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The Story of Jesus in the Quran – Part 8

The story of Jesus in the Quran, part 8

We will continue studying the verse:

وَلَقَدْ ءَاتَيْنَا مُوسَى ٱلْكِتَـٰبَ وَقَفَّيْنَا مِنۢ بَعْدِهِۦ بِٱلرُّسُلِ ۖ وَءَاتَيْنَا عِيسَى ٱبْنَ مَرْيَمَ ٱلْبَيِّنَـٰتِ وَأَيَّدْنَـٰهُ بِرُوحِ ٱلْقُدُسِ ۗ أَفَكُلَّمَا جَآءَكُمْ رَسُولٌۢ بِمَا لَا تَهْوَىٰٓ أَنفُسُكُمُ ٱسْتَكْبَرْتُمْ فَفَرِيقًۭا كَذَّبْتُمْ وَفَرِيقًۭا تَقْتُلُونَ

2:87 – We gave Moses the Book, and he was followed by other messengers, and [We] gave Jesus, the son of Mary, all evidence of the truth, and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit. Whenever a messenger comes to you with a message your ego does not like, you become arrogant, called some of them liars, and murdering some of them.

We went over the former part of the above verse talking about the chain of messengers. Before and after Moses, there were messengers employed to deliver the message of God to everyone in their time period of prophethood. Fundamentally, there should be no difference in them as they are employed by the same Creator to deliver the message. If the message is corrupted or lost, they are followed by other messengers to revive and correct the teachings. The content of the message is similar but the details vary in the scriptures according to the living conditions of the time and people that the prophet was sent to. Jesus was sent to restore the neglected and deviated points in the Torah tradition. Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was followed after them to further restore the missing elements of the Torah and Bible. 

In the case of Jesus, who received the revelation as the “Rasool”, he was followed by John the Baptist, who can also be seen as a prophet “Nabi” (do not directly get revelation) whose mission was to further extend the message from prophet Jesus. These are some details with the point being that the message of God has always been presented to human beings. 

When the Quran was revealed, some people who used to travel around the Arabian Peninsula were somehow familiar with the concept of sacred books, prophets being given some message as well as some names of prophets. The people from the town then called Yasrib, were very much familiar with the Jews as having some prophets and the book that they keep reading and referring to. This information will help them to receive the message of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) in a positive attitude. They didn’t find the narrations in the Quran strange as they were somehow familiar with these kinds of stories as also mentioned in the Torah. The people around the place where prophet Muhammad (pbuh) was born were not familiar as such. Although historically disputed, some scholars mention that there were two slaves from the Christian tradition but they were not knowledgeable and had no influence in society.  The Quran only mentions those names of prophets that would be familiar by the people of that time around the area. It doesn’t mean there were no other prophets besides the ones the Quran narrates about but there have always been prophets sent to mankind. By definition, man should not be left without guidance by their Creator. By ourselves, it would not be possible to understand the purpose of one’s existence in this world, what are we supposed to do here with all our human senses. The universe is wonderful but with no purpose? Our human senses are dying to seek meaning and purpose, looking for eternal satisfaction when there is no eternal satisfaction here in this world. 

In this day and age, we do hear about God as the Creator, prophets that came telling us God is an Absolute God, not only the concept that refers to as the Creator of the universe, but now He left it working by itself, there is a hereafter, that there is purpose and meaning in creation.  This may be an obstacle for us to truly appreciate the need of the institution of prophethood as a dire need to be guided. 

After prophet Moses, there were many other prophets sent to mankind as related to in this verse mentioning prophet Jesus. The word “Bayyinaat” used in the verse means explaining something where prophet Jesus is employed to explain the message of God. 

