The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature

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Overview

This work presents in English translation the largest collection ever assembled of the sayings and stories of Jesus in Arabic Islamic literature. In doing so, it traces a tradition of love and reverence for Jesus that has characterized Islamic thought for more than a thousand years. An invaluable resource for the history of religions, the collection documents how one culture, that of Islam, assimilated the towering religious figure of another, that of Christianity. As such, it is a work of great significance for the understanding of both, and of profound implications for modern-day intersectarian relations and ecumenical dialogue.

Tarif Khalidi's introduction and commentaries place the sayings and stories in their historical context, showing how and why this "gospel" arose and the function it served within Muslim devotion. The Jesus that emerges here is a compelling figure of deep and life-giving spirituality. The sayings and stories, some 300 in number and arranged in chronological order, show us how the image of this Jesus evolved throughout a millennium of Islamic history.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist

Jesus figures prominently in Islam. Alongside the hadiths, the stories of the Prophet's sayings and actions, appear stories of Jesus' sayings and actions, 303 of which Tarif Khalidi has collected and translated to produce, for the first time, a Muslim gospel. Some of the sayings reflect certain of Jesus' sayings in the Christian gospels, while others probably derive from pre-Islamic ascetics and heroes...Khalidi's efforts bring a...[great] diversity of Muslim beliefs about Jesus into the book. To each story, Khalidi appends astute analysis, and a lengthy general introduction provides a historical and functional overview of the Muslim understanding of Jesus. An unique and important addition to the corpus of writings about Jesus.
— John Green

Los Angeles Times

Jesus captivated the Muslim imagination; in Islam, he is regarded as the last great prophet to precede Muhammad. Khalidi reminds us of the Middle Eastern milieu into which Islam arrived. Under a blazing desert sun, many of the world's great traditions—Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism—mingled in a vibrant, dynamic atmosphere. The proximity of so many religions bred, along with tolerance, unmistakable signs of each other's influence...For many years, Khalidi engaged in scholarly archeology, poring over the Hadith for any sightings of Jesus. In The Muslim Jesus, he presents more than 300 stories and sayings...Consider one interesting East-West parallel aided by the book's chronological format. In a 14th century collection by the lawmaker al-Subki, Jesus is still a cherished figure, instructing Muslims that 'the rich shall not enter the kingdom of Heaven.' About the same time, Dante consigned Muhammad to cruel suffering in 'Inferno.' We might explain such drastically different treatments by the fact that imperial Islam was flourishing while Western civilization was in turmoil. Today, with the situation reversed, the value of The Muslim Jesus is all the more evident. 'Amid the current tensions between Christianity and Islam,' Khalidi writes, 'it is salutary to remind ourselves of an age and a tradition when Christianity and Islam were more open to each other, more aware of and reliant on each other's wishes.'
— Nick Owchar

The Guardian

The Muslim Jesus is as fascinating as it is timely. The sayings are remarkable and often beautiful literary artifacts in their own right; but more importantly, they demonstrate that the links that bind Christianity and Islam are much deeper, more complex, and far more intricately woven, that most of us would expect...Now of all times, it should be welcomed as a book of the greatest importance.
— William Dalrymple

Times Literary Supplement

Khalidi's long introduction is a gem of graceful erudition and analytical wisdom, setting the stage for dozens of often surprising and always fascinating extracts which show all the numerous ways in which Muslims, while denying both Incarnation and Crucifixion, nevertheless have a deep-seated affection and reverence for Jesus.
— Edward W. Said

Christian Science Monitor

This short book contains a millennium's worth of sayings and stories of Jesus drawn from Islamic literature. The title may seem paradoxical; we are not accustomed to thinking of Jesus in Muslim contexts. Enter Tarif Khalidi, Sir Thomas Adams professor of Arabic and director of the Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at King's College...Khalidi proves to be an expert guide to this wealth of material. As a result, The Muslim Jesus is a book of spiritual connoisseurship with a timely and seductive appeal...The Muslim Jesus is handsomely produced. Its pages are well designed and spacious. They invite the eye to linger and the mind to ruminate. Tarif Khalidi has not only risen to the occasion of our present discontents, he has transcended it and lifted the heart beyond sorrow and distraction to delight.
— Thomas D'Evelyn

