Jesus in Islam
`Îsâ Ibn Maryam ( Arabic: عيسى, translit.: ʿĪsā ), known as Jesus in the New Testament, is considered to be a Messenger of God and al-Masih (the Messiah) in Islam:30 who was sent to guide the Children of Israel (banī isrā'īl) with a new scripture, al-Injīl (the Gospel). The belief that Jesus is a prophet is required in Islam, as it is for all prophets named in the Qur’an. This is reflected in the fact that he is clearly a significant figure in the Qur’an (appearing in 93 ayaat [or, verses]), though Noah, Adam and Moses appear with even greater frequency. It states that Jesus was born to Mary (Arabic: Maryam) as the result of virginal conception, a miraculous event which occurred by the decree of God (Arabic: Allah). To aid in his ministry to the Jewish people, Jesus was given the ability to perform miracles (such as healing the blind, bringing dead people back to life, etc.), all by the permission of God rather than of his own power. According to the Quran, Jesus, although appearing to have been crucified, was not killed by crucifixion or by any other means; instead, "God raised him unto Himself". Like all prophets in Islam, Jesus is considered a Muslim (i.e., one who submits to the will of God), as he preached that his followers should adopt the "straight path" as commanded by God. Islam rejects the Trinitarian Christian view that Jesus was God incarnate or the son of God, that he was ever crucified or resurrected, or that he ever atoned for the sins of mankind. The Quran says that Jesus himself never claimed any of these things, and it furthermore indicates that Jesus will deny having ever claimed divinity at the Last Judgment, and God will vindicate him. The Quran emphasizes that Jesus was a mortal human being who, like all other prophets, had been divinely chosen to spread God's message. Islamic texts forbid the association of partners with God (shirk), emphasizing a strict notion of monotheism (tawhīd). An alternative interpretation of this theology is held by Messianic Muslims.
Numerous titles are given to Jesus in the Quran and in Islamic literature, the most common being al-Masīḥ ("the Messiah"). Jesus is also, at times, called "Seal of the Israelite Prophets", because, in general Muslim belief, Jesus was the last prophet sent by God to guide the Children of Israel. Jesus is seen in Islam as a precursor to Muhammad, and is believed by Muslims to have foretold the latter's coming.
- 1 Jesus in Islam
- 2 In Islamic thought
- 3 Appearance
- 4 See also
- 5 Notes
- 6 References
- 7 Further reading
- 8 External links
Jesus in Islam
The Quranic account of Isa (Jesus) begins with a prologue, which describes the birth of his mother, Maryam (Mary), and her service in the Jerusalem temple, while under the care of the prophet and priest Zechariah, who was to be the father of John the Baptist. The Quran then goes on to describe the conception of Isa. Mary, whom the Quran states was chosen by God over the women of all the worlds, conceives Isa while still a virgin.
Maryam had withdrawn into the Temple, where she was visited by the angel Gabriel (Arabic: Jibrail) who brought the glad tidings of a holy son. The Quran states that God sent the message through the angel Gabriel to Maryam, that God had honoured her among the women of all nations. The angel also told Maryam that she would give birth to a pure son, named Isa, who would be a great prophet, to whom God would give the Gospel. The angel further told Maryam that Isa would speak in infancy and maturity and be a companion to the most righteous. When this news was given to Maryam, she asked the angel how she could conceive and have a child when no man had touched her. The angel replied: "Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, 'Be,' and it is!" The Quran, therefore, states that Isa was created from the act of God's will. The Quran compares this miraculous creation of Isa with the creation of Adam, where God created Adam by his act of will (kun-fa-yakun, meaning "Be and it is."). According to the Quran, the same answer was given to the question of Zechariah, when he asked how his wife, Elizabeth, could conceive a baby, as she was very old.
