مَّا الْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ إِلَّا رَسُولٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِن قَبْلِهِ الرُّسُلُ وَأُمُّهُ صِدِّيقَةٌ ۖ كَانَا يَأْكُلَانِ الطَّعَامَ ۗ انظُرْ كَيْفَ نُبَيِّنُ لَهُمُ الْآيَاتِ ثُمَّ انظُرْ أَنَّىٰ يُؤْفَكُونَ
“The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a Messenger, all the Messengers have passed away before him, his mother was a highly truthful woman. They both used to eat food. See how We explain the arguments for their good, yet see, how they are turned away (from the truth)” (5:75).
The Christian Jesus is not the Jesus (‘Isâ) of the Holy Qur’ân. According to the Gospels, Christian Jesus was born from a “virgin mother” as the “son of God”. His ministry started when he was about thirty years old; he began preaching in Galilee and gathered disciples. He started his final journey to Jerusalem after three years, when he was about thirty-three years old. Towards the end of his final week in Jerusalem, he had the “Last Supper” with his disciples, and the next day he was betrayed, arrested, tried, and then crucified. Three days after his “burial,” he was resurrected; he appeared off and on to his disciples over a forty-day period, after which he ascended to heaven. The Gospels have nothing to say about his life before the age of thirty or about his life forty days after his crucifixion, and they are confused about those three days after he was removed from the cross. As the Holy Qur’ân says: “Verily, those who differ therein [about Jesus death] are certainly in (a state of) confusion about it” (4:157).
Jesus came to demolish paganism. So says both the Church and the Holy Qur’ân. Therefore, his life history should be distinctly different from that of the deities of the ancient world and other pagan gods. However, the life history of Jesus as sketched by the Church is not different from the history of pagan gods, especially the history of Mithra (sometimes referred to as Mithras). Repetition of almost all distinctive features of Christ’s life with those of the sun god Mithra are too numerous to ignore (see chapters p. 211-227). These facts need thoughtful perusal and considered judgment. It should not be difficult for a critical mind and a heart free from prejudice to understand that Christian doctrines cannot safely be ascribed to divine origin.
What the Holy Qur’ân tells us about Jesus life history is indeed very different. In fact, the Qur’ân mentions mainly those events in the life of Jesus that differ greatly with those described in the Gospels. The Holy Qur’ân is not a book of history; the life events of Jesus and his mother are scattered throughout many chapters of the Holy Book, as befit the subject matter of the each of those chapters. If you carefully read all these verses and bring them together, you can easily sketch the life events of this great Prophet.
The name and title: His name and title, “Jesus, son of Mary,” was provided by Allâh, as you read, “When the angels said, O Mary! Allâh gives you good tidings through a (prophetic) word from Him (about the birth of a son) whose name is the Messiah [al-Masîh], Jesus, son of Mary [‘Isâ ibn Maryam]” (3:45). Being given this name and title by Allâh must have had a deep significance; the meanings of the names contain prophecies about Jesus life. Masîh is derived from masaha, which means not only “to wipe away” or “to anoint” but also “to set forth on a survey through the land.” Imâm Ibn al-Fadzal Muhammad Râzî suggested that Jesus was called al-Masîh because he was to travel much. May be Jesus was called al-Masîh because he was supposed to "wipe away" (from masaha) the corruption in the Jewish Temple. In the name al-Masîh was a hidden prophecy given to Mary about Jesus traveling and his art of healing.
The history of Jesus in the Gospels is limited to about three years. What about the other years of his life? It looks obvious that Jesus was not present in his country of birth. He travelled to learn not only the Torah but also other sciences of “Wisdom,” as the Holy Qur’ân says: “And He will teach him the art of writing (and reading) and the Wisdom and the Torah and the Evangel” (3:48). Al-Masih is also translated as the “the anointed,” referring to Jesus as a healer. It is very possible that through his travels in other countries, Jesus learned the art of healing certain diseases that were not known to his people, as you read, “and by My leave you absolved the blind, the leprous” (5:110). The title “son of Mary,” on one hand, show Allâh’s appreciation and acceptance of Mary (see 3:37) and, on the other hand, negate the notion that Jesus was the son of God.
Place of birth: Jesus was born in some oasis as the verses 19:23–26 suggest, under the trunk of a palm tree with a rivulet flowing nearby: “She [Mary] conceived him [the child] and withdrew with him to a remote place [makânan qasiyya]” (19:22), a distant place, not in Jerusalem or its nearby towns. This passage clearly negates what the Gospels claim, that his birthplace was Bethlehem.
Time of birth: Jesus was born when the dates were ripe. At the time of the delivery of the child, the throes of child birth drove her to the trunk of the palm-tree (19:23). She heard a voice calling: “Shake the branch of the palm-tree, drawing it towards you, it will cause fresh and ripe dates to fall upon you” (19:24-25). Dates are not ripe at Christmas time, in the winter, when the days are cold, but during the summer months. Thus, Christmas day is not the day of Jesus birth, as the Christians are told to believe, and the learned among the Christians know quite well that he was not born in the last week of December; this time happens to be when Mithra was born.
Family tree: The Holy Qur’ân gives information on the ancestors of Jesus, primarily to refute the notion of his being the son of God and of his divinity. The mother of Mary is referred to as a “woman from the tribe of Amran.” We read: “(Allâh listened) when a woman of (the family of) Amran [‘Imran] said, My Lord! I do hereby vow to You what is in my womb to be dedicated (to Your service); so do accept (it) of me.” (3:35) According to the Bible, Amran (‘Imrân was the mother of Aaron and Moses [Exodus 6:20], who, according to the Holy Qur’ân, was a recipient of Divine Revelation (20:11–16). Mary is referred to as the daughter of ‘Imrân (66:12). Mary is also called the sister of Aaron. This is a reference to her family tree going back to the sister of Moses and Aaron (19:28). This sister is also mentioned in the Holy Qur’ân in verse 20:40.
