if the largest and most successful american and european public relations companies convened, cooperating closely, dedicating themselves and utilizing all their human, technical, and material resources to outline a profile of prophet jesus (peace be upon him) and offer the most attractive picture of him to mankind, what would the world community say about such an undertaking? how would it describe this endeavor? undoubtedly, it would describe it as a refined, unbiased effort, and as devotion to the revered messiah. many other positive and fitting adjectives could be used for it.
if this should be an imaginary proposal, then there is an actual accomplishment that surpasses it by innumerable degrees in relation to the magnitude of its presentation, depth of its content, sincerity of its style, intimacy of its description and length of its duration.
that religious, historical, humanitarian, and ethical reality is that prophet muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) presented his brother, the messiah, jesus, son of mary, to the world community in a most superb image. that profile and presentation was not a political campaign subject to the drawbacks and inadequacies that characterize such efforts. in presenting his noble brother, the prophet of islam followed a method that is not subject to shortcomings and failings. that method is through the qur’anic text, which contains no falsehood and has been unaltered with time, and teachings of the prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), who did not speak of his own accord. the duration of this presentation is not limited to a week, month or year ,s time; rather it extends from the time of its revelation to prophet muhammad in the sixth century until the day of resurrection. the presentation of the messiah is not through an obsolete text, or an outdated document preserved in a library or a museum. it is through the living qur’an, which is recited in prayers, taught at schools and universities, and heard on radio and television day and night.
it is the right of every intelligent reader and researcher to ask intelligently, objectively and seriously about any statement that could be seen as a mere claim, «what is the evidence and proof supporting it?»
the answer is as follows:
first, there is presentation and introduction of the messiah in the qur’an:
presentation of the miracle of his birth: «then she brought him to her people, carrying him. they said, o mary, you have certainly done a thing unprecedented. o sister [i.e., descendant] of aaron, your father was not a man of evil, nor was your mother unchaste. so she pointed to him. they said, how can we speak to one who is in the cradle a child? [jesus] said, indeed, i am the servant of god. he has given me the scripture and made me a prophet. and he has made me blessed wherever i am and has enjoined upon me prayer and charity as long as i remain alive and [made me] dutiful to my mother, and he has not made me a wretched tyrant. and peace is on me the day i was born and the day i will die and the day i am raised alive.» (surah maryam, 19:27-33)
presentation of his beautiful character:
«[and mention] when the angels said, «o mary, indeed god gives you good tidings of a word from him, whose name will be the messiah, jesus, the son of mary – distinguished in this world and the hereafter and among those brought near [to god].» (surah aali ‘imraan, 3:45)
presentation of the miraculous nature of his prophethood and mission: «god will say, o jesus, son of mary, remember my favor upon you and upon your mother when i supported you with the pure spirit [i.e., the angel gabriel] and you spoke to the people in the cradle and in maturity. and [remember] when i taught you writing and wisdom and the torah and the gospel; and when you designed from clay [what was] like the form of a bird with my permission, then you breathed into it, and it became a bird with my permission; and you healed the blind [from birth] and the leper with my permission; and when you brought forth the dead with my permission.» (surah al-ma’idah, 5:110)
presentation of the fact that gospel revealed to him: «and we sent, following in their footsteps, jesus, the son of mary, confirming that which came before him in the torah; and we gave him the gospel, in which was guidance and light and confirming that which preceded it of the torah as guidance and instruction for the righteous.» (surah al-ma’idah, 5:46)
presentation of his approach and message, which ordered the worship of god alone: «i said not to them except what you commanded me – to worship god, my lord and your lord.» (surah al-ma’idah, 5:117) this approach also taught people wisdom and pointed out to them the standard for settling differences: «and when jesus brought clear proofs, he said, i have come to you with wisdom [i.e., prophethood] and to make clear to you some of that over which you differ.» (surah az-zukhruf, 43:63)
and there is proof of it from the prophet,s sunnah (his sayings and teachings). prophet muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) said:
«while i was asleep, i was circumambulating the ka‘bah and there came a brown man with straight hair, between two men against whom he leaned, with water dripping from his head. i said, who is that? i was told, he is the son of mary.»
prophet muhammad also described his brother, jesus, son of mary, as «of medium height and ruddy as if he has just come out of a bath,» which implies purity, brightness, and radiance.
prophet muhammad also said, «i am nearest to the son of mary in this world and the hereafter. there is no other prophet between him and me. prophets are brothers from their father,s side, having various mothers; and our religion is one.»
he also said, «whoever testifies that there is no deity other than god, alone with no partner, that muhammad is his servant and messenger, that jesus is god,s servant and messenger and his word which he bestowed upon mary and a spirit from him, and that paradise is true and hell is true – god shall admit him into paradise according to his deeds.» an-nawawi, a well known islamic scholar, commented on this narration, saying, «this is a statement of great significance; it is among the most comprehensive ones about belief.»
