Grace and Truth
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Conversation with Muslims about Christ -- Booklet 5
THE TEN MIRACLES OF CHRIST IN THE QUR'AN
How Can We Use What The Qur'an Says About Christ?
The Koran proclaims that Christ performed miracles. What are the 10 miracles of Christ in the Koran? How can they be used in sharing Christ with Muslims? Find out by studying this booklet.
The Ten Miracles of Christ in The Qur'an
How Can We Use What The Qur'an Says About Christ?
The miracles of Christ - a proof for his divine mission?
Muhammad wanted to win the Christians on the Arabian Peninsula for Islam. So he testified to them what he had heard about Jesus from Christian slaves, from delegations of the churches in North Yemen, from travellers from Ethiopia, and from his Hanif friends now Christians. Muhammad was impressed by the Son of Mary and his miracles. He realized that his miracles went beyond the powers of man and therefore considered them to be evidences (bayyinaat) of his divine authority (Suras al-Baqara 2:87, 253; al-Ma'ida 5:110; al-Zukhruf 43:63; al-Saff 61:6).
Muhammad mentions nine miracles that Moses performed in Egypt, which he also calls evidences (Suras al-Baqara 2:99; al-Asra' 17:101). But the miracles of Moses were a series of punishments by Allah inflicted upon Egypt to release the enslaved children of Jacob. The miracles of Jesus in the Qur'an, however, appear positively as blessings from Allah to lead the children of Israel to trust and obey 'Isa.
Muhammad was at a disadvantage in that he himself was not able to perform neither positive nor negative miracles. He could not understand why most Jews were hard-hearted as not to accept the eminent evidences of the Son of Mary, but rejected and hated him.
The evidences of Christ (bayyinaat)
● In the Sura al-Baqara we read that 'Isa could not perform his miracles without the help of the Spirit of the Holy One (Sura al-Baqara 2:87). Muhammad imagined that Allah sent Djibril (Gabriel) to strengthen the Son of Mary so that he could do his great miracles. Muhammad claimed with this statement that Christ was unable to do any miracle on his own. To perform them he needed the help of a messenger from Allah, whom he called the Spirit of the Holy One.
This title is often wrongly translated as "The Holy Spirit". In the Qur'an Allah himself is the "Holy One", and the spirit is only his slave. The spirit of the Holy One is not holy in himself and has no divine nature. He is a creation of the Almighty. This spirit in the Qur'an should never be confused with the Holy Spirit of the Gospel, although Muhammad may have assumed that the spirit of the Holy One was the genuine Holy Spirit who strengthened the Son of Mary. Thus Muhammad would seem to have indirectly acknowledged the unity of the Holy Trinity, because in the Qur'an the three - Allah, his Spirit and Christ - brought about the miracles together!
Muhammad could not understand that the Jews constantly rejected the evidences of the messengers of Allah, but instead called them liars and even killed some (Sura al-Baqara 2:87)!
● In the same Sura (al-Baqara 2:253) Muhammad confesses that there are substantial differences between the messengers of Allah. He preferred one to the other and gave him a higher position. To Moses he talked directly, which he did not do to Muhammad. The latter received his so-called revelations through an unknown spirit, which he later called Djibril. Muhammad himself never saw Allah, nor heard him! He had no personal contact with God.
According to the Qur'an, Allah placed the Son of Mary in a higher position than Moses, because he granted him special evidences (bayyinaat) by strengthening him with the spirit of the Holy. Muhammad shook his head over the bitter fighting of Jews and Christians against each other and over their divisions in spite of these privileges (Sura al-Baqara 2:253). He saw in their disagreement the wise predestination of Allah that Islam as a third force would emerge victorious over these two fighting parties. Muhammad did not realize that the crucified Son of God and his justification of sinners, apart from good deeds, were the main reason for the quarrel between Jews and Christians. Muslims and Jews are often closer to each other than Christians and Muslims!
● In Sura al-Ma'ida we read one of the four speeches Allah directed at Christ in the Qur'an (Sura al-Ma'ida 5:110). He said: "Remember my grace which I granted you and your mother when I strengthened you with the spirit of the Holy." Then follows a list of several miracles of Christ which culminate in the statement that Allah kept back the children of Israel from 'Isa, so that they could not kill him, although he had come to them with clear evidences (bayyinaat). But they hated him and said, "that is nothing but magic!"
In this verse Christ again appears as the one who has been endowed and helped by the spirit of Allah. This confirms that in the Qur'an the Son of Mary does not possess in himself any divine nature or capability. At the same time, however, Muhammad confesses the inimitable miracles of 'Isa and calls them the evidences of his authority, granted him by Allah. Muhammad could not understand the humility of Christ, when he denied himself and gave all honour to his Father, saying, "The Son can do nothing by himself; he will do what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does." (John 5:19)
● In Sura al-Zukhruf we read the oriental explanation of an evidence of Christ (Sura al-Zukhruf 43:63): He approached the Jews with "wisdom" in order to open their eyes to the reason for their mutual criticism and disagreement. Probably Muhammad had heard of the teaching of Jesus in Matthew 7:1-28 through oral tradition, and explained the speeches of Christ as efforts to reconcile the hostile parties. In this way 'Isa demanded their unconditional obedience and their surrender to his orders.
● According to Sura al-Saff, 'Isa came to the children of Israel to confirm that the Torah was not falsified (Sura al-Saff 61:6). This special explanation of the purpose of 'Isa's coming gives us the chance to prove to Muslims that the Bible is not altered, because, according to the Qur'an, the first task of Christ was to confirm the inerrancy of the Torah.
