Defending Christmas In An Unbelieving World – Islam (Part 1)
Knowing what people believe helps us prepare to share the Truths of Christianity with evidence and confidence. Here are some of the beliefs people have about the Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ. This part of our study looks at Islam. How would you answer their charges?
“Muslims respect and revere Jesus (peace be upon him). They consider him one of the greatest of God’s messengers to mankind. The Quran confirms his virgin birth, and a chapter of the Quran is entitled ‘Maryam’ (Mary). The Quran describes the birth of Jesus as follows: (Remember) when the angels said, “O Mary, God gives you good news of a word from Him (God), whose name is the Messiah Jesus, son of Mary, revered in this world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near (to God). He will speak to the people from his cradle and as a man, and he is of the righteous.” She said, “My Lord, how can I have a child when no mortal has touched me?” He said, “So (it will be). God creates what He wills. If He decrees a thing, He says to it only, ‘Be!’ and it is.” (Quran 3:45-47)
“People of the Book (Jews and Christians)! Do not exceed the limits in your religion, and attribute to God nothing except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was only a Messenger of God, and His command that He conveyed unto Mary, and a spirit from Him. So believe in God and in His Messengers, and do not say: ‘God is a Trinity.’ Give up this assertion; it would be better for you. God is indeed just One God. Far be it from His glory that He should have a son. To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth. God is sufficient for a guardian” (Quran 4:171).
“Say: “God is Unique! God, the Source [of everything]. He has not fathered anyone nor was He fathered, and there is nothing comparable to Him!” (Quran 112:1-4).
“Such was Jesus, the son of Mary; it is a statement of truth, about which they vainly dispute. It is not befitting to the majesty of God, that He should beget a son. Glory be to Him! When He determines a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be’ and it is” (Quran 19:34-35).
“Jesus was born miraculously through the same power which had brought Adam into being without a father: Truly, the likeness of Jesus with God is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, and then said to him, ‘Be!’ and he was.” (Quran 3:59)
“The Prophet Muhammad said: ‘Whoever believes there is no god but God, alone without partner, that Muhammad is His messenger, that Jesus is the servant and messenger of God, His word breathed into Mary and a spirit emanating from Him, and that Paradise and Hell are true, shall be received by God into Heaven.” (Hadith from Bukhari)
Muslims believe that Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary, calling Him Isa ibn Maryam, “Jesus the Son of Mary” (Qur’an 19:34). The Koran declares that Jesus is unique among the prophets because of His Virgin Birth. The Koran speaks of the sins of the prophets, but never attributes sin to Jesus. The Koran refers to Him as the “holy Son” (Qur’an 19:19) and presents Jesus as the only prophet with the power to create life, heal the sick, cleanse lepers, give sight to the blind, and raise the dead (Qur’an 3:49; 5:110). The Koran also gives Jesus the titles of Al Masih (the Messiah), Ruh Allah (Soul/Spirit of God) and Kalimat Allah (the Word of God). So, do Muslims believe what Christians believe about Jesus – that He is the Eternal Son of God? They do not– and that causes an irreparable divide between Christians and Muslims.
I wrote extensively about the history of Islam in “A History of Man’s Quest for Immortality,” so I’ll share just a brief background for this study.
Muhammad was born in 570 AD in the city of Mecca. His father died before he was born and his mother died when he was six, so Muhammad was raised by his uncle, who was the chief of the Quraish tribe. Muhammad worked with trade caravans as a young person and married the owner of a caravan when he was 25. When Muhammad was 40 years old, he said he had a vision of the angel Gabriel calling him to be a prophet of God. His wife, Khadija, supported him and became his first disciple. Muhammad said he received more visions from Gabriel and began to preach publicly. He moved to what is now known as Medina in 622 AD, which is the first year of the Muslim calendar. His followers became known as Muslims (Arabic for “one who submits to God”). Muhammad and his disciples prayed facing Jerusalem at first, but turned their backs on the city when Jews in Medina opposesd him. Muhammad and his followers marched on Mecca in 630 AD and destroyed the idols of the Arabian gods and turned the Ka’ba shrine into a mosque of Allah. Muhammad became the ruler of Mecca and instituted new laws based on the revelations he said he received from Gabriel. Muhammad died two years later.
