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Bible Dictionaries

Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament

Christ in Mohammedan Literature

CHRIST IN MOHAMMEDAN LITERATURE—i. In the Koran.* [Note: The form in which the name ‘Jesus’ appears in the Koran is ‘Isâ (עישי), which appears to represent ‘Esau’ rather than ‘Ieshua.’ A similar variety is said to be found in Mandaic documents (Brandt, Die Mandäische Religion, 1889, p. 141); but this, like their Yahyâ for (‘John,’ may be due to Moslem influence. It seems unlikely, though not wholly impossible, that Mohammed may have confused the personalities of Esau and Christ; it is more probable that the Koranic form is due either to intentional alteration or to mishearing. Fränkel (WZKM iv. 336) suggested that the initial ע instead of the final was due to mishearing on Mohammed’s part, whereas the other alterations were due to his desire to make the word rhyme with Mûsâ (Moses); and this accounts for the facts (cf. Sycz, Biblische Eigennamen im Koran, 1903, p. 62). It is, however, equally likely that the alteration was due to Mohammed’s informant, who may have been moved by some superstitious consideration.] —The earliest mention of Jesus Christ in the Koran is in ch. 19, the Suratu Maryam, which was delivered in Mecca. It refers to His birth—

‘Make mention in the Book, of Mary, when she went apart from her family eastward, and took a veil to shroud herself from them, and we sent our spirit to her, and he took before her the form of a perfect man. She said: “I fly for refuge from thee to the God of Mercy: if thou fearest Him.” He said: “I am only a messenger of thy Lord, that I may bestow on thee a holy son.” She said: “How shall I have a son, when man hath never touched me? and I am not unchaste?” He said: “So shall it be. Thy Lord hath said, Easy is this with me, and we will make him a sign to mankind and a mercy from me; for it is a thing decreed. And she conceived him and retired with him to a far-off place. And the throes came upon her by the trunk of a palm. She said: “Oh, would that I had died ere this, and been a thing forgotten, forgotten quite.” And one cried to her from below her, “Grieve not thou.” Then came she with the babe to her people, bearing him. They said: “O Mary, now hast thou done a strange thing, O sister of Aaron; Thy father was not a man of wickedness, nor unchaste thy mother.” And she made a sign to them, pointing towards the babe. They said: “How shall we speak with him who is in the cradle, an infant?” It said: “Verily, I am the servant of God; He hath given me the Book, and He hath made me a Prophet” ’ (vv. 16–24, 28–32).

The child is represented as miraculously speaking in defence of His mother. He claimed to be the servant of God to whom a revelation—the Book—was made. It is said that this refers to the Injil, or Gospel, revealed to Him whilst yet in His mother’s womb. The idea of speaking in the cradle is taken from the apocryphal Gospel of the Infancy. The idea of the palm tree is taken from a story in the History of the Nativity of Mary, when she rests under it on the way to Egypt.

In Suratu’z Zukhruf (ch. 43), also a Meccan Sura, we read—

‘And when the son of Mary was set forth as an instance of Divine power, lo! thy people cried out for joy thereat. And they said: “Are our gods or is he the better?” … Jesus is no more than a servant whom we favoured and proposed as an instance of Divine power to the children of Israel. And he shall be a sign of the last hour’ (vv. 57–61).

The idolaters of Mecca put the question recorded in the second of the above verses to Mohammed, when he condemned their gods. The Christians worship as a God, Jesus whom you praise: do yon, therefore, condemn Him as you do our gods? We are quite willing to let our gods be treated as you treat Him. This seems to be their line of argument, and it led to the emphatic declaration that whatever the Christians might think of Him, in the opinion of Mohammed He was ‘no more than a servant.’

All the other references to Jesus Christ occur in Medina Suras. We give the principal ones in their historical order.

In Suratu’l Baqarah (ch. 2) we read—

‘And to Jesus, son of Mary, gave we clear proofs of his Mission, and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit’* [Note: By ‘Holy Spirit’ Mohammed means Gabriel.] (v. 81).

‘To Jesus, the son of Mary, we gave manifest signs, and strengthened him with the Holy Spirit’ (v. 254).

