Summary of Previous Lecture “Finality of Prophethood”
In the past five sessions the discussion focused on the various aspects of prophet-hood in Islam. The main subjects that were covered are the need for prophets, the description and characteristics of a prophet, the basic mission of a prophet, the infallibility of a prophet and how he should be a moral person and set a good example for his people, the number of prophets that are mentioned in the Qur’an and was concluded specifically with the finality of prophet-hood. That is Prophet Muhammad being the last of all the prophets and messengers of God through whom the entire mission of prophet-hood was brought to its final most comprehensive and complete format.
2.6 Jesus in The Qur’an – Birth
Host: Today’s topic is going to be about Jesus the messiah in the Qur’an. What is the extent of coverage given to Jesus’ life in the Qur’an? How many times was Jesus mentioned in the Qur’an?
Well there are at least eleven chapters in the Qur’an where the name of Jesus or mention of him, his birth and life are mentioned. This is nothing extraneous or exterior to the belief of a Muslim. The chapters that contain mention of Prophet Jesus are 2, 3, 4, 5, 9, 19, 21, 23, 43, 57 and 61. There are a total of one hundred and fourteen chapters in the Qur’an and eleven of them mention Jesus. This shows the substantiality of Prophet Jesus.
An example is of three chapters and their titles show how much importance is given to this particular person. The nineteenth chapter in the Qur’an is titled after Jesus’ mother, Suraht Maryam or Chapter of Mary. Chapter three is titled after Mary’s family and is called Al’Imran or The Family of Imran. Chapter five is titled Al Ma’ida or The Table and tells the Islamic version of The Last Supper. So the titles of three chapters in the Qur’an are related in some form or another to the story of Jesus (PBUH) as is presented in the Qur’an.
Host: How is Jesus referred to in the Qur’an? Do they use the name Jesus in the Qur’an?
Yes, in some verses of the Qur’an it uses the term Esa, which is the Arabic equivalent to Jesus. In other places it uses Al Maseeh, not as a name, but as a description and title. This usually translates to The Messiah or the anointed from mash. They used to anoint great kings with oil (the exact Hebrew translation of the word Messiah is Maseeh) so the word Maseeh is a title given him. Both his actual name and his title are found in the Qur’an.
Host: What about the background of Jesus and the conditions at the time of his birth? Does the Qur’an delve into this subject?
There is some discussion on the environment in which Prophet Jesus was born. Basically the main problems of the time were extreme ritualism, formalism and materialism. This is corroborated in other references. For example, in the Bible, people refer to Jesus dismissing the money exchanges of the temple. The thing that is quite obvious is that the mission of previous Israelite prophets has been misinterpreted by many people to mean that one has to stick to the letters of the law while forgetting the spirit of the law. Just like the notion of an eye for an eye or a tooth for a tooth rather than the spirit of charity at times when it could be more beneficial for all who were concerned. So it was important, just like the case for many previous prophets in the past, that God sends a prophet when there is a fundamental need for change and a fundamental deviation from the previous message.
The miraculous aspect of his birth is somewhat consistent with the kind of reminder that people needed at that time, which is the existence of the spiritual world.
Host: What about Jesus’ lineage and does the Qur’an talk about this?
Yes, in the Qur’an, Prophet Jesus (PBUH) is regarded as one of the descendents of Prophet Abraham. In fact, it is amazing to note that all the famous prophets that emerged from the Middle East are all descendents of Prophet Abraham. The first son of Abraham is Ishmael and the only prophet who came from him is the last Prophet Muhammad. The second son, Isaac, was the patriarch in a sense that all other Israelite prophets were his descendents. The Qur’an clearly implies that Jesus is one of the descendents of Abraham (6:83-85).
