In this video, Mustafa Aykol talks about his book, ‘The Islamic Jesus’, where – amongst other things – he tracks the movement of the Early Jewish-Christian community. This is a must read for anyone interested in a scholarly account of the supposed ‘paradox’ in the (not-so?) surprising affinity from two divergent traditions: a) the up-to-date, historical analysis of that community and b) the normative Islamic presentation of early ‘Jewish-Christianity’, which it calls ‘Islam’ (literally translated as ‘The Revealed Way to Submit to only ALLAH [God]’).
الحمد لله والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله
All praise is due to ALLAH and peace and blessing upon His Messenger
بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
In the Name of ALLAH, The Most Gracious, The Most Merciful
(SOURCE: Blogging Theology)
One of the central points concerned the disagreement between James the Just (brother of Jesus, peace be upon him) and Paul. The former insisted the Mosaic Law (albeit legitimately softened somewhat by Jesus, peace be upon him) was important for Jewish Christians (that is to say, the Muslims-of-the-time); and their creed maintained that faith without works (that is to say ‘deeds’) was invalid. (To understand the concept of ‘Muslims-of-the-Time’ see this pending post.) The latter insisted that faith alone could bring about salvation (that is to say, the Mosaic Law – with or without Jesus’ updates – was redundant).
The fact is, James the Just, is more aligned to Islamic conceptions of Imaan (faith) that must manifest in the heart, in words and upon the limbs (i.e. actions or deeds)! And James was following the way of Jesus (peace be upon him) more attentively than Paul, who had his own opinions or version of what Jesus meant to him (based on a supposed vision he received after the prophet’s ascent). The problem, here, is that Paul’s account and commentary is super-imposed over the historical Jesus’ actual words.
The Jesus of the New Testament is ambiguous. It is possible to take a Paulian view of what we recognise today as the ‘biblical Jesus’ of Christianity- no doubt. But this view is false; it is not the message of the historical Jesus (peace be upon him). Muslims, however, would comprehend the continuity in the general message of the historical Jesus as consistent with that of the Jesus as outlined in the Qur’an and with Prophet Muhammad’s (peace be upon them both). Moreover, historians and Muslims recognise St Paul, however, as relaying a completely different tradition from that of the Old Testament prophets, the Qur’anic mission of the prophets or even – ironically – with many of Jesus’ own direct words in the New Testament, which, some have suggested is more Islamic in character than Paulian.
High Octane Faceoff in Jerusalem
“Until Jesus (peace be upon him) was with his disciples, the so called body of Christ (peace be upon him) was united under the Laws and regulations of the Old Testament since their “lord and savior” himself was under the Law. During his ministry not a single follower opened his mouth against the Laws or any other doctrine like sin and salvation.
However, no sooner did he ascended, controversies pertaining doctrines unleashed. As if every individual got an opportunity to impress his/her own doctrine with a self-made stamp of Jesus (peace be upon him) on it – Paul was no exclusion.
Nevertheless, when Paul’s aberrations became too perspicuous, majority of earliest Church council at Jerusalem including Jesus’ (peace be upon him) brother – James, made every attempt to thwart him. It was this uprising against Pauline doctrines that we seek to address…” (LEARN MORE >)
The Ebionites: True followers of Jesus who converted to Islam
“We look today at the Jesus movement in Jerusalem formed by early followers of Christ, and headed by the disciple James. Their understanding of Christianity differed fundamentally from the religion later formulated by Paul, whom they considered to be a false teacher. They had a gospel written in Aramaic which is now lost to us . Modern scholars have described their theology in terms that closely resembles the religion preached by Muhammad (ص).” (LEARN MORE >)
“In watching the video lecture above, I agree with most of what Akyol says in regard to the historical Jesus and comparisons with Islam etc. But…..
