What Muslims and the Quran Say About Jesus, Christmas and the Virgin Birth

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Muslim women take a selfie in front of the giant Christian manger displayed in Manger Square in front of the Church of the Nativity, revered as the site of Jesus Christ’s birth, in Bethlehem, West Bank. Islam and Christianity share some basic ideas about who Jesus was and how he lived. Getty Images

When people think about Christmas, the first thing that comes to mind probably isn’t the Quran, the central religious text of Islam.

Many people assume that the world’s major monotheistic religions differ greatly. But Islam and Christianity share some very basic ideas about who Jesus was and how he lived. The name Jesus is mentioned at least 25 times in the Quran, and many other references are made to the son of Mary or Christ the messenger of Allah.

Meanwhile, many details about the birth of Jesus match those found in the New Testament. Muslims, for example, believe in the Virgin Birth, and the Quran also calls Jesus the Messiah.

The earliest texts of the New Testament are believed to have been written between 50 and 62 A.D. by Saint Paul. Muslims believe the Quran was revealed by God to Muhammad verbally through the angel Gabriel beginning in 609 A.D. 

Similar to the Gospel of Luke, the Quran describes the conversation between the Angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary, in which Gabriel tells Mary that she will have a child.

“O Mary! Allah gives thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: His name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and the Hereafter and of those nearest to Allah,” reads the Quran 3:45.

“Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, was an apostle of Allah,” adds the Quran 4:171.

461895622 Photos of Jesus are sold next to those of political leaders in Muslim-majority Indonesia. Many details in the Quran about the birth of Jesus match those found in the New Testament. Getty Images

Meanwhile, the actual birth of Jesus has a central place in Islam and is described in detail in the Quran. Chapter 19 of the Quran is called Maryam, after the Virgin Mary, and describes the Virgin Birth.

But the Quran differs from the New Testament because Jesus was not born in a manger in the Quran’s version. Instead, the Quran describes Mary giving birth under a palm tree.

There are, of course, fundamental differences between the way Christians and Muslims view Jesus and his role. Christians believe Jesus is the savior and the son of God, but Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet, which is how he is described in the Quran. Muslims believe there were a large number of prophets throughout human history, over 120,000 of them, and that the Holy Prophet Muhammad was the last.

Since Muslims believe that Jesus was a human prophet of God, they do not believe in his divinity. Instead, Muslims believe that the name Son of God was used in a metaphorical sense to refer to one of God’s chosen prophets.

2880655 Tens of thousands of Shiite Muslims march peacefully in Baghdad with portraits of Shiite leader Al-Sistani, Jesus and the Imam Hussain. Muslims believe Jesus was a prophet, which is how he is described in the Quran. Getty Images

“I am indeed a servant of Allah: He hath given me revelation and made me a prophet,” Jesus says in 19:30, Yusif Ali, one of the most popular translations of the Quran into English.

But Muslims do believe that Jesus worked miracles and that he was taken into heaven upon his death.

“O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee superior to those who reject faith, to the Day of Resurrection: Then shall ye all return unto me,” Allah said to Jesus in 3:55, Yusif Ali.