THE New Testament, and especially the Gospels, give as full an account of the teaching of Jesus as of His life and ministry. This is not the case in the Koran and in Moslem tradition. Both are decidedly meagre on the subject, and Moslems in general are unable to give details regarding the message of Him "who spake as never man spake."
Although, as we have seen, there are many references to Jesus Christ in the Koran, it is remarkable that there is not a single direct quotation from the New Testament in the whole book, and only one from the Old Testament (Surah 21:105). There are passages in the Koran, however, which indicate that Mohammed either directly or indirectly borrowed Scripture thought if not language. Among them are the following:
In Surah 29:60 we read, "How many a beast cannot carry its own provisions. God provides for it and for you. He both hears and knows." We may compare this with the teaching of Jesus Christ on God's care for the birds (Matthew 6:26).
In Surah 18:24 the reference is clearer: "Never say of anything, 'Verily, I am going to do that tomorrow,' except (ye say) 'if God please.'" Compare Jas. 4:13-15: "Ye ought to say, 'If the Lord will, we shall both live and do this or that.'"
In Surah 42:19 there is a reference to the law of sowing and reaping like that in Gal. 6:7. "He who wishes for the tilth of the next world, we will increase for him the tilth; and he who desires the tilth of this world, we will give him thereof, but in the next world he shall have no portion."
The passage that approaches nearest to a quotation, however, is found in Surah 7:39: "Verily, those who say our signs are lies and are too big with pride for them, for these the doors of heaven shall not be opened, and they shall not enter into paradise until a camel shall pass into a needle's eye" (Matt. 19:24).
Passing by these references to the New Testament, for which no credit is given in the Koran, and which are not, therefore, considered by Moslems as a part of the teaching of Jesus, we consider first Mohammed's conception of the message that Christ came to bring to the Jews. It is not evident from the Koran that the mission of Jesus Christ was universal. On the contrary, He is sent to the Jews only, and is not an apostle to the whole world, although His disciples afterward carry His message into other lands. Jesus Christ was God's messenger to the Jews who had fallen into error and unbelief. The miracles were intended to persuade them of the truth of His message, and to lead them to accept His revelation received from God, namely, the Injil or Gospel. The Koran does not indicate into what particular errors the Jews had fallen and in what respect they had left the true religion of Abraham (Islam), that is, the belief in one God. In one passage it is asserted that the Jews gave divine honours to Ezra (Surah 9: 30), but whether this took place after the mission of Jesus Christ or before, is left uncertain.
Al Qaramani, in his History of Ancient Times and Peoples, relates that "When Jesus was eight years old, He was circumcised and named Yasua. When He was thirty years old revelation came to Him, and He entered the Holy House where the children of Israel were buying and selling; then He began to strike them and to say, Ye sons of the children of vipers and snakes! have you taken the house of God for a bazaar? Then God made the Gospel to come down to Him and Gabriel ten times" (vol. i. p. 70).
As the Injil, or Gospel, is considered not only by the Koran, but by all Moslems, as the special message of Jesus, it is important to know what the Koran teaches in regard to its character and authority. The word injil is undoubtedly a corruption of the Greek ευανγελιον (evangel). It occurs twelve times in the Koran, and there doubtless refers to the revelations made by God to Jesus, that is, to His verbal messages, afterwards put into writing. In later Mohammedan usage it is applied to the whole New Testament. All of the passages that mention the Injil occur in the later Surahs.
Concerning the original divine character and authority of this book, or message or teaching of Jesus, the Koran expresses no doubt. It confirms all God's teaching that preceded it; it is a guidance to men; it is the basis of firm belief and of salvation. Surah 5:72: "Ye rest on naught until ye stand fast by the law and the gospel." It is "a word of truth." Its effect is to produce the spirit of adoration (Surah 48:29), and to prompt to deeds of kindness and compassion (Surah 57:27).
But since Mohammed makes an appeal to the Gospel for the support of his own mission in what he considers a genuine saying of Christ's, well known to the Christians of his day, he gave the reason for the later charge of Moslems against Christians, that they have either lost or changed the original gospel. This appeal of Mohammed to Jesus Christ's words occurs in Surah 61:6: "And when Jesus the son of Mary said, 'O children of Israel! verily, I am the apostle of God to you, verifying the law that was before me, and giving you glad tidings of an apostle who shall come after me, whose name shall be Ahmed.'"
