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The Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was not Killed and is Not Dead

Jesus (pbuh) is one of the prophets whose lives are described in detail in the Qur'an. He came into the world without a father, as a miracle of our Lord. The Qur'an reveals his miraculous birth, as follows:

They have iman in Allah and the Last Day, and enjoin the right and forbid the wrong, and compete in doing good. They are among the salihun.
(Surah Al 'Imran, 114)

… The Messiah, Jesus son of Maryam, was only the messenger of Allah and His Word, which He cast into Maryam, and a Spirit from Him. So believe in Allah and His messengers. (Surat an-Nisa':171)

When Gabriel appeared to Maryam in human form, he told her that she would give birth to the Prophet Jesus (pbuh). Allah revealed the Prophet Jesus' (pbuh) miraculous and superior characteristics to Maryam even before he was born. Allah also reveals in the Qur'an that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) is a chosen and honorable individual in both worlds, and that he will perform miracles:

When the angels said: "Maryam, your Lord gives you good news of a Word from Him. His name is the Messiah, Jesus, son of Maryam, of high esteem in this world and the Hereafter, and one of those brought near. He will speak to people in the cradle and when fully grown, and will be one of the righteous." (Surah Al 'Imran:45-46)

Maryam's society had various ignorant ideas about the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) right from the moment of his birth, and even attempted to slander Maryam. Allah relays in the Qur'an about the reaction of those who did not believe in his miraculous birth and that he was a miracle of our Lord even while he was still in the cradle:

She [Maryam] brought him [Jesus] to her people, carrying him. They exclaimed: "O Maryam! You have done an unthinkable thing! O Sister of Aaron, your father was not an evil man, nor was your mother an unchaste woman!" She pointed toward him. They said: "How can a baby in the cradle speak?" He [Jesus] said: "I am the servant of Allah. He has given me the Book and made me a prophet. He has made me blessed wherever I am, and has directed me to perform prayer and give alms as long as I live. And [He directed me] to show devotion to my mother. He has not made me insolent or arrogant. Peace be upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am raised up again alive." (Surah Maryam:27-33)

The Prophet Jesus (pbuh) performed, by Allah's will, many other miracles, such as healing the blind and the sick and making a bird out of mud and setting it in flight:

Remember when Allah said: "Jesus, son of Maryam, remember My blessing to you and to your mother when I reinforced you with the Purest Spirit so that you could speak to people in the cradle and when you were fully grown; when I taught you the Book and Wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel; when you created a bird-shape out of clay by My permission, and then breathed into it and it became a bird by My permission; healed the blind and the leper by My permission; when you brought forth the dead by My permission; and when I held back the tribe of Israel from you, when you brought them the clear signs and those of them who did not believe said: 'This is nothing but downright magic.'" (Surat al-Ma'ida:110)

Despite all of these miracles by Allah's grace, such as the ones mentioned above and the fact that he could tell people what they had eaten and what they had hidden, and referred to Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) as "Ahmad," very few people in his society actually believed in him.

The Prophet Jesus' (pbuh) Struggle

Giovanni Bellini, Madonna and Child, Three Musical Angels, and SS. Francis, John the Baptist, Job, Dominic, Sebastian, and Louis of Toulouse, known as the St. Job (Giobbe) Altarpiece. c. 1480. Galleria dell'Accademia, Venice, Italy.

[Jesus said:] “I said to them nothing but what You ordered me to say: ‘Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.’”
(Surat al-Ma'ida, 117)

Like all prophets with a deep fear and love of, and respect for Allah, and all of whom were role models for humanity, the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) struggled against his society's unbelievers and pagans throughout his life. He told the Children of Israel, many of whom had turned away from religious moral values, of Allah's divinely revealed moral values as well as the reality of His existence and oneness. He called on his people to believe in Allah, avoid sin and evil, and do good works. He also reminded them of the transitory nature of this world's life and the closeness of death, and called upon them to worship, fear, and respect only Him.

At the time of the Prophet Jesus (pbuh), the Mediterranean region and the surrounding area was ruled by Rome. Roman religion, in common with the surrounding religions, was polytheistic and superstitious. The imaginary deities of Greek mythology also appeared in Roman mythology, but under different names. The Jews living in Palestine were a small minority in the Roman Empire. However, Rome interfered very little in their beliefs and internal affairs. But beginning with the second century B.C.E., the Jews entered a period of internal fragmentation. With the Torah and Judaic tradition being interpreted in different ways by various groups, several sects emerged and serious disputes began to occur. These disputes gave rise to uncertainties and discontent in Jewish society, and the ensuing disorder could not be eliminated. As a result, Judaism moved away from the divine religion that Allah had revealed to the Prophet Moses (pbuh) and was corrupted by the addition of some superstitious beliefs and laws.

The Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was sent to resolve these differences, by teaching them once again about the divine religion, from whose essence they had departed, and to eliminate their superstitions:

And when Jesus came with clear signs, he said: "I have come to you with wisdom and to clarify for you some of the things about which you have differed. Therefore, have fear [and respect] of Allah and obey me. Allah is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. This is a straight path." The various factions among them differed. Woe then to those who did wrong on account of the punishment of a painful Day! (Surat az-Zukhruf:63-65)

[Jesus will say:] "I come confirming the Torah I find already there, and to make lawful for you some of what was previously forbidden to you. I have brought you a sign from your Lord. So have fear [and respect] of Allah and obey me." (Surah Al 'Imran:50)

The Prophet Jesus' (pbuh) mission created great unease among those circles whose interests lay in maintaining the status quo, even though it was incompatible with religious moral values. These circles were headed by false religious leaders and other individuals who ascribed partners to Allah. Some of their religious ideas acquired considerable status among the people and increased their own material benefits. Instead of following the proper moral values required by the religion, they supported injustice, cruelty, falsehood and polytheism, all of which served their own interests. They performed certain acts of worship according to their own opinion, and only for show, failed to protect the divine religion of the Prophet Moses (pbuh), and added many superstitions and errors. As Allah reveals in the Qur'an: "Woe to those who write the Book with their own hands and then say: 'This is from Allah' to sell it for a paltry price!" (Surat al-Baqara:79). Moreover, some Jewish theologians even changed the stipulations of the Pentateuch.

However, the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) told these people to worship, fear and respect, love and live only for Allah. He told them that they needed to display the proper morality to win Allah's good approval, turn their backs on superstition, and avoid committing injustice. He preached that they should stop deceiving themselves and the people and acquire sincere belief. His miracles clearly demonstrated that Allah had selected him over the worlds, supported him with knowledge and power, and made him a most valuable prophet. The Prophet Jesus' (pbuh) deep faith, high moral values, superior understanding, and wise words inspired great admiration among the people. However, those who insisted on defending their corrupted version of the divinely revealed religion refused to obey him.

