Jesus Christ died a natural death

by Azhar Ahmad Goraya, Missionary of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community

We find that there are categorical verses that declare the death of Jesus(as) in the Qur’an. There are a few verses that are susceptible to many other meanings that are sometimes presented to try and prove his continued life, but not one of them is definitive.

The Ahadith which mention the coming of Isa ibn-e-Maryam in the latter days thus cannot be taken literally. As Jesus(as) has died, he cannot return physically from the dead. The ahadith are metaphorical, and indicate that a Mathil or Buruz (spiritual reflection) of Isa(as) will appear in the latter days. That is, a different person who would bear the name of Jesus(as).

The Prophet Muhammad(sa) also indicated as much when he described the physical features of the future Isa(as) as being different from the Isa ibn-e-Maryam from the past (Sahih Bukhari) and declared that the future Isa(as) would be an ummati and an Imam from amongst the Muslims of the time (Sahih Bukhari).

The Promised Messiah(as) referencing the Holy Quran and Ahadith makes cogent arguments to prove beyond doubt that Jesus died a natural death and that no one would ever descend from heaven. One from the ummah of The Prophet(sa) would come as The Messiah and Mahdi.

The Qur’an declares that Hazrat Isa(as) has died in a various verses.

Use of the verb Tawaffa for Hazrat Isa(as)

The Arabic verb tawaffa means “to take the soul and leave the body”. The root of the verb is و ف ی (wa-fa-ya). Tawaffa is the verbal form تَفَعُّلُ (tafa´ulu) of this root.

When the verb tawaffa is used in a sentence where Allah or his angels are the subject (فاعل), a human being is the object (مفعول) and there is no mention of night, the meaning is always death. In other words, that Allah takes the soul of the person permanently.

This construction always means to take the soul and leave the body, which is defined as death. The only exception to this rule is where there is a clear mention of night or sleep, in which case the meaning is that Allah takes the soul temporarily and then returns it. Sleep is also a sort of death, which is why it has been linked with the verb tawaffa.

Allah has explained the use of this verb for these two occasions in the following verse of the Qur’an:

اَللّٰہُ یَتَوَفَّی الۡاَنۡفُسَ حِیۡنَ مَوۡتِہَا وَ الَّتِیۡ لَمۡ تَمُتۡ فِیۡ مَنَامِہَا ۚ فَیُمۡسِکُ الَّتِیۡ قَضٰی عَلَیۡہَا الۡمَوۡتَ وَ یُرۡسِلُ الۡاُخۡرٰۤی اِلٰۤی اَجَلٍ مُّسَمًّی ؕ اِنَّ فِیۡ ذٰلِکَ لَاٰیٰتٍ لِّقَوۡمٍ یَّتَفَکَّرُوۡنَ

[39:43] Allah takes away the souls (yatawaffa) of human beings at the time of their death; and during their sleep of those also that are not yet dead. And then He retains those against which He has decreed death, and sends back the others till an appointed term. In that surely are Signs for a people who reflect.

This definition is supported by classical and standard Arabic dictionaries:

وتوفّاه الله تعالى، وأدركته الوفاة

(أساس البلاغ، الزمخشری، وفی)

And Allah did the tawaffa (of someone) means that death overcame him. (Asaasul Balagha, Zamakhshari, under wafaya)

وتُــوفِّيَ فلانٌ: إِذا ماتَ (وتَوفَّاهُ اللہ) ، عزَّ وجلَّ: إِذا (قَبَضَ) نَفْسَه؛ وَفِي الصِّحاحِ، (رُوْحَهُ)

(تاج العروس من جواهر القاموس، الزیدی)

That the tawaffa of someone was done (tuwuffiya fulanun) means that he died. And the meaning of “Allah did his tawaffa” means that He took his soul (nafs) and in the As-Sihaah it is mentioned “[took his] spirit (ruh)” (Taaj-ul-Uroos min Jawahir-il-Qamoos, Az-Zaidi)

Allah has used the word tawaffa where He is the subject (فاعل), Isa(as) is the object (مفعول) and there is no mention of night in two places in the Holy Qur’an. In one place Allah promises to do the tawaffa of Hazrat Isa(as), and in the other Hazrat Isa(as) mentions the fulfilment of this promise:

اِذۡ قَالَ اللّٰہُ یٰعِیۡسٰۤی اِنِّیۡ مُتَوَفِّیۡکَ وَ رَافِعُکَ اِلَیَّ وَ مُطَہِّرُکَ مِنَ الَّذِیۡنَ کَفَرُوۡا وَ جَاعِلُ الَّذِیۡنَ اتَّبَعُوۡکَ فَوۡقَ الَّذِیۡنَ کَفَرُوۡۤا اِلٰی یَوۡمِ الۡقِیٰمَۃِ ۚ ثُمَّ اِلَیَّ مَرۡجِعُکُمۡ فَاَحۡکُمُ بَیۡنَکُمۡ فِیۡمَا کُنۡتُمۡ فِیۡہِ تَخۡتَلِفُوۡنَ

[3:56] When Allah said, ‘O Jesus, I will cause thee to die a natural death (mutawaffika) and will exalt thee to Myself, and will clear thee from the charges of those who disbelieve, and will place those who follow thee above those who disbelieve, until the Day of Resurrection; then to Me shall be your return, and I will judge between you concerning that wherein you differ.

مَا قُلۡتُ لَہُمۡ اِلَّا مَاۤ اَمَرۡتَنِیۡ بِہٖۤ اَنِ اعۡبُدُوا اللّٰہَ رَبِّیۡ وَ رَبَّکُمۡ ۚ وَ کُنۡتُ عَلَیۡہِمۡ شَہِیۡدًا مَّا دُمۡتُ فِیۡہِمۡ ۚ فَلَمَّا تَوَفَّیۡتَنِیۡ کُنۡتَ اَنۡتَ الرَّقِیۡبَ عَلَیۡہِمۡ ؕ وَ اَنۡتَ عَلٰی کُلِّ شَیۡءٍ شَہِیۡدٌ

[5:118] “I said nothing to them except that which Thou didst command me — ‘Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.’ And I was a witness over them as long as I remained among them, but since Thou didst cause me to die (tawaffaitani), Thou hast been the Watcher over them; and Thou art Witness over all things.

Therefore, Allah has stated that Hazrat Isa(as) has died, because in these two places there is no mention of night, which would change the definition to sleep.

About both of these verses, we find primary Islamic sources attesting to the fact that the verb tawaffa refers to death.

About (3:56), Imam Bukhari has recorded the interpretation of Hazrat Ibn-e-Abbas(ra) about the meaning of the word mutawaffika. He writes:

وَقَالَ ابْنُ عَبَّاسٍ: {مُتَوَفِّيكَ} [آل عمران: 55]: «مُمِيتُكَ»

(صحیح البخاری، کتاب تفسیر القرآن، بَابُ {مَا جَعَلَ اللَّهُ مِنْ بَحِيرَةٍ وَلاَ سَائِبَةٍ، وَلاَ وَصِيلَةٍ وَلاَ حَامٍ} [المائدة: 103])

Ibn-e-Abbas stated: mutawaffika means “I will cause you to die

(Sahih Al-Bukhari, the Book of Tafseer, Chapter: It was not Allah who instituted (superstitions like those of) a slit-ear she-camel, or a she-camel let loose for free pasture, or idol sacrifices for twin-births in animals, or stallion-camels freed from work [Al-Maidah:103])

About (5:118), we find a clear hadith which shows that the Holy Prophet(sa) understood the word tawaffa in reference to Hazrat Isa(as) as referring to death as well.