However, the ultimate purpose of 'Isa's coming, the final aim of his miracles, according to the Qur'an, is a promise revealed by the Son of Mary that after him a highly praised messenger of Allah would come. With this prophecy Muhammad put his own coming into 'Isa's mouth! Since then, Muslims have searched the Bible for the hidden name of Muhammad, which literally means "the Praised One". Several Muslim commentators assume that Muhammad is the promised Parakletos, the Spirit of Comfort. In order to make this Greek word fit Muhammad, Muslims changed the vowels of Parakletos to Periklytos, which means "the Highly Honoured One". As a result Muslims accuse Christians of having covered or falsified the prophecy of 'Isa about Muhammad in the Gospel, or erased his name from the Bible.
The wonderful signs of 'Isa and Muhammad ('aayaat)
In three verses of the Qur'an the miracles of Jesus are called signs ( 'aayaat) of his divine mission (Suras Āl 'Imran 3:49.50; al-Ma'ida 5:114). The word used by Muhammad for this can also be found in the Gospel of John to describe the miracles of Jesus. There we read, "This is the first of his signs which Jesus performed, by which he revealed his glory." (John 2:11+12) Many people believed in his name when they saw his signs which he performed (John 2:23). When he healed the son of the royal officer from afar, John called this healing another sign that Jesus did (John 4:54). When the people saw the sign (of the feeding of the 5000) they said, "Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world." (John 6:14) However, when Jesus saw that they came running to him to make him king, because of the miracle of the bread, he withdrew.
Jesus did not perform his signs so that the people should believe in him, but that they should recognize his love, his authority and the omnipotence of his divinity. Jesus did not want people to follow him for his miracles, but he expected repentance and renewal. Jesus warned the people and said, "Unless you see signs and wonders, you will never believe." (John 4:48) In the Gospels we read several times that Jesus forbade those he healed to talk about him who had healed them (Matthew 9:39; Mark 3:12; 5:43; 7:36; Luke 5:14; 8:56; 9:21).
When Jesus was persecuted and threatened with death in Jerusalem, the crowds who wanted to see miracles turned away from him. Only the disciples, who had confessed their sins before John the Baptist and whose pride had been broken by repentance, remained faithful to Jesus. They saw his glory even when he was persecuted and died on the cross. When the Jews tempted Jesus and demanded a sign from him to prove his authority and mission, he answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days!" (John 2:18-22) And he added, "A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah." (Matthew 12:39-40; 16:4)
The evidences and signs that Muhammad ascribed to 'Isa in the Qur'an try to create exactly that belief which Jesus rejected! Therefore we should not explain the signs of Christ to Muslims because they are miracles, but should stress that they only point to his greatness, love, humility, holiness and authority. Jesus Christ himself should be glorified by mentioning his miracles. The miracles have no glory of their own. Every miraculous healing that does not lead to repentance and renewal has failed deep faith in Jesus.
1. Christ speaks as a newborn baby
Three times we find an astonishing report in the Qur'an about the speech of the newborn Son of Mary, still lying in the manger. The mere fact of his speaking is mentioned twice (Suras Āl 'Imran 3:46; al-Ma'ida 5:110), the content of his speech can be read in detail in Sura Marjam (19:24-33).
The unbelievable story that the newborn 'Isa could talk perfectly, is explained in different ways by the commentators on the Qur'an. Some say, 'Isa needed only minutes, others assume hours, until he could pronounce letters, words and sentences without mistakes. His brain was fully developed right from birth, and his comprehension, feeling and logical abilities developed within a very short time, or so they claim.
Why do Muslim commentators believe and discuss in this phenomenon? They read in the Qur'an that Christ is "a word of Allah" in person. The Almighty taught him the Torah, the proverbs of Solomon, the Gospel, and the original Book in heaven, before his birth (Sura Āl 'Imran 3:48). He was born into the world full of knowledge, intelligence and the ability to speak. He had to utter Allah's words continually from birth to death. He was like an eruption of revelation from his Lord.
The Qur'an confirms that the Son of Mary was not a normal human being, but a spirit of Allah in the flesh. He descended from the surroundings of the Eternal One (Sura Āl 'Imran 3:45) and possessed great knowledge and spiritual capacity exceeding that of any other mortal.
These speculative statements in the Qur'an come close to the Christian understanding of the incarnation of the Son of God in the Gospel. But there Jesus was born as a real human baby wrapped in cloths. His mother Mary never told the Greek doctor Luke anything about speeches her son made right after his birth, because as a baby he was unable to talk and needed time to develop (Luke 2:40,52).
Where does this imaginative story come from? In the apocryphal childhood gospels of the Syrian and Coptic Christians we find hints of such reports. Mothers used to sing cradle songs about the baby Jesus to their children to get them to sleep. The sources of the story about the talking baby Jesus are known in detail today.
Muhammad heard such children's stories from Syrian slaves and Coptic Christians and – believed them! He believed more than the Fathers of the Church, who did not include such fairy tales into the canon of the Bible, as they did not happen. So Muhammad appeared to be a credulous seeker of truth, but was no prophet. He could not distiguish between fables and reality.
As regards the content of the so-called speech of the newborn Son of Mary (Sura Maryam 19:24-33) the baby wanted first of all to comfort his young mother because she had borne him without being married. She knew that she should be stoned. Therefore the newborn 'Isa encouraged her with the news that she had given birth to an outstanding person under a palmtree in the desert.
