The Quran's claim that the first Christians were Muslim

The Quran asserts that Jesus’ apostles called themselves Muslims:
When Jesus found Unbelief on their part He said: “Who will be My helpers to (the work of) Allah?” Said the disciples: "We are Allah’s helpers: We believe in Allah, and do thou bear witness that we are Muslims. “Our Lord! we believe in what Thou hast revealed, and we follow the Messenger; then write us down among those who bear witness.”(Sura 3/52-53)
Although the Quran has no description of how the followers of Jesus went from “bearing witness that we are Muslims,” Sunni Muslims accept as valid an exegesis of the Quran by Ibn Kathir (1301-1373 AD), which would be considered a Hadith (a saying of Muhammad as conveyed verbally through someone close to him):
Ibn Abbas said, “Just before Allah raised Jesus to the Heavens, Jesus went to his disciples, who were twelve inside the house. When he arrived, his hair was dripping with water (as if he had just had a bath) and he said, ‘There are those among you who will disbelieve in me twelve times after you had believed in me.’ He then asked, ‘Who among you will volunteer for his appearance to be transformed into mine, and be killed in my place. Whoever volunteers for that, he will be with me (in Paradise).’ One of the youngest ones among them volunteered, but Jesus asked him to sit down. Jesus asked again for a volunteer, and the same young man volunteered and Jesus asked him to sit down again. Then the young man volunteered a third time and Jesus said, ‘You will be that man,’ and the resemblance of Jesus was cast over that man while Jesus ascended to Heaven from a hole in the roof of the house. When the Jews came looking for Jesus, they found that young man and crucified him. Some of Jesus’ followers disbelieved in him twelve times after they had believed in him. They then divided into three groups. One group, the Jacobites, said, ‘Allah remained with us as long as He willed and then ascended to Heaven.’ Another group, the Nestorians, said, ‘The son of Allah was with us as long as he willed and Allah took him to Heaven.’ Another group, the Muslims, said, ‘The servant and Messenger of Allah remained with us as long as Allah willed, and Allah then took him to Him.’ The two disbelieving groups cooperated against the Muslim group and they killed them. Ever since that happened, Islam was then veiled until Allah sent Muhammad.”
Ibn Abbas, by Wikipedia, was a paternal cousin of Muhammad. This “valid” Hadith is notable for its inclusion in the first century of Christian sects that originated centuries after Jesus lived.

The Hadith refers to the traitor followers of Jesus who proclaimed him as the son of God as “Nestorians.” This is a huge chronological mistake. Nestorianism was a doctrine advanced by Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople between 428-431 AD. There’s no way that a group of Nestorians would have been present among Jesus’ disciples 400 years earlier. It’s interesting that Muslims associate this sect of Christianity with apostates from Jesus, because it’s very similar to the doctrine of the major Christian church in the Sassanid Empire, which Muslims conquered: the Church of the East. The Church has surviving members today in Iraq, Iran, and Syria. In the western churches, Orthodox, Catholic, and Protestant, Nestorianism is considered a heretical doctrine that claimed the divine and human natures of Jesus Christ were totally distinct: “Jesus Christ, who is not identical with the Son but personally united with the Son, who lives in him, is one hypostasis and one nature: human.”

The Hadith also refers to apostate followers of Jesus who proclaimed him to God himself as “Jacobites.” This is another huge chronological mistake. Jacobites were named for Jacob Baradaeus, Bishop of Edessa (Turkey), 543-578 AD. Modern followers of this doctrine are in the Syriac Orthodox Church, who believe their foundation in Antioch by Peter. “Jacobism” was historically condemned by western churches as a form of miaphysitism, which believes that Jesus’ divinity and humanity are combined in a single nature. Jacobites existed 500 years after Jesus lived. And no surprise, the Muslim armies conquered the territories in which these Christians lived. Notably, the Jacobites felt that Jesus had divinity, and that’s reflected in the Hadith’s description of their “apostasy.”

Looking at how the Hadith cites multiple groups of Christians as “disbelieving groups” that killed the true-believing Muslim followers of Jesus, it seems quite notable it cites Christians living in different parts of the Middle East during Muslim conquest. The Hadith appears to bebased on back-projecting Muslim understanding of Middle Eastern Christians (which seem to reflect the actual beliefs these people had) into the 1st century.

That the Hadith uses descriptions of conquered people to condemn Christians is probably an effective way to win converts. “Look, we beat them!” is a great way to convince the ignorant that your religion’s better than that of the land you just conquered. As I’ll address later, the Quran itself plays on Christian misfortune to suggest that the worldly woes of Christians are due to their apostasy from Islam.

Hadith aside, the Quran itself says that the followers of Jesus called themselves Muslims. So what is the evidence for the change to “Christian?”

