Jesus in the Koran

Muslims believe Jesus is a prophet like Moses and Muhammad. According to Islamic teachings, he is not God or the son of God, nor does he have any blood relation to God. However, there is no doubt in the Koran that Jesus is one of the most prominent prophets sent by Allah. The Koran confirms that Jesus was conceived miraculously and that his mother, Mary, carried him as a virgin. Jesus lived a life full of miracles to support his message, and according to the Koran, he never died on the cross, as Allah would not have allowed his prophet to suffer such a terrible death.

Mary's Pregnancy

Mary, known as Mariam in the Koran, has the honor of a Surah named after her. Surah Mariam contains ninety-eight verses, a decent portion of them narrating her story. The Virgin Mary is the mother of Jesus, a fact accepted by both Muslims and Christians. Mary was raised a devout Jewess. Prior to her pregnancy, Mary sought a quiet place far from her people: “And make mention of Mary in the Scripture, when she had withdrawn from her people to a chamber looking East, and had chosen seclusion from them” (19:16–17).

The birth and life of Mary, mother of Jesus, is recorded in the Koran. She was the daughter of the Imran family, which along with the families of Adam, Noah, and Abraham, is preferred by Allah above all families, as stated in the Koran. Mary's mother wanted a son to devote to Allah, but when a girl was born, she didn't hesitate to off er her to Allah.

Then the angels came to Mary, telling her: “O Mary! Allah has chosen you and made you pure, and has preferred you above (all) the women of creation” (3:42). Allah had chosen her to be the mother of the only unconceived child in the world. Naturally, Mary was dismayed and could not comprehend how she would be pregnant without having been with a man. Her words are quoted in the Koran: “[S]he said: How can I have a son when no human has touched me, neither have I been unchaste?” (19:20).

An angel answered her, saying, “Allah creates what He will. If He decrees a thing, He says unto it only: Be! And it is” (3:47). According to the Koran, all Allah did was say, “Be!” And that was enough to create a baby boy inside Mary. The angels also informed Mary of the child's name and his special role: “[T]he Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, illustrious in the world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (unto Allah)” (3:45). They told her that Jesus would speak in his cradle, be a messenger for the children of Israel, and be inspired with knowledge of the Gospel and Torah.

The Birth of Jesus

Mary was pregnant, a virgin, and alone. When the time came, Mary sought the shade of a palm tree to deliver the baby. So intense was her pain that she wished she'd died before living that day: “[S]he said: Oh, would that I had died before this and had become a thing of naught, forgotten!” (19:23).

In several parts of the Koran, Allah says that he sent the holy spirit to Mary to deliver the news of her pregnancy. The Koran explains that this holy spirit is Angel Gabriel, who is the highest-ranking angel. Non-Muslims sometimes misinterpret the name, thinking it is the same spirit of God that the Bible talks about.

After the birth, Mary was weak and exhausted. Miraculously, her newborn baby tried to comfort her: “The (one) cried unto her from below her, saying: Grieve not! Your Lord has placed a rivulet beneath you; and shake the trunk of the palm tree toward you. That will cause ripe dates to fall upon you. So eat and drink and be consoled” (19:24–26). The angels’ prophecy had come true, and the baby had spoken in his cradle.

When she regained her strength, Mary took the baby and returned to her people. They were not pleased to see her after so long, baby in her arms, and no husband. Apparently, the people thought Mary had an illegitimate relationship with a man—an act not readily tolerated by the Jewish people of the time. Mary didn't utter a word in her own defense, but pointed to her son instead. The Koran narrates: “He spoke: Lo! I am the slave of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and has appointed me a prophet, and has made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and has enjoined upon me prayer and alms giving so long as I remain alive, and (has made me) dutiful toward her who bore me, and has not made me arrogant, undisciplined. Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive!” (19:29–33).

A Hadith states that Jesus was one of 124,000 prophets sent to humankind before Muhammad. The Koran only mentions a few (35) and leaves the total number of prophets indefinite, but assures that every nation, tribe, or community of people had been sent a messenger who preached for the belief in Allah.

The Life of Jesus

The childhood and early manhood of Jesus are not mentioned in the Koran. However, his message is confirmed in the following verse: “And (I come) confirming that which was before me of the Torah, and to make lawful some of that which was forbidden unto you. I come unto you with a sign from your Lord, so keep your duty to Allah and obey me” (3:50). Jesus’ message was clear as he continued: “Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. That is the straight path” (3:51).

The people's reaction to the message of Jesus was like any other through history to any prophet: some accepted, but most rejected.

During his life, Jesus performed a number of miracles made possible by Allah's will. These miracles are described in the Koran in more than one Surah. Following every description is a confirmation that Allah permitted the performance of these miracles to convince the people of Jesus’ divine message.

The Crucifixion

When rivalry began to sizzle against Jesus, a plot was devised to kill him. Those who disbelieved plotted to crucify him on the cross. The prelude to the crucifixion is not described in the Koran, and neither is the event itself. But Allah knew that the people were plotting to kill his prophet: “And they (the disbelievers) schemed, and Allah schemed (against them), and Allah is the best of schemers” (3:54). Just before they went to get Jesus, Allah raised him up to the Heavens and, as Muslims believe, replaced him with a look-alike. The look-alike was seized and crucified, while Jesus was safe in the Heavens with Allah.

The Koran narrates this story in the following verses: “And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, Allah's messenger. They slew him not nor crucified, but it appeared so unto them” (4:157). Jesus was not crucified because he ascended, alive and healthy, to the Heavens: “(And remember) when Allah said: O Jesus! I am gathering you and causing you to ascend to Me, and am cleansing you of those who disbelieve and am setting those who follow you above those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection” (3:55).

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