Referencing and consequently explaining the true meaning of (5:118), it is narrated:

حَدَّثَنَا أَبُو الوَلِيدِ، حَدَّثَنَا شُعْبَةُ، أَخْبَرَنَا المُغِيرَةُ بْنُ النُّعْمَانِ، قَالَ: سَمِعْتُ سَعِيدَ بْنَ جُبَيْرٍ، عَنِ ابْنِ عَبَّاسٍ رَضِيَ اللَّهُ عَنْهُمَا، قَالَ: خَطَبَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صَلَّى اللهُ عَلَيْهِ وَسَلَّمَ فَقَالَ: «يَا أَيُّهَا النَّاسُ، إِنَّكُمْ مَحْشُورُونَ إِلَى اللَّهِ حُفَاةً عُرَاةً غُرْلًا»، ثُمَّ قَالَ: {كَمَا بَدَأْنَا أَوَّلَ خَلْقٍ نُعِيدُهُ، وَعْدًا عَلَيْنَا إِنَّا كُنَّا فَاعِلِينَ} [الأنبياء: 104] إِلَى آخِرِ الآيَةِ، ثُمَّ قَالَ: ” أَلاَ وَإِنَّ أَوَّلَ الخَلاَئِقِ يُكْسَى يَوْمَ القِيَامَةِ إِبْرَاهِيمُ، أَلاَ وَإِنَّهُ يُجَاءُ بِرِجَالٍ مِنْ أُمَّتِي فَيُؤْخَذُ بِهِمْ ذَاتَ الشِّمَالِ، فَأَقُولُ: يَا رَبِّ أُصَيْحَابِي، فَيُقَالُ: إِنَّكَ لاَ تَدْرِي مَا أَحْدَثُوا بَعْدَكَ، فَأَقُولُ كَمَا قَالَ العَبْدُ الصَّالِحُ: {وَكُنْتُ عَلَيْهِمْ شَهِيدًا مَا دُمْتُ فِيهِمْ، فَلَمَّا تَوَفَّيْتَنِي كُنْتَ أَنْتَ الرَّقِيبَ عَلَيْهِمْ وَأَنْتَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ} [المائدة: 117] فَيُقَالُ: إِنَّ هَؤُلاَءِ لَمْ يَزَالُوا مُرْتَدِّينَ عَلَى أَعْقَابِهِمْ مُنْذُ فَارَقْتَهُمْ “

(صحیح البخاری، کتاب التفسیر، بَابُ {وَكُنْتُ عَلَيْهِمْ شَهِيدًا مَا دُمْتُ فِيهِمْ، فَلَمَّا تَوَفَّيْتَنِي كُنْتَ أَنْتَ الرَّقِيبَ عَلَيْهِمْ، وَأَنْتَ عَلَى كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ} [المائدة: 117]، حدیث ۴۶۲۵)

Narrated Ibn `Abbas:

Allah’s Messenger(sa) delivered a sermon and said, “O people! You will be gathered before Allah barefooted, naked and not circumcised.” Then (quoting Qur’an) he said:– “As We began the first creation, We shall repeat it. A promise We have undertaken: Truly we shall do it..” (21.104) The Prophet(sa) then said, “The first of the human beings to be dressed on the Day of Resurrection, will be Abraham.

Lo! Some men from my followers will be brought and then (the angels) will drive them to the left side (Hell-Fire). I will say. ‘O my Lord! (They are) my companions!’ Then a reply will come (from Almighty), ‘You do not know what they did after you.’ I will say as the pious slave (the Prophet(sa) Jesus) said: And I was a witness over them while I dwelt amongst them, but when caused me to die (tawaffaitani). You were the Watcher over them and You are a Witness to all things.’ (5.117) Then it will be said, “These people have continued to be apostates since you left them.”

(Sahih Al-Bukhari, the Book of Commentary, Chapter: And I was a witness over them as long as I remained among them, but since Thou didst cause me to die (tawaffaitani), Thou hast been the Watcher over them; and Thou art Witness over all things, Hadith #4625)

As is obvious, the prophet Muhammad(sa) was speaking about his death in this verse. The Prophet Muhammad(sa) would see on the Day of Judgement some of his companions being thrown in the fire, and would try and intercede before Allah and testify to their good actions and pious lives. Thereafter Allah would state that they left the religion of Islam after your death. In fact, there were large numbers of Bedouins that had accepted Islam outwardly that soon after joined the false prophet movements, such as of Musailma Kazzab, that arose after the death of the prophet Muhammad(sa).

In response to this, the Prophet Muhammad(sa) would state his innocence of their actions and offer the explanation that such a thing did not happen in his presence, rather during his life he kept them on the straight path, and after his death he could no longer be responsible for their actions in any way. This is the same argument that Jesus(as) would give before Allah – that he was not responsible for the misguidance of his people, as they went astray after his death (tawaffaitani).

Does tawaffa mean “to elevate” or “to take fully”?

The word tawaffa in the above two verses in reference to Hazrat Isa(as) is sometimes translated as “taken fully” or “elevated”. These translations are theologically inspired and biased to account for a mistaken belief that Isa(as) hasn’t died. They are not true to the Arabic language in general, and even more, starkly against the idiom of the Qur’an.

The word “Tawaffa” in the context mentioned above has been used 24 times in the Holy Qur’an, and in every instance it means death. Some instances are:

رَبِّ قَدۡ اٰتَیۡتَنِیۡ مِنَ الۡمُلۡکِ وَ عَلَّمۡتَنِیۡ مِنۡ تَاۡوِیۡلِ الۡاَحَادِیۡثِ ۚ فَاطِرَ السَّمٰوٰتِ وَ الۡاَرۡضِ ۟ اَنۡتَ وَلِیّٖ فِی الدُّنۡیَا وَ الۡاٰخِرَۃِ ۚ تَوَفَّنِیۡ مُسۡلِمًا وَّ اَلۡحِقۡنِیۡ بِالصّٰلِحِیۡنَ

[12:102] ‘O my Lord, Thou hast bestowed power upon me and taught me the interpretation of dreams. O Maker of the heavens and the earth, Thou art my Protector in this world and the Hereafter. Let death come to me (tawaffani) in a state of submission to Thy will and join me to the righteous.’

فَکَیۡفَ اِذَا تَوَفَّتۡہُمُ الۡمَلٰٓئِکَۃُ یَضۡرِبُوۡنَ وُجُوۡہَہُمۡ وَ اَدۡبَارَہُمۡ

[47:28] But how will they fare when the angels will cause them to die (tawaffat hum), smiting their faces and their backs?

قُلۡ یَتَوَفّٰٮکُمۡ مَّلَکُ الۡمَوۡتِ الَّذِیۡ وُکِّلَ بِکُمۡ ثُمَّ اِلٰی رَبِّکُمۡ تُرۡجَعُوۡنَ

[32:12] Say, ‘The angel of death that has been put in charge of you will cause you to die (yatawaffaakum); then to your Lord will you be brought back.’

Even clearer evidence is that this construction with the word tawaffa has been used 3 times for the Holy Prophet(sa) himself in the Holy Qu’ran. In each place the meaning is always taken as death:

وَ اِمَّا نُرِیَنَّکَ بَعۡضَ الَّذِیۡ نَعِدُہُمۡ اَوۡ نَتَوَفَّیَنَّکَ فَاِلَیۡنَا مَرۡجِعُہُمۡ ثُمَّ اللّٰہُ شَہِیۡدٌ عَلٰی مَا یَفۡعَلُوۡنَ

[10:47] And if We show thee in thy lifetime the fulfilment of some of the things with which We have threatened them, thou wilt know it; or if We cause thee to die before that (natawaffayannaka), then to Us is their return, and thou wilt see the fulfilment in the next world; and Allah is Witness to all that they do.

