Continuing with our study of the story of Jesus in the Quran where we had looked into the verse 4:171 as follows:
يَـٰٓأَهْلَ ٱلْكِتَـٰبِ لَا تَغْلُوا۟ فِى دِينِكُمْ وَلَا تَقُولُوا۟ عَلَى ٱللَّهِ إِلَّا ٱلْحَقَّ ۚ إِنَّمَا ٱلْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ٱبْنُ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولُ ٱللَّهِ وَكَلِمَتُهُۥٓ أَلْقَىٰهَآ إِلَىٰ مَرْيَمَ وَرُوحٌۭ مِّنْهُ ۖ فَـَٔامِنُوا۟ بِٱللَّهِ وَرُسُلِهِۦ ۖ وَلَا تَقُولُوا۟ ثَلَـٰثَةٌ ۚ ٱنتَهُوا۟ خَيْرًۭا لَّكُمْ ۚ إِنَّمَا ٱللَّهُ إِلَـٰهٌۭ وَٰحِدٌۭ ۖ سُبْحَـٰنَهُۥٓ أَن يَكُونَ لَهُۥ وَلَدٌۭ ۘ لَّهُۥ مَا فِى ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَمَا فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ ۗ وَكَفَىٰ بِٱللَّهِ وَكِيلًۭا
4:171 O People of the Book, do not go to excess in your religion, and do not say anything about God except the truth; the Christ, Jesus, son of Mary, was nothing more than a messenger of God, His word, directed to Mary, a spirit from Him. So, believe in God and His messengers and do not say “three” – stop, that is better for you- God is only one God, He is far above having a son, everything in the heavens and earth belongs to Him and he is the best one to trust.
The verse mentions the fact that God has inspired his word to Mary which needs to be understood. A great number of people that follow a certain tradition without realizing it confuse this part of the verse that mentions God’s word directed to Mary where she became pregnant and gave birth to Jesus. We will study and see in the following verses that emphasize on the nature of Jesus which in fact is not different from the rest of the creatures.
لَّقَدْ كَفَرَ ٱلَّذِينَ قَالُوٓا۟ إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ هُوَ ٱلْمَسِيحُ ٱبْنُ مَرْيَمَ ۚ قُلْ فَمَن يَمْلِكُ مِنَ ٱللَّهِ شَيْـًٔا إِنْ أَرَادَ أَن يُهْلِكَ ٱلْمَسِيحَ ٱبْنَ مَرْيَمَ وَأُمَّهُۥ وَمَن فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ جَمِيعًۭا ۗ وَلِلَّهِ مُلْكُ ٱلسَّمَـٰوَٰتِ وَٱلْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا ۚ يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَآءُ ۚ وَٱللَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَىْءٍۢ قَدِيرٌۭ
5:17 Indeed, those who say, “God is the Christ, son of Mary,” have fallen into disbelief. Say, “who has the power to prevent God if He chose to destroy the Messiah, son of Mary, his mother, and everyone in the world altogether?” The dominion over the heavens and the earth and everything in between them belongs to God. He creates whatever He wills. God has power over everything.
Receiving the word of God, i.e. revelation as Jesus received doesn’t make him God. We have to understand that being inspired in the spirit of human beings or receiving the word of God does not make one better than other creatures. Every creature, not only Mary or Jesus is the “Kalima” or word of God. We studied previously the word “Kalima” translated as word of God where everything in the universe is the word of God.
In the case of Jesus being the “Kalima” word of God, there is no difference with the rest of the beings. His creation which is also a “Kalima” is seen to have occurred in a miraculous way or as some say as extraordinary. It depends on the context of what extraordinary is. In fact, whatever happens in the universe is a miracle since no one in the universe can create anything in the universe. Miracle by definition means no one can create but God creates. Only the Creator of the universe can bring anything that did not exist before into existence and this is clearly stated in the Quran. Also, the creation of Jesus is not different from the creation of anything else and comes from the same source of existence.
