Monday, 27 August 2012

Eesa bin Maryam (Jesus, the son of Mary) Part III

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم   

The Plot and Elevation to Heaven

Those amongst Banu Isra’il who rejected Eesa (as) were not content to simply disbelieve in his message.  Seeing Eesa (as) as an enemy who threatened their standing among the people, they were willing to align with the Roman authorities of the time against Eesa (as).  They went to the Greek king of Damascus and told him that a man in Bayt ul Maqdis (Jerusalem) was sowing discord amongst the subjects of the realm through his teachings.  Such was the zeal of Banu Isra’il that they convinced the king that the threat of Eesa (as) needed to be dealt with by the state.  As a result the arrest and public execution of Eesa (as) was demanded by the Roman government.  The method of execution at the time consisted of nailing the condemned to a wooden cross and crucifying them, making them bleed to death.  A particularly cruel ritual included making the victim wear a crown of thorns to further humiliate and torture them.  The Quran describes how the disbelievers plotted to assassinate Eesa (as), but were thwarted by the might of Allah:

وَمَكَرُوا وَمَكَرَ اللَّهُ ۖ وَاللَّهُ خَيْرُ الْمَاكِرِينَ
إِذْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَا عِيسَىٰ إِنِّي مُتَوَفِّيكَ وَرَافِعُكَ إِلَيَّ وَمُطَهِّرُكَ مِنَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا وَجَاعِلُ الَّذِينَ اتَّبَعُوكَ فَوْقَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا إِلَىٰ يَوْمِ الْقِيَامَةِ ۖ ثُمَّ إِلَيَّ مَرْجِعُكُمْ فَأَحْكُمُ بَيْنَكُمْ فِيمَا كُنتُمْ فِيهِ تَخْتَلِفُونَ
فَأَمَّا الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا فَأُعَذِّبُهُمْ عَذَابًا شَدِيدًا فِي الدُّنْيَا وَالْآخِرَةِ وَمَا لَهُم مِّن نَّاصِرِينَ  

The [disbelievers] schemed but God also schemed; God is the Best of Schemers.  God said, ‘Jesus, I will take you back and raise you up to Me: I will purify you of the disbelievers. To the Day of Resurrection I will make those who follow you superior to those who disbelieved. Then you will all return to Me and I will judge between you regarding your differences.  I will make the disbelievers suffer severely in this world and the next; no one will help them.’ (Surah Al Imran: 54- 56)

The disbelievers amongst Banu Isra’il and their Roman allies carried out their planned crucifixion and were convinced that they had succeeded in killing Eesa (as).  The Quran describes how they boasted that: '....We have killed the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, the Messenger of God’... (Surah An Nisa: 157)

Allah makes it clear that the efforts of the plotters were false and fruitless as Allah saved His prophet from the attempted assassination.  The Quran says:  

وَقَوْلِهِمْ إِنَّا قَتَلْنَا الْمَسِيحَ عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولَ اللَّهِ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ وَمَا صَلَبُوهُ وَلَٰكِن شُبِّهَ لَهُمْ ۚ وَإِنَّ الَّذِينَ اخْتَلَفُوا فِيهِ لَفِي شَكٍّ مِّنْهُ ۚ مَا لَهُم بِهِ مِنْ عِلْمٍ إِلَّا اتِّبَاعَ الظَّنِّ ۚ وَمَا قَتَلُوهُ يَقِينًا
بَل رَّفَعَهُ اللَّهُ إِلَيْهِ ۚ وَكَانَ اللَّهُ عَزِيزًا حَكِيمًا 

... They did not kill him, nor did they crucify him, though it was made to appear like that to them; those that disagreed about him are full of doubt, with no knowledge to follow, only supposition: they certainly did not kill him- God raised him up to Himself. God is Almighty and Wise. (Surah An Nisa: 157- 158)

Eesa (as) was not killed by his enemies.  Allah put the likeness of Eesa (as) over another man and he was the individual crucified by the Roman authorities. The scholars give two possible explanations regarding the identity of this man.  According to one hadith, the man was a believer in Eesa (as), who volunteered to sacrifice his life for the sake of Allah and his prophet.  An alternative explanation is that Allah put the likeness of Eesa (as) over one of those who rejected Eesa (as), who was then executed by his fellow disbelievers.  The identity of the executed is less important than the singular fact that it was not Eesa (as), as his enemies claimed, who was executed.  Allah made this point clear in the Quran, as the ayaat quoted earlier show.

Eesa (as)’s elevation to Heaven by Allah is as unique as his miraculous birth without a father.  Ascending to Heaven alive, Eesa (as) will remain there until Allah decrees his return to earth.  The Prophet Muhammad صلى الله عليه و سلم told his companions that the return of Eesa (as) to earth towards the end of time will be one of the major signs of the Day of Judgement.  It will only be during his second sojourn on earth that Eesa (as) will experience death, which Allah saved him from when Eesa (as) was lifted to Heaven alive.

Messenger of God, not Son of God!

