Will Jesus Return? For What?
by Dr. Aslam Abdullah
There is a statement attributed to Prophet Muhammad by Jabir ibn 'Abdullah: "He who denies the appearance of the Mahdi is inevitably blaspheming against what was revealed to the Prophet. He who denies the appearance of Jesus, the son of Mary, has become an unbeliever. Someone who denies that the Antichrist will appear is also inevitably an unbeliever." This statement is also reported in Muhammad Parisa's Fusul-i Sitta, Ibn Ishaq's Kitab al-Ta`aruf li Madhhab Ahl al-Tasawwuf, Imam Suhayli's al-Rawd al-Unuf, and Imam Suyuti's Alamat al-Mahdi.
Based on these reports, the website http://al-shia.org/html/eng/history/others/01/11.htm concludes: “Given this, Islamic scholars regard belief in Jesus' second coming and his causing true religious moral values to prevail as major articles of faith.” There are many other scholars from Sunni, shias, Zaydis, Ibadi sects who consider the idea of second coming of Jesus as part of Iman.
The Quran described faith or Iman differently as it focuses on five fixed articles. “It is not righteousness that ye turn your faces towards east or West; but it is righteousness- to believe in Allah and the Last Day, and the Angels, and the Book, and the Messengers.” (2:177). The Quran does not make the acceptance of Mahdi or the second coming Jesus as articles of faith. Iman is defined by none other than Allah and even a prophet is not given the permission to edit the articles of faith as defined by Allah. It is He alone who has the prerogative to define Iman. Addressing the Prophet, Allah says: “And thus, too, [O Muhammad,] have We revealed unto you a life-giving message, [coming] at Our behest. [before this message came unto you,] you did not know what revelation is, or what faith [implies]: but [now] We have caused this [message] to be a light, whereby We guide whom We will of Our servants: and, verily, [on the strength thereof] you, too, shall guide [men] onto the straight way. the way that leads to God, to whom all that is in the heavens and all that is on earth belongs. Oh, verily, with God is the beginning and the end of all things!” (42:52-53) Obviously, mattes of Iman are not left to speculations and the Quran has specified them clearly.
However, with such a strong statement about the Mahdi and the second coming of Jesus attributed to Prophet Muhammad, and reported by so many scholars of Islam, who could dare to question the second coming of Jesus. Yet at the risk of being called unbelievers or deniers of some ahadith on the second coming of Jesus, many Muslim scholars have either challenged the idea of the physical ascension of Prophet Jesus to heaven throughout Islam’s intellectual history or cast doubts on the reports related to the second coming of Jesus.
Mahmud Shaltut, the former Mufti of Egypt and ex-Rector of the world famous al-Azhar University, Cairo was one of them. He wrote: “There is no authority in the Quran or the Sunna which can satisfy the heart upon the belief that Jesus was taken up to heaven with his body and that he is still alive there and that he shall descend there from to earth in the last days.” (Al-Fatāwā, published by Al-Idara al-‘Ama lil-Saqafat al-Islamiyya bil-Azhar, pp. 52-58)
“The Quranic verses in this connection indicate that Allah had promised Jesus that He would cause him to die at the appointed time, and elevate him to Himself, and protect him from the disbelievers. This promise has been fulfilled. His enemies could not kill him or crucify him; instead, Allah caused him to die at the end of his appointed term and elevated him to Himself.” (Ibid.)
How should a lay Muslim look at this issue? Should he/she consider the second coming of Jesus as part of faith or should he/she consider it a mere speculation or wishful thinking built around the Christian concept of the return of Jesus?
The issue has created a body of Islamic literature that leads a great majority of Muslims to believe that change would ultimately come in our world when Prophet Jesus would reappear. What is often ignored in this literature is reference to the Quranic message that "Because Allah will never change the grace which He has bestowed on a people until they change what is in their (own) souls: and verily Allah is He Who hears and knows (all things).” (8:53) or “Verily never will Allah change the condition of a people until they change it themselves (with their own souls)” (13:11)
The popular view among Muslim scholars on Jesus is as follows: When Jews were about to crucify Jesus Allah took him up to heaven alive in his physical body, and he is alive there. He will descend at the age of forty and will fulfill the responsibilities of prophet (some scholars believe that he will be removed from the rank of Prophet hood). His mission will be to kill the pig, break the cross and abolish the jizya, initiating a world wide reformation that would create absolute peace.
