I-heart-JesusBy Hesham A. Hassaballa, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

You’re a Muslim, so why did you write a book about the founder of Christianity?”

These were the beginning words of a now-viral Fox News interview with American religious scholar Reza Aslan about his new book “Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth.” As breathtaking as the ignorance of the question was, his calm and measured response was equally breathtaking:

“Well, to be clear, I am a scholar of religions with four degrees, including one in the New Testament, and fluency in biblical Greek, who has been studying the origins of Christianity for two decades, who also just happens to be a Muslim. So, it’s not that I’m just some Muslim writing about Jesus, I am an expert with a Ph.D in the history of religions.”

His interviewer, Lauren Green, did not stop pressing the issue: “It still begs the question: why would you be interested in the founder of Christianity?”

For Mr. Aslan, it is his “job as an academic,” but the basis of her question seems to be that a Muslim would simply not be interested in Jesus. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus is so much a part of Islamic belief that the more accurate question would be: Why wouldn’t a Muslim be interested in Jesus?

The Quran mentions Jesus Christ more by name than the Prophet Muhammad himself. There are dozens of verses that speak of Jesus, including his birth (3:45-49), his miracles (5:110), the Last Supper (5:113-115). Chapter 19 is named “Mary” after his mother, and many verses speak very highly of Jesus Christ.

Jesus, as the Quran says, “shall be of the righteous” (3:46). “Peace be upon me the day I was born,” says Jesus in the Quran, “and on the day of my death, and on the day when I shall be raised to life !” (19:33). The Quran also calls upon its readers to remember “she who guarded her chastity, whereupon We breathed into her of Our spirit and caused her, together with her son, to become a symbol unto all people” (21:91), referring to Mary and Jesus. (Read the full article)

Hesham A. Hassaballa is a Chicago-based doctor and writer.

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