وَ اِنۡ مَّا نُرِیَنَّکَ بَعۡضَ الَّذِیۡ نَعِدُہُمۡ اَوۡ نَتَوَفَّیَنَّکَ فَاِنَّمَا عَلَیۡکَ الۡبَلٰغُ وَ عَلَیۡنَا الۡحِسَابُ

[13:41] And whether We make thee see the fulfilment of some of the things with which We threaten them or whether We make thee die (natawaffayannaka), it makes little difference, for on thee lies only the delivery of the Message, and on Us the reckoning.

فَاصۡبِرۡ اِنَّ وَعۡدَ اللّٰہِ حَقٌّ ۚ فَاِمَّا نُرِیَنَّکَ بَعۡضَ الَّذِیۡ نَعِدُہُمۡ اَوۡ نَتَوَفَّیَنَّکَ فَاِلَیۡنَا یُرۡجَعُوۡنَ

[40:78] Then have patience. Surely, the promise of Allah is true. And whether We show thee part of what We have promised them, or whether We cause thee to die (natawaffayannaka) before the fulfilment of Our promise, to Us in any case will they be brought back.

Is it not unjust that when the word tawaffa appears for the Prophet Muhammad(sa), the translation that is given is always the taking of the soul permanently (death), but when the same word is used for Jesus(as) in the same context, the definition is falsely changed to “raised” or “elevated”?

The Promised Messiah(as) issued a challenge of one thousand rupees to anyone doubting the definition of tawaffa as taking the soul and leaving the body to provide any evidence to the contrary from classical Islamic and arab language sources:

بعض علماء وقت کو اس بات پرسخت غلو ہے کہ مسیح ابن مریم فوت نہیں ہوا بلکہ زندہ ہی آسمان کی طرف اٹھایا گیا اور حیات جسمانی دنیوی کے ساتھ آسمان پر موجود ہے اورنہایت بے باکی اورشوخی کی راہ سے کہتے ہیں کہ تَوَفِّی کالفظ جو قرآن کریم میں حضرت مسیح کی نسبت آیا ہے اس کے معنے وفات دینا نہیں ہے بلکہ پورا لینا ہے یعنی یہ کہ روح کے ساتھ جسم کو بھی لے لینا۔مگر ایسے معنے کرنا اُن کا سراسر افتراء ہے قرآن کریم کا عمومًا التزام کے ساتھ اس لفظ کے بارہ میں یہ محاورہ ہے کہ وہ لفظ قبض روح اور وفات دینے کے معنوں پر ہریک جگہ اس کو استعمال کرتاہے۔ یہی محاورہ تمام حدیثوں اور جمیع اقوال رسول اللہ صلی اللہ علیہ وسلم میں پایا جاتاہے۔ جب سے دنیا میں عرب کا جزیرہ آباد ہواہے اور زبان عربی جاری ہوئی ہے کسی قول قدیم یاجدید سے ثابت نہیں ہوتا کہ تَوَفِّی کا لفظ کبھی قبض جسم کی نسبت استعمال کیاگیاہوبلکہ جہاں کہیں تَوَفّی کے لفظ کو خدائے تعالیٰ کا فعل ٹھہرا کر انسان کی نسبت استعمال کیا گیا ہے وہ صرف وفات دینے اور قبض روح کے معنی پر آیاہے نہ قبض جسم کے معنوں میں۔ کوئی کتاب لغت کی اس کے مخالف نہیں۔ کوئی مثل اور قول اہل زبان کا اس کے مغائر نہیں غرض ایک ذرہ احتمال مخالف کے گنجائش نہیںؔ ۔اگر کوئی شخص قرآن کریم سے یا کسی حدیث رسول اللہ صلعم سے یااشعار وقصائد و نظم ونثر قدیم وجدید عرب سے یہ ثبوت پیش کرے کہ کسی جگہ تَوَفِّی کا لفظ خدا تعالیٰ کا فعل ہونے کی حالت میں جو ذوی الروح کی نسبت استعمال کیا گیا ہو وہ بجُز قبض روح اور وفات دینے کے کسی اور معنی پر بھی اطلاق پاگیا ہے یعنی قبض جسم کے معنوں میں بھی مستعمل ہوا ہے تو میں اللہ جلَّ شَانُہٗ کی قسم کھا کر اقرار صحیح شرعی کرتاہوں کہ ایسے شخص کو اپنا کوئی حصہ ملکیت کا فروخت کر کے مبلغ ہزار روپیہ نقد دوں گا اور آئندہ اس کی کمالات حدیث دانی اور قرآن دانی کا اقرارکرلوں گا۔ (روحانی خزائن، جلد ۳، ازالہ اوھام، صفحہ ۶۰۲ تا ۶۰۳)

Some contemporary scholars repeatedly insist that the Messiah ibn-e-Maryam has not died, rather he was raised alive to heaven, and is present in heaven with his physical, worldly body and life. And with great boldness and insolence they state that the word tawaffi that has come in reference to the messiah does not mean death, rather it means “to take fully”. Meaning, that the body was taken along with the soul. But to translate it in this way is clear fabrication. The Qur’an in its idiom has in every place used this word to mean the taking of the soul and death. This same meaning is found in all ahadith and sayings of the Holy Prophet(sa). Ever since the Arabian Peninsula was inhabited and the Arabic language began, it cannot be shown through any ancient or modern text that the word tawaffi has been used for taking the body. Rather, wherever the word tawaffa has been attributed as a verb to Allah in regards to a human being, it has only ever meant causing death and taking of the soul and not in the sense of taking the body. There is no Arabic dictionary that presents something contrary to this. There is no expression or saying attributed to the experts of the language that is against this. Thus, there is not the slightest chance of a separate meaning. If anyone presents proof from the Holy Qur’an, or any hadith of the Holy Prophet(sa), or poetry, odes or ancient or modern arabic prose that in any place where the word tawaffi as a verb attributed to Allah is used regarding an animate individual, means anything other than causing death and taking the soul, that is to say that it also means the taking of the body, then I swear by Allah the Magnificent an oath according to proper Islamic law that I will give such a person one thousand rupees in cash by selling some portion of my property and will from hereon in admit his excellence in the sciences of hadith and the Holy Qur’an. (Ruhani Khazain, vol. 3, Izala Auham, pgs. 602-603)

All Prophets Before the Prophet Muhammad(sa) have Passed Away

Other than the categorical declaration found in the word tawaffa, the Holy Qur’an mentions in general that all prophets before the Holy Prophet(sa) have passed away:

وَ مَا مُحَمَّدٌ اِلَّا رَسُوۡلٌ ۚ قَدۡ خَلَتۡ مِنۡ قَبۡلِہِ الرُّسُلُ ؕ اَفَا۠ئِنۡ مَّاتَ اَوۡ قُتِلَ انۡقَلَبۡتُمۡ عَلٰۤی اَعۡقَابِکُمۡ ؕ وَ مَنۡ یَّنۡقَلِبۡ عَلٰی عَقِبَیۡہِ فَلَنۡ یَّضُرَّ اللّٰہَ شَیۡئًا ؕ وَ سَیَجۡزِی اللّٰہُ الشّٰکِرِیۡنَ

[3:145] And Muhammad is only a Messenger. Verily, all Messengers have passed away before him. If then he die or be slain, will you turn back on your heels? And he who turns back on his heels shall not harm Allah at all. And Allah will certainly reward the grateful.

The argument given in this verse is that the prophet Muhammad(as) is truthful, and that death, whether natural or through martyrdom, would not nullify his truthfulness. In fact, all prophets before him have passed away. As previous prophets all died, eventually the Prophet Muhammad(as) will also pass away.

