Christians and Muslims have much in common
- not only because we all are humans,
- not only because both Christianity and Islam originated in the Middle East
- and trace their ancestry back to Abraham,
- but also because Jesus Christ is a holy figure in Islam.
This is rarely known to the Western public
- and is often overlooked by the mass media.
- It is thus saddening to see that some extremists and violent events of recent years
- and the mass media’s thirst for polarization and confrontation
- have portrayed an anti-Christian Islamic world against the Christian Western world.
- Such a polarization does not really exist in either Christianity or Islam
- it is portrayed only to serve certain political and misguided doctrinal purposes
Perhaps, a very useful portal of entry to understand the sacred position of Jesus Christ in Islam is
- Mawlānā (“Master”) Jalāluddin Rumi (1207-1273), the renowned Persian & Sufi poet of the 13-th century
- and currently one of the most popular poets in North America and other English speaking countries.
- As a person born and raised in Iran (Rumi’s cultural land),
- I have been fascinated with Rumi’s poetry for nearly 3 decades, and
- am privileged to share with you some facets of Jesus Christ in Rumi’s book of poetic parables
- to which he himself gave the title of “Rhymed Couplets on Spiritual Matters” ("Masnawi Ma’nawi").
Isā Masih, as he is called in Arabic, literally means “Jesus the Messiah”
- Muslims believe in the “virgin birth” of Jesus Christ.
- According to the Quran (15: 29; 38: 72), the Divine (Allah) breathed his spirit into Adam, when he created humanity.
- Sufis extend this quality to the virgin birth of Jesus through Mary
- (Mariyam in Arabic, which is also the title of the chapter 19 in the Quran)
- so that Jesus was born without an earthly father.
- This is consistent with the Islamic epithet of Jesus as the "Divine Spirit" ("Ruh Allah")
- among the prophets (in a similar vein):
--- Abraham is called "Khalil Allah", the "Loyal Friend of God", and
--- Moses "Kalim Allah", the "Interlocutor and Conversant with God").
- The "Divine Spirit" or "Holy Spirit" as a medium between the Divine & the world of creation
- is called "Ruh al-Qods" in the Quran.
- Sufis particularly praise the purity & piety of Mary, and
- emphasize that the same Holy Spirit does wonders with every human, who is devoted to the Divine.
In a long poem in the Masnawi (Book III, lines 3702-3790), Rumi revisits the "virgin birth" of Jesus
- After referring to the story in the Quran (Mary, verses 17-18)
- where it is said that, in order to give birth to Jesus,
- the Holy Spirit was sent by God & appeared to Mary as a very good-looking man,
- and where Mary says, “I seek refuge in God”, Rumi then continues:
The Holy Spirit said to Mary:
Oh, the exemplar of charity!
Don’t fear me!
I am the trusty one sent by the Divine.
Don’t hide yourself from me.
I am your dignity and honor!
Don’t hide yourself from me,
I am your comfort and confidant.
As the Holy Spirit uttered these words
The rays of pure light sprang from his lips
And shone upon the stars of the sky.
The Holy Spirit continued:
Oh Mary, how can you escape
from my presence to non-existence?
I am the king of non-existence
and I possess all of knowledge.
My very foundation and my seat is non-existence.
What is present before you is only an image of me.
Oh Mary! Look at me. I am an image hard to come by
I am the crescent you see up in the sky
I am the image within your heart.
When such image as this one settles in your heart
Wherever you go, it is within you.
This is not the delusion a false daylight
That appears and disappears before the morning.
I am the genuine light at dawn
And the darkness of night never
gathers around my daylight.
These are poetic words of an eminent Muslim scholar & mystic about the Divine qualities
- that gave Jesus to humanity:
--- a genuine light at dawn &
--- an image that settles in our heart
Jesus was a healer & his miracles of healing
- are credited in both the Gospels and in the Quran.
- In the Masnawi (lines 298-363), Rumi talks about this aspect of Jesus Christ:
The house of Jesus was
the banquet of the followers of the heart
Oh, the suffering one! Don’t quit his door.
From all sides people gathered around his house
Some were blind, some lame, and some insane.
Each morning they went to his door
So that their defects could be
healed by Jesus’ Breath
Jesus, that man of the good path,
would say his prayers
And would come out, seeing
many groups of sick and weak people
Sitting and waiting at his door of hope.
Jesus would say: Oh, the stricken ones!
God has granted your needs and cures.
The people would then walk,
with no pain and trouble,
Toward the blessings and mercy of the Divine.
