Mecca was home to Christians as well as Jews at the time of our Prophet (PBUH). The Quran refers to them as the people of the book. It refers to the Meccans who were engaged in idol worship as مشرکین (Mushrikeen) and کفّار (Kuffar) since no divine messengers had come to them until that time. The Christian were closer chronologically to Meccans as Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) came after Jesus (PBUH). Therefore, the Meccans were quite acquainted with Christian religious rites and customs. The Quran directed its call to all – whether they were the people of the book, Christians or Jews; or whether they were the idol worshipper Meccans without any previous divine book. It proclaims: فَإِنْ آمَنُوا بِمِثْلِ مَا آمَنتُم بِهِ فَقَدِ اهْتَدَوا (2:137) – And if [others] come to believe in the way you O Prophet believe, they will indeed find themselves on the right path.
According to the Quran, we cannot differentiate messengers whom Allah sent to various peoples. All messengers hailed from the same divine source and we cannot prefer one to the other: لَا نُفَرِّقُ بَيْنَ أَحَدٍ مِّن رُّسُلِهِ (2:285) – We make no distinction between any of His messengers. The Quran mentions each of the messengers with respect and fairness. Their mission was same – establishing the Deen of Allah – although their implementation horizons were different. This was due to the evolving nature of humanity not due to preference.
The Quraysh objected to the Prophet as to why he was not as hostile to the Christians’ idols as much as he was to their idols. The followers of Jesus had deviated from his teaching Tauheed (توحید) and were engaged in (شرک) shirk. They kept statues of Christ and various saints in their churches. So, the Arabs used to criticize the Prophet for denunciating their idols but not those of the Christians’ idols. They could not understand the subtle difference that Jesus was Allah’s messenger whom his followers were misrepresenting him and were engaged in beliefs and practices that were against his teaching. Therefore, when the Prophet (PBUH) mentioned his name with respect, they criticized him. وَلَمَّا ضُرِبَ ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ مَثَلًا إِذَا قَوْمُكَ مِنْهُ يَصِدُّونَ (43:57) – And whenever Jesus son of Mary is mentioned by you with respect, your people (O Messenger) raise an outcry. His people could not understand that the Prophet (PBUH) was respecting Jesus as a messenger of Allah, not what his followers had made him out to be. When negative emotions take over, people start engaging in crooked arguments. وَقَالُوا أَآلِهَتُنَا خَيْرٌ أَمْ هُوَ ۚ مَا ضَرَبُوهُ لَكَ إِلَّا جَدَلًا ۚ بَلْ هُمْ قَوْمٌ خَصِمُونَ (43:58) – And they said, “Are your gods better, or is he?” They did not present the comparison except for mere argument. But, in fact, they are a people prone to dispute.
Although they did not have any prior messenger, Arabs did know – and were proud about it – that their ancestors were descendants of Ibrahim (PBUH) who was a messenger of Allah. Therefore, they were really engaged in crooked arguments with the Prophet (PBUH) because he was challenging their status quo. Not only that, they also knew the facts about Jesus. إِنْ هُوَ إِلَّا عَبْدٌ أَنْعَمْنَا عَلَيْهِ وَجَعَلْنَاهُ مَثَلًا لِّبَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ (43:59) – As for Jesus, he was nothing but a human being - a servant of Ours whom We had graced him with prophethood, and whom We made an example for the children of Israel.
The Quran has called messengers as the عبد (‘Abd – servant) of Allah. How uplifting and respectful it is to be the عبد (‘Abd – servant) of Allah – the One and the only Supreme Sovereign? It frees man to walk past all the sovereigns of the world. As Allama Iqbal says:
You find so burdensome, this One prostration;
In fact, frees man from thousand prostrations!
That one prostration (سجدہ Sijdah) is necessary. (سجدہ Sijdah) means to submit completely to the obedience of Allah. The more one submits the more one gets closer to Allah. وَاسْجُدْ وَاقْتَرِب (96:17) – prostrate yourself and draw close unto Him! A messenger’s position is one of complete obedience and submission to Almighty Allah.
Ibrahim (PBUH) had two sons Ismail and Isaac. Israel was nickname of Jacob, son of Isaac. Ismail settled in Hijaz whose descendants are the Arabs. Therefore, the Israelites and the Arabs are actually cousins. All the powerful divine messengers after Isaac – Jacob, Joseph, David, Solomon …Moses, Jesus – came to Israelites. No messengers came to Arabs after Ismail.
