THE BIRTH OF CHRIST
In the next place we remark that one of the commonest names given to the Messiah in the Qur’an is ‘Jesus, Son of Mary’' Thus in Sura Ali ‘Imran (3), verse 45, we read:—
اسْمُهُ الْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ
“His name, the Messiah, Jesus, Son of Mary.” Now a careful study of the Qur’an will show that, not only does it place the Bani Israel, the tribe in which Christ was born, above all the nations of the earth, but it further states that God has chosen Mary the mother of Jesus above all other women. Thus in Sura Imran (3), verse 42, we read:—
يَا مَرْيَمُ إِنَّ اللّهَ اصْطَفَاكِ وَطَهَّرَكِ وَاصْطَفَاكِ عَلَى نِسَاء الْعَالَمِينَ
“O, Mary, verily God hath chosen thee and purified thee, and hath chosen thee above all the women of the earth.” Does this passage not clearly signify that her son Jesus was to be the greatest prophet? How beautifully it harmonises with God’s promise to Isaac, “In thy seed shall all the nations of. the earth be blessed!” If, as our Muslim friends sometimes say, Muhammad is the last and greatest prophet, would not such language as “God hath chosen thee above all the women of the world” be addressed, not to Mary, but to Amina, the mother of Muhammad? What, then, we proceed to ask, is the meaning of the name ‘Jesus’ given to Christ in the Qur’an? The answer to this question may be found in the Injil for there (Matthew 1:21) it is stated that the meaning of the word ‘Jesus’ is ‘Saviour’: “Thou shalt call his name Jesus; for it is He that shall save His people from their sins.” “We Muslims also believe in Jesus,” is a reply which we often hear from our Muhammadan brethren when we press upon them the claims of Christ; but do they ever stop to consider the meaning of this name which they themselves apply to Him? And does the Muhammadan reader of this little book, when he reads his Qur’an and finds there the wonderful account of the miraculous birth of Christ from the Virgin Mary, never stop to think what is involved in that miraculous birth? Thus in Sura Mariyam (19), verses 19-22, it is written:—
قَالَ إِنَّمَا أَنَا رَسُولُ رَبِّكِ لأَهَبَ لَكِ غُلاماً زَكِيّاً قَالَتْ أَنَّى يَكُونُ لِي غُلامٌ وَلَمْ يَمْسَسْنِي بَشَرٌ وَلَمْ أَكُ بَغِيّاً قَالَ كَذَلِكِ قَالَ رَبُّكِ هُوَ عَلَيَّ هَيِّنٌ وَلِنَجْعَلَهُ آيَةً لِلنَّاسِ وَرَحْمَةً مِّنَّا وَكَانَ أَمْراً مَّقْضِيّاً فَحَمَلَتْهُ
“He (Gabriel) answered, Verily, I am the messenger of thy Lord to give thee a holy son. She (Mary) said, How shall I have a son, seeing a man hath not touched me, and I am no harlot? (Gabriel) replied, so (shall it be): Thy Lord saith, this is easy with me; and that we may ordain him for a sign unto men and a mercy from us; for it is a thing which is decreed. Wherefore she conceived him.”
No other prophet has been thus miraculously born into the world. Adam, it is true, was created without father or mother. Such an act of creation was necessary in the beginning of the world; but here we see (in the case of Jesus) God interrupting the course of nature, and over-riding the very laws of procreation which He had Himself established, in order that Christ might thus have a virgin birth. Surely such an act could not have been meaningless; rather we know that it points to the great fact that Jesus Christ held a special relationship to the Deity which is shared by no other prophet. In the Injil the nature of this relationship is clearly seen in the account of the birth of Jesus given there. Thus we read that the angel Gabriel came to Mary and said, “Behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Most High” (Luke 1:31-32). Here, then, we see that because of His miraculous birth, Jesus is given the high title ‘Son of God.’This is manifestly a philosophical term used to describe a special relationship, even as is the term ‘Word of God’ used of Jesus in the Qur’an. Neither term can be taken in its bare literal sense. The idea of a carnal sonship is out of the question; yet it is here that both Muhammad himself and most of those who call themselves his followers fall into grave error. A careful study of the Qur’an will show that Muhammad thought the Christian doctrine of the Divine Sonship of Christ involved a carnal relationship. Thus in Sura Anam (6), verse 101, we read:—
بَدِيعُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالأَرْضِ أَنَّى يَكُونُ لَهُ وَلَدٌ وَلَمْ تَكُن لَّهُ صَاحِبَةٌ
“He is the Maker of heaven and earth. How should He have issue, since be hath no wife.” And again in Sura Al-Mu’minun (23), verse 91, it is written:
مَا اتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ مِن وَلَدٍ
“God hath not begotten issue.” Of like kind is a book which we have seen, written by a Bengali Muhammadan, in which the writer labours through many pages to prove that ‘Christ is not the carnal Son of God.’ But no Christian says He is; for the doctrine of a carnal sonship is as abhorrent to Christians as to the followers of Islam. Doubtless Muhammad’s great objection to the sonship of Christ was based upon the belief that it detracted from the unity of God. Yet, rightly understood, it does not do so; and Christians believe that God is one quite as strongly as do Muhammadans. The belief that God can have sons and daughters is a heathen one, and is referred to in the Qur’an, where it is said that some of the Arabs attributed daughters to God.
