Feb 112010
 
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This is the “Preface” to the book Jesus The Muslim Prophet: History Speaks of a Human Messiah Not a Divine Christ

Like my books The Mystery of the Messiah (2009) and The Mystery of the Crucifixion (2008), this book is derived from parts of my comprehensive book The Mystery of the Historical Jesus: The Messiah in the Qur’an, the Bible, and Historical Sources(2007). The latter is a broad study of Jesus’ life and teachings, whereas the derivative works each focuses on and studies in more detail a specific aspect of the history of Jesus.

This book is based mainly on two chapters — “The Divine Son of God That Jesus Never Was” and “The Human Jesus” — from my book on the historical Jesus, as well as some material from my other writings. I have also expanded the study significantly with new material. Furthermore, I have changed the structure of the borrowed content for a better presentation, which was also necessary to incorporate the new material.

Like my other writings, this book tries to bring the Qur’an to the study of the historical Jesus which Western scholarship has mainly restricted to the Old and New Testaments, along with historical writings. My other, related goal is to get Islamic scholarship to show more interest in historical sources and to also look at the Old and New Testaments and other Jewish and Christian sources from a historical perspective.

This book focuses on contrasting the human Jesus of the Qur’an with the divine Jesus of Christian sources. Admittedly, this subject has been examined by Christian, Muslim, and other scholars considerably more than other topics of the historical Jesus. However, one new contribution to the literature that my book makes is to show that the human Jesus as presented in the Qur’an is the one that fits in history. The concept of a divine Jesus can only be an invention from the post-Jesus era.

This book, as is the case with all of my other works, has been significantly improved by the insightful comments and feedback of my dear wife Shetha Al-Dargazelli. Without Shetha’s support, it would have been very difficult for me to write my books.

The book has also benefited from the careful reading and comments of my ever helpful friend Tariq Chaudhry.

          

Copyright © 2010 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved

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May 162009
 
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This is the “Preface” to the book The Mystery of the Messiah: The Messiahship of Jesus in the Qur’an, New Testament, Old Testament, and Other Sources

My book The Mystery of the Historical Jesus: The Messiah in the Qur’an, the Bible, and Historical Sources is a comprehensive study of all aspects of Jesus’ life and teachings. It was always my intention to use parts of that work as the core for smaller, more focused books each of which covers certain aspects of the life of Jesus in more detail. I have already published a book on the crucifixion, and this is the second of these derivative works.
 
This book is based mainly on the chapter on the Messiah and content from other chapters in my book on the historical Jesus. The study has been significantly expanded with new material. The presentation of the reused content has also been substantially changed and improved.
 
This book continues the effort of my previous writings to achieve two related goals. First, to bring the Qur’an to a study field that Western scholarship has restricted to the Old and New Testaments and historical writings. Second, to get Islamic studies of the Qur’an to extend their scope to include historical sources and to also look more closely at the Old and New Testaments and other Jewish and Christian sources.
 
In this book, I focus on the concept of “Messiah” in the Qur’an, the Bible, and Dead Sea Scrolls. While history has played a significant part in how the image of the “Messiah” has changed over time and that history needs to be cited, this religious concept is dealt with almost exclusively in religious, even though not necessarily scriptural, sources. Independent historical sources do not help much when studying this concept.
 
All my writings have benefits greatly from the insightful comments and feedback of my wife Shetha Al-Dargazelli. Shetha’s support has also played a major role in enabling me to write my books.
 
The comments of my close friend Tariq Chaudhry have also allowed me to improve the book significantly.
 

          

Copyright © 2009 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved

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Sep 122007
 
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This is the “Preface” to the book The Mystery Of The Historical Jesus: The Messiah in the Qur’an, the Bible, and Historical Sources

My interest in Jesus is not new. It started as far back as I can remember. I was born to an Iraqi Christian family — a Catholic father and Orthodox mother. My parents were not particularly religious and by no means regular Churchgoers, but they had a strong awareness of their Christian identity, as did their three children.

With religion rarely a topic of discussion at home, my Catholic primary school ensured that I was influenced by Christian teachings and the stories of Jesus. I was around 8 years old or so when my fascination with Jesus led to an encounter with him in a dream which I still remember vividly. I saw myself walking with him hand in hand on an endless beautiful green plain. He looked like his images. He did not speak to me, nor I to him. That dream left me with a special feeling of satisfaction.

In my last year in the Catholic school, I received the Sacrament of the First Eucharist. I considered that day to be the best and happiest of my life. Someone — possibly one of my parents — then told me that this is how Napoleon Bonaparte also felt about his first Eucharist. This reassured me that although I was only 12 years old, this feeling was unlikely to change. I continued to attend church and take the Holy Communion regularly for a couple of months before my interest started to wane.
 
