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Massive Online Encyclopedia of Islam : JESUS, ISA, SON OF MARY

Gk: Iesous (Click to ViewClick to ViewClick to ViewClick to ViewClick to ViewClick to View), equivalent to Joshua, Hebrew Yehoshua (Click to ViewClick to ViewClick to ViewClick to ViewClick to View), meaning "God is Salvation" or "God saves".

see also Word of God, a title for Jesus.

Jesus is perhaps the most controversial character in Islam, and thus there is a tremendous amount of Islamic literature about Jesus. In general, while Muslims affirm that Jesus performed miracles and has special attributes that other prophets did not have, Muslims still believe that Jesus was no more than a prophet. Muslims believe that He ranks above other prophets, but below the status of Muhammad, despite Jesus having attributes that even Muhammad did not have.

What is Jesus' Islamic Name? Isa, Esau or Yesu?

Muslims call Jesus "Isa". There have been various attempts to explain this rather bizzare connection. Ahmad Deedat wrote:

"The Holy Quran refers to Jesus as "Eesa", and this name is used more times than any other title, because this was his "Christian" name. Actually, his proper name was "Eesa" (Arabic), or "Esau" (Hebrew); classical "Yeheshua", which the Christian nations of the West Latinised as Jesus. Neither the "J" nor the second "s" in the name Jesus is to be found in the original tongue - they are not found in the Semitic language.

The word is very simply - "E S A U" - a very common Jewish name, used more than sixty times in the very first booklet alone of the Bible, in the part called "Genesis". There was at least one "Jesus" sitting on the "bench" at the trial of Jesus before the Sanhedrin. Josephus the Jewish historian mentions some twenty five Jesus' in his "Book of Antiquities". The New Testament speaks of "Bar-Jesus" - a magician and a sorcerer, a false prophet (Act 13:6); and also "Jesus-Justus" - a Christian missionary, a contemporary of Paul (Colossians 4:11). These are distinct from Jesus the son of Mary. Transforming "Esau" to (J)esu(s) - Jesus - makes it unique. This unique (?) name has gone out of currency among the Jews and the Christians from the 2nd century after Christ. Among the Jews, because it came to be the proper name of their God(?) - their God incarnate. The Muslim will not hesitate to name his son - "Eesa" - because it is an honoured name, the name of a righteous servant of the Lord." (Ahmad Deedat, Christ in Islam, Chapter 2)

Esau is Jacob's older twin brother, and his name in Hebrew means "hairy", because he was a man of much hair. He was also called Edom, which means "red", because he also looked red (Genesis 25:25). Jesus' name, however, means "God saves".

Deedat attempted to turn Esau into Jesus by stripping away the letters "J" and "s". In other words, he was playing on the spelling Esau <--> esu, a difference of only one letter. The reader, however, should be able to spot the fatal mistake of playing with English spelling rather than Hebrew. Secondly, Deedat completely forgot that he should be concentrating on the etymological connection between "Esau" and "Yehoshua", i.e., between "hairy" or "red" with "God saves". Given the difference in meaning between these two Hebrew names, the connection is not only less than tenuous, but downright mischievous. It is quite astonishing that Deedat should simply disregard the name Joshua, which is the Hebrew equivalent of Jesus.

Deedat was also very mischievous when he cites the example of Esau appearing more than 60 times (in Genesis) in the Bible to show that it was a common Jewish name. What Deedat failed to reveal to his readers is that every of the 81 occurrences in the Bible refers to Esau himself or to his descendents (as a nation). Deedat seems to think that the more times the same person is mentioned, there must mean more of such persons around. In fact, no other person was called Esau in the Bible! If we apply that same logic, Muhammad must have been an extremely common name, more common than other, since it appears so many times in the Qur'an.

By the way, can someone explain what Deedat meant by "(The name Jesus had gone out of currency). Among the Jews, because it came to be the proper name of their God(?) - their God incarnate"? How can a Jew do that? A slippage in his pen, perhaps?

A Muslim wrote over the internet that: "One explanation had it that Muhammad learned the name from unbelieving Jews in Medina. In their supposed hatred for the Christians, the Jews called Jesus Esau, the son of Isaac who lost his blessing to his brother Jacob (Gen. 27). Muhammad picked up the name without carrying with it the derogatory meaning the Jews intended. Jesus is mentioned 97 times in the Qur'an, 23 times [my note: or is it 25?] as Jesus son of Mary."

