Ways-of-Christ.net

Part 4, contributions to the dialogue with other religions


Information:  Jesus Christ and Islam.

With excerpts from the main text and the extra page "Basics of ethical values", and new informations.

The interreligious dialogue

This page is a contribution to better understanding and to the interreligious dialogue****, as it has been occurring for many years. These annotations don't attempt to characterize Islam as a whole. There are different schools in Islam too.

The Koran and the other "Religions of the books"

Islam means "Surrender (to the will of God)", also "(religious) devotion".
The Holy
Book of Islam, the Koran (Quran) is believed to originate from a divine inspiration, transmitted to the Prophet Mohammed (Muhammad) by the Angel Gibril - sometimes identified with Archangel Gabriel, known in Christianity too. Certainly the Holy Koran should be taken as the most important Scriptures of Islam. Further traditions ("Sunna", literally: "habit") with sayings/ anecdotes of the Prophet (Hadithes) play a part for the interpretation of the Koran. Even a prophet is, in his personal behaviour, a human being, and no God. One should also consider that there are also just as many Moslems who are not well acquainted with their Holy Scriptures as there are Christians who don't know much about the Bible. 

The Koran addresses Christians and Jews sometimes directly as "You people of the scriptures..." (people of the book, for instance sura 4 ,171* ) and as "You children of Israel". So they can be interested in what is written in this holy book - in spite of the fact that most of them usually will not deal with it. Religious science anyway studies the Holy scriptures of all religions, and explores the historical development of their interpretation** - amongst other things. However, the Holy books should be studied with respect. One section of the Muslim commentators of the Koran wrote, there is an original Koran - kept by God in a safe place -, accessible only to pure angels and pure prophets; an other section of them interpreted, that the reader of the Koran on earth should be in a pure state.

The Prophet is seen as sent for a time (or a time in between; other translation: or after a certain time), when prophets are wanting (sura 5,19*). The Holy Koran distinguishes between "Believers" in the teachings of Prophet Mohammed, and "people of the Scriptures"; and "Non-Believers". The "people of the Scriptures" are particularly Jews and Christians, whose beliefs, besides those of the Moslems, are based on the same traditions; sometimes also the Zoroastrians (Parsees; "Magus" sura 22,17*) . The Koran accepts the chain of the "Prophets", who all teach the One God, the Last Judgement in the Hereafter, and the prayer for their peoples or for their time (e.g. sura 6,83-92; sura 7*). Insofar as people of these religions believe in the mutual basics, the Koran itself does not name them Non-Believers (e.g. sura 5,48*). In the first centuries of Islam, Christians and Jews have not been forced to convert to Islam - according to the teachings in the Koran, "In religion there is no enforcement", sura 2,256.
Abraham is looked on as one of the "Hanifes", who found belief in the one God alone, for instance some hermits.
"Allah" as the Islamic name of God - from pre-islamic arabic "al-ilah" - has even, as a Semitic word, almost surely the same origin as the name "Elohim", one of God's names in the books of Moses (in Hebrew).

"Non-Believers" (literally: "Coverers") were, in the strict sense, the polytheistic cults - idolatry, against which Mohammed fought in Arabia and against which the Bible already warned Jews and Christians. Today in a wider sense, Islam looks on those as Non-Believers, who don't believe in the one God and the Last Judgement. Sometimes the term is falsely generalized for all non-Muslims; sometimes even by Muslims for the other schools.

Jesus Christ in the Koran

Apart from the Bible, Jesus is also mentioned in the Koran (7th century AD), with some similarities and some differences. Here is noted, that the Koran accepts Jesus as a prophet, and as a messenger sent by God, and as "Word" of God without definition, and as a "spirit of God" (sura 4,171*), "created like Adam" (suras 2; 3,47 and 3,59; 5* ...). This is more than what some modern Christian theologians accept, who only see Jesus as a social reformer. Only Jesus as God's Son - Christians in the time of Mohammed imagined this very physically - in the context of the later doctrine of the trinity, was not accepted by the Koran. Christians, capable of explaining authentically what was meant originally, in such a way that someone coming from somewhere else could understand it, were very rare at that time (e.g. sura 6,101*). In Romans 1:4 it is said, that Jesus became "installed" as Son in his spiritual power - and therefore not born. Christians might agree with the Islamic conviction, that God is unborn and was not "born" but "created" Jesus. Further the Greek term "logos" - in the Bible used for the divine origin or mission of Jesus Christ - became translated in the Gospels as "The Word", which is used for Jesus in the Koran. Do the Inspirations of the Koran contain mysteries not yet discovered fully by Muslims or Christians - possibly resulting in pointless quarrelling about terms? Also where Christians present these teachings in words, which must be understood as some polytheistic religion, this is not according to the teachings of Jesus himself: "Pray to the father (God) in my name (meaning with reference to Jesus" - Bible, John 15:16. In the life of Jesus everything revolves about the one God, to whom only Jesus can lead people.

The "Logos" (Greek, in John's Gospel the "Word of God", here connected with Christ) appears in Paret's translation of the Koran (German) independently of Jesus. Other Koran editions understand it as God's "concern" or God's "command" (sura 13,2 and 13,11*).