Christians and Muslims both believe in Eesa (as).  While both attach great importance and respect to him, they differ on a fundamental point regarding the position of Eesa (as).  Christians believe in the miraculous birth of Eesa (as), but rather than attributing a human father to Eesa (as) they claim that he is in fact the son of God.  This belief- at the heart of Christian doctrine- is completely contrary to the teachings of Islam regarding Eesa (as) and is condemned in many places in the Quran.  Some examples include:

وَقَالُوا اتَّخَذَ الرَّحْمَٰنُ وَلَدًا
لَّقَدْ جِئْتُمْ شَيْئًا إِدًّا
تَكَادُ السَّمَاوَاتُ يَتَفَطَّرْنَ مِنْهُ وَتَنشَقُّ الْأَرْضُ وَتَخِرُّ الْجِبَالُ هَدًّا
أَن دَعَوْا لِلرَّحْمَٰنِ وَلَدًا
  وَمَا يَنبَغِي لِلرَّحْمَٰنِ أَن يَتَّخِذَ وَلَدًا
إِن كُلُّ مَن فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ إِلَّا آتِي الرَّحْمَٰنِ عَبْدًا
لَّقَدْ أَحْصَاهُمْ وَعَدَّهُمْ عَدًّا
وَكُلُّهُمْ آتِيهِ يَوْمَ الْقِيَامَةِ فَرْدًا
 The disbelievers say, ‘The Lord of Mercy has offspring.’  How terrible is this thing you assert: it almost causes the heavens to be torn apart, the earth to split asunder, the mountains to crumble to pieces, that they attribute offspring to the Lord of Mercy.  It does not befit the Lord of Mercy [to have offspring]: there is no one in the heavens or earth who will not come to the Lord of Mercy as a servant- He has counted them all: He has numbered them exactly- and they will each return to Him on the Day of Resurrection all alone. (Surah Maryam: 88- 95)

يَا أَهْلَ الْكِتَابِ لَا تَغْلُوا فِي دِينِكُمْ وَلَا تَقُولُوا عَلَى اللَّهِ إِلَّا الْحَقَّ ۚ إِنَّمَا الْمَسِيحُ عِيسَى ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ رَسُولُ اللَّهِ وَكَلِمَتُهُ أَلْقَاهَا إِلَىٰ مَرْيَمَ وَرُوحٌ مِّنْهُ ۖ فَآمِنُوا بِاللَّهِ وَرُسُلِهِ ۖ وَلَا تَقُولُوا ثَلَاثَةٌ ۚ انتَهُوا خَيْرًا لَّكُمْ ۚ إِنَّمَا اللَّهُ إِلَٰهٌ وَاحِدٌ ۖ سُبْحَانَهُ أَن يَكُونَ لَهُ وَلَدٌ ۘ لَّهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۗ وَكَفَىٰ بِاللَّهِ وَكِيلًا

People of the Book, do not go to excess in your religion, and do not say anything about God except the truth: the Messiah, Jesus, son of Mary, was nothing more than a messenger of God, His word, directed to Mary, a spirit from Him. So believe in God and His messengers and do not speak of a ‘Trinity’- stop [this], that is better for you- God is only one God, He is far above having a son, everything in the heavens and earth belongs to Him and He is the best one to trust. (Surah An Nisa: 171)

وَقَالَتِ الْيَهُودُ عُزَيْرٌ ابْنُ اللَّهِ وَقَالَتِ النَّصَارَى الْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ اللَّهِ ۖ ذَٰلِكَ قَوْلُهُم بِأَفْوَاهِهِمْ ۖ يُضَاهِئُونَ قَوْلَ الَّذِينَ كَفَرُوا مِن قَبْلُ ۚ قَاتَلَهُمُ اللَّهُ ۚ أَنَّىٰ يُؤْفَكُونَ

The Jews said, ‘Ezra is the son of God,’ and the Christians said, ‘The Messiah is the son of God’: they said this with their own mouths, repeating what earlier disbelievers had said. May God confound them! How far astray they have been led! (Surah At Taubah: 30)

قَالُوا اتَّخَذَ اللَّهُ وَلَدًا ۗ سُبْحَانَهُ ۖ هُوَ الْغَنِيُّ ۖ لَهُ مَا فِي السَّمَاوَاتِ وَمَا فِي الْأَرْضِ ۚ إِنْ عِندَكُم مِّن سُلْطَانٍ بِهَٰذَا ۚ أَتَقُولُونَ عَلَى اللَّهِ مَا لَا تَعْلَمُونَ

They say, ‘God has children!’ May He be exalted! He is the Self-Sufficient One; everything in the heavens and the earth belongs to Him. You have no authority to say this. How dare you say things about God without any knowledge? (Surah Yunus: 68)

لَّقَدْ كَفَرَ الَّذِينَ قَالُوا إِنَّ اللَّهَ هُوَ الْمَسِيحُ ابْنُ مَرْيَمَ ۚ قُلْ فَمَن يَمْلِكُ مِنَ اللَّهِ شَيْئًا إِنْ أَرَادَ أَن يُهْلِكَ الْمَسِيحَ ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ وَأُمَّهُ وَمَن فِي الْأَرْضِ جَمِيعًا ۗ وَلِلَّهِ مُلْكُ السَّمَاوَاتِ وَالْأَرْضِ وَمَا بَيْنَهُمَا ۚ يَخْلُقُ مَا يَشَاءُ ۚ وَاللَّهُ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ قَدِيرٌ

