Jesus or Isa in Arabic (peace be upon him) is of great significance in both Islam and Christianity. However, there are differences in terms of beliefs about the nature and life occurrences of Jesus . There are about 71 verses in the Quran that refer to Prophet Jesus.
Following is a translation and explanation of Chapter 3 verses 44 thru 60 by Sayyid Abul Ala Mawdudi, English rendering by Muhammad Akbar.
O Muhammad, these are the “unseen” things, We are revealing to you: you were not present there when the priests of the Temple were casting lots by throwing their quills to decide which of them should be the guardian of Mary: 43 nor were you with them when they were arguing about it. Quran 3:44
Note 43: As Mary was a girl who had been dedicated by her mother to the Temple in the way of God, the question of her guardianship had become a problem for the keepers because of her sex. They were therefore casting lots to decide the delicate problem.
And remember when the angels said, “O Mary, God sends you the good news of a Command of His: his name shall be Messiah, Jesus son of Mary. He will be highly honored in this world and in the Next World and he will be among those favored by God. He will speak to the people alike when in the cradle and when grown up, and he will be among the righteous.” Hearing this, Mary said, “How, O Lord, shall I have a son, when no man has ever touched me?” “Thus shall it be,”44 was the answer. God creates whatever He wills. When He decrees a thing, He only says, “Be” and it is. (Continuing their message, the angels added,) “And God will teach him the Book and wisdom, and give him the knowledge of the Torah and the Gospel, and appoint him as His Messenger to the children of Israel.” Quran 3:45-49
Note 44 That is, “Although no man has touched you, yet a son shall be born to you.” It should be noted that the same word “kazalika, “meaning “so shall it be,” had been used in response to Zacharias’ prayer. It, therefore, carries the same sense here. Moreover, the whole context here corroborates the story that Mary was given the glad tidings of the birth of a son without any sexual intercourse, and the birth of Christ, in actual fact, took place in that unusual way. If a son was to be born to her in the normal known way, and if the event of the birth of Jesus had taker. place in a natural way, then the whole discourse starting from verse 33 and ending with verse 63 would become absolutely pointless. Not only that but all other references to the unusual birth of Jesus in the Qur’an would lose their significance and meaning. The Christians had made Jesus the Son of God and worthy of worship simply because of his unusual birth without a father and the Jews had accused Mary because they had witnessed that she had given birth to a child, though she was not married. Had it been otherwise, then the two groups could have been told plainly that the girl was married to such and such a man and that Jesus was from his seed. In that case, one fails to see the reason why such a long introduction and a series of arguments should have been necessary to remove all doubts about his miraculous birth. Then Jesus could have been called the son of a particular man, instead of being called “the son of Mary”. The position of those people who, on the one hand, profess to believe the Holy Qur’an to be the Word of God and on the other hand try to prove that Jesus was born after the natural coming together of a husband and wife, really try to show that God is not able to express Himself as clearly as these people. (May God protect us from blasphemy!)
(And when he came as a Messenger to the children of Israel, he said,) “I have come to you with a clear Sign from your Lord: in your very presence, I make the likeness of a bird out of clay and breathe into it and it becomes, by God’s Command, a bird. I heal those born blind and the lepers and I bring to life the dead by God’s Command: I inform you of what you eat and what you store up in your houses. Surely there is a great Sign for you in all this, if you have a mind to believe. 45 And I have come to confirm those teachings of the Guidance of the Torah which are intact in my time. 46 Lo! I have come with a clear Sign from your Lord; 47 so fear God and obey me. Indeed God is my Lord, and also your Lord; therefore worship Him alone: that is the straight way.”48 Quran 3:49-51
Note 45 That is, “These Signs are clear enough to convince you that I have been sent by that God Who is the Creator and Absolute Ruler of this universe, provided that you are not obdurate but are willing to accept the Truth.”
Note 46 That is, “This is yet another proof of the fact that I have been sent by God. If I had been a false prophet I would have invented my own religion and by virtue of these miracles striven to divert you from your previous Faith to the New creed. But I profess the same original religion to be true and confirm the same teachings which were brought by the Prophets before me.”
The fact that Jesus taught the same religion that had been presented by Moses and the other Prophets is supported even by the existing Gospels. For example, according to the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus declared in the Sermon on the Mount: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the Prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill.” (5: 17).
One of the Pharisees, who was a lawyer, asked Jesus, “Which is the great commandment in the law?” He replied:
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and the great commandment. And the second is like. unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and Prophets.” (Matthew 22: 37-40).On another occasion Jesus said to his disciples:
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not.” (Matthew 23: 2-3).
Note 47 That is, “I have come to efface and abolish the superstitions of your ignorant people, the hairsplitting of your jurists, the religious austerities of your ascetics and the restrictive additions made in the Law of God under the non-Muslim domination; I will make lawful or unlawful for you only those things which God has made lawful or unlawful.”