second, there is presentation in the qur,an of the disciples and followers of the messiah in an image of utmost grace, perfection and spiritual refinement, for the presentation of the messiah included the presentation of his noble and righteous disciples:
«but when jesus felt [persistence in] disbelief from them, he said, who are my supporters for [the cause of] god? the disciples said, we are supporters for god. we have believed in god and testify that we are muslims [submitting to him]. our lord, we have believed in what you revealed and have followed the messenger [i.e., jesus], so register us among the witnesses [to truth].» (surah aali ‘imraan, 3:52-53)
«o you who have believed, be supporters of god, as when jesus, the son of mary, said to the disciples, who are my supporters for god? the disciples said, we are supporters of god.» (surah as-saff, 61:14) in this verse muslims are invited to follow the example of the disciples in supporting the prophets and upholding the way of truth.
similarly, the disciples receive god,s praise in the qur’an because they followed christ in all sincerity: «then we sent following their footsteps our messengers and followed [them] with jesus, the son of mary, and gave him the gospel. and we placed in the hearts of those who followed him compassion and mercy...» (surah al-hadeed, 57:27)
something closely connected to the above and part and parcel of it is the qur’an,s defense of the righteous christians who clung to their faith and were exposed to great harm but remained steadfast in their religion.
among them are the young men of the cave, after whom a chapter of the qur’an is named. these were upright christian young men pursuing a sound course. the qur’an praises and commemorates them: «or have you thought that the companions of the cave and the inscription were, among our signs, a wonder? [mention] when the youths retreated to the cave and said, our lord, grant us from yourself mercy and prepare for us from our affair right guidance. so we cast [a cover of sleep] over their ears within the cave for a number of years. then we awakened them that we might show which of the two factions was most precise in calculating what [extent] they had remained in time. it is we who relate to you, [o muhammad], their story in truth. indeed, they were youths who believed in their lord, and we increased them in guidance.» (surah al-kahf, 18:9-13)
and among them were are those burned in the trench, also a group of christians. the qur’an commemorates them while condemning and denouncing their persecutors: «destroyed [i.e., cursed] were the companions of the trench [containing] the fire full of fuel, when they were sitting near it and they, to what they were doing against the believers, were witnesses. and they resented them not except because they believed in god, the exalted in might, the praiseworthy, to whom belongs the dominion of the heavens and the earth. and god, over all things, is witness. indeed, those who have tortured the believing men and believing women and then have not repented will have the punishment of hell, and they will have the punishment of the burning fire.»
(surah al-buruj, 84:4-10)
in summary, we can say that evidence recurs and each proof supports the other in confirming that islam presents christ (peace be upon him), his gospel, his method, his mission and his disciples in a perfect and most sublime image. it also defends the persecuted christian believers in a manner that shows love for them and abhorrence for their tyrannical oppressors. i am pleased to offer these statements, supported by evidences, as a gift to the christians of the world.
if there is a conclusion or statement to be added, it is this: how can islam be condemned when it offers such a splendid portrayal of christ? how can light be blamed for being light? why should the presenting of christ as sublime and dignified become a pretext to discredit prophet muhammad and his religion?
we believe in christ as a prophet and a messenger of god. we love and esteem him, and we follow the light he brought. if others do not believe in our prophet – belief being a matter of free choice – let them at least respect him. such respect is not only morally praiseworthy, but would also demonstrate a sensible attitude, for reasonable people appreciate and respect those who respect the ones they love and believe in.
now as in the past, the intolerance of muslims and christians and exchanges of insults between them appears absurd. it can only be instigated by small minded people when viewed in light of the sound, sincere and honorable relationship between the two great men: muhammad and jesus christ.
do the christians of the world know that belief in the messiah, jesus, the son of mary, as a prophet and messenger is one of the basic elements of belief for every muslim? it is even a condition for the soundness of every muslim,s belief in prophet muhammad in the sense that a muslim,s belief in prophet muhammad is unacceptable and rejected unless it is combined with belief that jesus, the son of mary, was a prophet and messenger.
do the christians of the world know this fact?
some of them do, particularly christians of the arab world who speak arabic, for their knowledge of the language allows them, for example, to consider this qur’anic verse:
«say, [o believers], we have believed in god and what has been revealed to us and what has been revealed to abraham and ishmael and isaac and jacob and the descendants and what was given to moses and jesus and what was given to the prophets from their lord. we make no distinction between any of them, and we are muslims [in submission] to him.» (surah al-baqarah, 2:136)
some christians know this fact, but the majority do not. it is most likely that, together with other factors, their lack of knowledge of this fact has caused a great deal of misunderstanding in the way they have responded to islam.
however, he who does not know cannot be an authority over people who do know; rather, the opposite should be true.