Jesus, they say, foretold the coming of Mohammed; He pointed to him that was to come. The commentators and later tradition assert, therefore, that the teaching of Jesus, originally pure monotheism, was corrupted by the apostles that followed Him. In commenting on the words of the Koran, "The Christians say that the Messiah is the son of God; that is what they say with their mouths, imitating the sayings of those who misbelieved beforeGod fight them! how they lie!" El-Kalbi states: "The Christians followed the religion of Islam for eighty-one years after the translation of Jesus, praying with their faces directed to the Kiblah and fasting during the month of Ramadan, until a war occurred between them and the Jews. There was a brave and bold man among the Jews called Paul, who killed a large number of the followers of Jesus. He said one day to the Jews, 'If the truth is with Jesus, we have misbelieved Him and we shall go to Hell-fire, and we shall be over-reached, if they enter Paradise and we enter Hell-fire; but I shall scheme a dodge and mislead them, so that they would enter Hell-fire.' Now, he had a horse called the Eagle, on the back of which he used to fight; he hocked it, showed repentance, and threw dust on his head, upon which the Christians asked him, 'Who are you?' He replied, 'Paul, your enemy. A voice from heaven declared to me, "Your repentance will not be accepted until you become a Christian," and here, I have now repented.'[This doubtless refers to the history of Paul's conversion, Acts ix.].They therefore took him into the church, and he entered a room in it and remained in it for a year, not going out either by day or by night until he learnt the New Testament. He then came out and said, 'A voice from heaven has declared to me, "God has accepted your repentance.'" They therefore believed him and loved him. He then went to Jerusalem and appointed over them as his successor Nestorius, whom he taught that Jesus, Mary, and God were three. He then went to Greece (ar-Rum) and taught them there the doctrine of the divinity and the humanity. He told them that Jesus was neither a human being nor a jinn, but that he was the son of God, and he taught a man named Jacob this doctrine. He then called a man named Malkan, and told him that God always was and always will be Jesus. When he had got a proper hold over them, he called them three, one by one, and said to each of them, 'You are exclusively mine, and I have seen Jesus in a dream, and he was pleased with me.' He also said to each one of them, 'I shall to-morrow kill myself; then invite people to follow your persuasion.' He then entered the arena and killed himself, saying, 'I am doing this to please Jesus.' When the third day came, each one of them invited the people to accept his creed, and a party followed each of them; so that the Christians became separated into three distinct bodies,the Nestorians, the Jacobites, and the Malakites. They differed from, and fought with, one another. Hence God said, 'And the Christians say that the Messiah is the son of God; that is what they say with their mouths, imitating the sayings of those who misbelieved before. God fight them! how they lie!'"
Another account of how the apostles corrupted the original message of Jesus is given in the Biographical Dictionary of Hajji Khalifah, entitled Kashf-uz-Zunun. The statements made are such a curious mixture of fact and fiction that we quote them at length:
"In the book entitled the Tuhfatul-Adib fi Raddi ala Ahlis-Salib, or 'A Refutation of the Servants of the Cross' (written by Abdullah, a pervert from Christianity to Islam, A.H. 823), it is said that these four companions are they who corrupted the religion of Jesus, and have added to it. And that they were not of the Hawariyun, or apostles mentioned in the Koran. Matta did not see Jesus until the year he was taken up to heaven; and after the ascension of Jesus he wrote in the city of Alexandria, with his own hand, his Injil, in which he gives an account of the birth and life of Jesus, mentioning several circumstances which are not mentioned by the others. Luka also did not see Jesus, but he was converted to Christianity by one Bulis (Paul), who was an Israelite, who himself had not seen Jesus, but was converted by Ananiya (Ananias). Marqus also did not see Jesus at all, but was converted to Christianity, after the Ascension of Jesus, by the apostle Bitrus, and received the Injil from that apostle in the city of Rome. And his gospel in many respects contradicts the statements of the other three. Yuhanna was the son of the sister of Maryam, the mother of Jesus, and the Christians assert that Jesus was present at the marriage of Yuhanna, when Jesus changed the water into wine. It was the first miracle performed by Jesus."
"When Yuhanna saw the miracle, he was converted to Christianity, and left his wife and followed Jesus. He was the writer of the fourth Injil. It was written in Greek, in the city of Ephesus. These are the four persons who altered and changed the true Injil, for there was only one Injil revealed to Jesus, in which there was no contradiction or discrepancy. These people have invented lies concerning God and His prophet Jesus, upon whom be peace, as is a well-known fact, although the Christians (Nasara) deny it."
