City of Brass

Happy Easter to my Christian friends!

Fundamentally, Easter is the day that Christians celebrate the resurrection of Christ. As I’ve noted before, in Islam there is no direct analogue to Easter, but there are some very important points of agreement. The Qur’an specifically discusses the crucifixion of Jesus AS in a few verses, 4:157-9:

And [for] their saying, “Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.” And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but [another] was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain.;

Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise;

And there is none from the People of the Scripture but that he will surely believe in Jesus before his death. And on the Day of Resurrection he will be against them a witness.

In both Islam and Christianity, then, Jesus AS was raised to heaven, but the crucial difference is the crucifixion. There is of course some historical evidence that supports the crucifixion as a recorded event, including from some Roman sources. And the verse in the Qur’an itself says quite explicitly that “so it was made to appear to them”. One of the mainstream views among muslim theologians is that another was crucified in Jesus’ AS place; either as punishment (likely Judas) or as a willing martyr (often cited as Simon). There are also various minority views, in which Jesus AS did die or achieved separation of spirit from his body. The Wikipedia article “Islamic views of Jesus’ death” provides a comprehensive overview of the various interpretations.

More importantly, Jesus AS will return according to both religions. In Christianity this is called the Second Coming, whereas in Islam Jesus will play a role in Judgement Day (itself, another point of convergence between both faiths).

There are some who find the Islamic view of Jesus – basically a reinterpretation of the events – as offensive, which of course is their right. But it should be noted that the Christian tradition itself was a reinterpretation of the earlier Jewish tradition. Specifically, the Last Supper of Jesus AS and his disciples (who are also mentioned in the Qur’an) was a reinterpretation of the Passover feast, changing it’s significance from the Jewish observance of God’s mercy to instead a preparation for Christ’s sacrifice and the symbolic rebirth for him and for all Christians afterwards.

Given that this Easter, there is a new Pope, I am hoping that Easter this year will also signify a rebirth in relations between Muslims and Christians. As always I am struck by how much we have in common, which we should repeatedly affirm despite our important theological differences.

Happy Easter, everyone!

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