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Book's List > Muhammad and Christ > Chapter 3: Circumstances Relating to Birth > Section 1: Announcement of Birth

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Chapter 3:
Circumstances Relating to Birth --
Section 1: Announcement of Birth
:

The next chain of arguments is connected with the circumstances relating to the birth of Jesus and the Holy Prophet Muhammad. The foremost ground among these is occupied by the fact of the announcement of birth. The argument runs thus: "The miraculous nature of the birth of Christ is evident from the Qur'an. The good news of it was given to Mary through Gabriel. As against this the birth of Hadrat Muhammad is not so much as mentioned in the Qur'an. His birth was neither miraculous, nor extraordinary. Therefore in respect of birth, Christ, son of Mary, is superior to Muhammad."

This argument consist of two parts; viz.: (1) that the birth of Christ was miraculous, and (2) that the good news of it was given to Mary. Let us take the first part. What is meant by miraculous has not been explained at all, nor has any verse of the Holy Qur'an been quoted. The Holy Book speaks of Jesus as having been born like ordinary human children. A plain description of it is given in the chapter entitled Mary:

Then she conceived him, then withdrew herself with him to a remote place. And the throes of childbirth compelled her to betake herself to the trunk of a palm-tree. She said: O would that I had died before this and had been a thing quite forgotten (19:22, 23).

This shows clearly that Mary conceived Jesus in the ordinary way in which women conceive children and she gave birth to him in the usual manner in which women give birth to children. There is nothing miraculous, nothing extraordinary in the conception and in the birth. There is no verse in the Holy Qur'an stating that Mary conceived Jesus by the Holy Ghost. Even the Holy Prophet is said to have silenced the Christian deputation of Najran by saying:

Surely Jesus -- his mother conceived him in the same manner as a women conceives, and she gave birth to him in the same manner as a woman gives birth to her child, then he was given food in the same manner as a baby is given food (Ruh al-Ma`ani, chapter 3) .

Was Jesus conceived without the intervention of a male parent? The Holy Qur'an, as I have said, does not answer this question in the affirmative, neither is there any saying of the Holy Prophet on record containing such an assertion. Nor is it a point on which the whole Muslim world agrees. There are some who answer the above question in the negative; others who do so in the affirmative. We will take first the latter view. Even if we suppose Jesus to have been born without the intervention of a male parent, this abnormality gives us no ground to consider him superior to those prophets who while doing immensely greater work were born in the ordinary course of nature. The ordinary human mind cannot conceive how an abnormal condition in the birth of a man makes him superior to others. Of course if it is to be believed only like the Atonement and the Trinity, that question cannot be asked, but if it is put forward as an argument, the case must be argued and it must be explained what high qualities and Divine attributes which men born in the ordinary course of nature could not possess, were the natural outcome of this abnormality. I call it only an abnormal condition from a Muslim's point of view because no Muslim believes that the Holy Ghost had taken the place of the male parent, and because it could neither be the miracle of Jesus who was not yet born, nor that of Mary who was not a prophetess and who had not been raised for the regeneration of the Israelite nation.

A miracle moreover is an act which takes place before the public, and it is needed to satisfy and convince others; but both these elements are absent in this case. How could anybody in the world possibly know that Mary had conceived a child without intercourse with a male being? If in fact she conceived him thus extraordinarily, it could serve as a miracle for her and for her alone. And who would accept her statement in this matter when she could not produce a single witness? Nay, instead of satisfying and convincing, it could only raise further serious doubts as to the truth of the prophethood of Jesus. There does not therefore exist the least justification for calling that a miracle of which no one in the world could at all have direct information. Even Mary's husband, a just man, was, according to the Gospel, determined "to put her away privately," refraining on account of pity on her, from making "her a public example" (Matt. 1:19) , had it not been for the vision he saw afterwards, and thus even in his case it was the vision which satisfied him and not the conception, and therefore the vision, not the conception, served the purpose of a miracle in his case. But, evidently, the Jews did not see similar visions, and so there was no miracle for them. The alleged extraordinary conception was therefore only an abnormal condition, and if it really took place in this manner, it was only a sign that the last of the great line of the Israelite prophets had come into the world and that prophethood would now shift to the sons of Ishmael, the other great line of Abraham's descendants with whom the covenant was made.

Call it what we may, being brought into the world only through a woman -- and not the union of man and woman -- is no evidence of excellence. If this peculiar way of advent into life does entitle a person to superiority, Adam must be held to be the most excellent human being, and far superior to Jesus Christ, because he came into life without the agency of either parent. Nay, even Eve was superior to Jesus Christ because she too came into life in the same manner -- at any rate she was made from man, and as man is superior to woman, so must Eve be superior to Christ. And the most wonderful of all is Melchisedec of Gen. 14, whose priesthood was recognised even by Abraham.

