14 JESUS IN ISLAM (Tahir Ijaz, Winnipeg) Islam is a religion which requires belief in not only the prophethood of Muhammad (peace be upon him) but all the prophets, including Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and Jesus. The sacred Book of Muslims, the Qur’an, repeatedly mentions that the Prophets and Messengers of Allah (God) have appeared among all the nations of the world throughout the history of mankind. Their purpose was to create a new spirit in their people, enabling them to be in closer communion with their Maker. The Holy Quran relates in detail the story of Jesus as the Messiah of the Jews, including his birth, his mission as a prophet to the Israelites, and the crucifixion. Non—Muslims are usually suprised at the amount of information contained about Jesus in the Quran. Indeed, a whole chapter in the Quran is named after Jesus’ mother (Maryam). BIRTH OF JESUS The Qur’an affirms the fatherless birth of Jesus and rejects outright the Jewish claim that his birth was illegitimate. Instead, Mary is described as a pious and righteous woman who symbolizes righteous believers blessed with divine inspiration. According to the Qur’an, angels told Mary that: Allah has chosen thee and purified thee and chosen thee above all women of the time. (3:43) The angels also told her: 0 Mary, Allah gives thee glad tidings of a son through a Word from Him; his name shall be Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, honoured in this world and in the next, and of those who are granted nearness to God. (3:46) Being unmarried, she prayed to God, ‘My Lord, how shall 1 have a son when no man has touched me?’ God replied, ‘Such is the way of Allah. He creates what He pleases. When He decrees a thing, He says to it, ‘Be’ and it is.’ (3:48) It is important to note that while Islam recognizes the virgin birth as a miraculous event, it does not consider it unnatural; the laws of nature are never broken. It more reflects the inability of man to fully understand the science behind various phenomena observed in nature. A virgin birth is REVIEW OH RELIGIONS 15 certainly a medical phenomenon.. Many eminent gynecologists have stated that it is possible for a woman to conceive a child without the agency of a male. This is extremely rare,.but cases have been recorded. In Islam, the immaculate conception of Jesus is not interpreted to mean he was in some way a Divine Being. The Qur’an repudiates the idea of a fatherless birth being a criterion of divinity, and considers Jesus as only a human being like Adam: Surely, the case of Jesus with Allah is like the case of Adam. He created him out of dust, then He said to him ‘Be’, and he was. (3:60) MISSION OF JESUS The mission of Jesus was confined to the Children of Israel (Al Quran, 3:50), and he was not a world Messenger. The Gospels also mention this fact (Matt. 10:5,6; 15:24). Prophet Jesus was commissioned by God to revive the true spirit of the Torah in the hearts of the Israelites and clear any misunderstandings about the law. He purified and revitalized Judaism. As Jesus was a follower of Moses, he did not change or reject the Mosaic Law. The New Testament quotes Jesus as saying that he came only to fulfill the Law and not to abolish it (Matt. 5:17). The Quran also says: We caused Jesus son of Mary to follow in their footsteps, fulfilling that which was revealed before him in the Torah. We gave him the Gospel which contained guidance and light, fulfilling that which was revealed before it in the Torah, and a guidance and admonition for the righteous. (5:47) The Gospel (Arabic: Injil) given to Jesus and to which the Quran refers was the actual divine revelations received by him. It does not refer to the four Gospels in the New Testament which were written by anonymous authors long after the crucifixion and influenced by the philosophies of Paul whose teachings about the Atonement and Resurrection were foreign to the original Christianity taught by Jesus. DIVINITY OF JESUS Jesus is depicted in the Quran as a human being who believed in the absolute unity and indivisibility of God to Whom he was subservient. ‘Jesus said: I am a servant of Allah, He has given me the Rook, and has appointed me a Prophet; He has made me blessed wheresoever I may be, and 16 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS has enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving throughout my life. (19:31,32) Muslims consider the doctrine of the Divinity of Jesus and Trinity as later additions to the teachings of Jesus. The New Testament itself furnishes abundant evidence to show that Jesus was only a human being whom God chose for the reformation of his people, and repeatedly contradicts the concept of a Divine Jesus. Jesus always referred to himself as having been sent by ‘God Qohn 17:3) and his followers too, considered him a man approved by God (Acts 2:22, John 3:2). He was undoubtedly called the son of God, but this title has only been employed metaphorically and in fact is used for all the chosen-ones of God (Matt 5:9; Exodus 4:22). The literal connotation of son of God as a Divine Being and hence the subsequent development of the Trinity Dogma was the result of Hellenistic influences on Christianity as it spread in the Gentile world. The Semitic usage of son of God was misunderstood and forgotten and disputes about the exact status of Jesus erupted, as recorded in early Church history. Jesus prayed to God like all other God-fearing individuals (Luke 5:16), and engaged in spiritual exercises such as fasting (Matt. 4:2). His complete submission to God is revealed by his words of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane: Yet not as I will, but as Thou wilt. (Matt. 26:39). Furthermore, Jesus lacked knowledge of the future (Mark 13:32), as only the Divine Being possesses perfect and complete knowledge. Jesus also taught that perfect and complete holiness belonged to the One God alone. Once he even rebuked a man who spoke of him as a good teacher. Jesus said to him, Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone. (Mark 10:18) MIRACLES OF JESUS The Quran mentions several miracles of Jesus, including his ability to create birds, his ability to cure the leprous and the blind, and raising the dead ‘to life (Quran 3:50). The ability to create birds is a metaphor meaning ordinary people who accepted the teachings of Jesus and were spiriWally transformed into birds soaring high into the lofty regions of the spiritual firmament above all worldly concerns. The healing powers can also be understood in the spiritual sense. He restored sight to those people who were spiritually blind, restored hearing to those spiritually deaf, healed the spiritually sick, and gave life to those spiritually dead. Jesus specifically referred to the Pharisees of his day as being blind because REVIEW OH RELIGIONS 1 7 among other maladies they were hypocritical in nature (Matt. 23:26). Indeed, all reformers from God are spiritual physicians since the disbelievers are deaf, dumb, blind (Quran 2:19) needing revival from death (Quran 8:25). THE CRUCIFIXION The Jews wished to bring about the death of Jesus upon the cross for the purpose of calling him accursed in accordance with the pronouncement in Deut. 21:23 which declares, he that is hanged is accursed of God. His death on the cross would thus confirm him as a false Messiah. Therefore, it was incumbent upon God to save Jesus from the accursed death to prove the validity of Jesus’ claim that he was a reformer sent by God. The Quran contradicts the assertion that Jesus died on the cross: They slew him not, nor did they bring about his death on the cross, but he was made to appear to them like one crucified they have no certain knowledge thereof, but pursue only a conjecture. (4:1 58) Thus God frustrated the plan of the Jews. Although Jesus was nailed to the cross, he did not perish on it. He was removed from the cross in an unconscious state. The Gospels themselves provide evidence of Jesus’ escape from the accursed death on the cross. Jesus foretold that his fate would be similar to that of Jonah (Matt. 12:39,40). In other words, Jesus would be placed in the tomb alive just as Jonah entered the body of the whale alive; he would remain alive in the tomb just as Jonah was alive inside the whale; and Jesus would emerge from the tomb alive just as Jonah came out of the whale alive. The Gospel narrative of Jesus’ earnest prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane is very significant. The supplication revealed Jesus’ agitation of the prospect of suffering an accursed death. Jesus begged God to remove the cup (of death on the cross) away from him (Mark 14:36). Certainly, his prayer was accepted (Luke 22:43). This humble prayer of Jesus to be spared from death dispels the notion that his mission was to atone for the sins of mankind by dying on the cross. Furthermore, the cry. My God. My God, why hast Thou forsaken me? uttered by Jesus on the cross when he thought he would perish clearly indicates that earlier God had promised he would save him. The Gospels also record that a Roman soldier pierced the side of Jesus’ body with a spear and blood and water immediately came out (John 19:34). The flowing out of blood is a sign of a functioning heart and a sure 18 REVIEW OH RELIGIONS testimony that life was not extinct. The fact is, it usually took days to execute a criminal by crucifixion, and for Jesus to die within a few hours, as recorded in the Gospels, is extremely unlikely. According to Islam, Jesus did not preach salvation through atonement of sins by his death on the cross. The doctrine of Jesus’ blood washing away sins is a later innovation of the genuine Christianity taught by Jesus. But the true teaching regarding salvation can still be traced in the Gospels. While the Doctrine of Atonement considers the Law a curse, Jesus insisted that the path to salvation and eternal life was through keeping the Mosaic Law (Matt. 5:17; 19:16,17), with the essential requirement being repentance (Luke 5:32) and self-denial (Matt. 16:24). Each person must carry his/ her own cross and account for ones’ own actions. It is illogical for a person to suffer for the sins of someone else. No vicarious sacrifice is needed for man’s salvation as God Himself can forgive the sins of His repenting servant. The philosophy of someone atoning for the sins of another is emphatically rejected in the Old Testament (Deut. 24:16, Ezekiel 18:2 and 20) POST-CRUCIFIXION Jesus came under the care of his devoted followers after he was removed from the cross. One of them was Joseph of Arimathea who had prepared a spacious rock-hewn tomb for Jesus. Nicodemus, also a follower of Jesus, brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes to the tomb (John 19:39). Jesus was placed in the tomb where he recovered from unconsciousness. With the medicinal herbs, Nicodemus prepared an ointment for application to the body of Jesus as an aid in healing the crucifixion wounds. It is interesting to note that the contents of the ointment administered to Jesus is recorded in ancient Latin and Greek medical texts and in fact, is termed the Ointment of Jesus. According to the Gospels, Jesus was still in his earthly body of flesh and bones after emerging from the tomb (Luke 24:39) and suffered pangs of hunger .