Jesus Through a Muslim Lens

Many may be surprised to learn that Muslims believe in Jesus' miracles. But this shared interest goes much further

Jesus of Nazareth is the most widely revered religious figure in the world. Not only is he central to Christianity, the largest religion in the world, he is also venerated throughout Islam, the world's second largest faith.



Christians may be surprised to learn that Muslims believe in the Virgin Birth and Jesus' miracles. But this shared interest in his message goes much further.

In our scientific age, the miraculous side of Jesus' story has greatly obscured his role in the prophetic tradition. In this sense, there may be more important questions for Muslims and Christians than whether he walked on water or raised the dead.

In the Muslim view, Jesus' essential work was not to replicate magic bread or to test our credulity, but to complement the legalism of the Torah with a leavening compassion rarely expressed in the older testament. His actions and words introduce something new to monotheism: They develop the merciful spirit of God's nature. Jesus confirmed the Torah, stressing the continuity of his lineage, but he also developed the importance of compassion and self-purification as crucial links between learning the words of God's message and possessing the wisdom to carry it out.

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Oddly enough, some of the recent work by New Testament scholars seems to have reached a view of Christ not all that different from Muslims'. For us and for these scholars, Jesus appears not as a literal son of God in human form, but as an inspired human being, a teacher of wisdom with a talent for love drawn from an unbroken relationship to God. Both versions present him as a man who spoke to common people in universal terms.

Two events in the life of the prophet Muhammad may help explain why Muslims revere the Christian Jesus.

The first event involves an elder resident of Mecca named Waraqa bin Nawfal. This man was an early Arab Christian and an uncle of Muhammad's wife, Khadija. We know he could read Hebrew, that he was mystical by nature, and that he attended Khadija and Muhammad's wedding in about 595 C.E. Fifteen years later, a worried Khadija sought Waraqa out and brought her husband to him.

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