By Abu Iman Abd ar-Rahman Robert Squires. Based on a response to an email message from David Cunningham. © Muslim Answers
All praise be to Almighty God, the Lord of the Universe, and peace be upon His servant and messenger, Muhammad. I bear witness that there is nothing divine or worthy of being worshipped except for Almighty God, and that Muhammad is His servant and messenger. He who God guides no one can lead astray, and he who God leads astray, no one can guide. To continue . . . please let me introduce myself – my name is ‘Abd ar-Rahman Robert Squires. I’m an American Muslim who has been living in Kuwait for just over three years, and I spend a good deal of my time doing Islamic work and writing on comparative religion issues. The questions that you had concerning Surah Maryam, which I believe you submitted via e-mail to the Islamic Presentation Committee in Kuwait, were passed on to me by a colleague. Hopefully I will be able to answer your questions in a satisfactory manner.
First of all, the verses that you quoted in your statement are from Surah Maryam (Chapter 19), verses 30 thru 34. According to Pickthall’s translation, which you said that you were using, these verses read as follows:
“He spake: Lo! I am the slave of Allah. He hath given me the Scripture and hath appointed me a Prophet, And hath made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and hath enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving so long as I remain alive, And (hath made me) dutiful toward her who bore me, and hath not made me arrogant, unblest. Peace on me the day I was born, and the day I die, and the day I shall be raised alive! Such was Jesus, son of Mary: (this is) a statement of the truth concerning which they doubt.” (The Meaning of the Glorious Koran, translated by M. M. Pickthall, Surah 19 – Maryam, Verses 30-34)
I’m certainly no scholar of the Arabic language, but I have checked a few other translations of the Qur’an, and none of them differs from the above translation in any significant way. However, I should point out that there is a difference in the translation which you used in submitting your question. Your translation said: “ . . . and has given me prayer and alms-giving“. However, the correct translation (and the one contained in Pickthall) says: ” . . . and hath enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving” – the difference being “given” versus “enjoined”. All of my copies of the Pickthall translation read : ” . . . and hath enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving”, so I’m not quite sure where the translation that you’re using came from. I think this may have caused you some confusion, as I will address below – insha’llah.
Your first question was: “If Jesus is still alive, does Allah still give him prayer and zakat? If he is already in Heaven, there doesn’t seem much point in this.”
According to the beliefs of the Ahl al-Sunnah wa al-Jamaa’ah (i.e. “Orthodox” Sunnis), Jesus, peace be upon him, was raised to heaven alive, and his return to earth will be one of the signs that the Day of Judgment is approaching. These beliefs are not based on whims or guesswork, but are narrated to us through authentic hadeeths (sayings/traditions) of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. However, your question above seems to be based on the mis-translation that was included with your submittal. Certainly it is not God that “gives” Jesus prayer and zakat, but it was God who “enjoined” these acts upon Jesus, peace be upon him. As far as what Jesus is now doing up in Heaven, this is a matter of the Unseen known only to Almighty God, and as such, it can only be known through Divine Revelation. I have personally never heard any hadeeths that describe what Jesus, peace be upon him, is doing up in Heaven (not that this necessarily means there aren’t any), but as a Muslim, I am not allowed to guess when it comes to matters of the Unseen. Certainly, one might say that “there doesn’t seem much point in this”, but part of Islam is trusting in the wisdom of Almighty God. I’ll discuss this issue a bit more below, but suffice it to say that if there was any benefit in us knowing what Jesus, peace be upon him, is now doing up in Heaven, Almighty God would have revealed it to His Final Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him.
Before moving on to your other questions, I feel that I should mention that the Bible also contains at least two instances of prophets being taken up to Heaven by God before they died. If you look at the Old Testament, II Kings 2:11-12 tells us: ” . . . and Elijah went up by a whirlwind into heaven. And Elisha saw it, and he cried . . . And he saw him no more . . . “. Also, Genesis 5:24 tells us that Enoch “was taken” by God. That this means up into Heaven is confirmed in the New Testament (Hebrews 11:5), where it says: “By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God translated him . . . that he had pleased God”. It is interesting to note that the reason Enoch did not “see death” was that “he had pleased God”, which directly contradicts the popular Christian myth that all men, including the prophets, were condemned sinners until Jesus, peace be upon him, paid the ransom for their sins. (It is also interesting to note that (St.) Paul, the author of Hebrews, is referring back to Genesis 5:24 when he makes this statement. However, his version of the verse is quite different than Genesis 5:24! It seems that the version of Genesis which he was using back then was rather flawed, since it does not contain anything that really supports his claim. Mistakes like this by the New Testament authors are quite common, since they usually relied upon the Septuagint (i.e. the Greek translation of the Old Testament) instead of the Hebrew Old Testament.) But anyway . . . the main points that should be considered here are two: 1) being taken up into Heaven before death does not imply any sort of “Divinity”, since neither Elijah, Enoch nor Muhammad are considered “Divine”; and 2) even though God may state His reason for doing such a thing, i.e. Enoch pleased Him, or to save Jesus from the Jews, the overall wisdom behind it may still seem strange to us. However, the meaning of Islam is “submission to Almighty God”, and realizing that Almighty God is the most wise is part of our faith – so we know that if knowing something would benefit us, God would have revealed it. By the way, I mentioned Muhammad, peace be upon him, along with Elijah and Enoch above, because he too was taken up to Heaven. However, he was the only one to come back to earth afterwards – which is a unique blessing for him and his followers.