If only the return of Jesus would bring about the desired changed in the society, then why should any be bothered about changing the world and until his return we should not even focus on the above mentioned verses of the Quran commanding us to work toward changing our conditions on our own.
Many Muslim scholars have challenged this idea of the return of Jesus on the basis of their understanding of the Quran and the sayings of the Prophet. Their alternative perspective is often ignored or dismissed by those who believe in the popular version.
The Quranic Perspective on Death
No one is immortal except Allah. The Quran repeats the eternal law of evolution and life and death for everything and every being created by Allah. No one is an exception. Not even Jesus, because if this was the case, Allah would have definitely mentioned in the Quran.
The Quran reminds Prophet Muhammad and through him the humanity at large that everyone that came before him left this world and died. The Quran emphasizes that none of the prophets that preceded Prophet Muhammad were alive.
“Therein (i.e. on the earth or physical world) shall you live, and therein shall you die, and there from shall you be raised.” (7:25)
“And there is for you in the earth an abode and a provision.” (7: 4)
“Have We not made the earth draw to itself the living and the dead?” (77: 25, 26)
“From it (i.e. the earth) We created you, and into it We shall return you, and from it raise you a second time.” (20:55)
“Say: Glory to my Lord! Am I anything but a mortal messenger?” (17:93)
“Muhammad is not the father of any man from among you but he is the Messenger of Allah and the one to end the prophets.” (33:40)
“We did not send before you (O Muhammad) any messenger but they surely ate food.” (25:20)
“We did not give them (i.e. the prophets) bodies not eating food.” (21:8)
“And We granted abiding for ever to no mortal before you (O Muhammad). If you die, will they abide” (21:34).
“They (i.e. the prophets) did not abide forever.” (21:8).
“Allah is He Who created you from a state of weakness, and then gave you strength after weakness, then ordained weakness and hoary hair after strength.”(30:54)
“Of you is he who is brought back to the worst part of life (i.e. old age) so that after knowledge he knows nothing.” (22:5)
“And whomsoever We cause to live long, We reduce to an abject state in creation. Do they not understand?” (36:68)
“The Messiah, son of Mary, was only a messenger; messengers before him had indeed passed away.” (5:75)
“And Muhammad is only a messenger — messengers have already passed away before him. If, then, he dies or is killed, will you turn back upon your heels?” (3:143)
“Those are a people that have passed away.” (2:134)
“…before which other nations have passed away.” (13:30)
“…among nations that have passed away before them.” (46:18)
“Such has been the way of Allah with those who have passed away before.” (33:38)
“And those whom they call on besides Allah created nothing, while they are themselves created. Dead (are they), not living. And they know not when they will be raised.” (16:20-21)
Certainly they disbelieve who say: ‘Allah, He is the Messiah, son of Mary’.” (5:72)
Jesus said: I am a servant of Allah: He has given me the Book and made me a prophet, and made me blessed wherever I may be.” (19:30-31)
“O Jesus, I will cause you to die, and exalt you to My presence, and clear you of those who disbelieve and make those who follow you above those who disbelieve till the day of Judgment.” (3:55)
They charged Mary with a grave calumny. They boasted that they had murdered Jesus, son of Mary, Rasool of Allah; although the fact is that they neither murdered him nor crucified him. What they took for reality was merely something which appeared to them as such. On the other hand, those who differ from Jews (i.e. Christians) are also in doubt about the matter. Their knowledge is no more than a surmise. It is certain that they (i.e. Jews) did not murder Jesus. The Jews say that by crucifying him they had inflicted a degrading death upon him. Allah has raised Jesus very high in His ranks. He had power enough to protect Jesus from his enemies and He did so with great sagacity The Christians are so firm in their belief that each one confesses before his death that Jesus was crucified and atoned for their sins. On the Day of Reckoning, Jesus himself will bear witness against them (4:156-159)
And when Allah will say: ‘O Jesus, did you say to men, Take me and my mother for two gods besides Allah?’ He will reply: ‘Glory be to You! It was not for me to say what I had no right to say. If I had said it, You would indeed have known it. You know what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Your mind. Surely, You are the great Knower of the unseen. I said to them naught save as You did command me: Serve Allah, my Lord and your Lord; and I was a witness of them so long as I was among them, but when you did cause me to die You were the Watcher over them. And You are Witness of all things’.” (5:116,117)
Thus the Quranic verdict about Jesus is very clear. He is a mortal from among mortals. He is a prophet of Allah from among the prophets. Some people worship him as a deity. He is not alive and he was not raised in physical form. Rather Allah explained that those who wanted to inflict a humiliating death upon him failed in their attempts as Jesus was granted a higher rank.