In Arabic one expression for an exceptional person is suriyun, with the plurals surawaa' , asriyaa' or saraat (all stemming from the Arabic root S-R-W). But jealous readers of the Qur'an changed the vowel and the meaning of this word into "little creek or brook" (which in Arabic is sariyun) by deriving it from the root S-R-Y having the plurals asriyat or suryaan. Muslim readers were angry because 'Isa as a newborn child was already placed higher than Muhammad, so they simply changed the vowel and meaning from 'exceptional personality' to 'rivulet', even though their interpretation makes less sense.
The newborn child then told his mother to shake the trunk of a palmtree and make ripe dates fall on herself so that she could strengthen herself after the painful birth. What Bedouin logic! Several men are unable to shake a palmtree. How could a young mother do this just after giving birth? In the days of Muhammad the life of the Bedouins was hard, twice as hard for women and mothers.
At the end of his first speech 'Isa told his desperate young mother what she should tell everybody who would ask her about the origin of the newborn child that she had promised Allah the Merciful a fast and not to talk to anyone that day. Thus the first suggestion that the newborn 'Isa taught his mother was a trick, a ruse, and a lie, to save her from immediate danger.
The report goes on to show how the newborn baby defended his mother against angry villagers by introducing himself as a blessed prophet in his second baby-speech in the Qur'an.
Those who consider this story objectively will see how dream and reality mingle and become a Fata Morgana in the mind of Muhammad. The entire Qur'an is such a mixture of fact and fiction.
2. 'Isa creates a bird
From the same apocryphal sources comes another story: The young 'Isa formed a bird out of clay, blew on it, and away flew the bird! (Suras Āl 'Imran 3:49; al-Ma'ida 5:110). We would be inclined to forget this unrealistic story of the Son of Mary, but for the fact that there are three inferences.
In Sura Āl 'Imran 'Isa tells the children of Israel, "I will create for you the likeness of a bird out of clay." In Sura al-Ma'ida Allah, after the ascension of 'Isa, confirms, "You created the form of a bird out of clay!" This miracle is attested in the Qur'an in the present tense and in the past tense, once by 'Isa and once by Allah himself. This double confirmation makes the text important.
In both places we hear that 'Isa was able to create a living bird out of lifeless material. In Arabic, the word "create" (khalaqa) is usually attributed only to Allah, the creator, who created everything out of nothing. But this same special word is ascribed to 'Isa, too. He is the only human, according to the Qur'an, to be a creator and to be able to create life from dead matter. Christ in Islam appears as a creator.
Muhammad, however, limited his honouring of the Son of Mary and introduced the expression, "with the permission of Allah!" several times into the Qur'anic passages relating the miracles of Christ. Therefore we can ask critical Muslims, "Do you really believe that Christ, with the permission of Allah, was able to create a bird out of dead material?" The answer can be, "Of course. The Qur'an confirms this twice!" Then we can tell him that the Son of Mary is a unique creator – with Allah's permission!
This legendary childhood story contains another surprise. 'Isa lifted the clay bird to his mouth and blew into it. Then the clay became alive and the bird flew away. According to the Qur'an, 'Isa carries in himself a life-giving breath – with Allah's permission, of course!
In the Bible, God blew the "breath of life" into Adam. And thus the first human being was created (Genesis 2:7). On Easter night Christ breathed on his frightened yet overjoyed disciples and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit!" (John 20:22) Then his followers were revived, for Christ is the life-giving spirit (1 Corinthians 15:45).
Muhammad, however, did not go as far as that in his report. When 'Isa blew into the lifeless matter, it did not become a human being, nor a reborn child of God, but only something like a bird! Muhammad did not dare deny that Jesus in himself bore the life-giving spirit of the creator.
The story of the creation of a bird gave Qur'anic commentators some headaches, for if 'Isa was able to create a living bird from dead material, even with the permission of Allah, then he was far above all other men, even higher than Muhammad. So some interpreters write, " 'Isa wanted to create a four-footed animal or a flying bird, but both went wrong. What came out of his effort was only a 'bat', which is neither a bird nor a mammal, but both at the same time." We can answer such critics, "The bat is the only flying animal that is specially developed, for it carries an ultrasound unit (like a radar) in its mouth and can fly even at night, like modern airplanes!"
3. The healing of the blind
After the two dubious miracles of the young 'Isa, for which Muhammad is not wholly responsible, since he took them from the apocryphal childhood gospels, we read the report about Christ himself, confirmed by Allah, that 'Isa was able to heal several blind persons (Suras Āl 'Imran 3:49; al-Ma'ida 5:110).
In these reports we sense the mercy of Christ to the wretched who cannot see the light of the sun and stumble along in darkness. The Son of Mary, according to the Qur'an, did not perform miracles for a show or to win kings and princes for himself, but because he wanted to help the sick, the miserable and the outcast of society. His pity and love made him do his signs.
The Arabic word for "to heal" (bari'a) in the Qur'an is linked to the notions of "to justify" or "to cleanse". If an illness is considered as a punishment by Allah for hidden sins, then Christ did not only heal the illness but he also dealt with its cause.
Jesus did not open the eyes of the blind with a sharp knife, nor with a laser beam, nor did he need any medicine or antibiotics, but he healed them with his word alone. He did not use magic, incantations or weird spirits, but he freed suffering, miserable people from their darkness by his powerful word alone. Of course, Muhammad added the stereotype sentence: "with Allah's permission!" Nevertheless, anyone can recognize the authority of Jesus Christ and his love towards the ignored in the book of Muslims.
