That they said (in boast), "We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah.;- but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not:-[ 4:157]
Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! Allah giveth 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 (the company of) those nearest to Allah.[3:45]
The Qur’an makes it clear in the verse above that Jesus (peace be upon him) was not killed or crucified. It also describes Jesus as a Word from Allah. The Arabic expression for that is "Kalimatan min Allah". In saying this, the Qur’an is telling us that Jesus’ (pbuh) true identity was not in his flesh, but in the Message he brought. As such, that Message or word from Allah, cannot be crucified or killed. His flesh being no different than other human beings flesh was made up of the elements of the earth and subject to the laws of nature -- that all human flesh is subjected to. While living, his flesh was a tool used by his mind to give expression in this world. So in identifying with the specialness of Jesus’ flesh, we miss the mark about identifying with the body of knowledge that Allah blessed him with which was his true identity.
Then will Allah say: "O Jesus the son of Mary! Recount My favor to thee and to thy mother. Behold! I strengthened thee with the Holy Spirit, so that thou didst speak to the people in childhood and in maturity. Behold! I taught thee the Book and Wisdom, the Law and the Gospel and behold! thou makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird, by My leave, and thou breathest into it and it becometh a bird by My leave, and thou healest those born blind, and the lepers, by My leave. And behold! thou bringest forth the dead by My leave. And behold! I did restrain the Children of Israel from (violence to) thee when thou didst show them the clear Signs, and the unbelievers among them said: 'This is nothing but evident magic.[5:110]
The Qur’an also tells us that Jesus (pbuh) was able to “makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird” by Allah’s leave. That is a powerful message if we understand the meaning of the scriptural language used. Clay is malleable. It can be easily fashioned into any shape that the one holding the clay desires. We all have seen how clay pottery can be used to fashion and shape cups, pots and other figures very easily. Compared to rocks, wood, metals and other materials, clay can be easily molded into different forms. Both the Bible and the Qur’an states that Adam, the first human being, was made from clay.
Clay is a symbol for the mind or the baby form of human development. It represents the impressionable mind. As new born babies born into this world, our minds are like clay in the hands of the environment we are born into. Babies born into a Chinese culture are shaped by the influences of that culture. It does not matter if that baby is Caucasian, Indian or African. They will speak Chinese if that is the only language they have been exposed to in their environment. The same is true of every human being who is born into particular environments. Allah uses clay as an example of the human mind that is easily malleable and can be fashioned into any form by the influences in our environment.
Again, Allah says that Jesus (pbuh) was able to “makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird” by His leave. Let’s think about birds. I once observed some ducks in a park. I saw how the ducks walked comfortably on land. They also flew in the air with relative ease and on water they glided comfortably moving in any direction as they please. I felt jealous because I -- without machinery -- was only comfortable on land and if I did not know how to swim, I would have serious problems in water. But the ducks -- and this is also true about other birds -- were comfortable in land, air and water! This was natural for them. They mastered being able to move as they please in all three elements.
In scriptural language water is a symbol for morality, land is a symbol for rational or intellectual development and air is a symbol for spiritual development. The Qur’an is telling us that Jesus’s Message was able to take impressionable human minds (clay) and transformed them into enlightened G'd conscious human beings who became like birds, masters of their moral, rational and spiritual natures. Morally, rationally and spiritually, the message Allah gave to Jesus brought about the full growth and development that Allah intended for the moral, rational and spiritual natures in the human being. That message can never be killed or crucified!
The Bible also describes Jesus (pbuh) as a word. It says of Jesus:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with G'd, and the Word was G'd. He was with G'd in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it-----yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of G'd---children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of G'd. The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
(John chapter 1, verses 1-5, 12-14)
This definition of Christ as "a word" agrees with the Quranic definition of Christ as a Kalimatan min Allah, a Word from G'd. Looking deeper into the origin and meaning of the word Christ, we find that the word Christ is derived from the Greek word Christos. The word Christos means the "Illuminated Soul" that is within the potential of all human beings to be awakened. The awakening of the Christos in human beings leads them to Soul Consciousness or Mastership as in what the man Jesus of Nazareth (pbuh), the Nazarene, attained. This is the same as described in the above example about the meaning of the bird in the Qur’anic verse referring to the mastership that human beings gain over their moral, rational and spiritual natures. The Qur’an says of Jesus (pbuh) that he “makest out of clay, as it were, the figure of a bird” -- whereas the Bible says that through the light of Christ, G'd gave human beings “the right to become children of G'd.” Both expressions are referring to the same thing – the natural right of all human beings to reach self-actualization or Soul Illumination.
