The Muslim View of Jesus

Muslims consider Jesus to be one of Allah’s greatest prophets. He was a sinless man sent by God to bring truth to his time. In the Muslim view, He was neither God in the flesh nor the Son of God. He was not a partner with God, for that would be blasphemy against Allah. 

Jesus is spoken of with great honor, but no more honor than is due to any other prophet of Allah. Jesus allegedly said in the Quran: “Lo! I am the slave of Allah. He hath given me the Scripture and hath appointed me a Prophet” (Sura 19:30). He is considered a lesser prophet than Muhammad.

Jesus—A Prophet of Allah

Out of the 6,236 verses in the Quran, only 74 deal specifically with Jesus, and 42 are indirect references.[1] Jesus is not a “major player” in the Quran.

One of the central verses of the Quran is Sura 4:171: “Christ Jesus the son of Mary was (no more than) an apostle of God, and His Word, which He bestowed on Mary.” Muslims believe that this verse is rich in praise for Jesus. He is called an apostle of Allah, which is essentially a prophet, even though he is a much lesser prophet than Muhammad. According to Muslims, Jesus did not claim to be more than a prophet. He is one of many thousands of prophets of Allah (supposedly 124,000), so while He is great, there are many others. 

We are also told in Sura 3:45 that Jesus is the “Messiah” (see also Suras 4:157, 171). However, Muslims do not use the term in the same way as Christians. It appears that Muslims do not understand the true meaning of the term and certainly do not view the Messiah as a divine being. According to the Quran, the “People of the Book” (Christians) should not regard Jesus as anything other than a messenger of God: “The Messiah, son of Mary, was no other than a messenger, messengers (the like of whom) had passed away before him” (Sura 5:75). The prophet Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary by a miracle (Sura 3:47). The Muslim theologian Zamakhsari says that Mary conceived “when the angel Gabriel blew up her garment.”[2]

Jesus Worked Miracles

Muslims revere Jesus for his miracles (Sura 3:49). The Quran teaches that Jesus made a bird out of clay by blowing on it (Sura 5:110). He also healed the blind and a leper and raised the dead (Sura 5:110). 

The fact that Jesus healed the sick and raised the dead is considered a wonderful thing by Muslims. To this day, people in Iran often compliment doctors by saying, “Doctor, you’re a miracle worker; you have the very breath of Jesus!”[3] However, they do not see miracles as a sign that Jesus is the Son of God or a divine being. Muslims believe that Allah empowered Jesus to do such things.

Jesus Was Not the Son of God

Muslims do everything in their power to refute the idea that Jesus was the Son of God. Sura 9:30 speaks of those who believe that Jesus is the Son of God as being deceived. According to Muslim belief, the idea that Jesus is the Son of God suggests that Allah had sex with Mary, a female companion, and that this resulted in the birth of Jesus. However, the Quran makes it clear that Allah has no consort: “How can He have a son when He hath no consort?” (Sura 6:101). The Quran also states of Allah: “No son has He begotten, nor has He a partner in His dominion” (Sura 25:2). Further, we are told that “He begetteth not, nor is He begotten” (Sura 112:3). 

One Muslim apologist says, “The Muslim takes exception to the word ‘begotten,’ because begetting is an animal act, belonging to the lower animal functions of sex. How can we attribute such a lowly capacity to God?”[4]

Furthermore, Muslims argue that Jesus often claimed to be the Son of Man. Thus, the idea that Jesus was the Son of God is refuted by His own statements.[5]

Jesus Was Not God

Muslims deny that Jesus was God in human form. It is blasphemy for Christians to hold such a belief (Sura 5:17,73). To say that Jesus was God would ultimately imply that there are multiple gods, which is a rejection of their fundamental belief that Allah is the only God (see Sura 5:116-17). Such a claim seriously dishonors Allah, and Christians who hold such a view are infidels.

One Muslim apologist says that Jesus never once explicitly declared Himself to be God or instructed His disciples to worship Him. Jesus never claimed to be more than a prophet.[6]

Jesus Was Not Crucified

The Quran claims that Jesus was not crucified; rather, it was made to appear that He was (Sura 4:157). How was the crucifixion of Jesus made to appear? Muslims have many different answers to this question. Some Muslims claim that the Roman guards arrested and crucified the wrong Jesus, who was actually Barabbas (according to legend, he was also called “Jesus”). They interpret Luke 24 to mean that Jesus tried to get out of Jerusalem before anyone realized they had mistakenly arrested the wrong Jesus.[7] This happened when He met the disciples on the road to Emmaus.