The Quran used similar expression about Prophet Idrees.
Also (O Rasool!), mentioned in this Book is the story of Idrees. He too was a very truthful person; and a Nabi. And We had exalted him to a high position (19:56-57)). Moreover, addressing the Prophet, the Quran further explained the issue of mortality. “We have not made before you (O Muhammad) any mortal to abide forever. If you die, will they (the opponents) abide?” (21:34) “Dead (are they), not living. And they know not when they will be raised.” (16:21)
Prophet’s Statements on the death of Jesus
There are several statements attributed to Prophet Muhammad where the death of Prophet Jesus was asserted.
“It is reported from Ibn Abbas that the Holy Prophet said in a sermon: O people! You will be gathered to your Lord (on the day of Judgment) … and some people from my Umma will be taken and dragged towards hell. I shall say: ‘O Lord, but these are my people’. It will be replied: ‘You do not know what they did after you’. Then I shall say as did that righteous servant of Allah (i.e., Jesus) say: ‘I was a witness of them so long as I was among them, but when You did cause me to die You were Watcher over them’ …” (Bukhari, Kitab al-Tafsir, under Surah Ma’idah.)
The Prophet said that during the ascension to heaven he saw “Adam is in the first heaven … Joseph is in the second heaven, and his cousins Yahya (John the Baptist) and Jesus are in the third heaven, and Idris is in the fourth heaven.” (Kanz al-‘Ummāl, vol. vi, p. 120
“Then the Holy Prophet descended in Jerusalem, along with all the other prophets. At the time of prayers, he led them all in prayer.” (Tafsir Ibn Kathir, Urdu ed., vol. iii, p. 23)
The Prophet said: “O people! I have heard that you fear the death of your Prophet. Did any prophet before me live on so that I should be expected to live on amongst you? Listen! I am about to meet my Lord, and so will you. So I bid you to treat well the early muhajirs.” (Al-anwār-ul-Muhammadiyya min al-Muwāhib al- Ladinya, Egypt, p. 317)
The Prophet said “There is no one alive today but will be dead before a hundred years have passed over it.” (Muslim, Kitab al- Faza’il; Kanz al-‘Ummāl, vol. 7, p. 170)
“Ayesha, the mother of the believers said that, in his illness in which he died, the Holy Prophet said: ‘Every year Gabriel used to repeat the Holy Quran with me once, but this year he has done it twice. He has informed me that there is no prophet but he lives half as long as the one who preceded him. And he has told me that Jesus lived a hundred and twenty years, and I see that I am about to leave this world at sixty’.” (Hujjaj al-Kirāmah, p. 428; Kanz al-‘Ummāl, vol. 6, p.160, from Fatima; and Mawāhib al-Ladinya, vol. 1, p. 42)
The Prophet Muhammad said: “Had Moses or Jesus been alive, they would have had to follow me.” (Al-Yawaqit wal-Jawahir, p. 24; Fath al-Bayan, vol. 2, p. 246; Tafsir Ibn Kathir, under verse 81 of Al-i Imran)
“Had Jesus been alive he would have had to follow me.” (Sharh Fiqh Akbar, Egyptian ed., p. 99)
The Prophet said: “May the curse of Allah be upon the Jews and the Christians who made the graves of their prophets into places of worship.” (Bukhari, Kitab as-Salat, chapter: ‘Should the graves of the idolaters of the Jahiliyya be dug up and mosques take their place?’)
