The Story of Jesus and his Mission as in the Glorious Quran
Truly Allah chose Adam and Noah and the descendants of Abraham and of 'Imran above all mankind, (as His Messengers) - a people alike and the seed of one another. Allah is All-Hearing, All-Knowing. (3:33-34) [Note: 'Imran was the father of Moses and Aaron, and has been mentioned in the Bible as Amram. ]
(Allah also heard) when a woman of 'Imran said:
'O Lord! Behold, unto You do I vow that the child in my womb is to be devoted to Your exclusive service. Accept it, then, from me. Surely You alone are All-Hearing, All-Knowing.' (3:35)
[Note: In this verse, if the 'woman of 'Imran' is interpreted as the wife of 'Imran, this 'Imran must be different from the 'Imran just mentioned (see the preceding verse). In the Christian tradition the name of the father of Mary is mentioned as Joachim. If this expression, however, is interpreted to mean 'a woman of the house of 'Imran', it would mean that the mother of Mary belonged to that tribe. There is, unfortunately, no definite source of information that would lead us to prefer one interpretation to the other, as there is no historical record either about who the parents of Mary were, or to which tribes they belonged. Were we to accept the tradition that the mother of John (Yahya) and the mother of Jesus were cousins, then it would be valid to interpret the expression as meaning 'a woman of the tribe of 'Imran' for, according to the Gospel of Luke, the mother of John was one of the daughters of Aaron (Luke 1:5). ]
But when she gave birth to a female child, she said: 'O Lord! I have given birth to a female ' - and Allah knew full well what she had given birth to - ' and a female is not the same as a male. I have named her Mary and commit her and her offspring to You for protection from Satan, the accursed.' (3:36) Thereupon her Lord graciously accepted Mary and vouchsafed to her a goodly growth and placed her in the care of Zechariah.
Whenever Zechariah visited her in the sanctuary, he found her provided with food. He asked her: 'O Mary, how did this come to you?' She said: 'It is from Allah. Allah provides sustenance to whom He wills beyond all reckoning.' (3:37) Then Zechariah prayed to his Lord: 'O Lord! Grant me from Yourself out of Your grace the gift of a goodly offspring, for indeed You alone heed all Prayers.' (3:38) [Note: Until then Zechariah had no issue. The sight of this pious young girl made him yearn for a child just as virtuous and devout. When he saw that God sent food to her, by dint of His limitless power, he felt hopeful that God might also bless him with issue, despite his old age. ] As he stood praying in the sanctuary, the angels called out to him: 'Allah gives you good tidings of John (Yahya), who shall confirm a command of Allah , shall be outstanding among men, utterly chaste, and a Prophet from among the righteous.' (3:39) [Note: In this verse, the 'command from Allah' signifies Jesus. His birth took place as the result of an extraordinary command from God and in an unusual manner, hence he is designated as 'the command' or 'word' from Allah. Peace and blessings be on all Prophets of God.] Zechariah exclaimed: 'My Lord! How shall I have a son when old age has overtaken me and my wife is barren?' He said: Thus shall it be; Allah does what He wills.' (3:40) Zechariah said: 'O my Lord! Appoint a sign for me.' The angel said: 'The sign for you shall be that you shall not speak to men for three days except by gesture. Remember your Lord and extol His glory by night and by day.' (3:41)
Then came the time when the angels said: 'O Mary! Behold, Allah has chosen you, and made you pure, and exalted you above all the women in the world. O Mary! Remain devout to your Lord, and prostrate yourself in worship, and bow with those who bow (before Him).' (O Muhammad!) We reveal to you this account from a realm which lies beyond the reach of your perception for you were not with them when they drew lots with their pens about who should be Mary's guardian, and you were not with them when they disputed about it. And when the angels said: 'O Mary! Allah gives you the glad tidings of a command from Him: his name shall be Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary. He shall be highly honoured in this world and in the Next, and shall be one of those near stationed to Allah. And he shall speak to men in the cradle and also later when he grows to maturity and shall indeed be among the righteous.' She said: 'O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has ever touched me?' The angel answered: Thus shall it be. Allah creates whatever He wills. When He decides something, He merely says: "Be" and it is. And He will teach him the Book, the Wisdom, the Torah, the Gospel, and he will be a Messenger to the Children of Israel.' (And when he came to them he said): 'I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. I will make for you from clay the likeness of a bird and then I will breathe into it and by the leave of Allah it will become a bird. I will also heal the blind and the leper, and by the leave of Allah bring the dead to life. I will also inform you of what things you eat and what you treasure up in your houses. Surely this is a sign for you if you are true believers. (3:42-49)
[NOTES: Thus it was affirmed that a child would be born to Mary despite the fact that no man had touched her. The angel's answer mentioned here, 'Thus shall it be', was exactly the same as the response given to Zechariah. Both the following sentences and the preceding section support the view that the angel had conveyed to Mary the glad tidings that a son would be born to her without normal sexual contact, and it was thus that Jesus was born. For, if Mary's child was to be born to her in the usual manner in which children are born to women, and if the birth of Jesus did take place in the normal way, the entire narrative from verse 35 of this surah to verse 63 would have to be declared absurd. Indeed, one would be forced to treat as meaningless all those statements about the birth of Jesus which are found scattered elsewhere in the Qur'an. The Christians had begun to regard Jesus as God and the son of God because of this fatherless birth. The Jews, in turn, cast aspersions on Mary's chastity on the grounds that she had given birth to a child despite being unmarried. If the fatherless birth of Jesus was itself false, it would have been sufficient to tell the Christians that they were indulging in sheer mis-statement, that Mary had indeed been married, that she had a legitimate husband, and that it was as a result of that wedlock that Jesus was born. If this fact could have been stated plainly, there would have been no need for long preparatory statements and complicated propositions, and no need to call Jesus the son of Mary instead of naming his father. For far from resolving the issue such statements add to the confusion. Those who believe the Qur'an to be the word or command from God and yet try to prove that the birth of Jesus took place in the normal manner, as a result of union between his father and mother, end up by proving only that God is less capable of clear expression than they are! ]