This was the ijmaa (consensus) upon this verse of all the coompanions upon the death of the Holy Prophet(as). They all agreed that this verse applied to all previous prophets, and not one of them was alive if the Holy Prophet(as) had passed away. It is narrated:

حَدَّثَنَا إِسْمَاعِيلُ بْنُ عَبْدِ اللَّهِ، حَدَّثَنَا سُلَيْمَانُ بْنُ بِلاَلٍ، عَنْ هِشَامِ بْنِ عُرْوَةَ، عَنْ عُرْوَةَ بْنِ الزُّبَيْرِ، عَنْ عَائِشَةَ ـ رضى الله عنها ـ زَوْجِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم أَنَّ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم مَاتَ وَأَبُو بَكْرٍ بِالسُّنْحِ ـ قَالَ إِسْمَاعِيلُ يَعْنِي بِالْعَالِيَةِ ـ فَقَامَ عُمَرُ يَقُولُ وَاللَّهِ مَا مَاتَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم‏.‏ قَالَتْ وَقَالَ عُمَرُ وَاللَّهِ مَا كَانَ يَقَعُ فِي نَفْسِي إِلاَّ ذَاكَ وَلَيَبْعَثَنَّهُ اللَّهُ فَلَيَقْطَعَنَّ أَيْدِيَ رِجَالٍ وَأَرْجُلَهُمْ‏.‏ فَجَاءَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ فَكَشَفَ عَنْ رَسُولِ اللَّهِ صلى الله عليه وسلم فَقَبَّلَهُ قَالَ بِأَبِي أَنْتَ وَأُمِّي طِبْتَ حَيًّا وَمَيِّتًا، وَالَّذِي نَفْسِي بِيَدِهِ لاَ يُذِيقُكَ اللَّهُ الْمَوْتَتَيْنِ أَبَدًا‏.‏ ثُمَّ خَرَجَ فَقَالَ أَيُّهَا الْحَالِفُ عَلَى رِسْلِكَ‏.‏ فَلَمَّا تَكَلَّمَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ جَلَسَ عُمَرُ‏.‏ فَحَمِدَ اللَّهَ أَبُو بَكْرٍ وَأَثْنَى عَلَيْهِ وَقَالَ أَلاَ مَنْ كَانَ يَعْبُدُ مُحَمَّدًا صلى الله عليه وسلم فَإِنَّ مُحَمَّدًا قَدْ مَاتَ، وَمَنْ كَانَ يَعْبُدُ اللَّهَ فَإِنَّ اللَّهَ حَىٌّ لاَ يَمُوتُ‏.‏ وَقَالَ ‏{‏إِنَّكَ مَيِّتٌ وَإِنَّهُمْ مَيِّتُونَ‏}‏ وَقَالَ ‏{‏وَمَا مُحَمَّدٌ إِلاَّ رَسُولٌ قَدْ خَلَتْ مِنْ قَبْلِهِ الرُّسُلُ أَفَإِنْ مَاتَ أَوْ قُتِلَ انْقَلَبْتُمْ عَلَى أَعْقَابِكُمْ وَمَنْ يَنْقَلِبْ عَلَى عَقِبَيْهِ فَلَنْ يَضُرَّ اللَّهَ شَيْئًا وَسَيَجْزِي اللَّهُ الشَّاكِرِينَ‏}‏ قَالَ فَنَشَجَ النَّاسُ يَبْكُونَ ـ

(صحیح البخاری، كتاب فضائل أصحاب النبى صلى الله عليه وسلم، باب قَوْلِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم ‏”‏ لَوْ كُنْتُ مُتَّخِذًا خَلِيلاً ‏”‏ قَالَهُ أَبُو سَعِيدٍ، حدیث ۳۶۶۸)

Narrated ‘Aisha: (the wife of the Prophet) Allah’s Messenger(sa) died while Abu Bakr was at a place called As-Sunah (Al-‘Aliya) ‘Umar stood up and said, “By Allah! Allah’s Messenger(sa) is not dead!” ‘Umar (later on) said, “By Allah! Nothing occurred to my mind except that.” He said, “Verily! Allah will send him and he will cut the hands and legs of some men.” Then Abu Bakr came and uncovered the face of Allah’s Messenger(sa), kissed him and said, “Let my mother and father be sacrificed for you, (O Allah’s Messenger(sa)), you are good in life and in death. By Allah in Whose Hands my life is, Allah will never make you taste death twice.” Then he went out and said, “O oath-taker! Don’t be hasty.” When Abu Bakr spoke, ‘Umar sat down. Abu Bakr praised and glorified Allah and said, No doubt! Whoever worshipped Muhammad, then Muhammad is dead, but whoever worshipped Allah, then Allah is Alive and shall never die.” Then he recited Allah’s Statement.:– “(O Muhammad) Verily you will die, and they also will die.” (39.30) He also recited:–

“Muhammad is no more than an Apostle; and indeed the Apostles have passed away, before him, If he dies Or is killed, will you then Turn back on your heels? And he who turns back On his heels, not the least Harm will he do to Allah And Allah will give reward to those Who are grateful.” (3.144)

The people wept loudly…

(Sahih Al-Bukhari, the Book about the Virtues of the Companions of the Prophet(sa), Chapter: the words of the prophet(sa) – “If I were to take Khalil …”, Hadith #3668)

It seems that Hazrat Umar(ra) believed that either the Holy Prophet(sa) had fallen asleep, or that he had been raised to heaven or some other location and that Allah would send him again as a prophet. Hazrat Abu Bakr(ra) removed this misunderstanding by quoting (3:145), which categorically claimed that all prophets had died before the prophet Muhammad(sa), and therefore his death was also something that must occur as well.

If any of the previous prophet had in fact not died and had been raised to heaven or avoided death in another way, then the argument would no longer be valid. Hazrat Umar(ra) would have stood up and stated that this verse was not categorical, and would have presented the view that Jesus(as) had not yet died rather was alive in heaven, therefore this verse could not be used to prove the death of the Prophet Muhammad(sa).

But what actually happened is all of the companions upon hearing this verse accepted the death of the Holy Prophet(sa), as the verse was categorical: all previous prophets had died and would not return, and the same would occur with the Prophet Muhammad(sa). There was no exception to the rule.

All Beings Worshipped at the Time of the Prophet(sa) were Dead

The Qur’an declares that all beings that were being worshipped during the time of the Holy Prophet(sa) were in fact dead:

وَ الَّذِیۡنَ یَدۡعُوۡنَ مِنۡ دُوۡنِ اللّٰہِ لَا یَخۡلُقُوۡنَ شَیۡئًا وَّ ہُمۡ یُخۡلَقُوۡنَ۔ اَمۡوَاتٌ غَیۡرُ اَحۡیَآءٍ ۚ وَ مَا یَشۡعُرُوۡنَ ۙ اَیَّانَ یُبۡعَثُوۡنَ

[16:21] And those on whom they call beside Allah create not anything, but they are themselves created.

[16:22] They are dead, not living; and they know not when they will be raised.

Hazrat Isa(as) was also worshipped at the time by Christians. These verses thus also declare that he has died.

Unnaturally Long Life is Impossible

The Qur’an states that unnaturally long life is impossible:

وَ مَا جَعَلۡنَا لِبَشَرٍ مِّنۡ قَبۡلِکَ الۡخُلۡدَ ؕ اَفَا۠ئِنۡ مِّتَّ فَہُمُ الۡخٰلِدُوۡنَ

[21:35] We granted not everlasting life to any human being before thee. If then thou shouldst die, shall they live here for ever?

It states that whoever is granted a long life is reduced to his original state of weakness (i.e. like a baby), losing his faculties and powers:

وَ مَنۡ نُّعَمِّرۡہُ نُنَکِّسۡہُ فِی الۡخَلۡقِ ؕ اَفَلَا یَعۡقِلُوۡنَ

[36:69] And him whom We grant long life — We revert him to a weak condition of creation. Will they not then understand?

