In the expansive tapestry of our human history, one man stood as a prominent individual who is still as freshly relevant and discussed today. Prophet Isa ibn Maryam a.s, commonly known as Jesus of Nazareth, emerges as a radiant figure whose miraculous journey continues to be a profound weave of significance in the shared fabric of human history.
In Islam, the prophecy of Prophet Isa a.s. is mentioned clearly in the Quran and is supplemented by Prophetic traditions. Various classical and contemporary Quranic exegetes and Islamic scholars have all extensively discussed the status of Prophet Isa a.s. as a messenger of God in Islamic theology. Muslims believe that he is not associated with divinity, and neither is he the son of God as believed by the Christians. Muslims also believe that Prophet Isa a.s. is Al-Masīh, or the Messiah.
Without deliberating on the various debates and narratives across the diverse faiths, this article wishes to explore this prominent man from the perspective of Islam and to understand the pearls of wisdom from his life story and why he is a revered man of God.
The Church of Nativity in Bethlehem, West Bank, Palestine. According to the Christian tradition, this is the exact site believed to be the birthplace of Jesus. In Islam, the Quran only mentions that Maryam a.s. gave birth under a date palm tree near a river. Scholars differ as to where the location resides. A Hadith on the Prophet's night journey (Isra' & Mi'raj) indicates it was in the city of Bayt Lahm - Bethlehem, without identifying the exact site.
One cannot fully know Prophet Isa a.s. without referring to the story of his remarkable mother – Maryam a.s. The holy Quran unfolds the life of Prophet Isa a.s. with divine eloquence, revealing the miraculous nature of his birth. Prophet Isa a.s. was born to his mother, Maryam - a chaste and devout woman of faith chosen by Allah for this extraordinary task, without a father.
The news of her impending motherhood, without even being touched by a man, was brought to her by the angel Jibrīl a.s. and started what would be known as a difficult and challenging period for the house of Zakaria a.s. from that moment on. Maryam remained steadfast and was assured that the birth of her son only further signifies Allah's power over all things and the promise of good tidings to her. In return, Allah raised the status of Maryam very highly and has since been referred to as one of the four best women of paradise in Islam.
Read: 4 Women of Paradise
As Prophet Isa a.s. fulfils his destiny as a messenger of Allah, the Quran highlights the miracles, or mu’jizat, of which he performed - with the permission of Allah - testifying to his prophethood and the promise of Allah’s divine aid for the chosen Prophets and Messengers a.s.
It was said that the types of miracles performed by the Prophets of Allah were relevant to the context of the era he was sent to. Like how the miracles of Prophet Musa a.s. were relevant in a time when black magic was widely spread and considered a trend, the miracles of Prophet Isa too were relevant for his time when medicine and metaphysics (e.g. the concept of soul, heavens, etc) were the two primary trends. Among his miracles are the following:
Speaking to The People as an Infant: As an infant of a few days old, Prophet Isa a.s. spoke from the cradle, defending his mother against accusations of her committing adultery and fornication. Maryam a.s. remained patient and vowed not to speak as instructed by Allah s.w.t, only for her baby to declare in front of the people:
قَالَ إِنِّى عَبْدُ ٱللَّهِ ءَاتَىٰنِىَ ٱلْكِتَـٰبَ وَجَعَلَنِى نَبِيًّا
“I am indeed a servant of Allah: He has given me revelation and made me a Prophet”
(Surah Maryam, 19:30)
This is considered as Prophet Isa’s first miracle.
Bringing a Bird into Life: Prophet Isa a.s. had moulded a lump of clay into the shape of a bird which eventually turned into a real-life bird by Allah’s will. Allah s.w.t. says in the Quran:
وَإِذْ تَخْلُقُ مِنَ ٱلطِّينِ كَهَيْـَٔةِ ٱلطَّيْرِ بِإِذْنِى فَتَنفُخُ فِيهَا فَتَكُونُ طَيْرًا بِإِذْنِى
“How you moulded a bird from clay—by My Will—and breathed into it and it became a (real) bird—by My Will.”
