Quran Read-A-Long: Al-‘Imran 42-54 Talks All About Jesus, Pre-Birth to Adulthood

In verse 44, Asad is saying that the Quran is saying of itself that it is revelation: “We [now] reveal unto thee.” Even though Christians regard their understanding of Mary’s life as true (virgin birth, mother of God, etc.) the Quran is making clear that this is the true version of the story.

It’s clear that the respect afforded Jesus and the honor done him are not to be disregarded by the Quran. The Quran and Islam believe in the prophetic quality of Jesus and in his greatness as a human being and one beloved by God. However, in Islam, as in Judaism, there is no Son of God in a literal sense. There is no virgin birth. Jesus was a human being with a wonderful message that fell in line with the messages of the other prophets.

Okay, as of verse 47 I’m confused. Verse 47 implies that there is a virgin birth going on here, as no man has ever touched Mary (according to her). I thought, however, that Islam didn’t believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. How is this interpreted otherwise? I understand the purpose of the next part of the line (I think) about God creating what He wills. It actually recalls the creation story in chapter 1 of the book of Genesis, which, considering Christian theology, is a fascinating thing to relate in these Quranic verses. But despite God being able to create what He will however He wants – and we know that to be the case – why would the Quran make a point of saying such a thing here when Muslims don’t believe in the virgin birth? Either I’m wrong about that belief or there’s another way to understand this verse.

The next few verses are things that we consider Jesus to have said in his lifetime. It’s unclear whether or not this is a foretelling of what’s to come in Jesus’ life or another statement of these things. Based on Asad’s note, it’s interesting that verse 49’s reference to the ‘destiny being shaped’ is the word used for bird, considering the fact that in Christianity, the bird is a representation of the Spirit, or God’s third essence. In verse 50, what still remains of the Torah would seem to be those things that the Israelites are still practicing rightly. I’m not sure what Jesus made okay that was forbidden to people beforehand. Jesus, according to the Gospel, said that he intended to change nothing at all about the Law (i.e. the Torah) and he actually seems to make (again, in the Gospels at least) things a little bit stricter (e.g. thinking naughty thoughts is adultary). Only Paul wanted the Torah’s laws to be abolished.

Verse 52 takes quite a little jump there in time. That seems strange to do and inconsistent.

The final verse here talks about God preventing scheming against Jesus from coming to fruition but when I think of the crucifixion, though it’s spun as something that had to happen, it would certainly seem as though the scheming came to something.

I had a lot of disjointed thoughts in here and a variety of questions that were poorly phrased as questions. If you can add anything or clarify anything, I’d be much obliged. Thanks for reading!

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Al-’Imran 42-54

42. AND LO! The angels said: “O Mary! Behold, God has elected thee and made thee pure, and raised thee above all the women of the world. 43. O Mary! Remain thou truly devout unto thy Sustainer, and prostrate thyself in worship, and bow down with those who bow down [before Him].” 44. This account of something that was beyond the reach of thy perception We [now] reveal unto thee: for thou wert not with them when they drew lots as to which of them should be Mary’s guardian, and thou wert not with them when they contended [about it] with one another. 45. Lo! The angels said: “O Mary! Behold, God sends thee the glad tiding, through a word from Him, [of a son] who shall become known as the Christ Jesus, son of Mary, of great honor in this world and in the life to come, and [shall be] of those who are drawn near unto God. 46. And he shall speak unto men in his cradle, and as a grown man, and shall be of the righteous.” 47. Said she: “O my Sustainer! How can I have a son when no man has ever touched me?” [The angel] answered: “Thus it is: God creates what He wills: when He wills a thing to be, He but says unto it, ‘Be’ – and it is. 48. And he will impart unto thy son revelation, and wisdom, and the Torah, and the Gospel, 49. and [will make him] an apostle unto the children of Israel.” “I HAVE COME unto you with a message from your Sustainer. I shall create for you out of clay, as it were, the shape of [your] destiny, and then breathe into it, so that it might become [your] destiny by God’s leave; and I shall heal the blind and the leper, and bring the dead back to life by God’s leave; and I shall let you know what you may eat and what you should store up in your houses. Behold, in all this there is indeed a message for you, if you are [truly] believers. 50. “And [I have come] to confirm the truth of whatever there still remains of the Torah, and to make lawful unto you some of the things which [aforetime] were forbidden to you. And I have come unto you with a message from your Sustainer; remain, then, conscious of God, and pay heed unto me. 51. “Verily, God is my Sustainer as well as your Sustainer; so worship Him [alone]: this is a straight way.” 52. And when Jesus became aware of their refusal to acknowledge the truth, he asked: “Who will be my helpers in God’s cause?” The white-garbed ones replied: “We shall be [thy] helpers [in the cause] of God! We believe in God: and bear thou witness that we have surrendered ourselves unto Him! 53. O our Sustainer! We believe in what Thou hast bestowed from on high, and we follow this Apostle; make us one, then, with all who bear witness [to the truth]!” 54. And the unbelievers schemed [against Jesus]; but God brought their scheming to nought: for God is above all schemers.

