I am interested to know how the Holy Quran refers to Christians in the Holy Quran? What name or names does it use?
The names by which the disciples were known among themselves were ‘brethren’, ‘the faithful’, ‘elect’, ‘saints’ and ‘believers’.
The title ‘Christian’ for the followers of the teachings of Jesus is historically a Greek-given name not a God-given name. In Greek, the adjectival ending -ianos denoted the adherents of an individual or party. So, adherents to Christ were called Christianos which is developed in English to Christians. The name ‘Christian’ was first given by the Greeks or Romans, probably in reproach, to the followers of Jesus.
There is no record of any disciple calling another believer a Christian or of Jesus applying that designation to himself. Luke in Acts [11:19-30] writes that “the disciples were called Christians,” not that “the disciples called themselves Christians.” According to the Acts (11:26) the title of ‘Christian’ was first used at Antioch for the disciples. When disciples under the persecution of the Jews sought refuge in Antioch which was a Greek city, they were named in reproach by pagan Greeks as ‘Christians’ meaning those who believe in the one who claimed to be the Christ. In the early stages of Christianity to be called ‘Christian’ would most probably equal execution.
Although this title initially carried some negative sense, over time Christians accepted it, as to them it would be an honour for them to be related to Christ (the Messiah; al-Maseeh in Arabic). Hence, the title was universally accepted.
On the other hand, the Jews who did not believe Jesus was the Messiah scorned the followers and the disciples of Jesus as “the sect of the Nazarenes” (Acts 24:5) meaning the followers of the one who was merely born in Nazareth.
The only God-given title for the followers of the teachings of Jesus is given by Allah in the holy Quran. The holy Quran has never referred to the followers of Jesus as Christians (Al-Maseehiyoun in Arabic) or Nazarenes. The term used in the Quran for his followers is ‘Nasara’ meaning the helpers, the singular of which is ‘Nasrani’ meaning ‘the helper’. Just like the term used for those believers in Madina who supported Prophet Muhammad and hence were called ‘the helpers’. The reason as to why the holy Quran is calling the adherents of Jesus ‘the Helpers’ stems from a conversation between Jesus and his disciples. According to the Quran when Jesus began his mission he asked his disciples who would be helping him in the cause of God. The holy Quran states:
“O you who believe! Be you helpers (in the Cause) of Allah as said Jesus, son of Mary, to the disciples: Who are my helpers (in the Cause) of Allah? The disciples said: We are Allah’s helpers.” [61:14]
Therefore, contrary to the name given to the followers of Jesus by the Romans or the Jews, the Quranic title for them is a God-given name and designates their devotion to Allah.
Another title used frequently in the Quran for both the Christians and the Jews, is the appellation of ‘People of the Book’ which is a very honourable title confirming that they historically belonged to the community of the faithful people who originally had a divine Scripture.
Sheikh Mansour Leghaei