(Surah Al-Ma’idah, 5:110)
Healing the Blind and the Lepers: Prophet Isa a.s. had performed the miracle of healing those who are blind and curing individuals afflicted with leprosy, which is a kind of disease that visibly affects the skin. The Quran records this clearly:
وَتُبْرِئُ ٱلْأَكْمَهَ وَٱلْأَبْرَصَ بِإِذْنِى
“How you healed the blind and the lepers—by My Will”
(Surah Al-Ma’idah, 5:110)
Raising the Dead: Prophet Isa a.s. had resurrected the dead by Allah’s will and permission, for a woman who requested that her daughter be brought back to life so that they can be together again. This mu’jizat was particularly significant as no amount of knowledge in medicine can heal or bring the dead back to life.
This miracle not only presented an unchallenged ‘feat’ to the people of his time who boasted their progress in the field of medicine and natural science, but it also testified to the truth of his prophethood.
وَإِذْ تُخْرِجُ ٱلْمَوْتَىٰ بِإِذْنِى
“How you brought the dead to life—by My Will.”
(Surah Al-Ma’idah, 5:110)
Knowledge of the Unseen: Prophet Isa a.s. was able to predict or had foreknowledge of what was hidden or unknown to others. One example is he would correctly answer any question anyone asked him. The Quran tells us how Prophet Isa a.s. knew what people had just eaten and what they had stored in their homes. All of these miracles are also testified and mentioned in another chapter of the Quran:
وَرَسُولًا إِلَىٰ بَنِىٓ إِسْرَٰٓءِيلَ أَنِّى قَدْ جِئْتُكُم بِـَٔايَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ ۖ أَنِّىٓ أَخْلُقُ لَكُم مِّنَ ٱلطِّينِ كَهَيْـَٔةِ ٱلطَّيْرِ فَأَنفُخُ فِيهِ فَيَكُونُ طَيْرًا بِإِذْنِ ٱللَّهِ ۖ وَأُبْرِئُ ٱلْأَكْمَهَ وَٱلْأَبْرَصَ وَأُحْىِ ٱلْمَوْتَىٰ بِإِذْنِ ٱللَّهِ ۖ وَأُنَبِّئُكُم بِمَا تَأْكُلُونَ وَمَا تَدَّخِرُونَ فِى بُيُوتِكُمْ ۚ إِنَّ فِى ذَٰلِكَ لَـَٔايَةً لَّكُمْ إِن كُنتُم مُّؤْمِنِينَ
“and (make him) a messenger to the Children of Israel (to proclaim,) ‘I have come to you with a sign from your Lord: I will make for you a bird from clay, breathe into it, and it will become a (real) bird—by Allah’s Will. I will heal the blind and the leper and raise the dead to life—by Allah’s Will. And I will prophesise what you eat and store in your houses. Surely in this is a sign for you if you (truly) believe.’”
(Surah Ali ‘Imran, 3:49)
In Islam, the narrative surrounding the crucifixion of Prophet Isa a.s. diverges significantly from the accounts in Christianity, presenting a different perspective that underscores Allah’s divine plan and the elevated status of Prophet Isa a.s. The Quran affirms that another individual was made to appear as him by Allah’s will and was hanged on the cross. This is made clear in the following verse:
وَقَوْلِهِمْ إِنَّا قَتَلْنَا ٱلْمَسِيحَ عِيسَى ٱبْنَ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولَ ٱللَّهِ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ وَلَـٰكِن شُبِّهَ لَهُمْ
“and for boasting, ‘We killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.’ But they neither killed nor crucified him—it was only made to appear so..”
(Surah An-Nisa, 4:157)
This narrative reinforces the honour and status accorded to Prophet Isa a.s. within Islam, confirming his pivotal role as a prophet and messenger, unharmed by the events surrounding the crucifixion.
Allah, the ever Exalted be He, affirms in the Quran that He had ascended Prophet Isa a.s. to the Heavens. This means that Prophet Isa a.s. is alive and will descend to this world in the latter days before the end of times.