In the Suratu Ali Imran (ch. 3) there are several references—

‘Remember when the Angel said: “O Mary, Verily, God announceth to thee the Word from Him. His name shall be Messiah, the son of Mary, illustrious in this world and in the next, and one of those who have near access to God. And he shall speak to men alike when in the cradle and when grown up, and he shall be one of the just.” She said: “How, O Lord! shall I have a son, when man hath not touched me?” He said: “Thus will God create what He will. When He decreeth a thing, He only saith Be, and it is.” And He will teach him the Book and the Wisdom and the Law and the Evangel, and he shall be an apostle to the people of Israel’ (vv. 40–43).

It is said that Mary was thirteen or fifteen years old when the announcement was made to her. The commentators say that Jesus was specially set apart to speak in the cradle, and later on to the Jews.

The phrase ‘son of Mary’ had become so fixed in Mohammed’s mind that he puts it into the mouth of the Angel, even when he is addressing Mary herself. There are several interpretations of the words ‘teach him the Book.’ The most generally received one is that it refers to the Divine books of previous prophets other than the Law of Moses. There is a curious saying of Imam Mohammed bin Ali Baqir—

‘Jesus was so intelligent that, when nine months old, his mother sent him to school. The master said the Bismillah—“In the name of God, the Merciful, the Compassionate”—which the child at once repeated after him. The Master then gave a number of words to be read, of which the first was abjad. Jesus wished to know why he should do this, upon which the master became angry and struck him. The child said: “If you know, explain; if you do not, listen. In abjad, a stands for Allah la ilah (‘there is no God but God’), b for Bahjat Ullah (‘grace of God’), j for Jalal Ullah (‘glory of God’), d for Din Ullah (‘religion of God’).” ’

Mohammed says that Jesus was sent as an apostle to the Jews, in order to show that his Mission was limited, whilst that of Mohammed was for all people. In Medina, the idea of a Mission far beyond the confines of Arabia had now taken hold of Mohammed’s mind, and he thus suggests by the reference to the limited Mission of Jesus his own superiority.

In v. 43 of the above ch. 3 a miracle is also referred to—

‘ “How have I come,” he will say, “to you with a sign from your Lord; out of clay will I make for you, as it were, the figure of a bird; and I will breathe into it, and it shall become, by God’s leave, a bird. And I will heal the blind and the leper, and, by God’s leave, I will quicken the dead.” ’

It is said that the bird was a bat which flew away whilst they looked at it, and, when out of sight, fell down dead. Traditions also state that he cured fifty thousand people in one day, and raised not only Lazarus, but also Shem, the son of Noah, from the dead. The story of the bird was evidently suggested to Mohammed by the account of the creation of twelve sparrows from mud, recorded in the apocryphal Gospel of Thomas the Israelite.

In the same Sura the death of Jesus is referred to—

‘O Jesus! verily I will cause thee to die. I will take thee up to myself and deliver thee from those who believe not’ (v. 48).

The commentary Ma’alim says that he died for three hours and then went up to heaven: others say it was seven hours. Jalalain says that God took him away in a trance. Others interpret it in the sense of protection from adversaries, or the destruction of evil which would hinder the ascent to the world of spirits. The difficulty the commentators feel over this verse is that it clearly contradicts Sura 4:155 which distinctly denies that Jesus was put to death. In v. 52 Jesus is compared to Adam, that is, neither had a human father.

The next reference is in Suratu’s Saff (ch. 61), and is intended to show that Jesus had foretold the advent of Mohammed—

‘Remember when Jesus the son of Mary said, “O children of Israel! of a truth I am God’s apostle to you to confirm the Law which was given before me, and to announce an apostle that shall come after me whose name shall be Ahmad” ’ (v. 7).

Mohammed here confounds the term ‘Parakletos,’ the Comforter promised by Jesus to His disciples, with the word ‘Periklytos,’ which has somewhat the same meaning as Ahmad, from the root of which his own name Mohammed (‘praised’) also is derived.

The next reference is in Suratu’l Hadid (ch. 57)—

‘We gave him the Evangel,* [Note: By ‘the Evangel’ Mohammed evidently meant the revelation which he supposed Jesus received in the same mechanical way as he received the Koran.] and we put into the hearts of those who followed him kindness and compassion.’

