“Of all the people, I am nearest to Jesus, Son of Mary.” – Muhammad(PBUH)
This is the most surprising notion for many Christians, who are unfamiliar with the position of importance Jesus PBUH) holds in the Islamic faith. He is an extremely significant figure who has been mentioned the most number of times in the Quran, the holy book of Islam.
Why is Jesus important to Muslims?
We believe that he is the last messenger of Allah to arrive before Muhammad(PBUH), and Allah’s divine word was revealed to him in the form of Injeel (Bible), or the Gospel. He was born exceptionally, without a father, and his mother, Mary or Maryam as she is called in the Quran, was a pure soul, perfect in faith and matchless in character. She was honored as the best among all the women of the world. She is beloved to us, and her name is one of the most popular names for Muslim girls.
Jesus (PBUH) was gifted with great miracles by Allah, such as his ability to speak from the cradle, heal the blind & the leper, as well as miracles of incomparable nature such as bringing the dead back to life, and creating real birds from clay. Muhammad(PBUH) has praised him as a predecessor, referred to him as a brother, and he has been described in the Quran by Allah Almighty Himself as Roohullah (the Spirit of Allah) and Kalimatullah (the Word of Allah).
His life has been spoken of in detail, in the Quran and in the Hadeeth, the sayings of Muhammad(PBUH). His existence was a message of purity and love. His life was an example of simplicity and hardwork, like that of his Prophetic brother Muhammad(PBUH). He embodied the best virtues of the heart, and has even been described as the prophet of the heart.
When Jesus(PBUH) was born, the prevailing conditions of society were very much similar to the atmosphere Muhammad(PBUH) opened eyes in. An oppressive & corrupt way of life, a disinclination towards godliness & responsibility towards God’s creation, an arrogance & open contempt towards God & His messengers, despite the unmistakable evidence that someone like Jesus presented – these were the hallmarks of his times. It was against the might of this conceit that Jesus stood up with the splendor of his trademark humility; and reminded the people, rich & poor, weak & powerful, of the greatness of God. He stayed true to his mission in the face of conflict, rejection & threat, an immovable mountain of simplicity & determination.
He preached and practiced forgiveness to the very end. The final revelation of Allah, the Quran, also tells us that he was not crucified or killed, rather he was raised to the heavens, and his betrayer was made to stand in his stead on the cross, without the realization of the people.
Jesus (PBUH) is also a very important figure in Islamic belief because the sayings of prophet Muhammad (PBUH) have foretold him as awaiting the end of time when Allah will cause him to descend back to the earth and fight the Antichrist. After doing so he will point to the primacy of Muhammad (PBUH), declare himself a Muslim, and will rule for a period of time, after which he will die a natural death.
Jesus (PBUH) and Muhammad (PBUH) are both streams from the same fountainhead of knowledge & wisdom. They do not differ in their teachings, and none of them brought a new religion. Neither did they claim divinity. Rather, they simply sought to turn people back to the religion that humanity has been revealed since the time of Adam (PBUH), Noah (PBUH), and Abraham (PBUH).
It is time that these communities realize that they share much in common; they share the same roots; the same source of light; the same God – the God of Jesus & Muhammad. It is time to acknowledge these commonalities and work to strengthen the ties of brotherhood between the two multitudes.