Saturday, December 30, 2017

Maryam and Īsā ibn Maryam

Mary and the son of Mary, key figures in the New Testament, are important personalities in the Quran too. The title page of Der Spiegel even goes so far to propose: Jesus, the Muslim, although the religious topic in the last edition of 2017 is not at all controversial contrary to articles in previous years. The title story rather is a narrative of common beliefs and differences between Christians and Muslims.

©Der Spiegel
In Islam too, Jesus, called Īsā, is born of a virgin as announced by Archangel Gabriel, but leaving out the cuckolded Joseph: And she who guarded her virginity. We breathed into her of Our spirit and made her and her son a sign to the world (Sura 21:91). Maryam is all alone in the desert giving birth to Īsā. When she presents her newborn boy at the Jewish temple, he starts his prophecies convincing old Zechariah and other attending scribes that he was conceived without a mortal man.

Maryam and her adult baby son (©Der Spiegel)
In contrast, according to the oldest known text of the New Testament written in old Greek* we read in Luke 2:46 how Joseph and Mary were searching for twelve-year-old Jesus in Jerusalem: And it came to pass after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both hearing them and asking them questions. These differences between the Quran and the Bible stories are obvious but not decisive.
*Called Codex Sinaiticus. It dates back to the 4th century and was discovered at the St. Catherine monastery located on the Sinai peninsula only in 1859

At the end of his life, Īsā ascends to heaven from Jerusalem’s Temple Mount. No mention in the Quran of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. For Muslims, Īsā is just a prophet precursor of Muhammad, the latter outshining all previous prophets. How to explain the crucifixion? God told one of Jesus’s disciples that he will make him look like Īsā, and have him crucified. Were both Romans and Jews fooled? The gospel, no glad tidings but fake news?

Der Spiegel article continues describing in length the bloody disputes between Christians and Muslims, the Crusades and the Jihads, the fall of Constantinople, the Reconquista of Granada, the transformation of the Hagia Sophia into a mosque and of the Alhambra into a cathedral. How many lives were lost how many objects of art destroyed.

In the end, Andrew Thomson, pastor of the Anglican church in Abu Dhabi, formulates an allegory, “It is the same God, but there are different entrance doors”.

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