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The Gospel According to Islam

Copyright 1979 by Dr. Ahmad Shafaat

Chapter 1 Chapter 4 Chapter 7 Chapter 10 Chapter 13 Chapter 16 Chapter 19 Chapter 22 Chapter 25
Chapter 2 Chapter 5 Chapter 8 Chapter 11 Chapter 14 Chapter 17 Chapter 20 Chapter 23 Chapter 26
Chapter 3 Chapter 6 Chapter 9 Chapter 12 Chapter 15 Chapter 18 Chapter 21 Chapter 24 Chapter 27

INTRODUCTION

A Gospel is the life story of Jesus told in a way so as to bring out its significance for faith and history. It is necessarily revelatory and prophetic since it assesses the significance of Jesus not only for past history but also for the future. A Gospel is, therefore, different from a historian's "life of Jesus."

The book before you is a Gospel. It is written in the light of the revelation of God made to the prophet Muhammad.

In the Qur`an, the collection of revelatory messages received by Muhammad, there are ninety-three verses that refer to Jesus. Directly or indirectly, these verses have something to say about almost every aspect of the story of Jesus-his family, birth, and childhood, the nature of his person and his various traditional titles, his miracles and message, the Jews' rejection of him and his death and exaltation, and the significance of his work for the Jewish history and for the history of the world at large. In this way, the Qur`an provides a fairly complete outline of the life and work of Jesus.

This outline is supplemented in this book by some background material (derived mostly from the New Testament and sometimes transformed according to the Qur`anic revelation) to form a Gospel of approximately the size of Mark. This, in turn, is supplemented by extensive notes to further explain, support, and enhance the picture of Jesus painted in the Gospel text. References to various source passages, mainly from the 

Qur`an and the New Testament, are also provided. It is hoped that the work as a whole will present the Qur`anic Jesus active in his own time and place and among his own people.

During the writing of the book, the results and debates of the modem critical research into the New Testament were constantly kept in mind.

As we said earlier, this book is offered as a new Gospel, a Muslim equivalent of, and alternative to, the existing Gospels. But is a new Gospel justified in the twentieth century? The answer is undoubtedly, yes. Today, with twenty centuries of history after Jesus and generations of critical research before us, we are in a much better position to assess the significance of Jesus' work and, therefore, to write a Gospel than were the ancient New Testament writers. The Gospels coming down to us from the earliest centuries are indispensable for any assessment of the significance of Jesus, but they do not themselves provide the best assessment. The very fact that there are four canonical gospels that contradict each other on almost every point (and an ever-growing recognition of this fact among the Christians of this century) demands a second coming of Gospels. (Perhaps, the return of Jesus, if it has any meaning at all after its continuing and long delay, means just such a second coming of Gospels and rediscovery of Jesus.) But we better not look for new Gospels from any schools of New Testament scholarship. The work of such schools is essentially negative in nature: they can show the inadequacy of an existing Gospel but cannot offer one of their own. A Gospel, as we said earlier, is not a historical but a revelatory work and must spring from revelation. The ninety-three verses of the Qur`an about Jesus offer a revelatory basis for a new Gospel.

I request my Christian reader not to dismiss the Gospel before him as just another reflection on his religion by an outsider. Islam is not completely an outsider to Christianity: it belongs to the same Semitic religious tradition to which Judaism and Christianity belong. More than that, Muslims recognize Jesus as the Christ, as one anointed by God for a certain role; in modern times, this qualifies them as Christians. For, with the variety of ways Christians understand their religion today, to be a Christian can hardly mean anything too different than to believe in a merciful God and in Jesus as the Christ in some sense and to want to make devotion to God and love of fellow man as the most basic guiding principle in life, and in this sense, any Muslim will love to be called a Christian. (It is true that Muslims firmly deny the trinity of God and divinity of Jesus, on which Christianity tended to insist after the fourth century, but it should be remembered that many millions of those who are today called Christians also have private or public reservations about these dogmas.) Conversely, a Christian would also like to call himself a Muslim, for this designation means one who commits himself to God. Of course, there are some very fundamental differences between Christians and Muslims, but these differences are not too much more serious than those that exist between various Christian churches. Take, for example, the most basic difference between the two groups, namely, the one concerning the person of Muhammad. Muslims believe Muhammad to be a messenger of God to all mankind, while most Christians would perhaps deny it. But this difference is not too much more serious than the one between those Christians who believe that pope infallibly speaks the word of God and those who deny it.

