quran 3:37)
Mary’s devotion to God was at that time unparalleled, but her faith was about to be tested.
The Birth of Jesus
Esteemed and loved by all Muslims and known as a pious and devout woman, Mary, the mother of Jesus was chosen above all other women. Islam rejects the Christian notion that Jesus is part of a trinity that is God, and denies emphatically that either Jesus or his mother, Mary, are worthy of worship. The Quran categorically states that there is no god but God.
“Such is God, your Lord! None has the right to be worshipped but He, the Creator of all things. So worship Him ...” (Quran 6:102)
Muslims are required, however, to believe in and love all of the Prophets, including Prophet Jesus, who holds a special place in the Islamic creed. His mother, Mary, holds a place of honour. As a young woman, Mary went into the House of Prayer in Jerusalem, her entire life dedicated to the worship and service of God.
Mary Hears the News of Jesus
While she was in seclusion from everybody, a man appeared before Mary. God said:
“She screened herself from them; We sent to her Our Spirit, and he appeared before her in the form of a man in all respects.” (Quran 19:17)
Mary was afraid and tried to flee. She appealed to God saying:
“Verily! I seek refuge with the Most Gracious (God) from you, if you do fear God.” The angel said: “I am only a Messenger from your Lord to you, announcing the gift of a righteous son.” (Quran 19:18-19)
Mary was amazed and puzzled by these words. She was not married, rather a virgin who kept chaste. She asked incredulously:
“‘O my Lord! How will I have a son when no man has touched me?’ He said, “So (it will be): for God creates what He wills; when He has decreed something, He says to it only ‘Be’ – and it is.” (Quran 3:47)
God created Adam from the dust of the earth, without either mother or father. He created Eve from Adam's rib; and Jesus, He created without a father, but with a mother, the pious Virgin Mary. God, who has only to say ‘Be’ to a thing in order to bring it into existence,, blew the spirit of Jesus into Mary via the Angel Gabriel.
“And We breathed into it through Our Spirit, and she testified to the truth of the Words of her Lord ...” (Quran 66:12)
Although the stories of Mary in the Quran and in the Bible have many aspects in common, the view that Mary was betrothed or married is totally rejected by Islam. Time passed, and Mary became afraid of what the people around her would say. She wondered how they could possibly believe that no man had touched her. The majority of scholars in Islam agree that the duration of Mary’s pregnancy was normal. Then, as the time came for her to give birth, Mary decided to leave Jerusalem, and travelled towards the city of Bethlehem. Even though Mary must have recalled the words of God, for her faith was strong and unwavering, this young woman was anxious and uneasy. But the angel Gabriel reassured her:
“O Mary, Verily God gives you glad tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and will be one of those who are near to God.” (Quran 3:45)
Jesus is Born
The pains of childbirth drove her to clutch at the trunk of a date-palm tree and she cried out in anguish:
“Would that I had died before this, and had been forgotten and out of sight!” (Quran 19:23)
Mary delivered her child right there, at the foot of the date tree. She was exhausted after the birth, and filled with distress and fear, but nevertheless she heard a voice calling out to her. .
“Grieve not! Your Lord has provided you a stream of clear water under you; and shake the trunk of palm tree towards you; it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon you. So eat and drink and be glad...” (Quran 19:24)
God provided Mary with water, as a stream suddenly appeared beneath the place she was sitting. He also provided her with food; all she had to do was shake the trunk of the date tree. Mary was scared and frightened; she felt so weak, having just given birth, so how could she possibly shake the immense trunk of a date tree? But God continued to provide Mary with sustenance.
The next event was indeed another miracle, and as human beings we learn a great lesson from this. Mary didn’t need to shake the date tree, which would have been impossible; she only had to make an effort. As she attempted to follow God’s command, fresh ripe dates fell from the tree and God said to Mary: “…eat, drink and be glad.” (Quran 19:26)
Mary now had to take her new born child and go back to face her family. Of course she was afraid, and God knew this well. Thus He directed her not to speak. It would not have been possible for Mary to explain how she had suddenly become the mother of a new born child. Since she was unmarried, her people would not believe her explanations. God said:
“And if you see any human being, say: ‘Verily! I have vowed a fast unto the Most Gracious (God) so I shall not speak to any human being this day.’” (Quran 19:26)
Mary came to her people carrying the child, and they immediately began accusing her; they exclaimed “What have you done? You are from a good family, and your parents were pious.”
As God had directed her, Mary did not speak, she merely pointed to the baby in her arms. Then Jesus, son of Mary, spoke. As a newborn baby, Jesus, the Prophet of God performed his first miracle. By the permission of God he said:
“Verily! I am a slave of God. He has given me the Scripture and made me a Prophet; and He has made me blessed wheresoever I be, and has enjoined on me prayer, and alms, as long as I live, and to be dutiful to my mother, and made me not arrogant, unblest. And peace be upon me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive!” (Quran 19:30-34)
Mary is referred to in the Quran (5:75) as a siddqa (truthful one) but the Arabic word siddiqa implies more then just speaking the truth. It means that one has achieved a very high level of righteousness. It means that one is truthful, not only with themselves and those around them, but also with God. Mary was a woman who fulfilled her covenant with God, Whom she worshiped with full submission. She was pious, chaste, and devout; the woman chosen above all other women to be the mother of Jesus was Mary, the daughter of Imran.
