Monday, 21 December 2009

Muhammad's attempt of damage control; Part I

” How Surah 3:7 makes sense”

For the sake of convenience and to facilitate easier reading we have broken down this paper into the following sections:

1. Introduction: Explaining the Purpose for and Meaning of Surah 3:7
2. Contradictory teachings about Jesus in the Qur’an:
A. The Qur’an on Jesus’ Prehuman Existence
B. Jesus as Creator in the Qur’an
C. The Qur’an on Jesus’ Last Days
3. Concluding Remarks

1. Introduction: Explaining the Purpose for and Meaning of Surah 3:7

The Qur’an claims that it contains two sets of passages, one set in which there are verses that are clear and that form the basis of the book. The other set are verses which are allegorical and whose meanings only God knows. The Qur’an says that those who are perverted at heart, those who seek to bring discord and mischief, focus on these allegorical, unclear passages:

He it is Who has sent down to thee the Book: In it are verses basic or fundamental (of established meaning); they are the foundation of the Book: others are allegorical. But those in whose hearts is perversity follow the part thereof that is allegorical, seeking discord, and searching for its hidden meanings, but no one knows its hidden meanings except God. And those who are firmly grounded in knowledge say: "We believe in the Book; the whole of it is from our Lord:" and none will grasp the Message except men of understanding. S. 3:7 Y. Ali

It is He who sent down upon thee the Book, wherein are verses clear that are the Essence of the Book, and others ambiguous. As for those in whose hearts is swerving, they follow the ambiguous part, desiring dissension, and desiring its interpretation; and none knows its interpretation, save only God. And those firmly rooted in knowledge say, 'We believe in it; all is from our Lord'; yet none remembers, but men possessed of minds. Arberry

In several passages in the Qur’an we find the statement that it was given in Arabic so that it be CLEAR and understood by its audience:

And certainly We know that they say: Only a mortal teaches him. The tongue of him whom they reproach is barbarous, and this is clear Arabic tongue. S. 16:103 Shakir

It (the Qur'an) is indeed a revelation from the Lord of the Worlds, with it came down the spirit of truth Upon your heart so that you may be one of the warners in clear Arabic speech and indeed IT (the Qur'an) is in the writings of the earlier (prophets). S. 26:192-196

The Qur’an further claims that its purpose is to make things clear and to solve differences:

By Allah, most certainly We sent (apostles) to nations before you, but the Shaitan made their deeds fair-seeming to them, so he is their guardian today, and they shall have a painful punishment.And We have not revealed to you the Book except that you may make clear to them that about which they differ, and (as) a guidance and a mercy for a people who believe. S. 16:63-64 Shakir

And the day We shall raise up from every nation a witness against them from amongst them, and We shall bring thee as a witness against those. And We have sent down on thee the Book making clear everything, and as a guidance and a mercy, and as good tidings to those who surrender. S. 16:89 Arberry

Yet Surah 3:7 says there are some or even plenty of verses that nobody knows what they really mean except God. The question arises: What then is the point of including those verses into the Qur’an? Why would God not leave them out altogether and spare his community the strife and discord caused by them?

Many may simply shrug this verse off as a bit strange, or maybe conclude that this passage itself falls under the category of the unclear verses. However, the significance and meaning of this text will suddenly become clear when one learns something about the circumstances or occasion of its alleged "revelation." According to Muslim expositors, the first eighty-three verses of Surah Al-Imran (Chapter 3) are addressing a group of Christians who had come to debate and challenge Muhammad. For example, Muslim scholar Mahmoud M. Ayoub writes regarding this chapter:

This Surah is composed of 200 verses. It was revealed in Madina after Surah 8, al-Anfal (The Booty). Commentators are generally agreed that the first eighty-odd verses were revealed concerning the Christian delegation of Najran, an ancient town in South Arabia.