I would therefore request my Christian reader to read this book, at the very least, as he would read a book written by an author who belongs to a church different from his own, Protestant, Catholic, or Eastern Orthodox, as the case may be. If its point of view may look somewhat stranger to him than the views of Christian origin, it is only because there has been much less communication between Muslims and Christians than between various Christian churches.

 


CHAPTER 1

  1. God did choose Adam and Noah, the family of Abraham, and the family of Amran above all people:

  2. Offspring, one of the other; and God hears and knows all things.

  3. Behold! a woman of the family of Amran was with child and said, O my Lord! I do dedicate unto You what is in my womb for Your special service, so accept it from me. For You hear and know all things.

  4. So when she brought it forth, she said, My Lord! surely I have brought it forth a female. (This she said because only a male child could be dedicated to the temple service under the law of Moses, but God knew best what He had willed.) And the male is not like the female. I name the child Mary and commend her and her offspring into Your protection from the accursed devil.

  5. And the Lord accepted her with graciousness; He made her grow in purity and beauty and gave her into the charge of Zacharias. (Note 1)

  6. Now Zacharias was a priest who used to burn incense in the temple and exhort people to pray and to glorify God; (Note 2) his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth:

  7. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless.

  8. And they had no child because Elisabeth was barren and they both were now well stricken in years. (Note 3)

  9. And every time Zacharias entered the sanctuary to see Mary, he found her supplied with sustenance. He said, O Mary! Whence comes this to you? She said, From God, for God provides sustenance to whom He pleases without measure. (Note 4)

  10. And as he watched and listened to Mary in the sanctuary, Zacharias prayed in a whisper, O Lord! surely my bones are weakened and my head flares with hoariness, and my Lord! I have never been unblest in my prayer to You.

  11. Now I fear what my relatives will do after me, and my wife is barren, so grant me from Thyself an heir.

  12. Who receives my heritage and the heritage of the children of Jacob, and make him, O my Lord, one in whom You are well pleased. (Note 5)

  13. And it came to pass that Zacharias was burning incense in the temple and a multitude of the people were praying without.

  14. And there appeared to him angels, and they said, God gives you the good news of a son, whose name shall be John, verifying a word from God. (Note 6)

  15. He will be honorable and chaste and a prophet and of the goodly company of the righteous. And God has not made any one true to the name John before him.

  16. Zacharias said, O' my Lord! how shall I have a son, when my wife is barren and I have grown quite decrepit from age?

  17. The angels said, So it will be: your Lord says, It is easy for Me. I did indeed create you before when you had been nothing.

  18. Zacharias said, O my Lord! Give me a sign. He answered, Your sign shall be that you shall speak to no man for three days and three nights except by signs, although you are not dumb.

  19. Then Zacharias came out from the sanctuary, and he told people by signs to glorify God in the morning and in the evening. (Note 7)

  20. And God cured the barrenness of Elisabeth, and she bore John that God may anoint him to be the priest of the house of Aaron (Note 8) whom He promised to Israel aforetime.

  21. So peace on John, the day that he was born, and the day that he will die and the day that he will be raised to life again!