Muslims Love Jesus too!
Christians often talk about developing a relationship with Christ and accepting him into their lives. They assert that Jesus is much more than a man and died on the cross to free mankind from the original sin. Christians speak of Jesus with love and respect, and it is obvious he holds a special place in their lives and hearts. But what about Muslims; what do they think about Jesus and what place does Jesus Christ hold in Islam?
Someone unfamiliar with Islam may be surprised to learn that Muslims love Jesus too. A Muslim will not speak the name of Jesus without respectfully adding the words “may peace be upon him”. In Islam, Jesus is a loved and esteemed man, a Prophet and Messenger calling his people to the worship of the One True God.
Muslims and Christians share some very similar beliefs about Jesus. Both believe that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and both believe that Jesus was the Messiah sent to the people of Israel. Both also believe that Jesus will return to earth in the last days. However in one major detail they are worlds apart. Muslims believe with certainty that Jesus is not God, he is not the son of God and he is not part of a Trinity of God.
In the Quran, God spoke directly to Christians when He said:
“O people of the Scripture! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, nor say of God aught but the truth. The Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, was a Messenger of God and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary and a spirit created by Him; so believe in God and His Messengers. Say not: ‘Trinity!’ Cease; it is better for you! For God is One God, glory is to Him, Far Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth. And God is All Sufficient as a Disposer of affairs.” (Quran 4:171)
Just as Islam categorically denies that Jesus was God, it also rejects the notion that mankind is born tainted by any form of original sin. The Quran tells us that it is not possible for one person to bear the sins of another and that we are all responsible, before God, for our own actions. “And no bearer of burdens shall bear another’s burden.” (Quran 35:18) However, God, in His infinite Mercy and Wisdom has not abandoned mankind to their own devices. He has sent guidance and laws that reveal how to worship and live according to His commands. Muslims are required to believe in, and love all of the Prophets; to reject one is to reject the creed of Islam. Jesus was but one in this long line of Prophets and Messengers, calling the people to worship One God. He came specifically to the People of Israel, who had at that time gone astray from the straight path of God. Jesus said:
“And I have come confirming that which was before me of the Torah, and to make lawful to you part of what was forbidden to you, and I have come to you with a proof from your Lord. So fear God and obey me. Truly! God is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. This is the Straight Path.” (Quran 3:50-51)
Muslims love and admire Jesus. However, we understand him and his role in our lives according to the Quran and the narrations and sayings of the Prophet Muhammad. Three chapters of the Quran feature the life of Jesus, his mother Mary and their family; each reveals details not found in the Bible.
The Prophet Mohammad spoke of Jesus many times, once describing him as his brother.
“I am the nearest of all the people to the son of Mary, and all the prophets are paternal brothers, and there has been no prophet between me and him (i.e. Jesus).” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
Let us follow the story of Jesus through Islamic sources and come to understand how and why his place in Islam is of such significance.
The First Miracle
The Quran informs us that Mary, the daughter of Imran, was an unmarried, chaste and pious young woman devoted to the worship of God. One day while she was in seclusion, the Angel Gabriel came to Mary and informed her that she was to be the mother of Jesus. Her response was one of fear, shock, and dismay. God said:
“And We wish to appoint him as a sign to mankind and a mercy from Us, and it is a matter decreed.” (Quran 19:21)
Mary conceived Jesus, and when the time came for him to be born, she took herself away from her family and travelled towards Bethlehem. At the foot of a date palm tree Mary gave birth to her son Jesus.
When Mary had rested and recovered from the pain and fear involved in giving birth alone, she realised that she must return to her family. Mary was afraid and anxious as she wrapped the child and cradled him in her arms. How could she possibly explain his birth to her people? She heeded the words of God and made her way back to Jerusalem.
“Say: ‘Verily! I have vowed a fast unto the Most Gracious (God) so I shall not speak to any human being this day.’” Then she brought him (the baby) to her people, carrying him.” (Quran 19:26-27)
God knew that if Mary tried to offer explanations, her people would not believe her. So, in His wisdom, he told her not to speak. From the first moment Mary approached her people they started to accuse her, but she wisely followed God’s instructions and refused to respond. This shy, chaste woman merely pointed to the child in her arms.
The men and women surrounding Mary looked at her incredulously and demanded to know how they could possibly speak to a babe in arms. Then, by the permission of God, Jesus, son of Mary, still a babe, performed his first miracle. He spoke:
“Verily! I am a slave of God. He has given me the Scripture and made me a Prophet; and He has made me blessed wheresoever I be, and has enjoined on me prayer, and alms, as long as I live, and dutiful to my mother, and made me not arrogant, unblest. And peace be upon me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive!” (Quran 19:30-34)
Muslims believe Jesus was the slave of God and a Messenger sent to the Israelites of his time. He preformed miracles by the will and permission of God. The following words of Prophet Muhammad clearly summarise the importance of Jesus in Islam:
“Whoever bears witness that there is no god but God Alone, with no partner or associate, and that Muhammad is His slave and Messenger, and that Jesus is His slave and Messenger, a word which God bestowed upon Mary and a spirit created by Him, and that Heaven is real, and Hell is real, God will admit him through whichever of the eight gates of Heaven he wishes.” (Saheeh Bukhari and Saheeh Muslim)
The Message of Jesus
We have already established that Jesus, son of Mary, or as he is called by Muslims, Eissa ibn Maryam, performed his first miracle while cradled in Mary’s arms. By the permission of God he spoke, and his first words were “I am a slave of God,” (Quran 19:30). He did not say “I am God” or even “I am the son of God”. His first words established the foundation of his message, and his mission: to call the people back, to the pure worship of One God.