For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most High God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him ... without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life, but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually' (Heb. 7:1-3) .

To say that "without father" means that his father is not mentioned in the Bible and that "having neither beginning of days, nor end of life" signifies that the Bible does not say when he was born and when he died, is not only to play with words, but also to betray ignorance of what Paul says clearly that he was "made like unto the Son of God." At any rate Adam, Eve, and Melchisedec must be recognised as possessors of a far greater degree of excellence than Jesus Christ if being born without a father is any criterion of greatness.

If we, however, go to the root of the question we find, that the Holy Qur'an nowhere speaks of Jesus having been conceived miraculously, nor is the statement anywhere contained in it that Jesus had no father. In the absence of any clear and conclusive statement either in the Holy Qur'an or in the reports narrated from the Holy Prophet, we are left to certain inferences from certain words of the Qur'an, and it is these that I shall now discuss briefly. The greatest stress is laid on the point that when the good news of a son was announced to Mary, she exclaimed: "My Lord! How shall there be a son born to me and man has not touched me." And the reply thereto is: "Even so; Allah creates what He pleases; when He has decreed a matter, He only says to it, Be, and it is" (3:46). The inference drawn from this question and answer is that a promise was given that she would conceive without a man ever touching her. Now this inference is not correct. For when similar news was announced to Zacharias, he cried out: "My Lord, how shall there be a son born to me and old age has already come upon me and my wife is barren?" And the reply thereto is: "Even so; Allah does what He pleases" (3:39). The same word Kadhalika is used to impress the fact that the matter had been ordained thus and must take place. As "even so" in the latter case does not signify that a son would be born in spite of Zacharias' wife remaining barren, so the same word in the case of Mary does not signify that a son would be born to her in spite of the fact that man shall not have touched her. The words "even so" in both cases are introduced to emphasise the assurance given to make it known that what has been said shall take place by all means.

The Holy Qur'an does not lend any support to the view that the vow of Mary's mother to devote her to Divine service implied anything like a vow of celibacy, for while making the vow she speaks in clear words of Mary's children: "And I commend her and her offspring into Thy protection" (3:35). The words her offspring clearly show that Mary's mother in spite of the vow knew that she should marry and have children like any other woman in the world.

This conclusion which in fact upsets the whole theory of the miraculous conception is corroborated by what is stated in the Gospels. The life of Mary as depicted there clearly shows her to be a woman living with her husband in the ordinary relations of husband and wife. In the very first chapter of Matt. we read:

Then Joseph being raised from the sleep did as the angel of the Lord had bidden him, and took unto him his wife; and knew her not till she had brought forth her first-born son (v.v. 24 and 25).

"Joseph knew her not till she had brought forth" is too clear to need any comment; it clearly shows that the writer means that after the birth of Jesus, Joseph and Mary lived as husband and wife. Other statements in the Gospels clearly show that not only did Joseph and Mary live as husband and wife, but they were blessed with a number of children, the brothers and sisters of Jesus Christ:

When he yet talked to the people, behold his mother and his brethren stood without, desiring to speak with him. Then one said unto him, Behold thy mother and thy brethren stand without (Matt. 12:46, 47).

And a little further on:

And when he was come into his own country, he taught them in the synagogue, in so much that they were astonished, and said, Whence hath this man this wisdom, and these mighty works? Is not this the carpenter's son? Is not his mother called Mary? and his brethren, James and Joseph and Simon and Judas? And his sister, are they not all with us (Matt. 13:54-56)?

And in Luke 2:7, Jesus is called Mary's first-born son, not her only son, showing clearly that she had other offspring. From this it is clear that not only did Joseph and Mary live together as husband and wife but that they had many other children besides Jesus Christ as it is to this that the Holy Qur'an refers in the words her offspring.

In the same connection it may be noted that it is equally wrong to draw an inference of Mary's celibacy from the words, "and Mary, the daughter of `Amran, who guarded her chastity" occurring in the chapter entitled Tahrim (66:12). Every woman who is married and lives with her husband in fact guards her chastity and is for this reason that the Holy Qur'an speaks of married women as muhsanat or those guarding their chastity. These words are only a refutation of the Jewish calumny against Mary.

Why is Jesus called the son of Mary if he had a male parent? The answer to this question is that his description as the son of a woman is really meant as a refutation of his divinity. The foundation of the Christian religion rests on the assumption that sin was brought into the world by a woman. Strangely enough, when the Christians thought of doing away with the need of one of the parents in the case of Jesus to make him divine, they made a wrong choice. They did away with the male parent and kept the woman, the real source of sin according to them. "How can he be clear that is born of a woman" (Job. 25:4). Such being the verdict of the sacred scriptures of the Christians, the son of Mary cannot be raised to the dignity of Godhead and it is of this that the Holy Qur'an reminds them again and again in speaking of Jesus as son of Mary. Moreover where the mother is the more celebrated of the parents, it is only natural that her name should receive a preference. Mary being a sacred and righteous woman, Jesus is called her son and not of Joseph, an ordinary carpenter, to whose sanctity of character even the Gospels bear no witness.

