Answering Islam - A Christian-Muslim dialog

Jesus’ Deity from an Islamic Perspective – Pt. 1

The Creator and Life-giver

Sam Shamoun

It is time to once again examine the claims which the Holy Bible and the Islamic sources make concerning the Lord Jesus in order to provide further evidence that Christ is truly God Incarnate (even though he is not the Father or the Holy Spirit), since he says and does things which both religious traditions agree only God can say and do.

For instance, the ahadith have Muhammad warning those who make pictures or idols that they will have to stand before Allah and give an account for the things they have fashioned:

Narrated Said bin Abu Al-Hasan: While I was with Ibn 'Abbas a man came and said, "O father of 'Abbas! My sustenance is from my manual profession and I make these pictures." Ibn 'Abbas said, "I will tell you only what I heard from Allah's Apostle. I heard him saying, 'Whoever makes a picture will be punished by Allah till he puts life in it, and he will never be able to put life in it.'" Hearing this, that man heaved a sigh and his face turned pale. Ibn 'Abbas said to him, "What a pity! If you insist on making pictures I advise you to make pictures of trees and any other unanimated objects." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 34, Number 428)  

Ibn 'Umar reported Allah's Messenger having said: Those who paint pictures would be punished on the Day of Resurrection and it would be said to them: breathe soul into what you have created.  (Sahih Muslim, Book 024, Number 5268)

Anas b. Malik said: I was sitting with Ibn Ahbas when he gave religious verdicts but he did not say that it was Allah's Messenger who had said that. However when a man said to him (Ibn 'Abbas): I am the painter of these pictures. Ibn 'Abbas said: I heard Allah's Messenger as saying: He who painted pictures in the world would be compelled to breathe soul in them on the Day of Resurrection, but he would not be able to breathe soul (in them).  (Sahih Muslim, Book 024, Number 5273)

These statements indicate that the ability to breathe life into inanimate objects is a divine prerogative which no creature can perform, which is why humans are expressly forbidden from making pictures or images of living things. This is brought out very strongly in Muhammad’s statement that no one will be able to put life into a lifeless picture on the Day of Judgment.

This assumes that if there was someone who was capable of breathing life into inanimate objects, then that person would have to be God, or at least truly divine in essence. This is simply the logical outworking of Muhammad’s claims, and it is even confirmed by the Quran itself which states that Allah is the only one who creates and gives life:

Such is Allah, your Lord. There is no God save Him, the Creator of all things, so worship Him. And He taketh care of all things. S. 6:102 Pickthall

Say (O Muhammad): "Who is the Lord of the heavens and the earth?" Say: "(It is) Allah." Say: "Have you then taken (for worship) Auliya' (protectors, etc.) other than Him, such as have no power either for benefit or for harm to themselves?" Say: "Is the blind equal to the one who sees? Or darkness equal to light? Or do they assign to Allah partners who created the like of His creation, so that the creation (which they made and His creation) seemed alike to them." Say: "Allah is the Creator of all things, He is the One, the Irresistible." S. 13:16 Hilali-Khan

He, it is Who has created you (Adam) from dust, then from a Nutfah [mixed semen drops of male and female discharge (i.e. Adam's offspring)] then from a clot (a piece of coagulated blood), then brings you forth as children, then (makes you grow) to reach the age of full strength, and afterwards to be old (men and women), though some among you die before, and that you reach an appointed term, in order that you may understand. He it is Who gives life and causes death. And when He decides upon a thing He says to it only: "Be!" and it is. S. 40:67-68 Hilali-Khan

Now we could turn to the Holy Bible to establish that the Lord Jesus is identified as the Agent of creation that the Father employed to bring the entire creation into existence:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being. In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men… He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him… And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John 1:1-4, 10, 14

“For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him.” Colossians 1:13-16

“God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” Hebrews 1:1-2

We could also cite passages where Christ is said to be actively sustaining all creation by his powerful word:

“yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” 1 Corinthians 8:6

“He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Colossians 1:17

“And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… But of the Son He [the Father] says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever…’ And, ‘You, Lord [the Son], in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of Your hands; They will perish, but You remain; And they all will become old like a garment, And like a mantle You will roll them up; Like a garment they will also be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not come to an end.’” Hebrews 1:3, 8, 10-12

