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Was Jesus a Muslim?

Was Jesus a Muslim?

Something very odd is going on in our heads when we see a title like the one above.

It jars within us, it goes against the grain. We see two conflicting ideas being made to look the same. We might do a double take, after all “Jesus” and “Muslim” just don’t go together.

But that’s assuming you are reading this as a Christian. If you happen to be a Muslim, then like millions of Muslims you know Jesus as a messenger of God, and an early prophet of Islam. To you, Jesus was a great Muslim.

Well “Jesus was a Muslim” is an argument I heard recently in a debate while travelling in India. The specific points from that debate are summarized in the box below.

Both Islam and Christianity claim Jesus. In fact, on the face of it, there are similarities between Christianity and Islam. Both believe in one God, both stem from Abraham and, interestingly, both are firmly centred on a man and a book. For Christians it’s Jesus and the Bible, for Muslims it’s Mohammed and the Qur’an, but for both “the man and the book” are foundational.

Are Allah and Yahweh the same

Let’s ask some questions.

Was Jesus a Muslim?

No.

Muslims claim that Islam, a state of submitting to God’s will, is the natural way of how things are meant to be. Jesus was a good Muslim prophet, along with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Zechariah, John the Baptist … going on to Mohammed. This line of continuity testifies to Islam as the natural order since the beginning of time.

Not only that, Muslims believe that the Qur’an which dates from the seventh century AD is the correction of the earlier faiths of Judaism and Christianity. Christianity, they believe, became corrupted first by Paul, and then by many others, and Islam is the correction that was needed. A faith tarnished over centuries cannot compare with the final Revelation given to Mohammed.

According to the Qur’an, Jesus – or Isa in Arabic — comes in this established line of prophets:

[Jesus] said, “Indeed, I am the servant of God. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet, (Surah 19.30)

But the specific arguments for Jesus being a Muslim – see inset – do not hold. They end up being contrived. Furthermore, Muslims believe Jesus himself was neither God nor the Son of God, and he didn’t die on a cross. It only appeared so:

They did not kill him (Jesus), nor did they crucify him, but another was made to resemble him. (Surah 4.157)

A big problem for Muslims here is that the crucifixion of Jesus is an accepted event, documented by non-religious writers as well as Christian writers in the first century. It is a well attested fact of the ancient world — and a headache for Muslim scholars.

Islamic Koran verses include Jesus

Was Jesus a Christian?

No.

Hang on! Surely Jesus was a Christian?

A Christian is a follower of Christ, Jesus Himself is the Christ, the anointed one, the Messiah, so it wouldn’t make much sense to follow Himself. And, apart from anything else, the term “Christian” only appears well into the book of Acts (Acts 11 in Antioch). Before that followers of Jesus were called “followers of the way”.

Jesus is the founder and the cornerstone of Christianity — “the author and perfecter of our faith”. He is the reason there are Christians. But it doesn’t make sense to say, “Jesus was a Christian”.

and of course the Bibke speaks of Jesus

Was Jesus a Jew?

Yes!

In fact, he was a very good Jew and also a very troublesome Jew.

As Christians we believe that Jews have a partial understanding of the revelation of God, but what we cannot doubt is that Jesus was a Jew, a first century Jewish Rabbi. The Jews do not believe that Jesus fulfilled prophecies of the coming Messiah, nor that he was God.

was Jesus a Jew?

So why does any of this matter? Well, when it comes to Jesus and “religion”, it’s worth thinking about a few things.

Jesus didn’t come to start a religion

He came to bring life, both now, and eternally. He brought in the Kingdom of God and, most of all, he brought us a means by which we can enter a relationship with God. Anyone can come into this relationship with God, starting from any religion, including no religion. Not only that but:

Jesus didn’t think much of religion

Jesus’ most scathing criticism, his harshest words were directed at the religious teachers of his day, and the hypocrisy with which they followed their religion (try reading Matthew 23). Interestingly, when it came to people who practiced other religions, such as Pagans or Samaritans, he offered little criticism. It seems hypocrisy angered Jesus much more than ignorance or mis-direction. There is something for us to learn here.

And lastly, in many ways:

Following Jesus is not a religion

The Gospel, the good news, we talk about is not a thing, not even a message, it’s a person. It’s Jesus. Of course, we add things to this …. the way we happen to do church, our traditions, our favourite songs, whatever. The ways we do religion can be helpful (or not), but, they can also take over. Ultimately this is a relationship with a person.

Sometimes even Christians need to discover this.

Why Jesus was a Muslim – the argument summarized and with brief responses.
Muslims must keep at least 4 of the 5 pillars of Islam, some claim that Jesus kept the first 4.

  1. Shahadah (faith): Jesus recited an early (pre-Mohammed) version of the statement required of Muslims, eg Mark 12.29: ‘Hear, O Israel: the Lord our God, the Lord is one.
    But this is different to the Shahadah: “There is no God but Allah, and Mohamed is his messenger”.
  2. Salat (prayer): Jesus performed prayers, also prostrating himself as Muslims do eg in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matthew 26.39).
    But there is no indication that Jesus did this five times a day, or facing Mecca.
  3. Zakat (charity): Jesus did works that benefited the poor and needy.
  4. Sawm (fasting): Jesus fasted as Muslims are called to do.
    But Jesus fasted at other times, not just Ramadan.
  5. Hajj (pilgrimage): pilgrimage to Mecca

This article was originally written for Premier Christianity
Thanks to Revd Dr Graham Adams — lecturer in World Religions — for excellent review and feedback

 

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Angela Rowley
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Angela Rowley

Thanks yet again Chris. We’ll be using this as a discussion starter at our Home Group this week. We’ve used three now and they’ve been very stimulating so thankyou for your insights. Ax

Edet
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This is an eye-opening article. Also well-put together. I enjoyed reading it. Please keep more of such articles coming. God bless you!

Gospel Blogger at https://www.ibloggospel.com

Tina Barton
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Tina Barton

Thanks for your blog Chris and the challenge it gives to both Christians (many of whom in my experience know next to nothing about the Muslim religion) and Muslims. I have just finished reading Nabeel Qureshi’s autobiography ‘Seeking Allah. Finding Jesus, which gives a prospective from a converted Muslim’s point of view. Not only a fine read, it touches the heart. This young man died of stomach cancer a couple of years ago around a decade after he became a Christian leaving a wife and little daughter. His faith grew stronger as his illness progressed — I would highly recommend… Read more »

Jane
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Jane

Good article Chris — remembering that it is Jesus the person, divine and human, whom we follow, not a religion, dogma, or even our sacred texts, is an important point.

Azriel
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Azriel

Dear Pastor Goswami,
Thank you and Blessings for the article.
My walk in God is going along fine.
Challenging as it requires change yet I’m obedient to Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour and walking in him daily.

Cathy
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Cathy

Hi Chris great to hear from and the heading really got my attention.
Interesting thoughts thanks for sharing

Mart
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Mart

Very interesting thanks
How did you get time to do this !!?

Sunil
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Sunil

Very interesting perspectives Chris. I have also heard mentioned, but not verifie, thst the Koran itself mentions Jesus more often than Mohammed!