In the Koran Jesus is looked at "like Adam", who was created from earth (sura 3,59*); and speaks about a messenger sent from God's Spirit to give birth to Jesus (sura 19,17-22*). The Christian version similarly reports about the angel announcing Jesus' birth by the Holy Spirit to the Virgin Mary. Further, the Koran states, that Jesus has been strengthened with the Holy Spirit / spirit of holiness. (sura 5,110*).

According to the Koran the young Jesus announced his resurrection (sura 19,33*); however, here the Koran is possibly referring to his Second coming in the context of the Day of Judgement, with the resurrection of the believers, which is often mentioned in the Koran (see below; sura 4,159*). The Koran says that Jesus has been taken up to God alive (sura 4, 157 - 159, sura 3,55*).
Moslems and Christians disagree on the question, whether Jesus was crucified, died and overcame death before his ascension to heaven – as Christians say -, or if God raised him alive into heaven - as Muslims believe. However, both believe, that he was not "dead" at that time when he rose (the bible for instance states, he spoke to his disciples immediately before he went to heaven.)
In the suras 3,55 and 5,48* it is said, „...I will make him pure" and "...you all will come back to me, and I (God) will decide, what you were in disagreement about". So Christians and Moslems might wait for the solution of some remaining mysteries, instead of quarrelling.

The Koran also contains the Last Judgement and the Resurrection of Believers. (e.g. sura 36,77-83; sura 69,13-37; suras 75, 99*). Jesus will then come again, and be a witness or a judge for the believing people of the Scriptures (sura 4,159; compare sura 16,89*). Those - also non-Muslims -, who believe in God and the Last Judgement, "and do good", do not have to fear the Judgement (sura 2,62; sura 4,123-124; sura 7,170*). According to the Koran and to the Bible as well, the Last Judgement is an act of God, and not of human beings, no matter if they are Christians, Moslems or Jews.
(Such comparisons between the religions do not mean to place doubt on the independence of the Koran.)

Ethical principles

The ethical principles of these 3 "Abrahamitic Religions" are also related to each other. The commandments also occur in the Koran, but not listed in the same way, e.g. in sura 17,22-39; sura 5,38-40; sura 2,188; sura 4,135; sura 2,195; and sura 17,70* (human dignity). The Koran, for example, outlaws the killing of innocent ones without exceptions (sura 5,27-32*). The term "Gihad" ("Jihad") means only: fight, struggle, effort; the meaning "Holy war" is not taken from the Koran, but from the sayings of Mohammed and from the schools of Islamic law.*** Inwardly - mentally and morally - working against one's wickedness is called the "Great Gihad", more important than all external conflicts. Compare the teachings of Jesus, to first take out the beam in one's own eye - many external conflicts would lose their basis. The "Gihad of the word" is peacefully speaking out for one's beliefs. The "Gihad with the hand" is the active, instructive example of the believer. The "Gihad of the sword", named also "the small Gihad" is only permitted for defending believers who are under attack (compare Koran sura 2,190*). But some "vehemence" in the contact with other religions can be found already in the Koran (e.g. sura 48,29; sura 47,4*); one can compare such "vehement" passages with other passages, which limit them (like "In religion there is no enforcement", sura 2,256.) 

There are extensive traditional rules, e.g. for relations between the sexes including the prohibition of marriage with non-Moslems. 

The Islamic practice includes: "The statement, that there is no God apart from God (Allah), and that Mohammed is the Prophet of God;
that the prescribed daily prayers are performed
(sura 2,177*);
that the annual fasting month Ramadan is kept
(sura 2,185*);
that the pilgrimage is done at least once in life
(sura 2,196*);
and that 'Zakkat', the religious
contribution is given for social purposes (sura 2,177*)."

In today's Islam, there is no central authority, which decides religious-ethical questions. However, positions that are shared by a clear majority of reputable scholars (ulama), would probably be widely accepted.

*)The German Koran- Translation of Rudi Paret was used for this article, with the Egyptian counting most commonly used in Islamic countries. Other translations may count the verses differently; then you find the named contents before or after that verse number in the same sura(h). The meaning of the Koran passages has been checked with the help of the German Koran and - commentary of Adel Theodor Khoury, whose translation was accepted by Muslims too (for instance by Dr. Inamullah Khan, at that time the General Secretary of the Islamic World Congress.) His commentary gives special attention to the traditional interpretation of Islamic Schools. The difficulties of translating the old Arabic language of the Koran at all, are not so relevant for the above mentioned places, which can be understood clearly.

**) Concerning the historical development of the Islam and the different schools see Hans Küng, "Islam. Past, Present and Future", Oneworld, Oxford 2007. (Referencing books of others does not indicate, that this website supports all of their opinions.)

***) Also the medieval "Christian crusades" were not based on the Bible, but human deeds, and they have a bad reputation for instance among most of today's European Christians.

****) (Cf. sura 164,125.)

Our critical comments concerning the caricatures from danish newspapers showing the Prophet Mohammed.

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