It is evident from these traditions which find an echo in the common belief of Moslems everywhere, that the gospel story now in the hands of Christians is not for them a true account of the teachings of Jesus. Although the Koran in general terms commends both the Old and the New Testament, in a whole series of passages which assert that the Torah, the Zaboor, and the Injil are the very word of God, yet neither the Koran nor tradition give any adequate indication of the contents and message of these books of God as they relate to sin and salvation.
The curious story of Habib the carpenter, which is given in Surah 36:12-30 of the Koran, tells of the preaching of the apostles at Antioch and the conversion of the carpenter, but leaves out any reference to the character of the message which the apostles carried to that city where the disciples were first called Christians. El Beidhawi, the commentator, says that the people of Antioch were idolaters, and that Jesus sent two of His disciples, John and Jude, to preach to them. When they arrived, they met Habib the carpenter, who said, "What signs can you show that you are sent from God?" They replied, "We can heal the sick, and give sight to the blind, and cure leprosy." When Habib brought his sick son to them, they laid hands upon him, and he was healed. Habib then believed on Jesus, and published the Gospel to the people of the city. When the news reached the governor, he sent for the disciples, and asked them, "Is your God different from our God?" and they said, "Yes, He it is who made both thee and thy gods." Then the governor put them in prison. While they were in prison Jesus sent Simon Peter, who made friends with the servant of the governor secretly, gained access to his presence, performed a miracle by raising his child who had been dead seven days. This child, when raised from the dead, said he had seen Jesus Christ in heaven, who was interceding for the three disciples in prison. Then the governor believed and many others, but the unbelievers raised a disturbance; and when Habib the carpenter preached to them, he was stoned, and having died, entered Paradise. Habib's tomb is still to be seen at Antioch, and is visited as a shrine by Moslems.
When we turn to later traditions and to later Moslem literature, it is refreshing to find something more real on the teaching of Jesus, although it is not always attributed to Him. In Bokhari we read, "The prophet said, 'At the resurrection God shall say, "O ye sons of men! I was sick and ye visited Me not." They shall say, "Thou art the Lord of the worlds; how should we visit Thee?" He will say, "A certain servant of mine was sick, and if ye had visited him, ye would have found Me with him."'" This is remarkable teaching, for it brings out a sense of nearness between God and man which is generally ignored by Moslems.
In regard to the teaching attributed to Jesus Christ and alleged to be found in the original Gospel, or Injil, P. L. Cheikho gives the following extracts, taken, he says, from many sources: "Jesus Christ said in the Gospel, Hope if ye are afraid, and be afraid if ye hope.' 'Your life consists of a certain number of breaths, and some one is watching over it. Do not forget death, therefore, because death will not forget you.' 'Good health is a secret king.' 'Anxiety is part of the weakness of old age.' 'The son of Adam craves for that which is forbidden.' 'A bribe blinds the eyes of the learned, and what think ye then of the ignorant?' 'Weep with those that weep, and laugh with those that laugh.'"
Another story told in the book of the Israelites, attributed to Wahab bin Munabah, is that Jesus one day passed a skull lying by the wayside and commanded it to speak. It obeyed, and recounted a fantastic story to those who were present, saying, "I am Bilwam, the son of So and So, King of Yemen. I lived a thousand years, and married so many women, and slaughtered so many enemies, and conquered so many cities. Let those who see me remember, and may the world not deceive them as it has deceived me, for all the time that has passed is like the dream of one who sleepeth." Then Jesus wept.
There is one striking instance of a quotation from the epistles,a favourite with many thoughtful Moslems, which is, however, attributed to Mohammed on the authority of Abu Huraira: "The Most High said, 'I have prepared for my righteous servants what eye hath not seen nor ear heard, nor hath it occurred to the heart of a human being.'" These words are evidently quoted from I Cor. 2:4. Yet it is doubtful whether Mohammed ever used them, as much of the latter traditions are pure invention.
Other instances are given by a recent writer on the subject:
"In the Awarifu-l-Mawarif of Shahab-ud-Din Suhrawardi the doctrine of the New Birth is definitely attributed to Christ. 'The death of nature and of will, which they call "the second birth," even as Jesus has written.'
"Ghazzali the Ihya-ul-ulum thus refers to St. Matthew 11:17: 'Some one said, "I saw written in the Gospel, We have sung to you, but ye have not been moved with emotion; we have piped unto you, but ye have not danced."' He also quotes St. Matthew 6: 25, 'Jesus said, Consider the fowls, etc.'
"The historian Tabari mentions the institution of the Last Supper, Christ's washing His disciples' hands, requesting them to watch with Him, predicting Peter's denial, and quotes the text, 'The shepherd shall be smitten, and the sheep shall be scattered.'"