Let’s look into the following phrase: “Wa ayyadnahu bi Ruhul Quds”, translated as strengthened him with the sacred Holy Spirit (Ruhul Quds). In different traditions including Judaism, Christianity and Islam, this is attributed to angel Gabriel. This leaves us still in a mystery such as who is Gabriel? The one who brought the message to the prophets and is his work now finished? We understand that Gabriel represents the sacred holy spirit where the word spirit is also used for human beings as described in the Quran with the body of the human being is breathed into by God as a spirit from His spirit. Similarly, as the verse indicates, Jesus is also given a spirit by God. What makes the spirit holy? As a living being, I have a spirit. When I die, the body is buried under the ground. What makes a human being precious is the spirit (ruh), that is inspired by God, i.e. the tools that recognize the Creator’s qualities as they are manifested in the human being and thus makes him precious. The body by itself, although has manifested qualities of the Creator reflected, is not precious unless the spirit is there that starts reading the manifested qualities of the Creator.

The message that prophet Jesus brought is supported by the spiritual/angelic side of creation. The angelic side of the human being starts communicating with the angelic side of creation. Thus, the message of Jesus was supported by the immense meaningful spiritual side of the universe, as a witness to the message that he brought to mankind. Everything becomes a means of strengthening and supporting as evidence to the prophetic message. In one sense the mission of every prophet is to be taken as the mission of prophet Muhammad (pbuh). By definition there is no fundamental difference in the original language of the message Moses, Jesus and Muhammad (pbuh) received which came with the support and evidence of the universe.

The universe is a created art manifesting the qualities of the Artist; why does the Christian theology confuse this matter? For example, my reflection on the mirror which shows the form, shape, features of me is not a part of me. The universe cannot be a part of its Creator but reflects the qualities of the Creator like the mirror does. The essential point is if the message of the prophets makes sense, and does satisfy my feeling, intellect and the point here is not to compare religions. The universe is created by the same One that employed the prophet by sending them the message. The universe is His action wise speech, the message is His verbal speech that relates to his action wise speech in the universe. The prophets are employed to practice the message they received under the witnessing of the universe. There is harmony in all of these working together, supporting each other.  Any kind of understanding of the holy spirit (Ruhul Quds) that disturbs the feelings or goes out of line would put us into either bigotry, zealously, pantheism or humanism. One should feel comfortable with the above understanding with the witnessing of the universe as action wise speech, verbal speech and the practice of the prophets which forms a balanced system supporting each other.

The usage of the word “Mubeen”, as an active participle, making something clear with no dot on it, no deviation in its appearance, no inconsistency. “Mubeen” also has this meaning of it being clear itself. This can be extended to the spirit being clear and acts as a tool for human beings to understand the clear demonstrations in the universe of the messages it is able to understand. 

The universe has no free will, God’s message is there fixed but the meaning is open for interpretation. No one can find another creator in the universe and is fixed in that way as it is; the universe has to reflect what the Creator or Author has given to manifest Its qualities. The Prophet as a human being definitely has free will but no free will to manipulate the last message that the Prophet Muhammad received and it perfectly transmits the message. When it comes to the human spirit, which has the same quality to acknowledge it and cannot be corrupted. When the spirit is put into practice, there is one element in there of free will which can distort the way we utilize our spirit by not following the news that our spirit brings to us about our Creator.  We have the option to cover something clean and pure with dirt. We should watch out for this free will which we can use otherwise to what the spirit is intended for. For example, I may make a mistake and turn the expectation of the human spirit to this temporary, limited world by seeing a transient thing as my source of satisfaction. The human spirit needs eternal happiness but with my free will I may reduce it to this temporary world.  For example, when I take a picture of an object and put my finger on the camera lens, the object will not be captured where my free will interferes by blocking it  from taking the whole picture. We can do the same thing to our spirit. I can change the direction of the expectation of my spirit by choosing something transient as something that satisfies me only temporarily. Human spirit is pure but I have the free will to distort it. My expectations of satisfaction may be turned in the wrong direction, to the temporary universe. We have to be very careful with ourselves. We are responsible for our choices which become our “iktisab” (acquisition) as mentioned in the Quran. Whatever I acquire, the result will come back to me not according to the capacity of my spirit but how much I practiced the spirit with my free will. 

We have good news in the example from the prophet (pbuh) on seeking forgiveness for our shortcomings, when we distort our spirit. When the prophet was not practicing at 100% of his spirit, immediately God corrected it in the form of revelation which became a guide for me. The Qur’an and the prophet heavily emphasize asking for forgiveness where a human being can reach perfection only by asking for forgiveness, admitting my mistakes. We should try our best not to corrupt our nature, not to deviate the expectations of our spirit.