Using exclusively extra-biblical sources, this seems an easy one to prove. Pliny the Younger was governor of the Roman provinces of Pontus and Bithynia from 111-113 AD. He persecuted Christians, and wrote of them to the Roman Emperor Trajan:
*"they were accustomed to meet on a fixed day before dawn and sing responsively a hymn to Christ as to a god, and to bind themselves by oath, not to some crime, but not to commit fraud, theft, or adultery, not falsify their trust, nor to refuse to return a trust when called upon to do so. When this was over, it was their custom to depart and to assemble again to partake of food–but ordinary and innocent food. "
Pliny describes Christians as committed to a moral life and to eat together, probably in the agape feasts (the early Eucharist). Granted, this was ~70 years after Jesus lived, but this sound like modern Christianity. Pliny was a Roman Pagan, not a Christian.

In another extra-Biblical source, we have the Christian first letter of Clement to the Corinthians (80-140 AD):
“Jesus Christ our Lord gave His blood for us by the will of God; His flesh for our flesh, and His soul for our souls.”
This statement sounds remarkably like what modern Christians say.

The Himyarites were a group of Arabs living in Yemen whose rulers had converted to Judaism. They’d conquered their neighboring state in 25 BC, “Saba” (“Sheba” in the Old Testament). Many Christians lived in the region. In 525 AD, the Arian Christian ruler of Ethiopia invaded an put a Arian Christian ruler on the throne. Also relevant to the story, there was an ancient dam at Marib that allowed extensive agriculture in the arid region built by the previous rules of Saba. In 325 AD, the dam was expanded to allow the irrigation of 25,000 acres. However, river sediment kept collecting on the bottom of the reservoir it held, and though the Himyarites tried to raise the height of the dam, water kept flowing over the top. Apparently some of the ancient knowledge on managing the dam was lost as time went on. In 449, 450, 542 and 548 there were major flooding incidents, with the last recorded repairs took place in 557. In 570 or 575, the dam was overtopped and catastrophically failed, causing massive flooding throughout the region and causing the migration of tens of thousands of people throughout Arabia. Many of the Christians moved up in to Jordan, and other refugees carried word of the flood throughout the region.

That the dam was run by a kindgom conquered by Arian Christians was not overlooked in the Quran:*
“But they turned away [from Allah], and We sent against them the Flood [released] from the dams, and We converted their two garden [rows] into “gardens” producing bitter fruit, and tamarisks, and some few [stunted] Lote-trees. That was the Requital We gave them because they ungratefully rejected Faith: And never do We give [such] requital except to such as are ungrateful rejecters.”*(Sura 34/15-17)
Here is a catastrophe shocking all Arabia a century before Muhammad in the Quran’s depiction of those who reject Allah. Again, this looks like back-casting. A flood happened not because of too such sediment, which the warring rulers didn’t have the resources to manage, but because they were Christians.

Now, assume for a second that you’re an atheist historian. Still, you’re writing a book on the history of Christianity. If you were going to cite historical documentation for the practices of early Christians, you would sound much more credible if you cited historical sources that were closer in time and geography to what those early Christians practiced. An atheist historian wouldn’t cite the Quran as historical evidence of what early Christianity. Someone would believe the Quran over all the other evidence only because they want to believe the Quran is right. To me, this is a case where my “faith and reason” (fnr) are in agreement. To believe that the disciples of Jesus were Muslims, I’d have to reject so much evidence to the contrary as to discredit myself to any historian.

thanks for your wonderful posts. keep it coming!!!:thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup::thumbsup:

Much appreciated! It probably will take me a while, but I’ll try to keep plugging. I put these together to convince a friend not to convert to Islam from (Protestant) Christianity.

I don’t know if you saw the first in the series: The Quran: based on Syriac Christian liturgy?

it almost seems ridiculous because how can the 1st Christians even be Muslim since Mohamed came 600 years later? FNR keep posting, you are doing such a great job in educating others that would or want to think Islam and Christianity are nearly the same since we both believe in one God.

Very interesting. I’m always amazed when people consider leaving Christ for Islam, since its claims are so poorly rooted in both logic and evidence. I hope those tempted to convert are reading this and learning.

I find the most interesting verse in the quran on this subject is the verse that I think actually tells us what the quranic author thought the true Christians were. Because I think it could be reasonably said that without the verse I will give those are vague statements and we really could not know who the quran is talking about, but here it is. Or rather here they are.

Behold! Allah said: "O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; I will make those who follow thee SUPERIOR to those who reject faith, TO THE DAY OF RESURRECTION: Then shall ye all return unto Me, and I will judge between you of the matters wherein ye dispute." S. 3:55

O ye who believe! Be ye helpers of Allah: as said Jesus the son of Mary to the Disciples, "Who will be my helpers to (the work of) Allah?" Said the Disciples, "We are Allah's helpers!" then a portion of the Children of Israel believed, and a portion disbelieved: But We gave power to those who believed against their enemies, AND THEY BECAME THE ONES THAT PREVAILED. S. 61:14

I mentioned this in another thread and from what islamic commentary I have seen on these verses it would indicate that the ones who prevailed and were victorius were considered the romans. Either the Western Romans or Byzantine Romans but in the end both accepted trinity and both worshipped Christ as God in the tradition of the church. Needless to say this presents such a problem to islam that they must reinterpret these verses in a spiritual sense so as to make the quran seem like it isn’t suggesting the roman Christians were true Christians.