Everyone is subject to the process of aging, which eventually results in old age and death:

ہُوَ الَّذِیۡ خَلَقَکُمۡ مِّنۡ تُرَابٍ ثُمَّ مِنۡ نُّطۡفَۃٍ ثُمَّ مِنۡ عَلَقَۃٍ ثُمَّ یُخۡرِجُکُمۡ طِفۡلًا ثُمَّ لِتَبۡلُغُوۡۤا اَشُدَّکُمۡ ثُمَّ لِتَکُوۡنُوۡا شُیُوۡخًا ۚ وَ مِنۡکُمۡ مَّنۡ یُّتَوَفّٰی مِنۡ قَبۡلُ وَ لِتَبۡلُغُوۡۤا اَجَلًا مُّسَمًّی وَّ لَعَلَّکُمۡ تَعۡقِلُوۡنَ

[40:68] He it is Who created you from dust, then from a sperm-drop, then from a clot; then He brings you forth as a child; then He lets you grow that you may attain your full strength; then He lets you become old — though some among you are caused to die before — and He lets you live that you may reach a term appointed, and that you may learn wisdom.

Therefore, it is impossible to accept that Hazrat Isa(as) has been alive for over two thousand years in heaven. If he was supposedly taken alive to heaven, he would have died there long ago.

Other than the Qur’an, there are various ahadith which either directly or indirectly speak about the death of Jesus, as well as many eminent personalities throughout the history of Islam that have accepted the death of Hazrat Isa(as), such as Hazrat Ibn-e-Abbas(as), Imam Malik, Imam Bukhari and Ibn-e-Hazam.

Supposed Life of Jesus in the Holy Qur’an

As opposed to the categorical verses above, there are a few ambiguous (Mutashaabih) verses of the Holy Qur’an that are sometimes erroneously used to try and prove the life of Isa(as). The Qur’an tells us that the ambiguous verses must be interpreted in light of the categorical ones:

ہُوَ الَّذِیۡۤ اَنۡزَلَ عَلَیۡکَ الۡکِتٰبَ مِنۡہُ اٰیٰتٌ مُّحۡکَمٰتٌ ہُنَّ اُمُّ الۡکِتٰبِ وَ اُخَرُ مُتَشٰبِہٰتٌ ؕ فَاَمَّا الَّذِیۡنَ فِیۡ قُلُوۡبِہِمۡ زَیۡغٌ فَیَتَّبِعُوۡنَ مَا تَشَابَہَ مِنۡہُ ابۡتِغَآءَ الۡفِتۡنَۃِ وَ ابۡتِغَآءَ تَاۡوِیۡلِہٖ ۚ؃ وَ مَا یَعۡلَمُ تَاۡوِیۡلَہٗۤ اِلَّا اللّٰہُ ۘؔ وَ الرّٰسِخُوۡنَ فِی الۡعِلۡمِ یَقُوۡلُوۡنَ اٰمَنَّا بِہٖ ۙ کُلٌّ مِّنۡ عِنۡدِ رَبِّنَا ۚ وَ مَا یَذَّکَّرُ اِلَّاۤ اُولُوا الۡاَلۡبَابِ

[3:8] He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book; in it there are verses that are decisive in meaning — they are the basis of the Book — and there are others that are susceptible of different interpretations. But those in whose hearts is perversity pursue such thereof as are susceptible of different interpretations, seeking discord and seeking wrong interpretation of it. And none knows its right interpretation except Allah and those who are firmly grounded in knowledge; they say, ‘We believe in it; the whole is from our Lord.’ — And none heed except those gifted with understanding. —

Meaning of the Rafa’ of Hazrat Isa(as)

There are two verses where Allah states that He did the Rafa’ (رفع) of Isa(as), which is sometimes erreneously translated as “physically lifted up”. In one place there is a promise of Allah that He will do the rafa’ of Isa(as), and in the other there is mention of the promise fulfilled:

اِذۡ قَالَ اللّٰہُ یٰعِیۡسٰۤی اِنِّیۡ مُتَوَفِّیۡکَ وَ رَافِعُکَ اِلَیَّ وَ مُطَہِّرُکَ مِنَ الَّذِیۡنَ کَفَرُوۡا وَ جَاعِلُ الَّذِیۡنَ اتَّبَعُوۡکَ فَوۡقَ الَّذِیۡنَ کَفَرُوۡۤا اِلٰی یَوۡمِ الۡقِیٰمَۃِ ۚ ثُمَّ اِلَیَّ مَرۡجِعُکُمۡ فَاَحۡکُمُ بَیۡنَکُمۡ فِیۡمَا کُنۡتُمۡ فِیۡہِ تَخۡتَلِفُوۡنَ

[3:56] When Allah said, ‘O Jesus, I will cause thee to die a natural death and will exalt thee (raafiu’ka) to Myself, and will clear thee from the charges of those who disbelieve, and will place those who follow thee above those who disbelieve, until the Day of Resurrection; then to Me shall be your return, and I will judge between you concerning that wherein you differ.

وَّ قَوۡلِہِمۡ اِنَّا قَتَلۡنَا الۡمَسِیۡحَ عِیۡسَی ابۡنَ مَرۡیَمَ رَسُوۡلَ اللّٰہِ ۚ وَ مَا قَتَلُوۡہُ وَ مَا صَلَبُوۡہُ وَ لٰکِنۡ شُبِّہَ لَہُمۡ ؕ وَ اِنَّ الَّذِیۡنَ اخۡتَلَفُوۡا فِیۡہِ لَفِیۡ شَکٍّ مِّنۡہُ ؕ مَا لَہُمۡ بِہٖ مِنۡ عِلۡمٍ اِلَّا اتِّبَاعَ الظَّنِّ ۚ وَ مَا قَتَلُوۡہُ یَقِیۡنًۢا۔ بَلۡ رَّفَعَہُ اللّٰہُ اِلَیۡہِ ؕ وَ کَانَ اللّٰہُ عَزِیۡزًا حَکِیۡمًا 

[4:158] And their saying, ‘We did kill the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah;’ whereas they slew him not, nor crucified him, but he was made to appear to them like one crucified; and those who differ therein are certainly in a state of doubt about it; they have no definite knowledge thereof, but only follow a conjecture; and they did not convert this conjecture into a certainty;

[4:159] On the contrary, Allah exalted him (rafaa’hu) to Himself. And Allah is Mighty, Wise.

The term rafa’ is generally translated as “taken up” or “raised”, but it is erroneous to believe that it is in reference to his physical body. It is actually referring only to his soul, in which case the translation is “Allah exalted him/elevated his soul to Himself”.

The Holy Qur’an declares that it is the righteous soul (kalima or nafs) that is raised to Allah:

مَنۡ کَانَ یُرِیۡدُ الۡعِزَّۃَ فَلِلّٰہِ الۡعِزَّۃُ جَمِیۡعًا ؕ اِلَیۡہِ یَصۡعَدُ الۡکَلِمُ الطَّیِّبُ وَ الۡعَمَلُ الصَّالِحُ یَرۡفَعُہٗ ؕ وَ الَّذِیۡنَ یَمۡکُرُوۡنَ السَّیِّاٰتِ لَہُمۡ عَذَابٌ شَدِیۡدٌ ؕ وَ مَکۡرُ اُولٰٓئِکَ ہُوَ یَبُوۡرُ

 [35:11] Whoso desires honour, then let him know that all honour belongs to Allah. Unto Him ascend pure souls and righteous work does He exalt. And those who plot evils — for them is a severe punishment; and the plotting of such will perish.

یٰۤاَیَّتُہَا النَّفۡسُ الۡمُطۡمَئِنَّۃُ۔ ارۡجِعِیۡۤ اِلٰی رَبِّکِ رَاضِیَۃً مَّرۡضِیَّۃً۔ فَادۡخُلِیۡ فِیۡ عِبٰدِیۡ۔ وَ ادۡخُلِیۡ جَنَّتِیۡ

 [89:28] And thou, O soul at peace!

[89:29] Return to thy Lord well pleased with Him and He well pleased with thee.