From the Qur'an a Muslim does not learn the details of how, where, when or to whom Jesus opened eyes. So these texts need the testimony of eye-witnesses in the Gospels. We should open the Bible at those passages for interested Muslims, but should not read the stories to them ourselves but encourage them to read the passages for themselves, so that they may overcome their inhibition and take the Holy Scriptures into their hands and see Jesus with the eyes of their hearts. Thus they can recognize that Jesus never compelled anyone to accept his help or healing, but waited until the sick came to him or cried for help. Jesus wanted to initiate the will to be healed in the suffering people, until they asked for healing. He awakened in them trust in him and in his omnipotence, so that he could deliver them from their burden. Rarely does healing come if one does not trust in the physician of all physicians. Christ does not force his grace upon anybody, but builds in them the will, faith and love for him, their redeemer. Jesus points out a person's share in becoming healed, by saying, "Your faith has healed you." (Matthew 8:22; Mark 5:34; 10:52; Luke 7:50; 8:48; 17:19; 18:42). All this is strange to a Muslim. He does not know a saviour or a helper. Trust in Christ, his Redeemer, should be nurtured, so that it may grow in him spiritually.
4. 'Isa cleanses lepers
In the two Qur'anic reports about the cleansing and healing of lepers the testimonies of 'Isa and Allah again confirm these miracles (Suras Āl 'Imran 3:49; al-Ma'ida 5:110). The Arabic form for the healed lepers is written in the singular, but means the collective plural form covering these sick people. As with the blind, this does not mean one single miracle, but a series of wonderful healings that Christ performed with lepers.
If you have met such suffering people in India, with missing fingers and disfigured faces, running together to beg at filling stations, you will understand the great love of Jesus, his majesty and his victory over disgust and fear of infection. He did not chase the lepers as if they were unclean, but talked to them and even touched some of them. He built a bridge for their faith, so that they should understand: this Jesus loves me personally! Christ is stronger even than leprosy! He can and will heal me (Matthew 8:1-4; Mark 1:40-45; Luke 5:12-16). When Jesus healed the ten lepers he expected them to have superhuman faith. They trusted in the one who spoke to them in the love of God which they felt in him (Luke 17:11-19).
What the Qur'an reports is only general facts which need the illumination of the Gospel and our own added witness: that he has cleansed us from all our iniquity and impurity.
To the healing of the lepers can be added the forgiveness of Jesus. In some countries, in popular Islam, leprosy is considered as the punishment of Allah for rebellion or hidden sins. Here the biblical report about the healing of the paralytic can help. He expected a "healing" word from Jesus, but instead he heard, "Take heart, son; your sins are forgiven!" When the lawyers of the Torah thought that Jesus was blaspheming, he turned to them and said, "Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts? Which is easier, to say, 'Your sins are forgiven', or to say, 'Get up and walk'? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins ... he turned to the paralytic and said, 'Get up, take your mat and go home.' And the man got up and went home." (Matthew 9:1-8).
5. The awakening of the dead
If you read the short sentence which is confirmed twice in the Qur'an that Jesus could raise dead people, your breath may stop for a moment (Suras Āl 'Imran 3:49; al-Ma'ida 5:110). In these two verses you find the plural form, not the singular! In Arabic that means that Christ awakened more than two, or at least three people from the dead. It is advisable to know by heart the passage in the Gospel where Jesus awakened a child, a young man and an adult from the dead, and to read these passages together with interested Muslims (Matthew 9:18-26; Mark 5:21-43; Luke 7:11-17; Luke 8:40-56; John 11:1-45).
The Qur'an uses two different terms for the awakening of the dead by Christ. In Sura Āl 'Imran (Sura Āl 'Imran 3:49) he says,
If you know a Muslim who has shown interest in Christ you can ask him on the basis of these two testimonies in the Qur'an, "Who is able to awaken the dead?" In most cases the answer is, "Nobody but Allah." If you ask again, "Are you claiming by this that Christ is Allah, since he restored to life at least three dead persons?" you may hear the caveat, "I take refuge with Allah from you!" If you go on asking, "But in the Qur'an you find two verses where Christ indeed awakened dead people," you may hear the answer after some time of searching, "But every time you find the expression, 'with my permission'! Christ was unable to awaken dead people. Therefore Allah sent Djibril to him to strengthen him, so that he could accomplish the miraculous sign of awakening the dead in order to glorify Allah!" If you go on asking cautiously, "So you believe that Allah and the Spirit of the Holy and the Son of Mary together awakened the dead?" You might hear a hesitant, "Yes, that is revealed in the Qur'an." Then you could reply, "So you believe in a co-operation of the Trinity?" This could, after a preliminary denial, lead to the statement that the Qur'an actually confirms the unity of the Trinity in action, even though it does not confirm it in spirit and substance. It is not necessary that a Muslim should be convinced by all our arguments. But it can be a help for him to hear new ideas confirmed in the Qur'an, so that he may start to think in a different way.
The fact of the dead being awakened by the Son of Mary is so astonishing that you may ask yourself why in the Qur'an Muhammad included this testimony he had heard from Christians around him. He probably did it to present his Islam as a religion akin to Christianity in order to win Christians to his faith.
