Grace and Truth
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Conversation with Muslims about Christ -- Booklet 4
NAMES AND TITLES OF CHRIST IN THE QUR'AN AND THE BIBLE
The Koran contains approximately 100 verses that talk about Christ. This booklet addresses the following questions: What different names and titles are accorded to Christ in the Koran? How can they be used in sharing Christ with Muslims? How do they contrast with the names and titles of Christ in the Bible?
Names and Titles of Christ in the Qur'an and the Bible
Those who read the Bible can find 250 names, titles and attributes of Jesus in it. If someone studies the Qur'an he can also find 25 names, titles and attributes of 'Isa as an Islamic echo to the gospel. One helpful way to approach Muslims is to fill the meaning of the names of Christ from the Bible into the Islamic titles of the son of Mary, to explain to Muslims that the Son of Man is the Son of God as Jesus himself explained. If anyone thinks that he can succeed without Qur'anic terminology he will be in danger of speaking to Muslims in alien terms.
'Isa or Jesus?
'Isa, the Islamic name for Jesus, appears 25 times in the Qur'an. However, 'Isa is not Jesus, because He was stripped of His divinity in the book of the Muslims. He did not die on the cross according to the Qur'an. Nobody knows for sure why Muhammad chose the name of 'Isa instead of Jesus, since in the Arabic language Jasu'u was available from the beginning in the books of the Arabic Christians as the equivalent of Jesus.
Orthodox priests claim that the word 'Isa comes from the Syrian pronunciation of the Greek word for Jesus. Others say that Muhammad exchanged the first and the last letters of the Arabic name Jasu'u and formed 'Isa from it. According to some African customs this is a way of cursing the person in question. The dictionary Lisan al-Arab proposes the ultimate explanation by revealing that the root of the word 'Isa ( 'Ais) means the ”semen of a stallion” that can work as a deadly poison with instant effect.
Most of the Arabic Christians do not use the name 'Isa in their conversations with Muslims, whereas foreign missionaries claim again and again that without the name of 'Isa a Muslim can hardly understand that they are talking about Jesus. So they try to fill the meanings of the name of Jesus from the Bible into the Qur'anic name 'Isa.
We should remember that in the New Testament the name of Jesus appears 975 times. His is the most important of all the names and titles of the Son of God, and the one that is used most often. It will be interesting (also) for Muslims that the name ”Jesus” for the son of Mary was determined by a two-fold revelation (wahi) first to Joseph, who was responsible for his up-bringing (Matthew 1:21), then to his mother from the Angel Gabriel (Luke 1:31; 2:21). The archangel even explained the meaning of this unique name, chosen from eternity: "He will save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21).
Those who know Hebrew can find that the root of the name of Jesus (yod-shin-ayin) appears 281 times in the Old Testament in connection with the name of God "Yahweh": 68 times in the nouns dealing with the salvation and help of Yahweh, and 213 times in verbs, where Yahweh himself is acting and saving. Thus meanings and aims of the name of Jesus were predestined from eternity, just as a writer of a Christmas carol wrote: "Christ the Saviour is born!"
The Greek word for saviour (soter), however, means more than just a saviour from worldly misery or from the judgment of God. It was the title of honour of the Roman Emperor Augustus praised as the guarantor of world peace once he had established his power through his victories.
The Angel Gabriel explained to Joseph that the greatest problem of men is their sin. It separates us from God. Hence Jesus, the lamb of God, has taken away the sin of the world and reconciled us with the Holy One through His sacrificial atonement on the cross. His love drove Him to fulfil the law of the Passover by His substitutionary death. His blood is the ransom that He paid for our freedom from sin, Satan and the wrath of God (Sura al-Saffat 37:107).
Muslims have no idea of the richness of Jesus' name and His great authority. We ought to pray for wisdom and guidance of the Holy Spirit in our talks to Muslims to be able to show them the full meaning of the name of Jesus, so that Satan will be obliged to set his prisoners in Islam free, and they may accept the forgiveness of all their sins with thanks. For Jesus has completed His salvation for them too (John 19:30). Let us love Jesus, so that Muslims can see Him in our weakness.
Christ – the Anointed One
The official title of Jesus in the Bible is: the Anointed One, which means the Messiah or the Christ. This title of Jesus appears 569 times in the New Testament and 11 times in the Qur'an. The Arabic word al-Masih derives from ”to wipe” and ”to anoint”. In spite of that meaning hardly any Muslim knows that al-Masih means ”the anointed one”.