Wahidi reports: "Commentators have said that a delegation from Najran consisting of sixty horsemen came to the Messenger of God. Among them were fourteen of their notables. Three of these fourteen held special authority among their people. They were al-‘Aqib, ‘Abd al-Masih by name, who was the leader of the people and guardian of their affairs, and whose opinion was never opposed. The other was called al-Ayham who was the sayyid (chief) of the people and their leader. The third was Abu Harithah b. ‘Alqamah who was their bishop and religious leader (imam), and the head of their religious school (midras). He attained high honour among his people because he studied all their (sacred) books, so that he acquired great learning. Even Byzantine kings honoured him, bestowing on him great wealth and building churches for him because of his great wisdom. These men came to the Messenger of God in his mosque at the time of the midafternoon prayers. They were clad in Yamani attire, garments and mantles. They were equal in elegance and beauty to the men of the tribe of Banu al-Harith b. Ka‘b. Those of the companions of the Messenger of God who saw them exclaimed, ‘We have never seen a delegation like them!’ When the time for their prayers had come, they arose and prayed in the mosque of the Messenger of God, and the Prophet said, ‘Let them pray.’ They thus prayed facing east. Then al-Sayyid and al-‘Aqib spoke with the Messenger of God and he said to them, ‘Accept islam!’ They answered, ‘We have been Muslims long before you!’ He replied, ‘You do not tell the truth! Your claim that God has a son, your worship of the cross and your eating of the swine prevent you from being muslims.’ They retorted, ‘If Jesus were not the son of God, then who is his father?’ They thus debated with the Prophet concerning Jesus. He argued, ‘Do you not know that there is no child but that he must resemble his father?’ ‘Yes,’ they said. He continued, ‘Do you not know that our Lord is living and will never die, while Jesus is subject to extinction?’ They said, ‘Yes.’ The Prophet argued further, ‘Do you not know that our Lord has control over all things which He alone preserves and sustains?’ ‘Yes,’ they said. He said, ‘Does Jesus possess the power to do any of these things?’ ‘No,’ they answered. He then continued, ‘It is our Lord who formed Jesus in the womb as he willed [cf. verse 6, below]. Our Lord, moreover, neither eats, drinks, nor does he void. Do you not know,’ he went on, ‘that the mother of Jesus bore him in the same manner as women bear children, and delivered him as they do, and that he was then nurtured as would any child. Then he ate, drank, and voided.’ They consented saying, ‘Yes.’ The Prophet concluded, ‘How could it then be as you say!’ But they were silent. Thus God sent down concern in them the first eighty-odd verses of this Surah" (Wahidi, pp. 90-91).

Tabari begins his commentary on this Surah with the following general statement:

"It is related that God begins in revealing the opening of this Surah as He does with the negation of divinity of any being other than He, and describes Himself as He does at its beginning [i.e., verse I] as an argument against a group of Christians who came to the Messenger of God from Najran. They debated with him concerning Jesus and manifested unbelief in God. God, therefore, sent down the first eighty-odd verses of this Surah concerning them and Jesus, and as an argument for His Prophet against them and any others who may have held similar views. Yet these men persisted in their rejection of faith and grave error. The Prophet called them to the mubahalah [i.e., praying to God and invoking His curse on those who are in the wrong; see verse 59, below], but they refused. They asked instead that he accept from them the jizyah poll tax. This he did, and they returned to their country. However, even if it may be true that they were primarily intended by God in this argument, nevertheless, any other people who share their rejection of faith in God by taking other beings beside Him as lords and gods worthy of worship, are likewise included in this divine reproof. They are also subject to the proof of the criterion (furqan) by which God judged between them and His Messenger (Tabari, VI pp. 150-151). "

Tabari then relates the tradition already cited from Wahidi, but on the authority of Ibn Ishaq, who reported in turn on the authority of Muhammad b. Ja‘far b. al-Zubayr. He adds that the men of Najran who spoke to the prophet were adherents of the "king’s religion," perhaps meaning that they were Melkites.