Go to Chapter 2


Notes (Chapter 1)

1Qur`an 3:33-37. [return]

2Qur`an 19:11. [return]

3Luke 1:5-9. [return]

4Qur`an 3:37. [return]

5Quran 19:3-6. [return]

6The words "verifying a word from God" can be understood in two ways:

  1. "A word from God" may be understood as a promise of God, and "verifying" may be interpreted as "fulfilling." Then the sense would be that John came in fulfillment of a promise of God, meaning that he was one of the figures whose coming was predicted in the Jewish prophetic tradition.

  2. In Qur`an 3:45, Jesus is called "a word from God," and so we may assume here a reference to Jesus and understand the verse as saying that John came confirming Jesus' mission.

Both meanings are consistent with the Gospel tradition which presents John as a promised messianic figure (Mark 9:13; 1:6; Matt. 11:74; 17:12) as well as one who comes to prepare the way for Jesus (Luke 1:17, etc). Given the subtlety of the Qur`anic language, it seems likely that both meanings are intended. [return]

7Quran 3:38-41; 19:7-15; Luke 1:9-25. The word "sammiyya" used in Qur`an 19:7 can mean "namesake," but in the Quran, "name" is more than a word used to refer to a thing or a person: it is something that embodies the character of that thing (cf. Quran 2:31-33). Consequently, "sammiyya" means one sharing with a person or thing a name and the character described by that name. Now "John," in Hebrew Yohanan, means "God favoured him," and, therefore, the meaning of the Quranic verse would be that there was no one before John who was truly favored of God and was so named. [return]

8Mark (1:6; 9:13) and Matthew (11:14; 17;12) identify John with Elias, who was believed to return in the last days (Mal. 4:5-6). The Gospel of John, however, expressly and firmly denies this identification (1:19-25). A possible synthesis of the two traditions is provided by Luke, which says that John came "in the spirit and power of Elias" (1:17). To these facts we must add the observation that in the Jewish tradition, especially the Qumran tradition, which is known to influence Christianity greatly, there existed expectation of three messianic figures: a priest of the house of Aaron, a king of the line of David, and a prophet of the category of Moses; moreover, Elias was sometimes believed to return as the (messianic) priest of the house of Aaron, who was to come in the company of the messianic king. (See G. R. Driver, The Judean Scrolls, Schocken Books, New York, 1965, pp. 464-466.) All this seems to suggest the view, taken in this gospel, that John and Jesus corresponded to the figures of the messianic priest and the messianic king, and that we should not take the identification of John the Baptist with Elias made by Mark and Matthew literally, but, like Luke, take it to mean that the Baptist performed the same role that Elias was sometimes believed to perform at his return, namely, the role of the messianic priest. This view is also consistent with the Qur`an, which accepts Jesus as the Messiah (see Note 2, Chapter 2) and while making a distinction between John and Elias (6:85) does suggest that the Baptist was one of the figures promised to Israel. (See Note 6 above.) [return]

 


CHAPTER 2

  1. And as for Mary, it came to pass that she withdrew from her people to a place in the east.

  2. She placed a screen to screen herself from them; then God sent His angel, and he appeared before her as a man in all respects.

  3. She said, I seek refuge from you to the Most Gracious: come not near me if you do fear God.

  4. He said, Nay, I am but a messenger of God to you. (Note 1)

  5. O Mary! God has chosen you and purified you - chosen you above the women of all nations.

  6. O Mary! worship your Lord devoutly, prostrate yourself, and bow in prayer with those who bow down.

  7. O Mary! God gives you the good news of a word from Him; his name will be Jesus the Messiah. (Note 2) He will be held in honor in this world and the world to come and will be of the company of those nearest to God.

  8. He shall speak to the people in infancy and in manhood, and he shall be of the company of the righteous. (Note 3)

  9. He shall be an example to the children of Israel and a knowledge for the hour. (Note 4)

  10. Mary said, O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man has touched me and I am not unchaste?

  11. He said, Even so it shall be: God creates what He wills; for when He decides upon a plan, He saith to it, "Be"! and it is. (Note 5)

  12. Because Jesus was made with God's creative word "Be," he was called a word from God.

  13. So she conceived him, and she retired with him to a remote place.

  14. And the pains of childbirth drove her to the trunk of a palm tree, and she cried, Ah! would that I had died before this! Would that I had been a thing forgotten and out of sight!