If I sincerely repent, the mistake is deleted (‘afw), forgotten (maghfirah, ghufran), and when I repent, I will be treated with Mercy (rahmah). The prophet (pbuh) had mentioned that when I sincerely practice these last 2 verses of section “Baqara”, the Cow,  then I will be treated with Mercy. The words “Wa’fu ‘anna” please  delete our sins, “waghfirlana”, and forget about it and “warhamna” and treat me with Mercy.

Coming back to our understanding of the term holy spirit. As long as the universe exists, “Ruhul Quds”, the holy spirit exists. We have to see the harmony in the 4 elements coming together, i.e.  the universe, the revelation, the prophets’ practice and human feelings all should be confirming and supporting each other. Let us not forget the holy spirit functioning in my life – as long as the universe exists, the holy spirit (Ruhul Quds) is functioning and does not retire. 

إِنَّ ٱللَّهَ وَمَلَـٰۤىِٕكَتَهُۥ یُصَلُّونَ عَلَى ٱلنَّبِیِّۚ یَـٰۤأَیُّهَا ٱلَّذِینَ ءَامَنُوا۟ صَلُّوا۟ عَلَیۡهِ وَسَلِّمُوا۟ تَسۡلِیمًا

33:56 Verily, God and His Angels send blessings upon the Prophet. O you who believe! Send blessings on him and greet him (with) greetings.

God and the angelic side of the universe support the prophetic message. Human beings are invited to benefit and also support the message. The human body is included in the universe whereas the message and meaning of the universe would refer to the human spirit. Let us not confuse the Quran with the “Mushaf”, the written form of the Quran. The light or spirit of the message in the Quran cannot be put into a form, with pages. One cannot package the Absolute Speech, Knowledge into a book. The Quran cannot be identified with the written form which is the “Mushaf”. The Quran is like the spirit of the universe, similar to the human spirit which is the human reality. The human body is material whereas it is the spirit that makes one a human being. We need the body in this world for the spirit to be able to practice the message. The spirit of the universe or the spirit of the human being cannot be killed or separated. Jesus is like the “Musaf” but when the spirit of the message of God is in him, all his actions are with the spirit, that is “Ruhul Quds”, the holy spirit which is also from God.

The word “Salah” in Arabic translated as prayer has many shades of meaning. One of them is confirming the message that has been delivered to me via the prophets. I declare to God that I am pleased with the message and I pray to bless the prophet (pbuh) because he (pbuh) conveys the message to me. It is not his body but he (pbuh) took the message from God and conveyed it to me. Another is when we do “Qiyaam”, as we stand in “salah”, we are making the prayer a fundamental pillar of belief in our life. I am standing by this pillar of prayer for the rest of the day. “Sallu aleyhi wa sallimu tasleema”, when I follow the message I will feel happiness in my spirit. 

Going back to the latter part of verse 2: 87 where to be egocentric here is when I am looking for satisfaction in this world and trying to satisfy the spirit by obtaining the temporary bodily benefits of this world.  Becoming arrogant is when I am not satisfied with creation, am not getting the message and thus turn myself away from seeing the message. The phrase in the verse “Wafareeqan taqtuloon” refers to the killing of the prophets. I would say: “but I did not kill any prophet. There is no prophet now and I cannot kill a prophet anymore?” Historically, there may have been one or two instances where they physically tried to kill the prophets but one cannot kill the message which is the “Risalat”, the message the prophets receive from God. Why is God mentioning the killing of prophets in His eternal speech? The body is not the prophet but the message is the prophet. The message is to be practiced through bodily interaction with the universe.  The word “Taqtuloon” is in continuous present tense, where I can continue to ignore or not follow the message that the prophets bring. For example, there is a nuclear power station, a huge source of energy is connected to my house and a light is lit into my house. When I switch off the light, only I lose (kill) the massive energy only for myself only I was receiving from the nuclear power station. But, by doing so do I completely destroy the power station? No, that is what I do using my free will where I may turn off the switch of my spirit that is connected to the eternal source, the Quran and prophetic message.

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