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DAMNING ADMISSIONS OF A MUSLIM AUTHOR CONCERNING JESUS

In this post I will be quoting from Muslim author Mustafa Akyol’s The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims.

Aykol’s book has been highly acclaimed by Muslims, including Shabir Ally who did a review of it on his show “Let the Quran Speak,” praising it: Book Review: The Islamic Jesus by Mustafa Akyol.

Even Paul Williams, a rabid anti-Christian and anti-Evangelical Muhammadan polemicist, loved the book so much that he interviewed the author for his youtube channel: The Islamic Jesus with Mustafa Akyol.

I have therefore decided to post some excerpts to show that Akyol makes certain admissions which actually affirm what Christian apologists and scholars of Islam have been saying regarding the Quran’s confusing and contradictory Christology, and its view of the Holy Bible

All bold and/or capital emphasis will be mine.

JESUS AS THE SINLESS SEMIDIVINE ANGELIC CREATOR AND LIFE-GIVER

According to a hadith, the number of all the prophets sent to humankind is as high as twenty-four thousand–suggesting that not just the Children of Israel or Muslims themselves are the receivers of divine guidance. All these known and unknown prophets must be respected by Muslims, the Qur’an reminds believers, and they should not “differentiate between any of them.” Yet still, another verse of the Qur’an notes that God Himself elevated certain messengers:

We favoured some of these messengers above others. God spoke to some; others He raised in rank. We gave Jesus, son of Mary, Our clear signs and strengthened him with the holy spirit.

The term “holy spirit” here may catch the attention of Christians, and rightly so. For while describing Jesus, the Qur’an uses some of the powerful concepts of Christian theology–but often not exactly with the same meaning, as we shall see. It also uses its own theological concepts to praise Jesus–an exceptionally sublime praise given TO NO ONE ELSE, INCLUDING THE PROPHET MUHAMMAD. In one of the best short summaries of the Qur’anic picture of Jesus, Geoffrey Parrinder, the late British scholar of religion and a Methodist minister, observed:

He is called by his proper name Jesus, by the title Messiah (Christ) and Son of Mary, and by the names Messenger, Prophet, Servant, Word and Spirit of God. The Qur’an gives two accounts of the annunciation and birth of Jesus, and refers to his teachings and healings, and his death and exaltation…Jesus is always spoken of in the Qur’an with reverence; there is no breath of criticism, for he is the Christ of God. (Chapter Six: The Qur’anic Jesus, pp. 133-134)

What is more striking in these Qur’anic passages, though, is a third genre of miracle attributed to Jesus, which is quite remarkable, but which is totally absent from the New Testament: that he gave life to birds made of clay. Or that he declared, to quote his words again, “I will create the shape of a bird out of clay for you and then breathe into it and it will be a bird by God’s permission.”

Both Muslim and Christian commentators have been intrigued by this miracle, for in both religions giving life to inanimate matter is seen as a power that belongs ONLY TO GOD. To add more awe to the matter, the Qur’an’s terminology here has interesting parallels. First, the verb used to denote that Jesus “created” the shape of a bird from clay is khalaqathe very verb that the Qur’an USES ALMOST EXCLUSIVELY to God’s creative act. Second, the substance that Jesus used, which is clay, or tinIS THE EXACT SAME SUBSTANCE FROM WHICH GOD CREATED THE FIRST MAN. Third, the verb used to Jesus “breathing” into clay, nafakhais again THE EXACT SAME WORD INDICATING GOD’S “BREATHING” INTO CLAY to create the first man or His “breathing” into Mary to create Jesus himself.

Looking at these clues, the prominent twelfth-century exegete of the Qur’an Fakhraddin al-Razi argued that perhaps Jesus’ breath had some unusual power–that God might have “endowed Jesus’ breath with the particular efficacy so that when he blew into things it caused them to come to life.” Others suggested that Jesus was “allowed to exercise THE DIVINE PREROGATIVE OF CREATING LIFE”–which was the case with neither Abraham, nor Moses, nor Muhammad himself. Hence the life-giving breath of Jesusdam-i-Isa, became a mystical concept in Islam, especially among the Sufis. The great Sufi Ibn al-Arabi wrote the following to describe the Christ:

A SPIRIT from none other than God,

So that he might raise the dead and bring forth birds

from clay

AND BECOME WORTHY TO BE ASSOCIATED WITH HIS LORD

By which he exerted great influence, both high and low.