Such an attempt to smooth over the difficulty begs another question. Why should Muhammad use a name with such derogatory connotations, instead of his original name which has no such "historical" baggage. Muslims often alleged that Jews and Christians portray the prophets of God in a bad light (eg. by recording their sins in the Bible, which Muslims deny ever happened). In this case, however, not only did Muhammad failed to return the proper name to Jesus, he and all Muslims thereafter continued to give Jesus a name with derogatory connotations, and worse still, a name that bears no relation to Jesus at all, not even coming close in meaning.

The Conception of Jesus

This miraculous conception is recorded in the Bible simply as ``The angel answered, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."'' (Luke 1:35). No sexual connotation was involved whatsoever.

In Christianity, the Holy Spirit is the third person in the Godhead. The reader should be reminded that in Islam, the Holy Spirit does not necessarily refer to God, but instead refers to the angel Gabriel, who was supposed to have appeared to Muhammad. Thus, it is easy to understand how Muslims come to think that Christians believe that Jesus was conceived due to a union between Gabriel and Mary. The thinking reader will easily see that Christians will of course find such an assertion extremely offensive and blasphemous.

The Qur'anic passages dealing with this event are to be found in Maryam 19:19-21; at-Tahrim 66:12.

Al-Saddi's version of the miracle states the following:

``He took hold of her sleeve and breathed into her side, and it entered her breast and she conceived. Then Mary's sister, the wife of Zachariah, came to visit with and help her, and while she was assisting her she knew that Mary was pregnant and Mary mentioned her state to her.

The wife of Zachariah said, "I find the child in my womb worships that which is in yours."

Another account relates that the breathing was in her mouth and reached her womb and immediately she conceived.''

Note: As in many other cases, the Qur'an does not identify the wife of Zechariah by name, but the Bible states that the wife of Zechariah is Elizabeth. The Bible says that she is Mary's relative (see Luke 1:5-56), while Al-Saddi said that she is Mary's sister. The son of Zechariah is of course John the Baptist. What is most interesting is that Al-Saddi said that John the Baptist worshipped Jesus while in the womb.

Al-Baidawi commented on the miraculous birth of Jesus,

"That distinction sets Christ apart from other humans and messengers, because He was born without any human embrace or relationship."

This statement is rather significant in that it also meant that Jesus Christ was set apart from Muhammad and any other prophet.

Al Fakhr el Razi explained that "faultless" means first that Christ was without sin; second, that He grew in integrity, as it is said that He who has no sin is chaste and in the growing plant there is purity; and third, he was above reproach and pure. Even Muhammad was not sinless. See Muhammad for more details.

Death of Jesus

The death of Jesus is another very controversial topic in Islam.

According to Ibn Said, p. 244, Jesus lived 125 years:

... and there has been no prophet but he has lived half the life of the prophet preceding him. Jesus the son of Mary lived for one hundred and twenty five years, and this is the sixty second year of my life. He (prophet) died half the year after this.

However, no such evidence have been produced to support this theory.

The less than clear passages in the Qur'an dealing with the death of Jesus are Al-Imran 3:55; an-Nisa' 4:155-159; al-Ma'idah 5:110-117; Maryam 19:33. See also death of John (Maryam 19:15). The phrase "It appeared so to them" (shubbiha lahum in 4:157) is quite controversial:

``These verses are intended to be a rebuke to the Jews, and particularly to Muhammad's contemporaries in Medina for various acts of unbelief, and they only refer in passing to the story of the crucifixion. Within this context of an attack on the Jews for their opposition towards Muhammad as well as for other acts of unbelief, the reference to the crucifixion does no more than dispute the claim made by the Jews that they had disposed of the Christian Messiah and repudiated his claims to be an apostle of God by crucifying him.

In particular, the phrases 'they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him' do not necessarily mean that there was no crucifixion, but that, even if there was, it was God who was responsible for all that happened during the last hours of the Messiah's life and that the Jews had done whatever they did only by permission of God's will. A similar figure of speech occurs in al-Anfal 8:17 in which the Muslim's actions at the Battle of Badr are attributed to God and not to their own volition; they did in fact and kill, but only by God's permission and direction.

These verses, therefore, do not explicitly deny the Christian story of the crucifixion, for they refer primarily to Jewish claims against the Christians....'' (David Brown, The Cross of the Messiah, SPCK, 1969, pp. 31-32)

mutawaffi-ka used in this Qur'anic verse 'means to receive something as a whole and hence it could be used to indicate (i) To recieve an object or amount completely. (ii) To take one's soul at night during sleep. (iii) To take one's soul finally when a person has fully received the portion of his life' [Hasan, S: The Study of Al Quran: Lesson 14]

"In Al-Imran 3:55, the phrase ‘I am gathering thee’, and in al-Ma'idah 5:117, the phrase "when Thou tookest me" are forms of the same Arabic word tawaffa.

