If you have not yet read The Calling section of ISAISLAM I invite you to do so now. In it I explain how I was born a Christian but called to Islam while studying at a Christian Bible college. There I learned about Islam almost exclusively by reading the Quran. I had no Imam, no Sheikh (shaykh), no teacher, no friend, no relative tell me about Islam. I read the Quran cover-to-cover several times, comparing the different English versions. Eventually, the beauty of the message of this Holy Book began to make sense to me in a wonderful way. I learned what the Quran requires a submitter to His will must believe and do. It was then that I was able to accept the religion of Islam and myself as a Muslim.
The time I am referring to above- learning about Islam from the Quran- lasted three years. Can you imagine learning about a religion by reading its Holy Book for three years without having hardly any contact at all with those members of that faith who were born and raised into that religion? It is extremely rare. After my initial experience at the local mosque and Sufi residence (tekke) I earned a master's degree in Sociology of Religion and a doctoral degree in Sociology with an emphasis on Islam from a Turkish university. I lived 11 years in Turkey (even marrying a Muslim) while also visiting Islamic-populated countries in Northern Africa, the Middle East and Asia. I personally had hundreds of thousands of interactions with Muslims and a multitude of religious discussions. I also participated in congregational salat prayers in mosques on Fridays (or for religious holidays), twice made the initial cut of the kurban sacrifice's throat on Eid-al-Adha, and even fasted the entire month of Ramadan.
What I am trying to say is that my spiritual history, educational background, and life experiences make me uniquely qualified to bring a message to the Muslim World that advocates for a theological connection being established between traditional Christian beliefs on Jesus with the basic tenets of Islam, thus allowing a Muslim to experience salvation from sin while staying under the umbrella of their religion. This section will outline how the primary combatants in the Great Crusades (1095-1291) could have actually avoided all that bloodshed by seeking to emphasize the inherent commonalities between Christianity and Islam instead of their spiritual and political differences. All I ask from you, the reader, is to suppress your initial reaction to claim that just because you are being shown a perspective which is not the same as what you have been taught it is automatically wrong; and, to remember that as a Muslim it is your obligation to learn what Allah wills for your life and then to submit to it.
Islam is the religion of submission to the will of Allah. A Muslim is an individual who personally submits to the will of Allah. The logical implications are as follows:
- Allah is the Supreme Being worthy of being our Master.
- Allah requires certain things (His "will") of the humans He has created.
- Mankind has an obligation to learn and understand what Allah wills.
- Mankind then must make a conscious effort to do that will (i.e., "submit" to it).
- Those individuals who accept Allah as their Master (agreeing to believe what He declares as true and acting the way He commands us to) are Muslims, literally servants of Allah.
If I ask the question: "Are you a Muslim?" is your response: Elhamdu lillah? Assuming it is, do you agree with the logical implications just given for Muslims? Once again, presuming you do, please allow me to ask you another question. The third point states that: "Mankind has an obligation to learn and understand what Allah wills," so how have you learned what Allah wills for you?
Taking into account the many spiritual conversations I have had over the years makes one point obviously clear: most people who call themselves Muslims have learned more about Islam indirectly (through what OTHER PEOPLE have told them to believe and do) than directly (by reading and following the QURAN itself); which is the exact opposite of my own personal experience. Countless times I have had conversations with Muslims and I would comment that the Quran says so-and-so about a certain subject. They would immediately object and say that I was incorrect, not because they were familiar with that passage of scripture but because they had been told by their Imam, or teacher, or friend, or relative a contradictory statement and then ASSUMED that the Quran must agree with what they had been told. Now some reading these words will criticize the Muslims I lived among for giving me this impression. Allow me to give an example showing that the point I made above is not just limited to Muslims in Turkey.
Before getting married, I had the opportunity to share an apartment with a person of Palestinian descent. He was actually from Saudi Arabia, having lived in the holiest of all Muslim cities- Mecca. Obviously, his native language was Arabic and he knew much about the traditional beliefs and practices of Islam. From time to time we would naturally talk about religion. One day I mentioned to him that the Quran actually says that Isa (Jesus) died. He immediately said that my statement simply was not true. "Traditional" Islam teaches that Jesus was taken from the cross before he actually had the chance to die. I then had him read in the Arabic Quran the verse which in my English Quran read: Thus, God said, "O Jesus, I am terminating your life, and raising you to Me..." (Ali-Imran 3:55) I had him take a look at the Arabic word that had been translated "terminated." I asked him what it meant and he responded that the phrase literally means that Isa's life had ended, he had died. I then asked if that phrase could mean something other than death and he responded negatively, the Arabic refers to the death of Isa. Instantly, my Arabic friend had a look of sudden shock. How many times had he read that passage in the Quran and it never really occurred to him that Isa's life had ended here on earth, something he had presumed to be incorrect? From that moment on, my friend no longer had any desire at all to speak with me about religion.
