Isa al-Masih (Jesus Christ)

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An old Turkish depiction of the ascension of the Islamic Isa.

In orthodox Islam, Isa al-Masih (عيسى المسيح usually translated as Jesus Christ) is believed to be a prophet, second in rank to Muhammad, and not the son of God. Indeed, associating divinity with Jesus is decried as blasphemy in the Qur'an time and again. The Qur'an, though, does have its own Christological vision of Jesus' mission on earth and his incarnation in the virgin Mary. Islamic holy literature including the Qur'an also carries over many fantastic tales of the doings of Jesus from apocryphal literature.

The Conception of Isa

The Qur'anic verses 21:91 and 66:12 in conjunction with the tafsirs, tell us the angel Jibreel (جبريل Gabriel) was sent to breathe Allah's spirit into Maryam's (Mary's) vagina in order to conceive Jesus.

[وَمَرْيَمَ ابْنَةَ عِمْرَانَ الَّتِى أَحْصَنَتْ فَرْجَهَا]

(And Maryam, the daughter of `Imran who guarded her chastity (private part).) meaning, who protected and purified her honor, by being chaste and free of immorality,

[فَنَفَخْنَا فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِنَا]

(And We breathed into it (private part) through Our Ruh,) meaning, through the angel Jibril. Allah sent the angel Jibril to Maryam, and he came to her in the shape of a man in every respect. Allah commanded him to blow into a gap of her garment and that breath went into her womb through her private part; this is how `Isa was conceived.

No More Than a Messenger

The Qur'an designates Jesus as a "rasul" (رسول) "messenger" or "apostle", putting him on the same level as the prophet Muhammad in this regard. This is, in effect, an attack on the trinitarian, god-unity conception of him in orthodox Christianity, which is underscored by how he is placed together with the other "messengers".

Christ the son of Mary was no more than a messenger; many were the messengers that passed away before him. His mother was a woman of truth. They had both to eat their (daily) food. See how Allah doth make His signs clear to them; yet see in what ways they are deluded away from the truth!

Who was Given the Injil

The Qur'an talks of the Injil (إنجيل) referring to the New Testament of the Bible (usually the four Gospels) as being given to Jesus, rather than being written by his followers. The Qur'an also treats this as one book instead of many (and not as the general "good news" of Jesus' incarnation, death, and resurrections as the word is used in Christian literature):

And We sent after them in their footsteps Isa, son of Marium, verifying what was before him of the Taurat and We gave him the Injeel in which was guidance and light, and verifying what was before it of Taurat and a guidance and an admonition for those who guard (against evil).

The Crucifixion of Isa

Islam's portrayal of the crucifixion of Jesus differs vastly from the mainstream Christian view and approaches the Gnostic view. According to Islamic theology, Jesus was never crucified. It was merely a deception by Allah who made it appear that he was. This conception of Jesus' crucifixion curiously borrows elements from the docetist heresy (in Greek Δοκηταί Dokētaí , from the word δοκεῖν/δόκησις dokeĩn "to seem", dókēsis "apparition, phantom), a heresy which otherwise is the total opposite of the Islamic christology: in this conception, Jesus was a totally unearthly, divine being, without even a human body. Knowledge of its doctrines in the present day are based on several apocryphal works which have been discovered, particularly from the Nag Hammadi cache of gnostic Christian texts.

The dates of authorship for these writings show the relative lateness of the doctrine. All of The canonical Christian scriptures were authored during the 1st century A.D. The Coptic Apocalypse of Peter and the Second Treatise of the Great Seth were authored during the 3rd century A.D.[1][2] Meanwhile, according the traditional Muslim chronology, the Qur'an was revealed between 610-632 AD; its initial compilation was in 633 AD; and a "revisionary committee" preserved a standardized version sometime between 644-656 AD. Possible modern findings allow for an even earlier date of composition, but no estimate puts any Qur'anic material as in existence before the 5th century.


That they rejected Faith; that they uttered against Mary a grave false charge; That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah";- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:- Nay, Allah raised him up unto Himself; and Allah is Exalted in Power, Wise;- And there is none of the People of the Book but must believe in him before his death; and on the Day of Judgment he will be a witness against them;-

Gnostic Writings

The Savior said to me, "He whom you see above the cross, glad and laughing, is the living Jesus. But he into whose hands and feet they are driving the nails is his physical part, which is the substitute. They are putting to shame that which is in his likeness. But look at him and me."

But I, when I had looked, said, "Lord, no one is looking at you. Let us flee this place." But he said to me, "I have told you, 'Leave the blind alone!' And notice how they do not know what they are saying. For the son of their glory, instead of my servant, they have put to shame."

