Allah, His Word, and 'Isa

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Kalima[edit]

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.[1] Many times it refers to the thoughts and expressions of Allah that are revealed to his messengers, like Muhammad.

And Allah by His words [kalimati] doth prove and establish His truth, however much the sinners may hate it!

The Word of Allah can also refer to earlier revelations.[edit]

But (now that the Qur'an has come), they reject it: But soon will they know! Already has Our Word [Kalimatunā] been passed before (this) to our Servants sent (by Us),
Then learnt Adam from his Lord words of inspiration [kalimatin], and his Lord Turned towards him; for He is Oft-Returning, Most Merciful.

'Isa and the Word of Allah[edit]

John the Baptist: Witness for Allah's Word[edit]

While he was standing in prayer in the chamber, the angels called unto him: "Allah doth give thee glad tidings of Yahya, witnessing the truth of a Word from Allah [kalimatin mina Allāhi], and (be besides) noble, chaste, and a prophet,- of the (goodly) company of the righteous."

"The Word's name will be Christ Jesus."[edit]

Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah giveth thee glad tidings of a Word [kalimatin] 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 Allah;

Christ Jesus Is Allah's Word[edit]

O People of the Book! Commit no excesses in your religion: Nor say of Allah aught but the truth. Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) a messenger of Allah, and His Word [kalimatu], which He bestowed on Mary, and a spirit proceeding from Him: so believe in Allah and His messengers. Say not "Trinity" : desist: it will be better for you: for Allah is one Allah: Glory be to Him: (far exalted is He) above having a son. To Him belong all things in the heavens and on earth. And enough is Allah as a Disposer of affairs.

Muslim Claim: 'Isa is the word "Be"[edit]

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."[2][3] 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[4])?!

Tafsir Ibn Kathir[edit]

Al-Masih `Isa, son of Maryam, was (no more than) a Messenger of Allah and His Word, which He bestowed on Maryam and a spirit from [created by] Him; `Isa is only one of Allah's servants and one of His creatures. Allah said to him, `Be', and he was, and He sent him as a Messenger. `Isa was a word from Allah that He bestowed on Maryam, meaning He created him with the word `Be' that He sent with Jibril to Maryam.

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."

Jibril blew the life of `Isa into Maryam by Allah's leave, and `Isa came to existence as a result. This incident was in place of the normal conception between man and woman that results in children. This is why `Isa was a word and a Ruh (spirit) created by Allah, as he had no father to conceive him. Rather, he came to existence through the word that Allah uttered, `Be,' and he was, through the life that Allah sent with Jibril.

The verse in question is Qur'an 3:59 which states:

The similitude of Jesus before Allah is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: "Be". And he was.

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...

`Abdur-Razzaq narrated that Ma`mar said that Qatadah said that the Ayah, And His Word, which He bestowed on Maryam and a spirit from [created by] Him; means, He said, "Be" and he was. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Ahmad bin Sinan Al-Wasiti said that he heard Shadh bin Yahya saying about Allah's statement, and His Word, which He bestowed on Maryam and a spirit from [created by] Him; "`Isa was not the word. Rather, `Isa came to existence because of the word."

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:

Prophet `Isa (Jesus) has been referred in the Qur'an as "Kalimatullah" (the Word of Allah) (4:171). What these words really mean is that he was born in an unusual manner, without being fathered by anyone, only on the express fiat of Allah.[5]

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...

Al-Bukhari recorded that `Ubadah bin As-Samit said that the Prophet said, "If anyone testifies that none has the right to be worshipped but Allah Alone Who has no partners, and that Muhammad is His servant and Messenger, and that `Isa is Allah's servant and Messenger and His Word which He bestowed on Maryam and a spirit created by Him, and that Paradise is true and Hell is true, then Allah will admit him into Paradise with the deeds which he performed."

Well, look at that! Confirmation from Muhammad that 'Isa is Allah's Word!

In another narration, the Prophet said,"...through any of the eight doors of Paradise he wishes." Muslim also recorded it. Therefore, `Ruh from Allah', in the Ayah and the Hadith is similar to Allah's statement, "And has subjected to you all that is in the heavens and all that is in the earth; it is all from Him." meaning, from His creation. `from Him' does not mean that it is a part of Him, as the Christians claim, may Allah's continued curses be upon them.

Now Ibn Kathir gets really desperate...

Saying that something is from Allah, such as the spirit of Allah, the she-camel of Allah or the House of Allah, is meant to honor such items. Allah said, This is the she-camel of Allah and, and sanctify My House for those who circumambulate it. An authentic Hadith states, "I will enter on my Lord in His Home." All these examples are meant to honor such items when they are attributed to Allah in this manner.

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[edit]

"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.[6]

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[edit]

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.[7]

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.

John the Baptist identified as a witness

There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.

Christ identified as the Word and John confirmed as his witness

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only,[or Only Begotten] who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, "This was he of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.' "

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.

Conclusion[edit]

Perhaps Mark Beaumont put it best when he wrote

If Christ is word and spirit from God then surely he shares attributes of God in such a way that makes him divine as well as human.[8]

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.

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See Also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary - "word"
  2. 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) ]...
  3. 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.
  4. Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary - "word"
  5. 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
  6. JESUS IS "A WORD" OF ALLAH AND A "SPIRIT" FROM ALLAH
  7. Encyclopædia Britannica Online - Saint Justin Martyr - 2009
  8. 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.