Question: A writer says, “Isa (Jesus) died, so he cannot come back.” Could you provide us with information about this issue?
Before getting down to examining exegeses about this issue, let us have a look at the meanings of two verses appearing in Nisa’ Sura:
(We cursed Jews because of their saying, “We murdered ‘Isa, son of Maryam, the Messenger of Allah.” In fact, they did not murder him, nor did they crucify him. The murdered one was made to appear to them like ‘Isa. Those who differ over him are in a state of utter confusion; they have no knowledge whatsoever about this matter, but only a conjecture. For certain, they did not murder him. Allah raised ‘Isa up to His presence.) [Surat-un-Nisa’ 157-158]
In these verses Allahu ta’ala categorically states that Hadrat ‘Isa was not killed. He will return sometime in the future. What is meant by “… up to His presence” is that he has been taken up to the heavens. Otherwise, Allah is transcendently beyond occupying space. He is not in the sky. It is He who created the sky. The created cannot be a place of residence for its Creator.
The best explanation is surely provided by our master Rasulullah. Some pertinent hadith-i sharifs are as follows:
(Doomsday will not come before 10 presages appear. One of them is ‘Isa’s descent from the sky.) [Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Maja, Nasai, Imam-i Ahmad, Tabarani, Ibn Hibban, Ibn Jarir]
(‘Isa will descend from the sky as a just judge. He will break the cross [he will wipe out Christianity], kill pigs [he will forbid pork], and prohibit everything other than Islam.) [Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud, Tirmidhi, Ibn Abi Shayba]
(When ‘Isa returns to the earth, he will marry, have a son, live for about 40 years, and die. He will be buried beside me.) [Tirmidhi, Mawahib]
(‘Isa will come as a follower of my religion. He will kill Dajjal, and then Doomsday will come.) [Imam-i Ahmad]
(When ‘Isa comes, he will kill Dajjal.) [Muslim, Imam-i Ahmad, Tabarani, Ruyani, Ziya al-Maqdisi]
(After ‘Isa kills Dajjal, there will be no hostility between two people.) [Muslim]
(This is an Ummah that starts with me and ends with ‘Isa. Allah will not make them despicable.) [Hakim, Abu Nu’aym]
(Blessed is the life after the descent of ‘Isa.) [Abu Nu’aym]
(In the time period close to Doomsday, how beautiful is the life after the descent of ‘Isa. Then the sky will be granted permission to send its rain and the earth will be granted permission to grow its produce. If one sows a seed on a flat stone, it will sprout. When one passes by a lion, the lion will not do any harm. When one steps on a snake, it will not bite. There will be no struggle for interests, jealousy or hatred among people.) [Abu Said an-Nakkash]
(Grudge, hatred, and jealousy will no longer exist when ‘Isa descends as a just judge.) [Muslim]
(‘Isa will perform salat behind Mahdi.) [Ibn Hajar-i Makki]
(When ‘Isa descends, he will judge according to the law of Islam. Allahu ta’ala will then destroy everyone except Muslims. Afterwards, peace and security will prevail on earth so much so that lions with camels, tigers with cows, and wolves with lambs will wander freely. Children will play with snakes. When ‘Isa passes away, Muslims will conduct his funeral service.) [Abu Dawud]
(‘Isa will be buried beside me.) [Tirmidhi]
The murdered one was made to appear like him
Let us have a look at the Tafsir at-Tibyan first on account of its easy availability:
In the interpretation of 157th and 158th verses of Nisa’ Sura, it is written that Hadrat ‘Isa was not killed or crucified, that the murdered one was made to appear like him, and that Hadrat ‘Isa was taken up to the sky. (Tibyan, vol. I, p. 365)
It is written as follows in the interpretation of 55th verse of Al-i ‘Imran Sura:
“Hadrat ‘Isa was raised to the heavens alive. According to a hadith transmitted by Bukhari and Muslim, Hadrat ‘Isa will return to the earth at a time close to Doomsday, judge by the law of Islam, kill Dajjal and pigs, and break the cross. He will stay on earth for 7 years, or 40 years according to another narration. Then he will pass away, and his funeral prayer will be performed. That he will stay for 40 years on earth may refer to his life span. He had stayed on earth for 33 years before he was elevated to the sky. He will stay on earth for 7 years after he descends from the sky. So the total is 40 years” (Tibyan, vol. I, p. 233).
In the interpretation of 61st verse of Zukhruf Sura, the following is written:
“Isa’s (‘alaihis-salâm) descent is a presage of Doomsday” (Tibyan, vol. IV, p. 137).
In Hasan Basri Çantay’s ma’al, which is recognized as the best of all Turkish ma’als on the market, the 157th and 158th verses of Nisa’ Sura are explained as follows:
“Hadrat ‘Isa was not killed or crucified. The murdered one was made to appear like him. Hadrat ‘Isa was taken up to the sky. These have been quoted from Tafsir al-Jalalayn” (Kur’an-ı Hakim ve Meal-i Kerim, vol. I, p. 150).
