Hazrat Mirza Ghulam Ahmad (as), the Promised Messiah and Mahdi, laid claim that Jesus Christ (as) neither ascended to heaven, nor died on the cross. Rather, Ahmad (as) claimed that Jesus (as) died a natural death after fulfilling his mission to preach to the Lost Tribes of Israel. This claim single handedly united Christians and Muslims the world over—against him. If Jesus (as) never died on the cross, it would dismantle Christianity’s concept of salvation. Likewise, Orthodox Muslims believe Jesus (as) ascended to heaven directly, with the plan of returning in the latter days to destroy the non-believers. If Jesus (as) died a natural death, then he would not be returning in such dramatic fashion to secure Islam’s victory.
We will discuss the Biblical proofs elucidating Christ’s survival from the cross at another time. This multi-part series will focus on Qur’anic proofs to demonstrate that Jesus (as) did not ascend to heaven, but instead died a natural and honorable death. No other Prophets death has been mentioned as clearly and as relentlessly in the Holy Qur’an, as the natural death of Jesus Christ (as). Likewise, there are numerous Hadith (traditions) of the Prophet Muhammad (sa) that also clearly state that Jesus (as) died a natural death. This series will offer a thorough analysis of the issue regarding the death of Jesus (as) based on the Holy Qur’an and authentic Hadith.
Part I of this series addresses Chapter 5:117-118 of the Holy Qur’an: “And when Allah will say, “O Jesus, son of Mary, didst thou say to men, ‘Take me and my mother for two gods beside Allah?’”, he will answer, “Holy art Thou. I could never say that to which I had no right. If I had said it, Thou wouldst have surely known it. Thou knowest what is in my mind, and I know not what is in Thy mind. It is only Thou Who art the Knower of hidden things. “I said nothing to them except that which Thou didst command me — ‘Worship Allah, my Lord and your Lord.’ And I was a witness over them as long as I remained among them, but since Thou didst cause me to die, Thou hast been the Watcher over them; and Thou art Witness over all things.”
God asks Jesus (as) if he told his followers to worship him and his mother as god. Jesus (as) says no and declares that he only taught his followers the Unity of God. Most relevant to this discussion, Jesus (as) says that when God caused him to die, then He (God) was the watcher over them, claiming ignorance himself.
First of all, if Jesus (as) were to descend today (as the Muslim Orthodoxy claims), then he would certainly see that Christians have deified him. Therefore, he would not be able to claim ignorance to this fact while he clearly does in 5:117-118. A glaring contradiction emerges. Some disingenuously try to rectify this contradiction with the claim that Jesus (as) will descend, correct Christians that he is not God, then die, after which Christians will again deify Jesus (as), this time to Jesus’ (as) ignorance. Such dogma is preposterous, if for no other reason than it finds no basis in the Holy Qur’an or Hadith.
Second, the word in question in this verse is “tawwaffi.” For some reason, Orthodox Muslims take this word to mean “take me up” instead of death. However, Arabic grammar rejects this notion altogether. There is no possibility for this word to mean anything other than “death” or “to die.”
Hazrat Ahmad (as) writes, “If anyone can cite a single instance from the Holy Qur’an or Hadith, or from ancient or modern Arabic poetry and prose, that the word Tawaffi, when applied to a human being, God being the subject, has been used in any connotation other than death and taking possession of the soul, for instance, in the connotation of the taking of the body, I bind myself on oath that I shall pay that person one thousand rupees in cash by selling some of my property and shall always hold him in high esteem as a great scholar of the Holy Qur’an and Hadith.” (Izala-e-Auham, Ruhani Khazain, Vol. III, p. 603)
Hazrat Ahmad (as) demonstrates that let alone the Qur’an and Hadith, all ancient and modern Arabic poetry testify that tawaffi means death and nothing else. In fact, in Bukhari, Muslim, Tirmidhi, Ibn Majah, NJesus’i, Darimi, Muwatta, and Sharh-us-Sunnah, tawaffi is recorded 346 times. And not once did the Prophet Muhammad (saw), any of his disciples, or another human use it to mean anything other than death.