Statements of the Companions of the Prophet on the death of Jesus
The first Caliph Abu Bakr said the following in his speech:
‘I would give my father for you, O Prophet of Allah; Allah would never give you two deaths, and you have died of the death that Allah had ordained for you.’
Abu Salmah says: Ibn Abbas told me that Abu Bakr came out, and Umar was talking to the people. He told him to sit down, but he refused. He told him again, and he still refused. Abu Bakr then recited the Kalima Shahada, and the people turned their attention to him, leaving Umar.” (Bukhari, Kitab al-Jana’iz, chapter 3; Kitab al- Maghazi, chapter: ‘Illness of the Holy Prophet’) Caliph Abu Bakr then announced: “Whoever among you worships Muhammad, Muhammad has indeed died; but whoever worships Allah, Allah lives on forever, never dies. Allah says: ‘Muhammad is only a messenger; messengers before him have indeed passed away...’ (the Quran, 3:144).” (Bukhari, reference as above.)
In Sahih Bukhari it is recorded:
“By Allah, it was as if the people did not know that Allah had revealed this verse until Abu Bakr recited it. Then (it was as if) the people had learnt it from him; and whomever one heard, he was reciting this verse (i.e. ‘Muhammad is only a messenger; messengers before him have indeed passed away...’)” (Bukhari, reference as above.)
The second Caliph Umar related:
“I was so shocked that my feet could not support me and I fell to the ground when I heard him recite it (i.e. the verse) that the Holy Prophet had indeed died.” (Bukhari, Kitab al-Maghazi, chapter cited above.). Companions agreed on death of all prophets. Caliph Umar’s contention that the Prophet had only gone to visit the Lord, and would be returning, was refuted by Caliph Abu Bakr, proving that all previous prophets had died — and consequently also the Holy Prophet. Had Caliph Umar or any other companion believed that Jesus was alive in heaven, he would certainly have spoken out against Abu Bakr’s reference of the verse that all previous prophets were dead. This shows that none of the companions even imagined that Prophet Jesus or any other prophet was still alive and had not died.
Caliph Abu Bakr Siddiq, Allah be pleased with him, said: “Where is Moses, where is Jesus, where is Yahya, where is Noah, [i.e., they have all died], So you, O sinner Siddiq, repent to your Glorious Lord.”
Caliph Ali, Allah be pleased with him, said: “Death spares not the father, nor the son; it is the path that cares not for anyone. He (the Prophet) was a prophet, yet he did not remain with his Umma forever, Had anyone before him lived forever, he (Prophet) too would have lived forever.”
The mother of the believer, Ayesha relates from the Prophet Muhammad:
“Jesus, son of Mary, lived to the age of 120 years.” (Hujjaj al-Kirāmah, p. 428)
The daughter of the Prophet Fatima relates from the Prophet: “Jesus, son of Mary, lived to the age of 120 years.” (Kanz al-‘Ummāl, vol. vi, p. 120)
The grandson of the Prophet, Hasan ascended the pulpit after the martyrdom of Caliph Ali and said: “O people! This night there has died a man whose status cannot be reached by the earlier or later generations. The Messenger of Allah used to send him to battle, so on his right would be Gabriel and on his left Michael, and he would not return without victory. He died on the night on which the soul of Jesus, son of Mary, was taken up, that is the twenty-seventh of Ramadan.” (Tabaqat Kabir, vol. iii, p. 26)
Explaining the Quranic verse, “O Jesus, I will cause you to die, Ibn Abbas is recorded as saying: “mutawaffī-ka means ‘I will cause you to die (mumītu-ka)’.” (Bukhari, Kitab al-Tafsir, on verse 5:110).
“In the Mustadrak (a Hadith collection) it is reported from Ibn Umar that Jesus lived to the age of 120 years. It is likewise also in the Asābah.” (Tafsir Kamalain).
The companion-poet Hasan Ibn Thabit sang: “If any people of the world could exist forever, certainly the Messenger of Allah would have lived forever in it.” “You (O Prophet) were the pupil of my eye, with your death my eye lost its sight, whoever remains after you, let him die for I was afraid only of your passing.”