Educational development: Jesus was not simply a son of a carpenter, as the Gospels claim, but was according to the Holy Qur’ân highly educated, endowed with great wisdom. Mary received the glad tidings that Allâh “will teach him the art of writing (and reading) and the Wisdom and the Torah and the Evangel” (3:48). Here the mention of knowledge is not restricted to knowledge of religious books but also to the arts of reading, writing, and other branches of wisdom. The fulfilment of this prophecy is mentioned in 5:110, where you read:
إِذْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ اذْكُرْ نِعْمَتِي عَلَيْكَ وَعَلَىٰ وَالِدَتِكَ إِذْ أَيَّدتُّكَ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ تُكَلِّمُ النَّاسَ فِي الْمَهْدِ وَكَهْلًا ۖ وَإِذْ عَلَّمْتُكَ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَالتَّوْرَاةَ وَالْإِنجِيلَ ۖ وَإِذْ تَخْلُقُ مِنَ الطِّينِ كَهَيْئَةِ الطَّيْرِ بِإِذْنِي فَتَنفُخُ فِيهَا فَتَكُونُ طَيْرًا بِإِذْنِي ۖ
“(Again imagine) when Allâh said, O Jesus, son of Mary! Remember My blessing upon you and upon your mother, how I strengthened you with the holy revelation. You spoke to the people (when you were) in the cradle and when of old age, and how I taught you the Scripture and the wisdom and the Torah and the Evangel, and how you determined from clay [a person] the likeness of a bird by My leave, then you breathed into it (a new spirit) then it became a soaring being [a spiritual person] by My leave, and by My leave you absolved the blind, the leprous, and by My leave you raised the (spiritually or nearly) dead to life, and how I warded off the Children of Israel from (putting) you (to death). It was the time when you came to them with clear arguments, but those among them who disbelieved had said, This is naught but a hoax cutting (us) off (from the nation).”
Historians agree that Jesus was viewed as a wise teacher and healer in Galilee and Judea and that he spoke in parables. The Words of verse 5:110 are his style of metaphoric language. Apparently, his healing was not restricted to the spiritual healing of those who were blind in faith or morally and spiritually dead, but also to the healing of those who had become blind or leprous in body or on the verge of death due to the lack of cures known to the people of Palestine.
Jesus, the Messenger of Allâh: Jesus was a Messenger and Prophet to the Jews, in fulfilment of the prophecies mentioned in the Torah.
وَقَفَّيْنَا عَلَىٰ آثَارِهِم بِعِيسَى ابْنِ مَرْيَمَ مُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ مِنَ التَّوْرَاةِ ۖ وَآتَيْنَاهُ الْإِنجِيلَ فِيهِ هُدًى وَنُورٌ وَمُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيْهِ مِنَ التَّوْرَاةِ وَهُدًى وَمَوْعِظَةً لِّلْمُتَّقِينَ
“And We sent Jesus, son of Mary, in the footsteps of these (Prophets), fulfilling that which was (revealed) before him, of the Torah, and We gave him the Evangel [Injîl] which contained guidance and light, fulfilling that which was (revealed) before it, of the Torah, and was a (means of) guidance and an exhortation for those who guard against evil” (5:46).
It should be emphasized that what is known today as the New Testament is not the Injîl given to Jesus, mentioned in this verse. The New Testament is an anthology, a collection of Christian works written in the common Greek language of the first century at different times by various writers; it was finished by about the year 150 CE. Injîl is derived from najala that means to argue. Thus, Injil given to Jesus would mean arguments that were given to Jesus.
وَمُصَدِّقًا لِّمَا بَيْنَ يَدَيَّ مِنَ التَّوْرَاةِ وَلِأُحِلَّ لَكُم بَعْضَ الَّذِي حُرِّمَ عَلَيْكُمْ ۚ وَجِئْتُكُم بِآيَةٍ مِّن رَّبِّكُمْ فَاتَّقُوا اللَّهَ وَأَطِيعُونِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ رَبِّي وَرَبُّكُمْ فَاعْبُدُوهُ ۗ هَـٰذَا صِرَاطٌ مُّسْتَقِيمٌ
“And (I come) confirming that which is before me, namely the Torah, and that I declare lawful for you some of the things that had been forbidden to you. I come to you with a sign from your Lord, so take Allâh as a shield and obey me. Surely, Allâh is my Lord as well as your Lord, therefore worship Him; this is the right path” (3:50–51).
Like all the other Prophets, Jesus preached submission to One and the Only Deity (5:72). Jesus message of reform was deeply rooted in the Jewish tradition. His mission was not a universal mission, and he likely never viewed himself as creating a new religion per se; he felt that he was just reforming the one he had been born into.
يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لَا تَغْلُوا فِي دِينِكُمْ وَلَا تَقُولُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ إِلَّا الْحَقَّ ۚ إِنَّمَا الْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ وَكَلِمَتُهُ أَلْقَاهَا إِلَىٰ مَرْيَمَ وَرُوحٌ مِّنْهُ ۖ فَآمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرُسُلِهِ ۖ وَلَا تَقُولُوا ثَلَاثَةٌ ۚ انتَهُوا خَيْرًا لَّكُمْ ۚ إِنَّمَا اللَّهُ إِلَـٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ سُبْحَانَهُ أَن يَكُونَ لَهُ وَلَدٌ
“O people of the Scripture! Do not go beyond the limits (of propriety) in the matter of your religion, nor say anything regarding Allâh except that which is perfectly true. The Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary was only a Messenger of Allâh, and (a fulfilment of) His word [of promise] which He communicated to Mary, and a mercy from Him. Believe, therefore, in Allâh and in all His Messengers, and do not say, (There are) three (Gods). Refrain (from following this doctrine) it will be better for you. Verily, Allâh is the One and only worthy of worship. He is Holy. Far above having a son…” (4:171).
People of the Script include Muslims, and the warning above applies equally to Jews and Muslim not to exaggerate in matters of religion particularly in reference to Jesus.
Jesus – the servant of Allâh: Jesus was also the servant of Allâh (عَبْدُ اللَّهِ).
