As a matter of fact, Jews and Muslims, as adherents to divine religions, view the followers of Jesus differently. Such difference in view may be attributable to the fact that Jews do not believe that Christianity is a divine religion, unlike Muslims who believe that it is a divine faith, albeit, according to them, distorted, twisted, derailed and ultimately abrogated by Islam.
Jews believe that after Jesus died, his followers – at the time a small sect of former Jews known as the Nazarenes – claimed he was the Messiah prophesied in Jewish texts and that he would soon return to fulfill the acts required of the Messiah. The majority of contemporary Jews rejected this belief and Judaism as a whole continues to do so today. Eventually, Jesus became the focal point of a small Jewish religious movement that would evolve into the Christian faith.
On the other hand, Muslims believe that Jesus was the Messiah prophesied in the Jewish texts and that the people who followed him as a prophet of Allah up to the advent of Islam are true believers in Allah. However, those who followed him as God or the Son of God are seen as disbelievers. Likewise, given that the message of Jesus was abrogated by Islam with the common creed of monotheism maintained and the Jewish laws partially already amended by Jesus replaced by much more lenient laws of the Shari`ah of Islam. A true believer according to Islam, is the one who believes in Islam as an extension to the prior divine faiths and the religion belief in which dispenses with the preceding divine faiths for belief in Islam implies belief in the messages of all past prophets and messengers of Allah, particularly Moses and Jesus.
Accordingly, all people designated as Christians from the advent of Islam up to date are under an obligation to profess Islam for them to be considered true believers. If they refuse to do, they are deemed such disbelievers who follow an outdated faith with distorted creed and rescinded law.
Allah says in the Qur’an:
So is it other than the religion of Allah they desire, while to Him have submitted [all] those within the heavens and earth, willingly or by compulsion, and to Him they will be returned?
Say, “We have believed in Allah and in what was revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Descendants, and in what was given to Moses and Jesus and to the prophets from their Lord. We make no distinction between any of them, and we are Muslims [submitting] to Him.”
And whoever desires other than Islam as religion – never will it be accepted from him, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers. (Aal `Imran 3:83-85)
We notice that the followers of Jesus are frequently promised double reward if they profess Islam for belief in both messages of Jesus and Muhammad. Allah says in the Qur’an:
O People of the Scripture, do not commit excess in your religion or say about Allah except the truth. The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a soul [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers…. And as for those who believed and did righteous deeds, He will give them in full their rewards and grant them extra from His bounty. (An-Nisaa’ 4:171-173)
He also says:
Then We sent following their footsteps Our messengers and followed [them] with Jesus, the son of Mary, and gave him the Gospel. And We placed in the hearts of those who followed him compassion and mercy and monasticism, which they innovated; We did not prescribe it for them except [that they did so] seeking the approval of Allah. But they did not observe it with due observance. So We gave the ones who believed among them their reward, but many of them are defiantly disobedient.
O you who have believed, fear Allah and believe in His Messenger; He will [then] give you a double portion of His mercy and make for you a light by which you will walk and forgive you; and Allah is Forgiving and Merciful. (Al-Hadid 57:27-28)
He further says:
Those to whom We gave the Scripture before it – they are believers in it.
And when it is recited to them, they say, “We have believed in it; indeed, it is the truth from our Lord. Indeed we were, [even] before it, Muslims [submitting to Allah].”
Those will be given their reward twice for what they patiently endured (Al-Qasas 28:52-54)
Companion Abu Musa Al-Ash`ary reports that Prophet Muhammad said: “There are three persons who will be given their reward twice: a man among the People of the Book who believed in his Prophet then believed in me; a slave who fulfills his duty towards Allah and towards his master; and a man who has a slave woman and educates her and teaches her good manners, then he frees her and marries her.” (Recorded by Al-Bukhari and Muslim)
Abu Umamah said: “On the day of the Conquest of Makkah, I was walking alongside the Messenger of Allah (Muhammad) as he was riding, and he said some very beautiful words, including the following: ‘Whoever among the People of the Book becomes Muslim, he will have his reward twice, and he will have the same rights and duties as we do. Whoever among the idolaters becomes Muslim will have one reward, and he will have the same rights and duties as we do.’” (Recorded by Imam Ahmad)
In several positions, the Qur’an praises the People of the Book who are true believers. Allah says:
“Those to whom We have given the Book recite it with its true recital. They [are the ones who] believe in it.” (Al-Baqarah 2:121)
He also says:
And indeed, among the People of the Scripture are those who believe in Allah and what was revealed to you and what was revealed to them, [being] humbly submissive to Allah. They do not exchange the verses of Allah for a small price. Those will have their reward with their Lord. Indeed, Allah is swift in account. (Aal `Imran 3:199)
He further says:
Say, “Believe in it or do not believe. Indeed, those who were given knowledge before it – when it is recited to them, they fall upon their faces in prostration, And they say, ‘Exalted is our Lord! Indeed, the promise of our Lord has been fulfilled.’” (Al-Israa’ 17:107-108)
He also says:
And thus We have sent down to you the Qur’an. And those to whom We [previously] gave the Scripture believe in it. And among these [people of Makkah] are those who believe in it. And none reject Our verses except the disbelievers. (Al-`Ankabut 29:47)
We also read the following verses in the Qur’an:
You will surely find the most intense of the people in animosity toward the believers [to be] the Jews and those who associate others with Allah; and you will find the nearest of them in affection to the believers those who say, “We are Christians.” That is because among them are priests and monks and because they are not arrogant.
