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A Muslim’s Views on the Theology of Easter

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Easter is the day Christians worldwide celebrate the death and resurrection of Jesus—an event they believe is their means to salvation. It is not well known, but in Islam we also believe in the truth of Jesus Christ as a pure and righteous Messenger of God sent to the Children of Israel. In fact, it is a requirement of Islam to accept Jesus and his Gospel. The Quran, which is the Holy Scripture of Islam says: “When the angels said, ‘O Mary, Allah gives thee glad tidings of a word from Him; his name shall be the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, honoured in this world and in the next, and of those who are granted nearness to God;” (Qur’an 3:46) The understanding of Jesus in Islam differs from what most Christians believe today. In Islam, we do not believe Jesus is a literal Son of God, but rather a metaphoric son of god who reflects the qualities of godliness. On the subject of Easter we also disagree on the purpose and result of the crucifixion. Christians believe Jesus died on the cross and was resurrected to atone for our sins. Islam presents a different perspective. The first of these is in the purpose of the crucifixion. In Christian belief the purpose of the crucifixion was to atone for our sins, whereas in Islamic belief the purpose was to serve as a sign of his truth. Thus leading to salvation through strengthened belief in God. This belief is supported by the prophecy of Jesus: “A wicked and adulterous generation asks for a miraculous sign! But none will be given it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of a huge fish, so the Son of Man will be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” (Matthew 12:40). Muslims believe the crucifixion was not about revival but survival. Thus, the second of these differences is that being a true messenger of God Jesus could not be killed on the cross by his opponents. Muslims believe this would have made his death accursed according to the Bible (Deuteronomy21:23). Muslims believe Jesus described himself as Jonah. Just as Jonah survived the trial inside the belly of the fish, so likewise should Jesus survive the tribulation on the cross. The Holy Qur’an confirms this view by stating that Jesus was saved from death and protected by God: “And their saying, ‘We did kill the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah;’ whereas they slew him not, nor crucified him, but he was made to appear to them like one crucified;" (4:158) We of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community believe that Jesus, against all odds, survived the ordeal on the cross due to a great miracle of God, thus fulfilling his prophecy regarding Jonah. The attempt of his opponents to crucify him failed and the mission of Jesus continued on successfully despite the efforts of his persecutors to defeat him. So while Christians and Muslims may disagree on the details of Easter, there also exists a great deal of commonality in our beliefs. Specifically, that God sent Jesus, the Messiah as testimony to God’s truth. Regardless of our differences, Muslims respect that our Christian brothers and sisters celebrate Easter, and join them in our love for the great Prophet of God, Jesus, son of Mary. This article first appeared in Patheos: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/islamahmadiyya/2015/04/a-muslims-views-on-the-theology-of-easter/