What is unique to the prophetic miracles and the creation of Jesus? How is it different from the rest of the creatures? The rest of the creatures took place in an order which we are familiar with. We usually are not taken by surprise with their creation but we should be. One has to be surprised at how come things exist like the way they are. How is a cat the way it is in creation with its shape, form, beauty? How about a human being with so many qualities including the body? How do I exist like this the way that I am? This wonderment should make us see everything as miracles but we may not. We are accustomed with the order in the universe so we don’t say God created it in a miraculous way. The accustomed way makes things look as coming in an ordinary way, our accustomed way of experiencing the universe.
Extraordinary is what we are not accustomed with which may seem to us as out of the ordinary. For us it would be extraordinary to see a baby created without a mother and father interaction. We have never seen such a birth in our daily lives so it would be extraordinary to me.
As far as the existence of the universe is considered we may take it as granted that everything is ordinary. What we need to understand is that, in fact, they are not ordinary at all. The prophetic miracles seem to be extraordinary as far as our accustomed way of experiencing the universe. I am not familiar with this thing at all and no one else has ever seen such a thing so it would come out as extraordinary. The miracles happened through the demand of the prophets, they are also extraordinary. For example, at his time, prophet Noah made a ship which was extraordinary since no one at that time had thought of or knew how to make a ship. Nowadays, we can make a ship and that is, in fact, extraordinary as well. Think about the quality of water, although it is created as liquid but with the quality of carrying tons of weight on it without letting it sink.
In existence everything including the existence of the order we benefit from is extraordinary. It is not necessary that something should happen as it does. A special preference must be realized for a thing to exist. In the language of the Quran, everything is coming into existence as a result of the “Kalima” word of God, the Will of God wants it to happen. God by definition is the creator of the universe altogether, including the prophetic miracles.
Let’s understand this matter in a simple way:
- As we see the universe coming into existence in an accustomed way that we call it “ordinary.” In this perspective, when we witness prophetic miracles, because they are created in such a way that we are not accustomed with, then we call them “extraordinary” or “miraculous creation.”
- Is this understanding really correct? We have to ask: Does anything at all within this universe have the quality to realize its existence by itself, although constantly changing by following an order with its own will, knowledge, purpose, harmony with the rest of the universe etc.? Does it have any of these qualities?
- In fact, despite our familiarity with the order which seems to be standard, “ordinary”, we have to accept that the existence of the universe with its smallest particles (if there is such a thing at all) is the result of the conscious choice of an Absolute Creator.
- When we reach this conclusion that the existence of the universe demonstrates that they exist just because an Absolute being has willed them to exist, then we have to accept that for the Creator of the universe, the existence of everything is just an ordinary thing for Him. Whereas, for a conscious human being everything is extraordinary; they cannot be reduced to simple, regular happenings so that we call them “ordinary.” That would be really a grave mistake and an insult to the Creator. In fact, everything is worth wondering about. The existence of an ant is as extraordinary as the existence of galaxy clusters. They all are “extraordinary.”
- Since we superficially see the order and claim the existence of everything is “ordinary,” then, when we witness the prophetic miracles we call them “extraordinary.” That is our superficial, not well-thought perspective.
To conclude the subject we can summarize it: For the superficial human experience the creation of Jesus was a miracle. The miracles created by God in the hands of the prophets are, for our accustomed way of the order of the universe, miracles and extraordinary. For example, in the time of the prophet Solomon, flying was regarded as a “miraculous creation” For superficial human perspective it was correct to call it “extraordinary.” But now we realize that the order of the universe allows us to fly on airplanes. We do not call the flying of human beings as “extraordinary” therefore, “miraculous.” In fact, as it is explained above existentially, everything in creation is extraordinary and miraculous, not only prophetic miracles, but including them as well.
