Allah, His Word, and 'Isa
Kalima means words in Arabic. It can also refer to the phrase known as the Shahadah. This word and its varying forms are used throughout the Quran, many times referring to the Word(s) of Allah. Kalima does not necessarily mean a speech sound or series of speech sounds that symbolizes and communicates a meaning usually without being divisible into smaller units capable of independent use. Many times it refers to the thoughts and expressions of Allah that are revealed to his messengers, like Muhammad.
 The Word of Allah can also refer to earlier revelations.
 'Isa and the Word of Allah
 John the Baptist: Witness for Allah's Word
 "The Word's name will be Christ Jesus."
 Christ Jesus Is Allah's Word
 Muslim Claim: 'Isa is the word "Be"
When Muslims are confronted with the verse describing Christ Jesus as Allah's Word, they frequently try to explain it by saying he is the word "Be." How can a human being be a literal "word" (a speech sound or series of speech sounds that symbolizes and communicates a meaning usually without being divisible into smaller units capable of independent use)?!
 Tafsir Ibn Kathir
Allah said that Jesus is Allah's Word and a spirit from Allah--although notice how Ibn Kathir added that "created by" in there? However, if we examine Ibn Kathir's explanation, you'll notice that it looks like 'Isa was already in existence. How could Allah say TO HIM, "Be," if he didn't exist yet? Ibn Kathir is explaining HOW Allah brought 'Isa into the world through the virgin Mary. It doesn't say that 'Isa is the word "Be."
Yes, the conception of 'Isa was similar in the sense that Allah didn't need to provide a paternal father and can create a human out of mere dust if he wants, but the Quran says 'Isa was created when the angel Gabriel blew Allah's spirit into Mary's vagina.
Ibn Kathir's convoluted explanation continues...
Allah's word can be a specific speech sound like "Be," if Allah literally said, "Be." So in that sense, 'Isa was not the word "be." However, the Quran specifically states in other verses that 'Isa is a word from Allah. What Ibn Kathir and other Muslims have attempted to do is blur the meanings of 'Isa being a word from Allah and 'Isa being born from a virgin in the same manner that Adam was created. Who 'Isa is and how he was born are two very separate things. For example, in the "Book of Miscellany" from the Riyad-us-Saliheen we read:
A logical, coherent explanation is never given for why the words say one thing but mean something completely different. Instead, what we are told is that 'Isa is how he came to be. In other words, the phrase "word of Allah" (when applied to 'Isa) really means "person created by the word of Allah." Why this is so is never explained.
Continuing on in the Tafsir Ibn Kathir...
Well, look at that! Confirmation from Muhammad that 'Isa is Allah's Word!
Now Ibn Kathir gets really desperate...
What a tangent...and it explains nothing since one must rely on petitio principii (logical fallacy of begging the question). Nevermind that in the verses talking about the word "Be" the Arabic kalima is never used. Also, the term "she-camel of Allah" does not necessarily imply that the she-camel was FROM Allah. The Quran states 'Isa is a spirit and word FROM Allah, not just "of" like a title of honor.
 Muslim Claim: 'Isa is only a message
"A word" of Allah means a message of Allah. If a person is referred to as "a word" from Allah, it means that he is a Messenger or a Prophet of Allah.
This is an interesting assertion since Muhammad never claimed HIMSELF to be a word from Allah but rather that he brought a message: the Quran. Muhammad claimed to be a messenger, not the message itself. But here we see that 'Isa himself was the message from Allah. If 'Isa was the message, then what was the Injil? If Allah were being consistent, he would say not that 'Isa was a word but rather that the INJIL was a word from Allah.
Where does the conclusion come from that if a person is referred to as "a word" then that means they weren't really a word but rather brought the word? In fact, as previously noted in a narration provided in the Tafsir Ibn Kathir, 'Isa is identified as a Messenger AND Allah's Word. So, 'Isa was both the message-bringer and the message itself.
 Jesus Christ, the Word, and the Bible
Scholars such as the Reverend W. St. Clair-Tisdall have argued that far from being of divine origin, the Quran is a compilation of various religious and traditional sources.
In the Greek gospel of John, the author used the word logos when referring to God's "Word". It does not mean a literal "word" such as was defined earlier but rather means something closer to "intellect." See Wikipedia's article for a more in-depth explanation on the Christian theology of the Logos. Justin Martyr, one of the most important of the Greek philosopher-Apologists in the early Christian Church (2nd century A.D.), identified Jesus Christ as the incarnation of the entire divine logos.
John the Baptist identified as a witness
Christ identified as the Word and John confirmed as his witness
It is not implausible that Muhammad heard from Waraqa, Khadija's Christian relative, or other Christians that they believed Jesus is the Word of God and John the Baptist his witness.
Perhaps Mark Beaumont put it best when he wrote
It goes to show that Islamic theology is completely contradictory when it comes to Muhammad's stance on Christ. He believed 'Isa was a word and spirit from Allah and yet he was loathe to assign him with any divinity as the Christians did (since he had an inaccurate, confused understanding of the Trinity and elevating Christ would probably have undermined Muhammad's central importance to his new religion.)
When explaining the meaning of the Quran, for centuries Muslims have said that a simple phrase means something entirely different than how it would be typically understood under any other circumstances. In an attempt to prove his legitimacy as a prophet to Christians, Muhammad incorporated typical Christian beliefs into his Quranic revelations never realizing that in doing so he elevated 'Isa to a status that contradicted the Islamic theology of no one being like Allah.
 See Also
- Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary - "word"
- Muslims Love Isa (Jesus) And His Mother - On one occasion Allah the All Mighty said in Surat Al- Imran verse 145: ( (remember) when the angles [sic] said: " Oh Mariyam (Mary)! Verily, Allah gives you the glad tidings of a word["Be!"- and he was! i.e.' Isa ( Jesus) the son of Mariyam( Mary) ]...
- Why Was Jesus Referred To As Kalimah (Word)? - It is by comparing and matching the text of the Quran that the definition for the word Kalimah has been arrived at, and concluded to be the word ‘Kun’. This is from God when He ordered Jesus to BE, as the word Kun means Be.
- Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary - "word"
- Chapter 51: Hope in Allah's Mercy - Book of Miscellany, Riyad-us-Saliheen, compiled by Al-Imam Abu Zakariya Yahya bin Sharaf An-Nawawi Ad-Dimashqi
- JESUS IS "A WORD" OF ALLAH AND A "SPIRIT" FROM ALLAH
- Encyclopædia Britannica Online - Saint Justin Martyr - 2009
- Beaumont, Mark. (2005). Christology In Dialogue With Muslims: A Critical Analysis of Christian Presentations of Christ for Muslims from the Ninth and Twentieth Centuries. (p 17). United Kingdom: Pasternoster.