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IBN KATHIR ON THE LIFE OF JESUS

The following is an extract from Stories of the Prophets, written by Al-Imam Ibn Kathir, translated by Muhammad Mustapha Geme’ah, Al-Azhar, pp. 173-184 (https://www.academia.edu/34774764/Stories_of_the_Prophets_Stories_of_the_Prophets?email_work_card=title). Emphasis will be mine.

Mary’s Family History

Allah declared that He had elected Adam and the elite of his offspring who obey Allah. Then He specified the family of Abraham, which includes the sons of Ishmael, and the family of Imran, the father of Mary.

Muhammad Ibn Ishaaq stated that he was Imran Ibn Bashim, Ibn Amun, Ibn Misha, Ibn Hosqia, Ibn Ahriq, Ibn Mutham, Ibn Azazia, Ibn Amisa, Ibn Yamish, Ibn Ahrihu, Ibn Yazem, Ibn Yahfashat, Ibn Eisha, Ibn Iyam, Ibn Rahba’am, IBN DAVID (Dawud).

Mary’s Birth – Longer Version

Prophet Zakariyah’s wife’s sister had a daughter named Hannah. She was married to Imran, a leader of the Israelites. For many years, the couple remained childless. Whenever Hannah saw another woman with a child, her longing for a baby increased. Although years had passed, she never lost hope. She believed that one day Allah would bless her with a child, on whom she would shower all her motherly love.

She turned to the Lord of the heavens and the earth and pleaded with Him for a child. She would offer the child in the service of Allah’s house, in the temple of Jerusalem. Allah granted her request. When she learned that she was pregnant, she was the happiest woman alive, and thanked Allah for His gift. Her overjoyed husband Imran also thanked Allah for His mercy.

However, while she was pregnant her husband passed away. Hannah wept bitterly. Alas, Imran did not live to see their child for whom they had so longed…

Zechariah Becomes Mary’s Guardian

Hannah had a big problem in reference to her promise to Allah, for females were not accepted into the temple, and she was very worried. Her sister’s husband Zakariyah, comforted her, saying that Allah knew best what she had delivered and appreciated fully what she had offered in His service. She wrapped the baby in a shawl and handed it over to the temple elders. As the baby was a girl, the question of her guardianship posed a problem for the elders. This was a child of their late and beloved leader, and everyone was eager to take care of her. Zakariyah said to the elders: “I am the husband of her maternal aunt and her nearest relation in the temple; therefore, I will be more mindful of her than all of you.”

As it was their custom to draw lots to solve disagreements, they followed this course. Each one was given a reed to throw into the river. They had agreed that whoever’s reed remained afloat would be granted guardianship of the girl. All the reeds sank to the bottom except Zakariyah’s. With this sign, they all surrendered to the will of Allah and made him the guardian.

Mary’s High Status

To ensure that no one had access to Mary, Zakariyah built a separate room for her in the temple. As she grew up, she spent her time in devotion to Allah. Zakariyah visited her daily to see to her needs, and so it continued for many years. One day, he was surprised to find fresh fruit, which was out of season in her room. As he was the only person who could enter her room, he asked her how the fruit got there. She replied that these provisions were from Allah, as He gives to whom He wills. Zakariyah understood by this that Allah had raised Mary’s status above that of other women.

Thereafter, Zakariyah spent more time with her, teaching and guiding her. Mary grew to be a devotee of Allah, glorifying Him day and night.

Mary’s High Status – Prophet Muhammad

Ali Ibn Abi Talib narrated that the Prophet Muhammad said: “The best of the world’s women is Mary (in her lifetime), and the best of the world’s women is Khadija (in her lifetime).” (Sahih Al-Bukhari)

Abu Musa Al-Ashari also narrated that the Prophet Muhammad said: “Many among men attained perfection but among women none attained perfection except Mary the daughter of Imran, and Asiya the wife of Pharaoh, and the superiority of Aisha to other women is like the superiority of Tharid (an Arabic dish) to other meals.”

Some Stories About Mary’s Pregnancy

It was said that Joseph the Carpenter was greatly surprised when he knew the story, so he asked Mary: “Can a tree come to grow without a seed?” She said: “Yes, the one which Allah created for the first time.” He asked her again: “Is it possible to bear a child without a male partner?” She said: “Yes, Allah, created Adam without male or female!”

