Is Jesus uniquely the Word of God?
“According to the Qur’ān Jesus is not uniquely the Word of God, since in Al-‘Imran 3:39 John the Baptist is also called a Word.”
Zakir Naik has made the allegation that Al-‘Imran 3:39 calls John the Baptist also the Word of God,1 so this title does not point to the unique role of Jesus. If we read the verse, it is clear that it speaks of John the Baptist confirming Jesus as the Word:
“… Allah gives you the good news of Yahya verifying a Word from Allah, and honorable and chaste and a prophet from among the good ones.” (Sura Al-‘Imran 3:39)
The Early Commentators almost unanimously affirm that this “Word” of Allah is Jesus. Here is the tafsir of Ibn Abbas on this verse:
(And the angels) i.e. the Angel Gabriel (called to him as he stood praying in the sanctuary) in the mosque: (Allah giveth thee glad tidings of John) a son whose name is John, ((who cometh) to confirm a Word from Allah) Jesus son of Mary that he will be a word from Allah , created without a father, (lordly) who is clement when wronged, (chaste) has no desire for women, (a Prophet of the righteous) among the messengers. ( Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs )2
And the classic Tafsir al-Jalalayn on this verse:
And the angels, namely, Gabriel, called to him, standing in the sanctuary, in the temple, at worship that (anna, means bi-anna; a variant reading has inna, implying a direct speech statement) ‘God gives you good tidings (read yubashshiruka, or yubshiruka) of John, who shall confirm a Word, being, from God, namely, Jesus, that he is God’s Spirit; he is referred to as [God’s] ‘Word’, because he was created through the word kun , ‘Be’; a lord, with a following, and one chaste, forbidden from women, and a prophet of the righteous’: it is said that he never sinned and never so intended.3
Other scholars like al-Zamakhshari and Tabarsi concur, and of course the historical account of John the Baptists’ life in the Injīl shows that his primary role was to direct people to Jesus:
“There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe.” (John 1:7, see also John 1:14)
John the Baptist, Jesus’ relative, prepared the way for Jesus the Word and directed people to him, as the Injīl clearly relates in numerous passages.
- Zakir Naik, Da’wah Training Programme, retrieved from: www.irf.net/irf/dtp/dawah_tech/t18/t18a/pg1.htm on July 19, 2009.
- Tanwîr al-Miqbâs min Tafsîr Ibn ‘Abbâs, trans. Mokrane Guezzou, Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, Amman, Jordan (http://www.altafsir.com)
- Tafsir al-Jalalayn , transl. Feras Hamza, Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, Amman, Jordan (: http://www.altafsir.com).