Jesus Christ in the Qur’an

To an observer’s eye, the main undoing of Christianity in the modern times, and a strong reason of decline in its system of faiths and beliefs, has been the doctrine of Trinity. Any Christian who tried to understand this intriguing concept, whether in the light of reason or with reference to that of the holy literature, old or new, has thrown his hands up in defeat and desperation. It is not only the whole that appears enigmatic, its parts also prove equally perplexing, defying one’s reason, no matter how far stretched. In most cases the inquirer wishes to leave the things where they are, less spoken of, the better. But one thing is sure of him after the questioning. He is never the same again, vis-a-vis Christian doctrine of Trinity, having put on, after the enquiry, a few pounds of scepticism on his person. With more and more people taking up the enquiry, there have been less and less of those who could be trusted as ardent followers of the faith. Judging from their (the enquirers’) experience that if such is the strength of argument of the “best religion of the world, the most developed, the most followed and the most advertised,” then there is hardly any reason why one should shore up patience for a serious hearing of any other religion. Unless he has a powerful call of nature troubling him from within, the sceptic of Christianity is sceptic of every other religion. He or she wouldn’t like any of them, and, specifically Christianity, to play any role in the community or national life. Separation of the Church and the State has thus become the single most unshakeable foundation-principle of the modern vision: “You may have very good reasons my dear man,” the modern Western mind seems to say to the Churchgoer, “to believe the way you do. But, sorry, we will be too glad if you kept it to yourself, within the boundaries of the Church and your personal life.”

That has a damping effect on the confidence of the preacher also. Himself in some trouble, over certain questions, he was looking for affirmation to come from at least the humbler folk so that he could assure himself that, after all, if not he, a lot of others “experience” the truth. Time and again, he conducts his own modest enquiry. But it doesn’t leave him with much he could be proud of. He is less impassioned after every enquiry, than he was before. It is at this point, unsure of his own texts, that he looks for confirmation to come from “other’s” texts. If not anything, he can at least ward off inquirers coming from a certain quarter. Instead of allowing them a passage to his texts, and create trouble for him, he can, by this strategy, turn them about on their heels, with a verse or two of their own holy text on their hands pondering over them for a good number of days. It works; especially with those of his adversaries whose faith and knowledge is as vicarious as his own.

Accordingly, one hears, now and then, from the believers in Christ that Jesus Christ’s divine nature is confirmed by no less an antagonistic work than the Qur’an itself. The dichotomy somehow is not apparent to them that they are arguing with a Book which they otherwise rejects as words of man falsely attributed to God.

What are those parts of the text anyway, which, according to the Christians, confirm the doctrine of the divinity of Christ? Could it be (19: 30): “(Jesus said) I am God’s slave. He has given me the Book and made me a Prophet?” Obviously not. Or, is it (5: 72), “And the Messiah said, ‘O Children of Israel. Worship God – my Lord and Your Lord.’” Or, do the Christians refer to the following verse, (5: 73), “Surely, those (people) disbelieved who declared God a third of the three?”

None of the above could be verses of their interest. They are too obvious of meaning to allow for a wishful interpretation. So, the reference is to verses of the following kind. One of them says (66: 12), “And (mention) Maryam, `Imran’s daughter, who safeguarded her womb and so We blew into it a spirit from Us.” The meaning they would like to derive from this verse is that Jesus was God’s own Spirit. Their understanding would render the translation as, “And (mention) Maryam, `Imran’s daughter, who safeguarded her womb, and so We blew into it Our (own) Spirit.” One may ask, if this is how the Christians would like to understand this verse, then, have they considered that if God blew away His own Spirit into another person, was He left with no soul of His own thereafter? (Hopefully, it wouldn’t be said that He blew out a part, surviving on the rest. After all, don’t we have the example of men surviving on one kidney after having donated the other?)

However, such a translation can only be done by someone who attempts to do it literally, ignoring the fact that such a translation contradicts many unambiguous verses of the Qur’an itself.

One Qur’anic verse says (42: 11), “There is none like unto Him.” Now, if God blew His soul into Jesus, then, obviously, Jesus was, in some ways, “like unto Him.” Therefore, this idea, in the light of another, unambiguous one, has to be rejected. There are a few other Qur’anic revelations that do not allow for a translation that would receive Christian approval. The Qur’an is specific about the rejection of anyone proceeding from God. It says, “He did not beget, nor was He begotten.” This verse cannot be interpreted in a second way.