Let’s continue with the phrase “قُلْ فَمَن يَمْلِكُ مِنَ ٱللَّهِ شَيْـًٔا إِنْ أَرَادَ أَن يُهْلِكَ ٱلْمَسِيحَ ٱبْنَ مَرْيَمَ وَأُمَّهُۥ وَمَن فِى ٱلْأَرْضِ جَمِيعًۭا ۗ” translated as “Say, ‘who has the power to prevent God if He chose to destroy the Messiah, son of Mary, his mother, and everyone in the world altogether?’” If He wills to destroy them who can prevent Him from destroying them? Who can prevent everything from being destroyed if the Creator wanted it so? Otherwise, for example my existence, neither me or anything else can prevent destruction or preserve it from going into non-existence. Nothing in the universe has any quality to continue its existence even for a moment. Just if the Creator does not choose to create, what has any power to preserve its existence and continue to exist? There is no necessary reason or cause that my existence from myself has any quality to preserve itself even for a second. No one can show that something has power to sustain its existence even for a second. That is why the phrase is put in this verse to make me realize the existence giver cannot be of the nature of this universe.
Not every Christian theology claims that Jesus is God but quite a proportion of the Christian theology claims that “Jesus is fully human and at the same time fully God.” This is made complicated to give some sort of extraordinary position to Jesus compared to other people. If something is created, it is in need to be given existence, it cannot be the giver of existence; its own existence needs to be given existence. If something creates anything which did not exist before even for a second, then that should be able to create the whole universe. It is so simple for the Creator just to will the existence of anything and it exists. If He does not will, nothing exists. Either Jesus is the creator of the universe or a created being of the universe. If one can create one atom then the same authority has the right to will the whole universe to exist. He does not have to use any material, just willing is enough for anything to exist with all sorts of qualities. For this will, there must be no limit.
This matter does not only relate to prophet Jesus but to all the events, miracles of all prophets. Every prophet mentions that the miracle is created by the Will of the Creator. The miracles are created similar to the way things are smoothly coming into existence at every moment in a miraculous way by His will which must have no limit. Otherwise, there is no way for things to exist. The One who creates the universe must have power over everything. We cannot comprehend the Absolute but we should be able to understand His power, knowledge, will to be without any limit as we observe and experience the existence of each being here in the universe.
وَإِذْ أَوْحَيْتُ إِلَى ٱلْحَوَارِيِّـۧنَ أَنْ ءَامِنُوا۟ بِى وَبِرَسُولِى قَالُوٓا۟ ءَامَنَّا وَٱشْهَدْ بِأَنَّنَا مُسْلِمُونَ
5:111 And remember when I inspired the disciples to believe in Me and My Messenger? They answered, “We believe and bear witness that we submit ourselves to You.
The verse mentions the followers of prophet Jesus believing in God and His messenger. The phrase “وَإِذْ أَوْحَيْتُ إِلَى ٱلْحَوَارِيِّـۧنَ” is translated as “when I inspired the disciples.”
If someone does not believe in God, they cannot believe in His messengers that are employed by God. What if someone claims to believe in God but does not believe in messengers? That belief in God will have no base. Why is that?
Where would I have learned about God? If there was no message from the Creator employing a messenger telling me about God, I would be puzzled with the wonderful working universe. Only after I am taught will I learn and confirm that it makes sense. In every matter of belief, I have to be taught, so that I can make sense of it and then I can confirm that teaching. Without making sense of the teaching, not being convinced about the truth of it, how can I believe in it? This brings into light the meaningless debate between usage of reasoning versus heart (feelings) when both are to be used.
