Jesus, a devout Muslim?

Question
Islam teaches that Jesus was a devote Muslim. Is this true?
Answer
No, Jesus was/is not a Muslim, devote or otherwise. Jesus was born approximately 600 years before Muhammad (571-632 A.D.) and the period of the creation of Islam (608-632 A.D.). Let’s approach your question in two parts showing Jesus extensively disagrees with the Qur'an and was Jewish and never a Muslim.

Jesus Doesn't Believe or Abide by the Qur'an

Jesus (Isa according to Islam) didn't believe or abide by the commands of the Qur'an. Some examples will make this clear:

First, Islam claims that Jesus is not divine (4:171; 5:72-75, 116; cf. 19:88-93; 23:91; 112:1-4). However, Jesus claimed that he and the Father are one and therefore he must be divine (John 10:30). Jesus even claimed to exist before Abraham (John 8:58). The Bible, including the Gospels (called Injil in Islam) which Muslims claim to believe, says Jesus is eternal God (John 5:18; cf. Rev. 1:18). He is also Creator God (cf. Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:3). So, Jesus does not agree with the teachings of Islam.

Second, Muslims don't believe that Jesus is "the Son of God" (23:91; cf. 112:3), and it is stated that Allah doesn't even have a son (6.101; 23.91). However, Jesus referred to himself as "the Son of God" (John 10:36-37; cf. John 1:1, 14). In the Gospels, which again Muslims maintain they believe, Jesus is referred to numerous times as the Son of God (Matt. 4:3, 6; 8:29; 14:33; 27:43; 27:54; Mark 1:1; 3:11; 5:7; 15:39; Luke 1:32, 35; 3:38; 4:3, 9; 4:41; 8:28; 22:70; John 1:34, 49; 3:18, 36; 5:25; 10:36-37; 11:4, 27; 19:7; 20:31). It was even said to Jesus, "If you are the Son of God, come down from the cross" (Matt. 27:40; cf. Matt. 26:63; 27:43). After he had died he did come down off his cross, was buried, and then rose from the dead absolutely proving he is "the Son of the living God" (Matt. 16:16; cf. 1 John 2:23)! So, Jesus does not agree with the teachings of Islam.

Third, Muslims don't believe Jesus was crucified (4:157-158). But Jesus said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (John 2:19; cf. Matt. 26:61; Mark 14:58). Consequently, Muslims disagree with their prophet Jesus again. Indeed, to Gentiles of the "Muslim type" the crucifixion is foolishness (cf. 1 Cor. 1:23). So, Jesus does not agree with the teachings of Islam.

Fourth, since Muslims disagree with the crucifixion, they can't believe in his resurrection either (4:157-158). But Jesus claimed that he would raise himself from the dead (John 2:19; 10:18). Actually, all three members of the Trinity raised Jesus from the dead (cf. Rom. 6:4; 8:11). So, though Islam claims to believe the Gospels, they in essence call the God of the Gospels (one of their own prophets) a liar. Furthermore, when Jesus said, "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11:25), he claimed to be the resurrection himself. As God, he has absolute authority over life and death (Rev. 1:18). Even secular sources state that Jesus rose from the dead. (Please see "Isn't faith blind, irrational and without reason?" below). So, Jesus does not agree with the teachings of Islam.

Fifth, Islam's belief in Jesus is considered a core principle (2:136), but Muslims worship Muhammad as the greatest of the prophets. Biblically, however Jesus is the greatest of prophets (Deut. 18:15; Acts 3:18, 22-24; Heb. 3:3; cf. the Son of the vineyard, Matt. 21:33-46; Mark 12:1-12; Luke 20:9-19; Heb. 1:1-2). The Bible states that the worship of him is absolutely exclusive. Jesus says, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me" (John 14:6). Jesus is the only gate or entrance to know God (John 10:9). Jesus is "the Way" and not merely "a way" (cf. Acts 9:2). Jesus leaves no other way to come to God, not even Muhammad. "And there is salvation in no one else for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). So, Jesus does not agree with the teachings of Islam.

Lastly, Islam assumes that there is no need for Jesus' atoning death because each person is responsible for their own actions (17:13-15; 53:38-41). Muslims reject the doctrine of original sin, instead maintaining man's nature at birth is fitrah, or in a state of intrinsic goodness. They uphold that Allah even overlooks smalls sins (4:31) and even that disobedience is not rebellion, just an error to remember God's instructions (20:115). Moreover, they assert that sin is primarily against their own souls, not against God himself (7:23; cf. 4:110-111).

However, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Rom. 3:23). The wages of sin – even the smallest of ones – is death (Rom. 6:23). The Psalms, which Muslims maintain they believe (4:163), reveal mankind's total depravity: "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me" (Psa. 51:5; cf. Gen. 8:21; Prov. 22:15). Other books of the Bible that Muslims assert they believe to be true support this (cf. Gen. 6:5; 8:21; Job 15:14-16; Psa. 14:2-3; 58:3). Ephesians 2:2 says that all people who are not in Christ are "sons of disobedience." Ephesians 2:3 establishes this as well, saying that we are all "by nature children of wrath" (cf. Jer. 17:9). There is none that seeks to do good (Psa. 14:2-3; cf. Rom. 3:11-18).