The next reference is in Suratu’n Nisa (ch. 4). It is a denial of the crucifixion of Jesus. The Jews are reproached for speaking against Mary, and—

‘for their saying, “Verily we have slain the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, an apostle of God.” Yet they slew him not, and they crucified him not, but they had only his likeness … they did not really slay him, but God took him up to Himself’ (v. 156).

Mohammed here adopts the view of Basilides, an early heretic, who affirmed that the spirit who constituted Jesus the Son of God left Him before the crucifixion. He did it to prove that Jesus was not really a man, but only the semblance of one; and this is opposed to the Koran as well as to the Gospel. Mohammed apparently did not see the inconsistency of adopting the views of Basilides. Another verse denies the Divinity of Christ.

‘The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, is only an apostle of God, and His word which He conveyed into Mary, and a Spirit from Him. Believe, therefore, in God and His apostles, and say not “Three” (i.e. there is a Trinity). Forbear! it will be better for you. God is only one God. Far be it from His glory that He should have a son’ (v. 169).

In a later Sura, Suratu’l Maida (ch. 5), we read—

‘Infidels now are they who say, “God is the Messiah, son of Mary” ’ (v. 76). ‘When God shall say, “O Jesus, son of Mary, hast thou said unto mankind—Take me and my mother as two gods besides God?,” he shall say, “Glory be unto thee, it is not for me to say that which I know to be not the truth” ’ (v. 116).

Mohammed represents Christians as worshipping a Trinity consisting of the Father, the Son, and the Virgin Mary. The undue veneration paid to the Virgin Mary may have misled him in his earlier days, but he had opportunities of correcting his error; and yet in this the latest of the Suras he makes the charge. By this time his breach with the Christians was complete, he had no hope of winning them, nothing to gain from them, and so he either seeks to misrepresent their chief dogma, or, at least, takes no pains to ascertain what it really was.

In the same Sura we have a passage which has given rise to many traditions—

‘Remember when the apostles said, “O Jesus, son of Mary, is thy Lord able to send down a furnished table to us out of heaven?” ’ (v. 112). ‘Jesus, son of Mary, said: “O God our Lord! send down a table to us out of heaven, that it may become a recurring festival to us” ’ (v. 114).

Mohammed may have had some idea of the Lord’s Supper when he recited these words, or of the love-feasts which were ‘recurring festivals’; but the commentators do not so interpret it. Some say it was a parable, and that a table did not actually come down; but most consider that a real table descended. Jesus made the ceremonial ablutions, recited the names of God, and then said the prescribed prayers. After this he uncovered the table and found, according to one account, many kinds of food; according to another, a fish ready cooked, without scales or prickly fins, dropping with fat, well seasoned, surrounded with all kinds of herbs, and leaves on which were olives, honey, cheese, and so on. Jesus restored the fish to life, then caused it to die again, and fed one thousand three hundred persons with it. Still the fish remained whole. The table then flew up into heaven. The miracle was repeated for forty days.

ii. The following traditions referring to Jesus Christ are found in the Qisasul Anbiya or Tales of the Prophets.

One day Mary in the house of her husband had arranged a purdah behind which she intended to bathe. Then Gabriel in the form of a beautiful young man appeared. Mary feared, and said: ‘I seek protection of God from thee, if thou fearest.’ Gabriel said: ‘I am sent to thee from thy Lord that a beautiful child may be given to thee.’ Mary said: ‘Whence shall a child come to me, for no man has touched me, I am not an evil-doer.’ Then Gabriel came near to Mary and breathed on her. Some say on her sleeve, others on her neck, some on her womb. Some say that this breath was a sneeze made by Adam and preserved by Gabriel.

Mary spoke of her conception to her cousin Joseph, who was to come into the house. He in sorrow expressed his doubts about her, and, on being told to speak his mind freely, said, ‘There is no cultivation without seed, and no seed without a tree.’ Mary said: ‘If you say God at first made the trees, then they were produced without seed: if first He made seed, then seed came without a tree.’ Joseph said: ‘Is a child born without a father?’ Mary said: ‘Yes, without parents, just as Adam and Eve were.’ Joseph assented, and expressed regret for the doubts he had entertained. Then Mary told him about the good news Gabriel had brought.

