Jesus, Dead or Alive
By Mubasher Ahmad
Comments on respected Dr. Sayed Akhtar's article on the subject of Jesus, dead, or alive?
And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, the Apostle of Allah; and they did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them so, and most surely who differ therein are only in a doubt about it. They have no knowledge in respect of it, but only follow a conjecture, and they killed him not for sure. 4: 157
To properly understand the meaning of this verse, first thing to find out is who are the people saying: Surely, we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, the Apostle of Allah and why are they making this claim? Obviously they are the People of the Book, specifically the Jews. The preceding verses (4:153-156) clearly identify the Jews as misbehaving people, making unjustified and unnatural demands: They were asking the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) to cause a Book to descend on them from heaven. They had asked Moses to show them Allah openly. They took the calf for worship. The broke their Covenant with Allah. They denied the Signs of Allah. They tried to kill the prophets unjustly. They had sarcastically said that their hearts were wrapped in covers. They disbelieved. They uttered a grievous calumny against Marium, the mother Jesus, accusing her of immorality on giving birth to a child out of wedlock. The same Jews were falsely claiming that they had killed Jesus by getting him crucified on the cross!
Next thing to understand is to know why the Jews were making that claim! Most certainly they had some vicious intentions. They had rejected Jesus son of Marium, their Messiah, proclaiming that he was a false prophet. To prove their point and to convinced all the Jews that Jesus, son of Marium, was (God forbid) an impostor, they wanted him to be crucified on the cross -- dying an accursed death. According to the Torah, the sacred Book of the Jews, for he that is hanged (on wood) is accursed of God (Deuteronomy 21:23). Had Jesus been killed on the cross, then the Jews would have succeeded in establishing, according to their Scripture, that he was an accursed of God. That's how they wanted to disgrace him. They had already defamed his mother, by stigmatizing his birth, now they wanted to dishonor and discredit his claim that he was their Messiah. There could have been nothing more ignoble that dying an accursed death on the wood!
Keeping this background in mind the vicious campaign of the evil minded Jews to humiliate and smear the status of their Messiah, it becomes easy to understand why it was necessary for God to establish the honor and dignity of Jesus, son of Marium, to exalt his status by clearing him of all the false accusations of the Jews. That's why Allah had made a promise with Jesus that He would frustrate the plans of his enemies, He will not let him die an ignoble death on the cross. Allah was not to let the Jews kill him, but rather He would give him a natural death and exalt him. Allah says that the Jews could not kill him, could not crucify him, and thus could not defame him. They failed in their plan. Jesus was saved by a better plan of Allah. The Jews have no true knowledge and they are still following their conjectures and false claims thinking that he died on the cross!
If someone is not killed(i.e., murdered) or crucified on a cross, it should not lead us to the conclusion that such a person is automatically picked up physically by God and taken up to the heavens. There are other ways to meet one's death. One can die due to an illness, or an accident or old age. There are millions upon millions who meet their deaths without being killed, murdered or crucified. The most significant matter was to establish the honor of Jesus. Both verses 4:157 and 4:158 are surely connected with each other if we properly understand that it was an ignoble and accursed death that the Jews were claiming that Jesus had suffered, and the second verse is emphatically denying the false claims of the Jews. It is asserting that Jesus was not accursed of God but rather exalted towards God. Both the verses need to be read in the light that the mischievous Jews were trying to prove that Jesus was under the curse (la‚nat) of Allah. The curse refers to the state of one's heart when the heart is estranged from God and becomes dark being rejected by God. But in the case of Jesus, Allah claims that his heart was drenched in love of Allah, he being the Messiah and an Apostle of Allah. He was exalted towards Allah. In bal rafa‚ hullaho alaihi‚ the word bal‚ means Nay, i.e., On the contrary. Thus this verse is connected with the earlier verse, telling us that whatever the Jews think is incorrect, they have no knowledge of what they are talking about, they are just following a false wishful conjecture; there claim is totally rejected by Allah!
