Muslim Passion for The Christ 1

Mus­lim Pas­sion for The Christ

Like every­one else, I was warned about the blood and vio­lence, and braced for it. But the bit about the Eng­lish sub­scripts must have slipped my mind. One unex­pect­ed thing I got out of watch­ing The Pas­sion of the Christ” is its affir­ma­tion that Jesus nev­er uttered the word God”. Instead, he called upon the Cre­ator using a name that is very close to what I and oth­er Mus­lims often evoke, name­ly, the word Allah” (the Ara­ma­ic word for God is translit­er­at­ed as ala­ha”).

In a broad sense, The Pas­sion”, as well as the con­tro­ver­sy that stalks it, is an exten­sion of the very long strug­gle for nar­ra­tive con­trol over the life and mis­sion of Jesus (P). We, the Amer­i­can pub­lic, are giv­en the impres­sion that the dis­cus­sion about the movie and its main char­ac­ter is a dis­course between folks on both sides of a curi­ous hyphen in the Judeo-Chris­t­ian ambit, with Rab­bis and Jew­ish intel­li­gentsia express­ing their fears that the movie will inspire anti-Semi­tism and with Chris­tians deny­ing that.

The irony here is that Mus­lims are per­fect­ly poised to offer a view that no one seems to be talk­ing about. What The Pas­sion” depict­ed in chill­ing imagery is but one nar­ra­tive among sev­er­al about Christ. In fact, Gib­son por­trayed one can­on­ized” nar­ra­tive of Christ (only 12 hours of it) that received approval some cen­turies after the Mes­si­ah had lived and one that does not enjoy con­sen­sus even in Chris­t­ian quar­ters and scholarship.

When asked, a Mus­lim will tell you that Christ was not sent to die, but, like the prophets before him and Prophet Muham­mad(P) after him, he was sent to live and teach. In short, a Mus­lim would say there is no Christ-killer and, there­fore, no need to asso­ciate any­one with that indict­ment and no need to cause any­one to fear it. What hap­pened to Jesus at the end of his life was not about vio­lence, but about hon­or in the face of vehe­ment rejec­tion. God raised His prophet to Him­self, thus spar­ing Jesus of the exe­cu­tion Gib­son so graph­i­cal­ly detailed and imprint­ed in the pub­lic mind through the very pow­er­ful medi­um of art and cul­ture. This is a view that was also shared among some ear­ly Chris­t­ian sects, like the Basilideans, who believed that Christ him­self was nev­er crucified.

To vil­i­fy Jesus and deny that he is one of God’s prophets and mes­sen­gers is a car­di­nal sin in Islam, enough to dis­qual­i­fy one from the faith. To deify Jesus, how­ev­er, is con­sid­ered an affront to the pri­mor­dial foun­da­tion of the reli­gion project : the one­ness of God and His sole divin­i­ty. The Mus­lim mid­dle” view here is not a self- con­scious act of offi­ci­at­ing a reli­gious debate between Jews and Chris­tians. Our under­stand­ing and beliefs regard­ing Christ are essen­tial­ly iden­ti­cal to the beliefs we have about Noah(P), Abra­ham(P), Moses(P) and Muham­mad(P): all prophets, all humans, sent by God to teach human­i­ty cer­tain things that should keep us guid­ed and clear in our very brief lives. If we are ever to be con­fused about some­thing, let it not be about God and His divin­i­ty, and humankind and our human­i­ty, espe­cial­ly as it per­tains to our sal­va­tion quest. In Islam­ic the­ol­o­gy, the human being is born pure, brought into this world in a state of grace. The con­cept of Orig­i­nal Sin is essen­tial­ly home­less in our tra­di­tion. We inher­it eye col­or and reced­ing hair­lines from our par­ents, not their wrong­do­ing. For­give­ness, par­don­ing, and mer­cy are of God’s essence, and He gen­er­ous­ly bestows them for the cool price of belief and sincerity.