They say that Jesus in the womb spoke with his mother and said the Tasbih: Subhana’ llah—‘I extol the holiness of God.’ When the days of her confinement drew near, Mary was told to go to Bethlehem, lest her people should injure the child. Mary and Joseph went, under the guidance of Gabriel. The pangs of child-birth coming on, she got off her riding animal and rested under a date tree. Then Christ was born. Immediately a spring appeared and angels bathed the child. It is said that Jesus said then to his mother, ‘Do not sorrow, God has provided this fountain.’ Then ripe dates fell at her feet, and she said: ‘O Lord, Thou hast granted me sustenance.’ The reply came, ‘O Mary, thy heart turned to me, love for Jesus has come into it; be tranquil, sustenance will be provided, eat and drink and have joy in the Messiah.’

Then Mary said to Gabriel: ‘If people ask how the child was born, what shall I reply?’ He said: ‘Say, “I have seen no man, I am fasting; I speak with none about it.” ’ It is said that when the Jews found her and the child under the tree, they began to make a tumult and reproached her, saying, ‘Neither thy father nor mother were evildoers.’ She replied: ‘I am fasting to-day, whatever you want to know, ask the child.’ They became very angry, and said: ‘How shall we speak to the infant?’ However, they asked him the circumstances of his birth. He said: ‘I am the slave of God, appointed to be a prophet and a blessing in whatever place I may be, and He has ordered me to keep the fast and almsgiving as long as I live. I am not appointed a tyrant, but the peace of God is upon me from the day of my birth to the day of my death and resurrection to life again.’ Having said this, he did not speak again till the natural time for an infant to speak arrived. Having witnessed the miracle, the Jews gave up their suspicion and reproach, and said that this was the prophet of whose birth the preceding prophets had spoken.

Then Mary went to Jerusalem, where, seeing the miracles done by the child, people sought to destroy him. Then, by the order of God, Mary took him to Egypt. Some say she went with Joseph and the child to Damascus, to the house of a rich man, who protected and provided for them. He nourished many lame and blind persons. At this time a very valuable article of his was stolen, and no trace of the thief could be found. Jesus said: ‘Such a lame and such a blind man stole the thing.’ When accused, the blind man said: ‘How could I see to steal?,’ and the lame man, ‘How could I walk to do so?’ Jesus said: ‘The blind man carried the lame man, who then from a shelf took the goods and divided the booty.’ So the theft was found out.

Then Jesus, having received from God the gift of prophecy, returned to Jerusalem and invited the Jews to embrace the strong religion; but they were displeased, and only his apostles followed him.

It is said that the term hawari,* [Note: Really the Ethlopic for ‘messenger,’ apostle.’] ‘apostle,’ comes from a word meaning ‘to whiten,’ and that the apostles were so called because they were fullers by trade. Jesus said to them: ‘Just as you make clothes clean, so by faith in God cleanse your hearts from the dust of sin.’ Then they asked for a miracle. Jesus took various clothes and filled a jar with them. Some time after he took them out, when they were all of one colour. These twelve men then believed in him. God told Jesus to tell people first, that ‘God is one without a partner,’ then to tell them of the coming of Mohammed as a prophet, and say: ‘A prophet will come after me, Ahmad by name. Then Jesus, wearing a woollen cloth, with staff in hand went here and there. At night he used a stone for a pillow and lay on the ground. His food was barley bread and greens. He cared nothing for worldly wealth. He never desired the society and friendship of women. His life was one of great simplicity. Seeing his fatigue in walking, his disciples brought him an animal to ride; but after using it once he returned it to them, for the anxiety of providing it with fodder was more than he could bear. They then wished to procure him a house; he declined it on the ground that if he lived long it would go to ruin; if he soon died, some one else would get it.

One day he saw an old man sitting by the grave of his son. Jesus, after two prostrations in prayer, said: ‘O certain one, rise by the order of God.’ The grave opened, and the corpse came forth and said: ‘O Lord, why didst thou call me?’ The Jews said: ‘We have never seen such a sorcerer.’

