Author: Geoffrey Parrinder
Publishers: Oxford: Oneworld Publications, 1996
Price: UK £ 9.99; US $ 14.95
In the string of scriptures, the Quran is the last one, the Final Testament. By the same token, Islam represents the last and final version of the Abrahamic religious tradition. From this perspective, the Quran not only provides the final statement of the religious doctrines and norms of Judaism and Christianity, but also modifies their notions regarding sacred personalities: the Prophets. Jesus Christ (sws) is one of the those personalities who has been grossly misunderstood not only by his opponents˜opponents, the Jews, but also by his professed followers, the Christians.
The Quran regards Jesus (sws) as one who had announced his prophethood miraculously, for he did so while he was in the cradle (Quran 19:30). Similarly, it declares his mother, Maryam, a chosen one, who was exalted over the whole of womanhood (3:24). The Quran makes it clear that in spite of being endowed with miracles, Jesus (sws) was virtually like others as regards his being a human was concerned: he was created by God and was, therefore, Gods servant (abd) as were all other Prophets. The Quran also tells us that Jesus birth took place in an extraordinary manner. In that respect his birth was like Adams in so far as the latter too had no father. Adams birth took place by dint of just one word of God “ kun (be) (the Quran 3:59). Jesus birth, therefore, challenged peoples understanding. As a result a large number of people questioned the virginity of his mother, and declined for that reason to acknowledge him as a legitimate child. This made it impossible for them to accept him as a prophet. In time, Jesus ˜abd) as were all other Prophets. The Quran also tells us that Jesus birth took place in an extraordinary manner. In that respect
In his deeply researched work, Jesus in the Quran, Geoffrey Parrinder attempts to present the Quranic view of Jesus (sws). He deals with almost every dogmatic and biographical aspect of Jesus life and makes an earnest effort to understand the Quranic standpoint. The author does not raise any questions about the textual authority of the Quran as he mentions in his introduction (p.10). To the author, the present work is an exclusively theoretical study of the Quranic view of Jesus (sws) and undoubtedly he succeeds in vindicating the claim. Further, in dealing with every issue, the author makes very informative and valuable comparisons between the Quranic statements and those of the Gospels. Thus, this study lies in the domain of comparative religion.
There are some aspects of this subject, however, which are debatable, even among Muslim academics. The death of Jesus (sws) is one of them. The Quran does not state categorically that Jesus (sws) did not die a natural death.1 In fact, some verses of the Quran seem to suggest his natural demise (3:55, 5:17, 19:15). Parrinder observes that there is no futurity in the grammar of the Quran to suggest a post-millennial death. The plain meaning seems to be his physical death at the end of his present human life on earth. (p. 105). Here Parrinder is referring to the Quranic verses 19:33-34. But at another place the Quran apparently provides grounds for some ambiguity about the matter since there Jesus crucifixion by the Jews has been denied. The Quran, notwithstanding the claim of the Jews, says though they did not kill him and did not crucify him, but he was counterfeited for them¦ though they did not certainly kill him. Nay, God raised him to Himself (4:157-158). Both the Jews and the Christians believe that Jesus (sws) was killed by the Jews. The Quran, however, explicitly denies this assertion. Then, what is it that happened? The Quran tells us that Jesus (sws) was saved from the hands of his tormentors and God raised him to Himself. This leads one to ask: What does the Quran mean by God raised him to Himself? (4:158). According to most interpreters of the Quran, Jesus (sws) was raised to the heaven alive. They adduce a number of arguments in support of this, but does the Qur˜there is no futurity in the
There is another verse which is often quoted to support the idea that Jesus (sws) was raised to the heavens alive. It reads: And there is none among the people of the Book but will surely believe in him before his death (4:159). According to some commentators, the pronoun him here stands for Jesus (sws). They believe that Jesus (sws) is alive and will return to the earth before the end of this world. Hence, after Jesus (sws) returns to the world, as this verse says, all the people of the Book (including the Jews), will believe in him. However, according to a contemporary tafsir, Tadabbur-i-Quran, by a Pakistani scholar, Amin Ahsan Islahi (d. 1997), this verse does not refer to Jesus (sws) but to the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad (sws). He contends that the word, him in the verse alludes to the Quran, and the word his ˜And there is none among
If this interpretation were to be accepted, then this verse does not confirm Jesus second coming. The ambiguity that seems to prevail here (4:159) does make sense. These verses actually deny the Jewish claim that they killed Jesus (sws). Since the Quran asserts the universal principle that God and his Messengers (rusul) must prevail over their opponents (58:21), it would be a contradiction in terms to believe that Jesus (sws) was crucified by Jews. It may be remembered that according to Islahi, while this principle does not apply to anbiya (Prophets) who belong to a category different from the rusul (Messnegers). Every rasul, as we know, is a nabi but every nabi is not necessarily a rasul. Since Jesus (sws) was a rasul, it would have been against the sunnat Allah (Gods way) to allow one of His rusul to be defeated or killed by his opponents.3 In this context, it does not seem proper to discuss Jesus advent at this point. By the same token, one would expect that the strange and unusual incident, which is said to have taken place should have been stated explicitly. Parrinder discusses different interpretations of this Quranic verse and seems to have a point in his conclusion that the cumulative effect of the Quranic verse is strongly in favor of a real death˜the cumulative effect
One of the most significant debates in this book is about the alleged biological relationship between God and Jesus (sws), as believed by the Christians. Parrinder tries to give a non-biological interpretation of a expression Son of God, and he seems to be right in saying that the Christian belief in Christ as the son of God leads to the idea of the Trinity, which is of course a non-Biblical doctrine. In his opinion, to say God is Christ is a statement not found anywhere in the New Testament or in the Christian creeds (p. 133). Significantly, with regard to the debates on the Trinity the author points out that the early Christians used the expression Son of God to denote close relationship to God (p. 139). This view seems to be in harmony with the Islamic doctrine on the matter because, according to a tradition, the last Prophet Muhammad (sws) called all creatures to be the children of God (ayal Allah)4. Quite obviously, this expression does not signify any biological relationship between God and His creates; it simply signifies God˜Son of God, and he seems to
Elaborating the Quranic view of Injil, the author observes that the Quran does not attribute the corruption of Injil to the Christians. In this view, this is a polemical statement that was made by Muslims sometime after the revelation of the Quran. Parrinder mentions Abu Rayhan al-Biruni (d. after 442/1050) as one of the early exponents of this viewpoint. It is correct in the sense that the Quran does not say this categorically, but it blames the Christians to have distorted Gods message. As evidence it quotes their belief in Christ as Son of God ˜Son
It is certainly the need of the hour to build bridges between the different branches of the Abrahamic religious tradition. In this context, the present work is a serious and thought-provoking study which should contribute to that purpose. The author has made a sustained effort to establish the Quranic teachings about Jesus (sws). In conclusion, he rightly says the following about Islam: ts prophetic witness to the unity of God, and in general to the humanity of Jesus (sws) and his mother, was a needful corrective which the church largely ignored ˜Its prophetic