إِنِّي عَبْدُ اللَّهِ آتَانِيَ الْكِتَابَ وَجَعَلَنِي نَبِيًّا وَجَعَلَنِي مُبَارَكًا أَيْنَ مَا كُنتُ وَأَوْصَانِي بِالصَّلَاةِ وَالزَّكَاةِ مَا دُمْتُ حَيًّا وَبَرًّا بِوَالِدَتِي وَلَمْ يَجْعَلْنِي جَبَّارًا شَقِيًّا
“(It came to pass that the son of Mary) said, I am indeed a servant of Allâh, He has given me the Book, and made me a Prophet. And He has made me blessed wherever I may be, and He has enjoined upon me prayer and alms-giving so long as I live. And (He has made me) dutiful to my mother, and He has not made me arrogant, graceless” (19:30–32).
Jews planned to crucify Jesus: Some influential Jews in the time of Jesus raised strong objections concerning his prophethood. They wanted to see him die an accursed death on a cross. We are told:
وَمَكَرُوا وَمَكَرَ اللَّهُ ۖ وَاللَّهُ خَيْرُ الْمَاكِرِينَ
The belief that Jews were the driving force behind putting Jesus on a cross has been found in Christian foundational literature from the earliest days of the Jesus movement, and this story has not been easily debunked just because of the arguments of modern historians. Some Jews of today (al-Yahûd- with the prefix al) have hoped that the Christian Church might say that the Jews had in fact played no role in Jesus death. According to the Holy Qur’ân, though, those Jews bear the primary responsibility for putting Jesus on the cross with the help of the Romans. Killing a person by nailing him on a cross, according to the laws of the Torah, was considered an accursed death; therefore, by having Jesus killed on the cross, the Jews wanted to prove that Jesus was a false Prophet according to their traditions. Moreover, a person of illegitimate birth was also considered accursed (on this issue, see the section “The Notion of Jesus Virgin Birth,” below). The Holy Qur’ân has refuted both these charges and has pinpointed the Jews as being the main players in the attempt to kill Jesus through crucifixion (4:157–159). You are told:
فَبِمَا نَقْضِهِم مِّيثَاقَهُمْ وَكُفْرِهِم بِآيَاتِ اللَّهِ وَقَتْلِهِمُ الْأَنبِيَاءَ بِغَيْرِ حَقٍّ وَقَوْلِهِمْ قُلُوبُنَا غُلْفٌ ۚ بَلْ طَبَعَ اللَّهُ عَلَيْهَا بِكُفْرِهِمْ فَلَا يُؤْمِنُونَ إِلَّا قَلِيلًا وَبِكُفْرِهِمْ وَقَوْلِهِمْ عَلَىٰ مَرْيَمَ بُهْتَانًا عَظِيمًا وَقَوْلِهِمْ إِنَّا قَتَلْنَا الْمَسِيحَ عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ وَلَـٰكِن شُبِّهَ لَهُمْ ۚ وَإِنَّ الَّذِينَ اخْتَلَفُوا فِيهِ لَفِي شَكٍّ مِّنْهُ ۚ مَا لَهُم بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ إِلَّا اتِّبَاعَ الظَّنِّ ۚ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ يَقِينًا بَل رَّفَعَهُ اللَّهُ إِلَيْهِ ۚ
“Then because of their breaking their covenant and their denial of the Messages of Allâh and their antagonizing the Prophets without a just cause and their saying Our hearts are uncircumcised (and so cannot hear). Nay, (the truth however is) Allâh has set a seal upon their hearts (thus the Truth cannot enter their hearts) because of their disbelief so that they believe but a little. And (The Lord has done this) because of their denying (Jesus) and because of their uttering a great calumny against Mary, And because of their (falsely) claiming, We did kill the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the (false) Messenger of Allâh (on the cross), whereas they killed him not, nor did they cause his death by crucifixion, but he was made to them to resemble (one crucified to death, and they mistakenly believed that he died on the cross, and thus died an accursed death). Verily, those who differ therein are certainly in (a state of) confusion about it. They have no definite knowledge of the matter but are only following a conjecture. They did not kill him; this much is certain (and thus could not prove the Christ as accursed). Rather Allâh exalted him with all honour to His presence” (4:155–158).
A very clear statement is repeated in the Holy Qur’ân: “They did not kill him, this much is certain” (4:157). Since Jesus did not die on the cross, there cannot be any resurrection or a new descent in later ages. Mary was given a divine promise that her son “will speak to the people when in the cradle [as a child] and when of old age, and shall be of the righteous” (3:46). There is very little written about Jesus early life. In the Bible, the Gospel of Luke (2:41–52) recounts that a twelve-year-old Jesus had accompanied his parents on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and was found in a temple, discussing affairs with some of Jerusalem’s elders. There are no trace references in the Gospels of Jesus speaking in his old age. He began his ministry at age thirty, and there is no mentioning of what happened to him after the incident of his supposed crucifixion about three years later. Killing a person by nailing him on a cross was considered an accursed death (Deut. 21.23), a similarly a person of illegitimate birth was also considered accursed (Deut. 23.2). The Holy Qur’ân says, “They did not kill him, this much is certain” (4:157), in other words he did not die an accursed death as claimed by those Jews, but Allâh exalted him in ranks and freed him of these accusation. The promise given to Mary in the Holy Qur’ân states that he will also speak to people in his old age. You are told after this incident “We gave them both refuge [rabwah] upon a worth-living lofty plateau abounding in (green and fruitful) valleys and springs of running water” (23:50; for Rabwah see the Arabic-English Lexicon by William Edward Lane [London, 1863], Tâj al-‘Arûs and Lisân al-‘Arab).