While the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was among his people, only a very few people followed him. Allah reveals in the Qur'an that when his people persisted in their denial, he asked who would be his helpers:

Marco Basaiti, La Vocazione dei figli di Zebedeo, Venice, 1510

The Messiah would never disdain to be a servant to Allah, nor would the angels near to Him. If any do disdain to worship Him, and grow arrogant, He will in any case gather them all to Him.
(Surat an-Nisa, 172)

When Jesus sensed unbelief on their part, he asked: "Who will be my helpers of Allah?" The disciples said: "We are Allah's helpers. We believe in Allah. Bear witness that we are Muslims. Our Lord, we believe in what You have sent down and have followed the messenger, so write us down among the witnesses." (Surah Al 'Imran:52-53)

One of the true believers' main characteristics is that they believe in concealed mysteries and obey the messengers unquestioningly. Such believers know that every word spoken by Allah's messengers is true, and so they trust them completely, follow them, and love and respect them. As revealed in "The Prophet is closer to the believers than their own selves" (Surat al-Ahzab:6), this devotion is superior to all other forms of love. Indeed, the devotion of the Prophet's (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) Companions and their protection of him during the wars against the pagans is a fine example of this.

In addition to Roman pagan oppression and the hypocrisy of some polytheistic Jews, as well as the opposition of prominent Jews who pursued only their own interests, the fact that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) had only a very few followers draws our attention to the difficult circumstances in which he found himself. However, it must be made clear that there is considerable wisdom in the fact that he struggled in such difficult conditions. The Prophet Jesus (pbuh) and those sincere, devout believers who followed him displayed great patience, by Allah's leave, in these trying circumstances and will receive their reward at every moment in His Presence. Such climates are actually very valuable, for they increase the believers' determination and mutual devotion, strengthen their faith, and reinforce their love of and devotion to Allah. Believers have faith that everything they experience happens because He wills it to, and thus sincerely accept everything that our Lord sends their way. Aware that Allah is their true friend and guide, all believers know that His religious moral values will eventually triumph.

Allah has promised that He will never allow those who deny Him to triumph over the believers. Therefore, the prophets and their followers will inevitably be victorious, for He states that the traps of those who set snares for the believers are doomed to failure:

… shown by their arrogance in the land and evil plotting. But evil plotting envelops only those who do it. Do they expect anything but the pattern of previous peoples? You will not find any changing in the pattern of Allah. You will not find any alteration in the pattern of Allah. (Surah Fatir:43)

Like all of the other prophets, the Prophet Jesus' (pbuh) superior determination and patience are meant to encourage and increase the believers' enthusiasm. The Prophet Jesus (pbuh) told his followers that difficulties awaited them, but that Allah was their friend and protector. With his trust in and submission to Allah, the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) displayed superior moral values and told those around him to always trust Allah and remember that He performs everything. The Bible recounts some of his words to his disciples, as follows:

You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me, you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given to you at the time, for it is not you speaking ... but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs. I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and, after that, can do no more. But I will tell you whom you should fear: Fear Him Who, after killing the body, has the power to throw you into Hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him. (Mark, 13:9-13; Luke, 21:12-17)

Indeed, the oppression of the first Christians continued for the next three centuries. Most of those who believed in the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) had to keep their faith secret, and many of those who declared their faith suffered severe punishment, torture, and, sometimes, even death. However, the unbelievers' greatest plot was, without a doubt, their attempt to kill the Prophet Jesus (pbuh). A number of leading people collaborated with the Roman pagans, and, with the support of various hypocrites, devised a plan. Each stage was planned down to the finest detail, and they were convinced that it would succeed. However, their plan was disrupted in a most unexpected way: They imagined that they had killed the Prophet Jesus (pbuh), but in reality, Allah raised him to His Presence and protected His prophet from their snares and deceptions. By means of this miracle, their plan failed.

Allah Foiled the Unbelievers' Plot

The Last Supper, Philippe de Champaigne, Musée du Louvre, Paris

The plan to kill the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) is not an isolated event, for throughout history unbelievers have made similar plans against the prophets sent to them. In the Qur'an, Allah reveals that whenever a prophet came to his unbelieving people and began calling on them to live by the moral values of the true religion, the unbelievers would inevitably set about preparing traps for them and even try to kill them:

We gave Moses the Book and sent a succession of messengers after him. We gave Jesus, son of Maryam, the clear signs and reinforced him with the Purest Spirit. Why then, whenever a messenger came to you with something that your lower selves did not desire, did you grow arrogant, and deny some of them and murder others? (Surat al-Baqara, 87)

Those who cast the Prophet Abraham (pbuh) into the flames, pursued the Prophet Moses (pbuh) with their armies, sought to martyr our beloved Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) in a nocturnal attack, and left Joseph (pbuh) at the bottom of a well solely because all of these prophets said: "Allah is our Lord" have exactly the same mindset, even though they lived at different times. All of them sought to rebel against Allah and His messengers, opposed the moral values commanded by Allah, and ignored the fact that they would have to account for their deeds in the Hereafter. Their anger arose out of the prophets reminding them of several facts: that they were Allah's servants and therefore should be faithful to Him, give alms and perform good deeds to win His good approval, be just and modest, and that the prophets were chosen and immaculate messengers in His Presence. As a result, these people set traps for the prophets. This mentality is described, as follows:

... We sent messengers to them. Each time a messenger came to them with something their lower selves did not desire, they denied some and they murdered others. (Surat al-Ma'ida, 70)

A similar plan was devised by the leaders of the Makkan polytheists, who hoped that they could expel the Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) or perhaps even martyr him. Our Lord warned him of this plan. But as the unbelievers soon discovered, Allah's plans are superior to all others:

When those who did not believe were plotting against you, to imprison you or to kill you or to expel you: they were planning and Allah was planning, but Allah is the Best of Planners. (Surat al-Anfal, 30)

As we have seen, the unbelievers sought to kill the Prophet Jesus (pbuh). They drew up a wide-ranging plan and thought that they would succeed if they captured him. The Qur'an reveals their plan in the following verses:

When Jesus sensed unbelief on their part, he asked: "Who will be my helpers of Allah?" The disciples said: "We are Allah's helpers. We believe in Allah. Bear witness that we are Muslims. Our Lord, we believe in what You have sent down and have followed the messenger, so write us down among the witnesses." They planned and Allah planned. But Allah is the best planner. (Surah Al 'Imran, 52-54)

Allah foiled their plot in a completely unexpected manner: They were shown, and killed, a double in his stead. Our Lord protected His chosen servant from the unbelievers:

And [on account of] their saying: "We killed the Messiah, Jesus son of Maryam, messenger of Allah." They did not kill him and they did not crucify him, but it was made to seem so to them. Those who argue about him are in doubt about it. They have no real knowledge of it, just conjecture. But they certainly did not kill him. (Surat an-Nisa, 157)

Allah raised him [Jesus] up to Himself. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise.(Surat an-Nisa, 158)

O humanity. the Messenger has brought you the truth from your Lord, so it is better for you to believe. But if you do not believe, everything in the heavens and Earth belongs to Allah. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise. (Surat an-Nisa, 170)

Other verses reveal that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) is not dead, but is alive in Allah's Presence. The fact that Allah has revealed that He foiled the traps set for him is one of the important pieces of evidence that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) is still alive. Had the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) really died, as some people (erroneously) maintain, then the unbelievers would have achieved their goal of killing him. However, "... Allah will not give the unbelievers any way against the believers." (Surat An-Nisa, 141) Allah revealed that He would not allow the unbelievers to kill the Prophet Jesus (pbuh). Moreover, many verses reveal that the unbelievers would never achieve their goal and that their failure is a requirement of Allah's Divine plan. Some of these verses are given below:

They concocted their plots, but their plots were with Allah, even if they were such as to make the mountains vanish. (Surah Ibrahim, 46)

… Allah always confounds the unbelievers' schemes. (Surat al-Anfal, 18)

Or do they desire to dupe you? But the duped ones are those who do not believe. (Surat at-Tur, 42)

Allah will defend those who believe. Allah does not love any thankless traitor. (Surat al-Hajj, 38)

They are hatching a plot. I too am hatching a plan. So bear with the unbelievers – bear with them for a while. (Surat at-Tariq, 15-17)

Those before them also plotted. Allah came at their building from the foundations, and the roof caved in on top of them. The punishment came at them from a direction that they did not expect. (Surat an-Nahl, 26)

The Prophet Jesus (pbuh) is Not Dead

They say, ‘Allah has a son.’ Glory be to Him! No, everything in the heavens and Earth belongs to Him. Everything obeys Him.
(Surat al-Baqara, 116)

Allah reveals in the Qur'an, among many other glad tidings, that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh), one of His' messengers, is not dead and was not put to death. To acquire a better understanding of this, we will conduct a detailed examination of the relevant verses.

