The Son of God and the Qur’an

By Elysia McColley

The Son of God and the QuranAccording to the Qur’an, Jesus is not the Son of God. Muslims generally deny that He could possibly be God’s Son, based on the following verses in the Qur’an, as well as hundreds of years of Muslim theology:

They [Christians] say, ‘God has taken a son.’ Exalted is He! Rather, to Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and the earth. All are devoutly obedient to Him. Surah 2:116

The Christians say, ‘The Messiah is the son of God.’ That is their statement from their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before them. Surah 9:30

Usually, the conversation ends here; Christians and Muslims may both feel that the disagreement between the Bible and Qur’an is so great it is intractable. My last post is about what the Bible means in saying that Jesus is the Son of God. Here, let’s take a minute to look at what the Qur’an means in saying that He is not.

First, let’s take into consideration the culture into which Muhammad lived and preached. Before becoming a prophet (as Muslims believe), he was a merchant; we can reasonably believe that he was a very well-traveled man. During the seventh century, when he lived, Christianity and many Christian heresies were quite prolific in areas where he probably traveled.

Consider that the Western church at this point was based in Rome, and church councils – such as the Council of Nicaea, the Council of Ephesus, and the Council of Chalcedon – had condemned (usually excommunicated) Christians deemed to be heretics. These included Arians (who believed that Jesus was not the eternal Son), Eutychians (who believed that Jesus’ divinity consumed His humanity, so He had only one nature, divine), and Nestorians (who believed that Jesus’ divinity was entirely separate from His humanity). Many followers of these heresies left the Roman Empire and traveled East, some as far as Arabia and even Iran. Muhammad would have most likely come into contact with people who believed in these heresies.

We know that at the time of Muhammad, Arabia was a polytheistic society with various pagan groups, some of which may have been “Christopagan.” Christopaganism refers to pagan beliefs that incorporate Jesus as one of many “gods.” One of the chief gods in pre-Islamic Arabia was al-Lat, “the goddess” (al-Lah simply means “God” in Arabic, and “Allah” is used by both Arab Christians and Muslims), and she had characteristics similar to the Greek goddess Aphrodite and Roman goddess Venus (possibly because via trade routes, religious ideas tend to get absorbed into nearby cultures). Like Venus by the Romans, al-Lat was worshipped as the queen of heaven. When heretical Christian beliefs entered Arabia, some pagan groups probably adapted to worshipping Mary as the queen of heaven, adding in that she had sex with God to give birth to Jesus in a very unholy trinity.

In Syria, where Muhammad almost certainly traveled, there was a significant Christian minority. He probably encountered statues of Mary holding an infant; upon inquiring about them, he may have been told that they were depictions of the Mother of God and the Son of God. The idea of Jesus being the Son of God as the result of a carnal union between Mary and God may have been what Muhammad rejected in the Qur’an, as well he should have. No one who calls himself or herself a Christian today believes in something so ludicrous.

In the Bible, the term “Son of God” signifies a relationship that Jesus has with God. He is of the same substance as God, born of the Spirit, and without any sin that might hinder His relationship with God. Both the Qur’an and the Bible speak about how that relationship is special and unique to Jesus. Discussing this difficult topic in terms of relationship rather than theological differences will make for a more productive and satisfying conversation.

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