Note 48 This shows that like all other Prophets, Jesus also based his teachings on the following three fundamentals:
The Supreme Authority to which mankind should submit and surrender exclusively belongs to God and all the social and moral systems should be built entirely on it.
Being a representative of the same Paramount Power, a prophet must be obeyed unconditionally.
God alone is entitled to prescribe laws and regulations for making things lawful or unlawful, pure and impure; consequently all laws imposed by others must be abolished.
Thus it is clear that Jesus, Moses, Muhammad and all other Prophets (God’s peace be upon them all) had one and the same mission. Those people who say that different Prophets were sent with different missions and to fulfill different aims, are gravely mistaken. Anyone, who is delegated by the Absolute Master of the Universe to His subjects, cannot have any other mission than to prevent the people, from becoming disobedient to and independent of Him, and to forbid them to set others to rank with God as partners in His Authority in any way. For, they are sent to invite the people to surrender and submit and be loyal to the Almighty God and worship Him alone.
It is a pity that the existing Gospels do not present the mission of Jesus so precisely and clearly as it has been presented above in the Holy Qur’an. Nevertheless all the three basic things mentioned above are found scattered over in these Books. For instance, the fact that Jesus believed exclusively in the worship of God is clear from the following:
“Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and Him only shalt thou serve.” (Matthew 4: 10).
Not only did he believe in this, but also made it the ultimate aim of all his activities and strove to make the people of the earth to submit to the revealed Law of God just as the whole universe submits to His physical Law.
“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” (Matthew 6 :10).
Then the fact that Jesus always presented himself as a prophet and as a representative of the Kingdom of Heaven, and always invited the people to follow him in that capacity alone, is supported by a number of his sayings. When he started his mission in his native place, Nazareth, the people of his own town and his own kinsfolk rose against him and according to an agreed tradition of Matthew, Mark and Luke, he said: “No prophet is accepted in his own country”. And when his enemies were conspiring at Jerusalem to kill him and the people advised him to go to somewhere else, he replied: “It cannot be that a prophet perish out of Jerusalem.” (Luke 13: 33).
When he was entering Jerusalem for the last time, his disciples began to utter in a loud voice: “Blessed be the King that cometh in the name of the Lord.” At this the Pharisees felt offended and asked him to silence his disciples. He replied:
“I tell you that, if these should hold their peace, the stones would immediately cry out.” (Luke 19: 38-40).
On another occasion he said: “Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me for I am meek and lowly in heart ….. my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Matthew 11: 28-30). Moreover the fact that Jesus wanted the people to obey the Divine Law rather than man-made laws becomes clear from that tradition of Matthew and Mark which says that when the Pharisees asked, why his disciples transgressed the tradition of the elders and took food without washing their hands,. he replied and said, “Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written. This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandments of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups, and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto the, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. For Moses said, Honor thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.” (Mark 7 : 6-13).
When Jesus perceived that the children of Israel were bent upon disbelief, he said, “Who will be my helper in the cause of God?” The disciples 49 (promptly responded and) said, “We are God’s helpers: 50 we have believed in God; so do bear witness that we are Muslims (who surrender to God). Lord! we have believed in that which Thou hast sent down and followed Thy Messenger; so enroll us among those who bear witness. Quran 3:52-53
Note 49 The Arabic word (havari) is almost the equivalent of “helper”. In the Bible, they have been called “disciples” and at some places “apostles” because Jesus used to send them to the people to deliver his message, and not because God had appointed them as His apostles.
Note 50 Those people who help establish Islam have been called God’s helpers. In order to understand its significance, it should be kept in view that God has taken upon Himself to persuade human beings to adopt Islam of their free will, for He does not force His will on man in those spheres of his life in which He has granted him freedom of action but likes to convince him by reason and admonition. As it is the work of God to bring the people to the right way by admonition and advice, He calls those people who exert their utmost to establish Islam “His helpers and companions:” This is indeed the highest position that a servant of God can aspire to achieve. For man’s position is merely that of a servant when he is engaged in praying, fasting and other kinds of worship, but he is elevated to the high and unique position of God’s companion and assistant when he is exerting for the establishment of the way of God. And this is indeed the loftiest position of spiritual attainment, to which a man can aspire in this world.