Imam Mālik, one of the four imams of jurisprudence believed that Jesus had died.:
“While most people believe that Jesus did not die, Mālik said that he died.” (Majma‘ Bih_ār al-Anwār, vol. i, p. 286) “In the ‘Utbiyya it is written that Mālik said that Jesus, son of Mary, died.” (Ikmāl al-ikmāl, Commentary of Muslim, vol. i, p. 265)
Imam Ibn Hazm wrote: “Jesus, peace be upon him, was neither killed nor crucified, but Allah caused him to die and then raised him. The Almighty has said: ‘They did not kill him or crucify him’; and ‘I will cause you to die and exalt you’; and ‘I (Jesus) was a witness of them so long as I was among them, but when You did cause me to die. You were the Watcher over them’ and ‘Allah takes souls at the time of death’. Thus there are two kinds of wafāt: sleep and death. Jesus in his words ‘When You did cause me to die was not referring to sleep, but it is correct that by wafāt he meant death.” (Mahalli fil-Fiqh, p. 23)
Earlier Scholars of Islam
“Imam Ibn Hazm adopted the apparent significance of the verse, and believed in his (Jesus’) death.” (Jalālain, under verse 3:55)
Abul Hasan Ali Hajwairi (Data Ganj Bakhsh) writes:
“The Messenger of Allah said that, on the night of the Mi‘raj, he saw Adam, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, Jesus and Abraham, in the heavens. Assuredly it was their souls.”
(Kashf al-Mah_jūb, Chapter al-Kalām fir-rūh, p. 204).
Shaikh al-Akbar Muhayy-ud-Din Ibn Arabi in his Quranic commentary, writes:
“The raising (raf‘) of Jesus means that, at the time of separation, his soul was raised from the lower world to the higher world. And his being in the fourth heaven signifies that the source of his soul’s benefit is the spirituality of that sun’s sky which resembles the heart of the world, and towards that is his place of return. That spirituality is a light which illumines that heaven with its love, and the shining of the rays upon his soul is done by its stimulation. And as Jesus’ place of return is towards its real place of rest, and cannot attain its true development, his (Jesus’) descent in the latter days will be in a different body.” (Commentary upon verse ‘Allah raised him to Himself’, p. 65)
Taqi-ud-Din Abul-Abbas Ahmad ibn Abdul Hakim ibn Abdus-Salam, known as Imam Ibn Taimiyya, writes:
“Allah has informed, in regard to the Messiah, that he told people only to worship Allah, ‘my Lord and your Lord’; and he was a witness of them so long as he was among them, but after his death (wafāt) only Allah was the Watcher over them. So if some people have misreported him, or misinterpreted his words, or deliberately altered the religion he brought, the Messiah cannot be held responsible for it, for he was only a messenger whose duty was just the delivery of the message.” (Al-Jawwāb as-S_ah_īh_ li-man baddala dīn al-Masīh, vol. ii, p. 280)
Hafiz Ibn Qayyim Shams-ud-Din Abu Abdullah Muhammad ibn Abi Bakr, known as wrote: “As for what is related about the Messiah that he was raised up to heaven at the age of 33 years, there is no sound authority for this which one could turn to.” (Zād al-Ma‘ād, vol. i, p. 20) And: “With the exception of the Holy Prophet Muhammad, a person attains to heaven with his spirit only after death and separation from the body, so the spirits of all prophets went to heaven only after death and separation from the body.” (ibid., p. 304)
Allama Jubā’I He said: “This verse shows that Allah caused Jesus to die (amāta) and brought about his death (tawaffā-hu), and then raised him to Himself.” (Commentary Majma‘ al-Bayān, vol. i, under verse falammā tawaffaita-nī)
Imam Asir-ud-Din Muhammad ibn Yusuf ibn Ali al-Andalasi, known as Abu Hayyan Nahwi, writes: “This verse shows that Allah made Jesus die (tawaffāhu wafāt al-maut) before raising him.” (Bah_r al-Muh_īt_, vol. iv, p. 4)
