Islam teaches that God cannot have a son, therefore Jesus' claim to divinity is rejected.
Specifically Muslims believe 1) there is only one God; 2) God will not share his authority or position; 3) it is anathema to think God would have sex to create a son; and 4) Jesus is just another messenger, one of many in a long line of prophets.
Islam views God's oneness or unity as three characteristics: one in person, one in attributes, and one in works. His oneness in person permits no multiplicity of gods, nor more than one in the Godhead. His oneness in attributes means that his perfect attributes do not exist in another being. His oneness in works means that no one else is capable of doing what God can do.
God has servants to do his bidding; he does not need to come himself, Islam argues. "We should be fools to ask for Him to step down from His throne of infinite attributes to become comprehensible for us." God only sends servants.
Honor is basic to the Arab culture and they have a very high view of God's honor. To them Christ, if viewed as God, would take away from God's authority and honor, by sharing it. Further they fear he would attempt to usurp God's authority, as they are used to seeing human leaders do.
Heresies in the Greek Orthodox Church affected Islam's view of the virgin birth. Mary was revered to the point of deity. Thus, to Arabs, the Trinity appeared to be a father, mother, and son.
That God would have sexual relations and have a family is repugnant to Muslims, as well as to Christians. This is anthropomorphic and unworthy of God.
The Qur'an mentions Christ but not as a divine son. He is seen as just another messenger, such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Muhammad. Christ's message is understood as being limited to the Jews.
There is a skepticism within Islam of our New Testament. Thus, many of the claims and works of Christ are dismissed. The Christian acceptance of Jesus as Son of God is viewed in Islam as adoption--deifying Jesus. This is shirk, the sin of associating someone with God. This is the most serious of sins.
Idolatry and polytheism is wrong in Islam, for quite a different reason than the Old Testament view of God's jealousy (Exodus 20:3-4). It is wrong because it is lifting up to worship a created thing over which we have God-given sovereignty. Thus it diminishes humankind.
Interestingly, God's grace is another reason for Islam's rejection of the sonship of Jesus. Christ's apparent appeasement of God on the cross is seen as unnecessary. God is forgiving, he does not demand satisfaction. This idea is seen in Sura 19 quoted at the beginning of this article. The need for the Son's redemptive work is not consistent with the idea of a gracious God.
To derive physical paternity from the use of the term, God the Father, is to make God in our image.
Mary is not one of the trinity. She was a mere woman, though devout and chosen by God. In response to a woman's praise of his mother, Jesus answered, "Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it" (Lk 11:27-28). Mary held no revered position. The heresy of Mariolatry corrupted Islam's view of the Christian godhead. The Incarnation as Self-Revelation
The question of the incarnation boils down to one of revelation. Did God only reveal himself through books of Scripture and messengers, or has he revealed himself?
The Qur'an gives three ways that Allah speaks to man. The first is through inspiration of prophets and others. The second is speaking "from behind a veil," for example, through a vision or a dream. The third way is with words given to a prophet through an angel or the Holy Spirit. The latter is the highest form of revelation. It is the mode of the Qur'an. Muhammad said the angel Gabriel gave him the words. I propose that self-revelation, as occurred in Christ, is higher still. In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power (Heb 1:1-3).1
This is the tremendous difference in the Christian message. What had been shrouded and partial is now clear and complete in Christ. God himself has shown his true nature. God coming in person is a more perfect revelation than giving his words to prophets. Kenneth Cragg describes Qur'anic revelation:
In contrast, the incarnation demonstrates God's desire for fellowship. He comes himself. He does not just send a messenger or his word. Christianity is a call to relationship, not just obedience to God's law. This was foreshadowed by the prophet Jeremiah.
The sin of shirk is associating other things with God. That is not what Christians have done with Christ. For Christ already was associated with God from the beginning. He is God. Christians do not make him God. Christians do not assign divine attributes to Christ. He is divine. Those attributes are his by nature.
It is not a sin to accept God's revelation of himself. God has chosen to reveal himself in Christ. It is a unique and perfect revelation, in that it is personal. "The Revealer and what is revealed are identi- cal."
The revelation is unique, perfect, and also final. "When someone has disclosed himself ultimately in a definite, particular event, he cannot again disclose himself in the same sense in another event different from the first." Once we have seen God we need no further revelation of him.
Christ, therefore, does not steal from the unity of God, but contributes to it. He reveals God's essential unity and nature. Christ does not attempt to minimize God's forgiveness--on the cross he reveals a merciful God. Christ does not steal a position of sonship--he reveals God as father. Christ does not raise himself up to heaven--he reveals a God who is willing to come down from heaven to reveal himself to humanity.
God's Sovereignty and the Incarnation Sin is in opposition to God's holiness. It has created an impenetrable barrier between God and us. It cannot be compensated for by our good works, as Muslims believe. To think good works can outweigh our evil minimizes the seriousness of sin. God has been dishonored by our sinful behavior and there is nothing we can do to rectify the situation.
Only our loving and all powerful God can deal with our sin. Only he is able to remove the barrier in our relationship with him. This is the revelation we have through Christ: that God himself has come to deal with our sin problem. His honor compels him. Love compels him. Mercy compels him. He is the only one powerful and holy enough to accomplish our redemption.
Humanly, death on the cross is seen as weakness, but from a spiritual perspective it is God's victorious defeat of sin.
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'Ali, Maulana Muhammad. The Religion of Islam. 3rd ed. Lahore, Pakistan: Ripon Printing Press LTD., 1971.
Chowdhry, Aziz A. "Essence of the Teachings of Jesus." The Review of Religions 79:12 (December 1984): 26-32.
Cragg, Kenneth. The Call of the Minaret. 2nd ed. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1985.
The Holy Qur'an. Trans. by A. Yusuf Ali. Brentwood, MD: Amana Corp., 1983.
Pannenberg, Wolfhart. Jesus, God and Man. Trans. by Lewis L. Wilkins and Duane
A. Priebe. Philadelphia: Westminister Press, 1977.
Parshall, Phil. New Paths in Muslim Evangelism. Grand Rapids: Baker, 1980.
Ullah, Mohammed Zia. Islamic Concept of God. Boston: Kegan Paul International, 1984.
Watt, W. Montgomery. Islam and Christianity Today: A Contribution to Dialogue. Boston: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1983.
Welch, Claude. In This Name. New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1952.