Surah Al 'Imran:55 and Surat an-Nisa':157-158 head the list of those verses that relate how the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was not killed but was raised alive to Allah's Presence. When these verses are examined word by word, this most important truth is clearly revealed. Another truth is also indicated: the Prophet Jesus (pbuh), who now lives in Allah's Presence, will return to Earth during the End Times. This fact will be examined in later sections of this book.

Surah Al 'Imran:55 informs believers that Allah will "take back" the Prophet Jesus (pbuh), protect him from the unbelievers, and raise him to His Presence. Many great Islamic scholars and commentators have interpreted this verse to mean that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) did not die. As Allah states in the verse:

[Allah said:] "Jesus, I will take you back [mutawaffeeka] and raise you up [wa raafi`uka] to Me and purify you of those who are unbelievers. And I will place the people who follow you above those who are unbelievers until the Day of Resurrection..." (Surah Al 'Imran, 55)

The part requiring special consideration is the sentence "I will take you back [mutawaffeeka] and raise you up to Me." A close examination reveals a most important truth: The verb carries a sense that differs from what is normally meant by "to die." The word translated into English as "to die" is the Arabic verb tawaffaa derived from the root waffaa. This verb does not imply death, but rather taking the soul, or surrender. Allah also reveals in the Qur'an that taking a person's soul does not always imply death. For instance, Allah uses tawaffaa in another verse to refer not to a person's death, but to taking his or her soul while asleep: :

Allah takes the souls [of people] at death [yatawaffaa], and those who do not die [lam tamut] during their sleep. Those on whom He has passed the decree of death [al-mawt], He keeps back [from returning to life], but the rest He sends [to their bodies] for a term appointed. Verily in this are signs for those who reflect." (Surat az-Zumar, 42)

Who would deliberately renounce the religion of Ibrahim except someone who reveals himself to be a fool? We chose him in the dunya and in the akhira he will be one of the salihun. When his Lord said to him, ‘Become a Muslim!’ he said, ‘I am a Muslim who has submitted to the Lord of all the worlds.’ (Surat al-Baqara, 130-131)

The word here translated as "taking back" is the same as that used in Surah Al 'Imran:55: yatawaffaa. Since a person does not actually die during the night, the word yatawaffaa here refers not to death, but to taking the soul at night. If tawaffaa were being used in the sense of death, then that would mean that all people would be biologically dead during sleep. Thus, the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) would have died every night of his life. Such an assertion is both irrational and illogical.

Another instance in which sleep is regarded as a kind of death, but which does not refer to biological death, is the following hadith: "'All praise is for Allah, Who has made us alive after He made us die [sleep] (Al-hamdu li Allah illadhi ahyana ba'da maa amatana; wa ilayhi al-nushoo)' Our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) often said this after he woke up."26 No doubt, he used these wise words not to refer to biological death when one is asleep, but rather to a sleeping person's soul being "taken." Ibn Kathir, the famous Islamic scholar and commentator, used this hadith, along with many other proofs in his commentary on Surah Al 'Imran, to explain that tawaffaa refers to sleep. In addition, he indicated the word's meaning in other verses where it appears. He then gave his opinion using a hadith handed down by Ibn Abi Hatim:

Ibn Abi Hatim says that: "My father told us … from Hassan that the meaning of the verse 'I will take you back...' is this: Here it means that 'I shall kill you with the death of sleep; in other words, I shall cause you to sleep.' So Allah raised Jesus (pbuh) to the heavens while he was asleep … As an incontrovertible truth, Allah caused Jesus (pbuh) to die the death of sleep and then raised him to the sky, rescuing him from some of the Jews, who were inflicting suffering upon him at the time."27

Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari, another Islamic scholar who examined the meaning of tawaffaa, stated that it did not mean death, and drew attention to the use of mawt in Surat az-Zumar:42:

Had Jesus (pbuh) died [which is not the case], then the word mawt revealed in the verse: "Allah takes the souls [of people] at death" (Surat az-Zumar:42), would not have been revealed… This is because if, as has been claimed, Allah had referred to normal death [in the biological sense], then this would have been clearly stated. Since Allah refers to the fact that the Jews did not kill Jesus (pbuh), but that he was taken and raised to the sky, then one must think of a meaning beyond that of ordinary death.28

When a Messenger from Allah comes to them confirming what is with them, a group of those who have been given the Book disdainfully toss the Book of Allah behind their backs, just as if they did not know.  (Surat al-Baqara, 101)

Sheikh al-Islam Mustafa Sabri, a contemporary of al-Kawthari, cites this verse as evidence and offers the following interpretation: "If we were to take the word tawaffaa as meaning 'killing,' then souls would also have to die."29 In his commentary on the Qur'an, the Islamic scholar Mawlana Sayyid Abul A'la Mawdudi makes the following statement about mutawaffeeka, which appears in Surah Al 'Imran:55 (the same word is also used in Surat al-Ma'ida:117):

The word mutawaffeeka, in the Arabic text comes from the word tawaffaa, meaning "to take the surrender of" and "take the soul," although here it is used in a figurative sense. Here, it means "relieving from duty."30

Abu Mansur Muhammad al-Maturidi, regarded as one of the first Qur'anic commentators, also stated that the verse does not refer to the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) dying in the familiar biological sense:

The thing being referred to in the verse is not passing on in the sense of death, but in the sense of the body being taken from this world.31

Islamic scholars agree that mutawaffeeka means that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) did not die, but that he was raised to Allah's Presence and will return to Earth. For example, the famous commentator and scholar al-Tabari stated that mutawaffeeka is used in the sense of "removing from Earth" and interpreted the verse in the following terms:

In my opinion, the soundest thing is to take this word in the sense of "to take into one's possession," "draw [away] from Earth." In that case, the meaning of the verse is: "I shall take you from Earth and into the heavens." The rest of the verse emphasizes the [believers'] victory over unbelievers in the End Times, which confirms the above idea."32

Further on in his commentary, al-Tabari included other interpretations of mutawaffeeka. Islamic scholars are in general agreement that its correct interpretation is "a kind of sleep." According to Imam Hasan al-Basri, the Egyptian scholar Muhammad Khalil Herras stated that the verse means: "I shall put you to sleep and raise you to My Presence as you sleep." In his commentary, al-Suyuti said, based on reliable hadith, that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) did not die, and then continued:

In that case, Jesus (pbuh) was raised to the skies and will return before the Day of Judgment.33

