Indeed, one of the common beliefs shared by both Muslims and Christians is the belief that Jesus was a word and spirit from Allah. In the New Testament, we find out that Jesus is referred to as the Word of God in the following verses: “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
In the New Testament, we also notice that Jesus is referred to as the Spirit of God in the following verses: “A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of might, the Spirit of the knowledge and fear of the Lord — And he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears.” (Isaiah 11:1-3)
In the Qur’an, Jesus is referred to as the Word of Allah in the following verse:
[And mention] when the angels said, “O Mary, indeed Allah gives you good tidings of a word from Him, whose name will be the Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary – distinguished in this world and the Hereafter and among those brought near [to Allah.] (Aal `Imran 3:45)
In the Qur’an, Jesus is also referred to as a spirit from Allah in the following verse:
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 spirit [created at a command] from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. And do not say, “Three”; desist – it is better for you. Indeed, Allah is but one God. Exalted is He above having a son. To Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and whatever is on the earth. And sufficient is Allah as Disposer of affairs. (An-Nisaa’ 4:171)
However, though both Muslims and Christians agree on the fact that Jesus is a word and spirit from Allah, they draw different conclusions from the above fact. Christians conclude that Jesus is divine, with some believing that he himself is God and others that he is a demigod being the Son of God.
On the other hand, Muslims draw a different conclusion. In spite of the various interpretations of “word” and “spirit” in Islam, all Muslims agree that Jesus is nothing but a servant and Prophet of God.
Under Islam, the “Word” here stands for the word “be” according to the majority of Muslim scholars. All human beings are created by this word. If man has neither a father nor a mother, like Adam, has a mother but has no father like, Jesus, or has both a father and a mother like everybody of us, he is still created by virtue of the word “be”. In the Qur’an, Allah says:
Indeed, the example of Jesus to Allah is like that of Adam. He created Him from dust; then He said to him, ‘Be,’ and he was. (Aal `Imran 3:59)
Allah indicates that there is nothing which is impossible for Him because He is able enough to do any and everything. When it comes to the Absolute Omnipotence of Allah, there is nothing that can escape Him. As for us, we often follow specific rules to do something because we do not have enough power to break the norms of this universe. Almighty Allah is not like us.
Allah can create man from nothing, like Adam, from only a man, like Eve, from only a woman, like Jesus and from both a man and a woman like us. This is to prove that He is our Lord, the Almighty. Nobody can do that other than a true god.
The humans extraordinarily fashioned like Adam, Eve and Jesus are intended, as such unique exceptions are aimed to dissuade the human beings from believing that this universe is automatic or has no creator. Nothing in this universe is automatic or spontaneous, given the above exceptions, which prove that there is an invisible mighty power behind their existence.
Chance can never give rise to something exquisitely designed like a human being. Chance may result in something random and unarranged. But, when a perfect product is brought about, this proves that there is a perfect creator behind. Failing to perceive this fact does not serve as evidence that this creator is not there.
Notwithstanding, it may be argued that if all human beings are created by virtue of the word “be”, why is Jesus only is referred to as the “Word of Allah”?
As a matter of fact, though each human being is created by virtue of the word “be”, the word “be” in all cases of creation other than that of Jesus is usually preceded by a material for creation. In case of Adam, the Qur’an tells us that Allah created Adam from clay. Allah says in the Qur’an:
And [mention, O Muhammad], when your Lord said to the angels, ‘I will create a human being out of clay from an altered black mud. And when I have proportioned him and breathed into him of My [created] soul, then fall down to him in prostration.’ (Al-Hijr 15:28-29)
In another verse, Allah indicates that He first created man (Adam) from clay, and his posterity from a despised liquid. Allah says:
Who perfected everything which He created and began the creation of man from clay. Then He made his posterity out of the extract of a liquid disdained. Then He proportioned him and breathed into him from His [created] soul and made for you hearing and vision and hearts; little are you grateful. (As-Sajdah 32:7-9)
As for Eve, she was created from Adam. Allah says in the Qur’an:
O mankind, fear your Lord, who created you from one soul and created from it its mate and dispersed from both of them many men and women. (An-Nisaa’ 4:1)
When it comes to Jesus, the word “be” was uttered without being preceded by a material of creation. Jesus was created by and from nothing but a word in the full sense of the word.