Going back to the verse quoted, even if the word “ruhihi” of the text is translated as “His Spirit”, it would lend the same meaning as “Allah’s Spirit” and not anyone else’s. That is, it establishes Allah’s ownership, authorship and creativity. This kind of usage is common in every language. A man says, “My book.” It doesn’t mean he gave birth to the book. A Qur’anic example is in the following verse (91: 13), “Their Messenger told them: Allah’s camel and (do not prevent) her drinking.’” What does “Naqatullah” (Allah’s camel) of the original mean? Does it mean He has a beast of His own for ride? Or (104: 6), “Allah’s Fire, the eternally fuelled.”  What does Allah’s Fire mean? A third example (61: 8), “Allah will complete His Light (Nurihi).” Does it refer to “the light that emanates from Allah?” Obviously not. Or, does it mean that He is incomplete of light which He will complete? We are sure even the Christians will not endorse this meaning. One has to then, understand the term “a Spirit from Him” (Ruhihi) in the same sense whenever he comes across any such usage.

Another verse of Christian interest says (4: 171), “And (Jesus was) a Word that He (Allah) cast into Maryam, and a spirit from Him.” This verse is quoted by the Christians in full, but argued with one half. They take the second part alone viz., “a spirit from Him” and ignore the first part which says, “And (`Isa was) a Word…” Shouldn’t they try to determine what `Isa in reality was in the light of this verse? Was he “a Word,” or a “Spirit from Him?” Had they paid scant attention to the verse, before hurrying to argue with it, they could not have failed to notice that according to the statement he was both. He was “a Word (of command)” as well as “a Spirit that came from Him.” The “Word of Command” had to be issued in his case because the normal process of pregnancy was discarded, and replaced by an uncommon process of pregnancy by “the command.” Further, ‘Isa’s “Spirit was from Him”, and not from any other: such as from an angel, or the Devil, etc.

Now, if the Qur’anic usage Ruh from Him” is a cause of worry to some and joy to others, what will they say about the following verses? “So We sent to her (i.e., Mary) ‘Our Spirit’ (Ruhanaa), who took the form of a man well proportioned” (19: 17). Here, the reference (by Ruhanaa) is to Jibril who was sent to Maryam to give her the tidings of a fatherless child through her. But following the Christian logic are we to believe that Jibril was also Allah’s Ruh (Our Spirit)? And therefore, His son?

Again, the Qur’an says in another place, “Then He proportioned him and breathed into him His spirit” (32: 9). This verse is talking about Adam (asws). How are we to understand the words “His spirit” (Ruhihee)? Was Adam also God’s Spirit? And, therefore, His son and a God himself?

Again, Allah said to the angels (15: 29), “And when I have proportioned him and blown into him My Spirit, then fall down before him in prostration”. This verse is also talking about Adam’s creation. What does “My Spirit” (Ruhee) mean in this context? Would it mean that Adam too had God’s soul in him, like, according to the Christians, Jesus had? If so, has God been distributing his soul among His creations? Definitely not.

For those whose scepticism trails long, here is another example. Allah said, “And that is how We have revealed to you (O Muhammad) a Ruh by our Command?” (42: 52). The allusion is to the Qur’an. So, what is the nature of the Qur’an? Is it God’s own Spirit?

Again, if the Qur’an wished to state that Jesus Christ was God’s own Spirit, then what could have been simpler than saying, “Ruhullah” (Allah’s Spirit)? That would have been more straightforward and in line with Qur’anic unambiguity. In the Qur’an the basic concepts of Islam have been expressed in plain language, several times over to leave no one in doubt about the meaning and implication. Regarding Jesus himself, the Qur’an made several statements that should leave no one in any doubt about his human nature. Here are a few. Christians might pay some attention to them. Do they ring with truth? And reasonableness? In fact, one of them is the same as with a portion of which the Christians argue with the Muslims. The whole verse says (4: 171):

“O people of the Book! Do not overstep the bounds of your religion, and utter not aught concerning God, save the truth. Surely the Messiah, `Isa ibn Maryam, was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah, His Word that He conveyed unto Maryam, and a Spirit from Him. Therefore, believe in Allah and His Messengers. Do not say (God is) ‘three.’ Desist. It is better for you. Surely Allah is One God. Exalted be He above having a son. To Him belongs all that is in the Heaven and the earth. And Allah suffices for a Guardian.”

And (5: 73-75):

“(Those people) have surely disbelieved (in God) who said, ‘Verily, God is the third of the Three.’ Whereas, there isn’t any god save One God. If they do not desist from what they have been uttering, there will surely afflict the unbelievers of them a painful chastisement. Will they not then turn to God and seek His forgiveness? (Why should they not? when) God is very Forgiving, very Merciful. The Messiah, son of Mary, was no more than a Messenger. (Many other) messengers have passed before him. His mother was a vigorous upholder of truth. They both ate food. See then, how We make clear the revelations for them, and see then too, how they are turned away (from the truth).”

Finally, (3: 59),

“The likeness of `Isa in Allah’s sight is similar to that of Adam whom He made out of dust and then said unto him: ‘Be’ (a living human), and He was.”

Do statements of this sort leave anyone in ambiguity about the humanness, and Messengership of Jesus Christ?