Jesus (عليه السلام), A Central Figure In Islam – Omar Suleiman A very specific connection between Muslims and Christians is… some level of reverence and admiration for the person of Isa (عليه السلام), the person of Jesus (PBUH). It’s special. The fact that the two largest religious groups in the world both hold this man in awe and respect and admiration is special. And it’s not something we should take for granted. And you’d be shocked that many Christians have no idea, they have no clue, that we have any regard whatsoever for Jesus (PBUH). The idea that Isa (عليه السلام) means anything to us is a shock to many Christians. Especially when you say, “Yeah, we actually believe in the return of Jesus (PBUH). We believe Isa (عليه السلام) is coming back.” It’s like, “Wait, what? What are you talking about?” Because the assumption is that we are Muhammadans, just as they are Christians, and so we replace Isa (عليه السلام) with Muhammad (ﷺ). And so all of the implications of what Jesus (PBUH) means to Christians Muhammad (ﷺ) means to us, which we know is not true. In fact, a very easy look at that would be that Jesus (PBUH) is mentioned more by name in the Qur’an than Muhammad (ﷺ). Jesus, Isa (عليه السلام) is mentioned 25 times; The Prophet (ﷺ) mentioned by name five times. That doesn’t mean that Isa (عليه السلام) is greater than Muhammad (ﷺ). That means that there is a heavy emphasis on the person of Isa (عليه السلام); the story of Isa (عليه السلام); the mission of Isa (عليه السلام); the message of Isa (عليه السلام). And Allah talks about Jesus (PBUH) in a very holistic way in the Qur’an. It’s not just that he’s not the begotten son of God. There is so much more to the story of Isa (عليه السلام) in the Qur’an. And so as a starting point, when we reach out to our Christian neighbors, we have to start with the person of Christ that, “Look, we have something in common here. Now let’s talk about what we have in common, then let’s talk about where our paths now differ and what the implications of that are.” That’s the way that Allah told us to reach out to different people, to reach out to different communities. Many of you attended the four-week class that we had with Reverend Andy Stoker at First United Methodist. Four weeks where we talked about birth, life, crucifixion, and resurrection, over four weeks. And you can see what a loving dialogue looks like between Muslims and Christians about the person of Isa (عليه السلام) without shying away from the differences, but instead stating them after stating the commonalities. Then you establish that, “Look, Jesus (PBUH) to us is not just to win an argument. We don’t just try to fit him into some broader picture. He is a central figure in our deen. His birth, his life, and his return are central parts of the Qur’an and the sunnah of the Prophet (PBUH). And they mean something to us.” I’ll appoint you to the final moment of that class that we had at First United Methodist. When I mentioned that in our tradition according to a narration of At-Tirmidzi and others that Jesus (PBUH), after he returns and after he dies, will be buried next to Muhammad (ﷺ) and Abu Bakr and Umar in Medina. And I said to the Christians in the church, I said, “Listen, I want you to just separate for a moment everything we believe about Jesus and everything you believe about Jesus, and just think about what reverence this community must have for that man that they would save a spot in the most special place to us as Muslims, for this man when he comes back, that he would be buried next to Muhammad (ﷺ).” And the Prophet (ﷺ) he said that the Prophets are the step brothers. They are step brothers and that they share a message. And in that sharing of that message, they are close to each other. And so the Prophet (ﷺ) says, “I’m the closest person to Isa (عليه السلام).” So think about it. The Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) says, “I am the closest person to the Prophet Jesus (PBUH) because there is no Nabi between me and him, there is no Prophet that came between me and him.” He was the last Prophet before the last Prophet (ﷺ).