Another popular theory is that Judas was crucified on the cross. According to this theory, after Judas betrayed Jesus, Allah changed Judas’ appearance to resemble Jesus, at which point Judas was crucified and killed. The real Jesus was then carried directly to heaven, unharmed.[8] “Allah took him up to Himself,” says the Quran (Sura 4:158). This elevation to heaven was not the biblical ascension (Acts 1:9-11), but rather a straightforward transfer into God’s presence without going through death, much like Elijah.

Why do Muslims go to such lengths to “prove” that Jesus never died by crucifixion? For Muslims, it is inconceivable that Allah would abandon a prophet, such as Jesus, while fulfilling His mission and allow Him to suffer a humiliating end. It would be contrary to Allah’s omnipotence for Jesus to die on the cross since He would undoubtedly save a prophet in danger. Muslims have occasionally said that they honor Jesus more than Christians because His death by crucifixion would be considered a dishonorable shame. Jesus is said to have been honored by Allah by being taken directly to heaven. 

Muslim apologists claim that Jesus never said anything like, “I was dead and now I’m alive.” We are told: “Throughout the length and breadth of the 27 books of the New Testament, there is not a single statement made by Jesus Christ that ‘I was dead, and I have come back from the dead.’”[9]

Jesus Was Not Resurrected

In Luke 24:39, Jesus told His disciples, “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” This verse, according to Muslim apologists, shows that Jesus did not die and was not raised from the dead. We could paraphrase the Muslim thinking this way: “What is wrong with you disciples? I am the same person who spoke to you, who broke bread with you, and I am flesh and blood, don’t you see?”[10] Just to make it clear to the disciples that He had not died and had not risen from the dead in a spiritualized body, Jesus told them to touch and handle Him. He was among them and still very much alive. 

In line with this, as noted above, Muslims argue that there was no ascension of a resurrected Jesus. It is claimed that the authors of the four canonical Gospels did not record a single word about the ascension of Jesus. The doctrine is therefore pure myth.[11]

Jesus Is Coming Again

Muslims believe that Jesus will eventually return to earth, kill everyone who rejects Islam as the one true faith, rule for forty years, die, and be buried with Muhammad in Medina. He will then be resurrected on the last day, along with all other men and women.

A Christian Assessment

Jesus Is the Son of God

Christians would recoil in horror to the same degree as Muslims if Muslims were correct in claiming that the title “Son of God” required God to have sexual intercourse with a woman (Mary). But there is no such notion in the Bible. Such an idea is pure fiction. Bad fiction. According to the Bible, Jesus is the eternal Son of God. 

The phrase “son of…” frequently had a significant metaphorical connotation “of the order of” among the ancients. In the Old Testament, this is how the term is frequently used. “Sons of the prophets” meant “of the order of prophets” (1 Kings 20:35). “Sons of the singers” meant “of the order of singers” (Nehemiah 12:28). Similarly, the term “Son of God” denotes a claim to undiminished deity and implies “of the order of God.” The term has no suggestion of sexuality.

“Son of…” was a term used by the ancient Semites to denote equality of nature. Because of this, Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries believed that when He declared Himself to be the Son of God, He was claiming divinity without reservation. 

The fact that God created the universe through His “Son” implies that Christ was the Son of God before creation (Hebrews 1:2). Furthermore, Colossians 1:17 clearly states that Christ, as the Son of God, existed “before all things” (see especially verses 13-14). Further, in John 8:54-56, Jesus, as the Son of God, claimed to have eternally existed before Abraham (verse 58).

And so, the Muslim understanding of the phrase is a grave misconception. As an aside, I might note that this essentially amounts to Muslims creating a straw man argument by claiming that Christians hold a particular belief that they do not, and then refuting that particular belief. 

What about the Muslim objection that the New Testament says Christ was “begotten” (John 1:14,18 KJV)? The Greek term for “begotten,” monogenes, means “unique” or “one of a kind,” not that Christ was procreated. Jesus is the “Son of God” in the sense that He uniquely has the same nature as the Father—a divine nature. 