More specifically the Qur’an traces Prophet Jesus’ lineage to his grandmother, the mother of Mary. She is the wife of Imran. It says that when the wife of Imran became pregnant she vowed to God to devote her child to His service; some interpret that to be the service of the temple. When she gave birth she found that her child was a girl and she named her Mary. At first, she was disappointed, because according to Jewish law, a girl can’t serve in the temple. However she accepted what God blessed her with and prayed to God and asked Him to bless Mary and all her descendents.
The Qur’an also says that Mary was later raised in the care of Prophet Zachariah who was a relative of hers and was the father of John the Baptist (Yahyain the Qur’an). She grew up under his supervision. He noted strange things about Mary. Whenever he entered her sanctuary he found that she had lots of food with her and would ask her “Mary where did you get this food?” She would answer “God has provided me with the food.” He was very impressed with this very pious and pure girl to the point that he started praying to God to give him a child that was as good and pure as she. It is important to note here that at that time Zachariah was very old and so was his wife. His wife was also barren. The Qur’an continues on telling that later on there was a miraculous birth of John the Baptist or Yahya. In fact, the miraculous birth of John the Baptist to a barren mother and very elderly parents was a prelude to another even more miraculous birth that was to take place shortly. This birth is of Prophet Jesus.
The Qur’an says, “Allah did choose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of ‘Imran above all people,- Offspring, one of the other: And Allah heareth and knoweth all things. Behold! a woman of ‘Imran said: “O my Lord! I do dedicate unto Thee what is in my womb for Thy special service: So accept this of me: For Thou hearest and knowest all things.” When she was delivered, she said: “O my Lord! Behold! I am delivered of a female child!”- and Allah knew best what she brought forth- “And no wise is the male Like the female. I have named her Mary, and I commend her and her offspring to Thy protection from the Evil One, the Rejected.” Right graciously did her Lord accept her: He made her grow in purity and beauty: To the care of Zakariya was she assigned. Every time that he entered (Her) chamber to see her, He found her supplied with sustenance. He said: “O Mary! Whence (comes) this to you?” She said: “From Allah. for Allah Provides sustenance to whom He pleases without measure.” There did Zakariya pray to his Lord, saying: “O my Lord! Grant unto me from Thee a progeny that is pure: for Thou art He that heareth prayer!”” (3:33-37)
Host: Did Mary, according to the Qur’an, predict her predicament? Did she know beforehand that she was going to be with child and that child was going to be Jesus and that his status in life was going to be that important?
According to the Qur’an, she did have some notion or at least an idea of the kind of miracle that was going to take place through her. According to the Qur’an, there is no dispute on the birth of Jesus as a virgin birth. She gave birth before she married Joseph the carpenter. As I said, the way he was born is the most outstanding miracle of Prophet Jesus (PBUH).
The summary of the verses in regards to Jesus, show that at one point Mary was alone in a place secluded from her family and there appeared to her the angle of God in the form of a human being. In the beginning she was scared since she was alone. She implored him not to get near her if he really feared God. He told her not to be afraid, he was not there to hurt her and he was simply coming to bring her the news of the birth of a noble and pure child.
The translation from the Qur’an says, “Relate in the Book (the story of) Mary, when she withdrew from her family to a place in the East. She placed a screen (to screen herself) from them; then We sent her our angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects. She said: “I seek refuge from thee to ((Allah)) Most Gracious: (come not near) if thou dost fear Allah.” He said: “Nay, I am only a messenger from thy Lord, (to announce) to thee the gift of a holy son.” She said: “How shall I have a son, seeing that no man has touched me, and I am not unchaste?” He said: “So (it will be): Thy Lord saith, ‘That is easy for Me: and (We wish) to appoint him as a Sign unto men and a Mercy from Us:’ It is a matter (so) decreed.” (19:16-21) This is how the news of the future birth of Jesus was related to Mary.
Host: Did Mary deliver Jesus in the normal way- was her childbearing and delivery like everyone else? Were there any miracles in this respect again?
