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Jesus of the Koran

Andrew DeBerry | Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Pop quiz: How is Jesus depicted in the Quran?(a) He is not mentioned at all.(b) He is praised as a high prophet.(c) He is criticized and Muhammad is lauded instead as being divine.(d) He is hailed as the Son of God.While many may think that the Quran bears no commonalities with Christianity and the Bible, we may be surprised to learn that the Quran not only discusses Jesus many times but also gives him a role of high honor, though only as a prophet. Who is the Islamic Jesus, and how are the Quran and the Bible related?Jesus is one in a succession of highly revered prophets, including Abraham and Moses, in the Quran. The Quran, which is broken into 114 Surahs (chapters) and verses, describes Jesus‚ miracles (5:110) and his special relationship as “the word” and “the spirit of God” (4:171). Muslims believe Christ was taken alive into heaven and will return at Judgement Day (4:159).The Quran also tells how the Lord silenced Zechariah as a sign that his wife would have a son even in their old age (19:2). The son’s name in the Quran is Yahya; in the Gospel it is John the Baptist (Luke 1:5).Maryam (Mary) also has a special role in Islam. The Nineteenth Surah bears her name and describes how the Angel Gabriel announced her virgin birth of Jesus (19:16).While there are some initially striking similarities between the Quran and the Bible, they are followed by some stark differences. The main difference between Christianity and Islam is the belief in Jesus’ divinity. Islamic belief is that God would never take a son (19;35). The Quran states explicitly that Jesus was not the Son of God and calls against the idea of Trinity (4:171). Also significant is the Quranic claim that Jesus was not crucified and that it was only made to appear so (4:157).The Quran also says that during his birth, Jesus talked to Mary to encourage her through the labor pains and told her to shake a palm tree to get dates for eating (19:22).Muslims believe that God’s word was given intact to Jesus and the other prophets but that the Bible has been corrupted over time, whereas the Quran has remained the true word of God.The Quran itself was revealed through Muhammad. He was known as a very kind man who did not practice idolatry like those in his city of Mecca. When reflecting one night in a cave at the age of 30, the Angel Gabriel appeared and commanded Muhammad, who was illiterate, to speak, saying “Recite in the name of your Lord who created mankind out of a mere bloodclot” (96:1). This was the first of many verses that were revealed to Muhammad until his death at age 63 in 632.The Quran actually seldom mentions Muhammad. Most knowledge about Muhammad has been passed through Hadith, traditions or sayings of Muhammad that are received as religious law and moral guidance. Muhammad is not attributed with divinity but is regarded as the seal of prophets, the last one to come until Resurrection Day (33:40).In this discussion, one must be sure to include Judaism. Judaism, Christianity and Islam are regarded together as “the religions of the book.” Despite their differences, the three faiths share many common virtues.Followers are to extend this compassion to others. The 106th Surah directs believers to show neighborly charity, to care for the needy, and to feed the hungry.Islam places a special exclusivity on God, praising his oneness and power, and declaring His worthiness of believers and unhindered, peaceful submission. Believers are to have an intimate relationship with God in their heart.The Quran continuously praises God’s compassion: “[with your spouses] you may find serenity and dwell in tranquility, and He has set love and mercy between your hearts. Surely in this are signs for people who think and contemplate” (30:21). The 114 Surahs each open with, “In the name of God, the merciful, the compassionate.”The recent academic convocation raised intellectual discussion about Middle Eastern and U.S. cultures. Our understanding of Islam is particularly key as the world’s second-largest faith with 1.5 billion, or 19.6 percent, of the world’s population as followers. Search through an online Quran at http://www.princeton.edu./ %7Ehumcomp/qurans.html.Samuel Huntington, author of “The Clash of Civilizations?”, suggests that conflict with the Middle East will end only when we bring our political interactions to the personal, human level. Our fear and ignorance cannot extinguish the hope to be found in building relationships. Professor Joseph Amar noted that there are many cultures where Muslims and Christians have lived together in harmony. Ours should be no exception.Class of 2007, you in particular are in a special position to change our times. As a whole, your class is more knowledgeable about these issues than any in our school’s history.Our generation is inheriting a world where globalization must be renewed by the touch of humanity. We must be daring enough in our faith to embrace relationships in a new, transforming way and to find the God that only others can show us.

Andrew DeBerry is a fifth-year senior studying aerospace engineering and minoring in Middle Eastern Studies. He can be reached at adeberry@nd.edu. The views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.