Jesus is the most important historical figure that separates the three primary monotheistic faiths, i.e. Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. The role of Jesus in Islam is much different than either Christianity or Judaism, and his role also differs between those two faiths as well.
Jesus In Islam, Christianity, And Judaism
Jesus In Islam
First, we should understand Jesus’ name. His name in English is not a true representation of his real name.
His name in Aramaic, the language that he spoke, was Yesua, which means “Joshua”.
The name Yesua (pronounced Yee-soo-wah) was converted in Greek to Iesous, and then Latinized to Iesus. In English, the “i” was replaced with a “j” so English speakers say Jesus.
In Arabic, he is known as Isa or Eesa. This most likely comes from the Latin form of his name, as this is what he was called during the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
It is not proper for Muslims to call him Joshua, or Yusha, as neither pronunciation comes close to what he was called at that time.
Instead, the word Isa (pronounced Ee-saw) is closer to the original pronunciation (Yee-soo-wah), closer to the language of the ruling government at that time (Roman), and closer to the language of the Christians (Greek) during the time of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him).
Inshallah, I will alternatively refer to him as Prophet Isa and Prophet Jesus for the sake of my English readers. However, as stated above, I believe the word Eesa is closest to the original pronunciation.
The most remarkable aspect of Prophet Isa is his miraculous birth. His mother was Maryam the daughter of Imran, both of whom were righteous and pious individuals.
Maryam was not married when Jesus was born and was a virgin when Allah informed her through His angel Jibreel that she would give birth to the Messiah.
“And We sent to her Our spirit and it assumed the likeness of a perfect man. She said, “I seek refunge in the Beneficent One from you, if you fear Allah. He said, “I am only a messenger of your Lord, to bestow on you a perfect son. She said, “How can I have a son when no man has touched me, nor have I been unchaste?” He said, “So it will be. Your Lord said: ‘It is easy for Me. And it will be that We may make of him a sign for mankind and a mercy from Us, and it has been ordained.’”
Chapter 19 Verse 17-21
Prophet Eesa was born about 600 years before Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) in the area of the Bethlehem Valley which is about 5 miles from Jerusalem. He was most likely born under a palm tree in this valley as the Quran states:
“And the pangs of childbirth drove her under a palm tree.” Chapter 19 Verse 23.
After Maryam gave birth to Eesa (peace be upon both of them), she returned to her family. They were naturally shocked to see her with a baby since she came from a respectable family and they knew she was not yet married.
Maryam did not know what to tell her family so she simply pointed at her son. Her family responded in surprise, asking how can a baby explain what happened?
The she brought him to her own folk, carrying him. They said, “Oh Mary! You have brought a surprising thing. Oh Sister of Aaron! Your father was not a wicked man nor was your mother unchaste. Then she pointed to him. They said, “How can we talk to one who is in the cradle, a young boy?”
Chapter 19 Verses 27-29
Before continuing, I would like to address the phrase “Sister of Aaron.” Many of the enemies of Islam have tried to use this phrase as proof that Prophet Muhammad made the Quran up and got several facts incorrect. They say this because in the Old Testament, Prophet Musa had a brother named Aaron and a sister named Miriam. They say that Prophet Muhammad got this wrong as Moses, Aaron, and Miriam lived several centuries before Eesa and his mother Maryam (Allah’s peace be upon them all).
However, this phrase “Sisters of Aaron” does not mean that Prophet Muhammad thought Maryam was Moses’ and Aaron’s biological sister. It is most likely that righteous women at the time were called “Sisters of Aaron,” as Prophet Aaron (Haroon in Arabic, peace be upon him) was the high priest for the Children of Israel.
This custom is still carried on today amongst the Catholics and Orthodox Christians who sometimes refer to orders of nuns as “Sisters of Saint Joseph,” “Sisters of Mercy,” “Sisters of Mary,” and so on.
More proof of this is the fact that no where else in the Quran does it mention that Prophet Musa and Prophet Aaron were related to Maryam (peace be upon them all). This despite the fact that Musa is mentioned more times in the Quran than any other prophet, including Muhammad. The Quran mentions Moses’ birth, his travels, his brother, his mother, his time with the Pharoah and his wife.
Yet, there is no part that mentions him being related to Maryam. This is clear proof that Prophet Muhammad knew they were not directly related and did not make a mistake in the verse above.
After pointing to her son, Isa replied:
“I am the slave of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and has made me a Prophet. And He has made me blessed wherever I may be and has not made me arrogant, or unblessed. Peace on me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I shall be raised back to life.” Chapter 19 Verses 30-33.
Jesus the Son of Mary was a prophet of Allah. By the Grace of Allah, he performed many miracles. He is also the Messiah, or the anointed one (Christ), who will return near the End Times.
Jesus In Christianity
Christians have a much different view of Jesus though this view has changed over time.
Today, Christians universally believe that Isa (peace be upon him) is the son of Allah. There are different interpretations of this belief, but they are essentially all the same.
Some Christians believe that Jesus is the actual son of Allah. Some believe that he is actually Allah in the flesh. Some believe that he is the Word or Spirit of Allah.