At the time of Jesus, the concept of One God was not new to the Children of Israel. The Torah had proclaimed “Hear O Israel, the Lord your God is One,” (Deuteronomy: 4). However, God’s revelations had been misinterpreted and abused, and hearts had become hardened. Jesus came to denounce the leaders of the Children of Israel, who had fallen into lives of materialism and luxury, and to uphold the law of Moses found in the Torah which they had even changed.
Jesus’ mission was to confirm the Torah, to make lawful things that were previously unlawful and to proclaim and reaffirm the belief in One Creator. Prophet Muhammad said:
“Every Prophet was sent to his nation exclusively, but I was sent to all mankind,” (Saheeh Buhw-hkhari).
Thus, Jesus was sent to the Israelites.
God says in Quran that He would teach Jesus the Torah, the Gospel and the Wisdom.
“And He will teach him the Book and the Wisdom, the Torah and the Injeel.” (Quran 3:48)
In order to effectively spread his message, Jesus understood the Torah, and he was provided with his own revelation from God – the Injeel, or Gospel. God also endowed Jesus with the ability to guide and influence his people with signs and miracles.
God supports all of His Messengers with miracles that are observable and make sense to the people the Messenger has been sent to guide. At the time of Jesus, the Israelites were very knowledgeable in the field of medicine. Consequently, the miracles Jesus performed (by the permission of God) were of this nature and included returning sight to the blind, healing lepers and raising the dead. God said:
“And you heal those born blind and the lepers by My leave. And behold! You bring forth the dead by My leave.” (Quran 5:10)
The Child Jesus
Neither the Quran nor the Bible refers to the boyhood of Jesus. We can imagine, however, that as a son in the family of Imran, he was a pious child devoted to learning and eager to influence the children and adults around him. After mentioning Jesus speaking in the cradle, the Quran immediately recounts the story of Jesus moulding the figure of a bird from clay. He blew into it and by God’s leave it became a bird.
“I design 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.” (Quran 3:49)
The Infancy Gospel of Thomas, one of a set of texts written by early Christians but not accepted into the tenet of the Old Testament, also refers to this story. It recounts in some detail the story of the young Jesus fashioning birds from clay and breathing life into them. Although fascinating, Muslims believe the message of Jesus only as it is recounted in the Quran and the narrations of Prophet Muhammad.
Muslims are required to believe in all the books revealed by God to mankind. However, the Bible, as it exists today, is not the Gospel that was revealed to Prophet Jesus. The words and wisdom of God given to Jesus have been lost, hidden, changed and distorted. The fate of the texts of the Apocrypha of which the Infancy Gospel of Thomas is one is testament to this. In 325AD, the Emperor Constantine attempted to unify the fractured Christian Church by calling a meeting of Bishops from all over the known world. This meeting became known as the Council of Nicaea, and its legacy was a doctrine of Trinity, previously inexistent, and the loss of somewhere between 270 and 4000 gospels. The council ordered the burning of all gospels not deemed worthy to be in the new Bible, and the Infancy Gospel of Thomas was one of them. However, copies of many Gospels survived, and, although not in the Bible, are valued for their historical significance.
The Quran Frees Us
Muslims believe that Jesus did indeed receive revelation from God, but he did not write down one single word, nor did he instruct his disciples to write it down. There is no need for a Muslim to try to prove or disprove the books of the Christians. The Quran frees us from the need to know if the Bible we have today contains the word of God, or the words of Jesus. God said:
“It is He Who has sent down the Book to you with truth, confirming what came before it.” (Quran 3:3)
“And We have sent down to you the Book in truth, confirming the Scripture that came before it and dominant over it. So judge among them by what God has revealed.” (Quran 5:48)
Anything beneficial for Muslims to know from the Torah or the Injeel is stated clearly in the Quran. Whatever good maybe found in the previous books is found now in the Quran. If the words of today’s New Testament agree with the words of the Quran, then these words probably form the part of Jesus’ message that did not become distorted or lost over time. The message of Jesus was the same message that all the Prophets of God taught to their people. The Lord your God is One, so worship Him alone. And God said in the Quran about the story of Jesus:
“Verily! This is the true narrative and, none has the right to be worshipped but God, the One and the Only True God, Who has neither a wife nor a son. And indeed, God is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.” (Quran 3:62)
Chapter 5 of the Quran is named Al Maidah (or The Table Spread with Food). It is one of three chapters in the Quran that deal extensively with the life of Jesus and his mother Mary. The other chapters are chapter 3 Aali Imran (The Family of Imran) and chapter 19, Maryam (Mary). Muslims love Jesus and honour his mother, but they do not worship them. The Quran, which Muslims believe to be the direct words of God, holds Jesus and his Mother Mary, and indeed their whole family – the family of Imran, in very high regard.
