Islam is the only religion outside of Christianity that makes it an article of faith to believe in Jesus Christ. Jesus is mentioned twenty five times in the Quran and has an honored rank along with other great Messengers of God. His immaculate conception, miracles, teachings, and ascension as well as return are integral aspects of the Islamic faith. There is an entire chapter devoted to the story of his mother Mary. The Quran states, “Relate in the Book the story of Mary and how she withdrew from her family to a place in the east. God sent to her the Angel Gabriel who said, ‘I am a messenger from your Lord to announce the birth of a holy son to you.’ She said, ‘How shall I have a son when no man has touched me?’ Gabriel replied, ‘For your Lord says it will happen. We appoint him as a sign onto man and a mercy from Us. It is a thing ordained.’”
Jews and Christians are referred to as “People of the Scriptures” in the Quran since they were given the Divinely inspired revelation prior to Islam, namely the Torah and Bible. This is why intermarriages are commonplace throughout the Muslim world, and there are large Christian communities in virtually every Muslim country. A few examples of famous Arab Christians who migrated to the US include Steve Jobs’ father (the founder of the I-Phone), Ralph Nadar (the activist and reform party candidate), Senator George Mitchell, Senator John Sununu, Casey Kasem (the radio broadcaster), and General John Abizaid (the former head of CENTCOM).
Pertaining specifically to Christian-Muslim relations, the Quran declares, “And We caused Jesus, son of Mary, to follow in their footsteps, confirming that which was (revealed) before him in the Torah, and We bestowed on him the Gospel wherein is guidance and a light, confirming that which was revealed before it in the Torah–an admonition unto those who ward off evil” (Surah 5: verse 46). It further says, “Verily the ones nearest in love to the Muslim believers are those who declare, “We are Christians” because among them are people devoted to learning and they are not arrogant” (Surah 5, verse 82).
Despite these commonalities, there are some important sources of disagreement. The primary difference among the three Abrahamic faiths is over the divinity of Jesus. Jews and Muslims reject the triune conception of God and place primacy on belief in One God. Christians, on the other hand, contend that Jesus was the incarnate son of God who sacrificed his life for the salvation of others. Muslims believe that salvation is to be achieved by the belief in One God and performing righteous deeds seeking the pleasure of God.
It is possible to discuss our differences so long as we proceed with mutual respect and while maintaining an etiquette of disagreement. The starting point should be to first establish the commonalities that bring us together as children of Abraham. It is in this spirit that the Islamic Society of Greater Springfield conducts the Children of Abraham project which brings together Jewish, Christian, and Muslim children as they celebrate their heritage while learning from the traditions of others. Our goal is to foster bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood across faiths. The Quran states, “Oh mankind, God has created you from a male and female and has made you into nations and tribes that you may know one another. The noblest of you in the Sight of God is the best in conduct. God is All Knowing, Aware” (Surah 49, verse 13).