Centuries after Mohammed, the poets of Syria and Persia interpreted the teaching of Jesus as they gathered it either from Moslem tradition or from Christian neighbours. In the Bostan of Sadi the parable of the Publican and the Pharisee takes the following curious shape:
In Jesus' time there lived a youth so black and dissolute,
That Satan from him shrank appalled in every attribute;
He in a sea of pleasures foul uninterrupted swam
And gluttonised on dainty vices, sipping many a dram.
Whoever met him on the highway turned as from a pest,
Or, pointing lifted finger at him, cracked some horrid jest.
I have been told that Jesus once was passing by the cave
Where dwelt a monk who asked Him in,
When suddenly that slave of sin appeared across the way,
Far off he paused, fell down and sobbingly began to pray;
And like a storm of rain the tears pour gushing from his eyes.
"Alas, and woe is me for thirty squandered years," he cries;
The pride-puffed monk self-righteous lifts his eyebrows with a sneer
And haughtily exclaims, "Vile wretch! in vain hast thou come here.
Art thou not plunged in sin, and tossed in lust's devouring sea?
What will thy filthy rags avail with Jesus and with me?
O God! the granting of a single wish is all I pray,
Grant me to stand far distant from this man at Judgment Day."
From Heaven's throne a revelation instantaneous broke,
And God's own thunder-words through the mouth of Jesus spoke:
"The two whom praying there I see, shall equally be heard;
They pray diverse,I give to each according to his word.
That poor one thirty years has rolled in sin's most slimy deeps,
But now with stricken heart and streaming eyes for pardon weeps.
Upon the threshold of My grace he throws him in despair,
And faintly hoping pity pours his supplications there.
Therefore forgiven and freed from all the guilt in which he lies
My mercy chooses him a citizen of paradise;
This monk desires that he may not that sinner stand beside,
Therefore he goes to hell and so his wish is gratified."
And the poet Nizami gives this curious illustration of the compassion and gentleness of Jesus:
One evening Jesus lingered in the market-place
Teaching the people parables of truth and grace,
When in the square remote a crowd was seen to rise
And stop with loathing gestures and abhorring cries.
The Master and His meek disciples went to see
What cause for this commotion and disgust could be,
And found a poor dead dog beside the gutter laid:
Revolting sight! at which each face its hate betrayed.
One held his nose, one shut his eyes, one turned away,
And all among themselves began aloud to say,
"Detested creature! he pollutes the earth and air!"
"His eyes are blear!" "His ears are foul!" "His ribs are bare!"
"In his torn hide there's not a decent shoe-string left!"
"No doubt the execrable cur was hung for theft!"
Then Jesus spake and dropped on him this saving wreath:
"Even pearls are dark before the whiteness of his teeth!"
It is easy to understand how close contact with Christians and Christian teaching gave rise to this kind of poetry, but it is not so easy to understand or to explain how after Mohammed's death distinctively Christian teaching, nay, the very words of Christ, His parables and His deepest lessons, are by tradition mongers put into the mouth of Mohammed, as if he were the originator of them!
When we remember, however, that the biographies of Mohammed by Moslem authors, beginning with the earliest, but especially the later biographies, attribute to their prophet an equality with, or even a superiority to the Prophet of Nazareth, so that Mohammed himself becomes a parody of Jesus Christ, it is not strange that they imputed Christ's teaching also to him. Koelle devotes the second portion of his critical treatise, Mohammed and Mohammedanism, to a comparison between Mohammed and Jesus Christ, in which he shows by literal translation from Moslem biographical works how almost every detail of the life of Christ was duplicated by the glowing imagination and devout admiration of Moslems, who did not scruple to invent stories as long as they glorified the prophet.
In a special study on the Hadith (traditions) and the New Testament, Ignaz Goldziher points out several instances where the very words of Christ are attributed to Mohammed.Among those, said Mohammed, whom God will cover with His shadow in the day when there is no shadow, is "the man who does alms and keeps it secret, so that his left hand does not know what his right hand doeth." Abdullah bin Masud said: "I saw the Prophet of God, when the people struck him and abused him, that he brushed the blood off his face and said, 'O God! forgive my people, for they know not what they do.'" The commentators ignorantly add that Mohammed here quoted a saying of Noah the prophet! The companions of the Prophet are quoted as saying, "Be harmless as doves"; and the greater number of the inhabitants of paradise, Mohammed is reported to have said, are "the poor in spirit."