We trust that the testimony of the victor over death in the Qur'an will act like yeast, and will open the eyes of Muslims from within, so that they may recognize the true Christ who has eternal life in himself. Then they will understand that Christ can give everlasting life to everyone who asks him for it. The fact that Christ awakened dead people is a challenge for all children of Abraham, Jews as well as Muslims: "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life." (John 3:36; 1John 5:12)
6. The Omniscient One
In Sura Āl 'Imran we find a strange verse according to which 'Isa told the Jews that he was going to reveal to them what they had eaten in secret and what treasures they hid in their cupboards.
This improbable story allows for various explanations: Many Jews did not strictly observe the laws of Moses, and often ate what was forbidden in secret. Others did not fast carefully on the prescribed days and secretly ate in their houses whatever they wanted. In addition they kept treasures hidden in their cupboards instead of giving them to the poor and refugees from Mekka.
Al-Suyuti, an Islamic commentator, explains: 'Isa as a boy was playing with other children when he told them, "I can prophesy to you what your parents are eating when you are away from home, and what they secretly keep in closets hidden from you." When those boys asked about these revelations, their parents were surprised and asked their children, "Who told you these secrets?" When the children replied it was 'Isa who had told them these secrets, the parents forbade their children to go on playing with the Son of Mary and shut them up in their backyards.
When 'Isa later asked the parents of his friends why he could not see them any more he was told they were not at home at the moment. When 'Isa answered the parents, "But I can hear them making noise in your backyards", they told him, "These are only our hungry pigs." Then 'Isa looked at them sadly and replied, "You are right! It is only your pigs who make such a noise in your backyards." When the parents looked for their children, 'Isa's words had come true. All their children had become pigs!
This despicable story from a slanderous imagination was aimed at the Jews who never keep pigs in their backyards, as well as at Jesus himself, in order to keep children away from him, because he could reveal hidden truths. However, this text from the Qur'an confirms that Christ can see right through walls! According to Muhammad, he possessed "X-ray eyes". In the Gospel of John we can read that Jesus saw through all men. He did not need information about anyone, "for he knew what was in a man." (John 2:24-25)
In this verse the Qur'an proves the omniscience of 'Isa, but draws the wrong conclusions from it. It is not food eaten in secret, nor hidden treasures which Jesus discovers with his Redeemer's eyes. He uncovers hidden sins and recognizes the individual's yearning for justice, purity and truth. He wants to save, purify and renew everybody, and does not want to lay hands on their riches.
Muhammad suffered from increasing tension between the refugees who had come with him from Mekka and the original inhabitants of Medina. The immigrants from Mekka rarely found work, they did not possess houses and could not inherit anything from relatives. On the other hand the Muslims of Medinan origin became richer and richer. The latter had taken the imigrants into their homes and had promised to care for them as blood brothers. But wish and reality were far apart. The local people ate better food when the refugees were out, and the owners of the houses hid their wealth from the eyes of the asylum seekers. Muhammad heard about this behaviour and would have liked to lay his hands on the hidden treasures. So he said, "When 'Isa will come again he will tell you what you eat in secret and what you hide in your houses, because he can see through you all."
We should ponder this testimony from the Qur'an and, when giving Muslims spiritual advice, make them aware that we all need to be tested and uncovered by the love of Jesus Christ and by his truth again and again! The hidden money and possessions of all Christians would be sufficient to evangelize the entire world, if individuals would be moved to part from their treasures.
7. The table from heaven
In Sura al-Ma'ida (5:112-115) we can find an echo of the feeding of the 5.000 by Christ in an Islamic form. We will translate this text literally, so that Muhammad's way of thinking and the attitude of his Muslims can be understood as a basis for our conversations with them:
112 The disciples said, "O 'Isa, Son of Mary! Can your Lord send down for us a table of food from heaven?"
113 But they said, "We want to eat from it so that our hearts would be calmed and we can know that you have revealed the truth to us, and we shall be eye-witnesses of it (i.e. the table)."
114 Then 'Isa, the Son of Mary said, "Allahumma (Elohim), our Lord! Send down upon us a table of food from heaven, so that it be a feast for us, for the first and the last among us, and a sign from you! And provide us (with our daily living)! You are the best of all providers."
115 Allah answered, "Truly, I am already sending it (the food table) down to you. But if anyone of you still does not believe afterwards, I will punish him terribly, as I punish nobody else in the worlds!"
On this imaginative story about the feeding of the 5.000 we comment as follows:
● Several times Muhammad distinguished between Christians according to their maturity and called them disciples (beginners), enthusiastic helpers or fighters, praying believers, Muslims, followers and witnesses (Āl 'Imran 3:52-53). In the story on the table from heaven 'Isa speaks to disciples as beginners.
● In the Qur'an, 'Isa himself is not considered to be "the Lord", but Allah is his Lord. 'Isa always is at his disposal.
● After 'Isa had delivered a long sermon in the desert the disciples became hungry. They did not wait patiently until 'Isa provided some food for them, but 'tempted' him and questioned Allah's omnipotence, whether he would be able to help them. They did not really believe in his caring love but wanted to try him.
● 'Isa did not challenge his disciples to believe, but to fear Allah. The love for God and the trust in his care are not the main topics in Islam, rather total submission to Allah and fear with deep respect for him.
● Muslims have no assurance of being redeemed and have no inner peace because there is no Holy Spirit in this religion. The spirit of the Holy One is considered to be Djibril (Gabriel), so Muslims are often searching for substantial evidence for their faith. They wanted to be eye-witnesses of the table, not of 'Isa's action. The table and what was on it were central to their expectations.