We know that Jesus lived amongst his people the Israelites for many years, calling them back to the worship of the One True God and performing miracles by the permission of God. Most of those around him rejected his call and failed to heed his message. However, Jesus had gathered around him a group of companions called Al Hawariyeen (the disciples of Jesus) in Arabic.
God said in the Quran:
“I (God) put in the hearts of Al-Hawariyeen to believe in Me and My Messenger, they said: ‘We believe. And bear witness that we are Muslims.’” (Quran 5:111)
The disciples referred to themselves as Muslims; how could this be when the religion of Islam would not be revealed for another 600 years? God must be referring to the general meaning of “Muslim”. A Muslim is anybody who submits to the One God and His obedience, and anybody whose allegiance and loyalty is to God and the believers above all else. The word Muslim and Islam come from the same Arabic root - sa la ma - and that is because peace and security (Salam) is inherent in one’s submission to God. Thus it can be understood that all the Prophets of God and their followers were Muslims.
A Table Spread with Food
Jesus’ disciples said to him:
“Jesus, son of Mary! Can your Lord send down to us a table spread (with food) from heaven?” (Quran 5:112)
Were they asking Jesus to perform a miracle? Did the disciples of Jesus who called them selves Muslim feel unsure about the ability of God to provide miracles at will? It is unlikely, as this would be an act of disbelief. The disciples of Jesus were not asking if it were possible, but rather if Jesus would call upon God at that specific time to provide them with food. However, Jesus may have thought otherwise, for he replied:
“Fear God, if you are indeed believers (Muslims).” (Quran 5:112)
When they saw Jesus’ reaction, his disciples tried to explain their words. Initially they said “We wish to eat thereof.”
They may have been very hungry and wanting God to satisfy their need. Asking God to provide us with sustenance is acceptable, for God is the Provider, the One from Whom all provision emanates. The disciples then went on to say, “and to satisfy our hearts.”
They meant that their faith would become even stronger if they saw a miracle with their own eyes, and this is confirmed by their closing statement. “And to know that you have indeed told us the truth and that we ourselves be its witnesses.”
Although mentioned last, being a witness to the truth and seeing the miracles that are its supporting evidence were the most important justifications for their request. The disciples were asking Prophet Jesus to perform this miracle by the leave of God so that they could be witnesses before all of mankind. The disciples wanted to spread the message of Jesus by proclaiming the miracles they witnessed with their own eyes.
“They said: ‘We wish to eat thereof and to satisfy our hearts, and to know that you have indeed told us the truth and that we ourselves be its witnesses.’ Jesus, son of Mary, said: ‘O God, our Lord! Send us from heaven a table spread (with food) that there may be for us - for the first and the last of us - a festival and a sign from You; and provide us sustenance, for You are the Best of sustainers.’” (Quran 5:113-114)
Jesus asked for the miracle. He prayed to God, asking that a table spread with food be sent down. Jesus also asked that it this be for all of them and that it be a festival. The Arabic word used by Quran is Eid, meaning a festival or celebration that reoccurs. Jesus wanted his disciples and those that came after them to remember the blessings of God and be thankful.
We have much to learn from the supplications made by the Prophets and other righteous believers. Jesus’ supplication was not just for a table spread with food, but for God to provide them with sustenance. He made it comprehensive because food is but a small part of the sustenance provided by the Best of Sustainers. Sustenance from God encompasses all the necessary requirements for life including, but not limited to, food, shelter, and knowledge. God replied:
“I am going to send it down unto you, but if any of you after that disbelieves, then I will punish him with a torment such as I have not inflicted on anyone among (all) the worlds of mankind and jinn.” (Quran 5:115)
Knowledge Equals Responsibility
The reason why God’s response was so absolute is that if one disbelieves after being provided with a sign or miracle from God, it is worse then disbelieving without seeing the miracle. You may question as to why. It is because once one has seen the miracle, one has first hand knowledge and understanding of the omnipotence of God. The more knowledge a person has, the more responsibility he has before God. When you have seen the signs, the obligation to believe and spread the message of God becomes greater. God was commanding Jesus’ disciples on receiving this table spread with food to be aware of the great responsibility that they had taken upon themselves.
The day of the table did become a feast day and celebration for the disciples and followers of Jesus, but, as time passed, the real meaning and essence of the miracle was lost. Eventually Jesus came to be worshipped as a god. On the Day of Resurrection, when all of mankind will stand before God, the disciples will bear the great responsibility of knowing the true message of Jesus. God will speak to Jesus directly and say:
“O Jesus, son of Mary! Did you say unto men: ‘Worship me and my mother as two gods besides God?’ He (Jesus) will say: Glory be to You! It was not for me to say what I had no right. Had I said such a thing, You would surely have known it. You know what is in my inner self though I do not know what is in Yours, truly, You, only You, are the All Knower of all that is hidden and unseen. Never did I say to them aught except what You (God) did command me to say: ‘Worship God, my Lord and your Lord.’” (Quran 5:116-117)
Those of us who have been blessed with this true message of Jesus, the same message spread by all of the Prophets including the last prophet, Muhammad, will also bear great responsibility on the Day of Resurrection.