There is no evidence in the Qur’an that the delivery was unusual. The pregnancy was just like any other woman’s pregnancy. In fact, the Qur’an talks about Marry suffering the agony of child birth like any other woman. The Qur’an also says that she was very distressed psychologically because she was worried about what her people would think of her and how she was going to explain this virgin birth. She was afraid nobody would believe her. The Qur’an also indicates that something miraculous happened immediately after Jesus was born. Jesus assured and told her what to do when people asked her these questions. The Qur’an also says that as an infant in her arms he defended his mother against the accusations that were made.
The Qur’an states, “So she conceived him, and she retired with him to a remote place. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm-tree: She cried (in her anguish): “Ah! would that I had died before this! Would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!” But (a voice) cried to her from beneath the (palm-tree): “Grieve not! for thy Lord hath provided a rivulet beneath thee;” And shake towards thyself the trunk of the palm-tree: It will let fall fresh ripe dates upon thee. “So eat and drink and cool (thine) eye. And if thou dost see any man, say, ‘I have vowed a fast to ((Allah)) Most Gracious, and this day will I enter into not talk with any human being'” (19:22-26)
The Qur’an continues, “At length she brought the (babe) to her people, carrying him (in her arms). They said: “O Mary! truly an amazing thing hast thou brought!” “O sister of Aaron! Thy father was not a man of evil, nor thy mother a woman unchaste!” But she pointed to the babe. They said: “How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?” He said: “I am indeed a servant of Allah. He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet; And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live; (He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable; So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)!” Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: (it is) a statement of truth, about which they (vainly) dispute. It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! when He determines a matter, He only says to it, “Be”, and it is. Verily Allah is my Lord and your Lord: Him therefore serve ye: this is a Way that is straight. But the sects differ among themselves: and woe to the unbelievers because of the (coming) Judgment of a Momentous Day! How plainly will they see and hear, the Day that they will appear before Us! but the unjust today are in error manifest! But warn them of the Day of Distress, when the matter will be determined: for (behold,) they are negligent and they do not believe! It is We Who will inherit the earth, and all beings thereon: to Us will they all be returned.” (19:27-40)
Host: Does the Qur’an say that Jesus had only a mother and no father?
Who is Eve’s father (the first woman)? Who is Adam’s father? If a person doesn’t have a physical human father this implies that he is divine or he is God? Then Eve must have been God and Adam must have been God because they both don’t have parents! The Qur’an answers this question in one verse, “The similitude of Jesus before God is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: “Be.” And he was. The Truth (comes) from God alone; so be not of those who doubt.” (3:59-60) In accordance to this verse, it simply says that God, who was able to create Adam and Eve without a father or mother, can just as easily create Jesus without a father. Indeed we should remember it is not only the birth of Prophet Jesus (PBUH) that is miraculous- but the birth of any human being is miraculous. If we study how the various genetic characteristics are passed on, parents to children, we should view that as a miracle in itself. All we can say is that it is both miraculous and unusual in the case of Prophet Jesus.
The point to remember here is that God isn’t bound to follow the same laws that we consider to be laws of nature, because God himself created nature and these laws. He can break the rules whenever He wishes; this of course may not necessarily be the pattern as most of the time there is harmony between what we see as natural laws and the will of God but He has the power whenever He wants to give us certain signs (that break from the norm).
The Qur’an says, “Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah. He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous.” She said: “O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?” He said: “Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, ‘Be,’ and it is! And Allah will teach him the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel, And (appoint him) an apostle to the Children of Israel, (with this message).” (3:45-49)
It is obvious from this is that the will of God doesn’t need a human medium to create a pregnancy. If He decides it He can just order that a child is born from a virgin. God has various unusual methods in creation and the creation of Prophet Jesus (PBUH) completes the picture. First, was the creation of people without a father or mother, which is the case with Adam. Then there is the creation of a human being from a man’s rib (side), which is obviously Eve. Third, there is the normal creation of a human being, both from a mother and a father and that is every one of us. Last, is the creation of a human being from a mother and not a father. This beautifully completes the various miracles of God, which are all equally important and stunning.