إِذْ قَالَ ٱللَّهُ يَـٰعِيسَىٰٓ إِنِّى مُتَوَفِّيكَ وَرَافِعُكَ إِلَىَّ وَمُطَهِّرُكَ مِنَ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا۟ وَجَاعِلُ ٱلَّذِينَ ٱتَّبَعُوكَ فَوْقَ ٱلَّذِينَ كَفَرُوٓا۟ إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ ٱلْقِيَـٰمَةِ ۖ ثُمَّ إِلَىَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأَحْكُمُ بَيْنَكُمْ فِيمَا كُنتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ
“(Remember) when Allah said, ‘O Jesus! I will take you and raise you up to Myself. I will deliver you from those who disbelieve, and elevate your followers above the disbelievers until the Day of Judgment. Then to Me you will (all) return, and I will settle all your disputes.’”
(Surah Ali ‘Imran, 3:55)
At the heart of Prophet Isa’s teachings lie timeless and universal wisdom: the belief in one God, humility, love, compassion, and justice. This isn't just a historical or textual exploration; it's an invitation for us to personally connect and be inspired by his story and life journey. Allah, the Exalted, had raised Prophet Isa’s status further by categorising him as one of the five identified Ulul-'Azmi, Prophets who had shown outstanding determination and patience.
Prophet Isa a.s. had reinforced the revelation sent down to Prophet Musa a.s. and continued to call everyone to believe in the one true God - Allah s.w.t. His call was based on the principle that there is no mediation between the Creator and His creations. The Quran also mentions how Prophet Isa will disclaim any association with divinity, asserting his human status and denouncing any claim of his divine nature.
Prophet Isa a.s. confirmed the teachings of the Torah and revised some religious laws, particularly for his community, emphasising continuity with the previous divine revelations. His prophethood was not to revoke the Torah but to complete it.
وَمُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَىَّ مِنَ ٱلتَّوْرَىٰةِ وَلِأُحِلَّ لَكُم بَعْضَ ٱلَّذِى حُرِّمَ عَلَيْكُمْ ۚ وَجِئْتُكُم بِـَٔايَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ فَٱتَّقُوا۟ ٱللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُونِ
“And I will confirm the Torah revealed before me and legalize some of what had been forbidden to you. I have come to you with a sign from your Lord, so be mindful of Allah and obey me.”
(Surah Ali-’Imran, 3:50)
In a time when the people were all about chasing extravagance and worldly gains, Prophet Isa a.s. had a different message – one that encouraged his followers to embrace a modest and unpretentious way of life, reminding them that true greatness lies in one's character rather than outward appearances. Prophet Isa a.s. spoke out against those who were too focused on material possessions.
Ibn Kathir quoted the disciples who said to Prophet Isa a.s, “O Messiah, look at this place of worship, how beautiful it is”. Prophet Isa replied, “(May God grant my prayer) by what I shall say to you (the disciples); God will not leave a single brick of this place of worship to remain standing, except that He shall destroy it by the sins of its people. God builds neither by gold nor silver nor these bricks that amazed you. Verily, it is dearer to God the good hearts, and by it, the earth is cultivated. And by (the heart), the earth is destroyed, if it turned otherwise (evil).”
Prophet Isa a.s. told his people to stop pretending, showing off, and giving false praise. He had urged people to care more about what lasts forever – the afterlife. He emphasised that true believers understand everything comes from Allah. So, they trust in Him and don't get caught up in the temporary pleasures of this world.
Prophet Isa a.s. was known to be compassionate in nature and extended beyond social norms, as he advocated for caring and showing kindness to the rich, poor, the young and old, and even towards animals, regardless of prevailing attitudes.