Did Jesus Really Die?
The idea of Jesus dying on the cross is central to the Christian belief. It represents the conviction that Jesus died for the sins of mankind. The crucifixion of Jesus is a vital doctrine in Christianity; however Muslims reject it completely. Before describing what Muslims believe about Jesus’ crucifixion, it may be useful to understand the Islamic reaction to the notion of original sin.
When Adam and Eve ate from the forbidden tree in paradise, they were not tempted by a serpent. It was Satan who deceived and cajoled them, whereupon they exercised their free will and made an error in judgement. Eve does not bear the burden of this mistake alone. Together, Adam and Eve realised their disobedience, felt remorse and begged for God’s forgiveness. God, in his infinite mercy and wisdom, forgave them. Islam has no concept of original sin; each person bears responsibility for his own deeds.
“And no bearer of burdens shall bear another’s burden”. (Quran 35:18)
There is no need for God, a son of God, or even a Prophet of God to sacrifice himself for mankind’s sins in order to buy forgiveness. Islam refuses this view entirely. The foundation of Islam rests on knowing with certainty that nothing should we worshipped but God alone. Forgiveness emanates from the One True God; so, when a person seeks forgiveness, he must turn to God submissively with true remorse and beg forgiveness, promising not to repeat the sin. Then and only then will sins be forgiven.
In the light of Islam’s understanding of original sin and forgiveness, we can see that Islam teaches that Jesus did not come to atone for the sins of mankind; rather, his purpose was to reaffirm the message of the Prophets before him.
“.. None has the right to be worshipped but God, the One and the Only True God…” (Quran 3:62)
Muslims do not believe in the crucifixion of Jesus, nor do they believe that he died.
Jesus’ message was rejected by most of the Israelites as well as the Roman authorities. Those who believed formed a small band of followers around him, known as the disciples. The Israelites plotted and conspired against Jesus and formulated a plan to have him assassinated. He was to be executed in public, in a particularly gruesome manner, well known in the Roman Empire: crucifixion.
Crucifixion was considered a shameful way to die, and “citizens” of the Roman Empire were exempt from this punishment. It was designed to not only prolong the agony of death, but to mutilate the body. The Israelites planned this humiliating death for their Messiah – Jesus, the messenger of God. God in his infinite mercy prevented this abominable event by putting the resemblance of Jesus on somebody else and elevating Jesus alive, body and soul, to heaven. The Quran is silent about the exact details of just who this person was, but we know and believe with certainty that it was not Prophet Jesus.
Muslims believe that the Quran and the authentic narrations of Prophet Muhammad contain all the knowledge mankind needs in order to worship and live according to God’s commandments. Therefore, if small details are not explained, it is because God in His infinite wisdom has judged these details to be of no benefit to us. The Quran explains, in God’s own words, the conspiracy against Jesus and His plan to outwit the Israelites and raise Jesus to heaven.
“And they plotted to kill Jesus and God planned too. And God is the Best of the planners.” (Quran 3:54)
“And because of their boasting, "We killed Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of God." But they killed him not, nor crucified him, but the resemblance of Jesus was put over another man, and those who differ therein are full of doubts. They have no (certain) knowledge; they follow nothing but conjecture. For surely, they killed him not. But God raised him (Jesus) up unto Himself. And God is Ever All-Powerful, All-Wise.” (Quran 4:157-158)
Jesus Did Not Die
The Israelites and the Roman authorities were not able to harm Jesus. God says clearly that He took Jesus up to Himself and cleared him of the false statements made in Jesus’ name.
“O Jesus! I will take you and raise you to Myself and clear you of the forged statement that Jesus is God’s son.” (Quran 3:55)
In the previous verse, when God said He “will take” Jesus, he uses the word mutawaffeeka. Without a clear understanding of the richness of the Arabic language, and knowledge of the levels of meaning in many words, it may be possible to misunderstand God’s meaning. In the Arabic language today the word mutawaffeeka is sometimes used to denote death, or even sleep. In this verse of Quran, however, the original meaning is used and the comprehensiveness of the word denotes that God raised Jesus to himself, completely. Thus, he was alive at his ascension, body and soul, without any injury or defect.
Muslims believe Jesus is not dead, and that he will return to this world in the last days before the Day of Judgement. Prophet Mohammad said to his companions:
“How will you be when the son of Mary, Jesus descends amongst you and he will judge people by the Law of the Quran and not by the law of Gospel.” (Saheeh Al-Bukhari)
God reminds us in the Quran that the Day of Judgement is a Day that we cannot avoid and cautions us that the descent of Jesus is a sign of its nearness.
“And he, Jesus, son of Mary shall be a known sign for the Hour. Therefore have no doubt concerning it. And follow Me! This is the Straight Path.” (Quran 43:61)
Therefore, the Islamic belief about Jesus’ crucifixion and death is clear. There was a plot to crucify Jesus but it did not succeed; Jesus did not die, but ascended to heaven. In the last days leading up to the Day of Judgement, Jesus will return to this world and continue his message.