Or do they say that Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob and the Tribes were Jews or Christians? Say, ‘Do you know better or does Allah?’ Who could do greater wrong than someone who hides the evidence he has been given by Allah? Allah is not unaware of what you do. (Surat al-Baqara, 140)

Mehmed Vehbi, a commentator who lived during the final years of the Ottoman Empire, interpreted the verse in the following manner:

O Jesus, I shall put you to sleep and raise you to the skies, the place of plenty and My sanctity. I shall rescue you from the Jews' wickedness and cleanse you of the unbelievers' impure actions, rescuing you from their wickedness by drawing you up away from them.34

The great Islamic scholar Imam Ibn Taymiyya stated that Surah Al 'Imran:55 indicates that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) did not die, but most likely experienced a kind of "sleep death." He then wrote:

This verse is proof that the death of Jesus (pbuh) is not being referred to… The word al-tawaffi [the infinitive form of the word mutawafeeka used] in the verse requires the death of the soul without that of the body, or of both, but with the existence of another piece of evidence explaining the circumstances in this sense. The meaning may be the death of sleep (as in Surat al-An'am:60). The words at the end of the verse, to the effect that: "I shall separate you purified from the unbelievers," are also along these lines. Had Jesus' (pbuh) body been separated from his soul, then his body would be in the ground, as with the other prophets.35

In his commentary, Hamdi Yazir of Elmali stated that the verse in question means:

In my view, a summary of this interpretation and belief is as follows: The soul of Jesus (pbuh), described as a "word from Allah" and reinforced with the "Purest Spirit", has not yet been taken. His soul has not come to the hour of death. "The Word" has not yet returned to Allah. He still has work to do in this world.36

As we have seen, this verse does not mean "death" in the sense as it is generally used in English. The expression in this verse reports that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was placed in a condition similar to sleep and then raised to Allah's Presence. The Prophet Jesus (pbuh) did not die, but was merely removed from this dimension by His will. (Allah knows the truth.)

An Explanation of Surat an-Nisa':157-158<

Another verse that Allah states of the plotters' failure to kill the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) is Surat an-Nisa':157. This verse needs to be examined together with the one immediately following it, for both of them reveal that the unbelievers did not kill or crucify the Prophet Jesus (pbuh), but were made to think they did, and that he was raised to Allah's Presence:

And [on account of] their saying: "We killed the Messiah [qatalnaa], Jesus son of Maryam, messenger of Allah." They did not kill him [maa qataloohu] and they did not crucify him [maa salaboohu], but it was made to seem so to them [shubbiha]. Those who argue about him are in doubt about it. They have no real knowledge of it, just conjecture. But they certainly did not kill him [maa qataloohu]. Allah raised him to Himself. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. (Surat an-Nisa':157-158)

Before considering the evidence in these verses in detail, we must explain one particular subject: the words maa salaboohu, which is translated as "they did not crucify him." This word's root is the verb salaboohu: "to hang, execute, crucify." This being the case, the belief that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was crucified, one of Christianity's main tenets, is unfounded.

Those Who Claim the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) Was Killed Are Speculating

That is Jesus, son of Maryam, the word of truth about whom they are in doubt. It is not fitting for Allah to have a son. Glory be to Him! When He decides on something, He just says to it “Be!” and it is.
(Surah Maryam:34-35)

 

The unbelievers sought to kill the Prophet Jesus (pbuh). And even though Allah foiled their plot, an environment in which they imagined that they had been successful was created. They were unable to kill or crucify the Prophet Jesus (pbuh), and were shown a double in his place. Therefore, those who maintain that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was killed are only speculating. In his commentary, al-Tabari stated that the unbelievers have no sure information about this event:

The Jews who debate over Jesus (pbuh) are unsure of whether he was killed or not. What they know about this issue is based merely on assumptions. They know very little about whether the person they killed was Jesus (pbuh) or not. They merely imagine that the person they killed was Jesus (pbuh), as they had intended. They very definitely did not kill him … because they continue to speculate about his death.37

The fact that they have doubts shows that the unbelievers did not achieve their goal. Had they really killed the Prophet Jesus (pbuh), there would be no room for doubt and they would be certain that they had succeeded. Let us consider this with an example. Someone who opens fire in order to kill someone else will know whether the intended person has actually been killed or not. Alternatively, there needs to be very exceptional circumstances for there to be any doubt about whether someone condemned to death has actually died. If there is doubt, something out of the ordinary must have occurred. Those who had sought to kill the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) would have felt no doubt as to whether they had succeeded or not. However, our Lord reveals that they did have such doubts, were only speculating, and had no certain information. This is one of the proofs that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) did not die but was raised alive to Allah's Presence.

Foiling this Trap Shows Allah's Superior Might

Another element that attracts our attention is the expression: "Allah raised him to Himself. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise" (Surat an-Nisa':158). In all likelihood, this extraordinary situation shows Allah's superior might. (Allah knows the truth.)

In their commentaries on this verse, Islamic scholars point out that these words represent an extraordinary revelation of Allah's might and wisdom. For example, Fakhr al-Din al-Razi said:

Allah reveals at the end of the verse that "Allah is Almighty, All-Wise." The intention behind almightiness here is the perfection and immaculate nature of that might, and that behind wisdom is the perfection and immaculate nature of knowledge. In this way, Allah has indicated the raising of Jesus (pbuh) and that no matter how impossible this may seem to a person, it is not impossible relative to His might and wisdom. A similar situation can be seen in the verse: "Glory be to Him, Who took His servant on a journey by night from the Sacred Mosque [Masjid al-Haram] to the Further Mosque [Masjid al-Aqsa]…" (Surat al-Isra':1). That is because no matter how much such a journey may be impossible relative to the power of Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), it is a most easy matter relative to the might of Allah.38

Mehmed Vehbi interpreted one of the elements of wisdom behind this revelation:

The elevation of Jesus (pbuh) to the heavens is determined in this verse. Although elevation to the heavens is impossible relative to human power, in order to announce that this is not difficult relative to His might and wisdom, Allah declares in the verse's preceding part that He is All-Wise and Almighty. And in order to reveal the perfection of His knowledge, He reveals that He is sovereign and that His might and wisdom are sufficient to elevate Jesus (pbuh) to the heavens.39

Hasanayn Muhammad Mahluf cited Prophet Muhammad's (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) ascent to heaven and stated:

In the same way that our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) ascended to the heavens in both body and soul awake, so Jesus (pbuh) was raised alive to the heavens. There is nothing peculiar here. Situations of this kind are miraculous. There is no need for any comparison on this matter. Allah possesses might over all…40

Other Islamic scholars opined that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) did not die and could not be killed, and that he is alive in Allah's Presence. Some of their comments are given below:

Omer Nasuhi Bilmen: "They do not definitively believe that Jesus (pbuh) was killed. Such guesswork and speculation have no value. Allah openly declares the true facts in the Qur'an, saying that He used His Divine might to raise this blessed prophet, alive, to the heavens. For those who look at the greatness of the Divine might and its manifestation in the universe, with millions of creations, with the eye of the heart, it is impossible to regard the raising of a glorious prophet, in body and soul, to the highest levels, as an untrustworthy account."41

Hasanayn Muhammad Mahluf: "The belief of Muslims is this: Jesus (pbuh) was neither crucified nor killed, but was raised alive in body and soul to the heavens. He will continue to live in the heavens for as long as Allah so wills…"42

