The Quran refers to those few people who had brought faith upon Jesus, followed him, supported him and helped him as the Hawa`riyun. These were the disciples of Jesus. This name, Hawa`riyun is especially employed for those people who followed Jesus and helped him and not for the followers of any other Prophets, although every Prophet has a Hawari (‘sincere companion’) says the Prophet Muhammad in the following Hadith:
"Every Prophet has a Hawari (sincere companion), and my Hawari is Zubair"
The Definition of Hawariyun
Literally, the word Hawariyun is the plural of Hawariyun which means "He who whitens clothes", "He who has been appointed chosen and purified from all kinds of defects", "a companion and a helper".
The exegetes have derived it from the root word Hawr, which possess the following definitions: to whiten, to bleach, to purify, to clean, to change, to transform, to amend and to alter, etc.
Different opinions have been given by the Mufassirs as to why the followers of Isa (Jesus) were given this title:
Imam Ibn Kathir (d.774/1352) has stated, "The Helpers of Jesus have been named Hawariyun because of their white clothes.” According to Ibn Kathir ‘Hawari’ in Arabic means ‘support’.
Hafiz Ibn Hajar Al-Asqalani has stated from Sufyan Sawri that he has said, "Hawari means a helper"
Qatadah (d.117/695) has said that, "It carries the definition of he who is capable of being a Caliphate (Caliph or Minister)." Yunus ibn Habib has mentioned that Hawari is a ‘sincere person’ and Ibn Al-Kalbi has defined it as meaning ‘a friend’.
The Hawariyun in the Light of the Quran
The Quran has addressed the disciples of Jesus as Hawariyun, five times in four different verses.
"When Jesus found disbelief on their part, he said, "Who will be my helpers in the work of Allah?" The Hawariyun (disciples) replied, "We are Allah’s helpers, we believe in Allah and you bear witness that we are Muslims." (Surah 3, Verse 52)
A similar statement from the disciples has been recorded in the chapter entitled "Rows", verse fourteen as follows:
"O ye who believe! Be the helpers of Allah as Jesus, the Son of Maryam (Mary) said to the Hawariyun, "Who will be my helpers in the work of Allah?" The Hawariyun said, "We are helpers of Allah." Then a portion of the children of Israel believed and a portion disbelieved, but We gave power to those who believed against their enemies, so that they became the ones that prevailed." (Surah 61, Verse 14)
The Hawariyun, disciples, have been praised exceptionally and promised to be given superiority in the following verse of the Quran as well:
‘Remember when Allah said, "O Jesus! I will take you and raise you to Myself and purify you of the falsehoods and of those who blaspheme. I will make those who follow you, superior to those who reject faith, to the day of resurrection. Then you shall return to Me and I will judge between you of the matters wherein you dispute." (Surah 3, Verse 55)
THE NAMES OF THE HAWARIYUN
Imam Qurtubi mentions that, the Hawariyun were twelve in number, but he does not give their names, except the name of the leader of the Hawariyun as Sham’oon (Simon Peter or Cephas) in the miracle of the ascension of the table, saying,
"Sham’oon, the leader of the disciples, asked, "Is this food that of paradise or the food of this world?" Jesus’ reply was, "This is food specially created for you, it is neither from paradise or this world. Allah said to it, "BE," and so it was."
The disciples of Jesus (including Sham’oon known more popularly as Simon Peter) who were living after the ascension of Isa (Jesus) are held to be respectable and honest by the Muslims. They are not, however considered to be Prophets.
They were ordinary human beings and not free from human errors. Their teachings and their statements have lost validity through the absence of authenticated historical verification.
Contradictory Names Of Jesus’ Disciples in the Bible
[Matt 10:2] Matthew gives the names of the disciples of Jesus.
[Luke 6:13] But Luke mentions two names, which are different from those, recorded in Matthew.
One among the disciples, Judas Iscariot (son of Simon Iscariot) was the treasurer or keeper of money and had been entrusted this role by Jesus. He later betrayed Jesus for it is said, thirty pieces of silver, and died soon afterwards. He is also said to have helped himself to some of the money he was responsible for whilst still a disciple.