Birth of Isa
The Quran narrates the virgin birth of Isa numerous times. The Quran states that Maryam was overcome by the pains of childbirth. During her agony and helplessness, God provided a stream of water under her feet from which she could drink. Furthermore, near a palm tree, Maryam was told to shake the trunk of the palm tree so that ripe dates would fall down and she could eat and be nourished. Maryam cried in pain and held onto the palm tree, at which point a voice came from "beneath her", understood by some to refer to Isa, who was yet in her womb, which said, "Grieve not! Your Lord has provided a water stream under you; And shake the trunk of the palm tree, it will let fall fresh ripe dates upon you. And eat and drink and calm thy mind." That day, Maryam gave birth to her son Isa in the middle of the desert.
Maryam carried baby Isa back to her people. The Quran goes on to describe that Maryam vowed not to speak to anyone that day, as God was to make Isa, who Muslims believe spoke in the cradle, perform his first miracle. The Quran goes on to narrate that Maryam then brought Isa to the temple, where she was immediately ridiculed by all the temple elders. But Zachariah believed in the virgin birth and supported her. The elders accused Maryam of being a loose woman and having touched another man while unmarried. In response, Mary pointed to her son, telling them to talk to him. They were angered at this and thought she was mocking them, by asking them to speak with an infant. It was then that God made the infant Isa speak from the cradle and he spoke of his prophecy for the first time. He said, which are verses 19:30-33 in the chapter of Maryam in the Quran:
He said: "I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet;
And He hath made me blessed wheresoever I be, and hath enjoined on me Prayer and Charity as long as I live;
(He) hath made me kind to my mother, and not overbearing or miserable;
So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life (again)!"
According to Islamic texts, Isa was divinely chosen to preach the message of monotheism and submission to the will of God to the Children of Israel (banī isrā'īl).
Muslims believe that God revealed to Isa a new scripture, al-Injīl (the Gospel), while also declaring the truth of the previous revelations: al-Tawrat (the Torah) and al-Zabur (the Psalms). The Quran speaks favorably of al-Injīl, which it describes as a scripture that fills the hearts of its followers with meekness and piety. The Quran says that the original biblical message has been distorted or corrupted (tahrif) over time. In chapter 3, verse 3, and chapter 5, verses 46-47, of the Quran, the revelation of al-Injil is mentioned:
It is He Who sent down to thee (step by step), in truth, the Book, confirming what went before it; and He sent down the Law (of Moses) and the Gospel (of Isa) before this, as a guide to mankind, and He sent down the criterion (of judgment between right and wrong).
And in their footsteps We sent Isa the son of Maryam, confirming the Law that had come before him: We sent him the Gospel: therein was guidance and light, and confirmation of the Law that had come before him: a guidance and an admonition to those who fear Allah.
Let the people of the Gospel judge by what Allah hath revealed therein. If any do fail to judge by (the light of) what Allah hath revealed, they are (no better than) those who rebel.
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The Quran states that Isa was aided by a group of disciples who believed in His message. While not naming the disciples, the Quran does give a few instances of Isa preaching the message to them. The Quran mentions in chapter 3, verses 52-53, that the disciples submitted in the faith of Islam:
When Isa found Unbelief on their part He said: "Who will be My helpers to (the work of) Allah?" Said the disciples: "We are Allah's helpers: We believe in Allah, and do thou bear witness that we are Muslims.
Our Lord! we believe in what Thou hast revealed, and we follow the Messenger; then write us down among those who bear witness."—Quran Surah Al-Imran 52-53
The longest narrative involving Isa's disciples is when they request a laden table to be sent from Heaven, for further proof that Isa is preaching the true message:
Behold! the disciples, said: "O Isa the son of Maryam! can thy Lord send down to us a table set (with viands) from heaven?" Said Isa: "Fear Allah, if ye have faith."
They said: "We only wish to eat thereof and satisfy our hearts, and to know that thou hast indeed told us the truth; and that we ourselves may be witnesses to the miracle."
Said Isa the son of Maryam: "O Allah our Lord! Send us from heaven a table set (with viands), that there may be for us—for the first and the last of us—a solemn festival and a sign from thee; and provide for our sustenance, for thou art the best Sustainer (of our needs)."
