The view of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah concerning `Isa the son of Maryam

Q: Is `Isa (Jesus, peace be upon him) alive or dead according to the viewpoint of the Holy Qur'an and Sunnah?


A: Scholars of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah (adherents to the Sunnah and the Muslim mainstream) hold the view that `Isa (peace be upon him) is still alive, and that Allah (Exalted be He) raised him to heaven from where he will descend (Part No. 3; Page No. 300) at the end of time to rule the earth with the Shari`ah (Islamic law) of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). He will preach the same true guidance brought by Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). This view is supported by textual evidence of the Qur'an and authentic Hadiths. Refuting the slanderous lie of the Jews, Allah (Exalted be He) says: And because of their saying (in boast), "We killed Messiah ‘Isâ (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), the Messenger of Allâh," - but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but it appeared so to them [the resemblance of ‘Isâ (Jesus) was put over another man (and they killed that man)], and those who differ therein are full of doubts. They have no (certain) knowledge, they follow nothing but conjecture. For surely; they killed him not [i.e. ‘Isâ (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary) عليهما السلام]: But Allâh raised him [‘Isâ (Jesus)] up (with his body and soul) unto Himself (and he عليه السلام is in the heavens). And Allâh is Ever All-Powerful, All-Wise. In this Ayah (verse), Allah (Glorified be He) not only blames the Jews for their false claim of killing or crucifying `Isa (peace be upon him) but also confirms the fact that He raised him alive unto Himself as mercy and honor to him. This act of ascension is seen as one of the wondrous miracles of Allah (Exalted be He) which He bestows upon whoever He wills of His Messengers. `Isa, son of Maryam (Mary, peace be upon her) worked many such wondrous miracles from his birth till his ascension. The meaning stated in the Qur'anic Ayah which reads: But Allâh raised him [‘Isâ (Jesus)] up (with his body and soul) unto Himself (and he عليه السلام is in the heavens). Necessitates that He raised the body and soul of `Isa which refutes the Jews' alleged claim that they crucified and killed him. This is because it is the body that essentially suffers the pain of death. Moreover, believing that only the soul of `Isa was raised lends support to the claim of the crucifixion. Furthermore, the fact that Allah (Exalted be He) raised the body and soul of `Isa accords with the nature of His Might, Honor, and the support that He gives to any of His Messengers as He wills. This reason is implied in the concluding words of the above Ayah which reads: And Allâh is Ever All-Powerful, All-Wise. Allah (Exalted be He) also says: And there is none of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) but must believe in him [‘Isâ (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), as only a Messenger of Allâh and a human being] before his [‘Isâ (Jesus) عليه السلام) or a Jew’s or a Christian’s] death (at the time of the appearance of the angel of death). And on the Day of Resurrection, he [‘Isâ (Jesus)] will be a witness against them. In this Ayah (verse), Allah (Glorified be He) states that (Part No. 3; Page No. 301) all the People of the Scripture will believe in `Isa before he (`Isa) dies. This will take place when `Isa descends from heaven at the end of time. He will rule with the Islamic Shari`ah and call people to embrace Islam as will be discussed later. This is the most preferable interpretation of the Ayah. The context of the Ayah speaks of the stand of the Jews towards `Isa and their evil plotting against him that reveals the eternal truth of the promise of Allah (Exalted be He) to help His servants and defeat His enemies. Thus, the third person pronoun in the two Arabic words "bihi", meaning, in him and "mawtihi," meaning, his death refers to `Isa in conformity with the context. It has been authentically reported on the authority of Abu Hurayrah that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, surely (Jesus,) the son of Mary will soon descend amongst you and will judge mankind justly (as a Just Ruler); he will break the Cross, kill the swine, and abolish the Jizya (a tax taken from the non-Muslims, who are under the protection of the Muslim government). Wealth will pour forth to such an extent that no one will accept it. Abu Hurayrah added, "If you wish, you can recite (this verse of the Holy Book): And there is none of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) but must believe in