Jesus also said, ‘And I have come to confirm the truth of whatever there still remains of the Torah, and to make lawful to you some of the things which had been forbidden to you. I have come to you with a sign from your Lord; so have fear of Allah and obey me. Surely, Allah is my Lord and your Lord; so serve Him alone. This is the straight way.' (3:50-51)
[Notes: The fact that Jesus preached the same religion as that expounded earlier by Moses and the other Prophets is also borne out by the statements of the existing Gospels: According to Matthew, in his Sermon on the Mount the Messiah categorically declared: 'Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them' (Matthew 5: 17). And when a Jewish lawyer enquired: 'Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?', Jesus replied: 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. And a second is like it, you shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments depends the law and the prophets' (ibid., 22: 37-40). He also instructed his disciples: The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat, so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice' (ibid., 23: 2-3). ]
And when Jesus perceived their leaning towards unbelief, he asked: 'Who will be my helpers in the way of Allah?' The disciples said: 'We are the helpers of Allah. We believe in Allah, and be our witness that we have submitted ourselves exclusively to Allah. Our Lord! We believe in the com-mandment You have revealed and we obey the Messenger; make us, then, one of those who bear witness (to the Truth).' Then they schemed (against the Messiah), and Allah countered their schemes by schemes of His own. Allah is the best of schemers. (And it was part of His scheme) when Allah said: 'O Jesus! I will recall you and raise you up to Me and will purify you (of the company) of those who disbelieve, and will set your followers above the unbelievers till the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me you shall return, and I will judge between you regarding what you differed. As for those who disbelieved, I shall punish them with a terrible chastisement in this world and in the Next; and they shall find none to help them. But those who believe and do righteous deeds, He will reward them in full. Allah does not love the unjust. 'What We recite to you consists of signs and wise admonition. Surely, in the sight of Allah, the similitude of the creation of Jesus is as the creation of Adam whom He created out of dust, and then said: 'Be', and he was. This is the truth from your Lord; be not, then, among those who doubt. (3:52-60)
Fundamental Points of the Mission of Jesus
The verse 3:51 shows that, just like other Prophets of God, the fundamentals of the mission of Jesus were:
(1)Man should acknowledge- the exclusive sovereignty of God which demands absolute service and obedience to Him, and Him alone. This principle serves as the basis for the entire structure of human morality and social behaviour.
(2) Man should obey the Prophets since they are the representatives of the true Sovereign.
(3) The Law which should regulate man's conduct by elaborating what is right and what is wrong should be none other than the Law of God. The laws devised by others should be abrogated. There is, thus, no difference between the missions of Jesus, Moses and Muhammad (peace be on them all). Those who think that the missions of the Prophets differ from one another and who believe that their objectives vary have fallen into serious error. Whoever is sent by the Lord of the Universe to His creatures can have no other purpose than to dissuade God's subjects from disobeying Him and assuming an attitude of vanity and disregard towards Him, and to admonish them against associating anyone with God in His divinity (that is, either holding anyone to be a partner with the Lord of the Universe in His Sovereignty or recognizing others beside God as having a rightful claim on part of man's loyalty, devotion and worship), and to invite them all to be loyal to, and to serve, obey and worship God alone.
It is unfortunate that the Gospels in their present form do not offer as clear a picture of the mission of Jesus as that presented by the Qur'an. Nevertheless, we find scattered throughout the Gospels all the three fundamentals mentioned above. The notion that man ought to submit himself totally to God is embodied in the following statement:
'You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve' (Matthew 4: 10).
In addition, Jesus believed that the object of his efforts was that God's commands relating to the moral realm should be obeyed in this world in the sphere of human conduct just as His commands about the operation of the physical universe are obeyed in the heavens: 'Thy kingdom come,
Thy will be done,
On earth as it is in heaven' (ibid., 6: 10).
The fact that Jesus presented himself as a Prophet and a representative of the Kingdom of Heaven, and that in this capacity he asked people to follow him is borne out by several statements. When, for instance, he began his mission in Nazareth and when his own kith, kin and compatriots turned against him, he remarked: 'A prophet is not without honour except in his own country . . .' (Matthew 13: 57; see also Luke 4: 24 and Mark 6: 4). And when conspiracies were hatched in Jerusalem to put an end to his life, and people counselled him to go away, he replied: 'Nevertheless I must go on my way . . . for it cannot be that a prophet should perish away from Jerusalem' (Luke 13: 33). When Jesus entered Jerusalem for the last time the disciples cried with a loud voice: 'Blessed be the King who comes in the name of the Lord' (Luke 19: 38). This angered the Pharisees, who asked Jesus to rebuke his disciples. But he replied: 'I tell you, if these were silent the very stones would cry out' (ibid., 19: 40). On another occasion he said: 'Come to me, all who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light' (Matthew 11: 28-30).
The fact that he invited people to obey the Laws of God rather than the laws made by man is evident from his response (found in both Matthew and Mark) to the objection raised by the Pharisees to the conduct of their disciples who ate with defiled hands, that is, without washing.
'Well did Isiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written:
This people honours me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.'
And he said to them: 'You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition. For Moses said, "Honour your father and your mother", and "He who speaks evil of his father or mother, let him surely die", but you say, "If a man tells his father or mother what you would have gained from me is Corban (that is, given to God), and then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, thus making void the word of God through your tradition which you hand on"' (Mark 7: 6-13; see also Matthew 15: 2-9).
(Notes taken from Tafheemul Quran)