Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Revisiting the Quran’s affirmation of Jesus’ Eternal Existence Pt. 5

Sam Shamoun

We proceed from where we previously left off.

Jalal Abualrub may object to my exegesis of the Quran by arguing that the reason why Christ is called Allah’s Word is because he is like Adam in that Allah brought Jesus into existence by his creative command or word “Be”:

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. S. 3:59 Pickthall  

Abualrub may reason from this fact that Jesus isn’t called the Word because he is the eternal, uncreated revelation of God to mankind and the Agent of creation that brought the entire creation into being from nothing, as we find stated in the prologue to John’s Gospel (cf. John 1:1-18).

There are several problems with using this approach to undermine the significance that titles such as the Word and Spirit of Allah have on understanding the nature and Person of Christ.

First, the very comparison with Adam shows why this is a false claim. If Jesus were merely being called the Word because he was created by the command of Allah then we would surely expect that Adam himself would be called Allah’s word since he too was brought into being by Allah’s command. However, nowhere in the Quran is Adam ever called the word of Allah, and neither is anyone else for that matter. This in itself shows that this cannot possibly be the reason why Jesus is described as the Word of/from Allah.

Second, the Quran itself testifies that Jesus is completely unlike Adam, and vastly superior to him. In fact, Jesus’ virginal conception and birth by his blessed mother Mary is not at all similar to the way Allah created Adam. According to the Quran, the latter wasn’t created by Allah’s command “Be” (kun), but rather by Allah’s own hands which he used to form the first man from clay, and then proceeded to breathe his Spirit into him in order to make him an animate, living being:

Behold, thy Lord said to the angels: "I am about to create man from clay: When I have fashioned him (in due proportion) and breathed into him of My spirit, fall ye down in obeisance unto him." So the angels prostrated themselves, all of them together: Not so Iblis: he was haughty, and became one of those who reject Faith. (God) said: "O Iblis! What prevents thee from prostrating thyself to one whom I have created with my hands? Art thou haughty? Or art thou one of the high (and mighty) ones?" (Iblis) said: "I am better than he: thou createdst me from fire, and him thou createdst from clay." S. 38:71-76 Y. Ali

In the case of Jesus, the Quran clearly says that Allah breathed forth his Spirit into Mary in order to cause her to conceive her blessed and glorious Son whom he had sent to her from himself:

And mention Marium in the Book when she drew aside from her family to an eastern place; So she took a veil (to screen herself) from them; then We sent to her Our spirit, and there appeared to her a well-made man. She said: Surely I fly for refuge from you to the Beneficent God, if you are one guarding (against evil). He said: I am only an apostle of your Lord: That I will give you a pure boy. S. 19:16-19 Shakir

And Mary, daughter of Imran, who guarded her private parts, and we breathed therein of our spirit and she verified the words of her Lord and His books, and was of the devout. S. 66:12 Palmer – cf. Q. 21:91; 4:171

Thus, neither Adam nor Jesus was ever created by Allah’s word “Be”!

For a detailed discussion on why Jesus is unlike Adam and greater to him please consult this article.

Finally, the Quran itself lists the verses that speak of Jesus being the Word and Spirit of God that proceeded from him, among the unclear texts (mutashabihat) whose meanings are known only to Allah:

It is He who sent down upon thee the Book, wherein are verses clear that are the Essence of the Book, and others ambiguous (mutashabihatun). As for those in whose hearts is swerving, they follow the ambiguous part (tashabaha), desiring dissension, and desiring its interpretation; and none knows its interpretation, save only God. And those firmly rooted in knowledge say, ‘We believe in it; all is from our Lord’; yet none remembers, but men possessed of minds. S. 3:7 Arberry

According to the Muslim scholars and commentators, the first 83 verses of surah 3 were composed after a Christian delegation from Najran challenged Muhammad concerning his views of Christ:

Surah Al `Imran was revealed in Al-Madinah, as evident by the fact that the first eighty-three Ayat in it relate to the delegation from Najran that arrived in Al-Madinah on the ninth year of Hijrah (632 CE). We will elaborate on this subject when we explain the Ayah about the Mubahalah (3:61) in this Surah, Allah willing. We should also state that we mentioned the virtues of Surah Al `Imran along with the virtues of Surat Al-Baqarah in the beginning of the Tafsir of Surat Al-Baqarah. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir; bold emphasis ours)