  15. But a voice cried to her from beneath the palm tree, Grieve not, for your Lord has provided a rivulet beneath you;

  16. And shake towards yourself the trunk of the tree: it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon you.

  17. So eat and drink and cool your eyes. If you do see any man, say, I have vowed a fast to the Most Gracious, and this day I enter into no talk with any human being.

  18. Then she came to her people carrying the babe in her arms. They said, O Mary! Truly an amazing thing you have brought.

  19. O sister of Aaron! Your father was not a man of evil, nor your mother a woman unchaste!

  20. But she pointed to the babe. They said, How can we talk to an infant in the cradle. (Note 6)

  21. But the child spoke up and said, I am indeed a servant of God. He has appointed me as a sign for men and a mercy from Him. This was a matter decreed.

  22. He will give me the Book and make me His messenger to the children of Israel.

  23. That I may verify the Torah and make lawful for Israel part of what was forbidden to them.

  24. That I may teach to them wisdom and make clear to them some of the things, in which they disputed. (Note 7)

Go to Chapter 3


Notes (Chapter 2)

1Qur`an 19:16-19. [return]

2In connection with Jesus, this is the only use of the Jewish messianic language in the Qur`an. That it is said, "His name will be Jesus the Messiah," and not, for example, "His name will be Jesus and he will be appointed as the Messiah," suggests a less than wholehearted acceptance of the messiahship of Jesus on the part of the Qur`an. It is as if the Quran is saying: Jesus came to be accepted as the Messiah and one may continue to use the title for him, if nothing else, as a courtesy to the Christian tradition. This hesitation to present Jesus as the Messiah and the lack of the messianic language in describing his work is justified. For one thing Jesus himself showed hesitation in coming forward as the Messiah (Mark 8:27-30, etc), who, it must be admitted, was a somewhat confused figure created as much by rabbinical imaginations as by genuine prophetic revelation. Second, there does not exist a convincing correspondence between what was generally expected of the Messiah and what Jesus did. And, finally, although Jesus did make me of the messianic expectations of his people, the significance of his work is not adequately described in terms of those expectations; for, otherwise, Jesus' mission would not have survived after he had failed in bringing about the messianic kingdom. [return]

3Qur`an 3;42-46. In 3:44, the Qur`an introduces an intriguing note:

"This is part of the tidings of the things unseen which We reveal to you by inspiration: You were not with them when they cast lots with arrows, as to which of them should be charged with the care of Mary: Nor were you with them when they disputed the matter."

In apocryphal Gospels, it is related that the priests contended for taking charge of Mary, and the matter was decided in favor of Zacharias by means of rods or reeds, The above Qur`anic verse is, however, not telling exactly the same story; for Mary was already in the charge of Zacharias (3:37). We may be tempted to regard the verse as having been displaced, but, conceptually, the only better place we can rind for it is between 3:36 and 3:37; however, it does not fit there linguistically. It seems better to read the verse in its present context and to assume that Zacharias had died and the contention among the priests arose out of a search for a substitute. The priests' interest in a religious, young, and beautiful girl is understandable: she could be a most desirable wife in the future for any one of them. [return]

4Queen 43:59, 61. Jesus can be called "a knowledge of the Hour" in two senses:

  1. He preached the imminence of the Hour, or the day of the Lord, and became one of the greatest instrument of establishing in the world the belief and knowledge about it, so that he is a knowledge of the Hour in the sense of being a source of that knowledge.