Matthew 10:2 & Mark 3:16
1 – Simon the Cananean
1 – Simon called Peter
2 – Simon called Peter
2 – Andrew his brother
3 – Andrew
3 – James the son of Zabadee
4 – James son of Zabadee
4 – John his brother
5 – John
5 – Philip
6 – Philip
6 – Bartholomew
7 – Bartholomew
7 – Matthew the tax collector
8 – Matthew
8 – Thomas
9 – Thomas
9 – James the son of Alphaues
10 – James son of Alphaues
10 – Simon the Zealot
11 – Labaous called Thaddeus
11 – Judas the son of James
12 – Judas the Escariot
12 – Judas the Escariot
It is stated in Matthew that Simon the Cananean was a disciple, whereas in Luke Simon the Zealot is mentioned. In addition, Matthew states Labaous called Thaddeus to be a disciple, but Luke makes no mention of this name, rather Judas the son of James is stated instead.
Commentators generally hold Hawari (Disciple) as a derivative of ‘Hoor’, which means the Whiteness of cloth. A Washerman is called Hawari, and ‘Hawariyoon’ is its plural. When a cloth is whitened after washing, the Arabs have a special word for it.
In the perspective of this meaning, the disciples of Hazrat Isa (AS) are known as Hawari either because most of them were Washermen and Fishermen. Also researchers say, it could be because of the fact that as a Washerman whitens a cloth through washing, similarly these disciples would illuminate the hearts of the people through the teachings of Hazrat Isa (AS).
Hawari also means ‘Helper’ and ‘Advisor’. Abdul Wahab Najjar says that the disciples of Hazrat Isa being called Hawari, is not without reasoning, but is based on the fact that its origin is ‘Haboor’, a Hebrew word meaning ‘disciple’ and its plural is ‘Haboorium’, which changed into Hawari and ‘Hawaree’n’ in the Arabic language.
“Who will be my helper in Allah’s Cause?”
(Surah 3, Verse 52, Speech by Jesus)
Mujahid commented this means ‘Who would follow me to Allah? [Ibn Abi Hatim] however it appears that Isa (AS) was asking, ‘Who would help me convey the Message of Allah?’ [Propagate, spread and share the responsibility of Dawah to the people]
Some of the Children of Israel did believe in Isa (AS) and agreed to give him their aid and support and followed the light that was sent with him.
In return Allah has recorded their response in the Qur’an for all future generations to see the covenant and agreement between them.
“The Al-Hawariyun said: ‘We are the Helpers of Allah; We believe in Allah, and bear witness that we are Muslims. Our Lord! We believe in what You have sent down, and we follow the Messenger; so write us down among those who bear witness.”
(Qur’an, Declaration by the Disciples of Jesus of their religious beliefs to Allah)
The Verses speak of the Hawariyyun addressing Allah directly five times and Jesus, their immediate teacher, only once. The first statement refers to helping and assisting Allah’s Representative (Jesus), the second is an affirmation they profess to believe in Allah and are Muslims.
The third is an acceptance of acknowledging the truth, legitimacy, final authority and validity of the scripture sent to Jesus by the Hawariyyun. The fourth is the most explicit reference to Jesus, albeit without naming him specifically or mentioning his more prestigious titles of Messiah, Son of Man etc.
The last is a request to Allah to accept them as true believers and witnesses in their allegiance to Islam as a recorded fact written down for all to see that they have fulfilled their duty and did what they were asked.
The Hawariyun also refer to Jesus [indirectly] as ‘The Messenger’, as someone whom they follow. In the above verses they are not invoking Jesus as an intermediary between them and Allah, they approached Allah directly.
“We are Allah’s Helpers” also means ‘We will support you with the Message you have been sent with and will help you convey it. Isa (AS) later sent the disciples to the various areas of Ash-Sham to call the Greeks and the Israelites to Islam. (Ibn Katheer)
It is thought although Jesus had many followers, he selected twelve among them to be his special team of official disciples. It seems they twelve most important disciples were given the title of ‘apostles’.
The disciples were however, not lawgivers and prophets as the title is strictly defined and officially means. The Bible and other historical sources also speak of seventy-two unofficial students and disciples in addition to the twelve.
On the Day of Decision, Allah is to remind Jesus of His Special Favours and Divine Support and Assistance to him as a Judge in His Courtroom [Surah 5, Verses 110-120].
One gift among the special honours was the supply of loyal, sincere and diligent disciples and companions for him, while he was a Messenger of Allah among them (during his first ministry in Israel before ascension to the Heavens). In the Ayah-
“And when I (Allah) Awhaytu Al-Hawariyyin to believe in Me and My Messenger.”