There are more than a few topics that could be discussed under the heading: "Traditional Islamic Beliefs vs the Contents of the Quran." I have chosen to expound upon four that specifically relate to the content of ISAISLAM: belief in previous scriptures, Christians going to heaven, Isa as the Messiah, and Isa's unique relationship with Allah. I invite you to get a copy of the Quran in your native language and look up the verses being quoted so that you can verify the contents as well as see how the passage relates contextually in each surah.
O you who believe, you shall believe in God, and His messenger, and the scripture He revealed through His messenger, and the scriptures He revealed previously. Anyone who disbelieves in God, His angels, His scriptures, His messengers, and the last day, has indeed strayed far away. (Al-Nisaa' 4:136)
This (the Quran) is a revelation from the Lord of the universe. Brought down by the honest Spirit (Gabriel). It was placed into your heart (O Muhammad), to make you one of the warners. It comes in clear Arabic tongue. It contains the same message as the previous scriptures. (Al-Shu'araa' 26:192-196)
He revealed to you this scripture, truthfully, confirming previous scripture, just as He revealed the Torah and the Gospel previously, to guide the people. (Ali-Imran 3:3-4)
Because they (the children of Israel) violated their covenant, we put a curse on them, and we hardened their hearts. Consequently, they distort the scripture given to them, and disregard parts thereof. You will always see betrayal from them, excepting a few. You shall forgive and forget them, for God loves the compassionate. As for those who said, "We are Christian," we made a covenant with them, but they too disregarded parts thereof. Consequently, we condemned them to enmity and hatred among themselves, until the day of resurrection. God will inform them of everything they did. O people of the scripture, our messenger has come to you to disclose many things in the scripture that you are concealing, and to overlook many others. A beacon has come to you from God, and a profound scripture. (Al-Maa'idah 5:13-15)
The above quotations from the Quran are representative of other verses which refer to the Muslim's required position towards scriptures previously given to the Jews (Torah) and Christians (Gospel). When all of the above passages are read it is clear that the referred to books were "in hand." What I mean is that they were available to Jews and Christians living in Arabia during the early seventh century. Sometimes Islamic commentators try to make it appear as if the books that the Quran refers to were lost, changed, or somehow different from current versions of the Torah and Gospel. However, since there are ancient manuscripts of both books which precede the time of the Prophet Muhammad, we know that the scriptures confirmed by the Quran are available to be read today. They have not been lost and, when they are compared to current copies, they have not been changed.
The Jews and Christians during the time of the Prophet Muhammad refused to admit that their scriptures foretold the coming of the messenger. The prophet believed that they actually did. Those religious communities subsequently ignored (disregarded, concealed) or verbally distorted the scripture to make those passages in discussion have a different application. There is obviously a significant difference between hiding what a Holy Book says and actually, physically changing its content. As was mentioned above, even if the Jews and Christians of the prophet's time actually did change verses in the scriptures, the Holy Books available today would not be affected because they were based on transcripts that preceded the seventh century.
It is very important to realize that the Quran proclaims itself a continuation of the Torah and Gospel. It not only confirms these previous scriptures but it actually contains the same fundamental message. The theme which can be followed in today's Old Testament (including the Torah) and the New Testament (including the Gospel (i.e., Injil...together these are called the Bible) and the Quran is this: There is one Supreme Being who desires to have His human creations acknowledge and worship Him. Of course, in order to accomplish this Allah sent prophets to warn and guide communities during various places and times and sent messengers to reveal books that outline the way He requires to be worshiped. A second noteworthy theme in the Bible is that: God sent a sinless Messiah to mankind who freely gave his life as a blood sacrifice so that a symbolic substitution for an individual's own sins could be made available. This is not just a passing thought in the Gospel but a major doctrine. Finally: God desires to have His Spirit be given control of a believer's life so that the fellowship they will have in heaven may begin on earth. Since the Quran did not state that the Gospel is somehow wrong or false, then it is only logical to conclude that its primary theological tenets must also be accepted by Muslims.
