By Samuel Green


This article is a comprehensive study of the subject of submission in the Bible and Qur'an. This is a subject in which the Bible and Qur'an have much in common and as such is a place where Christians and Muslims can agree at many points. The article examines submission from the time of Adam until the return of Jesus. It also asks the question as to what it means to submit to God perfectly.


The First Man to Submit

In the Qur'an and in the Bible we are told that Adam was the first man God created. Adam was the start of humanity. God made for Adam his beautiful wife, Eve. All of us are descendants of Adam and Eve.

Adam named his wife Eve, because she would become the mother of all the living. (Bible, Genesis 3:20)

O mankind! We have created you from a male and a female. (Qur'an, 49:13, 4:1, Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali)

The Qur'an and Bible both say that when God created Adam he placed him in the garden. The garden was a perfect place, a place of life where everything was provided, and Adam lived in perfect submission to God. However, the situation did not stay this way. Adam listened to the lies of Satan and failed to submit to God. Adam ate of the fruit that God commanded him not to eat. Adam sinned.

And We said: O Adam! Dwell thou and thy wife in the Garden, and eat ye freely (of the fruits) thereof where ye will; but come not nigh this tree lest ye become wrong-doers. But Satan caused them to deflect therefrom and expelled them from the (happy) state in which they were; and We said: Fall down, one of you a foe unto the other! There shall be for you on earth a habitation and provision for a time. (Qur'an, 2:35-36, Pickthall)

They said: Our Lord! We have wronged ourselves. If thou forgive us not and have not mercy on us, surely we are of the lost! He said: Go down (from hence), one of you a foe unto the other. There will be for you on earth a habitation and provision for a while. He said: There shall ye live, and there shall ye die, and thence shall ye be brought forth. (Qur'an, 7:23-25, Pickthall)

How serious was Adam's sin? It was very serious because it was the first sin, and by it Adam's state of perfect submission to God was lost (2:35, 7:23). We can also know how serious an offence is by considering God's judgement upon it. A large punishment would be a large sin, and a small punishment would be a small sin. The above verses from the Qur'an show that there are four aspects to God's judgement:

  1. God expelled Adam and Eve from the garden/paradise and from all of its benefits.
  2. Adam and Eve will now fight each other (2:36, 7:24).
  3. Adam and Eve no longer have eternal life in paradise but will die on earth (7:25).
  4. Adam and Eve no longer have a close relationship with God in the garden.

This is serious, and this judgement of God affects us all. It is because of Adam's sin that there is fighting in the world now. It is because of Adam's sin that you die. It is because of Adam's sin that we all fail to perfectly submit to God. Anyone who thinks that Adam's sin was only a small offence has never properly considered the Qur'an or the Bible.

The Qur'an also shows that sin now had a powerful hold on Adam, for it records his next sin outside of the garden.

It is He who created you out of one living soul, and made of him his spouse that he might rest in her. Then, when he covered her, she bore a light burden and passed by with it; but when it became heavy they cried to God their Lord, "If Thou givest us a righteous son, we indeed shall be of the thankful." Thereafter, when He gave them a righteous son, they assigned Him associates in that He had given them; but God is high exalted above that they associate. What, do they associate that which creates nothing and themselves are created, and that have no power to help them, neither they help themselves? (Qur'an 7:189-192, Arberry)

Thus, Adam is not just the biological father of us all, he is also the father of the sin of associating others with God (shirk).

The Children of Adam

Where were you born? You may answer by saying Europe, the Middle East, Africa, Asia or somewhere else. But where does the Bible and the Qur'an say you were born? Both of these books say that you were born outside of the garden/paradise. If Adam had obeyed God we would have been born in the garden and would be perfect, but now we are born outside. Even though we live outside of the garden God still calls upon us to submit to him. Our desire should be to submit to God perfectly, but what does it mean to do this?

What if a person believed that there is only one God, would this be perfect submission? No, this is not enough because Satan and his demons (jinn) also believe this.

You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that - and shudder. (Bible, James 2:19)

What if a person confessed that God has sent prophets, would this be perfect submission to God? No, this is not enough because the demons also acknowledge true prophets.

Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spirit cried out, "What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are - the Holy One of God!" (Bible, Mark 1:23-24)

What if a person has a copy of the word of God and reads it, have they submitted perfectly to God? No, because there are many religious hypocrites who do this.

So what is perfect submission to God? To perfectly submit to God is to perfectly submit to his word in obedience. This is submission, to humble yourself before God and to obey what he has said. Jesus explains the nature of obedience for us.

(Jesus said) You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, "Do not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment." But I tell you that anyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment. Again, anyone who says to his brother, "Raca" (an insulting name), is answerable to the Sanhedrin (the religious court). But anyone who says, "You fool!" will be in danger of the fire of hell. (Bible, Matthew 5:21-22)

Here Jesus tells us what it really means to submit to God's command, "Do not murder". You may think that you have kept this command, but what does Jesus say about you? Jesus shows that murder begins in our heart when we get angry with people. From the anger of our heart we insult people, either aloud or just to ourselves. We may not have murdered someone, yet we share the same heart as someone who has. So have you kept this command? Externally, yes you may have. But what about your heart? When God judges your heart what will he see?

Here is another example from Jesus.

You have heard that it was said, "Do not commit adultery." But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. (Bible, Matthew 5:27-28)

Again we see that God looks on the heart, and what Jesus says of these two commands applies to all of God's commands. To truly submit to God is not something that we only do externally; it must be done internally as well. To fail to do this is to sin. If we want to submit to God Jesus says we must not lower the standard. We must not make excuses and say that our sin is just a slip or a mistake or an accident.

Who can say, "I have kept my heart pure; I am clean and without sin"? (Bible, Proverbs 20:9)

If Allah were to take mankind to task for their wrong-doing, he would not leave hereon a living creature ... (Qur'an 16:61, Pickthall)

The Prophets of God

God has not abandoned this world. Because of his mercy he chose some of the sons of Adam to be prophets. God's prophets spoke God's word. Through his prophets God urges us to seek his forgiveness, just as our father Adam did. The prophets were great people who suffered for the word of God. We can look to their example for encouragement as we ourselves seek to live for God. The prophets were, however, natural sons of Adam and so they confessed their sins and sought God's mercy[1]. In this way too they are a good example for us. Consider Abraham's example:

(Allah) Who created me, and He doth guide me, And Who feedeth me and watereth me. And when I sicken, then He healeth me, And Who causeth me to die, then giveth me life (again), And Who, I ardently hope, will forgive me my sin on the Day of Judgment. (Qur'an 26:78-82, Pickthall) [2]

Or consider the example of Moses:

He said: My Lord! Lo! I have wronged my soul, so forgive me. Then He forgave him. Lo! He is the Forgiving, the Merciful. (Qur'an 28:16, Pickthall)

David too is an example of God-fearing behaviour.

And David guessed that We had tried him, and he sought forgiveness of his Lord, and he bowed himself and fell down prostrate and repented. So We forgave him that; and lo! he had access to Our presence and a happy journey's end. (Qu'ran 38:24-25, Pickthall)

The David said to (the prophet) Nathan, "I have sinned against the LORD." Nathan replied, "The LORD has taken away your sin." (Bible, 2 Samuel 12:13)

Muhammad also was commanded to confess his sin.

So know (O Muhammad) that there is no Allah save Allah, and ask forgiveness for thy sin and for believing men and believing women. (Qur'an 47:19, Pickthall) [3]

And so Muhammad prayed:

Oh my Lord! Forgive my sins and my ignorance and my exceeding the limits (boundaries) of righteousness in all my deeds and what you know better than I. O Allah! Forgive my mistakes, those I do intentionally or out of my ignorance or (without) or with seriousness, and I confess that all such mistakes are done by me. O Allah! Forgive my sins of the past and of the future which I did openly or secretly. (Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 8, book 75, no. 407, 408) [4]
There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Bible, Romans 3:22-23).

The Qur'an and the Bible both teach that all of Adam's descendants, that is, all of mankind, have sinned in one way or another. No one has offered perfect submission to God in any religion.