While I am still on this point, I guess that I should say that I there are two other aspects of this that should be looked at: 1) if Muhammad, peace be upon him, was just a false prophet, as many Christian missionaries and non-Muslims allege, why would he have accorded such an honor to Jesus?; and 2) the Muslim view of Jesus, peace be upon him, as a servant and prophet of God, being alive up in Heaven seems to make a lot more sense than the Christian view. As you probably know, the Bible says that Jesus sits “at the right hand of God”, even though he himself is supposed to be an equal member of the Holy Trinity (see Acts 2:33, 7:55-56, Romans 8:34, Colossians 3:1; Hebrews 10:12 and 12:12). Notice that the verses say the right hand of “God”, not “the Father”, which makes it rather difficult to interpret in a Trinitarian way (at least if one wants to remain a monotheist).
Also, for a believer in Pure Monotheism (i.e. a Muslim), what did or did not happen to Jesus, peace be upon him, is of no consequence to their faith – which is in Almighty God alone. Muslims believe what they believe about Jesus (i.e. that he was not crucified and that he was taken up into Heaven) based on Divine Revelation, not human reason. On the other hand, Christians insist on Jesus’ death on the cross because they believe that it needed to occur for their “salvation”. However, if one understands Pure Monotheism (Arabic: Tawheed) properly, what happened to Jesus, peace be upon him, is of no consequence one way or another. Certainly, Almighty God could have allowed him to be killed (just like other prophets were killed), just as He could have explained what happened to him in greater detail, if He so wished. However, He – due to His Wisdom – chose not to. And He is the best disposer of all affairs . . .
One question that rings out is that why would the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, “deny” the crucifixion if he was just a fabricator and opportunist, as the Christians claim. (Audhu bi-Lah!) The crucifixion was an accepted fact among (almost all) Christians and Muhammad, peace be upon him, had no additional knowledge concerning it compared to anyone else at his time (unless, of course, you believe that he was a prophet). Based on the fact that even the Christians try to portray Muhammad, peace be upon him, as a gifted diplomat and manipulator, wouldn’t he have been smarter just to accept the crucifixion? Why offend his Christian audience? He could still preach that Jesus, peace be upon him, was just a man (and not God), even though he was crucified. Neither crucifixion, nor the lack thereof, prove or disprove anything as far a Jesus’ alleged “Divinity”. Also, if Muhammad, peace be upon him, had just accepted the alleged crucifixion, many potential Christian converts could have entered Islam and just “ridden the fence” between Christian and Islamic beliefs – or accepted Islam outright. This would have given Muhammad, peace be upon him, more men in his armies, etc. This is what a “intelligent opportunist” would have done. However, the fact that the Qur’an says that the crucifixion did not take place, forces Christians to make a choice. They must choose between Almighty God or Jesus. There’s “no riding the fence” between the two religions, since the Qur’an clearly states that the crucifixion did not take place. I remember having to make this choice – al-Hamdu li-Lah! Also, why would Muhammad, peace be upon him, attribute all of these great miracles – as well as ascending into Heaven – to Jesus, peace be upon him, if he was just a false prophet and/or “clever opportunist”? Certainly, since he was claiming to be a prophet in the same way Jesus was a prophet, he would certainly be asked to perform miracles similar to the ones Jesus, peace be upon him, did. In spite of what Christian missionaries often say about Muhammad, peace be upon him, he did many miracles, which are documented both in the Qur’an and in the Sunnah. In general, Muslims tend not to focus too much on his miracles, since they were mainly for the people of his time – except for the Qur’an. Additionally, doing miracles is not a necessary proof of prophethood, since even a great prophet like Abraham, peace be upon him, didn’t work miracles in the same way Jesus, peace be upon him, did. You should consider that even the Bible says that false prophets can “work wonders” (Matthew 24:24), so following someone based simply on their ability to do miracles is a bit misguided. Food for thought . . .