It is related that God ordered Jesus to go to the king of Nasibin, a proud and infidel ruler. Jesus went with his twelve disciples, and on arriving near the place said: ‘Who of you will go and announce to the people of this place my arrival?’ James and Thomas and Simon Peter went. When near the place, Simon told the other two to go on and give the news, and he would wait; so that if evil should fall on one of them he might make some plan. Then James and Thomas entered the city, and cried out, ‘Jesus the Prophet of God and the Spirit of God has come to the city.’ The people seized Thomas and took him to the king, who said: ‘Who has spoken here of a prophet, and God, and the Spirit of God? if he does not repent, I will kill him.’ Thomas said: ‘I will not repent. Let the king do as he wills.’ Then by the order of the king the people cut off the hands and feet of Thomas, and left him in an unclean place. Simon then came and sought the audience of the king, and begged to be allowed to interrogate Thomas. He then asked him how he supported the statement he had made. Thomas replied that Jesus worked miracles, for the blind and lame and sick were healed. Simon said: ‘Doctors do this; what other proof have you?’ ‘Jesus knows what people eat, and drink, and say in their houses.’ Simon said: ‘This too can be done by intelligence and hearing: give another proof.’ ‘He makes birds of mud, and makes them fly.’ Simon said: ‘This is simply magic: give another proof.’ Thomas said: ‘He raises by the order of God the dead to life.’ Simon then said to the king: ‘If this is so, it is advisable that your honour should send for Jesus, and see whether what Thomas says is right: if he raises the dead he is a true prophet.’ The king approved, and sent for Jesus, to whom Simon told all that had passed. Jesus asked what miracles were called for. Simon said to heal the hands and feet of Thomas; then to state what each one in the assembly had eaten, and what stores he had; then to make mud birds fly. Jesus did all these things. Salman al-Farisi says that when all the sick in Nasibin were healed, the people asked Jesus to raise the dead. Jesus said he would do so. They came to the grave of Shem, son of Noah, and said, ‘Revive him.’ Jesus made two prostrations in prayer and prayed to God. Then by order of God the earth opened, and a person with white hair and beard came forth from the grave, and, having salnted Jesus, said to the people: ‘Certainly, Jesus is a prophet of God. All of you should believe in him and obey him.’ Then Jesus said to Shem: ‘In your lifetime no one had white hair; how is it yours is white?’ He replied: ‘When I heard your voice, I thought the day of judgment had come, and my hair turned white with fear.’ Jesus said: ‘How long have you been dead?’ He replied: ‘Four thousand years.’ Jesus wished to pray for his life, but Shem said: ‘Again I must die, I have no wish to live on, if you will ask God to have mercy on me.’

One day when a crowd was following Jesus, they said they were hungry. The Apostles urged him to relieve them. This relief came in the form of a tray of God from heaven. When Jesus and the Apostles saw it, they offered thanks to God. Then Jesus said: ‘Let the most pious one amongst you lift up the cover of the tray.’ The Apostles requested him to do it. He did so, and then they saw on the tray a fish without bones from which oil was flowing, and round it were all kinds of vegetables, but there was no garlic or leeks. Near the head of the fish was some vinegar, and near the tail some salt. Round it were placed five loaves, and on each loaf were a few olives, five pomegranates, and five dates. Simon, on seeing this, said: ‘This is heavenly food.’ Then Jesus told the people to eat. The Apostles said: ‘You eat and then we will.’ Jesus said: ‘I do not eat. Let the people for whom I obtained it eat.’ Then the people ate. The sick, after eating this food, were restored to health. Multitudes ate, but the food was not less. It is said that for forty days this tray came down each morning and remained till mid-day. Then the word came to Jesus: ‘Only the poor, the orphans, and the sick should eat.’ The rich murmured, and God threatened them with punishment. Some said: ‘Make the fish alive again, and we will believe.’ Jesus did so; but they believed not, and seventy men perished.