The Story of Jesus and Mary in the Holy Quran
The Birth of Mary
“Indeed God chose Adam, Noah, the family of Abraham and the family of Imran over the worlds. An offspring, like one another (in righteousness). And God is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (And mention) when the wife of Imran said, ‘O my Lord, I have vowed to You what is in my womb, to be dedicated (to Your service), so accept this from me. Indeed, You are All-Hearing, All-Knowing.’ Then when she delivered her (Mary), she said, ‘O my Lord, I have delivered a female,’ and God knew best what she delivered, ‘And the male is not like the female, and I have named her Mary, and I seek refuge with You for her and for her children from Satan, the expelled (from the mercy of God).’” (Quran 3:33-36)
The Childhood of Mary
“So her Lord fully accepted her, and gave her a good upbringing, and put her under the care of Zechariah. Every time Zechariah entered upon her in the prayer room, he found her supplied with food. He said, ‘O Mary, where do you get this from?’ She said, ‘This is from God. Indeed, God provides for whom He wills, without limit.’” (Quran 3:37)
Mary, the Devout
“And (mention) when the angels said, ‘O Mary, indeed God has chosen you, purified you, and chosen you above the women of the worlds.’ ‘O Mary, be devoutly obedient to your Lord and prostrate and bow down along those who bow down (in prayer).’ This is a part of the news of the unseen, which We reveal to you (O Muhammad). You were not with them when they cast lots with their pens to (decide) which of them should take care of Mary, nor were you with them when they disputed.” (Quran 3:42-44)
The Good news of a new-born child
“(And mention) when the angels said, ‘O Mary, indeed God gives you the good news of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and in the Hereafter, and of those who are near to God.’ ‘He will speak to the people in the cradle, and in old age, and he will be of the righteous.’ She said, ‘My Lord, how can I have a son when no man has touched me.’ He said, ‘So (it will be,) for God creates what He wants. When He decides something, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is. And He will teach him the Book and wisdom and the Torah and the Gospel. And (will make him) a messenger to the Children of Israel (saying), ‘Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. I make for you out of clay the likeness of a bird, then breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by the permission of God. And I heal the blind and the leper, and I bring the dead to life by the permission of God. And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Surely, there is a sign for you in that, if you are believers. And (I have come) confirming the Torah that was (revealed) before me, and to allow you some of what was forbidden to you. And I have come to you with a proof from your Lord, so fear God and obey me. Indeed, God is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. This is the straight path.” (Quran 3:45-51)
“And mention in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to an eastern place. And she placed a screen to seclude herself from them. Then We sent to her Our angel (Gabriel), and he took the form of a well-created man before her. She said, “Indeed I seek refuge with the Most Merciful from you, if you do fear God.” (The angel) said, ‘I am only the messenger of your Lord to give to you (the news of) a pure boy.’ She said, ‘How can I have a son, when no man has touched me (in marriage), and I am not a prostitute?’ He said, So your Lord said, ‘It is easy for Me. And We will make him a sign to people and a mercy from Us. And it is a matter (already) decided.’” (Quran 19:16-21)
The Immaculate Conception
“And she who guarded her chastity, so We breathed (a spirit) into her through Our angel, and We made her and her son (Jesus) a sign for the worlds.” (Quran 21:91)
The Birth of Jesus
“So she conceived him, and she withdrew with him to a remote place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree. She said, ‘I wish I had died before this, and had been long forgotten. [Mary was worried that people would think badly of her as she was not married.] Then (baby Jesus) called her from below her, saying, ‘Don’t be sad. Your Lord has provided a stream under you.’ Shake the trunk of the palm tree towards you, and it will drop on you fresh ripe dates. So eat and drink and be happy. And if you see any human, then say, ‘Indeed I have vowed a fast to the Most Merciful so I will not speak to any human today.’ Then she carried him and brought him to her people. They said, ‘O Mary, indeed you have done a great evil.’ ‘O sister of Aaron, your father was not an evil man, and your mother was not a fornicator.’ So she pointed to him. They said, ‘How can we speak to a child in the cradle?’ (Jesus) said, ‘Indeed, I am a slave of God. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet. And He has made me blessed wherever I am, and has commanded me to me pray and give charity as long as I remain alive. And (has made) me kind to my mother, and did not make me arrogant or miserable. And peace be upon me the day I was born, and the day I will die, and the day I will be raised alive.’” (Quran 19:22-33)
“Indeed, Jesus is like Adam in front of God. He created him from dust, then said to him, ‘Be,’ and he was.” (Quran 3:59)
“And We made the son of Mary and his mother a sign, And We gave them refuge and rest on a high ground with flowing water.” (Quran 23:50)
The Excellence of Mary
“And God gives as an example for those who believe, the wife of Pharaoh, when she said, ‘My Lord, build for me a home near You in paradise, and save me from Pharaoh and his deeds, and save me from the wrongdoing people.’ And (the example of) Mary, the daughter of Imran, who guarded her chastity, so We blew (the spirit of Jesus) into her through Our angel (Gabriel). And she believed in the words of her Lord, and His scriptures, and she was of the devout ones.” (Quran 66:11-12)
JesusJesus the Prophet
“Say, ‘We believe in God and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and to the prophet-descendants (of Jacob), and what has been given to Moses and Jesus, and what has been given to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims (in submission) to Him.’” (Quran 2:136)