Bible mentions that Jesus used to speak in parables because of extreme tyranny and oppression of the Roman Empire. In addition, the exploitation and corruption in the temples run by the entrenched priesthood was no less tyrannical and oppressive. Jesus could not deliver the divine message directly. Therefore, he spoke in parables. From the literary point of view, this is a beautiful and very effective style. Here is an example, The Parable of the Wicked Tenants:
There was a householder who planted a vineyard, and set a hedge around it, and dug a wine press in it, and built a tower, and let it out to tenants, and went into another country. When the season of fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the tenants, to get his fruit; and the tenants took his servants and beat one, killed another, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first; and they did the same to them. Afterward he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the tenants saw the son, they said to themselves, ‘This is the heir; come, let us kill him and have his inheritance.’ And they took him and cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. When therefore the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” They said to him, “He will put those wretches to a miserable death, and let out the vineyard to other tenants who will give him the fruits in their seasons.”
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: ‘The very stone which the builders rejected has become the head of the corner; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing the fruits of it.”
And he who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces; but when it falls on any one, it will crush him. When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking about them. But when they tried to arrest him, they feared the multitudes, because they held him to be a prophet. [Matthew 21:33-46]
We can see how Jesus delivered the divine message in this powerful parable style. When the leaders, priests, soothsayers, and sorcerers listened to this message, they obviously understood that this message was directed against them.
In Bible, there is mention of a new messenger coming after Jesus from the progeny of Ismail who will complete Jesus’s mission. Even in the current Bible, there is mention of this change – and in the Barnabas Bible even the Prophet’s name is mentioned. In the Gospel of John the old Greek word, ““Parakletos”” has been translated as “comforter” or “helper”.
The Quran mentions the name “Ahmad” of a future messenger as the prophecy of Jesus. After research, it has been found out that the Greek word “Parakletos” (rendered into English, as “Paraclete”) was in fact “Ahmad”. The Prophet (PBUH) was known by both names, “Muhammad” or “Ahmad”. Barnabas mentions the name “Ahmad” as the one who will come after Jesus to complete his mission. However, in other Bibles its translation says “comforter” or “Helper”. Here are some examples:
“But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me.” – King James Bible.
“But when the Paraclete cometh, whom I will send you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceedeth from the Father, he shall give testimony of me.” – Douay-Rheims Bible.
“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me.” – English Standard Version.
Jesus told his people to have faith and not to despair. He told them that the family of messengers comes from the same divine source and they bring the same message. That another messenger will come and complete this mission and will free humanity from the shackles and bonds imposed on them (by tyrant rulers and their co-conspirators and priests) as mentioned in the Quran (verse 157 of Surah A’raaf):
“Those who follow the messenger, the unlettered Prophet, whom they find mentioned in their own scriptures – in the Torah and the Gospel. He commands them what is just and forbids them what is evil; he allows them as lawful what is good (and pure) and prohibits them from what is bad (and impure). He releases them from their heavy burdens and from the yokes that are upon them by other humans. So it is those who believe in him, honor him, help him, and follow the light (i.e., the Quran) which is sent down with him, it is they who will prosper (7:157).”
This chain of messengers come to move forward the divine program, and not to compete with one another. The next messenger started from where the previous messenger had left off and moved the divine mission one-step closer to its final goal, until the last messenger came to complete the divine program. وَتَمَّتْ كَلِمَتُ رَبِّكَ صِدْقًا وَعَدْلًا (6:15) – Allah’s laws based on truth and justice have been set forth in this Book in a complete form. And 5:3 أَكْمَلْتُ لَكُمْ دِينَكُمْ ) – I perfected your دین (Deen) for you. The previous messengers did not have separate missions but the same divine mission that reached its culmination at the hands of the last messenger (PBUH). وَإِنَّهُ لَعِلْمٌ لِّلسَّاعَةِ فَلَا تَمْتَرُنَّ بِهَا وَاتَّبِعُونِ ۚ هَـٰذَا صِرَاطٌ مُّسْتَقِيمٌ (43:61): “Now you should have no doubt about this. You should follow me because this is the only straight and balanced path”.