Much stress is sometimes laid on the fact that the Holy Qur'an refers to the calumnies of the Jews against Mary. It is asserted that such calumnies would not have existed if Mary had had a husband when Jesus was born. This inference is very far-fetched. That Mary had a husband is shown by the Gospels where the life-story of Jesus is recorded. In Gospels too Jesus is called "the carpenter's son." Therefore the calumnies referred to in the Holy Qur'an must relate to something other than the relations of Joseph and Mary who were known to be husband and wife. The truth is that the Jews, in order to denounce both Mary and her son, falsely accused her of adultery, and it is to this accusation that the Holy Qur'an refers and it is against this that the Holy Book defends Mary. The assertion that only an unmarried woman could be accused of illicit intercourse is the strangest of all.

The question of the miraculous birth being thus disposed of, we now come to the second part of the argument, viz. that the good news of the birth of Jesus was given to Mary while the news of the birth of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, on whom be peace, was not announced to his mother. Not even the drowning man would catch at such straws as otherwise sensible men sometimes do in their religious zeal. Is it true that when the birth of a child is announced to a parent by way of prophecy, the child becomes the possessor of great qualities and is raised to a dignity to which others are not raised? If so, thousands of fathers and mothers in the world see visions as to the birth of children, and all these children would be equal rank with Jesus -- would they all be more than mortal as Jesus is believed to be? And what are we to think of John the Baptist, the good news of whose birth was announced prophetically to his father, and who comes first when the birth of Jesus is spoken of, not only in the Holy Qur'an but also in the Gospels? In this respect, then, even John can claim equality with, if not precedence over Jesus.

For the father or the mother to see a vision that a son would be born to him or her is the most ordinary thing and is not the least evidence of the greatness of the offspring. Such a vision does not in itself show that the child whose advent has been foretold would accomplish some great purpose in the world. On the other hand, when the advent of a prophet is foretold through another prophet, there is a clear suggestion that the prophet whose appearance is thus announced to the world long before is the possessor of some great and mighty excellence, and the world is in fact beforehand told that it must await the great day. Hence it is that the Holy Qur'an, the Book of Wisdom as it is, does not speak of the vision seen by the Holy Prophet's mother, though historically it is beyond all doubt that she saw such a vision: "I am the vision of my mother," being the words of the Holy Prophet himself; but it lays great emphasis on the prophecies speaking of the advent of the Holy Prophet as met with in the previous Scriptures or as made by the previous prophets. Thus it has in a Mecca revelation: "And most surely the same is in the Scriptures of the ancients" (26:196), where it is clearly asserted that prophecies of the advent of the Holy Prophet are to be met with in all the ancient Scriptures. This is stated still more clearly and in a more emphatic tone in a later revelation: "And when Allah made a covenant through the prophets: certainly what I have given you of book and wisdom -- then an Apostle comes to you verifying that which is with you, you must believe in him and you must aid him. He said: Do you affirm and accept My compact in this matter? They said, We do affirm" (3:80). This verse lays down in the clearest and strongest words that all the prophets had foretold the advent of the great World-Prophet and laid an obligation upon their followers to accept him, while he on his part required a belief in all the prophets that had gone before him. Here then we have not one woman, the mother of the child, who receives the good news of the advent of our Holy Prophet, but the best minds in all the nations of the world, the greatest benefactors of the whole human race, whenever and wherever they lived, received the cheering news, the mighty announcement, that the nations of the world would not live estranged from each other looking always to different guides, but they would all be united in the World-Prophet whose great sign was that he would testify to the truth of all the previous prophets. Turn over the pages of all the sacred Scriptures of the world, and you will find only One book, the Holy Qur'an, which requires a belief in all the previous revelations, and read over the histories of all the great reformers of the world and you will find only One Man, the Holy Prophet Muhammad, who required his followers to accept all the prophets of the world. Thus the Holy Qur'an shows unmistakably that Muhammad, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, was the Great Prophet, about whom all the prophets prophesied, and in whom centred all the great hopes of the whole world. And not only the Holy Qur'an but even the Bible leads us to the same conclusion, as we read in Acts 3:21-22:

Whom the heaven must receive until the time of the restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began. For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.

The Christians think that the prophet spoken of here is Jesus Christ, but the decisive factor in this statement is that the prophet about whom all the prophets prophesied is the promised one of Deut. 18:18, and that prophecy applies only to the Holy Prophet Muhammad and to none else.