You might say, as Christians often do, that Jesus did miracles by his own power, but other prophets did them by the power of God. However, this completely and clearly contradicts numerous verses in the Bible which prove that Jesus did his miracles by God’s power. For example, in Luke 11:20, Jesus says: ” . . . I with the finger of God cast out devils”; and in John 5:30, Jesus says: “I can of my own self do nothing”. Additionally, Mark 6:5-6 tells us that Jesus, peace be upon him, went to a certain village and “he could do no miracle” there. Another good proof of this is what Jesus, peace be upon him, says immediate before raising Lazarus from the dead: ” . . . Father, I thank You that You have heard me. And I know that You always hear me, but because of the people standing by I said this, that they may believe that You sent me.” (John 11:41-42). This verse makes it clear that Jesus, peace be upon him, wanted the people to know that it was God that was doing the miracle not Jesus himself.
And finally, I would just like to point out that the hadeeths of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, collectively referred to as the “Sunnah”, are based upon Divine Revelation. Even though they are not the verbatim and direct word of God, they were revealed (or “inspired”) by Almighty God to the Prophet, peace be upon him. As such, they are authoritative for all Muslims. There are numerous proofs in the Qur’an for the authority of the Sunnah, but since that is not the topic of this discussion, I will not address it.
Your second question was: “What is Jesus talking about when he says: “the day I die and the day I shall be raised to alive”? It seems that he knew this was going to happen, which he would if he were a prophet. So why do Muslims say that he has not died and been raised alive? These words seem to agree with what Christians think – that Jesus has already died and been raised to life. Doubtless your local Imam will tell you that this refers to when comes back to Earth to judge people (including Muhammad? – interesting to know what you think about this) but then you have to decide what to do about Question 1. Also, why not accept that the prophecy has already happened, as many people think it has?”
In regards to your first statement above, for what it’s worth, it should be said that I also know that I’m going to die and be raised alive again, but that doesn’t make me a prophet. The belief in death, the resurrection and Final Judgment is common to all of the “Abrahamic Faiths” i.e. Judaism, Christianity and Islam, so one doesn’t need to be a prophet to know such a thing. However, if Almighty God chose to reveal to Jesus certain aspects of the circumstances of his death and resurrection, then that’s fine with me, since Jesus, peace be upon him, was a great prophet. However, the verse which you quote neither confirms nor denies that such information was revealed. Concerning why Muslims believe that he has not died, and that he has been raised alive, it is because the Qur’an (and thus God) says so. However, since the various verses on this issue may have left you somewhat confused, I am including a detailed excerpt from a well known Islamic scholar which discusses many aspects of this in detail. Writing in the 12th Century after Jesus, peace be upon him, Shaikh-ul-Islam Ibn Taymiyyah said:
“Almighty God did not state that Christ died, nor that he was killed. He said, rather: “O Jesus, I am gathering you and causing you to ascend to Me, and am cleansing you of those who disbelieve” (Qur’an 3:55).
God spoke similarly in other passages (Qur’an 5:117; 4:155-161). God cursed the Jews for various things. Among them was “their speaking against Mary a tremendous calumny” (Qur’an 4:156), and their claiming that she was a fornicator. They are also condemned for their claim “We slew the Messiah Jesus son of Mary, God’s messenger” (Qur’an 4:157). God said: “They slew him not nor crucified him, hut it appeared so to them” (Qur’an 4:157). God attributes this statement to them and curses them for it. The Christians are not mentioned because the ones who assumed responsibility for crucifying the supposedly crucified person were the Jews. Not a single one of the Christians was a witness [to the event] with them. Rather the apostles kept at a distance through fear, and not one of them witnessed the crucifixion. The only witnesses were the Jews who informed people that they had crucified Christ. Christians and others who handed on the story that Christ had been crucified only passed on what they had received from these Jews who were the chosen minions of the powers of darkness. Nor were they such a great number that prevented their colluding on a lie. God said: “They did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it seemed so to them.”
Then He said: “There will not be any of the People of the Book but will believe in him before his death” (Qur’an 4:159). Among the majority of scholars it is believed that this means “before the death of Christ”. It may be said to mean “before the death of the Jew,” but this is weak. Similarly it is said to mean “before the death of Muhammad,” but this is even weaker. If one placed faith in him before death, this act of faith would benefit him, for the repentance of a person is accepted which is not after the moment of death.