moreover, it is an obligation at all times to state openly that a muslim,s belief is unacceptable unless he believes in the prophethood and mission of jesus, the son of mary. it is not permissible to withhold this acknowledgment just because of some people,s hostility to prophet muhammad. in this context a question might be raised: why should muslims not resort to the same tactics as the people who disparage the status of prophet muhammad and curse and slander him? the same tactics, of course, means disparaging, cursing, and slandering jesus, son of mary. but this is regarded in islamic law as disbelief. such an act would cast the offender out of the religion of islam. for muslim believers there is no difference between insulting or ridiculing christ and insulting or ridiculing muhammad. none would differentiate between them except a disbeliever in all the prophets and messengers. in fact, he would not be a true believer in god. the qur,an says: «indeed, those who disbelieve in god and his messengers and wish to discriminate between god and his messengers and say, we believe in some and disbelieve in others, and wish to adopt a way in between – those are the disbelievers, truly. and we have prepared for the disbelievers a humiliating punishment. but they who believe in god and his messengers and do not discriminate between any of them – to those he is going to give their rewards. and ever is god forgiving and merciful.» (surah an-nisaa’, 4:150-152)
the essence of the above statements is that religious acceptance of all prophets without any discrimination between them is the basis of moral tolerance. the extent to which the mind, heart, and soul of an individual or a nation is broad enough in capacity to accept the whole truth is an indication of the extent of one,s tolerance.
but individuals and nations continue to exchange accusations against one another, each claiming to be tolerant and accusing others of partiality. in most cases when doing so, both sides are merely following their own whims and inclinations due to lack of a sound criterion by which to judge, one which would put a stop to such arguments and injustices. but what is the true criterion?
the best and most precise criterion that can be put on the scales of justice to measure the honesty of people, the correctness of their ideology, the soundness of their thought and the superiority of their moral standards is the extent to which their minds, hearts, and souls accept the whole truth and revere and love upholders of truth at every time and place.
only by this criterion can a person be described as tolerant and another as biased. a person who is broad minded enough to accommodate the whole truth, unaffected by a tendency to be selective, and who acknowledges bearers of truth, regardless of when or where they might appear, is a truly tolerant person. and needless to say, one who is unable to do so will be intolerant. that is why it is one of the aims and tenets of islam that muslims are obliged to accept in their hearts, minds and souls the whole truth at all times and places. «[god] has ordained for you of religion what he enjoined upon noah and that which we have revealed to you, [o muhammad], and what we enjoined
upon abraham and moses and jesus – to establish the religion and not be divided therein.» (surah ash-shuraa, 42:13)
those five great men, the true leaders of enlightened human thought, who are addressed and mentioned in this verse, are the messengers of resolute purpose. they belong to different places and times as regards birth, residence, circumstances and missions, and they cover the long span of human history from noah through abraham, moses and jesus up to the time of muhammad (peace be upon them all).
in spite of the diversity of locations and long intervals of time between them, the truth they preached and advocated is the same truth as is vividly expressed in the verse above. thus, what can be called the «line of truth» is a permanent one, continuously extending into every time and place.
genuine affiliation is attachment to truth and righteousness and to those who possess them. (this, however, does not imply disregard of the importance of lineage or of belonging to a homeland, for in islam there is no conflict between these affiliations.) we have not ourselves seen prophets idrees, noah, moses, jesus, his disciples or elisha, but we love and revere them all. why? because they were good, righteous people and they had noble souls and high moral standards; and also because the truth and principles they upheld are worthy of being adhered to, and make it commendable to be associated with those great men.
the beloved jesus is a revered prophet and messenger. islam, both in its divine scripture and its prophetic teachings, praises, venerates and exalts the position of jesus. muhammad, the prophet of islam, presented jesus to the human community in a most affectionate, dignified, generous and exceptional way.
this is the great rank of the messiah, jesus, son of mary, as stated in the qur,an and in prophet muhammad ,s sunnah. in islam, respect for him is one of the basic elements of the creed.
we testify that we believe in the messiah, jesus, son of mary, as a prophet and messenger. we also testify that we love him because he is loved and was chosen by god, because he embodied mercy, peace and love. he was blessed, dutiful to his mother and a sign for the people of all times (peace be upon him).
* * * * *
jesus preached many values, precepts, concepts, and moral principles. he persevered in his preaching to make sure these moral values would flow naturally into man ,s consciousness and become an inalienable part of his conscience and the life of his society. some examples of these values may be cited:
mercy, which is the first and noblest characteristic of christ,s personality and of his message, as stated in the qur,an: «we will make him a sign to the people and a mercy from us. and it is a matter [already] decreed.» (surah maryam, 19:21) this characteristic was instinctively very clear in his mind, and therefore he denied the existence of any vestige of haughtiness or arrogance, the opposite of mercy, in his own nature: «and [god made me] dutiful to my mother, and he has not made me a wretched tyrant.» (surah maryam, 19:32) he is quoted in the bible as saying, «blessed be the meek and merciful. come to me all you who are tired and burdened and you will find comfort,
because my yoke is gentle and my burden is light.»
peace, of which jesus, the messiah, was without doubt, an advocate. this is not strange, for there was peace upon him from his birth to his resurrection, as stated in the qur’an: «and peace is on me the day i was born and the day i will die and the day i am raised alive.» (surah maryam, 19:33)
correct belief, as he said: «o children of israel, worship god, my lord and your lord. indeed, he who associates others with god – god has forbidden him paradise, and his refuge is the fire.» (surah al-ma’idah, 5:72).