Allah said: "I will send it down unto you: But if any of you after that resisteth faith, I will punish him with a penalty such as I have not inflicted on any one among all the peoples."—Quran Surah Al-Ma'ida 112-115
Islamic texts categorically deny the idea of crucifixion or death attributed to Isa by the New Testament. The Quran states that people (i.e., the Jews and Romans) sought to kill Jesus, but they did not crucify nor kill him, although "this was made to appear to them". Muslims believe that Jesus was not crucified but instead, he was raised up by God unto the heavens. This "raising" is often understood to mean through bodily ascension.
"And they said we have killed the Messiah Isa son of Maryam, the Messenger of God. They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, though it was made to appear like that to them; those that disagreed about him are full of doubt, with no knowledge to follow, only supposition: they certainly did not kill him. On the contrary, God raised him unto himself. God is almighty and wise."
Discussing the interpretation of those scholars who deny the crucifixion, the Encyclopaedia of Islam writes:
The denial, furthermore, is in perfect agreement with the logic of the Quran. The Biblical stories reproduced in it (e.g., Job, Moses, Joseph, etc.) and the episodes relating to the history of the beginning of Islam demonstrate that it is "God's practice" (sunnat Allah) to make faith triumph finally over the forces of evil and adversity. "So truly with hardship comes ease", (XCIV, 5, 6). For Isa to die on the cross would have meant the triumph of his executioners; but the Quran asserts that they undoubtedly failed: "Assuredly God will defend those who believe"; (XXII, 49). He confounds the plots of the enemies of Christ (III, 54).
Contrary to Christian teachings, Islam teaches Jesus ascended to Heaven without being put on the cross, but that God transformed another person to appear exactly like Isa who was then crucified instead of Isa (cf. Irenaeuus' description of the heresy of Basilides, Book I, ch. XXIV, 4). Isa ascended bodily to Heaven, there to remain until his Second Coming in the End Days.
According to Islamic tradition which describes this graphically, Isa's descent will be in the midst of wars fought by al-Mahdi (lit. "the rightly guided one"), known in Islamic eschatology as the redeemer of Islam, against al-Masīh ad-Dajjāl (the Antichrist "False messiah") and his followers. Isa will descend at the point of a white arcade, east of Damascus, dressed in yellow robes—his head anointed. He will then join al-Mahdi in his war against the Dajjal. Isa, considered as a Muslim, will abide by the Islamic teachings. Eventually, Isa will slay the Antichrist, and then everyone who is one of the People of the Book (ahl al-kitāb, referring to Jews and Christians) will believe in him. Thus, there will be one community, that of Islam.
Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 43: Kitab-ul-`Ilm (Book of Knowledge), Hâdith Number 656:
The Hour will not be established until the son of Maryam (i.e. Isa) descends amongst you as a just ruler, he will break the cross, kill the pigs, and abolish the Jizya tax. Money will be in abundance so that nobody will accept it (as charitable gifts).
After the death of al-Mahdi, Isa will assume leadership. This is a time associated in Islamic narrative with universal peace and justice. Islamic texts also allude to the appearance of Ya'juj and Ma'juj (known also as Gog and Magog), ancient tribes which will disperse and cause disturbance on earth. God, in response to Isa's prayers, will kill them by sending a type of worm in the napes of their necks. Isa's' rule is said to be around forty years, after which he will die. Muslims will then perform the funeral prayer for him and then bury him in the city of Medina in a grave left vacant beside Muhammad, Abu Bakr, and Umar (companions of Muhammad and the first and second Sunni caliphs (Rashidun) respectively).
In Islamic thought
and other religions
Jesus is described by various means in the Quran. The most common reference to Jesus occurs in the form of "Ibn Maryam" (son of Mary), sometimes preceded with another title. Jesus is also recognised as a prophet (nabī) and messenger (rasūl) of God. The terms wadjih ("worthy of esteem in this world and the next"), mubārak ("blessed", or "a source of benefit for others"), `abd-Allāh (servant of God) are all used in the Quran in reference to Jesus.