Books & Culture

The Muslim Jesus is a very good book. Khalidi writes in eloquent yet never pompous English...always striving to be comprehensible to the nonspecialist. Moreover, he has done valuable work simply in collecting, annotating, and translating his material. Thereafter, he lets the material about Jesus speak for itself, in order (I think) to make an important point: that the Jesus of Islam is a creation of Islam. In Khalidi's words, the Muslim Jesus is "a compound image," a figure "resurrected in an environment where he becomes a Muslim prophet." Thus, Khalidi explains, a wide range of Muslim authors used the figure of Jesus as a spokesman for their cause, be it asceticism, quietism, Shi'ism, or anti-Christian polemic...Khalidi is to be congratulated for collecting this material and presenting it in a clear and accessible manner. He has also included a complete bibliography of Arabic sources for the specialist and detailed endnotes with the most important secondary literature for the specialist and nonspecialist alike. Khalidi might also be thanked for writing a book remarkably free of the arrogant tone and the gratuitous attacks on earlier scholars that seem to plague the field of Islamic studies.
— Gabriel Said Reynolds

Journal of Biblical Literature

Tarif Khalidi, professor of Arabic at the University of Cambridge, has assembled a very valuable collection of sayings and stories—303 in number—of Jesus in Arabic Islamic literature. The sources scanned reach from the second to the twelfth Islamic centuries. The book consists of a comprehensive and illuminating fifty-page introduction, the 303 items in chronological order of their sources, and brief helpful comments (on sources, parallels, and function in Islamic discourse) appended to each item… Before Khalidi's efforts, the basic corpus of the "Muslim gospel" used to be a collection of 225 sayings by the Spanish scholar Miguel Asín y Palacios who translated the sayings into Latin (!) and provided brief Latin commentaries on them…Khalidi's collection will now replace that one for those of us whose needs are served by good translations…[The Muslim Jesus] is a great accomplishment, rewarding reading for anyone interested in Islam and in religious transculturation (sic).
— Heikki Räisänen

Middle East Quarterly
From the Qur'an on, Jesus has always had a special place in Muslim piety as Khalidi (professor of Arabic at Cambridge University) shows in his exemplary study, The Muslim Jesus…The 303 snippets that Khalidi translates and comments on from a wide range of sources (hadith, belles-lettres, mystical works, etc.) do convincingly establish his point that "In his Muslim habitat. Jesus becomes an object of intense devotion, reverence, and love."
The Midwest Book Review Bookwatch
The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature is the English translation of the largest collection ever published for a western readership of the sayings and stories of Jesus as found in Arabic Islamic literature. A unique and invaluable resource for the study of Jesus' role and position within an Islamic context…Tarif Khalidis's informative introduction and commentaries place the sayings and stories within an historical context…The Muslim Jesus is an indispensable and greatly appreciated addition to Islamic Studies.
New Statesman

In his fascinating book The Muslim Jesus, Tarif Khalidi brings together, from a vast range of sources, 303 stories, sayings and traditions of Jesus that can be found in Muslim literature, from the earliest centuries of Islamic history. These paint a picture of Christ not dissimilar to the Christ of the Gospels. The Muslim Jesus is the patron saint of asceticism, the lord of nature, a miracle worker, a healer, a moral, spiritual and social role model.
— Mehdi Hasan

