The meaning of Jesus (Isa) in the Quran and Islam

Jesus is not only written about in the Christian Bible. The Koran, the holy book for Muslims, also contains stories about Jesus. Jesus is called Isa in the Quran. Just like in the Bible, the Koran also mentions a virgin birth. Jesus does miracles and is a special prophet in Islam. The Quran emphatically rejects Jesus’ death on the cross. The Koran does mention that Jesus was ascended into heaven, just like Mohammed, the last and great prophet in Islam.

The Koran, the holy book of Muslims

For Muslims, the Koran is the holy book par excellence. It is the last book than Allah has sent. Muhammad (pbuh) is the prophet who received the words of the Quran through the angel Gabriel ( Jibreel ). Muslims believe that every word of the Quran comes from Allah himself. The Quran was revealed in the Arabic language. Over a period of 23 years, the 114 surahs (chapters) and 6236 verses came to Muhammad. For Muslims, the Quran is complete and perfect. This means that nothing of essential importance has been omitted from the Qur’an (Sura 6:38). Muslims learn to read the Quran in Arabic. Many memorize parts or even the entire Quran. Within Islam, Muslims are expected to try to understand the meaning of the Quran and live by its teachings.

Jesus in the Quran

As the last and ultimate prophet, Mohammed has a special place in the Koran. If we ignore him, then it is Jesus, Moses and Abraham, about whom much is written in the Quran. They revealed, as it were, the message of salvation from Allah before Muhammad received the final revelation from Allah. The description of the person of Jesus in the Quran can seem confusing to Muslims. Jesus is not just an ambassador of God. He is also described in the Koran as full of mystery. His virgin birth, the miracles he performed and his ascension into heaven are examples of this. Jesus is called Isa in the Quran. He is the Messiah, Masih . He is often not called by his name Isa, but as the son of Mary. Depending on the Quran translation, Mary is called: Marjam, Mirjam or Meryem. The appellation ‘son of Mary’ emphasizes the humanity of Jesus to the exclusion of his Christian name as ‘son of God’.

Jesus is not Divine

An important difference between Christians and Muslims is the position of Jesus. For Christians, Jesus is the Son of God. He himself is also God. Jesus is one of the persons of the Trinity, together with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. According to the Quran, none of this is true. Jesus is not a deity besides God (Sura 5:116). Also, Jesus, the Messiah ( Masih ), is not the son of God (Sura 4:171; 9:30; 19:35).

[…] the Christians say: ‘The Masih (Isa) is the son of Allah’. Those are their words from their mouths. They make similar statements to those who previously disbelieved. May Allah curse them, how can they deviate so? They have taken their scribes and their monks as lords besides Allah and (also) the Masih the son of Mary, while nothing has been commanded from them except that they worship one God: there is no god but Him. Holy is He above those they associate with Him. (Sura 9:30-31)


No trinity in the Quran

According to the Quran, Jesus is absolutely not a god and he has no divine qualities. Allah is one, that is the confession of Islam. If Jesus is not a god, it logically follows that Jesus is also not the third person of the divine trinity (Sura 5:73; 116; 4:171). According to the Quran, Allah is one and there is no divine trinity. There are no divine persons besides Allah. The Koran opposes the trinity and then mentions the persons of God, Mary and Jesus. It seems that the Koran does not fully understand that Christians believe in another trinity, namely that of God the Father, Jesus the Son and the Holy Spirit. According to Christianity, Mary does not belong in the divine Trinity.

And when Allah said: ‘O Isa, son of Mary, you said to the people: ‘Take me and my mother as gods besides Allah.’ He said: ‘Praise be to You! It is not appropriate for me to say something that I have no right to say. If I had said it, you would have known. You know what is within me, but I do not know what is within You. You are the knower of the mysteries’. (Sura 5:116)


Jesus as a prophet sent by God

In the Quran, Jesus is seen as a prophet sent by God, Allah. He is presented as a ‘ nabi ‘, a prophet and a ‘ rasul ‘, an emissary of Allah. His name is mentioned in the line with other great prophets, Noah, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and his children and Isaac. Jesus, Isa, is therefore one of the prophets to whom God revealed His will and words.