Those who believe, those who are Jewish, the Christians, and the converts; any of them who believe in God and the last day, and lead a righteous life, have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve. (Al-Baqarah 2:62)
They are not all alike; among the people of the scripture there are those who are righteous. They recite God's scripture throughout the night, and they fall prostrate. They believe in God and the last day; they advocate righteousness and forbid evil; and they are eager to work righteousness; they are pious. Whatever good they do will never go unrewarded. God is fully aware of those who are devout. Among the Jews and the Christians, there are those who believe in God, and in this scripture, as well as their own scriptures. They are devoted to God, and they do not forsake the revelations of God for a cheap material gain. They have deserved their full recompense from their Lord, and God is most efficient in reckoning. (Ali-Imran 3:113-115, 199)
The people of the Gospel shall judge according to God's teachings therein. Those who do not rule according to God's scripture are the wicked. If only the people of the scripture believe and work righteousness, we will then remit their sins, and admit them into blissful Paradise. If they uphold the Torah, the Gospel, and what is revealed herein from their Lord, they would be provided from above them, and from beneath their feet. Some of them are righteous, but most of them are evildoers. Surely, the followers of this scripture, and the Jews, and the converts, and the Christians; any of them who believe in the one God, and believe in the last day, and work righteousness, will have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve. You will find that the most ardent opponents of those who believe are the Jews and the idolaters. And you will find that the closest friends of the believers are those who say, "We are Christians." That is because there are among them priests and monks, and because they are not arrogant. (Al-Maa'idah 5:47, 65-66, 69, 82)
He has decreed for you the same religion decreed for Noah, and what is revealed herein, and what was decreed for Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. (Al-Shoora 42:13)
It is not necessary to spend a lot of time on these passages because they speak for themselves. The Quran declares the same religion as adhered to by historical prophets. Therefore, since the Quran confirms what is found in previous scriptures, and also gives the same fundamental message, then it is possible for Jews and Christians who do not convert to Islam to still go to paradise. In fact, this is the implication behind stating that if they believe in one God, the last days and do good then they will "have nothing to fear, nor will they grieve." Returning to the Messiah's blood sacrifice theme, if- for some reason- it was displeasing to Allah for a Christian to accept this atonement (substitution) for sin, then why are Christians who believe and apply it to their lives going to be able to go to heaven?
Ideally, adherents to these other monotheistic faiths should also accept the Prophet Muhammad and the revelation of the Quran, this can serve to enhance their own faith in Yahweh/God. Does this not also make the reverse true? These surahs imply that a traditional Muslim who added to his/her faith the core beliefs of the Gospel would have a greater assurance of entering Paradise than a Muslim who rejected all Christian principles. In other words, according to the Quran, an IsaMuslim (a Muslim who accepts and applies the theology of ISAISLAM) has more assurance of entering heaven than a Muslim who only accepted the basic tenets of Islam. Looking at it logically, let us assume the validity of monotheism: there is only One God. Judaism is a religion based on heritage whereas Christianity and Islam claim universality among people of many nations. So let us now presume that one of these faiths is true and the followers of either Christianity or Islam are going to heaven and the other one are going to hell. You now have a choice to make on earth that will determine where you will spend eternity. You can be a Christian (and risk that Islam is Allah's preferred religion) or you can be a Muslim (and risk that Christianity is God's chosen religion). Are you comfortable flipping a coin to determine your destination for the next million years? Now, however, I am offering you a superior option where the salvation of Isa is combined with the tenets of Islam, meaning you win whether the coin lands on heads or tails.