Jesus Was Also the Son of Man

Muslims often ask why, if Jesus is the Son of God, He called Himself the Son of Man (Matthew 20:18; 24:30)? There is no contradiction here, for Jesus was both the Son of God and the Son of Man. The term “Son of Man” does not negate Christ’s deity. By taking human form, Jesus did not relinquish His divine nature. The Incarnation did not involve a loss of divinity but rather the addition of humanity (see Philippians 2:6-8). Jesus affirmed His divine identity on several occasions (Matthew 16:16,17; John 8:58; 10:30). In the Incarnation, Christ possessed both a divine and a human nature, united in one person. 

Notably, the title “Son of Man” is used in contexts where Christ’s divine nature is powerfully demonstrated. For example, the Bible teaches that the authority to forgive sins belongs exclusively to God (Isaiah 43:25), yet Jesus claimed this authority as the “Son of Man” (Mark 2:7-10). Similarly, when the time comes for Christ’s return at the Second Coming, He will descend from heaven as the “Son of Man” wrapped in majestic clouds of glory to rule the earth (Matthew 26:63-64). The title Son of Man identifies Jesus as the divine Messiah. 

Jesus Was God

A comparison of the Old and New Testaments provides powerful testimony to Jesus’ identity as Yahweh (God Almighty). For example, the Old Testament indicates that only God saves. In Isaiah 43:11, God asserts: “I, I am the LORD [Yahweh], and besides me there is no savior” (insert added for clarity). This passage underscores two key points: first, that claiming to be Savior inherently asserts one’s divine status; and second, that there is only one Savior, namely God. Considering this, the New Testament’s portrayal of Jesus as the Savior (Titus 2:13-14) profoundly affirms His divinity.

Likewise, God says in Isaiah 44:24: “I am the LORD [Yahweh], who made all things, who alone stretched out the heavens” (insert added for clarity). The fact that Yahweh “made all things” and “alone stretched out the heavens”—and the accompanying fact that Christ is the Creator of “all things” (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2)—proves that Christ is God Almighty.

Certainly, a clear indication of Jesus’ deity is that the Bible consistently ascribes divine names to Him. As we’ve seen, Jesus is identified with the Old Testament Yahweh. Kurios, however, is the New Testament equivalent of Yahweh. Like Yahweh, Kurios means “Lord” and typically connotes the idea of a supreme person with immeasurable power.  

The apostle Paul points out the close relationship between Yahweh and Kurios in Philippians 2. He tells us that Christ was given a name above every name, “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord [Kurios]” (verses 9-11, insert added for clarity). Paul, an Old Testament scholar par excellence, is alluding to Isaiah 45:22-24: “I am God, and there is no other. By myself I have sworn; from my mouth has gone out in righteousness a word that shall not return: To me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall swear allegiance.” Paul drew on his vast knowledge of the Old Testament to make the point that Jesus Christ is Yahweh, the Lord (kurios) of all humankind.

What about the Muslim claim that Jesus never instructed His followers to worship Him? In reality, Jesus was worshiped on many occasions in the New Testament, and He always accepted such worship as perfectly appropriate. Jesus accepted worship from Thomas (John 20:28), the angels (Hebrews 1:6), some wise men (Matthew 2:11), a leper (Matthew 8:2), a ruler (Matthew 9:18), a blind man (John 9:38), an anonymous woman (Matthew 15:25), Mary Magdalene (Matthew 28:9), and the disciples (Matthew 28:17). 

Jesus’ Miracles Signified His Identity

The Bible claims that Jesus’ miracles prove His identity, despite the claims of Muslims that they do not. Scripture frequently refers to Jesus’ miracles as “signs.” Signs signify something. This word (compare John 4:54, 6:14, 9:16) emphasizes the action’s significance rather than its marvel. Jesus purposefully carried out these signs to reveal His identity as the divine Messiah (see Isaiah 29:18–21; 35:5,6; 61:1,2). His miracles functioned as His divine “ID Card.” 

Jesus Was the Ultimate Prophet

One of Jesus’ offices was that of prophet (Matthew 13:53-57). Notice, however, that Jesus’ teachings as a prophet were always presented as final and absolute. He never wavered. He boldly asserted that His teachings were superior to those of Moses and the prophets—and in a Jewish culture at that!

Jesus always spoke in His own authority. He never said, “Thus saith the Lord…” as did the common prophets (or “Allah says,” as did Muhammad); He always said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you…” He never took back anything He said, He never speculated or spoke incoherently, He never made changes, He never contradicted Himself (as Muhammad did), He never used abrogation (as Allah did), and He never expressed regret for anything He said. He even asserted that “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Mark 13:31), thus elevating His words directly to the realm of heaven.