Third, modern day scholars outside of the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community readily admit that tawaffi means death. For example, Alama Mahmud Shaltut, former Mufti and former Rector of Al-Ahzar University issued a fatwa regarding Chapter 5:117-118 in complete agreement with Hazrat Ahmad’s (as) claim.
Mufti Shaltut says: “The last verse relates an incident in the Hereafter when Allah will ask Jesus concerning him and his mother being worshipped in the world and Jesus will reply that he did not say anything to his followers except that which God had commanded him, that is, worship Allah who is your God and my God, and he kept 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, tawwaffa, has been used in the Holy Quran in the sense of death so many times that it has become its foremost meaning.” However, Mufti Shaltut does not just stop here.
He goes on and further explains: ”[Tawaffi] is used in its different sense only when there is a clear indication as to the other meaning. The word tawwaffaytani 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.”
Mufti Shaltut then continues, and eliminates any possibility of understanding tawaffi to mean anything but death:
“Therefore, had there been nothing else to indicate the death of Jesus in this verse, even then it would have been improper and incorrect to state that the Messiah 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 heaven–a view held by some who think that Jesus is still alive in the heaven and would come down from there in latter days. For, this verse clearly denotes the relation of Jesus with his own people and not with other people of latter days. The people of the latter age would admittedly be the followers of Muhammad and not Jesus.” (Al Rislah, Cairo , Vol. X, #465)
Fourth, for those who do not accept Mufti Shaltut’s testimony, consider the declaration of Imam Bukhari himself. As one of Islam’s earliest historians and most authentic recorder of Hadith, Imam Bukhari clearly declared that Jesus (as) has already died. In his chapter “Death of the Holy Prophet (sa),” Imam Bukhari records that Prophet Muhammad (as) has used the exact same words Jesus Christ (as) used in 5:117-118, to describe his (Muhammad’s) own death.
Prophet Muhammad (sa) says, “On the day of Qiyamat (Judgment) some people of my Ummat (Nation) would be taken towards Hell. Then I shall say, ‘O my Lord! These are my companions.’ Then it would be said! ‘Thou don’t know what they innovated after thee’. Then, I shall say as the righteous servant (Jesus) said: ‘I was a witness over them as long as I remained among them, but since Thou didst cause me to die, Thou hast been the Watcher over them.” (Sahih Jami’ Bukhari, Kitabut Tafsir Vol. II p. 889; Vol. III, p. 79; Vol. XI, p. 159)
In this Hadith, Prophet Muhammad (sa) is likening his own fate to that of Jesus’ (as) fate, i.e. death. All Muslims accept that Prophet Muhammad (sa) was not “taken up” by any stretch of the imagination, but rather his life ended and he died a natural death. Since we know for a fact that Prophet Muhammad (sa) has died, the only logical conclusion is that Jesus (as) too has died. If 5:117-118 actually meant that Jesus (as) did not die, but ascended to heaven, there would be no reason for Prophet Muhammad (sa) to cite that verse to describe his own death. If 5:117-118 meant that Jesus (as) ascended to heaven, then it would have nothing to do with death. As mentioned before, if Jesus (as) were to descend from heaven today, he would not be able to claim ignorance to his deification by Christians, as he does in 5:117-118. Since Prophet Muhammad (sa) used this verse to describe his own fate (i.e. death) and his own ignorance to the actions of Muslims that were contradictory to his (Muhammad’s) teachings, the only possible conclusion is that Jesus (as) too has died, and therefore is also ignorant to the actions of Christians that were contradictory to his (Jesus’) teachings.
It is clear from an analysis of 5:117-118 that according to the Holy Qur’an, authentic Hadith, various scholars of Islam both modern and ancient, and Arabic literature both modern and ancient, that Jesus Christ (as) has died a natural death. However, this is just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak. As stated before, the evidence demonstrating the death of Jesus (as) is insurmountable. Part II of this multi-part series will discuss Chapter 3:46 of the Holy Qur’an, and the clear testimony it provides as to Jesus’ (as) natural death.
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