Bismillahir Rahmanir Raheem
بِسۡمِ ٱللهِ ٱلرَّحۡمَـٰنِ ٱلرَّحِيمِ ,
As a Muslim, I have always loved the Islamic portrayal of ‘Isa (may God’s peace and blessings be upon him). You may call him Jesus, Christ, Messiah, Mashiach, or whatever other titles your faith ties to him, we’re discussing the same great and mighty personality who has played a significant role in both Islamic and Judeo-Christian theology. Clearly his words, his actions and his life have impacted this world in a magnificent and bountiful way. No Muslim can be a Muslim without acknowledging and believing in the message of Christ (Mark 12:29, Acts 2:22, Qur’an Surah Baqarah 2:1-5). Furthermore what is Christianity without Christ? Most certainly our faiths tie us to this spectacular personality. We may disagree alot on his personhood, but we also tend to agree in many areas. Most non-Muslims (Jews, Christians, Atheists), don’t particularly fully understand the Islamic perception of Jesus and it is from this that seeds of discord (and discourse!) have been sown for many centuries, atleast for the most part of the past 1433 years.
This article seeks to highlight one particular area of Christ’s ministry according to the Old Testament and New Testament’s words about him. We begin with a quotation from the Book of Psalms, which reads:
“For the LORD loves the just and will not forsake his faithful ones. They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;” – Bible : Psalms (37) : Verse 28.
Our modus operandi from this verse onwards is intended to imply that Jesus would be the most faithful and the most just person of his time with respect to his life and personhood, whether you consider him to be a God, a man or otherwise. Both Muslims and Christians can agree on this following excerpt from the Gospel, which attributes these words to him:
“…I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” – Bible : John (5) : Verse 30.
The verses from Psalms (Tehillim) and from John (above), promote the understanding that Jesus was just because he judged according to the rule and law of God and thus since the Old Testament says that God loves and will not forsake such a person, we all can accept that Christ was loved and would not be forsaken by God. However as a Muslim reading the New Testament, the image it portrays of Christ on this very promise allegedly from God in Psalms, is severely diminished, usurped and if I must say, perverted. On one hand, I’m being presented with such a beautiful, warm, good intended portrayal of God’s love for the just and justice, His protection is upon such a person. Yet, when we read the following verses, I am not only left discontented and in awe that the New Testament has forgotten this promise of God, I fully believe that only a person wanting to destroy Christ’s honour would believe such a story:
“About the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Bible : Matthew (27) : Verse 46.
“And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?”—which means, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” – Bible : Mark (15) : 34.
It is clear for anyone who is purely intended that these stories, depictions of a man forsaken by God, cannot be the man portrayed in John 5:30 and Psalms 37:28. Rather, it reminds of the man later spoken of in Psalms 37:28:
“…They will be protected forever, but the offspring of the wicked will be cut off;” – Bible : Psalms (37) : Verse 28.
Am I supposed to believe that Christ was a wicked man, cut off from the mercy of God? As a Muslim, it burdens my heart to have to believe that this is what someone who loves Christ could possibly believe. In fact, even Christian scholars have purported that this alleged saying of Christ is out of his character and simply demeans him:
“Some suppose “that the divinity had now departed from Christ, and that his human nature was left unsupported to bear the punishment due to men for their sins.” But this is by no means to be admitted…” – Adam Clarke’s Commentary of the Bible, Matthew 27.
In fact, this has troubled another commentator of the Bible, Matthew Henry in his Commentary of the Bible, says:
“What the complaint was–My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken me?A strange complaint to come from the mouth of our Lord Jesus, who, we are sure, was God’s elect, in whom his soul delighted (Isaiah 42:1), and one in whom he was always well pleased. The Father now loved him, nay, he knew that therefore he loved him, because he laid down his life for the sheep; what, and yet forsaken of him, and in the midst of his sufferings too! Surely never sorrow was like unto that sorrow which extorted such a complaint as this from one who, being perfectly free from sin, could never be a terror to himself; but the heart knows its own bitterness.” – Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible, Matthew 27.
A number of times however, Matthew Henry admits that indeed Jesus was forsaken and that this is no mistake:
“That our Lord Jesus was, in his sufferings, for a time, forsaken by his Father. So he saith himself, who we are sure was under no mistake concerning his own case.” – Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible, Matthew 27.
“That Christ’s being forsaken of his Father was the most grievous of his sufferings, and that which he complained most of. ” – Matthew Henry’s Complete Commentary on the Bible, Matthew 27.
What’s worse is that even an epistle in the New Testaments willingly admits that the one who is punished upon the cross is cursed by God:
“Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.” – Bible : Galatians (3) : Verse 13.
These verses, quotes, scholar’s interpretations and more, really cause disdain for the Muslim who is taught otherwise. Jesus, Christ, the Messiah, may God be pleased with him, to us, was not forsaken by God, was not abandoned, cursed, tortured, abused, mocked or destroyed. To us, he delivered his message (risalah), to his people, the Children of Israel (Bani Isra’il), he did miracles and brought guidance to the masses by God’s will. Islam portrays him not be wretched and forsaken, but worthy of the protection of God, as the Psalms has said. The Qur’an says of this great man that God indeed had protected him:
“When Allah said: “O ‘Isa , I am to take you in full and to raise you towards Myself, and to cleanse you of those who disbelieve, and to place those who follow you above those who disbelieve up to the Day of Doom. Then to Me is your return, whereupon I shall judge between you in that over which you have differed.” – Qur’an : Surah (3) : Ayat 55.
In conclusion, while the NT portrays Christ as being forsaken, cut off and punished by God, the Qur’an makes it clear that Christ was saved, which according to the verse in Psalms, this is what God had promised. Islam promotes and expounds upon the person of Christ as being worthy of God’s mercy (Rahma) and protection, this is what we believe of Christ and this is why we will not believe in something which degrades and perverts his beauty as the New Testament does.
May God convey His mercy and blessings upon ‘Isa (Jesus) the son of Mary (may Allaah be pleased with her) and protect him from the slanders, lies and insults that those who pretend to love him continue to preach. Ameen.
wa Allaahu ‘Alam.
[and God knows best.]