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Books Section > The Ulama of Egypt on the Death of Jesus Christ -- A Fatwa

The Ulama of Egypt on the Death of Jesus Christ -- A Fatwa:
Exaltation of Jesus by Prof. Mahmud Shaltut


Dedication:

This Book is dedicated to the Evergreen Memory of My Spiritual Adviser, Late Mrs. Syed Jannt-Un-Nisa Begum of Benaras
Oh Allah! Reward the benefits of this book to her Soul.
Matiullah Shastri


Introduction:
There is a hard struggle going on, at present, between Islam and Christianity. The point of contention is the personality of Jesus Christ.

The doctrine of the Divinity of Jesus is most emphatically condemned in the Holy Quran. The belief in the physical ascension of Jesus, however lends support to this theory. Such a belief on the part of the Muslims has been a most powerful weapon, especially in these days, in the hands of Christian Missionaries against Islam. But a careful perusal of the pages of the Holy Quran establishes it, beyond a shadow of doubt, that Jesus died a natural death like all other prophets. And the belief in the death of Jesus sounds the death-knell of Christianity. Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad of Qadian, the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement, with all the argumentative force at his command, has proved that Jesus is dead and that the prophecies about the second advent in the reports of the Holy Prophet and the New Testament have been fulfilled in his own person.

This, however, invoked a strong opposition. The bulk of the Muslim Ulama burnt with rage against him. He was reviled everywhere. He was openly declared to be an apostate. The anathema of heresy was vehemently issued against him.

After the lapse of half a century, however, the Muslim world seems now to have realised the soundness of his claims.

About the death of Jesus Christ, Muslim 'Ulama, are generally falling in line, with his views. This is undoubtedly, a healthy sign and a preliminary step towards the acceptance of his claim as a Muslim Messiah.

Hazrat Mirza's position is quite simple to understand.

Jesus Christ is dead. The prophecies concerning the second advent are numerous and their validity cannot be denied unless one rejects all the canons of testing the authenticity of Hadith, Besides, these reports are connected with a large number of prophecies relating to the Anti-Christ, Gog and Magog, downfall of Islam and its ultimate triumph. To reject this whole mass of reports, which are closely intertwined, as untrustworthy is tantamount to rejecting the whole knowledge of Hadith.

But if these reports are correct, as they in fact are, the question is how Jesus can be raised from the dead and come back to the world.

The Great Mirza found a golden mean between these two extreme views and reconciled the Quran and the reports.

He did not reject the sacred words of the Holy Prophet as meaningless. To him the advent of a Messiah among the Muslims only meant the appearance of a Mujaddid in the power and spirit of Jesus. The expression `Ibn-i-Maryam' can be applied metaphorically to any person who is raised in this spirit and power. And God Almighty bestowed this favour on him.

We cannot here enter into a detailed discussion of his claims. Those interested in it are referred to his original works. Here we are only concerned with the death of Jesus Christ which is a question of paramount importance to the advocates of Christianity and Islam.

This translation of a fatwa that appeared in weekly `Al-Risalah' of Cairo (May 11, 1942, Vol. No. 462, p. 515) which shows that Muslim theologians are, consciously, appreciating the views that were most emphatically advanced half a century back, by the founder of the Ahmadiyya Movement. We place this fatwa before our Muslim brethren for their careful consideration. It should induce them to the study of the claims of the Great Mirza who stood to defend and strengthen the cause of Islam in this age.

-- Sheikh Muhammad Tufail

Note : We have given the exact references from the Holy Quran which are not found in the original 'fatwa.'


Exaltation of Jesus by Prof. Mahmud Shaltut:
"A letter was received by the Professors of the Great Al-Azhar University of Cairo from Abdul Karim Khan working under the command of the Allies in the Middle East containing an inquiry:

Is Jesus dead or alive according to the Qur'an and the Holy Traditions of the Holy Prophet? What do you think of a Muslim who does not believe that he is still alive and what about one who disbelieves in him in case he comes to the world for the second time?

This question was referred to the Senior Professor Sheikh Mahmud Shaltut, a member of the Senate of the learned Professors who replied as follows:

Now, the Qur'an mentions Prophet Jesus in reference to his fate at the hands of his people in three chapters:

1. In the chapter The Family of Imran where it is stated : "But when Jesus perceived unbelief on their part, he said : 'Who will be my helpers in Allah's way? The disciples said : "We are helpers (in the way) of Allah: We believe in Allah and bear witness that we are submitting ones: Our Lord, we believe in what Thou hast revealed and we follow the Apostle, so write us down with those who bear witness.' And they planned and Allah (also) planned, and Allah is the best of planners. When Allah said : O Jesus! I will cause you to die and exalt you in My presence and clear you of those who disbelieve and make those who follow you above those who disbelieve to the day of resurrection; then to Me shall be your return, so I will decide between you concerning that in which you differed" (3:51-54).

