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Christ in Islam

James Robson

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This small book is a collection of traditional sayings and stories attributed to Jesus taken from Islamic literature. Islam has always considered Jesus to be one of the greatest of prophets, second only to Mohammed, and this beautiful collection is illustrative of some of the ways he is perceived in the Islamic world.

This book has 73 pages in the PDF version, and was originally published in 1929.

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Excerpt from 'Christ in Islam'

WHEN Mohammad established Islâm in Arabia he insisted that he was not proclaiming a new religion, for he believed that all the prophets who preceded him had brought the same message. From time to time God had sent prophets and had revealed His will in sacred books; but men were rebellious, and so it was necessary for Him periodically to send a new prophet to lead them back to the truth. Mohammad had no sense of any gradual development in the knowledge of God, for he held that a knowledge of the true religion had been given to man from the beginning. The reason why God needed to send prophets with fresh revelations was because men had fallen away from the truth and required to be called back to it. Thus men like Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and himself had all the same task set before them, and none of them was essentially different from any other. God might authorise one to abrogate certain practices which had been commanded by a predecessor, but in essential matters they were all engaged in the same task, which was to proclaim the unity of God and summon men to worship Him alone.

   This being Mohammad's belief, it naturally follows that he was unable to accept what Christians taught regarding the person of Jesus. To him Jesus was no more than a prophet, even though He is accorded a dignity which is given to no other. The Korân speaks of the Virgin Birth; calls Jesus God's Word and a spirit from Him; declares that He is "eminent in this world and the next, and one of those who approach God's presence;" and attributes wonderful miracles to Him. But Mohammad could not admit that He was anything more than other men. He understood the doctrine of His Sonship in a carnal sense, and therefore he very naturally denied it vigorously. As an example of the Muslim rejection of this doctrine, one might quote the argument of Abû `Othman `Amr Ibn Bahr al Jâhiz, who lived in the ninth century of our era. He said that if God is a Father, He must also be a grandfather and an uncle; and insisted that the birth of Jesus was not so unique as that of Adam and Eve, for they had neither father nor mother.

   The purpose of this volume is to present an account of Jesus as He appears in the works of Muslim writers. I have collected the relevant passages from the Korân, of which I give my own translation, and I hope that it will not be found that I have inadvertently omitted any. I have confined myself to those passages which make a definite reference to Jesus, omitting those which are merely directed towards Christians with no particular reference to Jesus. No attempt has been made to arrange these passages so as to give a chronological account of the life and teaching of Jesus; they are presented in the order in which they occur in the Korân. I have added a few selections from Tha`labî's Kisas al Anbiyâ´ (Stories of the Prophets), along with one passage from Abû al Fidâ's Universal History. The ultimate source of this latter work is Tabarî's history, but I have chosen Abû al Fidâ's account rather than Tabari's because it is shorter.

   The main part of this volume consists of sayings attributed to Jesus and stories about Him which are found in the writings of various Muslim writers. Professor Margoliouth collected 77 passages, 71 of which are from Ghazâlî's Ihyâ´ `Ulûm ad Dîn (Revival of the Religious Sciences), and 6 from other sources. These were published in five parts in vol. v of the Expository Times (1893-4). Michaël Asin y Palacios, the professor of Arabic in Madrid University, has published a work in two parts, entitled Logia et Agrapha nomini Jesu apud Moslemicos Scriptores, asceticos præsertim, usitata, which contains 233 passages. It is published in Patrologia Orientalis, vols. xiii and xix. The first volume deals with Ghazâlî's work referred to above, with the addition of parallel passages from other writers; and the second consists of passages from various writers. Margoliouth's collection gives a translation of the passages with occasional explanatory notes; Asin gives the Arabic text of all but the last eight passages, with a Latin translation and notes in Latin. Asin includes some passages which refer to John the Baptist, Zechariah, and Mary which I have not translated, as they do not come within the purpose of this book. I have also omitted variants and the passages of which the Arabic text is not given. In both these collections the passages are given in the order in which they occur in the sources from which they are taken, but I have not followed this order. For the sake of showing various aspects of the Muslim representation of Jesus, I have attempted to group the passages under several headings.

   Both collections number the passages, so I have indicated the numbers for the benefit of those who care to refer to them. To save space, "A." is used for Asin's collection, and "M." for Margoliouth's. References are also given to the other passages. The numbers of the surahs and the verses in the Korân are given. "Th." stands for Tha`labî's stories, the pages to which reference is made being those in the edition which I used, that printed in Cairo in 1310 A.H. (1892 A.D.). "A.F." stands for Abû al Fidâ, the  edition referred to being Fleischer's, published in Leipzig in 1831.

   In the passages which are translated in this volume it will be seen that Jesus is treated as merely a prophet and teacher, who is not necessarily better than other pious people. One should beware of laying too much stress on the title "Spirit of God" by which He is frequently addressed, for this is merely an echo of words used in the Korân. He is represented as feeling Himself less worthy to pray for rain than a man who had plucked out his eye because it had looked at a woman (A. 10,); He is described as being gloomy in contrast to John the Baptist, who was cheerful, and whom God commends as being the more attractive (A. 121,); He is rebuked by God for failing to understand the piety of a simple man (A. 208,); He takes warning when He finds that Satan has discovered some evil in Him (A. 174 bis,). All this is quite in keeping with the Muslim conception of His person; but it naturally raises a question as to whether there can be any element of genuineness in such passages.

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