We can try to explain to them that in the Old Testament kings, priests and prophets were anointed with the sacred oil as a sign that the Lord of the covenant had granted them power and authority through His Holy Spirit to be equipped for their duties. Jesus Himself explained his title of honour at Nazareth: "The Spirit of the LORD is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he has sent me to heal the brokenhearted..." (Luke 4:18-19)
Nobody can explain this title ”Christ” better than He Himself. He revealed in condensed form the unity of the Holy Trinity as ”the Lord, the Spirit and Himself”. He also explained that the anointing of the Holy Spirit had a unique purpose: to proclaim the good news to the ”down-trodden”, that their broken hearts shall be mended.
The Bible reveals that Jesus Christ is the king of kings, the everlasting high priest and the word of God personified. He is the Lord as the New Testament assures us 216 times! He possesses all authority and power in heaven and on earth. The title "Lord" for Christ is completely missing in the Qur'an. Muhammad insisted that Muslims would never accept a human being as Lord. His divinity is denied absolutely (Suras Al 'Imran 3:64; al-Ma'ida 5:17,31; al-Tawba 9:30,31, etc.). Do the Muslims see His Lordship in our obedience of faith?
These three biblical names and titles: Jesus, Christ, the Lord, together comprise 65 percent of all occurences of His names mentioned in the Bible. He who can recognise the depth of these three names of the Son of God, believes and confesses them, is a Christian and is entitled to repeat the testimony of Jesus in Luke 4:18 to himself.
Christ – a messenger from Allah?
Muhammad believed in the political task of 'Isa and called him an envoy or ambassador of Allah five times (Sura Al 'Imran 3:49; al-Nisa 4:157,171; al-Ma'ida 5:75; al-Saff 61:6). He also mentioned him several times together with other messengers of Allah (Sura al-Baqara 2:87,253: al-Hadid 57:27).
An ambassador of Allah stands higher in the Qur'an than a prophet. The latter is responsible for proclaiming the revelations of his Lord precisely. The ambassador, in addition, is to carry out these divine laws with authority! In their testimony of faith the Muslims confess that Muhammad is an ”envoy” of Allah, and not just a prophet!! Moses was the guiding example for Muhammad. He was a mediator between Yahweh and His people, who had to lead and govern them as their legislator and judge. Muhammad understood himself and ´Isa, the son of Mary, too, as having the same authority as Moses held.
Perhaps Muhammad had heard from Christians in Mecca and Medina that Jesus in His Gospel spoke about the kingdom of God, the kingdom of heaven or simply the kingdom very often (about 100 times), but rarely (only three times) about His church! Muhammad assumed that Christ had come as an ambassador of Allah in order to build his kingdom with power and force. The Arabic word for kingdom derives from the root ”possession” (mulk) and means: ”the creator possesses everything he has created” (Sura al-An'am 6:75; al-A'raf 7:185; al-Mu'minun 23:88; Ya Sin 36:83). Christ came to claim the possession of the Lord from the Israelites (Matthew 21:33-46).
Muhammad did not know that after the crucifixion of Christ, His ascension and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on His praying community, the content of the sermons of the apostles changed fundamentally. In Acts and in the epistles the apostles speak twice as often about the church as about the kingdom! From that time on the topic in the plan of salvation was the "called-out ones" of Israel and the nations. However His claim to bring back the entire creation was not diminished as the result of building His church, since Jesus Himself sent His servants, whom He had called out of the world, back into the world to bring home all those who will hear His voice.
Muhammad, however, understood the task of Christ in a religious as well as in a military and political way. He had not heard what Jesus said: "My kingdom is not of this world... I am a king. For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice." (John 18:36-37)
Muhammad was not of the truth. He did not want to surrender to the divine king Jesus Christ and did not like to submit himself to the Lord. Hence, he described 'Isa only as a political and religious envoy of Allah, just like himself!
Jesus, however, did not hesitate to call Himself a sent envoy several times according to the Gospel of John, but He stressed that ”His Father” had sent Him and not an indifferent Allah. In this way He indirectly revealed that He is the Son of God with the full powers:
"As the Father has sent me, I also send you" (John 20:21).
Christ - the Son of Mary
Muhammad was baffled by the fact that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, without a father. He accepted this mystery and called 'Isa the son of Mary 23 times in the Qur'an. He even tried to justify Mary and confirmed that she did not give birth to a child out of wedlock (Sura Al 'Imran 3:45-47; Maryam 19:16-23 et al.). Muhammad figured that Jibril (Gabriel) breathed the spirit of Allah into Mary (Sura al-Hajj 21:91; al-Tahrim 66:12). By this statement Muhammad came close to the gospel, but he limited his words by letting Jibril say that 'Isa was not begotten by the spirit of Allah in Mary but only created. Thus he put himself at variance with the Nicene Creed, which all churches confess:
'''Christ is God from God. Light from light. True God from the true God, begotten, not created, in one essence with the Father.'''