While the mind is reasoning to make sense of things, the human feelings also get involved but one may have more weight than the other depending on the situation. For example, in choosing the paint color of a wall, the feelings will have more weight than reasoning but both will be employed. If one is involved in some financial transaction, the reasoning may be used more than the feelings. I may be enjoying some time with friends using more of my feelings but my reasoning reminds me that I may need to go early as my family needs me. As soon as I remember to head back, I engage in reasoning. Taking the priority according to the subject does not mean that human beings can act using only reasoning or only feelings. From the human experience in one’s life, feelings are overwhelmingly in the front. For belief matters though the mind must be convinced first and then the feelings confirm it together. It doesn’t work the other way around, i.e. belief doesn’t receive the confirmation from senses first and followed by the mind to confirm. Belief matters need proof which needs analysis for which we use reasoning, because of the nature of belief we need to see the evidence and only then conclude about the necessary existence of a Being who is not of the nature of this universe, which is called in the Qur’an as “Ghaib”. In order to reach this conclusion the reasoning needs to take priority first and reach a conclusion, only then will the feelings confirm this conclusion.
How can one claim to believe in God without looking for evidence? Belief in God is a matter of belief and not knowledge. Evidence must be observable, available, in front of my eyes and I have to reason about it. For example, when I see a sign post while driving that shows an arrow to the city of Chicago. I have to reason to follow in that direction if my intention was to go there.
Coming back to the verse where “Awhaytu” is translated as “I inspired” to the disciples but the literal meaning of the word is not really inspiration. The word comes from “Wahaya” which means revealed to them. Muslim scholarship introduced the usage of “Auwhaytu” as revelation relating to verbal revelation used for prophets only. When it is used for other purposes it is translated as “I inspired.”
The mentioning of inspiration to the disciples doesn’t take away the universality of the message. God employed Jesus to deliver the message to everyone. In this verse the disciples of Jesus are being distinguished by using the word “hawariyyoon”. The Quran uses the word to describe the ones that believe in the message of Jesus; those that see Jesus is employed by God as His messenger. They are saying that we believe and submit ourselves, our existence and will to Our Creator and that is described using the word “muslim.” In the Quran, the word muslim is used in many different contexts. In the Quran, Solomon and the queen of Sheba are referred to as muslim as well. Anyone that submits their will to their Creator are described as muslim. We have no right to limit the term muslim to only the followers of prophet Muhammad (pbuh).
إِذْ قَالَ ٱلْحَوَارِيُّونَ يَـٰعِيسَى ٱبْنَ مَرْيَمَ هَلْ يَسْتَطِيعُ رَبُّكَ أَن يُنَزِّلَ عَلَيْنَا مَآئِدَةًۭ مِّنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ ۖ قَالَ ٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
5:112 When the disciples said, ‘Jesus son of Mary, can your Lord send down a feast to us from heaven?’ he said, ‘Be conscious of God if you are true believers.’
The “hawariyyoon” are human beings like you and me. Notice the usage of “Rabbuka”, your Lord and not my Lord “Rabbuna”. This does not indicate any sign of disbelief but has to do with conviction of one’s belief. Knowing is different from being certain of something. Learning is different from experiencing knowledge and making it a thing for myself. We develop belief in stages. We learn from the teacher but unless I experience it in my own life with the physical elements available to me, knowledge stays suspended till then. I would like to confirm at 100% but can I? Does not seem to be humanly possible, we have to strive for 100% conviction and be on this progressive path; we should not be disappointed that we have not reached there yet. That is human. The usage of “your Lord” is to seek that confirmation. I may claim my Lord is the Owner of the universe and can do everything so why doesn’t He send us a feast. This shows some doubt in my belief which is human. Jesus is a bit disappointed that you have seen many examples in my teachings and in creation but still in doubt? Yes, we are human beings. We will see that God replies in another verse with a positive response by creating what they demanded for. God acknowledges the human need.
Jesus said: “Be conscious of God if you are true believers.” The language slightly changed from “muslimoon” to “muminoon”. Be aware of the reality of God. When I say I believe in God, am I aware of what I am really stating? The word “muminoon” is translated as “believers” but it means being secure in one’s conclusion: I am absolutely sure that my conclusion is reality. Having this surety is difficult as we saw in the example of Abraham: “I want to be comfortable and satisfied in my belief.” (2: 260) That is human and we can desire this as well. Will something extraordinary happen to us? Not necessarily. These verses in the Quran are to give us positive relaxation.