God purified him in a body AND MADE HIM TRANSCENDENT

In the spirit, MAKING HIM LIKE HIMSELF IN CREATING. (Ibid., pp. 137-139)

Islam recognized the particular function of Jesus, which … differed from that of other prophets who usually brought a law or reformed a previous one, by acknowledging his particular nature AS THE “SPIRIT OF GOD.”

–Seyyed Hossein Nasr, Islamic philosopher (Chapter Seven: Islamic Christology, p. 158)

… However, Jesus, as we can see is not only a prophet. He is also “Word from God,” EVEN “WORD OF GOD,” and also a “Spirit from God.”

Since both of these terms–“Word” and “Spirit”–ARE NEVER USED FOR ANY OTHER HUMAN BEING IN THE QUR’AN, they have generated curiosity for centuries…

However, in the Islamic tradition, there are also some hints, and some overt comments, that Jesus was the Word of God in a more elevated sense as well. These hints come first of all from the Qur’an, which suggests that Jesus had an unusual nature not merely in terms of his birth, but also other miraculous aspects of his life. He spoke in his cradle–and perhaps even in his mother’s womb, depending on how one reads the passage about Mary’s birth pains. He also gave life to inanimate matter, by raising the dead or breathing into clay figures and making them alive. Especially the latter miracle puzzled some Muslim exegetes, for creating life is a power ascribed ONLY TO GOD. One of them, al-Razi, asked:

Is it that God had deposited a special power in Jesus, so that whenever he breathed into a thing it became alive, or is that God created life in that thing when Jesus breathed into it order for God to manifest His miracles!

Al-Razi then opted for the second option, but added that since “Jesus was generated from the breath of Gabriel into Mary … It is not improbable that the breath of Jesus could infuse life and spirit.”

In the overall Qur’anic story of Jesus, there is something else that is curious. When the Qur’an narrates the stories of prophets in detail, it often mentions their flaws, which the Islamic tradition conceptualized as zalla or “lapse.” Adam ate of the fruit of the forbidden tree, for example; Moses hit a man and killed him; and Muhammad neglected a blind man searching for wisdom, which led to his censure by the Qur’an. The Jesus of the Qur’an, however, has no zalla, no mistake, no lapse. He is simply flawless. No wonder Mary was heralded with “a faultless son.” And Jesus himself said, “God… has made be blessed, wherever I am.”

Besides the Qur’an, a hadith found in the collection of Imam Bukhari also implies an exceptional nature for Jesus. “When any human being is born, Satan touches him at both sides of the body with his two fingers,” the Prophet Muhammad reportedly says here. “Except Jesus, the son of Mary.”

Based on such clues, some Muslims commentators, including Ibn Abbas, the cousin of the Prophet Muhammad, have suggested that Jesus was the Word of God in a higher sense than the mere “creative Word” in his generation. But in exactly what sense? Nishapuri, a Persian Shiite scholar of the fourteenth century, has offered an answer, first by defining a “perfect man” in union with God, and then noting, “Jesus was specially favored, among all other prophets and saints, by being called ‘word’ because he was created with the inherent capacity for this perfection.”

Two centuries earlier, another Shiite scholar, Shaykh Tabarsi, had discussed the meaning of Jesus’ speech in the cradle and suggested that “God had perfected his reason even at that age…revealing to him what he uttered.” Accordingly, Jesus was not merely receiving occasional revelations like other prophets; EVERY WORD OF HIS was revelation by God

Among contemporary Muslim thinkers, one who ventured into such territory of mysteries to offer a notably higher version of Islamic Christology is Hajj Muhammad Legenhausen, an American philosopher, a convert to Islam, and a professor at the Imam Khomeini Education and Research Institute in Iran. Legenhausen apparently builds upon the tradition started by Tabarsi that Jesus may be the Word of God not as “merely a creative word, but also a word of revelation.” In this view, unlike the Prophet Muhammad, who was a normal human being who just occasionally received God’s revelation, JESUS BECOMES THE REVELATION ITSELF. The parallel to Jesus in Islam thus becomes not the Prophet Muhammad, BUT THE QUR’AN.

When one recalls that some key Muslim defenders of the “uncreated Qur’an” doctrine also saw the Torah and Gospel as “uncreated” as well–the latter of which, in this interpretation, would be Jesus himself–one gets an Islamic Christology NOT EXTREMELY FAR FROM CHRISTIAN CHRISTOLOGY: Here you have a Jesus AS THE UNCREATED, PREEXISTING WORD. Add to this that the same doctrine saw God’s “attributes,” including His Word, as “not He, [but] NOT OTHER THAN HE,” and there emerges an interesting theological bridge between Islam and Christianity.