Like the camel whose chains
were lifted from their feet
The people would walk freely
and joyfully toward home.
They all were cured by the prayers of Jesus.
And now, you, my friend!
Have you examined your own defects?
Have you found a healthy state of being
In the presence of the masters of the good path?
Has your lame walking on the
spiritual path been cured?
Has your soul been free from the
sufferings and sorrows of this world?
In this simple & yet rich poem, Rumi points out that sick people were cured by Jesus Christ
- because they were “the followers of the heart” ("Ahl-e Dil" in Persian)
- sitting lovingly & faithfully at Jesus’ “door of hope”, &
- thus Jesus’ presence was effective &
- his prayers were answered by the Divine.
- Rumi uses these miracles of Jesus symbolically
- to suggest that such is the path for our salvation & freedom
- (as the camels, whose feet are shackled);
- this is a good path, based on the heart, hope, prayers & walking in joy toward God’s blessings.
In Sufi literature, especially in Persian poetry, there are frequent references to "Jesus’ Breath"
- or "Messiah’s Breath" ("Dam-e Isā or Masiha Nafas", in Persian)
- as having healing power
- In the Masnawi (Book I, line 528), Rumi says that:
- “a hundred thousand medical practices of Galen was not a match to one Breath of Jesus”
In the same book (line 794), Rumi says, rather charmingly & in a mystical vein:
In the fire of the Divine love, behold
I saw a whole universe
Each particle there possessed Jesus’ Breath.
Of course, one cannot deny that
Islam’s & Rumi’s attitude toward Jesus Christ are somewhat different from that of the traditional Christianity
- Islam considers Jesus as a human,
- blessed by the Divine spirit &
- sent to humanity as messenger of God
- to teach the Divine truth;
Islam does not subscribe to the Christian terminology of Trinity or Jesus as the only begotten Son of the Father
- (The Quran, 5: 116, states that Jesus never said that people should consider him or his mother as gods, beside God
- Elsewhere the Quran: 19: 30, quotes Jesus as saying that: “I am a devotee and worshiper of God”)
In many poems, Rumi narrates sayings and stories of Jesus
- because he wants the readers to be inspired by Jesus’ message.
- For example, in his references to Jesus and his donkey
- (which Jesus rode on entering Jerusalem, as we read in the Gospels),
- Rumi likens the Divine spirit within all humans to Jesus &
- our material desires to the donkey,
- thus saying that we should not place the heavy burden of this world upon our spirit
- (Masnawi, Book II, lines 1850-1861).
Or in a reference to Jesus’ walking on water
- (which is again taken from the Gospels),
- Rumi likens our walking on the dry land as the outward (exoteric) path of life &
- Jesus walking on water as the inner (esoteric) journey for humans
- (Masnawi, Book I, lines 570-572).
Whenever I hear or read speeches implying that Muslims are anti-Christ
- I remember Rumi’s affectionate poetry & parables about Jesus, &
- then I desire to hear words of similar spirit told by Christian scholars
- (who have left behind the Crusader’s false notions about Islam and its prophet)
- about the spiritual mission of the Quran & Prophet Muhammad
- who called humans to the same one God, as Abraham, Moses & Jesus did before him
- In this perspective, Rumi’s poetry, 7 centuries later, perhaps has a new significance for our world,
- uniting us in love rather than dividing the world through hatred & violence.
1. All Rumi’s poems cited in this article are the author’s translations from the Persian book of Rumi,
- "Masnawi" by Mawlānā Jalāluddin Muhammad Balkhi (7 volumes, edited by Muhammad Estelāmi, Ghalam Publishers, Tehran).
2. For more information about Islamic & Sufi views of Jesus, I recommend the following books:
- "Jesus in the Eyes of the Sufis", by Javad Nurbakhsh (London, 1983).
- "The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature", ed. and trans. by Tarif Khalidi (Harvard University Press, 2001)
Dr. Rasoul Sorkhabi, is a professor at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City and
directs the Rumi Poetry Club - email@example.com
Дух Святой в Суфизме - http://hojja-nusreddin.livejournal.com/1132355.html
1. Dr. Rasoul Sorkhabi, "Rumi is the Answer to All Our Problems" - http://hojja-nusreddin.livejournal.com/1430180.html
2. Dr. Rasoul Sorkhabi, "Rumiyat: A Guide to Reading Rumi" - http://hojja-nusreddin.livejournal.com/1429822.html
3. Dr. Rasoul Sorkhabi, "Jesus Christ in Rumi’s Poetry and Parables" - http://hojja-nusreddin.livejournal.com/2279109.html