Awhaytu here means ‘inspired’. Al-Hasan Al-Basri said about the Hawariyun “Allah Inspired them.” As-Suddi said, “He [Allah] put in their hearts.”
When Isa (AS) returns, his second ministry will commence but his immediate and later companions and followers of that period will not share the same position, reward and outstanding honour as the original disciples of his first ministry, nor will they be included among them as the Hawariyyin or Nasara.
Isa (AS) himself once he returns to Earth retains the [Honorific] Office of Apostleship, but only to the Children of Israel of his first ministry and for the period up to and until, the start of his successor’s reign (a total of six hundred years) as Divine Representative and Lawgiver.
Isa (AS) is not then, an Apostle to any one after or since the beginning of the Messengership of Muhammad (SAW), his successor and last Prophet of Islam to the World from the Seventh Century until the Day of Decision.
On the Day of Decision, Allah will decide the destiny of the multitude of human beings alone without the use or need of Judges. The assemblage of Apostles will with His Divine Permission intercede for their respective nations and communities as well as for those who profess to believe in their Constitutions and Divine Messages.
The Prophet Muhammad (SAW) as the last Apostle is responsible to represent, defend, intercede and in specific instances acquit all true believers from and since the Seventh Century for permanent entry into the Kingdom of God.
“When Isa (AS) was sent, the Children of Israel were required to follow and obey him. The followers of Isa (AS) and his companions are called ‘An-Nasara’, because they gave aid and support to each other. They are also called ‘Ansar’, (Helpers)”.
(Tafseer Ibn Katheer)
It was said that they were called ‘Nasara’, because they inhabited a land called ‘An-Nasirah’ (Nazareth), as Qatadah, Ibn Juraij and Ibn Abbas were reported to have said.”
(Tafseer Ibn Katheer)
The singular form of Nasara is ‘Nasrani’ and although both are used in the Qur’an, neither belongs to the Arabic language at the time of Revelation and are such older Non Arabic words.
The equivalent of Nasara in the Arabic of the Qur’an is Ansar. The verb of Ansar is Nasara, which means ‘supported, aided, helped, sided with etc. Ansar likewise means ‘supporters.
The term Ansar occurs in the context of calling the true followers of Isa (AS) the Ansar of Isa (AS) on the way to Allah, which means ultimately the supporters of Allah to Whom Isa (AS), was calling and inviting to embrace Islam.
The plural of Ansar being Ansarullah (Helpers of Allah), was also applied to the residents of Madina who pledged and gave support to the Prophet Muhammad (SAW) when he arrived in the City.
Additionally, Jesus, Son of Mary (Isa Ibn Maryam) and Jesus the Messiah (Isa Al-Masih), his official titles divinely passed down from God later became simply ‘Jesus of Nazareth’ and ‘Son of David’, which actually diminishes his rank, responsibility, official role, special honour and significance in comparison.
Only where someone has no other depiction, name or title does the area in which they live become relevant to state they are residents of that location or the other, but where an official designation already exists no such ascription is necessary or desired.
However, historians add the word Nasara is not and never was derived from Nazareth, the area Isa (AS) is said to have been from. The word ‘Nazarenes’ referred to the early Christians decades after Isa (AS).
It never referred to the residents of the town of Nazareth in Galilee. Christian historians add Mary’s home town [Nazareth] was then a small village situated in a high valley among the southern hills of the Lebanon Range.
The name itself means ‘Watch-tower’, possibly they say because it was above the crossroads of major north-south and east-west roads.
The town was not in fact then known as Nazareth and is not mentioned at all in the Old Testament, maps of the area/s or historical sources and original documents relevant to the land in general.
Some sources suggest and infer it may have been little more than a village at the time of Mary, however outside the Christian scholarship of history the name does not exist anywhere.
The word Nasara was already in use by the time the Gospels were written and similarly the same word was used by Arabs to describe the Christians even before the Qur’an was revealed.
The common people did however not know the meaning, relevance, ascription, context or etymology of the word. To them, unlike later generations, the words meant nothing more than whom it referred to.
A similar term however ‘Nazirite’ existed and occurs in the Old Testament (Judges 13-14), but it referred to someone who was dedicated to God for a distinctive purpose and sometimes this was for a specific period of time. Each Nazirite would take a special vow to serve God for the period they would be allocated this responsibility.