It might be said that what is meant by this is the faith which is after the moment of death and therefore of no use. After his death, everyone believes in he unknown which he had previously rejected, and so there is nothing special to Christ in this, because God said “before his death,” and did not say “after his death.” This is because there is no difference between someone’s placing faith in Christ and Muhammad. The Jew who dies in his Judaism dies a disbeliever in Christ and Muhammad. Moreover God said: “There will not be any of the People of the Book but will believe in him before his death.” The verb (la-yu’minanna) can only mean the future, and this is an indication that this faith is subsequent to God’s informing mankind of this. Had He meant “before the death of the follower of the Book,” He would have said: “There is no Follower of the Book but who believes (yu’min) in him before his death”.
God also speaks of “the People of the Book,” which is a general term for Jews and Christians, and this indicates that all People of the Book, Jews and Christians, will be believing in Christ before the death of Christ. When he descends, the Jews and Christians will believe that he is the messenger of God — not rejecting him as do the Jews now, nor claiming that he is God as do the Christians. God states that they will put faith in him when he descends to earth. It is stated that he was raised up to God when He said: “I am gathering you and causing you to ascend to Me” (Qur’an 3:55). He will descend to earth before the Day of Resurrection and then he will die. By this God has informed us that they will believe in him before Christ’s death, as He also says elsewhere (Qur’an 43:59-65). In the sound hadith reports from the Prophet he said:
It is impending that the son of Mary will descend among you as a just judge, a righteous imam; he will break the cross, kill the pig, and impose the jizya.
In the Qur’an (4:147) God has made it clear that He has raised up Christ alive and saved him from death, and that they will believe in him before he dies. This is confirmed by God’s saying, “and I am purifying you from those who have disbelieved” (Qur’an 3:55); had he died there would have been no difference between him and others.
The word al-tawaffi in Arabic means “completion” and “receiving” and that is of three kinds: a) the completion of sleep; b) the final completion of death; and c) the final completion of soul and body together. It is in this third meaning whereby Christ went out from the state of the people of the earth who have need of food, drink, and clothing, and he departed from them in matters pertaining to natural functions. God brought Christ to this state of completion; he is in the second heaven until the time he descends to earth, and his state is not like the situation of the people of the earth in eating, drinking, dressing, sleep, natural functioning, etc.
For their statement (i.e. the Christians) that by his death is meant the death of his human nature it is necessary that they hold as their basis that by his “completion” is meant the death of his human nature. Whether it is said to refer to his death or to his completion in God, he is nothing other than human nature, for there is nothing other than that which God “brings to Himself” (Qur’an 3:55). This “gathering” is his being raised to God. Their view that what is raised is his divine nature would be contrary to the text of the Qur’an, even if it were a matter of his death. So how can that be the meaning when he is not said to die? They can make what is raised up something other than “received, completed”, and yet the Qur’an states that what is raised up is “received”.
Similarly when in another verse God says: “They certainly did not kill him, but God raised him up to Himself” (Qur’an 5:157-158). He is rejecting the claim of the Jews that “We have killed the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, messenger of God”. The Jews did not claim to have killed “Divinity”, nor did they concede that God had a divine nature in Christ. Moreover God did not mention their claims to have killed him from the Christians, so that one could say that their intent was the killing of the human nature without the divine. The claim, however, was from the Jews, who only attested to the human nature in Christ. The Jews had claimed that they killed him, and so God said: “They certainly did not kill him, but God raised him to Himself“. God thereby attested to His raising up that which they claim to have killed, that is, Christ’s human nature. It is obvious, therefore, that God denies that [Christ’s] human nature had been killed. Rather, He is assuming it to Himself. Christians admit the assumption of the human nature, but they claim that it was crucified, rose from the grave either after a day or three days, and then ascended to heaven and sat, human nature and divine, at “the right hand of the Father”.
God said: “They certainly did not kill him“. The meaning is that God denies the killing; He is certain about it, There is no doubt about it, in contrast to those who differed because they were in doubt whether or not he was killed. Those who believed it were not certain about it, since they could produce no proof for it. There was a group of Christians saying that he was not crucified, for those who crucified the crucified man were the Jews, and they had confused Christ with someone else, as the Qur’an indicates. Among the People of the Book also it was held that he was confused with another, and those who wanted to kill him did not know who Christ was, until one of the people said to them “I know him”. Only then did they know him. The view of those who say the meaning of the passage is “They did not kill him knowingly, but rather uncertainly” is weak.