Jesus spoke of the total depravity of the human heart (cf. Mark 7:21-23) as he taught: "Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life. Whoever rejects the Son will not see life. Instead, the wrath of God remains on him" (John 3:36; cf. John 3:16; 5:24; 6:27, 47, 50-51; 11:26, etc.). Notice that the wrath of God is already upon unbelievers and therefore Muhammad wouldn’t have been included in his statement concerning salvation. Jesus believed in total depravity and in his effectual atoning death. So, Jesus does not agree with the teachings of Islam.

There are numerous other points that could be made, but it’s clearly seen that Jesus rejects the teachings of Islam. So, once again he can't be a Muslim.

That Islam claims Jesus is one of their prophets – some 600 years after he lived upon this earth – is not evidence that Jesus was a Muslim. As with many other statements within Islam, it's merely an unproven assertion. Similarly, people say they were abducted by little green space aliens. Don't laugh. There are really UFO religions out there (see "What is the Raelism?" below). But mere assertions without evidence are not fact!

Jesus Ethnically Was a Jew and Not a Muslim

Jesus identified with the Jews of his day and not Muslim Gentiles; " You [Gentiles] worship what you do not know; we [Jews] worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22).

The very first verse of the New Testament establishes the ethnicity of Jesus as Jewish (Matt. 1:1). The Virgin Mary was Jewish – a direct descendent of David (Luke 3:31). Jesus descended from Judah (Heb. 7:14). He was born under the Law (Gal. 4:4). His parents even performed what was required by Jewish law (cf. Luke 2:39).

Jesus, the King of the Jews (Mark 15:2), affirmed the Hebrew canon (Luke 11:51). [1] He attended the synagogue on the Sabbath (Luke 4:16) and taught in the Jewish temple in Jerusalem (Luke 21:37). If he were not a Jew, he wouldn't have been allowed to teach there (cf. Acts 21:28-30). Jesus observed Passover (John 2:13; cf. Deut. 16:16), Sukkot, or the feast of tabernacles (John 7:2, 10), and Hanukkah, or the feast of lights (John 10:22). Even Jesus, a Jewish Rabbi (Luke 19:39; John 3:2), wore Jewish clothing (Matt. 14:36; Luke 8:44; cf. Num. 15:37-39).

Some Muslims have argued that Jesus converted from being a Jew to being a Muslim. But how can this be true because, according to Islam, Jesus spoke the word of God from his very cradle (3:46; 19:28-3). When could he have converted? It’s also said that all people are born as Muslims ("No babe is born but upon Fitra [Muslim nature], …" Sahih Muslim, Book 033, Hadith Number 5426). But how can this fit with their claim that he converted or the fact that Jesus disagreed so much with Islam in his teachings? Jesus was never a Muslim!

Jesus is the living God of Christianity alone. Christianity has a Jewish Savior. It was founded by Jews, its first converts were Jewish, its apostles were Jews, and most, if not all, the New Testament was written by Jews. Jesus is not a Muslim; he never was or will be. Indeed, as shown above, Islam's god is not the God of the Bible. One can't serve two masters (Matt. 6:24; Luke 16:13). Even Islam agrees, "God forgiveth not [the sin of] joining other gods to Him; but He forgiveth whom He pleaseth other sins that this: one who joins other gods with God hath strayed far, far away" (4:116).

Now therefore fear the Lord and serve him in sincerity and in faithfulness. Put away the gods that your fathers served beyond the River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. And if it is evil in your eyes to serve the Lord, choose this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your fathers served in the region beyond the River, or the gods of the Amorites in whose land you dwell. But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord (Josh. 24:14-15; cf. Gen. 35:2; Josh. 24:16; Judg. 6:10; 1 Kings 18:21; Mic. 4:5).

An Appeal to Muslims

If you are Muslim, I thank you for reading to this point. But since contrast is the mother of clarity, I ask you to compare the history of the Bible with that of the Qur'an. If you do a complete study, you will discover that there was/is considerable dispute over the Qur'an's early history. In fact, an official edict established one standard Qur'an and ordered all the rest to be destroyed (Sahih Bukhari 6:61:509-510). If all words of the Qur'an are true, then why were they altered throughout the House of Islam? Records remain of the old variants that confirm the former versions. I urge you to check them out. I also urge you to read the four Gospels, which your religion says it accepts. Jesus is God. He is the only way to the Father. Embrace him – THE way, THE truth, and THE life (cf. John 14:6). There is salvation in no other (Acts 4:12).

Note

[1] The Jewish Bible is arranged in three groups: (1) the Five Books of Moses (Chumash), (2), the Eight Books of the Prophets (Neviim) and (3) the Twelve Books of the Writings (Kesuvim). The last book in the Jewish Bible is Chronicles. So, Jesus in his description of the canon "from the blood of Abel" (Genesis, the first book) "to the blood of Zechariah" (Chronicles, the last book) in Luke 11:51 represents the entire Jewish canon.

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The coming of Mohammed? – Isaiah 21:7
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Islam and Jesus resurrection body? – Luke 24:39
Islam and Jesus' Death
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Touch Me Not? – John 20:17
Jesus, The Son of David and Islam? – Acts 2:30
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Answer by Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr.

Dr. Joseph R. Nally, Jr., D.D., M.Div. is the Theological Editor at Third Millennium Ministries (IIIM).