Imam Muhammad ibn Ali ibn Muhammad ibn Abdullah, known as Allama Shaukani, has written: “It is said that this verse shows that Allah caused Jesus to die before raising him.” (Fath_ al-Qādir Qalmī, p. 4)
Allama Abdul Rahman Sa‘di In his Quranic commentary, writes: “Allah honored Jesus by causing his disciples to spread in the world, in his life-time and after his death (mamāt).” (Tafsīr al-Manān, published in Makka)
Allama Abdul Rahman Sa‘di In his Quranic commentary, writes: “Allah honored Jesus by causing his disciples to spread in the world, in his life-time and after his death (mamāt).” (Tafsīr al-Manān, published in Makka)
Muhammad Asad in The Message of the Quran translates the verse 3:55 of the Quran in the following English words: “Lo! God said: O Jesus! Verily, I shall cause thee to die, and exalt thee unto Me.” Verse 5:117 is rendered as: “And I bore witness to what they did as long as I dwelt amongst them; but since Thou hast caused me to die, Thou alone hast been their keeper. For You are witness unto everything”. In the footnote to verse 4:157 he explains:
“Thus the Quran categorically denies the story of the crucifixion of Jesus. There exist, among Muslims, many fanciful legends telling us that at the last moment God substituted for Jesus a person closely resembling him (according to some accounts, that person was Judas), who was subsequently crucified in his place. However, none of these legends finds the slightest support in the Quran or in authentic Traditions, and the stories produced in this connection by the classical commentators of the Quran must be summarily rejected.” The next footnote contains the statement:
“Nowhere in the Quran is there any warrant for the popular belief of many Muslims that God has ‘taken up’ Jesus bodily into heaven.”
The famous Egyptian reformist Mufti Muhammad Abduh believed that Jesus had died:
“In the Tafsīr al-Manār, the teacher and Imam (Muhammad Abduh), after taking the apparent meaning of the verse, has stated that tawaffā bears its obvious significance, i.e., causing to die. The raising (raf‘) comes after that, and it is spiritual elevation.” (Qas_as_ al-Anbiyā by Abdul Wahab al-Najar, p. 428) “Tawaffā here means causing to die, as in the obvious and comprehensible significance.” (Al-Manār)
Rashid Raza, the famous disciple of Mufti Muhammad Abduh writes: “Hence Jesus’ escape to India and his death in that country is not against reason and sense.”
(Quranic Commentary by Al-Sayyid Rashid Raza, part vi, pp. 42, 43)
Dr Ahmad Zaki Abu Shadi in his article Hal al-Qur’ān Mu‘jiza (‘Is the Quran a miracle?’), he writes:
“It is a well known teaching of Islam that Allah is everywhere, and that He is the light of the heaven and the earth. So the words ‘He raised him (Jesus) to Himself ’ do not have the physical meaning that He lifted him up to heaven, as is the Christian belief. … Raf‘ here means to rescue and to honor, as opposed to a degraded death on the cross in the manner in which criminals are executed. Other interpretations that some Muslim commentators have adopted are more akin to poetry than to sound logic, and the reliability of these commentators’ scholarship is rather limited.” (Al-Mawāhib Āzār, Argentina, March 1955)
This renowned nineteenth century Muslim educationist, social reformer, religious scholar and founder of the Aligarh Muslim University, Sir Syed Ahmad Khan wrote:
“Now we must turn to the Holy Quran to see what it says. The Quran makes mention of Jesus’ death in four places … Firstly in Sūra Āl ‘Imrān, secondly in Sūra Mā’ida, … thirdly in Sūra Maryam … fourthly in Sūra Nisā’. Jesus was not killed by the Jews, either by stoning or by crucifixion, but he died his natural death, and God raised him in rank and status … From the first three verses it is clear that Jesus died a natural death.
