5. The Word ‘Issa, “walad (child)” or “Ibn (Son)”?


 Let us take up again the sura “The Family of Imran.” The childhood of Maryam passes itself in the sanctuary: “Her Lord accepted her with a gracious reception, and brought her a beautiful upbringing, and entrusted her to the care of Zachariya. Whenever Zachariya entered upon her in the sanctuary, he found her with provision. He said, ‘O Mary, where did you get this from?’ She said, ‘It is from God; God provides to whom He wills without reckoning’” (s. 3, 37). Is not the sanctuary the place where God speaks, that is to say, transmits his Word? This sura itself speaks to us justly of a Word who is the child (walad) of Maryam (s. 3, 46).

To say “child or son,” the Arabic language has two words: walad and ibn (bint). Abdellah Bounfour explains that the term “walad” is connected first to the generating mother, then to the genitor, whereas the term “ibn” is connected to the filiation constituted by the naming (1). The “Son” (ibn) is the heir, he is the one whom the Father calls “Son.” Always with the term “ibn” we speak allegorically of the inhabitants of the Roman Empire as the “sons of Caesar,” or even, poetically, of wine (feminine in Arabic) as being “the daughter of the vine.”

The Word ‘Issa is “walad” of Maryam: he is her child in the flesh. But he is evidently not a “walad” of God for God does not give birth! “Allah has not in fact adopted a child [walad] and there is no companion [for Him] in the fact of divinity [ilah]” (Sura “The Believers,” s. 23.91). “Say (O Muḥammad ~): If there had been to the Merciful a child [walad], I would be the first to adore him” (Sura “The Ornaments,” s. 43, 81). “Say not: ‘Three’; stop. It would be better for you. Surely Allah is the unique divinity! Glory to Him! How would he have a child [walad]?” (Sura “The Women,” s. 4, 171).

The Koran accuses the Christians but in reality, the Christians never designate the Word (‘Issa) as the “walad” of God; rather, he is called “Son-Ibn” by the Father, he is the Son-heir. “For as the Father has life in himself, so he has granted the Son also to have life in himself” (John 5, 26). “For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him” (John 3,17). Jesus (‘Issa) has an interior link with God, as he says: “I and the Father are one” (John 10, 30). What is this interior link? The Gospel speaks of it:

At the moment where John (Yahya) baptized Jesus (‘Issa) in the Jordan, a celestial voice made itself heard: “You are my beloved Son (Ibn), in you My will (2) (Mark, 1, 11). And who knows better the will of God than the Son-Word? Jesus (‘Issa) said again: “For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him who sent me” (John 6, 38). “If God were your father, you would burn with love for me. I, in effect, proceeded and came forth from God. It was not from the desire of my soul that I came, but it is He who sent me” (John 8, 42).

The Church will define later that such a union of wills is the place of the unity of the human nature and the divine nature, of the Word with the Father, the Father with the Son-Ibn (3).


(1) Abdellah BOUNFOUR, De l’enfant au fils, Essai sur la filiation dans les Mille et une nuits, p. 6. E.J. Brill, Leyden, 1995.
(2) Aramean ṣbā.
(3) 2nd Lateran Council in the year 649.