The most remarkable example which Goldziher gives, is the use of the Lord's Prayer, which in the Hadith is also attributed to Mohammed. Abu al Darda' is reported to have said that the prophet said, "When any one is in suffering, or his brother suffers, then let him pray this prayer: 'Our Lord God who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name. Thy kingdom is in heaven and on earth, and even as Thy mercy is in heaven, so may Thy mercy also be upon earth. Forgive us our debts and our sins, for Thou art the Lord of the good. Send down mercy from Thy mercy and healing from Thy healing for those suffering, that they may begin to heal."
Goldziher gives other instances, and shows conclusively that even as in the case of Mohammed's life, so in the case of Mohammed's teaching, any fragments of the life and teaching of Christ which could add to the glory of the prophet, were without scruple incorporated in later tradition. It is no wonder that if such a Mohammed, transformed at least in measure into the character if not into the image of Christ, is enthroned in the hearts of Mohammedans, they should be hard to win. As Koelle remarks, "What a mass of rubbish has to be swept away from the path of the pious Moslem before his vision can become unimpeded and free enough to perceive the all-surpassing spiritual majesty of Him who could say, He who hath seen Me hath seen the Father."
Except for the opinion that Jesus Christ is a true prophet and one of the greatest of the prophets before the time of Mohammed, the masses of the people in the Moslem world have no conception of the message which Jesus Christ came to bring, nor of the character of His teaching as distinguished from that of Moses and the Old Testament prophets. And we must add to this that if the death and the resurrection of Jesus Christ are the cardinal truths of the Gospel, these truths are not only obscured, but contradicted by the Koran and tradition, so that in the teaching of Jesus Christ, as understood by Mohammedans, we must leave out everything that relates to the Incarnation, the Atonement, and salvation from sin by faith in His name. Nowhere in the Koran or in tradition is there any trace of the great Christian doctrine of justification by faith. As in regard to the person of Christ, so in regard to His teaching, Islam is anti-Christian.
1 "The earth my righteous servants shall inherit."—Cf. Ps. 37: 29.
2 Surah 7:156; Surah 3:2; Surah 3:43; Surah 3:58; Surah 57:27; Surah 48:29; Surah 9:112; Surah 5:50, 51; Surah 5:70; Surah 5:72; Surah 5:110, and perhaps Surah 19:31. In this last passage, the infant Jesus says, "Verily, I am the servant of God. He hath given me The Book, and He hath made me a prophet.
3 Cf. Rodwell and Nöldeke.
4 Ahmed is the equivalent of Mohammed, and Moslem commentators have ingeniously found an allusion to this promise in the words of Jesus concerning the Paraclete (John 14:16, 15:26, and John 17:7). They assert that the word παρακλητος has been substituted in the Greek for περικλυτος, which would mean the same as Ahmed. The whole context makes clear the futility of this contention.
5 Ad-Damiri, Hayat-Al-Hayawan, vol. ii. pp. 537-538.
6 Quoted in Hughes' Dictionary of Islam, p. 212.
7 All the references of the Koran to the sacred scriptures of the Jews and Christians have been collected by Sir William Muir in his book, The Coran. S.P.C.K. London, 1878.
8 El Beidhawi on Surah 36:12-30; cf. Also Zamakhshari.
9 Quelques Legendes Islamiques Apocryphes, pp. 43, 44.
10 Mishkat-ul-Masabih, p. 487.
11 "Christ in Mohammedan Tradition," C. H. A. Field, C.M.S. Intelligencer, January 1911.
12 Quoted by C.H.A. Field.
13 Quoted by C.H.A. Field.
14 Koelle, Mohammed and Mohammedanism, pp. 242-446.
15 Goldziher, Muhammedanische Studien, vol. 11, pp. 381-404.
16 Al Muwatta, vol. iv. p. 171.
17 One of the younger contemporaries of Mohammed, who was a late convert to Islam, but afterwards became one of the greatest Koran scholars. Under Othman he was the public prayer-reader in Damascus, where he died A.H. 652.—HOUTSMA, Enclyclopedia of Islam, p. 82.
18 Abu Daood, vol. i. p. 101.
19 The great truths of Christianity centre in the person of its Founder. In a different way Islam is bound up with the personality, even in the minutest details, of its prophet; "in all matters small and great he is their perfect example," says Rev. W. A. Rice. No Moslem is apt, therefore, to have a higher opinion of our Saviour than Mohammed himself had.
20 Koelle, Mohammed and Mohammedanism, preface, p. vii.
The Moslem Christ
Answering Islam Home Page