Leaving the Catholic school and joining a state run intermediary school marked a significant change in my contact with Christian practices and teachings. There was not much of a Christian atmosphere at home — apart from the icons on the walls, attending the church for social functions each now and then, and, of course, celebrating Christmas and Easter — and now there was no Christian teaching at school either. Those three years were marked by more of a loss of interest in religion than any change in my religious views. I still considered myself a Christian, but did not really care much as to what that meant.
 
But things were to change at high school, where I became friends with someone who held Marxist views and, expectedly, did not believe in the existence of God. The fact this friend came from a Christian family must have made it easier for me to examine my Christian faith. We used to spend many hours discussing various topics of interest. I did not find myself particularly interested in this friend’s political views, although socialism appealed to me, but I found myself gradually getting closer to his dismissive views of religion. By the time I joined university, I had labeled myself an “atheist.”
 
In my second year at university I befriended a very different person. He was a very liberal Muslim with a strange mix of intelligent insights and outlandish views supported by an unenviable amount of self-righteousness. This friendship gave me another opportunity to reexamine my beliefs. I had never considered Islam seriously. What I knew about Islam was largely the myths that I was taught at home, which were popular among other Christians. One of these claimed that Muhammad was taught the Qur’an by a renegade Christian priest called Bahira. Later I discovered that the oldest surviving biography of Prophet Muhammad presents this priest as a solitary monk whom the young boy Muhammad met when he was in the company of his uncle on a commercial journey to Syria. Bahira identified Muhammad as the awaited future Prophet.
 
My close friendship with this person, which replaced my friendship with the Marxist, made me take Islam, and more specifically the Qur’an, seriously and study it, although not in a systematic way. In the first year of this friendship I read the four Gospels critically and wrote a critique of them. This short revisit of Christianity confirmed to me the unreliability of the Gospels and my earlier decision to reject it. But this time I was not to go back to atheism but to enter reassuringly the new world of the Qur’an.
 
This is how my gradual conversion to Islam started. By the time I was 23 years old or so, I could describe myself as a Muslim, although more so intellectually than in practice. The Qur’an took center stage in my life and, among other things, renewed my interest in Jesus. While it speaks highly of all prophets, it paints a particularly venerable picture of Jesus and presents him as a unique prophet, but this image is very different from the divine Jesus of the New Testament. This book is an expression of my lifelong fascination with Jesus.
 
But I did not write this book only because of my personal interest. True, I enjoy writing books, but I can motivate myself to write a book only if I believe it can be a genuinely new contribution to the available literature. And this book is no exception. Let me explain why I believe that this book is a new addition to the literature on the historical Jesus and not a rewrite of something already available.
 
Numerous books and articles have examined the historicity of the Jesus of the Gospels. Some endorse his image in the New Testament, others accept parts of it and reject others, and yet others draw completely different pictures of this intriguing man. There is even a small minority of writers who have gone as far as suggesting that there was never a Jesus in history! Depending on the backgrounds, goals, and trainings of their respective authors, these works relied on the New Testament, Christian sources, Jewish writings, or other historical sources, or on combinations of these writings. The Qur’an is rarely mentioned, let alone seriously considered, by the mainly Western authors of these writings. The explicit or implicit reasoning for this neglect is the perceived historical worthlessness of the Qur’an.
 
There have also been a few studies that considered the Qur’anic Jesus from a Christian point of view. One such study is Jesus in the Qur’an, which was first published in 1965, by Professor Geoffrey Parrinder. This Methodist minister had the commendable goal of bridging the gap between the Qur’an and the Gospels and wrote a very sensitive and sympathetic book. But his method was to show that the differences of the Qur’an with the Gospels are either due to misunderstanding Qur’anic verses or such passages targeting non-canonical or “apocryphal” Christian concepts not what the New Testament says.
 
Another study that may be worth citing is Kenneth Cragg’s Jesus and the Muslim: An Exploration, first published in 1985. Bishop Cragg focused on clarifying for Muslims the misunderstanding of their scripture of Christian theology.
 
In addition to the fact that both of these studies are written from a Christian perspective, both of them are religious studies that do not consider independent sources. Reading the Qur’an from the New Testament’s point of view is interesting, but what history says about the New Testament is at least not less so.
 
Muslim scholars have also written quite a lot about Jesus. But, contrary to their Western counterparts, they focused mainly on the Qur’an and other Islamic sources. The Christian image of Jesus is often cited to be dismissed, usually on the basis of what Islamic sources say, but at times because of its incoherence and internal discrepancies. Like Western scholars who have ignored the Qur’an, Muslim writers have ignored independent historical sources.
 