ذَٰلِكَ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ ۚ قَوْلَ الْحَقِّ الَّذِي فِيهِ يَمْتَرُونَ
Misconceived Beliefs about Jesus
Jesus virgin birth? Christian believe in the virgin birth of Jesus, and there are some who claim to read in Qur’ânic verses that Mary gave birth to Jesus while she was “untouched”. The virgin birth of Jesus from Mary was never an issue at the time of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) and in the early period of Islamic history. As more and more people embraced Islam—in particular, those who had been Christians in Syria and other parts of the Byzantine Empire—they, not being in command of classical Arabic, read into some Qur’ânic verses many of their firmly entrenched beliefs, such as that Mary was a virgin when she gave birth to Jesus and that Jesus was resurrected with his body. When the gravity of knowledge shifted from the Muslim-dominated world to the European Christian world and the Western powers started to influence the Islamic territories, Western missionaries reinforced such wrong beliefs. To support the view that Mary gave birth to Jesus while she was a virgin and untouched by a man, verses as the following are referred to: “She [Mary] said, My Lord! How can I and whence shall I have a child while no man has yet touched me (in conjugal relationship)?” (3:47) and, “She said, How can I bear a son while no man (has married me and) has yet touched me, nor have I been unchaste.” (19:20) These verses plainly refer to the glad tidings through a prophecy to Mary (3:42, 45–46; 19:17–19) while she was still unmarried and in a state of virginity, as she herself confesses (3:47; 19:20). The wife of Abraham made a comparable statement (- Ibrâhîm) when she was given the good tidings of the coming birth of Isaac: “She said, O wonder for me! Shall I bear a child while I am a very old woman and this husband of mine (also) a very old man? This is a wonderful thing indeed! ” (11:72). In both cases the answer the received was the same. Nowhere does the Holy Qur’ân say that Mary gave birth to Jesus while she was still a virgin. You are told that Jesus mother “was a highly truthful woman” (5:75), not that she was a virgin at the time she received Divine Revelation in the form of a prophecy that she will give birth to such an such male child. She received Divine Revelations because of her virtues and piety: “(Recall the time) when the angels (of Allâh) said, O Mary! Surely, Allâh has chosen you, has rid you of all impurities, and has preferred you to the women of all (contemporary) people. O Mary! Be devout to your Lord and prostrate yourself and bow along with the congregations of the worshippers of God.” (3:42–43) Thus, the statement in verses 3:47 and 19:20 was clearly uttered at the time when Mary was still unmarried, and contrary to the practices of most of the women of her time, she “took care to guard her chastity” (66:12). The guarding of her chastity was made an example for the believers, as you read:
وَضَرَبَ اللَّهُ مَثَلًا لِّلَّذِينَ آمَنُوا امْرَأَتَ فِرْعَوْنَ إِذْ قَالَتْ رَبِّ ابْنِ لِي عِندَكَ بَيْتًا فِي الْجَنَّةِ وَنَجِّنِي مِن فِرْعَوْنَ وَعَمَلِهِ وَنَجِّنِي مِنَ الْقَوْمِ الظَّالِمِينَ وَمَرْيَمَ ابْنَتَ عِمْرَانَ الَّتِي أَحْصَنَتْ فَرْجَهَا فَنَفَخْنَا فِيهِ مِن رُّوحِنَا وَصَدَّقَتْ بِكَلِمَاتِ رَبِّهَا وَكُتُبِهِ وَكَانَتْ مِنَ الْقَانِتِينَ
“And Allâh compares those who believe to the wife of Pharaoh. Behold! She said, My Lord! Make for me an abode in the Garden (of Paradise) close to You and deliver me from Pharaoh and his work and deliver me from the wrongdoing people. And (Allâh next compares the believers to) Mary, the daughter of ‘Imrân, she who took care to guard her chastity, so we breathe into him [the believer who is exemplified here] Our inspiration. She declared her faith in the revelations of her Lord and His Scriptures and she became of the devoted ones to prayers and obedient to Him” (66:11–12).
Now, the Word used in the above verse in whom Allâh breathed into is fîhi (فِيهِ), which is masculine and thus cannot refer to Mary. This is the mistake made by many translators. The Holy Qur’ân did not say, “We breathed into her”; it states, “We breathe into him,” clearly indicating the believer who is compared to Mary. Divine breath (rûh) is always used in the Holy Qur’ân in the sense of Divine Revelation. A believer who is exemplified as Mary becomes the recipient of Divine Revelation. Here is another verse in the Holy Qur’ân when carefully read, negates the notion of a virgin birth for Jesus:
“These are some of the important accounts of the things unseen We have revealed to you. You were not present with them when they [the priests] cast their quills (to decide) as to which of them should have Mary in his charge” (3:44).
The Word yakfulu (يَكْفُلُ) has a root in kafala, which means “to take charge” or “to be responsible for.” Yakfulu is a reference to putting Mary in charge of someone who will take care of her and be responsible for her including her marriage. The strongest argument comes from Allâh Himself:
The Word used here is sâhibat (صَاحِبَةٌ), which is a female companion, or partner or a female friend (again see the Arabic-English Lexicon by William Edward Lane, Tâj al-‘Arûs by al-Zabîdî, and Lisân al-‘Arab by Ibn Manzûr). Here Allâh testifies that the birth of a child from someone requires two, and acknowledges that even He would need a consort, a sâhibah, to give birth to a child. This statement refers to Divine Law that a woman cannot bear a child without a consort. How can a Muslim believe in the notion of a virgin birth without doubting the statement of Allâh? That Mary was a married woman when she gave birth to Jesus refutes the charge by the Jews of the time that Jesus was illegitimate and therefore accursed. By keeping her “virgin” and “unmarried” at the time of conception will cast doubt and support the blasphemy charge of the Jews that Mary bore an illegitimate child? We know from the Gospels that Mary was married to an Israelite named Joseph and that Jesus was not the only son of Mary. The Holy Qur’ân has no need to mention the name of a person without any spiritual importance, just as the Holy Book never mentions the names of the relatives of the Prophets unless they themselves are Prophets or Saints.