In an impor­tant way, The Pas­sion” is an acci­den­tal expose about the reli­gious sen­si­tiv­i­ties of our times, about a wound­ed spir­i­tu­al­i­ty that seems to require sen­sa­tion­al­ism to keep the faith­ful going. This is a point that men and women of reli­gion may all agree upon and observe in their respec­tive flocks. Mel Gib­son unwit­ting­ly may have done a ser­vice in rais­ing issues indige­nous to the human spir­it that the post-mod­ern world seems to shun, issues about God, prophets, sal­va­tion, mer­cy, and hope. It is a vital con­ver­sa­tion with divides and alliances, pas­sions and per­ils, but a con­ver­sa­tion that nonethe­less can stand to hear the mid­dle” view that Islam nat­u­ral­ly offers. Some­thing of this view, in unavoid­ably brief fash­ion, now follows :

Mus­lims love and revere Jesus(P), and believe in him as a Prophet and Mes­sen­ger of God, a great teacher and guide for peo­ple. But Mus­lims do not believe that Jesus was God or the Son of God. Nor do Mus­lims believe that he was slain on the cross, as some ear­ly sects of Chris­tians had once believed. Jesus was sent to the Chil­dren of Israel to revive faith and a spir­i­tu­al con­nec­tion with God. All the mir­a­cles that Jesus per­formed were indeed true : rais­ing the dead, heal­ing the blind and the lep­er, and more. These mir­a­cles, how­ev­er, occurred through the aus­pices of God’s pow­er and will, as it was with the split­ting of the sea for Moses(P), Solomon(P) under­stand­ing the utter­ances of ani­mals, and many oth­er sus­pen­sions of the nat­ur­al order. God is the Cre­ator, and when He deter­mines some­thing, He but says to it Be” and it is ! (as the Qur’an states). Mus­lims ven­er­ate Mary, the moth­er of Jesus(P). She indeed gave birth to Jesus though she was a vir­gin. She was a spir­i­tu­al woman who was cho­sen among her peo­ple to the office of spe­cial con­tem­pla­tion and prayer. But Mus­lims do not hold her to be the moth­er of God” and sim­i­lar attrib­ut­es. She too was ful­ly human and was a beloved and impor­tant per­son in a remark­able series of mir­a­cles in a spe­cial time in human his­to­ry. Every biol­o­gy and mir­a­cle, the explain­able and the inex­plic­a­ble, whether it is the cre­ation of Adam(P) from clay or the con­cep­tion of any giv­en child of two par­ents, goes back to God. It is all the same to Him. All of it easy. All of it His.

In Islam­ic par­lance, Jesus(P) is known by the ven­er­a­ble titles of Word” and Spir­it,” since the Qur’an tells us that God cast the word” or spir­it” upon Mary, the Moth­er of Jesus :

Indeed, the angels said : O Mary ! God gives you glad tid­ings of a word from Him, whose name is the Mes­si­ah, Jesus, son of Mary, illus­tri­ous in this world and the Here­after, and he shall be among those brought near [to God]. He will speak to humankind in the cra­dle and in man­hood, and he is of the right­eous.” (Qur’an 3:45)

Also, the Qur’an states :

The Mes­si­ah, Jesus son of Mary, was but a Mes­sen­ger of God, and His word which He con­veyed to Mary, and a spir­it pro­ceed­ing from Him.” (Qur’an 4:171)

And indeed God gave Moses the Book [Torah], and after him We sent Mes­sen­gers in suc­ces­sion. We gave Jesus son of Mary clear proofs and strength­ened him with the Holy Spir­it [Angel Gabriel].” (Qur’an 2:87)

The thought life of a Mus­lim with regard to all the prophets is best summed by the fol­low­ing verse of the Qur’an :

Say [O believ­ers]: We believe in God and [the Book] sent down to us, and what was sent down to Abra­ham, Ish­mael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes ; and what was giv­en to Moses and Jesus and what was giv­en to [all] the Prophets from their Lord. We make no dis­tinc­tion between any of them, and to Him do we sur­ren­der our­selves.” (Qur’an 2:136)

And ver­i­ly, only God knows best ! Muslim Passion for The Christ 2Endmark

Cite this arti­cle as : Ibrahim N. Abusharif, Mus­lim Pas­sion for The Christ,” in Bis­mi­ka Allahu­ma, Octo­ber 15, 2005, last accessed May 27, 2024, https://​bis​mikaal​lahu​ma​.org/​c​h​r​i​s​t​i​a​n​i​t​y​/​m​u​s​l​i​m​-​p​a​s​s​i​o​n​-​c​h​r​i​st/
Ibrahim N. Abusharif is a Chica­go-area writer and edi­tor of Star­latch Press. He can be con­tact­ed via e‑mail at starlatch@​hotmail.​com. Repub­lished with per­mis­sion from the author.

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