The angels said, "O Mary, God gives you good news; a word from Him to be called Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, He will be honorable in this life and in the hereafter, and one of those who are close to God. He will speak to the people as an infant, and as a man, and he will be righteous." She said, "My Lord, how could I have a son, when no man has touched me?" She was told, "God thus creates whatever He wills. To have anything done, He simply says to it, 'Be,' and it is." God endowed him with the scripture, wisdom, the Torah, and the Gospel. And He sent him to the children of Israel, saying, "I have come to you with miracles from your Lord: I create from clay the form of a bird, then blow into it, and it becomes a live bird by God's leave. I heal the blind and the leprous, and I revive the dead by God's leave. I can tell you what you ate, and what you left in your homes. These should be convincing signs for you, if you are really believers. (Ali-Imran 3:45-49)
And because they (the Jews) said, "We killed the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary," the messenger of God. Indeed, they never killed him; they never crucified him; but they were led to believe that they did. Those who dispute in this matter are doubtful thereof; they have no real knowledge, they follow only conjecture. They never killed him, for certain. Instead, God raised him towards Him, and God is almighty, wise. Everyone among the people of the scripture shall believe in him before his death, and on the day of resurrection, he will serve as a witness over them. (Al-Nisaa' 4:157-159)
I (Jesus speaking) did not tell them except what you commanded me to say: that you shall worship God, my Lord and your Lord. I was a witness among them, for as long as I lived with them. When You terminated my life, You became the watcher over them. You are the witness of all things. (Al-Maa'idah 5:117)
And the one who guarded her chastity (Mary), we blew into her from the spirit, and we made her and her son (Jesus) a sign for the whole world. (Al-Anbyaa' 21:91)
The Quran announces Isa as the Messiah. A prophet's main task is to speak forth the words of Allah, usually as a type of warner. A messenger's primary purpose is to bring a more organized message from Allah, usually in the form of a book. The Messiah's (there is only one) mission is to provide a means of salvation (deliverance) for a people, by the grace and direction of Allah. In other words, the Quran proclaims Isa as the means through which Allah will save those individuals who submit to His will. If this deduction is wrong, then why was Isa referred to in the Quran as the Messiah if he did not really accomplish the main task of his primary title? A king rules, a teacher teaches, a prophet proclaims, and the Messiah saves.
The birth of Isa was special because his mother was a virgin, the life of Isa was unique because by Allah's grace he was able to perform miracles, and the death of Isa was significant because it provided the sacrifice required of the Messiah. The Gospel states that on the third day after his crucifixion Allah resurrected the Messiah- a sign of victory over death. ISAISLAM believes this resurrection is proof that submitters to the will of Allah will also be raised after death and enter paradise. The Quran also speaks of God raising Jesus towards Himself but that sentence is after statements that they (the Jews) never killed or crucified him- but they were led to believe they had. I fully admit that this passage could be interpreted as Isa not dying but instead going straight to heaven (i.e., someone else who looked like Isa was crucified in his place). The problem with that traditional Islamic interpretation is that it contradicts the verse that states Allah terminated Isa's life. Obviously, two revelations cannot conflict with each other so that means there must be another way of understanding that passage.
Allow me to offer a few alternative explanations. According to the Gospel, the Jews desired to have Isa crucified because he was rightfully claiming to be the Messiah. However, since they were living under Roman rule they were legally prohibited from implementing capital punishment. So they went to the governing authority and convinced Pilate to crucify Jesus. In other words, even though the Jews appeared to be the ones doing the crucifixion, in fact, it was the Romans who undertook the death sentence. Another point which may be emphasized is that the word "killed" implies the taking of a life, almost always against the dying person's will. Somebody who freely allows their own life to be taken (a martyr on a battlefield, suicide, euthanasia) has died but the meaning is different from a murderous type of death. In that sense the Messiah was not killed because he had already determined to allow his life to be sacrificed. Finally, even though it appeared that the Jews had succeeded in ending the existence of Isa, he was actually made a sign for the whole world of believers that there truly is life after death since he rose from the grave after three days. The body may be terminated but not the eternal soul.