  2. According to Hadith, Jesus' Second Coming is one of the signs of the coming of the Hour, and thus when he returns the world will know that the Hour is at hand. We may therefore regard Jesus a knowledge of the Hour in the sense of being a sign for it. [return]

5Qur`an 3:47; 19.20-21. [return]

6Qur`an 19:22-29. [return]

7Qur`an 3:50; 19:21, 30; 43:63. [return]

 


CHAPTER 3

  1. That I may bring to the world the good news of a messenger who will come after me as light and mercy to all the nations; his name shall be called Admirable. (Note 1)

  2. And he will be of the family of Abraham, as God promised to him saying, Through your seed I shall save the world. (Note 2)

  3. And he will be from Kedar, a tribe of the children of Ishmael, the son of Abraham.

  4. As Esias prophesied, saying, Let the wilderness and the cities thereof lift up their voices in rejoicing, the villages that Kedar inhabits. (Note 3)

  5. And he shall come from Mount Paran, as Moses spoke of him, saying, God came from Mount Paran with ten thousand saints. (Note 4)

  6. And when he is come, he will guide the nations into all truth, for he shall not speak of himself but whatsoever he hears that shall he speak and coming things he will announce to you. (Note 5)

  7. He shall not fail nor be discouraged till he has set justice in the earth, and the isles shall wait for his law. (Note 6)

  8. For God did choose the family of Abraham and the family of Amran and Adam and Noah over the people of all nations.

  9. And God hears and knows all things. (Note 7)

  10. When Mary's people heard this, they marveled at it. They said one to another, What do we about this marvelous babe? People will not believe what we have heard and seen.

  11. One of them, Joseph (Note 8) of Bethlehem, said, I wed her and take her and the babe to Bethlehem, and then we return to Nazareth after a period. (Note 9) And so it was done.

  12. And before God the creation of Jesus is like the creation of Adam. He made him from dust and then said to him, "Be," and he was. (Note 10)

  13. This is the true account; and there is no god besides God, the exalted in power, the wise. (Note 11)

  14. He is self-sustaining, and He begetteth not, nor is He begotten.

  15. And there is none like unto Him. (Note 12)

Go to Chapter 4


Notes (Chapter 3)

1Qur`an 61:6. In Isaiah 9:6, one of the names of a promised figure is given in Hebrew as "Pele." This name can be translated as "Admirable", and indeed it is so translated in the Vulgate. The expectation of the figure of Isaiah 9:6 as well as the title 'Admirable' was current among the Qumran people (see Hymns III in G. Vermes' translation, The Dead Sea Scrolls in English, Penguin Books, 1975), and there is some warrant for the view that the Qumran sectarians identified this figure, whom they also called Geber, Man, with the Messianic Prophet believed to be premised in Deuteronomy 18:18-19 (cf. G. Vermes, op. cit. p. 50). Since the Qumran tradition is known to have played a considerable part in the formation of Christianity, it is a plausible explanation of Qur`an 61:6 that the expectation of the messianic prophet under the name Admirable was taken over by Christian tradition. Of course, as glorification of Jesus increased, Christianity lost inclination to expect an independent figure after Jesus and, in the main, began to see in Jesus the only bringer of salvation. Nevertheless, the New Testament has preserved evidence that shows that tradition sometimes expected not one but three messianic figures. Thus, in the Gospel of John (1:19-21, 25), the messengers sent from Jerusalem ask John the Baptist, "Who are you?" and when he confessed, "I am not the Christ (i.e., the Messiah)," they asked him, "What then? Are you Elias?" Again the Baptist denies, and this prompts the messengers' next question, "Are you that Prophet?" The Baptist denies even that, and then the messengers ask him, "Why baptize you then, if you are not the Christ, nor Elias, neither that Prophet?"

In another passage of the same gospel, people argue among themselves about Jesus: "Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is that Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee?" (7:40-41).