Whatever the iteration of belief, they all violate the concept of Tawheed (Islamic Monotheism). These beliefs all point to worshiping a creation of Allah (Jesus) rather than Allah Himself.
Another major departure from the Islamic beliefs of Jesus that Christians have is his death. It is an important aspect of Christian faith that one must believe that Jesus is the Savior of mankind. They believe he was killed (crucified) for man’s sins. According to Christians, all who accept this belief will be saved from God’s punishment.
This belief however was not always the same. The earliest Christians did not consider themselves as a separate faith from Judaism. They thought of themselves as Jews who followed the teachings of Christ. While it is not certain if they believed in his crucifixion, they certainly did not believe he was God in the flesh.
This belief did not come about until Paul of Tarsis began to spread his version of Christian belief.
Muslims do not believe that Jesus was crucified at all. Instead, he was saved by Allah from his persecutors and raised him up to the heavens where he will remain until it is time to slay the Anti-Christ.
Jesus In Judaism
Both Muslims and Christians believe that Jesus is the Messiah. But Christians take their love for Jesus too far and worship him as a god. Jews go too far in the other direction and do not believe he is the Messiah or a prophet.
Different Jewish beliefs go to varying lengths of their belief toward Isa. Some beliefs are very extreme and declare that Maryam committed fornication and hid it by saying his birth was a miracle.
But most Jews today simply believe that Eesa was the son of Maryam’s husband Joseph and was just another Jewish preacher though not the Messiah.
The Life Of Jesus
Jesus was sent to the Children of Israel after they have lost their kingdom, prestige, and wealth. At the time of Jesus, Jerusalem was a part of the Roman Empire. The Romans were pagans and worshiped a pantheon of deities. But they allowed the Jews to worship as they please so long as they did not threaten the Empire.
However, at this time the Children of Israel were neglecting many parts of their faith. Some of them began to take part in Riba (usury or interest). Some of them were very strict in certain aspects of their faith (like the Kosher dietary laws) but were too relaxed in others (like belief in the Resurrection and Judgement of Allah). Many of them began to believe that they were God’s chosen people and were immune from His punishment.
And many of the learned Jews, or Rabbis, studied the Tawrat (Law of Moses) but did not act upon its teachings. Allah reprimanded the deviant one amongst the Children of Israel:
The example of those who learn the Tawrat and then do not apply it are like a donkey who carries books. Wretched is the example of those who deny Allah’s revelations. Say: “Oh you you who are Jews! If you believe that you are the special friends of Allah apart from all mankind, then long for death if you are truthful. But they will not long for it because of what their hands have done before them and Allah is aware of the wrong-doers.
Chapter 62 Verses 5-8.
When Jesus began to preach his message, most of the poor and destitute of society flocked to him and accepted him as a Prophet of Allah. But the priests, high-ranking officials, and wealthy people of Judea mostly rejected him.
As a sign to the Children of Israel, Allah allowed Isa to perform many miracles including:
- Healing the sick and lame.
- Giving sight to the blind.
- Forming a clay figure of a bird and breathing life into it.
- Raising a man from the dead.
- Multiplying a small amount of food to feed thousands.
As Jesus’ teachings began to threaten their livelihood and status, those who opposed Jesus sought to have him killed. They fabricated a story against him that he claimed to be the son of God and claimed to be the King of the Jews.
When the Romans came to arrest and crucify Jesus, Allah saved him and raised him to the heavens. Allah put Jesus’ likeness on another man who had betrayed Isa and he was crucified instead.
His Return As The Messiah
Allah created Jesus as the Messiah. He also created a counterpart, a false Messiah, we know as the Dajjal.
As the Last Days approach, this false Messiah will spread corruption throughout the earth. He will wage war against the believers, and he will claim to be a god. He will reward those who worship him and punish those who reject him. Most of the world will follow his corruption.
The believers will follow Al-Mahdi in his battle against the forces of the Dajjal (Antichrist). The Dajjal will attack the Muslims in their stronghold of Mecca and Medina. However he will not be able to enter those cities, so he will head for Jerusalem instead. This is when Prophet Isa will descend and join the Muslims in their battle against the False Messiah.
The Muslims will recognize Isa and will ask him to lead them in prayer. But Isa (peace be upon him) will defer to the Mahdi and pray behind him. Then the Muslim army will attack the Dajjal’s army. In the midst of the battle, Eesa will kill the Dajjal and the Muslims will be victorious.
When it is evident that Eesa (peace be upon him) is the true Messiah, he will bring an end to Christianity (i.e. he will break the cross and kill the pigs). He will then rule over the world with justice for 40 years according to Islamic Shariah. During this time, he will marry, have children, and die a normal death. But before he dies, all of the People of the Book, including Jews and Christians, will have the proper belief i.e., they will be Muslim.
And not one of the people of the book will be excepted from becoming safe in him before his death. And on the day of Judgment he will happen to be a witness upon them.
Chapter 4 Verse 159.
In conclusion, Muslims accept and respect Jesus (peace be upon him) as a Prophet of God and the Messiah. He is a creation of Allah, as was his righteous mother Maryam (may Allah be pleased with them both), and is a human who ate, drank, slept, and submitted to the Will of Allah.
Though Jewish by ethnicity, Isa was a Muslim by faith.