It was also said that, while pregnant, Mary went one day to her aunt, who reported that she felt as if she was pregnant. Mary in turn, said that she, too, was feeling as if she was pregnant. Then her aunt said: “I can see what is in my womb prostrating to what is in your womb.”…

Jesus’s Ability to Debate

As Jesus grew, the signs of prophethood began to increase. He could tell his friends what kind of supper waited for them at home and what they had hidden and where. When he was twelve years old, he accompanied his mother to Jerusalem. There he wandered into the temple and joined a crowd listening to the lecture of the Rabbis (Jewish priests). The audience were all adults, but he was not afraid to sit with them. After listening intently, he asked questions and expressed his opinion. The learned rabbis were disturbed by the boy’s boldness and puzzled by the questions he asked, for they were unable to answer him. They tried to silence him, but he ignored their attempts and continued to express his views. Jesus became so involved in this exchange that he forgot he as expected back home.

In the meantime, his mother went home, thinking that he might have gone back with relatives or friends. When she arrived, she discovered that he was not there, so she returned to the city to look for him. At last she found him in the temple, sitting among the learned, conversing with them. He appeared to be quite at east, as if he had been doing this all his life. Mary got angry with him for causing her worry. He tried to assure her that all the arguing and debating with the learned had made him forgot the time…

Jesus’s Message

Like an opposing force, the message of Jesus came to denounce the practices of the Pharisees and to reinforce the Law of Moses. In the face of a materialistic age of luxury and worship of gold, Jesus called his people to a nobler life by word and deed. This exemplary life was the only way out of the wretchedness and diseases of his age. Jesus’s call, from the beginning, was marked by its complete uprightness and piety. It appealed to the soul, the inner being, and not be a closed system of rules laid down by society.

Jesus continued inviting the people to Almighty Allah. His call was based on the principle that there is no mediation between the Creator and His creatures. However, Jesus was in conflict with the Jews’ superficial interpretation of the Torah. He said that he did not come to abrogate the Torah, but to complete it by going to the spirit of its substance to arrive at its essence.

He made the Jews understand that the Ten Commandments have more value than they imagined. For instance, the fifth commandment does not only prohibit physical killing, but all forms of killing; physical, psychological, or spiritual. And the sixth commandment does not prohibit adultery only in the sense of unlawful physical contact between a man and a woman, but also prohibits all forms of unlawful relations or acts that might lead to adultery. The eye commits adultery when it looks at anything with passion…

Jewish Priests Try to Embarrass

Jesus His teaching annoyed the priests, for every word of Jesus was a threat to them and their position, exposing their misdeeds. The Roman occupiers had, at first, no intention of being involved in this religious discord of the Jews because it was an internal affair, and they saw that this dispute would distract the Jews from the question of the occupation.

However, the priests started to plot against Jesus. They wanted to embarrass him and to prove that he had come to destroy the Mosaic Law. The Mosaic Law provides that an adulteress be stoned to death. They brought him a Jewish adulteress and asked Jesus: “Does not the law stipulate the stoning of the adulteress?” Jesus answered: “Yes.” They said: “This woman is an adulteress.” Jesus looked at the woman and then at the priests. He knew that they were more sinful than she. They agreed that she should be killed according to Mosaic Law, and they understood that if he was going to apply Mosaic Law, he would be destroying his own rules of forgiveness and mercy.

Jesus understood their plan. He smiled and assented: “Whoever among you is sinless can stone her.” His voice rose in the middle of the Temple, making a new law on adultery, for the sinless to judge sin. There was none eligible; no mortal can judge sin, only Allah the Most Merciful. As Jesus left the temple, the woman followed him. She took out a bottle of perfume from her garments, knelt before his feet and washed them with perfume and tears, and then dried his feet with her hair. Jesus turned to the woman and told her to stand up, adding: “O Lord, forgive her sins.” He let the priests understand that those who call people to Almighty Allah are not executioners. His call was based on mercy for the people, the aim of all divine calls.

Jesus’ Brings the Dead to Life

Jesus continued to pray to Allah for mercy on his people and to teach his people to have mercy on one another and to believe in Allah. Jesus continued his mission, aided by divine miracles. Some Qur’anic commentators said that Jesus brought four people back from the dead: a friend of his named Al-Azam, an old woman’s son, and a woman’s only daughter. These three had died during his lifetime. When the Jews saw this they said: “You only resurrect those who have died recently; perhaps they only fainted.” They asked him to bring back to life Sam the Ibn Noah.