Edward W. Said
Khalidi's long introduction is a gem of graceful erudition and analytical wisdom, setting the stage for dozens of often surprising and always fascinating extracts which show all the numerous ways in which Muslims, while denying both Incarnation and Crucifixion, nevertheless have a deep-seated affection and reverence for Jesus.
Frank Kermode
The 300-odd logia are enormously impressive, reminiscent of the Nag Hammadi corpus as well as of the Gospels, especially the Sermon on the Mount, yet altogether distinctive. The combination of sublime moralist and magician is striking, and so is the virtual exclusion of reference to the Crucifixion. The author's introduction makes the general history easily intelligible.
Harvey Cox
Despite the stereotypes and ignorance that have sometimes marred it, the long relationship between Christians and Muslims has also been mutually appreciative and productive. Both traditions have, for centuries, shared a love for the prophet of Galilee. Now for the first time we have The Muslim Jesus, a previously uncollected compendium of stories and sayings of Jesus from Muslim sources, some of them over a millennium old. This invaluable classroom resource will also enrich the present lively dialogue between the two fraternal faiths.
Aziz Al-Azmeh
Ascetic saint, lord of nature, miracle worker, healer, social and ethical model: such is the figure of Jesus in Professor Khalidi's 'Muslim gospel.' A figure of universal reach and resonance, the object of a ubiquitous and all-too-human religious sentiment unfettered by sectarian affiliation, the Jesus of Muslim penitential and sententious literature assembled by Tarif Khalidi is particularly salutary today.
Booklist - John Green
Jesus figures prominently in Islam. Alongside the hadiths, the stories of the Prophet's sayings and actions, appear stories of Jesus' sayings and actions, 303 of which Tarif Khalidi has collected and translated to produce, for the first time, a Muslim gospel. Some of the sayings reflect certain of Jesus' sayings in the Christian gospels, while others probably derive from pre-Islamic ascetics and heroes...Khalidi's efforts bring a...[great] diversity of Muslim beliefs about Jesus into the book. To each story, Khalidi appends astute analysis, and a lengthy general introduction provides a historical and functional overview of the Muslim understanding of Jesus. An unique and important addition to the corpus of writings about Jesus.
Los Angeles Times - Larry B. Stammer
[The Muslim Jesus] helps dispel the ignorance among Christians about Islam. It is a collection of Islamic sayings about Jesus in the Koran and Islamic literature...With a little perseverance, the reader is rewarded with a better understanding of Islam, and an appreciation of how one of the most central figures in Western civilization--Jesus of Nazareth--is perceived by another tradition.
Los Angeles Times - Nick Owchar
Jesus captivated the Muslim imagination; in Islam, he is regarded as the last great prophet to precede Muhammad. Khalidi reminds us of the Middle Eastern milieu into which Islam arrived. Under a blazing desert sun, many of the world's great traditions--Judaism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism--mingled in a vibrant, dynamic atmosphere. The proximity of so many religions bred, along with tolerance, unmistakable signs of each other's influence...For many years, Khalidi engaged in scholarly archeology, poring over the Hadith for any sightings of Jesus. In The Muslim Jesus, he presents more than 300 stories and sayings...Consider one interesting East-West parallel aided by the book's chronological format. In a 14th century collection by the lawmaker al-Subki, Jesus is still a cherished figure, instructing Muslims that 'the rich shall not enter the kingdom of Heaven.' About the same time, Dante consigned Muhammad to cruel suffering in 'Inferno.' We might explain such drastically different treatments by the fact that imperial Islam was flourishing while Western civilization was in turmoil. Today, with the situation reversed, the value of The Muslim Jesus is all the more evident. 'Amid the current tensions between Christianity and Islam,' Khalidi writes, 'it is salutary to remind ourselves of an age and a tradition when Christianity and Islam were more open to each other, more aware of and reliant on each other's wishes.'
The Guardian - William Dalrymple
The Muslim Jesus is as fascinating as it is timely. The sayings are remarkable and often beautiful literary artifacts in their own right; but more importantly, they demonstrate that the links that bind Christianity and Islam are much deeper, more complex, and far more intricately woven, that most of us would expect...Now of all times, it should be welcomed as a book of the greatest importance.
Christian Science Monitor - Thomas D'evelyn