I think he starts getting into some controversial issues in his the last chapter of his book entitled,”What Jesus can teach Muslims today.” He seems to be calling on Muslims to take the example of Jesus in finding a “third way” somewhere between the libertarian Herodian imitation of the west, and the zealotry of fundamentalism and strict adherence to the law of Shariah. That is fine, but it is really nothing new, since it is also what Muslims have always been trying to do anyway. In this, Muslims do not require Jesus, when they have the example of Prophet Muhammad who said Islam is the religion of the “middle way” and the path of moderation. Although some Muslims may have lost their way in the current political context, it does not mean that, if given the chance, moderate mainstream traditional Islamic orthodoxy does not have, or cannot provide the answers and solutions required to navigate the Muslim community into a more peaceful future. If Muslims are to maintain the true nature of their religion it is important to find the answers within tradition Islamic theology, as that has more credence amongst the majority of worldwide Muslims.
Although Akyol makes an interesting argument for learning from the historical Islamic Jesus he is really pointing to the Biblical Christian Jesus as his example. For instance in his New York Times article he suggests that the Caliphate could be established “not within any earthly polity, but within our hearts and minds.” This could be compared to Paul’s NT reinterpretation of OT Law, reducing the commandments of the law to spiritual suggestions, (Circumcision of the heart, Gospel of freedom from the Law, etc.) In studying Christianity we can see what innovations and confusion to which this kind of thinking leads. Akyol seems to be preaching the “Gospel of Freedom from Islamic Law” the results of which would eventually be a neutered, watered down version of Islam.
Also Akyol, states that “…no Muslim religious leader has yet stressed the crucial gap between divine purposes and dry legalism as powerfully as Jesus did.” I don’t agree with that assessment, Imaam Al-Ghazali, was very famous for doing just that in many of his literary works the most famous of which was, “Al-Ihya Uloom Ad-Deen” which was summarized and improved upon by Ibn Jawzi’s “Minhaj al Qasideen.” There are also many other Muslim scholars and teachers from various sects, groups, and schools, who have discussed the concern between following the divine law, while at the same time maintaining the spiritual essence and purpose of the revelatory message and religion as well.
I have not read the book, but based on Akyol’s summary in the above video, I do give him credit and kudos for laying out the Muslim viewpoint in regard to the comparisons between the historic Jesus and Islamic Jesus of Qur’an. However, the thought of Jesus “teaching” Muslims sounds great to a western audience and sells a lot of books but Mustafa Akyol’s “third way” based upon the teachings of the Biblical Jesus is not going to sell in the Muslim community. Not only is such an idea controversial and slightly condescending, but it is also redundant and unnecessary since Islam was and is in essence the “third way” of moderation from its very beginnings.
As Muslims we just need to recall the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, who warned us not to go to extremes in either direction, to far liberal or to far Conservative. We must always be somewhere in the middle and moderate range in order to be successful.”
By Ibn Issam, 2017, quoted from Blogging Theology: Mustafa Akyol – the Islamic Jesus how the King of the Jews became a Prophet of the Muslims
MWM: I have read the book and your observation and assessment, br Ibn Isaam, is accuarte. Aykol’s forte is his account of Christianity vis-a-vis historical records and the Muslim perspective – however, his last chapter where he begins to preach about ‘what is Islam?’ in a roundabout way is more problematic. His seems one that is certainly vested in Muslim identity-politics (which is neither here nor there) – but one not so invested in an Islam, whose core tenets (aqeedah) is comprehended by the early community of believers who would have lived with the Prophet (peace be upon him) and followed his way. Just like we insist the Christians to seek after the earliest community of believers and their comprehension of their prophet before any fitna (which, admittedly was very immediate), we would insist on Muslims to do the same with our tradition and seek after the comprehension of the early community of believers and our prophet before any serious fitna. Aykol, it seems to me, posits a more ‘modern’ or ‘liberal’ reading of Islam (that affects its core tenets i.e. aqeedah) – which is a newer super-imposition – and therein is the step, in St-Paulian fashion, in the wrong direction. Be warned.
This topic (of a Modern Islam) will be discussed later (in a pending post).
سبحان ربك رب العزة عما يصفون وسلام على المرسلين والحمد لله رب العالمين والصلاة والسلام على رسول الله محمد وعلى اله وصحبه أجمعين
Exalted be your Lord, the Lord of Glory, above what they attribute to Him, and peace be upon the Messengers, and all praise be to Allah, the Lord of the Universe. And the peace and blessing upon prophet Mohammed and his relatives and all his companions.