The word ‘Nazirite’ itself came from the Hebrew word meaning ‘separated’ or ‘consecrated’. Nazirites were themselves forbidden to cut their hair or drink alcohol. They also had to avoid all contact with dead bodies [including if it is that of their mother, father, brother or sister] so that their bodies remained pure.
Some Nazirites were dedicated to God from birth and groomed for the role. In the time of Moses [Numbers 6: 1-21] each Nazirite was in addition to avoid the above also abstained from drinking any kind of drink made from grapes, eat any grapes or raisins or anything that comes from grapevines and included the seeds or skins of grapes.
One of the most famous ‘Nazirites’ was Samson the Israelite, who according to the Bible was chosen by God to become a Nazirite for life, instead of a short period of time. He was born to a previously ‘childless couple’ [note the similarity with John the Baptist, Yahya (AS)] and like the Messenger of Allah, Ilyas, was once fed by birds on Allah’s orders when all other means of food and subsistence were unavailable.
The stories he had weak resistance to women is not accepted by Muslims and the episode where he stayed for a time in a harlot’s residence is similarly explained in hiding from his enemies and nothing else, the fact that the host was a harlot is a coincidence.
The Twelve Disciples themselves
Simon, (Sha’moon) leader of the distinguished disciples and one of the closest to Jesus, was a fisherman before becoming a believer. He is said to have been re-named Peter [or Petros in Greek] (meaning Rock or Stone) by Jesus.
After the ascension of the Messiah, Simon is said to have been briefly imprisoned (where he was rescued by an angel) and he later travelled to Rome where he became the first Pope (42-67). He is said to have died there, hence Rome became the centre of the new religion.
Andrew: The brother of Simon the leader was also a fisherman and became a believer along with his brother Simon. He is known allegedly for introducing people to Jesus and is said to have been originally a disciple of John the Baptist before joining Jesus.
James and John, sons of Zebedee: These two were also fisherman and may have worked alongside Simon and Andrew. They are said to have become believers at the same time as Simon and Andrew.
Jesus gave the two brothers the title ‘Sons of Thunder’ due to their impulsive natures. Their mother, Salome, was also a disciple, though not one of the twelve, like her sons were.
James is also said to have been the first of the disciples to die for his faith. He was beheaded on the orders of King Herod Agrippa. John, the younger of the two, meanwhile is said to have been the only disciple to be present at the crucifixion and the first to see the empty tomb.
He is also referred to in the New Testament as the disciple ‘whom Jesus loved’ and is still traditionally believed to be the author of the Gospel according to John. He is said to have been killed by the Jews between 60 and 70 CE.
Matthew: Originally known as Levi, he was a tax collector employed by the Romans. He is said to have worked in and around Capernaum. He is said to have been visited and approached by Jesus while he was working and collecting taxes from people. One source says that he was martyred through decapitation.
Thomas: Known also as ‘Doubting Thomas’ he is known only for doubting the resurrection of Jesus and refused to believe Jesus was still alive. He is said to have not been with the other disciples when Jesus is alleged to have re-appeared after the crucifixion on the first Easter Day.
He is then said to have wanted to feel the bones and flesh of Jesus to ensure he was not actually a ghost or a spirit. A week later, Jesus appeared to him as well and Thomas got his wish. In John’s Gospel, he is known as ‘Didymus’ meaning twin in Greek.
Simon the Zealot: He is chiefly known as a member of a group or religious sect who stirred up a rebellion against the Romans after the ascension of Jesus and were known as the ‘Zealots’.
Judas Iscariot: The son of Simon Iscariot. A treasurer for the disciples who is thought to have frequently stole 110th of the money for his own use. It is said later the one who betrayed Jesus to the Romans for thirty pieces of silver. He was also the only disciple not to be a native of Galilee.
Philip: He is said to have come from Bethsaida and introduced Bartholomew to Jesus.
Bartholomew: He is also known as Nathanael and was from Cana, now known as Kfar Kanna.
Judas: The son of James and also known as Thaddeus or Labaous.
James: Son of Alphaeus. Also known as ‘James the Younger’.
The three who were closest to Jesus were Simon Peter, James and John. Although Jesus is alleged to have been native to Nazareth, most of the events described in the first three Gospels occur in Capernaum, further north near Lake Galilee and the River Jordan close to Bethsaida in Phoenicia. Bethsaida then, was one of nine large settlements around the lake.