[89:30] So enter thou among My chosen servants,

[89:31] And enter thou My Garden.

As opposed to this, the Qur’an mentions that “the doors of heaven” will not be opened for wicked individuals and they will instead be condemned to Hell:

اِنَّ الَّذِیۡنَ کَذَّبُوۡا بِاٰیٰتِنَا وَ اسۡتَکۡبَرُوۡا عَنۡہَا لَا تُفَتَّحُ لَہُمۡ اَبۡوَابُ السَّمَآءِ وَ لَا یَدۡخُلُوۡنَ الۡجَنَّۃَ حَتّٰی یَلِجَ الۡجَمَلُ فِیۡ سَمِّ الۡخِیَاطِ ؕ وَ کَذٰلِکَ نَجۡزِی الۡمُجۡرِمِیۡنَ۔ لَہُمۡ مِّنۡ جَہَنَّمَ مِہَادٌ وَّ مِنۡ فَوۡقِہِمۡ غَوَاشٍ ؕ وَ کَذٰلِکَ نَجۡزِی الظّٰلِمِیۡنَ

[7:41] Those who reject Our Signs and turn away from them with disdain, the gates of the spiritual firmament will not be opened for them, nor will they enter Heaven until a camel goes through the eye of a needle. And thus do We requite the offenders.

[7:42] They shall have a bed of Hell, and over them coverings of the same. And thus do We requite the unjust.

It would be erroneous to believe that Allah is speaking here of both the physical bodies and souls of the disbelievers being denied entry to heaven. The verses are speaking about the condition of souls after death, and not of physical bodies. That is, that the souls of the wicked go to Hell, not their physical bodies.

The Qur’an nowhere mentions physical bodies being raised alongside pure souls into heaven.

It is important to understand the context of (4:159) to realize it’s true meaning. The verse is speaking about the Jews and their accusations against Jesus. They believed that he was killed on the cross and consequently that his soul was condemned to Hell. Allah denies both accusations. One by stating that he didn’t die on the cross, and two, that his soul did not go to hell. Rather, his soul was elevated to heaven after death like the souls of all the righteous (89:28-31).

The verb rafa’ in the idiom of the Holy Qur’an when Allah is the subject (فاعل) and man is the object (مفعول) always refers to spiritual exaltation. It never means physically lifting someone. For example, the Holy Qur’an states:

یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡۤا اِذَا قِیۡلَ لَکُمۡ تَفَسَّحُوۡا فِی الۡمَجٰلِسِ فَافۡسَحُوۡا یَفۡسَحِ اللّٰہُ لَکُمۡ ۚ وَ اِذَا قِیۡلَ انۡشُزُوۡا فَانۡشُزُوۡا یَرۡفَعِ اللّٰہُ الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوۡا مِنۡکُمۡ ۙ وَ الَّذِیۡنَ اُوۡتُوا الۡعِلۡمَ دَرَجٰتٍ ؕ وَ اللّٰہُ بِمَا تَعۡمَلُوۡنَ خَبِیۡرٌ

[58:12] O ye who believe! when it is said to you, ‘Make room!’ in your assemblies, then do make room; Allah will make ample room for you. And when it is said, ‘Rise up!’ then rise up; Allah will raise (yarfai) those who believe from among you, and those to whom knowledge is given, to degrees of rank. And Allah is Well-Aware of what you do.

In another place, Allah juxtaposes the word rafa’ with worldly desires and inclinations:

وَ اتۡلُ عَلَیۡہِمۡ نَبَاَ الَّذِیۡۤ اٰتَیۡنٰہُ اٰیٰتِنَا فَانۡسَلَخَ مِنۡہَا فَاَتۡبَعَہُ الشَّیۡطٰنُ فَکَانَ مِنَ الۡغٰوِیۡنَ۔ وَ لَوۡ شِئۡنَا لَرَفَعۡنٰہُ بِہَا وَ لٰکِنَّہٗۤ اَخۡلَدَ اِلَی الۡاَرۡضِ وَ اتَّبَعَ ہَوٰٮہُ ۚ فَمَثَلُہٗ کَمَثَلِ الۡکَلۡبِ ۚ اِنۡ تَحۡمِلۡ عَلَیۡہِ یَلۡہَثۡ اَوۡ تَتۡرُکۡہُ یَلۡہَثۡ ؕ ذٰلِکَ مَثَلُ الۡقَوۡمِ الَّذِیۡنَ کَذَّبُوۡا بِاٰیٰتِنَا ۚ فَاقۡصُصِ الۡقَصَصَ لَعَلَّہُمۡ یَتَفَکَّرُوۡنَ

[7:176] And relate to them the story of him to whom We gave Our Signs, but he stepped away from them; so Satan followed him up, and he became one of those who go astray.

[7:177] And if We had pleased, We could have exalted him (larafa’naahu) thereby ; but he inclined to the earth and followed his evil inclination. His case therefore is like the case of a thirsty dog; if thou drive him away, he hangs out his tongue; and if thou leave him, he hangs out his tongue. Such is the case of the people who disbelieve in Our Signs. So give them the description that they may ponder.

Obviously, the comparison is only valid if rafa’ means spiritual exaltation. Physical elevation can in no way be juxtaposed to worldly inclinations and desires.

Impossibility of Going Physically to Heaven

Moreover, the Qur’an mentions the impossibility of physically going to heaven. The disblievers demanded this miracle from the Prophet Muhammad(sa), upon which he stated that “he was only a man”:

وَ قَالُوۡا لَنۡ نُّؤۡمِنَ لَکَ حَتّٰی تَفۡجُرَ لَنَا مِنَ الۡاَرۡضِ یَنۡۢبُوۡعًا۔ اَوۡ تَکُوۡنَ لَکَ جَنَّۃٌ مِّنۡ نَّخِیۡلٍ وَّ عِنَبٍ فَتُفَجِّرَ الۡاَنۡہٰرَ خِلٰلَہَا تَفۡجِیۡرًا۔ اَوۡ تُسۡقِطَ السَّمَآءَ کَمَا زَعَمۡتَ عَلَیۡنَا کِسَفًا اَوۡ تَاۡتِیَ بِاللّٰہِ وَ الۡمَلٰٓئِکَۃِ قَبِیۡلًا۔ اَوۡ یَکُوۡنَ لَکَ بَیۡتٌ مِّنۡ زُخۡرُفٍ اَوۡ تَرۡقٰی فِی السَّمَآءِ ؕ وَ لَنۡ نُّؤۡمِنَ لِرُقِیِّکَ حَتّٰی تُنَزِّلَ عَلَیۡنَا کِتٰبًا نَّقۡرَؤُہٗ ؕ قُلۡ سُبۡحَانَ رَبِّیۡ ہَلۡ کُنۡتُ اِلَّا بَشَرًا رَّسُوۡلًا

 [17:91] And they say, ‘We will never believe thee until thou cause a spring to gush forth for us from the earth;

[17:92] ‘Or thou have a garden of datepalms and vines, and cause streams to gush forth in the midst thereof in abundance;

[17:93] ‘Or thou cause the heaven to fall upon us in pieces, as thou hast claimed, or thou bring Allah and the angels before us face to face;

[17:94] ‘Or thou have a house of gold or thou ascend up into heaven; and we will not believe in thy ascension until thou send down to us a book that we can read.’ Say, ‘Holy is my Lord! I am not but a man sent as a Messenger.’

Meaning, it is against the laws of Allah that a man, with both physical body and soul, ascend to heaven.

