Frequently Asked Questions
What Does Islam Say About Jesus Christ?
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).
What is Islam and Who are Muslims?
Islam is the last of the great Abrahamic faiths following Judaism and Christianity prior to its advent in 7th century Arabia. Abraham’s first son was Ishmael and his other son was Isaac. The progeny of Isaac became Jews and Christians while the descendants of Ishmael became Muslims. As such, Jews, Christians and Muslims have a common ancestor in Abraham and their teachings overlap significantly.
The word Islam has two seemingly unrelated meanings: “to surrender” and “peace.” The entirety of one’s life should be devoted to surrendering ourselves to the Will of God. It is in this surrender desiring the pleasure of God that we find inner peace that we seek. A Muslim is the one who is an adherent to the religion of Islam similar to Jews and Christians as the followers of Judaism and Christianity respectively.
The belief in One God, or monotheism, is at the heart of the Islamic faith from which all other teachings follow. The word for this One and unique God is Allah similar to the semitic names Ellohim and Ellih found in the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. The God of Abraham, Moses and Jesus is the God that Muslims worship. Moreover, the word Allah cannot be made plural or given a gender as we can in the English language by adding “s” or “dess” to the word “god.” The notion of gods or goddess is alien to the Islamic faith because Allah is unique, free of human attributes, and the originator and sustainer of all things.
The Quran is the sacred text of Islam and the word Quran literally means “to read and recite.” The Quran is recited in Arabic since Arabic was the language of revelation. There are adequate translations of the Quran that can be provided upon request, but the true essence of the Quran cannot be captured in any translation. The first seven verses of the Quran are recited in every prayer and this passage is similar to the Christian Lord’s Prayer. These verses are as follows: “All praise is to God Who is Master and Sustainer of the universe, God is Most Gracious and Most Merciful, Lord of the Day of Judgment, You alone we worship and to You alone we turn to for help, show us the straight path, the path of those You have honored, and not the path of those who You are displeased with and nor of those who go astray.” The Quran teaches that God communicated revelation to His chosen Messengers and all these noble teachers taught the worship of One God and a moral code that all of us are to follow. This is why Muslims believe in all of the great teachers including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, David, Solomon, Moses, Jesus, and of
course, Muhammad who was the final Messenger sent to humanity. The Quran describes human beings as God’s representatives on earth who must do good to God’s creation as a way to attain nearness to the Divine. Terrorism or violence against civilians is condemned strongly and without equivocation throughout the Quran. In fact, the Quran declares “If anyone kills one person, it would be as if he killed the lives of all humanity. And if anyone saves one life, it would be as if he saved the lives of all humanity.”
There are 1.57 billion Muslims throughout the world and Islam is the dominant religion in 57 of the 193 countries. Despite the fact that Islam emerged in the Arabian peninsula, most Muslims are not Arabs. Again, Islam is a religion and being Arab is an ethnicity among those who speak the Arabic language. In fact, only about one-fifth of the total Muslim population consists in the Arab world, and there are sizeable Christian populations throughout Arab countries including Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria. The most populous Muslim country is Indonesia, and the largest number of Muslims comes from the South Asian subcontinent comprising Pakistan, India and Bangladesh (about 500 million Muslims overall). Throughout the centuries, Muslims have lived in harmony with their non-Muslim neighbors upholding the universal values of peace, tolerance, and mutual respect.