Death of Jesus
in Quran reasonable and valid
scholar says Muslims are entitled to believe in it
(The Light & Islamic Review: Vol. 70;
No. 3; May-June 1993, p. 9-10)
In the Saudi Arabian newspaper Arab News (Saudi Arabias
first English language daily), of 18 September 1992, one of the
questions on the religious page (Islam in Perspective, p.
9), asked by a reader from Jeddah, is as follows:
May I put to you a question that you have answered before:
Had the death of Jesus Christ preceded the miracle of his
ascension? After reading your question in which you said
that Jesus Christ did not die, I happened to read a book entitled
Deep into the Quran by Dr. Kamal Umar, an eminent Pakistani
author. He comes decidedly in favor of the view that Jesus Christ
died a natural death. I am sending you a photocopy of the relevant
pages, requesting you to clear the controversy.
Go here to see a scanned image of the
page in Arab News.
The answers on the page are given by Adil Salahi, who replies to
readers questions in other newspapers and magazines as well.
His answer to this question is given below in full. (For the convenience
of our readers, we have printed in bold those parts of the text
which we wish to draw attention to.)
I have certainly answered that question by saying that Jesus Christ
did not die, but Allah raised him to Himself. In this, I have only
given the view of the majority of scholars, including contemporary
ones. I have quoted the Quranic verse which says in reference to
what the Jews used to assert: And their statement We
have killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the messenger of Allah.
They certainly have neither killed him nor crucified him, although
it was made to appear so to them. This verse concludes with
a categorical statement: For certain they have not killed
him, but Allah has raised him to Himself. Allah is Almighty, Wise.
There are a number of hadiths which speak of the return of Jesus
Christ to this world when he will resume his mission of preaching
the message of the Oneness of Allah. That will definitely be the
Divine message in its final form, i.e. Islam, as preached by Prophet
Muhammad (peace be on them both). Those Hadiths and the Quranic
statements which speak of the raising of the Prophet Jesus provide
a full justification for the view of the majority of scholars
that Jesus Christ did not die but was raised by Allah and that
he will make a second appearance at a time which will be appointed
by Allah Himself and known to Him alone. However, there are
references to Jesus Christ in the Quran which use a term that
is most frequently used to indicate death although not necessarily
so. Linguistically speaking, the word means the completion of
a term. When it refers to life, it means the completion of
ones life and its termination by death. It is used in
this sense in other verses of the Quran. Dr. Kamal Umar quotes
these verses in his book and translates them as referring to the
death of Jesus. Thus, he gives the translation of Verse 55 of
Surah 3 as follows: When Allah said: Isa! (this is the Arabic
name of Jesus) certainly I would cause you to die and would raise
you to Myself and will protect you from those people who rejected
you. In this respect, Dr. Umar is not alone. A number
of scholars, some of them prominent indeed, have expressed this
view and argued that this expression which occurs in three different
verses in the Quran, means actually that Jesus Christ died a natural
death. They point out that Allah has protected him from his
enemies, by foiling their attempts to kill or crucify him. There
is no argument among Muslim scholars that Jesus Christ was neither
killed nor crucified. But, as you see, some scholars argue that
he died a natural death.
When these scholars refer to the Ascension of Jesus,
or, to use the Quranic expression, his being raised to Allah,
they interpret this as having an abstract sense. According to
them, it means that his position with Allah has been enhanced
and he has been given a very high status. This is indeed the case,
because Jesus Christ is one of the five messengers of Allah who
have shown the greatest resolve in their service of Allahs
cause. The other four are: Noah, Abraham, Moses and Muhammad (peace
be on them all).
When these scholars speak about the Hadiths which tell of the
second coming of Jesus Christ and what he will be doing, such
as breaking the cross, killing the pig and preaching the message
of the Oneness of Allah, they cast strong doubts about their authenticity.
Their argument is not without validity. Where does this leave
us? The answer is that there are two views: The first, which is
held by a majority of scholars, is that Jesus Christ did not die
but was raised by Allah and that he will make a second coming
at a time determined by Allah, when he will be preaching the message
of Islam. The other view is that Jesus Christ died a natural death
after Allah had saved him from his enemies. Both groups of scholars
agree that Jesus Christ was neither killed nor crucified. Needless
to say, those who subscribe to the second view do not speak of
a second coming of Jesus Christ.
What we need to know is that the raising of Jesus
Christ alive to Heaven is not an article of Islamic faith. This
means that if a person denies it he is not an unbeliever.
A person is not considered to be an unbeliever for preferring
a reasonable and valid interpretation of a Quranic verse.
Had the Quranic verse been of the sort that cannot admit more
than one interpretation, then denying its meaning could easily
land the person who makes such a denial in the class of non-believers.
This means that a person may adopt the view he prefers,
but when he does so, he should arrive at the conclusion he prefers
after carefully studying the matter and considering the evidence
each group of scholars supply in support of their view. Dr. Umar
has made a choice to which he is certainly entitled. I chose the
other view and I am equally entitled to it.
Not much comment is needed on the answer given above. We would
point out that the following words are rather striking : .
. . the Hadiths which tell of the second coming of Jesus Christ
and what he will be doing, such as breaking the cross, killing the
pig and preaching the message of the Oneness of Allah . . . .
The first two tasks seem out of place with the third! To have any
connection with the third, the tasks of breaking the cross
and killing the pig cannot possibly be taken literally, and
it is certain that Mr. Salahi, if asked further, would interpret
these in a figurative sense.
Once that is conceded, it is only natural to take figuratively
all those aspects of these Hadith reports which would clash with
the principles of Islam if taken literally. Primarily this means
that the return of Jesus must be taken to mean the coming of a Mujaddid,
a non-prophet, from among the followers of Islam, and not the appearance
of a prophet after prophethood came to a close with the coming of
the Holy Prophet Muhammad. So Mr. Salahi is not entirely correct
in saying that those who believe in the death of Jesus must necessarily
reject the Hadith reports about his second coming. There are those
who believe in the death of Jesus, and yet also hold that reports
of his second coming are genuine, but to be taken metaphorically.