One cannot read the Gospels long before realizing that Jesus considered Himself and His message inseparable. Because Jesus was (is) God, His teachings had the highest authority. The words of Jesus were the very words of God (see John 6:35; 7:37,38; 10:10; 14:27)! 

Furthermore, contrary to what Muslims claim, Jesus was not just a prophet to Israel; rather, the whole world was to hear His teachings. In His Great Commission to the disciples, Jesus said: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations…” (Matthew 28:18-19). 

Jesus also had no sympathy for the idea of abrogation. He said in Matthew 5:17-18: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

Jesus made it clear that His teachings would never, ever be changed. Jesus flatly asserted, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matthew 24:35). This means that the teachings of Jesus can never be overruled or eliminated by anything Muhammad says. Since Jesus is God, His statements are final and authoritative. 

Jesus Was Crucified on a Cross

One of the first things you should do when you hear a Muslim claim that Jesus did not die on the cross is to demand historical evidence to support this claim. He won’t be able to provide it. He will only repeat the passages from the Quran that he has read. Then you can use this as an opportunity to discuss the strong evidence that points to Jesus’ death by crucifixion:

• There are numerous predictions in the Old Testament that Jesus would die (Isaiah 53:5-10; Psalm 22:16; Daniel 9:26; Zechariah 12:10). 

• There are many predictions in the Bible that Jesus would be resurrected (see Psalm 16:10; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:2; John 2:19-21; Matthew 12:40; 17:22-23), but one cannot be resurrected unless one has first died.

• Jesus Himself often spoke of His dying for the sins of humankind (John 2:19-21; 10:10,11; Matthew 12:40; Mark 8:31).  

• Jesus was beaten beyond recognition by Roman guards, given a crown of thorns, and then crucified. He bled from large wounds on his hands and feet, losing a phenomenal amount of blood. He was pierced in the side with a spear, from which came “blood and water” (John 19:34). The accumulation of such wounds results in 100 percent non-survival. 

• Jesus’ mother and His beloved disciple John were eyewitnesses to His crucifixion on the cross (John 19:16-17). 

• At the last moment of His life, Jesus surrendered His spirit to the Father (Luke 23:46-49). 

• Pilate checked to make sure Jesus was dead (Mark 15:44-45).

Non-Christian historians have officially documented the death of Christ. These include well-known historians such as Flavius Josephus, a Jewish historian, and Cornelius Tacitus, a Roman historian. Polycarp and other early Christian writers also confirmed Christ’s death on the cross. 

God the Father Allowed Jesus’s Death

Muslims claim that Allah would not have allowed one of His prophets to be humiliated and die a cruel death on the cross. We are informed that crucifixion simply cannot coexist with the absolute sovereignty of Allah.

On the other hand, the Bible makes it abundantly clear that God Himself allowed Jesus to suffer on the cross to save humankind (Romans 8:3,4; 1 Peter 1:18-20). It is also evident that God often allows His servants, including prophets, apostles, and even His own Son, to suffer. God’s sovereignty and His allowance of some events that seem unjust or terrible from our finite perspective are not mutually exclusive. A powerful illustration of this is found in the story of Job (read chapters 1–3). Muhammad also experienced some suffering. In fact, according to some stories, he died from the poison of one of his wives.[12]

Besides, who is to say God did not rescue Jesus from His enemies? Norman Geisler and Abdul Saleeb make the keen observation that “even if Muslims assume that God will deliver his prophets from their enemies, it is wrong to conclude that he did not deliver Christ from his enemies. Indeed, this is precisely what the resurrection is.”[13]

Your Muslim acquaintance may not have considered how all of this relates to Jesus’ submission. Islam means “submission.” Muslim means “one who submits.” Jesus was also a submissive person. In fact, according to Hebrews 5:7-16, Jesus submitted to God all the way to the cross. Because Jesus achieved the salvation of humankind through this tremendous act of submission, Muslims should honor Him for it. 

Jesus Physically Resurrected from the Dead

Not only did Jesus rise from the dead, but He also gave powerful evidence of His resurrection in the presence of many witnesses. Scripture tells us that Jesus first testified to His resurrection by appearing to Mary Magdalene (John 20:1)—a fact that is a highly significant indicator of the authenticity and reliability of the resurrection account. If the resurrection story were an invention of the disciples, no one in a first-century Jewish culture would have invented it this way. In Jewish law, a woman’s testimony was unacceptable in a court of law except in minimal circumstances. A fabricator would have been much more likely to place Peter or the other male disciples at the tomb of the resurrection. But our Bible text tells us that the Lord appeared to Mary first because that is what actually happened. 