Yet still, the higher Qur’anic Word theology would not make Jesus divine in the sense of making him an object of worship, as some Christian have suggested since the time of John of Damascus. Muslims, after all, do not worship the Qur’an, even if they consider it as the uncreated Word of God. That is why, as the Muslim academic Mahmoud Ayoub once RIGHTLY observedMuslims MAY AGREE WITH THE OPENING STATEMENT OF THE GOSPEL OF JOHN: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God.” But they can not agree with what follows next: “And the Word was God.”

Nevertheless, a higher Qur’anic Word theology puts Jesus somewhere BETWEEN HUMAN BEINGS AND GOD–somewhere, one could suggest, on the same level with the angels. It is therefore perhaps telling that in its rejection of the Christian doctrine of the divinity of Christ, the Qur’an mentions him in the same breath with the angels near to God:

The Messiah would never disdain to be a servant to God nor would the angels near to Him. If any do disdain to worship Him, and grow arrogant, He will in any case gather them all to Him.

The Messiah was likened to an angel also by the great twelfth-century Sufi master Ibn al-Arabi, who wrote poems concerning Jesus. Ibn Arabi pondered the meaning of Jesus being “the Spirit of God,” and interpreted it AS JESUS’ POWER TO BREATHE LIFE INTO THE DEAD, with God’s permission, just as Angel Gabriel breathed life into his mother:

Jesus came forth raising the dead BECAUSE HE WAS A DIVINE SPIRIT. In this the quickening was of God, while the blowing itself came from Jesus, just as the blowing was from Gabriel, while the Word was of God.”…

Hence, it seems fair to say that the Qur’an may be in line with Jewish Christianity in terms of its christology, as well: that the Messiah is no God, BUT ALSO NO ORDINARY MORTAL.  (Ibid., pp. 161-166)

  1. The verse that seems to target the doctrine of the Trinity reads: “Those who say that God is the third of three are unbelievers. There is no god but One God. If they do not stop saying what they say, a painful punishment will afflict those among them who are unbelievers” (5:73).  But one curious detail here is that the word Trinity does not exactly suggest “God is the third of three.” So there have been many discussions on this verse, on whether it presents the Trinity correctly, or whether it targets an unorthodox form of it that would be heretical for mainstream Christians as well. (NOTES, p. 248)
  2. The Arabic term in this verse for Jesus is ghulaaman-zakiyyan, often translated as “a most-holy boy.” The word zakiyya, meaning “blameless,” appears only twice in the Qur’an. The other occasion is in the story about Moses in which he meets a young man who is described as being innocent (18:74). But in that case, the word only referred to the young man’s innocence of any crime deserving of death. In Jesus’ case, however, the angel seems to describe HIS WHOLE BEING BEFORE HE WAS EVER BORN. (Ibid., p. 256)
  3. The argument that the Qur’an accepts the divinity with the Word theology was revived in the modern era by Ibrahim Luqa, an Egyptian Coptic priest, in his 1938 work, Al-Masihiyya fi l-Islam, or “Christianity in Islam.” The book, after its third printing in 1967, was banned by Egyptian authorities. In it Luqa PERSUASIVELY argued that the Qur’an depicts A SUPERHUMAN MESSIAH, but less convincing is his conclusion that this amounts to the affirmation of the Messiah’s divinity. See Ivor Mark Beaumont, Christology in Dialogue with Muslims: A Critical Analysis of Christian Presentations of Christ for Muslims from the Ninth and Twentieth (Milton Keynes, UK: Regnun, 2005), pp. 123-125. (Ibid., p. 257)

Interestingly, the view of Jesus being an angelic human can be traced back to the earliest Sunni Muslim tradition:

According to Ibn Humayd–Salamah–Ibn Ishaq: The Christians assert that God granted him death for seven hours of the day, and then resurrected him saying, “Descend upon Mary Magdalene on her mountain, for nobody wept for thee as she did, nor did anybody grieve for thee as she did. Let her assemble for thee the apostles, and send them forth as preachers for God, for you have not done that.” God let him descend to her; the mountain was aglow with light as he descended, and she gathered the apostles. Jesus sent them out and commanded them to tell men in his name of the divine injunction. Then God raised Jesus unto Himself, gave him wings of an angel and dressed him in radiance. No longer did Jesus relish food or drink; he was flying along with the angels, around the throne.