Muhammad became an anti-Christian spirit by denying the divinity of Christ (1 John 2:22-25; 4:1-5).
In the Qur'an we read 17 times that 'Isa is not a son of God. Muhammad rejected the idea of a biological fathering of Christ by Allah in Mary. All churches rightly reject this idea too without hesitation! A Christian sect on the Arabian Peninsula had called Mary "the mother of God" and considered the Holy Trinity to be composed of "father, mother and son" (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:116). This heresy was justly rejected by Muhammad! If we confirm his rejection of the distorted understanding of the birth of Christ in our dialogue with Muslims, a great deal of the tension between them and us can be removed.
The Bible speaks of a spiritual conception of Christ and confesses that ”God, His word and His Spirit” are an indivisible unity. The unbiblical designation of Mary as "the mother of God" by catholic and orthodox Christians makes conversation with Muslims sometimes difficult.
The Bible speaks 59 times about the Son of God. Jesus also stated in his "I am"-words 50 times that He is the Lord who revealed Himself to Moses in the burning bush (Exodus 3:14) as the ”I am who I am”. In the decisive hour of His life Jesus affirmed before the Sanhedrin that He was Christ, the son of the living God (Matthew 26:63-68; Luke 22:70). For this confession He was sentenced to death. Muhammad rejects and even hates the testimony that Christ "is the Son of Allah" to the extent that he cursed all witnessing Christians by asking Allah to kill them (Sura al-Tawba 9:30)!
In His days on earth, Jesus knew that anyone who called Himself a son of God in Israel was deemed a blasphemer. Therefore He testified to Himself 80 times as the Son of Man in the gospels. In using this name He referred to the prophecy in Daniel 7:13-14, where a "son of man" appears in the vision as the everlasting king and the divine judge. But most of the Jews understood this name only superficially and thought that Jesus regarded Himself an ordinary human being. He, however, filled this expression with His divine authority.
Half of the verses about the Son of Man testify to His lowliness, His humanity, His humility and His meekness: ”The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Matthew 20:28) With this statement Jesus turns all mores upside down. The greatest shall be the least, because our king Himself appeared as a servant. He who follows Him will not become a master but a servant.
The other half of His statements about the Son of Man testify to His glory and His great power when He returns as the judge of all mankind: ”When the Son of Man comes in his glory and all the holy angels with him, then he will sit on his throne in heavenly glory. All the nations will be gathered before him…” (Matthew 25:31-32 et al.). Jesus was a real man, tempted as we are, but remained without sin (Hebrews 2:17-18). Consequently He understands and feels with anyone and will judge Him rightly.
It would be good if we were ready to learn this helpful method from Jesus, who veiled His deity, and revealed the mystery of His incarnation under the expression Son of Man. This name is one of the keys to the hearts of the Semites. If you speak about the Son of God at the beginning of a conversation with a Muslim you will notice how the shutters will close for him. But if you learn from Jesus you will become wise and will not deny the truth. Rather you will testify to it with love and wisdom, according to what your listeners can bear.
Christ – a word of Allah in a human body
Muhammad adopted several attributes, titles and names of Christ in the Qur'an, in order to win the Christians for Islam. He interwove his verses with words from the New Testament so as to be considered a genuine prophet. He wanted to draw the Christians in Abyssinia and a delegation from northern Yemen over to himself by imitating their belief. We are therefore entitled to use his different statements, which he borrowed from the Bible, to take them from the Qur'an and put them back into their original context in the gospel, like uniting scattered pieces of a mosaic into a meaningful pattern. This can help Muslims, who search for the truth, to find their way to salvation in Christ.
From the gospel of John, Muhammad four times adopted the expression that Christ is a word of Allah or his word (Sura Al 'Imran 3:39,45,64; al-Nisa 4:171). The Muslim commentators saw later that those names for Christ were a danger to the Islamic creed and quickly claimed that Christ is only a ”created” word of Allah, that does not contain the real presence of the Most High. As the creator of Christ, Allah was supposed to have said: "Be! And then he was." At the same time the Muslim commentators consider that the Qur'an (Al 'Imran 3:47) contains the real presence of Allah, his will and his power.
We have the right to explain to Muslims that the same applies to Jesus. All the creative power of the word of God, His healing power, His forgiving authority, His comforting mercy and His renewing power work in Him. In Christ all attributes and faculties of the word of God are present. The will of God, His wisdom, His wrath, His love, His mercy, His patience, everything God said and ordered, promised and forbade became incarnate in Jesus. In Him all prophesies of God have become yes and amen. He who wants to recognize the will of God must look at Jesus: He is the incarnation of the good pleasure of His Father. He said:
”I and the Father are one.”