2. In the chapter The Women Allah says : "And their saying: Surely We have killed the Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, the apostle of Allah: and they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but (the matter) was made dubious to them and most surely those who differ therein are only in a doubt about it: they have no knowledge respecting it, but only follow a conjecture, and they know it not for sure. Nay: Allah exalted him in His presence and Allah is mighty wise" (4:157-158).

3. And in the chapter The Food says Allah: "And when Allah will say: O Jesus, son of Mary! did you say to men, take me and my mother for two gods besides Allah? He will say: Glory be to Thee, it did not befit me that I should say what I had no right to (say): If I had said it, Thou wouldst indeed have known it; Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I do not know what is in Thy mind; surely Thou art the great knower of the unseen things. I did not say to them aught save what Thou didst enjoin me with: That serve Allah, my Lord and your Lord; and I was a witness of them so long as I was among them, but when Thou didst cause me to die. Thou Overt the watcher over them, and Thou art witness of all things" (5:116-118).

These are the verses of the Holy Qur'an wherein all that Jesus experienced at the hands of his people is related.

In the last verse (verse from the chapter The Food) there is a mention of an incident of the hereafter when Allah will ask Jesus concerning he and his mother being worshipped in the world. And Jesus in reply would say that he did not say aught to them except what God commanded him, viz., Worship Allah Who is your God and my God; and he kept a watch over them, during the period of his stay among them and that he did not know what they did after "Allah caused him to die."

The word "tawaffa" is used in so many places of the Holy Qur'an in the sense of death that it has become its foremost meaning. This word is used in a different sense only when there is a clear indication as to this other meaning : "Say, The angel of death who is given charge of you shall cause you to die" (32:11); "Surely (as for) those whom the angles caused to die while they are unjust to their souls" (4:97); "And had you seen when the angels will cause to die those who disbelieve." (8:50); "Our messengers cause him to die," (6:61); "And of you is he who is caused to die," (22:5); "until death takes them away" (4:15); "Make me die a Muslim and join me with the good" (12:101).

The word "tawaffaitani" in this particular verse primarily means natural death which is known to everybody. The Arabic-speaking people understand this and only this meaning of the word with reference to the context. Therefore, had there been nothing else to indicate the end of Jesus in this verse even it would have been improper and wrong to say that Prophet Jesus was alive, and not dead.

There is no room for the view that the word "Wafat" here means the death of Jesus after his descent from the heavens -- a view held by some who think that Jesus is still alive in the heavens and would come down from there in the latter days. For, this verse clearly denotes the relation of Jesus with his own people and not with any other people of the latter days. The people of the latter age would admittedly be the followers of Muhammad and not of Jesus.

However, in the chapter The Women the words: "Nay: Allah exalted him in His presence" have been interpreted by some, nay most of the commentators, as "raising him up to the heavens.'' They observe that the likeness of Jesus was cast on somebody else and Jesus himself was lifted up to the heavens. He is alive there and will descend therefrom in the latter ages. Thereafter he would kill the swine and break the cross. And they base their theory:

Firstly, on those reports in which the descent of Jesus is mentioned after the (appearance of) Anti-Christ. But these reports are at variance with and contradictory to one another in their words and meaning. The difference is so great that there is no room for any reconciliation among them. The scholars of Hadith have plainly stated this fact. Moreover, they are reported by Wahab bin Munnabba and Kaab Akbar, who were converts from the people of the Book. And their status is well-known to the critics of traditions.

Secondly, on a report by Abu Huraira that mentions the descent of Jesus. If this report is proved to be true, even then it is only an isolated report. And there is a consensus of opinion of the scholars of Hadith that such isolated reports can neither be made the basis of a doctrinal belief, nor can they be trusted with regard to the things unseen.

Thirdly, on the report about Mi'raj (i.e., the Ascension of the Holy Prophet to the heavens) which narrates that when the Holy Prophet went up and began to have the gates of the heavens opened one after another and entered them as they were opened, he saw Jesus and his cousin John on the second heaven. For us, it is enough to prove the weakness of this evidence, that many interpreters of the traditions have taken this contact of the Holy Prophet with other prophets to be a spiritual phenomenon and not a physical one. (vide Fath ul-Bari, Zad-ul-Ma'ad, etc.)

Strangely enough they interpret the word rafa' occurring in this verse in the light of the report concerning the Mi'raj, and deduce therefrom that Jesus was also bodily raised up. And there are others who regard the meeting of the Holy Prophet with Jesus to be a physical one on the basis of this verse, (i.e., Nay! Allah exalted him in His presence). Thus when these people interpret the hadith they quote this verse to support their imaginary meaning of the hadith; and while interpreting the verse they cite this hadith to support their imaginary explanation of the verse.

When we turn to the revealed words of God "I will cause you to die and exalt you in my presence," in the chapter The Family of Imran and the words "Nay Allah exalted him in his presence," in the chapter The Women, we find that the latter verse fulfils the promise that was made in the former one. This promise was about the death and exaltation of Jesus Christ, and his purification from the false charges of the disbelievers. Thus even if the latter verse had mentioned just his rafa' towards God and had no reference to his death and purification from the false charges even then it should have been our duty to take note of those matters that are referred to in the former verse; so that both verses might be reconciled.

