Islam and Jesus: almost a "love affair" (profile)

In his latest work, Tarif Khalidi analyzes the influence that Jesus has had on Islamic literature from the 2nd to 12th century, according to the Hegira (8th – 12th A.D.). Khalidi affirms that one can actually speak of a "love affair between Islam and Jesus."  

Jesus – Issa, son of Mary – is often found and highly venerated in the Koran and Hadiths (stories and sayings of the Prophet Mohammad), where 4.1% of words in the Koran are dedicated to Jesus, his mother Mary and the disciples. The figure of Jesus Christ is found in long history of Islamic literature. Intellectuals in past centuries, like the philosopher, Al-Ghazali, in his work "Ihya'a Ulum El Din" ( Revival of Religious Studies), or writers like Al-Jahez in his scholarly piece "Al Mukhtar fil Rad ala al-Nasara" ("The Chosen One and His Answers to Nazarenes"). Despite refuting Christian theology, these works describe and exalt Christ's qualities.

Even secular Islamic literature has always considered Jesus as a unique example of a perfect relationship between creature and Creator. Among the Islamic intellectuals inspired by Jesus, Khalidi cites Ahmad Ben Hanbal, Abu Hayan Al-Tawhidi, Al-Sahrurdi, Ibn Al-arabi, Abu Al-Kassem Al-Kashiri  and other writers, poets, historians, Sufi mystics, without making reference to the Ulamas (Islamic law scholars). 

For the Islamic scholar, Abdallah Al-Sharkawi, the different point of views between Islam and Christianity are in large part due to late translation of the Gospels into Arabic.

Fr. Michel Hayek, professor at the Sorbonne,  is one of the major experts on the figure of Jesus in Islam. He holds that it is impossible for there to be a reconciliation between Christianity and Islam, as there "exist the obstacles of dogma that no understanding could ever remove" (cf. The Christ of Islam, Paris, 1959. The author is preparing a third updated version).  (P.B.)