Another title frequently mentioned is al-Masīḥ, which translates to "the Messiah". This does not correspond to the Christian concept of Messiah, as Islam regards all prophets, including Jesus, to be mortal and without any share in divinity. Muslim exegetes explain the use of the word masīh in the Quran as referring to Jesus' status as the one anointed by means of blessings and honors; or as the one who helped cure the sick, by anointing the eyes of the blind, for example. Quranic verses also employ the term "kalimat Allah" (meaning the "word of God") as a descriptor of Jesus, which is interpreted as a reference to the creating word of God, uttered at the moment of Jesus' conception; or as recognition of Jesus' status as a messenger of God, speaking on God's behalf.
Islamic texts regard Jesus as a human being and a righteous messenger of God. Islam rejects the idea of him being God or the begotten Son of God. According to Islamic scriptures, the belief that Jesus is God or Son of God is shirk, or the association of partners with God, and thereby a rejection of God's divine oneness (tawhid) and the sole unpardonable sin. All other sins may be forgiven through true repentance: shirk speaks of associating partners with God after having received the Divine Guidance, as it is said in the Quran and Hadith that when one submits to God (i.e. embraces Islam), their "accounts" (of sins and righteous deeds used to determine the standing of a person on the Last Day) are numbered from that moment. A verse from the Quran reads:
In blasphemy indeed are those that say that Allah is Christ the son of Mary. Say: "Who then hath the least power against Allah, if His will were to destroy Christ the son of Mary, his mother, and all every—one that is on the earth? For to Allah belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth, and all that is between. He createth what He pleaseth. For Allah hath power over all things."
The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is similarly rejected in Islam. Such notions of the divinity of Jesus, Muslims state, resulted from human interpolations of God's revelation. Islam views Jesus as a human like all other prophets, who preached that salvation came through submission to God's will and worshiping God alone. Thus, Jesus is considered in Islam to have been a Muslim by the definition of the term (i.e., one who submits to God's will), as were all other prophets in Islam.
An alternative, more esoteric interpretation is expounded by Messianic Muslims in the Sufi and Isma'ili traditions so as to unite Islam, Christianity and Judaism into a single religious continuum. Other Messianic Muslims hold a similar theological view regarding Jesus, without attempting to unite the religions. Making use of the New Testament's distinguishing between Jesus, Son of Man - being the physical human Jesus – and Christ, Son of God - being The Holy Spirit of God residing in the body of Jesus – The Holy Spirit, being immortal and immaterial, is not subject to crucifixion, for it can never die, nor can it be touched by the earthly nails of the crucifixion, for it is a being of pure spirit. Thus while the spirit of Christ avoided crucifixion by ascending unto God, the body that was Jesus was sacrificed on the cross, thereby bringing the Old Testament to final fulfillment. Thus Qur'anic passages on the death of Jesus affirm that while the Pharisees intended to destroy The Son of God completely, they, in fact, succeeded only in killing The Son of Man, being his nasut (material being). Meanwhile, The Son of God, being his lahut (spiritual being) remained alive and undying – because it is The Holy Spirit.
Precursor to Muhammad
|Lineage of six prominent prophets according to Islamic tradition|
|Dotted lines indicate multiple generations|
Muslims believe that Jesus was a precursor to Muhammad, and that he announced the latter's coming. They base this on a verse of the Quran wherein Jesus speaks of a messenger to appear after him named Ahmad. Islam associates Ahmad with Muhammad, both words deriving from the h-m-d triconsonantal root which refers to praiseworthiness. Muslims also assert that evidence of Jesus' pronouncement is present in the New Testament, citing the mention of the Paraclete whose coming is foretold in the Gospel of John. Muslim commentators claim that the original Greek word used was periklutos, meaning famed, illustrious, or praiseworthy—rendered in Arabic as Ahmad; and that this was replaced by Christians with parakletos. The tree shown right depicts lineage.
Jesus is widely venerated in Muslim ascetic and mystic literature, such as in Muslim mystic Al-Ghazzali's Ihya `ulum ad-Din ("The revival of the religious sciences"). These works lay stress upon Jesus' poverty, his preoccupation with worship, his detachment from worldly life and his miracles. Such depictions also include advice and sermons which are attributed to him. Later Sufic commentaries adapted material from Christian gospels which were consistent with their ascetic portrayal. Sufi philosopher Ibn Arabi described Jesus as "the seal of universal holiness" due to the quality of his faith and "because he holds in his hands the keys of living breath and because he is at present in a state of deprivation and journeying".