Imam Zahid al-Kawthari: "The Jews intended to physically kill Jesus (pbuh), but Allah confounded their aim by rescuing the body of Jesus (pbuh) and raising him to His Presence. In order to refute the Jews' claim, this ascension must have been a physical one…"43

Hamdi Yazir of Elmali: "Those who differ on this issue are definitely in a state of doubt and have no knowledge in this regard. They have engaged in speculation. However, those who said that they killed Jesus (pbuh) certainly did not kill him. Therefore, it is a lie for them to boast of killing and murder. That is because the judgment depends on the intention behind a deed. The aim behind their initiative to kill never transpired."44

Al-Qurtubi: "The interpretation of the verse is: 'I shall raise you to Myself without you dying, cleanse you from the blasphemers, and kill you after your descent from the heavens.'"45

Allah Raised the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) to His Presence

One of the important proofs that the unbelievers' plot to kill the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was confounded is the fact that our Lord has revealed that He raised the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) to His Presence:

.... [I will] raise you up to Me and purify you of those who are unbelievers. And I will place the people who follow you above those who are unbelievers until the Day of Resurrection. Then, all of you will return to Me, and I will judge between you regarding the things about which you differed. (Surah Al 'Imran:55)

And [on account of] their saying: "We killed the Messiah, Jesus son of Maryam, messenger of Allah." They did not kill him and they did not crucify him, but it was made to seem so to them. Those who argue about him are in doubt about it. They have no real knowledge of it, just conjecture. But they certainly did not kill him. Allah raised him to Himself. Allah is Almighty, All-Wise. (Surat an-Nisa':157-158)

They asked: “How can a baby in the cradle speak?” He [Jesus] said: “I am the servant of Allah. He has given me the Book and made me a Prophet. He has made me blessed wherever I am, and has directed me to perform prayer and give alms as long as I live… And to show devotion to my mother. He has not made me insolent or arrogant. Peace be upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am raised up again alive.”
(Surah Maryam:29-33)

As Allah reveals in these verses, those who sought to kill the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) failed to achieve their goal, because Allah protected and rescued him by raising him to His Presence. The words raafiu'ka and rafa'ahu that appear in the verses come from the Arabic root rafa'a, which means "to rise." Islamic scholars interpret rafa'a as the opposite of "being lowered." The Islamic scholar Abu Musa al-Ash'ari interpreted Surah Al 'Imran:55 together with Surat an–Nisa':158, and wrote that: "There is a consensus among the community of the faithful [ijma' ummat] that Jesus (pbuh) was raised alive to the heavens."46 (Ijma' ummat refers to the agreement on this issue of those Islamic scholars who expounded upon Islamic law and lived during the same century).

In interpreting these verses, the great majority of Islamic scholars agree that "Jesus (pbuh) did not die, but was raised to Allah's Presence, and that this ascension took place in both body and soul." Examples of their opinions are given below:

The interpreter and commentator Fakhr al-Din al-Razi had this to say about "Allah raised him to Himself," which appear in Surat an-Nisa':158.

With the ascension here, Allah refers to an ascension to a place where no laws apart from that of Allah apply. This verse makes it clear that Jesus (pbuh) was raised to the heavens… 47

In his commentary, Hasan Basri Cantay interpreted raafiu'ka as meaning "raising and lifting up to Himself," and wrote that "Allah raised and lifted up Jesus (pbuh) in both body and soul."48

Imam Ibn Taymiyya opined: The verse "He raised him to His Presence" … explains that Jesus (pbuh) was raised in both body and soul.49

In interpreting Surah Al 'Imran:55, the famous Qur'anic commentator al-Sabuni set out his ideas on this event:

The wisdom of Allah making such a declaration is His giving the glad tidings that He will save Jesus (pbuh) from the Jews and raise him in full health to the skies, without his undergoing any suffering.50

Mehmet Vehbi Efendi wrote: It is certain, due to this verse [Surat an-Nisa:158], that Jesus (pbuh) ascended to the heavens.51

Zahid al-Kawthari stated that the ascension is so clear and certain that there is no room for any objections. Al-Kawthari cited Surah Al 'Imran:55 and Surat an–Nisa':157-158 as evidence and said that this event is beyond doubt. He uses the word nass, which means certainty or indisputability stemming from a Qur'anic verse or a hadith. He went on to say:

That is because the basic meaning of the word (rafa'a in the verses) is transportation from below to above. There is no element here that could be used to interpret the verses metaphorically. Therefore, there is no evidence for seeking to produce a meaning in the sense of ascension in honor and station.52

Mawdudi set out his views on the subject in the following terms:

If Allah had willed to reveal what is expressed in the verse [Surat an–Nisa':158] in the words "Allah killed him" or "Allah raised his rank," He would have openly done so. Instead of the former, He could have revealed the words "Certainly they neither killed him nor crucified him, but He saved him and later on caused him to die at his own appointed hour of death." Instead of the latter, He could have revealed the expression "They tried to humiliate him by crucifying him, but Allah raised him greatly in rank."53

As clearly seen from the verses and the Islamic scholars' comments, the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was raised alive, with his body, to Allah's Presence. This is a miracle of Allah, and a wonder that will inspire great enthusiasm and excitement among all believers. Claims that only his soul was raised to His Presence, or that his ascension was only spiritual (in station), do not reflect the facts. The invalidity of such claims has been proven by many Islamic scholars, some examples of which have been cited above.

Another important proof of this event is the Arabic word bal, which appears in Surat an–Nisa':158, and has the literal translation of "on the contrary." The features of its meaning and use in Arabic linguistics indicate a very important fact: According to the rules of Arabic linguistics, the sentence that comes after it must have a meaning that is completely opposite to the preceding statement. That being the case, it is likely that the verses referring to the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) "… They did not kill him," (Surat an–Nisa':157) "on the contrary [bal] Allah raised him up to Himself…" (Surat an–Nisa':158) refer to the state of being alive, rather than the state of being dead. (Allah knows the truth.) Sheikh al-Islam Mustafa Sabri offered the following interpretation:

If the term bal, which appears in Surat an–Nisa':158 and which I have translated as "on the contrary," comes after a sentence expressing a negativity, then, according to the rules of Arabic linguistics, the sentence following it must mean the exact opposite of the one preceding it. The opposite of death is life. This is a requirement of the rules of linguistics. If we say that "the ascension here is a spiritual one" and "Jesus (pbuh) died in the normal sense," then we are violating that rule. In that case, the ascension following the expression "on the contrary" would not represent the opposite to the verbs of "killing" and "crucifying" in the negative sentence preceding it. That is because it may be possible for a person to be killed and for his or her soul to rise to the skies. Otherwise, this term would be meaningless, and there are no meaningless terms in the Qur'an … According to those who support the thesis that the ascension is only one of the soul, the meaning of the verse is this: "They did not kill him and did not crucify him … on the contrary, Allah raised his station." There is no particular oratory here, let alone succinctness … No rational person could take the words "The elevator in my building raises me to the fourth floor every day," to mean that I am only raised to the fourth floor in spirit. Therefore, neither was Jesus (pbuh) raised only in spirit.54

Said Ramadan al-Buti interpreted the subject in the same way:

