What do Muslims believe about Jesus?
Muslims almost always object to using the title “Son of God” concerning Jesus. Many Muslims believe the phrase Son of God implies that God was somehow Jesus’ physical Father or that He had sexual relations with Mary (and that Jesus was born of this union). Some even understand the concept of Trinity as consisting of the Father, Mary and Jesus.
But here’s the real issue – it’s communication. Language. Semantics.
Christians, of course, do not actually believe these things. And, like Muslims, we find the idea repulsive and blasphemous.
Unfortunately, Christians attitudes towards Muslims have not always been Christ-like, and we have not gently and carefully explained what we believe.
Semantics & Misunderstandings
As Carl Medearis pints out, here’s how the conversation often goes with a Muslim: They ask the Christian this “Do you believe that Jesus is the Son of God? Because, we don’t.”
The Christian, thinking he’s answering honestly and with integrity say, “Of course. Jesus is called that in the Bible.” The Muslim shakes his head and cries out to God to protect him from this awful heresy of the Christians. The Christian is offended and gets even more defensive about Jesus being “the Son of God” and round and round it goes….
Here’s what the Muslim is thinking when he asks the question: “Do you think that God had sexual relations with Mary and bore a small baby boy named Jesus?”
Who was Jesus?
The Qur’an does say that Jesus was born of a virgin. And the Quran tells how Jesus performed miracles such as healing the sick and raising the dead.So we all agree there.
Yet the Qur’an states that He was no more than a human being, a prophet like all other prophets. So therein lies the key issue: Was Jesus just a prophet? Or was He sent from God, part of God, and ambassador for God? Or the son of God?
The difficulty for Muslims is that Christians are seen as trying to elevate Jesus to God status. Islam, like Judaism, rejects the idea that Jesus is the Son of God.
Yet, the reality is that Jesus is not a man whom we are trying to elevate to be God; rather He is God who has humbled Himself to become man.
So when we use words to communicate we need need to be thinking at least three things:
- Do I know what I mean by the words I’m using? If I call Jesus “the Son of God” do I understand what that means?
- When the one listening to me hears me say that I believe that Jesus “is the Son of God” does he know what that means?
- And do I understand what he is likely to hear when I say those words? And maybe even one more – do I know whether or not he knows what I mean when I use those words?
Communication is both art and science. So the next time you’re with a Muslim friend and he asks you if you believe in the Trinity or that Jesus is the Son of God, think before you answer. Ask some questions. Make sure you’re both talking about the same thing.
In this case, I think you’ll find that you’re not too far off from your Muslim friend. We both agree that God did not have sex with Mary and birth a son named Jesus. But that Son is a title given to Him. We may still disagree on its meaning – but let’s work to help Muslims understand Jesus and Christians, not reject them.
- May God bring real breakthrough in this area of misunderstanding. This subject is one of the most significant hindrances for Muslims coming to Christ. Believers need wisdom in addressing this issue, not debate.
- Pray for Muslims to have a biblical understanding of the phrase “Son of God” and for Christians to not try to insist or explain this concept to those who are not ready to hear or able to understand.
Rick Brown is a Bible scholar and mission strategist. He has been involved in the Muslim world since 1977.