Jesus in Islam – His special status and lessons

Jesus (called Isa in Arabic) is seen as a Prophet in Islam and a messenger sent by Allah.  Mentioned 33 times by name in the Quran, Muslims believe in his miracle birth and his return to Earth before the end of time. He has one of the closest links out of all the Messengers to Prophet Muhammad (SAW). 

He is an important figure for Muslims both in history and the end of times future.  Here we will look at what the Quran mentions about him.

How many times is Jesus mentioned in the Quran?

Name as mentioned in Quran No. of times mentioned
Jesus 33
Messiah 8
Son of Mary 22
Jesus mentioned in the Quran
Some of the names are mentioned in the same
ayah (verse)

Jesus has been mentioned more times in the Quran than Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and his life events are relevant to all peoples today.  Whatever is of benefit to Muslims and mankind in general today has been mentioned from his life.

Jesus and his mother Mary

Not only his life, but also that of his honoured mother Mary (Maryam) has an entire chapter named after her to highlight their significance in the Quran.  No other woman has a chapter named after them.

‘(And mention) when the angels said: ‘O Maryam (Mary) Indeed Allah gives you the good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah Isa (Jesus), the son of Mary, distinguished in this world and in the Hereafter, and will be one of those who are near to Allah.’ 

Quran [3:45]

‘Indeed the example of Jesus to Allah is like that of Adam. He created him from dust, then He said to him, ‘Be,’ and he was.’

Quran [3:59]

Although the Quran does not give a detailed life story of Jesus, it highlights the important aspects of his birth, his mission and his ascension to the heavens. It also passes judgement on the Christian and Jewish beliefs concerning him.  The following is a look at some of the verses which Allah revealed about Jesus in the Quran.

Mary, the mother of Jesus

Muslims believe that Mary or Maryam was a chaste, virgin woman, who miraculously gave birth to Jesus.  Jesus’ birth in itself was a miracle in that he had no father.  Allah describes his birth in the Quran as follows:

‘And mention in the Book (the Quran), Mary, when she withdrew in seclusion from her family to a place facing east.  She placed a screen from them; then We sent to her a spirit from Us, (Angel Gabriel), and he appeared before her in the form of a perfect man. She said: ‘Verily, I seek refuge with the Most Gracious from you, if you do fear Him.’  (The angel) said: ‘I am only a messenger from your Lord, (to announce) to you the gift of a righteous son.’  She said: ‘How can I have a son, when no man hath touched me, nor am I unchaste?’  He said: ‘So (it will be), your Lord said That is easy for Me (Allah): And (We wish) to appoint him as a sign to mankind and a mercy from Us (Allah), and it is a matter (already) decreed.’

Quran [19:16-21]

Jesus is like Adam

This does not mean, however, that Jesus is divine in any way, or worthy of worship.  Because Adam (the first human created) was born without a mother or a father, which would make his existence even more miraculous.  Rather, both are prophets who were sent at respective times and inspired by God who followed and taught what was commanded.

‘Indeed, the example of Jesus to Allah is like that of Adam.  He created him of dust, then He said to him: ‘Be’ and he was.

Quran [3:59]

O People of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, “Three”; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs.’ 

Quran [4:171]

Jesus never claimed divinity or claimed that he deserved to be worshipped.  He only said that he was sent as a messenger of Allah to the Jews to bring them back to the true religion. The majority of the verses in the Quran which mention Jesus are about this aspect. It confirms accounts of his life where Jesus himself denies that he deserved any worship, and it supports the argument that the parables which God had given him showed his mortal nature, not his divinity.

‘They have certainly disbelieved who say, “Allah is the Messiah, the son of Mary” while the Messiah has said, “O Children of Israel, worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.” Indeed, he who associates others with Allah – Allah has forbidden him Paradise, and his refuge is the Fire. And there are not for the wrongdoers any helpers.’ 

Quran [5:72]

Jesus ate food just like us

‘The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a messenger; [like other] messengers that have passed on before him. And his mother was a supporter of truth. They both used to eat food. Look how We make clear to them the signs; then look how they (the disbelievers) turn away.’ 

Quran [5:75]

Both Jesus the Messiah and his mother used to eat, and that is not a characteristic of God, who does not eat or drink.  Jesus here is likened to all the noble messengers that came before him and their message was the same.  Being a Messenger and prophet is the highest and most honourable position a human can reach.  A prophet is one who receives revelations from Allah through Angel Gabriel. Jesus is one of the five highly regarded prophets in Islam, the others being Noah, Abraham, Moses and Prophet Muhammad, peace be on all of them.

