Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Jesus, the Servant of God in light of evidence from the Qur'an and the Sunnah

This article is an attempt to show Jesus as a representative, emissary, Apostle, Messenger and Prophet of God by scrutinising the Islamic scriptures. By default, as an ambassador of God, he is less than God Himself and as such not God in his own right.

“His name is the Messiah, Jesus, Son of Mary, of high esteem in this world and the hereafter, and one of those brought near.”
(Surah 3: 45)

We learn from the above, he had a human mother, who herself is not a goddess. He is held high in esteem, not the highest, showing he is one of many with honour and as such not unique.

In addition, ‘Messiah’ is a title representing God’s selected leaders who ruled on His behalf in accordance to His Creed, His Message, His Law and His Divine Guidance as an obedient and loyal servant.

The words, ‘one of those brought near’ (Muqarrabuun) is further interesting because in other passages in the Qur’an, the title is also applied to ordinary mortals and human beings where distinction is based on servitude to God.

“He [God] has laid down the same religion for you as He enjoined on Noah. That which We [God] have revealed to you and which upon Abraham, Moses and Jesus.”
(Surah 42: 13)

Jesus is mentioned as one of four prophets of God, where the emphasis is on the Message of God and Jesus is one of those enjoined on delivering it.

The first major prophet along with Abraham and Moses, who came before Jesus, didn’t claim divine status and didn’t preach about the godship of Jesus, hence the message brought by Jesus, was the same as the three prophets mentioned before him. It is also significant that Jesus is mentioned last in this verse illustrating his resemblance to the earlier prophets.

“The Messiah, Jesus, was only a Messenger of God and His Word, which He cast onto Mary, and a Spirit from Him. So believe in God and His Messengers.”
(Surah 4: 171)

The Messiah is spoken as a special emissary, but a Messenger of God nonetheless and as such not God Himself. The verse ends ‘so believe in God and His Messengers’, meaning Jesus is one of several Messengers with the same creed overall and the same basic tenets of the Message.

The middle verses require more clarification. First, Jesus is ‘His Word’, here signifies divine and miraculous intervention in the birth of Jesus by God. He issues a command, a decree, an order and it materialises. The ‘word’ in this sense is a symbolic sign and special as one of God’s many miracles for both the generation Jesus was born in and beyond, but only as an aspect of God’s greatness.

Second, the decree for Jesus to be born outside the normal manner was legislated in the heavens but implemented by an agent of God in the form of the archangel Gabriel to Mary, a chaste virgin, member of a spiritually inclined family and a descendant of Moses and Aaron through the priestly family of Levi (Lawi).

Lastly, ‘a spirit’ is further interesting because it shows Jesus is not ‘the spirit’. He is one of many ‘spirits’ and the word itself in a biblical sense means ‘prophet of god’ and not God Himself.

“He (Jesus) will speak to people in the cradle and when fully grown, and will be one of the righteous.”
(Surah 3: 45-6)

God in the cradle, God fully grown and ‘one of the righteous’. Does any of that sound like God. The last sentence, ‘one of the righteous’, shows he is not unique, especially as the Qur’an mentions both Prophets and non Prophets as ‘righteous’ (Saliheen) and it further encourages believers to strive to become righteous. If it were a trait only applicable to a god, the Qur’an would not dare do so.

“He (Jesus) said: I am a Servant of God. He has given me the Book and made me a Prophet. He has made me blessed wherever I am, and directed me to perform prayer and give alms as long as I live.

And (He directed me) to show devotion to my mother. He has not made me insolent or arrogant. Peace be upon the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am raised up again alive.”
(Surah 19: 27-33)

Not much needs to be said or added here. The message is clear, simple and straightforward. A few points are worth mentioning. ‘He has given me the book’ refers to scripture written and sent from God, not Jesus.

The second point reinforces the first, Jesus is the agent entrusted with the deliverance of God’s law. Jesus is not himself the origin of the scripture and the law and by default not the end of the law either.

If legislation is not derived from him, then both the right of abrogation and actual termination of divine law does not stem from him either.

‘He has made me blessed’ illustrates God’s Mercy and Honour upon Jesus. The Messiah is blessed because God ‘made’ him blessed. Jesus did not bless himself and by default since God made Jesus blessed, that makes God on a higher level than Jesus.

‘He directed me’ further strengthens the statement by showing Jesus is not in any way responsible for creating, drafting or legislating the message. He has a master who has sent him with a mission.

‘He has not made me insolent or arrogant’ is very revealing and embarrassing to Christians. It shows Jesus is a created being with a personality and character not of his own choosing but made that way. It also shows while Jesus was created and shaped by God, Jesus did not have any powers to create or shape God in the way he liked.

‘Peace be upon me the day I was born’ signifies birth, a beginning, a time of non existence and in a secondary sense, weakness, deficiency, helplessness and a need for assistance.

‘The day I die’ is equally worth understanding and primarily due to the sentence what follows it,

‘and the day I am raised up again alive’ shows the day Jesus dies is different to the day he is to be raised alive, but also shows the time frame between them is distant, not in near proximity to the day he dies. The sentence, if looked at closely, shows ‘someone or something is to raise him from death’, not Jesus himself.

The person who allowed Jesus to die, will resurrect him alive, meaning it is God who has the power to give life and death and as such, is a higher judge with greater jurisdiction, legitimacy and authority than Jesus.

By default then it follows, God has a more nobler right to be followed in comparison to his representatives including Jesus.

“(Jesus said) ‘I said to them nothing but what You ordered me to say: ‘Worship God, my Lord and your Lord.’
(Surah 5: 117)

If Jesus is God, he would not call him ‘My Lord’. A true god has no lord. He, by default, has no creator or master and is dependent on no one.

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