Tabari asserts further that "Christians were nonetheless in disagreement among themselves, some saying that Jesus is God, others that he is the son of God, and, still others, that he is ‘the third of three’ [see Q. 5:73]. These are the claims of the Christians. They have argued in support of the claim that Jesus is God from the fact that he used to raise the dead, cure diseases and foretell unknown things. He also used to fashion out of clay the shape of a bird, then breathe into it, and it became a bird (Q. 3:49 and 5:110). All this, however," Tabari continues, "was by God’s permission, to make Jesus a sign for humankind. Christians have likewise argued that Jesus is the son of God in that they say that he had no known father. He also spoke in the cradle (Q. 3:46, 5:110 and 19:29), a thing which none of the children of Adam had done before him. They have contended that Jesus is ‘the third of three’ on the basis of God’s saying ‘We did’ ‘We commanded’ ‘We created’ and ‘We have decreed.’ They thus argue that had God been only one, He would have said, ‘I did’ ‘I commanded, ‘I decreed’ and ‘I have created.’ This refers, therefore, to God, Jesus and Mary. It is concerning all these claims that Qur‘anic verses were sent down. Thus, God informed His Prophet of their claims" (Tabari, VI, pp. 152-153). (Ayoub,The Qur‘an and Its Interpreters: The House of ‘Imran [State University of New York (SUNY) Press, Albany 1992], Volume II, pp. 1-4)

One of Sunni Islam’s renowned commentators Ibn Kathir concurs with all the above and also had this to say about the sixth verse:
(Chapter 3)

Surahh Al `Imran was revealed in Al-Madinah, as evident by the fact that the first eighty-three Ayat in it relate to the delegation from Najran that arrived in Al-Madinah on the ninth year of Hijrah (632 CE). We will elaborate on this subject when we explain the Ayah about the Mubahalah [3:61] in this Surahh, Allah willing. We should also state that we mentioned the virtues of Surahh Al `Imran along with the virtues of Suraht Al-Baqarah in the beginning of the Tafsir of Suraht Al-Baqarah…

- -He it is Who shapes you in the wombs as He wills.- - meaning, He creates you in the wombs as He wills, whether male or female, handsome or otherwise, happy or miserable.

- -La ilaha illa Huwa (none has the right to be worshipped but He), the Almighty, the All-Wise.- - meaning, He is the Creator and thus is the only deity worthy of worship, without partners, and His is the perfect might, wisdom and decision. This Ayah refers to the fact that `Isa, son of Mary, is a created servant, just as Allah created the rest of mankind. Allah created `Isa in the womb (of his mother) and shaped him as He willed. Therefore, how could `Isa be divine, as the Christians, may Allah's curses descend on them, claim `Isa was created in the womb and his creation changed from stage to stage, … (Source)

And about Surah 3:61, Ibn Kathir stated:

The reason for the call to Mubahalah and the revelation of the Ayat from the beginning of this Surahh until here, is that a delegation from the Christians of Najran (in Yemen) came to Al-Madinah to argue about `Isa, claiming that he was divine and the son of Allah. Allah sent down the beginning of this Surahh until here, to refute their claims, as Imam Muhammad bin Ishaq bin Yasar and other scholars stated. (Source)

Furthermore, Ibn Kathir applied Surah 3:7 to Christians who attempted to utilize the Qur’an to prove that Jesus is divine:

The Mutashabihat and Muhkamat Ayat

Allah states that in the Qur'an, there are Ayat that are Muhkamat, entirely clear and plain, and these are the foundations of the Book which are plain for everyone. And there are Ayat in the Qur'an that are Mutashabihat not entirely clear for many, or some people. So those who refer to the Muhkam Ayat to understand the Mutashabih Ayat, will have acquired the correct guidance, and vice versa. This is why Allah said,

- -They are the foundations of the Book- -, meaning, they are the basis of the Qur'an, and should be referred to for clarification, when warranted, …

- -And others not entirely clear- - as they have several meanings, some that agree with the Muhkam and some that carry other literal indications, although these meaning might not be desired.