The Jews Must All Believe in Him Before His Death

Another ambigous verse that is presented to try to prove the life of Jesus(as) is where Allah states:

وَ اِنۡ مِّنۡ اَہۡلِ الۡکِتٰبِ اِلَّا لَیُؤۡمِنَنَّ بِہٖ قَبۡلَ مَوۡتِہٖ ۚ وَ یَوۡمَ الۡقِیٰمَۃِ یَکُوۡنُ عَلَیۡہِمۡ شَہِیۡدًا

[4:160] And there is none among the People of the Book but will believe in it/him before his death; and on the Day of Resurrection, it/him shall be a witness against them —

Some take the above verse to mean that all the Jews must believe in Hazrat Isa(as) before his death. They deduce that because they haven’t yet all believed in him, he must still be alive.

This is erroneous for several reasons.

Firstly, the Qur’an declares categorically that the Jews will exist until the Day of Judgement with their beliefs in tact:

وَ مِنَ الَّذِیۡنَ قَالُوۡۤا اِنَّا نَصٰرٰۤی اَخَذۡنَا مِیۡثَاقَہُمۡ فَنَسُوۡا حَظًّا مِّمَّا ذُکِّرُوۡا بِہٖ ۪ فَاَغۡرَیۡنَا بَیۡنَہُمُ الۡعَدَاوَۃَ وَ الۡبَغۡضَآءَ اِلٰی یَوۡمِ الۡقِیٰمَۃِ ؕ وَ سَوۡفَ یُنَبِّئُہُمُ اللّٰہُ بِمَا کَانُوۡا یَصۡنَعُوۡنَ

[5:15] And from those also who say, ‘We are Christians,’ We took a covenant, but they too have forgotten a good part of that with which they were exhorted. So We have caused enmity and hatred among them till the Day of Resurrection. And Allah will soon let them know what they have been doing.

وَ قَالَتِ الۡیَہُوۡدُ یَدُ اللّٰہِ مَغۡلُوۡلَۃٌ ؕ غُلَّتۡ اَیۡدِیۡہِمۡ وَ لُعِنُوۡا بِمَا قَالُوۡا ۘ بَلۡ یَدٰہُ مَبۡسُوۡطَتٰنِ ۙ یُنۡفِقُ کَیۡفَ یَشَآءُ ؕ وَ لَیَزِیۡدَنَّ کَثِیۡرًا مِّنۡہُمۡ مَّاۤ اُنۡزِلَ اِلَیۡکَ مِنۡ رَّبِّکَ طُغۡیَانًا وَّ کُفۡرًا ؕ وَ اَلۡقَیۡنَا بَیۡنَہُمُ الۡعَدَاوَۃَ وَ الۡبَغۡضَآءَ اِلٰی یَوۡمِ الۡقِیٰمَۃِ ؕ کُلَّمَاۤ اَوۡقَدُوۡا نَارًا لِّلۡحَرۡبِ اَطۡفَاَہَا اللّٰہُ ۙ وَ یَسۡعَوۡنَ فِی الۡاَرۡضِ فَسَادًا ؕ وَ اللّٰہُ لَا یُحِبُّ الۡمُفۡسِدِیۡنَ

[5:65] And the Jews say, ‘The hand of Allah is tied up.’ Their own hands shall be tied up and they shall be cursed for what they say. Nay, both His hands are wide open; He spends how He pleases. And what has been sent down to thee from thy Lord will most surely increase many of them in rebellion and disbelief. And We have cast among them enmity and hatred till the Day of Resurrection. Whenever they kindle a fire for war, Allah extinguishes it. And they strive to create disorder in the earth, and Allah loves not those who create disorder.

Therefore, they can never all believe in Isa(as) with all of them becoming Muslims.

Secondly, to state that the verse means “all the Jews must believe in him” means that one must also believe that no Jew died since the time of Isa(as) nor will die until his return. Or that they all be resurrected at the time of his supposed arrival so that they all believe in him. This is obviously absurd.

Whether the verse is actually refering to belief in Isa(as), and belief in what sense, is disputed by the classical commentators.

Some believe it is not referring to Hazrat Isa(as) at all, rather Allah or the Holy Prophet(sa). This is because the pronoun in the verse به (bihi) is not categorically pointing to Isa(as), rather can refer to other persons or things as well.

Others believe that the term موته (mautihi) “his death” refers not the death of Isa(as) but the death of the Jews themselves. Meaning, each Jew will believe in Hazrat Isa(as) in the moment before his death when the angels of Allah inform him of his truthfulness. This is affirmed by an alternative reading (commentary) in which موته (mautihi) “his death” has been explained as موتھم (mautihim) “their death”.

In Tafseer Kashaaf under 4:160 Imam Zamakhshari states:

لَيُؤْمِنَنَّ بِهِ جملة قسمية واقعة صفة لموصوف محذوف تقديره: وإن من أهل الكتاب أحد إلا ليؤمننّ به. ونحوه: (وَما مِنَّا إِلَّا لَهُ مَقامٌ مَعْلُومٌ) ، (وَإِنْ مِنْكُمْ إِلَّا وارِدُها) والمعنى: وما من اليهود والنصارى أحد إلا ليؤمننّ قبل موته بعيسى، وبأنه عبد اللَّه ورسوله، يعنى: إذا عاين قبل أن تزهق روحه ۔۔۔

وتدل عليه قراءة أبىّ: إلا ليؤمننّ به قبل موتهم، بضم النون على معنى: وإن منهم أحد إلا سيؤمنون به قبل موتهم۔۔۔

وقيل: الضمير في: (بِهِ) يرجع إلى اللَّه تعالى. وقيل: إلى محمد صلى اللَّه عليه وسلم.

(الكشاف عن حقائق غوامض التنزيل، زمخشری)

لَيُؤْمِنَنَّ بِهِ (layu’minanna bihi) is a statement of fact sentence, where the quality of the described object has been omitted before it’s mention:

وإن من أهل الكتاب أحد إلا ليؤمننّ به.

And there is not anyone (ahadun) from amongst the people of the book but will believe in him.

And there are similar examples found in the Qur’an, such as in:

وَما مِنَّا إِلَّا لَهُ مَقامٌ مَعْلُومٌ

And there is none from amongst us but that he has a fixed station (37:165)

وَإِنْ مِنْكُمْ إِلَّا وارِدُها

And there is none from amongst you all but that he will enter it (19:72).

And the meaning thus is: and there is none from amongst the Jews or the Christians except that they will believe in him before his death, meaning believing in Isa(as). This is because he is a servant of Allah and His messenger. Meaning, when they see (the angels) before their soul leave their bodies…

And the reading of Ubai bin Ka’ab supports this meaning, where it states:

إلا ليؤمننّ به قبل موتهم

(illa layuminanna bihi qabla mautihim)

With a kasrah under the nun, with the meaning that there is noone from amongst them but he will believe in Jesus(as) before their death…

And it is said that the pronoun in به (bihi) (in him) refers to Allah, and it is also said that it refers to the prophet Muhammad(sa). (Tafseer Al-Kashaaf, Zamakhshari)

A simple understanding of the verse can be deduced from the context. The previous verse states that neither the Jews nor Christians are certain as to whether Isa(as) was killed. This is a miraculous claim, seeing that it strikes at the root of both religions. The Qur’an then states that there is none but will believe in this (i.e. that what the Qur’an has stated in this regard that they have no certain knowledge about his death) before their death. So this miraculous claim was fulfilled during the life of the Holy Prophet(sa). Despite this challenge, not one of them dared to raise their voice against it and accept the challenge by stating that they certainly believed based on solid proof that Jesus had died on the cross. The entire generation died without raising an objection to it, and thus a great intellectual miracle of the Qur’an was demonstrated.

From a different angle, the verse could also be referring to the tribes of Israel, and not each individual Jew. The translation would thus be, “And there is no tribe amongst the People of the Book but will believe in him before his death”. This translation is also valid, and indicates that Jesus(as) certainly travelled and took his message to all of the twelve tribes of Israel, and members from each tribe believed in him before his death.

