The Nature of Jesus 1

Many Muslim writers when writing about Jesus, inevitably deal with him in negatives (as in 'he is not the son of God', etc.). The Muslims have spent a good deal of time debating these aspects of Jesus using Christian theology as a starting point. Due to this, the Christian community really does not know what or who exactly Christ is in purely Islamic terms.

A principal factor underlying this misapprehension is the fact that these two faiths take vastly different approaches to some of the most fundamental questions of religion. For example, the question of the essential nature of man, the nature of God, and how the redemption of man and his reconcilement with God is to be achieved. The Islamic position on Jesus can never be understood through attempts to disprove the Christian claims concerning Jesus - this method will only give one a picture of what Jesus is not.

Only by placing him within the theological context of Islam is it possible to gain some insight into Jesus. This paper will attempt to portray the Islamic view of man and God, and the position of Jesus within the Islamic world view. The point of departure, and the point of orientation, the point against which all things are measured in Islam, is God (who is One and Indivisible). The Qur'an says: "Say, He is God, the One and Only, The Eternal, Absolute; He begets not, Nor is He begotten; And there is none like unto Him."(1)

The foundation of Islamic belief then, is the belief in the absolute oneness, unity, and uniqueness of God. "God the Ultimate reality is One, and everything other than God comes from God and is related to Him. No true understanding of anything is possible unless the object in view is defined in relationship to the Divine. All things are centered on God."(2)

All other things seen or unseen are his signs (ayat) and act as witnesses to His existence. All things in the universe are manifestations of His, all are from Him. Man enjoys a very important role in this cosmos. Although all things are made by God and identified with God in as much as their being created by Him, man is one who houses a part of God within him. In the Qur'an God says He has breathed His spirit into man.

"When thy Lord said unto the angels: lo! I am about to create a mortal out of mire, And when I have fashioned him and breathed into him of My Spirit, then fall down before him prostrate.(3) This verse provides essential insights into man's position and nature in this universe. Firstly it says that man is made of a dual nature. He is part earth and part divine spirit. Of the portion that is earth, the Qur'an calls it a stinking clay. There are two opposing forces within man, one which is totally animal, material, carnal, and unclean (clay) and the other is the purest essence - the spirit of God.

"Hence human beings represent a mixture of clay and spirit, darkness and light, ignorance and knowledge, activity and passivity ... all divine attributes are present in man, but they are obscured by those dimensions of existence that manifest a lack of the same divine attributes."(4)

A lack of divinity would mean a lack of understanding and knowing what is divine. It is the innermost spirit that is the only part of a human that can in some sense perceive that divine reality, as it is essentially a part of it. The rest of man is a curtain between him and God. It is the partition between the spirit and the mirror of the spirit. It is with these tensions within his nature that the first man (Adam) was created.

The "clay" aspect causes him to "incline towards the earth". The spirit aspect draws him towards God. For this reason the Qur'an says that Adam was created with the two hands of God's power. One hand represents the attributes (or names) of God that draw man near to God (e.g., mercy, love, compassion etc.). The other hand represents the attributes of distance and wrath (e.g., anger, vengeance, wrath, etc.), those qualities which separate man from God. "The most invisible dimension of the human being reflects the divine light directly, while the bodily or visible dimension reflects it only dimly or not at all."(5)

Man has to pull aside this veil of the corporeal or material self. Shunning it he is able to let his invisible dimension reflect the light that it so wants to see. This spirit of God which resides in man longs for a reunion with its original, it cries and makes man's soul restless to cleanse itself of all that is not God. As man lays away his corporeal vestments his inner being sees more clearly. It gains a vision which sees what was previously unseen. Gates of knowledge are opened up to it and before this man will be laid out the secrets of the control of the Universe. The distance between man and God has been bridged by such men.

"My servant continues drawing near to Me ... until I love him, and when I love him, I am the Hearing through which he hears, the Sight through which he sees, the Hand through which he grasps, and the Foot through which he walks."(6)

Continue in the next article: ( The Nature of Jesus 2 )

NOTES:

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1. (The Qur'an. Ch. 112)

2. (Chittick, William. Article, 'The Concept of Human Perfection.' from, The World & I. New York; News World Communications. Feb. 1991. pg. 500)

3. (The Qur'an. Ch 38- vrs 72&73)

4. (Chittick, William. Article, 'The Concept of Human Perfection.' from, The World & I. New York; News World Communications. Feb. 1991. pg. 502)

5. Ibid

6. (Hadith Qudsi)