Moreover, by all accounts, the disciples came away from the crucifixion frightened and full of doubt. And yet, after Jesus’ resurrection appearances to the disciples, their lives were virtually transformed. Cowards became bastions of courage, fearless defenders of the faith. The only thing that could explain this incredible transformation was the resurrection. These witnesses gave their lives to defend the truth of the resurrection and Christianity. 

As the days passed, Jesus made many appearances, proving that He had risen from the dead. Acts 1:3 says, “He presented himself alive to them after his suffering by many proofs, appearing to them during forty days and speaking about the kingdom of God.” Moreover, “He appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive…” (1 Corinthians 15:6). 

What about the Muslim argument against the death and resurrection of Christ from Luke 24:39? Jesus said: “See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.” Muslims believe that Jesus told the disciples to touch Him and handle Him so that they could see that He had not died but was still physically alive and in their midst. The folly of this view becomes apparent when one realizes that immediately after Jesus’ words in Luke 24:39, He went on to explain that He had indeed risen from the dead in fulfillment of Scripture: “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47). Muslims are ripping verses out of context to prove a futile point. 

Muslims are also wrong to claim that nowhere in the 27 books of the New Testament did Jesus ever say He was dead and now alive. Early in Luke’s Gospel, Jesus affirmed: “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised” (Luke 9:22). Jesus later told His disciples, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead” (Luke 24:46). Further, in the book of Revelation, the resurrected Christ claimed: “I am the first and the last, and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore!” (Revelation 1:18). 

Deedat is again wrong when he argues that not a single inspired author of the canonical gospels recorded a single word about Christ’s ascension. Christ made this point Himself. In John 20:17, we read Christ’s words: “I am ascending to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” In John 7:33, Jesus said, “I will be with you a little longer, and then I am going to him who sent me.” “Now I am going to him who sent me” (John 16:5). “I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer” (John 16:10). In Acts 1:9, recorded by Luke (the same author that wrote the Gospel of Luke), we read: “He was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight” (Acts 1:9). 

Given the way some Muslim apologists falsely make bold claims about the Bible, I urge you never to take their word for what the Bible says but always open your Bible and check it out for yourself. Otherwise, the Muslim may win an argument because you did not check the facts. 

Conclusion

I conclude by noting that while Muslims have made some futile arguments against the resurrection and ascension of Jesus Christ, the reality is that Jesus went missing from His tomb, while Muhammad’s tomb is still occupied in a mosque in Medina.[14] In terms of eternal salvation, Muslims would do well to put their faith in “the living one,” who “died” but is now “alive forevermore!” (Revelation 1:18).
For more on all this, I invite you to consult my book, Reasoning from the Scriptures with Muslims (Harvest House Publishers). It will teach everything you need to know to effectively dialog with Muslims.

  1. Bruce McDowell and Anees Zaka, Muslims and Christians at the Table (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1999), p. 108.
  2. Cited in David Goldmann, Islam and the Bible (Chicago: Moody, 2004), 36.
  3. William Miller, A Christian’s Response to Islam (Phillipsburg: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1976), p. 77.
  4. Ahmed Deedat, Christ in Islam, Islamic Propagation Center International, South Africa, downloaded from the Internet.
  5. W. St. Clair Tisdall, Christian Reply to Muslim Objections (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1904); in The World of Islam CD-ROM.
  6. Deedat, Christ in Islam.
  7. Larry Poston with Carl Ellis, Jr., The Changing Face of Islam in America (Camp Hill: Horizon, 2000), p. 188.
  8. Abdiyah Akbar Abdul-Haqq, Sharing Your Faith with a Muslim (Minneapolis: Bethany, 1980); cited in The World of Islam CD-ROM.
  9. Debate between Josh McDowell and Ahmed Deedat, August 1981, Durban, South Africa. Transcript downloaded from Internet.
  10. Deedat, Christ in Islam.
  11. See John Gilchrist, “The Textual History of the Qur’an and the Bible,” The Good Way, P.O. Box 66, CH-8486 Rikon, Switzerland.
  12. John Haines, Good News for Muslims (Philadelphia: Middle East Resources, 1998), p. 66.
  13. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1993), p. 277.
  14. Harold Berry, Islam: What They Believe (Lincoln: Back to the Bible, 1992), p. 33.

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