It is a striking fact that, in describing the sonship of Christ, Christian writers never use the term ‘ولد’ (walad), which always denotes a physical relationship; but the term ‘ابن’ (ibn), which is often used in Arabic in a spiritual and metaphysical sense, is invariably used. Muhammad, in the verses quoted above, denies that God can have a son (walad); yet when he sets himself to define the Christian belief he, with exceptional honesty, uses the word ‘ibn’. Thus in Sura At-Taubah (9), verse 30, we read:—
وَقَالَتْ النَّصَارَى الْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ اللّهِ
“The Christians call Christ the son (ibn) of God.” The followers of Jesus justly ask, If it be not sin to call Him ‘Ruh Ullah’ (the Spirit of God), why should it be counted sin to call him ‘Ibn Ullah’ (the Son of God)?
Not only does the Qur’an describe Christ’s birth as miraculous, but it further states that He is made a "sign to all creatures.” Thus in Sura Al-Anbiyah' (21), verse 91, we read:—
وَجَعَلْنَاهَا وَابْنَهَا آيَةً لِّلْعَالَمِينَ
“We ordained her (Mary) and her son for a sign unto all creatures.” If our Muslim brethren would rid their minds of the idea of a carnal sonship as applied to Christ, much of their difficulty with regard to the term ‘Son of God’ would disappear. Every candid reader of the Qur’an and the Traditions must admit that these books at least hint at a special relationship between Christ and God the Father such as exists between no other prophet and the Supreme. Thus, for example, in the Mishkat al Masabih it is related that, "Every child of Adam is touched by Satan the day his mother is delivered of him with the exception of Mary and her son.” 2 Does not this tradition raise Christ high above all others; and does it not, if true, explain why Mary and her son were made a "sign unto all creatures”?
Some Muslims admit the Divine sonship of Christ, but contend that “all holy persons are sons of God.” This is, in a sense, true; but it is not the whole truth; for the Bible distinctly declares that the sonship of Christ is different from the sonship of other believers. Thus Jesus is called in the Gospel the ‘only begotten Son’ of God, to indicate that He stands in a special relation to God the Father such as can be pedicated of no other person. Any careful perusal of the Gospel will convince the unprejudiced reader of this fact. Thus when Jesus Christ asked His disciples, “Whom say ye that I am?” Simon Peter answered and said, ‘Thou art the Christ the son of the living God.’And Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Blessed art thou Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven’” (Matthew 16:15-17). Where, we ask, would be the point of Christ’s reply if He were the son only in the sense in which all believers are sons of God? Moreover, we know from the Gospel that the Jews sought to kill Jesus for the very reason that, “He called Himself the Son of God, thus making Himself equal with God” (John 5:11). Manifestly, then, the sonship of Jesus, expressed by the term, ‘only begotten Son’ is different from and superior to the sonship of other believers. It is strange that, with the clear testimony of the Gospel before them, so many Muslim writers should have been at pains to try and prove that the sonship of Christ is precisely the same as that of other believers. But does not the miraculous birth of Christ, as recorded in the Qur’an, suggest the existence of some special relation between Christ and God the Father such as can he predicated of no other? This truth, dimly hinted at in the Qur’an, is clearly taught in the Gospel where Jesus is called ‘the only begotten Son’ of God. The Qur’an records no such miraculous birth of any other prophet, and thus, in this respect—the birth of Christ—agrees with the Gospel in exalting Him high above the other prophets of God.
2. See also, Al-Hadis, An English Translation and Commentary of Mishkat-ul-Masabih With Arabic Text, Al-Haj Maulana Fazul Karim, Vol 4, Chapter 43, Sec 2415- Prophets, No 25, page 220, “Same reported that the Messenger of Allah said: As for every son of Adam, the devil attacks with his two fingers his two sides except Jesus, son of Mary. He went to attack him, but he attacked the membrane covering him.”. See also, Sahih Muslim, Chapter on the Virtures, Book 43, Hadith 191, and Book 43, Hadith No 5838. See also, Sahih al-Bukhari, Book 60, Hadith No. 3431.