Wed. Jul 15th, 2020

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Islamic interpretation of the phrase ‘Son of God’ as applied to Jesus (peace be upon him)

13 min read

The following excerpt is my personal opinion and no one is obliged to follow:

In the Quran and Bible both, Jesus (peace be upon him) is described as:

1. ‘the word of Allah’:

[And mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to Allah]. (Quran 3:45)

And the Word became flesh and lived among us, and we have seen his glory, the glory as of a father’s only son, full of grace and truth. (The Bible, John 1:14, New Revised Standard Version)

‘According to these references, Jesus (peace be upon him) was created miraculously without a father and the reasoning behind such a miracle is described by Allah as ‘a word (command) of Allah’).’

This concept is further explained in the following two verses:

Verily, in the sight of God, the nature of Jesus is as the nature of Adam, whom He created out of dust and then said unto him, “Be” – and he is (Quran 3:59)

Muhammad Asad, explaining this verse, writes:

Lit., “The parable of Jesus is as the parable of Adam…”, etc. The expression mathal (rendered above as “nature”) is often metaphorically employed to denote the state or condition (of a person or a thing), and is in this sense – as the commentators have pointed out –
synonymous with sifah (the “quality” or “nature” of a thing). As is evident from the sequence, the above passage is part of an argument against the Christian doctrine of the divinity of Jesus. The Qur’an stresses here, as in many other places, the fact that Jesus, like Adam – by which name, in this context, the whole human race is meant – was only a mortal “created
out of dust”, i.e., out of substances, both organic and inorganic, which are found in their elementary forms on and in the earth. Cf. also 18:37, 22:5, 30:20, 35:11, 40:67, where the Qur’an speaks of all human beings as “created out of dust”. That “Adam” stands here for the human race is clearly implied in the use of the present tense in the last word of this sentence.

Quran 3:47:

She said, “My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?” [The angel] said, “Such is Allah ; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.

The following commentary of this verse is taken from “Exposition of the Quran” by Ghulam Ahmad Pervez pg. 117:

‘Mary was surprised to here this tiding about the birth of a son and said, “How can I have a son when no man has touched me?” The answer was the same that had been given to Zachariah (3:39), namely that the child would be born in accordance with Allah’s law of creation. Moreover, when He takes a decision about something, the initiation of the process starts forthwith.’

2. ‘the spirit of Allah’:

O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, “Three”; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs. (Quran 4:171)

And Mary the daughter of ‘Imran, who guarded her chastity; and We breathed into (her body) of Our spirit; and she testified to the truth of the words of her Lord and of His Revelations, and was one of the devout (servants). (Quran 66:12)

And (remember) her who guarded her chastity: We breathed into her of Our spirit, and We made her and her son a sign for all peoples. (Quran 21:91)

A shoot shall come out from the stump of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots. The spirit of the Lord shall rest on him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the Lord. His delight shall be in the fear of the Lord. (The Bible, Isaiah 11:1-3, New Revised Standard Version)

According to Islam for Christians,

‘As for Jesus being a spirit from Allah, the Arabic word “Ruh” has various interpretations. According to the Muslim exegetes, it may be interpreted as a breath let out by Angel Gabriel within the womb of Mary. According to this interpretation, this breath is called “Ruh” for a breath is nothing but a “Rih” (wind). According to a second interpretation, “Ruh” stands for life. According to a third interpretation, “Ruh” refers to mercy. According to a fourth interpretation, “Ruh” means a soul. According to a fifth interpretation, “spirit” refers to Angel Gabriel rather than Jesus. Accordingly, the following verse: “The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a spirit [created at a command] from Him” means that Jesus was a word directed to Mary by Allah and then by Angel Gabriel as the Holy Spirit.’

“Thus, according to the above references, Jesus (peace be upon him) was ‘the word of Allah’ and ‘the spirit of Allah’; in other words, he was created by God miraculously without a father. It is in this sense that the Bible refers to Jesus as ‘the Son of God’, the idea being metaphorical and Jesus thus being ‘the metaphorical Son of God’ as he was created without a father.”

One may, however, wonder how Jesus can be the metaphorical son of God as this would imply that Mary is the metaphorical wife of God or vice versa. (refuge with Allah!) This misunderstanding is clearly refuted by both the Bible and the Quran if read properly.

In the Bible, in Romans 8:14 it is mentioned:

For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God (Romans 8:14, New International Version)

In the Quran, in Surah 112 Verse 3, it is mentioned:

He begetteth not, nor is He begotten (The Holy Quran, 112:3)

The above two verses make it absolutely clear that Allah (The True God) is far above anything that the creation can ever be and that He is certainly unlike any created thing. The phrase ‘children of God’ is thus a sympathetic term used to convey God’s unique love towards the creation. ‘Those who are led by the spirit of God’ means ‘those who follow the commandments of God or those who follow God, are the children of God (those near to God). Thus, Mary was just another righteous servant (or daughter) of God and her son Jesus was another righteous servant (or son) of God as well. The reason for creating Jesus without a father was to give him a special status and unique closeness to God, a closeness that was unique to Jesus alone. Mary was, thus, not in anyway God’s metaphorical wife or vice versa (Refuge with Allah), she was only a vessel through which a very close servant of God was born.

Muslims differ with the Christians regarding Jesus as the literal begotten son of God.

As for the statement in the Bible:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. (John 3:16, King James Version)”

The word ‘begotten’ in this verse is not found in many manuscripts of the New Testament. In fact, the authors of the New Revised Standard Version have not even included this word in their translation. They translate this verse as follows:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life.” (John 3:16)

Perkins, Pheme. The New Oxford Annotated Bible with Apocrypha: New Revised Standard Version (Page 1886). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition.

This verse is elaborated ironically by the Christian stance:

“In the Name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”

Here ‘the Father’ is the equivalent to the arabic word Rabb (Sustainer, Fosterer, Lord, God); ‘the Son’ means ‘the Word’ (command of God); and ‘the Holy Spirit’ means the soul of Jesus which was breathed into Mary. Thus, the proper translation of the above dogma is as follows:

‘In the name of Allah and Jesus, the messenger of Allah, who was the word of Allah and the spirit of Allah’

Quran 19:34-35:

That is Jesus, the son of Mary – the word of truth about which they are in dispute. It is not [befitting] for Allah to take a son; exalted is He! When He decrees an affair, He only says to it, “Be,” and it is.

Quran 2:117:

Originator of the heavens and the earth. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, “Be,” and it is.