To think that Jesus was physically picked up by Allah towards Him is nothing but problematic. It is to assume (God-forbid) that Allah is also physically sitting somewhere in the heavens -- far away from the earth! The Holy Quran most emphatically denies that Allah is physically located at any place regardless how many trillion light years one may try to conceive the distance between the earth and the heavens. Allah is not restricted to any specific physical location. Allah is the Light of the heavens and the earth (24:35); There is nothing whatever like unto Him (42:11); to each person, Allah is nearer than even his jugular vein (50:16). So, question arises: What does it mean for someone to be picked up physically towards Him? If Allah is everywhere, then (God-forbid) we have to believe (like Christians do) that Jesus is also everywhere along with Allah with his physical body for last 2000 years!
It is amazing to read the examples taken from the Quran in support of the opinion that Jesus is sitting in heavens alive with his physical body. First, the case of the People of the Cave (Asahab e Kahf) is referred in an attempt to prove the point. As a matter of fact, the People of the Cave is in a reference to the early Christians who were strict monotheists (Unitarians), and who fearing persecution and death at the hands of the Romans, went underground into hiding -- mostly living in the catacombs. It is a historical fact that the duration of their persecution was the first three centuries. During this period of harsh persecution, Roman Emperors such as Tacitus Nero and others inflicted most inhuman tortures upon the early followers of Jesus (peace be on him). Their remaining hidden from the outside world for a long time is also a historical fact. Their case of remaining hidden in the caves (catacombs) does not prove that some human being can stay physically alive for 2000 years in the outer space or in heavens!
Secondly, the Shaheed(martyrs) are declared to be alive, but we all know that none of the martyrs is kept alive with his physical body. We do bury the bodies of our martyred brothers and sisters in their graves knowing well that they are not dead. The case of Jesus being alive in the sense that he still has his physical body intact and functioning is not the same as that of a Shaheed being alive.
The details of our Prophet's ascension provide us a convincing proof that Jesus (peace be on him) is dead and buried like all other prophets of Allah before him. He was seen by the Prophet (peace and blessings of Allah be on him) along with other prophets such as Adam, Yahya, Yusuf, Idris, Haroon, Musa, and Ibrahim (may peace be on them all) were also there in various levels of heavens. Now, we have to either believe that Adam, Yahya, Yusuf, Musa, Ibrahim and other prophets are also "alive with their physical bodies" just like Jesus, or Jesus is dead and buried like all other Prophets who were seen in the heavens by the Prophet Muhammad (peace and blessings of Allah be on him). We cannot conceive one in the heavens with his physical body, and the rest of them with their physical bodies left in their graves on the earth!
It is most unreasonable to compare a human being (with a physical body) with Gabriel an angel made out of Light. To make a claim that living human body can also be taken up towards Allah is twisting the teachings of the Qur'an. For humans, Allah has His own laws. Our Prophet (may peace and blessings of Allah be on him) was asked by the disbelievers to ascend up into heavens and bring down a Book for them, and in response to this ridiculous demand of the disbelievers, Allah Saubhanaho wa Ta„la directed the Prophet to say: 'Holy is my Lord! I am not but a man, a Messenger' (17:93).
Trying to prove that Jesus is still alive, the verse 4:159 of the Quran is clearly being misread. If all the People of the Book (all the Jews and Christians) have to believe in the true position of Jesus before his (Jesus) death, then the fact remains that there are countless People of the Book who have already passed away and they did NOT believe in the true position of Jesus as a prophet of Allah. There will be innumerable more People of the Book who will live before the death of Jesus without believing in his true position. The Jews will keep on believing him as an impostor and the Christians will keep on believing him to be the only begotten Son of God, and they will never see the truth before the death of Jesus. Thus, it will be wrong to say that all People of the Book shall believe before his (Jesus) death.
The mistake in understanding the correct meaning of the verse (4:159) can be removed when we understand that the pronoun this or it in the clause, believe in this stands for the false belief of the People of the Book as referred to in the preceding verses that Jesus met his death on the cross. As a matter of fact, this verse signifies that both Jews and Christians will continue to believe in the supposed crucifixion of Jesus till their deaths, and after their deaths -- on the Day of Resurrection -- Jesus will stand as witness against them. Only then they will realize the absurdity of their erroneous belief. If all the People of the Book were to believe in the truth of Jesus before his death, then the Quranic claim that Jesus will stand against them on the Day of Judgment becomes illogical. Once they have believed in his true position, then Jesus should stand on their side, not against them!
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