However, as the Ulama of Islam had followed the Christians in accepting that Jesus had gone up to heaven alive, before looking at the Quran, so they have tried to interpret some of the words in these verses to accord with their unsound belief.” (Tafsīr Ah_madī by Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, vol. ii. Referring to the expression ‘in this’ (Arabic: bi-hi) in the verse: ‘And there is none of the People of the Book but will believe in this before his death’ (4:159), which is generally taken to mean in him (i.e. in Jesus), Sir Syed writes:
“This points to the words ‘And their saying: we have killed the Messiah’ [4:157], and to their saying, and not to the Messiah. So this means: ‘All the People of the Book, before their death, will believe that Jesus was killed’. After this it is said: ‘And on the day of Judgment he, i.e. Jesus, will be a witness against them’. The word ‘alā [‘against’] is used to indicate loss or harm. So the meaning is that on the day of Judgment Jesus will be a witness against their belief.” (Maktūb Sir Syed, No. 2, p. 48)
“Jesus spent his early life migrating from one place to another. His later life was not very long, for he was 33 years of age when he died, and at that time there were only 70 people who believed in him.” (The Aligarh Magazine, Intikhab No. 1971, p. 48)
Maulana Ubaidullah Sindhi wrote: “Mutawaffī-ka means mumītu-ka [I will cause you to die] and what generally prevails amongst the public about Jesus’ life is a Jewish and Sabean fable … It is not a concealed matter that the source of Islam is the Quran, and in it there is not even one verse proving explicitly that Jesus did not die, and that he is alive and shall come down. These are only the deductions and explanations of some people, and are not free from doubt and uncertainty. How, then, can it be taken to be
a fundamental Islamic belief?” (Ilhām al-Rah_mān fī-tafsīr al-Qur’ān, vol. ii, p. 49)
Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, one of the most rominent Islamic scholars of Indis expresses his view as follows:
“The death of Jesus is mentioned in the Quran itself. (Malfūzāt-i Azad, compiled by Muhammad Ajmal Khan, Maktaba Mahaul, Karachi, pp. 129, 130)
ii. “The belief [in Jesus being alive] by its nature is in every way a Christian doctrine which has appeared in an Islamic guise.” (Naqsh Azad, p. 102, compiled by Maulana Ghulam Rasul Mahr)
Dr. Sir Muhammad Iqbal writes in a poem:
“Is the son of Mary dead, or does he live? Are Divine attributes separate from God, or one with His Person? Is the Coming one the Nazarene Jesus, or a Mujaddid having the son of Mary’s qualities? Are the Divine words created, or pre-existing from eternity, In which belief does lay the salvation of the Ummah?
Are not sufficient for the Muslims today, These Lāt and Manāt [idols] carved out by theology.” (Armaghan Hijaz, p. 227) ii. In a letter he wrote:
“I can only tell you what I believe. I consider the Hadith reports about the Mahdi, the coming Messiah, and mujaddidiyya, to be derived from Persian and non- Arab conceptions. They have no connection with Arab concepts or the true spirit of the Quran.” (Iqbal Nama, ‘Collection of the Letters of Iqbal’, Part II, letter to Chaudhary Muhammad Ahsan, p. 231)
In another poetic verse he writes:
“Look for the descent of God upon the minaret of your own heart,
And give up waiting even for the Mahdi or Jesus.” (Baqiyat Iqbal, p. 451).