Then the children of Israel began to plot (against Jesus) and God also devised His secret plan, and God is the best of devisers. (It was to carry out His secret plan that) He said, “O Jesus, now I will recall 51 you and raise you up to Myself and cleanse you of (the uncongenial company and the filthy environment of ) those who have rejected you and will set up those who follow you above those who have rejected you 52 till the Day of Resurrection. And ultimately all of you shall return to Me: then I will judge between you in what you differ, and punish with a grievous punishment, both in this world and in the Hereafter, those who have adopted the attitude of disbelief and rejection and they shall have none to help them. And those, who have believed and done good deeds, shall be given their rewards in full. And note it well that God does not like the transgressors.” Quran 3:54-57
Note 51 The word (mutawaffi) in the Arabic text is from (tawaffa) which literally means “to take and to receive” and “to seize the soul” is not its lexical but metaphorical meaning. Here it means “to recall from mission.” God recalled Jesus because the Israelites had rejected him in spite of the clear Signs he had brought. They had been disobeying God for centuries and, in spite of many a warning and admonition served to them, their national character was rapidly deteriorating. They had killed several Prophets, one after the other, and had grown so audacious as to demand the blood of any good man who ventured to invite them to the Right Way. In order to give them the last chance for turning to the Truth, God appointed among them two great Prophets, Jesus and John (God’s peace be upon them), at one and the same time. These Prophets came with such clear signs of their appointment from God that only such people dared reject them as were utterly perverted and prejudiced against the Truth and were averse to following the Right Way. Nevertheless the Israelites lost their last chance also as they not only rejected their invitation but also had the head of a great Prophet like John cut off openly at the request of a dancing girl. ‘And their Pharisees and Jurists conspired and sought to get Jesus punished with the death sentence by the Roman Government. Thus they had proved themselves to be so obdurate that it was useless to give the Israelites any further chance. So God recalled His Prophet Jesus and inflicted on them a life of disgrace up to the Day of Resurrection.
It will be useful here to bear in mind the fact that this whole discourse is meant to refute and correct the Christian belief in the God-head of Jesus. Three main things were responsible for the prevalence of this belief among the Christians:
The miraculous birth of Jesus.
His concrete and tangible miracles.
His ascension to heaven about which their Scriptures were explicit.
The Qur’an confirmed the first thing and made it plain that the birth of Jesus without a father was only a manifestation of the infinite powers of God. He can create anybody in whatever manner He wills. His miraculous birth, therefore, is no reason why he should be made a god or a partner in Godhead.
The Qur’an also confirms the second thing and even recounts the miracles performed by Jesus, but makes it clear that all those miracles were performed by him, as a servant of God, by His leave and not as an independent authority. It is, therefore, wrong to infer that Jesus was a partner in Godhead.
Now let us consider the third thing. If the Christian belief in “Ascension” had been wholly baseless, it could have been refuted by pointing out that the object of their worship, the so-called “Son of God”, expired long ago and had become one with dust, and that they could see, for their full satisfaction, his grave at such and such a place. But the Qur’an does not declare this explicitly. On the other hand, it not only uses such words as give at least a vague suggestion of his “Ascension”, but also denies that Jesus was crucified at all. According to it the one who gave a loud cry at his last hour, saying, “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani?” and the one whose picture they carry on the cross, was not Messiah at all, because God had recalled to Himself the real Messiah before the crucifixion took place.
It is thus clear that those people who try to prove the death of Jesus from these verses, really try to show that God is not able to express Himself clearly and unambiguously. (May God protect us from such a blasphemy!)
Note 52 “Those who rejected” him were the Jews who were invited by Jesus to accept the Truth.
“Those who follow” him are really the Muslims only but if it may be taken to imply all those who believe in him, then the sincere Christians may also be included.
The stories which We are relating to you are full of signs and wisdom. In the sight of God, the case of the birth of Jesus is like that of Adam, whom He created out of dust and said, “Be”, and he was. 53 This is the fact of the matter your lord is imparting, and you should not be of those who doubt it. 54 Quran 3:58-60
Note 53 That is, “If one’s miraculous birth entitles one to become God or the Son of God, then Adam was better entitled to it because he was created without either a human father or a mother, while Jesus was born without a father only.
Note 54 The main points in the discourse presented before the Christians up to here are:
First, he was only a man who was born in a miraculous way by the will of God and given the power to perform certain miracles as a clear proof of his Prophet-hood. As regards his “Ascension”, God had arranged to recall him to Himself before the disbelievers could crucify him. In fact, the Master of the Universe has full powers to treat any of His servants in any special way He pleases. It is, therefore, wrong to infer from the exceptional treatment accorded to Jesus that he himself was the Master or the Master’s Son or a partner in the authority of the Master.
Secondly, their attention has been drawn to the fact that Prophet Muhammad (God’s peace be upon him) invites them to the same Truth that had been preached by Prophet Jesus (God’s peace be upon him) in his own time and that the teachings of the two Prophets were basically identical.
Thirdly, the disciples of Jesus believed in and followed the same religion of Islam that is being presented in the Qur’an. However, the Christians of the later age discarded the message of Jesus and digressed from the Faith of his disciples.