The Purpose of His Coming
Allah taught Isa the Tawrat (the books of Moses) and gave him the Injil (the Injil) as a confirmation of the Tawrat. The Injil is regarded by the Qur’an as Hikma (wisdom) because it fills the hearts of those who follow it with meekness and pity (Surah 5:82). The Qur’an claims that Isa’ prophetic authority guaranteed the Injil, the Torah and all other prophetic writings, all of them being taught by Allah to him (Surah 3:43; 5:110).
Although generally Muslims claim that the original Injil can no longer be found, yet remnants of the teaching of Isa can be detected in sermons and parables ascribed to him in the current New Testament, this idea of corruption in the Followers of Isa scriptures goes against not only the documentary evidence but also the Qur’anic teaching which claims that none can alter Allah’s words (Surah 6:34; 10:64).
According to the Qur’an, the ministry of Isa commenced from the cradle (Surah 3:49). Allah sent many prophets and messengers to lead the people of Israel. At the end, Allah sent Isa to revive their Islam (then called Judaism). He came to enhance the inner meaning and purity of the religion that had become heavily burdened by outer ritual, dietary laws and abuse of power by rabbinical figures (Surah 3:43-40) the Qur’an mentions how Isa preached and taught. He called the children of Israel to the worship of one Allah. He tried to bring unity among them and legalised things previously forbidden to them (Surah 3:50). Perhaps the Qur’an is portraying what we read in Matthew chapters 4 to 6. Let us not forget that the Qur’an is not trying to tell the main reason why Isa came and what he was referring to: “The son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; Mark 10:45).
The Qur’an, however, generally portrays most of the children of Israel as recalcitrant people from whom Allah protected Isa. In the face of such recalcitrance, Al-hawariyun (the disciples) stepped forward to accept the call of Isa to be his helpers in serving Allah (Surah 3:52-54; 5:111-113; 57:27; 61:14). Some of the things Isa is alleged to have said reflect the message that Isa sent to John the Baptist (Matthew 11:5) and resemble several new Testament sayings of Isa about eating, fasting and worship (Matthew 6:16-26). The attitude of Isa to the Law, and relaxation of its rigidity is found in his sermon on the mount (Matthew 5:17). Little importance is given in the Qur’an to the moral teaching of Isa and there is only one reference to his parables which we find in abundance in the four narratives of the Injil in the New Testament (Surah 48:29 compare with, for instance, Mark 4:27-28).
Sufi traditions depict Isa in his teaching and practice as an ascetic. One of the most famous Sufis in the Umayyad period was Hasan al-Basri (d. 728). He was renowned for his scholarship as well as his piety. A letter that he wrote to the caliph to plead with him to follow the teaching of the prophets, depicts the prophets as ascetics. He portrays Isa as saying:
“My daily bread is hunger, my badge is fear, my raiment is wool, my mount is my foot, my lantern at night is the moon, my fire by day is the sun, and my fruit and fragrant herbs are such things as the earth brings forth for the wild beasts and cattle. All the night I have nothing, yet there is none richer than I!” (A.J.Arberry, Sufism, An account of the Mystic of Islam, pp. 34-35)
Here too we see that the whole picture of Isa is not available. Yes Isa, in a way, has given us an example of not loving the world but that is because our abode is not this world but the coming world, where we will be in fellowship with Allah. That is our goal, which can be achieved through Isa.