The mutual compatibility between the verse's previous and later sections necessarily reveals a fact. For example, if an Arab says: "I am not hungry; on the contrary, I am lying on my side," this is not a correct sentence. In the same way, there is a discrepancy between the components in the sentence: "Khalid did not die; on the contrary, he is a good man." What would be correct is to say: "Khalid did not die; on the contrary, he is alive." To say: "The chairman was not killed; he is a man with a superior station in Allah's Presence" also leads to a break in meaning in the sentence, for his having a high station in Allah's Sight is no obstacle to his being killed. The term bal expresses a contradiction between the preceding and the following words. In other words, bal cancels out a previous statement.55

 

It is not fitting for the All-Merciful to have a son. There is no one in the heavens and Earth who will not come to the All-Merciful as a servant.
(Surah Maryam:92-93)

Furthermore, if the word rafa'a indicated a spiritual rank, then the Qur'an could have used the same term for other prophets. Thus, the emphasis on the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) being "raised to Allah" contains great wisdom, for it was not used in connection with the Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace), the Prophets Moses, Solomon, David, Shu`ayb, Noah, Abraham, and Lot (peace be upon them all), or with any other prophet mentioned in the Qur'an. When mentioning these prophets' deaths, various forms of the word mata (death in the biological sense) are employed, whereas the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was "raised up" (rafa'a). This phenomenon will be discussed in detail in later chapters. While the souls of all people, including prophets, are raised to Allah's Presence, the use of rafa'a with regard to the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) indicates an extraordinary situation. (Allah knows the truth.) The Egyptian scholar Muhammad Khalil Herras, who has researched and published his findings on the Prophet Jesus' (pbuh) return to Earth, says:

If the use of the word rafa'a in Surat an – Nisa':158 referred solely to the "raising of the soul," this would not cancel out Jesus' (pbuh) killing and crucifixion, and the wisdom revealed in the verse would not apply. For example, if the Jews had killed Jesus (pbuh), his soul would, in any case, have been raised to Allah. Indeed, we know that the souls of all prophets and believers ascend to Allah after they die. There is no difference in this regard between Jesus (pbuh) and all other people. Therefore, there is a special feature in this verse: the raising of Jesus (pbuh), while still alive, in both body and soul. At the same time, when we look at the end of this verse, we see that it manifests Allah's glory and wisdom.56

Contrary to what some people maintain, the ascension is not a spiritual one or one of degree. Allah reveals that He foiled the trap set for the Prophet Jesus (pbuh). Thus, given the fact that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) did not die, the information revealed in the verse shows that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was raised to Allah with body and soul, and not merely spiritually. The plotters were confounded by the Prophet Jesus' (pbuh) ascension to Allah. (Allah knows the truth.) The scholar Zahid al-Kawthari expounds on this by giving the following example:

One verse regarding Prophet Muhammad (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) states: "… Allah will protect you from people…" (Surat al – Ma'ida:67). There can be no doubt that the verse means something other than: "He raises your station before people." Our Prophet (may Allah bless him and grant him peace) was attacked physically, and so Allah placed him under His physical protection. This also applies to Jesus (pbuh), who was physically attacked as well. Therefore, it is impossible for the ascension referred to in the verse to have been merely a spiritual one.57

And [on account of] their saying: “We killed the Messiah, Jesus son of Maryam, Messenger of Allah.” They did not kill him and they did not crucify him, but it was made to seem so to them. Those who argue about him are in doubt about it. They have no real knowledge of it, just conjecture. But they certainly did not kill him.
(Surat an-Nisa’:157)

Clearly, Almighty Allah confounded the unbelievers by raising the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) alive to His Presence. All of this evidence shows that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) is still alive and will return to Earth when Allah wills. No doubt, this is a most important news for sincere believers. The fact that such a blessed prophet will return to Earth is a miraculous situation and a source of great enthusiasm for all believers who will witness this miracle.

Ibn Taymiyya also drew attention to this subject:

Had Allah willed to refer to death, Jesus (pbuh) would have died like all other believers. Allah takes the souls of all believers and raises them to the skies. It would thus appear that there was nothing out of the ordinary in this. In other words, there would be no significance in Allah's referring to Jesus (pbuh) in this way.58

Sheikh al-Islam Mustafa Sabri opined:

Had the verse referred solely to killing, then there would have been no need to use the word raafiu'ka, since Jesus' (pbuh) soul would be raised like all other souls.59

Other Relevant Verses

The word rafa'a is also used in other contexts. When these verses are examined, however, it can be seen that, in general, what is being referred to is a physical ascension, and that when a spiritual ascension or an ascension in degree is being referred to, the word ascension is used together with the words in rank. (Allah knows the truth.)

Physical Ascension

Allah raised up the heavens without any support – you can see that – and then established Himself firmly on the Throne. He made the Sun and the Moon subservient, each running for a specified term. He directs the whole affair. He makes the signs clear so that, hopefully, you will be certain about the meeting with your Lord. (Surat ar-Ra'd:2)

He [Joseph] raised his parents up onto the throne. The others fell prostrate in front of him. He said: "My father, truly this is now the interpretation of the dream I had. My Lord has made it all come true. He was kind to me by letting me out of prison, and brought you from the desert when satan had caused dissent between me and my brothers. My Lord is kind to anyone He wills. He is truly All-Knowing and All-Wise." (Surah Yusuf:100)

Remember when We made the covenant with you and lifted up the Mount above your heads: "Take hold vigorously of what We have given you and pay heed to what is in it, so that, hopefully, you will guard against evil." (Surat al-Baqara:63)

Remember when We made a covenant with you and lifted up the Mount above your heads: "Take hold vigorously of what We have given you and listen." They replied: "We hear and disobey." They were made to drink the [golden] calf into their hearts because of their disbelief. Say: "If you are believers, what an evil thing your faith has made you do." (Surat al-Baqara:93)

He erected heaven and established the balance. (Surat ar-Rahman:7)

And when Abraham raised the foundations of the House [the Ka'bah] with Ishmael: "Our Lord, accept this from us. You are the All-Hearing, the All-Knowing." (Surat al-Baqara:127)

If anyone wants power, all power belongs to Allah. All good words rise to Him, and the virtuous deeds lift them up. But people who plot evil deeds will suffer a harsh punishment. The plotting of such people is profitless. (Surah Fatir:10)

Are you stronger in structure or is heaven? He built it. He raised its vault high and made it level. (Surat An-Nazi'at:27-28)

Spiritual Ascension

This is the argument We gave to Abraham against his people. We raise in rank anyone We will. Your Lord is All-Wise, All-Knowing. (Surat al-An'am:83)

O you who believe! When you are told: "Make room in the gathering," then make room, and Allah will make room for you. And when it is said: "Get up," get up. Allah will raise in rank those of you who believe and those who have been given knowledge. Allah is aware of what you do. (Surat Al-Mujadala:11)

These messengers: We favored some of them over others. Allah spoke directly to some of them and raised up some of them in rank. We gave clear signs to Jesus, son of Maryam, and reinforced him with the Purest Spirit. If Allah had willed, those who came after them would not have fought each other after the clear signs came to them. But they differed. Among them there are those who believe and those who do not believe. If Allah had willed, they would not have fought each other. But Allah does whatever He desires. (Surat al-Baqara:253)

Allah appointed you successors [khala'if] in the land and raised some of you above others in rank so He could test you regarding what He has given you. Your Lord is Swift in Retribution, Ever-Forgiving, Most Merciful. (Surat al-An'am:165)

Allah's Purification of the Prophet Jesus (pbuh)

One piece of information provided about the Prophet Jesus' (pbuh) ascension is that Allah will purify him of the unbelievers. Allah revealed in the Qur'an:

… raise you up [wa raafi'uka] to Me and purify [mutahhiruka] you of those who are unbelievers. And I will place the people who follow you above those who are unbelievers until the Day of Resurrection… (Surah Al 'Imran:55)

The root of mutahhiruka is tahara, meaning "being clean." Islamic scholars regard this word as one proof that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was raised alive to Allah. According to them, the interpretation of the verse is: "I am taking you, raising you to Me, and removing you from this environment polluted by unbelievers and sinners."60 Thus, Allah purified the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) from the unbelievers, the unbelievers' plot to kill him was foiled and they failed to achieve their goal. (Allah knows the truth.)