In the ordinary course of nature, there is a material followed up with a breath (spirit) from Allah. In the case of Jesus, the breath was preceded by nothing. It is only a breath which fashioned Jesus. In the Qur’an, Allah confirms that Mary guarded her chastity. He says:
And [the example of] Mary, the daughter of `Imran, who guarded her chastity, so We blew into [her garment] through Our angel. (At-Tahrim 66:12)
Again, He also says:
And [mention] the one who guarded her chastity, so We blew into her [garment]through Our angel [Gabriel], and We made her and her son a sign for the worlds.
The following Qur’anic verses argue that it is impossible that Allah has a son, and that He can fashion a human being just by a word if He decides to do. He implies that to create a human being from nothing does not necessarily mean that this human is God’s own son. Allah says:
Originator of the heavens and the earth. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is. They say, ‘Allah has taken a son.’ Exalted is He! Rather, to Him belongs whatever is in the heavens and the earth. All are devoutly obedient to Him. (Al-Baqarah 2:116-117)
Allah also says:
She said, ‘My Lord, how will I have a child when no man has touched me?’ [The angel] said, ‘Such is Allah; He creates what He wills. When He decrees a matter, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is.’ (Aal `Imran 3:47)
He further says:
That is Jesus the son of Mary – the word of truth about which they are in dispute. It is not [befitting] for Allah to take a son; exalted is He! When He decrees an affair, He only says to it, ‘Be,’ and it is. (Maryam 19:34-35)
As for Jesus being a spirit from Allah, the Arabic word “Ruh” has various interpretations. According to the Muslim exegetes, it may be interpreted as a breath let out by Angel Gabriel within the womb of Mary. According to this interpretation, this breath is called “Ruh” for a breath is nothing but a “Rih” (wind). According to a second interpretation, “Ruh” stands for life. According to a third interpretation, “Ruh” refers to mercy. According to a fourth interpretation, “Ruh” means a soul. According to a fifth interpretation, “spirit” refers to Angel Gabriel rather than Jesus. Accordingly, the following verse: “The Messiah, Jesus, the son of Mary, was but a messenger of Allah and His word which He directed to Mary and a spirit [created at a command] from Him” means that Jesus was a word directed to Mary by Allah and then by Angel Gabriel as the Holy Spirit.[i]
Excluding the third and fifth interpretations, the above discussion of Jesus as a word of Allah can also apply here. He is referred to as a spirit from Allah (be it interpreted as breath, life, or soul) for he is really a direct breath, life or soul from Allah, unlike any other human being. All human beings derive their existence from another creature of Allah, like clay in Adam’s case, Adam’s body in Eve’s case and semen in our case. But, Jesus derived his existence directly from a Ruh from Allah. That is why he is called “Spirit of God.”
As far as the third interpretation is concerned, Jesus as well as his fellow Prophets and Messengers of Allah can be referred to as “spirits from Allah” when underlining the motive behind their respective missions.
In this sense, Prophet Muhammad also can be referred to as a spirit from Allah. He was sent as mercy for humanity. Allah says in the Qur’an:
And We have not sent you, [O Muhammad], except as a mercy to the worlds. (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:107)
To sum up, though both Christians and Muslims agree that Jesus is a word and spirit from Allah, they disagree over what is meant by this description. Christians conclude that He is a Son of God, but Muslims insist that he is not a Son of God, though he is still a distinguished Prophet and Messenger of Allah, being the only one who can be referred to as a word and spirit from Allah.
[i] Ibn Al-Araby, Muhammad bin Abdullah Al-Andalusi, Ahkam Al-Qur’an, Dar Al-Kutub Al-`Ilmiyah, Ed. 1, p. 651