For example, if I ask for a feast; prepared food doesn’t come suddenly on my table as an extraordinary event but to desire it is human. Human beings have a weak point, what is that? If we hear that someone has demonstrated some sort of “ma’jazah” which is a “miracle” or “kirama” which are special ways of honoring people, we take that as a great event where this man just demonstrated something extraordinary to me. We see this man as a perfectly correct individual to be getting that favor. There is no such thing as even the prophets may do something wrong and God corrects them according to their mission; not that often though. No one can guarantee that I am the person favored by God. We should understand that if someone is given this “wonderwork,” for us it looks like an extraordinary thing is given in his life because he needs it. As we remember, we have discussed that everything is extraordinary anyways. We cannot say that this man is perfect, the message of the prophet is perfect but themselves may always not be then God corrects them.
قَالُوا۟ نُرِيدُ أَن نَّأْكُلَ مِنْهَا وَتَطْمَئِنَّ قُلُوبُنَا وَنَعْلَمَ أَن قَدْ صَدَقْتَنَا وَنَكُونَ عَلَيْهَا مِنَ ٱلشَّـٰهِدِينَ
5:113 They said, ‘We wish to eat from it; to have our hearts reassured; to know that you have told us the truth; and to be witnesses of it.’
I want to physically experience the desire to have my heart reassured, to know that you have told me the truth. The human desire is to be the physical witness which is given. Even if this desire is not fully realized in this world, may remain only as a conclusion of our reason and the confirmation of our feelings, which is called “iman” (belief) then in the next creation much more than what I realize here in my living, inshaAllah.
The phrase “Watatma’inna Quloobuna” is translated as “hearts reassured.” This shows that belief must first be understood, analyzed and confirmed by the intellect. The feelings then receive it and get satisfaction from it. There must be no contradiction about the content of belief matters when one uses intellect and feelings. Unlike reasoning, feelings are infinite and cannot be limited to a certain area but go deeper and deeper to infinite. Reasoning looks at the data, analyzes and concludes but feelings don’t work in this way, they go to infinity. As far as the feelings are concerned having no end, satisfaction, the heart’s assurance also has no end.
قَالَ عِيسَى ٱبْنُ مَرْيَمَ ٱللَّهُمَّ رَبَّنَآ أَنزِلْ عَلَيْنَا مَآئِدَةًۭ مِّنَ ٱلسَّمَآءِ تَكُونُ لَنَا عِيدًۭا لِّأَوَّلِنَا وَءَاخِرِنَا وَءَايَةًۭ مِّنكَ ۖ وَٱرْزُقْنَا وَأَنتَ خَيْرُ ٱلرَّٰزِقِينَ
5:114 Jesus, son of Mary, said, ‘O God, our Lord, send down to us a feast from heaven so that we can have a festival for the first of us and [till] the last of us and a sign from You. Provide for us; You are the best provider.’
It is very human to seek signs for confirmation. God is telling me about my human side. He accepts the desire as we will see in a later verse. In this verse, the demonstration of the feast is generalized. The disciples of Jesus want to see a miracle in the creation of food and witness it but as a special one-time occasion. The phrase used to describe God as the best provider, “Khairur Raziqeen” which is in active participle and means continuing to provide. You are the one whose profession is to provide, to give continuously.
First of us and the last of us: You can demonstrate your quality of providing through this special event meal and then every time that I have a meal I will see You as the provider. The one-time special meal is extraordinary but from the creational side the meals for the other days are also miraculous and extraordinary, there is no difference as they come from the same source. In my practical life, I may desire a particular dish but the other dishes as far as the existence side is concerned, there is no difference. All are miraculous and extraordinary. Insha’Allah let us marvel at the miraculous creation that we witness every moment.
Tags: Jesus, Mary, Messiah, Miracles, Wonder works, Words of God