We gave Moses the scripture, and subsequent to him we sent messengers. And we gave Jesus the son of Mary profound signs, and supported him with the holy spirit. Some of the messengers we honored more than others; God spoke to some, and raised others to higher ranks, and we endowed Jesus the son of Mary with profound miracles, and supported him with the holy spirit. (Al-Baqarah 2:87, 253)
O people of the scripture, do not transgress the limits of your religion, and do not say about God other than the truth. The Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, is no more than a messenger of God, and His word that He threw unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. Therefore, you shall believe in God and His messengers, and do not say, "Trinity." You shall refrain for your own good. God is only one God, much too glorious to have a son. To Him belongs everything in the heavens and the earth, and God suffices as a guardian. (Al-Nisaa' 4:171)
Pagan indeed are those who say that Christ, the son of Mary, is God. Christ himself said, "O children of Israel, you shall worship God, my Lord and your Lord." Indeed, if anyone sets up an idol besides God, then God has forbidden him from Paradise, and his inevitable destiny is hell. The wicked will have no helper. Pagan indeed are those who say that God is one third of a trinity. There is absolutely no god except the one God. And God will say, "O Jesus, son of Mary, did you tell the people to consider you and your mother idols besides God?" He will say, "Glory be to you, it is not right for me to say what is not true." (Al-Maa'idah 5:72-73, 116)
He is the designer of the heavens and the earth. How could He need a son? Nor did He need a wife. Instead, He created all things, and He is fully aware of all things. (Al-An'aam 6:101)
He is the most high; our one and only Lord; never did He have a spouse, nor a son. (Al-Jinn 72:3)
Isa is described in the Quran as being Allah's word, a spirit from Him, and being supported with the holy spirit. In the verse that talks about some messengers being honored more than others and some being raised to a higher rank, Isa is mentioned. There is no other prophet described in the Quran in such terms. In the Gospel of John, Jesus is described as being the word which existed from the beginning with God as being God. Animals have life but no spirit. After they die their complete existence is extinguished. Men and women have both a life and a spirit. After the body dies their spirit continues to exist. So Isa being described as a spirit from Allah implies that at least a part of Allah is in him. According to traditional Christian theology, the Holy Spirit is the third part of the trinity (along with "Father" God and His "Son" Jesus). Thus, the Quranic statement of Jesus being supported by the holy spirit has a divine interpretation in the Gospel.
The question: "Who was Isa?" can and should be asked. One answer is that he was not a part of the trinity that is described in the Quran. Reading carefully the passages above (there are several more in this Holy Book) it is clear that this trinity consists of the truly heretical belief of Allah (God-1) taking a wife (Mary, god-2) and after some form of relations having a son (Isa, god-3). Although there were Christians in Arabia during the time of the Prophet Muhammad who actually supported this type of polytheism, traditional Christians (Catholics, Orthodox, Protestants) do no consider Mary the third Being of the trinity, rather, it is the Holy Spirit (i.e., God's Spirit). Another difference is whereas the Quran's interpretation of Christians calling Jesus "God's son" is taken literally, the average Christian sees that as a symbolic- not biological- relationship. The Gospel and Quran both agree that Mary gave birth as a virgin, so there is more legitimacy in calling God Jesus' father because He was the direct cause of his human coming into existence.
The Most important description of Isa was that he was the Messiah. He gave his life as a blood sacrifice so that by Allah's grace sins of men and women could be forgiven. A person who himself has sinned cannot atone (take the place of) the sins of someone else because he himself is not clean. Just as a blemished or handicapped animal sacrifice is not acceptable to Allah, so in Isa's case it had to be the innocent dying for the guilty. This meant that Isa had to remain sinless, a fact not contradicted in the Quran. In order to live life perfectly, there had to be some type of divine presence or assistance. For that reason, I contend that there was a form of incarnation present with the Messiah Isa. Having said that, it must be realized that the human body of Jesus was only in existence for 33 years. The belief that the physically temporal human presence of a man also happened to be the eternal Supreme Being simply cannot be accepted. Even though it is difficult for us to understand as humans the Messiah's divine nature, it must not be forgotten that ISAISLAM believes in the traditional Islamic statement of faith on this important subject: Ash-hadu an la ilaha illallah!
- Peace be upon Muhammad, Isa and all the other prophets mentioned in this website.
- All quotations from QURAN: THE FINAL SCRIPTURE. Certain sections have been quoted in bold print for emphasis. Some clarifying quotations with normal print have been added for contextual purposes.
- To learn more about the Injil's position on some important issues relating to ISAISLAM, I have linked three sections of the New Testament to this site. The contents have been selected from Holy Bible New International Version courtesy of Yumpu.com. Readers may download a free PDF file of the entire Bible from their website after a simple e-mail registration.
- HEBREWS - Explains the transition from the Old Testament's system of sacrifice to the superior one provided by God through the Messiah.
- ROMANS - Summarizes how people worldwide are sinful and need to personally apply the salvation (forgiveness of sins) provided by God through the Messiah.
- JOHN - Gives a detailed biography on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the Messiah.