A special expression in the Qur'an about the incarnation of the word of God in Christ reveals that Christ is a word of the truth. Truth and justice here appear as attributes and names of Allah, so that the verse means: Christ is an utterance of Allah full of justice and truth (Sura Maryam 19:34). However, some commentators distort this dangerous idea for Islam and maintain that those words are nothing but a subordinate sentence without any further importance. But the opposite is true. Christ remains the manifestation of truth and law, in the Qur'an, too (John 14:6). He is more than a prophet – he is the word of God bodily! These expressions can be your strongest tool in your witness to Muslims.
Christ – a spirit from Allah
Another expression in the Qur'an opposes and undermines the Islamic critics' position of ”Christ not being a deity”, because he is called a spirit from Allah (Sura al-Nisa 4:171). This expression says that Christ is not a normal human being like Moses and Muhammad, but was the incarnation of a spirit from Allah. The Qur'an claims that the Sublime breathed some of ”his” spirit into Mary (Sura al-Anbiya' 21:91; al-Tahrim 66:12). Therefore 'Isa is considered to be a walking spirit in human form. With his spiritual body, after his earthly life, he ascended back to Allah. In Islam, Christ is not a normal human being, not only a prophet like the others, but a spirit from Allah! By this expression Muhammad confessed that 'Isa does not belong to the category of other men born from dust. Rather, he is a son by the spirit of Allah, or a ”spiritual son” of Allah – according to the Qur'an, too!
Islamic commentators have recognized this weakness in the Qur'an and twisted it to mean the opposite. They write: Certainly, Christ is a spirit of Allah in a human body, but – a ”created” spirit! An eternally independant spirit from within Allah, who would be divine, cannot exist in Islam. All spirits of Allah's are created spirits, like angels and demons, Gabriel and Michael. Christ is said to be one of these numerous created spirits of Allah.
But we know that Christ was born from the everlasting Holy Spirit of God. The Lord said to Him: ”You are my son; today I have begotten you.” (Psalm 2:7) In addition to that the Angel Gabriel said to Mary: "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you, therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
Muslims can know this fact, as the late King Hassan II of Morocco confirmed, after a synod in Rabat, that no man and no Ayatollah has the right to call himself a spirit of Allah (Ruhullah), except 'Isa, the son of Mary; for he is the only one born by the spirit of Allah!
Christ remained Sinless– even in the Qur'an!
When announcing the birth of Christ in the Qur'an, Jibril, who is also understood to be a spirit of Allah and the messenger of his revelations, promised Mary that he would grant her a pure and flawless boy (Sura Maryam 19:19). That word has preoccupied many commentators. Some of them openly write that 'Isa was born without sin and holy, because he was born of the spirit of Allah.
Some of the Muslim traditions going back to Muhammad elaborate this: All children are born without original sin, but then Satan infects the new-born babies at the very moment of their birth. That is why every baby cries - with the exception of Mary and ´Isa! They were preserved from the evil sting of Satan because 'Imran's wife had put her child, Mary and her offspring, under the special protection of Allah from the influence of Satan, before they were born (Sura Al 'Imran 3:36).
Since Christ appears to be an incarnated word of Allah in the Qur'an, he not only preached it but also lived according to it. There was no difference between his word and his life. In Islam, too, 'Isa remained the only sinless human being. His life was the visible word of Allah.
If Christ had been a sinner according to the Qur'an he would have died and would have had to wait in his grave for the hour of Allah's judgement. But Christ, according to the Qur'an, was lifted up to Allah. He lives with him. He is one of those brought near to him. He talks with him in a personal dialogue (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:116-118). No sin separates him from the Holy One. Christ is holy, as Allah is holy. The Qur'an clearly speaks of Abraham's, Moses' and Muhammad's sins (Sura Ghafir 40:55; Muhammad 47:19; al-Fath 48:2; al-Nasr 110:3). But concerning Christ there is no hint, not even in Tradition, that he might have sinned, erred or become weakened.
The Gospel shows us that even demons understood the secret that Jesus was holy, because they cried: ”We know who you are – the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24; Luke 4:34). Finally, the resurrection of Jesus is the decisive indication of His holiness. If He would have committed a single sin in His words, deeds, thoughts or dreams, death would have held sway over Him. But Christ has risen from the dead! The evil one could not hinder His resurrection!
Christ – the true Ayatollah
There are two verses in the Qur'an saying that Christ and his mother were a "sign of Allah" for the worlds (Sura al-Anbiya 21:91; al-Mu'minun 23:50). A further verse says that the son of Mary alone is a sign for mankind (Sura Maryam 19:21). The word for sign (ajatun) also means a miracle or a miraculous sign. Whoever reads this word sign together with the word Allah gets the expression Ayatollah. For his supernatural birth, Christ and his mother were depicted as miraculous signs of Allah. Their unique being is not only a sign for Christians and Jews, but also for Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and atheists. Christ is a sign of Allah for all mankind. He and his mother are the greatest phenomenon affecting heaven and hell, for the Qur'an speaks of the sign of Allah for the worlds, on earth as well as in the hereafter!