The Man Jesus

The man Jesus is unique in both the Bible and Qur'an because in both books it is recorded that he alone was born of a virgin.

He (the angel) said: I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a faultless son. She said: How can I have a son when no mortal hath touched me, neither have I been unchaste? He said: So (it will be). Thy Lord saith: It is easy for Me. (Qur'an 19:19-21, Pickthall)

And Mary, daughter of `Imran, whose body was chaste, therefor We breathed therein something of Our Spirit. ... (Qur'an 66:12, Pickthall)

This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Because Joseph her husband was a righteous man and did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly. But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, "Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins. (Bible, Matthew 1:18-21)

Have you ever wondered why Jesus alone was born of a virgin by the Holy Spirit? What did God reveal by doing this? The conception of Jesus is very different to the way we are conceived, and very different to the way the other prophets were conceived. We are all the natural descendants of Adam, born the natural way. However, Jesus is a supernatural descendant of Adam because he was born of a virgin. Jesus is more than a natural descendant of Adam; he is in fact like Adam when Adam was first created.

Lo! the likeness of Jesus with Allah is as the likeness of Adam. He created him of dust, then He said unto him: Be! and he is. (Qur'an 3:59, Pickthall)

Just as Adam had a supernatural start to life so too Jesus had a supernatural start as a man. The virgin birth demonstates the power of God to make a new Adam, a new start for humanity. Since Jesus is the new Adam this raises an important question. Is Jesus like Adam when he was sinless in the garden? Or is Jesus like Adam after he had sinned?

The Perfect Man

As we have seen, the Qur'an records that even the great prophets confessed their sins; however, it never once records that Jesus confessed his sin.

Muhammad said [5] of Jesus:

Narrated Abu Huraira: The Prophet said, "When any human being is born. Satan touches him at both sides of the body with his two fingers, except Jesus, the son of Mary, whom Satan tried to touch but failed". (Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 4, book 54, no. 506)

The Qur'an also declares Jesus' perfection [6] when it says that he is the only person who is always blessed.

And (God) hath made me (Jesus) blessed wheresoever I may be, and hath enjoined upon me prayer and almsgiving so long as I remain alive (Qur'an 19:31, Pickthall).

For every moment of his life Jesus was blessed. This Arabic word for blessed (mubaarak) is only used to describe Jesus and is never used for anyone else. But it is used elsewhere to describe things that the Qur'an considers perfect. Thus the Qur'an itself is called blessed (6:93, 156), the first house of prayer is called blessed (3:96), and the olive tree that provides oil for the likeness of the light of God is called blessed (24:35), but Jesus is the only person who is blessed in this perfect way.

This perfect Jesus lived the life that Adam should have lived. Adam listen to Satan, but Jesus rejected Satan.

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. "All this I will give you," he said, "if you will bow down and worship me." Jesus said to him, "Away from me, Satan! For it is written: `Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.' " Then the devil left him, and angels came and attended him. (Bible, Matthew 4:8-11)

The Bible clearly reveals that Jesus was perfect and without sin.

Yet because I (Jesus) tell the truth, you do not believe me! Can any of you prove me guilty of sin? If I am telling the truth, why don't you believe me? He who belongs to God hears what God says. The reason you do not hear is that you do not belong to God." (Bible, John 8:45-47)

He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth. (Bible, 1 Peter 2:22)

And in him is no sin. (Bible, 1 John 3:5)

(Jesus said) "The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I always do what pleases him." Even as he spoke, many put their faith in him. (Bible, John 8:29)

Defending Jesus

There are some people who do not like the idea that Jesus perfectly submitted to God. They claim that Jesus sinned and confessed his sins, and that this is recorded in the Bible. It is important that we now examine these scriptures.

Some people have said that the prayer Jesus taught his disciples shows that Jesus confessed his sin. Here is the prayer; it is commonly called the Lord's Prayer:

(Jesus said) This, then, is how you should pray:
Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come, your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts (sins), as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one. (Bible, Matthew 6:9-13)

This is truly a magnificent prayer. It is a prayer that Christians have prayed regularly since the time of Jesus. But please notice that Jesus says this is how "you" should pray. The disciples of Jesus needed to be taught how to pray and Jesus provided this teaching for them. Jesus taught that we are to confess our sins/debts to God in prayer. This scripture does not record that Jesus himself confessed his sin; it records that he told his disciples to confess their sins when they pray. Therefore the Lord's Prayer does not prove that Jesus confessed his sin.