Resurrection or Ascension of Jesus? The notion that Jesus was raised to heaven [with his body] and that he shall return someday is another common belief among many Muslims borrowed from Christianity. To support this notion, zealot Muslim clerics along with the Christian clergy come forward with such verses as
إِذْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَا عِيسَىٰ إِنِّي مُتَوَفِّيكَ وَرَافِعُكَ إِلَيَّ وَمُطَهِّرُكَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا
Behold! Allâh said: "O Jesus! I will take thee and raise thee to Myself and clear thee (of the falsehoods) of those who blaspheme; [as translated by Yusuf ‘Alî]( 3:55)
Here are two words that need some consideration; the first is mutawaffîka مُتَوَفِّيكَ, and the second is râfi‘uka رَافِعُكَ. If either of these words is a proof of the raising of Jesus with his body to heaven, the question is which one? Another verse brought in to support this misconception is 4:158 where we read about Jesus: بَل رَّفَعَهُ اللَّهُ إِلَيْه “Allâh raised him up unto Himself;” [Translated by Yusuf ‘Alî]. Here again the word râfi‘a رَّفَعَ is used. Let us suppose râfi‘a رَّفَعَ suggests that he ascended, resurrected or was raised to heaven (may be with his body). You would have to give that word the same meaning elsewhere in the Holy Qur’ân (see 4:154; 43:32; 58:11). Reflect on the following verse: فِي بُيُوتٍ أَذِنَ اللَّهُ أَن تُرْفَعَ وَيُذْكَرَ فِيهَا اسْمُهُ يُسَبِّحُ لَهُ فِيهَا بِالْغُدُوِّ وَالْآصَالِ “(This light is now lit) in houses (of the Companions) which Allâh has ordained to be exalted [تُرْفَعَ from the root rafa‘a] and His name be commemorated in them” (24:36). Should you honestly believe here that these houses would be raised to heaven along with their walls and foundations? What about وَرَفَعْنَا بَعْضَهُمْ فَوْقَ بَعْضٍ دَرَجَاتٍ لِّيَتَّخِذَ بَعْضُهُم بَعْضًا سُخْرِيًّا “We exalt [from the root rafa‘a] them (in rank) one over another so that some of them may take others in service” (43:32); are you to believe that the bodies of each of these men of importance were raised to heaven? And what about Prophet Idrîs (Enoch)?
وَاذْكُرْ فِي الْكِتَابِ إِدْرِيسَ ۚ إِنَّهُ كَانَ صِدِّيقًا نَّبِيًّا وَرَفَعْنَاهُ مَكَانًا عَلِيًّا
The root word rafa‘a رَفَعْ is used in the Holy Qur’ân at least thirty times, but only in the case of Jesus in 3:55 and 4:158 do the zealous teachers of simple Muslims give this word the meaning of “raised to heaven with body”. In fact, the words “to heaven or with body” are added very often to the Holy Qur’ân in many explanatory notes without any justification. The rendering of râfi‘a رَّفَعَ into “to raise” make the real meaning confusing and misguiding. This rendering bring the underlying Divine messages of rejecting the divinity of Jesus in doubt and raise Jesus into heaven near to the seat of the God Who is Raf‘î al-Darajât – the Exalted One in ranks
Sometimes the word mutawaffîka مُتَوَفِّيكَ (whose root is wafa) is translated as “take you away”, “took him up”, or “shall take you away” instead of saying in clear words, “will cause you die a natural death. Such a rendering is intended to be understood as “raise to heaven with body”. The root word wafa, in its twenty-eight forms, occurs more than sixty-five time in the Holy Qur’ân. Only in relation to two verses on Jesus (3:55 and 5:117) is the word translated as “take away”, “take him up,” and “will take thee up”. In verse 12:101 تَوَفَّنِي مُسْلِمًا وَأَلْحِقْنِي بِالصَّالِحِين the word Tuwaffanî تَوَفَّنِي in the statement from Joseph is clearly meant in the sense of dying and not in the sense of a physical body rising to heaven.
Here is an example how the real message of Exalted Lord has to adapt to the fancies of misconceived belief of ignorant Muslim clergy. Amatul Rahmân Omer, the first ever Muslim woman to translate the Holy Qur’ân, renders the above verse 3:55 as follows: “(Recall the time) when Allâh said: O Jesus! I will cause you to die [a natural death – mutawaffika], and will exalt you [râfi‘uka] to Myself, [thereby] clear you of the unchaste accusations of those who disbelieve” (3:55). This translation is very near to the truth.
Jesus elevation was elevation in ranks and degrees and not in body. The Elevated One (Raf‘ỉ al-Darajât) is one of Gods Attribute and not of Jesus. Jesus was elevated because of his actions and he was elevated in degree because of his knowledge. God unites the two kinds of elevation in the “Houses in which His Name is commemorated day and night” (cf. 24:36). So was Prophet Idris (Enoch) elevated. There will be some who will continue to disagree and still argue concerning mutawaffîka and râfi‘uka that these Words refer to the raising of Jesus to heaven. However, they must acknowledge the following verses: “They [Jesus and Mary] both used to eat food” (5:75). Jesus, if living bodily in heaven, is somehow taking in his daily food and somehow getting rid of the digested food. Then you read, “Nor did We give them [the Prophets] such bodies as could go without food, neither were they people given unusually long lives” (21:8). The final judgment on this affair comes from Allâh, the Most High, when He says:
At the time of the death of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), many—including ‘Umar Ibn Khattâb(rz), who would become the second Caliph—overwhelmed with grief, were in doubt that the Holy Prophet (pbuh) had died. On this occasion, the first Caliph, Abû Bakr(rz), emphatically recited the Qur’ânic verse: قَدْ خَلَتْ مِن قَبْلِهِ الرُّسُلُ “All Messengers have passed away before him” (3:144). Not a single person questioned his statement by interrupting, “except Jesus.” Great Muslim scholars—those such as Imâm Mâlik ibn Anas, Imâm Ibn Hazm, and Imâm Ibn Ismâ‘îl al-Bukhârî—never mentioned that Jesus was alive in heaven and that the same Jesus would return one day. In the same way, such learned men as Ibn Taymiyyah and Ibn Qayyim were of the same view. It would be a daring invention to say that the ascending and descending of Jesus from heaven, along with his body, is a matter of contention. Modern Islamic muftîs from Jamî‘at al-Azhar in Cairo, such as Muftî Mahmûd Shaltût (in al-Fatâwa), Muftî Mustafâ Al-Marâghî and Muftî Muhammad ‘Abduh, have been of the same opinion. Now reflect on verses 5:116-117:
وَإِذْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ أَأَنتَ قُلْتَ لِلنَّاسِ اتَّخِذُونِي وَأُمِّيَ إِلَـٰهَيْنِ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ ۖ قَالَ سُبْحَانَكَ مَا يَكُونُ لِي أَنْ أَقُولَ مَا لَيْسَ لِي بِحَقٍّ ۚ إِن كُنتُ قُلْتُهُ فَقَدْ عَلِمْتَهُ ۚ تَعْلَمُ مَا فِي نَفْسِي وَلَا أَعْلَمُ مَا فِي نَفْسِكَ ۚ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ عَلَّامُ الْغُيُوبِ مَا قُلْتُ لَهُمْ إِلَّا مَا أَمَرْتَنِي بِهِ أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ رَبِّي وَرَبَّكُمْ ۚ وَكُنتُ عَلَيْهِمْ شَهِيدًا مَّا دُمْتُ فِيهِمْ ۖ فَلَمَّا تَوَفَّيْتَنِي كُنتَ أَنتَ الرَّقِيبَ عَلَيْهِمْ ۚ وَأَنتَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ
“And when Allâh said, O Jesus the son of Mary! Did you say to people, “Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allâh”? He [Jesus] replied, Glory be to You! It was not possible and proper for me to say a thing to which I had no right (to say). If I had said it, you would indeed have known it, (for) You know all what is in my mind but I do not know what is in Yours. It is You alone Who truly knows all things unseen. I said nothing to them except what You had commanded me, “Worship Allâh, my Lord as well as your Lord.” I was a witness over them (only) so long as I remained among them but ever since You caused me to die, You Yourself have been the Watcher over them and You are the Witness to everything” (5:116–117).