A man came to Mary one day, and said: ‘The king has said that a ryot each day is to make a feast for him and his army. To-day it is my turn, and I have not the means to do it.’ Mary turned for aid to Jesus, who hesitated; but Mary said that aid would be a great favour to the ryot. Jesus then sent for the master of the house, and said: ‘Get ready jars and pots, and fill up with water,’ which Jesus changed into pure wine. In other pots cooked meat was found, and. newly baked bread on trays appeared. The king wished to know where the wine came from. The man replied, From such and such a place. The king, knowing the wine of that place, said: ‘Why dost thou lie? no such wine is to be found there.’ Then the man confessed that a neighbour had by his prayers provided all. The king then called for Jesus, and said: ‘The heir to my throne died a little while ago, restore him to life.’ Jesus said that his return to life meant many evils to the country. The king said: ‘Let the country be ruined if I only get one glimpse of him.’ Jesus said: ‘If I raise him, will you let me go in peace?’ The king agreed; so the prince came to life, and Jesus went away. But the prince was a tyrant, and the people killed both father and son.

One day Jesus met a Jew with two loaves. The Jew agreed to share food; but when he saw Jesus had only one loaf, he hid one of his, and next morning appeared with one only, and denied that he had more. Then Jesus, when going on the way, asked a shepherd to feed him, who said: ‘Tell one of my men to slay a sheep that it may be cooked.’ Jesus from the skin and bones revived the sheep. ‘Who art thou?’ said the shepherd. ‘Jesus, son of Mary.’ Then Jesus asked the Jew where the two loaves were. He swore he had only one. Jesus remained quiet. At the next stage he had a calf killed, and they all ate of it, and again he restored the calf to life and gave it back to its owner, and again asked the Jew where the two loaves were. He again denied that he had two. They then come to a city where the king was sick and at the point of death. Then the Jew told the nobles that he could cure all diseases and even raise the dead. They said: ‘Cure the king and we will give you much money.’ He began to beat the king with his staff, and the king died. The nobles ordered that he should be hanged. Jesus, seeing this, said: ‘If I raise your king, will you forgive my friend?’ Jesus raised the king and released the Jew. The Jew was profuse in his thanks. Jesus said: ‘Where is the second loaf?’ The Jew said he had only one.

Jesus went one day to an infidel king like Pharaoh, and called upon him to embrace Islam. The king, being annoyed, determined to kill him. Jesus hid in a mountain cave, and after a few days told his disciples that this revelation had come: ‘Truly I will raise thee up and bring thee back to myself.’ The Apostles wept at the idea of separation from him. He said: ‘You weep now, when the enemy comes you will forsake me.’ They declared that they would allow no enemy to come near him, and would protect him. They also said: ‘Will another prophet come after thee?’ He said: ‘Yes, of the Quraish tribe, an unlettered prophet, Mohammed, superior to me, will come. Tell the generations to come to follow him.’ He then added: ‘Now I make Simon my Khalifa (successor), all of you obey him.’ They agreed. He said: ‘After my death trays full of light will come, and by the blessing of that light you will know the languages of all tribes.’

Some say that the Jews, by the advice of that bad king, and by means of an old Apostle, seized Jesus and imprisoned him all night, and in the morning prepared a cross on which to crucify him. Then great darkness fell, and angels released Jesus from prison and carried him up on high, and took the old man prisoner. The Jews, thinking he was Jesus, quickly killed him, and he was crucified, though he protested that he was not Jesus, but the man who had betrayed him. The Jews did not believe it. All historians say Mary was then alive. Others say the Jews watched and guarded the cave where Jesus was, but Jesus at night was taken up under cover of darkness. In the morning the Jews sent a man to find Jesus, but he returned and said that no one was there. Then the Jews said: ‘Thou art Jesus,’ and crucified him.

Others say the Jews imprisoned him with eighteen men in a house. Jesus said: ‘If one of you will assume my appearance, God will reward you in Paradise.’ One agreed. Jesus ascended on high. In the morning the Jews said, ‘There were eighteen men with Jesus; one is short.’ The prisoners said Jesus had gone on high; but the Jews saw one like Jesus and crucified him. After a few days Jesus returned to the Apostles; then he died, but God restored him to life and made him like an angel.

It is said that at the last day, when Dajjal the cursed, with Imam Mahdi, collects the people at morning prayers, Jesus will appear on the Mosque at Jerusalem, and will descend to join Imam Mahdi, and kill Dajjal. He will engage in Jihad, or wars of religion, and bring people to Islam. Such will be his justice that the lion and the sheep will dwell together, and children will play with serpents. When Jesus dies again, the burial prayers (namaz-i-Janazah) will be said over him, and he will be buried in the tomb of Mohammed at Medina.