Another scripture that is said to prove that Jesus was a sinner is Mark 10:17-19.

As Jesus started on his way, a man ran up to him and fell on his knees before him. "Good teacher," he asked, "what must I do to inherit eternal life?" "Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good - except God alone. You know the commandments: `Do not murder, do not commit adultery, do not steal, do not give false testimony, do not defraud, honor your father and mother.' (Bible, Mark 10:17-19)

The context of Jesus' words is that a young man comes to him and calls him a GOOD TEACHER. He then asks Jesus how to receive eternal life. Jesus challenges the young man as to who is good to give this teaching. And the answer that Jesus gives is that God alone is good to give this teaching. Thus, Jesus points the young man to God's word (the Torah) for the answer. This scripture is not discussing the moral status of Jesus but is a reminder by Jesus that all good teaching comes from God and we must pay attention to the word of God that we already have. This scripture does not prove that Jesus is a sinner.

As was shown earlier, the Bible clearly reveals that Jesus is without sin, and the Qur'an and Hadith also support this. The scriptures that some people think show that Jesus was a sinner do not show this at all when they are read in context. The word of God has just one message regarding Jesus' righteousness - he was sinless. Jesus is like Adam, a man. But he is different to Adam in that he did not sin. Jesus lived the life that Adam should have. Adam disobeyed in the luxury of the garden but Jesus submitted perfectly in his trials on earth. Jesus was never given any special privileges [7] but was required to obey the same standards as us. Jesus lived the life that you and I should have and he did it for us. For just as Adam's sin has affected us all so too Jesus' righteousness can affect us.

What does all this mean for us?

Firstly, it means that Jesus is the best example for those who seek God and await his kingdom. Jesus is the perfect man, and God has given him to the God-fearing as the best role model. Therefore we should model our lives on Jesus.

Secondly, we need to appreciate the important place that Jesus has in God's plan for the world [8]. Jesus is the perfect man through whom God will complete his plans for this world. Christians and Muslims both believe that when Jesus returns he will bring the time of resurrection and judgement. God has given this special position and honour to no one else.

And he (Jesus) shall be a known sign for (the coming of) the Hour (Day of Resurrection) (Qur'an, 43:61, Taqi-ud-Din Al-Hilali)

For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. For as in Adam all die, so in Christ all will be made alive. (Bible, 1 Corinthians 15:21-22)

This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. (Bible, 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8)

Thirdly, the return of Jesus is to be our hope. For when Jesus returns the God-fearing will no longer be like Adam but will be like Jesus.

So it is written: "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam (Jesus), a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth, the second man from heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the man from heaven, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the likeness of the earthly man, so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven. (Bible, 1 Corinthians 15:45-49)

Finally, it means that we know what to pray for.

Almighty God we thank you for sending Jesus and that he lived the perfect life that we have failed to live.
Please help us to live like Jesus and learn more about him.
Please send Jesus back to earth so that the Day may come and your glory be acknowledged throughout this world, and that your people may share in Jesus' righteousness. Amen.

Further reading on this subject.

[1] M. Anderson, Jesus The Light and Fragrance of God, Part 2: The Christ of History, Caney, U.S.A: Pioneer Book Company, 1995, pp. 2-4.
[2] Also 14:41.
[3] Also 4:106, 40:55, 48:1-2, 94:1-3, 110:3. Sura 9:43 and sura 80 record these offences. There is also the offence of the Satanic verses.
[4] Also Sahih al-Bukhari: vol. 8, book 75, no. 319 and vol. 5, book 59, no. 715
[5] Anderson, Part 2, p. 5
[6] Anderson, Part 2, pp. 7-9
[7] 33:49-50
[8] M. Anderson, Jesus The Light and Fragrance of God, Part 1: The Reappearing of Jesus, Caney, U.S.A: Pioneer Book Company, 1995.

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