Muhammad saw himself as the last prophet of God and believed only his revelations were complete and final. All the revelations given to the prophets before Muhammad were incomplete, according to Muhammad. The revelations Muhammad said he received from God through Gabriel became known as the Qur’an (“the recital”) While some of the stories in the Koran (Qur’an) are similar in subject matter to those in the the Hebrew and Christian Bible, the differences are large – especially about the Person of Jesus Christ.
Several things stand out to me about Muhammad and Islam. The first is that he said he received spiritual revelations from the angel Gabriel. Gabriel is mentioned in both the Hebrew Bible (Book of Daniel) and New Testament (Luke). God sent Gabriel to Daniel in Persia and Mary and Joseph in Israel to deliver specific messages to them about God’s plans for Israel and its Messiah. Did Gabriel also appear to Muhammad and give him further revelations about the end times and the Messiah for the new religion of Islam (“submission, surrender” to God)?
Let’s get something on the table at the beginning of our study about Islam – Muslims do not like the Apostle Paul. They view him as a false, self-proclaimed apostle of Jesus and the man who corrupted Christianity. Why this hatred and distrust of a man Jesus called personally from Heaven? Several reasons, but here are three to consider.
1. Paul was an inspired teacher who presented doctrines opposite to Muhammad’s on numerous important issues – the most important being the Person of Jesus Christ. Muhammad believed Jesus was a great prophet. Paul believed Jesus is the Great God.
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” Colossians 1:15-16
“Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” Colossians 2:8-10
“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16
“For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in the present age,looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works. Speak these things, exhort, and rebuke with all authority. Let no one despise you.” Titus 2:11-15
2. Paul was also an inspired prophet and warned about the danger of Islam centuries before Muhammad was born.
” I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” Galatians 1:6-9
No wonder Muslims cannot stand Paul and his teachings. Paul calls out Islam for what it is – a false gospel.
3. Paul wrote his Letters to churches before the Gospels were written, so Muslims believe Paul was able to pervert the true Gospel through his influence on Christ’s original Apostles. What they miss is the great event in Jerusalem where Christ’s original Apostles agreed with Paul about the Gospel Jesus had given him to preach. This was not perversion, but Divine Direction.
“Then all the multitude kept silent and listened to Barnabas and Paul declaring how many miracles and wonders God had worked through them among the Gentiles. And after they had become silent, James answered, saying, ‘Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: ‘After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, And I will set it up; So that the rest of mankind may seek the Lord, Even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the Lord who does all these things.’ ‘Known to God from eternity are all His works. Therefore I judge that we should not trouble those from among the Gentiles who are turning to God, but that we write to them to abstain from things polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from things strangled, and from blood. For Moses has had throughout many generations those who preach him in every city, being read in the synagogues every Sabbath.’ Then it pleased the apostles and elders, with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas, namely, Judas who was also named Barsabas, and Silas, leading men among the brethren. They wrote this letter by them: The apostles, the elders, and the brethren, To the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch, Syria, and Cilicia: Greetings. Since we have heard that some who went out from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your souls, saying, ‘You must be circumcised and keep the law’ —to whom we gave no such commandment—it seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul,men who have risked their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who will also report the same things by word of mouth. For it seemed good to the Holy Spirit, and to us, to lay upon you no greater burden than these necessary things: that you abstain from things offered to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality. If you keep yourselves from these, you will do well. Farewell.” Acts 15:12-29
“Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain. Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you. But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.” Galatians 2:1-10
Jesus gave Paul a specific calling to the uncircumcised that Jews of his time did not understand and Muslims of our time do not understand. Paul did not pervert the Gospel of Jesus Christ – he took it new heights under the supervision of the Holy Spirit of God Who called Paul to be the Apostle to the Gentiles. Muslims are gentiles and should listen to Paul’s Gospel – “for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes.” (Romans 1:16)
In Christ’s Love and Grace,
Building Confidence Through Evidence
“Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”