Those who say, ‘God is the Messiah, the son of Mary,’ have certainly disbelieved. Say, ‘If it had been God’s will, could anyone have prevented Him from destroying the Messiah, son of Mary, together with his mother and everyone else on earth? Control of the heavens and earth and all that is between them belongs to God: He creates whatever He will. God has power over everything.’ (Surah Al Ma’idah: 17)

For Muslims Eesa (as) is loved and respected as one of Allah’s five greatest messengers.  Disbelieving in Eesa (as) and his miraculous birth would take a Muslim out of the fold of Islam.  Yet despite their lofty status, both Eesa (as) and his mother Maryam (as) were no more than believing servants of Allah; neither of them had any divine powers, which belong to Allah alone.  Eesa (as) himself never preached to his followers that he was worthy of worship.  His teachings were the complete opposite, telling people to worship Allah as he did:

إِنَّ اللَّهَ رَبِّي وَرَبُّكُمْ فَاعْبُدُوهُ ۗ هَٰذَا صِرَاطٌ مُّسْتَقِيمٌ
God is my Lord and your Lord, so serve Him- that is a straight path. (Surah Al Imran: 51)

As a Muslim it is important to be clear about two things.  Firstly that the belief in Eesa (as) as the son of God is completely false.  It is an innovation in the Christian religion which came about after Eesa (as) had been lifted up to Heaven by Allah.  The true believers in Eesa (as) during his time- those closest to him and who heard the message directly from him- never attributed divinity to Eesa (as) or his mother.  The second thing to remember is that as Muslims we believe Eesa (as) is innocent of all claims that he told the people he was the son of God.  Eesa (as), as the ayah above makes clear, told the people only to worship Allah, delivering to them the same message as all previous prophets before  him.  The Quran clears Eesa (as) of claims of divinity by asserting with force:

لَّن يَسْتَنكِفَ الْمَسِيحُ أَن يَكُونَ عَبْدًا لِّلَّهِ وَلَا الْمَلَائِكَةُ الْمُقَرَّبُونَ ۚ وَمَن يَسْتَنكِفْ عَنْ عِبَادَتِهِ وَيَسْتَكْبِرْ فَسَيَحْشُرُهُمْ إِلَيْهِ جَمِيعًا

The Messiah would never disdain to be a servant of God, nor would the angels who are close to Him. He will gather before Him all those who disdain His worship and are arrogant (Surah An Nisa: 172)

The Quran also reveals how Allah will question Eesa (as) about claims of his divinity on the Day of Judgement.  Despite knowing that Eesa (as) is innocent of all such claims, Allah will have this conversation with his faithful servant Eesa (as) so those who falsely attributed divinity to Eesa (as) will finally be forced to acknowledge their falsehood.  The Quran says:

وَإِذْ قَالَ اللَّهُ يَا عِيسَى ابْنَ مَرْيَمَ أَأَنتَ قُلْتَ لِلنَّاسِ اتَّخِذُونِي وَأُمِّيَ إِلَٰهَيْنِ مِن دُونِ اللَّهِ ۖ قَالَ سُبْحَانَكَ مَا يَكُونُ لِي أَنْ أَقُولَ مَا لَيْسَ لِي بِحَقٍّ ۚ إِن كُنتُ قُلْتُهُ فَقَدْ عَلِمْتَهُ ۚ تَعْلَمُ مَا فِي نَفْسِي وَلَا أَعْلَمُ مَا فِي نَفْسِكَ ۚ إِنَّكَ أَنتَ عَلَّامُ الْغُيُوبِ
مَا قُلْتُ لَهُمْ إِلَّا مَا أَمَرْتَنِي بِهِ أَنِ اعْبُدُوا اللَّهَ رَبِّي وَرَبَّكُمْ ۚ وَكُنتُ عَلَيْهِمْ شَهِيدًا مَّا دُمْتُ فِيهِمْ ۖ فَلَمَّا تَوَفَّيْتَنِي كُنتَ أَنتَ الرَّقِيبَ عَلَيْهِمْ ۚ وَأَنتَ عَلَىٰ كُلِّ شَيْءٍ شَهِيدٌ 

When God says, ‘Jesus, son of Mary, did you say to people, “Take me and my mother as two gods alongside God”?’ he will say, ‘May You be exalted! I would never say what I had no right to say- if I had said such a thing You would have known it: You know all that is within me, though I do not know what is within You, You alone have full knowledge of things unseen- I told them only what You commanded me to: “Worship God, my Lord and your Lord.” I was a witness over them during my time among them. Ever since You took my soul, You alone have been the watcher over them: You are witness to all things (Surah Al Ma’idah: 116- 117)

Final part of the story of Eesa (as) coming next inshaAllah.

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