“Indeed, We have revealed to you (O Muhammad) as We revealed to Noah and the prophets after him. And We revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the prophet-descendants (of Jacob), Jesus, Job, Jonah, Aaron, and Solomon, and We gave the book to David.” (Quran 4:163)
“The Messiah son of Mary was only a messenger (like other) messengers that had passed away before him. And his mother was a strong believer. They both used to eat food. Look how We make the proofs clear to them, then look how they (disbelievers) turn away.” (Quran 5:75)
“He (Jesus) was only a servant whom We have favored, and We made him an example to the Children of Israel.” (Quran 43:59)
The Message of Jesus
“And in their (the prophets’) footsteps, We sent Jesus the son of Mary, affirming the Torah that had come before him. And We gave him the Gospel, in it was guidance and light, affirming the Torah that had come before it, and a guidance and an admonition for the pious.” (Quran 5:46)
“O people of the Scripture, do not go to extremes in your religion, and do not say about God except the truth. The Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, is only a messenger from God and a word from Him (“Be” and it is), which He sent to Mary, and a soul from Him. So, believe in God and His messengers, and do not say, “Three.” Stop, it is better for you. Indeed, God is one; exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And God is sufficient as a Determiner of all affairs. Never would the Messiah look down upon being a worshipper of God, nor would the angels who are close (to God). And whoever looks down upon the worship of God and is arrogant, then He will gather them to Himself all together.” (Quran 4:171-172)
“This is Jesus, the son of Mary. And this is the statement of truth, which they doubt. It is not possible for God to take a son. Far is He above this! When He decides something, He just says to it, “Be,” and it is. (Jesus said), ‘And indeed God is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. That is a straight path.’ But the sects disagreed (over the straight path), so woe to the disbelievers from meeting a horrible Day.” (Quran 19:34-37)
“And when Jesus came with clear proofs, he said, ‘I have come to you with prophethood, and to make clear to you some of what you disagree about, so fear God and obey me. Indeed, God is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. This is a straight path.’ But the groups disagreed among themselves (about the message of Jesus), so woe to those who disbelieved from the punishment of a painful Day.” (Quran 43:63-65)
“And (remember) when Jesus, son of Mary, said, “O Children of Israel, I am the messenger of God to you confirming the Torah that came before me, and bringing good news of a messenger that will come after me, whose his name will be Ahmed. But when he came to them with clear proofs, they said, “This is clear magic.” (Quran 61:6)
The Miracles of Jesus
“So she pointed to him. They said, ‘How can we speak to a child in the cradle?’ (Jesus) said, ‘Indeed, I am a servant of God. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet. And He has made me blessed wherever I am, and has commanded me to me pray and give charity as long as I remain alive. And (has made) me kind to my mother, and did not make me arrogant or miserable. And peace be upon me the day I was born, and the day I will die, and the day I will be raised alive.’” (Quran 19:29-33)
The Table Spread (of food) from Heaven by God’s Permission
“(And) when the disciples said, ‘O Jesus, son of Mary, will your Lord send down to us a table spread (with food) from heaven?’ He said, ‘Fear God, if you are indeed believers.’ They said, ‘We wish to eat from it and have our hearts be reassured, and to know that you have indeed told us the truth and that we be witnesses to it.’ Jesus the son of Mary said, ‘O God, our Lord, send us from heaven a table spread (with food) to be for us a festival for the first of us and the last of us and a sign from You. And provide for us, You are the Best of providers.’ God said, ‘I am going to send it down to you, but if any of you after that disbelieves, then I will punish him with a punishment such as I will not put on anyone else.’” (Quran 5:112-115)
Jesus and His Disciples
“O you who believe, champion God’s (religion), like when Jesus son of Mary said to the disciples, ‘Who will champion God’s (religion) with me?’ The disciples said, ‘We are the champions of God’s (religion).’ Then a group of the Children of Israel believed and a group disbelieved. So We supported those who believed against their enemy, and they became victorious.” (Quran 61:14)
“And when I inspired the disciples to believe in Me and My messenger, so they said, ‘We believe, and bear witness that we are Muslims (in submission to God).’” (Quran 5:111)
“Then We sent after them Our messengers, and We sent Jesus son of Mary, and gave him the Gospel. And We put in the hearts of those who followed him compassion and mercy. But We did not command monasticism, rather they invented it for themselves to please God with it, yet they did not observe it as it should be observed. So We gave those who believed among them their reward, but many of them are disobedient.” O you who believe, fear God and believe in His messenger, He will then give you a double portion of His mercy, and give you light by which you can walk, and He will forgive you. And God is Most Forgiving, Most Merciful. (This We say) so that the people of the Scripture may know that they have no control over God’s favor, and that (His) favor is in His Hand to give it to whomever He wills. And God is the Owner of great bounty.” (Quran 57:27-29)
The Passion of Christ
“Then when Jesus felt their (persistence in) disbelief, he said, ‘Who will champion with me God’s (cause)?’ The disciples said, ‘We are the champions (of the cause) of God. We believe in God, and be a witness that we are Muslims (submitting to Him). Our Lord, we have believed in what You have revealed, and we have followed the messenger, so write us down among the witnesses (to the truth).’ And they (who disbelieved) plotted, and God planned. And God is the best of the planners. When God said, ‘O Jesus, I will take you and raise you up to Me and clear you of those who disbelieve, and I will make those who follow you superior to those who disbelieve till the Day of Resurrection. Then you will all return to Me, and I will judge between you in the matters you used to disagree in.’” (Quran 3:52-55)