In those verses regarding Jesus, God proclaims that making Jesus divine in any way, be it as the Son of God, or the Holy Spirit is a great blasphemy.  There is none equal to Allah in any way and ascribing partners to him is a great sin. 

And [beware the Day] when Allah will say, “O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, ‘Take me and my mother as deities besides Allah?'” He will say, “Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right. If I had said it, You would have known it. You know what is within myself, and I do not know what is within Yourself. Indeed, it is You who is Knower of the unseen.’ 

Quran [5:116]

Stories relating to Jesus and his mission in the Quran

The Quran clearly affirms that Jesus was a prophet sent to the Jewish people, and that prophets are the best of creation.  They have been chosen by God to receive His revelation and be emissaries and Jesus is no different to them in this respect. 

The Quran relates the story of Jesus’ mission as fundamentally a prophet sent by God to those Jews who have deviated from the teachings of Moses and the prophets that followed him.  He was the last of the prophets sent to the Jews.

And [mention] when Jesus, the son of Mary, said, “O children of Israel, indeed I am the messenger of Allah to you confirming what came before me of the Torah and bringing good tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name is Ahmad.” But when he came to them with clear evidences, they said, “This is obvious magic.’ 

Quran [61:6]

In the verse above, not only did Jesus affirm the scriptures revealed before him, but he also foretold of another prophet to come after him.

His mission was to invite the people to recognise, worship and obey God.

And [I have come] confirming what was before me of the Torah and to make lawful for you some of what was forbidden to you. And I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so fear Allah and obey me.’

Quran [3:50]

One aspect of Jesus’ mission was to confirm the truth that still remained unchanged from the Law of Moses in the Torah, but the other part was also to make lawful for them some of the things that had been made forbidden to them or restricted by way of punishment.

Miracles performed by Jesus

You cannot talk about Jesus without mentioning the miracles he came with and the Quran also mentions some of these:

And [make him, Jesus] a messenger to the Children of Israel, (who will say), ‘Indeed I have come to you with a sign from your Lord in that I design for you from clay [that which is] like the form of a bird, then I breathe into it and it becomes a bird by permission of Allah . And I cure the blind and the leper, and I give life to the dead – by permission of Allah. And I inform you of what you eat and what you store in your houses. Indeed in that is a sign for you, if you are believers.’ 

Quran [3:49]

Said Jesus, the son of Mary, ‘O Allah, our Lord, send down to us a table (spread with food) from the heaven to be for us a festival for the first of us and the last of us and a sign from You. And provide for us, and You are the best of providers.’ 

Quran [5:114]

These miracles were given to him, like other prophets were given their own miracles, to support his mission.  But for his miracles, the Quran quotes Jesus as saying ‘by permission of Allah’ to highlight the fact that they were not performed without Allah’s will and power.

Mention of the Gospel in the Quran

The Quran mentions the divine book given to Jesus as Injeel (Gospel) many times.  This reference is to the actual book given to him rather than a biography of Jesus written by four or more writers after his death.

(Jesus) said, ‘Indeed, I am the servant of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet.’

Quran [19:30]

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.’

  Quran [5:46]

‘And when Jesus brought clear proofs, he said, ‘I’ have come to you with wisdom and to make clear to you some of that over which you differ, so fear Allah and obey me.’ 

Quran [43:63]

According to the Tafsir of Ibn Kathir Isa (AS) performed other miracles….yet the Jews defied and belied him and tried their best to harm him.  He could not live in any one city for long and he had to travel often with his mother.  Even so, the Jews were not satisfied, and they went to the king of Damascus at that time and told him that there was a man in Jerusalem misguiding and dividing the people and stirring unrest amongst the king’s subjects.

The king became angry and wrote to his deputy in Jerusalem to arrest the rebel leader, stop him from causing unrest, crucify him and make him wear a crown of thorns.

In regards to his death, Allah clarifies in the Quran that Jesus was not crucified, but it was made to seem that way to the Jews.  Jesus was raised to the Heavens. 

And (for) their saying, ‘Indeed, we have killed the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.’ And they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him; but (another) was made to resemble him to them. And indeed, those who differ over it are in doubt about it. They have no knowledge of it except the following of assumption. And they did not kill him, for certain. 

Rather, Allah raised him to Himself. And ever is Allah Exalted in Might and Wise.’