"The Apostle-Prophet, the Ummi, whom they find written down with them in the Torah and the Gospel. (7:157)" These words of the Holy Qur'an affirm that prophecies of the same, one prophet, are met with both in the Torah and the Gospel, and they are no doubt a bold challenge to the followers of Moses and Christ, the more so when it is borne in mind that the challenge is put into the mouth of one who never read either books of Moses or the Gospels, of the Ummi prophet, as he is plainly called here, the resident of the metropolis of Arabia, who did not know reading or writing. That both the Torah and the Gospel contain a prophecy of the advent of one and the same prophet, and that that Prophet is no other than Muhammad, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, are two very significant claims made by the Holy Qur'an, and the conclusive evidence afforded by them of the truth of the Holy Prophet is one of the greatest miracles that the world has ever witnessed.

The prophecy of Moses runs thus: "I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth. (Deut. 18:18)" Hundreds of years pass away until we come to the time of Jesus Christ and find it again recorded in clear words that the Promised Prophet of Deuteronomy had not yet made his appearance. John the Baptist claimed to be a prophet a little before Jesus and being asked, "he confessed and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. (John 1:20-21)"

We know that the Jews expected a Messiah, and hence they asked John if he was Christ. We know further that they had been told that the Prophet Elias would come again and hence their second question. But who is "that prophet" about whom they ask in the last instance? Evidently, it must be a prophet who had been promised to them, and such was only the promised prophet of Deut. 18:18. This is not a mere conjecture but the decided opinion of the Christians themselves, for in the margin of an ordinary Bible giving references we find in a note on the words "that prophet" a reference to Deut. 18:15, 18. This settles the point conclusively: the Promised Prophet of Deuteronomy had not yet appeared. But while the Gospels make it plain that in John the Baptist was fulfilled the promise of the return of Elias, and Jesus claimed to be the Christ, none of them ever claimed to be the Promised Prophet of Deuteronomy. Thus it is established conclusively by the Gospels that the Promised Prophet of Deuteronomy had not appeared up to the advent of John and Jesus and that neither John nor Jesus was that prophet. The claim of the Holy Prophet Muhammad to be the Promised Prophet "whom they find written down with them in the Torah and the Gospel" is thus uncontested, and no Jew or Christian can deny this truth unless he belies his own books.

The Gospel, however, is still more clear. If St. John has preserved for us the fact that expectations of the Promised Prophet were not fulfilled till the time of Jesus, nor yet in John and Jesus, he has also preserved the prophecy of Christ about the advent of that great Deliverer:

And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever (John 14:16-17).

And again:

It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you (John 14:7).

And further again:

Howbeit when he, the Spirit of Truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth (John 14:13).

This other Comforter, this Spirit of Truth who was to guide men "into all truth," was no other than the Promised Prophet of Deuteronomy, no other than the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, the Truth with whose advent falsehood vanished ("The Truth has come and the falsehood vanished; surely falsehood is a vanishing thing" (17:81).), the greatest and the last Prophet of the world with whom religion was brought to perfection ("This day have I perfected for you your religion and completed My favour on you and chosen for you Islam as a religion" (5:3).).

The two prophecies, the prophecy of Moses foretelling the appearance of one like him, and the prophecy of Jesus giving the world the good news of the appearance of another Comforter who should be the last Prophet of the world and whose Law should be a perfect Law, guiding "into all truth," are a magnificent testimony to the greatness of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, and the Holy Qur'an draws attention to these two prophecies in particular. In 73:15, it clearly speaks of the Prophet's likeness to Moses:

Surely We have sent to you an Apostle, a bearer of witness to you, as We sent an apostle to Pharaoh

and in 61:6, it plainly states that the Holy Prophet was the Comforter whose good news was given by Jesus:

And when Jesus son of Mary said: O children of Israel, surely I am the apostle of Allah to you, verifying that which is before me of the Torah, and giving the good news of an Apostle who will come after me, his name being Ahmad.

It must be remembered that the Holy Prophet was known by both the names Muhammad and Ahmad from his very childhood, both names being given to him at his birth. It would thus be seen that it is a very poor argument of the greatness of Jesus Christ and of his superiority to the Holy Prophet Muhammad, may peace and the blessings of God be upon him, that the birth of Jesus was announced to his mother in a vision.

Of all the prophets of the world, the Holy Prophet of Islam alone has the unimaginably high distinction of having come in fulfilment of the visions of all the prophets of the world and the Holy Qur'an, having mentioned this mighty argument of his greatness and superiority above all, very wisely omits the mention of his mother's vision, a matter of secondary importance in comparison with the great news which it had announced.

 

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Chapter 2: Sinlessness

Chapter 3: Circumstances Relating to Birth; Section 2: Mother's Greatness

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