And when they hear what has been revealed to the Messenger, you see their eyes overflowing with tears because of what they have recognized of the truth. They say, “Our Lord, we have believed, so register us among the witnesses.
And why should we not believe in Allah and what has come to us of the truth? And we aspire that our Lord will admit us [to Paradise] with the righteous people.”
So Allah rewarded them for what they said with gardens [in Paradise] beneath which rivers flow, wherein they abide eternally. And that is the reward of doers of good. (Al-Ma’idah 5:82-85)
Even in the positions where Allah dispraises Christians, we notice that even such positions are not devoid of a promise of reward for true believers in the message of Jesus.
Then We sent following their footsteps Our messengers and followed [them] with Jesus, the son of Mary, and gave him the Gospel. And We placed in the hearts of those who followed him compassion and mercy and monasticism…But they did not observe it with due observance. So We gave the ones who believed among them their reward, but many of them are defiantly disobedient. (Al-Hadid 57:27)
He also says:
(Mention) when Allah said, “O Jesus, I am ending your record (on Earth) and raising you to Myself, and purifying you from those who have disbelieved, and making those who have followed you (dominant) over those who have disbelieved until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me is your return, and I will judge between you concerning that in which you used to differ.
And as for those who have disbelieved, I will punish them with a severe punishment in this world and the Hereafter, and they will have no supporters.
But as for those who have believed and did good deeds, He will give them their rewards.” (Aal `Imran 3:55-57)
He further says:
And when Jesus brought clear proofs, he said, “I have come to you with wisdom and to make clear to you some of that over which you differ, so fear Allah and obey me.
Indeed, Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. This is a straight path”
But the denominations from among them differed [and separated], so woe to those who have wronged from the punishment of a painful Day.
[To whom Allah will say], “O My servants, no fear will there be concerning you this Day, nor will you grieve, [You] who believed in Our verses and were Muslims.(Az-Zukhruf 43:63-69)
Besides, Allah also says:
And whoever desires other than Islam as religion – never will it be accepted from him, and he, in the Hereafter, will be among the losers.
How shall Allah guide a people who disbelieved after their belief and had witnessed that the Messenger is true and clear signs had come to them? And Allah does not guide the wrongdoing people.
Those – their recompense will be that upon them is the curse of Allah and the angels and the people, all together,
Abiding eternally therein. The punishment will not be lightened for them, nor will they be reprieved.
Except for those who repent after that and correct themselves. For indeed, Allah is Forgiving and Merciful.(Aal `Imran 3:85-89)
It is remarkable that in the Qur’an Allah repeatedly promises true believers in Jesus support and victory:
O you who have believed, be supporters of Allah, as when Jesus, the son of Mary, said to the disciples, “Who are my supporters for Allah?” The disciples said, “We are supporters of Allah.” And a faction of the Children of Israel believed and a faction disbelieved. So We supported those who believed against their enemy, and they became dominant. (As-Saff 61:14)
He also says:
[Mention] when Allah said, “O Jesus, indeed I will take you and raise you to Myself and purify you from those who disbelieve and make those who follow you [in submission to Allah alone] superior to those who disbelieve until the Day of Resurrection. Then to Me is your return, and I will judge between you concerning that in which you used to differ.” (Aal `Imran 3:55)
Commenting on the above verses, most Muslim exegetes state that the believers referred to here are the true believers in Jesus, namely the people who believe in the true monotheistic message of Jesus, mainly Muslims.
1- The Glorious Qur’an (Sahih International Translation)
2- Sahih Al-Bukhari
3- Sahih Muslim
4- Musnad Al-Imam Ahmad