Jesus in Islam
In “Jesus the Muslim Hippie” (December), Gabriel Said Reynolds demonstrates the dissonance within the Muslim community between what the Qur’an says about Jesus and what later Muslims wrote about him. This helpful distinction notwithstanding, his article fails to discuss how to reconstruct the Christ of Islam, or whether it is even feasible to do so. The inevitable conclusion of Reynolds’ argument is that such a reconstruction is an impossible task, or at least would result in an erroneous portrayal.
While this appears to be true if we only examine the later Muslim interpretations, I argue that limiting our focus to the Qur’an could still yield an important portrayal of Jesus. Though conflicting with the biblical portrayal of Jesus, the qur’anic view still tells much about the uniqueness and supremacy of Jesus.
In the Qur’an, for example, Jesus is born from Mary, who is better than all women (3:42). While God is the only creator (3:47), Jesus also creates (3:49; 5:110), though granted, he does so “by God’s permission.” But then, one may ask, how can a mere human, even if he was a prophet, possess such a divine attribute? Muslim exegetes typically downplay these verses, but they still afford Jesus qualities that are shared by no other human.
Moreover, Jesus is given the title “the Word of God” (3:45; 4:171), which suggests that Jesus manifests who God is and that he was with God since the very beginning, for God was never wordless. Furthermore, Jesus is called “sign and mercy” (19:21), “truth” (19:34), and even “illustrious” (3:45).
Most of these titles only appear in the Qur’an in reference to Jesus. Taken together, these texts represent a valuable and unique portrayal of Jesus that even elevates him above other messengers of God.
When compared to the Bible, the qur’anic picture of Jesus is incomplete and inaccurate on important matters, but it should not be dismissed as irrelevant. For the Qur’an sheds light on the uniqueness of Jesus both in its similarities to the biblical witness and in its divergence. This qur’anic portrayal is important to keep in mind as Christians engage with their Muslim neighbors.
Fuller Theological Seminary