Isa as the Messiah

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Isa is called by his proper name along with the title Al-Masih (the Messiah). This title is sometimes accompanied by the name Isa and sometimes used by itself and occurs in the Qur’an some eleven times. This title is used in a personal way, as in Surah 5:76/72: ‘The Messiah said, “O children of Israel, serve Allah”.’

There is no etymological explanation of the word Masih in the Qur’an. However, Muslim commentators and lexicographers give various explanations. The popular one is that it is a Hebrew word, mashiah, which was used of kings, patriarchs, and deliverers (Ahmad Deedat, Christ in Islam, p.13). However, it means ‘anointed’ and it was in this sense that Isa was called the Messiah, the one anointed for specific purpose, the last prophet of Israel.

The Qur’an says that Isa was blessed by Allah (Surah Maryam 19:32/31) and so anointed with honour. He had been protected from Satan from birth (Surah 3:36; The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. IV, p.82). Some attach this special anointing to his birth. Yet others say that Isa was the Messiah because he anointed the eyes of the blind to cure them (Surah 3:43; Mark 6:13; James 5:14), or because he used to rub sick people with his hands. Some Muslims from Sufi circles think that Isa was called the Messiah because he travelled far and wide and never settled. They connect Masih with the word Sah, to wander, to survey, to go on pilgrimage. Thus they believe that Isa is the leader of Imam al sa’yihin (peripatetic ministers) (The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Vol. IV, p.82). The Ahmadiyya movement in Islam has adopted this idea of the wandering Isa into their belief that Isa travelled eastward as far as Kashmir (Ghulam Ahmad, Isa in India, p.53).

The title Messiah is very important to Followers of Isa. In Hebrew the word Messiah means “the Anointed One”. It can in a lesser form, refer to any priest or anointed leader and occasionally the expression is used in this context in the Old Testament. However, later it became a title for the Promised One from Allah – the Redeemer (Daniel 9:25).

When Isa came he claimed to be that expected Messiah (John 4:25-26). The Jews of his day did not understand that he was the Messiah because they had expected a military leader, while Isa claimed to be the Messiah who came “not to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a fidya (ransom) for many” (Matthew 20:28).

In the Scriptures we find that the title Messiah is synonymous with the title Son of Allah. (Matthew 16:16; 26:63; Mark 1:1; Luke 4:41; John 11:27; 20:31).