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My Writing Journey

Jesus and Moses and the Qur’an

Artists’ Renderings of Muhammad, Jesus, and Moses

While Jews and Christians would recognize the story of Moses in the Qur’an as similar to the story in the Old Testament, the same cannot be said about Jesus. Stark theological differences between Christians and Muslims are clearly reflected in how Jesus is viewed in the Qur’an and the Islamic belief system.

“Moses is known as both a religious leader and a lawgiver.” All three Abrahamic religions portray him in this light. For Muslims, it goes a little farther. Moses (Musa) is regarded as both a Prophet (someone who spreads news from God to the people) and a Messenger (someone with a special mission from God).

The Qur’an mentions Moses more than 120 times because the story of his life and actions holds many lessons for humanity. Pharaoh represents an all-powerful ruler who enslaves people, worships many gods and goddesses, and sets himself up as a god. In Surah 28:38 he says, “O chiefs! I know not that you have an ilah (a god) other than me. So kindle for me (a fire), O Haman, to bake (bricks out of) clay, and set up for me a Sarhan (a lofty tower or palace) in order that I may look at (or look for) the Ilah (God) of Musa (Moses); and verily, I think that he [Musa (Moses)] is one of the liars.”

When Pharaoh has a dream that a challenger will rise up from the people of Israel and defeat him, Pharaoh embarks on a campaign to kill all the male children of the Israelites. Moses’ mother is inspired by God to build a waterproof basket and throw him into the river. The basket is found by the wife of Pharaoh, and Pharaoh agrees to raise the child as his own (this version differs from the Old Testament story). Moses’ sister steers Pharaoh into accepting Moses’ mother as the child’s wet nurse. Moses grows up as a Prince of Egypt with all the luxury and power that position entails. But he is different from Pharaoh.

While Pharaoh is arrogant and cruel, Moses is sensitive to oppression and suffering. In the Qur’an, Prophethood is conferred upon Moses when he attains adulthood. He grows up knowing about monotheism. When Moses kills one of the Egyptians (polytheists), he is horrified and vows to never help the polytheists again. He cries out in Surah 28:17: “My Lord! For that with which You have favored me, I will never more be a helper of the Mujrimun (criminals, disbelievers, polytheists, sinners).” He escapes to the land of Midian, where he marries a chief’s daughter and starts a family of his own.

One day he sees a fire, and when he investigates, Allah (God) speaks to him: “Verily, I am Allah, the Lord of the Alamin (mankind, jinn, and all that exists).” Allah tells him to throw down his stick, and it turns into a snake. Allah tells him to take out his hand from behind his cloak, and it turns white. Allah explains: “These are two Burhan (signs, miracles, evidences, proofs) from your Lord to Fir’aun (Pharaoh) and his chiefs. Verily, they are the people who are Fasiqun (rebellious, disobedient to Allah).” Moses asks Allah to give him his brother Aaron (Harun) as a helper, and Allah agrees.

When Moses and Aaron approach Pharaoh and his chiefs and perform the signs, they mock them, saying, “This is nothing but invented magic. Never did we hear of this among our fathers of old.” Allah eventually drowns Pharaoh and his chiefs, and this teaches that God will overcome and defeat “the Zalimun (wrongdoers, polytheists and those who disbelieved in the Oneness of the Lord (Allah), or rejected the advice of His Messenger Musa (Moses).”

After this, Moses receives the Torah (Taurat) from Allah “as an enlightenment for mankind, and a guidance and a mercy, that they might remember (or receive admonition).” Later on, Aaron watches over the followers of Moses in the desert while Moses goes up to Mount Sinai. Allah reaffirms his commitment to Moses and his mission. Then he gives Moses the tablets containing the Ten Commandments. (The lesson here is that Moses brought the law from God, and the Israelites were meant to follow it.)

While Moses is gone, the people make a golden calf out of gold ornaments. Then they regret what they have done. When Moses comes back, he angrily chides his brother and the people and asks for God’s forgiveness. Allah forgives them and divides the people into twelve tribes. He shows them where to find water and food. But the people who were committed to doing wrong “changed the word that had been told to them. So we sent a torment from the heaven in return for their wrong-doings.” The Qur’an repeatedly chides the Jews for not trusting in God and His mercy, committing polytheism, and changing the Torah and the word of God. Then the Qur’an exhorts the Jews and all people to accept Muhammad as the Prophet and Messenger from God and to follow his will.

Moses is presented as an historic figure and a real human person in the Qur’an. He is one of the special Messengers from God, along with Abraham and Joseph (who was kidnapped and sent to Egypt). On the other hand, “Jesus is a controversial prophet.” The Qur’an insists that Christians have perverted the message of Jesus, and therefore, God must cleanse him and raise him above the Christian heresy. Surah 3:55 says, “And (remember) when Allah said: ‘O Isa (Jesus)! I will take you and raise you to Myself and clear you [of the forged statement that Isa (Jesus) is Allah’s son] of those who disbelieve, and I will make those who follow you (Monotheists, who worship none but Allah) superior to those who disbelieve [in the Oneness of Allah, or disbelieve in some of His Messengers, e.g. Muhammad, Isa (Jesus), Musa (Moses), or in His Holy books, e.g. the Taurat (Torah), the Injeel (Gospel), the Qur’an] till the Day of Resurrection. Then you will return to Me and I will judge between you in the matters in which you used to dispute.'”