Both these verses refer to the return of Jesus to God at the end of his life, and the most straightforward interpretation of them is to suppose that they refer to a natural death of Jesus at the end of his earthly life. Tawaffa is often used in the Qur'an in the sense of bringing a soul to God at death, both when the subject of the verb is God (e.g., Al-Imran 3:193; Yunus 10:46), and when the subject is the angels (eg, an-Nahl 16:28; as-Sajdah).

The word tawaffa, however, was originally used of a person receiving the full payment of his due or his rights, and when used of God in the Qur'an refers to men being called to pay their accounting in his presence, either at death, or in sleep when the soul comes to God but is returned to the body for a further term of life on earth....

Thus the use of the word tawaffa in these two passages with reference to the Messiah, is ambiguous and its exact meaning must be determined by consideration of other verses in the Qur'an: it could mean that Jesus died a natural death, but it can also mean that he was taken to heaven without undergoing the experience of physical death." (David Brown, The Cross of the Messiah, SPCK, 1969, pp.29-30)

"I am gathering thee" in Arabic is Inni muta-waf-feeka which means death. Compare the similarity between what the Qur'an say was Jesus' words in Maryam 19:33 with John the Baptist's death in Maryam 19:15:

"Peace on him the day he was born, and the day he dieth and the day he shall be raised alive!" (Sura Maryam 19:15, Pickthall)

"Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive! (Sura Maryam 19:33, Pickthall)

Interestingly, no Muslim scholar contends that John the Baptist did not die, while they contend that Jesus did not die, despite the almost exact words in the Qur'an.

Al Muthanna says, quoting Abd Allah Ibn Salih, Muawiheh, and Ali Ibn Abbas, that Inni mutawaffeeka means "I cause you to die."

``It is significant that the early commentators were not agreed about the interpretation of these verses. It would appear that for several centuries there was considerable debate among Muslims about the crucifixion, and that many different answers were given by orthodox Muslims.'' (Colin Chapman, You Go and Do the Same, 1983, pp. 83)

In Sahih Bukhari, we have the following :

Narrated Ibn Abbas:
Allah's Apostle delivered a sermon and said, "O people! You will be gathered before Allah bare-footed, naked and not circumcised." Then (quoting Quran) he said:--

"As We began the first creation, We shall repeat it. A promise We have undertaken: Truly we shall do it.." (21.104)

The Prophet then said, "The first of the human beings to be dressed on the Day of Resurrection, will be Abraham. Lo! Some men from my followers will be brought and then (the angels) will drive them to the left side (Hell-Fire). I will say. 'O my Lord! (They are) my companions!' Then a reply will come (from Almighty), 'You do not know what they did after you.' I will say as the pious slave (the Prophet Jesus) said: And I was a witness over them while I dwelt amongst them. When You took me up. You were the Watcher over them and You are a Witness to all things.' (5.117) Then it will be said, "These people have continued to be apostates since you left them." (Sahih Bukhari 60.149).

The translator used the phrase, "When You took me up". However, in the context of that hadith, Muhammad was also refering to his death. And all Muslims are agreed that Muhammad did die and was not raised into paradise.

'The expression mutawaffi-ka used here means, I will protect thee from being killed by the people and will grant thee full lease of life ordained for thee, and will cause thee to die a natural death, not by being killed' [Zamakhshari, Imam Mahmud ibn 'Umar: Al Kashshaf' an Ghawamid lal Tanzil] He also mentions sleep and take as possible meanings.

Suyuti, in the popular Tafsir Al-Jalalayn, commented that mutawaffika was take you without death (p. 48).

``The idea of a substitute for Christ is a very crude view of explaining the Qur'anic text. They had to explain a lot to the masses. No cultured Muslim believes in this nowadays. The text is taken to mean that the Jews thought they killed Christ, but God raised him unto him in a way we can leave unexplained among the several mysteries which we have taken for granted on faith alone." (Kamal Husein, City of Wrong, p. 222)

Actually, many Muslims, cultured or not, believes in this theory.

