On Sunday 11 March, international guest lecturer Professor Zeki Saritoprak and Ms Saara Sabbagh presented an exciting lecture on ‘Jesus in Islam’ which drew a packed crowd to the Islamic Museum of Australia in Melbourne.

The collaborative effort of Islamic Sciences & Research Academy Australia (ISRA) and Benevolence sought to explore the Islamic perspective of the penultimate messenger of God.

Beginning with surah Maryam, the lecture opened with the recitation of the holy Quran. The esteemed Professor in Islamic theology then opened the floor with a quiz challenging the audience on what they already knew of the Prophet Jesus’s (a) life.

Referred to most frequently, as the ‘son of Mary or Maryum’ in the Quran, the Professor explained that the Prophet Jesus (a) came to reaffirm the message that came before him to “worship only one God.”

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Empathising that Islam too, recognises the second coming of Jesus similar to the Christian tradition, they highlighted the distinction made by it regarding his status as a messenger.

Islamic literature has diverse perspectives on how exactly the second coming will occur as a sign of the day of judgement. Some take a literal perspective, that he will simply “descend from the sky” in a very noticeable and pronounced manner, whilst others have interpreted it in a more subtle manner.

He highlighted the special emphasis of Prophet Noah, Moses, Abraham, Jesus and Muhammed (s) within Islam, “being the highest of all human beings”.

Recognising the fulfilment of God’s message provides Muslims with an important appreciation and understanding to bring to interfaith discussions, the professor said.

“It is important for us, to find common ground with the people of the book”.

He also noted the Quran’s emphasis on the significance of women, praising the strength of character and purity of Mary (or Bibi Maryum).

Ms Saara Sabbath

Ms Saara Sabbagh, founder of Benevolence, also emphasised how both Jesus and Mary are “inseparable in the Quran.”

Speaking with her usually high-spirited charm she drew parallels between the life of Mary and various other prophets. There are arguments to say that she could be placed in the same ranking or station to that of prophethood.

However, fundamental to this argument is the challenging purification processes which Mary underwent over the course of her life.

“Today, we are living in a time of gender-neutral world where discourse has transformed to become more gender neutral. Islam does not recognise this concept,” said Ms Sabbagh.

Noting the renowned scholar Sheikh Hamza Yusuf’s perspective on this issue, she highlighted the focus and attention placed on women within the Islamic tradition.

She explains, that some women in Islam were mothers, but not all of them. Instead, Islam understands that women, like men, are complex and multifaceted.

“Aisha was a woman that fought on the battlefield. Therefore, there is no archetype for women in Islam.”

Ultimately, the greatest lesson which is highlighted from the life of both Mary and Jesus (a) is that they both underwent a spiritual journey where the devotion to God was tested. This firmness in faith is a noteworthy lesson for all human beings.

“We too should aim to purify our souls, because only then, can we bring this light to our community,” she concluded.