● Strangely, the Son of Mary did not pray to Allah, but to Allahumma (Elohim). This name for Muhammad seemed to be the key to helpful prayers that might be answered quickly. Elohim is the plural form of Allah and contains the possibility of the Unity of the Holy Trinity. In the Qur'an 'Isa called the God of the Old Testament "the GOD (Allahumma) our Lord". This is contrary to what "the Lord" revealed to Moses when he said, "I am the LORD your God!" Muhammad tried to Islamize the God of the Old Testament.
● 'Isa in the Qur'an called the banquet from heaven a special feast for everybody, for the least and the greatest of Christ's disciples equally. Perhaps Muhammad in his imagination mixed up the table of the Lord's supper with the feeding of the 5.000 as one. He called this banquet from heaven a miraculous sign. The fifth Sura of the Qur'an accordingly is called "The Banquet" (al-Ma'ida).
● The Son of Mary also asked Allah to provide his followers regularly with all necessary food. In Islam faith means business (Sura Fatir 35:29-30) and should result in concrete success. Allah is not a father but a sultan who generously provides for his Muslims – if he so wishes.
● Allah immediately acceded to 'Isa's prayer, which is remarkable in Islam. While 'Isa was still praying, Allah instantly began to send down the heavenly table to 'Isa's hungry disciples.
● A side-effect of 'Isa's miracle, however, is dreadful. Allah threatens any unbelieving sceptics among his disciples with the most horrible of all punishments he would inflict in this world and in the next. This threat is also directed at Muslims(!) unless they believe in the miracles of 'Isa as written in the Qur'an.
● The commentators of the Qur'an discuss more the variety of the food on the table than the nature of the one who provided the heavenly gifts. Muslims would like to know whether wine, pork and other forbidden food were waiting for them in paradise, yet forget the one who brought them the table down from heaven. Most of them do not realize that even in Islam the Son of Mary has the privilege to intercede for his followers.
● When you tell Muslims that Jesus had only five loaves of bread and two fishes in his hands to feed the 5.000, you can see long faces, because bread and fish are not deemed as special food of paradise.
● But if you inspire your listeners with the thought that Jesus gave thanks for the little he had in his hands, and that then, on his thanksgiving, it became a massive amount of food. Then you can explain to Muslims that receiving food and money is not the evidence of truth, but that faith with thanks in advance will bring blessing for many.
● We know that Jesus himself is the centre of this miracle, rather than the multiplication of the bread. Our Lord assures us that he gives daily bread to all who follow him, trust in him and thank him in advance for his providing care. This contrasts with what the Qur'an teaches. The Biblical grace of God the Father can displace the concept of an arbitrary sultan who saves whomsoever he wishes, and who misleads whomsoever he wishes.
● The outstanding message of this miracle of Christ in the Qur'an is the evidence that he is the only mediator between God and humans. He is the secret center in this great miracle which every Muslim can understand if he is willing. Prayer in the name of Christ is made possible for Muslims too. Christ has opened the door to God for us. There is no way to the Father except through him. "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5, Sura al-Anbiya' 21:28).
8. 'Isa the divine legislator
In the Qur'an we find several passages which testify to the authority of Christ over the Torah. Two of these passages call his attitude and his handling of the scriptures of the Old Testament a sign and an evidence of his divine mission (Suras Āl 'Imran 3:50-51; al-Ma'ida 5:46-47; al-Zukhruf 43:63). The following points of this legal miracle should be taken into consideration:
● Allah sent Christ into the world to confirm the infallibility of the Torah. Why then do the Muslims maintain again and again that the Torah has been falsified? The Qur'an itself denies this claim several times. In addition, Christ is the word of Allah personalised and thus represents the Torah in his life (Suras Āl 'Imran 3:50; al-Ma'ida 5:46 et al.).
● Allah himself taught the Son of Mary - before he was born - the Torah, the Proverbs of Solomon, the Gospel and the Original Book with all its prefigurings (Sura Āl 'Imran 3:49). Therefore 'Isa was able to come to the children of Israel with divine wisdom and to explain to them all unsolved questions of the law, thus removing the reason for their divisions.
● According to the Qur'an, Christ possessed the authority to change and cancel some commandments of Allah in the Torah, and to free his followers from them. Hence in Islam 'Isa is a legislator. He is not under the law as an executive. This means more than a miracle to Muslims, because to them Allah alone is the legislator and the revealer of the Law. According to the Qur'an Christ possessed this divine function because he himself was the incarnation of the word of Allah in the flesh. He is the divine truth and law in person (John 13:34; Suras Maryam 19:21; al-Anbiya' 21:91; al-Tahrir 66:21 and others).
In these verses of the Qur'an we hear an Islamic echo to the revelation of Jesus, "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfil them." (Matthew 5:17-18) He also explained, "It was said to the people previously ... But I tell you!" (Matthew 5:21-48) "What goes into a man's mouth does not make him unclean, but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him unclean." (Matthew 15:11.16-20)
Muhammad may have heard of these revolutionary principles that Christ taught, but he did not understand them as the fulfilment of the Law, but as the removal of some obstacles of the Law for his disciples. In a surprising way he attributed to 'Isa this divine right to dissolve laws and to impose new ones as the messenger of Allah.