Common ground with Christianity
Isa is the son of a virgin named Maryam (“Mary” in English), who is a role model for faithful women. Isa is a prophet filled with the Holy Spirit (surat 2 Al-Baqarah, 87) and the messiah in both religions (but the Christians add that besides having a human nature, he would be God too, which the Quran clearly denies). Isa is the “word of truth” (surat 19 Maryam, 34). Isa, through God’s power and will, cures the blind and the leper, raises the dead to life and know what is hidden in the hearts (surat 3 'Ali `Imran, 49). And Isa will come back at the end of times (Hadith 46.31).
Based upon several Hadith narrations of Muhammad, Jesus can be physically described thus (with any differences in Jesus’ physical description being due to Muhammad describing him when seeing him at different occasions, such as in a dream, during his ascension to Heaven, or when describing Jesus during Jesus' second coming):
- A well-built man of medium/moderate/average height and stature with a broad chest.
- Straight, lank, slightly curly, long hair that fell between his shoulders.
- A moderate, fair complexion of red or finest brown.
"I was shown the Prophets in front of me, and Moosaa resembles the men of the tribe of Shanu’ah, and I saw ‘Eesaa (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), may Allaah exalt his mention, and the person who resembles him most is 'Urwa ibn Mas'ud al-Thaqafi, and I saw Ibraaheem and the person who resembles him most is your companion (referring to himself) and I saw Jibreel (the angel Gabriel), and the person who resembles him most is Dihyah."
- Smith, Cyril Glassé ; introduction by Huston (2001). The new encyclopedia of Islam (Édition révisée. ed.). Walnut Creek, CA: AltaMira Press. p. 239. ISBN 9780759101906.
- Parrinder, Geoffrey (1996). Jesus in the Quran. Oxford Oneworld. ISBN 1851680942.
- The Oxford Dictionary of Islam, p.158
- Gregory A. Barker and Stephen E. Gregg, "Jesus Beyond Christianity: The Classic Texts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), p. 84.
- Quran, 5th Surah, vs. 116.
- "Isa", Encyclopedia of Islam
- Fasching, deChant (2001) p. 241
- Encyclopedia of the Quran, Jesus
- Quran 3:33–37
- Quran 3:45
- Quran 3:43
- Quran 3:47
- Quran 3:59
- Quran 19:8–9
- Quran 19:30–33
- "Yahya b. Zakariyya", Encyclopedia of Islam.
- Quran 3:3
- Quran 5:46–47
- Quran 3:52–53
- Quran 5:112–115
- For instance; Matthew chapter 27, Mark chapter 15, Luke chapter 23, and John chapter 19
- Quran 4:157–158
- "Wherefore he did not himself suffer death, but Simon, a certain man of Cyrene, being compelled, bore the cross in his stead; so that this latter being transfigured by him, that he might be thought to be Isa, was crucified, through ignorance and error, while Isa himself received the form of Simon, and, standing by, laughed at them. For since he was an incorporeal power, and the Nous (mind) of the unborn father, he transfigured himself as he pleased, and thus ascended to him who had sent him, deriding them, inasmuch as he could not be laid hold of, and was invisible to all." http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0103124.htm
- Sonn (2004) p. 209
- Sahih Muslim, 41:7023
- "She said: "O my Lord! How shall I have a son when no man hath touched me?" He said: "Even so: Allah createth what He willeth: When He hath decreed a plan, He but saith to it, 'Be,' and it is!", Quran 3:47, cf. Encyclopedia of Islam
- Esposito (2002) p. 32, 74;
- Fasching, deChant (2001) p. 241
- Markham and Ruparell (2001) p. 348
- Quran 5:17
- cf. Esposito (2002) p. 32
- Khalidi (2001) p. 75;
- Fasching, deChant (2001) p. 241
- Travis, John (2000). "Messian Muslim Followers of Isa". International Journal of Frontier Missions 17:1 (Spring): 54. Retrieved Spring 2000.
- Cumming, Joseph. "Muslim Followers of Jesus?". ChristianityToday. Retrieved 20 November 2009.