The Muhkamat are the Ayat that explain the abrogating rulings, the allowed, prohibited, laws, limits, obligations and rulings that should be believed in and implemented. As for the Mutashabihat Ayat, they include the abrogated Ayat, parables, oaths, and what should be believed in, but not implemented.

Muhammad bin Ishaq bin Yasar commented on, …

- -In it are verses that are entirely clear- - as "Containing proof of the Lord, immunity for the servants and a refutation of opponents and of falsehood. They cannot be changed or altered from what they were meant for." He also said, "As for the unclear Ayat, they can (but must not) be altered and changed, and this is a test from Allah to the servants, just as He tested them with the allowed and prohibited things. So these Ayat must not be altered to imply a false meaning or be distorted from the truth."

Therefore, Allah said, …

- -So as for those in whose hearts there is a deviation- - meaning, those who are misguided and deviate from truth to falsehood, …

- -they follow that which is not entirely clear thereof- - meaning, they refer to the Mutashabih, because they are able to alter its meanings to conform with their false interpretation since the wordings of the Mutashabihat encompass such a wide area of meanings. As for the Muhkam Ayat, they cannot be altered because they are clear and, thus, constitute unequivocal proof against the misguided people. This is why Allah said, …

- -seeking Al-Fitnah- - meaning, they seek to misguide their following by pretending to prove their innovation by relying on the Qur'an -- the Mutashabih of it -- but, this is proof against and not for them. For instance, Christians might claim that [`Isa is divine because] the Qur'an states that he is Ruhullah and His Word, which He gave to Mary, all the while ignoring Allah's statements, …
- -He [`Isa] was not more than a servant. We granted Our favor to him.- - [43:59],

and, …

- -Verily, the likeness of `Isa before Allah is the likeness of Adam. He created him from dust, then (He) said to him: "Be!" and he was.- - [3:59].

There are other Ayat that clearly assert that `Isa is but one of Allah's creatures and that he is the servant and Messenger of Allah, among other Messengers. (Source)

With the foregoing in mind, we would like to examine some of the references which Christians have commonly used to support their view that Jesus is divine. We will also examine certain other texts to show how there are contradictory statements within the Qur’an. Our purpose in bringing forth these points is to show that Surah 3:7 was primarily given to do some damage control. The author of the Qur’an said certain things with the obvious intention of trying to appease Jews, Christians and others, hoping to win them over to his religion, without realizing how these statements would backfire against him. After seeing how his own statements were being used to refute his claims he then needed to devise a way to escape the problems he had caused for himself. The author came up with the convenient explanation that those verses are allegorical, and their real meanings are known only to God.

Therefore, the following sections will discuss a number of contradictory and confusing passages in the Qur’an in regard to the nature, power and current state of Jesus. Our desire is that after we finish discussing these specific citations the readers will hopefully see the obvious; namely that the Qur’an’s author made some grave mistakes and then tried covering it up by setting forth the response given in Surah 3:7.

2. Contradictory teachings about Jesus in the Qur’an

A. The Qur’an on Jesus’ Prehuman Existence

The Qur’an in several places calls Jesus God’s Word and a Word from God. In one other place Jesus is also expressly said to be a Spirit from God:

While he was standing in prayer in the chamber, the angels called unto him: "God doth give thee glad tidings of Yahya, witnessing the truth of a Word from God, and (be besides) noble, chaste, and a prophet, - of the (goodly) company of the righteous." … Behold! the angels said: "O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word from Him: his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honour in this world and the Hereafter and of (the company of) those nearest to God; S. 3:39, 45 Y. Ali

People of the Book, go not beyond the bounds in your religion, and say not as to God but the truth. The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, was only the Messenger of God, and His Word that He committed to Mary, and a Spirit from Him (ruhun minhu). So believe in God and His Messengers, and say not, 'Three.' Refrain; better is it for you. God is only One God. Glory be to Him -- That He should have a son! To Him belongs all that is in the heavens and in the earth; God suffices for a guardian. S. 4:171 Arberry

These passages support Jesus’ prehuman existence, that prior to becoming man from the blessed virgin Mary, Christ already existed with God. After all, God’s Word is uncreated and originates from within himself implying that Jesus, since he is God’s Word, must also have originated from God himself and is therefore eternal.

