Qur’an – also spelled as Quran or Koran – is the primary holy text of the Islamic faith. According to Muslim beliefs, the words of the Qur’an were dictated by Muhammad, who relayed them orally to his followers. The term Qur’an translates to mean “the recitation.” The message was delivered by Muhammad approximately 600 years after the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. Given the Qur’an is the foundation of the Islamic worldview – the basis of Muhammad’s prophetic claims, the foundation of Shari’a law, and the most frequently recited book in the world.
The Qur’an mentions Jesus, or Isa, 25 times, but differently each time. The Qur’an explains that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary (19:20-21) and is “high honored in this and the next world” (3:45-47). Thus, He is called Isa ibn Maryam, or Jesus son of Mary. The Qur’an also refers to Him as ruh min Akkah (“Spirit from God”), mushia bi’l Baraka (“the Messiah – someone blessed by God”), kalimah min Allah (“Word from/of God”), and rasul (Prophet-Messenger) of God.
Some references of Jesus in the Qur’an include:
2:87: We gave Jesus the Son of Mary Clear (Signs) and strengthened him with the holy spirit.
2:136: We believe in Allah, and the revelation given to us, and to Abraham, Isma'il, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and that given to Moses and Jesus, and that given to (all) prophets from their Lord: We make no difference between one and another of them . . .
2:253: . . . To Jesus the son of Mary We gave clear (Signs), and strengthened him with the holy spirit.
3:45: 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.
3:46: "He shall speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. And he shall be (of the company) of the righteous."
3:48: And Allah will teach him the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel.
3:49: And (appoint him) a messenger to the Children of Israel, (with this message): "I have come to you, with a Sign from your Lord, in that I make for you out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, and breathe into it, and it becomes a bird by Allah's leave: And I heal those born blind, and the lepers, and I quicken the dead, by Allah's leave; and I declare to you what ye eat, and what ye store in your houses. Surely therein is a Sign for you if ye did believe."
3:50: (I have come to you), to attest the Law which was before me. And to make lawful to you part of what was (Before) forbidden to you; I have come to you with a Sign from your Lord. So fear Allah, and obey me.
3:52: When Jesus found Unbelief on their part He said: "Who will be My helpers to (the work of) Allah?"
3:55: Behold! Allah said: "O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, to the Day of Resurrection: Then shall ye all return unto me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute."
Muslims believe that Jesus was a prophet who was given a special message – injul, or the gospel – to convey to all people. This message both confirmed what was taught in the Torah and foretold the coming of Prophet Muhammad. Thus, Jesus has a vital and unique role in the Muslim faith.
However, while Muslims accept that Jesus was a servant, teacher and lover of God’s Word, they do not believe that He was divine or the Son of God. The Qur’an describes the miracles Jesus performed, such as healing the sick and raising the dead, but does not ascribe these miracles to His divinity. Instead, Jesus is a sign to all humankind of God’s endless mercy.
Muslims do not believe in original sin. They see no need for a savior and, moreover, do not believe in Jesus’ crucifixion. The Qur’an states that Jesus was assumed into heaven (3:169), before His actual death. Islamic tradition explains that Jesus was spared death because He was God’s holy one. Muslims believe Jesus’ enemies could not triumph over Him because He was God’s chosen servant.
Like Christians, Muslims believe that Jesus will return. Islamic texts say that Jesus will come back on the Day of Judgment, when he will destroy the ad-dajjal – anti-Christ or imposter.
While Islamic thought on Jesus differs from Christian teaching, there are many shared beliefs between religions: the virgin birth of Jesus to Mary, profound respect for the mystery of God, love for Jesus, and a willingness to learn from His life to seek happiness with God.
Among the major world religions, Islam is the only non-Christian faith that recognizes the person of Jesus. The Qur’an talks a great amount about Jesus. However, Jesus Christ is the most controversial personality in Islam. Islam corroborates that Jesus was born to a virgin, was sinless, performed miracles and was superior to other prophets. Yet, Islam teaches that Jesus was no more than a prophet. It denies the central message of Christianity by denying Jesus’ divinity, crucifixion and resurrection.
There are many Christians who believe that we should not read the Qur’an or that reading it is unnecessary. Reading the Qur’an may not be your first choice reading, but reading it through it may have some benefits.
First, it gives you leverage. When you ask a question or make an argument about the Qur’an, a Muslim friend may ask you if you’ve taken the time to read their holy book. When you answer in the affirmative, it gives them pause and shows that you’ve taken the time to understand their religion and the arguments you’re making. You can even challenge them to read the Bible with good grounds. It also shows that you take your faith seriously. You’re not just blindly accepting your faith. You know why you believe what you believe.
Secondly, reading the Qur’an can help us in our witness as well as understanding the differences between the Qur’an and the Bible. It can help us to grow in our Christian faith, securing us even more in what we believe.
Before you set out to read the Qur’an, if you think it would be helpful to read, it’s important to know that it is not light reading. Many find it repetitive and confusing, and is very difficult to read from cover to cover. But if you are going to reject a book and critique its religion, it’s important that you work hard to grasp its message. Remember, the revelation was given over a period of decades, and each verse has a particular scriptural and historical context. The themes of the Qur’an are interwoven among the chapters, and the book is not in chronological order. Despite the challenges of reading the text and understanding its message, there are more tools and resources available to help Christians read than ever before.