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4 Responses

  1. Got to get to bed, but, yes, Muslims do believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus (pbuh). More later, insha’allah.

  2. Really? I had no idea! How does that work with other Muslim beliefs about Jesus’ humanity? Doesn’t a belief like that serve to make it harder for Muslims to counter Christian assertions that Jesus is the son of God?

    As I ask these questions I realize that these very Quranic verses make their point quite clear: Jesus’ virgin birth is merely God proving what we should all definitely understand – that God can create whatsoever he wills when and howsoever He pleases (an important Quranic assertion about God).

    According to Islam, I guess, Christians just took the meaning of this miraculous event too far by saying that God didn’t just allow this to happen to Mary but that he inseminated her. Is that right?

  3. The Infancy Gospel of Thomas (which is apparently different from the Gospel of Thomas….) has somewhat similar story.—except that he created birds (not destiny) out of clay.

    Virgin Birth–Each and every one of us is God’s creation–we exist because God wills it so—–the process may or may not involve parents. The Quran gives the example(verse 59) of Prophet Adam (pbuh) who was created without “parents” but was just as human as you and me. God is the Creator not the created—Creation is finite—but God is not—Creation began with him and will return to him.

    Message of Prophet Jesus (pbuh)—Christians say that Jesus Christ (pbuh) brought a message of Compassion and Mercy—this along with the values of Justice (Torah) are emphasised in the Quran.
    Forbidden things—- I don’t think details are explained in Quran.

    Verse 49–All the “miracles” are by the power of God

    Verse 52 speakes of the deciples of Jesus Christ(pbuh) —-“we have surrendered ourselves to him” means “muslim”

    further on the story of the birth of Jesus Christ (pbuh) see surah 19 verses 16 to 36.

  4. How does that work with other Muslim beliefs about Jesus’ humanity?

    The same way it does for the rest of us. As Kay pointed out (and I would have had I more time last night 😉 ), Jesus and Adam (pbut) both have unusual origins, not being conceived as the rest of us were, and the Qur’an says as much (3:59):

    The similitude of Jesus before God is as that of Adam; He created him from dust, then said to him: “Be”. And he was.

    We don’t question the humanity of Adam; why should we question the humanity of Jesus (pbut)?

    Doesn’t a belief like that serve to make it harder for Muslims to counter Christian assertions that Jesus is the son of God?

    No, because the Qur’an is very explicit about the fact that no one is in any way close to being “divine” as Allah (swt) is. There are quite a few verses that bring this point up in one way or another; see 2:116, 4:171, 5:19, 5:20, 5:75, 5:78, 5:119, 9:30, and 19:35. (There may be more verses; this was a quick search.)

    As I ask these questions I realize that these very Quranic verses make their point quite clear: Jesus’ virgin birth is merely God proving what we should all definitely understand – that God can create whatsoever he wills when and howsoever He pleases (an important Quranic assertion about God).

    Correct.

    According to Islam, I guess, Christians just took the meaning of this miraculous event too far by saying that God didn’t just allow this to happen to Mary but that he inseminated her. Is that right?

    Well, “insemination” seems too crude a word to me in this context and, to be honest, we really don’t know the method Allah (swt) used, other than what is mentioned in 3:59 and some other verses (“He created him from dust, then said to him: ‘Be.’ And he was.”) If you have faith (rhetorical), the miracle of Jesus’s (pbuh) birth is that he was born male. We all know from high school biology that the male sperm carries the X/Y chromosomes that determine whether the child will be female or male, respectively, all women’s eggs having only the X chromosome. Theoretically, two female eggs could be used to conceive a female child, but never any male child. (If you’re familiar with the 1976 SF novella, “Houston, Houston, Do You Read?”, by James Tiptree Jr., this was a significant part of the plot.) In which case, if Mariam the mother of Jesus (pbuh) provided the X chromosome and there was no earthly father as the Qur’an says, who then provided the Y chromosome? (Likewise, the fact that Jesus (pbuh) was male proves that he couldn’t have been the result of two eggs merging somehow.)

    The Christians go too far because they associate a Prophet of Allah (swt) with being Allah (swt) himself. They are the those who went astray, as verse 1:7 asks for us Muslims not to do. Verse 9:30 reads:

    The Jews call ‘Uzair a son of God, and the Christians call Christ the son of God. That is a saying from their mouth; (in this) they but imitate what the unbelievers of old used to say. God’s curse be on them: how they are deluded away from the Truth!

    We know from the Bible that the Jews throughout history called a number of men “a son of God,” not just ‘Uzair (Ezra), although this phrase has a different meaning from the Christian connotation, not that the Jews necessarily worshiped any specific “son of God” (astaghfirullah). (In fact, I would venture to guess they probably didn’t worship any man.) Verse 9:30 essentially says, “Don’t call anyone “a son of God” under any connotation. That is where the Christians erred (and continue to err).

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