In a world where justice can be elusive, Prophet Isa a.s. upheld the principles of fairness, standing firm in his commitment to social righteousness even when such virtues were not in trend. His enduring legacy encourages Muslims to prioritise timeless values over transient trends, fostering a society rooted in humility, compassion, and justice. It reached Imam Malik that Prophet Isa a.s. was heard to have said:
لاَ تُكْثِرُوا الْكَلاَمَ بِغَيْرِ ذِكْرِ اللَّهِ فَتَقْسُوَ قُلُوبُكُمْ فَإِنَّ الْقَلْبَ الْقَاسِيَ بَعِيدٌ مِنَ اللَّهِ وَلَكِنْ لاَ تَعْلَمُونَ وَلاَ تَنْظُرُوا فِي ذُنُوبِ النَّاسِ كَأَنَّكُمْ أَرْبَابٌ وَانْظُرُوا فِي ذُنُوبِكُمْ كَأَنَّكُمْ عَبِيدٌ فَإِنَّمَا النَّاسُ مُبْتَلًى وَمُعَافًى فَارْحَمُوا أَهْلَ الْبَلاَءِ وَاحْمَدُوا اللَّهَ عَلَى الْعَافِيَةِ.
"Do not speak much without the remembrance of Allah, for you will harden your hearts. A hard heart is far from Allah, but you do not know.
Do not look at the wrong actions of people as if you were lords. Look at your wrong actions as if you were slaves.
Some people are afflicted with (committing) wrong deeds, and some people are protected from them. Be merciful to the people of affliction and praise Allah for His protection."
Exploring Prophet Isa's life from our Islamic perspective reveals a radiant figure whose teachings transcend time and continue to inspire us. There is definitely more room to explore Prophet Isa a.s. from the diverse resources passed down from our scholars.
Some of these sources may not have a strong chain of narration of authenticity (sanad). However, it doesn’t mean we have to deny the entire literature of sayings from Prophet Isa a.s. in the Islamic tradition.
It is important to highlight that Muslims believe Prophet Isa a.s. is a messenger of Allah, with no divine status. Like other Prophets a.s, he upholds and promotes ethical and spiritual living for humanity.
 Maryam grew up under the care of Prophet Zakaria a.s. and his wife and was known to devote herself to worshipping Allah and service to the house of worship.
 The miraculous birth of Prophet Isa a.s. was not difficult for Allah. This extraordinary phenomenon can also be compared to the creation of the first human being, Adam a.s: “Indeed, the example of Jesus in the sight of Allah is like that of Adam. He created him from dust, then said to him, ‘Be!’ And he was!” (Surah Ali 'Imran, 3:59)
 “The best of the women of Paradise are Khadijah bint Khuwaylid, Fatimah bint Muhammad, Maryam bint ‘Imran and Asiya bint Muzahim, the wife of Pharaoh” (Musnad Ahmad)
 “So eat and drink, and put your heart at ease. But if you see any of the people, say, ‘I have vowed silence to the Most Compassionate, so I am not talking to anyone today.’” (Surah Maryam, 19:26)
 The Quran describes Prophet Isa a.s. to have healed ‘al-akmah’, which, according to scholars of tafsir, means those who are blind from birth.
 Stories of the Prophets, Ibn Kathir
 Muslim scholars have different opinions as to what actually happened. The details of the tragic event were neither described in the Quran nor the Hadith. Some view that the person who sold out Prophet Isa a.s. for a small amount of silver was made to look like him and was thus crucified in his place instead.
 Muslims believe that in the latter days, Prophet Prophet Isa a.s. will descend to this world to eliminate falsehood and kill the antichrist, or Dajjal.
 The other four of the Ulul-'Azmi are Prophets Nuh, Ibrahīm, Musa, and Muhammad, peace be upon them all.
 “Surely Allah is my Lord and your Lord. So worship Him (alone). This is the Straight Path.” (Surah Ali 'Imran, 3:51)
 “And (on Judgment Day) Allah will say, ‘O Jesus, son of Mary! Did you ever ask the people to worship you and your mother as gods besides Allah?’ He will answer, ‘Glory be to You! How could I ever say what I had no right to say?’” (Surah Al-Ma'idah, 5:116)
 Stories of the Prophets, Ibn Kathir
 People who transgress the limits and sin are considered to be afflicted with committing wrong deeds