He was (both) human and angelic, celestial and terrestrial. The apostles then dispersed, as commanded. The night on which he was sent down is celebrated by the Christians with frankincense. (The History of al-Tabari: The Ancient Kingdoms, translated and annotated by Moshe Perlmann [State University of New York Press (SUNY), Albany, NY 1987], Volume IV (4), pp. 122-123; bold emphasis mine)

THE QURANIC VIEW OF THE HOLY BIBLE

In fact, as a monotheistic revolution in a polytheistic society, Islam clearly perceived former monotheisms, especially Judaism and Christianity, as sister faiths and even allies. The Qur’an defined Jews and Christians as the “People of the Book,” respecting their scriptures–the Tawrat, which is the Torah, the Zabur, which is the Psalms, and the Injil, which is the gospel, derived from the Greek word evangelion. The Qur’an held that it was not a major novelty, but a confirmation of those older books, or “what was there before it.”

Hence the older monotheists were not called to convert to Islam necessarily BUT TO FOLLOW THEIR OWN SCRIPTURES WHOLEHEARTEDLY. “The People of the Gospel,” the Qur’an openly declared, “should judge by what God sent down.” Jews and Christians, in other words, were called to be better Jews and Christians. A Qur’anic verse promised salvation to them, as long as they had faith and good deeds:

Surely those who believe, and those who are Jews, and the Christians, and the Sabians, and whoever believes in God and the Last day and does good, they shall have their reward from their Lord, and there is no fear for them, nor shall they grieve.

The term “Sabians” here, which apparently refers to a religious community known to the earliest Muslims, has been much discussed. The common view is that the Qur’an’s Sabians were Mandaeists, the members of a gnostic Mesopotamian religion that bore influences of Zoroastrianism but also of Christianity, with John the Baptist being the central figure. The fact that the Qur’an promises salvation for them, along with Jews and Christians, reflects a theological liberality in early Islam that most contemporary Muslims would have a hard time to consider… The specific believers who followed Muhammad were called Muslims–muslimun, a term used in the Qur’an seventy-five times. But these Muslims spearheaded a “confessionally open religious movement,” which “enjoined all monotheists to live in strict observance of the law that God had repeatedly revealed to humankind–whether in the form of the Torah, the Gospels, or the Qur’an. (Chapter Three: A Rebirth in Arabia, pp. 67-69)    

… In Islam, the Qur’an is taken as the “Word of God.” In Christianity, however, the “Word of God” is not a book, but Jesus himself. The New Testament merely narrates the Word, which became flesh in the form of Jesus.

Yet still, there remains a discrepancy between the New Testament and the way Islam defines it: the Qur’an speaks of “the gospel” as a single book like itself. “He has sent down the Book to you with truth confirming what was before it,” a Qur’anic verse tells Muhammad. “And He sent down the Torah and the Gospel.” The word translated here as “Gospel” is Injil in its Arabic original. It is a word that occurs twelve times in the Qur’an, nine of them in conjuncture with TawratScholars have little doubt that both words came into Arabic FROM FOREIGN SOURCES–Tawrat from the Hebrew Torah, and Injil from Greek Evangelion, or its Ethiopian derivative, Wangel.

The Qur’an shows great respect for both the Torah and the Gospel–and also for Zabur, which is the Arabic word for “Psalms.”…

The rest of this passage is even more interesting: “So let the followers of the Gospel judge according to what God has sent down in it.” This seems to suggest that, instead of calling Christians to convert to Islam, the Qur’an rather asks Christians to follow their own scripture firmly–offering a vision of religious pluralism that many contemporary Muslims will have a hard time accepting.

Yet the problem still remains: The Qur’an speaks of a single “Gospel” “given” to Jesus by God. But we rather have several Gospels written by different evangelists… So how do we make sense of this difference? Some of the EARLY MUSLIM EXEGETES of the Qur’an found the solution by suggesting that the Qur’an’s “Gospel” MERELY REFERS TO THE WHOLE NEW TESTAMENT, as the Quran’s “Torah” MIGHT BE A REFERENCE TO THE WHOLE OLD TESTAMENT. Some Western scholars rather suggested that the Qur’an was perhaps referring to the Diatessaron, the “gospel harmony” compiled by Tatian, a second-century Christian theologian. This was a combination of the four gospels into a single text and was widely used among Syrian Christians until the fifth century, perhaps by Jewish Christians as well. Yet we don’t have any evidence of [sic] being it used in the time and milieu of the Qur’an. (Chapter Six, pp. 144-145)

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