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Was Jesus a Muslim?

by Dr. Shabir Ally | Watch the video response here

A viewer writes, "What is your strongest argument from the earliest non-Muslim sources that Jesus was a Muslim?"

The strongest argument arises from modern scholarship, which attempts to retrace the steps and find out who Jesus was in history. These scholars have come up with a man who is a human being, and it seems inconceivable that he would have claimed to be God. It seems more likely that he was akin to a Hebrew prophet, like the prophets of the Old Testament.

What we mean by Muslim is not necessarily a follower of the Muslim faith today. The meaning of the term “Muslim” is one who submits to God. As a submitter to God, Jesus can be seen even in the gospels to be submitting in the Garden of Gethsemane. He fell on his face and prayed according to Matthew chapter 26, verse 39.

So, he was praying to God on whom he depended. According to the gospel of Luke, he fell on his knees and prayed. According to the gospel of John, he looked up into heaven and prayed. The gospel of John has the most developed theology presenting Jesus as an intermediary between man and God and as the agent through which God created everything else, and even as a kind of second God, a begotten God as he’s called in some of the most ancient manuscripts of John’s gospel. Yet, even in John’s gospel in chapter 17 verse 3, when he looked up into heaven and prayed, he said that they may know you as the only true God and Jesus, your Messenger, as Christ. He is the Christ, the Messiah, Messenger of God, but he also has a God and that is the God that he was praying to.

That’s the best that history can decipher that there is a dichotomy between the original Jesus, the history of Jesus, and the later thinking about Jesus- the Jesus of faith. People have developed faith in Jesus and declared him to be God. Some have said that he’s the second person of the Holy Trinity, but Jesus himself hardly could have established these concepts in his own mind.

The early Jesus sounds a lot like a Muslim prophet, a human being, and a messenger of God, like the prophets of the Old Testament. Of course, that does not mean that in all respects, we can reconstruct the history and know that Jesus was like a Muslim, but this is close enough. It is definitely closer than some of the theologies that are out there that present Jesus as God himself or a second person of the Holy Trinity. In the end, I think I can confidently assert that Jesus was a Muslim.

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