The Death and Ascension of Jesus (pbuh) in Islam

Posted: 24 Juni 2010 in Islamic Lecture
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The Death and Ascension of Jesus (pbuh) in Islam

Dr. Al-Johani (from his article, “The Truth About Jesus (pbuh)”) writes:
“It is a sad fact of history that not many follow “the straight path”….. called by Jesus (pbuh). He was followed by a few disciples who were inspired by God to support him. Not only that, but the non-believers plotted (as they did to Muhammad six centuries later) to kill Jesus (pbuh), but God had a better plan for him and his followers.”

Suzanne Haneef, in her book “What Everyone Should Know About Islam and Muslims” states:
“Finally, when he (Jesus) was in danger of being killed by his own people, God raised him up to himself without his experiencing death. As the Qur’an tells us in the English meaning of the following verses:”

Qur’an 4:155-158 (“The Women”):
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
155. (They have incurred divine
Displeasure): in that they
Broke their Covenant;
That they rejected the Signs
Of God; that they slew
The Messengers in defiance
Of right; that they said,
“Our hearts are wrappings
(Which preserve God’s Word;
We need no more)” – nay,
God hath set the seal on their hearts
For their blasphemy,
And little is it they believe-

156. That they (Jews) rejected Faith;
That they uttered against Mary
A grave false charge (that she was unchaste);

157. That they said (in boast),
“We killed Christ Jesus
The son of Mary,
The Messenger of God” –
But they killed him not,
Nor crucified him,
But so it was made
To appear to them,
And those who differ
Therein are full of doubts,
With no (certain) knowledge,
But only conjecture to follow,
For of a surety
They killed him not-

158. Nay, God raised him up
Unto Himself; and God
Is Exalted in Power, Wise –

The momentous impact of the words, specifically verse 157, are perhaps difficult for a non-Christian to appreciate.

Footnotes by the translator, Abdullah Yusuf Ali, on the above verses 4:157-158.

“The end of the life of Jesus (pbuh) on earth is as much involved in mystery as his birth, and indeed the greater part of his private life, except the three main years of his ministry. It is not profitable to discuss the many doubts and conjectures among the early Christian sects and among Muslim theologians. The Orthodox Christian Churches make it a cardinal point of their doctrine that his life was taken at the Cross, that he died and was buried, that on the third day he rose in the body with his wounds intact, and walked about and conversed, and ate with his disciples, and was afterwards taken up bodily to heaven. This is necessary for the theological doctrine of blood sacrifice and vicarious atonement of sins, which is rejected by Islam. But some of the early Christian sects did not believe Jesus (pbuh) was killed on the Cross. The Basilidans believed that someone else was substituted for him. The Docetae held that Christ never had a real physical or natural body, but only an apparent or phantom body, and that his Crucifixion was only apparent, not real. The Marcionite Gospel (about A.C. 138) denied that Jesus (pbuh) was born, and merely said he appeared in human form. The Gospel of St. Barnabas supported the theory of substitution at the Cross. The Qur’anic teaching is that Christ was not crucified nor killed by the Jews, notwithstanding certain apparent circumstances which produced the illusion in the minds of his enemies; that disputations, doubts, and conjectures on such matters are vain; and that he was taken up to God.”

Yusuf Ali continues in the following footnote:
“There is difference of opinion as to the exact interpretation of this verse (4:158). The words are: ‘The Jews did not kill Jesus (pbuh), but God raised him up (rafa’a) to Himself. One school holds that Jesus (pbuh) did not die the usual human death, but still lives in the body in heaven, which is the generally accepted Muslim view. Another holds that he did die but not when he was supposed to be crucified, and that his being “raised up” unto God means that instead of being disgraced as a malefactor, as the Jews intended, he was on contrary honored by God as His Messenger. The same [Arabic] word rafa’a is used in association with honor in [another verse of the Qur’an] 94:4.”

There are two difficulties encountered when common Muslims or non-Muslims try, by themselves, to interpret all that is contained in these verses; one is in the flawed use of a translation, which can never hope to duplicate exactly the original Arabic, and the other is the sense (which Yusuf Ali implies in his first comments) that the verses in question, so momentous to those holding the Christian faith, are devoid of exacting detail for a reason known only to the author of these words. In fact, there is from the Qur’an itself an admonition to those who dig too deeply into things which we are not given to know.

Qur’anic verse “some verses in Qur’an are clear, and some are not clear”
Qur’an 3:7 (“The Family of Imran”):
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
“It is He Who has sent down to you (Muhammad, pbuh) the Book (this Qur’an). In it are Verses that are entirely clear, they are the foundations of the Book; 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 (trials), and seeking for its hidden meanings, but none knows its hidden meanings save God. 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 will receive admonition except men of understanding.”

Concerning this point, Dr. Al-Johani writes:
“Who was the person crucified instead of Jesus (pbuh)? The Qur’an does not elaborate on this point nor does it give any answer to this question. The interpreters of the Qur’an have suggested a few names. But all these are individual guesses not supported by the Qur’an or the sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (pbuh).”

“To sum up,” in the words of Dr. Al-Johani, “Islam considers Jesus (pbuh) as one of God’s great prophets. His mission was to preach the Oneness of God and to lead man to his Lord. [According to the Qur’an] he never claimed to be other than a servant and a Messenger of God…. The Muslims do believe in and are awaiting the Second Coming of Jesus (pbuh). Muslims believe he will come back not as God …, but as Jesus (pbuh), God’s servant. His coming will, according to Muslim belief, correct the misconception which people have developed about his personality and his mission.”

Qur’an 3:55 (“The Family of Imran”):
In the Name of Allah, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful
And (remember) when God said: “O Jesus! I will take you and raise you to Myself and clear you of those who disbelieve, and I will make those who follow you ( who worship none but God) superior to those who disbelieve (in the Oneness of God, or disbelieve in some of His Messengers, or in His Holy Books) till the Day of Resurrection. Then you will return to Me and I will judge between you in the matters in which you used to dispute.”

As this ends our presentation regarding the life and mission, death, and ascension of Jesus, son of Mary, Christians may ask the question, “Then how are Muslims saved?”

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