To Muslims, Jesus is no ordinary figure. Not only is he one of the highest-ranked prophets, but he was also born of a virgin mother and was handed a scripture which is regarded as one of the most substantial of all divine revelations. Mentioned in the Qur’an 25 times with details of his teachings and miracles, there is also an entire chapter named after his mother, Maryam. What’s more, he was also one of the five major prophets (ulul’ al-’azm) including Noah, Abraham, Moses and the Prophet Muhammad ﷺ.
In one prophetic tradition, the Prophet ﷺ spoke about his relationship with Jesus. “Both in this world and in the Hereafter, I am the nearest of all the people to Jesus, the son of Mary. The prophets are paternal brothers; their mothers are different, but their religion is one.” [Sahih Bukhari]
According to Muslim belief, Jesus will return one day and die a natural death. He will then be buried in a grave that has been preserved for him next to the Prophet ﷺ in Madinah. This alone presents to the world the deep and sincere love Muslims have for Jesus. For it takes much reverence to preserve a space for burial next to the Prophet ﷺ, who is known as the most central figure in Islam.
Putting Aside Our Differences
Both Muslims and Christians adore Jesus either as a Prophet or another divine being. According to Christian traditions, Jesus is known as the son of God whose death has become a means of erasing the sins of humanity. However, according to Islam, the concept of the trinity goes against the central Abrahamic monotheistic belief system, which is why Muslims see him as a prophet and messenger only.
But these are the only differences. Whilst we do have core theological differences, there’s no denying that our love for this great figure is parallel. Both Christians and Muslims mutually agree that Jesus is someone who came to spread love and goodness and that it should bring us together, despite these core theological differences.
In a time of great division and disparity, unity despite diversity seems like a noble and sensible choice. By engaging in dialogues and sharing one another’s faith, we can begin to see the fruits of unity in a time when differences have become a fashion statement.
For many centuries, Muslims and Christians have co-existed harmoniously in places such as Andalucia, Ottoman Turkey and Egypt. In spite of their religious views, Muslims and Christians have focused on kind deeds and justice to come together and construct a strong society.
Incidents of Unity From The Seerah
By visiting the incident surrounding the initial moments of the Prophet’s ﷺ revelation, we will see that the first person Khadijah RA went to for help was Waraqa. A Christian monk, he advised on the matter by observing the similarities between this revelation and what Moses had experienced. At a time when the Prophet ﷺ was terrified, the Christian monk reassured him and expressed his interest to live on till Islam had become whole.
Finding refuge with King Negus was just another example of uniting with Christians in times of difficulty. As the Makkans made it difficult for new Muslims to practise their faith, many were ordered to emigrate to Abyssinia to find refuge with the devout Christians of Africa. It was when Ja’far Ibn Abi Talib RA recited the first part of Surah Maryam from the Quran that King Negus recognised the similarities between both religions.
Another incident in the prophetic biography portrays the unconditional love non-Muslims had for Muslims at the time. For several years, Muslims were subject to brutal abuse and oppression for their monotheistic belief system, which at the time challenged the profiting business of idol worshipping in Makkah. The Makkan chiefs had exhausted their cynical ways of punishing the Prophet ﷺ and his new cohort of Muslims, which is why they decided on something worse; a boycott. For three years, Muslims were seen starving to the point that many were forced to eat leaves to survive. Children were heard crying and many ate whatever they could get their hands on.
It was in these moments that many non-Muslims from Quraysh assisted with Mut’im ibn ‘Adi being one of them. A non-Muslim contemporary of the Prophet ﷺ, he along with other Christians assisted in ending this boycott once and for all.
The Quran’s Reminder on Unity
The Quran reminds us about why we were created. Allah often has a target audience when he addresses us such as Oh Muslims or Oh Believers. However, with the following verse, Allah calls all humans to ponder over the matter of unity, knowing that such a matter impacts us as all.
“O humankind, indeed We have created you from male and female and made you peoples and tribes that you may know one another. Indeed, the noblest of you in the sight of Allah is the most righteous of you” [49:13]