Furthermore, the expression a Spirit from Him is used only one other time in the Qur’an:

Thou shalt not find any people who believe in God and the Last Day who are loving to anyone who opposes. God and His Messenger, not though they were their fathers, or their sons, or their brothers, or their clan. Those -- He has written faith upon their hearts, and He has confirmed them with a Spirit from Himself; and He shall admit them into gardens underneath which rivers flow, therein to dwell forever, God being well-pleased with them, and they well-pleased with Him. Those are God's party; why, surely God's party -- they are the prosperers. S. 58:22

It is obvious from this text that the Spirit shares in the divine qualities and attributes of God. After all, the Spirit is able to empower, strengthen all believers, indicating that he is all-present (omnipresent) and all-powerful (omnipotent). But only God is omnipresent and omnipotent!

What this means is that Jesus must also be omnipresent and omnipotent since he is that Spirit from God. It further supports Jesus’ prehuman existence since Surah 4:171 doesn’t say that Jesus was a Spirit created in Mary’s womb. Rather, it expressly says that he is a Spirit from God and his Word which was given to Mary. The Islamic narrations provide additional support for this position:

Narrated Ubayy ibn Ka'b: In regard to the words of Allah, the Exalted and Glorious, "Your Lord brought forth their offspring from the loins of the children of Adam." (7:172) Ubayy said: He gathered them and paired them then fashioned them and endowed them with the power of speech and they began to speak. He then made an agreement and covenant with them. He made them bear witness about themselves (saying) Am I not your Lord. They said: Yes. He said: I call to witness seven heavens and seven earths regarding you and I call witness your father Adam regarding you lest you should say on the Day of Resurrection: We do not know this. Bear this in mind that there is no god besides Me and there is no Lord besides Me and do not associate anything with Me. It is I Who should be sending to you My messengers in order to remind you My agreement and My covenant and it is I who would send you My Books. They said: We bear witness to the fact that Thou art our Lord, Thou art our Object of worship. There is no Lord besides Thee and there is no object of worship besides Thee. They confirmed this (pledge). Adam was raised above them so that he would see them and he saw the rich and the poor, those having handsome faces and even those inferior to them and he said: My Lord, why is it that Thou hast not made Thy servants alike? He said: I wish that I should be thanked. And he also saw the Prophets, some amongst them like lamps with light in them, distinguished by another covenant regarding messengership and prophethood, viz. the words of the Blessed and the High: And when We made covenant with the prophets - up to His words: Jesus son of Mary (33:7). He was among those spirits and He sent him to Mary (peace be upon both of them). And it is narrated by Ubayy that he entered by her mouth. Transmitted by Ahmad. (Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 41– ALIM CD-ROM Version)

Notice carefully that Jesus is said to be one of those spirits that was sent to Mary, a clear affirmation of Christ’s prehuman existence. Now a Muslim will obviously say that the above narration doesn’t just support Jesus’ prehuman existence, but the prehuman existence of all human beings. The problem with that explanation is that the Qur’an does not support the prehuman existence of anyone besides Jesus. Surah 7:172 doesn’t support it since this text only shows that humanity was created in Adam, that when Adam was created all his seed was created alongside him since he is the progenitor of the human race. That is why the Surah itself expressly says that mankind was drawn from Adam’s loins. Jesus is different since he is the Word and Spirit of God that sprung forth from him and entered Mary, something said of no one else, whereas all the rest of mankind sprung forth from the very loins of Adam.