The 55th verse of Al-i ‘Imran Sura is interpreted as follows:
“Allah said then: ‘It is not they, but Me, who will kill you. I will raise you to Myself.’” It is said in its footnote, “According to the 157th and 158th verses of Nisa’ Sura, Hadrat ‘Isa was not murdered by his enemies, but Allah raised him up with his body and soul.” The hadith-i sharif relating his return to the earth, which appears in Bukhari and Muslim, is cited and further added, “There are other authentic traditions on this issue as well.” (Kur’an-ı Hakim ve Meal-i Kerim, vol. I, p. 92)
In the interpretation of 61st verse of Zukhruf Sura, it is said that Hadrat ‘Isa’s descent is one of the signs of Doomsday. It is written in its footnote that these statements were excerpted from Baydawi, Jalalayn, and Madarik. Furthermore, Hadrat Ibn Abbas’s statement, “Hadrat ‘Isa’s descent is one of the signs of Doomsday,” is presented. The hadith-i sharif quoted by Bukhari and Muslim and stating Hadrat ‘Isa’s descent is also added. (Kur’an-ı Hakim ve Meal-i Kerim, vol. III, p. 900)
Imam-i Qurtubi writes in his work Al-Jami li-Ahkam al-Qur’an as follows: It is said in the 61st verse of Zukhruf Sura, “He is certainly knowledge of, a sign of Doomsday. Have no doubt about it.” Ibn Abbas, Mujahid, Dahhak, Alsadiy, and Qatada stated, “Just as the âyat-i karima reveals that Dajjal is one of the signs of Doomsday, so it also reveals that the return of Hadrat ‘Isa is one of the signs of Doomsday, because Allahu ta’ala will send him down from the sky before Doomsday comes. Ibn Abbas, Abu Hurayra, Qatada, Malik bin Dinar, and Dahhak declared him to be a sign. Ibn Mas’ud said, “The Messenger of Allah saw Hadrat ‘Isa during the Mi’raj event. Hadrat ‘Isa said then, ‘The sign of Doomsday is Dajjal’s emergence. I will descend and kill him.’” The moment Dajjal appears, Allah ta’ala will send ‘Isa. When a disbeliever smells him, he or she will be out of breath and will die. He will kill Dajjal. (Muslim, Ibn Maja, Abu Dawud, Imam-i Ahmad, Tabarani, Suyuti, Imam-i Munawi, Nawawi, Kanzil ummal, Majmul zawaid)
Questions of a Jewish convert
There are questions circulating on the Internet that belong to Muhammad Asad, a Jewish convert of Polish origin. Could you please answer them?
Question 1: Is Isa’s coming back to earth not in contradiction to the Qur’an? ‘Isa cannot come after Muhammad, the Last Prophet. If he comes, will he not be the last prophet then? If it is said that ‘Isa will not come as a prophet, then does it not mean rejecting his prophethood?
A Muslim does not say, “Isa” or “Muhammad.” He or she adds the phrase alaihis-salâm or uses the title Hadrat at least. Do these statements of his not show that he did not convert to Islam, that is, he continued to follow the Jewish religion? Hadrat ‘Isa will not come as the last prophet, but will come as a prophet in order to serve the religion of Muhammad ‘alaihis-salâm, who is the last prophet. A prophet can promulgate the religion of another prophet. For example, Harun ‘alaihis-salam was sent as a prophet to promulgate the religion of Musa ‘alaihis-salam. Likewise, Yahya alaihis-salâm was sent as a prophet to promulgate the religion of Hadrat ‘Isa.
Question 2: When ‘Isa returns to earth, since he will not reject the Qur’an, he will also believe the Qur’anic verses that reveal his prophethood. In this case, will he not be considered to disbelieve the fact that Muhammad is the last prophet?
Why will Hadrat ‘Isa deny (never!) that he is a prophet? He will say, “I am ‘Isa, Allah’s prophet. Allahu ta’ala has sent me to serve the religion of the Final Prophet, Muhammad ‘alaihis-salam.”
Question 3: If ‘Isa, as your hadith books claim, comes back to earth, will he believe the Qur’anic verses that are about his prophethood?
You are saying, “Your hadith books.” Aren’t they yours? Does a Believer in Allah not believe in the traditions of His Messenger? It is understood that you are not a sincere convert to Islam. Why will Hadrat ‘Isa disbelieve the Qur’anic verses (never!)? He will come so as to spread them.
Question 4: If Prophet ‘Isa comes back to earth, will Muhammad still hold his title of “Last Prophet”?
It will become even stronger. He will say that he has come to spread the religion of the Last Prophet Muhammad ‘alaihis-salam, will serve Islam, and will personally answer the slanders leveled at himself, his mother, and Allah the Exalted. So these, in turn, will conduce to the confirmation of the veracity of the Qur’an al-karim.
Question 5: What do you think about the ahadith that say ‘Isa will legalize what is forbidden?
There is no such hadith. He will judge according to the law of Islamic religion. It is declared in hadith-i sharifs, which rank second among the four sources of our religion:
(I swear by Allah that ‘Isa, son of Maryam, will descend among you as a just judge. He will break the cross [he will wipe out Christianity], kill pigs [he will forbid pork], and prohibit everything other than Islam.) [Bukhari]
(When ‘Isa descends, he will judge according to the law of Islam. Allahu ta’ala will then destroy everyone except Muslims.) [Abu Dawud]