Literature.—The Christology of the Koran is the subject of a considerable literature, which is best represented in recent times by Ed. Sayous, Jésus-Christ d’après Mahomet, Paris, 1880. Somewhat earlier are Gerock, Versuch einer Darstellung der Christologie des Korans, Hamburg and Gotha, 1839; and Manneval, La Christologie du Koran, Toulouse, 1867. See also H. Preserved Smith, The Bible and Islam, New York, 1897; and the missionary tract ‘Islam and Christianity,’ American Tract Society, 1891.

In the post-Koranic literature of Islam three classes of writers are occupied with the Person of Christ, for different purposes.

1. The theologians.—These persons, so far as they argue with Christians, are compelled to discredit the Christian Gospels, against which they urge objections often identical with those popularized in recent times by Strauss. The remarkable treatise by Ibn Hazm (d. 1063 a.d.), published in Cairo, 1903–4, represents the extreme of negative criticism. The author refuses to trust the Gospels even for the names of the Apostles; nothing whatever, he holds, is known about ‘Isâ beyond the statements of the Koran. For the mode in which his arguments can be met we may refer to St. Clair Tisdall, Muhammadan Objections to Christianity, 1904. Ibn Hazm’s view is not generally popular among Moslems; and some, such as Fakhr al-din al-Razi (d. 1209), a commentator of high repute, even use the Gospels to illustrate the Koran. This practice is imitated by the Egyptian mufti, Mohammed Abdo, from whom Islam expected so much, in the commentaries which are published in the Cairene bi-monthly Manâr, It is not unusual to find illustrations of the Koran from the Gospels in commentaries by authors who would not consult them; in such cases they are given after a chain of authorities going back to one of the companions of the Prophet.

2. The preachers.—The Moslem sermon ordinarily consists largely of anecdotes or maxims connected with persons of eminence. These include prophets; Greek, Roman, and Persian sages; companions of the Prophet; and Moslem saints. In the works of these writers the name of ‘Isâ figures very frequently, the sayings and doings assigned to Him being sometimes traceable to the Gospels, but often assigned in different works to a variety of persons. A great quantity bearing the name ‘Isâ are to be found in the great homiletic encyclopaedia called ‘Revival of the Religious Sciences,’ by al-Ghazzali (ob. 1126 a.d.), whence they were collected and translated in the Expository Times (Nov. and Dec. 1903, and Jan. 1904) by D. S. Margoliouth.

3. The story-tellers.—The profession of these persons does not differ technically from that of the preachers; but, as their purpose is only to entertain, they may be distinguished from those who aim at reforming. The work by Tha‘libî (d. 1036) cited above, called ‘Tales of the Prophets,’ emanates from this class, whom the more serious preachers reproach for their mendacity (Luzumiyyat of Abu ‘l-’Alâ of Ma‘arrah, ii. 77, Cairo, 1895). The stories told by them are often purely the product of their fancy, though at times they go back to some apocryphal Gospel, or some passage of the Old Testament. The character of Christ, as it appears in Moslem fabrications, is modelled on that of the Sufi saint, who is a benevolent ascetic. Ibn ‘Arabi (d. 1240 a.d.), the chief mystical writer of Islam, accounts for the mild, philanthropic, and non-resistent character of Christianity by the fact that its founder was fatherless. That Christ will return to judge the world according to the law of Mohammed is a text on which his ‘Meccan Revelations’ contain many a homily. The Christian doctrine of the ‘Son of God’ was attributed by ingenious Moslems to a misreading of Psalms 2:7 ‘Thou art my Son,’ in Arabic bunayya, which should have been read nabiyyun, ‘a prophet,’ two words which, in the ordinary Arabic writing, are barely distinguishable (al-Bhaith al-Musajjam). In the anecdotes told by the preachers, the Apostles are ordinarily made to address him as ‘O Spirit of God’ or ‘O Word of God,’ for both of which there is authority in the Koran. As has been pointed out above, the third Person of the Trinity was supposed by the Moslems to be the Virgin.

E. Sell and D. S. Margoliouth.

Copyright Statement
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Bibliography Information
Hastings, James. Entry for 'Christ in Mohammedan Literature'. Hastings' Dictionary of the New Testament. 1906-1918.

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