Quran [4:156-157]

Islam rejects the notion that Jesus came to this earth to sacrifice himself for the sins of humanity and that a person bears the burden of sins of another.

Jesus link to Prophet Muhammad (SAW) and the lessons for Muslims

Like Jesus, the Prophet Muhammad came to confirm the message of all the Prophets before him; he called the people to worship the One God.  His mission however was different from the previous prophets in that he came for all mankind while the previous prophets came specifically for their own time and people.

Hadith mentioning Jesus (AS)

Between the two messengers Isa (AS) and Prophet Muhammad (SAW) there were no other prophets sent in between and according to a hadith (saying of the Prophet Muhammad) in Bukhari it is narrated that Salman al-Faarisi said: ‘The period between Isa and our Prophet (peace be upon them both) was six hundred years.’

A hadith states:  The Messenger of Allah (SAW) said:  ‘I am the closest of people to Isa ibn Maryam (Jesus son of Mary) in the world and the hereafter.  The Prophets are brothers from the same father; their mothers are different but their religion is one.’

The hadith means the origin of the Prophets’ faith is one, but their laws differ.  They all brought the same message, which is to call to worship Allah alone and not to ascribe any partners to him.

Muslims believe Jesus (AS) will return to this world in the last days before the Day of Judgement.  Prophet Muhammad said to his companions: ‘How will you be when the son of Mary, Jesus descends amongst you and he will judge people by the Law of the Quran and not by the Law of Gospel.’  (Sahih of Bukhari)

So when Jesus returns, he will return as a follower of the Law of the Quran i.e. a Muslim.

You will surely find the most intense of the people in animosity toward the believers (to be) the Jews and those who associate others with Allah; and you will find the nearest of them in affection to the believers those who say, ‘We are Christians.’ That is because among them are priests and monks and because they are not arrogant.’

Quran [5:82]

Lessons from Jesus life

There are many lessons that can be learnt from Jesus (AS) as mentioned in the Quran:

  1. The conception and birth of Jesus (AS) without a father brings hope to Muslims and all people that nothing is impossible for Allah can do what he desires in the way he wants.  So people should not lose hope when times are tough because Allah can help.
  2. Being close to God’s Word leads to blessing

This is an indication that the closer we are to God’s Scripture, the more we will be blessed.  Also, it shows that Prophet Isa (AS) was also instructed to pray and give charity just like the Muslims are today and this brings one closer to God –through prayer by connecting to Allah and through charity which connects to people.

3. This means, “He (Allah) has commanded me to treat my mother well.” He mentioned this after mentioning obedience to his Lord, Allah. This is because Allah often combines the command to worship Him with obedience to the parents. Tafsir Ibn Kathir

4.    Be with truth, even if you are not large in number.  At the time of Isa (AS), there were not too many people responding to his call, but this does not mean he wasn’t successful.  And despite the overwhelming force against him, he still continued to preach and call people towards the One God because even though followers are few, it doesn’t mean your faith isn’t true. He was chosen as one of the five highest ranking Prophets. 

There are many other lessons that can be derived from Jesus (AS) mentioned in the Quran and time should be taken to study the verses in detail.

‘And [made me] dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me a wretched tyrant.’ 

Quran [19:32]

(Jesus) said, ‘Indeed, I am the servant of Allah. 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 zakah (charity) as long as I remain alive.’ 

Quran [19:30-31]

Importance of Jesus in the end of times

Muslims believe Jesus (AS) is not dead, and that he will return to this world in the last days before the Day of Judgement.  Just like Christians, Muslims also believe in the return of Jesus (AS) to earth, although the role and reason for his return differs from the Christian’s perspective. 

 His second coming is a major sign of the end of times.  He will return to earth first and foremost to prove his mortality and refute the false beliefs people held about him.  He will live a normal life, marry, and also die as any other human.  At that point, the matter will be clear concerning him, and all people will have believed that he was truly mortal.

The Prophet (SAW) also told us that Jesus (AS) will be sent back to earth and related that in that time, which is called ‘the end of time’, there may be a period in which the earth will attain unprecedented peace, justice and welfare.

The ‘end times’ refers to the period of time close to the end of the world. According to Islam, in this time there will be the trials of the Dajjal (Antichrist), many earthquakes and the emergence of Gog and Magog after which the ways of the Quran will prevail and people will extensively adhere to the values it introduces. 

The world will see a type of peace and serenity unfelt in history, all worshipping the same God, subservient to Him alone, and at peace with one another.