The letter below was written by the Prophet Muhammad to the Emperor of Ethiopia inviting him to Islam.
‘In the Name of Allah the Merciful, the Compassionate
From Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, to the Negus, King of
Peace be with you. I thank Allah for you, …. and I bear witness that Jesus, the Son of Mary, is of Allah’s Spirit and His Word delivered to the Virgin Mary, the good and virtuous: she bore Jesus; and Allah created him from His Spirit and Breath, as He created Adam with His Hand and Breath.’
The letter illustrates a few interesting points. Jesus is spoken of as being ‘of Allah’s Spirit’, but to those who wish to see this as proof of his godlike status, it is followed a short time later by ‘Allah created him from His Spirit and Breath’, and this is further sealed by the words ‘as He created Adam with His Hand and Breath.’
Second, Jesus is spoken as ‘the Son of Mary’ and not ‘the Son of God’ and the Qur’an does likewise. If Christians are of the opinion the title reflects the position and superiority of Jesus and not a biological relationship, Islam still rejects the ascription and forbids its usage among adherents.
Third, Mary is elevated to a noble position and mentioned as ‘good and virtuous’ and is spoken of four times in the same letter. The first as being the mother of Jesus, the second with her unique title; ‘the Virgin Mary’, the third with her qualities as a believer and third as carrying and delivering Jesus through pregnancy and in childbirth.
The Prophet wrote to Dhaghatir Usqaf and his letter in full reads-
‘Peace be upon him who believes. Jesus, son of Mary, is the Spirit of Allah and the Word of Allah, which he revealed to pure Mary. I believe in Allah and what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Ibrahim, Ismail, Ishaq, Yaq’ub and the progeny of Yaq‘ub and to Musa and Jesus. What is given to the Prophets from their Lord, we do not differentiate between any of it. We accept Islam for Allah, Peace be upon him who follows the right way.’
(Ibn Sa’d, Tabataq Vol. 3 p34-74)
Here Jesus is mentioned with three separate titles; two of them special and distinct to himself, and a third which places him in the same category as other men- a prophet of god.
His first title is ‘The Spirit of God’, which in Hebrew and in Biblical language of the day meant ‘Prophet’ and ‘Agent of God’. Each Prophet of his time and era is the most supreme spirit or prophet to his nation. His second title, ‘The Word of Allah’ is clearly explained in the Qur’an as the nature of his birth, he was created by a divine decree; that is a divine order for Jesus to come into existence and he did so without a father.
His last title shows despite his special birth, he is still a representative, an emissary, an ambassador and at best a preacher with a mission entrusted to him by someone higher than himself; God. This is the reason he is mentioned last from a long line of Prophets who came before him with the same mission and values as himself but to different nations.
“The Rabbis of the Jews replied that the miracles, signs and teachings were so effective that they themselves said openly that ‘You [Jesus] are the Son of God.’ Jesus replied to them: ‘Of this I am innocent, before Heaven, of all that the people say about me, who says I am greater than human because I am a human born of a woman exposed to the rule of God. I live like other men exposed to the common struggle.”