The evidence for the expectation of three messianic figures is not limited to the fourth gospel. The same expectation is presupposed in the synoptic account of Jesus' transfiguration (Mark 9:2-13; Matt. 17:1-13; Luke 9:28-36) in which Jesus the Messiah appears to his close disciples in the company of Elias and Moses (who was often believed to return in the role of "that Prophet"). The earliest tradition, of course, saw the Messiah in Jesus and Elias in John the Baptist, but does not present us with any person corresponding to the figure of Moses or that Prophet; we must therefore assume that this latter figure was expected to come soon after John and Jesus. This expectation of Moses or a figure like him, soon abandoned by the mainstream Christianity, seems to have survived in some Eastern Christian circles and given rise to hopes for a messenger bearing the title Admirable. [return]

2Gen 22:18. Following the story of the births of John and Jesus by the prophecies about the coming of Muhammad reflects the position, taken in this gospel, that the three prophets form a kind of a "messianic trinity," with John corresponding to the messianic priest (or, Elias, or, in the language of the Qumran Scrolls, the messiah of Aaron), Jesus corresponding to the messianic king (or the Messiah of Israel), and Muhammad to the messianic prophet (or "that prophet" of John 1:20, 25; 7:40). In the Quran, too, the stories of the births of Mary, John, and Jesus (3:33-63) are followed by a reference to earlier prophecies about Muhammad (3:81) and his relation with Abraham (3:68).

To say that John, Jesus, and Muhammad correspond to the three messianic figures expected in the Jewish tradition cannot be true in the sense that they fulfill all what the tradition promised about those figures since the tradition is not consistent. One must go beyond the inconsistencies in detail and see what the Jewish messianism is really concerned with. And one must also rid it of some of its narrower, nationalistic concerns. If we do that, it would seem that the essential feature of the Jewish messianic thought, when it rises above nationalism and racialism, is the prediction that there will arise in the world up to three eschatological (or last) envoys from God who will usher in a final stage in human history during which there will be a period of dramatic improvement in man's spiritual and material condition. And in view of the influence of John, Jesus, and Muhammad in history, it seems justified to regard them as the three promised eschatological messengers even though they do not fulfill some of the specific predictions found in the Jewish messianic tradition. [return]

3Isa. 42:11. See A. Yusuf Ali on Qur`an 3:81, and also Mishkat Al-Masabih XXVI, 18:1:4. [return]

4Deut. 33:2. [return]

5John 16:12-13. For identity between John's Paraclete (or Counselor), the Admirable, and the messianic prophet like Moses, see Note 1 above and Note 3, Chapter 24. [return]

6Isa. 42:4. [return]

7Qur`an 3:33-34. [return]

8The tradition about the marriage of Joseph and Mary is so firmly established in the gospels that it cannot be ignored. Matthew (1:18-25) reconciles it with the virgin birth by saying that the birth of Jesus took place when Joseph and Mary were engaged and did not yet "know" each other, that is, did not have sexual relations. The Qur`an does not follow the story of Mary beyond the birth of Jesus and does not mention Joseph. We may therefore presume that Joseph entered Mary's life after the birth. [return]

9It is implied by Luke 2:1-5 that Joseph was of Bethlehem and that he made a journey from Nazareth and back with Mary. Matthew (2:1) also implies that Joseph and Mary lived both in Bethlehem and Nazareth. Both Matthew and Luke make Mary deliver in Bethlehem, probably in order to fulfill the Scriptures (see Matt. 2:5-6; cf. Micah 5.2). [return]

10Qur`an 3:59. [return]

11Qur`an 3:62. [return]

12Qur`an 102:2-4. [return]

 


Chapter 1 Chapter 4 Chapter 7 Chapter 10 Chapter 13 Chapter 16 Chapter 19 Chapter 22 Chapter 25
Chapter 2 Chapter 5 Chapter 8 Chapter 11 Chapter 14 Chapter 17 Chapter 20 Chapter 23 Chapter 26
Chapter 3 Chapter 6 Chapter 9 Chapter 12 Chapter 15 Chapter 18 Chapter 21 Chapter 24 Chapter 27

 

 

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