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18. Bible and Qur'an Series
(A Comparative Study of the Christian and Muslim Attitudes to the Person of Jesus Christ)

Answers to Ahmad Deedat's Booklet: CHRIST IN ISLAM

During 1983 Ahmed Deedat published a booklet entitled Christ in Islam. Although the title presupposes that the author's intent was to produce a general survey of the Islamic concept of Jesus, it is not surprising to find that much of the booklet is a polemic against Christianity. Like most of his publications, Deedat's new booklet appears to be primarily an argument against the Christian faith. We deem it appropriate, in the circumstances, to analyze the issues raised in the booklet and to offer a solid refutation of his arguments. It is not our aim to consider the booklet generally but rather to deal solely with those issues that relate directly to Christian beliefs about Jesus Christ.

We do not hesitate, from the outset, to say that insofar as Deedat has endeavored to discredit the Biblical accounts of Jesus' life and personality he has failed dismally. A good example appears as early as page 6 of his booklet where he claims that the original name of Jesus was “Isa” (as it is the name given to him in the Qur'an) and that it derives from the Hebrew “Esau”. He suggests that Esau is a “very common Jewish name” and that it is “used more than sixty times” in the first book of the Bible, namely Genesis (Christ in Islam, p. 6). Deedat's overall ignorance of the Bible and Jewish history thus appears early in his booklet, for there is only one Esau mentioned in Genesis and he is the brother of Jacob, the true father of the Israelite nation. On every one of those more than sixty occasions it is this Esau alone who is spoken of, and there is no mention anywhere in the Bible of any descendant of Israel being called Esau. The Jews just simply did not call their children by this name.

Jacob and Esau were enemies for most of their lives and their descendants, the Israelites and the Edomites, were often at war with each other. No Jewish children were ever named after the brother of Jacob, the father of the Israelites, for he stood against Jacob and was rejected by God (Hebrews 12:17). It is thus a fallacy to suggest that the original name of Jesus was Esau.

An obvious historical blunder thus appears very early in Deedat's booklet, though the error is not entirely his own. Christian Arabs have always called Jesus Yasu‘ after the Aramaic Yashua‘ from which comes the Greek “Iesous” and the English Jesus. For reasons that have never been apparent Muhammad chose to call him Isa. Deedat's interpretation of this name as “Esau” tends to lend support to the suggestion made by some that the Jews in Arabic cunningly misled Muhammad by subtly perverting the true name of Jesus into the name of their forefather's irreligious brother. If Deedat's conclusion is correct, it militates heavily against the supposed divine origin of the Qur'an.

There can be no doubt, however, that Esau is no nearer to the original and true name of Jesus than Muhammad's Isa. This fundamental error sets the tone for the whole of Deedat's treatment of the contrast between Christ in Islam and Christianity and it is hard to resist the conclusion that the Jesus of the Bible, rather than the Isa of the Qur'an, is the true Jesus. We shall proceed to analyze other subjects in Deedat's treatise which relate the Isa of the Qur'an to the true Jesus of Christianity.

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