The actual meaning of the verse therefore is that Allah caused Jesus to die and exalted him and sanctified him from the charges of his enemies. Allama Alwasi has interpreted this verse (inni mutawaffi-ka) in many ways. The clearest of these interpretations is that "I will complete the lease of your life and will cause you to die and will not let those people dominate over you who try to kill you." For, completing the period of his life and causing him to die a natural death indicates that Jesus was saved from being slain and from the mischief of his enemies. Obviously rafa' after death cannot mean any physical ascension, but only exaltation in rank, especially when the words "I will clear you of those who disbelieve,'' are present along with it. This shows that it is a question of spiritual honour and exaltation. The word rafa' has occurred many a time in the Holy Qur'an conveying this sense: e.g., "In houses which Allah has permitted to be honoured (turfa'a) (24:36); "We exalt in degree (narfa'u) whom We please" (6:84 ; 12:76); "And exalted (rafa'na ) for you your eminence." (94:4); "And We raised him (rafa'nahu) to an elevated state" (19:57); "Allah will exalt those of you who believe." (58:11), etc. Thus the expressions "I will exalt you in My presence" and "Nay! Allah exalted him in His presence" would yield a sense similar to the one when we say "So and so met the companion on High," or "God is with us," or "With the Powerful King." All these expressions signify only shelter, protection and coming under His Holy care. So one fails to understand how the word heaven is deduced from the word towards Him (ilaih). By God! it is an outrage on the plain exposition of the Holy Qur'an. And such an offence is committed simply on account of belief in such stories and narratives which are devoid of accuracy not to speak of their established unauthenticity.

Moreover, Jesus was merely an apostle and apostles before him had passed away. When the people of Jesus became hostile to him, he like other prophets, turned towards God and He saved him by His power and wisdom, and frustrated the plans of his enemies. The same point has been elaborated in the following verse: "When Jesus perceived unbelief on their part, he said: Who will be my helpers in Allah's way ..." i.e., in this verse God says that His plans were more subtle and effective than the plans of the disbelievers. As against the measures of protection and security from God, the attempts of these people against the life of Jesus were frustrated. In the verse: "When Allah said : O Jesus! I will cause you to die and exalt you in My presence and clear you of those who disbelieve." Allah gives the glad tidings that He will save Jesus from the machinations of his enemies and that ultimately their plottings will end in futility and that He will complete the period of his life till he dies a natural death neither being slain nor yet crucified and then He will exalt him in His presence.

These verses which relate to the fate of Jesus at the hands of his people will invariably yield this meaning to their reader provided he knows the practice of Allah to which He resorts for the protection of His prophets at the time of the aggression of enemies and provided his mind is free from all those fictitious reports that can in no case be placed as an authority over the Holy Qur'an. Now, I cannot understand how the snatching of Jesus from the hands of his enemies and lifting him up to the heavens can be called a subtle plan and a better one when neither it was in their power nor in the power of anybody else to counter it. In fact, there can be one "plan" (makr) as against another plan when it is contrived in a parallel manner not deviating from the natural course of Allah in such matters. We have a parallel instance in what is said by the Qur'an with respect of the Holy Prophet: "And when those who disbelieved and devised plans against you that they might confine you or slay you or drive you away: and they devised plans and Allah too had arranged a plan: and Allah is the best of planners." (8:30).

To sum up:

1. There is nothing in the Holy Qur'an, nor in the sacred traditions of the Prophet, which authorises the correctness of the belief to the contentment of the heart that Jesus was taken up to the heaven with his body and is alive there even now, and would descend therefrom in the latter days.

2. The Quranic verses about Jesus show that God had promised to cause him to die a natural death, then to exalt him and save him from the mischief of the disbelievers and this promise had certainly been fulfilled. His enemies, could neither kill him nor crucify him, but God completed the span of his life and then caused him to die.

3. Any person who denies his bodily ascent and his continuance in physical existence in the heavens and his descent in the latter ages, does net deny a fact that can be established by clear conclusive arguments. Thus he is not outside the faith of Islam and it is absolutely wrong to consider him an apostate. He is perfectly a Muslim. If he dies, he dies the death of a believer and like believers his funeral prayer must be said and he must be buried in the Muslim cemetery. His faith is decidedly faultless in the eyes of God. And God knows the conditions of his servants.

And as to the other part of the question that, supposing Jesus returns to the world, then how should a disbeliever in him be regarded, after the above statement of ours this question does not arise at all. And God is the best Knower.

-- MAHMUD SHALTUT"


This page was printed from the 'Official Website of the Ahmadiyya Anjuman Isha'at-e-Islam Lahore (Lahore Ahmadiyya Movement for the Propagation of Islam)'
located at
http://aaiil.org or http://www.aaiil.org

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