Jesus through Shiite Narrations

Jesus through Shiite Narrations

What is offered here is a fairly comprehensive selection of the narrations pertaining to Jesus (‘a) said to have been reported by the Shi’‘i’ Imams, peace be with them. It is generally admitted that not everything reported in this literature is correct, and the science of hadith has been developed by Muslim scholars precisely for […]

  • Mahdi Muntazir Qaim
Rate this post
about this book
  • overview

    What is offered here is a fairly comprehensive selection of the narrations pertaining to Jesus (‘a) said to have been reported by the Shi'‘i' Imams, peace be with them. It is generally admitted that not everything reported in this literature is correct, and the science of hadith has been developed by Muslim scholars precisely for the purpose of sorting through the narrations and evaluating their strength. No attempt has been made in what follows to select only hadiths considered reliable. The narrations selected provide an overview of what various reporters of hadiths have claimed that the Imams have said about Jesus (‘a). At the same time, we cannot claim that our selection exhausts all such narrations. Sometimes we have found several reports that differ only in some insignificant details, in which case we have generally selected the most complete form of the report. Also omitted are reports in which Jesus is mentioned only incidentally, although where such incidental mention seemed interesting to us, we have provided the excerpt from the hadith. The isnàd, or chains of transmission that accompany the reports, have been omitted from the English translations since they would only be of use to those who have fluency in Arabic. It is rather disheartening to find that so much misunderstanding remains between Christians and Muslims in the world today. Hopefully the collection presented here will be seen by Christians as a gift from the Shi'‘ah to show the reverence they have for Jesus (‘a). The vision of Jesus (‘a) to be found here is different from that of Christianity, and the difference is bound to lead some to respond negatively, “No. The Christ we know is not like that.” We are not concerned to argue here for the veracity of the vision of Christ presented. Of course Christians will deny what conflicts with their beliefs. However, it is hoped that the reader will be able to bracket the question of what reports about Jesus (‘a) are best considered factual, because this question depends on the standards used for such evaluations, whether doctrinal, historical or otherwise. According to our faith, as Shi'‘ah, the overall picture of Christ presented below is true, although questions may be raised about particular narrations or details thereof. This is how we think of Christ. It is a different way of thinking about him from what is familiar to Christians. However, it is by no means disrespectful, and it offers a way to understand the more general religious vision of Islam, particularly Shi'‘i' Islam. It is up to our readers to chose to respond by focusing on differences and rejecting what is contrary to their beliefs, or to find how much we have in common and on this basis to search for what is of value in the Muslim’s view, even where it differs from what one is prepared to accept. We expect that our readers will include English speaking Muslims, both Sunni and Shi'‘i', as well as Christians. To them we offer this collection as an opportunity to reacquaint themselves with Islamic teachings about Jesus, and hope that it will inspire better relations between Muslims and Christians. Even as we stand fast in our own faith, we should be prepared to deepen our appreciation of the commitment of Christians to follow the teachings of one held in such high esteem in the Qur’àn and hadith. In the glorious Qur’àn, in a passage describing the annunciation to the Blessed Virgin Mary, Jesus (‘a) is described as a Word from God: O Mary! Verily Allah gives you the glad tidings of a Word from Him; his name is the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, prominent in this world and in the Hereafter of those near [to God]. (3:44) The context in which this àyah was revealed was one of interreligious encounter. It is said that the Christians of Najran sent a delegation to the Prophet of Islam1 at Mecca to question him about the teachings of Islam concerning Jesus (‘a), and that God revealed the above and other àyàt of Surah A`l-i ‘Imràn in response. The response is not merely a denial of Christian teachings, although the divinity of Christ is clearly rejected, but an affirmation of much believed by Christians, as well, even the designation of Christ as logos: O People of the Book! Do not transgress in your religion, and do not say of Allah but the Truth. Verily, the Messiah, Jesus the son of Mary, is only an apostle of Allah and His Word which He conveyed unto Mary, and a Spirit from Him. (4:171) So, in addition to being called the Word of God, Jesus (‘a) is also called the Spirit of God, and in some of the narrations reported in the Shi'‘i' tradition, this title is used. Of course, the interpretation of the logos in Christian theology differs markedly from the interpretation of the kalimah by Muslim scholars. For the Christian, according to the Gospel of John, the Word was God and the Word became flesh. For the Muslim, on the other hand, the Word is creature, even while it is the creative principle, for it is in God’s utterance of the word “Be!” that creation takes place. To call Christ the Word of Allah is not to deify him, but to verify his status as prophet. Because of his high status as prophet, Jesus (‘a)becomes a complete manifestation of God, one who conveys the message of God, one who can speak on behalf of God, and thus, the Word of God. Jesus (‘a) becomes the Word of God not because of an incarnation whereby his flesh becomes divine, but because his spirit is refined to such an extent that it becomes a mirror whereby divinity comes to be known. The temple is holy not because of any inherent sanctity in the structure, but because it is the place of the worship of God.

  • details
    • Mahdi Muntazir Qaim
  • reviews