Verily, We have revealed to you as We revealed to Nuh and the prophets after him. And We revealed to Ibrahim, and Isma’il, and Ishaq, and Ya’qoeb, and the sons (of Ya’qoeb), and Isa, and Ayyoeb, and Yunus, and Haroen, and Sulayman. (Sura 4:163)


Jesus born of the Virgin Mary

In the Koran, Jesus is often referred to as the son of Mary. In the Bible, the evangelist Luke tells that Mary was told by the angel Gabriel that she would have a son. He is the promised Messiah (Luke 1:26-38). Maria is amazed by this message and wonders how this is possible since she has no contact with a man. In the Quran there is a similar announcement of the birth of Jesus.

(Remember) when the angels said: ,O Mary! Allah gives the good news of one of His words (‘Be!’) His name is the Messiah Isa, son of Mary, honored in this world and the hereafter , and of those who are brought close to (Allah). And he will speak to the people from the cradle and in maturity. And he will be of the righteous., She (Maryam) said: “My Lord, how can I have a child when no man has touched me?” He said: ,It will happen, Allah creates what He wills. He decrees a thing, then He just says to it, ‘Be!’, and it comes to pass., (Sura 3:45-47)


Jesus was created like Adam

In the Quran, Jesus is a new creation of Allah. God created the heavens and the earth in the beginning. He was the first man to create Adam. Creation is described in both the Bible and the Koran. According to the Quran, Jesus was created like Adam. God created by speaking and it was there. “God said, Let there be light, and there was light” (Genesis 1:3). In the same way, Jesus was created by God. This makes Jesus in the Koran a creation of God and therefore not his son or equal to God.

Verily, with Allah the creation of Isa is like that of Adam. He created him from dust and then said to him, “Be!”, and he was. (Sura 3:59).


Jesus performed many miracles

The exceptional position of Jesus in the Quran is, in addition to his virgin birth, reflected in the miracles that Jesus performed by the power of Allah. The Koran does not contain the extensive healing histories as recorded in the Gospels in the Bible. However, the Quran does list the miracles that Jesus performed. He healed the blind and those with leprosy. He even raised the dead to life. The Koran also states that Jesus, as a small child, created a bird from clay. This story is not found in the Bible.

When Allah said: “O Isa, son of Mary, remember My mercy upon you and your mother when I strengthened you with the Holy Spirit so that you spoke to people in your cradle and as an adult and when I taught you the Book and the wisdom, the Taura and the Injeel and when by My permission you created from clay something like the shape of a bird and then blew into it and it was a bird by My permission and when you healed the blind and lepers by My permission and when you brought out the dead [from the grave] by My permission, and when I restrained the Israelites from you when you came to them with clear proofs, whereupon those among those who disbelieved said that this was clearly only sorcery., (Sura 5:110)


Jesus did not die on the cross

The Quran clearly states that Jesus did not die on the cross. According to scholars of Islam, a prophet of Allah cannot fail. By doing so, Allah himself would lose. The Koran does not contain the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. The story is even disputed. Someone else must have been on the cross, but certainly not Jesus. Jesus did ascend to heaven. Allah has raised him up (Sura 4:158). The meaning of the cross for Christians that Jesus died on the cross for sin is rejected by Muslims. According to Islam, every person is responsible for his own actions and Allah will judge everyone personally on the day of resurrection.

They say, ,We have killed Isa, the son of Mary, Allah’s Apostle., – They did not kill him and they did not crucify him, but it was suggested to them. Those who disagree about it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it other than relying on conjecture; they certainly didn’t kill him. However, Allah has raised him to Himself. Allah is mighty and wise. (Sura 4:157-158)


The Later Meaning of Isa in Islam

Because Isa, Jesus, is surrounded by mystery in the Koran, Muslims have expanded and nuanced the image of Jesus in their tradition. Three points stand out. Stories are passed down in which Isa’s miraculous power is emphasized. For example, there is a story that he dyed ten items of clothing in different colors in one paint vat. There is also a story about how he turned children into pigs. Secondly, Jesus is presented as an ascetic, someone who lived very simply, a poor among the poor. And finally, within certain movements within Islam there are traditions about the role of Jesus at the end of history. He would descend to Jerusalem to worship Allah in a mosque along with other Muslims.

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