- Encyclopedia of Islam, Jesus article. cf. L. Massignon, Le Christ dans les Évangiles selon Ghazali, in REI , 1932, 523-36, who cites texts of the Rasa'il Ikhwan al-Safa, a passage of Abu Hatim al-Razi (about 934), and another of the Isma'ili da'i Mu'ayyad fid-din al-Shirazi (1077).
- "And remember, Jesus, the son of Mary, said: "O Children of Israel! I am the messenger of Allah (sent) to you, confirming the Law (which came) before me, and giving Glad Tidings of a Messenger to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad." But when he came to them with Clear Signs, they said, "this is evident sorcery!" ", Quran 61:6
- "And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;
Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.", John 14:16–17
- Watt (1991) pp. 33–34
- Anas reports that the Messenger of Allah (peace and blessings be upon him), said: “The best women of mankind are four: Mariam daughter of 'Imran, Assiya wife of Pharaoh, Khadijah daughter of Khuwailid, and Fatima the daughter of the Messenger of Allah.” [Bukhari and Muslim]
- Sahih al-Bukhari, 4:54:462, 4:55:607–608, 4:55:647–650, 4:55:649–650, Sahih Muslim, 1:316, 1:321, 1:325, 1:328, 41:7023
- Anawati, G. C. "`Īsā Alleh Islam". In P. J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W. P. Heinrichs. Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. Brill Academic Publishers. ISSN 1573-3912.
- Ayoub, Mahmoud (1992). The Quran and Its Interpreters. State University of New York Press US. ISBN 0-7914-0993-7.
- Esposito, J. L. (2002). What Everyone Needs to Know About Islam. Oxford University Press US. ISBN 0-19-515713-3.
- Esposito, J. L. (2003). The Oxford Dictionary of Islam. Oxford University Press US. ISBN 0-19-512558-4.
- Fasching, D. J.; deChant, D. (2001). Comparative Religious Ethics: A Narrative Approach. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-20125-4.
- Khalidi, T. (2001). The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-00477-9.
- Markham, I. S.; Ruparell, T. (2001). Encountering Religion: An Introduction to the Religions of the World. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 0-631-20674-4.
- Rippin, A. "Yahya b. Zakariya". In P.J. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C.E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, W.P. Heinrichs. Encyclopaedia of Islam Online. Brill Academic Publishers. ISSN 1573-3912.
- Slade, Darren M. (January 2014). "“ARABIA HAERESIUM FERAX (ARABIA BEARER OF HERESIES): Schismatic Christianity’s Potential Influence on Muhammad and the Qur’an”". American Theological Inquiry 7 (1): 43-53.
- Sonn, Tamarra (2004). A Brief History of Islam. Blackwell Publishing. ISBN 1-4051-2174-2.
- Watt, W. M. (1991). Muslim-Christian Encounters: Perceptions and Misperceptions. Routledge. ISBN 0-415-05410-9.
- Wherry, E. M.; Sale, G. (2000). A Comprehensive Commentary on the Qurán: Comprising Sale's Translation and Preliminary Discourse (vol. II). Routledge. ISBN 0-415-23188-4.
- Tarif Khalidi (2003). The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature. Harvard University Press. ISBN 0-674-01115-5.
- Zuckermann, Ghil'ad (2006). "'Etymythological Othering' and the Power of 'Lexical Engineering' in Judaism, Islam and Christianity. A Socio-Philo(sopho)logical Perspective", Explorations in the Sociology of Language and Religion, edited by Tope Omoniyi and Joshua A. Fishman, Amsterdam: John Benjamins, pp. 237–258. ISBN 90-272-2710-1
Lawson, Todd (2009). The Crucifixion and the Qur'an: A Study in the History of Muslim Thought. Oxford: Oneworld Publications. ISBN 1851686363. Retrieved July 28, 2012.
Slade, Darren M. (January 2014). "“ARABIA HAERESIUM FERAX (ARABIA BEARER OF HERESIES): Schismatic Christianity’s Potential Influence on Muhammad and the Qur’an”". American Theological Inquiry 7 (1): 43-53.
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