● In spite of all alterations of the Law by the Son of Mary, he confirms the core of Islamic worship: "Fear Allah!" Islam is not governed by the love of God for men, nor by their love for him. There is no fatherhood of God and no desire to save all men, but only the power, the omnipotence and the sacrosanct sovereignty of Allah, who, as a dictator, cannot be questioned nor be made responsible for anything. Muslims can only prostrate before him and worship him in deep respect with fear.
● A similar submission should be offered to every messenger from Allah. In the Qur'an, the Son of Mary twice demands from all Jews, Christians and Muslims: "Obey me!" (Suras Āl 'Imran 3:51; al-Zukhruf 43:64). This sentence turns Islam completely upside down! Everbody shall honour Christ Jesus, devote themselves to him and keep his commandments meticulously, just as they fear Allah! Islam does not teach, "Believe in the grace of Allah, or accept the forgiveness of Christ or love him because he loved you first," but 'Isa rather demands faith-obedience and unconditional submission under his authority. Whoever understands this Qur'anic commandment can find in it a convenient method for evangelizing Muslims. A Muslim should first learn the law of Christ, before he is taught his saving grace. We should first study with him the 510 commandments of Christ in the four Gospels and compare them with the 613 commandments of Moses in the Torah. Then we should live according to the Law of Jesus as true examples and confess before a Muslim that we are not all fulfilling his commandments completely, and that therefore we have to ask for forgiveness daily. A Muslim should recognize that it is impossible to fulfil the law of Christ by ourselves because he commands us, "Be perfect ... as your heavenly Father is perfect!" (Matthew 5:48) and "Love one another, as I have loved you." (John 13:34) Then he may understand that no one can fulfill the law of Christ by himself, but needs the forgiveness of Jesus and his salvation daily. The grace of Christ Jesus is the only way to the Father (John 3:16; 14:4 et al.).
● Muhammad quickly stopped such critical ideas and conclusions by making Christ Jesus say, "Allah is my Lord and your Lord. Worship him, that is the right service." He did not let 'Isa in the Qur'an say: "I will ascend to my Father and to your Father, to my God and to your God!" No, Muhammad placed 'Isa under Allah's power and authority. Muhammad was never prepared to admit that Christ Jesus is the Lord himself to the glory of God his Father. While accepting some essential principles of the Christian faith he finally rejected its core and made the Son of Mary a slave of Allah, who would lead his followers to paradise on the "broad way" of the Islamic Law.
In spite of these Islamic devices, Muhammad has confirmed Christ Jesus as a divine legislator who has the right to demand unconditional obedience of his followers and of all men. We should make all Muslim seekers aware of this Qur'anic message, and help them – through a spiritual break-down of their pride - to accept the grace of Christ available for them too.
9. Christ renews his followers
In the Qur'an there are several verses which describe the character of Christians in a positive way. From the testimonies of Muhammad one recognizes that the Son of Mary was able to change the arrogant into humble ones and egoists into merciful servants. This is the greatest miracle Christ did according to the book of the Muslims. This change did not happen only once, but it occurs daily, then and now. Christians are described more than 50 times in the Qur'an. Some of these verses have not been written about Christians only, but about Jews too (Suras Āl 'Imran 3:55.113-114.199; al-Ma'ida 5:65-68; al-An'am 6:90; al-Hadid 57:27; al-Tahrir 66:114 et al.).
In Sura Āl 'Imran we read Muhammad's evaluation to a Christian delegation from North Yemen (Wadi Nadjran), who discussed faith with him in Medina for three days. He tried to win these Christians over to Islam and let Allah say to 'Isa:
Muhammad and his Muslims were impressed by the well-dressed delegation of 60 men from the Christians in North Yemen. Muhammad felt that their culture was higher than his own but wanted to draw them into Islam. He noticed their superiority and economic dominance over idolaters and animists. But, surely, in his negotiations he did not reveal his true opinion, namely that Muslims are, of course, on a much higher level than Christians.
In the same Sura we read about slaves and workers who met at night to read the Bible together, and to worship their Lord by prostration. These probably were orthodox Christians, because no other church, not even the Jews, prostrate in their services. Muhammad acknowledged that they kept their covenant with God and that their life was in accordance with their faith. He called them "Good ones" who would be rewarded by Allah (Sura Āl 'Imran 3:113-114). What a great testimony about downtrodden Christians in the Hidjaz!
According to Sura Āl 'Imran Muhammad also met Christians who were humble and modest and who quoted verses from the Bible without asking for money, in contrast to the Jews in Medina who usually told him only something from the Mishna or the Talmud when he first bought goods from them (Āl 'Imran 3:199). Several times Christians according to the Qur'an tried to evangelize Muhammad, but in vain.
In Sura al-Ma'ida a dividing line is drawn between Jews and Christians. Allah is supposed to have revealed to Muhammad:
Muhammad recognized the humility of Christ in his followers, who did not try to make themselves great. At the same time Muhammad understood that this quality did not come from within themselves but came from their spiritual leaders. This verse offers an astonishing recognition of the humility of Christians in the days of Muhammad.
In Sura al-Hadith you can read a profound analysis of the Christians. Muhammad let Allah reveal,
Muhammad distinguished between different kinds of Christians: He recognized seekers as disciples, enthusiastic warriors and helpers who were ready to storm into battle for the new doctrine, conscious believers and praying worshippers who tried to live according to their conviction, genuine 'Muslims' who devoted themselves to Allah and his messenger (Christ) and surrendered to him unconditionally, his followers who tried to imitate their master and went with him through thick and thin, and eye-witnesses of his deeds who were prepared to die for their testimony. They asked 'Isa for one thing only, that he would write their names in the Book of Life in heaven (Sura Āl 'Imran 3:52-53).
