The Purpose of His Coming

God taught Jesus the Tawrat (the books of Moses) and gave him the Injil (the Gospel) as a confirmation of the Tawrat. The Injil is regarded by the Qur'an as Hikma (wisdom) because it fills the hearts of those who follow it with meekness and pity (Surah 5:82). The Qur'an claims that Jesus' prophetic authority guaranteed the Gospel, the Torah and all other prophetic writings, all of them being taught by God to him (Surah 3:43; 5:110).

Although generally Muslims claim that the original Injil can no longer be found, yet remnants of the teaching of Jesus can be detected in sermons and parables ascribed to him in the current New Testament, this idea of corruption in the Christian scriptures goes against not only the documentary evidence but also the Qur'anic teaching which claims that none can alter God's words (Surah 6:34; 10:64).

According to the Qur'an, the ministry of Jesus commenced from the cradle (Surah 3:49). God sent many prophets and messengers to lead the people of Israel. At the end, God sent Jesus to revive their Islam (then called Judaism). He came to enhance the inner meaning and purity of the religion that had become heavily burdened by outer ritual, dietary laws and abuse of power by rabbinical figures (Surah 3:43-40) the Qur'an mentions how Jesus preached and taught. He called the children of Israel to the worship of one God. He tried to bring unity among them and legalised things previously forbidden to them (Surah 3:50). Perhaps the Qur'an is portraying what we read in Matthew chapters 4 to 6. Let us not forget that the Qur'an is not trying to tell the main reason why Jesus came and what he was referring to: "The son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45).

The Qur'an, however, generally portrays most of the children of Israel as recalcitrant people from whom God protected Jesus. In the face of such recalcitrance, Al-hawariyun (the disciples) stepped forward to accept the call of Jesus to be his helpers in serving God (Surah 3:52-54; 5:111-113; 57:27; 61:14). Some of the things Jesus is alleged to have said reflect the message that Jesus sent to John the Baptist (Matthew 11:5) and resemble several new Testament sayings of Jesus about eating, fasting and worship (Matthew 6:16-26). The attitude of Jesus to the Law, and relaxation of its rigidity is found in his sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:17). Little importance is given in the Qur'an to the moral teaching of Jesus and there is only one reference to his parables which we find in abundance in the four narratives of the Gospel in the New Testament (Surah 48:29 compare with, for instance, Mark 4:27-28).

Sufi traditions depict Jesus in his teaching and practice as an ascetic. One of the most famous Sufis in the Umayyad period was Hasan al-Basri (d. 728). He was renowned for his scholarship as well as his piety. A letter that he wrote to the caliph to plead with him to follow the teaching of the prophets, depicts the prophets as ascetics. He portrays Jesus as saying:

"My daily bread is hunger, my badge is fear, my raiment is wool, my mount is my foot, my lantern at night is the moon, my fire by day is the sun, and my fruit and fragrant herbs are such things as the earth brings forth for the wild beasts and cattle. All the night I have nothing, yet there is none richer than I!" (A.J.Arberry, Sufism, An account of the Mystic of Islam, pp. 34-35)

Here too we see that the whole picture of Christ is not available. Yes Jesus, in a way, has given us an example of not loving the world but that is because our abode is not this world but the coming world, where we will be in fellowship with God. That is our goal, which can be achieved through Jesus.