 

Your Lord would never destroy any cities without first sending to their chief a messenger to recite Our signs to them. We would never destroy any cities unless their inhabitants were wrongdoers.
(Surat al-Qasas:59)

Moreover, this verse also shows that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was purified by his physical separation from an environment containing unbelievers. (Allah knows the truth.) Thus, the assertion that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) died and that only his soul was raised to Allah is proven false. A spirit-only ascent would mean that he was not purified.

In order for the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) to have been purified in the manner revealed in the verse, he would have to have departed from his surrounding environment in both body and soul. Furthermore, a spirit-only purification cannot apply to a prophet with superior moral values, one who is honored in Allah's Presence and has deep faith, such as the Prophet Jesus (pbuh). Another verse reveals his superior moral values: "Peace be upon me the day I was born, the day I die, and the day I am raised up again alive" (Surah Maryam:33). As a devout believer and a messenger of Allah, the Prophet Jesus' (pbuh) soul is immaculate. However, his environment was not immaculate, due to the unbelievers' irreligious behavior and corrupt moral values. Indeed, our Lord reveals that they were unclean because of their moral corruption:

O you who believe! The idolaters are unclean, so after this year they should not come near the Sacred Mosque [Masjid al-Haram] ... (Surat at-Tawba:28)

Therefore, purifying the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) means his physical removal from their presence. Thus, Allah purified and protected him by raising the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) to Himself.

The Egyptian scholar Khalil Herras offers the following explanation regarding the wisdom of the term "purification":

The purification of Jesus (pbuh) from the unbelievers comes about with his salvation from their wicked snares. This cannot take place with the death and burial of Jesus (pbuh), but only by his ascension in life to the heavens, for his foes could have inflicted torture on his body, as they did with the person they believed to be him …61

As Hamdi Yazar of Elmali set out in his commentary, the Prophet Jesus' (pbuh) purification from the unbelievers is manifested by his ascent:

… and with this raising I shall purify you of the deniers and unbelievers, and you will no longer have anything to do with them…62

Verses That Mention Purification

… and when We made the House [Ka'bah] a place of return, a sanctuary for humanity. They took the place where Abraham stood [to pray] as a place of prayer. We contracted with Abraham and Ishmael: "Purify My House for those who circle it, for those who stay there, and for those who bow and prostrate." (Surat al-Baqara, 125)

And We located the position of the House [Ka'bah] for Abraham: "Do not associate anything with Me and purify My House for those who circle it, and for those who stand, bow, and prostrate." (Surat al-Hajj, 26)

Purify your clothes. (Surat al-Muddaththir, 4)

The only answer of his people was to exclaim: "Expel them from your city! They are people who keep themselves pure!" (Surat al-A'raf, 82)

No one may touch it except the purified. (Surat al Waqi'a, 79)

And when He overcame you with sleep, making you feel secure, and sent you down water from heaven to purify you and remove the taint of satan from you, and to fortify your hearts and make your feet firm. (Surat al-Anfal, 11)

The Deaths of Other Prophets

An examination of the Qur'anic accounts of other prophets' deaths and the verses describing the Prophet Jesus' (pbuh) death reveals that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) did not die. In this section, we will look at the Arabic words used to describe his death and those of the other prophets.

We will make a detailed analysis of several very particular words: qatala (to kill), maata (to die), halaka (to perish) and salaba (to crucify). With regard to the Prophet Jesus (pbuh), however, another word is used, for "They did not kill him [maa qataloohu] and did not crucify him [maa salaboohu] (Surat an-Nisa':157). In Surah Al 'Imran:55, Allah reveals that He will take the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) and raise him to His Presence.

When Allah said: "Jesus, I will take you back [mutawaffeeka] and raise you up [wa raafi'uka] to Me and purify you of those who are unbelievers. And I will place the people who follow you above those who are unbelievers until the Day of Resurrection..." (Surah Al 'Imran:55)

As we mentioned earlier, the word used for death when dealing with the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) is not the one used to signify biological death. In the case of the other prophets' deaths, the words used do not have the connotation of a kind of sleep. Moreover, the words that relate that the Prophet Jesus (pbuh) was "taken" do not have the connotation of biological death. Thus, Jesus' (pbuh) death differs considerably from the deaths of the other prophets. (Allah knows the truth.)

“Jesus, son of Maryam, remember My blessing to you and to your mother when I reinforced you with the Purest Spirit so that you could speak to people in the cradle and when you were fully grown; when I taught you the Book and Wisdom, and the Torah and the Gospel; when you created a bird-shape out of clay by My permission, and then breathed into it and it became a bird by My permission; healed the blind and the leper by My permission; and when you brought forth the dead by My permission.”
(Surat al-Ma’ida:110)

I. Qatala: To Kill

The Qur'an uses qatala to mean "to kill," as in the following verse:

Pharaoh said: "Let me kill [aqtulu] Moses and let him call upon his Lord! I am afraid that he may change your religion and bring about corruption in the land." (Surah Ghafir, 40:26)

In Arabic, "let me kill Moses" is aqtulu Musa, a phrase that is derived from the verb qatala. In another verse, same word is used in the following way:

... [That was because they] killed (yaqtuloona) the prophets without any right to do so. (Surat al-Baqara:61)

The expression yaqtuloona (they killed) is also derived from qatala.

The verses below use qatala when speaking of the prophets' deaths. All words in brackets are derivatives of this verb.

We will write down what they said and their killing [qatlahum] of the prophets without any right to do so. (Surah Al 'Imran:181)

… and deny some of them and murder [taqtuloona] others? (Surat al-Baqara:87)

Say: "Why, then, if you believe, did you previously kill [taqtuloona] the prophets of Allah?" (Surat al-Baqara:91)

As for those who reject Allah's signs, and kill [yaqtuloona] the prophets without any right to do so, and kill [yaqtuloona] those who command justice... (Surah Al 'Imran:21)

… So why did you kill [qataltumoohum] them, if you are telling the truth? (Surah Al 'Imran:183)

… The one said: "I shall kill [aqtulannaka] you"… (Surat al-Ma'ida:27)

Even if you raise your hand against me to kill me [taqtulanee], I am not going to raise my hand against you to kill you [aqtulaka]... (Surat al-Ma'ida:28)

Kill [uqtuloo] Joseph or expel him to some land. (Surah Yusuf:9)

The wife of Pharaoh said: "A source of delight for me and for you; do not kill [taqtuloohu] him [Moses]…" (Surat al-Qasas:9)

... Moses, the council is conspiring to kill you [yaqtulooka]. (Surat al-Qasas:20)