him [‘Isâ (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), as only a Messenger of Allâh and a human being] before his [‘Isâ (Jesus) عليه السلام) or a Jew’s or a Christian’s] death (at the time of the appearance of the angel of death). In another narration on the authority of Abu Hurayrah, the Prophet (peace be upon him) said: How will you be when the son of Mariam (Mary) (`Isa (Jesus) descends amongst you and your Imam is amongst you (you are lead by the legislation of Allah and the Qur'an) or ( he (`Isa ) will judge people by the Law of the Qur’an and not by the law of Gospel.) It is authentically reported that Jabir ibn `Abdullah heard the Prophet (peace be upon him) saying: A group of my Ummah will not cease fighting for the Truth prevailing i.e. over their enemies, till the Day of Resurrection. He said: 'Eisa son of Mary (peace be upon him) would then descend and their (Muslims') commander would invite him to come and lead them in prayer, but he would say, 'No; you are to lead one another.' This is an honor from Allah for this Ummah. The Hadiths cited above indicate that `Isa will descend from heaven at the end of time when he will rule the earth with the Shari`ah of our Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him). At that time a man from Prophet Muhammad's Ummah (nation) will lead the Muslims in Salah (Prayer) and will conduct the affairs of the Muslims. It should be noted that there is no contradiction between the second coming of `Isa and Prophet Muhammad being the seal of the Prophets. (Part No. 3; Page No. 302) The reason is that `Isa will not bring a new message other than Islam, as he is coming back for the second time. Judgment belongs to Allah (Exalted be He) Who does whatever He wills, passes whatever judgment He wishes, and no one can avoid His judgment. Allah is the All-Wise, the Mighty.Whoever claims that `Isa (peace be upon him) was killed or crucified is a Kafir (disbeliever) as in doing so he will be opposing the explicit texts of the Qur'an and the authentic Hadiths narrated from the Prophet (peace be upon him). Moreover, whoever claims that Allah caused `Isa to die then raised him unto Himself when the Jews plotted to crucify him, will also be opposing the opinion that is held by the vast majority of Muslim scholars and will be deviating from the straight path. This claim comes from misinterpreting the Arabic word "mutawaffika'' mentioned in the Ayah as meaning ''cause you to die" instead of properly interpreting it as "make you sleep.'' Allah (Exalted be He) says: And (remember) when Allâh said: "O ‘Isâ (Jesus)! I will take you and raise you to Myself and clear you [of the forged statement that ‘Isâ (Jesus) is Allâh’s son] of those who disbelieve Holding the view that Allah (Exalted be He) caused `Isa to die before He raised him unto Himself also opposes the authentic view held by the Salaf (righteous predecessors) that Allah (Exalted be He) seized `Isa from the earth and raised him alive to heaven after rescuing him from the conspiracy concocted by the disbelieving Jews. The view of the Salaf reconciles the various texts of the Qur'an and authentic Sunnah which confirm that `Isa was raised alive to heaven, will come back to earth at the end of time, and that all the People of the Scripture will believe in him. The report attributed to Ibn `Abbas that he interpreted the word ''mutawaffika" as meaning "cause you to die'' is not authentic because its Isnad (chain of narrators) is broken. It was narrated by `Aly ibn Abu Talhah from Ibn `Abbas. However, Aly neither heard nor saw Ibn `Abbas. He narrated from him through a connection. Similarly, the narration attributed to Wahb ibn Munabbih Al-Yamany that (Part No. 3; Page No. 303) the word ''mutawaffika" means "cause you to die'' is not authentic because it was narrated by Ibn Is-haq who is notorious for Tadlis (misrepresentation). Its Isnad also contains an unknown narrator. Interpreting "wafah" as "death" is no more than one of the many possible meanings that the word ''mutawaffika'' can convey. As a result of the various connotations of the word, it became subject to different interpretations. Some interpreted ''mutawaffika'' as ''qabiduka'' meaning: "I'm seizing you from the earth and will raise you alive unto Myself." Others interpreted it as "munimuka" meaning: "I will make you sleep then I will raise you unto Myself." Others interpreted it in the context that Allah (Exalted be He) will raise `Isa alive to heaven then will cause him to die thereafter. This last interpretation is based on the fact that the conjunction ''wa'' (and) in the Ayah does not entail chronological order but merely combinative arrangement. When there occur such divergent interpretations over