“In Islam, Mary’s purity and sinlessness highlight Isa (Jesus) as an important prophet. Islam considers Jesus to be one of Islam’s four main messengers, along with Abraham, Moses, and Muhammad.” But the prohibition against polytheism has led Muslims to reject altogether the divine side of Jesus Christ. He is regarded as no more special than any other prophet. He is always referred to as Jesus, Son of Mary, to highlight his humanness.

Muslims believe in the power of God to perform miracles. They have no problem believing in Jesus’ virgin birth. Just like God created the world with a word, “Muslims believe that Prophet Jesus was created by a word from God and this word was ‘Be!'” In this context, Jesus is also called “the word of God.” Mary, Jesus’ mother, is highly revered by Muslims as someone blessed by God. And yet, Muslims completely reject that Jesus — who was born by the power of God — had any special relationship to God. They regard the creation of Jesus as similar to the creation of Adam. God spoke the word “Be!” and Adam was created. God spoke the word “Be!” and Jesus was conceived in Mary’s womb.

While Christians believe that Jesus received divine spirit from God and was, therefore, the Son of God, Muslims reject this idea as polytheistic. They also reject Christ’s crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension to heaven after forty days. The Qur’an does recognize that Jesus performed miracles and was sent by God to reaffirm the belief in Abrahamic monotheism. They also believe that the New Testament Gospels were revealed to Jesus, even though he did not write them down. Part of his mission was to amend Jewish law and to make “some things lawful which were otherwise forbidden.” He relaxed the burden of the law on the Jewish people. “God sent Prophet Jesus with the Injeel (Gospel) to correct and restore the divine law” which had been corrupted by Jewish leaders.

Muslims also believe that the Sanhedrin rejected Jesus out of pride “with full knowledge that he was the Christ.” Then, God lifted Jesus up to heaven before any harm could come to him. Everything the Christians believe about the crucifixion, burial, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus is an illusion. The Qur’an addresses this issue in Surah 4:157: “And, because of their saying (in boast), ‘We killed Messiah Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), the Messenger of Allah,’ — but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but the resemblance of Isa (Jesus) was put over another man (and they killed that man), and those who differ therein are full of doubts. They have no (certain) knowledge, they follow nothing but conjecture. For surely; they killed him not [i.e. Isa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary).”

In Surah 4:158, the story goes on: “But Allah raised him [Isa (Jesus)] up (with his body and soul) unto Himself (and he is in the heavens). And Allah is Ever All-Powerful, All-Wise.” An unfortunate effect of these beliefs is that Muslims view Christians as superior to Jews “because of Jewish rejection and crucifixion of Prophet Jesus.” But they also view themselves as superior to both groups because of their acceptance of the Oneness of God and Muhammad as the Messenger of God. They also reject the Gospels of the New Testament as evolving over hundreds of years and not existing in their original forms.

The biggest point of contention between Muslims and Christians is the concept of the Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. And it is a point that can never be resolved without Muslims converting to Christianity or Christians converting to Islam.

Abrahamic monotheism recognizes the Oneness of God and rejects polytheism. This is the major theme running through the Qur’an. Muslims believe that Christians have invented an all-new “conceptualization of the nature of God that contradicts the Jewish and Muslim notions of oneness.”

After Jesus’ death (or disappearance for Muslims), there was much debate over the person and nature of Jesus. Some people believed in his divine nature. Other people saw him as strictly human. Emperor Constantine intervened and called for the Council of Nicea. The Arian notion of Jesus as human was discredited. The Nicene Creed affirmed the divinity and eternity of Jesus Christ. The trinity was accepted based on the Old Testament concept of “the one Godhead.” The Second Nicene Council affirmed the divinity of Jesus Christ, once again. Anybody spreading Arianism was condemned and persecuted. Later on, people who supported Arianism were easily converted to Islam because of their belief in his humanness.

In short, the rejection by Muslims of Jesus Christ as a divine, eternal being can be summed up in three points: “Jesus Christ is not divine because he was a created being; he was not divine because his rank and status was not coequal to God; and Jesus Christ exhibited limitations and dependence which go against the Abrahamic concept of God.”

“Muslims believe that Prophethood is the highest honor that any being can be bestowed by God.” God can have no partner, children, or siblings. Therefore, Jesus Christ cannot be divine or the Son of God according to the Qur’an and the Islamic view of God.

Dawn Pisturino

February 17, 2019

Thomas Edison State University

Copyright 2019-2020 Dawn Pisturino. All Rights Reserved.

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