“Jamal-ud-Din Afghani, Allama Iqbal, and many other thinkers believe that no Mahdi or Messiah will now descend from heaven.” (Zamindar, Lahore, 27 July 1952)
Maulana Sayyid Sulaiman Nadawi, the great modern Muslim scholar from India wrote::
“Looking at the birth of Jesus, his death and the doctrine of Trinity, some American critics and rationalists now believe that Jesus was just a mythical figure.” (Khutbāt Madrās, p. 42, Sermon No. 2, published by the Lahore Academy, 205 Circular Road, Lahore)
“It appears from this that even before Sir Syed [Ahmad Khan] some Ulama held the same viewpoint as his on this question [of Jesus’ death]. People today who make this issue a standard for determining belief or disbelief in Islam are indulging in extremism.” (Mu‘āraf, March 1930, p. 171)
In a letter from a high ranking Pakistan Government official, published by Maulana Abdul Majid Daryabadi in his newspaper S_idq-i-Jadīd of Lucknow (India), the following is recorded about Maulana Sayyid Sulaiman Nadwi’s view of the “descent” of Jesus: “The Maulana said: ‘I do not hold this belief myself and consider the Hadith reports about it to be unsound.’ The Maulana had disclosed this view of his to Maulana Ihtasham-ul-Haq, but had added that since to oppose this belief gives rise to much trouble, he refrained from expressing it, and also because this belief did not relate to the fundamentals of Islam.” (S_idq-i Jadīd, Lucknow, 28 October 1955)
In his famous book Tazkira, after discussing historical testimony relating to the death of Jesus, Allama Inayatullah Mashriqi, the founder of Khaksar Movement in India and a great scholar of the Quran wrote: “It is clearly proved today that the prophets were great experts in the laws of nature, and very knowledgeable in the sciences. To be so well-informed is not only true prophethood but also conveys the exemplary lesson that Jesus’ death too was according to the Divine law regarding which the Quran says: ‘You will not find any change in the law of Allah’ (Sūra Al-Fātir).” (Tazkira, vol. i, footnote, pp.16-17)
Abdullah Yusuf Ali in the first edition of his English translation and commentary of the Holy Quran, he rendered verse 3:55 as: “I will take thy soul and raise thee to Myself.” In the footnote at this point in the first edition, he wrote: “Read this along with 4:157 where it is said that the Jews neither crucified nor killed Jesus, but that another was killed in his likeness. The guilt of the Jews remained. But Jesus completed his life and was when he died taken up to God.”
Maulana Amin Ahsan Islahi, the former deputy head of the Jama‘at-i Islami writes: “The meaning is that Muhammad (peace be upon him) too is a messenger of Allah, just as there had been many other messengers [of Allah] in the world. He too may have to face the same kind of trials and tribulations that they encountered. Just as all messengers (tamām rasūl) had had to pass through the stage of death, he too would die one day. His being a messenger [of Allah] does not mean that he would not die or cannot be killed.”
(Tadabbar Quran, vol. i, p. 287, under verse 3:144, published in Lahore, 1967)
Sayyid Abul ‘Ala Maudoodi, the founder of Jamat Islamic wrote:
“The most appropriate course of action according to the Quran is to refrain from giving further details of raf‘ jismānī (bodily ascension) and of maut (death) …
In fact, one should consider Jesus’ ascent to be an extraordinary manifestation of Divine power, and leave its exact nature in brief terms as Allah Himself has leftit brief.”
(Maulana Maudoodi par i‘trāzāt kā ‘ilmī jā’iza, by Maulvi Muhammad Yusuf, Part I, p. 169)
“I think that this issue is among the mutashābihāt (unclear verses), for we cannot comprehend the exact nature of Jesus’ ascent, his staying alive somewhere, and his subsequent descent at some future date. What we have been taught about the mutashābihāt is that we should not investigate them further, but merely believe in however much has been told to us. To undertake investigation of the mutashābihāt, and to be indifferent to the muh_kamāt (explicit verses), is clear sign of perversity.” (Letter dated 1 January 1951, ref: 760/71, Ichhra, Lahore)
In answer to a letter, Sayyid Abul ‘Ala Maudoodi had his reply written by Mr. Naeem Siddiqi as follows: “As to what I have understood from the Holy Quran regarding the death of Jesus … I have already explained it, and you can read it. As to Jesus’ second coming, I cannot put it higher than a possibility because the Quran gives no explanation of it, and the basis of firm faith cannot be laid upon Hadith. It could be that Allah may send Jesus to earth again, and if He so wishes there cannot be any bar against it. In any case, this point is not part of Islamic doctrine.” (Rukh Kardār by Chaudhary Habibullah, p. 243)
“The Quran does not explicitly state that Allah raised up Jesus, body and soul, from earth to heaven. Nor does it clearly say that he died a natural death on earth, and that only his soul was raised up. Thus, on the basis of the Quran, neither of these views can be definitely rejected or confirmed.” (Tafhīm al-Qur’ān by Maulana Maudoodi, p. 240)
Thus it is evident from the divine message, the statements of the Prophet and the opinions of serious scholars that every individual tastes and has tasted death and Jesus is not an exception. The idea of his second coming is influenced by Biblical perspectives and folklores that can be found in almost every religious traditions of the world. This idea is not part of Iman. By taking an alternative position, a person cannot be accused of renouncing his/her faith.