We could even quote texts where Jesus breathes and pours out the Holy Spirit upon his followers in order to give them spiritual life and empowerment:

“So Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.’ And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit.’” John 20:21-22

“And he was preaching, and saying, ‘After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’” Mark 1:7-8

“Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants on his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore having been exalted to the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.” Acts 2:29-33

However, this wouldn’t be necessary to prove our point since the Quran itself testifies that Jesus was able to breathe life into inanimate objects which he himself created from clay:

“to be a Messenger to the Children of Israel saying, "I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. I WILL CREATE for you out of clay as the likeness of a bird; then I will breathe into it, and it will be a bird, by the leave of God. I will also heal the blind and the leper, and bring to life the dead, by the leave of God. I will inform you too of what things you eat, and what you treasure up in your houses. Surely in that is a sign for you, if you are believers. S. 3:49 Arberry

When God said, 'Jesus Son of Mary, remember My blessing upon thee and upon thy mother, when I confirmed thee with the Holy Spirit, to speak to men in the cradle, and of age; and when I taught thee the Book, the Wisdom, the Torah, the Gospel; and when thou CREATEST out of clay, by My leave, as the likeness of a bird, and thou breathest into it, and it is a bird, by My leave; and thou healest the blind and the leper by My leave, and thou bringest the dead forth by My leave; and when restrained from thee the Children of Israel when thou camest unto them with the clear signs, and the unbelievers among them said, "This is nothing but sorcery manifest." S. 5:110 Arberry

What makes this rather remarkable is that the Quran depicts Jesus creating and animating a bird in the exact same way that Allah is said to have created and animated Adam!

He is the knower of the Unseen and the Visible, the All-mighty, the All-compassionate, who has created all things well. And He originated the creation of man out of clay, then He fashioned his progeny of an extraction of mean water, then He shaped him, and breathed His spirit in him. And He appointed for you hearing, and sight, and hearts; little thanks you show. S. 32:6-9 Arberry

When thy Lord said to the angels, 'See, I am creating a mortal of a clay. When I have shaped him, and breathed My spirit in him, fall you down, bowing before him!' S. 38:71-72 Arberry

The Quran is ascribing a function and ability to Christ that belong to God alone, and is therefore virtually admitting that Jesus is God in essence.

Notice how this works out logically:

A. No human being is capable of breathing life into inanimate objects, especially ones which they have made, since only Allah is capable of doing so.

B. Jesus was able to animate lifeless objects, which he himself made from clay, by breathing life into them in exactly the same way that Allah fashioned and animated Adam.

C. Jesus must, therefore, be God in essence.

A Muslim might object at this point and claim that the Quranic passages clearly testify that Allah gave Jesus this ability since it explicitly says that Christ did this “by the leave/permission of Allah” (bi-ithni Allah). Therefore, this isn’t a divine prerogative that Jesus intrinsically possessed.

There are two main problems with this assertion. First, the texts do not say that Allah gave Jesus the power to perform this function, but that he permitted him to do so. And to give someone leave or permission to do something is not the same as granting the person the ability to carry out that specific function. If anything, this presupposes that Jesus already possessed the power to create and give life, otherwise it would be meaningless to grant him permission to perform a task that he was incapable of carrying out.

Second, even if we assume that the expression meant that Allah gave Jesus the power to give life this still wouldn’t solve anything, but only add to the problem. After all, this argument basically means that Allah committed the unforgiveable sin of shirk, or of associating a creature with Allah in Allah’s unique divine characteristics and abilities (cf. Q. 2:22; 4:48, 116; 9:83-88; 39:65), since he took Jesus to be his partner in divinity by conferring upon Jesus some of Allah’s unique divine attributes and functions.

The Muslims must therefore explain why would Allah grant Jesus such divine abilities when doing so meant that Allah would end up committing a transgression that he himself says will never be pardoned.

As it stands, the Muslims must contend with the fact that the teachings of their own prophet end up confirming that Jesus is truly God in essence since their prophet ascribed specific divine qualities and functions to Christ, which he himself acknowledged were characteristics which belonged solely to God.

With that said we are now ready to move to the second part of the discussion.

Further Reading