The only answer of his [Abraham's] people was to exclaim: "Kill [uqtuloohu] him or burn him!" (Surat al-'Ankabut:24)

II. Halaka: To Perish

Another word used to denote the killing is halaka, which can also mean "to perish, to be destroyed, to die," as in the verse given below:

... when he [Joseph] died [halaka], you said: "Allah will never send another messenger after him."(Surah Ghafir:34)

III. Mawt: Death

Another word used to relate a prophet's death is mawt, a noun derived from the verb maata (to die), as follows:

Then when We decreed that he [Solomon] should die [mawt], nothing divulged his death [mawtihi] to them except the worm that ate his staff. (Surah Saba':14)

The same word is used (in the form of a noun) to relate Jacob's (pbuh) death:

Or were you present when death [mawt] came to Jacob? (Surat al-Baqara:133)

In another verse, the verbs qatala (in the passive form qutila) and maata are used together:

Muhammad is only a messenger, and he has been preceded by other messengers. If he were to die [maata] or be killed [qutila], would you turn on your heels? (Surah Al 'Imran:144)

Other forms of the verb are also used:

She exclaimed: "Oh, if only I had died [mittu] before this time and was something discarded and forgotten!" (Surah Maryam:23)

We did not give any human being before you immortality. And if you die [mitta], will they then be immortal? (Surat al-Anbiya':34)

He Who will cause my death [yumeetunee], then give me life. (Surat ash-Shu'ara':81)

IV. Salaba: To Crucify

Another word for death is salaba (to crucify). This verb has various meanings (e.g., to hang, to crucify, to execute) and is used in the following ways:

They did not kill him and they did not crucify him [salaboohu]. (Surat an-Nisa':157)

[Joseph said:] "One of you will serve his lord with wine, the other of you will be crucified [yuslabu]." (Surah Yusuf: 41)

They should be killed or crucified [yusallaboo]. (Surat al-A'raf:124)

[Pharaoh said:] I will cut off your hands and feet alternately and have you crucified on palm trunks [usallibannakum]. (Surah Ta Ha:71)

I will cut off your alternate hands and feet, and I will crucify every one of you. [usallibannakum] (Surat ash-Shu'ara':49)

As the verses show, the words used to express Jesus' (pbuh) situation are altogether different from those used to describe the deaths of other prophets. Allah states that Jesus (pbuh) was neither killed nor crucified, that a look-alike was killed in his place, and that he was taken back (in other words, that his soul and body were taken) and raised up to His Presence. When talking of Jesus' (pbuh), in the Qur'an Allah uses tawaffaa (to take the soul), whereas when talking of the other prophets, it uses qatala or maata (and its derivatives) to mean death in the conventional sense. This information shows us yet again that Jesus' (pbuh) situation was extraordinary.

 

Footnotes

26. Narrated by Abu Hudhayfa; Sahih Bukhari; Being the Tradition of Saying and Doings of the Prophet Muhammad as Narrated by His Companions (New Delhi: Islamic Book Service, 2002), hadith no. 6324, 239; Tafsir Ibn Kathir, abridged by Sheikh Muhammad Nasib ar-Rafa'i (London: Al-Firdous Ltd., 1999), 176.

27. Ibn Kathir, Tafsir al-Qur'an al-'Azim, 1:573-76.

28. Imam Muhammad Zahid al-Kawthari, Nazra 'Abira fi Maza'im Man Yankur Nuzul 'Isa 'alyhi al-Salam aabla al-Akhira (A Cursory Look at the Claims of Those Who Deny Jesus' Descent before the Next Life) (Egypt: 1980), 34-37.

29. Sheikh al-Islam Mustafa Sabri, Mawqif al-'Aql (Beirut: 1992), 4:177-79.

30. Mawlana Sayyid Abul A'la al-Mawdudi, Tafhim al-Qur'an, 1:230-31.

31. Abu Mansur Muhammad al-Maturidi, Kitab Tawilat al-Qur'an (Beirut), 67.

32. Tafsir al-Tabari, 3:290-91.

33. Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti, Durr al-Manthur, 2:225-27.

34. Mehmed Vehbi Hadimli, Hulasatu'l Beyan-i fi Tefsiri'l Kuran (Tafsir al-Qur'an) (Istanbul: 1979), 2:613. (emphasis added by the author)

35. Imam Ibn Taymiyya, Majmu' Fatawa (The Collected Fatwas), trans. by Abdurrahman ibn Muhammad ibn Qasim al-Asimi an-Najdi, (Riyadh: 1991), 4:322-23. (emphasis added by the author)

36. Elmali Hamdi Yazir, Hak Din Kuran Dili (The True Religion, the Language of the Qur'an), 2:1112-13.

37. Tafsir al-Tabari, 1:428.

38. Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb, 11:102-3.

39. Hadimli, Hulasat ul-Bayan, 3:1108.

40. Hasanayn Muhammad Mahluf, Fetava Serriye ve Buhusun Islamiyye, (Cairo: 1971), 1:92-93.

41. Omer Nasuhi Bilmen, Kuran-i Kerim'in Türkce Meali Alisi ve Tefsiri (The Turkish Translation of the Noble Qur'an and Its Commentary), 2:702.

42. Mahluf, Fetava Seriyye, 1:92-93.

43. Al-Kawthari, Nazra 'Abira fi Maza'im, 32-33.

44. Yazir, Hak Din Kuran Dili, 3:1516-19.

45. Al-Qurtubi, al-Jami' li Ahkam il-Qur'an, (Cairo : 1967), 4:99.

46. Al-Ash'ari, Al-Ash'ari's al-Ibana 'an Usul al-Diyana, (Cairo: 1986), 2:115.

47. Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Mafatih al-Ghayb, 11:102-3.

48. Hasan Basri Cantay, Kuran-i Hakim ve Meal-i Kerim (Tafsir of the Qur'an), 1:92.

49. Imam Ibn Taymiyya, Majmu' Fatawa, trans. by Abdurrahman ibn Muhammad ibn Qasim al-Asimi an-Najdi, 4:323.

50. Al-Sabuni, Safwat al-Tafasir, 1:205.

51. Hadimli, Hulasat ul-Bayan, 3:1108.

52. Al-Kawthari, Nazra 'Abira fi Maza'im, 93.

53. Al-Mawdudi, Tafhimu'l-Qur'an, 1:380-81.

54. Sabri, Mawqif Al-Aql, 233.

55. Said Ramadan al-Buti, Islam Akaidi (Islamic Catechism) (Istanbul: Mavde Publishings: 1996), 338.

56. Muhammed Khalil Herras, Fasl al-Maqal fi Raf`i `Isa Hayyan wa Nuzulihi wa Qatlihi ad-Dajjal, 13.

57. Al-Kawthari, Nazra 'Abira, 94.

58. Ibn Taymiyya, Majmu' Fatawa, (The Collected Fatwas), 322-23.

59. Sabri, Mawqif al-'Aql, 4:177-79.

60. Zeki Saritoprak, Islam Inanci Acisindan Nuzul-i Isa Meselesi (The Issue of the Second Coming of the Messiah from the Perspective of Islamic Belief) (Izmir: Caglayan Publishings, 1997), 63.

61. Herras, Fasl al-Maqal, 66.

62. Yazir, Hak Din Kuran Dili, 2:1112-13.

 

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