This book fills a gap in the literature on the historical Jesus by considering simultaneously the Qur’anic account of Jesus’ life, its counterparts in the Gospels, and historical sources. As I explain in more detail in Chapter 1, the book sets out to show that, unlike the New Testament stories, the Qur’anic statements about Jesus are consistent and can be reconciled with what we know from history. Put differently, this book is an attempt to know the historical Jesus by studying both the Qur’an and history.
 
My original plan for the book was to focus on studying the Qur’anic account in the light of history and to cite the New Testament as little as possible. I thought there were already numerous studies that examine the Gospel accounts in their own right and in the light of history. But as I started writing the book I found it difficult to adhere to the original plan. One reason is that presenting the accounts of the Gospels alongside that of the Qur’an is itself useful in showing significant differences between the two. It would make the message of the book clearer to the Christian, Muslim, and other readers.
 
Of course, it is the reader who will ultimately judge how much this book has succeeded in what it set out to do. But I sincerely believe that the attempt was more than worth doing. I also hope that others will follow suit and study the historical Jesus from the Qur’anic perspective.
 
I mentioned earlier the critique of the Gospels that I wrote about 26 years ago. It was useful to me then, but I did not do much with it until 6 years later when I used it to impress my future wife, Shetha. Neither she nor I had any idea at the time that 20 years later I would be presenting her with a much more substantial study to read and critique. This book has benefited immensely from Shetha’s extensive comments on two earlier drafts. She has also given me a lot of editorial help with the book. As ever, she has given me all the help I asked for. Her contribution to this book, as it is to my other works, is invaluable. I cannot thank her enough.
 
My close friend Howard Hall has also kindly acted as a reviewer on the book. His thoughtful comments and suggestions helped me spot and remedy gaps in the book. He also highlighted weaknesses that I needed to address. I am indebted to Howard.
 
I have also got used to the help of my close friend Tariq Chaudhry with reviewing my writings. Tariq read thoroughly an earlier draft of the book and added many comments. These comments allowed me to make the text read better and clearer. I would like to thank Tariq for his help.
 
These three generous reviewers have helped me to greatly improve the book. Any oversights and mistakes that are in the book are mine, and mine alone.


          

Copyright © 2007 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved

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Feb 272005
 
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This article is from the second edition of Jihad in the Qur’an: The Truth from the Source. The book is now in its third edition.

A common misconception about “Islam” is that it is the religion that was revealed to Prophet Muhammad only. Islam, the Qur’an tells us, is rather the name of the one religion that Allah, the One and only God, revealed to every Prophet that He sent to people since the time of the first man and Prophet, Adam. For instance, all the following Prophets were Muslims who taught Islam to people: Noah, Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David, Solomon, Zachariah, John, and Jesus. The following verse describes Israelite Prophets as “Muslims”:

Surely We revealed the Torah in which there was guidance and light; with it, the Prophets who aslamu [became Muslims] guided the Jews (from 5.44).

The name “Muslim” was in fact coined by Allah who used it long before the time of Prophet Muhammad and the Qur’an, as revealed in the following verse:

And jahidu (do jihad) [O you who believe!] in the way of Allah jihadihi (the kind of jihad that is due to Him). He has chosen you and has not laid upon you a hardship in religion; it is the faith of your father Abraham. He [Allah] has named you al-Muslimin (the Muslims) earlier and in this [the Qur’an], so that the Messenger be a witness over you, and you be witnesses over the people. Therefore keep up prayer, pay the obligatory alms, and hold fast to Allah; He is your Master; so how excellent a Master and how excellent a Supporter! (22.78).

The verse clearly states that Allah has named the followers of His religion “Muslims” not only in the Qur’an but also in Books that He had revealed to previous Prophets, such as the Torah of Moses and the Injil of Jesus. Note also the following verse which states that Prophet Noah, who lived long before Prophet Abraham, told his people that Allah ordered him to be “one of the Muslims”:

But if you [O people!] turn away [from my call], I have not asked you for any reward; my reward is only with Allah, and I have been commanded to be one of al-Muslimin (the Muslims) (10.72).

In other words, previous divine Books and Prophets would have used terms equivalent to “Islam” and “Muslim” in their respective languages. The Arabic verb “yuslim” means “surrenders” or “submits.” It is used in a special way in the Qur’an as in “surrenders one’s self to Allah,” “surrenders to Allah,” or such variations. The derived Qur’anic noun “Islam,” therefore, means “submission to Allah.” To be a Muslim is to believe in Allah as the One Lord, submit to His will, and carry out His commandments. So, Islam is in fact a universal term that describes the one religion that Allah instructed, through His various Messengers, all people to embrace. Let’s read some of the relevant Qur’anic verses, starting with these about Prophets Abraham and his sons and grandsons:

And who has a better religion than he who aslama [has become a Muslim] (has surrendered himself) to Allah, is a doer of good, and has followed the faith of Abraham, worshipping one God. And Allah took Abraham as a close friend (4.125).