Almighty God said: “O Jesus, I am gathering you and causing you to ascend to Me, and am cleansing you from those who disbelieve” If that which was raised up was the “Divine Nature”, the Lord of the Universe would be saying to Himself and to His word “I am causing you to ascend to Me”. Moreover, God said: “But God raised him up to Himself”, but according to them (i.e. the Christians) Christ is God. It is obvious that His raising Himself to Himself is impossible. If they say that he is the Word, they nevertheless hold that he is the Creator God. They do not make him of the same status as the Torah and the Qur’an, and other speech of God like these about which God spoke “To Him there arises the good word” (Qur’an 35:10). According to them Christ is God the Lord of the universe, the Creator, the Sustainer; so to say that the One-and-only Lord of the universe was raised up to the One-and-only Lord of the universe is ridiculous.
Almighty God the Most High said: “I was a witness of them while I dwelled among them, and when You took me You were the Watcher over them“. This indicates that after his being gathered up to God, Christ was not a watcher over them, but only God without Christ. This statement is also an indication of the Reckoning; if this and statements like it are true, it is known that after his being taken up Christ is not a watcher over his followers. God is the watcher who observes them, counts up their deeds, and requites them accordingly. Christ is not a watcher; he does not observe their actions; neither does he reckon them up, nor does he reward them.”
(All of the above paragraphs were quoted from A Muslim Theologian’s Response to Christianity, edited and translated by Thomas F. Michel, Caravan Books, Delmar, New York, 1984, pages 305-308. This is an English translation of Ibn Taymiyyah’s al-Jawab as-Saheeh.)
Hopefully, this long quotation will answer most of the questions which you have concerning this subject. However, I’m still not sure what to think of your statement that “Doubtless your local Imam will tell you that this refers to when Jesus comes back to Earth to judge people”. Possibly you’re just trying to show that even though this belief is both popular and widespread amongst Muslims, it still may be erroneous? As far as this probably being the belief of most “local Imams”, you’re partly right, as the above quotation from Ibn Taymiyyah indicated. This is because all of the Qur’anic verses and hadeeths that refer to Jesus’ death refer when he returns to earth in the time of the Mahdi. However, your statement that “ . . . when Jesus comes back to Earth to judge people (including Muhammad? – interesting to know what you think about this)“, is not correct. It seems as though you’ve confused Christian beliefs with Muslim beliefs. As the last paragraph of Ibn Taymiyyah’s quotation said, Islam certainly does not teach that Jesus, peace be upon him, will come to judge people – especially Muhammad, peace be upon him. Neither the Qur’an nor the authentic hadeeths record such a thing, and I’d be surprised to hear of a “local Imam” who believed such a thing. I know Christians believe that Jesus will come to judge “both the quick and the dead” on the Last Day, but Muslims certainly don’t. In Islam, the Final Judgment is for Almighty God alone – not for someone who sits at His “right hand”. I think that you might need to check some of your sources, because I don’t know where you got such an idea. On that note, I would just like to say that it is always wise to learn about a religion from those who adhere to it. Unfortunately, when you go into most bookstores in the West, the Christians books are written by Christians, the Jewish books by Jews, but the books on Islam are written by Christians, Jews, Orientalists, atheists – and maybe you’ll find one or two by a Muslim if you’re lucky!
Concerning your statement that we then “have to decide what to do about Question 1”, well it has already been addressed, since “Question 1” has been shown to be marred by a mis-translation, and your hypothetical opinion of the “local Imam” has already been addressed above. As far as the reasons why Muslims don’t just “accept that the prophecy has already happened, as many people think it has?”, as I’ve already said, Islam isn’t made up of personal desires, whims or what “people think”. It is based on Divine Revelation. The long quotation from Ibn Taymiyyah, which I included above, should be enough to prove that the Muslim position on this issue is the one most consistent with both the Qur’an and the authentic hadeeths.
Your third question was: “If Jesus spoke from his cradle only days after he had been born, this would really be a miracle. However, both Christians and Muslims believe that when Jesus was born on Earth, He was a perfect man. Men don’t speak when they are only babies, so was God speaking through him? If so, then the words are those of God, not Jesus. In the same way, Muslims believe that the words in the Qur’an are from Allah, not Muhammad. If Jesus really did speak from his cradle, then 1) he would be much more than a mere human, and 2) why did Christians not report such a miracle to reinforce the status of Jesus?”