And I saw someone about to approach us who looked like him, even him who was laughing about the cross, and he was <filled> with a pure spirit, and he (was) the Savior...And he said to me, "Be strong! For you are the one to whom these mysteries have been given, to know through revelation that he whom they have crucified is first-born, and the home of demons, and the clay vessel in which they dwell...But he who stands near him is the living Savior...
"And I was in the mouths of lions. And (as for) the counsel which they planned about me against destruction of their deception and their foolishness, I did not give in to them as they had devised. And I was not afflicted at all. Those there punished me, yet I did no die in solid reality but in what appears.....For my death which they think happened, (happened) to them in their error and blindness. They nailed their man up to their death. For their minds did not see me, for they were deaf and blind. But in doing these things, they render judgment against themselves...For when I came down no one saw me. For I kept changing my forms above, transforming from appearance to appearance.

Canonical Christian Scriptures

The doctrine of Jesus' escape from the crucifixion starkly contrasts with all of the writings of Paul the apostle, as well as the canonical gospels, which along with the testimony of some Roman historians such as Tacitus and Josephus constitute our earliest testimony on the life of Jesus. The aforementioned Roman historians agree with the gospels that Jesus was executed by the Roman state, and modern historians tend to rate the reality of the crucifixion as the single most certainly true aspect of the gospels.


Acts of the Apostles

The Return of Isa

Muslim apocalyptic literature says that Jesus will return as a Muslim and will break the cross (destroy Christianity), kill swine (This may be a reference to the destruction of the Jews, as the Qur'an says Jews were once turned into apes and pigs[3]), and advance the cause of Islam. He will also abolish the jizyah, which will leave Jews and Christians with only two options, to convert to Islam or face execution and enslavement. Verse 9:29 calls for the subduing of Jews and Christians.

Fight those who believe not in Allah or the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.


When (Jesus) the son of Mary is held up as an example, behold, thy people raise a clamour threat (in ridicule)! And they say, "Are our gods best, or he?" This they set forth to thee, only by way of disputation: yea, they are a contentious people. He was no more than a servant: We granted Our favour to him, and We made him an example to the Children of Israel. And if it were Our Will, We could make angels from amongst you, succeeding each other on the earth. And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt about the (Hour), but follow ye Me: this is a Straight Way. Let not the Evil One hinder you: for he is to you an enemy avowed. When Jesus came with Clear Signs, he said: "Now have I come to you with Wisdom, and in order to make clear to you some of the (points) on which ye dispute: therefore fear Allah and obey me. "For Allah, He is my Lord and your Lord: so worship ye Him: this is a Straight Way."
Quran 43:57-64 (Yusufali), see also Quran 4:159


Islam carries over its apocalyptic tradition from Christianity. As such the hadith teaches that Jesus will come back to fight for Islam.

Narrated AbuHurayrah: The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: There is no prophet between me and him, that is, Jesus (peace be upon him). He will descent (to the earth). When you see him, recognise him: a man of medium height, reddish fair, wearing two light yellow garments, looking as if drops were falling down from his head though it will not be wet. He will fight the people for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill swine, and abolish jizyah. Allah will perish all religions except Islam. He will destroy the Antichrist and will live on the earth for forty years and then he will die. The Muslims will pray over him.
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said, “By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, surely (Jesus,) the son of Mary will soon descend amongst you and will judge mankind justly (as a Just Ruler); he will break the Cross and kill the pigs and there will be no Jizya (i.e. taxation taken from non Muslims). Money will be in abundance so that nobody will accept it, and a single prostration to Allah (in prayer) will be better than the whole world and whatever is in it.” Abu Huraira added “If you wish, you can recite (this verse of the Holy Book): — ‘And there is none Of the people of the Scriptures (Jews and Christians) But must believe in him (i.e Jesus as an Apostle of Allah and a human being) Before his death. And on the Day of Judgment He will be a witness Against them.” (4.159) (See Fateh Al Bari, Page 302 Vol 7)

As in Christian apocalyptic literature, on judgment day Jesus will judge the people by the words of the Qur'an.

Narrated Abu Huraira: Allah’s Apostle said “How will you be when the son of Mary (i.e. Jesus) descends amongst you and he will judge people by the Law of the Quran and not by the law of Gospel (Fateh-ul Bari page 304 and 305 Vol 7)

It is further worth noting that the life and purpose of Jesus as outlined in the Islamic scriptures differs a great deal from the narrative presented regarding Jesus in Christian scriptures.

See Also

  • Jesus - A hub page that leads to other articles related to Jesus

External Links


  1. Ehrman, Bart D. (2003) The Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament. (p. 78). Oxford: Oxford University Press. "Most scholars have dated this gnostic treatis [The Coptic Apocalypse of Peter] to the third century."
  2. Ehrman, Bart D. (2003) The Lost Scriptures: Books that Did Not Make It into the New Testament. (p. 82). Oxford: Oxford University Press. "This book [The Second Treatise of the Great Seth], which was discovered at Nag Hammadi (see page 19), probably dates from the third century."
  3. Quran 5:60