I believe the Quran’s assertion that all who believe and follow God faithfully are Muslim since “Muslim”, as I recall, means “one who submits to God”…using this definition as one who submits to the will of God, Abraham is “muslim”…so was Israel…and Jesus…and Paul…on down…saying one can only be “muslim” from the time of the Prophet and only one who embraces Islam as a specific religious tradition is not necessarily taking into account the meaning of “Muslim”.

I think this is spot on.

And possibly that is why in the CCC 841 it is stated as Muslims who “profess to hold the faith of Abraham”.


There is a lot of ignorance going on in this thread. That is what happens with those from other faiths think they can read into the complexities of any topic and tackle it head on.

The fact is-as mentioned by two users in this thread- that their is a clear distinction between the use of “muslim” and “Muslim” in the Koran. The former relates to anyone and anything in existence that conforms to the will of God. The latter is an individual-either a human being, jinn, or even Angel- that chooses to voluntarily follow Islam the religion brought by the Prophet Muhammad.

According to Muslims everything in existence is a “muslim”. Be it rocks, oceans, lakes, trees, galaxies, planets, atoms, etc. Since they all exist they all are conforming to the will of God who created all things.

Then humble us by correcting us O Wise sage.

Sarcasm is the choice of many these days so keep up the good work fellow user. It’s important that people become aware of the workings of other faiths instead of trying to exploit ideas for their own selfish fulfillment.

In this case I think sarcasm is appropriate. Respond to what has been said and critique that understanding.

And leave out the sarcasm while we’re at it too right? :wink:

Responce please.

I am not sure at all who on this thread is trying to exploit ideas for their own selfish fulfillment. Whether you are trying to split hairs over muslim or Muslim and who is considered under which muslim “meaning”, it is most commonly thought and understood that the word muslim is someone who believes Mohammed is the final prophet of God and follows what he he teaches. When people try to tell others that they just don’t get the so called subtleties of a faith or belief system, they are trying to be intellectual snobs. When the Koran claims that the first Christians were really Muslim and that Jesus himself talks about a prophet to come after him, they are pointing to Mohammed. They are trying to support the claim that he is the final and true prophet. They twist and misunderstand Jesus words about the holy Spirit to come after him and say that means Mohammed. To think that a rock is a rock by submitted to God and is muslim is beyond the ridiculous.

Your last sentence shows the unbridled ignorance at play for many people on these boards. The fact is that Islamic theology would agree that anything in existence is a “muslim” because it conforms to the will of God as I just stated. It isn’t too hard an idea to wrap your mind around. Anything that exists does so because of God and hence owes its existence to God. All that “muslim” means is “one who submits”. Anything that exists “submits” to the will of God". Whether you want to call that thing a muslim or not is your choice.

Wu the point in me quoting those verses is that we have a historical continuity in which to understand this verse. Early Islamic commentators believed this was talking about the tChristiains of Byzantium, even prominent Islamic translations to this day. This posits a challenge to the Islamic understanding how could an empire which embraced core things the quran rejects, such as the worship of Christ as God, that he is trinity and various other doctrines possibly be considered true followers of the desciples. The verse is problematic for muslims despite your pretensions otherwise

I still don’t understand exactly what you’re trying to say. The idea of the trinity and Jesus being God isn’t impossible within an Islamic universe. As long as these ideas do not negate the oneness of God they are within the realm being perfectly sane and acceptable subjects within Islam.

The Koran rejects the trinity insofar as it negates the oneness of God. I posted in a previous thread what I had said so I’ll post it here for you.

**One good example would be the discussion of the Trinity found within this thread. Most Muslims would say that the Koran rejects the Christian concept of the Trinity. This is only true if one’s understanding of the Trinity in someway denies the singularity and oneness of God. Not all Christians, or most, think this way though. If you look at the Trinitarian doctrine (s) they are quite careful in preserving God’s oneness.

There is one Koranic verse that some would point to saying that Islam negates the Christian concept of the Trinity. That would be the quote, “Those who say, ‘God is the third of three’ have become truth-concealers” (5:73). Anyone with an elementary knowledge of any Christian catechism lets us know that God is not “the third of three.” God is one and three at the same time. As long as he is three God presents himself as three persons-Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.

There is another Koranic verse that says something similar to what I’ve already quoted. Drawing from the already mentioned verse that I quoted we can get a better understanding of this next one that states:

"The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only the Messenger of God, and His Word that He committed to Mary, and a Spirit from Him. So have faith in God and His messengers, and do not say, “Three.” Refrain; better it is for you. God is only One God. (4:171)

Everyone should notice that the above quote gives Jesus a highly exalted position and states that he has qualities that no other prophet possessed. It also stresses that there is only one God. If faith in Jesus leads to the understanding of three gods then the Koran rejects that. However, most Christians would say that they have faith in only one God, not three (as per the traditional understanding of the Trinity).


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