Christ is the true Ayatollah, for he did not earn his title from a university by study, but received it from Allah directly. 'Isa is the only Ayatollah who was invested by Allah. Muhammad did not dare to adopt this title for himself, because his father and mother were well-known.
Through the gospel we can understand this verse in a distinctive way. Jesus said: ”He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). The son of Mary is the image of the invisible God, the reflection of His glory and the light of the world. He is the sign that God has given for all men. He has fulfilled the basic aim of the creation: God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him (Genesis 1:27). Until then nobody had dared say: He who sees me sees God, except Jesus, the Son of God, because He is one with His Father who is in Him (John 17:21-24). He wants to change us into His own image. Our inadequacy is our sin, as Paul writes: ”All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Jesus wants to take away our sin and make up our shortcomings (1 John 3:1-3). The testimony of your life can sometimes speak more clearly to Muslims than your words.
Christ - a mercy from the Merciful, the Compassionate!
'Isa is called in the Qur'an a mercy of Allah (Sura Maryam 19: 21). Muhammad had heard of Jesus' miracles, that he healed blind people and lepers, awakened the dead and brought food down from heaven for his disciples. To him, Jesus was an incarnation of the mercy of Allah. This verse has deeply moved a group of Muslim teachers of the Qur'an. Some of them say: ”Allah is the All-merciful (al-Rahman), the Holy Spirit is the compassionate (al-Rahim) and Christ is the mercy (al-Rahmat).” The son of Mary carries in himself the substance of Allah. The same spirit dwells in both of them.
This verse is written in Arabic in the plural form. Allah says that the son of Mary is a mercy from ”us”. Therefore some seekers of truth confess that ”Christ is a mercy of the merciful and compassionate One”, which indirectly confirms the unity of the Holy Trinity in the Qur'an.
But Muhammad wanted to stop this explanation, so he called himself a mercy of Allah in the Qur'an as well! How did the mercy of Allah become visible in Muhammad's life and work? All his verses in the Qur'an and in his traditions together formed the Shari'a, the Islamic law. By his law, he tried to shape and determine the life of his followers on earth and in eternity. However, every law causes opposition and wrath. Nobody can obey a law fully and forever. The law of Islam will eventually judge all Muslims. Muhammad was even compelled to confess that all Muslims must go to hell (Sura Maryam 19:71-72).
Jesus, however, not only brought a new law, but granted us the mercy of forgiving. He also gave us the power to fulfil the law of His love. He established for us the right to become children of God, and put His eternal life in us. The mercy of Allah in Muhammad's life was only a law that will finally condemn all Muslims. The mercy of God in Jesus Christ, however, is the grace of justification accompanied by the power of the Holy Spirit, to enable us to fulfill the new law of Christ – by grace alone!
How good is Christ in the Qur'an?
In Sura Al 'Imran we read that 'Isa was one of the good ones (3:46). In Sura al-An'am we also read that Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Noah belong to the righteous ones, as well as David, Salomon and Job, Joseph, Moses and Aaron. Zechariah, Yahya, John the Baptist and 'Isa belong to the jumbled list of those called ”the good ones” (6:83-85). In the Qur'an, being good does not mean being without sin, but living as a god-fearing Muslim.
Jesus had settled this question once when He answered the rich young man: ”No one is good but one, that is God” (Mark 10:18). The young man had called Jesus a "good" master. But Jesus wanted to overcome his dream of being good in a religious-humanistic sense, and explained to the seeker of truth, that the perfect love of God is the only measure for a man's being good. We all have shortcomings, are evil and impure in ourselves – except Jesus! He wanted to guide the young man to recognize and to confess that He, the Christ is ”the good one”, God in the flesh, holy love in the appearance of man.
But Muhammad denied this reality and called Jesus only one of the good ones. When we speak with Muslims it is helpful to lead them away from their human values and towards the holy love of God who is the only valid measure. If somebody claims that he is a good, or pious Muslim, we can ask him: "Are you good as Allah is good?" He will deny that, and then you can show him his imperfection as his essential sin.
Christ - the meek and righteous one
In Sura Maryam 'Isa is called "righteous, full of piety and care towards his mother. He would not be a (miserable) giant nor a violent (superman)" (Sura Maryam 19:32). These characteristics of Christ in the Qur'an indirectly reflect his true character. Christ is not only pious and righteous, He is the justifier himself, the holiness of God personified. In this expression from the Qur'an many characteristics of Jesus inhere.