Well this paragraph sure brings up some interesting questions! While it is true that Christians and Muslim both believe that Jesus was a “perfect” man, they don’t believe this in the same way. When Muslims say that Jesus, or any other prophet, was “perfect”, they mean “free from sin”. Many scholars hold that this means free from both major and minor sins, while others hold that it only means major sins during their actual call to prophethood – and anything that would have effected their ability to carry out their prophetic duties. However, none of the prophets were free from unintentional mistakes or mistakes in judgment, since even the Qur’an documents some of these about Muhammad, peace be upon him. This having been said, it should be clear that Muslims don’t consider Jesus, peace be upon him, or any of the other prophets, to have been “perfect” in the absolute sense, since that attribute is reserved for Almighty God alone.
Now concerning your statement: “Men don’t speak when they are only babies, so was God speaking through him?”, you seemed to have unnecessarily limited the various options and interpretations of this event. Even though it is certainly possible that Almighty God was speaking through him (just like He did to all of His prophets), the more apparent meaning is that God gave him the ability (or caused him) to be able to speak in the cradle. And “yes!”, this certainly is a miracle, since anytime such a wondrous and extraordinary thing happens due to God’s will, it is a miracle. Additionally, I don’t know why you conclude that this disqualifies Jesus from being a “perfect man”. As I’ve already said, “perfect” means “free from sin”, and participating in a miracle with God’s help is certainly not a sin. Actually, a sinful act would be to refuse to participate in, or believe in, such a miracle.
Moving on . . . your conclusion that if Jesus, peace be upon him, did speak from the cradle, “he would be much more than a mere human” seems to be a bit inconsistent, since most prophets of God did miracles. However, in spite of the fact that they did miracles, this does not mean that they are more than human beings. This is one of the main misconceptions that Islam came to correct, both among the idol-worshippers and the Christians. This is because Christians use inconsistent logic when trying to justify the alleged “Divinity” of Jesus by saying that he did great miracles. Both Muslims and Christians agree that Moses parted the Red Sea (Exodus 14:21-22), but does that make him “more than human”? Elisha fed one hundred men with only a few loaves of bread and ears of corn (II Kings 4:44), he cured the blind (II Kings 6:17-20), and even raised the dead (II Kings 4:34 ). Elijah, according to the Old Testament, also raised people from the dead (I Kings 17:22). However, none of this made these great prophets “Divine” or “more than human”. Above, I have already quoted verses from the New Testament which prove that Jesus only did his miracles by the power of God – just like the other prophets.
An important point that I need to mention is that the root of all “shirk”, which is the Arabic word for associating and worshipping others along with Almighty God, is the belief that prophets and other “holy men” were “more than human”. In the Qur’an, God Almighty said: “And they said: ‘Do not forsake your gods, neither Wadd, Suwa’, Yaghuth, Ya’uq, nor Nasr” (Qur’an 71:23). It is narrated in an authentic hadeeth that Ibn ‘Abbas, a companion of the Prophet , commented on this verse as follows: “These are names of righteous people, descendants of Noah. When they passed away, Satan inspired their people to set up statues in their honor and to give the statues the names of the departed. Later, when their origins were forgotten, the excessive esteem paid to them turned into worship”.
Unfortunately your mentality seems to be very close to the prevalent Christian mindset which elevates Jesus to “Divinity” based on his miracles. This is unfortunate, because this is the same mistake that other religions have fallen into. In whatever way, they almost all believe in One Supreme Creator God, but they set up intermediaries between themselves and Almighty God. This tendency can be seen not only in Hindus and Christians, but was also the belief of the pagan Arabs at the time of Muhammad, peace be upon him. As the following verses clearly show, they believed in “One God”, but they used intermediaries to approach Him:
“Ask them (i.e. the pagan disbelievers): ‘Who sends down for you your provision from the sky and grows it out of the earth? Who hears your prayer and sees your condition? Who brings the living out of the dead and the dead out of the living? Who directs the course of the world?’ They will answer: ‘God’. Answer: ‘Would you then not fulfill your duty to Him?‘” (Qur’an 10:31) “Those who worshipped others as patrons beside God, claiming that they did so only to come through their intercession nearer to Him, will receive the judgment of God in the matter they contend. God will not guide the ingrate, the liar.” (Qur’an 39:3) “They serve beside God beings which can neither benefit nor harm, claiming, ‘These are our intercessors with God’.” (Qur’an 10:18) “And when they ride in barks [in stormy seas] they address their prayers to Almighty God in complete sincerity, but relapse into shirk (i.e. associating partners with Him) when they reach the shore.” (Qur’an 29:65)
Keeping these verses in mind, a believer in Pure Monotheism (i.e. a Muslim) realizes that no matter how many miracles anyone does, they are not God. This is because only God is God. The Creator and His creation are distinct – there is no ambiguity in “Divinity”. As the Ten Commandments say, there is no image “in the heavens above or in the earth beneath” which can represent Almighty God. Unfortunately, if one looks at the justifications that Christians often use for considering Jesus, peace be upon him, to be “Divine”, it becomes rather evident they have become caught up in trying to “elevate” him to being Divine. At least that is the way many of them seem to rationalize it to themselves. These types of ideas first took root among pagan Greeks and Romans, who were used to having incarnate gods. However, the Jews – who placed a high value on monotheism – for the most part completely rejected Trinitarian Christianity and its Incarnationist ideas.