This short book contains a millennium's worth of sayings and stories of Jesus drawn from Islamic literature. The title may seem paradoxical; we are not accustomed to thinking of Jesus in Muslim contexts. Enter Tarif Khalidi, Sir Thomas Adams professor of Arabic and director of the Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at King's College...Khalidi proves to be an expert guide to this wealth of material. As a result, The Muslim Jesus is a book of spiritual connoisseurship with a timely and seductive appeal...The Muslim Jesus is handsomely produced. Its pages are well designed and spacious. They invite the eye to linger and the mind to ruminate. Tarif Khalidi has not only risen to the occasion of our present discontents, he has transcended it and lifted the heart beyond sorrow and distraction to delight.
Books & Culture - Gabriel Said Reynolds
The Muslim Jesus is a very good book. Khalidi writes in eloquent yet never pompous English...always striving to be comprehensible to the nonspecialist. Moreover, he has done valuable work simply in collecting, annotating, and translating his material. Thereafter, he lets the material about Jesus speak for itself, in order (I think) to make an important point: that the Jesus of Islam is a creation of Islam. In Khalidi's words, the Muslim Jesus is "a compound image," a figure "resurrected in an environment where he becomes a Muslim prophet." Thus, Khalidi explains, a wide range of Muslim authors used the figure of Jesus as a spokesman for their cause, be it asceticism, quietism, Shi'ism, or anti-Christian polemic...Khalidi is to be congratulated for collecting this material and presenting it in a clear and accessible manner. He has also included a complete bibliography of Arabic sources for the specialist and detailed endnotes with the most important secondary literature for the specialist and nonspecialist alike. Khalidi might also be thanked for writing a book remarkably free of the arrogant tone and the gratuitous attacks on earlier scholars that seem to plague the field of Islamic studies.
Journal of Biblical Literature - Heikki Räisänen
Tarif Khalidi, professor of Arabic at the University of Cambridge, has assembled a very valuable collection of sayings and stories--303 in number--of Jesus in Arabic Islamic literature. The sources scanned reach from the second to the twelfth Islamic centuries. The book consists of a comprehensive and illuminating fifty-page introduction, the 303 items in chronological order of their sources, and brief helpful comments (on sources, parallels, and function in Islamic discourse) appended to each item… Before Khalidi's efforts, the basic corpus of the "Muslim gospel" used to be a collection of 225 sayings by the Spanish scholar Miguel Asín y Palacios who translated the sayings into Latin (!) and provided brief Latin commentaries on them…Khalidi's collection will now replace that one for those of us whose needs are served by good translations…[The Muslim Jesus] is a great accomplishment, rewarding reading for anyone interested in Islam and in religious transculturation (sic).
New Statesman - Mehdi Hasan
In his fascinating book The Muslim Jesus, Tarif Khalidi brings together, from a vast range of sources, 303 stories, sayings and traditions of Jesus that can be found in Muslim literature, from the earliest centuries of Islamic history. These paint a picture of Christ not dissimilar to the Christ of the Gospels. The Muslim Jesus is the patron saint of asceticism, the lord of nature, a miracle worker, a healer, a moral, spiritual and social role model.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
As a Western religion, Islam gives primacy to the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and considers Jesus to be a holy prophet. In The Muslim Jesus: Sayings and Stories in Islamic Literature, Tarif Khalidi brings together Islamic primary sources about Jesus from the eighth to the 18th centuries. Included are mystical works, historical texts about prophets and saints and, of course, the foundational words about Jesus in the Qur'an. "As a whole," Khalidi explains, these writings "form the largest body of texts relating to Jesus in any non-Christian literature." Khalidi pays particular attention to the literary quality of the texts and the role "the Muslim Jesus" has played in both Muslim piety and Muslim-Christian relations. ( May) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
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Product Details

Meet the Author

Tarif Khalidi is Sir Thomas Adams's Professor of Arabic, Director of the Centre of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, and Fellow of King's College, Cambridge. He is the author of numerous books, most recently Classical Arab Islam: The Culture and Heritage of the Golden Age and Arabic Historical Thought in the Classical Period.
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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Muslim Gospel

The Background

A Sketch of the Qur'anic Jesus

Jesus in the Muslim Gospel

The Early Context

Emergence and Development

The Earliest Sayings: Character and Function

The Later Sayings and Stories

Conclusion

The Sayings and Stories

Notes

Bibliography of Arabic Sources

Index to the Sayings

General Index

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