The twelve all known as ‘apostles’ (meaning ‘messenger’) were leaders in their own right, taught both privately by the Messiah and among crowds. All were sent out to preach to various places and teach others themselves and were expected to spread his message to the people. At first, the title ‘saint’ was used exclusively in describing them alone.
According to Syed Abul Ala Mawdudi, the word ‘Hawari’ means almost the same as ‘Ansar’ in the Islamic tradition. They were also called both ‘Ansar’ and ‘Muslims’ in the Qur’an and requested to be accepted as Muslims.
‘And when I (Allah) put in the hearts of the disciples (of Jesus) to believe in Me and My Messenger, they said: ‘We believe and bear witness that we are Muslims.’
(Surah 5: 11)
In the Bible, the usual terms are ‘apostles’ and ‘disciples’. Jesus’ chosen disciples were called ‘apostles’ in the sense that they had been entrusted with a mission by him (Jesus the Messiah) rather than in the sense of having been entrusted with a mission by Allah (in which case they would have been prophets themselves). They were thus Divine Representatives of Jesus and not Prophetic Representatives of God.
Other Famous Disciples
Jesus is also said to have had seventy-two other close followers whom he once sent out to recruit people. Out of these only one is actually known whilst others still who might possibly never have seen or met Jesus are also accorded the status of disciples.
Barnabas: Originally known as Joseph, he was re-named Barnabas meaning ‘Son of Encouragement, Son of Consolation and Son of Exhortation’ by the twelve disciples. He is the only known member of the seventy-two other disciples of Jesus and was a once friend of Paul of Tarsus. He introduced Paul of Tarsus to the twelve disciples and persuaded them to accept him despite their reservations.
He was also either the uncle or cousin of John Mark, the alleged author of ‘The Gospel according to Mark’, one of the four official [canonical] gospels accepted as part of the New Testament.
Mary Magdalene, Salome and Mary (mother of James): These three took spices to anoint the body of Jesus after the crucifixion.
Joanna, the wife of Chuza, Suzanna: Nothing is known of them.
Stephen: He never met Jesus, but was nonetheless an early convert and a disciple of the disciples. He was ordered to be stoned by the Romans; one of those present who approved of it was, according to the Bible, Paul of Tarsus.
James, the brother of Jesus: He was neither the blood brother or foster brother of the Messiah Jesus nor was he known to be a disciple, actual affiliated follower or disciple of disciples. He is said to have opposed Jesus in his lifetime, according to the Christians and thought of him as mad, only after his ascension did he believe in the Messiah.
The word ‘brother’ in his time referred to close family relatives such as cousins, hence it is plausible to suggest he was a close relation of Jesus, through the latter’s mother’s side, and was thus referred to as ‘his brother’ or the ‘brother of Jesus’.
According to Christian clergymen and historians, he was the leader of the Christians after Jesus ascended, he is known to have held the assemblage of believers together and was killed by the High Priest, Ananas in 62 CE.
The followers of Jesus after he ascended were called ‘Nazarenes’ by others. They did not believe Jesus was a divine or supernatural being. They accepted and embraced him as the Messiah, believed in his return to Earth.
The Nazarenes observed the Sabbath, practiced circumcision, did not eat the forbidden foods, fasted, forbade interest, continued the practices of Jesus and strictly observed the Mosaic Law.
After attempting to reach an understanding with Paul, the Nazarenes under Simon Peter and James ‘the brother of Jesus’ and Head of the Jerusalem Church, distanced themselves from him and broke irrevocably with him and disowned him.
Later the same people were called ‘Ebionites’. They had changed nor altered anything, their opponents chose to separate the first group of followers of Jesus, the original and first Nazarenes, with this group of Nazarenes, their successors who came a generation or more after them.
The Ebionites were declared heretics and stigmatised by the Church for refusing to see Jesus as divine and for not attacking Paul as the inventor of Christianity and as an adventurer seeking glory for himself.
In some ways the Ebionites were like the Essenes, a Jewish sect that had broken away from Judaism in general and opted out of Jewish society altogether by living in the mountains, the hills and secluded areas away from the towns and cities and founded their own monasteries and institutions.
It’s suspected the Essenes had first broken away over the issue of too much concentration of power in the hands of the High Priest; a position officiated by secular figures with a view of preserving foreign control over the Israelites.