Muhammad understood that 'Isa is not a giant, feared by all (jabbar), not an irresistible conqueror (qahhar) as Allah appears in Islam, but he is meek and humble in heart. He did not carry out his own desires by force. He did not take part in any attacks or wars, as Muhammad did 29 times. He ordered Peter: "Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Matthew 26:52). He preferred to die for his enemies, rather than to kill them. Christ is the man of love, full of mercy and compassion. He helped the miserable and the sick and did not turn first to the rich and domineering. He said: ”Come to me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Christ – the blessed one, wherever he will be
This title of Christ in the Qur'an makes him the inexhaustible source of all the blessings of Allah (Sura Maryam 19:31). This truth corresponds with the biblical explanation in Paul's epistle to the church in Ephesus: "Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3).
The Qur'anic verse about the blessed Christ has moved Muslims in India and Pakistan to approach Christians in their surroundings asking them for prayers to be healed by the living Christ. In this verse we read not only that Christ can bless, heal and save in this world, but can also do this in the next world after his ascension. The Christians in Asia did not respond quickly to the request of the Muslims but answered: ”Our prayer for you is of no value except if you believe in Christ, repent for your sins and ask Christ for forgiveness.” The Muslims who searched for help quickly responded: ”We believe in ´Isa, the spirit of Allah in the flesh, who healed the sick and awakened the dead. He can heal today also, because he lives with Allah and blesses everybody who comes to him.” And Jesus Christ, indeed, honoured the incipient belief of several Muslims, healed them and helped them in their misery. In Him dwells the plenitude of mercy. He possesses the power of God. Whoever believes in Him, be his faith the size of a mustard seed, and cries: Have mercy upon me! can experience the mercy and blessing of our living Lord and Saviour.
Is 'Isa only like Adam?
Muhammad described 'Isa by 25 different names and titles in the Qur'an. Most of those names honor the son of Mary beyond all measure and exalt him high above all other prophets of Allah and his messengers. However, Muhammad testified to these privileges of Christ mainly in order to win the Christians around him to Islam, by making Islam appear as a religion like Christianity.
In order not to confuse his Muslims, so that they would not leave Islam and turn to Christianity, he had to bring ´Isa, whom he exalted, down to the ground of Islamic reality! After a three-day dialogue in Medina with the bishop and the king of Wadi Nadjran and their delegation of 60 Arabic-speaking Christians, Muhammad summed up his preceding arguments on Christ in the sobering verse:
This verse is often repeated by Muslims to emphasise that 'Isa is not the only one born without a father. Adam, too, was created by a word of Allah, and Eve out of him from one of his ribs. Hence the birth of Christ is not considered unique.
But these arguments are glib and superficial. According to the Qur'an 'Isa was not created from dust, like Adam, and not by a command of Allah, but was generated by the Spirit of Allah in Mary. Adam and Eve fell in sin, according to the Qur'an, but 'Isa did not. Adam and Eve were expelled from Paradise and died separated from God. But the son of Mary lives with Allah, even according to the Qur'an. When we follow the book of the Muslims we can see that it is not correct to say 'Isa was like Adam, because the latter was made from dust, but 'Isa is a spirit from Allah in human form.
The Bible testifies several times that Jesus became a human being and even a child. He became similar to Adam and was tempted as we are, but remained without sin. Jesus called himself our brother. At the same time He was the Lord of the universe and true God from the true God. He was a son of Abraham and a son of David. Ultimately, however, He is the Son of God and lives in complete unity with His Father. Jesus, therefore, is truly man and truly God. This belief is not logical, but spiritual. Our intellect cannot grasp this mystery without the enlightening of the Holy Spirit! We must be patient with Muslims when they cannot quickly understand this double truth and supernatural reality of Christ on their own. To pray for an interested Muslim and his deliverance from his anti-Christian spirit is just as important as a testimony guided by the Holy Spirit that we asked for in prayer.
Christ – a slave of Allah?
In the Qur'an, 'Isa introduces himself as "the slave of Allah (Abdullahi)" in one of his two speeches as a new-born baby (Sura Maryam 19:30). Several times Muhammad calls 'Isa by this title (Sura al-Nisa 4:172; Maryam 19:93; al-Zukhruf 43:59). Under all circumstances he wanted to eliminate the divinity of 'Isa from the conscience of his Muslims.
