Are the explanations about the pronoun "hu (he/it)" mentioned in verse 61 of the chapter of az-Zukhruf debatable? What/Whom does that pronoun indicate?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

The translation of verses 57-64 of the chapter of az-Zukhruf:

57. When (Jesus) the son of Mary is held up as an example, behold, thy people raise a clamour thereat (in ridicule)!

58. And they say, "Are our gods best, or he?" This they set forth to thee, only by way of disputation: yea, they are a contentious people.

59. He was no more than a servant: We granted Our favor to him, and We made him an example to the Children of Israel.

60. And if it were Our Will, We could make angels from amongst you, succeeding each other on the earth.

61. And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment): therefore have no doubt about the (Hour), but follow ye Me: this is a Straight Way.

62. Let not the Evil One hinder you: for he is to you an enemy avowed.

63. When Jesus came with Clear Signs, he said: "Now have I come to you with Wisdom, and in order to make clear to you some of the (points) on which ye dispute: therefore fear Allah and obey me.

64. "For Allah, He is my Lord and your Lord: so worship ye Him: this is a Straight Way."

The explanation of the verse in question:

Three different evaluations were made about the pronoun "hu (he/it)" mentioned in verse 61. They are as follows:

1. The Quran.

2.  Hz. Muhammad, the last prophet.

3. Hz. Isa (That is, the return of Hz. Isa (Jesus) to the world).

Although there are different views, the majority of tafsir scholars hold the view that the pronoun "hu" in the verse refers to Hz. Isa.

The explanation of those who hold the view that what is meant by the pronoun "hu" in the verse is "the Quran and Hz. Muhammad" is as follows:

"And (he/it) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment)." The polytheists are reminded about the Day of Judgment by this sentence; their attention is attracted to what idolatry, which they adhere to so as not to disarrange their system in the world, will cause them to suffer in the hereafter. Various interpretations were made about what "Sign of the Hour" is: "The Quran, the Prophet of the end of time, Hz. Isa’s return to the world" Some tafsir scholars say that Hz. Isa is mentioned before this verse; so the pronoun "hu" indicates Hz. Isa. However, after the verses mentioning Hz. Isa end, another issue, the issue of "the necessity of being a follower of the last Prophet" mentioned in verses 40-44 is dealt with. Besides, mentioning the other prophets as examples is related to the main issue (believing in the last Prophet and following him).

Furthermore, since Hz. Isa had not returned when those verses were sent down, the verses can be of significance for the polytheists if "Sign of the Hour" is something that they can see or understand. It is not Hz. Isa but the Quran and the last Prophet, who says he is the seal of the prophets. What polytheists need to do is to come to their senses, obey the last Prophet, not Satan, and find the true path by doing so. (see Diyanet Tefsiri, Kur’an Yolu: IV/671)

The explanation of those who hold the view that what is meant by the pronoun "hu" in the verse is "Hz. Isa" is as follows:

The reason why those verses were sent down: When the verse «Verily ye, (unbelievers), and the (false) gods that ye worship besides Allah, are (but) fuel for Hell» was sent down, the notables of Quraysh asked him, «O Muhammad! Is this a decree valid for everybody?» When the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) said, «Yes», those deniers started to laugh and they wanted to discuss by saying that Hz. Isa is also worshipped. Then, they gave some examples from the life of Hz. Isa. After that, they said, «Muhammad tells us to worship Allah only and that it is unbelief to worship anybody other than him. However, Christians worship Isa. Are our deities or Isa better?» Thereupon, the verses above were sent down. (Lubabut-Ta'wil;  4/108-Asbabu Nuzul/Nishaburi: 252)

Hadiths regarding the issue:

«No people go astray after having followed right guidance, but those who indulge in disputes.»

After this explanation, the Messenger of Allah (pbuh) recited verse of the chapter of az-Zukhruf.  (Tirmidhi, Tafsir, 43; Ibn Majah, Muqaddima, 7; Ahmad, V/252, 256)

«By Him in Whose Hands my soul is, son of Mary (Jesus) will shortly descend amongst you people (Muslims) as a just ruler and will break the Cross and kill the pig and abolish the Jizya (a tax taken from the non-Muslims, who are in the protection, of the Muslim government). Then there will be abundance of money and nobody will accept charitable gifts.» (Bukhari, Buyu', 102, Mazalim, 3, Anbiya, 49; Muslim, Iman, 54; Ibn Majah, Fitan, 33)

«There is no prophet between me and him, that is, Jesus. He will descend (to the earth). When you see him, recognize him: a man of medium height, reddish fair, wearing two light yellow garments, looking as if drops were falling down from his head though it will not be wet. He will fight the people for the cause of Islam. He will break the cross, kill swine, and abolish jizyah. Allah will perish all religions except Islam. He will destroy the Antichrist and will live on the earth for forty years and then he will die. The Muslims will pray over him.» (Abu Dawud, Malahim, 14; Ahmad, II/437)

«What will your state be when Maryam’s (Mary’s) son descends and when your imam is one of you?» (Bukhari, Anbiya, 49; Muslim, Iman, 244, 246; Ahmad, 2/272, 336)

Hz. Isa is one of the signs of the Day of Judgment:

«And (Jesus) shall be a Sign (for the coming of) the Hour (of Judgment)...»

It is understood from the context that the third person singular pronoun next to the word «inna» refers to Hz. Isa. There are also scholars who say this pronoun refers to the Quran but the first determination is more appropriate. For, when you compare the verse with hadiths and interpret, this becomes stronger. 

The hadiths we have quoted above states that Hz. Isa will descend at a time very close to the Day of Judgment as a just judge and show him as one of the signs of the Day of Judgment. Thus, it is stated in the verse that he is the knowledge/sign of the Hour and we are given information regarding the issue.

However, Hz. Isa’s being a sign of the Day of Judgment has two aspects:

The first one is that he revived the dead before he was ascended to the sky, which indicates that Allah Almighty will revive the dead after Doomsday strikes and that the power He gave to the Prophet Isa is completely a product of divine power.

The second one is that Hz. Isa will descend to the earth at a time very close to the Day of Judgment, showing the greatness of divine power.  

It will be proved once again that Islam is the last religion and a universal religion; it will be made clear in all aspects that Hz. Isa is not Allah's son; those who believe will attain salvation and those who insist on denying will be punished in both realms.  

There is no need and ground for doubt in the face of this explanation of Allah; it is based on belief and knowledge in all aspects. Therefore, believers have no doubt about the hour of Doomsday. When Hz. Isa descends, only their belief will increase and their hearts will be satisfied.

The Quran gives the healthiest and correct information about the nations that passed, about Hz. Musa (Moses) and Hz. Isa (Jesus) along with the Day of Judgment. It is necessary to know Hz. Muhammad (pbuh) very well and to follow him in order to understand the Quran well. That is «Sirat al-Mustaqim» (the true path). The rest is the news shaped by doubts, feelings and thoughts. These issues are summarized with a clear narration in verses 61 and 62; and a starting point is determined for researchers. (see Celal Yıldırım, İlmin Işığında Asrın Kur'an Tefsiri)

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