Before moving on I should address an issue that Christians often bring up in response to statements like some of the ones which I’ve made above. They basically ask how Muslims can accuse the followers of Jesus, peace be upon him, of being “polytheists” when they were all “monotheistic Jews”. Actually, Muslims don’t levy any such claim against the actual disciples of Jesus, peace be upon him, since the corruption of the Pure Monotheism of Jesus was done by later so-called Christians (who were influenced by Paul). However, suffice it to say that just because someone is a nominal member of a “monotheistic” community, there is no guarantee that they will not get caught up in corrupt beliefs that compromise their “monotheism”. In this regard, the label “polytheism” doesn’t really sound right, since to many it implies simply believing in the existence of more than one God. So when applied to Christians, the words “associators”, “man-worshippers” or “creature worshippers” might be more accurate and appropriate terms – especially since Christians believe Jesus to be both “100% God and 100% man” – while still paying lip-service to God’s “Oneness”. However, what is really at the root of this problem is the fact that Christians don’t really know what “monotheism” means – especially in the Islamic sense. All of the books, articles and papers that I’ve read which were written by Christians invariably limit “monotheism” to believing in the existence of “One Sovereign and Creator God” – as seemingly opposed to two, three or four (as if there are pagans out there who belief such a thing???). Islam, however, teaches much more than this. Since the pure Islamic concept of monotheism (Arabic: Tawheed) is not the main subject of this paper, I wont’ go into great detail. However, suffice it to say that just because someone claims to be a “monotheistic” Jew, Christian or Muslim, that doesn’t keep them from falling into corrupt beliefs and idolatrous practices. Many people, including some so-called Muslims, claim belief in “One God” even though they’ve fallen into acts of idolatry. Certainly, many Protestants accuse Roman Catholics of idolatrous practices in regards to the saints and the Virgin Mary. Likewise, the Greek Orthodox Church is considered “idolatrous” by many other Christians because in much of their worship they use icons. However, if you ask a Roman Catholic or a Greek Orthodox person if God is “One”, they will invariably answer: “Yes!”. This lip-service, however, does not stop them from being “creature worshipping” idolaters. The same goes for Hindus, who just consider their gods to be “manifestations” or “incarnations” of the One Supreme God. You should know that throughout the long history of the “Abrahamic Faiths”, there have people who, while believing in “One God”, have adopted beliefs and practices that completely nullify their claim to “monotheism”. This is the Muslim view of Christians. We’re well aware of the fact that they claim belief in “One God” with your lips, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t nullify their claim in other ways. This is because many people simply haven’t been taught everything that Pure Monotheism entails. From an Islamic point of view, “monotheism” can be nullified in many ways. For example, simply believing that it is permissible to rule by Western “liberal” and “democratic” laws in lieu of the Divinely Revealed Law of Almighty God makes one a “polytheist”. Certainly, a person who does such a thing, whether Jewish, Christian or Muslim, doesn’t ever believe that there is another Almighty Creator and Sovereign Lord. However, for all practical purposes, such a person has take another “god”, whether they choose to admit it or not. In this way they are associating partners with Almighty God (Arabic: shirk), and thus become a “polytheistic” in a practical sense, regardless of their lip-service to “monotheism”. This holds true even if the person doesn’t believe what they are doing is “worship”. For example, Roman Catholics who pray to the Virgin Mary will staunchly deny that they are “worshipping” her. They instead call it “adoration” or some other watered-down term. However, from an Islamic point of view, what is worship if not this? Additionally, how can someone who believes in Almighty God follow man-made laws instead of God’s Law, without admitting that they’ve begun worshipping other than God? Do they know better than God? What is their concept of Him? Etc., etc., etc., Food for thought . . .