By means of this degradation Muhammad brought Christ close to the promise of God about His chosen servant in Isaiah chapters 40 to 66. Everything that is revealed there about the servant of God can be explained for 'Isa as a slave of Allah. The description of the one who was despised - according to Isaiah 53:4-12 he took upon himself our iniquities and our punishment – can enlighten Muslims. In that text we do not read the expression "Son of God", nor the word "cross". For this reason Muslims can accept and understand this promise about the slave of God. The Apostle Paul described the great promise of Isaiah 53 in his adoration of Christ in his letter to the church in Philippi as having been fulfilled: ”... Christ Jesus... made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a slave, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted him and given him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and of those on earth and of those under the earth, and that every tongue confess (even Muhammad!) that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:7-11)
'Isa – a prophet, according to the Qur'an
Muhammad continued to Islamise the son of Mary and once called him a prophet (Sura Maryam 19:30). Before, he had described him five times as a ambassador of Allah and his word. But by confessing his title as prophet he wanted to make clear that 'Isa was not higher than himself. Under no circumstances did he want to subordinate himself to Christ.
The Qur'an mentions several prophets from the Old Testament by name. In the Muslim traditions Muhammad speaks of 200,000 prophets of Allah, but without calling them by name. They bring good news from Allah (Sura al-Baqara 2:213; al-An'am 6:61) and warnings of his judgement (Sura al-Baqara 2:213 et al). They were persecuted and killed (Sura al-Baqara 2:61,87,91; Al 'Imran 3:21, 112,113,181,183; al-Nisa 4:155, 157; al-Ma'ida 5:70). 'Isa followed in their footsteps, according to the Qur'an (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:46).
The title of 'Isa as a prophet gives us the possibility to introduce the testimony of Christ from the Gospel: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to destroy them but to fulfil. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (Matthew 5:17-18).
The position of 'Isa as a prophet in Islam can help to overcome the accusation of the Muslims that the Old Testament has been altered!
Jesus is alive – close to Allah!
Strangely, Muhammad could not deny the everlasting existence of Christ. He testified twice that Allah has lifted him up to himself (Sura Al 'Imran 3:55; al-Nisa 4:158). 'Isa is also considered to be a "highly respected (person) in this and in the other world" and "one of those brought near (to Allah)". Muhammad was wily. After explaining to the Christians that 'Isa did not die on the cross, he let Allah lift him up to himself into the heavens (Sura Al 'Imran 3:55; al-Nisa 4:158).
What a surprise! The Qur'an confirms: Jesus is alive! He is not dead! Legal statements (fatawa) from Saudi Arabia confirm in our days that 'Isa rose to Allah in his body, with his soul and spirit. He belongs to the heavenly servants of the highest. He has ”a grand face” as a highly respected person. Nobody can enter heaven without passing by Christ. Some spiritual counsellors claim that this expression (wajihun) permits us to say that Christ is a mediator, a high priest and the advocate of his followers, who holds a firm covenant with Allah (Sura al-Ahzab 33:7).
Christ, according to the Qur'an, is standing in front of Allah like the archangels, Jibril, the cherubim and the seraphim. The piercing rays of Allah did not eliminate him because he is a spirit of Allah and lived on earth without sin. Muhammad accepted many ideas from our Christian doctrine. But he never admitted that Christ was sitting on the throne with His Father (Revelations 3:21). He let 'Isa be brought near to the throne, very close, but never sit on the throne with His Father. That is typical of Muhammad: He seemed to accept 90 to 95 percent of the truth, but distorted the crucial point slyly (Daniel 7:13-14).
In addition to that, we read in the Qur'an the urgent request that Allah, all the angels, Michael and Jibril should pray for Muhammad together with all Muslim believers, that his soul may find peace in the intermediate realm (barzakh) (Sura al-Ahzab 33:56). However, with Christ the contrary is true, according to the Gospel, He prays for His followers, not they for Him. Jesus lives – Muhammad is dead! That is the exciting summary of the two most influential men in world history! He who follows Jesus, follows the religion of life! He who follows Muhammad, hastens into the arms of death.
A Qur'anic dialogue between Allah and Christ in heaven
In Sura al-Ma'ida we read of a dialogue between Allah and Christ in heaven after 'Isa had died peacefully and had Allah lifted him up to himself (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:116-118). When Christ arrived in heaven the exalted one asked whether he had taught his followers to adore his mother and himself together with Allah as a (false) trinity. Christ rightly rejected this critical charge in the Qur'an and justified his innocence by several Islamic distortions of his spiritual reality.
However, in his testimony Christ called Allah the witness and guardian of his orphaned followers, just as Christ himself was their witness and guardian before. In that heavenly dialogue Allah and Christ bear the same title, shahid. We can consider Psalm 23 as the biblical source of that expression, where David confesses: "The Lord is my shepherd!" In the same way Jesus testified in the Gospel that He Himself is the good shepherd who gives His life for His sheep (John 10:11). In Islam, 'Isa even possesses some of the attributes of Allah (Sura al-Nisa 4:159)! In the Qur'an, such divine attributes are not accorded to any other mortal being.