When is this question being asked by Allâh to Jesus? Obviously, this question is being asked on the Day of Judgment and not while he was living among his people or hanging on cross. Jesus reply is that he had no knowledge that some people took him and his mother as gods. If Jesus is referring to his first and only life on earth, then he is telling the truth. He could not have known that after his death some followers of his had started to worship him as god. If he were living with his body somewhere in heaven, then in this conversation he would be lying to Allâh, since he would have known that he was being worshiped. What about his second advent? If he must come again to earth in order to wipe out sin, vice, and to establish Truth, then at the Day of Judgment he would have had to know that some people were worshiping him and his mother like gods. Why would he be lying before Allâh? You read in another Qur’ânic verse, which more clearly testifies that Jesus is no longer living alongside Allâh in heaven:
“(Imagine) the day when Allâh will gather together all the Messengers and ask, What response did you receive? They will say, We have no real knowledge, surely it is You alone Who have true and perfect knowledge of all things unseen.” (5:109)
If the same Jesus has to come again, how can he give such a reply to Allâh? Is he lying again? Moreover, Allâh has promised, whosoever enters the heavenly paradise would never leave it. In other words, there is no exit door (see 15:48). Now, if there is no expulsion from paradise, the simple minded who believe in the ascending and returning of Jesus, have to invent a third place, a place other than paradise and hell, to put Jesus. Reason tells you that it is not possible that a mortal body should ascend to heaven and discard all the requirements of earthly life, such as eating, drinking, and breathing, for thousands of years and return to earth again.
The Muslims believe in the finality of the Holy Prophet (pbuh), that he is the last of the Prophets, “the Seal of the Prophets,” as stated in the Holy Qur’ân (33:40). Jesus was a Prophet of Allâh, as all Muslims know and believe, and Muhammad (pbuh) is the last of the Prophets. Now, if Jesus, who is a Prophet in view of Muslims, has to come again, then what about the finality of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh)? Either these Muslims have to negate that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) is the last of the Prophets (khâtim al-Nabiyyîn), or they would have to deny the second advent of Jesus. A strange solution to this dilemma is offered by the zealots: They say that at the time of the second advent of Jesus, Allâh will deprive Jesus of his prophethood. From where did these people get such information? Why should Allâh degrade him and rob him of his title of prophethood after keeping him alive for thousands of years in His presence? What would be the purpose and benefit of such a Jesus?
Those among the Muslims who believe in the bodily ascent of Jesus into heaven and his second advent refer to some Traditions of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). All of these Traditions need careful reflection and interpretation. Any Tradition that stands in contradiction to the Holy Qur’ân, that conflicts with any statement of the Holy Book, either must be rejected as fabricated or must be subjected to careful thought in order to comprehend the metaphoric meanings embedded in such hadîth.
The belief of some Muslims who imagine that Jesus ascended to heaven and that he is alive and he will return one day is based on misinterpretation of some Traditions (ahâdîth) of the Holy Prophet (pbuh). There are many controversies in interpreting these Traditions, and each interpretation invites a number of objections. However, people with knowledge have no difficulty in their understanding. These beliefs originated in the middle Ages, which was as a period of great distortion. The foundations of these beliefs were laid by Christian preachers and have been reinforced during the present dark age of Islam. These Muslims raise the status of Jesus almost to divinity. Reflect on some other Qur’ânic verses to arrive at an answer:
وَمَا جَعَلْنَا لِبَشَرٍ مِّن قَبْلِكَ الْخُلْدَ ۖ أَفَإِن مِّتَّ فَهُمُ الْخَالِدُونَ
وَمَا جَعَلْنَاهُمْ جَسَدًا لَّا يَأْكُلُونَ الطَّعَامَ وَمَا كَانُوا خَالِدِينَ
What Ahȃdîth and Islamic scholars say about Jesus’ death?
- There is a testimony of ‘Âishah(rz), wife of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) who relates that the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) said: “Jesus, son of Mary, lived to the age of 120 years.” (Hujjaj al-Kirȃmah, p. 428)
- There is a similar testimony of Fâtima(rz), daughter of the Holy Prophet (pbuh) who relates from the Holy Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) that he said: “Jesus, son of Mary, lived to the age of 120 years.” (Kanz al-‘Ummȃl, vol. vi, p. 120)
- In the Mustadrak it is reported from Ibn ‘Umar that Jesus lived to the age of 120 years. It is likewise also in the Asȃbah.” (Tafsir Kamȃlain).