B. Jesus as Creator in the Qur’an

The Qur’an chides the unbelievers for worshiping or calling on objects which cannot create:

Say: 'Who is the Lord of the heavens and of the earth?' Say: 'God.' Say: 'Then have you taken unto you others beside Him to be your protectors, even such as have no power to profit or hurt themselves?' Say: 'Are the blind and the seeing man equal, or are the shadows and the light equal? Or have they ascribed to God associates who created as He created, so that creation is all alike to them?' Say: 'God is the Creator of everything, and He is the One, the Omnipotent.' S. 13:16

Is He who creates as he who does not create? Will you not remember? …And those they call upon, apart from God, created nothing, and themselves are created, S. 16:17

And those they call upon, apart from God, created nothing, and themselves are created, dead, not alive; and are not aware when they shall be raised. S. 16:20-21

The implication of the above texts is that those things or persons that are worshiped besides Allah are not worthy of such honour since they cannot create as he does. We can infer from this that if there were a person who could create in a similar fashion to the way Allah creates, then that individual would be worthy of the same praise and worship.

Astonishingly, the Qur’an says that Jesus is such a person!

to be a Messenger to the Children of Israel saying, "I have come to you with a sign from your Lord. I will create for you out of clay as the likeness of a bird; then I will breathe into it, and it will be a bird, by the leave of God. I will also heal the blind and the leper, and bring to life the dead, by the leave of God. I will inform you too of what things you eat, and what you treasure up in your houses. Surely in that is a sign for you, if you are believers. S. 3:49

When God said, 'Jesus Son of Mary, remember My blessing upon thee and upon thy mother, when I confirmed thee with the Holy Spirit, to speak to men in the cradle, and of age; and when I taught thee the Book, the Wisdom, the Torah, the Gospel; and when thou createst out of clay, by My leave, as the likeness of a bird, and thou breathest into it, and it is a bird, by My leave; and thou healest the blind and the leper by My leave, and thou bringest the dead forth by My leave; and when restrained from thee the Children of Israel when thou camest unto them with the clear signs, and the unbelievers among them said, "This is nothing but sorcery manifest." S. 5:110

Jesus created birds and breathed into them life in the same way that Allah created Adam and breathed into him:

And when thy Lord said to the angels, 'See, I am creating a mortal of a clay of mud moulded. When I have shaped him, and breathed My spirit in him, fall you down, bowing before him!' S. 15:28-29

Thus Jesus, unlike the other objects of worship, creates exactly the same way that Allah does! Christ also has the very same breath of life, the same ability to grant life, that Allah has making them equal in creative power and talent. Not only that, but according to both the Qur’an and Islamic tradition Jesus is actually still alive as we shall see in the next section! Since Christ is alive right now in heaven, this means that it is legitimate for a person to call upon him. After all, doesn’t the Qur’an complain that those whom others call upon are dead, implying that the mistake is to call upon non-living or unconscious entities? This seems to imply that if they are not dead then calling upon them is not wrong. And since Jesus is alive and could create in the same way that Allah can to therefore worship him cannot be viewed as sin or idolatry.

A more detailed discussion on this issue can be found in the article Is Jesus God or Not?

C. The Qur’an on Jesus’ Last Days

We turn our attention to Jesus’ last hours, specifically his ascension into heaven. The Qur’an, in two places, specifically says that Allah took Jesus to himself:

When God said, 'Jesus, I will take thee to Me and will raise thee to Me and I will purify thee of those who believe not. I will set thy followers above the unbelievers till the Resurrection Day. Then unto Me shall you return, and I will decide between you, as to what you were at variance on. S. 3:55 Arberry

"Never said I to them aught except what Thou didst command me to say, to wit, 'worship God, my Lord and your Lord'; and I was a witness over them whilst I dwelt amongst them; when Thou didst take me up Thou wast the Watcher over them, and Thou art a witness to all things." S. 5:117 Y. Ali

Ibn Kathir commented on Surah 3:55:

Meaning of ‘Take You’

Allah said, …

- -I will take you and raise you to Myself- - while you are asleep. Allah said in a similar Ayat,…

- -It is He Who takes your souls by night (when you are asleep).- - [6:60], and,…

- -It is Allah Who takes away the souls at the time of their death, and those that die not during their sleep.- - [39:42]. The Messenger of Allah used to recite the following words when he would awaken;…