According to Muhammad, not all Christians take part in the secret of the greatest miracle that Christ did – except for his followers! Muhammad felt that Allah personally did a miracle with them. He put something into their hearts that no one else possessed: pity and mercy, even for their enemies! When Muhammad pondered about the origin of this charisma he did not find any other source for it but the Gospel, inspired by Allah to 'Isa. Muhammad believed that the pity and the mercy in the hearts of Christ's followers came out of this book. But he did not recognize the power of the Holy Spirit of which Paul writes, "The love of God has been poured out into our hearts by the Holy Spirit given us." (Rom. 5:5)
Muhammad felt positively about genuine Christians. Not only did he know Waraqa b. Naufal, the cousin of his first wife Khadidja, the honourable elder of a home Bible group in Mekka, but he also experienced that 83 Muslims found shelter with Christians in Abyssinia when the persecution of Muslims in Mekka became unbearable. The behaviour of the Abyssinian Christians gave shape to the image of the Christians in the Qur'an more than we suspect. However, the Abyssinians failed to evangelize the Muslim refugees. When the Muslims returned to Medina after Islam had become strong, 230 Ethiopians had accepted Islam, but only one Muslim there had become a Christian. That one died shorty after his conversion (probably a violent death).
In Sura al-Saff the Christians are called helpers and co-workers of Allah when they swore to be faithful to 'Isa in his trials and were prepared to fight for him. Allah assured them of victory over their enemies (Sura al-Saff 61:14).
When you read these verses in the Qur'an you find that Muhammad noticed that 'Isa had changed his followers into his image. They loved their enemies, blessed those who cursed them and did good to those who insulted and persecuted them (Matthew 5:44). They were humble and meek, not greedy, but prayed in their congregations, even at night if necessary. Their Book was the center and source of their worship. These Christians, described in the Qur'an, usually were not foreigners, but Arabs from the north, south and west of the Arabian Peninsula. Christ accomplished his greatest miracle in them: they lived according to what they believed and had become a new creation by the grace of their Saviour. Today former Muslims find their new identity as Biblical Christians described in the Qur'an. These verses can help them when they talk to their Islamic relatives.
10. The true Ayatollah
Twice we find in the Qur'an that Christ Jesus and his mother are great signs made by Allah (Suras al-Anbiya' 21:91; al-Sajda 32:50). Once it is revealed that Christ himself is a sign for the people and a mercy of Allah (Sura Maryam 19:21). These three verses confirm the mystery of Christ in the Qur'an and summarise the essence of all his miracles. The purpose of his miracles is not in themselves but as the revelation of him, who worked them.
In Arabic the word for sign is ajatun which also means miracle. Read together with the word Allah these two words make up the honorary title Ayatollah! Christ Jesus is the miraculous sign of Allah! The text in the Qur'an broadens the meaning of this word and shows its purpose: for men! Everybody should see Allah's omnipotence and love in the Son of Mary. No other prophet, king or priest bears this title of honour according to the Qur'an, not even Muhammad. Christ is the sole miracle of Allah that all men should recognize. All other Ayatollahs received their titles only from men.
When we ask why the Son of Mary is the greatest sign of Allah in the Qur'an, we find the answer in the Islamic belief that Allah created Christ in Mary solely through his word, without the participation of a human father. Allah breathed his spirit into her body. Therefore Christ is not only a man from a woman, but, according to the Qur'an, also a spirit from Allah in the body of a man. 'Isa existed with Allah even before he was born. After his ascension he returned to Allah with body, soul and spirit. Today, Jesus lives with Allah. Muhammad is dead. Christ Jesus is the only man who can be called "the Spirit of Allah" and "his word incarnate". Therefore Christ is the only sensory sign of Allah for all men.
From this dual quality – being a true man and a true spirit from Allah - all his signs and miracles occurred, according to the Qur'an:
● He is the word of Allah incarnate. He could already speak as a newborn child in the cradle.
These signs in the Qur'an are like a mirror that reflects the attributes and qualities of 'Isa, the Son of Mary. They show that he is the miracle of all miracles.
The Biblical Jesus can be discerned again and again in the verses of the Qur'an. Muhammad included much of the Christian faith there to present his Qur'an as comparable to the Gospel, so that Christians would be enticed to accept Islam. He did not always reveal his rejection of Christ's divinity, nor that he had discarded the crucifixion of Jesus. He acknowledged 'Isa the merciful accomplisher of miracles, the physician, the awakener of the dead and the legislator in order to draw Christians to Islam.
Hence, we have the right to take out the distorted testimony of the Christians from the Qur'an and to put it into the right context of the whole Gospel, as the only truth and the way to peace with God. The aim is not only to show law and grace, commandments and obedience in faith, but to draw the picture of the real Christ before the eyes of the Muslims, in order that they may see him, love him, believe in him, cling to him, receive his everlasting life and bear the holy fruit of his Spirit.
For this, Jesus calls himself the light of the world, the bread of life, the right way, the everlasting truth, the good shepherd, the true vine, the resurrection and the life, the king (with the crown of thorns), the first and the last. The "I am..." words of Jesus in the Gospel can enlighten a searching Muslim to comprehend that Jesus is not only a doer of miracles but the very love of God and his holiness in person.
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
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1. How many miracles of Moses does the Qur'an mention? What are their charateristics and aims?
Yours in His service,
Abd al-Masih and his brothers in the Lord
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