Not only is the symbolism in the use of "a word" similar between the Qur'an and Bible when referring to Jesus (pbuh), the symbolic reference to bird is also common in both books. The dove is used often in representing that symbol. Although the dove is perceived as a symbol of purity by most Christians, it also points to the spiritual ascension of the human being. This is seen in the following verse taken from the book of Psalms:
Psalm 55:6 "And I said, Oh that I had wings like a dove! for then Would I fly away, and be at rest."
The symbol of a bird used to represent mastery is also expressed in the Bible. In Matthew chapter 3 this Mastership is seen where upon the completion of the baptism of Jesus (pbuh) the spirit of G'd descended like a dove and lighted upon his shoulders. Afterwards G'd expresses His pleasure with Jesus as in the following verses:
3:16 And Jesus, when he was baptized, went up straightway out of the water: and, lo, the heavens were opened unto him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him:
3:17 And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
The Qur'an says the following about Jesus being the only begotten son of G'd:
They say: "God hath begotten a son!" - Glory be to Him! He is self- sufficient! His are all things in the heavens and on earth! No warrant have ye for this! say ye about God what ye know not? [10:68]
Most Christians worship the man Jesus of Nazareth (pbuh) as the son of G'd, one among the three deities in Christianity. In deifying Jesus, the whole humanity is bereft of Christos as an eternal potency within every human soul, a latent (embryonic) Christ-like nature in every human being. In thus deifying one man, Paulene Christianity has orphaned the whole humanity of its Christos or Illuminated Soul that is in need of awakening within each human being. The man Jesus of Nazareth demonstrated this by becoming the Christ, a title referring to an Anointed One who has gained mastership as a result of the Illumination of his soul. Jesus himself referred to this human capability in all of us when he said:
"At that day you will know that I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you." [John 14:20]
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go unto my Father." [John 14:12]
The "I in you" self that Jesus (pbuh) is referring to is in every human being. Through the awakening of the Christos as Jesus of Nazareth (pbuh) the man did, we too can do great works and in Jesus’ words -- greater than his.
In this we see that through the inner development of the human being, the mind moves towards full Illumination to inspire great works in life’s arena. Rather than focusing on our external, worldly, subjective identities, human beings should focus on their real internal identities working towards self-actualization or full Illumination of the soul, achieving great works in their life, and attaining the levels of consciousness that the Creator intended for all human beings. It is a metamorphosis that all human beings are entitled to go through symbolized in nature as the metamorphosis of a caterpillar into a beautiful butterfly. This growth process as the goal of human life is nicely captured in these wonderful words from the Qur’an:
By the Sun and his (glorious) splendour;
By the Moon as she follows him;
By the Day as it shows up (the Sun's) glory;
By the Night as it conceals it;
By the Firmament and its (wonderful) structure;
By the Earth and its (wide) expanse:
By the Soul, and the proportion and order given to it;
And its enlightenment as to its wrong and its right;-
Truly he succeeds that purifies it,
And he fails that corrupts it! [Chapter 91, The Sun]
When success is achieved pursuing the great work of self-development and illumination of the mind in an effort to be pleasing to our Creator, then we will achieve the state of Nafs Al-Mutmainna, the state of the soul's complete satisfaction with itself and with it's Maker. The Qur’an gives us a glimpse of this sublime stage of Nafs Al-Mutmainna as follows:
(To the righteous soul will be said:) "O (thou) soul, in (complete) rest and satisfaction! "Come back thou to thy Lord,- well pleased (thyself), and well-pleasing unto Him! "Enter thou, then, among My devotees! "Yea, enter thou My Heaven! [Chapter Fajr 89:26 – 89:30]
The successful soul will reach the state of Nafs Al-Mutmainna after great effort towards purification, self mastery, submission to Allah's Will, and enlightenment. They will indeed achieve a state of heaven in this life and will be further rewarded with a greater heaven in the Hereafter.