- -All the thanks are due to Allah Who brought us back to life after He had caused us to die (sleep), and the Return is to Him- -. Allah said, …

- -And because of their disbelief and allegations against Maryam and because of their saying "We killed Al-Masih `Isa, son of Maryam, the Messenger of Allah," but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but it appeared that way to them- - until, …

- -For surely; they killed him not But Allah raised him up unto Himself. And Allah is Ever All-Powerful, All-Wise. And there is none of the people of the Scripture (Jews and Christians) but must believe in him before his death. And on the Day of Resurrection, he [`Isa] will be a witness against them.- - [4:156-159]

`His death' refers to `Isa, and the Ayah means that the People of the Book will believe in `Isa, before `Isa dies. This will occur when `Isa comes back to this world before the Day of Resurrection, as we will explain. By that time, all the People of the Book will believe in `Isa, for he will annul the Jizyah and he will only accept Islam from people. Ibn Abi Hatim recorded that Al-Hasan said that Allah's statement,…

- -I will take you- - is in reference to sleep, for Allah raised `Isa while he was asleep. (Source)

Just when it seems that the Qur’an couldn’t be any more clear… there are other Muslims who actually believe that these same verses should be translated to mean that Jesus did die before Allah took him into heaven!

Remember the time when ALLAH said' `O Jesus, I will cause thee to die a natural death (innee mutawaffeeka) AND  will raise thee TO MYSELF, … Sher Ali

And I was a witness over them as long as I remained among them, but since Thou didst cause me to die (tawaffaytanee), Thou, hast been the Watcher over them, and Thou art Witness over all things; Sher Ali

The reason for the confusion hinges on how one translates mutawaffeeka and tawaffaytanee. Both these words stem from the verb waffa, which has various meanings depending on the way it is used in a given context. It can mean completing a term and can refer to a person completing his/her earthly period by dying. In other words, the verb is used in relation to a person's earthly life being completed upon dying, that death terminates one's earthly sojourn.

Because the verb can mean completing a term or terminating a specific period, Muslims have generally understood from this that Jesus' life was terminated, or his earthly stay came to a conclusion, but not necessarily by death. To put it another way, even though the verb does imply that Jesus completed his period on earth, the termination of his earthly life didn't come as a result of death. It came as a result of God taking him physically out of the earth while still being alive.

As one Muslim debater and lecturer puts it:

c) "Mutawaffika" in (3:55) and "Tawaffaytani" in (5:120) refer to "completing" your term or mission on earth. "Tawaffi" is used also in the Qur'an for other than death (6:60, 39:42). (Dr. Jamal Badawi, Jesus in the Qur’an and the Bible)

But this interpretation poses other problems. If the use of the verb in these specific contexts implies that Jesus' earthly life was completed, or terminated, then this means that Christ will not return. After all, the verb indicates that Jesus completed the period designated for him to remain on earth showing that there is no need for him to return now that his mission has come to an end.

And if Jesus’ earthly stay is completed without him having to die then this stands in stark contradiction with the following passage which says every soul must die:

Every soul shall taste of death; and We try you with evil and good for a testing, then unto Us you shall be returned. S. 21:35

There is obviously a considerable amount of confusion in the Qur’an regarding this matter.

For more on the issue of the translation of the above citations and the implication they have on Jesus’ final moments on earth, please read this article.

Still, there is at least one citation which emphatically denies that Jesus was killed and suggests that he will die at same later point in time:

And because of their saying: We slew the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, Allah's messenger - they slew him not nor crucified him, but it appeared so unto them; and lo! those who disagree concerning it are in doubt thereof; they have no knowledge thereof save pursuit of a conjecture; they slew him not for certain. But Allah took him up unto Himself. Allah was ever Mighty, Wise. There is not one of the People of the Scripture but will believe in him before his death, and on the Day of Resurrection he will be a witness against them - S. 4:157-159 Pickthall

Continues on Part II



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