Showing posts with label punishment. Show all posts
Showing posts with label punishment. Show all posts

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Jesus: Son or Servant?

“Certainly you brought about a disastrous thing whereby the heavens are almost split asunder and the earth is split and the mountains fall crashing down that they attributed a son to The Merciful. It is not fit and proper for The Merciful that He should take a son to Himself! There is none at all in the heavens and the earth but he be one who arrives to The Merciful as a servant.”
(19:89-93, Maryam)

Yasmina, I was intrigued by your remark last week that both Jesus and his mother, Mary, are considered examples of righteousness and uprightness in Islam. Chapter 19 of the Quran begins with the birth of John the Baptist and goes on to describe Jesus' birth, and to praise Mary, Abraham, Moses and a host of other prophets of the Hebrew Bible.  The chapter concludes, however, with explicit descriptions of the punishment that awaits those who do not believe in The Merciful.  I stumbled when I read these verses, which strike me as especially anti-Christian and seem to contradict the universalism of Islam. Since I cannot read classical Arabic—and because the Quran is written in poetic and homiletic form—I realize that I cannot fully appreciate its meaning.  I was hoping that you could help me by elaborating on this passage.

Earlier in this same chapter, Jesus [Peace and Blessings be upon him] is quoted as saying: “I am a servant of God; He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet.” (19:30). Another chapter describes a conversation that will take place between God and Jesus [Peace and Blessings be upon him] on the Day of Judgment, when God will say, “O Jesus, Son of Mary, did you say to the people, ‘Take me and my mother as deities besides God?’ He will say, Exalted are You! It was not for me to say that to which I have no right.”(5:116) We learn from these verses that Muslims believe that Jesus [Peace and Blessings be upon him] was a prophet who served God and embodied honorable values that all humans should follow, including the worship of God alone. Since Jesus [Peace and Blessings be upon him] is held in such high regard and altering his message is considered especially egregious, the end of Chapter 19 warns future generations from straying from the path prescribed to them by His messengers.  This universal warning is directed toward all those who deny God’s One-ness and ignore His command to worship Him alone, as well as toward those who attribute to Him that which is not befitting His Glory and Majesty. Therefore, God’s message here is not anti-Christian but anti-Trinitarian, aimed at reminding us that He transcends all His creation.

You’ve made a good distinction, Yasmina. However, the passages from the Quran that you cited seem to imply that Christians worship Jesus as a second deity.  I suspect that a strictly literal interpretation of the phrase “Son of God” in Christian scriptures gives rise to this misconception—an understandable misconception, I might add, as Trinitarian doctrine has provoked convoluted arguments even within Christianity!  In The Gospel of John, Jesus is quoted as saying, “The Father and I are one….Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (10:30, 14:9b)  These statements, taken out of scriptural and historical context, will surely sound blasphemous or heretical. Yet I hear these words as revelatory of Divine Mystery; they point to God’s humility, through which God becomes exalted.  Through my understanding of them, I believe that God is approachable and accessible; and that God’s love is so great—even for a terribly imperfect me and for all of human-unkind—that God will give God’s very self to us.  In Jesus, Christians attempt to understand the unfathomable: Immanuel—God is with us, here, now.