- Imâm Hasan(rz) ascended the pulpit after the martyrdom of ‘Alî (rz) and said: “He died on the night on which the soul of Jesus, son of Mary, was taken up, that is the twenty-seventh of Ramadzân.” (Tabaqat Kabîr, vol. iii, p. 26)
- Explaining the Qur’ânic verse, “O Jesus, I will cause you to die (mutawaffī-ka)”, Ibn ‘Abbâs is recorded as saying: mutawaffī-ka means ‘I will cause you to die (mumītu-ka)’.” (Bukhârî, Kitâb al-Tafsîr, on verse 5:110).
- Regarding Imâm Mȃlik, one of the four imâms of jurisprudence (fiqh), it is written:. “While most people believe that Jesus did not die, Mālik said that he died.” (Majma’ Bihār al-Anwȃr, vol. i, p. 286). In the ‘Utbiyya it is written that Mālik said that Jesus, son of Mary, died. (Ikmāl al-Ikmāl, Commentary of Abû Muslim, vol. i, p. 265)
Other great scholars of the Islamic history were of the same opinion when commenting on verses 5:110 and 3:55.
- Ibn Hazm al Qurtabi (Muhalli fil-Fiqh, p. 23); (Jalȃlain, under verse 3:55)
- Ibn Taymiyya: Al-Jawwȃb as-Sahîh li-man baddala dīn al-Masīh, (vol. ii, p. 280)
- Ibn Qayyim: Zȃd al-Ma‘âd, (vol. i, p. 20)
- Abû Hayyân: Bahr al-Muhît, (vol. iv, p. 4)
- Shaukânî: Fath al-Qȃdir Qalmî, (p. 4)
- Muhammad Abduh: Qasas al-Anbiyȃ by Abdul Wahâb al-Najar, p. 428); (Al-Manār)
- Allama Rashîd Razâ disciple of Mufti Muhammad ‘Abduh (Qur’ânic Commentary by Al-Sayyid Rashîd Raza, part vi, pp. 42, 43)
- Mahmûd Shaltût: Al-Fatȃwā, published by Al-Idâra al-‘Ama lil-Thaqâfat al-Islamîyya bil-Azhar, pp. 52-58)
- Mustafâ al-Marâghî: Tafsīr al-Marȃghî, part iii, p. 87 and p. 165)
- Zain al-‘Âbidîn Qur’ânic commentary published with the support of the Iranian Government, (vol. i, p. 268).
Strategies of Evangelists to confuse Muslims
The wrongly conceived Qur’ânic verses regarding Jesus may mislead some to believe in incarnation. By reviving the dead and ascending to heaven, Jesus must be Son of God on earth. Muslims who believe as such have no choice but to attribute divinity to a body. Christian evangelists approach simple minded Muslims by telling them these stories and that Jesus enjoys a special and [may be] a higher status than the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) according to Qur’ân. A status that is close to his divinity. They cite in Qur’ân as Jesus being:
- The word of God (Kalimat-Allâh; 3:45; 4:71; 19:34)
- The Spirit of God (Rûh-Allâh) 4:171; 3:91; 2:86; 5:110)
- The one blessed from God (Mubârak) 19:31
- The Mercy of God (Rahmat-Allâh) 19:21
- The one purified by God (Zakî) 3:46
- The one who stands (or sits) near God (Muqarrab) 3:45
At first glance, the attributes attached to Jesus may create doubts in the mind of some Muslim. In fact, none of the attributes, in any form, given to Jesus are exclusive to him. If they say, Jesus is Kalimat-Allâh (the word of God), so are all Allâh’s creatures His words, as the verse 31:27 tells you. When they say, Jesus is the Spirit of God (Rûh Allâh), and God infused His spirit into Mary (19:17), so Allâh strengthens His sincere believers with His spirit as the verses 59:22 16:2; 32:8-9; 38:71-72; 42:53 inform you. Similarly, Jesus was not alone the recipient of Allâh’s Mercy (رَحْمَةً 19:21). Isaac and Jacob were also recipient of Allâh’s Mercy (رَحْمَةً 19:50-51). Moreover, the word Rahmat رَحْمَةً (mercy) is to be found about 115 times in the Holy Qur’ân. If Jesus received Divine Blessings (مُبَارَكًا 19:31), so did many others. Verses 6:92; 23:29; 28:30 and 50:29 will tell you what else are blessed (baraka) by God other than Jesus. Similarly there shall be many who will be muqarrab to God – that is who shall stand (or sit) near God (56:11-12 and 83:21). Jesus alone is not Zakî (3:46). Zakî are all those who are pure at heart and they believe in One and the Only God, as you read in the verses 24:21 and 91:9.
How Jesus raised “dead” to life? Another misconceived belief among Muslims is that Jesus rose dead to life, and made birds from the clay. The verse 3:48 and 5:110 are cited to strengthen such belief. We read for example in 5:110.
إِذْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ اذْكُرْ نِعْمَتِي عَلَيْكَ وَعَلَىٰ وَالِدَتِكَ إِذْ أَيَّدتُّكَ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُسِ تُكَلِّمُ النَّاسَ فِي الْمَهْدِ وَكَهْلًا ۖ وَإِذْ عَلَّمْتُكَ الْكِتَابَ وَالْحِكْمَةَ وَالتَّوْرَاةَ وَالْإِنجِيلَ ۖ وَإِذْ تَخْلُقُ مِنَ الطِّينِ كَهَيْئَةِ الطَّيْرِ بِإِذْنِي فَتَنفُخُ فِيهَا فَتَكُونُ طَيْرًا بِإِذْنِي ۖ وَتُبْرِئُ الْأَكْمَهَ وَالْأَبْرَصَ بِإِذْنِي ۖ وَإِذْ تُخْرِجُ الْمَوْتَىٰ بِإِذْنِي ۖ وَإِذْ كَفَفْتُ بَنِي إِسْرَائِيلَ عَنكَ إِذْ جِئْتَهُم بِالْبَيِّنَاتِ فَقَالَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِنْهُمْ إِنْ هَـٰذَا إِلَّا سِحْرٌ مُّبِينٌ
“Allâh said, `O Jesus, son of Mary! Remember My blessing upon you and upon your mother, how I strengthened you with the holy revelation. You spoke to the people (when you were) in the cradle and when of old age, and how I taught you the Scripture and the wisdom and the Torah and the Evangel, and how you determined from clay the likeness of a bird by My leave, then you breathed into it (a new spirit) then it became a soaring being by My leave, and by My leave you absolved the blind, the leprous, and by My leave you raised the (spiritually or nearly) dead to life, and how I warded off the Children of Israel from (putting) you (to death). It was the time when you came to them with clear arguments, but those among them who disbelieved had said, "This is naught but a hoax cutting (us) off (from the nation).” (5:110)
You read in verse 30:19 and again in verse 57:17 “It is Allâh Who gives life to the earth after its death”, and again in 30:52 you read, “And you [-Prophet Muhammad] cannot make the dead hear, nor can you make the deaf hear the call when they retreat turning their backs (on you)”. These verses clearly tell you that the “dead” are the ones who are spiritually dead. Anyone who revives a dead soul with the life of spiritual knowledge and truths about real Lord has thereby brought him to life. That is to say, they are formed like a bird that soars high with his enlightened spirit. Allâh says, “He alone raises the dead to life” (42:9). Raising the spiritually and morally dead by God through His Prophets is that eternal, luminous and sublime life of which Allâh says:
مَن كَانَ مَيْتًا فَأَحْيَيْنَاهُ وَجَعَلْنَا لَهُ نُورًا يَمْشِي بِهِ فِي النَّاسِ
“Who was lifeless (before) and to whom We gave life and We provided for him a light whereby he moves about among the people, (6:122)
Another misunderstood words in the above cited verse 5:110 are أَيَّدتُّكَ بِرُوحِ الْقُدُس “I strengthened you with the holy spirit”, [as Yusuf ‘Alî translates]. God, when He perfected the human body said to Engels, “So when I have shaped him in perfection and have breathed My revelation (Rûh رُوحِ) into him, fall you down in submission to him” (15:29). Thus, every human being is attributed with this formal Divine Spirit (Rûh رُوحِ), The word Rûh رُوحِ is used in the sense of Divine Revelation and Mercy in the Holy Qur’ân (cf.16:2; 32:9; 38:72; 42:52; 16:102; 2:253; 2:87; 58:22; 26:193; 4:171). Rûh al-Quds رُوحِ الْقُدُس is that ‘holy spirit’ who brings the Divine Revelation of Allâh’s to His Messenger. You can read in verse 16:102
قُلْ نَزَّلَهُ رُوحُ الْقُدُسِ مِن رَّبِّكَ بِالْحَقِّ لِيُثَبِّتَ الَّذِينَ آمَنُوا وَهُدًى وَبُشْرَىٰ لِلْمُسْلِمِينَ
“Say, `The Spirit of Holiness (رُوحِ الْقُدُس Rûh al-Quds) has brought this (Qur’ân) down from your Lord to suit the requirement of truth and wisdom, (Allâh has revealed it) so that He may strengthen those who believe in their faith and so that (this may serve as) a guidance and good tidings for Muslims”. (16:102).
Christians call upon Jesus their Lord, the Helper and the Saviour apart from “Father” and the “Holy Ghost”. Allâh says:
وَالَّذِينَ يَدْعُونَ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ لَا يَخْلُقُونَ شَيْئًا وَهُمْ يُخْلَقُونَ أَمْوَاتٌ غَيْرُ أَحْيَاءٍ ۖ وَمَا يَشْعُرُونَ أَيَّانَ يُبْعَثُونَ
“And the things whom they call upon apart from Allâh can create nothing. Rather they are themselves created. They are dead, not alive. And they do not perceive when they shall be raised (to life again)” (16:20–21).
Allâh did not say here, and at other relevant places (cf. 21:8; 21:34; 5:109; 3:144) with the exception of Jesus. He could have said so, if Jesus were alive sitting somewhere in heaven. Allâh has expounded the whole affair about Jesus in different ways and with various arguments.
Reader of the Holy Qur’ân must be very clear that Taurâtالتَّوْرَاة and Injîl cited in verse 5:110 and else where refer to the original books that were revealed to Moses (the Taurât التَّوْرَاةَ) and the teachings promulgated by Jesus (the Injîl الْإِنجِيلَ). The Old and New Testaments, and in some other Gospels are not Taurâtالتَّوْرَاة and Injîl الْإِنجِيلَ mentioned in the Holy Qur’ân. Similarly, Zabûr are not the Psalms of David (Clarke, W. K. L., Concise Bible Commentary. London: Society for Promotion of Christian Knowledge [S.P.CK], 1952). Jesus never received his own Book of Law. Nowhere in Qur’ân you read Jesus was given a Book similar to the one given to Moses or to the Holy Prophet Muhammad. The verse 55:110 simply tells us, God taught him the Book – that is “Divine Law” (عَلَّمْتُكَ الْكِتَابَ). As the subject of this chapter is not the review of the previous books, no further details about them will be provided here. [Precise summary on this subject is to read in Qur’ân and Hadîth by Allâmah Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi; Printed and Published by: Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania P.O. Box 20033 Dâr-es-Salâm, Tanzania, ISBN 9976 956 87 8).
In order to understand the word الْمَهْدِ وَكَهْلًا (cradle and maturity) in the verse 5:110 correctly, one has to go back to the original classical Arabic words and their meanings from dictionaries of the classical Arabic and put aside the modern Arabic dictionaries. There are many such dictionaries that can serve the purpose (see introduction and One has to keep in view the allegorical style of the Holy Book.
Therefore, you should be careful what the sermon readers and preachers tell you, and read what Allâh says about them in verses 3:187; 4:51; 5:13-14; 6:91 and 7:162. Allâh speaks the Truth and He is the sole Lord (cf. 3:62)