Jesus(as) is a Sign of the Hour

Certain Muslims believe that the Holy Qur’an has stated that the physical return of Jesus(as) is a sign of the latter days. Therefore, he cannot have died, rather he was raised and will return:

وَ اِنَّہٗ لَعِلۡمٌ لِّلسَّاعَۃِ فَلَا تَمۡتَرُنَّ بِہَا وَ اتَّبِعُوۡنِ ؕ ہٰذَا صِرَاطٌ مُّسۡتَقِیۡمٌ

[43:62] But verily, he/it is a sign of the Hour. So have no doubt about it, but follow me. This is the right path.

Within it’s context, the verse does not refer to the descent of Jesus as a sign of the latter days.

Firstly, the verse does not specifically mention Jesus by name, rather only a pronoun has been used in the form of انه (innahu), “certainly he/it”. Classical commentators, amongst other interpretations, have also stated that the pronoun is referring not to Jesus, rather the Holy Qur’an. In Mu’alim At-Tanzeel Fi Tafseer-il-Qur’an, also known as Tafseer-e-Baghwi, it is stated:

وَقَالَ الْحَسَنُ وَجَمَاعَةٌ: وَإِنَّهُ يَعْنِي وَإِنَّ الْقُرْآنَ لَعِلْمٌ لِلسَّاعَةِ يُعْلِمُكُمْ قِيَامَهَا. وَيُخْبِرُكُمْ بِأَحْوَالِهَا وَأَهْوَالِهَا، فَلا تَمْتَرُنَّ بِها (معالم التنزيل في تفسير القرآن = تفسير البغوي)

And Hassan along with a group of others have stated: “And surely it” refers to the Qur’an as a sign of the Hour, because it teaches you it’s details. And informs you of it’s characteristics and happenings, so don’t doubt it.

In the same Tafseer, the passage “follow me” has been explained as referring to the Prophet Muhammad(as).

Where some commentators have claimed that it refers to the return of Jesus(as) in the latter days, on closer inspection we find that the context and understanding that arises from the verse does not allow this interpretation.

This is because the Qur’an is stating here that the sign that the resurrection is true is before the disbelievers, therefore they should not doubt it (i.e. the reality of the Day of Judgement). If the sign was the return of Jesus, how could the disbelievers be expected to believe in the resurrection if the sign had not yet been shown? As opposed to this illogical stance, the Qur’an states that it is a definite sign of the truthfulness of the Day of Judgement as it is granting life to the spiritual dead before the eyes of the disbelievers. This is through a motif of water granting life to land deprived of life:

وَ اَنۡزَلۡنَا مِنَ السَّمَآءِ مَآءً طَہُوۡرًا۔ لِّنُحۡیِۦَ بِہٖ بَلۡدَۃً مَّیۡتًا

[25:49] …and We send down pure water from the sky

[25:50] That We may thereby give life to a dead land…

 وَ اَحۡیَیۡنَا بِہٖ بَلۡدَۃً مَّیۡتًا ؕ کَذٰلِکَ الۡخُرُوۡجُ

[50:12] and We quicken thereby a dead land. Even so shall be the Resurrection.

Moreover, the Holy Prophet(sa) has also been stated to have granted life to the spiritually dead, which is why it would also be valid to assume that the verse is referring to him:

یٰۤاَیُّہَا الَّذِیۡنَ اٰمَنُوا اسۡتَجِیۡبُوۡا لِلّٰہِ وَ لِلرَّسُوۡلِ اِذَا دَعَاکُمۡ لِمَا یُحۡیِیۡکُمۡ

[8:25] O ye who believe! respond to Allah, and the Messenger when he calls you that he may give you life

If we accept that it is referring to Jesus(as) at all, it is only regarding his time amongst the Jews before his death, and not about any future appearance. It is signaling the past, and not the future. If it categorically referred to the future, the wording would have been

وَإِنَّهُ سَیَکُوْنُ لَعِلْمٌ لِّلسَّاعَةِ

Innahu sayakuunu la ilmul lis’saa’ati

In another verse, the Qur’an refers to his birth being a sign for a group of men:

وَ لِنَجۡعَلَہٗۤ اٰیَۃً لِّلنَّاسِ

[19:22] …so that We may make him a Sign unto men…

The “men” referred to here are the Sadducees, a Jewish sect who denied the resurrection. Several of their prophets had received the glad tidings that the Messiah would be born of a virgin. This miraculous birth would be a sign to them of his truthfulness and that as Allah could grant life to someone without the agency of a male, in the same way He was able to grant life to the dead.

Looking at it from a different angle, the verse does not mention the latter days, nor the day of Judgement, rather the word that has been used in Arabic is ساعة (saa’a), which literally means time. Where in certain places it can be understood as the Day of Judgement, it can also be understood as any time of momentious change, such as a time of divine wordly punishment. Scholars have generally understood the word saa’a in two broad terms: one is ساعة الکبری (saa’at-ul-kubra) which literally means the greater time, as referring to the Day of Judgement, and ساعة الصغری (saa’at-us-sughra) which literally means the lesser time, and refers to the death of a generation or the death of an individual. Evidently, the underlying meaning is a momentous calamity or change.

This meaning is confirmed by the Qur’an and hadith, which declare that the time of the saa’a was brought close during the time of the Prophet Muhammad(sa):

اِقۡتَرَبَتِ السَّاعَۃُ وَ انۡشَقَّ الۡقَمَرُ

[54:2] The Hour has drawn nigh, and the moon is rent asunder.

بُعِثْتُ أَنَا وَالسَّاعَةَ كَهَاتَيْنِ (صحیح البخاری،کتاب الرقاق، باب قَوْلِ النَّبِيِّ صلى الله عليه وسلم: «بُعِثْتُ أَنَا وَالسَّاعَةَ كَهَاتَيْنِ»، حدیث ۶۵۰۴)

Narrated Anas: Allah’s Messenger(sa) said, “I have been sent and the Hour (is at hand) as these two (fingers). (Sahih Al- Bukhari, The Book of Making the Heart Tender (Riqaq), Chapter: “I have been sent, and the Hour as these two”, Hadith #6504)

It is a fact that after the appearance of the Holy Prophet(sa), the entire world saw a momentous change, beginning with the Arabs. His opponents who opposed him witnessed many divine punishments, and ultimately were destroyed. A new world order was brought in place, and in this way this massive upheaval was a prelude and indeed evidence for the coming Day of Judgement, which would be similar in terms of it’s wide-ranging implications and upheavals.

According to this translation, the verse would read, “And Jesus(as) is a sign of the coming worldly punishment”.

The advent of Jesus(as) signaling a momentous upheaval for the Jews in terms of a coming worldly punishment is also mentioned in another verse of the Holy Qur’an:

اِنۡ ہُوَ اِلَّا عَبۡدٌ اَنۡعَمۡنَا عَلَیۡہِ وَ جَعَلۡنٰہُ مَثَلًا لِّبَنِیۡۤ اِسۡرَآءِیۡلَ

[43:60] He was only Our servant on whom We bestowed Our favour, and We made him an example/similitude for the children of Israel.

After the advent of Jesus(as), the Jews were deprived of prophethood, as it was thereafter transferred to the house of Ismael(as).

In 70 C.E, after a years long Jewish rebellion, the city of Jerusalem fell to the Romans. The Romans showed no mercy: the city was plundered, and thousands slaughtered. The Second Temple was razed to the ground, and many of those that were taken prisoner were enslaved and sent to toil in the mines of Egypt, while others were dispersed to arenas throughout the Empire to be butchered for the amusement of the public. The Temple’s sacred relics were taken to Rome where they were displayed in celebration of the victory. After that day, the Jews lived in exile for over a thousand years and up until today have not been able to reconstruct the temple mount.

This momentous upheaval and worldly punishment definitely served as an example or prelude for the Jews to the coming upheaval on the Day of Judgement.

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source https://www.alislam.org/articles/jesus-christ-died-natural-death/

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