This explains why Ibn Kathir placed passages where Christ is described as “His [Allah’s] Word” and “the Spirit of Allah” (Ruhullah) among the ambiguous texts:

(they follow that which is not entirely clear thereof) meaning, they refer to the Mutashabih, because they are able to alter its meanings to conform with their false interpretation since the wordings of the Mutashabihat encompass such a wide area of meanings. As for the Muhkam Ayat, they cannot be altered because they are clear and, thus, constitute unequivocal proof against the misguided people. This is why Allah said…

(seeking Al-Fitnah) meaning, they seek to misguide their following by pretending to prove their innovation by relying on the Qur’an — the Mutashabih of it — but, this is proof against and not for them. For instance, Christians might claim that`Isa is divine because the Qur’an states that he is Ruhullah and His Word, which He gave to Mary, all the while ignoring Allah’s statements…

(He `Isa was not more than a servant. We granted Our favor to him.) (43:59), and…

(Verily, the likeness of `Isa before Allah is the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then (He) said to him: “Be!” and he was.) (3:59).

There are other Ayat that clearly assert that `Isa is but one of Allah’s creatures and that he is the servant and Messenger of Allah, among other Messengers. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Q. 3:7; bold emphasis ours)

Hence, it only makes sense that Ibn Kathir would place such descriptions under the category of unclear verses seeing how Q. 3:7 was composed precisely for the purpose of preventing Christians from using such texts against Muhammad!

Now this raises serious problems for Abualrub since Q. 3:7 demonstrates that Muhammad basically got caught for using titles for Jesus which he picked up from the Christians without realizing the serious damage this would do to his denial of the eternal existence and Deity of Christ. He, therefore, was left with no choice but to go into damage control mode and argue that these Quranic verses are ambiguous and that Christians shouldn’t be focusing on them!

What a truly embarrassing and humiliating position to be in, especially since such corrections that Muhammad was forced to make in order cover up his contradictions and mistakes are clear proofs that he was not a true prophet of God.

Now what this means for Abualrub is that, according to Q. 3:7, neither he nor any other Muslim has the authority to tell us what these passages which describe Jesus as the Word and Spirit of Allah actually mean, since only Allah knows their precise meaning. This explains why this next Muslim expositor made the following comments in regards to Jesus being described as the Spirit of Allah:

“When Allah says ‘and others that are mutashabiyat’. Now there are other types of ayahs in the Quran that Allah calls ‘mutashabiyat’. These are ayahs whose true meaning is beyond our reach, the true meaning of these ayahs are known to Allah Alone. All that we can take from these ayahs is a general meaning, but their true meaning, their detailed meaning, their literal meaning is only known to Allah. An example of such mutashabiyat ayahs are those ayahs that the Christians were using to claim that the Quran supports their corrupted beliefs. We do not know what Allah means when He refers to ‘Isa as His “Ruh, but we do know that it certainly does not mean that ‘Isa shares in the Divinity of Allah in any way. This is because there are clear muhakamat ayahs that tell us that Allah is One and Only and that all Divinity belongs only to Him. Because of this only Allah (swt) Knows the true meaning of what He meant when He referred to ‘Isa as His ‘Ruh’…” (Abdur Raheem As-Saranbi, Quran-Tafsir, p. 21; bold and underline emphasis ours)

Contrary to the above assertions, we definitely do know from God’s inspired Word, the Holy Bible, what titles such as Ruhullah mean in reference to Christ, and they do confirm that the Lord Jesus fully shares in the absolute Divinity of God. Therefore, to appeal to Quranic texts where Jesus is said to be no more than a slave of Allah,

He ['Iesa (Jesus)] was not more than a slave. We granted Our Favour to him, and We made him an example to the Children of Israel (i.e. his creation without a father). S. 43:59 Hilali-Khan

Does absolutely nothing to explain away all those problematic verses which ascribe eternal preexistence to Jesus. Rather, all that these conflicting texts end up doing is to highlight the fact that the Quran is filled with irreconcilable contradictions, especially in respect to its position concerning Christ. Such errors and inconsistencies simply prove that the Quran cannot be the Word of God, nor could Muhammad have been a true prophet sent by God.

We will therefore leave it to Abualrub to clear up all of this confusion and mess which comes from the very scripture that he erroneously thinks is a revelation from the one true God revealed in the Holy Bible, especially in the Person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Unless noted otherwise, all Scriptural quotations taken from the Authorized King James Version (AV) of the Holy Bible.


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