<a href="https://biblicalmissiology.org/blog/author/ayman-ibrahim/" target="_self">Ayman Ibrahim</a>

Ayman Ibrahim

Ayman S. Ibrahim, Ph.D., was born and raised in Egypt. He recently completed his second Ph.D. in Islamic History at the University of Haifa, Mount Carmel, examining conversions to Islam in the earliest Muslim period. He is Associate Professor of Islamic Studies at Southern Seminary and director of the Jenkins Center for the Christian Understanding of Islam. His publications include The Stated Motivations for the Early Islamic Expansion and Muslim Conversions to Christ.


  1. In North Africa

    This article makes a lot of good points. To keep this comment brief, I won’t repeat them. I thank the author and honour him for his efforts to preserve the word of God and promote accurate translations of the Bible. I haven’t come across him before, but now I want to read more of his work.

    Let be upfront: I personally accept the usage of the word “Yasu” يسوع, and I also accept the word “Isa” عيسى. They both refer to Jesus/Yeshua/Iésous of Nazareth, the son of Mary. I reject the doctrines of Islam about him, at least the ones that differ from what the Bible teaches, just like I reject the false doctrines of Mormons, or Jehovah’s witnesses, no matter how they name Jesus. I think the insider movement goes too far and the translation of the Bible especially should not prioritise cultural sensitivities over accuracy. I disagree with those who say we should only use the word “Isa” عيسى, but I also disagree with those who say we should only ever use the word “Yasu” يسوع. I think both give too much important to cultural issues. Instead, we should use the word that is most appropriate, understand and accurate for the audience at the time, without causing unnecessary offence, and without shying away from any necessary offence.

    I would like to express disagreement on one section of this article:

    > If Muslims hear or read about “Isa,” what might happen immediately in their minds? In the Quran,

    > Isa is not God,
    > Isa is not the Son of God,
    > Isa is merely a servant messenger of the deity,
    > Isa denies the Trinity,
    > Isa is not crucified,
    > Isa is only a human, and so forth.3

    Using similar logic, one could make a similar argument regarding the word “Allah” الله, like this:

    > If Muslims hear or read about “Allah,” what might happen immediately in their minds? In the Quran,

    > Allah is not Jehovah,
    > Allah is not three in one (Father, Son and Spirit)
    > Allah has no son,
    > Allah has not become flesh, and will not, and so forth

    By the same logic, we should throw out the word “Allah” الله from Arabic translations of the Bible. And we should throw out the word “God” from English translations of the Bible (since it is derived from the word “Zeus” the Greek god). But I think these arguments are faulty, for similar reasons. Just because a word is used in another religion’s lexicon does not mean that that word necessarily brings with it all the doctrines of that religion. Arabic speakers are intelligent and are not prone to making this mistake, even ones who are not well educated. This article would have been more persuasive to me if it explained why it is acceptable to translate Theos “Allah” الله, but not acceptable to translate Iésous “Isa” عيسى. Isn’t the answer just that that is the culture of Arab Christians and those who have been influenced by them?

    In my experience, Arabic Christians do indeed dislike the word “Isa” عيسى and prefer “Yasu” يسوع, both ones that converted from Islam, and ones that grew up in churches with a rich history (like the Coptic church). They are sensitive to the word “Isa” عيسى because of the associations with Islam that they have been taught to be sensitive to, and I think these sensitivities need to be respected and listened to. They could have just as easily been taught to be sensitive to the word “Allah” الله, but for historic reasons lost to me, they weren’t, and so they aren’t now. I am meeting more and more Arab Christians that are willing to use the word “Isa” عيسى, because they feel no need to be dogmatic about this issue, not because they accept the ideas of the insider movement. These are in the minority, though.

    As for Muslim Arabic speakers, unlike the author, I have met plenty who did not know that “Yasu” يسوع refers to the son of Mary. But it hasn’t caused a big problem, as it is very easy to explain that “Yasu” يسوع is the name we use for the son of Mary, the Messiah. It is as easy as explaining that Americans say “to-may-to”, and Brits say “to-mah-to”.

  2. Pierre Rashad Houssney

    Incredibly thoughtful, well-researched, and well articulated!

    Wonderful job, brother Ayman!

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