Regarding the theory of substitutional death, Parrinder gave the following bit of information about early Christians:

`There early arose in some Christian circles a reluctance to believe that Jesus, as a divine being and Son of God, could really die. Ignatius, writing about AD 115, said that some believed that Jesus 'suffered in semblance'. The apocryphal Gospel of Peter in the second century said that on the cross Jesus was silent, since he 'felt no pain', and at the end 'the Lord cried out, saying, "My power, my power, you have left." And when he spoke he was taken up...' The apocryphal Acts of John, about the middle of the second century, said that Jesus appeared to John in a cave during the crucifixion and said, 'John, unto the multitudes below in Jerusalem I am being crucified and pierced with lances and reeds, and gall and vinegar is given to me to drink. But unto thee I speak.' And later it said, 'Nothing, therefore of the things which they will say of me have I suffered... I was pierced, yet I was not smitten; hanged and I was not hanged; that blood flowed from me, and it floweth not.'" (Geoffrey Parrinder, Jesus in the Qur'an, p.109)

Khalifites believed that Jesus' soul was taken up into heaven before the Jews could crucify him and that he is now dead. They quote an-Nisa' 4:171, al-Ma'idah 5:75,117 as evidence.

There is circumstantial evidence that early Muslims believed that Jesus did die. At the death of Muhammad, one of companions, Umar Faruq, drew his sword from the sheath and threatened to behead anyone who dared announce that Muhammad had died. He maintained that he 'had ascended to heaven as Moses had gone to his Lord for a time and would return to punish the hypocrites.'

On hearing this, Abu Bakr recited the Quranic verse Al-Imran 3:145 and declared: 'Those amongst you who worship God, let them know that God is alive and will remain alive. But those amongst you who worshipped Muhammad, let them know that Muhammad has passed away' (Sahih Bukhari 59.733).

With these words, Abu Bakr convinced the early Muslims that Muhammad had died like all other prophets before him. Had the son of Mary been alive, Umar could have argued that if the son of Mary could ascend to heaven and still be alive, why not Muhammad? The fact that Abu Bakr managed to convinced the other early Muslims indicate that the early Muslims did believed that Jesus did die.

Jesus' command over angels

When the religious authorities came to arrest Jesus, one of his disciples used a sword and cut off one of the ears of the enemies.

"Put your sword back in its place," Jesus said to him, "for all who draw the sword will die by the sword. Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?" (Matthew 26:52-54)
Jesus' command over angels indicated that Jesus has authority over them. If Jesus was a human only, this biblical assertion would be rather puzzling.

Second Coming of Jesus in Bible, Qur'an and Islamic Tradition

The Qur'an alludes to the second coming of Jesus in only one verse: az-Zukhruf 43:61, YA:
And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt about the (Hour), but follow ye Me: this is a Straight Way.
i.e. (the second coming of) Jesus will be a sign that the end of the world and the judgment of God is imminent. However, this verse immediately turns the attention from Jesus to the obedience to Muhammad. Only later Islamic tradition makes the return of Jesus a prominent issue. This topic is discussed in detail by M.N. Anderson in his series Jesus The Light And The Fragrance Of God.

Son of God

Muslims do not believe that Jesus is the Son of God. Most of the time, Muslims continually misunderstand the title in a biological manner which is abhorent to both Muslims and Christians alike. Often Muslims quote John 3:16 and say that the Bible talks of God begetting a son. This is not just a misunderstanding. The Greek word translated "only begotten" in KJV is monogenes which means one and only, unique. It is used of Jesus Christ in John 1:14,18, John 3:16,18, Hebrew 11:17 and 1 John 4:9.

Word of God

The Qur'an gives Jesus titles like "Word from God", "illustrous in this world and hereafter", "Messiah" (Al-Imran 3:45), "sign for all peoples" (al-Anbiya' 21:91)

Imam Abu Al Su'ud, commenting on the phrase "confirm a word from Allah," states that John the Baptist was the first to believe in Jesus and to support His being the Word of God and a spirit from Him.

Al-Saddi writes that the mother of John inquired of Mary,

"Mary, have you felt my pregnancy?" Mary answered, "I too am pregnant." John's mother then replied, "I find that what is in my belly worships what is in your belly."
How was it that John the Baptist in the womb worshipped Jesus, if as Muslims argue, was only human?

Concerning Al-Imran 3:45, the Muslim scholar, Al Sheikh Muhyi Al Din Al Arabi writes, "The word is Allah in theophany. . .and is the one divine person, not any other." He also said that the word is a divine person (Fusus al Hugm, Part 2, pp. 13).

Compare this with the Bible's statement:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh." (John 1:1,14)

Worship of Jesus

On coming to the house, they [Magis] saw the child [Jesus] with his mother Mary, and they bowed down and worshipped him. Then they opened their treasures and presented him with gifts of gold and of incense and of myrrh. (Matthew 2:11)

We have also seen that the hadiths say that John the Baptist worshipped Jesus while in the womb.

Note: Muslims believed that Jesus spoke from the cradle when people accused his mother of unchastity, yet isn't it odd that we do not find Jesus condemning the Magis for worshipping him, if indeed Jesus is human as Muslims believed.

An article looking at the issue of the worship of Jesus.

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