Christ - The Knowledge of the hour!
In the depths of their souls Muslims are afraid of the day of resurrection, because then Allah will come to judge their deeds. Christ occupies a decisive place in Muslim eschatology. Several times the traditions say that 'Isa will return to destroy the Antichrist, to kill all swine on earth and to destroy all crosses on churches and on graves. After that he will marry and have children. As the reformer of Islam, he will convert all mankind, including the Christians (Sura al-Nisa 4:159), to Allah. When he has fulfilled his task he will die, too, and will be buried between Muhammad and Abu Bakr in Medina. That will be the decisive hour of the future, for at that moment Allah will come to judge the world. He will resurrect Muhammad and 'Isa, seat them both on thrones and let them participate in the judgement of the world. Muhammad will judge the Muslims who did not pray, pay or fight enough, whereas 'Isa will judge all the Jews and Christians who did not accept Islam.
This decisive event, the death of Christ after his second coming, is called, in the Qur'an, the "knowledge of the hour" (Sura al-Zukhruf 43: 61), because it is considered the beginning of the end of the world.
A woman catechist in Indonesia, who had previously taught Islam in state schools, confessed: ”When I had to explain to my children the Islamic principles about the end of the world I always got irritated because the weak, meek 'Isa would return to kill the Antichrist! There was nothing mentioned about the warrior-prophet Muhammad at the end of the world! I wanted to see Muhammad as the victor and not the son of Mary! However, I thought if Christ really will come from heaven I better prepare myself for his arrival. I should read what he is going to ask me, what he commanded and what he forbade. Thus the Islamic doctrine of the return of Christ led me to the Gospel and helped me find the risen Saviour in His words.” Today she is a dedicated Christian teacher and testifies to the authentic Jesus and His imminent return.
What does 'Isa lack in the Qur'an?
In our age of syncretism we should not allow the glamour of the names and titles for Christ in the Qur'an to blind us, but we should use them as a starting point in our missionary conversation with Muslims in order to guide them to the full gospel. The Islamic Christ does not have the power to save a Muslim or to change him to be born again!
We should recognise that in the Qur'an all the titles about the divinity of Christ and his omnipotence are missing. There is nothing written about his substitutionary sacrifice on the cross nor of his authority as high priest. There is nothing mentioned about the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. Christ in the Qur'an is not described as the source of everlasting life, nor as the head of the church. The second and the third articles of our faith as found in the Nicene Creed are missing altogether in Islam! Muhammad did not grasp the spiritual connection between Christ and his church. Therefore we can use the names of Christ that are mentioned in the Qur'an as catalysts and bridges to explain the full gospel to the children of Ishmael.
Christ – the Prince of Peace
The aim of this comparison of the names and titles of Christ in the Bible and in the Qur'an is not only to emphasise the missionary possibilities of talking with Muslims, but also to show the special character of the person of Jesus Christ in both religions. He is the greatest personality that ever lived on earth – even according to the Qur'an. Muhammad could not deny the fact that the son of Mary was a man of peace. The prophet of the Arabs proved himself to be a warlord. There is much blood on his hands. Muhammad was impressed by the impact of Chirst on His followers in spite of His meekness. He made him say in Sura Maryam: ”Peace rests upon me the day I was born, the day when I die, and the day when I will be sent alive” (Sura Maryam 19:33).
From his birth to his death and even in his resurrection the pleasure of Allah rested and will rest on the Son of Mary. Christ established peace between God and men. He loved His enemies. He preferred to die in their place to killing them. Jesus was meek and humble at heart. He never asserted Himself by force. He was a victor by His faith, His love, His patience and His hope. Therefore Muslims speak the words, ”Peace is on him!” (as-salamu 'alayhi) whenever they say his name. They feel that Christ is the true prince of peace. However, Muslims use this word of honour for other prophets too. But the other prophets received their peace passively. Christ alone is the source of peace. In the gospel He declared: ”My peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). He is able to change His followers into active peacemakers (Matthew 5:9).
25 Names and Titlesof 'Isa, the Son of Mary, in the Qur'an
35 Names of Jesus Christ in the Bible
(ordered according to their frequency)
These 35 names and titles of Jesus Christ were chosen from His 250 names and titles in the Bible (according to the German translation of Dr. Martin Luther). This list is subject to change, since there will be differences in frequency according to different translations.
Q U I Z
If you have studied this booklet carfully, you can easily answer the following questions. Whoever answers 90% of all questions in the eight booklets of this series correctly, can obtain a certificate from our center on
1. How many names, titles and attributes of Christ can be found in the Bible and how many in the Qur'an?
Yours in His service,
Abd al-Masih and his brothers in the Lord
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