Concerning the issue of why “did Christians not report such a miracle to reinforce the status of Jesus?”, that’s a fairly easy one to answer because Christians left out lots of things in their reports of Jesus, peace be upon him, in the so-called “Four Gospels”. Many a scholar has noted that if you take all of the words spoken by Jesus in the so-called “Gospels”, they would hardly be enough to fill two newspaper columns. Since, according to the New Testament, Jesus’ ministry lasted about three years, there must have been a lot he said and did that was not recorded. Anyway, many of the events that are recorded in the so-called “Gospels” are not recorded unanimously by all four of the writers. For example, the raising of Lazarus from the dead, one of Jesus’ greatest miracles, is reported in only one gospel. Why did the other gospel writers leave it out? Additionally, the accounts of Jesus’ alleged Resurrection differ greatly (read them and compare!), and his Ascension is not reported in all four of the so-called “Gospels”, etc., etc., etc.
As anyone who has read the “Four Gospels” knows, many of the stories included in there differ quite a bit, especially the stories of his childhood, which is our main concern here. For example, Matthew is the only one that tells the story of the “Flight into Egypt” (Matthew 2:13-15), Luke is the only one that mentions that Jesus was brought to the Temple in Jerusalem as a young boy (Luke 2:22-24) and John leaves out mentioning Jesus’ childhood altogether. Why is this? There must have been many other incidents that weren’t mentioned, but just because they were not mentioned by the so-called “Gospel writers”, doesn’t mean that they didn’t happen. Reasonably speaking, the Qur’an portrays the incident of Jesus, peace be upon him, speaking from the cradle as being directed towards disbelieving and hostile Jews. Most probably, none of Jesus’ followers-to-be were around at the time, so it is no wonder that the “Gospel” writers didn’t know about it.
One final point may help in bringing out more clearly the fact that many important miracles were often reported by only one of the “Gospel” writers. Two short verses in Matthew say that at the moment of Jesus’ death “the tombs were opened; and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised; and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they entered into the holy city and appeared unto many” (Matthew 27:52-53). This is an account of a miracle unsurpassed anywhere else in the so-called “Four Gospels”, and it makes the alleged Resurrection of Jesus appear like nothing in comparison. In this case, many saints were raised and appeared to “many” in Jerusalem. Unlike the accounts of Jesus raising Lazarus, or the synagogue ruler’s daughter or Jesus himself being raised, this depicts saints dead for much longer than “three days” being raised. And, from the phrase, “they entered the holy city and appeared to many”, it is possible to conclude that these many raised saints showed themselves to both believers and non-believers! However, Matthew is the only one to report this great event. Josephus, who was a historian who wrote a history of Jerusalem both prior to and after her fall, i.e., forty years after the death of Jesus, knew of Jesus, peace be upon him, but he said nothing about this great “raising” and “appearing” of many saints. Of this greatest of all miracles, not a rumor appears in the works of Josephus or of any other ancient author. Surely at least one of the many raised out of those many emptied tombs was still alive just prior to Josephus’ time. Or at least many who had seen those many saints were still repeating the tale. Although people may have doubted that Jesus raised a few people while he was alive and although “some doubted” Jesus’ own Resurrection (Matthew 28:17), who could fail to have been impressed by many risen saints appearing to many? How also could Peter have neglected to mention them in his Jerusalem speech a mere fifty days after they “appeared to many in the holy city”? Surely their appearance must have been foremost on everyone’s mind. So why didn’t Paul mention such a thing in his letters, our earliest sources? Surely, if the Holy Spirit inspired Matthew to write about it, he could have inspired the others. Why did the women who visited the “empty tomb” on the Sunday morning of Jesus’ alleged Resurrection not take notice that many other tombs were likewise open? Why didn’t the visitors to Jesus’ tomb mention that they had met or seen many raised saints in that vicinity, meeting them on the way to Jesus’ tomb or on the way back to town? Why didn’t Matthew know how many raised saints there were? Why didn’t he name a single one or a single person to whom they had appeared? How did Matthew know that these saints had come out of their tombs? So basically, your question of why Christians didn’t report that Jesus, peace be upon him, spoke from the cradle actually brings up more questions than it attempts to answer. More food for thought . . .
I hope that these answers are adequate. I encourage you to not only reflect on them, but to research them more if you feel that it is necessary. For your own sake, and for the sake of Truth, try to “take a step back” and look at everything in an unbiased manner. It’s not always easy, but that’s the only way we can come to understand beliefs other than our own If you have any other questions relating to Islam, I would be more than happy to try to answer them for you – or find answers for you. I can be contacted by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. I pray that Almighty God guides you to the Truth, and I look forward to hearing from you in the future – insha’allah.
‘Abd ar-Rahman Robert Squires