a Qur'anic Ayah, only the view that agrees with the apparent meanings of other textual evidence must be adopted so that various evidence can be reconciled and allegorical Ayahs can be explained in the context of other conclusive Ayahs. This stand is adopted by those who are well-grounded in knowledge. Others seek to spread Fitnah (sedition) through misinterpreting allegorical Ayahs. The same applies to the difference over whether the pronoun in the word "mawtihi, meaning, death" refers to `Isa or all the People of the Scripture. The Ayah reads: And there is none of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) but must believe in him [‘Isâ (Jesus), son of Maryam (Mary), as only a Messenger of Allâh and a human being] before his [‘Isâ (Jesus) عليه السلام) or a Jew’s or a Christian’s] death (at the time of the appearance of the angel of death). Noting the context and the authentic hadiths on the descent of `Isa at the end of time and the fact that all people will believe in him, including the People of the Scripture, serves as a key factor in determining the proper meaning of the Ayah and reconciling the various evidence reported in this regard. Interpreting this Ayah apart from other contextual evidence claiming that the pronoun in the word "mawtihi, meaning, death'' refers to the People of the Scripture, constitutes an open deviation from the apparent meaning, the context of speech, and the various authentic Hadiths in this regard. Whoever holds this view is following the ambiguous meaning of the revealed texts and refusing to judge them in the light of decisive texts (Part No. 3; Page No. 304) seeking sedition and disputes. The Divine Threat is against those whose hearts are given to error. Allah (Exalted be He) says: It is He Who has sent down to you (Muhammad صلى الله عليه وسلم) the Book (this Qur’ân). In it are Verses that are entirely clear, they are the foundations of the Book [and those are the Verses of Al-Ahkâm (commandments), Al-Fara’id (obligatory duties) and Al-Hudud (legal laws for the punishment of thieves, adulterers)]; and others not entirely clear. So as for those in whose hearts there is a deviation (from the truth) they follow that which is not entirely clear thereof, seeking Al-Fitnah (polytheism and trials), and seeking for its hidden meanings, but none knows its hidden meanings save Allâh. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in it; the whole of it (clear and unclear Verses) are from our Lord." And none receive admonition except men of understanding. (Tafsir At-Tabarî). Those who adopt the view of the death of `Isa before his ascension to heaven and after the Jews plotted to kill him, should admit one of two facts: either they should acknowledge the second coming of `Isa at the end of time as substantiated by authentic Hadiths; in which case they will be asked to prove that he had a natural death and was given life afterwards, and became lifeless again when the Jews plotted against him, and again was brought to life after the ascension and will finally die following his descent to earth and will again be raised from the dead on the Day of Resurrection. This view is not correct and lacks evidence to support it. Allah (Exalted be He) says: How can you disbelieve in Allâh? seeing that you were dead and He gave you life. Then He will give you death, then again will bring you to life (on the Day of Resurrection) and then unto Him you will return (See V.40:11) Allah (Exalted be He) also says: They will say: "Our Lord! You have made us to die twice (i.e. we were dead in the loins of our fathers and dead after our life in this world), and You have given us life twice (i.e. life when we were born and life when we are Resurrected)! Now we confess our sins, then is there any way to get out (of the Fire)?" (Tafsir Al-Qurtubi,) However, if they deny that `Isa will return a second time to the earth after his ascension, they will be objecting to the authentic Hadiths accepted by Muslim scholars that explicitly attest to his second coming and his invitation of people to follow the truth with which he will rule. He will also kill the swine and break the Cross. There is no way out of these two suppositions but to hold the view adopted by (Part No. 3; Page No. 305) the scholars of Ahl-ul-Sunnah wal-Jama`ah (those adhering to the Sunnah and the Muslim mainstream) that confirms the fact that Allah (Exalted be He) delivered `Isa from the plots of the Jews, raised him to heaven alive with body and soul, and will cause him to descend to the earth at the end of time as a just ruler.May Allah grant us success. May peace and blessings be upon our Prophet, his family, and companions.

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