When he asked them to show him his grave, the people accompanied him there. Jesus invoked Allah the Exalted to bring him back to life and behold, Sam the Ibn Noah came out from the grave gray-haired. Jesus asked: “how did you get gray hair, when there was no aging in your time?” He answered: “O Spirit of Allah, I thought that the Day of Resurrection had come; from the fear of that day my hair turned gray.”…

Allah Sends the Disciples a Feast

Jesus continued calling people to Almighty Allah and laying down for them what might be called “the law of the Spirit.” Once when standing on a mountain surrounded by his disciples, Jesus saw that those who believed in him were from among the poor, the wretched, an the downtrodden, and their number was small. Some of the miracles which Jesus performed had been requested by his disciples, such as their wish for a “holy table” to be sent down from heaven…

It was related that Jesus commanded his disciples to fast for thirty days; at the end of it, they asked Jesus to bring food from heaven to break their fast. Jesus prayed to Allah after his disciples had doubted Allah’s power. The great table cam down between two clouds, one above and one below, while the people watched. Jesus said: “O Lord, make it a mercy and not a cause of distress.” So it fell between Jesus’s hands, covered with a napkin.

Jesus suddenly prostrated and his disciples with him. They sensed a fragrance, which they had never smelled before. Jesus said: “The one who is the most devout and most righteous may uncover the table, that we might eat of it to thank Allah for it.” They said: “O Spirit of Allah, you are the most deserving.”

Jesus stood up, then performed ablution and prayed before uncovering the table, and behold, there was a roasted fish. The disciples said: “O Spirit of Allah, is this the food of this world or of Paradise?” Jesus said to his disciples: “Did not Allah forbid you to ask questions? It is the divine power of Allah the Almighty Who said: ‘Be,’ and it was. It is a sign from Almighty Allah warning of great punishment for unbelieving mortals of the world. This is the kernel of the matter.” It is said that thousands of people partook of it, and yet they never exhausted it. A further miracle was that the blind and lepers were cured.

Those Worshipping Jesus and Allah’s Questions to Jesus

The Day of the Table became one of the holy days for the disciples and followers of Jesus. Later on, the disciples and followers forgot the real essence of the miracles, and so they worshipped Jesus as a god…

The Jews Plot to Kill Jesus

Jesus went on his mission until vice knew that its throne was threatening to fall. So the forces of evil accused him of magic, infringement of the Mosaic Law, allegiance with the devil; and when they saw that the poor people followed him, they began to scheme against him. The Sanhedrin, the highest judicial and ecclesiastical council of the Jews, began to meet to plot against Jesus. The plan took a new turn. When the Jews failed to stop Jesus’ s call, they decided to kill him. The chief priests held secret meetings to agree on the best way of getting rid of Jesus. While they were in such a meeting, one of the twelve apostles of Jesus, Judas Iscariot, went to them and asked: “What will you give me if I deliver him to you?” Judas bargained with them until they agreed to give him thirty pieces of silver known as shekels. The plot was laid for the capture and murder of Jesus.

It was said that the high priest of the Jews tore his garment at the meeting, claiming that Jesus had denied Judaism. The tearing of clothes at that time was a sign of disgust.

The Torture of Jesus

The priests had no authority to pass the death sentence at that time, so they convinced the Roman governor that Jesus was plotting against the security of the Roman Empire and urged him to take immediate action against him. The governor ordered that Jesus be arrested.

According to the Book of Matthew, Jesus was arrested and the council of the high priests passed the death sentence upon him. Then, they began insulting him, spitting on his face and kicking him. It was the Roman custom for the condemned to be flogged before they were executed. So Pilate, the Roman governor, ordered that Jesus be flogged. The Mosaic Law stipulates forty lashes, but the Roman had no limit, and they were brutal lashes. After that, Jesus was handed to the soldiers for crucifixion. They took off his clothes, and kept them. They put a crown of thorns on his head to mock him. According to custom he carried his cross on his back to increase his suffering.

Jesus’s Crucifixion – Bible Version

Finally, they reached a place called Golgotha, meaning the Place of Skulls, outside the walls of Jerusalem. Instead of giving him a cup of wine diluted with scent to help lessen the pain on the cross, the soldiers gave Jesus a cup of vinegar diluted with gall. Then they crucified him and, as a further mockery, two thieves with him. So it is written in the Bible.

Jesus’s Crucifixion – Quranic

But the faith of Islam came with views quite different from that of the extend gospels with regards to both the end of Jesus and his nature. The Glorious Qur’an affirms that Allah the Exalted did not permit the people of Israel to kill Jesus or crucify him. What happened was that Allah saved him from his enemies and raised him to heaven. They never killed Jesus, they killed someone else.

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