Common Identity – The Muslim Jesus

When I was a young doctor in the City hospital I was asked to look after a devout young Muslim from Pakistan. I brought him to the Doctors’ home where they were watching a Rugby match on the television. Someone shouted out an obscenity about Jesus and the young Muslim became deathly white and I practically had to carry him out of the room and gave him water to drink. I asked him: “Brother, what is wrong?”. He said: “Beloved Ian, they were blaspheming against the name of our Prophet Jesus”….

Despite the obvious stereotypes and pure ignorance that have sometimes obscured it, the long relationship that has existed between Christians and Muslims has also been mutually very appreciative and productive. No more so than that both traditions have for centuries shared a deep love for the Prophet of Galilee, Jesus of Nazareth.

Isa Ibn Maryam ( Arabic: عيسى, translit.: ʿĪsā ), known as Jesus in the New Testament, is considered  to be a Messenger of God and al-Masih (the Messiah) in Islam, who was sent to guide the Children of Israel (banī isrā’īl) with a new scripture, al-Injïl (the Gospel). The belief that Jesus is a prophet is required in Islam, as it is for all prophets named in the Qur’an. This is reflected in the fact that he is clearly a significant figure in the Qur’an (appearing in 93 ayaat or verses).

The Qur’an states that Jesus was born to Mary (Arabic: Maryam) as the result of virginal conception, a miraculous event which occurred by the decree of God (Arabic: Allah). To aid in his ministry to the Jewish people, Jesus was given the ability to perform miracles (such as healing the blind and bringing dead people back to life), all by the permission of God rather than of his own power. The Qur’an emphasizes that Jesus was a mortal human being who, like all other prophets, had been divinely chosen to spread God’s message.

The Muslim Jesus, Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature, Edited and Translated by Tarif Khalida 2001, presents in English translation the largest collection ever assembled of the sayings and stories of Jesus in Arabic Islamic literature. In doing so it traces a tradition of love and reverence for Jesus that has characterised Islamic thought for more more than a thousand years. An invaluable resource for the study of religions, the collection documents how one culture, that of Islam, assimilated the towering figure of another, that of Christianity. As such it is a work of great significance for the understanding of both and of profound implications for modern inter-sectarian relations and ecumenical dialogue. For demeaning of the name of Jesus causes great offence to Believers of both.

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