 And who turns away from the religion of Abraham but he who makes himself a fool; and surely We chose him [Abraham] in this world, and in the hereafter he is surely among the righteous (2.130). When his Lord said to him; “Aslim (Be a Muslim; submit),” he said: “Aslamtu (I have become a Muslim; I have submitted) to the Lord of the people” (2.131). And Abraham enjoined the same on his sons, and so did Jacob [Abraham’s grandson]: “O my sons! Surely Allah has chosen for you the [true] religion, therefore die not except as Muslimun (Muslims)” (2.132). Or were you [O People of the Book!] witnesses when death visited Jacob, when he said to his sons: “What will you worship after me?” They said: “We shall worship your God and the God of your fathers, Abraham, Ishmael, and Isaac, one God, and to Him we are Muslimun (Muslims)” (2.133).

The following verses which refer to the Jews and Christians, or the “People of the Book,” emphasize and instruct the Prophet to stress that “Islam” or “submission to Allah” is the true religion of the Lord:

And they [the Jews and Christians] say: “None shall enter paradise except he who is a Jew or a Christian.” These are [nothing more than] their desires. Say [O Muhammad!]: “Bring your proof if you are truthful” (2.111). Verily, whoever aslama (becomes a Muslim; surrenders himself) to Allah and is a doer of good, his reward is with his Lord, and there is no fear for them nor shall they grieve (2.112).

 Surely the [true] religion in the sight of Allah is al-Islam (Islam), and those to whom the Book had been given differed only after knowledge had come to them, out of transgression among themselves. And whoever denies the verses of Allah, then surely Allah is quick in reckoning (3.19). But if they argue with you [O Muhammad!], say: “Aslamtu (I have become a Muslim; I have surrendered myself) to Allah and so everyone who follows me.” And say to those who have been given the Book and to the unlearned people: “A’aslamtum (Would you become Muslims; would you submit)?” So if Aslamu (they become Muslims; they submit) then they have found the right way, but if they turn away, then your responsibility is only the deliverance of the Message; and Allah sees the servants (3.20).

 This verse is about Prophet Solomon and the Queen of Sheba who came to visit him in his palace:

It was said to her [Queen of Sheba]: “Enter the hall.” But when she saw it she deemed it to be a lake of water and bared her legs. He [Solomon] said: “It is a hall made smooth with glass.” She said [praying to Allah]: “My Lord! Surely I have wronged myself, and aslamtu (I have become a Muslim; I submit) with Solomon to Allah, the Lord of the people” (27.44).

Prophet Muhammad is the last Prophet of Islam, and the Qur’an is the last Book from Allah:

[O people!] Muhammad is not the father of any of your men, but he is the Messenger of Allah and the last of the Prophets; and Allah is aware of everything (33.40).

The Qur’an stresses that, contrary to the claims of the disbelieving Arabs, making a human being a Messenger, as happened to Prophet Muhammad, was not an unprecedented event. In fact, this is exactly how Allah communicated with people: through Messengers that carried His Message to people:

Say [O Muhammad!]: “I am not the first of the Messengers, and I do not know what will be done with me or with you. I only follow that which is revealed to me, and I am but a manifest warner” (46.9).

In addition to the belief in the oneness of Allah, the hereafter, and the angels, the Qur’an requires the Muslim to believe in all previous Messengers and the Books and Messages that Allah revealed to them. This is consistent with the Qur’an’s affirmation that all Messengers delivered the same religion and were sent by the same God. The Muslim is commanded to hold all Prophets in equally high esteem and reverence. The failure to believe in any Prophet is a failure to believe in all Prophets, and a failure to be a Muslim:

Say [O you who believe!]: “We believe in Allah, in that which has been revealed to us; in that which was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Descendents (Jacob’s sons); in that which was given to Moses and Jesus; and in that which was given to the Prophets from their Lord; we do not make any distinction between any of them, and to Him we are Muslimun (Muslims)” (2.136).

 The Messenger [Muhammad] believes in that which has been revealed to him from his Lord, and so do the believers; they all believe in Allah, His angels, His Books, and His Messengers; [they say] we make no distinction between any of His Messengers; and they say: “We hear and obey [Allah’s commandments]; grant us Your forgiveness, our Lord. And to You is the eventual course” (2.285).

Copyright © 2004 Louay Fatoohi
All Rights Reserved

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