“Behold! the angels said: “O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to Allah.” (Quran 3:45)
The phrase “peace be upon him” follows every Muslim’s mentioning of the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). Many nonـMuslims may be surprised to learn that the phrase also follows the mentioning of Jesus (pbuh) as well as every other prophet and messenger of the monotheistic Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
In a world that increasingly tries to widen the gap of misunderstanding and prejudice between Muslims and their Christian brothers and sisters, it is essential to recognize both religions preach love for one another, peace, forgiveness, and tolerance and that we have more in common than what most might think.
During the holiday season, apart from festivities and family gatherings, Christians throughout the world remember Jesus’ (pbuh) birth and reflect upon his teachings. Muslims as well revere and admire Jesus (pbuh) throughout the year as one of the greatest messengers to mankind.
Jesus (pbuh), Essa in Arabic, is mentioned by name in 25 places in the Holy Quran, more than the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh). He is also addressed with respect as: “Ibn Mariyam,” son of Mary; as “Masseeh,” Messiah or Christ; “Abdullah,” servant of Allah; “Rasul ـAllah,” Messenger of Allah. He is referred to as “the word of God,” as “the spirit of God,” as a “sign of God,” and numerous other honourable titles spread over numerous different chapters.
Additionally, there is a whole chapter in the Holy Quran dedicated to The Virgin Mother Mary (Chapter 19 ـ Mariyam) and she is referred to in various other sections of the Quran. Therefore, Mariyam holds a high status in Islam as a virtuous, righteous woman and every Muslim refers to her with utmost respect.
Ali Ibn Abi Talib narrated that the Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) said: “The best of the world’s women is Mary (in her lifetime), and the best of the world’s women is Khadija (in her lifetime).” (Sahih AlـBukhari).
Theological similarities and differences
There are, of course, differences in the way Muslims regard Jesus (pbuh) when compared to the way the majority of Christians do. In major sects of Christianity, the concept of the Trinity exists, which states that there are three Persons in one Divine Nature: The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. However, in accordance to the Holy Quran, which is followed as the primary source of Islam, Muslims do not believe that Jesus (pbuh) is the son of God.
In many versus of the Quran, Allah denied that He had a son; however He states that Jesus (pbuh) is a chosen messenger and servant of Allah. He was moulded in the womb of his mother like any other of his creations, but without the “father” part. Allah merely commanded Jesus to ”Be!” and he was, just as he created Adam (pbuh) without a mother and a father:
“But she pointed to the babe. They said: “How can we talk to one who is a child in the cradle?” He (Jesus) said: “I am indeed a servant of Allah. He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet; “And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live; “(He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable; “So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)”! Such (was) Jesus the son of Mary: (it is) a statement of truth, about which they (vainly) dispute. It is not befitting to (the majesty of) Allah that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! when He determines a matter, He only says to it, “Be”, and it is.” (Quran 19:29ـ-35)
The Holy Quran outlines the many miracles of Jesus (pbuh), like healing powers and bringing back the dead to life:
“Then will Allah say: “O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount My favor to thee and to thy mother. Behold! I strengthened thee with the holy spirit, so that thou didst speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I taught thee the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel and behold! thou makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and thou breathest into it and it becometh a bird by My leave, and thou healest those born blind, and the lepers, by My leave. And behold! thou bringest forth the dead by My leave. And behold! I did restrain the Children of Israel from (violence to) thee when thou didst show them the clear Signs, and the unbelievers among them said: ”This is nothing but evident magic.” (Quran 5:110)
Furthermore, contrary to what most Christians believe, Muslims believe that Jesus (pbuh) was not crucified nor killed and that Allah raised him up to heaven with Him. Apart from the verse which denies that it happened, there isn’t an actual reference to the crucifixion or that he was killed in the Quran:
“That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah;ـ but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not. Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise.” (Quran 4:157ـ-158)
However, Muslims also do believe Jesus will return to Earth again at the “End of Time” when there will be the terrible trials of the ”Dajjal” (AntiـChrist), many earthquakes and the emergence of “Yajuj and Majuj” (Gog and Magog) after which Jesus (pbuh) will defeat the AntiـChrist and the Earth will attain unprecedented peace, justice and prosperity.
Respect and tolerance for all
Regardless of the theological differences between Muslims and Christians or between Christians among themselves, Muslims are compelled to tolerate the beliefs of the “People of the book,” that is, Christians and Jews. Prophet Mohammed (pbuh) was always very respectful towards the Christians and, in this special holiday season, Muslims are taught to respect the sentiments of practicing Christians who use the Christmas occasion to revere Jesus (pbuh):
“Revile not ye those whom they call upon besides Allah, lest they out of spite revile Allah in their ignorance. Thus have We made alluring to each people its own doings. In the end will they return to their Lord, and We shall then tell them the truth of all that they did.” (Quran 6:108)
Yusuf Ali Quran Translations were used in this article. Additionally, Sahih AlـBukhari, who is considered one of the foremost sources of Prophet Mohammed’s teachings and sayings, was also referred to.