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17. Understanding Islam

7.2. Christ Spoke in Infancy

This is one of the strange miracles in the Qur’an. The Qur’an relates that when Mary came to her people carrying her baby, they accused her of adultery, saying:

“ ‘O Mary, you have certainly done a thing unprecedented. O sister of Aaron, your father was not a man of evil, nor was your mother unchaste.’ ”

Rather than answering herself, she let her baby answer for her:

“So she pointed to him. They said, ‘How can we speak to one who is in the cradle a child?’ [Jesus] said, ‘Indeed, I am the servant of Allah. He has given me the Scripture and made me a prophet. And He has made me blessed wherever I am and has enjoined upon me prayer and Zakah as long as I remain alive, and [made me] dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me a wretched tyrant. And peace is on me the day I was born and the day I will die and the day I am raised alive.’ ” (Qur’an 19:27-33)

This is strange for several reasons.

– It has no purpose in Islam, as miracles in Islam are confirmation of prophethood. Christ performed many more and far more impressive miracles as an adult, and so this was really not necessary to prove he was a prophet. We further note that children – until they reach the age of maturity (generally accepted to be around 15 years of age) – are not required to perform any religious obligations let alone be a prophet.
– No one had any reason to ask Mary about the father of her baby (other than Joseph), as she was legally married and thus it would be assumed that the father was Joseph. Why then was her family accusing her of adultery? In the New Testament, very little is made out of the virgin conception of Jesus. In fact the only people who knew about it were Mary, Joseph, Zechariah, Elizabeth, and Luke. The virgin birth was due to who Jesus was, and was not the cause of it, and thus it was not a proof of His divinity.
– This dialogue raises more questions than it answers. Did Allah give the scripture to the baby Jesus and make him a prophet, thereby going against the idea of the age of accountability held in Islam, including the principle that no one should be a prophet until they come of age? Or was it pointing to a future point in time when Jesus would become a prophet? I suppose this might be possible but is unstated and unclear in the Qur’an.
– If Jesus was commanded to pray and pay Zakat as long as he remained alive, is he still paying it now (as Islam teaches that he has not died)? And did he pay it when he was a baby?

This story is found in one of the apocryphal gospels, texts written by heretics and Gnostics and not accepted as divinely inspired. Thus it is likely that such was the source of the Qur’anic account.

Islam also tells us about another baby who had a miracle performed on him, but a miracle of a very different sort. When Mohammed was a child – as we saw in chapter one – he had an angel come to him, open his chest, take a little black thing from there, wash it and close his chest again. We are told that was to purify Mohammed. Even according to Islam there is a difference between one who has a miracle done to him to be purified and one who performs miracles to purify others, so although there is no evidence for this miracle, it is interesting that Islam appears to be setting Jesus apart from other prophets (including Moham­med).

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