“And for of their saying, ‘We have killed the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the messenger of God.’ But they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but it was made to look like him to them. And those who disagree over him are in doubt (of killing) him, they have no knowledge of it except the following of guesswork, and they did not kill him for certain. But God raised him up to Himself. And God is All-Powerful, All-Wise.” (Quran 4:157-158)
The Followers of Jesus
“Then whoever argues with you about him (Jesus) after the knowledge that has come to you, (then) say, ‘Come and let us call our sons and your sons, our women and your women, ourselves and yourselves, then we all pray for the curse of God to fall on those who lie.’ Indeed, this is the true story. And there is no deity that deserves to be worshipped except God. And indeed, God is the All-Mighty, the All-Wise. But if they turn away (from accepting the truth), then indeed, God is aware of the corrupters. Say, ‘O people of the Scripture: Come to a just statement between us and you, that we worship none but God, and that we associate no partners with Him, and that none of us takes others as lords besides God.’ But if they turn away, then say, ‘Be witnesses that we are Muslims (submitting to Him).’” (Quran 3:61-64)
“Surely, they have disbelieved those who say that God is the Christ, son of Mary. Say, ‘Who then has the least power against God if He were to destroy the Christ son of Mary, his mother, and everyone on earth?’ And God has supreme authority over the heavens and the earth, and whatever is between them. He creates what He wills, and God is Able to do all things.” And the Jews and the Christians say, ‘We are the children of God and His loved ones.’ Say, ‘Why then does He punish you for your sins?’ Rather, you are only human beings from among those He has created. He forgives whom He wills, and He punishes whom He wills. And God has supreme authority over the heavens and the earth, and whatever is between them, and to Him is the return (of all).” (Quran 5:17-18)
“Surely, they have disbelieved who say, ‘God is the Messiah Jesus, son of Mary.’ But the Messiah said, ‘O Children of Israel, worship God, my Lord and your Lord. Indeed, whoever sets up partners (in worship) with God, then God has forbidden him Paradise, and the Fire will be his home. And there is none to help the wrongdoers.’ Surely, disbelievers are those who say, ‘God is the third of three.’ But there is no god (that deserves to be worshipped) except One God. And if they do not stop what they are saying, the disbelievers among them will suffer a painful punishment. Will they not repent to God and seek His forgiveness? For God is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” (Quran 5:72-74)
“And the Jews say, ‘Ezra is the son of God,’ and the Christians say, ‘The Messiah is the son of God.’ That is the fabrication of their mouths. They are imitating the claims of the disbelievers of before. May God destroy them, how they turn away (from the truth). They have taken their religious scholars and their monks as lords instead of God (by disobeying God and obeying them), and (they also have taken as their Lord) the Messiah, son of Mary. But they were commanded to worship only one God, none has the right to be worshipped except Him. Exalted is He above what they associate (with Him).” (Quran 9:30-31)
“O you who believe, indeed many religious scholars and monks eat away people’s wealth unjustly, and turn (others) away from the way to God. And those who treasure gold and silver, and do not spend it in the Way of God, then give them the news of a painful punishment.” (Quran 9:34)
The Second Coming
“And there is not one of the people of the Scripture but will believe in him before his death. And on the Day of Resurrection, he will be a witness against them.” (Quran 4:159)
“And he (Jesus) is a sign of (the coming of) the Hour, so do not doubt it. And follow Me, this is a straight path (leading to God and His paradise).” (Quran 43:61)
Jesus on the Day of Resurrection
“‘When God will say,’ O Jesus, son of Mary, remember My favor upon you and upon your mother when I supported you with the Pure Spirit (Gabriel) and you spoke to people in the cradle and in old age; and when I taught you the Book, wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel; and when you made out of clay the likeness of a bird, by My permission, then you breathed into it, and it became a bird by My permission, and you healed the blind and the leper by My permission, and when you brought the dead to life by My permission; and when I restrained the Children of Israel from (killing) you when you came to them with clear proofs, but the disbelievers among them said, ‘This is nothing but plain magic.’” (Quran 5:110)
“And God will say (on the Day of Resurrection), ‘O Jesus, son of Mary, did you say to people, ‘Worship me and my mother instead of God?’’ He will say, ‘Glory be to You! It is not for me to say what I have no right (to say). If I had said it, You would have known it. You know what is (hidden) in myself and I do not know what is in Yours. Indeed, You are the Knower of the unseen.’] I did not tell them except what You commanded me, ‘Worship God, my Lord and your Lord.’ And I was a witness over them while I was among them, but when You took me up, You were the Watcher over them, and You are a Witness to all things. If You punish them, they are Your servants, and if You forgive them, indeed You are the All-Mighty, the All-Wise.”God will say, ‘This is the Day when the truth will benefit those who were truthful. To them belong gardens with rivers running through it (in Paradise), where they will stay forever. God is pleased with them and they are pleased with Him. That is the great success.’ To God belongs the heavens and the earth and whatever is within them, and He is Able to do all.” (Quran 5:116-120)