Jesus’ name is mentioned twenty five times in the Holy Qur’an whereas the name Muhammad is only mentioned five times. It is in the creed of Islam to accept Jesus as an honoured prophet of God, one of the highest in rank. Therefore, no Muslim would even dare to reject Jesus outright.
The Qur’an tells us that Jesus is held in high honour and will be one of those closest to God in the Hereafter; “Behold! The angel said: “O Mary! God gave you glad tidings of a Word from Him. His name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to God” (Qur’an, 3:45).
Jesus was strengthened with the Holy Spirit (Muslims believe Holy Spirit to be the Archangel Gabriel) while he performed miracles such as speaking in his infancy, giving life to a dead bird, raising the dead, giving sight to the blind, and curing lepers with the permission and power of God (Qur’an, 5:110). Muslims also accept that Jesus was raised into Heaven, “(And remember) when God said: O Jesus! Lo! I am gathering you and causing you to ascend unto Me” (Qur’an, 3:55).
The Qur’an speaks highly of Mary, mother of Jesus. “Behold! The angels said: “O Mary! God has chosen you and purified you; chosen you above the women of all nations” (Qur’an, 3:42). Not only is she one of few people in the Qur’an mentioned by name, but also her name appears thirty-one times in the Qur’an. The statement ‘God has chosen you above the women of all nations’ is rather interesting considering the fact that the first audience of the Qur’an was a highly tribal and nationalistic society in Arabia.
According to Islam, Jesus was born miraculously without a human father and his mother Mary was a pure virgin, “She said: ‘O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man had touched me?’ He said: ‘Even so: God creates what He wills. When He had decreed a plan, He but said to it, ‘Be’ and it is!'” (Qur’an, 3:47). The command “be” is believed to be the “Word” that brought Jesus into existence in his mother’s womb.
Muslims love and genuinely revere Jesus. However, Islam does not agree with the Christian doctrine that “Jesus is the son of God” or is “God”. The Qur’an consistently emphasises that Jesus was a human being and the “son of Mary” (Qur’an, 2:253). The main reasons for this are:
1 According to Islam, accepting someone as the literal “Son of God” infers that Divinity of God is shared or passed on to the “son”. This in turn violates the tenets of monotheism and belief in one true God. The Qur’an states “ He begets not, nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him.” (Qur’an, 112/3-4).
2 The circumstances in which Adam came to be without any father and mother show that being without a father does not imply divinity (Qur’an, 2:59). If it were so, we would also have to accept Adam as the “Son of God”.
3 Performing miracles does not imply divinity since all the prophets including Jesus also displayed a wide variety of miracles.
In short, Islam and Christianity are not only similar in their codes of morality. But also they both accept God, revelation, the prophets, angels and resurrection. As far as Muslims are concerned, these similarities are quite natural and in fact necessary because Muslims believe that the God Who sent Jesus to guide humanity before also sent the Prophet Muhammad for a similar mission at a later time.
Nevertheless, there are also important differences between Islam and the present form of Christianity. Muslims believe that one of the reason why Muhammad was sent as a prophet was to correct and clarify some aspects of Christian faith concerning which Christian scholars and clergy were not in full agreement, and because the true teachings of Jesus had become somewhat distorted over time. The fundemantal differences between Islam and Christianity are as follows:
1. The concept of God. The notion of God having a son is directly opposed to the Islamic faith. According to Islam God does not “beget nor He is begotten.”
2. The Trinity is not accepted in Islam. According to Islam, only God has divinity. Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are created beings without divinity.
3. The Divinity of Jesus. Islam does not admit divinity to anyone other than God. Jesus is proclaimed in the Qur’an as “the word of God and a spirit from Him”. However, the birth of Jesus was miraculous, as was the creation of Adam.
4. Original sin. Islam teaches that Adam and Eve have sincerely repented for their joint mistake and they were eventually forgiven by God in their lifetime. According to Islam no one bears the sin of another. Everyone is born sinless but with the capacity to sin. Therefore, there is no reason for the “atonement” of the sins of humanity. God is All-Forgiving. If He wills He can forgive the sins done towards Him. Sins done to other beings will be settled by God between the parties involved on the Day of Judgment. Here, Islam introduced the idea of “human rights” and “animal rights” centuries before the West.
5. Confession. There is no need to have an intermediary between God for forgiveness. God has promised in the Qur’an that He will forgive sins if sincere repentance is expressed directly to God, for He is All-Hearing.
6. Salvation. According to Islam, salvation is achieved through a person’s faith and good deeds, acting with the guidance and grace of God. “Most surely man is in loss. Except those who believe and do good, and enjoin on each other truth, and enjoin on each other patience.” (Qur’an, 103:2-3). Salvation is the outcome of a virtuous life, not just a moment of conversion.
7. Clergy. There are neither clergy nor church establishment in Islam. Islam also does not prohibit men or women who want to lead religious lives or take spiritual leadership in the Muslim community. There is also no practice of monasteries or convents. Religion should be a part of one’s natural and communal life.