(Arab. Masihiyya, Nasraniyya, Turk. Hıristiyanlık)
In the Qur’an, the adherents of Christianity are referred to as Nasara or as People of the Gospel, People of the Cross, People of the Book. The Qur’an mentions the faithful and the custodians of scriptures, Christians and Jews, alongside one another. For them, the following promise applies: ‘Indeed, those who believed and those who were Jews or Christians or Sabeans [before Prophet Muhammad] – those [among them] who believed in Allah and the Last Day and did righteousness – will have their reward with their Lord, and no fear will there be concerning them, nor will they grieve!’ (2:62; cf. 5/69) The references to Jesus and his Mother Mary in the Qur’an are full of love and respect (3:42‑51). Yet the Christians are criticised for having declared Jesus – a human being and a prophet – God; for having distorted the Scripture (2:75, 79, 85; 3:78); for having falsified the revelation that had been sent to them (4:171); and for having forgotten and concealed part of what was written in the Scripture (5:14‑15).
A close reading of the Qur’anic verses relating to Christianity reveals that, in contrast to the Christian view, Jesus is referred to as God’s servant and His prophet. According to the Qur’an, as He pointed out Himself: ‘And [I have come] confirming what was before me of the Torah and to make lawful for you some of what was forbidden to you. […] Indeed, Allah is my Lord and your Lord! So worship Him! That is the straight path.’ (3:50‑51). In spite of his proclamation to the contrary, the Christians, so the Qur’an says, elevated him to a deity, and in so doing joined Him to God. Later, they added the Holy Spirit to this concept of God and developed the doctrine of the Trinity. In the Qur’an, the Christians are criticised for this Trinity-based concept of God, and those who confess to this form of faith are referred to as disbelievers (kafir, pl. kuffar) (5:17, 72‑73).
Monastic life is criticised in the Qur’an as well, as it is not part of the essence of Christianity but was introduced later on in order to gain God’s favour. Nor was it preserved ‘with due observance’ (57:27). Initially, monastic life was marked by renunciation of human desires and a turning-away from the world. Some monks and clergy, however, took advantage of this, in that the Christian community declared them saints exalted above the realm of humankind (9:31). It must be borne in mind that, because the criticism of the Qur’an was directed at the Christian view of monastic life in late antiquity, and at a few of the clergy at the time, this critique cannot be generalised.
Even the Qur’an refrains from directing criticism at all Christians in general. Among other things, it refers to Christian priests and monks who were not arrogant and maintained friendships with Muslims (5:82). The Qur’an treats Christians positively as a whole and notes that, among the custodians of Scripture, the Christians are closest to Muslims in terms of their views on love. In this day and age, then, there is no barrier in the Qur’an to continuing the positive rapprochement between Christians and Muslims.