(Luke 24:41). On one occasion, Jesus invited Thomas to touch his wounded hands (John 20:25-27). Therefore, it was not a glorified supernatural body, but clearly a patient’s body bearing the wounds of crucifixion. Analysis of the post-crucifixion period described in the Gospels reveals that Jesus led a low-profile existence. He hurriedly travelled away from the locality of the crucifixion (Matt. 28:10; Mark 16:7). He met only his disciples and trusted followers, and not once did he appear before his persecutors asking them to now accept him as the resurrected Messiah REVIEW OP RELIGIONS 19 who atoned for their sins. On the other hand, Jesus even resorted to disguise to avoid being recognized by others (John 20:15; 21:4). One does not expect such fear in a person who has conquered death. One would expect to find a certain level of fear in a person who wished to avoid re-arrest after having escaped from death, on the cross. Fear was also expressed by Jesus’ followers to the extent that some decided not to tell anyone about his emergence from the tomb. (Mark 16:8) MIGRATION TO THE EAST According to Christian belief, the ascension of Jesus to heaven followed his resurrection. But if an ascension really occurred, there is no reason why the Gospels of John and Matthew would fail to mention it. The references to the ascension in Mark and Luke are now considered fabrications; light thrown on ancient manuscripts of the New Testament reveals that the ascension story is a later interpolation. The term heaven is used for spiritual bliss which the righteous enjoy after mortal life. Heaven is not a geographical location in the universe to which one ascends. The fundamental question that arises is, if Jesus did not ascend to heaven, where did he go to continue his prophetic mission .for the Israelites? Jesus himself provided the answer when he declared, I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matt. 15:24). Out of the twelve tribes of Israel, only two were in the region where Jesus preached. The other ten tribes, as a result of persecution and migration, domiciled in the eastern countries, especially in Afghanistan and Kashmir. These tribes became known as the Lost Tribes .or Lost Sheep of the house of Israel as they became dispersed and never returned to Palestine. As Jesus was the Messiah of the Jews of Judea and the Lost Sheep of Israel, it was imperative for him to migrate eastwards to complete his mission. The mass of evidence showing the people of Afghanistan, Kashmir and neighbouring regions to be of Israelite ancestry is overwhelming, their physical features, language, folklore, customs, and festivals attest to their Israeli heritage. Evidence also comes from the names they give to their villages, their monuments, and ancient historical works and inscriptions: JESUS IN INDIA The presence of Jesus in India is recorded in ancient Indian literature. An example is the Sanskrit book entitled Bhavishya Maha Purana composed in the second century A.D. It describes a meeting in the Himalayas which took place between Raja Salivahana and a Messiah who was born of a virgin. The Messiah told the Raja that he had come from another country where he suffered at the hands of his enemies. 20 REVIEW OF RELIGIONS When the Messiah was asked to explain his faith, he replied, love, truth and purity of heart. Jesus is also known in some ancient texts as Bodasaf, also pronounced Yuz-Asaf in the Semitic languages. It is an amalgamation of the titles bodhisattva and asaf. The title bodhisattva given to Jesus stems from the fact he was in India at a time of Buddhist supremacy. Large parties of Jews had accepted Buddhism. Therefore, Jesus turned his attention to the followers of Buddhism, who then became convinced of his holiness and elevated spiritual stature. The titles bodhi and bodhisattva in Buddhism denote highly exalted states. The word asaf in Hebrew means gatherer. As Jesus’ mission was to travel in search of the Lost Sheep of Israel, he performed the function of a shepherd gathering sheep. In the Gospel of John, Jesus said: I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they shall hear my voice; and they shall become one flock with one shepherd. (John 10:16) It is clear from the literature of Buddhist origin that Yiiz Asaf spoke in parables, called his teachings the Gospel and arrived in the Kashmir Valley from another country to gather his people. He then died and was buried in Kashmir. According to other ancient records of Kashmir, Yuz Asaf came to Kashmir ‘from the Holy Land during the reign of Raja Gopadatta (49-109 A.D) to proclaim his prophethood to the Israelites. Thus he was also known as Yusu (Jesus) of the Children of Israel. TOMB OF JESUS The Quran says Jesus found shelter on an elevated land of valleys and springs of running water (23:51), an apt description of the Valley of Kashmir. Thus Jesus found acceptance in the Land of the Lost Tribes and lived and preached among them. With the mission completed, Jesus died a natural death at the approximate age of 120. Jesus’ tomb, known as the tomb of Prophet Yuz Asaf, still exists in the Khanyar quarter of the city of Srinagar, Kashmir. It has been venerated for centuries. The local inhabitants refer to the tomb as Rauzabal, meaning The Honoured Tomb.